Collage of Compliance Part 4
Tales From Thailand
The prior parts in this series can be found below
Addendum: I wrote the majority of this Substack post late last week, which was delayed by the sudden death of a friend of the family which I wrote about here. I have still not determined if Kuhn Ran was vaccinated. This proceeding was an emotionally distraught affair with a ton of excess drinking (especially by Kuhn Ron, his brother, who I normally can depend on for straight answers about things), a lot of fighting, deep concerns about money and excessive levels of grief. After a viewing of the body on Saturday, though, I am of the opinion that the alcohol as the cause of death explanation is not the right one.
Kuhn Ran’s hands were clenched in a way that made me think he had died mid seizure. The hospital clearly tried to do some type of life saving intervention as he had medical tape on his arm and cotton (with a tinge of blood) in his nose and mouth. His presentation reminded me most of Mar, my mother in law, who died 11 days after a fall onto her walker led to a head injury, which was later determined to have caused a brain bleed. Her death was a slow decline following on from her already frail state due to a complex thigh fracture in a motorbike accident many months before. But this by all accounts was a very sudden medical death.
My two main theories about this is A: that it was the jab, perhaps causing a sudden blockage causing an embolism, say, or B: that the hospital is using the “he died (or was brain dead) of alcoholism in the car before he even arrived” explanation to hide some medical negligence after he was wheeled away or to gaslight the family into paying them for services (He was Thai national, and should not have had to pay for medical care).
Even if, as a thought experiment, Kuhn Ran died exactly of what the hospital says he did (drinking too much), where he downed a large bottle of whiskey straight in 50 seconds like he was a frat boy at a hazing ritual, and was unable to get to the hospital to get his stomach pumped in time, this does not hold Covid policies blameless for the death. The economic pain of Zero Covid has caused extraordinary dislocation and stress in most Thai families. Kuhn Ran used to stay on Racha Island and had the old Siam Bar open for money from day tripper scuba divers who came to Siam Bay for the Whale Shark sightings. That went away with the lockdowns and border closures and he was forced back to Phuket to find anything he could do for a tiny bit of cash. Even without taking into account the ‘vaccine,’ suicides, substance abuse disorders and violence have spiked. There’s a mental health catastrophe that will take decades to pay off.
Anywho, I’ll keep posted on that. Prayers to the family.
Thailand was one of those countries that followed Zero Covid for a very long time. Leveraging it to force jabs into people’s arms probably provided greater payoff than in high death rate places. In 2020 the Prime Minister, perhaps desperate to deflect attention from protests against him, was very happy to take a victory lap with his Zero Covid strategy, which had involved completely closing the borders after April of 2020. Coming into Thailand during this time, as I was well aware, involved proving you had a pretty good reason to be in the country (either as a Thai citizen or with Thai family) and being willing to go through an arduous 15 day quarantine at your own expense. This caused extreme economic hardship for many Thais, particularly in places like tourist dependent Phuket. The mainstream media was able to harness their suffering through carefully massaged numbers that only showed imported infections in people in quarantine. Zero Covid was working, you see. Thais weren’t going to be like those stupid, dirty, facemask shunning westerners. Prayuth was keeping the country safe!
I remember realizing how thoroughly the average Thai had bought this story when I entered a local shop in Phuket for the first time after emerging from my 15 day quarantine with my daughter in October of 2020. I had known Baa Jo, the shop owner, quite well prior to the Covidcon. She refused to allow me in the shop, as she knew I had just come from America. I tried to show her my papers from the quarantine hotel indicating that both me and my girl had tested negative three times and had stayed the allotted 15 days. Baa Jo regarded the papers, written in English and Thai, suspiciously, then explained that some French woman had tested positive on Koh Samui after her 15 days quarantine, so she wanted to wait another 15 days for me to come in her shop just to be on the safe side. Everybody seemed to think that people in the USA were dropping dead of Covid all over the streets. A few Thais joked that they were amazed that we had made it out of America alive. And how were we not Covid positive? Repeat a lie long enough and people believe it.
I had come to the conclusion that countries in the Pacific Rim were broadly massaging Covid numbers lower in order to bolster support for their draconian Zero Covid border closures, while Western countries were working under a hospital incentive structure to fearmonger Covid cases to the moon. The only person I knew in either country that died of an illness that shared Covid like features was our neighbor in Phuket in July of 2020 during the rainy season. He had some type of hacking cough and respiratory illness but was scared to go to the hospital. He thought he’d sleep it off on an elevated bamboo platform outside so that he didn’t pass his illness on to his wife or daughters. He was found dead there one rainy morning a few days later. During this time Phuket supposedly had zero Covid cases. Yet our neighbor had been both scared to go to the hospital and unwilling to sleep near his wife and kids. Both the USA and Thailand certainly had factions that thought their government was lying to them, but it generally moved in opposite directions. I knew Thais who thought their government was undercounting and Americans who thought their government was overcounting.
