The Southeast Asian Times
NEWS FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
LETTERS:

 

The Malaysian Bar calls on Prime Minister
To advise the King to allow Parliament to reconvene
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 March 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday 6 March 2021

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Cabinet to consider advising His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to allow Parliament to reconvene during the current Emergency period.
Parliament is the legislative authority of the federation, and its vital role in preserving democracy cannot be understated.
The purpose of Parliament is not only to pass laws but also to provide checks and balances to the function of the government as well as to provide a voice for the rakyat.
On February 24,2021, the King decreed that Parliament may convene during the period of this Emergency, upon the advice of the Prime Minister.
This is enshrined in subparagraph 14(1)(b) of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 (“Ordinance”). It is therefore inaccurate to assume that the Emergency Declaration precludes Parliament from convening.
The Malaysian Bar takes the view that Parliament should consider holding a sitting physically with the number of attendees restricted to that which is necessary to satisfy the quorum of 26 members of Parliament divided equally between the government and opposition parties.
Alternatively, Parliament could also consider arranging for full online proceedings or to employ hybrid mechanisms, whereby some MPs attend physically and others attend via online participation.
It is pertinent to note that Parliaments in other jurisdictions, such as Britain, have been conducting proceedings virtually. Pursuant to Article 62(1) of the Constitution, each House of Parliament is allowed to regulate its own procedure. Such flexibility is important during these unprecedented times.
Therefore, Article 62(1) of the Federal Constitution ought to be given a purposive interpretation.
This will allow MPs to log in virtually, and this can be construed as attendance for the purposes of achieving the necessary quorum and for voting.
Pursuant to Standing Orders 90 and 99 of the Dewan Rakyat, the Speaker of the House is armed with powers to make rulings or to suspend standing orders.
This authority can be used to allow virtual proceedings or to overcome any impediments that stand in the way of implementing virtual Parliamentary proceedings during the Emergency period.
Even the Parliamentary Standing Order Committee should be able to meet virtually to decide on any amendments to orders to pave way and allow for online proceedings.
Malaysia has experienced the suspension of Parliament for two years during the 1969 racial riots, and such a position is entirely untenable in this day and age.
We must take into account the fact that our current Parliament is well equipped with technological tools that did not exist more than half a century ago.
Parliament must therefore do what many workplaces are doing in the face of a pandemic: innovate expediently.
The Malaysian Bar acknowledges that health and safety are important considerations during a pandemic, and against this grim backdrop, virtual proceedings are the safest and most effective way to bring parliamentary institutions up to date with the modern era.
We must adapt without compromising Parliamentary democracy to address issues of national importance that affect the welfare and well-being of the rakyat.

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for private sector to help Philippines
With vaccine distribution
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 March 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 March 2021

I have just learned from a relative in the United States who keeps track of vaccine distributions worldwide that the reason the Philippines has still not received any vaccines from Western producers abroad is because our government has been dithering about agreeing to indemnify persons who may react badly to the vaccine. Furthermore, President Duterte’s fulminations against Western countries not aiding poor countries like ours simply strengthens the belief that the Philippines will keep on being a mendicant nation.
Obviously because this inept administration has been bungling its way during this whole crisis, the private sector must step in to help the country get immunized, as Guillermo Luz wrote in Business Matters “How the private sector can help in vaccination,” 2/20/21.
Bangladesh, which is among the most impoverished countries in Asia, has beaten us to rolling out its vaccines, which only puts us to shame.
Apparently, this country will continue being the perennial laggard among our Asian neighbors.

Celeste Cruz,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Thai PM to promote not curb
Non Government Organisations NGOs
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 5 March 2021

The Prayut Chan-o-cha government apparently wants to curb civil society groups and NGOs with unwarranted regulations, such as restricting foreign donations to certain activities in Bangkok Post, 4 March.
But we should promote - not curb - civil society, for NGOs can, and should, complement the work of state agencies.
As former prime minister Anand Panyarachun put it: "Civil society is a vital pillar of democracy. An active civil society begins its engagement at the grassroots.
Community forums, clubs, issue-focused activist groups, charities, cooperatives, unions, think tanks and associations fit under the broad umbrella of civil society. These groups are the participatory vehicles for sustaining grass-root democracy. Civil society provides an important source of information for intelligent debate on matters of public interest. Civil society also provides a mechanism whereby the collective views of citizens can shape and influence government policy.
By bringing into the public domain arguments and information as a context for examining policy, a democratic government is forced to present counterarguments or to modify its position. Such exchange is healthy for democracy."

