The action moves to the courts as anti-government protests
9 March 2014 The Economist
(With most of the world suddenly focused on events in the Ukraine people
have post interest and patience with the continuing unrest in Thailand - the
Economist provides a timely update).
At last it looks as though the street protests designed to oust Thailand’s
prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, are running out of steam. After more
than four months of relentless sit-ins and government shutdowns, the leader
of the insurrection, Suthep Thaugsuban, has dismantled most of his various
protest sites around the capital, retreating to a single encampment in
central Bangkok. His supporters are dwindling in number, and so is their
appetite for further confrontation. Yet Ms Yingluck is by no means home and
dry. The courts may yet succeed where Mr Suthep has not.
Lumpini Park is the new headquarters of Thailand's failing people’s
revolution. Self-appointed guards protect the tented city. As in Mr Suthep’s
previous makeshift sites there are tea stalls, showers, television-viewing
areas, a medical centre and a shortage of lavatories. Well-off Bangkok
residents distribute food from luxury cars to the protesters, many of them
bused in from southern Thailand. Although the protests no longer occupy the
same locations as before—a posh shopping district and the sites of public
monuments—the slogans are unchanged. “Evolution before elections” reads one
sign affixed to a tent; “This corrupt government must be overthrown”,
Rhetorically, at least, Mr Suthep and his People’s Democratic Reform
Committee remain as defiant as ever. Many protesters vow that they will pack
up and leave only when all traces of Ms Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin
Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a coup in 2006, are removed
from the body politic. But their hopes now look forlorn of using protest
power to force on Thailand a “people’s council” to replace the elected
government. The government appears to have outsmarted the protesters. By
refusing to confront them directly, the government largely averted violence
and avoided giving the army a pretext to intervene on Mr Suthep’s behalf to
“save” the country, democracy or anything else.
Some have suggested that the two sides may now sit down together to
negotiate a way out of the impasse. But that ignores how little Ms Yingluck—along
with Mr Thaksin, who pulls the strings from exile in Dubai—has to gain from
talks. The prime minister’s position has been buttressed by victory in a
recent snap election. Her supporters in the Shinawatra family’s political
heartland in the north and north-east have been steadfast. With Mr Suthep’s
power on the wane, she may calculate that there is no need to give him the
renewed political significance that talks would confer.
Ms Yingluck now has more reason to worry about the courts than about Mr
Suthep. The judiciary has brought down Thai governments before. Given the
number of legal challenges being mounted by opponents of the prime minister
and her government, it would be surprising if one or other of them did not
Take, for instance, the February 2nd general election, which was boycotted
by the main opposition Democrat Party. One legal challenge attempted to have
the whole election declared invalid. The government survived that. But
protests prevented elections being held in 18 of 77 provinces—and attempts
to rerun those votes are going less well. Five provinces managed to hold
elections on March 2nd. The remainder are planned for next month, but these
are now the subjects of court procedures. Legal scholars and others
challenge the right of Ms Yingluck’s current “caretaker” government to carry
on ruling much longer without an official quorum convened in parliament.
More pressingly, Ms Yingluck has until March 14th to defend herself before
the National Anti-Corruption Commission on criminal charges over alleged
dereliction of duty arising from the government’s disastrous scheme to help
farmers by subsidising rice. She has sent lawyers to the commission to hear
charges, but has yet to offer her account of the facts. If the commission
does indict her, she may have to step down. The government has said that in
such an eventuality another minister could take over her job. Still, for Mr
Suthep and his supporters it would undoubtedly be a welcome fillip.
370 - sadness and mystery
9 March 2014
It has now been 48
hours since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, but there
is still no clear answer what happened.
Families of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members are grieving for their
loss without any explanation as to what may have happened.
Flight 370 was the
overnight Boeing 777-200 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It had reached
its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet when about an hour after take off it
disappeared from radar. There was no emergency call from the flight deck and
no suggestion of any problems with the flight.
Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and several other countries have dispatched a
large number of SAR aircrafts naval ships and merchant fleets to the region
in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam but so far no wreckage
has been found.
People from 14 nationalities were among the 227 passengers, including at
least at least 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six
Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.
