Monthly Archives: December 2006

More Bombs in Bangkok

Bombs Explode in Bangkok -- Locations

Update — 1:38 a.m.: This good BBC story offers a useful map of the locations of the bombings.

Also, there’s this:

Police do not believe foreign groups or militants from the Muslim south are to blame, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head.

Our Bangkok correspondent says many Thais suspect the bombs were the work of opponents of the current military government, which forced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from office in September.

Update — 1:25 a.m.:

Bangkok Pundit has two new snippets of info:

1:20 am ITV reports on a possible bomb found before it exploded at Suan Lum Night Bazaar – this is on Wireless Road next to the Japanese Embassy and close to the US Embassy. Embassy Central really. Very limited reports so far and no confirmation.

1:10 am The Nation’s report on a bomb exploding in Khao San Road is rebutted by Thai channel ITV who say only a suspicious package was found so the whole area has been cleared as a precaution.

And 2Bangkok.com has some photos and additional news links.

As I mentioned earlier, the first round of blasts went off at about 6:30 p.m. today.

Now more bombs have exploded here in Bangkok — at midnight at at 12:30 a.m.

And, in a new twist, those responsible for the explosions have begun targeting foreigners.

The Nation:

Three more bombs exploded in the heart of Bangkok once the new year started, severely injuring many foreign tourists.

The two bombs exploded nearly at the same time seconds after the new year started and another bomb exploded about half an hour after midnight.

The first bomb exploded at the Best Sea Foods restaurant on the Saen Saeb Canal near the Pratunam Pier.

Two foreigners and a Thai were injured. One of the foreigners had one leg amputated by the blast. The foreign tourists were having dinner at the restaurant.

Police said the bomb was hidden in a tire at the pier.

The second bomb exploded at a public telephone booth at the pedestrian flyover linking Central World and Kesorn Plaza. Several foreigners were injured and rushed to hospitals.

The third bomb exploded at the Buddy Bar on Khao Sarn Road.

This is huge, huge news.

What does it mean for Thailand’s fragile military-led government? For the conflict in the south? For tourism in the Kingdom?

Bombs in Bangkok

AP:

At least six bomb blasts rocked the Thai capital late Sunday, killing at least two people and prompting the city to disperse thousands of people who had gathered to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, which capped a year of unrest in Thailand, including a military coup three months ago and a mounting Muslim insurgency in its southernmost provinces.

CNN:

Thai authorities have canceled all major New Year’s celebrations in Bangkok after at least seven explosions ripped through several areas of the capital, killing two people, police and hospital officials say.

At least 12 other people were wounded in Sunday’s attacks, which appeared to have been coordinated, and took place hours before New Year’s Eve celebrations at midnight (noon ET).

Major events in Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai, have also been canceled.

Chief government spokesman Yongyud Maiyalab warned people to be cautious but not to panic.

One of the blasts occurred at a mall near the Victory Monument in the center of the Thai capital, Reuters reported.

My friends and family are all fine.

More on this in the days to come.

Bangkok Pundit lists some groups that might be responsible. Number two is the leading candidate at this point.

1. Thaksin/TRT/anti-coup forces. Do they have the capability to stage coordinated attacks in Bangkok?
2. Terrorists in the southern border provinces. It would be a massive step up to stage an attack outside of the southern border provinces.
3. Security forces themselves. Just imagine the damage to the military if this was true and they were caught.
4. Some other group. Who? It doesn’t appear to be Al Qaeda or JI, well it would be a massive change of tactics if it was.

Here’s more on the south Thailand insurgency, in case you’re not familiar with it. You’ll be hearing a lot about it in the coming days, is my guess.

See You in 2007

Blogging will be light until after the new year. My family’s in town from the US. We’re having lots of fun.

Happy holidays, all. See you in 2K7.

(Cartoon via.)

Thailand’s Failed Currency Control Experiment

20 Baht

Reuters/CNN:

Thai shares bounced back on Wednesday from their biggest sell-off in 16 years after the government back-pedaled on currency controls, but the abrupt policy U-turn shattered confidence in its economic chiefs.

The stock market, which plunged 14.8 percent on Tuesday — its biggest one-day drop since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 — ended 11.2 percent higher after the army-appointed government exempted stock buying from controls on short-term currency inflows just a day after imposing them.

The stunning about-face in the wake of a foreigner-led rout that knocked $23 billion off Asia’s worst-performing bourse this year rekindled memories of the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis and brought howls of derision from analysts.

“The one thing worse than an incompetent central bank is an incompetent central bank that flip-flops,” said Bratin Sanyal, head of Asian equity investments at ING in Hong Kong.

Domestic investors were equally scathing in their criticism of the technocrats appointed by the military leaders who ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a September 19 coup.

