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Phuket Opinion: People, not tinsel or music or gifts

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Opinion: People, not tinsel or music or gifts | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Christmas has always been a somewhat schizophrenic event for me. Coming from a non-religious family, it was always celebrated as a time for the extended family to get together, share food and catch up on developments over the past year, and had absolutely nothing to do with celebrating the birth of Christ.

Nevertheless, my mother is religious in her yearly purchase of a fresh Christmas tree and a liberal supply of presents for our family’s nephews, nieces, cousins and sundry other relatives. The smell of pine wafting through the family home is inextricably linked with Christmas in my mind, and in its absence this year, as I couldn’t make it back home to celebrate, it seems as though Christmas didn’t really happen.

Here in Thailand, while you can note the odd decoration or Christmas-themed webpages, we are blissfully free of the annual juggernaut of Christmas commercialism that permeates all facets of public life in Australia for up to two months before the actual day.

If you are like me, the absence of piped Christmas carols, Santa decorations, advertisements in shops and so on is a cherished respite.

It also highlights what I actually do miss about Christmas. In a word, family. In many words, watching the young kids open their presents with eager anticipation; scoffing slabs of delicious glazed ham and all manner of foods that only ever seem to feature in my family’s diet at this time of year; sitting on the couch chatting with cousins I haven’t seen since last year; a game of backyard cricket or footy; and more often than not, a healthy amount of wine and beer to encourage the Christmas cheer.

It occurs to me that families celebrating Christmas here in Phuket really have it good. They can have all the benefits of spending time with family, sharing gifts, food and conversation, without the attendant commercialism that tends to either exploit or somehow cheapen the long-held social meaning of Christmas.

So to all of you out there who celebrated a tropical yuletide, a happy New Year from everybody here at the Phuket Gazette.

— Mark Knowles

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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

Is Koh Pha Ngan Thailand’s best island?

Caitlin Ashworth

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Is Koh Pha Ngan Thailand’s best island? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

OPINION

Koh Pha Ngan was voted third best island in Asia in the 2020 Condé Nast’s Readers Choice Awards. The island is widely known for its monthly Full Moon parties on Haad Rin beach, but Surat Thani governor Wichawut Jinto, who boasted about the island’s recent rating, said there’s more to Koh Pha Ngan than Haad Rin.

Condé Nast publishes a monthly travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, as well as GQ, Vanity Fair and Vogue. It’s safe to say the publication’s target audience is more interested in luxury resorts than dirt cheap party hostels and monthly beach raves. For example, for the best islands in the United States, Hilton Head Island in South Carolina was voted number 1. It’s a golf lovers paradise and a popular vacation spot for suburban families.

A trip Koh Pha Ngan can be a completely different experience depending on where you go and what you do. Some stay on Haad Rin on the southeastern side of the island and have a trip like Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-fueled “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” while some go to the western side for a yoga or healing retreat.

The Full Moon parties, which would draw more than 30,000 mostly foreign tourists, was put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions in Thailand. But before the outbreak, the parties were known to be crazy with neon glow paint, fire jump rope and cheap buckets of alcohol and use of illicit drugs. The sand was so sticky that people were better off wearing shoes, and just about everyone pees (and pukes) in the ocean.

Even on the west side of the island, where it’s more known for yoga and meditation retreats, things can sometimes get a little weird. A tourist said she did a “spiritual healing” ritual on the island known as a kambo cleanse where secretion from a South American frog is applied to burnt skin. She said “I feels like you’re dying” but “it’s great.”

While the west side of the island has trendy resorts and bungalows, as well as a variety of yoga retreats and pricy vegan food, some people also live on a budget – a very tight budget. Some tourists even camped out on a hidden beach during the pandemic, a tourist claims. A local artist said he lives in a cave on the same beach.

Koh Pha Ngan topped Bali, Indonesia, which was number 9 on the list. Phuket was number 8 on the list and Koh Samui was number 10.

Here’s what made the top 10 Asia islands in the Condé Nast Reader’s Choice Awards 2020.

  1. Cebu & Visayas, Philippines 95.83
  2. Sri Lanka 95.45
  3. Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand 95.30
  4. Palawan, Philippines 95.22
  5. Siargao Island, Philippines 95.19
  6. Boracay, Philippines 95.06
  7. Lombok, Indonesia 94.59
  8. Phuket, Thailand 94.12
  9. Bali, Indonesia 93.27
  10. Koh Samui, Thailand 92.73

SOURCES: Condé Nast | Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thanks for the COMMENTS, but…

The Thaiger

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Thanks for the COMMENTS, but… | The Thaiger

The Thaiger website is now receiving around 300 – 500 genuine comments a day (plus a lot of spam). We appreciate your engagement but, as you can imagine, it’s causing a few headaches as well, particularly in the current “situation”. To help us we would appreciate your following a few basic guidelines.

As it is, most comments are withheld for approval by a moderator. “Moderation” means us going through each comment and making sure there’s nothing that’s going to get The Thaiger, or YOU, into trouble. Not every comment is going to be approved.

Your IP Addresses and emails are stored in our server, but remain private information that will not be shared or sold.

