Corrupt Police Men Get Struck With the Full Force of Justice


The chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau and 18 senior officers are allegedly involved in illegal gambling dens in Bangkok. This in itself isn’t really very surprising. It’s also not very surprising the it was Chuwit who blew the whistle on this. What’s surprising is that there will be an investigation into their (alleged) involvement.

If found guilty, the senior officers will be punished with a 5% salary cut for 3 months. After that, they will receive their full salary again.

In case you’re wondering if there is a typo – no, it’s really just five percent. Considering how much money they (allegedly) might have made from their (alleged) involvement in illegal gambling in Bangkok, this is a joke.

 

Thailand Jewelry Exports 2011: $12 billion (expected)


Thailand is still selling more and more jewelry to customers from other countries, despite economic slowdown in the USA & Europe.

The overall jewellery export value is expected to surpass US$12 billion this year.

This includes sales that are made within the country to customers who bring the country out (mostly tourists, specially from Asian countries and Russia) and exports for resale in other countries.

The Thai government also plans to further promote jewelry sales.

Drug Busts in Bangkok (September)


The Bangkok police announced what its anti-narcotics operations achieved between August 30-September 12.

  • 277 drug addicts were admitted to the rehabilitation program.
  • Nearly 4,000 suspects were arrested on drug-related charges.
  • The number included 2 major narcotics producers and over 300 dealers.
  • Nearly 700 suspects were arrested for illegal possession of drugs and nearly 3,000 users were arrested.
  • Nearly 30,000 methamphetamine pills, 11 kilogram of powdered methamphetamine, nearly three kilograms of crystalized methamphetamine and 43 kilograms of cannabis were confiscated.

For a more complete showcase check out this TAN Network article.

Also, it’s worth to remember what drug rehab and drug detention centers in Thailand are like.

Bangkok Airport: Number of International Passengers 2010


The Bangkok airport handled 31.41 million international passengers in the year 2010.

Phuket is one of the fastest growing airports (in terms of number of passengers) of 2010 globally.

More info & international comparison here (PDF-download).

Gold Prices Up Up Up


There’s a run on gold these days. So much so that police even enforced stricter security in the “gold store” Yaowarat area. According to Thipa Navawattanasap, the president of YLG Bullion and Futures, local gold prices may even hit 26,000 baht in the short term. Read more about it here.

New BTS Line in Bangkok


The new “purple line” of the BTS system in Bangkok is scheduled to open 2014 and will serve north-eastern Bangkok. The estimate costs run into 50bn baht. For more details read: Bangkok Mass Rapid Transit-Purple Line, Bangkok, Thailand

Southern Thailand: One of the worlds most violent insurgencies


Patrick Winn has authored one of the best in-depth pieces looking at the situation in Southern Thailand. It’s very well worth to set 20 minutes, put the phone off the hook, switch of the TV and digest “Buddhists in Arms”.

Corruption in Thailand before, during and after Thaksin


Critics of Thaksin often blame him for corruption – and even among his supporters, there are very few that seriously believe he wasn’t corrupt. It’s nonetheless interesting to look at corruption ratings from Thailand before, during and after the Thaksin administration.

There’s no doubt Thaksin was corrupt and used his political power to pocket a lot of money. But more interesting is how much his wrongdoings have been publicized, compared with the relative lack of publication and exposure of the corruption that happened after the coup.

Possible Worst Case Scenarios for Thailand


Now that the election has gone quite well, it should be noted that there are still some ways things could get nasty in Thailand.

The Return of Thaksin

For example, the winning Pheua Thai party, could bring back Thaksin to Thailand, giving him amnesty, and maybe even try to return part of the money seized from his fortune. If this happens, there’s a high likelihood that something would put Phuea Thai out of power. Could be a series of yellow shirt street protests (and the many colors they have adapted since), followed by a military coup, or other a “judicial coup”.

It pretty much depends on what Thaksin wants – if he can contend himself with pulling the strings from abroad, things could go well. The thing is, with a man like him, you never know.

The Elite Toppling Election Results

It’s no secret that the elite, the Democrat party, certain elements of the palace and the army aren’t happy with the election results. And some of them might just pull some strings that put Phuea Thai out of power.

