Monthly Archives: July 2010

Newley.com July recap

A recap of posts here at Newley.com during the month of July:

Cartoon via.

10 links

Some Thailand-related, some not:

moto_taxi_drivers.jpg

Image credit: daniel n. reid

  1. Interview with Claudio Sopranzetti: The politics of motorcycle taxis — New Mandala
  2. Temple dispute surfaces againStraits Times
  3. US slips, China glides in Thai crisis — Asia Times Online
  4. Remarkable Stop-Motion Walk Across America — PetaPixel
  5. Soccer’s Growth in the U.S. Seems SteadyNew York Times
  6. Longtime journalist Daniel Schorr dead at age 93 — AP
  7. Leaving Asia’s shade — Banyan/Economist
  8. Atletico to be without star players for Bangkok gameBangkok Post
  9. Sugar trade’s sweet spot turns sour in Thailand — AP
  10. The Best Magazine Articles Ever — Cool Tools

    Bangkok bomb kills 1; Dems win parliamentary by-election

    A bomb exploded yesterday at a bus stop near central Bangkok’s Rajaprasong intersection, killing 1 and wounded 10. BBC has more info here.

    Here’s an image I snapped about an hour and a half after the explosion. The bus stop is located directly opposite the CentralWorld shopping mall, which was torched on May 19 following the military’s dispersal of red shirt protesters.

    The red shirts’ stage was located just a few hundred meters up Rajadamri Rd. Here’s what the intersection looked like last night.

    Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post has this story about yesterday’s parliamentary by-election, which the Democrats won. Previous BP post about the significance of the by-election is here.

    I’ll likely be posting more about both of these stories on Twitter.

    A visit to Pheu Thai’s red shirt exhibition (guest post at BP)

    Below is a guest post that appeared yesterday on the Bangkok Pundit blog, which is part of the Asian Correspondent site. Here is a link to the original post.

    By Newley Purnell

    The red shirt protests, as we know, came to a dramatic and bloody conclusion on May 19, when security forces dispersed anti-government demonstrators from central Bangkok. Throughout the nine weeks of protests, nearly 90 people were killed. 

    But red shirt supporters, it might be surprising to know, are still gathering in Bangkok today — albeit on a much smaller scale.

    Yesterday I visited the headquarters of the opposition Pheu Thai party, located in a building along Rama IV road. As tomorrow’s by-election approaches, with a Pheu Thai candidate squaring off against a Democrat rival, I wanted to see what the mood was like. 

    In addition, I wanted to catch a glimpse of a red shirt exhibition that has been created to mark the two month anniversary of the crackdown. The exhibit, which runs through tomorrow, is designed to highlight the reds’ grievances with the government. Here is a gallery with 14 images of the exhibit.

    Columns on the outside of the building were draped in black, and inside there were political banners, photos of injured and dead protesters, and a mannequin dressed as a red shirt protester aiming a slingshot at a figure dressed as a soldier, armed with a rifle, on a balcony above.

    A red shirt supporter, dressed as a soldier in camouflage and carrying a plastic toy rifle, walked around chatting with visitors. And there was music — interspersed with the sounds of gunfire. There was even a smoke machine in operation.

    Replica weapons and ammunitions were on display, as were bamboo poles of the type used to construct the Silom barricade. Some walls were even draped in plastic black netting, which brought to mind the fabric that had been stretched across the stage at Rajaprasong.

    Red T-shirts bearing exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s face were on sale outside the building. Coffee and cookies were available, and red shirt supporters of all ages — clothed in their signature “Truth Today” gear — ambled about, posing for photos in front of the various presentations. A small boy ran around with a red bandana on his head.

    According to a handout, the exhibit is called “Seven Days and Seven Agonies of the Thai people.” Various “zones” reflect “insidious rhetoric and an application of double standards,” while another zone — complete with a sample water dispensing machine said to be sold to villages by the government at an unfair markup — alleges government corruption. 

    “We want to tell the truth about the events of 19 May and 10 April,” Natawud Duangnil, who was staffing the exhibition, told me. “Every story has been twisted by the government and the media, which is controlled by the government.”

    He said that it was unfair to blame the arson attacks, like the one that occurred at the CentralWorld shopping center, on the red shirts. He argued that the fires there began after soldiers had control of the Rajaprasong area, and that troops wouldn’t allow fire fighters to reach the mall to put out the fire.

    I told him that many people with whom I’ve spoken are angry at the red shirts for claiming to be non-violent demonstrators — but then fighting with, or harboring, those with guns.

    “Thai society has cracked already,” he said. “If the red shirts had guns — if it’s true — then it’s not right. But look at the pictures of the people who died,” he said, gesturing at the exhibit. “They were unarmed.”

    I asked Natawud if he is afraid that the government will close the exhibition. “We don’t care because we have a right to do this as a political party,” he said. “Everyone has rights.”

    Some people say that the red shirts don’t really want democracy, I said, and that they’re merely mis-guided mercenaries fighting for Thaksin. “That’s just a story from their media,” he said. “Yes, we’re pro-Thaksin. But we don’t care if he comes back or not.”

    What’s next for the red shirt movement? “We’re upset. We’re sad. We’re angry,” he said. “I can’t deny that. Look at the peoples’ faces,” he said, referring to the visitors. “They cry. But in our minds, we don’t want anything more than justice.”

    According to this Nation story, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said the exhibition should not bend the truth in order to exacerbate divisions among Thai society. The article also notes that Pheu Thai says they’ll take the exhibition on the road to other provinces.

    Meanwhile, a story from NNT/Thailand Public Relations Department says that ambassadors from “Germany, Hungary, China, Cambodia, the Netherlands, the UK, India, Australia, and many others” have visited the exhibit.

