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A Singaporean's guide to living in Thailand

yinyang

Alfrescian (Inf)
Asset
Joetys is in the running?:laugh:

Durian trader offers B10m to man who wins daughter's heart
c1_1638966_620x413.jpg

Anont Rotthong takes a picture with his youngest daughter. He posted it along with his Facebook post inviting hard-working men to try to win the heart of Kansita Rotthong, 26.

  • Bangkok Post Published: 4/03/2019 at 03:36 PM
A durian trader in the southern province of Chumphon has made a public offer of 10 million baht in cash, as well as other assets, to any man who wins the heart of his 26-year-old daughter and agrees to continue running his family business.
"Anyone who knows how to buy and select durian and source the fruit from orchards can take my daughter's hand. I won't ask for a single baht in dowry from him but will instead give him 10 million baht in cash, 10 vehicles, a house, two durian markets and the daughter who graduated with honours from Assumption University and had a master's degree from Sun Yat-sen University in China," Anont Rotthong wrote in his Facebook page on Saturday.


He was not joking.
When reporters asked him for more information, Mr Anont said if he waited any longer, his daughter might be too old for marriage. As for himself, he was ready to retire and hand over his durian trade and export business to the next generation so he could spend all his time on his amulet business.


"The man who will join my family must be good and must not be a gambler. Importantly, he must be hard-working and truly love my daughter," said the father, who had been in the durian business for two decades.

Mr Anont runs two durian markets in Chumphon, including the one at Uay Chai market in tambon Wang Takor of Lang Suan district.
He said his future son-in-law didn't need to be rich and well-educated. The father said he had started his business with nothing and would like to give the opportunity to any man who was diligent. He said he could get to know his potential sons-in-law more as they work together.
His daughter, whose hand he was about to give, does not object his decision.
"At first, I thought my dad was joking but it turns out he's seriously looking for a son-in-law. My siblings and I respect his decision," said his youngest and only single daughter, Kansita Rotthong.
A decent man who works hard and loves his family is good enough for her, she said.
Her elder siblings already had families. "My dad may fear he won't know his son-in-law in this life," Miss Kansita said jokingly.
 
Last edited:

Froggy

Alfrescian (InfP) + Mod
Moderator
Generous Asset
Found a hidden noodle shop, you will not expect a noodle shop to be in such a secluded place if not for the line of cars parked at the roadside.


Was told the shop will be full at lunch time.

So this is breakfast I ordered tomyam soup noodle. Tomyam soup noodle is actually using the same soup as the normal fishball noodle so there is only 1 soup. But when you ask for tomyam they will add lime and crushed peanuts into it sometimes even some evaporated type of milk to make it whitish like tomyam with coconut. Ordered the very soft Thai noodle we call it sen-lek.

 

yinyang

Alfrescian (Inf)
Asset
Joetys is in the running?:laugh:

Durian trader offers B10m to man who wins daughter's heart
View attachment 55030
Anont Rotthong takes a picture with his youngest daughter. He posted it along with his Facebook post inviting hard-working men to try to win the heart of Kansita Rotthong, 26.

  • Bangkok Post Published: 4/03/2019 at 03:36 PM
A durian trader in the southern province of Chumphon has made a public offer of 10 million baht in cash, as well as other assets, to any man who wins the heart of his 26-year-old daughter and agrees to continue running his family business.
"Anyone who knows how to buy and select durian and source the fruit from orchards can take my daughter's hand. I won't ask for a single baht in dowry from him but will instead give him 10 million baht in cash, 10 vehicles, a house, two durian markets and the daughter who graduated with honours from Assumption University and had a master's degree from Sun Yat-sen University in China," Anont Rotthong wrote in his Facebook page on Saturday.


He was not joking.
When reporters asked him for more information, Mr Anont said if he waited any longer, his daughter might be too old for marriage. As for himself, he was ready to retire and hand over his durian trade and export business to the next generation so he could spend all his time on his amulet business.


"The man who will join my family must be good and must not be a gambler. Importantly, he must be hard-working and truly love my daughter," said the father, who had been in the durian business for two decades.

Mr Anont runs two durian markets in Chumphon, including the one at Uay Chai market in tambon Wang Takor of Lang Suan district.
He said his future son-in-law didn't need to be rich and well-educated. The father said he had started his business with nothing and would like to give the opportunity to any man who was diligent. He said he could get to know his potential sons-in-law more as they work together.
His daughter, whose hand he was about to give, does not object his decision.
"At first, I thought my dad was joking but it turns out he's seriously looking for a son-in-law. My siblings and I respect his decision," said his youngest and only single daughter, Kansita Rotthong.
A decent man who works hard and loves his family is good enough for her, she said.
Her elder siblings already had families. "My dad may fear he won't know his son-in-law in this life," Miss Kansita said jokingly.
It's all over!

Thai durian trader cancels contest to win daughter's heart after thousands respond

anon-rodthong-and-kanjasita-rodthong-2.jpg


CHUMPHON, Thailand: A Thai durian trader said on Wednesday (Mar 6) he was cancelling a contest he had announced earlier in the week to help pick a husband for his 26-year-old daughter.
Anont Rotthong, who runs two durian markets in Chumphon, earlier said he would give 10 million baht (US$314,000) in cash, cars, a house and durian plantations to the man who could win his daughter's heart.

The catch: They had to possess the skills needed to take over his durian empire.
"Anyone who knows how to buy and select durian, and source the fruit from orchards can take my daughter's hand.
"I won't ask for a single baht in dowry from him, but will instead give him 10 million baht in cash, 10 vehicles, a house, two durian markets and the daughter who graduated with honours from Assumption University and has a master's degree from Sun Yat-sen University in China," said the 58-year-old in a Facebook post last weekend.
To prove this, aspiring sons-in-law had to participate in a three-month-long "tournament" held at one of his durian farms.

On Tuesday night, the durian entrepreneur announced in another Facebook post he was no longer taking in applications. He said that 10,000 people had responded to his call - an "unexpected" number - and that he did not have a place big enough to accommodate them all.
“Interested sons-in-law, please stop calling me. I’m dying because my phone has been ringing off the hook. Let me rest," he wrote.
Among them was 28-year-old Premyosapon Khongsai, whose pitch in a comment on one of Anont's Facebook posts gained 14,000 likes in mere days.
“I’m interested. I am 28 years old. My family also grows durian in Trat province. We have over 300 trees … I can weather the sun and the rain. I can drive a 10-wheel truck and tractor. Please consider me, father Anont. Thank you," wrote Khongsai in the comment, accompanied by a picture of himself.

image: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/ima...656df87d98d232992/ev/premyosapon-khongsai.png

A pitch from Premyosapon Khongsai, who hails from Trat province, garnered more than 14,000 likes as of Mar 6, 2019. (Image: Facebook)

However, Anont reportedly wrote him off as being "too handsome". He also said the man would break the heart of his daughter, Kanjasita Rotthong, who said in a TV interview that while she found the contest amusing at first, it stopped being funny after it went viral.
She initially told Bangkok Post that she respected her father's method of helping her find a husband, but later said that no matter the outcome of the contest, the final decision would be hers.
However, it was her father that put an end to the thorny matter.
On Wednesday, he told reporters that he was calling off the tournament. The public interest had become too disruptive to his family and business, Khaosod English reported, adding that the businessman still intended to give the 10 million baht to whoever marries his daughter.
 

Froggy

Alfrescian (InfP) + Mod
Moderator
Generous Asset
https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/C...ource=NAR Newsletter&utm_content=article link

1551926498766.png


The 99% election: Thais are worse off after five years of military rule
Ranked the world's most unequal country, a divided Thailand heads to the polls
MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent and MASAYUKI YUDA, Nikkei staff writer March 06, 2019 12:36 JST

KHON KAEN, Thailand/BANGKOK -- When business started to sag a year ago at the shoe factory where she and her husband work, Nui Kalathai began to borrow money from relatives in her village in Khon Kaen, one of the largest provinces in Thailand's northeastern plateau. She has been careful to ask for only small sums -- 400 baht ($12.60) one day, 200 baht on another -- to help cover daily expenses like eggs and dry rations. "It's so hard to survive with little cash," says Nui, who has a 10-year-old son. "I also have borrowed from two money lenders in the factory."

Nui's family is not the only one feeling a cash squeeze. In Chai Nat, a rice bowl in Thailand's central plains, and Phatthalung, a palm oil and rubber-growing province in the south, conversations often turn to financial hardship with little prodding.

Somsak Thangphon, a rice farmer, expects to reap more losses than rewards from his ripening green paddy field shimmering under the late morning sun in Chai Nat. With rice prices hovering between 6,000 baht to 7,000 baht a ton -- his best years were between 2011 and 2014, when government support pushed the price to 15,000 baht per ton -- he is barely able to cover his costs. Somsak has drained his savings and now lacks the cash needed to cultivate his crop of white rice.

1551925988604.png

Without Shinawatra-era farming subsidies, rice prices have dropped for Thailand's nearly 4 million rice-growing families. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

It is no different for rubber -- a key product for Thailand, the world's largest producer and exporter of the commodity. A price slump is squeezing Don Phummali, a rubber cultivator, who grumbles at being reduced to selling a kilogram of unsmoked rubber sheets at 40 baht a kilo, half of what he got in 2014.

For many in Thailand's rural heartland, life has become harder under the junta that assumed power in 2014. Now, as Thailand heads toward its first post-coup election on March 24, it is the country's factory workers and farmers -- including nearly four million rice-growing families -- who appear to be shaping the terms of the political debate.

Thailand's poll, which has been delayed five times by the junta, will mark the return to a semblance of democracy after nearly five years of military rule. Confidants of the generals are hoping voters will focus on what they regard as their greatest success: restoring political peace in a deeply polarized country.

But it is the junta's economic record that is foremost on the minds of the majority of the voting public, who have watched as Thailand became the world's most unequal country during its rule.

1551926018517.png


Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the gruff junta leader, is nonetheless campaigning on a message of stability as he seeks to become the head of an elected government. A 157-page book detailing Prayuth's record echoes his promise to "return happiness to Thailand," a pet theme ever since the powerful former army chief staged Thailand's 13th successful coup since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932.

The coup put a lid on nearly 15 years of political clashes between two broad camps, one drawn from the well-heeled, ultra-royalist elites concentrated in Bangkok, and the other from the economic have-nots and struggling middle classes in the rural north and northeast. The latter group has remained staunchly loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile.

Those old political divides burst into the open again in February, when a new political party supported by Thaksin nominated Princess Ubolratana, the older sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, as its candidate for prime minister.

The nomination of the princess was typical of Thaksin's penchant for seeking to undermine the junta, whose leaders have emphasized their loyalty to the palace. But her candidacy was rebuked only hours later by the monarch, and the princess quickly withdrew her name -- leaving the fate of the Thai Raksa Chart party that backed her hanging in the balance.

This brief, unusual episode has added to lingering questions over whether the election will even be held at all.

1551926043773.png

Supporters of Thai Raksa Chart, a Thaksin-linked party, rally in Bangkok on March 1. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

The junta's plan to campaign on political peace, which has been achieved more through intimidation than reconciliation, will be a test of its sway over the more than 50 million voters who will go to the polls. It is expected to resonate with the country's affluent middle class, which has backed the last two coups. This constituency, says Yukti Mukdawijitra, a sociologist at Bangkok's Thammasat University, "doesn't need elections for their well-being."

