White elephant and Moose

Thai folks just love to import stuff! Imports are hi-so, they are cool. You can eat import food, you can dress to the latest import fashion using imported clothes. You can watch the 10m-Bt imported Chinese pandas chewing bamboo in Chiang Mai Zoo. Then you can drive away in your imported American gas-guzzler, or your imported Japanese shiny “jewel-box-on-wheels”. Of course, when you are back home to tell your folks about the adventure, don’t forget to use fancy imported words from Steve’s collection to complete the picture. 😉

But Thailand doesn’t stop here. Now they decided that their ‘home-made’ currency is just too… provincial. So now the image of His Majesty is pressed on the new 2Bt-coins in Canada. Yep, that’s right, folks. The white elephant teamed up with the moose.

I don’t know how you feel about this, but it’s strange to say the least. Isn’t the currency of a country considered to be a national symbol? Thailand is very defensive on any perceived offense on its national/religious identity – let alone anything that involves the image of the king!

The decision doesn’t make sense from an economical point of view either. Thailand surely has its own mint, manned with Thai workers. Yet, they chose to pay more than ten million dollars to Canadians to produce these coins overseas. That’s 400+ million Baht loss for Thai workers – not exactly pocket change (pun intended).

The bird flu and the tsunami still weigh heavily on the Thai economy; it needs all the captial influx it can get. I don’t think this is the best time for classy show-offs such as importing currency.

Regrettably, I wasn’t able to find an image of the new Thai 2Baht coin. Since they went to great lenghts and spent the taxpayers money lavishly, the coins must surely feature their overseas origin! I am still very curious about what do we get when we cross the white elephant with the Canadian moose. Time will tell.

Do you think that pressing the King’s face on coins in FarangLand is borderline lese majeste? So would I, if I were Thai. Bear in mind however, that the decision was made by Thai politicians/businessmen, and they didn’t see anything wrong with it. I still wonder though: how do traditionally patriotic Thais of the street reconciliate with the fact that their revered King’s image is created and pressed in a foreign land?

For those who don’t know, I should mention that any object featuring the king’s image must be handled with the outmost respect and caution. You can’t use an old newspaper page if the photgraph of the king is on it. You can’t stop a rolling coin by stepping on it – you’d step on the king’s image! You can’t put your bottle on a banknote either.

Also a bit of background on the 2Baht coin. You don’t see on the streets nowadays. It was made for special occasions such as the birthday of the Crown Prince; the birthday of the Queen Mother and HM the King’s 64th birthday. Other notable figures who were worthy of the honor are the father of Rama IX, and Rama VII.

With all respect to Canadians: the moose just doesn’t belong into this company… IMO.

21 responses to “White elephant and Moose

  1. Actually the coin contract was awarded to the Royal Canadian Mint because of the state of the art technology they employ.

    Its a common enough practice to deal in trade with a technologically advanced partner. The coins are a tribute to the monarchy and as such ensuring that the best technology available is used in their production makes absolutely perfect sense.

  2. Then there was the contract the UK Royal Mint won to produce coins for a small African country, that shall remain nameless for obvious reasons.
    Rather than produce a totally new design, the Royal Mint produced coins with a value of about B4 which were exactly the same size and weight as the British £1 coin (value B70) – very useful for any British coin operated vending machines – cigarettes, parking meters, London Underground fares etc. for which they were widely used.
    I cannot see how the Canadian mint can produce Thailand’s coinage cheaper than Thailand – what about the freight charges for one thing?

  3. Thanks for your comment, Andy. It appears that you missed the link in my blog. The linked text reads “The white elephant teamed up with the moose.” It links to the exact same article you posted in your comment, but on our forums. For the sake of clarity, I edited the repeated article from your post.

    Mai pen rai – it happened before. I think that linked text is rather similar to normal text in this program, thus it’s easy to miss. It also depends on your browser settings.

    Actually the coin contract was awarded to the Royal Canadian Mint because of the state of the art technology they employ.

