SOUTHEAST ASIA DIARY
The Guardians of all that is proper in Thailand are having a busy summer. Hot on the heels of the culture ministry’s attempt to ban tattoo parlours from ornamenting foreigners with religious motifs come calls for the Buddhist clergy to oppose a new scourge (see above). Planking is the act of posing prone in an incongruous setting – often (once) with fatal results. “Although there’s no rule specifically against such activity, it’s not an appropriate thing for monks to do,” warned a spokesman for the Sangha Supreme Council. He counselled abbots to monitor their monks for signs of planking activity.
Four former Khmer Rouge leaders went on trial in a UN-backed court in Cambodia, accused of crimes against humanity and genocide. The four, including Pol Pot’s deputy Nuon Chea, deny the charges. The tribunal overseeing Khmer Rouge cases was set up in 1990s and has spent more than $100 million on investigations since 2006. Until now it had only prosecuted just one person. Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, is thought to believe such trials are damaging to his country’s stability.
Thailand announced its intention to withdraw from UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention in protest at a submission made by Cambodia concerning the management and conservation of the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple. Preah Vihear, situated at disputed land on the border of the two countries, has been a flashpoint in Thai politiics since the International Court of Justiced ruled it was part of Cambodia in 1962. This year at least 18 people have been killed in clashes between troops near the site. The Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, explained that the Thai delegation walked out of the WHC meeting because Cambodia’s plans were “too ambiguous”. UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova expressed her regret at Thailand’s announcement and said she hoped that Thailand would “carefully consider its future course of action”. Troops on both sides were said to be on high alert.
The Lao government was accused of breaching a promise to shelve development of a controversial hydroelectric dam on the Mekong at Xayaburi province in the north-west of the country. WWF described the government’s initial environmental impact assessment for the project as “woefully inadequate“. In April, under pressure from neighbouring countries, Laos agreed to put construction on hold pending further negotiations and research. But the NGO International Rivers said that it has seen a leaked memo from the Lao energy ministry to the project developer, claiming that the consultation process was complete.
Hollywood actor Michelle Yeoh was turned away by authorities after flying in to Rangoon. Yeoh recently filmed The Lady, a biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, and spent time with the opposition party leader while preparing for the role. A government spokesman said the actor was blacklisted but gave no further details.