January 4, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 1

Editor’s note: Through January 9, NYMHM will be on an abbreviated schedule. Thank you for your readership!

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* Thailand’s New Democracy as Fractious as the Old

Thailand returned to democracy last month, with its first national elections after 15 months of military rule.

But the transition is proving to be a rocky one.

According to Asia Times, The People Power Party, a new version of the party once headed by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won the largest number of seats — though not an outright majority — in parliamentary elections on Dec. 23, and party leaders began lining up partners to form a coalition government.

The victory seemed a blow to military leaders, who were opposed to Thaksin’s government.

Thaksin is still in exile in London, and faces arrest on corruption charges if he returns to Thailand.

But the new government faces resistance from other parties, including the Democrat Party, which was the runner-up in the elections, and has a strong following in the nation’s South.

Election results in some precincts, including Bangkok, have been disputed, and the national elections board has called for runoff votes in some areas.

The Bangkok Post also reports that the elections board has issued so-called red cards to candidates, temporarily banning them from political activities, due to charges of election-tampering.

By many accounts, Thailand is still bitterly divided over the Thaksin administration and the subsequent coup.

The nation’s king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, used his New Year’s address to issue a plea for unity.

“It is the duty of all of us to help one another to support the country to achieve normalcy and stability,” reports the Post.

— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Thailand democratic but shaky after vote”
Asia Times, Dec. 25, 2007

“Chart Thai to join coalition govt”
Bangkok Post, Dec. 31, 2007

“Surapong: Red cards issued unfairly”
Bangkok Post, Jan. 1, 2008

“King pleads for unity, national stability”
Bangkok Post, Jan. 1, 2008

* Muslim Extremists Target Historic Buddha Statue

A huge, centuries-old Buddhist statue in northern Pakistan has been badly damaged after it was attacked by Muslim militants, Asia Times reports.

Spurred on by a former cleric known as the Radio Mullah, who broadcasts from a pirate radio station in the region, militants detonated explosives on the statute, destroying its face.

The 23-foot-tall, 7th century Buddha of Jehanabad is the last remaining of many huge statues and carvings from the Gandhara civilization, which had its capital in what is now Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

The attack was reportedly carried out by members of extremist group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia Muhammadia, after their leader, Maulana Fazlullah, used his radio station to call for the destruction of “un-Islamic” imagery.

The attack echoed the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of Afghanistan’s equally historic Bamiyan Buddhas.

Once a popular tourist destination known as “the Switzerland of South Asia,” the region has lately become home to supporters of Afghanistan’s Taliban, as well as homegrown militants who wish to impose Muslim sharia law in Pakistan.

Government forces have been battling militants in the region, forcing many residents to flee their homes.

— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Source:

“Radio Mullah vs Gandhara Buddha”
Asia Times, Dec. 20, 2007

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