The Bigchilli December 2020

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PUBLISHER Colin Hastings EDITOR Nina Hastings SALES & MARKETING MANAGER Rojjana Rungrattwatchai

The BigChilli wishes all our friends, followers and supporters of the magazine and TV show a very HAPPY XMAS & NEW YEAR 2021 View wT The BigChilli TV T on htttp co om iin eaase contact For more information, please editorb 4


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ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Thana Pongsaskulchoti ACCOUNTING MANAGER Janjira Silapapairson ART & PRODUCTION Arthawit Pundrikapa PHOTOGRAPHY AP CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Drew McCreadie, Maxmilian Wechsler Zoe Evans, Jessica Weber and Ruth Gerson



No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission from The BigChilli Co., Ltd. The opinions and views of the writers are not necessarily the views of the publishers. All details are deemed correct at the time of print, the publisher, the editor, employees and contributors can not be held responsible for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions that may occur. The editor reserves the right to accept, reject or amend any submitted artwork, photographs, illustrations and manuscripts. The BigChilli welcomes unsolicited contributions but assumes no responsibility for the safe-keeping or return of such materials damaged or lost in transit.

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By Robin Westley Martin

He’s ‘Big in Asia’ and lots of laughs too Canadian Brian Aylward is an imposing six foot plus, an award winning and well-traveled stand-up comedian, and he lives here in Bangkok


fter covering the comedy scene in Bangkok for the past five years or so, I found myself at a bit of a loss after the last comedy club gig in March, before the Covid lockdown hit – as did many of the foreign and Thai community, who have become regulars at one or more of the comedy clubs in Bangkok. Apart from the increasingly talented local performers that hail from many different places around the world, yet live in Thailand’s capital city, some of the clubs, and Stand Up Asia, have brought over an eclectic mix of the world’s top comedy performers to get up on stage in Bangkok over the past few years, usually in some of Bangkok’s larger venues. Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr, Jim Gaffigan, Greg Fleet, Martin Mor, Ardal O’Hanlon, Doug Stanhope, 6


and Eddie Izzard immediately spring to mind, But we have our very own international comedy star living right amongst us. Brian Aylward has chosen to make Bangkok his home. Brian hails from Newfoundland, Canada, although he has long been a stalwart of the comedy scene in Asia. Brian has been a professional comedian now for 15 years, first treading the boards on a stage in South Korea. After a bet from a fellow pub regular Brian Aylward stepped on stage for the first time at a rowdy expat bar in Anyang, South Korea. He went on to pioneer the English stand-up comedy scene in South Korea, officially establishing Stand Up Seoul in 2009, and turning the country into a legitimate destination on the international comedy circuit.

Over the past 15 years, Brian has performed more than 3,000 shows in 28 countries. In 2018 and 2019, Brian headlined ‘Best Kind Comedy Tour’, playing to sold-out theatre shows across Canada. In February 2017, Aylward’s solo show ‘Big in Asia’ was nominated for Best Comedy at Fringe World in Perth, Australia. Brian, who had first visited Thailand in 2006, decided on a trip to Thailand in December 2015, together with his wife Hollie, who teaches at an international school. They had come for a Christmas vacation and by the end of the holiday they had both decided to make Thailand their home. As someone with family in Newfoundland myself, I am well aware how much Newfoundlanders love where they come from. I asked Brian about this. ‘I’m a proud Newfoundlander, absolutely, but I love Thailand.

The weather, the people, the food, the freedom. It's hard to beat. Now, Thailand is our second home for sure, we love it here’, he said. ‘I'm sort of a big brother to the BKK scene, I guess you could say. I'm the only English-speaking professional comedian who lives in Bangkok. I like mentoring young comics, especially to those who really show interest in the craft. Like I said at the release party for Big in Asia at Live Lounge, half the battle with stand-up is not quitting, and dealing with failure. Frankly, it can be a brutal business, I've been in Bangkok for five years now and I have seen a huge growth in the local scene. There are several aspiring pro comics in Bangkok. Who knows who will come out of the pack? They have only been doing it for a few years. Chris Raufheisen, Christy TheBigChilli


News Inhulsen, Lex Morales, Justin St Denis, Harvey Walden, Sarin Suriyakoon are some names to remember. These comics are becoming some of the funniest in South Asia. Brian is a professional comedian, and needs to bring the bucks back home, so he spends approximately six months of the year travelling the globe. The year 2020 has been – and still is -- proving difficult for us all (the new abnormal) and travels for us all have been put on hold. However, after the recent discovery of three vaccines for Covid that look as though they will be rolled out soon, he looks forward with hope, and is eager to get jabbed and get back out on the road. But in the meantime, all is not lost. You can get to experience a comedy fix from Brian, right in your own home. Towards the end of last year he received one of the most exciting pieces of news since his comedy career began 15 years ago: his comedy special, and his first solo show, ‘Big in Asia’ has been picked up by a major American distributor. Big in Asia was nominated for the Best Comedy award at Fringe World in Perth, Australia in 2017, and last November he performed it at a comedy club in Mongolia and hired local company AFE Films to shoot it as a comedy special. ‘I love Mongolia, and a big thankyou to my friend comedian Martin Mor for telling me about it. The hospitality there is off the charts and UB (Ulan Bator) Comedy Club is the coolest venue I’ve seen in Asia. It’s amazing. ‘He continued, ‘the film company was excellent. It was so professionally done and I was really happy with how it turned out. A whole new experience for me.’ Brian is essentially an observational comedian, and is able to extract humour from just about everything he sees or does. You will empathize with him, 8


and laugh your socks off as you imagine yourself in similar situations. You might even start to look at life in a different way yourself. Brian is one of the most genuine people I have met, and if he calls you friend, you know he will always have your back. Perhaps the greatest achievement for Brian, though, is that he still makes his wife Hollie laugh every day, even through the long months of Covid lockdown, and the recent motorbike accident that has left him in a wheelchair or on crutches for the last month or so. For Brian and his wife the old adage ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’ sure rings true. Catch his special, available now, details below. Comedy Dynamics has announced that they’re releasing Brian Aylward: Big In Asia, and released it through their hybrid distribution system composed of Comcast, Amazon Prime Video, Spectrum, Apple TV, Dish, Google Play, DirecTV, Vimeo, YouTube and many more last month. The album is available on Sirius XM, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora and more. The special was filmed live in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and is the first special from Aylward, who is the former Canadian Comedy Award winner for Best Stand-Up Comic.



ProďŹ le




Joy Menzies

Name: me: Joy Menzies – no nickname Age: e: 57 Born: Derbyshire, UK Education: BA (Hons) Business Studies Family: Original family – Mum, three brothers and a sister Profession (now and in the past): Wellness Consultant, formerly Managing Director of Chiva-Som Health Resort and formerly F&B Owner/Operator Where do you live?: Between Bangkok and Khao Tao, Hua Hin First job?: Pickfords Removals in Enfield, Marketing Manager What does your company offer? – We conceptualise, set up and provide management mentoring for Wellness Communities, Wellness Centres and Wellness Resorts Any partners?: Yes, my sister Sharon Menzies and good friend and colleague Samantha Foster. We all worked at Chiva-Som together. Sharon works from the UK now and Sam out of Australia. Why this profession as a career?: I can make a difference in people’s lives. Through the resorts and centres we can help people get back on track whether that’s emotional recovery, weight loss, stress reduction, recovery from a chronic disease. What brought you to Thailand, and when?: 1991, it was part push factor to escape from the British weather and part pull to experience somewhere hot and exotic. At that time I didn’t know Asia at all and travelled for a year between Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Sydney, Bangkok. My first and last stop was Bangkok, which is completely fell in love with. What happened then…? On returning to Bangkok and at a party I met Bob Coombes, owner of Choice Foods and a small group of steak restaurants. He offered me a job and I started as the general manager of the five steak restaurants. A few years later we converted the two Bangkok locations into pubs – The Bull’s Head and the Barbican. The Bull’s Head in Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 is the original Royal Oak. I took a bet with one customer who didn’t believe I could make the transformation from the Angus Steak House to the Bull’s Head in just four weeks. We were nailing down the floor boards about 10 minutes before opening but we did indeed open in time. I won a nice crate of champagne for that! Tell us about your current company My work now, with DSM Wellness Management, is to assist owners and developers to conceptualize, build and operate wellness services. TheBigChilli


Profile We mostly work on large scale projects which may include hotel and residential components. We have set up resorts in Bali and India, a functional wellness centre in Bangkok (BodyConscious) and currently working on three wellness resorts in China and conceptualizing wellness real estate communities for a group in Singapore. In London, my partner Sharon is working on establishing a bio-hacking centre. What are the most popular treatments? In BodyConscious our most popular services are re diagnostic services. Our clients often want to o know what’s really going on with them – theyy want to understand the root cause of their challenges. Many of our clients have conditions ons such as diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, libido or other hormonal challenges ges t – they initially see a Functional Medicine Doctor who prescribes the tests and guides them towards natural changes. Once we know the root cause of the problems there are a number of solutions ranging from month long lifestyle change programmes guided by a wellness consultant to Vitamin and Mineral supplementation to nurse Traditional sessions with our fitness experts, nurses, Chinese Medicine Doctor or physiotherapists physiotherapists. What else do you offer? We We also also offer natural face lifting lifting with acupuncture li a and guasha and some high tech body treatments tr to help reduce fat. f We all want to feel and look loo our best! What’s your customer mix, by age, nationality, gender? In our ou first year we were 2/3 foreign fore guests and 1/3 Thais, Tha we have worke worked hard to turn that around and we are n now 2/3 Thais and 1/3 foreigners. Initia Initially Thais were not so s familiar wit with Functional M Medicine/ H Holistic Health b but now re recognize it as a powerful to tool for health aand especially 12 12


Running pubs and making friends in Joy's early days in Bangkok

d i COVID they th have h t t d tto recognize i the th during started importance of Preventative Health. Ages vary widely. We have quite a lot of young girls in their 20’s and early 30’s with gut health and hormonal issues. Our longer programmes are popular with the 50-up group – where a lifetime of not worrying too much has caught up with them! What or who influenced your life and career? My Mum’s only sister, who was a nurse, left the UK when she was around 18 (early 1950’s). She went to live in Africa where she had what I saw as a glamorous life. She opened my eyes to the ability to work and live outside of the UK. In my first job at Pickfords, one of the older managers told me he wished he’d have travelled. It was said with such regret. As soon as I heard that I booked my ticket to Thailand! In 2000 I went to a spa conference and heard about a place called Chiva-Som. I knew right there and then that I wanted to work there. Meeting K Boonchu Rojanastien, the owner, was an amazing moment. He had endured many years of his resort being unsuccessful but he knew deep down it would take off and it is now famous around the world attracting global celebrities. He inspired me to keep going, even in the face of things not working out, because when you are doing the right thing it will work. Any life philosophy? Be kind to yourself, to each other, to animals and to the environment Best and worst early work experiences? Worst, preparing a presentation for the Pickfords President in front of an audience of 300. No power point in those days, we created presentations from 35mm slides. The venue used a stackable slide system and the slides came out in completely the wrong order. Awful! I still cringe thinking about it! Catastrophe! Best moment –

being told I had the job at Chiva-Som. I knew in that moment I was on a new path. Most interesting clients, and most famous? I spent a lot of time with Sir Clement Freud during his regular visits to Chiva-Som. He had a lot of great stories from the 60’s and always had an intriguing comment on anything or anyone. I had a short and good relationships with Elizabeth Hurley and the Duchess of York, but I always felt fame should be left at the door in Chiva-Som – guests come there to recuperate – their professions were not really of interest - just how they wanted to feel.. Any difficult customers? I coined the phrase Code D for a difficult guest. If we have a Code D in house we need to give them extra special care as they are the people that need it the most. My worst customer in the Bull’s Head was an ego-fuelled American man. At that time we had an event called ‘Toss the Boss’ - a customer you would order his or her drinks and then I would toss a coin to see if they paid for them or not. If the customer lost they paid regular prices, but if the customer won the drinks were free but they had to buy me one! This American wanted to toss a round of drinks for the whole bar. I didn’t have a limit at the time so I took the bet even though we faced serving upwards of 70 drinks. The tension was palpable. The coin went up and to my great relief he lost! Not to be outdone he loudly went for it again. By this time I was sorely regretting not saying it could only be done once! Luck was not on his side that day, however, and he lost again. I never saw him after that, which must have suited both of us. Egos are painful in a pub! How’s business in these Covid-19 days? With the realization that our resilience and immunity are of critical importance we have seen an upswing in business. As a clinic most of our protocols for cleanliness were already in place but we do allow longer times between bookings and we keep waiting clients further apart in the waiting areas. In the early days of COVID we didn’t offer certain treatments but since we have been COVID free all services are available.

When do you think these difficult times will end, how will your business fare? I expect we will be here for another year. Nov 2021 is when I see things being better. I am lucky that Wellness services and consulting have actually increased in demand – not so much in resort setting but definitely urban wellness centres and wellness communities. I’m also lucky to have an office in China where things are quite back to normal and wellness resort projects are still being pursued. How do you keep in touch with the wellness/ health business? It’s a combination of trustworthy w websites, industry events (Global W Wellness institute), following peers and w watching trends. Sam (business partner) lloves high tech so k keeps us up-to-date o on any worthy new d developments – she h has a science health b background so can ssort out the trends ffrom the real things. I lead a Nutrition for H Healing Initiative for tthe Global Wellness In Institute with experts from around the world – nutrition and lifestyle are my passion. Any hobbies? I am currently learning animal communication and deeper levels of spirituality. COVID has given me more time to concentrate on these interests. Favorite Bangkok restaurants, bars, hang-out places? Phillipe French Restaurant in Sukhumvit Soi 39 and No Idea in Sukhumvit Soi 22. Both have fabulous owners who really care how their guests are enjoying the experience and food. What has been the high point in your life? I think the best thing I ever did for myself was selling my home in the UK to buy a beach house in Khao Tao. It has given great joy to me but more importantly also to my family and friends. Low point? Losing the Bull’s Head, getting a divorce and having to close a healthy food franchise all around the same time. That was a low few years! Favorite weekend destination? Khao Tao, Hua Hin Favorite beauty tip? Eat colourful natural wholefoods. Your beauty will shine through. What’s next? My dream is to see people become happier – if I can play a part in that via the places we create and services i/we provide I will be happy. TheBigChilli


BITS & BITES Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok



A Glittering White Christmas at River Barge & Pier 28 *OYPZ[THZ ,]LgVU +LJLTILY ϯ +PUULY MYVT WT [V WT WYPJLK H[ ;/) UL[ *OYPZ[THZ +H`gVU December 2020 ϯ 3\UJO MYVT UVVU [V WT WYPJLK H[ ;/) UL[ ϯ +PUULY MYVT WT [V WT WYPJLK H[ ;/) UL[ *OYPZ[THZ WHJRHNL WYPJLK H[ ;/) UL[ PUJS\KLZ I\MML[ KPUULY VU VY +LJLTILY MVY WLYZVUZ HUK H UPNO[ Z[H` PU H .YHUK 9VVT *P[` =PL^ 9VVT 6US` g(SZV NL[ H MHU[HZ[PJ LHYS` IPYK KPZJV\U[ PM `V\ THRL H YLZLY]H[PVU ILMVYLg [Og5V]LTILYg ‘GREAT GATSBY’ New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner 5L^ @LHYϦZ ,]LgVU December 2020 ϯ .HSH +PUULY MYVT WT HT WYPJLK H[ ;/) UL[ HUK ;/) UL[ MVY JOPSKYLU `LHYZ VSK Call 0 2307 8888, E-mail: River Barge Restaurant:, and Silver Waves Chinese Restaurant: silverwaves.chrb@chatrium. com or visit




Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao Bangkok

Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao Bangkok 24 December 2020 | Christmas Eve *OH[\JOHR *HM° *OYPZ[THZ ,]L .HSH +PUULY )\MML[g ;/) per person +VU .PV]HUUP *OLM :[LMHUVϦZ JV\YZL :L[ +PUULY ;/) WLY WLYZVU 0[HSPHU *OYPZ[THZ ‡ 3H *HY[L :LSLJ[PVU -YVT ;/) WLY dish )S\L :R` 9VVM[VW )HY :WLJPHS *OYPZ[THZ ‡ 3H *HY[L :LSLJ[PVU -YVT ;/) WLY KPZO 25 December 2020 | Christmas Day *OH[\JOHR *HM° *OYPZ[THZ +H` -LZ[P]L )Y\UJO ;/) WLY WLYZVU +VU .PV]HUUP *OLM :[LMHUVϦZ JV\YZL :L[ +PUULY ;/) WLY WLYZVU 0[HSPHU *OYPZ[THZ ‡ 3H *HY[L :LSLJ[PVU -YVT ;/) WLY dish )S\L :R` 9VVM[VW )HY :WLJPHS *OYPZ[THZ ‡ 3H *HY[L :LSLJ[PVU -YVT ;/) WLY KPZO 31 December 2020 | New Year’s Eve *OH[\JOHR *HM° 5L^ @LHYϦZ ,]L +PUULY )\MML[ ;/) WLY WLYZVU +VU .PV]HUUP ,_JS\ZP]L 5L^ @LHYϦZ ,]L :L[ +PUULY ;/) WLY WLYZVU 16




For more information or reservations, please call +66 (0) 2541 1234.