And then came the vaccine rollout. I remember there was a debate within anti-covid jab circles a little over a year ago about the different effects between mRna technology such as in Pfizer and Moderna conjabs versus "traditional" vaccines such as China's Sinovac. Thailand used both as a mix and match country that would take whatever it could get. So I'd like to share my observations about that from the ground.
Sinovac was rolled out first in late March and early April of 2021. In mainstream media circles this was considered "not as effective" as Pfizer's gold standard 95% efficacy "vaccine." A few articles on theThaiger and Bangkok Post implied that HiSo Thais were flying off to Europe and even America just to get jabbed with the "good" mRna vaccines. My spidey senses were on this as it had all of the marks of a good promotional advertising campaign by Pfizer.
In "antivax" circles, on the other hand, there was hope among many that maybe China, Russia and the like were not actively trying to kill their population off with an experimental intervention. Quite a few websites tried to track sudden deaths after vaccine globally and what type of conjab was received. It was difficult to get a big picture view from these statistics, as they only account for deaths reported by the media and in many cases only those translated to English. This sets up a significant barrier for someone on the outside, so unsurprisingly these deaths were reported occasionally, but seemed less common than mRna sudden deaths. AstraZeneca was also used here early on, but that muddied the picture even more.
I was left largely with my observations on the ground. I set up a simple science experiment, if you could call it such. Although we live in a backwoods area only accessible by dirt road, we are, as the crow flies, less than 1 kilometer from the main corridor road, Thepkrassatri AKA highway 402. Not counting my time in America we have been here since 2018, and are close enough to the main road to hear ambulance sirens.
Because of our location on the North of Phuket, I know that ALL hospitals on the island are South of us, and the only route to the closest one in Thalang and those farther south in Phuket Town is via Thekrassatri. This eliminates two Potentially confounding variables in the form of ambulance rerouting. Mass jab events were announced in Phuket at Jungceylon in Patong, in Phuket Town, at Laguna and at Phuket International Airport. The only one targeting the population on the North of the island was the one at the airport.
So I tracked those jab events at Phuket International Airport. My baseline number was 1-2 ambulance sirens per week, spiking on weekends and around major drinking holidays such as SongKran. The first week of the mass jab event in April and the numbers went up to 1 or 2 ambulance sirens heard per day, more common in the daytime weekday hours. That didn’t seem right.
The Thai people I knew seemed to be broadly buying the propaganda though. Story after story ran about Westerners desperate to get vaccines, who were put in the back of the line due to being expats in Thailand. Carefully curated comments sections inside mainstream media reports had farang that were willing to pay almost any price just to get an experimental injection. Some were upset that the “good” vaccines like the mRNA from Pfizer and Moderna was not available in Thailand. As I listened to ambulances race by on the main road after each jab campaign, I felt that I was losing my mind. Never had I seen people so stupidly willing to go all in on an experiment.
Jab campaigns were suspended several times. Although the reasons for this were vague in the reports, I suspect that they were having too many adverse reactions in too short of a time frame, overwhelming hospital capacity. A Covid outbreak began right on the heels of the mass jab event in Phuket in April. I was watching charts from many different countries showing a clear positive correlation between mass jab events and rising Covid counts. Not only did the vaccine look ineffective, it looked to be negatively effective at least in the first few weeks of use. The media predictably blamed this outbreak on people travelling and spreading the disease during Songkran. It was a diversion and a maddening one to me. Mass Covid cases were used to whitewash overwhelmed hospital capacity from the jab campaigns and also to push further restrictions.
Everybody needed to now wear facemasks anytime they left their house for any reason, including while driving a motorbike, which I considered clinically insane. Farang such as myself were especially targeted for noncompliance. It was widely believed that Asian countries such as China had had lower Covid death rates because everyone wore facemasks while Western countries had higher death rates because people there didn’t. This flew in the face of my on the ground observation that less people wore facemasks in Thailand than did in America during my time in both countries in 2020. Pressure was put on in the form of heavy fines for facemask noncompliance, up to 20,000 baht, or $666 US. There were bloodthirsty calls to deport farang who flouted Covid rules such as facemask use.
