Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Meanwhile Reading took on Wigan who are on an appalling run of seven straight defeats and promptly made it eight running out 3-2 winners. Frankly having gone 1-0 down after three minutes Reading were lucky to still be in the game after 30 minutes when Ingimarsson scored the equaliser. Reading could easily have been 2-0 or even 3-0 down by that point but clung on and slowly started to improve. Steve Coppell must have been delighted to go in 1-1 at half time. Second half Reading were much better and added two goals through long and Lita before Wigan pulled one consolation back in the very last minute. Apparently Jewell felt that the last Reading goal was offside but having not seen a replay I cannot comment. Reading are now in seventh place on 37 points - three short of the magic 40.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Last week it was annonced that the International Civil Aviation Authority had refused to grant Suvarnabhumi Airport a safety certificate (although to be fair apparently it does not need one).
The government has now ordered the Airports of Thailand Plc to prepare for the re-opening of the Don Muang airport for the non-transit domestic flights pending the repair of taxiways and runways of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Up until now the general consensus has been that air travel is bad. It is not that the emissions per person/mile are particularly bad as such it is more that air travel affords people the opportunity to travel vast distances in a very short period of time. Short haul flights are relatively more damaging because of the emissions caused by take off and landing.
Now the US are suggesting that aircraft may be part of the solution. They want the world's scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a way to halt global warming. Apparently scientists have previously estimated that reflecting less than 1% of sunlight back into space could compensate for the warming generated by all greenhouse gases emitted since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It is not obvious from the attached articles but one of the graphic illustrations indicates that aircraft fuel could be tweaked to leave more permanent trails in the sky which would reflect the sunlight back
Friday, January 26, 2007
After a spate of bombings in Bangkok on New Year's Eve there was speculation that martial law might be kept in place indefinitely with the bombings being used as the pretext so in that context this i s positive step forward
Thursday, January 25, 2007
This issue comes up from time to time and the same old arguments get trotted out each time. Farmers and Postal workers would be opposed. ROSPA is in favour because of the likely reduction in accidents. They claim that there would be 450 fewer road deaths and serious injuries every year if we switched.
Up until now I do not recall there being any mention of potential environmental benefits. However, this bill is called The Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill and Tim Yeo believes that it will cut electricity consumption and cut carbon emissions.
The BBC Online article on this which can be found here makes very little of the potential environmental benefits to be had but the article in The Guardian which can be found here is more forthcoming on the specifics stating that “A rough assessment reported in the journal Nature today shows that by aligning clocks with Europe, Britain is likely to save around £485m each year by using lights less in the afternoon and evening. The drop in energy consumption would trim carbon dioxide emissions by 170,000 tonnes, the equivalent of reducing the emissions of 70,000 people to zero for a year”
I think the vast majority of people would appreciate the extra daylight hours at the end of the day. I know I would and we can save lives and help the planet at the same time. Seems like common sense to me. So we won’t do that then will we? As a Private Members Bill this measure is likely to fall unless it receives government support.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Dennis Wise has made five signings in the transfer window so far and the squad is now on a winter training camp in Cyprus ahead of next Tuesdays critical game away to Hull.
The five signings (so far) are :
Tresor Kandol (£0.2m) Striker
Tore Andre Flo (free) - Striker
Robbie Elliott (free) Defender
Miguel Armando Sa (loan) Defender
Alan Thompson (loan) Central Midfield
of which I would say at least three (Flo, Elliott and Thompson) are known quantities who ought to be capable of delivering the goods.
Dennis was quoted as saying "this camp is to sort things out for the rest of the season. We are getting the players together to concentrate on the task ahead.
We knew we were signing new players - and we knew we needed the new players to get to know the rest of the squad as soon as possible. This was the last opportunity to get all the lads together and make sure we know what is coming.
Given that comment one might think that no more players will be arriving during the final week of the transfer window but rumour has it that Wise is still looking for a central defender, a goal keeper and a right sided midfielder!
The sixty four billion dollar question is will this squad be good enough to survive given their current position in the league?
Three of the new signings at least should be good additions to the squad. Time will tell whether or not Wise can add further quality. In any case the critical thing will be whether or not the new players can bed in well with their team mates and if so how quickly can they do that. On the basis of the performance against West Brom there are some positive signs with both Flo and Thompson getting on the score sheet. With or without further additions this squad will be stronger going into the final 18 games of the season.
So how many points do we need to survive?
According to assistant manager Gus Poyet we need nine wins. Those wins would give us 27 points to add to the current 24 giving 51 points. I went back over the last ten seasons and the highest points required to be assured of safety was 52 so that is the figure I am going to work with for now and this averages out at 1.55 points per game.
To achieve that hit rate Leeds would need to perform at about the same rate as Cardiff or Sunderland have so far and they lie in seventh and sixth respectively. On that basis alone it looks a big ask. However, there is one small glimmer of hope. Six of those games are against teams in the bottom eight - win all of those and we are in with a shout. Realistically it is that or hope that this is one of those seasons where 41 or 42 points is enough.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Now a similar scenario is unfolding in Aceh in Indonesia. The Indonesian government is imposing a tax on the use of millions of dollars of aid contributions. The government is claiming that NGOs need to pay a 10% value added tax on donations used to pay sub contractors for reconstruction and other relief effort. USAID has received a tax bill for $10m for a project where it is rebuilding the highway down the western coast of Aceh. Another American NGO has received a 10% tax bill on a $1.5m project to build a school in Aceh and the project is now under threat due to a shortfall in funds.
Where is the incentive for NGOs to step in and help if when disaster strike the governments of those countries affected turn round and bite the hand that feeds them. The NGOs will of course do their best help when these disasters strike regardless of the politics or the attempt to tax their aid but what about those who fund the NGOs. They will not continually dip into their pockets to provide funds that just disappear into the national coffers of the affected nations without ever going near those the money was intended to help. If the UN wants to do something useful how about getting all nations to agree not to tax those who come to help them when they are afflicted by some disaster.
Monday, January 22, 2007
The hotel we stayed in was as busy as I have ever seen it which would indicate that things are going ok. However, out and about on Koh Samui I would say there were less tourists around. Nathon and various sites such as Big Buddha were a bit quieter but most noticeable was the much lower number of tourists in Chaweng the islands main nightlife spot.
There was no indication that anyone was worried about the bombs in Bangkok although we were not staying in Bangkok. The other surprise was the complete lack of armed police or military at Bangkok airport even on 3rd January immediately following the bombs.
If the rate of new building is anything to go by then the economy is doing well. In fact as far as Koh Samui is concerned I would say they are in danger of killing off the tourist trade by over development if they do not slow the madcap pace of development.
On a national level it is clear that some of the early pronouncements by the military appointed government have not helped. The stock market has suffered and there were clear indications in the newspapers that investors from other Asian countries were having clear second thoughts about making investments in Thailand if there is no clear guarantee that they will have control of their investment and be able to get money out when they want to.
The government seems to be following a protectionist and inward looking economic policy partly as a result of the kings announcements about Thailand needing to be more self sufficient.
The net result is likely to be a slow down in the economic growth rates which Thailand has experienced in recent years. Once people realise this it will add to the problems which are staking up for the government.
This is where the issues, dilemmas and potential future problems lies for Thailand. When the tanks rolled onto the streets of Bangkok in September there were some well wishers to greet them. Of course not everyone felt the same. Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies were certainly not happy and neither were the mostly rural poor who had supported his government and the policies which benefited them. Everyone waited to see what would happen. The king gave his tacit support to the coup and the leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said the armed forces would restore stability, establish a new constitution and hold elections by October 2007. They also promised to adopt a different approach to the political violence in the south.
However, since that time little has gone right for the military junta. International condemnation, an ex Prime Minister who has continued his world tour and continues to meet with governments and put his case to the international media, poor economic decisions, a falling stock market, bombs in Bangkok and continuing violence in the south.
The government now has a drafting assembly in place for the new constitution which is due in about six months' time. But even this process is causing problems with rows about the make up of the committee and concerns over how much influence the military junta will have over the new constitution.
Thaksin Shinawatra is a real thorn in the side of the new government and I expect this to continue. He will continue to travel and will continue to speak to the media. The new government has certainly given him plenty to talk about. This in turn is creating further problems for the new government in its relationships with other countries and its appearance on the world stage as it starts to crack down on the Thai media when it attempt to report Thaksins comments.
The new government has attempted to tackle the violence in the south but the bombings and drive by shootings continue on and almost daily basis. Then the bombers struck on new years eve in Bangkok. It might have been Muslim insurgents from the south but the general consensus seems be that they would not have attacked in such a way in Bangkok. The current government has made much play of elements that want to destabilise the situation. A taxi driver I talked to was convinced that Thaksin Shinawatra had paid 1.5 billion baht to supportive elements within Thailand to organise the bombings.
So what does the future hold. There are rumours of further coups which is perhaps not surprising in a country which although relatively stable in recent years has had 17 years coups in the last 60 years. Not all of these rumours centre around Thaksin Shinawatra.
It is entirely possible that the coup will be launched by the existing Council for National Security (who initiated the initial coup) or by another faction from within the armed forces. In either case the government will change again and then I expect there to be a much stronger crack down on the media and what they are allowed to report.
There is an outside possibility that a coup could be led by elements within the military that are supportive of Thaksin Shinawatra and that he could return (although he has stated that he wants to give up politics).
The final potential fly in the ointment may be Thailands King Bhumibol Adulyadej who has been on the throne for 60 years. He is now 79 years old and any decline in his health might lead to further problems. It was probable that his tacit support for the military coup prevented blood shed on the streets of Bangkok back in September
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Meanwhile Thaksins media comments continue to be blocked. According to the Bangkok Post Thailands main pay TV provider has said it will block an interview with deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra that CNN plans to run this evening because of a request from the Council for National Security.
The government is also implying that a deal for his return must include an agreement as to what political role he will play after his return to Thailand
Meanwhile Reading marched on at the Madejski Stadium with a 3-1 win over Sheffield United taking them up into seventh place in the Premiership on 34 points. It was a well deserved win despite being without Kitson (who injured himself in the warm up), Doyle and Shorey. Shane Long scored his first ever goal in the Premiership and De La Cruz (who I have previously had a very poor opinion of) worked a great second.
Then came a five minute session of complete and utter madness. Gillespie who had just been brought on smashed Hunt in the face and after a fair amount of pushing and shoving and following a consultation between Halsey and the linesman he was shown a red card. As he was walking off he went to punch Hunt again - I hope the FA take action for what would also have been a straight red if such a thing was allowed. It then all kicks off between the benches as Warnock provokes Wally Downes and both are sent to the stands.
After that the rest of the game seemed mild by comparison. Reading added a third through Hunt and Sheffield pulled one back to make it 3-1 and there was no doubt that the better team had sealed all three points.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
The government has turned its attention to Japan as Thaksin Shinawatra was due to arrive in Tokyo last night. The Japanese ambassador to Thailand was quoted as stating that he acknowledged the signals over the ''Thaksin issue''. Thaksin Shinawatra is due to deliver a speech after receiving an honorary degree in political science from Tokyo University. Attention is also focused on rumours that he has agreed to talk to NHK Television whilst in Japan.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Even worse news for the government (although hardly surprising) was the announcement that Thailand joined Congo as the two newly not-free countries this year in a major survey of global freedom which was released today.
Freedom in the World 2007 is a survey of worldwide political rights and civil liberties done in New York. It found that 45 countries are not free, representing 23 percent of the world's inhabitants. About one-half of those living in Not Free conditions inhabit one country: China.
According to the survey, the number of countries judged by Freedom in the World as free in 2006 stood at 90, representing 47 percent of the global population. Fifty-eight countries qualified as partly free, with 30 percent of the world's population. Sadly Thailand moved from partly free to not free.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Over the last week or so the government has removed his diplomatic passport and attempted to clamp down on the media and prevent them from reporting his or his spokesmans comments. The media held meetings about this clamp down and certainly as far as I could see the print media at least had decided to ignore the clamp down.
Then Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in Singapore and did two things.
Firstly he gave a live interview to CNN. That intervies has yet to be shown on TV in Thailand and General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, chief of the Council for National Security has admitted that the interview with the deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on CNN was blocked from airing, but only by cooperation and appropriate judgment of cable TV operator UBC. Yeah right.
Secondly he held a meeting with the Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar. Thaksin Shinawatra and Singaporean officals insist that this was purely a private meeting as the two are old friends. The Thai military junta is absolutely furious about this meeting. The government has called in the Singaporean Ambassador and has cancelled the visit of Singapore's foreign minister due later this month.
The government is clearly getting jittery about Thaksin Shinawatras movements and statements to the international media and has even gone as far as to go on record to say so. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said 'the movements of the ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra caused him to worry. We do not keep an eye on anything in particular but the movements result in political problems within the country, especially the recent one where he went to see the Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister.'
Meanwhile the political temperature on other fronts within Thailand is also rising as court cases against Thai Rak Thai and two other political parties arising from the abortive elections last year get under way and concerns continue to be expressed about the make up of the group charged with drafting the new constitution.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Apparently Islamic militants have killed three people in southern Thailand.
A man and wife were found dead at the entrance of a rubber plantation in Yala province - the man had been shot and then decapitated. The third person was killed in a separate attack by a gunman on a motorcycle.
This probably does not fit too well with the statement today by the Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont that he believed the bloody violence in Thailand's restive southern provinces will ease in the near future.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
The Thai government believes it is in a position to criticise what is going on in other countries. Specifically it is critical of Burmas actions against pro democracy activists and it is critical of the lack of action by the United Nations when a proposed resolution against the Burmese actions was not passed.
How the government of Thailand comes to believe that it has any moral position to adopt on matters such as these I am at a loss to understand. This government came to power by way of a military coup itself less than four months ago. Indeed it did so whilst the legally elected Prime Minister of Thailand was at the United Nations. Only three days ago the same government clamped down on the legally elected Prime Minister of Thailand by removing his diplomatic passport and forbidding the media in Thailand from reporting the comments of Thaksin Shinawatra or his lawyer. It is interesting to note that it is already clear that the media have already shown that they have no intention of obeying this order.
As it happens I am no supporter of the Burmese regime - but the fact remains that Thai government has no credibility in its attempt to divert attention away its own lack of democracy.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Perhaps more seriously for the cause of democracy in Thailand the government has now forbidden the media in Thailand from reporting the comments of Thaksin Shinawatra or his lawyer. Interestingly the fact that they have been banned from reporting his comments is not mentioned on Thai websites and is only mentioned in the BBC Report here. The BBC go on to say that the Thai media have been holding crisis meetings to decide how they should respond.
I don't know whether those who are responsible for drafting Thailands Foreign Business Law are aware of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but if this article in this mornings edition of The Nation is anything to go by they might want to take a look.
The bit that caught my eye read as follows :
The Foreign Business Law covers three lists of business sectors - deemed critical to national security - subject to the degree of protection. The most protective category is Annex 1, followed by Annex 2 and Annex 3.
Industries listed in Annex 1 include rice farming, forestry, agriculture and protected professions such as hairdressing.
Well obviously hairdressers would be critical to national security!
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
Well I am sure that this photo will cheer up those of you who were jealous of our trip to Thailand.
Apparently the official Thai News Agency warned holidaymakers of waves up to three metres high pounding coastal areas on the Gulf of Thailand. Well they were right. This picture should show blue skies and a totally calm flat sea. The edges of a tropical storm blew through yesterday (I have never seen so much rain) and this is the aftermath I guess. Still at least the temperature is 79F
Sunday, January 07, 2007
The party is asking why the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Kasem Sanidwong na Ayudhaya failed to release results of a ministry investigation after the New Year as promised.
Thai Rak Thai is alleging that the Nakhon Ratchasima forest where Surayud's mountain retreat was built is a reserve. Dwellings are prohibited and they cite two Cabinet resolutions stating so.
Their legal advisor Kamol Bandaipet concluded by saying 'The AEC should investigate this. Forestry officials are normally afraid of governments installed by coups'.
This is the soap opera that is Thai politics.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
The Council for National Security (CNS) issued a circular to ministries, courts and state enterprises yesterday urging officials to watch out for strangers or unidentified objects left abandoned in buildings and public places. This struck me as a little odd and somewhat slow off the mark given that the bombs went off on 31st December and 1st January.
The Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said the public should prepare for more political violence after the New Year bomb blasts in the capital. He went on to say that he believed the country would see political turmoil for the next two months.
More than one paper carries rumours of a possible counter coup. Apparently off the record comments from active and retired Army officers indicate there is a real rivalry brewing inside the military. The rumour is that a rival military clique may dethrone the CNS in order to revive the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. The other possibility is a repeat coup where the CNS would realign its power to overcome problems and resolve the power struggle for control of the Army.
He had a piece written about him in The Nation about four years ago. He was rendered almost blind by illness as a teenager, but far from being disheartened by it Noi has been kneading the tension out of tourists muscles for many many years. You can always find him in the same place beneath a shady tree outside the Imperial Boathouse Hotel on Koh Samuis Choeng Mon Beach.
By coincidence (well perhaps not) this is where we are staying and Mr Noi will be working his magic on my back for which i will be very grateful.
Noi says he learned the secrets of the craft from other locals who ply the sands offering visitors an invigorating rub. He learned how to search out the aches, stretch stiff limbs and press just the right points on the body with his strong fingers and palms. Now in his late 30s, Noi considers this the ideal job. He gets to meet new people all the time (his remaining eyesight allows him to remember faces much of the time) and help customers escape the stress of their rigours back home.
Friday, January 05, 2007
We are now happily in Koh Samui having passed through Suvarnabhumi Airport and been most impressed by it despite all the rumoured problems. I appear to have picked up some form of bug in transit and have yet to find an internet cafe where I can upload photos but if and when I do then expect to see photos of Koh Samui
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
|You Should Travel to Cambodia|
While you might not go all Angelina Jolie and adopt a baby...
You can still appreciate Cambodia's rich history and deserted beaches.
First of all Leeds managed to kick the year off with a 2-1 win over Coventry - well deserved as far as I can see from the highlights and they managed to hit the crossbar twice as well. Rumour in the transfer market is that Robbie Elliott and Matt Heath are to sign until the end of the season.
Meanwhile Reading absolutely crushed West Ham 6-0 at the Madejski Stadium. There is a report from the BBC here which I felt did not do full justice to the huge chasm between the two teams yesterday. The one from the Guardian here is much better. Two quotes below sum up the situation perfectly.
- Reading were excellent, ending a six-match run without a win, but if they stay in the Premiership for the next century they will never have as easy a game as this. West Ham were pathetic, four goals down by half-time and lucky not to take an even bigger pasting.
- Curbishley said today, Reading had everything we didn't: enthusiasm, pace, shape, aggression and, above all, hunger. They want to be in the Premiership, they want to drive a Bentley.
Monday, January 01, 2007
It appears that a series of eight bombs have rocked Bangkok in the run up to New Year. Six blast rocked the capital early in the evening as people started to gather for the New Years Eve celebrations. Celebrations were cancelled and police attempted to persuade tourists and revellers to leave the area. However, it appears that a further two bombs detonated at or around Midnight. There are various options as to who might be behind these attacks - muslim extremist from the south, foreign groups and opponents of the military government. The front runner at present appears to be the opponents of the current military government although of course this allows the government to tighten security.