Overland from Laos to Vienam — By Vespa

Vespa [Not My Image]

Great story — and images — from New Mandala (which, by the way, is an excellent blog about Southeast Asia):

The Vientiane Scooter Club recently conducted its annual rally from Laos to Vietnam, a journey which saw many of its members rediscover their origins. A group of urban middle class Lao nationals of Vietnamese and Chinese descent, the club members are driven by a desire to find their own authentic place in Lao society.

The club is one of a few new social groups to have emerged in recent years along with greater economic and cultural liberalization in Laos. On their rallies through the countryside they spread a road safety message and donate equipment to rural schools on a painstakingly restored fleet of forty-year-old Italian Piaggio Vespa motor scooters.

(Emphasis mine.)

(Related: the Vespa rickshaw.)

Spotted in Bangkok

Spotted in Bangkok: How to Carry a Bucket and Drive a Motorbike at the Same Time

How to carry a bucket and drive a motorbike at the same time. Awesome.

Thailand Has an Interim PM

Surayud Chulanont, Thailand's New Interim PM

Thailand now has an interim Prime Minister. Surayud Chulanont, a retired army general, was appointed yesterday.


Thailand prime minister sworn in

The IHT‘s Seth Mydans and Tom Fuller:

Thailand’s junta said Friday that it would not interfere with the workings of the interim government it has promised to appoint. But it said it reserved the right to fire the government in exceptional circumstances.

Peter Kneisel, writing in the Boston Globe, provides some history on coups in Thailand:

Never leave home in autumn. In Thailand, it is a dangerous time for an embattled leader to travel outside the kingdom and a surprising oversight by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that led to his overthrow. He had used his fortune to consolidate power, but neglected to firm up his popularity as he fiddled with the military promotion lists. The lists are leaked in September and published in October. Generals get restless in October, particularly if their careers are at risk.

Asia Sentinel:

The naming of retired Gen Surayud Chulanont as interim Prime Minister will cement the impression that the coup was a royal affair


Thai taxi rams into tank in apparent coup protest

The Nation:

The persistent myth of the ‘good’ coup

Bangkok Pundit:

COMMENT: No matter how Thailand/coup leaders/Gen Surayud tries to paint this the military are yet to withdraw from politics – the military’s position is further entrenched with the new Constitution also approved today. I also don’t imagine he will impress most businessman with his first statement in his office:

“We will concentrate on the self-sufficiency economy that His Majesty the King advocates,” he told a news conference. “We won’t concentrate so much on the
GDP numbers. We would rather look into the indicators of people’s happiness and prosperity.”

Nevertheless, Gen Surayud was not chosen to pacify businessman or the international community, but for the domestic audience. He is no technocrat with economic and legal experience, but his distinct advantage is his good reputation in Thailand. This will give him a longer honeymoon period than almost any other military appointed civilian PM in Thailand would have, but he has a tough road ahead of him and the best he can do is come out the situation with his reputation intact. The first thing he will have to learn in his short political career is his popularity will partly depend on economic performance, that is simply politics whether he is an elected PM or not.

Thailand Coup: Did Thaksin Know it Was Coming?


Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra may have whisked some of his assets out of the country aboard two aircraft days before a military coup ousted him from power, airline officials said Sunday.

An official from Thai Airways International, who demanded anonymity because company policy did not allow him to speak to the press, said he wanted the new ruling military council to investigate the incidents.

Speculation has been rife in Thailand that Thaksin may have snuck money out of the country in the days leading up to the coup, but there has been no confirmation from the council.

Thaksin departed for Finland to begin a foreign tour on September 9, loading up his government-assigned aircraft with 58 large suitcases and trunks, the official of the national carrier said.

The prime minister’s aircraft, named Thai Koofah, was then inexplicably left parked in Finland for more than a week as Thaksin continued on his trip on other transportation.

A second aircraft carrying 56 suitcases — an Airbus 340-600 — was dispatched from Bangkok to meet up with the prime minister just days before the coup, the Thai Airways official said.

Another official in the airline industry, requesting anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity, confirmed the second flight, saying it left on September 17 — two days before the military toppled Thaksin in a bloodless coup.

It was unclear why Thaksin needed a second aircraft when his own plane was already assigned to fly him to Europe and the United States.

Speculation has surfaced about whether Thaksin knew of the coup in advance and moved some of his vast assets out of the country.

(Emphasis mine.)

Catch Me on KQED’s Pacific Time

KQED's Pacific Time

UPDATE: The show has aired; you can listen to it here (it can be streamed or downloaded as an mp3). I come on after a couple of minutes. The host, Sydnie Kohara, provides some good context regarding the situation.

I was just interviewed by Pacific Time, a radio program that covers “the ideas, trends and cultural patterns that flow back and forth between Asia and America.” It’s produced by KQED in San Francisco. I answered a few questions about the situation here in Thailand. The show is broadcast on public radio stations throughout the US. Here’s when and where it airs.

(Readers in DC: the show will be WETA 90.9 FM tonight at 8 p.m. You can listen live online here.)