Some of my Thai acquaintances in Bangkok get uptight when the topic of conversation goes to the livelihood of the working class. With annoyed tones, they tell me there are many opportunities for employment, for the poor and slum inhabitants. Despite their assurances, they’re from the urban middle-class, and if you’ve lived in Bangkok for a time, you would naturally understand that their ‘wisdom’ does not accurately reflect the issues and concerns of the poor.

Street vendors in Bangsaen facing a quiet night, devoid of customers. Image by Zashnain Zainal.

Street vendors in Bangsaen facing a quiet night, devoid of customers. Image by Zashnain Zainal.

Work in the informal sector, are important, they say, the building blocks of the city, and the list is endless, rightfully. They believe that the poor should focus on “the abundance of jobs provided by the businesses” rather than criticise the military establishment for “this and that”. Jobs in the informal sector, such as manual labourers (especially in the construction industry), street vendors, some family workers and traditional craftspeople are available. Then there’s the higher income groups within this sector: factory workers whose wages are low but whose income is regular and secured.

I wasn’t in the mood to argue. In fact, nowadays arguments about “class” have led nowhere, especially with the belief that foreigners such as myself are not capable of understanding the sophisticated mindset of an urban, educated Thai.

But then, I understand the situation quite well. As a Malaysian, I see such class-culture, or caste in most cases, prevalent in my country. I often tell people the socio-economic situation is somewhat “same-same”, that both countries share similar problems.

Anyway, Thailand’s economy under the military has sunk deep into a deep void. The World Bank has called it the “worst performing economy in Asean.” Though it was not always like that. Ten years ago, Thailand was the best performer.

The political uncertainty that has undermined economic growth will persist, as some analysts believe.

Political uncertainty holds back the economy:

The political uncertainty that has undermined economic growth will persist for the medium term. Nomura Securities’ economists believe “political issues will likely be given priority, leaving the economic agenda (including structural reforms and large-scale infrastructure projects) on the backburner.” Thailand’s finance ministry has revised 2015’s growth figure three times down to 3%, with first quarter growth at 3% and second quarter growth at 2.8% this year.

and that’s not the end of it…

Thailand has seen a huge drop in foreign direct investment this year as other companies choose the Land of Smiles’ neighbouring countries with better business environments. According to stock exchange data, foreign investors withdrew a net $1.2bn from domestic equities in August this year, the biggest monthly outflow in two years.

Furthermore, the military regime has prevented Thailand from integrating with the world economy. Military rule led to the suspension of free trade talks with the European Union last year. With the military regime being extended for at least another two years and no sign of a return to democracy, it is unlikely we will see the EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations finalised in the foreseeable future.

There’s more, as reported by Reuters:

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has yet to regain traction after more than a year of military rule as exports are sluggish while high household debt has dampened consumption. Falling commodity prices have also cut farmers’ incomes.

So how will this impact the informal sector? I shared several links and economic analysis to my acquaintances; somewhat curious of their thoughts. They replied, with one obnoxiously stating that the working class must place their trust in the junta and that “if they are patriots, they’ll continue working,” in whatever work that’s available, that is.

However the rest appeared hesitant, unsure, and in truth they have lost confidence in the junta’s road-map and other so-called grand endeavours. Clarity has finally caught up with some, and I hope they start questioning their leaders about the poor state of the country, and not just kowtow to the delusions of a clueless junta.

[Poem] Musician’s Words

Posted: October 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

A must read.

Happy souls in Hell (enjoying mental difficulties)

Musician’s Words

the musician’s words; could more easily enter the
world beyond the mind

holding of multiple domains of knowledge in an
unreadable book.

–Humphrey King, 2015

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It’s a positive sign to see peace-building initiatives in conflict-torn south Thailand, especially when people are invited to express themselves about their concerns and hopes.

As reported by Benar News:

Some 1,000 scholars, diplomats, social workers and students took part Wednesday in an international conference in Thailand’s violence-wracked Deep South aimed at fostering peace in the region, where at least five people died in continued fighting this week, according to officials and police.

