Bangkok’s Little Arab Town: A cultural hub but an intellectual property minefield

The Bangkok-located Al Baik restaurant, reportedly owned by a South Asian national, not only replicates the logo and visual identity of the Saudi chain, but also leverages its widespread popularity to draw in customers. (AN Photo)
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The Bangkok-located Al Baik restaurant, reportedly owned by a South Asian national, not only replicates the logo and visual identity of the Saudi chain, but also leverages its widespread popularity to draw in customers. (AN Photo)
For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, this area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home — a place where they can reconnect with their culture through food, language and community. (AN Photo)
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For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, this area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home — a place where they can reconnect with their culture through food, language and community. (AN Photo)
For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, this area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home — a place where they can reconnect with their culture through food, language and community. (AN Photo)
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For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, this area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home — a place where they can reconnect with their culture through food, language and community. (AN Photo)
The Bangkok-located Al Baik restaurant, reportedly owned by a South Asian national, not only replicates the logo and visual identity of the Saudi chain, but also leverages its widespread popularity to draw in customers. (AN Photo)
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The Bangkok-located Al Baik restaurant, reportedly owned by a South Asian national, not only replicates the logo and visual identity of the Saudi chain, but also leverages its widespread popularity to draw in customers. (AN Photo)
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Updated 25 February 2024
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Bangkok’s Little Arab Town: A cultural hub but an intellectual property minefield

Bangkok’s Little Arab Town: A cultural hub but an intellectual property minefield
  • For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, the area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home

BANGKOK: In the bustling streets of Bangkok lies a vibrant enclave known as Little Arab Town, where the sights, sounds and flavors of the Arab world converge.

Nestled within this cultural hub are a plethora of restaurants offering authentic Arab cuisine, drawing in patrons from across the diaspora.

Arabic script adorns storefronts, and the air is filled with the tantalizing aromas of shawarma, falafel and freshly baked bread.

Amidst the hustle and bustle, one can hear the melodic cadence of Arabic conversations, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the streets of Riyadh, Dubai or Cairo.

For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, this area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home — a place where they can reconnect with their culture through food, language and community.

Hamad Al-Badr, a Qatari citizen who came to Bangkok with his Saudi wife, said he knew about the area from his friends and wanted to explore it.

“On my first day in this locale, I utilized Google to familiarize myself with the area before embarking on a tuk-tuk journey to reach my destination,” he told Arab News.

“The prevalence of Arabic speakers here proves advantageous, minimizing any potential language barriers.”

Saleh Al-Yafie, a Yemeni investor who owns restaurants in Indonesia, came to Bangkok with ambitions to grow his business. However, he was surprised by the “extremely high” rental prices for shops in the area.

“I’ve spoken to some of the owners of these shops around here, and they informed me that renting a 100 sq. meter shop could cost up to SR70,000 (over $18,600) per month,” he told Arab News.

However, amidst the charm of this cultural haven lurks a troubling issue. Some stores in the area have adopted the names and branding of renowned Arab restaurants and shops, such Al-Saddah restaurants and AlBaik, a Saudi fast-food chain.

The Bangkok-located Al.Baik restaurant, reportedly owned by a South Asian national, not only replicates the logo and visual identity of the Saudi chain, but also leverages its widespread popularity to draw in customers.

This practice not only raises questions of intellectual property rights, but also risks tarnishing the reputation of established brands.

“A perfume and oud store in the vicinity appears to emulate a renowned brand prevalent across the Arab world,” said Al-Badr.

“Notably, the Thai counterpart distinguishes itself by offering footwear alongside its selection of oud and perfumes.”

Al-Badr said he would not buy from these stores, preferring instead to get oud and perfumes from his home country’s original shops.

Visitors to Little Arab Town may unwittingly patronize these imitation stores, only to be disappointed by the lack of authenticity and quality they offer.

Arab tourists are divided on whether to dine in these imitation restaurants. Some prioritize the quality of the food above all else, while others prioritize respect for intellectual property.

Saudi tourist Yazeed Bamarouf told Arab News that “I don’t support those who mimic popular brands,” which is why he has never been to Al.Baik.

Omani tourist Wisam Al-Furqani said the allure of the AlBaik name drew him and his friends in.

“We soon realized it wasn’t the authentic restaurant,” he told Arab News. “The food was satisfactory, but it lacked the distinct flavor of the original restaurant. Additionally, the menu differed.”

Despite his disapproval of unauthorized imitation, Al-Furqani said he would not hesitate to revisit the restaurant as long as it served good food in a clean environment.

