Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Sawatdii Pii Mai
His Majesty's New Year Card, extending wishes for happiness and success. That's national celebrity Thong Dang, who accompanied him for his Dec. 4 birthday eve address, in front.

string of bomb blasts, one night before New Year's Eve, rocked entertainment venues in Thailand's southern border town of Sungai Kolok. A little past midnight Sunday (these were not New Year's Eve parties, but New Year's Eve Eve parties), two bombs exploded behind loudspeakers in the Riviera Hotel's disco. A little later, a third bomb exploded in the hotel parking lot. Then another bomb went off in the disco in Marina Hotel, again sending patrons fleeing into a subsequent bomb which exploded in that parking lot.

Sound familiar? They've used it in Iraq to deadly effect (sometimes designed to herd a group of children into a second blast), and in the 2002 Bali bombings where the secondary blast was massive.

A sixth bomb was safely defused at yet another location, the Genting Hotel. The Post gives casualties as 27 injured at Riviera, 5 injured at Marina. The Nation says 31 were injured at the Marina Some casualties are in critical condition.

Hotel security camera footage led to the arrests of three men, all on the most wanted list of insurgents active around Sungai Kolok, a popular destination with Malaysians looking for party time. One of the suspects reportedly said the group had hoped to instigate chaos for the New Year holiday. The past year had a higher terrorist incident rate than 2006, but both years are lower than 2005, when 2,297 attacks took place. The most violent month was September 2004, followed by June 2007, according to the director of a group which monitors attacks in the south.

So the old year goes out with an attempted spectacular attack by Islamist terrorists, which they'll see as a failure for thankfully producing no deaths. But they deal out death on a nearly daily basis in the south. On Sunday two were shot dead in separate incidents, including a young man who had just left his mosque. Beheading incidents remain common.

His Majesty brought in the New Year for Thais with a call for national unity and responsibility, and the New Year's card pictured above. He loves his dogs -- and like his people, they love him. Thong Dang of course, was in some of the videos I posted last month for HM the King's birthday, walking with him into the venue for his birthday eve afternoon address. This dog has had a storied life, and a book about him was a huge seller a few years ago.

His Majesty called for national stability to be placed above personal or vested interests, and warned against social divisions in society.
"As you are well aware that our country has gone through a transition period over the past two years. We eventually have passed through a crucial turning point with a new Constitution and newly-elected Members of Parliament in place.

"Therefore", the king said, "it is the duty of all of us to help one another to support the country to achieve normalcy and stability, with the nation being the ultimate goal.

"Each party should put aside personal interest, extend compassion and goodwill to each other without creating any condition that will cause a division in our society. The work of people who are aware of their duty and responsibility will help achieve the country's stability and national security," said the king, wishing all Thais happiness and success.
And so do I, and also to all the readers here. Sawat Dii Pii Mai, Selamat Tahun Baru, and Happy New Year to all. May the people of Thailand, Indonesia, and all the rest of us (especially our long suffering neighbours to the west), succeed in advancing and preserving the freedom and rights which all deserve.

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