But it is an unlikely vote-winner among those who depend on a robust farming sector to thrive. "I don't care who is in government, but they must know how to run the economy -- not like now," said a visibly frustrated Kannikar Asawarat, owner of a farming equipment shop in Nakhon Sawan, a major trading town in central Thailand. "It has never been this bad. My sales are down 80%."

1551926082240.png


Rural sentiment hits rock bottom

That is not the only inconvenient sentiment facing the generals, who are angling to extend their influence through Palang Pracharat, a proxy party. A clutch of recent economic reports depict the scale of the economic pain. According to the Ministry of Labor, some 260,000 workers were laid off in 2018, pushing to half a million the number of job cuts since 2017. They were largely in agriculture, furniture manufacturing and rubber products. Analysts expect more pain to come, especially if U.S.-China trade tensions continue.

These figures are on top of the loss of an estimated three million overtime shifts during the first four years of the junta's rule, according to a study by Siam Commercial Bank. "The economic sentiment is at rock-bottom in the northeast, and companies are cutting bonuses, not paying overtime, and not hiring," said Rene Pitayataratorn, head of a company in the electronics sector in Khon Kaen. "Some companies are not even upgrading, and some not even changing lightbulbs once the old one burns out."

The consequences of such malaise are reflected in another measure: household debt to gross domestic product. It reached 77.6% in 2018, a marginal decline from the high of 80.8% it hit in 2015. Studies by Thai universities paint a grim picture of households whose average monthly income is 27,000 baht -- the majority of homes in rural Thailand -- bearing nearly 180,000 baht in debts. One estimate places it even higher, at nearly 317,000 baht per household -- the highest since 2009, when the world was gripped by financial crisis.

1551926110795.png

Thailand's rubber factories have been hit by falling prices for the material. (AFP/Jiji)

Meanwhile, the National Statistical Office reveals that the bottom 40% of Thai households saw their incomes decline between 2015 and 2016. The trend continued in 2017, according to the Bank of Thailand, despite steady improvement in GDP growth since the coup.

But the gains from that growth are not benefiting everyone. Thailand is sitting on a fault line of gross economic inequality, notes Banyong Pongpanich, chairman of Kiatnakin Phatra Financial Group. In December, the respected business leader alarmed the political establishment by noting that Thailand had become the world's most unequal country during the junta's rule.

"In 2016, the 1% richest Thais (500,000 people) owned 58.0% of the country's wealth," he wrote in a Facebook post. "In 2018, they controlled 66.9%, overtaking their peers in Russia whose wealth share fell from 78% to 57.1%," he wrote, citing the findings in the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2018.

The report portrays Thailand as a Russia-style oligarchy, and Banyong's decision to publicize its findings earned him little praise among the junta's economic mandarins.

"I am not surprised about the criticisms against my comments on inequality," the 64-year-old said in his 22nd floor office, which overlooks an upscale commercial district in Bangkok. "The report is just one piece of evidence showing that the inequality problem has been happening for such a long time."

1551926143938.png


The political parties campaigning for seats in the 500-member lower house are not tone deaf. They are hoping to tap into this broad swath of disaffection to tailor messages on the campaign trail. Political posters have mushroomed across the country promising to address economic problems. "Time to end economic crisis. No more debt," reads one.

There are 77 parties competing in the election, and they broadly fall into three camps: the pro-junta, anti-democrats; the anti-junta, pro-democracy parties; and those loyal to the establishment who are sitting on the fence.

The junta's legacy of inequality has even prompted the Democrat Party, a conservative and pro-establishment party whose members helped pave the way for Prayuth's putsch, to speak out. "Clearly, the economy has underperformed. Many people in the rural areas and agriculture sectors even had their incomes decrease over the last four years," former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of Democrat Party, told the Nikkei Asian Review.

1551926166687.png

Iconsiam, a $1.65 billion riverside retail complex, opened in affluent Bangkok in late 2018. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

In a biting critique, Abhisit told the media last year that the junta has turned to "empowering people with rich resources to lead the economic system, like a train engine dragging along the rest of the carriages." But it did little to prompt a shift in prosperity, since "the engines alone are the fast runners, leaving the rest vulnerable."

His dig was directed at the billions of dollars the regime poured into infrastructure projects and other ventures to boost the flagging economy. These policies, including tax breaks, benefited the ultra-wealthy Sino-Thai clans, further cementing the ties between the generals and the oligarchs. But as the election looms, the regime has had to change tack, offering more cash totaling billions of baht to the economically marginalized through a slew of pro-poor policies to win support for Palang Pracharat.

'It's not a free campaign'

This economic fault line has become fertile ground for the country's largest political party, Pheu Thai, which headed the elected government the junta deposed in the coup. The party is the latest avatar of a succession of political parties launched by Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon and patriarch of the country's most influential political clan. It has won all general elections since 2001, which saw Thaksin head the first elected government to complete a full term before being ousted in a 2006 military coup. Thaksin fled the country subsequently to evade jail in connection with corruption charges. He dismissed the verdict, saying the case was politically motivated and that the trial was not fair.

But Thaksin, a politically polarizing figure, has continued to influence Thai politics from afar. This has made him the nemesis of the country's ultra-royalists and establishment elite drawn from the bureaucracy, the military and the wealthy in Bangkok. But he has remained popular in the rural heartlands, where his gamble to back the princess's brief political foray triggered excitement. Its failure has not shaken their loyalty to his political brand.

1551926192900.png

As prime ministers, Thaksin Shinawatra, left, and sister Yingluck, right, traditionally claimed the votes of rural north and northeast Thailand. ©Kyodo

His younger sister Yingluck followed in his footsteps: elected as prime minister in the 2011 general election -- Thailand's last completed polls -- only for her caretaker cabinet to be ousted in the May 2014 coup, fleeing into exile to avoid jail in a case brought afterwards. The case targeted her government's lavish rice-pledging scheme, which offered to buy a ton of rice at 15,000 baht ($470), well in excess of the market price, as a way to boost farmers' incomes. Such pro-poor policies helped the Pheu Thai win most of the seats in the vote-rich north and northeast, but cost the Thai state 500 billion baht ($15 billion) and were rife with corruption, according to her critics.