As I’ve mentioned many times before I literally can not wear a facemask covering my nose. Everything was closed and businesses who did not strictly enforce Covid protocols on customers were threatened. This caused many in those places and in local markets to take it out on their customers. Not wearing a facemask was seen as the ultimate symbol of disrespect, particularly if it was carried out by “rich,” entitled white people. I was able to wait outside on a motorbike while my husband and daughter went into shops, but even then I was reminded that I was breaking the law not wearing one and that if police caught me I would be fined. I was reminded this by at least 20 or 30 different people as though I’d never heard it before.
The only thing that probably saved me was that I did know some Thai police. They were not excited about enforcing this rule at all, and I think many hated the facemasks they had to wear themselves. I had to get a police check in Thalang for my husband’s visa to America at the police station. I wore a facemask under my nose until we got to the records section upstairs, where I was surprised to see a facemask free gentleman behind a computer, who asked us if we wanted water. The facemasks came off and stayed off until a police officer came upstairs to smoke who tattled on us.
Then the vaccine campaign kicked into coercion mode. The low hanging fruit of people falling over themselves to get jabbed had been plucked already. The Phuket border was closed to everything except shipments and emergency vehicles. I knew well that once they opened again, they would only be accepting people with jab papers. Phuket was the easiest testing ground for this element, as there is only the Sarasin bridge connecting it to mainland Thailand. If you close the airport and set up a checkpoint at the only exit then it is easy to enforce things.
There was no leaving Phuket for any reason, unless I was comfortable with the idea of not coming back. The US Embassy stopped doing anything with my husband’s visa again, because Covid. Despite closed schools, lockdowns, curfews, mask mandates and the like, Phuket was planning on reopening for a sandbox model on July 1, 2021, to jabbed tourists who had to test again and could roam freely. I saw this as an attempt to coerce the local population of Phuket, many of whom worked at resorts, to take the jab to return to work. For a hotel to reopen to the laughably high numbers of tourists they claimed would be flying in all Thai staff had to be 100% vaccinated.
I’m going to track four Thai friends who I know got jabbed, based on a rather unusual visit to our bungalow in May of 2021. Kuhn Chef and Teevan dropped in first. I’ve known both of them for about 10 years. Chef is a high end chef at Western resorts and had been complaining bitterly that the furlough he’d been on only paid about 1/3rd of his usual income since the Covid closures. Nobody could afford to rent his property anymore either. Teevan also worked as a cook. Next Mr. Nathan dropped in, who is Thai military but Leuk Kreung, with a Thai mother and a Scottish father. Chef’s English is excellent, and Nathan’s English is perfect, though with a Scottish accent that is sometimes hard for me to decipher. Chef was trying to convince my husband to get the jab because there would be so many great jobs coming back and good times were here again. He then showed my husband his “vax card,” which in Thailand was not the actual paper, but rather two stickers (one red one green) on the back of his Thai ID card which said “I got my Covid vaccine!” In English and Thai language. Teevan then showed his ID card with the same thing.
I had to ask in English as Nathan was pulling up if either of them had noticed any side effects. Chef laughed. “No nothing!” He said excitedly. “Well Teevan, he said he sick for a few days.” Teevan rolled his eyes. “But not important. Everybody okay!”
This talk about the miracle jab had me on edge. They seemed nervously excited like they were trying to sell us something. It was like they had been psychologically tortured for so long that they’d do anything to go back to normal and needed to convince everyone else that this was the only way to do it. Nathan overheard the conversation and asked what we were talking about. Then he whipped out his Thai ID card with his two doses listed on the back. The neighbor Kuhn Kee, a mid 20 something strapping fellow who worked night shift security at Laguna resort, must have heard them all talking so he came over and was also fast to display his double jabbed ID card. What was this a vax party?
The vaccines were still not widely available for farang such as myself so most of the conversation was directed at convincing my husband to get the jab so he could work at the resorts. I didn’t voice direct opposition to Sinovac that night. They already had taken them and I hoped they were okay.
About two weeks later we heard that our neighbor had tested positive for Covid and had gone into some type of quarantine. Another neighbor asked us if we had been in close contact with him. Uh, no. He really hadn’t been over since that night. A lot of neighbors seemed to avoid us my daughter’s friend mysteriously went away for a few weeks. Having been at “Zero Covid” for so long, the Thais still generally believed the nonsense about Covid and were terrified of it, or at the very least wanted nothing to do with a 14 day quarantine or mandatory testing nonsense. Who could blame them?
