HOWTO Thai politics Thailand

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.)

Bangkok HOWTO Thai politics Thailand

Bangkok protests: What happened today and how to follow the news

Anti-government protesters, whose rallies I’ve written about before, stepped up their demonstrations today. Above is AP video of scuffles that broke out with police.

Here’s a recap of what happened today:

Other stories:

Regarding economic implications, The WSJ quotes an analyst as saying:

“Investor sentiment on Thailand is in the doldrums at the moment,” said Barnabas Gan, an analyst covering the country for OCBC. “The current protests right now basically confirmed the pessimism that global investors have” over the country, he said.

There’s more from Bloomberg. And The NYT has some color from the Finance Ministry:

By late afternoon, protesters could be seen napping and snacking in two of the ministry’s conference rooms, but they had not yet penetrated the main offices. Riot police have been deployed in Bangkok for several weeks, but no police officers were visible in the compound.

Mr. Suthep said protesters had chosen to occupy the Finance Ministry because it is at the heart of the government.

“From now on, this government can no longer transfer money,” he said. “Not a single coin will be used by the Thaksin regime anymore.”

Monitoring the protest sites

Richard Barrow maintains a Google map of Bangkok protest areas:

View Protest Areas in Bangkok in November 2013 in a larger map

I also suggest following Richard on Twitter for updates.

My Twitter lists

Blogs to watch

Advice for US citizens

The US Embassy’s American Citizen Services Tweeted this tonight:

Follow me on Twitter

As always, follow me on Twitter for the latest.

HOWTO Journalism Tech

3 Digital Tools I Used to Write my Master’s Thesis

In April, after more than six months of work, I submitted the thesis I wrote for my master’s in business and economics journalism.

At more than 11,000 words and 41 pages long, it was the longest story I’d ever written.

I interviewed dozens of people, analyzed hundreds of pages of court documents, submitted and tracked multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, read several books on my topic, and composed perhaps twenty drafts of what became the final piece.

I’ll tell you more about the story itself in the weeks and months ahead, I’m sure. For now, though, I wanted to share the top three digital tools I used to organize my writing and research.

1. For writing: Scrivener

2013 04 24 scrivener

I’ve been using the Writing app Scrivener since 2007. It’s less a word processor than a tool for organizing all sorts of digital materials and creating an environment where you can more easily produce text.

I made ample use, for example, of the folders shown on the top left corner of the image above. These folders allowed me to organize various snippets of text; keep running lists of items to investigate; maintain outlines and timelines; and more. I could always keep my main draft open and navigate, with just a click, to another item — as opposed to having to open several Word files and toggle between them.

When conducting interviews, I also relied on Scrivener’s split screen function. I kept my questions in the top pane and typed my sources’ answers in the bottom pane as we chatted. Scrivener also has an excellent full screen mode, which is helpful when you simply want to focus on the text.

The Mac version of Scrivener is $45. For more information on the app, here’s a detailed review of the app’s many features. And here’s a post about using Scrivener for dissertation writing.

2. For organizing data: Excel

2013 07 27 excel mac

Excel? You better believe it. I used spreadsheets to keep track of:

  • Court materials — I listed dates of various documents, their titles, a description of contents, URLs if they were online, and even the files’ location on my hard drive.
  • Sources — I kept track of names, job titles, contact information, and more.
  • Timeline — My story spans several years, so I used a simple timeline to keep track of the chronology of events. This was helpful when it came time to construct my narrative.

Excel is part of Office for Mac. Microsoft’s home and student version is $139.99.

For more, see this overview of Excel for journalists.

3. For bookmarking: Pinboard

2013 07 28 pinboard

I bookmarked hundreds of items online while researching my story, and Pinboard was a huge help. The Web-based bookmarking site is a kind of “antisocial social bookmarking” service.

That is, Pinboard offers all the benefits of social bookmarking, like the ability to access your saved sites from any browser or computer. But unlike many such services, Pinboard allows you to keep your bookmarks private.

You can also assign your bookmarks tags, so they’re easily sorted by keyword, and use a browser bookmarklet to quickly save a site and apply a label like “read later.” So as I came across various news accounts, books, interviews, and other materials online, I simply added a bookmark in Pinboard and could later go back and filter the sites by keyword.

Pinboard is bare-bones, fast, and easy to use. It was approximately $9 when I signed up last year, I seem to recall, and now costs $10.16. This is a one-time fee that rises as more people join the site.

So those were my top three digital tools: Scrivener, Excel, and Pinboard.

What about you? Have some favorite apps for writing or data organization? Let me know on Twitter or leave a comment below.

HOWTO Thai politics Thailand

Thailand elections: how to follow the news online

On Sunday, Thais will vote in a national election for the first time since 2007. Here are some resources for following the events online.


