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w w w . t h e b i g c h i l l i . c o m Now in its 20th year. Still the favorite magazine for Thailand’s international community. Widely read here and overseas. Unique and exclusive stories about people, business, international school, embassies, hotels, restaurants and what’s happening in Thailand. Written by expats with many years’ experience of Thailand. The magazine with an inside track. Every month. The One and Only BigChilli.

PUBLISHER Colin Hastings editorbigchilli@gmail.com EDITOR Nina Hastings ninabigchilli@gmail.com SALES & MARKETING MANAGER Rojjana Rungrattwatchai sendtorose@gmail.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Thana Pongsaskulchoti thanabigchilli@gmail.com ACCOUNTING MANAGER Janjira Silapapairson janbigchilli@gmail.com ART & PRODUCTION Arthawit Pundrikapa PHOTOGRAPHY AP CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Drew McCreadie, Maxmilian Wechsler Zoe Evans, Jessica Weber and Ruth Gerson

June 2020

Contents 6 NEWS: 5G ROLL OUT 12 STAYCATIONS 14 HOME DELIVERIES 16 FOOD & BEVERAGE 20 BEAUTIFUL RESTAURANTS 22 PROFILE: GREG LANGE 26 KILLER HORSE VIRUS

42 ADVICE COLUMN 52 MODERN THAI HISTORY 60 DIPLOMATS 70 FEEDING BANGKOK’S HUNGRY

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The BigChilli Co., Ltd. 8/2 FMA Group Building, 4 Floor, Convent Road, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok, 10500.

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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.

The BigChilli Co., Ltd. 8/2 FMA Group Building, 4th Floor, Convent Road, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500. ☎ 02-635-5085, ☎ 081-358-1814 Fax: 02-635-5086 :thebigchillimagazine@gmail.com :thebigchilli.com


News

Like it or not 5G is coming for you As transmitters continue to be installed across Thailand, the controversy over the new technology rages on

T

he 5G rollout in Thailand is rapidly gaining momentum, with thousands of towers and transmitter masts suddenly popping up right across the country in all kinds of unlikely locations where they’re changing the skyline. The visual impact and lack of consultation about their installation has caught many citizens by surprise. Promoted under the slogan ‘5G The Future. is Coming for You’ in a nationwide campaign featuring Thai superstar Lisa Blackpink, these countless randomly designed antennae have appeared atop shopping malls, houses, offices, factories and warehouses, on empty plots of land and hillsides, along motorways and in the middle of rice paddies. Some buildings have transmitters placed on all four corners, though it is not always clear which may be for 5G transmission. You can also come across these giant structures, bristling with a startling array of electronic components that wouldn’t look out of place on the latest aircraft 6

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carrier, in the grounds of a hotel or in a temple compound. At the same time, some old masts currently used for 3G or 4G are being converted to this fifth generation wireless broadband. Other non-5G towers belong to CAT Telecom PCL and the Police. Those now being installed at regular points along the motorways are significantly smaller than the 5G towers and most likely will be also used to monitor traffic flow and congestion.

The launch of 5G is not without its critics and controversy, despite newspapers like the Bangkok Post lauding it as “the dawn of a whole new world for communications in Thailand.” Health issues top the list of criticisms, with activists saying the technology has not been properly tested. Some have suggested a link with the spread of Coronavirus, though this has been vigorously dismissed by the pro-5G camp. Fans meanwhile claim that 5G is up to 100 times the speed of current wireless networks, and will help drive economic growth and job creation “for decades to come.” They also insist the nonionizing radiation it emits is too weak to break chemical bonds and therefore does not pose a risk to health. A foreign electrical engineer based in Thailand has pointed out that people here are already bombarded daily with all kinds of radiofrequency radiation, from


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News

microwaves and x-rays, radio waves, wifi, electric power lines, light from a computer monitor and even light from the sun. “Whether any of this is harmful is an ongoing issue which I doubt will ever be concluded, and we won’t be around long enough to witness the conclusion or be affected by it. Remember the warnings some years ago about keeping our mobiles away from our heads? “But I do worry about the kids who are growing up today with a phone stuck to their heads.” Newly erected masts now dot the Thai countryside. A resident of Pattaya was shocked by their number at nearby Silverlake, an area of outstanding beauty. “I don’t recall seeing any of these masts a couple of months ago, and I don’t remember any notice of them being built. Now they blight the place,” he said. Overseas, the debate over the 5G rollout reached boiling point recently with activists venting their anger with protests and a series of arson attacks on cell phone towers in Holland, Canada and the UK. In the US, environmental lawyer and author Robert F. Kennedy Jnr, 8

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nephew of former president John F. Kennedy, has added heavyweight criticism of 5G by claiming the billions of dollars invested in the technology has zero to do with providing faster downloads, but all about harvesting human data for sale by major corporations. He predicts it will be also used for 24/7 surveillance of people’s lives. “They will know from your GPS, from your cellphone, from facial recognition, from cameras, where you are and what you are doing 24 hours day.”

Kennedy believes another agenda of 5G is “a push to a cashless society.” He adds: “Once that happens, they will have complete control over us.” In Thailand, the biggest operators of 5G are Advanced Info Service (AIS) through its subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network (AWN), followed by True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) and Total Access Communication (DTAC), through its subsidiary DTAC TriNet (DTN).


Photos from Bangkok, Bang Na, Bang Phli, Samut Prakan, Sattahip and Silverlake. TheBigChilli

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Review

R-HAAN EMBARKS ON

‘READY TO COOK’ JOURNEY

■ Innovating your offers and changing the way one operates are key elements in this challenging time globally, most notably for the restaurant industry. R-HAAN has done it once again by launching a ‘Ready to Cook’ delivery service. R-HAAN and renowned Chef Chumpol Jangprai has prepared a repertoire of Thai dishes. All the required ingredients are packed in a special box for everyone to enjoy cooking at home. The box comes with a cooking manual too. With one quick scan of the QR code, everyone at home can watch a cooking video of Chef Chumpol himself. He will go through the vital steps to prepare the dish, from wok to plate. If R-HAAN is not a familiar name to you, let us recap briefly. 10

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R-HAAN is a fine dining establishment founded by Khun “Todd” Piti Bhirom Bhakdi and Chef Chumpol Jangprai. As a dynamic duo, they advocate the wisdom of Thai cuisine under the concept ‘Nai Nam Mee Pla, Nai Na Mee Khao’. There are fishes in the water and rice in the fields, a saying that speaks to the great abundance and fertility of the Thai kingdom. R-HAAN is a 2-star Michelin restaurant as well. The brand is positioned as original purveyors of authentic Thai cuisine in the world. One can surely appreciate the Chef’s effort to share his experience in

the kitchen to all of us at home. Watching a celebrity chef cook and learning while we try it out almost in real-time at home, that is indeed an innovative and inspiring way to cook dinner at home. Plus you get all the ingredients, hand-chosen by Chef himself, conveniently delivered to your home. We had the privilege of dining in R-HAAN in the early days. It was a few months before the first Michelin Star was awarded. The seasonal tasting menu was an epicurean journey and an insightful experience on the places and wonders of Thailand and Thai cuisine. Buriram province


provided the beef. Sakon Nakhon some herbs, chocolates were grown in the hills in Chiangmai. Orange peels used in the sorbet were oranges planted in Nakhon Nayok. From Isan masterpieces to the fiery curries from the south, Chef Chumpol has orchestrated a symphony of taste for our enjoyment. Every plate had a story behind it. The restaurant does not use imported ingredients. Chef Chumpol sources from all over the kingdom and from a medley of choices, he turns every dinner into a journey. And as the season changes, so will

their menu to reflect the best ingredients available. Definitely a restaurant worth a detour and planning for and we are not at all surprised when he took home a second Michelin star. In fact, we are humbled and honored to have experienced his cooking throughout the years. The same dedication is reflected in the ‘Ready To Cook’ menus. The sour katuri flower soup with river prawns and vegetables is not your every day Tom Yum. It has refreshing notes provided by the flowers, almost like rustic nature in a bowl. The prawns are from the Bang Pakong river near Bangkok. The quintessential Thai green curry has Chaiya salted eggs added for a savory uplift. And the Jungle Curry dish is a nod to the north-eastern Isan region. It is a local Isan favourite. Prices are friendly and it will jazz up your Thai kitchen. Who’s ready? Let’s apron up! Full menu is on their website. 5 dishes for the opening launch, with prices starting from 290 Baht.

To Order, please check their channels below: • 064 194 6416, 095 1415524 and 02 059 0433 – 34 •Line @ChefsToGo •E-mail: reservation@r-haan.com •Website: www.R-HAAN.com •Facebook: R.HAAN / Instagram: r.haan_restaurant

Ready to Cook Menu 1. Sour Katuri Flower Soup with Bang Pakong River Prawn and Mixed Vegetables 380 Baht. 2. Stir Fried Bang Taboon Sea Shrimp with Chilli, Salt and Fish Sauce 612 Baht. 3. Green Curry with Pak Nam Pho Fish Balls and Chaiya Salted Egg 290 Baht. 4. Stir Fried Herbal Vegetables with Andaman Red Grouper 490 Baht. 5. Jungle Curry with Korat WagyuBeef Grilled with Thai Herbs 390 Baht.

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Staycation

Staycation Getaways in all-Suite Boutique Hotels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai

137 Pillars Suite & Residences is offering Thai Resident packages in its all-suite boutique hotels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Included is breakfast for two, a 25% discount on food and beverage and a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on spa treatments. In Chiang Mai, 137 Pillars House is a stunning 30 suite boutique hotel with a rich colonial past; built around the original colonial teak homestead which dates back to the 1800s. It is located in a leafy residential enclave a few minutes’ walk from the historical Watt Gate Temple, Ping River and boutique shopping area. Set in 5 rai of land, the layout of the property naturally lends itself to abundant personal space and privacy. In Bangkok, 137 Pillars Suites is located in the heart of Bangkok on Sukhumvit Soi 39. Exclusive rates for Thai residents and Thailandbased expats, for staycations from 1 July until 20 December 2020 are as follows: 137 Pillars Suite & Residences Bangkok • Sukhothai Suite: THB 9,900 per night (75 sqm) • Ayutthaya Suite: THB 11,900 per night (95 sqm) 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai • Rajah Brooke Suite: THB 9,900 per night (70 sqm) • East Borneo Suite: THB 11,900 per night (75 sqm) visit www.137pillarsbangkok.com or www.137pillarschiangmai.com Tel: (02) 079 7000

Delectable Staycation at Conrad Bangkok

Conrad Bangkok is offering a staycation package featuring its newly renovated Executive Room with Executive Lounge access at THB 5,000 for one person which includes a complimentary ‘all-you-can-eat’ dim sum lunch at Liu, the hotel’s famous Chinese -Cantonese restaurant. Tel: +66 (0) 2690 9999 Email: bkkci.info@conradhotels.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/conradbangkokhotel Instagram: www.instagram.com/conradbangkokhotel 12

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Beyond Bangkok

Erawan Group offers up to 50% discount in hotels across Thailand. Novotel, Mercure and ibis Erawan Thailand is offering a room voucher with up to 50% discount on the best available rate. Available at 16 hotels under the Accor brands in Thailand’s six most attractive destinations, including Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui. Deals start from THB 589 net per room per night for two persons (excluding breakfast). Available until 8 June 2020; Staying Period  1st August – 23 December 2020. www.facebook.com/ibisthailand/ www.facebook.com/MercurePattayaOceanResort/ www.facebook.com/MercureBangkokSiam/ www.facebook.com/mercurebangkoksukhumvit24/ www.facebook.com/NovotelBangkokSukhumvit4/

Escape plan at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin

Hyatt Regency Hua Hin and THE BARAI are offering the following rates in its newly renovated rooms:  Hyatt Guestroom THB 3,500 nett per room, per night, Deluxe Room THB 4,800 nett, Deluxe Pool Access THB 5,300 nett, Regency Club Room THB 5,800 nett and THE BARAI Balcony Suite THB 16,000 nett. Included is complimentary breakfast for two adults and one child (under 12 years of age), two spa vouchers worth THB 1,000 nett, per voucher at THE BARAI Spa and a 15% discount at its F&B outlets such as Figs Italian Restaurant, McFarland House and You & Mee Poolside Restaurant. Available from now until 15 June 2020 for stays through 31 July 2020.  Visit https://bit.ly/2Wxjxva or www.hyattregencyhuahin.com and quote “Thai” in special offer code.

Marriott back in action in Hua Hin

Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa is welcoming guests back to Thailand’s golden gulf coast with a special promotion for Thai residents and expats. Guests who book a Superior room, Deluxe Sea View room or Deluxe Pool Access room will enjoy daily breakfast for two people, early 10am check-in and late 6pm check-out. This promotion is valid for bookings and stays between now and 30 June 2020, and rates start from THB 5,000 net per night. Amber Kitchen, the all-day dining restaurant, will serve an à la carte menu of local and international dishes from 6.30am – 11pm, while Siam Bakery, the casual café, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (8am – 7pm). The hotel’s Pool Bar is also open for refreshing daytime drinks and light snacks (10am – 9pm). Alcoholic beverages are available for takeaway only and may not be consumed in the restaurants until further notice. Some hotel facilities will remain closed though, including Big Fish & Bar, the Lobby Lounge and Kid’s Club. Contact www.huahinmarriott.com or call 032 904 666

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More choices with Centara signature takeaway menus Centara Grand at CentralWorld now offers a delicious range of popular dishes for takeaway, including home-style Thai & Western cuisines, Chinese, and Spanish favourites. Each takeaway box is priced at THB 188 net, which includes one free bottled water. The minimum for each order is two boxes. Top choices: Pad Woosen Box, Beef Lasagna Box, Salmon Lunch Box, Phad Krapao Box, and more. Free delivery within a one-kilometre radius; add THB 20 per additional kilometre. With every food order, a Centara Health Check reference card for the chef who prepared your meal is provided. All employees have their body temperatures checked before work each day. Operating Time: 07.00 a.m. to 19.30 p.m. every day. For more information, please contact Centara Grand at CentralWorld by e-mail diningcgcw@chr.co.th or call 02-100-1234 ext. 5988

Order food from Chatrium Riverside - and get one night free stay

Send us your home delivery service for free promotion in the BigChilli at editorbigchilli@gmail.com 14

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Place an order for food delivered from Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok valued at a minimum of THB 2,020 and receive a complimentary voucher for a one-night stay in a Grand Room. Dishes include Szechuan Soup, Hong Kong Roasted Duck, Seafood Fried Rice with X.O. Sauce, Squid Ink Linguine, Kurobuta Pork Chop, Tom Yum Goong, Steamed Dumplings, Steamed Buns and much more. Visit LINE store at https://shop. line.me/@chatriumriverside The promotion is valid until 30th June 2020 for stays until 31st July 2020. Tel: 0 2307 8888


From Pattaya to Bangkok, PIPPA’s favorite dishes PIPPA, a rooftop destination located on top of MYTT Beach Hotel Pattaya, is bringing a wide selection of its popular menu to Bangkok for delivery. The menu includes signature dishes likes Tomahawk steak, sushi rolls, signature soups and salads, surf & turf, a variety of creative pasta dishes, and more share plates as well as desserts. Lunch sets are also available at THB 1,250. Free delivery in Bangkok with a minimum order at THB 1,000  Contact Line: @pipparestaurant, tel. 092-8712525 or https://www.facebook.com/ pipparestaurant/

Discover the Taste of “Saint Tropez Bun” at Zing Bakery Chef Nok Nuntida’s delicious Saint Tropez Bun is now available from Zing Bakery, Centara Grand at CentralWorld (for take-away orders only). Each box comes with four buns in four flavours for THB 299 net only. Ordering via GrabFood > https://bit.ly/3cGylOe Lineman   > https://bit.ly/2K6hwAb Email diningcgcw@chr.co.th or call 02-100-1234 Ext. 5988

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Food& Drink

Bangkok’s hottest dining deals and news

ALATi returns with ‘Up the Road’ menu

ALATi, the Mediterranean restaurant at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, has reopened with a takeaway and delivery menu designed for comfortable eating and sharing at workplaces and homes. ‘ALATi Up the Road’ offers top-quality, flavoursome dishes, such as Spiced Lamb and Pistachio Flatbread, Pumpkin Hummus, Burrata & Muhammara, Truffle Chicken Liver Pâté, Falafel or Chicken Gyros Pitta, Cavatelli Bolognese and many more. Dishes from this new menu are available daily from 12:00 noon to 19:30 hrs. Diners enjoy a 10% discount when ordering direct, and ALATi offers free delivery within the Bangkok Metropolitan Area for orders over THB 800 net. ALATi Up the Road is also available now via LINE MAN and will be available via foodpanda by the end of May 2020. ALATi is located on the lobby floor of Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok and opens daily from 12:00 noon to 20:00 hrs. For more information or to make a reservation, please contact ALATi on +662 162 9000 or email alati.siambangkok@kempinski.com.

Octave and 57th Street Reopen at Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit

Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit has reopened two of its most popular restaurants; Octave restaurant and 57th Street restaurant. Octave on the 45th floor offers an enticing food menu and non-alcoholic drinks, while 57th Street features a full a-la-carte menu for lunch and dinner. Both restaurants maintain strict hygiene and social distancing practices. For the safety and health of all guests, the restaurants are limiting seating capacity. Please call to make a reservation in advance. Octave restaurant is open daily from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm and the last order is at 8:00 pm. 57th Street restaurant is open daily from 6:00 am - 9:00 pm and the last order is at 8:00 pm. For further information and reservations, please call 02-797-0000 or email to diningbangkok@marriott.com 16

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Discover Red Sky’s super affordable Set Lunch Menu

Siam Tea Room reopens at Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park

Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park has announced delighted the reopening of Siam Tea Room, the hotel’s authentic Thai restaurant. Located on the hotel’s ground floor, on Sukhumvit Soi 22, Siam Tea Room now operates every day from 08.00 to 20.00 hrs, serving an à la carte menu to dine-in and takeaway. Recommended dishes include Si Klong Moo Aob (baked freerange pork ribs with ground roasted rice and spicy tamarind glaze), Massaman Nuea (creamy red coconut curry with slowcooked beef, crushed peanuts, lotus seeds and potato) and our all-time favorite dessert, Kanom Pang Sangkhaya (toasted buttered brioche bread with creamy pandan custard and fresh young coconut). Contact +66 (0) 2 059 5999 or email restaurant-reservations.bkkqp@ marriotthotels.com. Or connect with us via these channels: Website: www. bangkokmarriottmarquisqueenspark. com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ siamtearoom/ Line official account: @siamtearoom 18

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Dine at Red Sky, Bangkok’s most iconic rooftop restaurant at Centara Grand at CentralWorld for a perfect weekday lunch treat on the 55th floor above the heart of the city. Chef De Cuisine-Red Sky Christian Ham has specially prepared a wide range of delicious two, three and fourcourse set lunch menu at very affordable prices normally not associated with rooftop dining. For this special promotion, you may select a starter plus a main dish or a main dish and a dessert for THB 855++, select three courses for THB 1,055++, or select from all four courses for just THB 1,255++ Call 02-100-6255 or email diningcgcw@chr.co.th •Website: www. centarahotelsresorts.com/redsky •Facebook: Red Sky Bangkok •Instagram: redskybkk_centara

Succulent Beefy Bites at Up & Above Restaurant

Meaty culinary delights await carnivores at Up & Above Restaurant at The Okura Prestige Bangkok this spring as perfectly aged prime cuts from particularly Japan, Australia and Argentina feature on a Butcher Specials menu from 1 July – 30 September 2020. Cooked to preferred tenderness and served with a choice of traditional sauces, steaks such as wagyu oyster blade from Japan, Black Angus tenderloin and Tasmanian wagyu from Australia and Lomo Pampa tenderloin from Argentina are accompanied by a toothsome side dish from a choice that includes seasonal salad, potato gratin, Mediterranean grilled vegetables, and hand-cut fries. The Butcher Specials menu is available daily from 12:30 – 22:30, 1 July – 30 September 2020, at Up & Above Restaurant. Prices are from 750++ to 3,800++. Up & Above Restaurant is located on the 24th floor of The Okura Prestige Bangkok. Contact 02 687 9000 or email upandabove@okurabangkok.com, or book on our website www.okurabangkok.com


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Dining

Beautiful Restaurants

Whisgars Sukhumvit 23

As Bangkok’s best-stocked whisky and cigar lounge, Whisgars has the style and discreet luxury of a classic gentlemen's speakeasy. But with a schedule of contemporary live Jazz & Blues Wednesday to Saturday, the entertainment, service and crowd are distinctly hip, well-heeled and urban. Specialising in rare, single-cask, high-end whiskies, expertly mixed cocktails, and premium hand-rolled cigars, Whisgars currently offers 13 different flights of whisky for knowledge & tasting, and also boasts a vintage-themed VIP room for private bookings. The cigar collection is focused on South America including Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Honduras. A selection of Cuban cigars is available upon request. 20

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Location: 16, Soi Sukhumvit 23, Khlong Toei Nuea, Bangkok, Thailand 10110 Tel.: +662 664 4252 Website: www.Whisgars.com For reservation, please contact: Tel. : +662 664 4252 Email: michael.lin@whisgars.com or jane@whisgars.com


In this monthly column, The BigChilli celebrates restaurants in Thailand that excel in their design as well as their cuisine. Dining in beautiful surroundings is regarded by many as a key element in their choice of restaurant for lunch or dinner. It sets and maintains the mood for a memorable dining experience — and is often the main reason for a return visit. The purpose of this photo feature is therefore to pay homage to those owners who have invested in creating a Beautiful Restaurant for the pleasure of Bangkok’s diners.

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Beautiful

R E S TA U R A N T S

Rossano's Italian Cuisine

Location: 167 Soi Sukhumvit 21/3, Asok Montri Road, Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110 For reservation, please contact: Tel.: 02 260 1861 http://rossanosbangkok.com www.facebook.com/rossanosItalianRestaurant https://www.instagram.com/rossanos_ bangkok/

Tracing its roots back to Bangkok’s original Italian restaurant, Rossano’s fulfills a long-established tradition of Italian cuisine, ambience and service. Gennari Rossano opened L’Opera in 1984, changing fine dining in Thailand’s capital forever. In 2005, he sold L’Opera and retired to Bang Saray. But he couldn’t stay away from the kitchen, and three years later Rossano returned to Bangkok to open his namesake cucina, injecting it with the same essence that had made his earlier restaurants famous. Now nestled in a tree-shaded enclave on Soi 21/3 off Asoke Montri Road, Rossano’s exudes the charm of an Italian taverna, with two private dining rooms, soft lighting and wall niches lined with grappa bottles. The menu - now under the loving care of Exclusive Chef Francesco Brocca and General Manager Giorgio Lattuille - will gently remind you of Gennari’s values, the vivacity of Italian dining and the passionate energy of their cucina. TheBigChilli

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Profile

Profile

GREG LANGE A

merican entrepreneur Greg Lange, owner of the Sunrise Tacos chain of Mexican restaurants and a number of Subway outlets in Bangkok, is a volunteer providing hot meals, bags of rice and other supplies to hundreds of needy families during the current Coronavirus lockdown. He volunteers with the group “Dinner From the Sky” and shares the experience on a personal Facebook blog called “ Bangkok Community Help “ where he also reaches out to those on a individual basis who may need help. It’s an experience that has filled Greg with a range of emotions. One moment he’s talking of the “heartbreaking” visit to the slums in Klong Toey and other lesser known but equally deprived areas of Bangkok, and the next he’s relating how he’s moved by the kindness of his fellow volunteers and the 22

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genuine gratitude expressed by the people who wait in line quietly and patiently for these vital supplies. “They are so desperate, but so thankful,” he says. “People are always extremely polite, even when we run out of food to give them,” says Greg, adding that he tries to keep a few ‘extras’ on the side so as not to disappoint the last few in the queue. Sadly, there’s no sign of the current situation easing in the near future, which will require Greg and others to continue their good work. “One meal doesn’t solve the problem,” he says. Name: Greg Lange. Age: 61. Born: Nebraska, USA. Family: Two kids in the US, John 23 and Stephanie 27. Education: University of Nebraska.


Languages: English and a little Thai, Spanish and German. When did you arrive in Thailand? 2001. What’s your job in Thailand? Owner of restaurants – Sunrise Tacos and majority shareholder of a company that owns 12 Subway outlets. Before that? In the US, I was for many years in the brokerage business. When I first arrived in Thailand, I owned a business brokerage, Sunbelt Asia, which is part of a worldwide chain of 280 such businesses. One of my customers was Subway, the sandwich franchise. After interviewing 365 candidates on behalf of the company in Thailand, I thought “I could do that” and I did. That was back in 2002. Incidentally, note the letters ‘SU’ at the start of all my companies’ names!! Why go into the food business? Easy – I love food. And when we started Sunrise Tacos, there weren’t many Mexican restaurants in Bangkok. What brought you here? I met a Thai lady – like most foreign guys. She was a vice-president in a major company here, and helped me set up my business brokerage. We’re no longer together. New partner now is Ammy, also a Thai. We both love business, as well as travel and see the World but always love coming back to Bangkok. Where do you live? A condo on Sukhumvit Soi 10. What’s keeping you here? Sunrise Tacos. I love the business. And I enjoy Thailand, everything about it: the people, expats as well as Thais. I feel alive here.

Any plans to expand your chain of Sunrise Tacos? Currently we have 10 outlets and are looking for more, especially delivery points. Your favorite cuisine? Mexican, of course. Beer or wine? Beer. Whisky or margarita? Margarita. That’s easy. What are the highlights of your time in Thailand? Definitely witnessing so much kindness as we hand out food and food packages to the poor and needy during the Coronavirus 19 lockdown. How the volunteers and all the people have come together at this time. And I’ll never forget the gratitude of those we have helped. Any low points? As an entrepreneur for many years, we’ve had many challenges thrown at us – the coups, lockdown at the airport, floods, Sars, Bird Flu, you name it. Now we have this virus, which is a low point but the way people have come together is actually a high point. Everybody was saying last year that 2020 was going to be great year. Any advice for newcomers to Bangkok? Anybody who does well in business here would do just as well anywhere in the world. It’s nothing to do with luck – you have to make your own luck. Best thing about Bangkok? The feeling of being alive – it’s a living, breathing city, and until recently, this went on 24 hours a day. Worst thing? The traffic, of course. Your favorite Bangkok restaurants (apart from your own)? Have A Zeed in Terminal 21, Bully’s pub and Suda, a simple Thai restaurant on Sukhumvit 14. Any favorite getaways? Ko Lipe in southern Thailand, and Khao Yai. Best friends: Many. Friso, Paul and Dee were all friends of mine before, now after working together as volunteers, we have all become best friends. My girlfriend Ammy and I are frequent visitors to the UK, we also have a lot of British friends over there. We love the small villages and countryside. What do you do in your free time? I don’t have much free time now, with helping others most days, but I enjoy reading on the Internet and debating online various topics. Ammy and I always love to travel, two months every year. We usually are in Europe around this time, it’s a perfect time. How has the lockdown impacted you and your business? Well, for the past two months our restaurants have been mostly empty, but our home delivery business is doing very well and why we are looking to expand to other parts of Bangkok. What have you learned about yourself and life during this lockdown? I enjoy giving to people. I am also one of those who is pro-government in this lockdown. I believe the numbers they tell us and although they have made some mistakes, I think they’re doing a good job. TheBigChilli

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Profile

How are people in general coping with the lockdown? The problems haven’t gone away. People are out of work. What will happen after the lockdown? The good old days won’t be coming back anytime soon. How long can you continue to be a volunteer helping others ? Before covid, I sponsored five kids in the slums. Poverty is just not going to go away. If you like to also help. Pls checkout https://www. weeboon.com/en/campaign/5-kilo-of-rice-and-cannedfoodFor you, is Thailand for life? Yes. Finally, on a different note, Trump of Johnson as a leader of a countr y? Johnson. His passion is inspirational. 24

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Feature

Thailand's horse industry devastated as African virus spreads By Maxmilian Wechsler

Thai media first reported the mysterious deaths of 42 horses in Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima province on March 27. The deaths were soon attributed to the African horse sickness (AHS) virus. News of the outbreak spread quickly around the world, causing grave concern in several countries. In fact, it was back in February 24 when the first horse died from this viral disease. The death toll in 12 Thai provinces now stands at 550 and counting. 26

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■ Coming as it does in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the appearance of AHS is yet another source of public concern. Fortunately, unlike COVID-19 it poses no danger to humans. While the rate of new AHS infections and deaths has gone down significantly, experts caution that for now emergency measures put in place to halt the spread of the virus in Thailand must remain in place. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), with headquarters in Paris, France, was notified of the emergence of the AHS virus in Thailand on March 27 by Dr Sorravis Thaneto, Director General of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Dr Sorravis, who supplied the OIE with vital information, has since been sending regular weekly updates to the organization. Dr Sorravis told reporters on May 15 that the first horse death occurred on February 24, but horse owners and veterinarians did not report it to the livestock department. “Once informed, we immediately sent the team to investigate the incident and collect samples on March 26. Then we enforced restrictions on the movement of equine species and introduced biosecurity measures, including vaccination,” he said. He also mentioned that his department acquired 4,000 doses of AHS vaccine from Maxwin, an animal feed company, and has recently imported the next batch. “There are around 13,000 horses nationwide. We have vaccinated nearly 4,000 horses and we inoculate another 4,000 in the epicenter of the disease and its 50-km radius,” added Dr Sorravis. He assured that the investigation must be thorough and the department needs more information to determine the cause of the AHS outbreak. African Plague AHS, also called African Plague, is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen, from where it has occasionally spread to North Africa, Europe and other areas of the Middle East. The most recent outbreak in Europe was in Spain from 1987-1990 and Portugal in 1989. The sickness was apparently introduced by zebras imported to a Spanish zoo and then spread throughout the two countries. Around 3,000 animals, mostly riding horses, died in the outbreak. AHS is an insect-borne viral disease spread by various vectors including tiny blood-sucking midges of the genus Culicoides, as well as certain mosquitos. AHS affects all members of the Equidae family (horses, mules, donkeys, zebras and potentially camels). Dogs can also become sick by eating meat from an infected animal. Horses are most susceptible

Dr Sorravis Thaneto, Director General of the Department of Livestock Development.

to the virus, with more than 90% dying after infection. There are nine known serotypes of the virus. Symptoms of AHS include a fever exceeding 38.5 degrees Celsius, stuffy snout with a discharge, breathing difficulties, pale gums, drooling, fatigue, severe depression, coughing, redness or bleeding in the eyes, swollen faces and finally sudden death. Horses at Pak Chong were also noted to have a severe loss of appetite. Defense measures The current outbreak marks the first time AHS has been confirmed in Thailand. After horses began dying in Pak Chong in February, the DLD conducted an investigation and identified AHS as the cause. Together with Thailand Equestrian Federation (TEF), the DLD immediately set up a quarantine zone with travel restrictions and an online site for horse ownerbased disease reporting. It was immediately suspected that zebras might be the source of the outbreak. They DLD and TEF asked everyone in Thailand who owns or handles zebras to cooperate in measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The DLD sent out units to monitor horses and isolate those that appeared sick. Transportation of horses or other members of the horse family was forbidden within a150 kilometer radius of the initial outbreak. Other instructions for preventative measures have been given, such as putting mosquito nets in place to curtail movement of insects that may carry the disease, destroying horse manure, eradicating breeding grounds for insects, disinfecting all stables and transportation equipment, and banning the use of TheBigChilli

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water from public spaces for horses’ consumption. Horse owners and handlers are required to immediately report any sickness or sudden deaths of horses to the DLD. The Ministry of Agriculture issued an order on April 8 banning the movement of all horses in the country for 90 days. The ministry also instructed the Livestock Department and the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to seek solutions to end the outbreak. The government has banned the import and export of horses, zebras and all related animals. 28

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Officials from the Nakhon Ratchasima provincial livestock development has been assigned to spray disinfectant at the 29 horse farms, which have 654 horses, in Pak Chong district, and all other farms in Muang district. Live stock officers have been collecting samples from the same family such as donkeys, zebras and camels at Nakhon Ratchasima zoo for testing. All farms in Nakhon Ratchasima province have given full cooperation to provincial authorities by not moving their animals According to Phasawi Somchai, chief of Nakhon


Some 11,800 horses in Thailand are owned by the private sector, kept mostly for racing and leisure riding by tourists and their owners. Thai veterinarians say all of these horses are at risk unless they are quickly vaccinated en masse.

Ratchasimas’ livestock development office there are 2,036 registered horses in the province. Deepest sympathy The Horse website quotes TEF veterinary adviser Dr Metha Chanda as saying: “Our deepest sympathy goes out to those who have lost horses due to this terrible virus. We are monitoring the situation closely and we will continue to update everyone and follow all protocols in order to best protect all horses in Thailand.”

Dr Chanda added that the reaction of the TEF to the AHS outbreak has been swift, and all members of the organization were instructed to restrict horse movements and follow all relevant measures advised by the DLD. It was Dr Chandra that informed International Equestrian Federation for Sports (FEI) veterinary director Dr Göran Akerström on March 28 of the outbreak and its confirmation by the DLD. The FEI is located in Lausanne, Switzerland. On March 31, provincial livestock development chief Pasawee Somjai confirmed that tests on tissue samples of 73 horses that died in Pak Chong district revealed AHS as the causative agent. The tests were done by the National Institute of Animal Health in Bangkok. Mr Pasawee said it was still not known how the disease came to be in Pak Chong district. Dr Nopadol Saropala, a ranch owner in Pak Chong district, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Bumrungrad International Hospital, is among those who believe the disease was brought into Thailand by zebras that entered the country at the beginning of the year. Some horse farm owners have also told the DLD that they suspect zebras imported from Africa are the most likely source. Dr Saropola closed his business and temporary suspending service like horse riding training. The death of his 18 horses has cost him more than 10 million baht. One other horse farm owner in Pak Chong district said that AHS killed 60 out of his 148 racehorses costing him over 30 million baht. TheBigChilli

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Calls for help On May 5 renowned Thai veterinarian Dr Siraya Chunekamrai said help from local and international sources is urgently is needed to contain what she called a horse welfare disaster, adding that it had already killed 500 horses in Thailand and has the potential to kill thousands more. The equine specialist on the team leading Thailand's response told VIN News Service that the horse mortality rate so far stands at 95%, indicating that this is a particularly deadly strain. Dr Siraya is chairwoman of the Lampang Pony Welfare Foundation and vice-president of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. She is treating many affected animals herself and also leading vaccination efforts by equine veterinary volunteers in the country. Dr Sraya has launched an international fundraising appeal to support the purchase of essential tools in the fight against AHS, including nets to protect horses from the midges that spread the disease. “We would be grateful for any donations to support our work at this difficult and heartbreaking time,” she said. The International Coalition of Working Equids (ICWE) has offered support to owners of working horses, donkeys and mules in Thailand.

the poorest workers in the region who rely on working horses, donkeys, and mules.” Australian authorities are concerned about the possibility that, if the outbreak is not controlled, infected wind-borne midges might blow south across waterways and light on the herds of island nations, and gradually island-hop their way all the way to Australia. The country has more than one million racing, sport, and feral horses. Chief Veterinary Officer Mark Schipp said Australia is engaging with other countries to develop a regional response to the outbreak. According to a Reuters report, China’s agricultural ministry is taking samples from horses along its southern border to check for AHS. Cambodia has begun preventive measures along its western border with Thailand. Cambodian officials continue to monitor the country’s borders and have started netting in areas bordering Thailand, according to members of the Cambodian Pony Welfare Organization. Dr Siraya said horse farms in Sa Kaew, Thailand’s eastern-most province, have been protected with nets and all horses in the province have been vaccinated. The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on March 31 placed restrictions on the importation of equine species from Thailand. The International Coalition of Working Equids has responded to an outbreak of AHS by offering support for working equids and their owners.

A sustained, persistent outbreak of [AHS] that spreads to other countries would be devastating, not only to the racing industry and companion animals, but also to some of the poorest workers in the region who rely on working horses, donkeys, and mules” - The Pirbright Laboratory in the United Kingdom.

International alarm On March 27, the OIE suspended Thailand’s status as an AHS-free country on March 27. Animal welfare officials from the United Kingdom down to Australia have expressed alarm about the prospect that transmission of the deadly virus might savage their multibillion-dollar equine industries. Neighboring countries in Southeast Asia are particularly concerned. Simon Carpenter, an entomologist at the Pirbright Laboratory in the United Kingdom, said: “A sustained, persistent outbreak of [AHS] that spreads to other countries would be devastating, not only to the racing industry and companion animals, but also to some of 30

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Vaccinations Vaccination programs began April 19, according to government reports to the OIE. The first horses to receive vaccines were animals used in the snake venom and rabies antidote development center of the Thai Red Cross Society in Phetchaburi province. A total of 560 Red Cross horses received priority vaccination because of their role in human medicine.


The next day the Thai government began vaccinations of some 4,000 horses. Some 11,800 horses in Thailand are owned by the private sector, kept mostly for racing and leisure riding by tourists and their owners. Thai veterinarians say all of these horses are at risk unless they are quickly vaccinated en masse. Thai media reported on May 20 that the DLD is ready to ramp up vaccinations for AHS at-risk zones such as Bangkok and neighboring provinces, to curb the spread of the disease. Dr Sorravis said on May 19 that the AHS outbreak has slowed. "Some of them [provinces] have not had any losses for three weeks. We can bring the plague under control. With a new batch of vaccines, we will begin inoculating the remaining horses soon,” he said following meeting with other officials to discuss anti-AHS measures in Bangkok and neighboring provinces. Dr Sorravis also pointed that so far no AHS cases have been reported recently in Bangkok and surround including Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan recently. It was reported on May 22 that an association of racehorse owners in Nakhon Ratchasima province took stand against an order by the DLD to get their horses vaccinated against AHS. Sunthon Suwannachat, the acting president of the association, said members were holding out against the order because the department could not answer questions for the horse owners whether the vaccine works to prevent the disease or it might kill their horses. “We have seen horses in Pak Chong district die after vaccination. Many horses have died. Because our horses have remained healthy, we believe we can prevent them from catching the disease. So we won’t get them vaccinated,” Mr Sunthon said. He urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to tackle the root of the problem by bringing those who triggered this outbreak to justice.

Latest statistics According to the latest updates by the DLD/OIE, a total of 550 equidae (in all ten reports since March 27 the DLD/OIE has persisted in using this term, although it seems clear that in all cases there are referring to horses) have this far died in 12 provinces. Provincial totals are as follow: Ayutthaya 3, Chaiyaphum 1, Chachoengsao 2, Chonburi 5, Lopburi 1, Nakhon Nayok 2, Nakhon Ratchasima 436, Phetchaburi 40, Prachuap Khiri Khan 19, Ratchaburi 6, Sa Kaeo 3 and Saraburi 32. The apparent mortality of horses infected fluctuates from 74.42% to 100% depending on each of 12 provinces. In its last notification dated May 29, the DLD/OIE reported that 4,553 equidae had been vaccinated in Bangkok and 15 other provinces: Ang Thong 77, Ayutthaya 187, Bangkok 315, Chonburi 277, Lopburi 186, Kanchanaburi 20, Nakhon Pathom 10, Nakhon Ratchasima 908, Nonthaburi 5, Phatum Thani 138, Phetchaburi 1,001, Prachinburi 7, Prachuap Khiri Khan 392, Ratchaburi 397, Sa Kaeo 101 and Saraburi 532. Meanwhile, the TEF reports in its latest update dated May 24 that 547 horses have died in 12 provinces and 3,646 have been vaccinated.

