Thursday, 14 September 2017

New USA ambassador in London. Ready to turn on the jets for UK-USA trade?

With new USA ambassador Woody Johnson up and running in his second week in London, surely there are a few points he could consider in making the Special Relationship, well, more special?

Every American schoolchild will be familiar with East Kent's USA links, whether the Jamestown founders - and our Virginia sister state - or Margate and Sandwich weaver Tom Paine.

Just on that basis, East Kent can easily lay claim to creating the United States. No problem. Our pleasure. Have a nice day.
Did our American Cousins think we'd forgotten?

No sign yet though on Martin Luther King events in UK for the anniversary next year - he was certainly more popular on this little rock than in Alabama.

Carnegie Libraries as here in Ramsgate with Microsoft software is an iconic example of the special relationship made real beyond the ceremonial and hands across the ocean guff. And why shouldn't American schools have a slice of Raspberry Pii with their computer lessons too. And Free smartphones and Yingluck computers - former Mayor Bloomberg would have gotten onto it by now?

Here in Meiji Kent, there's also concern over Cambodia's rough treatment of the Seabees after all their efforts. And leaves on the line delays with the BKK-PP-HCMC rail link that would increase trade and tourism to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

And if Total petrol here in East Kent was banned due to USA war crimes legislation over Myanmar, the lack of UK effort in that nation is dismal. And shouldn't USA be more active in helping steer Cambodia to democracy.

But there are lesser-known USA-Kent links too whether General Patton's role in Operation Fortitude for D-Day, or Marlon Brando's love of the countryside threatened by Operation Stack and new town overbuild splodge. And POTUS Johnson issuing silver medals to the Broadstairs RNLI for rescuing the USA ship Northern Belle in 1857 – those medals the forerunner of the Medal of Honor?

Or St Augustine in Florida, the oldest Spanish settlement in USA, just up the road from Mar-a-Lago, and named after the founder of East Kent's Canterbury Cathedral, and the delayed Landings Jorvik-style attraction. East Kent busy founding not just USA but UK too, with the Julius Caesar landings- those even more overdue a bit of American pizzazz than the Mickey Mouse antics around the Paramount theme park.

But UK-USA trade all the worse if the Brexit silliness continues - the ambassador could well be advised to stuff his ears with Johnson and Johnson cotton wool whenever that subject crops up.

Britain's had over a year of such Brexit twaddle and tax-waste before it will eventually cancelled.

The UK's Zombie Parliament has returned replete with mono-issue guff on the maybes and might-be’s of Brexit making Britain a laughing stock even before Boris turns up.

The Scottish parliament zooming ahead in terms of competence: reflecting the auto industry ban on petrol cars by 2030, turbocharging electric car charging points, 100% broadband and free tampons in schools. With free university tuition already, a far more competent judicial system, no hereditary sinecures and remaining in the EU it's hard to see how Westminster is an improvement on Holyrood now.

While risking its European allies and 54% EU exports, would be as silly as UK neglecting its USA allies and 25% exports.
And if Texas isn't what it was at the moment with its ten gallon hat holding twenty gallons, then isn't NASA failing us too?
Mars 2030 will slip sideways without a more vigorous effort with the UK Space agency and European Space Agency? A few more weather satellites are needed given both Harvey and now Irma, and clearing up space junk with Japan's space agency for a start.
Kent's Ghurkas one of the few UK troops in Afghanistan - although not the Ghurka engineers or others yet. And why not forward-positioned in the Caribbean given the dismal response to Harvey and Irma?

Is it so outrageous for Ambassador Woody to have doubled UK and USA trade by the end of his tenure? It's a UK target anyway so he'd be pushing against an open door and a permanent UK red carpet.

He certainly shouldn't hesitate in turning on the jets to turbocharge both the New York Jets and NFL, and the UK-USA helicopter industry. And only 3 USA hurricane-chaser weather aircraft for Irma and none from UK?

Junk like the F35 could be easily replaced with upgrades the USMC Harrier or, as has begun, A-10 Warthog - and far more US Coastguard search and rescue and cargo helicopters. And even Hronn Barney Barges that could refloat UK and US shipbuilding.

While despite Silicon roundabout and Silicon Fen and Reading's Silicon Valley as smaller versions of California's Silicon Valley, there's concern over tech-giants such as Facebook and Apple and Google - even the good folks of Starbucks - and the minimal tax they pay in UK, Eire and EU.

And rather than just storms coming out of the Caribbean why aren't the good folks of Starbucks, not just opening more stores in UK (only one in Kent?) but also a more cohesive coffee and Climate Change strategy with say Guatemala and Nicaragua and the good folks of Cuba? America would be a bananas republic not to take a more serious overview of one of its root industries in the 21st century.

Virginia's dynamic Senator/Governor/VP Tim Kaine can't be the only one keen on the blues harp as well as Spanish?
Better late than never can't continue being the basis for the Special Relationship?

Ambassador Woody must wake up every morning already thinking how can Brand USA achieve more American tourists to India without UK and Commonwealth helping ratchet it upwards from London? And more Americans in Eire and Scotland, is no bad thing either. UK and Eire tourism must surely want to ensure the flight across the pond is maximised more than it is?

And if UK business guru, and UK Business Council chair Luke Johnson has drained his cup in Patisserie Valerie or ICE cancer hospice canteen, where is the refill - coffee not cancer drugs - across Central Mexico and the Caribbean Commonwealth? Certainly ageing ASEAN societies such as Thailand and Vietnam could do with a topup - coffee and cancer drugs - from ChiangMai to DaNang.

While colleague Paul Polman at Unilever and Procter and Gamble are finishing off publishing all their cosmetic and household products surely J&J will be too? And even pushing for a global ban on animal testing - an astonishing oversight and failure in the 21st century given the efforts of UK retailers such as The Body Shop and Boots?

The always-interesting New European newspaper highlighting the Brexit shambles but extraordinary UK-USA links with the quintessential Americana of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Tortilla Flat and The Grapes of Wrath, the author so fascinated with the quintessential Englishness of King Arthur and the knights of the round table he spent months in UK on research.

And dynamic Steve Ballmer of Microsoft looking glum and sleepless in Seattle in his empty philanthropy skyscraper. He can't watch basketball all day why doesn't fly over to little old Englandshire as a roving envoy on UK and EU trade with USA - a sort of Red Adair of business?

Project Huckleberry Friend as a sub-strategy of Meiji Kent and Farm to Pharma would encourage more Americans to visit East Kent.
Kent University's excellent American Studies dept must surely want to link in with USA universities on that as a minimum? Kent's Charles Dickens also not averse to visiting and writing about USA.

A revitalised Ford in UK would help soak up some of Thailand's rubber glut, with more tyres and bumpers, and Doitung planning with UK jobs at Unipart autoparts too. As well as kickstarting the English and Welsh steel industries from Chinese steel dumping.

And crazy golf is no vast sport as yet compared to East Kent's 2020 Golf Open - where are the US Masters activity?

Isaan and Lao silk long overdue as a presence on the UK High St and in USA malls.

Kent supermarkets clearing their shelves of NZ lamb and wine from the Manston-Infratil scandal would open more space for USA's products - another glass of Californian wine or a Pepsi Max?

Some of Thailand’s dynamic Senator Duckworth's wheat’n'meat consituents would surely appreciate more support for Illinois in UK and East Kent - a gourmet ham sandwich sounds tailor-made for them - and Springfield's Lincoln as well as the good folks at Ramsgate Asda-Walmart.

Hospitals surrounded by barbed wire with the public having to throw in penicillin and Elastoplast shouldn't be the American Way - nor the British Way. Where are the UK and USA hospital exchange programmes on cancer and dementia? Certainly they could easily clear out most of the junk food from hospital and sports hall vending machines and cafes.

The UK as a nation of shopkeepers wouldn't want to be selling supersize portions of unhealthy food whether chlorinated or not.

Surely Cuban healthcare would be better for USA with or without the Castros or the stain of Guantanamo on Old Glory - whether the prison or the colony. UK has nothing to be proud of with its tax haven and drugs colonies in the Caribbean but could be a more palatable gringo on Cuban trade and reforms. Sugar cane is hardly a growth industry once Coca-Cola or Oreo's has gone sugar-free.

And if UK and Canadian tourists tremble with excitement at visiting the Big Apple, or with fear at USA's medieval healthcare system, surely the US Army Medicine Corps can't be sat in barracks folding and refolding bandages. Or just coping with GI trenchfoot in Latvia and Lithuania - why aren't these Florence Nightingales in camouflage more visibly interlinked with UK NHS and the Mediterranean boat people refugees?

Otherwise they must be more bored than UK troops counting sheep on the rates in the Falklands. The Chile-Argentina railroad a far more relevant strategic importance to those nations and UK and USA trade.

And with NFL and baseball, why not some ice hockey along with Kent's efforts on a wave of Olympic swimming pools across UK as we Follow The Sun for LA 2028?

And surely Unilever and Proctor and Gamble and Johnson and Johnson could toss a coin over who goes first, or a joint venture, on increasing their UNSG30 HIV efforts with new condom factories and production, as well as the excellent Lifebuoy soap handwashing efforts in Kenya.

And if the good folks of Coca-Cola are having a refreshing pause in Atlanta on their lunchbreak, surely they'll be more active in UK on recycling packaging and bottle return. Perhaps Atlanta's parks removing their Confederate statues to the museums, so why not UK-USA artistry developed as the Trafalgar Square empty plinth?

Ambassador Woody could easily take a step back from the Brexit waffle and carve out a few more slices of bilateral trade with UK.

He’s touched down in London now let’s see him ramp up UK-USA trade in East Kent and beyond.

Time for Change

UK and Thailand missing the bus?

Another excellent report by TDRI think-tank on Bangkok buses and bus reform in Thaialnd suggests both nations are missing the bus:

Khun Nichamon and Pii cite improvements in regulation and bus specification for example.

I've written previously on the potential for UK as a bus supplier to Thailand, indeed a UK strategic template - the London doubledecker bus as iconic as the Model T Ford or E-type Jaguar:

And the recent UK trade deal with Mexico - as well as hundreds of buses provided everywhere from Jamaica to Hong Kong the perfect example of the possibilities.
Certainly the revitalised UK car industry as well as bus and train industries are a shining light of UK industry at the moment.

Factories from Nissan in Sunderland as part of the Northern Powerhouse with Dennis buses and Bombardier trains in Derby and Midlands Engine and Port Talbot steel and Ford sites retooling for growth.