Mr. Nathan came over in early June and told me that the vaccines would soon be available for expats. He said it in a way that makes me think he was surprised that I didn’t clap my hands and praise God when I heard it.
“I know.” I said. “I don’t want that shit.” I stated bluntly.
“And why not?” He queried. Over the course of drinking and a few visits I explained my reasons. At first he tried to leverage how the vaccine would soon be required to enter even a grocery store and buy food. I held my ground. I’d been outcast of a lot of places over the facemask rule already.
Finally Nathan admitted that he was worried because he had to take a third jab for the Thai military as Sinovac was not accepted. They had scheduled his booster on September 9, one day before his birthday. And he was concerned because he had been so sick before.
This flew in the face of his initial claim that the first two jabs had been easy breezy. It doesn’t sound like Thai military is much different than their US counterparts. They are pin cushions for the regime. And they hide the damages.
Kuhn Chef came over with Teevan about one month later. He complained heavily of pain from a motorbike accident he had been in a few weeks before where he had broken his collarbone and spent a week in the hospital. The cause of the motorbike accident was never really known to me, but he had hit a pole so thankfully nobody else was involved. He asked my husband for a back massage. Both him Teevan had these odd, nervous ticks where their bodies seemed to spasm suddenly. Chef has stopped by several times since then. He always complains of pain and seems to have these strange Parkinson’s disease like spasms. He never had anything like that before the jab and as the months have rolled on it’s becoming harder to believe that it had anything to do with the broken collarbone in the motorbike accident.
Chef also seems to have aged a lot. Based on facebook photos I’m guessing I see a rapid onset aging in maybe 10% or up to 20% of the jabbed, though it is harder to tell without seeing someone in person. My husband never wanted to work at the resorts because of the crazy local quarantine rules, which essentially meant that staff had to stay on site full time for a 1 or 2 week shift. Chef became exhausted by this insane zero covid policy himself.
“Crazy too much!” He told me one night. “They take staff one week then someone have Covid (all fully jabbed of course) and they must take all new staff again! Then you go to hopitel and stay there! Yes they pay but I’m tired. I would rather have my freedom.” I can agree with that sentiment. I don’t know what would help Chef’s ticks and tremors or his pain, though he asked me if I knew of any supplements that might help. I told him maybe magnesium or magnesium bycarbonate would help. There’s not a lot of that mineral in the soil in Phuket and it is very hard to find.
I’ve heard people talking about vaccine side effects, though most of that has quieted down. I heard two different women on different occasions talk about menstrual issues. Excitement about returning to normal after the vaccine rollout has been superceded by economic concerns. Thais are learning to live with a lot less. If the actions of multiple Thais in my area of plowing fields and turning them into farmland are anything to go by, a segment of the population is anticipating a prolonged and very hard downturn.
I thought the ambulances had quieted down some months ago, which was a good thing, of course. But in driving on Thepkrassatri and observing ambulances lately, I realized something. They have upgraded all of the ambulances from an older style to newer ones that often flash lights but have no sirens. Even when the sirens are in use, they are much quieter than they old style ones so I don’t hear them anymore. That data point is no longer useful. I’d have to go to Thalang Hospital where I have an established pre Covid baseline experience to see what it looked like. I try to avoid hospitals.
I’ve noticed for the last several months that regular mainstay staff at especially corporate stores such as 7 Eleven, Supercheap, and Family Mart is not the same people it used to be. We’ve been going to the same locations for years and I only noticed this trend in late 2021. Everybody at these places is new and the new staff seem to be gone so quickly I can never memorize their names or faces. For years the same high school classmate of my husband worked at the 7 Eleven in Muang Mai, who was notable because even during the height of facemask lunacy he would discretely not notice me wearing it under my nose and would usher us to the counter. He’s been gone about three months now. A muslim woman at the SuperCheap who had been there at least 4 or 5 years disappeared in the same time frame. There are no familiar faces in any of these places anymore. Where did they go? Were they transferred to another location for some reason, or did they get tired of testing and quarantine or facemask use and quit? Have they become sick and disabled for some reason, or heaven forbid, even died from some cause? I have no way of knowing.
I’d say the people here got played the same as the rest of the world…
A fascinating read. It helps me to understand the response I saw in New Zealand, which was similar in some significant ways (high levels of compliance and trust, deep fear about covid due to ZeroCovid propaganda). The interesting thing from my perspective is that this was largely geographic rather than cultural!