Saturday, 28 January 2017

Deputy PM Prawit aboard the Peace Train. Time for a Thailand-UK Prosperity Train too?

It's positive to see Deputy PM Prawit urging Thailand's citizens aboard the Peace train.

The return to full democracy is back on track in Thailand after the Charter referendum and drafting of the new constitution. Even discussions on re-establishing the old political parties and any new ones.

Surely before the peace train arrives at its destination with elections in 2017, or very early in 2018 given the King Bhumibol funeral, space must be found for opening the prisons and even a wider discussion in the lese-majeste laws?

The harsh reality is that no nation in Europe or USA will agree to full relations with Thailand without full democracy again. Indeed USA has been even more strident than usual in insisting on democracy.

And Khun Abhisit has made the cross-part point that any attempt at SLORC-style jiggerypokery of the constitution in favour of the military will only result in it being reversed by the politicians. Aung san's Myanmar democratic regime easily threw off those military shackles.

Similarly it’s hard to see how a judicial coup as say the Yingluck rice pledge could be maintained after 2017.

Nearly 3 years on from the crisis of May 2014 the return to democracy is picking up steam.

The new Corruption rankings show Thailand falling to 101st place - but that's essentially due to their criteria and view of Thailand as an autocratic regime rather than any increase in corruption as such.

PM Prayut is unfairly seen as a dictator and coup leader in Europe. That incorrectly brackets him with a Saddam or Gadaffi - rather than the nuanced reality of a patriotic military man intervening to prevent civil war.

And a light touch on restoring order and restraining military expenditure that often derails many military regimes.

And leading the charge on modernisation with Thailand 4.0.

An uber-patriot if you will.

It's a subtle distinction that isn't translated into much of the Western coverage and view on Thailand.

Perhaps a Roosevelt (Theodore) or Marshall or Eisenhower is the nearest albeit imperfect Western analogy. Even an FDR Roosevelt given PM Prayut’s electronic fireside chats on television and internet are always interesting.

With Thai investment in UK falling by 35% after the SSI steelmill in Redcar, Thailand's citizens must be urging an increase in activity and prosperity. Just as the Indian government have urged UK Asia Minister Alok Sharma to expand trade and university links.

But beyond the twists and turns of the democratic process in 2017 shouldn't the high speed Express Train to Prosperity be also given the green light? In my politics role here in East Kent we're ready.

Thailand has only friends and allies in Europe and UK - and should be pushing against an open door for increased links and prosperity.

Deputy PM Prawit could release the brakes and go full steam ahead:

* increasing speed on ASEANRail with the last kilometer to Poipet - and then increasing pace on links through to Phnom Penh and HCMC. The latter slightly more difficult as trains never ran through to HCMC so new track and stations etc are required.

* shunting forward on the rail link from BKK, through Kwai and into Yangon and onto to Dhaka and Kolkata.

* with 1M UK tourists on board, shouldn't space be found for improved UK-TH tourism cooperation. Khun Kobkarn has already given up her evenings to take the Night Train to Chiang Mai and promote OTOP and Royal Projects with TAT.

* a freight carriage attached full of auto parts, if not a Mini then Landrover and Jaguar - UK recording one of its highest ever auto-manufacturing years so ready to help boost the Thai auto factories

* a freight carriage with a space satellite. UK astronaut Tim Peake may be heading back to the stars but shouldn’t UK and Thailand be regearing the Thai auto parts experience with Thailand 4.0 into developing a space industry? Better weather or GPS satellites would be a minimum improvement for True, AIS and TOT and the Thai Met Office along with driverless cars for Nissan and Honda and Kawasaki.

* a freight carriage full of fashion - the first graphene dress launched at the London Fashion Week:

Shouldn’t UK and Thai designers be working together in the malls and department stores of Harrods and Selfridges and Emporium and Paragon? As well as the markets of Camden and Jatujak? And the carriage could be piled high with silk as the train hurtles along the Silk Road and Belt between Yiwu and London?

* a freight car full of sports equipment - footballs, cricket balls, rugby balls, takraw balls, bicycles, yachts and even a stadium or two. The 2020 Olympics won't wait for Thailand and UK to eventually get around to pulling on their surf shorts, sunglasses or swimming goggles and tennis shoes.

