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Dining ining with Donald

• Behind the Wire - Whitehead revisited • Paul Caine Casts Off






From the President


Cover Story – Dining with Donald


On the Wall – Behind the Wire


Disasters and DNA – Lessons from the Tsunami


Istanbul – Agony and Ecstasy


Departing in Style – Caine Casts Off


Club Merchandise


The Pacific War – Lest We Forget


Watering Holes – Destination Thailand


Obituary – Jack Spackman


Professional Contacts


Out of Context – Jake van der Kamp

Sir Donald Tsang

Whitehead Detention Centre

The River Kwai Bridge Museum




THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB, HONG KONG 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2521 1511 Fax: (852) 2868 4092 E-mail: <> Website: <> President: Ilaria Maria Sala First Vice President: Jim Laurie Second Vice President: Kevin Egan Correspondent Member Governors Paul Bayfield, Keith Bradsher, Mike Gonzales, Ernst Herb, Keri Ann Geiger, Ramon Pedrosa-Lopez, Chris Slaughter, Rob Stewart Journalist Member Governor Mark Clifford, Francis Moriarty Associate Member Governors David Garcia, Steve Ushiyama, Andy Chworowsky, Ralph Ybema Hon. Secretary Ramon Pedrosa-Lopez Hon. Treasurer Steve Ushiyama Finance Committee Convener: Steve Ushiyama Professional Committee Conveners: Jim Laurie and Ernst Herb House/Future Premises/Food and Beverage Committee Convener: Dave Garcia Membership Committee Convener: Steve Ushiyama Constitution Committee Convener: Kevin Egan House/F&B Committee Convener: David Garcia Freedom of the Press Committee Convener: Francis Moriarty Wall Committee Convener: Ilaria Maria Sala General Manager Gilbert Cheng

The Correspondent

From Angelo Paratico, Hong Kong I have been a member of the FCC for several years. I joined as a Correspondent, but in 2001, I received a rude call from a member of the then Board who informed me that I would be re-classified as an Associate because of my garment business. The rule is, the caller explained to me, that one should make at least 50% of one’s income from being a correspondent, which, clearly to him, was not so in my case. As a matter of fact, if I had to survive on the meager money that I get corresponding with my paper, Secolo d’Italia, a daily newspaper based in Rome, I would have starved to death long ago, together with my family. My question to the President now is: does this not qualify me as a Correspondent? You can see my contributions on the paper’s website. Is this not enough? Secolo d’Italia may be a poor publication but the editor is the Foreign Affairs Minister of Italy, Gianfranco Fini. The paper is not an advertising free-sheet. And what about many of the other “Correspondent” members? Going through the latest directory I can spot some who have not written a line for years.

Times are changing. What about changing the rules of the FCC? A Correspondent member should be someone who really is corresponding, irrespective of the money earned. And those who do not correspond should not be Correspondent members. Isn’t that simpler? Steve Ushiyama, Convener of the Membership Committee, responds: Thank you for your comments which have been noted. The Committee is aware of some discrepancies which need to be addressed. In the meantime, we invite those members whose circumstances have changed in a manner that affects his or her membership status to contact the Membership Committee via the Front Desk and arrange for a reclassification.

© The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong The Correspondent is published six times a year. Opinions expressed by writers in the magazine are not necessarily those of the Club. Publications Committee Convener: Paul Bayfield Editor: Diane Stormont Editorial and Production ltd Tel: 2521 2814 E-mail: Printer Hop Sze Printing Company Ltd Advertising Enquiries Sandra Pang Pronto Communications Tel: 2540 6872 Fax: 2116 0189 Mobile: 9077 7001 E-mail:

Contributions The Correspondent welcomes letters, articles, photographs and art-work (in softcopy form only, please – no faxes or printouts etc). We reserve the right to edit contributions chosen for publication. Anonymous letters will be rejected. For verification purposes only (and not for publication) please include your membership number (if applicable) and a daytime telephone number. Contributions can be e-mailed to Disks should be dropped off at the Club or posted to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong and marked to the attention of The Editor, The Correspondent. FTP is also available and is encouraged for large files. Please e-mail us for the settings. The deadline for the next issue is November 10, 2005.

Cover picture: AFP



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Club Activities xxxxx



n the past few weeks, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club has been in the limelight, thanks to the Chief Executive accepting our invitation to come and address us. It was the most attended event in our calendar so far, quite predictably. You can read more about that event in this magazine. I would like to take the opportunity to remark that our events calendar is getting richer by the day, and that the Club is getting more and more lively, and we have not even started the busier season yet! In the next few months, it looks as if we can finally look forward to proper documentaries screening series. This is an idea many of us (myself included) have been toying with for a while, and now Board Member Christopher Slaughter seems determined to turn it into reality. Should any of you have good documentaries to propose for screening at the FCC, please let him know before he regrets having accepted the task. In September we screened a rare documentary on North Korea, “A State of Mind” (the only venue in Hong Kong to do so), which followed the lives of two young gymnasts preparing for the mass games. The room was packed. On the Wall, we have enjoyed a remarkable exhibition, organised by Board Members Robert Stewart and Francis Moriarty, commemorating the late Pam Baker and the dark days of the Vietnamese boat people camps in Hong Kong. For those who missed it, we’ve included a spread in this magazine. In the meantime, I would like to thank the organisers for arranging such a touching display. The winter months should bring in many more interesting events, so keep an eye on messages from the Club. I often hear complaints from people who tell me they were not informed about forthcoming events. If that is the case with you,


please inform the staff at the Front Desk and make sure your contact details are up to date. And make sure you read what we send over! Another initiative that is going quite well is our drive to encourage more members of the working press to join the Club by offering advantageous fees to young journalists for a limited period. Which brings to mind the question of membership status. I would like to remind those of you who may have switched jobs, requiring a change in your membership status, to contact the staff at the Front Desk to make the necessary alteration. Being part of the press corps in this part of the world remains a challenge: at the time of writing, we have still had no news about our colleague, Ching Cheong, who is charged with spying on what appear to be very murky grounds. We again urge the Chinese authorities to grant our colleague a fully open and transparent trial in line with international legal standards. And finally, the Charity Ball. This is now in its 4th year, and I hope those of you who attend thoroughly enjoy yourselves. Ilaria Maria Sala


Cover Story


Dining with Donald It had been a standing invitation since the British Colony became a Chinese SAR. Finally, eight years after the handover, the Chief Executive agreed to address an FCC luncheon from our famous podium on the first floor, reports Club President, Ilaria Maria Sala.


ung Chee-hwa never found the time or the necessary ease to do so, but in all fairness he did come to our annual Diplomatic Cocktail Party and gave a short speech each time. The first time he did so was during Diane Stormont’s presidency, and she awarded him with an honorary membership card, replacing the full membership he had earlier resigned.


Within hours of Sir Donald Tsang’s acceptance, every available seat had been snatched up. This was not Donald’s first address to the Club. He has spoken before in his previous incarnations – but obviously not as number one. While most of us Board Members were pleased that the invitation had been accepted and that the speech would be covered by most media outlets in town, we were also of the


Media Story Cover

Donald engaged in his practised, well-humoured chit-chat that is highly pleasant and gives off an impression of familiarity, even though all involved know it is mostly good manners. view that, as is so often the case on these occasions, nothing of real notice would be said. So there we were, all dressed up in our Sunday finery, one of the biggest line-up of Board Members I have ever seen at a luncheon, all smiles and politeness, laughing at jokes and looking concerned at the challenges mentioned. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m pleased to report that the lunch was a cordial and smooth affair. Let me beat our own drum here, and once again praise the staff for the excellent performance they put together, in terms of service, food and accommodating such a large crowd. During pre-prandial drinks in the


Hughes Room, and throughout the meal, Donald engaged in his practised, well-humoured chit-chat that is highly pleasant and gives off an impression of familiarity, even though all involved know it is mostly good manners. He started off by praising all the improvements we have made to the building, and gave us a little snippet of his boyhood days, telling us that he, like many other kids living in the neighbourhood, would come and peek into what used to be the Ice Storage Building, and found it fascinating. For most of the meal, the only ice around was in the glass of water consumed by the Chief Executive, who avoided the hard stuff â&#x20AC;&#x201C; although he

did ask for an espresso at the end saying that he had to be alert for this audience. Before the event, a number of us had briefly discussed whether it was appropriate to press a few of our concerns during the lunch. It was decided that it would probably be expected and entirely appropriate, so we did raise the question of multiple-entry visas to the mainland for Hong Kongbased journalists, and the fate of our colleague Ching Cheong. On both accounts, Donald said he understood our worries, and that he was doing what he could to press the issues with mainland authorities, and to assist Chingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family.





