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Non-communicable diseases top ASEAN meet

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Non-communicable diseases top ASEAN meet | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Public Health Ministers and senior officials from the 10 countries in Asean yesterday gathered to discuss ways of tackling chronic noncommunicable diseases, state health-care funds, control of tobacco and alcohol consumption, and the spread of HIV/Aids in urban areas.

About 200 participants from regional governments attended the 11th Asean Health Ministers meeting yesterday in Phuket, which continues today.

The event includes three key forums – one for ASEAN health ministers, one for ASEAN +3 ministers (including those from China, Japan and South Korea), and another between the health ministers from ASEAN countries and China.

The theme of this year’s event is “ASEAN Community 2015: Opportunities and Challenges to Health”.

“ASEAN health ministers are very conscious of their own responsibility to make sure that ASEAN will not only be prosperous, but also healthy,” ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan, who chaired the meeting, said.

Health ministers will also be advised by health officials, including those from civil society and the private sector, on best practices in health promotion and hear their experiences in containment of diseases.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri said the event focused on five main health issues in ASEAN, including access to medical services for patients with noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, in a bid to reduce the severity of disease and complications.

The meeting also highlights the use of tax measures as a form of control on tobacco and alcohol consumption, free-trade agreements, as well as regulations banning tobacco and alcohol companies from organizing corporate social responsibility events. Measures to control illegal forms of tobacco are also on the table.

The delegations also discussed ways to implement universal health coverage and HIV/Aids prevention in this region, as well as cooperation to establish field epidemiology training networks.

According to the Public Health Ministry, over 2.5 million people in ASEAN die of noncommunicable diseases every year. Smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition are the main factors in deaths from noncommunicable diseases.

ASEAN’s top four chronic diseases are coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 36 million people worldwide die from noncommunicable diseases each year. Heart disease is the major cause of global mortality, followed by cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

To resolve this health problem, Witthaya said, each country needs to issue urgent measures to reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption. They also need to encourage people to do more exercise and strengthen screening measures to identify high risk groups for noncommunicable diseases. Rational drug use also needs to be enhanced.

Witthaya said about 1.5 million people live with HIV in this region. About 1.4 million are adults, and 500,000 of them are female patients. The ministry estimated that about 100,000 people had died from sexually transmitted infections and drug injection.(No time period given)

To tackle these health challenges in ASEAN, the Health Ministers Meeting is expected to announce a joint statement on improving health care services for 600 million people in this region.

In a joint statement on health development, the 10 health ministers committed to discussing a collective stance on universal health coverage at the ASEAN Summit, in the United Nations General Assembly and at the ASEAN+3 meeting.

Secondly, they committed to strengthening the implementation of the United Nations Agreement on noncommunicable diseases based on WHO indicators and goals. Thirdly, they will commit to HIV controls, with the aim of achieving the “triple-zero” targets of no discrimination, no new infections and no deaths from Aids.

Lastly, member states will work together to tackle emerging infectious diseases and other illnesses and problems, such as dengue and malaria resistance, at the root of the problem by encouraging the rational use of drugs and strengthening epidemiology networks in ASEAN.

— The Nation

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Opinion

Americans tend to misuse the Buddha image, but a Florida nightclub takes it too far – OPINION

Caitlin Ashworth

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Americans tend to misuse the Buddha image, but a Florida nightclub takes it too far – OPINION | The Thaiger
Photo by Tangra Club

Americans tend to misuse the Buddha image, but a nightclub in Tampa, Florida has taken it too far by placing a giant Buddha statue at its rooftop bar, allowing drunk people to sit and pose for photos, and even jump off on the statue. Businesses play an important role in society, and when they misuse a religious figure or image that is highly respected in other countries, it can lead to widespread ignorance and misconception.

If you’ve been in Bangkok, you’ve likely seen some of the billboards by the Knowing Buddha Organisation put up to educate foreign tourists that Buddha is not for decoration and tattoos of the Buddha are extremely inappropriate. Some tourists in other Southeast Asian countries have faced arrest and deportation for having a Buddha tattoo, unaware it is illegal and extremely inappropriate to have the Buddha image on their body. Knowing Buddha says “the world has gone too far in using Buddha images wrongly, with lack of consideration.”

