Daily Archives: July 22, 2005

Giant Swing in Bangkok

One of the tourist attractions in Bangkok is the giant swing made of teak wood and painted red. Over the past months there have been reports in the press of cracks appearing in the swing which was making it dangerous to the public. Apparently, restoration work, costing 3.39 million baht, has just been completed and extending its life for an estimated five more years.

The Swinging Festival used to take place every year but was discontinued after too many people died. The following contemporary account was written in the late 19th century:

The Swinging Festival usually occurs at about Christmas time. Processions bear the ‘mock king,’ who is an official of high rank, to the big swing. Brahmin priests lead him to a carpeted platform where he sits with one foot placed on his knee to observe the unfolding events. He is attended by four Brahmin priests, two on his right and two on his left, until the three rounds of swinging have ended. This can take about two hours. If he touches the floor with his raised foot before the games are ended, the Brahmins were allowed to strip him of his property and clothes and chase him through the streets. Nowadays, he has to pay a hefty fine to the Brahmins instead.

Four or five men, who are dressed in white with tall conical hats, mount the swing and urge it towards a bamboo pole on which a bag of money is hung. The nearest man on the swing tries to grab it with his teeth. This is somewhat difficult and dangerous as the swing supports are 75 feet high. The first set of swingers who succeed get twelve ticals, the second eight, and the third four. After the third set has proved successful the Brahmin priests then sprinkle water as a blessing, and everyone returns to the palace.

The origins of the swinging ceremony comes from the scriptures. Concerned about the end of the world, Uma Devi contrived a bet with Shiva. A serpent was suspended between Putsa trees on the river, swining back and forth between them. Shiva stood in its path on one leg with the other crossed. If the serpent struck Shiva and he fell, that would signify that the world would end. But Shiva did not fall, proving that the whole of creation was secured and strong. The Swinging Ceremony compares the swing to the Putsa trees, while the space between its posts is the river.

Sources: “The Must See Sites in Bangkok” (Bangkok Metropolitan Tourist Bureau), “The 1904 Traveller’s Guide to Bangkok and Siam” (White Lotus) and “The 1894 Directory for Bangkok and Siam” (White Lotus)

Thailand’s Labour Shortages

While back on June 2005, The Nation had published article on Thailand’s Labour Shortages. Here is an exert from it. You can read the full article by clicking on THINK-TANK SPEECH: Labour shortages need fixing: PM

Prime Minister Thak-sin Shinawatra yesterday said Thailand might need to import talent such as medical doctors or software engineers to help increase the country’s competitiveness. Speaking at the annual meeting of the National Economic and Social Development Board NESDB, Thaksin said Thailand was facing two critical issues over the next five years – poverty reduction and economic restructuring.

To restructure the economy, the country needs to find a solution to its labour shortage, particularly for medical doctors and software engineers, Thaksin said.
“We have produced doctors for the United States, but we do not use foreign doctors. We require foreign doctors to pass a test in the Thai language if they want to work here. Why do we need to protect this career?” Thaksin asked a gathering of 2,000 people representing state officials, academics, business and civil groups.

He pointed to India, where universities are churning out herds of scientists and some 300,000 software engineers a year. Thailand cannot match this output.
Beggars and unskilled labourers from neighbouring countries freely enter the country, but rich people and highly-skilled labourers face several barriers to entering the Kingdom for work, Thaksin said. Thai authorities should remove all complicated rules and regulations that prevent the free flow of qualified people to work and live in the country.

He called on private companies to restructure operations in order to prepare for fierce competition as a result of trade liberalisation. The government bailed out private debtors and restructured their debt after the 1997 financial crisis and is not in a position to make any more bailouts, he said.
“Everyone has to leave their personal agendas behind. If we do not change today how can we survive in the next 10 years?” Thaksin asked rhetorically”

– Wichit Chaitrong, The Nation

I totally disagree with the PM’s ideas to solve Thailand’s labour shortage problem, particularly for medical doctors and software engineers. Thailand will eventually produce these individuals as near future. Sometime, I think that Dr. Thaksin tries to solve the problem too quickly to impress himself and his own political alliances.

Thailand has so much to offer to the world in our own way. Importing the best foreign individual from around the world is not the best way to proceed. First, they are not cheap labor to begin with. Second, they take away the job from local people. For Thailand to be competitive and sustainable in the future, we need to produce the home grow medical doctors and software engineers by ourselves. Thais are capable to perform this type of service.

We can do this by using our own Thai scholars, who have or currently have been living aboard to come home to train our own Thai individual in those fields. They have the right knowledge to do it due to experience and training from abroad. I do believe that Thailand has the right infrastructures and facilities to do this. All we need are these individuals to step-up to the place. Although, Thai might argue that they might not make the best money in his/her native land, so they need to export themselves to the foreign market. But sometime, Thais need to import themselves for the better of her country. Thais need to remember were they are come from. This would be the best trade off for the country.

No matter what countries you work in the world, individual need to know the local language in order to be successful in what you. When Thais go to the foreign land, they required to learn the foreign land local language. So when the foreigners want to do business in Thailand, we expect them to do to the same. Remove the language requirement for foreign to do business in Thailand would be a wrong idea.