Vol. VIII No. 31 - Tuesday
August 4 - August 10, 2009

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thai Matters Part 2

Phrae pilot project aims to train women for local politics

Clinton visit prompts investigation of Hmong refugee camp by US official



Thai Matters Part 2

Competition and business success

Carla Hoogland
All success in Thailand is not only a question of’ ‘the five P’s’, (as we say in Holland), Product, Place, Price, Promotion and Staff. No, it is all a matter of good luck. And the good thing is that we can navigate it. Sometimes it seems as if it only requires positive thinking. If you are positive enough, it will be OK - .a thought that in the West is increasingly finding more supporters.

The protective sword which keeps jealousy and competition away from the new massage parlour is shown here being blessed by a monk.
Many examples of this can be found in the Buddhist faith. A sacrifice to the Buddha is also asking for good luck. Sacrifice your money, than you will be richer in your next life, offer a lot of food and there will be no lack of eating and drinking in your life. From the opening day of the shop, the entire staff pray for good luck. Every morning, offerings are made both inside the shop and in front of the door. The fruit that is offered is, a day or so later, also a gift for the customers.
After the signing of the lease and the renovation and decoration of the building, the shop actually does open, but actually not. Thailand has, for most companies, a practice called a ‘soft opening’. Some hotels have a soft opening for months, giving employees a chance to practice for a while before the real work begins. This is no superfluous luxury – as the Dutch saying goes, the power of advertising is repetition. This is the same, everything must be done often, so that it becomes routine.
The official opening takes place on an auspicious date determined by a monk. According to Leena, this day was the birthday of manager Lee. A day before, we moved the necessary items from the temple in Doi Saket, the entire shop was overturned and, one day later, the monks arrived in a van. All rooms in the four-storey building were linked with a cord. This cord was held by all the monks during their prayers, so that all the good wishes passed through it and into the building. After the prayers, the cord was made into bracelets and given to the participants for good luck... Also to bring luck, we bought two buckets of snails and released them into the Ping River. The curtain before the nameplate outside the shop was officially drawn by the head monk. Afterwards, Leena Massage & Hair was officially opened! Well, such an opening is really something!
To keep competition and the jealousy of others away from our door, a sword had to be purchased, which was then taken on a temple visit to be blessed by the monks, who wrote good wishes on it. The sword now hangs in a prominent place inside the shop.
It seems that the reason that business is currently not so good is that there are not enough prayers being said and offerings being made. That the situation in Thailand and the recession in Europe are also causing problems is something the ladies on the staff are not yet aware of. Even if they were, those kinds of issues are of the ‘mai put’ variety – not talked about because they are negative. Only positive thinking and discussion is good for progress. Perhaps we in Europe might consider this? Remain positive and keep faith even when there are things around you that you want to change, but cannot!
To be continued…
For more info, please visit the shop’s website at www.leenamassage.com.


Phrae pilot project aims to train women for local politics

Public Relations Department 
Phrae’s ‘Women Leaders for Community Development Association’, together with the Gender Development Research Institute held an important seminar July 18, with the aim of increasing the number of women in local politics.
The seminar, attended by 200 potential female candidates and local leaders, represented a pilot project set up to encourage and train local women in political awareness and leadership skills within their communities, and to teach skills such as campaigning during elections in order to increase the number of women elected to local government and administrative positions.
Dr. Sutheera Vijitranond, president of the Gender Development Research Institute, stated that most women have limited opportunities to gain support or selection to become leaders in economics, society and politics. Very few are in a position to make decisions on national or local levels. For that reason, the research institute and the women’s leaders association want to help women to obtain roles in politics and administration, and will work to increase the number of female candidates in local elections. Both organisations are aware that there are many women with the potential to become qualified candidates. Dr. Sutheera added that action to increase the number of women in local politics is significant not only because it gives direct support to those women who have a passion for this work, but because it leads to people becoming aware of the importance and necessity of having women in power in local administrations.

Clinton visit prompts investigation of Hmong refugee camp by US official

Elena Edwards
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s recent visit to Thailand, during which she expressed her concern to the Thai Prime Minister about the plight of Hmong refugees, has resulted in a proposed visit by a US official to a Phetchaburi camp which houses 4,700 Hmong.
Clinton, during her meeting with PM Abhisit, voiced her concerns about the so-called ‘voluntary’ nature of the ongoing Hmong repatriation, but was rebuffed by the PM’s reply that Thailand, although not a signatory to the refugee convention, had respected its international obligations. According to sources, Clinton also suggested a screening process by the UN Refugee Agency to establish the identities of refugees whose lives would be in danger if they were forced to return.
The issue, it seems, will not end there, as a high- level US government official, Samuel Witten, is now in discussion about both Hmong and Burmese refugee issues with Anuson Chinwanno, head of the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry’s international organisations department and Thawil Pliensri, the new secretary-general of the National Security Council. Last week, as part of his investigation, Witten visited both the Hmong camp and a Burmese refugee camp located in Tak province.
Also last week, 97 Hmong were sent back to Laos as part of the Thai-Lao agreement to repatriate all Hmong to Laos, ostensibly on a volunteer basis. Reports over the last year, however, have suggested that the voluntary nature of the repatriation is being abused, with families being broken up as a result and the unexplained disappearances of returnees.
US interest in this issue centres on the help given to the US Central Intelligence Agency by Hmong tribespeople during the struggle against the Pathet Lao before the fall of Vientaine in 1975. Subsequently, many Hmong who had been involved fled Laos, seeking political asylum in neighbouring countries.

