Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Bangkok goes a bridge too far - or better UK and USA support?

Khun Sirinya Wattanasukchai in her article “Skywalk A Bridge too Far” as always makes some interesting points on Future Bangkok's and its bridges and infrastructure with four major projects cancelled.

Firstly, she cites problems around the Skybridge as potentially pointless overbuild over the Chaopraya - and rightly cites the problems around the Millennium Bridge or Wobbly Bridge over the Thames. The Wobbly Bridge not unreasonably linked the new Tate Modern arts gallery to St Paul's Cathedral.

But there was much consternation over the noticeable wobble that was eventually ironed out.

While the plans for the new Garden Bridge, from the era of Boris Johnson as London mayor are a much larger project and mired in tax-bloat and expenses:

Fortunately it's likely to be cancelled by both the new London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Margaret Hodge MP the very dynamic scourge of tax-waste as detailed in her new book Called to Account often urging investments in cyberwar protection rather than the vanity of aircraft carriers or submarines as well as too-prevalent UK corruption with UK tax havens etc:

It’s on my New Year reading list, with Royal Rebel by Princess Soma of Cambodia, perhaps USA’s most dynamic royal since George III:

Secondly the cancellation of the bricklaying machine seems a little unusual in the age of Robotics and Internet of Things. Certainly it's a concern for bricklayers with even Winston Churchill being a fan of the art of bricklaying with his work on renovating Chartwell House here in Kent.

Thirdly, the City Hall TV channel – and a subscription too(!)- is redolent of the low views for Kent TV a similar Government channel here in the Garden of England. I was asked to be on the Board but refused at the lack of viability of the project before it was closed.

Surely with the Paramount theme park and EKFOS East Kent Film Office and Studio, Kent should be more active in media?

And with closer cooperation with Thailand eg the Teacher TV channel or MOOC Open University courses and FTA exchanges with BBC and Thai channels? How can UK citizens learn more about Thailand, whether beaches or temples, without such activity? Chinese and Russian and French TV is broadcast in UK why not 2 or 3 Thai channels and together Sports Diplomacy links with football channels?

Fourthly, the riverfront improvements may not be much of an improvement in removing some of the buzz and style of Bangkok's riverfront. The renovation of Covent Garden, London's Thonglor or Asiatique if you will, is certainly something of an example in regeneration by turning London’s tatty fruit and veg market into rather swish shops and nightlife.

A glimpse of just how tatty and run-down the area was, compared to now, can be seen in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy movie. But it's always a balancing act for such regeneration in preventing a rather antiseptic vibe or mere tourist trap.

This week for example the New European newspaper details the bridge towns of Arnhem and Nijmegen, as Dutch Limes forts up for UNESCO World Heritage status, as Liberation Route Europe not only launches its Polish activity, but also its work on the USA contribution to liberating Europe in WW2.

For the cultural links between nations are even stronger than concrete links.

In my politics campaign here in Kent for KCC Leader I'm urging financial reforms of its $3BN budget with cancelling Tobacco and Fossil Fuel investments, and reinstatement of the previous $20M aid to Cambodia, along with Project SUNrice (UN FAO SUN: Scaling Up Nutrition) activity on stimulating the Thai and Khmer rice industries and reducing malnutrition.

A walk around my local Thai supermarket has pallets of Hom Mali and Royal Umbrella rice - with a reduction in Thai restaurants from c.15,000 to c.12,000, and Project Chula to beef up the number of Thai university students in UK from c.8,000 to c.20,000, similar to Malaysia, the demand will certainly be there for Asian foods in UK even without ASEANRail speeding rice through to the hungry mouths of India or Africa or China.

Project Mahidol can build pharma links between Thai and Kent universities and pharma companies and Pfizer/Discovery Park - what was the largest USA investment in Europe. And King Chulalongkorn of course with his family studying in UK. The dangers of Pandemics such as bird flu or AMR require massive investment and effort for everybody's health and the new UK Industrial Strategy.

AMR is a very real danger beyond the Project Fear silliness of Brexit - even the Queen stumped as to what exactly the UK is doing with Brexit before no doubt it is cancelled.

Project True is the umbrella project to focus on the digital and mobile economy as well as Meiji and Benelux and ASEAN companies such as Panasonic or Philips innovations on a DNA/cancer bathroom mirror and smartphone satellites.

While innovative Thailand agri-programmes such as passionfruit for rubber or Superfoods have begun:

Such green programmes raise the wider issue of land use and Digital Farms - how much Thai land should be given over to the rice crop specifically (and the various permutations of rice that are unknown in UK or EU) and to other crops, or for building?

And Project BenTre part of the civil society stimulus programme for links between Kent and ASEAN.

Here in Kent with 90% of the fruit orchards lost to roads and housebuilding etc, yet Kent is still producing over 60% of the UK apple market and easily with the capacity for more though its agricultural advances. With diseases of affluence such as obesity and diabetes and HFSS foods (High Fat Sugar and Salt), UK is lagging far behind Canada and Japan with their 10 a day health programmes.

And the UK is only now amplifying its National Citizenship volunteer programme similar to the US Peace Corps work.

The UK's 5 a day programme (none in Thailand?) is a factor of persuading the public to eat some (or any) fruit rather than the required healthy amount. The Johnny Appleseed programme - along with Superfoods such as passionfruit - should ensure both healthy forests and healthy children in the future:

And if Bangkok and Kent may be mired in the trials and tribulations of bridges and tarmac or appleseeds and peace corps, then the US Embassy in Phnom Penh has turned up the volume on the lilting refrains of Battambang and 1960's Cambodian rock music:

It's an astonishing feat of music and film research and archive work echoing across the Pacific from Battambang to Bethesda, that's bound to gain a standing ovation and awards at the various film festivals, and flowing along with hot and authentic slices of Americana on the roster such as:

It's not The Beatles or even Great British Xmas Music such as Slade, the mellow vibes of Canterbury Cathedral choir, or even Morlam or Kundrum, but it's well worth listening to, cutting a rug on the dancefloor, or seeing at a cinema near you.

From Kent to Thailand and Cambodia and California have a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year and here’s to more bridges between UK and Asia and USA.

Time for Change


* Project Mahidol: pandemics and pharma
* Project SUNrice: rice and malnutrition
* Project Johnny Appleseed: agricultural activity ie reforestation, apples, DigiFarm and Superfoods
* Project BenTre: civil society activity ie National Citizen Scheme, women and girls equality
* Project True: digital and mobile economy

Friday, 16 December 2016

Bridge of Dreams for UK and Philippines?

The interesting article by Bobit S. Avila in The Philippines Star struck a chord with me, and it coming hard on the heels of a Great British View article on UK-Philippines activity by the UK’s dynamic Ambassador Asif Ahmad.

A bridge between Cebu and Bohol could surely kick into a higher gear the tourism industries in those islands, rather than Philippines relying on the same old faces of Boracay and Bataan?

The Chocolate Hills a tasty treat along with the taisirs that could extend Ceboom’s growth.

But wouldn't it form the structural support for wider UK-Pinoy cooperation on infrastructure? San Juanico is already leading the way across ASEAN for megaprojects.
7,107 islands shouldn't mean Bridges to Nowhere everywhere across the Philippines, certainly we've reached peak cement in the age of Climate Change, but UK and Philippines working together could leverage AIIB and ADB funding for further vital projects such as hispeed rail to knit together the islands and towns of the Philippines.

And that certainly should help loosen the traffic jams of Metro Manila.

My Meiji Kent campaign to “Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption. Stop the Construction” for Kent KCC leader in 2017 and MP in 2020 is focused on expanding trade and cultural links in ASEAN.

I'm a keen follower of the Red Cross Philippines - here in East Kent I'm urging Ramsgate as the UK's first Official Red Cross Town with DEC campaigns, First Aid training in schools, paramedic police etc - to help coordinate support and activity needed from Haiyan. And Resilience preparations for the next ASEAN disasters that happen almost like clockwork and can be relegated for the latest crisis such as Yemen.

And certainly greater Met Office cooperation with weather satellites etc could help limit such damaging events - the BBC's Rico Hizon reporting from a ruined building during Haiyan providing eloquent testimony to the dangers facing the islands of Philippines.

With 60% of Climate Change disasters in Asia-Pacific (and 60% of global casualties) the need is certainly there with typhoons and tsunamis, landslides, floods and earthquakes and volcanos reaping a bitter harvest with Philippines now a net importer of rice, after the technological great leap forward of Banaue's rice terraces.

And Climate Change is providing a visible recent reminder of its impact with five Solomon Islands disappearing below the waves in recent months.

While I don't subscribe to the dangerous idea of Philippines nurses and doctors propping up the UK NHS at the expense of the Philippines, there are 9% of NHS medical posts vacant, and there is broader potential as with CCU University here in Kent supporting DaNang University in Vietnam. The latter is the largest UK education investment in Asia.

And shouldn't the Pinoy nurses in the NHS be expanded not exploited, with say a specific 2 year training programme with Philippines, before returning home and cementing that learning into the healthcare systems of Bohol or Bicol?

Any injured Brits whether in Manchester or Manila could appreciate such skills, or closer Pandemic prevention programmes such as the Stanford swab metro activity in New York.

It's an outrageous failure of the NHS that it lacks formal exchange programmes with countries in the Commonwealth, or work such as Operation Smile for cleft palate surgery in ASEAN, as well as nations such as Philippines who support the smooth-running of the service.

The 55,000 NHS workers, out of the 1.2M staff in the UK’s largest employer, aren't the only ones threatened with uncertainty from the Brexit silliness. That daughter of the Philippines and UK, Myleene Klass has spoken movingly for BBCTV of her mum's work in the Norfolk NHS recently.

In Kent, the latest breast cancer treatments, cyberknife keyhole surgery and TB and AMR research at Discovery Park – one of the latest pharma science parks in UK and Europe - are being developed. Why shouldn't Philippines develop common ground with UK on those and other projects? It may be more fun in the Philippines but it wouldn’t it be even more fun working with UK for a healthier and wealthier population?

