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    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    The revolution shall be tweeted

    Bangkok - Once more, I'm in Bangkok, and once more The Globe and Mail has done me the favour of assembling a collection of some of what I posted before and during the Thai government's military crackdown on the Red Shirt protesters.

    In case you missed them, here they are. As I mentioned in another article for The Globe, Twitter played an unprecedented role in the Thailand turmoil.

    On the downside, it was a propaganda outlet for both sides and served to amplify the hatred and prejudice that exist in Thai society, arguably helping push the situation towards its bloody conclusion.

    But it allowed hosted some top-notch reporting and, more importantly, allowed Bangkok residents to warn each other about what was happening in their neighbourhoods. In at least two occasions, one of which I was involved in inside the supposed sanctuary of the Wat Pathum temple, Twitter may have helped saved lives.

    Here's how it went down (note these are not all my tweets from this period, but a selection chosen by editors at The Globe and Mail):

    May 18, 2010

    * 12:29 p.m. Thai media reporting govt has rejected Red ceasefire offer.

    * 12:31 p.m. Bad news for peace fans - Thai government has extended "holiday" for rest of the week.

    * 2:22 p.m. What blockade? Piles of fresh vegetables arrived today in Bangkok Red Shirt camp

    * 3:06 p.m. Amnesty International slams Thailand's "reckless use of lethal force" against "unarmed people who posed no threat whatsoever".

    * 4:29 p.m. Question of the Day: if Red uprising is about equality, why is there a VIP toilet? #thailand

    * 6:41 p.m. East Bangkok, far from the Red Stage, supporters gather to watch latest speeches

    * 11:39 p.m. Series of bangs heard from direction of Rama IV road, scene of much fighting in recent days. #thailand

    * 11:41 p.m. Thai media reporting "strong rumours" of dawn crackdown in Bangkok standoff.

    May 19, 2010

    * 12:05 a.m. I should add to last tweet that if I had a baht for every crackdown rumour I've heard in recent weeks I could buy land in Rajprasong.

    * 1:38 a.m. Thailand's tourism minister says number of arrivals at Bangkok airport has fallen from 30,000 to 20,000 a day because of crisis.

    * 2:46 a.m. Another explosion in the distance. By now, I should have function key that types that sentence. #thailand

    * 8:02 a.m. Breaking: Soldiers, armoured personnel carriers seen advancing towards main Red Shirt protest in Bangkok. Much gunfire.

    * 9:07 a.m. New checkpoints sealing off military operation area. BBC's @aleithead says filmed Black Shirts firing back at soldiers.

    * 9:30 a.m. "Thai troops open fire on protesters" -

    * 9:59 a.m. Thai govt spokesman "we would like to reassure citizens of Bangkok... operations are designed to stabilize the area."

    * 10:03 a.m. Thick smoke rising from Lumphini Park.

    * 10:12 a.m. Thai govt spokesman says "operations designed to... provide security, safety to public at large." Will continue all day.

    * 10:15 a.m.
    Thai Red Cross calling for urgent blood donations.

    * 10:19 a.m. Thai media reporting military now controls Lumphini Park area. Red Cross calling for urgent blood donations.

    * 10:43 a.m. Now at Chulalongkorn hospital. Heavy gunfire. Helicopters overhead

    * 10:48 a.m. Thai troops advancing near Lumphini Park.

    * 11:28 a.m. Closing in on Red stage at protest centre. As soldiers advance, Reds still defiantly sitting on ground, playing music. about 9 hours ago

    * 11:29 a.m. Approaching Red stage. As army advances, Reds still defiantly sitting on ground, playing music. #thailand about 9 hours ago

    * 11:34 a.m. Doctors and nurses prepare to receive casualties at Police Hospital in centre of Bangkok protest site.

    * 11:48 a.m. At police hospital, 13 injured, six from gunshot wound. One dead, a foreign journalist killed at Sala Daeng.

    * 11:55 a.m. Police Hospital adjacent to main protest stage says 13 injured so far, six from gunshot. One dead, a foreign journalist.