For example, Thai public health volunteers greatly helped in surveillance and containing Covid-19.
Another example is PollWatch, established by then-prime minister Khun Anand, consisting of 20,000 volunteers to curb vote-buying and encourage democratic consciousness in the lead-up to the March 1992 elections.
In the US, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been a key player in reducing US road fatalities due to drunk driving in half since its 1980 founding - an achievement that we have only dreamed about.
Help NGOs to strengthen Thai democracy.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Myanmar's neighbours including Australia
Call for restoration of elected government
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 March 2021

Some of Myanmar's neighbours have called for the restoration of democracy. Significant members of the international community have called for the restoration of democracy.
But my guess is that military rulers who grabbed power in a coup and locked up democratically elected civilian leaders are not likely to heed the calls for the restoration of democracy.
They have too much special privilege ( which they have given themselves ) to lose. If anything the rogue military rulers will intensify their brutal crackdown on pro- democracy protesters to entrench themselves in power - again.
Time will tell.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Myanmar could be forced
To accept total Chinese patronage
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 3 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 3 March 2021

The situation in Myanmar would seem to present a golden opportunity for a useful bit of gunboat diplomacy.
What would be the likely result of an American carrier task force standing off the coast in the Gulf of Martaban or Indian Ocean?
Perhaps joined by the new British aircraft carrier and French naval assets.
Of course it is out of the question for a foreign invasion on the ground.
However the Myanmar military might have cause to think again if faced with the threat of having its assets and installations reduced by air power.
Including its small air force and command and control capability.
No doubt all this will seem like fantasy to geopolitical realists, but what is the likely alternative?
As things stand, the anti-dictatorship population are most likely to lose the physical battle with their own military forces, accompanied by horrible loss of life.
A general strike will be effective up to a point, but will probably end up with eventual resumption of work at gunpoint, encouraged by jailings and killings.
As things are now the likely winner will be China. Myanmar will be forced to accept total Chinese patronage, given comprehensive Western sanctions and a total arms embargo.
The big losers will be the people of Myanmar, with an intensified military dictatorship, plus de facto control of their country by China.
The secondary losers will be the US, India, Japan, and regional countries, who will see an even more emboldened China which will more easily be able to bypass the Straits of Malacca for its exports.
Not only that, increased influence may see ports on the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean eventually become Chinese naval bases.
A timely move now by the Western powers would gain almost total support from the Myanmar people, and if successful bring the country firmly into the Indo/Pacific sphere of influence.

Leo Bourne,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Unlike China the United States seeks authorisation
From Philippines before sailing in territorial waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 March 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 1 March 2021

A “visit” is a short stay; a journey to and stay or short sojourn at a place, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition; also, to stay temporarily with someone or at a place as a guest or tourist.
Per Oxford Lexico, it can also mean to go see someone or something for a specific purpose.
China has converted what were once submerged features in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) into island armed fortresses.
To make matters worse, it recently passed a law authorizing its naval forces to fire on whoever enters what it calls its own body of water, demarcated by the discredited “nine-dash line.”
Juxtapose that with the United States, which built military bases in the country and ceremoniously turned them over to the Philippine government at the end of the basing agreement.
Unlike China, the United States never grabbed any Philippine property that would allow it to keep an eye on the Western Pacific Corridor. US naval vessels, if they wish to, can slip in and out of the country.
Not being a rogue force, however, the United States would not do what Chinese ships like Jia Geng and many others have done, romping around the country’s territorial waters without prior authorization from the Philippine government and breaking established maritime rules like turning off their automatic identification system to escape detection, showing a ringing contempt for our duly-constituted authorities.
In 2014, the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces (PCVF) crafted an Omnibus IRR to systematize and smoothen the conduct of military exercises in the country by visiting foreign military forces.
The Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces (PCVF), together with inter-agency representatives (I was one of them), pored over the 1999 bilateral agreement with a fine-tooth comb and came out with an Omnibus Policy that would ensure that our country’s sovereignty was respected and our laws fully observed at all times.

Ted P Penaflor 11,
Manila,
Philippines




ASEAN conveniently turns blind eye to Myanmar
Under ASEAN non-interference policy
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 28 February 2021

Khun Bigart's frustration over Asean's failure to stand with the people of Myanmar demonstrating against the recent military coup is futile.
While it is true the Asean charter includes respect for human rights and freedoms, the overriding principle that always prevails within Asean is "non-interference" in member states affairs.
The non-interference tenet has allowed Asean to conveniently turn a blind eye to human-rights violations, military coups, extra-judicial killings, religious intolerance, and suppression of freedoms in several of its member states.
No, Khun Bigart; the failure of Asean to respond to the military's squashing of Myanmar's fledgling democracy is not going to cause Asean's reputation to go down the drain.
The regional entity's reputation with respect to human rights went down the drain, through the gutter, and into the cesspool long, long ago.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Myanmar's representative to United Nations
Calls for international community to oppose military coup
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 March 2021

I salute Myanmar's UN envoy Kyaw Moe Tun for his courage to speak truth to power in his address to the United Nations.
He said the international community must do all in its power to oppose the military coup that overthrew the elected civilian government in Myanmar ( SBS News 27 February ).
He could have taken the easier option, the politically expedient option, of siding with and singing praise of the military generals.
But he is clearly a conscientious person who wants to be on the right side of history which is to be on the side of the Myanmar people and their democratically elected leaders.
Not the military usurpers who grabbed power to maintain their own vested interests as opposed to the interests and the welfare of the people of Myanmar.
The Myanmar military's imposed rule is like a Mafia state.
Nobody committed to human rights, the rule of law, good governance and democracy should give legitimacy to the military coup in any shape or form.
They should heed the envoy's message and oppose the coup.
Envoy Kyaw Moe Tun has shown himself to be a true representative of the people of Myanmar and no moral coward.
We should draw inspiration from his bold and principled example.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia

 

 

Call for ASEAN to stand up
For Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday 26 February 2021

Re: "Myanmar needs help", in Editorial, Bangkok Post, February 25
Asean has been talking about holding a meeting of its foreign ministers for weeks. How hard it is to organise one?
It is pathetic and its reputation is going down the drain.
The Asean charter includes the respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, adhering to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, and good governance.
It must stand up for almost 90 percent of the Myanmar civilians peacefully demonstrating against the illegal military regime.
Myanmar doesn't need a new election - it just had one, deemed fair by observers, including international observers, and people have already spoken.

Bigart,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Thailand
Surrounded by China puppet states
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 27 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 26 February 2021

If China gets its way and the Myanmar generals hop into bed with them in exchange for power and riches, Thailand will be surrounded by Chinese puppet states.
Those wheels are in motion at this very moment.

MBW,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Myanmar military not a national military
For protection of Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 February 2021

In an interview with Aljazeera on 22 February a spokesman for Forces for Renewal for Southeast Asia ( FORSEA ) said the Myanmar military was not a national military for the protection of Myanmar and its people.
It was a terrorist organisation, a state within the state, with unfettered power to use brutal force on the civilian population to maintain its power and privilege .
Why would Australia have military ties with such a " terrorist organisation"?
Whose interest is being served by such ties?
It's not just the people of Myanmar even mentally challenged people can see that!

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for PM scrutiny of forged landowners names and identities
In Papua liquefied natural gas (LNG) project
The southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 February 2021
First published in the National Tuesday 23 February 2021

Landowners at Karimui-Salt Nomane want the Petroleum Minister and Sinasina-Yonggamugl Member of Parliament Kerenga Kua and his cohorts to right their wrongs regarding the much-anticipated Papua liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.
Kua was alleged to have colluded with Karimui-Salt Nomane MP Jeffry Kama, Chimbu Governor Michael Dua and a Chimbu businessmen by forging names and identities of landowners.
The landowners are calling on Kua and the Department of Petroleum to shed some light on their results of landowners’ identification process.
They request that Prime Minister James Marape scrutinise the remaining process of Papua LNG landowners identification process so his vision to “Take Back PNG” is implemented thoroughly, otherwise, the Papua LNG project will be hijacked by crooks.

Moore-Aina,
Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea


The will of the people of Myanmar
Ignored by the Myanmar military
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 February 2021

The Myanmar story is straightforward .
The will of the people of Myanmar to give their consent on who they want to govern them has been ignored by the military of Myanmar who have decided to impose their will on the people of Myanmar by brutal force.
They are a rogue military whose conduct is unacceptable by international law and norms.
The people of Myanmar are now under tyrannical military rule.
What is the international community going to do about it?
Anything?
Nothing?
The tortured and oppressed people of Myanmar are waiting anxiously for any answer.
How many must be killed and maimed by the Neo-fascist rulers before the international community decides to act, to intervene?
Let us at this critical time in the lives of the suffering people of Myanmar remind ourselves of the warning Edmund Burke has left us : evil only triumphs when good men do nothing.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


Call to safeguard Thai citizenry
From fraudulent vaccine suppliers
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday 23 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 22 February 2021

Re: "China arrests dozens over fake vaccines", in Bangkok Post,
February 16, 2021
The emergence of fake vaccines and scam immunisations in China should serve as a strong warning to Thailand and other countries eager to put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, whenever the opportunity arises, unscrupulous con artists are quick to prey on people's hopes and desperations. Authorities would be well-advised to safeguard Thai citizenry from fraudulent vaccine suppliers and various other snake-oil purveyors.
In this sense, the adage "make haste slowly" seems apt with respect to vaccination programmes.

Samanea Saman,
Bamgkok,
Thailand



Call for United Nations peacekeeping force
To be dispatched to Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 21 February 2021

The people of Myanmar have demonstrated their endorsement of the National League for Democracy and their massive rejection of military rule.
The army junta has lost all vestiges of legitimacy and the spectre looms of a bloodbath of innocent protesters at the hands of the military.
Now is the time for the United Nations to put into practice the Resolution of the General Assembly in its Action for Peacekeeping:
We affirm the primacy of politics in the resolution of conflict and the supporting role of peacekeeping operations therein, and reaffirm the basic principles of peacekeeping, such as consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force, except in self-defence and defence of the mandate.
We recall the importance of peacekeeping as one of the most effective tools available to the UN in the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security.
The people of Myanmar are at grave risk, as is also the United Nations office, in addition to the some 500 United Nations local personnel who do not enjoy the security of diplomatic status.
With the utmost urgency the Thailand Country Representative should submit a Resolution to the Security Council to draw up an appropriate mandate for a UN peacekeeping force to be dispatched to Myanmar asap, to assure the protection of UN personnel.
Thereafter, the mandate could be extended with appropriate clearances to include observer and reporting status relating to civilians.

