Filed under: Culture, Expat life, Health, News, Nightlife, People, politics, Relationships, restaurants, Thai news, Travel | Tags: 7-Eleven, anti-government protests, antibiotics, Bangkok, beach, Beer, Benz Bungalows, Buddhism, children, Chinese, condominiums, crab, diarrhoea, dogs, English language, fast food, food, goats, Gulf of Thailand, Hat Thampang, Hat Thampang Bungalows, hospital, hotels, Hua Hin, Isaan, islands, Ko Sichang, Malee Blue, May 19, monastery, motorbikes, nighclubs, palaces, Pan & David Restaurant, Paree Hut, Pattaya, politics, rabies, Rama V, Red Shirts, restaurants, salad, seafood, shops, Sri Racha, swimming, temples, Thai culture, Thai language, Thai people, Thai politics, Thailand, Travel, tuk-tuks, whale
Thailand’s image needs all the help it can get right now. Last month’s dramatic footage of bomb sites and gun fights across Bangkok played out internationally and many countries have yet to lift their travel warnings to the erstwhile Land of Smiles.
For sure, confidence has been rocked, and even beyond the photos of war on the streets, the reputation of Thai people as gentle, benevolent Buddhists has been tarnished by displays of downright ugly behaviour during such fractious times.
Whether the protesters promising – and almost succeeding – to turn Bangkok into a “sea of fire”, or their opponents cheering and swearing as the death toll neared a hundred, there was precious little positive humanity on display.
Filed under: News, People, politics, Thai news | Tags: airports, anti-government protests, army, arson, arsonists, Bali, Bangkok, Bangkok Post, banks, bars, Black May, civil war, class war, curfew, Daily Post, dominoes, Don Mueang, education, First World, food, hotels, Hua Hin, Isaan, looters, looting, Malaysia, malls, military, Mother Nature, newspapers, Nightlife, PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy, Philippines, protests, Ratchaprasong, Red Shirts, resorts, restaurants, salons, Scandinavia, self-harm, September 11, shopping, shops, soldiers, Songkhran, spas, Suvarnabhumi, Suvarnabhumi airport, Thai history, Thai New Year, Thai people, Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, Third World, tourism, UDD, United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, Vietnam, Wales, war, yellow shirts
As Bangkok burned, I made good my escape. Evacuated from my workplace as Red Shirts descended on the road to my office, with their brothers bombing and torching dozens of important and iconic buildings around the city, I met my girlfriend Waew and together we headed for Hua Hin, a seaside retreat a couple of hours’ drive south.
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Front-page headlines from the past few days in the Bangkok Post which are in no way an exaggeration.
The anti-government protests by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), or “Red Shirts”, have been going on for two months now, and friends and family back home who’ve seen dramatic news footage have enquired about my safety, to which I had always replied that “it looks much worse than it is”, and that I was completely safe so long as I stayed away from the demonstration zones.
Not anymore. (more…)
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As I work in the press, I’m always quick to defend journalists, especially against the stereotype that they “make things up”.
It is true, though, that facts can be shaped to fit an agenda, and also that whenever there are two or more sides to a story, a journalist can take whichever side best fits his remit. But they can’t simply make things up.
For a start, it’s against the law. If a newspaper prints a story about a person or event, and cannot prove that it is true if required to do so, then it will face penalties.
Take, for example, the 2004 case of the Daily Mirror‘s publication of photos which apparently showed British soldiers abusing an Iraqi captive. Desperate for a sensational scoop, The Mirror didn’t check the authenticity of the pictures, which were later proven to be fake. The result – editor Piers Morgan was fired.
So, a publication really can’t “make things up” without risking personal, political or financial repercussions. However, that’s not to say it never happens. While I may be quick to defend the press against this stereotype, at the same time I am quick to criticise journalists who do contribute to it.
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It is often assumed that the people who complain loudest about something have the most to hide. That’s the prevailing logic about homophobia – that those who hate gays do so because they are seeking to deny something about themselves.
And it is certainly the case with the recent controversy over the Leo Beer 2010 calendar launched here in Thailand last week – and promptly banned from sale or distribution by the government.
The reason for the ban was two-fold. First of all, alcohol advertising laws in Thailand forbid the linking of alcohol with fun. Secondly, nudity is forbidden in the media. As this was a calendar promoting beer through the use of body-painted (so, officially nude in that they weren’t actually clothed, even though they were at least visually covered) models, it was always likely to offend someone in a position of power.
