Posted: April 7th, 2013 | Author: Tingdong Lu | Filed under: China, Government, Governmental Policies, International Business, International Relations, National economy, Politics | Tags: Apple, business war, China, Samsung, US
Apple is “eating” China, or China is “invading” Apple
On March 15, World Consumer Rights Day, China’s national TV broadcaster CCTV exposed what it called Apple’s discriminatory warranty-repair policy in an investigative programme. In this programme it was claimed that Apple discriminates against Chinese Apple users by treating them as second-class citizens. People’s Daily, an official government newspaper, even accused Apple as a firm of “unparalleled arrogance.” It reported that Apple offers shorter guarantees than in other countries and escapes after-sale obligations. However, as a response, Apple posted an announcement on its official Chinese website stating that it providers a 90-day warranty on repairs, just like in the United States. This is longer than the 30 days required by Chinese law. Both sides have their own arguments. The citizens would consider it as one normal economic case. However, the experts seem think this issue is not as simple as the public thinks. Hence, what is behind the Chinese government’s public “sanction” of Apple? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 30th, 2013 | Author: Marc | Filed under: Economics, Government, Governmental Policies, International Business, International Relations, National economy, Politics
After the global recession in 2008 most people may have thought that bail-outs were the end of things, but five years later banks and even entire countries still default on their financial obligations. In case of Cyprus´ recent economic failures have forced the Cypriot government to ask for a bail-out from the European Union in order to safeguard the country´s economy. On 25 March it was decided by the European commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Council of European Central Bank (ECB) to provide Cyprus with a bail-out package of € 10 billion euros. As recently reported by The Economist, Cyprus is one of the four euro-zone countries after Greece, Ireland and Portugal to receive a bail-out in order to save the economy and to protect the euro-zone. The institutions which are affected immediately are Cyprus banks which face major liquidity issues as a result of a general mistrust of Cypriot citizens. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 13th, 2013 | Author: Marc | Filed under: Economics, Government, Governmental Policies, Human Rights, International Business, International Relations, National economy, Politics, Thailand
For approximately 40 years Myanmar, also known as Burma was an isolated country which struggled with problems such as human rights abuses and political as well as ethnic tensions. However, Myanmar managed to have free and fair elections in April 2012 and the government signed ceasefire agreements with some of the ethnic groups, which were fighting the government for instance the Karen ethnic groups. Kachin, a region in the north of Myanmar next to China and India, had been involved in a civil war for 60 years now. Furthermore, restrictions on the media were removed which gives journalists more freedom of the press (The Economist). That means that reporters no longer have to send a pre-publication to the government for censorship anymore. Many political commentators describe this positive development as an “opening up” of Myanmar. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 6th, 2013 | Author: Marc | Filed under: China, Government, Governmental Policies, National economy | Tags: Air Pollution, Health, Water Pollution
Chinese citizens walking in thick smog at Tiananmen Square in Beijing
China is currently third largest economy in the world and it is predicted, by the New York Times, to be number one before 2030. However this continuous growth and prosperity mainly in the country´s big cities such as Beijing come at a price. Only recently the Chinese government issued a warning to stay inside the houses and not to do strenuous activities because the air pollution reached into a new dimension. According to New York Daily News, Beijing reached an air pollution index of no less than 755 which is off the scales. As a comparison, rates above 50 can already cause health issues. In the official Air Quality Index a figure of 300 is very unhealthy and children as well as adults should avoid being outdoors. The Index describes how clean or polluted the air in a specific region is. Associated with each score are health risks which might occur after breathing polluted air. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 5th, 2013 | Author: Tingdong Lu | Filed under: Economics, International Business, National economy, Thailand | Tags: air cargo, logistics, Suvarnabhumi International Airport
The new terminal of Suvarnabhumi international airport
Background of Suvarnabhumi International Airport
“Suvarnabhumi International airport, as the air hub in South East Asia, is situated about 30 km from central Bangkok, which is opened in 2006 with limited domestic flight at the beginning and has expanded to be one of the Asian largest airport now in the past six years. Since the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport, new business opportunities, especially in the property, tourism, logistics and export sectors, have continued to be mushrooming. There has been talk of plans to further develop the area into financial street, consisting of banks and financial institutions with an investment of approximately 40 billion Baht. “—From official website of Suvarnabhumi International airport Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 12th, 2012 | Author: Angela | Filed under: Economics, Government, National economy, Politics, Thailand
In Thailand, a change of the minimum wage is soon to come. Starting in January 2013, the government has implemented a new law that establishes the rate at a minimum of 300 baht per day.
