Tuesday, 30 August 2016

OTOP of the World, na?

Khun Apiradee Treerutkuarkul plants some interesting ideas in the Keep Home Fires Burning article in last week’ Bangkok Post.


The fascinating OTOP development of the Mong Pae brand of Khanom Dok Jok in Ban Mok Jum Pae village in Mae Hong Son province is inspiring in and of itself. Developing a food product in a Cuisine Nation like Thailand is a Coals-To-Newcastle story of success amidst ultra-competition.

And the role of Chiang Mai University in developing the brand and marketing with the dynamic Ministry of Agriculture is interesting and must be relevant for UK-Thailand cooperation on SME’s and Education in general.

Here in UK’s East Kent the 4 universities are very active on Business Development and Cooperation with both Kent University and Canterbury Christchurch in friendly rivalry on business activity, apprentice ships and so on and working with produced in Kent one of the UK’s dynamic food promotion agencies.

The Cuisine Coast of East Kent may also be relevant for food exchanges etc - I make no excuses for citing the Surin Thai restaurant sea bass, or The Sportsman pub and its Michelin star, or my KORA Kent Oriental Restaurant Association lobbying and support group on immigration etc.

If only UK had a clear OTOP programme too: PM Prayut’s support for Roi Et jasmine rice shows a firm but dynamic grasp of developing some of Isaan’s key industries. As well as such flavoursome products as Sisaket’s mushroom crisps (chips if you learnt American English) or the Surin region in gernal and its treasure trove of silk and silver.

I’ve written previously too on the dynamic Surin Rice Research Centre so won’t tread over that ground again. Although Kent’s and Thailand’s Orchids must be ripe for collaboration, at the very least a set of Post Office stamps or Royal Mint coins or credit cards. Both UK and Thai Post Offices quietly excellent compared to say Vietnam, and the first UK-Thai Royal Mint programme on minting Thai coins underway and also relevant for Vietnam’s coinage.

I’ve written previously on the launch of the UK plastic banknotes in Kent, saving the UK Treasury over £100M in 10 years, so coinage savings would be very relevant for the Thai Treasury and Royal Mint too.

Unfortunately the OTOP range of soap and candles and preserved fruit and bananas bears no real equivalent in UK. And even on the basics of Strategic Industries, Thailand plc is far ahead of the UK with its launch earlier in the month of 2 new Future Thailand strategies.

And there is much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair in parliament on how UK can emulate Israel’s StartUp nation approach or review the rather low Chinese investment in UK. Such concerns are likely in Future Thailand too in say rubber and sugarcane industries under the weight of HFSS and Graphene – yet massive potential in healthy eating and fruits and superfoods such as pomegranates or pineapples.

OTOP also has massive potential in the refugee camps on the Thai border and in the heroin regions of Shan – the 2nd largest amount of heroin on UK streets after the Helmand region of Afghanistan and scourge of the Golden Triangle of Frontline Kent between London and Paris and Amsterdam.

And crop adjustments and trafficking routes that Thailand and Laos are world leaders in already, as with the UNODC conference last week, that the Cocaine Cities of Latin America from Acapulco to Antofagasta could well consider the learnings.

Britain and Thailand both did well in the Rio Olympics and both could also share more Common Ground with their Paralympics and Team Refugee work.
And every piece of UK research points to jobs and profit growth via startups and innovation companies not the Same Corporate Big Boys, especially with the UK and US failing, against the more nimble German engineering excellence, in limiting the corporate welfare bloat of the arms industries.

While the OTOP Ploenchit Centre on my recent visit was inspiring in its range of products and friendly and knowledgeable staff - and unfortunately for its lack of an equivalent in UK.

The UK needs OTOP and its Japanese permutation too. It’s revealing that the London 2012 Olympics kicked off in Beijing with a London bus, but one essentially up on bricks in trade terms. Another 2012 legacy frittered away. While Japan’s Super Mario Abe hit the target with his Tech and computer games arrow as Tokyo 2020 began booting up at Rio.

Although it’s worth noting that Kent’s West Ham United (well, only 30 minutes on hispeed train to their new stadium at the 2012 site) have signed their first FIFA Soccer computer games footballer. He’s real not an avatar too.

Sure there are the full-on trade centres and expos – even the occasional Jaguar or Rolls Royce in the embassy foyer or Singha promotion in Harrods – in Thailand and UK but not that persistent and quiet dedication to lifting the economy as OTOP in Thailand does superbly.

And as with Beaujolais and France, surely Thailand should be considering its new product launches into UK each year? The 12,000 Thai restaurants actively promote Singha and Chang brands and cookery dishes so why not Khanom Dok Jok and Mong Pae and other regional flavours each year?

Won’t the ladies of Ban Mok Jum Pae exhibit and demonstrate their cookery skills in UK? Aside from the many food exhibitions UK television is awash with cookery programmes and chat shows.

Thai food is a culture and high fashion.

Dynamic retailers such as Jim Thompson or Paragon must surely further deliver on their excellent retail heritage into the UK High Street and designers? Scotland’s Vivienne Westwood, the dynamic tartan designer Siobhan Mackenzie, part of the New Celtic Fringe, would be but one of many designers ideal to work in Thai silk and UK retail.

Perhaps only one OTOP weakness is some of the cultural and language aspects: UK promotes its excellent Music is Great export strand whether with the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper 50th anniversary next year or The 1975 recently appearing in Bangkok, or more unusual chart-topping music such as Island records and Jamaican reggae and other Caribbean Commonwealth music.

None of those are particularly my cup of tea although I have to support Kent’s Beatles and their first music video in Knole Park and Magical Mystery Tour through Kent (and municipal flower clock first edition, and Almeria’s Strawberry Fields Forever).

But shouldn’t Thailand develop its Kondrum and Morlam heritage with an Islands records export drive and in-country promotion? Even lending an ASEAN hand to Cambodian, and Lao, ballet and dance through the storms of IMF LDC reversion?

