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The government gets a ‘rap’ on the knuckles

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The government gets a ‘rap’ on the knuckles | The Thaiger

13 million views and still going strong. That’s 20% of the population of Thailand.

Any pop group would be astonished, amazed and pleasantly surprised by such popularity of their video clip in such a short time.

But in this case the clip is a subversive rap from ‘Rap Against Dictatorship’, a five minute rant against military rule in the Kingdom. The YouTube clip includes English subtitles.

“My country preaches morals, but has a crime rate higher than the Eiffel

My country’s Parliament is a soldiers’ playground

My country points a gun at your throat

Claims to have freedom but gives no right to choose

My country’s government is untouchable

The police use laws to threaten people

My country asks you to stay quiet or in jail.”

A military spokesperson, Col. Siriwat Deepor said on Friday said, “Investigators are trying to identify those in the clip, because the content is quite defamatory to the country and causing a lot of damage.”

He said that the group faces five years in jail and a 100,000 baht fine if convicted under the Computer Crime Act. Worryingly, he also threatened those sharing the clip would face the same punishment (several Thai media have already done so – we’re not quite so brave).

But it was only the start of this month when NCPO leader and current PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha fully embraced the social media world.

“Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who previously said his real happiness was staying away from social media, is now fully equipped with the famous platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well as his personal website…” – The Nation

Reactions at the time thought the Thai PM had proven a bit thin-skinned in the past when responding to criticism. The NCPO has responded to criticism over the past four and a half years with threats, ‘attitude adjustments’, the enforcement of the controversial Computer Crimes Act and charging perceived dissenters.

Plunging head first into the rabbit hole of social media, for any politician, will not be good for their ego. A few decades of social media show that it can be a toxic space for the faint-hearted.

You’ve either got to be a Donald Trump-type and use social media for all its good and bad, post any sort of rubbish and hope some of it sticks. Then go on the attack against your detractors. That takes time, ego and energy.

Or you just use it to spread the good word, block commentary and not engage your audience.

There’s not really much space in the middle with social media.

The Junta’s reaction, perhaps even over-reaction, to the rap song on YouTube, which attacks everything they don’t like about Thailand’s military government, has just added to the click’s fame.

The YouTube views have sky-rocketed since the government spokesperson spoke about it on Friday. Rounding up the musicians and charging them under the Computer Crimes Act will surely further add to their fame, the clip’s clicks and unwanted outcry from outside Thailand about a ‘heavy-handed unelected government’, etc, etc.

All this at a time when Prayut and his team are vying for voter love and support in their, yet unannounced, standing for election in next year’s poll. This test of their resolve has come at a bad time. If PM Prayut and his ministers are to stand for election they will need support from the widest constituency possible. That will include reaching out to their detractors as well and taking a few punches on the chin as part of the rough-and-tumble of democratic politics.

I pose two possibilities.

Option One

The Government rounds up and charges the team behind the offending rap. After questioning there would likely be some charges laid and a period of months waiting for their day in Court, likely to be a date post February 24, 2019, effectively silencing them in the time leading up to the election.

Option Two

The Prime Minister invites the group to government house, or sends one the country’s deputy PMs to Thammasat University, for a closed discussion. In this way, no one is losing face. Following any meeting there would be a ‘very Thai’ photo opportunity with a polite wai from the performers and a statement from both sides saying that they “appreciated the chance to meet and share their differences.” Everyone’s a winner.

The public relations outcomes for the Government would be very different.

The government’s newly appointed official spokesman, Puttipong Punnakanta, stated on Friday that the government feels sorry that Thailand’s young generation wants to harm the country.

“They should’ve used their musical talent in a way that is more beneficial to their motherland and become good role models to others,” he said. “I don’t want people to think that doing this is cool or fun. I’m not sure if they did it on their own will or if there’s someone else behind this.”

Youth sharing their voices and ranting against sitting governments and institutions is nothing new. In this case it’s just been words shared, not blood or civil disturbance.

Of course in 2018 their opportunities for doing so are vastly increased, compared to the old media paradigms. They must have either been acutely aware of the timing of their release or perhaps just uploaded the file as a dare.

Either way, the government’s reponse to the matter may play an important role in the next few month’s electioneering.

