Re: "Pareena saga a test of land reform resolve", (Opinion, Nov 15).
But if both the famously well-watched Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and the possibly even more famous Deputy Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow, a "monkey" feeder well-known for his sedative powers and ability to market natural agricultural products, have come out to defend their colleague in a government that is loyally supporting a PM whose respect for the rule of law is famously beyond doubt, as proven by the overthrow of one Thai constitution and consistent refusal to comply with the latest, what more could possibly be needed?
Surely Palang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt's innocence has already been proved beyond any reasonable doubt?
A veggie horror show
In view of the pros and cons, (good thing the pros are in the majority), over the banning of paraquat and two other pesticide agents, I had the opportunity to watch a short video on the fruits and vegetables exported by China. It showed, quite openly, Chinese growers pouring packets of insecticides, colour-enhancing chemicals and preservatives into batches of grapes, oranges and more, by dipping the holding crates in vats of the filthiest water I have ever seen, akin to a cesspit.
This was enough to now make me question where the produce I buy comes from. If in doubt, I simply will look for a locally grown product which, although might be subjected to similar treatment, is easier to verify.
Meantime, my fruit trees in Prachin Buri are pesticide free, and my vegetable garden for my private use has been enlarged to include more plots for local eggplant, tomatoes, long beans, local cabbage, fak-thong, and a few other goodies.
If "you are what you eat" holds true, many folks should indeed worry.
Many governments have stringent rules for imported food products.
Thailand does not seem to have any standard, or, if it does, it is very lax.
Judging by the Thai government's love affair with China, who knows?
Bonded by bribery
What, you might ask, could possibly bring together a naval commander, a high-ranking policeman, a deputy mayor and a village headman? With such disparate occupations and difference in status you would hope that it was some challenge to the nation's security or at least a natural disaster needing emergency action.
Sadly, the answer was corruption, Thailand's favourite pastime and the glue that appears to bond the community together.
Dealing with Trump
Re: "Trump gamesmanship risks Asean ties", (Opinion, Nov 15).
I am surprised that Khun Thitinan Pongsudhirak took Trump's invitation to Asean leaders so seriously.
I think most people know by now that Trump has almost no idea of what he is doing, unless Fox newscasters tell him, and I don't know for sure but I would guess Asean is pretty far down on the Fox News agenda.
I would suggest a wait-and-see stance, as Trump may not be around much longer, what with all the legal difficulties he is mired in.
But if any Asean government is truly concerned about this, I suggest they get in touch with a US State Department professional who might actually know what he or she is doing.
Kowtowing to China
Re: "Trump gamesmanship risks Asean ties", (Opinion, Nov 15).
Khun Thitinan wrote: "If Asean-US relations sour in the near term, China will be a major beneficiary, putting Asean at a disadvantage."
Many Asean countries are already kowtowing to the Chinese. They are placing themselves in a disadvantaged situation, a situation which will soon prove too late to escape.
China will "own" these countries.
The Chinese understand that the greed of leaders of several Asian nations makes them easy to manage.
Re: "How to ruin a city", (PostBag, Nov 14).
"Who needs, worst of all, more unneeded, useless shopping plazas?" asks Jack Gilead. I think it's a question of the definition of "need" and of "use".
The malls that I am aware of, and often visit or pass through, are always packed with people shopping, eating, hanging out, visiting IT stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, walking through to access other facilities such as offices, education centres, movie theatres, MRT and BTS stations, etc, especially at weekends and in the evening when the multi-storey car parks are full to the top, with a queue of traffic down the road waiting to enter.
They are air-conditioned centres with multiple facilities, provisions, services, dining options, and so on.
The answer to who "needs" them is obvious: the hundreds of thousands of people who "use" them every day of the year.
I am quite certain that if they were not viable business enterprises then the owners would not build them.
Learn from natives
While I applaud Torontonian, in his Nov 11 letter, "Volunteer spirit", for vouching for the rights of qualified volunteers on O-A or Retirement Visas to teach English to Thais, I might add that they should also be qualified volunteers from countries where English is the mother tongue.
As William Hicks made clear in his Nov 6 article, Thailand's English proficiency skills have fallen for a third straight year in global English tests administered by the company EF Education First.