Emirati Saeed Al-Marri, who has been frequently visiting Thailand for nearly 10 years, told Arab News: “Certain Thai restaurants now provide Gulf cuisine … given the substantial number of Gulf tourists frequenting this locality.”

Regarding the imitation of brand names, he said when he encounters a branded restaurant, he assumes it is a branch of the original chain.

“People typically accept what seems to be true at face value without delving into the specifics. Ultimately, people seek excellent service regardless of the brand name,” he added.

“Individuals often adhere to established habits and regular patterns. For example, when I travel to a new country, I seek out familiar foods and locations.”


French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion

French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion
Updated 29 sec ago
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French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion

French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion
PARIS: A French court this week handed an Iran-born man a suspended 10-month sentence for entering the Iranian consulate in Paris with fake grenades in what he said was “revenge” for a crackdown at home that targeted his family.
The 61-year-old, a long-time resident of France who regularly attends Iranian opposition demonstrations, told the court he acted on Friday after learning the previous day that his sister had been arrested.
He said he had not wanted to “threaten anyone” but rather “take revenge” on the Iranian authorities, who he described as “terrorist.”
The court, in a ruling late on Monday, also banned him from carrying a weapon or approaching the consulate again.
Soldiers and police descended en masse on the neighborhood around the consulate on Friday after the mission reported an intruder entering with a grenade or explosive belt.
But police found no explosives on him or inside after arresting him.
A police source, who did not wish to be named, said the suspect had been wearing a vest with large pockets containing three fake grenades.
The judge said witnesses recounted the man “tearing down flags” and saying he “wanted to die.” Police negotiators managed to convince him to exit the building without his jacket.
A psychiatric expert found the man was of sound mind.
During his trial, the accused embarked on long tirades about the political situation in Iran, prompting the judge to remind him to “stick to the facts.”
The man had already been convicted for setting fire to tires in front of the entrance of the Iranian embassy in Paris in 2023, prosecutors said.
Citizens in the Islamic republic have endured increased repression since nationwide protests began in September 2022.
The demonstrations were sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly flouting the mandatory dress rules for women.
Executions — which activists say are a way to instil fear into Iranian society — have also continued apace.
At least 110 people have been executed this year alone, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights group.

At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord

At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord
Updated 27 min 33 sec ago
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At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord

At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord
  • People smugglers typically overload rickety dinghies, leaving them barely afloat and at risk of being lashed by the waves

PARIS: At least five migrants died in an attempt to cross the English Channel from an area near the town of Wimereux, local newspaper La Voix du Nord said on Tuesday.
The French coast guard confirmed there was a failed attempt to cross the Channel and said police were operating at a beach following the incident on Tuesday morning, adding there were several ‘lifeless bodies’.
Local police did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
The coast guard spokesperson said its agents were still operating at sea on Tuesday morning after what the official called a ‘busy’ morning, with several crossing attempts.
The Channel between France and Britain is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and currents are strong, making the crossing on small boats dangerous.
People smugglers typically overload rickety dinghies, leaving them barely afloat and at risk of being lashed by the waves as they try to reach British shores.


Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 
Updated 30 min 45 sec ago
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Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 
  • Climate change exacerbated severity of weather disasters last year, sauys World Meteorological Organization
  • 79 disasters, mostly floods and storms, associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia in 2023

Geneva: Asia was the world’s most disaster-hit region from climate and weather hazards in 2023, the United Nations said Tuesday, with floods and storms the chief cause of casualties and economic losses.

Global temperatures hit record highs last year, and the UN’s weather and climate agency said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace.

The World Meteorological Organization said the impact of heatwaves in Asia was becoming more severe, with melting glaciers threatening the region’s future water security.

The WMO said Asia was warming faster than the global average, with temperatures last year nearly two degrees Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average.

“The report’s conclusions are sobering,” WMO chief Celeste Saulo said in a statement.

“Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms.

“Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies, and, most importantly, human lives and the environment that we live in.”

The State of the Climate in Asia 2023 report highlighted the accelerating rate of key climate change indicators such as surface temperature, glacier retreat and sea level rise, saying they would have serious repercussions for societies, economies and ecosystems in the region.

“Asia remained the world’s most disaster-hit region from weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2023,” the WMO said.

The annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in 2023 was the second highest on record, at 0.91 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average, and 1.87 C above the 1961-1990 average.

Particularly high average temperatures were recorded from western Siberia to central Asia, and from eastern China to Japan, the report said, with Japan having its hottest summer on record.

As for precipitation, it was below normal in the Himalayas and in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile southwest China suffered from a drought, with below-normal precipitation levels in nearly every month of the year.

