Entry-level Sonos speakers pack a punch

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Sonos make stylish, high-quality wireless speakers at prices that have generally restricted them to people with large wallets.

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The new Play:1 hopes to change that.

It’s an entry-level model that, at $299 a pop, provides the Sonos system for hundreds of dollars cheaper than ever before.

The system works like this: you plug a gadget called the Bridge ($75) into your internet router and then plug-in the speakers anywhere you have a power point, creating a wireless link throughout.

You then download the Sonos app on your smartphone, tablet or computer, and play your music through any or all of the speakers.

You can play a single track throughout your entire house – great if you’re hosting a party – or choose to play, for example, one track in your bedroom, another in your kitchen and loungeroom, and another in the bathroom.

The Play:1 speakers are simple to set up and though they are the smallest Sonos have offered, manage to pump out excellent sound.

Put one on your bookshelf and it will displace only four or five small books, while filling all but the biggest rooms with rich sound.

The minimalist design – wrap-around silver mesh capped with black or white plastic – means it will blend in nicely around the home.

The Play:1 is, however, a mono speaker, meaning that if you want true stereo sound in a given room, you’ll need a pair.

You can choose to play music from your own library, or choose from Sonos’ impressive line-up of supported streaming services, which includes Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Songl, and several others.

One slight niggle is that the system can only be controlled via the Sonos app. You can’t, for example, open a podcasting app and tell it to play via Sonos speakers, as you can with some Bluetooth speakers.

Another is that Sonos speakers do not offer a battery option, meaning you can only place them where you have a spare powerpoint.

It’s a trade-off, however. Competing Bluetooth speakers have less range and generally weaker sound, and are liable to drop out mid-song.

If you’re after entry-level wireless speakers that provide good, solid sound for casual listening, the Play:1 is a reliable and stylish option.

But they only make sense if you’re planning a broader wireless system for your home, incorporating several of the Play:1 speakers or other speakers in the Sonos range.

If you’re after a single wireless speaker for one room, a Bluetooth option such as the $200 JBL Charge is probably a better option.

Shark kill policy to go on, despite threat

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Threats to the safety of fishermen being paid to kill sharks for the West Australian government has forced Premier Colin Barnett to order his own Fisheries officers to carry out the controversial catch and kill policy instead.

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The anger against the WA government’s creation of a 1km kill zone full of baited hooks off the coast has become so heated that personal threats have been made towards Fisheries Minister Ken Baston, and the firms who tendered for the right to patrol as government “shark sheriffs”.

The threats were deemed so serious the firm that won the contract to monitor Perth beaches has pulled out and WA police have been informed.

Mr Baston confirmed on Monday that a government boat staffed with Fisheries officers will do the job instead, to begin within weeks.

“That particular tender pulled out because of the worry of threats to him and his family, so now we will use the Department of Fisheries to have a boat available and so we are putting that together,” Mr Baston said.

“I would say that will happen within a matter of weeks.

“Everyone is entitled to peaceful action, but when people make personal threats on people’s lives then that is appalling, and that is a police matter.”

The other potential fishermen who applied for the contract were not successful, and would not be offered the contract, Mr Baston said.

Despite the threats, he said fisheries officials were happy to do the work.

“Anyone is worried about a security threat, and of course everyone is taking it seriously,” Mr Baston said.

The WA shark policy has prompted a furious reaction from environmental activists, who have said they will take direct action against the drumlines, and those who operate them.

Activist Simon Peterffy denied any threats had been made by those in his Marine Response Unit organisation.

“The government has no-one to put these drumlines out in the water for them,” Mr Peterffy said.

“These campaigns have scared these fishermen, and they don’t want to be seen culling these marine animals.”

Azarenka advances, Sharapova exits in Melbourne

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A day after Ana Ivanovic’s stunning upset of Williams blew open the top half of the draw, third seed Sharapova was also scratched from the title race with a 3-6 6-4 6-1 loss to Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova.

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Hindered by a hip niggle, the 2008 champion admitted that the year’s first grand slam had probably come a little early after she missed the U.S. Open and back end of last season with a shoulder injury.

