Following up on Aung San Suu Kyi and Viktor Bout


Not that the two are related, obviously. But given my absence last week, a couple of quick follow-ups:

First, I mentioned how to track the Myanmar elections online, so I wanted to weigh in again on a related topic: the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Here’s a NYT story about Saturday’s events, and here’s an interview she gave to the BBC not long after she was freed.

I recommend checking out this piece in the The Telegraph by Justin Wintle, who wrote a 2007 biography of Suu Kyi. He puts her release into perspective:

Any celebrations, however, are likely to be shortlived. Any thought that she will or can do a Nelson Mandela and walk to power in triumph is misbegotten. Should she opt to return to the hustings, or cause the regime any other kind of embarrassment, she will find herself confined to her residence for a fourth time, and probably without any eventual release date.

Having gone to such pains to protect and reinforce his position, Than Shwe is unlikely to seek a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi in the interests of national reconciliation or any other cause.

More ominously, Miss Suu Kyi’s restored freedom may allow the army’s dirty tricks department to complete the job so badly botched at Depayin in 2003.

On the face of it, then, Suu Kyi’s political ‘journey’ (to borrow Tony Blair’s way of seeing things) has been in vain.

By refusing to contest the 2010 election on the grounds that to do so would have meant both signing up to a new constitution launched by the junta in 2008 and acknowledging that the 1990 election result was now dead wood, the NLD has permanently damaged its ability to make any further meaningful contribution to Burmese political life.

(Emphasis mine.)

For more reading on the subject of potential reform in Myanmar, I suggest checking out this WSJ story, “Myanmar Opposition Group Has New Tack: Cooperation.” And here’s a more recent NYT story about what comes next for Suu Kyi.


And second, I wanted to point out that yesterday Viktor Bout — the alleged Russian arms dealer I’ve mentioned before — was extradited to the U.S. to face terrorism charges.

Here are stories from The AP, CNN, the NYT, and Bloomberg. More on this — and Myanmar — soon, I’m sure.

Thai politics Thailand

More on Viktor Bout’s delayed extradition

A quick update to my earlier post. The NYT/IHT has this story:

Suspected Arms Dealer Seems Closer to Extradition

This bit caught my eye:

Mr. Bout engaged in a particularly heated exchange with the presiding judge over his demand for a Russian interpreter, a request denied by the court.

Mr. Bout, a graduate of a prestigious Soviet language institute, turned to the gallery full of reporters and said in English: “This is due process of law or what? Gentlemen, you are all witnesses!”

Thai politics Thailand

Viktor Bout’s extradition to the U.S. delayed — again


The extradition of alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — who has been imprisoned here in Thailand since 2008 — has been delayed again.

AP has the story: Viktor Bout extradition stalled by Thai ruling:

A Thai court has rejected a request to drop a second set of charges against alleged Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, a decision that stalls his long-awaited extradition to the U.S.

The BBC has more.

For the backstory, see previous posts here and here.


New NYT story on Viktor Bout

There are some interesting tidbits in this NYT story on Viktor Bout that ran Aug. 29: For Arms Sales Suspect, Secrets Are Bargaining Chips:


The lede:

WASHINGTON — Accused of a 15-year run as one of the world’s biggest arms traffickers, Viktor Bout is thought to be a consummate deal maker.

Now his future may hang on whether he can strike one last bargain: trading what American officials believe is his vast insider’s knowledge of global criminal networks in exchange for not spending the rest of his life in a federal prison.

There’s this, about his weight loss, previously noted here:

Mr. Bout, who has lost about 70 pounds while imprisoned in Thailand, has shown no inclination to cooperate with investigators.

And we learn that Bout has his own Web site,, which argues that he is a legitimate businessman:

On his Web site he calls himself “a born salesman with undying love for aviation and eternal drive to succeed.


Rumors in Bangkok have suggested that the Russians and the Americans engaged in a bidding war over the American extradition request, with Russia offering Thailand cut-rate oil and Americans offering military hardware.

Both sides have denied such bargaining. Thai officials say they must process a second United States request for extradition on a separate indictment for money laundering before Mr. Bout can be put aboard the American jet that arrived last week to pick him up.