The junta's allies, who drafted the country's latest constitution -- the country's 20th so far -- and the new election laws, have had the Shinawatras in their sights. The upcoming elections have been tinkered to keep Pheu Thai at bay by imposing harsh restrictions to prevent parties from offering pro-poor pledges to woo voters. It has prompted Pheu Thai's candidates in Roi Et, one of Thailand's poorest provinces, to tiptoe around these limits by talking about inequality.

"It is not a free campaign, so we are left with reminding voters who has become richer and poorer under military rule," said Nisit Sindhuprai, a Pheu Thai leader in Roi Et, as he planned his campaign in the fore-room of a provincial hotel. "People want the elections to choose a government that gives them economic hope."

1551926221466.png

The inequality issue has "become much more prominent than previous elections, where the focus was on growth," said Chris Baker, a Thai-based scholar. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

Seasoned observers have been struck by the unfurling of the inequality banner in such a strident manner. "It has become a significant issue and much more prominent than previous elections, where the focus was on growth," said Chris Baker, a Thai-based scholar who coedited "Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power," a recent publication. "This marks a big change in the political conversation and is a defining feature of this election."

But the sea change also points to a concession by the junta, which has been prickly about any criticism of its performance -- including public events discussing inequality after the coup. Such gatherings, the junta admonished, fomented social conflict. Baker's book launch in Bangkok had to be canceled after the regime threatened to send troops to stop the event.

Not surprisingly, the junta's firm grip on Thailand's political life has fed anxiety in some quarters. An emerging concern across Isaan, as Thailand's northeast is known, is the fate of the March elections -- and by extension, democracy in Thailand.

"There is anxiety that this election may be postponed if the military government finds an excuse, like the way it delayed the polls many times," says Saowanee Alexander, a sociolinguist at Ubon Ratchathani University in the northeast. "It is still a rumor, but in Thailand the truth begins with rumors."

Nikkei staff writer Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat in Bangkok contributed to this report.
 

Charlie99

Alfrescian (Inf)
Asset
It's all over!

Thai durian trader cancels contest to win daughter's heart after thousands respond

View attachment 55151

CHUMPHON, Thailand: A Thai durian trader said on Wednesday (Mar 6) he was cancelling a contest he had announced earlier in the week to help pick a husband for his 26-year-old daughter.
Anont Rotthong, who runs two durian markets in Chumphon, earlier said he would give 10 million baht (US$314,000) in cash, cars, a house and durian plantations to the man who could win his daughter's heart.


The catch: They had to possess the skills needed to take over his durian empire.
"Anyone who knows how to buy and select durian, and source the fruit from orchards can take my daughter's hand.
"I won't ask for a single baht in dowry from him, but will instead give him 10 million baht in cash, 10 vehicles, a house, two durian markets and the daughter who graduated with honours from Assumption University and has a master's degree from Sun Yat-sen University in China," said the 58-year-old in a Facebook post last weekend.
To prove this, aspiring sons-in-law had to participate in a three-month-long "tournament" held at one of his durian farms.


On Tuesday night, the durian entrepreneur announced in another Facebook post he was no longer taking in applications. He said that 10,000 people had responded to his call - an "unexpected" number - and that he did not have a place big enough to accommodate them all.
“Interested sons-in-law, please stop calling me. I’m dying because my phone has been ringing off the hook. Let me rest," he wrote.
Among them was 28-year-old Premyosapon Khongsai, whose pitch in a comment on one of Anont's Facebook posts gained 14,000 likes in mere days.
“I’m interested. I am 28 years old. My family also grows durian in Trat province. We have over 300 trees … I can weather the sun and the rain. I can drive a 10-wheel truck and tractor. Please consider me, father Anont. Thank you," wrote Khongsai in the comment, accompanied by a picture of himself.


image: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/ima...656df87d98d232992/ev/premyosapon-khongsai.png

A pitch from Premyosapon Khongsai, who hails from Trat province, garnered more than 14,000 likes as of Mar 6, 2019. (Image: Facebook)


However, Anont reportedly wrote him off as being "too handsome". He also said the man would break the heart of his daughter, Kanjasita Rotthong, who said in a TV interview that while she found the contest amusing at first, it stopped being funny after it went viral.
She initially told Bangkok Post that she respected her father's method of helping her find a husband, but later said that no matter the outcome of the contest, the final decision would be hers.
However, it was her father that put an end to the thorny matter.
On Wednesday, he told reporters that he was calling off the tournament. The public interest had become too disruptive to his family and business, Khaosod English reported, adding that the businessman still intended to give the 10 million baht to whoever marries his daughter.
This gentleman appears worthy of his consideration.
 

winnipegjets

Alfrescian (Inf)
Asset
https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Cover-Story/The-99-election-Thais-are-worse-off-after-five-years-of-military-rule?utm_campaign=RN Subscriber newsletter&utm_medium=daily newsletter&utm_source=NAR Newsletter&utm_content=article link

View attachment 55150

The 99% election: Thais are worse off after five years of military rule
Ranked the world's most unequal country, a divided Thailand heads to the polls
MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent and MASAYUKI YUDA, Nikkei staff writer March 06, 2019 12:36 JST

KHON KAEN, Thailand/BANGKOK -- When business started to sag a year ago at the shoe factory where she and her husband work, Nui Kalathai began to borrow money from relatives in her village in Khon Kaen, one of the largest provinces in Thailand's northeastern plateau. She has been careful to ask for only small sums -- 400 baht ($12.60) one day, 200 baht on another -- to help cover daily expenses like eggs and dry rations. "It's so hard to survive with little cash," says Nui, who has a 10-year-old son. "I also have borrowed from two money lenders in the factory."