On that basis alone it's to be hoped that UK hasn't missed the bus, Brexit or no Brexit.

While the same must be said for Thailand with the potential in not just import-export jobs, and vehicle assembly, but also Unipart of the Midlands Engine, one of the world's largest auto-parts group, and peripheral industries such as conventions and expos: MICE worth 0.58% to Thai economy in general and 9.4% to the tourism economy in particular.

And it wouldn't be funny at all if Sweet Joke's role as the new Chief of Thai Police Tourism Board didn't instigate more detailed UK-Thai police and tourism cooperation.

And, to be blunt, the volume of Mexico buses - and Caribbean Resilience bus repairs - makes it all the easier for Thailand to hop on board the UK manufacturing process now.

And why shouldn't Bangkok's citizens enjoy the same aircon comfort and wifi, real-time website updates, and safety, as the Great British Bus - and indeed Tube and Train - public?

UK as a Road Safety Superpower applies all the more to the safety of UK buses and trains. Shouldn't Bangkok buses kick-start wider UK-Thailand cooperation on road safety?

Why would Britain not want to ensure tech-transfer as well as customer service training too?

What is preventing Thailand and UK from exploiting the possibilities of a trade deal on Bangkok buses?

UK bus workers wouldn't thank anyone for reduced employment possibilities. While the UK and German and USA investments in the UK car industry would no doubt be buoyed by extra activity.

And Bangkok's citizens wouldn't thank anyone for polluting buses or being left standing in the rain.

There's no reason either why the Eurocopter helicopter industry and new UK-Japan helicopter defence deals shouldn't be viable for Thailand's Resilience activity.

Bangkok's commuters might not enjoy standing in the rain waiting for a bus - a shelter for every busstop is one minor detail of my politics policies here in East Kent - and even less so stood in a typhoon waiting for a SAR helicopter or urban air ambulance.

And even worse if stranded British tourists are exercising their Dunkirk spirit and drinking the hotel bar dry.

And how embarrassing if Thailand's UN peacekeeping troops in South Sudan were the only ones to enjoy riding on a Great British Bus with 200 supplied to Sudan?

They might even be the first to enjoy the Cape2Cairo rail link with the Royal Engineers scoping out the Nairobi in Kenya missing link through Sudan to Egypt's Aswan dam. Thailand's Moslems might enjoy easier links to Jeddah and Mecca too.

Kent has no automotive or bus industry - a few auto parts suppliers and Hitachi,l so can help shepherd the process through to the relevant UK regions and organisations.

So, why not a UK trade conference under the auspices of DIT, say a day in London at the London Transport Museum with the Bus and tube companies, and City Hall with dynamic London Mayor Khan? Mayor Khan from a bus driving family.

With an open top bus tour of London of course.

A day or two touring UK factory sites to see the manufacturing process in detail.

And then a day's larger technical conference at the Margate Winter Gardens venue given the latest developments at this week's Frankfurt Car Show.

And a day's concrete conclusions seminar at the smaller Canterbury Cathedral Centre to deliver action rather than a talking shop?

A day or so's shopping and sightseeing in London would allow for a full and practical itinerary.

The exercise could then be repeated 3 months later in Bangkok, after email and document exchanges, to tighten up the activity and deliver a detailed MOU.
And why not TDRI as the steering group with British Chamber of Commerce and UK Embassy in BKK and Asia House in London?

Surely a practical step forward now is needed rather than UK and Thailand missing the bus?

Time for Change

Saturday, 9 September 2017

UK and Thailand medical activity disabled?

It's horrifying news that the United Nations has castigated UK for failing on disabled rights.

The latest UN disability report cites numerous concerns over accessibility and liveability that affects the UK's ageing society.

For the UN to issue the most recommendations for improvement to any nation ever is an astonishing UK failure.

The failure all the more concerning as UK has often been at the forefront of disabled rights and welfare. Disabled access has been much improved with new-build lifts and ramps and zebra crossing paving stone bobbles and signage for the blind and hard of hearing that are the weft and weave of much municipal town planning.

Indeed writing in The New European newspaper, Alastair Campbell former Downing St official under PM Tony Blair - and vigorous mental health campaigner -and UN Education chair Gordon Brown, and SOS International charity CEO and former Cabinet Minister David Milliband, wrote eloquently on glasses charities expanding their efforts for the world's c.40M blind and partially-sighted people.

Here in East Kent, Ramsgate's Specsavers and Poundland and Boots the Opticians needing no lessons in their charity work on providing spectacles and sunglasses.
Astonishingly Poundland almost effortlessly living upto it's promise of providing basic reading spectacles for just £1 - about $2 or 50 baht.

With UK DFID aid funds rightly under regular scrutiny, in achieving the UNSDG30 target of 0.7% of GNP and c.$20BN, surely 40M partially-sighted people can't be deprived of $60M of spectacles - the work of moments in any spectacles factory - and some shipping or DHL costs?

DHL Express are not just a key facet of Thailand's SME work but a feature on Ramsgate, and every UK High St, within WH Smith the UK's largest newspaper and bookshop.

Along with coordinated cancer and dementia treatments (surely every one of UK's 130 universities and c.200 hospitals must have a specialism on each of the 200 cancers such as colon and liver as a minimum?), and graphene knee and hip joints, cataract surgeries are a key facet of any ageing society's medicare policies.

And if basic NHS dental care seems to have slipped backwards into pricing out a free service and increased children's sugary fillings, then Operation Smile expertise on cleft palate surgery could be easily expanded.

The UK rolling out its world-class Moorfields Eye Hospital to the Gulf states and India proves such medicare co-operation is possible - along with the debate over what NHS services are provided for free abroad. Wider linkups between the NHS and Thailand's 30 baht health scheme can't be impossible.

While Thailand's chain of Blue Flag welfare shops and e-cards for discounted food and toiletries and medical products would be a step change, as popup shops or shelfspace, for both UK foodbanks and banks and retailers.

But the almost daily reports of repulsive disability welfare and work testing - and the dozens and dozens of resultant suicides are a UK national scandal.

Much as the recent UK election (was it really just 3 months ago?) appalling potential policy of old people having to sell their houses for medical care, in effect crippled the PM May government.

While UK learnings and failures on disabled access must surely be relevant for Thailand such as the Missing Link rail station and disabled lift from Bangkok's main airport.

Even East Kent's biggest boondoggle (second only to the $2M fire station garage on sports fields or Stack megacarparks and megatowns overbuild incoherence), the bizarre $30M Manston Parkway airport-railway-station-without-an-airport limps on, but was planned with wheelchair access and disabled lifts.

As an aside, a rail project even more delayed than the Poipet Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam link - surely UK TH-KH support, along with EU and Japan and Australia could release further ADB/AIIB/EU/JICA/AusAid development funds to end the logjam of the last kilometre and keep the project on track?

And the flow of train carriages and rail-buses and rail stations hopefully with full disabled access. It's especially apt with President Jokowi railing against the slow pace of development and FDI in Indonesia and urging greater enabling efforts.

But the road safety implications of fewer zebra crossings and semi-privatised skywalk overpasses are serious. Flights of stairs in the scorching heat, and without disabled lifts as at Mahboonkrong, essentially create a disabled and elderly no-go zone in central Bangkok if not in other major Thai cities too. As do the cluttered and broken pavements that reduce wheelchair or zimmer frame access to Thailand's buzzing street food scene.

The excess of concrete and absence of greenery also contributing to Climate Change floods.

Recent horrifying Daily Express reports of NHS and council waste of millions of dollars of wheelchairs and zimmer frames, crutches and bed lifts left to rust in nearby Sussex, instead of being refurbished and reused, could as a minimum be shipped to Thailand or Cambodia and Laos for Third Sector development.

The 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death highlighting her work on landmines - and HIV and leprosy and Prince Harry's Invicta disabled games - so rusting wheelchairs and crutches and artificial limbs is a horrifying UK failure.

And BBC reporter Chrissie Reidy's dynamic reporting on a $60,000 NHS Kent training CPR mannekin for use in road safety accidents or asthma - and NHS Sussex burns units - suggests the UK's tsunami of medical innovations could be more fully opened not just to Thailand, but within other Kent and UK hospitals and public sector organisations such as Kent Police and Kent Ambulance.

A Kent Police Innovation Fund on the CPR mannekin for example could ensure regular and round the clock paramedic training - the Dorset and Cornwall police merger certainly not the last nor with the Fire and Rescue service, requiring paramedic expertise - without the dangers or delays of using real patients. Video links and training films with Thai police and ambulance would undoubtedly help reverse the road safety deaths and injuries and expand translation work between the two nations.

Only Britain could possibly consider frittering away its disabled and medical and English language expertise.

While the expansion of defibrillators for heart attack and stroke victims must be both a police and town centre imperative in UK and Thailand even before the first responders respond.

The glum statistic of over 8,000 Thailand road deaths so far this year and cited as over 4x UK road deaths must surely call for UK support as a Road Safety Superpower? Only 4% of Thai citizens using the seatbelt in the back of taxis (if the seatbelts are there) highlights the road safety education work needed that UK has rigorously invested in over decades.

And BBC South East reports on DJ Mike Dowder of Ministry of Sound establishing a soi dog charity in Thailand for vaccinations and neutering and surgery - one dog so crippled as to be dragging itself along the streets until provided with a doggy wheeelchair - must surely also be a UK support facility, for public health and animal health, as well as ensuring a Thailand focus in the Home Counties.

East Kent's MP Roger Gale a keen patron of an animal charity to rescue animals not just in the day to day scandal of soi dogs, but in the Resilience floods now affecting India and Bangladesh and Nepal, from the repeated Isaan and Deep South floods, as well as Texan cattle.

I'm no great animal lover at all, with the exception of Felix the Cat or Hello Kitty, but surely with the monstrous absurdity of at least 20,000 Indian citizens dying each year from venomous snakebites and rabies, plus the dangers of both human and animal TB, UK and Thailand should be active on ramping up the whole range of medical activity?

Discovery Park here in East Kent as the largest USA inward investment in Europe with Pfizer, along with Sittingbourne Science Park and 4 universities and 6 major hospitals within an hour's drive must be the beating heart of UK and Thailand cooperation with Pfizer and Glaxo and Novartis, Watson's and Boots etc.

The new UK Biopharma strategy rather weak in its overreliance on Oxbridge and overcrowded Silicon Fen.

At the moment, UK and Thailand medical activity looks to be disabled.


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Britain in Texas and USA in UK - waving or drowning?

