thailand

By Toby Luckhurst

Thailand’s state of emergency is an attempt to control a country transitioning from feudal monarchy to representative democracy, writes Michael Peel.

• The Washington Post comments on a report revealing that economic mobility in the US has stagnated for 50 years, leaving those growing up poor no more likely to climb the ladder than their grandparents were.

Ukraine’s increasingly heated clashes between pro-EU activists and government forces are forging new warriors.

• The Sochi Winter Olympics have become a Putin vanity project costing at least $51bn, writes the New York Times.

• Increasing wages, a stronger currency and a dearth of workers are driving up production costs in China, leading to increasing consumer prices around the globe.

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(CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)

By Toby Luckhurst
There seems to be no end in sight to the protests that have engulfed Bangkok since late last year. Anti-government demonstrators are demanding the resignation of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the suspension of democracy, to be replaced by an unelected “people’s council”, while Ms Yingluck seeks to avoid a repeat of the political violence of 2010 while holding on to power.

Similarly bloody protests have erupted throughout the region – notably in Bangladesh and Cambodia. Yet Thailand stands out for the contradictions of its mass-action anti-democracy opposition, the influence of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on his sister’s government, and because of the country’s economic and military importance.

These articles explore the contradictions at the heart of the protests and the divisions that inspired them, as well as the outlook for Thailand and the region. Read more

♦ An FT investigation has uncovered the key role played by Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and UniCredit in the reform of the Vatican bank, by refusing to provide financial services over the past two years.
♦ The World Trade Organisation’s 159 members managed to agree on something for the first time in its 18-year history last week – a sign that the organisation is “coming alive”.
♦ Yingluck Shinawatra’s position as Thai prime minister is in jeopardy because of opposition hatred for her brother – a force that has defined her premiership and driven instability.
♦ Bedouin gangs in the Sinai have discovered that taking hostages is more profitable than human smuggling.
♦ Bill de Blasio’s challenge as New York mayor will be to negotiate and pay for a way out of the impasse between the administration and the unions of city workers. 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

Gideon Rachman

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

David Pilling

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