Chinese state media said 24 Chinese artists and family members, who were in
Kuala Lumpur for an art exchange programme, were aboard. The Sichuan
provincial government said Zhang Jinquan, a well-known calligrapher, was on
I have avoided
tweeting on the story or commenting upon it until now.
wreckage will be found and given the remarkable thoroughness of the
investigative process an explanation will be found. The likelihood is that
there was a sudden and catastrophic disintegration of the airframe.
Meanwhile as a
shocking example of someone who should know better Rupert Murdoch tweeted
that: provoked controversy by tweeting that:
777crash confirms jihadists turning to make trouble for China. Chance for US
to make common cause, befriend China while Russia bullies.
Clueless - there
is no evidence to support his claim and he, more than most, should know
Now it is
Etihad on the rack
6 March 2014
another foggy morning. This time the fog was across the UAE with long delays
and diversions at Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
But Abu Dhabi had
a far bigger problem as the ILS system failed.
@EtihadHelp were a bit slow responding but they have tried to provide
information using twitter and to respond to passenger concerns.
It was after 11am
that the airline posted seven successive messages starting with "All
flights into #AbuDhabi this morning have been diverted to other airports in
the region due to a technical failure at the airport (1/7)" adding that "The
weather at #AbuDhabi is improving and the airport has started to accept
But the @EtihadAirways
account then disappeared offline for six hours until around 5.30pm in the
evening. Then came a slew of apologies as the airline replied to unhappy
passengers; After 7pm the airline noted that "Of the 37 inbound flights
diverted this morning to other airports in the GCC this morning, 35 have now
returned to Abu Dhabi"
The trouble is
while the airline went off line people were telling their messages:
brother is stuck on your Flight EY 867 for last 6 hours sitting on Runway at
Al Ain. No food in the plane and it's a mess.
what a shambles stuck at transit desk and staff have no idea what they are
are stuck in the plain more than 4 houers and now in Mascat airport without
any info or care!!
U r the worest flights :@
organisation at all people pushing from economy into business class
@EtihadAirways - i
am waiting at muscat airport (ey205) and i hav to catch EY131 for IAD. Ders
no one to help at muscat. Plz repky wht to do
where are the managers when they are needed someone needs to take control of
EY18 from Heathrow, what the hell is going on? 7 1/2 hours stuck in middle
of nowhere. Demanding a full refund
Near to a mutiny on board, no one knows what's happening. Will my transfer
to Bangkok wait? #neverflyingetihad
- Que está acontecendo? What is the happening? Fly EY 867 stopped in desert!
Passenger abbandoned? @TIME?
understand you have major problems at Abu Dhabi, but being stranded for 7
hours in Muscat with no updates is pitiful.
YOU PLEASE GET THIS MESS IN ABU DABI AIRPORT SOLVED? YOUR STAFF IS NOT ABLE
TO ATEND ALL THE CLIENTS CANCELED FLIGHTS!!!
well at least be transparent with the passengers and give an exact timing
and some compensation! We ve been here since 7am!
After 5h delay got sent to a line for 3h and info of 20h delay without
The trouble is
even when the airline did respond it could say little more than we are sorry
and we are working on the problem! the messages kept coming.
sadly there has been no evidence whatsoever of this effort for the past nine
big #disappointment is the total lack of communication from you guys about
what is going on since 05.30 this morning
waiting 6 hours in the airport for the delayed flight, then another two
hours in the airplane #NeverFlyWithEttihad
This is the worst service I have ever experienced......8hr delay and no idea
whats happening from the staff
far 12 hours delay (inc 8 sat on a plane) in Abu Dhabi with no word of sense
from any of your staff.
So what does all
this mean. Well using two accounts may not help. Most passengers vented
their frustration to the @EithadAirways account where there are 48,000
followers - @EtihadHelp has just 3,700 followers. If the airline wants to
maintain a twitter presence it probably needs to do so with just a single
Being able to
tweet the airline may help relieve passenger frustration but it seems to
very rarely provide any sort of resolution. What is a guy or a girl on a
laptop in Abu Dhabi going to be able to do to help folks stuck on the ground
in Muscat or waiting for flight information in Manchester.
The answer has to
be to have people on the ground better trained and better prepared to handle
crisis situations and better briefed about what action is being taken. They
also need to be empowered to be generous in helping stranded passengers.
This applies to their own ground staff as well as any handling agents acting
on their behalf.
The answer is also
that someone has to take charge. It is not just about the airline; it is
about co-ordination with the airport authority, with ATC and with ground
handling. Emirates, dnata and Dubai Airports failed miserably to manage
their own fog crisis two weekends ago. Management were conspicuous by their
absence; well it was the weekend. And there were simply not enough staff on
the ground to help passengers.
Maybe Emirates has
this right; the airline does not use its twitter account and does not
respond to messages sent to the account. Etihad today looks like an the poor
little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. He/she is trying valiantly but
is being overwhelmed by the flood and appears to have no other resources to
premium airlines both Etihad and Emirates have disappointed too many people
in the last two weeks. Passengers do understand bad weather; they understand
technical delays. But they want information as frequently and in as much
detail as possible.
5 March 2014
In a move that is
unprecedented across the Gulf region Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates
and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from the Gulf nation of Qatar
over its alleged breach of a regional security agreement among Gulf Arab
countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs.
This seems a bit
strange given in particular Saudi involvement in Bahrain. And it suggests
more deep-rooted problems.
The unprecedented move by the three states was announced on Wednesday in a
joint statement on state media.
It's the clearest sign yet of the rift between Gulf Arab nations and Qatar,
which has been a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and
elsewhere. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have been calling for increased
military and diplomatic union within the six-member GCC, which also includes
Qatar, Omar and Kuwait.
However, Qatar and Oman have so far resisted increased integration in these
Qatar has also denounced last year's ouster of Egypt's Islamist President
Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.
Qatar is also home to the influential al-Jazeera news network, which
broadcasts across the world and has been critical of Saudi Arabia and other
Abu Dhabi and Riyadh said the decision was made after Qatar failed to uphold
its end of an agreement on security and stability of the six-nation Gulf
markets have not reacted well; “it’s a surprise to everyone and we are
trying to understand where this is coming from these are usually sensitive
issues,” a Dubai-based trader spoke on anonymity.
circles this is a very strong message to Qatar which might suggest that
there is more happening behind the scenes than is being said.
comments on twitter this one from academic and Middle East commentator Dr.
Ulrichsen was on the mark: " Qatar's new leadership is paying the price for
'backing the wrong horse' in the Arab Spring when for a time it seemed Doha
could do anything."
Etihad versus flydubai
3 March 2014
Since both Etihad
abd flydubai announced full year 2013 results today lets have a look at how
the two airlines financial performance compares.
Neither Etihad or
flydubai release comprehensive financial results, unlike rivals Emirates and
Turkish Airlines, which means that a comprehensive analysis of overall
finances cannot be undertaken.
As usual the local
media has faithfully reported the results without any analysis. It is hard
to work out the impact of Etihad's equity investments. The airline reported
US$820 in partnership revenues; but what about it's share of equity loss/profits?
Etihad has equity
investments in Virgin Australia, Jet Airways in India and Aer Lingus in
Ireland as well as Air Berlin, Air Seychelles, Air Serbia and Darwin Airline
in Switzerland. As far as I can tell none of the partner airlines are
profitable. Etihad gets some cost synergies and other benefits from
inter-lining and feeding passengers into the Abu Dhabi hub but at the same time
it must be taking its share of the net losses of its partners.
The full year net
profit of both airlines is almost identical; but Etihad has six times
flydubai's revenues. So the Etihad net profit margin is painfully thin at
The comparison is
interesting. And to be honest flydubai looks like a better standalone
business while Etihad benefits from investors with deep pockets.
Airways 2013 profit rises 48%
3 March 2014
also announced full year profits today with net profit reaching $62 million
as sales grew 27 per cent to $6.1 billion. Partnership revenues also rose by
30 per cent to $820m, representing 21 per cent of total passenger revenues.
“Our codeshare partnerships have been an important part of our business
performance for the last seven years,” said James Hogan, president and chief
executive of Etihad Airways. “But it is our equity investments which are
really taking off now, allowing us to build integrated networks and
schedules, develop common products and services and most importantly,
identify business and cost synergies.”
