Friday, August 31, 2007

Thailand Lifts Youtube Ban

Thailand lifts YouTube ban

Thailand’s military-installed government has lifted its five-month ban on the video-sharing website YouTube, after the US-based internet company agreed to block videos deemed offensive to the Thai people or in violation of Thai law.

Sitthichai Pookaiyudom, the information and technology minister, told the Financial Times that YouTube had agreed to block any clips identified by the government as breaking Thai laws, including the country’s sweeping legislation prohibiting comments deemed offensive to the monarchy.

The minister said YouTube videos blocked in Thailand would remain accessible to Internet users abroad. “It would be like books,” he said. “Some books are banned for sale in Thailand, but you can buy them elsewhere.”

Thailand’s military government blocked domestic access to YouTube in April, after anonymous users posted videos mocking King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the 79-year-old monarch who is revered by many Thais as a semi-divine figure protecting the country.

In contrast to the British royal family, which is subjected to the relentless and lurid attention of the tabloid media, Thailand’s monarchy remains shielded from public scrutiny by strict lese majeste laws that make it a serious crime, potentially punishable by up to 15-years in prison, to say anything deemed offensive to the monarchy.

Public scrutiny? No. Public mockery yes. And unlike the British Royals they don't act like a bunch of buffoons.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pinoy Communist Riot

No Super Champ Burgers for you!

Police clash with activists protesting arrest of Philippine communist leader

Philippine police used truncheons and shields to beat back some 100 left-wing activists who tried to march to the Dutch Embassy on Thursday to protest the arrest of a Philippine communist leader in the Netherlands.

Rally organizers said their affiliates in the United States, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Europe launched similar protests against the arrest of Jose Maria Sison. They also called for a boycott of Dutch products until Sison is released from jail.

Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, was arrested Tuesday in the Netherlands for allegedly ordering the murders of two former allies in Manila.

The Philippines has braced for fallout from the arrest, with the military going on red alert as Sison's supporters vowed to intensify their insurgency. Leftist groups worried about a possible crackdown and all-out war.

Senior Superintendent Jaime Calungsod, the district police chief, said the rally had no permit. He ordered police to arrest organizers and confiscate their streamers and other rally materials. Negotiations averted arrests, but Calungsod said police will pursue illegal assembly charges.

Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the communist umbrella organization National Democratic Front, in a statement issued from the Netherlands, called the arrest "a conspiracy between the Dutch and Philippine governments" to force the NDF to capitulate in stalled peace negotiations with the government.

At least five protesters suffered bruises in a scuffle with police shortly after the start of Thursday's march, said Carl Ala, spokesman of the Philippine Peasants' Movement.

The activists demanded Sison's immediate release from jail in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, chanting "Arrest Gloria, not Joma," referring to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Sison's nickname.

"The Arroyo government is sorely mistaken when it thinks that it can intimidate the people's movement for national liberation and democracy," said Carol Araullo, chairwoman of the left-wing group Bayan. "The whole world is seeing the insincerity of the Philippine government in pursuing the peace negotiations."

Some Progress Is Good

There's a long way to go in this War. One disadvantage the Islamists have is they might work people up at first but it doesn't take long for the locals to realize that things are better without them.

Thai Leader Says Progress Made Against Violence in South

Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont says some progress is being made in reducing violence in the country's southern provinces, which have been wracked by Muslim separatist violence. Mr. Surayud made the comment while calling for greater cooperation among Southeast Asian nations that have suffered from Muslim terrorism. Ron Corben reports from Bangkok.

Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont says he hopes the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Australia will give attention to terrorism in states belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

Mr. Surayud, speaking to reporters before his departure for the September summit, says terrorism is the main security issue currently facing the region.

"ASEAN as a whole is quite concerned with the terrorism, which has become a key security issue in the region," he said.

Mr. Surayud adds that individual countries are finding it more difficult to cope with the rising tide of violence.

"We know that this kind of threat is not local - it's a globalized situation at the moment. So it depends a lot on the cooperation among various countries worldwide to cope with this threat, otherwise we will not be able to cope," said Mr. Surayud.

A separatist campaign in the largely Muslim provinces of Southern Thailand has claimed the lives of more 2,400 people since early 2004. Five were killed in a series of attacks by suspected separatists just this week, including the shooting dead of a 67-year-old construction worker and the burning of his body

Earlier this week, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch reported that separatist groups in the south have vowed to fight on "without any compromise" with the Thai state. The group and others say the separatists are aiming for a state independent from largely Buddhist Thailand.

Still, Mr. Surayud says the state is making some progress against the separatists.

"On the Thai side, we already make some progress in terms of reducing the level of violence in the Southern part of the country, according to the aggressive operation on the government side," he said.

In recent months, Thai security forces have conducted sweeps across the region, making widespread arrests of alleged separatists and charging them with attacks on civilians and local officials, teachers and Buddhist monks.

Restiveness and Murder

More of the same from the usual suspects.

Eight die in fresh South violence

Insurgent attacks on state schools and Thai-Buddhist communities have claimed more civilian lives in the past two days in the deep South, provincial officials said Tuesday.

The fresh wave of violence coincided with the launch Tuesday of a 104-page report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch which roundly blasts the southern Muslim separatists for targeting civilians in its political struggle.

Two public school teachers were gunned down on Monday in Pattani, 720 kilometres south of Bangkok, and six other Thai-Buddhists slain Monday and early Tuesday.

"The insurgents have shifted their tactics from beheading villagers to targetting public school teachers," said Pattani Governor Panu Uthairat. Altogether 69 teachers have been killed in Thailand's southern conflict over the past three years and eight months.

Female teacher Kesine Timthep, 42, was shot dead Monday in front of her pupils by two gunmen as she was about to enter the Sasanasuksa School in Sai Buri, Pattani. A male teacher was also gunned down Monday in Yalang, also in Pattani province.

Arsonists set fire to at least five state schools in the province Monday night, forcing ten schools to shut their doors to pupils on Tuesday.

Prapaijit Noonlaksert, 44, a female rubber tapper, was killed in an ambush early Tuesday as she entered a plantation with four other Thai-Buddhist workers, police said.

"The recent wave of attacks may be in revenge for all the suspects authorities have arrested in recent weeks," said Panu. Thai authorities have rounded up hundreds of suspected insurgents in the past three months, keeping many of them in detention under powers allowed by an emergency decree enacted in the region.

Some 2,500 people have fallen victim to an escalating separatist movement in Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, since January, 2004, when the conflict took a militant turn for the worse.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday launched a 104-page report on the conflict that sharply criticized the separatists for their increasingly brutal attacks on civilians.

"After decades of low-intensity insurgency, Thailand's southern region is becoming the scene of a brutal armed conflict," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Separatist militants are intentionally targeting both Buddhist and Muslim civilians in shootings, bombings and machete attacks."

The report identifies the Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani, or Patani Freedom Fighters, in the loose network of National Revolution Front-Coordinate as the backbone of the new generation of Muslim separatist militants.

Of the 2,463 people killed in attacks during the past 40 months, some 89 per cent or 2,196 victims were civilians, it said. At least 29 of the victims had been beheaded.

"Violence against civilians is being used by separatist militants to scare Buddhist Thais away from these provinces, keep ethnic Malay Muslims under control, and discredit the Thai authorities," said Adams. "But it is illegal and morally indefensible to deliberately target civilians in any circumstances."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Malaysia Turns 50

Hurray, we're free, now lets embrace a totalitarian ideology from the dark ages!

Malaysia's golden anniversary soured by widening ethnic divide

Malaysia marks 50 years of independence this week as an economic success story with a worrying trend: a widening ethnic divide.

Ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indian dance troops were to perform together in a national parade Friday to commemorate the end of British colonial rule on Aug. 31, 1957. For many Malaysians, the display of unity will be just a show.

"We see Malaysia being divided into religious and ethnic ghettos," said Farish Noor, a Malaysian political analyst based in Berlin. "That's why I find it so difficult to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence because I see so few 'Malaysians.' ... Everyone speaks of his own tribe."

At the heart of the polarization is deep disenchantment among the minority Chinese and Indians over two issues. One is a long-running affirmative action program for Malays, a Muslim people that make up 60 percent of the population. The other is the growing influence of Islam, with the apparent blessing of the government.

Analysts warn that minority discontent could upset the ethnic peace that has been the bedrock of Malaysia's stability and economic prosperity. Ethnic Chinese represent 25 percent of the country's 26 million people, and Indians, 10 percent. About 5 percent belong to indigenous groups.

"Sometimes it is disgusting how the Malays treat us. They have no respect for us Indians," Murali Mogan, a 19-year-old barber, said. "If I could, I would leave and settle in London."

Further, if Islamic conservatism is not controlled, many experts fear that Malaysia could become a breeding ground for hard-liners who want to impose a strict interpretation of Islam.

"If you give them space to move in, to maneuver, they will come in," said Al-Mustaqeem M. Radhi, a Malay Muslim who runs the Middle-Eastern Graduates Center, a think tank in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia "could become a fertile ground to train and nurture the extremists."

