The Southeast Asian Times

Why not publicise Covid-19 induced deaths
And hospitalisations now

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 2, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 30, 2023

Re: "More than a forced smile," Bangkok Post Editorial, Monday March 27, 2023
In connection with your editorial, I would like to offer one observation.
During the pandemic, the Post published daily figures of Covid-induced deaths and hospitalisations; a chilling array of statistics.
Why not now publish similar figures to show how relatively rare such cases are? Maybe then, more people will be encouraged to discard the pointless masks which hide all signs of relaxed happiness and we will once again be surrounded by a contagion of those warm Thai smiles.


Civil war for Myanmar democracy
Undermined by Rohingya advocacy mugwumps
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 1, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 30, 2023

Re: "Repatriation needs right conditions," in Bangkok Post Opinion, March 27, 2023
The people's civil war for Myanmar democracy is constantly undermined by "Rohingya advocacy mugwumps".
Competitively, these mugwumps resent that a Myanmar civil war for liberty has broken out.
The war takes international attention away from their own "apartheid" cause.
A "racist equity cause" that ignores the horrible plight of dozens of other government-oppressed ethnic groups in favour of the advocate's chosen oppressed "ONE", the Rohingya.
In true mugwumpian style, they complain that civil war fighting is "affecting" the peace of mind of the "neutral" Rohingya remaining in Rakhine State.
Rohingya, who are approvingly described as working out an accord with the coup-installed dictatorship!!!
All this, while the mugwumps ignore a millions-plus other ethnic groups brutally forced into internal displacement, desperately living hand to mouth in the jungle. These ethnic groups are also fleeing the sadistic rule of the government, but fighting back.
They do not accept the mugwumpy-promoted "victim dependency status".
Is it any wonder that the international community does not know how to respond to the Myanmar tragedy?

Sam Wright,

Will AUKUS establish equilibrium
In the Indo-Pacific?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 31, 2023

Can Joseph Black tell us where since the days of colonial expansion and post world war alliances have America and European nations established equilibrium?
In Latin America? in Africa?
In the Middle-East?
In Asia?
Now Black makes the preposterous claim that AUKUS will establish equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific!
With his assertion that the AUKUS alliance and submarine deal will establish equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific ( Letter , The Southeast Easian Times 21/3 ), Joseph Black is perpetuating a myth .
In reality nothing of the sort will happen.
It hasn’t happened anywhere where nations are armed to the teeth!
Joseph Black displays a poor understanding of history.

Rajend Naidu,


Call on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha
To resurrect police reform Vicha report
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 30, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 26, 2023

Re: " 'Crypto kidnapper' turns himself in", Bangkok Post, Sunday March 26, 2023.
Eight years ago, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha vowed to cleanse us of corruption, including in the police force, of which he's commissioner.
Yet, even this week's charging of a senior Immigration Bureau cop for abducting a Chinese man and his interpreter makes hardly a ripple in the news.
This is because arrests of Thai cops are commonplace nowadays, including those of 100+ other Immigration Bureau police.
Despite such widescale arrests, Prayut strenuously insists that the Royal Thai Police (RTP) rot is not pervasive from to bottom and is limited to the Royal Thai Police (RTP).
If that were true, Prayut, why have you been trying so assiduously to keep ex-graftbuster Khun Vicha Mahakun's recommendations to reform the entire police force and public prosecutor's office top secret from voters for two+ years?
Your star as a would-be reformist is fading fast in opinion polls, Prayut.
Making the Vicha report public and promising to implement its recommendations immediately might yet resurrect your hopes for another term at the helm.

Burin Kantabutra,


Call for Thailand to enhance solidarity
With BIMSTEC members
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday March 29, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 23, 2023

Re: "Rebooting South, SE Asian cooperation", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Tuesday March 14, 2023
Having the chairmanship of The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) in 2023, Thailand can contribute to enhancing solidarity among all Bimstec's members in the efforts of making it a more significant and influential entity in the sphere of current international relations.
Such a role might be most beneficial in a world characterised by global vulnerabilities, perplexities and discontinuities.
The 20th Ministerial Meeting of Bimstec will be held in Bangkok in November 2023 as a prelude to the Sixth Bimstec Summit, which is expected to increase the reputation of this organisation.

Ioan Voicu,

Two modes of reforming Philippines Constitution
Constitution assembly or constitutional convention
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 27, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 23, 2023

If our lawmakers are truly convinced that amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution would be a boost to our economy, then they should get their act together and exercise their power as a constituent assembly (con-ass).
Their one and only job here is to agree on how to phrase the proposed amendments.
The Commission on Elections will take care of the plebiscite.
The rest is up to us, voters.
From numerous televised Charter change or Cha-cha debates, we’ve learned that there are two plausible modes of reforming our Constitution, con-ass or constitutional convention (con-con).
Unfortunately, lost in all those congressional hearings is the fact that the choice between the two modes will ultimately depend on the type of reform contemplated.Simply put, if the plan merely covers a specific provision or a small set of prescriptions, then a con-ass would be appropriate.
On the other hand, if the intent is to overhaul the Constitution, or even replace it altogether, then a con-con would be absolutely essential.
It is worth mentioning that the 1987 Constitution has made a distinction between the kind of reform that can be pursued, namely, amendment or revision.
And so, the con-ass mode would be more appropriate when pursuing an amendment, for instance, inserting the words “as may be provided by law” in certain economic provisions of the Charter.
Whereas, it must be via the con-con route if revision is intended, such as shifting to a federal system or a parliamentary form of government.
Lawmakers should be thrilled that they can now proceed with their committee hearings totally focused on reform work.
But they should also shed the hubris that killed previous Cha-cha attempts by adopting a more strategic mindset.
The 1987 Constitution requires that the Senate and the House of Representatives vote separately.
The voting threshold for each chamber is three-fourths of all its members.
Once this is attained, the next step for both chambers is to set the schedule for a plebiscite where the electorate can either reject or ratify the proposed amendment. It is not unreasonable to think that this entire process can be accomplished this year.
If lawmakers have other reform ideas in mind and will not commit to focusing solely on the economic provisions, then the process outlined here will not be applicable. Sadly, constitutional reformists will just have to live with another deadlock between the two chambers of Congress.

Michael Henry Yusingco,


Vietnam's severe human right's restrictions same as
Post coup Fiji under Bainimarama government
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 27, 2023

The Southeast Asian Times article ‘ Vietnam rejects US human rights report 2022’ ( 26 March 2023 ), comes as no surprise.
It is the standard denial by countries that have poor human rights record.
But the US Department of State did not pluck things out of thin air in the compilation of its country report on Vietnam.
I believe many independent observers would be inclined to think, contrary to Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman’s claim, that it is the US Department of State that has a good grasp of “ the real situation in Vietnam “.
The US Department of State Human Rights annual report 2022 states Vietnam’s government, under the dictatorial one-party rule of the Communist Party of Vietnam ( CPV ), “ severely restricts the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, movement and religion “
And further that “ Government prohibitions remain in place on independent trade unions, human rights organisations, and political parties “.
This is an all too familiar trend in authoritarian regimes.
We noticed the same in post coup Fiji under the repressive Bainimarama government ( 2006 -2022 ) which all along claimed it was embarked on building
“ true democracy “ in Fiji for the first time in its history.
The Fijian people knew that was a lie and booted the repressive Fiji First government out in the December 2022 election.
Can the people of Vietnam do that?

Rajend Naidu,

Congress move to hasten Charter Change
Is a political act
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday Match 26, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 23, 2023

Lawmakers have explained that the rush for Charter change (Cha-cha) is meant to improve the economy, and is not being done for political reasons.
But we were not born yesterday.
Congress cannot purely dismiss politics in this case.
Its move to hasten Cha-cha is already a political act and never a neutral step. Undoubtedly, such a move won’t advance the interest of democracy or promote the economic upliftment of our people. Poverty continues to grip us.
The deregulated and increasing prices of commodities have left many poor families hungry, resulting in unhealthy children and their regressive school performance.
The living wage is hardly that, as workers’ demand for higher minimum pay remains unheard. The economy is not generating decent work.
According to Ibon Foundation, the number of employed persons dropped by a huge 1.7 million in January 2023, at 47.4 millionwhich means about half of the country’s population is without work.
Meanwhile, the poor are overly burdened with taxes that are not used to improve education, health, housing, and other services, but to pay the national debt.
Our outstanding national debt of P13.4 trillion means every Filipino now owes P117,985. Likewise, despite our being an agricultural society, the land reform program is far from being fully implemented.
Since the Ramos administration, nationalists, civil libertarians, church leaders and constituents, pro-poor and pro-Filipino economists, the youth, and various sectors have opposed any attempt to change the Constitution.
Right now, the government has yet to review its economic policies, social justice services, and international relations.
It still has to prove its capacity to address corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency. In fact, it has yet to exert enough efforts to avert the economic crisis by doing the basics: implement genuine agrarian reform, climate justice, pro-workers policies, including offering a living wage, and review its budgetary outlay and priorities.
The expensive process of Cha-cha will be shouldered by already suffering Filipinos.
Whether through constitutional assembly (con-ass) or constitutional convention (con-con), the exercise will be an added burden to most of us who are still dreaming of adequate and substantial food on the table.
It is reported that a con-ass may cost us P46 million, while a con-con may cost at least P15 billion.
This is not the best time to change the Constitution as our nation faces other more pressing problems poverty, inflation, climate justice, joblessness.
The government must prioritize urgent and necessary issues, and Cha-cha isn’t one of them.
The Cha-cha rush will lead us further to democratic and economic vulnerabilities through provisions that may be amended to allow term extension and foreign big business domination.
To the House of Representatives: We want bread, do not give us stone! (Matthew 7:9)

Norma P. Dollaga,
Kapatirang Simbahan,
Para sa Bayan,



Philippines call for the legalization
Of divorse
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 25, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 23, 2023

To combat domestic violence and emphasize the importance of having freedom and options, the divorce bill should be passed and legalized in the country without reservation.
The legalization of divorce doesn’t undermine agreeable families. Divorce isn’t the enemy of cheerful relationships.
Divorce can be a defensive apparatus against abusive behavior at home, which is a fair justification for why it ought to be authorized.
The Philippines is one of the last two countries where divorce is illegal, trapping women in loveless marriages forever.
Looking at the numbers, they wouldn’t tell lies.
It only tells the truth about alarming cases related to violence against women and children in the country.
It must be stopped, and strengthening the monitoring of the implementation of laws that protect women’s rights should be the next move.
It’s about time to put an end to these practices and exercises for a long time.
Based on Gabriela’s data, the search queries in the Philippines related to violence against women and children (VAWC) and sexual, physical, and psychological violence increased by 63 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this issue at hand, the Senate and the House of Representatives should take it upon themselves to deliver and pass the bill to end spousal violence and any form of violence against women and children, and to free people from toxic marriages. The Marcos administration should use its machinery and mandate to implement urgent measures to bridge the difficulty that VAWC victims face in seeking help and providing actual services for them.
We need to make people listen, understand, and care. It is time to accept that not all marriages have happy endings; abusing someone is more unholy than ending a marriage that is full of vitriol.

Abdul Hafiz Tacoranga Malawani,
Mindanao State University

Philippines pushing for constitutional convention
To revise 1987 Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 24, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Tuesday March 21, 2023

The House of Representatives committee on constitutional amendments is pushing for the formation of a hybrid constitutional convention (con-con) in the bid to revise the 1987 Constitution.
We need to do our part other than simply oppose.
There are contentious elements, namely, the composition of the convention, the reform platform of candidates for delegate, the manner of choosing delegates, and the depth and breadth of public consultation expected of the con-con.
For Kapatiran Party, among others, the constitutional convention could be composed of 253 delegates from the current 253 legislative districts, with the same qualifications as those required of members of the House of Representatives.
All members of Congress who were elected during the May 2022 elections, together with their relatives within the second civil degree of consanguinity and affinity, are disqualified from running as delegates to the con-con.
The candidate shall include his statement of the principal constitutional reforms, programs, or policies he proposes to advocate if elected to the con-con, and a copy of such statement to be posted conspicuously in each polling place in the district.
Any person elected as a delegate to the con-con shall not be qualified to run for any public office in any election or to assume any appointive office or position in any branch of the government until after the May 12, 2025, mid-term elections.
Why we need constitutional reform requires us only to take stock of what we are today and what the prospects are, 36 years after the ratification of the 1987 Constitution.
The true object of reform is to address our nation’s unceasing sociopolitical problems in their entirety.
The question is, how can we least prevent unwanted self-interests from seeping in or best ensure the true object of the con-con is upheld?
Call for unity presents itself through different circumstances or varying issues. In the push for con-con, there can be unity on the conditions for its conduct. We need to and can find those.
There is no such thing as not being ready. We are ready if we want to be.
When Filipinos unite, they set in motion public discourse through, by, and among those in the academe, business, media, entertainment, government, offices, homes, on streets, etc. on the aforesaid contentious elements, if such convention is to proceed.

Norman V. Cabrera,
Kapatiran Party,

Call for Pacific Islanders to question
AUKUS nuclear submarine deal
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 23, 2923

I agree with my fellow Sydneysider Altauf Chand’s take on “ the staggering $368 billion allocated for the AUKUS deal “ ( The Fiji Times 20/3 ).
All Pacific island people should raise their voice against it for reasons enunciated by Altauf .
In Australia from the numerous letters to editor that have condemned the AUKUS deal as a hocus-pocus panacea to the regional security paranoia, it comes as know surprise that no public debate was entertained on this issue before the State proceeded on it purportedly in the name of the people.
The Pacific island people must question and critically examine the nuclear submarine deal particularly in light of Australia’s lacklustre commitment to climate change action in the region.

Rajend Naidu

Call for rights for gorilla, Bua Noi
Locked up in Pata zoo in Bangkok
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 22, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 19, 2023

Re: "Bua Noi's plight," in Bangkok Post PostBag, Thursday March 16, 2023.
Ashley's letter about the cruelty of Pata zoo reminds me of my recent letter on caged animals.
Again, how can we say murderers and rapists in prison have rights but not innocent animals locked up in cages and zoos?
People ridicule animal rights by saying humans are at a higher moral level, and so deserve better treatment.
Yet is there any reason to believe that Charles Manson was at a higher moral level than an innocent gorilla?
Quite frankly, my dog was at a higher moral level than most humans I've known.
If we were less arrogant and more humane, this would be a better world for all species, including humans.

Eric Bahrt,

AUKUS confirms attempts to promote
Equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 21, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 19, 2023

Re: "New sub deal to boost defence," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday March 15, 2023.
For those of you interested in the Indo-Pacific, interesting news this week: Australia has agreed to buy submarines from the US, and has decided on UK designs.
Not only is this interesting in that it confirms attempts to promote equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific ie, states countering an increasingly aggressive PRC but it also begs the question, what now for diverse Indo-Pacific states, and long-standing allies of AUKUS states, including Thailand?
For me, it's perhaps hard to tell.
After giving it some thought, perhaps the benefits are numerous.
With this deal, it appears we're on a path to creating thousands of jobs in Australia, which could perhaps lead to many jobs in other Indo-Pacific states.
With this deal, we're on a path to distributing fundamental skills and mindsets to other states, perhaps leading to tech and humanitarian revolutions.
We are also showing states like the Philippines that we're serious about promoting the international order and sovereignty of territory.
With this deal, we're showing the world that the US is serious about delivering on security, which can reassure places like Thailand, especially after the Afghanistan fiasco, bolstering alliances.
Some reports say the US is increasingly weak so weak it has to depend on its allies to create a bulwark against China which may lead some to think the US or even AUKUS can't contribute to security in Indo-Pacific states.
This is not really a legitimate argument. Distributing resources to allies in the region does not mean a state is weak, and is actually an excellent strategy, one we find in history, including WWII.
I'm keen to hear what do the readers of the Bangkok Post think?

Joseph J Black,

Air pollution should be campaigne issue
In upcomming Thai election
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 17, 2023

Re: "Haze and blazes hit North," in Bangkok Post, Tuesday March 7, 2023.
As we close off our third week of poisonous PM2.5 levels across much of Thailand, our only possible saviour is the wind.
Yet for at least the last five years, we have faced the same problem of PM2.5 suffocating much of the country from December to March.
And every year, we hear the same platitudes about vehicle inspection points.
On March 6, you reported that the government will "act as soon as possible", but their meeting is scheduled for March 15, a week later.
Where is the sense of urgency?
This is a critical health emergency.
PM2.5 exposure in Thailand shortens life expectancy by 1.8 years and costs almost 11 percent of GDP.
The Post keeps reporting on the Thai standard of 50µg/m3 as the "safe" level, but the WHO guideline average for 24 hours is actually 15µg/m3, or 5µg/m3 annually.
Where is the accountability?
In January 2022, the prime minister received a proposed Clean Air Act drafted by Thailand Clean Air Network and supported by 22,000 signatures, and yet it still has not been debated by parliament.
Despite a five-year programme to reduce burnt cane quotas to 0-5 percent by the 2021-22 season, figures show that 31percent of harvested cane this 2022-23 season has been burnt.
Big agribusinesses drive the farmers to employ the cheapest but most harmful harvest measures.
When are they going to pay for the externalities and provide farmers with the equipment they need to produce without burning?
Air pollution should be the main campaign issue for all parties in the election.
We should all be angry that this is left to continue unabated for so long.


Life in solarity confinement at Pata Zoo
For gorilla Bua Noi
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 17, 2023

Re: "Pata Zoo offers reward to catch graffiti vandals," in Bangkok Post, Tuesday March 14, 2023
The harm Pata Zoo in Bangkok has caused to the gorilla Bua Noi far exceeds the significance of some graffiti.
Life in solitary confinement is a cruel punishment for a social primate like Bua Noi, who has been behind bars for more than three decades.
Gorillas love, grieve, and play. They are highly intelligent, protect their families, and come to the aid of friends.
In a cramped and barren cage, all Bua Noi can do is stare at the same four walls every day. Her profound loneliness and isolation are almost inconceivable.
No one is calling for Bua Noi to be returned to nature, but it's long overdue for the Pata Zoo to do the right thing by allowing her to be transferred to a much more appropriate environment.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Call to liberate
The people of Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 18, 2023

David Brown couldn’t have been more succinct ( Letter, Southeast Asian Times 16/3/23).
He cuts through the bullshit by Than Htwe, Deputy Chief of Mission, Myanmar Embassy to present the real nature of the rogue regime that is ruling Myanmar through brutal repression after grabbing power from the democratically elected government of Aung San Sui Kyi in a violent military coup .
As David notes with great insight the atrocities of the rogue regime is well documented ( see his illuminating letter for elaboration ).
So no amount of propaganda by the likes of this apparatchik of the rogue military regime can fool any thinking person.
No effort should be spared to liberate the people of Myanmar from its thug rulers.

Rajend Naidu,

Papua New Guinea treats relationship
With Australia as a charity
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 17, 2023
First published in the National, Wednesday March 15, 2023

Reading the Nek Bilong Pipol in The National yesterday where a Sekinolo Sawala from Port Moresby wrote a 2,000-word essay on how Australia needs to change its policies to suit Papua New Guinea, you could be forgiven for thinking that these were the “ravings of a madman”.
While some of what was written was fair to question, most turned into an incoherent list of grievances from someone who wants to clearly leave Papua New Guines and live in the land down under.
Bringing up issues from decades earlier, speaking of spying on Papua New Guinea , this all seems far-fetched and irrelevant when you consider an objective view of Papua New Guinea .
As a proud Papua New Guinean who has been able to watch the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship for many years, the reasons why it is challenging for us to access services in Australia and why Australia manages its relationship delicately is because we have let ourselves down over and over again for many years, despite being set up for success by Australia in 1975 and supported most of the time since.
We have taken money for decades from Australia and misused it.
Citizens have gone to Australia and done unspeakable things and been sent back.
Our leaders haven’t promoted our country so we aren’t considered for worker programmes.
We have treated the relationship with our nearest neighbour as a charity that is forced to continue to feed us.
It is no wonder Australia is sick of us.
And we only have a handful of National Rugby League (NRL) players because we need to build our skills to compete.
Before we sit around complaining about why we are left out or left behind, we should hold up the mirror and ask why?
We can blame racism and factors that we can’t control.
Or we can start to do things that show we are right to be treated with the same respect as other countries are.
The problem with us is we are always asking others to help us.
Time to stop complaining and help ourselves.

Joe Tau
Central Province,
Papua New Guinea



Letter to Bangkok Post from Myanmar Embassy
Attempts to legiitmise brutal regime
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 16, 2023
First published in Bangkok Post, Monday March 13, 2023

Re: "Tools of terrorists," in Bangkok Post PostBag, Saturday March 11, 2023
PostBag was overly-generous in publishing this overly-long letter from Than Htwe, Deputy Chief of Mission, Myanmar Embassy.
Than Htwe's attempts to legitimise the brutal regime he serves is risible.
And his list of what he claims are terrorist groups operating in Myanmar fails to mention the biggest terrorist group of them all: the Tatmadaw, led by Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing.
The atrocities of the Tatmadaw have been well documented by independent international bodies.
Suffice to say, the genocide of the Rohingya has resulted in the displacement of more than 700,000 people.
It is underscored by the Tatmadaw's rape and murder of women and children, including the violation of women at the barrel of a rifle, and the throwing of babies into Rohingya houses that the Tatmadaw has set alight.
The Rohingya are but the latest ethnic minority to suffer at the hands of the largely ethnic Burmese Tatmadaw, for the use of terror as an instrument of suppression of the Kachin, Karen, Mon, Shan, Kayah and Chin ethnic minorities goes back decades, and again is well documented.
Most people around the world know the truth and will not be hoodwinked by Than Htwe's propaganda.

David Brown,

Letter from Than Htwe, Deputy Chief of Mission, Myanmar Embassy,
To Bangkok

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 16, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 12, 2023

Re: "Crisis in need of regional accord", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Thursday March 2, 2023.
I am writing this letter in response to the article in Bangkok Post on March 2 regarding the exclusion of actual information about Myanmar.
I truly believe that reliable information is not only crucial for every single media outlet but is also essential to gauge the outcome and effectiveness of such information. The media should not be a tool of terrorist groups.
1) This is very much different from a coup. It should be noted that the State Administrative Council (SAC) seeks the executive, legislature, and judiciary of state in accord with the constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. The root cause of taking state responsibilities was publicly announced by a transparent and lawful means.
The former government led by the NLD Party misused its executive powers in the 2020 general election, including voters' lists and voter fraud. The list is significantly flawed, with 11.3 million votes having been rigged. The Tatmadaw asked the then-president on two occasions to convene the National Defence and Security Council meeting in order to resolve those issues, but its entreaties were rejected.
The Union Election Commission assigned by the State Administrative Council looked into the voters' list of 315 townships where the Multiparty General Election was held in November 2020. As a result, there were 11,305,390 irregularities across the nation, which is equivalent to 29.54 percent of the total vote.
2) The NUG, CRPH, PDF are all terrorist groups. The frequency of terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by the so-called NUG representatives cannot be irrefutably ignored. At least 5,088 innocent civilians, including 68 Buddhist monks, one nun, 61 teachers, 14 health workers, 214 other government staff, 571 ward administrators and 41 military veterans were killed by the so-called NUG and PDF terrorists.
These terrorist groups perform acts of inhumanity to wipe out civilians, administrative officers and their family members, including children. They don't even have a single headquarters or command post for the PDF or NUG. Without any discipline or a change of command, the segmentation of terrorist groups like the PDF results in extortion and murder.
For example, U Ohn Khaine, a former ambassador, and his son-in-law were shot by followers of PDF in front of their home. Meanwhile, U Thein Aung, a military veteran who serves as managing director of My Tel Telecommunication Company, was shot dead while walking in Yangon on the morning of Nov 4, 2021.
In another illustration, an innocent woman was violently beaten and shot in the head in the middle of a public road. A member of the Tamu PDF claimed responsibility for the murder in an interview.
3) The government of Myanmar formed Task Forces made up of several ministries in conjunction with immigration and other agencies while also seeking international cooperation on Aug 17, 2021. Upon delivery of humanitarian assistance, these Myanmar task forces cooperated closely with the Asean AHA Center, as well as with other international organisations. The state and regional government, as well as the National Solidarity and Peace-making Negotiation Committee (NSPNC) and the AHA Centre conducted a Joint Needs Assessments Mission in Kyaukkyi Township in Bago, Loikaw Township in Kayah State, and Pintaya Township in Shan State. This is an effective way to deliver aid and assistance to the affected areas via Yangon, given its efficient institutions.
4) It is a delusion of terrorist groups that they are providing more assistance to border areas. This is not just humanitarian assistance for local ethnic groups. I believe they are also providing officially sanctioned, lethal assistance to ethnic armed groups and terrorist groups in Kayin State. The terrorists -- the PDF and NUG -- received all their weaponry, ammunition and explosives through the Thai-Myanmar border. In order to restore peace and stability in Myanmar, the Thai side should control the illegal arms trade at the border and refrain from neglecting the flow of assistance to armed groups.
I categorically disagree with the idea of sending direct deliveries to conflicted border areas.
Therefore, I strongly reject the above-mentioned article being published in the Bangkok Post, as it can only incite and encourage more terrorism in Myanmar.

Than Htwe
Deputy Chief of Mission, Myanmar Embassy,

Call for whistleblower Chuvit Kanolvisit to review
The Thai military procurement process
The Southeasr Asian Times, Wednesday March 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 12, 2023

Re: "Whistleblower risks losing his way", In Bangkok Post, Opinion, Monday March 6, 2023.
I fully agree with ex-Bangkok Post editor Veera Prateepchaikul that whistleblower Chuvit Kamolvisit was doing a tremendously beneficial job in unearthing massive corruption in the Royal Thailand Police's (RTP) and other closets.
He should stay the course on fighting corruption - wherever it may be - rather than fighting a political party on a narrow, highly divisive issue like liberalising cannabis.
Corruption permeates Thailand from head to toe, hitting the masses of the poor and benefitting the tiny minority at the top.
The common person feels helpless in its grip.
Mr Chuvit and his fearless whistleblowing have given us hope that we might defeat it - as shown by the tremendous cheers from the poor and all the media attention he gets.
We know that the whole system has to be reformed - not just a few rogue generals here and there.
By steadily focusing on where he can help the masses the most, Mr Chuvit can leave a legacy that will shine through the ages.
Take a holistic approach, Khun Chuvit.
On the Royal Thailand Police (RTP), for example, push Prime Minister Prayut to reveal ex-graftbuster Vicha Mahakun's report on reforming the cops and public prosecutors' office.
On the military, review the whole procurement process. Don't get distracted by cannabis.

Burin Kantabutra,

Jeepney strike in Philippines
Is about phasing out the jeepney
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday March 14, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday March 12, 2023

As an assistant professor in Manila, I have to take three jeepney rides from our home to the university.
There is no doubt that I was one of the countless people gravely affected by the recent transport strike.
But I would like to state unhesitatingly my full support for it, and my sincerest solidarity with our poor drivers and desperate operators.
I call upon the public to view this struggle through the lens of jeepney drivers compelled to resort to this action by our utterly stratified society.
Their situation is like that of the working class forced to go on strike due to the injustices committed by their greedy employers.
I would also like to call out the irresponsible pronouncement of Vice President Sara Duterte who claimed that the transport strike is “communist-inspired,” which shows her naïveté and unforgivable ignorance about the whole issue.
Which individual or group would want to go on strike and forego their income if there is still a way out?
The brutal truth is that this transport strike is the direct result of the inutile and perverse capitalist system.
Instead of the communists inspiring the strike, it is this action that inspires the activists, the revolutionaries, the socialists, communists, etc.
Let us not kid or fool ourselves.
The strike is a protest against the jeepney phaseout plan, whose true motive is “corporate phase-in.”
The real intention is to allow big players, corporations, and conglomerates to enter the business and kill off competition from small players.
I do not buy the government’s pathetic argument that says the jeepney modernization scheme is meant to save the environment.
Why not just help the drivers and operators convert their engines to run on environmentally friendly fuel?
Further, if the government is sincere in its alleged love of the environment, then why the hell does it allow mining in Sibuyan Island?
I am not against modernization per se. The only permanent thing in this world is change, after all.
But I am against the government’s neglect of its obligation to provide and regulate public transport, and uphold public interest over that of private corporations. Further, any change to an existing system whether it be in education, administration of justice, industry, and so on must be done with enough lead time to allow the stakeholders to adjust to the transition.
It would be immoral and extremely unjust to expect people to keep abreast of the latest trends and technology without support from the government.
As in education, even if 97 percent of students are doing well, there is no justification to leave the remaining 3 percent behind.
Today, even if some of our farmers are already using modern technology to till their fields, we are not slaughtering carabaos en masse. Similarly, why should we give up our equally beloved jeepneys which, besides being the repository of our memories, have also become distinctive symbols of our culture and of who we are as a people?
They’re part of our postwar history and popular culture.
This iconic vehicle also shows our creativity and resilience.
Instead of phasing them out, why not improve them and make the design and engine conform to the environmental standards that the government envisions? Modernization here should be equated with co-creation and co-design.
In summary, I signify my solidarity with this transport strike because societal progress is worthless and an illusion without social justice.
We want a just transition to modernization based on justice and not on arbitrary and discriminatory reasons. In the stirring words of Hyacenth Bendaña, daughter of a jeepney driver and organizer of transport advocacy group Move As One Coalition, “Iba-iba man po ang grupong pinanggalingan, iisa po ang tindig ng jeepney drivers natin: ‘Hindi po kami tutol sa modernisasyon. Ngunit nananawagan po kami ng makatarungang plano na hindi kami maiiwan.’ Modernisasyon po, hindi phaseout. Ang panawagan po namin: Allow us, ang pinakaapektadong sektor, na magco-design ng transition plan with the state. Handa po kaming tumulong.The priority is to have our jeepney drivers sit at the decision-making table.”

Jose Mario D. De Vega,
Assistant Professor,
Philosophy and Humanities Department,
National University’s College of Education, Arts, and Sciences,

Call for probe by Bangladesh authorities
Into massive fire in the Cox Bazar refugee camp
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 13, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 12, 2023

Re: "Camp blaze renders 12,000 homeless", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday March 8, 2023.
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization in Malaysia (MERHROM) is deeply saddened by a massive fire in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp on March 5 at 2.30pm.
The fire has caused huge damage.
An estimated 2,000 shelters were destroyed resulting in 12,000 refugees being made homeless.
Apart from their shelters, mosques, schools and health centres were also destroyed. This is really heartbreaking as we are entering the month of Ramadan soon.
The fire that started in Camp 11 quickly spread to neighbouring camps. Authorities and the fire brigades manage to control the blaze around 6pm.
An estimated 22 learning centres were destroyed, resulting in children having to abandon their studies.
Fires at the Cox's Bazar refugee camp are nothing new.
This happens every year.
We don't know what the result is yet of the investigation.
We hope for a thorough probe by Bangladesh authorities into this latest incident.
We hope such incidents can be prevented in the future. We hope the Rohingya brothers and sisters in the camps can also play a role in taking precautions to prevent fires from happening, including keeping watch day and night.
We call upon the United Nations, donor countries and international humanitarian organisations to continue providing immediate humanitarian support to the victims, including coping with their mental health struggles.
We hope the Human Rights Council 52nd Session in Geneva will seriously discuss strategic measures to end the Rohingya Genocide as a durable solution for the Rohingya refugees.

Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani
President of Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization in Malaysia (MERHROM)

What else was interfered with or unlawfully influenced
During Bainimarama’s long reign in power ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 12, 2023

Former Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama and former Police Commissioner Qiliho have been charged for abuse of office for arbitrarily terminating a police investigation into financial mismanagement at University of the South Pacific (USP), the premier regional university.
Acting arbitrarily and without regard to the rule of law and the norms of democratic good governance has pretty much been the modus operandi of these state officials. They were given to riding roughshod and having their capricious way.
This interference in an active police investigation into a University of the South Pacific (USP) matter makes you wonder what else was interfered with or unlawfully influenced during Bainimarama’s long reign in power?
I am sure time will reveal more.

Rajend Naidu


Call for response from Thai Foreign Ministry
Over appointment of special envoy to Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday, March 11, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 10, 2023

Re: "Care to explain?" in PostBag, February 24, 2023 and "Thai global standing at all-time low", in Bangkok Post Opinion, February 17, 2023.
Since there's no response from Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai or the Foreign Ministry to his appointment of a special envoy on Myanmar and Thailand's confused voting on the UN's resolutions on Russia's aggression and annexation of Ukraine, I have to assume that "conflict of interest" looms large and there's no "accountability" in the current regime at the Foreign Ministry.
This is a sad development because it's happening in the ministry, an institution which should be a model for developing democracy in Thailand.
Simply put, the acceptance of accountability and the rejection of conflict of interest are vital factors for society to learn in our ongoing struggle against the military regime.
Democracy has to be earned and the ministry officials' duties and experience abroad in many countries should be an asset, a model and a positive contribution to a true democracy in Thailand.
Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and the Foreign Ministry, you can still have the floor to tell us what's going on, before it's too late.



Papua New Guinea in praise of China
For training in Special Economic Zones (SEZs)
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 10, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday March 7, 2023

The support of the Chinese government in conducting training for our officials on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is a milestone for Papua New Guinea.
As Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are a new concept, we need to know the mechanisms and administrative framework on which they operate.
Tours of the four regions of China where Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are operational are vital for the training for our officers to gain first hand information on their establishments and operations.
In Papua New Guinea, we require an in depth understanding of its mechanisms and also the legislative framework to capture landowner rights in our land administration jurisdiction and use.
Once the concept is fully implemented on one or two of the 18 selected Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Papua New Guinea, the rest will follow suit and it would be convenient to rely on each other at initial set up phase and operational stages.

Thankful citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Onions in Philippines soar to P720 per kilo
More than daily wage of P500
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 9, 2023
The Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday March 8, 2023

The other day, I lamented over a plateful of pork sisig because it lacked onions.
To compensate for its absence, more portions of diced carrots and sweet corn kernels were added.
It was sweet as a result but wasn’t strong enough to fend off my hunger.
In between spoonfuls of sweet pork sisig, I wondered: How did we end up with the tear-inducing price of local onions?
Over the year-end holidays of 2022, the price of onions soared to P720 per kilo, a number higher than the daily nonagricultural wage of P500 in the National Capital Region.
It even led some overseas Filipino workers to bring onions as pasalubong for their families back home.
The Philippines annually imports onions to compensate for local demand. Despite typhoons, pests, and diseases affecting local supply, importation was disallowed in 2022.
In September, farmer groups raised a call to allow restricted imports to meet the increasing demand for December.
Last January 10, the Department of Agriculture authorized the importation of 21,060 metric tons of onions red and yellow.
With the influx of imported onions, prices went down but at the expense of local onion farmers who were about to harvest their crops.
In the memorandum, the import deadline was Jan. 27, 2023 more or less 15 days from its release.
This decision was doomed from the start, naturally, due to its ill-timing and disregard for the local onion sector.
According to a USDA report, several conditions required were too steep given the tight window of application and limited volumes.
As I stared blankly at my empty, sizzling plate, I felt angry, although my stomach wasn’t hungry anymore. “Wala tayong mahiwa pero iyak parin tayo nang iyak,” Sen. Grace Poe said at a Senate hearing on the onion prices.

Houdini Lucas,
NGO worker,

Call for Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon
To join Move Forward Party to prove democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 8, 2023
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday March 7, 2023

Re: "Late convert to democracy", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Friday March 3, 2023.
There is a simple litmus test for Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwon's claim to have converted to democracy.
If Gen Prawit is sincere, he can easily prove his commitment to democratic principle. He need only join the Move Forward Party in calling for reforms to Thai laws which contradict democracy, in both execution and principle. Only then will his claim that he is now a believer in democracy has any meaning.
More specifically, the nation will then believe that Gen Prawit is indeed genuine when he calls to an end to imprisoning Thais for peacefully expressing their opinions.
Let us look forward to Gen Prawit proving his claims to now respect democratic principle and process.

Felix Qui,

Rare blood donations in Thailand
Not for a cup of tea and a biscuit
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 7, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 28, 2023

Re: "Academics ask Westerners to donate rare blood", in Bangkok Post, Friday February 24, 2023.
If, as a Westerner, I donate my rare life force for the benefit of the Thai people, then it would seem reasonable to receive some return on my generosity, such as expedited visa work permit extension and so on, instead of a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Rose Bellini,

Lack of quality education in the Philippines
Is a threat to economic growth
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 6, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday February 13, 2023

Economic analysis has shown that on the whole, improvements in school-level education lead to improvements in economic performance, and more so than the other way around.
Thus, a lack of quality education is a threat to economic growth.
The state of Philippine education is disheartening, and the government cannot do it by itself.
That is why a partnership with the private sector is needed to solve the country’s education crisis.
True, access to education may no longer be an issue today but students’ retention rate in school and learning achievement continue to worsen, as shown by the results of various studies.
Local and international student examinations have also shown poor results. Indeed, these are challenging times as the country still confronts the ongoing pandemic amid efforts to attain quality education.
But the Philippines can recover and bounce back if educational leaders and managers get their act together as one.
Recognizing the critical role of education in development, the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) serve as a benchmark to measure school effectiveness and determine the alignment of national standards with international standards.
While the Philippine education system is in the middle of profound changes with the passage of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, the country was rudely awakened by the poor results of the country’s maiden participation in the 2018 Pisa.
The 2019 TIMSS reinforced these dismal results. The country participated again in TIMSS after 16 years of absence since 2003, and the country ranked dead last in both mathematics and science among 58 participating countries.
Given that the tests were taken one year apart, these provide a good snapshot of what is happening in the elementary grades in the case of TIMSS and junior high school in the case of Pisa.
Student performance in international large-scale assessments confirms the Philippines has been in a learning crisis for a while now.
The performance of 15-year-old students in Pisa, on average, is below expected given the country’s level of income.
Private schools are performing better than expected given the level of income and better than public schools (Orbeta Jr. and Paqueo, 2022).
The results in TIMSS that tests grade four students are similar but even much farther down from the expected outcome.
Again, private schools are performing on or above expected given the level of income, and better than public schools (Orbeta Jr. and Paqueo, 2022).
Looking at TIMSS 1999 and Pisa 2018, a span of two decades, education stakeholders become aware that the problem of achieving quality education cannot be addressed overnight.
The quality of Philippine education must have stagnated through the years. So, whether from public or private schools, student performance in international large-scale assessments is nationally embarrassing and worrisome.
The embarrassment must have been the reason why the country opted out of TIMSS in 2003.
Since the performance of the private school sector is somewhat better, the state should consider public-private partnerships in education wherein students can be given vouchers to study in private schools at a predetermined tuition rate. Surveys also show that parents prefer to choose which school their children go to, rather than being forced to attend a poorly performing public school. The really good students who will otherwise be stymied by the public school system can blossom, and use their education as a ticket out of poverty.

Eden S. Anni,

Generation after generation of the same few Philippine families
Fill elected offices at every level of government
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 5, 2023
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Wednesday March 1, 2023

This refers to this paper’s news article titled “Ex gov’t officials push anti-political dynasty law before 2025 polls” in Philippine Inquirer, 16 February 2023 Kapatiran Party supports and is aligned with this move.
The stubborn persistence of political dynasties continues to hound the Philippines almost since its founding as a nation.
Despite the prohibition against them being written into the 1987 Constitution, generation after generation of the same relatively few families fill elected offices at every level of government.
Every election, the consensus opinion of an overwhelming majority of Filipinos is, “This must stop.”
And in every Congress following an election, bills on the prohibition of political dynasties are introduced or reintroduced to do exactly that, but to no avail.
These bills merely languish in the committee handling them; hence, almost all never see the light of day in the plenary for the last 36 years.
Many think that the passage of a law remains impossible to achieve as long as the majority of the legislators belong to political dynasties.
Even former president Rodrigo Duterte himself had admitted during an interview that proposed laws banning political dynasties will never be passed by a Congress dominated by dynasties.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had previously ruled that Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution is not self-executing and thus requires a legislative act of Congress.
In other words, the prohibition of political dynasties cannot be realized or put into effect until and unless Congress exercises its constitutional law-making duty.
The Court had also ruled that the question of which laws to enact is a purely legislative function, which courts have no judicial control over.
The 1987 Constitution is the fundamental and supreme law of the land, and a framework for governance that defines how our government is formed and run.
It establishes the character of our government by defining the basic principles and policies to which society must conform and to which government is accountable.
The Declaration of Principles and State Policies commits to particular social, economic, political, and developmental goals.
They take the form of judicially enforceable socio-political-economic rights, directive principles, and policies that are politically binding on the government by way of commitment or intent.
Section 26, Article II of the Constitution declares a fundamental precept in our practice of politics “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service” and states a specific measure through which the same may be achieved “The State shall prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law”.
Impaired” means having a disability of a specified kind.
Is the 1987 Constitution impaired in this regard?
Or should the passage of a law defining political dynasties not be left to the sole discretion of Congress, considering that the Constitution itself has mandated the passage of such a law?
On November 8, 2022, Kapatiran Party, with its chair, Edilberto M. Cuenca, and its president, Norman V. Cabrera, filed a petition for certiorari, seeking from the Supreme Court a judicial review of congressional inaction in relation to the intent from the Record of the Constitutional Commission of Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution.
Petitioners argue that (1) Congress is mandated by the Constitution to enact the needed law, with only the definition of political dynasties falling under Congress’ discretionary legislative power; (2) the congressional inaction is tantamount to grave abuse of discretion and is unconstitutional, and; (3) the honorable court should issue a writ of certiorari for Congress to comply with its constitutional mandate to pass a law defining political dynasties as required by the 1987 Constitution.
The 36 years of failure by Congress to enact a law defining political dynasties should not dim the people’s resolve to invoke their right guaranteed by the State under the Constitution.
The country must not give up, but rather find inspiration in the words of Albert Einstein, who said: “The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.”
In the exercise of the respective powers of our three branches of government, all remain subordinate to the Constitution.
Will we ever have a law defining political dynasties?
Or is the 1987 Constitution impaired in this regard?

Norman V. Cabrera,
Kapatiran Party,

This is Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 28, 2023

Re: "Prayat guilty of failing to report assets", in Bangkok Post, February 24, 2023.
It is the height of irony and hypocrisy that the former deputy secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission flaunted basic requirements on asset declaration designed specifically to curb corruption. As the legendary journalist and long-time Thai observer, Bernard Trink (rest his soul), would say, "TIT". This is Thailand.

Samanea Saman,

Philippine withdrawal from RCEP is allowed on paper
But this is not so easily done
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 3, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday March 1, 2023

We find it disingenuous on the part of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, the main sponsor of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) concurrence, to be playing up the possibility of the Philippines’ withdrawal from RCEP in order to dramatize his support for the interest of the farmers and other agriculture stakeholders.
First of all, this statement on withdrawal is inconsistent with the litany of rosy projections of benefits and gains he and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda made in their effort to sell RCEP to secure the support of other senators. In the course of their presentations they, in so many ways, in fact, downplayed the threats arising from concerns raised by the farmers and fishers.
Second, the inclusion of the section on the president having the power to withdraw upon the recommendation of the Senate is, in fact, clearly allowed under the final provisions of the RCEP’s legal text under Article 20.7, which states:
Any party may withdraw from this agreement by providing written notice of its withdrawal to the depositary.
A party’s withdrawal from this agreement shall take effect six months after the date on which that party provides written notice to the depositary under paragraph 1, unless the parties agree on a different period.
If a party withdraws, this agreement shall remain in force for the remaining parties.
Thus, to project that this is an extra special provision in the Senate concurrence resolution to reflect their concern for protecting the national interest is a little disingenuous and overly dramatic on the part of Zubiri.
Third, while withdrawal from RCEP is allowed on paper, this is not so easily done. In fact, perhaps the only time a country has done this was in the case of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union via Brexit.
This is not an easy path to take, especially for a country like the Philippines, because of the possible economic and political consequences, and the fear that we would be further isolated from our trading partners.
For all intents and purposes, we are already locked into our obligations under the agreement.
In the end, this PR stunt of Zubiri only validates Trade Justice Pilipinas’ position that our policymakers and legislators are taking the business-as-usual path when the current situation requires a bolder and transformative vision to lead us out of the woods.
Zubiri’s statement is typical of how our so-called leaders have been leading this country by telling the people: Jump first, ask questions later.
It should have been much easier for the Senate to have heeded the warning of the peasant and trade union stakeholders about possible threats, and put in place measures to mitigate these threats, and support competitiveness enhancement measures prior to giving its concurrence, rather than contemplating withdrawal when these threats materialize.

Trade Justice Pilipinas,

The war in Ukraine is turning into a standoff
Between the US, the EU, and Russia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 2, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 28, 223

Re: "Putin and Right's tough guy problems", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Sunday February 26, 2023.
The war in Ukraine is turning into a standoff between the US, the EU, and Russia. The ghosts of the old Soviet era are back.
The old war was about the supremacy of democracy against communism.
Over time it has eroded to becoming vote-bank politics.
The US is now the biggest investor in communist China. China is still a communist country, and many others are now armed to their teeth. Sadly, thanks to Right's tough guys, communist Cuba remains a significant threat to the USA.
The Right's tough guys in the US also invaded Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Vietnam in the last century to spread democracy.
American politicians also know well that one-third of the countries from the old Soviet empire which joined the EU are still ruled by dictators.
The new tussle in Ukraine is about the same old ideological rivalry, which defies logic.
It indicates the utter failure of American foreign policy.
The money sent to fund another war will be well spent on its immediate neighbours in South America in developing their economies and minimising immigration woes around its southern borders.
Paul Krugman should write a piece on the repercussions of the failure of American policies on its South American neighbours.
Funding war in a faraway land exemplifies another policy disaster.

Kuldeep Nagi,


Illegal gambling in Thailand
Is no less damaging than drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 1, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 14, 2023

Re: "Cops red-faced as scandals rock force", and "Whistleblowers expose misconduct", in Bangkok Post, Monday February 13, 2023.
Chuvit Kamolvisit's all-out war against the police force on illegal online gambling is worth the attention of all Thai people.
Illegal online gambling is no less damaging than drugs.
It drains away the financial resources of all the players, enriching only a handful of people who own and run the operations.
It's especially alarming that the young generations can become addicted easily as a lot of them are used to playing games on computers.
We need to voice our support for Mr Chuvit.
Illegal gambling is a national issue, especially when the alleged operators are protected by or are themselves high-ranking police.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,


Philippines Fishing industry suffering from tensions
With China in the West Philippines Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday Februaru 28 2023
First publshed in Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday Februaru 8, 2023

The article, “Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) fund eyed to keep power in 1.3 million rural households in Philippine Inquirer News, Tuesday January 31, 2023 stirred consumers like me in off-grid areas.
I am a member-consumer-owner of Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative. Most power consumers in our province are in the agriculture sector farming and fishing.
We are still gasping from the effects of the recent onion crisis and hardly coping with the losses we experience from other agricultural challenges.
Production costs for all crops and livestock have increased.
Prices of fuel and farm inputs have doubled and even quadrupled.
A bag of urea, used as fertilizer, increased from P700-P800/bag to P2,800-P3,000/bag.
Market conditions for our products have become harsh, especially because of crazy importation plan schedules.
Our fishing industry gravely suffers from tensions with China in the West Philippines Sea.
These are just some of among many other serious problems that we, consumers of the agricultural sector, have to face.
An increase in our monthly power billings will be another big blow to us, and we cannot afford it given our already decreasing income/increasing debt situation.
As stated in the news item, “Napocor (National Power Corp.) is also banking on the Energy Regulatory Commission’s swift approval of its pending petition on the universal charge for missionary electrification (UCME) which, if approved, will give the corporation another P30 billion.”
All of us 22.5 million consumers nationwide will be charged this increase now at P0.1739/kwh (15 million consumers of 121 electric cooperatives and local government units plus 7.5 million Meralco consumers).
Any increase per Napocor’s applications with ERC with some as far back as 2014 (they call it GRAM and Icera), will just be “passed on” to us consumers.
Our suggested solution is for the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass a supplemental budget for Napocor to address the P10.239 billion deficit for fuel procurement of SPUG generation sets and payables to new power providers (NPPs-private gencos) as “immediate relief” this 2023. This will assure continuous, reliable 24/7 power supply to this 1.3 million households almost 6.5 million individuals, and relieve consumers from carrying the additional burden of paying an increased UCME subsidy bill.
We cannot endure another “double-whammy” in our island and far-flung areas: reduced power supply that will last only for six to 15 hours per day and increased UCME subsidy bill.

Rodolfo A. Plopinio,
MCO-Occidental Mindoro,

Indonesian officials do not lure PNG civil servants
With women and alcohol at border talks
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 27, 2023
First published in the National Tuesday February 14, 2023

I watched on television the presentation of the Basic Border Agreement submission for Parliament to ratify by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Justin Tkatchenko followed by the deliberation from a number of our national leaders last month.
A number of genuine issues of bilateral interest raised by certain members like the North Fly MP James Donald, are crucial to the bilateral agreement and need to be addressed profoundly for a long term gain on both sides.
However, what was astonishing and no doubt shameful, was the baseless accusation that Papua New Guinea civil servants involved in the negotiations and review processes of the bilateral agreements are easily lured with women and alcohol – Bintang, the Indonesian brew when conducting meetings in Indonesia.
I had been involved in a number of border talks held in Jakarta and Jayapura and this has never been the case.
Let me put on record that the Indonesian officials do not lure the Papaua New Guinea civil servants with alcohol and women.
This is over-speculated, beyond exaggeration and a blatant lie right from the start.
The fact is, the Indonesian negotiation team are persons with high level of respect and integrity and conduct official businesses as required.
In the border meetings, the agenda for discussions is normally set up and prioritised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence. Other relevant stakeholders are taken on board for these meetings based on the issues of mutual discussion where qualified advices are needed.
For instance, if the issue on the agenda has to do with exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and fishing rights, the National Fisheries Authority and the Department of Attorney-General are advised earlier in preparation and are included in the talks.
Now that the Government has established the Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security, this committee can attend to the concerns and grievances of the parliamentarians from the provinces and electorates that host Papua New Guinea’s international borders.
This would allow these issues and concerns to be deliberated and proceed to the National Security Advisory Committee level, then to the National Security Council (when issues concerning national security are raised) and finally to the National Executive Council when necessary before releasing the final outcomes on these mutual issues to the bilateral talks.
By then, Papua New Guinea Government officials on the bilateral border talks know the Government’s position on these issues of national importance and discuss their way through to reach common consensus with their bilateral counterparts.
Obviously, this is a process that needs to be trod with dignity and sensitivity.
It is not something anyone can meddle with as some politicians seem to suggest.
To compare these important bilateral talks and the foreign meeting venues to the Bougainville issue deliberated in New Zealand years back is totally misleading.
The Bougainville negotiation at Burnham and Lincoln respectively had taken place there as those were neutral grounds and no lives on both sides of the negotiation teams would have be been threatened. Security and safety was guaranteed.
That arrangement had absolutely nothing to do with avoiding women, beer and other indulgences, but to solicit and reach common understanding between two foes then, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and Papua New Guinea caused by the Bougainville Crisis.
Further to that, New Zealand was the country that had initiated that peace talks and had been mandated to take the lead on her own turf.
Papua New Guinea politicians should know better that Papua New Guinea did not have sufficient money and resources at that time and was under intense pressure. New Zealand shouldered the burden.
Many of our national leaders should think before making such unfounded accusations and comparisons.
As the saying goes, “spoken words cannot be retrieved easily”.
Leaders who make such wild allegations should be mindful of what is said against our neighbours.
Indonesia alone host the largest market that is capable of absorbing Papua New Guinea products through trade.
So far, Papua New Guineas’s coffee, gold and vanilla have already made their way into the Indonesian markets starting from Jayapura.
I had seen that in Jayapura.

