Top 2011 odd news stories in Thailand

Some high quality, odd things take place in Thailand. A list of some of the 2011 highlights from the Bangkok Post:

You can’t make this stuff up: Top odd news of 2011
Breast slapping, fat flight attendants, the world’s hairiest girl, one-man Russian roulette, an erotic lottery and an amazing animal haul confirmed Thailand as the capital of bizarreness

Published: 1/01/2012 at 12:00 AMNewspaper section: News
Thai politicians are usually out of office before the plastic comes off their name plates and fluctuating water levels tested all of our nerves last year, but there is one dependable constant in the kingdom _ the country’s undisputed title as the weird news capital of the world.

STRANGE DAYS: Clockwise from top left: Breast-slapping practitioner Khemmikka Na Songkhla; prison authorities with a toy helicopter used to smuggle in mobile phones; Rickie la Touche; Nazi-themed sports day; world’s hairiest girl Supatra Sasuphan; an ad saying ‘These seats reserved for white people’ on the skytrain; a ticket from an erotic lottery; a Thai Airways hostess and topless Songkran revellers.

While other big picture stories might have dominated the front pages last year, these were the tales that gave us all a welcome reprieve from natural and man-made disasters _ stories from the kingdom’s bounty of the bizarre.

BY ALL APPEARANCES

The year saw a major focus on the body beautiful and controversy on exactly what that entailed.

A video on the Bangkok Post website brought international attention to the work of Khemmikka Na Songkhla, a beauty shop owner who claimed her grandmother’s breast-slapping technique was the best way to increase bust size. The Health Ministry put their stamp of approval on the procedure, calling it a viable alternative to implants and even offering courses teaching women to get slap happy.

Forty-one Thai Airways flight attendants took a discrimination case to the Labour Board when they were told they were too fat to fly, with the national carrier stipulating female attendants must keep their BMI to 25 points and waistlines to 81cm. A company spokesman said women outside the guidelines would not be light and agile enough to help in the event of an emergency evacuation.

An online storm erupted over an ad above skytrain seats for a drink promising to brighten skin tone that proclaimed: ”These seats are reserved for white people.” CNN Go writer Dwayne Turner said that ”perhaps those seats should be reserved for the mentally handicapped marketers, advertisers and their clients who reviewed the ad and, clouded by ignorance and greed, thought it was a clever idea”.

And then there was the story of 11-year-old Supatra Sasuphan. She was born with Ambras syndrome, a rare disease that resulted in hair growing all over her body that was so thick even laser treatment was ineffective in removing it. Growing up, she was cruelly teased, but that all changed when Guinness World Records named her the world’s hairiest girl. As unflattering as that might seem, for Supatra it made all the difference. ”There were a few people who used to tease me and call me monkey face, but they don’t do it any more,” she said.

WILD KINGDOM

Russian roulette with only one person consciously playing the game is more commonly known as murder, and that’s just what Pornthep Jaisangiam committed after he looked upon his sleeping buddy Sanchai Nawasnathee and decided that a round of the deadly game was in order. Pornthep pulled a gun out of Sanchai’s belt, removing all but two bullets.

He fired first at his own head and then aimed the gun at his sleeping friend and pulled the trigger. There was no round three.

Also trying their luck were punters in Ayutthaya who took part in a huai sieow (erotic lottery), the first of its kind in Thailand according to a police spokesman. Punters bought tickets for 30 baht each, with the top four winners given their pick of night-time companion from a catalogue of prostitutes.

When 431 turtles and other assorted rare reptiles were found stuffed into four suitcases at Suvarnabhumi airport, it was considered unusual only because of the number since Thailand is a major hub for reptiles destined for China and Vietnam. But when authorities checked the luggage of a suspected animal smuggler from the United Arab Emirates, what they found was, to quote animal activist Steven Galster, ”amazing”: two leopards, two panthers, an Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys.

This year saw people displaying their own innovative flair for smuggling in their attempts to get mobile phones into prisons; home-made rocket launchers and toy helicopters were among the methods used.

In May, a prison inmate chose a more uncomfortable route _ stowing a mobile in his anus. As mobile phones tend to do, it rang at an inconvenient time and the warders who heard it ensured he would be unable to return the call.

IT’S A CULTURAL THING

Rickie la Touche, a 30-year-old Briton, was convicted in November of killing his Thai wife after she destroyed his prized collection of Star Wars toys. La Touche claimed that he had long put up with abusive treatment from his 28-year-old wife, but that the destruction of Darth Vader and company sent him over the edge.

Hoping for better marriage results was 60-year-old former Qantas Airline executive Leigh John Pleasance, who forked out a whopping 40 million baht worth of cash, land and jewels to have a traditional wedding ceremony with his 27-year-old boyfriend in Chiang Mai.

The Culture Ministry was as vigilant as ever this year and among their gravest foes were three teens who hopped onto the back of a pickup truck and whipped off their tops for an impromptu Songkran shimmy.

But the ministry’s indignation turned into farce when an email began circulating with a screen capture of the ministry’s website featuring a traditional Thai painting that depicted – horror of horrors – topless females. ”Look where the inspiration for the topless teens comes from. From the Culture Ministry’s own website!” the email read. The ministry pulled the image in question.

In September, controversy erupted in Chiang Mai when students at Sacred Heart Preparatory School chose Nazism as their sports day theme. Photos of the event showed a young girl dressed as Hitler leading a parade of similarly attired schoolmates waving a swastika flag.

After outrage from Jewish groups, the school issued an apology saying the incident was a result of lack of judgement by the students, adding that management had no prior knowledge of it.

The full article: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/273281/you-can-t-make-this-stuff-up-top-odd-news-of-2011

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About faranginbangkok

Additional pictures: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/faranginbangkok For more updates about Bangkok, Thailand and other thoughts: www.twitter.com/lilrichardb I began working in Bangkok during 2008- a time that featured a great deal of political unrest in Thailand and particularly Bangkok. I had lived in San Francisco for 15 years and was working on a project in Thailand. Generally I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and then 3-4 weeks in San Francisco. Did Bangkok begin to feel like home? Yes, and No. Bangkok and the Thai culture forced me to feel many things, the change in culture and environment was so dramatic it forced the decision- embrace or ignore. I embraced and made Bangkok my home and base in 2009. I have enjoyed living in Bangkok, experiencing Thailand and the entire ASEAN region.
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