Pentagon Reenters Thai Air Base
- HELPING DISASTER VICTIMS: How Can I Help?
They never miss a trick, do they?
"The Pentagon said Tuesday that it is establishing a
command center at Utapao, Thailand, to support the
tsunami emergency relief effort and to serve as a
staging base for U.S. military and rescue aircraft."
Tsunami Relief as a Subterfuge?
The Pentagon Scrambles to Reenter its Old Thai Air Base
29 Dec 2004
Is the tsunami aftermath a "window of opportunity" for
bolstering the Pentagon's presence in Southeast Asia?
The Thai people reject the proposed build-up of the
American military at Utapao air base and in the Gulf
of Thailand. The tragedy of the natural catastrophe in
the Indian Ocean should not serve as a pretext for
strengthening the U.S. military presence on land, sea
and in the air in the region.
The Pentagon has announced it is returning to its old
Vietnam War haunts at Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air
Force Base 90 miles south of Bangkok on the Gulf of
Thailand. In this clear escalation of the American
military presence in Southeast Asia, the ostensible
plan is to set up a "command center" for the tsunami
emergency relief effort. Utapao air base will serve as
a staging base for U.S. military and rescue aircraft.
The emergency relief operations appear to provide a
windfall opportunity for beefing up the American
military presence in Southeast Asia, part of the
expanding Pentagon strategy of "forward positioning,"
establishing sites, so-called "air cargo hubs," where
American forces can stash equipment and enter and
leave as desired.
During the Vietnam War, Utapao functioned from April
1967 as a major staging base for B-52s carrying out
bombing raids over North Vietnam, and KC-35
stratotankers of the Strategic Air Command. Many
American GIs served there .
Despite Thailand's neutrality on the war in Iraq, Thai
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra allowed Utapao to be
used by American warplanes flying into combat in Iraq
last year, and into Afghanistan earlier. There is also
speculation that Utapao, with its infamous facilities
for 'sophisticated interrogation' (a military heirloom
from the Vietnam era), is probably where various
al-Qaeda suspects have been secretly grilled.
The command center will be largely operated by the 3rd
Marine Expeditionary Force. The naval air base, also
now functioning as a local airport, is located a short
drive from the tourist mega-center of Pattaya, whose
roots also go back to the Vietnam era. The U. S. Navy
is also dispatching the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier
strike group and the USS Bonhomme Richard
expeditionary strike group to the immediate area
Is all this military redeployment to bolster
'humanitarian aid' efforts? The Thai people reject a
build-up of the American military at Utapao air base
and in the Gulf of Thailand. In this hour of calamity,
they are grateful for all support -- but not when
tethered to a huge reentry by the Pentagon onto Thai
soil. The tragedy of the present havoc in the Indian
Ocean should not serve as a pretext for strengthening
the U.S. military presence in this disaster-striken
 For sites on Utapao air base and the American
http://www.utapao.org/ (Utapao Alumni Association) ;
 See "Hundreds of Americans Missing,"
Thailand's Muslim Riot Video
Thai MP faces seven years in jail for airing Muslim riot video:
Sunday December 19, 2004
Thai MP faces seven years in jail for airing Muslim
riot video: police
A Thai opposition parliamentarian could face up to
seven years in prison for airing a video showing
security forces suppressing a riot which led to the
deaths of 87 Muslim protesters.
Democrat MP Thanin Jaisamut has been called in for
questioning and will be arrested if he denies showing
the video of the Tak Bai tragedy while campaigning in
the restive south this month, said police in the
southern district of Langu.
"The video is a violation of national security," Langu
police chief Chote Chaichompoo told AFP, adding Thanin
could spend up to seven years in jail if charged and
convicted of the crime of "violating national
Thai authorities have urged opposition politicians to
stop publicising videos showing security forces
suppressing a riot at Tak Bai near the border with
Malaysia, saying the images damaged national unity.
The October 25 Tak Bai riot led to the deaths of at
least 87 Muslim protesters, most of whom died from
suffocation after being detained, bound and piled into
the backs of army trucks. The tragedy sparked an
Video from the riot in the Muslim-dominated southern
province of Narathiwat emerged on the open market
recently. Officials have reportedly accused
politicians of doctoring the footage to tarnish the
government's reputation before national elections next
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has slammed the
video saying its distribution could lead to further
division within the kingdom, which is mainly Buddhist.
A government appointed independent commission on
Friday implicated three senior officials in the
deaths, but said the tragedy was due to officials
mishandling the situation and not to deliberate acts
to kill or harm protesters.
Muslims represent about five percent of the
overwhelmingly Buddhist population but have long
complained of discrimination.
The riot came as a separatist insurgency was rekindled
in January and has since claimed more than 560 lives.
Rights probe blames senior Thai officials for Muslim
Saturday December 18, 2004
Rights probe blames senior Thai officials for Muslim
Three senior Thai officials have been blamed for the
deaths of more than 80 Muslims in the kingdom's
restive south by a human rights commission
investigating the incident, media reported Saturday.
The government-appointed independent commission
focused on the events of October 25, when security
forces broke up a riot in southern Narathiwat, one of
three provinces bearing the brunt of an Islamist
insurgency that has left more than 560 people dead
At least 87 Muslim protesters died, including 78 in
custody. Most suffocated after being bound and piled
into the backs of army trucks.
"Among those responsible are Fourth Army Region
commander Lt-General Pisarn Wattanawongkeeree,
assistant national police chief Lt-General Wongkot
Maneerin and Interior Ministry deputy permanent
secretary Siva Saengmanee," commission chairman Pichet
Soonthornpipit was quoted as saying in the Nation
He said the deaths were due to officials mishandling
the situation and not to deliberate acts to kill or
harm protesters and warned some other unnamed senior
figures also shared the burden of responsibility.
The incident sparked widespread international concern
and accusations that the government had used excessive
force to quell the riot.
Human rights groups have charged that the detained
protesters were stacked onto the backs of flat-bed
military trucks, occasionally five deep, and
suffocated on the hours-long journey to a military
The commission has not indicated what action should be
taken towards officials implicated in its report,
which Pichet said was unlikely to be made available to
the public in its full-form.
Apart from the 78 who died during transport, he said
seven protesters were shot during the breakup of the
riot, while seven others were missing.
Video of the riot suppression has emerged in Thailand.
The government has accused opposition MPs of publicly
screening the footage to gain political capital before
elections next February.
Thailand's sporadic separatist insurgency sparked back
into life in January and since then Buddhists,
officials and security forces have been targeted by
Muslims represent about five percent of the
overwhelmingly Buddhist population but have long
complained of discrimination.
Islamic Relief Busy In Indonesia
HELPING DISASTER VICTIMS: How Can I Help?
Editorial: A crisis in Muslim lands
Capital-Times (Madison, Wisconsin)
December 30, 2004
A Muslim woman gives money to a volunteer collecting
money for the relief of tsunami victims, at Ongole, in
the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, on
Thursday. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)
The tsunamis that swept out from the epicenter of the
historic earthquake near Indonesia did not make
distinctions regarding the race, ethnicity or religion
of their victims. Because the waves hit tourist areas,
residents of dozens of countries outside the region
were killed. But the greatest loss of lives so far,
and the greatest potential threat of more losses in
coming weeks, has been seen in countries where the
dominant religions are Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.
While there is a tendency to associate Islam with the
Middle East, the country with the largest Muslim
population in the world is Indonesia. And Indonesia
has suffered horribly. The images that are beginning
to emerge from the city of Banda Aceh, near the
epicenter of the earthquake that caused the tsunamis,
are horrifying. And Indonesian officials now estimate
that, when all the victims are found, as many as
50,000 people will have died in that country alone.
As the details of this disaster become more clear, the
devastation of another predominantly Muslim country is
only now being revealed.
The tsunamis whipped up by the largest earthquake the
world has seen in 40 years reached all the way to the
eastern coast of Africa. Now, according to the United
Nations World Food Program, as many as 50,000 Somalis
need immediate relief aid. Many are without shelter or
food and clean water. U.N. aides who reached one of
the towns on the Somali coast, Hafun, describe a scene
of "total desolation."
"The 4,500 inhabitants seem to have lost all their
possessions," reports the World Food Program office.
"Most of the houses in town have been destroyed.
Personal belongings lay scattered around town. Boats
are beached in the middle of town. Even money is
strewn on the ground."Many public and private aid
groups are rushing assistance to the region and to
other devastated areas.
But today we want to highlight the work of Islamic
Relief USA. One of the most respected aid
organizations in the United States, Islamic Relief USA
has been awarded with a 4-star rating by Charity
Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the
country. Through its contacts with Islamic Relief
Worldwide, it is well positioned to deliver aid in
devastated regions with large Muslim populations.
Already, an assessment team from Islamic Relief's
Indonesia office has arrived in the region where the
earthquake damage is most severe and is helping to
coordinate relief efforts. The organization's partners
in India have arrived in the hard-hit region of
Chennai and are performing a needs assessment. The
group's representative in Sri Lanka has put out the
call for medical supplies, tents and sanitation
facilities. And Islamic Relief, which already has
charitable projects in place in Somalia, can be
counted on to be in the forefront of efforts to
provide emergency aid and long-term assistance there.
Islamic Relief USA has set up a Southeast Asia
Earthquake Emergency fund. To donate, send a
contribution to the group at PO Box 6098, Burbank, CA
91510. It is also possible to donate by phone with a
call to 888-479-4968 or by going online to
Indonesia Needs Help, Death Toll Expected To Exceed
December 30, 2004
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 (Bernama) -- The death toll in
Acheh, the region worst hit by last Sunday's tsunami,
may exceed 400,000 as many affected areas could still
not be reached for search and rescue operations,
Indonesia's Ambassador to Malaysia Drs H. Rusdihardjo
He said the estimate was based on air surveillance by
Indonesian authorities who found no signs of life in
places like Meulaboh, Pulau Simeulue and Tapak Tuan
while several islands off the west coast of Sumatera
He said the latest death toll of more than 40,000 in
Acheh and northern Sumatera did not take into account
the figures from the other areas, especially in the
west of the region.
"Aerial surveillance found the town of Meulaboh
completely destroyed with only one buiding standing.
The building, which belonged to the military, happens
to be on a hill," he told reporters after receiving
RM1 million in aid for Indonesia's Tsunami Disaster
Relief Fund here Thursday.
Rusdihardjo said there were about 150,000 residents in
Meulaboh, which was located 150km from the epicentre
of the earthquake while Pulau Simeuleu had a
population of 76,000.
The contributions were from several corporate giants.
Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), represented by
Chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, gave
RM200,000; Guthrie, represented by Chief Executive
Officer Datuk Abdul Wahab Maskan, gave RM200,000;
Golden Hope Plantations Berhad, represented by Group
Director for Corporate, Legal and Public Affairs
Norlin Abdul Samad, gave RM200,000; Maybank,
represented by Head of Public Affairs Wan Norhiyati
Ibrahim, gave RM200,000 and Sime Darby Group's Motor
Division, represented by Director Yip Jon Khiam, also
Ahmad Sarji also handed over a PNB contribution to
Utusan's Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund, which was
received by Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Executive
Chairman Tan Sri Hashim Makarudin to help Malaysian
Ambassador Rusdihardjo said a combination of
earthquake and tsunami had left 80 to 100 per cent of
infrastructure in Acheh province, such as hospitals,
health centres, transport and communication networks
and homes, destroyed.
"Looking at the scale of destruction, it's difficult
to say when the search and rescue operations can be
mounted in all affected areas," he said.
He said rescue efforts were hampered by transportation
difficulties and lack of fuel.
Rusdihardjo said that at this time international help,
especially in the form of medicines, clean water, food
and clothing, were desperately needed by Indonesia to
aid survivors in Acheh.