Thai civilians protesting for the establishment of the minimum wage
What has been an election promise by the current prime minister in office does sound like a step into the right direction, though it may carry a bittersweet aftertaste. As the Bangkok Post cited on March 9, “the wage hike should benefit the country’s 17 million salaried employees, it neglects the 21 million day laborers that are part of the informal economy”. What impact will the increase of minimum wage have on Thailand’s labor market? And what, generally seen, is actually a minimum wage?
In 1992, the International Labor Organization created a definition on the minimum wage, stating that “its purpose is to prevent exploitation of workers by employers, to promote a fair wage structure, to provide a minimum acceptable standard of living for low-paid workers and, eventually, to alleviate poverty, especially among working families”. The definition sounds fine to me, just as its purpose. Though, what sounds good on paper does not always work out in reality.
Let us take a look at Thailand’s implementation of the minimum wage. With its first establishment in 1973, Thailand described it as “the payment, sufficient for the employer and two additional family members”. In 1976, an amendment redefined minimum wage only to the single person that is employed, excluding employment within the agricultural sector. Today, 65% of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture. Furthermore seen in the past, there was no clear schedule for adjusting minimum wage and for some years, there had been more than one adjustment within the rate. During 1993 – 1998 for example, minimum wage failed to assure fair labor income. Clearly, such practice disturbed business investment and confidence in the government policy. Generally seen, minimum wages differed within each province of Thailand. With its agreed implementation starting January 2013, this will hopefully come to an end, meaning the country will provide the same minimum wage nationwide.
What does Thailand hope to achieve with the implementation of the general minimum wage?
Theoretically, Thailand will benefit from it as it will induce additional employment. With the ASEAN Community in 2015, the country will increase its competitiveness, compared to the other member states. Increasing the minimum wage can also lead to firms adopting new production technology and an increase in the production efficiency. Furthermore, it may reduce the labor turnover and improve personnel controls. “The Thai National Statistics Office’s employment survey criteria is flawed as it measures anyone as employed that works one hour per week”, the Bangkok Post cited in the same article. Still, Thailand will have to make some adjustments, concerning its labor market.
The agricultural sector – how will it be affected by the minimum wage?
But there are of course also critical comments. An increasing minimum wage may cause employers to lengthen working hours and give higher salaries for skilled workers, while it will not consider the unskilled workers, such as teenagers with no more than a high-school diploma. The unskilled workers, that the minimum wage was actually designed for to protect, may be the group that is mostly affected by the increase. Employers might not be able to pay their full staff anymore, due to higher wages. Especially medium-sized businesses might be affected. Concluding, could this mean that the unemployment rate will rise again in future? Currently, the country faces 285.000 unemployed persons.
The agricultural sector will probably will be affected the most by the minimum wage increase. “As of 2010, around 20 per cent of non-agricultural labor was below the minimum wage”, The Nation wrote in the article “The Impact of Raising the Minimum Wage on Wages and Employment” on March 12.
The new minimum wage can lead to an improvement for the employee’s labor market, as well as personal welfare, or bring increasing unemployment and poverty.
Thailand seems to have it thought through, but let us hope that it will work out also, in practice.