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Horse lovers fighting to protect their animals from a tiny, blood-sucking killer Mrs Karen Wainwright, a long-time resident of Thailand and a horse owner, is understandably deeply concerned about the outbreak of a deadly African horse sickness in Thailand. In an effort to spread awareness of the disease, she recently spoke with Maxmilian Wechsler. Please briefly describe your background. I’ve lived in Bangkok for 28 years, having arrived here in 1992 from Northern Ireland (although lived most of my life overseas in Sudan, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Australia). My husband was employed here by a UKbased company, from which he has since retired. What is your involvement with horses? I’ve been horse riding in Thailand since 1992, and at one point had three horses. Two have sadly died, but lived long lives and died of old age/illness. My current horse, Tango, is a dressage horse imported from Denmark. He has won me trophies and many rosettes during the years we competed in dressage competitions but more importantly he is a very sweet natured and friendly horse with lot of character. He is now retired, aged 23 years, and leading a quieter life. Where are you keeping your horse now and how are you protecting him from the AHS virus? Tango is stabled at Horselover’s Club in Bangkok. So far the stable buildings have had to be enclosed in fine netting (32 eyes per inch) to protect the horses from the midges that carry AHS which are as small as 1mm. Because the net 32

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Mrs Karen Wainwright with her horse Tango.


is so fine it restricts air flow and makes the stables very hot when we are already in hot season and experiencing soaring temperatures. Heat stress is a real concern for horses behind nets for all the horse owners around the country that have horses behind nets. Fortunately our stables has an overhead cooling system installed, and a lot of extra fans have been put to use to try to keep the horses as cool as possible. The stables also have to be sprayed regularly with insecticide inside and outside. Currently, for us, our horses can be outside the stables between 9am and 4pm as the midges are at their most active within two hours of dawn and dusk. The riding arena is in the process of being enclosed with netting to protect the horses when being exercised. Visitors to the stables have to be restricted e.g. feed and hay deliveries from the outbreak zones cannot be allowed, and essential visitors such as vets which may have been near an outbreak zone must have their cars and themselves thoroughly disinfected before entering the premises. In what ways has your daily life been affected by the virus? Currently Tango is in a high risk zone i.e. within a 100 km from an outbreak zone, but the disease is still spreading and getting closer, so it’s always possible we could end up in the absolute worst case scenario which is being in a red zone (outbreak area). Hopefully this will not be the case as all precautions are being taken and veterinary protocols followed by Horselover’s Club. Unfortunately some rural small horse owners are not following protocols such as putting up nets to protect from insects so this could lead to more transmission of AHS. Along with the stress of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a constant worry as AHS has a very high death rate – over 95% – and is a horrific death for the horses. At the moment the DLD plan is to vaccinate all horses in outbreak zones that test negative for AHS and those in a 100 km radius which means my horse will be most likely have to be vaccinated. The vaccine is also a concern as it is not without risks. Being a live vaccine, some horses can become ill or even die from the effects of the vaccine. However, the death rate is low i.e. 0.1%. So far there has been no death directly related to the vaccine here in Thailand. With my horse being old, his immune system will be compromised so I worry that the vaccine is risky for him. Vaccinated horses must be kept behind nets for 30

Mrs Wainwright puts Tango through his paces during a training session.

days after vaccination as the immunity can take at least two to three weeks to develop and if the vaccinated horse were to be bitten by a blood sucking insect during this time they could then infect other horses. During this period horses have to be monitored carefully for fever or other side effects which are quite common. It is very distressing to see photos of horses that have died and hear the owners talk about their heartbreak at losing them on a regular basis on a Facebook. Horses are still sadly dying every day and it is a worrying and stressful time for all horse owners. What purposes are horses used for in Thailand and from which countries are they imported? Horses in Thailand are used for many purposes. There are sports horses which participate in many disciplines e.g. show jumping, dressage, eventing, western riding and endurance at local and international level, and there are many riding school horses and ponies, leisure horses and working horses. There are also quite a number of horses owned by the military. Sports horses are imported mainly from Europe e.g. from Germany, Holland, Belgium, Denmark. In the past quite a few have come from Australia also. What are other horse owners in Thailand telling you? There’s obviously a lot of discussion about AHS on social media, and horse owners are complaining that the animals which started this outbreak, widely believed to be zebras imported from Africa, have not been located or dealt with, or if they have, this information has not been made public. Horse owners TheBigChilli

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Feature worry that further outbreaks can occur if the infected zebras are not dealt with. Horse owners are angry and frustrated. They just want to know the facts, and want the importer to take responsibility for their actions. We have been told as of 19 May that the DLD will begin an investigation into zebras in Thailand, and all zebras in the country are being monitored and will be blood tested. It seems a bit late to begin this investigation and I would imagine at this late stage it will be much more difficult to identify precisely which zebras, and which importer, were responsible for this epidemic. Horse owners also complain about the slow progress in getting nets for all horses that are in the at risk areas. I believe the DLD have now set a budget for this and are helping supply nets to owners of working horses, but in the beginning this was not the Horse and rider: a relationship built on mutual respect. Death from AHS occurs quite quickly after the case and a fundraiser had to be set up to buy incubation period of 3-14 days. Death can occur as nets for these owners. Another complaint from owners is the slow supply quickly as on the first day clinical signs begin to of vaccines. Mid April, 4,000 were imported. There show or in two or three days. It is a very unpleasant, was apparently going to be a delay in getting these horrible death for the horses and very distressing for out to the horses which badly needed them. Owners the owners. had been trying to protect their surviving horses behind nets for days/weeks whilst waiting for the How did the virus find its way to Pak Chong, vaccines and were desperate to get them. Luckily, which is the epicenter of the AHS outbreak in Khun Pongthep of Maxwin Horse feed company, very Thailand, and from there to other provinces? generously stepped up and paid for all 4,000 vaccines AHS first appeared on February 24, 2020 when one and donated them back to the DLD so that they could horse died in Pak Chong. Although at that time it was be distributed immediately. not known to be AHS. On March 24, there was a huge These 4,000 vaccines were used up and there were storm, strong winds and heavy rain, which caused a still many horses needing vacation. Owners say they big increase in vectors (midges) in the Pak Chong were told that the next vaccines will come in about area. After this about 40 horses in the area suddenly one or two weeks, and another lot next month. So, died. This became the epicentre of the disease. At first once again, owners had to worry about their horses AHS could not be confirmed and blood tests had to and try their best to protect their horses with nets be sent to UK for testing. Once AHS was confirmed, and insecticides whilst waiting for the much needed strict rules were put into place forbidding movement vaccines. The second lot of 4,000 vaccines arrived of horses from the area. in the third week of May and vaccinations have Unfortunately, some owners panicked and moved recommenced. their horses to other areas of Thailand before the rule Of course, there are also many owners posting came into force, which caused AHS outbreaks in six online about their heartbreak as their much loved other areas of Thailand. The disease is still spreading, horses have died, photos of the horses and photos of for example, recently to Saraburi, Phetchaburi. AHS their graves Some horse farms have been devastated is carried by bloodsucking midges which bite horses by the tragic loss of large numbers of horses. and infect them. It can also be carried by wind as the midges are so tiny. In theory this can be 150 km What is the time period from when the horse is across land or 700 km across sea with prevailing bitten to its first showing symptoms? And how winds but whilst this is possible, most commonly long after the onset of symptoms does death transmission of the midges is from infected horses in usually occur? fairly close proximity. 34

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FROM THE PAGES OF HISTORY Prostitution is traditional in Thailand and not the product of western or US military influence. In every up-country town, one or more houses of prostitution can be found. Traditionally, one of the accepted perks of a government official on a visit up-country is the services of one of the town’s more favored ladies of the night. “It was only in the late fifties that prostitution was declared illegal. Opium smoking was banned at the same time. Both these actions were in response to international pressures, particularly by the UN, and Thailand was able to assume a moral stance that contributed to its international prestige. However, as one might expect, prostitution continued under different guises.

‘Reflections on Thai Culture’ – Collected Writings of William J. Klausner

Shortly after prostitution was declared illegal, the first massage parlour made its appearance in the form of a Japanese-like Onsen in Silom Road. Slowly but surely, massage parlours sprouted up like mushrooms. More bars were opened, and when the R&R troops came, bars and nightclubs blossomed forth. (1977). TheBigChilli

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YEARS

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Concrete Therapy

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F W E N

Advice for modern city-dwellers Despite our best efforts, life in the big city can get pretty complicated, tr ying to juggle work, social life, personal problems - not to mention the never-ending stream of stressful traffic. We can talk to friends and family, but their involvement might be a little too close to home‌sometimes a professional opinion really helps to put things into perspective. Calling our concrete therapists to the rescue for some solid advice! Do you have a question for one of our counsellors? We will never print your real name, you can ask anything anonymously! Just send your problem to: info@ncsbkk.com or message @ncsbangkok on IG, FB, or Line. 42

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Dear NCS, I just moved into a nice apartment near Nana with my boyfriend of five years. Things are going great, but the noise is driving me crazy! Passing cars and motorbikes at all hours of the night, I’m hardly getting any sleep. I used to live further away, and I didn’t know the noise was going to be such a problem. My boyfriend keeps saying I’ll get used to it and he doesn’t want to move out because we both work in town. However, I don’t mind traveling 30 minutes extra if it means I can get some rest! It seems a silly thing to fight over, but this lack of sleep is really stressing me out. What should I do? -Sleepless in Soi 11

Dear Sleepless,

Counsellor David Ogden

Photo by Verity Tan

■ That’s not a silly thing to fight over at all. We all need sleep and when our sleep is being disrupted regularly it really can affect us. You say things are going great – hopefully that includes with your relationship, in which case this is something that you need to discuss with your boyfriend. It’s possible he’s correct when he says you’ll get used to the noise, but it’s also possible that won’t happen – some people are just lighter sleepers than others, and so are more affected by noise during the night. Either way, I imagine him just telling you you’ll get used to might feel a bit dismissive to you, which is not really sufficient if this is something that’s really affecting you. In a healthy relationship, your partner will be concerned about your needs, as long as he is aware of how serious it is to you. I’m sure if he was getting very poor sleep for days or weeks on end then he would not be OK with it and would want to find a solution. In order to ensure he understands, you need to make it clear to him that moving may need to be considered if your sleep doesn’t improve, and that maybe there are options that can

meet both your needs. There are condo buildings in town that are on quieter sois, or on higher floors, where there is far less street noise. This could work for both of you as long as you are prepared to spend some time looking for the right place. But moving condo may take some time to arrange. Maybe explain to him that you’re willing to work towards a longer-term solution with him, but in the meantime you need to find some way that will help you sleep better in the shorter-term, while you either wait to get used to the noise, or find somewhere quieter to live. I’d suggest you ask for his assistance with this. It’s unlikely there’ll be anything that will solve the problem completely right now, but by asking him to help find some ways to improve your sleep while you wait to move somewhere else, it can help improve his understanding and appreciation of your needs. Also, there’s a better chance that two of you might come up with some better ideas than just you alone, and working on this together can be a good thing for your relationship. Good luck! Dave Counsellor TheBigChilli

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Concrete Therapy

Dear NCS, The love of my life just asked me to marry him! I said ‘yes’ and I have absolutely no doubts. Here’s the problem: we both want a small, intimate wedding with just a few friends and our immediate family. However, our parents are insisting that we invite the aunts, uncles, important ajarns (teachers) and all their friends. The “plus one” is quickly turning into a “plus 200.” We really don’t have the energy to host a wedding for 800 people, but we don’t want to disappoint our parents…I hope you can help. -I do or I don’t

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Counsellor Johanna de Koning Dear Do or Don’t, ■ First of all, congratulations! This is a very exciting moment in your life and it makes perfect sense you want to celebrate it in the way that’s most significant and enjoyable for you. However, it also makes sense that this is an exciting time for your respective parents and that they also want to celebrate it in the way they have probably dreamed about. This clash of expectations between what you want and what your parents want will understandably cause some disagreement because all of you feel justified in your position. You believe in your right to celebrate

Photo by Verity Tan your own wedding in the way you would like, but it’s quite possible your parents are feeling some obligation to invite certain relatives, teachers and friends because not inviting them could be considered a social snub, resulting in a loss of face or being seen as impolite. The whole issue may be complicated further if your parents are paying for some or all of the wedding, giving them a greater perception that they should have a say in who attends. Do your parents know how important it is to you to have a smaller wedding? And do you really understand why your parents want to invite all these extra people? The most likely way

for this issue to be resolved would be for all of you to understand each other’s position by discussing it with your parents. Could you arrange a meeting with you, your partner and all your parents? This could be a good chance to hear each other out, acknowledge each other’s needs and wants, and start to find some sort of compromise that works OK for everyone. The aim of this meeting would be to ensure everyone can speak their mind with the purpose of reaching a reasonable solution that will make each side happy and avoid getting into an argument. Keeping notes of what is said might help keep everyone on track. It might also help if you and your partner prepare for the meeting by knowing exactly who you want to invite and why. Hopefully such a meeting will help everyone understand each other a bit more and possibly generate some ideas for how to meet everyone’s needs. For example, could you compromise a bit on the number invited to the wedding, and then if your parents want to celebrate this big life moment with extended family and friends, could that happen separately from the wedding day, by maybe having a less formal celebration with everyone a few weeks later? Encourage everyone to consider alternate ideas that might mostly meet everyone’s desires in a less conventional way. Weddings are exciting, but they are also often quite stressful. Of course, you want to enjoy your day and celebrate as you see appropriate, and it’s very reasonable to ask your parents to respect that. Good luck in staying true to your wishes while also finding a way to also keep your parents satisfied rather than disappointed. Johanna Counsellor TheBigChilli

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Expat Sport

From talented golfer to successful golf businessman After arriving in Bangkok 15 years ago as a talented young golfer, Michael Moir came up with a business plan to supply shirts for local golf tournaments. Today he heads up Fenix XCell, a successful international golf apparel company.