Cover Story

When the lunch was just about over, and the working press arrived to cover his speech, the new Chief Executive briefly put his forehead to the table in (mock?) despair before asking: “What do they think I am going to say?” Unfortunately nobody took a picture of that. His speech centred on praising the media, emphasing its great role in Hong Kong, and giving assurances that freedom of the press is a matter very close to his heart. “The free flow of news and information is one of the foundations of our success, and one of our greatest assets as Asia’s world city. It is an asset that we cherish, and will protect .... We have a government here in Hong Kong that is determined to protect the free flow of information – this I can assure you,” he said. He went on to say that this passion is something he talks about with everybody he meets, including the mainland authorities. But will they listen? Donald also told us the government pays very close attention to press coverage of Hong Kong. “We have tracked more than 5,700 stories concerning Hong Kong since the beginning of the year - we have counted them... “These are just the stories that are flagged by our network of 10 Economic and Trade Offices overseas, or published by the international press based here. There are probably many more that we don’t see. By our reckoning, most coverage this year - in fact an overwhelming majority - is


much on his mind. Hopefully it will not cloud his thinking. Then Steve Vines asked if we could be given a timetable for constitutional reform. Cannot, said Mr Tsang, the date has to be accepted in Hong Kong and in Beijing, so it is way too difficult. Then we moved on to sick pigs and worrisome fish from across the border, an issue where “we are still learning” and still working on better communication with the mainland. Philip Bowring asked a blunt question about collusion between big business and the government and, specifically, about Donald Tsang’s brother, the former police commissioner who now works for New World Development. To this Tsang replied that he is not his sibling’s keeper. But the real revelation came at the end when Donald disclosed some of the content of his discussions with President Hu Jintao, which raised some eyebrows. We now know that Hu approves of bow-ties (something the evening news on ATV duly highlighted) and has advised Tsang to listen to the people of Hong Kong. Donald also stressed he had the President’s backing in the face of opposition, a comment many of the local media later went on to analyse and conclude it was a shot across the bows of his critics in the pro-Beijing camp. Then, it was over. We offered the new CE an honorary membership card – his second. The first one we gave him was never used. Let’s see if this one will be activated.

“By our reckoning, most coverage this year – in fact an overwhelming majority – is either balanced or neutral, or even positive.”


either balanced or neutral, or even positive.” Wow! They do count our stories! And I thought the articles would have been a little more critical. During the Q&A, Christine Loh asked about environmental standards at Disney which are lower that those in the US, although within Hong Kong’s not very stringent requirements. The CE replied he was satisfied with the pollution control measures adopted. Yet later he described pollution as a “free spirit”, and one very


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On the Wall

Life Behind the Wire


hen Vietnamese Boat People fleeing their homeland after the fall of Saigon in April, 1975 began trickling into Hong Kong waters, they found a relatively sympathetic welcome â&#x20AC;&#x201C; at first. But as the influx gained momentum, hearts hardened. Tough measures were implemented to deter arrivals. Few in Hong Kong objected. Some lobbied for more draconian deterrents. Pam Baker (pictured right), then a lawyer in the governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legal aid department, was an exception. She was one of the few individuals to fly in the face of public opinion, government bureaucracy and general indifference, and stand up for the rights of the minority Vietnamese. It



On the Wall

was an unpopular cause. She left the safety of a civil service post to set up her own law firm. She never shrank from what she regarded as right, taking up the cause of the little person against the power of the government. An exhibition, part of which is reproduced here, was mounted at the FCC on August 30 and organised by the Pam Baker Foundation, established in her memory. It documents the day-to-day existence of Vietnamese asylum seekers in Hong Kong’s largest camp, the Whitehead Detention Centre.

Pamela Maureen Baker, a former barrister in Hong Kong’s Legal Aid Department, died on 24 April, 2002. Pam was born on 28 August, 1930. In 1951, she graduated in law from St Andrew’s University in Scotland. She qualified as a solicitor in 1953. Between 1954 and 1961 her six children were born. In 1979, she was called to the Bar after reading at Gray’s Inn in London. In 1982, Pam applied for a seat at Gray’s Inn, however her application was rejected. She then applied for, and obtained, a position as counsel in the Hong Kong

Legal Aid Department. She worked there for nine years, mostly handling family law cases. During her early years in Hong Kong, Pam spearheaded a campaign to build the city’s first battered women’s shelter, which opened in 1985. She was also instrumental in the 1987 passage of legislation relating to domestic abuse. She was a founding member of the Hong Kong Family Law Association. From 1990, Pam provided legal aid for numerous Vietnamese boat people. From 1997 onwards, she assisted many refugees from mainland China.

Vietnamese Asylum Seekers


ore than 840,000 Vietnamese fled their country between 1975 and 1997. Some 223,302 of them arrived in Hong Kong by boat. Until June 1988, all the Vietnamese arrivals in Hong Kong, approximately 124,000 people, were accepted as refugees. At midnight on June 15, 1988, the Hong Kong government adopted a new policy to screen all Vietnamese boat people arrivals and classify them as either political refugees, entitled to seek resettlement abroad, or economic migrants, regarded essentially as illegal immigrants. The purpose was to deter future arrivals from Vietnam. In spite of the new policy, 74,019 Vietnamese asylum seekers arrived in Hong Kong in the seven years following this arbitrary cut-off date. All were sent straight to detention centres. Only the handful who won refugee status were allowed to leave detention. That handful comprised just 15.4 percent of the new arrivals, leaving 62,642 people in limbo in the detention centres, unwilling to return to Vietnam and unable to be resettled



On the Wall

in a third country. The second plank of the government’s new policy centred on clearing the camps through deportations – the “orderly repatriation programme”. Of the 62,642 asylum seekers classed as “economic migrants” 9,605 people were forcibly repatriated to Vietnam. The remainder took the only other option available to them and volunteered to return. An additional 13,585 people returned before they were screened. The history of the Vietnamese boat people arrivals in Hong Kong starts immediately after the fall of Saigon to communist forces on April 30, 1975. The first 3,743 Vietnamese boat people arrived in Hong Kong in May 1975 aboard the Danish containership, the Clara Maersk. They were allowed to land, were


accepted as refugees and within months were resettled in third countries. The numbers landing in Hong Kong during the next three years were small and the rate of resettlement was high. That changed in 1979. In the lead-up to and aftermath of the Sino-Vietnamese war, the Vietnamese government implemented a policy encouraging ethnic Chinese Vietnamese to leave Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands fled, with many crossing the border into China. Some 66,000 Vietnamese refugees arrived in Hong Kong in 1979, and more than 80 percent were ethnic Chinese. The increasing numbers sounded alarm bells within the corridors of power in Hong Kong. The government faced the dilemma of accepting refugees


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On the Wall

from Vietnam at the same time that it was daily repatriating hundreds of illegal immigrants from China – in 1979, 89,000 Chinese illegal immigrants were repatriated to the mainland. The fear grew that if a lenient policy was adopted towards the Vietnamese, then a flood of people would arrive from Vietnam. As the numbers arriving rose, so the calls for greater deterrents grew and on July 2, 1982 Hong Kong implemented a closed-camp policy to make “Hong Kong less attractive to refugees’’. The period between July 2, 1982 and June 15, 1988 saw a steady flow of arrivals, with 3,651 boat people reaching Hong Kong in the peak year, 1983. The ethnic background of the arrivals had changed from the previous years, when the majority was either ethnic Chinese or Vietnamese from South Vietnam. In 1986, for the first time, ethnic Vietnamese from North Vietnam made up the majority – 52 percent – of arrivals of boat people in Hong Kong. This percentage was to rise in the following years. At the same time international sympathy, and more importantly, the number of resettlement places available for refugees, was diminishing. Political and economic changes in Vietnam began in 1986 with the introduction of the policies of Doi Moi (renovation) and Coi Mo (openness), which coincided with the steady withdrawal of financial support from the Soviet Union. The result of these policies was to cause more unrest in Vietnam and more people to flee. The international community continued to consider ways to combat the flow. An International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees was held in Geneva on June 13-14, 1989, almost a year after Hong Kong had introduced its screening process. A new policy was adopted – the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA). It related to “Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers and addressed clandestine departures, regular departure programmes, reception of new arrivals, refugee status determination resettle-


ment and repatriation.” Between 1979 and 1998, the UNHCR spent a total of HK$1.502 billion on housing and food for Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong. More than HK$1 billion of this was borrowed from the colonial Hong Kong government, and had not been

paid back as of June 30, 1997. The Hong Kong government spent a total of HK$8.42 billion during the same period, and the British government contributed HK$1.131 billion. The majority of this money – HK$9.571 billion – was spent after June 15, 1988.