And with the Magellan Anniversaries from 2019-21 wouldn't UK and Philippines cooperation be pushing against an open church door? Archbishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott gave up part of his Easter message to Anglicans this year to call for greater cooperation with Buddhism and Canterbury Cathedral, the Baclayon of East Kent if you will.

And isn’t Xmas ideal for that hand of friendship from the Church of England to extend across the water to the Catholic churches of Philippines beyond 2021?

Surely every support is needed not just on bridges of dreams but preventing a sea of heartbreak in the South China Sea given the weaponisation of all the Spratlys Islands (named by UK in the distant past) now – Chinese bombers just a few miles from Puerto Princesa and Manila, an repeated Russian overflights of Guam , and the North Sea.

The schools and universities of Bohol need no lessons in helping the next generation improve their English or STEM work, or protect against TB and HIV. And UK could learn much from the Philippines’ momentum in developing the UNSDG30 goals - the UK still with no formal public sector programmes.

And the Philippines schoolkids of tomorrow could even lose their American English accent and take up Shakespeare rather than Big Macs with the help of UK Education and the British Council cultural work? Already in advance of the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN next year, the UK has stepped forward and tripled ASEAN Chevening scholarships in ASEAN and Philippines.

And as with the UK's 24-7 Economy programmes with Moneypenny call centres in NZ, shouldn't the Philippines Digital Economy fast forward faster with UK as well as USA input?

Surely these cultural and economic points are no bridge of dreams, just stepping stones to a greater 21st century for UK and Philippines.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR, Founder of Surin School Charity building schools in ASEAN: the first school built in Thailand and standing for East Kent MP in 2020 for better links with ASEAN.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Thailand's and East Kent's fun of the fair - and pick of the organic crop

What an interesting time Khun Anchalee Kongrut must have had at the Kasesart Fair in her “Organic Life” article for the Bangkok Post:

The range of flowers and fruit and vegetables sound a feast for the senses along with the Courageous Bangkok and Lemon Tree programmes. And from my experience, Kasetsart hides its light under a bushel as not just one of the leading agricultural universities but a very dynamic hub for international students.

If the range of orchids is extensive then it's only outclassed by the numerous and involving links with universities in ASEAN and Taiwan and Japan – and the importance orchids – to Kent featuring in 007’s Moonraker, as well as Thailand - featuring in today’s Independent newspaper although the article isn’t online as yet it’s by one of the world’s experts and part of an ecosystem of such features:

In my Kent politics role I hope those international links will be deepened and hopefully Kasetsart will link in with the work of Hadlow College here in East Kent, affiliated to Imperial College in London, and one of only half a dozen specialist agricultural colleges in UK.

And why not too deeper links with Danang Univeristy in Vietnam the largest UK educational investment in ASEAN?

Kent’s universities are already pulling on their wellington boots and striding out across the fields with CCU University in Canterbury working with DaNang on nursing courses and Kent University linking in with Hiroshima and Tokyo universities.

Kasesart or Mahidol could well be the first Thai universities linked in to Meiji Kent. Why should Chula or Thammasat always get first pick of the crop?

It's interesting the point Khun Anchalee makes in not just repurposing her chemical spray container and hose as a supersoaker for Songkran, but the growth of organic food in Thailand. Clearly only 1% organic is a massive opportunity for Thailand’s farmers: UK organic sales are a little higher but dwarfed by USA at 5%$ and Denmark nearly 8%:

Here in UK organic food has moved from specialist shops - and the socks and sandals types - to the mainstream supermarkets such as Tesco (and Tesco Lotus in Thailand). As well as more broadly-based organic food shops such as Planet Organic and farmers markets and popup markets.

As with the acres of plastic greenhouses in Almeria glinting in the sun and maximising every possible yield of food there is a certain limit to the Green revolution of previous years. East Kent’s mega-greenhouse s of Holland’s Thanet Earth brand is one route but it’s interesting that one of the best Xmas ads in UK at the moment is Lidl’s emphasis on free-range turkeys and apples:

It’s all the more unusual as Lidl was one of the Continental brands notoriously focused on discounting to the exclusion of any other brand promises but now actively waving the flag for organic and animal welfare – and the consumer urge driving that.

In a previous article Khun Anchalee mentioned the attention Thailand pays to soil health and the recent UN Year of the Soil which detailed the real nitty-gritty of potentially only a maximum 6 more harvests from topsoil.

Relevant to for Kent’s preservation of seedbanks and trees beyond pollution scandals such as Thor mercury in Margate, Kent’s Klity Creek, Cato Ridge and Flint Michigan rolled into one:

While one benefit of warmer summers and Climate Change is the return of champagne and sparkling wine to Kent, nestling next to the acres of hopfields, micropubs and barrels of Kentish - and Belgian - ale.

Surely in maximising crop yield, but with fewer if any harmful chemicals, or the unknown effect of genetically altered food is where Thailand and Kent could reap an abundant harvest?

AMR antibiotics in animals is the latest farming danger in the UK - the public's natural immune systems being reduced by overuse of antibiotics in animals again to maximise yield.

While King Bhumibol's Royal projects around the Sufficiency Economy should be as important here in UK, not just the rare Kent orchids, but also farm techniques around bees and hedgerow planting.

Rice paddies and other flooded soils have contributed to Climate Change with increases in methane-producing microbes as have the planet's 1.5BN cattle as methane has soared by 153% to 1,834 parts per billion since the 1800's.

And there’s a UK-Thai need especially pandemic alerts: Kent as of last week facing a mini version of the Hunger Winter that affected Netherlands and the Liberation Route Europe during WW2 with a bird flu attack on the Great British Xmas Turkey.

It's not that long as with the Netherlands Hunger Winter that German Uboat attacks meant oranges and bananas were rarities in England and non-existent in Russia, but now so commonplace as to be thrown away after being shipped halfway around the world.

If there's a shortage of Brussels sprouts or Jersey spuds from the Brexit silliness then UK might well need to tap in to Thailand's rice reserves for a balanced Xmas diet. And whatever the colour of your shirt, why shouldn't UK and Thailand cooperate on financing the redistribution of the Yingluck rice reserves around ASEAN and India and Europe for Thailand's farmers?

The UN has forecast ASEAN as the next hotspot for human or animal pandemics in the next decade, surely calling for closer cooperation with farmers and supermarkets and hospitals and universities?

Luckily the farm and media alerts have ensured most of the UK's Xmas turkeys have been prepared for the dinner table rather than affected by a quarantine as with similar types of Bird Flu.

And moving from Loam to Foam if you will with an integrated land and fisheries UK-Thai policy?

And even the Great British Fish and Chips could take on more of a Thai twist as Squid and Chips, with the North Sea becoming warmer resulting in an increase in squid and reduction in cod and haddock. Kent's Ukippers now almost extinct too.

CEFAS Fisheries College reported this week on squid increases of 300% while cod fell by 75% since 1971 to its lowest level of just 124,000 tonnes in 2004. While other warmwater fish such as red mullet, mackerel and sardines were also on the increase given much more of a Mediterranean climate based on 114 years of data.

Even the Surin Thai restaurant nestled by Ramsgate's gorgeous harbour occasionally has to comply with restrictions on sea bass (try it with lime juice!) each year. And Ramsgate as the largest fishing port and yacht marina on the South coast (Kent's Phuket if you will) still has an active fishing trade, and even the occasional beached whale searching for declining fish stocks.

Thailand's Royal Navy work with IUU fishing could well pave the way for a lifting of EU restrictions to maximise Thailand's role as the largest exporter of canned tuna and seafood.

Couldn't the UK's Royal Navy and fishing fleet and RNLI help chart a course to that end too? The HMS Kent warship is either tied up in port and rusting away for lack of anything to do or drifting around on aimless Ambre Solaire tours.

Why not exchange programmes with the Thai Royal Navy whether that's fishing patrols or tsunami resilience work or piracy patrols around Singapore? It’s perhaps fitting for the Magellan Anniversaries of the next few years and with Kent as the home of naturalist Charles Darwin.

As with wonky fruit and veg initiative, and orchid policies, by Asda to reduce the 30% of food wasted at farms or in supermarket warehouses or shelves or at home, Kent's fishermen have been active in reducing the thrown catch.

And UK and Thailand could well take lessons from France in passing legislation on reducing food waste as well as healthier initiatives on a Sugar Tax and HFSS (High Fat Salt and Sugar) foods. Big HFSS reforms as critical to public health as was Big Tobacco?

Thailand's crop expertise could well be honed around healthy Superfoods, given the supersizing of USA with 72M adults now obese with a medical surcharge of $1,429 per person, such as coconut water or pineapple as well as more exotic crops to British palates such as dragonfruit or rambutan.

The example of avocados shows the potential for crop fashions: 193,700 metric tons supplied to USA in 1998, leaping to 713,900 tons in 2012 - a similar boom occuring now in UK.

The bee collapse is even more pronounced in USA as it relies on the European honeybee to pollinate 33% of its food supply: apples, peaches, cranberries, melons and blueberries. If nothing else that’s an opportunity for the cool uplands of Loei beyond just tourism.

So desperate is USA's honeybee problem for its crops that there are in effect bee-tourists being taken from California's plums and cherry fields in February, to Dakota's sunflowers in April, and then onto the watermelons of Texas, then Florida's blueberries and Massachusett's pumpkins and lettuces.

Their frequent flyer miles must be huge.

While southwest China is already having to resort to pollinating its apple and pear orchards by hand and using paintbrushes to apply pollen to flowers. Farming as an art as well as a science that would appeal to Ramsgate's resident artist Van Gogh and his sunflowers.

But rather than mere farming and seafoood expertise, couldn't Kent and Thailand dive into the 21st century with Digital Farms?

The advances in RFID transmitter sensors for soil quality along with robo-tractors and robo-rice-ploughs would not just efficiently maximise crop yield but take out some of the drudgery and backbreaking work from farming.

Whether that's under the hot sun of Thailand (and Kent) or the snow (just Kent).