But Radhi and others play down worries that Malaysia could become a haven for the al-Qaida terror network and its regional affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah. The two organizations tried to recruit Malays and held at least one key meeting here to plot the Sept. 11 attacks. But the network has been rolled up in Malaysia since early 2002.

Economically, Malaysia has much to celebrate.

From a postcolonial tin-mining backwater in the 1950s, Malaysia has grown into an industrial state that exports semiconductors and other electronic goods and aspires to become a fully developed country by 2020.

It boasts the Petronas Twin Towers, the third tallest building in the world, and its new capital, Putrajaya, is a sprawling, leafy city of grand architecture, palatial ministerial homes and fantastically shaped bridges.

Only 5 percent of the population lives in poverty, down from 50 percent at independence. Annual per capita income, adjusted for inflation, has jumped from US$290 (€210) to US$3,700 (€2,700).

The nation's political stability stems from a power-sharing arrangement that has kept the National Front, a coalition of Malay, Chinese, Indian and other parties, in power since 1957.

The unspoken threat of a law that allows indefinite detention without trial also helps keep dissent at bay.

"The Malaysian state realizes that you can maintain soft authoritarianism through a combination of threat and patronage ... to keep things warm but never on the boil," Farish said. "It never lets the situation reach a boiling point but it can cook the Malaysian public for eternity."

Race riots broke out in May 1969, but Malaysia has otherwise enjoyed five decades of generally peaceful ethnic relations. Malik Imtiaz, a prominent constitutional and human rights lawyer, says that reflects racial tolerance, not racial integration.

Entire neighborhoods, and sometimes towns, are identified with a particular ethnicity. The three groups rarely mix outside the workplace and know little about each other's cultures. In university cafeterias and shopping malls, young people tend to cluster by race.

"There is a lot of tolerance among races in many respects. But the comfort level with each other is not there," said Azmi Khalid, the environment minister and a member of the ruling Malay elite.

Minority anger has grown over the New Economic Policy, which has given preference to Malays — historically the poorest group — in jobs, education and businesses since 1971. The policy is credited with lifting the education level of Malays, also known as Bumiputeras, or "sons of the soil." But critics say it has evolved into a tool to benefit a few well-connected Malays.

There are growing calls, even from some Malays, to scrap the policy.

Please let me point out that this "ethnic divide" isn't growing because of anyone OTHER than the Islamists and Gwen Stefani protesting ilk.

EU Can Watch

The EU can watch but DON'T TOUCH!!

Thailand puts conditions on EU poll observers

Thailand has agreed to allow the European Union to observe its general election scheduled on December 23 but has refused to sign a memorandum of understanding on the diplomatically sensitive issue, officials said Wednesday.

Election Commissioner Apichart Sukhagganond agreed Tuesday to allow EU representatives to observe the December 23 polls but said signing a MOU on the matter would be tantamount to ceding over the country's sovereignty.

"This could set a precedent for other countries to ask for the same thing," said Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charunvat. "And it's not like this is the first election we have held. I think we are quite experienced because we hold many elections."

The EU's ambassador to Thailand, Friedrich Hamburger, will meet with the Election Commission on September 7 to discuss the terms and conditions for setting up a polls monitoring mission with or without a MOU, sources said.

"We can't just turn up at the airport and start doing it," said an EU official, who asked to remain anonymous.

The EU has sent missions to monitor elections in Cambodia and Indonesia but this will be the first time it has done so in Thailand.

The EU has asked permission to observe Thailand's next election to assure the international community that the polls are conducted freely and fairly despite Thailand's current political circumstances.

Thailand has been under a non-elected government since September 19, 2006, after the military staged a coup to oust former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his cabinet.

The EU was critical of the coup and called on Thailand to hold an election to restore democracy as soon as possible.

The junta that staged the coup promised to return power to the people within a year, and on Monday set an election date for December 23.

Yes the EU, those champions of freedom and democracy. Of course they'd never use force to take power. They do it the sneaky way.

Restive Rebels Kill 7

Rebels? Like in Star Wars?

Rebels kill seven in south Thailand

policeman who had been guarding the Thai queen was among seven people shot dead by suspected separatists in Thailand's Muslim-majority south, police said on Tuesday.

Militants ambushed a police vehicle that had been providing security to Thailand's Queen Sirikit, about 20 minutes after she had arrived at the palace in Narathiwat province where she is vacationing, police said.

A 27-year-old policeman was killed and two others seriously injured in the ambush late on Tuesday, they said.

In another attack, militants shot dead a 67-year-old Buddhist construction worker and set his body ablaze late yesterday in Pattani province, police said.

Two Buddhist women were also shot dead in separate attacks in Pattani and Yala provinces, while two Muslim men were killed in drive-by shootings late yesterday in Narathiwat, police added.

Another Muslim man was killed late yesterday in the province of Songkhla as he pedalled his ice cream cart, the authorities added.

More than 2,500 people have been killed in the unrest that has gripped Thailand's restive southern Muslim heartland for more than three years. The region was annexed by Buddhist Thailand a century ago.

The situation has worsened since the military seized power in Thailand in a coup last year, despite increased defence spending and a raft of peace-building initiatives.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bashir The Rat Speaks

Why is the man not in prison?

Indonesians live in sin: Bashir

INDONESIAN Muslims are living in sin as long as they fail to implement Islamic law across the world's fourth largest nation, hardline cleric Abu Bakar Bashir said today.

"As long as we live in a secular state, Indonesian Muslims continue living in sin," the Muslim leader told some 200 participants attending a seminar on Islam and democracy.

Bashir heads the Indonesian Council of Mujahedin, an umbrella organisation advocating the implementation of Islamic or sharia law across Indonesia.

The Government permitted Aceh province to begin implementing Islamic law, and that was to pacify demands for independence. Some districts have also passed strict Islamic bylaws.

Bashir said that sharia was a non-negotiable matter and "we cannot act in a soft way in order to implement Islamic law".

"The Muslim community has an obligation to struggle to make a drastic change in support of Islamic law implementation," he said, without specifying how they should do this.

As long as the country did not adopt sharia, Muslims had to follow it in their personal lives, as well as in their groups, he added.

Bashir, 68, was released from jail in June last year after serving more than two years for his role in a "sinister conspiracy" that led to the Bali bombings of October 2002. The attacks left 202 people dead.

The Supreme Court in December overturned his conviction, to outrage from the families of the bombing victims.

More than 90 per cent of Indonesia's 232 million people are Muslims, but most follow a more moderate version of Islam.

Pinoys Shelling Abu Sayyaf

Shelling may work better than talking with these nutters

Philippines troops shell Islamic militant stronghold

Government forces shelled an Islamic militant stronghold in the southern Philippines in preparation for an offensive, the military said on Tuesday.

Mortar fire started on Monday on a suspected Abu Sayyaf hideout in the jungles of the island of Basilan, said Captain Niel Estrella, spokesman for its counter-terrorist task force.

"It's part of our offensive, to soften the target defence. This is to support our ground troops" massed around the Al-Qaida linked group, he said by telephone.

No casualties have been reported. President Gloria Arroyo ordered an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf last month after an ambush on a troop convoy in Basilan on July 10 that left 14 marines dead. Fighting has since spread to the nearby island of Jolo.

Some 24,000 people from the two mainly Muslim islands have fled their homes with the government deploying 17 army and marine battalions to pursue some 120 Abu Sayyaf members in Jolo and 58 others in Basilan.

"They are mobile but their movement is limited," Estrella said of the Basilan-based militants. "Anywhere they go they are vulnerable. We are trying to close off all possible escape routes."

The Abu Sayyaf group has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in the Philippines, including the 2004 bombing of a passenger ferry that killed over 100 people.

Blamed for? Or taken credit for?

Drugs From Laos? Really?

Hardly a large bust. I wonder who they crossed to get turned in.

Drug traffickers caught at Vietnam–Laos border

A group of traffickers was caught red-handed while trying to transport 14 cakes of heroin (approximately 7kg) from Laos to Vietnam on August 24.

According to border police from Quang Tri Province in Viet Nam and Savalnakhet Province in Laos, the suspects are members of a drug trafficking ring operated by a 38-year-old car dealer named Pet in Savalnakhet, Laos.

Vietnamese and Lao police have been tracking the group’s activities since their illegal acts were first detected in May 2007.

On August 24, two drug traffickers led by Pet were stopped by Lao Police in Se Pong District while transporting heroin toward Viet Nam by car. A search revealed 7kg of heroin, 18,000 Baht and US$200.

Under police interrogation, Pet revealed two of his accomplices, Thao Mom and Thao Nen.

According to the suspects, the heroin is of high quality, often referred to as “ice water.” Each 0.5kg cake goes for VND225 million (approximately US$14,000) in black markets.

The three suspects stood trial yesterday.

Rights Group Notices

A Human Rights group notices that restiveness isn't nice. From the Washington Post.

