In all the debate and commentary on the 300 baht per day minimum wage, several key factors have been consistently overlooked. I will take Koh Samui as an example, but sources in other coastal tourist areas tell me much the same story. Most Thais in these places work in the tourist service industry in hotels, resorts, restaurants, small shops, massage shops and bars. They work as staff, receptionists, cleaners, cooks, cashiers, wait staff, and bartenders, to name but a few occupations.
BONDED IN SADNESS: Badri Nath Singh, whose 23-year-old daughter died after being sexually attacked on a bus in Delhi, holds the hands of his son, Gaurav.
These workers, generally speaking, are not offered 300 baht a day since the owners foil any mention of this by saying that the 300 baht rate ''only applies in Bangkok'' or is only for big companies or factories. An employee who pushes the issue will quickly be out of a job.
However, the key here is that employers, even if they do pay the new minimum wage, require employees to work 12 hours a day (sometimes more) without overtime pay. Often, new workers are required to work the first month without a day off, and after that they may have between one and three days off per month, if they are allowed any time off at all. Shifts are often changed irregularly so a worker might be working the day shift for a few days, then the night shift for a day or two, then back again, which makes living a normal life impossible.
Pundits advocating for and against the 300 baht per day minimum wage always assume a perfect workplace scenario where all other relevant labour laws and conditions are followed as if they were textbook examples. When I mention the new minimum wage to workers I know they either give me a blank look like I had just come from the moon, or let out a sharp laugh.
Like so many ''laws'' in Thailand, the 300 baht a day minimum wage is an interesting concept, applied imperfectly or not at all, and with employers looking for any way to partially or wholly circumvent the regulation.
DRUGS WIPE AWAY OPTIONS OF YOUTH
The Bangkok Post's timely editorial yesterday relating to Children's Day asks whether today's youngsters will be living in a corrupt, greed-obsessed society, and whether they will become victims of inter-school gang violence and road accidents.
With a report in the Post in the same issue of yet another major drug bus, this time 2.2 million speed pills and 47 kg of ''ice'', one must also wonder to what extent children's lives are decimated by drugs. It is understandable that Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung regularly poses in the photo-ops provided by the drug hauls, but I never seem to read about what is being done to educate children, and others, on the evils and crimes which are frequently the consequence of consuming such drugs and becoming addicted to them.
JUSTICE CAN BE FINAL
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK and writer of the op-ed piece in the last week's Bangkok Post Sunday ''Don't use rape horror to condone death penalty'', just doesn't get it. The issue is the recent rape and killing of the young woman in Delhi. She makes some very pertinent remarks regarding the plight of women in India but stops short of demanding the death penalty for the killers of the young woman.
She uses emotive words such as ''vengeance'', and ''retribution'' for the perpetrators, when all the public wants is ''due justice''. It seems that Ms Allen would rather have the killers incarcerated for their lives at the public's expense; maybe eventually to be released for good behaviour. Is that ''due justice''?
FEW EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
What do Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thaksin Shinawatra, George W Bush and Silvio Berlusconi have in common? They all came from rich families and became richer playing political poker. They are also perceived by many in their respective countries as self-indulgent, arrogant and power-hungry. And they are not alone; the whole Asian subcontinent is infested with graft and corruption in high places. In addition to politicians, the judiciary, military and executives are all jockeying for power and the riches that come with it.
By and large wealthy people, excepting a few philanthropists, have no interest in serving the needs of the middle class and the poor. Most of them are in politics for fame and glory.
As they say, ''power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'', especially if it falls in the wrong hands. In most Asian countries parliaments have turned into casinos where only high rollers run the show.
It is time to learn from people like Uruguay's President Jose Mujica, known as ''the poorest president in the world''. Mr Mujica serves his country for a monthly salary of less than US$1,000 (30,300 baht).
Dr Kuldeep Nagi
Assumption University, Bangkok
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