Monday, November 21, 2005

endangered animals on the menu in Chiang Mai

The Chiang Mai Night Safari has backed down from its earlier promise to serve up endangered species at the zoo restaurant. I'm still going to take a little dig at this stupidity, however.

A pet project (no pun intended) of PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the Night Safari was designed to boost tourism in his home province. Its management proudly displays many of the hallmarks of Thaksin's self-styled "think quick, act quick" governing philosophy whereby poorly vetted ideas are put on display and then quickly retracted in the face of withering public criticism.

Several other ideas in the "think quick, act quick" category from the past year:

1) The Education Ministry's plan (now aborted) to arm southern teachers with old handguns as a means of improving security after several teachers were killed in ambushes by insurgents. This was not requested or supported by the teachers' union, and most members lack any military training or willingness to participate. It was also pointed out that being armed is little defense in the case of an ambush (duh). In all likelihood, more teachers would have been killed in order to steal their weapons. This idea was retracted.

2)The Transportation Ministry's idea to close off major streets in Bangkok for night racing by teenage motorcyclists. This was in response to longstanding complaints by residents about police inaction regarding the racing. Even the police came out against this 'solution', however, and after a few days the idea was retracted.

Anyway, back to animals... that's what I really want to talk about

Thaksin traveled to Kenya recently with the aim of securing African animals for the Safari. In turn arrangements were also made to export Thai exotics, many of them also on endangered species lists, to Kenya. How this will benefit the animals, being traded between 2 third world countries half a globe apart, remains to be seen.

Although the Night Safari has changed its mind, it is still instructive to look at what was said. An excerpt from The Nation:

Visitors offered daily buffet of lion, tiger, elephant and giraffe meat; conservation groups outraged.

Lovers of “wild” cuisine are in for a treat when Chiang Mai’s Night Safari opens next year, project director Plodprasop Suraswadi said yesterday. Visitors to the park’s Vareekunchorn restaurant will have the option of tucking in to an “Exotic Buffet” of tiger, lion, elephant and giraffe, for just Bt4,500 a head.

The zoo will be outstanding, with several restaurants offering visitors the chance to experience exotic foods such as imported horse, kangaroo, giraffe, snake, elephant, tiger and lion meat.

We will also provide domestic crocodile and dog meat from Sakon Nakhon province,” Plodprasop said at a press tour before Thaksin presided over the soft opening

The Thai press did their usual job of running quotes and skipping the analysis, but it seems clear to me this menu was designed to appeal to Chinese visitors, not Westerners. I cannot imagine many Westerners (though there would be some) supporting such an establishment.

Thaksin (ethnically Chinese himself) is kissing way too much Chinese ass these days. It brings to mind the recent agreement with the Chinese ICT ministry to 'cooperate' on internet censorship. Thaksin's ICT Minister even took that opportunity to applaud the Chinese model and issue some pronouncements in defense of it. Amazing.