Posts Tagged ‘behaviorism’

Thailand, once again, confused partly by the purity of nationalist ideology and perhaps low self-esteem, is struggling with its own identity.

As reported by Aljazeera:

A Thai horror film about Buddhist monks has been banned over fears it could “destroy” the kingdom’s majority faith, authorities say.

The culture ministry on Tuesday objected to certain parts of the film Arbat, including a kissing scene and one where a monk is shown taking drugs.

The clergy have long been revered in overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand but in recent years have been rocked by scandals, including gambling and prostitution, as well as corruption at the increasingly wealthy temples propped by donations from the faithful.

“The movie has some scenes that will destroy Buddhism. If it is shown, people’s faith in Buddhism will deteriorate,” Somchai Surachatri, spokesman for Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism, told AFP news agency.

Hmm, and what about the PDRC leader cum “monk” Buddha Issara who wrecked the streets of Bangkok with his ultra fundamentalism? Did the faith of Thai Buddhists deteriorate? Seems the institutions of Thailand are not interested to take action against him for shaming Thai Buddhism, or perhaps, due to his hardliner views, they fear his persona?

In the six weeks since then the behavior of 56-year-old Buddha Issara, abbot of Wat Or Noi in the central Thailand province of Nakhon Pathom, has sunk to increasingly depraved levels with photos of him interrogating undercover police who were caught intelligence gathering at his rally site and who were dragged before him after being beaten by his “guards” widely circulated.

Just days after this he led hundreds of his supporters and attempted to check into a hotel owned by the Shinawatra family where ten rooms had been booked in his name and a deposit of Bt4,200 (about US$129) paid. When the hotel refused to honour his booking fearful the affect the presence of protesters would have on their business he refused to leave until he was compensated for the inconvenience and what he claimed were costs incurred by farmers in getting to the hotel from up-country.

Surrounded by his “guards”, some wearing bulletproof vests, he received Bt120,000 ($3,680) compensation which he was photographed counting (The Vinaya-pitika, the disciplinary code laid down by the Buddha for monks and nuns, disallows monks from touching or handling money) and which he said would be paid to farmers for wasted diesel and other costs.

Source: The Establishment Post

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My thoughts.

Community-based programs, NGOs and privately-run social initiatives are actively involved in areas where Thailand military government support is not sufficient. Often the junta-led “government” projects are cosmetic, and fail to provide much-need policy changes that would greatly improve quality of life.

However efforts are still being made in forging partnerships between NGOs and the government. It’s a fact that the role of an NGO is important especially in the rural parts of the country where poverty incidence is high.

One of my concerns is rural micro-finance programs implemented by NGOs and provincial/federal authorities. Such programs provide valuable services to the rural poor although I have yet to see indicators of accountability and transparency in the financial aspects of these programs. There’s also the issue of questionable deliverables (unachievable expectations, low capacity) and the late dispersement of monies to the stakeholders.

Core problems of social programming are often related to the lack of participation in democratic decision-making. Perhaps some NGOs and officials do not want to see an empowered marginalized community to make informed decisions and lobby for their rights. In this case, from the absence of their rights to a transparent process of not just the budget allocation but also to the conceptualization and project monitoring.

I once mentioned to someone from a reputable local “poverty eradication” NGO that its within their interest to encourage communities to be part and parcel of problem-solving in the programs. But rather than consider and consult the stakeholders about this issue, the officer was rather defensive about the state of affairs. Apparently foreigners do not understand ‘Thainess’ and as such have no business expressing my views. It could also be that he and his organization prefer the comfort zone of prescribing solutions to the communities, rather than consultation.

Anyway as the national economy plunges, its difficult to not come to the conclusion that corruption will increase and that marginalized communities will be extremely vulnerability; as flawed systems, pride and human greed override the original objective of community-service.

Economic growth can help reduce poverty through an increase in household income, providing earnings to obtain the minimum basic needs. That being said, equality and other rights-based concerns must be tackled by all parties to enable a reduction of poverty. I’m not so sure whether the junta realise this, or maybe they just don’t care. I wonder.

 

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.

First the severe drought, and now the monsoon. Rainstorms are expected in 16 provinces, soon, and among them Chiang Mai, Tak, Nong Khai and Phuket.

Thailand has seen its fair share of natural disasters, and the ordinary citizen is not surprised at the onslaught of nature. Though what troubles society, especially rural communities, is the poor reaction from the local authorities.

Often the response from the junta is seen as knee-jerk, which invites people to assume that their military rulers have no plan of action nor foresight to analyse the impact on the population. Despite the decades of experience in managing natural crisis, there’s no evidence, at least one that’s transparent, of any contingency on how to reduce the vulnerability of communities.

As the authorities are occupied with arresting pro-democracy activists, detaining students and ensuring that people place no hope in democracy, the flood-related risks are ignored. What is absent is community participation; of cooperation among stakeholders to plan, coordinate and evaluate community-based programs.

The junta is busy trying to be a hero, and failing miserably at it, while relying on bureaucrats to solve problem – or attempt at it. And how do they plan to mobilize the population in the face of yearly floods and landslides? Will the junta leaders resort to soliciting advice from their famed get-rich-quick soothsayers, who are perceived to have the superstitious “wisdom” to halt disasters.

In the end, the troubling part is while fantasies are entertained and lessons-learned are throw out of the window, we will see the continuation of hardship faced by the rural people. The increase of personal debts, unpaid bank loans, social marginalization and a spiral decline on the national economy are surely concerns that even fortune-tellers are unable to predict, or perhaps they and the lot in Bangkok do not care.

My thoughts on Thailand’s worse drought in decades.

‎I managed to find some time to venture along the Ramkhamhaeng, a part of Bangkok that was built partly by Muslim migrant workers in the old days. The street art can be found along the dark, polluted canal. I was not able to identify the artists but their work was amazing. Silent testimony to this almost-forgotten walkway.

The New Trend Of Un-Thainess

Posted: January 21, 2015 in Thailand
Tags: ,

Recently a journalist had asked coup leader Prayut about the cyber-law/digital economy during a press conference, and with that comes the usual “un-Thainess” reaction of the general. Ironically it runs in contradiction of his own “moral values” of Thainess, but then again in this age of martial law, one can never expect certain individuals to maintain their dignity nor show basic courtesy.