“I’m stunned. They are truly incapable. Please, get the hell out,” 35-year-old businessman Chan Pornpipatkul said.

Meanwhile, Tom Fuller and Wayne Arnold report in the IHT that the Thai central banker says Siam’s the real victim here:

The steep decline of the dollar is punishing Asia’s smaller economies and should be addressed by global financial regulators, the governor of the Thai central bank, Tarisa Watanagase, said Wednesday.

Speaking as the Thai stock market rebounded from a record one-day drop of 15 percent, Tarisa defended the government’s attempt to block short-term foreign investment.

Dismissing criticism that the move had tarnished Thailand’s reputation among international investors, she instead portrayed Thailand as a victim of the large imbalances in trade and savings that send trillions of dollars sloshing in and out of developing countries.

“This is not a problem unique to Thailand,” Tarisa said during an interview. “I’m sure that if this sort of problem is not cured in a cooperative manner, we could see similar measures elsewhere.”

By imposing capital controls on Monday, Thailand sought to slow inflows of foreign money because it had resulted in a double-digit appreciation of its currency against the dollar since the start of the year. Tarisa urged the International Monetary Fund or the Asian Development Bank to find a solution to the problem. Otherwise, she said, “The smaller, open economies will have to take the issue into their own hands.”

(Emphasis mine.)

New Blogs of Note

I’ve linked to some new blogs on the lower left side of this page. I’ve been reading several of them for a while and am just now getting around to installing links.

Here goes:

2Bangkok.com — I’ve mentioned this one before. It’s enormously comprehensive. Sadly, no RSS feed, though.

Bangkok Pundit. Excellent political blog.

RealThai. My friend Austin’s top-notch blog about Thai food.

Asia Sentinel — A “platform for news, analysis and opinion on national and regional issues in Asia.”

Bangalore Monkey — “Two New Yorkers spend six months in Bangalore and other places in India.”

Starbucks Gossip — “Monitoring America’s favorite drug dealer.”

Webs of Significance — a new blog written by my friend YTSL in Penang, Malaysia.

(Cartoon via.)

Bloggers’ Favorite Books of 2006

I’m delighted to announce that it’s time, once again, for the annual Newley.com Bloggers’ Favorite Books survey.

For the fourth year running, I asked some of my favorite bloggers to tell me about their favorite books of the year.

Respondents weren’t limited to titles published in 2006, but were free to pick any book they discovered during the last 12 months that they found particularly compelling.

Here’s what they said:

Blogger: Mark Frauenfelder
Blog: Boing Boing

Mark writes:

Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis (1992, available for free on Project Gutenberg)

George Babbitt is a successful real estate agent in the city of Zenith (a mythical midwestern burg). He has plenty of friends and belongs to clubs and organizations of like-minded men. On the outside he is jolly and gregarious. But in his dreams and quiet moments, he realizes his life didn’t go they way he wanted it. When he decides to change, just a little, the community responds like a kicked nest of hornets. What will he do, and how will he live with his decision?

Blogger: Dana
Blog: (the late, great) #1 Hit Song

Dana writes:

So. OK, I read a number of highly acclaimed books this year, but I want to endorse three books that might not have gotten much attention, plus one that wasn’t published in 2006 but which was probably one of the best books I’ve read in forever.

So, the first book that I so loved in 2006 is called “Visigoth,” by Gary Amdahl.

I reviewed it in May.

Although it is imperfect, it is truly breathtaking, and deserves wider recognition. In a literary world glutted (in my opinion) by Raymond Carver wannabes, this guy is the real deal.

The second “book” I read and absolutely loved is called “Happyland,” by J. Robert Lennon.

I put “book” in quotes because it was actually serialized by Harper’s over the summer. Apparently WW Norton dropped it at the last moment, because of fear of being sued for libel. There’s nothing I love more than satire, because I am an equal-opportunity misanthropist, and Happyland, to me, is a more refined version of Ishmael Reed’s “Japanese by Spring.”

In the “Incomplete” category, I haven’t finished Chris Adrian’s “Children’s Hospital,” but I’m completely in awe of his facility with magical realism.

As for books that are great but weren’t published in 2006, I heartily endorse Jon Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven.”

It’s an investigation of a particularly gruesome double murder, committed by fundamentalist Mormons, but it’s also an intimate examination of the LDS church and of fundamentalist branches of the LDS. It’s just…overpowering. I found myself reading full paragraphs from it to whoever happened to be in the room. It was perversely fascinating, and written with remarkable restraint, given its subject matter. I really think that anyone with a passing interest in the Mormons pick it up and give it a read. Wow.