Joseph Mullen (Dr)
Former UN Adviser to Myanmar and Civil Service Commission of Thailand
Sr Lecturer University of Manchester retd.,
Bangkok,|
Thailand


 

Call for PNG Lands and Physical Planning Minister
To explain Chinese ownership of public land
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 February 2021
First published in the National, Friday 19 February 2021

Lands and Physical Planning Minister John Rosso has been vocal against land grabbing.
We want him to immediately investigate the land at the back of Gordon Police Station and Medical Clinic.
There is construction on it now.
We suspect that the land was acquired fraudulently.
Why can’t we expand the Gordon Police Station and the clinic and build these two government infrastructures into modern state of the art buildings to serve people of Moresby North West?
Gordon Police Station looks very old and needs maintenance and expansion.
The same goes for the clinic.
Why is this land given to a Chinese who has a history of acquiring more than one piece of land in Port Moresby’s Gordon suburb?
The man is said to own the land along Lapwing Drive, the reserved park land behind Jabiru Drive residences and the land near Erima Bridge.
Who is behind these deals?
Isn’t this land grabbing?
Over to you Minister Rosso.

Longtime Resident,
Gordon Suburb,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Malaysian Chinese Association accuses ASEAN of interference
In ASEAN call for Malaysia's monarchy to reconvene parliament
First published in the Star, Thursday 18 February 2021
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 February 2021

Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) urges the 90 Members of Parliaments (MPs) and ex-MPs from the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) who signed a statement calling on His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong to allow Parliament to reconvene, to be more concerned about issues affecting the citizens of their respective countries, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic raging, instead of interfering with the domestic affairs of other countries.
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has full confidence that Malaysia is wise enough to deal with matters involving our own country.
There is no need for outsiders to have to worry or attempt to find cheap political publicity.
Upon researching the list of signatories, we discovered that 65 of them are Members of Parliament (MPs), while another 25 do not serve as lawmakers currently, and a majority of whom hail from the opposition.
Surprisingly, two-thirds of the 90 legislators who are supposedly from 7 countries, are actually members of only 2 political parties.
In fact, the court had ordered the dissolution of one of the political parties a few years ago.
Most of the signatories are opposition leaders in Thailand, whereby 47 individuals consist of 43 Members of Parliaments (MPs and 4 former MPs.
Almost all of them belong to one party.
Why are so many party leaders interested in Malaysia's internal affairs?
What is their real motive?
Meanwhile, all 12 signatories from Cambodia are former MPs from a party that had been dissolved by the Supreme Court of Cambodia.
The only signatory from Singapore was an appointed Members of Parliament (MP) who has since completed her tenure.
The declaration of a State of Emergency aimed at containing the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak is an internal matter within Malaysia.
The government has also established a bipartisan Special Independent Emergency Committee 2021 comprising of government and Opposition Members of Parliaments (MPs) as well as experts in various fields to assess the current situation during the Emergency and advise His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Therefore, the signatories are reminded to respect the ASEAN Charter and to not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, even if they only represent certain personal positions or organisations.

Dr Tee Ching Seng ,
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA),
International Communication and Diplomacy Bureau,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Philippine President Duterte acting like 'kotong'
In attempt to extort 'barya' for VFA from United States
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 February 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 February 2021

When President Duterte asked for payment from the United States in exchange for the Visiting Forces Agreement, he acted like a “kotong” cop hiding behind a tree and extorting “barya” from a motorist even without violations.
The Duterte administration is also trying to squeeze taxes from ABS-CBN media despite the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s confirmation that the network has paid its tax obligations.
On the other hand, the government refused to send a collection letter to Manny Pacquiao for unpaid taxes worth billions of pesos.
It appears the government is trying to raise revenues on all fronts. Is it because the public coffers are empty despite the government having borrowed extensively over the past year?

Isidro C. Valencia,
Taguig City,
Philippines





Representatives of AICHR call on Myanmar military
To resolve election dispute through democratic process
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 February 2021
First published in the Malasiakini, Monday 15 February 2021

We, the undersigned, former representatives to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), are gravely concerned over the coup staged by the Myanmar military on February 1 against the elected civilian government.
Raids have been carried out by the military against members of the government. According to credible news sources, hundreds of senior National League for Democracy party members and government officials including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and Union Minister of the Office of the State Counsellor and former Representative of Myanmar to the AICHR, Kyaw Tint Swe, as well as protesters have been arrested and detained.
The removal and takeover of the civilian government that was elected in a landslide victory by the people of Myanmar is contrary to the principles of democracy, constitutional government, rule of law, good governance, as well as respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Asean Charter. Myanmar, as a member of Asean, is obliged to abide by the charter.
The coup also amounts to a serious breach of human rights of the peoples of Myanmar as recognised by the Asean Human Rights Declaration.
The declaration that Myanmar’s government adopted binds Myanmar, including its military.
The violent crackdown on the ongoing peaceful protests is further evidence of widespread human rights abuses.
The coup staged by the military is a definite setback in Myanmar’s process of democratisation and has far-reaching ramifications for human rights in the region.
Not only will the coup destabilise the region, but it is also a catalyst allowing the military to act unchecked to afflict the people of Myanmar with the unacceptable malaise of dictatorship.
We, therefore, call for the following:
Myanmar military to immediately release all those currently arbitrarily detained.
Myanmar military to resolve the election dispute through democratic processes, enter into constructive dialogue with the stakeholders in Myanmar to break through any impasse, and work towards reconciliation and return of Myanmar to civilian rule consistent with the spirit, will, and interest of the people of Myanmar.
Myanmar military to respect the human rights of the people of Myanmar and refrain from any use of violence against peaceful assemblies.
Myanmar military to protect the voices of the people calling for a fully democratic Myanmar in the manifestation of the founding spirit and principles of the Asean Human Rights Declaration.
AICHR to exercise its protection mandate to look into the human rights abuses in Myanmar.
Asean to convene a special meeting to discuss the situation in Myanmar and to propose possible solutions for the crisis.
Signed by:

Sriprapha Petcharamesree, former representative of Thailand to the AICHR
Seree Nonthasoot, former representative of Thailand to the AICHR
Edmund Bon Tai Soon, former representative of Malaysia to the AICHR
Dinna Prapto Rajaha, former representative of Indonesia to the AICHR
Rafendi Djamin, former representative of Indonesia to the AICHR
Barry Desker, former representative of Singapore to the AICHR
Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, former representative of Malaysia to the AICHR

Loretta Ann P Rosales,
Former representative of the Philippines to the AICHR,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippines call for lower electricity costs
Second highest in Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 February 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 February 2021

February is celebrated as the Love Month. But for millions of Filipinos struggling to make ends meet in this already year-long COVID-19 pandemic, love is hardly felt.
Every day, we are faced with the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic, further worsened by the rise in commodity prices - including that which is very crucial to our lives: electricity.
Just last month, Meralco announced a price hike of P0.27 per kilowatt-hour.
This meant that a household consuming 200 kWh would be charged an additional P55 in their electricity bill.
In the first week of February, consumers flocked to several Meralco offices to protest this price hike and called out the company for its abusive practices - for not complying with the promised extension of its “nondisconnection policy” and continuing to cut the service of some customers for nonpayment.
Filipino consumers deserve better.
The Philippines has the second highest electricity cost in Southeast Asia, and amid the ongoing economic crisis and the high cost of household utilities, service from these energy companies should never be inefficient, expensive, or predatory.
The energy industry has been heartless all these years, sucking us dry with high rates and sneaky charges.
Particularly at this time when surviving the global pandemic is the topmost priority, it is crucial for the government to put into heart the importance of implementing existing laws and policies that are consumer-centered.
Kuryente.org urges energy suppliers to show our consumers some love by bringing the cost of electricity down and providing the service they deserve.
At the current rate of P10 per kWh, average earners would not be able to make both ends meet, given the P537 minimum wage in Metro Manila and much lower wages in the rest of the country.
While the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Republic Act No. 9136 enforces open competition among producers and distributors in the country, this law does not sufficiently lower the prices of electricity in the Philippines.
Existing regulation guidelines must be improved and strengthened, focusing on ways to significantly lower electricity fees so that these will not significantly compete with other basic family needs.
A Social Weather Stations survey conducted in December 2020 asserts that 91 percent of Filipinos are hopeful for the new year.
We at Kuryente.org believe that this optimism should be sustained and maximized by allowing consumers to be a crucial part of decision-making processes in the energy sector.
During this time when jobs are still scarce and millions of Filipinos are experiencing the excruciating impacts of the pandemic, cheaper electricity can allow more Filipinos the chance for a better year, indeed.

Nic Satur Jr.,
National Coordinator
Kuryente.org
Manila,
Philippines



Letter of the law applied to reciepients
Of pension over payments in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 February 2021

Re: "Pension drama didn't have to happen", in Bangkok Post, February 7
Thai authorities invite ridicule and scorn for applying the "letter of the law" instead of common sense in attempting to reclaim pension overpayments sent to elderly recipients over the years.
It is absurd to expend yet more government resources to recover these relatively small overpayments made to senior members of society who deserve only to be respected and revered rather than hassled.
Considering that the overpayments were the result of bureaucratic bungling rather than any wrongdoing by the elders themselves, it would be most reasonable to write off the "losses" and move on.
These overpayments are peanuts in comparison to the countless other examples of government waste and fraud that go largely unchallenged by authorities.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

 

Call for Australia to abandon
Military ties with Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, 15 February 2021

I agree with David Brown ( letter 6/2 and 12/2 ) and disagree with Ray Ban ( Letter 14/2 ).
The potential leaders from Third World countries like Myanmar who are likely to absorb the values of the host country ( Australia and other western democracies ) through the military exchange, aid and ties is more a myth than a reality.
It is driven more by what's politically expedient than what's right.
It exposes the hypocrisy inherent in the western countries purported commitment to upholding democratic values and norms of good governance.
In Fiji the military men who acquired training in England instead of absorbing the values of the host country carried out the military coups .
Fiji's democracy has not recovered .
Many civil society activists and human rights defenders maintain Fiji's purported
" return to parliamentary democracy " is a masquerade and that the modus operandi of the police state is still very much in place under the guise of democracy.
I can cite many more examples of this phenomenon where the desired or expected outcomes did not materialise.
That in fact the appeasement relationship was counterproductive.
But I think the point is already made.
David Brown has a good grasp of the reality of the dubious relationship cultivated by the existing military ties.
Such ties with rogue regimes should not be " reviewed ".
They should be abandoned altogether.
There is a need for a paradigm change in this area of international relations.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Sending Myanmar officers in Australia back home
Is short-sighted and counter-productive
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 13 February 2021

