Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

Thailand’s Polical Turmoil Continues; King Fails To Appear

December 4, 2008

Thailand‘s revered king on Thursday failed to deliver his traditional birthday speech, dashing Thai hopes that the address would help resolve the country’s political paralysis and unify a divided nation.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turns 81 on Friday, was unable to deliver the speech “because he was a little sick,” his son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, told dignitaries gathered at the Dusit Palace to hear the king. The comments were broadcast live on radio.

By VIJAY JOSHI and AMBIKA AHUJA, Associated Press Writers

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadaj  reviews the Royal Guards ... 
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadaj reviews the Royal Guards at the Royal Plaza Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand’s ailing king failed to deliver his traditional speech to the nation Thursday Dec. 4, 2008 on the eve of his 81st birthday because of ill health — a stunning development that is likely to deepen the country’s political paralysis.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

While the king is known to be unwell, he was not expected to miss such an important occasion. The news came as a shock in this Southeast Asian nation of 63 million people, who revere the king as a selfless humanitarian. Many people wear yellow, the king’s color, once a week as a mark of respect and affection for the beloved monarch.

“The king has said to thank (you) for the wishes given out of loyalty. He wants to return the good wishes. He wants everyone to have strong mental and physical health to perform their duties for the public,” Vajiralongkorn said.

Many Thais were eagerly awaiting the king’s speech, hoping to receive guidance on how Thailand can resolve its political crisis triggered by an anti-government group whose members seized two main airports for a week.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_re_as/as_thailand_political_unrest

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Thai Government Brought Down!

December 2, 2008

After months of drama, standoff, protests and violence, a court dissolved Thailand‘s top three ruling parties for electoral fraud Tuesday and temporarily banned the prime minister from politics….

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The Constitutional Court ruling set the stage for thousands of protesters to end their weeklong siege of the country’s two main airports, but also raised fears of retaliatory violence by a pro-government group that could sink the country deeper into crisis and cripple its economy.

By AMBIKA AHUJA, Associated Press Writer

In this Dec. 1, 2008 file photo, Thai Prime Minister Somchai ...
Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, left, is seen at a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand. Somchai says Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008 he has accepted a court ruling to step down because of electoral fraud committed by his political party. Somchai told reporters in the northern city of Chiang Mai the court’s verdict was ‘not a problem. I was not working for myself. Now I will be a full-time citizen.’ (AP Photo/Wichai Taprieu, File)

Members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, occupying Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi international airport, cheered and hugged after they heard news of the verdict.

“My heart is happy. My friends are very happy,” said Pailin Jampapong, a 41-year-old Bangkok housekeeper choking back tears as she jumped up and down.

Government spokesman Nattawut Sai-kau said Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his six-party ruling coalition would step down.

“We will abide by the law. The coalition parties will meet together to plan for its next move soon,” he told The Associated Press.

He also said the government was postponing a regional summit in Thailand of Southeast Asian countries, from December to March.

Somchai had become increasingly isolated in recent weeks. Neither the army, a key player in Thai politics, nor the country’s much revered king had offered him firm backing. Since Wednesday, he and his Cabinet had been working out of the northern city of Chiang Mai, a government stronghold.

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as/as_thailand_political_unrest;_ylt=Atg1aR
xn4VA9BKzrX3Mdmbas0NUE

Thai Court Disbands Ruling Party
 

BBC

A Thai court has ruled that PM Somchai Wongsawat must step down over election fraud, a ruling he has accepted.

His governing People Power Party and two of its coalition partners have been ordered to disband and the parties’ leaders have been barred from politics.

But it is unclear if the ruling ends a months-long political crisis, since other coalition MPs have vowed to form another government under a new name.

Earlier, an anti-government protester was killed at a Bangkok airport.

Local television reported that a grenade had been fired at Don Mueang airport, the capital’s domestic hub, which has been occupied by the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) since last week.

Government supporters later surround the constitutional court complex (2 December 2008)

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7759960.stm

Thai government demotes national police chief

November 28, 2008

Thailand‘s government demoted the national police chief on Friday after he failed to end a siege of the capital’s airports by anti-government protesters.

By AMBIKA AHUJA and CHRIS BLAKE, Associated Press Writers

Hundreds of demonstrators, demanding the government’s ouster, stormed Suvarnabhumi international airport on Tuesday and took over the smaller Don Muang domestic airport a day later. The capital remains completely cut off from air traffic, stranding thousands of travelers and dealing severe blows to the economy.