* a carriage with a Thai temple and giant Buddha smiling on all who travel that route and in UK

* the UK Digital Railway could provide opportunities both for SRT with say through-ticketing as well as Thai IT with Panasonic or Microsoft - whether a Bathroom DNA mirror or not

* seats for 12,000 extra Thai students to study and learn English in UK? Certainly a boost for SCB and Krungthai and GSB etc in student bank accounts and foreign currency, as well as True and Toshiba for Yingluck student smartphones and computers

* a dining car with Superfoods and Thai produce on the restaurant menu? Everything from pomegranates to pineapples – the longterm trend to Clean Eating could be missed by Thailand’ agricultural industries.

* the train first aid box should be overflowing with TB and Rabies and Dengue and Flu vaccines, new Cancer and Dementia and Cataracts and Hip and Knee treatments, and alerts with Glaxo and Pfizer and Astrazeneca, as well as cosmetics and TRF and TDRI research with Discovery park and Sittingbourne science parks here in East Kent.

* the locomotive powered by solar panels and wind turbines to zoom forward on renewables and free electricity, and power flood and sewer infrastructure as the South floods ebb and repairs take over

* a lounge car with film festivals and books to support Thai and UK culture - even ASEAN and Creative Industries Minister David Puttnam can't keep screening The Killing Fields in 21st century ASEAN. That print has faded compared to expanding Online Education and wider broadcast and film reforms. Shouldn't BBC documentaries such as Thailand Earth’s Tropical Paradise be part of the scenery on the journey to UK and TH FTA channels and JV programming with MCOT and PBS, and PISA improvement?

Indeed with UK's Asian minister the dynamic Alok Sharma of Reading, the UK home of Microsoft, visiting ASEAN and India, shouldn't the buffet car serve more than tea and biscuits and endless bureaucracy meetings, and move into first gear and concrete action.

Britain extolling the virtues of NATO or G7 or 0.7% aid again, or even the same old faces of Rolls Royce and Burberry is almost worthless for UK and Thailand's 120M citizens.

The Peace Train is picking up speed, so why shouldn't the Prosperity Train be speeding along behind it?


Friday, 27 January 2017

UK and Thailand 4.0 education

Khun Pavida Pananond as always makes some interesting points from Thammasat in her Bangkok Post article last week:

Globalised economics do seem to be going through a sea change at the moment with a potential reversion to protectionism of America First under new President Donald Trump.

Already much of the Obamacare medicare policies have been revoked and the TTP and NAFTA trade agreements. And calls for Ford to build their car factories in USA not Mexico.

No wonder the Mexican president refuses to meet with Trump.

While President Xia Jinping rightly sounds a note of caution that a trade war helps nobody.

A Trump trade policy in the year of the rooster might lay an egg of just gaudy casinos and towers and hotels or golf courses - and UK for one has enough of those.

While some of Thailand’s environment problems are cited as due to the excess of Japanese investment in golf courses over jungle. Indeed one factor in the high USA military budget is its construction of military golf courses on the rates.

While Brexit so far has yielded a 20% fall in the dollar and 10% fall in the Euro and the potential of price rises from Unilever and Nestle.
Brexit may not mean Breakfast, but it could be a very expensive way to start the next decade.

And Khun Pavida makes some interesting points on the value of education to Thailand's economic strategy in Thailand 4.0 and the 20 year plan - the latest PISA figures a cause for concern.

With my politics hat on here in Kent I've raised the potential to expand Thai students to UK from c.8,000 per year to nearer 20,000, the number of Malaysian students already studying in UK.

And Malaysia with 5 university campuses in UK, is taking a larger slice of the roast beef of the UK education system than Thailand at the moment. While UK is at long last moving ahead on the DaNang campus and IT park investments in Vietnam. Plus trebling the Chevening scholarships in most of the ASEAN nations including Thailand.

The Foreign Minister Boris Johnson visit to Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi last week also urged greater cooperation between UK and Myanmar, no doubt heard by his brother Jo Johnson the Universities Minister.

But shouldn't Thailand be chalking up its plans for education with UK? In Kent we have 4 universities plus 400 schools and dozens of language schools - the Japan Foundation cultural arm of Japan (similar to the UK British council in Thailand) are already active on Japanese language lessons in schools.
Thailand has just one university course in UK universities, and no Thai language courses in schools. To be fair, very there are very few UK language courses except French and German and a bit of Mandarin.

