Rice Farmer suicide in Thailand

Last week, we read “Stuffed and Starved”. In that book, Pastel mentions the Korean farmer, named Lee Kyung Hae, who committed suicide because of his debt. Korean government lift restrictions on the import of Australian beef for free trade, even they knew that the price for cattle would fall with the entry of those cheap beef. In the Lee’s case, he made loans to increase the size of his herbs. However, the price of beef stayed low and flat. In order to pay off the interest on the loan, he sold cattle, land, and finally committed suicide. Free trade allowed the inflow of cheap products from other countries and those products torture the farmers.

I found a news video that informed a rice farmer, Thongma Kaisuan, committed suicide in Thailand. However, this case is a little different from Lee’s case. Thailand is one of the biggest exporter of rice. They don’t import rice from other country. So, why did he commit suicide?

According to the video, he committed suicide because of signify financial hardship, caused by the lack of payment for rice subsidy from the Thailand’s government. “The rice subsidy introduced in 2011 sought to buy rice from local farmers at around 50% above market prices, stockpile them to drive up global prices, and then sell them for increased revenue. Thailand was the world’s largest exporter of rice at the time and had the clout to affect prices of the staple. The program was earlier promoted by Yingluck’s brother Thaksin, who was the former prime minister (S. Sim, 2015). ” This program was one of the main campaign message of  Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It supposed to provide stable and higher income for the local farmer.

THAI_RicePrice“The timing of the government’s rice program could scarcely have been worse.” Wall Street Journal argues that, “Just as Thailand began withholding rice from the international market, India resumed exports after a long absence. Major importers such as the Philippines, stung by the 2008 price spike, also began producing more rice. Instead of rising, global prices for rice fell from a peak of more than $1,000 a ton in 2008 to the current level of around $390 a ton for the most commonly traded grades.” Because the rice price in the global market has declined, rice subsidy program costed the government some 518 billion Thai baht ($15.7 billion) in losses (W.Chomchuen, 2014 ). Thus, the government run short of cash and finally became not to be able to pay rice subsidy for local farmers.

In the Lee’s case, Free trade allowed the inflow of cheap products from other countries and those products torture the farmers. In Kaisuan’s case, because India started to export their rice, rice price in the global markets decline. And, it tortured farmers. Thus, both cases are seemingly rooted in globalization. However, I think it’s more local government fault. In Lee’s case, Korean government encouraged farmers to make ends meet by upping the size of their herds, instead of imposing a high tariff on the Australian beef, even they knew the price for cattle would fall with the entry of the cheap Australian beef. In Kaisuan’s case, the government lacked to predict world market price and payment for the local farmer. Therefore, government has important role in the global market.

 

Citation

*Sim, S. (2015, January 23). Thailand Rice Subsidy Scheme: What It Is And How It Toppled Thai Leader Yingluck Shinawatra. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/thailand-rice-subsidy-scheme-what-it-how-it-toppled-thai-leader-yingluck-shinawatra-1792788

*Hookway, J. (2014, February 5). Thai Effort to Control Rice Market Backfires. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304428004579352590377530118

* Andersen, T. (2014, February 08). Thailand farmer suicides. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhNK2Mcm38Y

* Chomchuen, W. (2014, November 13). Thai Rice-Subsidy Loss Set at $15.7 Billion. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/thai-rice-subsidy-loss-set-at-15-7-billion-1415882258

 

 

Slaves at a Shrimp Factory in Thailand

In the previous post, I mentioned Thailand traditionally produced and exported rice, sugar, pineapples, and rubber. But, its traditional role complemented with an expanding array of non national exports, such as canned tuna, shrimp, processed meats, and fresh and processed fruits and vegetable (McMichael, 2000, p.102).

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As this pie chart indicates, the shrimp occupied 16% of the Thailand exports. Thailand’s biggest export market is the United States with a share of 42%, against Japan’s 24 % and 13% for the EU (BOI, 2013). Thailand changed their tradition to fill the demand from First World nations.

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But, today, I would like to inform about the working condition of the slaves in a shrimp factory, named Gig Peeling factory, at Samut Sakhon, Thailand. In this factory,most of the laborer’s works are ripping the guts, heads, tails and shelling off shrimp bound for overseas market such as the US, Japan and Europe (Mason, 2015). Most of the laborers are migrants from Burma. The writer from Associated Press reported,”Every morning  at 2 am, they heard a kick on the door and a threat; Get up or get beaten. No names were ever used, only numbers given by their boss. Some had been there for months, even years, getting little or no pay. Always, someone was watching (Mason, 2015).” They are terribly treated like slaves or prisoner in the factory.

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According to the report, “abuse is common in Samut Sakhon, which attracts workers from some of the world’s poorest countries, mostly from Burma and Myanmar (Mason, 2015).” “An International Labor Organization report estimated 10,000 migrant children aged 13 to 15 work in the city. Another U.N. agency study found nearly 60 percent of Burmese laborers toiling in its seafood processing industry were victims of forced labor.(Mason, 2015)”

Historically, Thailand have many immigrants from other Southeast Asian countries. In 1975, since communist governance was established in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, over three million people have migrated out of those countries. At that time, about 750 thousands immigrants arrived at Thailand (Frost,1980). Therefore, it is  hard for Thai government to grasp fully immigrants.

In 2008, a Thai low against human trafficking was passed. “It insisted that every illegal immigrant should now get temporary papers and be properly registered, or face deportation (The Economist, 2013).” However, arresting and prosecuting those factory owner are rare because of theCorruption and complicity among police and authorities. Moreover, “raids can end up sending migrants without proper paperwork to jail, while owners go unpunished (Mason, 2015).”

According to the article, more than 2,000 trapped fishermen have been freed this year as a result of an ongoing Associated Press investigative series into slavery in the Thai seafood industry. However, there are still many people who are suffering under the similar working conditions. Globalization allow the people easily move from country to other countries. Migrants move to other country in pursuit of higher livelihood. However, the profit from cheap labor cost of migrants goes to the factory in Thailand and to the First World nations’s consumers as well.

 

Citation

 

*Jittapong, K., & Dhanananphorn, M. (2014). Thailand’s shrimp output seen recovering from disease woes in 2015. Retrieved April 09, 2016, from http://www.reuters.com/article/thailand-shrimp-exports-idUSL3N0U22KB20141218

*Mason, M., McDowell, R., & Mendoza, M. (2015, December 14). AP: Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves. Retrieved April 09, 2016, from http://bigstory.ap.org/article/8f64fb25931242a985bc30e3f5a9a0b2/ap-global-supermarkets-selling-shrimp-peeled-slaves

* Board of Investment Thailand(2013, October). Thailad: Food Exports Soaring.Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.boi.go.th/tir/issue/201310_23_10/42.htm

*Frost, F.. (1980). VIETNAM, ASEAN AND THE INDOCHINA REFUGEE CRISIS.Southeast Asian Affairs, 347–367. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27908412

*A deadly cocktail. (2013, March 02). Retrieved May 01, 2016, from http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21572800-long-standing-worker-abuses-get-some-serious-attention-deadly-cocktail

Globalization changes the Thai tradition

In the previous post, I mentioned the history of Thai government policy and successful economic development before the Asian economic crisis in 1997. Thanks to the government policy and the globalization, Thai economy grew at an unprecedentedly high rate. However, it changed Thai’s traditions.

Thailand traditionally produced and exported rice, sugar, pineapples, and rubber. But, its traditional role complemented with an expanding array of non national exports, such as canned tuna, shrimp, processed meats, and fresh and processed fruits and vegetable (McMichael, 2000, p.102). In other words, Thailand changed their tradition to fill the demand from First World nations.

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In addition, according to the Bangkok Post, the traditional lifestyle of island fishermen, known as Urak Lawoi,  also changed by the globalization.  The women who answered the interview said, “The Urak Lawoi way of life is linked to the sea, from birth till death. The problem facing Urak Lawoi on Koh Lipe is capitalism moving onto the island, particularly the tourism industry. The fishermen have to make a living while dealing with increasing cost of living. It turning their focus on making money, the fishermen have to let go of their traditions. Before they went out to sea to fish. Now they are taking shortcuts by buying fish from their neighbors, because they don’t have time to go out to sea to fish.”

To fill the demand from First World nations, the Third World nations such as Thailand change the traditional lifestyle. But, in fact, their income was increased by changing the lifestyle to fill the new demands. So, I cannot determine Globalization is  evil in this case. Moreover, referring to the relationships between tradition and Globalization, I believe Globalization makes a local tradition vivid.  Since I came to the United States, I have realized the virtue of Japanese tradition, which I didn’t know when I lived in Japan, compering with the U.S. culture. Sometimes, foreign travelers find the virtue of local tradition. Thus, I believe Globalization coexist with tradition.

Citation

*Ranong, J. N., & Kongru, A. (2015, August 06). People of the sea. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.bangkokpost.com/vdo/thailand/646612/people-of-the-sea

*BOI – October 2013, Volume 23, No. 10. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.boi.go.th/tir/issue_content.php?issueid=104;page

History of Government Policy and Successful Globalization in Thailand

Thailand government adopted Import substitution strategy (ISS) in the 1960’s, showing that Thailand had started its industrial development. Under the ISS, modern and private Thai banks, such as Bangkok Bank and Thai Farmer Bank, were established. It demonstrated that Thai capitalism had developed beyond primitive capitalism.

From the late 1960’s to 1970’s, Thailand changed its economic strategy from ISI to export-oriented industrialization (EOI). And with that economic policy, Thailand deeply immersed itself into a global trade and an economic globalization, but essentially in terms of trade, not capital market. Specifically, on one hand, the EOI demonstrated that Thailand gradually transformed itself from an agricultural society into a more advanced industrialized society, and, on the other hand, the Thai economy relied on a global market in trading area. Thailand, at this stage, produced goods not only for domestic consumption, but also for significant international export.

The most important economic aspect, associating to the economic globalization, was the initiation Bangkok International Banking Facilities (BIBF). The BIBF was a policy of financial liberalization and deregulation, introduced by the Prime Minister Chuan in1993. Its purpose was to facilitate inflow and outflow of the capital, and to make Thailand a financial center of the region.

 

Thailand GDP

Thanks to those policies, Thai economy grew at an unprecedentedly high rate. Thailand was an attractive place to relocate in because of the high economic growth, low inflation, abundance of cheap labour and rich natural resources. The foreign direct investment bring its domestic growth of manufacturing of agricultural products, including rubber products, textile products, food processing, beverages, and tobacco. The foreign direct investment also established many factories of textiles, closes, machinery and transport equipment.

Citation

*Hafner, J. A. (n.d.). Thailand – Economic and foreign-policy developments. Retrieved March 26, 2016, from http://www.britannica.com/place/Thailand/Economic-and-foreign-policy-developments

*Siriprachai, S. (n.d.). Export-Oriented Industrialisation Strategy with LandAbundance: Some of Thailand’s Shortcomings*. Retrieved from http://econ.tu.ac.th/archan/rangsun/ec 460/ec 460 readings/Thai Economy/Industrialization/EOI Strategy with Land Abundance.pdf

*Ross, J. (2008, November 8). Key Trends in Globalisation. Retrieved March 26, 2016, from http://ablog.typepad.com/keytrendsinglobalisation/2008/11/china-and-the-third-asian-financial-crisis.html

Introduction: What did globalization bring to Thailand?

“Should I support globalization?”

Since I read many articles and learned deeply about globalization in lectures, this question always arises in my mind.

Globalization generates international cooperation in economics, politics, ideas, cultural values, and the exchange of knowledge. The essential idea in globalization is free transfer of capital, goods, and services across national frontiers. Thus, it reduces the reduction of the import and export restrictions and allows company to exchange products and services without import and export restrictions. Therefore, the consumers can gain their products with higher quality and better prices. In addition, Manufactures of transnational corporations (TNCs) produce a lot of job opportunities in the Third World. Finally, globalization allows the free movement of labor. The benefit of this is filling the staffs shortages in institutions such as hospital and nursing homes.

According to Hancock, in contrast,“Banerjee and Linstead argue that process of globalization is an extension of modern capitalism, and a process that continues the development of First World nations, through the exploitation ( in part) of the Third World. “ In fact, globalization also provides low-wage labors, poor working conditions, and discrimination against women in the Third World countries.

I found a good example, Thailand, which is the country experienced both the positive and negative impacts of globalization in the past 20 years. The amount of foreign direct investment into Thailand skyrocketed in the latter half of the 1980s, and the Thai economy grew at an unprecedentedly high rate. However, the financial and currency crisis in 1997 changed such trends drastically. Short-term investment deserted Thailand in a very short period of time. The price of real estate and stocks nosedived, and a large number of bank and financial companies went bankrupt.

The following blog posts will attempt to analyze the globalization and crisis in Thailand, and I hope I can finally decide whether I support globalization or not.

References:

*Hancock, P. (2015, December 04). Export Processing Zones (EPZs), globalisation, feminised labour markets and working conditions: A study of Sri Lankan EPZ workers.

*Globalization Pros and Cons List. (2014). Retrieved March 19, 2016, from http://occupytheory.org/globalization-pros-and-cons-list/

*Jonathan E. Leightner. (1999). Globalization and Thailand’s Financial Crisis. Journal of Economic Issues, 33(2), 367–373. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4227448