“I certainly would have loved to play a little bit more before playing a grand slam, but this is the chance that I was given,” the Russian said.

“It’s tough. I will be genuine about it. It’s never easy (but) it’s moments like this that ultimately shape you and make you who you are, and that’s how you bounce back.”

Men’s top seed Rafa Nadal knows plenty about coming back from injury and he was in action later on Monday against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

The Spaniard’s fellow members of the “Big Four”, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, will also be out to seal their places in the quarter-finals. The final member of the quartet, Novak Djokovic, secured his last eight-berth on Sunday.

As the only surviving top three seed left in the women’s draw, Azarenka looks to be running out of serious challengers as she charts her course towards a third successive title.

Her 6-3 6-2 victory over Sloane Stephens had none of the edge of last year’s semi-final, when the Belarusian took a medical timeout after blowing five match points, and she sealed a comfortable win in 91 minutes.

CHIPS AND SALSA

Despite taking a ball at full force in the groin – “I thought she was going to move and she didn’t,” said Stephens – the second seed said she could not have felt more at home on Rod Laver Arena.

“I just love playing here. It feels so cosy. It feels like I’m in my living room, on my couch,” she said.

“I can have some chips and salsa – that’s how it feels.”

The second seed denied that the departure of Williams and Sharapova left her and last year’s losing finalist Li Na as favourites for the title.

“I don’t consider anybody as the favourite, I just go out there and play my best,” she said.

“We’ve seen over the last couple of days that somebody can bring their best game on any given day. You have to stay alert.”

Defeat for Stephens ended all American interest in the singles before the quarter-final for the second time in four years in Melbourne but the 20-year-old said she would be back.

“You just go out and do your best,” she said. “Unfortunately I didn’t win today, but there will be others.”

Next up for Azarenka is the winner of the final match of the day between fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska and rising Spanish talent Garbine Muguruza.

Cibulkova’s reward for beating Sharapova is a quarter-final against Simona Halep, who crouched down and let out a huge roar after a crunching forehand winner gave her a 6-4 2-6 6-0 victory over eighth seed Jelena Jankovic.

The Romanian was named most improved player on the women’s tour last year after winning six tournaments and has been in impressive form on her way to her first appearance in the last eight at a grand slam.

“There’s no pressure on me so I can just enjoy the quarter-finals,” she said. “It’s my chance, and I have to fight for it.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Navratilova: I want to coach

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Tennis great Martina Navratilova has revealed she would like to join the ranks of the “super coaches” that have flooded the men’s game.

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In a move likely to get her phone ringing, Navratilova said she could make a great contribution to the game at the elite level where she dominated for so long.

Speaking at the Australian Open where she is playing in the legends event, Navratilova revealed her desire to join Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Chang and the like as a professional coach.

“I’ve had some possibilities but nothing specific yet,” said the former world No.1.

“I love coaching and I love helping people at whatever level.”

“I think my biggest contribution would be at the top level because I’ve been there, done that.”

“I’m sure that (calls) will come, and I’ll be helping somebody on the court, sitting in the box, sweating it out.”

Navratilova was open to all possibilities, saying the person was more important than age or gender.

“It could be a man or a woman. It doesn’t matter if the mix is right,” she said.

“You have to get along emotionally, you have to like each other as people and feel that you can help.”

Navratilova said she was happy commentating for the Tennis Channel but she was “sure it (coaching) will happen eventually”.

The 18-time grand slam winner said she was sure current world No.1 Serena Williams, currently with 17 majors, would overtake her haul if she stayed fit despite her early exit from this year’s Open.

“She’s 32, her body failed her a little bit this week but if she stays healthy they’re no doubt in my mind she’ll go into 20 plus numbers in grand slams,” she said.

“She is still the biggest competitor out there.”

“And she’s fresh, she hasn’t played as many matches as I had at that age.”

Navratilova threw down the gauntlet to the next generation of players to give Williams the challenge and the rivalry she deserves.