Emmanuel A Mungu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Philippines ends year 2022
With unprecedented national debt
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 26, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Tuesday February 14, 2023

The year 2022 ended with a bang, not from fireworks but from an unprecedented national debt of P13.42 trillion reported by the Bureau of Treasury, or over 14 percent more than the P11.73 trillion from the previous year.
Already at more than 63.5 percent of GDP, this does not yet include debts guaranteed by the national government amounting to P399 billion as of end-2022 and contingent liabilities arising from big-ticket projects with the private sector estimated at P456.2 billion in 2021.
Debt figures in the billions or trillions are simply incomprehensible to the majority of Filipinos.
Minimum wage earners paid no more than P500 daily in the National Capital Region and their families ultimately bear the heavy price of servicing an increasingly ballooning public debt, and that’s not only in terms of taxes.
Fiscal belt-tightening to pay off debts means cuts in the level and quality of essential public services such as education and health.
Unchecked borrowings could be funding environmentally harmful projects that erode local livelihoods and worsen the Philippines’ high climate risk, as debt-funded fossil fuel projects have shown.
Red flags are waving furiously, but who’s taking notice?
Not the Department of Finance, it would seem, from the way it has downplayed the mounting public debt as “manageable” without giving the public the whole picture of the additional costs of government borrowings outside of the interest and principal payments.
But the Citizens Debt Commission plans to find out. Forming the Commission for a Citizens Debt Audit (CDA), leaders and respected individuals from labor, informal workers, academe, the religious community, and other sectors have come together to get to the bottom of the massive public debt that Filipinos are routinely made to shoulder without question.
Organizations such as the Freedom from Debt Coalition and the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development embarked on debt audit initiatives in the past that spotlighted questionable debts.
Loan-financed projects were investigated based on how they were contracted, where they were spent, and how they affected people and the environment.
Among the milestones is the inclusion in the 2017 General Appropriations Act of a section mandating the Congressional Oversight Committee on Official Development Assistance to conduct a debt audit of 20 loans contracted by the Philippine government; and a Senate resolution directing the appropriate Senate committee to inquire, in aid of legislation, into the foreign loans contracted by the Philippine government.
A Citizens Debt Audit (CDA) is a powerful means to enable active citizenship and exercise the people’s right to know and arrive at a deeper understanding of how current debt policies and practices impact public spending for urgent social needs, the fulfillment of human rights, and building climate resilience.
It can also capacitate them to participate in discussions on debt management and policy reform, as is their right under a democracy.
It’s high time that the public debt is subjected to closer examination, especially when financial resources are most needed in the face of the multiple crises of livelihoods, public health, and climate, and at a time when a new administration is in place.
Surely, how these debts came about and how they were spent is a fair, common-sense ask of our policymakers.

Mae Buenaventura,
Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development,

Call for report on recommendations
For reform of Royal Thai Police
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 21 February 21, 2923
First published in the Bangkok Post Saturday January 21, 2023

Re: "DSI under fire as Chuvit alleges high-level bribery" and "Thailand's untouchables", in Bangkok Post, January 18, 2023.
Three chaiyos for those taking decisive action to weed out our all-pervasive corruption, including Khun Chuvit Kamovlisit, Anti-Corruption Division Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat Pankaew, and his boss, Central Investigation Bureau Pol Lt Gen Jiraphob Bhuridej.
All of these persons need our full and sustained support.
But rooting out rotten apples is only a start for our law enforcement's whole culture rewards corruption and must be reformed from head to toe.
To his credit, Prime Minister Gen Prayut recognised that a holistic approach was essential and commissioned crimebuster Khun Vicha Mahakun's panel to recommend how to reform the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney-General.
Khun Vicha submitted his report over two years ago but Gen Prayut has studiously avoided mentioning it to the public.
Now that election time's upon us, we voters and all parties should pressure Gen Prayut to present the report to us.
Moreover, the report must be debated immediately, along with a vow that if elected, he'll vigorously implement its recommendations.

Burin Kantabutra,

Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn calls for
Decentralisation of Royal Thai Police
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 February 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday February 17, 2023

Re: "Cops red-faced as scandals rock force", and "Whistleblowers expose misconduct", in Bangkok Post, Friday February 13, 2023.
We should do the top-to-bottom reform the Royal Thai Police needs now. Decentralisation of the Royal Thai Police so they'd be accountable to the locals they'd sworn to protect was a key part of Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn's proposed reforms echoed by ex-graftbuster Vicha Mahakun.
Perhaps protection of his own self-interest was why Prime Minister Prayut has buried Khun Vicha's report from public sight for over two years and counting. Now, with Royal Thai Police scandals proliferating in every nook and cranny, elections around the corner, and the debate in parliament this week, voters should push Gen Prayut to release Khun Vicha's report to the public. Parties also should commit to timeline-specific Royal Thai Police reforms.

Burin Kantabutra,

Thailand's non-violent protesters
Are held in detenion against 2017 Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday February 23, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday February 17, 2023

For a long time, I have been aware of the arrest of protesters and the fact that many of them couldn't get bail and remained in detention for many weeks.
Being completely un-lawyerly and having no great interest in the subject, I nevertheless had a quick look at the English translation of the 2017 Constitution.
What I found surprised me because it doesn't appear to have been mentioned anywhere in the press. Section 29, 2nd paragraph says: "A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgement convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict."
As I understand it, the non-violent protester who shared an audio clip and was sentenced to a record jail term was held in pre-trial detention for four years, and Pai Dao Din was in detention for six months.
That sounds very much to me like being treated as a convict, or am I missing something?


It is the poor who need additional benefits
Not former Philippines presidents
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday February 22, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer 22 Wednesday February 2023

Emilio Aguinaldo, Manuel L. Quezon, Jose Laurel, Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III, and Rodrigo Duterte never lived a pauper’s life riddled with miseries and impoverishment after their term.
Unlike the poor peasants and workers who are bent over for decades in their work and who are enduring pain and hardship due to poverty and neglect.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, former Philippine National Police chief who enabled Duterte to implement the war on drugs that killed thousands, together with his fellow senators Mark Villar, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go, and Francis Tolentino introduced Senate Bill No. 1784 proposing additional benefits and privileges to former presidents.
The bill is not only untimely but self-serving; it is not beneficial to the Filipino people, especially the downtrodden.
This bill manifests how the ruling elite and especially the ruling clique in the chamber of lawmakers prioritize what would benefit their pack.
The president and other elected officials are public servants that are supposedly thinking and implementing rules that would alleviate the sufferings of their constituents.
All the presidents must have not seen too much poverty, inequality, social unrest, and dissatisfaction because the basic social services have not been rendered to the ordinary people.
All the presidents did not push for the demand of a living wage.
Instead, they settled for laws that allow minimum wage that in actuality could not cope with inflation and social needs of families such as housing, education, clothing, and basic health services.
Ibon Foundation has documented the nominal minimum wage and these are the wages under their term: Corazon Aquino (P118), Ramos (P198), Estrada (P250), Arroyo (P382), Benigno Aquino III (P491), and Duterte (P537). Minimum wage through the years has never reached the living wage needed by families.
Today, the minimum wage is at P570, while a family of five needs P1,087.
No living former presidents had eased the burden of the workers, even if it was just ending contract labor.
The people are robbed of job security and long-term benefits toward their retirement through this arrangement.
When Marcos Sr. was toppled, no president ever touched nor worked to reverse or review Presidential Decree No. 1177, which is popularly known as the automatic appropriations law for debt servicing. PD 1177 remains untouched and unchallenged until today, which is why there is a bigger appropriation of the national budget that goes to debt payments.
The 2023 national budget has allotted debt servicing amounting to P1.6 trillion, the highest yearly servicing on record.
According to economist Sonny Africa, the payment is equivalent to 44 centavos out of every peso revenue.
The additional and extended benefits to past presidents would be unfair to the people who have been taxed heavily despite low salaries and robbed of benefits because the past presidents did not alleviate the sufferings of the people by prioritizing the debt payments and not the economic and social upliftment of the people.
Now that they are retired and are still living, the additional budget for the implementation of the law will be an additional burden for the ordinary ones.
So far, the living past presidents are enjoying their lives.
They would never have to raise funds or solicit if they get sick and would be needing medical intervention.
They would never beg for food or housing, nor queue at lotto outlets to take their chances on a possible fortune.
They would never commute and wait long hours for bus rides. They have enough, or perhaps more than enough.
If during their term, they were able to genuinely serve the interest of the people, there would be lesser poverty and more people would be willing to return the favor to past presidents.
After all, years of administering the country must have taught them how to organize their daily lives, including some official responsibilities they have to respond to.
It is the poor people who need additional benefits, not former presidents.

Norma P. Dollaga,
Kapatirang Simbahan,
Para sa Bayan,

Myanmar General wears medals
For cancelling democratic elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 22, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 21, 2023

Re: "Myanmar junta chief family assets found in Thai drug raid", in Bangkok Post, Saturday January 11, 2023,
The photo shows the tin pot general wearing 19 medals. Medals for what? For cancelling a democratic election? Did he get one for jailing an elderly woman? Or perhaps some are for bombing villages composed of bamboo huts full of kids and the elderly. Maybe Myanmar hands out medals for killing teenagers who demonstrate for fair elections.

Nek Nestrebla,

Why are the Lese Majeste laws
Needed to protect revered institutions
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 14, 2023

Re: "Food for thought", in Bangkok Post Editorial, February 11, 2023
When the Bangkok Post repeats the platitude that "the lese majeste laws are needed to protect the revered institution", reasonable people might again wonder why Thailand's revered institution needs such punitive protection when the same revered institutions of other nations continue and thrive with less or even without harsh penalty.

Felix Qu.

Canadian visitor to Thailand
Warns of obesity, alcohol consumption, heart desease
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday February 13, 2023

As a Canadian woman, age 63, who is now visiting Thailand for the fifth time, I'd like to share how much I love your country: from the warm, friendly people, the art and architecture to your delicious food.
I've noticed a thing or two about the changes I've seen in Thais from 1990 to 2023.
On the first visit, in 1990.
I remember Thais were smaller than my 164cm height, and weighed less than my then 55kg weight.
Three decades later, younger Thais are taller than me, and have stronger, bigger bones.
Thanks to Thailand achieving substantial economic growth over the past three decades, I imagine that more people gained access to more nutritious food.
Now I see a proliferation of fast food companies, coffee shops and high-fat snacks in stores.
I'm writing to warn Thais that when Canadians started buying highly-processed foods in grocery stores in the 1960s and also at fast food restaurants which serve an addictive combination of fat-sugar-salt foods, we started to gain weight.
Now Canadians are dying prematurely from obesity, high alcohol consumption, heart disease and strokes.
In the past 32 years, I've noticed that many Thai women are changing their appearance.
Now, many lighten their hair and skin colour, or wear blue contact lenses.
Canadian women have been subjected for decades to high-pressure advertising that succeeds in making women feel badly about their appearance; so badly that women spend a fortune lightening their hair and buying expensive creams and makeup.
In my opinion, Thais are perfect just the way they are. I love your darker skin. I love your black hair. You are beautiful just the way you are.

Georgina Hunter

Call for hotline to report on
Illegal immigrants workers in Bangkok
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 18, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 14, 2023

Re: "Whistleblowers expose misconduct", in Bangkok Post, February 13 and "Myanmar vendors nabbed on Khao San", in Bangkok Post, February 8.
Reading this news report on February 8, I am really confused about the timing of the nabbing.
As Bangkokians, we have been wondering about the activity of the police station adjacent to Khao San and the immigration police as well.
Apart from food vendors, what about the ethnic Nepalese from Myanmar who speak Nepalese, Burmese, Hindi, English and Thai ?
They are the majority of workers in almost every bar and restaurant on Khao San Road seen blocking the walking streets with menus in their hands, chasing and touching female tourists and passing vulgar slurs.
They make it extremely difficult to walk.
They can be seen on both sides of the street.
How about them? Are these jobs not for Thai citizens only?
Do they have a work permit?
Not only on Khao San but on the pavements of Sukhumvit Road from Soi Nana onwards to Asoke intersection.
You can find the same Nepalese Burmese working for Thais selling illegal sex toys, and e-cigarettes, openly right under the nose of police and thetsakij police city police who are assigned to patrol pavements.
What about the beggar gangs, reportedly from neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, who present with newborn and infant kids all over Sukhumvit Road? They have been part of Sukhumvit Road for years, again under the nose of police, particularly immigration police.
Will the Royal Thai Police (RTP) only act only after Chuvit Kamolvisit or other whistleblowers make a noise?
I also wonder why no printed newspapers or Thai television channels did not take up reports on this glaring law violation issue.
When reporting on illegal immigrant workers, please provide a hotline email where people can send information and where photos can be sent.

Joynandan Haldar,

Ilegal gambling operators in Thailand
Are protected by high ranking police
The Southeast Asian Timesm, Friday February
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 15, 2023

Re: "Cops red-faced as scandals rock force", and "Whistleblowers expose misconduct", in Bangkok Post, February 13, 2023.
Chuvit Kamolvisit's all-out war against the police force on illegal online gambling is worth the attention of all Thai people.
Illegal online gambling is no less damaging than drugs.
It drains away the financial resources of all the players, enriching only a handful of people who own and run the operations.
It's especially alarming that the young generations can become addicted easily as a lot of them are used to playing games on computers.
We need to voice our support for Mr Chuvit. Illegal gambling is a national issue, especially when the alleged operators are protected by or are themselves high-ranking police.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,

Call for Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut
To release Vicha Mahakun report
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday February 16, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday February 13, 2023

Re: "Top cops linked to illegal site, CCIB to quiz Thai actress in Taiwan, 46 arrested over macau888", in Bangkok Post, February Thursday 9, Friday 10, 2023.
Chuvit Kamolvisit is indeed brave to blow the whistle on the police by the hundreds, even including generals.
Many millions of Thais, including me, hope he succeeds.
But he's climbing the wrong mountain.
He's rooting out individual rogues, who are the result of the existing system.
The whole police culture is rotten and needs to be solved with a holistic approach, including compensation, job-related key performance indicators, decentralisation, and so on.
Then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva knew that a holistic, top-to-bottom approach was needed, and commissioned Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn to propose such a solution but Gen Vasit's proposals weren't even discussed in parliament.
Likewise, Prime Minister Gen Prayut has hidden ex-graftbuster Vicha Mahakun panel's report on reforming the Royal Thai Police (RTP) and public prosecutor's office for over two years because Gen Prayut lacks the political will to order the scale of change required.
Chuvit's placing his life on the line to show us the need for extensive change. We must back Chuvit to the hilt. Encourage the media to get Prayut to release the Vicha report and get your favourite party to commit to vigorously implement the reforms proposed.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for the US Department of Defense
To clarify US-funded lab project in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday February 15, 2023
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Monday February 13, 2023

Only the Inquirer reported on the calls of Makabayan bloc lawmakers for Congress to investigate why the US Department of Defense is funding the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Tarlac City for $643,000, and only transferred to the Department of Agriculture (DA) in September 2020 in “House urged to scrutinize US-funded lab project in PH,” News, 21 December, 2022.
It is not only Congress that should investigate this worrisome expose, but the Department of National Defense (DND), Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice, Department of Health, and the local government units involved should have a thorough investigation and report, in the name of transparency and accountability that President Marcos Jr. espouses.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency is a combat support agency within the United States Department of Defense (DoD) doing work on weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high explosives.
Isn’t this funding suspicious?
This role of civilian and agricultural cooperation rests with the US Department of Agriculture, not with agencies within the US DoD, clearly.
Will the DFA and DND ask US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during his visit to clarify the US position?
Thank you Makabayan bloc for initiating the investigation and to Inquirer for reporting this worrisome news.
Why are our other politicians, government agencies, and other media silent?
Recently, US State Department Undersecretary Victoria Nuland was forced to admit that the US has been funding over 30 dangerous biolabs in Ukraine, which Kiev and the White House initially denied.
But when Russia was about to take over some of the biolabs, Nuland told the congressional inquiry that: “Ukraine has biological research facilities which, in fact, we’re now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of, so we are working with the Ukrainians on how we can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”
Nuland’s bizarre confession revealed the same concerns that our lawmakers should be demanding an answer on: why is she so concerned that Russia would seize such a benign “biological research facility”?
The US asked to explain after the Pentagon admits to operating 46 biolabs in Ukraine after months of denial,” read another June 12 headline by the UK’s Morning Star.
Is the US moving its biolabs from Ukraine to Asia?
And the Philippines another willing ally at the risk of endangering the lives of our people?
The Intercept also reported that accidents from US biolabs are mostly unreported, with over 250 biolabs worldwide funded by the US and off-limits to the World Health Organization from inspecting.
America can’t be trusted, especially their nongovernment organizations funded by the state and defense departments like the NED, USAID, etc.
In fact, foreign governments have long accused the USAID as a front for the CIA dedicated to the downfall of countries that do not conform to the demands of the US.
We saw the destruction and deaths in many nations in South America, the Middle East, Ukraine that blindly trusted the superpower.
The next mistake may be catastrophic.

Laura Reyes,

Thai PM cannot lose face
By giving in to hunger strikers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 14, 2023
First published in Bangkok Post, Saturday February 11, 2023

Re: “2 activists get bail as lives at risk”, in Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 8. 2023.
The Criminal Court approved bail for the two political activists, “Tawan” and “Bam”, who are on hunger strike to ensure human rights, freedom of expression, and the ending of Sections 112 and 116 concerning lese majeste and sedition, respectively.
However, the two young girls insist on continuing their strike.
I salute the strikers for their moral courage in literally putting their lives on the line for what they believe is right.
But Prayut cannot afford to lose face by giving in completely.
I urge the strikers to thank the court and accept the olive branch offered them. Accept bail on condition that Prayut immediately join them in honouring our national father’s sage advice on lese majeste and doing as King Rama IX would have done.
Central Investigation Bureau commissioner Jirabhop Bhuridej, right, inspects e-cigarettes smuggled from China in December. A total of 883,000 e-cigarettes valued at 130 million baht were seized from two locations in Lat Krabang district of Bangkok.
What would our beloved national father have done?
As Grossman and Faulder put it in their palace-approved book: “Thailand’s law of lèse-majesté has one very prominent critic: King Bhumibol… In 2005... King Bhumibol used his annual televised birthday address to convey three concerns: (a) ‘The king,’ he said, ‘is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism. (b) Charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released, and (c) The use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy.’”
Your proposal to follow King Rama IX’s advice would be very difficult for Prayut and the courts to ignore, as they themselves would benefit significantly from so doing, and greatly lower the political temperature.

Burin Kantabutra

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's
Promised to usher in true democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 13, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 1, 2023

Re: "Prayut hits hustings as Pheu Thai rules out post-poll deal with PPRP," in Bangkok Post, Sunday, January 29, 2023.
Before jumping too quickly to swallow whole Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's latest round of amazing promises, it would be prudent to look back on the historical record of the past eight years.
When he staged a coup, he made another bunch of promises, such as reforming corrupt institutions, returning happiness, and even ushering in a golden era of "true democracy."
Recent headlines confirm what really was clear back in May 2014. The evidence of eight years shows that reform of the Royal Thai Police and the Royal Thai Army, and tackling corruption were not actually among his goals, nor achieved.
What is, on the contrary, all too apparent is that the Thai constitution defining Thailand's form of democratic government was overthrown precisely to prevent those reforms for which Thais continue to call in vain.
This is also why Thai patriots peacefully calling for reform along the lines of openness, transparency and accountability are harassed, arrested and imprisoned.
Thailand has already choked enough on the promises rudely forced down everyone's throats in 2014. Is another dose of the same really a healthy choice?

Felix Qui,

Community-based health programs in Philippines
Condemns designation of terrorist by Anti-Terrorism Council
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 12, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday February 9, 2023

We, the Council for Health and Development, the national organization of community-based health programs (CBHPs) in the Philippines, strongly condemn the designation of Dr. Naty Castro as a terrorist and the Red-tagging of CBHP by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).
The ATC released Resolution No. 35 (2022) during the 17th ATC Meeting dated December 7, 2022, designating Castro as a terrorist and accusing the CBHP, where she worked as a community doctor for decades in Caraga, as a CPP-NPA-NDF front.
This year, we celebrate 50 years of CBHP since its inception in 1973.
The CBHP was initiated by three nuns of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, namely Sister Mary Grenough, MM, Sister Eva Varon, MMS, and Sister Xavier Marie Bual, SPC.
Together with other community development workers, they developed and implemented the concept of training people in rural and urban communities in response to the lack of social and health services, amidst the sociopolitical crisis during the dark years of martial law under former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Instead of cowing to terror, the pioneers of CBHPs lived and worked with the poor, helping them address their health needs through skills training and basic health services.
From three pilot programs in 1973, CBHPs including people’s health committees are now more than 70 programs all over the Philippines.
For the past 50 years, CBHPs have worked with dedicated and courageous men and women who, despite the promise of illustrious careers and income abroad or in the cities, chose the path less traveled and served the poor and downtrodden. Those whose diseases cannot be healed by pills alone, but an overhaul of a public health system that fatally made health a privilege and less a right.
The ATC is so desperate to silence not just her but also all community-based public health practitioners serving the rural areas, where there is no or limited access to health care services due to the lack of government support.
Red-tagging CBHPs is sowing terror and placing doctors and health workers who chose to serve far-flung areas at the risk of being harassed or killed.
Choosing to serve communities in the margins is not an act of terrorism, and neither does speaking about the root causes of inequities make one a terrorist.
We call on the Filipino people and all public health advocates and practitioners to condemn the ATC resolution, designating Castro as a terrorist and Red-tagging CBHPs.
Castro is not a terrorist. The CBHPs and the community health workers are not terrorists. Stop the attacks on community health workers.
Scrap the Anti-Terrorism Act!

Magdalena Barcelon, M.D.,
Eleanor Jara, M.D.,
Council for Health and Development,

Homeless freeze to death
Outside five star hotels housing refugees
The Southeast Asian Times, Saurday February 1, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 8, 2023

Re: "Sign of ignorance", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saurday February 4, 2023.
I take issue with Mr Nagi's statement that: "For immigrants, there is no other choice but to succeed in a foreign land".
While this may be true in countries such as India, where he is from, it most certainly is not the case in developed countries such as Sweden or the UK.
It's common now for people who have successfully immigrated to first-world countries, such as those in Northern Europe, to sponsor family members from their previous nation to come along, including elderly parents.
These elderly people do not work but rather receive social welfare from the state in which they now inhabit, in addition to familial help.
Furthermore, many people who come from poor countries now seek asylum in Western countries, and they receive the full range of social benefits that normal citizens do, but unlike normal citizens, the refugees do not work.
Recently, a homeless man froze to death in Scarborough, England, just outside of lavish four- and five-star hotels where Albanian and Afghanistani refugees were housed. Unsurprisingly, the native inhabitants of Western countries are now getting fed up with having their hard-earned tax dollars used to support foreigners who are not working in these countries.

An Expat in Thailand,

Call for polls to measure public opinion
For support for pro-democracy hunger strikers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday February 10, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 8, 2023

Re: "Sympathy, but little support for protest", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Monday February 6, 2023
It would be hard to disagree with Veera Prateepchaikul, following exiled former Thammasat University lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul, that the young pro-democracy activists Tantawan "Tawan" Tuatulanon and Orawan "Bam" Phuphong, who have suffered so much "should be commended for their steely hearts and resolve for their cause".
What is less clear, is whether Veera is right that support for their cause has, in fact, dwindled among the Thai people.
The only way to make any statement about what a people might support is to run a few well-designed and properly conducted polls to measure public opinion.
For all their imperfections and weaknesses, opinion polls remain reliable indicators of how a nation or any demographic within it feels.
Veera cited not a single poll or lower percentage for his claims about the extent of public support for the cause.
That people might not turn out for a protest because of rising costs of living, or less media notice does not entail that there does not also exist a large groundswell of solid support.
Whatever the percentages might be, the Thai people deserve to know what they themselves think.
Policymakers should care very much to know what the nation feels to a percentage point.

Felix Qui,

Call for Bangkok Post to ovoid use of the word dust
For high levels of soot and smoke from illegal burning
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday February 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday February 6, 2023

:Re: "Unsafe dust levels in 43 provinces, including Bangkok," in Bangkok Post, Friday February 3, 2023.
The Post should consider avoiding the use of the word "dust" to categorise the high levels of dangerous PM2.5 particles blanketing 43 provinces.
While dust may be a part of it, the vast majority of the regional PM2.5 pollution is soot and smoke from illegal burning.
And in urban areas, road traffic contributes a quarter of PM2.5 particulates, not all of it from vehicle exhausts.
You cannot address a specific problem if you fail to identify it.

Tarquin Chufflebottom,

Philippines Senate blue ribbon committee report
Finds conspiracy to facilitate and or generate overpricing
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday February 8, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday February 1, 2023

A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a crime and then proceed to commit it.
In a conspiracy, there is collective criminal responsibility and all the conspirators are liable for all the consequences of their deed.
According to the Senate blue ribbon committee report, the Department of Education (DepEd) bought 39,583 laptops for public school teachers from its favored suppliers at the bloated cost of P58,300 per unit.
The laptops were originally priced at just P35,046.50, resulting in an overprice of P979 million.
The original intention to purchase 68,500 units did not materialize as a consequence of the overprice.
The report added that “There was a conspiracy to facilitate and/or generate an overprice which indicates manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and/or gross inexcusable neglect on the part of the senior officials and staff of the DepEd and the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).”
The committee recommended the filing of criminal charges against several former and current officials of the DepEd and PS-DBM for conspiracy.
Why wasn’t then Education Secretary Leonor Briones included among those who should be haled into court?
Why were the corporate officers of the joint venture companies identified by the committee as the favored suppliers of the overpriced and outdated laptops Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., LDLA Marketing and Trading, and VST ECS (Philippines) Inc. not among those who should face graft charges?
It is an accepted practice among fishermen all over the world to catch the big fish and to let go of the small fry. Here in the Philippines, it is the small fry that gets fried. The big fish, as a rule, is allowed to get away.
Excluding Briones and the suppliers from the consequences of their collective criminal responsibility only serves to solidify the public perception that the Philippine justice system is selective, arbitrary, and capricious.
It will serve to inspire, encourage, and motivate other government officials to commit unabashed and unbridled acts of graft and corruption while in service, without fear of censure and consequences.
Lady Justice in the Philippines will be seen as a whore who is cross-eyed if not blind.
In a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all.
How can Briones, who approved the multibillion deal and who headed the DepEd while runaway thievery was being conducted under her very nose, not be part of it? How can the suppliers not be part and parcel of this monumental act of piracy when they profited handsomely and immensely from it?
An unbroken chain of generations of corrupt government officials has kept the Philippines short, stunted, and small compared to its siblings in the Asia-Pacific region. When will we wise up to the reality that we will forever be poor because we are enriching those who are supposed to be our public servants, with our indifference, complacency, and cowardice? The wicked live on denials, and denials are in themselves a kind of faith faith in evildoing. Evil thrives when good men choose to do nothing.
The very ultimate victims of this conspiracy of pirates are the poor public school students, verily the children of a lesser god.
The perpetrators of this dastardly crime, rather than lead these children to see the light of reason, bring them darkness and blind them instead. Realizing this just shreds my heart to shards.

Antonio Calipjo Go,
Quezon City,

Call for University of Papua New Guinea
To fill vacant positions
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 7, 2023
First published in the National, Friday January 10, 2023

A total of 82 positions were advertised by the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in January 2022.
Even after one year not a single one of those positions has been filled.
Is this because of the inefficiency of the management or the shortage of money?
It may be that some of these positions are managed by full-time staff in addition to looking after other positions in an acting capacity.
This is not the way to run any university, let alone the premier university.
If lack of money is the problem, the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) management must obtain funds from the Government and fill these vacancies.

Naomi Rikimanin,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for a state welfare system in Thailand
Not an increase in hand outs for the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 6, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday January 21, 2023

Re: "Prawit vows welfare card boost", in Bangkok Post, January 18, 2023
The number of state welfare cards, designed to pacify people at the grassroots level, is expected to increase from 13.5 million to 18 million this year.
That's not good news.
But if Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit retains power after the upcoming election, he promises this monthly stipend will increase from 200-300 to 700 baht.
Recognising this is entirely insufficient and his need to thwart the promised Pheu Thai election tidal wave, might I call the deputy prime minister's attention to a new source of significant tax revenue which would allow him to deliver not just a paltry increase in handouts for the poor but rather the introduction of a comprehensive state welfare system to finally address the kingdom's yawning inequality chasm?
This source of huge new tax revenues is close at hand.
All Gen Prawit has to do is to follow the advice contained in an open letter signed by 205 of the world's super-rich, calling on the world leaders and business executives currently attending the World Economic Forum's love-fest at Davos to "Tax us now".
The letter makes an eloquent case for the super-rich to save their own bacon:
"We are living in an age of extremes. Rising poverty and widening wealth inequality...
"Extremes are unsustainable, often dangerous and rarely tolerated for long...
"The history of the last five decades is a story of wealth flowing nowhere but upwards...
"Tax the ultra-rich and do it now..."

Gen Prawit, this is your road to election success and a bright shining place in modern history.

Sad Optimist

University of Papua New Guinea wants Filipino born in
Papua New Guinea to pay international student fees
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 4, 2923
First published in the National, Friday February 3, 2023

I am so amused to read the front page story "UPNG turns away Filipino."
There is a lack of justification.
The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) does not give any definite reasons for telling the Filipino student to pay as an international student.
Where is your provision or is there any clause in your administration that states clearly like what is now the scenario?
I bet there is none.
The fact that Roselyn was born in Papua New Guinea is enough to guarantee her access to the services like any other citizen.
The immigration department also confirms that she is entitled to services because her records show that she was born in Papua New Guinea.
This is an embarrassment as it seems UPNG does not have any clause in place to cater for such cases.
Instead, University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) depends only on the fact that she is from the Philippines and so should pay international student fees.
What a joke and hypocritical decision by the so-called acting registrar.
Please allow the student to register and put your teams together and get the provision or clause inserted to accommodate such scenarios in future.
Wake up and get your team to work.

Concerned citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Aung San Suu Kyi
Plays with fire
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 1, 2023

Re: "Suu Kyi gets bitten," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saturday January 28, 2023.
While I agree with David Brown's main points in his comments on Aung San Suu Kyi's conduct, I think it is necessary to think carefully on her situation.
One must look at the political situation in the country over the last 15 years at least. In these years, the Tatmadaw the military in Myanmar were already attacking the Rohingya, and people leaving the country.
Then the Tatmadaw began an extermination campaign, and almost all of the Rohingya had to flee or be killed.
What was Aung San Suu Kyi to do?
So she went along with the general prejudice towards a racial group different from her own, I expect, to save her government from the Tatmadaw.
This worked for only a short period, and then came the coup.
Now the "renewed" Myanmar judiciary has sentenced her to long imprisonment. If you play with fire, you often get burned.


Call to fire President Marcos Jr.
From Department of Agriculture
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday February 3, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday February 1, 2023

I was amazed by the article “President to give up Department of Agriculture (DA) post when food crisis over” in Philippine Inquirer, Business, January 17, 2023.
Given the current shortfall in basic food supplies like pork, fish, sugar, onion, and now, eggs, it looks like President Marcos Jr. will most likely further extend his stint as Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary.
Per various accounts, food supply problems besetting our country are the combination of the following factors, to wit:
Low production of said food items by our farmers and fishers;
excessive trade protection of the domestic agricultural industry from unfair foreign competition in terms of supply, demand, costs, and other considerations;
High cost of production due to expensive farm and fishing inputs;
The need to improve research and agriculture and fishing extension systems the modes of delivery for improved technology, techniques, and practices to raise farmers’ and fishers’ productivity.
As a consequence, the country is dependent on imports because of insufficient production, a problem that was exacerbated by the pandemic.
Now more than ever, what we need, as Inquirer columnist Ciel Habito said, is to “fire” the President as agriculture secretary, and for him to appoint “a capable and effective full-time leader for the beleaguered Department of Agricultures (DA) to make it truly responsive to the needs of farmers, fishers, and consumers alike” to forestall the further worsening of the food supply in our country.

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,

Royal Thailand Police
Cannot impartially investigate itself
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday February 4, 2023
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 1, 2023

Re: "Police chief steps in to bribes row," in Bangkok Post, Monday January 29, 2023
I 'm glad that Royal Thailand Police (RTP) chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas has ordered investigators to find the truth about a Taiwanese actress' complaint that police extorted 27,000 baht from her at a checkpoint and has promised that "drastic disciplinary and legal action will be taken against any guilty officers."
But justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.
The credibility of the Royal Thailand Police (RTP) itself is at stake, and the accused cannot impartially investigate itself.
Who can do the job?
Ex-graft buster Vicha Mahakun's panel did such a superb job of recommending reforming the Royal Thailand Police (RTP) and public prosecutor's office that Prime Minister Prayut has assiduously buried his report from public view for over two years.
Maybe Khun Vicha would step up to the plate once more with transparent proceedings?

Burin Kantabutra,

Big business in Thailand
Transfers profits out of the country
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 February 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday January 3, 2023

Re: "Hail the Tourist," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Monday January 28, 2023.
I am sure that Globetrotter knows that big foreign businesses such as McDonald's, KFC, Grab, Huawei, DTAC, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, Alibaba and dozens of others in Thailand or elsewhere in the world, including Spain or Portugal, legally transfer their profits out of the country.
The shareholders and CEOs are the primary beneficiaries of such companies.
As far as I know, many Indian immigrants, especially those who came here a century ago, are Thai citizens and contribute heavily to the economy.
Big companies, such as Indorama, Jaspal, Tata and many others, have contributed heavily to Thailand's economy.
For example, Jaspal employs thousands of employees and does lots of philanthropic work.
It is simple. Immigrants in any country will work much harder to succeed than the natives who have become too comfortable with their lives or do not want to take complex jobs.
Look carefully at those Toyota trucks filled with young Lao or Myanmar girls and boys.
If you miss it, visit any of these places Patong, Patpong, Pattaya or Phuket. Good luck.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Papua New Guinea needs donor assistance
In sourcing specific industry expertise
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 January 2023
First published in the National, Wednesday January 11, 2023

I recently returned to Port Moresby after a four-year absence to visit one of my daughters.
I worked here for over 30 years and for the last 17 years on various international aid programmes, including four years on Bougainville.
My long absence was dictated by Covid-19 restrictions. My late wife was a Papua New Guinean as are my three daughters.
So, I think I have an empathy for Papua New Guinea.
I’ve driven around Port Moresby to observe changes.
There are major developments in main roads and new real estate: both commercial and new housing.
It’s impressive.
But I also have an underlying unease about the slow pace of development vis-à-vis potential) of the country’s natural resources apart from mining.
I mean fishing, forestry, and agriculture.
These are developments that would benefit population areas outside Port Moresby.
Maybe there is a lot of work going on ‘behind the scenes’ within the relevant statutory authorities and departments.
But that is not obvious to the casual observer.
The Government’s stated intentions are clear, pathways on implementation not so clear.
Consider forestry as an example.
I did some work for a 100 per cent nationally-owned logging and sawmilling company in West New Britain. Okay, it was back in the 1990s.
But I think most problems these companies confronted then, remain.
It is now government policy that logging exports be phased out in favour of further processed products sawn timber, etc.
Do the planners envisage that individual forestry permit holders should install sawmilling machinery, drying kilns, etc. at their logging sites?
Many sites probably rely on genset power.
Or would they prefer purpose-built sawmilling plants at central locations?
And logs shipped from the logging sites to the central mills maybe a mix.
Is someone analysing the economics and pros and cons of the alternatives including potential relief to the loggers from the current tax regime?
And publishing the conclusions?
A small redirection and more flexibility in some of the international aid the country receives would be welcome.
To help progress these issues. Papua New Guinea needs donor assistance in sourcing specific industry expertise in addition to programme aid for capacity building.
Papua New Guinea welcomes all donors.
Some may be more flexible than others.
I do not say this because I think Papua New Guineans are incapable but simply because some of the donor countries have decades of experience in operating their own developed industries in these sectors.
Neither do I comment because I am touting for work.
I’m a grey nomad, semi-retired.
Though I might be okay to contribute if wanted.
I have written because I want the country to make more rapid progress.

Jim Benn,
Natioal Capital District
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Thai media never follow up on scandals
If the main culprits are the so-called elites
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 30, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday January 18, 2023

Re: "The truth about Thai money politics" in Bangkok Post Opinion, Friday January 13, 2025.
Ajarn Thitinan Pongsudhirak is brave enough to speak up on Thai money politics and related issues involving General Prayut Chan-o-cha's brother and nephews' cases not being properly investigated and no one being held accountable still.
He is not afraid of being sent to a junta-run "attitude adjustment centre" inside an army barracks.
I salute his fearless attitude.
Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit Wongsuwon kicked out an elected legal government in an army coup, giving the reason that Yingluck s government was corrupt.
Gen Prawit's wristwatch scandal shocked the nation and the common man on the street.
Citizens lost trust in our justice system.
Even cab drivers and vegetable vendors hate our nation's leaders.
The problem is our ex-junta leaders never tried to learn from history and revolutions.
Ajarn Thitinan Pongsudhirak,. Don't you agree that all this money politics for decades is due to our own lack of interest in being vocal and failing to unite to come onto the streets like Iranian youths who came out in numbers against the killing of a woman who was against wearing a hijab?
The saddest thing is the mainstream media.
They never follow up on scandals if the main culprits are the so-called elites.
The media should be fearless.
We lack patriotism and nationalism.
The question is: Who sets the right definition of proper nationalism and proper patriotism?
As long as our kids are kept in the dark and in fear of harsh punishment for speaking up, the future of Thailand is dark.

Jayut Jayanandana,



Festival Filem Malaysia has followed
Hollywood’s Oscars Academy Awards model
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 29, 2023
First published in the Star, Tuesday January 10, 2023

The government-sponsored Malaysian Film Festival, a key industry event, entered its 32nd year in 2022.
But during the last decade, the festival has become just another version of popularity awards shows in the manner of Anugerah Skrin, Anugerah Bintang Popular and Anugerah ERA.
Consequently, the FFM from its Malay name, Festival Filem Malaysia lacks a branding identity.
Since its inception in 1980 as organised by the Malaysian Entertainment Journalist Association (EJA), the festival seems to have followed Hollywood’s Oscars (Academy Awards) model by granting awards to outstanding films and individual artists and technicians.
In this respect, the festival should clarify whether it wants to be an Oscars-style awards ceremony or a film festival.
If the organisers want the FFM function like an actual film festival, then the awards ceremony element should be downplayed, which was precisely what the National Film Development Corp of Malaysia (Finas) did when the agency took over the festival from EJA in 1982.
Then Finas director-general Ismail Zain attempted to change the event’s emphasis by highlighting programmes like film seminars and cutting back on the awards component.
After Ismail stepped down in 1985, the FFM straddled the Oscars-style awards ceremony and film festival concept.
Programmed events such as forums, seminars, workshops, screenings and exhibitions were included, albeit inconsistently and sporadically, along with several days of activities that culminated in the award-giving ceremony.
Rather than reorganising the FFM, Finas, with assistance and support, should appoint an independent body or organisation to run the festival.
The selected organisation should have the authority to name the festival’s director and curators and ensure that the FFM is consistent in terms of format and time, while offering film-related programmes such as screenings and talks.
Over the last two decades, the FFM has not been well-promoted, which has affected the public’s and movie fans’ support.
Promotion for the FFM should be ongoing throughout the year and not done for a month or two weeks before the festival takes place.
The promotion and pre-festival activities should not be confined to a single type of venue like shopping malls; the organisers should consider a wide range of locales running the gamut from university campuses and schools to small town and kampung community centres.
Among the main pre-festival activities should be film screenings and discussions to help develop film literacy and appreciation among the general public.
The FFM should be a marketing showcase where Malaysian films are professionally screened and promoted.
Until now, film screenings have not been the festival’s main agenda – the occasional screenings have been somewhat haphazardly organised.
UTP graduates in high demand by top-tier companies
It defeats the purpose of having the FFM if it fails to develop a film culture among Malaysians and expose the public to locally-made films.
The FFM could be the platform through which love for Malaysian cinema – and even cinema in general could be instilled and nurtured. The festival should highlight and promote films not just stars and celebrities.
In addition to screening the films in competition, the festival should also showcase black-and-white classics of the golden age, past FFM winners, independent films, animated films, documentaries, short films, and films with specific themes and tropes.
For example, a retrospective of influential Malaysian directors such as Hussain Haniff, M. Amin, Jamil Sulong, L. Krishnan, Rahim Razali, U-Wei Haji Saari, and Yasmin Ahmad could become an integral part of the festival’s offerings.
If the organiser wants to maintain the method of selecting winners through a committee or panel jury rather than a voting system like the Oscars uses, jury members should join the audience to view films in competition while forming their critical opinions of them.
During the award ceremony, the jury members should be introduced and welcomed onto the stage while the chair delivers the summary report. Subsequently, the report should be published in the media, as used to be the practice in the 1980s and 1990s.
The FFM should be made relevant not only to film industry personnel but also to the broader public so that cinema can emerge as a part of Malaysia’s public culture.
One of the main ways to propel Malaysian cinema forward is to develop and educate audiences.
In the long run, the growth of discerning audiences may dictate the standard of films we get.
I hope that the FFM will come to be regarded as a benchmark of meritorious achievement of Malaysian cinema and an emblem of cultural life.
Knowledge, insight and the exchange of ideas should become the festival’s primary focus, rather than glamour, red carpets and award-giving.
A rebranding of the FFM is long overdue.

Norman Yusoff,
Senior lecturer,
College of Creative Arts,
Universiti Teknologi Mara (Selangor)



Thailand voter says
"Surely we are wiser now"
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 21, 2023
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 28, 2023

Re: "PM tells people to vote wisely," in Bangkok Post, Tuesday January 17, 2023
In response to the Prime Minister requesting Thai citizens to cast our votes wisely, which is creating confusion, allow me to speak up.
I am the same patriotic Siamese person who once supported the coup d'etat orchestrated by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha in 2014 since I felt that was necessary to get rid of the corrupt government of Khun Thaksin and Khun Yingluck even though I fought my whole life as a human rights activist, always against coups d'etat all over the world.
But now I will explain why I might not cast my vote as I did earlier for your party or the Palang Pracharath Party.
Corruption has returned to their homes.
Under your regime, unarmed students and netizens were sentenced to lengthy imprisonment.
Your regime always used Section 112 to suppress the youth.
Apparently, you are scared to listen to people's voices.
The cases involving your brother and your relatives were not investigated properly. Khun Prawit Wongsuwon's watches and the related judgement left me speechless, and I lost total faith.
Above all, you have built a coalition government with the same people who were questioned by the public - some of them coming from Pheu Thai.
Indeed, I have a deep family background of the Democrat Party.
The reason I stopped supporting them is because of their inability to protest or raise their voices against irregularities and unethical actions in the current coalition government.
So when you request us to be wise to vote, surely we are wiser now.

Jayut Jayanandana,

Onion farmers in Philippines
Incurr millions in losses
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 27, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday January 23, 2023

This is in reaction to your editorial, “Desperation over onion,” in Philippine Inquirer Thursday, January 19, 2023.
We were aghast at the magnitude of the “onion problem,” which has caused some farmers to lose their lives by committing suicide after incurring millions in losses they suffered.
What made us fume in anger was the statement made by an onion farmer from Mindoro who said in a Senate hearing that traders buy their products at P8 to P15 per kilo and sell them for P600 in the market.
We cannot fathom the insensitivity of those traders who have the gall to pay a measly few pesos for every kilo of onions they buy and sell it at a gargantuan profit.
How inhuman and insensitive can they get?
The Philippines is an agricultural archipelago surrounded by water where fish abound.
But why is it importing agricultural products and fish?
The easy answers are that unscrupulous business people choose to import fish and agricultural products because that is more profitable instead of patronizing local farmers and fishermen, and many agricultural lands have been converted by land developers into residential subdivisions, and fishermen of a foreign power have been fishing in our waters and protected by that powerful country’s militia that harasses Filipino fishermen in our own territory.
It has also been reported that the government will import onions at a time when farmers will harvest their produce!
What a “brilliant idea”?
It is just like telling the gardener to water the plants as rain pours!
The call for a full-time secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is understandably getting louder!
How can President Marcos Jr. as Department of Agriculture (DA head manage this department in the face of myriad problems besetting this country?
There is that brouhaha raging in the Department of National Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police.
Add to them the nagging illegal drug problem which has caused the loss of innocent lives as a result of the “extrajudicial killings” allegedly executed by rogue elements in the police force who are believed to be awarded tens of thousands of pesos for every victim they kill.
These problems have made many think that the ship of state is fast sinking because it is rudderless, thanks to those who seem to guide this president in very troubled waters.
God save this benighted land!

Ramon Mayuga,

Philippines war on drugs
A sham approach to solving drug problem
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 26, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday January 17, 2023

She passed away without seeing the dawn of justice for her son, a pedicab driver, and scavenger who was killed in Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
All her life she struggled to survive and since social services are wanting, her health succumbed to sickness in a lonely public hospital bed.
Prayers via Messenger were offered, as she tried to pray to the highest heavens for little comfort.
Her fragile bones could no longer hold her muscles, and yes, death could meet her as her way to peace at the bosom of the Creator.
While struggling to breathe in and take the needed air for her to feel she was still surviving, news about the Philippine National Police being involved in the illegal drug trade was all over the media.
Truly, the war on drugs was but a sham approach to solving the problem.
Whether it is 6,000 or 30,000 or only one that died, the war on drugs that targeted the poor was not only a failure.
There was blood on the hands of the previous government officials under Duterte. If the war on drugs has been successful, then the government must explain why the drug trade continues to exist, and worse, Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel are even involved. Is it not ironic that after the murder of thousands, the trade continues and those involved are the officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP)?
Her remains will lie in the community where the sun shines and exposes poverty with muddy alleys littered with waste and dirt, longing for the freshness of a new morn.
At a quick glance, one could already feel a sense of awe at how people survive. These communities must be revisited and the war on drugs that caused so many killings and untimely deaths reviewed for accountability.
The extravagance of abuse and injustice cannot be underestimated when the families in their impoverishment were witnesses to the killings and the denial of injustice.
Yet the powers and principalities are free to keep their business as usual. While the poor are in their usual waiting and wanting justice.
There are other mothers in their humble situation whose weak bodies gave up. Their hope though strong, they bid goodbye for eternity without a glimpse of justice for their sons.
As the corruption and abuses by the elements of Philippine National Police (PNP) and the privilege granted to them have been exposed, where will the poor find hope?
The prices of commodities and fares are getting higher.
There are threats of increase in electric and water service charges while wages are low and the cost of health is so dear. Funeral services are unaffordable.
There is no stability to think of.
Stability springs from a government that has a genuine desire to deliver social justice and holds a particular bias in alleviating the suffering of the poor.
We know.
The stories will never be forgotten and the blood that spilled to the ground screams for mercy and justice.
We must not forget.

Norma P. Dollaga,
Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan,

Cannot tax the super rich
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 25, 2023
First published in Bangkok Post, Saturday January 21, 2023

Re: "Inequality chasm," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Friday January 20, 2023.
This letter, if published, will probably break the hearts of many people who adhere to progressive politics.
Sadly, the open letter that the writer letter Sad Optimist cited as signed by 205 "super-rich" attendees of the Davos Forum asking for us to tax them or, as President Biden says, "pay your fair share" was nothing more than an empty political stunt, and I will explain why.
Prayut Chan-o-cha cannot really tax those who are truly "super-rich" primarily for two reasons which are well-known to most world leaders.
First of all, if the prime minister were to actually do that, it's obvious that many of our "super-rich" would quickly pull up sticks and move; leaving Thailand all the poorer.
But, far more importantly, the reason why the prime minister cannot really tax the "super-rich" is because, unlike you and I, the "super-rich" don't make much of their money on earned income.
The "super-rich" make their money primarily on passive income; very often through the creation of debt which society needs in order to create large tangible assets like Trump Tower, huge social developments, etc, and that kind of income cannot be taxed much. Modern societies and modern economies require people like Donald Trump, Robert Kiyosaki, et al to create those beautiful things which society enjoys and concurrently create many jobs.
So, if the prime minister, Mr Biden, etc were really to do that or really even can, it would immediately bring many of society's mega-developments and new creations to a screeching halt, leaving only the government left to do those things which governments are never good at.
So, the next time you hear Mr Biden, Hillary Clinton, or those at Davos talk about taxing the rich, they mean people like doctors and lawyers who still work for a living, not the "super-rich", and everyone at Davos who the writer says signed that letter already knows that… they also know that you probably don't know that.
The writer just got played.

Jason A Jellison,

Is Fiji’s post coup dictator Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Seeking asylum in Australia?
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday January 24, 2023

I hear Fiji’s post coup dictator Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum ( the man who was the Attorney-General, Election Minister and dubbed the “ Minister for Everything” ) is in Australia seeking to obtain Australian government permission to live here.
Before the Australian government makes a determination it should find out what kind of public money Sayed-Khaiyum siphoned off from Fiji during his 16 year reign in power.
There was no democratic accountability and transparency in governance during his reign.
We know rogue leaders in Africa and elsewhere flee from their country when finally they get kicked out of power and they buy mansions in European countries with their loot!
There should be a thorough background check up on this rogue leader from our region before he is granted any visa.

Rajend Naidu,


Selling lotteries in Thailand
Reserved for the handicapped
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 23, 2023
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 21, 2023

Re: "Complaints grow against migrant 'job snatchers',?" in Bangkok Post, Wednesday January 18, 2023.
When I was in the Los Angeles Public Library walking to the men's restroom, a white man launched a totally unprovoked flying kick at me, screaming, "You Vietnamese (sic) steal our jobs!".
Reading that our Labour Ministry's received complaints that migrants were working in jobs reserved for Thais reminded me of that.
The sine qua non for a law is that it must benefit the country in the long term. Occupations like the military or government must be reserved for nationals because national security is concerned.
But barriers to entry must not work against our long-term interests.
For example, we reserve lottery selling for the handicapped because we don't give them the same quality of education that we give the able-bodied.
We forbid foreign nationals from being tourist guides but desperately need their nationals to tour Thailand and lack Thais who are fluent in Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc.
We insist on kicking our own goals.
Our national interests demand that all Thais be able to develop to their fullest potential.
Thus, we owe all Thais equal and very high quality of education whether handicapped or not.
Requiring guides to be Thai would be acceptable in the first two years so we can learn other languages, but after that, we should compete with all comers.
The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) reported that one of our key problems was that our laws were woefully out of date.
I suggest that our labour law banning foreigners is definitely one of them.

Burin Kantabutra,


Australia fails to implement
United Nations anti-torture agreement
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 22. 2023

Australia misses another deadline to implement a UN anti-torture agreement ( abc news 20/1/23 ).
Doesn’t Australia have people with the requisite expertise and institutional mechanisms in place to do the needful?
The Australian state failure sounds like something one associates with a third world banana republic or a failed state.
That shouldn’t happen in a democracy like ours.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Philippines government to consider
Privatisation of airline operations
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 21, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday January 12, 2023

It is noteworthy that the Department of Transportation (DOTr), and the Senate and House of Representatives have initiated and or committed to conducting their respective investigations in the light of the Naia shutdown. Hopefully, these agencies can promptly complete their evaluations and recommendations, and come up with a “to-do list” with dispatch to avoid a repeat of the same incident due to utter negligence.
In the midst of this brouhaha, let us try to focus on the “blessings” and positive developments that happened during the said incident, such as: that no major disaster airplane collision that could have resulted in deaths and other collateral damages;
that someone alleged anonymous unsung hero from the airport control office was quick enough to alert other foreign control centers using his mobile phone to contact and direct the planes not to proceed to Philippine airspace; that some airlines have extended assistance to their respective passengers per air passenger rights; that the Department of Migrant Workers have assisted the OFWs who were stranded at the airports; that the said incident has “once again” triggered a wake-up call to the DOTr, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and Manila International Airport Authority to ensure that they religiously conduct regular systems, equipment, and personnel audit, maintenance, and updates.
The option being posed by the businesses to the government regarding the privatization of our country’s airline operations can be considered if and when these government agencies/officials/staffs responsible/accountable to ensure “seamless” airline operations would have proven to be inutile.

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,

The Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar
Fails to implement Agreement with ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday January 18, 2023

Re: "Myanmar concerns" in Bangkok Post PostBag, January 14, 2023.
In response to Than Htwe, the Myanmar Deputy Chief of Mission, who says "...even when many of them are committing serious crimes", referring to those who have taken up arms to oppose the illegal coup in Myanmar.
Does he not think that staging the coup, taking away the vote, and imprisoning people like Ang San Suu Kyi, plus using controlled courts to reach military-decided verdicts, are, to use his phrase, serious crimes?
He also refers to Asean in his comments.
It is my understanding that the Myanmar generals had an agreement with Asean, which they have failed to implement.
So much for putting down those trying to bring some decency to the Myanmar situation.


Call for TalentCorp to dismantle
Institutionalised discrimination in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 19, 2023
First published in the Star, Thursday January 5, 2023

I refer to TalentCorp’s letter “Focus is on tapping into the best brains” in The Star, Saturday December 31, 2022.
My school cohort was the first to have Malay as its medium of instruction. However, we were lucky as our teachers were still fluent in English. We became effectively bilingual in Malay and English, unlike Malaysian students today.
By then, our parents had already seen the writing on the wall.
Many of us were sent overseas for our education in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
And many stayed on as they could not stomach the discrimination against non-Malays in Malaysia.
Among my schoolmates, I count such talent as an Oxford professor, London Harley Street specialist, Canadian aviator, American submariner, Boeing engineer, tech and doctors galore.
They would have benefited Malaysia immeasurably if they had returned home.
As a schoolmate said: “As someone who has chosen to make my life elsewhere – I can attest that we want to live in a nation free from institutionalised racist policies.”
For myself, despite returning home to Malaysia after years abroad as a British permanent resident, and even becoming a Malaysian Territorial Army officer, I emigrated again.
To put it bluntly, I had taken an oath to protect King and Country for all Malaysians, and not just for the dominant race.
If TalentCorp is serious about attracting back Malaysian talents, it must look at dismantling the institutionalised discrimination that exists in Malaysia now.
Further, it must significantly increase the benefits available under the Returning Experts Programme (“REP”) for returning Malaysians.
Many successful Malaysian talents are in demand by both developed and developing countries.
They command a premium no matter where they go.
Current REP benefits do not sufficiently make up for the loss in income, benefits, and prestige for those who choose to return to Malaysia.
Go further by offering permanent resident status to returning Malaysians who have taken up foreign citizenship.
If they burn their bridges to return to Malaysia but are then played out by the institutionalised discriminatory system, they will certainly want the assurance to be able to return to their new homeland.
Remember, at the measly rate of 0.33 percent of Malaysian returnees under the REP against emigrated Malaysians, it is crystal clear that Malaysia needs them, and not the other way around.
I end by saying that in the 1980s when I was studying and then working in the UK, I supported the anti-apartheid movement to protest apartheid and to free Nelson Mandela.
When asked why, I said I knew only too well what it felt like to be a second-class citizen in my own country.

Major Rtd Chew Kok Liang

Call for control of street preaching
Around the Hilton Hotel in Port Moresby
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 18, 2023
First published in the National, January Tuesday 10, 2023

Can the National Capital District Commission (NCDC) police in Papua New Guinea keep an eye around the Hohola area in Port Moresby which is gradually seeing an increase in stores and other commercial activities including the Hilton Hotel?
There seems to be no control over street preaching in the area.
From from 5.30 am this guy starts preaching loudly. I’m told he goes on preaching from 7am onwards to the afternoon. No one is able to get rid of him.
I regard him as a pest.
Enough is enough.
This is blatant disturbing of the peace of homes and businesses. Can NCDC do something about street preaching? They have even taken over the new market.
Get the Hohola police unit to intervene and stop this loud preaching.
Please, people of Hohola can you assist also?

Gummy Herbs,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for accountant climate heroes
To combat climate change
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 17, 2023
First published in the New Straits Times

In Malaysia, we are bearing the brunt of extreme weather: enduring hotter and hotter days while also facing frequent torrential rain and flooding.
Malaysia's commitment to combating the climate crisis revolves around new policies and action plans.
For example, the Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3) was set up in 2019 with Bank Negara Malaysia and the Securities Commission as the chair.
Furthermore, our financial institutions have pledged to create a greener finance landscape and environmentally friendly projects.
We have also seen business leaders incorporate more sustainable business practices and projects as part of corporate social responsibility.
But is there something that could help them do this better?
I believe the climate heroes we need are accountants.
A decade has passed since the phrase "accountants will save the world" was publicised at the Rio+20 UN Conference in 2012.
Still, many think of accountants as deskbound employees, working with a calculator in one hand and sheaves of paper in the other.
In reality, accountants and their skills are significant for social transformation in three aspects: business strategy, advisory and advocacy, and transparent reporting.
Accountants who can think beyond the numbers and see the big picture are essential in building a more sustainable future.
They can crunch climate change data before developing strategies for risk mitigation to ensure asset protection and reduce potential liabilities.
Moreover, accountants have the skills to provide independent assurance of organisations' sustainability progress through transparent reporting.
By including a sustainability oriented lens in their reporting, accountants become the best organisational fit for business advisory and advocacy on potential climate risks.
With all eyes on climate change and sustainable business practices, everyone has a responsibility to act urgently.
It can start with academic institutions.
Many are expecting universities to make practical changes to the way they are run, such as switching to greener energy, reducing energy output and encouraging green and sustainable habits among staff and students.
I find that academic institutions, especially accountancy courses, have a far more significant role to play: raising a budding generation of capable, climate-conscious accountants.
From how they conduct research to how they educate students, these institutions can be the catalyst for real and lasting change in environmentalism.
They have the potential to produce accountancy graduates who will be at the forefront of efforts to address the climate crisis.
The growing interest in sustainable business practices is leading to a significant increase in the number of higher education institutions offering sustainability focused qualifications and modules.
In meeting the growing demand for skilful accountants, more universities in Malaysia need to update their syllabi to incorporate relevant topics, including environmental, social and corporate governance; the circular economy; and corporate sustainability.
Today, the role of accountants is not just to crunch numbers and provide financial calculations.
Accountants have a critical role to play in producing actionable information that will disclose the impact of the climate crisis on companies and vice versa.
In this, accountants are the climate heroes we need for our future.

Founder of TYMBA Education Group,
Subang Jaya,

Nauru in the 1980's
Was known as the Kuwait of the Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times Monday January 16, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday January 9, 2023

The island country of Nauru, a raised coral island located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean 25 miles south of the equator, is known for what it does not have or has little of.
With a land area of only 8.1 square miles, it is the smallest country in the world after Vatican City and Monaco.
Its population of about 10,000 makes it the world’s smallest republic, as well as the smallest island nation.
It has no rivers or streams and virtually all of its water, food, and manufactured goods have to be imported.
There are no harbors or protected anchorages, and no sizable arable land fit for farming.
Nauru has no official capital.
Because of its heavy dependence on financial aid from Australia, Nauru is considered by some sources as a client state of Australia.
What Nauru once did have plenty of was found inland, on a plateau 30 to 65 meters above sea level, which was largely composed of rock phosphate, leached from guano or bird droppings that accumulated over thousands of years.
This high-grade mineral deposit used to cover more than two-thirds of the island.
Phosphate has been mined on Nauru since 1907, and for decades was its sole export and economic resource.
Before its independence in 1968, the phosphate industry was owned by a corporation jointly managed by the British, Australian, and New Zealand governments.
It was only in 1970 that Nauru gained full control of mining operations.
In the 1980s, Nauru was one of the richest countries in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita, earning for it the sobriquet “Kuwait of the Pacific.” A major portion of its earnings from mining phosphate was invested abroad by means of a sovereign wealth fund.
The envisioned economic well-being of the country depended on the success of this investment program.
Unfortunately, its public officials irresponsibly exploited and abused Nauru’s trust funds for decades.
Fund assets were even used as collateral to finance the budget deficit.
Because of mismanagement and depredation of capital, high government expenditures, fraud, and risky investments in real estate, shipping, and air services, the fund lost much of its value.
By 1990, its phosphate deposits had been depleted and Nauru experienced a severe drop in earnings, leading to bankruptcy in the early years of the 21st century.
To generate income, Nauru became a tax haven, an offshore banking center, and a conduit for the illegal money laundering activities of organized crime groups and terrorist organizations.
Since 2001, Nauru has been accepting aid from Australia in exchange for its hosting an offshore Australian refugee processing facility.
As if the economic downturn is not enough, Nauru is slowly sinking back into the ocean from whence it came, a result of rising waters brought about by climate change.
In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been an acceleration in the rates of both temperature rise and sea-level rise.
There has also been a general escalation in the frequency and intensity of the tropical cyclones that visit Nauru regularly.
Already sinking as we are in a very real sense many of our coastal towns and cities remain flooded even during the dry season why can’t we see the writing on the wall, the omen in the water?
Deeply mired as we are in rampant and runaway corruption in all aspects of our daily lives, be it political, social, cultural, or moral, why then are we blind to the clear and present danger of the Philippines going the wrong way of the islands of Nauru and Sri Lanka?
Corruption is like the Hydra cut off one head and another immediately grows back to replace it.
What is it that gentlemen wish?
What would they have?
When shall we be stronger?
Will it be when we are totally disarmed and our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
When all the phosphate shall have been extracted and extruded from out of the bedrock of our souls?
When all our aquatic, marine, forest, mineral, and human resources shall have been exhausted and depleted, pillaged and plundered by our own local as well as foreign governments?
This is a cautionary tale about islands adrift in parlous tide and perilous time, going south, going, gone.
There’s a smell of something not quite right, something soiled and dirty, something very evil, about the business of the proposed Maharlika Sovereign Investment Fund.

Antonio Calipjo Go,

Locking Thai's up for peaceful protests
Belongs to a long-gone feudal era
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 15, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday January 12, 2023

Re: "Insults are not inspiring" in Bangkok, Post Editorial, January 11, 2023.
The Post writes of Interior Ministry permanent secretary Suthipong Juljarern that his insulting words to those deemed of lower status show "his way with words belong to a long-gone, feudal era".
The Post should not forget that locking people up for peacefully speaking honest words that upset a bigwig or his fans also "belongs to a long-gone, feudal era". It would appear the ugly reality is that Thailand is, in fact, still very much in a feudal era.

Felix Qui,

US Ambassador to Malaysia calls on Malaysia
To take bold action to tackle the climate crisis
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 14, 2023
First published in the Star, Friday January 6, 2023

Malaysia has seen the adverse effects of climate change through extreme flooding in many states. Flooding caused RM6bil in damages from December 2021 to January 2022 alone.
The United States is experiencing the serious effects of climate change too.
Unless all nations take drastic and immediate action to limit global temperatures, the projected sea level rise in South-East Asia will mean that Malaysia will lose fisheries, homes and farms, tourism jobs and revenue from damaged ports.
Bold action to tackle the climate crisis is more urgent than ever, and everyone must do their part.
As the US ambassador here in Malaysia, climate action is my top priority.
My team and I are always striving to foster deeper connections between US experts and Malaysian officials, businesses and others seeking to make a difference for our planet.
There are important initiatives coming out of the US to combat climate change, and my country and Malaysia are teaming up together on climate action, including in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
At a number of speaking engagements, I have encouraged students and others to think about how each one of them can become active within their community and with the new government to address the climate crisis.
We have to combine powerful personal action with ambitious policy initiatives and incentives.
The US has significantly increased investment in renewable energy technologies over the last decade, supported by robust incentives for wind and solar energy.
In California, for example, renewable energy provided nearly half of total electricity needs in 2021.
One of the strongest tools the US is using to solve the climate crisis is the Inflation Reduction Act, which is providing US$370bil to supercharge investment in solar and wind energy, battery storage and many other technologies, driving innovation through public-private partnerships.
As President Joe Biden noted in November, this will “help make the transition to a low-carbon future more affordable for everyone.”
Malaysia and the US can capitalise on this momentum to work together in combating climate change.
Rapidly mitigating methane emissions is critical to avoid near-term warming because methane is among the most potent greenhouse gases.
At the Methane Ministerial organised by the US, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry noted that 95 percent of global Nationally Determined Contributions now include methane, and 50 countries have developed national action plans to control methane emissions.
I was glad to learn recently that Petronas is already taking significant steps to reduce methane emissions in Malaysia and at its operations around the world.
We are eager to partner with Malaysia on further methane reduction initiatives.
When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kuala Lumpur in 2021, he sat down with leaders from Malaysia’s energy sector to discuss renewable energy.
The main questions raised at that session revolved around Malaysia’s energy resources and needs: “How will Malaysia reduce its reliance on coal for electricity and increase its share of renewable energy, particularly solar – including by both developing the electricity grid and the regulatory framework?”
The US is committed to working with the new Malaysian government to address these questions through regulator-to-regulator cooperation and cooperation with the private sector.
Malaysia, with its world-class rainforests and biodiversity, can also contribute to the global action on the climate crisis by continuing efforts to reduce deforestation. Malaysia has shown its commitment to preserving its tremendous natural resources by signing the Glasgow Declaration on Forest and Land Use.
I want to close with a Malaysian story of adaptation and resilience that I find particularly inspiring.
In 2007, the Malaysian government completed construction of the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART), investing RM1.8bil in the project.
This was a controversial investment at that time but one that has paid dividends, as the tunnel now handles 30,000 cars per day and has been used more than 44 times to divert floodwater.
Fighting climate change will sometimes require tough choices and tremendous investments.
Through the SMART and other innovations, Malaysia has shown that it can dream big and act on those dreams.
I still believe we can all dream big, that our bravest, boldest imagination can take us far towards a future worth passing down to our children and their children.

Brian D. McFeeters,
US ambassador to Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Malaysia's new PM Anwar Ibrahim
To stop destruction of rainforests
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 13, 2023
First published in the Star, Tuesday January 10, 2023

Malaysia has a new government and prime minister, but no plans to address climate change have materialised.
Malaysia is in no position to wait.
Climate scientists project extreme weather events will only worsen in the coming years, and if the November floods tell us anything, it's that Malaysia is still severely underprepared.
In July 2021, Malaysia submitted a report to the United Nations Development Programme, listing ambitious climate goals, such as cutting carbon intensity against gross domestic product by 45 per cent by 2020.
The prime minister should take the first step by creating a climate plan.
His first move should be to stop the destruction of rainforests for oil palm plantations.
Malaysia is one of the top palm oil producers.
It has a responsibility to inject funds into creating jobs in the sustainable energy sector for people who are economically reliant on plantations.
The second step should be to replenish our forests.
They protect us from flooding and storms by decreasing the strength of rainfall and by absorbing excess water in the soil.
Even better, tropical forests act as important carbon sinks, which means they can "pull vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis".
This is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's chance to take charge of Malaysia's future.

Tatiana Chang
Cornell University,

Call for Papua New Guinea public servants
To be transparent accountable and honest
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 11, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday January 9, 2023

This is a call to all intellectuals in the country.
This includes our politicians, departmental heads, all public servants, those working in State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), etc.
Please be transparent, accountable and honest.
We won’t achieve our national aspirations if our intellectuals continue to misbehave in public office.
Our national resources won’t be managed and used wisely if our intellectuals don’t work together for growth and change.
Let me express myself.
To all our politicians: You’re in public office because our people trusted you.
They chose you because they wanted you to be their leader.
And as their leader, you have to serve them wholeheartedly.
Pay visits to their underdeveloped communities and see how they live and strive for a better life.
Go to their communities and see the need they have for basic services.
As their leader, they want to see how diplomatic you are.
Spend some time with your people in the electorate.
Whatever promises you’ve made, make sure to deliver them.
That’s how you build trust and confidence.
Furthermore, as their political leader, look at the administration of your electorate. Screen public servants and their performances.
If any public servant isn’t performing, deal with them.
As the leader voted in by the people, do something about any lazy and unproductive public servant.
Do something about those who don’t deliver results.
Do something about those who are practicing any form of corruption in the administration.
However, if you’re part of the gang, it’s more dangerous.
Development will speak.
And to our other intellectuals, if you’re abusing that knowledge or power you have, you’ll regret it if you’re caught.
If you’re putting your interests before the public’s in a public office, one fine day you’ll regret it.
One fine day, the consequences will come upon those who come after you.
That’s why you don’t have to take advantage of the position you have and start misbehaving.
Do the right things.
Serve the country wholeheartedly.
Make good use of the opportunity you have to advance development and justice.
Be proud, and serve your country and its people with love.
Finally, I am calling on all intellectuals to work in harmony in order to advance development in our nation.
Do away with the things that cause division.

Abel ToPidik Rudolf,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Filipinos are the most identified
In the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 11, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday January 6, 2023

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) has overhyped its drive to entice people to register for the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) ID.
The campaign initially included, among others, the promise that said the national ID, which is for free and delivered to one’s home address, was planned to replace the other government-issued IDs.
Subsequently, I gathered that said ID will not necessarily replace other government- issued IDs.
Instead of looking forward to lessening the number of ID cards that I have about 15 IDs, I will now have a total of 16 ID cards, including the PhilSys ID. Truly, the reputation that Filipinos like me allegedly are the “most IDed” people in the world will remain a fact.
Just recently, PSA has finally admitted that they were behind target in the issuance of the digital version not the card type of the national ID, known as the ePhilID.
It has been more than a year since my wife and I applied for the said ID, which we have not yet received to date.
Upon checking at a mall, where PSA has a registration follow-up counter, a PhilSys staff validated that our IDs are not yet available, to date.
However, the same staff member further mentioned that some IDs are now available “online” but need to be printed on ordinary paper.
Ironically, said paper ID still needs to be laminated elsewhere for an extra cost. Good grief!
Aforesaid experience involving a government agency PSA-PhilSys once again typifies a scenario of “overpromising and underdelivering.”

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
advocate and author,

Call for Malaysians
To make peace with the environment
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 10 January 2023
First published in the Star, Friday January 6, 2023

At the start of the new year, every Malaysian must resolve to make the country a safer place to live in; safe not only from terrorism, crime and violence but also from tragedies of our own doing whether on the road, at home or workplaces or in recreational and public areas.
The Batang Kali landslide tragedy, which could have been prevented, must still be fresh on our minds.
It is essential for all Malaysians to take heed of one important lesson for humanity civilisation could be destroyed if we do not make peace with our environment.
The fact that landslides and road cave-ins are a frequent occurrence points to our failure in making the culture of maintenance and safety a way of life.
When buildings or structures collapse or the environment is harmed, we are responsible.
We have to realise that any action that results in the degradation and destruction of our environment will have disastrous consequences.
Similarly, if we do not efficiently manage occupational safety and health, accidents can occur at workplaces.
Over the years, the government has spent billions on development, but regrettably, there is lack of maintenance and a strong safety culture.
More funding should be allocated for maintenance works to be carried out by the relevant government departments, agencies and local authorities with dedicated staff to discharge their responsibilities.
On the national front, it is vital for Malaysia to continue to exist as a democratic, united and harmonious nation despite the existence of divergent political ideologies and views.
Malaysians of all races wish to see the government take further steps to address the global economic downturn, maintain unity, peace, harmony and social justice, and uphold the rights of all citizens as guaranteed under the Constitution.
We need to address more aggressively the issues of racial integration, unity and nation-building besides crime and a host of social ills confronting our nation, including cybercrime, illegal gambling, acts of violence, the worsening drug abuse problem among youths, and mental ill health.
There must be resolve to fight crime, particularly drug-related crime, with the involvement and participation of the entire Malaysian community.
A responsible government must always take into consideration the challenges the people are facing, especially the increase in cost of living, and find ways to ease their burden.
The government should provide more health benefits for our senior citizens, as more are expected to live on their own when our country moves towards becoming a developed and high-income nation.
Last but not least, more should be done to prove we care enough to save the environment. The theme for this year’s Earth Day, “Restore our Earth”, implores everyone to preserve and protect our planet for our own well-being.
Economic development must be tempered with respect and love for our environment.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,

This year's world economy
Quite sombre indeed
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday January 6, 2023

Re: "Economic risks to watch out for in 2023," in Opinion, Bangkok Post, Thursday December 29, 2022 by Chartchai Parasuk.
There are quite a few of them, according to Chartchai Parasuk.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected the world economy to grow by only 2.7 percent this year, while it was 3.2 percent the year before.
And here in Thailand, the World Bank has estimated Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) will grow by only 3.6 percent, while previously, it was predicted to be over percent.
The world will be beset by interest rates, high energy prices, and high overall inflation, it seems; so it is unlikely the world economy will prosper this year, a state of affairs made even more likely by the fact that China is projected to have only slow growth.
And Mr Chartchai makes clear that even the World Bank estimates of Thai Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth may be exaggerated since the economy is too dependent on tourism for even these meagre projections to come true.
Also, Thais are already so deep in debt that it will be difficult for them to make too many additional big purchases this year.
Hence, the writer's predictions about this year's world economy are quite sombre indeed!



The price of chicken eggs
Exacerbates food insecurity in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 8, 2023
First published in the Star, Thursday January 5, 2023

There is a misconception among the general public that the issue of food security only arises when a nation is facing shortage of food.
In fact, the issue can also arise when there is an abundant supply of food.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as a situation when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
This entails having adequate income or resources to access food and use it to fulfil one’s daily requirements.
Food insecurity occurs when individuals or families lack regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development, and an active and healthy life.
Food insecurity is often rooted in poverty.
Currently, the shortage of eggs and other food essentials coupled with the inflationary pressure could exacerbate food insecurity among the B40 in our country.
If the price of chicken eggs, the cheapest source of nutrients, becomes exorbitant, the urban poor in Kuala Lumpur, in their struggle to make ends meet, may resort to eating just white rice with soy sauce.
Similarly, the rural poor in Kelantan may eat white rice with budu, fermented anchovy sauce..
In The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report, FAO estimates that the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) in Malaysia went down to three in 2020 from four in 2015, while the prevalence of severe food insecurity decreased to 6.3 percent in 2020 from 7.8 percent in 2015. PoU is an estimate of the percentage of the population whose habitual food consumption is insufficient to provide the dietary energy levels that are required to maintain a normal active and healthy life.
Food insecurity results in undernourishment, starvation, and, in the worst-case scenario, untimely death.
The severity of hunger and undernourishment on vulnerable groups vary. Food insecure individuals or households may reduce the size of their meals or may be forced to skip a meal regularly.
Being severely food insecure means people have run out of food and have gone a day or more without eating.
Majority of these households and individuals also tend to consume poor quality and low-nutrient food, causing deficiencies in their dietary intake.
This increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension and depression among adults while children may suffer delayed development and stunted growth.
The latest estimate on prevalence of stunting among children in Malaysia should be a red flag to the government. FAO estimates that the prevalence increased to 20.9 percent in 2020 compared to 18.3 percent in 2012.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), stunted children will have impaired behavioural development and poorer cognitive ability, and will more likely grow up to be economically disadvantaged and suffer from chronic diseases.
The prolonged impact of hunger and undernourishment is largely irreversible and could perpetuate inter-generational poverty.
It is the government’s moral duty to formulate a holistic policy to overcome undernourishment and malnutrition among children. Such a policy must be implemented in tandem with efforts to eradicate poverty and enhance access to basic needs such as housing, water and employment.

Datuk Wee Beng

Royal Thai Police wants to continue
War on drugs
The Southeast Asan Times, Saturday January 7, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday January 6, 2023

Re: "230m baht assets impounded, arrests in major drug suppression operation," in Bangkok Post, January 3, 2023.
Thailand's ever-failing "War On Drugs" continues to fatten cops' wallets.
So, of course, Royal Thai Police (RTP) wants to continue it.
Imagine if the war included Thailand's most dangerous drug?
Every maker, user and vendor of alcoholic drinks would be facing decades in prison, and police would be raking in billions of baht (money, properties, vehicles, possessions, jewellery daily.
It would be a win-win for everyone except those associated with alcohol which is about 90 percent of Thailand's adults.
There is a way to lessen the use and abuse of recreational drugs, but Royal Thai Police (RTP) doesn't want their gravy train to quick money to dry up.
Making recreational drugs legal would enable the following: (A)
It would lessen the control that dealers have on the market, and (B) enable people with drug problems to come out of the shadows and seek help from social workers and doctors (C) it would enable half the prisoners in Thai prisons to be released, go back to work, and raise families.
Thailand ranks in the top six countries worldwide for the percentage of prisoners to population.
Even a cursory view of Thai prisoners shows that most prisoners are locked up for too long and for petty or bogus reasons example: 28 years for 1 speed pill.
Another result of easing the draconian penalties against recreational drugs is Royal Thai Police (RTP) wouldn't rake in as much easy money.
That reason alone is why cruel laws will remain.

Ken Albertsen,
Bangkok Post,

Call for investigation into shutdown on New Year's Day
At Ninoy Aquino International Airport
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 6, 20223
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday January 4, 2023

The power outage and technical glitch that crippled the country’s flight operations on New Year’s Day was a tragic incident that was definitely caused by “utter negligence.”
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) should immediately conduct its own inquiry and investigation to shed light regarding the incident and make immediate recommendations to avoid a similar situation from happening in the future by focusing on the following:
Determine the government agency Manila International Airport Authority or Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines primarily responsible and accountable for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (Naia) shutdown.
Pinpoint the agency responsible for the preventive maintenance system of all the equipment and machineries etc., to ensure the seamless and uninterruptible Naia operations.
Identify the agency responsible for evaluating and making recommendations on the repair/replacement of outmoded equipment in Naia.
Ascertain the agency responsible for ensuring that our equipment and operating systems are of international standards.
Recommend the extent of the government’s accountability for the affected passengers.
Penalize the negligent official/s primarily responsible and accountable for the shutdown.
Among others, the aforesaid parameters would aid in identifying the cause/s of negligence, as well as to penalize those erring officials responsible/accountable for the shutdown of flight operations.
Results of the Senate’s own inquiry in aid of legislation can be used as inputs to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) internal investigation and recommendations.
We cannot afford to have a similar shameful incident in the future that would tremendously affect the country’s tourism industry.
Safety is everybody’s concern!

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,
advocate and author,

Congratulations to Royal Thai Police
For their daring sting
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday January 2, 2023

Re: "Root out DNP corruption," in Editorial, Bangkok Post Friday December 30, 2022 "Ministry apologises for parks dept chief 'bribes'," in Bangkok Post Friday December 30, 2022.
Heartiest congratulations to Royal Thai Police (RTP) Anti-Corruption Division chief Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat Pankaew and Kaeng Krachan National Park ex-head Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn for their daring sting that netted Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) chief Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya.
But rooting out rot is just the start of cleaning out the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).
The entire environment must be reformed or else all apples on the tree will rot, sooner or later.
For example, each position needs transparent, job-relevant, measurable key performance indicators.
When a post opens up, offer it to the person with the highest (KPI) relevant to the new post, for him/her to accept/reject without prejudice.
That's what we did at Bank of Hawaii in the US when I worked there.
That way, customers get the best person for the job, and the boss cannot demand bribes for placement or promotion.
Also, despite Mr Rutchada's previous instructions that staff not give him gift baskets and presents, he was caught welcoming them bearing such items, showing that his words were just for show. In the future, such gifts must be prima facie evidence of graft.
I support Singapore's policy of offering compensation to public servants that's competitive with the private sector's, and note that when Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn was commissioned by then-PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to propose Royal Thai Police (RTP) reforms, boosting compensation was a prominent factor; for only then can the public expect performance equal to the private sector's.
Minister Varawut Silpa-archa, thanks for accepting accountability for the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) fiasco. Back your welcome words with decisive action now when all eyes are on you and elections loom.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for Thailand to check all arrivals
From China for Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday January 3, 2023

Re: "China arrivals to skip virus testing," in Bangkok Post, Sunday January 1, 2023
It seems the Department of Disease Control has things the wrong way around regarding the policy for Chinese tourists.
They decided not to test arrivals from China for Covid, despite a massive outbreak of the disease currently under way in China.
Instead of testing for the disease in the same way as the US, the UK, India and other countries are doing, they want to check their vaccine certificates, despite knowing full well that China's population has been vaccinated with homegrown Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines which have had little or no efficacy against Covid strains from Delta onwards.
Surely it would make much more sense to test all arrivals from China without demanding their vaccine certificates.

George Morgan,

Call for Thai PM to open Anti-Corruption report
On fugitive Red Bull heir hit-and run death of policeman
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 3, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 30, 2023

Re: "PM wants 'Boss' found," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday December 28, 2022.
Call me a Doubting Thomas, but does Prime Minister Prayut really, really want Red Bull scion Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, accused of the hit-and-run death of a cop in 2012?
The Associated Press located and photographed the fugitive without much trouble in 2017, and the Daily Mail newspaper reported, with pictures, that "social media shows Boss has been living the high life in Venice, Japan, and attending F1 races around the world. On April 8, 2017, he was seen leaving a £5m (208.3 million baht) property in West London".
Nate Naksuk, former director-general of the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), handled this case with gross negligence and dropped a charge of reckless driving causing death against Vorayuth Yoovidhya.
For that, Nate Naksuk was dismissed from the civil service but since he'd already resigned, the dismissal was punishment in name only.
And, evidently, there's been no investigation of Nate Naksuk for a quid pro quo for the dismissal.
Prime Minister Prayut credibly commissioned former National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) commissioner, Vicha Mahakun to find why the Royal Thai Police and Office of Attorney General (OAG) have been unable to bring Boss to justice.
Vicha Mahakun panel handed the report on reforming the two agencies to Prime Minister Prayut who has been assiduously hiding it from taxpayers for the past two years.
Prime Minister Prayut, no more lip service. Open Khun Vicha's report to the public now.

Burin Kantabutra,

Myanmar military fools nobody by staging
Kangaroo court trial for Aung San Sui Kyi
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 2, 2022

We read in the Southeast Asian Times report ‘ Aung San Sui Kyi faces life sentence on combined charges brought by Myanmar military court ‘ ( 1 Jan. 2023 ), that Human Rights Watch Asia Division deputy director Phil Robertson said “ due process and free and fair trial for Daw Aung San Sui Kyi were never remotely possible under the circumstances of the regime’s political persecution against her “.
He is absolutely right.
From the very beginning this was a kangaroo court trial on bogus charges by the usurpers the Myanmar military who grabbed power from the democratically elected, legitimate government of Aung San Sui Kyi in a violent military coup.
The Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar fools nobody by staging the kangaroo court trial and the subsequent long prison sentence.
It was designed from the outset to put the popular peoples’ leader away permanently so that she could no longer pose a threat to Myanmar military’s unfettered power.
The Myanmar military’s treatment of Aung San Sui Kyi, a global pro-democracy icon , is morally bankrupt and a total disgrace.

Rajend Naidu,

Abandonment of proposed reform of military constitution
Ensures an undemocratic replacement outcome
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday December 28, 2022

Re: "Different systems," in Bangkok Post PostBag, December 19, 2022 and "MPs set poor example," in Bangkok Post Editorial, December 19, 2022.
Two takeaways from Edmund Burke on liberty support both draft reform and the citizen military positions.
Burke held that individual liberty depends on institutional liberty.
Institutions having liberty from outside influence can justly guard individual liberties by treating all citizens equally, regardless of their outside wealth or standing.
Mr Qui's letter, "Different systems", lays out his ideal institutional draft system. One where "all are required to do the same form of military service", all are equally and universally drafted. Burke would love it, as do I.
Equally as valuable are Mr Qui's many suggestions on how to reform the military draft.
But then, Mr Qui condemns my call to reform the draft and not to end it.
He declares that I appear to support the present "oppressive" draft system.
Likewise, Mr Qui damns my call to form a democratic citizen-military, a military that respects the liberty of democratic institutions.
Mr Qui dismisses the citizen military idea as a system which does not exist in Thailand.
How does my call to "democratically" reform the present draft, support the present "oppressive" draft?
How am I supporting the present military system, when I call for creating a democratic citizen military to replace the present authoritarian system?
This is all illogical and irrational.
The second Burke takeaway: The goal, of liberating government institutions from interference, is achieved by a bit-by-bit struggle for reforms.
"The complexities of human nature and society" will not allow institutions to be justly built from revolutionary scratch; steady reform does the job.
The December 19 editorial is a wonderful display of this reform struggle in action. Bangkok Post confronts parliament with fiery criticism for having failed democracy.
Stalwartly telling truth to power, shaming parliament, holding the representatives accountable in a bit-by-bit reform struggle to make a just institution, one free from corrupting interference.
Given its push to reform parliament, maybe the Bangkok Post can reconsider abandoning reform of the military draft; especially knowing that abolishing the present draft, and replacing it from scratch, ensures an undemocratic replacement outcome.

Samuel Wright,

80 percent of Papua New Guinea's population
Are unemployed and dependent on subsistence agriculture
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 31, 2022
First published in the National, Friday December 23, 2022

Papua New Guinea is hard hit with some real difficult economic situations at the present time.
The accumulated national debt stands at K48 billion and inflation is at a high six per cent. Prices of goods and services have always been at a gradual increasing trend, however, recently have increased drastically.
Citizens are feeling the pains of the related negative economic effects.
Don’t expect these tough economic situations to improve miraculously.
If appropriate corrective measures are not seriously taken now, we can even expect for a more chaotic future.
There is no easy way out.
The factors contributing to the current economic decline are numerous.
Some have developed over time and others are more recent.
Important recent external factors are the ripple effects of Covid-19 and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Internally, Papua New Guinea’s population is always growing and is now close to 10 million.
Less than 20 per cent of this population are formally employed and contribute meaningfully through personal income tax.
The other 80 per cent are unemployed and most depend on subsistence agriculture that still benefit from basic government services.
The private business sector is still small.
A necessary conducive environment for growth is always challenging.
Increasing law and order issues remain a major constraint.
Also the lack of transparency and the existence of systemic and systematic corruption require addressing more aggressively.
No one can be blamed entirely for the current economic situations, even the past and present governments.
We all must think and act responsibly now as citizens of our richly blessed country.
The Government’s refocusing and reprioritising of agriculture is in the right direction.
We need to have the right understanding and all should support these initiatives and contribute meaningfully.
Let us produce more of what we can and feed our population.
Our indigenous food crops are very healthy which must be strongly encouraged and supported by both the agriculture and health departments.
I totally agree with the East Sepik governor who has correctly emphasised this strongly in parliament recently.
Papua New Guinea spends so much on imported rice and other food products when we can easily grow locally.
We can produce and supply our own fresh vegetables, fruits, fresh livestock and fish demands.
Important export commodity crops like coffee, oil palm, cocoa, copra, tea, vanilla and others must be revived and well supported.
Wherever possible Papua New Guinea must go into downstream processing of some of the above to add value.
Finally, one possible important step further that can assist in the above marketable commodities is the acts, policies and regulations of each agricultural sector. These must be reviewed if need be.
Let us be selective and gradually reduce our food imports and increase our various commodity exports and earnings.

Peter Bapiwai
Cocoa man for life
East New Britain Province (ENBP)

Argument overlooks that historical events
Have consequences today.
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 29, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 27, 2022

Re: "The opposite effect" in Bangkok Post Saturday December 24, 2022
Jason A Jellison is correct that "there is nobody alive today who had anything to do with decisions made centuries ago" concerning Denmark's solidly attested historical involvement in slavery.
It is equally certain that no one alive today was involved in any way with America's War of Independence from England.
It would therefore follow, according to Mr Jellisons's argument, that no living American should be celebrating the Fourth of July as though it mattered today.
Mr Jellison's mistake is twofold.
First, he fails to understand that nations are entities, typically recognised as juristic persons by the law, whose lifetimes are not limited to the lifespan of any particular generation.
The second, and more substantive mistake Mr Jellison's popularly specious argument overlooks is that historical events have consequences today.
Denmark is right to begin by admitting it as in, the nation committed grievous wrongs for which it should apologise.
And after apologising, it should look to ways to make substantive amends for the wrong it previously committed against some groups.

Felix Qui,

Information security
Is everybody's job
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 29, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday December 15, 2022

In September, a security breach at Australian mobile network operator, Optus, possibly exposed 10 million customer records, equivalent to 40 percent of the Australian population.
This was thought to have been caused by a leaky Application Programming Interface (API), similar to the 2016 “Comeleak” breach here at home.
Last year, a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline disrupted delivery of fuel supplies from the gulf coast to most of the eastern seaboard of the United States, affecting over 50 million people.
The incident, which was caused by exploited leaked virtual private network (VPN) credentials, was deemed a national security threat, and led US President Joe Biden to declare a state of emergency.
It likely led to the quick release of Executive Order No. 14028 on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.”
These major breaches, which could be the result of a single weakness in software, hardware, APIs, or IT practices, can affect millions of people.
Vulnerabilities are lurking in many systems, and malicious actors are working hard to find and exploit them.
As more and more critical aspects of our daily lives are driven by information technology, the effects of breaches are becoming a national security concern.
Even the best of today’s cybersecurity solutions might not be enough.
Cybersecurity practitioners have long been pushing for “shift left,” a practice where information security is no longer just an add-on after the solution has been built. Information security is factored in from the start, as early as the conceptualization phase of the IT system or service.
If we look at the technology life cycle as a pipeline, we move information security to the left of the pipeline, at the front end of the pipe.
Shift left also assumes that information security is everybody’s job.
IT systems are secured by design and throughout the process down to retirement. Even user interface choices can affect the information security of a service.
For example, a radio button or toggle is more secure than a free-form text field. When each layer applies information security, the whole system is more robust.
It is important to rethink how we write, maintain, and run software systems.
There are many basic practices that can be shifted left to gain greater information security dividends, with the same or marginally incremental amount of investment. When shifting left, information security is embedded at the early stage, even before the IT system is in place.
For example, a government entity can require information security testing to be part of the qualification criteria for a new online service.
A startup company can apply DevSecOps development, security, and operations practices when writing its code by putting information security testing as part of their DevOps pipelines.
A regular enterprise can provide information security awareness training to its employees, particularly those involved in planning and procurement.
I encourage you to take a quick look at your current information security practices and see what can be shifted left in your organization.
You may be surprised at what can be gained. Nobody is safe until we are all safe.

William Emmanuel Yu, Ph.D.,
Professor and researcher,

Forty seven years is enough for Papua New Guinea
To understand civilised Christian culture
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 28, 2022
First published in the National, Saturday December 23, 2022

Yes, we are living in the 21st century or the digital age.
Forty-seven years is enough for a country to grasp modern understanding and thoughts of a civilised Christian culture.
Yet, excluding the minority who are aware, the masses are still trapped in a colonial age old mentality akin to a serfdom.
Such is a detriment to progress and individual development.
We cannot go on bragging about building infrastructures and human resources when our minds are still living in the 60s 70s and 80s.
That will only be a waste of time and effort.
Evidently, our recklessness and attitude problem is there to prove this thesis.
Fix our mindset and attitude.
Then, all social and development issues will come easily.
The ball is in our mandated leaders’ court.
Happy hooping.

Enosh Bale,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

So is China shaping
ASEAN foreign policy now?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 27, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 23, 2022

Re: "Myanmar and two new game changers", in Opinion, Bangkok Post ,Tuesday December 20, 2022.
While Khun Kavi correctly surmises that the recent passage of the so-called Burma Act by the US Congress and the imminent assumption of the Asean Chair by Indonesia both represent momentum toward recognition of the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate authority in Myanmar, he fails to chastise our Foreign Ministry for smashing Asean solidarity on the Myanmar issue, by convening a meeting with the Myanmar junta's foreign minister today.
Since April 2021, the junta's chief foreign policy man has been barred from Asean meetings.
Now, in a move which will surely infuriate Indonesia, as the incoming chair, as well as Malaysia and Singapore, who are increasingly frustrated by the junta's brutish behaviour and complete rejection of the Asean 5-point consensus (5PC), the junta apologists who control our policy toward Myanmar have broken this long-standing diplomatic protocol and, according to Khun Kavi, "invited their colleagues from Asean to join a consultative dialogue".
Are any other Asean members joining this meeting?
So far, as reported, only the Chinese satellites, Cambodia and Laos.
So is China shaping our foreign policy now?
Certainly, this policy of engagement with the junta, first echoed at the Shangri-La Dialogue panel on Myanmar in June by then recently appointed special envoy Pornpimol Kanchanalak, coincides perfectly with China's desire to maintain recognition of the junta.
The unfolding tragedy that is Myanmar today deserves better from Thailand than pro-junta apologist policies.
Any meaningful consultative dialogue must embrace the NUG and represent a unified Asean standpoint. Hopefully, we can look forward to Indonesia giving Asean some much-needed backbone.

Sad Optimist,

Was there political turmoil in Fiji
After the 2022 elections or not?
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 26 2022

There was no " political turmoil " in Fiji following the 2022 elections.
It seems what was presented was accepted by the western media without proper examination of facts.
The ground reality in post election Fiji was peaceful and calm.
The claim of social unrest was concocted to serve the vested interest and agenda of people who felt power was slipping out of their hands after 16 years.
It was a ploy to create the conditions to call for the imposition of emergency rule. That strategy has been deployed in the past as people familiar with Fiji's history know.
This time the people of Fiji saw through the ploy and publicly disputed the fictitious claim.
An Assistant Commissioner of Police with a 29 year record of service resigned saying there was no need to call the army to maintain order.
By contrast the Police Commissioner Qiliho is a military man who only recently was installed as police chief.
This reporting of " political turmoil " without any critical scrutiny does Fiji and its people a disservice .

Rajend Naidu,

It's Christmas, a wonderful time for everyone
Including petty thieves
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 25, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday December 22, 2022

Recently, I witnessed a snatching incident during a traffic jam at the intersection of Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.
A young man wearing face mask, who seemed to be around 20 years old, came from behind a female student and snatched her gold earrings and immediately fled. The victim was getting onboard a bus bound to Marikina City.
The bus conductor presumed that the snatcher was her boyfriend or husband since his right arm was almost wrapped in a loving gesture around the shoulder of the student.
The student cried bitterly since the earrings had sentimental value, as they were gifts from her mother.
I remember my daughter, when she was in college, who had a traumatic experience when her shoulder bag was snatched by riders of a motorcycle with a sidecar along P. Margal corner De la Fuente Streets, Sampaloc, Manila, on her way to the University of Santo Tomas.
Her school ID, her weekly allowance, cell phone accessories, ATM card, and other personal effects were in the bag.
She was shocked and went home crying bitterly.
One passenger said that it is Christmas, and it is a wonderful time for everyone, including those who commit petty crimes.
Snatching, robbery, theft, and other street crimes are more commonplace during Christmas because many people carry more cash and gifts, including the use of cell phones at busy locations like shopping malls, churches, train stations, market areas, and similar public places.
I suggest that our police officers enhance their visibility and patrol activities during this holiday season, and for the public to be extra cautious and be more prudent in carrying cash, wearing of jewelries, or showing off their cell phones in hotspot locations in order to avoid becoming victims of street crimes.

Reginald B. Tamayo,

Senior prosecutor who tampered with evidence
In Red Bull case discharged with pension
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 23, 2022
First published in the Bangok Post, Tuesday December 6, 2022

Re: "Red Bull case prosecutor discharged," in Bangkok Post, Saturday December 3, 2022
The Public Prosecutors Commission discharged Chainarong Saengthongaram, the senior prosecutor who tampered with the car speed evidence in the Red Bull heir Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya case. However, Khun Chainarong will still get his pension.
Since he'd already resigned, the "penalty" is virtually meaningless and there'll evidently be no search for a massive bribe received for the tampering. Impeach the attorney-general for dereliction of duty.
Also related to this case, Prime Minister Prayut's buried the report of Khun Vicha Mahakun's panel on how to reform the police and the attorney-general's office for years, and the Opposition has uttered not a peep to make the report public. Our elected representatives are sleeping on duty.
We get what we deserve, for we elect candidates despite knowing that they'll fleece us blind (to mix metaphors). We should demand better.

Burin Kantabutra,

All Legislators related to President Marcos
Support passing of Maharlika Investment fund Act
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 23, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday December 14, 2022

The hot topic nowadays is the impending passage of House Bill No. 6398, the Maharlika Investment Fund Act, which was filed by Speaker Martin Romualdez, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, and six other lawmakers who are all related to President Marcos Jr.
If approved, the law will create the country’s first ever sovereign wealth fund, with an initial investment of P275 billion.
Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that making Mr. Marcos chair of the Maharlika board is “a powerful statement that the highest official of the land will hold himself as ultimately accountable to the Filipino people.” This coming from a former president who was arrested for allegedly misusing state lottery funds while in office.
Where do these shameless people get their confidence?
Why, the very name “Maharlika” stinks and evokes memories of world-class chicanery and pretense!
Red flags fly high all over this dark evil castle that is surreptitiously but surely being erected by means of deceit, duplicity, and pretense.
Are the proponents of HB 6398 even remotely credible and believable?
Why should we entrust the management of these funds to a coven of witches and warlocks who think it is their own family business?
Who determines where the money will be invested?
Who will monitor the entire process and proceedings?
Finally, who will be held accountable if it fails?
How sure are we that the Maharlika fund will not also be systematically embezzled, like what happened to 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB?
Where does a cash-strapped and debt-ridden banana republic such as ours get the crazy notion that it still has a cent left over for investing in high-yield outlets?
Will a beggar who can’t even be sure of where he’d get his next meal dare to imagine he’d make money and get rich by using the few coins he has collected to play for stakes and gamble these away?
We elected these lawmakers to make laws that will improve and uplift our lives, not for them to connive, collaborate, and conspire to rob us blind and milk us dry.
The unbridled greed of our political leaders is a wild runaway horse that, if left unchecked, will drag this country to its doom and damnation.
Yue Fei, one of the greatest generals in Chinese history, lived during the last days of the Song Dynasty.
He was famous for his loyalty to duty and love of country.
According to legend, an inscription was branded with hot irons on Yue Fei’s back by his own mother when he was a boy.
This inscription even now may be read on a million walls in present-day China: “tsin chung pao kuo,” which means “with utmost loyalty, save the state.”
With utmost loyalty, we must save our country from the onslaught of this modern-day golden horde composed of a united alliance of pocket emperors, each one of whom heads a political dynasty holding sway over their own medieval fiefdoms, an evil conglomeration of cheats, liars, hoodlums, mass murderers, tax-evaders, and plunderers.
All Filipinos who still love this poor shithole of a country must oppose and resist, with utmost loyalty, the passage of HB 6398, which will surely spell the end of us all.

Antonio Calipjo Go,

All senators choose PM Prayut
PM Prayus chooses the senators
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 20, 2022

Re: "Anutin is Bhumjaithai's sole PM pick," in Bangkok Post, December 18, 2022
The essence of a democracy is that the majority of the electorate rules but the minority has rights. For that to happen, each voter's wishes must have the same weight as every other voter's.
No more, no less.
Yet in Thailand, 1/6 of the electorate can overrule the remaining 5/6, even if that 5/6 speaks as one.
How is such a travesty of democracy possible?
In Thailand, a candidate needs the backing of a majority of MPs and senators combined, plus one, for 376 votes or more to win.
PM Prayut carefully selected 250 senators then ran for PM himself.
No prizes for guessing that all senators unerringly chose he who had earlier chosen them, so all he needed was 126 more votes.
A minority must not trample the rights of the majority. Senators, being appointed, should not be allowed to vote for candidates.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for astronaut food pill
For the poorest of the poor Filipinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 21,
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday December 16, 2022

Instead of thinking about ways to ensure essential foods and services are accessible to the struggling masses, Sagip party list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta is advocating for “astronaut food pill” to end hunger for the poorest of the poor Filipinos.
Absurd and dehumanizing.
Marcoleta put forward the idea that if astronauts can survive in space for a long time by relying solely on food pills, then it can as well aid the survival of people who are underprivileged to afford food for their everyday lives.
In Marcoleta’s words: “even for months hindi sila kakain, hindi sila mamamatay.”
If the poor will be provided with such a pill, they can go for weeks without buying food or cooking, and that, to him, is a huge deal.
Is this what we have been reduced to?
Are proper and nutritious foods, which sustain a healthy body, only reserved for the privileged?
Is it just “survival” that the poorest of the poor deserve?
It is oppressive to deprive the poor access to normal food. Rather than urging scientists to develop food pills that can mitigate hunger issues and food security problems, the government should instead focus on providing solutions that would, in the long run, ensure that everyone has access to healthy meals.
This may come in the form of funding agricultural technologies that help in food mass production, addressing price hikes in basic commodities, or alleviating poverty in general.
Pushing for food pills to replace normal food for those who cannot afford it is exceedingly nonsensical and unfathomable. Even grade schoolers could make better suggestions for ways to address hunger and poverty in the country. Doesn’t Marcoleta see the poor as people too?
Note: Astronauts do not consume pills in space.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration website, astronauts eat three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Nutritionists ensure the food astronauts eat provides them with a balanced supply of vitamins and minerals.
An astronaut can choose from many types of foods that are dehydrated or preserved to last for months while in space—contrary to Marcoleta’s claims.

Shane Liway R. Eligado,

Should the nominee for Prime Minister
Have qualifications to lead Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 20, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday December 12, 2022

Re: "Srettha wants to settle political issues," in Bangkok Post, Monday Dec 12, 2022.
Do voters expect nominees for the position of prime minister to have any qualifications to lead the country?
For most parties, the answer appears to be no, voters don't care, anybody will do.
For the party desperately proclaiming they need a landslide victory, their top candidate for national leadership is a lady without any experience at all, whose only credential is being the daughter of Thaksin Shinawatra.
This party's second-string nominee is touted to be Srettha Thavisin, a well-known real estate developer.
Khun Srettha identifies his top priorities as being socioeconomic disparities.
But he goes on, "Don't ask me to resolve all these socioeconomic problems because if I knew, I would have become a politician already and volunteered to fix them."
Perhaps someone should suggest to Khun Srettha he might consider switching parties to the Move Forward Party.
They do indeed have the answers to his top priorities.

Sad Optimist,

CPP-NPA-NDF have been very quick to exploit
The death of NPA leader Ericson Legaspi Acosta
The Southeast Asian Times Monday, December 19, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Sunday, December 2022

The recent death of New People's Army (NPA) leader Ericson Legazpi Acosta and his NPA comrade Joseph Jimenez in a clash with government troops in Kabankalan City on Wednesday is another "huge blow" to the communist-terrorists movement in Visayas Regions and mostly in Negros Island.
Acosta, also known as "Raffy" and "Fredo" is the NPA's first deputy secretary for Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor (KR-NCBS) and head of the Political Unified Committee in the Visayas.
He is the husband of the late Kerima Tariman, a female NPA leader who died in a legitimate encounter with elements of 79IB in Silay City last August 22, 2021.
Contrary to the propaganda claims of the National Democratic Front (NDF) that Acosta is an NDF consultant, peasant organizer and a poet, he and Jimenez were killed in a legitimate encounter and pursuit operations with ground forces in Makilo, a mountain community in the village of Camansi of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on November 30, 2022.
As expected, the CPP-NPA-NDF have been very quick to exploit the incident- a worn-out ploy to discredit the government troops and win public sympathy as what they always do whenever they suffer major setbacks.
As their propaganda aims to glorify Acosta’s death to cover up his involvement in the NPA Terrorists underground activities and atrocities, they must realize that they can no longer manipulate and deceive the peace-loving Filipino people and that violence has no place in a civilized community of the Visayas.
The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Acosta.
Unfortunately, the consequences of his atrocities and violence led to a tragic ending.
He orchestrated numerous NPA atrocities in Negros Island including other neighbouring provinces particularly the ambush of Binalbagan PNP early this year, countless recruitments of farmers and students, extortion activities, and other NPA violent activities.
Based on the informants and Former Rebels, Acosta also conducted numerous NPA political trainings in different hinterland areas and communities in Negros Island to revitalize both the NPA and their Politico-Military Organizations (Underground Organizations).
With that situation, it is believed that his death is the result of the continuing coordinative effort of the populace who had grown weary of the NPA menace and the unrelenting commitment of your army troops to protect the community from the NPA terrorists.
It is the voice of the people that makes the NPA terrorist irrelevant and likewise, it is the resiliency of the Negrense to recognize the truth that will set Negros Island free from the lies and propaganda of the communist-terrorists that put the lives of Negrense people in danger.
Now, justice has been served for those innocent civilians and their communities that the NPA have victimized for several decades.
For these people, Ericson Acosta is not a poet, songwriter or peasant organizer but the leader of a terrorist group that has sowed fear.
His death will greatly affect plans of the communist terrorists to plot violence against the peace-loving people in this side of the country and hopefully could be a blow for the eventual collapse of the communist terrorist group and will usher in eventual peace in the regions.
Likewise, his death will bring the remaining NPAs to their realization to choose the path of peace and lead a normal life.
As one, it is nearly time that no more Negrense will close their doors and windows in nightfall and let the evils of communism and terrorism takeover their land.

Major Joe Patrick Martinez Pa
Group Commander
3rd Civil Relations Group
Civil Relations Service, AFP
Camp Lapu-lapu, Apas,
Cebu City

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha endorses
"Capital in the Twenty First Century" by Thomas Piketty
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 18, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 2, 2022

Re: "PM endorses economist's book", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday Nov 29, 2022.
Since PM Prayut Chan-o-cha recommends us the excellent, groundbreaking economic tome Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Piketty, he should make it a compulsory reading for his entire cabinet and indeed the entire government.
Coincidentally, the book, which I recommend every economist, scholar, politician, and pundit to read, was published in 2014, the year our dear PM and his comrades in arms staged a putsch.
Alas, after eight long years I doubt that any of them have read the book, as the economic and social policies of the government do not reflect the actions that are discussed and recommended by Piketty.
I also hope that all the economic faculties, at all the Thai universities include this fabulous book as a compulsory reading in their curriculum too. By the way, it is not bedtime reading nor the usual economic waffle and drivel as often seen in the Bangkok Post and especially PostBag!
Happy reading.

Miro King,
The economist,

Heroism in the Philippines
Need not be as profound as that of Rizal or Bonifacio.
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 17, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday November 30, 2022

We can all be everyday heroes, in our own small way: If we refrain from throwing out food wrappers from the windows of our vehicles when no one is looking or into the nearest canal and sewers on the streets, when there should be small receptacles for garbage in our vehicle; if we don’t take advantage of anyone, or pay our taxes dutifully; if we write, speak out against bad governance when we see it.
Heroism need not be as profound as that of Rizal or Bonifacio.
But the problem that stymies us often from being good citizens is the deafness and callousness we see in some government bureaucrats.
One broadcaster has said that in this country, when you are caught violating traffic rules, you are declared guilty and fined, unless proven influential.
Where do ordinary citizens find redress for grievances when elections are already over?
It cannot be in the vile exchanges of garbage and toilet-type expletives hurled on social media.
There must be some decent ways of exercising responsible citizenry in this country.
I wrote to city hall a month ago on a wanton waste of tax money.
Other than asking me what it was and where it’s happening, I got no further reply of any further action taken or not taken, or if not their concern, to what agency of government should I “spill my bile.
Being a longtime senior resident of the city, I thought I deserved a decent reply of wanting to know where my taxes go.
This is that simple problem I was concerned with.
Fifty meters away from the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and the Sandiganbayan building, right to the Batasang Pambansa compound, a new set of traffic lights were installed more than five years ago to control the intersecting traffic additionally coming from a subdivision.
The traffic lights never worked since day one.
But no one seems to know how to fix a simple electrical problem for the last five years, or why nobody even wanted to just switch them off!
The lights keep irritatingly blinking 24/7 and, to my calculation, are wasting electricity and taxes of P1,000 a day, roughly P400,000 a year, or P2 million for five years!
We can be encouraged to be everyday heroes if our government bureaucrats show the way.

Marvel K. Tan,


Who wants to toil
Under the hot Philippines sun
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 16, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday November 21, 2022

With the constant news on shortage of basic necessities, the problem of salt surfaced.
In summary, today 93 percent of our salt requirement is imported.
It is ironic because we traditionally produced our own since the 18th century with our long coastline where salt farms are ideal.
The causes are known and entirely within our power to change.
Let us start with the regulatory environment a law cutely titled Asin or the Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide passed in 1995.
This immediately leads to a series of questions.
One is technical.
Why do we need a law to require iodization?
Because many Filipinos then suffered from iodine deficiency disorder (IDD).
Our diet did not provide enough iodine.
Since our bodies need salt every day, iodizing the salt we ingest solves the problem.
This is strange because we are surrounded by bodies of water where marine, particularly fish, supply is available. The first policy thrust is to advocate for Filipinos to eat healthy.
I take heart in the recent Senate hearings on the high sodium and high sucrose content in many of our everyday foodstuffs that damage our organs and have an effect on leading productive lives.
Two is policy.
The scope of Asin law covers the whole value chain for salt and provides sanctions, ranging from fines to revocation of permits and bans.
Overnight, it shut down the range of premium artisanal and gourmet types of salt that are prized for their origins and preparation, minerals, and flavors.
This is a failure of regulation.
While the objective is good, the means employed are not sensible.
In other words, salt production or any kind of economic activity is not zero-sum. One can push for iodization while allowing for specialty products that add up to our total output.
The effect is that specialty salt cannot be exported or sold abroad because the country of destination requires a certification from the government that what is sold is also available in the local market, which is not the case since it is not iodized, hence unavailable and illegal.
Policymakers need to step up and consider the whole range of possibilities and consequences before casting anything in stone.
Third is the climate.
It is not only about shorelines.
A predictable and consistent sun shining to evaporate the water is essential. Our geography hits us with multiple, more severe typhoons and tropical depressions. The wet and dry season we grew up with is no longer the same.
This is coupled with the need for constant raking of the dried salt by manual labor manpower that is no longer around because of the hollowing out of all types of farming including salt. Who wants to toil under the hot sun and be disqualified from “ayuda”?
Thankfully, salt is a cheap commodity.
The import value is not something that will bankrupt us, especially if it is not to our competitive advantage to keep investing where returns are not economic.
Last is regulatory.
The proposed legislative changes are on amending the Fisheries Code to bring salt into its framework.
It is more regulation and more unforeseen outcomes.
Perhaps we can be innovative in law where we cannot elsewhere. There is no need for law when it comes to food production.
Let the market work.
Entrepreneurs will find the resources if only the environment enables them.
The government comes in when there is market failure or when there is need to protect consumers.
With how our laws are designed, it assumes a state that is all-knowing and all-doing. In reality, we can barely enforce them.
The least that can be done is less laws and fewer rules.
The current system has not been working very well for us, so why not try a different approach?
The problem of salt may yet be the gateway for institutional and systemic reforms that are first driven by the opening of minds.
It will be a new day and give substance to being the “salt of the earth.

Geronimo L. Sy,

China, Hong Kong and Myanmar
Has highest number of journalists in prison
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 15, 2022

According to the latest report released by the International Federation of Journalism (IF) ‘ 67 journalists, media workers killed on the job this year ‘ ( AP, FT 13/12 p.25 ).
That’s up from 47 last year. And, 375 journalists are currently imprisoned “ for their work “ .
That’s up from 365 last year.
It is depressing and disturbing to read the predicament of journalists and media workers.
The International Federation of Journalism (IFJ ) report brings home just how perilous the job of journalism has become in today’s world.
The IFJ has called on governments to “ take concrete action to protect journalists and free journalism “.
The call must be heeded for “ failure to act will only embolden those who seek to suppress the free flow of information and undermine the ability of people to hold their leaders to account “.
We can’t have that especially in countries that purport to be democracies .
That the highest number of journalists imprisoned are in China, including Hong Kong since the Chinese takeover and in Myanmar since the military takeover comes as no surprise.
That is the modus operandi of authoritarian regimes.
We can’t and must not have that in a democracy.

Rajend Naidu,

Thai courts revoke citizenship of naturalised Thais
Rendering them stateless
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 14, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 2, 2022

Re: "Send the triads packing", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Tuesday November 29, 2022
The Thai Nationality Act does indeed provide for the revocation of citizenship of naturalised Thais who commit any act contrary to public morals.
This is not applied in an arbitrary manner, but courts can order the revocation of citizenship of naturalised Thais found guilty of serious offences such as drug smuggling.
In these cases, the condemned will be deported to their home countries upon completing their sentences, provided those countries will accept them.
Since Chinese citizens are obliged to renounce their Chinese citizenship in order to obtain another citizenship, it is not clear that China would automatically accept them, and Thailand might have to retain them as stateless persons after revoking their citizenship.
Rendering people stateless would also put Thailand in violation of the UN Convention Against Statelessness.
Since Thailand only naturalises around 150 people a year and vetting procedures involving checking Thai and home country criminal records are actually fairly stringent, I think this type of case is probably rather rare and not something to get too worked up about. The only case I can recall of a Thai court ordering revocation of Thai citizenship from a naturalised Thai was a Burmese drug trafficker who escaped from a Thai prison and returned to Burma voluntarily.
I suspect Chinese criminals using fake Thai ID cards are far more commonplace than those who have jumped through all the hoops to become naturalised Thais. Hopefully, Pol Lt Gen Surachate "Big Joke" Hakparn will soon shed more light on the issue of the Chinese triad use of fake Thai ID cards.

George Morgan,

And there are no gambling dens
In Bangkok
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 13, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 24, 2022

Re: "Building on Apec pluses," Bangkok Post, Editorial, November 24, 2022
When they write glowingly of French President Emmanuel Macron eating Chinese food, of a muay Thai skit, and a visit to Wat Pho as being "the talk of the town" the Bangkok Post's editor is perhaps expressing wishful thinking of the same variety that leads the national police chief to regularly insist that the latest heavily promoted crackdown will solve whatever problem is currently hot, once and for all. And there are no gambling dens in Bangkok.
The claim regarding those rigidly managed photo ops of visiting national leaders doing the approved Thai tourist cultural activities, including the obligatory temple visit, dictated in detail by the same centralised power structures that subject Thailand to militaristic rule that "they helped promote the country's soft power" is equally incredible.
That is not what soft power is; they were just cute distractions.
Actual soft power would be what Korea's K-pop and economic growth show. Actual soft power would be what is demonstrated in Taiwan's booming economy founded on the technological innovation that drives its computer chip and related industries.
Such actual soft power success requires creativity to question old ways and reform them in new ways.
Thailand has no soft power industry of global note; it only sells off its natural beauty, historical and cultural myths and heritages for profit.

Felix Qui,

Thai tax payers to pay billions
For new Thai loans for Thai Airways
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 12, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, November 24, 2022

Re: "THAI to borrow less amid recovery," in Bangkok Post, November 24, 2022.
I'm glad that Thai Airways International will require only half the money initially estimated for its recapitalisation, given its positive performance.
But everybody carefully avoids even whispering that taxpayers, like you and I,will still be at risk for the billions in new THAI loans as well as old loans still outstanding.
Also, nobody's credibly explained why taxpayers should be held liable for THAI's new loans.
And nor has the Opposition done its duty and demanded such an explanation and vote in parliament. Remove THAI from our necks.

Burin Kantabutra,


"And in a country like Malaysia with its multiracial and multireligious people there is no room for an Islamic State"
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 24, 2022

Re: "Opposition leader Anwar named PM," in Bangkok Post November 25, 2022.
Anwar Ibrahim's long-awaited return from enforced exile as Malaysia's new prime minister testifies to Martin Luther King's declaration that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
November 2022 has been joyful in witnessing the resurrection of two deposed arbiters of hope in a desperately polarised world; Lula in Brazil, and now Anwar in Malaysia.
Anwar has a battle on his hands to heal a fractured nation.
His progressive and inclusive vision of a modern multicultural people is at loggerheads with a restless Muslim base agitating for Islamic law.
The systematic prioritisation of Malay privilege over the aspirations of minority Chinese- and Indian-Malaysians foments inter-racial resentment.
As a Malaysian-born Chinese Australian, I remain hopeful.
Anwar contends that regardless of race or religion, no Malaysian "should be left to feel that they are ignored in any way, none should be marginalised under my administration".
This aligns with the first Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman's declaration that: "No man in his right sense would accept a nation which bases its political administration on religion, and in a country like Malaysia with its multiracial and multireligious people, there is no room for an Islamic State."

Joseph Ting,

Papua New Guinea is developing a culture of lip service
Publishing nicely decorated development concepts
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 10, 2022
The National, Thursday December 1, 2022

The meeting between Prime Minister James Marape and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand, last week is timely and a fruitful engagement for Papua New Guinea’s relations with China at the next level.
The two leaders discussed many development issues to strengthen existing bilateral relations between Papua New Guinea and China and increased business to business and government to government relations between the two countries.
One of the highlights of their meeting and a significant and timely discussion is China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and its link to developing our agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors through the development of identified special economic zones (SEZs) around the country.
For economic development to take off at a higher level, the partnership between China and Papua New Guinea in developing infrastructures under Belt and Road Initiative is the way forward to realise our special economic zone (SEZ) concept.
Papua New Guinea does not need cash loans when it comes to infrastructure development for the simple reason that we do not have competent local contractors who can deliver world class infrastructure at the least cost possible.
We require China’s state-owned companies like China Harbour and Covec Ltd to develop our infrastructure at the special economic zones (SEZ) and the Connect Papua New Guinea projects.
Papua New Guinea has started to develop a culture of lip service by talking too much, publishing nicely decorated development concepts on paper and staging well-attended expensive conferences in major cities and towns.
However, to translate the conferences’ proactive steps into realty has been our setback for years.
After each conference attended, no feedback reports are done to agency heads or political leaders who could take time to read understand and take action.
How can we achieve development agendas in such manner of operation?
Therefore, the solution to our problems of infrastructure development is to tie those infrastructure funds, whether in loans or our own, to China’s Belt and
Road Initiative for them to deliver the world class projects and assist set up our downstream processing facilities under a build operate and transfer (BOT) concept.
We do need to strengthen the bond between China and Papua New Guinea in this regard going forward.

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Development in Papua New Guinea
Is stagnant
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 9, 2022
First published in the National, Thursday December 1, 2022

Papua New Guinea’s corruption status has skyrocketed and is presently known by certain organisations as one state that has the highest corruption rate.
In some countries there are stronger laws enacted to protect public funds – what we call district services improvement programme (DSIP) and provincial services improvement programme (PSIP) funds.
In some countries, the penalty for corrupt politicians is execution.
Fear of being killed promotes transparency and good governance and there is no stealing of public funds.
As a result, those economies that had relied heavily on farming have now become industrialised countries.
In Papua New Guinea, we have lot of development funds yet no change has evolved.
Apart from DSIP and PSIP, we have funds coming into our country in grants and loans from states and institutions such as Australian Agency For International Development (AusAid), Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Union, USAid and China.
Development is stagnant because of misappropriation and misusing of public funds.

Justin Max,
Kerendah Village,
Papua New Guinea



Thailand's lack of English Language expertise
Is dragging Thailand down
The Southeas Asian Times, Thursday December 8, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 30, 2022

Education First's English Proficiency Index 2022 is out. It covers 111 countries and regions, including 10 of Asean's 11 countries (excluding Brunei). Thailand continues to do very poorly. In the world, we rank 97th, ahead of economically backward countries like Haiti (98th), Kazakhstan (99th), and Somalia (100th). In Asean, we are in the "Very Low" group (which is the lowest grade), behind Cambodia (94th), and Myanmar (93rd) but ahead of Laos (111st).
The above is not surprising. But what should amaze us is why we do so little to improve our competency in one of the most important languages in the world. It's not as if most Thais are fluent in any of the other lingua franca like Chinese or French. Our lack of expertise is dragging us down, and we do little.

Burin Kantabutra,

Japan did Asia-Pacific proud
At World Cup in Qatar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 7, 2022

With its sterling performance at the World Cup in Qatar Japan did our region proud as one of our three representatives.
Their skill, self-belief and sheer spirited work rate combined to give the world a great display of the beautiful game.
Japan can hold its head high with the account it has given with its scintillating soccer performance .
And we in the Asia-Pacific region have been given an opportunity to hold our heads high as well.
Arigatou gozaimasu Japan for such an inspirational performance on the world stage.
Japan is in the World Cup because Japan has become world class in soccer.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Philippines President Marcos
To address China's bullying
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 6, 2022
First published Philippine Inquirer December 1, 2022

After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Indonesia, President Marcos Jr. should follow up his communication with the Chinese leader in his state visit to China in January 2023.
Among the issues that should be addressed is the need to put an end to China’s bullying, as seen in the latest incident of its ships blocking and forcefully seizing the rocket debris being towed by a Philippine Navy ship to Pag-asa Island on November 20.
Even as Mr. Marcos presses his appeal on the formulation of a marine code of conduct among Asean countries, there is a need to do away with China’s confrontational stance in the form of its constant harassment of Filipino fishermen and our military ships even within our territorial waters.
Eliminating the maritime tension created by China’s provocative acts will allow the conduct of productive economic activities beneficial to all maritime claimants. To inspire the institution of a modus vivendi in the West Philippine Sea, Mr. Marcos should recount to President Xi the deep cultural and kinship ties between the Philippines and China before and after the coming of European colonizers to our shores.
For example, Mr. Marcos should recount how Sultan Paduka Pahala of the then prestigious Sultanate of Sulu visited the Ming court of Yongle Emperor Zhu De in 1417, together with his family and his retinue of officials and slaves.
Bringing a tribute of exotic Philippine products, the Sultan planned to strengthen good trading relations with the Chinese.
Unfortunately, the Sultan contracted and died of a mysterious disease during his China sojourn.
The Chinese emperor honored him with a royal funeral and buried him in a tomb customarily built for a Chinese prince.
The Sultan’s companions who stayed in China were eventually absorbed into the Hui ethnic group and later became Chinese subjects.
Mr. Marcos should inform President Xi as well that our national hero Jose Rizal’s great, great grandfather was Cua Yi Lam, a native of Jinjiang in Fujian province, who migrated to the Philippines and settled in Calamba in 1697.
He became a Christian and assumed the name Domingo Lamco, changed in 1731 to Mercado to signify his being a merchant.
Lam’s descendant was Juan Mercado, father of Francisco Mercado, who was Rizal’s father.
Jinjiang paid homage to Rizal by erecting an 18.61-feet bronze cast statue, the tallest Rizal monument outside the Philippines.
In recognition of their historical connection, Jinjiang and Calamba established sisterhood ties in 2018, with the former referring to Rizal as its adopted son.
Then there’s the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade from 1565 to 1815, when galleon ships with Filipino sailors traded sought-after goods like silk and porcelain from China and Manila hemp, and indigo from the Philippines.
This set-up also led to a steady flow of Chinese migrants to the Philippines.
The President should inform his Chinese counterpart of how the descendants of their Chinese nationals used their Confucian values to become successful in business, and how creating geopolitical instability will adversely affect the lives and businesses of their ethnic relations, who currently comprise some one-fourth of the Philippine population.
To create more goodwill, Mr. Marcos can steer his talk toward the serious joint extraction of marine oil and gas that both countries sorely need for their economic advancement. Furthermore, he can promise the facilitation of business applications of Chinese investors in the Philippines and cite the country’s investment strengths, including our strategic business location, which is within the average four-hour flying time from major capitals of the Asia-Pacific region; the high quality of labor with good English proficiency; a liberalized and business-friendly economy; well-developed infrastructure, and a hospitable lifestyle amid a tropical milieu.

Meliton B. Juanico,
Licensed environmental planner
Retired professor of geography,
University of the Philippines

Call for investigation into death of journalist
Captured by Armed Forces of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 5, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday December 2, 2022

Pilgrims for Peace mourns the death of Ericson Acosta, poet, journalist, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resource person.
He worked on and contributed to the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser).
The details surrounding his death need to be thoroughly and impartially investigated due to possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
It has been reported that Acosta and his companion, a peasant organizer, were captured alive by the 94th and 47th Infantry Battalions at around 2 a.m. on November 30, 2022, at Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
However, a few hours later, the Armed Forces of the Philippines declared them as casualties of a supposed armed encounter.
In light of this information, as well as the numerous cases in the past of such fabricated stories to cover up acts of summary execution, Pilgrims for Peace calls for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by both the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), so that an impartial investigation may be conducted.
We also call on the Commission on Human Rights to undertake the same.
If found that the reports of the extrajudicial killing of Acosta and his companion by the military are true, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must be taken to task for this abomination, which is part and parcel of a militaristic, “take no prisoners” approach to the long-running armed conflict with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.
Acosta’s death is all the more lamentable due to his untiring efforts as an National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace resource person.
In fact, he had been working at Kabankalan to share developments regarding the Caser, a landmark document that seeks to address the root causes of the armed struggle.
Acosta died on the day the country honors Andres Bonifacio.
Both poets and patriots in the service of the people, their revolutionary fervor to attain a just and lasting peace shall not be forgotten.

Most Rev. Gerardo Alminaza, D.D.,
bishop, Diocese of San Carlos, Roman Catholic Church,
Most Revd Rhee M. Timbang, obispo maximo,
Iglesia Filipina Independiente,
Rev. Frank Hernando, United Church of Christ in the Philippines,
Rev. Ritchie Masegman, Episcopal Church of the Philippines,
Rev. Irma Balaba, Promotion of Church People’s Response,
Deaconess Norma Dollaga, Kapatiran Simbahan Para sa Bayan,
Kej Andres, Student Christan Movement Philippines,
Mike Pante, Ph.D., Act for Peace,
Dr. Carol Araullo, Bayan,
Tinay Palabay, Karapatan;
Gertrudes R. Libang, chair,
Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers

Thankyou to Ma, Ceres P. Doyo
For writing dangerously
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 4, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday October 28, 2022

Since October is Indigenous Peoples’ month, we, Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, thank the editors, staff, and columnists of Philippine Daily Inquirer for upholding the “unflinching commitment to truth for the Filipino people.” We thank Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, in particular, for “writing dangerously” for 40 years, with her first story on Macli-ing Dulag, the courageous indigenous leader in the Cordilleras.
Over 35 years, she gave a voice to harassed Mangyan communities of Oriental Mindoro.
Having interviewed them in their communities, she wrote timely columns about their plight and their school, Tugdaan. The feature article, “Reclaiming a Lost Eden,” in the Sunday Magazine on April 3, 1988, made Environment Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran Jr. finally address the 53-year-old issue.
The October 1998 column, “NPA should leave Mangyans alone,” publicized the people’s unanimous resolutions/policies that violate Mangyan culture and destroy the environment.
Initiated by the people’s organization, Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mangyan Alangan, the two-day meeting was held after the military attacked the
New People's Army (NPA) camp near the reservation.
“Illiterate Mangyans vs. DECS,” in December 1991, recounted the decades-long struggle of the Mangyan communities within the Mindoro Agricultural School then, now Mindoro State University (MSU).
After 69 years, there is hope.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued the certificate of recognition of ancestral domain claim on Aug. 1, 2022.
Thanks to NCIP chair Allen A. Capuyan and the six other commissioners.
Thanks, too, to Commission on Higher Education chair Dr. Prospero de Vera III and MSU president Levy Arago Jr. Most of all, special thanks to Ma. Ceres P. Doyo for her unflinching commitment to her vocation to passionately write the truth in love.

Sr. Victricia Pascasio, SSpS,
Socio-pastoral worker;
Sr. Rosario Tayson, SSpS,
provincial leader,
Philippine North

Call for United Nations to change
With no veto power to any nation
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 3, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 30, 2022

Re: "Of debt and bondage with Beijing", Bangkok Post Opinion, November 26, 2022.
Brahma Chellany's commentary gives a chilling sense of how the global order may change by China's economic power play.
If one were to look at China's funding to developing countries and compare it with the funding by International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, it is clear that the rules-based international order is changing, as claimed by Western nations.
One can only hope that United Nations' present structure should change with no veto power to any nation, and United Nations decisions can be endorsed by either a simple or two-thirds majority.
If the present United Nations order continues, we are likely to see a new form of economic colonialism. Southeast Asia should be worried too.

Concerned Global Citizen,

China's Xi Jinping
Faces public anger
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 2, 2022

We read in the article ‘ China’s Xi faces public anger : Students chant ‘ oppose dictatorship ‘ and ‘ Freedom!, Freedom! ‘ ( AP/ FT 30/11 p.24 ) that “ Barely a month after granting himself new powers as China’s potential leader for life, Xi Jinping is facing a wave of public anger of the kind not seen for decades …”.
The public anger is understandable . Tyranny can only be tolerated up to a point. Remember that point had been reached in China in 1989 when the people demanded freedom but the Chinese Communist State gave them the Tiananmen Square Massare instead.
But the yearn for freedom lived on notwithstanding State repression and it has once again resurfaced publicly.
And, once again State violent crackdown has started . Will we get another Tiananmen massacre ?

Rajend Naidu,

Philippines calls for politicians
To be visionary and God fearing
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 31, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday November 24, 2022

What kind of politicians do we have in our midst?
Of course, we want to have the ideal politician who is humble, honest, open or transparent, competent, and who works for the interest of the people.
However, among the many politicians around, we can also categorize them into two: political hedonists and political existentialists.
A political hedonist is a politician who considers pleasure or happiness as the criterion of any of his political decision and action and undermines their consequences.
He seeks pleasure for himself and for the people he serves.
When he seeks the happiness of the greatest number of people, he, too, is identified as a political utilitarian.
A political hedonist always finds a reason to have a party like a special event in his honor or a holiday.
He feels good when people respect or admire him or when they say good things about him.
He is happy when his hedonic policy brings forth happiness to the people.
When he is sad, he engages in activities with short-term rewards to boost his spirit. His pleasure, self-interest, and happiness are his primary motivation while ignoring fair play and values.
A political existentialist is a politician who considers freedom as intrinsically valuable and the foundation of society.
He espouses free society and considers people as free, free to choose what is best for them.
They make their lives meaningful through their choices.
To obey laws, and break or ignore them, is part of their freedom.
However, the exercise of freedom does not work in a vacuum. Freedom is accompanied by a sense of responsibility.
To make free choices is also to take responsibility for the consequences.
A political existentialist designs laws not as absolutes but are subject to change depending on circumstances.
He allows people to say their piece on what is true, good, or beautiful.
He accepts that there is no finality to political policies and actions.
Ideally, we long for politicians who are visionaries, who stay in touch with the people, who have integrity, who can make decisions whether popular or unpopular, service-oriented, knowledgeable and God-fearing.

Reginald B. Tamayo,

Syndicates send Indigenous Badjaos to Metro Manila
To beg in the streets
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 30, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday November 25, 2022

Last week, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) headed by Secretary Erwin Tulfo rescued a hundred or so Badjaos begging on the busy thoroughfares of Metro Manila.
Tulfo said that he plans to give each family P10,000 to take up livelihood projects before sending them home to Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, or Zamboanga. Hopefully, he added, they’d cease their mendicant ways.
Humane acts of charity like these from government agencies are most welcome, but I’m afraid the secretary is merely encouraging them, and that we’d see more of them in the coming days.
The festering social problems related to indigenous tribes have been with us for as long I can remember.
Just this July, former justice secretary Menardo Guevarra called on the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate a syndicate that shipped in more than 300 Badjaos to Metro Manila to beg in the streets.
And that’s barely scratching the surface of the problem.
To appreciate the seriousness of the issue, let’s look at the literacy statistics on indigenous peoples.
In 2012, there were around 15 million indigenous peoples (IPs) belonging to 110 ethno-linguistic groups (Cariño, 2012). The following data show how they’ve fared so far:
Less than 50 percent of the IP population have finished elementary education.
Nineteen percent graduated from secondary schools.
Only 2 percent finished college, an achievement that remains a pipe dream for the Badjaos, a sea-dwelling tribe.
The education secretary should be challenged enough to do something about the pathetic state of literacy among ethnic tribes, which may have been worsened by the lack of schoolrooms, teaching materials such as textbooks, computers, quality teachers, and budget.
The result is that benighted Badjaos and Aetas have become fixtures on the streets as they beg in droves during the Christmas season. In the process, they lose their self-esteem, one of the last valuable thing an individual should hold on to.
The education department must think of a novel approach to their social problems by providing them informal education with a basic and simple learning curriculum:
Teach them the alphabet so they’d be able to understand simple English, write their names, and know enough to use a cell phone, the computer, and the internet.
Establish a village center for them with internet connectivity and an audio visual system where children and adults can congregate and access practical and useful information online.
If budget allows, or with the help of nongovernment organizations and the private sector, provide each family an inexpensive, even a secondhand, computer so they can learn from the internet.
We can learn from Estonia, a small country of 1.4 million composed mostly of young people, who mastered informal education and became independent and weaned from Russia.
With little arable land but readily available Wi-Fi, they used their digital knowledge to manufacture exportable products. It has since become a major economy with a high GDP.
A few billions from the intelligence funds of some government offices would find much more valuable social value for indigenous tribes, rather than be used for spying on each other.

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,

Filipino nurses call for increase in wages
And release of COVID-19 benefits
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 29, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday November 24, 2022

It breaks my heart to learn that our nurses are continuously demonstrating against the government and hospital administrations allegedly due to “their unpaid COVID-19 benefits covering the periods July-December 2021, and July 2022 to the present.”
It was reported that the Department of Health (DOH) has requested an additional P27 billion to pay over 2.1 million eligible public and private health care workers (HCWs).
I continue to wonder how come to date these issues increase in wages and release of COVID-19 benefits to the nurses have been lingering for the longest time and have not been fully addressed.
In fact, I am surprised that Republic Act No. 7305, or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, does not cover private HCWs. Hopefully, House Bill No. 6132, or the proposed Magna Carta of Private Health Workers, will become law soon.
I suppose that between the government and the hospital administrations, the government has the ultimate responsibility for the well-being of our nurses.
In particular, RA 9173, or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, was enacted “declaring the policy of the State to assume responsibility for the protection and improvement of the nursing profession by instituting measures that will result in relevant nursing education, humane working conditions, better career prospects and a dignified existence for our nurses.”
The said law hereby created the Professional Regulatory Board of Nursing composed of a chair and six members as appointed by the president of the Philippines.
In this regard, let us enjoin its incumbent chair, Elsie A. Tee, to buckle down to work by spearheading the resolution of these long-standing valid issues (increase in wages and release of COVID-19 benefits) affecting our Filipino nurses once and for all!
If these real issues remain unresolved, then we can aptly say that “when the heroes don’t feel cared for,” the migration and resignation of Philippine nurses amidst the COVID-19 pandemic will ensue.
Finally, the government should realize that Filipino nurses can only do “heroic sacrifices” for the country to the extent that they are taken care of by the government.

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,

Former Malaysia PM Najib Razak
Doing jail time for pocketing state funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 28, 2022

The new Prime Minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim 75 keeps his election promise not to accept a salary ( The Southeast Asian Times 26/11/22 ).
What an irony because in that same country another prime minister Najib Razak is currently doing jail time for pocketing state money in a corruption scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars!

Rajend Naidu,

Thailand nowhere to be found
In Lonely Planet tourist guide ranking
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 27, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 24, 2022

Re: "Macron factor raises tourism hope", in Bangkok Post, November 22, 2022
The Lonely Planet, the well-known and respected travel organisation famous for its unique tourist guides, has just released its 2023 compilation of the 30 best-suggested destinations on our planet.
The ranking has been elaborated with five main topics in mind: Eat, Journey, Unwind, Learn and Connect.
Is it a surprise that we find Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, or Turkey some of the winners?
What is a surprise is that Thailand is nowhere to be found in the ranking.
Even my own country of origin, Canada, not the most famous attracting worldwide tourists, is listed in the "Journey" section Nova Scotia.
Maybe some big wigs in power shall take note and adapt their advertisements worldwide, not just focusing on wealthy expats that will now not have access to buy a piece of land as was promised earlier, but on regular tourists that may want to enjoy a hassle-free few weeks visit without the usual double pricing, scams, cheats and fake jewellery stores.

Michel Barre,

Call for full reporting of relevant facts
On use of rubber bullets during APEC
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 26, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 23, 2022

Re: "Selective reporting", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Monday November 21, 2022.
Highlighting the need for full reporting of arguably relevant facts on the use of rubber bullets by state forces during a recent Apec protest, Thanin Bumrungsap makes an excellent point regarding the truth behind the proverb "half the truth is often a whole lie", as he cites it.
What is that identical insight says about Thailand's state institutions protected by law that lead to half-truth being spoken?

Felix Qui,

Statuatory declarations for the formation of government
Proven to be a failure in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 25, 2022
First published in the Star, Monday November 21, 2022

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) takes exception to the call by the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun, for party leaders to submit statutory declarations from Members of Parliament who are willing to support a Prime Minister candidate to form the new government.
The Speaker should know that the use of statuatory declaration for the formation of government has been proven to be a failure again and again, contributing to much instability over the years.
A parliamentary government is a government based on a common governance programme, not a bunch of individual Members of Parliament supporting a common Prime Minister candidate, whether or not in exchange for positions.
It is unreasonable that party leaders are rushed into deals before all their Members of Parliament have the chance to deliberate and be heard.
No timeline should be set for this important process.
The most important goal in this process is to ensure that a sustainable and stable government can be formed and this can only be achieved through a carefully negotiated agreement among the parties, and it should not be hastily rushed through using satuatory declarations.
The signing of the memorandum of understanding for Political Stability and Transformation in Parliament by the government of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob with Opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan in September 2021 that restored political stability should be emulated in the current situation, and enough time should be given to all parties to deliberate matters.
It is better to be slow and steady in establishing a stable government than to rush and risk sending our nation into endless political machinations over the next few years.
Malaysia badly needs a functioning government to prevail over the triple crises of economy, environment and pandemic, not one plagued by intense infighting among government partners.
All quarters should always act prudently and responsibly to protect our parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy.

Steering Committee of Bersih,
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Thailand to use APEC conference
To offer asylum to Afghan women
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday November 24, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 17, 2022

Re: "Taliban orders sharia law implementation", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 15, 2022
Afghanistan's Taliban will fully implement Islamic law including public executions, stoning, floggings, and amputation.
Also, women have seen their hard-won rights evaporate in the past 15 months and are being steadily squeezed out of public life.
Many Afghan professionals, especially women, meet Thailand's development needs, are competent in English, and will seek to escape such bleak futures. Thailand should use our Apec conference to offer our legendary hospitality and asylum to them and their families.

Burin Kantabutra,

Malaysia's elections filled with divisive hate speech
Instead of speeches about rampant corruption in high office
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday Novemebr 23, 2022
First published in the Star, Monday November 21, 2022

I did my duty to my country through the ballot box on Saturday.
However, as a senior citizen, I like many of my fellow citizens, I’m sure, was appalled by the immaturity and viciousness of some political campaign speeches of the past weeks.
Instead of addressing rampant corruption in high office, financial leaks and disintegrating social protections, we heard hate-filled, divisive speeches, playing one Malaysian identity off against another.
These speeches were delivered by folks with greying hair and grey beards, an age group you would expect to have some wisdom and some semblance of dignity.
These candidates did a disservice to the people and the nation on two points.
First, many of these candidates were senior and seasoned politicians who have benefited from their time in public office.
Their remunerations, perks, privileges and family comfort are made possible by Malaysian citizens who pay taxes.
And these candidates should remember that these taxpayers who fork out this money yearly are of various colours, creeds, classes and cultures.
So politicians owe the whole country their service and respect not just some of the population.
When they spit out virulent messages at the hustings against other Malaysians, they would do well to remember this and show some gratitude and inclusiveness as well as statesmanship.
There is a second reason why many Malaysians feel disgusted by such politicians. And that is the blatant lack of compassion or sensitivity for a nation emerging from a major crisis which had worldwide reverberations.
Malaysians were engaged in a life and death struggle over the last two years and are survivors of a deep and abiding trauma from that time.
People faced a silent and deadly killer, never quite knowing when they or a loved one might be struck by this disease to which so many lost their lives.
Between January 3, 2020, and November 18, 2022, Malaysia’s death toll from Covid-19, as reported to the World Health Organisation, is 36,583.
Some of these election candidates were in office at some point in the last two years.
Candidates speaking to Malaysian citizens must remember the heroism, trauma and tragedy of how we all struggled against this coronavirus.
People emerging from such a trauma do not need future leaders playing cheap identity political tricks to win a few votes.
Malaysians deserve leaders who have the grace and sensitivity to bear witness to this trauma and to be respectful of the memory of those who died as well as those who survived.
So, the ballot box exercise is done for the 15th General Election.
Let the chips fall where they may our structures are often too weak to hold back unworthy hatemongers.
And the past four years have shown us that the will of the people may not always be respected.
Regardless of who forms the government this time around, my message to those candidates with divisive campaign messages is this: “People such as you are not worthy of Malaysia and Malaysians. Your fight is obviously about power and control. And your cheap tricks arise from shallow self-interest. You may win an election, but you are no leader!”

Ms Wong,
Petaling Jaya,

Call for tribes or clans pursuing land claims in PNG
To prove themselves biological descendants
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 22, 2022
First published in the National, Tuesday November 15, 2022

To whom it may concern in the land dispute of Sattleburg customary land ownership in Finschhafen, Morobe.
Please kindly be aware of the fact that assumptions, opinions, dreams, stories and predictions must have substantial, concrete and supportive evidence to confirm them.
I come from one of the disputing tribes of Kotec LLG, Finschhafen, and have interest in the Sattleburg customary land ownership.
I have done my research and understand that my ancestors never existed as Turbang clan members but are connected through marriage.
What I was told was all based on impersonation and without proven and sufficient evidence.
It does not carry merit.
Any other disputing tribes or clans pursuing the Sattleburg land as legitimate customary owner (CLO) should also prove themselves as biological descendants of the late chief Semangeng Givicking.
Givicking was in charge over Sattlebeurg territory when the first Lutheran missionary, Reverend John Flierl arrived.
Flierl met Givicking and settled at Satttleburg.
The chief was originally from Masangko village of Tucbang clan of Sattleburg area.
My people and any other tribes or clans disputing Sattleburg land must prove themselves to qualify as customary landowners.
Your argument must be based on accurate facts or substantial grounds with proven histories and records.
The key figure to prove legitimacy is the late chief Givicking of Masangko village of Tucbang clan.
These are facts:
Chief Semangeng Givicking used his powers and authority as the reining chief over the Sattleburg territory to settle the First Missionary who brought the Lutheran Grace, late Rev John Flierl;
He also settled other locals and they should not pursue the land disputed matters but be witnesses to confirm Semangeng of Tucbang clan of Masangko village of Sattleburg area as legitimate customary landowners;
Descendants of Semangeng’s daughters have rights to confirm Tucbang clan as legitimate customary landowners but do not qualify to lodge dispute of ownership rights as there is a system of male dominance;
Ladies from nearby tribes or clans who had gotten married to Semangeng or his male siblings do not give them any powers to lodge any dispute claims in the Sattleburg customary land ownership; and,
Any other parties or individuals related to Semangeng through marriage or exchanges of any other customary obligations are not warranted any rights in Sattlebburg land dispute matters.
I urge the land mediators to base their assessment on the above points when deliberating on this land matter.
The Lutheran Mission is in a better position to confirm late Chief Semangeng of Masangko village of Tucbang clan as the ruling, reigning and first contact person by Rev John Flierl.
Let truth prevail as Lutheran grace brought first light to Papua New Guinea through Finschhafen.
I stand in support of truth to disqualify and strongly oppose anyone making false and deceiving presentations on Sattleburg customary land ownership.
Tucbang clan of Masangko is the legitimate customary land owner.

Zachary Zarcha
Kotec LLG,
Papua New Guinea

War is natural to Homo sapiens
War is not ingrained in us

The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 12, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post,

Re: "Playing with fire in the garden of humanity," in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Friday November 11, 2022.
Gwynne Dyer seems to have a dim view on human beings when he says: "What they do have in full measure is a basic culture, older than our very species itself, that sees war as natural and necessary at least when our side does it". He goes on to add that even though there may be clear aggressors and defenders to a war, "the roles swap around regularly and the game never stops".
The writer is acting as if, rather than being a learned behaviour, war is something which is natural to Homo sapiens.
If that is the case, then God help us all!
I prefer to follow the stance of the current pontiff, Pope Francis, who encourages humans to "cultivate the garden of humanity", rather than destroy it.
Instead of "playing with fire, missiles and bombs covering our common homes with ashes and hatred", we should be engaging with our fellow humans and enjoying our time with them.
War is not ingrained in us, but rather is a learned behaviour which humans must try to avoid at all costs.


Call for financial aid from Philippine Government
To restore Christian churches damaged by earthquake
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 20, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday November 14, 2022

Some heritage structures and churches were damaged when Northern Luzon was hit by a strong earthquake recently.
We note that the national government through the National Commission for Culture and the Arts identifies majority of these churches as national cultural treasures because of their historical and cultural significance to us Filipinos.
These churches are living reminders of our religious culture as Filipinos based from the orders of Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, and Augustinian Recollects and a testimony of the colonial past of the Christianity in the country.
Republic Act No. 10066 known as the National Cultural Heritage Act protects these churches from demolition as expressed in the state policy to preserve them as cultural properties.
This echoes, too, the constitutional provision that the state has the responsibility in the protection of the country’s artistic and historical wealth that constitutes national cultural treasure (Article XIV, Section 16, Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports).
This is further complemented by RA 9470, National Archives of the Philippines Act of 2007, which states that “it is the policy of the State to conserve, promote and popularize the nation’s historical and cultural heritage resources. The State shall pursue, conserve and promote the Filipino cultural heritage and resources including the documentary records of Filipino culture, history and governance” (Article I, Section 2).
Is there anything wrong if the national government extends financial aid for the restoration of these churches which are in the first place officially recognized by the same government as national cultural treasures?
Invoking Article II, Section 6 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as a reason for the national government not to extend financial aid to these churches is, in my opinion, not in order.
The inviolability of the separation between the church and state refers to not having a state religion.
Simply put, the state does not establish a state religion nor espouse one religion over the others.
Yes, charity begins at home.
The national government should extend financial aid to our own local churches that were damaged or destroyed by earthquakes and have historical and intrinsic values.

Reginald. B. Tamayo,

Thailand's offices and homes
Soon to be kept at 27C
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 19, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 17, 2022

Re: "In need of an 'energy saver'", Bangkok Post, Editorial, Saturday November 12, 2022 and "Authorities promote energy saving", Bangkok Post, Business, Tuesday November 8, 2022.
While one certainly cannot blame Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha or the Thai National Energy Policy Council (NEPC) for the massive global rise in energy prices and supply problems which Thailand's leaders had little to do with, I think we should stop to reflect on where these recent lunatic "green" policies and pro-Ukraine cheerleading have led the world and ask a few questions:
So, your office or your home may soon have to be kept at a whopping 27C with many people in fragile health potentially ignored, misunderstood or ruled an acceptable loss?
A government potentially dictating how much power your house can use? Restricted hours at gas stations? Restricted hours at shopping malls?
The simple reality is that much of the world has ample fossil fuel/increasing nuclear power options to maintain affordable energy, but the ruling, anti-Trump officials in the West arguably intentionally made energy very expensive because it is the only way such poor-performing technology can compete with reliable fossil fuel/nuclear power. We shall soon be reminded that, in my great grandparents' premodern era, one of the common causes of death was indeed prolonged exposure to extremely high or extremely low temperatures, well, it looks to me like those problems won't be someone else's problems anymore.

Jason A Jellison,

Philippines has retrogressed
From one administration to another since 1970's
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 18, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday November 16, 2022

Before my retirement, my work visits to several Asian countries in the 2000s gave me the rare opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of their socioeconomic, cultural, and political situations.
This resulted from my interactions with all kinds of rights holders and duty bearers.
We are at par with our now-rich neighbors in educational attainment, intellectual capacity, innovations, etc.
We are deeply religious like most of them, although we worship a different Supreme Being.
In my travels, I then wondered why our country was far behind Singapore, Malaysia, etc.
And yet we were better off than them in the past.
I was also aware our poorer neighbors were fast catching up with us.
For example, Vietnam, which was ravaged by a vicious war for years, was in full throttle.
It’s obvious from the ’70s onwards, our country has retrogressed from one administration to another, except for a while after 2010.
Of course, debt of gratitude, crab mentality, not-invented-here syndrome, “gaya-gaya,” etc. obstruct our march toward progress and prosperity.
And our governance lapses, foremost of which is graft and corruption, have prevented us from moving forward.
One time, I overheard at a lounge in the Heathrow Airport that corrupt Philippine government officials laundered their stolen money abroad.
Their counterparts in other Asian countries invested theirs in their respective countries.
So corrupt government officials in other Asian countries were unwittingly helping their economies grow.
The Catholic Church forgives sins, no matter how mortal, once confessed to a clergy member.
This practice allows politicians to commit sins time and time again.
And all kinds of Christians attribute their personal and professional successes to God directly or via the intercessions of saints or pastors or evangelists.
This belief encourages Christians to donate sums of money to their respective churches, which have become super rich. Religious orders must calibrate their tenets and practices in these troubled times.
Political dynasties have ruled many of our provinces for a long time.
Most of today’s mayors, governors, congressmen, et al. have merely replaced their forebears. For them, an election is merely a formality.
Over the years, they have perfected the formula for making themselves electoral winners, come hell or high water.
Debts of gratitude to them by their constituents have been repaid by votes.
They have positioned their sons and daughters as their prospective successors at a young age.
No wonder it has been easy for them to have their children get elected as governors, mayors, congressional representatives, etc.
Today, the sad reality is the cards are stacked in favor of political dynasties.
In other words, they will continue to run roughshod over their fiefdoms, so to speak, for a long time.
There is nothing on the horizon to suggest longtime supporters will reconsider.
Their debts of gratitude, for which they have repaid with their votes, keep on piling up.
It’s been our fate to shield our neighbors from the onslaughts of monster typhoons that hit our landmass first.
Whatever little progress we achieve here and there is negated by monster typhoons; and today, by the horrifying COVID-19 pandemic.
Nongovernmental organizations have eased the suffering of the poor, especially in times of crises.
But they can only do so much, which is to mitigate the negative effects of adversities for the poor to survive.
They create the preconditions for them to thrive, but it is the lookout of governments to make them thrive.
For now, it looks like the only way to derail political dynasties from perpetuating their rule is to plead with their descendants booked for succession.
With many of them with sterling education and a putative deep understanding of the world’s realities, they might respond to a call for patriotism, if not kindness of heart. If this still fails, unless there is a reboot from heaven, we will remain in the stranglehold of political dynasties until the end of time.

Nono Felix,

Sydney climate justice protest against legislation
To criminalise peaceful protests
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 17, 2022

Shame, shame, shame!
That is the chant that punctuated revelations made by speakers at the Sydney climate justice rally on Saturday 12th November on how the leadership in the country had failed to act to address the climate emergency, how they colluded with big business and big business interests to repress workers rights, how they allowed environmental and water degradation to occur, how they put profit over people, how they failed to protect First People’s land and cultural rights and how instead they put in place legislation to criminalise peaceful protesters.
The chant of shame sounded right.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Bangkok governor to demand
Contractor finish work on collapsed bridge
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 16, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 15, 2022

I'd like to draw the attention of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's (BMA) leaders about the delays of the bridge project near Soi Udomsuk 60 in the Sukhumvit area.
This project needed five years to be developed, but then the bridge collapsed early this year.
Repairs are only half completed. Currently I watch the cranes and backhoes push pipes and piles of dirt one way and then the other, getting nowhere near completing the bridge.
I drive past this bridge in the morning and late afternoon, and the workers have done nothing while letting the unfinished construction impede daily commuting.
Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt should demand the contractor finish the work, or fire the contractor and hire a competent firm to finish the folly of the last contractor.
The delay has affected thousands of commuters who have to deal with traffic jams in this neighbourhood daily.
The bridge needs to be completed as soon as possible.

Jonythin Serafin,

If idiots want to pig out on steak
And stuff themselves with sugar...
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 15, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 10 November, 2022

Re: "Still a gateway drug", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Tuesday November 8, 2022.
Jason A Jellison may well be correct, as he alleges that some think cannabis harmless.
It is not.
Like every other drug that humans have enjoyed over the millennia, cannabis can and does cause problems for at least some who use it.
So do sugar and beef.
In contrast, Mr Jellison's report that "the common and very broad allegation that alcohol is allegedly the most destructive substance commonly available" is a perfectly true allegation regarding harms inflicted on society.
But harm to the self is not what matters most.
If idiots want to pig out on steak and stuff themselves with sugar, that is their right, harmful though it certainly is.
It is when they start feeding such harmful substances to children or others unable to make an adult decision for themselves that the state may legitimately interfere.
And this harm to others and society is where alcohol is far and away the most destructive drug of addiction in popular use, as both of the sources cited above also conclude.
Nor is it merely that alcohol is so socially harmful because of its prevalence, which in Thailand might even be higher than the prevalence of ya ba; rather, for equal numbers of users, alcohol is more harmful to society than any other drug in use. Alcohol is worse for society than heroin, cocaine, and meth and vastly more harmful than cannabis.

Felix Qui,

Call for accountability by Lt Gen Santi Sakuntanark
For Tak Bai and Krue Se killings
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 14, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday November 4, 2022

Re: "Go softly, softly: 4th Army head", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 2, 2022.
To hear his perfectly fantastic statements promising so much in Thailand's long-troubled southern regions from the newly appointed commander of the 4th Army Region, Lt Gen Santi Sakuntanark is to be reminded of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha's equally fantastic promises after he had staged a well-plotted coup.
I would suggest that as soon as the 4th Army Region's new commander starts to bring justice and accountability for such horrors as the Tak Bai and Krue Se killings, his promises might move from being purely fantastic to being credible.
But until those responsible for Tak Bai and like horrors committed by the Thai state are held to just account by similar proceedings in open court, they might also have justified worries about suffocation or other untoward incidents occurring as they are packed for delivery to that trial.