Filed under: News, People, politics, Thai news | Tags: Abhisit Vejjajiva, Adolf Hitler, airports, America, Bangkok, Bumrungrad Hospital, cake, cancer, Charles Bronson, Chatuchak, Chatuchak Market, comedy, conflict of interest, cookery, cooking show, corruption, coups, death, economy, exports, Fawlty Towers, food, foreign investment, government, Government House, Health, high farce, hospital, journalists, liver, liver cancer, markets, media. Thaksin Shinawatra, mosquitoes, motorbikes, obituary, PAD, People Power Party, People's Alliance for Democracy, political demonstrations, politics, Potjaman na Pombejra, PR, press, press intrusion, prime minister, protests, psychology, public relations, public toilets, reporters, Samak Sundaravej, saving face, Somchai Wongsawat, spin doctor, Thai, Thai economy, Thai politics, Thailand, toilet, tourism, USA, yellow shirts
Former Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej died yesterday. He succumbed to liver cancer in Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital, aged 74.
Samak was PM when I moved to Thailand in April last year. He was quite a character and his presence – along with the movements of his rivals and his interactions with the press – could at times be quite comic, if not downright farcical. Before Thai politics turned sour with mob protests, airports seiges and coups, it could even be quite fun to read about Samak’s exploits.
He was the first of three PMs in my time here (three leaders in 19 months in itself is an indictment of the state of Thai politics) and by far the most memorable. He was nowhere near as photogenic as current PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, nor was he anything like as polite as his successor, Somchai Wongsawat, but that is precisely why he made his mark. He behaved aggressively, he was beligerent to the media, he sulked in public, he was unafraid to belittle people if he felt they deserved it, he was stoic in the face of political pressure – and his hardened appearance matched these, ahem, qualities.
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Ah, a taste of home. And no, I don’t mean a jar of Marmite or a pint of bitter. I mean a newspaper headline that will be all-too familiar to anyone who is from or has lived in Britain. “4,000 stranded in rail chaos” was splashed on the front page of today’s Bangkok Post.
Rail chaos. Words that are so familiar to the Brit, they’re almost like the lyrics from a favourite childhood song. Nostalgic, even.
The story is that strike action forced the cancellation of the majority of services in, to and from the southern province of Surat Thani, with passengers left stranded or to find alternative means of transport.
Filed under: Culture, News, People, Thai news, Uncategorized | Tags: advertising, Asian girls, brown skin, Caucasian, Chinese, cosmetics, East Asian, editing, English language, European men, magazines, media, Miss Thailand, Miss Thailand 2009, mixed-race relationships, music videos, pale skin, prejudice, racism, skin-lightening products, skin-whitening products, subway stations, Thai media, Thai movies, Thai people, Thai society, Thai TV, white skin
If you had never been to Thailand and only watched the majority of Thai movies, TV shows or music videos, and look at the advertising at subway stations, in magazines, and so on, you’d be forgiven for thinking Thais were a light-skinned race. Creamy, white complexions, sometimes even with rosy cheeks, represent a tiny minority in real life, but the great majority of the media’s idea of what Thais (should) look like. Pale skin is absolutely considered to be – and promoted as – attractive, and in many cases is actually a prerequisite to success. It doesn’t need me to point out how unfair this is, when skin colour is entirely a matter of birth – and something that cannot be changed, regardless of what the enormous market for sinister skin-whitening lotions will tell you.
Filed under: News, politics, Thai news | Tags: Abhisit Vejjajiva, anti-government protests, Bangkok, civil unrest, democracy, Democrat Party, Don Mueang airport, elections, PAD, People Power Party, People's Alliance for Democracy, politics, red shoirts, Samak Sundaravej, Somchai Wongsawat, Suvarnabhumi airport, Thai army, Thai Democrat Party, Thai politics, Thaksin Shinawatra, UDD, United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, yellow shirts
The first item on the agenda is to fill in the gaps between September 2008 and September 2009, before I will start writing about more timely stuff, as and when it happens. I will be concise, because 12 months is a long time to chronicle, and will perhaps return to certain points in more detail at a later date.
There have been two major anti-government protests during my time here. The first, aforementioned one culminated in the “yellow shirts”, or People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) closing down Bangkok’s two airports for a week in November. This essentially forced out the then-government led by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, to be replaced by the unelected then-opposition Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva.