Chiang Mai FeMail
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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 really try.
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 Photo Journalist”

Tess Itura
“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…

Tess Itura
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 leaving?
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 that one!
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 needs you!


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?
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 fine!
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!