The Pick of CityNews 2013 Editorials

 | Tue 17 Dec 2013 14:01 ICT

Here is our selection of the best of CityNews editorials for 2013, which includes rants against censorship, analysis of university hazing, the trouble with trying too hard to be beautiful, and many questions about freedom and democracy.

The editorial office ‘funny sign’

1. James started off the year on macabre note, writing about paedophilia after a local man was arrested for child abuse:

“Much to the chagrin of the majority of gay expat men in Chiang Mai, some people feel like they are often tarred with the same brush, seen as paedophiles or men who desire to have sex with minors because of the reported cases involving child sex abuse and gay men. Every article that is written about male prostitution in Chiang Mai inevitably elicits angry, indignant responses and divided opinions. Homosexuals seem tetchy about this subject, more so than heterosexuals on male/female prostitution. This could be because of the aforementioned discrimination and homophobia they’ve already had to inure. It might also partly be because there is some truth to the accusations. My own friends, gay or straight, are divided on the subject of prostitution, or even what is acceptable prostitution.”

2. When the smog arrived, James wrote about why the smog problem never seems to improve, in spite of the yearly promises by the government and related agencies:

“Prior to and during the smog season the media publishes articles put together by various departments working in some way for public safety, that assures us everything is and will be fine, and then subsequently they seem to wash their hands of the whole polluted affair. We read a lot about what will be done, but we don’t see much material related to what’s happening. There’s hardly a photo or criticism concerning the fires raging in Mae Rim right now, or the smoke bellowing from the forests of Doi Pui. The media, for the most part, looks like an appendage of the establishment, not a reactionary force that supports the public’s welfare.”

3. Some people thought he was a little unkind to Bangkok in this piece, entitled I ? Bangkok:

“It’s lauded as frenetic, cosmopolitan, a city of culture and art, it’s refined, a modern dizzying metropolis that hugs the banks of the majestic Jao Phraya, and although it is in part, it’s also a slum (in other parts) of overt inequities resting on the precipitous edge of a nervous breakdown. No street in Bangkok would stand in defense of this indictment. Not many places in the world will you find such a brazen juxtaposition of wealth and poverty, they go hand in hand through the streets of the capital causing as much discomfort as a strolling pedophile and his unresisting captor. Rats chew the fat outside the Porsche shop in Ekamai, homeless cripples wai at Prada shoes as they clatter down Silom, though admittedly those pesky Bangkok beggars don’t yet ply their wanton trade anywhere near the sanctum of Siam Paragon.”


4. Here, he wrote a piece on how whitening products bully people, and why people don’t want to be ‘black’:

“Take for example this: Thais are Mongoloid, and predominantly dark/brown skinned. This is what the majority – and it really is a huge majority – of people don’t want to look like. Now that’s an open wound. An industry of helplessness thrives here, and there’s not enough critical reaction to stop this wound from blowing up like a perforated ulcer.”

5. Here he talks about the unfair aspects of education, and why some kids are destined to fail due to things like ‘the hidden curriculum’:

“At school and university we meet our patrons, our connections, our bosses, and our lords. That’s why most parents pay the money for an expensive education. It isn’t so their children will possibly go and live out in the forest and write as profoundly as Henry David Thoreau, but so they don’t end up smoking meth in phone boxes as the sun breaks through the horizon of a run-down ghetto. It’s an insurance against poverty for many families, more than it is a means of acquiring knowledge. Parents want their children to stay on the right side of the tracks. I don’t blame them.”

6. On the great SOTUS (university hazing) debate:

“If you watch students being hazed at Chiang Mai University in the evening you’d know what I mean. It looks more like a Hitler youth training session than fecund minds being introduced to the vast complexities of academic life, or at best a very ill-willed and deviant boy-scouts or girl guides routine.”


7. This piece got the most hits, and is all about the matter of ‘Thainess’:

The well-being of future generations depends on self-awareness and a critical social conscience, without this how can we recognize others or contemplate the errors that might be the consequence of discord and inequality? This is why education has to be the mirror of nature, of society, rather than a magic wardrobe where truth resides.”  


8. Here’s an apology from a bitter expat following James’s criticism of True Corporation:

“The three minute long sepia drama, in my own words, has hoodwinked (the very basis of marketing) millions of naïve viewers with its hypocritical wishy-washy, obscurative bull-crap. This is advertising and I accept that, but what is worse about this particular piece of propaganda, is that is uses inequality to sell its product. And in terms of inequality it is a main component. Its message is ‘give’, when it is nonetheless Thailand’s biggest ‘taker’. All this wouldn’t be so bad if the video hadn’t become a 3 minute hands-around-the-world cryathon.”

9. On the de-mystification of Thailand, or, as they say, bursting out of the bubble (Thai-style):

“The professed educated class who have invoked this kind of scatological parlance into the political lexicon wholeheartedly admire old school realpolitik, i.e. appointed leaders, and a muted populace whose future is chained to the dogged past, and freedoms are fettered by the sometimes whimsical sometimes selective rule of law. Democracy is the opposition to these weather-beaten remnants of an age-old status quo who still live in an age of unreason, and until Thailand grows out of this tired, bellicose schism, the country will experience little social progress.”


10. And the last one of the year, called an ode to Phuket… development, over-development, and the tourism shuffle:

“The bars are half-full with the previous night’s now ludicrously drunk drunks. There’s a slightly unstable carnival atmosphere. Bangla Circus: where the acts spill into the audience. Sober people walk up and down the road watched by the funny exotic animals, roadside attractions inside their Happy Bars. Some of the performers paint their grave faces, readying themselves for another night on the tiles, making money, getting by. If they’re lucky in the morning they’ll hobble home on scuffed high-heels with some cash to send back to a poor bastard and his gran in Issan. Thailand’s burlesque holiday paradise, ageless under neon lights – will it ever get old?”