Government spokesman Nattawut Sai-Kau said National Police Chief Gen. Pacharawat Wongsuwan has been moved to an inactive post in the prime minister’s office.

Nattawut declined to comment on the order, issued by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

It was not clear if Pacharawat was removed because the police failed to evict the protesters, but it could be because he apparently made no attempt to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis, as the government had asked.

Interior Minister Kowit Wattana met with police at a precinct near Suvarnabhumi on Friday.

About 200 police, carrying riot gears and shields, were seen outside airport offices, which are about 400 yards (meters) from the terminal where the protesters are camped out.

The airport takeover capped months of demonstrations by the protesters, who belong to the People’s Alliance for Democracy. They took over the prime minister’s office three months ago, virtually paralyzing the government.

They say they won’t give up until the government steps down.

“We are ready to defend ourselves against any government’s operations to get us out of those places,” said Parnthep Wongpuapan, an alliance spokesman.

Thailand’s Crisis; Government Rejects Army Call To Go

November 26, 2008
Thailand’s army chief told the government on Wednesday to step down and call a snap election as a way out of a political crisis threatening to spiral out of control after a gang shot dead an anti-government activist.
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Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who has rejected army chief Anupong Pachinda’s call to dissolve parliament, will address the nation on television at around 9 p.m. (1400 GMT), his chief of staff told Reuters.

Somchai returned to Thailand from an Asia-Pacific summit to find tempers flaring across the country and threatening to explode into civil unrest.

A gang of government supporters in the northern city of Chiang Mai shot dead an anti-government activist on Wednesday, the first serious violence outside Bangkok.

By Nopporn Wong-Anan, Reuters
Wednesday, November 26, 2008; 9:39 AM

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content
/article/2008/11/26/AR2008112600470.html?hpi
d=topnews

Piracy Spurs Threats to Shipping Costs

November 19, 2008

The seizure by pirates of a giant Saudi oil tanker far off the coast of Kenya could enlarge the “war risk” zone that already is lifting insurance costs for thousands of ships heading west of Africa, further raising the cost of piracy to world-wide shipping.

More vessels have begun avoiding the direct passage most often attacked by pirates and taking a much longer route around the southern tip of Africa. They’re hoping to pressure governments along the direct route, through the busy Gulf of Aden, to crack down more effectively on piracy or lose revenues from cargo-ship traffic.

By John W. Miller
The Wall Street Journal

But the unprecedented attack disclosed Monday on the MV Sirius Star, carrying $100 million worth of crude hundreds of miles from shore in the Indian Ocean, is undercutting that strategy. It could raise the cost of insurance and crews for ships that take the longer route, which already costs far more in fuel.

The boldness of the attack on the 1,080-foot Sirius Star may prompt insurers to require special “war risk” insurance costing tens of thousands of dollars a day to cover travel across a much greater area of water. It also could spur shippers to hire more onboard security for their vessels, which many have resisted because of costs and the fear of escalating armed conflicts with the pirates.

“This could be a game-changer,” says Peter Hinchliffe, maritime director of the London-based International Chamber of Shipping. “It’s no secret the whole industry is looking into this.”

Governments and shippers have sparred over who should bear responsibility for fending off the pirates, who seized 26 ships in the region during the summer alone and have collected up to $30 million in ransom so far this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122701864743437147.html

Indian Navy Destroys Pirate ‘Mother Ship’ in Battle Near Somalia

November 19, 2008

NEW DELHI —  An Indian naval vessel sank a suspected pirate “mother ship” Wednesday in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats into the night, officials said, yet more violence in the lawless seas where brigands are becoming bolder and more violent.

Separate bands of pirates also seized a Thai ship with 16 crew members and an Iranian cargo vessel with a crew of 25 in the Gulf of Aden, where Somalia-based pirates appear to be attacking ships at will, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

In this Nov. 11, 2008 file photo made available by Indian Navy, ... 
In this Nov. 11, 2008 file photo made available by Indian Navy, Indian warship INS Tabar, right, escorts the MV Jag Arnav ship to safety after rescuing it from a hijack attempt by Somali pirates. The Indian navy says the INS Tabar dedicated to fighting pirates has successfully fought off an attempted pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden, sparking explosions and a fire on the suspected pirate ship late Tuesday, Nov. 18.(AP Photo/Indian Navy, HO, File)

“It’s getting out of control,” Choong said.

