Stories

Floods, landslides kill 50 in Vietnam, Thailand (28 September 2008)

Thai party nominates Thaksin brother-in-law for prime minister (15 September 2008)

Thai PM imposes emergency rule after street battle (2 September 2008)

Thais accused over new temple row (3 August 2008)


Floods, landslides kill 50 in Vietnam, Thailand (28 September 2008)

Flash floods and landslides have killed 50 people in Vietnam and Thailand, swept away thousands of homes and inundated farmland, official reports said on Sunday.

In Vietnam, the death toll from typhoon Hagupit, which struck the Philippines and China earlier in the week, has jumped to 32 with another five people missing.

Thousands of homes were either washed away or destroyed by heavy rains and landslides in northern Vietnam, the government's storm and flood prevention committee said.

Hagupit, which means "lashing" in Filipino, killed at least eight people in the Philippines and three in China where it triggered a "once-in-a-century storm tide".

Vietnamese soldiers were dispatched to evacuate thousands of people from areas vulnerable to more flash floods and landslides in the mountainous provinces of Son La, Lang Son and Bac Giang.

Heavy rains on Sunday could trigger more landslides in the mountainous north, and flooding along the Thai Binh river, the National Meteorology Centre said.

The Red River near the capital Hanoi was expected to reach dangerously high levels on Sunday, rising to 8.6 metres (28 ft), the centre said.

Vietnam's main agriculture belt including the coffee-growing Central Highlands region and the Mekong Delta rice basket was not in the storm's path.

In Thailand, the death toll from floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains has risen to 18, while nearly 190,000 people have been treated for water-related illnesses and injuries, the Health Ministry said.

It said there were no major outbreaks of disease since the heavy rains began more than two weeks ago, affecting some 800,000 people in the country of 63 million.

Some 500,000 acres (200,000 ha) of farmland, most of it rice paddy, has been inundated, affecting roughly 2 percent of the total paddy for the 2008-09 growing season, according the Agriculture Ministry data. Reuters

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Thai party nominates Thaksin brother-in-law for prime minister (15 September 2008)

In a move that split party ranks and angered anti-government protesters, the governing party of Thailand nominated a brother-in-law of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday to be the next prime minister.

The nominee, Somchai Wongsawat, is the minister of education and has been the acting prime minister since Samak Sundaravej was forced out Sept. 9 when a court found him guilty of accepting pay for appearing on a cooking show.

Parliament is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the nomination of Somchai. But a revolt within the governing People Power Party is threatening to complicate the nomination in the 480-seat Parliament.

A faction that represents 73 of the party's 233 seats said it opposed Somchai because his relationship with Thaksin threatened to inflame anti-government protesters.

"We are prepared to choose a candidate who will not aggravate problems already faced by the country," said Banchong Wongtrairat, a spokesman for the rebel faction.

Leaders of the protest, which has blockaded the prime minister's office for nearly three weeks, responded angrily to the nomination, calling Somchai a front man for Thaksin and saying they would continue their protest until the government fell.

"We all know who Somchai is," said Somsak Kosaisuk, a protest leader. "Samak was just a nominee, but Somchai is the real actor linked to Thaksin's family. We will not give him the benefit of the doubt or give him a honeymoon period."

However the nomination plays out, some analysts said they expected the new government to be relatively short-lived, partly because of the continuing political instability in Thailand and partly because the party itself is at risk of being disbanded by a court for electoral fraud.

"I assume that this particular government will not last more than a couple of months and will probably call a snap election and see how the chips fall," said James Klein, the country representative for the Asia Foundation.

The People's Alliance for Democracy, which leads the protests, represents an establishment that is seeking to weaken electoral politics by putting in place a "new order" in which most members of Parliament would be appointed.

The protesters accuse the government of being a puppet of Thaksin, who was deposed in a coup in 2006, and of wanting to pave the way for his return to politics.

Thaksin and his wife, Pojaman, fled to London last month after she was convicted of tax evasion. Several corruption cases are pending against them, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule Wednesday in a corruption case against the couple, involving a land deal.

Somchai, a low-key politician, is 61 and is married to the younger sister of Pojaman. He has a long r�sum� that includes more than 20 years as a judge and a decade of service in government ministries, mostly predating Thaksin's rise to power.

He faced accusations of nepotism when he served in Thaksin's government.

As acting prime minister, he withdrew a state of emergency that was imposed Aug. 2 by Samak but was opposed by the military, which declined to enforce the measure.

His wife, Yaowapa Wongsawasdi, was an influential member of Parliament in Thaksin's party, Thai Rak Thai, before it was disbanded last year for electoral fraud.

Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon who remains hugely popular among Thailand's majority rural poor, is a power behind the People Power Party. Members of the party said he had been in touch with them by telephone as they maneuvered to select Samak's replacement.

The Election Commission recommended Feb. 2 that the People Power Party be disbanded for electoral fraud and sent the case to the Constitutional Court for a decision.

Its case is based on the conviction this year of a party leader for vote buying in the December election that brought the party to power.

If that happens, a substitute party has been formed to take its place. But it is not clear that members of the People Power Party would be eligible to run for re-election in this short-term set of circumstances.

Any pro-Thaksin party, given its strong electoral base, is generally considered to be assured re-election. But Klein said that with the passage of time since Thaksin's departure, factionalism had grown stronger and that there was no guarantee the party would continue to hold together.

Splits have now emerged twice over the nomination of a new prime minister. Before the rift Monday, the party was forced by infighting to reverse an announcement that it would re-nominate Samak for the job.

"It's maybe not a red flag," Klein said, "but a pink flag that Thaksin's influence on holding these factions together is weaker than it was a year ago." IHT

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Thai PM imposes emergency rule after street battle (2 September 2008)

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on Tuesday and gave the army control of public order after a man died in overnight clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters.

Under the sweeping emergency powers announced on television and radio, all public gatherings in the capital will be banned and restrictions imposed on media reports that "undermined public security".

"There is an urgent need to solve all these problems quickly. Therefore, the prime minister declares a state of emergency in Bangkok from now on," the announcement read.

Although the deployment of troops will come as welcome relief to the overstretched police, it raises the spectre of an army seizure of power less than two years after the military kicked out then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Leaders of the anti-government protest movement that has occupied Samak's official compound for the past week said they would not be moving. They are camped out behind makeshift barricades of razor wire and car tyres.

"There are not enough jails to put us all into," Chamlong Srimuang, one of the leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that is leading the anti-government protests, told thousands of supporters inside the compound.

He called for more people to join in the protest against Samak, whom the PAD accuses of being an illegitimate proxy for Thaksin. His rallying cry will have gone out across the country via the PAD's radio and satellite television channels.

Morning rush-hour traffic in Bangkok appeared slightly lighter than normal and some schools were shut.

The Thai baht hit a one-year low of 34.47 per dollar, down 0.6 percent from late Asian trade on Monday, and the stock market was expected to open lower at 0300 GMT.

"We will definitely see at least a five-point fall, but the fall should be capped by buying from investors who are now starting to snap up cheap stocks as they are betting the life of this government might end soon," said Tisco Securities strategist Viwat Techapoonphol.

That implies a drop of around 0.75 percent. The market has fallen around 23 percent since the street protests began in May.

SOLDIERS SENT IN

At least one man was killed and 34 hurt in the overnight clashes between the PAD and pro-government supporters near Government House, the worst outbreak of violence since the PAD launched its street campaign.

Around 400 soldiers armed with batons and shields were sent to back up police struggling to contain the skirmishes. Several shots were fired, but it was not clear by whom.

PAD leader Suriyasai Katasila told Reuters the 55-year-old victim was not from his side.

After the clashes, the street was strewn with rocks and broken glass, and several pools of blood were on the pavement.

Supporters of Samak, who leads a six-party coalition, having come first in December's general election, started erecting a series of tents along the tree-lined avenue 200 metres (yards) from the PAD barricades, making further clashes likely.

The PM's announcement blamed certain people, whom he did not name, for "wreaking havoc" and said their actions were undermining the economy and national unity.

The PAD, a group of right-wing businessmen and activists whose 2006 street campaign contributed to the coup against Thaksin, argue that Samak is an illegitimate proxy for the former telecoms billionaire, now in exile in London.

Thaksin and his wife jumped bail last month to avoid corruption charges.

The PAD also paints itself as a guardian of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej against a supposed Thaksin campaign to turn Thailand into a republic, a charge denied by both Thaksin and the government. Reuters

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Thais accused over new temple row (3 August 2008)

Cambodia has accused Thai troops of occupying a temple complex on Cambodian land, threatening to escalate a row over a separate, disputed temple.

About 70 Thais have been at the 13th Century Ta Moan temple complex since Thursday, the Cambodians say.

The Thai foreign ministry has denied any troops have moved into the area.

The two nations have for weeks been locked in a military stand-off over disputed land further east, around the ancient Preah Vihear temples.

High-level diplomacy has been taking place to resolve the Preah Vihear dispute, which revolves around border areas drawn up by French cartographers a century ago.

And an agreement was reached, following a meeting between foreign ministers from both countries, to reduce troop numbers near the temple.

Prevented access

But Maj Sim Sokha, a Cambodian border-protection officer, told reporters on Sunday that Thai soldiers had been making moves hundreds of miles west of Preah Vihear.

He said the Thai troops had been deployed in an 80m (262ft) radius around the Ta Moan Thom temple ground, and had prevented Cambodian troops from entering.

He said about 40 Cambodian soldiers were in close proximity to the Thai troops, but had been ordered to exercise restraint while the government tries to resolve the issue with Thailand.

"[Thai troops] said they will pull back only when the issue near Preah Vihear temple is resolved," he told the Associated Press by telephone.

The Ta Moan complex is in Cambodia's Oddar Meanchey province, which shares much of its border with the Thai province of Surin. BBC

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Above Photograph: Credit: (c) 2001 Eva Canoutas, Courtesy of Photoshare; 
Caption:  A young boy from Karenni State, Burma, at a refugee camp in Thailand.



� 2004 APC Process.  Last updated Sunday, November 02, 2008