As the numbers arriving rose, so the calls for greater deterrents grew and on July 2, 1982 Hong Kong implemented a closed camp policy to make “Hong Kong less attractive to refugees’’.


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On the Wall

Life in Whitehead


ehind the wire, inside a cage, within a hut, stuffed in a box. That is how people lived in Hong Kong’s largest detention centre, Whitehead, compartmentalised, institutionalised, yet left to fend for themselves. In the summer months the huts were unbearably hot. Imagine a metal container with the sun’s rays beating down on it. The humidity was over 95 per cent. The air was still inside the huts, the few fans silent because the electricity was disconnected or not powerful enough to turn the blades with anything more than a weary whirring. No one wanted to move. In the winter it was miserably cold. The bare bed boards could not keep out the chill, and the blankets were never enough. People huddled together inside for warmth. Cockroaches infested the huts in the summer heat. The more ingenious spent their time devising traps to keep the insects away from their bed space. This was an occupation aimed at helping the creator while away a few for-


gotten hours rather than any serious attempt to curb the influx of insects. A large empty plastic bottle - usually Coca Cola or Seven Up - was cut in half. A liberal coating of oil - melted down from the fat on the day’s meat supply - was applied to the inside of the trap, leaving a pool of liquid mixed with tiny scraps of burnt meat. The cockroaches could not resist and soon the trap was filled with tiny brown creatures unable to gain a purchase on the slippery sides of the bottle. Trapped they either drowned or died from exhaustion. Every few days the trap was emptied outside the hut and the process began again. The huts were noisy and overcrowded. It was impossible to sleep peacefully at night. The lights stayed on all the time. Young babies cried piteously, unable to sleep because scabies were irritating them. Adults would wake up in cold sweats or screaming from a nightmare. It was boredom that undermined the very fabric of an individual’s being in detention;

it destroys the community that the people live in and alters perceptions of time, morals and society. Each hut compromised of approximately 20 threetier bunk beds, constructed from metal frames with thin plywood boards making up the sleeping area. Each “bunk” was home to two people, although in the family huts, sometimes two adults and three children were squashed into two bunks. The bed board was about six feet long by 4’6” wide, with enough room for a small person to sit upright when they were not asleep. A metal ladder was attached to the side of each set of bunks, leading up to the top bed space, which was capped by the roof of the hut. The bottom bunks were usually reserved for families, while the top bunk was the domain of the younger single people. Sometimes the lack of space meant that families ended up at the top. On several occasions, young children fell from the top bunks, injuring their heads or breaking a limb in the process. The dull thud of a child’s head landing on the concrete floor was the terror of every parent in the camp. The long huts were divided into two halves, each with its own entrance. Each half held around 120 people. The two huts within a hut were numbered 1a and 1b and so on up to 11a and 11b. Fourteen huts, including one which was the dining area, and two more for administration and housing the voluntary agencies working in the camp, made up section 1 (one of these huts was numbered 21 as it was constructed later than the others). A similar pattern held for the adjacent section 2, except that the numbering continued from 12a and 12b upwards. All six of the other sections in the main compound had one or more double-storey building to complement 10 or 11 single-storey huts, and the numbering followed a


On the Wall

similar pattern continuing across each pair of sections. Section 9, isolated near the entrance to the centre, was also made up of a mix of single and double-storey huts, while section 10, the only one reserved for southern Vietnamese, was filled with single-storey buildings. With between 100 and 120 people in each half-hut at any one time, the pressure on washing and toilet facilities was high. Each long hut contained two washing and toilet areas in the middle, back to back but not joined. The toilet comprised a long trench in the concrete above which people could squat. There were no doors on the toilets. In the family huts people rarely used the toilet,


preferring to use a toilet block on the other side of the compound. These toilets were of a similar nature - a long trench in the ground - but individual closets were created to provide users with some degree of privacy. Water flushed along the trench at sporadic intervals during the day, causing some of the lighter moments when people were caught offguard by the sudden flood. The resulting detritus was channelled into huge septic tanks before being released into the neighbouring Tolo Harbour. Hong Kong fishermen could often be seen trawling their nets close to the camp and its water outlets, looking for a good catch.




Troops search for Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans

Tragic Parallels All too soon, the lessons, technology and procedures developed in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami are being called upon again, this time in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, reports Richard Ehrlich.


he quake-propelled tidal swells that hit the Indian Ocean coastline in December killed at least 220,000 people in a dozen Asian nations. In Thailand, where the tsunami devastated a popular tourist zone, more than 5,400 lost their lives. Many were

visitors, complicating the task for the men and women seeking to determine the identities of the dead. While Interpol tried to ensure criminals did not fake their own deaths to dodge arrest, relatives desperately sought their loved ones in order to grieve properly and also, for many, in


order to survive. They needed to file insurance claims and inherit property in order to stay in business. Private security firms became a growth industry, along with scam artists, clairvoyants and others seeking to profit from the hunt for the missing.


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Today, more than nine months after the water slammed land, 1,900 bodies remain in limbo in Thailand alone. They are packed in refrigerated storage because no one can identify DNA samples taken from the remains. An unknowable number of people, of various nationalities, were swept off Thailand’s west coast into the Andaman Sea, which leads to the Bay of Bengal, never to be found or counted. However, about 3,500 corpses were eventually named and consigned to burial or cremation, thanks to an international computerised database staffed by experts from the US, Europe, China, Thailand and elsewhere. One result of the tsunami was the establishment of standard “forensic identifiers” accepted by many governments throughout the world. “There are three identifiers: fingerprints, DNA or dental records. For a death certificate to be issued, you


A forensic expert from the International Commission of Missing Persons works with DNA samples from unidentified tsunami victims


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need two of those. Any combination, but two out of three,” a British police spokesman said in an interview in Phuket shortly after the tsunami hit. DNA samples and fingerprints were taken from property at the homes of the missing and compared with records on Interpol’s high-tech tsunami database of people missing and dead. In some cases, however, whole families of Thai residents and foreign tourists perished in the tsunami, leaving no relatives to report missing people, and no DNA samples to compare. “It will take another two to three years” to identify the remaining corpses, Noppadol Somboonsub, head of the Victim Identification Center, told journalists in August. Countless illegal, exploited immigrants from Burma who worked in the

A DNA sample from an unidentified victim of the tsunami marks a mass grave

Universal Music



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tourist trade, on construction sites, factories and the fishing industry also disappeared without trace because they were furtive, undocumented and lived a nomadic life. America’s southern Gulf would have many undocumented illegal immigrants from Mexico and points south. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and elsewhere in the southern United States, flooded buildings yielded clusters of drowned victims who may not have surviving relatives to assist in a DNA match. But as was the case with many of the foreign tourists killed by the tsunami, documents may help. Many of the Katrina victims will have left extensive paper trails, including residential records, driver’s licenses, employment, welfare and other financial documents. The increasing popularity of tattoos also provided valuable clues in Thailand. The same is likely in the US. Meanwhile, after sea water drained from Phuket, Khao Lak Beach and other hard-hit areas, some powerful speculators moved in like the carpetbaggers of old, buying distressed sites at cheap rates, or intimidating poor villagers into vacating prized plots. Following the American Civil War, profiteers who moved in to exploit the reconstruction of the defeated Southern states were known as carpet-baggers after the carpet bags many used


A medic reads the barcode from a chip implated in an unidentified tsunami victim


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In Phuket and other tsunami zones which previously enjoyed fame as world-class tourist destinations – as did New Orleans – tourist occupancy rates are still way down, even in nearby areas untouched by the tsunami. at the time to carry their processions. Other post-tsunami wheelers and dealers lobbied for permits to rebuild on the same sites, despite warnings of future watery onslaughts. Some simply ignored new regulations not to reconstruct vulnerable buildings. Meanwhile, if Thailand’s experience is replicated in the US, the inhabitants of the stricken areas in for a long and drawn-out recovery. Investors in Thailand are still desperately trying to woo back tourist spending in the battered region. In Phuket and other tsunami zones which previously enjoyed fame as world-class tourist destinations – as did New Orleans


– visitor occupancy rates are still way down, even in nearby areas untouched by the tsunami. Many potential visitors fear a tsunami could strike again while they are enjoying the delightful beaches, spas, seafood and tropical ambiance of Thailand’s west coast. Honeymooners do not want to be caught in a survival-of-the-fittest evacuation. Many potential visitors, especially extremely superstitious Asians, fear scare-youto-death ghosts from the tsunami’s underworld. And along much of Thailand’s stricken land, fresh water supplies remain contaminated from the

onslaught of seawater, resulting in shortages for drinking and bathing, environmentalists say. Some 18,000 Thai survivors have suffered symptoms from depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicidal thoughts or other psychological problems, according to Public Health Minister Dr. Suchai Charoenratanakul. The tsunami’s death toll still rises. On tiny, gorgeous, Phi Phi island where more than 1,000 people are known to have died, scrap collectors and volunteers are still discovering occasional body parts under wreckage and in drainage areas.



