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Todd
Bangkok, Thailand
Reporter transplanted from Los Angeles to Bangkok
Interests: travel, games, journalism, energy, politics, culture, arts, military, experimental music, expat life
Recent Activity
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand, created after the spasm of unrest that left nearly 100 dead in Bangkok last year, has released its formal recommendation as prepared for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The attached letter is in Thai with an English version forthcoming. I've just received a copy and will comment after having it translated. Part 1 สิ่งที่ส่งมาด้วย 1 (การก่อการร้ายกับการมอบอำนาจฯ) Part 2 สิ่งที่ส่งมาด้วย 2 (นิติศาสตร์แนวพุทธ) Part 3 สิ่งที่ส่งมาด้วย 3 (Japanese Red Army) Part 4 สิ่งที่ส่งมาด้วย 4 (Red Army Faction) Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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The Great Lake of Siam As I write this, a torrent of water is surging into downtown Bangkok. Like many people, I considered the flooding of this giant megapolis extremely unlikely . Now I'm scrambling to make last-minute preparations. Thailand's central plain is a giant funnel, and all of the waters from the annual monsoon season must drain out through the little hole on the bottom. This hole is also known as the capital city of Bangkok. Since the modern urbanization, pavement and sprawl of Bangkok -- which was once a watery Venice-of-the-East -- the national strategy has been to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
Update: Olivier is in Paris receiving medical care and will be fine. He received several serious wounds that will need further surgeries to mitigate. Although the world would benefit from an Olivier cyborg, it would seem he's managed to not lose any body parts. Getting questions regarding my friend Olivier Sarbil, who's been working independently in Libya for several weekends with his partner Kate Parkinson. Heard from Kate this morning as AFP was reporting Olivier "seriously injured" during fighting around Sirte. She said that Olivier was in surgery and expected to survive after being wounded by shrapnel she said likely... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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Thais turned out in force to vote in today's general election with an estimated voter turnout of 76 percent. For the third time since Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in a military coup five years ago, voters endorsed his political party's leadership-by-proxy. This time around, that means political neophyte Yingluck Shinawatra (right) will likely be elevated to the station of prime minister. Thaksin's youngest sister is giving her victory speech following the honorable concession of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party. Yingluck is projecting modesty and humility. Reporters want to know if she'll be taking orders from her brother... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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Early voting began over the weekend throughout Thailand, where glossy election posters have choked the streets for weeks. A decade back, at the end of 2000, I was here during the campaign and eventual election of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It was to be a historic election under the kingdom's newest and -- according to many legal scholars -- best constitution. (Which in 2006 would be unilaterally rewritten by the military.) One thing changed are the candidates' images. Martial attire was the custom 10 years ago. But while the Royal Thai Army's power has not flagged during the past... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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Just when we thought it had been spent, "blood and treasure" resurged in Obama's un-surge speech. Sounds like the name of a World of Warcraft guild. The banking derivatives economic subprime lending collateralized debt vampire squid crisis has left "tranche" deeply entrenched in the lexicon. It's become generally accepted news-speak as an extensible metaphor and has trickled into casual parlance. Pray to your god/principle deity/alien progenitor/own-bad-self/talking demon head that no political necromancer is inspired to take "We've seen this movie before" out for another stumble in this pending American election cycle. It was a lemon the moment it drove off... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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By KENNETH TODD RUIZ BANGKOK -- Polychromatic political agitators, military-girded coups d'état, factional violence and courts of law have all had a hand in reversing Thailand's democratic fortunes during the past five years. Next month, Thailand's electorate hopes to voice the final word in restoring representative democracy by choosing new leadership in the first general elections held since 2007. Until that time, about 150 candidates have sought police protection for the remainder of the campaign while opponents trade accusations of impropriety. Although a panoply of parties will appear on their ballots, voters on July 3 face two choices: either to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
