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.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

UK and Thailand yet to snack on UNSDG30? Or doughnuts in Parliament?

As always it was fascinating to read Khun Sirinya's report in the Bangkok Post comparing Thai street food with the retail (7-11?) options:

A mouth-watering smorgasboard of Thai food was laid out with over a dozen options and snacks.

It's hard to believe if she says she didn't eat it all - she must have hollow legs, but Thai food is so healthy it's difficult to put on weight. And the dynamic Travel Blogger and Teacher - from Kent too - Richard Barrow is cooking on gas with his Street Food Survey serving up a choice of snacks:

And UK doughnuts? Well, leaving aside issues of if/how BMA will clamp down on Street Food, or the surge of Thai Cuisine Culture with the new Michelin Guide for Bangkok, or even Superfoods, or even malnutrition in Laos and Cambodia there has suddenly appeared what's been termed a doughnut-shaped hole in UK policy with the UNSDG30 #globalgoals.

Just before Parliament was dissolved for the 8th June General Election, the Environment Audit Committee (specifically established to review UK Climate Change policy) produced the first report on the UNDG30 and UK.(And not one but two reports on flooding, and a further two reports on microplastics - from shower gels and cosmetics - and ocean pollution). And it was less than ideal:

Former PM David Cameron can rightly be proud of establishing UK as the first G20 economy to achieve the UN target of 0.7% GNI aid - and in the face of much criticism even from within his party. But UK is far weaker on using those funds (about $20BN a year) to achieve the UNSDG30 #globalgoals.

The Global Goals are 17 broad aims with 169 sub-categories, all signed up by every nation on earth and perhaps the only main gaps are a Global Space Plan, or WMD Disarmament - both hardly likely to wait until the next iteration of the Global Goals after 2030.

### Global Goals for UK? ###

Concerns have rightly been raised not just over the normal mishaps and corruption over aid spending that unfortunately happen - the Ethiopian Spice Girls project perhaps clumsily prioritising First World issues in a Third World nation. But even more worryingly DFID is simply salting away huge tranches of aid funds into the World Bank for audit tick-boxing where it sits idle rather than being spent on viable projects around the world.

Excessive financial reserves within UK government departments are part of the same problem for UK activity.

For the doughnut-shaped hole has appeared where UK is developing the Global Goals abroad but not instigating them at home. So doing, would not only promote the Global Goals to the UK public (who are ultimately funding them through tax), but would also frame UK policy in to solve UK problems.

For example, 3M UK citizens suffer from malnutrition. And the rise of 1M people needing Food Banks in a G7 nation (the oft-cited problem of affording to heat-or-eat for many families) is a Dickensian failure in 21st century Britain. And framing the Global Goals to UK problems would also highlight malnutrition in terms of say diabetes or obesity, from actual doughnuts.

And just as Pepsi and Coke are rapidly diversifying to sugar-free soda, and portfolio juice and water brands, and McDonalds to healthy eating as well as home delivery and waitress service it's interesting to see Chang move to drinking water over alcoholic beverages.

As an aside, surely it's an own goal for the UK as a Sporting Superpower from the 2012 and 2016 Olympics not to build on that success - with Goal 3 Healthy Lives - through framing UK Sports policy through the lens of the Global Goals?

Global Golas if you will.

Although other sports brands are available - as spurs to progress.

Here in Kent, Charlton Athletic are very active in their community work with schools and colleges, while Arsenal has very active Summer Schools, and a Goalkeeper school. While the Margate Beach Games has been a runaway success with UK Volleyball Championships and beach football and burgeoning kayaking, cycling and surfing events beefing up Kent fitness amidst the more sedate golfing and yachting.

### Global Goals for the World ###

And other nations are leading the UK already: Philippines has already adapted the Global Goals into much of its national policy. While the Parliamentary report cites 10 Argentinian Ministers active in their nations' Global Goals, and the Colombian government creating a ministerial department to deliver UNSDG30, and even attributing the success of the Peace Process to the Global Goals and Agenda.