Agony and Ecstasy F CC member Russ Green is chairman of the Official Liverpool Supporter’s Club in Hong Kong (motto: The East is Red). Earlier this year, he was among the 35,000 Liverpool Football Club fans who gathered to watch the European Champions’ League final in Istanbul, a match described by football pundits around the world as the greatest final of all time. His story:

In the course of your life you can expect to experience extreme emotions from joy to despair and all shades in between. In the space of two hours on May 25, I witnessed a football game that reduced grown men to tears of pain and finally of joy. En route to Liverpool’s European Champions’ League Final in Istanbul, my mind drifted back to the start of


my first journey to a European Cup final in 1977 as a 16 year old. I recall standing on the platform at Liverpool Lime Street railway station, clutching my train ticket to Rome, a match ticket for the final and £10 in spending money. My dad had arranged for me to travel to the game with a school friend and his dad, who managed a pub in Toxteth, near the city centre.



The journey ended in a “fairy tale” 3-1 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach and I thought then I had witnessed the greatest final ever, with the legendary Tommy Smith heading home the third goal in classic “Roy of the Rovers” style. Fast forward to 2005. By now I had four European Cup finals under my belt and had experienced the barren years of the 1990s when Liverpool hit the doldrums. Apart from a stunning 5-4 win in the UEFA Cup final in 2001 against Alaves, the European cabinet in Liverpool’s trophy room was get-

The red army of some 35,000 fans did themselves proud and won the hearts of the football-mad locals, who joined in the fun, many wearing Liverpool shirts. The daily congregation of the massed Liverpool fans took place in Taksim Square where bemused local police officers looked on at the sea of red flags, banners and scarves draped from every available vantage point. New songs emerged celebrating the team’s illustrious past and the imminent final in Istanbul. Tradition was also maintained. The lilting “Fields of

45 minutes when AC Milan took Liverpool to the proverbial cleaners. We were 3-0 down, and without even a half-time cup of tea to console ourselves we Liverpool fans sat disconsolately, mulling over the long trip home empty-handed. Next to me, a young boy sobbed quietly. “It’s my fault,” said his dad. “Since he was very small I have told him about the European Cup wins of the 1970s and 1980s. I told him this is his chance to experience that glory in Istanbul. He is 10 years old. What can I say?”

Three lightning-quick goals had Milan rocking. It was 3-3 at full time. We then endured a nerve-racking period of extra time and a penalty shoot-out that pushed many fans to the brink of a coronary. Liverpool had come back from three goals down to win their fifth European Cup. ting a bit dusty. So to Istanbul... frantically arranged with only two weeks to organise tickets and accommodation following a dramatic semi-final win over Chelsea at Anfield. Following a frantic round of emails and phone calls we gathered together from the Liverpool diaspora, friends from exotic locations as far flung as Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Dubai and Penny Lane. We all managed to squeeze into a family-run guest house in Istanbul’s equivalent of Tuen Mun. Due to several major exhibitions, conferences and the cup final, the city’s hotels were full. The week was filled with long lunches sitting by the Bosphorous, enjoying the glorious weather and the warm hospitality of the Turks. We spent our mornings wandering around the historical wonders of Istanbul. We visited the awe-inspiring Hagia Sofia, the majestic Blue Mosque, the colourful spice-filled Grand Bazaar and Istanbul’s best-kept secret, the Archaeology Museum.


Anfield Road” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” could be heard drifting around the streets into the wee hours. The day of the final, AC Milan fans mingled freely with Liverpool supporters. Both clubs have a rich history in European competitions and a mutual respect prevailed during the week. Fans from both teams compared notes over a few beers with debates on the respective merits of Baresi, Maldini, Dalglish and Rush. Our journey to the brand new Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul took more than three hours, snaking through industrial parks and bleak housing estates on a single-track road. The stadium is a striking futuristic design set amid a lunar landscape and, despite the absence of food and beverages inside, both sets of fans rose to the occasion. Chatting with friends before the game, a 1-0 win to Liverpool seemed like a good bet, probably from the boot of the Reds’ talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard. Nothing had prepared us for the horror show witnessed in the first

“Who is your favourite player?” asked one man sitting in the row behind? “Gerrard” came the sullen reply from the boy.” “He’ll get one back and we’ll be back in the game,” the man said with a wink. During the half-time break, the Liverpool fans sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which echoed around the stadium much to the bemusement of the Milan fans. They were already relishing the prospect of lifting the trophy and an evening of celebration. Then came the six minutes that made football history. Liverpool’s Scouse skipper, Gerrard, started the revival. Three lightning-quick goals had Milan rocking. It was 3-3 at full time. We then endured a nerve-racking period of extra time and a penalty shoot-out that pushed many fans to the brink of a coronary. Liverpool had come back from three goals down to win their fifth European Cup. A glorious week, an unforgettable final and for me, a personal hope that any future finals will result in a good old boring 1-0 win for the Reds.



Caine Casts Off Journalist Paul Caine is about set off on an adventure that most of us can only dream about. He has quit his steady, if uninspiring, job in Hong Kong and is busy preparing his yacht in order to spend the next two years or so sailing to the Mediterranean. And that’s despite the fact that he’s less than an ideal sailor: he gets sea-sick. Jonathan Sharp reports.


t’s not as if he has the sea in his genes. Paul, who has just turned 40, started sailing only 10 years ago when he and his wife Anna took a couple of training courses in Ireland. They both enjoyed it. But it wasn’t until Paul moved to Hong Kong seven years ago and started crewing regularly out of Hebe Haven that he began to form the idea that he wanted (a) a boat and (b) one that could sail a long way. I met Paul in 1998 when he turned up at the Reuters bureau in Hong Kong, where I worked. He was a correspondent for an obscure Reuters subsidiary called Loan Pricing Corpo-

ration – so obscure in fact that most of us in the office had never heard of it. In 2000 he made the transition to Reuters proper, taking over from me the thankless task of filing editor, the person who is the last to look at copy before it’s sent to the wire. Subsequently he moved to a writing job as Senior Correspondent on the Investment Desk. But he decided that financial journalism was not for him and he left Reuters in May this year. “One thing that the last few years have definitely taught me is financial journalism is not really in my blood. I love journalism, but I didn’t get into


it to help people who are already rich make more money. The vagaries of the Hong Kong property market, or the international bond market, don’t really do it for me, try as I might.” Money, however, was definitely on Paul’s mind about five years ago when he was exploring the possibility of buying a fairly substantial yacht and more importantly, one that he could afford. He says it took about year to find the appropriate vessel, which was advertised for a toppish HK$800,000. Paul eventually paid HK$500,000, using a combination of his savings and money from a loan.


Media Travel

The steel-hulled boat, built in Australia in 1990, is an Adams 42, meaning it was designed by Joe Adams and is 42 feet long. As the hull had to be shipped from Australia in a 40-foot container, the front of the boat was cut off and welded back on when it reached its destination. The yacht, which bore the Aboriginal name Warrawilla, was fitted out at the Cheoy Lee boatyard, the one in Penny’s Bay which was bought out to make way for the new Disneyland. Paul reckons that he has spent a further HK$250,000 on Warrawilla to get it ready for his voyage, which is expected to start in early November and take him and Anna to, among many other places, the Philippines, Australia, across the Indian Ocean to South Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean and finally to somewhere, as yet undecided, in the Mediterranean. This venture of Paul’s may sound a touch hare-brained, not to mention foolhardy, particular as until a few years ago he had never ventured by sailing boat into the open seas. But he has thought everything through. He has a fine eye for detail (which helped to make him such a good filing editor). “It’s one thing to have a boat for sailing around Hong Kong. But if you want to go offshore, you have to be completely self-sufficient. You have to pretty much assume that you can cope with the worst that you’re going to encounter. So you have to upgrade the safety equipment on the boat. I’ve replaced all the rigging, all of the lines. I’ve got to put in an autopilot...just lots of things, which aren’t cheap but which you wouldn’t want to cruise a long distance without.” The dangers include not just the weather, but piracy and collisions with submerged objects, such as the many thousands of containers that fall off the back of ships each year and float undetectable by radar just under the sea surface. On this latter hazard, Paul says there is not much one can do. But one saving grace of his boat is its steel