Etihad’s growth strategy has relied heavily on expanding its route network
through “equity alliances,” in which it invests in carriers that help it to
expand its global reach in strategically important regions. In 2013, Etihad
grew its equity alliance to seven – comprising Air Seychelles, Air Berlin,
Virgin Australia, Air Serbia, Ireland’s Aer Lingus, India’s Jet Airways and
Etihad Regional — formerly known as Darwin Airline (based in Switzerland).
The latest addition to this growing family of equity alliances could be
Alitalia, the loss-making Italian flag carrier. Etihad said last month that
it was conducting due diligence on a possible investment.
The Arabian Gulf carrier ordered 199 aircraft and 294 engines at the Dubai
Airshow, worth some $67bn.
Etihad passenger numbers surged by 12 per cent in 2013 to reach nearly 11.5
million, as 1.8 million passengers were carried via codeshare deals and
other equity alliances.
The addition of seven new codeshare deals in 2013, brought the total number
of such partnerships to 47.
Etihad’s aggressive growth plans include adding more than 30 routes by 2020.
In 2013, Etihad launched routes to Sana’a in Yemen, Amsterdam, Belgrade in
Serbia, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Sao Paulo and Washington DC.
This year it is planning to fly to Jaipur in India, Los Angeles, Zurich,
Yerevan in Armenia, Perth in Australia, Rome, Phuket in Thailand (this
replaces the Air Berlin AUH-HKT flight), Dallas in the US and Medina in
Cargo revenues increased 30 per cent in 2013 to $928 million.
Etihad expects to receive 18 new aircraft this year, including its first
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Airbus A380, Both are scheduled for delivery in
the fourth quarter.
Etihad also announced the creation of the Etihad
Aviation Group, a new structure marking the transition from a single entity
airline to a wider global aviation group.
The new Etihad Aviation Group structure, headed by James Hogan as Group
President and Chief Executive Officer, distinguishes the functions relating
purely to Etihad Airways and those required to interface with and support
the growth and success of its subsidiaries, joint venture companies and
A bit like
A new position of Chief Operating Officer Etihad Airways has been created to
oversee the day-to-day running of the core airline. Recruitment for this
position is ongoing and the successful candidate will oversee the major
areas of Marketing, Sales, Operations, Technical, Cargo, Flight Operations,
Guest Services, Guest Experience, and Safety and Quality.
In addition to the core airline, the Etihad Aviation Group also includes a
division to coordinate and manage Etihad’s investment in its equity airline
partners, and a new role of Chief Operating Officer, Equity Partners will be
created within the new structure to ensure an ongoing interface between the
airline and its equity partners.
The position will be responsible for leading the identification and
realisation of synergy benefits across the equity alliance, as well as
having direct responsibility for Air Seychelles and Air Serbia in which
Etihad Airways has a management responsibility.
The group will also include the new Hala Group, led by Peter Baumgartner,
formerly Chief Commercial Officer Etihad Airways. The Hala Group has been
formed recognising the airline’s commercial opportunities which have grown
beyond air travel across a variety of travel and hospitality businesses.
The Hala Group will bring businesses together to drive commercial value for
Etihad Airways, for Abu Dhabi and for the airline’s equity alliance
partners. It combines travel management provided by Hala Travel Management,
destination management services of Hala Abu Dhabi, the internationally
expanding wholesale and tour operating business, Etihad Holidays, and other
major start-up initiatives such as a new global loyalty company.
It makes sense but it is not exactly innovative. Part of the problem is that
Etihad is 100% owned by the Abu Dhabi government and its acquisitions are
made by the government's investment fund on behalf of the airline.
Etihad and flydubai have announced almost identical profits on very
flydubai profits increase
3 March 2014
flydubai has reported its annual results for 2013. flydubai operates to a
calendar year end unlike Emirates with a 31 March year end.
The basic numbers
are revenue of AED 3.7 billion (USD 1.0 billion) and a full-year profit of
AED 222.8 million (USD 60.7 million) an increase of 47 per cent compared to
Passenger numbers increased 6.82 million; a 38 per cent increase compared to
Seven new Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft joining the fleet last
year. Together with the rolling retrofit programme a total of 14 aircraft
are configured with a business class cabin.
The airline, which operates an average of 1,100 flights a week, launched 17
new routes during 2013 bringing the network to 66 destinations. It doubled
its network in Russia to eight destinations; underlined the commitment to
its network in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with 10 destinations, many of
which have not previously had direct flights to Dubai, as well as Salalah in
Oman. It ended the year with the first direct flights to Chisinau, the
capital of Moldova.
flydubai has strategically expanded its network within a five hour flying
radius of Dubai and has opened up 46 routes that were previously underserved
or did not have direct air links to Dubai.
Staff numbers grew to more than 2,250 employees including 499 pilots and 922
Fuel expense remains the single largest operating cost and is 39.5 per cent
of total cost. During the last quarter of 2013, flydubai started hedging and
29% of the total fuel requirements for 2014 have been hedged.
Ancillary revenue remained a significant component of total revenues and
accounted for 14.6 per cent of total revenues in 2013. This includes cargo
revenues and flydubai’s inflight entertainment, on board sales, seat
preferences, checked baggage allowance, car rental, hotel bookings, travel
insurance and visa facilitation services.
At the 2013 Dubai Airshow, flydubai committed to ordering 75 Boeing 737 MAX
8s and 11 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800s, valued at $8.8 billion at list
prices. In addition, the airline retains purchase rights for 25 more 737
MAXs. The first aircraft from this order, 11 Next-Generation Boeing
737-800s, will be delivered between 2016 and 2017. Deliveries of the first
Boeing 737 MAX will commence in the second half of 2017 and continue until
the end of 2023. The remaining aircraft from the order placed at the 2008
Farnborough Airshow will be delivered by the end of 2015.
flydubai noted that the operational climate in 2014 will remain challenging;
however, the outlook remains positive due to the efficiency and flexibility
of flydubai’s model and operations.
Shutting down the shutdown
3 March 2014
Fifty-three days after anti-government protesters vowed to “shut down” the
world’s most-visited city in a bid to “restart” Thailand, they have been
forced to quit their programme. Or perhaps rather to “minimise” its window:
from the city streets to a public park in Bangkok.
Suddenly, any relaunch of Thailand’s failed people’s revolution looks
unlikely. Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of a series of anti-government
protests, now in its fourth month, which has been aimed at ridding Thailand
of the influence of the ruling Shinawatra clan, even apologised for the
inconvenience that has been caused. Rally sites at key intersections in
central Bangkok are to be dismantled, while some others are to be left in
place, for now. This development will not, however, end the battle over the
What it does show is that the risk of widespread social and economic failure
has begun to register with the main protagonists: the army; the government;
and finally Mr Suthep, the de facto leader of Thailand’s opposition. At
least 23 people, including children, have been killed and hundreds more
injured since the end of October. Earlier this week young men engaged in
shoot-outs in central Bangkok. And everywhere incomes have been hit hard.
One estimate puts the economic loss caused by the protests at $15 billion
and warns that it could quickly double—by which point it would have
destroyed income equal to the vast wealth of the royal palace.
The ugly truth at the centre of Thailand’s ideological conflict is that both
sides would prefer to see the other side drop dead. And neither is about to
commit suicide. In the past, the king could have told Mr Suthep to accept a
compromise. But the monarch is old and frail. In his stead, the army, as the
real power behind the throne, has taken action. Days before Mr Suthep’s
apparent retreat, the army chief had in effect warned him and his
sympathisers—in the military ranks, the civil service, the judiciary and the
royal palace—that coups d’état are no longer on the menu.