Posted: November 28th, 2012 | Author: Diane | Filed under: Economics, Governmental Policies, National economy, Politics, Thailand | Tags: AIDS, HIV
Since the end of the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been one of the most fatal diseases in Thailand. According to the latest report published by UNAIDS, even today Thailand has the highest number of people in South East Asia infected with HIV/AIDS. The percentage of infected people in Thailand between the ages of 15 to 49 is 1.3%. According to the latest research of the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated number of 28,000 died in 2011 of the consequences of AIDS, making it one of the most important causes of death in Thailand. For comparison purposes, the annual number of deaths by traffic accidents in 2011 was around 29,000. Even though the number of infected people with the HIV/AIDS virus in 2011 was 530,000, this number used to be even one-third higher during the late 1990’s and the beginning of 2000’s. What caused the HIV/AIDS to spread so rapidly in Thailand, how did the epidemic develop over the past years and how will it progress in the future?
As is stated in a research called “Thailand’s response to AIDS”, published by the World Bank, the first cases of HIV were registered in 1984. The government of Thailand depicted this as incidental and the initial policy response was muted. The prevailing view was that this was an epidemic brought from abroad and that it would be confined to a few in high-risk groups, such as gay men and injecting drug users, and would not spread more widely. During the early manifestations, many Thais had the notion that AIDS was a plaque that only struck foreigners and people at the edges of society. “Good” and “decent” Thais had nothing to worry about was ran the common belief. The World Bank reports that the first Thai epidemiological surveillance found that 44% of sex workers in Chiang Mai, in the north, were infected with HIV and the HIV infections among drug users rising from zero to 40% in one year. The rising infection levels among sex workers, which reached 31% nationally by 1994, launched the epidemic through the male clients of sex workers and affected their wives and children.
The rapid expansion of HIV/AIDS and the Thai culture is interconnected. According to Patchanee Malikhao, who researched the religious approach to HIV/AIDS prevention on behalf of the University of Queensland (Australia), the main reason for the rapid spread is to be found in the Thai cultural norms and values on sexuality. It is cultural accepted that Thai men are having extramarital affairs. Furthermore, married men in Thailand disapprove the use of condoms with their wives. Nearly all studies show that misperception and the lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS in the Thai society contributed to this epidemic. Malikhao mentioned that HIV/AIDS is only contagious from sex workers and that intimacy and trust overrule the safe sex practices. He stated the knowledge of HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention does not correspond to the perception of being at risk for HIV/AIDS infection. In addition, a research by Pranee Liamputtong, professor of La Trobe University (Australia) and medical anthropologist called: ‘HIV and AIDS, stigma and AIDS support groups’, the stigma of HIV/AIDS was a factor that resulted in keeping the infection a secret or not getting tested at all, with all the consequences this entails.
Governmental spending to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic that resulted in major developments to fight HIV/AIDS
In the mid-1990s the reality and severity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic also reached the government of Thailand and began to ran an aggressive campaign to create awareness and educated society to prevent the disease from spreading. Malikhao states that the Thai government made a smart move to integrate a Buddhist approach in their campaign. “Religion plays a big part in people’s moral”, says Malikhao, because since HIV/AIDS is a threat to the growth of a community and is seen as a morality problem, UNICEF and UNAIDS have called for the shaping of social values and public opinion by using trusted and respected members of the society: religious leaders.
According to UNDP, Thailand is one of the few countries that can be considered successful in reducing the numbers of new HIV infections from around 140,000 in 1991 to 10,000 in 2011. According to The Nation Mechai Viravaidya plays a key part in the fight against HIV/AIDS and put Thailand at the top of the world rankings on population control and HIV/AIDS elimination, and has achieved more progress in social development and education than many government administrations can claim. However, the consequences of the already mentioned 530,000 people which are infected with HIV/AIDS will of course not drop in a short period of time and the risk of spreading will remain. Due to healthcare development and advanced medical technology, people that are infected will live longer. According to a publication by the non-governmental organization Evidence To Action in November 2011, the number of new infections in 2025 will reduce to a few incidental cases. I wonder if this NGO took into account that the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 could influence this number negatively. The Bangkok Post published an article on 7 October 2012 mentioning that health advocates are urging the ASEAN member states, to take better care of the migrant workers and especially the ones with HIV/AIDS. The difficulty is that migrant workers that do not have access to healthcare of are just reluctant to seek help out of fear to be send home will form a group with high chances to become exposed to HIV.
