The Eternal Childhood

Another shooting incident, this time right in the middle of downtown Bangkok, 2 university students were waiting for the bus when a motorbike carrying a gunman opened fire on them. The female student was fatally wounded. The male student is recovering in hospital.

BANGKOK: — A WELL-LOVED female student from the Rajamangala University of Technology Uthenthawai Campus was fatally shot in the heart of Bangkok late on Tuesday night in what could be the latest crime related to school rivalry. Another student from the same campus was also shot, but managed to get away with injuries to his right arm.

The campus has suspended classes for three days in the wake of the shooting.

Police believe either school rivalry or personal conflict may have been behind the shooting. According to witnesses, some 40 people were waiting for a bus near Pathuwam intersection in heavy rain when they heard gunshots.

CCTV recordings show two people on a motorcycle, both wearing raincoats and crash helmets, stopping by at the bus stop at the time of the shooting.

“We will check images from other security cameras in the area,” Pathumwan Police Station’s deputy superintendent Lt-Colonel Panom Chua-thong said yesterday.

The victims were identified as Kankanit Promkaew and Wachirawit Senkhram, both of whom were second-year engineering students at the campus.

Kankanit, 20, succumbed to heavy blood loss on her way to hospital, though Wachirawit is in a safe condition. Their friends said the two had left school late due to the rain, and were waiting for a bus home when the shooting took place.

Kankanit’s classmates and teachers fondly remember her as a friendly and nice person who often took part in extra-curricular activities. Her teachers even wrote a poem to express their grief and posted it at the campus. One line reads: “Your passing has broken teachers’ hearts … May you rest in peace”.

The young student’s funeral is currently under way at Pailom Temple in Chai Nat’s Sapphaya district.

Meanwhile, police will have the parents of street racers, who had been arrested over the past three years, sign a memorandum of understanding in a bid to stop them from racing on public roads. Police are also calling on motorcycle shops to not sell accessories to young people.

Deputy Metropolitan Police chief Pol Maj-General Adul Narongsak said police were getting ready a list of names and preparing an MoU for the parents to sign, promising they will not let their children race on the streets again.

After the MoUs are signed, parents will face charges if their children are caught racing.

Adul urged everybody to get involved in solving the city’s problems, as there weren’t enough traffic police officers to cover every area of Bangkok.

Girl With Gun

As usual, we see the lame actions by the authorities which do not address the root of the problem of violence and other impulsive acts in Thai society. If the parents can’t stop their 20-year-old “kids” racing on motorbikes, buying guns and shooting people, getting them to sign MOUs is not likely to solve the problem unless these “kids” are even worried that their parents end up in jail. The major problem with Thai society is that it emphasizes too much on superficial and “cosmetic” values like kreng jai, soo parp, riab roy. Parents assume that as long as there are schools and temples around, teaching people how to appear virtuous, they will somehow end up virtuous. That’s the root of the problem.

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Sleeping Buddha

The co-founder of Apple and one of the most influential people the world has seen, Steve Jobs, has been reincarnated as a “divine being,” according to an abbot from a Thai Buddhist sect, Phra Thepyanmahamuni. What about this boy?

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Generally Speaking

Farangs relying on visa runs to stay in Thailand had reason to panic. The military junta announced in June that it was cracking down on visa runners. Anxious to show the Thai public that they mean business, the military started taking action against foreigners.

BANGKOK: — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok has informed the foreign Embassies and Consulates in Thailand and the Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates worldwide about the visa run crackdown, the former in a letter dated June 23, 2014, of which obtained a copy of today.

For the first time in writing, the ministry confirms the Thai Immigration Bureau’s current crackdown on border runners.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the crackdown is aimed to prevent visa runners who abuse the visa exemption scheme from working illegally in Thailand.

In the letter The Foreign Ministry is confirming earlier information that visa runners will be prohibited from entering Thailand as of August 12, 2014.

Long stay visa applicants are advised to acquire appropriate (Non-Immigrant) visas at Thai Embassies or Consulates prior to their arrival.

Previously the Immigration Bureau has announced a crackdown for border runners. The published letter may also be a strong indication that the Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates now also might have been instructed to be restrictive in issuing multiple back-to-back tourist visas.

This was obviously done without much understanding the role that these seemingly parasitic foreigners play in the Thai economy. I wrote the follow comment on Facebook last month.


Fast forward to late August 2014.

True enough, Prayuth soon realised the repercussions that his latest crackdown on visa runners could bring. Fortunately, he made a quick U-turn. I’m not sure what he meant by “register with the bureau”. What I’m sure of is that things will quietly return to the status quo.

BANGKOK: — The military has told the Immigration Bureau to be flexible with “visa runners”, junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said Friday.

The runners can register with the bureau, which will find a sustainable resolution to the problem, he said in his weekly televised programme last night.

Foreigners had been exploiting tourist visas and visas on arrival by illegally working in the country, mostly as English teachers.

When their visa was about the expire, they entered a neighbouring country to apply for a tourist visa and returned to the Kingdom to illegally work again.

The authorities responded by tightening the rules by not re-issuing visas to the runners and they faced deportation.

Prayuth said the change of the visa system concerning visa runners had considerably affected certain groups such as English teachers and academics.

“So, this is an ongoing problem that needs to be resolved, as it can lead to a shortage of English teachers and guides,” he said during his weekly TV programme.

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Nabber Nabbed

Some say that corruption is not a problem in Thailand. It’s simply a way of life and for centuries, Thailand survived pretty well in spite of all the corruption. A friend who travelled to Thailand overland through Malaysia once remarked that Thai policemen were honest as he didn’t see them collecting bribes from bus drivers at the border checkpoints while the Malaysian police did.