Felix Qui

Call for attention to Pacific Small Island Developing States
And the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 13, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 3, 2022

Re: "It's time to mainstream the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP)", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Tuesday November 1, 2022.
In an instructive article, senior columnist Kavi Chongkittavorna adds to the mantra of Asean's centrality, its intention to gear the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) to "functional cooperation that would promote openness and inclusivity". What strikes is that neither in this article nor that of Aziz Durrani Resetting Asean's climate agenda in the same Bangkok Post issue attention is given to the position of Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) and the groundbreaking initiative of Vanuatu, with various Pacific students' groups, to request an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJAO) on climate justice.
The ICJAO campaign is supported by a growing group of UN member states. A vote in the UN General Assembly is needed for a request to the International Court of Justice. An Advisory Opinion is not binding but has deep authority. Deliberations of the ICJ may lift policies on environmental governance like the marine territories-based IPOI (Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative) of India, as well as the expanded Asean Maritime Forum, both mentioned by Khun Kavi, beyond a classical territorial and national sovereignty-based approach to one which addresses the governance of the "global commons".

To explore non-territorial and intersectional approaches to the governance of "global public goods", a High-Level Advisory Board (HLAB) on effective multilateralism has been set up by UN Sec-Gen António Guterres in the framework of his ambitious Our Common Agenda.
Whereas the one-year mandate of the HLAB is limited vis-a-vis de enormous challenges of law and governance innovation towards a new 21st-century world order, some core issues may be articulated by the International Court of Justice in a longer-term perspective of an Advisory Opinion on climate justice.
One of the innovations could be the application of "public trusteeship" to governance of the global commons and global public goods.
Thailand and Asean will hopefully respond to a recent hint from European Union Ambassador David Daly who wrote in Bangkok Post on June 17; "Thailand, and indeed other countries in the region, have played an important role in this process" towards strengthening multilateralism; "let us recall that the negotiation of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea started under the presidency of Thailand's Foreign Minister HRH Prince Wan Waithayakon who also became president of the UN General Assembly in 1956".
Trusteeship of the global commons, and indeed "Earth trusteeship" could be fertile concepts in a shift from "human security" to "eco-peace" in a framework of Asean's "functional cooperation that would promote openness and inclusivity".

Hans Van Willenswaard,

No price reduction in key household items
Despite PNG government allocation of K100 million
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday Nvember 12, 2022
First published in the National, Wednesday November 2, 2022

What happened to the K611 million Household Assistance Package?
To throw off the scent on its failures, the Government hastily created another smoke screen hoping to wriggle out clean in what the pompous treasurer eloquently says is, “Marape’s 13-year budget repair plan that makes PNG’s debt risks sustainable”.
Not so fast, Mr Treasurer!
Let’s start with what happened to the K611 million Household Assistance Package to help families put food on the table across the country because of high inflation.
In the budget papers and grand speeches in parliament it sounds good, but on has not helped feed families.
There has been no noticeable reduction in the prices of key household items despite the Government’s allocation of K100 million for this purpose in the recent supplementary budget.
In the supplementary budget presentation on Sept 2, 2022, the treasurer informed Parliament that the Government had announced in April 2022 that the Internal Revenue Commission would be engaging with local companies to lower the cost of key items such as flour, tinned fish, rice and corned beef and in return, the companies producing these basics would be granted an equivalent reduction in taxes.
A budget of K100 million was allocated for lowering prices of key household commodities as part of the Government’s K611 million Household Assistance Package.
The treasurer, however, went on to inform Parliament that this relief package has still not been implemented because additional legislation would be made in October to implement these changes.
The treasurer did not provide any update on this issue despite making a statement in Parliament on Thursday, Oct 13, 2022.
On October 12, the Prime Minister, in his response to a question without notice from the Opposition Leader relating to the economic situation and rising prices, responded by saying that the 10 per cent GST on essential items such as rice, tinned fish and tinned meat and sanitary goods had been removed.
The people are not seeing and feeling the effect of this Government intervention so the Government needs to come out clear and update this package.
One wonder if this K100 million assistance package has been implemented at all or has it gone down the Covid-19 rabbit hole and made its way to the war chest to fight a government takeover.
Apparently, the Government cannot deliver on its promises, therefore, how can it assure the rest of the people that it is capable of guiding the country and handling the country’s affairs through these tough economic times?
The economy had taken a nose-dive since the Marape Government came into power.
It is often blamed the Covid-induced fallout creating demand-pull inflation or the Russia-Ukraine war somewhat causing inflation due to supply chain disruptions.
However, the real infliction point for Papua New Guinea is the Government’s failure in introducing the right monetary and fiscal policies in stabilising the rising cost of goods and services.
To date the Marape Government hasn’t announced any real economic recovery plan and in the absence of an inflation strategy Papua New Guinea is expected to see inflation spiraling at a level that would be difficult to control.
Treasure Ling-Stuckey’s IMF-tailored 13-Year Budget repair plan is a haze of smoke to create another stunt for the bewildered unsuspecting Papua New Guineans.
While the commodity prices are picking up and there is a good indication on revenue still there is no immediate sign of inflation coming down in the near future.
Therefore, for the best interest of the nation and her people it is time the Government work very closely with the opposition by way of bi-partisan to arrest the impending doom.
The opposition has been proposing all-out measures to control inflation and provide necessary assistance to the hardest-hit people, particularly the low income earners and the poor, to manage the inflationary pressure.
Accordingly, both monetary and fiscal policies should work in a coordinated manner to handle the current episodes of inflation.
Inflation in Papua New Guinea has largely depended on imported goods and the supply chain has a big role to play in determining food prices, which will be carefully regulated through fiscal policy.
We will need to subsidise agriculture to reduce the cost of domestic food production and keep prices affordable.
In order to control the market, import duties as well as other regulatory duties will be reduced and increased, while essential commodities including food such as rice, flour, tinned fish and cooking oil are sold at low prices in the open market to protect the poor people from the heat of inflation.

David Lepi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

No gambling clubs in Bangkok
Say Metropolitan Police Bureau
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 November 2022
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 3, 2022

Re: "No gambling dens in city: police chief", in Bangkok Post, November 2, 2022.
Could anything be more reassuring?
We hear direct from Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) commissioner Pol Lt Gen Thiti Saengsawang that "definitively there are no gambling clubs operating currently in Bangkok", echoing national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, who "insisted there are no gambling dens in the capital".
The courage it takes to expose such critical thinking skills in public can only impress.
The Royal Thai Police (RTP) are perfectly ignorant of any gambling dens in Bangkok; it does not follow that such dens are not in fact common in Bangkok, merely that for some reason the Royal Thailand Police (RTP) does not know that. Lest anyone is troubled for any reason by my choice of Xi Jinping as the useful example, replace him with any preferred figure equally revered; exactly the same truth will hold: the perfect absence of evidence of corruption or other abuses cannot logically entail that there is no such ugliness hiding under the suave, ruthlessly managed public façade, no matter how immaculately dressed in rich robes, vestments, or other gaudy uniforms.

Felix Qui,

Philippines housing backlog of 6.5 million units
Will balloon to 22 million units by 2040
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 10, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday November 4, 2022

It is sad to note that the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and its attached agencies and corporations may have only a measly budget of P3.9 billion for 2023.
This was the amount arrived at during the hearing conducted by the Senate finance subcommittee.
According to Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who presided over the hearing, the budget is deemed submitted for Senate plenary debates.
The amount is a far cry from the department’s proposed P95.98-billion 2023 budget and is just about half of its current budget.
The emasculated amount belies an ignorance of the role of DHSUD and particularly its housing provision function in the socioeconomic development of the country.
The senators need to be reminded that shelter is one of man’s traditional immediate basic needs of food and water, shelter, and clothing, and that the housing industry has very high economic multipliers, i.e., that income earned in many sectors of the economy as an outcome of the numerous requisites of home construction is subsequently recirculated into the economy.
For example, a US Bureau of Economic Analysis study in 2019 has shown that the housing construction multiplier is one of the highest among major industrial sectors, i.e., ranking fifth in magnitude among 64 industrial categories.
A recent Inquirer article mentions President Marcos Jr. asking DHSUD’s Secretary Jose Acuzar if the latter can really build one million houses per year over the next six years.
Acuzar assured the President that it could be done, but he did not mention the pittance allotted to DHSUD for next year.
And what is puzzling is that the President and his supporters in Congress have not shown an iota of concern for DHSUD’s diminished operational funding.
The DHSUD points out that there is a current housing backlog of 6.5 million units and which will balloon to 22 million units by 2040 if no significant steps are taken by the government.
So how can the above objective be achieved if only the following measly specific allocations are provided: P2 billion for the National Housing Authority, P500 million for the Social Housing Finance Corp., and P0 for the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp. (NHMFC)?
Nothing at all for the NHMFC which manages the much-touted Pag-Ibig Fund that provides affordable housing loans and other services for low-income classes? There is a need to provide a large provident Pag-Ibig Fund that will make cheap and/or subsidized mortgage rates available to low- and mid-income families.
Housing development associations also point out that, although there is a gigantic need in the low- and mid-income segment of the market, not many developers venture into these as they are not seen as potentially profitable.
They suggest that the government should come in by offering incentives to real estate developers like income tax holidays that will redound to savings for developers and which can be passed on to buyers in the form of lower prices.
The silence of Mr. Marcos with regard to the emasculation of the DHSUD budget is deafening.
What has happened to Mr. Marcos’ election campaign promise to revive the Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services Program of his father and which was managed by his mother?
The successful program was able to construct 230,000 low-cost housing units throughout the country, as claimed by the Marcos camp.
The program has given us a glimpse of the desirable effects of an affordable housing scheme for the urban poor such as transferring them from slums, river easements, railway tracks, and other high-risk areas and, in the process, enhancing their self-esteem and making them live decent lives.
As for DHSUD’s other mandate of promoting desirable urban development, it should simplify its stringent approval procedures for comprehensive land use plans of local government units so that the housing projects of its beneficiaries can be properly located in the plans beforehand.

Meliton B. Juanico,
licensed environmental planner;
retired professor of geography,
University of the Philippines Diliman

Carbon emission in the Philippines
Is less than in developed countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 9, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday November 3, 2022

Condolence to those who have lost their loved ones from the recent Severe Tropical Storm “Paeng,” just days before we commemorated All Souls’ Day.
The Philippines is not new to natural disasters, but these recent typhoons are not the usual our country had experienced.
As scientists have noted, typhoons are becoming stronger due to global warming. Such a phenomenon is unfair to our country, given that the Philippines’ carbon emission is lesser compared to more developed countries.
The Global North that includes United States, Canada, England, nations of the European Union, as well as Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and even some countries in the southern hemisphere: Australia, and New Zealand, should be held accountable for contributing more than 90 percent of global emissions at the expense of the rest of the world.

Ronald G. de Guzman Jr.,
University of the Philippines Baguio,

ASEAN naive to believe in implementation
Of ASEAN peace plan in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 8, 2022

I refer to the southeast Asian Times report ‘ asean five-point consensus peace plan with Myanmar military “ an utter failure “ ( 7/11/22 ).
That comes as no surprise.
When news of that plan was first annunced I had predicted in a letter to the southeast Asian times that plan was bound to fail.
A rogue military regime that installed itself in power through the barrel of the gun after a coup against the democraticatically elected legitimate government was not to be trusted to honour any peace plan.
It was naive of ASEAN to believe otherwise.
It has been taken on a ride by the rogue rulers of Myanmar and that’s a crying shame. Has any lesson been learned from that failed engagement?

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Thailand to follow Singapore
Offer incentives to graduates from word's top universities
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 7, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday November 4, 2022

Re: "New flak for foreign land ownership bill", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 1, 2022.
Our goal is to attract foreign investment.
We should begin by identifying what attracts potential investors most or least to Thailand and work on those, always keeping our objective in mind.
This will follow Stephen Covey's, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "Begin with the end in mind".
For example, how important is owning land for their residence to potential investors?
Thaksin Shinawatra offered essentially what Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is now proposing on land ownership and attracted only eight takers in five years.
On the other hand, foreigners have been complaining, and rightfully so, about having to report in person every 90 days regardless of their contribution to Thailand or length of stay.
Making reporting online possible and or making it annual from Y3 onwards might be more attractive to investors than owning land and very easy for us to grant.
Also, having world quality staff available attracts employers.
Thus, we should follow Singapore by offering generous incentives to science, technology, engineering and math graduates from the world's top 100 universities.

Burin Kantabutra,

India is the largest democratic society in the world
Thanks to the British
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 6, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday November 4, 2022

Re: "Sunak adds charm", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Wednesday
November 2, 2022.
Kuldeep Nagi was successful in turning something positive into something negative by using this opportunity to slag off the British Empire.
The empire is old history, as are the empires of the Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Mongol, etc. etc.
Britain has been successfully invaded by several countries/groups, including Germanic peoples, Vikings, Normans, French, Dutch and, of course, the infamous Roman empire who were particularly cruel.
All history and I've never heard the British dragging up that history to slag off another country apart from in fun.
India is, of course, the largest democratic society in the world - a democracy introduced by the British.
New PM Rishi Sunak is British-born. Surely the colour of his skin is irrelevant?
Mr Sunak is just another right-wing Tory who went to an expensive public school and Oxford uni.
He married into money and is estimated to be worth £730m (31.3 billion baht).
Shouldn't that be the focus of attention, rather than the British Empire or his skin colour, regarding his suitability as a politician?

Bob Heywood,

Call for President Marcos jr. to push for the creation
Of Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 5, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 31, 2022

During the recent election campaign, President Marcos Jr. called for unity among Filipinos.
For the sake of unity, the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac), which was created through Republic Act No. 7640, should not only be composed of representatives from the executive and legislative branches but should also include top leaders from the political opposition.
Given the diversity of their platform of governance, the opposition must also have a say on the determination of priority legislative bills.
Section 2 of RA 7640 states: “It shall be composed of twenty (20) members with the President as Chairman and the following as members: the Vice President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, seven members of the Cabinet to be designated by the President, three members of the House of Representatives to be designated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least one of whom shall come from the dominant minority party, and the following to be appointed by the President: a representative of the local government units, a representative of the youth, and a representative of the private sector from any or a combination of the following: business, cooperatives, agriculture, and labor.”
Amending the aforementioned section is called for to include select leaders from the opposition as Ledac members and not only one from the dominant minority party.
In fine, the decision to prioritize legislative concerns specifically stipulated in Section 6 thereof will not only be a bilateral decision from Ledac members coming from the legislative and executive departments, but also from intraparty representatives of the political opposition.
For the sake of actualizing his call for unity, President Marcos Jr. would be on the right side of history if he can push for the amendment of the law creating Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac).

Reginald, B.Tamayo,
Marikina City,

Call for Thailand to exercise restraint
When it comes to China bearing gifts
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 4, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 17, 2022

Re: "Another Xi term sits well with business sector", Bangkok Post, Business, Monday October 17, 2022.
The business news article reads like Alice In Wonderland as retold by the Chinese ambassador.
The single reference to reality was a brief mention that China's GDP is at a 30-year low.
The rest is a fairytale of utopian nonsense and imaginary prosperity just around the corner.
Given his absolute power, it should be obvious that Xi is the architect of this mess. From the origins of Covid, a behemoth real-estate collapse, the computer chip drought, severe youth disenchantment, and failed foreign policies,
China is not the shining stuff of Disneyism.
Thais should be more cautious with their enthusiasm and exercise restraint when it comes to Emperor Xi bearing gifts.

Ban Bandit,

US TV programmes in Thailand replaced with
Chinese and Korean TV programmes
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 3, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday October 26, 2022

Must, once again, thank TRUE, the leader in Sport Programming for its total disregard for any US expats here in the Kingdom.
Over the past few years, we lost Nascar racing, NCAA football and this year, Major League Baseball. With the Divisional Series just concluded the American World Series between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies is up next. But not here, not without the additional expense of a private VPN and a subscription
to a US streaming service.
And now I see that there are no NBA games scheduled locally.
So, I guess the expense of providing up-to-date programming is just too much.
We can also see this trend in the total loss of all major movie and entertainment channels like HBO and Showtime replaced with Movie Hits 1 and 2, Paramount, Warner, and a few also-runs.
Surprisingly, they do manage to duplicate many channels of Chinese and Korean programming.
Having downgraded from Platinum to Gold, it's now time to go to basic to allow my partner to watch Thai soaps.

Fred Prager,

Thailands absentention from UN vote
Like slapping one's own face
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 2, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 28 October 2022

Re: "Why Thailand abstained in United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) vote", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Friday October 25, 2022
After patiently studying Khun Kavi's 10 supporting reasons why Thailand abstained in United Natios General Assembly (UNGA) resolution of October 13 condemning Russia's annexation of Ukraine's four eastern regions, my simple question is: Was it then a wrong decision for Thailand to join 141 countries in supporting United Natios General Assembly (UNGA) resolution last March condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine?
Whether the answer is yes or no, Thailand's shameful voting record by abstaining on territorial annexation of another country will remain a black spot in our diplomatic history.
As I stated in my earlier letter, this abstention is like slapping one's own face.


Innocent gorilla locked up forever
In a Thai zoo
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday October 28, 2022

Re: "Gorilla in Alcatraz", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Monday October 24, 2022.
While the most heinous criminals in prison have rights, at least in some countries, an innocent gorilla can be locked up forever in prison euphemistically called a zoo with no rights.
We need to ask ourselves why other than narcissism, what the justification is for believing that only our species is entitled to moral consideration.

Eric Bahrt,

Call for President Marcos Jr.
For development plan for new airport
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 31, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday October 28, 2022

It’s clear that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) is not big enough, or advanced enough, to accommodate airline traffic in the future.
As your Inquirer editorial “Ending PH airport, logistics woes,” October 26, 2022 noted, the government has ignored a growing problem.
What should the Philippines do?
There have been suggestions to redevelop Naia to develop to accommodate increased traffic, to develop Sangley Point International Airport in Cavite, to build a new airport in Bulacan, as being developed by San Miguel Corp, to use the existing facilities at Clark airport in Pampanga.
There needs to be a centralized, long-term development plan for this.
For instance, will we need four airports when one might suffice?
Which one?
Or do we need more?
Should Naia continue to be developed, only to turn into a white elephant if the airlines get moved?
Someone, such as the President, should get involved and make a decision.
This should include participation from the airlines, San Miguel, the Cavite government, Clark airport, and technical advisors.
If a careful, final decision is made, investments could start to flow, mass transit systems planned, and government planning would not go to waste.

Jonathan Foe,

No freedom of information (FOI) law
Under President Marcos Jr, administration
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 30, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday October 13, 2022

From the look of things, the Filipino people cannot expect to have a freedom of information (FOI) law in the present administration.
Sadly, no mention of this very important measure needed to curb graft and corruption is heard from President Marcos Jr. or from any of the officials of his Cabinet, including Vice President Sara Duterte, who is concurrently secretary of the Department of Education.
Curiosly enough, even in his supposed inaugural address, not even a tiny iota of plan and commitment to end this much-needed problem was mentioned.
It took two women political leaders to push for the passage of the FOI law. Sen. Grace Poe steered its passage in the upper chamber. In the House of Representatives, it took a neophyte congresswoman to work and fight hard for the enactment of an FOI law—then Rep. Leni Robredo.
But alas and alack, the House leadership seemed to have no love lost for clean and honest governance. The Speaker and the chair of the committee on public information at that time did not act favorably for its approval.
Under this new administration, it is understandable that we raise our hands in surrender.
Quo vadis, Philippines?

Eusebio S. San Diego,
Founder, Kaguro, former president,
Quezon City Public School TeachersAssociation,

Concerns about wealth inequality in Singapore
Not from those with unfulfilled wish lists
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday Ocober 29, 2022
Frst published in the Straits Times, Saturday, October 22, 2022

Even if we think that the policies suggested by others to tackle wealth inequality are not well thought out, we should avoid viewing them as the result of resentment felt by one group towards another, "Don’t resent the wealth of others," October 18.
If we examine the concerns about wealth inequality in Singapore more closely, we can see that they are not about those with unfulfilled wish lists wanting to lambast the rich for amassing wealth.
By and large, I believe Singaporeans are not an envious lot who will simply resent those who are wealthier.
Rather, it is about having adequate access to a level playing field, where everyone can thrive.
It is certainly unjustifiable if we resent those who have worked hard to become wealthier than us.
But, sometimes, wealth accumulation has little to do with one’s own merit.
Wealth through inheritance, for instance, has little to do with whether a person is making his fortune legally or diligently.
As pointed out by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, while meritocracy remains the best way to organise society, it has its drawbacks "Lawrence Wong launches ‘Forward S’pore’ to set out road map for a society that ‘benefits many, not a few’, June 28".
This is why the Government is putting in effort to do more for every child’s early life to provide a more equal starting point in life for everyone.
Without putting all this in perspective, it is easy to view the issue of wealth inequality in Singapore through a divisive lens.
This can hamper Singapore’s efforts to build a cohesive society.
We have seen how some societies are fractured badly when people believe it is always about “us” versus “them” in every aspect of their lives.
Let us confront the issue of wealth inequality as a compassionate society, and not as a battle between the haves and have-nots.

Wong Wan Hoong (Dr),



Giant ape held captive in departments store
In Thailand for decades
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 28, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday October 26, 2022

Whilst legally sound, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's argument regarding Bua Noi, the gorilla held captive at the Pata Pinklao Department Story for decades, that they "could not take any action other than buy the giant ape, because the gorilla was private property" bought before Thailand signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, under which such a purchase would now be illegal, ignores justice and the wider moral issues at stake.
Prior to 1860, it was also legal to own human beings throughout most of the USA. That did not stop President Lincoln from emancipating much, albeit not all, of that private property on January 1, 1863.
It's indefensible to continue what has subsequently come to be recognised as a great injustice merely because the law once blessed such wrongs.
We now understand that Bua Noi should never have been subjected to the inhumane treatment she has legally suffered.
Had Bua Noi's human owners any sense of decency, they would themselves have moved her to a decent situation many years ago rather than extracting every last baht they could by turning her misery into public entertainment.
Plainly, they have not and will not.

Felix Qui,

China's "win-win" policy
US "I win you lose" policy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday October 27, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 17, 2022

Re: "US plans for Pacific misguided", In Bangkok Post, Opinion, Tuesday October 18, 2022.
Kavi Chongkittavorn says that the USA engages other nations with a security mindset of "I win, you lose", but China uses "win-win" policies.
Mr Kavi must not have gone very far to see what kind of benefits Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Asean members have benefited from China's dominance in the region.
We also know that many South American and African countries have gained nothing from China's "win-win" philosophy.
In addition, the ongoing strife in the South China Sea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and the abuse of resources in the Mekong are other examples of the belligerence of China in the region. If allowed, China will have a stranglehold on the Thai economy also.
Mr Kavi should also know that the USA is one of the biggest investors in China. Yes, US plans for the Pacific may be misguided, but they are needed to curb China's belligerence.
Mr Kavi should also note that before China became No 2, Japan and South Korea were great economic powers.
They never threatened others the way China is doing now.
The USA remains a shining light and hope for countries with all its problems.
The proof is in the pudding.
The USA is the country with the largest number of Chinese immigrants.
What other proof does Mr Kavi need about misguided US policies?

Kuldeep Nagi,

Call for Thai Ministry of Labour to halt exploitation
Of Thai workers in Sweden and Finland
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday October 26, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 17, 2022

Re: "Slim pickings for Thais on foreign soil", Bangkok Post, October 17, 2022.
For as long as I can remember, each year at this time, stories appear in the media describing the exploitation of Thai workers who have travelled to Sweden and Finland to pick berries.
The tales are always the same, chronicling misleading enticements and unfulfilled promises of high pay, outlandish fees charged by brokers, exceedingly long hours of tedious work in the forest, and unpaid wages.
The question needs to be asked why this exploitation is allowed to continue.
By now, the Ministry of Labour is certainly well aware of the abusive schemes of brokers and employers.
The ministry probably even knows the specific individuals and companies responsible for such unfair practices.
So why isn't appropriate action being taken to put a halt to such exploitation?

Samanea Saman,

How wide spread is Asian prostitution ?
In Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 24, 2022

We read in a report in The National Papua New Guinea ( 19 October, 2022 ) that an expatriate woman “ from an Asian country “, who police believe is part of a human trafficking ring organised to provide rich people here with prostitutes from overseas, has been arrested in Port Moresby.
According to an Immigration and Citizenship officer “ there could be more foreign women involved … these women are being brought in on tourist visas by a foreign businessman for leisure activities or prostitution services “.
The report made me wonder how widespread was this particular prostitution racket in other Pacific island countries given the Asian penetration in the region in recent years?

Rajend Naidu


Former senator Leila de Lima pleads
For speedy disposition of her case
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 24, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday October 19, 2022

For democracy and freedom to reign in our country, there must be checks and balances within the three branches of government.
If the national budget emanates from the executive department, it undergoes review and scrutiny to ensure our legislative power of oversight is in order.
All presidential appointments pass the vetting process, too.
The Department of Justice is under the executive department.
What former senator Leila de Lima is pleading is for President Marcos Jr. to remind government prosecutors of their job to ensure the speedy disposition of cases by not obstructing witnesses through technicalities.
This way, we will be able to determine the truth as to whether a former secretary of justice and former head of the Commission on Human Rights and former senator elected by the people should be jailed for “accepting bribes” derived from the drug trade.
De Lima’s request is not a case of interference because it does not entail ordering the judge; it is about looking at the performance of the prosecutors.
Mr. Marcos must show that he is fair and upholds the core value of the courts in giving justice by seeing to it that justice is not delayed and justice must not be denied in De Lima’s case.

Albert Castañeda,
Naga City,

Nothing left
For Australian wildlife
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 23, 2022

Congratulations to the Gold Coast City Council for trying to increase urban density to solve the housing crisis.
This needs to happen in all towns and cities including my area.
Since Australia is determined to increase population, we need to adapt accordingly.
Otherwise, if we keep selfishly bulldozing beautiful bush and clearing forests,
there will be nothing left for the wildlife.

Jennifer Horsburgh,



Pleading of elderly in the Philippines
Falls on deaf ears
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 22, 2022
First published by the Philippine Inquirer, Monday October 17, 2022

One of the 10 commandments in the Bible with a clear promise to its adherents is the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
It is unconscionable and pathetic to hear the pleadings of the elderly led by the Philippine Association of Retired Professionals Inc. fall on deaf ears in Congress.
A bill in the 18th Congress, which sought to amend the centenarian law that grants P100,000 for those reaching their 100th birthday so that beneficiaries can get part of the emolument on their 90th birth anniversary instead, had been bypassed.
That bill is being revived in the 19th Congress, with sponsors hoping for a more sympathetic response.
By estimate, there are only 600 Filipinos today who are centenarians.
That costs the government only P60 million a year.
If half of the P100,000 is given, say, at age 90, and then increased proportionately until age 100, the inflation for the next 10 years would have left almost nothing of real purchase value.
Reaching 90 is a difficult hurdle, a blessing few of us can ever dream of achieving. Think as well of how we should be chastened with the World Bank’s estimate that 20 percent of the government’s annual budget, or roughly P800 billion yearly, were lost to corruption in 2018 and 2019.
A deputy ombudsman had taken note of that United Nations Development Programme report.
The cost of getting sick among the elderly outweighs the cost of the early distribution of their emoluments, if the amendments to the law are given special consideration by this Congress.
Hopefully, Congress won’t disappoint the lolos and lolas who just want to have some wherewithal to enjoy their sunset years.
Let’s honor them, as the good Lord commands.

Marvel K. Tan
Quozon City

Call for Thailand to take a hard look
At failing drug policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 22, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday October 15, 2022

Re: "Lessons to learn from nursery tragedy", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, October 10, 2022.
The lesson to be learned from Veera Prateepchaikul's opinion is that some go to great lengths to push comforting, populist assumptions over an evidence-based, critically reasoned response to a tragedy.
Veera's opening sentence proclaims: "Narcotic drugs, methamphetamines in particular, and guns, when they are mixed together, are a dangerous chemistry for violence much worse than the combination of alcohol and guns."
The more serious misunderstandings Veera assumes are his incorrect ideas about drugs and drug harms to society.
His claim that "methamphetamines are a dangerous chemistry for violence" is true.
But when he goes on to repeat the common false belief that they are "much worse than the combination of alcohol and guns", he flatly contradicts expert opinion, which is that of all drugs in popular use, alcohol is far and away the most harmful to society and others.
Veera is certainly right that drug use, especially methamphetamine use, is a serious problem in Thailand.
Alcohol use is, however, an even more serious drug problem in Thailand.
Had Veera considered for a moment, he would realise that it is alcohol that is the drug implicated in a high percentage of traffic deaths and in domestic abuse and sexual assault.
The Democrat Party's former golden boy Prinn Panichpakdi plied himself and alleged victims not with ya ba but with alcohol.
Yes, Thailand needs to take a hard look at the failing drug policies of many, many decades.
A healthy start would be to look honestly at the evidence and form a drug policy that reflects reality.
Portugal, which decriminalised all personal drug use in 2001, now offers more than 20 years of valuable statistics on what happens when reason and not inherited prejudice based on wild assumptions is used to plan a national drug policy whose aim is not appeasing popular prejudice but in fact the reduction of drug harms to society consistent with respect for human rights.

Felix Qui,

Australian aboriginal named hospital to be changed
From the Maroondah Hospital to the Queen Elizabeth
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday, October 20, 2022

As if Queen Elizabeth does not already have far too many things named after her the Victorian government wants to change the Aboriginal name of a hospital.
the Maroondah Hospital to Queen Elizabeth hospital .
It’s uncalled for and only shows our British colonial hangover.
Leave the existing name alone !
Give the Aboriginal people the dignity they deserve and the dignity they were often denied under British colonialism.

Rajend Naidu,

Thailand's vote for United Nations resolution
Should have been a no-brainer
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday October 19, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday October 15, 2022

Re: "Thailand abstains in UN vote against Putin land grab", in Bangkok Post Friday October 14, 2022..
Voting for the UN resolution "Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations" should have been a no-brainer.
Respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states are foundational principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter to which all states have subscribed.
It is a necessary condition for the proper functioning of an international community that benefits all states, especially the smaller ones.
Sentiments in the draft resolution reflected our long-held outlook on international issues, as well as our moral stands as a nation.
When answering requests for support from the resolution's sponsors, the Thai Foreign Ministry replied: "We have always been in support of international law and principles enshrined in the UN Charter. Our consideration will be based on these principles."
This commitment was not kept; many of our traditional friends and allies were misled.
Our vote is not compatible with Bangkok's status as the headquarters for the Asia-Pacific of the United Nations, second only to New York in terms of breadth and coverage.
The opportunity to reaffirm adherence to international principles of good conduct and the UN Charter was not taken.
The Thai explanation of the vote that international principles have become "politicised" and "counterproductive" as a means to end the war in Ukraine is hard to fathom, contorted and disingenuous.
Just five days earlier, in a statement to the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the UN, the Thai Permanent Representative had affirmed Thailand's commitment to the advancement of the rule of law as "indispensable to peaceful co-existence and cooperation among States".
Other Asean countries hosting major international meetings next month made the decision to take a stand on principles rather than go for easy cop-outs.
Indonesia as the host of the G20 and Cambodia as the host of the Asean Summit and Asean Regional Forum did not feel it necessary to abstain in order to ensure Russian participation.
Both of them voted in favour of the resolution as a matter of principle.
Russia is still expected to attend the conferences, both in Phnom Penh and Bali.
The latest resolution was not about choosing sides but taking a stand on principles.
Thailand is campaigning for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.
It is aware that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris way back in 1948 states that the principles contained therein set the "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations", and there have been nine legally-binding treaties influenced by the declaration.
So standards and principles do matter.
Aspirational so-called "initiatives" by individuals, power-brokers or national governments to bring about peace or at least the non-escalation of war in Ukraine must be predicated on a general acceptance and understanding of basic standards and principles, and cannot jump directly into open-ended back-room or corridor deals.
Thailand's hard-won good standing in the international community should not be readily cast aside in stretching for a short-term "PR-headline" win in what will probably be an elusive exercise in any case.
Strength and consistency of conviction is what will better stand us well in the uncertain emerging future of a post-post-Cold War world.
Nothing of course is irreparable, and within a few months the negative fallout may just drift away.
But what this latest episode brings out is that "who" and "what" determines the formation of our foreign policies are increasingly legitimate issues of both immediate and future concern as the nation moves into election mode.

Kobsak Chutikul,
Retired Thai ambassador and former elected member of parliament,

Papua New Guineans demand compensation
For land taken by the government
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday October 18, 2022
First published in the National. Friday October 14, 2022

I was brought up in a settlement and I want to be open-minded about land issues and evictions in Port Moresby.
We as Papua New Guineans own more than 85 per cent of land in our country, while the state owns less than 15 per cent.
When the Government tries to take or use our customary lands, we demand compensation, royalties, etc.
We shut down government agencies in protest until government settles everything with us.
But when the government wants to take back parts of the lousy 15 per cent of its lands that we “illegally” occupy, we cry and pull up our “human rights” and “citizenship” tags and make hateful comments about the government.
I watch the news about the recent Morata 1 eviction case and I hear most working class people and public servants complaining saying “we pay tax”, “we contribute to nation building”, etc, and are demanding the government to properly relocate them.
Being from the settlement I’m well observant of everyone around me.
From observation, most of these so-called “public servants” and “working class” from settlements have careless and excessive spending habits.
They are being paid one grand-plus salaries every fortnight, that’s more than enough to save not half but just a smaller portion of what they earn a year to come up with enough money to buy land and house in a titled and registered residential area to live a life without fear of evictions.
But no, they fill their tummies with alcohol every weekend, they have many wives, they even donate to prostitutes around the streets.
They have no savings, no investment, they lack financial security, they live from paycheck to paych eck and they borrow from lenders and repay with interests.
And then, when they are hit with eviction, they forget all about their carelessness and irresponsible attitudes and point fingers to the State and the NCDC.
We should all learn to take some ownership and responsibility of our carelessness and stupidity for once.

Jesse Dickson,
Settlement brought-up.
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for review of policy that wants
Police to purchase their own guns
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 10, 2022

Re: "Cops' firearms policy under review," in Bangkok Post, Monday October 10, 2022.
I looked forward to reading this article to see what reforms were being considered. But after the first two paragraphs, the article says nothing about any policy review.
So let me do your job for you.
Perhaps one policy that could be reviewed is the one that says police must buy their own weapons with a subsidy.
So, when they leave the job for any reason, they will obviously take their guns with them since they are their personal property as are the computers and printers they use, and much of their office furniture.
Schoolteachers are not required to buy their own blackboards and chalk.
Nurses do not buy their own syringes and thermometers.
Why are police officers forced to buy essential equipment?
If guns were provided by the Royal Thai Police, they would be returned to the state whenever a police officer left the force and they would not be available for mass murders or other crimes.
There you go, that wasn't hard, eh?

Alec Bamford,

Sea piracy affecting delivery of essential services
In remote parts of Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 16, 2022
First published in the National, Friday October 14, 2022

Continuous unlawful activities across Papua New Guinea are a big issue to the development of our nation.
Such unlawful activities like fighting, violence, robbery, murder and other crimes are threatening the lives of innocent citizens.
Even many remote parts of the country are also being affected by such unlawful activities.
Sea piracy is becoming one of the main issues in Milne Bay which must be addressed immediately.
Many remote parts of the province are being affected especially in the delivery business.
Education and health are the main social sectors providing essential services to people, however, due to sea piracy in the waters of Milne Bay service providers are unable to reach out to various people in the remote districts.
As people from island districts in the province, this is our concern.Milne Bay is a maritime province and most of the population comes from the island LLGs and districts.
It is very shameful committing such unlawful actions against our own people.
We are one people from one province in one country which is Papua New Guinea.
We all sweat for our living in the same way so why such acts towards our fellow countrymen and women?
We should all build an excellent understanding to know, respect and love each other.
Such unlawful activities like sea piracy should immediately be addressed for the safety of the people who live in outer islands and travel the waters of Milne Bay to access services in the main towns, and for essential service providers to continue with quality service delivery for the well- being of the people, leaving no one behind.

Milne Bay,
Island Man
Papua New Guinea

National Indigenous Peoples budget slashed
In the Philippines by 63 percent for 2023
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 15, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday October 13, 2022

This October, the country celebrates National Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Month, and commemorates the 25th year since the passage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra).
Various activities have been launched throughout the country to celebrate this event. Lamentably, it appears to be a token celebration, with activities focused on mere pageantry.
Critical issues facing us Indigenous Peoples' (IPs), such as the lack of access to education, remain ignored underneath the festivities.
The stark reality on the ground is that we remain vulnerable because we are disregarded and given the least priority.
A good example of this can be found in the 2023 budget proposal for Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) under the Department of Education (DepEd).
A close inspection of the National Expenditure Program (NEP) shows that the IPEd budget for 2023 has been slashed by more than 63 percent compared to 2022, and more than P90 million has been removed.
The budget proposal now stands at only P53 million, from P144 million.
This means that out of the P666-billion DepEd budget, less than 1 percent goes toward implementing IPEd.
In context, the IPEd budget is just a third of the unnecessary DepEd confidential intelligence funds worth P150 million.
Just as confounding is how, based on the NEP, the IPEd allocation is limited to maintenance and other operating expenses.
There is no allocation for personnel services and capital outlay.
The limited allocation means that despite pleas to hire more Indigenous Peoples' (IPs) to develop a culturally sensitive curriculum, and for evaluation and training, there is no provision for salaries, wages, and other compensations (personnel services).
There’s no budget either for the purchase of goods and services (capital outlay).
The government’s duty to respect, promote, and protect IPs should go beyond the celebration of Indigenous Peoples' (IPs) month and the commemoration of Ipra.
If the government is serious about fulfilling its mandate, it should provide the financial means and human resources to implement laws that empower us.
With Congress aiming to pass the 2023 budget before its session ends in December, there is still hope. May they recognize the importance of empowering us IPs to move out of the margins!

Raymond Marvic C. Baguilat,
senior lecturer and senior legal associate,
College of Law,
University of the Philippines

Deaths at Indonesian football stadium
To do with Police use of tear gas
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 14, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday October 4, 2022

Re: "Football madness", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Tuesday October 4, 2022.
Commenting upon the recent deaths of over 120 people at an Indonesian football stadium, Samanea Saman says: "What is it with people that they feel compelled to become so emotional, even violent, over a simple sporting event?"
While he makes a good point, it should be mentioned that, rather than becoming angry over an ordinary football game, the Indonesian fans became enraged after the police threw tear gas into the crowd.
This was a prescription for disaster, since the stadium was basically full and many exit gates were closed.
So, the deaths of so many innocent people had more to do with the police decision to use tear gas, which caused the fans to become fearful and run en masse to the exits, than anger over the match itself.


Call for reform of agrifood systems
In Asia-Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday October 13, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday October 8, 2022

Re: "Asia-Pacific facing a food crisis", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Wednesday October 5, 2022
Jong-jin Kim's commentary on the need for reform of agrifood systems is long on jargon and slogans, but disappointingly short on solutions.
The commentary calls for urgent action to "fix our agrifood systems" by transforming them to withstand shocks and disruptions, but suggests nothing about what exactly to transform or how to go about it.
The commentary claims that there are plenty of available solutions, but all that is offered are condensed into two sentences mentioning only more sustainable management of natural resources and coupling traditional knowledge with a fast-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem (whatever that means).
Calls are made for increased partnerships among governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, and resource partners (presumably international aid agencies and development organisations), but it is unclear what exactly the enhanced partnerships are encouraged to do.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declares itself to be the world's leading authority on food security.
I would therefore expect far more innovative, robust, and clearly defined ideas coming from the FAO's regional representative.

Samanea Saman,

Thailand points fingers
After pre-school massacre
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday October 12, 2002
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 10, 2022

Re: "Families mourn preschool massacre victims," in Bangkok Post Friday, October 7, 2022
I like most, have been saddened by the recent massacre of those young innocents.
Now, Thailand is doing what it does best, as people point the finger and demand measures to avert a repeat of the horrific incident.
Gun control, drug testing and so on, all the usual blah blah.
Why is it that when a policeman is found out to be doing wrong, he is moved to an inactive post, then two months later, reinstated?
The signs were there about this "headcase," but the coverup was blatant.
Shame on you, Royal Thailand Police.
Shame on you Thailand.
Just imagine if it was your kid.

William Sheal

Gandhian legacy and Hinduism
Reduced to talking points
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday October 7, 2022

Re: "Unfit comparison", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Wednesday October 5, 2022
Comments of VB on Hinduism invoke interesting thoughts.
While I am not competent to compare the ideals of Hinduism with other religions, I believe Hinduism stands for the universal good of mankind and nature.
But in present-day India, we can see the use of violence every day on TV.
It's ironic that Gandhian legacy and Hinduism to some extent have been reduced to mere talking points and we witness rigidity, dogma, and scenes of people taking the law into their own on the slightest pretext and openly indulging in violence to serve justice to their fellow citizens.

A fellow citizen,

Where were the warning signs
In mass murder of children in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 9, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday October 8, 2022

Re: "Former cop kills 37 in massacre", in Bangkok Post Friday, October 7, 2022.
The mass murder is so sad.
Were there no warning signs?
It's hard to believe that such an awful person can be walking around, interacting with people months/years prior to his rampage, yet not one person noticed and reported the ticking time bomb.
My message to everyone: be aware. Listen to people.
If they talk of killing, don't just chuckle it away responding with rote things like: "Oh, quit being so dramatic, ha ha ha".
Report mental illness to authorities.
The brain-damaged murderer should have been committed to a locked-up facility before his rampage.
There must have been warning signs.


Vietnam calls on Netflix
To stop showing Little Women
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 9, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday October 7, 2022

Re: "Vietnam requests Netflix remove K-drama over war 'distortion'," in Bangkok Post, Life, October 5, 2022.
Vietnam has asked Netflix to stop showing the South Korean drama Little Women, alleging the series distorted events of the Vietnam War.
So outright fiction pretending to be entertainment is a serious threat to despotic ideologies founded on unquestioning forced faith in their tall tales.
Who could have expected that?
Imagine the outrage were Netflix to float an Asean version of The Crown, a great piece of entertainment that has not in fact overthrown my former queen's genuinely loved institution.

Felix Qui,

Australia's proposed National Anti-Corruption Commission
Is acknowledgement of official corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 8, 2022

The establishment of a proposed National Anti-Corruption Commission ( by the new Labour government after the previous Liberal mob had deliberately dodged putting one in place ) an acknowledgement that official corruption ( by politicians and big business ) has become a serious threat to democratic good governance in Australian society and must be given the attention it deserves.
Only good can come out of it.

Rajend Naidu

Constitutional Court decision on PM tenure
Promotes stability for business
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 7, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday October 1, 2022

Re: "Prayut staying put," in Bangkok Post, Saturday October 1, 2022
So, the Constitutional Court declared Prayut was not prime minister in 2014.
They seem not to have aligned themselves with the "spirit" of the law.
The new constitution does not want somebody to be prime minister more than eight years.
In this spirit, it should not matter when the constitution was promulgated.
They seem also not to take into account that anyone launching a coup is committing treason and belongs in jail.
I am not surprised business leaders hail the decision as promoting stability; the "stability" to allow them to amass further billions at the expense of the people.

Karl Reichstetter,

Corruption is rife
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday October 6, 2022
First published in the National, Monday October 3, 2022

The never ending disease called "corruption" is rife in the public sector.
Self-serving and greedy politicians, CEOs, senior management and finance officers are stealing government funds and landowner royalties.
Although, certain honest public servants are aware of it, they are afraid to speak up as they are being suppressed by the hierarchy.
Can something be done about this disease which is getting out of hand?

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Assualt on femail journalist in Papua New Guinea
Has no place in Papua New Guinea’s democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 October 2022

I refer to the report ‘ Journalist attacked ‘ ( The National 30/9 ).
The assault on the female journalist of The National who was simply doing her job reporting on a public interest court case has all the hallmarks of thug rule of the Mafia kind.
It has no place in Papua New Guinea’s democracy as Steven Matainaho, the Secretary to the Department of Information has so succinctly pointed out.
The traumatised journalist must get all the support she needs from all right thinking people and relevant professionals to cope with her ordeal.
The perpetrators of the violence and intimidation against her must be identified and dealt with by the full force of the law to send a strong and clear message that violence against journalists in any shape and form is not acceptable at all.
Democracy is in peril if journalists can’t do what they are meant to do - put the truth before the public - without fear or favour.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Philippines to drastically change
Education infrastructure to include technology
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 4, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday September 28, 2022

How can we compete globally?
As a country, we have the mental power to catch up and match the performance of South Korea in producing smartphones, tablets, and televisions that can compete with the United States.
However, if you look at the top 100 universities in Asia, the University of the Philippines (UP) is in the 77th spot, eight points lower than its 2021 ranking.
This was done by the Quacquarelli Symonds Asian University Rankings.
I think we can have more medical schools in the top 100.
How can our university system’s ranking leap to a higher international level?
Should we continue glorifying the top 10 graduates of each of the professional fields?
Should we still stay with the 19th-century tenured system of keeping professors? Or should we drastically change our educational infrastructure using evidence-based cognitive research?
About half a century ago, the acceptance of a graduate from the UP College of Medicine (UPCM) to the many well-known medical centers in New York was almost guaranteed.
Many members of our class of ’68 were accepted into university hospitals.
Now I am seeing from the emails of many UPCM graduates that they are having a difficult time getting accepted into top training programs.
How can we reverse this trend?
We need a national resolve to drastically change our educational infrastructure to include advances in technology and brain research.
Singapore and China did it about 50 years ago, and this is one of the reasons why they are well ahead of us.
Since the 1980s, both fields of technology and cognitive science have leaped way ahead of the 20th century’s stagnant educational highway of teacher-centered, memory-based, individual achievement programs.
In the 21st century, what the Philippines needs is a new educational superhighway. Our universities should overhaul their tenured system and teaching programs, using the twin power of technology and cognitive research to compete globally.
We have seen the result of the current educational highways of tenured professorship and teacher-centered learning centers standing still or going downhill in the world ranking.
What is the cure?
Model schools after successful institutions like Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.
The biggest change in Olin was getting rid of the tenured-professorship concept. The teachers are first given a three-year contract, which is renewable depending on their performance.
With this structure, teachers are motivated to find new ways of helping their students to learn and innovate.
One Olin student told me that she likes Olin because of the small community: Students know all of their classmates, and all of their professors know them by first name, and are very friendly and approachable.
A student can email a question to her chemistry professor and receive a reply just before midnight.
Olin also has an honor code where students can leave laptops and money lying around without them being lost.
During our visit to Olin College in October 2012, what struck me most was that students were not tested for their content knowledge.
They were judged on their collaboration with outside business organizations in creating new products or services.
No more multiple choice questions employed by standard colleges in our homeland.
Although a relatively young college founded in 1997, it is ranked No. 3 in the best undergraduate engineering program.
Olin College of Engineering is an innovative school that we should emulate in order to compete globally.

Leonardo L. Leonidas, MD,

Bulacan Airport City SEZ and Freeport SEZ project
Seen as a well-planned equivalent of Silicon Valley
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 3, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday September 30, 2022

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda and his group have filed a revised version of House Bill No. 7575 that proposes to create the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Bulakan, Bulacan.
In his explanation to the media, Salceda cited 14 changes that, he said, go beyond the concerns cited by President Marcos Jr., including the need for fiscal prudence and for public interest to trump business gains.
The President’s veto appears to have been influenced by a strong lobby in defense of the Clark Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Pampanga.
Their main argument is that the Bulacan SEZ is so close to the Clark SEZ that it could cause the diversion of locators from the latter.
Supporters favoring the Bulacan SEZ, meanwhile, cite that it offers the same incentives under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act as those offered by the Clark SEZ.
Another argument is that while the Clark SEZ is also located at comparable distances from the Subic and Bataan freeport zones, these two freeports are not poaching locators from Clark.
Furthermore, these freeports are not complaining about competition from the Bulacan SEZ despite their proximity just across Manila Bay.
Some analysts are skeptical about the President’s veto, and caution that Mr. Marcos should be more circumspect in applying his veto power, and should observe his promise of promoting unity during his administration lest he sends a negative signal to investors.
The President should not dampen the enthusiasm of visionary business leadership such as that seen in San Miguel Corp., which has shown genuine desire to help speed up the country’s development.
Aside from shelling out huge amounts for the dredging of the Pasig and the Tullahan-Tinajeros rivers, its Skyway System has greatly eased traffic congestion in Metro Manila and vastly improved connectivity in the hinterlands.
Bulacan SEZ is seen as a well-planned equivalent of Silicon Valley with enough space for locators such as that seen in northern California.
The project will actually carry out the National Economic and Development Authority’s “Dream Plan” for Mega Manila by making Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna urban expansion areas that will help decongest the metropolis.
The country is already late in the game, with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Board of Investments planning to develop Makati as the country’s Silicon Valley despite its already limited space.
In contrast, the Bulacan SEZ has ample space for a more orderly location of emerging high-tech industries that will produce, for example, world-class semiconductors, battery power storage systems, electric vehicles, and modular nuclear power assemblies.
These industries can benefit from the cheap logistics costs due to their proximity to the airport and seaport.
The Bulacan SEZ is also surrounded by good schools in Malolos, Bocaue, and Meycauayan that can provide skilled and highly educated human resources to the SEZ, as well as absorb technology transfer from its expatriate specialists.
Our Asian neighbors have already developed their own Silicon Valleys, and we see this in the Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan, Pangyo Techno Valley in South Korea, Eastern Economic Corridor in Thailand, and the three districts of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
The Bulacan SEZ has to be developed now because aside from attracting locators from Europe and the United States, it will also be attractive to locators from nearby Taiwan and South Korea, which are currently experiencing external political threats.

Meliton B. Juanico,
Licensed environmental planner
Retired professor of geography,
University of the Philippines

Smoke or haze or PM2.5 or air pollution
Is a killer
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday September 24, 2022

Re: "Boost air pollution control", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, Sunday September 11, 2022.
I do not need to tell you that smoke or haze or PM2.5 or air pollution or whatever you want to call it is a killer. I mean, you may not know the actual numbers, but 29,000 of your countrymen died of PM2.5 inhalation last year. (This year, untimely rains have dampened the problem temporarily.) You do, however, know that this stuff is bad for you, right? So, the question is "Why isn't the government cheerleading for efforts to reduce the particulate matter count, or at least warning us about PM2.5's dangers with a huge public health campaign?
I find this unacceptable personally and as a public citizen. I mean, seriously, we are a small country, so it is not surprising that our 29,000 deaths pale in comparison to India's 1.9 million particulate deaths, many of which are from PM2.5 generated by burning crop waste. (The government of India declares PM2.5 from crop waste burning to be the third-biggest source of PM2.5 in the nation). Still, the situation in India could not be more different. In India, a massive, nationwide blitz of "PM2.5 Kills" posters and fliers, TV and radio ads, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), have told people in no uncertain terms to be careful. (Speaking of particulates in particular, the WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, points out that the WHO's new Air Quality Guidelines indicate that they hit "people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest". New guidelines or not, Thailand only recently accepted international standards for allowable PM2.5 very recently. Ironically, in Thailand -- which suffers from more deaths from PM2.5 per capita than India -- no one in government says a word. Sure, haze may close Delhi every year, but here, Bangkok alone saw 4,240 premature deaths from PM2.5 in 2021, more than half from cardiovascular causes and more than 300 from lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
Back in the 1960s, Tom Lehrer, an MIT mathematician who moonlighted as a comic singer, sang a song called Pollution, Pollution that shifted the notion of filth and pollution to developing countries. Today, unfortunately, it seems as if Thailand has taken up the song's Americo-centric warning: "Don't drink the water (gag) and don't breathe the air."
Here at home, we residents of Thailand are, of course, proud to be first whenever possible -- for example, we are immensely proud of our first-in-Asia record of motor accident deaths and our regular alternation with Ethiopia for the most auto accidents per capita in the world.
The boasts that Bangkok or Chiang Mai had the worst air in the world in 2021 still boggle my mind.) Still, however, PM2.5 kills more of us than automobile accidents, drugs, alcohol, and murder combined. Think about that…
Are you happy, yet? Nice to be first in the world, yes?
Well, maybe not.
Is there anything to be done about PM2.5?
I think so. I think that a big, loud, national public health campaign against the evils of smoke, haze, PM2.5, air pollution or whatever you want to call it could make a big difference.
After all, we run regular campaigns against drunk driving, alcohol use, drugs and crime.
Why not a public health campaign against the dangers of smoke?
Maybe such a campaign would do nothing because the government seems to have no effective means to reduce PM2.5 levels. India certainly does not, either.
But I mean, at least people would know, right?
And citizen knowledge is a key foundation stone of any democracy.
Seriously, why do we have major government grants for public health education e.g., SSS when we support nothing that fingers smoke, haze, PM2.5 or whatever you want to call it, a killer bigger than motor accidents, alcohol, drugs, and murder?

