Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Siamese tragedy: Bangkok town-center outraged by violence

Bangkok turned into a war zone

Protesters set fire to tyres to block army at Witthayu intersection on Rama IV Road, image by Sarot Meksophawannakul

Snipers have added numerous fears to the citizens and reporters in the City of Angels (Krung Thep) after latest fighting that killed 16 people and wounded 141 including three journalists. Troops used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against protesters armed with guns, molotov cocktails, stones and sticks, as troops reinforce to isolate protesters.

'Gunshots, grenade explosions were heard in central Bangkok until dawn as the Thai police and army battled to clear red-shirted demonstrators who refuse to leave. The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concern over "the rapidly mounting tensions and violence." The crisis has paralyzed parts of Bangkok, squeezed Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy and scared off tourists. Troops fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds at defiant protesters who fought back with petrol bombs, stones and home-made rockets. They set vehicles on fire and rolled burning tires into checkpoints of troops. The army said the protesters were firing handguns and M-79 grenades. Army spokesmen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said there were an estimated 500 armed "terrorists" among the thousands of protesters in the city.'

'Gunfire broke out on Saturday morning in an area where anti-government protesters and army troops continued to face off after clashes on Friday left 16 dead. It was not clear which side had fired. Soldiers ran to take positions after an explosion near the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, a market and dining area normally popular with tourists. Tyres, apparently set alight by the "Red Shirt" protesters, were burning before the shooting erupted.'

Police said hundreds of demonstrators had remained in that area after a government operation Friday aimed at clearing the protesters from one area near their vast encampment, which is fortified with bamboo stakes and tyres.' The US, whose military and police forces have various security and settlement agreements with the Bangkok government, remain silent. China, whose relation with the Thai authorities are numerous, also adopted a low profile in this deep regime crisis while the Asean remains voiceless.

Rumors... spread among foreign diplomats and media. 'Payments made to the red-shirted movements to keep up agitation, armaments and narcotics sold from neighboring countries.' Tian an men memories also appearing in the midst of an overheated spring on the barricades. The whole thing photographed by foreign tourists unaware of snipers 'before the World Cup when Thai protesters will change T-Shirt for the one of their favorite football player'... as cynics voiced.

Spectacular pictures of Bangkok violence here

For years military coups in Thailand were the usual signs of collapse of a democracy in the developing world, the patience of the government observed this time might be linked to the nature of what the Thaksin regime was. Corruption and suppression of dissidents. Why Thailand bears such a sequel of dramatic scenes of brutality? Here is an in-depth investigation of recent Thai history, when Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted of power by Thai streets movements...

The Crisis in Thailand by Walden Bello

Quotes: "... Even before Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted on September 19, 2006 Thai democracy was in severe crisis because of a succession of elected but do-nothing or exceedingly corrupt regimes of which the Thaksin government was the worst. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which for all intents and purposes ran the country with no accountability from 1997 to 2001, further eroded the legitimacy of Thai democracy by imposing a program that brought great hardship to the majority. Thaksin stoked this disaffection with the IMF and the political system to create a majority coalition that allowed him to violate constitutional constraints and infringe on democratic freedoms, while using the state as a mechanism of private capital accumulation in an unparalleled fashion..."
The report here

Sources: Thai R, Bkk Post, Nation, The Hindu, wire services, Reporter's notes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thailand under emergency law! Army deployed in Bangkok

"A loud bang not unlike a firecracker. The general fell to the ground, with his eyes wide open, and protesters took his apparently lifeless body to the hospital, screaming out his nickname Seh Daeng has been shot! Seh Daeng has been shot!"

In this footage, one of the Red Shirts leader, "Seh Daeng", a suspended army general accused of counter government acts, leading a paramilitary force among Thailand's Red Shirt protesters, is shown seconds after he was shot while being surrounded by media at the edge of a park in Bangkok. This dramatic television footage shows red shirt protesters evacuating the bloody head of Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol "Seh Daeng" (Commander Red) after his interview by reporters inside the protest movement's barricades near the top of Silom road. This area of Bangkok was sealed off by Thai security authorities since Thursday evening. Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol remains in critical condition, and there is a possibility that he may not survive head injury, director of Vajira Hospital Dr Wanchai Charoenchokethawee said on Friday morning.



Document: Here, in this footage, Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdiphol gives an interview to reporters shortly before he was shot at the head near the Bangkok Saladaeng Intersection. Video by Thai cameraman Pongphon Sarnsamak on YouTube.

Since 6 PM Thursday, tension caught downtown Bangkok Silom and Lumpini park area. Protesters clashed with troops at Gate 2 of the Lumpini Park at 11 pm Thursday night, causing at least four of them to be seriously injured. One of them was shot at their eye in front of the Ua-Chuliang Building.