Rights Group Documents Brutality Of Insurgents in Southern Thailand

Separatist militants in Thailand's mostly Muslim southern provinces have stepped up a decades-long, low-intensity insurgency into a wave of brutal bomb attacks, assassinations, machete hackings and, in some cases, beheadings and mutilations in the past 3 1/2 years, an extensive Human Rights Watch report said today.

Interviews with witnesses, family members, academics, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists painted a bloody picture of the predominantly ethnic Malay provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla from January 2004 to last month.

Of the 2,463 people killed in attacks during that time, a total of 2,196, or 89 percent, have been civilians. "Violence against civilians is being used by separatist militants to scare Buddhist Thais away from these provinces, keep ethnic Malay Muslims under control and discredit the Thai authorities," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Village-based militants who call themselves the Patani Freedom Fighters have emerged as the core of a more violent generation of separatists bent on carving up the southern border provinces between ethnic Malay Muslims and so-called "infidels." They claim the land is a religious "conflict zone" that must be freed from what they term a Buddhist Thai occupation.

More than 3,000 attacks have targeted civilians since January 2004, including attacks on schools. Teachers, public health workers, hospital staff and infants in their mothers' arms have been victims of violent rampages that have terrorized inhabitants.

Summary executions based on ethnicity have been carried out by green-clad gunmen with assault rifles, who ambush victims along country roads, the report said.

Ethnic Malay Muslims suspected of collaborating with Thai authorities or known for their opposition to the militants have also come under attack. Those Malay Muslims are treated as "traitors or hypocrites" for betraying what Human Rights Watch described as "a radical blend of Malay nationalism and Islamist ideology."

One example was the killing of the son of one Muslim Malay village chief. Usman Jaema told Human Rights Watch that his 15-year-old son was hacked with machetes and axes in January 2004 by separatists who wanted to warn the chief not to oppose their operations.

"There are around 10 Muslim youths in this village who join the militants. They have been trained to become guerrilla fighters. They do not like me," Jaema was quoted as saying. "After the attack, my villagers look down on me. They said I could not protect my own son, then how could I be able to protect them? Some of them even said that it might be practical to give support to the militants to ensure their safety."

Monday, August 27, 2007


Fears of creeping conservatism in Malaysia

As Malaysians prepare to celebrate 50 years of independence from Britain, there are growing concerns about the influence of Islam and a creeping conservatism in religion and politics.

While Malaysia is one of the world's most stable and moderate Islamic nations, there is some soul-searching about what the future holds.

In the Malaysian state of Kelantan there are separate checkout aisles for men and women, and calls for sharia law to be adopted.

When independence was granted in 1957, the new leaders promised peace and harmony of ethnicity and religion for all Malaysians - Malay, Chinese, Indian.

Since then Malaysia has been hailed as a modern and moderate Islamic nation.

Despite growing concerns, that is still the case, says Abdul Hamil Otman, the religious adviser to Malaysia's Prime Minister.

"Although there are some interpretations here and there, it's not a big problem for the country," he said.

It used to be that only small parts of Malaysia imposed strict Islamic practices.

But Zainah Anwar, from Sisters in Islam, sees an alarming trend emerging.

"These groups that are at the forefront of the Islamic revival movement, pronounce that the kind of Islam that we have been practising all this long is Jahiliah Islam - Islam of the ignorant," she said.

Malaysia's constitution determines that anyone born into the majority ethnic Malay population is automatically a Muslim.

And sharia law deems that once a Muslim, always a Muslim.

But Dr Otman says this is a constitutional problem, not a religious problem.

He says the Government is looking at that section of the constitution, but not much progress has been made.

Another issue confronting Malaysia is the affirmative action program affecting the majority ethnic Malays, or Bumiputras.

What was designed to overcome the economic marginalisaton of Malays under the British has over three decades become an instrument for cronyism and nepotism.

Critics such as Ms Anwar say it has done little to benefit ordinary people.

"It deepens the intertwining of business and politics and merit is no longer the first criteria," she said.

The ruling United Malays National Organisation has been reluctant to alter the policy.

But as time goes on it is getting harder to shake off accusations that it is a form of protectionism.

Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has been lobbying Asian leaders to press the point at next month's APEC meeting in Sydney.

Restiveness Kills Teacher

More "restive" activities from the "separatists".

Schools closed after attacks in S Thailand

Education system in Thailand's far southern region was hit by fresh violent attacks on Monday as a female teacher was killed in a drive-by shooting, while bombing and arson attacks prompted schools in the Pattani and Yala provinces to close.

Kesinee Timptep, 42, was shot at the gate of the Sassanasuksa School in Sai Buri district, Pattani province at 10:30 a.m. Monday, according to news network The Nation. She later died at a local hospital.

Witnesses told police that she was shot in the head by a pillion rider who fled the scene after the shooting, the report said.

Earlier in Pattani, three schools and a child development center in Sai buri district, and two schools in Kapo district were torched, prompting the closure of all schools in the two districts for Monday, according to Thai News Agency.

In Pattani's Yarang district, three schools have been closed for an indefinite period due to security concerns after the director of a local school was killed last Friday.

In nearby province Yala, two bombs exploded in front of the Banphaphoo-ngo School in Raman district early Monday.

The first bomb went off at 5:20 a.m. (2230GMT), while a second bomb was detonated as security personnel arrived to investigate the first bombing. No one was wounded in the incidents. The school closed on Monday after the bombing.

Election Date Set

The pundits who had nothing to say about Thailand for last 5 years have lots to say about the referendum most of it negative. Well in any event the election date has been set.

Thailand to Hold Election on Dec. 23, Surayud Says

Thailand's junta-installed government set Dec. 23 for an election to regain foreign investors' confidence. Analysts said it would see politicians loyal to ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra win support.

An elected government will help ``bring Thailand back into the international community'' and restore confidence, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said when announcing the date today.

The military junta, which seized power in a September coup, hopes the election will lessen the political uncertainty that has hurt the economy. It justified the putsch by charging that Thaksin was corrupt and had ``destroyed'' Thailand's democratic principles and sponsored a new constitution curbing the powers of the prime minister.

``The election will be a battle for power between the previous administration and the military,'' said Suriyasai Katasila of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, an activist group that opposed Thaksin while he was in office. ``It will lead to more divisions rather than reconciliation.''

Thailand's consumer confidence declined in July to the lowest in five years as protests against the government and military led to the arrest of its main critics, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said Aug. 9. More than 40 protesters and police officers were injured at a July 22 demonstration involving as many as 5,000 people opposed to the coup leaders.

Thai Constitution

Thaksin's former party, disbanded by a junta-appointed court, won a two-thirds parliamentary majority when Thailand last voted in 2005. While Thais backed a new junta-sponsored constitution by 57.8 percent in an Aug. 19 referendum, it was rejected by 62.8 percent in 19 northeastern provinces.

Thaksin, through his spokesman Noppodol Pattama, last week called on the junta to stop its politically motivated asset seizures and charges against him.

The junta, which is seeking Thaksin's extradition from Britain, has no intention of staying in power after the new elected government is formed, army chief Sondhi Boonyarataklin said on Aug. 15 while campaigning for the new constitution.

``Thaksin continues to have strong support in the north and northeast, as shown by the referendum on the new constitution,'' said Chaiyaporn Nompitakcharoen, an investment strategist at Bualuang Securities Pcl in Bangkok. The election is likely to result in a weak government with a narrow majority, he said.

Political Deadlock

Most Thais hope the December election will help end the political deadlock of the last few years, Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrat Party, said on his Web site Aug. 26.

The party, Thailand's biggest since Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai was disbanded, faces the People Power Party set up by supporters of the ousted premier in the election.

The party includes about 270 former lawmakers of the Thai Rak Thai party and is led by former Bangkok Governor Samak Sundaravej, who pledged to ``lead the fight'' against the ``abuse of power by the military.''

International monitors will be sought to prevent fraud during the voting, party spokesman Kedeb Saikrachang said today.

Malaysia Slides Toward Complete Crappiness

Well on their way. A good overview of the direction 'moderate' Malaysia is headed.

Malaysia's axis mysteriously shifting

When Abdullah Badawi became Malaysia's prime minister in 2003, many thought the mild-mannered leader would take a more moderate approach to international relations than his prickly predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, who often locked diplomatic horns with the United States and other Western countries.

But a string of scandals and crimes with international dimensions, some even linked to Abdullah's family members, have put his
government's relations with Washington on an uncomfortable footing.

US authorities last month arrested and charged Pakistani national Jilani Humayun for his alleged role in shipping contraband military goods to Malaysia, from where they were re-exported to Iran. He was also charged with conspiracy to commit money-laundering and mail fraud. The sensitive dual-use hardware, which was funneled through an as yet unnamed Malaysian company, included parts for F-5 and F-14 fighter jets and Chinook helicopters.

In April the US imposed sanctions on 14 companies, individuals and government agencies it accused of dealing in advanced weapon technology with Iran or Syria. Two of the companies listed were Malaysian, the Challenger Corp and Target Airfreight.

