Friday, 30 September 2016

Project Gilgamesh a failed National Plan in UK?

Has Humanity’s search for immortality has ground to a halt in UK?

Several scientists declare that the first 1,000 year old man or woman has already been born somewhere in the world.

Medical science provides new innovations almost each month: from DNA and genome mapping to the use of graphene as bone replacements for hip and knee operations and systemic blood and organ manufacturing with almost every body part now capable of being replaced.

Mortality in the developed world is around 81 years old and a global average around 67 years old.

Even the poorest nations such as Afghanistan or Chad have mortality around 50 years old.

Lifespans have improved in leaps and bounds from around 33 years old in 1800 to around 45 in 1900.

But in UK there is no National Plan – a Gilgamesh Plan - to extend mortality.

Certainly there’s nothing beyond crossing your fingers and relying on the natural increases in mortality that inches forward by an average of 2 years per decade.

But South Africa is aiming to do more than that – it’s National Plan is to improve mortality from 63 years old to 70 years old before 2020. That’s partly to reverse the carnage wrought by the HIV epidemic, but a deliberate longer-term public health initiative too.

While the Dutch Actuarial Association believes that Holland will easily achieve mortality rates of 91 years old for a child born this year.

And Google has developed Calico Research Labs:

Why isn’t UK doing more?

Why shouldn’t the NHS not just be rolling out basic improvements in cataract operation or 12,000 medical error deaths or speeding up the DNA tests – but putting in place a National Plan for Project Gilgamesh of say a minimum of 150 years old mortality by 2100?

Amortality is perfectly possible – extending mortality except for accidents – with current medical science and improvements in public health with air pollution and a focus on the 200 cancers, and basic cardiovascular problems that cause most natural deaths now.

UK is forecasting to be tobacco-free by 2025 which is muddling along at best with 16.9% of the adult population still smoking and gradually dying off.
And more could be done on food manufacturing: rapidly moving to sugar-free formulations in soda and food, and low-fat and low-chemical as a food standard.
New York City for example has already moved on bans of transfat fats and supersize fast food portions.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has not only called for 100% internet access which is completely feasible within a year or so. But he has also announced a $3BN to help end all diseases by 2100 – again a target that will easily be achieved.

The issue isn’t achieving the end of disease –but achieving it as rapidly as possible.

Malaria and HIV and TB are all falling well below the 1M deaths per year. Manufacturing and distributing a few million nets and condoms and tablets isn’t complicated.

It’s outrageous that the G20, that initiates 90% of the global economy, haven’t all already committed to 0.7% aid to achieve the UNSDG30.

And UK lags behind nations such as Philippines in ensuring the UNSDG30 are placed into national policy.

At the very least the G20 money could be printed and then the debt written off as a once-in-a-generation task.

And also with sewers and water filtration as basic public health initiatives, global mortality should be increased up from the average of 67 years old to 81 years old within 5 years or 10 years at the most.

Traffic accidents kill 1.2M people per year, and Smoking 5M, Air pollution 3M and Cancer 8M -so perhaps 20M lives worldwide each year could be saved from preventable causes.

Why hasn’t UK done it, when Netherlands and South Africa are already moving ahead on mortality?

And Sweden and Japan beat UK on most health indicators?
And certainly ending the horrifying regional discrepancies in mortality – a few miles and a different postcode in UK can mean dying upto 7 years earlier.

UK doesn’t even have a National Plan on ending air pollution with a requirement for all vehicles to be electric and all fuel sources to be fossil-free. By 2020? 2025? Who knows.

It’s a dying shame that UK isn’t more active on Project Gilgamesh.


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

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Kent, birthplace of the church – and advertising?

A wonderful, evocative book review in yesterday’s Sunday Times newspaper that I can only quote directly:

“In AD597, a ship landed on the coast of Kent. On board were 40 or so Italian monks, led by one Augustine, the future St Augustine of Canterbury. These men had been sent by Pope Gregory the Great as the first official mission to the Anglo-Saxons, and Augustine’s conversion of King Ethelbert of Kent around AD600 marks the true beginning of Christianity in England. The missionaries established a new cathedral at Canterbury and Augustine became its first Archbishop.
Justin Welby the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury is his direct linear successor.

In AD601 when it was clear that Augustine’s mission had been a success, Pope Gregory sent the Archbishop a parcel of books for use by the fledgling English Church. Among then was a small illuminated gospel book, containing the four New Testament Gospels in Jerome’s Latin translation. This manuscript a little faded by 1,400 years of use stands at the head of Christopher de Hamel’s spectacular Meetings with Manuscripts book.

For, wonder of wonders, St Augustine’s gospel book survives today, in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It is, writes de Hamel: “probably the oldest non-archaeological artefact of any kind to have survived in England””

Quite astonishing also that it was in effect the first advertisement in England – promoting the Church and Christianity - that still survives.

And then:

“…de Hamel, the librarian of Corpus Christi College, describes bringing the Gospels to Canterbury Cathedral in February 2003 for the enthronement of Rowan Williams as Archbishop (the book is used for the swearing of the oaths of office). As de Hamel entered the nave, the congregation was singing the Welsh hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”, he was holding the Gospels of St Augustine open on a cushion. The parchment leaves of the manuscript are extremely fine and of tissue thinness and they picked up the vibrations and they hummed and fluttered in time with the music. At that moment it was as if the 6th century manuscript on its cushion had come to life and was taking part in the service.”

How astonishing that here in East Kent nothing exists to commemorate St Augustine beyond a small stone cross near the landing site at Pegwell Bay. The latter a UNESCO and SSSI site along with The White Cliffs of Dover just around the headland, and the 3 UNESCO sites in Canterbury.

And the nearby Roman ruins of the fort at Richborough.

While Pegwell Bay is contaminated by the ruins of the old hovercraft site and dumped coal ash still not cleared away along with the rubble of the demolished Richboro power station.

Surely the Landings site, a version of the Jorvik attraction at York, with Caesar and St Augustine and Hengist and Horsa and Wellington and Hitler, should be brought back to life?

Even the Gospel book of St Augustine manuscript book brought back home and put on display in Canterbury after 1,400 years?

And all the more apt with the 950th anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings and recreation of the 300 mile march of King Harold from the victory over the Vikings at Stamford Bridge to Hastings:

A narrow defeat by William the Conqueror that ended the reign of the Anglo-Saxons and ushered in the Norman Conquest, and first delineations of Britain with the Bayeux Tapestry, and Domesday Book.


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

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Export growth driven through Thailand and UK?

Khun Bandid Nijathworn, CEO of Hitotsubashi University, and Thai Institute of Directors, makes some profound points on the global economy in his Bangkok Post article yesterday: “Thailand’s economy needs new growth drivers”.

China’s slow growth and debt and low interest rates is but one aspect of a global triple whammy along with the parlous state of the USA housing market and fragile Eurozone.

Here in UK interest rates are at their lowest-ever level since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 and even Japan has slumped into negative interest rates. The effects of the Brexit announcements for UK are yet to be fully-realised although OECD data this week suggests the UK economy has remained robust through the Summer with a slight increase in growth from 1.7% to 1.8%.

And with Thailand also recording a slight increase in growth to 3.3%, as detailed by Khun Bandid, but a 90% reduction in FDI - and the OECD slightly downgrading UK growth next year from 2% to 1%, then he is right that more in both nations needs to be done with such weak growth beyond just calls for government stimulus.

Politically, Thailand has a clear and stable roadmap back to full democracy and the kudos of the G77 chair, while the UK’s politics is still froth rather than substance at the moment – the LibDems party conference this week, the UK’s middle ground party between the Yellowshirts and Redshirts if you will, joked that they had the longest-serving UK party leader…all of 12 months.

Thailand, more so than UK at the moment, also has a clear action plan for its economy: the 2017 budget bill has been passed with a focus on hi-quality workers, SEZ, SME, R&D and higher priced branded agricultural products.

--Future Thailand and UK--

Surely, in my politics work of Meiji reforms in UK, and advertising role, such activity should form the basis of a joint UK-Thai economic programme to drive growth in both nations?

The problems of Thailand’s recent floods (and here in UK) and horrifying Ayutthaya ferry disaster are specific incidents underlining the need for prompt action as part of longer-term activity. On floods, shouldn’t UK and Thailand and Netherlands, the latter probably the world’s experts on water management, form a consortium for specific activity? To be blunt, UK and NL support would unlock not only their national funding but more importantly sustained EU and ADB/ASEAN activity in the Thailand and Mekong Delta for river management and sewer and monkey cheeks programmes?

While the UK need take no lessons from any nation in river and sea safety(or road safety with only 1,700 deaths and Kent Police active this week on Project Edward an EU-wide road safety programme) - with the RNLI lifeboats charity on coasts and rivers, also now even in the Thames in London following the Marchioness riverboat disaster of 51 deaths.

Prince William the heir to the UK throne after Prince Charles has also highlighted his search-and-rescue helicopter work. Along with the UK-Japan helicopter project that is waiting to take flight.

School swimming programmes and sports centre and swimming pool infrastructure must be ripe for UK-Thai cooperation – even preparation for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Thailand’s 2017 budget bill provides for £323BN THB, 13% of public expenditure, such as 47M THB to two universities, again surely ripe for cooperation between UK universities and Hitotsubashi and Thai universities? Today Oxford University becomes the first UK university to top the Times University league table – and with 19 other UK universities in the top 100.