It's a hot topic for UK with the vast majority of farmers now over the age of 65 and few governments would want to loosen national food security before the UNSDG30 are achieved.

I'm urging with Produced in Kent and Visit Kent Tourism, not just Farm to Fork traceability (even Tesco now ensuring DNA testing for animal produce), or a beefing up of press visits and food tastings, but also a Raspberries and Raspberry Pi digital approach.

Every Kent schoolchild shouldn't just be planting 1M trees each year - how absurd that the Garden of England should have lost 90% of its orchards in the last 70 years as business-parks and retail-parks encroach on park-parks.

But Kent's schoolchildren, as with the Surin School Charity and Ellington School, could be active in cooperating with Thai schools and universities on computer programming, MOOC courses as with the Open University, and STEM work.

Shocking figures this month show only 8% of UK girls taking science courses - in contrast to the prestigious Women in Science awards in Thailand, while programmes such as the Raspberry Pi computer or server farms and mobile phone apps with True or TAT for farm management would beef up Thailand 4.0.

Thailand and UK agricultural and fisheries cooperation on such as Digital Farms could ensure computer chips with everything (or at least Space Food research) - but to the benefit of everybody’s diet.


Monday, 12 December 2016

Wheels fall off - or pedal to the metal for UK and Thailand road safety?

Khun Ploenpote Atthakor raises some horrifying and interesting points in her Bangkok Post article on the Songkla bus crash with one death.
Horrifying that it's just one of 35 bus crashes this year and pssibly even looser regulation with the doubling of such mega-double-decker from 4,000 to 8,000 in a year.

If nothing that last point shows the appetite for bus travel in Thailand and through to Myanmar - both nations each the size of France and requiring excellent road-rail connections through to their rural hinterland as well as in Bangkok.

One doesn't have to strip down to their Union Jack underpants and stand on East Kent's nearby White Cliffs of Dover gesturing at the Continent, to be proud of the UK's bus expertise - whether the iconic London double decker bus or the National Express cross-country routes.

Stagecoach local buses, part of the Gloag and Infratil transport empire, are more problematic though given the Manston-Infratil scandal and missing pollution fines, yet the eco-buses and 15 minute routes and electronic timetables etc are superb.

It's a travel concern too with Wellington airport, the last site owned by Infratil and almost certainly Asia's most dangerous airport, give such an operating scandal, whether for British Airways or Thai Air crews and passengers, or any other airline.

Perhaps more astonishing is Khun Ploenpote receiving no information or guidance from the Thai bus press authorities. Surely they should be standing to attention if not falling over themselves to help if a Bangkok Post journalist, one of the world's great newspapers, calls on such a crucial issue?

It's as concerning as the BBC Thailand office being closed. Hopefully that's because the journalists are holed up in one of Bangkok's Great British Eire pubs, or FCCT, cooking up some interesting stories over a Guinness or ten.

Hopefully they won’t be driving home on a scooter without a helmet, on the wrong side of the road, at speed, clad only in Union Jack shorts and adding to the excessive toll of UK citizens flown home in a box.

A toll matched barely matched by missing seatbelts, suicides and spiked drinks.

Press freedom aside, the Great British taxpayer at the very least would be concerned at funding an empty office? If nothing it should be on the Dept of International Trade's (UKTI in old money) radar for Thai-UK investment and expansion?

As Khun Ploenpote points out such safety measures as a 30 degree tilt test and rear escape doors are factors engineered into UK buses - whether Dennis the largest manufacturer in UK also has companies in Asia.

As seriously, UK road safety is the best in the world - narrowly contested by Sweden with a smaller population but more severe winters. UK road deaths are only 1,700 each year - and that a massive 80% reduction since the peak of the 1940's with cars and buses contesting with German bombs and blackouts, and the subsequent huge post-war increase in road use.

Thailand's road safety is unfortunately nothing short of horrifying with at least 20,000 deaths a year, and the second worst in the world after Libya. The Xmas carnage is so severe particularly with the Bangkok-Isaan flow of traffic that it's often best not to travel which isn't ideal for Thai or UK tourists.
Libyans though might relish the comparatively safer roads.

I’ve less than happy memories of a panoramic view through a bus in Thailand as the lorry in front plunged into a sala and tamarind stall. Or the bloody trail to Kyaiktiyo with not one but three motorcyclist deaths on the road in one afternoon.

All the more reassuring then that the dynamic Tourism Minister Khun Kobkarn is highlighting with Richard Barrow (@richardbarrow), perhaps Thailand’s best Tourism and Education blog, the new Chiang Mai sleeper train and the rail safety advertising museum in Hualamphong (who knew - and looks as interesting as the Bangkok City Museum rail exhibits?).

The huge UK tourist market could well want to take advantage of avoiding another flight on heading North in comfort.

UK has the safest railways in Europe too, with deaths in single numbers from an occasional level crossing or tube platform death. And British Transport Police active with the rail companies on reducing those deaths even further - unfortunately Ramsgate station here in East Kent featured in their Xmas campaign for drunk passengers walking across the line etc.

A Xmas hazard even on London Underground, with a schoolchild walking across the electrified rails at Latimer Road last week - London Underground and Transport Police reassuringly swinging into action with extra travel safety lessons at the local school.

Surely then Thailand and UK should be forging a partnership not just in bus or metro engineering expertise - UK and Japan do it here in Meiji Kent with the excellent Hi-Speed 1 and Eurostar train routes to Europe and London through the Channel tunnel, and Hitachi this week launching its first UK-Japan built hispeed train in Newcastle.

The latter town just a stone's throw from what was the largest Thailand investment in UK at the SSI Redcar steelworks - a shame Thailand's investors and manufacturers didn't hold on longer, given the sterling efforts of the Thai Embassy in London, as UK steel is refloated at Port Talbot for the UK rail and car industry.
Such a foundation industry will certainly be eclipsed in the future by the graphene developments in UK. Surely Thailand should be in the driving seat in working with UK on new graphene production and auto parts - as well as road safety sharing.

I'm a keen follower of @ciphilvickers with its road safety tips by Chief Phil Vickers of Lincolnshire Police. Unfortunately Kent road deaths have increased slightly this year with c.54 KSI - Killed and Seriously Injured requiring a refocus on drinkdriving, mobiles and designing out road blackspots as well as 20mph zones.

The UK is rightly proud of its extensive investments in public safety campaigns, sadly neglected in recent years - Thai readers may not be familiar with Dave Prowse as the Green Cross Code road safety man, but may know him as Darth Vader in Star Wars.

I've also raised the urgent need, with the likes of EKFOS East Kent Film Office and Studio to preserve and digitally restore with the British Film Institute such public safety work as a global resource.

But also parliament is urging a tighter review of the Vauxhall Zafira and Ford Corsa car fires by the auto manufacturers and their supply chains - again it raises a red flag for auto safety and forward planning, with over 865,000 Zafira cars recalled in UK.

While Kent Police have a superb HGV patrol car to clamp down on the recent spate of HGV mobile phone deaths - often, as with the Songkla crash, exhausted or distracted, Polish and Romanian HGV drivers on the long route through to London unfortunately stoking the fires of the worst Farageland racist excesses (thankfully very rare and rapidly clamped down upon) of Kent.

And as an aside the recent Kent Police capture of an FBI Most Wanted paeodopile highlights the potential for closer UK-Thailand working on human trafficking as part of Spain's Operation Captura to reduce the Costa Del Crime aspects that can affect Phuket and Pattaya as well as Benidorm and Blackpool.
While Kent Fire and Rescue Brigade, usually first at the scene of road crashes, have changed the potentially deathly dull subject of road safety with the innovative Road Safety Experience museum.

It's a Kent tourist attraction in its own right to almost rival the new Paramount or Dreamland theme parks. The latter funfair one of the oldest in UK and capable of giving Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen a run for its money with its rare wooden rollercoaster.

While Paramount is under development and about to break ground as the largest tourist site in Europe outside Paris EuroDisney.

Tighter Thailand and UK cooperation would no doubt also reverberate through ASEAN and China and help speed up China's Silk Road and Belt. The Yiwa to Madrid express and new Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland is already moving the China's commodities market of orchids and fruit and vegetables that much nearer to Europe. UK and Thailand should both be taking advantage of the proximity of those markets.

While lessons in hispeed rail and bus connections could well be learned from the excellent Spanish RENFE - and connections with the excellent Almeria Group of universities a key Meiji Kent policy.

Even British Rail has finally learned to assist its passengers to uncross their legs spend a penny at train stations by not charging a penny to use the toilets.

The Stanford Swab Campaign is a key feature of New York's metro and buses that UK and Thailand public health activity could well benefit from. As would Thai-UK hospitals etc cooperation on bird flu pandemics - indeed any pandemic given London is the TB capital of Europe.

The latest pandemic is yet again catching Britain by surprise and no doubt with a lack of vaccines to be flown in, eventually, at great expense.

Minor SRT tweaks such as the Missing Link or Makkasan site or Airport rail link disabled access, or bus shelters and telephone poles in the wrong place could fade into insignificance compared to fully integrated ASEAN transport links.

And UK could well learn much from Thai Police not just the 1155 Tourism hotline - how will any stranded Thai tourists cope in UK if their English language skills aren't that great?

As relevant is language learning for court translators, or yaba crackdown with Shan state, along with a mix of police and university exchanges - CCU University in Canterbury already the Hendon of the South for police studies.

The latter important for resisting the silo mentality of the public sector with the bloat of separate police colleges not taking advantage of existing universities and even MOOC courses and diffusing learning on road safety etc.

Thailand shouldn't be relegated to the back of the bus but in the driving seat for UK-Thailand cooperation on transport and road safety.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Thailand's trains on track?

Khun Sirinya Wattanasukchai writes eloquently in the Bangkok Post article “Handout mentality” on the first 10 second-hand train carriages donated to Thailand and SRT from Japan.

And a further 14 trains, provided for free except for shipping costs, due by next March possibly for the Purple Line.

The Japanese provincial government in Fukuoka also provided free fire engines and that generosity cannot be faulted - but these trains are over 20 years old? Is that really a credible SRT and Thailand 4.0 policy given the glittering success of Bangkok's Skytrain and Metro?