Official poster of the AIDS campaign published by the Thai Ministry of Health. Creating awareness remains extremely important
The ASEAN countries differ a lot from one another in terms of GDP, culture and norms and values. The fact that Thailand has an advanced educational program for many years means that they strive beyond the other ASEAN countries because they already have dealt with this epidemic before. It will leave the other ASEAN countries in a vulnerable position for being exposed to an HIV/AIDS epidemic and not yet have the immediate means and knowledge to fight this. As the latest UNAIDS report noted, the most worrying fact for the ASEAN countries is that AIDS affects the most productive sections of ASEAN populations. For example the workforce is the powerhouse of economic development of the region, and without the workforce the consequences are catastrophic. Therefore, it is important that the creation of awareness in every layer of society in each Asian country must be done intensively because an HIV/AIDS epidemic does not only have an effect on a country’s healthcare but also on the whole economy. The commitment of the leaders in the ASEAN countries and of course the political will are the main factors to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Posted: November 19th, 2012 | Author: Angela | Filed under: Asia-Pacific, China, East Pacific, Economics, Elections, Government, International Relations, National economy, Politics, Thailand | Tags: barack obama bangkok, obama asia, obama bangkok, obama thailand
President Barack Obama is visiting Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia from November 18 to 20. The re-elected President, missionary for democracy, is arriving to the ASEAN member states in Bangkok on November 18. For Thailand, this is the latest visit of the President of the United States since President Bush’s arrival in 2008.
President Obama arriving at Donmuang Airport in Bangkok on November 18
As Thailand’s nation is exited to welcome the President of the United States to its capital, Mr. Obama is scheduled to discuss bilateral and multilateral issues and hold talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, visit the Wat Pho Royal Monastery and attend a royal audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
“The visit by the US president will help reaffirm Thailand’s position in the international arena”, Thailand’s Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in the Bangkok Post’s article “Obama prepares to make historic trip to Myanmar” on November 11. After all, the United States of America and Thailand can look back on 180 years of common international relations.
President Obama’s visit to Thailand does not last longer than 18 hours. Seen from the US’s side of view though, the visit is a “gesture of friendship to a long-standing partner and major non-NATO ally”, ABC News states in its article “Obama, on Asia Trip, First Pays Visit to Thailand” on November 17.
A State visit in Asia, two weeks after the elections – could there be another motivation for Obama’s appearance in Asia?
While Thailand is one of the America’s oldest allies in Asia and has been a stop for American commanders in chief since the mid-1960s, no U.S. president has ever visited Cambodia or Myanmar.
Excitement of Myanmar’s citizens for the President of the United States
The visit draws attention to the country’s shift to democracy and highlights what Mr. Obama’s administration regards as a marquee foreign policy achievement.
President Obama’s travel to Myanmar stands in spotlight during his visit to Asia. As the country is emerging from five decades of ruinous military rule, Myanmar’s government has announced the visit of the President of the United States with “warm welcomes”.
On November 19, President Obama will meet up with President Thein Sein, and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. President Obama is also intended to speak to civil society, to encourage Myanmar’s ongoing democratic transition. “President Thein Sein fully believes that the trip of President Obama will push the momentum of the process of democratic reform”, Government spokesman Maj Zaw Htay was cited by Bangkok Post.
Not so long ago, and earlier in his governmental period, President Obama suspended the long-standing sanctions on Myanmar, to reward the country for political prisoner releases and Mrs. Suu Kyi’s election to parliament.
“If Burma can continue to succeed in a democratic transition, then that can potentially send a powerful message regionally and around the world…that if countries do take the right decisions, we have to be there with incentives,” national deputy security adviser Ben Rhodes was cited of ABC News on November 17. Since the lifting of the American sanctions, international cooperation’s have begun to vie for a share of an expected economic boom in the long-isolated and highly profitable nation. Especially American companies, such as Coca Cola, are on the hunt for a new profitable domestic market. In the meantime, the United States has appointed a full ambassador for Myanmar, to visualize their influence.
