Monthly Archives: November 2012

10 Links

  1. You Too Can Be Nate Silver — Bloomberg Businessweek
  2. One Running Shoe in the Grave: New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits — The Wall Street Journal
  3. The Bookstore Strikes Back — Ann Patchett, in The Atlantic, on Parnassus Books
  4. 100 Notable Books of 2012The New York Times
  5. Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present — Tow Center for Digital Journalism
  6. Hot Gift Is a Tablet, but Which to Buy?The New York Times
  7. Stories From EDGAR: Mining SEC Filings for a Scoop — CoveringBusiness
  8. Myanmar: Gold Mine or Sink Hole?The Wall Street Journal
  9. 36 Hours in Kolkata, IndiaThe New York Times
  10. Video embedded above and on Youtube here: “Why is it Dark at Night?”

(Previous link round-ups are available via the links tag.)

Following up: A few Stories on Saturday’s Protest in Bangkok

As a follow-up to my previous post, I wanted to point out some stories on Saturday’s anti-government protest in Bangkok:

Embedded above and on Youtube here is a BBC report.

Bloomberg summed up:

Thai anti-government forces called off a rally yesterday aimed at toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra because of a poor turnout after clashes left two police officers in critical condition.

“I quit,” Boonlert Kaewprasit, a retired general leading the demonstration, said in an interview after he called off the rally. “I told the truth. I needed a million people, but we were interrupted when police fired tear gas and blocked people from coming.”

Police said as many as 20,000 protesters attended the rally on a rainy day in Bangkok, short of the 500,000 that demonstration leaders had predicted. Boonlert had earlier threatened to storm Yingluck’s office complex after police used tear gas and detained about 100 people who attempted to breach a road block set up as part of crowd-control measures.

The AP reported:

Protesters calling for Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down rallied in the heart of Bangkok on Saturday, clashing with police in the first major demonstration against the government since it came to power last year.

Organizers had spoken of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of supporters. But only around 10,000 turned up, and by dusk the leaders called the rally off.

Nevertheless, the tense gathering served as a reminder that the simmering political divisions unleashed after the nation’s 2006 army coup have not gone away. The coup toppled Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, triggering years of instability and mass-protests that have shaken Bangkok.

The WSJ said:

An antigovernment rally in Bangkok fizzled under tropical downpours Saturday, but the stench of tear gas wafting through the streets was a jarring reminder of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s struggle to escape the shadow of one of Asia’s most divisive politicians: her older brother Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup.

Anti-Government Protesters to Rally in Bangkok Saturday

2012 11 23 bangkok protest map
Map via The Nation.

The AP reports:

Thailand will deploy thousands of police officers and has invoked a special security law for an anti-government rally Saturday that is expected to be the largest since Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra took office in 2011 and that officials fear could turn violent.

Authorities expect tens of thousands of protesters, a turnout that would serve as a sharp reminder of the deep political divisions in the country despite two years of relative calm.

Yingluck on Friday accused the protesters of seeking to overthrow her elected government.

The demonstration is being organized by a royalist group calling itself “Pitak Siam” – or “Protect Thailand” – at Bangkok’s Royal Plaza, a public space near Parliament that has been used by protesters in the past.

While the group is a newcomer to Thailand’s protest scene, it is linked to the well-known “Yellow Shirt” protesters, whose rallies led to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s overthrow. The same movement later toppled a Thaksin-allied elected government after occupying and shutting down Bangkok’s two airports for a week in 2008.

Bloomberg says:

Thai police warned of a plot to abduct Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as her cabinet approved using an internal security law to manage an anti- government rally scheduled for tomorrow.

“We have some worrisome intelligence that there may be violence when a lot of people gather,” National Police Chief Adul Sangsingkeo told reporters in Bangkok yesterday. “We are also very concerned about rumors about riots and the abduction of the prime minister.”

And:

“Despite the noise, there appears to be little likelihood of any eruption, as the UDD red shirts have judiciously announced plans to give the protest a wide berth,” JP Morgan equity analyst Sriyan Pietersz wrote, adding that the political tension may damp overseas demand for Thai stocks.

The WSJ reports:

Amid the buildup to the protest, Thailand’s national police chief Gen. Adul Saensingkaew alleged that investigators had uncovered a plot to abduct Ms. Yingluck and hold her hostage, although analysts said the claim and the imposition of the security laws, are typical of the heated atmosphere around large-scale demonstrations in Thailand. Other unsubstantiated rumors abound, including conspiracy theories that Mr. Thaksin’s opponents plan to fire on the protesters in order to discredit Ms. Yingluck.

“Stories of ‘third-hand’ plans to attack protesters or plans for protesters to ‘arrest’ Prime Minister Yingluck are part and parcel of emotional political events in Bangkok, and are more political drama than an actual threat,” Bangkok-based security consultancy PSA Asia said in a note to clients Thursday.

Theres’s also a story from Reuters, and English-language newspapers The Bangkok Post and The Nation have more.

And finally, for updated news, embedded below and online here is my Twitter list of Bangkok journalists.


Story of the Day, Obama’s Connection to Myanmar Edition

The New York Times reports:

When President Obama lands in Yangon on Monday, he will be the first sitting American president to visit the country now known as Myanmar. But he will not be the first Obama to visit.

The president’s Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, spent part of World War II in what was then called Burma as a cook for a British Army captain. Although details are sometimes debated, the elder Mr. Obama’s Asian experience proved formative just as his grandson’s time growing up in Indonesia did decades later.