For more information or reservations, please call +66 (0) 2541 1234.

Mahanakhon Bangkok SkyBar 2PUN 7V^LY 4HOHUHROVU )HUNRVRϦZ PJVUPJ SHUKTHYR KLZ[PUH[PVU PZ YLHK` MVY H MLZ[P]L ZLHZVU M\SS VM J\SPUHY` KLSPNO[Z HUK UVU Z[VW JLSLIYH[PVUZ Thursday, December 24th, 2020:gg-V\Y JV\YZL KPUULYgH[ 4HOHUHROVU )HUNRVR :R`)HY :[HY[PUN H[g;/) WLY WLYZVU OPNOSPNO[Z PUJS\KL 7HU :LHYLK HUK ;LYYPUL -VPL NYHZ ^P[O YVZL HWWSL YH]PVSP HUK :[\MMLK 7LYPNVYK .\PULH -V^S Z[\MMLK ^P[O -YLUJO JOLZ[U\[Z HUK )\YN\UK` )SHJR [Y\MÑ“L (]HPSHISL MYVT ! WT ! HT Drinks and bar bites are available \U[PS SH[L UPNO[ Friday, December 25th, 2020: 1VPU HgChristmas FeastgHUKgthree-course Brunch MYVT ! HT [V ! WT :[HY[PUN H[g;/) WLY WLYZVU Saturday-Sunday, December 26th-27th, 2020: >LLRLUK )Y\UJOgH[ 4HOHUHROVU )HUNRVR :R`IHY MYVT ! HT [V ! WT :[HY[PUN H[g;/) WLY WLYZVU ,UQV` [OL TLHS ^P[O MYLL Ñ“V^ 7YVZLJJV MVY HU HKKP[PVUHS ;/) Book now until December 11 for a 15% early-bird discount at Reservations are also available via email or via telephone at 02-677-8722.



Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok December 24 Christmas Eve ϯ +PUULY H[ 5,?; *HM° (K\S[! ;/) UL[gcg*OPSK! ;/) UL[ ϯ :HSH[OPW 9LZ[H\YHU[ ;OHP ZLTP I\MML[ KPUULY (K\S[! ;/) UL[ c *OPSK! ;/) UL[ ϯ =VS[P YLZ[H\YHU[ )HY ,_LJ\[P]L :V\Z *OLM +LP]PK 7HP]H will serve up a homemade meal at H JSHZZPJ 0[HSPHU ZLTP I\MML[ KPUULY (K\S[! ;/) UL[ c *OPSK! ;/) UL[ December 25 • Christmas Day Lunch at NEXT2 *HM° )\MML[ 3\UJO (K\S[! ;/) UL[ c *OPSK! ;/) UL[ NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATIONS 31 December 2020 • Poolside Gala Dinner (SS UPNO[ KHUJPUN HUK Ñ’YL^VYRZ KPZWSH` V]LY [OL 9P]LY VM 2PUNZ (K\S[! ;/) UL[ c *OPSK! ;/) UL[ ϯ 5,?; *HM° (K\S[! ;/) UL[ c *OPSK! ;/) UL[ 0UKVVY +PUPUN! (K\S[! ;/) UL[ c *OPSK! ;/) UL[ ϯ :HSH[OPW 9LZ[H\YHU[ (K\S[! ;/) UL[ c *OPSK! ;/) UL[ Call  (0) 2236 9952 or (0) 2236 7777 or e-mail restaurants.slbk@shangri-la. com.



VM ;/) UL[ \W [V ;/) UL[ WLY Z[H` Visit siam-hotel/special-offers/celebratein-style/ or contact reservations. for more details. Valid from 24 December until 7 January 2021.

Christmas Eve at ALATi – Thursday, 24 December 2020 :WLJ[HJ\SHY *OYPZ[THZ )\MML[ ;/)

WLY WLYZVU ;/) WLY WLYZVU ^P[O MYLL ѓV^ ZLSLJ[LK HSJVOVSPJ IL]LYHNLZ ZVM[ KYPURZ HUK Q\PJLZ ;/) WLY WLYZVU ^P[O MYLL ѓV^ 3V\PZ 9VLKLYLY *OHTWHNUL Christmas Eve at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin – Thursday, 24 December 2020 7YPJL! ;/) WLY WLYZVU MVY an eight-course dinner

19 TheBigChilli





Return of Ruenton, the Montien’s legendary Thai-Chinese restaurant







(TU\H` OHZ been with the 4VU[PLU /V[LS MVY HSTVZ[ 20 years and has been instrumental in making [OL 9\LU[VU the most celebrated Thai-Chinese restaurant in )HUNRVR <UKLY OPZ KPYLJ[PVU [OL YLM\YIPZOLK 9\LU[VU ^PSS continue its [YHKP[PVU VM providing outstanding cuisine as well as introducing a long list VM UL^ HUK L_JP[PUN KPZOLZ representing the ILZ[ VM (ZPHU J\SPUHY` L_JLSSLUJL ;OL PU[LYPVY KLZPNU VM 9\LU[VU PZ H IYLH[O[HRPUN JVTIPUH[PVU VM YL[YV TVKLYU HUK [YHKP[PVUHS [OL SH[[LY being ingeniously emphasized in [OL MVYT VM H WYPJLSLZZ JVSSLJ[PVU VM *OPULZL WV[[LY` HUK HU[PX\LZ MYVT [OL V^ULYZ VM [OL 4VU[PLU /V[LS HZ ^LSS HZ HSS RPUKZ VM WSLHZPUN YLTPUKLYZ VM [OL VSK KH`Z




Guest review by Bangkok Beefsteak & Burgundy

Very professional Belga


onfident of a warm welcome, we visited Belga for a second time this year. There we found many familiar faces appropriately shrouded in masks and not because Halloween was just over. We were very happy to see GM Oliver Schnatz, Master of Beer Peter Laird and Executive Chef Nico Basset overseeing the sizable turnout of 20 diners. They assembled to enjoy tasty canapés (curried crab and liver terrine) and Robert Denogent Macon Les Sardines 2017 (Mâcon, France), an unconventional chardonnay found by wine spokesman Robert Lea not to fully justify Parker’s score of 89 points but still a presentable wine with a creamy long finish. The first course attracted both praise and disapproval; the “Ayes” won, I think, but those who do not enjoy goat cheese were not to be won over. The dish, Goat Cheese Soufflé with Hazelnut, Nutmeg, and Green Apple I found to be tasty. Similarly 24


Tegernseerhof Loibenberg, Smaragd Grüner Veltliner 2016 (Wachau, Austria) was found by some a little eserved underwhelming but the wine earned deserved endorsement from Robert and lived up to the winemaker’s description: “Spending 9 months on the lees, the result is intense and rich with aromas of white pepper, lemon, lime, salt, and smoke, crisp acidity, and a powerful finish”. Next came a real treat for fish lovers:: Turbot with Viennoise Crust and Sauce Mousseline and Whit Beer. As confirmed by food spokesman Mike Usher, cooked to perfection, the fish was hidden under a savoury coating and enhanced by the sauce. It was excellent. More of the Grüner Veltliner followed and found to be well matched to the fish. A great pairing for two special items. The main course included Venison Loin Sous Vide with Braised Cabbage, Black Forest Ham, and Parsnip. It was delicious as was the accompanying Hacienda Monasterio Crianza 2016 (Ribera del Duero, Spain). Parker awarded it 94 points: “The Crianza is a powerful wine from a large vintage where the vines delivered a good crop of ripe grapes [80% Tempranillo and 10% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot], even when the grapes were harvested early. They told me they have seen the climate change in their vineyards, and the ripe grapes and the wine now achieve 15% alcohol. This is a generous and ripe wine with a juicy texture, ripe flavours and abundant, round tannins.” Robert went on to confirm that global warming is a threat to future vintages. Mike, rarely lost for words, was fulsome with praise when it came to describe the venison; it was tender, juicy and full of flavour and an excellent choice from Chef Nico. Assiette de Fromage followed. There were

a number of cheeses to be found providing our gourmands with lots of choice. It (and the dessert) were served with a second Spanish wine, Dominio de Pingus PSI 2016 (also from Ribera del Duero) which is deservedly currently enjoying fame; Robert drew our attention to the differences between the wines and suggested that the more powerful Monasterio might have followed the Pingus. Our final dish Black Forest Gateau arrived; Mike a long term resident of Bavaria did not think it was an authentic rendering but correctly said it was truly excellent and a fitting conclusion to a great lunch. However the lunch was not yet over. Wine Master Thomas Boedinger will celebrate one more year on the planet this month; he very kindly treated us to a glass or two of Chivas Regal Mizunara which was truly appreciated by one and all. Rewarding Thomas’ sterling contributions to our enjoyment over several years, he was invited to deliver our thanks to the Belga team for their hard work, enthusiasm, and professional delivery. Belga Rooftop Bar & Brasserie, Level 32 at Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit, Bangkok 10110 Tel 02 126 9999 TheBigChilli


New on the

scene Hot new restaurants, EDUV FDI¸V LQ %DQJNRN

Fifty Shades Of Grey-Inspired Speakeasy Bar ‘Playroom’ – a hot new hangout in Ekamai

Q Having successfully launched Stage, a contemporary French JHZ\HS ђUL KPUPUN YLZ[H\YHU[ 1H` Sainisa Sangsingkeaw has followed up with a luxurious speakeasy bar JHSSLKg 7SH`YVVT VU [OL ZLJVUK ѓVVY VM [OL ZHTL I\PSKPUN PU Ekamai. The new venue has been designed to be a playful space where people can enjoy crafted drinks, gather to let loose and to soak up some privacy. The atmosphere is mysterious—sexy and luxurious, enigmatic and secretive, as if straight out of a scene from the movie Fifty Shades Of Grey. The red, gold, and black interior offers many fun gimmicks. 7HYHKPNT :OPM[ [OL [LHT VM PU[LYPVY designers behind the success of Stage, was tasked with dazzling guests from the moment they step into the door. If you don’t pay close attention to the details, you may ђUK `V\YZLSM WSLHZHU[S` SVZ[ The entrance is a secret door that blends into a wall of hundreds of drawers. Behind this trap door is an elegant bar decorated ^P[O [OL ђULZ[ H[[LU[PVU [V L]LY` 26


minute detail, chains, whips, and handcuffs adorn the walls. The bar counter itself brings to mind a sensuous corset, under a dazzling and illusory light—the perfect place to indulge in a cocktail, champagne, or a smooth glass of whiskey. Unmissable is the neon sign “You are My Favorite Dirty Thought”, the bar’s naughty slogan that reveals its playful and tantalizing character. 7SH`YVVT VMMLYZ ZPNUH[\YL cocktails specially conjured to convey its sensual character; Black & Gold, Sitting On The Thorn, Mr.Grey, Red Light District, 4YZ 9VIPUZVU -PYZ[ +H[L 7VYU Star Martini #2, Eggsy, Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald and Manhattan

Transfer, as well as a wide selection of classic cocktails, exquisite champagnes, and rare whiskeys. 1Haa SV]LYZ ZOV\SK RLLW [OLPY calendars free every Monday – Wednesday to be serenaded by jazz melodies from vintage vinyl records. A rotation of live jazz bands plays every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights to indulge your night for an even more pleasantly memorable experience. Open daily from 18.00 – 24.00 hrs. 2nd Floor (above Restaurant Stage), Ekamai Complex (between Soi Ekamai 19 & 21), Sukhumvit 63, North Khlongtan, Wattana, Bangkok. Facebook: Instagram: @playroom.bkk Tel. 080-278-7808 Email:









Meet the Chef

Chef Danilo Aiassa Italian Chef at Ms.Jigger Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok

Chef in focus Q Chef Danilo Aiassa Chef Danilo Aiassa has a recipe for every occasion, from reďŹ ned ricotta and spinach ravioli with spicy tomatoes to lemon sorbet with limoncello-layered almond cake. Born and raised in the commune of Carmagnola in the Italian region Piedmont, Chef Danilo combines the freshest local ingredients with his traditional culinary techniques. He crafts a myriad of sauces from scratch, fashions pasta in intricate shapes and brings the most delightful, homemade pizza to life at Ms.Jigger, the Italian restaurant at Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok. From the Michelin-starred San Domenico in Italy to Hotel George V in France to Ciao at Mandarin Oriental and Appia in Bangkok, Chef Danilo is a globetrotter with a big heart and an insatiable appetite for good food. With an entrepreneurial mindset like Ms.Jigger, Chef Danilo has not only worked for many big names in the hospitality industry, but also realized his dream restaurant L’Ulivo in 2014. Creative, down-to-earth and insanely humble, Chef Danilo looks forward to taking you on a trip to Italy in the beating heart of Bangkok Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok No.78 Tonson Alley, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, THAILAND

Why cooking as a career? Because it is the only job that you have to get married for the rest of your life, so you have to really be in love with being a chef. Best meal you've ever had? (S^H`Z ^P[O T` NYHUKTV[OLY ! 9H]PVSP Ă„SSLK with beef oxtails. Favorite cookbook? Too many (Chef Danilo laughs). I always I\` H SV[ H[ Ă„YZ[ HUK RLLW [OLT VU T` secret shelf. What's your cooking philosophy? 2LLW P[ ZPTWSL HUK KLSPJPV\Z What's your signature dish? All dishes can be all my signatures as long HZ [OL` Ă„[ T` WOPSVZVWO` KLSPJPV\Z HUK ZPTWSL Q\Z[ SPRL ZWHNOL[[P ^P[O [VTH[V sauce. 4VZ[ KPɉJ\S[ PUNYLKPLU[ [V JVVR ^P[O& :WHNOL[[P JHJPV L WLWL What's tastier - Italian rice or Thai rice? 0M ^L [HSR HIV\[ MVVK 0[HSPHU YPJL PZ NYLH[ MVY 0[HSPHU MVVK 0M `V\ [HSR HIV\[ ^VTLU Thai is tastier than Italian (from my humble VWPUPVU /H]L `V\ JYLH[LK HU LU[PYLS` UL^ KPZO& >OLU 0 KYP]L [OL JHY VY TV[VYIPRL 0 [OPUR about that. Greatest achievement to date? >OLU J\Z[VTLYZ HUK Z[HɈZ HYL OHWW` HUK ZH[PZĂ„LK ^P[O T` KPZO Famous people you've cooked for. Robert De Niro, Barbara Stresand, Michael Schumacher, Paul Because, Giovanni Agnelli, Geoge Bush, and my Mom, my two daughters and my wife. <[LUZPSZ `V\ JHU [ KV ^P[OV\[& Knife. Best advice you've ever received? +V ^OH[ `V\ RUV^ ILZ[ HUK KVU [ V]LYKV P[ What's your favorite dish to cook for yourself? Fried eggs. 0M `V\ ^LYLU [ H JOLM ^OH[ ^V\SK `V\ be? -HYTLY [OPZ PZ ^OLYL 0 T MYVT What's next for you? 0 ^PSS NV PU [OL RP[JOLU HUK JVVR HUK [LHJO my daughter. The TheBigChilli eBigC Chilli


Expat Sport

Spitfires firing on all cylinders Photography g p y byy Tadamasa Nagayama g y

Q The Siam Hockey League (SHL) 2020-21campaign has seen the defending champion Novotel Spitfires stay undefeated after five games. Novotel, led by captain Mike Freeson, Swiss star Tomas Stastny and Thai national team captain Ken Kindborn, seem to find a way to win no matter what the score, coming from behind three times in the final minute to clinch victories. Facing their closest rival KCG captained by Harrison Oztemel on November 1st, Novotel stormed back to win with 47 seconds left in the game after KCG (4-1 on the season), had tied it on a goal by Jari Eerikainen on a great pass from ThaiSwedish star Jan Iskasson just 12 seconds before that. Iskasson, with his determination, stickhandling wizardry and joyous celebrations when he scores has been a force to be reckoned with since coming out of quarantine after returning to Thailand. At the other end of the standings, Justin St. Denis’ Aware squad is winless early in the year and part of their problem has been in goal where goalie Gabor Toth abruptly quit the team on Nov 8th and will be replaced by Lance Parker, who up until that time was sharing the Novotel goaltending duties with young Thai-American keeper Ben Kleineschay. One bright spot for Aware has been young Roger Promthong who has dazzled fans and players alike with his playmaking ability. Siam Mandalay is in third spot in the standings with a 1-4 record but Jordan Ashton’s squad has been dogged by injuries, first losing star player 32


Corry Day for most of the season and then having his replacement Patrick Fortsner battle through a number of ailments. They have Thai national goalkeeper Dream Ungkulpattanasuk in net though, so they hope to turn their fortunes around when they all return to good health. Ken Kindborn’s is the league’s leading scorer one quarter of the way through the regular season while second place is shared by teammate Freeson and KCG sharpshooters Oztemel and Jesse Starosta. SHL games take place at the arena on the fifth floor of Imperial Samrong every Sunday night at 9 and 10pm, although there will be a number of cancelations throughout December because of the large amount of public holidays. Check out Dom Dumais’ weekly SHL podcasts sponsored by the BigChilli magazine at www. The games are also carried live at, thanks to producer Keith Mueller.