The Democrats are currently trying to abolish the Pheua Thai party on legal grounds. To be more precisely, one Democrat member says Yingluck was cooking rice noodles during her campaign, and handing it out to her supporters, which would have been illegal.

But the Democrat party also recommended the Election Commission to abolish Phuea Thai because banned politicians (particularly Thaksin and Chaturon Chaiseng) participated in the campaign.

There are also other “plans of attack” how Phuea Thai could be ousted – and one might feel as if those who want them out of power are assembling a collection of trump cards that they can play out to undo the election results.

One main difference though is that Yingluck and many of the lawmakers around her aren’t executives this time – thus, they could reform a new government under a different party name (seems like someone thought ahead). Yet, before we get involved in subtle nuances of the law too deeply, we should remember that in Thailand “where there’s a will there’s a way” when it comes to those kinds of matters.

If this would happen, it would revive red shirt protests and escalate the conflict, probably to levels of violence.

Two kinds of stupid

Now both things – Thaksin returning, or abolishing Phuea Thai – would require probably an equal amount of stupidity and recklessness that could throw Thailand into mayhem.

The next Defense Minister

A lot of it depends on who will be the next defense minister, and who will be in charge of the military power in Thailand. One of the main reasons why the 2006 coup happened was because Thaksin was trying to fill up high military ranks with people loyal to him.

There are rumors of a secret deal being made between Thaksin, the army and the other one, and hopefully that will be the way things go – they find a way to share the pie without tearing the country to pieces.

Chuwit


There’s an good Chuwit 101 primer from Associated Press. If you aren’t aware of one of Thailand’s most colorful politicians (the former prostitution tycoon) it’ll be a fun read.

North Korean Refugees in Thailand


Not something that is reported a lot on, but: North Korean refugees often try to escape to Thailand. One of the reasons is that South Korea provides financial support to then send them there, where they get supported from the government. However, until they get there, it’s a long and arduous trip.

You can watch a 2 minute Al Jazeera video about it here.

Drug Detention Centers in SEA


There’s an interesting 25 minute documentary on drug detention centers (army rehab bootcamps) in Thailand and neighbouring countries. It’s mainly criticizing the lack of effectiveness and lack of skilled staff. However, contrary to some other reports, this Al Jazeera documentary also points out that the inmates are treated good, no abuses, the centers are clean.

You can watch the documentary here: Asia’s speed trap

 

On the Thai Elections


Here some quotes from an expert brief you by Joshua Kurlantzick for the Council of Foreign Relations, but it’s worth reading  Thailand’s Elections: Resolution or Implosion? in full.

  • the election could simply accelerate Thailand’s political meltdown, underway since a coup in September 2006
  • any of the plausible poll scenarios […] is likely to inflame segments of Thailand, causing more unrest in what was once one of the most stable countries in Asia.
  • the putsch only triggered further instability. The military abrogated the 1997 constitution and replaced it with a more retrograde document, and the army continued to meddle in politics; it plays a major role behind the scenes of the current government.
  • the supposed reconciliation [after the 2010 clashes] has pleased no one
  • Working class Thais […] loath to go back to an earlier Thailand in which elites control all levers of power. The elites, fearful that any opposition government will mean further destruction of their economic and political power, are unwilling to hand over any control of government to the rural poor.
  • The government continues to harass and arrest opposition activists
  • The government also has blocked some one hundred thousand websites […] making Thailand today one of the worst abusers of Internet freedom in the world.
  • Looming over the election and Thailand’s political scene–though never openly discussed–is the issue of royal succession.
  • Many Thais fear instability will worsen when he passes the rule on to his successor
  • The military itself has initiated many of the recent lese majeste cases.
  • Most polls suggest that if the July election is free and fair, the opposition would win the most seats in parliament. But it is unlikely to get an overwhelming majority, leaving the door open for the Democrat Party, with the help of an arm-twisting military, to then try to assemble a coalition government along with several smaller parties.
  • but such a scenario would only make him [current prime minister Abhisit] more beholden to the armed forces, hardly a positive sign for a restoration of democratic institutions
  • Even if the opposition does win an overwhelming majority, the military is unlikely to let it take office. The armed forces have publicly declared they are not planning a coup. But Thai history suggests that claims by senior military officers that no coup is being planned actually means a coup is being planned–during nearly every previous coup it launched, the military publicly denied it was plotting a putsch.
  • Thailand is the United States’ twenty-third-largest trading partner [in 2009, trade in goods and services was more than $29 billion] and the two countries have close military relations
  • more repressive governments in the region, like Myanmar, have pointed to Thailand’s political crisis as a reason why they should not move too swiftly to allow real, open democracy
  • Washington could begin to treat Thailand more like other countries with serious human rights problems, criticizing abuses when they occur and taking appropriate measures, such as downgrading the military-military relationship after serious abuses, like a coup. So far, U.S. criticism has been muted, with many lawmakers still praising the Thai government, even as they criticize other countries in Southeast Asia, like Vietnam, for similar abuses