"Now we are worried about the outbreak of diseases
such as cholera, the work of disposing corpses and the
absence of clean water following the contamination of
water sources," he said.
It would take years before the situation returned to
normal, he said, adding that the Indonesian government
was not able to estimate losses caused by the tragedy
He expressed his gratitude to Malaysia's help although
the country itself was hit with 66 lives lost so far
and property to the tune of millions of ringgit
"We are deeply touched," he said.
Rusdihardjo said Indonesia was also seeking Malaysia's
cooperation to mount search and rescue operations from
its shores because of the close proximity of the two
5 000 000 displaced by tsunami
30/12/2004 09:07 - (SA)
Hong Kong - Up to five million people have been
displaced by the devastating tsunamis that pummelled
large tracts of Asia over the weekend, the World
Health Organisation said on Thursday.
"We estimate that up to five million people have been
displaced and are at risk across the region," Harsaran
Pandey, spokesperson for the WHO in South Asia, said.
The global health body said between one and three
million of those affected were in Indonesia, with
another one million in Sri Lanka. The rest were spread
between India, the Maldives and other nations.
The estimate was given five days after an earthquake
of terrifying proportions sent towers of water
crashing into 11 countries across Asia and Africa.
More than 80 000 people are confirmed dead and the
toll is expected to rise sharply with disease
threatening the lives of survivors.
"The State Department claimed to have notified India,
but the Indian government said it received no such
warning in the two hours that elapsed between the
quake off Sumatra and the tidal wave that hit the
Indian coastline in the southern province of Tamil
Nadu. Nor did the Sri Lankan government receive a
warning. But one Indian Ocean island was promptly
warnedthe US military base on the British-controlled
island of Diego Garcia, the site from which US bombing
raids have been staged on both Afghanistan and Iraq.
The US base, about 1,000 miles south of India,
directly in the path of the tsunami, reportedly
suffered no damage."
HOW CAN I HELP?
Bush's response to South Asia disaster: indifference
compounded by political incompetence
By Patrick Martin
30 December 2004
President Bush briefly interrupted his vacation on
Wednesday to issue a public statement, after three
days of silence as the greatest natural disaster of
the last half-century unfolded on the television
screens of the world. He made a perfunctory and
semi-coherent statement to the press corps assembled
at his Crawford, Texas ranch, shortly after the
administration had announced a doubling of the US
government's contribution to disaster relief efforts
in South Asia.
The initial US pledge of $15 million was widely
derided in the international mediaone commentary
noted that this was less than the cost of a single
F-16 fighter jet. It brought a pointed response by the
emergency relief director for the United Nations, Jan
Egeland, who criticized the "stingy" response of
unnamed Western countries. The Scandinavian diplomat
later denied he was referring to the United States,
after the US Agency for International Development
added another $20 million to the aid package.
Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell was trundled
out to rebut the charge that the US was ignoring the
disaster. "The US is not stingy," Powell declared. "We
are the greatest contributor to international relief
efforts in the world." (He was silent on the fact that
the two largest US-financed "relief" efforts, in Iraq
and Afghanistan, are in support of stooge regimes
established through the US conquest of sovereign
Even the increased $35 million contribution represents
a minimal gesture, given the monumental scale of the
tragedy and the enormous resources of the United
States. The donation amounts to half a day's spending
on the war in Iraq. It is less money than will be
expended on the parties and official festivities
surrounding Bush's January 20 inauguration.
The US government relief effort can be measured by
another yardstickits response to the hurricanes that
hit Florida this year. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency alone has pumped $3.17 billion into
the state, nearly 100 times more than the proposed US
contribution for the South Asian tsunami. The four
Florida hurricanes combined killed 116 people,
compared to over 100,000 dead in the South Asian
disaster. According to the brutal calculus of American
imperialism, a human life in the United
Statesespecially in a battleground state in the
months before a presidential electionis worth
infinitely more than a human life in Sri Lanka or
Media criticism of the White House reached its peak in
a front-page article published by the Washington Post
December 29, only a few hours before Bush made his
appearance in Crawford. The Post commented: "Skeptics
said the initial aid sumsas well as Bush's decision
at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for
the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person
about the tragedyshowed scant appreciation for the
magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and
rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka,
India, Thailand and Indonesia."
Noting the "international outpouring of support after
the attacks on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon," the Post reported that "even some
administration officials familiar with relief efforts
said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared
personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. `It's
kind of freaky,' a senior career official said."
Here the Post gave expression to concerns within the
state apparatus itself, not so much with Bush's
indifference to the loss of life, but with his
inability to conceal this attitude behind the
humanitarian posturing typical of more skilled
spokesmen for imperialism, like British Prime Minister
Blair or former President Bill Clinton.
Bush hardly dispelled this concern with his comments
to the press corps. His remarks were delivered in a
fashion that suggested the president could hardly wait
to get back to more pressing taskssuch as bicycling
and "clearing brush," two of his major activities at
the Crawford ranch.
Bush declared his support for the construction of a
worldwide warning system against natural disasters
like the earthquake and tsunami, modeled on the one
already built by the United States, Japan and other
wealthy countries to cover the Pacific basin. He was
not asked why no such network yet exists, although the
total cost of a worldwide alert system is estimated at
only $150 milliona comparative pittance, less than
the cost of four days of war in Iraq.
There is already evidence that the US government had
ample warning of the earthquake-driven tsunami, but
did not communicate the information to the countries
involved. US press reports indicate that the Pacific
Warning Center in Hawaii, a facility of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, detected the
earthquake when it occurred and immediately warned of
the likelihood of tidal waves generated by one of
largest temblors ever recorded.
Charles McCreery, director of the center, confirmed
that his team had transmitted warnings to the US Navy,
the US State Department and the government of
Australia. The State Department claimed to have
notified India, but the Indian government said it
received no such warning in the two hours that elapsed
between the quake off Sumatra and the tidal wave that
hit the Indian coastline in the southern province of
Tamil Nadu. Nor did the Sri Lankan government receive
But one Indian Ocean island was promptly warnedthe US
military base on the British-controlled island of
Diego Garcia, the site from which US bombing raids
have been staged on both Afghanistan and Iraq. The US
base, about 1,000 miles south of India, directly in
the path of the tsunami, reportedly suffered no
Bush's press statement in Crawford did contain one
indisputable truth. "This has been a terrible
disaster," Bush said. "It is beyond our
The speechwriter who crafted those words revealed more
about Bush than he perhaps intended. This failure to
grasp the dimensions of the south Asian disasterand
anticipate the public reaction to a display of
indifferenceis a measure of the moral and
intellectual cretinism of Bush and his cohorts.
The administration's callous and barely concealed
indifference to the suffering of millions of people
says a great deal about the corrupt oligarchy whose
interests it serves. The Bush administration, and the
occupant of the White House himself, are body and soul
the creatures of a ruling elite that has descended
into criminality and unbridled greed.
The New York Times, for example, found nothing
untoward in publishing on the front page of its
December 28 edition articles and photographs on the
death and devastation in South Asia alongside a
lighthearted report on the multi-million-dollar
Christmas bonuses awarded by Wall Street firms to
their top executives ("That Line at the Ferrari
Dealer? It's Bonus Season on Wall Street").
If great events take the true measure of men, the
enormous tragedy on the shores of the Indian Ocean has
provided another yardstick of the vicious and
small-minded man who occupies the White House. Bush
personifies the ignorant and reactionary character of
Tsunami death toll rises to 60,000 amid warnings of
epidemics [29 December 2004]
Devastating tidal wave kills more than 13,000 in
southern Asia [27 December 2004]
Prayers Replace New Year's Eve Joys in Malaysia
December 29, 2004
"Let us also pray that that those facing hardship will
have the fortitude to overcome their losses," Badawi
Badawi, center, during his visit to the
tsunami-stricken village of Permatang Damar Laut in
Rescue personnel conduct a search for victims of
tsunami tidal waves near the beach in Penang.