Scams By Ian Wilde

The beautiful ‘US Marine’ who wanted me to fund her emergency leave


Many years ago I lived in a US military camp in the middle of the desert in Saudi Arabia. Basically five thousand smelly farting marines, whose only joy in life was the arrival of a Lockheed Hercules full of beer once a week. However, discreetly living amongst these marines was a select group of individuals from numerous US intelligence agencies. One of these agencies lived in the office next door. The whole building was US military so they were able to leave that door open without fear of other "spies". Instead, they had to put up with individuals like me, who would arrive at the office and stand at the door, singing the James Bond theme, whilst pretending to either have a gun or a magnifying glass in my hand - I was informed that it was amusing for the first 50 or 60 times. So my point is, I have encountered many of these individuals over the years, and from harsh experience I have learned that when Americans from intelligence agencies knock on your door, even if they are smiling, it is wise to politely ask "why?" At one point there were so many spooks in Saudi they quite literally did not have enough desks, so I had to provide two desks for two different Americans. One was like something from The A-Team; he could make anything electronic out of the content of the bin. The other, despite his business card saying consultant, was a psychiatrist with two separate dissertations on warfare psychology. At the time I was advised to leave these two gentlemen to their work and not get involved. I did such a good job of ‘not’ getting involved with them that I introduced one of them to a nurse from Stockport, who he married three months later. They have now been married for nearly two decades, they live happily in Texas, and I am godfather to their three beautiful children. Somewhere along the line months my email - which is not difficult to guess - and possibly my passport number - have recently fallen into the wrong hands. Three times I have been approached by unusual 34


‘individuals’ - they could be male or female - we will probably never know. One claimed to be a young lady in Hong Kong, working in a luxury brand clothes shop. ‘She’ wanted to introduce me to a website called bet366 (nearly identical name to another famous brand online gambling site.) Another, who I am still communicating with, claims to be a resident of Singapore who works for a media company, but makes most of her considerable income from foreign exchange transactions in her lunch hour! Sound familiar?! Out of the kindness of her heart, she has introduced me to an app that she claims I can use to make transactions of my own. Strangely enough, my computer keeps telling me it is spam. Both of these ‘ladies’ have sent pictures of themselves; both extremely attractive! However, the third scam turned out to be far more sophisticated, creative and twisted and ruthless in both its conception and execution. In short, the scam was as follows: an ‘individual’ contacted me online claiming to be a female US Marine, serving as part of a peacekeeping force in Syria, connected to NATO. In summary, she was lonely, so I was happy to communicate with her for an hour or so each day, when she 'apparently' returned safely from patrol. This 'individual' claimed to be called Joyce Perez. And ‘she' appeared very toned and stunning in a marines uniform. ‘She’ also claimed that her father, who apparently was a general in that US Marines serving in Syria, had been shot and wounded fatally. His body was apparently waiting for the opportunity to be returned to the US. I played along for a number of weeks for two reasons: (1) since this individual's behaviour was beyond the pale, I thought I would amuse myself during lockdown playing with their twisted mind, and (2) at no point was I asked for money, so I was curious how they planned to extract money from me. Please appreciate the entirety of this ‘relationship’. There was nothing other than a conversation on

Hangouts – on WhatsApp, for example. Not once did we listen to each other's voices - for security reasons, apparently. After a number of weeks, I explained my exploits to my friend in Texas. Initially, he was amused, but I sent some of the correspondence to him and he confessed that he was somewhat alarmed by the detail and accuracy. Indeed, he had to make a few inquiries himself to ensure that it was a hoax. Finally, the scam turned to money. This individual asked me to help apply for emergency leave, claiming exhaustion and mental stress thanks to her father's demise in battle. However, it transpired that the only person who was able to authorize emergency leave from an operation was a gentleman by the name of Gen Richard Clarke - if you care to Google him, you will find that he is indeed the 'Boss'. was provided with an email address, and I was even provided with a website. Both appeared to be professional and working! As I had nothing to lose, I wrote to General Clarke, and was astonished to receive a quite detailed and thoughtful response. Again that was no mention of money. This 'individual' rolled out what he was willing to do for me and my 'girlfriend'. This individual pointed out that he would be travelling very soon and we must decide what we are going to do very quickly.


The individual said: “ I really commend your courage and the time you took to write me this email. The release of your fiancée from camp depends on some factors. Firstly, you should understand that it is not yet time for Ms Joyce Perez to leave camp. There are dates in which soldiers are meant or supposed to leave camp and this depends on their arrival date to camp and that is the reason why they were deployed here. I am the highest authority of US Army Special Forces Operations, but solely cannot release Ms Joyce Perez from the camp just like that; there are laws here in the military which every soldier must abide. Soldiers do get court martialed if they go contrary to the laws and rules of the military. I am not giving you the full assurance that I can help you yet, but I will see what I can do to get her out of camp soon…. A further email. For your fiancée to be able to leave camp, this is what we will have to do, we will have to replace her with another soldier, that means we will bring another soldier into the camp to take over her place and carry

out all her duties as she is out of the camp. 1. From the US Marine Corps Base Camp Turkey 2. From our Army base in France 3. From our military camp in the United Kingdom And then came the bombshell. ....... I'm so happy to write you this email because finally, I have found a way to help your fiancée out of the camp. Assigned directly from the U.S government. I have the list of the amount each soldier from each country will be taken as the fee to bring them in to replace Ms Joyce. So you and Ms Joyce need to pay them for that. These are the list and amount for each of them below: The soldier from the United Kingdom will cost an amount of: $6,200 USD The soldier from our base in Turkey will cost an amount of: $5,400 USD And this money you are paying is like compensation to them and for them to take care of their family till they are back home, as the U.S government won't be paying them any money.” By this time I had seen enough. So that evening I asked my friend Joyce where exactly she was based in Syria. She indicated she was in Aleppo. I replied: "Is Aleppo on the mainland near Surulere, or on Victoria Island?" Whether my hunch was right or not, the individual fully understood my implication and I was subjected to a volley of abuse second to none! However, given the nature of the implications from the individual, I thought it only just to make one quick inquiry to the real Americans, just for clarification, and I received this reply from The Office of US Special Operations Command:” There is no one assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command or its subordinate units named Joyce Perez. There is no U.S. peacekeeping force in Syria that I am aware of. If there is one, USSOCOM is not providing forces to support that force. There has not been a U.S. Marine general killed in Syria. GEN Clarke would not be the emergency leave approval authority for a service member serving in Syria. The approval authority would be a local commander where the service member is serving. If the U.S. military were going to replace a service member who was returning to the U.S. because of an emergency, the U.S. military would provide transportation for the replacement.” I was astonished at the sophistication of this scam. Maybe somebody out there has been a victim. Hopefully, if you're reading this you’ve not been one of them! TheBigChilli


Expat Women

Arianna’s art is bold, beautiful - and N it can be worn

earing the end of her annual threemonth stay in Bangkok earlier this year, Italian artist Arianna Caroli realized that returning to her homeland would not be easy because of all the travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 epidemic. So instead of lamenting her predicament, this stylish and animated (in that unique and wonderfully Italian way) lady decided to simply stay on in Thailand and continue her lifetime passion for painting. It launched an interesting new chapter in her life.



“It’s the first time in 30 years that I’ve actually stopped somewhere on a semi-permanent basis, and it has allowed me to focus and remain strong inside,” says Arianna, who describes herself a “nomad and citizen of the world” who finds inspiration in the cultures colours of the East. part from those vivid hues, the other constant theme and her most famous motif are huge bouquets of flowers – some real, others fanciful, but always bold and resplendent. A Bangkok printer with a hightech scanning machine transfers those bold images on to a range of different materials – cotton, canvas, chiffon and paper, while a local tailor makes the finished garments to extremely demanding specifications. The result is a memorable collection of what Arianna calls “wearable art” in one of Bangkok’s most colourful boutiques created by one of the city’s most colourful characters. – Colin Hastings


Through connections, Arianna found a great location that would for the first time allow her to showcase her various artistic endeavors to a Bangkok audience – a vacant shop in the lobby of the Athenee Hotel in Wireless Road. Today, this shop is an exclusive outlet for her paintings, home accessories and a wide range of attractive clothes, from wispy scarves and aprons to gorgeous shawls and even stunning interpretations of simple everyday clothing found in Thailand. Although she intends to eventually head back to her homes in New York and Italy, where graduated in ancient literature and archeology from the University of Rome, for the time being Arianna and her beautiful collection is a permanent fixture in the hotel, lighting up the public area in a joyful blaze of fluorescent colours that characterize her work. TheBigChilli


Expat Women By Ruth Gerson

How Anne passed her test in making artistic school bags


fter training as an interior decorator and then plying her profession successfully in France for eight years, Anne Andre suddenly found her life coming to an abrupt halt when her husband was assigned by the Airbus Company to a position in Thailand. As it happens so often, women have to learn to recreate themselves when they follow their spouses to new destinations. At times, it seems to be a blessing in disguise as new opportunities arise with such upheavals. 38

TheBigChilli TheBig The BigChilli Chilli

Working hard in France left little time for herself or building a family. “There was no time for kids,” she says. This was rapidly remedied, however, when she “grabbed the opportunity” in 2007 and moved with her husband to Thailand, the land of comfort and domestic support, where she gave birth to four children in a five-year period. The family’s six-year Thai sojourn ended in 2013 with a move to Jakarta for three years, followed by two years in Singapore, then back to Bangkok in 2018. Once resettled in Bangkok, Anne put her entrepreneurial talents to work. Noticing that many schools have bags with their logo on them, Anne came up with the idea of creating more attractive and functional design, basing it on the classic French bag that is broad rather than the usual long shape. As a trial, Anne designed school bags for her children. These colorful creations received so much attention and praise that her friends urged her to share her talent with others and go into professional production. In 2019, Anne came out with her first collection of bags, introducing two sizes for starters. This year she added backpacks, mini and medium sized, swimming pool bags, and lunch boxes. Although the business is still at its infancy, Anne’s zeal and energy is amazing – and there’s no stopping her now!

Anne hunts in the local markets for suitable materials for her bags, buying mostly water resistant PVC and polyester. A great advantage of these bags is their light weight, with small bags weighing a mere 800 grams while the larger ones weigh 950 grams. Environmentally conscious, she wants to find suitable recycled materials for her bags, a goal that she has not yet fulfilled. To support local workers and artisans, Anne uses existing workshops that produce leather bags, and TheBigChilli


Expat Women

they have adapted to work on the production of her new line of bags. To understand what goes into making such products Anne took lessons from a bag specialist. “It took me a whole year to produce just two bags, so I missed the beginning of the school season.” That was in 2018. First production of bags was in the summer of 2019, ready for sale at the start of the new school year. There were 80 units available in six models and sixteen colors. 40


The majority of the sales are on line through her company’s website, while there are two stores in Bangkok that sell her products - Enginou on Nang Linchee Road, and Carnets d’Asie, the bookstore at the Alliance Française. In accordance with our digital times, she receives website orders from Singapore and France as well as here in Thailand.. A new item in the collection is what she calls the ‘baby gift box.’ These come in pink for girls, blue for boys and red,

which is a popular color in Asia. The gift boxes hold items designed by Anne for both mother and baby, most of them handmade. For little ones are booties, bibs, teething ring, a blanket and more, while tucked away is a gift necklace for the mother. Owning her small business, Anne wants it to be above board. Legally registered, she avoids the mass production of big name brands, and tries to pay attention to those who supply the basic products. Many of those involved in the bag production are rice farmers who do this work to supplement their meagre income. Her policy is to follow what is known as ‘fair trade’ while still learning how to implement it. Although just breaking even at this stage, as most

businesses do in their first year or two, Anne still puts a small sum aside for charity. She supports the ‘Imagine for Margo’ fund for children’s cancer research and hospital treatment in France. This interest stems from Anne’s early childhood, recalling her experience while ill in hospital herself. It’s something that has never left her subconscious. She feels that now she can do her bit to help sick children. What are Anne’s hopes and plans for the future? She would like to have her own air-conditioned, environmentally friendly workshop - her products are currently made in individual homes. She’d also like to complete the catalogue she’s working on right now. Most importantly, she would like to ensure the future of her business and that of her workers. Anne’s brand “Little Froggies Supplies” is registered in France but she aspires for a wider network of global markets, adding one place at a time, and aiming at the individual market rather than mass markets. She may well succeed. Little Froggies Email: TheBigChilli



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DISPUTE OVER TROUBLED WATER Who controls the Mekong River? China defends its right to build dams on Southeast Asia’s most important river, while millions in downstream countries claim these hydropower projects are having a devastating effect on their economies

In this article we present both sides of the debate By MAXMILIAN WECHSLER


ike the two banks on the opposite sides of ever y river, so there are two ver y different views on whether the People’s Republic of China has the right to build a series of dams on the Mekong River.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government feels it has been perfectly justified in developing numerous hydropower projects in recent decades on the Lancang Jiang River, which originates in China high in the Tibetan plateau, and then changes its name to the Mekong once it leaves that giant communist nation. Some obser vers in the Southeast Asian nations downstream of that boundar y line – Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR, and Myanmar – claim that China’s development projects have hobbled the once mighty Mekong and caused

widespread devastation within their borders, affecting in particular the millions of people who depend on the river for fishing and agriculture. The rest of the world almost unanimously takes the side of the downstream nations, but international pressure has had only limited success in pushing China to take steps to mitigate the consequences of its Mekong policy. To give both sides a fair hearing, we present here excerpts from articles published in Thai and international press that are critical of that policy, as well as statements from the Chinese embassy in Bangkok and articles in the state-controlled Chinese press supporting the policy. Readers can judge for themselves which side they want to be on. But first, some basic facts on the Mekong River: TheBigChilli



The Mighty Mekong – Asia’s ‘Rice Bowl’ At about 4,350 kilometers (2,700 miles) in length, the Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia, the 7th longest in Asia and the 12th longest on the planet. The Mekong River begins in high-attitude snowfields in the province of the Tibetan Plateau, makes a run through Myanmar before demarcating the international border between Myanmar and Laos, forms part of the border between Laos and Thailand, then heads south and southeast through Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea south of Ho Chi Minh City. The Mekong River Basin drains a total land area of 795,000 square kilometers from the eastern watershed of the Tibetan Plateau to the Mekong Delta. Around 60 million people live in the lower Mekong basin. The river provides water for drinking and irrigation and is a major transportation and energy source. It is the world’s most productive inland fishery, and allows Laotian and Cambodian fisherfolk to catch more freshwater fish per capita than anywhere else in the world. The Mekong is the heart of the ‘rice bowl’ of Asia. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) notes that the Greater Mekong region holds irreplaceable riches – ranging from rare wildlife in spectacular natural landscapes to communities with distinct cultural heritages. The vast region drained by the lower Mekong, around 200 million acres, includes some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world. At least 1,100 freshwater species swim the waters of the Mekong including the last remaining populations of the Irrawaddy dolphin, giant

freshwater stingray, and the Mekong ong giant catfish. WWF says unprecedented social and economic development in the Greater Mekong makes conservation work here especially urgent and significant. The most pressing threats are hydropower development, climate change, illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss. The Mekong River Commission (MRC) was established in 1995 through the multilateral Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin between the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. The four countries recognized their common interest in jointly managing shared water resources and developing the economic potential of the river. The MRC mandates cooperation ‘in all fields of sustainable development, utilization, management and conservation of the water and related resources of the Mekong River Basin. Both Myanmar and China are dialogue partners and but not full members of the commission. China is apparently not obliged to consult with MRC downstream members about its activities on the upper Mekong, although in 2016 Beijing did launch a Mekong water cooperation initiative called the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) framework with Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. Critics welcomed the potential for cooperation, but said the framework could provide China with a legal basis for weaponizing water for economic and geopolitical gains.