    * 11:55 a.m. Hundreds of Red protesters gather at main stage as battle rages a few hundred metres south.

    * 12:07 p.m. Praise my lovely wife who made me a medical kit with everything in. I just dressed a colleague's bullet wound. Shot in leg. All safe now.

    * 12:08 p.m. Four dead, 50 injured across Bangkok in crackdown today, Thai media reporting.

    * 12:27 p.m. Soldiers allowing Red Shirts to exit camp if they come forward with hands raised. Lt Col I talked to on way in said 10 surrendered to him.

    * 12:33 p.m. Smoke rising from two locations north of main Red camp in central Bangkok. Din Daeng and one other area.

    * 12:39 p.m. No Red leaders behind main stage when I visited. Reports some surrendering to police. Still thousands of protesters at main site.

    * 12:58 p.m. Thai TV reporting that Red Shirts have occupied Bangkok's Century Park hotel. Years ago, in other Thailand, my cousin got married there...

    * 1:25 p.m. Chidlom BTS station burning. Red shirts on tracks. Heavy explosions and gunfire.

    * 1:31 p.m. Fire at Bangkok's Chidlom skytrain station. Heavy gunfire.

    * 1:34 p.m. Al-Jazeera reporting Red Shirts stormed town hall in north Thailand. Could this spread?

    * 1:52 p.m. Getting a bit dangerous now around Chidlom

    * 1:56 p.m. Reuters reporting Canadian journalist injured in Bangkok clashes.

    * 2:01 p.m. Massive fire now at Chidlom BTS. Something else burning besides tires.

    * 2:33 p.m. As Red leaders surrender, hard-core elements reported to declare independence. Fighting coninues around Bangkok.

    * 2:34 p.m. Canadian Embassy says avoid all travel to Bangkok, avoid non-essential travel to Thailand.

    * 2:35 p.m. Thai military to impose curfew on Bangkok tonight.

    * 2:36 p.m. Smoke rising from near Central World shopping mall in Bangkok. Reports that protesters tried to set it on fire.

    * 3:05 p.m. Almost deserted. Rajprasong main Red stage. Now.

    * 3:12 p.m. Rajprasong main red stage. Deserted. No sign of soldiers.
    * 3:43 p.m. In Wat Patum Wanaram, with hundreds of civilians. All just ran deeper into temple area because of nearby gunfire.

    * 3:45 p.m. Hundreds of civilians begginf for UN to protect Buddhist temple in middle of site.

    * 3:51 p.m. Smoke rises from fire behind Buddhist temple sanctuary for civilians caught in Bangkok fighting.

    * 3:59 p.m. Thais in temple offering us water and a place to sit. "We're only kind to foreigners, not to each other," woman says.

    * 4:00 p.m. Gunfire, explosions close to temple where unarmed Red Shirts have taken sanctuary.

    * 4:01 p.m. Colleague say "Black Shirts" with rifles battling soldiers outside temple.

    * 4:31 p.m. Ambulance attendees take cover in alley outside Wat Patum,

    * 5:17 p.m. Red Shirts gather abandoned food in anticipation of long stay in Wat Patum temple.

    * 5:19 p.m. Smoke rises from Bangkok's burning Central World shopping mall.

    * 5:37 p.m. Thais in temple begging me to take them out. "You can go, right? Take me!" Also "Is the UN coming?"

    * 5:50 p.m. Sustained gunfire outside temple serving as sanctuary in middle of Bangkok. People moving further away from entrance.

    * 5:56 p.m. More shooting, explosions outside Wat Patum.

    * 6:03 p.m. Inside Wat Patum as firefight rages outside.

    * 6:06 p.m. Firefight outside temple escalating. Hundreds of people still sheltering inside.

    * 6:08 p.m. Air smells of fire. Twenty buildings around city said to be in fire, including Central World.

    * 6:10 p.m. At least one person inside temple has bullet wound. No idea what happened. Gunfire escalating.

    * 6:27 p.m. Fighting rages all around temple. Tear gas in the air. At least three shot, either inside or just outside sanctuary.