For the army knows it is not welcome. Above all, it fears the sort of
backlash that is already brewing among the more militant “red shirts”, the
supporters of the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her brother
Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister. The mood among the reds has
changed strikingly since February 19th, when a court ruled against them. Its
judgment, that the anti-government protests were “peaceful” and that the
police must not break them up, infuriated them; the ruling was a signal to
their more radical factions that they might as well take up arms too. One
red-shirt leader has vowed to recruit 600,000 young men for a new,
pro-government Democracy Protection Volunteers Group. Whether or not he is
regarded as a nutcase, he is not alone in drawing a hard line: there is to
be no coup, military or judicial—or else. On March 1st unidentified men
sprayed gunfire at the home of the mother of one of the protest leaders (who
had, a few days earlier, chased the former wife of Mr Thaksin from a posh
Mr Suthep’s apparent climbdown comes only days after the red shirts began
copying his tactics and laid siege to a government institution. On February
26th they built a wall of sand and crushed stones to block the gates of the
National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), north of Bangkok. The NACC is
set to impeach Ms Yingluck over her government’s signature policy, a lavish
rice-subsidy scheme. If she were found guilty, Ms Yingluck and many senior
figures in her Pheu Thai party could be removed from office and banned from
politics for five years.
The case appears open-ended and its outcome uncertain. In that respect it is
very much like the government’s bid to complete a national election, without
which it cannot convene parliament and stay in power. For that matter, it is
also like those assurances by the opposition Democrat Party, when it says
that it favours elections over the anti-government protesters’ demand for an
appointed “people’s council”. It was the same Democrats who boycotted the
polls on February 2nd, and who stand in the way of the government’s attempts
to build a quorum for the next parliament.
The entrance to the NACC is now the site of a rally for the red shirts,
sealed off by their own armed guards. Street vendors sell paraphernalia with
images of Ms Yingluck and Mr Thaksin. At present it is the reds’ only
dedicated territory inside Greater Bangkok. They look poised to hold it, as
a red line of sorts. In practice they are mimicking the anti-government
protesters who built a cement wall earlier this month, brick-by-brick
sealing the gates to Ms Yingluck’s office, Government House, so that she
could not return “in this life or the next”.
The notion that Mr Suthep’s revolution is responding to a popular demand for
better governance now looks bizarre, if not incomprehensible. In one of the
thousands of tents staked in Lumpini Park, the new headquarters of the
revolution, large letters printed in English seek to explain: “Western
observers please understand that this is our democratic reform in progress.
You had yours, let us have ours!”.
Were Mr Suthep’s revolution to regain its strength and to triumph, against
the odds, it would be startling. But then the scale of the backlash against
his movement could be even more shocking. Mr Suthep claims to want to
protect the country and the monarchy. A less charitable view has it that he
has been trying to protect the traditional elite’s political and economic
control over Thailand’s resources—to defend the status quo that another
revolution, the Siamese coup d’état of 1932, once tried but failed to
It appears that it has dawned on the army that Mr Suthep’s bid to preserve
the role of the establishment might well backfire. Safer for everyone, then,
that his insurrection should be boxed into a public park.
Russia Today's full scale propaganda
2 March 2014
priceless headline "Tea, sandwiches, music, photos with self-defense forces
mark peaceful Sunday in Simferopol"
Worse is Russia
Today describing an occupying army as a self-defense force. But say anything
loudly enough and there will be someone who believes it.
Crimea and then?
2 March 2014
The Guardian - Masha Gessen
Can something be
evident and incredible at the same time? Certainly, if you are in denial.
Until Russian troops landed in the Crimea many Russians were in denial about
Vladimir Putin. They believed he was all bark and no bite.
Not that Putin had kept his intentions secret. He has always denied the idea
that the Soviet Union was a colonising power; furthermore, he called the
breakup of the USSR "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of our time".
He has annexed chunks of Georgia, most recently by means of a military
invasion in 2008. But there are two differences between now and the war in
Georgia. Technically, it was not Putin but Dmitry Medvedev who was nominally
president when Russia invaded Georgia. More importantly, Russian liberals
were not rooting for their fellows in Georgia during that war; indeed, they
were scarcely aware of the political struggles within the country.
Ukraine is different: for three months, Russians had been watching the
stand-off, and the oppositionally minded were strongly identifying with the
anti-Yanukovych forces in Kiev.
Perhaps the last time the Russian intelligentsia watched the internal
struggle in another country this intently was in 1968 during the Prague
Spring, when they hoped the Czechs would succeed in building what they
called "socialism with a human face". They also believed it would hold out
the promise of something better for life in the Soviet Union. In August
1968, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, quashing the Prague Spring. In
Moscow, seven people came out to protest against the invasion; they were
arrested and the modern dissident movement was born.
