BBC being obtuse
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BBC being obtuse

Re: ''The good, the bad and the BBC's ugly Abhisit interview'', (Opinion, Dec 14).

Media researcher Philip J Cunningham was right in his criticism of BBC news presenter Mishal Husain for being obtuse and numb to others' feelings.

Ms Husain used the usual BBC tactics of shouting down her subject, in this case former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, with rote questions. She showed a lack of background knowledge for her assigned job.

To focus only on the 90 or so deaths that occurred in May 2010, and fail to pay attention to the bloodier killings of 2,500 people in Thaksin Shinawatra's war against drugs was ridiculous to say the least.

When will the BBC stop this show of aloofness?


Thailand must say 'no'

While I share your contributor Wasant Techawongtham's views in wishing ''nothing but the best for Laos and its people'' (BP, Dec 7, ''Illusory riches await Laos in its dam quest''), I would suggest the real responsibility for the human and environmental disaster that is likely to occur if the mainstream Xayaburi dam project is allowed to proceed lies not with the Lao government but with Thailand and our insatiable appetite for energy, at any cost.

Considering the risks involved, it is time for Thailand to demonstrate moral leadership and say ''no''.

At risk are the livelihoods of 60 million Lao, Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese villagers who depend on the world's greatest inland fisheries, which is what the lower Mekong River is today.

At risk is the very viability of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), with its laudable goal of managing the river basin's resources for the overall benefit of all stakeholders through consensual agreement, based upon the overriding principle of ''no harm''.

At risk is Thailand's relations with two fellow Asean member states, Cambodia and Vietnam, both of whom are fiercely opposed to the Xayaburi project. In fact, in its April 15, 2011 reply to the MRC's Prior Consultation process, Vietnam strongly requested ''that the decision on the Xayaburi Hydropower Project as well as all other planned hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream be deferred for at least 10 years'', to allow for more comprehensive and detailed studies.

At risk is the financial viability of this US$3.8 billion project and the international reputation of the Thai banks that have agreed to finance it. Unknown as yet, but probably very significant, are the additional costs of maintaining a permanent dredging operation on the 60-80km-long, in-river reservoir which will be formed upstream from the dam, if it is built, and the amount of lost revenue caused by the probable need for additional, but as yet unplanned, flushing of sediment at the dam site, which will reduce the water available for power generation, quite apart from killing all the fish downstream.

All of these risks, and many others, stem from a single fact: We don't know enough to accurately assess the full basin-wide impact of building a mainstream dam on the lower Mekong River. That is why the Vietnamese government's call for a 10-year moratorium on the development of all mainstream dams on the lower Mekong makes so much sense.

Even the Finnish firm Poyry's much criticised Compliance Report identified 40 more environmental and cross-border impact studies that should be undertaken, but added, as any obedient consultant would, that all these studies could be carried out while construction was in progress. This ''fixing it as you go-along approach'' was sensibly rejected by the MRC's own expert review of the report which noted that ''it is strongly recommended to undertake baseline investigations before construction''.

So can the Xayaburi dam project be stopped?

Yes, if only we would allow common sense and good neighbourliness to prevail. The great irony of this human and environmental catastrophe in the making is that the Xayaburi dam is completely unnecessary. Laos can have its revenues for national development and Thailand can have its power, not from the Xayaburi project, but by developing some of the already identified, more sustainable hydropower projects in Laos.

I therefore call upon Prime Minister Yingluck to immediately suspend the Power Purchase Agreement for the Xayaburi dam project and to enter into negotiations with Laos, offering increased development assistance and a commitment to jointly accelerate development of selected tributary hydropower projects for the mutual benefit of our two peoples.


Get serious about South

No one needs to be reminded of the sad events that continue in the troubled South and there is always debate on how the various governments have handled the situation.

I wish to express my disappointment with the prime minister's recent visit as she seemed to treat it as nothing more than a photo-opportunity since almost every picture I saw had her smiling broadly as she shook hands, patted shoulders, etc, but always had one eye on the camera.

Surely a more serious, but friendly, attitude might have carried more substance and made it seem as if she cared rather than going through the motions for her own best advantage.


Another useless booze law

Since the first politicians walked the Earth they have tried to suppress alcohol consumption, prostitution and gambling. Thousand of legislative bills have been passed and, each and every one, has failed. Now, Khun Pradit Sintawanarong is adding his name to the long list of useless alcohol legislation instigators. No doubt this will be as popular and have the same effect as the ''no alcohol between 2pm and 5pm'' law that pleases no one. The truth is that the general public are far more astute than politicians and will continue to drink how they want and where. Still, I suppose it is the politicians needing to put their thumbprint on something.


Vendor crackdown a start

I have mixed feelings about the recent announcement of the latest seasonal crackdown on the sale of alcohol. The initial reaction was ''Oh no, here we go again'' and I should say I object to restrictions on alcohol sales in principle. I never thought I would support any crackdown. However, addressing the matter of pavement sales is not entirely unwelcome.