hull. “One of the advantages of having a steel boat is that they tend to bend and dent, but they don’t hole very easily.” On the other hand a glass-fibre hull could suffer a “bloody great hole.” As for pirates, especially around the Philippines, Paul says he will limit the risk by keeping in close touch with the yachting community grapevine to find out where danger may lurk. However, as he says, most pirates attack commercial vessels and are not interested in private yachts. Paul says there’s a big debate in the cruising community over whether to carry firearms. He is inclined not to, saying he would rather be robbed than mistakenly shoot innocent people. One slightly unsettling episode occurred to him off San Fernando in the Philippines when a small boat approached his with three men clad in black and wearing black balaclavas. It transpired the three were ordinary fishermen who wore the balaclavas because they were cheaper than sun screen. The weather has become less of a peril in recent decades with the advent of satellite weather forecasting available on the internet. But, as Paul says, you can still get caught out. He and Anna were sailing back from the Philippines recently in apparently benign conditions when they were hit by a brief, but intense, weather front. In the space of five minutes an eightknot breeze transformed into a howling 45-knot gale and two- to threefoot waves rose to 10 feet. “We were lucky in that it only lasted about 15 minutes. But it was an eye-opener.” While Paul and Anna can, obviously, handle the boat by themselves, they are inviting fellow yachting friends to join them, particularly on the longer legs of the voyage so as to maintain a 24-hour watch to keep an eye out for traffic. Paul is compiling a list of 30 to 40 keen yachtsmen who, he hopes, will be prepared to take time off to sail on parts of the journey. The longest non-stop legs, he says, will be around 15 to 20 days. Other preparations include regis-

tering the boat in Britain, because as a UK vessel, the Falmouth Coast Guard will organise an entire rescue operation anywhere in the world. And how about that name Warrawilla? That’s going to change to Bogart (Humphrey was a keen yachtsman), partly because, as Paul says, “trying to make a Mayday call with that name (Warrawilla) is not easy.” And provisions? A lot of tinned stuff plus vegetables that stay fresh for a long time, such as alfalfa sprouts. Paul has discovered the interesting fact that eggs stay fresh for three to four weeks if they are smothered in Vaseline. As for alcohol, Paul says that the grand sailing tradition of sundowners will be observed. “It’s quite nice to have a vodka and tonic as the sun goes down. It fortifies you for the night ahead.” However it is the night ahead that Paul relishes most about blue-water sailing. He gets quite lyrical about the joys of sailing on a clear night, with no light pollution to interrupt the view of the night sky and with flying fish as company. “It can be incredibly beautiful.” But nice views are not the entire motivation behind this trip. Paul explains: “I really love being offshore. In the modern world there are very few situations that you can put yourself into where you have to be selfsufficient, and taking a boat offshore is one of them. “Sure, if something goes wrong, you can send off a signal and you might get rescued. But the fact is you have to proceed with the idea that you have to help yourself. I find that challenge interesting.” Less interesting is that for the first two to thee days of every voyage Paul gets sea-sick. “It sucks. It’s a pain in the arse.” Editor’s Note: Paul hopes to resume his journalistic career when he ends his voyage, writing for sailing magazines. Before that he has also promised to keep in touch with The Correspondent with updates on how the journey is going.


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The Pacific War


The Death Railway Yields its Secrets

Tourists at the Bridge on the River Kwai

To mark the 60th anniversary in September of the Japanese surrender in World War II, Vaudine England talked to self-confessed obsessive, Rod Beattie, who has spent years excavating and studying the Death Railway, and to retired New Zealand diplomat, John Ross, who recounts tales of war-time derring-do by the late Hong Kong taipan, Douglas Clague.


ourteen centimetres long, and almost four centimetres across at the flat end, the heavy rusting nail dates to around 1940 and hails from the Federated Malay States Railway. It is one of the objects unearthed by Rod Beattie from the Thai-Burma Death Railway, immortalised in the moving (but inaccurate) David Lean film, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, along with corroded mess tins, human bones, broken medicine bottles and more. “No one had ever done this before.

I was finding out things no one has found before,” he recalls. His early work has became part of what is now the Hellfire Pass Museum, opened in 1998. “My wife, Thuy, and I voluntarily cleared stretches of the railway and when the Australian government put some money in, I was contracted as project manager to build the museum at Hellfire Pass,” says Beattie, an Australian. Since then, Beattie, without any government help, has founded the


Thai-Burma Railway Centre, a pioneering and by far the best museum of the entire River Kwai saga. It looks over the main cemetery for fallen soldiers in the centre of the western Thai town of Kanchanaburi. One of Beattie’s jobs is to oversee the cemeteries for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. His consuming passion, however, is to pin down more facts and memories from one of the most horrific episodes of the War. For example, twice as many Asians


The Pacific War

as Westerners were forced on to the railway and many more Asians died. Precise numbers are impossible to compile. Instead of the neat attractive cemeteries laid out for POWs, the Asians are left in mass graves with no names, and little recognition from their own governments. Many memoirs concerning the Death Railway are readily available, comprising the recollections of surviving British, Australian and other western Prisoners of War (POWs). Less wellknown is the role of Asian labourers. “It was always my wish, my plan, to tell the comprehensive story of the Railway. Nationality, race, whatever, has nothing to do with it,” says Beattie, as he produces photographs of Asian labourers being paid by Japanese guards. One gripping memoir of the Railway, Ian Denys Peek’s One Fourteenth of an Elephant, hints at the dire straits many Asians found themselves in. He describes an occasion when he and fellow POWs were drafted in to help bury thousands of Asians. “What we see is utterly dreadful. The atmosphere is thick with pain and distress and the foul odours of human degradation and decay... Lying all over the place are bodies – stretched out flat on their backs, faces in the mud, collapsed into bushes, leaning against tree stumps, twisted in the contortions of a painful death...” wrote Peek. Beattie can fill in some of the gaps. Initially, large groups of labourers, particularly Tamils from Malaya, saw work on the railway as a good source of employment after the defeat of the British had left them in the lurch. They were promised contracts with pay and even encouraged to bring their families to the Thai-Burma border, with little hint of how bad things would get. Within months, voluntary recruitment had stopped and forced labour begun. An estimated 200,000 Asians became part of the slave workforce. Beattie explains that the main difference between the situation facing the Asian labourers and that suffered by Prisoners of War was the lat-


ter’s command structure. Desperate though the POWs’ plight was, many groups of former Allied soldiers kept a modicum of organisation, hierarchy and community spirit which directly helped them survive. “So when things went bad, with the workforce becoming sick and dying, the POWs had people responsible for caring for them, they had a cooking staff, they had field hospitals and so on,” says Beattie. By contrast, the Asians had no esprit de corps, having been recruited from all over the region. “The Asians were a great mass of individuals, they were disorganised, it was all grab as grab can, competing over food. Only the strongest could survive. Their conditions were more

recruited along with a few Ammanese from around Saigon (south Vietnam). Again, details are hazy. As for a couple of thousand ethnic Chinese, transported to the railway from Sinagpore, they received worse treatment from the Japanese than anyone else, says Beattie. Piecing together scant details is a labour of love for Beattie. “I was living here and working here in the gem business as a cutter and wholesaler. I had a lot of spare time, I could make an income from three days’ work a month,” he explains. “So I got personally interested in the railway and started exploring on my own and it just grew... and grew. I needed books, I got more knowledge, I started to meet people who

Rod Beattie with a model of the bridge unhygienic, more unhealthy,” says Beattie. The Tamils were stateless and leaderless and no one yet knows how many went to the railway, nor how many survived. It is known that about 190,000 Burmese were drafted for labour on the railway and set off on foot from Rangoon and Mandalay. Many gave up on the way. About 90,000 reported for work and about half of them died. A small number of Javanese were

wanted information and by then it had become compulsive. “Now there’s nothing I can do to stop myself doing this and luckily, my wife and three daughters accept it,” says Beattie, speaking in between hosting groups of former POWs who were visiting Kanchanaburi around the 60th anniversary of the Japanese surrender. A visit to Beattie’s museum should be the centrepiece of any visit to the rising tourist attraction of Kanchana-