The parallels end there. It's unlikely that what's happening in Ukraine will
foment a new protest movement in Russia: the ongoing crackdown on civil
society makes the cost of protest too high. Still, the Crimean invasion is a
landmark in Russian domestic politics.
It signals a loss of innocence: no longer will Russians be able to think
that Putin merely feels nostalgic for the USSR. It also signals ever greater
polarisation of Russian society: in addition to all the other lines along
which Russians are divided and across which civilised dialogue is
impossible, there is now the chasm between supporters and opponents of the
planned annexation. It also means the political crackdown in Russia will
These clear and tragic consequences obscure the challenge the new Crimean
war poses to Russia's post-imperial consciousness. "I can be reasonable
about everything, but I cannot give up the Crimea," was a line from the late
Galina Starovoitova, who as Boris Yeltsin's adviser on nationalities policy,
oversaw Russia's first attempts at releasing its colonies.
She meant that, like just about every Russian, she felt the Black Sea resort
area was part of her birthright, whatever the maps may say. Most, if not
all, Russians harbour this Crimean exceptionalism, even if they belong to
the minority that otherwise rejects Soviet nostalgia.
If Russia functioned as a society with rule of law and some common
understanding of its complicated history, the inhibition against acting on
this exceptionalist impulse would come from the top. But with the government
sending troops into the Crimea, it is up to individual Russians to find the
arguments and, even more difficult, the motivation to resist the aggression.
Masha Gessen is the author of The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise
of Vladimir Putin
A Crimea Primer
1 March 2014
from the Global Post
A vital piece of
land on the Black Sea that's been claimed by some of the world's great
empires, Crimea is no stranger to conflict.
The peninsula has been sacked by Huns, Greeks, Turks and Mongols. It was
part of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and later the Ottoman Empire
before it was absorbed by the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great in
Perhaps its bloodiest chapter came between 1853 and 1856 during the Crimean
An estimated 750,000 people died as Russia fought the Ottoman Empire in a
conflict that also involved France, Britain and Sardinia.
The war gave us two cultural tropes: Florence Nightingale ushering sick
soldiers to safety and the Charge of the Light Brigade that ended in
disaster for British troops cut down in one of military history’s greatest
The poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson immortalized the episode
this way: “Theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do and die.”
Under Soviet rule, Crimea belonged to the Russian republic, one of 15 Soviet
republics, until Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to the Ukrainian republic
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea flirted with
independence, but that movement was quashed by lawmakers.
This week, tensions flared after months of protest finally ended with the
ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last weekend.
Russian loyalists stormed the Crimean parliament and another government
building on Thursday. Heavily armed, they raised the Russian flag in the
Crimean capital of Simferopol.
On Friday, another armed group took control of two Crimean airports.
Although Moscow denies direct involvement, Reuters reported Russian aircraft
flew into Ukrainian airspace and that Russian troops controlled at least one
of the airports.
“Of course they are Russian,” said Maxim Lovinetsky, a 23-year-old volunteer
militiaman who was blocking access to the airport. “They came last night.”
More from GlobalPost: In Ukraine the fight continues, and not just in Crimea
About 2 million people live in Crimea, which is split between Russians in
the south, Muslim Tatars in the center and Ukrainians in the north.
Ethnic Russians are the majority in Crimea, making up nearly 60 percent of
the population. Together, Ukrainians and Tatars form just under 40 percent.
In the face of crisis, Tatars and Ukrainians appear united against the
Russians, likely stemming from old wounds. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
scattered the entire Crimean Tatar population, some 200,000, in 1944 to
various parts of the USSR for allegedly conspiring with Nazi Germany.
Nearly half of them died during the exile.
On the world map, Crimea appears almost an island, but it’s actually a
peninsula connected by a thin tissue of land extending to Ukraine in the
Another arm reaches almost to Russia to the east, but is interrupted by the
Strait of Kerch and the Sea of Azov.
Crimea extends deep into the Black Sea and provides easy access to European
nations such as Romania and Bulgaria, as well as Turkey.
Some experts suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Crimea back
under his control. However, others say Putin risks international isolation
and an expensive conflict if he intervenes in Crimea.
