THE BIG ISSUE
The strange saga of suspicious scientific silence may turn out to be one of the most sensational conspiracies of the year. But it probably won't.
A few months ago, the US space agency Nasa filed what it figured would be a routine request to base a few special aircraft at U-tapao naval air base for a six-week study of the atmosphere above East Asia, and its effects on the local environment.A couple of weeks ago, during his first official visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed the Nasa request.Mr Surapong thought - in public - it was a terrific idea.Then, weird things began happening. Thailand and Nasa now sit in a surrealistic stand-off. There is a 48 hour deadline from tonight for the government to confirm or deny whether Nasa can use East Asia's longest airstrip for its research.A few people actually think there is a conspiracy. But most are scratching their heads, trying to figure how we got from there to here.No one - OK, the conspiracy people, but no thinking person - opposes the experiments. The military approves.The Council of State has ruled it is perfectly legal. The Democrats, who actually initiated this project while in power, aren't against it.It appears, although Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and others have not said so, that the Pheu Thai Party government fears a cascading political fallout. If it simply gives a finger-wave to the Nasa project, militant Democrats could try to spearhead a court case accusing the government of not consulting parliament.This is despite the Council of State advice that such consultation is unnecessary at this point. Analysts have said the the government fears a fourth judicial coup so much that it has become frozen like a deer in Nasa's headlights.Without doubt, there are some wonderful conspiracy theories.One that has been frequently printed is that if Thailand allows Nasa to fly from U-tapao, the US then will grant a "safe" visitor's visa to Thaksin...
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