And I fully understand the centralisation aspect of school curriculums and language teaching, but shouldn’t Thailand develop its Isaan Thai and Khmer languages and learning? A university study centre or two and radio or TV programming? Much as the BBC does with Welsh and Scottish Gaelic?

If Chula or Thammasat are too sniffy about it then maybe Mahidol Business Centre in BKK should stoop to conquer in the honest soil, and toil, of Isaan and its 20M loyal Thai citizens?

Thailand and OTOP and ASEAN deserve nothing less.

Tim Garbutt is a director of Sincerity advertising and PR agency opening offices in Bangkok and ASEAN, director of Surin Village School charity, the first school built in Isaan, and standing for UK Parliament for better UK and Thailand activity. He can’t read a word of Thai - yet.


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Charity donations across UK and Thailand

Khun Boonwara Sumano of TDRI makes some excellent points in her “Let’s make more of donations” article on CAF placing Thailand 2nd in ASEAN for charitable giving and 19th in the world. And interestingly, the massively generous Thai public donations of 75M THB account for 0.6% of Thailand’s GDP. Not outrageously different from the UN target of 0.7% of GNI that the United Nation has called for since 1971.


The UK is right to take pride in achieving this target last year with $20BN in DFID aid - the first major economy in the world to do so. And Sweden and Netherland’s efforts in not just achieving 0.7% but exceeding it are also rightfully a source of their national and EU pride.

And it’s to be hoped that the rather weak UN Secretary-General candidates and election at the moment will seek 0.7% from at least the G20 – those 20 nations, including Indonesia in ASEAN, that are the source of 90% of global trade.

It is a positive move though that Denmark’s Presidency of the UN has taken the lead on a more open and democratic election process that can only more rapidly result in an elected General Assembly.

And Khun Boonwara makes some eloquent points, not just on the Pracharat and 4G – unfortunately UK lagging behind USA with their 5G rollout in 2017, but on Thai education too.

As a founder of the Surin Charity School with the first school built in Isaan, I know that the generosity of the UK public knows no bounds. Nothing asked and everything given. Centred in Ramsgate but with customers and donations across UK and Benelux and US knows no bounds, with just its £1 donations the Surin Charity has rapidly achieved the $30,000 target in just c.3 years.

So now 50 Isaan schoolkids each year are given a world-class education.

The first school is a modern building for 50 schoolkids with satellite internet, land and lake purchased, and separate toilets for boys and girls. The latter a crucial point in DFID and Red Cross research for encouraging girls to remain in school. The budget was even maximised with a spot of road paving and some improvements to the local temple.

Surin Charity blog: http://surinvillagecharityschool.blogspot.co.uk/

Research for the Cameroon and Mali Surin Schools also highlighted the importance of school dinners. With one in four children in the world stunted, then a healthy meal is vital and often one of the key reasons cited for school attendance.

With my advertising hat on, I was rather appalled at KFC chicken citing their food as square meals ie healthy rather than a bucket of obesity and HFSS. While Lifebuoy in Ethiopia with the dynamic Unilever brands is a superb CSR on hand-washing and a key part of the Surin Schools philosophy.

I presume the hand-washing (tentacle-washing?) octopus on the Surin School toilet wall is called Ollie but perhaps it’s Oil or a similar Thai name.

~~Charity efforts across UK and Thailand~~

TOMS Shoes is also being considered, in my UK parliament MP role, as the official shoe of East Kent as perfect for back-to-school uniform and CSR with its astonishing 1-4-1 system of one pair of shoes donated for every pair purchased. And a massive manufacturing boost for Argentina’s fashion and retail economy.
While Revo sunglasses at the recent Margate UK Beach Volleyball final (shades of the Phuket Asian Beach Games) are active on glasses for the 39M blind globally.

And UK can do so much more in terms of cataract surgery eg the hospital ships of Operation Smile for cleft-palate surgery.

The Surin Charity can also make discretionary donations, in UK or Asia, for other charitable projects eg the hunt for the Northern Belle 12 US Presidential lifeboat medals in Margate of 1857 and the Broadstairs Waterloo Trail and Ramsgate’s Jorvik-Landings centre.

And Khun Boonwara highlights the IMD concerns of Thailand education overall slipping to 48th out of 61 nations. The concerns over English language teaching in Thailand are all the more important for Future Thailand given English is the official 2nd language of ASEAN.

And there are longstanding USA and Commonwealth links with Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and nearby Papua New Guinea and Solomon islands plus Australia and New Zealand, and even Timor-Leste ASEAN accession plans by 2020.

And Cambodia was not that long ago seeking Commonwealth membership as the Empire connotations fade to just 16 small Overseas Territories. And Myanmar’s former UK resident Aung San and a new generation of Cambodian royals such as California’s Princess Soma highlight the importance of English in Asia in the 21st century.
And on the subject of Surin Schools toilets again, in India and Africa the UN’s Open Defecation programme for public and school toilets has stalled but if it’s an unpleasant subject it’s important for not just a clean and healthy countryside and water sources, but also the reduction of rape crimes and increasing the number of girls in school.

While the UN Women activity is far more active in Bangkok than London with calls for girls in sports such as muay thai.

One minor overdue feature of the first Surin School to be completed is some sports kit, and musical instruments, and eventually tweaking a ricefield into a football pitch and swimming pool.

But that is something of the gold-plating syndrome I mentioned earlier, as the funds may be best spent on other Isaan schools, as the schoolkids and teachers now have a terrific building and education kit.

The kids may all want to be Beckham or get kitted out in ManU but they might just have to make do with the nearby Thundercastles kit.
Certainly Sapa and Kontum and Can Tho in the Mekong delta in Vietnam, and Cambodia are overdue Surin Schools: the aim being to build 1,000 schools each year for $30M.

And some of Khun Boonwara’s other points on societal investment are profound in that the Surin Village School Charity doesn’t provide teachers as yet – the Surin School teachers are normal Thai government teachers. We just donated funds for the buildings and land. Thailand has rather excellent teachers and teacher training colleges so needs no support there other than exchange links with UK schools and universities.