With his travel to Cambodia on November 20, President Obama will meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh. ASEAN is an association of ten member states, with a GDP of approximately US$ 2 trillion in 2011, an economically profitable and growing trading partner, for both not member states, China and the United States.
China though is still the economic leader and the driving force in Asia, and therefore direct competitor to the United States’ economy and trade, on a global level.
“Main core for the United States will be to reaffirm US engagement as an Asia-Pacific power in regional affairs”, a former international economics adviser to Mr. Obama said in the Bangkok Post.
According to ABC News and CNBC, “President Obama seeks to recalibrate U.S. economic and security commitments to counter China’s influence (in Asia)”. As the United States happens to be Thailand’s third biggest trading partner behind China and Japan, “becoming a counterweight to China in the region is a keystone of Obama’s so-called pivot to the Asia-Pacific region”. The articles were published on November 17 and 18.
The reason for President Obamas appearance in Asia is therefore less to congratulate Myanmar’s political reforms for democracy, but more to increase influence and renew the trading agreements with both states, Thailand and Myanmar, to shrink influence of China.
As “the Obama administration regards the political changes in Myanmar as one that could dilute the influence of China, in a country that has a strategic location between South Asia and Southeast Asia. Both regions of growing economic importance.”
China’s top legislator Wu Bangguo has been visiting Myanmar on September 12. Let’s see when China will send another deputy to Myanmar next, to strengthen influence on the country after Obama’s visit.
Posted: October 16th, 2012 | Author: Angela | Filed under: Asia-Pacific, Government, Human Rights, National economy, Politics
“There are at least 27million slaves in this world today. This is far more, then the slaves that were transported out of Africa over a period of 400 years, east and west. This term of modern slavery is the fastest growing organized crime in the world right now.
A campaign by „Salvation Army“ in South Africa trying to create awareness of the subject “Human Trafficking”
It is even ahead of drugs. Drugs get consumed, and that’s done. Human beings are being sold, and resold, and resold. It fetches 32 billion dollars, a year, in revenue. The problem with this is it goes under the name of “Human Trafficking”. Mr. Faridoun Hemani, a broadcast journalist, states his mind about human trafficking on TED.com.
(Watch the entire video here)
Have you ever been wondering why Human Trafficking is such a lucrative business? Several aspects have an impact on the issue: globalization, poverty, civil war, an unstable economy, unemployment, nutrition or corruption are just few issues of which Human Trafficking results. The principle seems simple. Globalization brought the World together via single currencies, international trade and companies operating overseas. The Internet lets mankind from all countries and nations grow closer together. Accessibility is guaranteed via social media networking websites, or chat providers. If the motivation of the victim to be trafficked results not out from poverty, such as parents selling their children in the sheer battle of survival, it can mostly be blamed for the misuse of trust: family members traffic their children all over the world.
The price tag as a sign of human merchantability.
Because no matter whether victims are forced to leave their home for reasons of fraud, kidnapping or coercion, transportation does not cost a lot, and if the victims survive the transportation, the living conditions they are mostly captured in are not of high standards either.
Globally seen, a distinction needs to be made between countries or regions of origin, transit or destination for Human Traffic. Human beings are being trafficked from all over the world, to all over the world. The Human Trafficking network is enormous, making the business the second largest illegal crime on earth, among drug- and weapon trafficking. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 900,000 women, men and children are trafficked annually, guaranteeing total revenue of approximately 32 billion dollars, according to Faridoun Hemani’s presentation.
Central causes are the economic imbalance between origin and destination countries, and the social inequality within the countries of origin. Sufferers often decide for migration to secure their livelihood and that of their families, or to explore new living wage prospects. The desire to migrate is amplified, especially for women, due to the effects of traditional gender roles of the home country. In countries of origin, women are discriminated by having no access to education, training and the labor market. For example, in Central and Eastern European countries, especially the lacks of social rights affects and expose violence in the workplace and relationships.
