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

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Happy 80th Your Majesty
December 1, 2006, 5:19 pm
Filed under: bangkok, coup, empires, expat, News and politics, thailand

King Bhumibol Adulyadej turns 80 on Dec 5, 2006, and I thought I’d post a few pics in his honour. King Poom as I like to call him, or Rama IX, is the longest serving head of state and despite his expression and running shoes in the 3rd photo, is not retarded. He is, in fact, great.

250px-portrait_bhumibol_sirikit.jpg

th02_05b.jpg

King & Dog



There’s Nothing Nice About Martial Law

Thai leaders to relax martial law

BBC

Thailand’s military chiefs have recommended that martial law imposed after the 19 September coup be lifted in parts of the country.

The decision would affect about 40 of Thailand’s 76 provinces, coup leader and army commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said.

Martial law has been in place since the bloodless coup, which ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The decision will now be submitted to the cabinet for approval.

“Everybody wants to see peace and order in our country and the lifting of martial law will have a positive political and psychological impact,” Gen Sonthi said.

But he said the measures will remain in place in the troubled southern provinces, and in areas of the north and northeast, where support for Mr Thaksin is strongest.

Gen Sonthi said Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont could decided what to do about Bangkok.

“If we lift martial law and something happens, the prime minister will be held primarily responsible,” the French news agency AFP quoted him as saying.

Few protests

The new government has struggled to gain international recognition, not least because of its refusal to end the martial law, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

But in practice few Thais have felt the restrictions, which have been applied sparingly.

Soldiers are still posted outside television stations in Bangkok, around 300 radio stations in rural areas have been forced to stop broadcasting, and political parties have been banned from holding large-scale meetings.

There have been relatively few protests against martial law – in fact the more widely-heard complaint against the new government is over its failure to come up with a convincing case against the former prime minister for corruption or abuses of power.

Still, the fact that martial law will remain in place in pro-Thaksin areas suggests the military is still nervous about a possible come-back by the former prime minister, who has been touring a number of nearby countries recently in a blaze of media publicity, our correspondent adds.

Monks & Tanks

It’s about time! The bad news is that Bangkok is not included.
That means it’s still illegal to gather in groups of 5 or more for a political purpose, hold rallies or broadcast news independently. However, it is legal to detain people without a warrant and without having to press charges. Hmmm.

The atmosphere is so friendly and the people so warm-hearted it’s easy to forget that the Thai government has been capable of some nasty things. Thaksin’s war against drug dealers (how many thousands dead at the hands of trigger happy police?), the southern insurgency and response (dozens suffocating in a truck for the crime of attending a rally while Muslim), historic brutal military suppression, and of course, at least one secret CIA prison — possibly for extracting information via torture.

Of course, no government is perfect. They all have blood on their hands and policies that shame their citizens, except perhaps Switzerland. I love the jai dee of the Thai people so much, and for this reason hope that martial law is entirely lifted and some form of representative democracy is restored as soon as possible.

Since I mentioned jai dee, a translation of which you can find further down somewhere, I’d like to add I noticed a picture on the Thai newswire of a demostration held in Bangkok not long ago. The demostration was against the death penalty (a brutal and frequently used punishment here) and there were six or seven young people dressed in black holding signs that called for an end to the practice. I was so impressed to see it… not only because these people were defying martial law and protesting a political policy… they were also opening eyes about an issue that gets very little play in Asia. The death penalty is not often discussed or thought about, so it’s great to see people questioning its value and usefulness. I’ll track down the photo tomorrow and post it here.

Good work protest kids, keep it up!!

***UPDATE Two Thai men who murdered tourist Katherine Horton have had their death sentences commuted to life in jail.



The Chatuchak story
November 13, 2006, 10:01 am
Filed under: bangkok, bomb, chatuchak, coup, expat, free press, media, News and politics, protests, thailand

Thugs demolish Chatuchak stalls

Police forced to intervene as leaseholder tries to evict unwanted tenants

The Nation

More than 100 armed men stormed into the Sunday Market at Chatuchak early yesterday to destroy stalls as the owners pelted them with debris in a futile effort to stop them.

In scenes reminiscent of the  destruction of Sukhumvit Square ordered by Chat Thai deputy leader Chuwit Kamolvisit several years ago, thugs tore through the area using strong-arm tactics to keep the stall owners at bay.

The Sunday Market has been leased by Thanasarnsombat Pattana Company from the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). It is located next to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Vendors who have operated at the market for about 10 years insisted they were protected by a court order until negotiations, scheduled for February 7, were conducted.

When police officers arrived at the market at around 5am, stalls were being torn apart despite protests from the vendors, some of whom hurled bottles and stones.

A vendor was reportedly hospitalised after a demolition worker punched him with a brass knuckle-duster. Some of the men carried axes, clubs and crowbars.

The police urged both sides to negotiate.

A woman, calling herself Apinya, said she was a legal adviser for Thanasarnsombat Pattana.

She said an April court order meant all tenants with contracts with the bankrupt Sunday Holdings Company should have left the area by November 2.

