Walk the walk

Re: "Chadchart offers his anti-graft recipe", (BP, Sept 7). Governor Chadchart says that honest leaders with a strong commitment to tackling graft are the key to fighting corruption. I fully agree and call on him to be a role model in being such a leader. Thus, he should not only be corruption-free himself but also committed to eradicating corruption.

He should unveil his plan for making the BMA squeaky-clean within his current term, with milestones, time frames, and regular progress reports. We realise that cleaning our Augean stables is a job worthy of Hercules. It also will necessitate raising compensation to market rates and making it strictly merit-based, which is as it should be, but those added costs will be more than offset by lowering bribes and a rise in productivity.

Walk the anti-graft walk, Mr Chadchart, with our full support.

Burin Kantabutra

Hats off to Gorbachev

Re: "Gorbachev -- the most democratic Russian leader ever", (Opinion, Sept 5) & "Thanks to Gorbachev, SE Asia enjoys peace", (Opinion, Sept 6).

Reflecting upon former Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev, Nina Khruscheva says: "The first and last president of the Soviet Union was the most democratic leader that Russia had over the last century, if not ever." I couldn't agree with her more.

She is a rare bird, indeed, having both the courage and ability to praise and also criticise her great-grandfather, the former leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khruschev, of whom she lambasted his 1961 proclamation of getting "developed communism" in 20 years in the Soviet empire as "utopian".

Nonetheless, she also points out that Gorbachev brought to a climax her great-grandfather's initial plans to liberalise and open up the Soviet Union in the 1960s, with the former's introduction of "perestroika" and "glasnost" into the empire.

Although it was never his intention to destroy the Soviet Union, that was in fact what Gorbachev did with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He probably could have stopped this and at least prolonged Russian domination over the Soviet empire, but Gorbachev opined that nobody has the right to interfere with what courses of action sovereign nations want to take.

And one must not forget that not only did Gorbachev bring peace to the Western world in 1989, but he also brought stability to this area of the globe by helping to bring about the end of the conflict in Cambodia, as veteran Bangkok Post veteran writer Kavi Chongkittavorn points out. It might also be added that Gorbachev also withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan, thus finally bringing about the end to an intractable conflict which Russia could not win.

What a man! What a democrat!

Gorbachev used the proceeds of the Noble Peace Prize that he won to fund a democratic newspaper that still exists in Russia today, and which has been a constant thorn in the side of current Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin.


Honest advice

Re: "No more patronage", (PostBag, Sept 6).

Burin Kantabutra has suggested appointing a really special honest person or persons to investigate some of the things that have gone afoul in the Land of Smiles. Such as a Pol Cpl Kornsasi beating her soldier-maid with mention of the recalcitrant Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, princeling of the Red Bull energy drink family, who not having been found and returned to stand trial. He suggests these appointed honest people will throw their coffee aside or possibly their lives aside in their pursuit of justice for the benefit of right over wrong.

I don't see that happening.

I would suggest we honest people just do the best we can with the tools we have. I don't believe anyone around here is going to pop the bubble that is the Thai patronage system. Not for a long time anyway.

I have often wondered about "Boss".

In some countries, a fugitive can be caught, trussed and thrown into the back of a car for as long as it takes to get that sucker to court. Once in court, the justice system will take over causing justice to ring true. Or so it is written. Can you imagine what would happen to the guys who delivered such a person to court in the Land of Smiles? Why they would be sent to some island prison to await execution. Probably in the back of their own car.


Opinions differ

Re: "No tit-for-tat", (PostBag, Sept 3).

Chris Allen complains in the letter that there are too many "tit for tat" letters when he consistently has responded to my letters by demanding I be censored. When people write letters defending the lies of the vaccine industry or the barbarity of the meat industry, Chris Allen, David Brown and Ray Ban never complain. But as soon as I respond and defend myself, they demand an end to these debates.

The very purpose of an opinion page is to read many different opinions going back and forth so the readers can see the many different angles any issue can be viewed from. But that's not what my critics want. What they want is to censor all opinions they don't like because they lack the courage to consider the possibility that they could be wrong. And they are!

Eric Bahrt

Italy visa distress

We are supposed to travel to Italy in the third week of September this year. Although my Thai wife submitted her Schengen visa application via VFS more than two months ago and despite repeated phone calls to VFS she has heard nothing back at all. The VFS tracking system states her passport is at the Italian embassy but the application has not been granted or refused. She has also tried calling the Italian embassy many times but all calls go unanswered. I mention she has previously been granted more than five Schengen visas including two from Italy.

Therefore, the Italians have kept her passport which means she cannot make any alternative travel plans or travel outside the country. We will also have to shortly cancel our travel plans at a very considerable expense.

Checking online this does not seem to be an isolated problem. It seems to me that the Italian embassy treats Thai people with utter contempt.

John Edkins

End the vape ban

Re: "Ban on e-cigarettes to remain", (BP, Aug 30).

In a move that sent waves across South and Southeast Asia last week, Thailand's Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul iterated that the importation and production ban on vaping products will continue, depriving Thai smokers of provable alternatives to quit.

Harm-reducing alternatives to combustible cigarettes, including vaping devices, heated tobacco, and oral pouches, provide nicotine in a less harmful fashion, according to most major health bodies, but the minister was insistent that the rising use of these products by young people was enough to warrant their continued ban.

While nicotine alternatives remained banned, the minister has been praised for his efforts to decriminalise cannabis products, and rightly so.

But the continued prohibition on nicotine alternatives such as vaping, however, is a dangerous path that removes opportunities for Thailand's large population of smokers -- currently estimated at nearly a quarter of the population, some 15.4 million people.

This is despite the efforts of Digital Economy and Society Minister Chai Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, who has been an outspoken proponent of changing the law in order to save lives.

While Minister Anutin's efforts to protect young people are commendable, he should take lessons from nearby Philippines, which signed a law legalising such alternatives in late July after months of debate and testimonies.

Vaping products are harm-reducing alternatives to the very problem the Thai government would like to solve: transitioning their population -- especially young people -- away from tobacco. While the focus on youth has been effective from a rhetorical standpoint, the minister should know that this is an explicit trade-off.

With fewer legal alternatives to cigarettes, smokers will either be forced to continue the habit or turn elsewhere to procure these products.

As has been well documented, banning vaping products and product imports does not mean they will not exist. It only means that a legal and safe category of vaping products will not exist. Rather, the black market will grow to consume the space the legal market would otherwise have, providing funds to illicit gangs and black market dealers.

Several international NGOs -- such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Bloomberg Initiative -- have been insistent that bans on vaping and nicotine alternatives continue, often with plenty of grants for public health programs and ministries.

While the science on the impacts of non-tobacco-derived nicotine is still developing, we know it is nowhere near the impact of combustible tobacco, a point these activists seem to never acknowledge.

Because while the ministry remains tough on vaping devices and other nicotine alternatives, cigarettes and other tobacco products will remain legal and available.

Rather than embrace a failed policy, the Thai government should listen to the millions of vapers worldwide who have successfully quit smoking with nicotine alternatives, including from neighbouring countries.

That, as a policy, would help save millions more lives than bans and prohibitions that won't work in the long run.

Tarmizi bin Anuwar is Malaysia Country Associate at the Consumer Choice Center. Yaël Ossowski is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.
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