Thailand in the News Week Ending 7/03/10

Don’t Bring Your Elephants to Bangkok

Feeding an elephant in Bangkok

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has issued a stern warning to any Mahouts thinking about plying their trade to the tourists on Bangkok’s streets. And while sometimes the law is overlooked this one actually has teeth and they are serious. Violators will be subject to a 6-month jail term or a 10,000 Baht fine. The new law, which has been in effect since June 22cnd, also applies to anyone including tourists who buy food for the elephants.

This is a major step in the right direction and I applaud the effort. Including the tourists in the law is sure to raise some eyebrows but if it wasn’t for the tourist dollars flowing down to the Mahouts they wouldn’t be on the street with elephants in the first place.  Hopefully everyone will get the word out to tourists that elephants are not for their amusement and deserve a better life.

Hopefully this will make it on to the usual lists of what not to do in Thailand while on vacation.

  • Don’t disparage the Royal family
  • Don’t point with your feet
  • Don’t touch anyones head

No Bag No Baht

Plastic bags in Thailand

For the second year in a row, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is holding its 45-day ‘No Bag, No Baht’ project, which offers consumers a one-baht (three U.S. cents) discount for every 100 baht (nearly three dollars) purchase if they use their own cloth bags when shopping in several local markets. Meanwhile, each plastic bag will cost them one baht.

It doesn’t matter what you purchase in Thailand, large or small it will come in a plastic bag even if you don’t want it. Buy any drink in 7/11 and you’ll not only get a plastic bag but a plastic straw as well. The world has a serious problem with plastic packaging but Thailand seems to hold the Guinness record as the plastic bag capital of the world.

The BMA estimates that in Bangkok alone over 600,000 plastic bags are used daily. Their annual disposal cost reaches more than 600 million baht (18.4 million dollars), city officials have said. Local media have quoted BMA deputy governor Porntep Techapaibul as saying that of the city’s daily 10,000 tons of trash, about 1,800 tons are plastic bags, a number projected to increase by about 20 percent each year.Not a hard number to tackle when you consider that Thailand is a major plastic producer and even the smallest of businesses think nothing of stocking and using plastic bags.

This years campaign actually started on June 5th but I would be remiss if I didn’t bring it up because it’s all of our responsibility to make Thailand a better place, visitor, expat and Thai alike.

Rice Down, Shrimp up


It’s very possible Thailand will lose it’s top billing as the worlds largest rice exporter this year due to lacking crops but thanks to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico Thailand’s shrimp exports are looking better and better.

With the now worlds worst oil spill still happening fishing the waters surrounding the Gulf of Mexico has become just about non existent. What little fishing and shrimping is still taking place will barely cover the states surrounding the Gulf. Of course this is great news for Thailand and other South East Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia because exports of shrimp, crabs and certain fish are sure to triple this year.

Thailand and Vietnam have been providing much of the Eastern seaboard of America with crabs for the last decade after disease and over crabbing left the Chesapeake bay and other tributaries almost devoid of crabs. Now, with the massive oil spill in the Gulf this will set up Thailand and it’s neighbors for at least the next 2-4 years with serious shrimp revenues.

It may not seem like much until you consider that the average American eats 4 pounds a shrimp a year which is triple what they consume in tuna. While the Gulf region only accounts for 7-10% of America’s total shrimping needs the last few years have seen the industry lagging due to disease, economic issues and now the infamous oil spill.

There has been a lot of worries from food producers to restaurants and they have turned to South East Asia and Thailand for their needs.

While not good news for America this is still more great news for Thailand in a year when they sorely need it.

Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. There’s, um, shrimp kebabs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There’s pineapple shrimp and lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich… That’s, that’s about it.


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11 Responses to Thailand in the News Week Ending 7/03/10
  1. Mike
    July 5, 2010 | 8:27 am

    Talen a very appropriate choice of topics since personally they all affect me.
    Having viewed elephants in their natural habitat in Kuiburi National Park where they are well managed I just hope the BMA and any other provincial authorities take action, because its not just BKK were elephants are mistreated.

    I remember my first trip to Thailand in 2000, staying at a hotel in Cha-am, the poolside “entertainment” was provided by a baby elephant.

    As for plastic bags, well I wish them luck, but I can’t see it working given the myriad of uses that Thais find for them. I do my bit by refusing bags(particularly in 7/11), but when I do folk look at me like I’m crazy!

    Sea food is yummy, sadly I have to watch the cholesterol so the more they export to you guys the better :-)
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    • Talen
      July 5, 2010 | 8:50 am

      Mike, I hope the BMA keeps up their part of the bargain as well…I really hope that a national law comes out of this.

      As for plastic bags I think you are right but we can hope one day the attitude towards them will change.

