Somewhat belatedly — but as promised! — here are my notes from the remarks Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made to journalists and others at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) dinner here in Bangkok on Fri., March 23.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of what she said — see the links to news reports below for that — but rather my observations from the evening that stand out, several days on.
First, a note on language: Yingluck choose to give the speech in English. As others have observed, she is a conversational English speaker, but she is not as fluent as her older brother, the exiled, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. And of course, her English is not nearly as smooth as her predecessor, the British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva.
This meant that Yingluck’s speech lacked, perhaps, some of the nuance and technical details that it might have contained had she had delivered it in Thai, with an interpreter there to provide her remarks in English. (There was, however, an interpreter near the stage who helped her make sense of some of the more complex questions from journalists.)
I heard one member of the audience refer to Yingluck as being “coquettish.” I wouldn’t go that far, but she did seem to make every effort to be charming. She smiled frequently and appeared to be quite humble. And, before beginning her speech, she asked the audience to “please be kind to me, na kap ka,” simultaneously claspping her hands together in a wai and bowing. (Corrected March 28. Thanks to a commenter for pointing out the error.)
Later, when one journalist asked a somewhat complicated question about whether she and Thaksin were playing a “double game” in which they pitted various establishment factions against one another, she responded by saying she didn’t really understand the question. But, she added, grinning: “…I never play games.” This produced some laugher from the audience.
Asked why, following last year’s floods and the upcoming minimum wage hike, multinational companies should continue to invest in Thailand, Yingluck said that investors will continue to recognize Thailand’s long-term business potential, as well as its location in the middle of Southeast Asia.
I spoke with some people who noted that some of Yingluck’s answers seemed somewhat vague or lacking in specifics. But these same observers said they felt that most professional politicians are focused on evading hard-hitting questions and sticking to their talking points.
In his first FCCT speech, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was asked about his musical tastes. He noted that he liked hard rock bands like The Killers, Oasis, and Metallica, among others.
So, on a lighter note, when asked what kind of music is on her iPod, Yingluck declined to note specific artists. But she did say, with pride, that she has some 5,000 songs on her device. She prefers “easy listening” music, she said.
Ultimately, my sense was that PM Yingluck’s performance was unlikely to sway most audience members’ opinions of her. Those who already disliked her were probably not won over by her grace or good humor.
Similarly, those who already like her were probably not put off by any of her perceived shortcomings.
Google Inc. today officially unveiled its new Street View service for Thailand, releasing online a vast collection of panoramic street-level images of the country.
That means that anyone with a Web connection can now view high resolution photos of everything from Bangkok street food stalls to the ornate spires of the city’s Grand Palace. There are also images of the northern city of Chiang Mai and the southern beach resort of Phuket.
Please check out the story and share the love, if you like it.
You can go to Google Street View for Thailand directly here.
Allow me to quickly boast about share the news that my soccer team here in Bangkok, BFC D’Pelican, beat a good Royal Bangkok Sports Club team 1-0 last night.
The victory took us into first place on goal difference on the last day of the season, and we were crowned the 2012 Chang International Football League champions.
It was a hard-fought game, but we got the clean sheet — always important to a goalkeeper like a me — and the win.
The achievement was all the more sweet for me given the great group of guys on the team and the fact that this was my first trophy-winning season in more than five years (!) of playing amateur soccer here in Bangkok.
The picture above shows us after the game.
Here I am with the trophy:
And embedded below is a 12-second video of our post-match celebrations (also available on YouTube).
(Thanks to A for the pics, video, and ongoing support.)
A quick follow up on my post yesterday highlighting the BBC video report on Dejchat Phuangket, a Bangkok motorcycle taxi driver and social media maven.
Thanks to Byron at Coconuts Bangkok for getting in touch to say that his site has also run items on Khun Dejchat.
The first post provides an overview of Dejchat’s work following the Valentine’s Day explosions.
The second is a longer interview with Dejchat. One interesting tidbit on offer here: The story points out that he created an interesting Web site about his hometown in Sisaket province. (Warning: The site employs auto-loading luk thung music!)
The BBC has a video report today on Dejchat Phuangket, a Bangkok motorcycle taxi driver who has become renowned for his blogging and Tweeting:
His mode of transport is one of Bangkok’s most basic – the motorbike. But it is Dejchat Phuangket’s command of cutting edge technology that has turned him into Thailand’s most famous taxi driver.
For two years, Dejchat tweeted and blogged about his daily life.
Whether it be the contents of his lunch or the state of the traffic, his wry observations and a steady stream of photos kept his small band of loyal followers amused.
Then on Valentines Day the news came to Dejchat’s part of central Bangkok.
An explosion partially destroyed a house being rented by a group of Iranians.
As the men fled the damaged building they threw explosives at a taxi and one of the men had his legs blown off. Almost immediately the blasts were linked to attempted attacks the day before on Israeli diplomats in Georgia and India.
As news of the explosions began to circulate, Dejchat was already on the scene.
“A foreigner was carrying a bag and an explosion happened,” he tweeted under his username motorcyrubjang. “He lost his legs but is still alive at Sukhumvit 71.”
What’s more, Dejchat — who you can follow at @motorcyrubjang — may just have the coolest Twitter profile page photo montage ever. (Click through to see it.)
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport has been the subject of several recent news stories about the facility’s long immigration lines and overall congestion:
The Bangkok Postreported last Monday that the country’s Immigration Bureau says the lengthy queues are due to unmanageable passenger volume.
On Thursday, the Post said that “female riot police officers” will help ease overcrowding by assisting in checking passports.
On Friday the Postnoted that in order to ease congestion, the government will “encourage” budget airlines to use Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, the old international gateway.
Then on Sat. the Postprovided some additional details on possible upgrades to Don Mueang.
Elsewhere, Reuters ran a story Friday summing things up. It’s headlined “Bangkok airport problems threaten tourist-friendly image” and begins:
When Bangkok’s futuristic $4 billion (2.5 billion pound) Suvarnabhumi airport opened six years ago, it was hailed as a model for the region.
Today, it is beset by two-hour immigration queues, passenger numbers far beyond capacity and a crisis over management.
Immigration queues have grown so long travellers have been told to arrive three hours before a flight, an hour longer than in most air hubs, threatening to damage Thailand’s tourist-friendly image.
The problems have become so acute in recent days that the government is trying to convince growing numbers of low-cost carriers to move operations to Don Muang, a domestic airport.
The immigration bureau has in the past blamed long queues on a staffing shortage. An official at Suvarnabhumi’s immigration division, however, said it had more to do with lack of space.
“There’s construction going on which is limiting the space we have available for security checks,” he said, declining to be identified.
But travellers grumble at the frequent site of empty immigration kiosks and lines for foreigner nationals stretching far longer than those of Thais. Others say kiosks designed to hold two officers are often manned by one.
Some airlines expressed concern and confusion on Friday over an announcement a day earlier by Thailand’s transport minister, Jarupong Ruangsuwan, to move flights to a different airport.
Thai Airways, in a memo this week to travel industry partners, said passengers should arrive three hours before their departure time. For arriving passengers, it noted that processing visas at immigration now takes two hours on average.
There is a shortfall of more than 200 immigration officers at Suvarnabhumi because many are reluctant to work at the overcrowded airport.
“It is a very stressful job — there’s no doubt about it,” said Imtiaz Muqbil, executive editor of Travel Impact Newswire, a trade publication.
He told The Straits Times: “Most of the officers are not very good in English. They get overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer scale of the traffic, and the risk of making a mistake.”
Earlier this week, Airports of Thailand (AOT), which runs the terminal, agreed to raise the overtime pay of immigration officers as an additional incentive.