Where in the World is Alf? (Part VII)

Following Part VI

March 10-17, 2003

Monday, March 10, 2003

From the New York times:

by Bill DeOre

by Jeff Danziger

Bangkok, not to be left out ...

AN ARMOURED motorcycle jointly developed by the Defence Ministry and a private company will be on display at the Defence Technology Fair starting on Friday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

From the New York Times:

by Jeff Danziger

Meanwhile, in Bangkok the citizens look worried about something a bit less stressful:

Noisy no more
Police in Chanthaburi's Muang district use a steamroller to destroy illegally modified motorcycle exhaust pipes, which were confiscated for exceeding the legal noise limit.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

From the New York Times:

From The Nation (Bangkok):

Hmmmm, is this about Iraq, OR does it have something to do with Thailand's 'little problem' with Cambodia? Is the architecture a tip-off? What's on his sleeve? Does 'he' look like a stereotypical American soldier? And, the spider web?

Thursday, March 13, 2003

From the New York Times:

by Jeff Danziger

by Glenn McCoy

Peace march

Hundreds of people rally in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park yesterday to protest against the expected US invasion of Iraq.

Friday, March 14, 2003 (Pre-journal)

THOCBDC's "Hero of the Day" award goes to:

DETROIT, Michigan (AP) -- Authorities charged a former Northwest Airlines flight attendant with assault for allegedly putting a prescription depressant in a 19-month-old girl's apple juice to stop her crying during an international flight.

Daniel Reed Cunningham, 33, also was charged Thursday with distributing a controlled substance on the August 25 flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

He is expected to appear in court next week for his arraignment.

The girl's mother, Beate Turner, told FBI special agent Terry Booth that Cunningham seemed upset when her daughter became restless and began squirming and crying on the flight. Cunningham offered to give the girl apple juice three times before Turner accepted, according to the agent's affidavit. The girl suffered no serious injury.

Turner later noticed the juice was bitter and foamy and had blue and white specks floating in it. Ten days after the flight, she took the juice to University Laboratories in Novi, which confirmed the presence of Xanax, a prescription medication used to treat panic attacks and anxiety, the FBI said.

The drug's side effects include lightheadedness, fatigue and drowsiness. The Federal Drug Administration hasn't approved it for children under age 18, the agency said. Cunningham has denied drugging the child in statements to the FBI. His attorney, Neil Fink, declined comment.

Cunningham also has been charged with importing more than 100 tablets of a non-narcotic controlled substance into the United States on a different flight in October. The tablets included Xanax and Valium.

Northwest spokeswoman Mary Stanik said Cunningham was hired in 1998 and worked for the airline until last December 30. She said she could not discuss his case.

Friday, March 14, 2003

THOCBDC, for the duration of this war, has decided to limit its cartoon swipes from the New York Times and Bangkok's The Nation.

From the New York Times:

by Jeff Danziger

And, from The Nation (Bangkok)1:

1 I can't tell whether this little 'world' is in the swing of things or just pissy-mad.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

From the New York Times:

by Jeff Danziger

by Bill DeOre

And, from The Nation (Bangkok) we have our little 'world' [remember him?] at 'it'* again.

* What's 'it'?

PS: Not many of you have heard of the United Wa State Army. Do you remember "the twins"? Paul, please click our reader friends back to our Burmese twins.

THREAT ON PM'S LIFE: 'Not us' says UWSA chief
Published on Mar 16, 2003
Warlord of world's largest drug army denies it hired a hit man

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) chairman broke his silence yesterday, denying reports that he and his deputy took out a contract to have Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra eliminated for his war on drugs.

In a telephone interview with The Nation from his Panghsang headquarters in northern Burma, chairman Bao Yu-xiang dismissed the charges as "groundless rumours".

"Our group does not have the capacity to carry out such an operation," Bao said through his official interpreter.

Thaksin said on Wednesday that a "foreign element" had put a price on his head because his all-out assault on the illicit drug trade had stanched its business.

National Police chief General Sant Sarutanond was less guarded, saying specifically that it was the Wa who were plotting the assassination of the premier. The local press, meanwhile, claimed that up to Bt80 million was offered to the hired killer to take out Thaksin.

Bao yesterday reiterated what he told The Nation during a December interview in Panghsang - that his military is not engaged in illicit drug production or distribution and only makes some money from opium cultivation in the form of taxes, which account for a mere 4 per cent of its total income.

Drug smuggling into Thailand was the "act of individual traffickers", not the work of the UWSA, he said.

Bao's deputy, Wei Hseuh-kang, who commands UWSA's Brigade 171 near the border, has been accused of being the main force behind the millions of methamphetamine pills flooding the Kingdom on a weekly basis. The US State Department says the 20,000-strong UWSA is the world's largest drug-trafficking army.

A US federal court has convicted Wei, along with other Burmese warlords, including Khun Sa, of trafficking in heroin.

During the December interview, Bao vowed to keep his pledge of turning his autonomous region, properly called Special Region No 2, into a drug-free zone by 2005, or, in his own words, "you can come back and chop my head off".

The UWSA was formed in 1989 out of the break-up of the Communist Party of Burma, in which the ethnic Wa made up the largest armed faction.

Shortly afterwards the newly created group entered into a cease-fire agreement with the military government of Burma in return for limited self-rule in their autonomous region in northern Shan State.

Since the surrender of Khun Sa and the disappearance of his Mong Tai Army from its Thai-Burmese border area in early 1996, the Wa army has been carrying out forced relocation of people living in the UWSA-controlled area in the north to areas opposite Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

The Thai Army, which sees the Wa's growing presence in these newly built towns as a national security threat, was engaged in major armed clashes with the Wa militia last May. Rangoon issued a harshly worded protest, accusing Thai troops of violating Burmese sovereignty by crossing over the border to wipe out Wa positions.

Don Pathan
The Nation

PPS: Not only does his neighbor to the west remain a headache ... Thaksin came close to invading Cambodia. War is breaking out all over.

How close we came to war with Cambodia

From the moment Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters on Wednesday night that he would send Army commando units into Cambodia, Thailand was ready to go to war.

A few minutes after the PM made his statement, eight F-16 fighter planes and two Chinook helicopters were on standby at an airfield in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Thailand, the aircraft carrier Chakri Naruebej was positioned off Koh Kong near the provinces of Chanthaburi and Trat, and Special Forces from Lop Buri were poised to cross the Thai-Cambodian border from Kong Luek.

This well-coordinated land-air-sea assault would have been carried out if Thai C-130 aircraft sent to rescue Thais in Phnom Penh had been attacked.

Inside the first C-130, which took off at 5.15am on Thursday from Don Muang, were two dozen heavily armed commandos with communications equipment, an armoured personnel carrier and camouflaged motorcycles.

Meanwhile, a reconnaissance plane was flying close to the border and at one point came close to entering Cambodian air space.

Throughout the five tense hours of consultation, which started at 7.15pm with Thaksin meeting his Cabinet and top military brass, the war machine was ready.

From the time news started coming in - at 5.30pm - about the damage being inflicted on the Thai Embassy, Thaksin wanted to know what his options were to help Thai nationals.

He told the Cabinet, along with the chiefs of the three armed forces, about his plan to send commando units to rescue Thais in Phnom Penh.

The Cabinet, however, paused when Deputy Prime Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh interrupted, saying that sending commandos into Cambodia would violate international protocols and laws.

He said he would try to communicate with Cambodian leaders, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and Defence Minister Tea Banh, whom he knows very well.

When a communications link was established with Hun Sen and Tea Banh, Thaksin told the Cambodian prime minister that he would send C130 aircraft to take Thai nationals out. He asked that Cambodia take care of them in the meantime.

Thaksin's tone was not as threatening as it had been initially, according to sources from the meeting.

He told Hun Sen that he wanted to send a team to Cambodia to investigate the incident. His opposite number agreed.

By that time, the Chakri Nareubej - Southeast Asia's first aircraft carrier - armed with its 105mm guns and Harrier jump jets, had sailed into position. Fifty-six Navy Special Forces commandos were ready to be deployed to the southwest part of Cambodia.

The armada was there to project power, according to one source, not there for the purpose of rescuing Thais. Two more ships were anchored off Koh Chang and Koh Kong.

After seven flights to evacuate all 700 Thais - an operation lasting until 9.45am yesterday - the alert was called off and the war machine stood down.

March 16, 2003 (Pre-journal)

Had this happened in the US, UK or France it would have driven the Iraq war scare off the front pages ... but, since the dead were only ...

From today's The Bangladesh Daily Star:

Launch with 100 sinks in Barisal
Our Correspondent, Barisal

Caught in a nor'wester, a launch with about 100 passengers sank in the Tetulia river yesterday afternoon 75-km off Barisal town.

No passenger could be rescued even after several hours of the disaster at 4:15pm.

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) received the mishap news at around 6:30pm and sent its officials to the spot near the mouth of the Tetulia river and Bheduria canal.

"We are taking preparation for rescue operation," BIWTA Manager Habibur Rahman told The Daily Star.

ML Cyprus, started its regular trip from Bhola at 3:00pm for Barisal.

Cyprus passed the Bheduria canal and was crossing the Tetulia river when it was caught in a nor'wester, according to operators of other launches. Within minutes, the launch sank.

Superintendent of Police Moniruzzaman and Deputy Commissioner Kabir Mohammad Ashraf Alam visited the mishap spot.

Owner of the launch Osman Ali claimed that the vessel did not have more than 50-60 passengers when it sank.

But other launch operators said there were around 100 passengers.

About a year ago, a launch, ML Jahangir, sank in the same place after collission with another double-decker, killing 45 persons.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

From the New York Times: The first casualty ... damn there go those frequent flyer miles.

by Bill DeOre

Monday, March 17, 2003 (St. Patrick's Day)

Now that we all know that war is right around the corner I can change the subject.

My strange neighbor has added some more color to his front lawn ... and Watcharee has discovered the Thai shelf at our local Asian market.

"Go back to the cartoons."

PS: This message was sent by the US Embassy in Bangkok to all Americans living in Thailand [well, at least to all who signed up for the 'service']:

Subj: Raising of National Threat Level
Date: 3/17/2003 11:40:39 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: acsbkk@state.gov
To: bangkok-acs-announcements@databack.com

Operation Liberty Shield:
Statement by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge

The Department of Homeland Security in consultation
with the Homeland Security Council, has made the decision
to raise the national threat level from an Elevated to
High risk of terrorist attack or Level Orange. The
Intelligence Community believes that terrorists will
attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and Coalition targets
worldwide in the event of a U.S - led military campaign
against Saddam Hussein.  A large volume of reporting across
a range of sources, some of which are highly reliable,
indicates that Al-Qaida probably would attempt to launch
terrorist attacks against U.S. interests claiming they were
defending Muslims or the "Iraqi people" rather than Saddam
Hussein's regime.

While the March 1 arrest of senior Al Qaida operative,
Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM) has put the Al-Qaida senior
leadership on the defensive - and will be debilitating in
the long term -- the Intelligence Community believes that
KSM's capture will not necessarily affect operations that
are ready or nearly ready for execution.  There are many
recent indications that Al-Qaida's planning includes the use
of chemical, biological, and/or radiological materials.

Intelligence reporting also indicates that while Al-Qaida
and those sympathetic to their cause are a principal threat,
Iraqi state agents, Iraqi surrogate groups, other regional
extremist organizations, and ad hoc groups or disgruntled
individuals not connected to existing organizations or state
agencies, may use this time period to conduct terrorist attacks
against the U.S., or our interests abroad.

In recent months, there have been reports of suspicious
activity in and around military facilities, ports, waterways,
general infrastructure (bridges, dams, power generating
facilities), and targets that are considered symbolic to U.S.
power and influence.  The discovery of ricin production in
London raises the concern of the Intelligence Community that
extremists are planning to follow through on longstanding
threats of poison plots against U.S, British and Israeli
interests - and possibly other targets in Europe.  

The Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with
numerous departments of the federal government has begun
implementing increased protective measures under a comprehensive
national plan to protect the Homeland: "Operation Liberty Shield."  

Operation Liberty Shield will increase security at our borders,
strengthen transportation sector protections, enhance security
at our critical infrastructure, increase public health
preparedness and make sure all federal response assets can be
deployed quickly.

Tonight, I have spoken to the nation's Governors and asked them
to deploy the National Guard or additional police forces to
improve security at critical locations throughout their states.
Other state, local and private sector leaders are also being
contacted to engage their support to increase the nation's security.

These heightened security measures will help deter terrorism and
increase protection of America and Americans.  In the meantime, as
on the other occasions when the national threat level has been
increased, we encourage members of the public to continue their
daily work, family and leisure activities with a heightened

                       * * * * * * *

Further information about this announcement may be obtained
from the DHS website at www.dhs.gov.

The Department of State continues to monitor security
conditions overseas and, as always, will promptly
disseminate information affecting the safety of Americans
abroad through its consular information program.  These
documents are available on the Department's Internet website
at www.travel.state.gov.

        * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

U.S. Embassy Bangkok American Citizen Services Unit:
Window Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 - 11 AM and 1 - 3 PM
Tel: +66-2-205-4049
E-mail: acsbkk@state.gov

PPS: This e-mail was received just seconds after I posted the State Department warning. Not everyone is focusing on this war to the exclusion of all else.

Subj: exploding elephant
Date: 3/17/2003 11:59:49 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: xxxxx@hotmail.com
To: Alf@corkscrew-balloon.com

Sent from the Internet (Details)

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a student at Fullerton College and I am doing a speech on rice. I found your article on the exploding elephant and I was wondering if you would be able to tell me more about it. I would greatly appreciate the information for my speech. If there is any information that you would be able to send to me, please send it to my e-mail address xxxxx@hotmail.com. Thank you.

Yen Vu

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