The Science Ministry provides for 1.1BN THB for STEM activity with schools and universities. While the PM’s Office provides for 8.5M THB for digital training alone.

And with SRT, its 3.3BN THB funding allocation is timely, with the announcement this week of the completion of the Thai-Cambodia railway link at the border. The challenge now with dynamic companies such as Hitachi and their work on Thailand’s Purple Line, and HS1 hi-speed rail here in Kent's Ashford, is to deliver the rest of the rail network across Cambodia and through to HCMC.

That’s a distance about the same as London-Newcastle (the UK HS2 route) which is apt given the existing Kasetsart and Newcastle University rail engineering cooperation, and site of the second major Hitachi depot in the UK’s North East – one of the largest outside Japan.

--Beyond Big Ticket Economics--

And beyond the big-ticket multi-national projects and global macro-economics, surely UK and Thailand could work together on OTOP activity on silk or rice, expanding the dynamic Thai bank and insurance offering into London, and creating a raft of SME and start-up activity for both nations?

UK and Thai cooperation on Zika and Dengue and AMR vaccines and hospital exchange programmes must surely be pushing against an open door? While the potential in retail, automotive and textiles and fishing and mega-infrastructure projects all down the line needs little explanation.

On automotive for example, the UK this week announced its highest 6 month car manufacturing figures since 2000 of 1,023,723 cars, and highest August manufacturing figures since 2002 of 109,000 cars. While the Ford Bridgend auto factory celebrates its 20 millionth engine produced in 37 years.

The dynamic Local Government Minister and former Tourism and Business Minister Sajid Javid is getting into the fast lane too, with Kent’s dynamic Business Minister Greg Clark and dynamic Trade Minister Liam Fox, leading a US trade mission for the Midlands Engine, part of the Northern Powerhouse business-growth programmes.

All must be ripe for partnership with Thailand’s expanding automotive parts sector. And that volume of automotive expertise drives through into the hispeed rail and aerospace and space markets too as Thailand steps up the value chain.

Just one point on the latter, Germany’s street protests against TTIP between EU and USA, can only mean greater emphasis on the less contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership, and links such as say Vinh deep sea port with rail connectivity through to the markets of Vientiane and Isaan.

The ships of the future jostling for space in Vinh harbour destined for the USA and Latin American markets should be full not just of Vietnamese coffee and Lao sticky rice and Thai orchids, but Thai automotive parts, Vietnamese mobile phone parts and Lao water turbines.

And hopefully there will room in the shipping and rail containers for even more sticky rice too.

The EU Bratislava Summit concluded last week with the bold announcement of free wifi and 5G in every European city before 2020. London alone would require 500,000 mini-masts, and the likes of True and AIS and their manufacturing supply chain, and engineers and software designers, must surely want to participate in European markets?

If the UK and Thai Royal Mint are already working together – in literally printing money – then why shouldn’t British Telecom and True metaphorically do the same?

UK and Laos have announced their first Lao postage stamp with a British designer – why shouldn’t the dynamic UK and Thai post offices create stamps and coins by UK and Thai artists of say Kent and Thai orchids, or music given The Beatles Sgt Pepper anniversary next year? UK music and arts fans might want their ears opened to Morlam rather just Penny Lane or Peter Blake.

Initial figures show another record year for UK tourism abroad: over 6M to Spain – surely that should be a template to boost the 1M UK tourist visits to Thailand say with a tourism simcard and promotional offers? Even expansion of the already-booming UK cruise ships Asian market from Honiara to Hanoi – Saga the major over-50’s travel group, based here in East Kent announcing an 8.5% increase in profits.

Almost nothing can stop the Great British Tourist pulling on their Union Jack shorts or bikini and heading for the sun. Thailand and ASEAN with UK partnerships should be aiming for a greater slice of that cake. Or, Japan's tourists to Kent sipping on a taste of home as Shepherd Neame the UK's oldest brewer (just 4 years shy of the Bank of England) barrels along with both Kentish ale and Asahi.

Khun Bandid is right to highlight the slow growth that afflicts both UK and Thailand and the need for new growth drivers so shouldn’t both nations change gears, and get motoring on increasing growth?

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR agency, director of Surin Village School Charity with the first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 schools each year, and is standing for MP in 2020 for better UK-Thailand and ASEAN activity. He likes Asahi but is not too sure about Oranjeboom.


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

Friday, 16 September 2016

Bangkok: A Green Lung, and a City of Orchids?

Khun Sirinya Wattana Sukchai makes some very eloquent points in her Makkasan park article: Makkasan Snag is Good News.

The photographs supporting her article are eloquent too and make Makkasan look to have the potential to rival New York City’s Central Park – pressures to nibble away at the green space resisted even with 60M tourists each year - – or through my British eyes, London’s Hyde Park.

And why not: Bangkok as a world city, or just as with any city of 11M people, is desperately in need of parks and green spaces. It’s one of the world’s worst and certainly one of the worst in Asia.

According to the 2011 Asian Green City Index – a research project conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Siemens – Bangkok ranked fifth, out of six Southeast Asian cities surveyed, in terms of green space per city dweller. The city’s green space per capita came in at a meagre 3.3 square meters.

Singapore has 66.2 square meters of green space per person amidst its skyscrapers, Kuala Lumpur has 43.9 square meters, Hanoi has 11.2 square meters and Manila 4.5 square meters.

Bangkok beats only Jakarta, which scores a measly 2.3 square meters per person.

As well, Bangkok’s amount of greenery is almost three times less than the international standard of nine square meters per person set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

~~Cities and quality of Life~~

Put simply, too many skyscrapers and concrete is unhealthy. The quality of life flowing from the design of such buildings is a separate point.

Both the reopening and cleaning of klongs and the Chaopraya River Walk would move Krungthep back to a more liveable city when it was billed as the Venice of the East. Friends remember the jungle encroaching upto Siam Square just 50 years ago.

And Phnom Penh is under similar overdevelopment town centre pressures with the rather bizarre draining and infill of Boeung Kak lake. Or the danger of losing the British colonial architecture of Yangon’s iconic waterfront for, of course, more identikit skyscrapers.

Does the SRT railway really need to sell the Makkasan land for yet more identikit skyscrapers and malls?

In a previous blog article I’ve mentioned the Colliers Property Reports forecasting a trend for the smaller-scale Community Malls. These would fit in with Khun Sirinya’s view of a museum (to Thai architecture?) or gallery at Makkasan.

Even an open air amphitheatre for plays or khon, or fashion catwalk, and a lido open-air swimming pool?

And with Thong Lor breathing new life into the hip bars and cafes and galleries, surely a Makkasan equivalent of NYC’s Greenwich Village, in the surrounding streets, would be of more use to Bangkok’s ambitious tourism targets?

Almost certainly it would be of more use than yet more half-empty hi-so mega-malls selling very few Chanel handbags?

Eventually the Skytrain expansion and electric cars and autonomous taxis and lorries will remove much of the traffic jams and choking air pollution from Bangkok. But the concrete canyons along Ploenchit will still block out much of the light and atmosphere of Bangkok without such counterbalances as Makkasan.

HCMC in Vietnam has made huge strides in cleaning and opening up the Saigon River in District 1 –literally an open sewer not so long ago - and ensuring the central parks are maintained and protection of heritage assets such as the French colonial architecture and Basson inner port.

Even in London the pollution cleanup has been so successful that there are now signs of salmon the whole length of the River Thames and as far downstream as Parliament.

London rail though (both above ground and the Tube) have been bedevilled by such urban black-holes of development so it feels a very familiar problem. Liverpool St station in the heart of the City was surrounded by derelict land, even WW2 bomb sites for decades.

~~East Kent city planning~~

And here in East Kent municipal incompetence, public apathy and rampant political and civil service corruption have left the iconic Dreamland amusement park and Pleasurama site, both Kent’s largest seafront developments, derelict for years through a mix of insurance fires and British Virgin islands tax haven mystery paydays.

But London does better than most cities with a ribbon of green space through the centre of the city allowing you to walk from Hyde Park through to Green Park and Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus and onto the Thames Embankment river walks.

And even pocket parks such as the Embankment Gardens next to Parliament, with its statue of Chinese Gordon of Khartoum and Chin lions from Myanmar, and rows of hanging baskets of flowers on the lampposts.

Surely SRT could turn the land over to a Community Trust to develop plans for a park and preserve the railway houses in time for their 120th Anniversary next year?
With the expansion of ASEAN Rail hispeed rail and a Makkasan park, both SRT and the public would have cause for celebration.

And Bangkok a City of Orchids as per the headline? Why not a park and botanical garden, similar to Kew Gardens in London, to showcase Thailand’s orchids and orchid industries?

No unsightly greenhouses needed just row after row of flower displays as ay Keukenhof tulips in Netherlands.

And what a wonderful flourish to say give away to Bangkokians a fresh orchid every day?

The glib epithets of BKK as the Venice of the East or Saigon as the Paris of East fade away to so much old-fashioned and neo-colonial tourist brochure cliches compared to home-grown industries such as orchids.

Here in East Kent with the rare Kentish orchids as our District flower, we’d be keen to support that too.

And a park at Makkasan would be a Green Lung for all Bangkok, and a lifebuoy in an ocean of cement.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR agency, director of Surin Village School Charity with the first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 schools each year, and is standing for MP in 2020 for better UK-Thailand and ASEAN activity. He likes orchids.