The details of the effects of Storm Harvey on Houston and Texas are horrifying. And the storm warnings now spreading as far as Louisiana.

And as with Storm Katrina and the deluge that afflicted New Orleans just a few years ago, it is astonishing to see a city, an American city, and Houston as the 4th largest American city yet again in a primeval life or death struggle.

That said, to have just two deaths in the first few days and as of now still only seven deaths is very fortunate indeed. Especially with Storm Harvey retreating, then attacking the American coast again.

With most households without insurance and at least 10% and upto 30% of America's oil refining affected, the economic storms - and blame game - will continue long after Harvey has disappeared. Moody's already place the storm damage at upto $50BN - something of an extraordinary guesstimate given the storm still rages.

Certainly Climate Change has yielded one of the strangest Summers - perhaps with La Nina an added and foreseeable factor - with blazing forest fires across California, Portugal, France, the Balkans and Australia. Floods of the same magnitude of Harvey have affected India and Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand several times this year with 1,200 dead in the latest stormburst.

And with the Arctic icecap at its lowest level and potentially a sea route, Climate Change is cutting no ice in the threat it poses and already a very real factor for Resilience beyond the Lone Star state and levees of Louisiana.

##The only negative on the Bank Holiday the worst UK motorway accident in decades with 8 dead in the sort of minibus and HGV and drinkdriving crash that is sadly all too routine in Thailand - the latest toll of over 8,000 dead so far this year now routinely cited in comparison to (4x) UK levels. The UK as a Sporting Superpower whether by Aston Martin or on the buses should certainly consider itself a Road Safety Superpower too.

And here in Kent the warmest Bank Holiday Monday on record is a relief but likely matched by more severe Autumn and Winter storms. A drop of rain though playing havoc with East Kent's broken sewers and blocked drains that would shame Houston and should shame Southern Water.

While Houston’s issue of building on flood plains and weak town planning is hardly unknown in UK given the rash of mega-towns planned with no more review than dividing the bloated annual housing target by each council.

The rising tide of excessive salaries and pensions for monopoly institutions such as councils has begun to be highlighted by Lord Adonis in readiness for Parliament returning, over university vicechacellors and academy schools.

And still there is no NHS update on last Winter's excess OAP deaths - the awful sight of Houston's La Vita Bella care home patients upto their waists in floodwater a real concern for UK too. While the damage to hospitals and pharmacies and their medical stocks will pose a medical threat beyond diabetes and defibrillators, or statins and tetanus.

While the strange Sussex toxic coastal haze - just down the sealanes from East Kent - with hundreds of sunbathers affected by a mysterious choking cloud has raised questions over shipping pollution, access to decontamination units and even wartime mines.

And if USA as the world's richest nation and plethora of State agencies from FEMA to DHS to National Guard to USCG to military reservists can be so badly affected by not one but two storms, then the warning light is blinking for the rest of the world.

Perhaps the Louisiana Delta should be added to the Bangladeshi and Mekong deltas - or even the Thames Barrier - as the UN regions most at risk of ongoing Climate Change.

And of particular concern is the closure of the UK's Texas consulate during the storm. Surely that's when it's most needed for UK and EU - and USA - residents and tourists and businesses? What worth is a fair weather friend when the storms blow?

It's possibly the worst UK effort on the American continent since Yorktown.

And a Trumpian wall has proved something of a liability given Mexico not hesitating in stepping forward with support for their Texan friends.

And what worth is the UK in the Caribbean if the Royal Navy is not on high alert during the storm seasons?

There's no vast meteorological expertise needed to know that the Caribbean and Pacific in Summer have the most damaging storms - some 90% of all natural disaster casualties. A navy that sails away from the guns and thunder is of little use.

Monserrat for example as a British Overseas Territory and Caribbean Commonwealth member, even suffering a volcanic explosion that affects it today.

But the Bank Holiday Monday hosted the Notting Hill carnival in London - Europe's largest street festival - and slightly more subdued than usual for its proximity to the Grenfell tower block fire.

And astonishingly a Royal Navy parade too. A rum do indeed.

Surely the Royal Navy is needed in Texas and the West Caribbean not sashaying through West London, on the lash for rum and sodomy?

This RN pina colada party on the rates all the more embarrassing with the Edinburgh military tattoo hosting a US admiral for the first time, and the grim accidents afflicting overworked US Navy ships such as USS John McCain.

The UK's Royal Marines could perhaps best deployed in their traditional role of shooting down errant bluejackets if this is the best use of tax.

The excellent Max Hastings book Catastrophe 1914 even cites Winston Churchill - the archbuccaneer of Channel raids and Gallipoli - as First Sea Lord(!) that: "the Navy are very bad at war" and much earlier that the navy was: "intellectually becalmed in the smoke of Trafalgar".

Losing the peace seems the order of the day now - or at least the Caribbean - and endangering UK citizens with a lack of Resilience rigour.

How would British relatives contact Texas with the consulate closed? More pressure on the 911 numbers? Via the UK embassy in Washington - a continent and two or three time zones away so that it may as well be in the Solomon islands. Via the Eire embassy and overwhelm their phone systems too? Or leave a soggy voicemail after the beep if the electricity is still on?

Operation Smile medical ships as a minimum would be a serious improvement in military medical support. Although the NATO naval efforts in the Mediterranean regimes collapse and thousands of boat people deaths, even with Britain only now refloating the Libyan embassy and Thomas Cook refloating the Tunisian tourism industry, hardly inspires confidence.

And if the success of the RNLI in fundraising is perhaps negative in excessive kit - a quad bike roaring up and down Kent's Blue Flag beaches? - for just 40 water deaths a year then surely as a sea-based Red Cross its international activities are far weaker than they should be? 400 water deaths in Vietnam and the same again in Thailand and Philippines can only increase without Climate Change Resilience efforts.

While the UK's municipal dither and can't-do over incidents such as Grenfell, or Thor mercury – is that so different from the Arkema explosion or flood dangers at UK nuclear sites such as Dungeness - is in stark contrast to the firm leadership of US Governor's Abbott in Texas with Harvey, McCauliffe in Virginia with Charlottesville, and Bobby Jindal with Deepwater Horizon.

While Asia's Prayut and Duterte haven't been caught slow in stepping forward on the Isaan floods and resurgent ISIS Marawi conflict.

Fortunately, Arizona's veteran Senator shrugging off brain cancer in the sunlit uplands of the fight for Obamacare. And Thailand's dynamic Senator Tammy Duckworth leading the charge on aviation improvements in Illinois factories and universities that, beyond mere earmarks, and the scraping of the pork barrel, would fully deliver American Resilience.

While previous Ambassador Barzun sterling efforts in highlighting Kent's Pocahontas and Virginia's Jamestown whether in the cold Kentucky rain, London fog or Kent sunshine means he’s not the first Kentucky thoroughbred or hopefully the last to turn up on Kent’s shores.

Flyover country can't always be a flyspeck in Washington? And there must be more inspiring sports events than the Bladensburg Races?

And new Ambassador Woody Johnson must also be loosening his dungarees, tapping out his corncob pipe and pulling up a straw bale at the County Barn to see how Kent and USA links can be developed? Any fried chicken mess on the front seat of his Jeep Landrover or John Deere tractor could be wiped away with a Johnson and Johnson wetwipe to develop USA trade beyond junk food. Just look at the success of Wyoming in ASEAN.

A 21st century Lend-Lease for say cargo helicopters and support ships for Caribbean and Pacific nations is hardly impossible - nor is consistent global emergency numbers and websites. At least Texans on holiday know to call 911 in New Orleans or New York but what about in New Delhi or New Caledonia or if there was a Harvey in Havana, or even the Shambles of Old York underwater again?

And such efforts would be sustainably viable to help refloat the global economy and minimise future storm damage. In my advertising role, perhaps icons such as The Man from the Pru, or the quiet diligence of Willis, is needed once more if the men from the Royal Navy are out partying?

And in my politics role I've long argued for Town Insurance Schemes - Bristol and London scoping out similar green energy plans - of reduced insurance for say East Kent's 250,000 citizens and 75,000 homes joining a council plan. Such volume and certainty, would also allow for rapid and full settlement of claims along with, say free travel insurance for Kent's citizens, as well as any Texan visitors.

Certainly the storm clouds of UKIP medical tourism would be held at bay - and Learmonth's Learjet on standby for Kent citizens unfortunate to fall prey to the worst excesses of America's dysfunctional healthcare systems.

For East Kent in the shadow of the white cliffs of Dover, needs no lessons in the value of the sea, and not since the days of the perilous storms of the Spanish Armada with UK citizens and sailors abandoned dead and dying in the streets of Margate has there been such failure of national will in the howling winds of Climate Change.

With most of the world's 7BN mouths in cities and most of those cities by the coast and rivers, the dangers of Harvey are ever more likely and the failures of Katrina ever more unacceptable.

While the absurd overspend on aircraft carriers without any - or very few - aircraft seems a result of what Hastings terms the Admiralty's slow seadogs. The Russian Defence Minister - worryingly also viewing UK through the telescope of the defunct Cold War as an implacable European foe - simply terms them bigger targets for drones.

And the UK RN base in the Gulf seems to be the Navy's 7 ships trying to ape the role of the USN 40 ships. Or worse, propping up some of the worst Gulf kingdoms - that increasingly an anachronism with the end of both oil and the combustion engine.

Private Eye citing the Northern Ireland police denying then confirming training the Omani police and military in torture techniques raises questions of how UK military and civilian police should be used abroad.

The chaos of the Trump White House still hasn't appointed FEMA hurricane directors and only now some 10 months on after election and the tempest of Oval Office purges, a USA Ambassador to London. Shouldn't Anglo-American relations be better than the usual better late than never? Perhaps the Lone Star state should reopen its old embassy in Trafalgar Square to fast-forward support from the limeys and other Europeans.

But for all the Royal Navy's idling in port, Hastings cites over 809,000 men, 203,000 horses and 250,000 tons of stores shipped across the stormy Channel without loss, as well as fending off the first Uboat induced famine, in the Autumn of 1914.

The lack of cargo helicopters and in-air refuelling now suggests deeper failures in Resilience and war-making capabilities sit under the surface. The US Marines buying up all the UK's Harrier jump jets, for carrier and jungle and desert airstrips.

And even President Trump raising concerns over the cost and viability of the F35 jets, and Saudi Arabia flying more British military jets than Britain, suggests the Royal Navy is adrift in a sea of vanity projects, Cold War reactionism, inter-service rivalry, and plain old-fashioned nautical nincompoopery.

