Opinion: Blame the rot in Thai high society for the third wave of the pandemic

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Over the course of the past few weeks, many Thais have been outraged at the conduct of the current government and its ministers.

Many have blamed the third wave of the pandemic on some ministers who disregarded health and safety protocols to enjoy the pleasures of high-end exclusive entertainment venues. Even more egregious was the fact that some ministers and aides refused to divulge their entire timeline and putting more people at risk.

Others still are pointing fingers at the government for its terrible vaccination program which has bet heavily on the local production of a single vaccine by an inexperienced company. To make matters worse, the government has also dragged its feet in allowing private hospitals to acquire their own vaccines.

All of these are legitimate complaints.

It seems that for this government of monopolies and privileges, good conduct is what is expected of the greater public and not themselves. Rather than set an example to the entire country, the MPs and ministers that sit in parliament would rather represent our worst qualities than our best.

But I would argue that the blame should not rest solely with the current government, as distasteful as I find them. Rather it is the entire upper-echelon of Thai society that must shoulder the blame as well.

The privileged-class, the affluent, the well-heeled, rather than being society’s best and brightest, they are our worst and by some distance. It seems, in Thailand, that the spirit of high society is morally bankrupt and terminally ill.

Take for example the gentleman’s lounge frequented by a certain minister that has become a hotbed for the latest outbreak. It is a VIP establishment with private lifts and private car parks, where memberships costs hundreds of thousands of baht. It is by a stroke of misfortune that Covid-19 spread there but it was a situation that was waiting to happen. These lounges have never observed social distancing (what kind of brothel could afford to?) and have been operating and capacity for the past year despite the threat of the pandemic. Their clientele, the CEOs and business leaders of Thai society, have never stopped going and now the chicken’s come home to roost.

Or take for instance, the site of another outbreak, this one in Phuket.

The Kolour Beachside Festival, a upper-end music and dance party, saw people fly in from all over the country to attend an event that observed little social distancing and more than a little mingling even as the country was slowly recovering from the second wave of the pandemic.

Among those infected at Kolour were celebrities and socialites – with reports that many refused to divulge their timelines or even get tested. How very appropriate.

Simultaneously, while the ministers were getting serviced and the snobs were dancing the night away, there were several weddings happening in Bangkok at five star hotels across the capital earlier this month. The after-party for these weddings again involved mingling and partying with little regard for social distancing and responsibility. Apparently there was a free-flow of more than just cocaine and champagne, there was covid as well with many socialites now in private hospitals with the disease.

What’s more alarming is that even after the disastrous events at Kolour and the weddings and the gentleman’s clubs, these so-called upper-crust of Thai society still see it fit to travel the country for Songkran, posting about their exploits and continuing to party. The same people that went to the beach and after parties where covid-19 spread but were fortunate enough to test negative have learned nothing. They are still out there sharing their misdeeds on instagram.

And it goes to show that for the 1 per cent of this country, they believe that a different rule-set applies to them. For the 1 per cent of Thailand, they do not have to abide by the rules and regulations that the rest of us must observe or face a fine or imprisonment. It is time we stop calling them the hi-sos or the upper class but the class of impunity because that’s what they really are.

They can deal cocaine and still be a minister, they can hide their timeline and not go to jail, they can run over a police man in a sports car and never have to spend a day behind bars, and they can be indifferent to rules and help spread a disease that threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of Thais and not feel an ounce of remorse or guilt. There is a problem in Thai society and it is not just the government.


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