Media The Pacific War

buri and the River Kwai. But many tour guides avoid it. Apparently the 60 minutes or so it takes to view the exhibits eats into time that could be more profitably employed shopping. Those visitors, however, are missing some fascinating insights. Take the little-known Dutch railway engineer Lt Col K.A. Warmenhoven, for example. When the War was over, Warmenhoven, says Beattie, “plonked down a rusty pistol and said [to the Japanese guards], I’m in charge!” He went on to run the railway for the next two years, talking to the Japanese engineers and taking notes, eventually compiling a large report on it all. This was sent to London sometime in 1947, and then disappeared. Decades later, Beattie got on its trail and managed to dredge it out of the British government’s vaults. Beattie has a whole room full of filing cabinets, old documents, photograhs and artetfacts, he discovered in the course of his research. In a store-room under the stairs, he has more piles of items, including a box of bomb fragments, a collection of engraved messages on tin boxes and a box of spikes, where the rusting Malay Rail nail came from. A key sub-plot emerging from POW accounts of the railway is how many of the officers failed to look after their men or to make much effort to improve their conditions. Confined in their own huts, not forced to work on the railway, they apparently failed even to visit their own sick, many POW accounts state. Then there’s the stories about POW repatriations. Most were sent home as quickly as possible but for the 10,000 or so Dutch, there was more to come. They were kept waiting, some for a year or more, before being sent on to fight in the so-called “Police Actions”, those failed efforts by the Dutch to regain their pre-war colony of the East Indies. Beattie, meanwhile, is busy mounting new displays at the museum (including a realistic field hospital), putting to use some of the first out-


side funding he has received (from the Dutch government), and helping people find out what really happened to their friends and loved ones. Current displays include an accurate model of the railway, light-up panels of all the POW camps along the route, rolling movies of recollections, samples of the woodwork involved, graphs of the human cost, and a powerful statue called “Two Malarias and a Cholera”.

This depicts three POWs – the cholera victim is the weakest, being held up by the two malaria victims – displaying all the pathos, pain and humanity on trial which marks this period of the War. Informative displays explain not only the railway-building process – Beattie was once a civil engineer – but human stories of survival and death in during one of the darkest periods of the 20th century.

A Risky Path T he POWs held in Thailand when Tokyo surrendered, feared the Allied victory would herald their massacre at the hands of humiliated Japanese soldiers. It was not to be. On August 27, 1945, a 28-year-old British officer who went on to become a visionary Hong Kong tycoon, Lt Col Douglas Clague, accepted the surrender of the Japanese in Bangkok. A rescue effort he designed, code-named Operation Swansong, then helped secure the safe release of 30,000 POWs held in what was then Siam. “The situation in Thailand following the [Japanese] Emperor’s broadcast to his far-flung armies on 15 August, 1945 ordering an end to hostilities, was volatile and full of unknowns. For a start there was no guarantee that the Japanese would actually surrender – it was hardly in their tradition to do so,” says John Ross, a retired New Zealand diplomat and former colleague of Clague. Initial assumptions that Allied advancing armies would liberate POW camps along their route gave way, by mid-August 1945, to Operation Swan-

song. The plan involved dropping six teams from the shadowy E Group, each comprising an officer and a radio operator, in the vicinity of the major camps and for Clague to attempt to establish a controlling headquarters in Bangkok. E Group was a clandestine organisation concerned with escape and evasion, and worked with the British and American subversive warfare organisations, Force 136 and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), both of which had people in Thailand training and equipping the Thai underground. With people and planes in place for the rescue to begin, suddenly a major hitch occurred: “Out of the blue [US General Douglas] MacArthur ordered that there were to be no Allied landings in Japanese-occupied territories until after the official ceremony of surrender in Tokyo Bay on 2 September, thus at a stroke condemning the POWs to at least a further two weeks’ imprisonment under Japanese control,” reports Ross. “The outrage this caused at the operational level, with Duggie Clague’s voice well to the fore, led [British

“There was no guarantee that the Japanese would actually surrender – it was hardly in their tradition to do so.”


The Pacific War Media

Admiral Louis] Mountbatten eventually to allow the operation to proceed, but only on a covert basis.” So the parachute drops of E Group teams went ahead. “My own role in Swansong was to be dropped due west of Bangkok into an OSS detachment near Kanchanaburi in the vicinity of which were two large POW camps, one at Kanchanaburi itself and the other at Tamuang,” says Ross. “Our orders were to contact the camps as soon as we could ‘to prevent if possible massacre by the Japanese and to set the prisoners free’.” Meanwhile Clague, unable to parachute due to a back injury, was flown to a remote airstrip in north Thailand. “Clague was then spirited into Bangkok from Don Muang airport in a Thai Army staff car provided by Pridi Phanomyong, the Regent of Thailand. Pridi was one of Mountbatten’s agents as well, and was codenamed Ruth,” says Hong Kong historian and Clague’s authorised biographer, Jason Wordie. “Clague was saluted by the Japanese all the way into Bangkok – they thought he was one of the Regent’s people as the car was flying his flag.” Victor Jacques, a lawyer in pre-war Bangkok who had joined Force 136, helped Clague meet the Thai military and senior POW officers. Clague then swept into Japanese headquarters on August 27, 1945. “Acting on his own initiative – the ban on contact with the Japanese had not yet been rescinded – Clague met the Japanese command, who were, in the words of E Group’s war history, ‘visibly shaken’ to learn that E Group parties were already poised outside the camps. They agreed however to all Clague’s demands which included instructing prison commandants to allow E Group teams free access to the camps,” says Ross. Ross arrived at Tamuang camp, which held over 5,000 POWs, and presented himself to the senior British Officer. “I was led into a bamboo office where a thin grey-haired colonel was


sitting at a rickety table. I saluted as smartly as I could, introduced myself and explained my mission. He said: ‘for three and a half years we have been waiting for this day’, and we shook hands. “We drew up a wish-list of supplies ranging from penicillin to communion wine... The reply came in smartly to the effect that the firm of Clague and Pierce [Clague’s second in command] was not repeat not Marks and Spencer and that we must make do with the standard drop,” says Ross. The legendary Australian surgeon “Weary” Dunlop had joined Clague’s hard-pressed team and typically refused to leave Thailand until the

development in the 1950s and 60s of what is now the Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate, controlled by Li Kashing. Clague oversaw expansion of the group from one to 400 trading companies to Hong Kong’s third largest “hong” or corporate trading house after Jardine Matheson and Swire. He became a member of the Urban, Legislative and Executive Councils and was the visionary behind the CrossHarbour Tunnel and the Shatin race course. He was chairman of the Jockey Club and the longest-serving chairman of the Housing Society (hence the Clague Gardens Estate in Tsuen Wan). Over-confident expansion in the early 1970s, exacerbated by the oil

“Our orders were to contact the camps as soon as we could ‘to prevent if possible massacre by the Japanese and to set the prisoners free’.” last Australian had been evacuated. Edwina Mountbatten, wearing her Red Cross hat, visited officers and men in a major boost to morale. “By now all the camps had been taken over without incident and it was clear that the fears we had entertained beforehand were not going to be realised,” Ross says. E Group had been the first unit in the South East Asia Command to contact a Japanese army headquarters. Ross reckons it was all thanks to Clague who, by any standards, was a bold young man. Clague had escaped from a Hong Kong POW camp into China in April 1942 where he took command of one branch of the British Army Aid Group close to the border with occupied Hong Kong. After the war, he went on to carve out a stunning Hong Kong career. He joined the family firm of John D Hutchison and Co in 1947, then controlled by the Pearce and Cassidy families. He later became taipan of Hutchison International. Clague led the massive growth and

price shock and worldwide economic crunch of 1973-76, caused a loss of support for Clague at the company’s major creditor, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. His position as deputy chairman of the bank did not help and the company was eventually sold at a “friendship price” to Li Ka-shing, then an-up-and coming local tycoon, who went on to put much of Clague’s financial blueprint into practice. Clague resigned from business in 1976 and died of cancer, aged 64, in 1981. It was a less than glorious end to what had been a spectacularly brave military career and inspired business career The definitive book, M19 Escape and Evasion 1939-45, authored by M.R.D. Foot and J.M. Langley, concluded: “Douglas Clague, more or less singlehandedly, overawed the Japanese in Siam and secured the surviving prisoners’ prompt release.” As for his business epitaph, history will probably judge Clague more positively than the risk-adverse bankers of the 1970s. – VE


Wateringxxxxx Holes


L-R: Tong and Bob Tilley with Kees Metselaar

Destination Thailand In this issue of The Correspondent, absent member Vaudine England reports from two media-related watering holes in Thailand: the Writer’s Club and Wine Bar in Chiang Mai and the FCC Thailand in Bangkok.