Shouldn't Thailand be aiming for Thai or East Asian Studies courses in UK universities and ASEAN language learning? East Kent 6th Form College, and its 3 sister colleges run courses from auto-mechanics to fashion and beauty and hospitality.

Clearly the extra 12,000 Thai students couldn't all fit into Kent's 4 universities but there are 130 UK universities of academic and vocational courses - plus 19 excellent universities in Scotland and more in Wales. Plus Northern Ireland and even Eire.

And wouldn't an extra 12,000 Thai students provide a massive boost to the Thai economy whether tourism or STEM science with improved English language skills. And provide an opportunity to redress some of the division of North and Isaan and South exposed by the Thai Charter - why not 3,000 students from each of those regions and 3,000 from Bangkok to make up an extra contingent of 12,000 students?

It’s a way to redress the over-centralisation of Bangkok (that UK suffers with in London) and begin the ASEAN 50 anniversary in style?

And in her ThammChula role why doesn’t Khun Pavida consider a study group of a dozen Thai universities focused on UK partnerships - the ThammChulUK group if you will.

Wouldn't closer cooperation between UK and Thailand on education help both nations move ot the top of the class and better weather the storms of a globalised economy?


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Nestle - a sweeter life?

A profoundly interesting article "A Life Less Sweet" in The Economist on Nestle the foods giant. Nestle has long been on my Sincerity wish-list of clients: the corporate symbolism detailed by its outgoing CEO Paul Bulcke of the company founded in 1867 to save a child's life wiht Henri Nestle's milk powder is powerful.

A profundity beyond merely the corporate success of $90BN in sales across 189 countries and brands such as KitKat and Nespresso.

And added value now wth the new CEO Ulf Mark Schneider breaking the merry-go-round of leadership from other behemoths such as Kaft or Heinz or Danone.

But rather, his joining from Fresenius, a kidney dialysis healthcare firm, a leap to the future as consumer tastes and legislation limit HFSS (High Fat Salt and Sugar foods) such as chocolate bars, icecream and dairy and frozen pizza that makes up much of the Nestle corporate shopping basket.

And the growth in Healthy Eating and Superfoods and food science ensuring a packed agenda. In the dying months of 2016 UN WHO warning against red meat, and this week a further warning on over-cooked food such as roast potatos or crisps or toast as cancer-forming.

Any day now one of the supermarkets will break from the pack with HFSS branding and merchandising and divesting tobacco sales or profits.

While prices ranges from the expansion of discount retailers such as Lidl have brought into focus a Brexit price rise of potentially 10% or more on Kit Kat and Pure Life bottled water.

The former subject to currency fluctuations from the Ivory Coast cocoa markets, although price increases on non-traded water likely to be met only with product substitutions by canny retailers for say Welsh or Scottish spring waters. Although if the Celtic nations also divest the UK single market in favour of independence referenda and the EU then its just Buxton water in every supermarket.

But that's where Nestle has strategic strength in depth with the outgoing Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe possibly continuing as honorary chairman following his dynamic work on Water and UNSDG30. As with Unilever's Paul Polman a shift in FMCG brands towards CSR work enlightening their brands.

And the growth potential of underperforming or neglected products such as Lean Cuisine or Nestle's Health Science group with medico-nutritious ranges such as vitamin drinks for the elderly and cancer patients.

Or Nestle food research and work with new drugs firms for illness prevention and palliative care such as recent successes in reformulating sugar to retain sweetness with fewer calories. And Stouffer's frozen food range aimed at men's health such as protein supplements.

And as a $90BN behemoth - wealthier than many nations - Nestle has a strong CSR and Fairtrade nutritional role as well as affecting the sugar markets of Cuba or Thailand or the cocoa markets of Senegal and Ivory Coast.

As with Unilvever, and less so Proctor and Gamble, shouldn't Nestle be a business force for good and making the world that little bit sweeter?


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Thailand and SCB banking on education?

Khun Sutapa Amornvivat of SCB Bank makes some typically elegant points on Thailand's economic outlook in her Ponderland article on Trade and Education in the Bangkok Post this week:

The economic implication of the Trump election may only yield some unsightly towers in Asia, and Brexit could dampen world growth as well as being a damp squib in terms of meaningful EU reform.

