Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gave the keynote speech at the Forbes Forum: Asia's Power Business Women: the Way Forward held in Bangkok on April 23. The speech was tweeted from the PM's personal Twitter account and also posted in its entirety here.
Yingluck made some rather telling remarks. In particular, she places a great deal of emphasis on "family". Though she makes attempts to challenge gender stereotypes, there is still the underlying presumption that for a woman to succeed, she needs to conform to the role of wife and mother in tandem with pursuing a career. See here:
Women are usually told that they face a dilemma, between pursuing a family life and having a successful career. Well, I think all of us being here today show that this is no longer a problem because we can manage these multiple responsibilities. Most importantly, we are able to maintain a good balance between family life and career. I am both a mother and a Prime Minister. I believe being one makes me better in the other.
I understand that the PM is drawing from her personal experience, but I don't think she goes enough out of her way to break stereotypes. In closing her speech, Yingluck also excluded a large portion of the country in her vision for prosperity.
One last point. I am a strong believer in partnerships. And the most powerful partnership is between male and female.
I may be reading a little too much into what Yingluck is saying, but I feel that for someone who has a real opportunity to address gender issues in Thailand, the prime minister should choose her words a little more carefully. Gender stereotypes persist and the conversation has to move beyond simply male and female.
Here are some of the highlights from the speech, as posted on the prime minister's personal Twitter account:
This is Mai Long, an Estonian writer/journalist who lives in Bangkok and has, apparently, written six non-fiction books and more than 800 articles for Estonian mags and papers. She also has a Ph.D in sociolinguistics. But all this pales in comparison to Mai's first crack at fiction, which comes in the form of Mango Maiden.
As a rather optimistic writer from The Big Chilli puts it:
Mango Maiden has the potential to become another Emmanuelle or, better still, the current blockbuster ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’
The book was first unleashed onto the world in 2006 with feedback crowdsourced from various leering Myspace fans, but it's just this month come out on Amazon and has received a bit of a promotional push on Mai's glorious Facebook page. In her own words, Mai describes the book as follows:
The cosmopolitan and urban lives of four feminine and empowered Caucasian minxes are followed in real space and time during the last nine months of 2004 in city of Bangkok, Thailand. Contrary to the popular belief that the white women do not have fun in Thailand, every angle of the lives of these mature career women imparts sensuality.
Four feminine and empowered Caucasian minxes. This sounds like it has potential, and indeed, the book is a literary masterpiece yet to be discovered by the wider world. The opening paragraphs give an interesting insight into what happens when our first protagonist, Jasmine, eats an orange. Prepare to be dazzled.
Usually Jasmine bought one slice of watermelon and one slice of sun lady cantaloupe from the fruit vendor on the street when she returned from lunch. Sometimes she bought a sliced soft ripe guava or a long slice of vivid orange papaya. Today the office smelled of oranges. Jasmine took one orange, it had a strange green peel, but the inside looked promising.
Jasmine knew what happened when she ate oranges.
First, when you peel the fruit, the sprinkles of the fragrant juice make your fingers sticky and tickle your nose. Then the mix of the savory smell from the peels and the sweet smell of the orange flesh takes you over, it clouds your mind, paints it orange and makes your eyes shine. Then it makes you suddenly take a deep breath. And when the first slice of orange flesh touches your tongue and the juice fills your mouth – then you know, you’ve got the fever. Heart beats, pulse races, blood storms through your body and you want you want you want to erupt.
Jasmine licked her fingers and felt that the orange fever was taking over again. It was the fragrant dizziness, a certain hot pulse deepening down inside. She had a strong urge to be licked, and yes, oh she wanted to be kissed, and more, to be sucked and more. And more! She tried to control her breathing while enjoying the deep undulating pulsing pleasure.
She had a slight blush on her cheeks, her lips looked full and moist, and her eyes were deep blue. She swallowed the last piece of the juicy orange, licked all ten of her sweet fingers clean – the office was filled with an orange mist and the whole world seemed orange to her – so orange, so hot, so restless.
I shudder to think what would happen if Jasmine discovered Del Monte fruit cocktails. Moving on, we go deep into the psyche of a Bangkok socialite.
Emporium is the favorite hang out place for the bold and beautiful Bangkokians. If one wants to see the most beautiful model like Thai girls, this is the place. Tall, slim, with very white complexions and expensive tasteful clothes they walk in pairs from the coffee shops to the boutiques and vice versa. But at Emporium one can also see the brand clad loud Chinese girls shopping at Louis Vuitton like there is no tomorrow; fast walking Asian businessmen always in dark suits no matter how hot it is outside, older Thai ladies with big hairdos, strong make-up and bright stiff suits and of course the local Japanese and Western expats buying their food at Gourmet market or just having a quick lunch.