Dateline: Chiang Mai


onversation rambled over how Robert Tilley pitched up in Chiang Mai from Berlin and Britain. Tong, his smart, soft-spoken partner, was serving ham and asparagus, and rain was gushing down on the streets of Chiang Mai’s old town outside. Then one drinker at the convivial Writer’s Club and Wine Bar wondered out loud if people end up with the governments they deserve. We’d all heard the quote somewhere, and

some brutal analysts have tried to apply it to Burma, always a hot subject in northern Thailand. Thanks to Bob Tilley however, we were all able to clarify the thought at last, no mean feat as the generous drinks took hold. Ignoring the internet, Bob brought out several fusty volumes from the shelves under the ceiling fan near the rattan couch in the back. The first confirmed the quote:


“Every country has the government it deserves”. But who said this and when? The not uneducated crowd at the bar was stumped. Suggestions ranged from Hegel to Churchill, from Kissinger to Bismarck. But no. The answer was Joseph de Maistre, (1753-1821). Another book consultation later and Bob could tell us all: de Maistre was a French diplomat and political philosopher. He thought the Pope was the centre of the world, and rather fancied ordered theocracy as a way of rule. He penned his thought about governments we deserve in 1811, while he was the King of Sardinia’s ambassador to St Petersburg. Obscure? Undoubtedly. This is not the sort of delicious conversation one expects to stumble over as a stranger in town, when it’s dark outside and the rain is beating down. And if you are after a more contemporary take on what’s happening in northern Thailand – gossip about illegal border trades, where to get the best noodles, and who really did what to whom in media-related sagas gone by – this is the place. That’s because Bob is not only a charming host, but his friends and regulars include old friends of FCCs from Manila to Bangkok to Hong Kong, such as Rodney Tasker, now resident in Chiang Mai, and Bertil Lintner, long resident in the north. Sadly Bertil was exploring Iceland at the time of my visit. But Rodney was in fine form, and other bar regulars include scribes on the half-dozen or so magazines produced in and around Chiang Mai, along with other residents or frequent visitors to the north of the country. Bob promises not only a good yarn – his journalist past includes roving for the Sunday Telegraph and writing travel books – but a feisty drink. Once he’d been educated about liquor shot sizes early on in his bar-owning career by a thirsty Russian officer, he took an important decision which has no doubt affected many livers since: his regular drinks offer not single shots of liquor but one-and-a-half size shots. His gin and tonics are something else. As for the wine, it had the texture


Watering Holes

of velvet and was priced like cotton sacking. Chiang Mai is perhaps the only city that makes Bangkok look expensive. A “glass” of wine which comes in a small carafe and is actually about three glasses, costs a mere 100 baht (about HK$20). The food is similarly tasty, cheap and stress-free. Contacts, no doubt through Tong, keep up a steady supply of fresh farmers’ produce – venison, wild boar, home-made cheeses and pickles, plus avocado, shrimp – and then some clues to Bob’s past lives – fish and chips and Nuremberg sausages also feature on the menu. Bob and Tong take Saturdays off, closing the bar while they slumber upstairs. Otherwise it’s open midday to midnight. On Sundays, a still-growing “Walking Street”, or street market, on surrounding roads provides a delightful prelude to a fresh start to the week. Though not formally linked to the network of FCC reciprocal clubs (yet?), the Writers’ Club has become Chiang Mai’s unofficial press club since it opened its doors in December 2003. It also hosts two groups of writers: the informal “Scribblers” meet on the second Wednesday of every month; the more formal “Wordsmiths” meet on the last Wednesday. The Writers’ Club and Wine Bar is found between an outdoor (thus respectable) massage parlour on one side, and a spate of lesser bars on the other, in the middle of the main road through the old Chiang Mai city centre. The address is 141/3 Rachadamnoen Road, Tambon Phra Singh, Amphoemuang, Chiang Mai. If you get lost, call Bob on 01-928 2066 VAUDINE ENGLAND



A night at the FCC Thailand

Dateline: Bangkok


ew long-time members of the FCC Hong Kong are strangers to its counterpart in Bangkok, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Thailand (FCCT), but how many know much about its colourful past? Members of the FCCT have long kept a close eye on – and even had a hand in – the making of history. In 2003, that was true, literally, when the carved hand of Saddam Hussein, mysteriously abstracted from a fallen statue in Baghdad, appeared on the FCCT bar. It’s also true each year when the Thai prime minister de jour usually joins us for an evening of verbal parry and thrust. The habit of using the bar as a place to mull over world events goes back to the FCCT’s founding in 1956. It all began on Patpong, almost 50 years ago. After World War II and the Japanese surrender, many newly arriving correspondents and diplomats stayed at the then Ratanakosin Hotel and found their centre of gravity at the Cathay Cabaret down on Rajadamnoen Avenue. When the lack of a decent martini became desperate, three men founded the Silver Palm Club, a nightclub serving good food and drinks. They were Jorges Orgibet, founder of the Bangkok

Post, Alex MacDonald and Willis H. Bird. But that lease on Suriwongse lasted only three years, so a hard core of journalists started to gather in the rooms of Mizu’s Kitchen, which is still in business today. One entirely affectionate and enduring rumour has it that the tablecloths there haven’t been changed for several decades. Life member and former Club President Denis Gray reports that Orgibet, who went on to co-found the FCCT, had arrived in Bangkok with US troops following World War II and never left. He was among the regulars at Mizu’s, along with MacDonald. In his memoir, From Siam to Thailand, Orgibet names other cofounders of the FCCT as Alex Wu, then Chinese editor at the United States Information Service and later chief of the PANA bureau, and Prasong Wittaya, chief of the UP (later United Press International) bureau. MacDonald had links to the US Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. In the mid-1970s, the FCCT established its own premises in its most glamorous location ever, the Oriental Hotel. Members gathered in a stately, wood-panelled clubhouse by the riverside garden, a venue now replaced by the hotel’s new wing.


It became the place to go. At a time As the FCCT’s visitor’s book attests, when the expat community was a frac- the Club has welcomed many distintion of its current size, everyone knew guished guests over the years, includeverybody and it was the best place in ing the late president of Pakistan, town to exchange news, gossip – and Zia ul-Haq, Cambodia’s King Sihaintelligence. Spies from the PHOTO: KEES METSELAAR Western and Soviet bloc found the Club a great place to try to wheedle out information from one another. The turning point in the Club’s history came in 1975. Bangkok became a regional news centre and watch post following the Communist victories in neighbouring Indochina. Reporters previously stationed in Saigon, Phnom The FCC Thailand Penh and Vientiane found a new home in the Thai capital. nouk, foreign and finance ministers, During one of many coups to army commanders from Thailand and bedevil Thailand in the 1970s, minis- around the world, ambassadors, artter Thanat Khoman happened to be ists, the Dalai Lama, Nobel prize wingiving a luncheon speech at the Club ners, and more. when he got a phone call giving him Some veteran members say the word about yet another regime over- Club was more exciting in the good throw. He promptly broke the news to old days, which only goes to show all present and continued his talk. that it’s been a part of many a wild Colourful characters who fre- youth. Happily too, women members quented the Club in the 1970s and now no longer form a brave minority. 1980s included the late Maxine North, “There’s the impression these days glamorous founder of Polaris Water, that everyone can link up through combusiness whiz kid Bill Heinecke (a Life puter screens but it isn’t possible. We’ve Member) and the distinguished late had fun here, and some brawls, and TV war correspondent, Neil Davis. some of the best jazz in town. Another When new clubrooms were estab- good reason to join is you get to know lished at the Oriental Plaza, next to the who’s who. It’s all information,” said hotel in 1981, the FCCT was opened by long-time fan, Ole Olson, who joined Her Royal Highness Crown Princess during the Club’s Oriental days. Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Events are held most Wednesday That was when the tradition of nights (and occasionally on other prime ministers addressing the FCCT nights) focusing on current affairs and began. The most popular among them featuring news makers and analysts, was certainly Kukrit Pramoj, Thai- heads of state and political prisoners, land’s flamboyant, mercurial Renais- activists and artists. Movie nights are sance man, who made several visits. becoming regular occurences. Friday One of the best attended and most nights are popular with live jazz and a unforgettable events ever occurred busy bar. The FCCT also arranges wine when Kukrit brought his entire tra- appreciation nights and malt whisditional Thai dance troupe, in full ky tastings, and offers an improving costume, and presented extracts from menu of Thai and Western food. There the Ramayana. He stood alongside the is also a growing and enthusiastic golf performers on the stage, pointing out section. If you are planning a visit, the meaning of the moves and ges- check out its website at http://www. tures of the dancers. for details.



