Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama Sticker from Down Under

The DAT celebration party at the Roadhouse -- which was free admission -- was attended by people from many nations who cheered a return to responsible leadership in the US -- including a group of Australians from the ARTIP anti-human trafficking project based in Bangkok. One of their group was inspired enough to come up with her own sticker design -- which she distributed for free to anyone who wanted them at the festivities. Woohoo indeed!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

DAT at US Embassy Election Watch Party -- 5 Nov 08

DAT split its representation on Election Day in Bangkok -- with over 180 members going to the US Embassy's official "Election Watch" party at the Grand Hyatt Erawan -- and well over 200 heading to the DAT unofficial club house on the third floor of the Roadhouse Barbecue on Rama 4 and Suriwong Roads. These photos are from the Embassy party.

It was full of media (7 live media interviews in Thai for Chair Phil Robertson), hundreds of Thai school-kids (all asking questions from some civic education questionnaire -- "why do you support the Democratic Party?" -- the mind blurs with all the answers possible for that one...), some Americans, various Thai big-wigs (PM Somchai showed up - and gave a speech -- and then Bangkok Gov. Apirak appeared shortly thereafter -- the battle of the dueling entourages was on!), a few (and I do mean few) Republicans lead by "Sal" and "Al", the mystery McCain staffers never seen before election day despite big titles like "Country Coordinator" -- who predicted a McCain victory early on but rapidly became more reticent as the morning progressed. Needless to say, the DAT table was front and center, and surrounded by a constant flood of DAT members offering cheers and high-fives! Ambassador Eric John picked the right color with his neon blue silk tie as the Democrats romped -- and when California was called for Obama, and the network declared him the next President, the vast majority of Americans and Thais in the crowd cheered madly. Obama won 90% of the straw poll at the event -- and the cheers reflected that. A pile of McCain-Palin buttons sat off on a side table, undisturbed... YES WE CAN -- and then DAT moved en masse to the Roadhouse.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Photos of the Campaign in Thailand -- Fundraising Dinner for DAT -- Sept 2008

DAT was determined to run advertisements in Thailand's many English newspapers to encourage Americans to vote -- but that costs money! But combine some of the best food in Thailand at Ruen Thong Restaurant on Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Road and a good cause, and DAT members turned out, ready to support us!

Over 25 members turned out, donating 1000 baht each to the cause -- and with the free corkage allowed by the restaurant, the wine was flowing as fast as the conversation of hopes for something different, something better for the US -- especially since the Presidential debates were just around the corner! With this and other fundraising, the DAT was able to run ads in The Bangkok Post, The Nation (Bangkok), The Phuket Gazette, The Chiang Mai Mail, The Pattaya Mail, Pattaya Today, Pattaya People, The Korat Post, The Nonthaburi News, and last but not least, The Vientiane Times.

DAT's favorite photographer, Lance Woodruff, was on hand to snap some photos. As is apparent from all the photos, it was a really lively crowd!
Thanks, Lance for capturing the event so clearly -- and much appreciation to everyone who turned out for a fun evening.

Photos of the Campaign in Thailand -- Obama Policy Platform Session at the Roadhouse -- July 08

Once it was clear that Sen. Obama had won the Democratic nomination, there was time to start thinking about ideas and policies -- and the Obama campaign encouraged "house parties" for engaged citizens to propose their views on what should be front and center in the Democrat Party platform to be adopted at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Democrats Abroad has its own platform but we thought it was important for the members to have their say -- and in late July, about 50 DAT members came down to the Roadhouse Barbecue to do just that -- over some cold ones and Chef Dana's best ribs and other grilled offerings. Americans Abroad for Obama leaders Jon Fox and Brian Thomson played an important role in organizing the event -- with Jon coming up with the original idea, and Brian cranking on his lap-top to keep up with the discussion and make sure the ideas were put in a form that could be submitted through the Obama campaign website.

Chair Phil Robertson moderated the discussion, which was quite vociferous at times -- reflecting the fact that we're Democrats and we have strong views (and we're not afraid to express them!) A reporter from The Nation came by and wrote up an article about DAT (see earlier entry in this blog) which garnered us more attention in US expat circles in the Kingdom. Policy progress while having fun too -- the essence of DAT!

The best Party in town!

