The Garret Tree
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
  Sonkrai and the Nias earthquake

Continued working today on the story of the evacuation trek through central Sumatra in February and March, 1942.

The British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian and Asian soldiers and evacuees were waiting desperately for an evacuation ship, the Chilka to arrive before the Japanese attack.

A Japanese submarine surfaced and shelled the Chilka on March 11, 1942, sinking the freighter off the island of Nias, off Sumatra.

Profile of Chilka

Record of Japanese submarine I-2 that sunk the Chilka.

As I was working on this part of the book, I realized that it was the island of Nias that was struck by the magnitude 8.7 earthquake hours earlier.

CBC News stories on Nias.
Aftershocks adding to earthquake chaos
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  Andrew Sullivan's "The Torture Memos"

In my post on January 20, I said that Andrew Sullivan's review in the New York Times, the Torture Memos" was worth reading. It's about two books outlining, through the released and leaked memos, what happened at Abu Ghraib and the policy of torture.

The Ghraib book reviewed by Sullivan that I bought is Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror by Mark Danner, New York Review of Books. It has the essays by Mark Danner and almost of all the key documents. and Truth Torture and Truth

Sullivan has now put a copy of that review on his blogsite, for those who want to read it here's the link.
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  Blog Converted

Spent the day writing, aiming toward my April 8 deadline for Sonkrai.

I was working on a chapter about the little-known escape route from Singapore across the South China Sea, then across central Sumatra to Padang (thousands of service personnel and civilians made that trek) when the news came on the television of a new major earthquake to hit Sumatra--just at the moment I was looking at my National Geographic map of Indonesia to figure out one of those escape routes.

But to rest the grey cells for a while, converted the old html blog to a real one.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sonkrai update

Surviving the Sword

Brian MacArthur's Surviving the Sword

I met Brian MacArthur, an editor with The Times of London, in February, 2002, when we both went to Singapore to attend the academic conference that marked the 60th anniversary of the fall of the city to the Japanese. We were both there to work on books on Far East Prisoners of War.
Brian was working on an overview on the experience of the prisoners, British, Australian, American and Dutch, through memoirs, diaries and interviews.
I was interested in telling the story of one group, F Force, and the trial of the Japanese and Korean guards in those camps.

Surviving the Sword tells the story of what happened in those Japanese prison camps through memory, whether those memories are recorded in an interview, a diary or a book. And MacArthur's book is valuable compiliation of those memories.
With both my family interest and my research, I have, of course, ordered a copy, to add to the shelves of Far East Prisoner of War books, most I inherited from my father, and others I purchased as part of my research.
Brian MacArthur, was a colleague, not a rival, and was always helpful when I had a research question. And I helped him where I could.

In Canada, order Surviving the Sword from

UK edition, available March 29, 2005.

Surviving The Sword: Prisoners Of The Japanese 1942-45

U.S. Edition, available in June

Surviving The Sword: Prisoners Of The Japanese 1942-45

In the United States, order either the UK edition of Surviving the Sword (March 29) or US edition (June 2005) from
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Monday, March 21, 2005

Sonkrai update

The Secret Mission to Iraq
My research has turned up the fact that in the first week of December, 1941, a top secret United States Navy task force was bound for Basra, Iraq. And some of the men who later appeared before the Sonkrai Tribunal were part of that task force.
The mission was cancelled on December 8, 1941 hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour.
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Friday, March 18, 2005

Sonkrai update

So why I haven't I updated the sorta-blog in about two months? A couple of bouts of illness, first a cold, and then a nasty flu that was going around the office that made me take four days off work, left me drained for another week, which meant in the past five weeks or so, I was reduced to writing perhaps a paragraph a night for most of the time that I wasn't ill. But at the same time I did get even that little done when I could and thus I am on track to finish the book by early April.
I have had to take two weeks of annual leave to get it done, but the final manuscript should be on its way to the publisher by April 8 at the latest.


A blog search turned up a link to a backgrounder I wrote in 2003 for on the changing demographics and the politics of Iran, called Iran Facing A Demographic Revolution. (It's since been updated by our research staff).

The backgrounder was cited by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad at a conference in Washington in May, 2004 in a paper called "The Challenge of Institutional Governance in Islam: Justice, Democracy and Shariah". (PDF file will open in a new window).
Ahmad, who teaches at the University of Maryland, is also president and director of The Minaret Institute of Freedom, which says on its website that it is dedicated to "educate Muslims on the importance of liberty and free markets to a good society..."

The most fascinating thing that I found about Ahmad's paper was his idea that the very basis of Western democracy, Magna Carta, was, in fact, influenced by returning Crusaders who saw that the man who would expel most of them from the region, Saladin (spelled Salahuddin in the paper)was a Islamic ruler who was not above the law. He goes on to say, "The British barons demanded that [King] John submit, not to Islamic law, but to a
notion of an English traditional law that they imagined but until that moment had never
been explicit."

I found out about this when a search turned up a copy of the paper on the Kashkul blog.

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

New blogs as of Sept. 2009
Robin's Weir
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    A River Kwai Story
    A River Kwai Story
    The Sonkrai Tribunal