The Tampa nightclub is just adding to the misconception and leading to more cultural unawareness. Go go dancers posed in front of the Buddha in a photo posted on the club’s Instragram page. One woman at the club sat on the Buddha as she chugged a bottle of what appears to be champagne. Another woman posted a photo of her basically in her underwear sitting on the Buddha statue and wrote the caption “Pray to your goddess.”

Americans tend to misuse the Buddha image, but a Florida nightclub takes it too far - OPINION | News by The Thaiger

Tangra Club is in Ybor City, a historic Cuban district in Tampa known for its wild and eclectic nightlife. It’s got just about everything for everyone – numerous drag shows, both male and female go go dancers, dive bars, raves, craft beer bars, Cuban cigar lounges, a Coyote Ugly bar, night clubs with music of all the popular genres, even a fetish club.

Right in the beating heart of all the madness is Tangra Club with a giant, sparkling statue of Buddha sitting in the meditation pose at the club’s “Paradise Rooftop Bar.” If you want to talk about misuse, well that’s it.

The “Super Bowl streaker” even hit up the club the other week and jumped off the Buddha before taking off his shirt, revealing the same pink one-piece he wore when he ran nearly-naked across the football field, interrupting the Super Bowl game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The #SuperBowlStreaker back it again at the Bucs private celebration party 🤦🏻‍♂️😂

Posted by Tangra Nightclub on Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Buddha looks like it’s become a logo for the club. They even put an eye patch and Mardi Gras beads on a graphic of the Buddha with pirate ships in the background on a promotional post for its after party for Gasparilla Pirate Festival, an annual parade and reenactment of the pirate invasion by local legend Jose Gaspar. Basically a pirate-themed Mardi Gras. The caption said “Our Buddha is Gaspy ready…Are you?” One commenter even asked “Do you have a name for your Buddha?”

Americans tend to misuse the Buddha image, but a Florida nightclub takes it too far - OPINION | News by The Thaiger

Instagram

On the club’s website, it says the Tangra’s “multi million dollar renovation will feature pieces & furnishings made #EXCLUSIVELY for Tangra Nightclub by European artists, architects and craftsmen.”

If the Buddha statue was done by a highly paid artist, you would think at least one person would have done a little research… like a quick Google search. Instead they’re just cashing in on a trend they don’t seem to understand. And in America, Buddha is in fashion.

For the American “millennial hippie” (that’s what I’m calling them), Buddhism seems to be based on meditation and opening the “third eye.” And a lot of Americans don’t even get into Buddhism until they’ve tripped on acid a dozen times and decided to start on some psychedelic path to what they think is “enlightenment.” There’s even Buddha ecstasy pills and Buddha LSD blotter sheets. (Google it.) Take what you want from other religions when exploring your spirituality, but don’t put Buddha on a blotter sheet.

Americans who are into “Buddhism” often say they’re “spiritual, but not religious” and that Buddhism is actually a “philosophy, not a religion.” (I guess that’s why no one cares about breaking the no drugs and alcohol rule.) An associate professor for religious studies heard the same thing and wrote an article about it for the website The Conversation called “Why so many Americans think Buddhism is just a philosophy.”

Other Beat poets, hippies and, later, New Age DIY self-helpers have also paradoxically mistaken Buddhism for a kind of self-indulgent narcissism, despite its teachings of selflessness and compassion. Still others have commercially exploited its exotic appeal to sell everything from “Zen tea” to “Lucky Buddha Beer,” which is particularly ironic given Buddhism’s traditional proscription against alcohol and other intoxicants.

With the lack of travel over the past year due to the pandemic, it’s likely that the cultural divide will only grow. Based on the Tangra Club’s Instagram, it looks like they’re only adding to cultural ignorance among Americans.

Want to know what’s considered respectful? Visit knowingbuddha.org.

Caitlin Ashworth is a writer and editor at The Thaiger. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect the views of The Thaiger staff.

Got a Thailand-related topic you feel strongly about? Submit a story to editor@thethaiger.com. In the subject of the email, please write “OPINION: (suggested headline).”