Is Bangkok really going to have secondhand 20 year old trains rumbling along its train tracks - and for how long? Another 20 years?

Surely Thailand and SRT should be urging not just public and private sector investment through SCB or GSB, but also the ADB and AIIB investment banks to deliver a glittering success of the high-speed rail lines? And even sensible and sensitive redevelopment of its Makkasan site as Khun Sirinya wrote recently?

While the secondhand rail carriages could be more effectively used as part of the rail link through Aranyaprathet to Poipet - and the development of the new Cambodian railway. Already the rail link from Sihanoukville port to Phnom Penh is open after the destruction of the Khmer Rouge years.

The link from the Thai border through to Poipet opens the way to relay track to Battambang and Phnom Penh - and deliver a new link through to Ho Chin Minh City. Plus the new train stations and goods depots infrastructure that would need to be cemented in place.

And shouldn't SRT be leading the way in supporting Cambodian railways in opening hispeed links between the ASEAN capitals of Bangkok and Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon?

It's absurd in the 21st century that ASEAN's capital cities and ports are still not connected by hispeed rail - or even doubletrack rail that will forever bottleneck the Singapore and KL rail route to Bangkok until it is rectified.

Certainly such links would improve Thailand’s infrastructure rather than more frivolous infrastructure developments such as Dawei, certainly compared to Mergui, or what’s now termed the Train to Nowhere through the Laotian Highlands to Southern China.

24 rail carriages would be a drop in the ocean for Bangkok's rail system but the backbone of the new Cambodian railway and extra support to the Isaan rail system - and the first long-delayed vital link through the ASEAN capitals.

While a Thai-Cambodian bid to ADB and AIIB - with Vietnam's support - would pump strategic funds into the rail network beyond just a few cheap carriages.
Indeed in my politics role here in East Kent shouldn't UK (and EU) and Japan be stepping forward to help with such a bid? As well, JICA and DFID and EU aid support would be a given for Thai and Cambodian railways development beyond just a few train carriages?

Hitachi is the leading Japanese rail company, and a huge success here in Meiji Kent with their HS1 (HiSpeed 1) and Eurostar rail link from their Ashford base which was readied for the 2012 Olympics. It’s a superb service. And Hitachi are on track for developing HS2 and HS3 in the North of England from their North East base just down the road from the Redcar steelworks previously owned by Thailand’s SSI Steel.

Such rail works and the Nissan factory are part of the Northern Powerhouse programme to help heal the North-South divide in UK - not dissimilar to Thailand's North and NorthEast and Deep South divides exposed after the Charter referendum.

Khun Sirinya also makes some interesting points on the fire engines in Bangkok in effect up on bricks and not being used – and being too large for sois - not dissimilar to the scandal of Boris water cannon bought from Germany second-hand and not even working now garaged by Kent Police and heading to the scrapyard to be made into frying pans or car wheel hubs and other auto-parts.

In my politics role I see no reason why Kent Fire Brigade or Kent Ambulance shouldn’t partner with Thailand or Cambodia - and Myanmar will no doubt gain UK and Commonwealth support too - on any spare or no longer needed fire trucks or ambulances?

The UK has tended in the past to provide excess public vehicles to Romania or Morocco but both those nations have secured separate EU infrastructure funding - Morocco already completing its own hispeed railway.

And with Germany and Sweden declaring the end of manufacturing petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, and this week Paris, Madrid and London declaring electric vehicle only zones by 2025, there is likely to be a one-off surge of available and reconditioned vehicles over the next few years that may be of practical use to Thailand rather than just cheap dumping.

In my Kent politics work I've already helped destroy the Richboro coal power station:

And urged faster closure of Dungeness nuclear power station, and Belgian and French Channel nuclear power stations - many leaking and of the same pricey design as Hinkley the first new UK nuclear power station, in 30 years.

And to sell off KCC tobacco and fossil fuel investments in public sector pensions. Plus develop Climate Change treeplanting and hedgerow programes in field and road and railway embankments etc.

Khun Sirinya touches on the Benz cars and submarines debate of military excess - similar points being made in UK at the moment with the long overdue closure of UK army bases in Germany with the end of the Cold War some 25 year ago, and scandals of just 6 $20BN(!)Voyager refuelling aircraft that can't refuel UK or NATO aircraft(!).

Or 600 amoured scout cars when UK has only 127 tanks and the largest UK tank battle since WW2 was just 25 tanks in the Iraq War. Such excess tends to be mere incompetence rather than the blatant corruption of Sangcom UK and Saudi arms deals or Ostend and Manston airport gunrunning - even the previous East Kent MP Jonathan Aitken was jailed for such activity and Saudi submarines.

While the $300M repair bill for Buckingham Palace, or the cost of a new Royal Yacht Britannia as well as Trident subs and nuclear missiles are ongoing waste that dwarf the fuss over the 7 Kings monument. But at least Thai tourists should be able to see more of Buckingham Palace and other royal palaces with extended opening hours at Windsor Castle and Balmoral and Sandringham.

Surely UK and Thailand could develop stronger ASEAN relationships on avoiding such bloat and excess while cooperating on say UN Peacekeeping and UN Police missions, Shan heroin and yaba manufacture by the United Wa Army in Myanmar or the Deep South cooperation with Malaysian and Commonwealth. The latter not that dissimilar to Northern Ireland's Troubles now over.

The SRT secondhand rail carriages could at the very least put en train fully coordinated ASEAN rail plans with say a Vinh and Vientiane link or Kanchanaburi and Yangon improvements.

Such plans will be crucial with the expansion of China's Silk Road and Belt port and rail plans - already trains are speeding along from Shanghai to Moscow and Paris and Madrid in just 10 days rather than 28 days by sea.

Thailand 4.0 should be full steam ahead to make sure it's as rapidly connected to that economic and logistics system as soon as possible.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thailand 4.0 and Surin Schools

It was interesting to see Khun Pongpol Minister for Education in Thailand detail the aim of merging smaller schools, leaving only the smallest schools in remote provinces.

I raise the issue in my Surin School charity role of raising funds to build a school in Isaan for c.50 schoolchildren. And raising funds for further such schools: Buriram, Sisaket and Siem Reap and Battambang next, and eventually upto 1,000 schools per year in Asia and Africa.

Khun Pongpol is right to emphasise the department’s focus on teaching rather than infrastructure. The Surin schools use existing government teachers and curriculum simply providing a state-of-art building and satellite internet and computers (and even new toilets).

And the involvement of Kent schools such as Ellington High School helps with not just immediate fundraising but ongoing support and the finer details of cultural support. Learning English is that much easier with a class of English schoolchildren willing to help on Skype or email, while one day Thai may well feature in the curriculum of Kent schools.

The Japanese Foundation, the cultural arm of the Japanese government is active in seeking a Japanese lesson within every UK primary school for example.
And the first Surin School has bene so well-received by Thai parents and teachers and monks – a community centre and temple repairs managed to be squeezed form the budget - that only minor fundraising is now required to furnish the playground with new equipment such as swings and sports and musical equipment, possibly a swimming pool and minibus too.

But I raise one concern over the policy: placing children into existing schools will result in larger class-sizes. And as we see too often in UK, even pressure on school playing fields to be built upon to keep up with such larger classrooms.

While the children and teachers relocating to such mega-schools will have to endure both longer commutes (presumably public transport will need to be expanded or school buses provided) and greater traffic jams. Both are also factors in obesity that is a pandemic amongst UK schoolchildren – and beginning to affect Thai children -hence the UK drive to a sugar/soda tax and encouraging sports from the 2012 Olympics.

Clearly as in UK whole schools of c.20 schoolchildren are unsustainable and low value, but an expansion of more mini-schools of c.50-100 pupils may be more viable in many rural areas. And given the Charter referendum showing division form the North, Northeast and Deep South,, Thai education has the potential to tailor the curriculum to enhance Isaan or Moslem culture and languages?

And on a more positive note, such mini-schools could form the basis of Adult Education colleges – 40% of the Thai population have only a primary education. And especially, English language learning colleges, given the perennial debate and concern over language investment and learning in Thailand – and the vital role of English as the official second language of ASEAN.

While in my politics role here in Kent to build better UK-Thai relations it would be wrong not to mention our 4 universities, 400 schools and dozens of language schools all keen to develop teacher-pupil exchanges and increase international students as well as develop MOOC online courses.
While the British Council cultural organisation in Bangkok is second-to-none amongst the British Council network, and very active in promoting both British culture and education and verifying language colleges.

Chula and Thammasat and Kasetsart may well be overflowing with such links but there must be other Thai universities and colleges keen on such partnerships?
While in terms of education beyond academia, vocational colleges and programmers with say East Kent College or Discovery Park or Sittingbourne science parks would complement the tripling of Chevening scholarships in both Thailand and Cambodia as key UK allies and growth markets in Asia.

A focus on STEM ir relevant for most nations and UK and Thailand are no different in that respect, but a tailoring of that approach with Discovery Park for ay vaccines research whether TB or dengue or rabies would be fruitful for universities such as Mahidol or research groups such as TRF and TDRI.

And in my politics work if I’ve been shameless in stealing innovative Yingluck policies such as free computers for schoolchildren then surely UK and Thai colleges and schools could cooperate on IT and digital programmes whether educational software and apps or digital whiteboards or even space satellites.

A rash of Raspberry Pi computers and coding lessons and VR headsets and 3D printers – along with healthier schoolmeals, 10x a day fruit, and soda bans and Red Cross first aid training - are part of my Education policy for Kent schools and I can see no reason why Surin Schools should be deprived of such kit and life-chances?
It’s been a particular successful education year for UK with Oxford University now No.1 university in the world and launching its own MOOC programmes to rival Harvard and Yale and even part of the bid to reopen the Oxford-Cambridge railway link. The latter was a rather bizarre oversight until now to the growth of Silicon Fen with Cambridge University. And again relevant for TRF and TDRI activity in UK.