Since at least the carrier battles of 1944, the role of the world's navies has been something of an anachronism as well as a luxury. And Houston underwater is an unacceptable price to pay for either a lack of UK Resilience efforts or the UK standing both shoulder to shoulder and knee deep with the Lone Star state.

The beginnings of another round of naval disarmament and limits may be beyond any one military service, but at the very least a more co-ordinated UK and NATO is crucial. And Resilience factors, whether the military and first responder coordination or cargo helicopters and forward-placed aid dumps and rotations is vital.

A cheap and simple and recyclable Higgins Boat – developed on the bayous before DDay -or Barney’s Barges, if you will. Britain's shipyards couldn't build them all but whether in San Diego or Virginia Beach, or Dhakar or Hong Kong or Pusan a raft of such Gresham Liberty Ships, and new materials such as graphene would be a breakwater against Climate Change.

While Bill Gates sat in the pouring, ever warmer, rain of coastal Seattle must surely have computer-crunched population centres and rainfall with the 8% of malaria deaths not in Africa, or at least in Central America's Nicaraguan Mosquito Coast and Haiti?

How disastrous if the Houston disaster was to last as long as the aftershock of the Port-au-Prince earthquake.

While USA struggling already with Third World medicare even before the Trumpian attemps to reverse Obamacare, must highlight the need for civil and military medical Resilience. Even if the Canadian NHS has to provide it.

To say nothing of cancer or dementia drugs poured down the plughole in hospitals and pharmacies from disasters such as Harvey.

The UK's year of silliness on Brexit, and now the empty position papers must have cost at least 0.7% in GDP for nothing at all except national decline and drift.

And Gates and Buffett and Branson and Bezos and Slim and Polman and Bono and Carter and Annan urging a G20 UNSDG 0.7% Fund would almost instantly deliver it. Who would want to delay the UNSDG30 and Resilience in its first year? If President Trump delayed, then President Zuckerberg certainly wouldn't, but why wait four more years or even four more months?

While the bumper glut of Latin American crops this year and the usual tsunami of Thai and Indian rice should refloat any Resilience city or island, as well as being regularly funnelled into UNFAO Scaling Up Nutrition work against malnutrition.

Virginia's dynamic Governor and First Lady keeping a weather eye out for childhood malnutrition, and proving their Breakfast Club has more substance than an ‘80's teenflick. All the more concerning here in UK with a rising tide of food banks, junk food malnutrition, cuisine culture fading and inattention to five a day foods.
And even important beyond La Vita Bella for Kent's pensioners in care homes, or with meals on wheels nursing, and especially Kent's Special Measures hospitals if water already has to be issued on prescription.

And Houston may yet face the waterborne diseases and alligators that Togo with the Carter Center has helped overcome this week to end lymphatic filariasis.
But Port Arthur battening down the hatches in true Dunkirk spirit and issuing an SOS call for a fleet of citizens and Little Ships that Ramsgate knows all too well.

The issue for the Lone Star state though is how quickly Houston will be rebuilt - the aftermath of Katrina and Fukushima, and Kobe and Nepal earthquakes even now suggests far less than is needed, or stated, will be done.

But certainly Royal Navy ships and helicopters would have been vital assists.

And what happens with the next storm? Waving or drowning again in USA and UK?


Thursday, 24 August 2017

PM Prayut charming Isaan - and Yasothon rice for UK High St?

One can't fault PM Prayut in his efforts to build political bridges in Isaan this week ahead of Friday's Yingluck rice court case, with his innovative mobile Cabinet meeting, Korat rail link revisions and even kissing a frog. That apt too given Princess Sirivannavari winning a silver medal on her horse Prince Charming in the SEA Games.

As an aside, with Thailand's Carabao Cup renaming the UK League Cup, and Everton with long-time sponsor Chang's Wayne Rooney retiring from international football surely the SEA Games and Asian Games should feature on UK television, and even with Sport England display sports? It's exactly the sort of sporting event that Channel Four built its reputation on.

And what a fascinating video interview with Khun Boontham the dynamic Governor of Yasothon - the Terry McAuliffe of Isaan? - Virginia's Governor also boosting cereals with his breakfast clubs, while damping down the Charlottesville furore.

Khun Boontham going the extra mile in his sterling efforts to boost organic rice in his province. Over 140,000 rai/acres of organic rice already planted.

And Khun Kobkarn, Sports and Tourism Minister, also now effectively Rice Minister - fresh from walking the fields of the Royal Doitung projects, and boosting women's tourism to ASEAN - is not afraid to get some Isaan mud between her toes, or swapping her Jimmy Choo’s for Wellington boots to help plant Yasothon's organic rice crop.

And interesting the efforts in Yasothon (why rebrand the province rice as Yaso though?) to pull together groups of supermarket buyers to get a first-hand taste of the potential for local sourcing and organic foods. With the Whole Foods and Amazon merger going ahead at pace, surely there's a wider opportunity for better food faster And food as a health tool.

With UK's Tesco Lotus offshoot and Netherland's Makro wholesalers already in Thailand, and retail giants such as Walmart ASda key presence on the UK High St and malls, an extensive ground-up strategy for Thai produce must be brewing, if not already percolating through the market?

Certainly PM Prayut’s charm offensive heralds a brighter future for Isaan.


Monday, 21 August 2017

UK and Thailand SME and DHL - just organic growth?

Khun Chananyarak Phetcharat of DHL Express Thailand makes some fascinating points in her Bangkok Post article on Thailand's 4.0 prosperity and SME trade:

As she points out Thailand’s SME are an inexhaustible Thai goldmine for innovation and creativity – and from the DHL Spice Trade report double the growth from cross-border trade than the existing 80% of domestic trade.

UK exports and economic forecasts understandably but perhaps foolishly focuses on FTSE100 companies, themselves largely international in nature compared to more UK-based FTSE250. While ignoring both SME companies that constitute 99% of UK jobs - and startup companies that disproportionately drive both jobs and profits.

Thailand will no doubt have similar SME opportunities - particularly the 80% of the economy centred on agriculture. TDRI research highlights 68% of Thai farms under 20 rai yet already 90% are mechanised. With an agricultural version of Internet of Things Rangsit University has already shown yields can already be increased by a third in rice.

The internet - and DHL - are surely though the ideal vehicle to unleash a perfect storm of creativity and exports for Thailand. Perhaps structured across a quadrant of BKK, beyond BKK and intra-ASEAN or intra-EU. Thailand's excellent Kitchen of the World cuisine culture programmes for example could be retooled and enhanced through digital tech.

Knitting together the nation after the Charter Referendum would be beyond DHL alone but certainly galvanising regional trade from the North East to the North to the Deep South is very viable.

The Michelin guide has only just begun to rate Thai cuisine whether hi-so restaurants or street food - a massive opportunity for Thailand's cuisine culture perhaps similar to Italy's in its breadth and range.

In my East Kent politics role as Mayor and MP candidate (Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption. Stop the Construction) it would be remiss of me not to mention East Kent's burgeoning Cuisine Culture with the Sportsman gastropub in Whitstable and Stark in Broadstairs along with, of course, Suirn Thai restaurant (try the sea bass!) in The Good Food Guide.

UK's 15,000 Thai restaurants have slipped back to c.12,000 - an opportunity to redress the flow of talented labour and foodstuffs for companies such as DHL and BOI?

Why shouldn't for example Thailand's regional rice brands be a trading force to be reckoned with? The crop is 50% of all Thailand’s agricultural land. Isaan's red rice and black rice are still relatively unknown here in UK - and completely unknown in EU just a stepping stone away from East Kent, even with Kent's Dover as Europe's largest port, and nearby Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, as Europe's other largest ports.

Certainly Thailand's SME farms and foods have the capacity to support DHL's activity.

While STEM activity with say TRF and True Tech park would be the perfect blend of local origination and traceability that UK supermarkets such as Walmart-Asda and Waitrose and Tesco Lotus are crying out for, as are their customers.

How absurd for example to have Waitrose Thai chillies sourced from India(!) and neither Kent nor Thai orchids. While say Isaan red rice harvested from Nok's Farm on the edge of Sisaket and tracked through its DHL delivery to Birmingham airport and Manchester restaurants would be a sparkling innovation in traceablity.

## Digital Farms A Real World Thing? ###

While if agritech is the leading promise of the Internet of Things - you could just ask Siri if extra food yield of more use than a text from your fridge to buy milk - in sustainably managing Climate Change. And food yield with soil and pesticide management for the forecasted surge to 11BN hungry mouths to feed in the world, and Mars by 2030.

Thailand's SME farmers could be Digital Farmers at the forefront of maximising exports. While Khun Chananyarak at the wheel of the DHL fleet would be the key driver of not just autonomous and electric vehicles but also boosting Thailand's crucial auto parts industry - and UK companies such as Unipart and Nissan Sunderland - for said vehicles.

Khun Chananyarak would no doubt be welcomed with open arms by DHL UK CEO Ian Wilson in boosting activity and jobs at DHL's UK hub at Heathrow. And the existing Kasetsart and Newcastle Universities' expanding engineering departments under Chi Onwurah MP's Shadow Cabinet Industrial Strategy.

While the ongoing debate around Heathrow expansion, marshalled through Parliament by dynamic Transport Chair Louise Ellman - the world's busiest airport getting busier - throws into perspective other UK feeder airports.

Gatwick and Stansted and Birmingham and Liverpool's John Lennon airport - and Mersey port - are vital now and more so in the future for carriers such as DHL and Thai Air. Stansted in particular with 120,000 empty freight slots is part of the more focused UK transport debate needed for the 21st century.

Too many underperforming small airports and Heathrow as a giant is unsustainable? Gatwick apart from the frenzied blip of Summer charter flights is so empty it could restage the iconic Ronaldo Nike ads in the airport for real. There’s certainly more space than the Turkish Airlines Man Utd version on a plane, if not a full cricket match along the concourse.

Certainly progressive companies such as DHL and Thai Air would be hungry for the first crop of new landing slots at UK airports while concerned for their staff and customers from the Manston-Infratil scandal (along with Stagecoach and KLM) at Wellington airport. NZ lamb and wine perhaps an easy option to replace with Siam Winery, and Folkestone or Australian lamb for better food standards and better food miles.

The currently disused/closing US Air Force real estate in Sussex, a mere airdrop away from Stansted, could be a potential welcome windfall for the US tax payer with a UK strategic overview of passenger and freight aviation beyond Brexit.