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

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The smile wiped off Thailand’s face?

What a heart-breaking week for Thai students. First the appalling hazing incident at Kasetsart Chonburi campus with Khun Chokchai almost drowning in a water treatment pond. And only now recovering and off a hospital respirator. (If water training was involved why wasn't the Kasetsart swimming pool used?).

Then the egg-tofu incident of a Surin schoolgirl being forced by a teacher to eat a tofu she was allergic to – a serious allergic reaction could have killed her.

And now Khun Narudee the Korat schoolgirl disfigured by a PE teacher throwing a china mug at her. And the report of a Mae Hot Son schoolboy having part of his ear cut off by a teacher!?

Obviously such incidents must be rare in Thailand, and are non-existent in UK except by other schoolchildren bulling each other. If anything many UK teachers are bullied by the schoolkids.

But what a horrifying indictment on Thai education. And surely Thailand’s excellent hospitals and surgeons should be stepping forward to help Khun Narudee?

Hospitals in Nakhon Ratchasima must be in touch with say Mahidol University and then the range of specialist hospitals and doctors in Thailand or ASEAN?

In my candidacy I would even make sure the UK government and NHS stepped in to help, whether Khun Narudee is flown to England or a UK surgeon flown to Thailand. Even Operation Smile and its work on similar facial disfigurements for cleft-palates must be able to help.

(update: Khun Pavena Honsakula and The Pavena Foundation for women and Children are helping and Yanhee hospital in BKK).

Shouldn’t UK and Thai hospitals and nursing colleges and governments pull together a specialist fund for such unusual and needy cases?

Here in Kent some UK hospital services are already available in Benelux so the other EU embassies in Thailand would no doubt be supportive too?

The UK NHS is world-class and with the largest number of staff after the Peoples Liberation Army and Walmart so one injured Thai schoolgirl would pose no problems.

And there is wider concern of the NHS brand being rolled out with UK tax by say Moorfields Eye Hospital to bling-bling Dubai – but for paying cataract operations etc not the free at source basis of the NHS.

Indeed a recent BBCTV documentary highlighted the work of foreign staff in the NHS – with worries over the 3.6% EU (and 4% Commonwealth and 2.6% other international) staff in the NHS being put off by Brexit and leaving UK. In that instance Myleene Klass the singer, radio DJ and piano player’s Filipino mother who worked at Norfolk hospitals. And reporting from Belfast on the upgrade of the first specialist NHS hospital built in 1962.

As a Surin School charity founder surely there is no place for teachers behaving in thus way to the schoolkids – and the potential for greater UK and Thailand links?

While the former Chief Constable for Greater Manchester Police has opened a Street Kids charity for the street kids of Cambodia and Philippines and East Africa.

A positive change from the dark days of Latin America and the Brazilian military regime exterminating street kids, but the Olympic Rio favelas still with desperate poverty and crime. 19 out of 20 of the world’s most dangerous cities in Latin America as worse than most warzones – only Cape Town and Joburg in South Africa as bad.

Even the boiling water burns common in Isaan – here in South East England there is the Queen Victoria specialist burns hospital supported by the famous UK actress Angela Redman who suffered serious cooking burns as a child. The hospital was originally developed as a pioneer in burns treatments for the “Guinea Pig Club” of RAF pilots injured by burning planes in WW2 and telepresence training and surgery is available.

While the Khun Chokchai highlights the appalling number of drownings in ASEAN: 35 each day just in Vietnam.

Wouldn’t the Thai Red Cross be a relevant port of call too for assistance? It can do no harm for the UK and Thai Red Crosses to have closer links with each other. And expand work with the Red Crescent in Malaysia and Myanmar?

An interesting new advertising campaign in UK with 59% of road deaths occur before an ambulance arrives providing a spur for Red Cross First Aid training. Or simply to raise awareness of innovative products such as Lucky Iron Fish to reduce iron deficiency and anaemia in malnutrition.

And both the Red Cross and RNLI lifeboats would be relevant to help with swim training and to reduce drownings in rivers or the sea.

I’ve written before on the dangers of cooking fires, cook stoves and an excellent UNSDG fires report that far exceeds anything UK has done so far:

Thailand in its dying days of the G77 presidency should be urging each nation to adopt and adapt the UNSDG30 goals through their public sector ie schools, hospitals, police, local government etc? Otherwise the goals will simply be a piece of paper ignored in the filing cabinet and 2030 will come and go with nothing done.

20M preventable deaths each year before 2030 for the lack of soap, clean water, vaccines, malaria nets and condoms, would be a terrible epitaph to such failure.
But surely UK and Thailand between them can restore Khun Narudee's smile?

Time for Change

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Thailand too coconut-shy in the face of sugar?

Khun Achalee Kongrut in her article "Sugar policy has a bitter taste" makes a disturbing point in Thai agricultural policy. Should Thailand be seeking to expand its sugar production, with an extra 25 factories amidst the existing 54 sites?

Who will have such a sweet tooth? The sugar tax being developed in UK – and existing in Mexico – and being discussed in Thailand can only result in less demand for sugar.

Already Muhtar Kent (good name!) the CEO of Coca-Cola has approved increasing sugar-free soda to at least 50% of the UK products sold. And producing more sodas that are sugar-free.

Certainly a target that shouldn’t be hard to achieve especial with increasing public and Government pressure.

Surely within say 3-5 years the Thai sugar market – facing increased competition with the opening up of Cuba this summer – will be facing intolerable pressures? Cuba after all is one giant sugar plantation. And no doubt Cuba is easier and nearer for USA soda companies to source sugar from than Thailand or ASEAN?
Shouldn’t Thailand – and its ASEAN partners - be taking active steps this year to manage the market and other growth sectors?

While Khun Achalee is right to highlight the dangers of burning forest and crops – the Indonesian fires and haze a Public Health impact and source of conflict with Singapore and Malaysia. While here in London the fog and haze from burning coal rather than wood in The Great Smog of 1952 killed over 12,000 people and ushered in the Clean Air Act.

A nurse at the time described how the soot penetrated clothing and left even underwear stained black.

Washing your underpants with a coughing fit isn’t ideal.

Air pollution in general is considered the world’s most dangerous killer with 1.5M deaths and cooking fire and BBQ soot particulates under pressure to switch to cleaner energy.

And research published just today by the Organic Trade Board describes the UK as a nation of organic food lovers: 80% of Brits eat it in the last year and 65% in the last month. The top 5 products must be relevant for Thailand’s farmers and Agriculture Ministry: vegetables, eggs, fruit, milk and chicken. Although the best substitute for milk may be soya milk for Thailand? I’ve urged cooperation with Alpro soyamilk in Belgium as a part of the East Kent Benelux economic policy.

While coconut production is undergoing a boom with the Superfoods trend of healthy eating and in particular coconut water – as are pineapples and pomegranates.

The Independent newspaper reports yesterday how coconut oil is also heavily-promoted as a natural skincare product. And as a healthier alternative to saturated fats.

Even the husks can be used in the auto industry too as a filling for car seats.

A further opportunity for Thailand’s enterprising farmers across Isaan and beyond, is coconuts sold with an inclusive ring-pull as with a soda drink to more easily open it and drink the juice. Demand for coconuts is so great that the Dominican Republic cannot meet demand, while the Caribbean as a whole has seen plantations decline by 17% since 1994 as detailed by UN-FAO.

Surely as part of the new Digital Ministry overhaul, such market trends could be followed and capitalised upon along with the potential for Digital Farms?

A sweeter future for Thailand and ASEAN?

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR agency, director of Surin Village School Charity with the first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 schools each year, and is standing for MP in 2020 for better UK-Thailand and ASEAN activity. He doesn't have a sweet tooth.


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

Education 4.0 - Thailand and UK

Khun Kannapa Chartiyanon, the Bangkok Post journalist and university business management lecturer, makes some eloquent points in her “Thailand 4.0 needs to be tuned into higher learning” article.

The PM Prayut initiative on Thailand 4.0 to drive up the quality of teachers and education is an important one, and resonates here in UK.
Last week began both the debate on reintroduction of grammar schools and the new school year.

It’s safe to say the latter as expected but not the former. With the UK still facing the effects of the Great Recession of 2008 and a summer of silliness if not political collapse with Brexit, then few people have been heard to call for a revamp of the whole UK education system.

Khun Kannapa’s point that education is far more than a building while specific vocational courses, has mentions aviation courses in particular, can diminish the quality of education are all part of the UK debate.

The UK s famed for the quality of its education system especially universities – the world top ten being American or UK universities. A success highlighted by UK being 5x smaller in population than USA and only 0.8% of the world population.

I’ve volunteered and taught in Thai and Kent schools and universities in English, and Advertising, and Business Studies and highly recommend it.
Universities such as MMU, SPU, King Mongkut, Kasetsart as well as Chula and Thammasat and Silpakorn have much to offer UK.

The UK education system certainly isn’t perfect - here in Kent, Medway district has the worst-performing primary schools in UK.

The Kent councillor responsible for education and social services sadly died last week to warm praise from both political parties, yet aside from the schools being abysmal, Kent social services had to be gutted in the face of vulnerable children scandals.

And the Archbishop of Canterbury is now calling for faster action on refugee children for the nearby Calais Jungle, and the ongoing Northfleet children scandal of the children being born with their intestines on the outside of their bodies.

All this with a KCC budget of $3BN per year just to manage the schools. And the schools and university budgets being extra to that figure.

