Monthly Archives: August 2010

Newley.com Aug. recap

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

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(Cartoon via.)

Reuters: Grenade explodes near Thai state TV channel

Grenade explodes near Thai state TV channel

BANGKOK, Aug 31 (Reuters) – A grenade exploded in the compound of a Thai state-run broadcaster on Tuesday but no one was injured, police said, the fourth mysterious blast in five weeks during a state of emergency in Bangkok.

The grenade damaged three vehicles inside the compound close to one of the city’s largest military bases on Viphavadi-Rangsit Road leading to the capital, said Police Colonel Paisan Wongwatcharamongkol, citing witnesses.

Authorities suspect the grenade was shot from an M79 launcher positioned on an overhead highway, Paisan said.”Three vehicles were slightly damaged by sharpnel from the explosion.”

Broadcaster NBT, whose compound was hit by the grenade, has faced criticism from “red shirt” anti-government demonstrators, who accuse the channel of biased reporting.

There are also stories from AP and AFP.

New NYT story on Viktor Bout

There are some interesting tidbits in this NYT story on Viktor Bout that ran Aug. 29: For Arms Sales Suspect, Secrets Are Bargaining Chips:

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The lede:

WASHINGTON — Accused of a 15-year run as one of the world’s biggest arms traffickers, Viktor Bout is thought to be a consummate deal maker.

Now his future may hang on whether he can strike one last bargain: trading what American officials believe is his vast insider’s knowledge of global criminal networks in exchange for not spending the rest of his life in a federal prison.

There’s this, about his weight loss, previously noted here:

Mr. Bout, who has lost about 70 pounds while imprisoned in Thailand, has shown no inclination to cooperate with investigators.

And we learn that Bout has his own Web site, Victorbout.com, which argues that he is a legitimate businessman:

On his Web site he calls himself “a born salesman with undying love for aviation and eternal drive to succeed.

And:

Rumors in Bangkok have suggested that the Russians and the Americans engaged in a bidding war over the American extradition request, with Russia offering Thailand cut-rate oil and Americans offering military hardware.

Both sides have denied such bargaining. Thai officials say they must process a second United States request for extradition on a separate indictment for money laundering before Mr. Bout can be put aboard the American jet that arrived last week to pick him up.

And:

Mr. Bout developed ties with such notorious figures Charles Taylor of Liberia, bedded down next to his plane in African war zones and sometimes took payment in diamonds, bringing his own gemologist to assess the stones.

And:

Mr. Wolosky said he and his colleagues were astonished to learn from later news reports that Mr. Bout’s companies were used as subcontractors by the American military to deliver supplies to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, earning about $60 million, by Mr. Farah’s estimate.

And finally:

In 2007, Mr. Braun, then the D.E.A. operations chief, said he was asked by Bush administration officials about prosecuting Mr. Bout. The agency lured him into a trap in which the agency said he agreed to sell surface-to-air missiles and other military gear to agency informants posing as FARC operatives.

At a meeting in a Bangkok hotel in March 2008, according to court records, Mr. Bout scribbled price estimates and doodled an aircraft, telling his ostensible customers “that the United States was also his enemy.”

“It’s not, uh, business,” Mr. Bout said on tape, the records say. “It’s my fight.”

(All emphasis mine.)

(Via @tri26)

Bangkok Post: Bout says MP asked how to take down Thaksin plane

Today’s Bangkok Post: Bout says MP asked how to take down Thaksin plane:

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Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has confirmed that Sirichoke Sopha, a close aide to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, met him to make inquiries into how ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s plane could be brought down.

He also alleged that the MP made inquiries into whether Thaksin was involved in arms smuggling.

Mr Bout’s wife, Alla, read his statement yesterday during a press conference in Bangkok in which he proclaimed his innocence and elaborated on his discussions with Mr Sirichoke on April 15 at Bang Kwang Central Prison.

Mr Bout said no tape recording had been made of the conversation.

He claimed Mr Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin had paid to have an aircraft smuggle arms from North Korea to Sri Lanka in December of last year, before the shipment was seized in Thailand.

Mr Sirichoke quoted a foreign news report saying that Thaksin had flown to Sri Lanka one week before the seizure.

Mr Bout alleged that Mr Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin might have bought the weapons to arm his red shirt supporters.

Mr Bout said he told the MP that he had no knowledge of such a plan and that, “I would not like to fantasise”.

Mr Bout said Mr Sirichoke showed him a picture of a private jet and said it belonged to Thaksin. “He asked me how to intercept Thaksin’s plane,” he said.

In the statement, read in Mr Bout’s native Russian, the term intercept was meant in the sense to “bring down”.

“I told him that I could not teach him this,” Mr Bout said.

Mr Sirichoke also allegedly asked Mr Bout about the state of Thaksin’s health and why other countries were uncooperative in helping to arrest and extradite the former prime minister to Thailand.

(Emphasis mine.)

BBC: Thailand red shirt protesters rallying again

Here’s a BBC TV report worth checking out: “Thailand red shirt protesters rallying again

In Thailand, ‘red shirt’ anti-government protesters are beginning to gather in massive rallies again, three months after a huge street protest in Bangkok ended.

The BBC has been told some underground activists are being trained to carry out bomb attacks, despite government efforts at reconciliation with the opposition group.

The report features some interesting time-lapse footage of Bangkok, as well as some before-and-after shots of the city.

(Via @tri26.)

NYT: “After Upheaval, Not All Is Well With Thai Youth”

Story in today’s NYT: After Upheaval, Not All Is Well With Thai Youth

NA CHUEAK, THAILAND — Three months ago, images of protesters battling the military in the streets of Bangkok seized the world’s attention. Now, by some measures, Thailand is bouncing back: the country’s economy is projected to grow as fast as 7.5 percent this year, and the government is pushing ahead with a program of “reconciliation” with its opponents.

But even as Thailand pulls itself back together, there are concerns that deep-seated problems among its young people represent a quieter, long-term threat to the country’s future.

Declining education standards — as well as reports of growing violence and drug and alcohol use among the young, which some analysts see as related issues — are contributing to fears that Thailand’s dream of joining the ranks of the world’s most developed countries may be getting more and more elusive.

Viktor Bout extradition delayed

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BBC: Thailand delays Viktor Bout extradition

The planned extradition to the United States of a suspected arms dealer, Viktor Bout, has been hit by delays.

A US plane was ready at the Don Muang air force base north of the Thai capital, Bangkok.

But legal delays emerged to postpone the extradition of Mr Bout, a Russian citizen.

The US and Russia have been squabbling over the fate of Mr Bout since his 2008 arrest in a joint Thai-US sting operation.

A court ruled last week that he could be handed over to the US – but Russia then voiced strong opposition.