- HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
A “burning” issue!
Why do we vote? If we do…
News in Briefs
Welcome to this week’s Femail. Somewhat unintentionally, this issue
seems to have become rather serious! Pollution, elections, aren’t we
supposed to be having “fun” in this lovely city? Maybe so, but life
does go on elsewhere in the world, and these days the ripples spread
much further than they ever have before. Perhaps that’s a good
thing, and perhaps it isn’t - but it means that we can’t hide,
however much we’d like to. Those of us who were young in the 60’s
(remember “flower power”), thought we could change the world. It
didn’t work, of course, it couldn’t have, but here in our small way
we can change many things for the better if we get involved and
It’s a bit late for a New Year’s Resolution, but not for a decision.
Have a good week!
A “burning” issue!
Photos courtesy of “Loujean LaMalfa - Global
“Amazing Thailand” hit world news headlines again early last year - for all
the wrong reasons! Instead of enticing reports of sunshine, easy living and
exotic locations, the world media churned out report after report about the
appalling pollution problems in Northern Thailand, accompanied by graphic
photos of vast clouds of smog and reports of hospitals in the region being
overwhelmed by choking citizens. Even Western government agencies joined in
the fray, issuing warnings and suggesting that alternative destinations be
considered. On the internet, satellite images of vast areas of forest in
flames on the Thai/Myanmar borders fuelled this particular media
conflagration. Result - tourists deserting or relocating by the thousands,
residents with time and money leaving temporarily for fresher climes, and
the health and economy of the North badly affected. Such publicity, often
(if only slightly), exaggerated, is one of the downsides of living in this
21st century “Global Village” world.
Given that last year’s pollution was far worse than in previous years, due
in part to a huge forest fire along the border in Myanmar, what should we
expect this year? Sadly, the answer to that question seems likely to be
“more of the same, as it’s already started”. More importantly, what is
actually being done to control and manage the problem?
We all know about the traditional method of clearing land, which farmers
have used for many centuries all over the world - but this is the 21st
century with its justified and well publicised concerns about global
warming, the environment, etc., shouldn’t things change? Shouldn’t there be
a serious attempt at re-education? What about the new laws? Are they being
enforced? Are they really laws, or only suggestions? And how do we farangs,
who often cannot read or speak the language, find out about them and how to
help enforce them? And even if we find a way to do this, how do we stop
deforestation, as we all know that trees are the lungs of the land? So many
questions - so much concern - no concrete answers.
Recently, in this newspaper, a report was published about a new public order
prohibiting burning, deforestation, and waste incineration, and the setting
up in Chiang Mai province of forest fire protection zones. Perhaps this is
the moment to mention that last year, in the forest areas to the North,
fires were not being controlled at all as it would seem that there might
have been some problems in getting enough government funding to the forest
rangers that had controlled them in previous years! The public order was
announced by the Governor of Chiang Mai himself, who stated that, “Any
breaches of the new law would be severely dealt with under that law”, and
that “Officers will be sent out to instruct the public in new methods of
waste management in order to produce fertiliser”. Several weeks later, the
photographs reproduced with this article were taken… need we say more? It is
actions, not words, which are desperately needed.
Environmental groups are being formed, both Thai and farang, an example
being the recently launched Green Project which aims to plant 2,000 trees a
year. Letters are being written to the local media, and flyers are being
handed out, giving a telephone number to call to report burning. If the
local District Office’s number is called, officers do come out to douse the
fires - but only if the caller can identify the location using the Thai
language as very few on these numbers speak English! An unfortunate omission
on the part of local government, as many farangs may well be more inclined
to report burning (or be motivated to ask Thai friends or family to do so),
than may the local farmers and villagers. It is noticeable that there has
been a recent decrease in vehicle pollution, but, of course, it is far
easier to monitor and control emissions from licensed vehicles. Every little
helps, but…for example, in at least one local moo baan (village estate.)
outside the city a “fire watch” group has been formed by Thai and farang
residents, in order to immediately inform the local authorities if burning
is noticed in the immediate area. The response from their local District
Office has been encouraging and efficient.
A well known saying amongst the expat population is “TIT” -“This is
Thailand”, often used to illustrate an attitude to living which, after a
lifetime in the West, most expats find charming and refreshing, if a little
frustrating at times. We all know that we should not tell the Thai people
how to run their country, but the pollution issue is too serious not to be
taken seriously by every resident, government organisation, farmer,
villager, business owner, and patrolling policeman . Less “TIT” and more
proactive cooperation between all the pressure groups and all who live and
work here, including local government, is the only way to deal with the
devastating and damaging effects, both environmental and economic, of this
appalling annual event.