“She’s not lacking anything. It’s the other players that are lacking the ability to give her the rivalry,” she said.

“The younger generation hasn’t quite caught up. When I was 32, Steffi Graf was No.1,” she said.

“She doesn’t have the Steffi Graf on her heels.”

Navratilova named Eugenie Bouchard, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens as future stars and particularly praised young Spaniard Garbine Muguruza as “definitely” one to challenge in future.

Foreigners could jump queue in Qld plan

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Immigrants and refugees could have their visas fast-tracked if they agree to live in regional Queensland.

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The state could even up its intake under the proposal designed to alleviate pressure on the booming southeast.

Townsville, Rockhampton and Cairns have been earmarked for areas of future migrant growth, but only if the federal government commits to invest in more regional infrastructure.

While the nuts and bolts of the plan are yet to be fleshed out, Premier Campbell Newman has already discussed several strategies with federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

“It could be that if you want to come to Australia, you might be on a certain waiting list … maybe you could get bumped up the queue if you go and spend at least five years in a regional city in Queensland, a regional town,” Mr Newman said.

The governments would work with councils to influence where immigrants and refugees go.

Townsville mayor Jenny Hill warns that without job opportunities, the proposal could encourage ghettos.

Mount Isa mayor Tony McGrady says attracting more people to regional towns and cities is paramount.

However, education facilities such as English language courses and better infrastructure would be needed if there was an influx of immigrant arrivals to regional areas.

Local Government Minister David Crisafulli says infrastructure and jobs would have to be guaranteed.

“Regional Queensland has been thirsty for this for a generation, it is our opportunity to deliver,” he said.

“There is a world outside of Brisbane.”

About 100,000 overseas immigrants move to Queensland each year.

Currently about 65 per cent of Queensland’s population lives in the southeast, taking in Brisbane and the Gold and Sunshine coasts.

But the Newman government is aiming to have half the state’s populating living outside the southeast by 2043.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says the plan is nothing new, with 20 per cent of humanitarian entries already going to the regions.

“We also need jobs in the regions, but all this government has done is sack jobs and sack services,” she said.

Comment has been sought from Mr Morrison.

Tottenham’s Sherwood knows only fourth will do

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Sherwood has secured maximum points from visits to Swansea, Manchester United and Southampton, while Spurs also won Villas-Boas’s final two road trips to Sunderland and Fulham, the first time the club has achieved the feat since their famous league and FA Cup winning season over 50 years ago.

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Despite making an encouraging start since surprisingly being appointed on a 18-month contract in December, 44-year-old Sherwood knows nothing but a top four finish will be good enough for the club’s notoriously tough chairman Daniel Levy.

“It’s been good,” he told reporters after the win which took Spurs to 43 points, eight behind leaders Arsenal.

“We know there are going to be tougher tests ahead, but it’s been a good start for me. If the season were to end tomorrow I don’t think the chairman would be too happy because we are fifth.

“The final league position has to meet the expectation of the club otherwise it’s ‘goodbye Charlie’.”

“The club needs to finish in fourth place, we want to finish in fourth place. Anything other than that will be a disappointment but realistically we should be in amongst it.”

Sherwood has been praised for bringing back a more attacking style and abandoning Villas-Boas’s preferred method of playing with a single striker, in favour of a traditional 4-4-2 formation.

He reverted to 4-5-1 on Sunday to great effect, with Christian Eriksen free to roam and striker Emmanuel Adebayor scoring twice, either side of Chico Flores’s own goal.

Adebayor had played only 45 minutes under Villas-Boas this season, but since being brought back into the fold under Sherwood the Togo international has helped spark Spurs into life, scoring five league goals in the past six matches, as many as Roberto Soldado has managed all season.

Keeping Adebayor happy and in form will be crucial to Tottenham’s hopes of staying in contention for a top four spot, but Sherwood played down his impact on the 29-year-old’s resurgence.

“I haven’t said anything to him, I have just given him the stage to play on – he hadn’t had that stage for a while,” Sherwood said.