The High-Mountain Asia region, centered on the Tibetan Plateau, contains the largest volume of ice outside of the polar regions.

Over the last several decades, most of these glaciers have been retreating, and at an accelerating rate, the WMO said, with 20 out of 22 monitored glaciers in the region showing continued mass loss last year.

The report said 2023 sea-surface temperatures in the northwest Pacific Ocean were the highest on record.

Last year, 79 disasters associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia. Of those, more than 80 percent were floods and storms, with more than 2,000 deaths and nine million people directly affected.

“Floods were the leading cause of death in reported events in 2023 by a substantial margin,” the WMO said, noting the continuing high level of vulnerability of Asia to natural hazard events.

Hong Kong recorded 158.1 millimeters of rainfall in one hour on September 7 — the highest since records began in 1884, as a result of a typhoon.

The WMO said there was an urgent need for national weather services across the region to improve tailored information to officials working on reducing disaster risks.

“It is imperative that our actions and strategies mirror the urgency of these times,” said Saulo.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the evolving climate is not merely an option, but a fundamental necessity.”


UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda

UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda
Updated 21 min 38 sec ago
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UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda

UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda
  • UN called on the UK to instead take practical measures to address irregular flows of migrants and refugees

GENEVA: Two United Nations top officials on Tuesday called on the UK to reconsider its plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda, warning the move would have a harmful impact on human rights and refugee protection.
In a joint statement, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the UK to instead take practical measures to address irregular flows of migrants and refugees.
“The new legislation marks a further step away from the UK’s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention,” said Grandi.
Turk, who has criticized the plan before, said that the legislation “seriously hinders the rule of law in the UK and sets a perilous precedent globally.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised on Monday to start sending asylum seekers to Rwanda within 10 to 12 weeks as the upper house of parliament passed legislation that had been delayed for weeks by attempts to alter the plan.
Other countries are considering tough measures to stem illegal migration, with Italy planning to build reception camps in Albania for thousands of migrants arriving by sea.


Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN
Updated 23 April 2024
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Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN
  • UN’s weather and climate agency said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace

GENEVA: Asia was the world’s most disaster-hit region from climate and weather hazards in 2023, the United Nations said Tuesday, with floods and storms the chief cause of casualties and economic losses.
Global temperatures hit record highs last year, and the UN’s weather and climate agency said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace.
The World Meteorological Organization said the impact of heatwaves in Asia was becoming more severe, with melting glaciers threatening the region’s future water security.
The WMO said Asia was warming faster than the global average, with temperatures last year nearly two degrees Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average.
“The report’s conclusions are sobering,” WMO chief Celeste Saulo said in a statement.
“Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms.
“Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies, and, most importantly, human lives and the environment that we live in.”
The State of the Climate in Asia 2023 report highlighted the accelerating rate of key climate change indicators such as surface temperature, glacier retreat and sea level rise, saying they would have serious repercussions for societies, economies and ecosystems in the region.
“Asia remained the world’s most disaster-hit region from weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2023,” the WMO said.
Ranging disasters
The annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in 2023 was the second highest on record, at 0.91 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average, and 1.87 C above the 1961-1990 average.
Particularly high average temperatures were recorded from western Siberia to central Asia, and from eastern China to Japan, the report said, with Japan having its hottest summer on record.
As for precipitation, it was below normal in the Himalayas and in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile southwest China suffered from a drought, with below-normal precipitation levels in nearly every month of the year.
The High-Mountain Asia region, centered on the Tibetan Plateau, contains the largest volume of ice outside of the polar regions.
Over the last several decades, most of these glaciers have been retreating, and at an accelerating rate, the WMO said, with 20 out of 22 monitored glaciers in the region showing continued mass loss last year.
The report said 2023 sea-surface temperatures in the northwest Pacific Ocean were the highest on record.
Water-related hazards
Last year, 79 disasters associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia. Of those, more than 80 percent were floods and storms, with more than 2,000 deaths and nine million people directly affected.
“Floods were the leading cause of death in reported events in 2023 by a substantial margin,” the WMO said, noting the continuing high level of vulnerability of Asia to natural hazard events.
Hong Kong recorded 158.1 millimeters of rainfall in one hour on September 7 — the highest since records began in 1884, as a result of a typhoon.
The WMO said there was an urgent need for national weather services across the region to improve tailored information to officials working on reducing disaster risks.
“It is imperative that our actions and strategies mirror the urgency of these times,” said Saulo.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the evolving climate is not merely an option, but a fundamental necessity.”