Antigovernment Redshirt demonstrators are marking the first anniversary of a violent crackdown by massing at the same location from which they were forcibly expelled May 19, 2010. Their vigil in front of the Central World Plaza in the Thai capital's upscale shopping district comes despite a rumored deal that has kept them off the streets in large numbers. Today the political parties drew their numbers for ballot position in the much-anticipated general election to take place July 3. After a year of relative quiet, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled Redshirt figurehead, has been actively campaigning for his Puea... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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Nearly a decade ago I was sleeping in an icy goat shed outside Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in the shadow of the "White Mountain" of Tora Bora. This was supposed to be the "end game" maneuver to kill Osama bin Laden, who was believed (and later confirmed) to be hiding in one of the cave complexes from which he once made a name for himself repelling a Soviet siege. He was within the reach -- but not the will -- of American forces at that time nine years ago. We even heard a voice believed to be his on the radio. But... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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So I noticed foodie Evan Kleiman of KCRW in that other City of Angels has unilaterally declared May 1st Global Street Food day. Good to see America tasting some of its much-celebrated diversity. Although the hipster horde of Los Angeles may have recently discovered catering trucks serving up lengua and all-things con carne, the joys of street food are largely absent from the American diet. I'm sure health codes and dysentery dissonance are factors. But while Americans focus on 'square' meals in carefully scheduled nutrient-consumption rituals, much of the world cruises through life grazing from stalls, booths, mobile kitchens and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
After many years of using GoDaddy.com for registering domain names, I've transferred them to another service after learning how founder Bob Parson likes to vacation. He doesn't need my $9.99 to shoot elephants. Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
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Images courtesy Tracy V. If you need a break from the figurative-and-literal meltdowns of global catastrophe, or the trove of lulz from #WINNING, I recommend one of my sources for daily succor: The Pattaya news crime blotter feed. From today's scan: "Kid Gangsters Rounded up by Police" "Body of Man Found in Waters" "Danish Expat Found Dead in Room" "Pattaya Packed with Russians" "Killing Cheaper than Vote-Buying" and "Amputee Out for Revenge gets Busted before Payback" Once a quiet beach escape at the end of a gravel road, American shore-leave helped transform Pattaya into what it is today: an accumulation... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2011 at Reporter in Exile
Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Government's most wanted political fugitive, could appear this month in Washington later this month before a U.S. government human rights agency. The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe has invited the former prime minister -- since deposed and convicted of corruption -- to speak about human rights in the kingdom, the Post reports. Although word has it Thaksin isn't quite so cozy these days with Thai opposition elements, the government has unsucessfully sought his extradition for the past four years. Thailand's recent extradition of suspected arms trafficker Viktor Bout would seem to give Bangkok a... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
A U.S.-based computer security journal reported today that Wikileaks' latest round of network attacks originated from computers in Russia and Thailand. (H/T @responseap) (Original source: Arbor Networks security blog.) One interesting item to look for among the State dispatches would be correspondence regarding American threat assessments of this past spring's red shirt campaign in central Bangkok. On March 17 -- the same day red shirts splashed blood onto the prime minister's home -- they also converged on the U.S. Embassy demanding to know if U.S. intelligence had been supplied to Thai authorities. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban earlier had cited... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
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"Give me your after-action reports, your démarches on Darfur, Your muddled mess of data yearning to be HTTP'd, The risk-mitigated refuse of your teeming SIPRNet core. Send these, the NOFORN, SECRET-classed to me, I will torrent it along with all my porn!" For the third time this year, Wikileaks grabs headlines by disseminating a trove of data lifted from the United States. Stuff never intended for the sun's light. This time truckloads -- or at least a USB thumb drive's worth -- of the State Department's diplomatic dispatches. Although some foreign service officers might be titillated to have their obscure... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
Without speaking to its merits, Thailand's Constitutional Court has voted 4-2 to dismiss the case against the ruling Democrat Party on procedural grounds. This avoids an outcome which would have immediately destabilized already tumultuous Thailand. In the long term, however, it is unlikely to bolster people's confidence in a system which dissolved the previous two opposition governments, one over a prime minister's cooking show. Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
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Imagine there was a special court in the United States that could entirely disband the Democratic or Republican parties for campaign spending violations or conflicts of interest. Not only dissolve entire parties, but also ban their members from holding office for five years. In Thailand, such a court exists. It has brought down two governments and twice dissolved popular political parties associated with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, himself deposed in a coup, convicted of corruption and on the run. Today, the latest chapter in Thai political turmoil will be written by Constitutional Court when it issues its verdict on... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