“Crimea in Ukraine and Transnistria in Moldova are just two of many possible
future Russian targets,” Monica Duffy Toft writes for Foreign Policy. “But
building an empire is an expensive undertaking. Russia’s appetite for
expansion might only weaken it further.”
The Bangkok Post at its yellow worst
The Bangkok Post
is a poor newspaper - but its failure to a) understand democracy and b)
understand that there is a Thailand beyond Bangkok does it huge discredit.
This is how democracy is supposed to work trumpets the paper in the last
sentence of yesterday's editorial.
The Bangkok Post
has singularly failed to condemn the PDRC, an illegal movement that has its
sole aim of forcing a democratically elected government from office. That is
the issue that the Post should be dealing with.
There is an
irregular army already established - by the PDRC in Bangkok. The police have
been instructed not to interfere.
If there is a coup
or if the PDRC takes over Bangkok and if the government then decides to set
up its operations and ministries in for instance Chiang Mai then it is
still the government - it is still the sole body elected by the people of
Thailand. It is not a government in exile and it is not an alternative
government or the PDRC that try to take control of government in Bangkok
would be the government in exile - the government that is not representative
of the people.
The Bangkok Post
assume that whatever happens in Bangkok is the government as though a
government cannot function outside of the capital.
Given that Bangkok
is being strangled by anti-democracy protestors it makes sense for
democratic minded people to be considering alternatives.
A coupe government
is not a legitimate substitute for an elected government and the Post fails
to accept this is its haste to support the coup plotters.
Tone down the
27 Feb 2014 Bangkok Post editorial:
Thailand is one and indivisible kingdom. This is clearly stated in the first
amendment of the constitution. . So anyone who attempts to carve out
territory from the kingdom is committing sedition which is liable to severe
In the far South, separatist groups such as the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN)
and new Pattani United Liberation Organisation have, for decades, waged
unsuccessful and violent campaigns for a separate Malay-Muslim region from
the Thai state.
separate homeland or self-determination remains an aspiration, several
separatist groups, including the BRN, have agreed to peace talks brokered by
Malaysia Unfortunately, the process has been suspended since the
middle of last year.
Of late however,
there have been talks among the hardliners within the red-shirt movement,
the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and some members
in the government about separatism in retaliation against what they
deem as extreme bias or injustice against the government from
charter-mandated independent organisations such as the Constitution Court
and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
Emotions ran high at the UDD’s rally held in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday
which was attended by the movement’s firebrands namely caretaker Deputy
Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikuar and Jatuporn Prompan. Caretaker Interior
Minister and Pheu Thai party leader Charupong Ruangsuwan was also present.
Loose talk about
the creation of an irregular army of red shirts to protect the government
and to fight the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), a
government-in-exile and a separate homeland found voice on the rally stage.
In his address to
the red-shirt crowd, Mr Charupong issued a threat, saying there are about 10
million guns in the hands of Thai people and these people cannot be looked
He also reportedly
called upon the red shirts to get prepared for a make-or-break showdown
which will result in bloodshed.
inconceivable how an interior minister could openly encourage people — in
this case the red-shirt followers — to prepare for a bloody confrontation
and, at the same time, condone talks about a government in exile, an
irregular army and a separate homeland for red-shirt followers.
conduct in this regard is unbecoming of a minister. It is indeed an irony
that the government of which he is a part has charged PDRC leaders for
sedition for leading protests to overthrow the government.
The protests have
turned the government into a lame duck, unable to find a permanent home to
do its work. Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has to keep her
daily working schedules confidential for fear of harassment from protesters.
Yet these symptoms
of a failed government are no excuse for a member of the government to
engage in activities bordering on sedition, or incitement of hatred.
heads still prevail within the military top brass. Army chief Gen Prayuth
Chan-ocha in his capacity as the deputy director of the Internal Security
Operations Command has ordered all provincial governors to keep a close
watch on any crowd movements from both sides of the conflict which are prone
to political violence, to nip any potential violence in the bud.
Like the PDRC, the
UDD has the right to stage protests as it feels fit so long as it does not
resort to violence. It has the right to protect its beloved prime minister.
But at the same time, it has a duty to obey the law and follow rulings from
the courts of law. That is how a democracy is supposed to work.