It’s a strange UK policy to simply tear up membership of the world’s most successful trade bloc without attempting reforms – or even citing any – and without knowing what will replace it.

While the banking sector is on a former footing in Europe with the bailout of Italy’s Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest bank. And in UK the latest round of Bank of England stress tests showed all the main banks succeeding except for minor issues with RBS. Lloyds for example has reduced its government bailout from c.44% of funds to just 6%.

But beyond reading the tea leaves of various permutations of economic forecasts, and tidal wave of State funds keeping banks afloat, Khun Sutapa certainly is right in the importance of education in Thailand - and UK's economy.

The recent PISA education listings are less than ideal for both nations, but the growth of the UK university sector is reassuring. Oxford gaining the No.1 university spot for the first time and UK and USA universities neck-and-neck for research and innovation, and Australian universities also popular in Asia for those students not keen on cold weather.

But The Economist this week devotes another article "Not Rocket Science" (page 48) to the crisis in Thailand's education system: a third of 15 year old students described as functionally literate, the mug-throwing incident scarring a schoolgirl, and calls for reform of the half of Thai schools with under 120 pupils.
With my Surin School Charity hat on I'm not sure that last point is especially correct compared to increasing the number of teachers, reducing class sizes and teacher training etc.

The World Bank article in the Bangkok Post covers similar points:

But 55th out of 72 national rankings and with huge State investment is less than ideal for Thailand’s future.

Here in Kent, the University of Kent goes from strength to strength as the UK's European university (despite Brexit - although a fall in EU students is likely) with campuses in Brussels, Paris, Rome and Athens:

While CCU the lesser-known also in Canterbury is carving out a niche in public sector and police forensic sciences and sports science arts and East Kent College vocational courses such as fashion and beauty and dozens of language schools:

Certainly CCU provides something of a template for Thailand with its development from a teacher training college and new focus on Sports Science, Creative Industries and Cultural Heritage.

Reform is need to boost improvements at University of Kent and CCU, on foreign language and East Asia Studies, as well as Medway primary schools as part of the Ebbsfleet New Garden Town improvements from the Kent coat to the City Docklands, and Paramount Movies theme park.
And shouldn’t green-fingered agriculture students whether with a UK or Thai passport should feel at home in both nations and help develop superfoods.
And shouldn't Thailand and UK work more closely together? I think there are a few areas for consideration:

* I've urged an increase in Thai students studying in UK from c.8k to c.20k to match the number of Malaysian students. And with 5 UK universities in Malaysia as well as at least one Malay university in UK, as well as the new UK university in DaNang, aren't Thailand and UK doing a disservice to future generations?

* While Summer school places in UK for Thai students or for UK students in Thailand as part of the National Citizen programme, similar to the US Peace Corps, should be far easier than now.

* English language improvements are often cited as needed in Thailand - shouldn't both SCB be providing scholarship funds, and student bank accounts, as well as Kent and UK universities providing scholarship places?

Khun Sutapa would know better than me the Lifetime Value of a student to SCB - as well as the value to SCB of future graduates with a UK education and job guarantees on return. And the value to The Land of Smiles of fluent English-speaking graduates.

Americans might struggle with spelling (color instead of colour is just lazy), but aw shucks even they prefer a British accent for spoken English.

Such an education programme could be shared with Bangkok Bank or Kasikorn – ideal for the latter’s Kcyber accounts and tech-savvy students?

* But shouldn't SCB be considering not just its Cambodian expansion but also branches in UK and Europe? There's only one Bangkok Bank branch in The City in London - surely a missed opportunity to open up the UK banking sector to Thailand and support the 50k Thai community in UK? Remittances home at the very least could be a financial goldmine - something the Filipino economy has maximised.

* And with Thailand and UK cooperating through the Royal Mint in Wales – and its actual goldmine - on banknote and coin production why not a series of commemorative coins, as well as vocational training on banknotes and travel credit cards and stamps. UK and Laos have already produced a postage stamp. Thai and Kent orchids?

