Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday H1N1 Roundup

So far, all quiet on the SE Asian Front.

From The Bangkok Post

GPO boosts antiviral drug production to combat flu
The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation has produced an extra million antiviral tablets to make sure there are enough supplies if the country is hit by an outbreak of swine flu.... Read the entire story here

* * * * * * * * *

ASEAN to discuss H1N1 flu next week

Published: 30/04/2009 at 02:34 PM Thailand will host a regional public health meeting next week to discuss ways of dealing with the threatened spread of Mexican flu, known as the A/H1N1 virus, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Thursday. Full Story Here

* * * * * * * * *

Following the recent disruption of the ASEAN Conference held in Pattaya last month, there are continuing security concerns...

Army ready to guard Asean ministers

Published: 1/05/2009 at 12:08 PM The army is ready to provide security for ASEAN health ministers when they gather for a regional meeting on how best to handle the Mexican swine-flu threat on May 7 and 8, army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda said on Friday. Details Here

Thai Govt To Distribute Masks in BKK

While Thailand (thankfully) remains in the clear, the government is encouraging the use of Face Masks in the capitol city...

Tourists, cabbies to get free masks
Published: 30/04/2009 at 01:42 PM Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra will on Friday hand out 100,000 free face masks to taxi drivers and tourists in Bangkok in an effort to prevent swine flu from spreading to the Thai population, deputy governor Malinee Sukavejworakit said Thursday.

The gauze masks would be handed out to foreigners staying at guesthouses, she said.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) ws also encouraging taxi drivers to wear face masks while driving passengers.

General public could go and get free masks at the BMA on Friday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tracking The H1N1 Outbreak

Thailand, thankfully remains quiet on the H1N1 watch. New suspected cases are being reported in New Zealand and South Korea meanwhile numbers of cases in North America and Europe continue to grow.

There is a fascinating Google Map App called "The Global Incident Map" (see graphic) that is contantly updated to show where suspected and confirmed cases of H1N1 are being reported.

It's well worth a look and a bookmark.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thailand Swine Flu Roundup April 29

Thankfully, Thailand has yet to report a confirmed case of H1N1 (Swine Flu). With cases popping up all over the world, one doubts we will be able to avoid it entirely.

The special panel in charge of swine-flu prevention, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart will meet for the first time today.

Representatives from agencies involved in the task will join the meeting, to be held at the parliament, to discuss further measures to stop swine flu from spreading into the country.

* * * * * * * * *

Today I went to the pharmacy to obtain Purell Hand Sanitizer. I couldn't find the familiar brand but was able to purchase an equivalent. The price ( I think) was unusually high 210 baht ($6 USD) for a medium sized bottle - not sure if it's always that expensive here or if the price is jacked up due to demand.

* * * * * * * * *

Two articles of note from today's Bangkok Post

Travellers might need health clearance
Published: 29/04/2009 at 10:58 AM Thai Airways International (THAI) says passengers with flu symptoms should bring their medical records with them to the airport, or they might not be allowed to board the aircraft, because of the global swine flu alert.

The airline's Crisis Management Operation Centre director, Surapol Isarangkul Na Ayutthaya, said on Wednesday that Thai Airways had no plans to change its flight schedules and no passengers had cancelled because of the flu scare.

However, intending passengers might not be allowed to board if they showed flu-like symptoms and could not provide proof of good health.

The airline had informed its cabin crews of the severity of swine flu and ways to protect themselves from infection.....

* * * * * * * * *

Doctors: Woman free of swine flu
Published: 29/04/2009 at 11:46 AM Laboratory tests conducted on a 42-year-old Thai woman who was quarantined on Tuesday for possible swine-flu infection showed that she is free from the deadly virus, a hospital official said on Wednesday.

Two tests were made on samples from the woman. She was found to be suffering from ordinary human flu, Chulalongkorn Hospital virus speciaist Dr Yong Pooworawan said at a press conference.

The woman was admitted to Chulalongkorn hospital on Tuesday after having a fever since last Thursday, after arriving back from Singapore. Her trip had earlier taken her to Mexico and the USA between April 3 and 19.

* * * * * * * * *

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thai Arirport to Use Thermal Scanners

Although Thailand has no reported cases of Swine Flu, it is a major travel destination and receives visitors from around the world on a daily basis.

Today, I went to the pharmacy and stocked up on face masks and enquired about the availability of Tamiflu. Most prescription medications are available over the counter in Thailand, but alas TamiFlu is not.

