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Asean Affairs  17  March 2011

Radiation anxiety in Asia-Pacific

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     17 March 2011

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With the ongoing nuclear disaster continuing in northeastern Japan, 250 kilometers from Tokyo, there is ongoing concern about nuclear radiation in the Asia-Pacific, especially if the disaster worsens.

In Japan, officials have said there is no danger outside of the immediate area surrounding the nuclear reactors. Winds were set to blow low-level radiation out over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night, easing health worries as they had been drifting toward Tokyo earlier on Tuesday, experts said.

Japan said the United States would fly a high-altitude drone over the stricken complex to gauge the situation, and had offered to send nuclear experts to help with the crisis. However, there has been some frustration over the slowness of reports coming from Japan. In response, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he would fly to Japan on Thursday to get firsthand information.

For Thailand, health officials have stated there is no cause for alarm. Thai scientists have confirmed that the wind has not blown radioactive air toward Thailand after the explosions caused radioactivity to leak into the atmosphere. Thai Airways International has not cancelled any Bangkok-Japan flights.

Incoming passengers from Tokyo are being screened for radiation and Thailand’s Public Health Ministry will distribute 15,000 iodine tablets to people travelling to Japan from Suvarnabhumi and Phuket airports from March 17.

At the other end of the Asia-Pacific region, US President Obama assured residents that there was no danger of radiation in Hawaii or for that matter, the West Coast of the continental United States. However, media report that there has been a run on potassium iodide pills in Hawaii. With prevailing winds going from east to west, Canada and the United States might be first to detect a much diluted radiation cloud.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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