Photos of the Campaign in Thailand -- Independence Day 2008

DAT was busy all year 2008 -- registering Americans to vote anywhere we could! Bangkok does not have alot of places that Americans tend to hang out, so we had to make our own opportunities. One of the best places was the annual 4th of July party, held this year on a muddy field at the Port Authority of Thailand sports stadium in Klong Toey. DAT had the best spot in the fair -- right next to the booth of the Roadhouse Barbecue, which had great Belgian wheat beer on tap! DAT Treasurer Andy Boname had a chance to relax with one of those after registering a ton of people...

Chef Dana was on hand grillin', which was good -- because we got might hungry as we registered over 150 Americans to vote that day. We also broke out the new t-shirt design, "Bangkok for Barack" -- which people were eager to see and have. All in all, a great time was had by all -- except the Republicans Abroad, who were nearby and struggled to muster 15 people the entire afternoon. But they were kind enough to let us have some FPCA voter registration forms when we ran out of ours!

Austin Arensberg and the Americans Abroad for Obama also busted out a new t-shirt design -- which was more popular with the younger party-ers...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Coolest President

What else can you say? It's so true...

Inter-Press Service Quoting DAT

This is an interesting article that tries to get at an important, yet still unclear factor about the international reaction to the election of Pres. Barack Obama -- how will he perceived and what does his election mean for countries around the region? IPS does a good job of pulling out some of those issues in this article. Enjoy -- Phil

Obama Victory Spells Renewed US Interest

Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Nov 7 (IPS) - In Indonesia, many know him as ‘’Barry’’. To others U.S. president-elect Barack Obama is the ‘’Menteng Kid’’ for the primary school he attended while living in South-east Asia’s largest country.

Indonesia had a little more to celebrate than its neighbours when Obama was declared elected on Tuesday. Among those who rejoiced was Israella Dharmawan, Obama’s teacher during his childhood in central Jakarta.

‘’I remember he once wrote two stories titled ‘My mother, my idol’ and ‘I want to be a president’,’’ she said in a story appearing in Thursday’s ‘Jakarta Post’ newspaper. Obama was six when he came to live in Indonesia in 1967 and lived there for five years with his mother, Ann Dunham, and his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro.

‘’I hope to see him become a good president and keep his campaign promises,’’ the former third-grade teacher added of the new U.S. leader who had come across to her as ‘’good, cheerful and easygoing as a young boy’’. ’

For Indonesia there is significance in U.S. voters creating history by voting an African-American to the most powerful job in the world. The possibility of a member of a minority community being elected president remains remote in Indonesia, where the Javanese, the majority ethnic community, hold sway.

‘’This phenomena teaches us all that ethnicity, race and other labels are not important. What matters is our capability,’’ Jusuf Kalla, the country’s vice president, was quoted as having told the Indonesian national news agency Antara following Obama’s victory.

Kalla is a leader of Golkar, the country’s largest political party. But media reports note that the likelihood of him running for president in the 2009 elections are doubtful because of his origins. He is a member of the Bugis ethnic minority from the mountainous island of South Sulawesi.

Obama’s example would not have been lost on Malaysia, Indonesia’s neighbour, where the Malay majority maintains a firm grip on political power at the expense of the country’s minorities, such as ethnic Chinese and Indians.

Even in Singapore -- which has policies to maintain racial harmony -- the political culture favours a member of the dominant Chinese community for the office of prime minister.

‘’The U.S. election could inspire people from minorities in this region to think of what is possible,’’ says Phil Robertson, chairperson of Democrats Abroad Thailand, a group of U.S. citizens living here who campaigned for Obama, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.

‘’It could broaden people’s ideas that a person from a minority could rise to the post of political power based on the ideas he or she represents,’’ added Robertson in an interview. ‘’Obama’s victory is an inspirational moment.’’

The widely followed U.S. elections offered other sober lessons too: the gulf between what passes for democracy in this region as against the robust U.S. system.

An official response from the Philippines, a former U.S. colony in the region with a similar polity, said it all. ‘’Our own democracy and electoral process can be enriched by the lessons, model, and example that the last U.S. presidential contest can offer, particularly in terms of the primacy of issues and blueprints of governance, as well as the efficiency and integrity by which the electorate’s will is safeguarded,’’ said Gabriel Claudio, political advisor to the Philippines president, in a statement.

