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What we learn from the Bt30-million lottery frenzy

What we learn from the Bt30-million lottery frenzy

TUESDAY, February 20, 2018
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There are times when writers are truly fearful that everything they write will be shrugged off by readers who "knew it all already", and this is one of them. 

The case of two men claiming ownership of a set of lottery tickets that won the first prize late last year has become nothing short of a national obsession. 
On the one hand, I think I should write something; on the other hand, what should I add to one of the most comprehensive analytical discussions in the modern Thai history?
I guess I will spew out a stream of unconscious thoughts then. Here's what has come to my mind as the Bt30 million lottery fervour unfolds:
1)    The culprits would have beaten our ancestors fair and square. What would the investigators of an older generation do? Their present-day counterparts have all the helps of technology. DNA or fingerprint traces on the tickets are achievable, and past conversations are retrievable. In the past, verbal testimonies were the only strong evidence, meaning good lies could win you cases.
2)    Lottery transcends ideologies. No "political colours" have come into play, for once. They have tried to penetrate rocker Toon Bodyslam's charity marathon but are standing no chance against the lottery case. It's refreshing to see that Thais can still be "neutral spectators" who make their judgement based on evidence, not on whether alleged culprits advocate "immediate democracy" or are Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's pompom dancers.
3)    In this era, news will not only find you, but also will make you hungry for more. The controversy has made people tune into TV news programmes more than ever before. Those who missed live programmes go to YouTube to watch them, with every clip with the "Bt30 million lottery" title garnering hundreds of thousands of views, if not more.
The lottery controversy has created star newscasters and led viewers to news programmes they had not even known existed, giving embattled digital TV stations a temporary reprieve. Don't bet against the whole fascinating saga becoming a movie or TV drama plot.
I have never met a single person who follows the lottery story through one news outlet. Brand loyalty goes out the window as far as this type of whodunit news is concerned. For example, not everyone likes politician-turned-convict-turned-news commentator Chuwit Kamolvisit, but if you follow the 30 million lottery epic with a passion, you've got to watch his analyses.
4)    Signed lottery tickets are a good idea, but ... . It has been a trend now for lottery buyers to sign their names on the tickets they bought. This is obviously to pre-empt ownership challenges later. However, what if you signed your name, give the ticket(s) to a friend as a gift and he or she happened to win millions? An easy solution would be to have a written agreement on the transfer, of course, but your signature wouldn't even have prevented someone from claiming you stole the ticket(s) and sign it later.
A more effective measure is to pose with the ticket(s) along with that day's newspaper for a picture. Better still, have a freshly updated website page in the photo, too. It won't help you 100 per cent but it can facilitate the work of investigators down to the minutes.
5)    Evidence that is "too perfect" can work against you. I had been a firm believer in watertight argument until I watched a news clip featuring a high-ranking legal official, who said that while "perfect evidence" is good nine times out of ten, those who look at it and have to be the judges have been trained to spot whether what they are looking at was overly cooked.  He was commenting on evidence presented by both sides of the lottery dispute.
Keep that in mind, especially if you become involved in a legal case. Many witnesses testifying for you is good, but there are also chances that they may contradict one another.
6)    Last but not least, what we say on our mobile phone is not safe. One news media commentator seemed more interested in this matter than the 30-million-baht question of who actually won the first prize. "Are we being told what we say on the phone does not vaporise into thin air?" he said, in an almost panic mode. He may have some personal reasons to be concerned, but here's hoping all the human rights advocates are not too mesmerised as most Thais to look at the big picture.
The guy and lady whose phone conversations were "retrieved" are ordinary citizens. That is extremely worrisome. 
What if you are, say, an anti-government leader? Of course, they say you have to sign your consent for your phone conversations to be retrieved, but the fact that they are always 
there to be retrieved is bone-chilling, isn't it?