Well, I suspect that the system in Thailand is so well-oiled that it’s probably a lot more high tech than passing notes through open windows.

CHIANG RAI — A drug smuggler arrested with more than 800,000 tablets of methamphetamine this afternoon was discovered to be a high-ranking police officer tasked with cracking down on illegal drugs.

Pol.Lt.Col. Chamnarn Phoomphaichit was arrested at a checkpoint near the Thai-Myanmar border in Chiang Rai province after officers searched his vehicle and found large amounts of narcotics hidden in two bags.

According to a statement from police, the search of Pol.Lt.Col. Chamnarn’s car turned up at least 800,000 meth tablets and one kilogram of crystal meth. The confiscated items are said to be worth more than 200 million baht.

Police say Pol.Lt.Col. Chamnarn is the deputy commander of the Chai Prakarn Police Station in Chiang Mai province. He is also known as a tough anti-drug crusader among Region 5 police officers, police say.

Pol.Col. Wirat Soomnapan, an officer with the Chiang Rai police force, said police are interrogating the suspect to find out more about the drug network he allegedly works for.

I find this very strange. As drug enforcement officer himself, he should have known where his men were and what they were doing. He must have offended someone, perhaps by refusing to share the loot. Nothing to celebrate here. This is just a case of one crooked cop being nabbed by other crooked cops for being “uncooperative”.

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Beautiful Endings

I only have a few favourite singers/musicians and I normally don’t pay much attention to the others – especially the boy bands and girl bands. However, a random search on YouTube turned out a tragically beautiful love story. I searched the Chinese engines to find out more and here is what I found.

This Taiwanese 2-girl group, formed in 1987, was known as 忧欢派对. It was the SHE of the 80s. The girl on the left is 蔡雨伦. The long-haired girl on the right is 于佳卉 Yu Jia Hui, better known as 欢欢, the daughter of a general in the Taiwanese army. In spite of her privileged background, Huan Huan embarked on her career as an entertainer at the tender age of 17. She later graduated from Kaoshiung University with a degree in Literature. Though 欢欢 started her career in singing, she made her mark in 9 Mandarin drama serials, capturing the hearts of many TV audiences in Chinese communities all over the world.

Not surprisingly, 欢欢 had no shortage of admirers, one of whom was singer Zhang Ke Fan. At the age of 24, she married director Zhang Xiao Zheng. With him, she had 2 children. She later accused Zhang of having an affair (which he vehemently denied) and divorced him. She then married actor Jiang Guo Bao and had a child with him. Huan Huan’s second marriage lasted only 5 years. The reason for divorce was never made public. Below is a video from a Taiwanese TV show made not long after Huan Huan’s second divorce. The hosts seemed to be trying to cheer her up by bringing her first love Zhang Ke Fan on the show.

It was almost like an unrehearsed reality show. Everyone was so spontaneous. Many were touched by Zhang’s song, but I wonder how many people noticed the awkwardness here. There was no script, but Huan Huan was acting. She was not herself. She was desperately trying to conceal something deeply troubling. They put up a good show for the audience. At the end of the show, the audience just move on to the nest show. The actors are left to face their own realities. The relationship between Zhang Ke Fan and Huan Huan never happened again and I suspect that the resistance came from both directions. He might still be the same old Zhang Ke Fan (apart from the weight gain), but she was definitely not her former self.

On the 1st of June 2014, Huan Huan was found dead in her home. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It was only then that it was revealed that Huan Huan had been suffering from depression. Her father’s passing in 2012 could have been the last straw.

It is a mistake to think that people suffering from depression will appear moody and withdrawn all the time. They may well behave or appear that way when they are left alone, but when given the right situation, they may exhibit immense creative energy. I wonder if Zhang Ke Fan and her ex-husbands had known about it all along.

Huan Huan died a beautiful woman. Zhang Ke Fan can go on writing his love songs, remembering how it was and imagining how it could have been. If this is how the world remembers her and their love story, then who is to say that this is not a beautiful ending?

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High Standard Busking At Ximending

I chanced upon this duo at Ximending, Taipei while I was on a facial aesthetics course in Taiwan. Local girl Tina told me that Ximending only comes alive after 10.00pm. It was indeed a rather happening place full of unpretentious eateries and glaring neon (LED?) lights advertising all kinds of services from massage to hairdressing salons. There are street artists and youths in flamboyant outfits eager to strike a pose even for strangers with cameras. This is where Ximending exudes a character of its own. There is a culture here that allows people to make themselves the centre of attraction with whatever abilities and resources they can muster. Brought here blindfolded, no one will mistake it for Clarke Quay.

Both of these street musicians sing very well. I don’t know what sort of permits are required in Taipei, but how I wish talented Singaporeans, even those without any disabilities, can have a similar platform to engage a drifting, impromptu audience. How I wish I had such a casual platform when I was younger – not because I had any intention of becoming a performer full-time, but at least I could have written another memorable chapter in my life.

It’s a lovely song, but I couldn’t find it on YouTube. The first question that came to mind was: “Who sang it?”. The answer, it’s an original song by a “nobody”. Yes, this young lady wrote the song herself. Again I wonder why busking in Singapore has to be be just another legalised and sanitised form of begging? Why can’t we allow our able-bodied youngsters to perform as they please? Because “concerned parents” want them protected and funneled through the “proper” channel? As the night wore on, my tired eyes began to blur, but the answers to the lack of local talent in the arts scene became clearer than ever.

Here’s the studio-recorded version of the above song. I hope she makes a name for herself one day. And if there are any Singaporean musicians like her. I hope they could go to Ximending.

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.