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A Game of Chicken in Bangkok

UPDATE: Bangkok's unrest is definitely about to turn bloody. See the postscript for the latest. By now, a sprawling, sweaty, anti-establishment protest faction -- the "red shirts" -- has gathered its forces in Bangkok. They've vowed to stay until the government dissolves Thailand's parliament and holds new elections. This is an unfolding story, so I'm going to dispense with context and get straight to the updates.

Tsunami: Pacific nations wait, and exhale

TOKYO, Japan — Dozens of countries in the Pacific region spent an anxious 24 hours bracing for massive waves after Saturday’s magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile sent a tsunami coursing halfway around the world. The threat of more devastation attracted blanket TV coverage, as millions, from New Zealand to Russia’s far east, waited to learn whether they would be spared or forced to flee their homes.

Waiting to Exhale in Bangkok

For weeks, the Thai government has forewarned violent outbreaks and massive unrest tonight in Bangkok. We've got police in Robocop riot gear, checkpoints and soldiers on standby. Why? The Thai Supreme Court just ruled to drain more than half of the $2.3 billion family fortune once belonging to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. His supporters -- Thailand's self-proclaimed "have nots" -- were expected to burn down Bangkok tonight.

Can Vladimir Putin save the world's tigers?

BANGKOK, Thailand — Asia’s most venerated beast, the tiger, is being wiped out by those most obsessed with its folky mystique. Despite prohibitions throughout Asia, businessmen still bestow bushy tiger pelts as auspicious gifts. Apothecaries still treat leprosy with a dab of tiger fat. Wine is spiked with pureed tiger bones in hopes of boosting of strength. Conservationists fear that 2010, the Year of the Tiger, will stir even more interest in the black market for tiger parts.

Dragon Watch: China woos America's war buddy

BANGKOK, Thailand —  In early February, 6,000 U.S. marines and sailors staged the planet’s largest war games in Thailand, which hosted two weeks of beach storming, mock hostage rescues and live-fire drills. This 29-years-running exercise, called “Cobra Gold,” is America’s largest display of military might in Asia. It is also the envy of Chinese generals, who now have their own plans to play war in U.S.-allied Thailand.

Dalai Lama: Blackballed from Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand — In the age of growing Chinese influence, there’s a simple measure of a country’s willingness to test China’s wrath. Will they stamp the Dalai Lama’s passport? Add Thailand to the shrinking list of nations that won’t.

Thailand: Amid coup buzz, Thai army chief heads to Pentagon

BANGKOK, Thailand — When Thai political crises heat up, it begins: a nationwide game of hushed speculation revolving around one question. Will the military stage yet another coup? For now, the man with the answers is on the opposite side of the world. Gen. Anupong Paojinda, head of the Royal Thai Army, is visiting the Pentagon from Feb. 5-12. The Thai general’s trip, U.S. diplomats said, was scheduled months ago at the request of U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey.

Bangkok's Nazi chic

I remember the first time I brushed past a Thai teenager wearing a blood-red swastika on his T-shirt on the streets of Bangkok. I cringed with pity. Some creepy foreigner probably sold it to a second-hand shop, I thought, and now this Thai kid is unknowingly walking around sporting the brand of evil incarnate.

Will Thailand seize the Thaksin fortune?

BANGKOK, Thailand — Much of the mystique surrounding Thai fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra arises from his seemingly unstoppable wealth. His supporters behold him as a business savant, a cop-turned-telecom entrepreneur who challenged lazy aristocrats by running Thailand like a savvy CEO. To Thaksin’s enemies, he’s a con artist who used the premiership to legalize corruption, entrench his wealth and buy the love of his largely rural, poor support base.

Economic worries in Indonesia? Blame the Chinese.

CIPULIR, Indonesia — They say it’s all about location, location, location. But here, sitting outside her store in the corner of the fourth floor of a crowded indoor garments market, Ibu Nasution says the only threat to her business is the Chinese. “When they get here, nobody will buy these clothes anymore. We won’t be able to pay our debts. We won’t be able to eat. Things are going to get bad,” she said, sitting on a dusty stack of tightly wrapped T-shirts.
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