Beer and democracy

singhabeerIf you see beer being poured over someone’s feet, what would be your reaction?  In Thailand, this is disparaging action and part of a protest against a prominent beer brand, Singha.  It’s not a protest concerning the quality of the product – Singha is a well-known brand.  It concerns comments from Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, 28, the Singha beer heiress who was quoted last month in a widely circulated article saying that many Thais lack a “true understanding” of democracy, “especially in the rural areas.” This comes from a NY Times article published this week-end.  She was reacting to the continued support for the current government, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, brother of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, from Thais in the poor, rural areas of the country. The Singha heiress is part of the group trying to oust the Prime Minister.  In contrast to what one normally expects from protests – namely a call for more democracy, the rich and powerful in Thailand are calling for less democracy, “The demonstrators want a hiatus from democracy, replacing it with rule by a ‘people’s council’ selected from various professions in the country. Many say they yearn for a return to the absolute monarchy because Thailand is not ready for democracy.”

The Thai protest against the government is reminiscent of last year’s action in Egypt, ousting a legally and democratically elected leader, President Mohamed Morsi.  Of course, the situation in Thailand and Egypt are quite different, but they do point to a worrisome trend, away from changing leaders through elections, and instead forcing them out through a military coup or other actions.

Product names: IKEA in Thailand

A local language team transliterates product names into Thai.

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on problems Ikea has with using its normal product naming process in other countries. The Swedish names sometimes don’t go over well. In Thai some of the Swedish product names had sexual overtones. Reminiscent of Chevy trying to sell “Nova” (Spanish: no go) cars in Latin America. They would like to keep the Swedish names (often from place names in Sweden) not out of nationalism but to reinforce the Scandinavian origins, with the hope that the association is with quality products.  Product names for American products in China is an interesting challenge.  The products should sound similar to the name in English but the characters used for the sounds should also have an appropriate and positive meaning.  Coca-cola’s name in Mandarin is 可口可乐 (kě kǒu kě lè), with the sound being close and the meaning something like delicious happiness.