Lives Remembered

Jack Spackman


t a meeting of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in the old Singapore Hotel in Wanchai in 1972, a newly arrived South African reporter gestured to a scrawny figure passionately addressing the gathering. “Who’s that?” asked the new boy. “That’s Jack,” someone replied, sipping an icy San Miguel. “Who’s he?” “He’s the second best chairman in China.” He was, too. Jack Spackman had almost single-handedly founded the association in 1968. But he often said over a quiet beer that the aim was to get the expatriates, himself first if possible, off the committee and see young Chinese take up the cause. Jack’s vision came to be. For many years now, local journalists have run the organisation with distinction, including journalist-turned-legislator Emily Lau who cut her political milk-teeth leading the HKJA in its battle to defend freedom of expression. Memories of Jack were swapped over the Main Bar recently after his death in California, aged 70. Jack, an FCC member for many years, was a master of the journalist’s craft. Born in outback New South Wales, he worked on small country papers before moving on to dailies in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Arriving on a stop-over in Hong Kong in 1967 at the height of the Cultural Revolution and the war in Vietnam, Jack and wife Maggie, also an Australian reporter, decid-


ed to stay. Their family swelled in Hong Kong, their careers progressed but their marriage was to end in divorce. Jack later married Michelle Liu Ling with whom he worked on a computer magazine he edited. Spackman was a garrulous, energetic, positive individual with a laugh like a demented hyena. He was propelled by belief; as an Australian republican socialist, he saw

many injustices in Hong Kong life and in particular believed that young men and women striving to be idealistic journalists were treated with disdain. This was one of the reasons he worked so hard to get the HKJA off the ground. He had many jobs. He was once, in the early 1970s, made business editor of the now defunct China

Mail. He cheerfully admitted he knew nothing about this specialised area of journalism but as a highly competent reporter he covered it with distinction. When he got the job, I gave him a book called “How to Bluff Your Way in Finance”. Jack let out a whoop topped with his distinctive laugh. “Thanks, mate,” he said with genuine gratitude. When he founded the Journalists Association he was regarded with mistrust. It was an era when Hong Kong business regarded any workers’ grouping as potential dangerous communist agitators. And any worker who demanded fair working conditions and better pay was got to be an extremely dangerous militant! Jack managed to calm these fears. After all, how could someone who was business editor of a respected newspaper be an industrial saboteur? The HKJA today has 400 members and speaks for staff of most of the mainstream press. Jack was financial editor on the China Mail in 1974 when the proprietors, who were also the owners of TVB and the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, decided to close down the oldest newspaper in China. Staff members, some of them the most dedicated and hardworking in town, were outraged. Stabbed in the back, they felt they were being sacrificed by grasping Big Business which felt nothing for journalism. Most reporters in Hong Kong, myself included,


From Zelda Cawthorne in Melbourne, Australia


felt these beliefs were 100 per cent correct. Jack led a day-long sit-in in the nearby South China Morning Post office and in lengthy later negotiations with the owners managed to squeeze a better deal for the staff. Jack Spackman was a newspaperman to the core but that did not stop him branching out into the entrepreneurial magazine arena, mostly dealing with computers and high-tech in an era when IT was unknown. He had a bit of money, but not much. He helped pioneer talkback radio in Hong Kong, then, typically, sacked himself in a fit of rage, announcing on air that he was quitting. In 1986, Liu Ling and her family migrated to California. Jack, somewhat reluctantly but pulled by the bonds of love, followed. In California he returned to his roots as an old-fashioned newspaperman in an era of young idealists. His extraordinary competence got him a job and those same qualities kept him there until the week of his death. In his last months he was confined to a wheelchair, having lost the use of and all sensation in his legs. He was receiving chemotherapy for prostate cancer and was due to start another course of radiation therapy. He died however, of pneumonia, peacefully with his wife Liu Ling at his side on August 25. He is survived by Liu Ling, daughters, Maria and Sophia, and many friends. – Kevin Sinclair


couple of nights ago, I was washing the dinner dishes and in the middle of that humdrum activity, found myself thinking about Jack Spackman. Today, my long-time Hong Kong friend Bill Yim phoned to say Jack had just died in San Francisco. Coincidence? Maybe. Back in the early 1970s, Jack was features editor at the South China Morning Post when I was women’s editor. I can see him at that adjoining desk, all skinny, hyperenergy, leering grin and cackling laugh, as if it were yesterday. What a pro. And what a letch. “You must be a lesbian,” Jack grumbled one time when I rebuffed him after he muttered some hot innuendo in my shocked ear. How disgraceful! I was six months’ pregnant at the time. Darling Jack. He was a terrific journalist, loved taking the piss and never showed the slightest signs of growing up. “G’day, Zel,” he’d say every morning at work. G’day, Jack, wherever you are.

From David Baird in Spain


ld journos may die but memories of them don’t fade away. Rarely can this be more evident than in the case of Jack Spackman, recently deceased in California. Apart from being a first-rate newshound, Jack did more than almost anybody to improve conditions for Hong Kong journalists, particularly badly exploited Chinese journalists. Aided by his wife Margaret, he founded the Hong Kong Journalists Association at a time when local publishers held Neanderthal views about anything so subversive as an employees’ association (forget about unions). Those were the days when local manufacturers hit the roof because workers were given the right to four days off in a month. From my time working with Jack on the China Mail in the late 60s, I remember his irreverent wit and keen news sense. But mostly I remember his indomitable spirit. Though dogged by ill-health, he never surrendered to it. Several times when playing squash with him, I waited for the ball to be returned only to hear faint wheezing sounds behind me. Jack had collapsed to the floor, gasping for breath. Yet, despite suffering severe asthma, he never let it restrict his activities. He was as thin as a rake but his energy was amazing. As well as being an example to all young journos, Jack Spackman was a great Aussie battler in the best sense of the word.


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Out of Context

What this member gets up to at the Club Table

My Paid Hobby SCMP columnist Jake van der Kamp talks to Jonathan Sharp


t’s noon and Hong Kong columnist Jake van der Kamp has received only three e-mails in response to his piece that day in the South China Morning Post. Two are supportive. It’s a thin crop. Penned in his usual forthright style, he had laid into some of the teachers at the English Schools Foundation, excoriating them for whingeing about cuts in pay and perks. He’s anticipating, however, an after-class spate of responses. “I think I can expect eight to 10 tomorrow,” he says cheerfully. Jake reckons to get about 40 to 50 e-mails a day in direct response to his fivetimes-weekly opinion pieces in the SCMP’s Business Post, articles hammered out on an ageing IBM laptop on the FCC Club Table to the accompaniment of “too many” cups of coffee. While some make valuable contributions to the item in hand, a number of responses miss the point by a country mile. Others are completely unrelated to the content of his articles. Some are, to put it mildly, intemperate, penned by the e-equivalent of the green-ink brigade. This comes as no surprise to Jake in light of some of his provocative views. “Some of them really scream and shout but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. That’s water off a duck’s back.” The ones that sting are those pointing to an error, but Jake, who openly acknowledges he is not short on ego, reckons that the occasions he has to say “ouch” are rare. So where does this boundless confidence spring from? Having


made a pile helps. Jake, a Canadian of a Dutch origin, arrived in Hong Kong in 1979. He spent two years working on the Business News section of the Post before making the

upon the research director of the broking house that sponsored the offering. He had one question for me – ‘If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich’?” “Because you haven’t offered me a job,” I told him. “Want one?” he asked. “Come along to my office this afternoon. “I did and that launched me into finance.” Twenty or so years later, Jake’s lucrative financial career stalled. During the Asian financial crisis, he made a somewhat optimistic forecast about where the Hang Seng index would stand in six months’ time (Jake’s call: 16,000, reality: 6,000). As a relaxed Jake recalls: “In the stockbroking industry, if you’re meant to make the big call, you’re meant to put your head on the line and occasionally your head gets chopped off. There’s no hard feelings about it.” So he cashed in his shares in the brokerage and decided it was time to have some fun. Being cushioned financially helped. In Jakes’s case, his early Hong Kong roots in journalism beckoned. “What job could possibly be more fun than being asked to write 700 argumentative words every day on whatever takes your fancy? I think of it in one way as a retirement hobby and some days it is that, some days more of a grind. “Essentially it’s a paid hobby, and I like the pay. But I’ve never absolutely relied on it and I think that’s one of the strengths of writing an opinion column.”

‘In the stockbroking industry, if you’re meant to make the big call, you’re meant to put your head on the line and occasionally your head gets chopped off.’


leap to the other side in characteristic Jake style. “In my case, I had just trashed a new offering of stock in a piece I had written for the SCMP and, walking through Central that morning, chanced



The Correspondent, September - October 2005  

The Official On-line Publication of the Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong

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