While Amazon's new warehouse sites at Bristol Severn Beach with 1,000 new jobs, as well as Daventry and Doncaster and Warrington and Tilbury (one to watch) plus Amazon's 13 existing UK sites and 24,000 jobs (and Bezos buyout plans for USA grocer Whole Foods) would be pleased to hear of Khun Chananyarak’s expanded logistics plans.

As would the UK High Street now delivering on the promise of Argos-style clicks and mortar gradually being revived via Amazon parcel collection points.
No doubt so would dynamic Tilbury (again) MP/Lords Margaret Hodge - always keen to roll up her sleeves to help the docks in her constituency - formerly of Parliament's audit committee and Garden Bridge review/cancellation would no doubt be keen to support both Bristol's MP Jack Lopresti and Sajid Javid's Midlands Engine of the car industry.

In my advertising experience of Audi etc, auto parts are already a key, neglected, SME supply chain for both UK and Thailand with dynamic companies such as the afore-mentioned Unipart capitalising on a consistent flow of products whether just in time or scheduled well in advance. Nissan Sunderland now slating the new Qashqai for delivery along with Oxford's new Mini amongst a buoyant UK and German car industry.

### TG Tips Isn't Tea ###

Parliament's Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle isn't the only supporter of Chorley market, perhaps second only to Ramsgate market, for fresh foodstuffs and a refreshing day out. Apt that Blackrod is just down the road.

While Lancashire's mills or the silkmakers of nearby Macclesfield are the first beneficiaries of cottage industry piecework that fabricated the modern world in the Industrial Revolution (UK 1.0?) so why shouldn't DHL Thailand be the 21st century enabler of Thai design and clothing as well as pineapples?

And the end of the Rolls Royce corruption is case reassuring for a former Rolls Royce supply chain teaboy like myself schooled in my father's workshop making Concorde parts. He did the precision engineering care of Derby and I did the tea care of Typhoo or PG.

While DHL need take no lessons from Fedex or others on their perishable cold chain warehouses and supply chain already in place - and ideal for the surge in vaccines needed for AMR, Flu and Bird Flu pandemics, and UNSDG goals for Dengue, Malaria and HIV and TB of course.

### Drinking In Rice? ###

TB is the scourge of Thailand, and London as the TB capital of Europe. And, beyond logistics, as with Cancer(s) and Dementia, there’s a monstrous failure of government policy in not ensuring pharma STEM research in every one of UK's 130 universities.

While the current Bird Flu outbreak in the Philippines has been rapidly alerted by the authorities in contrast to the current Netherland's egg scare or previous turkey bird flu - a concerning lack of effort from UK and EU Disaster Response Emergencies. And lack of speed in warehousing and airfreighting vaccines.
DHL can't deliver vaccines if the pharma industry isn't making them, nor the universities researching them.

While the UK contaminated blood scandal of 3,000 deaths from USA skid row donors, bravely highlighted by Ramsgate and Broadstairs sufferers amongst others, is an accident waiting to happen again in Vietnam with its new paid donors scheme.

Blood and organs are surely long overdue DHL input to Resilience and SAR disaster efforts - UK expats in Thailand and Thai expats and visitors in UK must surely want to know that the relevant stocks are in place from Bumrungrad to Birmingham General hospitals?

And with my Surin Schools Charity hat on wouldn't DHL be the perfect real-world link with schools across Isaan and UK? It seems a crying shame for UK schoolbooks to be pulped rather than shipped abroad to deliver on English as ASEAN's second language?

No doubt keener Thai - or Myanmar - pupils would make do with old copies of the Argos catalogue as reading material, when their smartphone battery gives out, in the absence of anything else?

But why shouldn't the new season's rice be as exciting for DHL Aviation as the Beaujolais Run to rush the new season's French wine to UK tables? While the lime growers of Can Tho in Vietnam and Veracruz, Mexico (and their avocado compadres of the UK food fad) would no doubt be reassured in DHL efforts on foodstuffs. Both fighting for space on the DHL fleet along with the pineapple growers of Hua Hin and Chantaburi.

The seeds of such SME growth are already blooming in Thailand through the diligent efforts of Thai Farmers Bank and BOI - the former embarrassing the UK agricultural industry struggling with just NFU Mutual batting for them against rural crime, ageing famers and tech investment.

Beyond DHL Heathrow, Cardiff airport is already the 24-7 hub for Thai food exports, while Tilbury (again) port in Essex is a constituent part of OBOR - as is Kent's Channel Tunnel and HS1 hispeed rail.

### Smooth As Silk Rail ###

Certainly OBOR, China's One Belt One Road, is a logistical innovation just 10 days now to London and Madrid from all points east of Chengdu and south of HongKong, and China's IT industry. Surely the latter also relevant for Thailand's electric vehicle and as well as IT industry and brand extensions for both Unipart and DHL?

Spain's climate-controlled trains are already fast tracking their way through Europe and Asia, enhancing their exports of Iberian ham and wine.
Surely the absurdities of Brexit and Gibraltar will be put aside for Sevilla connections through a Gibraltar rail bridge/tunnel to connect with Morocco's hispeed rail (the first in Africa) across to Cairo and down to Senegal.

The Sarkozy Mediterranean Partnership (a Peartnership?) would be more fully in place for EU accession along with Cape2Cairo links to South Africa, unleashing the East African seaboard and markets (also oriented eastwards) and quashing the spectre of famine and malnutrition.

The OBOR East African ports reducing the logjam of the Suez Canal, and shortening sail time to India and ASEAN. And the current Port Sudan and Jeddah hispeed rail links a further capacity option to Indi and Bangladesh and ASEAN.

DHL Rail could be a spur to coherent expansion of ASEAN hispeed rail - tons of rice may be uneconomic by air, and slow and perishable by sea, but lightning fast when running on rail.

### Beyond Organic Growth ###

Cambodian SME farms are already growing fast on organic food. UK's dynamic ambassador Bill Longhurst launching the Khmer Organic Farming Cooperative just last week. And Kampot pepper an EU GI status designation sourced by UK's top chefs such as Jamie Oliver.

Those SME pineapple growers must be licking their lips at the potential in their backyard - if only DHL could get them to market. I'd dig out my pineappley Hawaiian shirt for that. Wouldn't we all especially the Caribbean Commonwealth?

Usain Bolt has already got off to a flying start with his Tracks and Records restaurants expanding, with Franjam and SME Group, into UK with 15 restaurants planned to serve up a taste of Jamaica. Jamaican cuisine perhaps as neglected as Thai cuisine in UK. Rice and peas are clearly solid and in-demand staples from Kingston to Kanchanaburi.

Thailand's rubber growers would no doubt also be happier at the potential for UK car tyres and bumpers than pouring the precious liquid into the roads.

A view no doubt supported by the new UK Business Council under the dynamic guidance of foodie entrepreneur Luke Johnson of Pizza Express and Patisserie Valerie, and curing Colon and Liver cancers in his spare time with his Institute of Cancer Research, and Paul Polman of Unilever and Lifebuoy soap and other FMCG goods.

All those DHL-boosted restaurants would need extra ingredients, as well as soap and washing up liquid and washing powder?

Thailand's silk industry though should surely also be jostling for space in DHL's SME programmes whether for the fast fashion of Europe's High Streets, or the couture capitals of London, Paris and Milan.

And DHL Thailand could be feted for gearing up the SME designers of Chatuchak market for Camden market. A massive opportunity in unleashing the street fashion and designers that London and Bangkok are renowned for.

A DHL Silk Bus touring Isaan and its silk banks and OTOP tambons, and sharing tips and techniques, must be as viable as the Thailand Post or Royal Mail Postbus? Standing room only probably with weaving films on the top deck?

And how wonderful if DHL and Thailand Post cooperated on expanding the smart yellow digital postboxes of Phitsanulok for AR (multilingual) tourism and collection points?

And a dedicated DHL Silk Train (the Marco Polo DHLexpress?) would be all too apt for the new Silk Road that first cemented Eurasian prosperity.

Khun Chananyarak would no doubt be reluctant to have 10 days out of the office riding the silk rails to Europe, via the UK and Thai embassies, but wouldn't a tweet commentary through Central Asia and Europe and onto London, or even Leicester's King Power stadium be interesting to kick off the DHL SME activity?

Certainly the football stadium hasn't yet been built that could hold the hundreds of thousands of SME businesses in UK and Thailand that could benefit from DHL and Khun Chananyarak's efforts.


Friday, 7 July 2017

UK and Thailand Road Safety weaving all over the road?

Khun Anchalee Kongrut swerves around none of the concerns of drink-driving and road safety in Thailand in her article:

Certainly 40 road deaths per day and 25% of those due to drink-driving is sadly Thailand living down to its reputation as one of the world’s worst nations for road safety.

And if the Buddhist Lent ban on drinking may reduce deaths over the long holiday weekend, then is the reality 6 months on from the 7 Dangerous Days of Xmas and Thai New Year that the death toll will simply remain as high as ever by next Xmas?

The reforms on passenger bans in the back of trucks and on minivans and seatbelt wearing will be fruitless unless drink-driving is tackled hard.

Britain can take great pride in its road safety work over the decades – and there is no quick fix it does take decades of consistent and rigorous effort - and is now rivalled only by Sweden as the safest roads in the world.

##UK Road Safety##

Chief Inspector Phil Vickers the road safety expert at Lincolnshire Police – one of the 43 UK police forces – has done much to promote the #Fatal4 next wave of road safety measures of which drink driving is a persistent problem.

While both Lincolnshire Police and Chief Constable Simon Byrne of Cheshire Police have been active in highlighting road safety work, especially speeding and drink driving with the Police Interceptors TV show.

If Red Bull has given wings to its heir now on the run – the Lord Lucan of fizzy drinks- it would be unthinkable for any cop-killer on UK roads to escape justice for so long. And Yoovidhaya having fled London before being collared managing to flee in a private jet to Singapore, raises concerns over Interpol’s activity so far.

As an aside, it raises questions over what the lawyers were saying to the courts until now in the Red Bull case. And certainly UK can take no pride in a wave of corrupt lawyers and courts – not just the South Thanet election fraud nor Russian libel tourism nor even Lord Grabiner and his cabal of crooked barristers in One Essex Court but also blatant HMRC fraud by Lawrence Stephens lawyers:

But with road safety, Chief Constable Pughsley of Kent Police can cite great improvements in frontline Kent with the police HGV to spot long distance lorry drivers drinking or using the mobile phone. Even watching television – presumably not Police Interceptors – while at the wheel.