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Food Scene

Bring on the heat… here’s our list of the spiciest Thai food

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Bring on the heat… here’s our list of the spiciest Thai food | The Thaiger
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Thai food is raved about as one the best cuisines in the world… and the spiciest. The small red and green Thai chillies are typically what gives the dishes that extra kick, while dried chilli flakes and chilli paste, known as nam prik pao, are often served on the side to make the dishes even spicier.

While some foreigners come to Thailand with a palate prepared for spicy food, others can’t handle the heat and Thais will typically lessen the spice level for visitors, calling it “phet farang,” a more mild spice level for foreigners. Some restaurants and street food vendors may ask “Gin phet dai mai?” meaning “Can you eat spicy food?” For yes, say “dai,” and for no, say “mai dai.”

The spice level for many dishes can vary depending on the number of chilli peppers. Many spicy Thai dishes come with a side of cucumbers and other herbs and fresh vegetables to help bring down the heat.

1.Kaeng tai pla – Thai southern-style curry with fish entrails

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Wikimedia Commons

Even some Thais don’t try this dish, so be warned. Kaeng Tai Pla is one of the most well-known local dishes in the south of Thailand and one of the spiciest Thai meals.

Kaeng Tai Pla is known for its combination of salty, hot and spicy flavors. The main ingredient is the fish entrails that are fermented with salt for around a month before it’s cooked. A special chilli paste is made specifically for the dish from garlic, shallots, white peppers, black peppers, dried chillies, kaffir lime vest, lemongrass and turmeric. The curry is typically served with a side of rice or rice noodles as well as a large plate of fresh vegetables to help with the heat.

2. Kaeng pa – Thai curry with vegetables

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Kaeng pa, which means “jungle curry,” is a watery, hot and flavourful curry. There’s no coconut milk added to cool it down, so be warned. It’s one of Thailand’s spiciest curries. It’s made with kaffir lime peel and leaves, lemongrass, green peppercorns, galangal, garlic and chilli. Traditional Kaeng pa was made with wild boar, but today, the curry is typically made with pork, chicken or fish.

3. Tom yum – Classic hot and sour soup

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Flickr

Tom Yum is one of the most well known Thai foods. The spicy soup, known for its herbal flavors, is made from lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, tamarind, chillis, mushrooms and coriander. It’s typically made with shrimp or a large prawn (tom yum goong), but can also be made with chicken (tom yum gai.) Coconut milk is often added to the soup, which lowers the level of spiciness and sweetens the flavour. To make it extra spicy, ask for the clear tom yum without coconut milk called tom yum nam sai.

4. Leng sab – Sour and Spicy Pork Neck Bone Soup

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

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Leng Sab is a simple, but spicy dish and is very popular among Thais. It has a similar taste to Tom Yum, but has a sharper tanginess and a unique aroma from the green chillis. The dish is usually served hot with a large piece of well-boiled, soft pork neck in a flavorful broth. Lime juice and green chillies are added in to give a tanginess and heat. It’s garnished with coriander and spring onions. It’s typically served with a side of rice.

5. Kua kling – Stir-fried meat with curry paste

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Pixabay

Kua Kling is a famous stir-fried dish from Southern Thailand. Typically made with minced pork, Kua Kling has salty and spicy flavours as well as aromatic notes of various herbs and spices. It’s less spicy than Kaeng Tai Pla, but still extremely spicy. The dish can be served with rice and fresh vegetables like cucumber, Thai eggplant and other greens to help with the heat.

6. Kaeng som – Spicy and sour yellow curry soup

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Wikimedia Commons

Kaeng Som, which translates to “orange curry,” is a southern-style curry known for its salty, sour and spicy tastes. It’s made from a combination of herbs and spices, and seasoned with shrimp paste, salt and lime juice. People usually add fish as well as bamboo and coconut shoots to the curry. Sides of a Thai-style omelet and a deep fried fish go well with the curry.

7. Som tum – Green papaya salad

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Pixabay

Som tum is one of the most famous Thai foods and is a “must try” dish when visiting Thailand. Som tum is made from shredded unripe papaya, tomatoes, asparagus beans, lime, dried shrimp, chilli peppers, palm sugar and fish sauce.