But one aspect for the future will be helping fund teachers in Africa or India, and also helping fund specific education and careers courses beyond the normal curriculum that may be say fashion in Thailand and Cambodia, or agriculture and fisheries management in Vietnam or accounting and wider business and vocational studies.

Certainly Cambodia will face more difficult years with the UK’s DIFD ending its $20M aid, and bizarrely the World Bank reclassifying Cambodia as not an LDC - thus ending many other grants and paradoxically causing greater hardship.

I don’t know TDRI’s view on aid grants and ADB etc, but Cambodia as one of the few ASEAN nations, with Philippines, with barefoot street kids, or a lack of clean drinking water for the sake of a $100 well sounds like an LDC to me.

While Khun Boonwara’s other point on only 21.75% of Thai prisoners reoffending is astonishing: in the UK the figure is over 50% and something of a political scandal in government and the Third Sector not being able to reverse this important point for years and decades.

With my MP hat on to build better links between Thailand and UK this too could be an area for activity.

~Charities and Society~~

Indeed too often, for a G7 economy, the UK is rolling backwards on many of its hard-won successes of the last century or two: cholera sewers, unclean air, the malnutrition of obesity, food bank-soup kitchens, closure of school playing fields and sports centres, crime statistics spiralling, dirty hospitals and botched operations. All these social problems were identified and largely solved decades ago.

And Khun Boonwara is right to highlight the need for effective use of charitable funds. With DFID now achieving the huge $20BN target each year, the danger is a lack of rigour on how the funds are spent or gold-plating a project (we deliberately didn’t want to build a mega-Surin school but a village school for ease of future repair too), and the British aid industry problem of over-researching rather basic problems.

Forward-thinking think-tanks such as TDRI and Rockefeller Foundation in Thailand should be active in such scrutiny and results with the UNSDG30 just around the corner.

On minor example the WFP UN World Food Programme recently called for tenders for electronic welfare payments through a massively diverse range of nations: India, Solomons, Papua, Iran etc etc. Surely the funds spent in such a tender could have been best-placed through the respective nations’ central bank for a fraction of the cost and effort?

Massive Commonwealth reform beyond the Pacifc Group is also needed in Africa on gay and disabled rights and mega-slums, and the Caribbean death penalty – the last something of a minor issue given the UK is the Supreme Court for the Caribbean nations and there are now almost no executions. Just the cruel and unusual punishment of Death Row and the daily possibility of execution.

While Khun Worawan Chandoevwit, Khun Booonwara’s TDRI colleague makes an important point on the vagaries of official statistics with Thailand’s official maternal death rate being 5x lower than TDRI research.

A discrepancy of an extra 421 women dying in childbirth in Thailand each year.

Unfortunately neither Thailand nor UK is doing very well in that area with Japan at 5 deaths per 100,000 and Sweden 3 deaths. The UK is over double that figure at 7 deaths and Thailand officially 8.9 deaths or by the TDRI figures 45 deaths.

And the UK has this week called for better scrutiny of abortion clinics and cosmetic surgery clinics.

The mobile phone now may be the easiest and most effective and accurate way for data gathering in almost any nation now. Although again I’m not convinced that NGO and Public funds on 3D data visualisation and what-not aren’t actually a drain on solving UNSDG30 problems.

Such discrepancies may be as Khun Worawan cites women not giving birth in hospital or back street abortions or as unpalatably merely official lies and coverup for failure. Certainly we’ve seen such fraud and failure in UK in a range of public services: police crime statistics, rape detection and of course the notorious Infratil and Manston monitors and Thor mercury contamination, the Klity Creek of Kent, resulting in hundreds if not thousands of deaths and shortened lives.
And also the same Infratil directors of Fitzgerald, Clarke, Bogoievski etc still running Wellington Airport perhaps Asia’s most dangerous airport.

Future Thailand work with Future UK in the charitable and NGO and think-tank sectors must be crucial for both nations in improving and monitoring their development.

Tim Garbutt is a Director of Sincerity advertising agency opening offices across ASEAN and director of Surin School charity, the first school built in Isaan, and is standing for UK parliament for better relations between Thailand and UK. He refuses to wear espadrilles, TOMS or not. @timg33

Sugar tax to somtam in UK and Thailand

Khun Anchalee Kongrut raises some excellent and perceptive issues around the sugar tax for Thailand.


As in UK it seems to be delayed despite public support for action on obesity.

Few things can be worse than Government allowing food that makes us sick to be sold. Or succumbing, as happened with tobacco, to food industry groups and delaying reform.

And Thailand now has far more ultra-sugary drinks and desserts and US fastfood restaurants and ultra-caffeine drinks than in previous years and more than UK.

Sugary foods and drinks can be reformulated with low and zero calorie sweeteners for almost no difference in taste. Coca-Cola in UK has already achieved almost 50% of soda sales from low-sugar versions and pledged to increase that by 2020.

I can understand Thailand’s – and Cuba’s - sugar cane industry being concerned but that must be where Government takes an active role in refocusing crops, and in schools with healthy eating programmes as Khun Achalee wisely points out.

In UK the celebrity chefs have been active on such issues:

• Jamie Oliver has testified before parliament on the danger of sugar in soda drinks – Kent MP Helen Whateley holding a mockup can of the suggested new labelling. One of the points Khun Achalee makes is on better labelling: the UK has a traffic light system on food packs but confusion over whether it’s a standard 100g size or an eating portion.


• Gordon Ramsay effs and blinds his way through his cookery shows on the importance of kitchen cleanliness: keeping meat separate from vegetables etc.
• Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been prominent on the importance of natural and organic food, fisheries not returning caught quotas of dead fish (Ramsgate’s fishing fleet sailing in protest up the Thames to parliament with him), food waste in general especially wonky fruit and lack of coffee-shop recycling of cups and plastic.

Though most UK celebrity chefs tend to be models or minor TV celebs – or even worse made-for-TV personalities –rather than real cookery or food experts.
It’s a failing of the excellent Kitchen of the World and OTOP programmes of Thailand that more isn’t done to create Thai food experts or Thai food knowledge and promote regional foods.