What the Thai and international media say Killing the dam Mekoe Nnatg ion

Q Marc Goichot, chief

water resources expert for the WWF Mekong region, sums up the river’s acute crisis: “Today, water Source: Th 15, 2017 quality is degrading fast. Date: February The drought in 2015 was the worst on record, floods are more frequent, fish catches are declining and the entire riverbed and river bank are eroding. The Mekong delta is literally sinking and shrinking.” Meanwhile a Finnish study reports that hydrology of the river has suffered major changes from Chinese dams. The annual flood pulse during the monsoon season has been seriously disrupted by reduced water flow. Fisheries experts have warned that this will erode food



security for the 60 million people living in the Mekong basin. Natural Mekong fisheries in the four MRC countries are worth a total US$11 billion per year. If we incorporate fish farming, that figure increases to US$17 billion. But can the world’s most valuable freshwater fisheries, on whom 60 million people depend for food security, survive the threats posed by the dams? Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper, a fisheries specialist and research professor at Australia’s Charles Sturt University, is sceptical: “Assessment and mitigation of impacts are not a priority for developers of Mekong dams and impacts are often poorly understood.” Australian Mekong specialist at Sydney University, Dr Philip Hirsch, told this correspondent: “In 40 years of research, I have never seen a dam that has been successfully mitigated.”

China’s Mekong plans threaten disaster for countries downstream Source: Foreign Policy Date: September 27, 2017

Q I meetings Q In ti with ith the h other th Mekong M k states – Myanmar, M Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam – China talks about a “community of shared future.” But as China’s economy and its ambitions have both expanded, so have its goals for the Mekong. Beijing has expanded its control of the waters by building new hydroelectric dams and by what some experts call hydro diplomacy, creating and financing a new governing body on the river that rivals a former Western-supported group. For critics, control of the waterway is a key move in China’s attempt to establish itself as a regional hegemony; for locals by the river, it’s also a potential environmental and economic disaster. China’s latest move has been to press downstream countries for what’s euphemistically called “navigation channel improvement,” which means allowing its engineers to dynamite rocks and small islands in the Mekong so that bigger ships can make the journey all the way from Yunnan to Luang Prabang and, eventually, to the South China Sea. This has not gone unnoticed, especially in Thailand, where grassroots organizations have joined with environmentalists to protest Chinese activities on the river.

China reshapes the vital Mekong River to power its expansion Source: National Public Radio Date: October 6, 2018

Water risk rising on the Mekong

Source: ASIA TIMES Date: October 16, 2019

Q China’s Chi ’ newly l consolidated lid d ability bili to stop the river’s flow to SE Asia points to an emerging new regional flashpoint. The Mekong River, a waterway that originates in China and snakes through five Southeast Asian countries, is emerging as a new security flashpoint, similar in dynamic to escalating conflicts in the South China Sea. China has built 11 dams and has plans for another eight along its upper stretch of the river, which begins in the Tibetan Plateau, stretches through much of mainland Southeast Asia, and ends in Vietnam’s rice-producing Mekong Delta. Apart from the environmental consequences, there is an emerging strategic component to the dams, one that has reduced Southeast Asian nations’ leverage vis-à-vis China and its wider designs for the neighboring region. China now has the power to completely stop the flow of water to downstream nations, a pressure point that could be used to devastate their agricultural economies and create food scarcity in the event of a conflict. Speaking on August 1, 2019 after a Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial meeting in Bangkok, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted: “We see a spree of upstream dam building which concentrates control over downstream flows.” In 2017, Eugene Chow, an independent analyst, described China’s dams as weapons “hidden in plain sight” that “allow it to hold a quarter of the world’s population hostage without firing a single shot.” “Next time, China could well demand something in return, and a desperately thirsty country may not be able to refuse. China could, in short, use its dams to weaponize water,” Brahma Chellaney, a professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, recently wrote. “As droughts become more frequent and severe, China’s dam network gives it increasing leverage over downriver countries,” he added.

Chinese border patrol gunboats come downriver from the Yunnan province about once a month in a show of force to keep the Mekong River safe, as China’s Xinhua News Agency puts it.

Q About every month, a few Chinese gunboats cruise down the Mekong River through Myanmar and Laos from China’s Guanlei port. The Golden Triangle is known for being a drug-trafficking hub. The monthly patrols aim “to make the border river safer,” according to China’s Xinhua News Agency. The Chinese gunboat presence is “just to remind neighbors of the influence they can wield and that the hard power, the sharp power they hold is increasing, and I don't see that ebbing anytime soon,” says Elliot Brennan, a research fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy based in Bangkok. China’s economic and political influence is growing all over the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, its own backyard. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is extending that influence, with the construction of roads, high-speed trains and ports in Southeast Asia well underway, which will give Chinese goods greater access to markets in the region and beyond. What’s more, China is building a series of hydropower dams on the Mekong, which analysts say will produce needed electricity while posing major threats to the environment – and will further expand its control in the region. TheBigChilli


Feature China’s drain on Mekong Source: Bangkok Post Date: April 17, 2020

Q More water discharged from Chinese dams to the lower Mekong River in the dry season and less water in the rainy season. That means a reduction of drought and flooding in the lower Mekong countries. That was the ideal “cooperation” Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam expected from China. In reality, China seems to have done the opposite. A new study, conducted by Eyes on Earth Inc, vividly points out that China turned off its taps on the upper stretches of the river last year as it enjoyed higher than usual precipitation due to heavy rainfall and snowmelt. Its action resulted in an unusually severe drought in the four Mekong countries downstream. The study also shows that the 11 Chinese dams have stored a high volume of water over the past three decades. China has never been open about how much water it has withheld or released from its reservoirs since it started building dams on the Mekong, known as Lancang there, in the 1990s. The findings from the study have indicated that sudden floods on the lower Mekong in the past years could be attributed to China’s regulation of the Mekong flow – discharging overabundant water to avoid floods in the Lancang stretches.

Thailand proposes joint study with China, neighbors on Mekong River drought Source: BenarNews Date: April 17, 2020


Q Thailand on April 17 called for a joint study with China and neighboring countries to determine what caused a devastating drought in the Lower Mekong Basin last year, after a US-funded report indicated that Chinese dams had restricted the flow of water downstream. The MRC said April 15 that the study released earlier this week by American firm Eyes on Earth did not prove that the withholding of water from 11 Chinese dams upstream had caused the drought. “At the moment we don’t know the clear cause of the drought,” Somkiat Prajamwong, director of Thailand’s Office of Natural Water Resources, told BenarNews when asked about the study funded by the US government. “We have to exchange information and co-study it with China and Lower Mekong countries.” Somkiat said MRC members met with a Chinese delegation in February but did not reach an agreement on what caused the drought. MRC’s secretariat told Reuters that it had sought more information from China as well as a more formal working relationship, but only received water-level and rainfall data during flood season, from only two of the Chinese dams. TheBigChilli

Dams development & disaster on the Mekong Source: FORSEA Date: April 23, 2020

Protesting against the Xayaburi Dam, the first planned hydropower dam on the Lower Mekong Mainstream.

Q Given the Mekong’s critical state arising from 11 Chinese dams and the recent Xayaburi dam in Lao, a moratorium on all hydropower construction on the Mekong as part of a “New Deal to Save our Mekong” is needed now before it’s too late. Among the great rivers – the Amazon, the Nile and the Ganges – the freshwater fisheries of the Mekong ranks as the most important in the world. It should appear obvious to any regional policy– maker that any development policy would endanger the great biodiversity and natural resources of the river could result in long-term losses for livelihoods, nutrition and food security. But there is no evidence that any leaders, international donors or the Mekong River Commission, have expressed any critical concern, that a cascade of dams would have a disastrous socio-economic impacts on fisheries, food security and agriculture But many scientists did predict it. And indeed the disaster predicted has come about. China and Laos have engaged in a headlong rush to dam every river and in particular the mainstream In July 2019, villagers surveyed the protruding sand banks of the once mighty Mekong, in places reduced to a trickle. It was the worst-ever drought since records began. Many people pointed to the 11 dams upstream in China as the main cause of their woes It is precisely the frenzied development of hydropower along the Mekong both in China and in Laos during the last 15 years that has plunged the river into what is a massively damaged ecosystem, endangered food security and produced the present crisis. Contrary to China’s denials, a scientific report from Eyes on Earth concludes “from September 2019 China’s portion of the upper Mekong received uncommonly high levels of rainfall, and yet its dams blocked or restricted more water than ever before as downstream rivers suffered an unprecedented drought.”

of the China’s control ublished Mekone Digplp omat Source: Th Date: May 8, 2020

Q A recently published report by Eyes on Earth, Inc. has pointed the finger at Chinese dams holding back water as having significantly contributed to the major drought impacting the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. The drought’s effects have been felt by millions and hamper efforts to support development in the region. The report’s findings, which have been contested by China, added further weight to the growing concern over Beijing’s control of the vital waterway, which begins in China as the Lancang then flows through Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Water levels in the Lower Mekong were recorded at levels unseen in 50 years and have substantially impacted fishing and agricultural activity.

All eyes on Chinese dams as Mekong countries count down to the monsoon Source: The Nation Date: May 25, 2020

Q Researchers are worried that Chinese dams will hold back much of the water in the Mekong River this year, similar to last year’s erratic flow after the monsoon which exacerbated the drought in the Northeast of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. China’s dams have recently contributed towards aggravating the drought in the Northeast of Thailand and other lower Mekong countries like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, according to a group of researchers in the United States. There is no direct relationship between the drought in the northern provinces of Thailand and China’s dams, but China’s water restrictions have worsened the drought in the provinces, the researchers said.

China pressed on dams as Mekong falls to record lows Source: ASIA TIMES Date: June 16, 2020

The Thai side of the Mekong River in the Golden Triangle, with Myanmar in the background.

Q China has built 11 dams on its section of the river while downstream countries, including underdeveloped Laos, have dozens of hydropower dams built or in planning – many funded by Chinese-backed companies. The dam-building spree in China, as well as in Laos, has incited worry from the US, which vies with Beijing for geopolitical influence in Southeast Asia. US Secretary of State Pompeo last year warned that China’s dam-building spree “concentrates control” over the Mekong’s downstream flow. Beijing has long denied responsibility for the low water flows, and its foreign minister Wang Yi last year said that China had released more water on the request of Thailand, which was experiencing a drought.



Feature Water wars: Mekong River another front in US-China rivalry Source: Reuters Date: July 24, 2020

A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos in October 29, 2019.

Q The Mekong River has become a new front in the US-China rivalry, environmentalists and officials say, with Beijing overtaking Washington in both spending and influence over downstream countries at the mercy of its control of the river’s waters. China’s 11 dams have given it extensive control of the waters that flow down to Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, which have long depended on the river for agriculture, fisheries, and increasingly for hydropower in Laos. That control enables China to set the agenda for development linked to the waterway, and to exclude the US from a role after decades of promoting Mekong projects as a way to exert its influence in the region. A US ambassador in the region described China as “hoarding” water in its 11 dams on its upper portion of the 4,350 kilometer river, harming the livelihoods of millions of people in downstream countries. China also has been stepping up activities of its LMC, a relatively new intergovernmental body that a second US ambassador decried as trying to “sideline” the 25-year-old MRC. The study by Eyes on Earth, a US-based research and consulting company specializing in water. US Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy said he was “quite surprised” at the stark findings. “That was the same here in the region,” Murphy said, referring to the reaction to the revelation. 48


Mekong nations pressed to share data as water level falls to new low

Source: Bangkok Post Date: August 7, 2020

Q The inter-governmental MRC on August 7 urged China and Southeast Asian countries to share more data on hydropower dam operations, as water flow in the Mekong hit record low levels for a second consecutive year. A report by the commission attributes the low water level to two years of reduced rainfall and the operations of 13 Mekong hydropower dams – two in Laos and 11 in China – as well as dams on Mekong tributaries in Laos. The Mekong also flows through part of Myanmar. The report said the low flow could have severe impacts on communities in its member countries – Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – due to loss of fisheries and irrigation potential.

China's Communist Party knows how to quell a restive population – but what about its environment? Source: ABC News Date: October 23, 2020

China's damming of its reaches of the Mekong River has courted significant controversy.

Q Water has also been a contentious issue between China and countries downstream, including Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. To date, China has no formal water treaties with those countries. China has built the overwhelming share of dams along the Mekong River. In April this year, American environmental consultancy Eyes on Earth accused China of withholding water during a 2019 drought that devastated communities downstream. The Mekong River Commission confirmed China withheld critical data from its Mekong water stations. Dr Yeophantong [a political scientist and China expert at the University of New South Wales Canberra] said conflicts involving Asia’s largest rivers, including the Mekong, could turn into “a catastrophe that has spill-over effects on other countries”, as climate change is tipped to exacerbate floods and drier monsoon seasons, which could significantly disrupt livelihoods.

