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Profile: Mexican Ambassador Jaime Nualart meets with the Gazette team

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Profile: Mexican Ambassador Jaime Nualart meets with the Gazette team | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Jaime Nualart is currently the Ambassador of Mexico to Thailand. Born in Mexico City in 1952, Amb Nualart remembers his childhood with fondness.

“I went to a good school and was among the top three students in my class. I had good friends, but I was also very shy. That is perhaps the reason my mother decided to enroll me and my three siblings in art school.”

An avid puppeteer, the ambassador learned this skill at art school.

“I entered my puppets in theater performances at school, as I was too shy to perform in front of an audience myself. I had a close friend in class with me (who is now one of the most recognized Mexican authors) who was also very shy,” Amb Nualart says.

“We were both encouraged to overcome our shyness and stage fright by one of the professors in the school, who groomed us and helped us become more confident.”

Amb Nualart then went on to study journalism at university and worked in television, cinema, radio and education. He later joined the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico, where he was in charge of public relations and dissemination of programs. He has also worked with the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra and handled promotion, public relations and international tours all over South America, North America, Europe and Asia.

“I started travelling a lot, which gave me the chance to learn about other cultures and countries. That’s what led me to join the Ministry of External Affairs in 1982,” says Amb Nualart.

“The same year I went to Japan and worked at the Mexican Embassy in Tokyo for five years. Those were wonderful times, both in my personal and professional life. I was in charge of cultural activities and promoted Mexican art and culture in Japan.”

The ambassador takes a keen interest in all sorts of art manifestations, from ancient and classical to contemporary art, performing arts, even fashion and gastronomy.

During his stay in Japan, the things he loved the most were Japanese art, food and culture.

“I learned about Japanese theater, such as ‘kabuki’, a very sophisticated form of art expression called ‘noh’ which is the most ancient, elaborate and aristocratic form of Japanese theater. I used to go to the theater every Sunday, where I met one of the living national treasures of Japan, the director and actor at one of the noh schools, and I even became the first Westerner to ever perform on that stage,” he says.

Amb Nualart also loves cuisine from other countries he has lived in, including Thailand and India.

“I believe food traditions are something that help us identify with other cultures,” says Amb Nualart.

Mexican and Thai authorities are now considering opening an honorary Mexican consulate in Phuket.

“The Mexican Embassy in Thailand was established nearly 40 years ago. However, more than 25,000 Mexicans visit Phuket and nearby islands every year, so we want to have an honorary consulate here as a reference point to help resolve any issues they might face during their stays,” Amb Nualart says.

Mexico and Thailand have always enjoyed strong relations and the ambassador is confident that they will prosper further in the future.

“I have been working with Thai authorities and institutions such as universities and research centers regarding matters that are significant for both countries. These include health, food security and climate change. We are also starting a partnership with the University of Khon Kaen in the field of edible insects,” says Amb Nualart.

“We have bilateral trade worth more than 6 billion dollars with Thailand and this number is rising sharply. We trade in manufactured goods, rice, electronic components and auto parts, to name a few. I’m convinced that Mexico’s future role in the world is along the same lines as countries in the Asia Pacific or USA. We all share the Pacific Ocean, where the most dynamic economies of the world are located.”

— Zohaib Sikander



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People

Patong’s trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Patong’s trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Patong Police / Theeraphong Penmit / Newshawk Phuket

A Phuket boy has been rewarded after setting an excellent example for the rest of the Patong community.

8 year old Kosin Ta-ngam, who is studying at Sai Nam Yen School in Patong in Pratom Suksa Three, has been collecting garbage in the filthy Pak Bang Canal and along Patong Beach since the beginning of this year.

He lives with his grandmother and other relatives. His grandmother has been looking after Kosin since he was 10 months old.

A certificate, scholarship and life vest have been awarded to Kosin by the Patong Police Chief Col Anothai Jindamanee for displaying excellent citizen for the community as a youth volunteer and being an active part of keeping the city clean.

The Pak Bang Canal, running through the back of Patong into Patong Bay, has been a dark, dirty mess for decades. Many promises have been made to clean it up but it remains a disgraceful waterway flowing through Phuket’s main tourist town.

The tiny eight year old seems to be able to achieve a lot more than the local municipality with all their money and machinery.

Kosin, you are the Thaiger hero for today and we salute you!

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP | The Thaiger

Thailand’s headline policeman, former Immigration Chief Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, aka. Big Joke, has been transferred to the Operation Centre of the Royal Thai Police. The order was signed by the Thai Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda.

The order was signed and executed last night. As of today, his social media account – Facebook and Twitter – plus the Immigration Bureau Facebook page, are offline.

Rarely out of the headlines, and traversing the country seemingly breaking cases faster than the media could report them, the high-profile poster boy of Thai police seems to have come to an undisclosed impasse. At this stage no reasons have been provided for his sudden side-lining back to head office.

One of his notable pet projects was pursuing foreigners, illegally overstaying their visas, as well as central African ‘scammers’ who he rooted out in his “Good guys in, bad guys out” campaign. The media parades for these almost weekly raids were usually rolled out after midnight and included photos with him smuggly glaring down one of his captive perpetrators.

He’s also come into the international spotlight over a number of recent high-profile immigration cases including when he reversed a deportation order against Rahaf al-Qunun, a young Saudi woman who arived in Thailand fleeing alledged abuse by her family. And also the case of the Bahraini-born Australian Hakeem al-Araibi who had been detained by Thai police in an international tug of war between Australia and Bahrain.

Surachate is the son of a career policeman and was born in Songkhla in 1970. After joining the force, he quickly rose through the ranks to command a local station and later moved to Bangkok to head the 191 task force. He spent a time with the tourist police co-inciding with his rise to fame, before landing the top job at the Immigration Bureau last year.

