Thailand in the News Week Ending 11/14/2009

Big Tobacco Bigger Worries

Anti Smokers in Bangkok

Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters

This week saw one of the largest Tobacco conventions in S.E.Asia kick off in Bangkok possibly to a little more notice than the Sponsors had hoped. South East Asia is the fastest growing tobacco market and the profits to be made are substantial. With over 125 million smokers throughout 10 countries that make up the Association of South East Asian Nations and over 350 million smokers in China alone.

Thailand cigarette packs with nasty images on themThe tobacco industry is using this convention as a summit to see just how they should move forward in the region. While some countries like Thailand and the Philippines have very stringent laws regarding the use and sale of tobacco, most South East Asia countries have little to none and are ripe for the picking. Even with stringent laws and horrible images shown on packs of cigarettes in Thailand over 46% of the adult male population smokes and female smokers are on the rise.

This week the Tobacco industry got a wake up call when over 500 angry protesters met them at the doors to the Bangkok convention center. The protesters, made up mostly of college students, screamed their displeasure to everyone attending the convention. They also submitted a list of over 90,000 signatures from Asian’s opposed to the convention. Their goal, to make sure that the industry knows that they won’t stand for anyone trying to circumvent regulations.

The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly heard the protesters loud and clear, they pulled their exhibits from the convention and replaced them with tourism exhibits instead.

As the tobacco industry leaders meet in Bangkok to discuss innovations and new inroads into the growing market the fear is that they will begin targeting women and children more actively. Four years ago at a similar tobacco summit in Malaysia the companies came up with new pastel packaging in lip stick size cases to try and tap into the large female market in Asia.

As a long time smoker I applaud the protesters and hope their numbers swell. They have already shown that they can keep major players from the table and someone needs to hold these companies responsible for their actions. As for the tobacco companies they need to tap into the women and teenage markets because when a few hundred thousand of your best customers die every year you have to have a back up plan.

Demon Statues Bad for Business

Demon Statue at Wat Arun

Fortunately for merchants at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport they finally have figured out why sales have been bad, it was the demon statues. 12 demon statues, which are reproductions of those found at the Grand Palace,  have resided at the airport since it opened in 2006 and are seen as the cause of much bad luck.

It seems they have not been in prominent enough positions in the airport to be appreciated and therefore must be moved to a place where the most people can see them, like the check in area.

There a few problems with this story. First of all the statues are huge at 20 feet tall and quite hard to miss. Secondly I don’t really think the merchants have thought this one out. One could surmise that lackluster sales are due to unhappy demons, or,  they could look at the merchandise they are selling for astronomical prices to people leaving the country and think maybe Prada handbags and $500 bottles of wine might be the culprit.

The demons haven’t just made a mess of the retail business in the airport they have also proven to be bad luck for the staff as well. I guess the bad vibes have woken one too many staff from their frequent naps. And lets not forget the political disturbance last year when the PAD shut down the airport. The demons must be appeased, but those in the know believe moving them might make them angrier and suggest just facing them in a different direction.

The move will take 90 days and a little over $50, 000, somebody should buy each demon a Prada handbag, a bottle of wine and a big mac. If that doesn’t appease them then I can’t see a change of scenery doing the trick.

Personally I am happy that the demons will be installed in the check in area. I can only hope they will serve to scare the hell out of me and keep me from leaving the country again…or at least keep me from getting anywhere near the retail merchants who charge too much on the concourse.

He Who Should Not BE Named

Thaksin 202x300 Thailand in the News Week Ending 11/14/2009

Yeah, you know the guy. The news has been a buzz this week with Thaksin this and Thaksin that and to be honest it was all much ado about nothing. Thaksin showed up in Cambodia for a few days to talk to the political machine and play a few rounds of golf. Red shirt leaders as well as leaders of the now defunct Thai Rak Thai party went to Cambodia to meet with Thaksin. Thailand asked that Thaksin be extradited again and once again Cambodia stuck out it’s tongue and said no. Thailand recalled it’s ambassador to Cambodia so Cambodia arrested a Thai national on spying charges.

Removing your ambassador says a lot, especially when you leave all the other people in place to do the work of the diplomatic office. Not to be outdone Cambodia claimed that the Thai national they arrested was watching Thaksin to ascertain what flight he would be taking out of the country. To this the Thai government stuck out it’s tongue and put word out that Thaksin would not be able to fly over Thai air space.

Next week I’m sure relations will be much the same as this week but the saber rattling will be cut down to a few ” I know you are but what am I’s” and some impolite hand gestures.

While Thailand and Cambodia both lost much this week in the court of public opinion, the jury is still out on Thaksin. There are those that believe Thaksin has hurt his cause by aligning himself with Cambodia but I’m not so sure. Many rural Thai’s see the current government in a very bad light and they might buy into Thaksin’s the enemy of my enemy is my friend sentimentality. I think Thaksin controlled what happened this week and flew away satisfied that it was done on his terms.

sig1 Thailand in the News Week Ending 11/14/2009

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4 Responses to Thailand in the News Week Ending 11/14/2009
  1. Catherine
    November 16, 2009 | 3:32 pm

    Talen, I didn’t know about the anti-smoking protesters. Good for them.

    Just this Loi Kratong in Bangkok, there was an anti-smoking / anti-drinking campaign. I don’t know how widespread it was, but it certainly blanketed the area I was in (Khao San Road). Banners. Stickers, flyers, booths set up.

    I’m a former smoker. When I was smoking, I couldn’t give a toss about the health aspects of the addiction. I was kinda stoppy about it too. But I was young, life was going to last forever, how dare anyone tell me what I could or could not do… yadda yadda.

    I now get physically ill when around cigarette smoke (even when merely walking by someone smoking in the open air) so my mindset has changed dramatically.

    I’ve gone from learning how to smoke with a bottle of Pepto bismo in one hand and a Marlborough in the other, to fighting for the right to smoke, to quitting but not caring if anyone smoked (often standing close to a smoker when out drinking), to having a physical reaction to cigarette smoke, to being firmly on the no smoking bandwagon.

    For me, being on the side of the no smoking most everywhere mindset makes sense. Let’s say you felt like someone was reaching down your throat and into your stomach to tear out your intestines every time you smelled a certain perfume. You would soon develop an aversion to that perfume, as well as to anyone spraying it in your vicinity. You might even start thinking that the world would be a better place if everyone stopped spraying that perfume.
    Catherine´s last blog ..Free Download: The Ultimate Survival Guide to Thailand My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      November 16, 2009 | 8:30 pm

      Cat, it is good to know that there are many in Thailand ,including the government, that won’t allow big tobacco to run amok and do what they want. Hopefully it keeps the younger generation from starting to smoke.

  2. Martyn
    November 17, 2009 | 12:05 pm

    Talen I knew smoking was big business in Asia but 350 million smokers in China alone, that’s staggering. The college students anti smoking protest in Bangkok shows on one hand that Thailand’s no smoking campaigns are perhaps working but with female smokers on the rise in the LOS, perhaps not.

    Mr Shinawatra continues to make the news and it is almost as if he is acting it all out from a script. His ploy to link arms with Thailand’s ‘warring’ neighbour is I’m sure a way to be close to the red shirt Isaan region and also to antagonise the PM even further. A cat and mouse game in which Thaksin appears to have the upper hand.

    Back to smoking. Having failed with the electronic cigarette I’m now considering trying the latest wonder drug for kicking the habit, Chantix.
    Martyn´s last blog ..Thai Bar Girls – Food, Phones and Thumbs My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      November 17, 2009 | 9:47 pm


      Electronic ciggy first….I was a heavy smoker but the one brand of electronic cigarette really worked and you can get it at Totally Wicked UK. it’s called the Titan. It smokes like the real thing. I’ve heard chantix can work but I also heard it can kill you so…

      Smoking in Thailand….true female smoking is on the rise and lower costs don’t help the issue. Even worse you can go to any Thai shop and buy individual Thai cigarettes making it easily accessible and affordable to everyone.

      Thaksin…I think this game is going to spiral out of control in the next 6 months and that could be a very scary proposition for everyone involved.

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