Local media

Thailand’s two most prominent English language newspapers will be providing coverage, naturally:

Thailand-focused blogs

Some good resources include:

Background info

Google News

  • And of course, a Google News search for “Thailand election” will return plenty of material.

Update: July 2, 2011 — corrected link to Asia Foundation’s primer.


How to transfer domains from GoDaddy to DreamHost

I wrote the following text a few months back, and in an effort to publish some long-neglected drafts, I decided I’d dust it off and share it.

My Web host is DreamHost, but a while back I registered several domain names at I’m happy with Dreamhost and figured I’d consolidate my domain names and hosting with one service.

While others have various complaints with GoDaddy, I simply found their Web site and user experience to be unwieldy. So here’s what I did. Note that some steps might be slightly different now, but I think the process is mostly the same:


  1. Log in to your account at using the fields at the top of the home page.
  2. Mouse over the Domains tab on the top left, and click Domain Management under My Account, on the right.
  3. Click on the domain name itself (not any of the icons to the right), which will bring you to the Domain Details page.
  4. If your domain name is locked, click the Manage link to unlock it. If you use private registration, turn this off.
  5. You will receive an email from Go Daddy several hours later called Item Cancellation Confirmation. You don’t need to wait for this email, though.
  6. Meanwhile, you will receive, in a few minutes, an email called Domain Status Change Notification. You don’t need to do anything. Just review it to make sure it says your domain name has been unlocked.
  7. Go back to the Domain Details page, and to the right of Authorization Code, click Send by Email.
  8. In a few minutes, you will receive an email called “DOMAINNAME>>Information you requested.” In the email, copy the authorization info.

To Dreamhost

  1. In a new tab or window, log in to the DreamHost control panel via the home page, and click Reg. Transfer, under the Manage Domains heading on the left side. You will be charged $9.95 for each domain you want DreamHost to manage, but that includes a one-year renewal.
  2. In the box labeled “Transfer domain registration(s) to us,” enter your GoDaddy domain name and click request transfer. This will take you to a new page that will ask for your transfer authorization code.
  3. Go back to GoDaddy’s domain manager. Move your cursor over the Domains tab in the upper left corner and click Pending Transfers. Click the box next to your domain name and click Accept/Decline above. Click OK twice.
  4. In 15 or 20 minutes, you’ll receive an email from DreamHost with the subject line Domain Registration Transfer COMPLETED for DOMAIN NAME. The email will contain a link to your domain name. You can visit the site now, but it may take a few minutes to bring up the DreamHost parked page.
  5. You should now see the domain name listed in your DreamHost panel. You can now add hosting, if you want.
  6. You will receive an email from Go Daddy with your domain name in the subject line telling you that the transfer is complete. You will receive a second email with “Your Recent Domain Name Transfer” in the subject line saying “sorry to see you go.” You don’t need to do anything.

How to make netbooks run faster

The Asus EEE PC

Netbook nerds only:

My friend H recently asked a few pals for some tips on netbooks, the increasingly popular ((Asus is the netbook pioneer, but Dell and several other companies also produce these gadgets. And Nokia recently announced that they’re getting into the subnotebook game, as well.)) subnotebook computers that are cheap, lightweight, and great for travel. ((For at-home use, netbooks make for excellent dedicated Skype videophone terminals, as well.))

I recommended the Asus Eee PC, which I raved about ((One glitch that I’ve encountered recently with my Eee Pc, however: When I try to connect to a wireless access point, I get an error message that says, “There was an error setting up inter-process communications for KDE…Could not open network socket. Please check that the “dcopserver” program is running!” Does anyone know how to fix this? UPDATE: Oct. 26, 2009. I fixed this by resetting my Eee PC to its original factory settings. It’s simple — just reboot while pressing the F9 key. But make sure you’ve saved your personal data elsewhere first. Instructions are here. )) in April, 2008. And my brother M, also a netbook enthusiast ((M recently completed a Los Angeles to Buenos Aires motorbike trip, blogging and Skyping from his trusty ASUS Eee PC 901.)), kindly offered these tips for making Windows-based ((My Eee runs on Linux, but the newer versions use Windows.)) subnotebooks run more efficiently. I’m reprinting M’s suggestions here, with his permission:

I have an ASUS Eee PC 901, but few friends have the next size up, the 1000 series, and they’re very good computers. My computer looks like the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA. It’s a pretty sweet deal at $375.

It’s basically the same guts as the 901 but a bigger screen and keyboard, which is probably good. Honestly, I would only go with something smaller (like the 901) if you were travelling with it a lot. The 1005 is bigger but not by much — it’s still a very small laptop.