Excerpts from Chinese embassy statements and articles supporting China Chinese embassy spokesperson’s remarks on Mekong-related media report targeting China Source: Chinese embassy, Bangkok Date: July 5, 2019

Q The Chinese embassy in Thailand has noted certain media’s recent report on the Mekong River with false accusations against China. Ignoring the joint efforts made by China, Thailand and other relevant parties to promote Mekong water resources cooperation for the benefit of the people in the region, these groundless accusations mislead the readers, and undermine the good atmosphere of subregional cooperation. The Chinese embassy in Thailand would like to share the following facts: The Mekong River, connecting China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam closely together, is a gift from nature and embodies a natural bond of mutual support. While committing itself to promote green development, “protect the environment like we protect our eyes and treat the environment like it is our lives”, China also bears this concept in mind when conducting cooperation with Mekong countries. Under the framework of LMC, our six countries have established the Environmental Cooperation Center and Water Resources Cooperation Center, implemented the Green Lancang-Mekong Plan and a Five-Year Action Plan on Water Resources Cooperation. We have also actively engaged in sustainable infrastructure construction, investment and financing. The six countries, international organizations and NGOs never cease their efforts to enhance technical cooperation, as well as personnel and information exchanges for the purpose of realizing environmental protection and sustainable development of the Mekong basin. On so-called “Rapids Blasting:” From 2016 to 2017, the preliminary work was done on the second phase of the Navigation Channel Improvement Project under the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation (GMS), according to the consensus

reached by governments of China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Experts from the four countries carried out the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment on the premise of not affecting the natural and geographical features of the Lancang-Mekong River. The preliminary work also involved relevant parties including the NGOs and took into full consideration different parties’ views. Up till now, our four countries have had no engineering plan, let alone any action of the so-called “rapids blasting”. Frequent floods and droughts in the Mekong basin are the effects of global climate change. The construction of cascade reservoirs on the Lancang River is an effective measure against climate change. The cascade hydropower stations which discharge water in the dry season and store water in the wet season, are able to help adjust the water level of the Lancang-Mekong River (LMR). Thanks to the reservoirs’ water supplement during the dry season, for the first time in the dry season could ships navigate through the upper and middle reaches of the Mekong River where the water is shallow and shoals scatter. Local communities are thus provided with a more convenient and green way of transportation. In 2013 and 2016, the entire LMR was struck by severe droughts. China, although hit by the disaster, provided emergency water supplement to the downstream Mekong River despite all the difficulties, helping 60 million people in the downstream area to get over droughts. Starting from 2003, the Chinese side has been providing flood season hydrological data of the Lancang River through the MRC to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, informing them in advance of the regulation schemes of the dams. Both the MRC and downstream countries have expressed their appreciation.

Rebutting US claims, China says dams unrelated to Thai drought Source: Khaosod English Date: May 26, 2020

Q The Chinese embassy in Bangkok dismissed a US-funded study accusing China’s dams of hoarding water in the vital Mekong River. In a statement released to Khaosod English, the embassy said the extreme drought felt by Mekong’s downstream countries in 2019 were caused by exceptionally low rainfalls and arid temperature, and not the dams China built in its section of the Mekong, known locally as the Lancang River. “The research by Eyes on Earth Inc. did not consider precipitation levels and complication of water flows. It does not reflect hydrological realities,” it said. “Their results are mostly calculated trends, not the actual water flows on the long term.”

A December 27, 2016, photo shows a low water level in the Mekong River in Thailand.

The statement cited a study by the intergovernmental MRC, which blames abnormalities in the Mekong on the El Nino phenomenon. Last year’s drought was the driest in more than a century. A group of researchers working for a United States organization said satellite observations showed China’s Yunnan province to be slightly wetter than the downstream countries. The observations led the researchers to conclude that China-controlled dams upstream affected the water flow; they also reported that the dams were completely filled at the time of Thailand’s drought. But the embassy said satellite findings are “highly inaccurate” since they do not consider other parameters, such as precipitation levels and water levels. TheBigChilli



River dams in Chin a helped alleviate drought along Lancang-Mekong , YLZLHYJO ÄUKZ Source: Global

Q China was one of the countries that suffered the most from a severe drought along the LMR in 2019, hydrology researchers found, in contrast with allegations by some foreign researchers which blamed China for the drought in countries on lower reaches of the river. As a severe drought hit countries in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin (LMRB) from late 2019 to early 2020, risking water shortages and damage to crop production, some US media outlets blamed China for the disaster. Such reports alleged dams built in China controlled the upstream flow to use the water for domestic hydropower or irrigation. A latest report by Chinese researchers refuted this causal link and reckless accusation by US media, as scientists have found continued high temperatures and decreasing rainfall are the main causes of the drought. More than 10 global experts from the US, UK, LMRB countries, and cross-national organizations at an virtual international seminar acknowledged on Tuesday the sound research methods and evidence used in the Chinese scholars’ research on the main causes of the severe regional drought in 2019. They agreed that cascade reservoirs along the Lancang River helped alleviate the drought downstream. The report’s conclusion echoed the

Times Date: July 15, 2020

Mekong River in February 2019.

MRC which concluded in November 2019 that the drought was caused by insufficient rainfall during the wet season with a delayed arrival and earlier departure of the monsoon rain, and an El Niño event that led to abnormally high temperatures and high evapotranspiration. However, this conclusion has been constantly denied and ignored by foreign media and some US institutions. Some observers said such denial comes from attempts to play countries along the LMRB against each other. On April 21, the MRC Secretariat made a science-based assessment on this drought, based on its weekly flood situation reports for a period of time. The assessment found that reduced precipitation and abnormality in the monsoon season combined with an extreme El Niño event was

China to share annual Lancang River data with Mekong countries

the main cause of the drought. There is no reason in justifying the claim China is responsible for the drought in downstream countries, it concludes. Southwest China’s Yunnan Province has also been suffering from a severe drought since last year. Despite this, China has been doing its best to guarantee reasonable discharge volumes downstream, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s then spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a regular press conference on April 21. Six countries located in the LMR basin joined a series of online meetings led by China over the past months to facilitate dialogue on establishing an information sharing platform to boost transparency and cooperation in water resources management.

Q Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on August 24 announced China Source: Xinhua News Agency will share the Date: August 24, 2020 annual hydrological information of the Lancang River with Mekong countries starting from this year, to better address climate change as well as floods and droughts. Li made the remarks while attending the third LMC Leaders’ meeting via video link from Beijing. Calling the six Lancang-Mekong countries a de facto community with a shared future linked by the same water, Li said their cooperation originates from water, which is an important part of cooperation, and enriches the LMC spirit of friendship, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. Over the past four years since the mechanism was put in Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech on the 3rd Lancangplace, Lancang-Mekong countries have ramped up institutional Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting. cooperation on water resources, said the premier. Li said the legitimate rights and interests of Lancang-Mekong countries to rationally develop and utilize water resources should be fully respected, and all parties’ interests and concerns should be accommodated. “China is willing to offer more assistance within its capacity to other Lancang-Mekong countries for better utilizing water resources,” Li said. In addition, China will join with other countries this year to build an information sharing platform of water resources cooperation, according to Li. The premier also announced such moves as the regular holding of ministerial meetings and forums on water resources cooperation, the implementation of a five-year-plan on Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation, as well as the implementation of cooperation programs on dam security and flood alerts. 50


Chinese premier raises proposals to enhance Lancang-Mekong cooperation Source: Xinhua Date: August 25, 2020

Q Chinese Premier Li Keqiang raised six proposals to enhance Lancang-Mekong cooperation as the third LMC Leaders’ Meeting was convened August 24 via video link. The Chinese proposals included promoting water resources cooperation, expanding trade ties and connectivity cooperation, deepening cooperation on sustainable development, upgrading cooperation on public health, strengthening cooperation on people’s livelihoods, and upholding the spirit of openness and inclusiveness. “The launch of the LMC has been motivated by a river. Drinking water from the same river, the LMC countries are as close as one family,” said Li. “Over the past four years, the LMC has grown rapidly and entered a period of all-round development. It has become a new fountain of strength for regional development, and delivered real benefits to people of all related countries.” Li said that starting from this year China will share Lancang River’s hydrological data for the whole year with the Mekong countries. On the sidelines of the meeting, Li and other LMC leaders jointly attended a handover ceremony of Myanmar taking over the next co-chair of LMC.

US tricks can’t divide ekong nations LancangDa-M ily Source: China 20 Date: September 16, 20

Q In recent years, with the active push of the LMC mechanism, the development and management of the river's water resources is becoming a reality. Under these circumstances, as a major country outside the region, the motive behind the US’ exceptional concern over the LMR smells of ulterior motives. China’s positive role in the development of water resources in the LMR has been acknowledged by the other five countries. As an important mechanism for managing resources in the lower reaches, the Mekong River Commission has tried to clear the misunderstanding about China’s role by issuing data and reports, and giving media interviews, emphasizing that the droughts in the region are caused by extreme weather conditions rather than China’s construction of dams on the Lancang. Of late, the US has been trying to change the “status quo” of the LMR management through behindthe-scenes manipulations, and turn it into another “South China Sea” between China and Southeast Asian countries. In April this year, the so-called investigation report sponsored by the US was an attempt to interfere in the mutual trust-based cooperation between China and the Mekong countries, by claiming that the rainfall in the Lancang River catchment area in 2019 was no less than in previous years, but the volume of water flow from China to the Mekong countries in the lower reaches was much lower.

Commentary: Hyping Mekong water resources issue a political farce

Q Certain US politicians have been hyping the issue of the Mekong water resources through groundless Source: Xinhua comments and unreliable Date: September 13, 2020 reports in an attempt to sow discord between countries and sabotage the atmosphere for the LMC. David Stilwell, US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said earlier this month that China’s “manipulation” of the Mekong River flows was an immediate challenge to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He cited a report claiming that “China has been manipulating the water flows along the Mekong for 25 years, with the greatest disruption in natural flows coinciding with major dam construction and operation.” The report, presumably a study by Eyes on Earth, alleged that China had impounded 280 billion cubic meters of water. In fact, the maximum capacity of Chinese reservoirs is just 42 billion cubic meters. A report with such an obvious deviation from facts has no scientific value and has been found to be gravely flawed by many international hydrological experts. “The hydropower development in the Lancang River causing drought in the lower reaches” has been the subject of speculation by media of certain

c countries, which politicized the i issue of water resources in order t make excuses for intervening to i the internal affairs of Lancangin M Mekong countries. Experts have found that since C China’s cascade reservoirs were put into use, dry-season flows in relevant sections have increased by 20 percent compared to past natural levels. The latest report by the MRC released in August also acknowledged the reservoirs’ function of storing water in the flood season for later use in the dry season, which helps maintain the steady flow of the Mekong. On the whole, the hydropower facilities in China play a beneficial role for Mekong countries. In addition, China has for 18 consecutive years been providing flood-season hydrological data free-of-charge for the MRC and lower-stream countries and has been helping them formulate plans for flood prevention and drought mitigation. Since the LMC mechanism was launched, China has sent emergency warnings on major changes in the outflows of the Jinghong hydropower plant more than 10 times. Starting from 2020, China will share the Lancang River’s hydrological data for the whole year with Mekong countries, according to the third LMC leaders’ meeting held in late August. TheBigChilli



US smear campaign against Mekong River dams riddled with loopholes

A cargo ship passes in front of a Buddhist temple in Myanmar on the Mekong River on November 20, 2019.

Source: Global Times Date: September 16, 2020

Q US intervention in the Mekong River water resource issues is found to be an attempt to contain China in the region under the pretext of a presumed Chinese dam threat based on weak evidence and sources from illintentioned US-backed institutions. The US bluntly targeted China by accusing it of causing droughts in the region, and in a recent tweet the US embassy in Beijing even claimed that China encourages drug and weapons trafficking in the region, which experts say is not worth refuting. Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly slammed the US for hyping issues of the Mekong River water resources that was aimed to sow discord between Mekong regional countries, after David Stilwell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, claimed China was manipulating water to fill its reservoirs, which US-funded “Eyes on Earth” says have a combined capacity of more than 47 billion cubic meters. “We advise US diplomats to be cautious about citing such a report that many global hydrological experts say is faulty and has little scientific value,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. 52


Q Although the US has tried to provoke ASEAN countries against China, most officials and citizens in these countries are seemingly not willing to join the works. Daw Than Than Htay, a member of Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies, told the Global Times that accusations against China are clearly coming from countries outside the Mekong River region, adding that China has always tried to regulate the Lancang River reservoirs to ensure downstream water demand during both dry seasons and floods. When the southern part of Vietnam experienced severe drought and seawater flooding a few years ago, China immediately released water reserved in the upstream dams to aid floods.

elcome Mekong countries w uction water sharing, constr C assistance under LM sm mechanil Tim es Source: Globa 20 Date: September 16, 20

Q The US began to meddle over the river in 2009, when it launched the Lower Mekong Initiative with Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, attempting to curb China’s growing influence in the region. The initiative ran in line with the Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific strategy proposed by then US President Barack Obama, with the aim to modernize and strengthen US alliances. In its early days, the initiative prioritized capacity building in environmental protection, education, public Chinese law enforcers participate in a China-Laos-Myanmar-Thailand joint patrol on the Mekong River in November 2018. health and infrastructure. Although then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unfoundedly criticized China for its dams on the upper reaches of the river, no substantial cooperation on water resources was Source: Beijing Review conducted. Date: October 25, 2020 On September 14, the US announced the launch of the Mekong-US partnership for sustained growth and the ASEAN in 2014, in response to Thailand’s of its Mekong partners and pledged to increase proposal of strengthening sustainable development investment and cooperation. At the same time, it of the Lancang-Mekong subregion, China initiated continued to hype environmental and resources a cooperation mechanism, which gained general issues and tarnish China’s efforts in the area. It support. accused China of “manipulating” the LMR flows, Over the past five years since its establishment, disregarding the fact that China has been providing the LMC mechanism has been improved under the hydrological data for the MRC and downstream principles of consensus, equality, voluntarism, mutual countries for 18 consecutive years and helping them consultation and coordination, common contribution formulate plans for flood prevention and drought and shared benefits. It has made progress in practical mitigation. cooperation in many areas including sharing water The renewed attempt is an example of the current resources, and has become an effective platform for US strategy toward China. Compared with the exchanges between China and other Lancang-Mekong policies of the Obama administration, it is more countries. aggressive. The management of trans-boundary Since the mechanism was launched, China has rivers has always been a complex and sensitive sent emergency notifications on major changes in issue. Some scholars think this can lead to water the outflow of the Jinghong Hydropower Plant on wars among the river-sharing countries. the Lancang-Mekong several times. The project is China has always taken an active part in located in the southwestern province of Yunnan, which multilateral cooperation with regional countries. borders Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. It joined the GMS mechanism in 1992. In 1996, it China has always regarded ASEAN countries as a became a dialogue partner of the MRC, an interpriority in its neighborhood diplomacy. The Lancanggovernmental river basin organization initiated by Mekong countries are linked by mountains and Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. It signed rivers, and enjoy profound friendship and inherent the first hydrological data-sharing agreement with geographical advantages in cooperation. the commission in 2002, promising to share data The US has been stirring up issues between China about daily river flows and rainfall data upstream and some ASEAN countries over the South China Sea, during the rainy season. which has undermined regional peace and stability. At the 17th leaders’ meeting between China

US manipulation can’t divide Lancang-Mekong countries



Feature By Colin Hastings

The Quiet American behind Thailand’s beautiful Eco Resorts Photos by Rossarin Sawasdiraksa 54


A lifetime exploring Thailand has equipped Dick Sandler with a rare and exceptional knowledge of this country – and he’s put it to good use with a series of eco-friendly resorts. His latest – Our Jungle Camp in Khao Sok – is simply sublime TheBigChilli





hen Dick Sandler says that he’s overwhelmed by the beauty of Khao Sok in southern Thailand, you’d better listen up. Here’s why. For more than half a century, this soft spoken American has travelled to the farthest corners of the kingdom looking for places of outstanding beauty. Once identiďŹ ed, he has gone on to establish a series of unique eco-minded resorts that would make even the most conservative of conservationists go weak at the knees. Dick has always been way ahead of his time. A natural born lover of tropical jungles and wildlife, he was one of the early pioneers in Thailand’s now burgeoning ecotourism sector – though more by accident than design, as we will explain. His interest in this country began while taking economics and Southeast Asian studies at Yale University, where his teacher was a dynamic Thai lady 56


called Kamala Sukosol, who today is one of Thailand’s most celebrated hotel owners and entertainers. Fascinated by what he learned about Thailand, and ďŹ red by an “entrepreneurial instinctâ€?, Dick found his way here via a Fulbright scholarship to research economics at Bangkok’s Thammast University under the formidable social activist Dr Puey Ungphakorn. After a short stint back in the US, Dick joined the staff of the Peace Corps which meant a happy return to Thailand. Moving later to Kanchanaburi, he initially tried his hand at farming. “I loved the jungle and horticulture,â€? he says. During this period spent in western Thailand, Dick lived on a raft house, swimming daily in the River Kwai. With visiting friends all wanting to stay in raft houses of their own, the launch of the province’s ďŹ rst riverside rafting resort was inevitable. Fortuitously, he had become an eco-developer by accident which helped him to launch a travel segment that remains close to