Indeed as with Philippines and UK NHS developing links in the face of the Brexit issue, the dynamic Thai medical schools and hospitals could link with the NHS for say graduate work programmes with English language learning before returning to Thailand with new skills?

The recent UK trade mission to India confirmed that nation’s fervent desire for access to UK colleges while Philippines combines its expat work programmes as a national income stream – as with the Chinese diaspora - with currency remittances of over $24BN, some 10% of GDP from 10M overseas workers..

And a recent Malaysian conference on medical tourism detailed their national plans to boost health skills.

UK and Thailand’s education networks could move beyond mere chalk and talk to delivering on Thailand 4.0 through all its schools.


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fort Mahakan and Chaopraya Promenade: a bridge too far for Bangkok, or an ASEAN Green Capital’s foundation?

The debate over preserving Mahakan Fort in terms of heritage architecture and community development, and desperately-needed green space and parks resonates across Thailand and here in UK.

Such issues within Bangkok also dovetail with the wider issue of the Chaopraya Promenade and improved public transport in BKK.

Personally I’m firmly in favour of the Chaopraya Promenade, a London Embankment alongside the klongs if you will, with river walls, ferry links and cycling paths as well as the unique buzz of Bangkok’s stalls and markets.

The fizz and excitement of the Pak Klong Talad flower markets and orchids – rivalling East Kent’s rare orchids, whether very early morning or at night, alongside the Memorial bridge, are one of the great undiscovered gems of Bangkok tourism.

And in my politics role here in East Kent, to “Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption and Stop the Construction”, and future ASEAN Trade Envoy roles etc, I’ve shamelessly stolen various innovative Yingluck policies – not just free computers for schoolchildren or the rice welfare and food management scheme – but also the emphasis on watermelon politics of green on the outside and red on the inside, balancing environment and social needs.

And beyond the narrow confines of colour-shirt politics – certainly those issues are ultimately for Thailand as a modern democracy to resolve - it’s reassuring that that such innovations as the rice pledge are being adopted and improved by PM Prayut’s government, as well as debate around the Chaopraya.

For the issue of the Promenade as shown with the recent ferry drownings and floods in Bangkok and Phetchabun, demonstrate the need for careful management. For example, some of the existing plans for mega-concrete riverbanks could be not only unsightly but cause problems further downstream.

And such straightening of the Chaopraya riverbanks will increase the tidal flow of the river, scraping ever more soil from its banks and depths and depositing it in the delta. Perhaps even destroying much of the work in restoring the mangrove forests there.

UK certainly too often plumbs the depths in flood management for example the lack of tsunami flood alerts in the North Sea – as Thailand has successfully introduced in Phuket – could repeat the damage an depths of the 1953 and 1978 floods for both Kent and Holland.

But in UK we’ve begun restoring bends into rivers to reduce the tidal flows. Even planting boulders in the river to help prevent floods as in the River Ravensbourne.

And here in East Kent, Margate has undergone bijou flood defences to protect the town centre and harbour from Climate Change floods while sensitively improving the ambience of the cultural quarter with promenades and steps for enjoying the sunsets of what the artist Turner, and Margate’s Tracey Emin, called “the loveliest skies in Europe”.

And this week the Medway region of Kent featured in parliamentary debates on flood prevention and regeneration of the Thames Gateway urban renewal projects. Almost $60M is pencilled-in for not just fairly minor defences, but a wider range of innovations, not just avoiding building on flood plains.

There are now 1,200 troops on UK standby for flood support rather than lounging in barracks, 40km of collapsible flood fences, and building tweaks such as solid floors and power sockets at least 1M higher up the wall. The latter handy too for an ageing population not having to strain their knees and hips and the NHS to unplug the telly, or plug in the heater for another cold winter.

But perhaps the world-class lead in flood management must lie just across the English Channel in Nijmegen in Holland. A country that needs few lessons in water management – it’s not called the Low Countries for nothing. And Dutch work in Vietnam’s delta – one of two red zones for danger highlighted by UNEP with Bangladesh – must also be key to Future ASEAN, whether tourism or rice production.

But Nijmegen particularly resonates as I’m a supporter of the Liberation Route Europe project that works with Dutch tourism and stretches across Europe form here in Kent with Operation Fortitude to Gdansk in Poland celebrating and commemorating the liberation of Europe with the end of WW2.

Nijmegen was one of the famous 4 bridges of the Market Garden, Bridge Too Far campaign, and movie, in the Arnhem conflict in September 1944 where British and Polish forces were overwhelmed at Arnhem the last bridge.

All the more astonishing bravery in the second wave of Polish parachute troops jumping into Arnhem to support their British comrades, landing days into the conflict to almost certain defeat and capture.

The Polish contribution of a Brexit at the plane-door wasn’t questioned then, nor the current contribution to the UK with 1M Poles and language a key social and economic factor, and also here in East Kent, with Canterbury’s two universities forming the largest group of Romanians outside Bucharest.

Much as a few days earlier with the Nijmegen bridge crossing by Major Julian Cook of the 82nd Airborne – a crossing of four waves of boat troops having seen the first gunned down.

But Nijmegen, despite its low-level and watery topography, now basks in what Churchill described as the sunlit uplands of peace and freedom – and will be the 2018 Green Capital of Europe, hard on the heels of the success of both Essen in Germany and Ljubljana in Slovenia.

And Nijmegen may be relevant for Bangkok as its water management innovations are a reflection of the monkey-cheeks aspect of King Bhumibol’s self-sufficiency programmes. For Nijmegen in its flood management work has created a sliver of the River Waal to create a 4km long new urban park and island. The island and new tributary serves as an overflow for any new floods.

And with, not one but count ‘em six, new bridges across the Waal and the island it creates a base for pedestrians, events and festivals and a country park linked to the town centre.

It won the 2011 Excellence on the Waterfront award in 2011 and in my tourism advertising and PR work with Sincerity I’ve rarely seen a more integrated solution.

While Green Capitals such as Ljubljana or Copenhagen lead the way in banning cars to emphasise pedestrians as well as electric car and bus infrastructure. Such sustainability is all the more important here in Europe with UK ending coal energy in 2025, France by 2023, and Stockholm by 2040.

The aforementioned Essen in Germany is already an urban park converting the coal and steel sites of the Ruhr.

While Spain is active in green regeneration with the Basque region’s Vitoria-Gasteiz town population living within 300m of green space, and even more so Almeria, with its EU regeneration programmes moving beyond the decline of the port and heroin trade, corrupt government and tax scandals to innovative programmes with its universities and colleges.

Certainly strong links between the Almeria Group of Universities and East Kent will be, with ASEAN links, a key part of Future Kent.

Britain needs to make further strides from Bristol’s Green Capital in 2015 with its solar levy, a poo-bus(!) running on human waste, electric car charging points and expanded tourism work.

Certainly the completion of the first Crossrail metro tunnel across London, Europe’s largest construction project, shows that mega-cement infrastructure has its place in say refurbishing UK’s crumbling Victorian sewers, and the need for desalination sites for drinking water given Climate Change floods.

The latter is also relevant for Bangkok in overcoming monsoon storms and land management for reservoirs, and in not allowing Singapore to remain as the only ASEAN capital with potable tapwater.

But if Nijmegen can in effect translate King Bhumibol’s self-sufficiency economy, why should Bangkok as an ASEAN Green Capital be a bridge too far?


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Cleaner Kent and Thailand?

Khun Ploenpote Atthakor as always makes some insightful points in her article “Battle against foam” on food and packaging waste from the Sanam Luang memorial event for King Bhumibol, and more generally in BKK.

Certainly the amount of Styrofoam containers and plastic bags blowing around roads and railtracks and caught in trees and electric pylons is an unpleasant sight in Bangkok and throughout Thailand.

But 76 tonnes of waste collected by volunteers of Thammasat University at Sanam Luang is impressive as is foam for Loy Krathong reduced to only 5% of floats.

And in Phnom Penh recently the Water Festival event also yielded tons of plastic bottles and bags – and these were merely swept into the Bassac River and Tonle Sap by refuse collectors. The Loy Kratong floats whether made of flowers or bread make a far less unpleasant and eco-friendly sight.

Hopefully too a little further upstream, the dustbinmen of Laos will be as protective of littering the Mekong.
And unfortunately here in Kent and UK we have a patchy record in waste disposal. Only in the last year has there been a UK-wide ban on plastic bags from supermarkets (or purchased for c.20THB), and it’s been a huge success with such waste being reduced by 90%.

Even the UK’s traditional water display of a supermarket trolley dumped in a canal or river is a thing of the past with a £1 deposit on the trolley.

And in Kent with its 1.3M population we are reducing landfill sites to just 5 in the next few years to help keep the Garden of England clean and tidy. But much more needs to be done to increase household recycling with the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle mantra, from 40% to nearer the 90% levels as in other EU nations such as Germany and Netherlands.

##Recycling and Public health##

Hopefully Khun Ploenpote’s points on water containers for large events could be developed in UK too. As could the converted toilet-bus that I’ve seen in Thailand, which is a terrific on the spot mobile initiative for large events.

Sadly too many Victorian public fountains and toilets, developed as public health initiatives from the cholera pandemic improvements by Jon Snow in 1854 in Soho in London, are still closed here in East Kent as a retrograde step.

Such initiatives are particularly relevant given World Toilet Day and the quick and cheap and effective public health improvements from reducing Open Defecation in India and Africa – that would be ripe for support in UK and Thailand with supermarket promotions in Tesco Lotus or Sainsburys or Asda along with Lucky Iron Fish or Lifebuoy products or health programmes such as Left is Life.

As with the rather shoddy state of UK’s Victorian sewers and drinking water infrastructure more could be done – and Thailand may have much to do to rival Singapore’s drinking water system. Especially with Cambodia water snapping at both nations’ heels with the Ramon Magsaysay award and ongoing work by water engineer Ek Son Chann.

And Thailand may well leap ahead in recycling plastic water bottles and coffee-shop cups that the UK still struggles with.