There has been a proliferation of pavement bars in the last decade. Years ago, I was a bar owner and the problem of negotiating fast changing and often draconian rules was a major factor ensuring that I (like many others) never made a single satang from it. Instead of investing millions of baht in a fixed asset, which would then become the target of government whim and unscrupulous extortionists, more and more bar operators chose to set up shop on the streets. Pavement bars pay the extortionists to operate (although in a different way), but have close to zero fixed investment and can close up and move on in a matter of hours with no loss of assets. It is ironic to note that pavement bars have arisen not in spite of regulation, but because of it.

The thing is, owners of fixed shops, bars and restaurants would welcome removing all vendors from the pavements, not just ones selling alcohol. They compete with fixed businesses on an unlevel playing field, with smaller fixed assets and avoiding the cost of complying with regulations. In addition, their ugly stalls block access to fixed businesses' premises and they steal electricity. Just walk down any street where there are vendors and look up at the number of electric plugs hanging from the wires. A vendor on Sukhumvit Road might pay 1,000 baht per month for electricity, but this money goes into the pockets of the local mafia, while the cost to the electricity company is passed on to other consumers, typically the shop outside which the vendor squats.

I read the latest ''crackdown'' came not from the Interior Ministry, but the Health Ministry, which I hope means it is taken more seriously. However, the pavement vendor culture is so deeply ingrained that it will be a tough nut to crack. Apart from the usual suspects, there are street cleaners, ice vendors, motorcycle taxis, even disabled organisations, all complicit in this trade. A friend of mine reported that his establishment has been subject to visits by no less than eight interested groups with their hands out, the sale of alcohol being the main catalyst. Several of these parties were allegedly also tasked with enforcement on a more ''official'' basis. These same parties will be the ones doing the cracking down, meaning it is likely to represent more an inconvenient speedbump than a complete stop. It is, however, a start.


School not for hairstyles

Re: Dr K Conor's missive about haircuts in Thai schools (Dec 11, Postbag).

Many years ago I went to work for a very large New York corporation. When I was directed to report to the home office in New York, I was told by my boss to dress in a conservative, dark suit with a conservative tie. When I got to New York the first thing that I noticed was that everyone was wearing dark blue suits and black, wing tip shoes. I finally had the opportunity to ask one of the executives why this was and he explained to me that all of us were perpetually selling. Either ourselves or our product. When you are selling something, it is difficult to get customers' attention if he is fixated on your pink tie or polka dot sports coat. I thought about what he said and it made sense. That obviously explains the uniforms in schools here. As for the haircuts, students are told to keep their hair short to lessen the chance of lice.

As my daughter in America came home twice with lice in her hair while attending school, that also makes sense.

Additionally, I suspect that the short hair is also an attempt at stifling ''individuality'', which also becomes a subject for gossip in schools. As kids are in school to learn, not gossip or display their individuality, which gives others cause to gossip, I would think as the holder of a doctorate degree you would understand and appreciate this. If you don't, then take a trip to America and spend some time at any of the schools there. It's quite entertaining, but unfortunately not an atmosphere of learning.


Take haircut back to US

I would like to remind K Conor that schools in Thailand, as in the rest of the world, have codes regarding dress and appearance. One of these is hairstyle. Be they government or non-government, each has their own specific code as to how their students will manage their hair. Your supposed profession, ethnicity and hair length are totally irrelevant to the subject and your son's American citizenship does not guarantee your son rights over any other school pupils or the school's dress code. You also state that the school is destroying your son's English-language skills. Perhaps if you and your son were to return to America then his English skills may improve along with the length of his hair.


Reds flout helmet law

Re: ''Red shirts rally on Constitution Day'', (Dec 10).

Enforcing a helmet rule on motorbike drivers is one of the top priorities for police nationwide. However, from the TV video footage, more than half of red-shirt rally bike drivers wore no helmets and policemen lined up for traffic control just ignored them passing right in front of their eyes. Do national police have a special permit for red shirts to be allowed to wear no helmet? Or are they simply reluctant to enforce the law against the red shirts?

R H SUGA, Lamphun

Connect up Khon Kaen

At long last Khon Kaen seems to have grown enough to get more choice in the aviation business. A new company will start operating between Khon Kaen and Suvarnabhumi, and there is even talk about international connections.

However, again the new company is going to operate on the same route and so will come into direct competition with Thai Airways. It will probably be cheaper, but who knows what the next step will be.

But why not do some market research?

Why not fly from Khon Kaen to Don Mueang?

Why not fly to U-tapao?

Why not make a flight path from U-tapao-Khon Kaen-Chiang Mai?

These connections are better suited to business people going to Bangkok and Rayong while U-tapao and Chiang Mai are very well suited for the tourist business from Isan.

No, as usual in Thailand, only the existing business is attractive, with the result that nobody seems to make a good profit.

The duplication of the connections between Khon Kaen and Bangkok has been tried a few times before, and never succeeded.

Maybe it's time to try something different.

Maybe try to find new business, and use a cheaper aircraft, an ATR-72 for example.


Proud to be Thai art fan

I and my wife went to see the exhibition ''Arts of the Kingdom'' at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, and this tempted me to write to you.

Very impressive! I must say. All the masterpieces shown at the exhibition are something that you all (Thais and visitors to Thailand) must see before you die.

I believe they (the masterpieces) are all from the projects under royal patronage, and for the benefit and happiness of the Thai people. I am so proud to be a Thai.



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