I take a somewhat different view from that of David Brown in his February 11 letter on what Australia's reaction to the latest Myanmar coup should be.
Call me naive if you will, but I would suggest that a knee-jerk decision to send the very limited contingent of Myanmar officers in Australia back home is short-sighted and ultimately counter-productive.
Any real impact this would have on the crisis in Myanmar is negligible.
Is it not the case that these low-level exchanges between countries with very different political systems have at their heart a hope that the potential leaders of somewhere like Myanmar will absorb some of the values of their host countries and that, incrementally, change may evolve?
If the truth be told, why would Australia not cut ties with Thailand, where the only real difference with Myanmar is that the generals now wear suits?
And yet we stooge along on all the accepted pretence of "democracy", trade and regional stability.
Foreign affairs are as complex now as it has been for thousands of years.
At best, with the destructive power of current technology, both cyber and firepower, the best we can hope for is that the personal connections between powerful leaders will save us from mutual destruction.
And way down the line, I would rather imagine that the Myanmar officers in Australia are still sharing a beer with their Aussie mates while all this unfolds, rather than being packed off to be reabsorbed into the brutal and rapacious arms of a military that knows only what it has known for decades ... that might is right.

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Papua New Guinea landowners want benefit-sharing
Agreements in big development projects
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 February 2021
First published in the National, Fridat 12 February 2021

I read headlines lately of big projects given approval for development such as the Papua LNG and others.
Yesterday, Bank South Pacific expressed appreciation for millions that it will benefit from.
Prime Minister James Marape has been moving this country with the aim of taking back Papua New Guinea, which is fair enough
Ok Tedi has paved the way.
The people of this country have been suffering for years even with big development projects.
People are suffering because there are no roads and other basic government services.
The Government is still desperate to develop more LNG projects.
Can Marape tell us how much the landowners will get in terms of benefits sharing?
Papua New Guinea is eager to see finalised benefits-sharing agreements.
We are fed up of being spectators in our own country.

Say Kongs,
Wabag



Call for Australia to cut military aid
To the Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times Friday 12 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 11 February 2021

It would appear the Australian and Thai governments have much in common.
Instead of making decisions they decide to "review" the situation, which no doubt means setting up a committee to examine the obvious.
On February 5, PostBag published my letter accusing the Australian government of hypocrisy in continuing to provide military aid to Myanmar's Tatmadaw, and calling on the Morrison government to immediately cease all aid to the Tatmadaw and to expel those officers now in Australia receiving training.
This week two of Australia's most influential and respected newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) reported that Australia was "reviewing" its training and education programmes with Myanmar's military, to which they have been committed for the past five years.
Both newspapers quoted Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne as saying, "The government was also reviewing its foreign aid commitments ... our relationships are predicated across a number of areas, and military engagement -- albeit relatively low-key.
"That engagement is under review as a result of the events of last week,"
the minister said.
What is there to review, Marise?
For God's sake, in the name of humanity, slam the door in the face of these genocidal despots.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Call for investigation into missing K300,000
For Papua New Guinea's youth program fund
The Southeast Asan Times, Thursday 11 February 2021
First published in the National, Tuesday 8 February 2021

I am calling on Northern Governor Gary Juffa to anwer the following questions.
After nine years of being in office, please tell us about the status of the province’s economy?
What are some measures you have put in place to address the endemic corruption in the local level governments, districts and the provincial administration, including the treasury offices in the province?
Why hasn’t’ the education level in the province changed?
Why is it that the province continues to be last in the country in terms of education?
What are your plans to accommodate all students who have dropped out of schools in the province over the last 30 years as a result of the very poor level of education system in the province?
Most of those students are now engaged in criminal activities.
Are you going to ask for an investigation into the K300,000 youth programme fund missing under the care of one of your appointed official in the provincial government?
Why are cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, coconut and vanilla among others not developed in the province?
Whose responsibility is it to fix all the feeder roads in the province including the Handarituru to Barevoturu, Sarimbo to Siai, Koipa to Kiorota and Waseta to Kendata roads?
How do you feel when you travel and see improved living standards of people from other provinces compared to Oro?
What do you say about that?
Why does the technical services division of the Oro administration fill the potholes in Popondetta town with soil and sand that create dust, which is a health hazard during dry weather?