In speaking with several Doctors and Pharmacists, I have been assured that all the hospitals have sufficient stock of Tamiflu on hand.

Today, from the Bangkok Post

Thermal scanning at Thai airports
Published: 27/04/2009 at 02:53 PM Air passengers arriving from the southern USA and Mexico will be screened by thermal detectors for signs of fever as Thailand begins precautions against the spread of an outbreak of swine flu which has claimed more than 100 lives in Mexico.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said on Monday that quarantine officials at every international airport, including Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, have been ordered to use thermal scanners to monitor people arriving from the infected zones.

Mr Witthaya said health cards detailing the outbreak of swine flu will be distributed to both departing and arriving passengers.

The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of influenza in Mexico and the US a “public health emergency of international concern” on Sunday.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Local Newspapers (in Thai and English) are carrying this story as front page news as is CNN International, BBC World News etc.

I have taken the precaution of stocking up on non-perishable foods, extra bottled water, Radio Batteries, Candles and medications.

At this point, there is little more to do than avoid crowds, wash hands frequently and follow the news.

For great news coverage and analysis, check out

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thai Government Reacts to Swine Flu

So far so good. But New Zealand is now reporting suspected cases of Swine Flu.

Government: No swine flu outbreak yet
Published: 26/04/2009 at 01:21 PM No swine flu cases have been reported in Thailand, but relevant units are prepared for potential swine flu outbreak, Public Health Minister Wittaya Kaewparadai said on Sunday.

The minister said he had assigned the Bureau of Epidemiology to closely monitor the situation and coordinate with the World Health Organisation and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to deal with this respiratory disease.

Permanent Secretary for Public Health Prat Boonyawongvirot said people can catch swine flu from close proximity to pigs, but they cannot catch it from eating pork.

Its symptoms are similar to the symptoms of human influenza, such as high fever, body aches, coughing, and runny nose.

The Public Health Ministry asked people with these symptoms to wear protective masks and avoid going to public areas.

The ministry also warned people, who may travel to Mexico or the states of California and Texas during this period, to follow the situation closely and be careful of the swine flu outbreaks.

* * * * * * * * *

Since Thailand is a popular travel destination for people around the world, we need to be on guard and prepared.

CDC experts note that while it is possible to contain an outbreak of disease that is in one limited area, once it is reported in widespread locations, the spread is impossible to control.

Follow the latest updates and analysis at

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swine Flu Preparedness

My previous Post on Swine Flu Concerns in Asia outlines precautions being implemented throughout Asia following the recent Influenza outbreak in North America.

At the bottom of the post, I recommended you follow Avian Flu Diary blogged by my brother Mike Coston.

Since most people are not sure what Swine Flu is, I suggest you read his recent post A Pandemic Primer, it outlines the entire situation in language even I can understand.

But don't stop there, amongst the more technical posts, there are dozens of articles regarding individual, family and community preparedness for pandemics or any other kind of disaster.

Forewarned is Forearmed.

You may be a long way from Mexico and think this doesn't concern you... you'd be wrong.

In the 1918 Influenza outbreak killed over 50 million people in just 18 months.

That was before air travel, when going from London to Sydney could take weeks or even months and yet it still spread across the globe.

Today, you can be anywhere in the world in as little as 24 hours (unless, of course you are booked by my travel agent).

And so can the Flu.

Follow the News... have a preparedness plan ... and please... wash your hands!

Swine Flu Concerns in Asia

While most of the world's attention is focused on the events occuring in North America, Asia is stepping up it's monitoring for a potential Swine Flu outbreak.

From The Times of India April 25th..

Asia takes precautions after swine flu outbreak
25 Apr 2009, 1635 hrs IST, AP

TOKYO: Some Asian nations enforced checks Saturday on passengers and pork products from Mexico amid fears that its deadly outbreak of swine flu might spread to a continent that has battled hard to contain bird flu.

Japan's biggest international airport stepped up health surveillance, while the Philippines said it may quarantine passengers with fevers who have been to Mexico. Health authorities in Thailand and Hong Kong said they were closely monitoring the situation.

In Mexico, at least 62 people have died from severe pneumonia caused by a flu-like illness, the World Health Organization said. Some of those deaths have been confirmed as a type of swine flu — labeled A/H1N1 — not previously seen in pigs or humans.

At Tokyo's Narita airport — among the world's busiest with more than 96,000 people using it daily — officials installed a device at the arrival gate for flights from Mexico to measure the temperatures of passengers.