The new Theresa May government calling for a more equal society especially for white working class boys to attend university. And calls to end charitable status for public schools such as Eton and increase the State school quota beyond 59%.

Rather than grammar school a wider but more effective issue may be extra teachers, smaller classes, removing asbestos from schools etc.

And research this week shows the gender gap remains with Middlesborough being the worst town in UK to be a girl. Unfortunately Medway has equal opportunities towns in not being ideal for girls or boys yet.

It’s horrifying that UK classes literacy as a reading age of 8 years old at age 16.

Thailand though is making strides in university education with 8 placed in the QQS World rankings: Chula, Mahidol, Chiang Mai, Thammasat, Kasetsart, Khon Kaen, King Mongkut, and Prince of Songkla.

Shouldn’t the UK and Thailand form a long-term partnership in education with these universities as a minimum?

Almost no universities in Thailand have formal links and exchange programmes with UK universities.

Kasetsart being a dynamic exception with strong UK and EU and ASEAN links with its International dept, especially Newcastle University and its railway engineering courses.
And no Thai language courses or high schools or Rajabhat universities have formal links with UK universities.
What a massive waste of both nations’ human capital?

Kent has 4 universities that are chomping at the bit to partner with Thai and ASEAN universities.

Kent University is a top 30 UK university (with an excellent journalism dept) while CCU Canterbury Christchurch University has strong teacher training and police forensic course, sports sciences and cinema departments. And a very strong business department and vocational courses and apprenticeships and work experience placements.

The latter could also be relevant for Gap Summers and Gap Years for UK students and teachers in Thai schools. Thailand has a golden opportunity, before eventually the African Commonwealth nations such as Kenya or Ghana will put in place similar programmes, and strategic growth markets such as Senegal, Mali, South Africa, Malawi and Angola.

Or tighter Latin American growth market programmes with Mexico, Cuba, Chile and Argentina for example.

I’ve written before on Discovery Park and Sittingbourne science labs here in East Kent (both sites just 20km from the universities and with their own on-site STEM campus) for vaccines research and production – the former the largest US inward investment in Europe with Pfizer.

Both have excellent International Student departments and calls for Kent to have at least one top 200 university in the next decade. But already nursing exchanges are in place at CCU with DaNang university – Vietnam is not slow in grasping the opportunity.

Will Khun Kannapa join me in urging a Thai-UK Education partnership to create ASEAN Studies courses and languages and lift the number of Thai students in UK from 8,000 to 17,000 – the latter number only the same as Malaysian students in UK now?

Shouldn’t all 8 top performing Thai universities be linked not only to a UK university but also specific departments? Khun Kannapa must know of Mahidol MUGO and MMOU business expertise.

Plus there is East Kent vocational college opening its own hotel for customer service training and Creative Industries courses. Plus 400 other schools including Kings School in Canterbury the world’s oldest school, and dozens and dozens of language schools.

DaNang University in Vietnam is already the largest UK education investment. And UK has an Education export target for £30BN to be achieved – and with both Thailand and Vietnam as key growth economies.

Khun Kannapa highlights the range of social enterprise programmes in Thailand’s universities and vocational schools. While the quality of English language teaching and learning is an ongoing issue in Thailand – to the benefit of Commonwealth nations such as Malaysia and Singapore and former USA colony Philippines, with English as the official second language of ASEAN.

And David Cameron before standing down as PM and now MP made it clear that any international student graduating form a UK university and with a graduate-level job would be entitled to stay on in UK if they wished to do so.

Shouldn’t a Thai-UK university and education partnership help deliver on Thailand 4.0? For both nations to grasp such an opportunity would surely mark them out as top-class?

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR agency, director of Surin Village School Charity with the first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 schools each year, and is standing for MP in 2020 for better UK-Thailand and ASEAN activity.


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

Monday, 12 September 2016

Thailand – You’ll Never Work Alone - and the UK Creative Industries

Khun Anchalee Kongrut makes some very interesting points in her "Bangkok Architecture Mish-mash" article on architecture in The Bangkok Post last week.

The fuss over the new MahaNakhon skyscraper “The Pixel Tower” and use of a German architect is a little worrying for any farang-in-a-vest like me, and for Thailand plc and the warmth of welcome in Thailand for foreign businesses, especially given the 90% fall in Foreign Direct Investment.

Surely on that basis alone Thailand plc should be encouraging foreign business?

We’ve seen in UK recently with the Brexit silliness, and the knee-jerk racism of UKIP, the chilling effect on foreign investment and a brain drain of EU nationals. France and Germany are rather cleverly and cheekily running advertising campaigns to encourage emigration in the STEM and Digital Industries and Creative Industries from London and Manchester etc to Paris and Berlin.

That said, Khun Anchalee’s views on the Robot Building of United Overseas Bank, and general mish-mash state of Bangkok’s architecture is very interesting.

In my advertising role, clients such as Schuco I consider as architectural art, or Cardiff Bay Redevelopment one of the most successful regeneration of projects in Europe with the Zaha Hadid-designed Opera House. Kent’s Thames Gateway 2050 project stretching over 40 miles of the North Kent coast to London Docklands and Essex coast has similar potential, and supervised by Lord Heseltine who oversaw the development of skyscraper-central Docklands and Canary Wharf 30 years ago.

The UK generally has an excellent reputation for town planning with parks and preservation of historical buildings and riversides. But too often destruction by town planner can take over with white elephant shopping malls, hideous car parks and ring roads and drab town halls.

Here in London the excess of skyscrapers (and novelty skyscrapers at that) such as The Shard (Europe's tallest building) or The Walkie-Talkie building (34 storeys-525feet) or The Gherkin (41 storeys-591feet) and The Cheesegrater (48 storeys-738feet)have caused concern over the London skyline, Prince Charles famously referring to the National Gallery extension as a carbuncle, and just last month the view around Parliament – a UNESCO heritage site – gained increased protection from such skyscrapers.

The concern is that by 2025 with a new wave of skyscrapers, London's skyline could be completely altered and for the worse - both Big Ben and Parliament and St Paul's Cathedral are only 20 storeys high. The annual London Tall Buildings Survey and The Skyline Campaign are expressing concern calling for tighter planning regulations.

The demolition this week of the iconic Isle of Grain Chimney, on the Kent-London border, the largest concrete structure in Europe, twice the size of Big Ben, and marginally taller than The Shard, represents the restructuring of Docklands.

As an aside, East Kent’s Charles Dickens set Great Expectations and his iconic criminal Magwitch in the malarial swamps around the Isle of Grain in Kent.

But the Chinese property firm plans for The Spire London, the tallest residential skyscraper in Europe at 67 storeys high, is part of the architectural tale of excess, overbuild, infill and gigantism. Identikit skyscrapers or yet more hi-so malls would also diminish quality of life and tourism in world cities such as London and Bangkok.

In my MP role would Khun Anchalee consider UK support in terms of town planning on projects such as the Chaopraya Promenade (The Embankment riverside walk opposite Parliament is a protected site and the first mega-sewer/water management project in the world) and say Yodpiman and the wider Chaopraya River Walk Partners project?

Even the beautiful Basson docks in HCMC needs careful design management not just a London Docklands-splodge of concrete and glass.

The UK could do with paying attention to the success of the Asiatique docks project in BKK, or the debate in Phnom Penh over the Vattanac skyscraper and Boeung Kak Lake infill.

The Bagan earthquake and tremor waving through Bangkok's skyscrapers represents a self-evident concern for stronger earthquakes in Bangkok's concrete canyons.

Kent has suffered from WW2 bomb damage and V1 and V2 rockets and many towns in Medway, such as Gillingham, or Maidstone are decried as Crap Towns for as-destructive town planning hence the Thames Gateway2050 mega-construction repair project.

But successful town planning can take place - here in Kent we successfully saw off the excesses of Boris Island airport and concerns over Operation Stack Dover ferries mega-lorry park, concreting almost the whole County.

And closure of Manston airport that would have been a cargo airport larger than Gatwick. Near to Gatwick. And Ostend cargo airport, then Europe’s largest cargo airport and overdue for closure with gunrunning and drugs and blood diamond flights into Africa. I know. You couldn’t make it up could you?

And there are sensible initial discussions around Channel Tunnel #2 and Thames bridges.

Last week saw the reconstruction of the whole South Window of Canterbury Cathedral and its 1,000 year old stained glass windows – indeed the Archbishop of Dover Trevor Wilmott (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s right-hand man)used his Easter Message to promote closer Buddhist links in Kent relevant for my Pavilion project, and the work already done by the Thai government with temples in London and Manchester.

I’ve mentioned before my KORA and East Kent Film Office and Studio and Pavilion jazz club and Buddhist temple previously.

The potential must be to define the Bangkok skyline for the future – a huge tourism growth area for Bangkok being the various rooftop bars. I’ve Zeppelin Bar on my wishlist for my next visit specifically for its unusual skyline vista. As well as increasing parks and open spaces (Bangkok having some of the lowest of such features in the world) and as with the Yodpiman project opening up the rivers and klongs as The Venice of the East.

And if Khun Anchalee raises the idea of a better Bangkok then the recent Colliers International property reports may be useful. Bangkok’s 8M square metres of office space may be confined in such towers as The Pixel, but Khun Suracheet Kongcheep of Colliers Property Group highlights innovative office space trends such as serviced offices, mini-offices, home-offices , serviced business parks – and crucially the innovative growth area of co-working office spaces.

