Category: Asia

THE army has long been the most powerful force in Thai political life, and has wholly monopolised it since its latest coup in May. Bangkok, the capital, remains calm, and many ordinary Thais do not miss the self-serving political classes who were booted out. Still, how popular the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta calls itself, really is remains hard to say. It is a criminal offence to criticise it, and the press is muzzled. Lèse-majesté cases are piling up. The junta has even banned a computer game, Tropico 5, in which players set up their own military dictatorship in a fictional paradise where sunny beaches and political corruption “coexist in perfect harmony”.

The coup leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, and his fellow soldiers have been busy putting up a façade that bespeaks legitimacy. The coup has the endorsement of the 86-year-old king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. On August 7th the crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, chaired the opening ceremony for a new national assembly to replace the elected politicians who were kicked out. Stuffed with army officers and members of the old Thai establishment, it will be a rubber-stamp affair. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog


As Japan marked the 69th anniversary of its surrender in World War II on Friday, people on the streets of Tokyo showed mixed reactions. Right-leaning visitors to Yasukuni Shrine found a new cause in their movement, while the day evoked memories of wartime suffering among older residents.

For many young people, however, the anniversary meant little more than a reminder of a day from the distant past. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Perhaps you’ve encountered the well-publicized idea that Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster of 1986, has become a kind of ‘wildlife haven’ as a result of its abandonment by humans.

So what of Fukushima Daiichi, Japan’s nuclear collapse of 2011—might we expect a happy menagerie there, too? Not so much, according to a slew of new papers out in the Journal of Heredity. And you may want to rethink Chernobyl-as-Eden, too. [Read more]


Related Article – Michael’s Blog

NEARLY four decades after atrocities perpetrated by one of the cruellest regimes the world has known, two leaders of the Cambodian Khmers Rouges were this week convicted and sentenced for their crimes. After a trial lasting 222 days, with testimony from 92 individuals and 166,500 pages of written evidence, Khieu Samphan, now 83, and Nuon Chea, 88, heard the verdicts against them on August 7th. For the survivors of the nightmare their party imposed on Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 it should be a moment of catharsis. Instead, this may be one of those rare moments when life sentences feel like impunity. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

For millennia, one key feature of India has always been its multiple religions and spirituality. So it isn’t very surprising that tech entrepreneurs and start-ups have cropped up with the arrival of the 21st century, looking to quench India’s spiritual thirst in cyberspace.

Indians spend about 30 billion dollars on Gods, temples, and pilgrimages annually. Many of them, however, aren’t always pleased with the experience. There are often long, tiring queues at overcrowded temples, where people are pestered by touts, who can spoil an entire outing. It was after one such visit to a temple that Goonjan Mall, an entrepreneur in his mid-twenties, launched Goonjan was trying to partake of some prasad — a food offering made to a deity and received by the faithful seeking blessings — but the temple’s ambiance put him off completely. Goonjan Mall told about his new venture: [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s involvement in the nuclear debate dates back to the moment the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On Aug. 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., there was a flash of light over the city and in an instant, tens of thousands of people were dead, hospitals and health centers were incinerated and the city was left in ruins.

But in the midst of this appalling devastation, one hospital survived. The Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital — which miraculously escaped complete destruction despite its closeness to the epicenter of the blast — began to fill with casualties. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

There has been considerable media hoopla about the centennial of the outbreak of World War I. The subsequent slaughter of 16 million people was prompted by the assassination of an Austrian archduke and duchess, which activated the system of interlocking alliances intrinsic to the balance of power that was the ostensible guarantee against war.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attracted a storm of unfair criticism when he suggested that World War I demonstrates there is no room for complacency about rising tensions between Japan and China over rocky islets in the East China Sea. Extensive economic relations suggest that both nations have too much at stake to risk war, but similar arguments were made about Great Britain and Germany a century ago while Europeans were sleepwalking toward the abyss. But Davos was only a few weeks after Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, perhaps explaining why his sensible remarks were misconstrued as warmongering. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

According to new numbers released by the Chinese government, China added 3.3 gigawatts of solar capacity in the first six months of the year ending June 30, marking a 100 percent increase over the same period last year. That brings China’s total solar supply to 23 gigawatts — 13 shy of the country’s goal of installing 35 by the end of 2015. In 2013 China installed around 11.3 gigawatts of solar, representing 37 percent of global growth, and the bulk of this year’s installations will come in the second half of the year. The agency vows to install 13 gigawatts of solar power capacity this year, which would mean an average of more than one gigawatt a month for the rest of the year — an amount equatable to South Korea’s total installed capacity as of 2013. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

There are many situations in life that evoke Bond, James Bond—a precise drink order, a cool new high-tech gadget, a smoothly navigated traffic jam. But all Bond likenesses pale in comparison to the sight of a small island 10 miles off the coast of Japan named Hashima.

One glance at Hashima is enough to conjure images of Javier Bardem’s sneering, blond-haired Skyfall villain who used the industrial ruins as his evil lair. But no criminal masterminds actually live on Hashima. In fact, not a soul has inhabited the island since 1974, when residents were booted from their home, which has come to be known by the nickname Gunkanjima, or “The Battleship Island.” It’s easy to understand the name’s origins: The small piece of land is covered with so many gray structures that it resembles a ship at sea, momentarily marooned in the choppy blue East China Sea. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Douglas Valentine’s The Phoenix Program is the first installment in a series of repressed, forgotten books that have recently been republished by Open Road Media in their “Forbidden Bookshelf” series. The Phoenix program was the CIA’s secret war on the political (civilian) infrastructure of the Viet Cong with the ultimate goal of “pacifying” dissent against the unimaginably corrupt South Vietnam government. “Pacifying” included torture, indefinite detention and assassination. It is also worth noting that The Phoenix Program was the first repressed book to be showcased in the series. The Phoenix program was not only responsible for horrific crimes against the Vietnamese people, but the program was replicated in US counterinsurgency campaigns in both El Salvador and Iraq. And of most significance, as Valentine states in his new introduction, is the fact that the Phoenix program became a “template” not only for counterinsurgency campaigns in the Third World thereafter, but also for the “Homeland Security Apparatus” the American people are living under today. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

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