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Be wary of Chinese

Re: "PM asks public to back Sino-Thai deal", (BP, June 21).

Allow me, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, to relate two incidents of China's technological prowess before rushing headlong into the controversial railway deal with that country.

It was reported in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Financial Times that state-sponsored COVEC (China Overseas Engineering Consortium) was contracted in early 2000 by the Polish government to build a stretch of the A2 Warsaw-Berlin motorway.

Halfway through the contract, construction progress showed signs of slowing down. Apparently COVEC ran into financing trouble after winning the bid at a ridiculously low price. The Chinese group failed to pay the Polish subcontractors. The manager overseeing the project was AWOL in China. When questioned, the Chinese asked for contract renegotiation but at a higher cost. Poland stood firm, insisting the Chinese must abide by the terms of the contract. Work was heading nowhere. The group failed to observe and preserve the environment required by the contract. Finally in 2011 the Polish premier, Donald Tusk, cancelled the contract. The Chinese group was slapped a hefty fine and blacklisted. They later emerged elsewhere under a new identity.

In another development, China began courting many poor African countries during the 1970s and 80s, pouring in money and tens of thousands of workers in exchange for natural resources. They were contracted, so it seemed, to develop Tanzania's rail system. Presumably they did finish the job. Well done. But rumours had it that they left behind many of the low-level labourers to resettle there.

Of course they will insist it's been a long time and that they've changed. So PM Prayut, be very careful when you deal with crafty people. Remember, past behaviour predicts future behaviour. You will do well to heed this saying: Fools rush in where wise men dare not tread.

Norman Sr


Mourning UK mission

Regarding the sale of the British Embassy in Ploenchit, whilst I share the view that the loss of the current place is a pity, there is no question the embassy's role, make-up and way of doing business has changed a great deal in the 17 years since I left it. Yes, it was a marvellous and spacious place in which to work and the number of UK-based staff was much greater than it is now. Apart from its diplomatic role as the British government's representative in Thailand, the embassy carried out all the traditional services that expatriates had come to expect.

Fast-forward a few years and reductions in budget and staff, coupled with a "do highly paid diplomats need to do x?" approach from Whitehall, has inevitably led to the outsourcing of these services at -- and I have no qualms in stating this -- extortionate prices. It has also led to the selling off of the real estate, although no doubt much of the revenue from this will be sucked up by the new location purchase and move.

Like most British expats here, I mourn the passing of the old embassy, but you can't fight City Hall and you can't turn the clock back. But the greater loss is of what might have been termed the "duty of care" by embassies for their resident expats. However, the standards are not set by them, but by the UK government, and there are precious few signs of any sort of duty of care from that source.

Col Johnny Thoyts


Caging for safety

Since riding in the back of pickups is almost a necessary evil in Thailand, why has no one thought to enforce the installation of a safety cage on the back of all pickups? Something like we see on songthaew. It would create a lot of jobs and could be part of the original cost, built into the cost of a bank loan. Most towns and villages have people that can and do build them, so it would not be a hardship.

MB Mackintosh


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