Not just a desk and internet connection any more but a quality office community for such companies as Hubba whose motto both headlines this article and namechecks The Liverpool Kop. As well as growth in Facilities companies and jobs to manage such boutique sites along with financing and venture capital and seed capital companies and banks.

In East Kent we have the excellent Fruitworks innovative business hub in Canterbury. Indeed 33% of all employees in Adecco research cited the quality of the office community as key for their workspace. And even more crucially, and something UK is actively trying to redress in its industrial strategy, is less of an emphasis on the corporate giants of Apple or Microsoft or whoever, that tend to yield comparatively little tax and few jobs.

But rather, more of an emphasis on small business and start-ups that generate innovation and growth in jobs, profits and taxes.

And in particular, Thailand and UK could be two nations united in shopping – Thailand’s glittering skyscraper malls are concrete proof of that.

While the Napoleonic insult of England as a nation of shopkeepers is taken as a compliment rather an insult in the UK High St. So, shouldn’t Thailand and UK be active in stimulating retail growth? Both countries could do with each other’s support: this week Marks and Spencer’s the anchor tenant to almost every UK High St (and only 17 stores in Thailand) announced 500 job losses at its head office and revamp of its fashions.

No particular problems at the Great British M&S (over 800 UK stores) just the normal ups and downs of the fashion business, and also a key ASEAN retailer with not just of its stores in Thailand but clothing manufacturing sites in Cambodia, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

As good as reason as any to shop there, and perfect for collaborationwith Tesco Lotus or Jim Thompson or Doitung and other Thai and Laos and Cambodian silk connoisseurs. While Paul Smith and Prince Charles last week began a concerted promotion of the UK wool industry (with a green sheep in sunglasses and an Olympic gymnast display in a suit – wacky but wonderful!).

But back to architecture and the sale of the British Embassy off Ploenchit is a concern in UK and BKK for several reasons. More malls along Ploenchit will create a concrete canyon-effect off-putting for everybody. While the sale would remove all the Embassy gardens and famous garden party events, and a prestigious address befitting the importance UK places on relations with Thailand – in the past, now and in the future.

Innovative property solutions could be found in say UK and Canada sharing the building for maximum use as in the UK Embassy in Phnom Penh. And certainly the garden parties should be a key feature of the Bangkok social and business and sports scene. Why not a 5-a-side footy match or takraw display as well as a green sheep in Raybans?

And shouldn’t the BKK embassy building be a showcase for UK and Thai architects?

While the Thai Retailers Association announced just 2.85% growth – the lowest in 20 years. And if 58% of Thai retail is malls and 96% of these are occupied then the growth area of the future must be Community Malls.

The HCMC Basson not so dissimilar to the design concerns over Fort Mahakan – the UK doing better than most nations in preserving architecture and town centres.
And as Khun Achalee points out with Yaowarat, wouldn’t such sensitive redevelopment be relevant there?

Khun Achalee may want to consider not just the skyline, but also the materials used in Bangkok’s malls and skyscrapers. That old stand-by of construction – and especially in Thailand – wood is making a comeback in Europe.

The 14-storey wooden Treet block of flats in Bergen is the tallest in Europe so far. New advances in Engineered Wood, not just graphene, such as CLT Cross-Laminated Timber and concrete surfacing are both super-strong and fire-resistant.

Useful too in London given the anniversary last week of the Great Fire of London 350 years ago.

Canada is constructing wooden tower blocks of flats at the University of British Columbia (relevant too for extra students at Kasetsart or SPU, downtown heritage sites at Chula and Thammasart?). And Arup Engineers is bridging the design gap with the 21-storey wooden Haut building in Amsterdam. And plans are developed for The Treetop 40-storey skyscraper in Stockholm.

Engineered wood allows for quieter construction with less digging and pouring of concrete and fewer lorries delivering concrete and steel, And of course the ability to carve the material into almost any shape or design.

And the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation are working on plans for an 80-storey wooden skyscraper in the City of London which would be the second tallest building after The Shard.

And this week Winston Churchill’s home at Chartwell here in Kent, just a few miles from Chevening the home of the UK Foreign Secretary and name of the UK scholarships to Thailand now tripled, began fundraising to improve the house and develop it as a museum. Churchill taking great pride in his bricklaying work for the extensive garden walls.

But shouldn’t Chevening scholarships also lay the foundation of Creative Industries such as architecture between UK and Thailand.
The dynamic Andrew Glass head of British Council Thailand and Khun Jai are heading up the arts projects have unleashed a veritable tsunami of both arts and crafts eg weaving and printing and education links and conferences deftly ensuring Thailand within the British Council organisation is peerless.

Khun Achalee is right to point out that Chinese shophouses in Bangkok's Yaowarat are overdue a revival and renaissance.

Then as she says, she could hold her high, and enjoy the quality of architecture in Bangkok, and take pride in her town.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR agency, director of Surin Village School Charity with the first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 schools each year, and is standing for MP in 2020 for better UK-Thailand and ASEAN activity. He gets vertigo.

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, 10 September 2016

Are Thai and UK schoolchildren being failed? Egg tofu on your face, and Fashion Police patrols?

The Bangkok Post article on Thai schoolchildren IQ deficit must be a major concern in the Thai Government, Education Ministry, and for Thai parents and schoolkids.

For the Isaan provinces to show IQ 5 points less than the major Thai cities is astonishing. Only Buriram was the exception - perhaps a successful football team or stunning temple lintels and carvings, stimulating debate and brain cells?

And the Western border provinces too.

An ongoing problem as reported in 2011 by The Nation:

It struck a chord with me in my Surin Village School Charity role having built the first school in Isaan (for just $30,000 - about the price of a small garage in UK) and with plans to build 1,000 schools each year in ASEAN and beyond.

Perhaps as part of the debate on improving Thai education the Surin Schools project is relevant in that the parents and teachers and children became motivated by the idea of a new school - not just building a building. Wider enthusiasm was for ensuring the curriculum was overhauled and the provision of a range of equipment such as a library and books, internet satellite, and boys and girls separate toilets.

The schoolgirls of Ellingham School here in Ramsgate in East Kent, also provided pencil cases and pens and pencils as Xmas gifts too. The fundraising for the school was helped by £1 donations from many members of the public and diners in the Surin Thai restaurant (try the seabass!).

The only disappointment in the process was the excessively bureaucratic and unhelpful UK Charity Commission - the school was built for only $30,000 which is extraordinarily good value - all the more so as the president of the commission is something of a hero of mine: William Shawcross and his book Sideshow on the secret war in Cambodia.

The Isaan IQ deficit issue seems a useful indicator of wider problems, for surely such targets are not genetic factors but a range of issues such as malnutrition and stunting – the Surin school project in Mali, West Africa highlighted the importance of school dinners to ensure both school attendance and concentration and learning.

For sadly Isaan isn’t alone in facing education problems - the Medway primary schools here in Kent are the worst in UK requiring urgent reform.

And the UK literacy rate of 99% is laughable in that it assumes a reading age of 8 years old at age 16. In effect UK education having no discernible effect on literacy after 8 years old is appalling failure.

The debate on UK grammar schools suddenly announced this week is ideological fluff but an attempt to begin to redress social dislocation.

Improved school buildings and a range of extra-curricular activities such as playing sport or learning a musical instrument or after-school societies and homework clubs are always cited as important by the UK public schools that achieve the highest grades such as Eton or Harrow.

Probably the $50,000 cost each year for Eton being a motivating effect for parents and students too.

The changes to the Thai university entrance system have also highlighted concerns over too-frequent changes. Similar issues are also being raised in UK over dumbing down of classwork and grade inflations with courses being made easier.

And there are concerns over the quality of UK university courses with the proverbial Beckham Studies of non-courses to ensure the 50% target for university education is reached. And student concerns over access to experienced lecturers and discussion time.

The CEO of Universities UK, the trade body for the UK’s 130 universities, Julia Goodfellow is Chancellor of Kent University, where I am a Visiting Professor with talks on Advertising, this week detailed the £7BN value of international students – and the £30BN UK education export target.

Shouldn’t a specific UK-Thailand education group be established to ensure smoother expansion of the Chevening scholarships to UK Universities now tripled, as well as English language teachers in Isaan schools – even Gap years and gap Summers or coordinating VolunTourism volunteer work?

The latter is something of a hot potato in UK at the moment with Harry Potter author JK Rowling railing against teachers or schoolkids or tourists helping out in schools or orphanages in ASEAN.

Couldn’t the British Council designation for language schools in Thailand – and indeed Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam – be extended to cover Voluntourism projects? USA is far more active with the Peace Corps.

The visit to Laos by President Obama last week will no doubt also kick-start USA education programmes there too. His first speech clearly spelled out that the single most important factor for the benefit of Laos plc was improving its education system - especially the education of young girls.

Hugh Evans, the UK ambassador to Laos (new embassies opened in both Vientiane and London recently) has secured the first education programmes with the Laos National University. And even a UK artist designing a postage stamp for the Laos Post office – surely such items are ripe for coordination with the Thailand Post Office and UK Royal Mint and GPO programmes already in place for Thai coinage and stamps?

Isaan schoolboys like UK schoolboys could improve their knowledge of countries or birds or orchids through the medium of postage stamps?

One fun aspect of the Surin School was having the Isaan kids draw their impressions of Britain – cue Big Ben, London buses and cups of tea. While the Surin comic in development will detail for Thai and UK schools the story of the charity and Isaan etc (sponsors gratefully received!).