With my Sincerity Advertising hat on, it's reassuring to see that the report highlights the need for advertising given the successful social media and app work by Finland.

Plus a German TV commercial - even Bonn being established as The UNSDG30 Town of Germany to focus delivery of the Global Goals - and in UK Project Everyone (and with The World's Biggest Lesson of free material for schools) established by Richard Curtis, of Comic Relief and Blackadder and Love Actually fame, is stumbling at making the Global Goals famous in UK.

And in my politics work I've called for every Kent schoolbook, and pen and pencil, across all 400 Kent schools, to feature the Global Goals logo and graphics and website. And with branding on Yingluck computers and phones and screensavers too.

It's astonishing - as the report outlines - that some 15 years after the UN Millennium Development Goals and now into Year 2 of the UNDSG30 Global Goals not one UK government department has any plans to deliver them, nor even get the ball rolling by featuring the UNSDG30 logos on their websites.

And it was interesting that two sessions of the Parliamentary Environment Committee were on Soil Health - a subject that's perhaps not especially riveting to most people - despite fears of only six more harvests given Climate Change, existing overproduction, AMR and excessive antibiotics in animals and a further 4BN population growth.

So, Soil Health disappeared without a trace in UK - even here in the more rural Kent with concerns of most farmers over 65 years old, and Brexit fears of restrictions on farm subsidies and farm labourers - yet actively promoted by Kasetsart University after the UN Year of the Soil.

Surely whether it's healthy eating or Climate Change or social initiatives such as Children's Day or Teacher's Day or King Power and Leicester City or 7-11 expansion of 700 new stores just in Thailand, UK and Thailand could carve out a slice of the pie on the Global Goals.

And snack on Goal 17 Global Partnerships?


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Speeding up Road Safety for UK and Thailand?

Khun Ploenpote Atthakor in her Bangkok Post article makes some interesting points on Road Safety in Thailand:

Certainly she was lucky to be let off for speeding: 133 kph in a 90 kph zone: UK Police would be much stricter than Thai Police in such instances.

And she makes a fair point on speeding and German autobahn motorways (only 70mph in UK and 55mph in USA).

But the harsh reality is that speeding is one of the #Fatal4 most common causes of road deaths. Khun Ploenpote may be a superb driver - I'm sure she's not Twittering on her mobile phone at the wheel - but many people are not, and a pothole or a child running out or a patch of oil doesn't allow for reaction at high speeds.

In my Sincerity Advertising role, the "Kill Your Speed Not a Child" advertising campaign stands out as being a superb example of not just enforcing the 30mph limit on minor roads but in encouraging a reduction to 20mph.

Such advertising work is a key thread in ensuring UK is a Road Safety Global Champion - as well as a Sporting Superpower -with the lowest road deaths in the world. Germany probably has less serious injuries- with few if any survivors from a high-speed autobahn crash.

The various UK road organisations: Automobile Association and RAC and Green Flag are also active in promoting cheaper car insurance with advanced driving courses eg Institute of Advanced Motorists.

While in terms of speeding even the Road Safety Police in Kent and Lincolnshire - both with long stretches of motorway and rural roads - emphasise speed safety and have extensive high speed driving experience. Some police road chases are called off for the potential dangers of crashes and injuring bystanders, to call in the police helicopter or air ambulance. While the numerous instances of long-distance lorry drivers even watching television at the wheel is astonishing.

In my politics work: Garbutt for South Thanet MP 8th June I am urging the new speed limit for 20mph, zero drinkdrive limit (drinking and driving also one of the #Fatal4) to reduce the slight increase to 54 KSI (Killed or Seriously Injured) on Kent's roads in the last year.

And to urge a UK-Thailand Road Safety partnership with AIP Foundation and UK and Thailand police.

We are after all speeding along to the Seven Dangerous Days of New Year again in just over 6 months time?