Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
|By AMBIKA AHUJA, |
Associated Press Writer.
When Samak Sundaravej became Thailand's prime minister on Feb. 6, pundits wondered how long it would take the right-wing firebrand to put his foot in his month.
Not long at all it turns out.
For the past two weeks, the 72-year-old Samak has turned the spotlight on his past with comments that have shocked Thailand and focused heated debate on a massacre of student protesters three decades ago.
The pugnacious prime minister publicly denied any role in the carnage of Oct. 6, 1976, and told CNN in a recent interview only "one unlucky guy" was killed that day _ even though historical records show almost 50 perished.
"No deaths, one unlucky guy being beaten and being burned," Samak said of the death toll when asked about the incident. "Only one guy died that day."
Violence was unleashed that day on leftist student demonstrators gathered to protest the return of ousted Prime Minister Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, one of the so-called "Three Tyrants" _ national leaders who were ousted by a student-led uprising in 1973.
Photographs and video footage from the time shows security forces and right-wing paramilitary troops firing weapons into the campus of Bangkok's Thammasat University. Protesters were shot, beaten, hung, and set ablaze. Bodies were publicly mutilated. Some were dragged around the university's football field.
According to the official record, 46 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. Some human rights groups and witnesses suggest the death toll was in the hundreds.
Samak's dismissal of one of the country's most traumatic events sparked outrage among the public, academics and relatives of the victims. It also prompted intense soul-searching in a country where talk of the 1976 massacre is all but taboo, partly because of the failure of any authorities to intervene to stop the brutal spectacle of Thais killing Thais.
Newspapers have seized on the incident to criticize Samak, academics have organized lectures to discuss the rarely mentioned subject, and Samak's remarks have been brought up repeatedly during parliamentary policy debate last week.
Samak should be "ashamed" of "his insensitive, inflammatory and plainly inaccurate comments," the Bangkok Post, one of the country's main English-language newspapers, said in a Feb. 13 editorial. Samak "knows very well what went on because he played a key role."
Critics have said Samak's anti-communist rhetoric on radio and at rallies at the time helped stoke sentiment that prompted the lynching of students. Samak _ like others in the Thai establishment then _ subscribed to a motto of the extreme right wing, "It's no sin to kill communists."
As interior minister at the time, critics said Samak had hundreds of "leftists" arrested in a witch hunt reminiscent of the anti-communist persecution spearheaded by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
But Samak has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident, which came at a time when Indochina had fallen under communist rule and Thailand was deeply polarized between right and left.
"Why did a murderer with blood on his hand receive more than a million votes?" Samak asked rhetorically during parliamentary debate this week, referring to his landslide election victory for Bangkok governor in 2000.
Analysts said Samak's controversial remarks so early in his tenure could undermine his premiership, threatening to turn even his allies against him.
"It has become a hot issue that might be a rallying point, bringing his current political allies and his opposition together," said Kanokrat Lertchoesakul, a professor at Chulalongkorn University. "It's an emotional issue for many people across today's political spectrum."
Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee and Chaturon Chaisaeng _ allies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and now supporters of Samak _ are among many contemporary politicians who were leftist student leaders in 1976.
On Saturday, Chaturon said Samak "should gather accurate information before speaking" about the incident.
Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University and a historian, said Samak's clumsy remarks could provide the opportunity to re-examine "a traumatic history that hasn't healed," and force others who took part to answer for their crimes.
After the incident, an amnesty was issued that prevented any of those responsible for the massacre from being brought to justice.
"How many people in Thailand actually know about what happened then? It's not even in the history textbooks in our school curriculum," Charnvit said. "The ruling elite want it forgotten because it goes against mainstream conservatism that is preferred in Thailand. But it reopened the wounds of many people who were there."
Friday, February 22, 2008
Yesterday I went shopping sort of. I'm picking up a bunch of equipment for my gym and went to several different shops pricing supplies. I'm going to get a fighter robe made along with picking up a half dozen thai pads, shin guards, etc. It should be a lot of shit. Hopefully it will all come with bags to bring stuff home in.
I'm set to go to Ayuttyah on tuesday. I'm pretty stoked. I have just four more days of training as well which is nice.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Sunday hit out at an "invisible hand" he says continues to pull the strings behind attempts to rock the government and the People Power party.
"Although the government has been formed, this (invisible hand) never gives up," he said in his weekly TV address.
"The leader should watch out."
He said he would disclose who is the invisible hand, and take action against anyone trying to undermine his administration.
After the programme, he told reporters he was gathering evidence to take legal action against those trying to undermine the administration and his party, including attempts to intimidate people to put an end to the PPP.
Mr Samak said opponents were using a three-pronged approach to try to rock the new government:
False reports he would abolish the Bank of Thailand's 30 per cent capital control measure
Erroneous stories that he was trying to place former executive members of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai party on the boards of state enterprises
Poll fraud allegations against House Speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat.