    In other words, they prefer the fancy import.

    The coins are a tribute to the monarchy and as such ensuring that the best technology available is used in their production makes absolutely perfect sense.

    The coins are a tribute to Thai monarchy, thus it makes sense to make them in Thailand. If you know anything about the king, his actions are always to the benefit of Thai people. Honoring him and his family should have been carried out in a similar fashion to reflect this. Outsourcing a job worth tens of millions of baht goes against this principle, and the ‘hi-so hi-tech’ is just not enough justification for it, IMO. After all, other commemorative coins were made using Thai technology and Thai manpower already.

  4. Khun Don, thanks for the info on the UK Royal Mint. It’s surely a nice way of saving money – but it also makes me wonder how much input the customers have in the design of the coins produced overseas. It’s a lot different from a state mint where the government has everything under control and can change it anytime.

    I cannot see how the Canadian mint can produce Thailand’s coinage cheaper than Thailand – what about the freight charges for one thing?

    I was wondering about the same thing too. What kind of justification could they use? Cost saving doesn’t seem to be a plausible explanation, for the freight charges as you said, and also for the “state-of-the-art” technology that Andy mentioned.

    I think it’s just another one of those prestige issues that many Thais care so much about.

  5. Like you, Siamjai, I know nothing about the specifics of the deal or what it means in terms of better trade relations with Canada (and the benefits they would have for Thais) so I would not jump to write a blog slamming the entire enterprise and insulting Canada with your ‘The Moose does not belong in this company”, tripe.

    I would think, and am probably correct in assuming, that this project needed Royal approval to pass.

  6. Jai yen yen, dear Andy. 🙂

    You must be a newcomer to these blogs. If you haven’t noticed yet, we speculate here; that is, casually discuss a given issue, pondering about motives and possible consequences. If I were to write a case report about this, then I’d be worrying about knowing the exact details.

    We take it easy; I suggest you do that too. Perhaps you have an idea that could show how the Thai side benefits from the deal. If you do, please post it here. We would like to discuss that too.

    Unlike you, I highly doubt that His Majesty would waste his valuable time on the production deal of 2Baht coins when there are higher-priority issues at hand that need more consideration.The southern violence and the re-emerging bird flu virus are just a few examples. I think that there is a state treasuer or such a figure to represent royalty in non-essential matters.

    But, I could be wrong. Can’t know for sure, because we just speculate here. 🙂

  7. Lighten up. Maybe the Canadians are better at producing coins? Same same Thailand is better at producing Muay Thai fighters and exotic holiday destinations.

    That great son of Kirkcaldy, Adam Smith, noticed this a couple of hundred years ago.

    The reality here is the Canadian Mint probably payed a huge kickback to a well place ‘dark influence’. It happens all the time in tender bids.

    But rest assured, the masses still kow tow to the beloved King whilst the rich get richer.

    Social justice should have priority over blind nationalism (which is, after all, the last refuge of the scoundrel).

    *rant over*

  8. Hmm -the idea of producing the coins outside of Thailand certainly seems to fly in the face of the “self sufficiency” ideal His Majesty has always (rightly) maintained is the best way to improve Thai peoples lives. Perhaps a better idea would have been to show respect to that ideal by investing in the technology to make “outsourcing” unnecessary – but perhaps the “freebies” were not so good- no doubt somebody(s) from the Government visited the Canadian Mint and others before the contract was finally awarded.

  9. I don’t know, maybe the Thai mint is already at full capacity ? Or maybe to produce in Thailand would take much longer and/or be much more expensive, for whatever reason ? I’m sure the Thai officials would, all other things being equal, have preferred to have them produced in Thailand, so they must have had some reason to come this decision. Unless anyone knows what that is, I don’t think we can really criticse them based only on speculation about the motive.

    But I don’t really think it’s anything to do with wanting ‘fancy foreign imports’ to show off. Has there even been any comment from any Thai official about it at all ? Or any articles in the Thai press ? Would the average Thai citizen even know where they came from ? The linked ‘article’ is really just a press release from the Canadian mint. Seems more like that they’re trying to hide the decision to outsource rather than publicise it.

