Wednesday 13 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 13/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Fly guy: Srettha Thavisin

Image: Getty Images

Politics / James Chambers

Flight of fancy

When it comes to overseas travel, leaders in Southeast Asia are often damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Ferdinand Marcos Jr of the Philippines is labelled a jetsetter, while Indonesia’s outgoing president, Joko Widodo, is criticised for preferring the feel of his own bedsheets. Thailand’s prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, finds himself in the former camp. The ex-businessman is facing criticism at home for having spent almost a third of his time as leader outside the country. He’s in France this week to meet Emmanuel Macron and Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, which is a major investor in Bangkok. Rival politicians are right to scrutinise his international itinerary but Thavisin should also feel hard done by. Clocking up official trips to the US, China and Japan during his first six months should fall in the plus column.

Airports are something of an obsession for Thavisin. When he is at home, it almost seems as though hardly a day goes by without him promising to build a new terminal or stretch of tarmac. His strategy makes sense. Airports are an essential part of Thailand’s tourist-driven economy and their snaking immigration queues must be some of the most universally dreaded sights to holidaymakers around the world. Last month, Thavisin even turned up unannounced at Bangkok’s main airport, Suvarnabhumi, to conduct a surprise inspection and give officials a ticking off.

Unpredictable lines and long waits are delaying his vision of turning Bangkok into a regional aviation hub. I commend his efforts to get out in the field but I would suggest that he goes one step further. Spend the night at Suvarnabhumi while connecting between flights and post a review of the experience. Thailand is so full of warmth, texture and textiles but, for some unfathomable reason, the transport infrastructure built in this century is as cold as ice. If the frequent-flying Thai prime minister can sort out Suvarnabhumi, I’ll join the happy voters lining up at the departure gate to wave him off.

James Chambers is Monocle’s Asia editor, based in Bangkok. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Affairs / EU

Time to talk

Almost two years since Bosnia and Herzegovina was granted EU candidacy status, the European Commission has finally recommended that its accession talks get under way. With the focus largely on Ukraine, bids from some of the other candidate nations have languished in the background – but that might be about to change. “The EU has been more engaged than it has been over the past couple of years,” Guy de Launey, Monocle’s Balkans correspondent, tells Monocle Radio’s The Briefing. “It’s aware that countries in the western Balkans have strong links to Russia and if the EU is not involved, others will step into the vacuum. Bosnian politicians of all ethnic groups have received this news positively. It’s quite something when you have three different ethno-political groups, all speaking in favour of the issue at the same time.”

For more on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU accession, tune in to Tuesday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.

Upper hand? Narendra Modi rejects Beijing’s objections

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / India & China

Tunnel vision

Relations between India and China have deteriorated further. Narendra Modi has rejected Beijing’s objections to his recent visit to the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh. While the state is governed by India, China considers the region to be its own territory.

Ahead of India’s general election in April, Modi journeyed to the contested territory to inaugurate a tunnel intended to give troops easier access to areas near the disputed border with China. “Modi’s visit is not constructive economically,” Ali Borhani, managing director of 3Sixty Strategic Advisors, tells The Monocle Minute. “Both China and India need to enhance the inflow of foreign direct investment.”

Made in Manhattan: Governors Island earmarked for tech-hub site

Image: Reuters

Urbanism / USA

Shore success

New York’s Governors Island is set to become an innovation hub where scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs will be able to test-run their latest inventions. The island, which is just a short ferry ride from the city’s financial district in Lower Manhattan, announced the launch this week of six new fossil-fuel-free, water-related urbanism projects.

The site will provide valuable opportunities to engage with the public and examine ways in which the city’s water supply can be managed. The plan also calls for the removal of waterborne contamination through a 12-month non-profit pilot programme that aims to lure marine life back to the shores of New York’s harbour area. Investment in the 70-hectare site, which welcomes more than one million visitors a year, should further enhance the city’s global reputation as an innovation base.

Beyond the Headlines

The List / Mipim takeaways

Estate of affairs

International property trade fair Mipim kicked off yesterday in Cannes. More than 20,000 people will be gathering in the city for the event, including the team behind Monocle Radio’s The Urbanist. Here are three takeaways from our time at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès so far.

1. Urban issues are global issues. The tagline of this year’s edition is “The Global Urban Festival”. It shows how urbanism has stopped being a niche subject and become a vital part of national politics. Mipim 2024 was opened by Sanna Marin, former prime minister of Finland, who addressed a packed auditorium on the importance of environmental values in shaping the future of the built environment.

2. The housing crisis. You can’t talk about property and investment in urban areas without addressing one of the key challenges facing cities. Mipim organised a pre-summit event called “Housing Matters”, bringing together investors, developers, local authorities and urban experts to share visions of how we can build sustainable residences for the future amid rising housing inequality.

3. Can’t stop the Saudis. The Saudi delegation is out in full swing in Cannes, showcasing the country’s urban ambitions. Plans for its King Salman Park and King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism are on display, while a VR experience offers a taste of what it could be like to live in Neom’s hi-tech “cognitive city”, The Line. But there are also other big players on the ground, including Poland, the UK and France, which is flexing its hosting muscle ahead of the Paris Olympic Games.

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Arco Madrid

We head to the Spanish capital for a special edition of the programme from Arco Madrid. As well as being a major contemporary art-market platform, the fair has a strong curatorial core and deep connections with the Latin American scene. We meet the fair’s director and one of its leading curators. Plus: we find out about a major merger in Spain and hear from the artist representing the country at this year’s Venice Biennale.


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