“I haven’t made Emmanuel Adebayor a good player, I think we already know he has been a good player at every club he has been at.

“We just needed to get some consistency out of him and I am sure if he continues to enjoy playing he will keep performing well. He is enjoying it, if you enjoy yourself playing football you will get the best performances out of yourself.”

(Reporting By Josh Reich; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Australia’s Rogic joins Victory with World Cup in mind

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The 21-year-old will land in Melbourne on Tuesday to formalise the five-month loan move, with Victory delighted to beat a number of their rivals to the signature of the highly-rated player.

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“There has been a lot of interest in Tom’s immediate future ahead of the World Cup and we are very pleased that his club, Celtic, has decided that Melbourne Victory is the best-fit for him at this stage of his career,” head coach Kevin Muscat said in a statement.

“Tom is a talented young player and we look forward to seeing him grow even further during his time with us.”

Rogic, who started his career with the Central Coast Mariners, will be hopeful of impressing enough to earn a place against Chile (on June 13), Netherlands (June 18) and then World champions Spain (June 25) when Australia line up in Group B action in Brazil.

However, the outlook is not so bright for 25-year-old forward Robbie Kruse who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for German club Bayer Leverkusen and is likely to miss the finals in South America.

“It is a tough break for Robbie, who was playing some great football and was certainly a massive part of our plans for the World Cup,” Postecoglou said in a statement on Monday.

“It’s fine to say he’ll get another chance but you just never know and I feel for him as the 2014 World Cup was looming as a great opportunity for Robbie to show the world what he is capable of.

“I tried to contact him but I’ve been told he’s pretty upset at the moment. I’ll be in Germany in a couple of weeks’ time and I’ll try to catch up with him while I’m there.”

(Writing by Patrick Johnston; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Business as usual for sunny Saints, says Cork

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On Thursday, Pochettino allayed fears he would join the man credited with Southampton’s recent renaissance in quitting and Cork said it had been business as usual on the training ground.

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“Funnily enough the last few days have been much the same as other weeks, even though there was all that talk of meltdown and such,” Cork said in quotes carried by British media on Monday.

“It has never felt like meltdown. We go in and train and play football like we always do.

“We were laughing at talk of us imploding. That was never going to happen. There’s been a lot of silly talk.

“The gaffer came in and said: ‘I’m not going anywhere. We carry on.’ That was nice to hear. Mr Cortese was a good chairman but I don’t think it’s really going to affect any of us lads.”

All the positives of the Cortese-Pochettino era were on display on Saturday as Southampton raced into an early 2-0 lead away to Sunderland.

High pressing and intricate passing resulted in goals for Jay Rodriguez and Dejan Lovren in the first 31 minutes with the struggling, outplayed hosts fortunate not to be further behind.

Sunderland rallied, though, and a swift reply by Fabio Borini cut the deficit before Adam Johnson followed up his hat-trick against Fulham last time out to bag an equaliser with 20 minutes left.

NICE FOOTBALL

Focussing on the bright first half, Cork said the former Argentine defender was a vital component to the high quality play the south coast side were producing.

“The manager just gives us the confidence to play that kind of football,” the 24-year-old said. “It’s accepted that every now and then we’re going to make mistakes.

“He doesn’t mind because we’re playing nice football and the more we do that the better we get. There’s definitely no blame culture, criticism is always constructive, not personal.

“Hopefully this mission we are on keeps going. It’s vital Mauricio Pochettino stays next season and we keep this thing going. He’s been fantastic for us. He talks to us every day and gives us the confidence to play.”

The draw left Southampton in ninth place on 31 points, 12 behind Liverpool who hold the fourth and final Champions League qualifying place.

They host second tier Yeovil in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday before entertaining league leaders Arsenal three days later.

Pochettino could be without Lovren and Gaston Ramirez for both matches and maybe longer after they left the field against Sunderland late in the game on stretchers with ankle injuries.

“The two injuries at the end soured the afternoon,” Southampton playmaker Adam Lallana said. “It’s terrible – I don’t know what else to say.”