Friday, an army spokesman had said troops would surround the rally site with armoured vehicles and that demonstrators would be allowed to leave but not enter the area. But it was the protesters who still seemed in control this morning. The only armoured vehicle seen was one Humvee. Troops had blocked one main road with a water cannon, and dozens of police wearing bullet-proof vests were gathering. Part of Bangkok's elevated rail system was shut down Friday morning, including a section through the key tourist area of Sukhumvit Road.
US and GB embassies closed causing the anger of their nationals.

Thursday night, all the injured protesters were rushed to Chulalongkorn Hospital. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva extended a state of emergency already in place for the capital and surrounding areas to 15 more provinces. Thursday night, the coalition government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva decided to extend the state of emergency which has been declared in the Thai capital since April 7 to cover 16 others provinces some in northern and northeastern regions to prevent antigovernment protesters from entering the protest site. Among the 16 provinces are popular spots for tourists such as Ayuthaya, Nakhon Pathom, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Chonburi.

The government earlier in the day began to seal off the protest site, deploy armored vehicles and shut down traffic on some major roads to prevent new protesters from entering the site. Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a spokesman of the government's Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situation, or CRES, said a no-fly zone will also be imposed within 3.6 square kilometers around the protest site after the air force spotted a suspicious small airplane flying around the protest site in recent days. The government also said it is asking private companies in the area being sealed off to shut down their businesses from Friday until the situation is resolved. Protesters will be allowed only to leave the area but no entry will be permitted.

More than a dozen embassies, two public hospitals, luxury hotels and condominiums are located in and around the protest site. Upmarket shopping malls have been shut down since April 3, when thousands of protesters marched into the Ratchaprasong intersection and refused to disperse. CRES also ordered authorities to cut supplies of power and water as well as cellular phone services in the protest area. Sansern said armed security personnel have permission to fire live rounds for "self-defense." In recent weeks, 29 people, including five soldiers and two policemen, were killed and more than 900 others were wounded, mostly in April 10 clashes between security personnel and protesters. The fatality late Thursday night was the 30th. Thai authorities have been reluctant to use force against the protesters since there are many women, children and elderly among them. They are also worried about armed "terrorists" they claim have infiltrated the protesters.

The protesters have been demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve the parliament's lower chamber and call a snap election. On May 3, Abhisit tried to end the standoff by offering a national reconciliation plan that includes a schedule of early elections on Nov. 14. But the Prime Minister said Thursday the issue of house dissolution and the election date is off since the protesters continue their disruptive street campaigns. With the aid of military top generals, Abhisit said authorities must restore peace and order.

And quotes from the Thai press: The Nation

"Khattiya, who only hours earlier had threatened to
take over the red movement from moderate leaders, was
shot by a sniper shortly after giving an interview to
a small group of local and foreign reporters. He was
rushed to the Hua Chiew Hospital but news reports said
he was later about to be moved to another hospital,
possibly Vajira. His daughter confirmed with
reporters that Khattiya was in a coma.

The incident took place shortly before or around 7 pm,
almost in parallel with a commotion in the area caused
by mysterious explosions, gunshots and sounds of

It was initially reported that some 20 people
including women and children were injured in the
related incident. But late last night, the director
of the Erawan Centre, Petchpong Kamjornkarn, told The
Nation that he was aware of only three people wounded
including Khattiya. The doctor also expressed concern
about what could be coming next.

The government yesterday stepped up pressure on the
red shirts by sealing off key roads around Rajprasong,
as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva confirmed that his
pledge to hold an election on November 14 no longer
stayed. Before the evening incidents, a highranking
government source told The Nation a crackdown seemed
unavoidable, but the government would not take action
after nightfall for fear of repetition of the April 10

Red leaders kept the Khattiya incident from Rajprasong
protesters for more than hour, until Jatuporn Prompan
went on stage at around 9 pm to announce that the
officer was not "safe". Khattiya's relations with red
"political" leaders had been soured after some of the
latter showed eagerness to embrace Abhisit's fivepoint
roadmap to reconciliation.

Khattiya, better known as "Se Daeng", had been
threatening a "war" in the wake of the prime
minister's proposal. The officer was also heavily
linked with unknown "men in black" who attacked troops
on April 10 at the Rajdamnoen Avenue. Before April
10, he and red leaders had disavowed each other but
after the bloodshed he returned almost triumphantly to
the Rajprasong rally site although he never seemed to
be among the inner circles of the red political

The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency
Situation kept a tight lip over the Saladaeng
incidents, and its latenight announcement was
exclusively about extension of the state of emergency
measures to cover 15 more provinces.

In a fresh outbreak of violence before press time, one
man was killed and at least four others injured when
red shirt protesters clashed with troops outside
Lumpini Park near the Sathorn junction. The victim
died at the Chulalongkorn Hospital from a gunshot
wound, Nation TV reported."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bangkok: Last warning before Thai army intervention!

