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Month: December 2010

Some of this year’s most popular posts

As 2010 comes to a close, here’s a quick re-cap of this year’s most popular posts.

Due to the events in Thailand over the past several months, it will come as no surprise that many of the more than 61,000 people who visited in 2010 accessed material related to the red shirt protests and Thai politics. Some of these posts included:

Some of the most popular non-red shirt-related posts included:

Thanks, as ever, for reading.

Thailand-related holiday gift suggestion: The Sound of Siam


Here’s a gift suggestion for Thailand enthusiasts — or lovers of eclectic music — on your holiday shopping list: The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam from Thailand 1964 -1975.

From the record company’s Web site:

As Soundway’s entry point into the Asian music world, The Sound of Siam CD and double LP offers a unique vantage point to the most experimental period in Thai musical history. The 19 tracks reflect the outcome of a twentieth century journey from Thai classical to Luk Krung and Luk Thung – music that incorporated western influences such as jazz, surf guitar, ballroom and even Latin and African.

The album can be purchased via the link above (where you can also listen to some of the tracks), or on Amazon.

(Via Saksith Saiyasombut on Facebook.)

My new Chronicle story on Singapore’s first residential colleges


I’ve got a new story in the global edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The headline is “A Singapore University Plans Its First Residential Colleges.”

Here’s how it starts:

Many of the world’s leading Western universities are reaching out to the East, setting up campuses and forging relationships in Asia. But one renowned Asian university is looking to the West for inspiration as it builds four residential colleges using a North American and British hybrid model.

The flagship National University of Singapore will kick off a phased opening of the city-state’s first residential colleges in August 2011. It is a unique arrangement in a place where many students live at home, and those who do stay on the campus are ensconced in dormitories. The project, known as University Town, will eventually house some 4,100 students in the four colleges and a graduate residence.

Roger Arnold wins award for reporting on Red Shirt protests

I’m a few weeks late in noting this, but I wanted to point out that Bangkok-based journalist Roger Arnold has won the 2010 Rory Peck Trust award for his video news reporting.

The awards, which were given out last month, go to freelance cameramen and camerawomen.

Roger captured some compelling footage for the Wall Street Journal during the Red Shirt protests last spring.

This WSJ video, embedded below, contains some of his work.

I also suggest checking out this BBC story and accompanying video, in which Roger discusses covering the events.

UNIQLO: coming to Thailand


Fast fashion fans take note: Japanese clothing retailer UNIQLO is opening a store here in Bangkok — Thailand’s first.

A brief statement on the company’s site says that the shop will open in fall, 2011. (I wonder if there will be a giant T-shirt vending machine, like in Tokyo…)

Reuters on Thai troops, red shirt clashes, and civilian deaths

A Reuters story running today: “Exclusive: Probe reveals Thai troops’ role in civilian deaths”:

The Thai military played a larger role in the killing of civilians during political unrest in Bangkok this year than officials have acknowledged, leaked state documents seen by Reuters show.

A preliminary state probe into political violence in April and May concluded Thai special forces positioned on an elevated railway track fired into the grounds of a Buddhist temple where several thousand protesters had taken refuge on May 19.

Three of six people shot dead at the temple were likely killed by troops, the investigation found, directly contradicting statements by the Thai military, which has denied soldiers were responsible for the killings at the temple.


Soldiers quoted in the DSI report said they fired warning shots toward the temple and came under fire from black-clad gunmen from below and by another gunman in the temple. They said they were providing cover fire for troops on the ground, who had requested backup.


The findings seen by Reuters were contained in two DSI reports — one on the temple shootings and another on the April 10 death of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto.

Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national based in Tokyo, was killed by a high-velocity bullet wound to the chest while covering protests in Bangkok’s old quarter.

The report quoted a witness who said Muramoto collapsed as gunfire flashed from the direction of soldiers. Thailand’s government has not yet publicly released the report into his death despite intense diplomatic pressure from Japan.

(Emphasis mine.)

The Globe and Mail‘s Mark MacKinnon was at the temple (along with The Independent‘s Andrew Buncombe) that night and tweeted the following in response to the Reuters story today:

Thai report says soldiers shot at from inside temple. I saw fireworks launched towards soldiers from just outside Wat, no gunmen inside.

It was dark, I couldn’t see everything, but I walked and ran through all parts of temple several times. I saw slingshots, clubs, no guns.

Thai report revealing soldiers’ roles in Wat Pathum shootings an “official secret” – authorities refuse to confirm its authenticity…

World Cup bids, England, and the (apparently) cancelled Thailand friendly


As you’re probably aware, the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host countries were announced on Thursday. Russia won 2018 and Qatar was awarded 2022. There are many fascinating issues to discuss, but given the focus of this blog, I wanted to zero in on one interesting element: the Thailand connection.