Aston University in Birmingham, the Kalasin of UK, has signed an MOU in developing the UK university and Tech park at DaNang in Vietnam, the largest UK education investment in ASEAN – shouldn’t innovative universities such as Kasetsart rail engineering or Mahidol MMU or SPU be doing something similar?

While Lord David Puttnam the UK Trade Mister for ASEAN, the producer of The Killing Fields Pol Pot movie written by East Kent’s Bruce Robinson, is active in online education in Ireland. The UK’s Open University has for 40 years provided the MOOC online university courses (free right now for Thai students) and BBC English language learning that could be also tailored to Thailand.

Thai universities and exchange students should be reassured that David Cameron in one of his final speeches as PM pointed out that foreign students to UK could stay on after graduating if they had a graduate-level job.

With Oxford and Cambridge now with compulsory quotas of State school students as high as 59% shouldn’t Thailand consider similar programmes in Isaan with Chula and Thammasat and Samaggi? And also with the Russell Group Top 20 UK universities existing exchange programmes to swap UK and Thai teachers and pupils and Ministry of Education staff?

If Thailand isn’t swift off the mark the resurgent Laos schools etc could nab all the places – wiping the gravy off Thailand’s plate with a large slice of bread.
And the UK Red Cross could easily coordinate with the dynamic Thai Red Cross on curriculum activity with schools such as health and safety training and first aid, as could the RNLI for swimming and coastal safety.

I’ve already urged Ramsgate here in East Kent seek official Red Cross Town status for its charity shops, refugee work, lifesaving work etc.
Similarly Sports diplomacy with UK football could help galvanise Thai school football teams – not just a trip to Bangkok to see their favourite UK teams such as Arsenal or ManU or Aston Villa, but even a chance to visit London and visit Wembley or Anfield. With the UK success at the Rio Olympics the Physical education colleges and say CCU Sports universities could be developed.

The UK schools compulsory education is now raised from 16 years old to 18 years old, and debates over the lengths of school holidays, increase in prices for school holiday travel and fines for taking schoolkids out of term-time holidays, a coordinated education programme with UK and Thailand could be put in place along with the Rajabhat teacher training colleges and exchange programmes?

And of course attending English language Summer schools – Thailand is lagging behind Malaysia with only 9,000 students in UK compared to 17,000 Malaysian students (and 89,000 Chinese students). If Thailand is serious about improving its English language skills within ASEAN then it should be pushing against this open UK door to increase students in UK and especially here in East Kent?

This week’s Egg Tofu Incident , as detailed by Khun Atiya in The Bangkok Post, of the Surin province schoolteacher almost force-feeding an Isaan schoolgirl to see if her claimed allergy was real, was very surprising, if not downright dangerous with a potential allergic reaction.

I’ve always found Thai teachers to be both diligent and caring as well as taking a pride in the profession that isn’t exactly replicated in UK. The Thai teacher’s uniform looks militaristic from a UK perspective, but if the UK’s kids have to wear school uniform so why not the teachers?
But the societal emphasis on teaching with Teacher Day and Children Day is something the UK could emulate.

The new headmaster at Hartsdown School in Margate, East Kent taking over from the much-liked and respected Andy Somers, seems to have been overly strict on school uniform for the first day back to school with a riot of 50 parents(!) only placated by some careful policing.

A tightening up on school uniform seems to have veered to Wermacht standards of uniformity and a Checkpoint Charlie approach at the school gates, not just rejecting children turning upto school in tracksuits(!) – and presumably the PE teachers – but pettiness for also for having frilly socks(!) or black suede shoes instead of black leather shoes.

Kent’s police were lucky not to get sent home too for excessive uniform infringements.

Without Kent’s Chief Constable Pughsley calling out the Fashion Police, certainly the official East Kent shoe with TOMS shoes would be a useful step forward for bulk-buying stock etc as well as helping kids in Africa with a free pair of shoes and also creating extra fashion and manufacturing jobs?

Kent’s headteacher needs to be more active on asbestos cleanup not frilly socks – and mindful of the cost to parents of fast-growing kids and uniform costs. And the danger of kids wandering the streets rather than being in school.

I’ve urged a Kent Education Commissioner – and NHS – as with the Police Commissioner to coordinate and improve the sector.

Every UK government and NGO talks about refocusing society from say City bankers or Army tankers to the caring professions of Nurses or Teachers etc and nothing ever happens. A Teacher Day or Nurses Day could signal societal shifts as well as boosting UK public holidays: only 20 days compared to 33 in Germany.
Britain already has a MayDay to celebrate Trade Unions so why not?

A much-discussed Trafalgar Day didn’t happen – although it was rather foolish having a day off in the seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and freezing rain of Autumn rather than Summer.

And the discussions around reducing the 5 day work week to 4 days with staggered starting times etc to shift the rush hour given the impetus of automation and Free Economy citizens income of Switzerland, Utrecht, Finland etc are needed.

Why shouldn’t businesses start at 8am/9am and 10am rather than all starting at 9am? After a modicum of bickering and moaning the rush hour would be reduced by a third?

And the debate could be expanded as to whether schools should start at say 11am to allow teenagers to be fully rested, or the too-long Summer holiday a relic of when UK schoolkids left school to work in the fields and bring in the harvest.

And how UK education fits with the world of work.

The former Business Minister Liam Byrne, now taken over by Kent’s dynamic Greg Clark and Liam Fox Trade Minister, previously raised the German Mittelstand of SME businesses innovating with DIHK support and compulsory Chambers of commerce membership that’s resulted in Germany’s blistering growth and innovation of the Wirtschaftswunder.

Liam Fox today describing UK Big Business as fat and lazy and failing to export or nurture exports has a point. I’ve written before on the potential for say UK Landrover-Jaguar and VW to team up in Latin America’s Southern Cone with Chile and Argentina and Uruguay.

And I talk of the Meiji reforms of Japan required in UK. It’s no surprise that Volkswagen and Nissan rather than British Leyland are the leading UK car companies, and all the better for the EU economy, while the wheels come off the less productive eo rinnovative French, Italian and US car companies.

My work on Surin School has shown to me the value in extending school-children’s horizons. And I don’t believe the IQ research shows that Thai schoolkids are stupid, nor that schoolkids need force-feeding a diet of egg tofu or suede shoes, but rather they need a smarter range of Education programmes.

Tim Garbutt is a director of Surin Village School charity - the first school already built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 each year. He doesn’t like eggs or tofu or suede shoes. Maybe suede shoes.

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

Friday, 9 September 2016

Cooking up a storm - or a storm in a teacup for Thai and UK cuisine?

Surely The Bangkok Post is being a little unfair in its criticism of the new initiative by Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce, MOFA and Agriculture Ministry to provide 12 core dishes of Thai cuisine for promotion abroad?


In setting the table with Somtam and Pad Thai and 10 other dishes surely the three Ministries are not being dictatorial but merely providing a firm base for Thailand’s Cuisine Culture?

Egg tofu may be off the menu in Surin schools but the icing on the cake for Cuisines Culture must be in cherry-picking its key dishes to promote?
As a minimum the set of 12 dishes would be an easy menu for all Thai restaurants and farangs to know and understand?

From my experience as a galley slave and chief bottle-washer in Surin Thai restaurant (try the sea bass!) in Ramsgate in East Kent, it’s astonishing how many Great British farang-in-a-vest like myself are wary of Thai food as too spicy or its flavours and spices in general.

The most popular dish by far is still Green curry but from there, a sampling of red curry or Thai dumplings or Pad Thai and the seabass and lime juice, eventually prove mind-blowing. There’s even a strong demand for spaces on the rare as hen’s teeth Surin cookery classes.

There is still a strong education job to do in many Thai restaurants abroad – rather than eggplant I’ve seen corners cut with – whisper it quietly – Great British Captain Birdseye frozen garden peas. Or sticky rice not provided with Lao dishes and even, horror of horrors, American rice used not even Thai or Cambodian rice.
And before I was indoctrinated in the ways of Somtam or Takatairn I thought Thai food was largely made up if peanuts.

A completely nuts view.

In my MP role, shouldn’t a UK-Thai joint tourism programme include the promotion of cuisine for returning tourists? As well as research into superfoods and healthy eating? Pomegranates and Coconut Water are just two of such fads currently sweeping the UK that would be ripe for Thailand’s farmers and crop policies.

While the UN-FAO food programmes have developed exciting projects in Camabodia on insect protein to ensure food shortages and malnutrition are prevented.

Now with the sterling work of the 3 Ministries (hopefully rolling out the promotion in UK) Thai Cuisine have a delicious dozen dishes to get under their belt.

And PM Prayut, following in the tradition of PM Samak, and donning his apron and retreating to the kitchen to promote Thai cuisine, and no doubt to avoid army food and junk food, provides a polished performance in serving up somtam.

Britain’s popular Bakeoff and Masterchef television cookery programmes are providing a rich source of Great British Toilet Humour, DoubleTake and Innuendo of soggy bottoms, jugs grasped and buns squeezed. Puns to rival any local news programme with a Skateboarding Duck and egg-based jokes at Easter.


Watch out for a serving of Eton Mess and Spotted Dick or a juggling of plums too.

It’s enough to warm the cockles of your heart, but there’s a serious Thailand Cuisine Culture point.