At this time we need to keep a tight rein on all content on this website. Whilst we usually have a wide latitude in regards to free speech, we also have to protect our business and provide a “safe space” for everyone to express their views.

From an editorial point of view, The Thaiger won’t be taking any sides in the current protest coverage and will remain unpartisan. Other news outlets are welcome to take any stand they wish but our role will remain merely to pass on what’s happening, without fear or favour.

• Don’t include live links in your comments. They will automatically be unapproved. Whilst many links are a useful addition to your comment, a lot are just spam. Some are just unacceptable for reasons of liable or inappropriate content. Just copy and paste a passage from a site and quote it if you wish.

• Try and keep your comments on topic and about the story, and avoid making personal or defamatory remarks about other commenters.

• Criticism about the stories and our coverage is fair game. But avoid criticism about Thailand’s Head of State or making libellous or false comments about the Thai Government.

All we ask is a bit of common sense during this time so we can continue providing a free, independent news and information pipeline.

Editor, The Thaiger Pte Ltd

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Protests

How can the Thai government resolve the current protest crisis?

The Thaiger

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How can the Thai government resolve the current protest crisis? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: เยาวชนปลดแอก - Free YOUTH

OPINION

The Thai Government has no easy way out of the current protest situation.

Over the past months an organic, mostly young Thais, political movement has been building. It’s different from every protest movement in the past. The people attending the rallies don’t really align themselves or identify with the past political factions. They’re not red shirts or yellow shirts. They are new and say they’re seeking key changes to Thailand’s political system, and the role and powers of the Head of State.

Their demands – the standing down of the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, the dissolution of the Thai parliament, a new constitution to replace the 2017 Thai Charter and curbs on the powers of the Thai monarch – are unlikely to be met by the current government.

The protester’s 10-point manifesto, outlining their demands, pits them against a quasi-democratic government that includes many of the faces from its predecessor, the National Councilfor Peace and Order that removed the elected Shinawatra government in 2014 in a military coup. The leader of the coup, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, is now the prime minister, elected by a parliamentary majority. The entire upper house of the Thai parliament were hand-picked by the PM and NCPO, so a parliamentary majority is merely a formality.

There is little possibility the ruling government will concede to any of the demands of the protesters. They’re not going to simply step aside and hand over the levers of power to opposition parties. Whilst promising to convene an enquiry into constitutional reform last month, the parliament was unable to get the votes necessary and recommended a postponement. A postponement to an enquiry… blah, blah.

Thai politics has proved to be brutal over the past five decades with countless coups, periods of political instability, violent crackdowns on dissent and a 2017 constitution that guarantees that the status quo can continue, without the usual checks and balances in a modern parliamentary system.

But something else has changed this time.

The protesters are young and proving resilient and clever. There’s also lots of them.

Their defiance to the status quo has shocked the elite establishment. Everything is now being questioned, including the previously revered position of the Thai monarchy.

Just recall scenes over the past week…

• A royal motorcade driving right through the middle of a protest with protesters standing defiantly, metres away from the occupants of the yellow Rolls Royce, displaying the 3 finger symbol and shouting “our taxes”.

• People deciding to remain seated during the playing of the Royal Anthem which precedes all movies in Thailand.

• Usually compliant young Thai secondary school children displaying the 3 finger salute during the compulsory 8am school assembly and flag raising.

Even the public uttering of demands to change the role of the Head of State in Thailand were unheard of before this August.

Now, the genie is out of the bottle. What has been said cannot be unsaid and the young are now speaking about the issues openly. They’ve been emboldened by a government completely blindsided by the development and not knowing how to react to this new student-based voice. The only reaction has been the usual brute force.

Speaking to a young policeman, off the record, this morning. I asked how the younger members of the Thai police force felt when commanded to crackdown on their fellow young Thais. He said that there was a growing level of “unease” in the police and that it was getting more difficult to put their personal feelings to the side and act on the orders of their superiors.

The key problem now is that the young protesters face the Thai government and Army who are not adept at the skills of politics or negotiation. Chalk and cheese. Their upbringings are different, their experiences are different. The young say their seeking democratic reform. The establishment are trying to protest the status quo and the privileges they enjoy.

There is little room for negotiation.

The only way forward for the government will be crackdowns, curfews and brute force, most of which will attract almost universal condemnation from other governments and onlookers.

Simply, and starkly, the government are in a lose/lose situation. There are few ways they can extract a ‘win’ out this situation. To force a brutal crackdown on young, unarmed protesters will make them pariahs in a world of modern civilised governments. To do nothing, and allow the protest movement to fester and grow, will simply push their final demise a bit further down the road.

The only way out, to save face and diffuse the situation, would be to call an election. But with the current parliamentary set-up, the odds are stacked in favour of the current rulers to seize back power, again. Do you really think the Senators will step in to force a new election? Sack the PM? By precipitating the writing of a new constitution they would be effectively doing themselves out of a cushy, paid job. It won’t happen.

Everyone wants a peaceful resolution to this current situation but the stakes are high, and sustainable, realistic solutions are thin on the ground.

The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the staff and management of The Thaiger.

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