Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

China’s Silk geopolitics

By Johan Galtung

China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.

Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web. It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.

Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.

Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:

“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)

The Silk Roads – so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877 – connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization.

The modern Silk Road East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. See

For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.

Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.

China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.

A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?

Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics. Read the rest of this entry »

Malaysian Territories: Security and Sovereignty

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia has recently experienced maximum insecurity for two extra-territorial sovereign territories: Malaysian Airlines flights MH370 to Beijing and MH17 from Amsterdam. Flights are subject to air traffic rules, but sovereignty was deeply insulted for MH17–possibly also for MH370–and so was the security of the close to 600 on board: dead, possibly killed. The finding so far is that MH17 was hit by “numerous high energy objects”, which–looking at the photos of the cabin wall–aka “machine gun fire”; rather than “hit by a BUK rocket”. MH370: a race to locate the wreckage, by submarines, surface vessels; between China to find, and Australia to destroy, any evidence of crimes?

Intentional destruction of planes entails identification of the perpetrators whoever they are; arraigning them into court and if found guilty punishing them for mass murder. Taking place in international space both should be international, like the International Civil Aviation Organization and the ICC-International Criminal Court. For MH17 Malaysia used Netherlands for the investigation and may prefer Malaysia for the adjudication; two unfortunate decisions. We are dealing with one, possibly two, cases of aggression on civilian planes, themselves incapable of aggression; hence no case for self-defense. The cases are clearly criminal.

So much for space. Conventional borders are on land, sea (EEZ-Exclusive Economic Zone aka Economic Exclusion Zone, between EEZs) and in the air; traditionally defended by land, sea, air military forces against insults by other states, and by police for insults by individuals such as smuggling, drugs, kidnapping, illegal immigration and fishing. The borders are territorial, and the military is focused on national territory. Check out: are there problems anywhere, even conflicts, disputed claims? How will they evolve? Diagnosis, prognosis, and if needed, therapy; standard peace research approaches. Read the rest of this entry »

The world right now: A Mid-Year Report

By Johan Galtung

Time to take stock. The shot in Sarajevo 100 years ago inspires narratives of 19-year old Gavrilo Princip killing the successor to the throne of an empire and his pregnant wife as the event unleashing mutual mass murder (INYT, FAZ 28-29 June 2014). Not the empire annexing Bosnia-Herzegovina on October 6, 1908 (Art. 25 of the 1878 Berlin Congress of “great powers”).

Maybe the inhabitants did not like it?

Moral of that stock-taking: watch out for terrorism, not for empires and occupation-colonialism; and protect leaders, not people.

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, alternatively translated as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) comes up. TIME 30 June: The End of Iraq. Maybe Iraq – that highly artificial English colonial entity encasing Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds–never started?

Like its French colonial neighbor Syria – adding Alawite Arabs, Christians, Jews and others? Ever heard about Sykes-Picot and their czarist Russian allies?

Can such crimes just pass, with no counter-forces?

Watch out, a key point about ISIS – now comprising a major part of IS – is as a bridge over the English-French colonial divide, in favor of a Sunni Arab caliphate. Like it or not, these are very strong forces from the past in the daylight of the present. Read the rest of this entry »

On non-violence in Thailand now

By Chaiwat Satha-Anand

TFF Associate Chaiwat Satha-Anand writes warning words to the protesters’ leader about the use and misuse of non-violence in this situation.

For your information, here a link to Suthep Thaugsuban, former deputy PM of Thailand, who is the recipient of professor Anand’s open letter

– Jan Oberg

Death of a child and the promises of peace dialogue

By Chaiwat Satha-Anand

On a hot summer afternoon, nothing is better than an ice-cream. When you are nine, the summer ice-cream your mom bought for you when she took you to a fair or something like that attained beautiful meaning.

Nisofian Nisani was in front of the ice-cream shop on Suwanmongkol Road in downtown Pattani when the 5 kg bomb exploded and took away his young life back to the Mercy of God on March 21, 2013 at 1.30 p.m. Fourteen others including his mother were also wounded in the violence that has claimed more than 5,000 lives and physically wounded more than 10,000 people in the past 9 years in southern Thailand, marking this deadly conflict as one of the most mysteriously ferocious in the world today.

The death of this boy at this time assumes special significance since this was the first time an attack on civilians has occurred after the signing of the “General Consensus on Peace Dialogue Process” in Kuala Lumpur Read the rest of this entry »

Thailand – Asian tiger prowling

By Jonathan Power

Dateline: Bangkok

“Thai politics is a cross between Venezuela and Italy”, observed my Thai journalist friend. “Chavez and Berlusconi rolled into one is what we have.”

Deposed prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile in Dubai, still manages to pull many of the strings of Thai politics- as does Berlusconi when not actually in office. His sister, Yingluck, is now prime minister and she provides the Chavez-style charisma for the family. Young, energetic and attractive she has wooed the voters to her side in a less divisive way than her brother.

Thailand is the only country in south-east Asia to have never experienced colonial rule. Buddhism, the monarchy and the military have been the principal shapers of its evolution from peasant society to a modern industrial power house that has seen its economy almost in continuous boom (with a a big collapse in 1997 and short pause 3 years ago) for two generations. Between 1985 and 1996 it was the world’s fastest growing economy, averaging a phenomenal 12% a year. It is expected to be 7.5% this year, the same as China.

Democracy is relatively new to Thailand. Read the rest of this entry »


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