Moreover, a federal jury in New York last year convicted Singaporean businessman Ernest Koh Chong Tek of smuggling dual-use US military parts to Malaysia for transshipment to Iran's military - a violation of the 1995 embargo the US placed on all exports and re-exports of commodities to Iran without approval by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control. He was also charged with laundering millions of dollars through his Singapore bank accounts in the smuggling scheme.

The US and Iran are currently at diplomatic loggerheads over Tehran's nuclear program, and Washington has frequently accused Iran's military of arming radical Muslim militias in the Middle East, including the Lebanon-based Hezbollah as well as Iraqi insurgents who have targeted US troops. However, at least on the surface, bilateral relations with Malaysia remain cordial.

US officials who spoke with Asia Times Online would not comment on the investigations involving Malaysia on the grounds that they involve sensitive intelligence information. And so far there is no evidence to link recent violations of the US embargo directly to Abdullah. Yet security analysts say the recent incidents have put the crucial bilateral relationship on edge.

"I am absolutely sure that the US is watching these developments closely and pressing hard on Malaysia behind the scenes," said Tim Huxley of the Singapore-based International Institute of Strategic Studies.

The US is Malaysia's largest foreign investor, and the two sides are negotiating a wide-ranging free-trade agreement. Kuala Lumpur relies heavily on the United States' military presence to maintain the region's balance of power, particularly vis-a-vis its heavily armed neighbor Singapore. At the same time, Malaysia has been a key ally to the US administration's "global war on terror" in the region.

"Malaysia needs the US and doesn't want to do anything that will tilt the US toward Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia," said Richard Bitzinger, a security specialist at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. "Both sides will be willing to accept some [security] deficiencies, if they remain at low levels."

Read it all...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Restive Duffy Kills 4

More restiveness, although 3 separatists will be less restive now.

3 insurgents, 1 soldier die in gunfight in Thailand's restive south

Soldiers raided a suspected militant hide-out in insurgency-wracked southern Thailand on Sunday, triggering a gun battle that left three suspected Muslim rebels and one soldier dead, the army said.

About a dozen soldiers took part in the raid and subsequent exchange of fire in Yala's Yaha district, Maj. Prawet Chusang said.

"They fired from inside the house as we were about to go in to carry out a search," Prawet said.

Three suspected insurgents and one soldier were killed, and another soldier was wounded, he said, adding that the military detained three more suspected insurgents.

More than 2,400 people have been killed in the predominantly Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and some parts of Songkhla since early 2004, when a separatist movement flared up after a lull of more than two decades.

The military considers Yaha district an insurgent stronghold and has enforced a curfew in the area since March.

The military has been launching offensive operations in several areas where insurgents are particularly active since May, detaining hundreds of insurgents for questioning. There have been at least two other gunfights in the restive region this month, leaving eight insurgents dead and one soldier wounded.

Here's something that won't be said. The previous seperatist movement was a communist one. This is an Islamist one. Big difference.

More Restiveness

If I could meet the member of the press who came up with the term "restive" to describe the violence in the South of Thailand I would make him shave his head and march around dressed as a Monk collecting alms to see how he likes the accuracy of the description.

Bomb blast kills 1 and injures 11 in Thailand's restive south

A bomb exploded as Buddhist monks collected alms in Thailand's restive south, killing a man and injuring 11 other people, including six soldiers who were guarding the monks, police said.

A bomb hidden underneath a table in front of a grocery shop in Pattani's Muang district went off as two Buddhist monks climbed off a military vehicle to accept an offering of food from the shop's owner, said police Col. Somchit Nasomyon.

The blast instantly killed the shop owner, Yaowaphan Thientham, Somchit said. It also injured six soldiers who were part of the patrol guarding the monks, three villagers and two monks known as novices because they are under 15 years, he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

More than 2,400 people have been killed since a Muslim insurgency erupted three years ago in the Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. Buddhists civilians and monks have been the insurgents' prime targets, as part of a campaign to terrify and drive Buddhist civilians from the region.

This might be called "Ethnic Cleansing" if the Serbs were doing it.

Buddhist monks have been slain and dozens injured in bomb explosions. For three years, the military has provided escorts for Buddhist monks while they collect alms in the morning.

During an official visit to Malaysia earlier this week, Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and his Malaysian counterpart Abdullah Ahmad Badawi discussed the ongoing construction of a bridge connecting the countries to facilitate the movement of people across the border.

"Malaysia has no policy of supporting separatism (within southern Thailand). It wants to develop its northern region, and that cannot happen if the violence in southern Thailand continues," Surayud said in his weekly address Saturday during a visit to Narathiwat.

Surayud and Abdullah also discussed establishing exchanges of students and Islamic teachers, as well as a program to allow Thais to cross the border to work and return home at night.

Malaysia interestingly enough does have a policy of treating the 40 percent of its own population who aren't Mulsim like shit so I'm sure they'll be a big help.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Malaysia Becomes Asia's Islamic Busy-Body

Malaysia, where tourists get hassled by the religious police, Hindu, Sikh and Christians can't get into the better schools and their secular Constitution gets over-ridden by Islamic law, has really begun to take itself far to seriously as of late.

Malaysia urges Philippines, Muslim rebels to resume peace talks soon

Malaysia has urged the neighboring Philippines to quickly resume peace talks with Muslim rebels, saying Kuala Lumpur is closely watching efforts to bolster security in the southern Philippines, a news report said.

Philippine government officials had been scheduled to restart Malaysian-brokered talks with Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas on Aug. 22, but the meeting in Kuala Lumpur was abruptly canceled last week. Chief government negotiator Rodolfo Garcia said he sought the postponement to give him more time to consolidate data and the government's position.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said late Saturday the reasons behind the delay "should be identified quickly so that resumption of the negotiations can begin," the national news agency Bernama reported.

"It requires faith on the part of the parties involved," Bernama quoted Syed Hamid as saying. "Whatever happens in southern Philippines, it is very important for us to identify the implications and effects on Malaysia."

Syed Hamid's aides could not immediately be reached to confirm the report.

The talks have stalled since September last year over territorial demands by the rebels, who have been fighting for self-rule in predominantly Muslim areas in the southern Philippines.

Despite suspicions that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has ties to al-Qaida-linked militants, Philippine and U.S. officials have continued to promote the talks, hoping the guerrillas would end their rebellion and not become potential allies of terror groups.

Talk yes, that has helped so many times in the past dealing with Islamic groups. Just look at all the examples of peaceful resolutions to conflicts with Islamic groups. It should be as easy as making Jello.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Khmer Rouge Trials Update

As they used to say in those old Westerns... Hangings too good for him..

Khmer Rouge torture chief seeks bail

Duch, the chief Khmer Rouge inquisitor and the only person charged with atrocities by a joint Cambodian-United Nations tribunal so far, is seeking his release on bail, a court spokesman said on Wednesday.

Also known as Kang Kek Ieu, the head of Pol Pot's infamous S-21 interrogation centre in Phnom Penh, has been in the court's custody since he was charged last month with crimes against humanity.

Before that, the former schoolteacher and born-again Christian had been in a military prison since his arrest in 1999.

Trial spokesman Reach Sambath said the Cambodian and international judges serving jointly on the long-awaited tribunal would hold a hearing soon to decide whether to grant his request.

Despite progress in bringing charges against Duch, seen as a key witness, the $53 million trial continues to be plagued by allegations of interference by the Cambodian government, packed with former Khmer Rouge cadres.

In the latest spat, Prime Minister Hun Sen has been accused of trying to delay the process by appointing co-investigating judge You Bun Leng as head of the national appeals court.

U.N. rights officials said they were concerned at the appointment, although Hun Sen insisted there would be no need for You Bun Leng to give up his Khmer Rouge trial role and no delays.

An estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died of starvation, disease or forced labour under the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign of terror.

Russia Unveils its Un-Stealth Bomber

A few days ago the RAF scrambled their brand new Typhoon fighter jets to intercept a Russian "Bear" long range bomber. There has been a fair bit of opinions fielded on this and Russia's recent attempts to gain back its former glory. Here's my opinion.

Russia might want to think about designing and building some NEW bombers. This massive turbo-prop beast might have been top of the line in say the Cold War, which may I remind everyone is over and that we won but now it belongs in a museum.

The reason we won the Cold War is because free enterprise inspires something called "innovation" while totalitarianism punishes anything but uniform thinking and only creates corruption and killing fields. This is why while the Soviets were flying this thing thirty years ago the Americans had the Stealth Bomber.

The "Bear" would actually be classified as an "Un-Stealth" bomber as its engines are so loud and so distinctive sounding the Americans used track them with submarines.

One Less Abu Sayyaf

Let's get this straight. The Abu Sayyaf are not "rebels". Technically you could call the MILF rebels. Abu Sayyaf are terrorists. What qualifies them as such? Cutting the heads off of kidnapped tourists, setting bombs off on commuter trains, blowing up shops, killing Priests and Nuns.