With just 12,000 Thai restaurants in UK down from 17,000, yet the pent-up demand of 1M UK citizens visiting Thailand each year, there is the potential for Thailand to launch an occupying army of taste and flavour throughout Britain.

And Surin restaurant, as one of UK’s top ten Thai restaurants and best Thai restaurant in Kent, still treasures its Ministry of Agriculture certificate for authentic cuisine and Thai Select European restaurant designation.

Surely too the 12 dishes will form an advance party of Michelin designations in Thailand and UK as with Japan’s sushi cuisine? Cold fish versus Somtam is no real choice is it?

Certainly no Thai Michelin restaurant as yet is a weakness for Thailand’s Food Economy. Rather, Japan is cooking up a storm with 29 Michelin restaurants followed by France with 25, and USA and Germany distant 3rd with 13 and 4th with 11. I think few even the most ardent Berliner, would place German cuisine higher than Thai cuisine?

And the Singapore Michelin Guide this year introduced stars for street food. As with the Bib Gourmand value rating from 1997 a neat way to broaden Thai influences in Michelin?

Research has even shown that a nation's Michelin Guide increases sales of its tyres by 3% - a useful point for Thailand's rubber and auto industries to lend a hand.

And – as with a good jazz record – the 12 dishes would provide the basis for greater experimentation of the dishes and flavours? The initial designations of dishes would serve only as guitar, piano and drums to allow Thailand’s chefs and suppliers to weave a food concerto of their own?

A musical rhythm of bass rather than the piscatorial kind.

Just as Britain’s national dishes of Indian curry and Italian Bolognese and even Fish and Chips have their variants. Fish and Chips may have a steady backbeat of, well, fish and chips, but then the full orchestra of tastes are deployed.

Will there be mushy peas? A portion of baked beans? Ketchup? Mayonnaise if you’re feeling a little Belgian. Salt and vinegar or just one or the other? A dusting of scraps? Fat or thin-cut chips? A fishcake? Building to a crescendo of a pickled gherkin or boiled egg?

And a smorgasbord of different fish for the North Sea, Atlantic and English Channel being battered and fried.

Surely Thailand’s chefs from the humblest street stall to a five star hotel to a home kitchen would brook no interference in the range of flavours and tastes they prepare anyway?

And couldn’t the 3 Ministries go further:

• recipe books and celebrity chefs
• a menu of Thai vegetables and use
• a directory of all Thai restaurants and supermarkets such as in Cardiff or Dunstable’s ThiaFoodOnline or Kent’s Veetee rice harbour
• UK research on the 50,000 strong Thai community and in other European nations?
• even a standard dictionary of names and terms for Thai cuisine

And I make no bones in flagging up the Surin restaurant cookbook, Surin Comic, and KORA Kent Oriental Restaurant group: sponsors welcome.

None of the above points would be over-egging the pudding of this cuisine and yield greater benefits for UK and Thailand.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity advertising and PR agency opening offices in Bangkok and ASEAN and director of Surin Village School Charity, with the first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 per year. He likes somtam.

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

Gas masks and coal tourism for UK and Thailand?

Khun Sirinya Wattanasukchai makes some very interesting and fun points as always in her “Face Masks On For Coal Tourism” article in last week’s Bangkok Post.

A coal-powered electricity power station is a concern and anachronism for 21st Century Thailand, as detailed at Pak Bhang in Songhkla. And even more so with the world turning against fossil fuels – even here in UK the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, all the coal mines have now closed down.

The dynamic Communities Minister Sajid Javid just this week calling in the huge open cast mine plans at Druridge Bay in beautiful Northumblerland (the Songhkla of UK and the UK's last wilderness of protected parks) for the first-ever UK Climate Change review of energy infrastructure.

Here in East Kent, in my MP role for 2020 we secured the demolition of the Richboro power station. While the Isle of Grain in West Kent saw protests to close down one of Europe’s largest power stations. The largest chimney demolition is underway at the Isle of Grain in Kent - almost 3x the size of Big Ben.

And Kent as part of my campaign saw the removal of Total petrol stations given the USA war crime designation for Total’s actions in pre-AungSan Myanmar. Shell facing similar claims for its actions in the Nigerian Delta.

Coal is dead and so is nuclear with the cancellation of Hinkley power station likely and calls already to speed up the decommissioning of the UK’s 15 elderly nuclear power stations. Last month saw the UK using an excess of solar energy for the first time, and Scotland is being billed by Foreign Mister Alex Salmond as the Laos of an increasingly disunited Kingdom as a tidal and hydro battery.

Occasionally fracking rears its ugly head most recently in Lancashire but to no public support – Kent has been delcated a fracking-free zone and Sussex fracking protests ended that site. While European cities such as Stuttgart and Berlin have all declared they will end their fossil fuel investments in pension funds etc. Unfortunately not yet here in Kent which lumbers on with both tobacco and fossil fuel investments for its public sector pensions.

But if Thailand’s EGAT electricity company management as detailed by Khun Sirinya can keep a straight face and declare that “coal is green”(!) and believe that building on SakommBeach has tourism potential, then they are sadly mistaken.

In UK, the Cornish tin mines that PBS viewers may see in the TV series Poldark are a tourism phenomenon for Cornwall – but only because they are closed and preserved as living history. Their economic and social usefulness long ago fading away from pre-1850 when the tin mines were the Silicon Valley of their delay and Gwennap parish was known as the richest square mile on earth.

Now Cornwall, in the aftermath of Brexit silliness, as with Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales, is urging central government to confirm the replacement of EU funds – in Cornwall’s case an average of £60M each year over the last 10 years, And similar sums in East Kent with the same EU designation for aid.

While The Big Pit National Coal Museum in Wales is preserved as a living museum to the coal mines and culture that extended through Yorkshire and the Midlands, to here in East Kent and on to the coalfields of Northern France and Belgium as painted by Ramsgate’s Vincent Van Gogh and described in his letters at the Rijkmuseum - perhaps Ramsgate's equivalent of the Buriram lintels.

While Germany’s Ruhr Valley around Essen now is the 2017 EU Green City having successfully completed the transition form an industrial region by dismantling its coalfields, power stations etc.

And just last month the UK’s trade unions celebrated the Summer and bank holiday with the giant Tin Man sculpture and parade celebrating the UNESCO industrial heritage links.

Shades of the giant Mechanical Elephant that graced East Kent’s seafront in Margate and the iconic Dreamland amusement park with the heritage-listed (real) lion cages?

And here in Kent, as at the Lake District’s Sellafield, the latter the UK’s first nuclear power station and the former Dungeness power station, both have visitor centres that do attract tourists although mainly school visits or the occasional tourist who has strayed off the beaten path to Lake Windermere or Canterbury.

Of course such visitors only hear how wonderful nuclear power is, not the repeated safety breaches and contaminating leaks – indeed surely the first visitor to get their knobbly-knees into a chem-hazard suit and facemask could win a prize?

BBCTV's Panorama just this week exposing horrifying pollution and contamination at Sellafield:

If the Poldark country of Cornwall now benefits from the set-jetting phenomenon of visiting TV and film locations then East Kent hasn't yet seized the opportunity that the EKFOS East Kent Film Office and Studio should generate for East Kent. And unfortunately nuclear power stations are only likely to be a rerun of the Chernobyl disaster. More akin to a disaster movie as detailed in Jason Robards' The Day After, Threads or When the Wind Blows.

Or the asbestos inaction riddling Kent’s schools akin to a zombie movie of tattered flesh and weeping sores. Parliament itself is still riddled with the material (the site designed by Pugin of Ramsgate)and due to close after 2020 for a £6BN cleanup.

The current debate around nuclear power in UK has centred on the glowing core of Chinese investment and cyber-security risks, but also concerns of the build cost, decommissioning and cleanup cost and astonishingly expensive electricity; over 3x the existing rates.

How did the Hinkley project get so far down the track before it was switched off?

And MI5 has been called in to review the new digital SmartMeters rolling gout to every UK household, to ensure the lights don’t go out everywhere at once.

And just yesterday, The Sunday Times reported Lord West’s valid concerns – the former Admiral of the Fleet at last not banging on about more Royal Navy ships, only to have them be berthed in port or sailing around on AmbreSolaire tours on the rates. But, real concerns over the Reuben brothers sale of data centres to a Chinese company with PLA links that stored UK financial data on its web servers. The strange excuse that the company only handled the building and electricity missing the point of switching off the computer servers.

Surely future Thailand as UK needs a more joined-up power supply than just coal on the beach? The UK is still far behind Germany, Netherlands and Denmark in renewables and recycling but has moved on in leaps and bounds in the last few years to ensure delivery of the EU zero carbon energy policy before 2050. The UK's only nuclear export project of a reactor to Vietnam seems pointless for ASEAN given contamination and solar as with Desertec.

And energy tourism for renewables can be more sustainable in every sense. East Kent has one of the world’s largest windfarms off the coast, and already something of a tourist attraction with boat trips out to see the wind turbines – as well as repair boats.

And even calls to preserve the nearby Goodwin Sands and it’s rich heritage of cricket on the sandbanks at low tide and rich crop of historical shipwrecks. Even a rare German WW2bomber released from the sand for modern archaeologists and an extensive BBC documentary.

While the local seafood industry has seen a boon in oysters, cockles and whelks in the cool, clear water around the base of the turbines and careful management of the fisheries eg sea bass sales in the Surin Thai Restaurant (try the sea bass with lime juice!).