* Maybe SCB would want to boost its sports diplomacy activity with football clubs and their fans - Manchester United as of last week overtaking Real and Barcelona as the first £500M a year club, as well as sports science and PE colleges for Team Thailand ahead of the 2020 Olympics. Great British Football is hugely popular in Thailand but surely cricket and rugby would be interesting display sports too? The Indians and Welsh can't have all the fun. And shouldn't he UK enjoy a sport of Takraw every now and then?

My occasional TimsThaiTypos series on advertising mistakes by big brands in Thailand suggests a need for advertising education too, whether my Sincerity hat on or advertising lecturer. And with Thailand 4.0 beefing up its regional headquarters economic programmes, it's ideal to launch Sincerity's ASEAN offices from Bangkok soon.

* Couldn't the increased Chevening scholarships in Thailand be supported with British Council and Samaggi be plugged into UK education and employment activity?

A few ideas spring to mind - but how absurd that Luxembourg (population 600k) has as many courses in UK universities as Thailand (population 60M) does - each have just one.

* With SCB sponsoring the excellent Queen Sirikit fashions exhibitions couldn't a few extra baht turn that into a travelling exhibition around Isaan and UK to promote the silk industry and Thai fashions?

Neither UK nor Thailand should bank on every student going to Oxbridge or Chulatham but they should account for improved links?

Kasetsart for example is top of the class in terms of international student exchange programmes that could easily plug into the rest of Thailand's universities as well as UK.

UK has rightly cracked down on fake universities and low quality universities so Thai students can be assured of a solid education. Kent Police have been active on human trafficking and illegal immigration providing a safe environment.

And I would never suggest Thailand should be cheap labour for Kent's hospitals or care homes to the detriment of the Thai health service but nevertheless former PM David Cameron assured foreign university graduates of the right to stay and work with graduate-level jobs.

The NHS as one of the world's largest employers (slightly less than the Chinese People's Liberation Amy or Walmart) faces similar crises from an ageing society, as does Thailand.

Shouldn't both nations be working together on a sensible system of health and education cooperation? With many Filipinos working in the NHS surely there's the basis for an ASEAN-wide work-study programme?

Even more vocational education programmes are viable such as UK and Thai (and Philippines) Red Cross curricula in schools whether first aid training, healthy eating or basic diagnostics for TB, cancer and diabetes. And sweeten the pill with work-study exchanges and and conferences and seminars - at the very least a boon for each other's tourism industries?

Thailand and UK should not just bank on each other but be more than the sum of their parts.


Friday, 20 January 2017

The Trump heard around the world. Or just hot air in the Americas for UK?

Now The Donald is President almost anything can happen - especially increasing opposition to any of his policies.

As with Brexit the USA election was so narrow as to resolve nothing. While rash statements on a Mexican Wall have disappeared even before the inauguration.

Along with almost all his policy statements even cutting Obamacare, the USA NHS.

Car makers relocating back to USA makes a yuge opportunity for UK and EU manufacturers such as VW and Jaguar in Argentina and Chile and Mexico.

But the reality is we have a US President where nobody knows what his views or polices are.

Trump praising Putin and criticising NATO seems merely random and meaningless, if not endangering US and NATO troops with the continued build-up of US troops in Poland to balance any further gains in Ukraine or destabilisation of the Baltic.

The Admiral Kutzenov aircraft carrier wheezed past Kent and onto Syria proved hardly a substantial threat and resulted only in jet fighters falling off of it into the sea. A danger only to Russian pilots and civilians in the market or hospital.

While China has already been criticised by the ICC over the South China Sea islands, and so may only fear an outbreak of bling-bling Trump Towers across Asia, or Farage popping in for a chinky real estate takeaway as Trump's bagman.

Grisly Cold War warriors like Mad Dog Mattis - never trust anyone called Mad Dog near nukes seems best - look like the past not the future incapable of working with China on the resolving the Spratlys and North Korea flashpoints.

The basketcase nations of the Middle East and East Africa left in his wake are hardly a success story.

Not since Gerald Ford has there been a US president who's a lame duck from the outset. Nor since Nixon in '68 one so hated.

Perhaps the only benefit of Trumpian politics is the end of the Bush and Clinton dynasties.

Both Jeb and Hillary sinking without a trace - it's not that Donald was so wonderful but that they had nothing to say.

But the Mexican Wall outbursts and rise of Hispanic politicians such as Rubio mark a seachange in USA from a WASP to a Latin American focus.

