Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: September 2011 (Page 1 of 3)

No posts until Oct. 11

2011 09 28 gone fishin

I won’t be posting anything here until Oct. 11.

In the meantime, you might catch me on Twitter, but dispatches there will likely be minimal.

A few administrative reminders:

  • I occasionally post material to my public Facebook page. You can “like” the page to connect with me there.
  • You can sign up to receive RSS updates for all posts, of course.
  • I recently decided to start an email list, so I’ll be sending periodic messages in the future.

    These won’t be emailed versions of posts, but perhaps more personal missives about what’s new in my world. You can sign up here.

  • And finally, I always welcome feedback on the site. If you’d like to get in touch, send me an email at:

As ever, thanks for reading.

(Image: via.)

WSJ on Thaksin, Yingluck, and the military

Today’s WSJ reports on what exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been up to of late.

The story touches on Thaksin’s recent travels, Yingluck, and the administration’s relationship with the military:

BANGKOK—Former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra is taking a more visible role in Thailand and across Asia, stirring renewed tensions between the country’s powerful military and a new government led by the populist tycoon’s sister.

During the run-up to July’s national elections, Mr. Thaksin, 64 years old, repeatedly said he would avoid intervening in political decisions if his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, were elected prime minister. At most, he said, he would help guide Ms. Yingluck—who took office last month—on economic policy.

Political analysts said that was a carefully scripted strategy to tamp down tension between the Shinawatra clan’s populist supporters and Thailand’s powerful armed forces, which ousted Mr. Thaksin in a bloodless coup five years ago and still retain considerable power.

Mr. Thaksin recently has taken heavily publicized trips from his base in Dubai to Japan and Cambodia while his supporters push for a new amnesty law that would enable him to return to Thailand a free man. He has been living overseas to avoid imprisonment on a 2008 corruption conviction.

(Emphasis mine.)

WSJ on U.S. companies investing in Laos

There’s an interesting story over at the Wall Street Journal‘s new Southeast Asia Real Time blog about U.S. companies investing in Laos.

The lede:

It has Southeast Asia’s smallest economy. Per capita incomes are only $990, a fraction of levels in nearby Thailand and Malaysia.

Yet Laos appears to have something American companies want. In recent weeks an unprecedented number of major U.S. companies — including some that previously paid Laos little heed — have touched down in the little, landlocked nation, hunting for investment opportunities in what remains one of the least-understood countries in Asia.

Worth a read.

(Emphasis mine.)

Thailand rice pricing: analysis from the FT and Forbes

The FT and Forbes have recently run stories on Thailand’s controversial plans to pay farmers above-market rates for rice.

In short, farmers say the price hike is a necessary for them to make a fair wage.

Exporters say their margins are already thin, and that by making Thai rice more expensive, the government will price the commodity out of the global market.

(Thailand exports 30 percent of the world’s rice, so there are global and regional concerns about food costs, as well.)

The FT‘s Beyond BRICS blog reports:

Rice is more than just another commodity: for 3bn people it is a vital part of their daily diet, and when prices hit over $600 a tonne, or some 50 per cent above their 10 year average, they start to worry.

The 10-year average for Thailand’s benchmark 100 per cent grade B white rice is around $400 a tonne but today it is selling for $619 a tonne. That is partly because Thailand, the world’s biggest exporter, has said that it would pay its farmers Bt14,800/tonne – equivalent of about $800/tonne in the export market, in a move aimed at boosting the incomes of rural farmers.

Questions of the sustainability of the project have centered around the depth of Thailand’s pockets – it supplies about a third of the global trade of 30m tonnes annually – and its political resolve, but supply side economics are also going to play a role.

Earlier, Forbes weighed in:

Governments in Asia always keep a close eye on food staples like rice. The domestic price of rice matters, and so does the amount of rice available on global markets. This is why all eyes are on Thailand, the world’s largest exporter. Its government plans to start buying rice from farmers next month at a generous premium to market prices. Some reckon this will set off another rally in world rice prices. Others argue that a bust is more likely, given ample stocks. Either way, it’s another reminder of how agricultural subsidies distort commodity markets.

(All emphasis mine.)

Self-promotion: Channel NewsAsia story on haze in Southeast Asia

Update, September 27, 2011:

I disabled the embedded video because it seemed to be available only as an auto-playing file. But you can still access it at the link below.

Go to the Embedded above Channel NewsAsia site to see a TV story I did yesterday for Channel NewsAsia.

It’s about an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting that took place here in Bangkok. Environmental officials from throughout the region discussed the smoke haze issue that affects Singapore, Malaysia, and other areas.

The text story is available, as well.