Elections in South-east Asia’s few developing democracies are plagued by fraud, questionable candidates and tension, which, at times, leads to violence before and after the elections. Suppression of the media and stifling of open and free debate also stains this region’s electoral culture.

For the 10-member ASEAN the Obama victory comes after growing concern among the region’s leaders that the George W. Bush administration was losing interest in the regional bloc. While Bush described South-east Asia as the second front in his ‘war against terrorism’ after the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Washington opted for the bilateral route rather than multilateral measures.

‘’After 9-11 terrorism became the main priority for the Bush administration, it wanted immediate results, which ASEAN is not geared to. Defence is not its strength,’’ Robert Fitts, a former U.S. diplomat who has served in three South-east Asian capitals, told IPS. ‘’So it developed bilateral relations and dealt directly with the defence ministries and the police in the region and spent less energy with a multilateral body like ASEAN.’’

With the Bush doctrine in tatters, a greater engagement with ASEAN is expected, underscoring Obama’s inclination towards multilateralism. ‘’He wants to reinvigorate multilateralism and that includes ASEAN,’’ says Fitts.

ASEAN includes Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brunei.

‘’Obama will create a new impetus for ASEAN-U.S. policy,’’ says Kavi Chongkittavorn, a senior editor and columnist on regional affairs at ‘The Nation’, an English-language daily in Thailand. ‘’Many ASEAN leaders want stronger ties with the new U.S. administration, because they know that they stand to gain more.’’

Saturday, November 8, 2008

DPA -- Democrats Abroad Get Ready to Party in Asia

Democrats Abroad get ready to party in Asia
4 November 2008
BANGKOK - Democrats Abroad members will be gathering in special venues throughout Asia, from a secret 'watering hole' in alcohol-free Kabul to a popular barbecue house in Bangkok, to watch the US election results on Wednesday, Asia time.

If pre-election interest is anything to go by, the turnout to watch the televised results abroad is expected to break records for Democrats Abroad - the official arm of the Democratic Party for Americans living outside of the United States.

"Democrats Abroad in Thailand has more than tripled our membership in the past 10 months," said Phil Robertson, chairman of Democrats Abroad Thailand. "I've never seen such excitement over an election."

In BangkokS embassy has organized an election watch for American citizens at the swank Grand Hyatt Hotel Wednesday, while Democrats Abroad has planned a separate event at the Roadhouse Barbecue restaurant.

"I predict the Roadhouse is going to be the wilder scene," said Robertson, echoing the great optimism that Democrat candidate Barack Obama is the likely winner of the US presidential election.

Similar election-watching gatherings of Democrats Abroad in Asia are planned throughout Asia including in alcohol-free Afghanistan, at a "local water hole" and the Brass Monkey Bar and Restaurant in Taipei.

Final results of the election will only be known by Wednesday in most Asian countries because of the time difference.

While this election has generated uncommon interest among Democrats Abroad, which has opened new chapters in Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Nepal and Malaysia, the exact number of overseas American eligible to vote on Tuesday remains a mystery.

What seems clear, from feedback at the chapters, is that more Democrats abroad have bothered to register and submit their ballots in this election than in the previous 2004 presidential contest.

"Our phone calls to our members all around Thailand show that 93 per cent of them have cast their ballot," said Robertson.

"We're extremely excited for the election returns to come in on November 5, and we have a reason to be. Finally we will have an American leader in the 21st century that we can be proud of."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quote from Phil Robertson -- Chair, DAT

"In my years working with American voters living in Thailand, I have never seen anything like the enthusiasm I see for Barack Obama. This is truly a watershed election for America, and for all of us living overseas -- because the victory of Barack Obama will mark the beginning of a new start for America in foreign policy, in our relations with countries around the world, and in the way that people around the world perceive the United States. Americans here in Thailand and elsewhere in Asia have really done their part -- DA Thailand has tripled our membership over the past ten months, and our phone calls to our members all around Thailand show that 93% of them have cast their ballot. We're extremely excited for the election returns to come in on November 5, and we have a reason to be! Finally we will have an American leader in the 21st century that we can be proud of. "

Philip Robertson Jr.
Chair, Democrats Abroad Thailand