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from Photographers' Blog:

Dark side of the festival

Bangkok, Thailand

By Damir Sagolj

Totally unconcerned with incoming traffic, Khun Tuey powers the ambulance van through Bangkok’s narrow streets as fast as its engine can push it. Soon after the chase started, the pointer on the speedometer kisses the 120 mark and for a short moment I take my eyes off the road to look around. Next to the driver sits his beautiful, four month pregnant wife Amarin, ignoring what passes by the windshield as if she is watching a session of Bulgarian parliament on TV. To the left is Somat, a medic with 110 hours of training – the team’s expert for injuries. His eyes are closed and it looks like he is sleeping. I hope he is praying. Tonight, we all need prayers to come true.

It is the crazy wet Songkran, as the week-long Thai New Year is known. Earlier in the day, we all enjoyed the festival - I sprayed water, wore powder on my face, drank beer and played fool with friends.

But the fun part is over. Tonight is another Songkran night; one of seven dangerous ones when an already high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries surge. Experts say Thailand has the greatest number of road deaths in Southeast Asia per capita, due to a combination of lax road laws and careless driving habits.

Of those fatalities, four percent take place during Songkran, when alcohol is often added to the mix.

from Photographers' Blog:

Lessons from the floods

By Damir Sagolj

In the beginning it was business as usual. Children played in the water, women moved around on makeshift rafts and people ignored the rising water from the north of Thailand. There were lots of smiling faces and very few worried ones. Looking from the outside, one could say people were having fun and soon all would be forgotten.

Then, suddenly it was not fun any more. As the murky water rose and moved towards the capital it was obvious the scale of this year's floods would be something very few expected. The land of smiles turned into the land of worry, then anger.

from Business Traveller:

Thailand in July?

Thailand goes to the polls on July 3 and no one can predict the precise outcome of the country’s divisive political battle. How carefully should business travellers tread, pre- and post-election?

Since populist former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in a military coup in September 2006, the world has watched Thailand and its capital Bangkok – a long-stable travel and business hub – grapple with political and civil conflict.

from Business Traveller:

My city’s better than yours

“The leading cities of the world – the global cities – are the very nodal hubs that knit the global economy together. Without these global cities, there would be no global economy.”
Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic advisor, MasterCard

Why MasterCard’s recently released “Worldwide Index of Global Destination Cities” should pique the interest of meeting planners, dealmakers, investors and governments the world over.

from Environment Forum:

Excess baggage in Bangkok: tortoises, lizards, spiders and snakes

ploughshare-seized-thailandWhat happens when the airport scanner  shows shapes that look like live spiders, snakes, lizards and tortoises inside three big suitcases? Last week in Bangkok, it meant the detention of an Indonesian man and the seizure of 259 live creatures that were slotted into compartments in the black traveling bags.

The suspected smuggler reportedly went on a wildlife shopping spree in Bangkok's Chatuchak Market, a hub for rare animal trade, according to conservation group TRAFFIC, which monitors illegal trafficking of species.

from FaithWorld:

A week after riots, Thai capital prays for peace

bangkok

Buddhist monks receive alms in Bangkok on May 26, 2010 during a gathering for peace prayers/Yannis Behrakis

Thousands of Thais prayed for peace and unity in Bangkok on Wednesday, a week after a deadly military crackdown on protesters sparked a terrifying night of arson and riots that levelled buildings and killed 54 people.

from Global News Journal:

The Fire Next Time in Thailand

(Thai firefighters douse the Central World shopping mall building that was set on fire by anti-government "red shirt" protesters in Bangkok May 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)

THAILAND/We were walking down Sukhumvit road in downtown Bangkok just after the 9 p.m. curfew  –  down the MIDDLE of a road that on any other Friday night would have been filled with honking vehicles,  hawkers, tourists and touts. We were escorting a colleague home from the temporary newsroom in that Reuters had set up at the Westin Hotel after we were chased out of our office near the red shirt encampment in central Bangkok. Not a creature was stirring. But what was that sound we kept hearing? Squeak, squeak, squeak.Then we saw them. Rats. Thousands of them.  Scurrying along in packs on the sidewalks, the streets, the closed-down Skytrain overhead, at the entrances to shuttered shops, around piles of garbage that had mounted in the Thai capital since the May 19th riots. It was like a movie about an urban apocalyptic event where humans are wiped out and the vermin are triumphant.

from FaithWorld:

Religion-themed films take top prizes at Cannes Film Festival

cannes 1

Apichatpong Weerasethakul (in white) and cast member Wallapa Mongkolprasert at the screening of ''Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat'' (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives) in Cannes on May 21, 2010/Yves Herman

A Buddhist-inspired Thai film has won the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture at the Cannes film festival. "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," a mystical exploration of reincarnation as a well-to-do farmer confronts his imminent death, was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

from Our Take on Your Take:

Burning Bangkok

An anti-government protester watches as tires burn in Bangkok on May 15, 2010.  Your View/Cengiz Yar Jr.

A woman inside the Chanel 3 building that anti-government protesters attacked and burned sprays water in Bangkok, Thailand, May 2010.   Your View/Shinobu Onodera

The turmoil in Thailand and the aftermath dominated the news this week, and it showed in the number of outstanding submissions we received from the crisis. Above are two of the best.

View this week's Your View showcase here.

from FaithWorld:

Can saffron be red in Thailand?

THAILAND

(A monk walks along a red shirt barricade in Bangkok's business district on April 25/Sukree Sukplang)

At the sprawling red shirt encampment in central bank, Buddhist monks clad in their distinctive saffron robes mingle with men wearing helmets walking around with sharpened bamboo sticks.

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