Muslim rebel killed in military raid in southern Philippines

A Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebel was killed during a raid on a suspected guerrilla hideout on a southern Philippine island, an army spokesman said Friday. Army troops swooped down on the suspected Abu Sayyaf lair in Umbay village on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, before dawn on Thursday.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres said one Abu Sayyaf rebel, identified as Abdul Majid, was killed in the raid.

Torres said Majid was wanted for kidnapping and illegal detention.

"Seized from his house were a magazine for M16 rifle and ammunition for a 45-caliber pistol," he said.

The Philippine military has stepped up offensives against Abu Sayyaf rebels in Jolo and nearby Basilan province after suffering heavy casualties in the battlefield.

Since last month, more than 50 soldiers have been killed in clashes with Abu Sayyaf rebels and other Islamic militants in Jolo and Basilan.

General Hermogenes Esperon, armed forces chief of staff, said the military aims to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Jolo within two months.

"We will apply the full force of our large presence in the two areas if only to see an early neutralization of the Abu Sayyaf," he said.

"They would be put off balance and will not be able to launch any terrorist activities," he added.

Esperon said that once the military has neutralized the Abu Sayyaf's threat, the armed forces would then launch civic and humanitarian missions in affected areas.

China Puts Dissident Blogger In Nut House

China's human rights record is almost as good as their safety standards.

Dissident blogger in China put in mental hospital

The Chinese dissident blogger He Weihua has been confined in a psychiatric hospital in a detention his family blames on his criticism of the government, a press freedom group said Friday. "It is unacceptable that the Chinese authorities use such methods to silence citizens who have just expressed their views peacefully online," Reporters Without Borders said. "... How can the authorities expect us to believe that a mentally ill person is capable of detailed investigative reporting?"

The Paris-based organization said He was sent to the hospital in the southern province of Hunan early this month after making a posting in July on his blog that criticized an increase in pork prices by Hunan officials and predicted corruption within the Communist Party would soon cause its collapse.

Reporters Without Borders described itself as outraged by He's detention and called on the central government to intervene with Hunan authorities for He's release.

"We fear that this case shows that the Chinese authorities have still not abandoned the use of punitive psychiatry against those who expose abuses and defy censorship," the group said.

He's relatives told the group that he is not mentally ill.

"He has written an enormous number of articles on human rights, especially on Boxun. I think he has all the qualities of a person of sound mind," one relative was quoted as saying by the group.

He was confined after receiving a judicial summons from the Public Security Bureau, and it was not his first stint in a psychiatric hospital, Reporters Without Borders said. He was also held in 2004 and given injections against his will by member of the State Security Bureau, it charged.

He was also run down by a motorcycle in September, and the driver told him to stop his human-rights writings, Reporters Without Borders said.

In June, the State Security Bureau searched He's home in the city of Hengyang, confiscating his laptop and warning him he faced consequences if he continued writing about human rights, it added.

China Blocks Activist's Wife at Airport

They were worried she'd "Cause harm to the country". They certainly don't need any help with that.

China Blocks Activist's Wife at Airport

Chinese authorities on Friday barred the wife of an imprisoned human rights activist from leaving the country to accept a humanitarian award on his behalf, a friend said. Yuan Weijing's passport and telephone were confiscated as she attempted to pass through security at Beijing airport, said Hu Jia, an AIDS advocate who himself has been under house arrest for months.

Yuan had planned to fly to the Philippines to accept a Magsaysay Award, Asia's version of the Nobel Prize, for her husband, Chen Guangcheng, a self-trained lawyer who helped farmers with grievances file court cases.

Chen, who is blind, was sentenced to four years, three months in prison in 2006 after he documented cases of forced abortions and other abuses by local family planning officials in his native province of Shandong in eastern China.

Barring Yuan from leaving shows the extent to which China's authoritarian communist rulers will go to prevent government critics from drawing attention at international forums to human rights abuses within the country.

In an interview Thursday, Yuan said: "I haven't done anything wrong, so I'll give it a try, and if they stop me then it's not my problem."

Yuan said authorities in Shandong had attempted to prevent her from coming to Beijing and were blocking her from leaving Hu Jia's apartment where she had been staying. About 30 policemen blocked her on Friday, but she was eventually able to leave after about 45 minutes, possibly due to the presence of foreign reporters, Hu said.

Yuan called Hu to let him know her passport had been confiscated but the call was quickly cut off. Attempts to reach her again failed. It was not immediately clear whether she had been detained.

Hu said Philippines Airlines service personnel told his wife that Yuan's baggage had been taken off the plane by police - a likely sign that she would be forcibly returned to Shandong.

"The biggest loser here is not Yuan Weijing and not the Magsaysay Foundation but the Chinese government," said Hu. "This just really shows how bad the human rights situation is here."

China also blocked two previous winners of Magsaysay prizes from collecting their awards, including army doctor Jiang Yanyong, who embarrassed the government by revealing the true scale of the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Also blocked was crusading AIDS activist Gao Yaojie, who has been repeatedly harassed by provincial officials seeking to squelch news about the epidemic and government malfeasance that aided the disease's spread.

Hu said Yuan told him authorities cited a statute blocking people who may cause harm to the nation from leaving the country when they took away her passport.

Airport Graft

This is just the beginning. Thaksin sold the idea of the new Bangkok Airport as something that would make Bangkok a certail transportation hub. Instead, by using the power of graft they created the world's largest third world airport.

Airports of Thailand board has orderd King Power Duty Free out of Suvarnabhumi airport

The Airports of Thailand (AoT) board has ordered King Power Duty Free out of Suvarnabhumi airport after a fresh investigation found that its contract was signed without approval from the government.

The board, led by Gen Saprang Kalayanamitr, also gave the green light to take action against present and past AoT officials who colluded with the firm.

The evidence was in the findings of an outside committee headed by Pol Gen Pratin Santiprabhob set up to investigate King Power's right to operate commercial space in the passenger terminal of the new airport.

AoT decided in March that the contracts were void because they were designed to avoid the Public-Private Joint Venture Act that requires a lengthy selection process for any investment worth one billion baht or more by the private sector in a state project.

But the airport agency has not made any legal move.

King Power and its sister firm, King Power Suvarnabhumi Co, filed lawsuits with the Civil Court demanding 20.8 billion baht and 48 billion baht, respectively, from AoT in compensation for nullifying their contracts in March.

On August 23's meeting was told for the first time that the Pratin investigation had found the deals had bypassed both the cabinet and the Suvarnabhumi airport development committee chaired by the prime minister.

Read it all.

Thai Election Date To Be Set

Thailand: Date of general election to be set next week

The general election date will be settled next week in talks between Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and the Election Commission, which is responsible for organising and running it, the Bangkok Post reports.

EC secretary-general Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn said on August 23 the meeting early next week would determine the day and cover election preparations and new electoral regulations in line with new organic laws.

The EC and Gen Surayud have indicated Dec 23 as their favoured date for the general election but an official announcement still needs to be made.

The commission has already allowed new political parties to register to contest the polls.

But Election Commissioner Sodsri Sattayatham said any newly-registered political parties must have been engaged in political activities for a year to be entitled to a financial grant.

On Tuesday, Somsak Thepsuthin will register the Matchima Thipatai party, which is the result of the merger on Monday between two groups, Matchima led by him and Ruam Jai Thai under the leadership of a former deputy prime minister in the ousted government, Somkid Jatusripitak.

Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, alias Seh Daeng, tried to register the Seh Daeng party with the EC.

But Ms Sodsri said the army specialist cannot brand his new political party with his own name.

'In my opinion, Seh Daeng should know very well that registering a political party isn't done just for fun and that using his own name for the party is unacceptable, so the EC didn't allow him to do that,' she said.

'In the past many parties have been established with no other purpose than to get a financial grant from the EC.

Google News Blocked?

Typing "Thailand" into Google News gives you... No results. No such place. Never heard of it thank you.

I'm not sure if this is yet another example of the Junta's Luddite views on the Internet, which they are forever trying to block, censor and regulate because it is new and scary.

Oh well, there's always

Headmaster Shot

Schools are a target because they do bad un-Islamic things like teach girls to read and mix Buddhist and Muslim students which of course the Islamists are not exactly in support of. Only boys can go to school, and only Islamic schools that teach them to read the Koran, rock back and forth like little robots and kill their infidel neighbours.

School headmaster shot and burned in Thailand's restive south

Suspected insurgents fatally shot a school headmaster and then set his body on fire Friday in Thailand's violence-plagued south, police said.

Nong Bunsak, the 50-year-old headmaster of Ban Sano school, was shot while he was driving a car to pick up his wife, who taught at a nearly school in Pattani's Yarang district, said police Sub. Lt. Dutsadee Siltrakul.

Suspected insurgents on motorcycles fired at his vehicle, forcing him to stop and attempt to run away, police said. They then shot him before setting his body aflame.

Drive-by shootings and bombings occur almost daily in Thailand's three southernmost Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, where an Islamic insurgency that flared in January 2004 has killed more than 2,400 people.