``We are increasing health surveillance following the outbreak of swine flu,'' said Akira Yukitoki, an official at the airport's quarantine station. He said more than 160 passengers arriving from Mexico on Saturday were screened by the thermographic machine. No one complained of fever or severe coughing.

The airport also plans to put up special signs for passengers going to Mexico, urging them to ``wear masks, wash hands and gargle,'' Yukitoki said.

In the Philippines, passengers with fevers who have been to Mexico may be quarantined in government hospitals, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. The government was also tightening monitoring at all ports to prevent the entry of any hogs or pork from Mexico and the US

In Hong Kong, health officials said authorities were closely monitoring the swine flu investigation by their US and Mexican counterparts.

``What we have to do now is to see ... whether all cases in Mexico are epidemiologically linked,'' said Undersecretary for Food and Health Gabriel Leung. He refused to say whether Hong Kong would implement checks on people arriving from Mexico.

In Thailand, health officials met to discuss the outbreak but have not implemented checks at airports because ``at this moment, there is no advisory from WHO,'' said Kumnuan Ungchusak, the director of the Bureau of Epidemiology.

``Our people were alerted,'' Kumnuan said. ``We will monitor the situation day by day.'' ......

For more information on Swine Flu, Avian Flu and Pandemic Preparedness in general, I heartily refer you to a very comprehensive blog maintained by my brother, Mike Coston

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Room At the Inn

An interesting story from Todays Bangkok Post regarding the Tourism downturn in Thailand and the attemps to revive it..

BANGKOK: -- Tourism operators in Pattaya plan to offer free hotel rooms from May 1 to Oct 31 to attract local and international tourists during the low season.

Apart from hotels, restaurants and shopping malls will also join the campaign, offering discounts up to 50%. Final details will be decided tomorrow.

The seaside resort city is facing difficult times because of the global economic recession and local political problems, said Chatchawal Supachayanont, president of the Eastern Chapter of the Thai Hotels Association (THA).

"With this campaign, we hope tourists and meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (Mice) activities will be lured back to Pattaya again and tourism sentiment will improve as well," he said.

Mr Chatchawal said Pattaya's hotels had about 20,000 rooms and that all operators would join the promotion.

"This is the first time we have had co-operation from all parties, aiming to restore Pattaya's tourism image," he said.

"Average occupancy was not so bad at around 30-40% after the Songkran festival. But we are very concerned about reservations from overseas, which are not coming yet."

Pattaya's image took a hit just before Songkran when red-shirted protesters forced the cancellation of the Asean Summit after they stormed the meeting site, the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel.

Operators in Pattaya hope that when Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva goes abroad he will be able to explain the problems in Thailand and how the government intends to solve them, in order to restore confidence among visitors.

As soon as details are finalized, I'll post them. Pattaya (as well as all of Thailand) is a wonderful place to visit and the Airlines are offering lower ticket prices as well.

If you are looking to visit, now is the time!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The State Of The State Of Emergency Part 2

Life in Bangkok slowly returns to normal.

Reports are that Malls around Siam area in Bangkok reopened on Tuesday afternoon after the red-shirted mob surrounding government house announced they were dissolving their protest.

During a national televised address this morning, Army Spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd explained that the Emergency decree is not meant to affect the general public and that they are welcome to enjoy the Songkran festivities if they wish to.

The Army spokesman also stated that the Emergency decree is meant to restrict the movements and actions of the red-shirt protesters and not the general public.

Since it is Thai New Years or SONGKRAN, I thought a little information about this celebration was in order..

Songkran - the Thai New Years celebration held every year in mid April is the Siamese equivalent to Mardi Gras - only they throw water instead of beads!

The throwing of water originally was a way to pay respect to people, by gently pouring a small amount of lustral water on other people’s hands or over a shoulder as a sign of respect.

Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand .

This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.

And, like Mardi Gras, there is a lot of drinking..and unfortunately driving.

Every year, traffic deaths take a substantial toll in Thailand during this celebration. Most are alcohol related.

According to The Bangkok Post, there have been 220 deaths and 2,658 injuries from road accidents after four days into the “seven dangerous days” period of Songkran holidays travel, according to official figures.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Dust Settles... for now

With the dawn of a new day, cooler heads are beginning to prevail.

Crossing the wires this morning....

Military 'won't interfere' at Govt House

In a special announcement by a military spokesman broadcast on all TV and radio stations at 10am, a spokesman said the army would continue operations in downtown Bangkok.

"But our aim is only to clear the streets so that normal traffic can move," he said.

