Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Nation shows no respect (no surprise)

In case you've been hiding under a rock, foreign reporters and media have taken a lot of criticism in Thailand for the reporting of the recent Bangkok protests.

Social media sites have, perhaps unsurprisingly been the main outlet, however increasingly government ministers and others in positions of responsibility have cast doubt on the objectivity of foreign media reports.

I won't list all the links but there has been a huge amount of noise as the objectivity of media like the CNN and the BBC have come under-fire.

Public opinion is to be expected to a degree (although the personal abuse and allegations directed at CNN's Dan Rivers go over the top) but to see other journalists and senior officials joining the angry voices is somewhat disturbing. Particularly as Bangkok Pundit recently delivered this analysis suggesting much of the criticism is unfounded.

Today The Nation's cartoonist had this 'amusing' take on it all.

I find this cartoon to be inappropriate, not to mention disrespectful, of the foreign media who risked (and in a few cases lost) their lives to provide a story with greater accountability and objectivity, rather than just regurgitating what the rest of the media is saying.

Much of the revisiting of events, and uncovering of wrong doing (such as the death of an Italian photographer and shooting of unarmed protesters at Wat Patum) is reliant upon accounts and footage taken by foreign reporters. Mocking them is hardly respectful in these circumstances.

But here it is, I really think someone at The Nation should apologise for this...but I doubt anything will happen.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Thailand Musings interview

Steve over at Thailand Musings is running an excellent ongoing series of Q&As with a number of prominent Thai bloggers. He's interviewed most of those I keep up with and, with a little luck, I made the hit list too.

His interview post with me has just gone live so click here to head over and see my tupence on life in Thailand.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Bangkok burning - images

Right now Bangkok is a city that, in parts, resembles scenes from a computer game,

A selection of images that I've stumbled across using Twitter - what else? - are below.

This view over the city from @ustadbangkok is in my opinion the most spectacular.

A street view in Din Daeng with red shirt protester from @BaBYxxxEviL

The below picture is of Siam Paragon, theatre 7, from @richardbarrow.

This video features strongly anti-red rheotric (for those of us who try to stay objective, though I of course oppose the rampant destruction and anarchy) but includes some incredible footage.

An incredible set of high-res photos can also be found at, a link I recommend you to visit.

It looks like things are under more control today but, as many have speculated, how this pans out in the long run, with the potential for more civilian disobedience in Bangkok, is anyone's guess.

I'll update this with more photos as and when I come across them...

UPDATE: Freelance Thai photographer Natthawat Wongrat has an incredible set of photo that date back to day one of the protests. The Red Shirts: Thailand collection has more than 1,300 images and is well worth a look.

Respecting his copyright and usage policy I haven't posted any of Natthawat's images but you can see them for yourself here.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Thoughts post battle of Bangkok

It's nearly 1pm (close to 1.30 at time of publishing) and things are beginning to come to a close in Bangkok today.

Earlier this morning the army finally breached protester lines and entered the red shirt camp in numbers, Al Jazeera estimated around 200 or so soldiers made up the first wave.

Right now red shirt leaders are beginning to face up to the end of their 7 week occupation of Bangkok. While Veera, a key figure, left some time ago, Arisman has reportedly just fled the camp though the others are waiting to be arrested and receive their fate.

All in all it is a sad ending and I can't help thinking things could (and should) have ended better for the red shirt protesters.

They have held talks with Abhisit and leading government officials a number of times but failed to agree on a compromise. It is sad, but somewhat inevitable, that developments have seen more than 30 people lose their lives (with two more deaths rumoured today already) when the reds could have walked away with what they (allegedly) came for.

By pure chance that the missus, little fella and I road into Bangkok with the protests when they first came to the city back in March. We didn't join them on their quest to overthrow the elite and force an election but, like many, my recollection of meeting them was that they were friendly.

I wonder just how many of those whom I met remain in Bangkok now, where the mood is more defiant and edgier than ever.

Placing the blame

There is no doubt that both sides (subscribing to the two sides theory for simplicity) are culpable for what has happened, albeit to different levels.

In a bid to end the protests the government has killed more than 30 civilians.