A Thai, Delia Smith or Madhur Jaffrey or Ken Hom, and their programmes and books and merchandise, would do wonders for Thailand’s food culture and economy.
Paul Hollywood the celebrity baker of the BakeOff TV show – second only to Downton Abbey as a UK craze that gives Pokemon Go a run for its money - and East Kent resident, has recently launched a range of merchandise of baking trays and aprons that are a sure-fire hit.

And East Kent’s Gregg Wallace the celebrity greengrocer, is active on Masterchef desserts and a series of programmes on food factories.
I for one have no hesitation in claiming Thai cuisine to be the equal if not better than Italian or French or Chinese or Japanese cuisine as one of the great cuisines of the world.

Rather, as with a sugar tax, it could be more effectively promoted in Thailand and beyond.

Over 12,000 Thai restaurants in UK – almost one for every 4 Thai expats is proof of that. And the numerous Thai supermarkets eg Cardiff’s mega-importer of fresh fruit and veg from Thailand’s farms could help reset the sugarcane industry.

And here in Kent the huge Veetee port and factory is a mega-rice importer for the even more numerous Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants.
Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang – and hopefully the new UTapao airport - are the only airports in the world I’ve flown into where the smell of aviation fuel is drowned out by cooking odours as the plane doors open on landing.

And certainly there's Surin Thai restaurant in Ramsgate, one of the top 10 Thai restaurants in UK, and part of the Kent Cuisine Coast movement and KORA Kent Oriental Restaurant Association.

Perhaps “PokemonGo makes Somtam in Isaan” a viable Thailand Kitchen of the World show? Catch Pokemon points as you round up mango or tomato or chillies in Buriram or Surin or Sisaket? And a celebrity cookoff in Kalasin or RoiEt or Yasothon?

It’ll be a quiet night in Ubon or Udon when that’s on air.

And surely Thailand should steal a march on the rest of ASEAN and lead on a sugar tax and other obesity and diabetes measures. With my Thai-UK MP role I’d also be keen, given the success of UK Cycling from the Olympics that Thailand’s Tokyo2020 team has access to Manchester’s state-of-the-art velodrome and learnings, for example, and similar Ride London and Bike for Dad activities.

Manchester was after all the base of the Thai Olympic team in London2012.

While the new Chaopraya promenade and Yodpiman River Walk are crying out for RunBKK events, or in the cool of the night, the Moonlight Breast Cancer Walk event as dynamic UK cancer charities such as Macmillan reducing the 200 cancers (UK now surviving 50% of cancers for more than 5 years, up from 25% 40 years ago) that can result from obesity and junk food.

The table is set if Thailand wants to actively work with UK on healthier foods and obesity.

Tim Garbutt is a Director of Sincerity advertising and Surin School Charity and standing for UK parliament on Thailand and UK issues. He’ll walk miles for somtam. @timg33

Monday, 22 August 2016

Stubbing out Tobacco in UK and Thailand

Khun Achara Deboonme makes several eloquent points on the preparations for the introduction of plain cigarette packs in Thailand in her The Nation article.
Such packs will also be launched in UK next year after Australia and Eire’s lead.


One of my biggest regrets in my advertising career was promoting Gitanes and Gauloises cigarettes. Design icons as well as cancer-sticks.
And there are some surprising points made at the WTO to Team Thailand by the Honduras delegation, on IP protection and research on design encouraging purchase and thus smoking.

In my advertising role, IP protection and Design are something of non-issues as a debate, as the whole basis of the design industry is finding the most attractive branding for any product including cigarettes. Numerous advertising effectiveness research studies exist and millions of dollars spent on research of specific designs and colours and fonts.

Specifically on plain packs, the Australian government also provided several research studies to UK on the plain packs introduction. That research is somewhat thin, as it was the first time such plain packs/IP restrictions had been introduced anywhere.

While the other Honduran point on IP in Khun Achara’s excellent Nation article was also rather silly in that any government can legislate against IP and overturn previous court rulings and even abolish products especially on health grounds eg asbestos.

The UK High Court IP divisions are going through something of a spasm of disarray with Lord Grabiner and Glick of One Essex Court from the BHS scandal and Judge Smith of the BA suitcase scandal designated mentally unfit and struck off.

The UK’s IP system, and High Court, is in need of substantial overhaul not just from those specific legal failures but producing a system far worse than the Chinese IP system.

While the University of Stirling continues the long tradition of excellent university educations and PhD research in Scotland, by producing a summary report of the health aspects of smoking each year:


Certainly such points, in my MP role to encourage better UK-Thai relations, should be part of a strategic dialogue and in UK and Thailand forums. And with Mahidol now heading the Asian universities league tables produced by The Times, its public health role along with TRF and TDRI could be accelerated. Mahidol’s Public Health role is all the more important with UN WHO health organisation citing ASEAN region as the most likely source of the next major pandemic.

So far in the UK WW1 commemorations and Spanish Flu that killed millions a timely warning of the dangers of pandemics such as Ebola or Birdflu or Myanmar measles epidemic and, even worse, the lack of new Antibiotics and vaccines being developed, highlighted by Lord Jim O'Neill of BRICS fame report last month, that would throw the world back to the medieval era pre-penicillin of dying from scratches and minor cuts.


Thailand’s role in WW1, standing knee-deep with Britain in the mud and blood of Flanders fields, is sadly neglected with calls for an Asian memorial in UK not just Sanam Luang in Bangkok. And completely unknown in UK schools. Links that may well be renewed with UN Peacekeeping and UN Police given the current carnage in Sudan and East Africa.

And as an aside the outrageous condition just this weekend of the Long Thanh memorial to Australian veterans in Vietnam would simply not be tolerated by the Commonwealth Graves Commission - although sadly there is no Operation Masterdom UK memorial as yet - and their sterling work through Myanmar and even in Thailand at Kanchanaburi near the River Kwai and its famous bridge and JEATH.

Concerns that Thailand has seen recently with the increase in Dengue fever and Melioidosis and lingering problem of TB. Such UK-Thai links with hospitals and research labs and science parks as at Discovery Park and Sittingbourne in Kent and TRF and NSTDA Science Park in Pathum Thani would literally be life-savers.


And in India the horror of 40,000 people each year dying from rabies bites and scratches for lack of the vaccines that already exist is a disgrace.

While in terms of broader healthcare it would be remiss of me not to mention in my advertising role the superb Common Ground initiative launched to help achieve the UNSDG30. Brands active in healthcare such as Lucky Iron Fish iron supplement in Cambodia and WPP Lifebuoy hand-washing CSR in schools, the latter one of several superb Unilever initiatives rolled out from the London and Rotterdam head offices.

Though, since the early 1960’s and the first health concerns around smoking, Big Tobacco industry delays to maintain smoking have gradually been overrun by the concerns around health including an advertising ban in UK 20 years ago. Such an advertising ban, around children’s television programmes, is now sadly delayed from last week’s UK Obesity report on the sugar tax and HFSS (foods High in Fat, Salt and Sugar).

And Big Tobacco even last year delayed the plain packs with EU lobbying and FOI refusals on reports. An issue all the more concerning in UK, as cigarette smoking has stabilised around 20% and actually slightly increased amongst teenagers especially young girls.

Thailand has been far more successful with ultra-low smoking rates of c.3% among women.

Even the slightly-safer ecigarettes/vaping and UK’s free smoking cessation products such as patches on the NHS haven’t further reduced smoking.
If UK is to follow Finland’s lead on being a SmokeFree nation by 2020 then much more needs to be done. To some extent in marketing terms, the existing Thai horror cigarette packs already make as much of a difference as plain packs. But more too needs to be done in Thailand to reduce smoking.

~~Thailand-UK and smoking health~~

But in my MP role, shouldn’t UK and Thailand be more active on sharing smoking and broader health activity?

For example, the UK’s ban on cigarette displays in stores could be rolled out in Thailand, with bans on packs of less than 20 cigarettes and single cigarettes.

And both nations need to do more in introducing store permits for cigarette sales to reduce outlets and sales.

While here in Kent there is the absolutely ridiculous situation of KCC the county government investing $30M in tobacco shares for its staff pensions. If that wasn’t outrageous enough, KCC also has responsibility for Public Health with the NHS – so we have the absurd situation of investing in tobacco, while attempting to reduce smoking and increase health.

Several other councils doing the same which could easily be halted with investments in say solar power or healthy eating.

And the KCC Tobacco investments are all the more foolish given the Thames Gateway 2050 developments and Ebbsfleet Garden and Health City, and particular emphasis on Riverfront Sports from the Team GB 2016 superb Olympics legacy and Tokyo 2020 preparation.

As an aside the UK push for a 50 metre Olympic Swimming pool in every one of the 33 counties led by the dynamic Sports and Tourism Minister Kent’s Tracey Crouch must be also be relevant for tropical Thailand and future Olympics and sports work?

Also slightly less bizarre situations such as public funding for prison suppliers such as Aramark carrying a wide range of cigarettes rather than just one brand could be implemented with no smoking cells and even Prison Television as a part of the Open University and Teachers Television and Police Television channels.

Beyond such remedial reforms there could be improvements in ending the presumption of outdoor tables at restaurants and cafes and beer gardens being reserved for smokers and designating smoking zones in town centres and parks and beaches. Phuket may struggle with the ASEAN version of blue flag beaches but surely Chanthaburi as one of the TAT Stars should be pushing ahead? And heavier fines for illegal cigarettes stocked by stores and smuggling is relevant for Thailand and UK.

And it’s but a small leap over the final hurdle of store permits before cigarettes become prescription-only from pharmacies such as Watson or Boots, as with any illegal and dangerous drug.

And if UK and Thailand work more closely with Mahidol or TRDI or TRF programmes then such work could be extended to health scholarships and hospital exchanges. It’s absurd that Moorfields the world-class London hospital for eye surgery and cataracts should be established in Dubai but not DaNang - and certainly in Bangkok.

DaNang is already providing the basis for UK’s largest research and tech park public and private sector investments in ASEAN, and health exchanges for nurses with CCU Canterbury Christchurch University here in Kent. Certainly the monstrous legacy left by Agent Orange is long overdue UK support, and Thai programmes such as Operation Smile and its work on cleft palates as well as the dynamic Thai Red Cross, and even UK’s MAG landmines activity, are ideal templates for such health work.

Despite a $200BN annual budget, and one of the largest numbers of employees in the world, there is a massive failure in the NHS being unable as yet to provide cohesive formal programmes to link its hospitals with those of other nations.

And if cataract research and surgery is the most common surgery in UK, more needs to be done to revitalise UK research which is flattening compared to most EU nations’ medical innovation. As well as DNA, blood and organ manufacturing and the Left is Life programme I’ve launched, and excellent UK blood donation and anti-smoking campaigns such as Missing Letter could be increased.

Even the DNA-Digital Bathroom Mirror retina scan and health indicators would be meat and drink to dynamic firms such as Panasonic and Philips – both firms creating jobs in ASEAN as well as UK and Benelux.

Thailand and ASEAN has little of a tobacco industry that will be reduced by reductions in smoking – but certainly Thailand’s final months as G77 Chair, and UK support, could be fruitful in helping nations such as Cuba and Malawi rework their crops and land to more useful and sustainable activity.

I know from my Surin Restaurant work (www.surinrestaurant.co.uk try the sea bass!) how the Thai Ministry of Agriculture has always been very active in Climate Change and SME work and the Forestry Commission. The UK farming and climate Change departments (the latter now rightly abolished) are too often mired in bureaucracy and inaction on farm subsidies etc, and a situation only likely to worsen if Brexit goes ahead or EU reforms aren’t implemented.

While dynamic Thai-UK firms such as Boots and Tesco Lotus, working with say Kasetsart and the Ministry of Agriculture, could be active in healthy eating initiatives, food waste reduction, vitamins and Superfood research.