He said the protest of red shirts at Government House is legal and would not be harmed.

* * * * * * * * * *

Red-shirts accept free rides home

Some red-shirt protesters at Government House have have accepted the offer of free transport back to their home provinces, government spokeman Panitan Wattanayagorn said on Tuesday morning.

Several airconditioned buses were seen arriving near the protest site about midnight. Speakers using loud hailers offered protesters a free ride home. The offer was made in Lao dialect, the main language of the rural Northeast.

Mr Panitan said some protesters accepted the offer of government assistance.

* * * * * * * * * *

2 red-shirt leaders surrender

Two red-shirt core leaders Veera Musikhapong and Suporn Uttawong surrendered to police on Tuesday after they told protesters to disperse.
The two contacted with police and asked them to pick them up at Misakawan intersection near the Government House where the red-shirts gathered since the end of March.

* * * * * * * * * *

So it appears the protests have been suspended but NOT abandoned.

The toll of the past few days include over 100 injured, 2 confirmed deaths along with property damage and of course damage to Thailand's image and tourism industry.

I'll continue to blog as events warrent, but hopefully this is the end to a very ugly situation.

Black Songkran

Local newsers are referring to today's' events as Black Songkran.

Wire reports now say that two persons were killed during the clash between vendors of Nang Lerng Market and red-shirted people late Monday evening....

The Army maintains that they have brought the situation "under control"....

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave a live TV address this evening, saying the government's mission to restore law and order is about to complete soon.

The violence threatens to slash tourism revenue and could lead to the loss of 200,000 jobs in the industry that directly employs about 2 million people, said Kongkrit Hiranyakit, chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand.

And, in a surreal turn of events, while all of this is going on, there are reports that despite the State of Emergency decree, Songkran festivities are in "full swing" in the tourist heavy Silom Road area....

Darkness Fall on Tense City

Continuing the timeline for this afternoon and early evening... (Culled from reports in The Nation and Thai Asean News Network)

15.30: Chairman of adhoc emergency committee vows to restore order. He's reiterated that the authorities will not use force against the protesters but reserve the rights to defend themselves without excessive force.

16.02: Military successfully remove LPG tanker from the front of Din Daeng flat

16:30: Army Spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd dismissed reports that soldiers who dispersed the red shrits in many areas used live bullets and have killed many protesters.

17.04: Homemade bomb thrown at Army headquarters, more riot units called forth

17.30: Fire broke out at the Education ministry near the Padung Krungkasem canel. Firetrucks were initially unable to approach the area as the red-shirt protesters were blocking access. The fire was later successfully put out.

1730: Audience in Khon Kaen and around 10 provinces in the upper Northeast are unable to watch news report on NBT channel as the red-shirted group demanded the station to cease broadcasting. After the rally in front of the station, the protesters are reportedly moving to block part of the Mitaparb Road and traffic has started to be congested.

18:30: Narenthorn Emergency Centre's director Chatree Charoenchivakul in his interview with Thai PBS denies the rumour of death caused by the crackdown. "We are doctors and we have medical ethics. We'll certainly report the death if there is any."

He says that the latest report shows 94 people injured of which 24 are in serious conditions. The injured people are both civilians and military officers and they are treated equally.

18.40: Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra gave an interview on CNN. He claims military is trying to cover up deaths of red-shirt protesters.

19.00: PM Abhisit Vejjajiva gave a telephone interview to deny claims by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra that his government is undemocratic.

19.40: Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban warns chaos could break out tonight. The deputy premier urges the public to be watchful of possible torchings and bombings.

* * * * * * * * * *

Here in Pattaya all is quiet. Songkran (Thai New Years) celebrations have begun with the traditional water throwing frenzy, however there appears to be fewer participant than in previous years....

Mid Afternoon Update

The chairman of a special adhoc committee set up to monitor the emergency situation held a national televised address at 3pm this afternoon to reassure the public that the committee is doing everything in its power to restore order.

Supreme Commander Gen Songkitti Jakkabatra also reiterated the government's promise not to use force against the protesters. However the general said the authorities reserve the rights to use weapons to defend themselves.

He also urged the public to constantly monitor the news and exercise their own judgment when they've received news or information about the unrest.

* * * * * * * * * *

Army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd stated the military has been able to seize back control over the Victory monument, Chai intersection near Rajavithi Road, Makkasan intersection, area in front of Channel 5 TV station, Din Daeng intersection. Protesters were forced to retreat when military officers fired shots into the air.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thai TV continues to show scenes of smoke billowing from tires set aflame. It's unclear if the shots are live or repeated tape.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This Morning's Timeline

Events are escalating quickly.From the Asean News Network..