â– Originally from Aberdeen, this friendly 35-year-old Scot still plays a mean round of golf, and often partners with some of the stars on the European, Asian or PGA tours. We caught up with Michael at his Bangkok HQ, to find out how he managed to successfully enter this very competitive world. So why back in 2006 did you choose to fly half way across the world to arrive in Thailand? Mike: Originally, I moved to Singapore in 2002 to spend time with my father, loved Asia, so decided to stay. I met my future wife just two weeks after arriving, and eventually I moved to Thailand.

What were the challenges back then? Mike: Finding the right materials, while keeping to the suppliers’ minimum orders was tough. We were a small company, so had to rely on leftover fabrics. The other main challenge was keeping all our customers happy. I remember I even took orders for just five shirts with multiple logos, and delivering them myself! Why do you think companies started to call you for custom shirts? Was it because you had sourced a fabric more suited to the Asian climate? Mike: Remember, many pro shops

How did you start Fenix XCell? Mike: I met a couple who were in the golf business at a tournament, and after a brief spell working together, decided to buy their half of the business and Fenix was born. Do you remember your first retail customer? Mike: Yes it was Muang Kaew. Luckily, I knew the GM there and he took a chance with us. At the same time, we got our first custom order from a Singapore finance company, and delivered shirts for their golf event in Thailand. 48

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Mike with Scott Hend, Kiradech and Prom

MIKE MOIR

back then stocked the European brands, with fabrics better suited to the colder climates, whereas our fabrics were ideal for the humid Asian climate. Well, the word of mouth was fantastic, and golfers liked our quality. That’s why in 2016 we rebranded the business to Fenix XCELL.


Scott Hend was the first player to wear our products, and over time as he continued to win big events, he decided to buy a percentage of the business.

Family Man

So, Fenix XCell has expanded since those early days? Mike: Indeed. We now have offices in Singapore, USA, and in the Middle East plus distributors in 15 other countries, and we compete with all the major brands. How did Scott Hend, the Asian Tour Order of Merit Winner, become one of your partners? Mike: Scott was the first player to wear our products, and over time as he continued to win big events, he decided to buy a percentage of the business.

How did you end up caddying for Scott? Mike: I actually helped him at Amata Springs at the Thailand Golf Championship as a favour. But a couple of years later, his caddy got injured in the pro-am in Macau, and as we were apparel sponsors for the tournament, I offered to step in. Little did I realise that the course was like climbing Mount Everest. It was also hot, so carrying his bag nearly killed me!!! He did OK, however, and I am still waiting for my 10%!!!

After all these years your little black book must be full of useful contacts? Mike: Yes, we have worked with many top blue-chip companies, including American Express, HSBC, Porsche, BMW, RICOH, plus numerous golf clubs including Thai Country Club, Castle Stuart, Hong Kong Golf Club, Centurion Club, Amata Springs and Clearwater Bay. We also supplied the official apparel for the Thailand Golf Championship, the Hong Kong Open and numerous Asian Tour events. TheBigChilli

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Expat Sport

Thai Country Club Caddie

Recently some golf clubs have asked you to help design and make their uniforms. How does that work? Mike: I was chatting one day to a GM at his course, and he was explaining to me the hassle they had ordering uniforms each season, dealing with up to ten different suppliers. One would handle the caddie shirts, another their trousers and another the outfits for the waitresses. Since that chat, we have started to offer a bespoke service for golf clubs, by taking over the designing, costings, manufacturing and deliveries. Seems to be working, as they now just have one point of contact. Ironically, we were recently asked to produce shirts for a major Thai factory. Our materials seemed ideal for the hot factory floor, and their staff loved the designs too. So, offering our Custom Design service to any business, is an area where we will be definitely expanding our business. Fenix is now producing Facemasks, right? Mike: Again, I was speaking to this same GM who asked if we could also deliver some face masks with the club logo. Naturally as golf 50

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With his son at St Andrews

clubs are re-opening, they all need a reliable mask for their staff. By printing their logo on the mask, it carries forward the corporate look too. Better than staff turning to work in an assortment of home-made versions. Since then it has kept us all busy with orders coming in first from golf clubs, but now we are starting the print the masks for all types of businesses as well. Now you’re a happily married man with a Thai wife and young son living in Bangkok, right? Mike: I met my wife when I was only 18 while selling breast pumps to make some money, and she’s supported me from day one. We’ve had our cultural differences, but

she has been behind me all the time. Who are some of the best-known stars you have played with? Mike: In my time I have been lucky to play with Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Sandy Lyle, Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley and of course Scott Hend. I am not on top form right now, as I just do not have much time to practice. I play off three. Finally, what are your top five golf gourses? 1. Isleworth 2. TPC Sawgrass 3. The National (Australia) 4. Clearwater Bay 5. Royal Dornoch


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Modern History of Thailand TheBigChilli

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Jim ch) Mar

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A journey through the past: Thailand 1967-1971 By Maxmilian Wechsler

As pointed out by renowned scientist Carl Sagan, ‘You have to know the past to understand the present’. If for no other reason, the events that shaped modern-day Thailand are worth revisiting to get an understanding of how the country has developed. Starting this month, The BigChilli will recap important news stories of the past 50 years, from 1967 to 2017, a period in which Thailand made the remarkable journey from Southeast Asian backwater to one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. Each issue will cover a five-year period and is sure to offer surprises for even the most knowledgeable Thai history buffs. 52

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was the year Thai Rung Engineering Company was founded by Vichien Phaoenchoke. It was the first and only Thai automobile manufacturing company. Other major news stories of 1967 include: Januar y •For the first time Thai troops were deployed to South Vietnam. About 1,000 Thai soldiers joined in military operations alongside South Vietnamese forces backed by the US. •Nobel Prize-winning American author John Steinbeck arrived in Bangkok following a four-month ‘fact-finding mission’ to Vietnam. Steinbeck predicted that the US would win the war and condemned anti-war protesters. March •US officials admitted for the first time that the US planes were using Thai bases to bomb North Vietnam. Around 35,000 US personnel were stationed in Thailand at the time. •American Jim Thompson failed

k

to return from a trip to Malaysia. It was learned that he disappeared in the jungle around the Cameron Highlands after taking a walk from a cottage where he was staying. Thompson was a former intelligence officer who had been attached to the US Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the CIA). He settled in Thailand in 1946 and was responsible for making Thai silk famous around the world. •Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s first university named after King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), celebrated its 50th anniversary. Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit opened the festivities which took place on the campus over a threeday period. June •A fascinated crowd watched the first Thai colour TV show on eight 24-inch colour sets placed outside the Royal Hotel in Bangkok. TV sets were sold in the shops but cost at least twice as much as black and white sets. September •Thai security forces arrested 37 members of the Communist Party of Thailand, both males and females, including some alleged leaders. Most of the arrests were made in Bangkok. Under the Article 17 of the new interim constitution those arrested faced a possible death sentence.

university in southern Thailand. The King christened the university in honour of his father, His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkhla. An initial plan to construct the university in Pattani province was scrapped and Hat Yai in Songkhla province was chosen instead. November •Establishment of the Association of Thai Industries (FTA), a private sector organization designed to assist and promote Thai industries. •The Dalai Lama arrived in Bangkok at the invitation of the Buddhist Association of Thailand. While in Thailand he met with local religious leaders and government officials including Prince Dhani Nivat, president of the Privy Council, and Prime Minister Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn. •According to the Public Health Ministry, the incidence of venereal diseases had increased in Thailand by 50 percent over the previous five years. The ministry said most infections were contracted through prostitutes and asked the United Nations for assistance. The UN Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization promised to help. •Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of assassinated US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, visited Thailand. She met with the King and Queen during her short stay.

October •An emotional ceremony was held for the first two Thai soldiers killed in Vietnam. The soldiers were reportedly killed by a booby trap while on patrol near Saigon. Their bodies were flown to Don Muang airport.

•The first Thailand National Games, also known as Phra Nakhon 1967, were held in Bangkok. The multi-sport venue hosted 103 events in 15 disciplines. A total of 716 athletes from all regions of the country participated in the games.

•Establishment of Prince of Songkhla University, the first

was the year the separatist Islamic group called

1968

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1968 (August) Surap ol Sombatcharoen

1968 (May) Em peror Haile Se lassie with His Majes ty the King

1968 (Janaury) President Marcos and his wife Imelda with Their Majesties

Pattani United Liberation Organization was formed, with the aim of using military and political means to achieve independence for Muslim-majority areas of southern Thailand.

May •The country’s first satellite communications earth station was opened at Tung Sukhla in Si Racha district of Chonburi province. The station was linked to an IntelSat II satellite in orbit 22,300 miles above the Pacific Ocean, facilitating communication by voice, television and data. It was the first such station in Southeast Asia.

Januar y •PM Thanom announced that US warplanes taking off from Thai air force bases were bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. It was the first official admission that US bombing raids were launched from Thai soil. The PM justified the action by saying it was “for the defence of our country”. •The Shan of Iran and Empress Farah made a week-long state visit to Thailand. They were greeted at Bangkok airport by the King and the Queen, who had visited Iran in February 1967. •Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda made a five-day state visit to Thailand during which they met with the King and the Queen. Februar y •PM Thanom inaugurated Thailand’s first steel manufacturing plant, GS Steel, in a ceremony in Samut Prakan province. The plant was a joint venture between GS and Japan’s Mitsubishi Shoki Kaisha and Kawaishi-Gisho companies. The plant complex consisted of 14 buildings. 54

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1968 (January) Shan of Iran

March •Around 1,000 taxi drivers formed the Taxi Drivers Cooperative, making it the first labour union in Thailand. The stated aim of the cooperative was to improve the working conditions of taxi drivers and provide a better experience for passengers. •Tanayong Public Company Limited was founded. Now called BTS Group Holding, the company is the majority shareholder of Bangkok Mass Transit System PCL, which operates both the BTS Skytrain and Bangkok BRT.

•Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie made a state visit to Thailand lasting three days, during which he met with the King. His Majesty said that the Emperor’s visit “marks the first time that a reigning monarch from Africa has made a state visit to Thailand” and praised the Emperor’s “wise and benevolent leadership”. July •For the first time in Thai medical history doctors at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok succeeded in separating conjoined twins. The twins were joined at the liver and the complicated procedure to separate them was performed by a team of five Thai doctors led by the chief of the hospital’s paediatrics department, Dr Snoh Indrasukhsri. August •Popular 38-year-old singer Surapol Sombatcharoen, hailed as ‘Thailand’s Elvis’, was shot dead by an assassin after getting into


1969 Sahakol

Air

pril) 1969 (A d EC-121 ee h k c o L ent ly) Presid 1969 (Ju Majesty is H h it w Nixon

his car at a car park following a performance at Saengchand Theatre in Nakhon Pathom province. Thousands of mourners came to his funeral at Wat Paknam in Thonburi. October •The last nine trams were removed from Bangkok streets after it was determined they were too expensive to maintain and they blocked vehicular traffic. The trams had been introduced to Bangkok about 70 years earlier. November •The first King’s Cup, the country’s first international football tournament organized by the Football Association of Thailand, kicked off at National Stadium and carried on to December. The Cup was won by Indonesia, who beat Burma 1-0 in the final. Thailand finished third. Three bottle bombs exploded during a semifinal between Thailand and Burma, injuring seven spectators at the stadium. Authorities suspected that the incident was the work of communist insurgents. December •The King opened the National Cancer Institute on Rama IV Road near Ramathibodi Hospital. The institute was partially financed by Japan. The King proclaimed December 10 as Anti-Cancer Day.

1969

saw the transition of Assumption University, established in 1938, to an autonomous educational institution, as well as the founding of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Surat Thani province. The area was evangelized by the Salesians of Don Bosco in the 1930s. 1969 was also the year Sahakol Air was formed as an air-taxi service. It was the first privately owned domestic airline in Thailand and under contract to the Overseas International Construction Company, US Operation Mission and other organizations involved in oil and natural gas exploration in the Gulf of Thailand. The airline was rebranded as Bangkok Airways in 1989. Februar y •An IBM 1800 computer was delivered to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, a gift from the US Pentagon. The computer was installed inside the Engineering Faculty. The computer was intended for scientific and industrial work and also available to American and Thai military personnel. •A professional bout between two Thai boxers at Ratchadamnoen Stadium was refereed by former world heavyweight boxing champion

Rocco Francis Marchegiano, better known as Rocky Marciano. About 12,000 people were in attendance. Marciano won all 49 fights of his career, 43 by KO. •The first national election in 11 years was held. More than 1,500 candidates from a dozen parties and independents vied for 219 seats in the House of Representatives. PM Thanom’s United Thai People Party won 75 seats and 72 went to independents. After the elections 30 of the 72 independents joined the UTPP. April •A US Air Force Lockheed EC-121 spy plane crashed on takeoff near Korat killing all 18 crew-members. The crash was in an unpopulated area about five kilometers northwest of Korat’s Royal Thai Air Force Base. May •Three electricity generating companies, Yanhee Electricity Authority, Lignite Electricity and Northeast Electricity Authority joined to form the Electricity TheBigChilli

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Feature Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). The merger was designed to reduce costs. EGAT became the largest power producer in Thailand. •Fifty three Thai fishermen were freed by Cambodian Prince Norodom Sihanouk after spending five to eight years in Cambodian custody. The fishermen had been captured in Cambodian waters, charged with illegal fishing and jailed. The Burmese Ambassador representing Thai interests in Cambodia was partly responsible for the release. June •The King authorized the purchase of new printing presses to produce high quality banknotes. The Bank of Thailand’s Banknote Printing Division said that using high quality paper and modern printing techniques machines would deter counterfeiters. The first running of the new presses produced notes of five and 10 baht denomination. July •US President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat made a visit to Thailand and were received by the King and the Queen. They also met with PM Thanom and other officials, including the Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger joined the president in various meetings. August •PM Thanom told the National Cultural Council to ban mini-skirts. September •English language bookseller Asia Books was established. •The US began the withdrawal of 48,000 troops and giant B52 bombers from Thailand amid growing anti-war protests and increasing criticism from Congress 56

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on the management of the war. State Department Secretary William Rogers said Congress was worried that the US could be dragged into another land war in Thailand. An agreement was reached on September 20 between the US and Thailand specifying that the first 6,000 US troops would leave Thailand by July 1, 1970. November •Thousands of Thai Marines were sent to help police in the struggle against communists and Muslim separatists in the jungles of South Thailand. The strategy of the insurgents was to destroy the economy by attacking infrastructure and spreading fear among workers at rubber plantations. On November 12 in Songkhla province insurgents killed seven policemen and critically injured three others. December •Bangkok Bank was the first financial institution in Thailand to computerize its operations. Bank officials said customers would be able to deposit and withdraw money from the 38 branches in Bangkok and Thonburi more conveniently.

