Postbag: Let’s get authoritarian
published : 29 Nov 2014 at 06:35
newspaper section: News
Re: “The best ...ocracy”, (PostBag, Nov 24).
For democracy to work in this part of the world it needs adaptations to suit the localities. For more than eight decades, the Land of Smiles has been striving to be democratic. I find the present system may suit the country. I’d call it guardian democracy.
Any system of governance, be it communism, democracy and so on, will work if the leaders are sincere and hold the country and the people in their hearts.
A country in the region, an island state, succeeds very well. It is now a first-world country − it was a very poor third-world nation more than six decades ago. When its leader issued strict family planning restrictions, the people called him a dictator, though they knew that he meant well for the country.
And that I call Democracy Plus (authoritarianism).
Look for alternatives
Re: “Egat says more coal-fired power plants needed”, (BP, Nov 24). I am so glad that Wiwat Chancherngpanich does not do my household budget, as he is obviously either mathematically challenged or does not keep up with the energy news. Well, I guess, with Egat it is not important as they maintain Thailand’s energy monopoly, so it pays to perpetuate the myth of Thailand’s energy crisis.
He can look to both Spain and Germany, both highly industrialised societies which use solar and wind power to source up to 80% of their energy needs. Spain plans to end coal-powered energy in the next few years. Recently the coal-versus-solar tipping point seesawed radically in solar’s favour. In India, electricity charges have dropped while the installation of solar had expanded exponentially. While consumers pay 10 cents a watt for coal, solar comes in at 4 cents. So he needs to critically examine all of his statements in line with current realities.
Coal takes about five years to come on line while solar is almost instant. Solar can be deployed in remote areas and can enable people to set up their own grid and be independent of national energy producers. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Egat balks at renewables.
Waste of space experts
Re: “Klong Dan, the ‘mother of corruption’”, (Opinion, Nov 24). I was engaged in 2001 by the Thai government and the Asian Development Bank as team leader to undertake a technical review of the Samut Prakan Wastewater Treatment Plant (SPWWTP). At that time the project was nearing completion and a final expert review was deemed necessary to assess the likely treatment efficiency, imminent management of the treatment plant and the social and environmental implications of its treated effluent discharge.
The review team covered topics such as elevated infant mortality and decreased life expectancy in Klong Dan and adjoining regions of the Northern Gulf of Thailand being at that time, directly affected by unconstrained discharge of largely untreated or poorly treated industrial and domestic effluent. While I am in no position to comment on any of the improprieties described in the article, I must comment on one technical issue that was asserted in this piece: “Experts point out that the facility was designed to treat organic waste and not heavy metals which are the main threat from industrial waste”. This is patently incorrect.
The SPWWTP was designed as an activated sludge/extended aeration system. Such systems certainly treat organic waste effectively but in doing so also remove large amounts of heavy metals in the waste sludge produced by the treatment process. This occurs due to bio-sorption of heavy metals in the sludge that accumulates during treatment. In the event that heavy metals removal is inadequate, the sorption rate can be enhanced by the addition of a range of quite inexpensive, non-toxic and easily managed materials; even the addition of banana peel has been found to be effective!
Management and environmentally sustainable disposal of this waste material is of course a major issue which was highlighted in the concluding report of the review team. I completely agree with Khun Veera’s warnings regarding real and potential corruption associated with large projects such as this one. Furthermore, I hold no sympathy for those found guilty and applaud the article’s forthright approach.
But despite the illegalities described, the fact remains that the Samut Prakan wastewater treatment plant has been constructed but remains uncommissioned and non-operating. Surely this is a key point for Thailand’s current administration. I had no doubt in 2001 and still have no doubt some 13 years later, that competent operation of this treatment plant would generate profound long-term social and environmental benefits to the Northern Gulf of Thailand and to those living in its coastal regions.
Thai holiday nightmare
We are two white, European tourists. After only one weekend in Bangkok, we’re leaving to visit more welcoming Southeast Asian cities.
On Friday night, our taxi was stopped by police. We were told to exit the car and we were searched. My handbag was checked, while my fiance had to turn out everything in his pockets and undergo a frightening and humiliating search at the side of the road. The police refused to answer questions and were quite rude. After finding nothing we were sent on our way with no apology or explanation.
Were this not distressing enough, on Saturday evening as we walked near Asok junction, the same thing occurred. Stopped, frisked and searched. When we asked what the reason was for the search, the police simply laughed at us. The police even asked my fiance to perform a urine test at the side of the road which proved negative.
This is our first and last visit to Thailand. The atmosphere is oppressive and intimidating. The bars and clubs close earlier than other cities. And the harassment of tourists in the street is totally unacceptable. We will be reporting these events to our respective embassies and won’t be recommending other people to visit Thailand based on two frightening incidents of what we believe to be racial profiling.
I hope someone in power can see the damage this does to Thailand’s flagging tourism industry.
CDC on the right track
Three cheers for the Constitution Drafting Committee, which is to gather opinions from every side and without prejudice to use in drafting our constitution. As Thawilwadee Bureekul, chairwoman of the subcommittee involved, put it: “What is important is that every participant and every side must listen to others, realising beforehand what they will gain from proposing their ideas and what they will lose [from other ideas]”.
