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Thai school girls – longer skirts, bigger blouses

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The Thai Education Ministry is telling teenage female students to dress “appropriately” and stop wearing dresses that are too skimpy.

The Ministry has made amendments to the Child Protection Act to codify the length of dresses and the tightness of blouses, rather than leaving it up to school boards to come up with their own guidelines (you can imagine those evening meetings held in stuffy school board rooms with mostly male academics deep in discussion).

The amendment appears to only target female students who famously, or infamously, flout the dress codes with their short skirts and undersized blouses.

The revision, signed by newly appointed Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, says the changes in the laws will improve the behaviour and safety of students. Meanwhile male students have been spared any specific guidelines regarding the way they wear their uniforms.

The amendments also prohibit students from joining gangs that “disturb the peace” or cause a “public commotion” inside or outside school.

Parents or guardians of a student who breaks the new regulations are liable to fines of up to 30,000 baht and/or three months in jail.

Female Thai students have been testing school and university dress-codes for decades with the many Thai soap operas set in schools, and popular with young Thai people, often sexualising female cast members by dressing them in very short and tight skirts and tight-fit blouses. The Thai ‘schoolgirl’ is also a popular ‘theme’ in locally produced porn.

Thai school uniform standards attract attention around the world with even the Japanese, also known for pushing the boundaries of skirt length, acknowledging that Thailand takes the sexualising of school uniforms to the next level.

Universities in Thailand continue to rank far behind in world academically but they are “No. 1” in the sexiest female university uniform stakes according to a number of surveys.

Whilst conservative social standards abound in Thailand, outwardly, Thai officialdom has always tolerated pushing the boundaries of female sexuality by turning a blind eye to the bar-girl culture and, yes, the enforcement of student dress codes.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

World travel business faces slow recovery – UN report

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World travel business faces slow recovery – UN report | The Thaiger

Plenty of businesses are suffering and recovery will be slow, and lumpy. One of the hardest hit, and probably one of the most difficult industries to re-start, is the world travel business. Hotels, airlines, tour companies, travel agencies and online booking systems… and the millions of people employed to make all those work together as a working machine.

Now a UN study predicts that the global tourism business will lose up to US$3.3 trillion due to impact of Covid-19 bans and lockdowns, with Thailand to lose US$47 billion alone. According to the report, Thailand and France stand to lose around US$47 billion each. But the US and China are projected to have single largest losses in the travel industry.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions in the global economy. By the end of the first quarter of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had brought international travel to an abrupt halt and significantly impacted the tourism industry.”

The UN Conference on Trade and Development has released its ‘Covid-19 and Tourism’ and poses 3 scenarios for the world travel industry, assessing the impact of restrictive measures lasting 4, 8 and 12 months. Revenues are projected to fall $1.17, $2.22 and $3.3 trillion in the 3 scenarios, or 1.5-4.2% of the world’s GDP.

Speaking at a media conference, one of the authors believed that the second scenario “could be a realistic one”.

“International tourism has been almost totally suspended, and domestic tourism curtailed by lockdown conditions imposed in many countries. Although some destinations have started slowly to open up, many are afraid of international travel or cannot afford it due to the economic crisis.”

Then small tourist island states, such as Jamaica, stand to lose a much larger proportion of their economies, facing an 11% fall in GDP. Tourist islands like Bali and Phuket are also facing a bleak outlook until their tourism industries pick up again.

The UNCTAD report covers 65 individual countries and regions and is calling for governments to boost social protection for affected workers in the worst impacted nations.

World travel business faces slow recovery - UN report | News by The Thaiger

Download the full report HERE.

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Are BTS the world’s biggest band?

Tim Newton

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Are BTS the world’s biggest band? | The Thaiger

Simple answer, yes. But there are still people that have never heard of the group or might have been living under a rock for a few years. The South Korean group has risen up through the ranks of K-Pop, somewhat of a musical blood sport, since 2013. From their almost unnoticed debut as pimply hip-hop ‘try hards’, the 7 members are now basking in well-earned musical respect around the world.

But there are still plenty of people asking “who the hell are BTS?” Well, they’re THE music group of the moment. Whilst there’s been Beatlemania, the stand-out genius of Michael Jackson, the charm of Elvis, the YouTube-discovery Justin Bieber and the half-century run of The Rolling Stones, there’s never been anything quite like BTS. Here’s why.

Whilst difficult to compare musically, statistically BTS are up there with the greatest bands of all time, and they’re still on the rise. By the way, BTS is short for their full Korean name Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단), translated loosely as Bulletproof Boy Scouts.

In the white-washed pop music world, and a storm of noise on the internet, it’s difficult for a performer to ‘break out’ and find a voice in the current model of the music business. How could 7 young Koreans claw their way to the top of the charts and fill sports stadiums with screaming fans?

