The Power of Positive Thinking

Koktail Magazine

07 Jul 2023

Koktail magazine’s Future Listers comprise key opinion leaders in various fields.

We approached some of them to ask their views on the issues and concerns closest to their hearts. The topics ranged from education, fast fashion, craftsmanship, air quality and livestock to the elderly and stray animals. Here is what they had to say on what they believe Thailand needs, in the hope that the country moves forward on its road to a quality society and sustainable growth in the future.

Dr. Oliver “Olli” Gottschall

Chief Operating officer (COO) and Head of Food Business, Betagro PCL; Lecturer at Chulalongkorn University

If I could change one thing in Thailand, it would be to make substantial improvements to the Thai education system. Specifically, we urgently need to improve the education around personal finances, media / social media literacy, and politics. The education system would have to shift from “learn and repeat” to a way of teaching and learning that empowers students to think critically, question basic concepts, and build their own future.

The important starting point is teacher education, and then consequently also teacher compensation. We have to get the brightest minds in the country to want to enter the teaching profession, so it needs to be compensated accordingly. Just increasing salaries will not be enough if teacher quality is not there. It will take at least 5-7 years to see the initial impact, when the first batch of new teachers comes out of universities.

Education in personal finance is important so that future generations get out of the household debt trap. Social media competence is important so young people don’t just take for granted what is being fed to them by social media algorithms, but understand those algorithms and critically question what is being presented to them.

Political education is important to make people more aware of (and less receptive to) radical and populist policies as well as corruption. Most of all, we have to ensure that there is more equality in the education system. Especially underprivileged children need to get the opportunity to have access to a full and quality education.

I always had this thought that important solutions to humanity’s major problems (cures to cancer and AIDS, solutions for world hunger and poverty, etc) might long exist already, but they are just hidden because the person(s) who could have all the answers don’t have access to proper education, and therefore never get to live up to their true potential.

MR. Narisa Chakrabongse

CEO, River Books and Chakrabongse Villas

I would get the government to take solving air quality seriously. If they need to talk to our neighbours, so be it. It is affecting all our lives. It might take up to five years. It requires patience, endurance, and real commitment. Talk to big agro-industries like Charoen Pokphand who I am sure are all active in Laos. The climate crisis is real. No time to waste. We should be an example of good practice.

Kittiporn “Tangmo” Rodvanich

Freelance Actor and Comedian

I want Thailand to be a place where stray dogs and cats are rare. Since I was a child, I have always dreamt of the day adopting a stray is the norm, and abandoning one’s pet is no longer an option. I don’t know how long it will take, maybe another 30-50 years. Nowadays the plight of strays is a little more positive than when I was a kid. I have discovered more and more shelters for strays, communities of stray animal lovers, and animal activists. The public is now more supportive of adopting pets. There are influencers who dedicate themselves to helping people see strays as cute, loveable members of the family too. I’m hoping for the day everyone changes their feelings towards stray animals for good. When I said “abandoning one’s animal is no longer an option”, making it a law was not my first thought. I meant the day the idea of abandoning a pet is never part of your thinking. Love and compassion are the keys, people tend to break laws easier than forgetting their values and what they believe in.

Friso Cornelis Poldervaart

Co-founder of Bangkok Community Help Foundation

Being in communities every day and representing my foundation, I see a lot of struggle. What worries me most are the elderly in Thailand who are unable to spend the last years of their lives in a peaceful manner. An estimated 18 per cent of the elderly in Thailand are impoverished or vulnerable to poverty. As the elderly rely heavily on their children and family it becomes increasingly difficult for them to survive. Families that still have elders to take care of struggle immensely to make ends meet. The elderly that do not have any family left have no chance to help themselves. With rising costs of living and basic needs, and a government pension that stays the same, the situation becomes unbearable. Starting at 600 baht a month per person, 20 baht a day is simply not enough to live on. Taking into consideration that Thailand is becoming a grey society where the number of elderly will outweigh the workforce, this issue will only become more difficult in the next 10 years.

We can't expect the government to solve this, but by raising the “Old Age Government Allowance” we can release the burden and win time on being able to properly educate the next generation to manage their money properly, save sufficient money for rainy days, and build a pension throughout their lifetime so they do not end up in trouble. But it has to start now.

Paul Direk

Fashion Designer

As a fashion designer, I would play a part in changing the fashion and textile industry.  Nowadays, most manufacturers produce “fast fashion", regardless of the many negative consequences besides environmental problems. Labour oppression is another issue that is being discussed in global society.  I will begin the change by raising awareness among all genders of the problems and impacts of fast fashion in order to induce a change in consumption behaviour, and to seriously focus on sustainable fashion, eco-fashion and up-cycle fashion, which should be fulfilled in the next two years.

From the “CHANGE” collection at a fashion show in Vienna in 2017, PAUL DIREK's collection was a successful switch to natural and eco-friendly fashion materials.

This change has been well received by many customers in Europe, where 80 percent of consumers take the problems caused by fast fashion seriously. This is one of the inspirations that I will use to transform Thailand and I believe it will definitely produce tangible results.

Richie Kul

Actor, model, and vegan influencer

Given the growing public outcry over climate change, PM 2.5, and other signs of irreversible environmental harm we are witnessing, I would strongly encourage everyone to align actions with values and go vegan. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all modes of public transport combined and is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, and destruction to the world’s rainforests. Going vegan is the one thing in our direct and immediate control that we can implement now to combat this. I know that deeply entrenched habits are hard to break but if we truly want future generations to inherit a viable place to call home, we need to mobilise now.

To make this happen, I would shift lucrative government subsidies away from animal agriculture to farmers who exclusively grow and harvest crops sustainably and I would provide financial incentives through discounts and tax breaks to businesses and consumers who choose plant-based options.  It might take a few years for this all to take shape, but it’s quite possibly the only hope we have. It’s imperative that we stop giving free passes and start holding ourselves and others accountable — and the time to do that is now.

Alexander Lamont

Creative Director, Alexander Lamont

I would love to see the creation of a training school for various technical/artisanal/craft skills in Thailand. Partly to preserve the great skills of the past but mainly to introduce, in full training and apprenticeships, those skills that may not have existed before in Thailand. I think Thailand should be a world leader in luxury furniture, couture, leatherwork, material technology, show-making… many of the skills needed to make the luxury goods that sell so well. There are many successful jewellery schools but there is not one furniture school in all of Thailand.

This could be done quickly—the teachers exist and would love to teach in Thailand. It would be easy to find Thai students with a hunger and aptitude for such skills. Thais are very entrepreneurial. They love to own their own businesses. Such a school would be a great high-value-business-creator. Thailand would become well known as a place to make luxury products.

People get more satisfaction from making something beautiful and improving their skills than working on industrial processes that are repetitive and have no career prospects. The training I am talking about will always be done by hand because the volumes are low while the values are high. Most other jobs will soon be done by robots.

Piyaporn “Opal” Kitjikhun

CEO/Head of Project Management, Senna Labs.

I would give everyone the power to access good quality education. It will take a long time indeed and I’m assuming it would take lots of collaboration between the government and the private sector. The first step might be to identify what is good quality education and then we can identify the actions needed to achieve the goals.

Kongwuth “Chef Kong” Chaiwongkhajon

Chef and Owner, Locus Native Food Lab

The education system. I would love to be able to predict the time when our education system changes, however, I truly think it will take longer than what we all expect. I think we have to raise the issue of “why” there needs to be a change in the education system to make a start.