Obama's last reforms in opening up Cuba and releasing more Guantanamo Bay prisoners will certainly see a Trump Casino and golf course in Havana which may be an improvement on the prison.

Kent's Virginian Tim Kaine is a fluent Spanish speaker, with Jamestown and Canterbury pilgrim fathers links, and East Kent's Tom Paine, from his Peace Corps days in Honduras, and resonates more with East Kent than the Trump-lite Farageland of walls not bridges.

Certainly ask not what you can do for your county but for yourself is more the Farage way in deserting both the European Parliament and Brexit team and clogging up the airwaves as an LBC shockjock: “it’s the Europeans I tells ya”.

All less than ideal given East Kent's welcoming nature and focus on France and Benelux tourists and trade, Polish and Romanian students and farmers and Filipino and Indian nurses and doctors. A rise in hate crime and general nastiness could see even the Chinese freight train not bother unloading in Ashford.

But UK is lacking a focus on Spanish language and Latin American courses in schools and universities or even the Magellan celebrations - just look at the weakness of ASEAN in UK.

And the last flecks of Empire whether Falklands or BVI could see a Trump final fulfilment of the Monroe Doctrine and end of a drain on democracies and allies as with Gibraltar. 35 years on from the Fakland war this year, the islands still aren't worth the bones of one British or Argentine grenadier nor the absurd defence costs.

Certainly UK should marshall its resources in trade and culture in USA and Latin America free from the Imperial distractions and failings of the past.

The UK as a non-gringo Western voice and US ally could sail a course to greater prosperity in the Americas.

Brexit is seeing corporations relocating, interminable and random negotiations resulting in nothing much or worse, and immigrants relocating elsewhere with more pressures on the NHS and food. Brexit doesn't even mean breakfast, just a loud raspberry of discontent as the economy slides into the dungheap.

Unless Farage will be urging his pensioners back into the fields or cutting their medicare.

UK trade growth is key in USA, Farage and Trump bromance aside, with the Land of the Free having 17% of UK exports, second only to the 44% of EU.

The new UK trade offices in down the road from Virginia in North Carolina and over the way in San Diego are useful for UK growth in Media and IT and Space innovation.

Even NASA in Florida and ESA in French Guyana

And hispeed rail from Vancouver through to Santiago, and overland to Bering and Shanghai should benefit from the first Trump statements on improving USA’s weak infrastructure.

And sanctuary cities such as Los Angeles with the mayor and council and police refusing to criminalise or repatriate illegal immigrants is grass-roots resistance to the more odious policies against Mexicans and Moslems but a focus on criminal and gun and drug gangs.

Even Scotland has raised the Mexican flag over Trump golf courses.

Mexico is facing severe problems with the drug trade and ports of Central America, as well as Brazil facing a crime upsurge, make them more dangerous than most war-zones for tourists and residents alike requiring US and UK support not hate.

The growth in cocaine routes through Peru and Argentine and West African and Italian ports, even Ostend airport, for example is still unaffected by the Colombian FARC peace deal.

And cruise ships and ferries via Miami with Cuba now open, and no doubt Yucatan and Nicaragua links, as well as the recent widening of Panama Canal should help UK is best-placed in Caribbean tourism and trade too. Certainly, UK should lead more more than just the Commonwealth nations of Caribbean as tax haven economies - Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad or the car crash in slow motion that is the collapse of Haiti.

With a little effort, Cuba is a UK growth market after communism, with agriculture of sugar and tobacco plantations requiring new efforts in Smart Farms and upgrade of tourism infrastructure without destroying what makes the place unique.

Trump is President but it remains to be seen whether he or UK trade in Latin America amounts to little more than hot air.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Road safety pile-up for Thailand and UK? Or a walk in the park?

Crunching in one after another are detailed and eloquent views in the Bangkok Post on the worst ever New Year road crashes - 478 deaths even before the storms and floods in the South cutting Thailand in half and PM Prayut urging reform:

* Khun Ratanawadee of AIP Foundation highlights the need for specific road safety organisations and the advances made in Denmark and Sweden. Waving the Union Jack just a little I'd also point out that UK has the best road safety record in the world with only 1,700 deaths, and a population similar to Thailand at c.60M. While Sweden excels in winter weather, something rarely a danger in Thailand - but more relevant to the Vietnamese or Malaysian Highlands.