They sing mostly in Korean. Just consider that for a moment. They’ve passed through the musical bamboo curtain to have #1 hits in the UK, the US, Europe, Asia… well, everywhere. Indeed they’ve scored three number one albums in the US on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart, in one year – a feat only achieved once before by The Beatles, a situation that hasn’t been lost on the humble septet. BTS even sent themselves up, along with Stephen Colbert, on The Late Show performing in the same Ed Sullivan Theatre The Beatles debuted to a US TV audience back in 1964 – a pop culture moment that not only launched The Beatles to global stardom but changed music forever, proving that bands would have to be TV-friendly to succeed in the future.

Are BTS the world's biggest band? | News by The Thaiger

For 2020 BTS have already sold the most albums of any artist in the world, when you include actual albums and digital downloads, beating out a host of huge US, UK and European artists. Map of the Soul – 7 is a reflective look back at their own careers, over 7 years, as a team of 7.

At their sellout concerts, the audience sings along with all their hits, in Korean. At their concert in Bangkok in 2019 I witnessed 50,000 (mostly) Thais singing along in Korean, whereas most Thais battle to speak much English, a language they’ve been partly taught at school. (By the way on one side of me at the concert was a 40-something husband and wife who had flown from Sydney to see the concert, on the other a mother and three kids (8 – 15ish) – I think the mother enjoyed it more than the kids.)

The group, comprised of Kim Tae-hyung (V), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Kim Nam-joon (RM), Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Park Ji-min (Jimin), Jeon Jung-kook (Jungkook), and Min Yoon-gi (Suga), are hardly ‘overnight successes’. They debuted 7 years ago in the cut-throat K-Pop scene and they were hardly an instant success. Working with an almost unknown production company (Big Hit Entertainment), the 7 members started crafting their sound with long nights and weekends, living in the one dorm room, using their managers cars and homes as props and sets for music videos and fitting in their schooling as well. They contributed to the production and writing most of their material, and still do.

They battled a cruel K-Pop industry and haters that didn’t like that BTS didn’t fit the ‘mould’ of K-Pop. There were plagiarism controversies, death threats, social media hate campaign and just plenty of people who thought they’d go the way of most K-Pop acts, into obscurity. But they persisted and were relentless in their dream to make it big in South Korea and even dream to one day reach the shores of the lucrative US pop market. In November 2016 they won Album of the Year in the main music awards program in South Korea. They were utterly surprised but it was a turning moment and they would never turn back…

Eventually they clawed their way to a position of recognition in the K-Pop world, meanwhile garnering growing support in the west, well, everywhere around the world. Whilst it’s difficult to measure their success against other bands, there are a few important keys to their success which has music executives scratching their heads.

Their big weapon is their ARMY, the name they’ve given to their loyal fanbase around the world. Whenever the group speaks they ALWAYS attribute their success to the legion of loyal fans. ARMY have meanwhile weaponised social media – you could say that BTS came along at the right time – reaching beyond Korea’s borders in a way that had been impossible even ten years ago.

As #BlackLivesMatter trended in social media, as part of a larger protest movement in the US following the death of George Floyd, BTS made a $US 1 million donation to the movement. ARMY responded and within two days had matched the BTS donation from fans. They’re fans were also part of the K-Pop fans flooding of the #WhiteLivesMatter counter-movement, replacing messages of hate with pictures of their favourite BTS photos or lyrics.

BTS’s YouTube music videos (there are hundreds) have broken several records on YouTube, their Twitter followers were the world’s most dedicated in 2018 and one member, J-Hope, had the most tweeted video in the world last year. BTS, through 7 years of sharing their lives, battles, dance practices, ups and downs, have weaponised social media.

Many of their videos are expensive, cinematic extravaganzas with hidden messages and ongoing story lines threaded between them. Blood, Sweat and Tears is 4 years old now but was a breakout video for the band and exemplified their command of music, story-telling, dance and style – all in one piece of art.

The band members shared the minutiae of their lives with thousands of uploaded photos and videos and also relentlessly shared their core message – that life isn’t always easy as a teenager and young adulthood, you need to love yourself before you can love someone else and your mistakes will make you stronger in the long-run. Their music isn’t all sugary sweet and often lapses into darker messages and addresses current social issues.

They also shared videos showing themselves fighting, crying, arguing, laughing, eating, shopping and backstage – just being seven young men battling their way through the music industry labyrinth as underdogs.

The difficult-to-measure ‘X’ factor is also strong in these seven talented guys. There is a genuine bond of friendship between the Bangtan boys and it shines through whenever they appear in public, or video – it’s not fake. And, after working their act for seven years, there’s a comfort and ease on the stage, some describe it as ‘swag’, where their performances appear effortless whilst pulling off breath-taking dance routines. As they’ve grown over 7 years their music and performance has also morphed from earlier hip-hop beats to more sophisticated performances.