So who benefits from human trafficking? The shocking fact is that everybody does profit of it. Reasons for Human Trafficking can be explained via the economic fundamental law: wherever there is demand for something, supply will be provided. One main issue results from the need of cheap labor. Because human trafficking allows some companies to produce goods and services at a lower cost, the other companies that compete legally will have to innovate and improve their business practices, to stay competitive. Trafficked and trapped migrants provide cheap labor and can be found in all industry sectors of an economy: in construction, agriculture, fishing, textiles and other sectors whose products end up on rich-country shop shelves, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The second reason would be the demand for sex slavery. The A21 Campaign (Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century with focus on Europe) states on their website “the more affordable a product is the more people will want to buy it. The prevalence of sexually transmitted disease, emotional breakdowns, violence-induced injuries, pregnancy and constant demand for young and ‘innocent’ women have created high turnover rates in the sex industry. This high demand creates a strong market for migrant and trafficked women. Whilst this demand is facilitated by brothels, pimps, clubs and bars owners, it originates from the clients.” Ultimately, the whole human trafficking network comes down to the clients who pay for sex, and as long as they continue to offer their money; the multi-billion dollar sex trafficking industry will flourish.
Resulting, the issue of Human Traffic is more complex than one might think. How can we stop a crime against humanity that actually provides profits close to a multi-billion dollar business? Certainly not by appealing on human rights. Victims in Human Trafficking cannot invoke on conventional rights, as they are given none by their owners. This fact hinders the protection and assisting of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) such as UNICEF, UNDP, or UN.GIFT for victims of Human Traffic. Due to no existing international law overruling single countries’ sovereignty when it comes to fighting the crime within each specific country, NGO’s hands for improvement are mostly tied. Furthermore, there is not one enforcement agency fighting Human traffic, but several NGO’s covering each their area of responsibility and working together as good as they can.
Human Traffic happens globally, and especially in the rich developed countries of the western world, there is a high demand for it. The United States of America e.g. is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 250,000 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to and within the U.S. I am not only referring to Kenyans, Sri Lankans, Philippines, but Americans, domestic Human Traffic. There are a quarter of a million minors, mostly girls, who are trafficked into prostitution, within the United States.
Europe is the second largest vain in Human Trafficking right behind the USA. Victims come mostly from the southern- and eastern part of Europe, but as well from Asia. Why is that? The fall of communism had devastating results in terms of widespread poverty, social inequalities, booming shadow markets and corruption for the former Soviet-Bloc. Furthermore, heavy immigrations restrictions into Western Europe created a strong demand for clandestine migration supplied by criminal network in terms of smuggling vast numbers of migrants in fraud of employment, peace and a better life. Nonetheless, 90% of victims trafficked into the European Union member states will end up in the sex industry, according to the A21 campaign website.
Concluding, I believe that a finding a solution for the global problem will be very complex and cannot be achieved in the nearest future. Even though the reporting and clarification is making progress and every country around the globe provides information on Human Trafficking via annual reports, governments can only continue estimating the grey zone numbers of its happening on each continent. Emergency-hotlines are provided, in case of suspicion or indicators on Human Traffic.
What can you personally do about it? The UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Traffic) states on their website: “Be informed! Educate yourself about human trafficking by reading about it. Keep your eyes open – human trafficking is happening all around us. Raise awareness! Talk to friends, family and colleagues. Be a responsible consumer! Inform yourself on the labor policies of companies to ensure their products are free from slave labor and other forms of exploitation. If possible, buy fair trade products. Seek support! If you suspect that someone has been trafficked report it to the institutions or assistance facilities dealing with human trafficking in your area.” To the world, you are just one person, but to one person you can mean the world. Maybe one day it will be possible to end Human Trafficking.
Posted: October 1st, 2012 | Author: Diane | Filed under: Economics, Governmental Policies, National economy, Thailand | Tags: Medical Hub Policy
In “western” parts of the world, cosmetic surgery is generally accepted and with the same effort as people shop for clothes, they also shop for breast augmentations, facelifts and nose jobs. Therefore, showing their “new bought items” can have a double meaning. According to the article “Beauty obsession” published recently in the Thai newspaper The Nation, Thai used to have negative feelings about cosmetic surgery and stigmatized the people who had surgery since it was believed to show that they were unhappy with their genetic heritage. However, all that changed approximately 10 years ago.
