It seems that Thailand is developing quite an interest in the Western tradition of April Fool’s Day. The country’s journalists embraced it so enthusiastically this year that one day apparently wasn’t enough for them. What follows are some news stories that appeared in the news at the beginning of April. Although most, if not all, weren’t published on April 1, one can only assume that the Thai media haven’t got the timing of the practical jokes fine-tuned yet. Assuming the news is real would be hilarious.
CNS members visit fortune teller
In this story, The Bangkok Post actually wanted its readers to believe that the elite of the September 2006 coup makers visited a fortune teller to ward off bad luck and allay their fears that their efforts to tackle the country’s problems could face unforeseen obstacles. Fearless top soldiers were supposedly visiting a soothsayer because they’re afraid of an invisible big bad wolf. Some people even believed this story. They didn’t fool me.
Pay rise for CNS
A day later, it was reported that the members of the same CNS (Council for National Security) had awarded a pay rise of no less than 30% to their employees, albeit excluding the top eight senior members. As if this wasn’t unbelievable enough in itself, it got even more incredible when they announced that this raise would the cost the country just a few hundred thousand baht. One surely has to sympathize with the employees and coup makers themselves for willing to do such a frustrating and difficult job for peanuts.
YouTube temporarily blocked in Thailand
At the beginning of April, it was reported that the Thai ICT Ministry had allegedly ordered the access to the popular YouTube website blocked because of a video that was posted about his Majesty the King. The satirical video which supposedly portrayed the monarch as something less than a god and the ensuing shutdown of the popular YouTube website prevented millions of Thais watching their favourite amateur video clips. It definitely smelled like a hoax. Everyone familiar with Thailand surely knows that all Thais, including pets, farm animals and domesticated wildlife, as well as most aliens – both those from other countries and from outer space - have an unfathomable veneration for his Majesty, so mockery of the king is highly unlikely, if not unthinkable.
In spite of this worship, it seemed that a great number of surfers tried to watch the online smut, in what could probably be called online disaster tourism. The alleged online posting of the spoof video was of course against the will of both the unelected rulers and the three aging spinsters and five mentally disabled prudes that make up the censorship committee. Access to the popular website was supposedly blocked by Thai Big Brother. Again, as there weren’t any major demonstrations of local office workers, one can only assume this was a hoax as watching online videos is an important part of their daily routine.
There was another censorship story which I initially thought to be true, but couldn’t be unless censors wielding the axe had completely lost their marbles. A well-known film director was asked to cut four scenes from his latest movie in order to get permission to release it in Thailand. The four scenes didn’t exactly show explicit fornication, same-sex orgies, cunnilingus techniques or bestialities; on the contrary, what they allegedly showed was a monk playing guitar, two doctors drinking whisky, a doctor kissing his girlfriend and monks playing with a radio-controlled aeroplane. This gave away the April Fool’s joke because if censors were really that strict, they could just as well order the shutdown of all TV stations, imprisonment of all beer and pretty girls and a medical procedure for all Thai citizens to have their eyes surgically removed from their sockets.
O-Net scores still unsatisfactory
In this story, we were led to believe that the average scores of Thai secondary students that took the O-net test (Ordinary National Education Test, somewhat similar to British O-levels) were so low that untrained simians could have achieved better results. The average Thai student supposedly scored a mere 50% on the Thai language test (Thai is indeed the national language of Thailand, should you start wondering), 37% on English and similar results on Maths, Science and Social Studies. The tests were allegedly all multiple choice and were administered to gauge the knowledge – or rather the lack thereof - accumulated during the first four years of secondary education. I suppose you can see why I made the connection with the abilities of our closest relatives. This has got April Fool written all over it.
Swiss man gets 10 years for lese majeste
Although hardly reported in Thailand, worldwide media were all too quick to be fooled by the sob-story of a Swiss man who supposedly faced jail time for spray-painting five posters of the Thai king. The Bangkok Post fooled its readers into believing that for doing so, this public enemy could get a 15 year prison sentence. As if this wasn’t enough, they made people believe it was per defaced poster. Simple arithmetic would have put the man in jail for more than seven decades.
In a spoof video clip that surfaced on some news websites later, the man was seen wearing leg shackles while he was supposedly being led to the local courtroom. It was reported that he had already been held for more than three months in some stinking upcountry oubliette and been denied bail. Apparently, the newspaper realised that a 75 year jail sentence would be too outlandish for readers to believe, so they subsequently reported that the man had been sentenced to only 10 years in the slammer.
The story had April Fool written all over it, but nobody seemed to realise it. Not only are even child molesters and serial killers treated better in the Kingdom, also using a muzzle and handcuffs instead of leg shackles would have been more credible tools to prevent the man from voicing his contentious opinions. Realising they took the joke too far, it was reported a few weeks later that His Highness himself had pardoned the poor bugger. I wonder who was behind this actor’s antics to discredit Thailand in this elaborate hoax.
AoT to help with compensation costs
Although there were many more half-hearted April Fool’s Day joke attempts, let me finish with the story that wanted readers to believe that the Airports of Thailand (AoT) agreed to help with compensation costs for citizens exposed to harmful levels of aircraft noise following the opening of the Pride of Thailand, namely Suwannapum airport.
The April Fool’s joke wasn’t really detectable in the amount of 736 million baht (about 20 million dollar) paid by AoT to alleviate local residents’ inconveniences, which was an acceptable figure. However, the story went on to report that the government supposedly approved a fresh study last November in which the total compensation costs were set at no less than 121.5 billion baht (about 3.5 billion dollar). Surely everyone with more than half a brain can see that this has got to be a joke. Not only is the above mentioned multi-billion baht figure almost as high as the price of the airport itself, it is also enough to buy the whole province of Chiang Mai, burning bushes causing haze included. Paying that amount to so-called locals would probably mean that said residents get a compensation for their swampland that equals the price of prime plots in the centre of Bangkok.