October, 2008

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Thaksin talks trouble

Friday, October 31st, 2008

It is in times of social unrest that smart folks hope for cooler heads to prevail. Thailand has so much right, so much positive and so much potential – that’s the thing to keep in mind.

All the old cliches about politicians and how they are consistently lacking in some of the most important of human characteristics come to mind in times like these. They are nothing if not ambitious and selfish, greedy and vain. If not for abundant quantities of those traits they would not rise to the highest levels of power at all. A driving ambition that blinds all else is what compels them past the obstacles thrown up by challengers.

But what is on display now is selfishness. Former prime minister Thaksin is so desperate to retain whatever power and influence he has that he will risk the fragile stability that Thailand needs in order to feed his sense of pride. No matter what you though of him before, now no man can consider him to be a worthy role model. He should subvert his ego and leave political activities to others.

Burma policy

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Prime Minister Wongsawat is publicly calling for a policy of engagement with Burma. It has long been fashionable among Western governments to correctly label that government as atrocious, and avoid any meaningful relationships.

First of all, that sad excuse for a government in Burma is among the worst on earth.

Secondly, trade embargoes and sanctions do nothing to encourage reform. Affecting change is more difficult if there is no dialog. Establishing ongoing channels of communication is the way to find avenues of progress, though they may be painfully slow in this case.

Lastly, from Thailand’s perspective, trade with Burma is nearly a one-way street. Exports to Burma are something on the order of 50 times that of imports. Trade-related dialog is one such avenue that can be broadened and sharpened and skillfully used in order to find ways to make a difference. The lives of downtrodden peoples are made lighter in small increments sometimes – but those small increments can add up.

Wake up Cambodia!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

OK after so many months of saber rattling I have finally just got to say… Cambodia get some new leadership! Prime Minister Hun Sen is a menace and a poor choice for a country in need of smart leadership.

Fanning the flames of nationalism has always been a dangerous game, most suitable for the desperate. Why is that? Because it backfires too frequently. Amassing troops on the border and talking about war is the last thing that a smart leader would do.

This country has suffered so much in previous military conflicts, and still has a long way to go in recovery. Yet this weak and desperate leader will probably continue to give fiery speeches and take a few shots across the metaphorical bow in hopes of fostering that “us against them” mentality. Tackling serious, albeit difficult issues like economic development, education policy etc. is the way to improve the lives of Cambodians. War-mongering is counter-productive and short-sighted.

Finding a place to stay in Bangkok

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Choose which part of town you want to stay in because commuting from an inconvenient location can waste loads of time. If you’re going for tourism, then consider staying somewhere around Sukhumvit or Silom. If business, stay neaby to your primary business destination, always being sure to be close to a BTS or MRT station. Commuting will never seem awful if you’ll take care to be near to one of these mass transit options.

In the past I’ve stayed at several nice Bangkok hotels including the Centerpoint on Wireless Road, the Le Meridian across from the world trade center (changed name since then) and others. There are loads of great ones, so the primary consideration as I mentioned is accessibility. Be within 2 blocks of a station for the skytrain and you’ll be ready for anything you feel like doing.

Should I go to Bangkok?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Westerners (that’s right farang!) that keep hearing about the political divide in Thailand may need reassuring about upcoming holiday travel plans. If you’re planning to travel to Thailand at the end of the year, by all means continue. Keep up with current events, but don’t let this deter your adventure plans.

Thailand does have a turbulent political scene these days, and there is a cultural divide not unlike that which has existed in the United States for the past decade. In many ways the Thaksin era brought great progress and change to Thailand, but there are some negative effects that haunt Thai politics to this day.

I’ll leave you with this final thought. Though the political scene may be filled with excitement, like a popular lakorn, when you spend time in Thailand, you won’t be interacting with politicians. You’ll be amongst ordinary Thai people, who are still among the friendliest people on earth. Take the appropriate precautions in Bangkok as you would in any huge capital city. But try to interact with the local Thai population wherever you go, and you’ll be rewarded with the warmth and hospitality this country is famous for.