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MediaWATCH: Sondhi on Military, Reds and Yellows

MediaWATCH: Sondhi on Military, Reds and Yellows

Monday, May 4, 2009
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

A new daily wrap of Thailand news, with a Phuket perspective. Reports from national and international media, with translations into English from Thai.

Wall Street Journal: In his first public remarks since an attempt on his life at Songkran, Sondhi Limthongkul blamed an unnamed alliance of military leaders. ''I am certain that soldiers were behind this assassination attempt,'' the yellow shirt/PAD leader said, specifying the way assailants positioned themselves and held their weapons. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University told the WSJ: ''What we may be seeing now is a realignment of alliances. Some very powerful people supported Mr Sondhi in the past, but now with [former PM] Mr Thaksin out of the picture he may have outlived his usefulness.''

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Straits Times: Nirmal Ghosh on Sondhi: A scar was visible on the side of his head where the bullet had lodged in his skull. Otherwise he looked remarkably fit. ''I don't go out very often, and I don't go out to the places I used to go,'' he said. ''My life changed completely, this is a fact I have accepted. But I'm not blaming the whole military organisation, I'm blaming just a few bad apples.'' He compared the military to the mafia. On change: ''The red shirts and the yellow shirts share the same thing. They need change. The only difference between red and yellow is that when there's a change we believe that change will have to incorporate the monarchy institution.'' Asked if it was possible one day for reds and yellows to collaborate, he replied: ''That is a good question.''

The Nation: Philanthropist Thanpuying Viraya Javakul shrugged off speculation linking her to a gun attack on Khun Sondhi. Although she knew a lot of people including high-ranking soldiers through her charity work, she was never an influential person, she said. ''I had come under ambush by insurgents before when I did my charity work in the South, so I know what it's like. When I heard about Khun Sondhi's attack, all I had was sympathy for him.'' Commentator Chang Noi concludes: ''Thai politics is often criticised for being dominated by small, self-serving cliques of businessmen and generals. Both these movements want to move beyond. Their main enemy is not each other, but the old, old politics desperate to resist this challenge.''

Daily News: Leaders of all 10 nations meeting in Bangkok on Thursday and Friday for the Asean summit on swine flu prevention will be provided with bullet-proof vehicles, Deputy PM Suthep Tueksuban told the media. The vehicles would also be used in Phuket for the Asean Plus Six summit in June, he added.

Bangkok Post:The Thai Bankers' Association will ask local banks to cut fee charges for foreign cardholders using local ATMs, according to association secretary-general Twatchai Yongkittikul. He said the TBA would hold talks among its members about current fees. But he cautioned that any cuts would be marginal, as most of the fees represented charges imposed for international network access and simply passed on to end-users. A third Australian in Britain has tested positive for swine flu, but has slammed British officials for not taking her situation seriously. Australian journalist Kate Corbett has been told she has the potentially deadly virus, ABC radio reports. The 29-year-old had travelled to Mexico for a wedding with friends, one of whom earlier tested positive for swine flu.

Thai Rath: Fourteen Thai students who returned from Mexico at 11pm last night will have an extra week of ''holiday'' in a Bangkok hospital as a precaution against swine flu. They returned via New York, Los Angeles and Japan.

The Nation Channel: A thermo-scanner has been installed at Sadao, on the Thai-Malaysia border, to check people crossing to Thailand for swine flu. The machine is the first installed outside the country's five major airports. Others are going in at other border crossing points.

Washington Post: Indications are that the outbreak of swine flu will not prove to be as lethal as initially feared, US administration officials say. There is no reason for healthy people to avoid traveling or to wear protective masks, they added. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested that the widely reported high mortality rates for the swine flu in Mexico may be incorrect, based on an underestimate of the number of infected people there. The World Health Organization says countries must not lower their guard in the response to the swine flu outbreak. Almost 900 cases had been confirmed across five continents, the WHO said, and authorities had to remain vigilant. It was too early to tell whether the outbreak had peaked where it emerged in Mexico. As agreed in a conference on Phuket in February, Asian nations will set up a $120 billion foreign-currency reserve pool before 2010 to help revive investor confidence as economies around the region falter amid the worst global recession since World War II. Asean, together with Japan, China and South Korea, will use the funds in times of turmoil. They will set up a surveillance unit that will identify risks to the region and provide oversight of the fund.

The Jakarta Post: The holiday island of Bali is holding the 42nd annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) board of governors with tight security measures in place to prevent protests of the kind that forced an Asean Summit in Pattaya, Thailand, to be abandoned in early April. At least 3000 representatives from ADB member countries, the private sector, NGOs and the media are attending the meeting, which began at the weekend and runs until Tuesday.

Khaosod: More than 50,000 people in Korat province, close to Bangkok, have been thrown out of work by the economic downturn. Most were in manufacturing. Local officials now fear for the future for students graduating this year. About 20,000 will not have jobs, officials say.

Phuket Gazette: A hearing on April 23 is told of plans for a second waste-to-energy incinerator for Phuket; Three Phuket men present themselves to investigators in a probe alleging encroachment of 500 rai of public land on Koh Yao Yai, off Phuket's east coast; Phuket health officials take measures to protect the island against swine flu; Relatives of several victims of the MV Dive Asia 1 sinking are urged to make insurance claims.

Phuket Post Phuket is well equipped to hold the Asean Plus Six summit, tourism leaders say; Teachers and students at QSI Phuket celebrate Earth Week with a fashion parade of recycled material; Phuket now has more than 7000 sex workers; Australians on Phuket mark the Anzac national holiday on April 25.

With exquisite timing (it can only come with years of practice) Don's restaurant in Rawai is holding a Cinco de Mayo Mexican Celebration on Tuesday May 5 at 6.30pm. The event, organised a few weeks back in advance of the outbreak of ''Mexican human flu,'' involves a Mexican food buffet, free margarita and ''Dancing to our Mariachi Music.'' Buy a buffet coupon for adults 180 baht, children under 12 years, 90 baht, and win a bottle of wine with your raffle ticket. Win Don's Mexican Hot Sauce along with jars of jalapeno peppers. From an Indian travel industry commentator: Thailand may be for the shopping, Singapore for the water parks, Malaysia for theme parks. I feel that Southeast Asia is a repeat destination and makes it very popular.

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