Posts Tagged ‘society’

Another day at work

Posted: January 22, 2017 in Thailand
Tags: ,

A taxi rider prepares for work. The mornings are routines, repetitive for the sake of his livelihood.

Things don’t look good for low-income workers in the city as household debts are increasingly and the economy sinks further into oblivion.

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.

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)

"I have a question"

“I have a question”

A message (below) from 11th grade student, who protested in a packed auditorium where junta leader general Prayuth was speaking. Parit Chiwarak was forcibly removed by security personnel. Thai police did not charge the teenager, and he returned home after a briefing between his parents and the authorities.

Parit, who is also a student activist from the Education for Liberation of Siam, then posted an open letter to Prayuth.

Dear Mr.Prime Minister,

I would first apologize you for my attempt to deliver the open letter of the Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), of which every words were written with sincerity, without informing in advance. My delivery of the letter might cause you some inconvenient, but to clear myself from any misunderstanding, I would hereby declare this statement to you, and the public.

1. It may be viewed “insolent” or “improper with the place and time” that I did not propose the letter in the normal bureaucratic procedure. However, there is possibility for the delivery of to letter to be late or misunderstood. In order to prevent them, I had to be some indecorous, and I hereby apologize you for this.

2. Some people might came up with ideas that my act was set in favor of some political group, or be motivated with political reasons. To tell the truth, I must inform that the motivation of my (attempt to) delivery of the letter was just sincerity and goodwill to our country and society, and there were no any abettor. My proposal was mere a proposal to replace the subject “civil duties” with philosophy and ethics, which are more effective in nurturing ethic and virtue.

3. I am just an ordinary youth with no extraordinary skills, but I have some courage to express my opinion about Thailand’s education reformation publicly in sake of our country and society. However, there are quite much more people who could not express their own opinions. I would like to propose you and your officers to insist on listening to the voice of everyone, including students like me, with sincerity, as every opinion would finally drive Thailand forward.

Even I eventually was taken to Pathumwan Metropolitan Police Station, I had no personal vengeance the agents who took me in and the officers who performed personal information interrogation with me as they did on their duties and they treated me in proper manner. Finally, I hoped that in the future there would be rights for everyone to express what they believe from the innermost of their heart.

With love and respect,
Parit Chiwarak

Source: Parit’s Facebook

Pansak Srithep was arrested by authorities on Saturday in Thailand’s capital for making a symbolic walk to a police station. His son was killed by an army sniper during the Red Shirt protests in Bangkok in 2010, and Pansak was one of the four activists from the Resistant Citizen, an anti-coup group, charged with violating martial law for organising a mock election on Valentine’s Day.

Obviously the authorities do not tolerate any forms of peaceful assembly, as defined in the past repression of rallies and the strict enforcement of martial law. So far, there is no indicator of pro-democracy reforms by the minority elites despite the promises from the junta and the military-controlled national legislative assembly. Even then Thais continue, sometimes almost haphazardly, in the attempt to bend the will of the military powers, until perhaps one day more will join in the quest for self-determination.

 

 

 

I walk, therefore i am
Crossing through injustice sand
Pathway holds no light
But together we will fight
I fight, therefore i am
Seeking for a justice land
Where people are all equal
Where rights promise to all individual
I shout, therefore i am
Calling for the rights of man
Voices will be heard on streets
the people will be taking the lead
I walk, therefore i am
Crossing through injustice sand
In the end there will be lights
Of the Resistant citizen who will rise.

Justice for Thailand

ฉันก้าวเดินฉันจึงยังเป็นฉัน
ฉันวาดฝันรุกมั่นสู่จุดหมาย
แม้ดาวดับลับเลือนไม่พรั่งพราย
หากในกายยังคงรุมสุมเชื้อไฟ
ฉันจึงสู้เพื่อให้ฉันยังรู้สึก
ในสำนึกที่ฉันยังต้องเรียกหา
คนเท่ากัน ฉันและเธอ มวลประชา
สิทธิสัญญาว่ารวยจนทุกคนมี
จะกู่ก้องร้องตะโกนด้วยตัวฉัน
ตะโกนลั่นร้องหาสิทธิถูกริดปล้น
เสียงจะดังด้วยพร้อมเพรียงเสียงมวลชน
เสียงของคนใช่ทาสหากเป็นไท
ฉันก้าวเดินฉันจึงยังคงอยู่
จงรับรู้ว่าฉันจะมิอาจเชื่อง
ประชาชนจะนำแสงเป็นฟันเฟือง
พลเมืองจะโต้กลับรุกเอาคืน

 

 

Floods, landslides in Malaysia, from Peninsula to Borneo. Over 200,000 people were displaced, torn from their homes by raging nature.

Natural disasters leaving considerable impact on lives, land and livelihood. Whether federal or state governments, the institutions need to share data about natural disasters and poverty. Poorer communities are left marginalized in post-flood Malaysia, particularly rural populations. Repetitive floods, the incredible downpour from monsoon and the continued ignorance of policy makers, increase the vulnerability of the poor. As a result, communities are unable to break the cycle of poverty.

Its crucial for civil society and government agencies to collaborate with affected communities in order to reduce the socio-economic impact. Increased disaster risks due to climate change are also expected to stimulate poverty. Are we taking note of these issues and planning ahead for poverty-reduction and disaster preparedness? Or are we still pointing the finger, or shamelessly indulging with photo-ops when delivering conditional aid to those who have lost their homes, land and income?

Rural communities in Malaysia live in the plantations, fishing villages, farms, settlements and indigenous Orang Asli tribes. Obviously there is a lack of coordinated national effort in relief work, and much of the aid distribution comes from volunteers, among them Dapur Jalanan, which is remarkable but the question is why does it seem that the federal and state governments are unprepared for intervention, much less rebuilding initiatives?