Bangkok Enters 2005, Part III

After Part II

January 13-18, 2005

Thursday, January 13, 2005

There is a curious '3rd' party in the upcoming (February 6, 2005) general election.

[Actually, there are some eccentric to bizarre 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th ... 12th parties, but more about them later ... if ever]

This "3rd" one is called the Mahachon Party; its platform is vague ... but, what makes the party more curious than the others is its party advertisements. I first saw one of their campaign trucks sporting a large poster about a month ago. Then all of the ads suddenly went away ... until today, when I found an untouched pair of party stickers stuck on a wall leading into a local restaurant. Right away I GOOGLED "Mahachon" ... and I found these two high tier sites: the first is a policy statement from the party; the second is an odd bit of wire service news.

But, below these two web 'grabs', dear reader, I have tacked the twin mini-posters from the Mahachons. I don't know what to make of it. It appears to offer a candidate with no face below the eyebrows and a circled bullet hole between his eyes. God only knows what arcane election law it violated. And, were focus groups even consulted before the poster presses went to work? Anyway, scroll down and take a look.

Mahachon Party understands people’s sentiments and needs. But as a new party, communicating our policies has not been easy. We placed TV commercials, which were banned two weeks later. Then the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration took down our campaign billboards.

We are determined to be a "real choice", with different policies, highlighting the "sufficient economy", social security, better education, power distribution and fairness to do business so that wealth is not amassed by a privileged few.

Mahachon believes asking Bangkokians for power to perform checks and balances is not enough. We believe that this is really the "time for a change".

Astrologers predict Mahachon Party success in northeast

SONGKHLA: -- The Mahachon Party has had its hopes of election success boosted by an astrologer who has predicted that the new party will prove the ruin of the leading Thai Rak Thai Party in the northeast.

"The Mahachon Party is definitely fielding 321 constituency candidates nationwide, with 132 candidates in the 136 constituencies of the north-eastern region”, said Mr. Jadet Insawang, the party’s secretary-general.

"A poll conducted by the Thai Rak Thai Party accords with our own figures, showing that Thai Rak Thai will lose to the Mahachon Party in 57 north-eastern constituencies. Astrologers have likewise predicted that the stars of the Mahachon Party are in the destruction house of Thai Rak Thai. This means that our candidates will take the place of all Thai Rak Thai candidates".

I wish American elections were less Karl Roveish.

Friday, January, 14, 2005

I had a long chat with Mr. Ben's "para-legal" yesterday. It was interesting.

Hey, in a few years Mr. Ben will be my nearest law office, if all our moves take place according to schedule. His Zero Nana office is only a few hundred meters from where the piles are now driving the roots into what will eventually become the Anthenee Residence.

Anyway, today I want to feature Mr. Ben ... (or, his para-legal) ... for he does enjoy giving excellent store-front good advice across a bare table that would make a Delta economy class fold-down-flap look generous by contrast. Ben's para-legal is actually quite a nice guy ... even though he is totally surrounded by a weird array of non-legal junk. So, his advice comes from the top of his head: there are no silly books that he needs to consult. (*)

His rent for that slice of a building is 15,000 baht a month (about $375).

(*) Paul, a franchise?

PS: Yikes, what's down there?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Yesterday you saw Mr. Ben's Sukhumvit law office. It is so tiny that his paralegal has to leave clients standing on the street whispering-in when advice is being sought. The poor man with but one ear to the street barely has enough room to sit and take notes; hell, my bathtub in Florida is larger than his whole office. And, for this he pays 15,000 baht (@ $375) per month.

Almost across the same street (Sukhumvit) from Mr. Ben's place is the thinnest building in Bangkok. The exterior dimension of this anorexic mall is narrower than one car length. Accepting Bangkok's lax construction codes, the interior space mustn't even allow room for a window to look out onto Sukhumvit's notorious traffic. Granted, the building is slightly tapered as it gets further from the road ... but, even at the far end it appears to be no wider than a couple of beds pushed head to toe.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Yesterday Watcharee's mom had a 'tamboon' (*) at her home in Ayuthaya. Not counting the monks, about 200 people were guests ... all of them were required to arrive before the 7 AM curtain call. But, at the end of the day it was mostly just close family that remained to see the sun go down.

The formal (staged) photograph is of Watcharee's maternal side of the family: her grandmother (front and center), her mother (far left) ... the remainder are aunts and uncles with an occasional spouse tucked in.

The three youngest nieces are notoriously less formal for their portraits. They seem to have enjoyed the whole thing far more than did the elders.

Watcharee looks satisfied with how things went.

The aunt who is the chief cook also had to do double duty as chief 'bottle washer'. That seems so unfair in my 'farang' eyes.

(*) In the 'west' there is nothing directly comparable. The closest way to describe it is ... a blessing of a home combined with an all day feast that also brings in envelopes of money from the guests.

Monday, January 17, 2005

From The Nation:

100 injured in Bangkok train crash

BANGKOK: Around 100 people were injured when two trains in Bangkok's five-month-old subway system crashed during the morning rush hour, officials and witnesses said.

The accident prompted authorities to suspend train services for the day and its resumption will be announced later.

"The accident happened around 9:30 am when the train headed for Hua Lam Pong left Thailand's cultural center station was hit from behind by another train that was empty," police Maj. Gen. Dusitsan Teraphat, Bangkok's deputy police commissioner, told Thai television.

"Initial reports said almost 100 people were injured. Police and authorities rescued all passengers from the train," Dusitsan said.

Prapat Chongsanguan, governor of the Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority, said the empty train had just left a maintenance station where it received repairs when it slammed into the crowded rush-hour train carrying some 700 people.

