South needs pragmatism

South needs pragmatism

Re: ''Thaksin 'talked to rebels''' (BP, April 6).

It seems to me that without Thaksin Shinawatra the Democrats would not have much to criticise and would thereby disappear into oblivion.

The Democrat Party has accused Thaksin and PM Yingluck of holding secret talks with southern insurgent leaders. The Pheu Thai Party has denied the allegation. With both parties bickering away, it doesn't help solve the southern unrest that started in 2004 or the 5,000 lives that have been lost.

I don't see how Thaksin holding talks with insurgents would ''complicate efforts to end the unrest'', as opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva posited. When in power, the Democrats weren't able to solve the unrest.

What we need is a pragmatic approach towards the southern unrest. If Thaksin or any individual or groups can negotiate and reach an agreement with the insurgents, then so be it. This should not be about scoring political points. It should be about helping people in the three southern provinces live normal lives without fear of being the next casualties.


'Titanic' still fascinates

Re: ''TV flooded with specials on ship's tragedy'' (BP, Life, April 6).

Mike Hale rightly says that much of the current media fuss about the Titanic's centenary is repetitious. But one should not assume that TV and movies have run out of material, given that the public's obsession with the disaster shows no sign of abating.

There is, for example, a new movie being planned about the steamship Californian, the indifferent stranger that may have seen the stricken Titanic's distress signals but did nothing constructive until it was too late. Whole books have been written on the incident but references in the movies are scant. The Californian scenes were struck out of the 1997 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Only the 1943 Dr Goebbels propaganda version and the 1958 A Night to Remember treated Captain Lord of the Californian, but both briefly and sillily.

Other source material for future Titanic movies will be the lives of more celebrated survivors. White Star chairman Bruce Ismay survived the sinking but became a public pariah. Lady Duff Gordon ordered the crew in her lifeboat to row away from the screams but later became a semi-bankrupt businesswoman. At least seven survivors committed suicide in dramatic circumstances. Of such stuff are TV mini-series built.


Censorship puzzling

Re: ''Censors ban 'Shakespeare' film'' (BP, April 4).

The film Shakespeare Must Die portrays the tale of a theatre group in a fictional country resembling Thailand that is staging a production of Macbeth whereby an ambitious general assassinates a king to pave his way to the Scottish throne. The film depicts the character of a popular politician who rises up the echelons of power. A person obsessed with greed and an insatiable lust for power.

Censors at the Culture Ministry issued a brief memo stating that the film could not be distributed in Thailand because it ''has content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation''. The memo failed to specify which scenes were deemed offensive.

Could this be because one of the film's main characters is a dictator who resembles a former prime minister who has been accused of corruption and abuse of power and who is a family member of the current prime minister?


AIT has lost its way

Re: ''Rebuilding a safe, secure and sustainable Thailand'' (BP, Opinion, April 4)

Safe and secure societies also require safe and secure universities that contribute to the development of knowledge as well as to social end economic development and are a focus for open and free inquiry and debate. Unfortunately, the Asian Institute of Technology has in recent years not played this role in the way it did from the 1950s through to the early 1990s and is in a state of denial as to its significantly diminished condition. A contribution to your columns by the AIT president simply repeating what I suggest is common knowledge among your readership will only contribute to the illusion that AIT lives under.

For some 15 years, academic standards have fallen at AIT to a point where it has today lost sufficient academic capital to recover. Many universities in the region have long since surpassed AIT in terms of the quality of their teaching, research and relevance to development.

The 2011 flooding of the AIT campus and actions of the AIT administration (at an institution that claims expertise in water management, flood control, disaster preparedness, etc) has resulted in heightened awareness of AIT's critical circumstances and the very poor way the organisation has been governed. Rather than address these circumstances, AIT has sought international recognition as an intergovernmental organisation and quick fixes such as franchising its undergraduate programmes to very questionable private colleges in Sri Lanka.

AIT is also pleading for support from the government. Why should the government subsidise an organisation (by grants, scholarships or tax concessions as an intergovernmental organisation) where the majority of students are relatively well-heeled Thais? This should be of concern to taxpayers and in particular to public and private universities.

If AIT is unable to reinvent itself, it must consider an alternative future. AIT founder Seato recognised it had accomplished its purpose and decided to end its existence. Deciding ''mission accomplished'' is preferable to slow decline in a mist of denial and an illusion about contributing to development _ a task best achieved by Thailand's and the region's leading universities.


Don't chop cinemas

Re: ''Is it curtains for city's iconic cinemas?'' (BP, April 2)

Permyot Kosolbhand, vice-president of the Property Management Office of Chulalongkorn University, has asked those of us who oppose the destruction of the Lido and Scala theatres whether we really see movies there. I would like to answer that question with an emphatic yes.

My husband and I visit the Apex theatres at least twice a month. The Lido and the Scala offer a welcome alternative to the chain cinemas in Bangkok shopping malls. The malls are designed for cars, not pedestrians. When you exit from a late show, you frequently have to find your way down stopped escalators or wander through a deserted and possibly dangerous parking garage to find your way to the street. In contrast, after a show at the Scala or Lido, you're only a few steps from the skytrain _ safe, fast and environmentally friendly.