1970 brought new rules for

foreign workers in the country in an effort to reduce the number of immigrants who were taking jobs from Thais. It was announced that regulations requiring foreigners to have work permits would soon be introduced. •1970 saw the founding of the following enterprises and institutions which are still with us: Provincial Electricity Football Club,now known as Buriram United FC; Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddhist temple in Pathum Thani province, founded by the maechi (nun) Chandra Khonnokyoong and Luang Por Dhammajayo; Thai motion picture production

and distribution company Sahamongkol Film International, or Mongkol Film; and Suriya College, renamed Sripatum University in 1987. •The Queen’s Cup annual football competition took place for the first time in 1970, but was discontinued in 2010. Februar y •The Dusit Thani Hotel opened its doors on the corner of Silom and Rama IV roads. Founded by Chanut Piyaoui, it was the highest building in Bangkok at the time.

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March •Indonesian President Hajji Suharto and his wife made a two-day official visit to Thailand. The president was welcomed at the airport by the King, who said that both nations faced ‘critical dangers’. Both Thailand and Indonesia supported America’s program of communist suppression throughout the region. •Color Television Channel 3 (TV3) began broadcasting at 10am on March 26. It was the first Thai commercial television station. TV3 was officially launched during a ceremony attended by PM Thanom.


May •Cambodia asked Thailand for a military aid, one year after the Americans began bombing communist Vietnamese targets in Cambodia. Links between Thailand and Cambodia improved with the opening of the Aranyaprathet border crossing and re-establishment of diplomatic relations. July •Cambodian Prime Minister Lon Nol was the first Cambodian premier to make an official visit to Thailand in 20 years. Lon Nol led a successful bloodless military coup d’état in May which overthrew the regime of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. He was later overthrown by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. •A tax was introduced on more than 200 imported and locally made items. Dubbed the Midnight Tax Decree, the new regulations increased the import duty on cars from an already high 60% to 80%, while sales taxes went up to 30 percent. The duty on cosmetics increased almost 100%. The government defended the increases as necessary to increase the military budget to fund communist suppression efforts and fend off other national security threats. September •More than 4,000 students from Chulalongkorn University broke through the main gate of the Parliament building and demanded the suspension of three professors allegedly involved in corruption in the lease of campus land to private businesses. October •Superstar actor Mitr Chaibancha (born Pichet Pumhem) fell 90 meters to his death from a helicopter while filming the final scene of his new movie Insee

r

1970 (October) Mit

Thong (Golden Eagle) at Dongtan Beach, Jomtien, Pattaya. The 36-year-old actor appeared in 266 films between 1956 and 1970 was injured several times during his career. Around 100,000 fans came to a memorial service for Mitr held the day after his accident at Bangkok’s Wat Sunthorn Thammathan. November •A French monorail company approached the Bangkok municipality with a proposal to do a feasibility study into a mass rail line for Bangkok. The city accepted the proposal. December •A five-hour fire destroyed half of the commercial centre of Saraburi, laying waste to homes and businesses and leaving over 3,000 people homeless. Hundreds of shop houses, three banks, two insurance companies, a theatre, a market and two schools were destroyed. The King sent relief supplies to families affected by the fire.

1971 saw the launch of the

Chao Phraya Express transport service operating on the Chao Phraya River. The service still provides convenient transportation between Bangkok and Nonthaburi for locals and tourists Ramkhamhaeng University, a public and open

university named after King Ramkhamhaeng the Great of Sukhothai, was established. The King is credited with creating the Thai alphabet. Sirindhorn Dam, named after Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, was commissioned in 1971. The dam is located in Sirindhorn district of Ubon Ratchathani province and was built to serve as a hydropower facility and to supply water for irrigation. Januar y •Mitr Chaibancha was cremated at Wat Thepsirin in Bangkok. Tens of thousands of fans attended the cremation ceremony. March •Martial law was suspended in 34 provinces including Bangkok, and the government said that Thonburi and Chiang Mai were no longer considered ‘communist infested’ areas. However, emergency powers remained in force in 37 Thai provinces, including the whole Northeast. April •A blaze at the Imperial Hotel in Bangkok claimed 24 lives, including six children. Many guests jumped from windows of the 107-room hotel to escape the blaze. May •FM Thanat Khoman referred to China as “the People’s Republic of China” during a press conference in a real sign of warming between the two countries. It was the first time any cabinet official used the official name of China. July •Nation Multimedia Group was formed and English-language newspaper The Nation was launched by former Bangkok Post journalist Suthichai Yoon on July 1. The front-page headline was: “The TheBigChilli

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How and Why of The Nation.” The first issue reportedly sold 3,000 copies. •The government considered various proposals on how to support the car manufacturing industry. Ministries worked together to come up with recommendations to promote car assembly and the manufacture of component parts. One proposal was to widen the import tax differential between completely built-up cars – to be taxed at higher rate – and cars which were assembled in Thailand. August •Scientists warned that unless something was done to prevent further subsidence, Bangkok could be below sea level in 20 years’ time. Two professors in geotechnical engineering from the Asian Institute of Technology claimed said there was evidence that many areas in Bangkok were subsiding because too much underground water had been pumped from beneath the city to meet the rapid increase in water demand. September •Transvestites (katoey) from Bangkok and Thonburi formed an association to protect their 58

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1971 (November) Thanom

interests and to end what they claimed was prejudice against them. Among other aims, the group’s leaders said they wanted a law to allow them to marry. The group estimated there were around 10,000 katoey living in Bangkok and Thonburi. October •Mobs of football fans, mostly youths, rioted at the National Stadium after heavy rain led to cancellation of the Queen’s Cup semifinal match between Vee Foh and Rajathevi. The fans tore down goalposts, smashed seats and lit bonfires on the pitch. The match was attended by about 20,000 fans. An unknown number participated in the riot after players failed to show after half-time. •The government approved a proposal to transform and develop the island of Koh Samui into a major holiday destination in an effort to boost the ailing tourist industry. Among other attempts to stimulate tourism was an extension of the length of time tourists could stay without a visa. November •PM Thanom staged a coup on November 17 against his own government, citing the need to

suppress communist infiltration. In a shocking announcement made on Bangkok Radio at 7pm, PM Thanom declared martial law, abrogating the constitution, dissolving Parliament and disbanding the cabinet. All authority was placed in the hands of security forces chiefs. Thanom also announced the establishment of a nine-member Executive Council to direct affairs of state for five years. December •The Supreme Patriarch Somdej Phra Ariyawongsakhatayan passed away after injuries suffered in a car accident. The accident happened in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan province as the supreme patriarch was on his way to deliver a sermon. His limousine crashed head-on with a pickup truck. The country went into a 15-day mourning period. A tearful Thanom paid homage to the patriarch at Police Hospital in Bangkok, where the body was taken.

*Sources for this story include archives of UPI, AFP, AP, the Bangkok Post, The Nation and Wikipedia.


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Diplomats

p Meet the people uniting nations

His Excellency Marek Libřický Ambassador projects youth and experience as the face of the Czech Republic in Thailand

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Ambassador projects youth and experience as the face of the Czech Republic in Thailand Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER

His Excellency Marek Libřický took his post as the Czech Republic’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Thailand in January 2017 and is concurrently Ambassador to Kingdom of Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. At just 49 years old, Ambassador Libřický is already a highly experienced diplomat. Before taking his assignment in Thailand he held a number of important posts with the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague and in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. His appointment as head of the Czech Republic’s mission in Thailand is a much cherished milestone for this bright young diplomat.

About the Czech Republic “The Czech Republic is a mid-sized European country situated in the very heart of the continent. I do not want to get into a ‘dispute’ where exactly the geographical centre of Europe is, but I must emphasise – like many of my colleagues from neighbouring countries would certainly do – that the Czech Republic is in Central Europe. “Many people still follow the stereotype of the Cold War and its East-West geopolitical division, which has been destroyed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and following democratic changes in the region. I consider this old-style perception of Europe to be out-of-date, because it only cements many stereotypes that are clearly from the past, and thus create false and misleading picture of many European countries. Today, the Czech Republic is a standard European country, enjoying many successes and facing the same challenges as other members of the European Union or other European nations. “Given the numbers of Thais travelling to the Czech Republic, I believe our cultural and historical heritage

is well known to Thai public. Many of them already know Prague, Karlovy Vary or Český Krumlov, but there is still much more to discover in other parts of my country. We have dozens of spas, over a thousand castles and chateaux, many natural wonders, wine regions and of course a lot to offer to beer lovers – not only in cities of Plzeň or České Budějovice (Pilsen or Budweis in German) but also in hundreds of craft breweries. There are many good reasons why the Czechs are the largest beer consumers in the world.” Ambassador’s background “I am a career diplomat, having joint the Czech Foreign Service many years ago. During my career, I have moved around a couple of regions, each of them giving me a unique and usually pleasant experience. I served at the Czech Embassies in Manila, Tel Aviv and Madrid as the Deputy Head of Mission or Head of Commercial Section, to become Ambassador in Addis Ababa in 2009 and in Bangkok in January 2017. “Although my foreign postings were diverse, I have spent most of my time in the headquarters working at TheBigChilli

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During his visit to Thailand in January 2019, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš accompanied Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on an inspection of his honor guard. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic.)

the Asia-Pacific Department – moving up from a desk officer to the Deputy Director and the Director, which is an equivalent of the Director-General level in Thai terms. The only exception was when I worked as the Deputy or Acting Chief of Protocol. “I live in Prague, but I come from the city of Hradec Králové, some hundred kilometres east of the capital. By the way, I am not the first Czech Ambassador to Thailand with this background – I share my origins with Ambassador Jiří Šitler who is still very active vis-à-vis Thailand and has many friends here. I studied in Prague and graduated from the University of Economics with major in International Trade and minor in International Politics and Diplomacy. “I joined the Foreign Service in February 1994, when I received a fourth offer to become a diplomat and decided to try it, not only because I thought that it might have been the last chance since further offers would not have come. The second reason that made the offer irresistible was that it was to join the AsiaPacific Department, my long-time preference. As I said, I had studied International Trade and International Politics and Diplomacy, so it was a natural choice. “Mid-90’s were very exciting and extraordinary times, full of changes – world-wide and in the Czech Republic. A few years after democratic changes in then Czechoslovakia, the split of it and birth of the 62

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independent Czech Republic. We had many great ambitions to join the democratic and prosperous world, NATO or the European Union, and be successful. Ideal times to join the Foreign Service for those who wanted to be an active part of it. “I came to Thailand for the first time decades ago. I remember the old-style Bangkok, less elevated streets, less high-rise buildings, but the same charm and hospitality we experience today. Actually, Bangkok was to be our first posting in 1995, but destiny decided otherwise and we left for the Philippines instead. “I became Ambassador to Thailand in January 2017 after spending three years being in charge of the Asian-Pacific affairs in the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I applied for the job based on a smart family decision, and was lucky to be appointed. “But my first ambassadorial posting was in Addis Ababa from 2009 to 2014 when I covered not only Ethiopia but also 11 more countries of East Africa, the African Union and three UN agencies. It was a great and extraordinary experience that I enjoyed tremendously. “In case of countries like Thailand, the standard term of posting is four years but it is not a dogma, it can be extended for various reasons. “I am here in Bangkok together with my family – my wife Alena, who works in the Ministry of Foreign


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Prime Minister Babiš at Grand Palace in Bangkok in January 2019.

(Photo courtesy of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic.)

Affairs as well, and our two sons, Šimon and Filip. We have all been enjoying our stay here in spite of late challenges we all have had to face.” Duties and bilateral relations “My major and principle task is to promote and defend interests of the Czech Republic and Czech citizens and companies in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. This includes strengthening of bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and these three countries. “As excellent as they are, each of them has a slightly different history, storylines and focus, and there is always potential and need for further improvement. I still remain in charge of our relations with Cambodia in my capacity of non-resident ambassador, although we reopened our Embassy in Phnom Penh a few years ago. “My everyday duties are the same as those of my colleagues you have interviewed before – meeting with relevant partners and interlocutors from the government, business figures, as well as representatives from areas of culture, civil society, etc. There may only be different emphasis put on this or that agenda by each country or in different time. “I always see my priorities in areas of economic and business relations, political and defence or security cooperation and people-to-people contacts 64

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Radek Vondráček, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament, talks with Prime Minister Prayut on a visit to Thailand in February 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic.)

that go hand-in-hand with culture or tourism. Due to circumstances related to Covid-19 pandemic, a bigger importance was given recently to consular issues and


Mr Vondráček meets with Thai President of the Senate Professor Pornpetch Wichitcholchai in February 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic.)