04.17: Dispersal of red-shirt protesters at Din Daeng intersection began

08.30: Pheu Thai Payap Panket, former Sing Buri MP, called on red-shirt protesters to surround and possibly torch King Power duty free in Rangnam

08.39: Red-shirts closed traffic at Sri Ayutthaya intersection near Foreign Affairs ministry. Buses used to block entries. Tires were set on fire causing heavy fumes and lack of visibility in the area

9.15: Police requested members of the press to leave Democrats headquarters after red-shirt protesters have threatened to torch the compound

9.30: Red-shirts took back control of Din Daeng intersection, LPG tanker blocks entrance/exit

10.05: Police and military call for back-up, fearing red-shirts protesters may use LPG gas tanker to torch Democrats headquarters

10.11: Fire bomb allegedly thrown at and set fire to a traffic police booth near Transport Ministry on Ratchadamnern Nok Road

10.20: Red-shirts have once again occupied the Victory Monument

10.40: Democrats evacuated headquarters in response to threats by red-shirts to torch the compound with gas tankers

10.41: Pattaya police reveals red-shirt leader Arisman Pongruengrong is still under the custody of the Pattaya court

11.19: 50 red-shirt protesters gather in front of Rajavithee Hospital to demand the authorities release the bodies of protesters who have allegedly died during military dispersal of protesters

11.40: PM holds another national televised address to call for public to help cooperate with authorities to restore order and for protesters not to destroy public property with gas explosion

12.10: Red-shirt protesters set fire to an empty public bus near Din Daeng intersection. Military responded by shooting into the air to force protesters to retreat. Another group of red-shirts attempted run down military officers with another public bus

12.30: Govt spokesperson held national televised address to reveal security measures are in place at various ports, airports and infrastructures to ensure security of public

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thai TV shows live pictures of major intersections being blocked by the Red Shirts using some 30 busses they have commandeered over the last two days. Heavy smoke from burning tires can be seen in some areas including Rama 6 road near the Ramatibodi Hospital, reducing visibility to almost zero.

Residents living on Din Daeng Road on Monday were told to flee the area as the red shirts seized two gas trucks each carrying eight tons of fuel to block the road by parking one of them near National Housing Authority flat.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Everything seems fairly quiet here in Pattaya although there are now reports of several small IED's being dismantled here last night after a small explosion blew up a water pipe.

Off The air...

The only English Language News Station in Thailand is effectively off the air now. Their website continues to be updated, however.

The Screen shows the following message superimposed over taped programming . "DUE TO SECURITY THREATS WE HAVE BEEN FORCED TO EVACUATE OUR STUDIOS".....

Thai Language TV stations, for the most part are still on the air, however
there are reports that newsmen have withdrawn from the rally site after being told their safety cannot be guaranteed by the protesters.

The BKK Post is reporting Red shirt protesters have blocked up-country roads, railways and bridges to protest the Bangkok Emergency Decree and crackdown orders.

Currently, areas to avoid in BKK include the entire Rattanakosin island, Sri Ayutthaya intersection, Rama 6 road, Phoholyothin road, Victory monument, Din Daeng intersection, Suthisarn that crosses over to Vipavadi, Arjnarong expressway exit and Yomaraj expressway exit.

All trains heading to Bangkok stopped at the Bang Sue Intersection and train services at the Hua Lampong railway were cancelled Monday morning. The NATION

THE BKK POST : The Bangkok governor has cancelled all Songkran (Thai New Years) activities hosted by city hall after the Sunday declaration of emergency by the central government.

A Tense Standoff

The situation continues to simmer in Bangkok early Monday morning..

Govt, Army spokesmen insist soldiers use negotiation before force

The acting government spokesman and Army spokesman insisted during a press conference Monday morning that soldiers tried to talk protesters to stop blocking roads at the Din Daeng Intersection before forcefully dispersing them.

Red Shirts Run Amok Vow "Fight To the Death"
Military and police forces are on alert as the government issues orders for protesters to clear the streets or face harsher measures under a state of emergency.

68 people injured in crackdown: BMA Health Department

The Health Department of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration announced Monday that a total of 68 people were injured in the crackdown on protesters at the Din Daeng intersection.

Doctor Phetpong Kamchornkijakarn
, director of the department, said soldiers were also injured.