    * 7:44 p.m. At least five wounded around me at makeshift medical centre in park behind Wat Patum temple, one a friend and colleague.. gunfire continuesm

    * 7:54 p.m. Somehow we're the only corros left in temple. People around us terified. Red Cross can't get ambulance in to injured because of gunfire.

    * 8:27 p.m. Medics around me say 7 dead 10 injured inside Wat Patum temple, which was supposed to be sanctuary. I'd guess 1500 to 2000 terrified ppl

    * 8:49 p.m. Please RT. People around me are dying because they can't get to hospital across the road because of fighting

    * 8:51 p.m. More people will die inside Wat Patum unless we get ceasefire to get to hospital across the road.

    * 10:15 p.m. Wounded in ambulance leaving Wat Patum. Ceasefire negotiated to let wounded leave.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    One week in Bangkok

    Bangkok - In case you've missed it, I've been covering the ongoing political crisis in Thailand live from the streets of Bangkok for The Globe and Mail.

    You can read my newspaper reports on the standoff between the government and the Red Shirt protesters on the website, but here's a snapshot of the minute-by-minute stuff I filed via my Twitter account (

    (Note, this isn't a complete transcript of what I sent to Twitter, just a selection of "greatest tweets" compiled by the staff of They've posted more of my photos over there too.)

    Timestamps reflect local time in Bangkok...

    April 17

    • 10:38 a.m: Three more Bangkok malls shut by Red Shirt protest. Hyatt Erawan closed too RT @RichardBarrow SIAM PARAGON/SIAM CENTER/SIAM DISCOVERY closed

    • 10:39 a.m: Thumping rain in Bangkok this morning has sent many Red Shirts running for cover. Protest site emptiest its been in days.

    • 12:24 p.m: Bangkok Post: Thailand future "precarious." Thaksin party a threat to "revered institution," civil war possible:

    • 7:23 p.m: The waiter in the Japanese restaurant I'm in just blamed the lack of tuna on the Red Shirts. Thaksin, what have you done??

    April 18:

    • 10:16 a.m: Red Shirt leaders claim part of army would defend Reds if new crackdown. "Tanks would fire at one another."

    • 12:51 p.m: Thai Red Shirt protestors plan move to Silom banking district, military says will block them. Silom "out of bounds."

    • 4:48 p.m: Thailand "Red Shirts" plan mass rally Tuesday, call on supporters to withdraw savings from "symbol of the aristocrats" Bangkok Bank.

    • 5:56 p.m: Thailand: Pro-government "Yellow Shirts" give military one week to end Red Shirt protests or will act "to preserve the nation and monarchy"

    • 5:59 p.m: Thai army vows to block Red Shirts if they try to move protest to Silom financial district:

    April 19

    • 10:16 a.m: Thailand: Red Shirt leaders back away from clash with military, cancel plans to expand protest to Silom Road financial district.

    • 12:57 p.m: Shoppers, Yellow Shirts and soldiers in riot gear mingling on Silom Road. Bizarre. Half of Bangkok still acting like place not falling apart

    • 1:01 p.m: Army Humvee parked where the food inspector's car should be in front of KFC on Silom Road.

    • 2:04 p.m: Barbed wire, soldiers on Silom Road, Bangkok

    • 2:33 p.m: Red Shirts, not police, control Chitlom BTS station over demo site

    • 7:58 p.m: Uh-oh. Intercontinental Hotel in centre of Red Shirt protests in Bangkok closing its doors, citing troop movements.

    • 10:05 p.m: Sigh. Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists. I moved out of the Middle East to escape the word, now everyone in Thailand is using it.

    April 20

    • 10:22 a.m: is being evicted from my second hotel this week. You'd think I was throwing TVs out the window.

    • 10:32 a.m: Red Shirts have erected black tarp over main stage area in central Bangkok. Will obscure both the sun and the view of anyone spying above.

    • 11:59 a.m: Death toll from Qinghai earthquake now over 2,000. Another 200 still missing.

    • 4:27 p.m: Mood still tense, Red Shirts on motorbikes patrolling beyond usual protest camp borders, some carrying bamboo poles.