Teachers, along with other government officials, have been prime targets of insurgent attacks. More than 60 public school teachers have been killed since 2004.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Arroyo Visits Troops

Very nice of her. I wonder if she brought them Jolibee for lunch.

Arroyo visits southern Philippines to meet troops battling al-Qaida-linked militants

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo flew to the southern Philippines amid tight security Thursday to confer with the military's top brass and meet families of troops slain in recent battles with al-Qaida-linked militants.

Shortly after arriving at the military's Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga city, 860 kilometers (535 miles) south of Manila, Arroyo handed cash assistance to families of slain soldiers. She then went into a closed-door conference with security commanders, officials said.

Arroyo warned Tuesday the military offensives on nearby Basilan and Jolo islands may prompt militants to sow terror elsewhere in the country. She said she ordered the military and police to bolster security.

Hours later, however, a bomb exploded in a crowded square in Zamboanga, wounding 14 people. The bombing, carried out amid already-tight security in the city, may have been set off by the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group to divert the military's focus from the offensives, officials say.

The government will not ease off the campaign, Arroyo said. She also ordered officials to launch a "humanitarian offensive" on Basilan and Jolo to balance the military assault.

Arroyo was to have lunch with marines at their brigade camp on Basilan island.

U.S.-backed troops bombarded Muslim militant strongholds on the island on Sunday, a day after 15 marines and 40 militants were killed in fierce fighting, officials said.

The marines were killed when their unit attacked a jungle hide-out of the Abu Sayyaf near Basilan's remote Ungkaya Pukan township, sparking a daylong clash during which an air force pilot also died when his helicopter crashed at sea, the military said.

The military claimed about 40 insurgents were killed, including two commanders who allegedly took part in last month's beheadings of 10 marines on Basilan.

Police forces have been placed on full alert in the capital, Manila, and the southern Mindanao region, beefing up security in public areas and transport hubs.

The U.S. government has blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf — notorious for deadly bombings, beheadings and ransom kidnappings — as a terrorist organization.

Malaysia To Help Thais

Why am I not so enthused?

Malaysia may help Thai Islamic banking

Malaysia is ready to provide technical assistance in setting up an Islamic bank in Thailand, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wednesday.

"Malaysia will introduce Islamic banking in southern Thailand and Bangkok," the prime minister told reporters after the annual consultation between Malaysia and Thailand here.

He said the effort would begin with the development of the Islamic windows in the existing banks.

"And this of course depends on how the government responds to the situation in southern Thailand. I understand that they have some kind of licence to set up an Islamic bank but that is not a problem," he said.

Abdullah and his Thai counterpart, Surayud Chulanont, had an hour-long meeting.

Abdullah said many areas of cooperation could be developed between the two countries, including economic and investment as well as education.

"I'm very happy with the outcome of yesterday's meeting and the annual consultation today," he said, adding that the meetings were centred on deepening bilateral relations between Malaysia and Thailand.

Meanwhile, Surayud, told the joint press conference that there would be further discussions on the cooperation in Islamic banking in the near future.

"We will have discussions between banks of Thailand and Malaysia in the very near future," he said.

There should not be any problem in establishing the Islamic Bank in Thailand, he added.

"Thanks to Abdullah for his keen interest in providing everything that we would like to do in the future. This is the most important way of working closely together in the next 50 years," he said.

Puffer Fish Sold as Salmon

This is truly frightening

Poisonous Puffer Fish Sold as Salmon Kills 15 in Thailand

doctor says unscrupulous vendors have been selling meat from the highly poisonous puffer fish disguised as salmon. That's resulted in the deaths of more than 15 people over the past three years. Some 115 people have been hospitalized.

Although it was banned in Thailand five years ago, puffer fish continues to be sold in large quantities at local markets and restaurants.

The ovaries, liver and intestines of the puffer fish contain a poison so potent that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it can "produce rapid and violent death."

In Japan, the fish is called fugu (foo-goo) and is prepared by highly trained chefs and consumed by thrill-seeking Japanese gourmets.

Every year, there are reports of people dying or falling sick in Asia from eating puffer fish.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Molten Aluminium Spill Kill 14

Safety first!

Human error blamed for molten aluminium spill in China

Workers' negligence has been blamed for the molten aluminium spill that killed 14 and injured 59 others at a factory in east China's Shandong Province on Sunday, the provincial work safety watchdog has said.

The inner lining of an aluminium container at the factory in Zouping county fell off because it was mishandled by workers, which led to the spillage of aluminium at a temperature of 900 degrees Celsius, the Shandong Provincial Work Safety Bureau said.

Only three injured workers have been discharged from hospital so far, Xinhua news agency reported.

Four months ago, 32 workers were killed and six others injured at a steel plant in Liaoning Province when a ladle transporting molten steel broke.

UN Urges Cambodia to Reconsider Judge's Transfer

Excuse me but what was the UN doing when the Khmer Rouge were bashing babies heads against trees? Oh right. Nothing. As usual.

UN urges Cambodia to reconsider judge's transfer from genocide tribunal

The U.N. urged Cambodia to reconsider its decision to transfer a judge from the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying the move could disrupt efforts to convene the long-awaited genocide trials, a spokesman said Wednesday.

You Bun Leng, one of two investigating judges at the U.N.-backed tribunal, was recently appointed by the Cambodian government to head the country's Appeals Court.

After numerous delays, he and Marcel Lemonde, the U.N.-appointed judge, only recently began investigations of former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of crimes against humanity, genocide and other atrocities that caused the deaths of some 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.

The world body has urged Cambodia "to consider keeping Judge You Bun Leng in his current function as co-investigative judge" of the tribunal, said Peter Foster, a U.N.-appointed tribunal spokesman, in a statement Wednesday.

He said the U.N. officially delivered a note of concern to the Cambodian permanent representative in New York last Thursday, and was now awaiting a response.

"Both sides are working on this issue to ensure that justice is moving forward," said Reach Sambath, a spokesman from the Cambodian side of the tribunal.

The tribunal was established last year following years of negotiations between Cambodia and the United Nations. Disagreements about tribunal rules kept the judges' investigations from starting until last month.

The judges have so far indicted one of five suspects. Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison. The other four have not been publicly named and still remain free in Cambodia.

S-21 or Tol Sang was a former school that the Khmer Rouge (Red Cambodians or Commie Bastards) used to "process" anyone who was considered an enemy of the revolution. This included children who had been trained in traditional Khmer dance and music. If this fellow IS the head of that place he deserves a slow and painful death.

Burmese Dissidents Jailed

Welcome to Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw. What could possibly have been the most prosperous country in Asia except for the Junta. The Junta who by the way originally ran the place under the catchy name "The Socialist Republic of the Union of Myanmar". Now they've shortened it to "The Union".

Why do socialists in the West fail to see that every "People's Republic" is some sort of dodgey hell hole?

Burma arrests 13 dissidents

Burma's military rulers have arrested 13 leading dissidents in a series of midnight raids designed to quash protests against rising fuel prices and falling living standards.

In a rare announcement in all state-run newspapers, the junta said the group had been arrested for "undermining stability and security of the nation". The reports confirmed names given to Reuters by relatives and friends.

Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Min Zeya, Ko Jimmy, Ko Pyone Cho, Arnt Bwe Kyaw and Ko Mya Aye - all leaders of a 1988 student-led uprising put down ruthlessly by the military with heavy loss of life - were among those detained, they said.

Min Ko Naing, winner of US, Canadian and European human rights awards, was released in November 2004 after 15 years in jail, but was detained last September for four more months.

"Military intelligence and government intelligence seized their house and searched their house," another dissident, Ko Htay Kywe, said in a recording emailed to Reuters by Burma exile groups in neighbouring Thailand.

Ko Htay Kwe had managed to evade capture when government agents raided his family house in Yangon, the former capital, and had gone into hiding, the exile group said.

The arrests came ahead of a planned protest on Wednesday against huge fuel price rises, the latest in a rare series of small demonstrations over deteriorating living conditions and galloping inflation in Burma.

The US Campaign for Burma said it feared those arrested would be ill-treated.

"Min Ko Naing and the other leaders arrested have all been severely tortured during previous incarcerations and we are gravely concerned for their immediate well-being," said Aung Din, policy director for the Washington-based group, in a statement.

Min Ko Naing's 88 Generation Students Group had condemned publicly the fuel price increases, imposed without warning last week, and organised a 400-strong peaceful protest march through Yangon city centre on Sunday.

Min Ko Naing - a nom de guerre which means "conqueror of kings" in Burmese - was not linked to Wednesday's planned demo under the auspices of Ko Htin Kyaw, a social activist who has been arrested four times this year.

Ko Htin Kyaw had said Wednesday's protest would go ahead unless the military regime that has been in charge for the last 45 years rescinded the price rises.

The world's biggest rice exporter when it won independence from Britain in 1948, Burma is now one of Asia's poorest countries.

Its most prominent detainee, 62-year-old Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been confined for more than 11 of the past 17 years.

Human rights groups and the United Nations say as many as 1,100 others are behind bars for their political beliefs.