In order to bridge the gap, "EF recommends countries adopt communicative teaching methods to teach English and ensure that English is only taught by people who speak the language well".
Now, many from non-English-speaking countries do speak English well, but it is beyond the scope of most schools to accurately decipher just which individuals from these countries speak the language properly?
Therefore, it is recommended that Thais who want to maximise their English speaking skills should take classes from qualified native speakers.
All hail dictocracy
Re: "Hun Sen learns how to fake democracy", (Opinion, Nov 14).
Khun Surasak notes that the Thai political system could be called hybrid democracy or hybrid dictatorship. This is fine, but we need something more snappy. May I suggest a neologism: dictocracy.
Here I must pay tribute to the talented Chinese wordsmiths who coined the term "socialism with Chinese characteristics", which seems to be much like chastity with promiscuous characteristics.
Dictocracy is democracy with dictatorial characteristics, or dictatorship with democratic characteristics, depending on which noun may be dominant at the time.
Dictocracy, dear readers! Savour that word. Notice how it rolls trippingly from the tongue, with our beloved prime minister the current ruling dictocrat.
I commend this neologism to wordsmiths throughout the land.
Ye Olde Pedant
Walk the talk
At a PEN talk in Melbourne I found that November 15 is International Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Why on earth do we need a day like that? We should be celebrating fun days like January 15, Strawberry Ice-cream Day, January 21, Squirrel Appreciation Day, or more importantly March 27, Spanish Paella Day (and my birthday). The world should be focused on positive things and enjoyment.
Oh, if this was only so, but the reality is that as I sit at home typing this after my nice coffee to revive my tired brain, there are hundreds of writers locked up in prison or treated even worse, and on too many occasions, killed. Witness Jamal Khashoggi.
I don't need to worry too much about this as I am in a safe country, Australia, that mostly treats its journalists well although there have been a few police raids lately.
PEN is an organisation of writers that defends freedom of expression, something that should be a right for all; when it is denied it must be called out and opposed.
I disagree with a lot of people's opinions, but I also believe the quote "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" should be the foundation of modern discourse.
We all need to speak up in a civilised way that will be heard by leaders and supported by the public. One problem is that the general public supports this but does little to ensure that it happens.
Pot of gold awaits
I understand that Thailand is legalising medicinal use of marijuana. This is smart.
Marijuana is natural, and research tells us it can be utilised as a medicine for many ailments. Expect big pharma to rattle and scream (or whisper menacingly behind doors), when in fact they would do better joining the bandwagon. The revenue potential is massive. Many institutions in Thailand are now researching, and results will come.
Also being debated is whether marijuana should be legal for recreational use, like alcohol. This is worth considering, perhaps, as alcohol is more dangerous by far. And people will never stop using drugs, in some form or another.
This is a difficult debate, often coloured by lack of knowledge and people taking up positions hardened by feelings rather than facts.
The argument for medical use is far more clear cut.
Properly researched and tested marijuana-based medicine can become more than just a local money-maker, earning large revenues abroad via exports. And, obviously, as it is already with other health-related services, something to entice people to come and spend.
Golden goose taxed
Re: "Budget airlines ask for fuel tax cut", (BP, Nov 14).
Five local budget airlines have sought help from the Finance Ministry to reduce excise tax on jet fuel. This help is warranted due to the exceptionally large price increase in jet fuel excise tax from 0.2 to 4.7 baht per litre over the last two years, against the backdrop of a weak economy and the baht's appreciation. Of significance here is that jet fuel accounts for one-third of an airline's costs.
To me, low-cost airlines are akin to street food -- affordable and convenient. Both are engines of Thailand's economy. Most of the government's efforts to boost local economy -- "chim, shop, chai", and "100 baht tourism scheme" -- are heavily predicated on low-cost airlines. As such, we would be wise not to kill the goose that lays golden eggs through exorbitant fuel taxation.
The government will receive handsome tax revenues in a multitude of ways when the economy is running full steam, driven by year-round tourism. We want to encourage low-cost airlines to open more routes to second- and third-tier cities with more frequent flights, not make it harder for Thais and foreigners to travel and spend domestically. In sum, help local airlines to help yourself.
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