Bloggers with an axe to grind
A gang of high-flying kathoey beauty bloggers have been forced to eat humble pie after posting unfortunate remarks demeaning the poor as they tried to flog off home-made fish curry which many netizens criticised as over-priced.
The saga involving the kathoey, known as the HiwWhee gang after a YouTube variety show they host, or more simply the Green Curry gang after their latest exploits to launch their own brand of curry, reached the top of the Thai Twitter rankings last week.
The drama started when beauty blogger and gang member Nisamanee “Nutt” Lertvorapong, who has 1.62 million followers on Facebook, promoted on social media a brand of fish curry, “By-Mama”, cooked up by her mother who once ran her own eatery.
“The curry is sold in plastic bags tied with a rubber band, much like those on offer by street traders, but goes for the extravagant price of 250 baht a serving with a fancy label slapped on the side,” critics wrote.
Netizens objected to the price, asking if Nutt was exploiting Thais’ misery at a time of Covid-19 lockdowns when no one has much money. Nutt defended her venture, saying the servings were generous, the ingredients pricey, and her mum had to get up at 4 am to buy them at the market.
She served the fare in single plastic bags to help guard against global warming, though if customers insisted on bowls she would oblige. Those matters aside, she admitted she was also “building a brand” and would not contemplate lowering the price.
Nisamanee ‘Nutt’ Lertvorapong
An outspoken member of the gang, kathoey Karin Ongchum, also known as Tul Alie BlackCobra, set sparks flying when she jumped in to defend Nutt. “She is not selling to the poor, she is selling to the wealthy; poor people eat like poor people,” she sniffed, adding for good measure: “Don’t talk so much; you’re poor and still criticise; in this life will you ever be wealthy? I feel sorry for you.”
For many netizens, the issue quickly spiralled from a simple debate over price gouging to the underlying class bias of the kathoey gang, who were insulting those less fortunate than themselves. At first, Tul was unrepentant, telling “poor people” not to think of themselves that way when she criticises them, so they would no longer feel offended.
Nutt, meanwhile, said she wasn’t angry that netizens took issue with the price of the servings, but the packaging: ‘Would they rather I serve it in a cloth bag?” she sniffed. Still playing on the rich versus poor theme, she added unhelpfully: “I understand your feelings. You want to buy a Porsche but can’t afford it.
“Trust me: I can turn a crisis into an opportunity. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Karin ‘Tul Alie’ Ongchum
As critics piled in, the kathoey presenters hastily offered an apology, suddenly keen to play up their own links to the hard-up. Nutt said she came from a modest background and would never demean the poor. Tul said she still lives in a rental place, and her mother and grandmum still have to work. “I have come under fire before because of my big mouth,” she admitted.
However, she was close to Nutt and whenever she came under criticism on social media would jump in to fend off her attackers, even to the point of forgetting herself.
Some netizens were sceptical of their apologies, saying the kathoey presenters were more worried about losing followers on social media, and with it their source of income. Media reports noted Nutt’s followers on IG plummeted in the wake of the drama, from a high of 730,000 originally to 678,000 by week’s end.
Nutt said she would take the episode as a life lesson and try to measure her words. As for the fate of the curry fish venture, she is not sure if her mother wants to carry on. “After seeing some of the criticism left by netizens, mum is stressed,” she said.
ATM flaw spurs theft drama
An invalid auntie from Buri Ram has reconciled with a hospital porter after accusing him wrongfully of theft after he volunteered to withdraw cash from the hospital ATM on her behalf but found her account short of funds.
Siam Commercial Bank, where the woman has her account, reported later the ATM was defective and had automatically deducted the sum from her balance without providing the cash. News of the defect took seven days to surface, sending the porter’s life into despair as the woman reluctantly accused him of theft and media outlets played up the story of the cash-strapped invalid deprived of her last 5,000 baht.
The saga involving dialysis patient Sunan Hapinram, 54 and hospital porter Thanit “Ton” Chandechsithikul, 34, a good samaritan punished for his deeds, ended happily mid-week when they visited Muang district police to withdraw the complaint of theft she had laid earlier.