    Incidentally, isn’t that mockup of the coin image a bit borderline ? I know it’s a joke, but as you say yourself “Thailand is very defensive on any perceived offense on its national/religious identity – let alone anything that involves the image of the king! “

  10. Ah, just found a real article 🙂 Looks like the Thai mint didn’t even enter a bid.

    Three nations enter bidding for Bt2 coins
    BANGKOK, June 19, (TNA) – Three nations have entered the battle to win the bid for minting Thailand’s new two baht coins, the director-general of the Treasury Department revealed today.

    Speaking in anticipation of the close of the bidding process tomorrow, Mr. Wisudhi Srisuphan said that mints from Finland, the UK and Canada had all put up bids.

    The bids will be officially submitted on 28 June, and an electronic auction will be held on 4 July.

    The 21.75mm diameter coin, weighing 4.4 grams, will be made from nickel-plated steel. The front of the coin will feature His Majesty the King, while the ‘tail’ side will feature Bangkok’s famous Golden Mount temple, a design chosen from one of several submitted by the nation’s young people.

    Mr. Wisudhi said that in the first instance, the department would only mint Bt400 million worth of the new coins in order to maintain the nation’s fiscal balance. Foreign mints, he said, could produce small quantities of coins cheaper than the Thai mint. (TNA)-E006

  11. Thai who loves both white elephant and moose

    I do agreed wholeheartedly with the “self-sufficiency” concept.
    However, no man’s an island so
    you must think that you’re part of this planet earth. Be sustainable as a whole environmentally and be economically sustainable locally.

    If you would like to be skeptical about this, I’d argue and question that “do we have our own coin making technology?” “how big the invesment that would cost?” “If we have the capability, then why shouldn’t we do it?” “Maybe instead of importing the coin, we can bid globally and we can even make the coin for others?”

    From Wikipedia:
    A “true coin” must follow these criteria:
    1. It must be made of a valuable material, and trade for close to the market value of that material.
    2. It must be of a standardized weight and purity.
    3. It must be marked to identify the “authority” that guarantees the content.

    It’d be nice if one day we have the abibility to produce coin here in Thailand…but if we all look at what’s going on right now…..
    what would you do????

    I am not going to argue that the bid is completely clean or there’s no agenda behind why we need 2B coin right now…there’s always connection, there’re always people who know more than others.

    I am not. So if I am not, I agree with Khun Andy that we should watch out attitude and try to write in a constructive criticism manner.

    If I’m not wrong, Thai 50B banknote was made in Australia. Because Australia at the time was the only country with the technology capable of producing plastic banknotes.

    So I googled and found this:
    “1988: Plastic Banknotes
    CSIRO and Note Printing Australia developed the world’s first polymer banknote made from tough flexible polypropylene plastics. These notes last longer and are more difficult to counterfeit than paper money.”

    So…..think about it. Why we’re not producing our own coin? And should we? Is it really just tin that we need? Or do we need to “import” other stuff to establish the factory and who many political level we have to go through to get the authrority to mark the coin? And think superficially – will Canada import more of Thai products?

    I don’t have the answer but, I am just thinking about this.

  12. Thai in Canada

    By the way, “The white elephant teamed up with the moose” is OK.
    We all (earth people) should team up actually.

    But if the moose is printed on a Thai coin, then there’s something wrong with Thai identity. But I believe it is not.

  13. Thai who loves both white elephant and moose

    I didn’t post about different kinds of coin.
    -coins that are not round.
    -coins that carry a bust of a monarch
    -coins that the side carrying the year of minting is the head instead of the tail.
    – coins made with debasing technology
    (use less precious metal and more base metal)

    Do we know the ability of the Thai minting factory (โรงงาน กษาปณ์
    )?
    Why we are not making this particular coin ourselves?