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Opinion

Pattaya getting set for the Indian era – OPINION

The Thaiger

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Pattaya getting set for the Indian era – OPINION | The Thaiger

by Dan Cheeseman

I was a bit taken back by posters across the social networks where I shared the post that simply would not accept the Indians were bringing any value to Pattaya. Claiming Thailand would regret squeezing out the Western market and turning to the Chinese and Indians. It came across as sour grapes to me and also a delusion of grandeur from many of the Brits and Aussies that for some reason hold themselves on such a high global status.

I am a Brit and in the past probably have fallen victim to such delusions but am now refocused and aligned to the shift in the global market. I can see just how real this Chinese and Indian market has become and see no reason for it to not to continue growing.

According to Tourism Authority of Thailand, Indian arrivals into Thailand is expected to reach 5 million by 2023.

It is well documented what is happening in Thailand with the Chinese tourist and investor but still, the Indian market gets skirted over by many who refuse to accept anything other than the stereotypical images.

But they are wrong to do so and I think the winners in Pattaya will be those that embrace the Indian market as there is an increasing percentage who have good money in the pocket and are ready to spend it.

Just this week I was with a hotel developer and they exactly spoke of the shift in investors that parallel what we are seeing through tourism. They said before the Western market was good but now that has cooled, then the Russians came but that too has eased off; both due to changes in exchange rates from their end. Then the Chinese started to buy but as their exchange rates became less strong against the baht and getting money out of their country that slowed, but now has recovered somewhat.

He then said what others have also been saying, that the Indians were now becoming a very important market for selling too.

Whilst many restaurants are looking to target the F.I.T (Free Independent Traveller) Chinese tourist, I personally think the Indian tourist is a better fit for Western-type business in town.

Read the rest of the editorial HERE

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Opinion

OPINION: It’s time to go – Brexit

The Thaiger

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OPINION: It’s time to go – Brexit | The Thaiger

by Gill Parker

(The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the owners, staff or management of The Thaiger)

Adios, Au revior, Auf wiedersehen, Ha dee and Addio Europe. Breaking up is hard to do but we’re outta here.

Enough is enough. The British people voted to leave the European Union and that’s that. You can argue that the referendum was non-binding, or that there was misleading information peddled, by both sides, during the referendum campaign. But the British people made up their mind, a legal vote was held, and it’s time for the British parliament to honour the people’s wishes. Now.

Bring on October 31 and cut the apron strings, with or without a ‘deal’.

It’s urgent that the people of Britain are given the chance to move forward from this messy farrago that has embroiled British politics and conversation for the past four years. The polarised conversation, the ruination or families and friendships, and the incompetence of government to find a way to actually break away from the EU, has to stop.

Brexiteers or Remainers would all probably prefer that there was some sort of deal in place before October 31 but that looks doubtful, so just pull the plug and be done with it. The alternative? Another year of destructive argument, a repeat of ALL the same arguments and, likely, no better situation.

Leave the EU to sit and giggle, their arms folded watching the British people squirm, and let’s focus on future trade deals, re-linking with a world trading environment that has radically reshaped since the 2016 Brexit vote. Let’s have our politicians bicker about reviving an independent British economy, fixing up the NHS, galvanise a new approach to immigration and get people back to work.

If Britain continues to fiddle along, without a break, the economy will continue to suffer. Whilst there is no resolution, there is confusion. Businesses need clarity – currently there is little. Better we hit the ground hard on October 31 and then start to rebuild the British economy with assurance.

There is also acute concern that the hallmarks of the British democracy are being brought into question. The Head of State is being dragged into conversations and Constitutional conventions are being threatened. Testing these conventions could threaten the very fabric of everything we are trying to preserve.

Meanwhile the British Labour Party lacks leadership able to take on the cavalier PM who has made it clear, he wants out, “deal or no deal”, on October 31. The British prime minister has made his position abundantly clear, whilst the opposition is divided, seemingly rudderless, without any clear plan of its own how to move through the current impasse. They will surely suffer at the hands of voters when an election is called, and that will be soon.

There is plenty of work to do but with a clean break on October 31 we will at least be able to start that work – start planning for the future rather than looking back over our shoulder.

Deal or no deal, it’s time to go.

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Opinion

OPINION: Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into – Brexit

The Thaiger

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OPINION: Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into – Brexit | The Thaiger

OPINION: David Skelcey, Thailand

(The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the owners, staff or management of The Thaiger)

Whether you are British or not, it will be hard to escape yesterday’s news that British Prime Minister Johnson has been dealt a massive blow by the UK’s highest court over his decision to suspend parliament. The unanimous decision by no less than 11 judges has left ‘Remainers’ jubilant and ‘Leavers’ foaming at the mouth. In the judge’s opinion, misleading the Head of State, is unlawful and MPs will return to normal business in the house today.

Satire pages are already having fun with the news… ‘Queen invites Johnson to friendly meeting in Paris road tunnel’, while pro-Brexit pages are fuming with memes about democracy being betrayed and conspiracy theories that the judges have been bribed by the EU.

Three years after the referendum the country is more divided than ever. Friendships have been lost, family relationships have broken down, businesses have shipped out, our currency is crashing and the world looks on, slowly shaking its head in a mixture of disbelief, bewilderment and occasional amusement.

The Brexit referendum was called by Conservative PM David Cameron in 2016 and was brought about after decades of in-fighting in the party over the UK’s continued membership of the EU. A new threat had also emerged, with Nigel Farage, the millionaire stockbroker and his UK Independence Party (UKIP). Cameron was counting on the vote to be won for Remain, and campaigned for such, as did all the main parties officially.

But there was a spanner in the works. He was Mayor of London at the time and refused to take a side until the last minute, and his clever act of dithering about while he worked out which side his bread was buttered would later see him become Prime Minister Johnson.

True to his form of consistently lying to everybody about everything (check this BBC interview here), his previous career was as a journalist, where he spent twenty odd years writing fallacious stories about EU laws, along with many other sections of the press. Once he officially joined the Leave campaign he teamed up with arch-leaver and campaign director Dominic Cummings, a maverick who has never been elected but is now Johnson’s most senior special advisor.

It’s widely suspected he was responsible for the attempt to suspend parliament in order for Johnson to get the UK out of the EU by October 31st. “Do or die” as Johnson puts it – which basically means “with a deal or without a deal”. The ‘deal’ relates to trade, customs, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in other countries of the EU (notably Spain).

Without a deal, no-one really knows what is going to happen, although according to Leavers, we got through two world wars and many years of prosperity before we joined the EU, so everything is going to be jolly spiffing and tip-top, like it was in the ‘good old days’. Britain is going to be Great again. (Sound familiar?)

For non-Brits who are struggling to keep up with this saga, don’t worry – most people at home are too. The twists and turns of this sorry tale are dizzying even for the most avid political observer and most of us have never seen such political turmoil in our lives. So how did it come about, and why should I even care about it if my family and I have expatriated ourselves to The Land of Smiles?

Well, I may be 10,000km away from the UK but only one metre away from my computer screen. My friends and family are still there, many of them running businesses. Our income comes from the UK and as the £/THB divide widens almost daily, our living costs are increasing constantly.

Although British tourist footfall in Thailand has been on the decline for years, it’s certainly not going to be revived anytime soon, and our own future here will be increasingly in doubt if the situation worsens further.

We’re into our third year living in Phuket now, and as relative newbies there has been a lot to learn. We’ve taken most of it in our stride – getting used to the roads, the customs and culture, and slowly learning the language at our Thai classes. But the thing that has thrown me the most is the political leanings of my fellow countrymen. And I say ‘men’ because they are all men, all white and all of a certain age (55+ ish), and are all apparently pro-Brexit. In my circles they are affectionately known as ‘gammons’ due to their pinkish, rotund features. I only know one British female here, who is a teacher at our kids’ school and is very much anti-Brexit.

This bears out with the voter demographic in the referendum. (Or neverendum as some like to call it.) Some very detailed analysis can be found here, but basically older people and those living in regional and rural areas mostly voted Leave, whilst younger voters and those living in metropolitan areas mostly voted Remain. It has been established that xenophobia had a big part to play in the Leave vote winning.

So I find it rather surprising that so many expats – essentially immigrants – choose to support the ‘pull up the drawbridge’ mentality of Brexit, having moved to a foreign country, setup businesses, married a local and had kids etc. Many of my European friends in the UK are leaving, and many of my UK friends in the EU are panicking, while expats here are throwing their arms up in the air about Thailand getting strict on their asses.

So why vote and support the same treatment for foreigners in your home country, especially when you’re not even there (and some haven’t been back for years)?

In my opinion, Britain has been sold a lie. Johnson has been rightly floored. This week I’ve been studying ASEAN trade agreements. Anyone who thinks switching to ‘No deal/WTO’ terms will be easy has never tried analysing tariff charts.

I hope the country can recover before we become the laughing stock of the world, if we are not already.

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