Michael Shafer,
Warm Heart Foundation, Amphur Phrao,
Chiang Mai,

New aspiring bullies
Putin and Xi
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 14, 2022

Re: "Afghan humanitarian crisis widens", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, September 12, 2022
My lifelong experience is that it is wrong to give in to bullies. It may cause you quite some damage but the only way to get rid of them is to give them a very bloody nose. I am afraid this is also true in international politics. The US was such a global bully for a long time, before that the European colonists, but they got quite some bloody noses in the last decades. Now we have new aspiring bullies in the shape of Putin and Xi, behind them is a network of nationalists, it seems nationalism is always the narrative for being a bully, power grabbers, the old KGB network and parts of the CDC).
One of them threatens even with nuclear bombs. Still, it would be wrong to give in to him. It would only invite more bullying.

Karl Reichstetter,

Call for sustainable mining practices
With barest minimumdisturbance to environment
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday September 30, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday September 27, 2022

Au contraire: mining should conserve our natural resources, not preserve it.
Hearing that, I was glued to my seat to listen.
Did I hear it right?
Mining should not preserve our natural resources!
Yes, indeed, mining should conserve, rather than preserve, our natural resources.
That is, sound and sustainable mining practices should ensure that our natural resources are extracted with the barest minimum of disturbance to the environment.
This is, indeed, a revelation that should be shared because it definitely puts mining practices in a more realistic context.
After all, mining is the very core of modern civilization.
Without mining, life as we know it today, with our many creature comforts smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles, even skincare potions, and medicines, will not be possible.
I have attended many public relations conferences over the years, but my first mining conference was the just-concluded MinECon 2022 organized by the Philippine Society of Mining Engineers in Legazpi, Albay.
Technically, my first mining conference was one edition of the Annual Mine Safety and Environment Conference or ANMSEC, as a speaker at their community relations conference but I left right after my speaking engagement.
Being a newbie in the mining industry, I was observing and absorbing the nuances of this traditionally male-dominated sector as mining engineers from various corners of the country converged for the MinECon 2022, and here are more of my takeaways:
Large- and small-scale mining can coexist with the former, helping the latter with proper training on safety and environment management.
For sustainable mining to thrive, a stronger collaboration between mining companies, host communities, and government especially law enforcement is imperative.
Doing things right is the best defense of mining companies against anti-miners.
They say information is power. Thus, we ought to read up more on what mining is all about to truly appreciate its value in our lives.
And mining companies that stay true to the credo of responsible mining are society’s partners in building a future that is sustainable, one that will be enjoyed by our children, our children’s children, and the children of our children’s children, as well.
Let’s all support #MineResponsibility.

Ma. Teresa L. Pacis,
Assistant vice president,
Corporate affairs and communication
Apex Mining Co., Inc.

Call for Thailand Ministry of Health to warn
Of health hazards from continued use of face masks
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 29, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday September 24, 2022

Re: "Plans drawn up for endemic Covid-19", in Bangkok Post, September 22, 2022.
Since the Ministry of Public Health will soon announce that Covid-19 has reached endemic status they should accompany their announcement with a new public health message warning about the health hazards created by the continued use of masks.
We have known for many decades that masks do nothing to stop the transmission of respiratory viruses.
We also know that masks cause increased respiratory bacterial damage to the lungs since they create an ideal warm moist environment that facilitates bacterial growth.
Furthermore, modern disposable masks deposit polypropylene and terephthalates irreversibly deep into the lungs.
Surgeries performed by masked personnel correlate with more infected patients and mask-wearing correlates with problems in heart rate, hypoxia, alertness, and cognitive impairment.
Numerous studies demonstrate that children who grow up in a masked school environment suffer learning disabilities and reduced IQ.
It is now time that public health messaging reflected the truth.

Michael Setter,

Call for Minister Kanokwan Viawan to turn state's evidence
Against politicians who encroach on forest reserves
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 28, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday August 26, 2022

Re: "Kanokwan suspended over land", in Bangkok Post, Saturday August 27, 2022.
I have no problem with Deputy Education Minister Kanokwan Vilawan's being suspended from office pending investigation of alleged encroachment on a forest reserve.
All are equal under the law.
But I recall a similar case, that of Pareena Kraikupt, who was permanently banned from politics in March 2022 for using forest reserve land.
Isn't she also criminally liable for her acts?
Also, Pareena vowed to expose dozens of other politicians who encroached on forest reserves.
Has she carried out her threat?
She should turn state's evidence against them in return for a shorter sentence.
Let justice not only be done but be seen to be done.

Burin Kantabutra,

Thailands' King Rama 9 and England's Queen Elizabeth 11
Are of one mind in respect of criticism
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 27, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday September 24, 2022

Re: "Gracious wisdom", Bangkok Post, PostBag, Tuesday September 20, 2022
I fully agree with Khun Felix when he wrote: "The Bangkok Post quotes my late queen's honest wisdom that 'There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life. No institution, city, monarchy, whatever, should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don't.'"
Bluntly and unequivocally well said.
Nor need more be said, save perhaps that Queen Elizabeth II welcomed the benefit of knowing to a percentage point the publicly varying degree of her own personal popularity and that of the institution which she graciously headed for seven decades.
Could any prefer incomprehension to such highly pertinent knowledge of reality?"
I note that it was our own beloved national father who said, in his 2005 birthday address broadcast: "The King is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism. Charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released. The use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy."
(Grossman and Faulder, King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life's Work, Palace-approved.
Thus, the authors concluded that, "Thailand's law of lese-majeste has one very prominent critic: King Bhumibol."
I suggest that our King Rama 9 and England's Queen Elizabeth II are of one mind in that respect. Yet we Thais stubbornly continue to defy our national father's clearly expressed wishes.

Burin Kantabutra,

Medical establishment and vaccine industry
Has made billions out of Covid
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 26, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 24, 2022

Re: "Health Ministry defends Covid 5+5 policy", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday August 23, 2022.
Why should there be any quarantine at all for Omicron, which is a wimp?
Why not quarantine people with the flu since it kills more children than Omicron?
How about a quarantine for people with pneumonia at least for two days until the antibiotics kick or bronchitis?
All these diseases are far worse than Omicron or Covid.
Isn't it time to say to the medical establishment and the vaccine industry: Look you already made your billions of dollars giving millions of healthy people worthless, dangerous vaccines?
Now leave us alone and let us finally get on with our lives.

Eric Bahrt,

Fijian's glorification of Queen Elizabeth's funeral
Manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday, September 25, 2022

The many glorifying reactions by descendants of the Girmitiyas, who were Indians brought to Fiji by Fiji’s British colonial rulers to work as semi-slave labourers on white owned sugar cane plantations, to the Queen and her funeral is a manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome whereby people develop positive feelings towards their captors or abusers or oppressors.
The Queen represented a system of colonial oppression and exploitation.
It was in recognition of this phenomenon that Franz Fanon wrote in his critical post colonialism theory that decolonisation should begin with the freeing of the
colonial mind..

Rajend Naidu,

Bangkok is sinking
As sea levels rise
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 24, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday September 5, 2022

Re: "Aiming way too high," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Wednesday August 3, 2022.
Jason A Jellison's recent letter rekindled thoughts about Bangkok's future.
The city built on riverine clay is sinking a measurable amount each year, while sea levels rise.
There are no silver bullet solutions, but allow me to propose: Create a new city on higher ground.
New sites for capital cities have been found in at least half of the world's countries.
Even better, several cities near one another, with green spaces between.
Besides being places for many people to reside, cities encompass government offices, universities/schools, and religious centres.
Those three primary venues can comprise the three "nodes" of a new capital: with commercial, residential, sports/recreation areas, parks, energy generation, and transport corridors interspersed throughout.
Oh, and the inevitable airport or two.
Where, in the southern half of Thailand, is there ground higher than two metres above sea level?
I don't know, so the plan I propose could be arranged for somewhere in the North. Perhaps the suitable area is along the Mae Kok River, perhaps.

Ken Albertsen,

Non Government Organisations
Work in the worlds poorest countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday Sepyember 6, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday September 2, 2022

In some of the world’s poorest countries, governments and non government organizations (NGOs) carry out educational assistance in many ways through scholarships, the provision of school uniforms, school supplies and project materials, transportation subsidy, board and lodging, etc.
Even private organizations, big businesses, and schools and universities themselves grant scholarships to deserving students from poor families.
These interventions are implemented not only to help poor families defray educational costs, but also to recognize the aspiration of parents for their children to complete tertiary level academic or vocational in school as a means to rise from poverty.
Parents put a premium on education.
They believe graduates gain not only enhanced opportunities for gainful employment, but also the confidence and courage in their journey through life.
In the NGO world, after a year in a poor community for purposes of immersion, social investigation, integration, etc., a frontline NGO worker would already have a clear idea of the issues development and otherwise affecting the community or a section of it, and their causes and effects; the community’s prominent people and why they are politically and economically powerful for a long time; the types of interest groups to develop for future collective actions; the community’s natural disaster history, and those caused by human action; gender issues and how they are resolved, and by whom; human rights violated, how they are tackled, and by whom; how a community responds to disaster; how to build/strengthen community/interest groups; who in the local government unit community and town level and which government agencies will be involved in future collective actions; issues to prioritize and address; program strategies to adopt, and types of programs/projects to implement.
After three years or more of implementing projects, an NGO worker or an NGO itself is challenged to find out what progress has been made toward the achievement of program goals and objectives and how to measure it, and what types of community groups will be able to sustain the benefits of programs or projects, to what extent, and how, in case funding stops.
After another three years, a frontline NGO worker would have realized that family recipients of educational assistance in the form of a scholarship at the tertiary level (college or vocational) would have an economically secure future.
Education is the key to a better life. Other interventions are only key holders.
This is the time when recipients of educational assistance would have graduated from their technical or degree courses, found gainful employment, engaged in business, etc.
Thus, this is the time a frontline NGO worker can confirm that the result of the educational assistance project is sustainable.
The recipients of the educational assistance are the evidence themselves to demonstrate the project’s outcome or impact.
Of course, other interventions like cash transfer or cash/food for work ?allow families to overcome financial shocks, but not for long.
Every community with families who are afforded educational assistance, particularly scholarships, by an NGO has a success story to tell.
Recipients of educational assistance become professionals, private or government employees, NGO workers, entrepreneurs, overseas workers, political leaders, among others with gainful activities.
In short, not a few girls and boys have escaped poverty unlike their parents and forebears.
It is obvious that the benefits of educational assistance are long-term.
There is no doubt about its contribution to the personal and professional development of its indigent recipients.
This is on top of being able to decide for oneself and having more options and control over one’s life.

Nono Felix,

Financial loss for Filipino farmers
Instead of huge profits
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 22, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday September 13, 2022

The unfortunate predicament of Filipino farmers incurring financial loss instead of generating huge profits from the abundant harvest is actually a perennial and recurrent problem that the Department of Agriculture (DA) has failed to resolve.
The plight of the tomato farmers in Bukidnon dumping their products rather than selling them to traders for prices lower than the cost of production was reported last July.
Last Friday, Sept. 9, the same situation happened to the garlic farmers in Batanes and cabbage growers in Benguet.
Notwithstanding the statement of Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban who quickly absolved the Department of Agriculture (DA) while blaming the farmers, it is evidently clear that the recurrent problem actually reflects one of the most glaring failures of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista must be held accountable in as much as she has served as the head of the Agricultural Marketing Assistance Services (Amas) and Kadiwa project director for the past six years.
Amas is essentially mandated to activate a market matching system wherein various agricultural products of farmers from different parts of the country end up in suitable markets with competitive prices.
Kadiwa, on the other hand, was supposed to facilitate wholesale transactions, especially for agricultural products with a huge production surplus. In this context, over-supply would have no adverse effect and wastage should have been prevented.
With huge budget allocations, the farmers and fisherfolks should have been accorded adequate marketing and logistical support through the Amas and Kadiwa.
Apparently, both offices only succeeded as instruments to justify fund utilization. But in terms of measurable accomplishment, both offices can only be described as total failures.

Joel Rullan,

Senators voting in Thailand parliament
Would be a gross conflict of interest
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 21, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday September 9, 2022

Re: "Senate must prove mettle", in Bangkok Post Opinion, September 7, 2022 and "Senate's PM pick role up for debate", in Bangkok Post, September 6, 2022.
I agree that it's very unlikely that senators will cede their power to join Members of Parliament in electing a prime minister.
However, Thailand claims to be a democracy with the monarch as head of state, and in a democracy, the decision of the majority of voters prevails either directly or through their elected representatives.
As Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit handpicked and appointed each senator without any say from elected officials, to have senators vote on those who appointed them would be a gross conflict of interest, for it would allow that person to win with just 1/6 of the popular vote.
If senators wish to retain their role in selecting the prime minister, they should recuse themselves when Gen Prayut or Gen Prawit are involved.

Burin Kantabutra,

Suggestions for a checklist
For disguised pro-China missives
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday September 20, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, September 9, 2022

Re: "Leader's checklist", in Bangkok Post PostBag, August 28, 2022
I've been tempted in the past to reply to ML Saksiri Kridakorn's barely disguised pro-China missives but have so far resisted. The letter published in PostBag on Aug 28 has finally spurred me to act.
Some suggestions for the checklist:
Voting on a country's policy, leaders and political parties is fine; limiting the alternatives is not.
Providing feedback and expecting remedial action is fine; dictating outcomes is not.
Having a strong and growing economy with increasing living standards is fine; using slave labour is not.
Eradicating poverty is fine; sharing wealth unfairly is not.
Having a harmonious society is fine; stifling dissent and violating human rights is not.
Achieving food and national security and personal safety is fine; curtailing basic freedoms is not.
Treating all peoples internationally as equal is fine; oppressing minorities is not.
Having high-tech manufacturing is fine; using technology to control people is not.
Building state-of-the-art infrastructure and systems is fine; limiting access to urban populations is not.
Ubiquitous 5G communications is fine; controlling content on networks is not.
Never having been a colonial power is fine; trying to become one is not.


President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr
Direct beneficiary of his father’s dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 19, 2022

When I read in The Southeast Asian Times ‘ President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr defends his father’s imposition of Martial Law ‘ ( 16 Sept 2022 )
I thought he would do that, wouldn’t he, seeing as he is a direct beneficiary of his father’s dictatorship .
But in his letter on the same day Daniel Aloc gives us an authentic account of Marcos Sr’s “ fascist dictatorship “ and “ the massive corruption and human rights abuse committed by his father’s regime “.
No amount of whitewashing and historical revisionism can alter the truth regarding the Marcos dictatorship which is well documented.
See Raymond Bonner’s book Waltzing with a Dictator for an insight .

Rajend Naidu,

Are weapons always the answer
New Zealand soldiers armed with quitars
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 18, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday September 5, 2022

"Prayut kicks off defence exhibition," in Bangkok Post, Tuesday August, 30,
Another defence and security event has just finished. Sophisticated weaponry was on display for four days and no doubt found buyers from across the globe.
But are weapons always the answer?
I have just finished watching a documentary film called Soldiers Without Guns.
In it we see soldiers from New Zealand armed only with guitars who intervene and finally reconcile warring factions in a brutal civil war on the Pacific island of Bougainville.
Maori culture, which seems to be well integrated into mainstream New Zealand society, played a big part. This film offers a hopeful glimpse into a potentially more peaceful future.


Britain's Queen Elizabeth 11 - V - Myanmar's Aung San Sui Kyi
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday, September 17, 2022

In Britain the hereditary head of the country Queen Elizabeth was loved, admired, respected and honoured by millions in Britain and around the world.
She reigned as head of the country for 70 years.
In Myanmar the democratically elected leader of the country Aung San Sui Kyi who is loved, admired and respected by millions in Myanmar and around the world was removed from power by the military and thrown in jail - for life!
This is the two worlds of humanity.

Rajend Naidu,

Ferdinand Marcos Sr. 50th anniversary
Of declaration of martial law
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday September 16, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday September 14, 2022

This year’s commemoration of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s declaration of martial law on September, 21 will be a historic one not only because it will mark the 50th anniversary of the start of one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history, but it will also be the first under the administration of the late dictator’s son himself.
With President Marcos Jr. at the helm of power, rejecting historical revisionism has become even more imperative as the disinformation campaign to whitewash the massive corruption and human rights abuses committed under his father’s regime intensifies.
While there is more than enough evidence to debunk the lies about Marcos Sr.’s fascist dictatorship, the facts will not speak for themselves, so we must speak for them.
Now more than ever, we should uphold the truth and vocally oppose any attempts to distort the country’s history.
As Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel once said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Reject historical distortion!
Never forget the horrors of martial law!

Daniel Aloc,

Call for Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire
To be fully fledged Department of Health secretary
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday September 15, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday September 8, 2022

Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire deserves to be the full-fledged Department of Health secretary.
Having her as an officer in charge limits her powers and responsibilities to impose public health measures in these crucial, almost post-pandemic times.
We know that appointment to the Cabinet requires the trust and confidence of the President.
But what about the trust and confidence of the people that Vergeire has earned while we are battling and enduring the scourge of COVID-19?
Give the woman her rightful place.

Jonas Cabiles Soltes,
Antipolo, Tinambac,

Papua New Guinea Freehold land acquired in the colonial era
Awarded to non-profit organisation such as churches
The Soitheast Asian Times, Wednesday September 14, 2022
First published in the National Monday September 12, 2022

Under the Torrens Title System, freehold land is said to be held against the whole world.
That is to say, the interest of a lessee in a freehold land is not subject to any authority for taxation purpose or expropriation purpose by any commonwealth state.
The owner of a freehold land enjoys a higher form of ownership and does not pay tax unlike the owner of a state lease land.
A freehold land has a fixed term of lease and when that lease expires it reverts to the traditional landowner or clan as a freehold land unlike the state lease land.
That does not mean the land becomes a customary land.
It still remains a freehold land under the original mode of acquisition, except that the freehold land reverts back to the traditional landowner or clan as ultimate owners to take custody of, as is the law.
With state lease land, upon expiry of the lease the land reverts to the state.
The State then has the power to lease the land again through the public tender process.
Most of the land acquired as freehold during the colonial era were awarded mostly to non-profit organisation such as churches for a well-intended reason.
Once the lease expires, such land must revert to the traditional landowners.
This position is confirmed by the decision of Justice (David) Canning over the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) project land in Madang about two years ago over the dispute of ownership between the traditional landowners and the state.
Most of the land around the vicinity of Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) is freehold land and can only revert to the traditional landowner upon expiry of the lease.
For the Government to amend the laws governing freehold land will have many undesired outcomes.
Foremost, the landowners whose land is held under freehold lease will lose their total traditional inheritance to such land.
Secondly, such amendments can have a negative impact on freehold mortgaged property.
The owner of a freehold estate may no longer enjoy the protection he/she has under the freehold ownership and may eventually lose his security of tenure.
The best way forward is to identify freehold land whose lease is expiring soon or has expired and work with the traditional land owners to develop their land.
The mode of acquisition under freehold is the best form of ownership with security of tenure well intact and is attractive and is bankable.
The land remains a state lease but as a freehold interest, meaning at some point in the future the ultimate ownership of such land must still be vested in the traditional landowners.
The benefits under this form of ownership are similar to land registered under the Incorporated Land Group Act though it may vary.
In my opinion, traditional landowners whose land has been acquired and registered under freehold interest should be empowered to use their land for economic development rather than amending the laws.

Manevi Gene
Landmark Valuers & Consultants
Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
Was Prime Minister before April 6, 2017
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 12, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday September 9, 2022

Re: "Prayut's PM tenure 'ends 2025'," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 7, 2022.
With respect, the Meechai Ruchupan opinion is, of itself, a false application of post hoc ergo propter hoc, the concept that, after this, thereafter because of this.
It is erroneously creating a sequential relationship to a causal consequence.
Simply put, Section 264 of the constitution prescribes that the prime minister shall be the person who held that role the day before promulgation.
In essence, Mr Meechai's opinion provides unequivocal evidence the prime minister held that post the day before the April 6, 2017 promulgation; thus it is nonsense at law and in logic to suggest his tenure began from that date.

Stewart Charles

Tourism struggling in Asia
Except for Bali and the Maldives
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday August 26, 2022

Re: "Troubled economies", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, August 23, 2022
While Jason A Jellison does have a point that most of the world's economies are still struggling when comparing their performances to pre-pandemic times, the fact is that tourism has almost returned to normal in many parts of the world.
Based on various publications that I have read, tourism has bounced back by up to 90 percent of pre-pandemic times in Western European countries and even many African countries, such as Egypt and South Africa.
The lone exception is Asia.
With the exception of Bali and the Maldives, most Asian countries have struggled to get tourism back to even half of what it previously was before the pandemic.
And what is the reason for this?
Well, most Asian countries still have various rules for inbound tourists in place, such as the necessity of taking antigen or PCR Covid tests for unvaccinated people, and even quarantine in some cases, among others.
In contrast, most of the rest of the world has opened up to everybody, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.
So, while I am in agreement with Mr Jellison that lengthening the amount of time which tourists will be able to stay in the country once they arrive is a good first step, it quite clearly is not enough.
I don't think that getting 45 percent of the number of tourists back from before the pandemic hit is much of an accomplishment, as the above implies.
More is needed to be done to strengthen both Thailand s tourist sector and economy.
Thailand needs to open itself up more to the rest of the world.


Papua New Guinea polling and counting officials
Waiting for July election allowances
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 10, 2022
First published in the National, Monday September 5, 2022

Can the electoral commissioner and East Sepik election manager explain to the polling and counting officials when they will be paid their election allowances?
Service providers and election officials have been waiting for almost two months after the return of writs.
The election manager and the returning officers have been issuing so many excuses when asked by election officials.

Frustrated service provider,
East Sepik Province
Papua New Guinea

Thailand and Vietnam to collaborate
To raise rice prices
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday September 9, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday September 6, 2022

Re: "Thailand to push for fairer rice prices", in Bangkok Post, September 4, 2022.
India, Pakistan, the US, Cambodia and other leading rice exporters must be smiling broadly at the news that Thailand and Vietnam are planning to collaborate to try to raise rice prices.
Global rice markets are highly competitive and there are many exporting countries to choose from.
Efforts by Thailand and Vietnam to increase the price of their rice exports will almost surely fail and will unfortunately likely result only in driving customers to alternative suppliers.
Additionally, since rice production costs in Vietnam are much lower than in Thailand, it is likely that at the first indication of loss of market share, Vietnam will back out of this new pricing arrangement, leaving Thailand in an even more disadvantaged position.
As has been noted repeatedly by agricultural economists and rural development experts in the past, impoverished rice farmers would be best helped by supporting their shift out of rice farming and into higher-value niche products and services.
If we truly want to support rice farmers, we should assist them to escape the poverty trap of rice farming itself.

Samanea Saman,

Papua New Guinea not the only country
That celebrates mediocrity
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 8, 2022

I know where David Lepi is coming from when he laments “ Papua New Guinea is the only country in the world that celebrates mediocrity
( The National 2/9 ).
Let me assure you it isn’t. Ask any clear thinking person in Fiji and he or she will tell you it’s the same in post coup Fiji to cite just another example.
David Lepi is of course right we need to adopt what the African Nobel Laureate Chinua Achebe meant when said “ a true patriot will always demand the highest standard of his country and accept nothing but the best “.
We do our country and our people a grave injustice when we settle for mediocrity instead.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Filipinos
To operate Small town lottery
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday September 7, 2022
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday September 1, 2022

This may sound crazy and absurd, but why not?
These two gambling activities are the favorites of ordinary Filipinos and have, in fact, resulted in broken families, loss of lives, broken dreams, etc., and many have been driven deeper into poverty.
Isn’t it possible to turn gambling into a more productive and life-enriching activity? Yes, it is totally possible and doable.
Firstly, there are two major elements present in gambling, the element of chance and the element of risk.
Therefore, if you remove these two elements, that activity ceases to be gambling.
But how?
Let the people themselves operate and manage small town lottery (STL) and “e-sabong” as a cooperative.
That is, your bets become your contribution or your investment in the businesses owned by the cooperatives.
If you are lucky, the prizes you receive are now called incentives, your incentives for investing.
If you are not lucky, your betting money is considered your contribution or investment in the cooperative.
At present, millions of pesos daily are wasted by ordinary Filipinos in these two gambling activities.
In 2018, before the pandemic, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s revenues from small town lottery STL alone was P28 billion, and for e-sabong, it is about P650 million per month or P7.8 billion per year.
Some even say Atong Ang gets P3 billion per month from e-sabong.
Some of these money come from recipients of the 4Ps program who indulge in these two activities hoping to earn extra cash.
How many businesses and jobs could be created using these amounts of cash? First, let us define the profile of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in our country.
The MSME sector is considered the backbone of our economy, and around 70 percent of the country’s labor force is in this sector.
Micro enterprises are capitalized at P3 million and employ one to nine people. Small enterprises are capitalized from P3 million to P15 million and employ 10 to 99 people. Medium enterprises are capitalized at P15 million to P100 million and employ 100 to 199 people.
Therefore, using even just half of the revenues from STL and e-sabong, assuming the other half is for charity and expenses, you can establish 6,000 micro businesses per year and create 6,000 to 54,000 jobs per year.
For small enterprises, 1,200 to 6,000 business units and 60,000 to 118,800 jobs per year.
For medium enterprises, you create 180 to 1,200 business units and 35,800 to 120,000 jobs per year.
Depending on the needs of the community, you can create a combination of these enterprises.
Those enterprises are owned and managed by ordinary Filipinos through their cooperative.
Down the road, the cooperatives of ordinary Filipinos will be more than ready to challenge the dominance of large e-companies owned by foreign companies and by rich Filipino businessmen, and ultimately prevail.
When people in communities nationwide work together toward a common goal, progress and prosperity for all Filipinos cannot be far behind.

Ernesto M. Adaya,

Philippines Coach Chot Reyes should expect boos
When fans expectations are not met
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 6, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday September 1, 2022

My son RG and I watched on television the game between Gilas Pilipinas and Saudi Arabia in the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It was rude, inappropriate, and shameless when the home crowd booed Chot Reyes when he was introduced as head coach of Gilas Pilipinas, and every time he was flashed on the big screen.
A question though is asked can one know the intent of the audience when they booed the coach?
Some of the booing spectators may simply want to express their displeasure on his coaching style.
Others probably want to challenge him, not to give in to mediocrity, but rather for him to do more or give his all to ensure the victory of the team.
Both sides of the audience are within their rights to express their views through booing.
And so, Coach Reyes should expect more boos when he does not meet the expectations of the fans of Gilas Pilipinas and more boos when he coaches half-heartedly.
The booing of the crowd, after all, should be respected since it is a legitimate expression of speech.
It is their way of venting their frustration.
A word of advice to Coach Reyes: admit that you are in a tough spot; allow the basketball fans to express their views through boos but don’t take it too personal, since their boos are a good index that your coaching style matters to them.
Stay focused coach, keep going, and be inspired and motivated by their boos to make the Gilas Pilipinas a champion team.
That will be your legacy, especially to the boo-birds.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak
A national disgrace
The Southeast Asian Times Monday, September 5, 2022

Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian PM Najib Razak, has been sentenced to a decade in prison for seeking and receiving bribes in exchange for government contracts, just days after her husband was jailed for 12 years for corruption and abuse of office ( Reuters 3/9/22 )
This is a classic example of how power corrupts some people in power who are overtaken by greed and forget their true role as a leader.
Amassing wealth by hook and crook and at the expense of their own people and country become their modus operandi.
Such leaders are a national disgrace.

Rajend Naidu,

Becoming a proxy for the Europe Union
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday September 4, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday August 21, 2022

Re: "Short on ideas", Bangkok Post PostBag, Sunday August 21, 2022.
Bruno, there is no easy alternative to Ukraine's current bellicose state of affairs.
It is you, not me, suggesting that Ukraine submit to Russia.
The occupying forces in Afghanistan were none other than the Soviet forces. After 9/11, the USA became the new occupier.
There are no winners in any war, period. Ukraine becoming a proxy for the EU and the USA will not turn into a winner either.
Of course, Russia is paying the price, but the rest of the world is also paying.
How many million Ukrainians must flee to the EU or the USA to declare victory?
So, both fighting factions must weigh the price of a long war.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Papua New Guinea State-owned enterprises are a disgrace
The worst delivery of services in 47 years
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 3, 2022
First published in the National, Thursday August 25, 2022

The eagerly awaited appointments to the new cabinet have finally been announced putting an end to days of speculation, fake news and much interest from the voters.
With these new appointments comes a lot of hope that these ministers will be better than the previous ones.
Some are new and some have surprisingly remained the same.
The health minister, who is actually a doctor, is one to get excited about – Dr Lino Tom has delivered significant improvements in his previous roles.
While our country cries out for better health services and our service providers scream for better support from the Health Department, we hope Tom can start to fix the deep problems that are festering in the health sector.
Many have failed before so let’s hope he is the man for the job.
Minister Justin Tkatchenko is in charge of foreign affairs.
This gives hope that our representation to foreign countries can improve our reputation.
After a disgraceful election campaign full of embarrassment, we hope he is a man who makes things happen.
He has in his electorate.
Perhaps he can start to make it easier for Papua New Guinea people to travel to foreign lands.
The Member for Madang was given Immigration and Labour.
This is one of our most ineffective and inefficient departments.
Let’s hope he can start to help fix this area for the good of Papua New Guinea.
Yet there are always as many questions as there are good things.
Our State-owned enterprises are a disgrace with the worst delivery of services in our almost 47 years.
Yet the same minister remains raising questions as to why.
We know he is a power broker and leader of his party, but there must be a reason he was given this portfolio.
And it can’t be for good performance.
We had hoped we would see someone new who would make improvements. We now have a minister for agriculture, a minister for coffee, minister for livestock and a minister for oil palm.
What was one ministry is now four.
This is an important area for our country but will these ministers have enough work?
And does this mean we will have more public servants filling offices in Waigani to support them?
We hope not.
With the massive cost of public service, how will we look to make government more efficient?
These ministers now have this challenge.
We hope they are up to it.
Every new cabinet brings new hope.
We hope that these ministers know what serving the people means.
We hope that they know what to do to actually make a difference.
We hope that in five years our country is better off in the areas they are responsible to improve.
And we hope the Prime Minister doesn’t change his mind every six months and reshuffle ministers.
If a minister isn’t performing, move him out.
But don’t change these ministers for the next five years and we hope we will be better for it.

Hopeful Citizen,
National Capital District (NCD)
Papua New Guinea

Former PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha
Role model for a banana republic
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday September 2, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday August 26, 2022

Re: "Prime Minister pressured over defence role", in Bangkok Post, August 26, 2022.
Many of us who have lived in this country for many years have long ago learned that a sophisticated appreciation of irony is not a characteristic to be found commonly in Thai society.
But, even by the standards of our low expectations, the sycophantic blustering of army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae, heaping praise on Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha for simply obeying the constitution, the law and a court suspension order, as we are all expected to do, is beyond parody.
The object of Gen Narongphan's admiration is a man who perpetrated the military overthrow of a democratically elected government, engineered the abrogation of the then constitution, ruled by dictatorial fiat for many years, presided over the suppression and silencing of legitimate dissent and has failed to honour almost all the promises he made in his preposterous attempts to justify Thailand's umpteenth military coup d'etat back in 2014.
"A gentleman and role model," says Gen Narongphan.
Role model for a banana republic maybe.


Sanctions have not been as effectve
Against Russia as hoped
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday August 21, 2022

Re: "Battlefield decider," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, August 15, 2022 and "Is anyone going to win the Russian embargo game?" in Bangkok Post Opinion, August 13, 2022.
Although I agree with Kuldeep Nagi that we are living in perilous times, I don't clearly see how the Soviet and American invasions and occupations of Afghanistan are relevant to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Afghanistan invasions lasted a matter of days and the remainder of the conflict was an insurgency against occupying forces.
Sanctions did not really play a role. Krugman was pointing out how they have not been as effective as hoped, except in restricting Russia's imports of electronic components needed for their most advanced weaponry.
What is conspicuous in its absence is that Mr Nagi does not express any explicit alternative to the present bellicose state affairs in the Ukraine.
Is he implicitly suggesting that Ukraine submit to Russian domination?
Is he expressing his own personal cri de coeur? Frustration? Not knowing what is to be done?

Bruno Sapeinza,

Taiwan and Hong Kong
Living under the CCP World class vision
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 31, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday August 21, 2022

Re: "China mate," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saturday August 13, 2022.
Fleetingly one hoped ML Sakiri Kridakorn might have something interesting to say about China's global intentions but it didn't take long for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) speak to emerge.
May one ask for a little more detail about the "false rhetoric on Xinjiang genocides?"
My own proposal, admittedly Western hegemony-influenced, would be to ask the citizens of Taiwan, Hong Kong and even Xinjiang, how they feel about living under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) "world class" vision.

Yannawa David,

Call for Papua New Guinea to get rid of Australia's influence
In Papua New Guinea and the Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 30, 2022
Frist published in the National, Wednesday August 24, 2022

The ongoing war in Ukraine, the Taiwan issue and the current geo-political strategies created by the United States, Australia and their allies in countering China’s influence in the Pacific region are quite alarming in a sense that would raise some very serious concerns within the Pacific Islands community.
Pacific Islands countries should by now see the ugly truth that the so-called West which includes Australia, the US and Great Britain are the real evil that we must get rid of.
They are the main instigators of chaos that is currently gripping the world today.
They successfully created their media propaganda machines to justify their actions and disseminate fake news to justify their evil and wicked deeds.
Their ultimate goal is for all countries to submit to their dominion and influence.
Look what they did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Libya.
They have killed thousands of innocent civilians, stolen their wealth, destroyed their economy and literally reduced those countries to a state of poverty where they are now relying on international aid and humanitarian assistance.
Take a look at what these same countries are doing in Ukraine.
They are pumping billions of Dollars’ worth of weapons just to keep the war going so they can get all the gas and oil contracts.
American corporations and financial institutions are conducting a rapid expansion into Europe, using the crisis in Ukraine to their advantage.
They never care about the countless Ukrainian lives lost every day.
All the countries that they set foot in the name of democracy and freedom are now in total chaos, poverty, inflation, debt, etc.
Their next target is Taiwan.
The current situation in Taiwan is developing at a very alarming rate where the possibility of war is inevitable in a couple of months or years.
They will do anything to have a confrontation with China over Taiwan just like what they did in Ukraine.
It will again be at the expense of the lives of the people of Taiwan.
So who do you think is next?
The Pacific, of course.
I guarantee that we will be their next victims, just like in World War 2.
Australia does not care about us – never did and never will.
If they care about us, we would have been better in terms of living standards and robust economy.
If they cared about us, Papua New Guinea would not have any problems getting a visa to travel to Australia.
If cared, the West Papua issue would have been resolved years ago.
We are nothing but a buffer zone to them. Any war with Australia will be fought in PNG, that is a fact.
Papua New Guinea is and will always be Australia’s battlefield, just like in World War 2.
It is time we start thinking of ourselves and our future.
We are in the process of moving from a bipolar to a multipolar world and we must take this opportunity to progress rather than to maintain the status quo.
It is time we look to other major partners like India, China and Russia.
It is time we own our United Nations vote rather than always becoming a kanaka to Australia and US and always vote for their UN resolutions.
It is time we cut ties with the so-called “friends with benefits’’ who never cared for us.
It is time the next government take it seriously and follow the path our Melanesian brothers from the Solomon Islands have done.
I commend and respect the people of the Solomon Islands and their leadership for their bold stance in deciding on their own the path they want to take through their bilateral relations with China.
Australia, the US and the UK have kept us in chains and never did anything to develop the pacific countries for so long and now they are barking like dogs telling us what to do and how to live.
It is time to get rid of Australia’s influence in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific once and for all.
Down with the West.
God bless Papua New Guinea!

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Apec meeting setting agenda
On increasing the regions population
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 August, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 24, 2022

Re: "Low fertility tops 'Smart Families' agenda", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday Augus 23, 2022.
The Apec meeting seems to be setting its agenda on increasing the region's population under the guise of "Smart Families".
A more accurate euphemism might be "Breeding Units" or "Baby Factories".
Now that the world's population has passed 8 billion, with food and other resources stretched and most wild species under threat of extinction due to human encroachment, is it wise to exhort people to have more children to stimulate the economy?
Shouldn't sustainability be at the top of our agenda?

John Hail,

Call for Papua New Guinea to look to
India, China and Russia not Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 28, 2022
First published in the National, Wednesday August 24, 2022

The ongoing war in Ukraine, the Taiwan issue and the current geo-political strategies created by the United States, Australia and their allies in countering China’s influence in the Pacific region are quite alarming in a sense that would raise some very serious concerns within the Pacific Islands community.
Pacific Islands countries should by now see the ugly truth that the so-called West which includes Australia, the US and Great Britain are the real evil that we must get rid of.
They are the main instigators of chaos that is currently gripping the world today.
They successfully created their media propaganda machines to justify their actions and disseminate fake news to justify their evil and wicked deeds.
Their ultimate goal is for all countries to submit to their dominion and influence.
Look what they did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Libya.
They have killed thousands of innocent civilians, stolen their wealth, destroyed their economy and literally reduced those countries to a state of poverty where they are now relying on international aid and humanitarian assistance.
Take a look at what these same countries are doing in Ukraine.
They are pumping billions of Dollars’ worth of weapons just to keep the war going so they can get all the gas and oil contracts.
American corporations and financial institutions are conducting a rapid expansion into Europe, using the crisis in Ukraine to their advantage.
They never care about the countless Ukrainian lives lost every day.
All the countries that they set foot in the name of democracy and freedom are now in total chaos, poverty, inflation, debt, etc.
Their next target is Taiwan.
The current situation in Taiwan is developing at a very alarming rate where the possibility of war is inevitable in a couple of months or years.
They will do anything to have a confrontation with China over Taiwan just like what they did in Ukraine.
It will again be at the expense of the lives of the people of Taiwan.
So who do you think is next?
The Pacific, of course.
I guarantee that we will be their next victims, just like in World War 2.
Australia does not care about us never did and never will.
If they care about us, we would have been better in terms of living standards and robust economy.
If they cared about us, Papua New Guinea would not have any problems getting a visa to travel to Australia.
If cared, the West Papua issue would have been resolved years ago.
We are nothing but a buffer zone to them.
Any war with Australia will be fought in Papua New Guinea, that is a fact.
Papua New Guinea is and will always be Australia’s battlefield, just like in World War 2.
It is time we start thinking of ourselves and our future.
We are in the process of moving from a bipolar to a multipolar world and we must take this opportunity to progress rather than to maintain the status quo.
It is time we look to other major partners like India, China and Russia.
It is time we own our United Nations vote rather than always becoming a kanaka to Australia and US and always vote for their United Nations resolutions.
It is time we cut ties with the so-called “friends with benefits’’ who never cared for us.
It is time the next government take it seriously and follow the path our Melanesian brothers from the Solomon Islands have done.
I commend and respect the people of the Solomon Islands and their leadership for their bold stance in deciding on their own the path they want to take through their bilateral relations with China.
Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have kept us in chains and never did anything to develop the pacific countries for so long and now they are barking like dogs telling us what to do and how to live.
It is time to get rid of Australia’s influence in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific once and for all.
Down with the West.
God bless Papua New Guinea!


Call for Thai Prime Minister
To keep his word
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 27, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 24, 2022

Re: "Prayut: I won't prolong my stay", in Bangkok Post, June 12, 2015 and "Pressure mounts on PM tenure", in Bangkok Post, August 22, 2022.
I'm delighted to hear ex-government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana recently emphasise that "The PM is a man of his word", for in June 2015, "PM Prayut Chan-o-cha reiterated his plan to end his tenure once new elections are held".
He said: "We will do what we can on reforms and hand over the baton after the elections."
PM Prayut, you are a man of your word, your ex-spokesman declared that you were a man of your word seven years ago.
The time's long past due to keeping your promise.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call on Thai PM Prayut to arrest
Red Bull heir in police hit and run
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday August 26, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 17, 2022

Re: "Search to be 'stepped up'", in Bangkok Post, Friday August 12, 2022
I thank Move Forward Party MP Theerachai Panthumas for following up on the government's "pursuit" of Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhaya, the Red Bull scion on the run to avoid prosecution in a 2012 hit-and-run case.
The Move Forward Party seems to be the only one interested in bringing this accused cop-killer to justice.
In April 2017, despite the RTP's inability to locate the fugitive, the Associated Press found him in front of his London apartment but the RTP failed to have him held for extradition.
In March 2018, Interpol mysteriously pulled its Red Notice for Boss from its website.
It could have been removed if Thailand withdrew its request for his arrest which the RTP denies doing. PM Prayut grabbed power eight years ago promising top-to-bottom reform, including of the police. There's no better time to start than now.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for corruption in Thailand
To be reported to the media
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 25, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday August 2, 2022

Re: "Tragedy, farce in Mountain B saga," in Bangkk Post, Opinion, Monday August 15, 2022.
We Thais give lip service to fighting corruption, and wait for a "white knight", a "khon dee", to lead us out of this morass. But there's no white knight. For example, Prime Minister Prayut grabbed power eight long years ago, saying that we desperately needed reform and claiming to be "The One" we needed.
But now his own administration is nose-deep in corruption.
To rid us of the rampant corruption which steals from each of us, you and I must be more politically aware, and active.
Report corruption to the media.
When a corrupt politician appears in public, turn your back on him.
Sign petitions posted on Keep asking Prayut when he's going to release ex-NACC commissioner Vicha Mahakun's report on corruption in the police and public prosecutor's office.

Burin Kantabutra.

Mismatch between state claim and actuality
Is phenomenon recognised across Asia-Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 24, 2022

The article ‘ Indonesian Corruption Watch rejects President Widodo claim corruption eradication is government priority ‘ in The Southeast Asian Times August 22 is very illuminating .
It tells us how conscientious citizens contest and guard against State falsehoods.
Indonesian Corruption Watch ( ICW ) researcher, Kurnia Ramadhana, said “ the president is trying his very best to cover up the government’s rotten track record by saying that the eradication of corruption continues to be its main priority” but “ the facts are the exact opposite . Ramadhana tells us “ the claim made by the head of state is the complete opposite of reality.
Corruption eradication has been increasingly sidelined, even brought down completely during the era of President Joko Widodo’s leadership “ ( see the article for details ).
This mismatch between what State leaders claim and the actual ground reality is a phenomenon people readily recognise right across the Asia-Pacific region.
It’s said eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and the protection and integrity of the open society.
That’s precisely what the Indonesian Corruption Watch ( ICW) does by exposing the falsehood of President Widodo’s claim regarding corruption eradication in the country.
Others in the region should draw inspiration from the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW’s) bold example.

Rajend Naidu,



90 percent of Filipino children
Are unable to read at age 10
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 23, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday August 16, 2022

The banning of “subversive” and “anti-government” books by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is a shortsighted and arrogant move.
The World Bank recently reported that learning poverty in the country is at 90 percent; meaning, 90 percent of Filipino children are unable to read by age 10. Those in the field of education, including the academics within KWF, should be more alarmed by this, rather than the production of books that may not be congruent to their taste or thinking.
Now is an opportune time to recall the events in the late 1900s as we are about to celebrate National Heroes’ Day.
Back then, those who questioned or did not comply with the demands of government authorities were tortured, imsprisoned, and/or killed. Some were dispossessed of their properties and many, of their kins. These demands included the personal desires of those in power.
Suppressive measures taken by the government included the ban on the distribution of novels by Jose Rizal, which portrayed the plight of ordinary people in an unjust society.
It also banned the works of the other propagandists, which exposed the greed of those in power, corruption of government officials, and how it keeps the country in its moribund state.
Indeed, these censored readings enlightened the locals about their realities. However, the 1896 revolution led by Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan was not waged because people read the banned materials. The people joined and supported the armed revolution because of the objective conditions in the sociopolitical and economic realm of the country and the people.

Julie L. Po,

Who is the Royal Thailand Air Force
Preparing to fight
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 22, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday August 11, 2022

Re: "Air force insists on jet cash", in Bangkok Post, Monday August 1, 2022
The RTAF insists we include two F-35A fighters as part of replacing three decommissioned fleets.
Yes, "If you want peace, prepare for war" but who should we prepare to fight? As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, "Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing."
Who would we be facing?
Our forces should be arrayed in relation to those opposing us.
What is our long-term defence strategy?
All of our major military purchases should fit into that strategy but do we have one, or are we again muddling through?
I suggest that over the next decade our most likely flashpoint of armed conflict will not be with our adjacent neighbours, like Myanmar or Malaysia, but with southern terrorists and smugglers, including human traffickers.
If so, F-35As may not be as effective as slower-flying aircraft and drones.
In the region, the most dangerous flashpoint is the conflict between China and Taiwan.
If push comes to shove, who will we stand with: China or Taiwan?
If the former, why buy US arms, as the US will side with Taiwan?
If the latter, why are we buying Chinese subs?
First things first, RTAF. Who are we preparing to fight?

Burin Kantabutra,

Manila can never make it to the top 100
Most livable cities in the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 21, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday August 17, 2022

The alternative title to this piece is “Manila is dead,” and I mean that in ways stated below.
Many capitals and major cities in the world started as settlements along riverbanks or outlets to the sea. In the olden times, this meant access to water for drinking, to fish in, as a means of disposal, and a means of transport.
It was by far the most convenient and easiest way for populations to grow and flourish, to trade and thrive.
Fast forward a thousand years, and we see the phenomenon of crowded urban centers with heavily polluted and silted waterways that pose health risks and no longer serve their ancient primary purposes.
Manila, or rather Metro Manila, is a historical anomaly born from as recent as the creation of cities around and beyond the grand plan of Manila.
We now have 16 cities and one municipality covering a relatively small area of 620 square kilometers for an estimated 15 million people.
These 17 unique local government units (LGUs) have become the root of many of the country’s systemic ills for several reasons. By extension, this also infects the rest of the country’s local government units (LGUs).
For one, there is extreme fragmentation of political organizations trapped in the same time and space, but which are forced to operate along artificial borders that are not rational. Moreover, there is a lack of scale for a cosmopolitan area of such political, economic, social, and cultural significance.
A case in point is the differentiated 17-color/number/imagined traffic scheme that drivers in Metro Manila must know by heart lest they be ensnared by 17 differently uniformed traffic personnel.
Woe to the delivery van driver who overlooks a particular number coding scheme in a specific area! Two, this brings us to a very ugly capital that can never make it to the top 100 most livable cities in the world.
Manila was recently ranked the 34th best city in the world for 2022, according to the results of the Time Out Index 2022. The index quizzed 20,000 city dwellers worldwide.—Ed.
Look around and see the rainbow of colors that is usually the choice of the winning mayor and the winning congressional representative.
Every election season, there is a new effort to impose a different color scheme on public facilities a waste of scarce paint and labor that could have gone to more meaningful, rather than just cosmetic, projects.
Enter the road signs and symbols that result in confusion and “kotong” (extortion, usually by cops) in the asphalt jungle.
There is an internationally designed and adopted system that is utterly disregarded, which makes commuting a challenge and more stressful for locals and tourists alike.
Three, there’s the limited three-year timeline for any well-meaning local chief executive to get anything of substance done. Never mind the nonperforming ones.
In 2022 and in a post-pandemic world, the biggest announcement from the Metro Manila Development Authority is that a U-turn along Edsa is to be closed or kept open. And how is the bus rapid transport system expected to work on Edsa, which does not have a consistent number of lanes throughout its stretch? The subway is just too expensive, given the porous underground on which Metro Manila sits, or is sinking into.
It is time to move the capital. Our neighbors have done so: Myanmar moved its capital politically from Yangon to Naypyidaw, a more central location from which to govern, and to get away from the constraints of the old city. Then, there’s the transfer of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, to its new location an island and a strait away to Nusantara, far from the mouth of the Jakarta River with its worsening floods and congestion paralleled only by Bangkok and, of course, Manila.
In archipelagic terms, Indonesia is much more challenging.
The number of indigenous peoples and varied dialects and languages across many islands with more than one-time zone makes pinpointing the location of a new capital interesting, to say the least. But Indonesians were able to do it, and their new capital is now rising as a smart eco-city surrounded by a forest, even as we in Metro Manila look up to a tangle of electrical, telephone, and cable wires, and look down on potholes and constant diggings. Can we Filipinos do less than our Asean peers?
Let the search for a new capital begin with the country’s leadership—starting with the 17 mayors of Metro Manila raising the banner of the dreams, visions, and aspirations of 111 million Filipinos to save a dying metropolis.

Geronimo L. Sy,

Amnesty International has rightly caused
International outrage for criticising Ukrainian forces
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 20, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 17, 2022

Re: "Amnesty's impartiality plays to Russia's advantage", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Friday August 12, 2022.
Amnesty International has rightly caused huge international outrage for criticising Ukrainian forces for "endangering civilians by launching counter attacks from populated areas near schools and hospitals".
Has Amnesty lost all sense of reality?
One of the first things the Ukrainians do when they are being bombarded by Putin's forces, is to instruct the population to leave.
We have seen countless times buses ferrying civilians from danger zones.
Ukrainian anti-aircraft/missile systems need to be installed in cities to protect them from the Russian onslaught.
If Ukrainian forces were only based outside urban settlements, Mr Putin's forces would simply sweep in unopposed.
Ukrainian forces need to be situated in the towns and cities they are asked to defend, rather than some piece of adjacent woodland where they can be bypassed.
A truly huge boost for Mr Putin and his army of internet propagandists.
He bombed hospitals in the Syrian conflict, where Russian forces would even target rescue workers who rushed to help patients in bombed hospitals with a secondary bombing campaign.
This is just a massive green light to Mr Putin to indiscriminately bomb hospitals and laugh at Western outrage, by saying well Amnesty told us they had troops.


Aung San Sui Kyi's trial and imprisonment
Is political persecution pure and simple
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday August 19, 2022

Aung San Sui Kyi ‘s trial and imprisonment is political persecution pure and simple. No two ways about it.
Aung San Sui Kyi sentenced to a further six years in prison by Myanmar’s armed forces military court ( Southeast Asian Times 17 August, 2022 ).
Is any body anywhere surprised by it?
That was expected from day one after the power grab by the Myanmar military. The trial by the kangaroo court under the political sway of the rogue rulers of Myanmar is just a farcical sideshow.
It was always the intention of the power grabbers to put the iconic pro-democracy leader the Nobel Laureate Aung San Sui Kyi away for good so that she no longer posed a threat to their hold on power.
The inaction by the international community only emboldened them to go ahead with their intended Machiavellian plan.
What a shame! A respected leader of the Myanmar people who won the right to govern following her party’s convincing election victory is put away in jail and the international community watches this gross injustice as impotent bystanders.
Shame, shame, shame!