Sick battery life, too — not 10.5 hours, like they say, but a long time. So long that you don’t need to bring your charger with you. There are some cheaper options that are the same computer but with a smaller battery pack but longer battery life is infinitely better.

And yes, it runs Windows, but I have mine optimized to run pretty fast. Here’s how you can do the same:

  1. First off, you would want to switch out the RAM stick to a 2GB rather than the 1GB it ships with — around $30 and makes a difference. Like this one.
  2. And any windows computer can be a lot snappier if you slim down the installed programs and use alternatives to bad programs. Before you even start to use a new computer (or even if you have used it for a while) download and run Ccleaner to easily remove all the stupid software that comes pre-installed, that you don’t want or need, as well as removing ALL programs that run at startup.
  3. Google Chrome for a browser — IE is no good, and Chrome is much faster than even my beloved Firefox.
  4. Run Avast free home edition for antivirus (the price is right, and it doesn’t bog your computer down).
  5. Run Open Office for word and stuff (but be careful when you install it because it will want to install some other stuff too) — but only if you don’t have or can’t get a copy of real office. And if you can get a copy of office only install the parts you need.
  6. Get the K-lite codec pack with windows media player classic for videos (instead of windows media player which never has the right codecs and is a resource hog). This will play any video ever.
  7. If you have music on your computer run mediamonkey — it will even sync your ipod.
  8. And if you’re going to download torrents use utorrent – very easy and light.
  9. Those programs plus Skype and Picasa are all I have installed.

Thanks, M, for the tips. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments.

Bangkok HOWTO Thailand

More on H1N1 in Thailand — the atmosphere in Bangkok, and how to follow H1N1 developments

A quick note about H1N1 here in Thailand. Infections continue to spread — the Nation newspaper tells today us that there are now 518 confirmed cases, up from just 16 last week. And the Bangkok Post has a breakdown by location within Thailand.

Nevertheless, here in Bangkok — as you might imagine — life continues as usual.

On Tuesday I spent some time talk to people on the street about H1N1. No one was concerned. One woman selling grilled meat told me she wasn’t afraid of H1N1 at all. A motorcycle taxi driver said that he wasn’t worried, even though he has a small child in school. A woman selling lottery tickets told me that she had no fear of H1N1, and besides, she doesn’t eat pork anyway, having switched to fish recently because it’s healthier. (There were — and apparently continue to be — misconceptions that H1N1 can be contracted by eating pork.)

For further H1N1 news, I suggest consulting the following:

You can also follow me on Twitter, as I’ve been relaying some H1N1 news there periodically.


Frugal Traveler: how to stay in touch on the road

The New York Times‘s Matt Gross, aka the Frugal Traveler (whose work I’ve praised in the past), has a good post about how to stay in touch cheaply when you’re traveling abroad.

He discusses SIM cards (so you can get a local number), Skype (to make voice calls via the Web), and Fring (a service that allows you to, among other things, use Skype from your mobile phone).

Related posts:

HOWTO Thailand

How to Learn Thai

Many months ago, reader Paul D., who lives in California, asked me for advice on learning Thai. While I’m not an expert and certainly not an advanced speaker, here’s a slightly expanded version of what I told him based on my experience as an enthusiastic — but far from talented — student. I invite those of you out there who know more about this than I do to weigh in with a comment below.

1. Get some good books. For non-academic texts, I like the straightforward Teach Yourself Thai. Another book that I’ve found useful is Thai Without Tears, mostly because it lays out an intuitive phonetic system. Another option, if you’re looking for a slim volume, is the Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook, though this is clearly written with the tourist in mind.

2. Take advantage of audio materials. I’ve really enjoyed listening to Pimsleur’s Thai language CDs. My feeling is that some of the phrasing used in the dialogues is a bit proper (and I prefer a more colloquial approach), but I like the emphasis on repetition, and the lessons are structured nicely, with basic elements repeated over and over again. You might even be able to find some Thai podcasts.

3. Naturally, you should arrange for a Thai tutor or enroll in a Thai class. I take one-on-one lessons and, though I should certainly study more, I’ve found this to be invaluable over the long term. Be sure to choose a teacher who’s had experience with foreign students.

4. Try to study at a little bit each day. An hour — or even 15 minutes — every day is more effective, I’ve found, than many hours once a week.

5. Learn the Thai alphabet. It’s not as hard as you’d think. Get some flash cards and some workbooks made for children.

6. Feel free to design your own curriculum. I found it helpful to make a list of the 50 or 100 words that were most important for me to learn for daily use. This would include frequent events like talking to taxi drivers, asking for directions on the street, ordering food in a restaurant, etc. But I’ve also focused on specific words based on my interests. For example, I play soccer and found it interesting to learn some of the vocabulary specific to the game.

