China and the Pilot Fish to the South

Southern China’s balmy Nanning, a city of pell-mell construction, tower cranes and heavy industry with a dash of pleasant riverside, is busy sprucing up for worldwide fame when leaders and lackeys from Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) jet in to officially commemorate 15 years of relations on 30 October. Don’t expect…

Singapore’s war on the press continues

Less than a month after Singapore shot itself in the foot with a crackdown on the press in the run up to meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund on its soil, the government seems to have reloaded with lightning speed. On Thursday, the government announced that not only had it banned the…

Ex General to Lead Thailand

General Surayud Chulanont, a former army chief who is currently a member of the king’s inner circle, will likely be appointed interim prime minister by Thailand’s ruling military junta, reports said today. Junta leader General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin told reporters Friday that the official announcement will likely come this weekend pending King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s approval of…

Getting to Know You

A week after the Thai military shocked the world by forcibly removing the twice-elected Thaksin Shinawatra from power, the generals and the public are still feeling each other out. For now, the junta appears to have the benefit of the doubt from the public at large. Many Thais saw the coup as necessary to break…

Malaysia’s Royal Police Defy Their Boss

The Royal Malaysian Police have brought a blue-ribbon police commission  to a standstill over allegations of corruption, custodial death, excessive force against peaceful demonstrators and a generally trigger-happy culture.  Among other things it was the police that were held responsible for the vicious beating of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim when he was in custody in 1998.…

Letter from Vietnam

Saigon takes a lot out of you. The beggars on every corner, people trying to sell you things you don’t need and would never travel thousands of kilometers to buy, which you buy anyway. Like those cone-shaped rice-straw hats that bad television comedies use to portray the archetypal ''Chinaman.'' I see sailors and European yoga…

Thailand: Not So Fast

Opposition to Thailand’s ruling junta became more visible today after the generals announced a series of measures designed to curb political activity and censor the media. In an announcement read on state-run television stations, the military banned political parties from meeting and barred new parties from forming. Earlier in the day, the coup group, which…

Thailand: No Elections for a Year

 Related content: The King Never Smiles: Book Excerpt Revival, Renewal and Reinvention: The Complex Life of Thailand’s Monarch Royal Maneuvers   BANGKOK—Thailand woke up with a certain amount of equanimity Thursday to the fact that a military coup had thrown out its 17th government in the last 60 years, this one the democratically elected one headed…

“There Wasn’t Any Choice”

When a military junta overthrows an elected government, the Western world typically declares a step back for democracy. Not so in Thailand. Many Thais benignly accepted Tuesday’s coup with a shrug, accepting the ouster of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the inevitable outcome of his public sparring with Bangkok’s royalist elite. Leading political analysts also…

Military Coup in Bangkok

Related content: The King Never Smiles: Book Excerpt Revival, Renewal and Reinvention: The Complex Life of Thailand’s Monarch Royal Maneuvers   As the night wore on into the small hours, it appeared that if anything, loyalists to the Thai palace were clearly in charge of the government.  About 200 bystanders cheered police and soldiers as officials…