    • 10:05 p.m: Amnesty International: "All sides in Thailand’s widening political conflict should immediately commit to ending human rights abuses."

    • 10:05 p.m: Amnesty "urges [Thai government] to provide accountability for any violations by security forces as well as abuses by violent protesters."

    April 21

    • 10:21 a.m:Thailand's Red Shirts preparing for new army move, building tire barriers at all six entrances to their central Bangkok protest site.

    • 5:22 p.m: As both sides talk war, there are scattered reports that negotiations are finally taking place... #thailand

    • 7:23 p.m: Extremely tense now at Silom front line. Hundreds of Yellows chanting "get out!" at Reds from behind line of soldiers.

    • 7:24 p.m: Tuk-tuk backfired near front line between army, Reds, and everyone ducked. #thailand

    • 8:32 p.m: Red Shirts have expanded positions north of Lumphini Park. Checking IDs of drivers before allowing them to pass. #thailand

    • 8:33 p.m: As army defends Silom financial district, Reds slowly taking over other parts of Bangkok beyond long-time camp.

    • 8:58 p.m: Police have moved in to break up clashes between Red Shirts and local residents near Silom intersection. Tense. #thailand

    • 11:23 p.m: Helicopters in sky over Bangkok. Several loud bangs heard. Fireworks or flares.

    • 11:34 p.m: Orange flares all over the sky as helicopter buzzes over Bangkok Red Shirt protests.

    April 22

    • 3:12 a.m: Anyone thinking about upsides, downsides of Twitter shld check #thailand tag. Up-to-the-second updates blended with vitriolic hate speech.

    • 11:54 a.m: Several thousand Red Shirts marching today to United Nations office in Bangkok to request presence of peacekeeping force.

    • 12:25 p.m: How charged is the rhetoric in Thailand? Government says Red leader Thaksin akin to Hitler and Stalin. Reds say PM Abhisit like Pol Pot.

    April 23

    • 7:24 p.m: Scene at Sala Daeng intersection more relaxed than yesterday. Pro-govt crowd is bigger, but police doing better job of keeping sides apart.

    • 7:27 p.m: Police have parked five large trucks across intersection, which should prevent easy restarting of last night's clashes. #thailand

    • 7:34 p.m: Yep, real-live Yellow Shirts have joined the crowd on Silom Road. Mood more festive here than at Red rally, but of course Reds on Day 41...

    • 7:35 p.m: Army deployed to Silom to keep district's businesses from suffering fate of Rajprasong. But stores shutting down here anyway...

    • 8:22 p.m: Two explosions heard in Bangkok's business district; at least one person wounded, Reuters reporting.

    • 8:23 p.m: Was there and heard blasts. Thought little of them. #toomuchtimeinwarzones

    • 8:28 p.m: What I saw/heard were fireworks fired from Red side over police barricade. Not M79s, as some reporting.

    • 9:19 p.m: Situation tense on Red side of barricade after mystery explosions. Reds leaving 40 metre gap behind wall of bamboo and tires. Plan to light?

    • 10:30 p.m: Helicopters flying over Red Shirt protest site, Reds target them with jeers, fireworks.

    • 10:31 p.m: Man beside me with club assuring me it's still safe to travel in his hometown. "No trouble! just relax! Welcome!"

    • 10:38 p.m: pro-govt supporters now thowing rocks, bottles over barricade. Reds respond with firework into crowd. police caught in middle...

    • 10:44 p.m: series of small blasts at Silom intersection. police still holding back

    • 10:44 p.m: police now withdrawing with shields raised. leave field open for street fight between yellow, red

    • 11:02 p.m: Police withdrawing further away from ongoing clash. Handful of pro-govt types tossing bottles and rocks over. Reds replying with firecracker

    • 11:12 p.m: Two tourists pulling rolling suitcases just ran through centre of Bangkok street fight.

    • 11:16 p.m: street fight escalating. police unit I'm with retreating a block.

    • 11:20 p.m: Men in motorcycle helmets advance toward Red barricade hurl projectiles over. Amazingly no effort by police to intervene.