“His roots go through Burma,” said Timothy Parsons, an African history professor at Washington University in St. Louis who wrote a book on the colonial East African military. “It is kind of an odd intersection of his life. It’s like the three corners of the triangle come together — America, East Africa and Southeast Asia.”

Stories of the Day, Panetta in Cambodia Edition

2012 11 16 panetta cambodia

The AP says:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday that the U.S. would participate in three Southeast Asian military exercises next year.

Panetta was in Cambodia for talks with his counterparts from 10 Southeast Asian nations in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit next week.

The defense chief said the exercises will be a humanitarian and disaster relief exercise hosted by Brunei; a counterterrorism exercise co-sponsored by the US and Indonesia; and a maritime security exercise led by Malaysia and Australia.

The New York Times reports:

The United States on Friday reaffirmed its military ties with the authoritarian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, a former Khmer Rouge commander, but Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also warned the country about its long record of human rights abuses.

An American Forces Press Service item is here. And a story from VOA is here.

Story of the Day, U.S.-Asean Relations Edition

Following my post yesterday about President Obama’s upcoming Southeast Asia visit this weekend, I wanted share another story on U.S. engagement with the region.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “has ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review military ethics training in the wake of a series of investigations that involve high-ranking military officers’ conduct…”

And:

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok earlier Thursday after renewing the U.S.’s military relationship with treaty ally Thailand, Mr. Panetta said he isn’t aware of any additional government or military officials who received emails from Ms. Kelley.

The scandal has emerged as a major embarrassment for the U.S. military establishment, overshadowing not only Mr. Panetta’s trip to Australia, Thailand and Cambodia, but also Mr. Obama’s scheduled visits to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, where he plans to attend a major regional summit. The U.S. “pivot” back to the Pacific is a hallmark of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, and analysts expect Washington to step up its bid re-engage with East Asia over the next four years.

Among other things, the visits to the region of top U.S. leaders are expected to focus on finding a common approach with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations on resolving competing territorial claims with China in the South China Sea. The U.S. also hopes to improve military-to-military cooperation in the region, including with the armed forces of Myanmar, until recently viewed with deep suspicion by Washington for its North Korea-backed weapons program.

“Given the rising military power of China and ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, there was a consensus—within Washington, anyway—that America has to increase its military presence in Southeast Asia,” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “Expect a lot more ship visits, training exercises with the armed forces of Southeast Asia and capacity building support, especially with the Philippines, which is the weakest link in the Asean chain.”

President Obama to Visit Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia

I wanted to point out a few stories ahead of President Obama’s upcoming Southeast Asia trip.

Obama will be Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia from Saturday November 17 through Tuesday November 20.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok provides details on Obama’s itinerary:

In Thailand, he will meet with Prime Minister Yingluck to mark 180 years of diplomatic relations and reaffirm the strength of our alliance. In Burma, the President will meet with President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi and speak to civil society to encourage Burma’s ongoing democratic transition. In Cambodia, the President will attend the East Asia Summit and meet with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Bangkok Post says:

Despite the 12-hour time difference between Washington DC and Bangkok, US President Barack Obama will not even set foot in his hotel until after the day’s business here is finished.

The US president will arrive on Sunday afternoon at Don Mueang airport and travel directly to the Grand Palace where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be waiting for him, a city police source said.

They will travel on to Siriraj Hospital where they will have an audience with His Majesty the King, the source added.

Mr Obama would then travel to Government House to have dinner with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, said the source, adding that after the dinner, he would have a meeting with about 600 US embassy staff at Chulalongkorn University’s sports complex.

At the end of the day, Mr Obama would check in at the Four Seasons Hotel on Ratchaprasong Road.

Obama will speak at Yangon University on Monday, according to the The New York Times.

The scars of military rule run deep at Yangon University — decrepit buildings, broken sidewalks and mold everywhere. But with plans for President Obama to visit on Monday, hundreds of workers have converged in an urgent effort to spruce up the campus. Mr. Obama’s trip to Myanmar will be the first by an American president, and the authorities are creating something of a Potemkin campus to greet him.

Meanwhile, and an op-ed in today’s Times by Bill Richardson and Mickey Bergman surveys political reforms in Myanmar:

After meeting with an array of leaders in Myanmar, we believe that Thein Sein is committed to transitioning to democracy. But the jury is still out on whether the reform effort will succeed. This is not a revolution like we’ve seen in Middle East countries during the last two years. This is a calculated and contained process — a reform movement from within. On the one hand, it has to be slow and deliberate to allow for governing capacity to be built, as well as to prevent those who prefer the status quo from blocking change, and to keep oligarchs from seizing control and plundering Myanmar’s abundant natural resources. On the other hand, it does need to move quickly so that the population will feel the benefits of reform. Success will rely heavily on full engagement and investment from abroad.

And Lewis M. Simons writes in an op-ed about Obama’s “Asian-style diplomacy”:

As President Obama heads to Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos this week and next, intent on reversing China’s drive to tighten its grasp on Southeast Asia, he is exercising an uncannily Asian-style diplomacy.

By moving calmly into China’s backyard, without threats or in-your-face muscularity, he is proving himself adept at playing by Asian rules. How subtle of him. And smart.

On the subject of Cambodia and Hun Sen, Mark McDonald writes in the IHT:

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Southeast Asia this week, promoting American commercial interests in Singapore, reinforcing the U.S. military alliance with Thailand and putting the presidential imprimatur on democratic reforms in Myanmar.

But their stop in Cambodia for a regional summit meeting next week will be diplomatically stickier: Photo opportunities with Hun Sen, the authoritarian prime minister of Cambodia, will be hard to avoid.