He has also been closely linked to Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon.

Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP | News by The Thaiger Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP | News by The Thaiger

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Opinion

Wai Khru – setting a bad example for the future. Thailand’s demand for respect from its young

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Wai Khru – setting a bad example for the future. Thailand’s demand for respect from its young | The Thaiger

Hazing (US English), initiation ceremonies (British English), bastardisation (Australian English), ragging (South Asia), or deposition, refers to the practice of rituals, challenges, and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group including a new fraternity, sorority, team or club.

In Thailand, hazing is not only rife, it’s seen as a rite of passage for young Thais as part of their cultural inculcation into the subservience they’re expected to display elders or people with more money or higher positions than them. What’s mistaken for ‘respect’ is actually a cultural party trick where children and young adults are ‘trained’ to be deferential from an early age.

In recent years there have a been a few high-profile deaths of army trainees, in the care of their Academy leaders, but allegedly subjected to initiations and bastardisation that is just ‘par for the course’ for the education of young Thais.

In a response to the recent death of Phakhapong Tanyakan at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School on October 17 last year, the Thai Deputy PM and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan claimed that he “was not beaten to death, but just too weak to withstand tough training.”

He went further saying “I was once beaten more than I could take and I fainted too. I didn’t die. For this, before the school accepts kids for entry, they must give them a proper physical check-up.”

When you get you get such official, public, responses from the top you can see how this hazing culture continues to thrive in the, otherwise, Land of Smiles.

We spoke to three foreign teachers in Thailand, all speaking on condition of anonymity, about the culture of hazing in their schools and the benign version of that in primary schools, ‘wai khru’.

“Hazing is seen in many different types of social groups, including gangs, sports teams, schools, military units, fraternities and sororities. The initiation rites can range from relatively benign pranks and was khru, to protracted patterns of behavior that rise to the level of abuse or criminal misconduct.”

For the families of hazing victims these ceremonies can be catastrophic, as in the tragic case of Phakhapong Tanyakan.

A 19 year old armed forces cadet, previously subjected to harsh physical discipline, suddenly died a day after returning to school from a break. His parents were told he suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest but became suspicious of possible foul play after a detailed autopsy report never came. – Khaosod English

But he’s not the only one. Hazing and cruel or unusual initiations are conducted every day around the Kingdom but with a growing concern about the practices, both from the young students themselves and concerned older Thais, who realise the dangers of ‘persuading’ youngsters to respect elders needs examination in a modern 21st century Thailand.

We spoke to a respected senior Thai businessperson, again on the condition of anonymity, who said he had seen too much hazing going on during his time at school and then whilst training in the military.

“I was a victim of this type of bullying. I was told to ‘be a man’ and that all Thai men have to go through this. I think it is degrading and breaks human spirits. It teaches fear of those we are meant to respect. It has to change.”

It all starts when young Thais are subjected to the Wai Khru or ‘Teacher Wai’ where students are expected to prostrate themselves in front of their teachers in a show of respect. But a broad spectrum of foreign teachers not only feel uncomfortable with this faux-deference, some of them go out of their way to be away for that day or, sometimes, even speak out about their concern with this tradition.

“I made the mistake of speaking out about the Wai Khru in our school. I just found it demeaning for the poor students who had to rehearse all week for this totally meaningless show of respect. I didn’t feel respected, I felt sick. I ended up being ostracised and had to leave that school.”

Whilst many Thais continue to wonder why westerners might find all this kowtowing and prostrating could cause concern, you just need to examine the deaths in the Army preparatory schools as the end result of ‘demanding’ obedience and deference to elders. In western culture, I have learned, respect is something that is earned, not demanded.

“Hazing is undignified, humiliating and cruel… not my words, but the words of students who are made go through this horrible experience. It’s meant to be a sign of showing respect to your seniors but it’s nothing more than a shameful indulgence at the expense of the students,” said a long-term foreign teacher.

“Making students crawl around on the ground acting like animals in front of their peers, does nothing for either senior or freshie students. I have stopped attending Wai Khru day as I find it terribly uncomfortable for myself and for the students. You can see the look in their eyes as they approach you and are ordered to bow before the teacher. Teachers, like everyone else, should learn how to earn the respect of their students.”

A young female foreign teacher first thought that the Wai Khru was ‘cute’ but has changed her tune over the years.

“Wai khru was the highlight of my first year teaching in Thailand. I was, and still am, extremely humbled and deeply touched by this beautiful tradition intended to recognise a teachers’ role in children’s life and to give said children the opportunity to express their gratitude to their teachers.

“But throughout the years I have started to look at this event with a more critical eye and I wish it weren’t as rehearsed and staged as it unfortunately is. At our school, rehearsals for Wai Kru start a week prior to the event. During this week, children are drilled incessantly until they have mastered the walk, the bow and the wai leading up to the offering of the flowers that they are eager to free their sweaty little palms of.”

Wai Khru continues to be practiced in all Thai schools as a long standing tradition and show of respect for teachers.

“Although I understand and commend the wonderful intentions behind such practices, I feel that much like other sorts of drilling that these students endure, this sadly takes away from the true purpose of it all. For want of a picture perfect event, meaning is lost and a demonstration of gratitude is transformed into a dreaded labour,” she said.

An investigation into the death of Army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan, by military investigators, found no wrongdoing by the Preparatory School. The parents have consistently called for a probe into their son’s death and are still pursuing legal action.

Wai Khru - setting a bad example for the future. Thailand's demand for respect from its young | News by The ThaigerPHOTO: Army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan, who died at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School on October 17 last year.

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