Lets Go Everywhere


Good luck Thailand!
December 23, 2007, 5:51 am
Filed under: army, bangkok, coup, expat, free press, politics, thailand, Uncategorized

Last year I moved to Bangkok and took up a job at a news magazine two weeks before the government was overthrown in a coup d’etat.

Needless to say, despite the inconvenience of having troops surround my office building, the declaration of martial law and a few deadly explosions in the city centre, the military takeover was kind of a kick.

Now the people are getting ready to elect the ousted PM’s replacement, possibly to result in mass demonstrations in Bangkok and more political fuckery. Add the fact that the country’s beloved king is ailing and his successor is widely detested and you’ve got a tough situation on the horizon.

People of Thailand, I wish you the best. Khaaw hai chohk dee gap thook sing thee ja thahm khaang naa!

Thailand holds first post-coup election

BANGKOK — Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, deposed, exiled and allegedly corrupt, was poised for a comeback-by-proxy as his loyalists looked likely to win Thailand’s national election Sunday.

Mr. Thaksin, ousted from power by a bloodless military coup 15 months ago, may also come back in person early next year, sparking fears of political turbulence and sharp polarization which has already plagued Thailand for two years.

The election, which is supposed to restore democracy after the coup, comes after almost two years of intense political instability that began with popular demonstrations demanding that Mr. Thaksin step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power. The protest culminated in the coup.

The Election Commission has been barraged by more than 700 complaints of election fraud, mostly related to vote-buying. The night before elections is popularly called the “night of the howling dogs,” as canvassers knock on doors to distribute last-minute cash for votes in rural areas.

Thai election

Latest news can be found at The Nation



Democracy activist freed; others remain under arrest

Thanks go out to Hieu for letting me know one of the recently detained democracy activists was released Tuesday.

According to the AFP story:

HANOI (AFP) — Communist Vietnam deported a Vietnamese-American pro-democracy activist Tuesday, state media said, after his arrest last month with a group of other dissidents triggered protests from the United States.
Leon Truong, a member of the banned California-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform) party, left on a Taipei-bound China Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport, Vietnam Television reported.
Truong was arrested on November 17 with five other pro-democracy activists, including one other US citizen, a Frenchwoman, one Thai and two Vietnamese nationals, accused in state media of plotting terrorism against Vietnam.
The arrests triggered a rally outside the Vietnamese embassy in Washington, a protest letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung from a group of Congress members, and a call to explain the charges from the US ambassador to Hanoi.
The state television report said Truong, a Hawaii restaurateur, had been released from custody at 3pm local time, having shown a “cooperative attitude with the authorities,” and had been ordered to leave Vietnam within 14 hours.
The television report did not mention the other detained activists.

I’m glad Truong is heading home to be with his family and I’m still waiting to hear news of the release of the remaining activists.

In the article, I found this part particularly interesting:

US Ambassador Michael Michalak hours earlier said he had seen no evidence to support claims in Vietnam’s state media that Truong or three other US citizens in custody in the communist country were guilty of terrorism.
“If they’re being detained because of peaceful expression of political views, we protest that most vigorously and call for their immediate release,” he said, saying Vietnam had not yet informed the US of any charges.
The others arrested were Nguyen Quoc Quan, a mathematician from California whom Vietnam accuses of having used a fake Cambodian passport, Frenchwoman Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, Thai citizen Somsak Khunmi and two Vietnamese nationals.
Two more Vietnamese-Americans, reportedly carrying a handgun and bullets, were arrested at the city’s airport on November 23, Vietnam state media said in reports that collectively labelled all the detainees “terrorists.”

I challenge apologists of the current Hanoi regime to explain to me how an American citizen could possibly fly to Vietnam with bullets and a handgun in their luggage. US customs among the most strictly supervised in the world and I can’t seriously see anyone successfully flying with a a lighter in their pocket, let alone firearms in their bags.

It just seems all too convenient.

Here’s how the local English-language media reported the situation:

VietNamNet Bridge – Eight members of Viet Tan, an anti-Vietnam terrorist organisation have been arrested by Vietnamese police. Nearly 7,000 leaflets and some weapons were seized.
On November 16 and 17 police arrested six persons on charges of terrorism. On November 23, customs officers at the HCM City-based Tan Son Nhat Airport detected two Vietnamese Americans, Le Van Phan, 55 and Nguyen Thi Thinh, 54, entering Vietnam with a gun and 13 bullets. They were arrested for illegally transporting and using weapons.
According to security agencies, these people are members of Viet Tan, a terrorist organisation. Vietnamese police will cooperate with these men’s national embassies to identify and judge them under Vietnamese law.
 

Other cases: 

 
 
Lawyers on trial, Vietnam
Photo: Le Thi Cong Nhan (R), 28, speaks as Nguyen Van Dai (L), 39, sits in a court in Hanoi May 11, 2007 in this photo of a television screen showing court proceedings. REUTERS/Kham 
 
Full BBC story: 
 
Two human rights lawyers have been jailed in Vietnam, in the latest court case against political activists.
Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were sentenced to five years and four years respectively by the Hanoi People’s Court.
They were found guilty of spreading propaganda intended to undermine Vietnam’s Communist government.
A court in Ho Chi Minh City convicted three other activists on similar charges on Thursday.
Le Nguyen Sang was sentenced to five years in jail, Nguyen Bac Truyen to four years, and Huynh Nguyen Dao to three years.
 
Lawyers on trial, Vietnam (2)


Things I like about Vietnam
November 23, 2007, 7:11 am
Filed under: expat, Hanoi, vietnam

It’s been a stressful and difficult six months and I’ve become a little bit too negative about life in Hanoi. I’ve been focusing on that negativity way too much so I decided to do a bit of counter-work by listing some of the things I really like about this place.