Whilst, to any sane person, firing on your own people is madness, let's put ourselves in their shoes for a second. They want to end the protest, they are prepared to fire live ammunition...why then have seemingly innocent civilians lost lives while (Sae Daeng aside - there is enough debate as to who fatally shot him for a post alone) none of the key, strategic red shirt leaders were threatened?

This arbitrary, senseless shooting of innocents saw the red shirt protests engage and return shots, though not with far more basic weapons and not the military issued heavy weapons many journalists have claimed.

This escalation of violence marked the beginning of the end. "Red shirts return fire" simply fanned the flames giving the army legitimate reason to fire live rounds in 'self-defence'.

Assigning culpability for escalating violence, one must also look to the red shirts.

I can't help but wonder what could have been had they been able to remain non-violent, as the banner draped across their main stage proclaimed them to be.

Of course, as an anti-government movement, membership of the reds is loose, that is to say its membership comprises a range of different viewpoints and aims for the protest. For some the agreement of an early election was enough, while others seek more extreme aspirations such as the return of Thaksin Shinawatra's funds, while others seek the former Prime Minister's physical return to Thailand and an overthrowing of the institutions.

For that reason alone their supporters have reacted in different ways, some of which has been violent which, with considerable news coverage, has painted a very different view of the protest which was originally all about peaceful change.

To use game show terms, let's look at what they could've 'won'.

No agreement

Prime Minister Abhisit, having wiggled himself a little more power than many said institutions have until now granted him, went out on a limb with his peace roadmap.

Talks with the reds shirts came epically close to a conclusion, which could have avoided bloodshed (particularly of the last week or so), yet they failed and the rest is as reported. Thais and foreigners have lost their lives, Bangkok has been shut down, millions of lives (mine included) have been affected.

The irony of these failed talks is that the reds could have walked away with the prize - a much sought after (and at one point unlikely) early election date. Yet they insisted on near radical conditions which compromised the reaching of their goal of an election date.

They demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep should hand himself into police - just as red-leaning police chiefs responses for deaths relating to the PAD's occupation of Suvarnabhumi airport were forced to - an act that would show his responsibility for the deaths at the hands of the army.

Suthep did subsequently hand himself into, but such is the fragmented nature of Thailand's police force, the reds deemed this to be the 'wrong' police station and thus the deal and ceasefire was on.

That the reds assumed Suthep would glady hand himself in is strange. After all, they did not hold all the power in this situation and thus misjudged their strength against the government.

A fair better and more productive approach might have been to take the agreement and work on Suthep separately/at a later date. This would allow them to walk away, hands held high...PR rhetoric claiming they had influenced this government, got their way and come home to work on electoral success.

As it is, going back to game show-isms, they (most likely) leave with nothing.

What is next?

The next chapter is yet to unfold but you can be sure this will not the end of the red shirt struggle.

What started off as a reasonable request (and one which I supported, given that the Prime Minister does not hold direct democratic legitimacy - he was voted in by parliament (representing the people) rather than the electorate itself) has ended with everyone losing.

People have lost lives, families have lost loved ones, the reds have lost their battle, the army has lost (further) credibility but, by far and away, the biggest loser has been Thailand. The full estimates of financial cost are yet to come in (though this post gives some insight), but given the country is still recovering (financially and reputation wise) from the PAD protests at Suvarnabhumi, the cost will be significant.


TumblerBlog has a number of quotes from The Economist summarising the close of the protests. The one I've chosen from below sums up my long, rambling thoughts above in a far more succinct statement - this is what I should've written to save time.
Mr Abhisit may deserve credit for offering a plausible compromise to the red shirts. That the leaders of their United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) failed to grasp this olive branch is tragic. They must bear some responsibility for the lives lost, as do the soldiers who marched into downtown Bangkok.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Had the decorators in, new look is courtesy of the new Blogger In Draft feature. The background image may be a little cliched for a blog about Thailand but it is easily changed if/when it gets boring or appears elsewhere.

Was pleasantly surprised with how versatile and easy to arrange the new system is, having put the process off for a few weeks it took less than half an hour and did not involve the painful 'Google-for-a-template' process.

Still, having dipped my blogging feet in Wordpress (.org), the new Blogger comes up short. A worthy (and much needed) improvement from Google nonetheless.

To keep up the renewed use of photos, gratuitous pictures of Pattaya by day versus Pattaya by night are below, both taken from a recent stay.

By Day

By Night

Sometimes things just look better in the dark - some might say this applies more to the women in Pattaya.

Hat tips to both Mike at MTF and Steve from Thai Musings both of whom got in touch to say commenting is not possible (shame of me for leaving this unfixed before bed last night, didn't think anyone would notice.)

I have a problem enabling Blogger comments but DISQUS comments are now in place for future posts, the import setting current has a problem which explains absence of comment feature for this post.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

More ugly Thai football scenes

There was more controversy in Thai football recently courtesy of two division two teams not far from me (both play in the same division as local team Saraburi FC).

Fierce rivals Lopburi FC and Ayutthaya FC made national headlines when an Ayutthaya player struck a Lopburi defender breaking his nose in the process and sparking off violences between rivals fans, players, backroom staff, ball boys, water carriers, mascots and anyone else in the vicinity.

It wasn't easy but a video of the event is below (the on field incident is around the 0.17 mark). The video shows the rest of this chaos and footage of a number of injured fans after the game.

เหตุการณ์อัปยศลพบุรี 1-3 อยุธยา - ดูคลิปทั้งหมด คลิกที่นี่

The (rather excellent) Jakarta Casual has a full round up and comment - pieces of which are below.
Lop Buri FC have been banned from playing at home for four games following their attack on Ayutthaya FC in the Second Divison Regional League last week.
Lop Buri players, officials and fans attacked their Ayutthaya rivals on the pitch and in the stands after becoming infuriated by decisions by the match officials.
The violence at Lop Buri took place after the home team suffered a 3-1 defeat. Several Ayutthaya fans were hospitalised.
Lop Buri fans who threw bottles at match officials face a fine of 5,000 baht each.
Lop Buri coaches and officials who were involved in the incident are fined 12,000 baht each and are suspended for the rest of the season.
Lop Buri FC and Ayutthaya FC are each fined 20,000 baht.
Pol Lt Gen Vorapong said the trouble started because fans of both sides were not properly separated.
He said the hosts allowed the sale of alcohol in the stadium.
COMMENT - a local derby turns feisty though to be fair it looks more like locals pissed off with the result rather than a concerted effort by a gang of hooligans. There are some teams, and not just Thailand, who seem unwilling to accept the fact that in football they can lose games.
JC is right that this is not hooliganism, instead just another example of dreadful behaviour from fans, many of whom were likely very drunk.

It never fails to amaze me that, in a country where people are incredibly polite and careful of their behaviour in public, football fans (and players too) can be so disrespectful of the authorities and rival teams/supporters.

That said, I've been to a lot of games and (touch wood, as I often go with the little fella) there's never been a problem.

Sadly I doubt we've seen the last of these types of incidents in Thailand.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Red zone, Bangkok

I'm increasingly spending more time in Bangkok for work - whether that be writing, digital media or arranging my visa. This week it was a day trip on Thursday (on my own) and a return trip on Friday with the missus and little fella in tow.

Given it was Friday we decided to stay overnight to allow us to take the little fella around Bangkok both in the evening and for most of Saturday too.

Next day we headed down to the area-former-know-as-Central-Chidlom, now home to the main red shirt camp in Bangkok, around noon. With me the designated baby carrier (now that we're expecting again) photos are courtesy of my better half.

Before you ask, yes that is a red-shirt clapper in the little guy's hands.

Part out of fun, part out of the missus' sympathy for the reds (her mother is a fairly ardent supporter though my wife generally feels sorry and is understanding of the reds cause) we bought him a clapper.

Does this make him/us reds? Well...he is wearing a yellow t-shirt in red shirt HQ Bangkok...that should answer the question.

Yours truly on carrying duty (most definitely not my, or his, best picture)

Essential products for your average anti-government kitchen...I should probably add that we didn't buy either.

Last time I was here was for a (very) corporate press conference...couldn't be any different now.

There were plenty of monks around like this one with his holy water on wheels set-up.

The queue for a free lunch was unsurprisingly never ending around midday.

Pure contrast

Happy clapper

Board with messages, photos and letter of support

A rare English-language banner for the attention of international press like the camera man in shot.

A woman finds some shade whilst eating her lunch.