Violent Protest In Indonesia

Violent protest leaves 13 injured, forces closure of airport in east Indonesia: Officials

Police used tear gas and water cannon to repel thousands of protesters, some throwing rocks and glass shards, at an airport in eastern Indonesia, officials said.

At least 13 people, including two security officers, were injured when riot police moved in to end the violent protest at Sultan Khairun Babullah Airport in Ternate, the capital of North Maluku province, said provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Mustofa, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name.

The protesters, angry about the exclusion of a candidate from a governorship election, had traveled to the airport to try and stop electoral officials from leaving.

Some protesters blocked roads with garbage, oil drums and glass in an attempt to stop them reaching the airport, while others destroyed offices and houses in Ternate forcing schools and business to shut down.

The airport was subsequently closed, the airport chief said.

"For safety reasons, we have decided to close the airport," said Ras Burhani. "It will be reopened after the situation returns to normal."

Oakwood Mutiny Sentences Passed

If you were going to stage a Coup why would you take over the Oakwood? Only in the Philippines.

Philippine army tribunal sentences 12 mutineers

A Philippine military tribunal dismissed 12 young army and navy officers from service on Wednesday for a failed mutiny in 2003, part of a deal which allows them to escape doing further jail time.

Brigadier-General Nathaniel Legaspi said the officers had pleaded guilty to a lesser offence of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.

"This general court martial hereby imposes the sentence of dishonourable discharge," Legaspi said.

The sentence has to be confirmed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The officers will remain in custody until then.

The 12 officers were among 29 leaders of the "Oakwood Mutiny", when soldiers took control of a service apartment block in the centre of Manila's Makati financial district for several hours. It ended without violence.

Another 15 officers were expected to enter into deals with the government, lawyers for the coup leaders told reporters. Only two officers, including one who won a senate seat in the May elections, have refused to make deals and will fight it out in court.

About 80 officers and 200 enlisted men were court martialled for the mutiny.

A few dozen were cleared because they were found to have been misled into taking part.

In 2005, the enlisted men were freed from army detention and restored to active service after they agreed to enter into plea bargaining deals, accepting minor punishments.

In April 2007, 54 officers also agreed to similar deals and would be freed on Jan. 27 next year after serving their prison terms. But they are deemed discharged dishonourably and cannot expect to be reinstated into active duty.

Arroyo, first propelled to power in a military-backed popular revolt in 2001, remains unpopular due to allegations of graft and vote-rigging and fraud in the 2004 presidential elections.

Islamists Kill 2, Free History Lesson

2 shot dead, 19 wounded in Thai bomb attacks

YALA, Thailand -- Two Muslims were shot dead and 19 people, including several policemen, were wounded in twin bomb attacks near a busy railway station Tuesday in Thailand's restive south, police said.

The first bomb, hidden in the front basket of a motorcycle, went off during the morning rush hour in Yala, one of three insurgency-torn provinces bordering Malaysia, they said.

As police rushed to the scene, a more powerful bomb exploded, injuring 19 people, including eight policemen and four from the local press.
The second explosive was hidden inside the same motorcycle, and insurgents detonated it through a remote control, police said.

Also in Yala, a 28-year-old Muslim man was gunned down by militants at a tea shop early Tuesday, and another 27-year-old Muslim man was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in the province late Monday.

More than 2,400 people have been killed and thousands more injured in separatist violence that has rocked southern Thailand for three years.

The region was an autonomous Malay sultanate until it was annexed a century ago by Buddhist Thailand.

The area was "officially" annexed 1909 in treaty between the British ruled Malaysia and the Kingdom of Siam. The area itself was conquered in the 1700s after the Siam war of independence against the Burmese. The Siamese still held a grudge with the Sultanate for attacking Ayutthaya the old Capital of Siam in 1563.

The British had promised to let the area become it's own independent state again after World War 2 but changed their minds as they saw Siam as an natural Allie against the various Communist insurrections in the region.

Malaysia was Islamified in the 13th Century. Before that the area was part of the
Hindu-Malay empire of Langkasuka.

In any event I'm sick of hearing the press say Thailand "annexed" the region from a sultante that hadn't existed for several hundred years. And I don't see how killing some poor bloke sitting in a tea shop is going to change history or restore the glory of the Sultante that died out in the 17th Century.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gwen Isn't Bad

I know, I posted something on this before... But I just wanted an excuse to post another photo of the hotness which is Gwen.

Gwen: I am not a bad girl

Gwen Stefani arrived here for her one-night concert with a message to her critics: “I am not a bad girl.”

“What they said about me is totally the opposite of what I believe in and how I see myself. I have a lot of respect for different cultures and religions. Plus, I’m a mother.

“Of course, I have certain moral values that I uphold. In America, they see me as a good role model,” said the former lead singer of No Doubt, who is now making waves as a solo singer.

Ahead of her arrival here for the Sweet Escape concert at the Putra Stadium tonight, there had been ripples of discontent and protests by some groups, who felt that she would be a bad influence on young Malaysians with her dressing and stage act.

Interviewed by Galaxie last night, however, she was donning a denim jacket, which covered a round-neck T-shirt. She was also wearing a long-flared white skirt.

The ensemble was from her LAMB collection which she personally designs.

However, she declined to be photographed, saying that she looked drab without her make-up and stage clothing.

“I’ve been in the music industry for 20 years and this is the first time that I’m facing opposition from people who have misunderstood me,” the 37-year-old American pop star said at her Shangri-la Hotel suit here.

Accompanying Gwen are her rocker husband Rossdale (of British group, Bush) and their 15-month-old son, Kingston, who she held in her arms during the interview.

It turned out that Gwen has got some Malaysian connection – Rossdale’s stepmother is Malaysian.

“I’ve made a lot of changes to my concert just for Malaysia. It’s a major sacrifice that I have made as an artiste. But I’m willing to do it ’cos I want my fans in this country to see me perform here.

“I will wear jackets over my tops and leotards underneath my skirts or dresses,” added Gwen, who had earlier privately met with Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Mohammed Mohd Daud.

“I will not mess up. I’ve got all the guidelines in my e-mail and I’ve been reading them so much that they’ve been drilled into my mind,” she said.

On thing folks in the West don't seem to be able to wrap their heads around is that the people would are protesting Gwen AREN'T going to be appeased by anything she does or any changes she makes as according to their strict reading of Islamic Law she should even be ON STAGE or able to do anything beyond cook and make babies.

No Gwen, you're not bad at all...

Hmong End Hunger Strike

It's good to see the world BEGINNING to notice the plight of the Hmong in Laos. Maybe someday they'll notice the plight of the Karens and everyone else there.

UN: Hmong refugees in Thai jail end hunger strike

A group of ethnic Hmong refugees from Laos have called off a hunger strike at a jail in northeastern Thailand, but are still being held in dire conditions, the U.N. refugee agency said, urging the Thai government to release them.

The 149 refugees - who began their strike on Thursday to protest the harsh conditions in which they are being held by immigration police in Nong Khai, 310 miles northeast of Bangkok - are all recognized refugees and should be released, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We are alarmed and deeply concerned about the steadily deteriorating detention conditions of the refugees over the last weeks," said Janet Lim, who heads the agency's Asia and Pacific bureau. "They are being held in truly inhumane conditions - including innocent children."

The group includes 90 children. Some babies were born in detention.

The refugees are crammed into two windowless cells and are forbidden to go out, UNHCR said. Their sole source of water comes from a bathroom, it said.

Amnesty International said it had "grave concerns for their welfare, particularly as more than half of them are children and some are already suffering from health problems."

They have been held at the center since January.

"There is absolutely no reason for these 149 people to be detained, especially as other countries have come forward and offered them resettlement places if they are only allowed to leave Thailand," Lim said in a statement.

The Hmong say they fear political persecution in Laos. Many Hmong fought on the side of a pro-U.S. Laotian government in the 1960s and 1970s before the communist takeover of their country in 1975.

More than 300,000 Laotians, mostly Hmong, fled to Thailand after the takeover. Most were resettled in third countries, particularly the United States, though several thousand were voluntarily repatriated back home. Several thousand continue to hide out in the jungles of Laos, where they are hunted down by the military.

Thailand asserts that the Hmong are not legitimate refugees, and have violated Thai law by entering the country illegally. Thai authorities have deported more than 300 of them over the past year.

The 149 Hmong in Nong Khai were on the verge of being repatriated to Laos in January when international pressure halted the move.

The UNHCR said the group had committed no crime and needed protection.

"We appreciate the assurances given by the Thai government that these 149 will not be deported," Lim said, but added that "now we need to move forward to end their detention, particularly as there is a solution at hand."

Pinoy Gold Mine

The fans of Gaia sure do love anyone who's "tribal". I don't know what the real background on this story is but the article has all the hallmarks being written my some Luddite. Read it if you dare.

NZ-listed gold miner faces Philippines opposition

Violence is feared likely to break out in a mountainous area of the Philippines – near the site of a multi-million-dollar gold and copper mine venture by New Zealand's largest gold miner, Oceana Gold Ltd.

