To the surprise of none, it was the against-all-odds miracle rescue of 13 boys and their football coach from a cave in Chiang Rai that had people clicking Khaosod English like people snatching up pineapple-patterned Hawaiian shirts this year.

Apart from interest in what was one of the world’s biggest stories of the year, you wanted to read about relatable or potentially useful topics such as visa crackdowns, medical marijuana, cross-cultural love and vanishing watering holes. And – according to our sophisticated tracking of every move you make (read: Google Analytics) – you’ve maintained a healthy appetite for outrage.

Divers near Tham Luang Nang Non on July 6.

Unsurprisingly it was this story – with more twists and turns than the cave chambers themselves – that drew the most interest, at least after it turned out the “Wild Boars” were still alive. We’d like to think it helped that our two reporters on the scene were breaking so much news that they couldn’t feel their arms come Day 18 of the ordeal.

Of course, our most-read story of 2018 was when we were the first to report that two boys had been safely extracted, a stunning development that immediately topped /r/all, breaking our site.

Relive it all again with our full Luang Cave rescue coverage.

2Outlaw Foreigners

75 Foreigners Arrested in Soi Cowboy Crackdown

What started a year earlier became a weekly news formula. Apart from changing numbers of arrests, where they happened and what quotable thing Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn would say, the biggest change to the police “crackdown” on foreigners was a branding change from the cringe-worthy “Operation Black Eagle” to “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner.” It was probably the location where this February raid occurred – Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy – that made many readers’ hearts skip a beat.

With 47 million views and counting, rap video “My Country’s Got” (“Prathet Gu Mee”) broke the Thai internet for its scathing criticism of the ruling junta and social elite. Of course the video didn’t really set YouTube on fire until the artists were threatened with prosecution, a dumb move that was – surprisingly – quickly dropped.

Photo: JJ Green / Facebook

Nobody but nobody hates the closure of outdoor hangouts as much as you guys, and many mourned the loss of this popular evening market in the Chatuchak district at the end of August.

Photo: Alvin Aden Ardenrich Pan / Pixabay

From the news-you-can-definitely-use department came this story on wildly expanded tenants’ rights. Renters, rejoice!

A file photo of Thai policewomen.

The sudden, shocking announcement that women would be blocked from the primary channel to entering the police force surprised us as much as it did you.

Chamchuri Square, where the One-Stop Service Center for Visas and Work Permits is located. Photo: William Ng / Flickr

Here’s an unspoken headline-writing rule: Add the word “visa” somewhere and brace for traffic. This perennial favorite kept on giving this year, especially when officials announced they’d finally made good on a long-discussed plan for eligible foreigners to receive four-year professional visas.

Whoosh! The news the BKK’s tallest building opened an expensive skywalk rushed to the top of the click charts.

Border patrol police show off their haul of confiscated marijuana Jan. 23, 2017, in Nakhon Phanom province.

The slow burn and mounting anticipation of legal weed has sent the 420 community into a frenzy. Honestly, we didn’t know there were so many of you – but that’s cool. We have closely covered the decriminalization process for more than two years, and it could very soon be a done deal since parliament just unanimously approved the draft law legalizing medical cannabis. Yet, there be dragons ahead.

Maria and Assawa “Itt” Puntasu in Kirov, Russia.

The only one of our long reads, the things we pour dozens of hours into, to crack the Top 10 wasn’t on a weighty matter of social injustice or political furor – nope, it was something a little more universal: love, sex and marriage. Our Valentine’s Day special on the less-examined pairing of Thai men and Western women featured interviews with five such couples and went on to spawn both love-affirming fuzzies and vile nastiness in the ole’ comments hole.

Little Read, Much Work

On the flip side, here the stories we labored over intensely, debated furiously, rewrote aggressively and edited meticulously for many dozens of hours. To these, you said “meh” and withheld the clicks and shares that sustain us. But mad, we be not; rather, we’ll keep on keepin’ on because these are the topics most in need of oxygen and sunlight.

Men Killing Women at Alarming Rates, And We All Share Blame

Three stories on sexual and domestic violence, a persistent and too-common issue in Thai society with few means of eradication. As news on such violence appeared to surge, these reports explore cultural roots that enable it not only from the victims’ sides, but also former abusers’ own perspectives. The articles follow how abusers felt their actions had been justified and how it was possible to change their mindsets – turning them into activists fighting to spread awareness to as many men as they could.

Denied Education, Thailand’s Migrants and Refugees Go Digital

Shwe Zin Thin
Shwe Zin Thin, a 23-year-old Burmese migrant residing in Thailand’s Ranong province. Photo: Shwe Zin Thin / Courtesy

Not only does this report emphasize one of the biggest challenges migrants and refugees face today, it offers a solution – online universities – that can break down barriers such as limited language proficiency, fear of being deported and poverty.

‘Thaiconsent’ Breaks the Silence With Untold Stories

Image: Thaiconsent / Courtesy
Image: Thaiconsent / Courtesy

One activist dedicates her efforts to end sexual violence by educating society about one simple concept that it has apparently failed to register: consent. Her platform has given voices to many victims to share their stories in this noteworthy attempt to break the taboo about sex and the culture of victim blaming.

Special Report: Thai Students Abuse ADHD Drugs to Stay Ahead

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Ken, a student of political science at Chulalongkorn University, on campus recently. Photo: Taylor McAvoy

Caving into the pressure of excelling in school, students have taken to overdosing on medication to perform in class and exams. This report examined how teenagers compromised on their health for the sake of academic success – and how it almost destroyed their social and personal lives.

Thousands Dead, Hundreds More Dogs Now Dying Due to Scare: Foundation

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A disturbing report that revealed the conditions in which an animal facility kept dogs following a nationwide campaign to take them off the streets due to a rabies scare. Khaosod English obtained photos and footage showing overcrowded pens where hundreds of diseased and dying dogs were negligently crammed, drawing outrage from the public and animals rights organizations.

Trashland: Thailand Drawing Tons of Foreign Garbage

Piles of garbage on June 13 tower over a Pathum Thani facility accused of illegally importing waste.
Piles of garbage on June 13 tower over a Pathum Thani facility accused of illegally importing waste.

Large amounts of toxic, electronics trash that were found dumped in several spots turned out to be illegal waste factories in and around Bangkok. A local community near one of the factories spewed their concerns on the lack of central policies to address the trash surge, while a special order from the ruling junta was blamed for contributing to the problem.

Between Poverty and Disability, Hard Lives Made Harder

Fewer than one in 10 Thais with developmental disabilities get appropriate treatment and education. At one hectic school in the poorest part of Bangkok, an overwhelmed group of teachers does their best to give them better lives. Yet even those efforts raise questions as we learned it remains standard practice to sterilize the girls without their consent, something chalked up as either a necessary evil or easy way out for the adults.

Waste Not: Hungry Mouths Fed by Rescued Food

A boy eats papaya donated to House of Blessing Foundation.
A boy eats papaya donated to House of Blessing Foundation.

A stunning one-third of all food produced goes not into mouths but waste bins. Supermarkets and hotels chuck away perfectly good bread and groceries while many go hungry – but a tiny food waste foundation is trying to change that.

Related stories:

Your Favorite Khaosod English Stories of 2017 – And Our’s