BANGKOK — When Thailand’s top general speaks of coups, his words are read like tea leaves. Just as US economists decrypt the Federal Reserve chair’s verbiage, the Thai punditry analyzes their army chief’s phrasing down to the last syllable.
Thailand, paranoid over coups even in its best years, has shifted into round-the-clock coup watch. The nation’s dour military head honcho, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is the man who decides whether the tanks will roll. The general is now so beset by questions over potential plots that he recently snapped at the press.
“Why do you keep asking me so often?” he shot back.
But even that quip was dissected in hopes of glimpsing the general’s inner thoughts.
Since it left behind the direct rule of kings in the 1930s, the Southeast Asian nation has racked up 12 effective coups and 11 failed attempts. The nation has carried this bad habit into the 21st century. The last army takeover was just eight years ago. And now the Thai public is rightfully fretting some sort of coup will go down in 2014.
There are plenty of reasons to worry.
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
MEXICO CITY — It’s an hour before sunset on a Friday and the pulqueria is already pulsing.
Rock, cumbia and musica romantica beats from a jukebox along the back wall. Chattering drinkers pack tightly from the saloon-style swinging doors to the tile bar.
Heavily inked and pierced waiters wiggle through the throng, juggling sloshing pitchers and pints of what fans insist is the sap of Mexico’s ancient soul.
This is Las Duelistas, one of a surviving handful of down-market Mexico City dives serving “pulque” — say “pool-kay” — the mildly sour, slightly slimy and gently fermented nectar of agave.
Long the province of peasants and poor townfolk, pulque has been reborn this century as a buzz of choice among young, forward-leaning and better-heeled urbanites.
For those able to relish its taste and texture — admittedly still a select few — pulque provides a sip of the past, quaffed in the shadow of the modern.
It’s also just about $1.65 a pint, and a nearly hangover-proof means of getting hammered.
Photo by Keith Dannemiller
José do Patrocínio (1854-1905) was a prominent Brazilian writer and abolitionist and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Born to a White Brazilian man and a formerly enslaved Black woman from what is now Ghana, Patrocínio trained as a pharmacist and became known for his writing and his fierce support for the abolitionist cause. His efforts came to fruition when Brazil became the last nation in the Americas to outlaw Black slavery in 1888. After the overthrow of the Brazilian monarchy the following year, he would run afoul of the country’s new republican government when he supported a military revolt against president Floriano Peixoto, which got him banished to a small town in the Amazon. He returned to Rio de Janeiro a few years later and is said to have died following a tribute to Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1905.
The Laju Incident 40 years on.
The first day of Lunar New Year this year falls on 31 January. It is a day that is especially significant for many Singaporeans. It is also the anniversary of the Laju Incident, a significant event in Singapore’s history.
40 years ago, four terrorists from the Japanese Red Army and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attempted to launch an attack on the Shell Oil Refinery on Pulau Bukom. The attack was an act of retaliation against imperialism, and it disruped the oil supply from Singapore to other countries.
Pretending to be fishing enthusiasts, the terrorists hired a boatman to take them to Pulau Bukom. When they were nearing their objective, the terrorists attacked the boatman and took over his craft. However, the craft soon ran aground on a coral reef, and the terrorists had to convince another boatman passing by to tow them to shore.
Upon reaching the shore, the terrorists tried to hijack a vehicle to penetrate deeper into the island, but failed. The men then planted explosives on oil tanks at the refinery, but they were unsuccessful in causing any heavy damage. The blasts caused a fire to break out in one of the oil tanks, but it was quickly extinguished. They were also unsuccessful in detonating the remaining explosives planted on the island.
In their attempts to escape from Pulau Bukom, the terrorists hijacked the Laju, a ferry berthed at the Pulau Bukom Ferry Jetty. All five crew members on the Laju were taken as hostages and the ferry was made to sail into international waters. The Police Coast Guard (then known as the Marine Police) was alerted and police patrol boats intercepted the hijacked ferry. The ferry was eventually surrounded by police patrol boats and navy gunboats.
Unable to escape, the terrorists were forced to negotiate with the Singapore, Japanese and North Korean governments. The governments demanded the release of the hostages. In exchange, the terrorists wanted safe passage out of Singapore. After days of intense negotiations, during which two of the hostages managed to escape, the hijackers and the governments finally reached a consensus on 7 February. This was not before the seizure of the Japanese embassy in Kuwait by another group of terrorists on 6 February, during which the terrorists demanded that the Japanese government provide a plane to take their comrades in Singapore to Kuwait.
A Japan Airlines (JAL) aircraft was deployed by the Japanese government to transport the Laju hijackers to Kuwait. The Singapore government made an offer to the hijackers to board the plane to Kuwait, but on the condition that they release the remaining hostages and surrender their arms. The terrorists accepted the offer, and several officials from Singapore and Japan accompanied the terrorists on the flight. Among the guarantors were 13 Singaporean officials that included 4 SAF commandos. Mr S.R. Nathan, who would later become the 6th President of Singapore, led the guarantors. He was then the director of security and intelligence at the Ministry of Defence.
On the morning of 8 February, the JAL aircraft carrying the terrorists and their guarantors took off for Kuwait. The aircraft managed to land in Kuwait without much incident, and the Kuwaiti authorities took over custody of the terrorists. The remaining hostages were released without harm and all members of the 13-man Singaporean delegation returned to Singapore safely the following day.
This incident was our young nation’s first encounter with international terrorism. Singapore was then the world’s third-largest oil refining centre, and supplied a substantial amount of oil to countries in the region. There would have been severe and far-reaching economical impact on Singapore had the terrorists succeeded in their objective to destroy the oil refinery at Pulau Bukom.
The Singapore government’s experience in the long, drawn-out negotiations with the terrorists as well as with the Japanese and North Korean governments during the Laju Incident reminded Singapore’s political leadership of the need to have an effective, dedicated force in the event of any terrorist attacks on Singapore. This led to the development of the Special Operations Force (SOF) from the SAF Commandos in 1985. The SOF was deployed in the hijacking of Singapore Airlines Flight SQ117 in 1991 to great effect and the incident was resolved within a few hours, compared to the 9 days it took for the Singapore government to resolve the Laju Incident.
Pictures and article referenced from The Straits Times.