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?


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