Today marks the sixth anniversary of the violent suppression of the red shirt movement's occupation of critical Bangkok areas this past spring. I've yet to make it over there, but someone just sent this: RATACHAPRASONG UPDATE 7am: Hordes of police if flowing in. Columns of prison vans are waiting. Large groups of riot police in full gear are moving around Ratchprasong. Many more are getting ready. Some "red camps" have been removed. Scattered red shirts are around the whole area and their mood is very tense. Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
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American influence has prevailed in Thailand after a two-year tug of war between Moscow and Washington over the extradition of Viktor Bout, a Russian national the United States accuses of being an international arms trafficker. Russian officials have asserted Bout's innocence, and are certainly wary of his potential knowledge of the FSB's inner workings falling into American hands. First Bangkok sided with the Russians; then flipped under American pressure. Taking heavy security precautions, AP reports that Thai security forces took Viktor to the airport today and loaded him onto a U.S. jet loaded with DEA agents. (Associated Press image) What... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
Aung San Suu Kyi's release is certainly Burma's biggest post-fauxlection news, given the popularity of her narrative with Western audiences. It does nothing, however, to mitigate Burma's other mess -- the civil war along its border with Thailand. You know, the one Rambo IV was about. Fortunately for Yangon, the Karen, an ethnic group at odds with Burmese leadership since independence from colonial Britain, have been too busy fighting each other in recent years. In fact, Burma's military dictatorship was keen to transform the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army -- which broke away from the Christian-dominated Karen National Liberation Army 16... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
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It shouldn't come as a surprise that Yangon has announced it will soon release Noble Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after nearly 15 years of house arrest. This comes less than one week after Burma's flawed election -- in which Suu Kyi and most other opposition candidates were not allowed to participate -- erected a civilian facade to its military leadership. Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
About 1,000 fighters of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) briefly seized the Burmese border town of Myawaddy yesterday, prompting a battle with government forces and the exodus of thousands of refugees into Thailand. The attack came one day after few Burmese voted in the first election for the country -- also called Myanmar -- to be held in two decades. As expected, about 8 in 10 seats in the new parliament were won by the political parties operating on behalf of the martial government. View DKBA clash November, 2010 in a larger map The Karen, an ethnic group which... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
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TOP: Members of the Free Burma Coalition, Burma Refugee Council and other groups protested near the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on Sunday. RIGHT: Costumed "soldiers" intimidate voters trying to cast a ballot in a mock election held outside the Burmese embassy Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand. BANGKOK -- Pro-democracy activists in Bangkok joined in demonstrations worldwide Sunday to denounce neighboring Burma's first election in 20 years as a "sham." Reporters and Thai police outnumbered about three dozen Burmese refugees and activists, who gathered across from the Burmese Embassy to condemn both the military-led government and an election they believe is a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
Things other than cyclical political unrest do happen in Thailand. Severe flooding upcountry has killed 41 people and affected about 30 provinces. Thailand's alluvial plain drains into the Chao Phraya River, which reaches the gulf through Bangkok. Those waters are now hitting the Thai capital. U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon hits town Tuesday. He is not expected to say anything terribly significant. Activists still hope to air their complaints. While occasional violence in Bangkok grabs headlines, southern Thailand remains a frenzy of with frequent bombings and assassinations in the Muslim-Malay provinces seeking independence from Bangkok. Some observers have been teasing... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2010 at Reporter in Exile
At any given moment the movement's anthem "I Love Red Shirts" booms from a dozen different after-market audio systems. I've tried capturing the energy of the rallies through this video. Most footage is from Sept. 19; a few shots come from Oct. 10 (The looming art deco that is Democracy Monument should help with distinguishing the two.) Some thought the government broke the back of the red-shirt movement in May when soldiers swept it from the Thai capital's occupied commercial district. Absent direction from neither its jailed leaders nor the opposition political party which shares their goals, the movement had... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2010 at Reporter in Exile