A multicoalition naval force has increased patrols in the region, and scored a rare success Tuesday when the Indian warship, operating off the coast of Oman, stopped a ship similar to a pirate vessel mentioned in numerous piracy bulletins. The Indian navy said the pirates fired on the INS Tabar after the officers asked it to stop to be searched.


INS Tabar transfers a man to another ship at sea.

“Pirates were seen roaming on the upper deck of this vessel with guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers,” said a statement from the Indian navy. Indian forces fired back, sparking fires and a series of onboard blasts — possibly due to exploding ammunition — and destroying the ship.

SomaliPirate
Above: Somali pirates

INS Tabar, a multipurpose frontline warship, seen in Mumbai ...

Above: Indian Navy warship Tabar  

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With a VIDEO:
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ge/piracy;_ylt=AixHX2_3so7pbJdZfSLkWqqs0NUE

Aruba police pursue new evidence in Holloway case

November 19, 2008

A new witness has come forward in the 2005 disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba, and prosecutors said Tuesday they are seeking more evidence against the only remaining suspect.

By MIKE MELIA, Associated Press Writer

A woman told Dutch police this month that Joran van der Sloot confessed to her years ago that he was involved in Holloway’s disappearance, according to Ann Angela, a spokeswoman for the Aruba Prosecutors’ Office.

Suspect in Holloway case allegedly involved in sex trade industry 
Joran Van der Sloot and Natalee Holloway

But the Dutch Caribbean island’s chief prosecutor said authorities still lack proof they need to convict Van der Sloot, who has been arrested twice and released for lack of evidence.

“After three years of investigating, it is very, very difficult to find that evidence,” prosecutor Hans Mos told The Associated Press. “We have to be realistic.”

Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Alabama, was last seen in May 2005 leaving a bar in the Aruban capital Oranjestad with Van der Sloot on the final night of a high school graduation trip to the island. Extensive searches have found no trace of her.

Investigators reopened the case earlier this year based on hidden-camera recordings made by a Dutch TV crime show. On the video, Van der Sloot says Holloway collapsed on the beach after they left the bar and that he called a friend to dump her body at sea.

The new witness, once a friend of Van der Sloot, confirmed that he gave her roughly the same account shortly after Holloway’s disappearance. But Mos said her statement does not bring authorities any closer to resolving the case.

He also said the witness would lack credibility in court unless she explains why she waited so long to come forward.

Attorneys for Van der Sloot did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment and there was no answer at his parents’ home in Aruba.

Van der Sloot was last known to be living in Thailand but his current whereabouts are a “mystery,” Angela said.

Angela said Aruban authorities hope to decide by the end of this year whether to prosecute Van der Sloot or close the case for good.

Natalee Holloway‘s mother, Beth Holloway, did not immediately return a telephone call Tuesday seeking comment.

Related:
One Time Aruba Murder Suspect in Natalee Holloway Death Now in Thai Prostitution and Trafficking?

Global Opium Production Rising As Economies Fall

November 17, 2008

Authorities are worried about an increase in poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle, fearing that opium production in the region would be boosted due to the global economic slowdown.
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Deputy secretary-general of the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) Pitaya Jinawat said yesterday that opium cultivation in Thailand, Laos and Burma has increased over the past three years.
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By Subin Kheunkaew and Theerawat Khamthita
Bangkok Post 

He said poppy-growing areas in the country’s northern region, a prime cultivating area, increased from 700 to 1,800 rai last year and was expected to grow to 2,000 rai this year.

A significant increase in opium production in Laos and Burma has also been reported, he said.

Read the rest:
http://www.bangkokpost.com/171108_News
/17Nov2008_news10.php

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Vienna-based ...
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, points to a map showing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan during a press conference in Rome, Friday, Nov. 14, 2008. High food prices are encouraging many Afghan farmers to switch to food crops and drop poppy cultivation, Costa said Friday. An oversupply of opium has pushed prices down 20 percent a year over the last four years, causing opium farmers’ income to decline. Poppy production remains high in the south of the country (red on map), where the Taliban-led insurgency is strongest, Costa said, but that 18 provinces went poppy-free this year (dark blue on map).(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Food, Crops, Subsidies and Hunger in the Global Economy

November 17, 2008

This spring, disaster loomed in the global food market. Precipitous increases in the prices of staples like rice (up more than a hundred and fifty per cent in a few months) and maize provoked food riots, toppled governments, and threatened the lives of tens of millions. But the bursting of the commodity bubble eased those pressures, and food prices, while still high, have come well off the astronomical levels they hit in April. For Americans, the drop in commodity prices has put a few more bucks in people’s pockets; in much of the developing world, it may have saved many from actually starving. So did the global financial crisis solve the global food crisis?

