SINGAPORE When Lee Chin Koon was a member in the 1930s, the Chinese Swimming Club here offered more than just laps in the pool. There was mah- jongg and blackjack, too.
"We Chinese are gamblers," he told club historians before his death in 1997. "If two lizards scale up a wall, someone would bet on them."
But what Lee's son, Lee Kuan Yew, remembered was how, after a losing night, his father would come home in a violent rage demanding his wife give him jewelry to pawn. When Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister of independent Singapore in 1965, he set about transforming this once-squalid seaport into a tidy industrial park by targeting vice. Cigarettes and alcohol were heavily taxed. Drugs traffickers were told they would be hanged. Casinos, naturally, were banned.
Times are changing once again. Lee Kuan Yew's son, Lee Hsien Loong, is now prime minister, and he is striving to shake Singapore's reputation as Asia's nanny state.
Really? Did someone liberalise Singapore while I wasn't looking?
With the country's basic manufacturing jobs shifting to China, Lee wants to stimulate tourism and other service industries by molding a more tolerant, fun-loving Singapore. And one of his signature projects - the world's most expensive casino complex - harks back more to his grandfather's Chinese Swimming Club than to his father's profit-perfect industrial landscape.
Last year, the government lifted its ban on casinos. Next month it is due to choose who will build the first of two planned resorts, a $3 billion extravaganza that will include a casino, an entertainment complex, a convention center and hotels. The list of bidders includes some of the biggest names in Las Vegas - Harrah's Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Mirage.
Strait-laced Singapore and freewheeling Vegas make strange partners. But Singapore is betting that, in return for letting casino operators tap the Chinese penchant for gambling, it can create a world-class tourist attraction without sacrificing the low crime rate and clean image that make it so popular with multinational corporations.
A question among many casino operators is whether Singapore's vision of a sanitized casino culture risks bleaching out the components that attract gamblers and drive profitability. But four of the biggest casino companies are betting that it won't. Las Vegas Sands is pitching a $3.6 billion project that would include a partnership with the Guggenheim Foundation. The Malaysian company Genting has promised an association with Universal Studios.
Harrah's, which has teamed up with a government-owned company, has enlisted James Cameron, director of the movie "Titanic," to design an indoor theme park. And MGM Mirage, which has also teamed up with a state-owned company, is including Cirque du Soleil as part of its bid.
"It's more money than we have ever proposed for any other hotel-casino integrated resort," said J. Terrence Lanni, chief executive of MGM Mirage.
If Singapore is trying to loosen up, the casino industry is seeking to shed its somewhat unsavory reputation and win acceptance as mainstream entertainment. And after a series of industry mergers - Harrah's with Caesar's, MGM with Mandalay - the casino giants see Asia, with its turbocharged economic growth and fervor for gambling, as the next great frontier.
Analysts estimate that casino revenue in the region will grow 20 percent this year to $13 billion. And that does not include the estimated $4 billion or more that Asians spend each year on illegal gambling or cruise-ship casinos.
Perhaps no one takes gambling more seriously than the Chinese. In China, casinos are illegal, so package vacations often include a visit to gambling centers like Macao, the former Portuguese enclave near Hong Kong. Since ending a monopoly on gambling two years ago, the once-seedy Macao has attracted billions of dollars in investments. MGM is spending more than $1 billion to build a casino there. Sands is building its second casino after its first pulled in more than $900 million within three months of opening.
Other Asian governments are taking notice. "The success that Macao has seen is putting pressure on other Asian economies to look at gaming as a source of income," said Joseph Greff, a gambling industry analyst at Bear Stearns in New York. South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam are expanding their casinos, and Japan, Taiwan and Thailand are considering legalizing them.
Singapore does not want to lose out. Tourism accounts for just 5 percent of Singapore's economy, and the authorities, despite a lack of natural tourist attractions here, hope to double annual arrivals to 17 million and triple the amount tourists spend to 30 billion Singapore dollars, or $19 billion, by 2015.
Officials here have rejected several casino proposals, most recently in 2002, when a committee assembled by Lee Hsien Loong, then finance minister, included a plan for one in an overall strategy aimed at helping Singapore improve its competitiveness at a time the global economy was still sluggish.
But signs have been mounting that Singapore is loosening up. In 2003, it lifted a ban on bar-top dancing and signaled an end to a crackdown on gay bars. The next year, it lifted a 20-year ban on Cosmopolitan magazine. Last year, a government minister presided at the opening of a Singapore branch of the Parisian topless revue Crazy Horse.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Does anybody outside Singapore really understand or appreciate the lingo has been adopted by some of the citizens? It's called Singlish, and it's an amalgamation of English and other local Asian dialects such as Chinese and Malay, to create an hybrid slang like Pidgin in Papua New Guinea and others in the South Pacific. It's weird, not proper language, not proper English, and yet it is promoted and encouraged by several popular "English language" websites and blogs coming from Singapore, and all of them should know better than to promote improper English to their readers. But they continue.
World Cup Event San Francisco
Here's a good resource for information on the upcoming events in Germany, provided by the New York Times.
And to think I took four years of German in High School in Bellevue, Nebraska, and now I can now only ask for directions to the bus station.
Where to stay, eat, party and watch matches free in Germany's 12 host cities.
New York Times Link
It seems to once again turning bad in Timor as the police, army and civilians resort to riots and insurgency in this long disturbed country. Australia has agreed to send in a few hundred soldiers to help stem the riots as the general populace of Dili flees the capitol city for the relative safety of the hills.
DILI, East Timor (AP) -- East Timor's capital descended into chaos Saturday as rival gangs torched houses and attacked each other with machetes and spears, defying international peacekeepers.
The violence prompted thousands of residents to flee or hide, terrified, in their homes. The United Nations said it would relocate all U.N. families and non-essential staff to a temporary safe haven in Darwin, Australia.
The prime minister described the violence as an attempt to overthrow his government.
''What is in motion is an attempt to stage a coup d'etat,'' Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri told a news conference as fires raged across the city.
Minutes before he spoke, Australian troops disarmed up to 40 machete-wielding gang members half a block away.
The Australian troops, who answered an emergency call from the fledgling country's government two days ago, patrolled the city in armored personnel carriers and tanks, and Black Hawk helicopters thundered overhead.
Mobs rampaged regardless, and the rattle of automatic weapons fire continued throughout the city as darkness fell, with some residents saying homes were still being burned.
At least seven people were injured, mostly during street clashes. Despite threats to use force, foreign soldiers were not believed to have fired their guns.
Dozens of houses and cars were set ablaze in one early morning raid. Women and children fled screaming to seek shelter at a nearby church. Soon after, Australian soldiers rounded up dozens of civilians armed with machetes, spears and other weapons, questioning them and searching vehicles.