    NYT on parliamentary by-election and ongoing divisions in Thailand

    Today’s New York Times has a story that looks at Sunday’s parliamentary by-election and ongoing tensions here in Thailand:

    BANGKOK — In a parliamentary race this weekend that is being seen as a referendum on Bangkok’s recent upheavals, only one of the two leading candidates is campaigning.

    The other is in prison, accused of terrorism for his leading role in the so-called red shirt protests, which paralyzed the city center until they were crushed by force in May.

    The disparity underlines the divisions that persist in Thailand following a nine-week anti-government demonstration during which nearly 90 people were killed and more than 1,400 injured. Since then a sort of clenched turmoil has prevailed, with a surface-level calm concealing social and political conflict that most analysts say is likely to burst out again in the future.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    (Via @jonrussell.)

    UPDATE: the WSJ also has a story today worth checking out: “Thai Divisions Shift to Voting Booth.”

    Two ads of note in today’s Bangkok Post

    Two images ((Please excuse the low-quality cell phone pics.)) of ads that — for varying reasons — caught my eye in today’s Bangkok Post: ((I’m not postulating, mind you, that there’s a connection between the two ads. Just pointing them out.))

    First, a follow up on the AP story I pointed out last week. You’ll recall that the Thai government says it plans to crack down on the parading — and feeding — of elephants in Bangkok. This ad, near the beginning of the front section, has details:

    Elephant ad in Bangkok Post

    And second, this ad…well, struck me as unique. It’s a few pages after the elephant ad, and is apparently for a “mattress sanitizing and cleaning” service:

    Ad in today's Bangkok Post

    Update on Map Ta Phut (guest post at BP)

    Below is a guest post that appeared yesterday on the Bangkok Pundit blog, which is part of the Asian Correspondent site. Here is a link to the original post.

    By Newley Purnell

    With the dramatic political unrest that unfolded here in Bangkok during April and May, it may be easy to lose sight of a pressing business-related issue still facing Thailand: the ongoing Map Ta Phut industrial estate impasse.  

    Map Ta Phut, in Rayong province, is one of the world’s biggest industrial estates. It is home to projects by multinationals like Dow, as well as Thai firms like PTT and Siam Cement. But 76 projects in Map Ta Phut — worth an estimated US$10 billion — were suspended in a court ruling by Thailand’s Central Administrative Court in Sept., 2009.

    The ruling came about after an environmental group and dozens of local residents filed suit, claiming people in the area have suffered adverse health effects due to ongoing pollution at the site.

    Their lawsuit argued that the Map Ta Phut projects do not comply with the 2007 Thai constitution. This document has more strict environmental requirements than its predecessor, the 1997 constitution. But no regulations have been enacted since 2007 that would actually allow companies to comply with the new stipulations.

    The Abhisit administration appealed, but a Dec. 2 Supreme Administrative Court ruling upheld the original decision, allowing just 11 of the projects to resume. The rest remain suspended. The government has set up a committee, which is says is comprised of various stakeholders, to find a way forward.

    The suspension of the projects in Map Ta Phut has, understandably, caused concern among Thailand’s foreign investors. They say there’s a lack of clarity regarding the law, and indeed regarding future environmental enforcement in Thailand. 

    More details on the case can be found in previous Bangkok Pundit posts here and here. The New York Times ran a Dec. 18, 2009 piece that provides a good overview, and Al Jazeera ran a 22-minute documentary TV piece called “Toxic Thailand” on April 22. The BBC also ran a story on March 5.

    More recently, in a June 29 piece, Reuters quoted the president of the Federation of Thai Industries as saying that the suspended projects should be able to begin again in late 2010 or early 2011.

    But the latest developments will not be welcome news to investors.

    The Bangkok Post ran a story Thursday detailing frustrations among the Japanese Chamber of Commerce (JCC) that the issue has continued to drag on. The president of JCC Bangkok, Junichi Mizonoue, was quoted as saying the Thai government has said it will need two more months to review a list of activities that would be considered harmful — a necessary step in ultimately reaching a resolution.

    “Generally speaking,” he is quoted as saying in the Post story, “I don’t think Thailand can attract big new investments until all remaining issues related to Map Ta Phut become clear because all investors are so annoyed about the unclear regulations in Thailand.”

    The JCC Isn’t the only party urging the Thai government to resolve the issue quickly. A separate Bangkok Post story from Thursday noted that the chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce says the government should try to bring the entire matter to a close within a month. 

    Earlier, on Jan. 14, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in an address at a Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand event that it would take six to eight months to resolve the issue. That would mean, of course, by now — July to September, 2010.

    The government might argue, of course, that the red shirt demonstrations over previous months has meant that the authorities had to focus their efforts on other issues — like maintaining law and order — and that a delay was inevitable.

    On the other hand, investors and companies operating in Map Ta Phut might point not to the earlier time frame of six to eight months, or even the prospect of operations resuming at the end of 2010. They might highlight, in exasperation, this figure: 10 months. That’s the amount of time that has elapsed since the original court ruling. And there’s still no resolution.

    And what about the people who live near Map Ta Phut? They have been voicing their complaints for years, they say.

    Newley Purnell

    7 Links

    Some Thailand-related, some not:

    1. The Angriest Man In TelevisionThe Atlantic
    2. Bangladesh, With Low Pay, Moves In on ChinaNew York Times
    3. The Consultant Was a Spy — Washingtonian.com
    4. Thailand: the prime minister and the mobile phone textsFinancial Times
    5. Can Thailand’s state of emergency lead to a ‘reconciliation’?Washington Post
    6. Thai politics intrudes on the world of reality TV — AP
    7. Wasps to Fight Thai Cassava PlagueNew York Times/IHT