Cosmetic surgery is a booming industry and has gradually taken over the world. The phenomenon of cosmetic surgery is nothing new and it actually originated in India about 3000 years ago. In only 10 years, Thailand has even become the “Mecca” of sex reassignment. I wonder what happened in Thailand in order to cause such major shift in their principles.
According Dr. Arthur Saniotis, professor at the University of Adelaide, specialized in social anthropology and author of “ Changing ethics in medical practice: a Thai perspective”, the Buddhist-based (Thai) principles of ten or more years ago towards the human body, comprised of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements. All these aspects are interwoven and reflect someone’s physical appearance. Health and disease are interpreted as the effects of positive or negative karma, which has accumulated from previous lives. According to Saniotis’ statement, it seems like there is no room for cosmetic surgery in the Buddhist religion, and that it surely does not justify the use of cosmetic surgery. In addition, before the year 2000, in most of the Asian countries cosmetic surgery was done in back alleys and out of the public’s site. Why is plastic surgery so booming in Thailand, despite the fact that the Buddhist religion is so important for the Thai?
Positive estimation of the Medical Hub Policy revenue keeps hindering the public healthcare sector
Moreover, the fast economic growth of South-East Asia seems to change their former principles regarding cosmetic surgery, because a lot of money is involved in this business. Furthermore, the Thai government helped the cosmetic surgery industry, because according to a publication of the Nation in June 2004, the Thaksin government approved a strategic plan (Medical Hub Plan). It was proposed by the Public Health Ministry, to encourage both the public and private sectors to develop their healthcare services to meet international standards. The aim was to persuade foreigners, particularly from wealthier countries, and their health insurers to take advantage of medical services in Thailand, which in most cases are at least 50 per cent cheaper when compared to the same services in their countries of origin. The long-term goal was to provide medical services to two million foreigners by the year of 2008. According to Saniotis, the focus on big business has led to the privatization of many Thai hospitals in four major collaborations: Bumrungrad, Phyathai, Thon Buri, and Bangkok are now the leading medical tourist centers.
A different view of the cause regarding the booming cosmetic industry was published by Penny van Esterik, Professor of York University (Canada), claiming the growth in cosmetic surgery is promoted by cultural factors and religious factors. She also states that the growth in cosmetic surgery glorifies beauty, because Thai Buddhism links physical beauty to “moral purity”. This statement justifies the use of cosmetic surgery to some extent, although it would take quite some time for me to check if her interpretation of the Buddhist religion is correct.
According to a publication of The Nation a few years ago, the lucrative cosmetic surgery business is hindering the ‘normal’ medical care in Thailand. The government and private hospitals are profiting from the Medical Hub Plan. Thailand’s public health care system is based on a socialistic approach, and therefore the government retains power to intervene in the medical industry, and therefore the accessibility of health care services. As shown in the table, the estimation of income, gained from providing medical services, is too high to be ignored by the government.
After reading and analyzing different theories about the matter, I do believe that the growth of the cosmetic surgery in Thailand is caused by multiple reasons. The fact that it is occurring right now is a mixture of booming economy, globalization and government’s effort. However, what I find very strange is, it seems that the strong principles most Thai people have towards cosmetic surgery are deliberately thrown overboard, regardless of Buddhism. In addition, in Thailand, there is shortage of more than 6,000 doctors in the public healthcare sector and it seems that the government cares more about money rather than their own citizens. Another Thaksin effort is still shown today, while according to a publication in the Bangkok Post in May 2011, the medical students did not want to work in state run hospitals (this a part of the Medical Hub Plan which runs from 2004 till 2013), but if the students paid a huge fine to the ministry they could work in private hospitals. This form of corruption will, again, hurt the public healthcare system throughout the country. I do not have any aversion against cosmetic surgery, but I do condemn the fact that the government forces the country to provide cosmetic surgery, in exchange of Thai citizens’ beliefs and most important their access to healthcare.