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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - It is back to the dark ages

It is back to the dark ages

I'm a glum one, it’s explainable. I read something inconceivable. Life’s a bore, the world is my oyster no more.

On Saturday, a front page headline in the Bangkok Post read: “Soldiers protest against ‘woman on period’ criticism of Prayuth.”

The story explained that media baron Sondhi Limthongkul had been upset by comments Thailand’s Army Chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, had made about the Preah Vihear dispute with Cambodia.

General Prayuth opined that Sondhi and other Yellow Shirt leaders should honour the International Court of Justice ruling on the issue, which is expected in October.

Earlier Sondhi had urged that any ICJ decision unfavourable to Thailand should be ignored, and that if it were not, massive 2008-style Yellow Shirt protests would be launched.

General Prayuth demurred, saying the army would not back any action taken to thwart the implementation of the court’s decision, even if it was wholly in Cambodia’s favour.

Sondhi and his clique of right-wing lackeys were outraged, since they like to think the military will, if not support them, at least stay out of the way while they occupy and trash airports and government offices.

General Prayuth is clearly not going to play that game. If the Yellow Shirts try to storm airports again, they are going to get smacked down – and rightly so. The firmer, the better.

Realising this, Sondhi sneered that the general’s remarks were so stupid they were like those made by a woman who is having her period.

That insult provoked a soldiers’ protest, which led to Saturday’s article.

Bizarrely, the newspaper report carried comments chastising the soldiers for coming to General Prayuth’s defence, but made no mention of how Sondhi’s facile barb was deeply offensive to women.

With the world still traumatised by the gang-rape and murder of a student in Delhi last month, it was shocking to find an influential Thai figure imbued with the same medieval mindset.

You know how it goes: Women can be a bit bonkers at the best of times, that’s why they are terrible drivers and can’t be trusted in positions of authority.

It’s worse when the poor things are menstruating. They become flighty and unpredictable, not like us men who are always level-headed and know what’s what.

It’s a small step from this tosh to claim that women who wear short skirts, go out alone, or heaven forbid, have a drink in a bar are just asking for it.

From there we move to “eve-teasing” and molestation and male puzzlement over the way women resist. “Why don’t they just lie back and enjoy it?” one otherwise sentient colleague told me.

My answer: Next time you’re walking home at night and two big truck drivers grab you from behind and push you into a dark alley, why don’t you just bend over and enjoy the results?

The lack of outrage at Sondhi’s misogynistic jibe is deeply dispiriting and reminiscent of Malaysian MP Bung Mohktar’s equally risible comment in parliament that women leak every month.

The gloom was exacerbated by other news from Aceh last week that might make one think we are still living in the dark ages rather than 2013.

There, the Islamist authorities plan to forbid women straddling motorbikes because it will “provoke the male driver”. Instead they must sit side-saddle like the Queen of England riding a horse.
On the same day that this lunacy was mooted, a rather quirky movie, The Comfort of Strangers, was shown on Thai television.

Shot largely in Venice, it included scenes that took place in sumptuous palazzos with stunning paintings by Titian, Bellini and Giorgione in the background.

Sadly, these artistic treasures were visually mutilated because the female subjects shown in many of them had their breasts and bottoms fuzzed out.

Only a male censor imbued with the kind of doltish mindset of a Sondhi or an Acehnese ayatollah could do such a thing.

Yes, I’m a glum one all right.

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