The participants from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines – three Southeast Asian nations hit by Muslim insurgencies – agreed to forge a network among academics for research and other activities that promote peace-building and conflict resolution using various models.

They said the resolution of long-running conflicts in Indonesia’s Aceh province and an ongoing peace deal in the southern Philippines offered hope for an end to the insurgency in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim southern border region, which has left more than 6,000 people dead and 10,000 injured since 2004.

My thoughts: Key aspects of peace-building is sustainability of discussions, and where people could express their issues and needs without persecution from the junta or other overzealous authorities. That should include out-of-the-conference context, with small group discussions among rural, marginalized groups, and should include indigenous communities.

The Mani community, among a handful of tribes, has been neglected in the “Patani Melayu” equation of self-determination. I worry about the Melayu nationalism agenda, and how it may further ostracise others in the quest for identity. As it is, what is the junta doing to ensure fair representation of indigenous people in decision-making process in south Thailand? If nothing now, when will it happen?

The rural heartland of Thailand’s deposed leader Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled billionaire brother Thaksin is hurting as a result of the military government’s economic policies, stirring discontent and the threat of protests.

The removal of generous agricultural subsidies has left rice farmers in northeast Thailand struggling with mounting debts, and they will get little relief when they sell their crop in coming months with rice prices near an 8-year low.

Petty crime is on the rise and retailers are struggling. The vast Platinum 168 shopping mall on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Udon Thani was built during the boom, but it is now less than a third occupied and no longer charging tenants rent.

“People are complaining about the rising costs of living, of having no money for spending,” said Teerasak Teecayuphan, the mayor of the neighboring provincial capital of Khon Kaen. “Their patience will gradually run out. Sooner or later this pot will boil over.”

Reuters’ story “Rising anger in Thailand’s boom-to-bust northeast” (See: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/01/us-thailand-politics-idUSKCN0RU2R820151001)

Several Thai government websites have been hit by a suspected distributed-denial-of-service (DDOS) attack, making them impossible to access. The sites went offline at 22:00 local time (15:00GMT) on Wednesday. Access was restored by Thursday morning. The attack appeared to be a protest against the government’s plan to limit access to sites deemed inappropriate.

Reported by BBC (See: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34409343)

Screenshot of Digital Attack Map. DDoS of Thailand.

Screenshot of Digital Attack Map. DDoS of Thailand.

 

As reported by Bangkok Post (See: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/714432/single-gateway-protest-halts-government-websites)

Sites affected as of early Thursday were the main government information website ThaiGov.go.th, the ICT ministry’s site at mict.go.th and the defence ministry’s website, mod.go.th.

Also knocked out briefly were the websites of the state-owned TOT Plc, the firm likely to host any single gateway if it is installed, CAT Telecom and the Internal Security Operations Command. Reports also said an attack also targeted the Democrat Party website.

The last site to recover early Thursday morning was the MICT website, possibly because authorities had actually taken it offline.

 

Social welfare, or the mechanism that claims to enable basic rights to the country’s citizens, seems to be invisible and silent nowadays. Bangkok’s poverty rate, at least what’s visible on the streets, has increased with the decline in formal livelihood and made worse by the dwindling tourism.

It appears that the ruling elites in the junta are clueless on what is needed to jump-start Thailand’s economy.

Bangkok sinking deeper into uncertainty

Posted: September 8, 2015 in Thailand
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Bangkok seems to have lost its flair for sophistication. It doesn’t feel the same as when I first arrived in 2011, nor has it maintained its aura of potential as in 2013. Bangkok is struggling, the residents of this once mighty city.

Times are bad; challenging for those scattered in the lower section of the social pyramid. In the days before the junta removed the caretaker government, there was possibilities; there was some form of hope – for a better future, through hard work.

Now the working class are ‎pushing against the tide of hardship, making no progress while the ruling political elites continue toying with their future.