Typically, a som tum vendor will ask how many chillies you’d like. “Mai sai prik” means “no chilli,” but let’s be honest, som tum without chilli is not real som tum. Around 3 or 4 chillies is normal, but very spicy. Some add 10 or more chillies. The salad goes well with sticky rice and grilled chicken, known in Thai as “gai yang.”

There’s also other variations of som tum, such as som tum pon la mai which is a fruit verison of the recipe with apple, tomato and corn in the same spicy seasoning as the original. There’s also som tum pu pla ra which has raw crab and fermented fish sauce.

8. Phad kaphrao – Stir-fried meat with chilli and holy basil

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Flickr

Phad kaphrao is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand. The simple stir-fried dish is made with meat, typically chicken or pork, with chilli, garlic and holy basil. Some pad kaphrao dishes are made with shrimp, squid or crispy pork. It’s served with a side of steamed rice, which helps to minimize the heat. It also pairs well with a fried egg, or “khai dao” in Thai.

9. Phad chaa talay – Stir-fried spicy seafood

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Flickr

Phad chaa talay is packed with a variety of herbs and spices, giving it a unique flavour combination, and of course, heat. This spicy dish is made with a variety of seafood like squid and prawns cooked with chilli, kaffir lime leaves, green peppercorn and fingerroot. The dish is sometimes made with pork, chicken or fish. It’s usually eaten with a side of rice.

10. Khai phad khamin – Stir-fried spicy chicken with turmeric

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Khai phad khamin is a spicy dish with rich flavours of Thai herbs and spices. Turmeric is the dish a bold yellow. A paste for the dish is made with turmeric, garlic and black pepper. It’s garnished with chillies and kaffir lime leaves. While it’s not as spicy as some Thai dishes, the turmeric and black pepper are sure to make you sweat.

11. Tom sab kradook on – Spicy and sour soup with pork cartilage

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Tom sab kradook is based with the same ingredients as tom yum (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, chilli and coriander) but is added with deep-fried dry chilli. It has the spicy and sour taste of tom yum with a smokiness from the deep-fried chillies. Pork cartilage is a popular meat for the dish. The soup is normally accompanied with rice.

12. Gung kua phrik klua – Stir-fried spicy shrimp with chillies and salt

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Gung kau phrik klua is a simple dish often offered at Thai restaurants. It’s stir-fried shrimp with 2 main seasonings: chilli and salt. A pinch of pepper and some fish sauce are also added to enhance the natural sweetness of the shrimp. It goes nicely with a bowl of rice.

13. Nua phad phet bai yee ra – Stir-fried beef with red curry and tree basil

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Nua phad phet bai yee ra is stir-fried beef cooked in a thick paste, which is made with the same ingredients as red curry: shallot, galanga, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, dried chilli, white pepper, coriander seeds, cumin and garlic. It’s topped with tree basil and pair nicely with rice.

14. Nam phrik kapi – Shrimp paste chilli dip

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Nam phrik kapi is the staple chilli dip of Central Thailand. The dip is a savoury combination of salty, tangy and spicy. Shrimp paste gives the dominant salty favour. Chillies, garlic, shallot, lime juice and palm sugar are mixed in. The dip is typically served with deep-fried mackerel, steamed vegetables and rice.

15. Pad phrik khing – Stir-fried dry curry with long green beans and meat

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Wikimedia Commons

Pad phrik khing is a more mild spice level than some of Thailand’s spiciest dishes. The stir-fried dish can be made with different kinds of meat, like seafood, pork or chicken as well as green beans. Red curry paste, ginger and kaffir lime leaves make up a unique flavour. A salted egg goes well with the dish.

16. Mu phad phrik phao – Stir-fried pork with roasted chilli paste

Bring on the heat... here's our list of the spiciest Thai food | News by The Thaiger

Mu phad phrik phao is stir-fried pork with roasted chilli paste, which gives the dish a hint of sweetness and sourness. Sweet basil is often added. Some use other types of meat like chicken, crispy pork or fish. It’s best with a bowl of rice.