Nui's family is not the only one feeling a cash squeeze. In Chai Nat, a rice bowl in Thailand's central plains, and Phatthalung, a palm oil and rubber-growing province in the south, conversations often turn to financial hardship with little prodding.

Somsak Thangphon, a rice farmer, expects to reap more losses than rewards from his ripening green paddy field shimmering under the late morning sun in Chai Nat. With rice prices hovering between 6,000 baht to 7,000 baht a ton -- his best years were between 2011 and 2014, when government support pushed the price to 15,000 baht per ton -- he is barely able to cover his costs. Somsak has drained his savings and now lacks the cash needed to cultivate his crop of white rice.

View attachment 55140
Without Shinawatra-era farming subsidies, rice prices have dropped for Thailand's nearly 4 million rice-growing families. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

It is no different for rubber -- a key product for Thailand, the world's largest producer and exporter of the commodity. A price slump is squeezing Don Phummali, a rubber cultivator, who grumbles at being reduced to selling a kilogram of unsmoked rubber sheets at 40 baht a kilo, half of what he got in 2014.

For many in Thailand's rural heartland, life has become harder under the junta that assumed power in 2014. Now, as Thailand heads toward its first post-coup election on March 24, it is the country's factory workers and farmers -- including nearly four million rice-growing families -- who appear to be shaping the terms of the political debate.

Thailand's poll, which has been delayed five times by the junta, will mark the return to a semblance of democracy after nearly five years of military rule. Confidants of the generals are hoping voters will focus on what they regard as their greatest success: restoring political peace in a deeply polarized country.

But it is the junta's economic record that is foremost on the minds of the majority of the voting public, who have watched as Thailand became the world's most unequal country during its rule.

View attachment 55141

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the gruff junta leader, is nonetheless campaigning on a message of stability as he seeks to become the head of an elected government. A 157-page book detailing Prayuth's record echoes his promise to "return happiness to Thailand," a pet theme ever since the powerful former army chief staged Thailand's 13th successful coup since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932.

The coup put a lid on nearly 15 years of political clashes between two broad camps, one drawn from the well-heeled, ultra-royalist elites concentrated in Bangkok, and the other from the economic have-nots and struggling middle classes in the rural north and northeast. The latter group has remained staunchly loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile.

Those old political divides burst into the open again in February, when a new political party supported by Thaksin nominated Princess Ubolratana, the older sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, as its candidate for prime minister.

The nomination of the princess was typical of Thaksin's penchant for seeking to undermine the junta, whose leaders have emphasized their loyalty to the palace. But her candidacy was rebuked only hours later by the monarch, and the princess quickly withdrew her name -- leaving the fate of the Thai Raksa Chart party that backed her hanging in the balance.

This brief, unusual episode has added to lingering questions over whether the election will even be held at all.

View attachment 55142
Supporters of Thai Raksa Chart, a Thaksin-linked party, rally in Bangkok on March 1. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

The junta's plan to campaign on political peace, which has been achieved more through intimidation than reconciliation, will be a test of its sway over the more than 50 million voters who will go to the polls. It is expected to resonate with the country's affluent middle class, which has backed the last two coups. This constituency, says Yukti Mukdawijitra, a sociologist at Bangkok's Thammasat University, "doesn't need elections for their well-being."

But it is an unlikely vote-winner among those who depend on a robust farming sector to thrive. "I don't care who is in government, but they must know how to run the economy -- not like now," said a visibly frustrated Kannikar Asawarat, owner of a farming equipment shop in Nakhon Sawan, a major trading town in central Thailand. "It has never been this bad. My sales are down 80%."

View attachment 55143

Rural sentiment hits rock bottom

That is not the only inconvenient sentiment facing the generals, who are angling to extend their influence through Palang Pracharat, a proxy party. A clutch of recent economic reports depict the scale of the economic pain. According to the Ministry of Labor, some 260,000 workers were laid off in 2018, pushing to half a million the number of job cuts since 2017. They were largely in agriculture, furniture manufacturing and rubber products. Analysts expect more pain to come, especially if U.S.-China trade tensions continue.

These figures are on top of the loss of an estimated three million overtime shifts during the first four years of the junta's rule, according to a study by Siam Commercial Bank. "The economic sentiment is at rock-bottom in the northeast, and companies are cutting bonuses, not paying overtime, and not hiring," said Rene Pitayataratorn, head of a company in the electronics sector in Khon Kaen. "Some companies are not even upgrading, and some not even changing lightbulbs once the old one burns out."

The consequences of such malaise are reflected in another measure: household debt to gross domestic product. It reached 77.6% in 2018, a marginal decline from the high of 80.8% it hit in 2015. Studies by Thai universities paint a grim picture of households whose average monthly income is 27,000 baht -- the majority of homes in rural Thailand -- bearing nearly 180,000 baht in debts. One estimate places it even higher, at nearly 317,000 baht per household -- the highest since 2009, when the world was gripped by financial crisis.

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Thailand's rubber factories have been hit by falling prices for the material. (AFP/Jiji)

Meanwhile, the National Statistical Office reveals that the bottom 40% of Thai households saw their incomes decline between 2015 and 2016. The trend continued in 2017, according to the Bank of Thailand, despite steady improvement in GDP growth since the coup.

But the gains from that growth are not benefiting everyone. Thailand is sitting on a fault line of gross economic inequality, notes Banyong Pongpanich, chairman of Kiatnakin Phatra Financial Group. In December, the respected business leader alarmed the political establishment by noting that Thailand had become the world's most unequal country during the junta's rule.

"In 2016, the 1% richest Thais (500,000 people) owned 58.0% of the country's wealth," he wrote in a Facebook post. "In 2018, they controlled 66.9%, overtaking their peers in Russia whose wealth share fell from 78% to 57.1%," he wrote, citing the findings in the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2018.

