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Apec, ganja, World Cup football and the weakness of Thai planning

Meanwhile, the success of the Apec summit early this month sparked hope of a perfect outcome for host Thailand. Video clips of world leaders showcasing Thai food and culture went viral around the globe. However, a group of protestors broke out of the designated Bangkok rally site and clashed with riot police on the street. Many were wounded and took their cases to court, accusing the police of unwarranted violence, but there was little public outcry over the incident. Perhaps people remembered the Pattaya Asean summit a decade ago when protesters forced world leaders to flee, or maybe they were more concerned about the cost of living and bored with politics for now.

But the political show must go on – and it did! Smouldering controversy over the legalisation of cannabis finally caught fire. The Public Health Ministry insisted the move was aimed to boost public health by allowing medical use of the herb. Some coalition parties complained authorities could not control recreational ganja use, adding there was no “plan B” in case of rampant pot abuse.

Meanwhile, Thais’ anxiety was rising over whether they would get free broadcasts of the Fifa World Cup. Relief came when the Sports Authority of Thailand led by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, secured a last-minute deal to broadcast all 64 matches of this year’s tournament. But the broadcast-rights fiasco led many to question why the deal had not been planned ahead. Were authorities waiting for a Thai tycoon to step in like they did for Euro 2020, when Aerosof’s owner was hailed a national hero for contributing 300 million baht to buy the broadcast rights? Another mess followed the deal when the broadcasters complained True Corp had dominated the World Cup broadcast allocation with 32 of the 64 matches. As True was one of three conglomerates that stepped in to help the government buy the rights, many said it was a fair deal. Away from the money talk, we saw the huge leap that Asian football has made, with Japan stunning mighty Germany 2-1 and South Korea holding Uruguay to a draw.

In Thailand, unhealthy incidents happen all the time and everywhere, particularly when we implement our plans. Somehow, challenges and surprises seem to occur in our society more often than in other places. Why is that so? How about poor planning and the habit of sweeping uncertainties under the carpet?

Amorn Wanichwiwatana, DPhil (Oxon), is a former member of the Constitution Drafting Commission and a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.

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