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From planes to trains and back to automobiles

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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From planes to trains and back to automobiles | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Over the past few weeks, political debates in Thailand have often been centered on the government’s national high-speed railway project. Punches, counter punches and even the kitchen sink have been thrown into the arena. Who the heck needs to run with the bulls when you can get gored by an out-of-control locomotive?

During the same period, I was able to sit through a presentation by the Thai Transport Ministry and in clear terms, a very literate gentlemen explained the plan. First of all, we were off to a flying start because there actually was a plan. At least there is a power point presentation and handouts were promised. In a nutshell, the massive 2.2 trillion baht infrastructure project is meant to connect up all the loose ends of the Kingdom and usher in the modern age.

According to the spokesman, the Thai planning method early-on had followed an American type scheme, which was later abandoned for a UK model. Yes, in case you skipped over this paragraph, this was not lowly millions or billions, but the trifecta of supersizing – trillions. My mind has stalled for a moment with all of these zeros.

Back from the brain freeze, the entire through process of returning from planes to trains is that Bangkok has reached the boiling point and the process of decentralizing the clash of the titans in the City of Angels is an absolute must. Hence, while the rest of the world is largely urbanizing, Thailand is deemed to be better – it’s de-urbanizing. And if two ends must meet, leave the cars at home as the vehicle of choice is going to be a train.

I did question the thought process here, as without a doubt, every other Asian nation is seeing their gateway urban areas continue to multiply faster than sheep. Was it logical to assume that corporate offices would now relocate from Bangkok’s Sathorn district to sunny Roi Et, or lets say the booming metropolis of Phitsanulok? There was no clear retort.

What caused me further confusion is the current government’s new car initiative for first time buyers, – didn’t this run contrary to the edict of get on the train? Or else… Of course it did, but Thai politics are not unlike those everywhere in the world, a deeply confusing web of incomprehensible wheeling and dealing.

Call in the Ministry of Silly Works? Seems they have gone home for the day. I’ve had a look at the numbers and while Bangkok has more than 8 million residents, in China this would not even make any list – it’s a very small market. Go beyond Bangkok to smaller areas that rely on manufacturing, tourism or agriculture; this is the land of Isuzu pick-up trucks.

Are these people going to be crossing the country on high speed trains on a whim? Probably not. Wisely though, the transportation representative threw tourism into the pot, citing Europe as an example of visitors zooming from Venice to Bruge at the drop of a hat. Yet, what would become of the charter flights and low-cost airlines?

Was this meant to supplement them or else compete and simply divide rather then conquer? Frankly speaking, the power point presentation was damned impressive but the one underlying question remained – who was going to pay for this? Of course the answer was that the country would take on massive levels of debt. This remains the contentious cage fighting scenario being played out between the ruling Pheu Thai party and the opposition Democrats. There is little doubt what a vision of the future Bangkok’s skytrain has been.

Yet I struggle on poorly executed projects like the Makkasan in-town check in at the airport express. This is failure at its worst. How would Phuket fare in the world of bullet trains between the island and Surat Thani? Can there really be enough traffic to make any economic sense? I’m taking the easy route and throwing that one back at readers. As for me, I can see urban transit, but give me a choice between a plane or a train and I’m on the plane every time… unless it’s AirAsia, but let’s not even start on that one.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks and can be contacted through C9hotelworks.com

— Bill Barnett

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military

Maya Taylor

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Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Facebook has confirmed the removal of 185 accounts run by the Thai military and allegedly involved in information-influencing. The social media giant says the accounts were deleted for engaging in what it calls, “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. In total, 77 accounts, 72 pages, and 18 groups have been removed from the platform, in addition to 18 Instagram accounts. It’s the first time Facebook has taken such action against accounts linked to the Thai government.

The accounts were associated with the Thai military and were targeting people in the southern provinces, Facebook said its regular report on coordinated inauthentic behavior. The south of the country has been the scene of decades-long conflict, with insurgent groups in the majority-Muslim, Malay-speaking region calling for independence. To date, around 7,000 people have died in the ongoing struggle.

Facebook says the deleted accounts were most active last year and used both fake and real accounts to manage pages and groups, both openly military pages and pages that hid their links to the military. Some of the fake profiles pretended to be people from the southern provinces.

The report mentioned a post by the now-removed account named “comprehending the operation” in Thai. The page posted the logo for Amnesty International Thailand and wrote “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role in society. Normal people are not famous. Any case is not big news. They are not worth the investment of foreigners so they will not do anything to help. This is why we don’t see anything from the NGO.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role nor money.”

On another now-removed account, named “truth about my home Pattani” in Thai, a post said “Muslim leader declares southern border is a peace zone. The southern separatists started a movement by spreading the idea that Thailand is under control by different believers so that people would come and fight for their religion. This was declared that the action clearly violates Islam faith.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “Southern border is not Jihad zone.”

When contacted by Reuters, the military had no comment on the removal of the Facebook accounts, with a spokesman saying the organisation does not comment outside of official press conferences.

The head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, has confirmed the reasons behind the platform’s decision.

“This is the first time that we’ve attributed one of our takedowns to links to the Thai military. We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.”

He adds that the accounts had spent around US$350 on advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. One or more of the pages had about 700,000 followers and at least one of the groups had 100,000 members. Gleicher says the accounts were removed because of their misleading behaviour and not because of the content being posted. The content included support for the military and the monarchy, with allegations of violence and criticism of insurgent groups in the south.

It’s not the first time accounts linked to the Thai military have been removed by a social media platform. In October, Twitter removed 926 accounts it says had links to the army and posted pro-military and pro-government content. The Thai army has denied any involvement with the accounts in question. In November, Twitter also suspended an account posting pro-monarchy content that was found to have links to the palace and to thousands of other accounts posting similar content.

To read the February 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, click HERE.

SOURCES: Reuters| Facebook

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Central Thailand

Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers

Maya Taylor

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Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

An airline executive has been arrested in the central province of Samut Songkhram, after complaints from150 employees that they had not been paid. Chawengsak Noiprasan, who had a court warrant issued against him in October, was taken to Don Muang police station from a property in the Bang Khan Take sub-district. He is a board member of Siam Air Transport.

The airline began operations in October 2014 with services out of Don Mueang to Hong Kong, using 2 Boeing 737-300s. 2 Boeing 737-800s were added to its fleet in late 2015. It expanded by adding Zhengzhou and Guangzhou in China to its network in early 2015. In late 2015, the airline launched flights to Macau and Singapore. In 2017, the airline ceased all operations.

But according to an article in the Bangkok Post, the carrier operates a number of scheduled and charter flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. The Post reports that, as Chawengsak signs the company’s legal paperwork, all legal matters concerning the airline fall to him.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau says the executive has admitted to ignoring a 30 day notice issued by the labour inspector and ordering the payment of wages to 150 workers. It’s understood he is also wanted in relation to 7 other cases.

The authorities sought Chawengsak’s arrest following complaints from employees who say they haven’t received their wages for 2 months. It’s understood the airline had previously deferred salary payments for over 8 months. 150 workers filed an official complaint with Don Mueang police and also approached media outlets, asking them to pressure the airline into paying the money owed.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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