Nation of followers

I fully agree with Sanitsuda Ekachai in her May 25 article, "How our education sustains dictatorship" which is why our most highly educated elite have been so supportive of the last coup d'etat.

I suggest that core values essential to a vibrant democracy include freedom of expression, tolerance, and the willingness to give a fair hearing to ideas regardless of source (adopted from commencement speech by Michael Bloomberg, Villanova University, 2017).

We have long lacked these core values, as shown by our insistence on precise uniformity in dress for students, unwillingness to give both sides to an issue the equal opportunity to make their case, and forbidding students from calmly questioning what their teachers say. For example, there can be no debate on what police reforms are needed, nor what our education goals should be -- yet our governments for the next two decades will be bound to the strategy that the junta is drafting.

As a student at the University of Chicago, I studied under George Stigler and was a lifelong friend of Merton Miller. What impressed me most about these two, who became Nobel laureates, was their humility and their eagerness to engage all and sundry in intellectual discourse, for they knew that peacefully exploring areas of differences was where progress was to be made -- and their ideas have changed the world.

We, too, can fully harness our potential if we follow Stigler and Miller and the values above. Instead, we are teaching our students to be obedient followers in an authoritarian society, and this bodes ill for us in competing internationally.

Burin Kantabutra
Blowing PM's trumpet

RE: "How our education sustains dictatorship" (Opinion, May 25).

I fully agree with everything Sanitsuda Ekachai says in her piece. There is one basic difference however in why polls indicate many Thais seem to like this particular "dictatorship".

Regardless of whatever else is bad, people like Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha get things done. He doesn't just talk, but he is a doer. Granted, he is heavy handed, sends people to re-education centres, and does not brook much criticism. But he is more liberal and caring and preferable to the Dutertes, the Erdogans, the Assads and a few others. Thaksin catered to his minions, Snow White did nothing besides make appearances dressed as a fashion model blowing kisses to the crowd. Has anyone forgotten how close Thailand was to Chalerm Yubamrung becoming PM?

While Abhisit, the only knight in shining armor was a good man, the odds were stacked against him. What other alternative remains? Prayut is still number one choice. Wanna trade him for Trump?

David James Wong
An unheard voice

Khun Sanitsuda and Gwynne Dyer have both succinctly put what I've thought for quite a while but was not allowed to say!

Unleashing the beast

One worries that the heavy-handed moment by moment coverage of the Manchester Arena attacks serves the yearning of the suicide bomber for posthumous notoriety. All free-to-air channels in Australia suspended normal programming for live feeds to its bloody aftermath. Terrorism's tentacles in capturing public attention and inducing fear is magnified by TV stations and websites running endless loops of videos of panicked escapes, anguished parents and distraught children. Although the press has a mandate to inform, caution demands not replaying ad infinitum the murderous spectacle so craved by terrorists.

After every terrorist outrage there are acts of solidarity and candle-lit ceremonies, which after a succession of senseless atrocities risk becoming congealed rituals that hold no power to dissuade the next attack. However, the press does a great deed in issuing a clarion call for anger around the world tempered with grief for innocent lives lost. A note of caution though, anger unchannelled, anger not given shape by mechanisms for progress, can easily become unhinged to being hatefully sectarian and dangerously misanthropic. Community outrage could unleash the malignancy that hungers for retribution against Muslims who do not condone jihad.

The challenge we face is to rebuild the organisations of civil society and movements for social change that cannot only pierce the jihadi state of mind but also channel the grief and love and anger about terrorism into political hope and not anti-Muslim vengeance.

Joseph Ting
Chickens roosting

The world is truly an amazing place. The EU with its open borders and open immigration policies invited all the catastrophes happening today. France, Germany, Belgium and England are all victims of terrorist attacks, past and ongoing. Sure, the US suffered its Sept 11 terrorist attacks, but while the Americans started putting mechanisms in place to hopefully stop more attacks, those European countries were bragging about their liberalism and open borders. As American Airlines used to advertise, "Fly now, pay later". The chickens are all coming home to roost.

Roosting Mango
Famous and infamous

There are two things in that Thailand is world famous for. Incredible street food and underage prostitutes. And of course breathtaking corruption. In Chiang Mai a very popular strip of local vendors is being closed down at Chiang Mai Gate Market. But the one at Thai Phae Gate will stay open.

The only difference that I can see is that Chiang Mai Gate is for locals (and a few Chinese tourists) and Thae Phae Gate is for tourists. Thae Phae Gate has McDonald's and Burger King and Starbucks and big bars and restaurants and Chiang Mai Gate doesn't. Oh well, what are they going to do with the big empty space? Maybe the government can build an open air market for selling 14-year-old farm girls.

Growing old in Changing Chiang Mai
Speeding to death

In her May 24 commentary, "Speed focus not making road safer", the writer said: "You can drive fast, very fast, but if you remain disciplined, the chances are that you will be safe". This fallacy is directly contradicted by the facts concerning road deaths related to speeding by a WHO report that crunches the data about driving fatalities and speed.

In developed countries, 30% of the fatalities are related to speeding while in developing countries such as Thailand, speeding accounts for 50% of the traffic fatalities.

Then to use the autobahn as an example of proper high-speed driving is misleading without context. Most of the highway is regulated with a 90kph limit and they are considering limiting the speed in the other areas because of safety concerns. Also, those roads are engineered and maintained for such driving and the drivers are skilled enough to handle the task. Thailand is light years away from having proper roadways and from your diatribe, that far from being mature enough to deal with such a privilege.

People who drive in countries where higher speeds are legal follow all the rules. They do not make five lanes on a road marked for three, they do not allow people to travel unsecured in the back of trucks, they do not allow several people on a motorcycle -- or even let a motorcycle drive on the roads with three propane tanks bungee-corded on the seat like a rolling bomb, they do not pull out in front of oncoming traffic and expect the other driver to take evasive manoeuvres.

Darius Hober
Slam on the brakes

Speed limits are imposed for a good reason, not just to make money. Drivers unfamiliar with the road will not know about hazards they might encounter and also for the protection of other road users.

In most Western countries you don't find "U-turns" in the outside lane, nor do you find crossroads on a highway as you do here. Also in those countries drivers are required to pass a rigorous test and wear "L" plates until they have done so, must drive with an experienced driver in the front passenger seat and are not even allowed on highways. It takes some people many attempts to pass the test. Much more difficult tests are required to drive trucks, articulated vehicles, liquid tankers and passenger vehicles with more than seven seats.

Overall this makes for a much greater competency of skills, but there are, with the exception of a few miles of German autobahns, speed limits on every road.

If my memory serves correctly the statistics show that the main two causes of accidents on Thailand's roads are alcohol and excessive speed.

What I do agree with is the complete waste of time the "checkpoints" and "road blocks" are, and in some cases I agree they are a hazard in themselves. Also speed traps do not need to be manned as cameras can do that.

What is needed is for the roads to be patrolled to stop the blatant and constant disregard for all the other traffic laws too.

Peter Fairless

Poor Mary Whitehouse


Letters by 449900 and Eric Bahrt this week on the media and violence take me back to the 1960s in England when Mary Whitehouse complained about violence and bad language being shown on television. And that it was sending a bad message to the young generation.

The British broadcasting watchdog brought out rules allowing violent content to be shown only after 10.30pm. We now have more modern forms of media where the subjects of her complaints are freely available. She must be turning in her grave.

Ron Martin
A very wasteful UN

Critics of United Nations organisations are well justified in pointing out the inefficiencies and waste in the system (BP, May 23). Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) spending $370,000 in one year for travel is but one of many examples. The article also correctly points out the disparities between how the top leadership of UN organisations travel compared with rank-and-file staff at lower levels.

Little known to the general public, top UN officials also receive higher "daily subsistence allowances" to cover hotel and meal costs than regular UN staff, despite the fact that they are generally "wined and dined" for free by government hosts eager to please the visiting officials.

In addition to the glaring and unnecessary business-class and first-class perks enjoyed by highfalutin UN officials, tremendous waste occurs as a result of late booking of travel. Bureaucratic inefficiencies and hierarchical power games that delay travel authorisations until the last moment plague many UN agencies, resulting in booking of travel on short notice at the highest rates.

Samanea Saman
True sports failure

There are only four major tennis competitions every year -- four slams. The French Open, Roland Garros, is at the end of May, and is taking place now! But True Visions is not showing it. They are showing replay highlights. But no live broadcasts. Why? Is this another example of this once better company saving money at subscribers' expense, and not passing these savings on to customers via lower subscription rates like they did this month with not airing the first half of the NBA playoffs?

The very best of two sports, and Thai people do not get to see them despite their love of sports.

Sir William of Doodadshire
Liberal ignorance

"Another Donald" joins the already crowded circus of pundits and deplorables who have all kinds of Mickey Mouse plans for Trump and his family, but apparently not sufficient imagination to suggest a single remedy for liberal ignorance and apologist rhetoric. Middle fingers, cry-in sessions, nasty profanities and denials that Hillary really lost have become the stuff of which heroes are not made.

Our country was not founded on such people, nor will the remainder of us allow it to so flounder. 2018 and 2020 are on the way, so liberals move over, move out of the way, and join things that matter rather than things that shame.

Brian Knight
Trump on, tune out

Whenever I'm having problems sleeping, all I only have to do is tune in to one of Donald Trump's interminable droning monologues.

That does the trick nicely.

The Great Communicator he isn't!

Bernie Hodges
Eric's hateful honesty

Re: "The real terrorists", (Postbag, May 25).

One thing you have to admire about the letters from Eric Bahrt is his honesty. Eric does not hide behind trees, or make innuendos, he just comes right out in no uncertain terms and tells us he hates America, and Americans in general.

That's okay Eric, keep spouting off. I do enjoy my morning laugh-a-day reading your hateful letters, and wondering just how did your brain get so messed up. That was not a question, it was a statement.

Charlie Brown
26 May 2017 26 May 2017
28 May 2017 28 May 2017


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