Mrs Sunan is a patient at the private hospital in Buri Ram where Ton and his wife, Suwalak Songram, 30, work. Three months ago, adding to her woes, she fell and suffered a bone fracture so is now confined to a wheelchair. Ton and his wife had gotten to know Mrs Sunan and her husband and realised how hard-up they were.
Mrs Sunan turns up for dialysis three times a week when Ton takes her in for treatment. Since she suffered her accident her tambon administrative authority has provided a van to drop her off and take her home.
On April 18, she asked Ton to withdraw 5,000 baht from her account via the ATM in front of the hospital. Her daughter had transferred her the money which she needed to repay debts to a shop in her village.
Mrs Sunan and her husband, Ruay, don’t know how to use an ATM machine and Ton was happy to step in and help. He went unaccompanied to the machine but when he went to withdraw the cash found a balance of just 1,097 baht. He withdrew 1,000 baht and reported back.
Mrs Sunan, who knew the balance should be more than that, asked a relative to update her bank passbook. It showed two withdrawals, of 5,000 baht and 1,000 baht, within 10 minutes of each other. Later, concluding Ton had stolen the money, and having begged him to return it to no avail, she went to the police.
Police contacted Siam Commercial Bank, which found the ATM machine was being repaired at the time. It deducted 5,000 baht from Mrs Sunan’s account but did provide Ton with the cash. Amid extensive publicity about Mrs Sunan’s plight, the bank quietly replaced the funds, and called Mrs Sunan to advise her they had topped up her account.
When Mrs Sunan visited the station, police said they would have to wait for official word from the bank before they could withdraw the complaint. Mrs Sunan said she wanted the bank to apologise and take responsibility, so Ton could clear his name.
“They called briefly to say ‘We’ve transferred the money to you, na’, and that was it,” she said. She didn’t mean to smear Ton’s name but her family was desperate for the money and in the circumstances she concluded he must have taken it.
Ton and his wife, who say the episode will not deter them from helping others, received moral support from local businesses including a pizza franchise.
They lamented the saga had left them barely able to sleep for days. He bore Mrs Sunan no ill will. A relieved Ton was pictured hugging her in her wheelchair. The pair also visited the city’s main shrine to pray for better days ahead.
Have towel, will chase
Police stumbled upon a serial thief with 10 arrest warrants against his name after a woman complained she was forced to chase after the suspect in a towel as he made off with her valuables from a hotel room.
Ekk ‘Jeed’ Seeiporklang
Bukkhalo police on April 25 arrested Ekk “Jeed” Seeiporklang, 37, at a Samut Prakan hotel, acting on a warrant from the Thon Buri court and an outstanding warrant issued by the Si Ayutthaya court for a similar offence on Feb 13.
The victim, known as Porn, 41, complained to police of assault and theft after Ekk lured her to a hotel and made off with her belongings, fleeing the scene in his Mitsubishi Attrage. It was their second meeting in two days at the Taksin hotel in Dao Khanong, Thon Buri, which he booked for just a few hours. The pair met on the Tinder dating app.
“He suggested I take a shower first but while I was in there he started rifling through my bag. I grew suspicious and came out, catching him in the act. I grabbed a towel and ran after him but he was able to escape with my bag,” she told police. She lost a gold necklace worth three baht weight in gold, gold amulet, and brand name watch.
Staff at the hotel said they would normally keep an eye out for dodgy behaviour but after their short-term booking the day before passed without incident, assumed Ekk and Porn were a regular couple.
Police, who were able to track him down to a hotel in Muang district of Samut Prakan, says Ekk admitted stealing the items, which he sold for 70,000 baht to pay online gambling debts. They say he is a serial offender who has made a career out of deceiving well-off women and stealing their goods.
Police say Ekk would befriend well-to-do women on dating apps, and seduce them with his Thai-Chinese style looks and golden tongue. They would arrange to meet at a hotel where he would steal their belongings, or at their homes, where he would copy his victim’s house key and return at a later date to steal the valuables.
Pol Lt Col Pichit Eeangsaa, an inspector at Bukkhalo station, said Ekk has served time for similar offences. In 2008 was paraded before the media by Bang Sue police. After being released from jail in 2014, he re-offended again and in a lengthy career of deceiving women victims and stealing their valuables has now had 10 arrest warrants served against him.
“He is bound to have many more victims who have yet to come forward,” he said. Legal action has begun.