Using a mobile phone while driving has been vigorously clamped down on as one of the #Fatal4 in the last year with a $300 fine and 6 points (out of 12 before a ban) on a licence.

While the Road Safety Experience by Kent Fire and Rescue (called out to rescue drivers from the mangled wreckage of car crashes as well as from burning buildings) is an unusual tourist attraction with not just the proverbial beer goggles on how drinking affects driving but road simulators etc.

While forensics are vital in road safety for crash analysis and the plethora of other techniques such as Cold Case review, crash analytics eg injuries caused by car keys requiring vehicle redesign or autoparts review such as brakes and larger scale reporting and recalls such as the Vauxhall Zafira fires are part of the police road safety armoury.

##UK and Thailand Road Safety##

And Bobby Bear merchandising surely a missed opportunity so far at King Power or the Siamese Foxes of Leicester City and the neat flourishes of a police tyre gauge thingummy to check tyre tread for road safety, laminated checklists, and windscreen ice scrapers. The latter admittedly not much use in Thailand.

Surely UK and Thailand working together should enable the boys in brown to get together with the boys in blue at the Road Safety Experience as well as Hendon and share knowledge and tips? To put it bluntly, Thailand would be pushing against an open door to easily access decades of road safety work that works.

And Kent Police are going into overdrive for the Summer road safety campaign – deaths on UK roads counter-intuitively more in Summer than the Xmas festive season due to longer evenings and pub drinking. Bizarrely KCC council are running separate rather clunky campaigns on mobile phones and even worse passengers and speed which is both mixed messages and campaign dilution at its worst.

In my politics work Garbutt for Ramsgate Mayor and MP I’ve urged Frontline Kent as a hothouse of innovation with 20mph zones (down from the usual 30mph) for 10 miles radius around town centres:

In my Sincerity advertising role, one of the most effective UK road safety campaigns was the Kill Your Speed not a Child ads as research showed adhering to the 30mph limit would reduce child deaths.

Plus I’ve urged zero drink-driving (currently about one pint of beer is allowed) and even the USA system of no booze in cars at all, except locked in the boot, and certainly no open cans or bottles.

And if Khun Anchalee expresses concern over jail sentences for drink driving that would be one tool in the armoury to make a huge dent in drink-driving initially. While the Don’t Drive Drunk Foundation along with GRSP Global Road Safety Partnership must surely have a more active role to play with government to prevent half measures on drink driving?

Khun Anchalee’s potential dashboard cam for her car raises questions over the efficacy of Thailand’s CCTV and road camera systems first raised with the central BKK wat bomb - and the age-old problem of the public sector in the public paying twice, once for the system and then once again to do it themselves properly.

Shouldn’t UK and Thailand take turns at the wheel in sharing road safety experience before the 7 Dangerous Days come hurtling around the corner again?


Police reform in UK and Thailand lacking sincerity?

Khun Wassana Nanuam's article on “police reform lacking sincerity” highlights various issues not just for the boys in brown of Thailand but also Britain's boys in blue:

While adding an extra layer of debate on the military-police roles and interfaces.

Thailand's new Committee of 36 comprising police and academics and military as instigated by PM Prayut certainly does seem to be making all the right moves in police reform.

Thai readers may be unfamiliar with almost febrile atmosphere in UK over the regular Koh Tao deaths, wide publicity of Thailand as a dangerous tourism destination and Andy Hall and National Fruit Co. human rights cases and the Red Bull cop-killer case.

The default position, unfairly in my view, is one of instant and total criticism of Thai police.

Anecdotally in my (few) experiences of Thai police at road blocks or lost credit cards I've always been met with unfailing politeness if not embarrassment at my feeble knowledge of UK football. While Thai quirks such as Police Hospitals and Nurses are rather baffling.

Corruption is far more endemic in Kent with the police drowning under a tidal wave of dodgy Caribbean tax haven companies and council fraud with Pleasurama and Dreamland megaprojects and corporate manslaughter with Infratil directors, now of Wellington Airport, facing extradition.

Certainly the danger of a Costa del Crime culture that affected Southern Spain with British criminals on the run to the sun could infect Phuket and Pattaya without effective policing eg the recent arrest of UK drug lord Jonathon Moorby on the run in Thailand, or the arrest in BKK of Manston-Ostend gunrunner Viktor Bout.

I've urged for example a Kent Police International dept to focus on ASEAN with clear and fast links to Interpol and Europol as well as all 43 UK police forces. Whether focusing on UK criminals abroad or terrorism or stranded citizens.

Kent citizen Joshua French featured in my MP manifesto and now released from Death Row Congo and concerns over the murder of Kent's George Low and cross-border problems in Cyprus with the murderers fleeing to Turkey:

And there’s a wider debate on London's Boris water cannon - still stored on Kent territory and apt with Hamburg G20 riots now - versus water sprinklers in tower blocks.

While UK’s 5,000 guncops, in effect a Police Army, and redeployment of Special Branch the political police to counter-terrorism, with terror attacks on Parliament and Borough market, and upto 3,000 regular troops on the streets in aid to the civil power (with questions over what the other 76k troops are for) and shortage of detectives raises questions over who does what.

While Doitung must be a huge feather in the cap of Thai police in the Golden Triangle and ready to roll out to the Wa and Shan regions of Myanmar if not Helmand.

For surely the 36 Committee will have failed if it's merely used to truncheon Thai police into submission rather than highlighting reforms and success and best practice? And surely ACT amongst other civil society groups, and even Surin Pitsuwan in his Bangkok Governor campaign ushering in the beginning of a return to full democracy in 2108, should have a voice in the process?

While the 36 Committee is unusual to farang eyes in having General Boonsang a West Point (why not Sandhurst or Hendon too?) graduate military man in charge of policing scrutiny where the position is reversed in UK - albeit with the exception of Deepcut barracks as below.

##Kent Policing noodling##

In UK slightly different approaches have taken place in recent years with each of the 43 UK police forces having their own elected Police Commissioner (previously unelected) to scrutinise the police and hire and fire the Chief Constable.

It's proved something of a success with reservations providing greater public scrutiny of the forces. But very low election turnouts - as low as 15% in many cases. While the UK Commissioners have led to cronyism and padding of offices, and even concerns of going native and simply cheerleading the police forces, and party politics muddying the waters.

That mitigated to some extent by HMIC a separate civil service inspectorate of all the UK police forces.

In Kent though the Police Commissioner got off to an abysmal start with Ann Barnes the previous unelected commissioner being newly-elected to a car crash TV series of dogs in the office, a mountain of Pot Noodles - not a Thai curry brand unfortunately - that would shame the rice pledgers and that Kent Police are still working their way through, and the infamous Onion of Priorities.

And if Kent Police are struggling on weaving their way through the political jungle of the Manston-Infratil crimes committed by politicians and civil servants in removing monitors and faking pollution and cancer data, then Surrey Police are also caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in the Deepcut scandal.

##Deepcut scandal##

Deepcut army barracks saw 4 young soldiers shot between 1995 and 2002 supposedly in separate suicides. One supposed suicide with five(!) bullets in him.

Now a 2nd (new) inquest or Sean Benton is opening in January and detailed in Private Eye magazine (available in Asia Books) plus BBC Panorama with concerns not just in the interplay between Surrey Police and the Military Police over jurisdiction at the barracks.

But astonishingly also QC John Beggs - criticised over his involvement in the Hillsboro scandal with South Yorkshire police - now hired again by Surrey Police with public funds to speak for them, and essentially browbeat family witnesses on the rates and in the public's courts.

It's astonishing that in the UK mainland and in peacetime there would be any confusion over the primacy of civilian police in military policing, especially for murders.

While a swirl of rumours around war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and Bloody Sunday Northern Ireland and lack of military police or civilian police rigour have resulted in reduced sentences for the Royal Marines Sergeant Blackman.

And now a Sunday Times expose last week, and UK's largest-ever Military Police investigation, on war crimes by a rogue SAS unit in Afghanistan acting as its own kill-squad and running amok and planting guns on executed Taliban, or civilians:

All of which has undertones not of Thailand's Deep South troubles and interplay of military and police in counter-insurgency terrorism, but more the My Lai and Speedy Express systemic massacres of the USA military in the Vietnam War.

While persistent unsolved crimes such as police corruption around the axe murder of private detective Daniel Morgan would have Robert Peel turning in his grave:

If the 36 Committee has the potential for root and branch reform of Thailand's police then as as Khun Wassana points out surely a lack of sincerity would hold back more effective policing and Greater UK and Thailand cooperation?


Thursday, 6 July 2017

Smart Farms served up fresh and hot for UK and Thailand?

The TDRI article by Nipon Poapongsakorn and Phunjasit Chokesomritpol on Agriculture 4.0 raises some food for thought on farming in UK and Thailand:

With 90% of Thai farms mechanised and the Electronic Government Agency developing satellites and soil sensors Thai agriculture should be best-placed to develop the Precision Agriculture Khun Nipon mentions.

And the Hom Pathum rice from Kanchanaburi with a yield increase of 27% highlights both the potential of boutique rice and crop gains.

With 50% of all farmland increasing crops from 878kg per rai to 1,118kg the potential is there. Yet 43% of all farms are under 10 rai and a further 25% just 10-25 rai.

While agricultural R&D dropping to 0.2% of GDP from 0.9% is a backward step. For, rather than just reduced tech costs or moves to larger farms surely there are qualitative improvements possible with Smart Farms and UK-Thai cooperation.

Even on instances of koi pla liver cancer in Isaan with over 20,000 deaths.

##UK farming growing?##

UK farming has troubles of its own with most farmers now over the age of 65 - Private Eye magazine detailing the rise in farm injuries from such elderly workers: 30% of fatal farm accidents are for those aged over 65. Agriculture with just 1.4% of the UK workforce accounted for 20% of work fatalities. Fatal injuries at 7.73 per 100,000 workers compared to 1.94 in construction.

Bumble bees have suffered a catastrophic decline and impact on crop growth through failure to manage hedgerows and prevent mono crops that reduce biodiversity.
And UK lags woefully behind nations such as Ecuador and India in tree planting - the latter with 50M trees planted in one day for Climate Change resilience.

UN Year of the Soil promoted by Kasetsart University highlighted potentially just 6 more harvests through degraded top soil.

Climate Change a factor with hotter summers and longer winters and fiercer storms and variable rainfall affecting crop yield.

And the contribution to Climate Change in non-seasonal foods and food miles in transport.