* * * * * * * * * * *

As of 8:30 am Monday, Protesters continued to block the Si Ayutthaya Intersection with buses. Burning tires were reported at three spots on the roads.

Reports of Westerners leaving their hotels and heading to the Airport for flights out. To my knowledge, there are no reports of westerners have been injured during this ongoing altercation.

Meanwhile, Pattaya remains quiet....

Watering Holes

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After monitoring the websites and keeping one eye on the TV monitor for most of the day, I decided to go into South Pattaya and get tuned in with the ex-pat community.

Like in most expat heavy communities, that means going out to a bar. Watering Holes are the life blood of news, gossip and inter-connection.

I met up with a number of expats tonight, many of which have resided in Thailand up to 20 years. The conversations all centered on the current events that are unfolding just 100 Km away in Bangkok.

It's hard to fathom what emotions are like in Bangkok tonight. Pattaya looked no different than any other night (except for fewer people on the streets than usual). The Bars and Restaurants were open, music is playing, traffic moved along nicely and life seems to go on as usual.

While many points of view were expressed, certain themes were expressed by almost everyone I spoke with.

1.) A profound sadness for Thailand and it's people. A more beautiful, welcoming country could not be found anywhere on earth.

2.) Fear that this situation will continue to deteriorate. Sides are so polarized, it is hard to see how they can be reconciled, at least in the short term.

3.) Personal preparedness and an "exit strategy, should it be needed. I'm happy to say, not one person I spoke to was ready to leave - but everyone was aware that the possibility exists.

4.) Concern for the economic impact of these events on the Thai economy. Just as the rest of the world is struggling with the economic downturn, Thailand is no exception. Worldwide perception (not to mention State Department Warnings)will have a grave impact on Tourism and commerce for years to come.

Although I have not been directly affected by these events, all my Thai friends have been apologizing for this situation. Very Thai.

It's late night here (about 3am) so things are fairly quiet. The News Portals have not updated their pages in about five hours and TV is, for the most part showing regular programming.

Some of the latest headlines to cross the wire include...

FLASH NEWS: Hong Kong Issues Travel Advisory for Thailand
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Hong Kong has issued a travel advisory for its citizens in traveling to Thailand, especially to Bangkok. As for its citizens who are already here, the Hong Kong government advises them to avoid areas of protests and crowded places.

FLASH NEWS: Public Buses and Shopping Malls Affected by Red Shirt Riots
Sunday, April 12, 2009
The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority ordered public buses in Bangkok to cease their services at 9pm, fearing more buses will be hijacked by the red shirt protesters after 20 buses were already taken by them.

FLASH NEWS: Red Shirt Protesters Take Control of Another Tank
Sunday, April 12, 2009
After taking control of 2 tanks at the BTS Siam earlier today, red shirt protesters were able to intercept three military vehicles and riot control equipment at the Dindaeng intersection. Soldiers are believed to have been ordered out to crackdown on the protests.

For English Language coverage from within Thailand, visit the following sites...

A Coup is Due?

The focus shifts away from Pattaya to Bangkok following the disruption of the ASEAN Conference here yesterday.

The government Sunday afternoon announced the state of emergency for Bangkok and some districts in satellite provinces. The government reasoned that protesters had committed violence in the areas so the government had to declare the state of emergency to restore normality in the areas.

The areas include some districts in Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom and Ayutthaya....

Military secure roads around Palace

The military has blocked the roads around Chitralada Palace Sunday afternoon after the declaration of the state of emergency

1,000 police armed with teargas head to Government House

About 1,000 policemen armed with teargases headed to the Government House Sunday afternoon apparently to make preparations for cracking down protesters.

Tanks mobilised in Bangkok

Tanks have been mobilised in parts of Bangkok as part of the government's policy to maintain order under the state of emergency as declared by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday afternoon.

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the announcement of the state of emergency did not mean that the authority to implement the policy would rest in the hands of the army. He said the military was a part of the effort to enforce the policy, which also included police.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

All is quiet here in Pattaya. Apparently one TV Station is off the air (DTV) showing only a screen saying its broadcast is not available because ThaiCom had to comply with the state of emergency so it has to stop airing DTV.

As mentioned previously, you can follow the news live (in English) on the Internet at they can stay on the air (they are saying on air they may have evacuate their Broadcast Center at ASTV).

While I don't think I will be directly affected by any of this (most Westerners never are), I've stockpiled food, medicine, candles, extra cash and batteries for my SW Radio. I'll blog as long as possible, but if things deteriorate, Internet may go down as well...