The Philippine Star newspaper reported that anti-mining villagers – already stirred up over having New Zealand-listed Oceana's operation in the area – are blockading an Australian-owned company, Oxiana Philippines, which is moving in equipment for prospecting another site.

The villagers, led by tribal elders and supported by environmental groups and the local Catholic Church, have vowed to stand their ground against the miner, despite a court order for them to clear the road leading to the exploration site.

Last week, provincial sheriffs tasked to implement a court injunction gave the residents of Kasibu until Tuesday to vacate the road leading to the exploration site or else be forcibly dispersed.

But the anti-mining villagers vowed to stay on,the Philippine Star reported.

"It is our roads they will be passing through," said Denny Dugay, a community official. "And besides, we will never be in favour of mining." He alleged that Oxiana did not consult local leaders on the project, an allegation which the mining firm denied.

But Mayor Romeo Tayaban said the New Zealand and Australian-owned companies continued to explore mining prospects in their villages despite the stiff opposition from residents, composed of various tribal communities.

His villagers were struggling to fight off three mining projects by Oxiana Philippines Inc. and Oceana Gold Philippines Inc.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples both said residents in the primary impact zone had endorsed Oxiana's exploration project.

Engineer Jerrysal Mangaoang, MGB's Cagayan Valley regional director, said their national office granted Oxiana a two-year exploration permit covering 3000ha for explore gold, copper and other minerals of commercial value.

The Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement and various local environmental groups said the government should not have issued an exploration permit to Oxiana since its site is part of an important watershed.

Since July 12, tribal men have been guarding a barricade on a mountain road to prevent OPI's entry.

In nearby Papaya village, residents have also been protesting the entry of equipment to be used by Oceana Gold for its exploration, fearing possible destruction of the watershed forest there. Water from the watershed irrigates the vegetable gardens and citrus plantations in the area.

In Didipio village, eight farmers were charged by environment officials with illegal occupancy of forest lands after they rejected Oceana Gold's offer to pay for their occupational rights.

Didipio is the site of Oceana Gold's proposed gold-copper project, with about 90ha of its 375-hectare production area occupied by tribal farmers.

The Kasibu area is considered the citrus capital of the country, with an annual output of about 10 million kilograms of oranges from an estimated 20,000 hectares of citrus plantations.

Ramoncito Gozar, associate director of communications for the NZ-owned Oceana, said mining projects in the town would benefit the country.

"The mayor should realize that (the Didipio venture) is a government project for the good of the majority," he said.

"He doesn't like mining, but (OceanaGold) is a contractor of the Philippine government," Mr Gozar said.

Oceana Gold which owns the McRaes mine near Dunedin, is taking over Philippines gold and copper explorer Climax Mining Ltd and aims to become a major player in the region alongside giants such as Newcrest Mining Ltd and Lihir Gold Ltd.

Oceana Gold has said it expects to be producing 550,000 ounces of gold annually by the time Dinkidi is commissioned at the end of next year.

The Philippines ranks among the world's top five countries for deposits of copper, nickel and iron ore and is geographically closer to resource-hungry China than the region's other major mining centre, Indonesia.

Now... note that they are EXPLORING for gold. Not MINING it. As you have to EXPLORE AND FIND the gold first. There may be no gold to be found. Exploration gear would be a few rigs to drill for core samples, possibly some seismic survey gear and some equipment to clear a road to get to the drill sites. Yet in this article it is reported like the strip mining has begun and the trees are being clear cut by giant corporate-industrial-gaia-rape-machines driven by white men in suits smoking cigars and crushing the tribal elders as the sit in their drum-peace-circle.

What beef the locals have may very well be legit. I'm sure I wouldn't what kill-dozer and his family rumbling through my back yard. But this sort of reporting just makes the whole thing a joke by soaking it in all the tired cliches of the dirt worshippers. It also shows a frightening ignorance of mining and and exploration companies.

Of course "Oceana Gold has said it expects to be producing 550,000 ounces of gold annually by the time Dinkidi is commissioned at the end of next year". They aren't about to say "oh we don't actually have a clue what might be in the ground" as the shares would drop like a stone and they'd have no financing to continue looking for the gold.

Whole Lot of Shaking

The ring of fire is really active these days. I've sort of become weary of posting reports on Quskes in Indonesia because they have been happening every few days. Now the Philippines are shaking.

Earthquake hits S Philippines

A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit the waters 209 km southeast of Mati, Davao Oriental in southern Philippines, Monday night, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

No casualty or injury has been reported so far.

The earthquake occurred at 21:46 local time (1346 GMT) and was tectonic in origin and shallow with 10 km from surface.

The earthquake was felt in Butuan City and Bislig in Surigao del Sur, San Francisco in Surigao del Norte, Davao City, KidapawanCity and Casteel in Davao Oriental.

Indian "Foreign Militants" with Thai Links?

Restiveness is spreading all over the place. Why would "foreign militants" have links to "groups" in the South of Thailand? It's all so confusing! Guide me MSN...

India arrests 'foreign militants'

They said those arrested during weekend raids in the town of Moreh were either Rohingya people from the Arakan province of Burma or from Bangladesh.

Over the last 15 years, thousands of Arakanese Muslims have fled Burma to escape alleged government persecution.

A large number of Rohingya refugees live in camps in Bangladesh.


"We think they are members of a Rohingya insurgent organisation operating in Arakan but we are not yet definite which one," Maj-Gen BK Chengappa, who leads Indian counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, told the BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta.

Asked whether those arrested may have links to al-Qaeda, he said there was "no evidence" about such links, which "could only be speculative".

Police said no weapons were seized from those arrested, but some documents have been recovered suggesting they had links with Islamic groups active in Thailand.

Moreh, on the Burma border, is about 109km (68 miles) from Manipur's state capital, Imphal.

"If they are Rohingya insurgents, it is possible they would have links with militant groups in southern Thailand. But this is something we have to check in depth," an intelligence official told our correspondent.

He said possible links between those arrested and local Muslim radicals in Manipur is also being probed.

Earlier this year, three Manipur Muslims working for the Islamic radical group, Lashkar-e-Toyeba were arrested in Delhi.

About 7% of Manipur's population is Muslim.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Indonesia Volcano Erupts

Lava, hot ash spews from the mouth of volcano in eastern Indonesia

A volcano in eastern Indonesia spewed hot lava and clouds of ash high into the air early Monday, a vulcanologist said, hours after hundreds of villagers living on its rumbling slopes were evacuated.

There were no reports of injuries or damage, said Yudi Satipang, a vulcanologist who has been monitoring Mount Karangetang on Siau island since it was placed on high alert over the weekend.

"It sounds like huge thunderclaps," he said of the booming gas blasts from the crater, adding that villages, farms and trees on the 1,700-meter (5,577-foot) -tall mountain were covered in thick gray ash.

Karangetang is one of Indonesia's most active mountains, and it has been rumbling for days.

Nearly 600 residents living within the danger zone have fled to safety, and many were seeking shelter in government buildings, schools and mosques.

What could cause this?

a) Angry god
b) Secret US weapon
c) Gaia is angry at us
d) Shifts in the Earths plates

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

Siau, a popular diving island, is part of the Sulawesi island chain. It lies some 2,325 kilometers (1,444 miles) northeast of the country's capital, Jakarta.

China Airlines - Safety First?

Thank God everyone got out in time!

Plane 'burst into flames on runway'

A China Airlines jet has exploded into flames at an airport in Japan after arriving from Taiwan, but all 165 people aboard have escaped alive.

All 157 passengers - including two small children - fled the Boeing 737 on inflated emergency slides before the plane burst into a fireball, Transport Ministry official Akihiko Tamura told reporters.

China Airlines spokesman Sun Hung-wen told reporters in Taipei the aircraft skidded on the tarmac on its way from the runway to the gate after landing at the Okinawa airport, starting a fire that prompted the emergency exit.

The eight-member crew also safely left the plane, Sun said.

"The fire started when the first engine below the main left wing exploded, a minute after the aircraft entered the parking spot," Tamura said, adding that one crew member was injured, though the extent of the injuries was not known.

Tamura put the number of passengers at 157, updating the figure of 155 initially provided by China Airlines.

National broadcaster NHK showed footage of a squad of firefighters dousing the evacuated plane with extinguishers as flames and clouds of black smoke billowed from the fuselage.

"After the plane landed, there were flames, and I heard explosions a few times then saw black smoke," airport worker Hideaki Oyadomari told national broadcaster NHK. "We felt the hot air coming our way."

The cause of the fire, which reportedly began in one of the engines, was unknown. Japan's National Police Agency said terrorism was not suspected. "The plane landed safely so we are still checking why there was a fire," said Sun.

The Okinawa fire is a setback to China Airlines, which in recent years appeared to have improved on a troubled safety record among international carriers. A China Airlines 747 crashed in 2002 as it flew Taipei to Hong Kong, leading to 225 deaths, and some 450 people died in China Airlines accidents during the 1990s.