Thousands of other terrified residents loaded provisions onto trucks and cars and drove to embassies, the airport or makeshift shelters.
Several ambulances were seen racing through the streets, sirens blaring.
''The Timorese are fighting, so we are afraid. At night they fire guns, or maybe worse, so I had to run to the United Nations,'' said Anim, a mother of four, as she prepared for a night in an overcrowded refugee camp at the U.N. headquarters.
New York Times Link
A couple of interesting letters came up this morning in the Bangkok Post, about the old familiar subjects of corruption at the border and and longstanding mess at Ko Samet, which is the worst managed national park in Thailand, owned, operated, and controlled by the Thai mafia.
Corruption on the Cambodian side
Yesterday I was forced to go on yet another costly and time-consuming border run to Cambodia. This time I encountered a problem on the Cambodian side of the border.
After crossing into Cambodia from Thailand, I went to the visa payment area (on the right side just after crossing the bridge) and paid the requested 1,000 baht for a tourist visa. I then went to the Cambodian border checkpoint. I gave the officer my immigration forms and he looked up at me and said, "You must pay me 800 baht to enter Cambodia." I told him that I had already paid. He then said, in a forceful tone, "800 baht!"
Controlling my rising anger, I told him again that I had already paid a Cambodian police officer 1,000 baht. He mumbled something to a colleague sitting next to him, stamped my passport and handed it back to me.
I then crossed the street to the area where you exit Cambodia. I handed the officer my passport. He looked up at me and said, "That will be 100 baht." I could not believe my ears. Two attempts at extortion on the same visa trip? I told him that I had already paid all of the required fees and asked him if this was some kind of new policy. He seemed surprised at my response and decided to stamp my passport and let me go.
Given that this is without doubt not an isolated event, I suspect that several corrupt Cambodian immigration officers are aggressively trying to extort money from virtually every foreigner that is trying to enter and exit Cambodia via Poipet.
Border runs are frustrating enough. Border runs that result in extortion attempts are way beyond frustrating.
Accordingly, if there is anything that the Thai government can do to help put a stop to this illegal behaviour, please do so. One simple solution would be to allow foreigners to pay the required visa fees at any Thai immigration office without having to exit Thailand.
Some comments from a holidaymaker currently staying on Koh Samet: I agree that to charge foreigners 200 baht while giving free entry to locals does point to unfortunate discrimination against tourists from outside Thailand. On the other hand, there is no uniformity in charging; some foreigners breeze in for free while others are forced to pay.
And it is unfortunately true that this so-called National Park must be one of the most shabby in the world. I did catch sight of two plump and uniformed park wardens sitting under the shade of a tree, smoking and chatting on their mobile phones - thus contributing to the environmental pollution of the place. I know not what duties they are assigned, but whatever they are, they were clearly neglecting them.
Despite the nice beaches here on Samet, this being a prime holiday destination for thousands of tourists each week, the park authorities have so far done nothing to provide a lifeguard service on the most popular beaches. Some beachside restaurants/bars do take the initiative to sweep the beach of detritus each morning, but others do the opposite: at too many places broken beer bottles despoil and endanger what should be pristine beaches. All such establishments should be obliged to keep their section of the beaches clean, as a condition for being allowed to operate their businesses within a National Park.
The fecundity of nature is not always beneficial, even in a National Park. The piles of uncollected and unwrapped rubbish at every turn attract swarms of flies and cockroaches. Much worse are the numerous stray dogs roaming the public areas.
The stringing of overhead electricity and telephone cables around the treetops is singularly inappropriate for a National Park, and these eyesores are to be seen throughout the island.
All in all, it is a great shame that a once beautiful and unspoilt island should have been permitted, by the indifference of the National Park authorities, to degenerate into the mess which unfortunately now describes too many parts of Koh Samet.
Elephant Buffet near Chiang Mai
The elephant situation in Thailand continues to worsen, as the Thai government and the royal family fail to take any serious actions to stop the decline of the wild elephant population. Without immediate intervention, it seems the native elephant population in Thailand is doomed for extinction.
How can we reconcile the appalling brutality they have been subjected to with our recognition and respect for the elephant as a symbol of our nationhood and make amends? For a start, a moratorium should be invoked on their use to haul logs in Burmese border areas because of the danger involved. Then we have to institute conservation measures and stop them being exploited on Bangkok streets. Our government should be ashamed that it devotes no funds to elephant conservation or welfare and that sanctuaries, hospitals and veterinarians have to rely on foreign donations. Surely this is an omission which can be put right and an educational and spirited ''Save the Elephant'' campaign launched. It would be a worthwhile and popular effort and the least we can do.
Bangkok Post Link
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Aids Victim/Zoriah at War Shooter
War Shooter is a website that features photography of the world in crisis, and among the better photographers is Zoriah, whose work of the tsunami disaster I featured a few months ago. His most recent photographic essay about AIDS in Asia is remarkable, disturbing, and a message that everyone should see.
During my work documenting the AIDS crisis in Asia, I had the opportunity to meet some truly incredible human beings, some of whom are still alive, most though have already died in the short period of time since the completion of this project. From the groups of urban prostitutes living and working in the slums of Phnom Penh Cambodia, teaching each other safety, survival and financial planning while setting up clinics on the average aid agencies paperclip budget, to the quiet suffering of mothers who have unknowingly passed on a disease to their children via their fathers indiscretion, these stories and these faces linger in my mind.
While aid organizations give total infection rates of about one percent, caregivers, hospice staff and the people on the ground speak of certain regions reaching up to twenty five percent HIV infection rates. With a new heroin epidemic hitting urban slums and a dramatic increase in both hetero and homosexual sex tourism, the problem is expected to reach epic proportions over the next few years.
Numbers and statistics are just that, nothing more than markings on paper or words on a news program, the human side however is truly disturbing. Patients wait to die alone, coated in flies and nursed by family members. Understaffed hospitals are in such disrepair that they have been deemed biohazard and HAZMAT threats and workers refuse to even enter the premises, much less make necessary repairs and provide care to patients.
In several well known hospitals I found myself literally wading through ankle deep piles of disposed needles, catheter bags and soiled linens, as patents navigated hallways with potholes that dropped through to the floors below. The human suffering is quite unreal and the faces of teenage girls, mothers, fathers and small babies wasting away in discomfort still appear vivid in my mind.
This photo story is dedicated to my new friends who sit quietly and wait to die, those who choose not to sit quietly but fight for the lives and the health of their friends, family, and complete strangers. This photo story should also serve as an attack on the organizations, governments, corporations and pharmaceutical giants who quite simply are doing too little.
