No sex, please
Amid all the politicking and protesting, it's good to know that Bangkok bureaucrats haven't lost sight of their mission to serve and protect. The latest social ill that's caught the eye of Thailand's Social Development Ministry is not the scourges of poverty or disease. Rather, it's the shocking fact that university students are having sex with each other.
Apparently they're doing it in their dormitories, where managers turn a blind eye to what goes on behind closed doors. But now the bureaucrats have given them four months to segregate the sexes, or face the wrath of the law. Living in sin is no longer permissible.
There's even a new hotline for the public to call, to provide tip-offs on such naughty goings-on. Who knows, maybe it will give jilted partners a way to take revenge on former lovers who have taken new live-in partners.
Even students who live in private apartments during school terms are being targeted. Social Development Minister Watana Muangsook said this week that students who lived together in apartments would need written permission to do so - from their parents. I imagine this will create a lucrative market for forged letters.
No doubt, some parents will be relieved by all this, knowing that their children are being closely watched. But the idea of sending police to inspect thousands of dorms around Bangkok's universities sounds like a recipe for harassment of proprietors and students. The threat of a fine or even a jail sentence - for property owners who don't enforce the law - is a neat way of ensuring generous donations to police welfare funds.
Mr Watana isn't short of bright ideas. Last year, he brought Bangkok's teenage motorcycle gangs to a speedway track and let them race there, rather than tear along city highways in the dead of night. Critics said it might have been easier to enforce the law than encourage daredevil riders. His other big idea was the creation of Buddhist temples in shopping malls, to instil faith in young consumers.
But the squeeze on university dorms is probably his biggest headline grabber so far. The Nation newspaper rushed to get reactions from students caught in the middle. Not surprisingly, young couples were alarmed to learn that someone could be snooping on their after-dark activities. Some predicted that it wouldn't work because there are so many private rooms for rent in Bangkok, even if dorms are more convenient and social.
One 20-year-old male student lamented that he wasn't doing anything wrong by living with his girlfriend. They wanted to get married after graduation, and needed to find out if they were well suited. 'To stay with someone you love - and share expenses - is good,' he said.