  • Old men wearing berets
  • Fried tofu with tomato
  • Palm trees and lotus ponds
  • Pagodas, temples and spirit houses
  • The total lack of sarcasm
  • Men who cry on television
  • Love-themed graffiti
  • Glass noodles with tender duck meat and young bamboo shoots (!!!)
  • The health farm breakfast at Tamarind
  • Girls in ao dai riding bikes
  • Countryside people
  • My dog and cat
  • Cheap transportation, and I guess cheap everything
  • Dogs on motorbikes
  • Brown-robed monks and nuns

I’m sure I’ll add more as I think of it, but that’s all I got right now.



Dissidents arrested yet again in Vietnam

 

 

Vietnam arrests foreign activists

Map

Vietnamese police have arrested six political activists, including four foreign citizens, in Ho Chi Minh City.

(BBC)

The activists – two Vietnamese, two American, one French and one Thai – were reportedly arrested after attending pro-democracy discussions.

Three of the six are members of a US-based anti-communist group.

The Vietnamese government exerts strong control over media and political activity. It has not yet commented on the arrests.

The US-based organisation Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform) said the activists were arrested on Saturday after they “participated in discussions with other democracy activists on promoting peaceful democratic change”.

It said their members were using examples of non-violent struggles around the world to “help empower the Vietnamese people.”

Vietnam says Viet Tan, which was established by a former south Vietnamese general in 1982, is a terrorist organisation and has staged a media campaign against it in recent months.

Seeking information

Among those arrested was Frenchwoman Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, a well-known campaigner and contributor to overseas Vietnamese-language media.

A press officer from the US embassy in Hanoi told the BBC the US was seeking information from the Vietnamese government regarding two US nationals.

There is no word on the charges they face.

The Paris-based campaign group Reporters Without Borders has condemned the arrests.

“We call for their immediate release since they were only engaged in peacefully promoting freedom of expression,” it said.

Vietnam has recently increased its efforts to silence political dissent and has jailed many activists who oppose the one party state system.

Watch yourself expats! The wrong word around your official minder and you’re outta here. I don’t think there’s a bribe big enough to get you out of ‘terrorism’ charges.

The government must be pretty scared if they are willing to go as far as arresting foreigners (Viet kieu, I hear) for attending a meeting, even if it was about democracy. Or maybe the country’s leaders are just used to dealing with black eyes and will do just about anything to preserve the one-party system so popular among the ruling class.

Still no word on the situation in the local English-language media… Though no big surprise there.

I tried to access the Viet Tan website but obviously it’s blocked within Vietnam. If anyone wants to send me a mirror or saved version I’d appreciate it!



I survived cholera epidemic 2007

I feel on top of the world these days, and it’s not just because I’m leaving Vietnam in less than a month. No, it’s the fact that I managed to avoid contracting cholera despite the widespread epidemic that plagued Hanoi.

Yes, cholera. The medieval explosive diarrhea disease. Only a few news agencies were brave enough to tackle the issue, and lord knows the state media took its sweet time in even admitting there was a problem.

Reuters Article vs state media

Either way, I’m glad I avoided it (so far). I took great pains to stay as far away from dog meat, rancid shrimp paste, pork log and market veggies as I could.

I am, however, deeply saddened to have to routinely bypass my favourite ‘mien ngan’ stand on Han Thuyen Street because the woman refuses to wear plastic gloves. I mean really, they’re free!

Cholera bacterium 2



Vacay time
September 18, 2007, 7:11 am
Filed under: expat, Hanoi, opium, Sapa, vietnam

So it’s September and I’ve been on vacation since the 7th. My friend Andy is in town visiting from Canada and we’ve been doing the Hanoi touristy stuff, and just got back from a trip to Sa Pa, about 10 hours north on the border with China. The trip was amazing and the six-hour hike through the hills to the remote ethnic minority village of Ban Ho was pretty spectacular. Also extremely painful on the quads.

One thing we all noticed was the prevalence of opium sellers in Sa Pa Town itself. Old ladies would brush by and whisper “Marijuana, hashish, opium?”  Needless to say, we didn’t buy. Vietnam is nice but I don’t need a 15-year prison term.

Next, we’re off to Da Nang and Hoi An for three days, then Hong Kong the week after. More pics to come!

Terraced rice fields

Black H’Mong

Sa Pa, Viet Nam

Opium pipe



Mid-afternoon lunar eclipse
August 28, 2007, 9:42 am
Filed under: eclipse, Hanoi, media, Uncategorized, vietnam

There will be a lunar eclipse tonight (Tuesday August 28) but unfortunately most in Vietnam won’t get a chance to see it. According to Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper:

Hanoi Education University astronomy instructor Nguyen Anh Vinh said the eclipse would begin at 2.53.39pm.

The eclipse will begin in full around 4.52pm.

The eclipse’s maximum point will occur at 5.37.22pm and the phenomenon will end at 6.22.24pm, according to Vinh.

Portions of mainland Vietnam will not be able to see the eclipse at all while some areas will be able to view the last half of the eclipse after the 5.37pm pinnacle.

Soldiers on the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa Islands will be able to see most of the eclipse’s strongest parts around and after 4.52pm. Residents on Con Dao and select groups of lucky coastal viewers may be able to catch glimpses of this part of the eclipse as well.

But visibility will be very limited due to the early occurrence of the eclipse as the bright afternoon sky will most likely drown out the phenomenon in most areas.

I just looked at my clock and it’s 4:37pm on Tuesday afternoon. Outside, it’s gray and cloudy, terrible viewing conditions. :(

Enjoy the eclipse!

Lunar eclipse




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.