The main headline is dissolve parliament, which is supposedly the main focus of the protests (though this varies based on who you speak to)

Bonus pic...Bangkok's youngest Tuk Tuk driver...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Monk ordination ceremony in Saraburi

Here are some recent shots from a ceremony in which two local lads (one of whom I regularly play football with) went into the local temple as monks for a short time, usually anything up to three months.

Around this time of the year - before the Buddhist retreat - this type of ceremony occurs regularly across the country. In pledging to become monks, albeit temporarily, the men bestow great honour on their families...the elder members of which are often reduced to tears. See a good description here.

As with most things in Thailand it is an excuse to get up early (the procession came past our house at 7.00 am), dress up, dance to ridiculously loud music and eat/drink copious amounts - marvellous stuff then.

It's worth noting that invitations are open. Something which, having attended a fair few events in Thailand, my foreign brain still cannot get to grips with. It feels awkward arriving at a bash, celebrating and eating/drinking their food when you're not know to most people and weren't invited - but people here don't care - "the more the merrier", they're usually especially pleased to have a farang (and camera to pose for) about.

On arrival the band is setting up (more on this later)...

The alter is prepared...btw, check out the clock to see just how early a start this is (I literally rolled out of bed for it).

The ceremony kicks off with the guys - heads already shaved - lighting candles to begin with a prayer.

The prayers continue with family, friends, neighbours and uninvited (but welcomed) guests like myself watching over proceedings.

Most people are, however, outside like these shady fellows (who begged for a photo) - soaked in whiskey, fag smoke and morning sunshine - waiting for the boring stuff to finish and the dancing to begin.

The little fella (yes that is a monkey on his back) is on the end of plenty of attention, as ever, while those outside await the next phase.

Prayers over, the two soon-to-be monks are ushered outside from where the group will begin a parade around the temple with singing, dancing and music.

The festivities begin...

The bad is out in full force.

Thais are unique in being able to dance reasonably well on demand, not matter their shape, size or appearance.

The procession then heads for this temple building where the new monks will be ordained.

The little fella poses.

The procession heads over to the temple building which it will dance around three times before the official ceremonial duties begin.

But first there is the procession and dancing.

The crazy guy with the shades if my friend Noi (น้อย) who is one of my missus' cousins. He's your typical whiskey-swigging chap who is always at the centre of the party.

The processions winds it way around the temple building.

The most important part of the parade and celebrations are two monks-in-waiting, shielded from the sun by a set of umbrellas.

A number of the temple's resident monks head over to begin preparations for the final part of the ceremony, after which my friend and his pal will become monks for a short period of time.

More dancing...

Meanwhile the dancing continues...

We left before the final ceremony in which the new monks are ordained - it was just too hot and too early - but came back for some food. Rude at home? Yes, but acceptable out here in Thailand.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

British government warns against travelling to Thailand

Earlier this week the British government out travel advice statement for anyone travelling it Thailand.
We advise against all but essential travel to the whole of Thailand due to the increasingly volatile and tense political situation. Violent incidents of an unpredictable nature are occurring in many parts of Thailand.
While it is true that there have been incidents in certain parts of Bangkok it occured to me this was a somewhat heavy handed statement.
Before I got round to turning my tweet into any kind of post I spotted Mike from My Thai Friend's summary, written on his British Expat Directory (an excellent addition to his burgeoning collection of blogs), which hit the nail on the head...meaning I didn't have to.
Bangkok remains largely free of trouble apart from the upmarket shopping area. That said the protesters are waging a very mobile campaign against the Thai Government and may well strike in unexpected places. While these mobile protests remain mostly peaceful there have been several explosions over the last few days in and around the capital.

Travel outside Bangkok is subject to occasional delays by illegal red shirt road checks. There have also been several attempts by protesters to block police and troops being sent to Bangkok. As such the main tourist areas continue to operate as normal and are free of protests.

There have been some well publicised travel delays at BKK but this has nothing to do with the state of public order in Thailand.

Basically the country remains open for business.
Of course, this statement is clearly a backside covering statement from the embassy and diplomatic staff to ensure that, should something go horribly wrong for a British citizen out here, they had made the necessary strong announcement in advance.

What a shame those outside of Thailand may mistake this for the reality.