BPA and DEHP health hazards in food plastic containers are becoming more understood in UK and improvements beginning. Along too with product formulations and packaging branding around the sugar tax and HFSS foods (high in Fat Salt and Sugar) improvements.

The latter will be a key part of my KCC Leader 2017 election campaign and MP 2020 campaign (unless the Brexit silliness is cancelled before it results in an election next year).

##Thailand and UK rice dishes?##

But shouldn’t such initiatives be part of a wider Thai-UK food programme?

Certainly Thai cuisine culture can be better promoted with celebrity chefs for Thai restaurants, different Thai dishes and Michelin stars and so on. It would be wrong of me not to mention the Surin restaurant Recipe Book (try the sea bass!) available on PDF and all good bookstores.

And the wider rice crisis raises the issue of Thai exports to UK and Europe – as well as UK and EU support with the alphabet soup of organisations such as ADB and AIIB for greater access of Thai rice and superfoods to markets in not just EU but also India and Africa.

The new Thai rice standards upgraded the rice crop standards to 97% Hom Mali and 83% Jasmine and the rest as Broken Rice could mark the first step in such activity? Certainly the world of Kasetsart and Surin Rice Research Centre would help further develop Thailand’s rice offering and hard currency potential beyond ASEAN.

This week saw an extensive review with the UK celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on UK food waste still at an astonishing 30% of all food. Thai broken rice would fit in with such schemes as Asda’s Wonky Veg (perfectly-edible but cosmetically-blemished fruit and veg and rice) that has a price and branding differentiation.

Such activity would help position Thai rice as part of its premium cuisine culture, free up Thailand’s land and prevent waste and refocus on other food markets such as superfoods whether pineapple or mango etc.

And I’ve written before on the potential for Thai rice as part of an ASEAN food system to alleviate the shocking 40% Cambodia malnutrition as well as complement Khmer rice brands and even Vietnam and its FairTrade coffee potential.

Or Kasetsart and the Thammasat volunteers of Sanam Luang and pupil-teacher exchanges with Kent’s Hadlow College and Produced in Kent food brands here in East Kent and its four universities.

Food for thought or just so much waste?


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Lord Farage says The Economist?

Dear Editor

I was astonished to read in The Economist article last week that The Economist is calling for Nigel Farage of UKIP to be made Lord Farage. It was nearly as silly as your previous articles ruling out a National Basic Income or fixed interest rates now raised in many developed nations but not yet UK.

I think I can speak authoritatively on the merits of Farage and UKIP having stood against him in the 2015 election on my “Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption. Stop the Construction” platform, met and heard Farage speak, and live in East Kent, the district since 2015 with the UK’s only UKIP council.

I can assure you Farage as a Lord is an appalling idea.

But surely a peer in the Lords is someone who positively contributes to the UK in a major way for several years?

I appreciate, as pointed out in the article, that the Lords has its fair share of rogues and scoundrels such as Jeffrey Archer or Lord Grabiner of BHS and One Essex Court.

But Farage has contributed nothing to the UK except division and hatred. And that only recently. Before being beaten in Ramsgate in the 2015 election he stood in 2010 - to widespread apathy and derision as a chancer and carpetbagger, and gained less than 2% of the vote.

Hardly the result of a towering political figure – even without his other six MP defeats.

While in the 2015 election he made barely half a dozen appearances in the Thanet towns – and almost all hastily convened in secret and invitation-only to supporters.

And there were even fewer outdoor events and they were quick grip-and-grin poses with a pint and tame press phalanx in tow.

While in terms of actual policies, Farage himself admitted his 2010 manifesto was incoherent rubbish. And he refused to take questions on his 2015 manifesto and its Manston airport policy. That policy so idiotic given that the airport was on the East Kent drinking water aquifer.

I know, you couldn’t make it up.

Yet he persisted. And lost. And the UKIP council then dropped the policy within 6 weeks of the election.

Questions still remain for Farage over the Manston corporate manslaughter by owners Infratil and KCC/TDC councils removing the pollution monitors and faking the data and fines. And Thor mercury contamination with the banned factory not closing and continuing to poison its workers and neighbours.

While if Farage is known for crumbling with his repeated resignations-not-resigning farce, the rest of UKIP is as bad. Kent UKIP had characters such as Negro Roz and Golliwog Bertie and the Stolen Valour councillors all resigning and so awful as to be featured on Channel Four and the Sun. As did MEP Janice Atkinson for insulting her own constituent as “an Asian Ting-Tong” and her staff arrested for faking her expenses.

Perhaps it’s Janice who should be in the Lords with Lord Fraud Mountfield and Jeffrey Archer rather than booted out of UKIP as MEP but sidling upto the Le Pen far-right faction.

I hasten to add it’s not just a problem for Kent being contaminated by UKIP, for Lincolnshire UKIP the second UKIP council, has followed the same process of resignations and sackings.

Farage’s political legacy is laughable with only one Tory turncoat MP in Douglas Carswell who spends much of his time railing against Farage.

While with hate crime at record levels since Brexit, Stephen Woolf surely can’t be the only black man to be attacked by UKIP. It’s rather special though that the other UKIP MEP’s do it, and we have the familiar farce of Farage popping up from exile to try and excuse it.

For, Farage proved so toxic the rest of the Leave campaign refused to work with him – even before his NHS HIV comments, or posters of escalators at the White Cliffs of Dover. Or the farce of Diane James breaking his record for the fastest resignation as Leader defies comment.

The much vaunted 17M people voted for Brexit ignores the fact that 16M didn’t – nor the subsequent disaster and lack of any coherent meaning to Brexit.

Again hardly a towering political legacy for Farage.

And as the Economist points out, other brief vote gains such as Nick Griffin and BNP don’t result in Lords seats but rather arms-length opprobrium.
No, Farage doesn’t belong in the Lords.

Particularly with him scampering away from the train-crash of Brexit – but not his salary - and stirring up a stab-in-the-back ploy for his no doubt future career as a local radio shock-jock or merely grunting from the saloon bar with his bierkellar buddies or sucking upto Trump.

And even by UKIP’s own limited aims of protecting the pound he’s failed with the euro witnessing the pound fall to its lowest levels in 350 year. Not even an ideal legacy for a City trader.

And Britain under Brexit has become the laughing stock of the world with the worst foreign policy and economic disaster since Suez.

Rather as with another quisling, Lord Haw-Haw, Farage belongs in the Tower for the destruction he’s wrought on Britain.

Tim Garbutt, Ramsgate

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ice Train - to Bering Tunnel and Shanghai?

The Chris Tarrant Channel 5 show “Extreme Rail Journeys” kicked off a new series with the Alaskan Ice train wending its way through avalanches and polar bears to the Arctic Circle.

The programmes are always interesting – the previous series showcasing the Kwai railway through Thailand and Myanmar - and this week the train route through Argentina and Patagonia, worth a separate article given the UK involvement in the Argentine railways and more recent decline.

Also the Argentine Train of Clouds and next week the Cape2Cairo route.

Last week’s Alaskan episode showcased just the most astonishing scenery and the incredible story of the railway being built through that wilderness before World War One with nothing more than pick and shovel and the occasional bit of dynamite.

A story as astonishing as the building of the Kwai railway through the jungles of Thailand and Myanmar with thousands of Allied POW deaths and 100k Asian labourers deaths.

But shouldn’t the Alaskan Train mark the beginning of the Bering Tunnel Route? The railway wends its way from the Canadian-USA border through Seward port to Fairbanks. A modicum of infrastructure would be needed for the last few hundred miles to the Bering Strait.

Here in East Kent we’ve seen the power of Climate Change storms with last winter’s destruction of the Dover railway alongside the Channel. And the astonishingly rapid repairs and even automated track-laying machines by the Dept of Transport, SouthEastern Rail and Network Rail.

And a road-rail tunnel no more complex(!) than the Channel Tunnel here in Kent would link not just Alaska with Vancouver and New York but also Santiago in the Americas. For the overland route from Vancouver to Shanghai would then be tantalisingly close.

Russia has already laid down detailed plans for a Siberian road, and the Trans-Siberian Railway is near and already links Vladivostock and Beijing and Shanghai through to Moscow, Rotterdam and Madrid.

The Bering Tunnel – along with the Gibraltar Tunnel and completion of the Cape2Cairo and Berlin2Basra routes – would draw down the curtain on the divisions formed from the two world wars and at last fully integrate the global economies for greater peace and prosperity.

The shift of economic growth to Asia in the 21st century would allow hispeed rail to knit together the Americas and Europe. The vagaries of Climate Change storms or typhoons and tides would be smoothed away for 24/7 rail.

Already the excess in global shipping and mega-tankers has seen the collapse of South Korea’s huge shipping line, Hanjin, and forecasts that 20 shipping lines will be reduced to 8, with billions of dollars and thousands of jobs lost in the next decade.

Certainly even more automation of mega-tankers and ports will further reduce job opportunities and displace then to rail hubs and end the monopoly of the Suez and Panama Canlas as trade bottlenecks.

The Saudi National Plan for 2030 also factors out any growth in oil making the Gulf and Suez somewhat redundant.

And why take containers off a railway at the port, to put them on a ship to another port, and then take them off, and put them back onto a railway? Not when you can put them on a railway to any part of the globe, and with day or night constant running on rails.

The Bering Tunnel would mark the end of the beginning of a global economy functioning as smooth as silk?


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Misc articles updates: October 2016

* Sincerity article: Thai Foreign Minister, Khun Surin Pitsuwan and Thai-UK trade:

* Misc points:

* Thai rice white gold:

* Sincerity core client aims:

* Sincerity article: Soda Wars go pop

* Surin Charity: Malaria a brief thought:

* Sincerity article on Coca-Cola:

* 21st century Britain Agenda article:

* No Tobacco Day, Smoking Sincerity article:

* EK Remedial points 2016:

* EK strategy 2016:

* Time for a Free Economy article:

* Surin restaurant review: top Thai restaurant in Kent:

Surin Thai restaurant the best Thai restaurant in Kent and one of only 45 of any cuisine in Kent according to KM:

Friday, 21 October 2016

Toxic Thailand or Clean-up Nation? And maybe Cleanup Kent one day?