Feature his heart to this day. The farm project, meanwhile, eventually petered out and lost him “a fortune.â€? “I was doing eco-tourism before the term even existed, growing our own food and organizing sustainable tours,â€? says Dick, who ensured that the locals beneďŹ tted from his visitors who bought their wares. He also handed back investors in his farm 40% of their money. e then worked for the United Nations Development Fund and the World Bank, focusing on rural development projects. This enabled Dick to explore the kingdom’s most remote islands, jungles and beaches. Over the next few decades, he spotted places


of immense beauty where he developed groundbreaking, eco-minded vacation projects that always put environment ahead of luxury. His ďŹ rst serious development was a lowmaintenance resort called the Railay Beach Club on a deserted beach in Krabi. Launched in the mid-80s mostly for Bangkok’s expat market, the place had caught his eye because of its “staggering beauty.â€? The timing of the beach club was fortunate in that it coincided with Thailand’s tourism boom, which saw droves of foreign visitors exploring this southern province and guaranteeing the resort’s future. His next project, an idyllic hideaway called Golden Buddha Beach Resort, was built on remote Phra



Thong Island in the Andaman Sea, where Dick and his partners acquired a one kilometer of pristine beach from two local families. “Twenty years later when we had become successful resort, they took us to court because we blocked their access. They lost the suit,” remembers Dick. Disaster struck, however, when the resort was wrecked in the Asian tsunami in 2004 and 15 people lost their lives. The place was subsequently rebuilt and then sold five years ago to a wealthy German investor who has reportedly kept faith with its original ecoobjectives. But Dick had already found his next Shangri-la – the glorious national park of Khao Sok in southern

Thailand. He first came across this lush corner of the country several years earlier and was immediately struck by the spectacular scenery and its pristine nature. “I was looking for beautiful plots of land as a nature lover, came here and was overwhelmed by the beauty of this region,” he says. oincidentally, a Peace Corps friend based in Khao Sok was struggling to make living by raising pigs and deer because the land was naturally damp, which affected the animals’ wellbeing. Dick’s solution to the dwindling business was to build trees houses to attract visitors to a region that previously saw few visitors. In return,





his friend found 30 rais of jungle for Dick to locate his latest project. To this day, he maintains to this same plot of riverside land is “one of the most beautiful places in Thailand.” The project has since grown to 80 rais, and is now known as Our Jungle Camp, comprising simple tree houses, riverside bungalows and huts all designed to merge unobtrusively with the lush surroundings. Set beside a fast-flowing river and overlooked by towering cliffs, the camp covers some 80 rais of mostly pristine forest. The accommodation, common areas, restaurants and lobby have all been built from bamboo and renewable materials, and arranged along winding trails flanked by mature trees. ne of Dick’s favorite expressions, “low density, high value,” is visible in all his resorts with buildings deliberately spaced well apart, noise and general pollution levels are kept to an absolute minimum, and human impact on the eco-system is limited so that creatures that depend on it will continue to thrive. This is certainly true of Our Jungle Camp, an oasis of peace and tranquility.

O 62



Adjoining farmland is used to grow all kinds of vegetables, herbs and flowers for the resort’s restaurant and also as part of free nature camps held most weekends for local students to learn about fundamental concepts of sustainable agriculture and natural sciences. Our Jungle Camp sits on the border of Khao Sok National Park, a vast but still little known area of thick native rainforest, waterfalls, and majestic limestone ‘karst’ mountains that loom dramatically over the impossibly blue-green waters of Cheow Lan Lake, arguably the most spectacular inland body of freshwater in Thailand. Dick refers to it as Thailand’s version of the famous Guillin lakes in China. All of his projects have been stunning, but Our Jungle House may be Dick’s most satisfying. He certainly purrs with pleasure whenever he talks about the resort. And that pleasure goes deeper than just being a successful vacation destination. “Our Jungle Camp is more than an ordinary resort,” he says with pride. “It’s a place where several passion projects intersect, offering unique

opportunities to locals and visitors. Eco-tourism, organic sustainable agriculture, nature education, and mindfulness are all parts of the camp experience, and each visit supports these projects. “The farm allows us to source most of our vegetables directly in house and provide a learning space for visitors and students. “Aside from veggies, we grow various Thai herbs and flowers like Roselle, Butterfly Pea and lemongrass, just to name a few,” continues Dick. “Instead of simply learning in a classroom, students are able to experience these concepts first hand through nature walks, wildlife sighting, educational games and gardening activities. “It’s an opportunity to make the world a better place by setting up these free nature camps for local children to learn about and gain a true appreciation of nature.”, says Dick, who nowadays splits his time between Khao Sok and his riverside home in Bangkok. “At Our Jungle Camp, we lead by example, we minimize our use of power by foregoing air conditioning and televisions, and we reduce plastic

waste with purified water. “In protecting our environment, no effort is too small: we even use biodegradable sugar cane products for plastics and reusable metal straws. “All of these projects play an important part in our resort’s mission. We strive to create a space that provides a unique experience for guests and a where locals can expand their talents, foster an appreciation for nature, and pass it along to the next generation!” ntil Covid19 struck, the camp was a magnet for foreigners whose interest in nature, believes Dick, has had a galvanizing effect on local attitudes. “They see the enthusiasm of westerners for the environment and become local advocates of ecotourism themselves.” Dick is upbeat about Khao Sok’s future, saying that a notable increase in domestic tourists is partially compensating for the recent loss overseas visitors. Now in his mid-70s, Dick is known by many as “the grandfather of eco-tourism in Thailand.” And it’s easy to see why.





The Towerin Khao Sok and C


hao Sok National Park is regarded by many as Thailand’s most beautiful protected area. Covering 739 sq km, which increases to a massive 3,500 sq km when three adjoining national parks are included, Khao Sok consists thick native rainforest, waterfalls, and majestic limestone mountains that loom dramatically over the land. Rising as high as 1,000m, these limestone ‘karsts’ also overlook the incredible blue-green waters of Cheow Lan Lake, the most spectacular inland body of freshwater in Thailand. Many compare it to Guillin in China and Vietnam’s Halong Bay.

Yet had it not been for two quirks of recent history, Khao Sok National Park would probably not be the natural treasure it is today. In 1944, a deadly epidemic swept through the region killing a large number of people. Survivors moved away from the area, while the village they deserted became known as ‘Ban Sop’, meaning ‘Village of the Dead’. It took decades before anybody returned. Later, in the 1970s, Thai students who had joined communist insurgency groups set up a stronghold in Khao Sok as it was the ideal territory to hide and operate guerilla warfare. Right up to 1982 these students not only kept the Thai Army at bay, but



ng Beauty of Cheow Lan Lake also kept the loggers, miners and hunters out. Had it not been for this seven-year occupation, Khao Sok’s forests may well have disappeared. Another major event occurred in 1982 when the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) erected the Rajjaprabha Dam, closing off the Pasaeng River and creating the spectacular 165 sq km Cheow Lan Lake within the boundaries of the national park. oday, Cheow Lan Lake attracts a rapidly increasing number of visitors who go on boat trips by day or stay overnight in one of a limited number of floating raft houses. This sprawling area of natural resource is not just


a phenomenal area of climate-supporting rainforest, it’s also incredibly biodiverse, being home to a vast number of plants and animals, including tigers, elephants, tapirs and many monkey species. Birds such as hornbills, banded pittas, and great argus can be found here, along with less commonly seen reptiles like the king cobra, reticulated python, and flying lizards. Trekking is popular, though guides are recommended. Not only can they point out interesting animals and sights, but if you’re lucky, they can cook a decent meal using local bamboo for fire and cooking pots.




Israeli Ambassador lauds new era of Middle East peace deals that were once “unthinkable” By MAXMILIAN WECHSLER

His Excellency Meir Shlomo began a dream posting in Thailand in August 2017, returning to the country that captivated him and his wife during a backpacking trip here 40 years earlier. Not long after he joined Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), serving in El Salvador, Peru, Denmark, India and the United States. This friendly and articulate diplomat shared insights with The BigChilli on some of the extraordinary and pivotal events unfolding in his host country and throughout the world in recent years, including what he described as ‘tectonic changes’ in the Middle East. The Ambassador is also Israel’s Permanent Observer for the Economic Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and non-resident Ambassador to Cambodia. ‘Lucky to be here’ “Being Israel’s Ambassador to Thailand has been an amazing experience and I feel privileged to be here. There’s a very long list of Israeli diplomats waiting to replace me,” he said smiling. “Both personally and professionally, my time here has been a kind of closure,” said the Ambassador, who plans to return to Israel and retire when his term ends in about a year. “My wife and I fell in love with Thailand when we came as backpackers many years ago, and I never thought at the time that I would return here one day as an Ambassador – it is more than I could wish for. We loved Thailand at that time and now we have a chance to know the country and the people in depth. To be here as a tourist is one thing; but living in Thailand is much more interesting, it gives you time to discover the geography, history, culture, and most importantly, to know the Thai people better. 66


“In the time of COVID-19, Thailand is one of the safest places in the world to be. It has been very interesting to watch how the Thai people deal with this crisis. It is extraordinary. We thought we might see a lot of panic and hoarding of things like toilet paper, as was reported in other countries, but here people behaved very calmly and didn’t panic. “Supermarkets functioned normally and so on. My wife and I really admired how Thai people conducted themselves. It is a lesson for everyone. “Everywhere you went, every store, in every shopping mall, everyone wore masks and observed social distancing. I think that is a big part of why Thailand has come through the corona crisis so well. “The most memorable event in my time here was the cremation ceremony of His Majesty King Rama IX at the end of October 2017. It was a really huge and poignant experience, as well as a very sad time. I was so impressed with the character of the Thai

His Excellency Meir Shlomo TheBigChilli



Ambassador Shlomo with Ambassador of Bahrain, Ahmed Abdulla Al-Hajeri, at the Bahrain Embassy in Bangkok on November 16.

people. I was privileged to be present at the cremation ceremony and on the way to Sanam Luang, in front of the Palace, I remember seeing all the streets full of thousands of people crying and fully expressing their genuine sadness. I have never seen anything like this in my life. It was very touching. “Another memory is the unfolding story of the children trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand, which also remain very vivid. The Israeli Prime Minister called and instructed me to find out what we could do to help. I went to the cave on a Saturday morning, July 7, 2018, with my Defense Attaché. We had a plan devised by the Israeli Navy as a possible solution. I met with the provincial governor, who was at that time in charge of the rescue efforts. It was very moving to see all the people at the site who came to help. Some of them were Israeli volunteers living in Thailand. “One of those volunteers was from an Israeli company that donated sophisticated communication equipment that was used during the first days of the crisis. (Later on, the divers installed landlines to communicate with the children). However, the governor told me that they were going to begin extracting the children from the cave the very next day because the water level had started to rise very quickly. They thanked me for the rescue plan we 68


offered but said there was no time to bring all the equipment required from Israel. “It was a very moving experience to be there and to observe firsthand the rescue efforts. The camp was full of volunteers; everyone wanted to help. We were happy that we could play a small part. Later on, the Thai Prime Minister organized an event at the Royal Palace to recognize all the people and the few countries involved in the rescue efforts and kindly invited me as the representative of Israel to attend.” Winds of change The Ambassador was eager to talk about the historic agreements between Israel and three former adversaries – United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. “That’s a huge thing and unfortunately a lot of people don’t realize it yet. It’s nothing short of a tectonic change of the Middle East. Unfortunately, in some places around the world, the perception of the Middle East is still very dogmatic and outdated the same way it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. It is not the same region. “That the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan would come out in the open and normalize ties with Israel used to be absolutely unthinkable. But now these countries are signatories of an initiative to make peace with Israel,

Jerusalem – A panoramic view of the Tower of David Museum (the courtyard) and the surrounding area.

and I expect that more Arab countries will follow suit. “The Abraham Accords Peace Agreement establishes peace between Israel, and the UAE and Bahrain. Now we have to ‘put the meat’ into it, which will include diplomatic relationships and establishment of embassies, as well as direct flights between the countries, commerce, high-tech and agricultural joint ventures, tourism etc. There is even a football match between the national teams, scheduled for next month. We are experiencing a full-scale normalization. “The situation with Sudan is a little bit different. What we have is a statement of normalization, which we have to build on, at a slower pace. “This proves something Israel has been saying for a long time. The Palestinian-Israeli issue does not need to obstruct the relationship between Israel and the Arab World. “Palestinians have always tried to say that a resolution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict is a precondition to any peace agreement between Israel and any other Arab country. Well, we have never thought this should be the case. It started in 1979 when Egypt, the most important country in the Arab world, signed a peace treaty with Israel. Now we have had more years of peace with Egypt than we were formerly at war. Then Jordan followed Egypt’s lead and now we have UAE, Bahrain and Sudan joining in and we are not done.

Photo taken by Noam Chen for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

“I think that the psychological effect of the agreement is equally important. The idea that the Palestinians can hold hostage any peaceful relationship between Israel and the Arab world has totally crumbled. It is not that we don’t want to solve the Palestinian issue. We do, and we recognize it is important. But the Palestinians have always wanted to avoid making difficult compromises and preferred to wait for somebody else to do the work for them – namely the Arab world or the international community. “They don’t want any compromise that makes them pay any kind of price. Maybe now they will realize that time is not working for them and the Arab World is not going to wait forever. It is time for them to wake up and tell their people the truth, which is, that in order to get peace with Israel, they have to make some kind of compromise. Nobody is going to do the work for them. “It is a new Middle East that has been crystallizing for a long time. A lot of commerce has been developed informally over the years between Arab countries and Israel, and more importantly, the interests of these countries are aligning with the same interests of Israel. They understand that Israel is not the enemy. Israel is actually an ally and a friend. Maybe not all of them want to sign a peace treaty with Israel out in the open, but most of them understand this reality. TheBigChilli



Tel Aviv – Promenade alongside the beaches of Tel Aviv.

“I would say that the Accords are more inclusive, and other countries are seriously thinking about joining in. This is the beginning of a wider peace process. We are very optimistic.” Ambassador Shlomo said the reaction from the Arab world was encouraging. “UAE and Bahrain wouldn’t have signed without knowing that other Arab countries are backing this important step. Of course, some extremist countries, namely Iran, Syria, along with the Palestinians, have been highly critical. But those who really want to see peace in the world, and this includes Egypt, welcome it. Those who are only interested in instigating violence and terror, do not. “These days, external observers of the Middle East should also understand this new reality. They should understand that if you look at the Middle East, you should look at it for what it is today, and not at what it was 40 years ago. The potential for greater commerce and new and more rewarding relationships is all there. “Take aviation for example; if you shorten the duration of flights between Thailand and Israel by three, four or five hours, it creates a dramatic change. It has a huge effect on the ability to move people and merchandise. It is a new world of opportunities and I hope people will understand it. The length of the corridor between Israel and Southeast Asia is now getting shorter and Thailand is the gate. It will enable much more tourism and much more commerce.” 70


Photo taken by Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Bilateral relations in the age of COVID “For diplomats, the COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster. At the end of the day, diplomacy is all about personal relationships. When you cannot meet people face-toface, it has a big effect on the majority of your daily tasks, as we are constantly meeting people, sitting with them, building relations and planning together. Zoom cannot take you very far into diplomacy, although it can serve some technical issues. “Nevertheless, I must say that despite the difficulties, we did manage to sign two bilateral agreements with Thailand during the pandemic. One major agreement concerns the recruitment of Thai workers to agricultural work in Israel, which continued even during the pandemic. We are the first country that enabled Thai workers to arrive after the pandemic started, which helps with the unemployment situation here in Thailand. “Since Thailand is considered a low-risk country in terms of COVID-19 infections, it was decided also when the workers arrive in Israel, they do not need to quarantine upon arrival. The second agreement is an aviation protocol that was signed in Jerusalem. Since COVID-19 started we needed to repatriate some of our nationals in Thailand, mostly tourists who were stranded here when the crisis struck and wanted to go home. “We also had Israelis in other countries like




Jerusalem – Jerusalem Old City market, an artisan store.

Cambodia or Singapore who wanted to go home. Thailand became a rallying point for Israeli nationals in the region. They came to Thailand and were flown back home from here. This is a good opportunity for me to thank the Thai MFA, who were very helpful, and also, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand. “Thailand and Israel have enjoyed an extremely good and mutually rewarding relationship for a very long time. As for trade, Thailand exports to Israel mainly fully assembled cars and electronics products. My Toyota car in Israel was made in Thailand. We export to Thailand, agricultural technology and hightech products, meaning software and cyber as well as chemicals and diamonds. COVID-19 doesn’t really affect the trade between our countries. “One good thing that resulted from the pandemic is that since it’s quite hard to leave the country I started to travel more inside Thailand. We’ve found a lot of very nice and interesting places we’d never heard of before, especially some islands. We even explored new places that even some of my Thai friends didn’t know about, like Ko Muk in Trang province. Before the crisis we had already visited many places in the North, like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son, so we decided to go to the South this time, and we enjoyed it very much.” 72


Photo taken by Noam Chen for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

That the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan would come out in the open and normalize ties with Israel used to be absolutely unthinkable. But now these countries are signatories of an initiative to make peace with Israel, and I expect that more Arab countries will follow suit.

Eilat – A panoramic view of the Eilat Marina at night.

Photo taken by Dafna Tal for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Expression of gratitude

CV of H.E. Mr Meir Shlomo

“As you can imagine since diplomacy is about building relationship, I have met so many Thai people during the last three years in Thailand, be it on a professional capacity or on a social capacity. “I also think that part of my job is getting to know the countr y and its people in Bangkok and outside of Bangkok. Since both my wife and I like travelling, it has been an interesting and joyful experience exploring the different provinces of Thailand. “Ever ywhere we went during these years, we met kind people who always tried to help and share. It may be true that some of it may have been because I’m an Ambassador, but in countless times, it happened when we just went around privately in the markets or in other different places, and found out that Thailand is indeed the land of smiles. “Yes, Thailand has amazing mountains. Yes, Thailand has amazing shrines. Yes, Thailand has amazing islands. But for us, it is the people of Thailand that made us fall in love with this wonderful countr y.”

Academic Education • 2014: PhD (summa cum laude) University Paris 8. • 1987: MA (cum laude) Mass Communications, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. • 1983: BA (cum laude) Political Science, Tel Aviv University. Professional Experience • 2014-2017: Head of the North American Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). • 2010-2014: Ambassador and Consul General and Head of the Israeli Mission, Houston, Texas, USA. • 2007-2010: Adviser on Strategic Affairs to the Division of Public Diplomacy at the MFA. • 2002-2006: Consul General and Head of Mission, New England, USA. • 1998-2002: Head of Public Diplomacy at the MFA. • 1995-1998: Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of the Embassy of Israel, India. • 1992-1995: DCM of the Embassy of Israel, Denmark. • 1989-1992: Head of Liaison Office for Academic Affairs at the MFA. • 1987-1989: DCM of the Embassy of Israel, Peru. • 1984-1987: DCM of the Embassy of Israel, El Salvador. Remark: This interview was conducted on November 2. TheBigChilli


Feature Chulabhorn Research




Baiyoke Tower II

By Maxmilian Wechsler


was the year Chulabhorn Research Institute was initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn to conduct research in biomedicine and biochemistry. American Pacific International School in Chiang Mai was established and the Constitutional Court was founded. The 88-storey, 303-meter Baiyoke Tower II was completed, making it the tallest building in Thailand. Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC) opened in Bang Na district of Bangkok, as did the CentralPlaza shopping center on Rama 3 Road and Emporium luxury shopping mall on Sukhumvit Road. 74


The seventh leg of our 10-part tour of major events shaping Thailand over the past 50 years begins in 1997. The November issue covered 1992-1996. And 1997 was also the year Thailand was ground zero for a devastating economic crisis that rocked East Asia and spilled over to Eastern Europe and South America. For details on the crisis, see The BigChilli January 2018 issue: ‘Tom Yum Kung’ financial crisis that shocked the world and ended Thailand’s status as an Asian Tiger economy. the_bigchilli_january_2018

Januar y • Princess Mother Memorial Park, also called Suan Somdet Ya, was opened on January 21 by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in remembrance of his mother, Princess Srinagarindra. Operated by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the park is located in Khlong San district of Bangkok and contains gardens and a reproduction of the royal mother’s home, two exhibition halls showing

1997 (January) Prince ss Mother Memorial Par k

• Police arrested three men on charges of collaborating to embezzle 600 million baht from Bangkok Bank of Commerce (BBC). One of those arrested was Krikkiat Jalichandra, former president of BBC.

memorabilia of the royal family and a pavilion with April a statue of the princess. • Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh • A crowd of over branded Pattaya as net 1997 (January) Pla k 3,000 enthusiastic film Thailand’s ‘greatest T Hollywood Bangko fans turned out to mingle source of evil’. He said s with stars Sylvester Stallone, prostitution, drug dealing, moneyBruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, laundering and other pernicious Cindy Crawford, Jean Claude activities were Van Damme and Jackie Chan at prevalent there the opening of Planet Hollywood and needed to be restaurant in Bangkok. tackled to prevent the corruption • A Karen armed group crossed of Thai society. into Thailand from Burma and Chavalit disclosed burned down two refugee camps that he had 1997 (April) in Tak province, leaving about ‘sneaked’ into Chavalit Yongchaiyudh 10,000 Karen refugees homeless. the beach resort The group of about 300 fighters only to be confronted with all forms attempted to destroy a third camp of vice. He also said that Pattaya but was prevented from doing so was known as a place where drug by the Thai Border Patrol Police. dealers laundered tens of billions The three coordinated attacks of baht and expressed the concern on Thai soil were conducted by that they might use their profits to the pro-Burmese government bring about the collapse of society. Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, 1997 (September) reportedly with the blessings of Road Bangkok Elevated Burmese troops stationed along and Rail System the border. Februar y • Tiger Woods won the Asian Honda Classic golf tournament at the Thai Country September Club in Chacheongsao • The Transport and province. It was Woods’ Communications Ministry fourth victory in 12 announced that after six 1997 (February) Tig er tournaments played years of delays the US$3.3 Woods Honda Classic since he turned billion Hopewell project professional in August 1996. The was to be scrapped. The cabinet US-born Woods has a Thai mother. cancelled the contract after

growing concerns Hong Kongbased Hopewell Holdings would not be able to deliver the Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System in a timely fashion. Hopewell initially denied the project had been scrapped, saying it had not received any official notice from the Thai government. Hopewell chairman Sir Gordon Wu said the company had fulfilled its commitment to construct 60 km of roads and rails. The abandonment of the project left over one thousand concrete pillars standing for no apparent purpose along the planned routes. The Bangkok Post described the spectacle as Bangkok’s version of Stonehenge. October • The 1997 Constitution was enacted on October 11, replacing the 1991 Constitution. Hailed as a landmark for democracy in Thailand, the much-loved 1997 Constitution was repealed by the Council for Democratic Reform on September 16, 2006, following a successful military coup. It was replaced by the 2006 Constitution on October 1 of that year. • A total of 21,347 unclaimed corpses were loaded by charity workers into giant bamboo baskets and transported by vans to a temporary burial site about 50 km from Bangkok. The decomposed remains were mostly those of victims of road accidents and homeless people whose relatives couldn’t be found. Ang

el Airline

1998 saw the founding of conglomerate BEC-TERO Entertainment Company and the opening of the first TheBigChilli



Feature first 535 passenger cars, pick-up trucks and vans put up for sale by the Financial Restructuring Rajamangala National Stadium Authority. Among the Starbucks coffee in Bangkok. bargains were 30 Mercedes-Benz, Tesco Lotus also came to Thailand three BMWs and one Ferrari. and Angel Airlines took flight with its headquarters in Bangkok. March Harrow International School was • Police opened in Don Muang district launched an and the giant IMPACT Arena, investigation into Exhibition and Convention Center a nightclub brawl was completed in Muang Thong tthat involved 1998 (March) Thani. The Rajamangala National Wanc W Wanchalerm halerm Yubamrung Stadium in Bangkapi district of Y Yubamrung, the Bangkok was opened to the public, son of Muan Chon party leader as was Thammasat Stadium in Chalerm Yubamrung. Witnesses Pathum Thani. said Wanchalerm took part in an assault on a man, his son and a Januar y woman during a melee at Future • The Thai baht fell to an all-time Pub in the Chao Phraya Park Hotel low of 56.67 to the dollar. Currency in Bangkok. Wanchalerm, who dealers said the collapse of the denied involvement in the brawl at baht was precipitated by the Future Pub, had previously been failure of Finance One, Thailand’s implicated in the April 1997 assault largest finance company, and of a man in Phuket in April 1997. the continuing demand for US Criminal charges stemming currency. from that incident against Wanchalerm and four other men Februar y were dropped in June due to • A transvestite boxer insufficient evidence. created a stir at Lumpini Stadium by refusing to April strip at a weigh-in as • About 10,000 people visited required by regulations. Lumpini Park to glimpse an Crying profoundly, Parinya ancient relic of the Lord Buddha. 1998 (February) Parinya Charoenp Charoenphol, nicknamed The relic – a tooth believed to have hol Toom, also known by the been salvaged from the Buddha’s T stage name Parinta Kiatbusaba ashes after his cremation in India said: “The rule is unacceptable. more than 2,500 years ago went How can I strip in public?” Parinya on public display during a transit had made quite a name from bouts stop between India and Taiwan. in the provinces before being offered the big fight in Bangkok. • Prime Minister The officials were won over by Chuan Leekpai Parinya’s remonstrations and responded to the allowed the 16-year-old boxer to death of Cambodia wear underwear for the weighdespot Pol Pot by in. Parinya won 18 of 22 fights, 1998 (April) Prime saying that the Minister Chuan Leekpai including the one at Lumpini Thai government Stadium that night. ld cooperate with the world would community in bringing the • Over 20,000 people flocked to remaining Khmer Rouge leaders three auction houses to bid for the to justice for genocide. Pol Pot, the 76


ruthless ‘brother number one’ of the Khmer Rouge, reportedly died of heart failure. June • Thailand became the first Asian country to approve the sale of Viagra. The Food and Drug Administration approved the sale in principle but imposed some restrictions, specifying that the drug could only be sold in hospitals with prescriptions written by medical specialists in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, cardiology or endocrinology, all of which may have a link to erectile dysfunction. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in Thailand said the drug was expected to sell for at least 400 baht a pill. July • Bangkok city police started to get tough with people who were smoking in public places including malls, supermarkets, government offices and buses. Violation of tobacco control laws was made punishable by a fine of 2,000 baht. Police Major General Jongrak Judhanond said after talks with health officials that police would also be checking air-conditioned restaurants that had not set aside smoking areas. (July) • Telecommunications 1998i Rak Thai Party Tha entrepreneur Thaksin Shinawatra formed Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) Party (TRT) on July 14. The party’s populist platform appealed to indebted farmers who were in dire straits as a result of the ongoing financial crisis. Promising a strong economic recovery if they came to power, the party also reached out to rural villagers and struggling business owners. • AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT), a joint venture automobile assembly firm co-owned by Ford Motor

Phuket Air

Company and Mazda Motor Corporation, began production in Rayong province. The grand opening ceremony on July 1 was attended by PM Chuan. AAT builds compact pick-up trucks and SUVs primarily for Southeast Asian markets. September • The police department began a crackdown on Thailand’s first international film festival. Police demanded that all film entrees be viewed by a censorship board before screening. Bugis Street, a film that focused on transvestites in Singapore’s notorious red-light district in 1960, had already been banned for pornography. Thai director and screenwriter Ing Kanjanavanit commented: “It’s ridiculous that Thailand has one of the freest presses in Asia but Thai cinema is one of the most censored in the world.” • The 1998 Asian Games took place in Bangkok from December 6 to 20, with 377 events in 36 sport disciplines and the participation of around 6,500 athletes. November • The government gave approval to the filming of a Hollywood adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel The Beach on Koh Phi Phi, as protesters wearing masks depicting the movie’s star Leonardo DiCaprio and flinging dollar notes into the air demonstrated outside the Bangkok offices of 20th Century Fox. Their environmental concerns were rejected by the officials, who pointed out the film’s potential to boost Thai tourism. The decision to allow filming in the national park was made by a panel chaired by Prasit Damrongchai, permanent secretary to the PM’s Office. brought the muchanticipated opening of the elevated BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line.


BTS Skytra


The Skytrain was inaugurated on December 5 in commemoration of the King’s 6th Cycle Birthday. The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) was founded. AMLO is Thailand’s key agency responsible for enforcement of money laundering and counter-terrorism financial laws. Phuket Air was established and Santichaiprakan Park on Phra Arthit Road in Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok was created. The charitable organization known as Sarnelli House Thailand began providing medical help and shelter to children affected by HIV/ AIDS and orphaned, abandoned and abused children. SF Group, a cinema and entertainment venue operator, was established. Januar y • German expat businessman Wolfgang Ulrich was accused of involvement in drug trafficking and other illegal activities. His detention for failing to pay import taxes and entering Thailand illegally led to a parliamentary brouhaha when opposition politician Chalerm Yubamrung raised his case in a non-confidence motion against interior minister Sanan Khajornprasat, repeating the German’s claim that he had spent 22 million in bribes to avoid being deported. Mr Ulrich was well known and feared in the expat community and he was known to spend a lot of time in Pattaya. Photos of him standing with Chalerm were published by the Thai media. In 2001 Mr Ulrich was deported to Germany, where he was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being charged with

duping German nationals out of two million baht for a non-existent animal rescue charity in Pattaya. April • It was decided that details of the October 14, 1973 uprising would be included in school textbooks so that young people could learn about historic events in Thailand. Deputy Education Minister Somsak Prisananantakul said that a committee had been formed to consider the matter but added: “We will not go deep into such details as listing who was killed and who was aboard the helicopter from which the students of Thammasat University were shot.” May • Suspected Burmese troops and their Karen rebel allies attacked Ban Nam Piang Din police station in Mae Hong Son province about 2 km from the Thai-Burma border. The attackers were armed with grenades and automatic weapons. According to Thai police about 20 intruders first captured a Thai villager and forced him to lead them to the police station. The intruders then surrounded the station and opened fire. Four Thai policemen manning the police station managed to escape. The Thai Narcotics Suppression Centre claimed that the rising number of border incidents over recent months were a result of Thailand’s intensified drug suppression efforts. • UNESCO declared that Thailand enjoyed freedom of the press but added the same could not be said of Thailand’s electronic media because most television and radio stations remained under control of the state and military. After the report was released, Army Commander General TheBigChilli


Feature Surayud Chulanont said the armed forces would allow independent regulators to determine whether the military should be allowed to maintain 50 broadcasting frequencies which it claimed were necessary for national security. June • The Thai cabinet approved an early retirement scheme that aimed to reducethe state work force by at least 10%, or about 120,000 jobs. The incentive package was to start at the beginning of the 2000-2001 fiscal year. An additional 20 percent would be cut from the public work force in a second round. The package approved by the Civil Service Commission was aimed to scale down bureaucracy and improve performance. August • The six-year battle for compensation by relatives of ‘Black May’ victims was lost after the Supreme Court cleared the National Peacekeeping Council of any financial responsibility. Sumalee Usiri and 38 others were demanding 17.7 million baht in damages from the Royal Thai Army and the Police Department, along with General Suchinda Kraprayoon, former air force commander Kaset Rojananil and former interior minister General Issarapong Noonpakdi. The relatives argued that the three leaders of the military junta authorized the use of force to suppress prodemocracy demonstrators and ordered the crushing of peaceful demonstrations in May 1992. The defendants countered that the plaintiffs failed to show they had ordered any killings and claimed that force had been necessary to contain violent protesters. September • ML Bua Kityakara, mother of 78


1999 (September) HM King Bhumibol and Jiang Zemin

Queen Sirikit, passed away. The Royal Household Bureau issued a statement saying King Bhumibol was greatly saddened by the death. The King said ML Bua (also known as Khun Tan) had always shown him and other members of the royal family great kindness. Because she was of royal birth, she was granted a royal urn for her funeral. Her body was placed in Sala Thai Samakorn Hall in the Grand Palace and a 15-day morning period was announced. ML Bua was born in November 1909. • Chinese President Jiang Zemin pledged to work for ‘even healthier’ Sino- Thai relations while on a state visit to Thailand. Jiang received a red carpet welcome upon arrival at Don Muang airport, where the King and Queen and PM Chuan were on hand to greet him. Jiang was accompanied by an entourage of 180 people. He was the third Chinese president to visit Thailand since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1975. His predecessors Li Xiannian and Yang Shankung visited Thailand in 1985 and 1991 respectively. • Organizers of the Bangkok Film Festival refused to cut scenes from the Dutch film Jesus is a Palestinian and said they would hold a free screening to avoid violating censorship laws. Film festival director Brian Bennett said police indicated the film would have to be cancelled unless a sex scene was cut. “We looked at the law and there’s a caveat that says as long as you don’t sell tickets, the police can’t fine or jail you. We are going to buy all the tickets and make it a free screening,’’ Bennett said. Police forced the withdrawal

of two films from the first Bangkok Film Festival in 1998. November • Environmentalists and filmmakers were once again fighting over Koh Phi Phi, where 20th Century Fox filmed the The Beach the previous year. A group called Friends of Ao Maya (Maya Bay, where most of the filming was done) said the movie crew had left the formerly pristine beach damaged and eroded. One British newspaper described Maya Bay as ‘a forlorn scene of ugly bamboo fences and dead plants’. Earlier in the year environmentalists had sought an emergency court order to halt filming, claiming that production crews had destroyed the beach by planting 100 coconut trees and uprooting natural vegetation. The Civil Court turned down the request to halt filming. • The Foreign Business Act BE 2542 (1999) was enacted to limit foreign ownership in certain Thai industries. Among other regulations, the law criminalized the practice of offering up Thai ‘nominees’ to hold shares on behalf of a foreigner. A nominee could be fined 100,000 to one million baht and face up to three years in prison. October • Wat Phra Dhammakaya abbot Phra Dhammachao 1999 (October) and three of his closest Phra Dhammachao aides reported to the police to face embezzlement charges. They were indicted after many allegations surfaced against the controversial temple. The abbot and his aides were accused of diverting temple funds to buy land in Phetchabun province worth more than 40 million baht. The temple was also linked to about 100 shell companies set up by relatives of senior monks at the temple. Wat Phra Dhammakaya

had set up about 30 affiliated temples worldwide and was in the process of acquiring an old church in Chicago to convert into an international meditation center. In April an alliance of about 30 religious groups asked the Sangha Council to consider disrobing the abbot, claiming that his temple’s activities had damaged the country, religion and monarchy. After the abbot refused to transfer ownership of land that had been donated to the temple, the Supreme Patriarch ordered that he be defrocked. However, all charges were eventually dropped and the temple was permitted to continue operations. • Scientists were concerned about an increasing appetite among mostly rural Thais for insect snacks, saying they feared a number of species could be eaten out of existence. Researchers expressed concern after a study on edible insects in the North and Northeast found that local people had added 11 new species to their diets. Only four species were previously on record as being on the menu. November • More than 50 factories in Tak province shut down as thousands of Burmese workers were laid off ahead of an announced crackdown on illegal labor. Hundreds of workers returned to their country of origin by crossing the Moei River that divides Thailand and Burma, and thousands more took refuge near the border. The president of the Tak Chamber of Commerce, Panithi Tangpati, said employers had cut workers loose in order to avoid being charged with harboring illegal immigrants, an offence punishable by a 10-year jail term and 100,000-baht fine. December • Around 2,000 couples gathered for a mass wedding ceremony

in Nonthaburi province held to mark the new century. The event was organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and local businessmen. Most of the brides and grooms were Thais. Many foreigners pulled out due toY2K bug jitters.

National Science Museum


Bang Na Ex

2000 is the year the National Science Museum was opened to celebrate the 60th birthday of Queen Sirikit. The museum in Khlong Luang in Pathum Thani province is operated under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The 55 km, six-lane elevated Bang Na Expressway was inaugurated, making it much easier to get to Pattaya from Bangkok. Also opened was the Mall Nakhon Ratchasima, the biggest shopping center in the Northeast. A number of national parks were established including Khlong Phanom in Surat Thani province; Mae Wa in Lampang and Tak provinces; Pha Daeng (formerly Chiang Dao National Park) in Chiang Mai; Phu Sang in Chiang Rai and Phayao provinces; and Doi Pha Hom Pok in Chiang Mai. Februar y • Samut Prakan province was the scene of radiation poisoning after a cylinder containing unsecured cobalt-60, used to produce gamma rays for medical and industrial purposes, was found by a metal collector. He and other workers who were dismantling

the container were exposed to critical levels of ionizing radiation. Ten people were hospitalized and four of them subsequently died. Officials said the cylinder was labeled ‘Atomic Energy of Canada’. It was traced to Kamol Sukosol Electric. A Kamol Sukosol spokesman said one of its four radio therapy machines had been stolen from the company warehouse. • Thousands of spectators watched as five Norwegian parachutists jumped off Thailand’s tallest building, Baiyoke Tower II, to claim a world record for simultaneous base jumping. The five jumped off the 81st floor of the 84-storey building onto the fourthfloor car park of the nearby Indra Hotel, 290 meters below. • According to Bangkok Governor Bhichit Rattakul, air quality in the capital had improved. The Pollution 2000 (February) Control Department said Bhichit Rattakul carbon monoxide and tiny dust particles had been reduced compared with the 1990s. The cleaner air in Bangkok was the result of improved traffic flow and compulsory use of plastic sheets to cover big trucks transporting dirt and other loose materials. Plastic coverings were also ordered to be draped over buildings under construction. March • Police seized 100,000 counterfeit CDs from a shop in Nonthaburi province. The fake audio and video recordings included pornography. The shop owner was not at home during the raid but police said they planned to charge him with intent to sell materials that violated copyright laws. April • The government confirmed plans to construct a new airport TheBigChilli


Feature at what was called Nong Ngu Hao (‘Cobra Swamp’). Now known as Suvarnabhumi International, the airport was slated to open in 2004 and serve around 40 million passengers a year as the only international airport in the Bangkok area. At the time Don Muang airport was handling international traffic, but the New International Airport Development Committee said a single international airport would reduce costs and the Tourism Authority of Thailand agreed, saying this would avoid chaos and problems in transferring passengers, cargo and staff between two airports. Don Muang has subsequently regained limited international status. • The Public Health Ministry said television shows must remove images of actors smoking and cigarette packages had to be illustrated with forensic-style photographs of diseases caused by tobacco. Both Thai and foreign shows were required to have images of smokers’ mouths blurred, even in cartoon animations. • Chulalongkorn University Veterinary Faculty said its next cloning project was a water buffalo (kwai plak), after previously cloning a cow. The researchers said the project was appropriate because the number of Thai water buffalos was rapidly falling and warned that the animal could disappear from Thailand altogether in the future. May • News broke that Shin Corp was in the process of purchasing a major stake in independent iTV channel, raising concerns of political interference from the telecom conglomerate’s founder and TRT Party leader Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was seen as a strong contender to become the next Thai prime minister. 80


An unnamed source at iTV told the Bangkok Post: “We fear that Thaksin will dominate the television station and then exploit it for political gains.” In 1995 iTV was granted a 30-year concession to operate, but the television station was left reeling by losses incurred during the 1997 financial crisis. • PM Chuan released a 605page Defence Ministry report concerning the 1992 ‘Black May’ pro-democracy protests and massacres. The report, released with 60 percent of the details blackened out, was written by Privy Councillor and former First Army commander General Pichitr Kulavanijaya. The 17-20 May demonstrators had protested the appointment of General Suchinda Kraprayoon as PM after he toppled Chatichai Choonhavan in a 1991 coup. The government said that 44 people died, 38 disappeared and 11 were left handicapped. However, independent investigators strongly disagreed with these numbers and claimed that in fact hundreds were killed. • The Office of Environmental Policy and Planning (OEPP) said erosion was devouring the beaches of Hua Hin and Cha-am, with the sand being washed into the Gulf of Thailand. The 70-year old sea wall protecting Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, the royal retreat built by King Rama VI, was also suffering the effects of beach erosion. OEPP expert Nawarat Krairapanond said: “Nature itself does erode this coastline, but the accelerated pace is man-made.” He added that piers, buildings and other structures divert the sea’s natural flow, forcing the current to gouge nearby beaches. It was noted that the loss of gorgeous beachfront not only diminishes the country’s natural beauty, it extracts a heavy financial toll because seaside land sold for up to 10 million baht per rai.

2000 (June) June Dr Yongyuth Yuthavong • After 30 years of molecular research Dr Yongyuth Yuthavong announced the discovery of the structure of an enzyme produced by the malaria parasite called DHFR, which enabled the parasite to become resistant to drugs. (An Oxford graduate, Yongyuth is a former president of the Thai Academy of Science and Technology and remains one of Thailand’s most respected scientists.) October • Police used clubs to fight back hundreds of stone-throwing protesters in Hat Yai who opposed the approval of a joint Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline. Environmentalists claimed that the 350-km pipeline would damage the region’s ecology and deter tourists. Villagers and students stormed the venue where the 28-billionbaht pipeline was being finalized, forcing officials to flee with a police escort. At least 19 protesters and 13 police were treated for injuries and a truck carrying protesters was hit by gunfire. No one was injured in that incident and police arrested several suspects. November • About 100 former Nike employees who had lost their jobs protested in the lobby of ShangriLa Hotel in Bangkok where Tiger Woods was staying. They said that Woods was representing Nike so he should take an interest in the plight of more than 1,000 employees who were dismissed without compensation in September. Woods, whose mother is Thai and father is American, was escorted by bodyguards to his room and didn’t comment. December • Thaksin denied laundering money through stock market share sales to a foreign firm registered

Wildlife Friends • Thailand’s attempt at an School of Bangkok Foundation Thaila nd ‘independent’ television news was opened. Wildlife took a serious blow when Friends Foundation 23 iTV staff were sacked after Thailand came on the scene and protesting interference in their announced projects like animal coverage of PM Thaksin and TRT rescues and rehabilitation and party. Journalists at the station said veterinary assistance to wild they were pressured to downplay animals in Thailand. negative news about Thaksin. Januar y • General elections were held on January 6 with 500 seats at stake in the House of Representatives. With nine political parties participating, TRK won 248 seats, followed by the Democrat Party with 128 seats and New Aspiration Party with 36 seats. A total of 28,629,202 votes were cast. Thai Rak Thai entered into a coalition with New Aspiration Party. March • Thai security forces took • PM Thaksin placed new Burmese rebel twins Luther and emphasis on combating the drug Johnny Htoo and 14 others into Patra Elephant Farm trade, while insisting he wanted to custody near the border with cure addicts. “Methamphetamines Burma in Ratchaburi province. The Children's are harming our people, even twins led the 150-member strong Discovery Museum though authorities are working God’s Army, which was fighting hard to fight the scourge,” Thaksin a guerrilla war with the Burmese said. army inside Burma using Thailand as a base. April God’s Army • PM Thaksin introduced the was the year Baan Gerda caused many 30-baht health care program. By was founded. The humanitarian problems in year’s end it had expanded to non-profit organization that looks Thailand as well. 2001 (January) Luther include anti-retroviral drugs for after AIDS orphans in Thailand and Johnny Htoo HIV/AIDS. Patients who already apparently has no political or had health insurance or social religious associations. The security coverage were not eligible Bangkok Opera was founded and for the 30-baht scheme, but it Children’s Discovery Museum allowed plenty of sick poor people opened on the northern edge of the opportunity to be checked by Chatuchak Weekend Market. The doctors and given care. “The plan 24-hour music and entertainment to provide health security for all channel MTV Thailand will be achieved within my fourwas launched and year term,” Thaksin said. the National Human 2001 (Febru Rights Commission was ary) Thaksin PM • On April 18, four drug established. Patra The National Human Rights Commission traffickers were executed in Bang Februar y Elephant Farm – the Khwang prison. • Thaksin Shinawatra only elephant breeding ‘‘You have to consider the pain and became the 23rd Thai prime farm in Thailand – opened near sufferings caused by drug abuse minister on February 9 following Chiang Mai. Thai movie studio to our youth,” said Thaksin’s office the landslide victory of his TRT Phranakon Film was established minister, General Thammarak Party. and Singapore International

in the British Virgin Islands. He claimed that the transactions were legal and expressed confidence that an investigation by the auditor-general would confirm his innocence. The shares were sold to ordinary foreign investors – there was nothing unusual,” Thaksin said. He and his wife Potjaman reportedly sold millions of shares from three of their companies in August to Win Mark, which was registered in the popular island tax haven. Investigations also discovered Thaksin allegedly transferred other shares worth millions of baht to his housekeeper, driver, maid and guard.




Feature Issarangkura. who witnessed the executions. June • Tao Suranari, a Thai film portraying a Laotian king as a villain, damaged relations between the two countries. “Why can’t the Thai government stop people from doing things that are not constructive to the country,” asked Lao Chargé d’ Affaires Phouangkeo Langsy. The film showed a Lao military invasion of Thailand in 1827 led by Chao Anuwong, who was imprisoned in Bangkok but considered a great king in Laos.

2001 (July) Manchester United in Thailand

July • ‘Police arrested more than 102 alleged financial fraudsters, including many foreigners, who set up ‘boiler room’ scams to cheat unsuspecting investors. The suspects were charged with money-laundering and security fraud. The 17 Thai nationals and 85 foreigners, including 30 Britons and 14 Americans, were arrested at the offices of the Brinton Group and at Benson Dupont Capital Management. AMLO led the raids. The US Federal Bureau of Investigations and Australia’s Federal Police aided Thai investigators. • English Premiership champions Manchester United arrived amid wild cheers from thousands of Thai fans to play against the Thai national team at Rajamangala Stadium. England captain David Beckham received the most applause when he appeared in 82


public surrounded by bodyguards. October Beckham greeted the crowd with • A protest group called for a the palms of his hands placed review of a Thai-US agreement together in the traditional Thai wai. that allowed US military aircraft Manchester United won 2-1 over to use U-Tapao airbase in Rayong the national team on July 29. province near Pattaya without declaring their missions. The August Democracy Confederation • Thaksin was said the use of the airbase saved by the by American planes Constitutional while US strikes against Court, which voted Afghanistan continued 8-7 that he didn’t was ‘unwise’ and ‘inviting conceal his wealth, danger’. “We are being a charge that would dragged into what could have toppled him. be a prolonged war,” Thaksin shuffled said Senator Kiaew billions of baht Norapati, who wanted the 2001 (August) worth of government to kick the US Purachai Piosombu n shares in his bombers out altogether. corporate empire into accounts of his servants and family members. The brother of his wife, Ponjaman, had bought shares worth 737 million baht from Shinawatra’s maid in 1997. “The graft agency had no evidence to prove beyond a doubt that at the time the assets were declared Thaksin knew about 2001 (October) Duangchalerm the share transfer to his wife,” the Yubamrung court ruled. • Police were hunting with a • Bars and nightclubs were little success for Police Sub-Lt ordered to shut down at 2am Duangchalerm Yubamrung, by Interior Minister Purachai who allegedly shot dead a Piosombun as part of a campaign Crime Suppression Division against illicit sex, drugs and policeman during a scuffle at a alcohol. bar. The killing was a political disaster for his father, Chalerm September Yubamrung, deputy leader of the • PM Thaksin rejected plans New Aspiration Party which was to review the Hopewell mass the junior partner in the ruling transit project, saying it was coalition government. Several too expensive. He told railways witnesses claimed to have seen authorities to use the cash to Duangchalerm shoot Sgt Maj lay more tracks. The project Suvichai Rodwimunt in the head was scrapped in 1997 and the at point-blank range at the Twenty abandoned concrete pillars for Pub on Ratchadaphisek Road in the planned rails and road project Bangkok. Suvichai died on the that remained like monoliths spot. were scheduled to be demolished. Hopewell claimed they spent *Sources for this story include 12 billion baht constructing the archives of UPI, AFP, the Bangkok pillars. Post, The Nation and Wikipedia.

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