But two blonde office girls were still a striking sight at Emporium as many heads turned to look at the pinstripe mini clad Jasmine kissing Tara on the cheek at the Skygate in front of the Morgan shop. Tara looked radiant in her golden beige trousers and sheer small blouse. Her hair was a golden chestnut color and wavy, her complexion porcelain-like. All Thais adored her luminous white skin.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. As the book progresses, things start to get raunchy. Children, avert your eyes!
She pouted. She longed for a kiss. Suddenly she felt her breasts hardening. Oh no, now the seam of the lace was feeling harsh on her nipples. Looking in the mirror Jasmine started to unbutton her cardigan. The black bra couldn't flatten her nipples any more — they peeked, no pressed, out through the lace flowers. Slowly she pulled her bra down under her left breast. Ohhh… much better… Like in a trance she dropped the cardigan and took her bra off. Yeah. That's it! Release them.
Release the hounds! She then sends an SMS message about her touchy-feely adventure to "at least nine guys". The book contains heaps more steamy scenes, most of which I should probably leave to your imagination, but here's a taster, this time from a woman called Tara:
Oh yes, she will see if it all fits in her mouth later, for sure, Tara decided slyly. She would rape this [man] even though he had a gun!
My goodness! If this has been enough to whet your apetite, you can get this book free of charge for a limited time only from Amazon. What are you waiting for?!
But wait, there's more! Mai also has a Youtube channel on which she performs musical numbers like this instant classic, again about fruit (and other things):
You want some? Yes please!
There was strange incident at the Thong Lor skytrain station yesterday. A young lady held a one-woman protest dangling over the edge of a walkway about 30 feet above the road. It was all a bit weird as the protester was holding a sign with something scrawled on it nobody could read, so no-one was really sure what she was protesting about. Her aim was to draw media attention to her plight, but it didn't really work as I haven't seen this written about anywhere. Maybe a reader might have some further insight.
The woman was eventually persuaded to clamber back to safety, but not before the road was closed off and a firetruck crane elevated to her position. At one point a cop tried to grab her hand, which wasn't a great move. The lady was clearly distressed about something.
Addendum: Kaewmala has the answer:
She is trying to call attention to Thaksin's misdeeds. Apparently she is extremely concerned that redshirts don't know how bad he is. She wants to expose Mr T's evil for redshirts to consider before the Bangkok governor election. True, the handwritten sign could have been bigger.
* I edited my post to remove a line about the deed she's holding along with her sign as nobody seems to know what it is, or if it's even a deed.
Ah, we're back here again. The pack mentality. Many in Thailand have reacted angrily to something they believe casts their country in a negative light. The offending piece this time? A sketch from Saturday Night Live. It's basically a parody of a commercial for the Rosetta Stone foreign language learning programme. In it, a bunch of would-be sexpats talk about their reasons for learning Thai. As one oddball character puts it: "I'm learning Thai. So I can go to Thailand for… a thing." If you haven't seen the sketch yet, here's your chance:
As you can see, the video pokes fun at the stereotypical, Thailand-bound sexpat. It's not really anything new, but it's the first time America's biggest comedy show has taken on the subject matter. The reaction among some Thais here has been pretty much as we've come to expect. Here are a few examples, lifted from a now-removed version of the video on Youtube:
The joke about Thailand is not funny at all though. I know that it's meant to be funny but at the same time you should respect my nation.
'Thailand has bad image about prostitution enough and we do not need more.'
Please show your respect by banning this commercial, Thank you !
by the way, there are so many ways to present Thailand and Thai language. Please respect each other.
you're guy suck. That's not funny :( It's not a joke and it never been. I do dislike and never been supported you all again idiot
You think you're better than that in our country (Thailand) directly to the people in the country when your country is filled with people who insult others. Do you think your country if your country does not really prostitutes. I accept the humiliation. That your country than we actually grow.
this video is joke?
but i think not joke,why you think so for Thailand?
i think american is well! , but now i was wrong
i'm so sad, you think counties you good? no!! it fucking *american*
i hate american father you die lol+
But wait. We're just getting started. Cue the 9/11 comments:
To some of American idiots! Put yourself in other shoes. Think carefully, if other people make joke of the 9/11 that your Twin Tower was attacked or a young man took a gun to fire the innocent kids in the kindergarten then how you feel! !
9/11 som-nam-na [serves you right] stupid idoit american FAT bastards!! You guys totally deserved it. hahaha!! American like to make fun of other people/countries. It is only a joke, isn't it?? Now I hope you don't mind if I make fun of your 9/11. It is only a joke as well.
I would like to do a parody show about 911 and school shooting, then post on youtube. You will understand how we feel from being insulted.
The 911 incident and school shooting in United States are total jokes! Serve them right.
Can you feel the hatred? You know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of the reaction to that article on CNNGo (now CNN Travel) about How to be a Bangkok local: 10 tips on faking it. That piece poked fun at Bangkokians and boy did it get a frosty reception from some Thais.