Mr Vondráček with Ambassador Libřický in Bangkok in February 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic.)

repatriation of Czech and other EU citizens from Thailand back home. “The official diplomatic were established only in March 1974, meaning last year we celebrated 45th anniversary, but Czech-Thai or Czech-Siam relations and contacts date much back to the history. Until 1918 and the birth of independent Czechoslovakia, the Czech lands were part of the Austrian or AustrianHungarian empires, and there were many people from Czech lands who actively participated in contacts between Austria and Siam. Pre-1918 relations between Austria and Siam form an integral part of our common history. “After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, bilateral ties were focused primarily on business with the presence of the leading Czech companies in Siam getting stronger and stronger. Some of the Czech (or then Czechoslovak) brands became common household names, and have remained them

since. We can name Bat’a shoes, Škoda industrial goods or ČZ arms as examples. When H.M. King Prajadhipok visited Czechoslovakia in 1934, nobody was surprised – given the level of economic cooperation – that he inspected the premises of Škoda or Bat’a factories as well. “After the WWII, it was not easy to build on the pre-war cooperation, although from time to time one or the other side came up with initiatives to do so. Unfortunately, without much success until 1973-74. “The Czechoslovak Embassy was opened in Bangkok in 1974, and it was led by Chargé d'Affaires a.i. with the Ambassador being accredited as non-resident from Rangoon. These arrangements changed after 1989 when the ambassador moved to Bangkok. “Nowadays, there are nine Czech staff members working at the Embassy, include a representative of CzechTrade, our Trade Promotion Organization. We have also an active Defence Attaché accredited from New Delhi.” Visits, trade, tourism and culture

“Every ambassador would surely say that relations are great and excellent, and I am glad I can say it as well and I can say it sincerely. Without any hesitation, last couple of years can be considered one of the peaks of our relations. In January 2019, first-ever official visit of Czech Prime Minister to Thailand took place – with the two Prime Ministers, Mr Andrej Babiš and General Prayut Chano-cha, having met on a number of occasions before and after. “The Prime Minister’s visit also followed up on three meeting s between our President, Mr Miloš Zeman, and the Prime Minister of Thailand in years prior to the visit. Last November, our Minister of Defence, Mr Lubomír Metnar, paid a visit to Thailand and supported our national presentation of the Czech defence and security industry at the Defense and Security 2019, in a similar manner as the Deputy Minister of Defence during the previous editions of the exhibition. TheBigChilli

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Prague - Hradčany

Cafés in Pilsen

(© CzechTourism – Image Bank. Photo: Martin Rak.)

(Photograph author: Petr Polák.)

“Last year, we also welcomed in Bangkok the President of the Czech Supreme Court. The latest major event that took place was the official visit of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament, Mr Radek Vondráček, to Thailand in February 2020. It not only cemented the interparliamentarian pillar of cooperation, but also showed a great synergy between the legislature and the executive branch because the Speaker was accompanied by the Minister of Environment, Mr Richard Brabec. These were the major visits while there were many more high-level contacts. “During his meeting with the President of the National Assembly and the House of Representatives, Mr Chuan Leekpai, both sides recalled that it was only 66

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the second visit of the Czech Speaker to Thailand, the first taking place in 1994. In this regard, President Chuan recalled how he had welcomed our President Mr Václav Havel at the airport upon his arrival for the state visit in 1994. In this context, I dare to compare the current level of relations between our two countries to their quality and intensity of mid-1990s. “In terms of trade, we have been experiencing the best period in modern history during the last decade. If we combine national trade statistics of both sides – which is the approach I prefer to get a more complex picture – we can see a steady increase of figures in both directions. Combined turnover of our bilateral trade in goods made in the Czech Republic or Thailand has been around US$1.6 - 1.7 billion, or getting closer to the target of $2 billion if we add goods made in third countries. “The real flow of goods between our countries is much bigger than it is perceived based on export statistics only. In particular, the Czech imports of Thai goods of more than $1.3 billion are more than $600 million higher than Thai export statistics. All this means that mutually we are much more important trade partners than many people think. The Czech Republic is a much more relevant trade partner and customer to Thai companies than many other European countries that are traditionally considered to be on top.


“The other stereotype we face is that our trade is based on agricultural commodities or other items considered to be low-tech. On the contrary, the most important items are electronics, manufacturing goods related to the energy sector or transportation. A large share of the exchange is part of international value or supply chains. Many Czech-made products come to Thailand under third-party brands being a part of turn-key solutions. It means that the picture is much more complex and we should look under the surface to find more, especially given the growing significance of services, innovations and other ‘soft items’ that are not reflected in trade of goods. “I am very glad that there is not only trade going up, but also investment flows. There have been very important investments in both directions – be it into chemical industries, light manufacturing or hospitality from Thailand to the Czech Republic, or ICT the other way. I hope there is more to come given the number of projects discussed on different levels and supported by the administrations of both countries. I mentioned innovations and services, which

Hrusice

Great mountain

(© CzechTourism – Image Bank. Photo: UPVISION.)

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are to play more and more important role in our cooperation and our efforts to support the process of internationalization of each other´s companies or their solutions. “Looking for new ways and areas of cooperation does not mean that we should forget or neglect the traditional ones like tourism. It is not only about business, it is also about people-to-people contacts, getting to know each other and each other´s culture better. 68

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“Last years, there were around 50,000 to 60,000 Czech tourists visiting Thailand and approximately the same number of Thais coming to the Czech Republic, although some expert estimates even talk about as many as 120,000 if we count Thais who ‘hop in, hop off’ for a day-long visit from neighbouring Germany or Austria. I think the numbers are respectable, but should be higher once there is a direct flight between Bangkok and Prague. Re-establishment of this


connection is one of the projects we have been working on for a while. “Tourism is closely related to culture, and there has been an intensive exchange of cultural activities lately. We took advantage of a couple of important anniversaries to promote the Czech Republic and its culture in Thailand. We organized concerts of classical music on the occasions of the centenary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 2018 that included also exhibition on the Bat’a phenomenon. “Last year on the occasion of 30 years since the restoration of democracy in our country, we participated in various events of our European partners, and organized in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University and Alliance Française concerts of a young Czech pianist Matyáš Novák. Besides this anniversary, we commemorated also those of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1974 and the state visit of President Havel in 1994 with various cultural activities. “We also participate in events organized by the EU – be it European Film Festival or EU Language Café – or have been a partner in the Bangkok Piano Festival and supporter of some performing arts promoting Czech pieces like those of Franz Kafka. “As I have already mentioned, in promoting Czech

and Central European culture in Thailand we closely cooperate with the Chulalongkorn University in particular. In this regard, I was very pleased when our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Tomáš Petříček, showed his appreciation last year of the contribution of Ms Verita Sriratana, Associated Professor of the European Studies Programme of the Faculty of Arts of Chula, and consequently of the whole Chulalongkorn University, by the Gratias Agit. It is an award given since 1997 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the promotion of the good name of the Czech Republic overseas. Professor Verita has now joined a list of prominent personalities like Madeleine Albright, Miloš Forman or the King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia.” Personal “To relax, nowadays I enjoy playing squash or badminton, and would like to play tennis a bit more. Having grown up with horses, I have always been a horseman and would like start riding again. Forced by circumstances, I stopped hating jogging. Thanks to being posted in Thailand, I have recently managed to catch up with my family and become a certified diver. Besides sports, I enjoy classical music and a good book or movies.”

Cirriculum Vitae of H.E. Mr Marek Libřický Education • 1993: Master of Economics, University of Economics, Prague. Major ‒ International Trade. Minor ‒ International Politics and Diplomacy. • 2002: Diplomatic Academy (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic). Professional Experience • Since January 2017: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Bangkok ‒ Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Thailand, Kingdom of Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. • March 2014 - January 2017: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Director of the Asia-Pacific Department, ASEM and EU-ASEAN SOM Leader. • December 2009 - February 2014: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Addis Ababa ‒ Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Somalia, Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros and South Sudan, and Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). • September 2007 - December 2009: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Deputy Director of the

Asia-Pacific Department, ASEM and EU-ASEAN SOM Leader-alternate, Chair-alternate of the EU COASI and COEST (Central Asia) Working Groups during the Czech EU Presidency in 2009. • July 2003 - August 2007: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Madrid ‒ Deputy Head of Mission and Head of the Political Section (covering Spain and Andorra). • October 2001 - July 2003: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Deputy/Acting Director of the Diplomatic Protocol Department. • August 2000 - September 2001: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Desk Officer, Asia-Pacific Department. • March 1997 - August 2000: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tel Aviv ‒ Head of the Commercial Section (covering Israel and Palestinian National Authority). • March 1995 - March 1997: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila ‒ Deputy Head of Mission. • February 1994 - March 1995: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Desk Officer, Asia-Pacific Department. • September 1993 - January 1994: ICL Czech Republic ‒ Marketing Manager/Manufacturing Business Unit. • July 1993 - September 1993: KORD Ptáčník ‒ Hradec Králové, Assistant to the General Manager / Owner. Languages • Fluent in English, Spanish languages and intermediate in French and Russian.

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Feature By Robin Westley Martin

Food calls to Bangkok’s hungry underclass How three farangs and their volunteers are helping those who need it the most during the lockdown. Now they need your help with donations

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hile scrolling through Facebook earlier this month it was impossible to miss the pic of this giant of a dude with a beard and massive tattooed biceps. He looked like some of the biker crews I knew back in the UK. What had most struck my attention about him, though, was that he was part of a group of ‘farangs’ (foreigners) who were handing out food parcels to little kids and their grandparents, in hidden parts of Bangkok. In some of the most impoverished parts of the city, home to the cash-strapped denizens of Bangkok’s underbelly, there these guys were … giving out essential supplies to families badly in need of a little TLC – and even more so thanks to the coronavirus-generated restrictions. OK, game on … I needed to know more about this hombre. I ‘friended’ him, and within an hour he had got back to me. The guy I had chanced across was Sebastian Bergstroem (Biggie) whose Viking blood had brought him from Sweden to Thailand in 2015, when he had started a security company offering close protection, followed by an events and media company in 2019. 70

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Feature Both these ventures required close interaction with individuals or the public, and Biggie saw quickly that his businesses would suffer because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. In January 2020 he quickly moved to open up TCB Medik to provide facemasks and 70 percent hand gel, etc. It was this decision that has been able to keep his businesses afloat. ince arriving in Thailand, Biggie quickly made many friends, both Thai and foreign. “I know a lot of people in Thailand, and some of my older Thai friends had begun to text me, reluctantly asking for food and help because they didn’t have any income and the government wasn’t responding. “I helped out some of them, and saw face to face how they and their neighbours were suffering. Right then I decided I wanted to do more. I knew that my Dutch friend Friso had started a food donations programme, and that his mate Greg had joined him. I offered them my help too, and nearly three weeks ago we all teamed up together,” said Biggie. I did a bit of looking around online, and I found that posts about three foreign chaps living in Thailand were beginning to be noticed on social media, attracting a lot of attention. They had organised caravans of donations, heading to the poorest areas of Bangkok … the jungle drums had done their job, and wherever they set up their tables there were soon long lines of destitute city dwellers queueing up. Biggie invited me along to one of the giveaways and introduced me to his partners in the donations project. The three people in question, then, are Friso Poldervaart, Greg Lange, and Biggie. Friso, with his business partner Johannes, had set up Dinner in the Sky, a restaurant hoisted up by a crane 50 metres into the air. After having served

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thousands of people with five-star meals whilst hanging suspended in the sky, Friso and Johannes wanted to help people, and give something back to the local communities. Greg is a businessman and owner of Sunrise Tacos restaurant in a dozen or so locations around Bangkok, with over 20 years’ experience of living in Thailand. It was Friso who had started the ball rolling on this project, along with Johannes Bergstrom, Patrich Andersson and Bunyapat Phochailerd, but as soon as it began Greg also offered his help. Friso already knew Greg, but over the last few weeks they have bonded really well, and the same goes for Biggie.

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angkok can actually be quite a small foreign community, and everyone seems to know each other somehow. These three guys who had unexpectedly found themselves working together quickly formed a strong connection, and are raising the bar on everything they touch to the next level. They seem to feed off each other and keep coming up with fresh ideas, to support the new requests they keep getting. Their team is giving sustenance to those living in slum communities, as well as to the homeless, and refugees … and they also visit the disabled they are told about. For those who are unable to make it out


Their team is giving sustenance to those living in slum communities, as well as to the homeless, and refugees ‌ and they also visit the disabled they are told about.

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Feature to help with distribution through his connections, and he arranged to hand out the meals with the aid of a local foundation based in the slum. From then on Greg and his staff have tirelessly worked in the restaurant kitchen throughout the nights to prepare the thousands of meals that are still being handed out around the city. And the Three Amigos are there at every giveaway, both supervising and handing out the supplies. ow, as their fame has spread, they daily receive requests for help from community associations in all parts of Bangkok. Biggie has set up a donations website, and to date the three have collectively raised about 800,000 baht in total. Every single baht goes to buy the food, milk, bags of rice, soap, cooking oil, cans of fish, et al, and hand it out to the neediest in out of the way parts of the city. All the work is done by volunteers, and the teams you see staffing the donation destinations are giving their time and work for free.