    • 11:16 p.m: street fight escalating. police unit I'm with retreating a block.

    • 11:20 p.m: Men in motorcycle helmets advance toward Red barricade hurl projectiles over. Amazingly no effort by police to intervene.

    • 11:29 p.m:Thai police hiding under overpass (with me) as fighting escalates (pictured)

    • 11:38 p.m: riot cops finally moving in between two sides.

    • 11:39 p.m: Reds cheering (Bronx cheer?) as riot cops move in

    • 11:42 p.m: Riot police moving down Silom driving back pro-govt rioters. Reds playing music and dancing. If this the end, a victory for them.

    • 11:58 p.m: Thai police making arrests on Yellow side of clash. Red rally continues

    • 12:08 a.m: If it was this easy to end the fighting, the question needs to be asked why it wasn't done hours ago...

    • 12:14 a.m: Yellows on Twitter talking of arming themselves because of government "weakness" in facing Red Shirts.

    • 12:16 a.m: Reds bamboo fortress unbreached despite clashes

    • 12:44 a.m: Battle of Silom Road over for now.Question is what next? Helicopters in the air now, Reds appear to be targeting them with fireworks...

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Google and China go to war

    The world’s most populous country and its best-known brand are in a new kind of war today, with the search engine formally opening hostilities after a series of incursions by the e-PLA.

    Both sides have plenty to lose, with Google admitting it may have to withdraw from the potentially lucrative Chinese market – the world’s largest, with more than 300 million Internet users – and the Chinese government likely to lose international respectability over allegations that it participated in or tolerated the hacking of Gmail accounts belonging to Chinese human rights activists and others.

    Another risk for the Communist Party is that it seems to be incurring the wrath of that same online community, which has already learned to live, grumpily, without sites such Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

    The Chinese Internet is abuzz today with news that Google will stop censoring searches on – and may soon withdraw from China completely; raising the possibility of a Chinese Internet that increasingly exists as a separate entity from the rest of the World Wide Web.

    Here’s a quick sampling of some of what is being said (note: Baidu, which cooperates with Chinese government censors, is the most popular search engine in the country, with more than 60 per cent of the market):

    “Alas, a huge country of 1.3 billion people and 9.6million square meters land can't accept a website, sad” – a netizen named “Han” from Beijing who posted at the site.

    “I knew this day was coming. (With a slogan like) “Don’t be evil” Google, you can’t stay long here.” – “Liyuan” from Wuhan, also at

    “How sad this news is indeed! A world with only Baidu’s rules is not what I want to see!” – “Tianlu” from Wuhu City at the same site

    Tianlu’s post drew a reply from a netizen who gave their name as “Xiangmatou”: “This is what the people in power would like to see the most. It is easier and more convenient for them to rule people’s views and the direction control of information.”

    The discussion at the Chinese website of the Global Times newspaper was tamer, with some openly doubting whether Google would carry through on its threats:

    “Isn’t it a hype? China is such a big market. How can Google be willing to give up such a big cake? But if it is true, it is a loss for us, because Google has more sources than Baidu. It’ll be a pity!” was one representative reader post.

    (Interestingly, the state-run Xinhua news service took a similar line, suggesting that Google’s decision was not yet final and that the government was “seeking clarity” on the Internet giant’s intentions.

    The U.S.-based China Digital Times, meanwhile, has been translating and compiling some of the reaction to the Google-China spat on Twitter (which can be accessed in China by those able to reach a Virtual Private Network. Some of the most interesting:

    @hecaitou: After Google leaves China, the world’s top three websites on Alexa —Google, Facebook and Youtube are all blocked in China. This is not an issue of Google abandoning China, but one of China abandoning the world.

    @mranti Withdrawal of Google means: 1 Scaling the wall is now an essential tool 2 Techies, you should immigrate

    @lysosome On campus discussion forums Google tag has been removed

    @Fenng Ten years online has turned me from an optimist into a pessimist

    Speaking of Twitter, I’m regularly “tweeting” on this (and other topics) over at