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A Week in Review: February 12-18, 2011

The real 'big issue' in Thailand last week

As the unwinnable border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia rumbled on, two issues of far greater importance to Thailand came to the fore last week. What were they?

Unsurprisingly, Thailand and Cambodia seem to have reached an inevitable stalemate in their dispute over who owns a small patch of rocky hilltop that straddles their mutual border.

Rejecting Cambodia’s calls for peacekeepers to be brought in, the UN has called for the two bickering countries to reach a permanent ceasefire instead.

While Cambodia responded by saying it favoured the idea of bringing in mediators and observers from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Thai government continued to insist that bilateral talks were the only solution.

Let’s just hope that the issue dies down and the nationalists on both sides of the border get bored and go home until the next time a power hungry megalomaniac brings up the issue in a bid to create a wave of blind support.

You would think that it must be a positive sign of good times in Thailand if an old remote temple that neither country has looked after very well – or even wanted until they thought that the other side wanted it – is the most pressing issue facing the country.

The long-suffering people of Thailand’s troubled southern provinces would no doubt disagree after a massive car bomb left 18 people injured and caused a fire that destroyed several shophouses in Yala last Sunday.

While separatist Muslim terrorists in the region kill their primarily Buddhist victims on an almost daily basis, last Sunday’s explosion was one of the biggest single attacks in a recent escalation of the troubles that have claimed almost 4,400 lives over the last 7 years.

Despite a number of recent government initiatives – including a budget of 50 billion baht earmarked for a number of projects to improve the quality of life in the region, the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre Act to give the region a degree of autonomy, and a military-backed amnesty to encourage terrorist elements to lay down their arms – there is no sign of an end to the troubles. On the contrary, they are reaching a new level of intensity.

According to Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a political scientist and director of the Centre for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversities at the Pattani campus of the Prince of Songkla University, the terrorists don't want to see peace. “That's why they defied the government's attempt to develop the area and the quality of life of people here,” he explained.

He went on to say that he believed the insurgents were also acting in retaliation to the authorities' hard-line approach and that the government should withdraw its troops from the region so as to empower local officials and civilians to work together to solve the problem. However, such a situation appears highly unlikely with the army insisting it is there to stay.

The Thai Patriots Network has strangely failed to take an interest in this particular threat to Thai sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Thailand finds itself in the grip of an oil shortage. However, this particular oil war has nothing to do with Middle–Eastern sheikhs. It is unscrupulous Thai politicians and businessmen who are accused of bringing Thailand to its knees.

The oil is question is not the variety used in petrol but rather the cooking oil variety made from palm oil. Most small local shops across Thailand have run out of supplies and even the large supermarket chains only have a limited stock of expensive alternatives with signs announcing that purchases are limited to one bottle per family.

While palm oil can still be found on sale in markets, it is at the inflated price of 67 baht per litre despite the government having set a cap of 47 baht per litre.
For a country that fries pretty much everything, this is grave news indeed.

It has become such a national emergency that the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) has launched a probe to investigate whether refineries are hoarding supplies to artificially manipulate the price.

Underlining the severity of the situation, DSI deputy chief Narat Sawettanan announced that the penalty for hoarding commodity goods is up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to 140,000 baht.

Another theory is that some palm oil refineries may have used their quota of palm oil to make biodiesel instead of cooking oil as it can be sold at a higher price.

However, the opposition Phuea Thai party has claimed government corruption is behind the shortage. In a typically cryptic bid to avoid being charged with defamation, Phuea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit stated that two government politicians with the initials "S" and "P" were responsible for keeping cooking oil made from palm oil out of the local market.

To add a few more clues, he suggested that the prime minister remove the commerce portfolio from the Bhum Jai Thai Party and oversee the ministry himself in a bid to ease the public hardship caused by the rising price of cooking oil.

So while the Thai-Cambodian border dispute rumbles on and the nationalists wail, terrorism and national cooking oil shortages were the real issues affecting most Thais last week.

Paul Snowdon – February 19, 2011

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Have your say...