Crackdown on Bangkok protests

Thai government said it has been forced to take action after demonstrators disregarded an ultimatum by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to evacuate Bangkok city business and tourists centers. The Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation ( the Thai Army) will completely seal off roads around the Ratchaprasong rally site to block protesters from joining the rally. The CRES announced that the complete blockade would start at 6 PM today Thai time (Tokyo 8 PM).

Tanks and thousands of troops converge to town center. Military army chief Anupong Paojinda opposed the use of military force to reclaim the Ratchaprasong area from the red shirts. Senior military officers were reported as uneasy about Abhisit passing operational responsibility to them, according to local sources. Abhisit has pushed for the military to deal with the red shirt protesters while dragging his feet on finding a political solution to the crisis. Rumors of a Coup d'Etat and Martial Law with Generals taking over the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva circulate now in Bangkok. All transport and communications are to be stopped. Population advised to leave the area, and stay home. No civilan will be able to enter Ratchaprasong after 6 PM.

Snipers carrying real weapons and live ammunition are reported to move into position. However, heavy weapons such as machineguns and grenades would not be used. "Live ammunition would be used and fired into the sky to scare away attackers, to protect the lives of security personnel, and to shoot armed assailants", according to the Bangkok Post newspaper quotes of CRES spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd

Anti-government protesters have ignored an ultimatum by the government to leave their Bangkok barricades. The red shirts or the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have barricaded roads and closed down Bangkok’s chic shopping district in a campaign to force the government to disband Parliament and call elections. At least 27 people have been killed and nearly 1,000 wounded in ensuing violence between protesters and security forces.

Sources: Agencies, and Reporter's notes

When Ikaros encounters Amaterasu

Ikaros, Space Sailing Yacht to the Sun. Ikaros, propelled by harnessing photons from the sun, with a diagonal spread of 20 meters and controlled via electromagnetic mirror-like devices that capture solar radiation

Ikaros, half sailing vessel, half spacecraft, it is the name of this fabulous craft millions of children from China to Peru would dream of! Ikaros is scheduled for launch from Tanegashima Space Center, Japan on Tuesday 18th May. I.k.a.r.o.s. stands for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun. It is a 1.5 billion yen jewel spacecraft and it is the first to attempt solar sailing outside of Earth’s orbit.

Ikaros is guided by changing the sail angle to the solar wind, similar to a sailing yacht does when it captures wind on the Earth’s oceans. Unlike its famous namesake, Icarus, the Greek who flew too close to the sun and fell from the heavens, "Ikaros the satellite will hopefully have a successful mission." Jaxa said.

Solar sailing spacecraft, if proven to be successful, are the ultimate in sustainability and economy since, after getting into orbit on the rocket, they use absolutely no fuel, unlike conventional spacecraft and rockets. Solar sailing spacecraft can travel at increasing velocity as they absorb the kinetic energy of the solar wind, without having to carry lots of fuel and rocket engines into orbit, allowing for more payload instruments to be carried. The downside is it may take a little longer to get where you want to go.

The spacecraft gets thrust from capturing the solar wind (a charged particle stream from the Sun), and electrical power from solar cells mounted on the sails.

Ikaros is launched as a small cylindrical spacecraft that spins up to 20 revolutions per minutes before deploying its solar sails which are 20m diagonally from tip to tip. The polyimide solar sail membrane is only 7.5 micron thick, about four times thinner than an average human hair. The silicon solar cells are 25 micron thick.

Besides, in Japan, since 2009 Ikaros also (or should I write of course!) is an anime - manga character by Suu Minazuki in the Sora no otoshimono' story, a "Pet Class Angeloid, Type Alpha", a submissive, melancholic angel falling from the sky...

Ikaros even has its page on Facebook!

✍✍✍ Amaterasu is a sun goddess and one of the principal religious Shinto deities.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Japan : "Lifting the edge of the Kimono" with Daniel Mermet

"Là-bas si j'y suis" de Daniel Mermet, journaliste, écrivain et producteur de radio français

In ENGLISH: Switch on the radio! Message for the French speaking segment reading my Blog Asian Gazette and for my dear LinkedIn connections.

On behalf of a producer's friend of Paris, Radio France, Giv Anquetil, to whom I gave a few tips before Giv and Daniel Mermet's departure for Japan, I'd like to announce the broadcasting of the series of reports in ""Là-bas si j'y suis"" (There if I am). Our 2 French investigators of the waves begin a dozen episodes about Japan. You can listen here or download . Episode 1: Monday May 10, 2010 : Japan "Lifting the edge of the Kimono."

My own comment ? I'd put it in Japanese. "塵も積もれば山となる"("chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru") "Great things are done gradually". Music is noteworthy and a segment about Okinawa is to come soon. Now, now! This is to be news I 'd bet!

