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Date: 12/19/98

Publication: The Nation

Section: Editorial & Opinion

BANGKOKIAN: Who says womendislike tough sports

THE 13th Asian Games sees a new dimension in the diversity of local sports

fans. With schools closed for the entire event, there have been many children at the stadiums with their parents, giving rousing cheers and support for Thai athletes.

Bangkokian has noticed as well that the number of women at the sports venues, adding colour and joy to the games, is not smaller than the male spectators. Not only that, they like to watch tough games such as boxing, soccer and sepak takraw which are usually more preferred by men.

Soccer matches featuring the Thai team saw the Rajamangala National Stadium packed to capacity, with those unable to get in being able to watch the games on special monitors in the car park. Who were there, if not women who painted their faces and in high spirit as cheering crowd.

The boxing stadium was pretty noisy the day when Thai boxers won three golds in succession. Probably close to half of the fans were women whose cheers were even louder than their male counterparts.

There are reasons for their presence. The Thai team has not been performing too badly. In fact, the results and number of golds have been far beyond earlier expectations. The euphoria and the mood to celebrate the success have been very strong.

One thing is amazing. There have been no reports of anybody jumping from a building since the Bangkok Games began. Those contemplating taking their own lives might have had second thoughts that life is more meaningful than death.

Maybe the jubilation over the productive gold harvest has eliminated the sense of despair -- Bangkokian does not know. But it is quite strange that the spate of suicides has stopped, temporarily perhaps.

This is a clear benefit which society can take from the Asian Games. Sports makes people think better of themselves and the environment. Tension can be eased and replaced by optimism.

More cheers for sports.

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Three more Ds soon at Dhammakaya temple?

THE embattled Dhammakaya temple has been engulfed by stronger criticism with more exposures and disclosures of questionable practices by the temple's top leadership.

As Bangkokian learns, the controversy no longer focuses on the ambitious construction of the Dhammakaya jedi which would cost billions of baht to become the 8th wonder of the world, but some other activities which were much less holy.

The temple might add more Ds to its name soon. Newspaper reports have mentioned about a questionable ''death'' of a monk some years ago. There were reports about some acts of ''dishonour'' and now there are hints about sexual escapades which could truly lead to ''disgrace'' and ''disaster''.

Not only that, if there are investigations, more ''dirt'' could still be uncovered. Altogether, the religious practitioners at Dhammakaya could be ''defrocked'' or ''disrobed'' resulting from legal or excommunication processes.

The criticism and detractions come from people from various sectors. But defence of Dhammakaya monks and their pursuit comes only from temple followers and disciples. No doubt, the temple leadership still has a lot of clout and connections with people in high places due to the immense wealth amassed over the years through land grabbing and commercial investment.

But the clout is thinning out pretty quickly through persistent digging by the press and the people who have no faith in the temple and the senior monks who have a lot of business interests. One of the most startling revelations was about a land grab in Pichit because the abbot wants to dig for gold ore in the province.

Relevant authorities are not very eager to deal squarely with the temple which has been expanding to various provinces and overseas cities to attract followers and donations for a lot of earthly activities and commercial pursuits.

Prime Minister Chuan himself maintains a proper distance from the whole uproar over the temple. He is not likely to benefit from getting involved in the controversy. His man at the Education Ministry, whose bark is more fearsome than his bite, shows considerable reluctance before making each move.

Sham and charlatans would eventually be exposed and unmasked. Just look at the cases of Yantra and Bhavana Buddho, who would think that they had committed such despicable sins in sexual escapades, and other law-breaking acts.

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Clinton a spoilsport for Asian Games

FOR countries participating in the 13th Asian Games, President Clinton is truly a spoilsport because he has considerably changed the mood at the Games. The bombing of Baghdad competed for the banner headlines of daily newspapers here.

Bangkokian suspected, like others that the bombing was more than just a coincidence. President Saddam Hussein has stood for more than a year as a whipping boy for his arch rival in Washington who must have planned that, when pushed into a tight corner over the impending impeachment process, a diversion must be created in a dramatic manner.

That's why Ramadan has been totally ignored by the men who planned the bombing which still goes on. Washington heard some praises, but criticism was also equally deafening.

The Republicans were no fools. They intended to go ahead with the impeachment vote because they know what the man at the White House was up to. That's why they said they supported the troops who risk their lives in the bombing missions. None of them said they endorsed Clinton's decision because the timing was questionable. For others, the guile was just too plain obvious.

After all, the Republicans know well that the title of ''Slick Willy'' has not been earned by sheer luck. For people who like fair game and fair play, they saw that the Iraqis had to bear the brunt of somebody's desperate situation thousands of miles away.

Iraqi women and children, among innocent people, have become unintended casualties in what the US military calls ''collateral damage'' in Operation Desert Fox. The White House had no second thoughts about heavy civilian casualties when it went after Saddam.

No. Bangkokian thinks that the cunning Fox was not in the desert. The ''Big He'' fox is at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue where young chicks and hens can be harassed, whether they like it or not.

Bangkokian has a premonition following the Pinochet case. There could be a legal twist when Clinton visits London in the future, if he survives impeachment. Somebody could kick up legal trouble for him just for fun and a test of equal treatment under British law.

Relatives of the Iraqi casualties, who are innocent victims of Clinton's executive order for the air raids, might file a murder charge in a British court to seek his extradition for trial in Baghdad. Prime Minister Tony Blair could also be asked to present testimony as a witness, if not as an accomplice.

Bangkokian is sure that Saddam would never visit London, not because he does not want to face legal troubles, but ambitious generals might collude to topple him in a coup.

Whatever the outcome of the air raids, Clinton would not look good in the end because many major countries suspected his hidden motive as well. Small countries, like Thailand which depends on the Washington-directed IMF bailout, would not say anything more than just being sorry for the incident.

The Nation

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