Mr. Bout developed ties with such notorious figures Charles Taylor of Liberia, bedded down next to his plane in African war zones and sometimes took payment in diamonds, bringing his own gemologist to assess the stones.


Mr. Wolosky said he and his colleagues were astonished to learn from later news reports that Mr. Bout’s companies were used as subcontractors by the American military to deliver supplies to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, earning about $60 million, by Mr. Farah’s estimate.

And finally:

In 2007, Mr. Braun, then the D.E.A. operations chief, said he was asked by Bush administration officials about prosecuting Mr. Bout. The agency lured him into a trap in which the agency said he agreed to sell surface-to-air missiles and other military gear to agency informants posing as FARC operatives.

At a meeting in a Bangkok hotel in March 2008, according to court records, Mr. Bout scribbled price estimates and doodled an aircraft, telling his ostensible customers “that the United States was also his enemy.”

“It’s not, uh, business,” Mr. Bout said on tape, the records say. “It’s my fight.”

(All emphasis mine.)

(Via @tri26)

Thai politics Thailand

Bangkok Post: Bout says MP asked how to take down Thaksin plane

Today’s Bangkok Post: Bout says MP asked how to take down Thaksin plane:


Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has confirmed that Sirichoke Sopha, a close aide to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, met him to make inquiries into how ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s plane could be brought down.

He also alleged that the MP made inquiries into whether Thaksin was involved in arms smuggling.

Mr Bout’s wife, Alla, read his statement yesterday during a press conference in Bangkok in which he proclaimed his innocence and elaborated on his discussions with Mr Sirichoke on April 15 at Bang Kwang Central Prison.

Mr Bout said no tape recording had been made of the conversation.

He claimed Mr Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin had paid to have an aircraft smuggle arms from North Korea to Sri Lanka in December of last year, before the shipment was seized in Thailand.

Mr Sirichoke quoted a foreign news report saying that Thaksin had flown to Sri Lanka one week before the seizure.

Mr Bout alleged that Mr Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin might have bought the weapons to arm his red shirt supporters.

Mr Bout said he told the MP that he had no knowledge of such a plan and that, “I would not like to fantasise”.

Mr Bout said Mr Sirichoke showed him a picture of a private jet and said it belonged to Thaksin. “He asked me how to intercept Thaksin’s plane,” he said.

In the statement, read in Mr Bout’s native Russian, the term intercept was meant in the sense to “bring down”.

“I told him that I could not teach him this,” Mr Bout said.

Mr Sirichoke also allegedly asked Mr Bout about the state of Thaksin’s health and why other countries were uncooperative in helping to arrest and extradite the former prime minister to Thailand.

(Emphasis mine.)

Thai politics Thailand

Viktor Bout extradition delayed


BBC: Thailand delays Viktor Bout extradition

The planned extradition to the United States of a suspected arms dealer, Viktor Bout, has been hit by delays.

A US plane was ready at the Don Muang air force base north of the Thai capital, Bangkok.

But legal delays emerged to postpone the extradition of Mr Bout, a Russian citizen.

The US and Russia have been squabbling over the fate of Mr Bout since his 2008 arrest in a joint Thai-US sting operation.

A court ruled last week that he could be handed over to the US – but Russia then voiced strong opposition.


“The ‘Merchant of Death’ Diet Plan”

From the NYT‘s Lede blog:

The ‘Merchant of Death’ Diet Plan



And after:


(Via @bangkokpundit)


Thai court says Bout must be extradited to U.S.

AP: “Thais rule to extradite Russian arms suspect to US.

The NYT: “Thai Court Rules to Extradite Arms Suspect to U.S.

BBC: “Profile: Viktor Bout

The WSJ: “‘Merchant of Death’ to Be Extradited to U.S.


AP: “Thais to rule on suspected arms dealer extradition”


An AP story from today: “Thais to rule on suspected arms dealer extradition“:

The suspected Russian arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death” is tired of prison life but optimistic a Thai appeals court will rule in his favor Friday and refuse to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said.