Certainly these would be healthy areas for Thailand and UK as smoking draws its last breaths.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and UK MP candidate for better UK-Thai activity. He's given up smoking. @timg33

* Misc articles: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/misc-articles-updates-july-2016.html

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Explosions beyond Thailand

I was at the Hua Hin Clock Tower. I was at Patong Beach. I was at the Erawan Shrine.

All within the last year or two, so the bombs of last week are all too real to me.

Indeed Trang, and Satun, are still on my wishlist when next in Thailand.

And unfortunately the e-ink was barely dry on Khun Surin Pitsuwan's insightful article in the Bangkok Post last week before the roar of the explosions drowned out many of his points.

As I write this on the Saturday after the bombs and fires, it seems likely that the explosions were an extension of the Deep South unrest. And more importantly, a reaction to last Sunday’s Charter referendum.

And the points made by Khun Surin on the dangers of division in Thailand again, are all too clear with the North, Northeast and Deep South all voting against the Charter. Division familiar in UK given the Brexit vote against by London, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Certainly it seems very unlikely that the bombs are linked to ISIS/Daesh or last year’s Erawan Shrine Uighur incident. Bangkok though, like London and New York as world cities, will often play host to wider conflicts.

Yet blood has been shed in the Kingdom of Smiles after the first moves back to full democracy before November 2017, despite the largely peaceful and well-run Charter vote. Notwithstanding the concerns aired by Khun Abhisit and Khun Yingluck and others both inside and outside Thailand on the freedom of debate around the Charter and referendum questions.

And the bombs reached beyond the usual confines of the Deep South to the whole Kra peninsula from Trang to Surat Thani to Hua Hin, and they also reverberated around the world with 4 deaths and at least 3 German tourists injured.

Nobody doubts Thailand’s commitment to the safety of its foreign guests with Britain’s 1M tourists and 100k expats, as well as 50k Thai expats in UK, some of the largest UK and Thai communities abroad. Although I must admit if I’d been blown up and hospitalised I’m not sure I’d want to be woken for a politician’s visit even if it was the dynamic Tourism Mister Khun Kobkarn.

##Thailand and UK##

Of course, Thailand, like any modern nation, needs to and will resolve its internal policies as best it can. That said, as MP candidate in Kent for better UK-Thailand relations, I can assure the Thai public and government of my support for any UK support they need or want in the future.

Such support could be renewed effort on both tourism and FDI – without jeopardising UK citizens, as the Foreign of Office travel advice so far is fair and balanced.

But the plans to issue simcard tracing in mobile phones to tourists in Thailand seems astonishing in being almost designed to reduce tourism – and all the more worrying as it seems a pan-ASEAN initiative already in place in Malaysia?

Surely such plans should be part of a wider ASEAN debate on dual-pricing for Thais and foreigners, perhaps a minimal cost given the extensive Thai support and investment for Tourism Police, and mobile phones in general given EU moves to already fix and reduce, and in 2017 end roaming charges.

And further activity around Kitchen of the World and OTOP especially Thai silk and Fashion with its 1TN THB export target as detailed by Khun Dr Somkiat of TDRI, could be implemented more rapidly in the UK High Street. Along with the range of Mega-Transport Bus, Bridge/Tunnel and ASEAN Rail projects.

Frankly it’s far clearer than the advice by UK government on potential ISIS/Daesh attacks in UK – do you know if Severe or Substantial means more or less danger or how Imminent or Likely, Imminent and Likely are? I haven’t a clue as to what the bafflingly obtuse UK traffic light of danger actually is. Especially when there seems neither a central point of information (A traffic light of danger website? A cricket board of danger in Piccadilly Circus? Flashing lights at Heathrow?). Nor any reason other than randomness or coverage for changing the warnings.

But I digress, for UK and Thailand can take some pride and comfort in UK tourists now reaching a record 1M visitors to Thailand and actually increasing through the unrest of 2014 and before. Britons voting with their feet or Air Miles to support Thailand while most nations' tourism such as China fell away to nothing.

I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that Thailand has no greater friend than the Great British Tourist. Something of the Dunkirk Spirit lingers in our approach to terrorism and the years of conditioning to the Irish Troubles and Blitz before that, with its revived aphorism of keep calm and carry on.

Perhaps with a Great British cup of tea too.

##Policing and wider cooperation##

And Thailand may well want to draw on UK policing links not just with Interpol and Europol, but specific programmes such as Operation Captura on Spain’s Costa del Sol to round up British and now EU criminals. Such work may be useful in Pattaya and Phuket to capitalise on Thailand’s tourism efforts.

And certainly a hard-pressed Thai police force should expect unfettered access to UK forensic expertise in future whether with police or university or private sector research labs. I was astonished to see police and then civilians walking through the Hua Hin crime scene and handling the plantpot bomb shards and even ballbearings, all without a police cordon and forensic suits and gloves.

Just yesterday, the NCA – the UK’s FBI – secured convictions in Operation Screenplay for the largest ever cocaine smuggling of 3 tonnes worth c.$1.5BN. While Kent Police is here in Frontline Kent with smuggling of people with the nearby Calais Jungle refugee camp and Dover Europe’s largest port and the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Their guns and drugs experience secured convictions just a month ago in the largest-ever UK haul of machine guns.

And here work is ongoing with Manston and Ostend airports notorious for sanctions-busting flights by Infratil with IranAir, KAM-Air from Afghanistan and DASAir blood diamonds out of Africa to Antwerp, and the new cocaine states and routes eg Guinea. While Ostend airport’s Viktor Bout gunrunner was eventually captured and extradited from Bangkok. A fate best served up to Infratil’s directors at Wellington airport.

Such UK expertise could be expanded upon with Thai and Myanmar work on Shan heroin Wu Army, and Yaba amphetamine gangs, and even cooperation on the 106,000 refugees on the Myanmar border coordinated with the dynamic UK and Thai Red Cross.