Charles Jasari,
Popondetta



Philippines call for increase in wages
Working poor and unemployed need immediate relief
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 February 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 8 February 2021

The workers and the poor need wage hikes from employers and a new round of cash assistance from the government to cope with the spikes in prices of food and job losses.
With prices of meat and vegetables seeing a steep price last month while many more were laid off in the last quarter of 2020, what the working poor and unemployed Filipinos need is immediate relief through a combo -umento mula sa kapitalista at ayuda mula sa gobyerno.
We are calling for a P100 across-the-board wage hike for workers to recover the lost purchasing power since the nominal wage of P537 in Metro Manila has already been eroded to P434 in real wage terms, according to the National Wages and Productivity Commission.
The sharp decline in the purchasing power of wages is happening in other regions, too.
For example, the nominal wage of P394 in Metro Cebu has already been eroded to P320 in real wage terms.
Families of the unemployed and informal workers should also be given a cash assistance of P10,000 a month.
Expenses for food comprise half of the budget of poor Filipinos, thus the price hikes have a grave impact on nutrition, hunger, and well-being.
Before the pandemic, our own cost of living survey already reached P1,300 a day, more than double the P537 minimum wage in Metro Manila.
We have advocated for the “Apat na Dapat” set of measures to address the gap in wages and cost of living: wage hikes, social security subsidies, tax exemptions, and price discounts.
In this light, we challenge Congress to drop the Charter change bid and instead discuss the legislation of a minimum wage hike and appropriation of cash aid for the poor.
In consideration of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and workers are merely demanding recovery of the value of their real wages and not a real wage increase.
When the pandemic is over, workers will fight for their share in the fruits of their labor.
From 2001 to 2016, labor productivity grew by at least 50 percent, yet real wages did not grow at all.
Even before the pandemic, inequality was worsening due to the stagnation of real wages while productivity was booming.
But the pandemic has worsened inequality as workers and the poor have been devastated more than employers and the rich.
Poor Filipinos are reeling from the double whammy of job losses and price increases.
No wonder the number of Filipino families going hungry ballooned to 7.6 million, according to the September 2020 Social Weather Stations survey.
This is almost double the 4.2 million hungry families in May at the height of the lockdown.
This is due to the combination of forced leaves, mass layoffs, and price hikes.
Thus, cash must be put in the pockets of the working poor, the jobless, and the hungry.
This combo measure is similar to the stimulus program of newly elected US President Joe Biden, who has announced a $15 per hour minimum wage together with $2,000 in checks for taxpayers.
The Philippines should act just as boldly, since we have been ravaged as much as the United States by failed policies to contain the pandemic.

Rene Magtubo,
National Chair
Partido Manggagawa
Philippines



Call for the United Nations to listen
To the people of Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 February 2021

Myanmar military tells United Nations election irregularities led to political impasse ( The Southeast Asian Times 8 February ).
This is a spurious justification for the military coup and no amount of spin by the Myanmar military can hide that fact.
Aung San Sui Kyi and her party do not need any election irregularities to win ielections in Myanmar.
They have proved that previously when they won and the military had denied them the right to govern by staging a coup.
The Myanmar military generals do not fool anyone with their fictitious explanations for why they have grabbed power from the people's elected representatives once again.
The Myanmar people know the truth.
The United Nations and other international parties should listen to what the people of Myanmar tell them.
Not the military!
This letter is in solidarity with the people of Myanmar from someone who lived under a military dictatorship in Fiji.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Thailand says the military take-over in Myanmar
Is Myanmar's business
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 February 2021
First published in Bangkok Post, Sunday 7 February 2021

So Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, on behalf of the government, says "it's their internal affair" (entire statement) while the rest of the world condemns the coup in Myanmar.
Why?
Guess it is because we need their illegal workers here to do the menial jobs that Thais do not want to do, or maybe it is because they can be paid less to do the same work.
Or is it the thought that the military can do a better job of running a country?
Sound familiar?
At any rate, with such an attitude, perhaps people in power here should receive sanctions from the rest of the world for their lack of concern.
Any takers out there?

Power to the People,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Keeping animals in cages for public amusement
Is ethically indefensible
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 February 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 5 February 2021

Building a zoo to bolster biodiversity is akin to chopping down trees to save forests.
Collections of animals in an inherently artificial environment do nothing to foster the public’s connection to the natural world or cultivate respect.
Instead of money being squandered to keep animals in captivity, resources could be used to reduce the factors contributing to the decline of species in nature: habitat destruction, poaching, and the exotic-animal trade.
If those root causes aren’t addressed and remedied, all the cages in the world won’t be enough to save animals at risk.
There’s growing recognition that keeping animals in cages for the public’s amusement is ethically indefensible.
Baguio should focus on its already bountiful attractions: its pine-clad hills, appealing climate, and natural hot springs.
City leaders can promote hiking, camping, and bird watching - all outdoor activities that connect people, especially children, to nature.
That kind of forward thinking will benefit Baguio and biodiversity.

Jason Baker,
Senior vice president,
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-Asia,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for Australia to cease aid
To Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 5 February 2021

There is more than a whiff of hypocrisy in the Australian government joining the international chorus of condemnation of the Myanmar coup.
The Australian Defence Department continues to provide military aid to the Tatmadaw, including training for some of its officers in Australia.
Admittedly the aid only amounts to about half a million Australian dollars a year but it is disingenuous to argue, as does the Australian government, that it is better to keep doors of dialogue open than to close them.
How do you have "dialogue" with murderous, rapist, genocidal thugs?
All fair-minded Australians should call on the Scott Morrison government to cease all aid to the Tatmadaw and expel the officers currently training there.