Opinion: A warning - high-risk sunbeds and social conditioning

Elena Edwards
After many more years of research than have been allocated to less commercially-focused but equally perilous health and safety risks, world health experts have finally announced in very unambiguous terms, the serious likelihood of developing skin cancer by the indiscriminate usage of sunbeds.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, (IARC), which reviews cancer risks for the World Health Organisation, made its last assessment in 1992, when it stated there was insufficient evidence that artificial sources of ultraviolet light caused human cancers. With possibly, but not probably, a slight sense of ‘oooops’, this august body’s report released last week through the UK medical journal The Lancet’s oncology section declares that sunbeds have been elevated to the highest risk level, alongside such scary substances as plutonium, radium and asbestos.
The percentage risk element is even more scary; regular sunbed use from below the age of 30, according to IARC’s review of long-term research, will result in the risk of melanoma increasing by a massive 75%. For those of us who lived in far gloomier countries than Thailand for most of our lives and who succumbed to commercial spin about glowing golden skin, etc, this is obviously a major concern. OK, the small print stated that our skin, although glowing goldenly, was also wrinkling far more quickly, but, hey, wrinkles don’t kill you! The incidence of melanoma, particularly in women in the western world, is increasing fast, although actual numbers of deaths seem low...for example, 100 deaths directly related to sunbed use in the UK each year.
!00 deaths…85 deaths in Thailand from the H1N1 virus here in Thailand; the medical sector’s going crazy and the media are in overkill. 100 directly related deaths from melanoma, (with a good few hundred others on a contributory basis, we suspect), and the reaction from the UK’s Sunbed Association is as usual…a qualified denial promoting that ‘responsible’ use of their product contains no proven risk. Heard it all before; remember the tobacco industry’s continued denials? Commercial spin.
But, didn’t most of us know this already? Or, at least, suspect? Now the cat’s finally out of the bag, the vast majority of women could be excused for a collective ‘I told you so!’ on this and a great many other issues of health and lifestyle, several of which have been exposed recently.
Common sense has always told us that too much exposure to the sun, (or to a sunbed), causes damage to our skin cells, and that damaged cells are more likely to become cancerous. Common sense told us smoking is not good for us, even before smokers became social pariahs. A bottle of gin, or even a six-pack of Chang per day makes us fat, usually unpleasant to be with, alcoholic, and leads to liver and other diseases and finally death. Basing our diet on burgers, pizzas and chips in excess is likely to qualify us for that horribly fascinating American TV programme, ‘The Biggest Loser’, if it doesn’t ‘lose’ us our lives first. If we were fortunate enough to have been alive and young in that strange and exhilarating decade, the ‘60’s, common sense told us that drugging was not the best idea in the world, even although a good number of our friends were seeing life through a haze of whatever was available behind the local coffee bar or youth club! Common sense also tells us that, even now, and particularly here, organic food is a good bet, not because it’s any better in providing nutrients, but because it’s a great deal better in not providing the remnants of excess dangerous chemicals used far too frequently as fertiliser by growers who can’t read the English language instructions on the labels. Assuming, of course, that the substance in question hasn’t been banned in the West and subsequently unloaded over here at a good price!
So, for women at least, common sense is the protective device we are all born with. Why, then, all this fuss about sunbeds, which, congenitally, we should have been avoiding anyway? Maybe it’s simply a social phenomenon, as in, ‘Wow, look at that tan – she must be wealthy and successful to afford all those holidays in sunny climes!’ A comparison here in Thailand might be, ‘Wow, look at her white skin, her husband must be wealthy and successful, she doesn’t have to work in the fields in hot sun’. Yeah, right! So it isn’t just Western female values that are occasionally rather less than logical?
Surely, though, this is all about advertising and the expertly manipulative levels it has reached in the 21st century? Read certain magazines, find out what the hi-so’s and the ‘filthy rich’ are favouring this year, and go for it. Even although your finances may be just a little stretched as a result, and your credit card is in serious danger of being shredded by your local friendly bank? So you lose your home? The state, (or your parents), will support you!
The link between uncontrolled wants by millions and the present economic meltdown is there for all to see, and the results, as in all crises, affect the prudent and the poor as well the profligate and the wealthy. Another holiday home, another luxury condo, that ‘must have’ limited edition Gucci handbag, (the genuine article, not the Night Market rip-off exported to the West), the 250th pair of shoes, even a suntan acquired naturally by spending a great deal of time in various Caribbean hideouts for the very rich. The link is there, the temptation is there, the disaster is here and now. Very little distance exists between the psychological aspects of sunbed use and the huge increase in the number of the desperately poor across the world who will die as a result of the present economic crisis cutting off essential donations which, up until now, have kept them alive.

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