By Colin Jarvis
Last month the European Court of Human Rights upheld the
British government’s decision to freeze the pensions of British pensioners
living in Australia, Thailand and some other non-EU countries. One third of
the judges dissented from this ruling.
This means that a British pensioner will receive the same
government pension from the day they retire, to the day they die. This could
be a period as long as 35 years.
Pensioners who remain in Britain, or live in some other
countries, will have their pension index linked to Britain’s inflation.
In the past 30 years the British state pension has
increased by more than 400%. Should history repeat itself it means that
British pensioners, living in Thailand, could end up receiving a state
pension that is 25% of the value of their ex-colleagues residing in the UK.
Yet during their working life they will have paid the same in contributions
to the British government in order to pay for their pension.
Although the government puts forward many arguments as to
why this arrangement is “fair” the real reason is that they believe it will
cost the government ฃฝ billion a year to pay these pensioners who are
unlikely to vote or cause a fuss.
In a previous article we tried to show that it is to
Britain’s economic benefit to encourage as many pensioners as possible to
live abroad. Let us now consider the aspect of fairness.
Since writing the first article many pensioners have
approached me to explain that they have an arrangement with a relation in
the UK so that the British government believes they are residing in the UK
and pays their pension in the UK. So it appears that if a pensioner has
compliant relations in the UK they have an unfair advantage over pensioners
that do not.
For over 100 years the British Army has employed Ghurkha
soldiers to fight on behalf of Great Britain. Until last year Ghurkha
soldiers were given a pension that was reasonably substantial by Nepalese
standards. These soldiers were never promised anything else and they signed
up happily, indeed there were always far more applicants than vacancies.
Last year the courts in the UK upheld that the Ghurkha soldiers should be
given the same pension as their British counterparts on the basis of
A retired Ghurkha soldier, living in Nepal on any British
soldier’s pension is a relatively rich man. I do not begrudge the Nepalese
this benefit I simply use this instance to show that the British government
can decide to be fair, even though it costs them more.
Why did the British government accept the position of the
Ghurkhas and will not accept the position of the British pensioners?
One reason is obviously that there are very many fewer
retired Ghurkhas than there are British pensioners living abroad.
Another reason is that a very effective publicity
campaign was undertaken on behalf of the Ghurkha pensioners, the figurehead
of which was that famous British iconic actress Joanna Lumley.
The British government is unlikely to change its stance
unless it believes that the present and future pensioners, who decide to
live abroad, will cause a fuss and lose them votes.
The “Baby Boomers” are now starting to retire. This will
greatly increase the number of pensioners eligible for a British state
pension and at a time when the British economy is in a very bad state. The
government will therefore be very reluctant to give foreign retirees the
same rights as those residing in the UK. Unless, that is, there are votes in
If you are or are likely to be affected by the European
Court’s decision, or perhaps you know someone who will be affected, then you
may wish to become involved in trying to change the British government’s
mind. If you wish to do this a very simple way to start is to look at the
web pages of Pension Parity UK. Their website is www.pension-parity-uk.com.
This site gives the history of all the court cases and suggests further
action. If this iniquitous situation becomes more widely known it is likely
to become a serious political topic. If you have an MP, and know how to
contact him or her, why not do so now during the current electoral campaign?
If not, go to www. parliament.uk where you will find a list on names and
contact details. If you happen to know Joanna Lumley perhaps you would ask
her if she would like to help.
What happens when you cross the guitar playing of Jimmy
Page or Jimmy Hendrix with that of Pete Townshend and add a little Thai red
curry? Well, the unlikely mixture might come close to Pattrawut Muti’s
exuberant and exciting music and playing. At thirty-five years old, and now
a resident of Sansai, Chiang Mai, Pattrawut, or Eak as he prefers to be
called, is a master in a class of his own. He has three limited edition
albums already released and his music has been recently described by a
British rock composer as ‘brilliant’.
Eak was born in neighbouring Lampang and his father,
pursuing an army career, introduced him to the great sounds of pop music
when he was at that impressionable age just before becoming a teenager. He
listened to a wide range of music from the Beatles through to Perry Como and
the influence of those singers and musicians is quite apparent in his own
work. He arrived at Chiang Mai University to study physical education, still
a major interest of his, about ten years ago. But sometime earlier on his
thirteenth birthday, just like the song of Bryan Adams, ‘Summer of ‘69’, his
father bought him his first guitar – a six-string acoustic. Eak’s father had
already recognized a strong talent in his son, and did everything he could
to promote and encourage him. Eak took to playing and composing just as a
duck takes to water and it was not long before he began to experiment with
electric guitar, having begun to learn the drums at age nine. When he
arrived in Chiang Mai in his twenties he was already an accomplished
musician. Following his graduation, he decided to make music his career. He
now teaches electric guitar, bass guitar and drums at the Santi School of
Music and Music Way School. He takes on private students, too, and when he
is not teaching, he is hard at work playing with the rock band ‘DD’ or
composing more songs.
His albums are released in limited edition only and they
contain a fusion of contemporary metal with Thai music. His composition
‘Back Home Again’ from the ‘My Inspiration’ album is just such a classic –
it owes a lot to the Beatles and at times is reminiscent of ‘Let It Be’,
which just happens to be his favourite album. But other songs show him as a
master of the electric guitar with fantastic fingering and lengthy solo
spots that are dazzling in their brilliance and execution – ‘Country Colour’
being one such memorable and vivid song from his earlier ‘Infinity
Imagination’ album. He readily admits to foreign influences in his music and
is keen to acknowledge the greatness of people such as the Beatles, Deep
Purple, The Carpenters and the Steve Moss Band. But underpinning all of this
is his great love for modern Thai music, none more so than the songs of the
supergroup ‘Carabao’, his all-time favourite musicians. He admires and
respects their impact and influence on Thai culture with their music rooted
in ordinary people, poverty, strife and love for their King – ‘Peua Chiwit’
(Songs for Life). Recognising the importance of expressing feelings and
emotions while carrying a strong message, Pattrawut Muti is at the forefront
of progressive music and his modest aim is that his music, with its
individual style and unique sound, will touch the lives of others. Both the
albums quoted above can be purchased privately by phoning 0845016974.