What I would add, though, is that when analysing ideas, we must look at both the pros and cons, not just what we will gain from ours and what we will lose from those of others. We should also first seek win-win solutions, perhaps combining the strengths of our ideas with those of others. Such active involvement will promote discussion and debate by civil groups, which must be rigorously moderated to shed light and not heat, keeping discussion on-topic and devoid of rabble-rousing. This will help educate voters and promote buy-in, so that each side will tend to support the drafting results.
Such an approach is in full accord with Thomas Jefferson, who noted: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”
The CDC’s on the right track; keep it up!
Nip protests in the bud
There has been media focus on the temporary detention of students in Khon Kaen making the three-fingered salute. Some opinion suggests such trivial protests should be ignored.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that suggests we should crack down on the little things in order to prevent big problems in the future. It is an approach successfully used by many police forces to cut crime. Have police on the streets to prevent petty crimes like vandalism, graffiti and traffic infringements. Crack down on the little things and there is always a drop in bigger crimes. This is because you have created an environment where no offence will be seen as acceptable.
Let three students protest without consequences and there may be 30 next week, 300 the following week and 3,000 within a month. Then we are back to political protests and posturing freezing the legislature and hampering good governance.
Perhaps the current government is merely pursuing this conventional approach to help achieve their stated objective for a period of peace and cooperation to rebuild Thailand and point it in the direction of prosperity. Perhaps the media should focus on the government’s actual policies, actions and laws to bring about change in Thailand. That is where transparency and public input is most needed.
Variety is spice of life
Re: “Sometimes uniformity is no solution”, (Opinion, Nov 28). When I first came to Thailand what struck me most was the colourful taxis which had a very soothing effect on my senses and made my journey more pleasant. It also made Bangkok look like a very vibrant city.
Bringing substantive reforms in governance will require changes in the mindset of the military-led regime. Employees in the government sector should be first treated as public servants, not civil servants. Even if they are appointed as civil servants their main job is to serve the public. Serving the public in any capacity should not require uniforms. There are different purposes for using uniforms but their use in the public sector does not make any sense. There is no denying that uniforms are all about conformity; they definitely have a place in the police and military. But they should not be imposed on the public sector. Think of what might happen if all the staff in a mall were forced to wear uniforms? Bangkok taxis are an excellent example of how variety, not uniformity, can lead to more soothing and pleasant experiences. Variety is the spice of life; variety of mere things gives human beings more pleasure than uniformity of something.
Try to think globally
I wholeheartedly agree with Sanitsuda Ekachai’s plea (Opinion, Nov 25) to end the indoctrination of children with ethnic and racial prejudice in Thai schools. And It is certainly a good idea to provide legal status and citizenship opportunities to immigrants from Asean.
I noticed however that there was no mention of offering citizenship to other nationalities. If immigrants from Asean nations, most of whom are poorly educated, can make a positive impact then why not consider what contributions immigrants from, for example, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Germany, Canada, Norway or the United States might have to offer?
Don’t diss the US
Ulrich Dennerlein’s letter lambasting the United States, (“Deadly US democracy”, Nov 27), is rather immature. Does Mr Dennerlein recall Thaksin’s so-called “war on drugs” where the police used government licence to indiscriminately execute people? Amnesty International statistics conservatively show about 2,700 people were slaughtered. This made international headlines and raised the ire of many Thais after a little boy, Fluke, was “executed” for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Agreed, there is no perfect place in the world to live, but the US still seems to be the most popular immigration destination for many Thai citizens and others worldwide.
Many countries use their armed forces to keep their populations from leaving, but the US needs to use its forces to try to stop people entering. Mr Dennerlein might not want to live there, but that is his personal choice. In Germany, a democracy, the skinheads execute Turkish immigrants and are still Jew baiters; in France, extremist groups try to execute Jews. The US for all its faults is still preferable over France, Germany, and a host of other countries. Don’t criticise America before you are sure of your facts, mister.
Booze laws ‘stupid’
The law that stops alcohol sales at certain hours must rate among the stupidest ever.
I do not deny that alcohol abuse is a problem in Thai society, but this law does nothing but promote alcohol sales and tax avoidance.
If I go to a tax registered supermarket, I need to buy 10 litres of alcoholic beverages out of hours, which encourages my bad habit, or I need to drive 50 yards down the road to buy from a little grocery store not in the tax system. Whichever way, government policy loses and I get what I need.
Discipline for drinkers
Re: “Young people warned about booze “myths’”, (BP, Nov 27).
No one has right to ban alcohol drinking. What we need is stricter enforcement against underage drinking, drink driving and crimes resulting from excessive drinking. Drinking alcohol is not a sin. Disciplined drinking habits are needed for our society.
CONTACT: BANGKOK POST BUILDING
136 Na Ranong Road Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110
Fax: +02 6164000 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All letter writers must provide full name and address.
All published correspondence is subject to editing at our discretion.