Two weeks before he was unleashed on the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump gave a speech in Bismarck, North Dakota, supposedly to outline his plans on tax reform. (A quick aside for the historically-minded: Bismarck is named after the Iron Chancellor who invented realpolitik and Germany. Could there be a starker contrast?)
‘Govt sets B3 trillion tourism target’ reads the Bangkok Post headline (together with a pic showing ‘Chinese tourists at Wat Phra Kaeo’ who have fair hair and big noses) (the dastardly Chinese tourists must have started wearing disguises!). So that’s alright then.
How’s your arithmetic? In April this year, North Korea celebrated the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army. And it was no secret. USA Today’s headline was ‘North Korea marks anniversary of its military with massive live-fire drill’. Reuters ran with ‘South Korea on heightened alert as North Korea readies for army anniversary’. The Daily Mirror: ‘Terrifying rally in North Korean parliament to mark army’s 85th anniversary as fears of war grow’. And lots more on Google.
A bomb goes off at Phramongkutklao Hospital and 25 are injured. The Prime Minister next day says that if such things go on, the election (in the most optimistic scenario at least 18 months away) may have to be delayed.
As if our non-elected Prime Minister didn’t already have little enough faith in democracy, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal has gone and got himself elected as president of Chulalongkorn University Student Council. Chula, that bastion of elitism, conformity and 100-year-old privilege in pink; the university where students wear uniforms to sign petitions against uniforms, and where new graduates give Nazi salutes in front of murals of Hitler (just for the laugh, of course); Chula, of all places, has elected a free-thinking anti-authoritarian, anti-militarist iconoclast.
The Ordinary National Education Test (ONET) results this year are as disappointing as in previous years. Almost as disappointing as the wilful ignorance that produced the tests and the sadly misinformed comments on them in the media. Let us take the Prathom 6 English test as an example. For kids who have in all likelihood been taking multiple-choice tests since pre-kindergarten, it starts by helpfully showing them how to answer this kind of question: ‘Directions: Choose the correct answer. ‘Example ‘Item 0: Which province is in the south of Thailand?
Recent news item: ‘The Department of Land Transport (DLT) said that despite their positives, Uber and the Grab Car do not provide customers with the essentials that regular taxis offer. Under the law, taxis come under public transportation, so taxi drivers are required by law to register themselves with the DLT. The agency conducts a comprehensive background check on the drivers and when problems occur, they can be traced easily.’
Well it didn’t take long for the other shoe to fall. The recent Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net) in Thai language contained what could have been a bolt from the blue for the Thai schooling system. Instead it turned out to be a bolt that ever more firmly fixes Thai education into authoritarian irrelevance.
Chulalongkorn (we have murals of Hitler as a superhero) University is back in the news and you don’t whether to laugh or cry. Its Faculty of Engineering seems to have spawned its own little Hitlers who are going round seizing the cards of any student not in uniform. And even if you’re in uniform but not the correct one. The blue smock required in workshops is OK if you’re in the workshop, but step outside still wearing it and you’ll get nicked.
Within days of a Section 44 order banning certain ideas from entering the country, chaos reigned at the kingdom’s borders. In an attempt to promote unity and reconciliation and to thwart political divisions, Prime Minister and National Council for Peace and Order Head Prayut Chan-o-cha exercised his supreme authority to ban the entry into Thailand of any work connected to 7 ideologies: communism, socialism, liberalism, anti-monarchism, anti-conservatism, antimilitarism and antidisestablishmentarianism.