The report portrays Thailand as a Russia-style oligarchy, and Banyong's decision to publicize its findings earned him little praise among the junta's economic mandarins.

"I am not surprised about the criticisms against my comments on inequality," the 64-year-old said in his 22nd floor office, which overlooks an upscale commercial district in Bangkok. "The report is just one piece of evidence showing that the inequality problem has been happening for such a long time."

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The political parties campaigning for seats in the 500-member lower house are not tone deaf. They are hoping to tap into this broad swath of disaffection to tailor messages on the campaign trail. Political posters have mushroomed across the country promising to address economic problems. "Time to end economic crisis. No more debt," reads one.

There are 77 parties competing in the election, and they broadly fall into three camps: the pro-junta, anti-democrats; the anti-junta, pro-democracy parties; and those loyal to the establishment who are sitting on the fence.

The junta's legacy of inequality has even prompted the Democrat Party, a conservative and pro-establishment party whose members helped pave the way for Prayuth's putsch, to speak out. "Clearly, the economy has underperformed. Many people in the rural areas and agriculture sectors even had their incomes decrease over the last four years," former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of Democrat Party, told the Nikkei Asian Review.

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Iconsiam, a $1.65 billion riverside retail complex, opened in affluent Bangkok in late 2018. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

In a biting critique, Abhisit told the media last year that the junta has turned to "empowering people with rich resources to lead the economic system, like a train engine dragging along the rest of the carriages." But it did little to prompt a shift in prosperity, since "the engines alone are the fast runners, leaving the rest vulnerable."

His dig was directed at the billions of dollars the regime poured into infrastructure projects and other ventures to boost the flagging economy. These policies, including tax breaks, benefited the ultra-wealthy Sino-Thai clans, further cementing the ties between the generals and the oligarchs. But as the election looms, the regime has had to change tack, offering more cash totaling billions of baht to the economically marginalized through a slew of pro-poor policies to win support for Palang Pracharat.

'It's not a free campaign'

This economic fault line has become fertile ground for the country's largest political party, Pheu Thai, which headed the elected government the junta deposed in the coup. The party is the latest avatar of a succession of political parties launched by Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon and patriarch of the country's most influential political clan. It has won all general elections since 2001, which saw Thaksin head the first elected government to complete a full term before being ousted in a 2006 military coup. Thaksin fled the country subsequently to evade jail in connection with corruption charges. He dismissed the verdict, saying the case was politically motivated and that the trial was not fair.

But Thaksin, a politically polarizing figure, has continued to influence Thai politics from afar. This has made him the nemesis of the country's ultra-royalists and establishment elite drawn from the bureaucracy, the military and the wealthy in Bangkok. But he has remained popular in the rural heartlands, where his gamble to back the princess's brief political foray triggered excitement. Its failure has not shaken their loyalty to his political brand.

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As prime ministers, Thaksin Shinawatra, left, and sister Yingluck, right, traditionally claimed the votes of rural north and northeast Thailand. ©Kyodo

His younger sister Yingluck followed in his footsteps: elected as prime minister in the 2011 general election -- Thailand's last completed polls -- only for her caretaker cabinet to be ousted in the May 2014 coup, fleeing into exile to avoid jail in a case brought afterwards. The case targeted her government's lavish rice-pledging scheme, which offered to buy a ton of rice at 15,000 baht ($470), well in excess of the market price, as a way to boost farmers' incomes. Such pro-poor policies helped the Pheu Thai win most of the seats in the vote-rich north and northeast, but cost the Thai state 500 billion baht ($15 billion) and were rife with corruption, according to her critics.

The junta's allies, who drafted the country's latest constitution -- the country's 20th so far -- and the new election laws, have had the Shinawatras in their sights. The upcoming elections have been tinkered to keep Pheu Thai at bay by imposing harsh restrictions to prevent parties from offering pro-poor pledges to woo voters. It has prompted Pheu Thai's candidates in Roi Et, one of Thailand's poorest provinces, to tiptoe around these limits by talking about inequality.

"It is not a free campaign, so we are left with reminding voters who has become richer and poorer under military rule," said Nisit Sindhuprai, a Pheu Thai leader in Roi Et, as he planned his campaign in the fore-room of a provincial hotel. "People want the elections to choose a government that gives them economic hope."

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The inequality issue has "become much more prominent than previous elections, where the focus was on growth," said Chris Baker, a Thai-based scholar. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

Seasoned observers have been struck by the unfurling of the inequality banner in such a strident manner. "It has become a significant issue and much more prominent than previous elections, where the focus was on growth," said Chris Baker, a Thai-based scholar who coedited "Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power," a recent publication. "This marks a big change in the political conversation and is a defining feature of this election."

But the sea change also points to a concession by the junta, which has been prickly about any criticism of its performance -- including public events discussing inequality after the coup. Such gatherings, the junta admonished, fomented social conflict. Baker's book launch in Bangkok had to be canceled after the regime threatened to send troops to stop the event.

Not surprisingly, the junta's firm grip on Thailand's political life has fed anxiety in some quarters. An emerging concern across Isaan, as Thailand's northeast is known, is the fate of the March elections -- and by extension, democracy in Thailand.

"There is anxiety that this election may be postponed if the military government finds an excuse, like the way it delayed the polls many times," says Saowanee Alexander, a sociolinguist at Ubon Ratchathani University in the northeast. "It is still a rumor, but in Thailand the truth begins with rumors."

Nikkei staff writer Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat in Bangkok contributed to this report.
How has the junta rule served the screw business?
 

yinyang

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Netflix film on Tham Luang cave rescue to earn footballers Bt3m each
Breaking News March 08, 2019 01:00
By The Nation


The world-famous rescue of the 13 young footballers, who were trapped for nearly two weeks in a cave in Chiang Rai last year, will make its way to Netflix soon, the Culture Ministry announced on Thursday at an event in Bangkok’s National Library.