The details of Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi by Khun Ploenpote Atthakor in The Bangkok Post article this week “The Environment loses” are horrifying.

Not just the pollution itself and impact on the environment and people but the delays and cover-up instead of cleanup.

For the sediment still to be contaminated even after the payouts to the Klity Creek villagers is mortifying.

As with the stingray fish deaths in the Mae Klong river – now confirmed as ethanol pollution - and the aptly named Pong river pollution in Khon Kaen cited by Khun Ploenpote it’s a contamination price that can be paid in blood through the generations with illness and genetic deformities for the years ahead.

I remember the sterling work some years ago by a Thai human rights lawyer in taking up the Klity Creek case - unfortunately a rare instance in UK with the legal system mired in the fraud and corruption of the BHS scandal of billionaire Philip Green and his assistant Lord Grabiner of One Essex Court.

Here in Kent we’ve had similar toxic incidents with the jaw-dropping contamination by Infratil plc of New Zealand, with the directors and, even worse, the TDC and KCC councils removing the required pollution monitors and faking the data for almost a decade from 2005 onwards.

In a bizarre twist, the airport was closed in 2014 after a hasty $1 selloff six months earlier to Ann Gloag the owner of Stagecoach buses in UK and NZ, and one of Scotland’s richest women.

But still no monitoring or fines under Gloag before she closed the airport.

Even more peculiarly, a parliamentary investigation into Gloag’s murky ownership of the site and plans for a mega-housing estate and New Town proved less than clear.

Infratil’s directors also hastily sold off their other airports in Scotland and Germany and NZ, leaving only Wellington Airport, surely now Asia’s most dangerous airport run by directors Fitzgerald, Clarke and Bogoievski and Baker:

While UK or Thai pensioners might want to question any retirement plans to Australia and Infratil’s other businesses given their rather murderous approach to pollution and monitoring:

In my politics role, I’ve made it a manifesto point to extradite the Infratil directors back to UK to stand trial: orange jumpsuit, leg-irons and free trip back handcuffed to an FBI agent if UK police prove ineffective.

While UKIP and Nigel Farage before their defeat in the South Thanet election and numerous resignations made it their flagship – indeed only – policy to reopen Manston, as did Craig Mackinlay and Roger Gale the Tory MP’s both facing calls for resignations and now enmeshed in a rape scandal with one of their aides.

Manston and Infratil is a toxic mix of idiocy, coverup, pandering to the crowd and parachute politics that ended just last week with a report citing such a policy as foolish in the extreme.

But still no public debate or comment on the cancer effect – and this really is hard to believe – the airport built on the East Kent drinking water aquifer.
I know, you couldn’t make it up.

As with numerous banned flights from the EU visiting both Manston and Ostend airport – Thai readers may remember Viktor Bout – the basis of the movie Lord of War -being extradited from Bangkok:

Bout’s rat-run of guns and drugs and diamonds via Ostend airport is all the more horrifying with toxic discharge of cluster bombs rearing their ugly head again in Yemen and Syria after the bloody harvests of Cambodia and Laos.

If Wellington is Asia’s most dangerous airport then Ostend, with Manston and Lydd, is the European equivalent – even IranAir sanction busting on the former director Charles Buchanan’s watch.

Klity Creek and Mae Klong must surely form the basis of Climate Change and anti-pollution policies for Thailand 4.0?

If UK is failing on pollution, then Flint, Michigan is a faint glimmer of hope with city officials arrested and jailed.

Or Minamata in Japan and its toxic legacy of mercury poisoning:

The latter a mercury incident as we unfortunately also have in Kent with Thor mercury – a factory banned for polluting its workers yet remaining open. For 30 years. A damning indictment of the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Agency with the factory only being closed after catching fire and sending a toxic plume of smoke into the air.

As Khun Ploenpote points out it's too easy for government officials to pretend nothing happened, and do nothing and keep picking up a paycheck and pension.

The Thor mercury site in Cato Ridge in South Africa is facing similar problems of workers and residents poisoned and rivers polluted.

With Thailand in mourning for King Bhumibol and his sterling work on the environment as well as sports and jazz, surely a fitting legacy to his memory would be to develop a CleanUp Committee for pollution sites in Thailand and UK? Recording the pollution is of little use without cleanup.

And with Princess Sirindhorn active in her now role as UN Ambassador for FAO surely such royal oversight would protect Thailand’s – and UK’s – farmland from such pollution scandals?

Time for Change

Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex Court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc

UK and Cambodia: Cambodia Daily letter

Dear Editor

The latest Cambodian malnutrition report in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences authored by Pheak Chhoun etc, is horrifying, with 45% of children stunted and 20% of women under age 49 are malnourished, as detailed in The Cambodia Daily last week:

In my UK political campaign “Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption, Stop the Construction.” (@timg33) I’ve urged the reinstatement of the UK’s DFID aid budget to Cambodia of c.$20M. And to create UK Parliament APPG group to focus in on UK support for Cambodia and Laos – indeed my UK parliamentary manifesto is the only one ever written in Cambodian too!

With one of the world’s largest aid budgets, and the only G20 nation to achieve the UN target of 0.7% GNI in aid, it’s a small step for the UK to assist Cambodia as one of the world’s poorest nations, from its annual DFID budget of c.$18BN (that’s billions not millions!).

The loss of such aid and LDC status, or even UN insect protein programmes, could only worsen Cambodian malnutrition and open the door back to the dark days of the famines of the 1970’s.

-Cambodia and UNSDG30-

In the 21st century hunger and malnutrition are not only now essentially forbidden under the UNDSDG30 goals, but are not a factor of production and finance, merely transport.

It’s monstrous that Cambodia – and indeed Laos and Myanmar- should be facing hunger again, rather than drowning in a tsunami of ASEAN rice.
While Cambodia must also surely welcome the appointment of Thailand’s dynamic Princess Maha Sirindhorn as UN Ambassador for the UN-FAO Food and Agriculture Organisation, and as a complement to Cambodia’s dynamic royals such as Princess Soma, and her sterling work in promoting Cambodia in USA.

And Khmer rice exports within and from Cambodia – and Thai surplus rice imports or Australian milk to help stave off malnutrition – can only improve with the fast-forward development of rail links and bridges from Bangkok to Battambang and Phnom Penh and then onto HCMC.

-Kent and Cambodia-

While here in Kent, near London, we could easily build stronger links with Cambodia with our 4 universities and 400 schools and dozens of language schools, for exchanges and scholarships - with UK Chevening scholarships already trebled as of last year.

Even heritage and religious links with Canterbury Cathedral and Angkor Wat are viable, and the temples of the Royal Road.

My Surin Village School Charity has already built its first school in Isaan, Thailand and looking to build schools in Battambang and Siem Reap too.

While in my Sincerity Advertising and PR role, it’s clear to me that the alphabet soup of IMF, ADB and UN etc could be even more active on malnutrition with Lucky Iron Fish initiatives with Unilever to prevent anaemic malnutrition or Lifebuoy soap for public health and Pandemic improvements through handwashing.

The Lifebuoy Reach 5 activity is already a huge CSR success in Kenya, simply waiting to be replicated throughout Cambodia.

The newly-opened Sihanoukville port to Phnom Penh railway should also help speed up Cambodia’s rice exports to UK and EU supermarkets and Cambodian silk and clothes to the UK High St.

While Cambodia’s 4M foreign tourists must be a key focus for UK growth with 1M UK tourists – the largest Western group - already visiting nearby Thailand just a short bus or plane – and soon train - trip away.

Surely it’s time for greater activity on UK-Cambodia programmes?

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity advertising agency, Surin Village School charity, first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 per year, MP candidate for East Kent to build better relations with Thailand, Cambodia and ASEAN.


Time for Change

Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex Court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Lazy Laos…or leading the way in UK and ASEAN?

The Nation article “Lazy Laos” sends up the stereotype of Laos as a quiet backwater of South East Asia – but recognises the growth and sounds a note of caution for Thailand.

More than a few nations, including UK, should be paying close attention to a new ASEAN tiger. 7% growth one of the highest in the world at the moment (and the same in Cambodia) could be dismissed as starting from a low base and decades of isolation and a centralised economy.

But something far more structurally innovative is in place with Laos one of the first – if not the first – nation to place the UNSDG30 global goals into its national policy, and the 5 year National Plan to 2020.

And an adaptation of the goals has been approve by the outgoing UN Secretary-General ban Ki-Moon with a Goal 18 on UXO to have Laos demined, zero landmine casualties and existing casualties cared-for by 2025.

No mean feat as a goal, with even President Obama on the first-ever US presidential visit, recognising Laos as the world’s most bombed nation during the French and American wars of the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. The deluge of B52 bombing raids, napalm strikes, Agent Orange deformities and cluster bombs yielding a deadly harvest even now.

For UK, the failure to implement the UNSDG30 as a part of national policy is an astonishing oversight. Especially as shown by Laos, and also Philippines, the global goals are meant to be tailored to each nation’s specific circumstances.

##Kent rice?##

In UK, malnutrition doesn’t have the same connotations as in say Sudan – a potbelly and diabetes are more likely from obesity than malnutrition - but certainly that goal could be adapted to say evaluate children relying on food banks etc. A shocking failure for a G20 nation and the world’s 5th largest economy.
As an aside, the recent WFP report on malnutrition in Cambodia is horrifying with 5M stunted and a GDP cost of c.2%.

The UK can rightly be proud of its DFID work on Third World aid and achieving the UN target of 0.7% GNI. And it’s not unreasonable to link aid to some UK national interests in say supporting the Commonwealth.

But the ending of $20M in DFID aid to Cambodia, one of the world’s poorest nations, seems astonishing and likely to increase hardship in Cambodia with the end of LDC status.

That’s a potential danger in removing World Bank/IMF and ADB and AIIB grants and funds as well as DFID funds – and the excellent DIFD/MAG landmine activity in Phonsavan on the Plain of Jars. perhaps the world’s best small photography gallery and museum?

