This marks our 500th post.

It is a little known fact that New Mandala was born in a Cambodian restaurant in Canberra’s northern suburbs. Given a creative spark by Ali Jenkins, we decided that a new online collaboration was worth pursuing. Having worked together since 2001, this was a new and exciting option for us. Initially we weren’t sure if it was going to work. The traffic to New Mandala (about 30,000 hits since August) and the level of public contribution (almost 2500 comments), has definitely surpassed our original expectations.

The tumultuous politics of Thailand, and ongoing issues in neighbouring countries, have given us much to write about. It has been a dramatic, mystifying, sad, exciting, frustrating and sometimes amusing time to write about Southeast Asia.

The site will continue to be a collaborative effort and, over the past year, many people have helped to build New Mandala. The information technology staff at the Research School of Pacfic and Asian Studies (especially Jude Shanahan and Darrell Burkey) deserve particular thanks. Getting a blog up and running in a complex IT environment like the ANU is a significant achievement. We would also like to thank our guest bloggers, particularly those who contributed to our two-month focus on Laos. Holly High’s series of pieces from northern Laos were, as a number of readers have commented, wonderful examples of engaged ethnographic writing. And Jakkrit Sangkamanee’s nine-part commentary/update on Andrew’s The Legend of the Golden Boat is a reassuring sign that last century’s work is not forgotten. Many thanks also to those who have emailed us material that we can feature. And, of course, thanks to patient loved ones who have endured an emerging early morning and late night blog-addiction.

One of the highlights of New Mandala has been the level of reader commentary. Regular and occasional contributors have made this an informative project for both of us. We have both been struck by the diversity of opinion and the level of knowledge that New Mandala has tapped in to. Thanks for your comments and keep contributing!

Five highlights

5. Andrew’s post of 28 October 2006, Surayud to bring love, harmony and virtue (with strengthened military potential)!, sets a New Mandala record with 62 comments.

4. Srithanonchai, who only joined New Mandala on 19 December 2006 has amassed a total of 144 comments. Only the prolific Patiwat and Nganadeelek have posted more comments.

3. Nicholas’ post on Thaksin’s anti-drugs rally in Chiang Rai was posted on 16 August 2006. Along with his interview of Matthew McDaniel, it remains one of the most widely read posts on New Mandala.

2. Andrew’s ongoing discussion of sufficiency economy, including his critique of UNDP’s new found royalism, has encouraged discussion of what has emerged as a key ideological and policy issue in post-coup Thailand.

1. We show that a global collaboration can help shine light on Southeast Asia’s diverse societies and polities – from coyote dancers to military bases in Kachin state.

We hope you continue to enjoy visiting New Mandala and see value in the forum that it provides. As you know, we always invite contributions from our readers. If you have comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always open to e-mail feedback (Nicholas and Andrew).

Thanks for visiting.