I miss Thailand.
UPDATE: Phuket Gazette has the backstory.
Events in Bangkok yesterday provided a reminder of ongoing political tensions in Thailand, with rival red shirt and yellow shirt supporters involved in street clashes.
The Bangkok Post reports:
Confrontations between the red- and yellow-shirt groups are likely to intensify after yesterday’s clash outside the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) left scores of people from both sides injured.
The clash erupted around noon during a stand-off between red shirts and yellow shirts who had gathered outside the CSD.
Tensions escalated about 11am when a group of yellow shirts smashed the windshield of a truck belonging to red-shirt radio station FM90.25.
An ensuing scuffle left red-shirt member Visorndaeng Traisuwaan, 35, with a head injury.
A yellow-shirt member, Chatchai Sutheesopon, 48, who was accused of carrying a hand gun by the red shirts, also suffered a head injury after he was hit in the back of the head during the scuffle. Police who searched him later found no weapons on him.
The Post says the unrest began when yellow shirts gathered to support an ex-teacher who had accused a prominent red shirt, Darunee Kritbunyalai, of lèse-majesté. The red shirts, meanwhile, had assembled to support Darunee.
The story continues:
The ugly confrontation carried on for about two hours before supporters of Ms Manasnant began to retreat to nearby department stores, seeing they were outnumbered by red shirts whose numbers grew with new arrivals.
The stand-off ended about 3pm after the area around the CSD compound along with most of Bangkok was hit by heavy downpours.
A brief ABC Australia report puts the numbers of protesters at 200 per camp.
Elsewhere, a Bangkok Post editorial headlined “Minor clash, strong message” says:
The confrontation, which culminated in a clash, appeared to be intentional. Both sides used their social media to advise their members for days about a scheduled meeting between a lawyer of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and Crime Suppression Division (CSD) officers on a defamation case.
“The situation was contained, but what will happen if the situation goes out of control next time,” said Thawee Surarittikul, a political analyst at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.
“Both sides are waiting for an issue which could be a trigger point leading to a bigger protest,” he said.
The clashes seem notable to me in part because they involve red shirts and yellow shirts in direct confrontation. We often see these factions rallying separately, without engaging one another.
(Thai Rath links via BP.)
Bloomberg interviewed Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and has run two stories that are worth a look.
The pieces are here:
Former Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra said his sister’s government will avoid conflicts like those that led to his ouster in a 2006 coup, even as it presses ahead with efforts to curb the power of the courts.
Any changes to a Thai law that protects Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and other royal family members from insults should come from his advisers, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said.
It’s possible, says one expert in Thailand.
But a look at water levels in Thailand’s dams reveals that they seem to have plenty of capacity at this point.
A story in today’s Bangkok Post says:
Bangkok is at risk of flooding from heavy downpours caused by an unusually lengthy monsoon trough period and an imminent storm early next month, an expert has warned.
Run-off from the North, which last year left parts of the capital submerged, will only worsen the flooding because the real threat this year is rain that may overwhelm the current inadequate drainage system in the capital, said Thanawat Charupongsakul, a disaster and geographic expert at Geology Department of Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, yesterday.
The city has so far not released enough water from canals to the extent done back in 2006 when canals were left with plenty of capacity to hold floodwater, he said.
“To make things worse, City Hall has still not stopped quarrelling with the government over flood management,” he said.
(Indeed, during my reporting on last year’s inundation, some experts told me that a major problem was a lack of coordination between government agencies.)
Mr Thanawat is most worried about October because that is when run-off from the North and high tides increase the water level in the Chao Phraya River.
The city’s river embankment is about 2.5m above mean sea level, but provinces upstream, especially those with industrial estates, have built and increased the heights of their levees and flood walls, so the run-off will be blocked and eventually move toward Bangkok
I understand that substantial work has, in fact, been done to fortify flood defenses around some industrial estates. So it makes sense that areas farther downstream could be at risk as water is displaced.
Meanwhile, Bangkok Pundit has an extensive post today on water levels in Thailand’s various dams.
(Some say a problem in 2011 was that not enough water had been discharged from such dams earlier in the year, meaning they were largely full when the heavy rains started and could not be used to retain excess water.)
Simply put, while we still need to keep an eye on heavy rainfall which can cause flash floods, we don’t have the level of water entering the river system from the North and the Central regions that we did last year. Until this happens (which BP thinks is still very unlikely for this year), the risk of severe flooding is very low.
Ultimately, water management is a complex issue. But Bangkok drainage mechanisms, coordination among agencies, and water levels in dams seem to be key components.
(Bangkok Post link via @kmorit.)
An update from NYC:
Classes have started and I now officially find myself in the somewhat surreal and thrilling position of being, once again, a full time student. (See photo above.)
My first week of school has been stimulating. I’ve enjoyed meeting my fellow MA program classmates — about half of whom are international — and the J-School professors and staff are, of course, top notch.
I may provide more details on my courses later, but for now let me simply share a sampling of some of the wide ranging classroom materials I’ve encountered over the last seven days.
I have contemplated journalism in the context of social psychology. And in studying the history of journalism, it was intriguing to read a passage by Joseph Addison in The Spectator, his early 18th century UK newspaper.
On the business side of things, I have also (seriously!) found my financial accounting class compelling. But check with me in a few months, as it will only become increasingly challenging.
It’s also been illuminating to read an academic paper on the relationship between economists and journalists. And I wrote a news story for my business seminar about Friday’s employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are many more things I want to share about my first few weeks here in this great city after spending six years in Bangkok, from thoughts on urban planning to the NYC subway to the availability of high quality beer here.
I also still plan to share some long-overdue insight on blogging, Mac and iPhone apps, and more. But for now I’ll leave it at this.
Due to my current time constraints, please be sure to look for me on Twitter, as I suspect I’ll continue to be more active there than here, at least over the coming weeks.
Remember my Wall Street Journal story about all things vintage Thailand?
If you’re interested in hearing more on the topic, you can listen to me being interviewed by Terry Travis, host of the Azumano Travel Show (AM 860 KPAM, Portland, Oregon). We chatted not long ago for a segment that ran last weekend.
Click through to listen. The interview lasts just under eight minutes.