Travelfish Founder Stuart McDonald Talks Southeast Asia Travel

If you’re interested in Southeast Asia travel, you might enjoy listening to this podcast interview with Stuart McDonald, founder of the travel site Travelfish.org.

McDonald has been traveling in the region for more than 20 years, and has some interesting thoughts on how travel — and travelers — have changed over time.

He talks mainly about Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia, and suggests an intinerary for a one-month tour through the region. His recommendation might surprise you.

‘Hunger Games’ Salute, Facebook outage and more: a Belated Roundup of Thai Coup Stories

As I mentioned in my previous post, I traveled to Bangkok to help out with our coverage following the May 22 military coup.

Here are links to a few of the stories I worked on:

And, perhaps most memorably:

The lede:

Anti-coup protesters in Thailand are adopting a symbol of resistance from a science fiction movie in which citizens struggle against a tyrannical government in a dark, dystopian future.

A few dozen demonstrators on Sunday gathered in a flash-mob style protest at a Bangkok shopping mall, where many held anti-army signs and raised their hands in a three fingered salute aimed at nearby troops.

The gestures were similar to those used by heroine Katniss Everdeen and other characters in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” a globally popular movie based on one of Suzanne Collins’s hit trilogy of books. Western films and other popular culture are widely consumed in Thailand.

To hear me discussing the three-fingered “Hunger Games” salute, see the WSJ Live video embedded above and online here.

And finally, for more on the Facebook issue, see this story I wrote just a few days ago:

Thai army declares martial law — how to follow the news

2014 05 20 bkk post coup rumors

Our main story today:

Thailand’s armed forces declared martial law early Tuesday, saying the move was intended to curb the country’s sometimes violent political conflict and wasn’t a coup d’état.

Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a pair of statements at 3 a.m. and later appeared on television to say that martial law was necessary across the country to address the worsening security situation. The army later said it would censor media it deemed inflammatory. Thailand is bitterly divided between supporters of its populist government and its conservative opponents who have been massing on the streets for over half a year in a bid to topple the administration.

In the military’s first announcement, Gen. Prayuth said the escalating violence related to political protests in and around Bangkok have “a tendency to stir riot and serious chaos in several areas, which affect national security and people’s safety.”

Before Gen. Prayuth went on air, Army-run television station Channel 5 ran a ticker message across the bottom of its screen urging the public not to panic.

“The army aims to keep peace and maintain the safety and security of the people of all sides,” it said. “Please do not be alarmed and carry on with business as usual. This is not a coup.”

For ongoing updates, see our live stream of photos, text stories, and Tweets.

I also suggest checking out Bangkok Pundit, Saksith Saiyasombut, and — for academic and historical perspectives — New Mandala.

There’s also my 109-strong Twitter list of Bangkok journalists.

(Image above: The front page of The Bangkok Post on January 27, 2010.)

Following Thailand protest news: blogs, my Twitter lists, local media, and more

2014 02 09 bkk shutdown

Since I’m now in Singapore covering technology news across Southeast Asia, my posts about the ongoing unrest in Thailand will probably be limited in the weeks and months ahead.

So, as I’ve done in the past, I wanted to offer suggestions for following the news as things develop.

Blogs

Twitter

Google News search

Local media

Wikipedia

‘Bangkok Shutdown’ update: Court says government can delay Feb. 2 election — but will it?

2014 01 25 bkk post

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that contentious elections set for February 2 can be postponed, adding further pressure on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government to delay the vote, as antigovernment protests continue.

And:

The court said Thailand’s constitution doesn’t prohibit postponing an election in the case of an emergency or if there are other obstructions to the polls going ahead safely. It said that if the Election Commission considers it necessary to postpone the ballot, it should propose a delay to the government, which could then seek a royal decree to postpone the vote or set a new date.

And:

Varathep Rattanakorn, a minister in the prime minister’s office, told local media that the government will have to study the court’s verdict on delaying the election to determine whether it was an order or a suggestion.

But Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, one of Thailand’s five election commissioners, told reporters in southern Thailand, where he was meeting with local officials, that the commission could meet with the government on Monday. He said he expects to government to seek a new royal decree by Tuesday to scrub the Feb. 2 election date.

Reuters says:

One election commissioner, speaking to Reuters, said the vote could still go ahead on February 2 if Yingluck’s government dug in its heels.

“We will ask to meet with the prime minister and her government on Monday to discuss a new election date,” Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said. “If the government doesn’t agree to postpone the election, then the election will go ahead.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post says:

The caretaker government will postpone the Feb 2 election if anti-government protesters end their rallies, caretaker PM’s Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn said on Friday.

The protesters must also promise not to obstruct the new poll and there must be no boycott of it, he said.

But postponing the poll would be futile if it continues to face disruptions, Mr Varathep said. The Election Commission (EC) will invite caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to discuss the poll postponement on Monday after the court also ruled that the premier should discuss a new election date with the EC chairman.

