Published on September 28, 2013 edition
IMAGINE LIVING on your own in a foreign country. Now imagine having to live on the streets in a foreign country where people speak a completely different language.
Chris first came to Thailand on a freelance contract as a financial consultant. He was promised two big payments, but the final one never arrived. When his money ran out, he realised he was in trouble.
Since the 2011 floods, he has been living on a bench and relying on the generosity of commuters to keep alive.
“It’s funny. When I had a room, I was getting some money to pay for a room but wasn’t eating for four or five days,” he said. “Now that I’ve been living on the streets, I always have food in my hand.”
Charity groups estimate that there are some 200 to 300 foreigners living on the streets in Thailand, most of them in large cities such as Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
“Of every 10 homeless foreigners, five will say they have been cheated by their Thai wives or families, three would put it down to business partners, while the rest would offer other reasons,” said Natee Saraval, secretary-general of the Issarachon Foundation.
The government, so far, has no policies to handle the growing number of homeless foreigners, let alone offer any concrete solutions. Natee said government-related agencies ought to coordinate with ministries and embassies at least to acknowledge the issue and work out some immediate steps.
However, things are different for Chris, who blames himself for what has happened.
“If I had done what the employers wanted, I would still be on commission. But I might not be sleeping at night, because I’ve got a conscience,” he said.
Though in the end, Chris said, living on the streets has taught him to value life. Plus, he said, he still has something to look forward to.
“In three years’ time, if I’m not blacklisted, I’ll be back. But I’ll have money. My pension fund is worth 200,000 pounds – that’s a million baht!”
Published on September 25, 2013 edition
The new Chinese ambassador to Thailand insisted yesterday that rail-link cooperation with the mainland would be advantageous for Thailand and the region.
Trade between China and the ASEAN was worth US$400 billion (Bt12.5 trillion) in 2012, and the aim is to boost the value of trade to $1 trillion by 2020.
Beijing has been pushing for an ambitious Trans-Asian Railway link with Southeast Asia, which it says will offer great economic advantages to the ASEAN bloc.
“We have had close cooperation between the Chinese and Thai sides, but it’s still in the stage of consultation,” the ambassador said.
He added that cooperating over the high-speed rail link with China would be positive in many ways, given Beijing’s ability to build bullet trains, that are already popular in China, as well as low construction costs. Thailand also stood to gain due to its location.
Ambassador Ning also spoke of Beijing’s determination to push for stronger ties with the Kingdom, adding that large Chinese firms were planing to boost investment in Thailand in the near future. The envoy said Chinese PM Li Keqiang would visit ASEAN next month.
Published on September 10, 2013 edition
If the Asean Economic Community is a party, Hong Kong – getting dressed and ready – wants to be a key guest to take part in the regional integration, says Carrie Lam, that city’s chief secretary for administration.
Some Hong Kong firms have relocated their manufacturing bases from the motherland to Cambodia. Phnom Penh alone already has some 60 garment and shoe factories and 24,000 workers, Fong Ngai, director of the Hong Kong Economics and Trade Office overseeing Asean, said in July.
Lam said Hong Kong, a predominantly service economy with that sector accounting for more than 90 per cent of gross domestic product, is looking for investment that is a “win-win” proposition for all parties.
Hong Kong mainly re-exports goods. Products are manufactured outside the city and distributed via Hong Kong. Its exports to ASEAN were worth more than US$29 billion (Bt934 billion) last year, while imports from ASEAN were valued at $65 billion. Total services trade with ASEAN is valued at $13.7 billion annually.
Hong Kong positions itself as a gateway to mainland China, receiving trade privileges from the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, thought to be the most liberal kind of free-trade agreement Beijing has ever signed with any party.
“So you can imagine that under the [proposed Asean-Hong Kong] free-trade agreement, and also taking advantage of CEPA, we do expect trade to be enhanced on both sides,” she said, referring to her city and Asean.
Senior officials from the Hong Kong government have been visiting several ASEAN countries in the past couple months, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand, to facilitate negotiations for an Asean-Hong Kong FTA, expected to commence early next year and hoped to be concluded by 2015.
Hong Kong is seeking a more comprehensive agreement with Southeast Asia. Looking ahead, it plans to continue to perform the role of logistics hub for the Greater Mekhong Subregion, with added-value services. Further expansion of Hong Kong International Airport and the cross-boundary infrastructure of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, costing almost 200 billion Hong Kong dollars (Bt830 billion), are now under way.
Lam said she also wanted to see closer linkage in terms of a non-economic relationship between Hong Kong and ASEAN through higher education cooperation and cultural exchanges. Her government plans to send university students over to ASEAN countries on an internship programme designed for young people to “gain some experience and perhaps develop a career in one of the countries”.
Follow up on the development regarding the ASEAN-China High Level Forum meeting held in Bangkok Aug 2, China seems to have been addressing its ASEAN counterparts more softly regarding the sea territorial row.
The 5th International NGO Conference on Historical Conflicts in East Asia was held in Seoul, South Korea, between July 21-25, 2013. It was also a week of commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War armistice, yet the region does not to have any further than the post-Cold War era where nationalism took over from other ideologies. Various parties from the civil society gather to discuss the resolution towards achieving peace and reconciliation, as they realized that through people-to-people contact could only mend the scars from historical war trauma in Northeast Asia.
Could Historical Conflicts Sentiment Wage Another War?
Nationalism, Historical Disputes Still Hinders Asia’s Growth
The ‘Young Hope’ to a Conflict Resolution
ข้อพิพาท vs ชาตินิยมในเอเชียตะวันออก ยังมีทางออกหรือไม่
Recently the government has called on a meeting between ministers to work out measures to boost the economy, with PM Yingluck knowing that the second half of this year will definitely be tough for the Thai economy.
“The govt is running out of ammunition to boost the economy,” said a former finance chief. “So it didn’t last long.”
Question: How is govt going to prop up the troubled economy in H2 of 2013?
Asst. Prof. Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf (Director of the Center for Buddhist-Muslim Understanding, Mahidol University) said the next step for the Muslim Brotherhood is how to go forward from now given the country’s deep political divide. The Brotherhood used to fight against authoritarianism, but recently it ‘became exclusive’.
More than 75% Egyptians wants change; they’re not happy with the drastic living conditions, taxis still have to queue up to refill their tanks, fuel and economic shortages.
Meanwhile, “external players have basically failed,” said Yusuf, in contributing to the peace efforts in the Mideast.
The other question in the meantime is whether we should call the Egypt situation a military coup or the people’s revolution? Assoc. Prof. Dr. Panitan Wattanakorn from the Political Science Faculty, Chulalongkorn University, said we must see whether is the toppled leader is being held by military without access to the world. But in this case, it would be hard to classify because it involves mass protests as well.
The situation has also become a dilemma for the US, as it provides around 1.3 billion USD of military aid to Egypt every year since 1987. If it acknowledge the situation as a coup, the US law states that all aids will be revoked. That’s bad for the US, because it will affect existing contracts with American arms manufacturing companies that could have shut down production lines, says a NYT report.