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.
The new President of the United States believes that ‘torture works.’ Or rather, with his unremitting bombast, ‘absolutely torture works.’ He bases this not on any empirical evidence (which all points the other way) but on the same kind of fact-free ugly-gut faux-hard-man reaction that has led him to claim that climate change is a Chinese hoax, that his election victory would have been more impressive if millions had not voted illegally, and that his inauguration attracted the biggest audience ever. Period. Ever.
The venue: The meeting room of the Thailand 4.0 Policy and Planning Division, Scenarios Section.
The seminal Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson is one of those works which joins up dots you had never before thought were even on the same page. And hence the insights. It appears on graduate reading lists for all manner of degrees. But it is a dense text. And should a successful product of the Thai education system, a student accepted for a graduate programme overseas, be asked to read it, the result is unlikely to be satisfactory. Thai students don’t do dense texts.
The revised Computer Crime Act has introduced the novel offence of ‘distorted information’. Once the Act comes into force, any information which is transmitted online, like these articles, and which is deliberately false, can serve as the basis for a criminal prosecution.
Years and years ago, when I was still trying to figure out who really ruled the world (I now know – it’s misogynistic, racist, bigoted braggarts with strange hair and an even stranger attitude to the truth), an unusual thing happened in Thailand. The civilian government of the day suddenly found a sliver of spine and tried to tell the military that their lethal-toys-for-the-feral-boys budget might not be as excessive as they wished. Predictable outrage from personages with starch-pressed uniforms and ditto minds.
I assume we’ve all seen the video clip where Acharanat Ariyaritwikol drags an unresisting Kittisak Singto across Charoen Krung by the lapels, acting purely out of self-defence of course. He then punches him in the face 3 times because he thought he had a gun or a knife (a manoeuvre that is guaranteed to protect the puncher from being shot or knifed by the punchee). And finally he screams at him to kowtow to the broken tail light on his treasured Mini Countryman (which indeed cost a treasure) (And before we go any further, let me note the confusing names in this case.