Rajend Naidu,

Malaysia Federal Court rules road accidents victims
To be automatically compensated
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 18, 2022
First published in the Star, Thursday August 11, 2022

I was totally surprised by the recent Malaysia Federal Court ruling that road accident victims should be automatically compensated without having to sue insurance companies, as published in a news portal on August 9.
The landmark ruling was delivered last week in a 140-page judgment that allowed appeals by eight different motorists, seven of whom were injured in crashes.
Insurance coverage and compensation is one of the topics in the Travel and Tours Enhancement Course (TTEC) module “Preparing for future shocks”, which is compulsory for travel and tour operators to attend if they intend to renew their company licence.
Industry players ought to be well-versed in motor insurance as their customers travel in tour buses, vans or cars.
Many operate their own fleet of tour vehicles, while others also offer cars for rent.
But many are clueless about vehicle insurance, particularly the terms and conditions stipulated in the policy.
I once challenged a major operator, who has been providing tour bus services for more than three decades, to name the insurance cover for passengers.
When he named legal liability to passenger (LLTP), I pointed out that this covers the driver’s liability, not the passengers.
In this case, injured passengers could only expect the insurance company to compensate for medical expenses, loss of income and other claims if the driver was found to be at fault.
Unlike personal accident insurance, which covers a specific sum for loss of life, limb, disablement and limited medical expenses caused by accidents without having to establish who was responsible, the legal liability to passenger (LLTP) kicks in only when the driver was at fault.
When it comes to claims for loss of income, the amount varies greatly, depending on the potential earnings of each victim until he/she reaches retirement age.
Hence, I was bewildered by the decision of the court that road accident victims should be automatically compensated by insurance companies.
It is not the practice of insurance companies to pay out more than necessary or hurriedly, particularly in accidents where the victims may be at fault.
Therefore, victims would have to sue and file a claim for the amount sought although it usually takes several years for a court to finally award compensation, compelling insurance companies to pay.
But insurance companies could appeal to a higher court, and some have successfully done so in the past.
But after this landmark decision, accident victims are more likely to be compensated even though some of the terms and conditions may be breached.
I certainly hope the legal fraternity, insurance companies or the General Insurance Association of Malaysia could clear the air for me and other interested members of the public.

YS Chan,
Kuala Lumpur,

Fire at pub in Pattaya
Result of rampant corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday August 11, 2022

Re: "Don't skimp on pub safety", in Bangkok Post, Saturday August 6, 2022
Having lived in Thailand for almost 30 years now, based in Pattaya for the
last four, the latest fire at Mountain B pub in the province is, in my opinion, once again the result of rampant corruption by the authorities.
When I see discotheques in Walking Street, some accommodating 500
guests per night, one I know of with an entrance "tunnel" hardly two
metres wide, a disaster is looming.
In case of an accident, everyone would storm towards this entrance, the main fire exit probably 35m on the other end. I suspect such places are only able to operate, as someone in the administration (or many) is, "on the take", to let them operate under such hazardous conditions.
If I am correct, the law now would require them to close at 2am.
Most of them don't close before 5am.
Very popular ones outside of this area operate until 8am.
Guests at the wee hours are heavily intoxicated and are hardly able to move in disaster conditions.


83 Bangkok pubs closed
For not meeting safety standards
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 16, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday August 11, 2022

Re: "83 city pubs closed as fire toll hits 15", in Bangkok Post, August 7, 2022
To give credit where credit is due, my heartiest congratulations to Bangkok mayor Chadchart for rapidly working with local city police and temporarily closing 83 of the city's 400 pubs which didn't meet safety standards.
That's light years better than the normal government knee-jerk of giving orders for inspection, etc, but not informing us of results.
But what do Chadchart's closures mean?
Do those left open comply with all safety standards, including building codes, usage of fire-retardant materials, fire control systems, insurance coverage, etc?
If not, when will they fully comply?
How will patrons know which pubs are in full compliance and which are not?
Pol Maj Gen Atthasit Kitchalan, chief of Chon Buri police, is also to be
praised for quickly transferring senior cops pending investigation of why
Mountain B could operate without proper licences.
But were the moves just to move rogue cops out of the public eye?
For example, were any cops moved after the 2009 Santika pub fire, where 66 died, found guilty?
Why weren't effective steps taken to prevent a recurrence, like what happened
at Mountain B?
The Interior Ministry ordered provincial governors to regularly inspect
pubs and related businesses and report back monthly.
Given that the Bangkok Metrololitan Administration (BMA) inspected 400 pubs over the weekend, why the delay in reporting how safe the provincial pubs are?

Burin Kantabutra,

Call to prepare Philipines young for peacebuilding
Not war like preparations via military
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 15, 2022
First pblished Philippine Inquirer, August 8, 2022

It is disturbing that one of the priorities of the new administration is the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and National Service Training Program (NSTP).
It rationalizes that the intention is to train the young for national defense, including disaster preparedness.
Loving our country and defending its sovereignty are both necessary and important. But is it not better to prepare our young for peacebuilding than conditioning them to warlike preparations via military methods?
The best defense we can secure for our country is to have healthy people: well-fed, well-housed, and well-educated. We must build a society where the dignity of work has a place in every heart of the populace, and where a living wage is provided to all workers.
If people are provided with social and basic services, they will pay these services back to our country and people.
Prepare our youth to love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
The state should provide opportunities and conditions that would enable the youth to respect others and defend democracy.
They must be equipped with rationality and good governance-driven articulation for fighting corruption.
If the government wants the citizens to be prepared in times of disaster, the best solution it can provide is to reduce vulnerability and increase the capacity of the people.
Sound policies that are science-based, compassionate, humane, and pro-people must be imposed.
The program must include care for the environment and repeal laws that become instruments of nature’s destruction.
We only need to provide a sound economic system as a framework of social justice to prepare ourselves for disaster.
The government must address the issue of climate change by reducing its impact on communities.
Foremost, it must review corporate and business practices that plunder our natural resources for massive profit, leaving our natural resources in desolate condition.
Our youth must be oriented on studying history and society, including the roots of armed conflict.
Our primary goal must be geared toward peacebuilding based on justice.
It is fundamental for our youth to learn the ways of justice and unlearn the ways of quick-and-easy–solutions to our problems.
We must aim to nourish our youth’s patience and objectivity when it comes to addressing the roots of conflict.
The state must provide opportunities and conditions that would help them serve the people and love our country. A good government can serve as a good example, so the people’s loyalty is assured in the defense of our territories and sovereignty.
Repeat: Let us prepare our youth for peace based on justice and disabuse them of unjust war mentalities.

Norma P. Dollaga,


Papua New Guinea election related
Court cases piling up
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 14, 2022
First published in the National, Monday August 8, 2022

Papua New Guinea just experienced an election like no other.
Democracy was not upheld nor was there respect for the laws that hold this nation together.
All in the name of power, people were killed, properties were destroyed and so many other election-related incidents were happening nationwide.
And now as we near the end, election-related court cases are now piling in.
As such, it would be sensible for court cases related to the election are published and made public.
No-one is above the law and a publication of the list of election-related court cases would be welcome.
This information, if made public, would relieve tension and the fear gripping people who are affected.

Affected Voter,
Papua New Guinea

All right thinking Australians agree with
Recognition of First Nation people in constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 13, 2022

Australia's new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese conceptualised it so succinctly when he said the recognition of the First Nation people in the constitution and giving them a voice in parliament would overcome “ the tyranny of powerlessness “ that they have historically felt.
All right thinking Australians would agree with that.

Rajend Naidu,

Nuclear has been in global decline
Longer than coal
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday August 12, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday August 5, 2022

Ms. Moira Gallaga’s letter extolling nuclear energy “Going nuclear: A sensible and practical option for the Philippines,” July 29, 2022 failed to provide any data to support her unrealistic claims.
Nuclear is neither sensible nor practical for any country even more so for the Philippines.
Nuclear power is not a climate solution.
A study in 2021 shows that the contribution of nuclear power to mitigate climate change remains and is projected to be very limited.
Current nuclear plans would only avoid at most 2-3 percent of global emissions, and this contribution is seen to decrease further by 2040.
In contrast, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the world’s foremost authority on climate science says that wind and solar power can potentially deliver over 33 percent of the total emissions reductions necessary by 2030.
Nuclear will not give us energy security and will not provide adequate and reliable power for the Philippines.
Nuclear proponents consistently fail to mention the fact that the Philippines does not produce nuclear fuel.
We will still be subject to global supply shortages and price fluctuations of nuclear fuel and at a worse scale than coal, since only four companies in the world manufacture nuclear fuel.
Nuclear power’s inflexibility has also been cited by experts as incompatible with the Philippines’ energy profile, and will be even more incompatible as the country ramps up its renewable energy (RE) portfolio.
Nuclear power will not lower electricity prices for consumers.
In fact, it is the most expensive way to produce electricity.
Among all types of power plants, it is the most expensive to build and maintain. Slovakia’s Mochovce 3 and 4 nuclear power plants, at 470 megawatts each, cost a whopping 5.4 billion euros (or around P288 billion).
Meanwhile, the International Energy Association found that in 2020, renewables, particularly solar, were the world’s cheapest energy source.
The price of nuclear energy becomes even more unimaginably expensive when you include the costs for radioactive spent fuel storage, as well as nuclear accidents. The cost of clean up for Fukushima is estimated at 21.5 trillion yen (or around P9 trillion).
The recent earthquakes in Abra and Ilocos provinces, and the scale of destruction caused, should make nuclear proponents rethink what they are peddling.
If those provinces had nuclear plants, imagine how much worse the situation would have been given the lax regulatory culture in the Philippines where building construction is not adequately monitored, and where we can’t even effectively monitor air pollution from coal plants.
Nuclear is a sunset industry and has been in global decline longer than coal.
It is unfortunate and outrageous how the industry continues to find willing proponents in the Philippines who would put fanatical claims over fact, at the expense of climate action and human safety. The era of nuclear power is long gone, and RE is answering the call of the times.
The Philippine government should disassociate itself from all these false nuclear myths and carve out a safer, better path with renewables.

Khevin Yu,
Energy transition campaigner,
Greenpeace Philippines,

Who will Thailand stand with
China or Taiwan
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday August 8, 2022

Re: "Air force insists on jet cash", in Bangkok Post, Monday August 1, 2022.
The Royal Thailand Air Force (RTAF) insists we include two F-35A fighters as part of replacing three decommissioned fleets.
Yes, "If you want peace, prepare for war" (Latin adage) but who should we
prepare to fight?
As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, "Water shapes its course
according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing."

Who would we be facing?
Our forces should be arrayed in relation to those opposing us.
What is our long-term defence strategy?
All of our major military purchases should fit into that strategy but do we have one, or are we again muddling through?
I suggest that over the next decade our most likely flashpoint of armed conflict
will not be with our adjacent neighbours, like Myanmar or Malaysia, but with
southern terrorists and smugglers, including human traffickers.
If so, F-35As may not be as effective as slower-flying aircraft and drones.
In the region, the most dangerous flashpoint is the conflict between China and
If push comes to shove, who will we stand with: China or Taiwan?
If the former, why buy US arms, as the US will side with Taiwan?
If the latter, why are we buying Chinese subs?
First things first, Royal Thailand Air Force (RTAF).
Who are we preparing to fight?

Burin Kantabutra,

Support for Cardinal Sir John Ribat statement
General Election 2022 worst in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 10, 2022
First published in the National, Monday August 8, 2022

I support the statement by Cardinal Sir John Ribat that the General Election 2022 (GE22) is the worst election ever in Papua New Guinea.
And the blame should be laid squarely on whoever was in charge of GE22 preparations.
The Electoral Commission had almost three years to plan the implementation of GE22.
However, it takes money to run this national activity.
The futile effort to update the common roll (wards, local level governments, districts and provinces) was a ridiculous political statement.
Not all wards were covered and even for those that were covered, not every citizen was enrolled.
This showed the incompetency of those in charge.
Papua New Guinea must ask itself how most current Members of Parliament (MPs) were re-elected.
This election is marred with allegations of corruption, bribery, ballot box tampering, intimidation and other factors.
The country should not be blind by political propaganda and gimmicks.
Losing candidates are resorting to violence because something has forced them to act in this manner.
The security forces are alleged to be on the payroll of sitting MPs, EC officials (returning officers and assistant returning officers) are ardent supporters of sitting MPs and the court system is influenced by the Government.
Therefore, we can summarise that losing candidates are acting in this way because they and the people are feeling suppressed and have no where to facilitate their grievances.
This frustration may have compelled them to take the law into their own hands.
I do not support violence but I’m just pointing out a probable cause.
We have to reflect on economic facts to substantiate the performances of prime ministers.
Performances of the prime minister should be analysed through economic indicators such as the foreign exchange rate, import-export ratio, employment rate, inflation rate and the external balance deficit.
We must not be blindsided by political propaganda.
For the last three years, the FX rate is on a continuous decline, employment rate is at an all-time low and inflation is on the rise.
We, the ordinary citizens, are feeling the pinch.
Inflation will occur when we have external balance deficits.
When imports are more than exports, then we have more outflows of money and less inflows of money.
This will stimulate the increase in domestic prices of goods and services.
This is happening now.
Papua New Guinea , therefore, urgently needs someone like the late Sir Mekere Morauta to bail us out of this economic turmoil.

Charlie Ben,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call to put in place regulatory framework to ensure
Safety and security in use of nuclear energy in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 9, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday July 28, 2022

Energy is a vital resource of any country.
Just as the human body needs the energy to function and get things done, it is essential in the functioning and growth of the country’s economy.
Its reliability, accessibility, and sufficiency can have direct effects on one’s quality of life.
The pressing need to address climate change and meet commitments made to reduce our carbon footprint, the war in Ukraine, and the pandemic, among other factors affecting the global economy, have all combined to create a multitude of issues, such as inflation and high gas prices, that have made life quite difficult for ordinary folk.
It also bears mentioning that even before the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, energy prices in the Philippines were already among the highest in the region.
In view of the multifaceted challenges faced by the Philippine energy sector, adding nuclear power to the country’s energy mix is a sensible and practical option. Nuclear energy provides a solution to meet commitments to reduce carbon emissions, as well as adequate and reliable power for development needs.
It also lowers electricity prices for consumers and enhances the country’s energy security by reducing its reliance on third parties and external factors.
In his first State of the Nation Address this week, President Marcos Jr. cited the need to reexamine the country’s strategy for utilizing nuclear power and adding it to the mix of energy sources needed to spur economic development while adhering to climate change commitments.
He also assured the International Atomic Energy Agency that the Philippines will observe pertinent regulations for the safe and secure use of nuclear energy.
With the President’s pronouncement, going nuclear is now definitely part of our country’s energy policy.
As for implementation, Executive Order No. 164 signed by former president Duterte can be viewed as a starting point, as it provides a national policy position from which the strategy of building nuclear power plants can be reexamined by relevant agencies.
There will be other key steps necessary to move forward with this policy, such as establishing an independent regulatory body, ratifying key global nuclear safety and security conventions and treaties, and passing legislation to update nuclear regulatory laws.
This means that the participation and support of both houses of Congress will be crucial.
The involvement of the legislative branch of government in this process will provide ample opportunity to put into place a robust legal and regulatory framework to ensure safety and security in the use of nuclear energy.
Given there will be resistance to the use of nuclear power from some sectors of society, the legislative arena provides ample opportunity for robust debate on the issue.
Mr. Marcos has yet to appoint an energy secretary, but whoever gets entrusted with that role will be crucial in putting everything together to enable the country to reap the benefits of nuclear energy.
This person should be able to work closely with other key agencies such as the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Trade and Industry, and Science and Technology. Hopefully, the right person would soon be chosen for the job.
This is an opportunity to get things done right for the benefit of all.
The success of advanced economies may be traced in part to their use of nuclear energy.
The Philippines is no longer a Third World country and is now a fast-rising, dynamic economy on the verge of achieving upper-middle income status. Let’s not fail to seize the moment.

Moira G. Gallaga,

Call for Philippines legislators to pass
Poverty Reduction Through Social Entrepreneurship bill
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 8, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday July 28, 2022

We are calling on legislators to prioritize the passage of the Poverty Reduction Through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) bill to help more Filipinos recover faster from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The present Coalition, which is supported by Oxfam Pilipinas through the “Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South-East Asia” program, said the proposed policy measure aims to promote social entrepreneurship as a strategy for poverty reduction.
If passed, it will enable the creation and strengthening of social enterprises as transformational partners of the poor and marginalized.
Despite the comprehensive assistance given by social enterprises to the communities that they serve from training and jobs creation to entrepreneurship support and market intermediation they still face many challenges with the current policy environment.
In Mindanao, for example, the social enterprise Coffee for Peace has helped farmers, many of them from indigenous groups, develop high-quality coffee (through local innovations) that are not only export quality but have also gained a local following.
Through such intervention, more local farmers have entered entrepreneurship and are now sought after by different markets.
Before the previous Congress ended, the Senate committee on trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship had already directed the creation of a technical working group to reconcile the various versions of the proposed bill filed in the Senate.
A study by the Philippine Social Enterprise Network and the British Council, supported by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, showed that there were around 164,000 social enterprises more than 15 percent of all businesses in the country before the pandemic.
In 2020, a succeeding study by the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia showed that 55 percent of social enterprises experienced major downturns; 41 percent experienced some setbacks, and only 4 percent reported any positive impact.
Besides urging the deliberation of the social entrepreneurship bill in Congress, the PRESENT Coalition will also be working with the executive branch to mainstream provisions of the bill in government programs, even while the bill is being deliberated in Congress and local government units to develop localized social enterprise programs to assist the sector recover and build back fairer.

Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship Coalition,

Career of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Ended by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force member
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 7, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday July 26, 2022

When Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe was recently assassinated, world leaders were quick to laud him as a great statesman, echoing Japanese conservative and right-wing parties.
Indeed, Abe tried to revive Japanese militarism and “to make Japan great again,” starting with “Abenomics” to revitalize the Japanese economy.
But in doing so, Abe tried to distort his nation’s imperialist history by denying the atrocities committed by militarists against other countries.
Thus, he is also remembered for his historical denialism, in his controversial actions, policies, writing, and speeches that refused to acknowledge Japanese atrocities during World War II.
Since the end of World War II, a defeated Japan made amends to its former occupied nations in Asia through reparations, and various Japanese administrations have officially apologized for the horrific atrocities not just against captured soldiers as in the Bataan Death March, but especially against the millions of civilians in Japanese-occupied territories in China and Southeast Asia.
Who can forget the 1937 Nanjing Massacre as documented by Iris Chang’s “Rape of Nanking,” or Japan’s bloody “Rampage in Manila,’’ as described by American historian James Scott.
In both instances, hundreds of thousands of Chinese residents in Nanjing and Manila were massacred mercilessly including infants, while tens of thousands of women were raped.
Despite his own party’s official apology to all World War II victims in its 1993 Kono Statement, Abe as prime minister tried to whitewash these atrocities which he labeled as “fabrications.”
Instead, he attempted to portray an era of a glorious imperial past under the wartime emperor of Japan.
To us Filipinos, this already sounds all too familiar.
First, he made an effort to pressure textbook publishers in Japan to remove passages about Japanese army atrocities in China, Korea, and other parts of Asia during World War II.
As soon as he became a politician, he tried to exonerate the name of his maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who was imprisoned as a Class-A war criminal by American forces for three years, but who would later even become a post-war prime minister.
Rewriting Japanese history with a legacy of a glorious past was a means for him to allow Japan to remilitarize and take offensive military action abroad.
His highly publicized visit to the Yasukuni Shrine cemetery for war criminals was an attempt to exonerate them and cleanse Japanese historical atrocities, an act to deny that they ever happened.
Thus, he tried but failed to revise Article 9 of the Japanese constitution that would have remilitarized Japan, a move strongly resisted by the Japanese people.
Second, Abe’s denial of Japan’s World War II record included his refusal to acknowledge the existence of sex slavery the “comfort women” system by the Japanese army in occupied countries despite archival evidence by Japanese, American, and Asian scholars.
As a result, the Japanese government even put pressure on the Philippines so that a comfort woman statue put up in their memory was removed in Manila under the guise of a public works project.
Third, wanting to taunt China, Abe posed in a vintage fighter plane with numbers “731,” the notorious secret unit of the Japanese imperial army in Manchuria that conducted lethal chemical and biological warfare experiments on mostly Chinese and Russian prisoners.
The 731 ringleaders were later pardoned and absorbed in the US’ own postwar chemical and biological weapons program.
Japan’s wartime actions and atrocities are historical facts and justly demand atonement and historical accountability.
They cannot be denied or glamorized. They cannot be forgotten in the name of anti-communism as when Japanese war criminals were pardoned after show trials by the US.
This issue still divides Japan, but it also affects its foreign relations as it antagonizes its neighbors who were victims of Japan’s militaristic past.
Abe is credited for his Indo-Pacific strategy with the United States, Australia, and India, which committed Japan to a more aggressive role in the united front against China.
The irony of it all is that, even though he tried to remilitarize Japanese foreign policy, his career as a modern leader of Japan was ended by an ex-member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Roland Simbulan,
Vice chair,
Center for People Empowerment in Governance,

Internet banking facilties in Thailand
For Thai's only
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 6, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday August 1, 2022

Re: "Not well saved," in PostBag, Saturday July 30, 2022.
In a letter to the Bangkok Post, Peter Jeffreys wrote about his experience with the Government Savings Bank.
After opening his account, he was told that internet banking facilities are for Thais only and are not allowed for foreign account holders.
Soon, PayPal Thailand will exclude all foreign account holders as well. This is a worrying trend and seems unfair to all the expats who live here for decades on proper visas and contribute to the economy.
What is next? Will we be excluded from all forms of electronic payments and ATM machines as well?
As Peter Jeffreys asked: What are they afraid of?


Has thermal energy potential.
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 4, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday July 29, 2022

Re: "Governor sows seeds for a green future", in Bangkok Post, Monday July 11, 2022.
A research group at Stanford University, California, USA did a recent study of data from 145 countries.
It found that 7 million people currently die annually from air pollution-related issues. They found that overall energy demands go down by 56 percent with all-electric systems powered by clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind and thermal. Note: Thailand has thermal energy potential.
Are there any hot springs in your region?
If so, that's indicative of thermal.
A switch from polluting fossil fuels to clean/renewable energy reduces the cost per unit of energy by 12 percent on average over fossils.
It wouldn't be cheap.
The study found that the overall upfront cost to replace all energy in the 145 countries, which emit 99.7 percent of world's smog, would be about $62 trillion. However, due to the $11 trillion annual energy cost savings, the payback time for the new system would be less than six years.
The new system could also create roughly 28 million more long-term, full-time jobs than jobs lost, worldwide.
Imagine you have a house with a leaky roof or an overflowing cesspool.
Of course it would cost a bundle to fix such major problems, but sometimes, one needs to make a large investment in order to save much more dollars or baht, in the long run.
What's more valuable than a clean and healthy environment and lifestyle?
It's more conducive to spirituality, also.
Which would you rather see: monks meditating in smog-filled temples or monks meditating in gardens with clean air?

Ken Albertsen,

Geopolitics in the South China Sea
By marker pen
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 4, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday August 1, 2022

Re: "US carrier strike group returns to South China Sea," in Bangkok Post, July 29, 2022
For 500 years, from 1350 until 1850, maps of the world became more detailed, as more areas were "discovered".
Nearly all those world map improvements were drawn by European explorers.
Granted, there was the great Chinese admiral He, who purportedly explored as far as the upper-east-African coast. Yet as far as we know, Admiral He didn't leave any maps of his "discoveries."
However, a rare Chinese map of the world survives from the 16th century.
It was drawn by a Chinese person, with the able assistance of a Portuguese mariner.
The framed map, with its Chinese lettering, hangs in a museum in Milan, Italy.
It is the first known/extant world map drawn by an Asian.
Oddly, the map does not show any Philippine islands.
That region, on the Chinese map, is shown as empty sea.
One would think that a Chinese map of the world would show large islands which are not far from China itself.
This is further proof of how the contemporary "Nine Dash Line" map is questionable too.
A Chinese man, in the late 1940s, took a marker pen or brush and drew nine dashes around a sea in Southeast Asia, shown on a contemporary map - and declared all that territory as belonging to China.
It brings to mind how ex-president Donald Trump used a fat marker pen to draw a big loop on a map - signifying the route of a hurricane - despite no one at the US National Weather Service concurring.
Geopolitics by marker pen. Perhaps I'll get a paper map and draw a thick black line around it, and claim it as mine.
Wow, that would be a quick and easy way to gain real estate.

Ken Albertsen,

What Thailand needs is not short-term foreign capital
But long-term investment
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 3, 2022
First published in Bangkok Post, Monday August 1, 2022

Re: "Foreign ownership conundrum", Bangkok Post, July 29, 2022.
The responses to the Interior Ministry's proposal to let foreigners own one rai of land if they invest 40 million baht in Thailand reveal there are more important factors to consider than just land ownership.
Most important is the proposed solution doesn't address the problem.
Nipon Poapongsakorn of the Thailand Development Research Institute suggests foreigners would buy land mainly for short-term gain, yet "What Thailand needs ... is not short-term foreign capital, but long-term investment, startups, and service development to support the country's development in the long run."
Our competitors, like Vietnam, have comprehensive incentive packages, whereas we don't.
As Mr Nipon noted, "Our Eastern Economic Corridor scheme is the only selling point to draw Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), unlike Vietnam which boasts much clearer investment stimulus strategies and promotes overseas investment in several areas nationwide."
Lastly, he notes that our costs of doing business are higher and our provinces lack infrastructure.
Thailand needs a holistic approach with clear objectives.

Burin Kantabutra.

Obviously political if Philippine President
Sugarcoated the real state of the nation
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 2, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday July 28, 2022

There are two parts in a speech: what was said, and what was not.
The first State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Marcos Jr. took a detailed and provocative look at the ills of our society.
It was peppered with complex policy points which, I fear, may be beyond the comprehension of the average Filipino.
I cannot, however, blame the President, who himself, as claimed, prepared a complex speech simply because our problems are complex as well.
It would be “obviously political” if the President had sugarcoated the real state of our nation.
The speech was, indeed, meticulously prepared, like strong black coffee with no pretentious additives.
Beyond the complexity of the speech are stuff that were not said.
There may be reasons for this omission, and they may be deliberate or unintentional.
In any case, things unsaid in this week’s Sona may be considered uncomfortable truths that, when mentioned, would make the state of the nation unsound.
Allow me to mention a few:
Amendment of Republic Act No. 7160 known as the Local Government Code of 1991, to meet the challenging roles of local officials during the COVID-19 pandemic;
Effective and coordinated policies against graft and corruption;
Job security and putting an end to contractualization;
Better pay for teachers;
Solving drug use and addiction;
Poverty alleviation, and;
Addressing transportation and traffic issues.
Be that as it may, the President’s Staten of the Union Address (Sona) was well-written and well-delivered with a strong content.
I hope all the policies and strategies he mentioned are doable to ensure better living conditions in our country.
Let us help the President get things done. It is time to deliver.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,

What's happening in Sri Lanka and Pakistan
Is no different from what's happening in ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday July 29, 2022

Re: "No more money politics", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Tuesday July 26, 2022.
This timely editorial about dirty money in Thai politics can't be taken lightly.
The role of money in politics is on the rise in every system of governance.
Fund-raising machines are diluting democracy; elections are dominated by fake news, and the media blitz costing millions.
In some countries in the EU, corrupt practices have turned governance into Russian roulette.
To stay in power, many undemocratic regimes rely on abuse of power, such as a new constitution, manipulation, suppression, coercion, and rampant corruption.
The current sagas in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and many other countries are no different from what is happening in parts of Asean.
Any system of governance where leaders are bought and sold as cattle in an auction or are lured with a sack of green bananas to remain in power will only lead to becoming a banana republic, plain and simple.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Call for Philippines government to continue efforts
To end communist armed conflict
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 31, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 22. 2022

This is in relation to an article about stopping the practice of exposing the communist-front organizations (CFOs).
Why would someone do such when it is a way to uncover the deceptions and lies of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF)?
Why would you stop exposing those who would only want to overthrow the government and have their selfish motives be effected?
The insurgency remains a serious national security concern.
But with the sustained peace and security activities in line with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s efforts, the level of insurgency has been significantly reduced and its program objectives have gained headway since it was launched and embraced by the communities.
And one of its activities is debunking the lies of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) by exposing the communist-front organizations (CFOs) and how they operate and recruit their members using these organizations.
By exposing who they really are, we get to know what they are up to.
For the last five decades, they are still existing because of these deceptive recruitments that they are doing for all of the vulnerable sectors, especially the youth.
If these efforts will not be continued, then we will be again facing a big problem. It’s like we were already almost finished with winning the race but, all of a sudden, we stopped our cause because someone suggested stopping exposing those who would want to hurt and manipulate the lives of our fellow Filipinos.
I hope that all of the efforts in ending the insurgency will not simply be put to waste because of such a move.
I wish that both the national and local government authorities would continue their efforts in finally ending the local communist armed conflict.
I also enjoin everyone to stop supporting the lawless elements of our society.
It’s time to unite as one in our pursuit of freedom, peace, and stability.

Robert M. Marquez,

Call for Thailand to follow Singapore
Lee Kuan Yew allowed prostitution to be a profession
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday July 30, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 25, 2022

Re: "No better, No worse," Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saturday July 23, 2022.
Felix makes excellent points in his letter.
Prostitution, sex, gambling, drinking and other vices are older than any religion or other institution on this planet.
The biggest hypocrisy is that outside its borders, Thailand is known as a popular destination for indulging in these vices.
There is another strange social anomaly in Thailand. Polygamy is not seen as a vice or considered immoral, sinful, criminal, degrading or a sign of deviant behaviour.
Until the end of the last century, Amsterdam, London and Paris were famous for their red-light districts.
Those with money would travel there for some fun and frolicking.
In the past two decades, Thailand has replaced them as a place for cheap thrills.
It is no accident the Bollywood biopic Gangubai Kathiawadi has inspired oppressed sex workers in Thailand.
This movie touches on the fabric of our society where hollow morals are used by the religious mafia, priests, pundits, police and politicians to subjugate people.
Thailand must follow the Singapore model, where Lee Kuan Yew allowed prostitution like any other profession.
We all know that criminalising consensual sex only leads to illegal drugs, gambling, money laundering and many other crimes.
Only good policies with checks and balances should go ahead. Criminalising human vices can go only so far. Felix, please note that many foreign tourists flocking to Thailand are looking for their favourite Gangubai.
Where there is a will, there is a way!

Kuldeep Nagi,

Stealing ballot boxes, buying votes, bribing election officials
Has not been reported in Papua News Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 29, 2022
First published in the National, Monday July 25, 2022

The latest criticism of the handling of security in the country came from an influential and populace citizen who lashed at the Marape-led government for its failure to tackle the worsening security situation and incessant killings in Enga and elsewhere around the country.
It is embarrassing that the Government is idly watching the terror unfold.
This is the characteristics of a leader that they have boasted about have run out of steam.
For the past two weeks, there has been tension over threats of protest in the province.
People have been observing the security challenge that has engulfed Kompiam-Ambum and Laigaip- Porgera.
People said Enga is drenched in blood and lately, it has turned into an human abattoir.
They say public infrastructure has been destroyed and that there’s a spike in crime.
This has all been followed by government and responsible authorities decrying the deteriorating state of affairs in the country.
Excessive measures were not imposed to restore any type of normalcy.
Electoral Commission and Police Department incited the course of a failed election and which compromised the entire process.
This is believed to be strategic corruption.
The Government and responsible authorities are to be blamed for the killings and displacement of thousands and destruction of millions of Kina worth of public facilities.
Corruption – stealing ballot boxes, buying votes, bribing election officials and security personnel – and an increase of ill practices during the election period have not been reported.
But the horror of these killings, and the frequency in which they occur, has.
And behind this chaos in the state of affairs is the Marape-led government.
So far, the Government failed to address many more official corruptions within the its circle in their last three years in office.
Citizens and the international community noted that our country is poorly managed – life has lost its value.
The Electoral Commission and police were suspected of bribery and our governing body watched idly without condemning the problems they have instigated.
Apparently, these law and order issues are surging under this present administration due to the absence of political will to combat corruption. People will support those who come with the initiative to procure arms because residents need to complement the efforts of security agencies.
Marape even tried increasing the number of our security personnel but it’s still inadequate.
You can do the math yourself (how many police officer/soldiers do we have?).
It will still not be enough.
So, if we fold our arms and decide to do nothing, we’ll be the ones to suffer most.
These are indeed trying times for the nation and for the Marape-led government, this is a time for deep reflection, given the groundswell of opposition against the administration, especially over worsening security issues in the country.
It has gotten so bad that there have been reports of intermittent cases of killing in Papua New Guinea.
In the last two weeks, in the Enga alone according to police report, dozens of people were killed and many more were badly injured.
It is frustrating, sad and disappointing to realise these people lost their lives all because someone wants power.
As a nation, we are at the crossroads.
If we don’t face our issues and tackle them head on, we are in for a far more dire future – one of uncontrolled lawlessness, violence, misery, anger, poverty and pain.
The apprehension of law breakers is crucial in the government’s efforts to end the reign of terror experience in Enga and the entire country these days.
As it is now, the country is morphing into an ungovernable state.

Nelson Wandi (yuu-yan),
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Scrapping China loans for Philippines infrastructure projects
Was not initiated by China
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday July 28, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday July 26, 2022

The “scrapping” of the China loans for three infrastructure projects was not initiated by China, but by structural constraints.
Many critics forget that it is the Philippines that proposed and approved the projects.
The viability is our responsibility. China is not forcing us to borrow.
The Department of Finance (DOF) under then Secretary Carlos Dominguez III informed China Eximbank that the submitted loan applications for the three railway projects would be automatically withdrawn if not approved by May 31, 2022. Undersecretary Cesar Chavez also said, “DOTr understands that this is in light of the upcoming transition of government.”
The three projects were only approved by the Philippines in 2021-2022.
How many billion-dollar projects with other foreign lenders were funded that quickly?
Could it be that the provision inserted by the Department of Finance DOF was a practical move given that the Philippines shifts priorities between administrations?
To recall, the anti-Duterte, anti-China camps threw a continuous series of fake news and misinformation at China-funded projects, causing several years of delay. The debt trap narrative dominated the airwaves for years.
After several major projects by China were completed like the donated Binondo-Intramuros and Estrella-Pantaleon bridges or underway like the Kaliwa Dam and Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the expert-critics then invented a new term “pledge-trap” to accuse China of falling short of delivery, without giving context that much of the delays can consider the Philippines’ own processing absorptive capacity as constraints (estimated 1 million shortage of labor in 2019), bureaucratic red tape, and right of way issues.
Have the other countries, especially the loudest critics, offered alternative funding sources?
The Kaliwa Dam has been in the planning stages for decades.
Before Rodrigo Duterte, the majority of billion-peso projects took 10 to 20 years to even get done, if at all.
Prime projects were given to Japan.
Did the critics compare the cost per kilometer of Japan vs. China?
Another China-funded Angat Dam, touted by P-Noy and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System in 2012, was “finished eight months ahead of schedule resulting from efficient project management and advanced construction methodology of the China contractor.”
“Debt-trap” proponents do not compare the sorry record of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund loans in the Philippines, Latin America, etc., or that US banks brought the world to collapse in 2008, crushing several countries. On the so-called Sri Lanka debt trap, over 80 percent of its loans are from Japan, the US, and market borrowings; only 10 percent are from China.
Critics don’t point to the successful projects like the Piraeus port, now rising to be a top port in Europe, after being rejected by countries due to the warnings of the China debt trap.
On the interest on the loans, the Department of Defence (DOF) in 2019 released comparative data that showed Japan’s equivalent US dollar rate is actually 2.7 percent, higher than China’s 2 percent, debunking the opposition’s fearmongering that China was imposing onerous loans. Did the experts compare cost-per-unit, maintenance, consultant costs?
On China asking for 3 percent interest, where are the comparative interest rates of the other foreign lenders? How many are complaining about Filipinos being charged 10 to 20 percent per month on their micro-loans or the 3 to 5 percent monthly on credit cards?
Can the US or Europe banks also lend billions for our infrastructure needs at 3 percent?
Is it better to save 1 percent a year on interest or save 30 to 40 percent on project cost?
Negotiations are time-sensitive.
The rising cost of money, raw materials, inflation, global instability, and risks have changed the calculations.
Fake news makers and fake experts are the obstacles to our Philippines’ recovery and development.
Given the myriad of problems and our neighbors also speeding ahead by working with all countries including the US and China, we need to focus on the real challenges, not on bogeymen.
We should get the best deals for our country. Instead of being obstructionists, the critics can help by presenting better overall packages and showing some successful project propositions.

Austin Ong,
Integrated Development Studies Institute,

Call to limit term of sitting PNG candidate
To three consecutive terms
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 17, 2022
First published in the National Tuesday, July 25, 2022

The General Election 2022 is not getting any better, its getting worse.
In past elections, international observers made numerous recommendations for improvement, but the outcome in all elections demonstrates that these recommendations are collecting dust on the shelves of Waigani.
The Electoral Office and the Government of the day are accountable for not fulfilling their constitutional duty which has deprived its citizens’ democratic rights to elect their representatives.
These recommendations are fundamental for improvement and should have been addressed from day one.
If this had happened, it would have not lead GE22 to become the catalyst for breaking apart this nation that prides itself of its banner of “unity in diversity”.
A key contributing factor is the unintended negative outcome of the preferential voting system.
This system is supposed to reduce violence through the provision of making three choices instead of just one in the first past the post system.
The underlying features of this system is to elect the most popular person.
Naturally, the system favours the sitting candidate who is already the most popular person and with access to public funds, they can lure voters at all cost to remain in power.
As a result, more and more sitting candidates are beginning to be re-elected for more than three terms.
The net effect of this system does not provide opportunity for fair and equal distribution of leadership and power in each electorate.
As a consequence, we have election-related violence by supporters.
A proposed solution is to through constitutional reform, limit the terms of the sitting candidate to three consecutive terms.
In this way, when leadership and development opportunities are equally shared in the electorate, this may minimise chances of election violence.

Kelvin Waukave,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Australia and New Zealand fail to question
Pacific Island Forum meeting on human rights
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 26, 2022

In his illuminating and insightful article ‘ Australia and NZ’s silence : Democracy and human rights in the Pacific ‘ ( The Fiji Times 23/7/22 ) Professor Biman Prasad highlights the failure of the two leaders from the Western world in the region to ask the hard questions at the recent Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting on the human rights, media freedom and democratic rights situation prevailing in the region in general and the host nation Fiji in particular given its unilateral decision to without grants to the premier regional university, USP.
Will leaders in Australia and NZ heed Professor Prasad’s caution to “ move away from a self-centred approach and adopt a more conscientious, long-term outlook in the region “?
Or, will they continue to act the ostrich on the status of governance, human rights and free speech - “ the building blocks of democracy in the region “ for fear of pushing the island countries “ further into the arms of China “?

Rajend Naidu,

Negative impact of censure debate
Will be forgotten in 7 days
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 25, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday July 19, 2022

Re: "People will forget in 7 days," Bangkok Post, InQuote, July 19, 2022
DPM Wissanu spoke the truth when he said that "People will forget within 7 days" about the negative impact of the censure debate on targeted ministers.
We knew full well when they stood for office that they were corrupt and incompetent, and the election was rigged with senators who owed their posts to a candidate, yet we choose them - so we're not surprised when the opposition shows us their corruption.
Voters should take their task seriously and vote only for those with integrity, vision and the ability to serve us.

Burin Kantabutra,

Under capitalist system
Businesses get bigger
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday, July 24, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday July 15, 2022

Re: "At one's convenience", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, July 11, 2022 and "It's all about profit", Bangkok Post, PostBag, July 8, 2022.
Like the letter writer Bruno Sapienza, I go by instinct as a consumer and respond to convenience and competitive price. Sometimes I even exclaim, "Thank heaven for 7-Eleven!"
Under our capitalist system, inevitably businesses get bigger.
But there are rules governing when being bigger is against the public interest as Burin Kantabutr is well aware.
No one is allowed to corner a specific market by 50 percent or three top people by 75 percent .
With plenty of checks from people like Burin, that seems to be good enough, though enough is always in the eye of the beholder.

Songdej Praditsmanont,

President Ferdinand R. Marcose Jr. selection
Of administration got off to a good start
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday July 23, 2022
First published in the Philipppine Inquirer, Friday July 15, 2022

I share Peter Wallace’s view that the Cabinet selection by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has been impeccable “A positive first step,” Bangkok Post, July 11, 2022.
On the one hand, Article VII, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution says that the President “shall nominate and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, or officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him in this Constitution.”
On the other hand, Book IV, Chapter 10, Section 44 of Executive Order No. 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987, stipulates that secretaries of departments “shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, at the beginning of his term of office, and shall hold office, unless sooner removed, until the expiration of his term of office, or until their successors shall have been appointed and qualified.”
Having said this, President Marcos Jr.’s right to choose who gets to join him in his Cabinet and serve at his pleasure.
Certainly, he only entrusts these Cabinet posts to those fittest and worthy to hold public office in his administration.
The President named probably the best and the brightest technocrats, with their immense knowledge and proven performance in bureaucracy and governance, to form and constitute the Cabinet of the executive department of his administration.
Indeed, the selection of the Cabinet of the President’s administration got off to a good start.

Reginald B, Tamayo,
Marinjina City,


Call to reduce paper shuffling time in government
To contribute to Philippines debt repayment
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 22, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 15, 2022

The proposal of the Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah Pangandaman to reduce government bureaucracy and save P14.8-billion outlay in manpower budget is one urgent task for the new government to undertake, which we cannot disagree with.
The facts are that government dealings are subjected to one huge inefficient bureaucracy.
There were 1,862,543 permanent government positions for 2021.
“Salaries range from P25,900 (lowest average) to P76,300 (highest average, actual maximum salary is higher).”
The average monthly salary includes housing, transport, and other benefits. P48,800 per month average per worker totals a compensation outlay of P1.09 trillion annually.
There are several caveats, though, in retrenching employees:
It will add to the unemployment problem of 6-8 percent, which the government is already confronted with right now;
The mass poverty index of 23 percent could worsen if the micro, small, and medium enterprises cannot operate in full swing, post-COVID, to generate employment;
The shortage in basic staple food supplies of rice and meat, and the pressure of 6 percent general inflation, will be very social serious concerns, similar to Sri Lanka’s;
Depreciation of the peso and our trade imbalance will find the government groping for dollar funds to import oil and other vital industrial needs.
Assuming 20 percent of the bureaucracy is wasteful “paper-shuffling” time that can be reduced or removed from the budget, the savings could even be P218 billion annuall, quite a hefty contribution to debt repayment.
A 20-percent reduction or more, however, can be achieved without retrenching people at this time of great hardship to find work, but by merely reducing the workdays of the nonessential workforce by one or two days a week.
Moreover, the savings on the daily expenses of reporting to work will be substantial in family savings.
More scientific review, however, needs to be done with bureaucracy-wide time and motion studies that will confirm the redundancies.

Marvel K. Tan,

Thailand aspires to the soft power eminence
Of South Korea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday July 21, 2022
First published in the bangkok Post, Friday July 15, 2022

Re: "Prayut focuses on 'prosperity'", in Bangkok Post, July 9, 2022.
A wise man once said, "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush" (Luke, 6:43-44, KJV).
These words spoken 2,000 years ago are worth bearing in mind as we yet again hear Prime Minister Prayut Chan-cha preaching of "his administration's ambitious plan to drive Thailand into the heart of the 21st century" as he yet again "urged Thais to unite as one".
Both the claim and the call are contradicted by the odour of fruits never edible, now seriously beyond ripe.
Thailand aspires to the soft power eminence of South Korea, whose achievements are the outcome of liberal democracy.
The country in 1980 chose liberal democracy as replacement of a traditional uniformity that held back the nation's development.
Before 1980, Thailand and South Korea had much in common.
Both were developing slowly, wracked by political setbacks.
Thanks to the sacrifice of protesters now honoured as true patriots of the nation, South Korea, in contrast, took the opportunity to rid itself of retarding traditions in 1980.
South Korea has since had no shortage of rotten politicians of remarkable corruption, as every democracy must, but in South Korea, the old ways did not use that deceitful excuse to stamp out democracy itself. Rather, democracy was permitted to meet the challenge, and South Korea grew into the modern cultural and economic powerhouse that it is today.
Such are the fruits of liberal democracy.

Felix Qui,


Philippines New polymer banknotes
Not as tough as current paper bills
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 20, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 15, 2022

What the heck is wrong with the highest-paid “public servants” of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)?
Why do they keep screwing things up, despite the millions in salaries, perks, and privileges they get paid every month for their much-vaunted “expertise” where money is concerned?
Not content with messing up coins that almost look the same despite their different denominations, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipina (BSP) has now messed up the paper bills!
The editorial "Furor over polymer,” July 14, 2022 noted: “The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) did say that these polymer banknotes were ‘tough,’ but even then, they should still be ‘valued and handled with care.’
Thus, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) enjoined Filipinos to not ‘excessively fold, crease, or crumple’ the banknotes as doing so could ‘leave permanent fold marks.’ Users were also told not to staple the notes or use rubber bands to keep them together instead of paper bands.”
When is the “folding” of those polymer banknotes “excessive”?
To what degree of “folding” is the Philippine National Police authorized to arrest violators with fines of up to P20,000 and jail time of up to five years?
Why do law enforcers appear so trigger-happy with their handcuffs on the ready to terrorize the people into complying with rules that make no sense?
And why, for crying out loud, are rubber bands a big no-no to keep those new bills together?
Who keeps “paper bands” in wet market places?
So, actually, they are not as “tough” as the current paper bills they are supposed to replace!
Sen. Koko Pimentel said: “Parang gusto pa yata nila ilagay sa frame yung bills para kunwari matibay”!
The new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor, Felipe Medalla, himself made an absurd suggestion that “Filipinos ‘adjust’ to the new polymer banknotes by getting longer wallets. ‘Dapat ang wallet, singhaba ng pera para hindi i-fold.’
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) officials should be paid no more than P1 per month for all the crazy ideas they are ramming down the throats of Filipino taxpayers and consumers!

Rogelio S. Candelario,

Peoples power movement rids Sri Lankan of president
Same as president Marcos in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 19, 2022

History repeats itself when as Irish statesman Edmund Burke said “ Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it “.
That is what happened with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa .
He made the same mistake Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos made by hanging onto power when the people wanted him gone .
He then had to flee when the people stormed his opulent palace in 1986.
A peoples power movement has done the same to get rid of the Sri Lankan President whose rule was characterised by authoritarianism and corruption same as Marcos reign of power.
Leaders should remember when the people no longer want them to rule it’s time to leave gracefully rather then wait to flee disgracefully.

Rajend Naidu,

MV Papua New Guinea
Is on the verge of sinking
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 18, 2022
First published in the Nationa, Mondayl July 11, 2022

Our development aspirations in a world driven by capitalism is only a pipe dream.
Some say we are only chasing the wind.
Why are we continuously bothered with economic growth and development in a district, province and nation ridden by corruption?
Simply because the gap between rich and poor will be widened and politician and people will forever be held at ransom.
Maybe the status quo will be improved or worsened every five years but the realities remain unchanged.
MV Papua New Guinea is on the verge of sinking – writings are on the wall for us all to read and comprehend.
If change was to be emanated, then views and approaches towards development has to be more holistic and sustainable.
With you all the great minds here, we can raise the bar in every province to invest in strategic assets; unique flora and fauna, landscapes, fast flowing rivers, rich cultural heritages and others.
We can add value to those assets by tapping into eco-tourism – a very lucrative industry.
The monetary returns will be far more exceeding than total revenues of all sectors put together.
Locally customised development index can be developed to measure all aspects of development than the traditional GDP which only measures economic growth.
Charting a new way forward amidst a very busy world is quite a tremendous task but we are also trying to internalise global externalities such as climate change.
For those provinces preparing to go into polls must look out for politicians with policies geared towards all aspects of development rather than conventional old school politicians with policies and campaign strategies around economic and infrastructural development.
Let’s be innovatively smart and think national, global and act local.
One way to do just that is divorcing your power at the polling booth.
Vote for service delivery and our children.

Alexander Kaupa,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Gunea

Japan has remained in the shadow of the USA
Since the end of World War II
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday July 15, 2022

Re: "Remembering Abe and Japan's rise", in Bangkok Post Opinion, July 12, 2022.
Yes, Abe should be remembered and given credit for keeping Japan safe and overseeing a prosperous economy.
But Mr Kavi ignores the fact that Japan was the No 2 economy for decades before China took over. Since the end of World War II, Japan has remained in the shadow of the USA.
Besides its economic ties and investments, it never exerted itself as a world power player or global power broker the way China is.
In my view, China will also end up the way of Japan.
Its leaders lack the abilities, trust and credibility of scale required to be world leaders.
It is clear that just being a military power or a strong economy is not enough to turn a nation into a superpower.
Now governments need charismatic leaders who can influence global policies for the greater good of humanity.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Bureaucratic bandwagon. WHO, are a tool
Of the New Word Order brigade a la Mr Orwell
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday July 16, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Mponday July 11, 2022

Re: "No laughing matter", in Bangkok Post, July 10, 2022.
In his letter Khun Nagi states twice that over 6 million people died of (from) Covid-19 during the worldwide pandemic.
I would make an educated guess that the figures he quotes are those provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).
I would remind Khun Nagi that those figures are intentionally inflated by the WHO's own directive on how data must be collected on deaths during the period from April 2020 to the latest figures released.
The WHO insisted that every death where the patient had tested positive for Covid-19 from 28 days before death must be included, be it the cause of death or a small contributing (or irrelevant) factor, and went on to use all deaths recorded "with" Covid as if it had been the cause.
Given the fact that the vast majority of casualties were older citizens, many of whom were already suffering from other life-threatening maladies, the figures are vastly inflated, thus enhancing the WHO's self esteem and, they believe, their right to pronounce worldwide edicts on health in the future.
In fact they have been trying to do just that this year by getting agreement from world governments to gain the authority to overrule all other bodies in dealing with pandemics in future.
Bureaucratic bandwagons like the WHO are a tool of the New Word Order brigade a la Mr Orwell.
Big executive salaries and expense accounts with plenty of backslapping junkets to go to, while Khun Somchai, you and I are expected to pay our taxes and obey without question.
Fear not the messenger, but be wary of the message and from whence it came.

Fireman Sam,

In a democracy satirist have the freedom
To mock the government
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 15, 2022

State reaction to political satire comes with the territory.
In a democracy satirist have the freedom to mock the government and political leaders and the Establishment without fear of political persecution.
So in America we have Jon Stewart doing that virtually full time.
By contrast in Egypt satirist Bassem Youssef was persecuted and put in detention for more than two years.
Authoritarian regimes are intolerant of satirists poking fun at the existing order and the leadership .
So what kind of political order does Fiji have 16 years after the 2006 military coup if “ it is terrifying that a bit of good humour ends up in court these days “? ( Kiran Khatri ‘ Freedom of speech ‘ letter FT 5/7 )
Your guess is as good as mine on this.

