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F1 coming to Bkk?
Formula One could be coming to the streets of Bangkok.
Thailand’s sports authority claims to have done a deal with Formula One to host a race in 2014, possibly during November.
 
Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said the government would pay for 60 per cent of the fees, with the remainder coming from sponsors.
 
One major point to be ironed out is the hosting fee. Singapore pay around 1.2 billion baht a year and the price for Thailand would probably be similar.
 
If all goes to plan, it could be a street race similar to that held in Singapore. One area being considered may be the Rajdamnoen government district, the Klong Toey port area or the northern area of Muang Thong Thani.
Should it actually happen, it would be a huge boost to Bangkok, which could do with some signature events to overcome its recent poor publicity.
 
Of course, we could be cynical and say you can watch Formula One style moves for free any day of the week along some Bangkok roads, but that would be churlish.
 
Thai reporter sparks Cambodian fury
Reporting on royalty is always tricky. Unless your subject is Prince Harry of course, when everything is fair game.
 
In Asia it really does pay to be extra careful. Thailand’s Channel 3 has just found itself unwittingly in the middle of a huge online row after one of its reporters placed a photo of the late Cambodian King Sihanouk on the floor.
 
We have sympathy for journalist Thapanee Eadsrichai. She was in Phnom Penh reporting on the death of the much-loved Cambodia king when her troubles began.
 
While doing a piece to camera by the main pavilion, Chaturamouk, she placed all her belongings on the ground (mobile, notebook and newspapers, which, unsurprisingly, had photos of the late king Sihanouk).
 
None of this could be seen on camera – but a passer-by saw the paper on the floor, took a photo of it and posted it on Facebook. And then all hell broke loose.
 
Hundreds of abusive messages came from Cambodians claiming that Channel 3 was insulting their monarchy.
 
Thapanee realised the problem she went back to the pavilion and said sorry in front of a photo of the late king. And then she got back to Thailand very quickly.
 
You’d think that would the end of it, but no. Thailand’s Foreign Ministry felt the need to point out its own regret over the incident to the Cambodian government.
 
The Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh was also quick to say sorry to Cambodia’s vice minister for foreign affairs Ung Sean.
 
Given Thailand and Cambodia’s tetchy relationship in recent years, it’s probably wise to say sorry and move on. Not only have they argued over a piece of temple land of absolutely no importance to anyone, they’ve also fallen out over a television show.
 
In 2003 a Thai soap opera character implied that Thailand really owned Cambodia’s treasured Angkor Wat. Embassies were torched and huge protests followed.
 
Thai language to get makeover
The Thai language has officially changed the spelling of 176 ‘loan words’ from English in a bid to get Thais to pronounce them properly.
 
In theory, that sounds like a pretty good idea. Anyone who has tried to buy a ‘battery’, Fanta’ or ‘computer’ will know that these words are a mystery to most shop workers.
 
But could it be a case of too little and too late? Are Thais really going to start saying comPUter and not compuTER because of a new spelling?
 
Royal Institute member Dr Kanchana Naksakul, whose organisation is behind the chanegs, thinks so. She also seems to think that the Thai language has rather special powers. She said: “Thai is a magical language. We can write every word to match with how they are pronounced”.
 
We’re sorry, but it really isn’t. It’s the same as any other language; made up of letters that represent some sounds – but not every sound.
 
It doesn’t matter how much you play with the 44 consonants and 18 vowels, you still can’t use them to say ‘the’, ‘very’ or ‘football’.
 
It’s nice that the Institute wants Thais to pronounce loan words, or words borrowed from English, correctly. But to do that, wouldn’t it be better for people to study English, the language where these words actually come from?
 
It’s an interesting dilemma, as Thai has to ‘spell’ dozens of new loan words every year: ‘iPhone’, ‘bromance’ and ‘google’ are all pretty new on the scene. Trying to get Thais to pronounce English words by spelling them in Thai though is nonsense.
 
It may seem a trivial matter, but it could actually cost companies a fair bit of money.
Among the words set to change are ‘clinic’, ’kilometre’ and ‘guitar’. How many shops have those words in their signs and leaflets? Are they really going to have to stick up new signs, or will they stick a metaphorical two fingers up at the institute and carry on with what’s the accepted spelling?
 
In case you’re interested, here are some of the other words that will change their spelling:
nightclub
internet
concert
coupon
gorilla
tennis
Catholic
aluminium
chocolate
centimetre
Interestingly, these words may well sound a little different under the new spelling. But none of them will be prononuced as they are in English. Because under the Thai rules of liguistics, it’s just plain impossible. It’s like trying to spell ‘dog’ in English and give it a high tone - it doesn’t work.
 
There’s one last important point – languages tend to change when everyone decides it’s time for a change; not when an official in an office decides it’s right.
Incidentally, the Royal Insitute itself is a fascinating group as it decides what Thai words are, and what they mean.
In 1986, they famously dismissed a ladyboy’s attempt to be known as ‘Miss’ and defined the word ‘female’ as a person who can be pregnant’. So that rules out five-year-old girls, 80-year-old grandmothers and the infertile, then.
 
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