      Cholesterol is a trade off but I have to have me some shrimp…just keep the durian away from me! Not only is that stuff foul but laden with cholesterol.

  2. malcolm
    July 5, 2010 | 9:57 pm

    Talen , as you know I am a great lover of elephants , Moll-Lee is one of my favorite girls and I think that getting to interact with these gentle gaints does at times change folks attitude toward all things wild, and causes them to appreciate and want to protect more than ever all creatures both graet and small, I am sad for any that are abused and am like you thankful that there are those that set aside land and spend their time and effort taking care of and protecting the elephants.And it is true they never forgrt , no matter how long between visits to the Kanchanaburi Elephant Refuge , whem Moll_Lee sees me she will start walking over to me and there has been a time or two when I was leaving that she lifted her trunk high into the air and let out a voice that could be heard for miles “telling me good-by ”
    The plastic huggers will never win in Thailand , it is a way of life , ha ha .
    And as far as colestrol goes thats why I take Lipitor, I don’t want to miss any of the good fruit and food out there , ha ha . Malcolm
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    • Talen
      July 7, 2010 | 5:19 am

      Malcolm, I am hoping that after I arrive and get settled I can spend a week in Chiang Mai at the elephant nature reserve…it really is important and I think you are right that spending any amount of time with them can change someones attitude.

      I can do without the cholesterol laden fruit…Durian :P …but giving uop shrimp would be a killer…pass the liitor!

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dom Camarão, Bailish. Bailish said: Tourists can be fined for feeding elephants in Bangkok! [...]

  4. ChuckWow
    July 6, 2010 | 3:27 pm

    The oil spill will probably be a windfall for the Thai shrimp producers but it seems to me all the Shrimp I have purchased in the states for the last ten years have been from Thailand. (Usually about five pounds worth for the family at Christmas time.)

    I always enjoy picking up a couple of kilos of shrimp in Ayutthaya on my way to Nakhon Sawan so my wife and her family can have a barbecue and suck the runny stuff out of their heads. (The shrimp heads that is.)

    • Talen
      July 7, 2010 | 5:16 am

      Chuck, I know all the crabs I’ve gotten in the states have come from Vietnam and Thailand and I wouldn’t doubt the shrimp has too…over the last 20 years what hasn’t been hit by disease has been sorely over fished.

      I’ll leave the sucking to those more advanced eating roaches is enough for me…

  5. Martyn
    July 7, 2010 | 4:24 am

    Talen I hope the BMA are doing the elephant clean up for the right reasons, by that I mean for the good health of the elephants themselves. I hope it’s not being done solely to free up traffic and to satisfy worried vendors. Either way I suppose the elephants are in a win situation, that’s good.

    Fining tourists 10,000 baht is going to rake in a lot of money because Thailand and overseas travel agents (UK) don’t exactly make the do’s and do not’s of foreign travel widely available. There will be plenty of tourists caught out on this one.

    The ‘no bag, no baht’ project might catch on at the big supermarkets but in the cities markets I can’t see much change happening. The villages and small towns speak for themselves.

    The shrimp sales boost is good news for everyone involved but unfortunately it’s not going to help the rice farmers.

    I didn’t realise you could do so many things to a shrimp. You’ve made me real hungry.

    • Talen
      July 7, 2010 | 5:14 am

      The BMA have made it very clear that their main goal is the well being of the elephants as they are Thailand’s national treasure. As for tourists I think they will let it slide for a while much like the cigarette littering but hopefully this keeps the Mahouts out of Bangkok so the tourists won’t be tempted.

      The bag initiative has definitely been well received by the likes of Tesco and Care Four but it will take much more effort than a 45 day program a year to convince a country of plastic bag lovers.

      Hopefully the rice farmers will weather the storm but at least Thailand has more going for it…The shrimp quote is one of the funniest lines from the movie Forrest Gump…loses something in text but…

  6. Catherine
    July 7, 2010 | 3:17 pm

    I’m starting to notice a slight change in Thailand.

    A few times in the past months the gals behind the counter have offered to put items in an existing bag or in my hands if a drink, etc.

    And you all know what a change that is in Thailand (most anywhere in SE Asia, actually).

    But what is needed are biodegradable bags, because there is still a demand for some type of rubbish container in the household.

    Where to put kitty litter after it’s saturated with poo and goo? Where does household rubbish go? They all go in plastic whether in the large black rubbish bags bought special, or smaller shopping bags from wherever.

    I use discarded cardboard boxes when I can, but those are not as easy to find as you would think.
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  7. Gordon
    July 8, 2010 | 8:21 am

    I find it interesting that the Thai government is now fining tourists as well with regard to feeding elephants considering Thailand’s tourism industry has suffered a huge hit due to unrest in Bangkok. Good to know though- I am planning on visiting later on this year.