The wider points made by Khun Surin and the UK experience of 50 years of Troubles in Northern Ireland recently, thrown into stark relief by the Brexit debate, and still 52 bomb attacks in Northern Ireland this year and arms caches found just this month, are ripe for a strategic dialogue with UK and Thailand.

The reality is a United Thailand requires dialogue with the North and Northeast and Deep South to bridge the difficulties that exist beyond shirt colours and armed camps.

The debates around lese-majeste and release of student democracy activists are also thrown into sharp relief by a wider Deep South campaign. As does debate on both the role of the Thai military in politics – how horrifying to see the newly-democratic Myanmar now castigating Thailand – and military procurement and reform. Again, difficult subjects against the backdrop of 2014, and a new Deep South bombing campaign, but ones that friends such as UK and Thailand should broach.

Few people are friends of military rule, even the military themselves – The Economist research suggesting an automatic 10% fall in GDP from any coup anywhere and international isolation. Turkey has seen its tourism trade wiped out in the last month and for the foreseeable future to the benefit of Greece and Spain and perhaps Thailand. And the Thai success in averting civil war or prolonged political conflict has been averted since 2014 and the task now must surely be ensuring active UK and EU support for a return to full democracy as rapidly as possible.

While similar military debates in UK are ongoing on submarines and Trident now the effectiveness and expense of the recently commissioned armoured cars – The Times newspaper thundering on their weakness against Russian armour and shrapnel and such expensive bloat.

Such debates may be relevant for Thai and UK strategic military discussions along with the Spratlys from the initial UN ruling last month favouring Philippines. And the UK military role is moving much faster towards a humanitarian function given future Phuket and Haiyan crises and disaster management wave of tsunamis, droughts, volcanoes and typhoons and floods and landslides.

Given the revitalised UK-Japan defence treaty and UK’s close relationship with the Pacific Commonwealth and ASEAN nations surely Dusit should be pushing against an open door for future UK-Thailand cooperation?

While, with the Charter debate over and Brexit likely to be reversed, surely a tripartite discussion with Thailand and UK and EU can be increased.

The resolutions required of Future Thailand, from the referendum and latest bombs, are unlikely to be quick or easy, but will be a mark of the modern and democratic Thailand of the 21st century.

Tim Garbutt is owner of Sincerity Advertising soon to launch in Bangkok and ASEAN, and MP candidate in UK for better UK-Thailand relations: @timg33

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Bangkok Olympics 2024? On your bike!

The Rio Olympic Games have got off to a sparkling start for both Thailand and Britain already.

Khun Sopita Tanasan winning gold in 48kg weightlifting and Khun Sinphet Kruaithong picking up a medal for Surin Province in 56kg weightlifting, and the heartbreaking story of his grandmother passing away while watching him compete.

More happily, Britain won gold with Adam Peaty in the 100M breaststroke with two world records in two days, and the heartwarming story of his #OlympicNan cheering on her grandson. And Jazz in the pool gaining Silver. And sadly Britain so far missing out on gold in Cycling after various road crashes.

And surely in British Cycling is a sign for the future. For it was a sport with almost no UK ability until the last few years. But now with two of the top 3 Greatest British Olympians in Chris Hoy with 6 golds and Bradley Wiggins with 4 golds.

And even Swimming waited 28 years for its first gold medal. While UK Rowing has set a blistering pace with Steve Redgrave’s 5 golds and Matthew Pinsent’s 4 golds.

And a total of 3 medals in Moscow 1980 (mostly bronze) to 9 medals in London 2012 including 4 golds.

Indeed the UK performance at the Olympics was always fairly ho-hum outmatched only by England’s dismal performance in the main football tournaments.

But now Britain’s dynamic Sports Minister, Kent’s Tracey Crouch, an FA Referee, has hurried back from maternity leave to fly the flag for the success of UK Sport in Rio.

As well as excellent Sport England brand work such as #SheCan for women's sports.

~~Britain moves up a gear on sports~~

UK success now is almost totally down to two factors in the last decade or so: the potential and realisation of the London 2012 Games won in 2005. And the focus on the professionalisation of UK Sport. British Football may have won the World Cup in 1966 with Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick on a meal of egg and chips and a cup of tea.

But those days are gone.

Sports nutrition and scientific formulations of exercise of ten through University departments, and recovery are key as well as funding a stable of athletes for the future – Adam Peaty being sponsored by Sport England and Lottery funds from c.$20,000 a year to c.$40,000.

And London’s winning bid for 2012 was based on not just specific and worthwhile mega-regeneration projects in the East of London, but also revitalising grassroots sport, and community sport. An approach that’s been largely successful.

While Barcelona in 1992 was another icon of regeneration with tourist nights soaring from 3.8M then to 15M now. And London 2012 adding to its 48M tourism nights.

London Ride just last week – almost unheard of to stage such major events around the Olympics - testifies to the new UK appetite for cycling and sports.

Leaving aside the medal haul in 2012 which to some extent is down to a home turf and home crowd advantage, there has been even greater success on community sports.

UK participation in sports rose from 12M in 2005 to 15.8M in 2015, with 98% of children playing sports for at least 2 hours a week up from 25%. And 40% of schoolchildren playing sports for 5 hours or more.

And active sports not just darts or snooker or EA FIFA.

~~Bangkok Games?~~

And, as with Rio now, the London Games were run on a much tighter budget: $6Bn and $15BN than the excessive spurges of previous Games such as Sochi’s $60BN and Beijing’s $40BN, and almost every other previous Olympic city teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, or stadiums left empty afterwards.

And surely there’s the sign for Bangkok. Is it so outrageous to revisit Thailand’s 2008 bid for the Games, as rejected then on the basis of weak infrastructure?

For the 2024 Games shouldn’t Bangkok be a contender given the opening of the Purple Line and further development of the Metro? Mega-successes that could only be added to with traffic control and autonomous cars and buses, and cleaner air, by 2024?