War Shooter/Zoriah Link
Indo Green Gone
If you've ever wanted to experience a rainforest in Indonesia, you need to almost immediately hop on a plane and head on over there, as the rainforest of Indonesia now have an expected lifespan of just under 20 years. Yes, in two decades, the rainforests of Indonesia will all be cut down.
Indonesia's deforestation moves at a rate of six football fields a minute, alerts Greenpeace
Media Indonesia reports that of the total 192,200,000 hectares of land area comprising the Indonesian islands, just over half, or 54.7% is forested. Indonesia's forests are among the most biodiverse in the world, and include large tracts of tropical rainforests in Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. Indonesia has some 3305 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 31.1% are endemic, meaning that they exist in no other country, and 9.9% are threatened. Indonesia is home to at least 29,375 species of vascular plants, of which 59.6% are endemic. 4.5% of Indonesia is protected under IUCN categories I-V.
However, between 1990-2000 Indonesia was among countries with the fastest rate of deforestation, which also included Micronesia, Myanmar and Malaysia. Today, however, Indonesia deforests 7.2. hectares, or equal to the size of six football fields every minute. Minister for Forestry, MS Kaban reports that total deforested areas have already reached 59.2 million hectares, or nearly 50% of Indonesia's erstwhile forests. And, when deforestation continues at this rate, then in ten years time Indonesia will have no more forests left, warns Minister Kaban.
Deforestation rate on Sumatra is 2%, on Java 0.42% per year, Kalimantan 0.94% , Sulawesi 1%, and 0.75% in Irian Jaya, or an average of 1.61% for total Indonesia.
If between 1985-1998 yearly deforestation covered 1.6 million hectares per year, the Media Group estimates that in 2000 this tract has expanded to cover 3.8 million hectares, but declined to the (still hefty) present rate of spoilage of 2.4 million hectares a year.
Most of the spoilage are the result of destructive logging and illegal logging, as well as conversion of forests into human habitat or plantations. Erosions, especially on the island of Java and Sumatra are the result of forests that had strong trees and deep burrowing roots which could hold the soil together, being converted to coffee or palm oil plantations, whose plant roots are weaker and remain close to the surface.
It is small wonder, therefore, that between 1998 -2004 more than 623 natural disasters occurred in the form of flash floods, erosions and earthquakes that have taken too many human lives. Of these, more than 65% are caused by the mismanagement of the environment, says Walhi, Indonesia's Non-governmental organization for the Environment.
On Java, reports Kompas daily, the situation is exacerbated by the extreme density of its population. On a total land area of 13 million hectares that is the island of Java, more than 130 million people live on Java and adjoining island of Madura. In the year 2000 alone, out of a total 3 million hectares of Java forests, more than 56.7% or 567.315 hectares of protected forests and nature reserves were spoilt, while production forests without any more trees already extend an area of 1.15 million hectares. Because of intense population pressure, Java's forests had been transformed into towns, industrial estates, agricultural land and plantations, while along with these, the practice of illegal logging continues unabated.
Happy Times on Soi 4
I thought there was something funny about the stories and posts coming out from Bangkok Recorder, but their latest graphic posting just confirmed what I've long suspected from those anarchists.
Bangkok Recorder Link
Saya Makan Angin
Whenever you travel in Indonesia, the locals will constantly ask you "Where you going?" They don't really expect any kind of coherent answer, it's just a friendly way to say Hello and perhaps get a reaction from the big white foreigner. You can, of course, actually tell them where you are going, but they really aren't interested in such matters. According to Bill Dalton, your best option is to make a joke, and he recommends a quick "Saya Makan Angin."
"I'm eating the wind."
In other news, Bill is now in Chico to attend the Chico State graduation ceremonies for his surviving daughter (Ari), and we will perhaps hook up in early June when he passes through San Francisco enroute back to his home base near Boston, with his Indonesian wife, adopted child, and new son.
Sri, I miss you girl.
Jalan Jaksa Link
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Bugils Nightclub Jakarta
When in Jakarta, I am usually confined/imprisoned within the backpackers ghetto of Jalan Jaksa, and rarely if ever make it out to the expat havens south of town, including the club of the Dutch guy who has a website and weekly email newsletter that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about expat life in Jakarta.
He's also got a book out about his life and times in Jakarta, and I would hope the publisher would send me a copy, to go along with Bangkok Dazed, which I loved for its iconoclastic attitude and anti-cliche photography.
Bugil Bartele Newsletter
Hobbit Man Flores
Flores Hobbit Skull
Everybody loves a good archeology story, right? Well, one of the best arch stories is now being created in Indonesia, in Java, where a combined effort of Australian and Indonesian archeologists went into a cave on the island of Flores (a few hours east of Bali) and uncovered the skeletal remains of some very short people.
Hobbits? Nah, this ain't Tolken, but they were very short people who lived in caves on Flores perhaps 10K years ago. Great discovery. Then the bones were stolen away by archeologists from Jakarta who didn't seem to really get along philosophically with the guys from Australia. This is not new.
A battle over bones ensued, and it's still going on. This is one of the great archeological battles of the last decade and has everything mysterious and controversial going for it, and I hope several Australian journalists and novelists are covering this in great details, since this is one arch/indo/aussie book I intend to buy.
What a story.
Forget the fiction of DaVinci Code. This is the real deal.
The surprising discovery of bones heralded as a new, hobbitlike human species may turn out to have simply been the remains of a human suffering from a genetic illness that causes the body and brain to shrink, according to researchers challenging the original report.
The bones were discovered in 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores and caused a stir in the scientific community when researchers declared they represented a new dwarf species which they named Homo floresiensis.
Because of its tiny stature, the hominid was quickly dubbed the "Hobbit," from the creature in the books by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Some scientists questioned whether it was really a new species, however, and Robert D. Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago and co-authors challenge the original classification in a technical comment appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
They say that, instead, it appears to be a modern human suffering from microencephaly, a genetic disorder that results in small brain size and other defects. Other researchers also have proposed this explanation.
Martin argues that the brain of the specimen, known as LB1, is far too small to merely be a dwarf species. Its brain size of 400 cubic centimeters would indicate a creature only a foot tall, one-third the size of the actual skeleton.
In addition, sophisticated stone tools have been found at the site, he reports, of a type only associated with modern humans, which could have reached the island by the time LB1 lived about 18,000 years ago.
And they contended that evidence to rule out a microencephalic was flawed because the original researchers compared LB1 to the brain of a juvenile microencephalic, not an adult.
In a response to their paper, researchers led by Dean Falk of Florida State University called Martin's assertions "unsubstantiated." Martin's comparison of LB1 with the skulls of microcephalics lacks crucial details, Falk stated.
Falk also challenged Martin's comment that such a small brain size would indicate an extremely tiny creature based on the calculations for dwarf versions of other animals. It would be surprising if the dwarf version of an early human scaled down in the same way as an elephant, for example, Falk responded.
Falk and his co-authors argued that the size of LB1 brain is not consistent with that of adult microencephalics.
Merapi Volcano on Java
Mt. Merapi is one of those famous Indonesian volcanoes that sometimes rumbles, smokes, belches, and throws out some lava down the slopes, but nobody has really any idea whether it's a major eruption or just a temp disturbance, so the farmers don't flee their land and the tourists keep coming up to the volcanic base in the hope of some real action. I've been to the town on the southern side of the volcano, but Merapi is always climbed from the north side, leaving at 3am with summit at sunrise. And I do play golf......
MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia - The caddies have fled. A pair of cleaning women squat beneath the shade of a tree close to the 18th hole. The club's manager sits and smokes, knowing he is in for a quiet couple of weeks.
When dormant, the volcano that gives Golf Merapi club its name is its biggest draw. Golfers from around the world come for the experience of playing on the flanks of a still active volcano, the crater of which is just 5 miles from the course.
But when the mountain is erupting, it stops play like nothing else.
As Sukirman spoke the peak belched massive clouds of ash and sent searing hot gas clouds rolling down its slopes Monday. The club is situated just outside the peak's mandatory evacuation zone, and it is not the only business suffering because of Merapi's wrath, which scientists say could last several weeks.
Scores of guesthouses popular with adventure tourists are now off limits, as are campsites and restaurants catering to day-trippers from Yogyakarta, the nearest city to the volcano.
The peak sputtered to life several weeks ago and activity has steadily increased.
On Saturday, officials raised the alert status to the highest level, and more than 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many are staying in temporary shelters close to the club. Sukirman said the caddies that ply the 6,969-yard, par-72 course ran home when a particularly large eruption shook the mountain Monday. The club closed its gates, and most of its 250 staff were told not to come to work.
"This is the risk of putting a club here," Sukirman said. "When there is an eruption, it can make the future look pretty unclear."
Those of you who are following this blog realize that i've just come back from a SATW press trip to Arizona, and I'm now wading myself through email messages at my regular email address and now some 100 Hotmail messages, including this intriguing letter from another travel writer and photographer who has his own experiences with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). He has given permission for me to reprint his message, though I think I'll probably delete a few of the specific names and replace them with *.
Hi there friskodude,
Like you I am a travel writer and photographer.
A couple of years ago I was planning a return trip to Thailand and searched the internet to see if I could find the dates for the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. I had attended this amazing display of self-mortification in 2000 and wanted to see it again with a friend who has never been to Thailand.
Imagine my surprise when I found a page on the TAT website with 8 of MY photos on it - all stolen from my own website. They even had the nerve to post a Copyright notice on their (TAT) page claiming all photos were their copyright.
Politely I asked in 5 separate emails WHY my photos were on the TAT website, especially since I have never been sponsored by TAT for a press trip or anything.
None of these inquiries were ever answered ... UNTIL ... I finally submittd an Invoice for aobut $15,000 US, reflecting International Licensing rates for more than 2 years of continuous usage of my photos without permission on multiple pages of the TAT website.
This finally promped a reply from TAT in the Phuket Office.
Following my receipt of this official response (see below), I contacted a law firm in Bangkok and paid a $3000 USD retainer. To make a long story short, the firm eventually informed me that I would be lucky to ever get even $3000 from TAT and that I would be better off to just drop the whole thing and settle for an apology. The firm reimbursed me $2500 and kept just $500.
I have NEVER received an apology from TAT and I was also informed by a friend in New York City that he happened to see a list of travel contacts for TAT in their New York Office. The list contained a section of "blacklisted" journalists. My name was on that part of the list - in other words, no one from TAT is ever supposed to have anything to do with me.
Well talk about a Ministry that doesn't have its act together ... I would rather call it THEFT, Intellectual Property Copyright Infringement, and Insulting to boot. After you have read the official response from TAT, you can decide wshether or not it's insulting.
Let me get this straight now ... someone steals my photos, uses them without permission, gets caught - and voila ... I am the thief, I am stupid, my friends and family are stupid, I am an extortionist and I am blacklisted both by Immigration and Tourism authorities. Well ... Hit me with a Stick.
Feel free to publish this. I obviously have nothing further to lose ...
The email from TAT in 2004 - verbatim - nothing edited or changed (PS: it was 8 photos - not 2)
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Pictures at TAT website
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2004 10:20:29 +0700
Dear Mr. Robert Burch,
I am Mr. Payoonsak Rattanamas, representative of former Tourism Authority of Thailand Director, Southern region 4. I will explain you about the pictures that we brought from your website to show 2 photos.
From our understood the festival for vegetarian in Phuket organize by TAT and Phuket Province then all picture from this event we can use for non-profit organization like us and if you want to take photos from this event to make your business you should ask permission from us and very funny when you use advantage from the event that we created and paid all expenses and you ask too much money from 2 photos like over 10,000 pounds.(you should advise your wife, your friends or some people you close they will told you why you do stupid work like this)
Please confirm your your desire direct to me who handle this case we will consideration your asking and if you confirmed the same from beginning we may have to black list your name for immigration division and Thai Embassy to protect people like you to come to Thailand to take advantage from Thailand Government again.
Singapore Casino Proposal
Well, that didn't take very long. I'm only back from the Arizona excursion for less than 24 hours and I'm already taken with the newsletter posting from Jack Daniels at Bali Discovery, and then my old buddy Jimbo in Alameda, the Unix guru of human biotechnology, sends along the above clip of the proposal from Sands of Vegas for the upcoming Singapore gambling casino just south of city center.
You can get a fine view of the proposed site from the private general manager's suite at Pan Pacific, but please don't tell them that Carl sent you.
Bids for the casino project are still open, and I'm still hoping that Bellagio gets in on the action, but what's happening with the gambling casino development out at Sentosa?
New York Times Link
Kuta Beach 1979 by Carl Parkes
Jack Daniels at Bali Discovery Tours has posted his latest newsletter with some intriguing insights into recent developments on the island. I'll bypass the technical reports on tourism arrivals and such, but the rest of the newsletter is quite colorful as Jack seems to be expanding his reportage universe.
There seems to be some controversy over the development and expansion of villas in Bali, and how they can legally compete with hotels and guesthouses. It all seems fairly unregulated, and knowing somewhat the legal atmosphere of Indonesia, it's probably ripe for corruption, payoffs, red tape, etc. etc. etc. But the villa owners are now getting together and organizing to protect their rights. I'm no expert on this subject, but it's an important issue for the tourism industry in Bali.
Bali Villa News
Indonesia's most famous cross dresser and flaming queen transvestite has suddenly announced to the tourism press that Bali has too many hotel rooms and that the island should go back to farming.
Joop Ave needs to (avoid room service boys in NZ) quit making passes in public at travel writers who are on press trips to Jakarta sponsored by Garuda Airlines in Los Angeles.
Joop Ave Lectures on Bali Tourism
Who has done the most to destroy the tourism market in Indonesia? Muslim terrorists who bomb Bali nightclubs? The war between Muslims and Christians in Sulawesi? Earthquakes and tsunamis in Aceh?
Wrong! It's the Immigration Department of the Indonesian government that seems to be working overtime to kill off and destroy any notion of free tourism in the country. Eliminate free 60 day tourist visas, and suddenly nobody has the time to reach or explore Flores, Sumbawa, Lake Toba, Tana Toraja, Guinea. With only 30 days, tourism has been cut back to Bali and perhaps a few places on Java, with Lombok getting a handful of visitors.
Indonesia Immigration: the Destroyer of Indonesia tourism.
Bali Discovery Link
And lastely, some news about the biggest and most controversial tourism failure in Bali in recent years, a sad legacy of the ego of Suharto, whose family continues to own and operate many of the larger luxurious resorts on Bali.
Bali Discovery on GWK
Rajasthan by Carl Parkes
I'm back from almost two weeks of press trip touring in Arizona, courtesy of SATW, AZ Communications, Arizona State Tourism, and the tourist offices, CVBs, and Chambers in Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Page, Lake Powell, Sedona and Prescott. Great state, great people, and mind blowing topography. Wow. Next up is Philly and Pittsburg in early June.
I'm still going through piles of mail and email, but will probably start regular blogging tomorrow or shortly thereafter. See ya soon.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
I wonder if the fake Viagra I purchased from a pharmacy in Phuket a few years ago was Made in China? Could Thailand also throw a few people in jail for selling fake ED boosters just to even the score?
Fake Viagra maker given 10-year prison term
BEIJING, May 10 -- A man has been given a 10-year prison sentence for producing millions of fake anti-impotence pills. Wang Weiping was also fined 2 million yuan (US$250,000) in a first ruling on Monday at Shaoxing Intermediate People's Court in East China's Zhejiang Province.
The 34-year-old, a legal worker at Kangdeli Health Care Co Ltd in Xinchang County of the province, was arrested in November last year on suspicion of producing and selling counterfeit drugs. A total of 381,000 fake Viagra pills and 1.4 million counterfeit Cialis tablets, worth a combined total of 241 million yuan (US$29 million) on the market, were also seized from workshops at Kangdeli Health Care, according to a release from the court.
Viagra is produced by the New York-based Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, while Cialis is manufactured by Indianapolis-based Lilly Icos LLC. Both are well-known drugs to treat impotence. Some of the fake pills were found to contain medical starch, which does not have any curative effect and others had too much sildenafil, the main ingredient of Viagra, and is detrimental to health in large doses, said the release.
Workshops to make the fake drugs were also found in Guannan County of Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang's neighbouring province. All counterfeit pills, production machines and materials to make the fake drugs were confiscated. Wang began making the fake pills in Shaoxing in April last year, and established another manufacturing base at Guannan in Jiangsu Province in June.
Local police and drug administration officials uncovered the case during a crackdown on the production of fake pills. No counterfeit drugs have actually been found in the marketplace, said Zhang Guojing, director of the Shaoxing Food and Drug Administration. Wang's operation is the biggest, in terms of the financial worth of the pills, to have been uncovered in Zhejiang Province.
Erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Cialis were approved by the Ministry of Health and State Food and Drug Administration as prescription drugs in 1999. In December last year, seven people in Zhengzhou in Central China's Henan Province were accused of selling 9.7 million fake tablets of Viagra.
Served with Fava Beans
As everyone around the world knows, Koreans just love their dogs served up in a nice stew, with a side of fava beans and nice Chianti, but it's still considered somewhat uncool to borrow the prime ingredients from your neighbor.
Murderous Dog Stew Lover Undone by Telltale Collar
A discarded dog collar led authorities to a man in his 40s who had stolen a pedigree dog and turned it into the stew known as Boshintang that is still considered a delicacy by some Koreans.
Police said a woman identified as Kim (57) on the morning of April 3 tied her pedigree dog, of a breed that sells for some US$300, in the yard of the restaurant she manages. That was the last she saw of her furry companion. Searching all over the neighborhood later that morning, however, she found the animal’s collar near the door of a portakabin, home to a man identified as Song (44). Kim reported her suspicion that Song had stolen the dog to the police, who arrested the man on Monday.
An officer with Seoul Guro-gu police station said Song was a great lover of Boshintang, and his mouth watered at the sight of the dog, driving him to steal the animal and eat it. "He probably never thought he would be caught because of the collar," the officer added.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Three men are killed when an elevator plummets
BANGKOK: -- Three mechanics were killed on board when an elevator they repaired in a Bangkok high-rise malfunctioned and plummeted more than 20 stories.
The fourth mechanic who lost his both arms was rushed to a nearby hospital.
Initial investigation showed the mechanics were working on the elevator on the 23rd floor of the Citibank building in Bangkok when it suddenly plunged to the basement.
--The Nation 2006-05-06
I wonder if the people and government of Thailand realize what an almost totally incompetent organization is the Tourism Authority of Thailand? As a travel writer, I've been dealing with them for over 15 years, and yet they really don't have a clue about anything, anything, anything. I mean anything.
Their annual budget was recently reported in the Phuket Gazette to be 1.5 Billion Dollars.
Don G. at Bangkok Dazed recently worked up the courage to look at the TAT website, and it wasn't pretty........... Also, Don runs an excellent, funny, and informative blog with RSS feeds for you informative types. Good work, Don.
I hadn’t checked in with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in a long time, so I paid a visit to their always amazing (amazingly confusing and full of mistakes) website this week. I see that they are still promoting a Thai Airways “Songkran” special that ran from April 10-17. Hmm, it’s May now, isn’t it? And if I want to know about any festivals happening this month, where should I click? There is no clear choice, so I obtained the info in a most circuitous manner.
From the home page I clicked on several dead ends before I made my way to something dubbed “Happiness Thailand.” That led my to a link called “Happiness Has Many Choices.” Oh boy, does it. At that point I had to further navigate over to a category called “Festive Happiness” and then choose the month. On that page I found a short list of events for May, but no additional details besides the name of the festival. If you want to know exactly what the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is, or when it will be held, you are out of luck. Likewise, information about the famed Bun Bang Fai rocket festival in Yasothon is non-existent. Way to go, TAT, you’re doing an amazing job.
In case you didn't notice or didn't care, Singapore had something they like to amusingly call "elections" last weekend, and as expected, the ruling party once again took nearly ever damn seat, despite the fact that opposition parties won over 35% of the popular vote. How do they do that, anyway? The election was so pre-orchestrated, pre-arranged, manipulated, and everything else so typical of the totalitarian regime that I didn't even bother to make a comment.
One of the leading opposition parties is the Worker's Party, founded by a local academic named James Gomez, who by a weird sense of coincidence, also happens to be an old friend of Torn and Frayed in Manila. Well, at least Torn.....not sure about Frayed. And after the Singapore government hauled Gomez down to the police station, and has been questioning him over the last few days, Torn is more than shocked that once again one of his old buddies in jolly old Singapore has been targeted by the fascists who control the city state.
Oh, Torn was also in Singapore in 1987 when a dozen young political activists were arrested on trumped-up charged and thrown in jail after being labeled "Marxists." It was ridiculous, and I also happened to be in Singapore at the time, staying at some budget guesthouse on Bencoolen Street, reading my banned copy of the Far Eastern Economic Review to figure out what was really going on.
James Gomez and political intimidation in Singapore
It is quite disconcerting to open a paper and see that someone you know has been arrested for a political offence. This has happened to me twice, both in Singapore.
Two Sundays ago I was in transit in Singapore and was astonished picked up a paper with a worried looking photo of my old friend James Gomez on the cover. “PM: come clean. Gomez: I’m sorry” thundered the headline. The “facts” of this amazingly trivial incident are these. As a candidate in Singapore’s general election, James Gomez was supposed to have submitted a “minority race candidate form” (delicious name). He thought he had submitted the form to the elections department, but it turns out he was mistaken. And er … that’s it.
To give you an idea of what a full blooded democracy Singapore is, this “James Gomez affair” threatened to dominate the campaign, so much so that the prime minister had to ask a press conference to turn its attention to other issues “The big issues for the elections are even bigger than James Gomez.” He then added, rather ominously: “After the election, there will be time and opportunity for a proper public resolution.”.
This “proper public resolution” is now underway. The day after the election (in which James’s Workers’ Party performed creditably), he went to the airport to board a flight to Sweden, where he has a new job as a researcher. He was stopped at the airport, his passport was confiscated, and he was taken for six hours of “questioning” (for an insight in questioning techniques in Singapore, see next post).
He was released, but then taken in for a second round of questioning yesterday (Tuesday). His passport has not been returned to him and he has, at the very least, lost his non-refundable airline ticket to Stockholm. James must be very worried and of course his notoriety will have affected any chance of his working again in his country (“why take the risk of giving him a job lah?”). He’s a decent guy who wants the best for Singapore and I don’t think he deserves to be terrorized in this way.
I knew James when we were both postgraduate students in London in the mid-1990s. He’s a likeable and friendly sort of guy, who hardly fitted the stereotype of an exiled agitator. But, then as we know, it doesn’t take much to be a radical in the island republic.
Torn and Frayed in Manila
Marcos Under Glass
I've never been particularly offended by the hygiene or appearances of most bus drivers in the Philippines, since the rickety carcases they drive hardly inspire the coat-and-tie attire, but it seems like somebody out there wants them to clean up their act.
MANILA (Reuters) - Bus drivers negotiating the sweltering streets of Manila have a new thing to stress about -- their armpits. Faced with complaints from commuters fed up with the stench at the front of the bus, taxi and train, Manila authorities have reminded drivers to wash and deodorize daily during the heat of the summer.
"We understand that drivers must earn money to support themselves and their respective families," said Bayani Fernando, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. "It is only right that in return, these drivers must observe proper hygiene.
"If they have body odor or armpit odor, ask the advice of doctors for treatment. But I think if they only take a bath every day, and maybe they can use "tawas" or deodorant, then there would be no problem."
Temperatures in the sprawling Philippine capital regularly hit the high 30s Celsius from mid-March to mid-May. Some of the estimated 30,000 public drivers often strip off to beat the heat but Fernando reminded them to maintain decorum. "They must also refrain from wearing slippers and shorts," Fernando said.
Yahoo News Link
So where's the world's tallest ferris wheel? I've long thought it was that gigantic structure with enormous cabins on the edge of London, but those determined Chinese have done the Brits one better and recently erected a monster in some city called Nanchang. Anyone heard of this place, and why in the world do they deserve this record holder? Perhaps the Malaysians can rise to the occasion, and erect an even taller monster in some obscure place such as Taman Negara National Park, or perhaps in Johor Baru just to bug the Singaporeans.
BEIJING - China is reaching for the stars with the opening of what it says it the world's tallest Ferris wheel in the country's south. The 525-foot-high Star of Nanchang opened in early May in a riverside park in Jiangxi province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The wheel is a full 82 feet taller than the London Eye on the banks of the River Thames in London which, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the current record-holder.
The ride is lit up with fluorescent red and blue lights. A full rotation of the wheel takes about 30 minutes. The developer is applying to Guinness World Record officials for certification as the tallest, Xinhua said.
Yahoo News Link
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Pattaya Beauty Queen
For reasons almost beyond the comprehension of the average Western visitor to Thailand, many young Thai women consider white skin the epitome of perfection, and dark skin a sure sign that you come from some farm where you have been working the ricefields. I can see the logic in this to some degree, but I had no idea that these skin whiteners sold everywhere in Thailand were so potentially dangerous. Perhaps the government should ban these products?
The young Thai women in the dermatologist's waiting room looked like the victims of some fairy-tale curse for vanity. They hide their faces behind oversized sunglasses. Their faces are as mottled as rotten fruit and the damage may be irreversible.
And all because of their search for a porcelain complexion. For the faddish whitening creams they slapped on daily have triggered a nasty reaction.
Fair skin is relentlessly promoted across Asia as the ideal, but a raft of black market products are now having a devastating impact.
High-end cosmetics are marketed by film stars and touted as the way to achieve that Western look. But few can afford them and instead opt for cheap imitations. The results have been devastating for thousands of women. "These girls are desperate. They believed the claims of some movie star and then overused shoddy products, ending up with very dark patches that are almost impossible to reverse," said Dr Wichai Hongcharu, a dermatologist at Bangkok's St Louis hospital. "When they learn it will stay like that for ever, many get depressed or even suicidal."
The quickest results come from either mercury-chloride or hydroquinone, which was banned for cosmetic use by the European Union five years ago, but is sold across Asia.
The Independent Link
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Flaming Moe's Bangkok
This list of ten commandments was originally posted by Trink in the Bangkok Post perhaps 20 years ago, but has been revised and rewritten dozens of times, including this version by Mekong Kurt at "The Rounds."
1. At the end of the week, specifically Friday and Saturday, many locally employed walking ATM machines will come to your bar, choose carefully! Some have money, but others do not! If he is wearing a suit and tie, check that the tie is not a Pratunam special and check that he isn't wearing trainers. If he is, forget him because he is most likely an English teacher, and they will only give you peanuts, if they give you anything at all.
2. No matter how fat and ugly he is, no matter how bad he may smell, no matter how drunk he is, make sure you always tell him he is handsome. Sit close to him and run your hands over his body, arousing him. As soon as he has paid the bar fine, you can stand clear of him. Even if he knows that you despise him, he'll still pay you. The hard part is getting him to pay the bar, and as soon as he has done that, the rest is easy.
3. Start collecting email addresses from all of your customers, once you have a good collection of addresses, a visit to your local Internet cafe is in order. Send everyone an email. Simply change the name on each email and send it off to all the guys. If you can remember something specific about them, mention that in the email too. These walking ATMs all have a soft heart, so you need to tell them a story to get them to send you some of their riches. Start with a sick buffalo and if he doesn't reply, next tell him that your mother is ill. As a last resort, if he still doesn't send any money, tell him you are pregnant and the baby is his!
4. Practice crying on cue. It is essential that you can produce tears immediately. This will have the effect of helping the walking ATM machine to see things your way!
5. When you get a customer for an extended period of time, make sure he takes you shopping, with Rarn Tong (gold shop) being the best place to visit. Make sure he buys you gold and if he doesn't, see rule 4! As soon as he has left Thailand, take the gold back to the shop and sell it straight back to them, thus increasing your pay out.
6. When locally based farangs are inside the bars, do not speak in Thai with your friends in the bar but rather use Lao, Khmer or any other dialects that you may know. It's bad enough that some of them can speak and even read Thai, but Lao and Khmer should be kept as sacrosanct. Under no circumstances should the farang be taught our regional dialects.
7. Always see him off at the airport. Thai currency cannot be used in his country, so it is highly likely that he will give you all of his leftover Baht as he leaves and says goodbye. While accompanying him to the airport, prevent him buying going-away gifts for his family and friends in his homeland, this will leave more money for you.
8. See Asian customers. They understand that we like to gamble, and they understand that we have lots of unemployed brothers and sisters who need to eat. Therefore, they pay a lot better than the farangs.
9. Remember, when you go with a farang, you must always ask for taxi money and give him the excuse that taxi drivers cannot give change on big notes. Don't let him see the small change in your wallet. If taxi money isn't forthcoming, see rule 4.
10. If you are no longer making money in Bangkok, move down to Phuket where you will be able to start making money again. Give Phuket a few years, then move on to Pattaya. Even if you are approaching 50, it is no problem as the walking ATM machines in Pattaya seem to be so blind, they will not notice.
Mekong Kurt Link
Several days ago the Bangkok Post printed a very informative story about farangs in Bangkok, which includes total numbers, percentages by nationality, and a quick look at where all these farangs live. Take a wild guess. It also points out the surprisingly low number of quality apartments which would appeal to a wealthy expat on assignment with a foreign company, so it seems that most farangs are living in small but adequate condos.
The expatriate community in Bangkok grew by over 13.8% from December 2004 compared to December 2005. There are now 61,913 foreigners with work permits in Bangkok, according to the latest CB Richard Ellis residential rental report, this excludes diplomatic staff. 22% of the total number of expatriates were Japanese followed by Indians (12%), Chinese (9%), British (9%), and American (7%).
These numbers are expected to grow, especially Japanese expatriates due to the growth in the number of Japanese companies manufacturing in Thailand.
The supply of the apartments in Bangkok’s Central Areas increased slightly in 2005 to 9,953 units, a 1.4 % increase from the third quarter of 2005, 142 new units in 3 building were completed in the fourth quarter of 2005 namely Sofitel Residence Asoke on Soi Sukhumvit 19, BT Residence on Soi Sukhumvit 8, and Blossom Ville on Soi Sukhumvit 63/4. Apartments are single ownership developments rather than multi ownership condominiums.
Sukhumvit is still the most popular area due to its wide variety of retail and entertainment facilities. This area accounts for 69% of the total stock in downtown Bangkok. Grade A apartments to comprise 1,526 units, only 15% share of the total stock. Key characteristics of grade A apartments are easily accessible with a good location, design, layout, interior, property management and adequate facilities for residents. Overall occupancy rates increased to 90.6 % and rents for grade A apartment properties rose by 1.4% at the end of 2005.
“Today roughly 60% of expatriates receive a housing allowance from their companies. The balances of expatriates are on lump sum salaries,” according to Mr. Theerathorn Prapunpong, head of Residential Leasing Services at CB Richard Ellis, “these tenants want modern accommodation with hotel style bathrooms and European kitchens”.
Bangkok Post Link
Fairly strange story about a recent marriage in Malaysia, but if Anna Nicole Smith can marry that billionaire geriatric shortly before he kicked the bucket, then I guess it's fair to allow a young Malaysian man to marry to women of his dreams. Could there possibly be some underlying motives going on here?
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- A 33-year-old man in northern Malaysia has married a 104-year-old woman, saying mutual respect and friendship had turned to love, a news report said.
It was Muhamad Noor Che Musa's first marriage and his wife's 21st, according to The Star newspaper on Tuesday, citing a report in the Malay-language Harian Metro tabloid.
Muhamad, an ex-army serviceman said he found peace and a sense of belonging after meeting Wook Kundor, whom he said he initially sympathized with because she was childless, old and alone, the report said.
"I am not after her money, as she is poor," Muhamad reportedly said. "Before meeting Wook, I never stayed in one place for long." Muhamad said he hoped to help his new bride to master Roman script while she taught him Islamic religious knowledge
Pittsburg Tribune Link
And another odd story from Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur - A rash of cases of Malaysian women being tricked into having sex with fraudulent "healers" has prompted a warning from authorities for women to beware of smooth-talking con men.
In the latest case, a 41-year-old woman was tricked into having sex dozens of times with a medium who claimed to be the "Ninth Emperor of the Kingdom of God" and said she was possessed by evil spirits, newspapers reported Wednesday.
The 52-year-old medium said her domestic and financial problems would be solved with the sex sessions, which took place over seven months at a cost of 20-50 ringgit (about R33 to R136) each, during which he moved into her house.
He was eventually turfed out by the woman's husband and has threatened to put a curse on the family.
Prominent politician Michael Chong from the Malaysian Chinese Association party said such stories were all too common and that he had received five similar complaints in the last year. "In two cases, the husbands claimed they understood their partner's plight and promised to stand by them," he told the New Straits Times.
"Within days, both men left, accusing their partners of being unfaithful," said Chong, urging victims to come forward to report the scam artists instead of suffering in silence. Many Malaysians hold superstitious beliefs, and fraudsters who run spirituality-related scams cheating people of their money are common.
Guest writer Mike Wootten todays posts an article in the Manila Times which recommends the wonderful beaches of the Philippines, but also points out that most of the country is completely devoid of tourists, aside from a few hardy backpackers with plenty of time to spare. He mentions the Chinese who fly from Taipei directly to Laoag, where there's an active casino, and the Japanese who arrive with their golf bags with a weekend of budget play, and a handful of older Westerners who make their way directly up to Angeles City for some R&R.
Mike comes to the conclusion that tourism will remain stuck at dismal levels until the infrastructure for transportation can be dramatically improved. He's exactly right. The above photo of Bantayan Island is obviously spectacular, but consider the amount of time it takes to get there. From Manila airport you must fly down to Cebu City, where you'll almost certainly get stuck for a night, and the taxi ride from Mactan into Cebu City is really horrible. Next day, it's a six-hour bus ride north, then a banca ride over to the island, where you will probably need to use local transport to reach your desired beach.
Two hard days of travel. OK for a backpacker, but tourists on a two-week holiday simply don't have the time or energy for such grueling travel.
Of course every body knows that lack of infrastructure is a primary inhibitor to Philippines economic development and this affects the growth of tourism as it does the growth of other things such as industry and commerce. Philippines tourist arrivals suffer from ups and downs. Growth rates declined from the late ’90s to 2001, in which year the Philippines had less tourists than Vietnam, but are now on an upswing at about 2 million in 2004, no cause for relaxation though as this number is still less than 10 percent of the tourist arrivals in Malaysia!
So tourism is an area in which the Philippines has little competitive advantage over many of its Asean neighbours. It is an area in which lots of investment is needed to bring it to the level of Asean neighbours and even then the Philippines lacks overt cultural depth. Metro Manila is not an attractive tourist destination, although the conference business may have some potential, the city cannot be rebuilt to its pre World War II colonial style; such a pity as the few remaining buildings are really nice (Intramuros, Café Ysabel at Greenhills) but there are so few, is it really worth fighting through the traffic for the short time visitor?
Manila Times Link
It breaks my heart to read reports such as this one recently published in the New York Times, that basically confirms that the rainforests of Indonesia have been sold to the Chinese, in exchange for palm oil plantations. The criminal agreement between the Indonesian and Chinese government was signed last year during a visit to China by the Indonesia president. It's a done deal, so if you've ever wanted to experience a rainforest, you'd better get yourself over to Kalimantan, Sabah/Sarawak, or Sumatra before it's all gone.
LONG ALONGO, Indonesia — For as long as anyone can remember, Anyie Apoui and his people have lived among the majestic trees and churning rivers in an untouched corner of Borneo, catching fish and wild game, cultivating rice and making do without roads. But all that is about to change.
The Indonesian government has signed a deal with China that will level much of the remaining tropical forests in an area so vital it is sometimes called the lungs of Southeast Asia.
For China, the deal is a double bounty: the wood from the forest will provide flooring and furniture for its ever-expanding middle class, and in its place will grow vast plantations for palm oil, an increasingly popular ingredient in detergents, soaps and lipstick.
The forest-to-palm-oil deal, one of an array of projects that China said it would develop in Indonesia as part of a $7 billion investment spree last year, illustrates the increasingly symbiotic relationship between China's need for a wide variety of raw materials, and its Asian neighbors' readiness to provide them, often at enormous environmental cost.
For Mr. Anyie and his clan, the deal will bring jobs and the opportunity for a modern life. "We love our forest, but I want to build the road for my people — I owe it to them," said Mr. Anyie, 63, an astute elder of the Dayak people. "We've had enough of this kind of living."
From Indonesia to Malaysia to Myanmar, many of the once plentiful forests of Southeast Asia are already gone, stripped legally or illegally, including in the low-lying lands here in Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo. Only about half of Borneo's original forests remain.
Those forests that do remain, like the magnificent stands here in Mr. Anyie's part of the highlands, are ever pressed, ever prized and ever more valuable, particularly as China's economy continues its surge.
New York Times Link
Looks like things are starting to heat up again in East Timor. Although nobody seems to know why, over the last week almost a dozen people have been murdered, an estimated 20-30 homes have been burned down, a local market is now just debris, and at least 30% of the Dili population has fled the city for the country. A report from a Westerner based in Dili.
Dili Unrest #11
As the day wore on, it was clear the streets were steadily thinning of people. I know of a Timorese guy who went home from work yesterday and found his village on the outskirts of town virtually deserted. His family called him from Liquica, about 30kms to the west. The village had freaked - he still doesn’t know exactly why.
There appears to be fewer taxis and a number are driving around with cracked windscreens. Street vendors have all but disappeared. Large scale absenteeism from work continues.
I know this sounds wacko, but the feeling in my water is that 20 to 30% of Dili’s population has left town, or at least left home.
Word has it that a number of senior people in the civil and military administration have moved their families out of Dili. This is not sending a tremendously encouraging signal.
On the brighter side, I have been enormously impressed by the work of the catholic church through the seminaries etc. There are a number of highly intelligent, well organised and disciplined priests who are real doers and have got stuck into reparation work for those who have lost houses or a place to stay.
All in all, everything has gone exceptionally quiet. After dark, it is as quiet as I have ever heard. Its like everyone is just waiting for something to happen, but no-one can think of exactly what it might be
Posted by Carl Parkes on Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Police have arrested the Thai common-law wife of Stephen Jeffrey Miller, the 40-year-old New Zealand businessman who was shot dead by two assassins on a motorcycle during the morning of April 20, and charged her with murder.
They have also arrested a man who has confessed to driving the motorcycle, and are now hunting the gunman, issuing warnings that they will shoot to kill if necessary.
Miller was shot at Soi Chalermprakiat 3, at the front of Saeng Krachang Village in Naklua, while apparently riding his motorcycle back from the gym. A motorcycle taxi driver at the entrance to the soi told police that he heard shots and saw two men wearing black and riding a motorcycle. The driver was wearing a crash helmet hiding his face and the passenger covered his face with a black cloth. They sped out of the soi and headed in the direction of the Central Pattaya Intersection.
On examining the body, police found Miller had been shot once under the left ear. The dead man had been carrying a bag over his shoulder, and police found a wallet containing just over four thousand baht, a Nokia mobile phone, Thai boxing gear and a Muay Thai student membership card for Universe Gym Pattaya. Documents gave his address as “Perfect Place, Pattaya Mansion in North Pattaya”.
Pattaya Mail Link