Thailand’s Elections: Resolution or Implosion?

Thailand’s education system. Status: F*cked up


There’s a stellar article on reuters titled Analysis: As Thais vote, a struggle with education.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wants to pour 371.5 billion baht ($12 billion) into a six year education reform plan. Now, we’re not going to speculate how much of that would be siphoned into pockets of government employees. But instead we look at what Thitinan Pongsudhirak says:

“The mindset is from the nation-building and Cold War period to produce obedient and nationalistic citizens, which does not fit the 21st-century needs. It is hierarchical, top-down, with a systematic lack of critical thinking.”

Historian Charnvit Kasetsiri made a similar statement:

“If you look at history textbooks, it’s littered with myths about ancient warriors and old-time enmities with neighboring countries. It’s still driven by nationalism without a global perspective on how Thailand fits into the world.”

Apart of that, nearly half of these 371.5 billion baht would be channeled into “developing a new breed of teachers” – but it seems the ministry in charge of this task has no more concrete ideas other than calling it “new and improved”.

Other points that are made in the article:

  • if employers are looking for highly skilled English speaking workers, it’s easier to find them in other Southeast Asian countries.
  • manufacturing jobs will be moved to other countries with lower labor costs, see average labor costs:
    • China $303
    • Thailand $263
    • Philippines $212
    • Indonisia $182
    • Vietnam $107
    • Cambodia $101
  • there’s a large difference in teaching quality between Bangkok and rural schools
  • the national school curriculum conveys a Bangkok-centric image of the nation and fails to acknowledge the diversity of this country
  • common complaint about Thailand’s education system: how teachers are trained & what is taught.
  • Thailand is spending around 20% of it’s annual budget on education – that’s a lot compared with most other countries (and again makes the point: the problem isn’t that there’s not enough money, the problem is what’s done with the money). Compare money spent on education in 2009:
    • Thailand: 4% of GDP
    • Singapore: 3.1% of GDP
    • but: Singapore ranks 13th in education performance, Thailand 47th (Swiss-based Institute of Management Development rating)
  • just 18% of students finish college in Thailand
  • low quality universities: Chulalongkorn University (Thailand`s most prestigous) ranks 180 in 2010 world ranking of universities
  • weak English language skills. IMD ranking: second lowest in Asia.
  • analysists say major bottlenecks are: bureaucratic inertia, deficit of ideas on how to improve curriculum & poor teacher recruitment & training
  • incentives for teachers are set up wrong: encourage administrative duties rather than student performance.

Thaksin Gets Global Media Attention


Thaksin’s back in the media spotlight this week. Here just a couple of recent articles on him and interviews with him:

 

Durian Exports


In 2010, Thailand shipped about 138,000 tons of durians (60% of global exports) to mainland China (UN trade stats)

Bangkok Prison Klong Prem & Failed Drug Policy


There are quite a few movies and books about the infamous Klong Prem prison in Bangkok. Now, there’s an article on the prison and Thailand’s failed drug policy in the Bangkok Post too, and it’s worth reading:

No fresh starts at ‘New Life Camp’
Drug offenders held at a special section of Klong Prem prison say they suffered abuse and overcrowding under the pretence of rehabilitation

click to read the rest of this article…

Koh Samui Land Prices: 10 years, 100-fold increase?


According to an article by the Bangkok Post titled Crackdown on foreign nominee land sales in the past 10 years, land prices in some areas of Koh Samui have increased 100-fold. Imagine you’d have seen that coming 2001…