* Khun Amornrat touches on the dangers to the Thai tourism industry and c.30M visitors to the Seven Dangerous Days. Tourists returning home in coffins rather than charter flights is never ideal. And that despite many of the excellent efforts of the Thai Tourism Police and road safety campaigns on hotlines, wearing helmets etc. Apart from the reluctance of holiday companies to promote such destinations, the costs in travel and car insurance and rentals must be a burden on the economy too. And indeed the dangers of farang tourists on motorbikes and tanked up on alcohol are a risk that would never be accepted in UK or EU by police or public:

* Khun Sirinya writes on the lethality of minivans and lack of rest breaks as well as the horrifying danger of LPG in vehicles and potential for the Internet of Things in traffic management:

• Khun Surinand highlights the need for improved infrastructure: designing out road problems as well as a shift to rail, law enforcement and ongoing prevention campaigning. The progress on rail links through Cambodia should improve both trade, safety and traffic jams:

With innovative AIP programmes such as Abbott Health helmet giveaways in Vietnam and UK and EU experience in road safety work whether advertising the Fatal4, or Road Safety Day in November or the badly-scheduled Project EDWARD (European Day Without a Road Death) surely Thailand should be more active in exchanges and activity to reduce the carnage on Thailand's roads?

Here in Kent, road safety is a constant issue with Dover as Europe's largest port and the Channel Tunnel and ferries, with the through-flow of 2 million lorries a year between London and Europe.

The Kent road safety record is superb with only 50 KSI (killed or seriously injured - just 4 deaths) a year.

A slight increase of c.4 KSI last year means increased vigilance by the network of emergency services: police, ambulance, fire and rescue, RNLI lifeboats and military and air ambulance helicopters and ships for accidents on land, air or sea.

As well as the efforts of schools and public health organisations and pubs and clubs and restaurants and drinks companies.

In my politics work I'm urging a 20mph speed limit in all Kent's 30 town centres, as well as a clamp-and-crush overhaul of parking on pavements or double yellow lines. Kent Police are already implementing innovations such as police HGV lorries and a crackdown on using mobile phones at the wheel. Also reviews of accidents at train level crossings.

Certainly these issues are unsafe at any speed but capable of greater reform - even smoking in cars with children is now illegal, as well as public antipathy – after years of road safety campaigning - to not wearing seatbelts or motorbike helmets, drink driving or speeding.

And the Sheppey crossing here in Kent recorded one of UK's worst pileups in of over 100 cars due to bad weather, but also a design error with a high speed limit and no hard shoulder - the kind of early warning tweak that would save dozens of lives in Thailand and ASEAN. Or with police exchanges to Canterbury University, The Hendon of the South with traffic and forensic and paramedic courses.

In my advertising work I'm always astonished at Thai car advertising showing alcohol brands and sponsorships that would be culturally unthinkable in UK.

But the UK experience of road safety work shows that it's a long and tiring drive that will take at least two generations, so shouldn't Thailand start now before Songkran and then Countdown begins its deadly toll again?


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Spiders and Oysters speed up Thailand-UK tourism and transport in 2017?

The new Bangkok Mangmoom (Spider) card for transport across Skytrain and MRT and ferry etc sounds a terrific initiative for tourists and residents in The Big Mango. The UK too has a similar electronic (Oyster card) for the London Tube etc.

And terrific that both cities celebrated the New Year with sparkling free events and travel - and Thailand even gets a second go in April.
But grim reading on road travel in the insightful Bangkok post editorial:

With 2017 as the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism, it's no wonder that both Thailand and UK should be well-placed to deliver on their tourism targets of 29M and 36M visitors each this year.

And hi-speed rail are key projects for UK with HS2 from London to Birmingham and Newcastle, and presumably Edinburgh and Inverness, to stitch together the disunited kingdom of Brexit.

And HS3 for the oft-neglected Pennines mountainous route, from the Fab Four of Liverpool to Manchester to Leeds to Hull, now the City of Culture of 2017.
HS1 has already been up and running here through Kent from the 2012 Olympics to London and through the Channel Tunnel and onto Paris and Brussels and the rest of the EU rail network.