“The series will be produced by Hollywood’s SK Global Entertainment, which has been granted lifetime rights to contact the 13 young members of the Wild Boars football team,” government spokesman Lt-General Werachon Sukondhapatipak said.
SK Global is behind Netflix hits such as “Crazy Rich Asians”, “9 and half Weeks”, Swimfan” and the “Age of Adeline” to name a few.


Werachon added that the footballers will earn about Bt3 million each from the production, with some of the money going to organisations and foundations that were involved in the rescue operation.

Sirisak Kotpatcharin, spokesperson for the 13 Tham Luang Company, which is in charge of the copyrights, said the boys and their coach will no longer be allowed to give interviews about their experience without the company’s permission.
 

yinyang

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Asset
Pot Pushers
c1_1640900_190308041958_620x413-1.jpg

The alternative medicine department is forging ties with universities to grow weed,
then make it into 16 different types of medical cannabis.


Unis to grow pot with DTAM
Plan to develop 16 new formulations
  • Bangkok Post Published: 8/03/2019 at 07:14 AM
The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM) says it will work with universities to grow marijuana plants next month for the making of 16 formulations of medical cannabis.
Kwanchai Wisithanon, director of the department, said these 16 formulations mainly help people manage deteriorating health conditions, as cannabis can help improve a healthy body balance.


There is a need to follow up on the effects of the consumption, he said.
Further development is also needed to make consumption easier, added, saying that the medicine can be transformed into a small sheet, which can be placed under a patient's tongue.


According to Mr Kwanchai, it was found that quality marijuana plants can be grown well in the Songkhram River basin, which covers Nakhon Phanom, Sakon Nakhon and Mukdahan.
Accordingly, Kasetsart University's Sakon Nakhon campus and Rajamangala University of Technology Isan's Sakon Nakhon campus will be contacted to help develop the marijuana plantation.
About 1,400 rai of land are designated for the plantation, he said, adding that "Hang Karok" strain of marijuana will be cultivated.
Dr Kwanchai said Pra Arjarn Phun Ajaro Hospital, which has been certified by the WHO for good manufacturing practices (GMP) in making herbal products, will be contacted to produce the 16 medicines made with cannabis.
Efforts will be made to ensure the medicines will not be misused, he said. Few details on how to make sure the medicine goes to those who truly need it were available.


In the future, the director said, hash oil will be produced, kept and added to the medicines.
"We are doing it according to the laws," Dr Kwanchai said.
"We are now in the process of seeking permits for the project with the narcotics commission."
Dr Kwanchai said if the approval is given, marijuana is likely to be grown in April and the cultivation could take between 90-100 days. The harvest could be carried out in July, he said.
The department can use up to 2,000 kilogrammes of marijuana a year to make medicines, which could serve approximately 1,000 patients, the director said.


The production will be split in half by the two universities, he said, adding the department would serve as a distributing partner for the medicines.
Dr Kwanchai said in the initial research stage, the medicines would be distributed for free.
After that period, they are likely to be sold at affordable prices, he added.
 
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yinyang

Alfrescian (Inf)
Asset
Thought this was well explained bit on how elections 24/3 work out. Powers to be still in junta's powerful senate
A battle between three forces: Thailand’s election explained
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/thailand-election-democracy-after-military-rule-11280022

For the first time in nearly five years, Thailand will leave the military rule for democracy. Here is what you need to know about the Thai election on Mar 24 and the political game that would determine its future.Thailand is set to hold a general election on Mar 24, 2019 - the first since a military coup brought down a democratically elected government under former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014.
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/author/7576756

BANGKOK: The upcoming election in Thailand is set to be one of the most complicated votes in the country’s history, with the final outcome of who will form the next government dependent on a series of factors.
On a very simple level, though, the vote on Mar 24 will be the first general election under the new Constitution of 2017. It should mark a transition towards re-establishing a democratically elected government after nearly five years of rule by a military regime which took power through a coup in 2014.


However, while some people believe the upcoming election will restore democracy, others believe there is scope for a subtler shift that could see the powerful military maintain its grip on Thai politics.
“It’s not a regular vote under democratic rules but a means for regime change, where the military rule is reborn to continue its power,” said political scientist Dr Pitch Pongsawat from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

This election is an attempt to legitimise the military regime which plans to stay.
According to Dr Pongsawat, the upcoming vote gives the military leadership the scope to retain a significant degree of control over the political landscape under the banner of Palang Pracharat – a newly-formed party that is supportive of the junta. Its prime ministerial candidate, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, is Thailand’s current premier and leader of the coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically elected government in 2014.

But even if Palang Pracharat makes little headway at the ballot box, the military will be assured of a high level of influence over whatever government emerges after the election: Its generals, who are currently in control through the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will select and appoint 250 senators whose votes could determine the future prime minister.
Based on reports by Thai media, the senator candidates are mostly seen as having close ties with Gen Prayut and his associates. Most of them have been handpicked by the NCPO deputy chief Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who heads the selection committee of senators.



THE POWERFUL SENATE

The new constitution gives power to the Senate - the upper house in parliament - to jointly select the prime minister in conjunction with the House of Representatives - the lower house - during the initial five years of the first government to be formed after the election.
According to the constitution, a prospective prime minister must be approved by more than half of the combined 750-member assembly. As a result, a political party needs to garner at least 376 votes in a joint sitting – either from both Houses or only from the Lower House's 500 members – in order for its candidate to win the premiership and form the government.
The Senate’s role in the prime ministerial selection means Thailand’s future government does not need to win the popular vote if it can secure support from at least 376 parliamentarians.
Compared to other parties, the Palang Pracharat will have a clear and built-in advantage in the Mar 24 contest, thanks to the 250 senators that will be selected by the NCPO and Gen Prayut himself. It will mean that Palang Pracharat could be in a position to form the government even if it wins as few as 126 of the 500 parliamentary seats up for grabs.
“We have to take full advantage of these things,” said one of the party’s core members Somsak Thepsuthin last November.