Mr Samak accused the invisible hand of being behind all three issues, which have received wide media coverage.
"There is something fishy in news reporting" because of vague news sources, he added.
He denied interference in the Finance Ministry and the policy on capital control measures. He defended Finance Minister and PPP secretary-general Surapong Suebwonglee, who was forced to comment on the former TRT members banned from politics for five years.
The central issue, however, was the result of the investigation into Mr Yongyuth, a PPP deputy leader.
The prime minister blasted those who leaked the results of an inquiry into Mr Yongyuth's case undertaken by an Election Commission panel.
Mr Samak attached those who leaked the results to the media, saying it was a "dirty trick" aimed at destroying the government and the PPP.
The EC found him guilty of bribing local officials in exchange for votes in the Dec 23 general election. Mr Yongyuth will probably be forced to step aside from the House speaker's chair if the EC agrees with the investigation.
He could be banned from politics for five years if found guilty by the Supreme Court. If he is convicted, the party could be disbanded if there is evidence that it was aware of Mr Yongyuth's illegal actions but did nothing to stop them, because he was deputy leader of the party at the time of the alleged vote buying.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
I don't have anything to do. I went to the gym yesterday and they told me I should take another day off. So I ended up meeting up with Wong at the Hua Lampong vegetarian restaraunt. We ate there with a berkeley cal student named Jennifer. Jen's been touring around south east asia for the last six weeks. Wong went back to his place for the night and Jen and I went to the night bazaar by lumpinee park. We walked around the bazaar for an hour or so while she looked for trinkets and gifts for her roommates and brother. She didn't find anything and we sat around eating falafel.
She has a couple thai friends out here and we ended up meeting up with them in the khao san area. We sat by a converted gas station (changed into a bar) and had some beers then went to a falang bar that was pretty grotesque. Two orange skinned fat australian dudes joined our table and ogled the girls. Eventually we took a taxi back to my place. On the way back Jen puked out the side of the cab. It was somewhat sad, and somewhat funny.
I go home in a little over two weeks. I'm glad. I don't have any more goals of things to do while I'm out here. I'd still like to go to Ayuttha the old capital of Siam. I'll probably end up doing that when Vi comes out.
Shortly after arriving back home there's a smoker at Pacific Ring. I'll probably do pretty well if I continue to stay in shape out here.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Ayutthaya - The provincial cultural council yesterday called for strict monitoring of love nests for underage couples on Valentine's Day. They range from love motels to internet cafes.
Council chairman Jiraphan Pimpan voiced concerns that several love motels have cropped up around the city and that all outbound highways in every direction lead to such motels.
She urged police and related agencies to step up checks at motels which the council has found to have allowed minors, who usually arrived on motorcycles.
Motel operators should make sure that their customers are not minors by requesting their identity cards at check in, she said.
The council's survey also identified six locations that young couples chose for promiscuous behavior or even premature sex.
They include three public parks- near the Somdej Phra Sri Suriyothai monument and King Naesuan monument and the Somdej Phra Srinakarindra Roromarajajonani park.
Teens were found to have got carred away in the provincial sports stadium, particularly the area on the back of a basketball field.
Other locations include karaoke rooms, internet cafes and isolated corners in department stores.
"Authorities should strictly monitor and prevent premature sex in these locations throughout the year," she said. "The sale of condoms at grocery stores also encourages sex amongst youngsters."
Media hype surrounding Valentine's Day had encouraged teens to skipp classes to engage in sexual activity, she said.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
In the fight, theFrenchman apparently tried to close in on the Siamese boxer, but the latter, in accordance with Siamese rules, kept out of his reach, occassionally darting forward to delive a blow and jumping back whenever the Frenchman moved forwards. The Europeans were not familiar with this light-footed technique, and impatiently the captain leapt into the ring and seized the Siamese in order to force him to 'give battle.' The Uparat, outraged by this breach of the rules jumped into the ring and with a well place kick brought the captain down. General pandemonium broke out; the two brothers were beaten up and had to be carried back to their ship.
Probably realizing that the French brothers had been rather severely punished for their provocation, the king sent some medical practioners to their ship to offer treatment. Once the brothers had sufficiently recovered, they left Bangkok.
Excerpted from "Thailand's Political History" by B.J. Terwiel pages 76-77
Saturday, February 2, 2008
During the day the back of the stage serves as ad hoc housing. There are a series of tents and some vehicles which serve as living structures. The dancers are usually laying about chatting with each other or talking. I walk through the area four or five times a day and every time they see me they laugh and say hello. Its a little embarrassing. Lately its been rainy so the area is a bit flooded. The dancers walk around in flip flops casually making their way through the huge puddles.
I'm fighting next saturday in pattaya. I leave bangkok at the end of the month.