Blogger: Jason Kottke
Blog: kottke.org

Jason writes:

I read Charles Mann‘s 1491 while on my honeymoon in Mexico. In the book, Mann compiles a bunch of recent research that suggests that what American kids are taught in history class about the Americas before Columbus is wrong and grossly misleading. Did you know that the Peruvians may have independently formed one of the world’s earliest civilizations, contemporary with Sumer and Egypt? Or that a surprising amount of the Amazon was farmed/cultivated by humans? (Untouched wilderness? What wilderness?) Or that the population of the Americas, devastated upon the arrival of the Europeans and their diseases, was a significant portion of the world’s total population, with large civilizations and population to be found everywhere? And that’s just to whet your appetite. Most interesting (and important) book I read all year.

Blogger: The Taipei Kid
Blog: The Taipei Kid

The Taipei Kid writes:

What to Eat, by Marion Nestle — This giant book reads like Fast Food Nation from a nutritionist’s standpoint and covers far beyond the world of fast food. It also reminds me of Susan Powter’s book Food, but without all the yelling. Starting with the basic layout of a typical supermarket (designed to snag you into buying more), Nestle works readers through the food pyramid and then some. You won’t look at yogurt—harmless yogurt, healthy yogurt (NOT!)—the same way again. In fact, you won’t look at a lot of your favorite foods the same way again. Arm yourself with this book before you hit the food stores!

Blogger: Wendy Harman
Blog: Harmany Music

Wendy writes:

Fiction

Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel

Published in 2005, it’s a great read! For all late 20ish and early 30ish single people like me, Indecision offers funny insights into our sometimes ridiculous outlook on life. I laughed, I cried, and I felt embarrassed at how well I could identify with protagonist Dwight Wilmerding. The pharmaceutical industry is probably in the lab right now creating a pill to cure indecision that’ll allow us to bypass growing up altogether. After reading this book, I most likely won’t pop it.

Nonfiction

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang (book/blog)

Wow. I’ve spent my life studying music + the biz, but this examination of hip-hop’s creation, evolution, and impact on our society schooled me. It’s a well-written page-turner that parses the beats to reveal a chronology not just of hip-hop, but our entire culture since the early 1970’s. I don’t know how he uncovered so many oral stories that get to the heart of why and how we have hip-hop, but I’m glad he did. Author Jeff Chang is a fellow blogger to boot.

Blogger: Lee LeFever
Blog: The World Is Not Flat

Lee writes:

“A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. I was surprised to be so enthralled and interested in a big book of stories about the sciences. I got smarter!

Blogger: TINGB
Blog: Time I’ll Never Get Back

TINGB writes:

I read a lot of biographies and baseball books this year, and — combining both elements — the best book I read was Jonathan Eig’s biography of Lou Gehrig, “Luckiest Man.” It reads like a novel, and I found it quite suspenseful given that I already knew how it would end. Any baseball fan, even a Yankee-hater, can find something to love about his story, and it’s a very interesting read when one considers Gehrig in contrast to the modern baseball culture and the steroid scandals that plague the game today.

And as for yours truly, my favorite book of 2006 — and I say this having only read half of it, I’m that smitten with it already — is Richard Ford’s recently-released novel “The Lay of the Land,” which follows Frank Bascombe, the protagonist from “The Sportswriter” and “Independence Day.” The level of detail is astounding; Ford’s understanding of the nuances of American culture is simply amazing. His prose is lyrical, his pacing is spot-on, and his characters are vivid. Ford is incredible.

Thanks to all of this year’s respondents for taking the time to contribute.

Here’s last year’s list, in case you’re feeling nostalgic.

Happy reading in 2007.

India Trip Photos

I’ve just posted all of my images from our 10-day trip to India. Here’s the full set. We were in Delhi for a few days and then went down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. After that it was off to Jaipur before returning to Delhi.

A few of my faves:

Glowing Ganesh in Our Taxi
Glowing Ganesh statue inside our taxi in Delhi

The. Best. Samosas. EVER.
Samosas!

Tandoori Meal in Jaipur
Tandoori food!

Standing Room Only
Standing room only

...and After!
Thumbs up!

Thumbs Up Cola!
And Thumbs Up cola!

Demonstration at the India Gate, Delhi
Gathering at the India Gate in Delhi.

Cow, Woman, Kid, Cow
Agra street scene

The Taj, a Bit Closer Up...
The classic image of the Taj Mahal

Reflection, Flipped
Taj Reflection

A and I in Front of the Taj Entrance Gate
In front of the Taj Mahal entrance gate

The Taj, Framed
The Taj viewed from the side

River Behind the Taj
The river behind the Taj

Littel Feller and Musician
Along the road from Agra to Jaipur

Sunset in Jaipur, India
Sunset in Jaipur

Camel Cart, Twelve O'Clock!
Camel cart at 12 o’clock!

Wedding Ceremony
Wedding ceremony

Women at the Lotus (Baha'i) Temple, Delhi
Women at the Lotus Temple in Delhi