While the Welsh Government is singing out loud and clear for both the Heathrow spur link to boost their tourism and exports - with one the largest Thai food warehouses in UK - and the Oxford and Cambridge University new EastWest rail link a nobrainer.

#Maglev Future Rail#

While an interesting Independent newspaper article on the Maglev technology revealed the first line, now discontinued, was established at Birmingham Airport in 1984 - perhaps another Great British invention developed elsewhere as with cinema, television and the internet?

The Shinkansen Maglev will reduce the Tokyo-Nagoya 300km route to just 40 minutes. While a UK Hyperloop would reduce the 200km London-Manchester to just 18 minutes.

Or London to Moscow in less than three hours when Russia joins the EU?

Or BKK to Singapore in two hours? Or to Yangon or HCMC in an hour would be a boon for ASEAN tourists and residents?

The EU Parliament as of December has put in train Phase 4 of the EU Rail plan with greater integration and especially through-ticketing as with Thailand's and UK's Spiders and Oysters.

#UK and ASEAN Rail#

Shouldn't Thailand and UK be partners in such activity - especially with this week the commencement of the first Shanghai-London express train at Yiwu cargo port?

Bund to Big Ben if you will.

It's now only 10 days to Europe not 28 days by sea and of course running as smooth as silk on rails day and night.

Surely it’s important too for Thailand and UK to work with ASEAN to deliver on the ASEANRail projects to link through to Yunnan and India?

The Chiang Mai express railway is already underway and SRT must have potential for more with Kasetsart and Newcastle University railway engineering STEM departments?

#Bridging Asia#

And it would be More Fun in the Philippines with an integrated network of hispeed rail and bridges across many of the 7,107 islands avoiding the risk and hassle of ferries and typhoons and traffic jams?

Here in Meiji Kent with my KCC Leader 2017 and MP 2020 work we are ready, willing and able:

While I've detailed Project True etc - surely the electronic Oyster and Spider cards would be ideal for UK and Thai tourism? Thailand has the highest European visitors with UK tourists over 1M and UK has the 3rd highest spending tourists visiting from Thailand.

The UK all the more tempting with a favourable exchange rate of the pound from Brexit and the ChinaRail express full of designer handbags and clothes.

Shouldn't a whole host of co-operative promotions with say True and BT provide city guides and discounted simcards? At the very least the Chiang Mai express would be faster in terms of promotion?

Or an SMS poll on the SRT Makkasan site, even weblinks to a VR view of the plans?

Even a dedicated UK-ASEAN Pandemics hotline given the repeat problems of birdflu, TB etc?

And for those who like Hello Kitty (who doesn't?) even timely alerts and details of events such as the Fun Run on 31st January? Or the Hua Hin Jazz and Film Festivals later in the year?

Thai tourists could sample the delights of the Dunkirk megamovie and Ramsgate Little Ships commemoration in June/July:

And shouldn’t Kent Police be spurred on with shamelessly stealing the excellent Thai Tourism Police 1155 hotline and service? A UK tourist lost in BKK could quickly be helped in their own language by the tourism police, but a stranded Thai tourist would find it more difficult in UK.

While China has launched the Beipanjiang Bridge one of the highest bridges in the world – over 200 storeys high - rivalling the Eurostar Millau Viaduct link to HS1 in France, and the lengthy San Juanico bridge in the Philippines.

And if Brexit is sounding increasingly discordant, PM Prayut’s crooning of Sa-parn (Bridge) must be the ideal soundtrack to better bridges and transport and beginning the return happiness and prosperity and democracy in Thailand 4.0 this year:

One awful Xmas present though is the high number of road deaths in Thailand through the New Year – now 426 deaths in just 6 days, and increase of 25% on last year - and the second-worst road safety in the world after war-torn Libya.

A death toll only added to with 103 deaths in minivans and 56 deaths in bus crashes in 2016. And another fatal ferry boat sinking now Krabi rather than BKK.

Surely cheap and reliable hispeed rail-links to the North, Isaan and Deep South would provide a safer and more prosperous Thailand? And with UK support as the world-leader in road safety with only 1,700 road deaths and almost no rail or bus or ferry deaths?

Britain and Thailand could make 2017 a growth year for tourism and Spiders and Oysters?

Time for Change

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