Wednesday, 28 December 2016
Bangkok goes a bridge too far - or better UK and USA support?
Khun Sirinya Wattanasukchai in her article “Skywalk A Bridge too Far” as always makes some interesting points on Future Bangkok's and its bridges and infrastructure with four major projects cancelled.
Firstly, she cites problems around the Skybridge as potentially pointless overbuild over the Chaopraya - and rightly cites the problems around the Millennium Bridge or Wobbly Bridge over the Thames. The Wobbly Bridge not unreasonably linked the new Tate Modern arts gallery to St Paul's Cathedral.
But there was much consternation over the noticeable wobble that was eventually ironed out.
While the plans for the new Garden Bridge, from the era of Boris Johnson as London mayor are a much larger project and mired in tax-bloat and expenses:
Fortunately it's likely to be cancelled by both the new London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Margaret Hodge MP the very dynamic scourge of tax-waste as detailed in her new book Called to Account often urging investments in cyberwar protection rather than the vanity of aircraft carriers or submarines as well as too-prevalent UK corruption with UK tax havens etc:
It’s on my New Year reading list, with Royal Rebel by Princess Soma of Cambodia, perhaps USA’s most dynamic royal since George III:
Secondly the cancellation of the bricklaying machine seems a little unusual in the age of Robotics and Internet of Things. Certainly it's a concern for bricklayers with even Winston Churchill being a fan of the art of bricklaying with his work on renovating Chartwell House here in Kent.
Thirdly, the City Hall TV channel – and a subscription too(!)- is redolent of the low views for Kent TV a similar Government channel here in the Garden of England. I was asked to be on the Board but refused at the lack of viability of the project before it was closed.
Surely with the Paramount theme park and EKFOS East Kent Film Office and Studio, Kent should be more active in media?
And with closer cooperation with Thailand eg the Teacher TV channel or MOOC Open University courses and FTA exchanges with BBC and Thai channels? How can UK citizens learn more about Thailand, whether beaches or temples, without such activity? Chinese and Russian and French TV is broadcast in UK why not 2 or 3 Thai channels and together Sports Diplomacy links with football channels?
Fourthly, the riverfront improvements may not be much of an improvement in removing some of the buzz and style of Bangkok's riverfront. The renovation of Covent Garden, London's Thonglor or Asiatique if you will, is certainly something of an example in regeneration by turning London’s tatty fruit and veg market into rather swish shops and nightlife.
A glimpse of just how tatty and run-down the area was, compared to now, can be seen in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy movie. But it's always a balancing act for such regeneration in preventing a rather antiseptic vibe or mere tourist trap.
This week for example the New European newspaper details the bridge towns of Arnhem and Nijmegen, as Dutch Limes forts up for UNESCO World Heritage status, as Liberation Route Europe not only launches its Polish activity, but also its work on the USA contribution to liberating Europe in WW2.
For the cultural links between nations are even stronger than concrete links.
In my politics campaign here in Kent for KCC Leader I'm urging financial reforms of its $3BN budget with cancelling Tobacco and Fossil Fuel investments, and reinstatement of the previous $20M aid to Cambodia, along with Project SUNrice (UN FAO SUN: Scaling Up Nutrition) activity on stimulating the Thai and Khmer rice industries and reducing malnutrition.
A walk around my local Thai supermarket has pallets of Hom Mali and Royal Umbrella rice - with a reduction in Thai restaurants from c.15,000 to c.12,000, and Project Chula to beef up the number of Thai university students in UK from c.8,000 to c.20,000, similar to Malaysia, the demand will certainly be there for Asian foods in UK even without ASEANRail speeding rice through to the hungry mouths of India or Africa or China.
Project Mahidol can build pharma links between Thai and Kent universities and pharma companies and Pfizer/Discovery Park - what was the largest USA investment in Europe. And King Chulalongkorn of course with his family studying in UK. The dangers of Pandemics such as bird flu or AMR require massive investment and effort for everybody's health and the new UK Industrial Strategy.
AMR is a very real danger beyond the Project Fear silliness of Brexit - even the Queen stumped as to what exactly the UK is doing with Brexit before no doubt it is cancelled.
Project True is the umbrella project to focus on the digital and mobile economy as well as Meiji and Benelux and ASEAN companies such as Panasonic or Philips innovations on a DNA/cancer bathroom mirror and smartphone satellites.
While innovative Thailand agri-programmes such as passionfruit for rubber or Superfoods have begun:
Such green programmes raise the wider issue of land use and Digital Farms - how much Thai land should be given over to the rice crop specifically (and the various permutations of rice that are unknown in UK or EU) and to other crops, or for building?
And Project BenTre part of the civil society stimulus programme for links between Kent and ASEAN.
Here in Kent with 90% of the fruit orchards lost to roads and housebuilding etc, yet Kent is still producing over 60% of the UK apple market and easily with the capacity for more though its agricultural advances. With diseases of affluence such as obesity and diabetes and HFSS foods (High Fat Sugar and Salt), UK is lagging far behind Canada and Japan with their 10 a day health programmes.
And the UK is only now amplifying its National Citizenship volunteer programme similar to the US Peace Corps work.
The UK's 5 a day programme (none in Thailand?) is a factor of persuading the public to eat some (or any) fruit rather than the required healthy amount. The Johnny Appleseed programme - along with Superfoods such as passionfruit - should ensure both healthy forests and healthy children in the future:
And if Bangkok and Kent may be mired in the trials and tribulations of bridges and tarmac or appleseeds and peace corps, then the US Embassy in Phnom Penh has turned up the volume on the lilting refrains of Battambang and 1960's Cambodian rock music:
It's an astonishing feat of music and film research and archive work echoing across the Pacific from Battambang to Bethesda, that's bound to gain a standing ovation and awards at the various film festivals, and flowing along with hot and authentic slices of Americana on the roster such as:
It's not The Beatles or even Great British Xmas Music such as Slade, the mellow vibes of Canterbury Cathedral choir, or even Morlam or Kundrum, but it's well worth listening to, cutting a rug on the dancefloor, or seeing at a cinema near you.
From Kent to Thailand and Cambodia and California have a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year and here’s to more bridges between UK and Asia and USA.
Time for Change
* Project Mahidol: pandemics and pharma
* Project SUNrice: rice and malnutrition
* Project Johnny Appleseed: agricultural activity ie reforestation, apples, DigiFarm and Superfoods
* Project BenTre: civil society activity ie National Citizen Scheme, women and girls equality
* Project True: digital and mobile economy