30 Jul 2014, 01:39
Acting on a touch of remorse that I wasn't seenig enough of my family, I organised what was supposed to be an impromptu, calm week away from everything in Thailand for us all. We arrived and the whole place went mental.The day we landed in Bangkok, the Red Team was rioting and trying to get rid of the Yellow Team. Thai politics is pretty simple as they wear colour-coded uniforms, making it a lot easier to understand for the visiting spectator.There was a lot of hullabaloo about it on all the news channels but it's quite difficult to get nervous about Thai riots. In somewhere like South Korea you get students tooled up with Molotov cocktails and setting themselves alight before hurling themselves on to lines of heavily armed riot police. In South Africa, mobs might stone police while putting opponents into tyres before setting fire to them. The most the Thai Red Team could do was set a bus alight and even for this they looked quite embarrassed.Thais are not really cut out for violent protest – this is, after all, the Land of Smiles. It's difficult to riot with a big smile: it just doesn't sit right. We hotfooted it up north to Chiang Mai; not for any cowardly reason – it's just a lot cooler up there. Unbelievably however, as our car left Chiang Mai airport, we were attacked on numerous occasions. Luckily for us, the assailants were only throwing water bombs.We'd landed right in the middle of Songkran, the Thai New Year festival. Since this takes place in the hottest month of the year it used to be traditional for people to spray each other with water to cool themselves down. In Chiang Mai this has been taken to another level – a three-day urban water assault that is quite extraordinary. Scores of pickup trucks roam the streets with huge barrels of water in the back and seven or eight youths hurling the stuff at everyone and anyone. Meanwhile, gangs wait on street corners with buckets and hoses while moped drivers weave in and out of the traffic with the pillion passenger using huge water pistols to deadly effect. After five minutes or so you relinquish any hope of staying dry and focus on finding the best weapon you can buy for defence.We stopped at a petrol station and bought four huge Super Soakers. Continuing onwards towards the hotel, we executed several very successful drive-by shootings. By now, the kids were completely in love with the country and wanted to move here as soon as possible.My four-year-old son, Jackson, was all for getting out of our vehicle and engaging in some hand-to-hand combat, but we were tired and the lure of falling into a cooling pool was successful. We settled in quickly and any thoughts of revolution quickly faded as we tried to switch off from everyday life. Then my eight-year-old daughter, Parker, made friends with a girl who lived in Bangkok and came back that night full of alarm: Dad, did you know that if you stepped on a coin with the Thai king's head on it you could go to prison? I replied that I didn't know that but that I would be very careful in future when handling money. Also, Dad, if you put a statue of Buddha underwater then he can drown and you can be arrested for that as well. I assured her that we had no statues of Buddha but that, if we did, they would be kept very dry.Later that evening, on the telly, I watched the Thai riot police use water cannon on the Red Team down in Bangkok – and it wasn't for Songkran. It seems that you can't drown the Buddha, but Buddhists are fair game.
03 Aug 2014, 18:08
In terms of the bar girls. There is a level of denile in Thailand that spans all<a href=""> lelevs</a>. The girls and their families are in Denial on how they earn the money. For many families it is the only income. There is denial from the police who collect money every month in corrupt payments from the bars.I have seen a share out of this money in a Pattata seaside restaurant, among high ranking officers. And ultimately, a denial in the upper echalants of government when they get their pay offs from the police who they appointed. It is a system that has existed since the GI's firsr started paying for sex. Then Pattaya was a small fishing village. The whole city has grown up from this coruption and Denial. It ain't a River in Africa
05 Aug 2014, 15:18
Matt Thanks for your well constructed conmmet, you are obviously an experienced Thailand man.Your first point I'd agree that most wouldn't want to work in a factory.As far as saints then I don't think I portrayed them as that, I was more kinda of saying that the majority are not as bad as the mass like to label them.The problem with the children preferring to have a mother is that the mother would have no money, there's no social handouts in Thailand.I realize that we can only go on our personal experiences of Pattaya and mine is quite clearly that most of these girls were not that bad people at all.Once again thanks for a worthy conmmet. [url=]ubfjugww[/url] [link=]zduvvzpmlpo[/link]
28 Nov 2015, 04:57
Mike I'd settle for 30 years ago. I rzleiae the topic is not really to everyone's taste but it is nonetheless a subject that is very much Thailand. It is now not my scene, like you I much prefer the quieter natural Thailand life. Thanks for your comment.Bodhi It has always amazed me how these families put to the back of their minds the daughters profession.Yes as you say I think the money does talk rather loudly and smooths the path of acceptance.Martin Most Pattaya tourists are there for one thing and one thing only. When I was in Bulgaria years ago I noticed the Russian Mafia had introduced the sex scene into one of the big hotels in Sunny Beach. Perhaps you could try for a job there.Lostinbangkok The rules never change only the girls and the customers.Thanks for dropping by.Talen Hardly the kindest cut of all, make sure she doesn't bring any baloons. Songkran in the village, that brings back happy memories. Being the farang of course makes you the kids number one target. Happy memories.
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