* Bangkok Shrine Bombing – Case (Pretty Much) Closed

BANGKOK–Two Chinese Muslims are set to go on trial in 2016 on murder charges stemming from last August’s bombing that killed 20 people and injured 125. Thai authorities don’t appear eager to probe into their accomplices or motives, however. Nor will they charge the two with terrorism, despite the web of foreigners implicated in the pipe bomb explosion at a popular Hindu-Buddhist shrine in central Bangkok.


The first man to be arrested, Bilal Mohammed, originally claiming to be a Turkish citizen called Adem Karadeg, was discovered August 29 in an apartment in a Muslim neighborhood of northeastern Bangkok. In the same apartment were several hundred forged Turkish passports and a cache of bomb-making components–suggesting that more attacks might have been planned.


Only in late September did Thai police claim that 27-year-old Bilal was the “backpack bomber” himself–the yellow t-shirted man who left his pack containing a 5-kilogram pipe bomb on a bench at Erawan Shrine shortly before the explosion. According to his lawyer, Bilal has now confessed to the crime. Bilal previously said he had arrived in Thailand–with the help of traffickers–four days after the bombing.       MORE

* Thailand’s Shrine Bombing – The Case for Turkey’s Grey Wolves

By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com

The most likely perpetrators of the deadly Bangkok bombing last week were militant members of a right-wing Turkish organization infuriated by the Thai government’s forcible repatriation of Uighur refugees back to China. Anthony Davis, a veteran security analyst with IHS-Jane’s, made a persuasive case for the Grey Wolves on a panel at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand Monday evening.

He did not rule out the possibility that other foreign militant Muslim organizations could be responsible for August 18 bomb at the Erawan Shrine that killed 20 people and injured 126. He found it extremely unlikely, however, that it was the work of Thai dissident political groups or even of the Muslim insurgents in southern Thailand who have waged a separatist war in three border provinces for the past decade.

Some of the strongest evidence in favor of the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves was the fury throughout Turkey that followed the Thai repatriation on July 9 of 109 Uighurs and the Grey Wolves’ visibility during the attacks on the Thai Embassy in Istanbul. A violent wing of the loosely organized pan-Turkic organization in recent years has taken up the cause of the Uighurs. MORE

* Do Myanmar’s Rohingya Really Need Citizenship Now?

By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com

The more I learn about the plight of Rohingya, the stateless people of northwestern Myanmar, the more I think that foreign diplomats and op-ed writers may be wrong to be pushing the citizenship plank now. Perhaps there are more urgent priorities.

I have been reading and thinking about this since I talked recently with Lilianne Fan, a research fellow with the Humanitarian Policy Group of Britain’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) think tank. She had just returned from her second visit to the four camps in Aceh State, Indonesia, which are sheltering nearly 2,000 Myanmar Rohingya and Bangladeshis that were rescued in late May from three boats abandoned by traffickers.

On one boat the 600-plus survivors had been adrift for more than two months and another 100 people had been killed in fighting among the passengers. She is a co-founder of the Geutanyue Foundation, an Aceh NGO that is among the many large and small organizations providing aid to the boat people. She has been visiting Myanmar, including Rakhine State, since the Cyclone Nargis disaster in 2008 … MORE

* Norodom Sihanouk’s wonderful, horrible life

Mao-Peng Zhen-Sihanouk-Liu Shaoqi in 1956--credit US Army

Mao, Peng Zhen, Norodom Sihanouk, Liu Shaoqi in Beijing, 1956

By Susan Cunningham, Guest Contributor
New Mandala

For more than a half-century, Dr. Milton Osborne was an observer of the wonderful, horrible life of Norodom Sihanouk, whose funeral ceremonies take place in Phnom Penh next week. Sihanouk  died in Beijing in October, 61 years after he assumed the Cambodian throne for the first time as the unlikely selection of the French colonial masters.  

Dr. Osborne first met Sihanouk, then prince and prime minister,  as a young Australian diplomat posted in Phnom Penh in 1959.  Dr. Osborne then earned a PhD in history at Cornell, taught at the Australian National University and overseas universities, and worked for the United Nations along the Thai border during the early years of the Cambodian refugee crisis.

From 1982 to 1993, he returned to government service as Head of the Asia Branch of the Office of National Assessments. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Dr. Osborne is the author of many articles and ten books about Cambodia, the region and the Mekong River. They are all so well written that they can be read with pleasure and benefit by people without advanced degrees in the social sciences.  His newest book is Phnom Penh: A Cultural and Literary History. Published in 1994, Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness is the definitive biography, though a smart publisher should order a new, updated edition that covers Sihanouk’s second reign as king and his final attempts to influence events in his homeland. 

Back in 1973—before the Khmer Rouge victory in the civil war–Dr. Osborne already made a persuasive case in Politics and Power in Cambodia: The Sihanouk Years  that the prince’s own economic policies and megalomaniac personality led to his deposition by coup d’état in 1970.  On Sihanouk’s death, he wrote this obituary for the Lowy Institute.

Q: Was Sihanouk really that charismatic?

MO: Sihanouk was one of the few people I have ever encountered who deserves to be described as charismatic. On an individual basis he radiated charm and for Cambodians in particular he had a striking capacity to enthrall a crowd–for good or ill. Have a look at my account, pp.3-4 of the biography, for an account of the remarkable double act he and Sukarno performed in 1959 and which I was lucky enough to witness. 

But he could also ‘work’ a non-Cambodian crowd. So, at a soirée dansante in the palace which, again, I was lucky to attend, at around 1.30 am, and after the king and queen had left, he beamed at the rest of us and said, ‘Well, their majesties have gone, and I suppose the rest of you can go too now, but I am going to play until dawn and I do hope you will stay.’ And, of course we all did. MORE

* Phase-out of chemicals wins backing at Bangkok meet

By Susan Cunningham
The Nation

Denmark won allies last week in its drive to accelerate the phase-out of two chemicals that destroy the ozone layer, hydrochloro-fluorocarbons (HCFCs) and the pesticide methyl bromide.

Twenty-two nations, including the entire European Union, pledged here to phase out their production and consumption of HCFCs by the year 2015, 15 years ahead of the present schedule. They had convened for the annual meeting of 123 signatories to the Montreal Protocol. The 22 nations also promised to limit their HCFC use “to absolutely necessary applications” in the run-up to 2015.

HCFCs were introduced as substitutes for the more destructive chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are used as refrigerants and in the manufacture of insulating foams. Beginning in 1987, CFCs were the original target of international efforts–codified under various Montreal Protocol agreements–to protect the atmospheric ozone layer.

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