Bangkok blogger Greg then asked the question, "Can Thais laugh at themselves?" They can, of course, but there are some issues that cut too close to the bone. The sex industry is a big one. Internal affairs another. Thailand's image abroad is something many Thais will fight tooth and nail to protect, even if it means shoving inconvenient truths under the carpet.
This image of Thailand is more important to many than the reality itself. When international media outlets or foreign embassies are seen as overstepping the line and potentially damaging this image, all hell can break loose, as CNN's Dan Rivers and the staff of the US Embassy can testify to.
It all becomes very hypocritical when you see how willing many of those same critics are to laugh at the expense of others. I have never heard such raucous laughter as the time I went to the cinema in Bangkok to watch The Dictator, a movie that pokes fun at several world governments, the United States included. Why is satire like that OK whereas the Saturday Night Live sketch is met with a bomb threat? Oh, did I forget to mention the bomb threat? (h/t Richard Barrow)
Even the government has waded into this one, calling on Youtube to take the video down (one version has already been removed).
Culture Minister Sonthaya Khunploem said on Monday that the Culture Watch Centre is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an effort to have the video removed from the world's most popular video sharing website.
The government will also inform the United States embassy that the commercial spoof is tarnishing Thailand's image and will ask the embassy to explain the situation to the producer of Saturday Night Live, Mr Sonthaya said.
The short story here is that people have overreacted. The long story is that there are issues in Thailand many would simply rather pretend do not exist. It's this mentality that can hinder progress on many levels.
It looked like the party of the year — a two-day, beachside shindig in Phuket slated for December 30 and 31 and boasting 50,000 (later changed to 20,000) people and a lineup chock full of famous acts like Tiga and (ahem) Akon. There was an immediate buzz surrounding Sydictive Element (no, I don't know what "sydictive" means) when Paris Hilton popped over to Thailand to launch and endorse the event. What she actually had to do with the party is difficult to ascertain, but sure enough, she it would be the "best Near Year's party ever".
On paper, the lineup for Sydictive Element looked pretty hot.
But somewhere along the line, it all went a bit Pete Tong. For a start, Paris Hilton had nothing more to do with the event and her people got a bit annoyed with the organisers continuing to use her name. In an email sent to the Phuket Gazette, supposedly intended for the party organisers, Glenn “GG” Gulino, Esq. of g2 entertainment wrote:
Your rights to use her name ended weeks ago and since you cancelled her NYE appearance you cannot use her name. Thank you.
Then there was the venue. It was originally to be held at Surin Beach, but widespread complaints forced a move to an 800-metre stretch of Patong Beach. A great deal of confusion came with the move, not least because it was reported that the organisers were forbidden from selling alcohol.
The lineup was another source of bewilderment. To give you an example, Akon's performance had been cancelled since early-December, according to Steve Lin from wonderful artist management:
Akon has been cancelled since early December, Sydictive has been using his image, name, logo, and likeness to promote their festival without permission. Attached is the formal cancellation notification which was both emails and mailed by certified mail to them. The public have a right to know the truth!
The first night of party was reportedly a bit of a flop, kicking off seven hours late and closing early due to complaints from nearby hotels. Set times were unannounced and not all of the DJs showed up, including Tiga, who wrote on his Facebook on Saturday:
Due to factors outside of my control, I will not be performing in Phuket, Thailand on Dec 30th. My apologies to my fans, and I hope to return to Thailand soon.
The lack of communication from the party organisers only made things worse. Complaints flooded into the Sydictive Element Facebook page, many of which were deleted. The New Year party was apparently not a great deal better. A quick look on Twitter, for example, revealed that a Pendulum DJ set was unlikely to happen as the DJ was in Perth and the MC in London. Some of the acts, including Basement Jaxx, did play, but even that wasn't enough to save the party. This complaint from a disgruntled raver on Facebook (comment now deleted):
The bottom line again was last night you promised acts they didnt arrive, the sound was terrible…..You advertised a product you did not deliver, you wont answer questions, your website is gone….in any life thats the signs of a scam.
To make matters worse, tourist leaders in Phuket delivered a letter to the Phuket governor effectively saying, "Never again." This from Phuket Wan:
The organisers of Phuket's private-for-profit two-day New Year party dug a hole in the beach to bury the garbage, Phuket Governor Maitree Inthusud was told today by leading Phuket tourism officials.
Women danced topless, one partygoer almost drowned and alcohol was sold on Patong beach at excessive prices in defiance of the agreement with authorities, they said.
It's a shame it all went down this way, especially with people paying up to 5,000 baht for two-day passes (9,000 for "deluxe" passes). It could have been a really great event and from the pictures it did look a lot of people had a good time, but ultimately it should have been so much better.