I pray for Thailand and it's people...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pattaya Emergency Decree Lifted

From The Bangkok Post..

The government has lifted the Emergency Decree in Pattaya and Chon Buri, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Saturday evening.

The prime minister in the afternoon announced a state of emergency after anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters were able to break into the venue for hosting the 14th Asean Summit and related summits.

The decree was revoked after Asian leaders who attended the regional meetings left the country safely.....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Walking around Jomtien Beach tonight (it's about 8pm Saturday night here), roadblock are gone and traffic is moving normally again.

Restaurants and Bars appear to be operating normally and a significant number of Expats and Thais are out on the streets again.

I heard two helicopters circling around 6pm but the air has been quiet ever since.

Looks like we dodged a bullet this time, but the underlying issues remain.

Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world and I have no desire to live anywhere else. It does bring to the forefront the fact that no matter where you live - you need to have a plan of preparedness whether it be a natural disaster, civil unrest or other calamity.

For more information on disaster preparedness, I heartily recommend you follow my twin brothers' blog

As the Dust Settles....

As in almost all fast moving breaking news, there are bound to be false reports and rumour reported as fact.

Today in Pattaya is no different. In an earlier post, I referred to a rumour that a Red Shirt Protester had been killed. Since then, I have not found any news report to confirm that as fact.

News outlets are reporting that 10 people were injured. Details are few.

I also speculated that the State of Emergency would be lifted shortly. That may NOT be the case afterall.

The Nation reports...

Pattaya - Songkran celebrations in Pattaya will not be much fun this year because Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has declared a state of emergency in Chon Buri province, which prohibits any gatherings of five or more people, the resort city's mayor Itthipon Khunpleum said Saturday.....

....The cancellations might translate into losses of Bt70 million per day, he added.

More than 4,000 members of the American Navy, who were scheduled to dock in Pattaya this week, have already cancelled, the mayor said......

.....The mayor added that the special Songkran events planned in Pattaya for April 19 would also be affected by the incident and the state of emergency.

"War" In Pattaya over for now?

From The Nation

Natthawut declares victory, tells red-shirts to leave Pattaya for Bangkok

Natthawut Saikua, a leader of the red-shirted movement, declared victory for the Pattaya battle and told the protesters to leave the town and head back to Bangkok.

"The war in Pattaya was over now. Since we have gained victory, all red-shirted people in Pattaya will return to join the rally in front of the Government Hous," Natthawut said.

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It now appears the focus will move back to Bangkok in the coming days, however a STATE OF EMERGENCY remains in effect. I assume once all of the ASEAN Leaders are gone, the curfew will be lifted.

BBC News reports ASEAN Leaders evacuated by Helicopter from Royal Cliff Hotel in Pattaya including Phillipine President Gloria Arroyo.

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The Nation reports Thailand's tourism industry will lose at least Bt200 billion (5.7 Billion USD) of revenue this year, as the consequences of political unrest sparked by both yellow and red-shirted protesters, said Kongkrit Hiranyakit, chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand.....

...."Some tourists have showed their desire to leave the country, on fear that the protesters may continue to block the airport like last year. Those incoming tourists have also questioned on security issue and demanded cancellation," he said....

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ExPat Message Boards are all busy today. Some voicing support for one side or the other and some just preparing exit strategies...

Yellow Shirts Push Back

From the Bangkok Post...

People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders called on the government to exercise its full authority against the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters who pressured the government to postpone the 14th Asean Summit and related summits in Pattaya indefinitely....

....The PAD core members said the group was ready to organise a gathering to protect the country's reputation, but the government told them on Friday that some high-ranking police and military officials may use this opportunity to use force to disperse the protesters.....

.....The yellow-shirt group however asked its supporters to be prepared, should it decided to stage a rally again....

If this occurs, it will set up a direct confrontation (again) between the Red & Yellow Shirts factions..

Meanwhile, here in Jomtien Beach, things are pretty quiet but most people are sticking pretty close to home today....

The State of "The State of Emergency"

News breaking fast here in Pattaya... (From The Nation)

The summit of Asean leaders with dialogue partners has been cancelled and state of emergency declared in Pattaya after a clash of red-shirted and blue-shirted people outside the meeting venue and a subsequent invasion of the hotel.....

....The state of emergency law imposes tough restrictions on public gathering and dissemination of information. Authorities are given added power to search residents and venues and restrict travels.