Some background: Prior to the vote, much of the Western European media echoed the notion that the front runners for 2018 were Spain/Portugal (home of the scintillating world champions, Spain) and England (home of robust infrastructure and the world’s most popular domestic league).

But Russia — considered by some to be an outsider — won, of course. This may not have been as big an upset as it seems, but it was still surprising to many observers. It’s worth noting that, as I understand it, many within Russia considered their bid to be the strongest all along, chiefly because the World Cup has never been held in Eastern Europe.

The process by which World Cup bids are awarded has been the subject of increasing scrutiny in recent years. Here’s how it works: A 24-man panel — the FIFA executive committee — decides, behind closed doors, which countries will be allowed to host the world’s most-watched sporting event.

Votes are secret, and are cast in an exhaustive ballot system, with several rounds of voting until a winner receives a majority. There is no official transparency, though reports usually emerge, afterward, regarding who voted for which countries.

Allegations of corruption — the idea that votes are bought — have been raised in the past. And significantly, just before this year’s winners were announced, the BBC program Panorama ran a show called “Fifa’s dirty secrets.” So the selection process is murky, confusing, and said to be tainted by back room deals.

On to the Siam connection: Thailand’s Worawi Makudi sits on the FIFA Executive Committee. Competing countries are often thought to secure votes by courting — legally — the loyalty of individual committee members.

In May, England’s Football Association (the FA) announced that the national side would be playing a friendly here in Bangkok in June 2011 — a first-ever meeting between England and Thailand. This remarkable match, combined with the fact that British coaches Peter Reid and now Bryan Robson have coached the Thai national team, have been seen as efforts to curry favor with Thailand in order to secure the vote for England’s 2018 bid.

The England-Thailand game would have drawn a large crowd given the great popularity of the English Premier League among Thai fans and would have presumably been commercially lucrative. But it would have exacted a physical toll on the Three Lions’ players given the long flights in each direction.

So what happened on Thursday?

England finished dead last, receiving just two votes, one of which came from their own representative. The other vote? It didn’t come from Thailand’s Worawi. It’s unclear who he voted for, but it apparently wasn’t England.

The fallout: The Telegraph reported yesterday that England has cancelled the Thailand friendly. Mind you, the story says the FA had received indications some time ago that Worawi wouldn’t be voting for England, so one wonders how much of a shock this really was.

In addition, a word of warning regarding sources: The Telegraph story says that “the FA intends to cancel the fixture,” but there is so far no news of this on the the FA Web site. However, the match is not listed on the fixtures page, though this may be due to the fact that it is — was? — a friendly, not a competitive game.

The Bangkok Post also ran a short piece about the possibly cancelled fixture, but it appears to be merely a summary of the Telegraph story.

For the record, I am not suggesting that anything inappropriate occurred between England’s FA and Thailand or Worawi. But I think the episode illustrates the kind of efforts that FAs undertake to try to secure the backing of executive committee members — and just how tricky and unpredictable the voting process can be.

Issues for another post: Qatar‘s winning 2022 bid (the country’s population is estimated at 840,000, and it covers an area about the size of Connecticut); the prospect of a winter World Cup and/or cooled, open-aired, “carbon neutral” stadiums (don’t miss the artist renderings) to beat the heat; and the U.S.’s failed 2022 bid.

Are the best new Thai chefs farang?


That’s the provocative title of an upcoming event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) that I look forward to attending. It’s on Mon., Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. here in Bangkok.

The announcement on the FCCT site helps put the issues — which I’ve mentioned before — into perspective:

You have only to ask a Frenchman for his thoughts on English cooking to realize that all over the world matters culinary provide an outstanding excuse for chauvinistic excess. Hotels and restaurants in Thailand are full of Thai chefs and cooks who produce wonderful and completely authentic Western fare every day — and nobody gives the matter a second thought. Local newspapers, magazines and books feature recipes and cooking tips for Thais who might want to roast the perfect leg of lamb, bake a black forest gateau, turn out a pizza or simmer a bouillabaisse. Yet when the occasional daring farang turns his or her ladle to a tom yam kung, or does something different with a green curry, a surprising number of Thais are left in slack- jawed astonishment. Their horror only deepens when more broadminded compatriots praise the results and laud some of the innovations. This culinary cross-pollination is more than a debate about carrots in the som tam or dairy milk in the soup. To read some recent comments about mischievous farangs in the Thai kitchen, a heresy is being uncovered that could threaten the end of Thai civilization as we know it. Could a plot be afoot here that is even more threatening than a nuclear-empowered Myanmar? Fortunately, the FCCT is no stranger to controversy, and only too pleased to release some steam from the kitchen. The club welcomes without reservation all great cooks and gourmets, including for this special programme.

(Cartoon via.)

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