Here in Kent we may be short of rice-fields but the agricultural colleges of Hadlow and orchards of Pinebury, universities and colleges of Canterbury and Broadstairs, STEM science labs of Sandwich and Sittingbourne, and even more so the Veetee Indian rice mills are poised to support ASEAN trade.

##Lazy buffalo too?##

But isn’t Thailand also missing an opportunity with lazy Laos? And not just in adopting the UNSDG30 as part of the Thailand 4.0 national plans or bandying around insults as with the buffalo of Isaan?

For Thailand, especially Isaan, are culturally close to Laos. The 20M people of Isaan and 7M people of Laos make a significant trade bloc and ASEAN open borders allow easier migration and working status with Laos that say UK has struggled with EU and Brexit.

And much of that 7M Lao population is in the main cities along the length of the Mekong – literally a stone’s throw away from Thailand. Whether Vientiane opposite Nong Khai and Udon or Savannaket and Mukdahan, or Pakse and Ubon.

Surely an economic growth zone for Thailand and Laos could be facilitated with the various Australian Friendship bridges. A particularly natural and easy extension of OTOP trade programmes in say textiles or Thai and Lao tourism programmes, or the Creative Industries of pothole bathers of Tak and Khon Kaen and Buriram featured on the BBC too:

Palm would be a terrific hire for the new Sincerity office in BKK as she's clearly a shining light of Thailand's Creative Industries.

##Rice and easy does it?##

But rice – whether sticky or jasmine or red or black or any other permutation – must be crucial to both economies in general and especially Thailand from the Rice Pledging Schemes surpluses. Few would doubt the success of the recent rice exports to Iran and China, but surely Laos and Cambodia provide a natural and easy 22M people market – about the same size as Isaan - for surplus Thai rice especially against the backdrop of Cambodian malnutrition?

The ADB and World Bank must again be the simplest way to purchase up surplus Thai rice and provide humanitarian exports to its ASEAN near-neighbours in Cambodia and Laos and further afield in Philippines now a net importer of rice?

The debate around the best use of land for agriculture or forest or housing is a wider one, but redistributing existing surpluses before they waste must be paramount for Thailand and ASEAN? Consideration must surely be key for mutually supportive rice marketing programmes in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos – the UK for example having limited awareness, differentiation and distribution of the different rice stocks.

The new announcement of purity of Hom Mali rice must surely be a key factor for sales of Thai exports to USA and EU?

##Marketing Thailand and Laos stronger together##

Similar consideration could be given as to how Thai and Lao tourism is marketed in Europe and USA. Scotland and Iceland Tourism Boards for example are exploring synergies in their common Scandinavian heritage and package holidays and cruise ship events.

Certainly Thailand and Laos should be cooperating on multi-destination breaks for foreign visitors to increase holiday length and spend once the plane has touched down in Asia. While cruise ship Mekong breaks have potential as great as say Halong Bay.

And it would be natural and easy for AusAid to extend its sterling work on Mekong bridges through the 4,000 islands of Champasak and Southern Laos and into North East Cambodia for rail and road links through to HCMC and back through the markets of Aranyaprathet and Bangkok?

Even the Royal Road linking Isaan and Khmer and Southern Lao temples.

And downtown Battambang or Siem Reap or Paklay is a lot easier to reach than Tehran or Tianjin for rice trucks or an expansion of 7-11 or Circle K deliveries.
While the TPP link to USA, Canada and Latin America, link, from the deep sea port at Vinh requires only the briefest of rail-lines through to Vientiane and the nearby northern Isaan markets.

And, as an aside, surely Thailand as well as UK should be thinking, with the over-development of Phuket and Samui, of the sustainable development investment potential of the Mergui Archipelago and islands with the newly-democratic Myanmar of Aung San Suu Kyi?

A Phuket 2.0 as part of Thailand’s 4.0 work?

###Laos in the house##

Certainly the heartland of northern Isaan, central Laos and central Vietnam seems a stronger economic trade route than either Dawei or a Chinese rail link through the empty northern highlands of Laos. Here in East Kent we’ve unfortunately seen the white elephants of Roads to Nowhere and empty ports and ghost cities of Medway.

While the markets of Yunnan are more easily reached though the existing railway from Hanoi or a short extension from Myitkyina. A tourism route through the Laos highlands would be less appealing as half of that 800km would be in tunnels, rendering any views of the Switzerland of Asia as rather dull to say the least.

While the road to democracy for Thailand in 2017 has been signposted with the Charter Referendum, the differing results from Isaan, the North and Deep South have highlighted the schisms in Thai society.

Thailand has one of the most-centralised economies with over 80% of state funding, according to The Economist magazine, spent in Bangkok with obvious imbalances and frustrations in the rest of Thailand not befitting from such State funds.

A situation the UK has seen in the North-South Divide that HS2 and HS3 is designed to help rectify or the Whitehall out of Whitehall programmes such as Salford Media City. Or the frustrations highlighted in the Scottish referendum and concerns over Brexit in Wales and Northern Ireland.

For if Lazy Laos is something of a slightly racist cliché like the drunken Scots then perhaps we should all be drinking from that still, given that Lao UNDSDG30 work and Scotland announced as one of the world’s most progressive nations last week.

And a peaceful and prosperous Thailand of the 21st century, and UK, could well benefit from the work of lazy Laos so far.

Time for Change

Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex Court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Kent’s Beatles and Sergeant Pepper

The 50th Anniversary next year of the release of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a key event for Kent.

The album itself marks an astonishing achievement for the Great British Creative Industries in joining together Pop Music and Art for the first time.

But as with this year’s celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary it could be a dashed-off damp squib rather than a psychedelic firework lighting up the world all next year from Liverpool to Los Angeles.

Have you heard of any events yet? I haven’t.

The Kent Beatles you say?

The album cover by Peter Blake symbolising the end of the era of the Fab Four as their incarnation of Sergeant Pepper’s band stands over the grave of the Moptops.

The album being the first to print the lyrics of the songs as works of art in themselves.

And, whisper it quietly, it wasn’t even their best album.

Rubber Soul or Revolver or even Help could be argued to be more cohesive or experimental.

Sergeant Pepper is too long at 13 tracks and too many fillers: Fixing a Hole? And too much of Macca’s music hall ditties: When I’m Sixty-Four?

And just two years later The Beatles ended.

But the full blossoming of Flower Power and psychedelia and hard rock and a pop music was something substantial and far more than showbiz or Tin Pan Alley ephemera.

Macca in a recent The Spectator interview described how the first iteration of the Pepper cover was a municipal flower clock. No doubt badly-done and over-budget if left to the council: we might still be waiting for the album to be released.

But what an album it would have been if it had been trimmed down to say 8 tracks – and this is where Kent comes in – if Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were included.

Strawberry Fields Forever:

Penny Lane:

Those songs were released as a double A-side in January 1967 and it was felt that only unreleased tracks should be on the album for its release on 1st June.

Both songs formed the first-ever music video filmed at Knole Park near Sevenoaks in Kent – surprising for Northern Songs about their childhoods in Liverpool which is a large part of the Pepper concept album – with avant-garde colour film techniques.

An especially unusual mix as Strawberry Fields Forever was written in Almeria on the location of How I Won The War, and the Advanced Area cricket pitch, inspiring the famous Lennon granny glasses – and apt for Kent given the huge regeneration success of Southern Spain with numerous EU awards and the UAL Group new universities from Almeria, Cordoba, Huelva etc.

The song and Almeria even inspiring the film Living is Easy With Eyes Closed... winner of the Goyas and Academy Award selection.

Kent scored a second goal with Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite on Sgt Pepper inspired by a circus poster found in a Sevenoaks antiques shop during a break in filming by John Lennon.

And Kent scored a hat-trick later in the year with much of The Magical Mystery Tour album and film being shot in Kent especially in West Malling airfield with the famous I Am The Walrus scene.

Just 5 years after their first Abbey Road recordings Sergeant Pepper marked a pinnacle for the Beatles and the dominance of British rock music that has never been relinquished.

And it cemented UK from the Carnaby St era onwards as the heart of cutting-edge Fashion and Art.

And what an album if the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, for the Our World first global broadcast, had recorded All You Need is Love a few weeks earlier.

The album sold 5.1M in USA and is still the third highest-selling album and regularly rated the best album ever. Perhaps only ever bettered by Pet Sounds or Exile on Main St.

How foolish if UK and Kent fail to deliver on that success from 1st June the 50th Anniversary next year.

Pepper with the salty tang of the seaside, if you will

While Margate and Ramsgate in their seaside town variety shows regularly hosted Kent's Beatles and Kent's Rolling Stones – again all unremarked.

The Kent Police Brass Band – the Blue Blowers – are tuning up to celebrate Sgt Pepper with the relaunch of the Grade 1 listed Victorian Eastcliff Bandstand – one of the world’s only polished-cement dancefloors.

The uniforms are being tailored to replicate the Pepperland band uniforms (prima donna demands are in hand already for Thai silk not satin, and an extra bottle of whisky and a crate of Heineken rider, and concerns over the tonguing for Lovely Rita Meter Maid given the policeman’s fear of the parking ticket) but there’s one ingredient missing...

...Often overlooked in the success of the Beatles, is the star of the first full Pepper song...

...The one and only Billy Shears...

...The star of A Hard Day’s Night and Help with his magic ring...

...Liverpool’s finest railway man...

..The only British Spaghetti Western star with Blindman...

...The star of the best rock and roll film ever in That’ll Be The Day – produced by ASEAN Trade Minister and the Killing Fields’ David Puttnam...

...Putting the Ludwig into Beethoven and rolling over and telling Tchaikosky the news...

...The hardest working man in British showbusiness – eight days a week...

...A backbeat that you just can’t lose – even in a Yellow Submarine or the Octopus’ garden...

...Drumming up a hurricane and a roaring storm...

Laydeez and Gennelmen,

the one,

the only,

Mistaaaah Ringoooo Starrrrr...

The beat goes on.

Time for Change

Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex Court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc