Bangkok: 2012 seemed to have more than its share of the bizarre and oddball stories on the front pages - a "mysterious" hotel meeting, sandbags in the sewers and of course the assassination (plot) of Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin assassination plot
The rumour about an assassination plot against ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra lost credibility soon after it hit the news.
The reports emerged just before his visit to Myanmar in early November. Posting on his Facebook page, Thaksin's son, Panthongtae Shinawatra, claimed his father's life was in danger after a tribesman was arrested on Nov2 at a house near the Regina Hotel in Tachilek township where Thaksin was scheduled to stay.
Authorities also found a cache of war weapons including three rocket-propelled grenades, three sets of explosives, 10 M16 bullets, and one M16 magazine.
At first, security personnel from Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwannathat down to National Security Council chief Paradorn Patthanathabutr all denied any link between the arrest and any alleged plot to assassinate Thaksin.
However, when Panthongthae reasserted on his Facebook page that the arrest really did represent a fifth, foiled attempt on his father's life, and begged Thaksin to cancel his trip to Tachilek, officials began to take more notice. They also gave conflicting information about the arrest.
Lt Gen Paradon said Thai authorities would have to wait for the results of an investigation by the Myanmar authorities.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung sided with Thaksin's son. He said the rumour could be true and he had learned the case also involved the illicit drugs trade. Myanmar authorities denied the assassination possibility.
Eventually, Thaksin called off his visit to Tachilek and only went to Nay Pyi Taw.
His cancellation dashed the hopes of his supporters in the government who were hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to lobby him for seats in cabinet.
One supporter who failed to meet Thaksin was red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan.
When the cabinet reshuffle was announced shortly after, he once again failed to make it to the coveted list.
Thais have joined the worldwide craze for the "Gangnam Style" dance this year, but in a distinctly local style.
While the song's official music video ends with Psy's now ubiquitous horse-jockey dance, the Thai version of Gangnam has often ended with brawls.
The Gangnam Style dance has been blamed for at least two violent confrontations.
On the morning of Sept 21, Khlong Ton police were alerted to a shooting at a restaurant in Ekamai Soi 30.
At the scene, police found that a gang had opened fire on cars in the area, damaging the vehicles but causing no injuries.
Police found almost 40 spent shells at the scene.
Witnesses said the shooting erupted following a dispute over the Gangnam Style dance between two gangs.
Wacharin Gowan, 27, a member of one of the gangs, told police his group and the attackers, led by a man identified as Sonthaya, met in a pub in the Makkasan area and started arguing.
Both sides provoked each other with Gangnam Style dance moves.
Mr Wacharin said the pub closed, so his group moved to a bar in the Ekamai area. Mr Sonthaya's group arrived later and shot at them.
Police said they had identified the attackers and had sought warrants for their arrest.
The Gangnam dance triggered another brawl in November, this time in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani.
On Nov 11, two young men were shot and wounded shortly after leaving a temple fair where they had performed the Gangnam dance.
Vorakit Chankong, 24, sustained a serious gunshot wound to his right eye. His friend, identified only as Nid, 17, was shot in the right arm.
Nid told police he and Mr Vorakit visited a temple fair in Muang district. The pair performed the Gangnam Style dance on stage. Their dance moves irritated a local teenager identified as Pichet Kullaket.
Pichet allegedly tried to attack the pair, but was kept away by a temple guard, according to Nid.
As they rode a motorcycle home about 2.30am they were confronted by Pichet, who allegedly fired shots at them and fled.
The Gangnam dance, however, also brought good news.
On Nov 27, inmates at Bangkok Remand Prison took up the dance to reduce stress and fighting among them.
About 4,500 prisoners joined a dancing competition. After one month of practising Gangnam style dance moves, quarrels among prisoners had declined significantly, corrections staff said.
''We have more unity as a result of the competition,'' said one inmate who was a member of the winning team.
Yingluck at the Four Seasons
The conduct of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was called into question on Feb 8, when news broke about her having a ''private'' meeting with business people at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok.
The issue was raised by Ekkayuth Anchanbutr, former head of a collapsed pyramid scheme, who claimed he was assaulted by one of the PM's security guards while sitting at a coffee shop in the hotel.
The media scrambled to find out what Mr Ekkayuth could have witnessed.
The spotlight finally turned to a property tycoon as the man Ms Yingluck met on the hotel's seventh floor.
Ms Yingluck said the meeting was no secret because the hotel's seventh floor is the executive club.
After weeks of speculation and rumours, Srettha Thaweesin, president of listed property developer Sansiri Plc, finally confirmed reports he had met Ms Yingluck at the hotel.
The property tycoon said it was not a one-on-one meeting, as six or seven other people were present as well.
His admission fuelled a set of questions: What was the discussion about? Did it concern the government's pans to appropriate land for floodway projects? If so, was it appropriate?
The opposition party filed a motion in parliament against the premier regarding the meeting.
As the government rallied against suggestions of impropriety, a Pheu Thai MP went so far as to arrange for the media to visit to the hotel's seventh floor to prove it was an open space. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to visit the floor without also checking in.
House Speaker's England trip
A trip to Europe supposedly to allow parliamentary reporters to study European politics and parliamentary systems blew up in the parliamentary speaker's face when journalists started scrutinising the itinerary.
The trip, led by parliament speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont, cost 7 million baht of taxpayers' money.
According to the programme, 39 media crew were invited to join the ''study trip'' during Sept 19 to 27.
Checks by reporters, however, showed the 39 media staff included some people close to the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the red shirts, Mr Somsak's aides and relatives of ''distinguished guests''. Some reporters on the list of invited guests said they knew nothing of the trip, or had turned down the organisers.
The trip also sparked criticism among parliamentary officials and journalists because the programme was more oriented towards tourism activities than study. It included attendances at English Premier League matches in London.
The trip was also poorly organised. Plans to study parliaments in France and the European Union had to be cancelled. A field trip to the parliament in London was also abandoned, as parliament was not in session.
For Mr Somsak, however, the trip was not a total failure. He flew to England on Sept 21 to watch a Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield. His photo, published widely on the internet, showed him sitting in the VIP stands at the match, looking cheerful as he wore a red hat and a red scarf.
After the match, he immediately returned to Thailand without joining the ''study trip''.
The trip eventually triggered scrutiny by the House committee on parliamentary affairs which has demanded clarification of the issue.
Chalerm takes on women
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung must stand as one of the most colourful politicians of his generation.
His oratorical skills and confrontational debating style have earned him the nickname of ''star of the parliament''.
However, his reputation took a battering when Mr Chalerm engaged in a heated argument with TV Channel 7's Somjit Navakruesunthorn on Nov 15. Finally, Mr Chalerm appeared to have met his match.
The argument started when Ms Somjit asked Mr Chalerm if he would oversee security during the Pitak Siam rally. Mr Chalerm accused her of sympathising with the opposition and spending too much time with the Democrat Party. The reporter asked Mr Chalerm if she could call him a servant of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr Chalerm replied that her question was defamatory.
The episode ended with Mr Chalerm refusing to speak to the media if Ms Somjit was present in the same group.
A female MP also gave Mr Chalerm a run for his money during the year.
Rangsima Rodrasamee, Democrat MP for Samut Songkhram, accused Mr Chalerm of being drunk during a parliamentary session on Feb 24 after he repeatedly harangued Democrat and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva during a debate on three charter amendment bills.
Mr Chalerm dismissed Ms Rangsima's accusation, saying he acted with full consciousness.
He also uttered a now-famous phrase: ''I was not high on alcohol but drunk with love.''
He later said an inner-ear disorder which affects his balance may have led Democrat politicians to believe he was intoxicated.
Muay Thai superstar Buakaw "Por" Pramuk was one of Thailand's most controversial athletes of the year, and his name was also involved in probably the biggest sporting joke of 2012.
In March, Buakaw disappeared from his camp Por Pramuk for a week, emerging later to say he had been treated unfairly by his handlers.
He claimed the boxing camp had forced him to fight when he was not fully fit. He also dismissed reports his move was related to financial matters.
In October, reports emerged that people were trying to arrange a fight between Buakaw and boxing great Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines.
However, it was unclear who was actually behind the fight, with several VIPs named by the media as ''chairman of the organising committee''.
Buakaw insisted he knew nothing about the match although he said he was ready to fight any bout arranged by his handlers.
The contest was initially scheduled for Dec 21 in Bangkok. The date raised eyebrows in boxing circles as Pacquiao was to fight Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec 8 in Las Vegas, while Buakaw was booked for a Thai Fight match on Dec 16 in Bangkok.
The rules for the encounter were also unclear.
''People in boxing know it was just a joke,'' said boxer Manus Boonjumnong, who won gold at the 2004 Olympics and silver at the 2008 Olympics.
Sandbags in the sewers
Who would have thought that sandbags used to prevent floods could be redeployed as a political weapon by both the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties?
The blame game began in early October when about 100 sandbags, concrete slabs, plastic bottles and rocks were found in sewerage lines in Min Buri and Chatuchak districts.
The debris was found during a dredging project by the Corrections Department and the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
Deputy government spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard demanded an explanation from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) while Democrat deputy spokesman Nat Bantadtan claimed someone was trying to discredit City Hall, which is controlled by the Democrats.
The row grew even more heated when Pheu Thai Party's spokesman Prompong Nopparit and his deputy Jirayu Huangsap helped workers remove several sandbags from a sewer on Srinakarin Road as part of their inspection of the BMA's dredging work.
They said whoever had placed the sandbags was trying to block the flow of water and obstruct the government's flood prevention plan.
The Democrat Party threatened legal action against Mr Prompong and Mr Jirayu for interfering in the work of government officials.
Plodprasop Suraswadi, head of the government's Water and Flood Management Commission, joined the fray.
He said the BMA's decision to place sandbags in the city's drains was ''the worst technique ever'', and ordered the sandbags removed within 15 days. Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra refused.
At first, Pheu Thai appeared to gain the upper hand when it was able to corner the Democrat Party over the issue.
However, City Hall managed to turn the tables on Pheu Thai when it was able to convince the government that the practice of placing sandbags in city drains was in fact a standard flood control technique known as the polder system, which is in accepted use worldwide.
After a brief meeting with MR Sukhumbhand, Mr Plodprasop appeared content with City Hall's explanation as to why it deployed the technique.--Courtesy of Bangkok Post