Within their six years of ensemble work there are also generous sprinklings of solo projects, fully supported by the rest of the team. Whilst ‘doing a solo project’ from within a group is usually code for ‘I’m going solo’, with BTS it’s been a core part of the band’s raison d’être. At every BTS concer each member also have their solo moments to shine.

Another part of their strength is that they’re all remarkably talented – they sing, they dance, they rap, they write, they produce. They also have great ‘visuals’ (in K-Pop speak) presenting an all-Asian look to a white-washed western pop industry. There are no weak members along for an easy ride.

They keep collecting legions of adoring fans and celebrity fanboys and fangirls, have had two successful cinema releases of concert tour documentaries, have spoken at the UN, appeared on just about every important TV variety show around the world, and somehow stayed reasonably grounded along the way.

Their music, whilst often sung with Korean lyrics, is immediately catchy, has plenty of pop influences yet shines through with something unique that continues to set them apart and keeps amassing new fanbases around the world. In their concerts you’ll here pure pop, hip-hop, rap, power ballads and other songs that simply show-off their voices and powerful dance moves. That they keep it up, at full throttle, for their two and a half hour live concerts, is one of the modern wonders of the music world.

Are BTS the world's biggest band? | News by The Thaiger

Yet, amongst the hype, the YouTube records, the sell-out concerts and music sales, are 7 young men who have allowed their true personalities to shine through.

RM is the group’s leader (the only member to speak fluent English) with an IQ of 148, V is the quirky one who’s often described as the band’s ‘secret weapon’, Jimin the ‘flirty’ one who shares his ‘up & down’ journey with fans, Jungkook the supernaturally talented youngest member (or ‘maknae’ in K-Pop speak). J-Hope is hyper-energetic and perennially cheerful, Suga is the brooding musician with the sharp tongue, and Jin the ‘world-wide handsome one’ (a self-mocking moniker he gave himself after the media attention to his looks over the years) who loves cooking for the band and telling dad-jokes.

There are thousands of videos on YouTube recording the band’s rise from very bottom of the K-Pop pile to international stardom. Whilst you can check out any number of their music videos or live performances (there are thousands of videos!) I would urge BTS-newbies to start with this address by leader RM (Kim Namjoon) at the United Nations in September 2018. It provides an insight into the intellect and feeling behind the pop sensation and a small part of what sets BTS apart from just about every other musician in the world today.

Whilst they are obviously riding high on a wave of fame right now, most music pundits think they’ve got plenty of room, musically, to extend their fandom and fame. Perhaps, even to become one of the greatest music bands of all time.

As a footnote, looming over BTS is the Korean government’s insistence that all it’s young men must enter two years of national army service by the time they reach the age of 28. The oldest member, Jin, is already 27 and the band members have already stated they are happy and proud to serve their time of conscription. In the meantime they’re not wasting any time as they continue to plunge head-long into a grilling schedule they’ve been keeping up now for seven years.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Back to school – Thai school kids head back to class

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Back to school – Thai school kids head back to class | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Kon La Na

School’s back. Thai school children are returning to their classes in school rooms around the country to be re-united with their teachers who have been just a thumbnail on a Zoom conference call for the past three months. The reopening of schools is nationwide, for all levels of public and private schools. Since mid-March, all schools in Thailand have been closed for classes as part of the government’s efforts to battle the coronavirus.

One foreign English teacher, we’ll call him ‘James’, teaches at a large public school in southern Thailand. He told The Thaiger that he’s even more excited about getting back to school than the students.

“I’m very excited on my first day at school after the lockdown as we start the new normal schedule. Our school is conducting an odd/even numbers system. The students are given random numbers and the odd numbers come one day and the students with even numbers on another.”

“The teachers on the gate were making sure that all the students are healthy and are taking preventive measures by checking the body temperature, providing hand sanitisers and making sure everyone is wearing a mask. All the teachers are making sure that the children are maintaining social distancing.”

“There are signs all over the school reminding about preventive measures to take during this Covid-19 era. We’re all hoping this ‘new normal’ will end soon and all the students can come to school together to study, and play with each other soon.”

At the start of June, when Thailand started easing restrictions, teachers were asked to come back to many of the country’s schools to prepare for the resumption of classes. Many had been doing online classes from home but have spent the last month continuing online classes from the schools and helping prepare the classrooms.

Floors of schools around the country will have new social distance markings and hand washing stations have been set up.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce is working with with manufacturers of school uniforms and back-to-school supplies to control prices and ease expenses during the economic recession. The program is aimed to assist up to 10.4 million families.

The ‘Back to School’ campaign is aimed at parents of school aged kids to reduce the cost of living as schools resume from today. Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy PM and Minister of Commerce, says his ministry has spoken to manufacturers of school uniforms and school supplies to help reduce their product prices until July 15.

“The products will be sold at department stores nationwide. The campaign offers a discount of up to 80 percent on many items.”

Back to school - Thai school kids head back to class | News by The ThaigerBack to school - Thai school kids head back to class | News by The Thaiger

 

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