Uruguayan Ramirez suffered his injury following a tackle by Sunderland defender Wes Brown, who appeared to snick a bit of the ball but a lot of Southampton man’s ankle. Lovren’s game was ended after a tangle with Craig Gardner.

“I’ve seen a picture of the tackle on Gaston and it’s not nice at all, and I think Dejan’s might be just as bad,” Lallana added.

“We’ll get back home and the main thing is assessing those guys. Hopefully they’re not too critical.

“I’m disappointed we couldn’t get three points after a dominant first half performances and, with those injuries, it wasn’t a nice afternoon in the end.”

(Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by John O’Brien)

Betis appoint Calderon to replace sacked coach Garrido

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Betis sacked Juan Carlos Garrido on Sunday after a mere month and a half in charge and Calderon will take over until the end of the campaign with an option for another season if the Seville-based side avoid the drop.

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“The coach… has already signed his contract for what remains of this season and one more year if top-flight status is assured,” Betis said on their website (www.realbetisbalompie.es) on Monday.

“Without time to lose, Gabi Calderon will take charge of the team (on Monday) and has already prepared a double training session to prepare for (Friday’s La Liga) match against Celta Vigo,” they added.

A former Villarreal coach, Garrido was appointed at the beginning of December to replace the popular Pepe Mel, who has since taken over at English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion, but failed to turn things around.

Betis qualified for the Europa League after finishing seventh in La Liga under Mel last season and will play Russian side Rubin Kazan over two legs in the last 32 next month.

However, they are five points adrift at the bottom of Spain’s top division with just over half the season played and were thrashed 5-0 at home to Real Madrid on Saturday.

It was their fourth defeat in five La Liga games under Garrido and the disgruntled Betis fans chanted for him to be fired and sang Mel’s name at their Benito Villamarin stadium.

Calderon, who will be 54 next month, played for Betis between 1983 and 1987 and represented Argentina at the World Cups in 1982 and 1990.

He coached French side Caen and Lausanne in Switzerland before taking charge of Saudi Arabia, whom he helped qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He has also managed various club sides in the Middle East.

“This has always been my dream,” he said on the Betis website after his appointment.

“I did not have a particular date in mind but when a delicate situation like this occurs I come running,” he added.

“Betis needs all its supporters. When a loved one is sick we all join forces to help.”

(Reporting by Iain Rogers; Editing by John O’Brien)

Comment: Beware of throwing out Thai democracy with the government

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By Gavan Butler, University of Sydney

Somehow, Suthep suggests, a “people’s council” should be appointed in place of the parliament (and presumably a government to be formed by a royally appointed prime minister).

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This was pretty clearly the position taken by a well-known defender of Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Sirilaksana Khoman – an academic analyst with the National Anti-Corruption Commission whose work is to be applauded – in a recent Channel NewsAsia interview. The PDRC’s complaint is that a political party such as the ruling Pheu Thai Party can win a majority of seats and use its legislative power to ride rough-shod over minority opposition.

Nonetheless, major nations have accepted the risk of a “tyranny of the majority” for very long periods. The model of democracy in use has been modified periodically and in various ways in various countries to mitigate the possibility.

The “checks and balances” between the three branches of government may not work very well, of course, and a governing party may ignore or suppress minority interests. It is necessary then to ensure that the opposition can call the government to account and moderate its programs. Parliaments can check the power of a government through censure motions, parliamentary committees (as long as these are not stacked with government members) and “private members’ bills”.

Clearly, in Thailand, such procedures have not been working during at least the life of the recently dissolved parliament.

In more and more countries, voters have chosen to deny the major parties their support. Smaller parties may then be asked to join major parties in coalition. In so doing, the small parties moderate the larger.

However, small parties may proliferate, as they have tended to in Thailand to a ridiculous extent and with perverse effects. Thais also have long traditions of putting pressure on governments through extra-parliamentary opposition – including mass street protests.