There are also stories from the New York Times, the AP, and the BBC.

And Bangkok Pundit has a post looking at what might come next:

We have no on-the-record confirmation, but BP would not be surprised if the government agreed to delay the election. The main reason is that timing-wise, the parliament would be convened around the sound time regardless of the election being delayed or going ahead…

And:

However, this is contingent on the Democrats participating in the election and then the PDRC going home – or at least limiting their protests to more defined areas and stopping obstruction of government offices. BP expects Puea Thai to either approach PDRC and the Democrats again to see what their position is.* If no change then, what would be the point of postponing the election?

‘Bangkok Shutdown’ day 3: overnight violence, Feb. 2 elections to go ahead

Here’s the latest:

  1. Two people were hurt in a shooting early this morning. And separately, the Bangkok residence of Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was hit with a small explosive device.
  2. The Thai stock exchange moved some staff to another location after demonstrators threatened to take control of its offices.
  3. Prime Minister Yigluck said the Feb. 2 elections will go ahead.

The AP reports:

Gunshots rang out in the heart of Thailand’s capital overnight in an apparent attack on anti-government protesters early Wednesday that wounded at least two people and ratcheted up tensions in Thailand’s deepening political crisis.

Most of Bangkok remains unaffected by the latest wave of rallies. But the shooting was the latest in a string of violent incidents that have kept the vast metropolis on edge amid fears the country’s deadlock could spiral out of control.

Bangkok’s emergency services office said one man was hit in the ankle and a woman was hit in the arm in the shooting, which occurred on a street leading to one of Bangkok’s glitziest shopping districts that has been occupied since Monday by camping demonstrators trying to bring down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

Sompong Pongsattha, a 56-year-old resident who witnessed the attack in the Pathumwan district, said about 30 gunshots were fired from an unknown location toward a protest barricade over the course of about two hours.

And:

In another incident overnight, a small explosive device was hurled into a residential compound owned by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, shattering windows and slightly damaging a roof, according to Police Col. Chumpol Phumphuang and Abhisit’s opposition Democrat Party. No injuries were reported, and Abhisit — who resigned from Parliament last month to join protesters — was not home at the time.

The WSJ says:

Thailand’s stock exchange moved some personnel Wednesday from its main building to a shopping mall following threats to seize the premises by antigovernment protesters who have tried to shut down areas of central Bangkok.

Reuters reports:

Thailand’s government stuck to a plan for a February election on Wednesday despite mounting pressure from protesters who have brought parts of Bangkok to a near-standstill, and said it believed support for the leader of the agitation was waning.

Some hardline protesters have threatened to blockade the stock exchange and an air traffic control facility if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not step down by a deadline media said had been set for 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, Prachatai has a map of “anti-coup” rallies that took place around the country on Monday, the day “Bangkok Shutdown” began. A bigger version is here.

2014 01 15 anti coup protests

And finally, following my previous post, here are a few more snapshots from Asoke intersection — one of the protest sites — this afternoon. (I’ve also uploaded the pics to my “Bangkok Shutdown” Flickr set.)

Blog posts will be sporadic in the days ahead, but as always, you can find me on Twitter for more frequent updates.

Photos from ‘Bangkok Shutdown,’ day 1

Here are some photos I took of today’s protests.

The Bangkok Post has more images.

Meanwhile, the WSJ reports:

After turning central Bangkok into a flag-waving sea of protest Monday, antigovernment activists now say they are preparing to take their campaign to the next level by seizing Thailand’s stock exchange.

The WSJ also has a liveblog.

The NYT says:

Bangkok’s central commercial district was swarmed by antigovernment protesters on Monday as part of a so-called shutdown of the city, a largely peaceful demonstration that cut most traffic to Thailand’s costliest real estate and most prestigious addresses.

The protest was the boldest move in two months of protests against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Bloomberg reports:

About 80,000 Thai protesters blocked major roads in Bangkok, disrupting traffic and increasing pressure on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.

Note: Blog posts may be sporadic in the days ahead, but you can follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates.

And don’t forget about my public Twitter list of about 100 journalists and news organizations in Bangkok. Richard Barrow is especially prolific on Twitter, and provides travel-related updates.

Stay tuned.

Map of planned ‘Bangkok Shutdown’ protest sites

Here’s a map, courtesy of The Nation newspaper, of planned rally locations for protests tomorrow, Monday Jan. 13:

2013 11 29 bangkok protests map2

There’s also a larger, printable PDF version.

(Via @Kelly_Macnamara.)

UPDATE: Here’s another map, via Richard Barrow.

As ‘Bangkok shutdown’ approaches, US Embassy advises keeping cash, food on hand

In a security message today, the US Embassy in Bangkok said:

This is to advise and update U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Thailand that political activists intend to hold simultaneous mass rallies at key intersections and other locations in Bangkok beginning on Monday, January 13th. The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will remain open for consular services.

