Friday, January 2, 2009

The soft side of Chinese power: moves to assist burn victims

I in no way wish to view any sort of humanitarian relief with skepticism, and I don't view this with skepticism at all. So, this little piece of analysis should be taken with that in mind.

I would like to point out that China's offer to send skin-graft specialists to Bangkok to help those who were burned in the fire at Santika night club on New Year's Eve is another example of how China is remaking its image around the world.

After the Asian financial crisis in 1997, it was China who was on the ground first with offers of assistance. The effect upon public perceptions of China was strong. Again, in 1990 when an LP-G gasoline truck overturned and exploded, it was China who came to help first.

Now, again China is one of the first on the ground and making firm offers of assistance for those who were disfigured in the fire. This is exactly what China needs to do to win over the hearts and minds of South-East Asia. The Chinese clearly know that they can act much more quickly than most other large nations. The United States simply cannot move as quickly as China can, and China is very talented at getting maximum exposure for her actions. Again, really sorry for trying to analyze humanitarian assistance from any source. My heart truly does go out to the victims, some of whom have been burned beyond recognition.

Thai building safety issues to be brought before Cabinet
Thai Public Health Minister, Manit Nop-amornbodi was quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying that the Thai government will cover the full medical expenses of the burn victims.

Though the investigation is ongoing, Mr. Manit also stated that the reason why so many people died was due to "changing of building structure by the owner of the venue." He further stated that the issue of building safety will be brought before Cabinet.

In a way, that's something for people to hold on to. This horrific tragedy might force the government to really take action to get serious on building safety. This is just so ridiculous that a high end nightclub like that would not have any sort of fire escapes or suppression systems. It is simply disgusting and unacceptable. If we were talking about some old mom and pop club (is there really such a thing?) catching fire, I might have a bit more sympathy for the owners. Actually, the owner must be going through a lot. How could he not be.

I'd also like to point out that the death toll is now up to 61. I hope that's all. Not everyone has been accounted for yet.


Anonymous said...

Since you are talking real straight talk here,...another thing. Most of us who have spent time in Thailand know that it is the Thai-Chinese who control much of the wealth and power. How this interlocks with the Chinese assistance is a question.

Craig Williamson said...

Certainly so. CP for example was in with Beijing even at the height of the cultural revolution.