The Global Seed Bank featured in a New European newspaper article by Stuart Thompson Senior lecturer in Plant Biochemistry at University of Westminster, already under threat form flooding despite being in one of the remotest parts of Norway and supposedly Climate Change resistant to protect its bank of seed varieties.

UK farming employs less than 1% of the population but still 475,000 workers and covers 75% of UK land. While Resilience and Food Security issues are a concern with 40-60% of food imported and the risk of Pandemics such as Bird Flu or Dutch Elm disease. Last Xmas was nearly cancelled due to an outbreak of bird flu in much of UK's turkeys.

##East Kent farming##

And food is the largest UK manufacturing industry - or at least value added - with the switch to a service economy, worth £109BN and 3.8M direct and indirect jobs through the supply chain.

In East Kent with its rural heritage as The Garden of England as depicted in The Darling Buds of May TV show that rocketed Catherine Zeta-Jones to stardom. Or Charles Dickens waxing lyrical on its apples and cherries arming is crucial. Or Charles Darwin detailing the origin of species that forms the basis for much of the world's knowledge of the natural world.

While, Brexit silliness aside, Kent as UK's most European county must surely be able to capitalise on its Polish and Romanian and Hungarian links - as well as Benelux - in cuisine and culture if nothing else? The KCC faded links with Bacs-Kiskun and Virginia are an affront to good governance - and the dynamic Governor Terry McAuliffe Breakfast Club further food for thought on malnutrition, obesity and diabetes.

90% of the orchards have been lost since WW2 and even the most ardent non-Brexiter concerned at bland apple crop imports such as France's Golden Delicious. While Climate Change has positively affected Kent's vineyards with a resurgence not seen since Roman times of fizzy wines.

The last main fishing fleet in the South East works from Ramsgate harbour - battling the elements and lack of policy in combatting overfishing and reseeding the oceans. All to stock East Kent's booming Cuisine Culture from the Michelin-starred Sportsman pub in Whitstable, to Surin Thai restaurant by the harbour in Ramsgate (try the sea bass!).

##Smart Farms and ASEAN and UK##

A recent business trip to Vietnam saw discussions with students concerned at potentially going back to the farm, yet enthused at the possibility of Smart farms and the range of AI, sensors and robo-automation.

While Thanet Earth mega-greenhouses the largest in Western Europe provide supermarket crops and the basis for space food. And the thriving fruit and veg stalls of Ramsgate market days on Friday and Saturday provide a golden thread from farm gate to High St.

And rare Kent Orchids form the basis of a garden market economy that Thai orchids have already developed.

Surely the basis for UK-Thai agricultural industry cooperation is rooted in several measures in my politics and advertising work:

* Kasetsart links with say Hadlow Farming College in Kent and Kent University
* TDRI links with Produced in Kent and Sustain and Mayor of London Food board think tanks
* Kent and Thailand lead on filling the Svalbard Global Seed Bank faster: only 930,000 seeds out of a capacity of 2.5BN so far - and tighter links to the other 1,700 seed banks eg Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank in nearby Sussex
* Links with Kent's Givaudin flavouring and perfume experts and UNFAO UK and Thailand eg Laotian vanilla pods
* Surin's Rice Research centre plugged into the seed banks and IRRI
* A Thai-UK supermarket group to analyse and forecast consumer and market trends whether Thai pineapples or Argentine grapes
* True mobile links with Microsoft - the UK campus the largest outside USA- and Thai Farmers bank and City of London for technology developments
* Discovery Park links with Thai STEM parks and DaNang science park

Another Green Revolution to again triple food production is a must as hungry mouths to feed increase from 7BN to 11BN over the next 50 years. The potential of a 70% increase in food production made easier with DNA technology such as CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing.

While 40% malnutrition in Cambodia and Laos just across the Thai border and almost within sight of the glittering shopping malls of Bangkok and ever-present 7-11 and Boots Lotus and Makro suggests far more can be done.

And Discovery Park STEM science park, as it develops, with links to Sittingbourne Science park and Kent University and CCU University campuses in Canterbury and Broadstairs, and 6th form colleges, must surely focus not just on vaccine research and manufacture for malaria and TB growth markets.

And indeed Cancer and Dementia - but also Smart Farm technology to ensure that Kent's Farm to Pharma strategy grows.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Surin4SurinSchools – education reform for UK and Thailand and Bangkok Governor 2018?

Khun Surin Pitsuwan, Thailand’s former deputy PM and ASEAN Secretary-general and erstwhile Bangkok governor in March 2018 makes some eloquent points in his “Education itself must learn some lessons” article in the Bangkok Post:

The PM Prayut initiative on Thailand 4.0 to drive up the quality of teachers and education is an important one, in danger of being derailed, and resonates here in UK too.

Khun Surin rightly details the shocking litany of Thai education results in recent years:

• PISA results for Thailand and Cambodia 62nd and 69th of 70 nations in Asia for English proficiency

• The 2016 survey by Cambridge University of 400 English teachers in Thailand rated 60% as inadequate – and with worse figures in STEM courses

If the success of UK links and heritage via the Commonwealth could help explain the PISA success of Singapore at 12th position and Malaysia at 14th position then no such excuse could be found for Vietnam ranking higher than Thailand at 29th position.

Anecdotally the poor quality of Thailand’s teacher training and grammar books is only matched by my occasional series of what I call Tim’s Thai Typos the astonishingly bad translations of big brand advertisements in Thailand’s press and poster industries.

Clearly Khun Surin is right to flag up the need for root and branch reform of Thailand’s education system – and to highlight the success of the UK Russell Group and USA Ivy League universities as suitable candidates for emulation.

The UK is 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. And the sprinkling of Carnegie libraries that highlight UK-USA educational funding.
And, as an aside, why wouldn’t Khun Surin as Bangkok Governor in 2018 follow the Royal Road of closer education and cultural links with Cambodia as well as fast-forwarding hispeed rail links to Phnom Penh and onto both HCMC and Yangon to cement Bangkok’s role as essentially the capital of ASEAN?

## Surin Education Reform##

For if Khun Surin underscores the 166 international schools in Thailand – including his own Rugby School as Chairman and an honorary degree from my alma mater Bristol University– then it’s a concern that only 45 such schools are member s of the ISAT Thai International group with formal and active links to Thailand’s Ministry of Education. Hardly an engine for education reform and growth.

In UK pressure is on for continued improvement in education after the too-long Summer holidays – a Victorian relic of farming and harvests. But with the UK still facing the effects of the Great Recession of 2008, and a summer of silliness if not political mayhem with Brexit, then few people have been heard to call for a revamp of the whole UK education system.

In my Sincerity Advertising role 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 Sasin have much to offer UK.

The UK’s June election has sent British politics to the bottom of the class with wholesale U-turns in the Tory manifesto including the cancellation of the reintroduction of grammar schools and cancelling the cancelling of free school dinners.

Indeed calls for Brexit to be cancelled are growing by the week as a more outward facing UK emerges again from the insular Little England debates of the past few years.

And the new lame-duck Theresa May government now distracted in 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%.

The dynamic UK Education Minister Justine Greening is active on UK reform and issues raised such as free tampons in school, or the DUP and Northern Ireland lack of access to abortions.

And research this week showing the gender gap remains with Middlesboro being the worst town in UK to be a girl. And it’s horrifying that UK officially classes literacy as a reading age of just 8 years old at age 16.

##Kent and ASEAN education##

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

Kent social services had to be gutted in the face of vulnerable children scandals (plus scandals in youth football and youth military cadets), the Archbishop of Canterbury now calling for faster action on refugee children from the nearby Calais Jungle, and the Northfleet children scandal of the children being born with their intestines on the outside of their bodies.

All this with a council budget of $3BN per year just to manage Kent’s schools suggests reform has been held back. The specific schools and university budgets are extra to that figure.

Youth unemployment in EU is reaching epidemic levels with 39.7% in Spain and 21.7% in France and debates around the effectiveness of mainstream academic courses and vocational courses in UK’s 130 universities and dozens of colleges and language schools are underway.

Sadiq Khan the new London Mayor – the most votes ever in any UK election and most powerful Moslem politician in Europe – wiping the blackboard clean in urging a public inquiry into the Grenfell skyscraper fires, cancelling the garden Bridge scandal and expanding the Night train London Tube service to overground by December 2017 for a 24/7 global London.

While wider debates on the school leaving age increasing to 18 from 16, votes at 16 rather than 18, free tuition fees in Scotland but not UK and a Basic National Income are on the UK agenda.

In my Ramsgate Mayor and MP campaign I’ve urged a top 200 university in Kent along with ASEAN studies courses and BBCTV language learning courses even free-to-air broadcast exchanges and Open University expansion, the first MOOC.

News this month of the possible closure of the Broadstairs campus of Canterbury Christchurch University suggests a failure of both marketing and courses. While calls are increasing for Kent Police involvement in a CCU “Hendon of the South” as well as Community Policing with Charlton Athletic football club etc.

##Thailand and UK Education Partnership##

Shouldn’t the UK and Thailand form a long-term partnership in education?

And surely Khun Surin should make education a key platform in his Bangkok Governor campaign for March 2018?

It’s astonishing that 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. Indeed Newcastle MP and Shadow Industrial Minister Chi Onwurah has urged greater education and industry cooperation not just in excellent traditional industries such as railways but new industries such as computer coding.

With UK introducing computer coding as a lesson surely the expansion of Yingluck computers and Raspberry PI should feature in UK as well as Thailand?

And no Thai language courses or high schools or Rajabhat universities have formal links with UK universities.

While the Surin Village School Charity I founded has already built its first school in Isaan for just $30,000 for a new school building for 50 schoolkids including a library and satellite internet and computer links with Kent schools.

Wouldn’t Surin4SurinSchools be a key message for Khun Surin’s Bangkok governor campaign?

Certainly any new Bangkok governor would need to consider the disunited kingdom aspects of the Charter referendum and how to broaden education access to Isaan and the North and Deep South. As well as considering how to more equitably redistribute government funding beyond an ever-larger city-state that distorts national cohesion and affects both Krungthep and London.

Issues such as Bangkok lacking potable tap water compared ot Singapore or the Doitung Golden Triangle and Mynamar Wa drugs blight or even the monstrous failure in UK of Thai WW1 monument must surely be in the mix?

If London is cooking on gas to end the North-South divide through the Northern Powerhouse programmes then Thailand has much to do to end blatant inequality with luxury cars nestled next to street food carts. And the generation gap of 6 years of primary schooling in Isaan is a national drain compared to the educational access of central BKK. As would be a failure to expand the 10 baht healthcare schemes with sustainable vocational courses.