The Apex theatres play foreign and art films not screened anywhere else in Bangkok. While they may not have super-VIP rocking-chair seats, they are comfortable and refreshingly inexpensive. And the grand, single-screen Scala provides an experience not available anywhere else in Thailand _ the experience of being a part of a large and enthusiastic live audience at a film event. I remember attending a packed showing of Avatar on the Scala's huge screen. The breathless excitement of the crowd amplified the impact of the film many times.

It seems a great shame that Chulalongkorn University would want to demolish such a unique edifice, only to replace it with yet another cookie cutter shopping centre.

Thailand has already lost hundreds of irreplaceable old buildings because of its obsession with the new and the trendy. I sincerely hope that the Lido and the Scala do not join that number.

King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi

Vans' demolition derby

Re: ''Passenger vans caught speeding'' (BP, April 5).

I would respectfully draw your attention to an error in the report concerning the number of passenger vans recently caught speeding on two of our local expressways.

Having used the passenger vans on the Sunday and Monday in question, I can affirm with confidence that the percentage quoted (1.4%) was not the number exceeding the legal limit, but the number abiding by the regulations. It gave the impression of being either a dress rehearsal for the upcoming Songkran race to anywhere or a dry run for a demolition derby.

We can rest a little easier knowing that all law enforcement agencies were busy at work protecting our homes, as they were most definitely nowhere to be seen on the raceways that we once knew as roads.


Passengers in danger

Bangkok bus drivers are still dropping passengers off in the middle of busy streets. What is it with these people?

On Thursday, on the air-conditioned minibus Route 7 bus from Hua Lamphong railway station to Chinatown, the driver stopped in the middle of a busy street, one full lane out from the kerb. I refused to get off and had to go three stops beyond where I intended to get off. Someone responsible for bus management must take some action.


Lady is unstoppable

Watch out, generals, the (Iron) Lady is coming, and she's ready to dance with the wolves. So watch your step, please.

Yes, she's armed, dangerous and very ambitious, but there's no need to call out your tanks, your warplanes and your 400,000 men with guns.

Resistance is futile. You've got no chance against her 55 million unarmed fellow citizens and a roadmap for real democracy, progress and prosperity for the people of Myanmar. So why not join hands with her and turn over a new leaf for the sake of the country?

Congratulations to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, on this historic occasion.


Airport conundrum

Re: ''Thai flyers get fast track'' (BP, Business, April 5).

If the new automated passport channel system at Suvarnabhumi airport can only be used for people with a height from 120cm to 190cm, what about children below 120cm? What about families travelling together? Will the children have to stand in a normal queue as their parents go through the Autochannel?


Law protects monarch

There has been much debate about reforming a law that, out of well-deserved love and respect, few wish to reform.

Meanwhile, the laws of defamation and libel sit on the statute books, a weapon loaded with the means to bring about financial ruin or imprisonment for those who would expose criminality, corruption, incompetence or acts against the public good. These laws gag the press, silence social activism and castrate freedom of expression.

Thailand's neighbours have seen these same laws used to destroy political opposition and suppress any challenge to those who believe they have a life-long right to power and a hand in the public purse.

Leave the laws that protect a much-loved and respected monarch alone and repeal the laws that protect common criminals. Give us the right to name and shame the shameful.

Chon Buri

Beware of butt scam

On a recent stroll from Chit Lom to Sukhumvit 17, I counted 27 different uses for the footpaths I was on. Make that 28 if you include walking on them or 29 if you include the ubiquitous cigarette butt scam.

Here is how it works. Police set up tables along a stretch of Sukhumvit from Soi 3 to Soi 17. They then spread out to spot a smoker. This unsuspecting individual is then put under surveillance and tracked until unable to find somewhere to dispose of the butt and inevitably drop it on the ground. Immediately, they are pounced on, escorted to the table, shown a laminated copy of the law against littering and told they have to pay a fine of 2,000 baht. The hapless tourist, fearful of unknown consequences, agrees to pay.

Nobody can argue that littering is acceptable, but this in reality is nothing more than a scam. The foreigner breaks the law, but this happens in an area where porn, pirated DVDs and software are openly sold without restrictions along with counterfeit watches and handbags, not to mention the many working girls openly soliciting for business.

Furthermore, if this stretch of pathway was a pristine example of pedestrian paradise, one might see the point but, as anybody who lives here knows, like most of Bangkok's footpaths, it is sadly anything but.

Bangkok's footpaths are used by the police as prime real estate to be meticulously exploited for financial gain by receiving kickbacks from anybody trading on them or who now foolishly drops a cigarette butt.


Hats off to kind police

My wife and I were at the Royal Thai Police headquarters on March 28 to submit some papers for her clearance certificate. I can't tell you how pleased we both were with all the kindness and help that was given to us.

As an American, I thought this would take three or four hours and we would have all kinds of problems with our paperwork. But we were in and out of the office in less than an hour. Once again, I can't thank the Thai people and the Thai police enough for being so very helpful.

Hua Hin

136 Na Ranong Road Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110
Fax: +02 2403666 email:

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