All too familiar
Prof Thitinan Pongsudhirak suggests that the acceptance of corrupt and illegal practices by certain authorities is due to a lack of a moral backstop that once existed. A quick look at history would suggest that very little has actually changed, only that the publication of these illegal activities now makes it to public attention via foreign social media.
Sarit Thanarat, who passed himself off as a virtuous leader, was found to have amassed a $100 million fortune and was involved with many businesses and mistresses. Sunthorn Kongsompong, a career military general, died and left a wife and mistress fighting over his $130 million fortune. Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang, former RTP chief, actually admitted borrowing $10 million from the owner of a massage parlour, a man we can only assume was a good friend. Gen Surayud Chulanont demolished his illegally built house because he was caught and his "punishment" has been to be elevated to the position of president of the Privy Council.
Changes or not, I'm not sure but perhaps its just the complete lack of shame now shown by our present leader, who just ignores public sentiment and continues to ignore the calls for proper reform with public participation.
Just not worth it
So, the National Tourism Policy Committee has approved the proposed guidelines for the collection of a 300-baht tourism fee from each international visitor.
Apparently this is for insurance, although only around 10% of the fee will go in that direction. Presumably the remaining 90% will be put to excellent effect in the creation of payment booths, redeployment of immigration officials and creating a beautiful array of walking channels so that we can all enjoy the amazing ambiance of the Suvarnabhumi arrivals hall.
You just don't get it do you?
Devoid of charm
Re: "Tourist hub to get facelift", (BP, Jan 12).
It seems that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is never content to leave well-enough alone. After largely destroying the character and chaotic charm of Khao San Road, the Mahakan fort community and other areas of attraction to foreigner visitors and Thais alike, they now have their eyes set on "developing" the last remnants of authentic shops, vendors and homes in the Bang Lamphu area.
With military precision (surely no accident), BMA has brought "order" to street vendors, ensured all shopkeepers strictly adhere to uniform stalls, painted row houses in flawlessly coordinated colours, and installed a perfectly laid pavement up and down Khao San Road -- in other words, rendered the area about as exciting as a 21st century shopping mall. In the process, of course, they have killed the golden goose that was the allure of the area to tourists. Sad to anticipate that Rambutri and Tanao Roads will soon become as sterile and unappealing as the "new" Khao San Road.
Sad also that BMA is about to wipe out what had been a great source of jobs and income for locals by ridding the area of its tourist appeal.
Don't bet on it
Khun Korn Chatikavanij said that by legalising and regulating gambling, police would not be in a position to profit from casino money, (BP, Jan 15). High hopes! If regulated, a licence has to be granted by the Ministry of Interior, whose duty in governing casinos naturally has to be assigned to the Royal Thai Police.
According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, influenza and pneumonia deaths in Thailand reached 44,549, or 9.11% of total deaths. The age-adjusted death rate is 47.82 per 100,000 of population, which ranks Thailand No.70 in the world.
As of Jan 10 there have been 67 deaths in approximately one year from Covid-19.
The rationale for lockdowns, travel restrictions, digital app tracking and school closures etc is literally a form of insanity.
Making suckers of us
Once again the TAT is doing its best to ensure that tourists go to other country. Now they want to impose an additional 300-baht fee on every foreign visitor "for the management of local tourist destinations. The money will also be used to provide insurance benefits to international tourists visiting the country".
It seems they "forgot" that they already impose an insurance requirement just to get into the country, which states that US$100,000 coverage is required for Covid-19 coverage as well as an additional 400,000 baht for other medical expenses. Did I mention that that coverage must be paid for before they apply for the tourist visa? The TAT also states that 34 baht will go for insurance coverage. So, every foreigner will now have two medical insurance policies (supposedly). I notice that the TAT neglected to say whether a certificate of medical coverage will need to be presented by foreigners at each and every tourist destination they visit (includes Central World, since this is a tourist destination) and whether TAT will impose another fee in order to provide said certificate to each foreigner.
The TAT also states "the fee collection is in line with the revised National Tourism Policy Act, which authorises the ministry to impose a tourism fee for use in developing local destinations and providing insurance coverage to foreign tourists". Again, they must have forgotten that most tourist destinations already overcharge all foreign visitors for entry. So where (into whose pocket) is this additional 266 baht going?
Finally, where and when is this fee going to be imposed? Airline fees? Visa applications? Entry points? And what about all of the foreigners who live here and reenter the country? Are they going to be subjected to this ridiculous fee?
Not a Cash Cow
Drug war failure
My condolences to families of the six people who are the latest victims of Thailand's failing drug policy.
When drugs are legal for personal use, drug deaths drop. There is a popular belief that legalising drugs must lead to an increase in drug use, addiction and harmful drug use: this "common knowledge" is perhaps common, but it is not in fact knowledge; it is false. "Aside from marijuana and new psychoactive substances, drug use for all other drugs has fallen below 2001 levels" (ibid). The same lesson was learned in the US experiment with alcohol prohibition from 1920 to 1933, that great boon to the mafia and corrupt officials. The same is reflected in before and after statistics for marijuana use in US states over recent years. Drug usage rates are not strongly related to legality. If more evidence were needed that it is factually wrong to equate criminalising drugs with reduced use, the regular reports of massive seizures in Thailand show that demand remains strong and that the supply is being met by criminals that bad law invites to make high profits.
Criminalising the personal decisions of adults only increases drug harm to both users and to society. Current failing drug policy incites criminals to supply the demand. If drugs were legal, they would be supplied by respectable, registered business people who would worry about their reputations in the open market. Quality would be assured. The product would be traceable back to the producers and suppliers, who could be held accountable, just as the drug barons of the alcohol and tobacco industries are held accountable by Thai law for the harm their drugs cause, including many deaths by overdose among alcohol users, by cancer among cigarette users and by road deaths among innocent victims of drugged-up drivers.
Other obvious practical benefits to legalising personal drug use are that taxes are collected. In contrast, at the moment a fortune in tax funds and police resources are wasted on the ever-failing drug wars that do not reduce drug harm to Thai society. Those wasted financial and police resources could and should be diverted to preventing and bringing to justice crimes with actual victims, such as murder, rape, theft, fraud, and even corruption.
Consumers do not choose to buy a product of dubious quality from a criminal when a safe, regulated option is available from a legally registered supplier. And when their drug use is legal, it is much easier for those whose drug use causes problems to seek help without fear of being punished.
The blame for these latest deaths caused by drugs rests ultimately with Thai authorities who refuse to reform a policy that has for many decades been a total failure. But it's worse than that: the current policy of many decades actively worsens harm by drugs. This policy is in every way morally indefensible.
American and proud
Korat Chris (PostBag, Jan 14) makes a very important point. Despite America's faults, we the people did have the final say in determining who would be the president of the United States.
I've long argued that the only difference between Donald Trump and a fascist is opportunity. And it is a credit to American democracy that the Donald Trumps of the world will never get that opportunity to destroy democracy in my country.
Ironically, despite all the turmoil going on in America, I've never been so proud to be an American. We did it!
Can't blame Covid
Re: "Covid confusion is the new normal", (Life, Jan 11).
I agree with your statement and ask if you might agree with mine? Whilst Covid confusion is the new norm, confusion within the government has always been the norm.
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.
All letter writers must provide a full name and address. All published correspondence is subject to editing at our discretionSEND