Hundreds of protesters broke through a glass and poured into a Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel building where reporters stayed. The section is about 100 metres apart from a hotel section where summit leaders are supposed to meet. ....

....Terrified local residents closed their houses and many were seen weeping with fear.....

Rumours abound. Just had a call from an American Teacher in BKK saying a Red Shirt Protester had been killed (no confirmation). Reports of protesters carrying Molotov Cocktails about 2 Km from my house.

The Expat Community is buzzing with text messages going back and forth warning those who don't have access to English speaking news reports. Thai TV is carrying pictures of the Conference being overrun by protesters.

Honestly, at this point, I don't feel my safety is compromised in any way. I have stockpiled food, water and medicine and I'm staying very close to home monitoring the events via TV & Internet.

It is all very sad for those of us who love Thailand.

Update: 3:00p, April 11,2009 Thai television has resumed normal TV programming...

Friday, April 10, 2009

ASEAN Turmoil

For all my friends who have expressed concern for my safety during the ASEAN Conference protests occuring near my home,rest assured I'm fine! The Royal Cliff Hotel, where the summit is being held is a bout 2 km from my home.

There is a substantial police presence throughout Jomtien Beach and Pattaya with roadblocks and checkpoints every few blocks. As this is an internal Thai dispute, there is very little scrutiny of Westerners.... as long as you carry proper ID.

On this side of town, other than the police presence and traffic delays, you'd never know there was a problem.

This political turmoil is regrettable and certainly an embarrassment for Thailand. I can only hope cooler heads will prevail and this situation will be resolved in a sane, peaceful manner.

For those who want to follow this story live (in english), I can suggest you check out the Thai Asean News Network on

As Songkran (Thai New Years) rapidly approaches, it is hoped the protesters will return to their homes. What lies ahead, we can only wait and see

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Turning Double Nickels


Doesn't seem possible, but there you have it!

Turning 55 today hasn't been as traumatic as I assumed it would back in my youth. Getting here has been a great ride!

I'm thankful for my good health, the opportunity to live my life in two wonderful counties (USA & Thailand) and the opportunity to travel to well over 100 countries and territories around the globe.

I'm thrilled to have had two wonderful careers, both rewarding in their own ways. First, as a Paramedic from the Mid 1970's to the Mid 1980's and secondly as a Banjo Cabaret Act for the better part of the last 30 years!

I'm thankful for a wealth of friends and family that have enriched my life and given me support and guidance throughout the years.

For a kid who grew up in a small town in central Florida, I've had the extreme honor to have met and spent time with NASA Astronauts, Pulitzer Prize Winning Authors, Academy Award Winning Actors, Grammy Winners, Jazz Musicians, TV Actors and literally hundreds of journeyman entertainers whose influence on me have been immeasurable!

As an entertainer, I've been lucky enough to perform at Two World's Fairs,in New Orleans' Historic French Quarter, in National Touring Shows, on 85+ different Riverboats and Cruise Ships for a total audience estimated upwards of 1 million people.

All in all, the first 55 years have been pretty good!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Roll Of The Dice...

I got an email from my agent (of 22 years) the other day.

It seems that some of the Cruise Lines are beginning to hire only Cabaret Acts that are "self contained", ie: not needing a back up band.

It's a matter of ecomonics, I guess. Cutbacks are everywhere in the industry and if they can provide an evenings' entertainment without thhe use of a house band, those musicians can be used elsewhere on board the ship.

As a result, ships are moving more toward comics, jugglers, magicians and other acts that can work without a band.

I've seen this day coming for awhile.

Entertainment has always evolved, leaving those who refuse to change on the dustheap of booking history.

Just as Talkies replaced Silent Films, Television replaced Radio, Discos replaced live Dance Halls and the Internet replaced EVERYTHING, times change.

Some entertainers made the transition from silents to Talkies and radio to TV by adapting and accepting the new technology.

To that end, I've made the jump in hopes there is life after "live".

I've commisioned to click track two, 45 minute shows for me based upon the charts I am currently using.

A full 90 minutes of material professionally orchestrated and click tracked doesn't come cheap and there is no guarentee of more bookings just because I have them done.

It's a roll of the dice.

Nothing will ever replace the look and feel of live musicians on stage, and I have been very reluctant to make this move for a long time but I'm confident that these tracks will be the best possible solution to this emerging situation.

The tracks can be used as stand alone backing or used to augment the sound of a rhythm section or small combo.

Being self contained hopefully will open up other venues such as hotels and corporate dates that have been elusive in the past!

Time will tell.