    Why do we need this design of the 2Bcoin if we can’t make it in the country?…I guess that’s the point

  14. Thai who loves both white elephant and moose

    another point is
    in economic theories,
    how will the new 2B coin bring balance to what we have already had?

    That’s what people want to know…that’s what I want to know at least. Why introducing a new 2B coin?

  15. I could be wrong, but I think the point of the 2B coin is to alleviate a severe shortage of 1B coins. The problem is it’s very easy to accumlate lots of 1B coins in change, but not so easy to actually spend them in large quantities so I guess lots of people store them in jars or piggy banks at home. That would cause a shortage in circulation. I believe the thinking is that people would be more inclined to use the 2B coin, and it would also stop people accumulating so many 1B coins.

    What’d I like to know is what the point of the 0.25B coins is nowadays, does anyone actually find them useful ?

    By the way, for anyone who wants to get rid of their 1B coins the skytrain machines accept them! Even though they say the only take 5B and 10B, the 1B coins will work as well.

  16. Occasionally the CoinStar, coin counting machine, here would accept the 1B coin as a dime. And, sometimes other similar currency in weight and size as well. You’ll just have to be a little persistant. 😉

    Personally, I’d rather have Thai coins made by Thai Mint. But if for some odd reason, like the article posted by Mike, Thai Mint won’t do it, well then that means someone somewhere in the Thai government food chain is getting a nice graft for having them minted elsewhere.

    IMHO I don’t think it’s about the “Oooh, my 2B coin is imported” but “Oooh, if we outsource this to Canada, we could skim 5% off the top of that”.

    *shrug*

  17. Thanks for the valuable input, everyone. 🙂 Now we got even more ideas than I originally anticipated.

    This discussion, I think, is a great example of what the Americans call “brainstorming”. So let’s see…

    Many voiced the opinion that there may have been some kind of a shady financial motive behind the decision, and I agree. After all, Thais just witnessed the scandal of the airport baggage screening machines, the huge corruption that was going on there – and the main culprit was aquitted. Large scale corruption is just the accepted way multi-million dollar contracts are done in Thailand nowadays.

    There also seems to be a concensus that my original “fancy import” idea may not be the real reason, and in the light of the new information, I tend to agree with that too. 🙂

    The Canadian facility may be better equipped to produce such coins, and the article Mike posted shows that the original specifications were quite high. This leads to the excellent question posed by “Thai in Canada”: Why do we need this design of the 2Bcoin if we can’t make it in the country?

    Why, indeed? Could it be that the specifications were pre-tailored to the capacity of this particular mint, for whatever reason? Could it be that the “bid” was just for show?

    Come to think of it, why does the manufacturing of a national symbol need an international bid? Would the contract for the next Royal Barge be also put up for the international ship construction market? Will it be produced by Norway because they have such an excellent technology and experience creating Viking ships?

    I hope you see where I’m getting at. It should also answer Mike’s question, whether my pic was borderline. Of course it was – it was meant to be as such, to represent an action of similar offense.

    Khun Don wrote about HM the King promoting self-reliance. This seemingly unnecessary outsourcing of a multi-million dollar job goes against that principle; a worse offense than the mere overlay of one country’s symbol over another’s.

    Finally, thanks for the tips about 1Bt coins. I’m sure they’ll be useful. 🙂

    Mike, what you are saying about replacing the 1Bt coins with the new 2Bt ones makes sense… but, according to the original article, just last year “the Royal Canadian Mint won a contract to produce 1 billion one Baht Thailand coins“. This makes any replacement plans highly unlikely, no? 🙂

    What’d I like to know is what the point of the 0.25B coins is nowadays, does anyone actually find them useful ?