The announced January 13 mass rally sites are at major intersections throughout Bangkok, including Asok-Sukhumvit, Pathumwan, Lumpini, Victory Monument, Ratchaprasong, Lat Prao, and Silom and at the Chaeng Watthana government complex. Protests may occur in other areas with little prior notice. Subsequent events are unpredictable, although protest leaders have declared their plan to continue with rallies after January 13.

Protests are expected to occur elsewhere in Thailand, including near Chiang Mai University scheduled for Sunday afternoon, January 12.

While protests have been generally peaceful over the last two months, some have resulted in injury and death. Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can turn confrontational, and can escalate into violence without warning. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to local news and media reports.

These demonstrations can result in significant traffic disruptions and delays. When they occur, and especially on January 13, you should allow extra time when travelling throughout the city or to airports. Consider public transportation alternatives.

We advise you to plan ahead. It is prudent to ensure you have a week’s supply of cash, keep your mobile communications devices charged, and stock a two week supply of essential items such as food, water, and medicine.

Meanwhile, Thai Airways had this to say yesterday:

The Wall Street Journal has more details on what demonstrators are calling “Bangkok Shutdown”:

Mr. Suthep, who had been leading anti-government protests since November, said the shutdown will kick off Monday morning but has not specified when his battle against Ms. Yingluck will end.

Thai authorities predict that the protests will affect at least one million commuters and more than one hundred transit routes, especially in inner Bangkok.

City officials have instructed about 140 government schools to close on Monday.

The Ministry of Transport has urged Bangkok residents to use public transportation, including the city’s elevated train, subway, buses and boats, to avoid getting stuck in gridlock caused by the rallies and blockades. To relieve traffic congestion, the ministry said it will provide free parking in at least 30 locations so commuters can connect to public transportation. The city’s bus, boat, and train systems will also run more frequently to accommodate an increase in passenger numbers, which are expected to nearly double.

Meanwhile, there’s this news today:

Thailand update: Protesters plan to ‘shut down’ Bangkok Jan. 13

As expected, more protests are on the horizon here in Bangkok, with anti-government demonstrators continuing their efforts to topple the prime minister and derail elections scheduled for February 2.

There have been rallies in recent days, and protesters plan a city-wide “shutdown” on Monday, January 13.

Reuters reported yesterday:

Thailand is heading for a political showdown, with anti-government protesters aiming to sabotage an election by shutting down Bangkok next week, deepening a crisis that has divided the country and looks set to squeeze economic growth this year.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces swelling opposition in Bangkok ahead of the February 2 election in which her supporters in the rural north and northeast are expected to return her to power – if the vote can go ahead.

Thousands of demonstrators marched through Bangkok on Sunday as a prelude to rallies starting on January 13, when they plan to block government offices and occupy key intersections for days in a bid to force out Yingluck and scuttle the poll.

And said in a story today:

The authorities say 20,000 police, backed up by troops, will be deployed in the streets on Monday, the first day of the planned “shutdown”.

“We’re expecting large crowds on Monday and are concerned about the likelihood of violence … especially third parties trying to instigate violence,” National Security Council Chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told Reuters.

And:

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has tried to keep the military above the fray but some recent comments have been ambiguous.

Asked by reporters about coup talk on Tuesday, he said: “Don’t be afraid of things that have not yet happened … but if they happen, do not be frightened. There are rumours like this every year.”

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Bangkok issued, via email, this message today. It mentions various parts of the city that may be targeted:

This is to advise U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Thailand that political activists have announced plans to resume marches and lunch time “whistleblowing” protest activities in Bangkok this week in preparation for simultaneous mass rallies at key intersections in Central Bangkok beginning on Monday, January 13th.

Currently, areas around the Democracy Monument and Government House are the main protest sites. Protest leaders say, however, that these stages will be dismantled and that protest sites will be dispersed to many different intersections spread throughout downtown Bangkok, including Asok, Lumpini, Ratchaprasong, and Silom intersections. Protests may also occur elsewhere in Thailand.

Elsewhere, The Nation says:

The Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road, one of the seven spots, will be blocked to bar civil servants from working.

Other rally sites will be the Lat Phrao intersection, which will be under the control of representatives of Rangsit and Kasetsart universities and joined by people from the north and northeast. The Victory Monument and Pathumwan intersection will be held by Chulalongkorn University, Lumpini Park by Silom business group, Asoke intersection by Srinakharinwirot University and the National Institute of Development Administration, and Ratchaprasong by Dr Seri Wongmontha and entertainment personalities.

And:

Suthep gave assurances that Suvarnabhumi airport and transport terminals would not be sealed off, and all public transportation services will operate as usual.

I may write more on this in the days ahead, or as events warrant, though I have posts planned on unrelated topics.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter for the latest.