The strange, the exotic, the bizarre. Yup, this is Thailand. TIT is a well-known acronym used by farang to sum up the ‘only in Thailand’ experiences of touri and expat alike. For some, it’s about aggravation; the daily occurrence of dealing with a unique and foreign way of life and their inability to chill and appreciate that western culture still hasn’t turned every country into a mini-version of theirs. To those with a sense of humor, it’s about Thais being Thais. And ya gotta just love them.
I’d intended on using TIT as a recurring post category for 2013, but decided to jump the gun by a day thanks to Beachball crawling out from under his rock for a brief appearance on the gay Thailand forums again. You can tell Beach has a deep and abiding love for the Thai people. On SGT he referred to his imaginary Thai boyfriend as ‘jungle boy’ and on Gay Thailand, using his Snapshot identity, referred to the Thai workforce as a bunch of monkeys. It’s probably a good thing for him that he never actually visits Thailand.
But that did remind me of a story I’d read quite a while ago. I chased it down; discovered it had a sad ending, but then a new beginning too. And what can I say but This is Thailand . . .
Cops in Thailand are a joke. And not a funny one if you find yourself having to deal with them. The Thai legal sense of justice differs from that in the west, and almost always involves the exchange of money. Then again, come to think about it, maybe it isn’t all that different after all. Just a bit more immediate. And often times cheaper. Nonetheless, savvy touri and expats avoid encounters with the BIB whenever possible. Locals seems to view them as just another part of daily life, neither good nor bad. In Thailand’s southernmost provinces it’s a different story. There the police – and military – presence is heightened. The region experiences frequent clashes between insurgents (aka the Muslim population) and security forces (aka the police and the army). It’s the last place you’d expect to find both the cops and the locals sharing a joke.
Medical practitioner will tell you that humor is an effective form of medicine. It helps quell animosity too. In Sai Buri, a district of Pattini, one member of the local police force gets lots of laughs. His name is Santisuk, which means peace. His beat is the frequent checkpoints set up by the police department to catch problematic members of the community (aka the Muslims, again). Just don’t call him a pig. He’s not. He’s a five-year-old pigtailed macaque monkey.
Dressed in a police uniform blazer with the words ‘Monkey Police’ across its back, when Santisuk stands duty at the checkpoints motorists happily stop their vehicles and many even pull over to have a different type of mugshot taken with him. He has changed the public image of the local police force and helps alleviate tensions during what would otherwise be invasive security measures.
Police Lance Corporal Yutthapol Promdao, head of the 212 Santisuk police operation unit in the Taharn subdistrict, found the monkey suffering from a broken arm several years ago, nursed him back to health, and then teamed up with the macaque as his partner. The pair quickly became the most popular cops in Southern Thailand, and word about the monkey cop soon spread around the world.
But fame can be a deadly game. As Santisuk’s popularity soared it wasn’t long before he landed his first starring role in the movies. Santisuk was to play the role of a military doctor in a film about projects initiated by His Majesty the King and produced by the Pattaya Film Company. Unfortunately instead of a green room to wait in for his big moment on stage, Officer Promdao chained Santisuk to a car in the parking lot of the tutorial school in Songkhla where the movie was being filmed.
“Normally, Santisuk prefers to stay in the trees. But on that day it rained a lot and I decided to tie him up at the car park,” said Promdao. “There were no dogs around at the time but at about midnight I heard the barking of dogs; but I didn’t pay attention at first,’’ he said. ‘‘They kept barking and that’s when I felt something was wrong. I rushed down and saw Santisuk had collapsed from being attacked by three dogs.”
Seriously injured, Promdao rushed his fallen comrade to a clinic and then to the Songkhla zoo, but it was too late. Santisuk died from his injuries. “He was like my younger brother or my boy although it was just a monkey,” the grieving Promdao reported.
When the news of Santisuk’s sudden death spread, the police department received many phone calls from villagers offering their condolences and praise for the monkey. Two days after his death, Officer Promdao and eight other members of the force said a final farewell to the popular macaque. Santisuk was dressed in a police uniform and wrapped in a white cloth before being laid to rest at the police operation base in Sai Buri where he had begun his career in law enforcement.
But thanks to Lamoon Seedaeng, a 48-year-old villager of Tambon Paen in Sai Buri, this tale has a happy ending. Blessed with owning not one but three of the primates, he generously donated one of the monkeys he used to harvest coconuts on his farm to the police department. “This monkey was named Long that I love very much,“ said Lamoon. “It is about five years old, older than the other two and has been with me for many years. But I decided to give it to the police officer because I believe he will love it and treat it as good as I do. And I think it is about time for Long to stop picking coconuts which is a hard work and to serve as an assistant to the police which should be a lighter job.”
Touched by the offer, Promdao said he had in mind a new name for Long – Santiparb, which means freedom. He said he would bring along Santiparb with him whenever he is on duty in the field. Lamoon said he hopes his monkey will help enliven the security operations and make passersby more relaxed as Santisuk once did.
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