Tasty Thailand

Everything you need to know about Thailand

Letter from Thailand, January 20, 2008 – News, the CIA and Puffer Fish

The pufferfish is proving to be dangerous on some Thai dinner plates

Dear Reader,

Well it’s been another interesting week in Thailand. Talk has mostly centered around the Supreme Court’s decision on the December 23rd general election. Since the election, a big chunk of politicians have had their victories found to be null and void. The reason given? Election fraud.

Funnily though, most of the ones who were found ‘guilty’ of this supposed sin were members of the PPP (the People’s Power Party), the party made up of the deposed Prime Minister’s supporters. All voted in by an overwhelming majority by the Thai people.

Through to the end, this illegal military government is still tring to control who gets to govern the country.

Finally on Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed all lawsuits against the December 23rd election. This now opens the door for the opening of Parliament next week and the forming of a new coalition government. The new government will be led by the PPP, made up of friends of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. My prediction? Thaksin will be back in Thailand legally with all charges against him dropped by the end of the year.

Thailand has had a huge problem with muslim extremists in the south for decades. This last year was particularly bad with many bombings and murders. Eight soldiers were killed by militants in Narathiwat last week.

The government has announced the creation of a ‘war room’, which will head the forces against the militants. Kind of sad to see Thailand, which is supposedly a peaceful Buddhist country, have something called a ‘war room’.

Thailand even popped up in the United States this week when the Washington Post reported that the CIA station chief in Bangkok (yes we have a nasty little CIA man in Bangkok too), sent a classified cable in late 2005, asking permission to destroy the videotapes ” recorded at a secret CIA prison in Thailand that showed intelligence officers using simulated drowning to extract information from suspected al-Qaeda members.”

It said Thailand was part of the “hidden global internment network and is a central element in the CIA’s unconventional war on terrorism.

It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA’s covert actions,” the Washington Post reported. This provoked an international outcry. Bangkok denied the claim. Well yeah, they would wouldn’t they!

Finally, apparently Thailand has been having problems with puffer fish being used illegally in food. People buy food, they don’t know that puffer fish is in there (because it shouldn’t be) and then get sick. Three villagers were taken to hospital in Rayong this week after eating a papaya salad mixed with puffer fish. Puffer fish, if not prepared properly, can kill you.

The best bit though was watching the news anchorman on Thai TV sitting at the anchor desk, holding up a puffer fish and smelling it. Now you’d never see Katie Couric doing that.

Sawatdee kha from Thailand, until next week.