Rich law, poor law
Re: "Apply law of the land to all", (Editorial, Nov 29).
The editorial asks whether there will be "double standards". As recent events show, there is absolutely no doubt as to these double standards. Seen everywhere and applied with no sense of shame, there has been massive duplicity in certain cases that have allowed important officials to remain active.
Ban label-free food
Re: "We will keep eating poison for a while yet", (Opinion, Nov 29).
Thailand is truly amazing. Using three hazardous chemicals is okay. Getting Aspirin 500mg is impossible though. A move to label all goods sold in stores should really be considered. Not many will read the labels, but it would mean those who want to could do so.
Ignorance is toxic
I bet no replacement for paraquat and chlorpyrifos can be found in six months, as ordered by the National Hazardous Substances Committee. Instead of a ban, the authorities should educate farmers and consumers in effective measures to prevent health hazards.
A slur on conscripts
Re: "Unwilling soldiers", (PostBag, Nov 29).
While I agree with Andy Phillips' sentiments about ending conscription, his statement that, "unwilling soldiers usually end up cowering in a hole in battle instead of fighting the enemy" is a shameful and baseless slur on hundreds of thousands of conscripts in armies around the world, now and in the past.
During the Vietnam War, Australia introduced conscription to provide the numbers for its contribution to the war, and I was conscripted and served two tours of duty in Vietnam, where I was awarded a citation for bravery.
I had the honour to serve alongside conscripted soldiers and national service officers who distinguished themselves, many earning far higher accolades than myself, including Military Crosses and Military Medals.
Even those conscripts who were not so honoured were indistinguishable from their regular army volunteers, a fact reflected in many authoritative histories of the Vietnam War.
But then again, we were the Australian Army, not our whingeing Pommie counterparts.
General cull needed
Given how overstaffed with generals the military is, I can see why it would be reluctant to give up conscription. I mean, who would those poor generals have to order around if they didn't have conscripts?
If the Godfather of the Military (Gen Prawit) really wanted to help the country, he could come up with some sort of early retirement programme for generals and get a lot of them to retire, so that at the very least, fewer conscripts would be needed. And given how shaky his health appears to be, he might set a good example by being the first to take retirement.
When I was in the army, our platoon would line up and the sergeant-major would bellow, "I have an assignment. Any volunteers? Take one step forward!"
No one ever moved. I hope that answers the volunteer question.
FFP's campaign coup
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha failed to grasp Future Forward's strategic brilliance when he accused its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of running the "wrong campaign" by calling for the abolition of military conscription," (BP, Nov 28). Future Forward has, on the contrary, chosen its first reform campaign very sensibly, as proven by the PM's failure to present any sensible opposing argument.
Future Forward's proposal to bring an antiquated conscription system, which is unfit for national defence or any other service to the nation, into the modern era of small, professional, well-equipped troops trained and equipped to respond quickly and effectively, including as "first rescuers" in natural disasters, is exactly what the Thai nation needs from the defence budget it pays for.
The proposal to reform military conscription also has wide popular support. Future Forward is, therefore, to be congratulated on its political acumen in choosing to wage this particular campaign. That Future Forward's proposal is already separating the good people from the bad old men in the eyes of the electorate will prove a valuable collateral benefit come the next election campaign.
Rice a poverty trap
Re: "Make Thai rice great again", (Editorial, Nov 25).
I disagree with Bangkok Post's editorial calling for increased government support to the rice sector.
While it is understandable that pride would motivate Thailand to maintain its reputation for the highest quality rice in the world, policy-makers are on the right track in focusing research and development on the digital economy and other emerging sectors.
It should be painfully obvious that rice farming is a poverty trap for farmers and a huge drain on the country's financial resources. Successive Thai governments have rained billions of baht in taxpayers' money on farmers to subsidise a sector that otherwise cannot provide a decent income. Despite the handouts and support, most rice farmers remain poor.
While perhaps true in the past, the editorial's assertion that rice production has always been the backbone of the Thai economy is no longer correct. The 180 billion baht of Thai rice exported annually represents barely 2% of our total exports, lagging far behind at least nine other categories of goods shipped abroad.
Thailand will continue to produce outstanding rice well into the future. But the sooner more rice farmers are shifted to more lucrative sectors, the better for all. Those involved in farming now may finally escape the poverty trap of rice cultivation and the country will escape from the burden of treasury-draining subsidies.