In this election, this constitution was designed for us.
A BATTLE OF 3 FORCES
Despite the potentially decisive role of the Senate in forming a new government, the upcoming election will still return a significant amount of power to members of the public casting their vote - after years of living under a non-elected government.
According to the Interior Ministry, an estimated 51.4 million people will be eligible to vote on Mar 24. They will be voting for 350 members of parliament which will be drawn from three broad groups: The pro-military faction, a group of parties opposed to the military and those parties which have yet to indicate which side they will support, if any.

  • The pro-military force supports Gen Prayut’s return to power. It is made up of newly-formed parties such as the Palang Pracharat, the People’s Reform and the Ruampalang Prachachart Thai.
  • The anti-military force opposes the military government. Its key member is one of Thailand’s biggest parties - Pheu Thai, which was the party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his family. Others include its affiliates – the Pheu Tham, the Pheu Chart and the recently dissolved Thai Raksa Chart – and pro-liberal democracy parties such as the Future Forward, the Commoners and the Thai Liberal.
  • The swing force consists of old parties that are yet to decide which camp they would join. Among its members are Thailand's oldest party the Democrat, the Bhumjaithai and the Chartthaipattana.
It is the last group which may wield a high level of influence in the election's final outcome.
“This is a big group of old politicians who are ready to join anyone. The Democrat believes it could win more votes than the Palang Pracharat and wants to establish itself as an ‘anti-Thaksin’ party with distance from the military – an alternative,” Dr Pongsawat told Channel NewsAsia.
“If the ‘Thaksin camp’ is popular in this election, the Palang Pracharat won’t be. But this could benefit the Democrat, given its stable base in Bangkok and southern Thailand. The party could team up with the junta’s camp and lead the government itself,” he added.
image: https://infographics.channelnewsasia.com/yt_img/img_20190307_231607_7334.gif

The Democrat is one of two parties fielding candidates in all 350 constituencies. The other party is the Future Forward, which will be making its Thai election debut. The newcomer had previously made it clear it will never join the pro-military camp, but until recently, the Democrat – largely seen as a ‘swing party’ – had not.
But then on Sunday (Mar 10), Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva announced he will not support Gen Prayut in the upcoming election.
"Let me be clear," he said in video clip published on his social media platforms.

I will certainly not support Gen Prayut to be prime minister again because power inheritance creates conflicts and opposes to the Democrat's ideology where the people rule. Over the past five years, the economy has been depressed and the country has been damaged enough.
The Democrat positions itself as "the third option", according to its secretary-general Juti Krairiksh.
"We’ve prepared to claim victory. We’ve never considered ourselves a secondary party. So, if my party wins the majority vote, I’d rather ask ‘who wants to join me?’," he said on Feb 23 in a political debate.


DIFFERENT RULES, DIFFERENT OUTCOME
The Democrat is among 81 parties contesting the upcoming election, where 10,792 candidates will fight to represent 350 constituencies.
The other 150 members of the House of Representatives will be elected from the so-called national party lists under a system of proportional representation.
This will see each party that contests the party-list election have a number of MPs in the House of Representatives according to the share of the popular vote it secures in the contest for the 350 directly elected members. Parties can still secure seats in parliament under this system irrespective of whether their candidates win any of the 350 contests.
The proportional representation approach is a change from previous elections, when people would cast two votes: One for directly elected MPs, and one for party-list candidates.
According to the Constitutional Drafting Committee, the new voting system should better reflect the popularity of each political party. One member of the committee, Chatchai Na Chiangmai, has said that the fact that every single vote counts will force political parties to pay more attention to their choice of candidates.
For many political observers though, the revised system has flaws and could confuse voters. A survey by the National Institute of Development Administration in November showed 77.8 per cent of 1,261 respondents were unaware of how many ballots they will have to cast.
“It’s confusing,” said Yingcheep Atchanont from legal monitoring group iLaw. “With a single ballot, voters can’t make separate choices between an MP they prefer and a party they like. So, many votes will not reflect what the people really want.”
The new system is also viewed by some politicians as the military government’s ploy to weaken big political groups, particularly the Pehu Thai Party.
In the previous election of 2011, Yingluck Shinawatra led that party to win 265 seats in the Lower House. But with the new electoral method, it would only have 225 seats.


THE ‘OUTSIDER PRIME MINISTER’
Once the seats in the House of Representatives are decided, the race for the premiership begins. This time, 68 contenders from 44 parties are running for prime minister.
According to the 2017 charter, the premier does not have to be an MP but he or she must be one of the prime ministerial candidates listed by a political party. That party must also have at least 25 elected MPs – or no less than 5 per cent of the Lower House’s 500 members – before it can nominate a candidate to be appointed prime minister.


The nomination must then be endorsed by at least 50 elected MPs – or no less than one-tenth of the Lower House’ total members – before a vote to select the prime minister can take place in a joint sitting during the first five years.
However, if none of the listed candidates can be appointed for any reason, at least half of the members of both Houses – 375 – can request the National Assembly to start a process that could allow an ‘outsider prime minister’ who need not be a listed candidate previously known to voters.
“This is unacceptable,” said Atchanont from iLaw. For him, the prime minister should be a member of a political party and join its election campaign – a crucial process he believes would create a rapport between candidates and voters.

Meeting voters allows them to learn what the people want and to promise solutions. Without this process, the prime minister may be constitutional but never dignified.
Meanwhile, although concerns have been raised about some of the mechanics through which the election will be fought, what is certain is that this will be an opportunity for people to make their voices heard at the ballot box for the first time in almost five years.
Less certain is the outcome, and whether the military government will relax its grip on the country.
 
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