Reuters blog archive

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 03 July 2011

A great news picture has to have the WOW factor and without a doubt the picture of the domb disposal expert being caught in a car bomb blast is amazing. What is even more amazing is that he lived.

A car bomb explodes as a member of a Thai bomb squad checks it in Narathiwat province, south of Bangkok July 1, 2011. The bomb planted by suspected insurgents wounded the squad member, police said.  REUTERS/Stringer 

This combination photo shows a car bomb exploding as a member of a Thai bomb squad checks it in Narathiwat province, south of Bangkok July 1, 2011. The bomb planted by suspected insurgents wounded the squad member, police said. REUTERS/Stringer 

Also in Thailand, opposition leader Yingluck Shinawatra, a political newcomer, prepared to lead her country after a weekend election victory but huge challenges lie ahead, including how quickly to bring home her brother, exiled ex-premier Thaksin who was ousted by a coup. Thailand chief photographer Damir Sagolj and Pakistan Chief photographer Adrees Latif with Sukree Sukpkang and Chaiwat Suprasom chased the story through all its twists and turns.

from Andrew Marshall:

Reclaiming the truth in Thailand

A medic prepares to move the body of a protester who was killed during an operation to evict anti-government "red shirt" protesters from their encampment in Bangkok May 19, 2010. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

Another battle over the truth is being fought in Thailand.

Robert Amsterdam, the international lawyer working for fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has submitted a lengthy petition to the International Criminal Court in the Hague alleging that Thailand's government and military committed crimes against humanity during the suppression of "Red Shirt" mass protests in Bangkok in April and May last year. The document produced by Amsterdam & Peroff LLP goes far beyond just setting out the evidence of criminal conduct. It presents an alternative history of the past decade in Thailand that is radically at odds with the official narrative, and which has been made available online in both English and Thai, as a challenge to the government's version of the truth. Central to its argument is the incendiary accusation that the official version of events is not merely dishonest or incomplete, but that it has been constructed with the help of a prolonged campaign of systematic and deliberate deception, with key events staged or manipulated to obscure the truth of what was really going on and create a carefully choreographed fiction.

It remains unclear whether the International Criminal Court has any jurisdiction over events in Thailand. The country was a signatory to the Rome Statute that created the court, but never ratified it, and so the government has been confidently predicting that Amsterdam's efforts would be a waste of time. The revelation that Abhisit may hold British citizenship as a result of being born in Newcastle and that this may make him answerable to the court was an unwelcome shock for the government, but even if it turns out to be true that Abhisit never formally renounced his British nationality, few expect the ICC to swing into action. But that was never really the point: Thaksin's aim is to challenge the legitimacy of Thailand's government, and undermining the official version of the truth could achieve that whether or not the ICC takes up the case.

from Andrew Marshall:

Uneducate people


One of the funniest and saddest photographs of Thailand's turmoil was taken by my Reuters colleague Vivek Prakash on Silom Road in Bangkok on April 22. It shows a crowd of protesters from the so-called 'multi-coloured shirt' group showing their contempt for opposing 'red shirt' protesters encamped across the road. One man proudly holds up a sign he has painstakingly drawn in blue pen, in English, presumably for the benefit of the foreign media covering the stand-off, condemning the reds - who are mostly but not exclusively made up of Thailand's urban and rural poor - as "uneducate people".

The clumsy effort to dismiss Thailand's poor as idiots was not an isolated insult - it is at the heart of the philosophy of supporters of the current government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and a central tenet of faith for the royalist 'yellow shirt' People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) which, in an uneasy alliance with Abhisit's Democrat Party, has led opposition to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

from Andrew Marshall:

Thaksin strikes back


Two months after the Thai military crushed the red shirt protest at Rajaprasong, fugitive former prime minister and telecoms tycooon Thaksin Shinawatra has struck back.

Thaksin's team of international lawyers, headed by Robert Amsterdam of law firm Amsterdam  & Peroff LLP, has issued a detailed 80-page document on the origins of the Thai crisis, Thaksin's rise and fall, the red and yellow movements, and the violence that erupted in Bangkok in April and May, killing 90 and wounding hundreds.

from Andrew Marshall:

Thoughts on Thailand’s turmoil, by James Stent

Thailand's political crisis is particularly resistant to easy interpretation. The very nature of the crisis is the subject of fierce controversy; the opposing sides cannot even agree on what they are fighting about. Genuinely informed and insightful analysis is very hard to find.

The following essay is by some margin the best analysis that has been written about Thailand's crisis so far. The author, James Stent, is an American with many years of experience working in the finance industry in Thailand and China, including two decades at a Thai bank, Bank of Asia, as deputy president until his retirement in 2002 and then as a director until 2004. He initially circulated his analysis by e-mail a few weeks ago, and he has very kindly given permission for it to be reproduced in full here. It is required reading for anybody seeking a deeper understanding of how Thailand got to this point and where it may go from here.

from Andrew Marshall:

Thaksin and me


Like many foreign correspondents, as a result of my reporting on Thailand's political crisis I have frequently been accused of naïveté, breathtaking stupidity, and a total inability to grasp the complexities of the situation.

That's OK. Even my closest friends regularly call me an idiot. And they are usually right.

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 Global News Journal:

In line of fire at Bangkok protests

A man is dragged to safety after being shot on Rama IV Road during clashes between army soldiers and anti-government 'red shirt' supporters in Bangkok on Sunday. (Reuters/Jerry Lampen)

may 16 7It was 2 a.m. on a Friday morning and we were stuck in the Reuters office on the 35th floor of the U Chu Liang Building. Thai anti-government protesters had begun rioting after their military strategist, a flamboyant major-general known as  "Commander Red" was shot in the head as he was being interviewed by the New York Times at the "red shirt" protest encampment that occupies a huge chunk of expensive real estate in the Thai capital.

The protesters had swarmed into our parking lot, troops hot on their heels. One red shirt was shot dead, taking a bullet through his eye, outside our office.  Our managers  had ordered us to evacuate, but we had to wait until the violence died down outside.  I strapped on a 10 kg flak jacket and helmet emblazoned with "press stickers", took a ride down the cargo elevator in a building under emergency power, and stepped carefully into the parking lot, looking around to see if it was safe for the remaining people in the newsroom to leave. It was quiet, as I crept around the parking lot, dodging from car to car, feeling slightly ridiculous. A taxi was parked just outside. I was beginning to understand what gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson meant when he said in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:  "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

from FaithWorld:

Can saffron be red in 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.

from Global News Journal:

Discord in Thai kingdom

THAILAND/ Punchai is arranging strings of flowers under the imposing statue of King Rama VI at the entrance of Lumphini Park in Bangkok. The statue overlooks one end of the sprawling "red shirt" encampment that occupies a 3 square-km area of downtown Bangkok.

An altar has been set up at the base of the statue of a king who ruled from 1910 to 1925 and is generally credited with paving the way for democractic reforms in the kingdom. He is also the creator of Lumphini Park.