“We displayed copies of the court order and SRT statement that declares our company’s rights here,” Apinya said.

Sunday Holdings used to lease the area from SRT until it went bankrupt in 1998. SRT later took charge of the area and sold the lease to Thanasarnsombat Pattana.

However, trader Thanaporn Sapien said she and other vendors had run their stalls there more than 10 years. After Sunday Holdings went bankrupt, they continued to pay their Bt300 a day rent to SRT until a few months ago when electricity and water were cut off.

“We jointly lodged a complaint with the Civil Court on October 27, which issued an injunction barring any forced removal and the cutting off of the electricity and water,” she said.

Police Division 2 deputy Maj-General Amnuay Nimmano yesterday asked Thanasarnsombat Pattana to refrain from further action until the parties had met.

Amnuay said representatives from the Legal Execution Department and SRT would settle the dispute.

SRT acting governor Thawil Samnakhon yesterday said Thana-sarnsombat Pattana bought the 12-year lease in March. Under the contract, the company must construct a building for tenants to trade in within two years or face a fine.

“Now, eight months have passed since the contract was granted,” Thawil said, adding that SRT and Thanasarnsombat Pattana had tried to find alternative sites for the vendors but received no cooperation.

Veera Udom, chair of the Sunday Market Cooperative, vowed to submit a petition to Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda at his house today.



Suck it Sukhumvit
September 24, 2006, 5:29 am
Filed under: army, bangkok, coup, expat, free press, freedom, media, politics, protests, Uncategorized

I saw the first soldiers in my neighbourhood, a very quiet semi-residential area off Phra Khanong and Rama IX Road. Two pimply-faced teenagers carrying assault rifles and roses walking down the alley.
The Nation reported yesterday that protesters gathered downtown at Siam Centre carrying banners that read “No To Coups” and other slogans. The protesters claimed to be anti-Thaksin and anti-coup, and they called for those opposed to the coup to wear black, or carry black banners. There were no arrests, however, that could have been because there were at least a hundred foreign and local journalists covering the demo. The army did say they had videotaped the gathering and would analyse it to see if the protesters violated the ban on groups of more than 5 people for a political purpose. Obviously, there were more than 5 people there so we’ll have to wait and see if the army takes action. My money’s on ‘no’ but I’m an optimist.

One thing I have noticed is there have been no elephants on the streets since Tuesday. Coincidence? I think not. Anti-democracy is one thing, but anti-elephant??? They’ve gone too far.



smiling soldiers
September 21, 2006, 4:21 am
Filed under: army, bangkok, coup, expat, free press, freedom, News and politics, protests, Uncategorized

yet another normal day at work and in the city, with the addition of
several more soldiers outside the Nation offices. downtown women are
buying yellow roses and flowers (yellow being the colour representing
the king) and offering them to soldiers. to be perfectly honest, i
like king bhumibol very much, but his endorsement of the coup leaves
me with mixed emotions.
the thais like to say that foreigners will never understand their politics, but truthfully, it’s not nearly as clever or complex as
they’d like to think. vote-buying is rampant in the countryside (where
thaksin’s power base is located) and votes are bought for literally a
few hundre Baht, or less than US$10.
it’s especially confusing since elections were planned for little more
than two months from now. thaksin would have won (thanks to his
populist platform and rural vote-buying) and protests likely would’ve
turned violent if pro and anti-thaksin factions collided.
so, while the coup probably averted violence, it left a lot of people
here with a bad taste in their mouth. people from north america just
aren’t used to seeing power change hands at the barrel of a gun.
thaksin had to go, but it’s too bad it all had to come down to this.
so, all to say everything is calm and normal in the city and there’s
nothing to worry about at all.
as for north america, i urged my family to stay away from washington and new york city for the time being. it probably sounds silly, but
al-jeezera and other middle estern news agencies are running
continuous warnings for muslims to leave those two cities in the run
up to another major attack. it could just be a scare tactic, but it
seems likely that there will be another strike and this one could
include a dirty bomb. i find it very sad that all the people who are
agitating against the us’ foreign policy and war will be the ones
silenced by yet another attack on america. the right wing will simply
have their mandate upped and the peace movement will be destroyed.
when i was leaving the office last night a young
soldier stopped me just to smile and try out a ‘hello’ in english. where else but in thailand?

bangkok-patrol.jpg



September 20, 2006, 6:22 am
Filed under: army, bangkok, coup, free press, freedom, media, News and politics, protests, Uncategorized

Coup leaders move to censor media, ban public gatherings

Coup leaders Wednesday moved to censor the media and banned public gatherings as part of measures meant to ensure public order. Strict controls were slapped on foreign and domestic media, state television announced, that allowed the communications ministry to block” disinformation” deemed harmful to a provisional military council now in control of the country. Security forces reportedly seized media transmission facilities. Public gatherings of more than five people is banned, violators could be jailed for six months. The council also outlawed stockpiling of goods by vendors, and said anyone caught raising the costs of their goods could be jailed for two years, according to the announcement. Coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said earlier Wednesday the military had to seize power in order to unite the nation after months of political turmoil.

 -The Nation