And Vattenfall windfarms are active in management of the rare seabirds nesting around the UNESCO-designated coast famous for the iconic White Cliffs of Dover and the Landings of Caesar and St Augustine and Jorvik Viking heritage of Hengist and Horsa.

So, Khun Sirinya is right to question the viability of the Songkhla power station and viability of coal tourism compared to preserving the beach and sustainable tourism.

Indeed the only use of a facemask at Pak Bhang should be to protect the grilled pork sellers from cooking fumes from their delicious wares. Over 7M air pollution deaths worldwide including cooking fumes:

Only Sweden and Israel, go to the trouble and expense of issuing gas masks to all their civilian population, the former on the basis of Chernobyl discharge, and the latter from another Saddam-style chemical weapons attack.

Facemasks at Songkhla should only be to mask the smiles at the silly idea of coal tourism for Thailand’s beautiful beaches.

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. Try the sea bass.

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, 3 September 2016

Pokemon reviews Thailand tourism

Khun Achara Deboonme writing in The Nation last week "Thai tourism needs to up its game but Pokemon is not the answer" is right to cite tourism as crucial to Thailand’s growth. And that so much of what TAT does is excellent: 24.8M tourists last year and $1,693 spend per head is testimony to that. As is the desire to increase tourism to 30m visitors this year.

And she is right that the Pokemon Go campaign of catching 2 Pokemon characters in each of Thailand’s 24 provinces is a little gimmicky. But as with breakfast cereal collectible toys or Panini football stickers, or McDonald’s Happy Meal dinosaurs or Marvel characters, it’s a perfectly valid and fun, piece of promotional support activity.

But as Khun Achara details it’s not especially part of the Thainess campaign: there are chauffeured Pokemon-hunting trips in Berlin (somewhat negating the health benefit of walking around looking for Shellder or Caterpie), Pokemon walking tours (that’s more like it) in Croatia, and a Pokemon bus safari (for mega-couch potatos) in Memphis.
Tourists eventually reaching Thailand might well be pokemon-exhausted with the fad after all that.

And unsurprisingly in the Age of Climate Change (or the Isle of Man) more children in the Isle of Man can identify a Pikachu than a sparrow.

Thailand has more engaging and deeper levels than a videogame.

And as Khun Achara cites the 32.6M visitors to UK and $1,927 spend per head, UK clearly needs to review its visitor levels and spend in comparison to Thailand and Switzerland. And the value of Thai tourists to UK: already the 3rd highest-spenders.

And with 5M Brits holidaying in UK and a further 1M visiting Thailand each year, surely a UK-Thailand tourism partnership would maximise tourism and make both nations greater and more amazing?

France and Belgium are seeing the effects of terrorism in Paris and Nice and Brussels on the fragile tourist economy without cast-iron plans and activity. Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani speaking on the Trump foreign policy ticket expressed surprise at skittish attendees asking him if was safe to visit London.

Tourists can always go Pokemon-hunting somewhere else.

Scotland and Eire Tourism don’t need me to cite their excellent campaigns – but they could be more closely integrated with a UK-Thailand tourism partnership. Certainly Scotland is right to bemoan being left out of much of the UK’s trade and cultural activity.

While Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam all with only c.4M tourists each provide rivals to Thailand tourism – but more importantly a rich source of prosperity through cooperation. The biggest difficulty for USA and European tourists is making the effort to visit Asia a 12 hour flight and jet lag away.

But once there, then Thailand and the other ASEAN tourism authorities should be ensuring a range of viable and sustainable destinations.

One example to illustrate the point: Britain’s numerous newspapers carry regular travel agency promotions to visit say BKK, Angkor and HCM and then a week at a beach. An offer of almost no value to the hurried and harried tourists, for repeat visits to Asia. And of little value to the various Tourist Board and Finance Ministries of each nation, only briefly visited.

The permutations could include Yangon or Mandalay or Luang Prabang or Hanoi so no part of the greater Mekong region is ignored by brief tourist visits – or underpaid and undervalued.

Indeed Khun Kobkarn the dynamic Tourism and Sports minister has oft-spoken on developing the TAT Regional Strategy through the 12 Stars, Hidden Thailand and Quality Tourism to counter the issue of briefer tourist visits and lower spends.

Moves that are also complemented in the work of VisitKent and UK’s dynamic Tourism Minister Tracey Crouch from Kent’s coast, and regional institutions such as Philomena Chen and her Northern Powerhouse tourism work with say China and the UK’s National Football Museum in Manchester (previously the home for the 2012 Thai Olympic squad). And Min Rose of Nottingham University’s excellent Asia Business Centre of tourism market groups, and a part of the Boots campus.

I’d also highlight the Thai-Cambodia target of $15BN in trade by 2020 and the shared border of 798km punctuated only by landmines or petty disputes such as Preah Vihar reducing the tourism potential for both nations. Imagine Kent and Sussex squabbling over access to Canterbury Cathedral. Or the silliness of Scotland and England, or Northern Ireland and Eire reimposing Brexit borders.

SkyTV recently aired a documentary in UK on the excellent work by MAG along the Thai-Cambodia border - and potential for better roads and reforestation and national parks. The Kbal Spean Thousand Lingas carved in the riverbed are little-known and spectacular in the Cambodian jungle around Angkor. The Lingas riverbed is a hidden tourism gem to rank with the careful development of the Royal Road between Angkor and Isaan’s temples – huge potential for the Bagan of Thailand or Cambodia, if you will.

In fact, shouldn’t Khun Achara help steer a Thailand-UK Tourism Summit (Team THUK?) twice a year in say Canterbury and Ayutthaya? Both religious towns and former capitals, near the current capital, and useful retreats in the rain to draft well-considered tourism plans for both nations?

The world’s largest tourism conference is held in London every November too.

And if there’s one thing TAT could do to improve tourism for Thailand then it’s more and better activity in the main European cities such as London and Paris.

And take an active approach on tourism guides in English – for this article I browsed the latest Footprint guide to check some spellings (a guide that’s “on the ball” according to the Sunday Times) only to read that Phetchaburi is spelt Phetburi, confusing for most tourists trying to navigate Thailand’s language and maps and street signs) and that, I quote, from page 29:

“Phetburi is famous for its paid assassins who usually carry out their work from the backs of motorcycles with large-calibre pistols. Each time there is an election 15 to 20 politicians and their canvassers (so-caled hua khanen) are killed. As in Chonburi, Thailand’s other capital of crime…”

This from a tourist guide(!). Apart for it being as nonsensical as saying tourists to the East End of London should be wary of Jack the Ripper or the Krays, it hardly does much for Phetchaburi and Chonburi tourism.

I must have been lucky to escape with my life on my visits.

And Phetchaburi’s jewels of 14th century Ayutthaya art and architecture or the most southern khmer lintels or the saltpans and mangrove forest and green jade of Khao Sam Roi Yot national park and cave temple are ignored.

Phetchaburi along with Amphawa floating market is a cluster of diamonds around the ruby of Krungthep - and ripe for effective tourism management with nearby Damnoeng Saduak in danger of being destroyed by over-tourism.

Phetchburi as the City of Wats such as the hilltop palace of Khao Wang is perfect as a diamond in the rough with Amphawa to be polished with a Team Thailand-UK approach. Even the large hospital off Ratchdamnern road by the railway station is ideal for UK-NHS exchange programmes.

While stadium tours of football are a honey-pot for Thai and ASEAN tourists that UK takes for granted since we can visit 92 league grounds each Saturday and more non-league and pub grounds each Sunday.

Beyond a Pokemon flurry, Team THUK could take a leaf out of Taiwan’s dynamic tourism plan for Japanese tourists with its focus on Hello Kitty and Kawaii Culture, even a Hello Kitty 747. Japan is already kicking off the TechTokyo2020 Games with SuperMario Abe, and no doubt Doraemon part of their manga team.

And definitely more interesting than the collapse of UK politics into pussy posturing on the rates between Larry the Cat of 10 Downing St, Palmerston (shouldn’t that be Pawmerston?) the Diplomog of the Foreign Office and Gladstone of the Treasury. Felix The Cat of Huddersfield train station and Tama the Train Cat in Japan both seem less daft and worth their weight in mice. While MICE would be a key part of a proactive Team THUK strategy.

And a Team Thailand-UK (Team THUK?) no-hassle tourist simcard would be an easy win for True and EE to put in place. EE already providing a series of Wembley tours and treats. And Thai Airways and BA could coordinate their flight magazine editorials – even proving branded e-readers to save on fuel?

American Airlines has replaced its paper flight manuals for pilots with Ipads and digital documents.

The saving of 15kg per plane amounted to $12M in fuel costs saved each year.

Why not do the same for the flight magazines and safety card? It would save fuel/weight and n creasing to unlimited, the opportunities for tourism journalism and advertising too. Wouldn’t Asia Books or Bookazine or Waterstones jump at such sponsorship opportunities with Team THUK? And Bangkok Airways doesn’t need me to cite its quietly excellent flight magazine – or customer service - that effortlessly promotes Thailand.

Such activity as a minimum would see more boat trips in Amphawa and put more bums on seats in old Trafford. And more easily move the needle on Thailand’s 64.1% hotel occupancy and weakening FDI rate. And without a Pokemon in sight.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR launching in BKK and ASEAN, and director of Surin Village School Charity, the first school already built in Isaan. He prefers Hello Kitty to Pokemon. Doesn’t everyone?