While the Games would provide the opportunity to dig deep for regeneration projects such as the Chaopraya Promenade even the reopening of key klongs. And certainly to reverse Bangkok’s lack of green space and parks and, as in London, revitalisation of the dockland areas.

After all, ASEAN will never host the Winter Games – perhaps some iceskating or icehockey in BKK.

And what an advert for Thailand and its key tourism trade the Games would be.

Not just Rowing or Sailing on the Chaopraya against the backdrop of Wat Arun and Santa Cruz.

Not just Athletics or Volley ball in front of the Royal Palace or Golden Swing.

Not just Cycling for New Nan.

Nor even the expansion of the 10 Team Refugee athletes, now with a pool of 65M to select from.

But imagine the spectacle of Tokyo 2020’s 5 new sports developed by Thailand in 2024: Baseball (American English for softball) in Ayutthaya, Rockclimbing in Krabi, Golf in Hua Hin, Skateboarding in Siam Square or Surfing in Chanthaburi.

And certainly new or display sports such as SepakTakraw or Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Thai and Squash could be featured before then?

Having seen the Phuket Beach Games in 2014, I know Thailand need no lessons in hosting major sporting events on land or sea. I only marvelled at how much more could be done in both promotion and attendance.

~~Thailand and UK Team~~

An Olympian effort by UK and Thailand could be a massive boost for both sports industries and legacy potential: why shouldn’t every Thai town have an Olympic-size swimming pool or football ground or athletic track? And why not Premier League football across Thailand around the Olympics, with the Women’s teams, or Paralympic sports, to fill those pools and stadia?

While the economic benefits are clear from UK efforts for London2012: from 2012 until 2020, London will host 19 world championships for various sports. A MICE and Tourism boost without parallel. And not just for one year but as long as people are interested in sport.

The missed or fumbled opportunities though are even greater: Kent missed out on the 2012 Games just an hour away from the Olympic stadia, with Thailand’s Olympic team based in Manchester and the HS1 hispeed train and Tour de France cycling in Kent not effectively promoted and developed - and all now frittered away.

And, picking upon the London 2012 learning, Thailand could benefit from an innovative shift in the Olympics with its ASEAN friends and neighbours? The problems around Hanoi 2019 have sunk Vietnam’s hopes of major sports spectacles for the immediate future. But, as with the point on Cycling and New Nan above, shouldn’t the cost of the Games and value be spread amongst ASEAN as well as Thailand’s provinces?

Indeed the expense of the Games for a city – and previous misfires – reduced bids from 8 for London2012 to 3 for Tokyo2020.

So why not the Yangon Marathon too? Handball against the backdrop of Angkor? Swimming in Saigon?

Surely Laos would welcome Archery at the Plain of Jars, or Kayaking in Paxse and the 4,000 Islands, or Ang Nam Ngun reservoir.

Again, a sparkling boost to tourism in those nations as well as a boon for preservation and sympathetic regeneration of key sites such as The Basson or Cercle Sportif or Bagan, as well as saving and revitalising Yangon or Phnom Penh’s faded UNESCO colonial architecture and waterfront.

~~UK and Thailand and ASEAN Commonwealth~~

A task that could be made easier with the support of UK and Team Commonwealth in Asia with Malaysia and Singapore and Brunei and Papua New Guinea and Australia and New Zealand and Canada and Fiji and Solomon islands.

Certainly something more for Thailand and ASEAN cities than just skyscrapers and cement in the Age of Climate Change.

And would it be so outrageous for say a Paralympics or Invictus games to focus on Cambodia and Laos and landmine victims, to stimulate not just MAG landmine clearance? Along with UK and Thai hospitals and universities working together on the latest medical and technical advances in prosthetics arms and legs?

With the end of Polio, the Rotary and Lions, or Specsavers and the Thai Red Cross or Cabbages and Condoms and Operation Smile, would no doubt be keen to help on other social programmes, invariably delivered faster and easier with sport, such as vaccinations or cataracts or cleft palate checkups.

I was horrified to read just this week about Melioidosis in Thailand with c.1,100 deaths and completely preventable, and the measles pandemics in Myanmar with over 30 deaths.


And Thai-UK Sports could be active in awareness, whether men's prostate or the other 200 cancers that are the world's biggest killer with 8M deaths:


While UK Football has been effective in social programmes such as Kick-Out Racism, and sports programmes such as Arsenal Summer Schools and goalkeeping courses in the school holidays.

Even contamination sites such as Klity Creek or Thor mercury are overdue a cleanup.

And, with Thailand on the road to full democracy again after this week's Charter vote, there's an opportunity to unite the nation, given opposing votes in the North, North-East and Deep South and fall in FDI? After Brexit and the concern in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and economic shocks, UK might well want to take reform lessons from Thailand.

And as a Brit with Irish heritage, like 6M others (as well as Scottish heritage) it's no surprise applications for Eire-EU passports are up 73% from just one month of Brexit silliness.

And by 2024 the UNSDG30 will be in full swing from the kickoff earlier this year with initiatives such as advertising industry leading the way for brands, and Common Ground.

And dynamic brands such as Zoggs or Ben and Jerrys, or the Meiji Kent focus of Hitachi or Toshiba or Panasonic, and Benelux brands such as Alpro or Philips or Unilever should be active in UK.

All alongside the existing work done on UK Beach Games in Margate, Kent's Phuket if you will, and East Kent’s Blue flag beaches and Ramsgate Yacht Week, the largest sailing event outside Cowes, (it’s not always rainy and cold in UK) - a shoo-in for Volleyball and Beach Soccer and Beach Polo.

And there's Lucky Iron Fish in Cambodia or Lifebuoy hygiene programmes in East Africa (I never knew there was a specific way to wash your hands).

So Bangkok and ASEAN pedalling hard for the Olympic Games in 2024?

Or is it 2028?

Tim Garbutt runs Sincerity Advertising and PR agency, soon to open offices in Bangkok, and Surin Village School charity with the first school built in Isaan, and standing for UK Parliament for better links between UK and Thailand and ASEAN.

* Misc articles: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/misc-articles-updates-july-2016.html