En FRANÇAIS Pour les francophones de mon Blog Asian Gazette et du groupe LinkedIn. De la part d'un copain de Paris a Radio France, Giv Anquetil, auquel j'ai essayé de donner quelques tuyaux avant son départ avec Daniel Mermet pour l'archipel. J'annonce ici la diffusion de reportages de la célèbre emission "Là-bas si j'y suis" au Japon, cela a commencé lundi 10 Mai pour une dizaine d'épisodes. A écouter sur ou télécharger sur le site Lundi : Japon I "Sous un coin du kimono".

Mon commentaire sur les tentatives de passage pour parler du Japon (de l'Asie de l'Est Bouddhiste Shinto et Confucéenne ?) Voici ma réponse "塵も積もれば山となる"(chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru) "Les grandes choses se font petit à petit"...

Difficile le Japon? Voici ce que m'écrit un ami écrivain qui maîtrise parfaitement le japonais et le chinois dans le texte. Je cite: "Le Japon c'est un pays au-dessus des contradictions. A la fois une démocratie, un empire, un pays socialiste, communiste, un pays fasciste, une horde, une tribu, une république etc. Mais il s'appelle Nippon, c'est tout. D'une certaine manière on peut en dire autant de la Chine, de l'Inde, la Russie, et même de tout pays, de la société, de la condition humaine en soi.... Les esprits occidentaux ont tout analysé, tout catégorisé, tout rationalisé, et on en arrive aux limites, a l'impasse... complètement. Le plan sociologique seul ne peut expliquer. Le Japon est complètement inconnu, inexistant, inexplicable en France. Comme rayé de la carte. Les gens savent tout, en lisant le "Monde", en répétant ce qui court dans l'opinion, l'air du temps, les idées reçues, comme Bouvard et Pécuchet, et vous apprennent en deux minutes ce qu'il en est."

A lire en complément Takeshi Umehara, auteur de "La philosophie japonaise des Enfers", traduit en français par Alain Robert Coulon et Kanoko Yumara

"Nostalgie du paradis et fascination de l'enfer comme oscillation constante dans une quête désespérée d'identité. Ecartelé entre l'Orient et l'Occident, le Japon semble s'adonner à des variations de formes sur le thème bouddhiste du vide. Ref:

France Inter - Là-bas, si j'y suis.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Europe versus Markets: Europe wins 750 Billion!

Strong EU signal sent to the financial markets

Sunday was the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of Europe. An appeal launched May 9, 1950 by French politician Robert Schumann***. The least we can say is that this celebration took place in a climate of crisis in Europe. Happy birthday but champagne lacked bubbles.

Still one thing puzzles me. I know about EU VIPs assignments, but guess that the EU foreign policy chief, the British Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland will be in a laborious posture to explain outside and in the Union that her own country, GB, does not show support to the European effort. Unmanageable. I also wonder what it will happen the day when England (who is in bad shape like Spain and Greece) will need a hand.

Quotes: "The key is that something strong" was thrown down as a gauntlet to speculators, said French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. Eager to prevent a haemmorhaghing of confidence on markets with debts and deficits already engulfing Portugal, Spain and Italy, Berlin bit the bullet with an aid model that goes far beyond the system put in place for Greece, which won loan commitments over three years in exchange for radical cuts and other economic reforms.

European Union finance ministers agreed, after marathon talks lasting more than 11 hours, that 440 billion euros would come from the troubled eurozone plus another 60 billion euros from the European Commission coffers. That would be backed by "at least half as much" again from the International Monetary Fund, or another 250 billion euros. The overall package was described as a series of "far-reaching steps" by IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The plan "proves that we shall defend the euro whatever it takes," said the EU's commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn."

Germany in crisis

Merkel lost her coalition's majority in the upper German house yesterday, as angry voters punished Berlin for its U-turn in agreeing a 110-billion-euro international bailout for Greece... "Talking about arrogance"... as Bernard Kouchner said recently at a press event I organized at the FCCJ Tokyo. Or is Germany simply loosing EU foundation's memory... Amnesia?

The Bank of Japan joined the European Central Bank (ECB) and those of Britain, Canada, Switzerland and the United States in coordinated moves aimed at nudging global money, debt and currency markets forward, which drew ringing endorsements from the Group of 20 leading world economies.

In Tokyo, stocks rose Monday on the news that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund had agreed on a massive plan to ensure euro-zone stability. The stocks won over 1,60%. The Euro currency closed at 120 Yen 56, up +3,38 % on Monday morning as I reported for Paris

"750 milliards débloqués pour stabiliser la zone Euro"

*** Twice Prime Minister of France, Robert Schumann was a reformist Minister of Finance and a Foreign Minister, he was instrumental in building post-war European and trans-Atlantic institutions and is regarded as one of the founders of the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO.