Opinion

2 Aug 2013
The rapid expansion of oil palm plantation in Southeast Asia has given rise to more violent conflicts between local people in the area of concession and the entrepreneurs including local, national and multinational capitalists. It has also led to conflicts between local people and the state that has given permission the private sector to carry out the oil palm plantation. It has escalated to disputes between the state and the investors who have been awarded the concessions in some areas.  The case to be explained is an example of dispute in Aceh located in North Sumatra, Indonesia. It is a hub of oil palm plantation by local, national and multinational investors.
30 Jul 2013
A rise in world demand for cooking oil and bio-fuels has affected land use in Indonesia, home to vast areas of oil palm plantations, not unlike Thailand. State policy to promote oil palm plantations has led to encroachment on large areas of wetland. Similarly, fallow paddy fields in Thailand have been turned into oil palm plantations in the Songkhla Lake basin covering the provinces of Songkhla, Phattalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and the Bacho and To Daeng peat swamp forests in the southern border provinces. These areas in Thailand have been targeted for the promotion of oil palm.
22 Jul 2013
Renowned historian Thongchai Winichakul gave a stinging critique of the Thai study of history at the opening ceremony of the Southeast Asian Studies Institute at Thammasat University-Rangsit on July 18, 2013. Thongchai blamed the insular Thai-style teaching of history for Thais’ ignorance and unjustified superiority complex in national history and spotty knowledge about their immediate neighbours. He contended that the extreme Thai-centrism in the study of history—the narcissistic attitude about the nature and source of the Thai identity—has been a major factor in the failure of Thai education. He calls for a more self-reflective, critical and integrated way of learning history and building knowledge, that places Thailand as a part of Southeast Asia—not a singular diamond of the region that sparkles only in the Thai mind.
20 Jul 2013
China has desperately attempted to reinvent its new image in Southeast Asia, a region long considered as the Chinese sphere of influence. As part of this effort, it recently proposed “the Chinese Dream” policy which stressed on China’s peaceful and civilised way to achieve national prosperity, national rejuvenation and the happiness of people in the region.
14 Jul 2013
This is Thanthawut’s account of his day of release, originally published in Thai on Prachatai on 12 July 2013. He describes the process he went through on the day of his release and his experience of the pardon. This is a story of Thanthawut’s walk through the series of barred, iron doors that led him from inside the walls of the prison to the world of freedom outside.
2 Jul 2013
The choking haze has revisited Southeast Asia in the past weeks. Impressive skyscrapers in Singapore and Malaysia have been cloaked by haze, a type of pollution which has emerged as a health issue for the two countries, as well as affecting their economy and potentially that of the region. For Singapore, this is not a new problem. Yet this year’s haze has managed to break its own record; it reached the hazardous PSI (pollutant standards index) level of 401 at 12 pm on June 21, the highest ever seen in the city-state. Similarly, the air pollutant index (API) hit 750 in the town of Muar—a 16-year high for Malaysia—in the morning of June 23. The Malaysian prime minister soon signed a declaration of emergency for the affected town.
30 Jun 2013
  Prison visit to Somyot on 27 June 2013 Thursday mornings at 08.30 am are when Somyot and I have a regular weekly visit. Iron bars and secure windows keep us apart but can’t separate our souls. I was given Room No. 1, which is the last interview room in the row in Bangkok Remand Prison. Without hesitation, Somyot walked fast and looked straight at me and smiled; his smile made the world so bright and full of hope and peace. I was so relieved to meet him that morning. 
13 Jun 2013
Andrew MacGregor Marshall recently commented, including the clause, “…what is going on in contemporary Thailand.” It was a good citation to the upheaval taking place at various levels in Thai society as a result of a maturing – albeit hardly mature in the classical sense – segment of Thai society that recognizes the fallacies of the past and the futility of dogmatism. Many of this new group are activists, publicly denouncing what they see as unjust laws and social values not so much out of being “bad Thais” as their detractors would claim but more so being people of frustrated conscience and ideals who have seen the hypocrisy and foolhardiness in established values that promote cyborg allegiance. 
10 Jun 2013
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra paid an official visit to Japan from 22-25 May. As Thailand’s first female premier, Yingluck did not just exploit her charm to win over Japan, but was daring to talk openly about the most sensitive issue facing her country—the protracted political crisis that erupted in the wake of the 2006 military coup. That coup overthrew her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the most successful prime minister in Thailand’s history.
5 Jun 2013
How do you realize your country of birth is not perfect?   It goes like this: I was born and raised here. This is my country. This is my cathedral.   And then one day, for one reason or another, it sets in…an irking feeling that something is amiss, that maybe you have it wrong for one reason or another, that perhaps…more than perhaps…it IS true!...things are not only not perfect, rosy and just, but seriously out of kilter. Justice isn’t the reality you have been conditioned to believe and learned to accept. Rights aren’t really automatic and always defensible. Authorities often abuse their power and are left largely unaccountable for it.
29 May 2013
On this past 10 April, Voice TV did something very interesting. They sent reporters to five neighborhoods in Bangkok, including Kok Wua, to ask 5 people in each area (my guess is that there may have been an unreported principle guiding the selection of people asked for information, for example, ask only those wearing flowered shirts)  what happened on 10 April 2010? What were the causes? And what were their thoughts about what happened?   It appeared that only 3 out of 25 people knew or still remembered what happened three years ago.
21 May 2013
They're back on the streets again...this time holding "green" flags and "fists" as their symbol. The reborn sections of the Assembly of the Poor and former Yellow Shirts have learned expensive lessons from their share in the color-coded conflict: never forsake you own grievances for some lofty political gains. 

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