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[smh.com.au] – Security tight ahead of summit

November 28, 2004 Leave a comment

http://www.smh.com.au/news/World/Security-tight-ahead-of-summit/2004/11/28/1101577342324.html

Security tight ahead of summit
November 28, 2004 – 3:39PM

Australia spent $42 million building the Friendship Bridge between Laos and Thailand. Just don’t try looking at it.

Amid unprecedented security for a meeting of regional leaders tomorrow, jittery security guards and police detained two journalists attempting to look over the pride of Australian aid in Asia.

The 1.2 kilometre bridge across the Mekong River was opened with much fanfare by then prime minister Paul Keating and his Lao and Thai counterparts in 1994.

Located on the outskirts of Vientiane, the span is described by Australian officials as “a potent symbol of Australian commitment to Laos and its integration with other economies”.

But following threats by ethnic minority Hmong guerrillas to disrupt the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) leaders summit in Laos tomorrow, Lao security officials seemed to abandon their Government’s commitment to welcome overseas visitors.

After one official directed the journalists – one from AAP and another from The Australian Financial Review – along a track beside the bridge to a point presumably overlooking the bridge to take a photo, a group of three armed police and several plain-clothed security officers suddenly descended.

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Several security officials then explained “it is not possible to photograph the bridge”.

After a lengthy delay, police shunted both correspondents out a side door when a mysterious official bearing both ASEAN media and security passes arrived to intervene.

The incident helps explain why ordinary Lao people do not seem to share their Government’s enthusiasm for the first ASEAN leader’s summit to which Australia’s Prime Minister, John Howard, has been invited.

One of the world’s last communist bastions, Laos has ordered its own people off the streets in an Orwellian bid to paint the capital in the best possible light, clean and free of the traffic problems which plague other Asian capitals.

Taxis have been banished from the leafy streets and offices shut down, while restaurants have either closed for the duration of the summit or reduced their opening hours.

“It makes it very hard for us to make money. The Government says we cannot go into the city,” motorised tricycle driver Sisay told AAP.

“It will be better when [ASEAN] is over and we can make some money again.”

Even traffic across the Friendship Bridge – which Australia says has had an important impact on Lao economic development – has slowed to a crawl amid the lockdown.

The Vientiane Times newspaper said hardly anyone was bothering to cross the Friendship Bridge in the leadup to the summit.

Given Lao security for the meeting, it’s best not to try and check it out.

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Email to an ex

November 26, 2004 Leave a comment

From: Paul Carson [karsoe@███.com]
Date: 26 November 2004 16:59:27 AEDT
To: N████ H█████ [█████@pager.icq.com]

Hi N████,

This is very out of the blue, I know, and maybe expecting a response is a bit much. A lot can happen in 8 years. It would be good to know what you’ve been doing & how you are.

I’m in Thailand right now, and a lot of the crap I used to think was so important is rapidly vanishing from my mind.

Anyhow, I would like to hear from you, but if not, that’s OK. I do hope everything is going well for you.

– Paul

Categories: Misc. Tags:

Tiger Temple

November 25, 2004 Leave a comment

k'buri-016

k'buri-018

Thanks to Ricada for the pics.

[UPDATE, December 2006: I’ve since heard some disturbing rumours about this place, that most of the animals there (and the tigers in particular) are allegedly fed a steady stream of tranquilisers and other downers to make them docile. They’re also apparently mistreated. So use your conscience if you’re ever in the area and are considering visiting this place.]

The Spoils Of War

November 24, 2004 Leave a comment

KANCHANABURI, THAILAND – Seems my last e-mail got mangled a bit, the browser crashed as I was trying to send it.

Anyhow…

I’m still in Kanchanaburi, having a great time as you would when the local brew costs AU$1 a bottle and accommodation on the Kwai River is AU$5 a night.. :)

I went to the Bridge today, and to the war museum nearby. Very powerful, to realise all that went on in that area during WW2 affected me quite a bit. I think Cambodia is really gonna hit me hard.

I met up with two other travellers, Caitriona from Ireland and Ricarda from Germany, we’ve been hanging out, climbing waterfalls, petting tigers [pictured], swimming, boozing it up and harrassing the locals with some Godawful snooker/pool playing, pretty ordinary attempts at spoken Thai, and singing so bad I’m sure we’re breaching the Geneva Convention somehow.

I’m planning on heading to Laos sometime in the next 2 weeks but I’ve heard that there’s a big international govt. conference on (ASEAN or something) in the capitol at the moment and they’ve closed the borders as a security measure. If the don’t reopen before my visa expires on Dec. 13th I’ll have to go to Cambodia first. The benefits of no plans. :)

So yeah… I’m still alive, a mite hung over right now, having a complete blast. Love & peace to all baby, yeah! :)

Moving On

November 19, 2004 Leave a comment

BANGKOK, THAILAND – I’m off to a town called Kanchanaburi tomorrow. The town is not well known, but the river near it (and moreso, the bridge over that river) is quite famous, it’s the Kwai River. I suspect it will be a nice break from Bangkok, there’s apparently some good hiking to be done and some spectacular waterfalls nearby. I’ll be there for Loy Krathong, which is held on the full moon in November (the last full moon in the Thai lunar calander). It’s a ritual that involves floating a candle and incense down a river, and if the candle stays lit until it’s out of sight you will have good luck for the following year.

Today I visited the Grand Palace, and as soon as I entered the gate I got a sense of the history and power of the old Saimese kingdom. The buildings are just spectacular, and the military guards looked more like they should be studying for their high school exams rather than guarding the Palace. :)

I also went to Wat Pho, a very old temple complex which houses the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. I spent about an hour just strolling around the grounds there, and left with an amazing feeling of serenity (which, surprisingly, has not been shattered by the chaos that is Bangkok’s peak hour).

I’m a bit miffed that I didn’t bring a camera, but honestly, photos can’t do justice to half of what I’ve seen.

Categories: Travel Tags: , ,

Greetings from Bangkok

November 14, 2004 Leave a comment

Well, I survived the trip. I’m just surviving Bangkok too. Anyone who reckons Sydney is intense should pop over here for a while, it redefines the term.

It’s alledgedly almost winter here too, but you wouldn’t know it. The humidity definitely prompts bulk consumption of beer (which, to the surprise of many of you, I’ve not yet done).

I haven’t really done a lot yet, the trip knackered me (I was awake for 27 hours), so I’ve just been strolling about and trying to get oriented and resting. Well, trying to. It seems that I landed in the middle of a large and surprisingly boisterous Buddhist festival, which basically involves lots of very loud music, lion dancing and fireworks until about 2am.

I have to find somewhere else to crash today, and will have a look at some of the temples later this arvo.

Two things about Bangkok:
1. They don’t seem to have traffic rules here, more like traffic suggestions.
2. I’m yet to figure out what purpose the pedestrian crossings serve.

I also saw something very scary last night, a tattooist who operates out of a Kombi van. I’d like to get some more ink done but I think I’ll wait until I get back home.

Better go. Hope everyone is well.

Take care,

Paul C./Karsoe