Rajend Naidu,

Is part of everyday Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday July 14, 2022
Frist published in the National, Monday July 11, 2022

Citizens of this beautiful and resource-rich country are now going into the polls to elect their political leaders for the 11th parliament, some 45 years after independence in 1975.
When I sit down and reflect and closely observe the start of the General Election 2022, I personally assume that at the end of this process, Papua New Guinea will achieve nothing but a failed election.
We must say that corruption is part of everyday Papua New Guinea.
In recent social media news, many serious allegations of election-related corruption was reported to have happened everywhere.
This is a clear sign of a failed election when a political office-holder or other government employees knowingly act in an official capacity to acquire illicit benefits or abuse power for personal gain, which is political corruption.
Many strategies have been undertaken by most experienced and learned elites and leaders in past governments in order to counter corruption but to no avail, because there is a systematic organised crime body in all our localities.
Anti-corruption agencies have not been given the full respect by ruling governments to date because those in power often make laws for their protection.
The endemic social and political corruption occur on different scales from petty corruption to corruption that affects the government on a very large scale which is happening regularly in virtually all places in Papua New Guinea from the villages up to the parliament.
In Papua New Guinea we are experiencing issues such as unemployment, political instability, greed for money, smuggling, fraud, squandering of public money, illegal business transactions, deception, poverty, gender inequality, ethnic fights and divisions, inefficient administrative structures, low political transparency, low economic freedom and high inflation, low levels of education, lack of commitment to our country which are factors attributed to corruption.
Papua New Guinea is at a crossroad.
The first President of United States of America, George Washington once said “human happiness and moral duty of every person on earth are inseparably connected”.
Let’s fight corruption.

Mike J Lucien,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea voter names
Not registered on Electoral Commission roll
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 13, 2022
First published in the Nationa,l Monday July 11, 2022

The General Election 2022 is by far the most chaotic.
Whatever that has transpired is enough for any interested citizens and corporate bodies to take the Electoral Commission, the National Executive Council (NEC) and National Statistical Office to court for failing to update citizens’ names in the common roll.
They must be answerable to the court as to what they were doing in the last five years.
Now, the citizens’ right to vote has been denied.
This is injustice caused by the above authorities who have failed miserably to fund, register and update the names in the common roll.
This is a call to take the Electoral Commission, the NEC, Census and National Statistical Office to court.
They have failed the citizens.
Many citizens stood in the queue to cast their vote only to find their names not there.
If a voter says he/she has voted in 2017, then the name should still be there, but this is not the case as voters find their names not in the common roll.
So, this is an appeal to citizens to take this matter to court.

Frustrated Voter,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Developing national parks preferable
To buying tanks and subs
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 12, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday July 7, 2022

Re: "True conservation", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, July 4.
ML Saksiri Kridakorn's letter was okay for the most part, but he closed it with this paragraph, "It is clear that the world domination policy of the USA and Nato through the use of arms has a much higher priority than building a greener world".
Huh? The USA and Nato are not trying to "dominate the world through use of arms".
In case you haven't noticed, it was Putin who mobilised Russian armed forces to go charging into a neighbouring country, with all guns blazing.
Does ML Kridakorn advise that Ukrainians should just lay on the ground in submission?
It's people like Putin who compel other countries to arm so heavily.
Without such mass and sudden aggressions, countries could dial it back and instead fund things like alternative energy and environmental husbandry.
Surely, developing national parks would be preferable to buying tanks and subs.
But humans are no more advanced, in dispelling aggressive tendencies, than army ants.
As a species, we're developed technologically, but are so undeveloped in curbing aggression, as to make a troop of baboons blush.
Even Buddhist monks (who are supposed to be the most peaceful folks among us) can erupt in sudden anger, with fists raised.

Ken Albertsen,

No subsidies should be expected in Thailand
In losses incurred by private enterprise
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday July 7, 2022

Re: "Cuts both ways", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, July 4, 2022.
Strangely, Burin Kantabutra, a prolific PostBag writer, has missed my main point that it is not normal for a government to ask companies for "co-operation" in giving up their profits of hefty billions.
The appropriate way is to tax their windfall profits and not "bully" the enterprises to help its role in managing the nation's economy.
They are not asking for charity contributions for temples or hospitals.
Secondly, it is common knowledge that the losses incurred by private enterprises are their own making, and no subsidies can be expected from anyone in our capitalist world.
Thirdly, the phrase "too big to fail" was coined during the US financial crisis in 2008 when one large financial corporation was assisted by a somewhat biased treasury to avoid widespread contagion.
Despite facing a chorus of criticism that the repercussions could not be that wide-ranging, the after-events proved this to be the case.

Songdej Praditsmanont,

A warmer CO2 rich atmosphere
Makes life easier on earth
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 10, 2022
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday July 6, 2022

Re: "True conservation", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Monday July 4, 2022
"The increase in carbon emissions stemming directly from the decision to escalate the war is accelerating humanity and the world to an irreversible point of no return for the greenhouse effect", parrots ML Saksiri Kridakorn. Unfortunately he is neither a climate scientist nor someone who has looked deeply into the so-called greenhouse effect.
Just as in the pandemic fraud germs are vilified when actually they are good for us, CO2 is also good for us - it is essential for life.
If one simply removes the politics and monied interests from these two hoaxes the truth is easy to discern. CO2 is not a pollutant.
A warmer CO2 rich atmosphere makes life easier on earth, just so, regular exposure to germs builds our immune systems.

Michael Setter,

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte
Suggests mandatory military training in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday July 9, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday July 7, 2022

The article on “Life skills for young Filipinos” in Second Opinion, Philippine Inquirer June 6, 2022 was very enlightening as to what young Filipinos must learn instead of or in addition to the suggested mandatory military training of Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte. Dr. Gideon Lasco enumerated these life skills from first aid, self-defense, biking, swimming, disaster preparedness, wellness and nutrition, basic psychosocial skills, sexual education, financial health, and digital literacy.
He ended it with a question about how the Department of Education will “help bring about the acquisitions of these vital skills.”
We should start with the basic Rs: “reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic,” starting from grade school with good teachers, therefore, excellent teacher education. Emphasize especially to the young kids that teaching is a very noble, honorable, and rewarding profession so that these kids will be encouraged to be teachers themselves.
Improve teaching education by competitive entrance examinations, scholarships, and, of course, good stable salaries and benefits, and after graduation, a lot of free, good, and required continuing education series.
Foremost of all, make teaching a very honorable profession that the best students would aim to be educators themselves.
Once we have assumed the basic skills, then it will be easier to teach those other skills suggested by Dr. Lasco to the young Filipinos.
Good teachers first, then good students will follow.

Ida M. Tiongco,
New York,


Spaces granted for approved protests in Bangkok
Is a small step in the right direction
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 8, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday July 6, 2022

Re: "City protest plan needs a few tweaks", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Monday July 4, 2022.
So indisputably true is it, Paritta Wangkiat's observation that the central government's "ongoing crackdown on protest leaders and participants as well as the use of excessive force to disperse street protests do not encourage public debates" seems a bit of an understatement.
The grant by Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt of somewhat sequestered spaces for only approved protest is a small step in the right direction, but what Thailand more desperately needs if the alternating excesses of the likes of Thaksin and coup committers is to be consigned to history is just law. Law, that is, that rather than suppressing democratic principle enshrines it in the place of highest honour, as justice and democratic principle should be, over all other things in the political realm.

Felix Qui,

Nepotism is practiced in Papua New Guinea
In the public and private sector
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday July 7, 2022
First published in the National, Tuesday July 5, 2022

Let me say this without fear and favour for the sake of mindset transformation.
Following up to the memorable day of the granting of independence for Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guineans prepared tirelessly for that great day.
On that day, September 16, 1975, the Australian flag was lowered and the colourfully designed flag of the “to be” an independent nation of diverse cultures was raised peacefully.
Papua New Guinea was declared an independent nation on that very day.
Papua New Guineans celebrated the day of independence with tears of joy, marches, traditional dances and singings, and many other celebrations.
Papua New Guineans were very happy because colonial rule has finally ended.
No more sugarcane and coconut labourers for colonial masters.
No more “yes masta” and “yes misis”.
No more cargo boys and men.
No more racial discrimination on our own land.
It is sad to learn that the citizens of the nation that its people were very joyful on their day of independence are now dividing the nation through provincialism, regionalism, and tribalism.
Corruption such as nepotism is being continuously practiced in both the public and private sector.
It is sad to see that jealousy and pride is dictating the lives of many Papua New Guineans.
The mentality that your tribesman/woman or your wantok must be given the first priority is not a uniting factor for our culturally diverse nation.
We are dividing the nation that has been united by our founders.
Indifferences created through provincialism, tribalism, and nepotism should be halted.
Diversity and inclusion should be promoted in both the public and private sector based on “merit”.
The true unification of the nation should be seen through diversity and inclusion in both the public and private sector.
Indifferences has slowed the progress of our nation – lack of teamwork.
Indifferences created among ourselves could create more political, economic, and social problems.
Indifferences cannot produce anything good for our nation’s growth and modernisation.
We have to do away with it.
This is a call to all those who are working in both the public and private sector.
Do away with indifferences and corruption and let us build our nation together.
Cast away all forms of jealousy and pride.
Youths in all provinces, students in all schools and in higher institutions, let us stand together and build our nation – Papua New Guinea.

Abel ToPidik Rudolf
Papua New Guinea

Thailand running back to tourism
As fast as an acoholic runs to next bottle
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 8, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 30, 2022

Re: "Young oppose elitist rule: Somkid," in Bangkok Post, June 28, 2022.
Somkid Jatusripitak is quite correct in his analysis of the political changes that our youth want. I wish him all the best. However, having lived here nine years, I know that it is very unlikely those changes will happen in my lifetime.
Folks, talk is cheap.
Actions, however, are very costly and freedom is paid for only with things we hold very dear. In Thailand, I think it would be fair to say that I hear nearly every younger Thai under about 45 years old talk about change and complain about how things are, but I see very few of them lift a meaningful finger to invoke change. Aside from an occasional rally, the action from society as a whole is usually to stand by silently as young people expressing alternate ideas are arrested, threatened, hit by their teachers or carted off to jail and all for just asking a question or expressing a new idea.
Moreover, rather than retool during the Covid years and broadly acquire new skills, I see the public preparing to run right back to tourism about as fast as an alcoholic can run to the next bottle of booze.
So, I wish Somkid all the best, but he needs to understand that as long as the public largely favours talk over action, nothing meaningful will change and Thailand's best days really are little more than nice memories and pretty songs. So, play it again Somkid.

Jason A Jellison,

Any weapons given to the Ukraine forces
Must be ones they know how to use
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 5, 2022
Frirst published in the Bangkok Post, Friday June 22, 2022

Re: "Arms for Ukraine", in Bangkok Post PostBag, June 18, 2022
I read with interest the letter of June 18 by ML Saksiri Kridakorn.
The first thing that came to my mind was "I wonder if he has any military experience and advanced weapons training?"
From his letter it seems he has no idea about weapons use.
Any weapons given to the Ukraine forces must be ones they know how to use.
I understand that, with some of the more complicated weapons so far delivered by the US, Ukrainians have come to the US to be trained in their use.
The more advanced the weapon the more careful training is needed.
This is true of weapons from the US or other Nato nations.
This is a time-consuming process.
The US policy is to give the Ukrainians weapons they know how to use!
ML Saksiri's comments on US policy are not in line with reality.
He needs to learn about the complications of very modern weaponry.


Covid-19 vaccines and mitigation measures
Do not work on the Public Health Minister of Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 3, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 30, 2022

Re: "Anutin has Covid, absent from cabinet meeting", Bangkok Post , June 28, 2022.
Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, despite having been "vaccinated six times", has caught Covid.
In numerous previous letters to this forum, I have explained that the vaccines and mitigation measures do not work.
Many have criticised my efforts to counter the wholly unscientific narrative which attempts to legitimise experimental vaccines and the futility of wearing masks all day every day.
I predict that more and more evidence which proves my warnings to be true will surface in the days ahead.

Michael Setter,

Give Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. a chance to prove
To Filipinos that their votes for him are worth it
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 3, 2022

The recently concluded National and Local Elections (NLE) 2022 last May 9 have resulted in the elected leaders for each place and the country as a whole based on the majority of votes from the Filipino citizens.
With due respect to how democracy works, it is with high hopes that we all come to respect the result of the election and start our effort as citizens.
Now that majority of the Filipino people have already decided who they want to lead them for the next six years, I hope that the rest will also support the next administration because after all, we are all Filipinos who want the Philippines to become a better country.
Plans and platforms are starting to be laid down as the government changes its leaders and had the transformation for the coming months.
With this, it is but right that the incoming administration shall continue those programs and legislations that have been started and were proven to be helpful and effective for the people.
There are so many programs that should or must be continued as it was seen that they became effective measures in resolving problems or in promoting unity in diversity in the grassroots areas.
Now more than ever, we must all need to set aside our political differences and do something that will be of help to our fellow countrymen and in the recovery of our country.
Given that we have been and are still in a health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our country needs a lot of help from every one of us.
Let us unite and help in any ways that we know and not be part of the problems.
It is with a positive belief that we support the new elected leaders especially the incoming new leader of our country- President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
Let’s give him a chance to prove to the Filipinos that their votes for him are worth it and will make the Philippines rise again.
Let’s be part of their plans and support their new and continuing programs or activities for working together is best towards sustainable development and faster recovery of our economy in this country as a whole.

Enrico S Dulay,

Weakening of currencies in the region
Consistent with policy normalization in US economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday July 2, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday June 30, 2022

In the June 27 Bangkok Post editorial “Brace for the worst”, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) was said to be “not worried” about the peso-dollar exchange rate of P54.98 to $1, “the lowest in 17 years.”
BSP Deputy Governor Francisco Dakila Jr. explained: “We can see that the recent weakening of the peso along with other currencies in the region is consistent with more aggressive monetary policy normalization in advanced economies, particularly the US Fed.”
So, for instance, does the BSP worry about the unprecedented spike in oil products?
Of course not.
Its officials use service vehicles, charging all expenses for gas and maintenance to us, the taxpayers!
It is nothing short of scandalous that former BSP governor Benjamin Diokno earned more than P41 million in 2021, or almost P3.5 million per month, for his “public service.”
Dakila’s own monthly paycheck was about P1.5 million.
He and his super-rich BSP colleagues have no problem coping with the astronomical rise in the prices of practically everything in the market.
The editorial aptly pointed out the elephant in the room: Ordinary mortals “can only brace themselves from the impact of a weakening peso and surging fuel prices as there is very little the government can do to address their underlying external causes. Preparing for the worst is the call of the times.”
So, how about BSP officials and other “public servants” paid more than P1 million per month “moderate their greed” in times like this?
Most Filipinos can survive with just a fifth of what they rake in every month.
And isn’t the government practically bankrupt already?
How come megatons of money are always available to squander on bureaucrats who have not made life for Filipinos any better?
Saan ka pa makakakita ng “public servants” (mga utusan kuno) na sumusweldo ng ganoon kalaki habang “ang mga boss” kuno nila ay halos mamamatay na sa gutom dahil sa kakulangan ng perang pambili ng makakain?
Where else can you find so-called public servants earning so much while their bosses, the public, are almost dying from hunger?

Carmela N. Noblejas,

China bullies fishers in Philippines waters
Under guise of sustainable fishing
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday June 13, 2022

Re: "Washington backs Manila in fishing ban" in Bangkok Post June 4, 2022
It's the height of irony and hypocrisy that China issues unilateral bans on fishing in the South China Sea, purportedly to give marine resources an opportunity to recover from overfishing.
Considering that China has one of the world's most aggressive fishing fleets, regularly encroaches on the exclusive economic zones of other sovereign nations, and is widely recognised for overfishing in its own waters and around the world, it is rather disingenuous for China to bully small-scale Filipino fishers in their own waters under the guise of "sustainable fishing" regulations.


Philippines Jose P. Rizal
Perfect model for a life well-lived
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 30, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday June 21, 2022

Jose P. Rizal, born on June 19, 1861, in Calamba, Laguna, is one great Filipino who exemplifies the ideal man with a sense of purpose and meaning.
With great multitudes of his achievements in life, he serves as a perfect model for a life well-lived, not just for Filipinos but for all nationalities.
The Filipino race must be so proud of producing a man like Rizal when the country was oppressed and abused by colonizer Spain.
His life reminds us of how we should live as Filipinos.
His death reminds us of how our country was born out of love and sacrifices.
When I gaze at his statues, I look at his eyes and wonder:
Is he happy now?
Is he happy about what is happening to our country?
Does he still believe that the youth is the hope of our motherland?
Does he think he died in vain?
I look at my country and fellowmen and see Rizal in every Filipino who was abused and put to death.
I see him in every poor people because of corruption from our leaders.
I see his eyes in every youth wanting change for our country.
I see him in every Filipino who moves to another country looking for a better future and opportunity.
I see him in all the anguishes and fears of our people.
But, ultimately, I wish to see him in every Filipino who wants to dedicate their life to our country.
Rizal has lived a life worth remembering because he lived not just for himself but others and for our country.
And that made him different from the rest of us because he lived and died for this great idea called “love.”
And because of this love, a Filipino was born, a country was born.

Rado Gatchalian,

Lack of signatures in Senate Blue Ribbon Committee report
That accuses President Duterte of complicity in plunder
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 29, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday June 8, 2022

The Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. report in which President Rodrigo Duterte is accused of "complicity in plunder " by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee following a senate inquiry report into the Department of Health (DOH) expenditure of P72.5 billion, was not presented in plenary because it lacked the required number of signatures.
At least 11 signatures of the committee members were needed so that the committee chairman could sponsor it.
It is a generally accepted principle in a parliamentary procedure that a member who refuses to sign a committee report simply disagrees with its content, especially the committee’s conclusion and recommendation.
If this is the case, the member’s dissenting view should have been formalized in another written report known as dissenting or minority report.
I am in a quandary why members who refused to sign the committee report only made known at the 11th hour their dissenting view.
Section 22 of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation says that “within fifteen (15) days after the conclusion of the inquiry, the Committee shall meet to begin the consideration of its Report.”
They had all the ample time to prepare the minority report from the time the panel draft was prepared up to the day of its presentation and approval by a majority vote of all the senators.
The report should have been approved en banc, I suppose, last June 1. Senate rules say that within 72 hours after the approval of the committee report, the dissenting report should have been made by the members who refuse to sign it.
Did we not just waste people’s money on this Senate investigation since we are deprived to know the content of the report of the blue ribbon committee?

Reginald B. Tamayo,

Are the EU and the West pressuring Thailand
To pick a side on Russia and the Ukraine?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 28, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday June 22, 2022

Re: "Three myths that justify what cannot be justified", in Bangkok Post Opinion, June 17, 2022.
Just a few thoughts on Mr David Daly's piece on geopolitics.
Very interesting "myths" indeed that actually look like truth.
Is Ukraine being used as a proxy by the West to subdue Russia?
It is!
The article hasn't a single word about Nato and its role in igniting the conflict.
Are the EU and Western sanctions contributing to the rise of food prices?
Of course, they are!
If the EU cuts imports of oil, gas and fertilisers, introduces sanctions and disrupts payment schemes the prices will inevitably go up.
Are the EU and the West pressuring Thailand to pick a side on Russia?
This is exactly what the EU does here when it calls on Thailand to support the expulsion of Russia from different international organisations.
The UN, which Mr Daly cites often, warned about the risk of a global food crisis two years ago due to the pandemic, global supply chain disruption as well as short-sighted economic policies.
It's easy to accuse Russia of world problems simultaneously pushing "rules-based order".
Why not the UN Charter?
Who wrote the rules?
The EU?
Maybe the time has come to recognise EU mistakes?
And who is waging an aggressive disinformation campaign then?

Pyotr Ivanovich,

Ukrainian military complaining about outdated weapons
From United States and Nato
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 27, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday June 19, 2022

Vital and timely information gained through espionage and interception of communications in warfare is well-documented and has decided the outcomes of many battles.
Having cracked the encryption code for both Germany and Japan in WWII, America enjoyed an immense informational superiority that, in the end, proved decisive.
This elementary warfare principle cannot be lost on America's military institution that has waged countless wars in the last century.
Today in Ukraine, over 25 percent of the population is ethnic Russian and some percentage is likely to be sympathetic towards the Russian cause.
Even if only a few percent, Russia is probably well informed about all of Ukraine's military movements at all levels.
This means that the transportation and deployment of any and all weapons sent to Ukraine by the United States and Nato have been easy targets for Russian missiles. Thus we see the quick destruction of these weapons as they arrived or as deployed.
Despite these well-known facts, "game-changing" weapons keep being sent to Ukraine.
It is a little late, but not surprising, that the Ukrainian military is just now complaining about how outdated these weapons are and that they are no match for Russian weapons.
With each new weapon shipment, it's becoming more clear that the USA has been using Ukraine just as an excuse to clear out its cache of old weapons and field test a few new ones just to keep Ukrainian fighting a lost cause. Other Nato countries have also offered or already sent WWII relics.
The USA's strategy was clear from the very beginning; make Ukrainians think that they would be welcomed into the EU and Nato; make them proxies in a war with Russia; make them believe that they can win; sanction Russia into oblivion, and run a disinformation campaign the likes of which has never been seen.
It's as though the USA's foreign policy and thinking are still stuck in the 1990s.
And it is especially mordant that it's the USA and Europe's economies that are now tanking, not Russia.

ML Saksiri Kridakorn,

Two Vice Presidents
In Philippines for 11 days
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 26, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday June 24, 2022

Nobody but nobody ever takes an oath for the office of a President-elect or Vice President-elect!
Anyone in his/her right mind would typically wait until the post is vacant before taking an oath to embark upon the duties of such office.
So what was Sara Duterte-Carpio, a lawyer, thinking?
And for that matter, what the heck were President Duterte, another lawyer, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando thinking?
Duterte-Carpio drum beaters insist it was just theater as she is still really just a Vice President-elect, not vice president yet, a post Leni Robredo will continue to hold until noon of June 30.
But the story running in all newspaper reports says it all: Sara took her oath on June 19 as the “15th Philippine vice president,” 11 days before she can actually call herself that!
The oath itself speaks of the office of the vice president, whose function she is supposedly duty-bound to discharge immediately after taking such an oath.
So, two vice presidents for 11 days?
The title of another news report nailed it: “‘Queer coincidence’?
Duterte jokes two Dutertes to ‘sit’ as president, VP for 11 days” in Philippine Inquirer News, June 6, 2022.
We are unsure whether to laugh over this flippancy or cry over the mockery of what we hold dear in this country.
But, no matter how anyone may look at it, that oath-taking amounted to a usurpation of a public office, a crime involving aberrant behavior, if not moral turpitude!

Yvette San Luis-Petrocelli,

Singapore pensions for civil servants includimg PM's
Same as private-sector counterparts
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday, June 25, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday June 19, 2022

Re: "MPs cause of pension bloat," in Bangkok Post, June 8, 2022.
I fully agree with this Bangkok Post editorial that Members of Parliament shouldn't get a generous pension especially if they win their seat just once or perform poorly.
But even if Members of Parliament were paid the pittance that most deserve, that wouldn't begin to solve the problem of pension payments due to hard-working civil servants.
As the editorial recognises, our entire civil service needed top-to-bottom reform decades ago.
I like the Singapore model, where civil servants including the prime minister were paid what their private-sector counterparts would have earned and had to deliver accordingly.
And, even a whiff of corruption wasn't tolerated!
The Bangkok mayoral elections have shown that driving for reform pays.
The provinces should similarly demand change and elect those who deliver including reform of the civil service.

Burin Kantabutra,

Will new Philippine leaders
Follow ill-advised pivot to China?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 24, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday June 22, 2022

Good news?
Yes, it is because we played the game fairly and bravely resolved to move it forward.
The bad news is that wicked politicians, coddlers, vulnerable victims, and complicit voters won by foul means.
Unsurprisingly, this was one of the hardest battles and most serious, intractable challenges we’ve had to face.
Unfortunately, this country has long been tolerant of abusive oligarch politicians (the likes of the Arroyos, Estradas, Villars, Dutertes, and Marcoses), who’d move heaven and earth to get elected.
We were appalled at their untouchability and by the excuses that saved them from jail despite their high-profile corruption, plunder, and tax evasion conviction, the years of cyberbullying, mudslinging, and deception on social media, and now this: high-scale vote-buying, mind-conditioning survey firms, and a poll body packed with political appointees.
Compare that to the cases of indigent suspects who are herded straight to miserable congested cells, often without being given access to a lawyer and their day in court.
While other countries like France vigilantly guard their sovereignty and repel any intrusion or foreign influence even on their culture, our leaders sell us down the river for billions of pesos in unfulfilled promises of loans and investments.
Instead of using our arbitral win in our territorial claim over the South China Sea, President Duterte maintained a defeatist stance that has led to hundreds of Chinese military vessels occupying our reefs and shoals, while aggressively keeping Filipino fishermen out of their traditional fishing ground in the West Philippine Sea.
In a bid for continuity and stability, will our new leaders follow this ill-advised pivot to China?
Unfortunately, the incoming President’s overtures to our superpower neighbor are hardly reassuring.
But resist we did, even as social media trolls and rabble-rousers bullied us, peddled fake news, and revised history.
Before the May 9 elections, the number of enlightened professionals, workers, and committed youth had ballooned to millions, loudly proclaiming their newfound truths.
They also rallied around the candidate they perceived as standing up for their rights, a sincere, hardworking leader with a heart for the poor, and a record of can-do initiatives.
Sadly enough, she lost.
Her supporters would now have to trek a long and treacherous road to follow her lead of using this crushing loss not only to demand answers but also to raise questions when the new government fails to live up to its promises.
Tolerating treachery, incompetence, and opportunism may have gotten us to where we are now, but rest assured, we will not allow it to inhabit our future.
“Who are we, what are we, why are we” are all the questions we should ask ourselves, said Shakespeare.
Though the answer is far from celebratory at the moment, a look backward might yet define our way forward.

Pit M. Maliksi,

China fails to provide key data
Into WHO investigation of origins of Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 June 2022

A new investigation from the World Health Organisation has determined that the origins of Covid-19, a virus which has killed more than six million people since 2020, is inconclusive because China failed to provide key data.
A number of top WHO insiders were upset that “ China sought to clamp down on research into the origins of Covid-19 “ ( Yahoo News 10/6 ).
Is anybody really surprised by the Chinese State behaviour?
We shouldn’t be because secrecy has always been the modus operandi of such a totalitarian state.
We need to remember that and not put our expectations on an unrealistic plane when dealing with the totalitarian Chinese State.

Rajend Naidu,
New South Wales

Thai Buddhism is touted as a pillar of the nation
Nothing could be more explicitly political
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 22, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday June 20, 2022

Re: "Respect the robe," in Bangkok Post, ThinkBox, June 13, 2022.
Patcharawalai Sanyanusin is doubtless sincere in that perfect faith she has in Thailand's National Office of Buddhism (NOB).
The problem is that the very existence of such an state institution as a the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) betrays the true nature of the religion known as Thai Buddhism: it is not Buddhism, but Thai Buddhism.
A religion that operates under the auspices of politicians to serve political purposes, as Thai Buddhism always has in exchange for grand temples and other gorgeous gifts, constitutes itself as a political tool wielded for political purposes by political players.
Indeed, Thai Buddhism is openly touted as a "pillar of the nation"; as a claim, nothing could be more explicitly political. No less political are those who most sedulously push that un-Buddhist "pillar of the nation" narrative about the religion.
If Buddhism in Thailand wishes to be respected as a religion that teaches and practises spiritual principles of worth, it needs to free itself from the tradition going back many generations of loyally serving political players who find it a most useful tool for achieving their purposes, which too often have nothing to do with the Buddha's wisdom. Are the gilded temples luring in tourists worth the spiritual cost?

Felix Qui,

Thailand is not a pioneer
In making cannabis legal
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 21, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday June 19, 2022

Re: "Let's clear up ganja haze," in Bangkok Post, Friday June 17, 2022
Are efforts really being made in Thailand to make the cannabis issue clear?
Thailand is not a pioneer in making cannabis legal.
If Thailand wants, it can benefit from the experiences of other countries with years of legalised cannabis.
No one reinvents the wheel.
Why do it with marijuana?
All the research necessary has been done and it's accessible.
Secondly, marijuana became illegal in Thailand in 1935.
But it's been a part of Thai culture for centuries and people in rural areas have continued to grow and use it, despite the prohibition.
Is the present debate a misinformation campaign from the alcoholic beverage industry or other interests?
Misinformation is often used to make people afraid.
Cannabis, like alcohol, needs to be regulated and those regulations enforced.
The recent incident at the TV station is a case in point.
Employees are not allowed to come to work drunk and the same should apply to cannabis.
However, the "staggering" part of the report is very dubious; it is, however, characteristic of cannabis-laced with other illegal substances such as "angel dust" (phencyclidine).
Alcohol, too, can and is adulterated with date rape drugs and with scopolamine in South America.
How many more countries need to legalise cannabis before the "haze gets cleared" in Thailand?
Walking along the riverfront in Phnom Penh, I've seen restaurants serving "happy pizzas".
It's illegal in Cambodia but apparently the law isn't enforced.

Bruno Sapienza,

Militarization of Mindanao makes it impossible
For indigenous peoples to return to ancestral land
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 20, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday June 16, 2022

The Promotion of Church People’s Response denounces the Duterte administration’s malicious “red-tagging” attacks against Church leaders for their ministries with the indigenous peoples’ of Mindanao at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran in Davao City.
This Church property has been a refuge for internally displaced “lumad” many times in past decades. However, in the last few years, militarization in the countryside and martial law in Mindanao have made it nearly impossible for many indigenous peoples to return to their ancestral lands.
As the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran’s ministries were attacked in Red-tagging operations, fabricated and spurious charges were also lodged against Church leaders and human rights defenders who have responded to the urgent needs and safety of the lumad refugees.
We are glad to learn that the two counts of child abuse filed against Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Bishop Daniel Palicte, and other human rights defenders have been dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Since other cases filed against those involved in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran ministries are similarly fabricated and without basis, we continue to appeal for all cases against these leaders to be expediently dismissed.
The disease of red-tagging and warmongering in the Philippines seeks to rob our marginalized lumad kababayan of much-needed services as well as undermine their collective right to self-determination.
Given the reality that state human rights violations forcibly displaced indigenous communities and sent them toward the city center, the Church must continue to assert our right to religious freedom and engage in the task of providing a safe haven to those under threat.
We are not surprised that these same forces that attack the lumad also attack the Church that cares for them.

Fr. Rolly De Leon,|
Rev. Mary Grace Masegman,
Promotion of Church People’s Response

Imperative that Members of Parliament be shown
To be squeaky clean in land ownership investigation
The Southeast Asian Times. Sunday June 19, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 16, 2022

Re: "Bhumjaithai bigwig in hot water over Khao Yai plot," in Bangkok Post, Friday June 10, 2022.
Khun Kanokwan Vilawan, Bhumjaithai deputy secretary-general, and her father illegally own land in Khao Yai National Park, says the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
Members of Parliament must be role models and comply with the law.
Khun Kanokwan being in the cabinet makes it even more imperative that she and her fellow defendants be shown to be squeaky-clean.
The investigation must be undertaken by those free of conflicts of interest unlike the probe of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit's watches.
In that case, the investigation was personally directed by General Watchman's former direct report, who had been appointed to his present post by General Watchman.

Burin Kantabutra,

Royal Thai Police take more than a year
To report Iran spy incident in Indonesia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 16, 2022

Re: "Iran spy puts cops on alert", in Bangkok Post, June 6, 2022.
It doesn't seem very clever to issue a "secret" order to police nationwide and then discuss it openly in the media.
One also has to wonder why it has taken the Royal Thai Police more than a year from the May 2021 reported spying incident in Indonesia before putting Thai police on specific alert.
Assuming that Thailand and Indonesia regularly share sensitive security information, it is almost certain that Thai authorities were aware of potential concerning Iranian-supported activities long ago.
Even without such specific warnings, Thailand should be ever-vigilant to avoid repeats of past terrorist bombings and other extremist activities emanating from any source.

Samanea Saman,

Imperative that Members of Parliament be shown
To be squeaky clean in illegal land ownership investigation
The Southeast Asian Times. Friday June 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 16, 2022

Re: "Bhumjaithai bigwig in hot water over Khao Yai plot," in Bangkok Post, Friday June 10, 2022
Khun Kanokwan Vilawan, Bhumjaithai deputy secretary-general, and her father illegally own land in Khao Yai National Park, says the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
Members of Parliament must be role models and comply with the law.
Khun Kanokwan being in the cabinet makes it even more imperative that she and her fellow defendants be shown to be squeaky-clean.
The investigation must be undertaken by those free of conflicts of interest unlike the probe of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit's watches.
In that case, the investigation was personally directed by General Watchman's former direct report, who had been appointed to his present post by General Watchman.

Burin Kantabutra,

No mention of dangerous adverse effects
Of Covid-19 vaccines in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 16, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday June 13, 2022

Re: "Ministry set to ask for end to mask rule", in Bangkok Post, June 10, 2022.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, a former businessman, is keen to downgrade Covid-19 from its emergency status as a dangerous communicable disease to reduce the economic burden on the government in caring for the people of Thailand.
Unfortunately, no mention of the dangerous adverse effects of the vaccines is made. According to recent studies of data collected on vaccinated populations of Western nations, at least 2-3 percent of those vaccinated will have severe adverse events in their lifetimes which bear a causal relationship to being vaccinated.
Furthermore, data also reveals that in the UK which maintains a relatively reliable database nine out of 10 people who die of Covid have been vaccinated.
The Public Health Ministry told everyone to get vaccinated and a compliant Thai citizenry did exactly that.
Of the approximately 70 million Thais, at least 1.4 to 2.1 million will suffer serious consequences.
These include myocarditis, pericarditis, heart inflammation which can have lifelong and severe health implications, neurological disorders including Guillain-Barre Syndrome which causes paralysis and can be life threatening, blindness, Bell's palsy, shingles, thrombocytopenia, brain disorders, a wide variety of unusual cancers, reproductive disorders, and a further list of acknowledged problems too long for this forum.
One must ask the Health Ministry an important question: Who will pay?
Mr Anutin is already tip-toeing around this issue.
We can presume he will continue to do so until his two lips form the word tulips so many times that people will imagine everything is just flowers and fairy tales.
Of course, the primary qualification for Thai and all politicians is the skill of avoiding being held accountable for one's actions; nevertheless, the Bangkok landslide election gives us hope that voters will remove their failed national government soon.

Michael Setter,

Thai lawmaking process
Is barely fit for purpose
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 15, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday June 13, 2022

Re: "Don't post crime pics, warns govt", in Bangkok Post, Saturday June 11, 2022.
Not for the first time do we see the hastily made, careless, partisan and vested-interest-driven Thai lawmaking process at work.
With the new Personal Data Protection Act, would-be Joe Ferraris can suffocate and murder prisoners safe in the knowledge that any social media whistleblower who dares to post a video of the crime will himself be guilty of a criminal act.
The abuses of personal freedom which will inevitably follow from this legislation are as predictable as the tsunami of abusive cases which followed that earlier lamentable act of political repression, the Computer Crimes Act.
The Thai lawmaking process, with its lack of transparency, virtual absence of any public consultation or participation, partisan committee structures and total absence of any effective checks and balances as we know it, is barely fit for purpose.


Complete break-down in law and order
During past three elections in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 14, 2022
First published in the National, Friday June 10, 2022

Democratic process in the voting of candidates to becoming members of parliament is a thing of the past.
In the past, when the country was not largely exposed to the outside world with minimal usage and penetration of social media and related news feed outlets, democratic election processes were observed.
The rule of law was existent and people had the freedom to decide whom to vote.
The people voted freely and openly and the winners of the respective seats entered parliament with satisfaction.
In the past three general elections, we have seen electing and voting a member of parliament like a goldmine.
The past three general elections with the current one in progress could become demonic considering the recent events reported all around the country.
For the past 11 days of the total 49 days of the campaign period May 12 to July 1, we have witnessed and read Okapa MP Saki Soloma attacked at Okapa Station, former MP Philemon Embel escaping an assassination attempt in Southern Highlands and the cancellation of flights into the Kagamuga International Airport due to oil spill on the runaway.
From my understanding, the 11 days’ ordeal is the tip of an iceberg considering the enormity of tribal allegiance throughout the Highlands resorting to arms use and violence.
We are witnessing the continuous road blocks by people who live along the national highways, sea pirating continues without reporting, houses and properties burnt by drug addicts and homebrew consumers.
What we have now is a complete break-down in law and order during the elections, counting and declaration of candidates in the past three elections and something has to be done about it.
The Government through the leadership of Prime Minister James Marape has tabled the Firearms Amendment Bill 2022, which was unanimously endorsed by all MPs.
This significant piece of legislature provides a roadmap for development of Papua New Guinea.
The core breathtaking and of course an essential element of satisfaction from the law-abiding citizens is the call for a life imprisonment for those in possession of firearms.
The enforcement agencies are police and army and they must develop some solutions to minimise the use and also capture those in possession of those illegal and unlicensed firearms.
Some of us wanted a pretrial rescue mission whereby the uniformed men and women could go out in the communities during campaign trail warning people about the legal consequences of the possession of firearms.
It is very important that police and army must have effective ground intelligence to apprehend people suspected of in possession of firearms or based on sufficient evidence arrest those people.

Christopher Papiali,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Singapore with no natural resources
Has one of the world's highest standard of living
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 13, 2022
First published in the National, Friday June 10, 2022

The Ambassador for the European Union Delegation AMD Jernej Videtic is spot on with his analysis of the failure by prime ministers, ministers, politicians, and department heads in managing the country’s finances prudently and honestly.
Our next door neighbour Singapore has no oil, gas, coffee, copra, timber and other resources taken for granted in Papua New Guinea.
However, it was able to acquire one of the world’s highest living standard and enviable employment stats after 45 years of independence.
After 45 plus years of independence, Papua New Guinea is in dire poverty despite the abundance of natural resources.
The problem is obviously dishonest and corrupt leadership.
I urge the country to vote for a new a prime minister who can prudently manage the country’s finances.
This can only happen if the leadership of the country is overhauled in the General Election 2022.
There is a vast pool of candidates with credible competencies in this election which gives hope to Papua New Guinea.
Let’s not shrug off this golden opportunity to decide individually and collectively on a new leadership for Papua New Guinea.

Concerned, Morata II,
National Capital District,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for PNG parliamentarians
To say no to foreign sugar daddies
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 12, 2022
First published in the National, Friday June 10, 2022

The vast majority of parliament leaders are without advice and have already sold the birthright of this nation and its decision-making in economic prosperity to the foreigners just for the greed of personal interest.
The leaders should take a firm stand and say no to foreign sugar daddies.
I support the letter by Voice of Wilderness in The National on Tuesday, June 7.
Transparent Advocate

Gregory Mitihata,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Russian President Putin
Invited to attend G-20 in Indonesia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 11, 2022

So Russian President Putin is deemed to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the atrocities committed in Russia’s war of invasion in Ukraine and he is “ invited “ to attend the G-20 meet in Indonesia ( Southeast Asian Times 8 June ).
What a weird world order we live in?
I wonder if that would have been the case if it was an African rogue leader?
Or, would an international arrest warrant issued for the African rogue leader to be hauled before the ICC to answer relevant charges ?
Why the double standard ?
Why the hypocrisy?

Rajend Naidu,

Ukrain president Volodymyr Zelensky
Begs for rocket system that could hit targets in Russia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 10, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 9, 2022

Re: "US to send advanced rocket systems", in Bangkok Post, Thursday June 2, 2022.
"We will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine," says Joe Biden.
Last time I looked, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was begging for a rocket system that could hit targets on Russian territory.
By downsizing the type of system he is willing to provide, Mr Biden has doomed Ukraine to defeat.
Mr Zelensky will be able to defend his own territory, but will be unable to attack the territory of his enemy.
Essentially he will be fighting with one arm tied behind his back.
Biden's pusillanimity on this issue is yet another reason for Americans to feel ashamed.
First he turns the Afghans over to the tender mercies of the Taliban, then he pulls the rug out from under the feet of the Ukrainians.

Ashamed to be an American,

Birds of a feather
Flock together in Fiji
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 9, 2022

With regard to Chinese foreign affairs minister Wang Yi’s recent Fiji visit,
the news report ‘ Restrictions on journalists a joint decision ‘ between the Chinese and Fijian governments ( The Fiji Times 7/6/22 ) sounds like a case of birds of the same ideological feather flocking together.

Rajend Naidu


School children with high grades
Stay at home in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 8, 2022
First published in the National, Thursday May 31, 2022

The education system of Papua New Guinea is designed to fail a lot of students.
I know this opening line is a shock to a lot of readers but let me get this straight.
When we have less universities and colleges than high schools and secondary schools and also primary schools, what is that implying?
It simply means that whether we like it or not, we are already establishing the fact that we want more students at home than in school.
I have travelled enough countries to realise that what makes them great is their education system.
They have a lot of higher institutions to cater for their students.
Papua New Guinea, we have the potential to increase higher institutions if we set our priorities right.
I don’t know other leaders but for me, seeing a child at home with good grades as high as 3.0 GPA or even 3.4 GPA because of lack of space is not normal.
When I speak in schools, I ask grade eights if in primary school to put their hands up.
If there are 74 grade eights, I tell them my concern is not 74 grade eights starting off, but will they all pass grade 12 or better still secure spaces in higher institutions?
If we continue to ignore this issue of less higher institutions to cater for our students, we will send more students home who will create more nuisance for the country.

Glen Burua,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Tragic if the Philippines election celebrations of the victorious
Are overturned by Supreme Court disqualification verdict
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 7, 2022
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Thursday June 2, 2022

Regardless of whether or not the verdict in the last elections was fair is now water under the bridge.
Nevertheless, there remains yet a glimpse of faint hope regarding the issue of the disqualification of the forerunner in the said elections.
The case that the Commission on Elections decided under unacceptable and suspicious circumstances has finally reached the Supreme Court, the ultimate bulwark of justice.
The honorable members of the high court now face a stark challenge of weighing the mandate of clear applicable laws against some probable political constraints. But we may anticipate a correct verdict with optimism, considering the high esteem and regard that we hold for the integrity and uprightness of justices.
And to consider further that at stake is the welfare of the state.
It is, indeed, tragic if the celebrations of the victorious are overturned by a disqualification verdict.
But the law is the law, and justice must always be upheld. Judiciousness should allay the fears of bitterness and chaos.
For after all, right is might.

Gerry Maglaya,
Pasig City,


Myanmar military rulers categorically reject
Any interference from unfriendly countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 6, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday June 5, 2022

Re: "Will Myanmar's fate rely on Asean?", in Bangkok Post Opinion, May 27, 2022.
Marzuki Darusman, a former chair of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, tries to describe Myanmar through one-sided information and unreliable facts and data.
We do accept that Myanmar people are encountering multiple challenges in their livelihood during the pandemic combined with the impact of conflict between the government and unlawful groups and some ethnic armed organisations.
In reality, the followers of unlawful associations named National Unity Government (NUG) and People's Defence Force (PDF) are extorting, threatening, killing local peoples including Buddhist monks, school teachers, villagers, administrative officers and innocent civilians if they do not support or cooperate with their brutality.
In Myanmar, the terrorists, the followers of People's Defence Force (PDF) and National Unitity Government (NUG), destroyed villages with the idea that the villagers were against them; they also set fire to the schools.
You absolutely disregarded on-the-ground evidence and actual facts.
You should look at the information from both sides precisely.
Some media are broadcasting one-sided views, propaganda for unlawful groups, and also disseminating fake news and disinformation as a destructive tool in their various sabotage attempts.
If you want to see peace and harmony in Myanmar, you have to develop a right perception on current issues.
Without this, can you make constructive suggestions and actions for Myanmar?
I don't know how much you know about the complexity of Myanmar, such as issues on insurgency, ethnicity, religion, the economy and society.
Being an outsider, how can you address those issues?
Under a pretext of democracy and human rights, the West is always disrupting Myanmar.
And nowadays some belligerent countries, with little knowledge of Myanmar, are attempting to interfere in the country's domestic affairs. Myanmar categorically rejects any interference from unfriendly countries.
If you want to see peace and development in Myanmar, please extend your helping hand, but do not make belligerent acts.
You know what happens in countries after being invaded by the West.
I believe that if you are a good friend of Myanmar, you will give constructive support to Myanmar.
Otherwise, you will make problems for Myanmar as always.
Any support of so-called National Unity Government (NUG) and People's Defence Force (PDF) will lead to more trouble, more chaos and more fighting in Myanmar. Day by day, minute by minute, the innocent people of Myanmar are being shot dead by the followers of People's Defence Force (PDF).
As long as a country gets along with the West, the West always supports them regardless of whether it is a democracy, monarchy or an authoritarian state.
No country is perfect.
That is why the international order is shifting further.
However, I will draw your attention to a current endeavour of Myanmar.
The government is extending an invitation to all ethnic armed groups to engage in dialogue for long-lasting peace in Myanmar.
Please stop disturbing our peace efforts.

Chit Swe,

Papua New Guinea's urban growth rate
Is higher than its population growth rate
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 5, 2022
First published in the National, Tues May 31, 2022

The following discussion evaluates “managing urban growth”.
The letter stresses on the need for preparation of development plans to manage urban growth in the districts and provinces of Papua New Guinea.
Uncertainty remains on the exact rate at which the current population of Papua New Guinea is growing in-spite the fact that a national census was conducted in 2011.
Current research show that Papua New Guinea's urban growth rate is higher than its population growth rate at three per cent National Population Policy (NPP) 2015.
Urban growth is a core focus of the Government under polices such as, the Papua New Guinea National Urbanisation Policy and the National Population Policy.
Managing urban growth is a multi-cross cutting issue and includes a range of disciplines to define the specific challenges, roles and functions in planning with pragmatic approaches and solutions (Campbell and Fainstein, 2003).
This brings me to the last point, a way forward.
To achieve a more appropriate balance between urban and rural development and to promote a spatial distribution of population, economic growth and sustainable development, we need to integrate urban development plans with district economic plans of the towns and cities.
According to the Physical Planning Act (1989) a development plan is a written and illustrated policy statement and proposal for development over an area including the use of land.
Contents of the development plan are to improve the zoning of the development plan area.
By law four types of development plan are prepared in Papua New Guinea: a provincial development plan, urban development plan, local development plan and subject development plan.
Having an urban development plan in the planning and allocation of resources for service improvement grants or district services improvement grants enables greater transparency and accountability for the use of grants into priority areas of the districts.
Urban Development Plan is an important strategic planning and design policy statement for the districts to apply down to the local and ward level government.
It ensures economic growth of our townships, including all other forms of development runs parallel with detail forward land use planning.
The challenge is whether development plans can be successfully applied into smaller but rapidly changing rural and regional centres of Papua New Guinea.
A concern is whether or not members of parliament can see its importance and support preparations of development plans for improving towns and cities.
More research is required for new models that can be adopted and applied specifically to the different declared physical planning areas of Papua New Guinea.

Edward Pulagis (MPIA)
Urban and regional planner with
a Post Graduate Degree from the
University of Sydney, Australia
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea students call on PM
For return to China to complete studies
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 4, 2022
First published in the National, Tuesday May 31, 2022

We, Papua New Guinea students, who were studying in China but came back home because of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in early 2020 are calling upon our good prime minister and Government to arrange for our return to China to complete our studies.
We heard that the China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi will be visiting Papua New Guinea on Thursday.
We were happy and excited to study in China.
It was our lifetime opportunity to study in a big and modern nation like China.
Unfortunately, we were forced to return home because of Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020.
We spent two years at home doing nothing.
This is the third year waiting.
We really don’t want to spend another year at home.
Most countries have started opening up international borders and governments have supported and facilitated on sending their students back to China since early last year 2021.
On March 21, Fiji and Solomon Islands students had returned to China.
This happened when their governments have met with Minister Wang Yi and arranged for their return.
This is an opportunity for the Government to negotiate our return to China to resume our studies.
Please, note that we do not want to wait for another two years or even another year waiting while governments from other countries are negotiating with minister Wang to send their students back to China.
We understand that our government is busy at this time when the country is going for the 2022 general election but we urgently call upon the government to arrange for us to return to China immediately to resume our studies.

Luand Nicodemus
On behalf of Papua New Guinea students waiting to return for studies
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for media access to China foreign minister's
Visit to Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 3, 2022
First published in the National, Tuesday May 31, 2022

The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is expected to visit Papua New Guinea on June 2-3.
Wang is visiting the Pacific on a 10-day trip.
Wang’s tour began last Thursday in the Solomon Islands.
He already visited Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji and will visit Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor next week, according to China’s foreign ministry.
Prime Minister James Marape confirmed last Monday that the Chinese embassy in Port Moresby had advised the Government of the foreign minister’s visit to Papua New Guinea this week.
The concern here is for the Papua New Guinea media to have full access to the meeting(s) that would be held during the visit.
When Wang visited the Solomon Islands last week, both the local and international media were given restricted access to him.
Journalists seeking to cover the Solomon Islands leg of the tour for international outlets said they were blocked from attending press events, while those journalists allowed access were extremely limited in their ability to ask questions.
In a democratic country like Papua New Guinea, media freedom should not be dictated on another government’s terms.
It would be a hindrance to our democratic principles.
I hope the media is not restricted when Wang visits Papua New Guinea.

For media freedom,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

We don’t want that authoritarian State tendency
In the Pacific island democracies
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday June 2, 2022

We learn from the news that ten Pacific island countries have rejected China’s trade and security pact ( SBS News 31/5, 6.30pm).
That’s probably a good thing .
If state officials stopping the media from taking photos during Chinese foreign affairs minister Wang Yi’s Fiji visit ( The Fiji Times 31/5 ) is anything to by, we are likely to witness more of that kind of State control should China penetrate Pacific island governance.
We don’t want that authoritarian State tendency in the Pacific island democracies.

Rajend Naidu,

Decades of disinformation made possible
The restoration of the Marcos family
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 1, 2022
First Published in the Philippine Inquiry, Monday May 30, 2022

The events of the past weeks were shocking, and that’s an underestimation.
The years of disinformation have become ingrained in this country’s soul that it brought back a rule that we once deposed.
It was a victory for all we protested against, and all the Bible told us not to do.
It’s beyond my imagination and beyond my grasp.
There is consolation in knowing many I know continue to put up a good fighta fight that I believed in for a long time.
I refused to believe this is our end, or that whatever hope we left is gone.
The moral arc of the universe got longer.
The day of reckoning was not yesterday, but will surely come.
But that’s all behind us now.
This will be a circuitous and rollercoaster ride from here on.
Maybe we maintain our silent mourning or persist in our loud protestations.
We could write essays and still feel at a loss for words. We want to cry but tears have become wanting.
We could feel the hatred that no clenched fist could sum up.
We could hug each other and say our prayers and still find no peace in our hearts the questions that linger and the anger that does not die.
As much as possible, I always relate how topics in our field would be perceived by the layman the common tao.
To us scholars, it’s easy to understand.
But to people outside our profession, their perception is based on what they are accustomed to.
In all we do, we remember the people who made our education possible.
And so, when decades of disinformation made possible the restoration of the family the Filipino people ousted 36 years ago, we face an existential crisis: what is the point of years of education when it can be falsely claimed?
What is the point of exams, of toiling day and night when the rich and powerful can easily breeze through the upper echelons of power?
It’s maddening.
I cannot claim to know what my students feel now but they are not the only ones who lost.
There is solidarity in knowing that no matter how deep our sorrow is, we are not alone.
But I do beg that they stay the course.
Make the events of the past weeks a reminder that resting on laurels is not an option. Sure, rest if we must, feel tired, feel the loss of hope.
May we find our way through the long fight greater than ourselves.
It’s always about standing and believing in the collective good over and above our individual whims.
As we usually say: Padayon.

Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao,
University of the Philippines,