8 links

  1. Yes, It’s Really Rushdie on TwitterThe Wall Street Journal‘s India Real Time blog
  2. What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?New York Times Magazine
  3. Vladimir Putin, Action ManThe Atlantic‘s In Focus blog
  4. News Trends Tilt Toward Niche SitesNew York Times
  5. Antoine Dodson Saves My ClassThe Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog
  6. Rethinking the Exercise ‘Talk Test’The New York Times‘s Well blog
  7. Here Comes Apple’s Real TV — Bloomberg Businessweek
  8. Embedded video above, on YouTube: What does it feel like to fly over planet Earth?

Strange image of Yingluck on front page of today’s Nation

2011 09 21 nation yingluck

File under: Yet another post about interesting Bangkok English language newspaper occurrences:

The front page of today’s Nation newspaper features this strange image of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

It’s unclear to me if it’s a photoshopped image or an illustration.

The image accompanies what seems to be this story, which begins:

The Cabinet yesterday approved increased monthly cost-of-living allowances for civil servants and state employees – a time-buying tactic designed to cushion pressure mounting over an election pledge to raise the starting salary of civil servants holding bachelor’s degrees to Bt15,000.

(Via @Saksith.)

(Image: @isAMare on Twitpic.)

WSJ on what the U.S.-Taiwan jet deal could mean for the S. China Sea dispute

An interesting story in today’s Wall Street Journal looks at what the U.S.-Taiwan jet issue means for the South China Sea dispute and China’s relations with Southeast Asian nations:

The Philippines and Indonesia shook off any concerns over a U.S. decision to forego selling new fighter jets to Taiwan, despite fears it could signal a reduction in American support for the region as China expands its military power.

The U.S. decision, reported Monday by the Wall Street Journal, means the Obama administration will upgrade Taiwan’s 146 Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B jets rather than selling it 66 new C/D models that the island has been seeking since 2006, according to a congressional official. Southeast Asian officials were watching the outcome closely to see how the U.S. would balance its growing commercial relationship with China with its commitment to help defend Taiwan against possible aggression from China. It is a subject of intense interest in Southeast Asia given ongoing disputes between many of its countries and China, especially over territorial claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.

(Emphasis mine.)

Thailand flooding: Sept. 2011

UPDATE: For more recent news on the flooding here in Thailand, see this October 11, 2011 post.

2011 09 20 thai flooding

According to an MCOT story yesterday, flooding here in Thailand has killed 112 people, and 26 provinces “remain under floodwaters.”

Since late July, storms and annual monsoon rains have caused the Chao Phraya and other rivers to overflow, damaging surrounding areas.

I have received some questions via Twitter about the floods.

Central Bangkok has not been affected, as far as I can tell. A visit to the Chao Phraya river, in old Bangkok, last week revealed that the waters are quite high.

However, news reports indicate that Nonthaburi, north and west of central Bangkok, are under threat as floodwaters make their way down to the city from upcountry.

Above is a map, via yesterday’s Bangkok Post, of Thailand’s most severely affected areas. You can see that north and central Thailand, in low-lying areas near the Chao Phraya, have been hit hardest.

2011 09 20 tug boats

Meanwhile, a story in today’s Post says tug boats are being used to push water from Ayuttaya’s Noi River out to the ocean. I’ve never heard of the vessels being used in this way. See the image above.

Note that severe flooding also hit Thailand hit last year. See the Thailand flooding tag for previous posts.

(Images: Bangkok Post.)

Acid attack near Bangkok’s Asoke BTS station?

The Bangkok Post reports today that:

A foreign woman artist, Elizabeth Briel, reported on Twitter on Friday that she and her husband had acid sprayed at their faces at the Asoke skytrain station last night.

She said the acid was directed at them from the stairway leading to the station near Robinson shopping mall.

Mrs Briel said her husband’s eyes were damaged but would be okay, while she has a burnt scalp.

They were treated at Bumrungrad hospital.

The hospital said this is the third case they have seen lately.

Her initial tweets are here and here.

In a blog post today, Briel elaborates:

As we passed the Asoke Skytrain exit near Robinson, we were showered with clear liquid. It was too heavy to be from a bat or a bird, too brief to be rain. Where had it come from? The trees above my head? The stairs next to us, or the walkway beyond to Nana?

I thought someone had peed down on us from the steps as a practical joke, and scanned them, but they were empty. Then Roy called out: “My eyes – they’re burning – they’re fucked – get some water.” As if in response, my scalp began to burn. Could a Skytrain cleaner have dumped extra chemicals onto us? I looked up – no cleaning buckets or employees in sight. Just the usual assortment of Skytrain passengers: middle-class Thais and foreigners. My eyes darted from Roy – crouched over, his hand over his eyes – to look for someone, anyone, who might have done this. The left side of my face and neck had been splashed by whatever-it-was, and the pain inflamed my panic.

This was no accident.

A doctor at Bumrungrad Hospital, Briel says, told them the liquid was “‘acid or industrial cleaning fluid that caused the burns.'”

There’s no further information from Briel — via the doctor — about where the other reported incidents took place, or who might have fallen victim.

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