Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This Is What Democracy Looks Like?

A lot of people have been asking me about the current situation in Bangkok as news from the city is making headlines around the world. The protestors who occupied the commercial center of Bangkok for numerous weeks have been removed, but flare ups continue not only there but in cities such as Khon Kaen and Udon Thani in Northeast Thailand. Like in any civil upheaval there are a number of sides to this conflict which is a complex one stretching across an intricate political landscape that when coupled with a long standing monarchy maybe one of the most unique and complex in current times.

Things in Phitsanulok have been unaffected and day to day life continues as normal. Although this afternoon there was visibly more interest in the happenings as TVs in shops and restaurants were crowded with on lookers.

Staying up to date can be at times difficult do to as breaking stories must be translated from Thai to English but the NY Times and BBC are providing good coverage devoid of the rumors, conspiracies and sensationalism that is rife in Thai news.

Three stories of particular interest are the BBC's How Did Thailand Come To This? which looks at the road leading up to the current events. A look at the King's role and future in Thailand from the NY Times, Thailand's King Sees His Influence Fading and finally a reporter's personal look at a fascinating city gone terribly awry, In Bangkok, Gunfire Outside a Reporter's Window also from the NY Times.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hot, Damn Hot

That is the simplest answer to the question, "How is Thailand?" The map below will provide you with an illustration of just what I mean. Oppressive daunting hide-inside-until-the-sun-goes-down kind of heat, hovering between 38-41 C (100-105 F) for the past few days.

Map taken from The Bangkok Post

And I'm Back...Again

After summer break I'm back in Phitsanulok and updates are coming soon. Continued political unrest, Vietnamese wise-guys, new classes, new students, new semester, a fledging English Program and a fresh set of wheels, "This is it, don'e get scared now!"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Gathering Storm

Thailand braces for mass protests
Thailand has mobilised about 40,000 security personnel ahead of mass rallies by "red shirt" opposition protesters over the coming days.

The demonstrators plan to meet around the country before converging on the capital, Bangkok, on Sunday.

They are mainly supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

They say they plan to rally until Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva calls new elections.

The government has promised a tough reaction if the protests set to begin on Friday turn violent.

If there is a siege, we would immediately take steps to disperse the crowds
Suthep Thaugsuban Deputy Prime Minister

The Internal Security Act has been invoked, giving the military the power to impose curfews and restrict numbers at gatherings.

Checkpoints have been set up on the roads into Bangkok.

The red shirt movement, led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), has promised a huge but peaceful demonstration.

Smaller rallies, meetings and "political schools" have been planned for various provinces before convoys of vehicles carry protesters to the capital.

The red shirts' last major protests, in April last year, turned violent, with two deaths and dozens of people injured.

"If there is a siege, we would no longer consider it a peaceful protest and immediately take steps to disperse the crowds," Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said.

The protest leaders say the government is playing up the threat of violence to justify a possible crackdown.

The red shirts oppose the 2006 military coup that toppled Thaksin Shinawatra.

They say Prime Minister Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the backing of the military and the Bangkok-based elites.

Mr Thaksin's power base was in the rural north. He is now living in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid a jail term on a corruption conviction.

Last month the Supreme Court ruled that just over half of the assets ($1.4bn; £910m) belonging to Mr Thaksin or his family which were frozen since the coup, should be seized.

'Cause It's Friday...

100 degree forecast, political unrest all just in time for summer vacation. Not exactly June, July and August but certainly a perk of the teaching job. Heading to Indonesia and Vietnam, see you all in a few.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Destroyer

I'm not a massive Manny Pacquiao fan, in fact I think his refusal to take a blood test and fight Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was selfish, granted it was certainly as big a part of Mayweather's mental game as it was to ensure no doping had taken place. I posted this article because it tells the story of a great athlete who has helped to revive sport that many saw as far past it's prime, a dinosaur unable to adapt to a new generation of fan's desires. Pacquiao is not just famous in the Philippines, he is an icon across Southeast Asia, a true point of pride for the entire region.

From a writing standpoint it is articles like these that reaffirm my personal belief as to why GQ Magazine continues to be a standard bearer in print journalism. Seven well crafted pages from a writer covering sports. Not some quickly thrown together cliche riddled blurb by another unoriginal sportswriter. Great sports pieces come from true writers covering sports, not sportswriters. If the distinction isn't clear read David Foster Wallace's Roger Federer as a Religious Experience or Hunter S. Thompson 's The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Deprived in comparison to the regurgitated mindless ramblings turned out weekly by Rick Reilly or Bill Simmons.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010