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to the giveaways, food and supplies are delivered to them in their own homes. Friso, Biggie, and Greg each have their own little area of expertise and that works very well. They have their own networks, too, and their own circle of friends, many of whom are also coming on board to help out, if they can. It was only at the beginning of April that this donations project – which now goes by the moniker of ‘Dinner from the Sky’ – began rolling out. They expected things would grow, but it quickly 78

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exceeded all their expectations. For the first outing, they posted a request on Facebook that they needed to use a large kitchen in order to prepare 300 meals for some of the poor in the Klongtoey slum, which is Bangkok’s biggest. Right away Greg offered his restaurant on Silom Soi 4. Friso, Johannes and a few others arrived at 4am in the morning, and Greg was there waiting. They cooked the hundreds of meals they were going to hand out, and boxed them up, all by themselves. Greg offered


By the middle of May this little germ of an idea in the minds of Friso and Johannes had grown, in a few short weeks, into a rolling thunder review that had provided: • 10,000 plus kilos of rice • 8,000 plus cans of fish • 2,000 plus hot meals • 200 plus boxes of powdered milk • 2,000 plus cartons of milk • 2,000 plus bottles of water • 2,000 plus bottles of cooking oil • 2,000 plus facemasks • 10.000 plus facemask filters • 800 plus soy milk • 500 plus tubes of toothpaste • 2.500 plus hand gel sanitizer TheBigChilli

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Including, as well, a lot of donated clothes for men, women, and children And these numbers continue to grow, as they go out to different locations three or four times a week. As I write this article Dinner from the Sky is planning to dispense their reserves to 1,000 individuals in a single day, up from around 600 per outing. I joined them for three days, to help out, and to see first-hand exactly what was going on. On the first day I was asked to meet them near Sukhumvit Soi 1, where the railway tracks meet the main road. You may have walked across the tracks here many times yourself, on the way to one of the many nightspots on lower Sukhumit, without realising that there are hundreds of people living right next to the railroad tracks, in their little wooden huts, only a few yards away. There are many such places in Bangkok, and you might be surprised just how many. I arrived at 10 in the morning, and the plan was to start this latest Dinner from the Sky donation at 11. When I got there I spotted Biggie and went over to say hello, and asked him what I could do to 80

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Although the giveaway here was unannounced, it was not long before a line of people of all ages was snaking its way down the railway tracks – the word spreads quickly in these urban clusters. help. Within five minutes I was unloading a pickup truck of 150 5kg bags of rice, and putting them on a pallet next to the tracks, ready to be distributed. Soon a few more volunteers and supplies arrived, in new pickup trucks, or loaded into private cars. Although the giveaway here was unannounced, it was not long before a line of people of all ages was snaking its way down the railway tracks – the word spreads quickly in these urban clusters. The volunteers were arriving all

the time, and I was part of a team of about 20 people. We set up tables on the side of the tracks and loaded them with bottles of water, 600 hot meals, bars of soap, cookies, tins of fish, facemasks, packets of dried noodles, baby milk formula, cartons of regular milk, and even candy and toys for the kids. When all was ready, the police and uniformed officers (Tessakit) from the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority helped to control the lines. One of the team checked the temperature of the people waiting


in line, and another sprayed them with hand gel, before they proceeded onwards, clutching their bags, ready to be filled with stuff to help them get through the next few days, at the minimum. The volunteers and helpers are now well-rehearsed, and the people waiting for their food and drink pass along the lined-up tables stacked with goodies quickly; the team members, who are a mix of farang and Thai, put the bags of rice into their outstretched arms, or fill their waiting bags with the boxes of food or other goods rapidly and efficiently. As a new member of the team I was touched by the wais and thankyous of the people. There were the old, there were the young, there were the frail, there were pregnant ladies with young kids, and all appeared so grateful for the help they were getting. Before the handout started I had talked to a few people from the community, and they told me that things were tough for them. They had lost their jobs, were not able to sell their noodle dishes on the street, no passengers for the taxi drivers, or others were not able to collect stuff from the streets to

recycle. They said that events like this were a godsend (or maybe a Buddha send). I watch and read the news, and from this I know that people in Bangkok are suffering. But I did not know how much. Some of the people I saw on this first day were weak, and some of the old people had to be helped back to their shack. Biggie told me he had helped an old lady carry her 5kg bag of rice back to where she lived, and he was saddened. She lived on a wooden pallet, covered by sheets, with not even an electric fan. The only luxuries she possessed were a rice cooker, and a bowl and spoon to eat the rice with. Biggie went out and bought her a fan. riso, Greg, and Biggie have many similar stories they can tell. Since they started Dinner from the Sky, they have seen things that have shocked them, and it has increased their resolve to continue their work with the poor of Bangkok. They have a great team of volunteers, too, and together they are making a difference. I wondered how long they would continue doing the giveaways,

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and they all told me they would continue until things started to get back to the ‘new normal’, and they were able to resume their various businesses. I then asked them about the future, and Friso, as spokesman, said, “We did not really know much about these underprivileged, poor communities that exist around Bangkok. We have talked together about this, and we know that even when Bangkok is able to get back to work, that the people in these poor communities – like these guys that live next to the railway tracks – will still be there, and they will still be poor. When we are back at work we will still help, by going to at least one place a week to give out donations, as we are doing right now. We will not just stop. How could we?” If you feel like you can help, please have a look at the ‘Weeboon’ website. Cheers! https://www.weeboon.com/en/ campaign/rice-water-canned-foodpowered-milk-face-mask-pre-cookedfood-for-low-income-families-andorphans-?fbclid=IwAR2Lfprw2yY QhqfBQO09WhmhLS776XUzkEA UmkIb9Ri9QHaS7lICqBkX8eo TheBigChilli

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Travel

In a distant corner of Africa, Namibia's premier holiday resort and its fascinating history Bangkok-based Christian Schulz unveils the myriad attractions of his childhood home

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The actual ‘Mouth of the dry Swakop River’ (German for ‘Swakopmund’) with the columns of the old Railway bridge and the Jetty in the far distance.

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ocked between the ocean and the world’s oldest desert, and buffeted by ever-moving sand dunes, Swakopmund is Namibia's premier holiday resort, a place rich in reminders of its past and ample reasons to warrant a visit today. To get to Swakopmund as an overseas visitor, you first have to fly into the country’s capital Windhoek, located at an elevation of 1800m on the southwest corner of the African continent in one of the most isolated and little known parts of the world, and then travel

by road some 380km, including a 150km desert crossing. This beautiful seaside town was founded in August 1892, two years later than Windhoek, by Captain Curt von Francois, as the main harbour of German South West Africa, a former colony ruled by Germany. Its name was changed to Namibia in 1968. Increased traffic between Germany and its colonial outpost necessitated establishing a port since Walvis Bay, located 33km south, was a British possession. The choice fell on Swakopmund,

where water could be found and because other sites checked were unsuitable. Records show that in 1894 there were only 19 inhabitants. The name in essence means “the mouth of the Swakop River” and is believed to originate from the Nama word ‘Tsoakhaub,’ which can be translated as ''excrement opening'', an accurate description of the waters of the Swakop River in times of flood when it carries tonnes of clay and sand, along with piles of vegetation and the odd animal corpse. TheBigChilli

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‘Woermann Haus’- facades, arches, towers, and ornamentation reflect a bit of 19th century Germany.

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ortunately, this happens less frequently nowadays as dams upstream store water to supply the capital and other towns. Despite its name, this beautiful little town on the west coast of Namibia has a rich past, reflected in the many old but well-preserved colonial buildings. The facades, arches, towers, and ornamentation 84

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reflect architectural themes which dominated Europe at that time. Swakopmund retains something of 19th century Germany with traditions like Küsten-Karneval, Oktoberfest and the Christmas Market still celebrated. Many of the restaurants offer typical German dishes. For example, the Black Forest cake and the daily fresh baked Apfelstrudel served at

Café Anton are famous beyond the borders of the country. In addition, the 24-hour German Language Radio station the ‘Allgemeine Zeitung’ reports daily on important and not-so-important issues. On Mondays, it announces the result of the German Bundesliga results. A sizeable part of Swakopmund’s population is still today Germanspeaking.


Lighthouse erected in 1902 next to the State House, built in 1906 as the ‘Imperial Court’.

‘Hohenzollern Haus’, built in 1906 as a hotel.

The city’s colonial landmarks include the: • Swakopmund Lighthouse, the first 11m were erected in 1902 and a further 10m added in 1910. • State House (Kaiserliche Bezirksgericht), built in 1906 • Mole, an old sea wall and now the main beach next to the Swakopmund Museum which documents Namibian history.

• Woermann Haus, built in 1906 with a prominent tower, now a public library. • Hohenzollern Haus, built in 1906 as a hotel. • Prinzessin Ruprecht Heim, the original Military Hospital, built in 1902, now a senior residency • Kaserne, completed in 1906 served as the military barrack • Antonius Residenz, opened in

March 1908 and which, until a few years ago, was a hospital • The Lutheran Church, with bells imported from Germany, which was consecrated in January 1912 • The elegant Swakopmund Railway Station, now a hotel • Altes Gefängnis, the prison, built in 1909 • German School, completed October 1913, which hosted both TheBigChilli

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Travel the government and municipal secondary schools ne of Swakopmund's lesser known historical facts is that the conditions were actually unfavourable to build a harbour as the coastal waters were far too shallow. In addition, there was no sheltered lagoon, and the surf was much too strong. As the disembarkation of settlers and troops on surf boats was a life-threatening undertaking, an artificial harbour was built at very high cost. Unfortunately, the Mole sea wall was a brave but ultimately unsuccessful attempt. Although some 375m of pier was completed in 1900, by winter 1906 it had silted up and a sandbank blocked it completely, leading to the construction of a 325m long wooden jetty in 1902, which was replaced by an iron one in 1912. The remains of this jetty still serve as a pedestrian walkway and, since 2010, host an oyster bar at the far end. Today the Mole serves

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The well maintained fairways of Rossmund Golf course do attract springboks from the Namib desert.

The ‘Kaserne’, served as the military barracks, completed 1906.

The ‘Mole’ is today Swakopmund’s main beach and board walk and frequently also visited by some seals. 86

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as the main beach and attracts locals and tourists alike. Swimmers can have close encounters with dolphins who visit regularly and a small colony of seals that enjoy drying their fur on the nearby rocks. In 1894, regular freight traffic began, led by the WoermannLinie, a shipping company based in Hamburg, Germany. Thus Swakopmund quickly became the main port for imports and exports for the whole territory, and was one of six towns which received municipal status in 1909. Many government offices for German South-West Africa had offices in Swakopmund. When the jetty opened, the newspaper ‘Deutsche Südwestafrikanische Zeitung’ stated that there were 1,433 inhabitants of the town. After German South-West Africa was taken over by the Union of


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Outside Swakomund the Namib sand dunes end at the banks of the dry Swakop River bed.

South Africa in 1915, all harbour activities were transferred from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay. Many of the Central Government services ceased. Businesses closed down, the number of inhabitants diminished, and the town became less prosperous. During my school days in the 60s, the town boasted some 5,000 inhabitants yet people only knew about such urban niceties like traffic lights from movies shown in the cinema on Wednesday and Saturday. The main local industry was the salt pans, 7km north of the town, where today seawater is still pumped into huge ponds to allow harvesting of the ‘white gold.’ Others were the tannery and the Hansa Brewery (opened 1929) where the brew master (my father) took great pride in strictly following the over 400-year-old German Purity Law (only four ingredients: water, malt, hops, yeast). Although the discovery of uranium at Rössing, 70 km outside the town dates back to 1928, exploration and extraction only started in 1976. This led to the development of the world's 88

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largest open cast uranium mine. In 2005, it produced 3,711 ton of uranium oxide, becoming the fifth-largest uranium mine, with eight per cent of global output. This had an enormous impact on all facets of life in Swakopmund and necessitated expansion of the infrastructure of the town, making it into one of the most modern in Namibia. utside of the city, the Rossmund Desert Golf Course is one of only five all-grass desert golf courses in the world. The well maintained fairways not only attract golf enthusiasts but also animals like springboks and ostriches from the adjacent Namib Desert plains. Over the last 50 years, the potential of Swakopmund as a holiday resort has been recognized and developed. Today, tourism-related services form an important part of the town's economy. The number of hotels and restaurants has increased as more and more international tourists visit Swakopmund while touring the huge country with the second

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lowest population density in the world, after Mongolia. Surrounded by the Namib Desert on three sides and the cold Atlantic waters to the west, Swakopmund enjoys a mild desert climate. The atmospheric conditions caused by dense banks of coastal fog that hang over the ocean on many mornings dissipate as the sun rises high in the sky. With only around 20mm falling per year, rain is a rather rare event. While the African sun is very intense, a fresh breeze from the southwest coming up later in the afternoon does have a cooling effect. Due to the cold and marine-life-rich Benguela current, seawater temperatures rarely reach over 20 °C. Many South African and Namibian pensioners take up residence in Swakopmund and the German language can be heard everywhere. Although many of prominent streets were renamed after independence, some still bear names from the colonial days. Today, Swakopmund is the capital of the Erongo Region and has about 34,000 inhabitants.


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Profile for The BigChilli Co., Ltd.

The BigChilli June 2020  

Thailand's best-read expat magazine. Find out what's hot in Bangkok and beyond. June 2020

The BigChilli June 2020  

Thailand's best-read expat magazine. Find out what's hot in Bangkok and beyond. June 2020