By James Surowiecki
The New Yorker

Temporarily, perhaps. But the recent price drop doesn’t provide any long-term respite from the threat of food shortages or future price spikes. Nor has it reassured anyone about the health of the global agricultural system, which the crisis revealed as dangerously unstable. Four decades after the Green Revolution, and after waves of market reforms intended to transform agricultural production, we’re still having a hard time insuring that people simply get enough to eat, and we seem to be more vulnerable to supply shocks than ever.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Over the past two decades, countries around the world have moved away from their focus on “food security” and handed market forces a greater role in shaping agricultural policy. Before the nineteen-eighties, developing countries had so-called “agricultural marketing boards,” which would buy commodities from farmers at fixed prices (prices high enough to keep farmers farming), and then store them in strategic reserves that could be used in the event of bad harvests or soaring import prices. But in the eighties and nineties, often as part of structural-adjustment programs imposed by the I.M.F. or the World Bank, many marketing boards were eliminated or cut back, and grain reserves, deemed inefficient and unnecessary, were sold off. In the same way, structural-adjustment programs often did away with government investment in and subsidies to agriculture—most notably, subsidies for things like fertilizers and high-yield seeds.

People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district ... 
People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. The floods have ruined many of the area’s crops.(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

The logic behind these reforms was simple: the market would allocate resources more efficiently than government, leading to greater productivity. Farmers, instead of growing subsidized maize and wheat at high cost, could concentrate on cash crops, like cashews and chocolate, and use the money they made to buy staple foods. If a country couldn’t compete in the global economy, production would migrate to countries that could. It was also assumed that, once governments stepped out of the way, private investment would flood into agriculture, boosting performance. And international aid seemed a more efficient way of relieving food crises than relying on countries to maintain surpluses and food-security programs, which are wasteful and costly.

This “marketization” of agriculture has not, to be sure, been fully carried through. Subsidies are still endemic in rich countries and poor, while developing countries often place tariffs on imported food, which benefit their farmers but drive up prices for consumers. And in extreme circumstances countries restrict exports, hoarding food for their own citizens.

Related:
Vietnam to grow genetically modified crops

Read the rest:
http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/11/2
4/081124ta_talk_surowiecki

Thailand’s Thaksin Divorces for “Economic, Political” Reasons

November 15, 2008

Thailand‘s ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife have divorced after 32 years of marriage, his spokesman said Saturday.

Thai newspapers reported that Thaksin, who was in power from 2001 until he was toppled in a 2006 coup, finalised the separation from his wife Pojaman at the Thai consulate in Hong Kong on Friday.

The couple have been living in exile since August to avoid jail sentences in their homeland and last week had their British visas cancelled, leaving them searching for a new refuge.

 By Anusak Konglang, AFP

In this July 31, 2008 file photo, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin ... 
In this July 31, 2008 file photo, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand and his wife Pojaman, left, arrive at criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand. Thaksin and Pojaman, who married in 1976, divorced at the Thai Consul General Office in Hong Kong on Friday, the English-language Nation and Bangkok Post newspapers reported.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)

“I have had it confirmed by a credible person in his team that Thaksin and Pojaman have divorced. But I have no details,” Thaksin’s personal spokesman Phongthep Thepkanjana told AFP.

There was no immediate comment from the Thai consulate or from Hong Kong authorities.

Telecoms billionaire Thaksin announced the divorce at a dinner of MPs from Thailand’s ruling People Power Party in Hong Kong on Friday night, the Bangkok Post reported.

The cause of the divorce was not immediately clear, but Thai sources and media reports said it was more likely to be for legal or financial reasons than personal ones.

A source close to Thaksin’s family in Thailand confirmed the report but said that it would be a “divorce on paper” for practical or economic reasons.

“Thaksin and his wife remain very close and they are even closer since their problems began in Thailand,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081115/wl_asia_afp/thailand
politicsthaksindivorce_081115082521