UN Dispatch: What You Need to Know About the Protests in Thailand


Thousands upon thousands of protesters stomp through the sweaty streets of Bangkok, demanding that the current administration step down and attempting to surround governmental buildings.

Confused tourists — whose dollars represent one of the most valuable pillars of the Thai economy — sidestep barricades in the more atmospheric neighborhoods of the capitol city, while rumblings of a military coup and municipal shutdown float through the air. It’s another restive year in Thailand.

An average armchair political scientist might conclude these Bangkok protests are just another pro-democracy people’s movement. But there’s one big difference: the protesters against Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra are taking a stance that would serve to help break down democracy, not bolster it.

They’re seeking to install an unelected “people’s council” in the Prime Minister’s stead, which would implement the political and economic reforms they seek. Democratic? Not so much.

Shinawatra has made moves to appease the protesters: she dissolved Parliament in December and has called for new elections on February 2nd, but as the current thousands-strong protests (with shots fired on Tuesday) show, they haven’t been enough.

Read more at UN Dispatch…..

Rise of the Bay Area Drones

I wrote something about drones in the Bay Area for SFGate and the Peninsula Press. And made a video.

The flying device moves across the winter sky with a throaty hum reminiscent of a “Star Wars” sound effect. It hovers for a moment, then makes a sudden feint to the left and another to the right, demonstrating remarkable agility for a four-rotor helicopter smaller than a pizza box.

“We love our drones,” says 3D Robotics editorial director Sue Rosenstock, as she gazes at the black-and-blue craft overhead.

3d robotics drone in action
3D Robotics’ “Iris” UAV. (Faine Greenwood/Peninsula Press)

This is the Bay Area face of the drone revolution. Here, backyard enthusiasts and entrepreneurs are hoping to usher in a new era for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — couched much more in the starry-eyed optimism of Silicon Valley than in the grim realities of military weaponry and counterterrorism tactics.

Advocates want to see the technology used in industries ranging from agriculture to industrial engineering to movie making. Further, their goal is to make it accessible to just about anyone.

Read more at the Peninsula Press.….or at SFGate. You can do that too.

Racism, Vietnam, and Cambodian Politics – UN Dispatch


How Anti-Vietnamese Racism is Fueling Politics in Cambodia – UN Dispatch

The elderly Vietnamese woman resided in a tiny room off an alley in Phnom Penh, using boxes of the soda pop she sold for a living as furniture. And she was worried. It was the summer of 2013, and controversy was raging over the Cambodian elections, which long-time prime minister Hun Sen claimed to have won, and which the opposing Cambodian National Rescue party claimed had been stolen from them. Her concerns were more simple: if the opposition party prevailed, would she find herself persecuted?

“For the time being, I feel Cambodian people hate Vietnamese people,” she said, in a quiet voice. “Vietnamese people just come to Cambodia to look for jobs. They don’t hate anyone.”

Controversy has been brewing in Phnom Penh ever since July, when the Cambodian People’s Party, led by long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen, claims to have won the national election. The newly formed Cambodian National Rescue party, led by recently-returned from exile politician Sam Rainsy and Human Rights Party founder Kem Sokha, claims that election irregularities were rampant, and has been leading mass protests ever since, calling for change to a more democratic system — away from the unabashed corruption, vote-snatching, and rampant land-grabbing that has marred Hun Sen’s so-called democracy.

Read more at UN Dispatch…..

Kermbodia Is Very Bad Place

It happens every year. An educated foreigner who fancies him or herself adventurous alights in Cambodia, ready to Enlighten The World about what the Khmer are up to.

2014 has already given us our first specimen of the Holy Shit Cambodia genre of writing, and Foreign Policy Blogs writer Dustin Dye is here to enlighten us in his “On The Ground in Phnom Penh.” 

Spoiler alert: Dye is reasonably convinced that Phnom Penh is chockfull of whores. Erm, “streetwalkers.” He’d also like to inform us that the city is seedy, the Russian Market is full of counterfeit goods, and that he’d like to visit Angkor Wat someday because Cambodia definitely needs his tourist dollars.

He spent an entire full day in Phnom Penh, so we should probably take his word for it.

If you don’t want to read the piece, I’ve prepared some hastily drawn illustrations of it.

No resemblance to persons living or dead is intended. (Probably).



more whores



Expat Field Guide: Spiritual Seekers

Spiritual Seekers are coming to a tropical paradise near you, bearing books of Zen koans and an unusual fondness for discussing chakras and “Indigo Children.”

They are inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert. They would like to talk with you about how Southeast Asians are such a “happy people.”

Do not make direct eye contact.



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