Elephant welfare in Thailand: a growing ethical, political, and cultural concern

Thailand’s tourist industry has long profited from inhumane and exploitative techniques in handling elephants. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed new pressures on human-elephant relationships. The elephant tourist industry is on the brink of collapse and wild elephant habitats are coming into closer contact with humans than before. How can Thailand better protect its elephants while bringing attention to elephant welfare with advocacy? Guest contributor Mark S. Cogan looks into the issue.

Thai education beset by poor management, inequality, and high teacher debt

Thailand’s public education system is rarely held up as a success story. But its woes have become even more acute in the past decade. It faces a host of challenges: inequality, uneven funding and frequent policy changes by the Ministry of Education, and high levels of teacher debt. Guest contributor Mark S. Cogan takes a look at the challenges and the dim chances for improvement.

Abuse in Thai schools requires a long, hard look in the mirror

News of physical abuse of students by teachers is all but commonplace in Isaan and in Thailand more generally. Guest contributor Mark Cogan examines why such abuse is tolerated, arguing that the persistence of such abuse points to larger problems in the education system that trains students (and their parents) to focus more on obedience than learning.

Should the Thai public be concerned about the decay of Buddhism?

For many Thais, Buddhism is seen as a unifying force in society. Yet news of monks involved in sexual abuse and fraud scandals have become commonplace. The Catholic Church finally admitted that it had turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of minors for generations and was successfuly pressured, at least in part, to address past wrongs. Guest contributor Mark S. Cogan asks whether Thai Buddhism can be restrengthened by closing legal loopholes and becoming more transparent.

Behind COVID-19 and decaying mental health lies a deep digital divide

There has always been a distressing gap in the quality of education in Thailand. But the COVID-19 epidemic has exposed and exacerbated the digital gap in the country. In this latest piece, Mark S. Cogan highlights how the digital gap is leaving the most vulnerable behind and recommends that Bangkok make a real commitment to building a modern education infrastructure.

Future flood mitigation in Thailand will require individual accountability

It’s the flooding season in Thailand once again. As flood plains are further encroached up, cities are inundated and rice fields submerged. Successive governments have failed to adequately address the problem. In his latest contribution, Mark S. Cogan points out that Thai society’s pervasive use of plastic clogs up water drainage and frustrates attempts to keep Thais high and dry. But it will take a change in society’s use of plastic to keep rising waters at bay.

Udon Thani provincial budget woes are the direct result of centralized government

Thailand is one of the most centralized countries in the world, yet the topic of decentralization rarely makes the headlines. Yet the funding from Bangkok can change the fortunes of a province. Recently, ambitious plans by Udon Thani were not just shut down by Bangkok but the provincial budget for the coming year was slashed. Mark S. Cogan examines Udon’s calamitous situation and how it fits within Thailand’s enfeebled decentralization efforts.

In the battle against COVID-19, some Thai provinces cry foul

Vaccination efforts in Thailand have recently shifted from Bangkok to the provinces. But all is not equal between provinces. At the start of the third wave, Bangkok justified taking most doses because it had more cases. But in the Northeast, Surin has faced a major outbreak but it receives a fraction of the vaccinations its neighbor Buriram receives. Mark S. Cogan examines how unclear criteria has perpetuated inequality and deprives those who need and deserve a vaccination.

Social stigma a major barrier to controlling COVID-19 in Thailand

As daily deaths reach 300, Thailand’s government has continued the struggle to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It has been unclear with messaging and accused of using Covid restrictions to silence critics. What’s made matters worse is instances where those testing positive suffer stigmatization. Mark S. Cogan looks at the social costs of stigmatization and how the government could do better to limit it.