SUNGAI PETANI, Malaysia, December 29 (IslamOnline.net
& News Agencies) Expressing his country's readiness
to offer relief aid and work with other Asian
countries to come up with warning systems, Malaysian
prime minister Abdullah Badawi declared Wednesday, 29
December that prayers for the thousands of Asian
victims will, this year, replace celebrations, to
usher in the new year.
The government would cancel all entertainment programs
on New Year's Eve in respect for the victims, Badawi
said during a visit to Kampung Kepala Jalan, Kota
Kuala Muda here during a tour of the tsunami-hit
areas, according to Bernama News Agency.
"We will replace it with a day of prayers. We will
pray that the country will not face such a problem
again. I appeal to all races to pray in their own way
so that Malaysia will be a peaceful and vibrant
Badawi, who cut short a European holiday to return
home following the disaster, hoped that through the
prayers, the country would be protected from future
disasters and tragedies.
"Let us also pray that that those facing hardship
(following the tsunami) will have the fortitude to
overcome their losses," he said.
"We hope that those who have suffered damage and loss
of livelihood will strive even harder to ensure that
their sources of income are restored."
The Prime Minister also called on mosques throughout
the country to conduct sermons related to the
catastrophic event and to reach out to the tsunami
victims to help them overcome their grief and
As for Non-Muslims, Abdullah called on them to also
pray for whatever would be for the best of the people
and the country according to their own practices and
During the visit, the Prime Minister announced that he
agreed with the proposal by Second Finance Minister
Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop for aid to the tsunami
victims be increased, Bernama said.
He said that for every house damaged, an additional
payment of RM2,000 would be given while RM5,000 would
be given for every house which was destroyed.
Fishermen whose lost their boats will be given RM1,000
for smaller boats and RM3,000 for bigger boats.
Abdullah also thanked the mainstream newspapers which
had organised a fund-raising drive for the tsunami
victims and praised the generosity of Malaysians
during difficult times.
He said that the assistance would be disbursed
according to a fair and just formula to avoid any
problem in the future. He also called on the victims
to provide accurate information including their
addresses, identity card numbers and other
Badawi also asked government agencies to hand out
assistance as quickly as possible, adding that aid
would not be the same for all the victims or their
next-of-kin because the assessment would be based on
the sustained loss of life or loss of property.
The Malaysian Premier urged donors to channel their
contributions directly to the committees set up in the
areas hit by the tsunami Sunday. This was to avoid any
unfair distribution of the aid, the prime minister
He said that he was not questioning the motive of the
donors but if the disbursement was not done properly,
the good intention would turn bad and unfairness would
cause dissatisfaction besides marring the good
"As such, channel the aid directly to the committees
that have been set up because only these committees
know who are eligible for aid," he said at the
presentation of aid to Kuala Muda residents whose
loved ones perished in the tsunami, at Sekolah
Menengah Kebangsaan Kota Kuala Muda.
Badawi, chosen along with his Turkish counterpart by
this week's edition of the Newsweek Magazine as
"shining examples of Muslim leaders" [
], also urged the police to step up security in the
affected areas following reports of items missing from
the victims' houses.
On the health aspect, he hoped that the relevant
parties like the Health Department would act fast to
provide the vaccinations and medications needed by the
victims to prevent the spread of diseases.
Malaysia can lay claim to be the "miracle baby" of
Sunday's disaster that began with a massive earthquake
off Indonesia and triggered a tidal wave that killed
tens of thousands of people in eight Asian countries,
Agence France-Presse (AFP) said.
Although it lies closer to the epicenter of the
earthquake, Malaysia suffered far fewer deaths than
other countries. But families have still been ripped
apart and homes destroyed.
Most of the 65 deaths Malaysia suffered were on the
resort island of Penang.
Abdullah said many people had asked him if the
authorities could have warned the public about the
"We never expected this huge wave. We never
experienced this before," he said.
Malaysia was spared the worst of the waves because it
was sheltered by Sumatra island which bore the brunt,
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