7. It’s important to be patient and have a sense of humor. Situations where you’re uncomfortable — where you really need to say something the right way to be understood — are just as important in the learning process as time in the classroom. Talk to taxi drivers about their favorite foods. Ask your neighbors how to pronounce words you’re having trouble with. Ask your friendly local fruit vendor to tell you how to pronounce the name of that strange fruit he or she is selling.

Here’re some resources for further reading: has some online lessons and other information. has a wealth of great food-centric info.
— The Thai language Wikipedia page makes for a good general overview.
— The Learn to Read Thai Web site offers info on the Thai alphabet.
How and Why to Learn Thai contains an overview of Thai syntax, vocabulary, and other elements.
— I’ve heard great things about Stuart Jay Raj’s Cracking Thai Fundamentals course. He takes an interesting approach to demystifying the language for non-Thai speakers.


How to download Skype and get up and running

I get a lot of questions about Skype — people ask me how it works and how I use it. So here’s a description of my setup. I’ve found Skype to be enormously helpful in communicating with friends, family, and colleagues all over the world. And I’m amazed that so many of my friends — otherwise intelligent, tech-savvy folks — aren’t taking advantage of the service.

First of all: What is Skype, anyway? The simple explanation: It’s an application that allows you to make calls over the Internet. Using Skype, you can call from your computer to other Skype users, or you can make calls to traditional land lines or cell phones. Using Skype is typically much cheaper than using land lines, and for international calls, the sound quality is often better.

Here’s how to get Skype up and running on your computer.

1. Download and install Skype for free from the Skype Web site. It works on both PCs and Macs.

2. Buy a headset. There’re a wide variety available in the Skype store, or on You can also find headsets in the Apple Store. Note: if you’re on a Mac, make sure that the headset you buy is, indeed, Mac-compatible. While most laptops have built-in microphones and speakers, it’s best to use a headset — standard earphones plus a mic that you speak into — to achieve good call quality. That said, some newer laptops have built-in microphones that’re pretty good. But using a headset is best.

3. Tweak your audio settings. In the Skype application, go to:

Skype > Preferences > Audio

…and make sure that your headset is selected under both Input and Output. You may also have to do the same thing to your computer’s System Preferences > Sound settings. On a PC, I understand this can be done by going to:

Start > Control panel > Sounds and audio devices

4. Call other Skype users. There’s no charge for calling another Skype user — you both simply need to be online and have Skype running at the same time.

5. Buy SkypeOut credit. This allows you to call from your computer to land lines and mobile phone numbers. The rates vary, but it’s much, much cheaper than calling conventionally, even using domestic or international calling cards. Here’re the rates for all international destinations. I buy credit in US$25 chunks.

Once you’ve mastered these basics, you might want to attempt some advanced Skype maneuvers:

6. Buy a SkypeIn phone number. It’s US$38 per year, and comes with voice mail. I have one with a Washington, DC area code so that people can call me from the US. Callers pay whatever rate they’d normally be charged for dialing a 202 area code number. These calls are then routed automatically to my computer. I pay for these calls, but the rate is quite reasonable. If I’m online, I simply answer the call in Skype with my headset. If my computer is turned off, I…

7. Use the call forwarding feature to send calls automatically to my cell phone. This is easy to do — just enter your local cell phone number and the call will reach you. (This works for folks dialing your SkypeIn number as well as folks calling you directly on Skype.)

This is perhaps the coolest of Skype’s features: What this means is that if friends or family call my 202 area code number, I might answer the phone on my computer here in Bangkok. Or I might be away from my desk and answer the call on my cell phone. Or if I happen to be traveling in another country, I can pop a local SIM card into my cell phone and answer the call there. (Related blog post: “I live in Russia, my phone lives in New York.”)

8. Get a Web cam and add video-conferencing to your Skype calls. The new Mac laptops have built-in Web cams and work seamlessly with Skype.

A few caveats:
— Skype reception — and thus the quality of your calls — depends on your Internet connection. Using a LAN cable is usually better than WiFi; the more stable the connection, the better. Weaker connections mean that call quality is sometimes compromised, or calls may occasionally drop.
— Generally speaking, calls from Skype to land lines — or from land lines to Skype — sound better than calls to or from cell phones. That said, I’ve received calls from people on their mobile phones that are routed via Skype to my mobile phone and the quality is clear and there’s very little delay.

Here’re some resources for further reading:

— The Skype help page offers general instructions.
— The Skype Wikipedia page provides a good overview of the service

So there you go. Have fun. My Skype ID is newleypurnell. You can thank me next time we talk.