Why do we vote? If we do…
It’s a prevailing urban legend that we women bully our men into
voting whenever there’s a change in government - now that the Democratic
party has made it possible for American expats living here to vote in the
upcoming primaries, (and, presumably, in the Presidential election itself),
maybe it’s time to examine our motives for bothering to vote at all! Do we
seriously think it’s going to change anything? It seems that dialogues
between expats, (not only from the USA, but from the UK as well), are taking
place all over this city, focusing on the general opinion that it will take
at least 20 years for both these countries to return to something remotely
regarded as “normal”. The only difference seems to be that it will take
until hell freezes over before UK expats will be allowed by the powers that
be in their country of birth to express their preferences by voting. And,
anyway, the majority of us who are presently engaging in these ongoing
dialogues will probably be dead by the time the damage caused by recent
years’ misgovernment in both countries will be reversed, if, indeed, it can
be. An uncomfortable truth, but true nevertheless.
So, why do we care? Why do we bother to vote at all? UK citizens may well
have been astonished by the high turnouts reported in the recent USA
primaries, as there would have to be a very good reason for the average Brit
to switch off the TV, get out of his armchair, and go out into the cold and
wet to elect a politician. Apathy just isn’t in it! Even although it would
seem from the above that USA citizens do still care what happens to their
human rights, liberties, taxes, health care, etc., how does all this relate
to the fact that those who are living here ”voted with their feet” by
One good reason for USA expats to make their voices heard is possibly the
decline in the dollar due to the sub-prime crisis combined with the
artificially high baht rate of recent times, which has resulted in a drastic
drop in the actual value of pension payments. However, this is likely to
take some time to improve due to global economic problems and a new
government here which may be, if the media are to be believed, only
temporary. And does anyone really think that “them over there” care a hoot
about us over here? Unlikely.
Another reason could be that many USA expats still have family in the home
country, about whose welfare they are, naturally, concerned. That, at least,
is one good reason to vote if one has the chance.
A third reason may be that the main candidates this time around seem
somewhat different than last time’s offerings. If you intend to vote
Democrat, it must be fun, (or, at the very least, interesting) choosing
between the two possibilities of a female President and a black President.
Even the average Brit mentioned earlier would get out of his armchair for
Policies? A famous and still active - particularly right now - former
President summed it up nicely, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Would it be too
much to expect that this would be first in candidates’ minds this time
round? Because, right now, it IS the economy, stupid! That’s the main menu,
with a side dish of “Get the boys out of Iraq and Afghanistan” and an hors
d’ouvre of “Middle East and the war on terror”. The voice of the people, so
often ignored in the last few years both in the USA and the UK, desperately
needs to be heard, loud and clear. Make your votes count, guys, the world
News in Briefs
Which one of us didn’t want to be an air hostess when we grew up?
Answers on a postcard, please… A recently introduced Thai TV soap has caused
a riot amongst Thai Air’s lovely ladies because of its all too graphic
portrayal of life in the “Mile High” club. All sympathy to them, but… if we
thought it was really like that we’d never book a flight again as we’d be
too scared! Or too jealous…
Congratulations to Michael and Rose, whose 50th - yes, 50th - wedding
anniversary is due on February 9. In these days of instant marriages and
almost instant divorces, this is seriously good news! If you want to
congratulate them personally, they’ll be at the CEC meeting on Saturday 9th.
Good on you, guys!
We noticed a few days ago that the UK Ministry of Health is launching
a new scheme to reduce obesity by paying severely overweight women (and
men!) to lose weight! Apparently, vouchers to purchase healthy foods will be
given out, and cash prizes will be awarded when target weights are reached…
Right! Now we know where our taxes would have gone - aren’t you glad you’re
Here’s one for our ex-USA readers. A single mum from the UK took her
two teenaged daughters on a 4 day dream trip to New York, developed
pneumonia, was rushed to hospital and was admitted. Unable to protest, she
watched her two girls being hauled away by social workers. They were taken
to a local orphanage where they were stripped of their belonging and
clothes, asked what drugs they were on, which gangs they belonged to, and
whether they had any homicidal tendencies! Mug shots were taken, and they
were forbidden to leave the building. Their Mum discharged herself from the
hospital and removed them as soon as she was able. The rest of the trip was
The good news is that research has shown that those of us who used
the contraceptive pill will probably have protection from cervical cancer
for up to 30 years. Useful.
That’s all for this week!
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