    I use satang when I pay for printouts. Street value of such services should be about 1Bt/page, while here at the uni, it’s 0.50Bt/page. Bus fares are another good venue to unload satangs – you said that yourself, Mike, on the forums, remember? 😀

    The 25- and 50satang denominations were actually quite high, back then in the days of Siam. They even produced 1satang coins, about a hundred years ago! Just imagine…

    I think I will write a short blog about that, with pictures too. Stay tuned… :p

    Again, Thanks for the comments. Such diversity of viewpoints in the feedback makes me want to write blogs more frequently. If I could just find the time… :p

  18. Interesting response.

    It should also answer Mike’s question, whether my pic was borderline. Of course it was – it was meant to be as such, to represent an action of similar offense.

    I understood that, I was just wondering if it was a good idea in case a government censor happened to be browsing the site!

    Mike, what you are saying about replacing the 1Bt coins with the new 2Bt ones makes sense… but, according to the original article, just last year “the Royal Canadian Mint won a contract to produce 1 billion one Baht Thailand coins”. This makes any replacement plans highly unlikely, no? 🙂

    Sorry I didn’t mean to imply they were going to replace the 1B coins, but to supplement them and to try and slow down the rate at which the 1B coins are being hoarded out of circulation.

    What’d I like to know is what the point of the 0.25B coins is nowadays, does anyone actually find them useful ?

    I use satang when I pay for printouts. Street value of such services should be about 1Bt/page, while here at the uni, it’s 0.50Bt/page. Bus fares are another good venue to unload satangs – you said that yourself, Mike, on the forums, remember? 😀

    Yep I guess you’re right, I just never seem to have mine on me when I could use them and so end with a growing collection! My own fault really. But still, the examples you mention could be solved using the 0.50B coin, I’m not 100% sure there’s really the need for the 0.25B anymore. The bus fares have gone up since then too!

  19. Could it be that the specifications were pre-tailored to the capacity of this particular mint, for whatever reason? Could it be that the “bid” was just for show?

    The answer to this is seen in the article that Mike posted:

    “Foreign mints could produce small quantities of coins cheaper than the Thai mint.”

    This is not the first example of outsourcing and won’t be the last. If it can be done cheaper and better by a company outside the borders then why not? The 50 baht note is a good example. Also the sky train. Today, the world is a global market. Other countries use resources from around the world, so why not Thailand? The giant ferris wheel in London, which is starting to represent this captial much like the eiffel tower in Paris, was largely made by other European countries.

    It should also answer Mike’s question, whether my pic was borderline. Of course it was – it was meant to be as such, to represent an action of similar offense.

    I tend to agree with Mike on this one – it is actually a criminal offense to alter an image or symbol of the king. Do you remember a few years back the public outcry about a restaurant in American that gave an image of the king a 50’s style haircut? Then the recent case of the politicians who were misusing quotes of the king by printing them on stickers. They will probably end up in prison if they are not there already.

  20. Okay, well, that was easily solved. 🙂 If only the real lese majeste could be so easily corrected, that’d be great.

    Richard, I think that the fundamental difference is that the coin is a national symbol of Thailand. You can take it, show it to any person who’s never even been to Thailand, and its origin is instantly recognizable. Also, as I said, it’s not simply an object, it is a representation of His Majesty – as is anything that has the king’s image on it.

    I can’t think of any example that could adequately serve as a precedent to this; that’s why I used the example of the Royal Barge before. I think Thais would throw a fit if it was made, say, in Burma. :p

    The skytrain is not really something that’s so unique to Thailand that anyone could just tell its origin unless one has used it before, and it doesn’t have any connection to the Royal family.

    And I’m sorry, but the ferris wheel doesn’t say “London” to me – and I’m European! When I think of London, the sound and image of Big Ben comes to my mind first. (I hope it’s UK-made, lol).

  21. “And I’m sorry, but the ferris wheel doesn’t say “London” to me – and I’m European! When I think of London, the sound and image of Big Ben comes to my mind first. (I hope it’s UK-made, lol).
    SiamJai,
    I can assure you the Big Ben bell is made in the UK -the first one they made cracked under tests, the second one, which is the one we all hear today, is also cracked and has been for years -they used too big a striking hammer on it.
    Oh yes, Big Ben definately is British all right :-))