By Michael Peel in Bangkok
Thailand’s three-week-old military junta is showering the people with bread, circuses – and now World Cup football. Read more
“This is not a coup.” These words – uttered at 3am on television by General Prayuth Chan-Ocha – would hardly be reassuring in any country. In Thailand, where the army has overthrown elected governments 11 times since the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1932, they can only mean one thing. Normal democracy is suspended.
Thailand has been in the throes of political crisis for more than a decade since the election of Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001 uncorked the economic and democratic ambitions of millions of poorer Thais. That has alarmed many members of the Bangkok elite who see their privileges threatened and the position of their beloved king jeopardised. Mr Thaksin was deposed in 2006 by the army, which on that occasion, at least, had the grace to call a coup a coup. Read more
♦ Laura Poitras tells Salon how she first made contact with Edward Snowden and as says there is more footage coming.
♦ Seymour Hersh’s 2006 report on the debate within the intelligence community about the NSA’s gathering of telephone metadata is well worth a read in light of the recent NSA leaks. We also recommend Wired magazine’s 2012 report on the Utah Data Center – “A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyse, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.”
♦ Child boxing in Thailand is a tradition with a long history, but it has brought the ire of human rights activists.
♦ Michalis G. Sallas, the banker at the helm of Pireaus, capitalised on Cyprus’s banking disaster and bought up the Greek units of the island’s three biggest financial institutions – some say he should be hailed for his entrepreneurial expertise, while others say he has pushed the boundaries of banking too far. Read more
One day somebody might write a dissertation on the role of Ferraris in the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party.
The scandal surrounding Bo Xilai featured lurid rumours about the high-living of his son, Bo Guagua – who was said to have driven around Beijing in a red Ferrari. Bo Guagua denied the story. But the notion that he spent his time roaring around in fast cars has stuck; and it played its part in the discrediting of his father.
Now another senior figure in the party has experienced a serious setback after a story has surfaced about a Ferrari-driving son. Like Bo Xilai, Ling Jihua was a high-flying official, who was expecting to be promoted in the coming all-important party reshuffle. But now he has missed out on his expected promotion; apparently, after his son was involved in a car crash, which was rumoured to feature a Ferrari. This story has a tragic element since, (rumour again), somebody died in the accident. Read more
It’s hard to see why a Shakespearean play about a Scottish king should be controversial in Thailand. Nevertheless, the Thai film board has seen fit to ban a local film version of Macbeth.
One of the producers says the film board obviously thinks the story of Scottish regicide retold in the film, Shakespeare Must Die, is an allegory about Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister. Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, is disliked by many Thai royalists for allegedly challenging the authority of the king, something he has always denied. Read more