Farewell, red tape
Like many other expats, I am unable to obtain a reasonable and affordable health insurance quote to enable me to renew my retirement visa. However, after being in Thailand for 16 wonderful years, I'm really looking forward to returning to my home country where I don't have to worry about the ever-growing pile of bureaucratic immigration nonsense, such as reporting every 90 days and/or if you spend a night away from home. It's soon to be "goodbye, Thailand". I can now spend my money in my motherland.
A happy kangaroo
Leave the baht alone
I am not sure if I agree with the governor of the Bank of Thailand that our currency level exceeds the economic fundamentals. An overvalued currency will sooner or later find a realistic level, and I feel we should not weaken our baht. We should remember the lesson we learned 20 years ago when our currency was attacked and we used almost all our reserves to defend it -- and lost.
Our exports are currently suffering and the outlook is negative. Tourism is affected, and if we subtract the Chinese market from our figures, plus the fact that we count all our foreign residents out and back in again, the arrivals statistics may not be as bright as they seem.
As their own currencies shrink relative to the baht, the tourists who do come will inevitably hold on tighter to their wallets. Despite inflation of less than 1%, the cost of living is going up and according to the recent Suan Dusit Poll, Thai people are spending less.
In theory, the strong baht should make imports cheaper, but a trip around a large western-style supermarket would indicate the opposite. Imported products seem to cost more. A British friend recently told me that a 250g pack of New Zealand Cheddar cheese (already expensive in Thailand) has gone from 175 to 204 baht in a single year -- an increase of over 16%. Other foreigners have told me that except for our local fresh markets, many items of food are cheaper to buy back home.
All this would seem to indicate a national economy and an exchange rate which must eventually adjust itself to such market forces.
Meanwhile, exporters will be obliged to work harder, cut costs, plus look for new innovative products and production technologies. This can only be positive. A further interest cut will only work provided the Bank of Thailand monitors loans granted by commercial banks.
Handouts fuel debt
There is nothing wrong with borrowing money and having debt. Switzerland's household debt is 128.7% of GDP, while Thailand's household debt is well below that at 78.7%. It's the ability to pay back the debt that matters. Where in Switzerland income is used to finance debt, Thais use debt to finance income. If this is the case, why, when the Thai central bank is trying to reign in individual borrowing, is the government offering farmers cheap loans through its stimulus packages and thereby increasing their indebtedness which is unsustainable?
Dual prices spreading
Ahead of IconSiam's SuperPark opening this weekend, I noticed the two-tier pricing charges Thai nationals and "residents" 400/500 baht for morning/afternoon sessions while "non-residents" (foreigners) can only buy an all-day pass at 900 baht. It's sad to see this practice spreading from national parks and islands to shopping malls and sports facilities too. I was looking forward to checking out the SuperPark but now I won't go on principle.
A resident foreigner with non-resident status
China's Uighur lesson
US secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that "a cache of leaked documents" proves that China is engaged in massive and systemic repression of the Muslim Uighur, adding, "We have serious concerns about human rights in Xinjiang."
Again, the Western media continue to accuse China of harassing the Uighur in Xinjiang. The Chinese way of taming Muslims has been very effective in limiting damage, while western countries have suffered huge loss of budget and lives, including in the 9/11 tragedy and regular suicide bombings. US presidents have even overseen the assassination of a Muslim terrorist, the ousting of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi and the never-ending war in Syria, but have still failed to suppress Muslim terrorism. May I suggest that the western world learn something from the Chinese rather than condemn them.
Fox News fakery
Fox News should be investigated! Its programme The Story claimed that the polls had Donald Trump defeating Elizabeth Warren by a landslide. So I googled "Real Clear Politics" and saw that while one poll had Trump and Warren tied, the other six (including a Fox News poll!) had Warren anywhere from five to 15 points ahead. And since the boss of Real Clear Politics is a regular Fox News guest, they can't say that his polls are not reliable. Why don't those Republican crybabies who are always whining about the "fake news media" say one word about the pathological liars at Fox News?
A terrible Impact
I recently visited the Future Energy Trade Show at Impact, driving around 100 kilometres, mostly on the expressway in heavy traffic, arrived at the venue's overfull expensive parking lot, entered the show in Hall 4 and was out again in less then 20 minutes. The exhibition is disappointing. I will never visit any of these useless events, exhibitions and shows in faraway Impact again. What an "IMPACT"!
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