Corruption pre-dates Thaksin

The Thai protest movement likes to insist that it is committed to removing “Thaksin’s regime”. This phrase is meant to connote a state of affairs in which at least there has been rampant corruption.

However, it is specious to suggest that large-scale corruption has been a feature of the Thai polity only during the last ten years. The governments of the 1980s were known as “buffet governments” – state powers were there to be selected for personal and factional benefit.

Corruption is not a uniquely Thai problem, either. Every society has to create notions of morality, as well as to create and enforce criminal codes, to control the issue. Thailand’s challenge is perhaps to nurture a moral code that has been around in Buddhist precepts for a long time, without sustaining the social and political influence of the clergy, or sangkha.

Thai-based American commentator Jeffrey Race has recently written a widely circulated but curious piece. In Race’s neo-conservative view, Pheu Thai’s leaders:

…have no goal other than personal benefit. But this is the norm of politics in every country.

Race goes on to give credibility to the idea of “duelling elites”, saying:

Some view Thailand’s entrenched conflict as no more than two business coalitions competing to plunder the nation.

The coalition presently in opposition was, according to Race, altogether more virtuous of the two when in government. Its “virtues” included: improving “the reliability of the judicial system” (no stacking of courts?), devotion to “freedom of the press, public life and public debate” (but also devotion to the strictest interpretation of article 112 of the Criminal Code concerning lese majeste?) and economic liberalisation.

Reasserting rule by elites

Race is also evidently supportive of a past era of “gentlemanly alternation of elites” in government. It appears to Race, evidently, that the “business coalition” led by Pheu Thai is ineradicably tainted by Thaksin (which is the protesters’ view).

On the other hand, Race is not clear about whether he would be content to see the Thaksin family go into permanent exile or would also want somehow to restore the former “pattern of Thai rule”.

Let us be clear that this would be a repudiation of the rural population and the urban poor. These segments of the nation became aware earlier this century that they could achieve political influence and use it to improve their lives. They are now at risk of being disenfranchised.

One hears strange claims that the protests are truly a people’s movement, more specifically that the people have used social media to govern the movement. Of course, information has flowed through social media (as has misinformation) and people have exhorted each other to join marches and rallies. That does not mean that the protest leaders are being instructed by the supporters, or even that a conversation is occurring between them.

 

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s brand of populism is closer to demagoguery than democracy. (EPA/Rungroj Yongrit)

Suthep has been a demagogue par excellence. His followers have tweeted constantly (perhaps even when blowing their whistles), but I cannot imagine how they can have been doing anything other than indicate their general approval and responsiveness to Suthep’s oratory. They have not been controlling him.

That said, the protest movement permitted this demagogue to emerge and he has encouraged violence in the form, at least, of storming compounds and offices and attacks on the registration of candidates for the February general elections.

Two explosions last Friday and Sunday in Bangkok resulted in a death and injuries to many protesters. Those responsible may be loners, organised pro-government “red shirts” or agents provocateurs. Whoever was responsible, the explosions have to be seen in the context of the general lawlessness instigated by Suthep’s campaign.

Democratic voices fight to be heard

Let us not lose sight of the fundamental point that a “people’s council” would be a council of the elite(s) – not of the demos. Suthep is leading a repudiation not only of the misconduct and malfeasance of Thaksinist rule but also of major segments of the population that have come to understand that they constitute the demos: they have adopted the ideal of democracy, in some measure.

Surely the cost of repudiating this will be greater than the cost of discovering Thai ways of “keeping the bastards honest”, as Australians say. Fortunately, cautionary commentaries and serious alternatives to Suthep’s simplistic and dangerous prescriptions are being publicised.

There are voices in those journals, like the Bangkok Post, that seek to define enlightened elite opinion. There are other voices among Thai business leaders. See, for example, articles by Pasuk Phongpaichit and with Chris Baker; Thitinan Pongsudhirak; Somkiat Tangkitvanich and Voranai Vanijaka, not to mention the writers of the Post’s editorials.

It must be hoped these voices will prevail between now and the elections, scheduled for February 2.

Gavan Butler does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.