Failure by a Bangkok Governor to solve such problems could be the biggest disaster to befall the Thai capital since Ayutthaya in 1767.

While cultural issues such as Mahakan Fort and Bangkok Riverside developments as well as the new Observation Tower or High Speed railways will be a test for any Bangkok Governor in ensuring they graduate from being potentially costly white elephants or concrete vanity projects to credits to benefit future generations of residents and tourists in a world city like BKK.

Khun Surin would surely be pushing against an open door with the dynamic British Council – UK and Thailand’s secret weapon - for both cultural and educational opportunities – yet another UK Education Seminar near BTS Chidlom on 22nd July for example including Kent University:

As well as ensuring Universities UK – the grouping of all 130 UK universities – places Thailand’s needs first as well as with the Erasmus EU programme of university access.

Otherwise what a massive waste of both nations’ human capital?

##Thailand and East Kent##

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, along with strategic growth markets such as Senegal, Mali, South Africa, Malawi and Angola.

Or with tighter Latin American growth market programmes with Mexico, Cuba, Chile and Argentina for example to move UK culture beyond just Shakespeare.

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 such opportunities and no doubt that reflected in the PISA results Khun Surin cites.
DaNang University in Vietnam is already the largest UK education investment. And UK has an Education export target for £30BN to be achieved – and both Thailand and Vietnam as key growth economies.

Will Khun Surin urge 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 figure only the same as Malaysian students in UK now?

Shouldn’t all 8 top performing Thai universities in The Times higher education leagues be linked not only to a UK university but also to specific departments?
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.

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 miss such an opportunity would surely mark them out as dunces?


Friday, 23 June 2017

PM Prayut four questions for UK as well as Thailand?

PM Prayut's Four Questions as always prove interesting reading - but also a salutary lesson for UK after the dismal election of 8th June.

With an unelected leader now held together by a minority government amidst the shambles of senior politicians voted out, new UKIP and Liberal leadership elections – although they could be held in a telephone box, senior civil servants defenestrated, a whole year of Brexit bumbling (and potentially upto two or three or four more years before it's cancelled), and a worsening economy, UK could well pay heed to PM Prayut's Four Questions.

Only the Ministry of Silly Walks seems well-staffed at the moment in UK government.

Certainly the robotic mantras of strong and stable from Britain's Blueshirts don't have the eloquence and openness of PM Prayut's fireside chats. While the lack of televised Leader Debates and party broadcasts are in stark contrast to the running commentary - no matter how impartial - of Thailand's 30 minute TV shows.
And the threadbare 1970's socialism of Britain's Redshirts is a knee-jerk ideology nationalisation of railways is perhaps only slightly more jaw-droppingly awful than the 18th century Blueshirtsim of foxhunting.

All again in stark contrast to PM Prayut's modernisation initiatives under the Thailand 4.0 umbrella. And Fruitival just one policy, served up fresh and hot, amongst many.
For Britain still to be bumbling towards its first Industrial Strategy some 200 years after beginning the Industrial revolution is concerning.
But if PM Prayut is an uber-patriot returning happiness - or at least a measure of stability - to the Thai people through the unrest and emergencies of the last 3 years, the demands can only grow louder for elections in 2018 from the Four Questions:

1. Do you think the next election will give Thailand a government with good governance?

An interesting philosophical question clouded in doubt and uncertainty for any nation. But perhaps the next election will do so for Thailand. Thailand’s economy is starting to tick upwards. Tourism remains resilient even with the shock report of Thailand rated as one of the world's most dangerous nations - perhaps because of the volume of tourism.

While civil society - a weakness in much of Asia - has been strengthened in Thailand with say ACT anti-corruption groups. While the National Strategy with politicians, businesses, civil servants and Third Sector groups is a refreshing contribution to oversight and scrutiny. It’s in stark contrast to the cod-cabinet of the UK Privy Council or House of Lords still infected with 91 hereditary Lords and bizarre farce of hereditary elections to replace them as they die off.
Unfortunately, as we've seen in UK with the trashing of the Fixed term Parliament Act at its first hurdle, and then the tearing up of the Blueshirt manifesto, elections don't always yield good governance. In Britain's case with even Northern Ireland's DUP now complaining, it doesn't even seem to yield a government.

2. If that is not the case what will you do?

Presumably, as in UK, Thai citizens will tut and sigh and turn away from politics in disgust. That demonstrated in the rise in low turnouts (over 30% of UK voters not voting in national elections, and 70%(!) not voting in local elections). A bitter harvest for the last D-Day veterans landing in Normandy to secure weak democracy in a failing nation. A weakened government and resurgent opposition will undoubtedly result in repeated carcrash elections in effect sifting through the detritus to eventually find viable leadership.

Troops on the streets viable? Britain's tried that recently for a few days - along with armed police - with the London Bridge and Borough Market bombing to minimal support. And less so than in Thailand, France's ongoing state of emergency has failed to stem the wave of terror attacks or instil a sense of security.
But again PM Prayut must be thinking of the 2018 elections and standing with his own party or not?

He could certainly lay claim to strong and stable leadership. And as an uber-patriot surely he must also be best-placed to place a framework around any military aid to the civil power in the future? 21st century Thailand can hardly continue the rollercoaster ride of coups and counter-coups or tempestuous colourshirt politics.

And perhaps all the more important without the wise counsel of King Bhumibol for the first time in the Thai landscape.

And as a comparison, the vitriol routinely directed at the UK royals would cause thousands of lese-majeste cases in Thailand - each day. No wonder Prince Charles routinely heads off to Romania to relax and get away from it all.

With Prince Harry this week stating that no royal wants to be King or Queen Britain’s monarchy seems to be in something of a greater pickle too. With Prince Philip in hospital again and retiring from public life and Queen Elizabeth 91 years old, the smoothness of transition from King Bhumibol to King Vajiralongkorn – despite naughty German teens’s air rifles - is another stark contrast between UK and Thailand.

3. Elections are an integral part of democracy but are elections without regard for the country's future right or wrong?

Again a profound question that casts UK's recent election for Party purposes in a dim light. And as with the rise in civil society in Thailand whether Greenpeace or monks or farmer's or CEDT or TDRI groups, democracy is more than just elections.

Certainly the UK approach of essentially elected dictatorships every five years is overdue for reform. While the Blueshirts have been described as an absolutist political party tempered only by regicide.

While the merry-go-round of elections on Scottish independence, Brexit and national elections plus party leader elections and resignations in Clegg, Cameron, Farron, Nuttall, Farage and Miliband is hardly testament to elections leading to stability and growth in UK at the moment.

4. Do you think bad politicians should be given the chance to return to politics - and if conflict re-emerges who will solve it and by what means?

Does PM Prayut mean Thaksin or Yingluck? Or both? But surely Thailand as a modern democracy can’t perpetually ban citizens for taking up politics? Cambodia's PM Hun Sen's triumph with Sam Rainsy exiled and banned from politics, seems a pyrrhic victory worthy of UK elections and a cautionary tale on the Shinawatra debate.
As was the heat of a judicial coup around the rice pledging schemes and watermelon politics.

Even Boris Johnson, foreign Secretary and erstwhile PM, was only hidden away during the election campaign after his Brexit shenanigans. While the capable Michael Gove has been given another chance after the Brexit palace coup as Environment Minister to green Britain under the hot glare of Climate Change.

And if conflict returns to the streets surely the Boys in Brown of Thailand's police should be the first call, as with UK's Bobbies on the beat, rather than troops firing on citizens? The Bloody Sunday inquiry of Northern Ireland and 14 citizens shot dead by the Parachute Regiment still taints UK politics even now, with the Unionjackshirts of DUP urging amnesties.

Certainly no UK general would expect to last long outside the barracks for any dalliance in UK politics - even the Duke of Wellington met his Prime Ministerial Waterloo besieged in his Hyde Park home under the slings and arrows of the baying mob. And certainly PM Prayut has a golden opportunity in his fireside chats - or aerobic sessions - to openly discuss the future and reform of Thailand’s military?

Is conscription viable? Cancelled in UK back in 1960 even at the height of the Cold War, as an economic and social drain. What is the right size and role of the military? Is Cambodia stealing a march on UK and Thailand in its peacekeeping role with over 1,000 troops deployed? How does the military work in Resilience operations whether SAR search and rescue at sea or floods and earthquakes on land?

After all it took President Eisenhower a former military man and leader of D-Day, highlighted the dangers of the military-industrial complex soaking up public funds with perpetual emergencies and the inability to switch off the military machine. Even now UK troop still based in Germany long after WW2 and the Cold War.

Or PM Prayut could discuss the CEDT view of 61 deans of Thailand’s foremost universities urging the handbrake is pulled on S44 for the Bangkok-Nongkhai Chinese railway that seems to benefit China rather than Thailand or Laos. Is throwing billions of dollars to plough through the vast emptiness of the Laotian Highlands sensible even with OBOR?

With both Kent University and Newcastle University the latter already linked with Kasetsart engineering depts - and Kent’s Southeastern franchise due a Meiji Kent overhaul with a consortium of Japan Rail and Netherlands – surely rail technology transfers would easily be viable?
Certainly that would be of more use to Thailand - although less fun - than Lumyai's Mor Lam twerking? Rather than facing a barrage of three-fingered salutes - and more than a few UK citizens are offering the current UK PM a few two fingered salutes - PM Prayut himself rather than a Lukthung music video lookey-likey could give the thumbs up to increased UK-Thailand trade?

Sadly the Grenfell Tower firestorm in London has exposed shortcomings in both fire standards and UK Resilience - mobs besieging the council offices and resignations, before public inquiries beyond lessons learned, over such failures. And in Kent heavy rotation of press and radio advertising highlighting Pandemic preparation - and need for the Sir Julian Brazier Medical School project linked to Discovery Park vaccine factory - as vaccinations fall below the 83% safe level.

A healthy flow of nurses and doctors and researchers and pharma-factor workers is all the more important for the NHS as Brexit rumbles on and EU citizens and STEM workers feel unwelcome, and the Kent Farm-to-Pharma strategy falters.

Surely Brexit highlights to both UK and Thailand, Eire's sterling work in securing all ten of the top 10 pharma companies from Pfizer to Ameger as inward investment. And there must be a template of JV activity for the City of London and Thai firms such as KTB, SCB and Kasikorn?

For surely PM Prayut's Four Questions pose the basis not just to tee up the 2018 elections but for a strong and stable UK and Thailand relationship into the future.