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Thailand

Why Thai locals make homes for the spirits

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Why Thai locals make homes for the spirits | The Thaiger
Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

Spirits are everywhere in Thailand. That’s what many locals believe. Spirits are said to inhabit the miniature, temple-like structures, known as spirit houses, which are placed outside nearly every Thai home, plantation, hotel and even between Bangkok’s high-rise buildings. Flowers, bright red soda and other offerings for the spirits are routinely placed on the dollhouse-sized structures as a form of respect to the spirit world as well as to bring luck and to ward off evil.

The shrines are also known as “phi” houses, “phi” meaning spirit, as well as “san phra phum” in Thai, meaning “house of the guardian spirit.” While many visitors attribute the tiny, intricately detailed houses to Buddhism, they were actually are born out of Animism, the practice of believing that objects, places and creature have a spirit. Thai culture fuses both Buddhism and Animism together. For many Thais, almost everything possesses a spiritual essence.

Going along with Animism, the spirit houses fulfill a purpose: to hold a spirit. Many Thais are wildly superstitious and believe that paying respect and acknowledging spirits bring them good luck while also warding off the bad. The houses are built to hold the spirits of the homes or businesses, with Thais believing that if you don’t appease the spirits, they can cause bad things to happen.

Assembling a phi house is not an easy process as it is surrounded by traditions and ceremonies, right down to its chosen colour. A Buddhist ceremony is held when a phi house is set to be installed, where first, a monk or fortune teller, will perform a reading of an astrological chart. That reading will yield which colour the house should be painted. Then, a 2 metre hole will be dug out, in which owners put amulets, money, and colourful stones in the bottom of the hole. The monk will bless the site where the new spirit house will stand and incense will be lit to get rid of any bad energy.

The phi house’s location is also important and carefully decided, with most being placed in front of a tree, preferably an old one. But, that’s not all. The house should also not be located to the left of a door, and should not face a toilet or a road, or soi, as it is called in Thai.

The houses are placed on either 1 or 4 concrete pillars. Those houses set upon 4 pillars are designated for either the spirit or the ghost of the land, which can bring good or bad luck to its inhabitants. Those standing on 1 pillar are set higher from the ground and feature 2 statues: an old woman and an old man, which symbolise the owner’s ancestors. These houses will also have another phi house where an angel can be found inside holding a sword and money. These are called Saan Pha Phum, with the angel being held responsible for protecting the owners of the land as well as bringing fortune and good luck.

Outside the houses, food and drinks can be found as offerings to the spirits. Common foods include bananas, coconuts, desserts and rice. Any offering of sweet foods or drinks is attributed to the spirits having a sweet tooth. And, for drinks, you may notice that most drinks placed outside the houses are red in colour and look like strawberry Fanta. That’s because they are, indeed, the sweet red soda.

It’s not by mistake that the soda resembles blood as it is meant to do just that. In earlier times, animal sacrifices were commonplace in shrine rituals, but King Rama I made the practice illegal. Now, during bigger phi house ceremonies, animals are not sacrificed, but a pig’s head has come to replace the previous ritual. After celebrating the installation of a spirit house, people then consume the pig head.

Why are animal sacrifices part of the spirit house blessings? The answer lies within the meaning of blood in Thai culture. For blood is synonymous with life. It is also believed that it can bring good fortune as well as keeping the land fertile for crops. So, live animals were traditionally given as gifts to the gods.

As with all traditions, modernisation has occurred, especially with the materials that comprise the spirit houses. In older times, they were handmade of wood. In some smaller villages, these original types of houses can still be seen. Now, spirit houses are made of metal and concrete as special shops have made the houses in bulk. The houses can be seen in all different sizes, with most government institutions and shopping centres having quite large ones, while poorer familial dwellings feature smaller ones.

To pay respect to a phi house, many people burn 9 incense sticks while praying for good luck. The number 9 is considered lucky in Thailand. If invited to stay overnight at a Thai home, it is customary to ask the spirits for sweet dreams and a blessing in the form of a prayer. And, it doesn’t hurt to keep any perceived bad luck out by stopping by to say hello to the ghosts that occupy the land, reminding them that you are staying only temporarily. Heeding to this advice could help you avoid what could happen if you ignore the potentially ominous presence that Thais believe occupies the beautifully detailed houses that are not adorning the property by mistake.

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