He said officials were still investigating the cause of the accident, but an initial probe indicated that it was caused by computer failure.

Prapat told reporters at the scene that the driver of the empty train had been hospitalized with serious injuries.

Thanyashan Srithongkam, a 38-year-old lawyer, told AFP he was waiting on the platform with the crash happened.

The passenger train had just closed its doors and was still stopped at the platform, he said, adding that the empty train seemed to be going in reverse when they collided.

Passengers reportedly attempted to get out of the train, but there was no emergency exit and it took about 10 minutes for the guards had to find keys to open the doors.

Television footage show people being carried from the station, some of them visibly bleeding.

The Nation/ AFP

Update from The Nation:

UPDATE: subway train injuries toll almost 200

Published on Jan 17, 2005

The number of injured people has risen to nearly 200, with injuries ranging from broken bones to internal bleeding after a subway train crashed into another one stopped at a station during morning rush hour Monday, injuring as many as 200 people, six months after the subway system commenced operation in Bangkok, police said.

Some of the victims were bleeding as rescue workers carried them upthe stairs of the Cultural Center station to ambulances.

The badly injured driver of one of the trains was trapped in the wreckage until rescue workers pulled him out, said Yupadee Srinak, spokeswoman for the underground train service.

An executive of the company managing the subway system said that an initial investigation showed computerised safety system failure lead the train on the collision course.

About 70 people were admitted to other hospitals, most withminor injuries.

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreunkij ordered the train service suspended indefinitely.

This is what CNN had to say:

BANGKOK, Thailand -- At least 160 people were injured when two trains collided at a Bangkok subway station, police and eyewitnesses said.

Some of the victims were bleeding as rescue workers carried them up the stairs of the Cultural Center station to ambulances, according to The Associated Press.

An injured passenger is carried on a stretcher after the crash.

Others, dazed and crying, were helped up the stairs to the street.

Hospital sources told CNN that at least 160 people were injured, eight of them critically.

Officials said a driver on one of the trains was seriously injured and was taken to an intensive care unit.

The accident struck in rush hour, at around 9:30 a.m. Monday (0230 GMT), at the station in the heart of the capital.

It is the first accident on the $2.8 billion single-route 18-station subway that began running in August last year.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters the accident was caused by human error and not computer error, as some media outlets had reported.

Bangkok's singe line subway runs for 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) under the traffic-clogged streets of the sprawling city but so far is not very popular with commuters.

It is designed to carry more than 250,000 passengers a day, but only about 100,000 people use it.

The subway is run by the Bangkok Metro Company, a consortium led by property developer Ch Karnchang, and is part of a $7.5 billion, 110-km (68-mile) city-wide transport network aimed at resolving Bangkok's traffic woes by 2011.

CNN Producer Narunart Prapanya contributed to this report

From ABC News:

Nearly 140 Hurt in Thai Capital Subway Crash

Jan 17, 2005 — By Saowalak Ouyporn

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Nearly 140 people were injured on Monday in a rush-hour crash on Bangkok's new, $2.8 billion underground train system, which has been fully open for less than six months.

The crash, the first on the single-route, Bangkok Metro Co. subway that opened in August, occurred when an empty train collided with a crowded train stopped at the Thai Cultural Center station in the heart of the capital.

About 700 passengers were on board, officials said.

"The service is suspended indefinitely until we can pinpoint the cause. We don't know how an empty train could have entered a track in service," transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit told reporters.

"We extremely regret this accident. Our priority is to move out the injured. The Bangkok Metro Co will be responsible for all expenses," he said.

Witnesses spoke of a heavy impact, and then darkness as they struggled to clamber out of the stricken carriages. Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayodhin said 139 people had been taken to hospital, of who about 60 had been kept in for further treatment.

"From what I can see, there was no death. But many of the injured were carried out on stretchers, some with dislocated shoulders," said Police Lieutenant Colonel Somnuk Pothanapan.

"The impact of the crash sent people sprawling on the floor," an office worker on the train told a TV station.

"The power went off and we groped around in the dark for five to 10 minutes. Finally we helped ourselves pry open the automated door to get out."


Prapat Chongsanguan, governor of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand, which oversees the Bangkok Metro Co, said officials were trying to trace the cause of the accident by checking equipment at a maintenance center near the station.

"Public confidence in the subway safety system may be hard to restore if the cause was proved to be due to equipment. But if it was caused by human errors, then it can be rectified," he told reporters.

The $2.8 billion subway, run by the Bangkok Metro Co, a consortium led by property developer Ch Karnchang, runs for 20 km (12.5 miles) beneath the traffic-laden streets of the sprawling capital.

The 18-station system, which is designed to carry more than 250,000 passengers a day, is part of a $7.5 billion, 110-km (68-mile) city-wide transport network aimed at resolving Bangkok's traffic woes by 2011.

Bangkok Metro Co has declined to comment.

A subway official said the empty train appeared to have come out of a service tunnel at the station.

"It happened because a train accidentally slid out of a maintenance section of the station and ran into another train that was waiting for passengers to board," the official told Reuters.

Thanyachan Srithongkam, a lawyer who witnessed the accident, said he was lucky to miss the damaged train.

"I missed the crowded train that was hit because the doors closed before I could get on it. Then this other train with only the driver on it came in from the opposite direction," Thanyachan told reporters.

"I was shocked to see this other train come this way. It took about 10 minutes for the passengers to get out. They could not get the emergency exits open," he said.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

"All news is local." — Anon.

The Bangkok Post:

The Nation:

The International Herald Tribune (last page: "International Traveler Update"):

The Asian Wall Street Journal ("What's News"):

Next: Part IV

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