Stickman Readers' Submissions August 3rd, 2013

Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 391

Hello Dana fans from Lapland, to Tierra del Feugo, to Minsk, to Bhoomi Shoomi Loomi Doomi in Isaan (ok, Fa and I have had a few whiskeys): today a critique of a Thai government sponsored magazine ad that appeared in a business magazine in the States. I had a lot of fun doing this and it occurred to me that it would be fun to feature once in a while critiques of these government sponsored ads. Many governments pay big money to present the features and benefits of their country chiefly to investors and other governments.

Sometimes the text reads like fiction. After all, who really knows how much bauxite Somalia exports? And who is going to fact check a country saying that their mangos taste better than the mangos of any other country? A little puffing is ok and looked on indulgently the way a parent smiles at a fibbing child, but hyperbole that strays over the line into fiction should not be necessary or allowed. I love Thailand like the smile on my daughter's face (if I had a daughter and if she had a face), but sometimes it asks a lot of the thoughtful alert modern person. So do what Fa and I are doing: get some ice and get some glasses and get some whiskey and read the following:

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In 2012, in a U.S. based business magazine, the country of Thailand in the advertising section posted a four page three section presentation of the Kingdom as a good place for international businesses and individual investors to do business. One section was an interview of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Another section talks about Thailand's desirability as a place of commerce. For example:

1. "2012 GDP (projection): USD 373.3 billion."

Excuse me, shouldn't they be posting the 2011 GDP?

2. "Foreign Reserves (November 2012): USD 180.5 billion."

Ok, I would very much like to know what the government of Thailand defines as reserves. 180.5 billion? Really? I admit I am kind of a nutter about this but most people do not know what a billion is. How many department heads can articulate accurately a billion?

3. "Unemployment Rate (November 2012): 0.7%."

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Really? 0.7%? Countries with full employment don't have numbers this low. Does Thailand count all of the beggars and table top sidewalk merchants who do not pay taxes and non-registered workers as employed? This is so absurd that there is not enough whiskey to handle this. Fa and I might have to order in some beers.

4. "2nd largest sugar exporter."

2nd largest sugar exporter? Raise your hands if you have ever seen any sign of sugar production in Thailand. Hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane stretching from horizon to horizon. What? Me neither. How many of the people involved in this four page advertisement have ever seen any sign of sugar production? Ok, too hard; how about Thai legislators? No hands? Ok, I don't want to be unfair. Maybe the plants that are grown to produce the sugar (beets and cane) are grown in secret underground caves. I would have appreciated some information on this in the 'invest in Thailand' advertisement in the U.S. based business magazine. Just me. Sometimes it is just too easy. How many Thai tour guides could give you any information about sugar exports? I am guessing the answer is none.

5. "11th top tourist destination by receipts (UN World Tourist Organization)."

11th? Is this something to brag about? Receipts? How about tourists? The island nation of Bermuda is better at tourism. Another marker of successfully selling the charms of a country is by the number of returning tourists. How many tourists come once but do not come again? Receipts? Silly. How many people? That is how tourism is measured.

6. "10th in Asia for economic freedom (Heritage Foundation)."

Wow, impressive. 10th. 10th out of how many? Looks like last to me, and I am sure many of the international business people contemplating investing in Thailand would like to know what 'economic freedom' is. I know I would. Is that anything like endemic corruption or double pricing for foreigners? Just asking. If I was an international investor and I saw this I would never invest in Thailand. Makes you wonder about the wisdom of putting this in as a feature/benefit article.

Well, I don't want to look like I am unfairly piling on. These are just the skin on the custard. The feature/benefit statements that got my extra attention. There were many other examples of the desirability of Thailand for investing. Who knows, maybe all of the other statements in the four page three section presentation would meet my standards for veracity. I hope so. The nation would benefit from international investment and international exposure. All I know for certain is:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive." — Sir Walter Scott (Marmion, 1808)

Sincerely yours,


P.S. I'm sorry. I just can not let this go because I was brought up in aviation. My father flew torpedo bombers off of carriers in the Pacific during WWII, later managed an airport in Indiana, designed planes as an engineer, and convinced my mother to become a pilot. The bathroom floor was covered with aviation magazines, there were pictures on the walls, and airplane models in the basement. To wit:

7. "28 commercial airports."

Ok, just tell me where the crack party is. I give up. I would very much like to know if the public relations people working for the Thai government know what the word commercial means to investors who have to import and export material. Stating that you have 28 commercial airports means that you have 28 airports with the infrastructure to handle receiving, warehousing, documentation, and freight carrying planes. If you went to many of these airports and mentioned the word infrastructure what kind of a response do you think you would get?

I would be curious to know if the people who got the account for this advertising know what a commercial airport is, or even have Thailand Immigration stamps in their passports. 28 commercial airports? The air should be thick with commercial planes bringing in material and shipping out product. It isn't.

Just sayin'.

nana plaza