David Brown.
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippines catholic clergy call on Justices of Supreme Court
To declare Anti-Terrorism Act unconstitutional
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 February 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 4 January 2021

Dear Your Honors, Justices of the Supreme Court,
We, members and networks of the National Clergy Discernment Group, a group of Catholic priests and religious spread all over the Philippines, express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters of different faith-traditions and secular movements in opposing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, also known as Republic Act No. 11479. In so opposing, we add our reasoned conviction to these voices that urge you, members of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, to declare the unconstitutionality of RA 11479.
Terrorism and acts of terror do not exist as a national reality in the Philippines, notwithstanding the very broad definition of terrorism in RA 11479.
If there are identified terrorists doing acts of terror, as identified by other nation-states and the United Nations, in the Philippines, then these could only be a limited one confined to some small areas in Mindanao.
One cannot make a law for the whole for the sake of a tiny exception.
One cannot make a law for a non-existent phenomenon.
RA 11479 in fact, by broadening the definition of terrorism and terrorist acts, creates and conjures terrorism and terrorist acts.
Notwithstanding its expressed exemptions of terrorism in Section 4 of this law, still this exceptionalism can be curtailed, denied, and suppressed under the same provisions of Sec. 4.
The inconveniences created by advocacies and protest actions in various forms could be construed as acts intended to cause death, damage to public facility, interference with critical infrastructure, even with the use of weapons and inducing calamities.
Experience from the period of martial law and the dictatorship until now must teach us a lesson:
The imprisonment, disappearances, and deaths of many workers for change, peace-builders, ecological advocates, and human rights defenders continue to occur, as committed by state security forces and clandestine death squads with impunity.
The Anti-Terrorism Council created by RA 11479 is at the heart of our opposition. The ATC exists as a plenipotentiary body with the powers of the surveillance and intelligence team, the police and the military enforcer, the prosecutor and the judge, the jailer and the punisher—all at the same time.
RA 11479 legitimizes the terror experienced by the people at the hands of the state, its security forces and the death squads.
Pointing at the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines as terrorist enemies of the state, the military and police have lumped all legal, non-combatant and unarmed members of the national democratic movement as conspirators with the CPP-NPA-NDFP, which seek the overthrow of the state.
In the guise of containing terrorist acts, they have massacred the Tumandok tribes defending their ancestral land, massacred peasants crying out for land reform, jailed workers demanding just family wages, assassinated peace negotiators and human rights and ecological defenders, bombed the farms of the lumad and closed their schools to throw them out of their land and to make them docile, uncritical slaves of mining, logging, and plantation companies.
And now, the red-tagging is obscenely led by the elements of the military and police, targeting universities and schools, isolating their members for the kill, and to turn bastions and arenas of critical thinking, new ideas, and actions for freedom into prisons of submission and unfreedom.
Soon, all types of opposition, critical thinking, and movement for change will be classified as terrorism and terrorist acts.
And so today, we ask you to invoke the wisdom of history. “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist; they came for Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”—Pastor Martin Niemöller.
Please, declare RA 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, unconstitutional. Now.

National Clergy Discernment Group,
Manila,
Philippines



Thailand abides by the ASEAN principle
Of non-interferrence in Myanmar's internal affairs
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 2 February 2021

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is quoted as saying "It's Myanmar's internal affair."
This is not the first time that the principle of national sovereignty has been invoked to justify a government's oppression of its own people.
We get it all the time from China whenever people criticise it for persecuting the Uighurs, or the Tibetans, or the Hong Kongers, or Falun Gong.
"This is the internal affair of China," snarls the Chinese foreign ministry.
"China strongly opposes and resolutely rebuffs any attempt to infringe upon its sovereignty."
Now we're getting the same codswallop from Myanmar.
Should the principle of national sovereignty be paramount in international affairs? There's a higher principle that ought to prevail.
That is the idea that we are our brother's keeper, that what affects one is the business of all, that the human species is one great extended family, and that as human beings we have a duty to take care of one another.
The principle of universal human responsibility ought to supersede the more parochial principle of national sovereignty so beloved by oppressive regimes.
"Mind your own business," growl those regimes.
"We're human beings," we ought to reply.
"You're oppressing other human beings. This is our business."

"Our business" applies to the Myanmar coup, the Chinese persecution of the Uighurs and Tibetans, the Russian persecution of Alexei Navalny and the American persecution of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.
There would be an improvement in the moral condition of the world if nations would embrace this principle instead of cowering and retreating into banal assertions every time a deviant nation oppresses its own people.

Ye Olde Pedant,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Business as usual with Myanmar
For western democracies
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 February 2021

Once again the rogue military rulers of Myanmar have raised their ugly heads.
Once again western democracies go through the motion of condemning the military coup.
Once again before the bad smell of the military takeover has subsided the western democracies will be back to do business as usual with the rogue regime.
Please correct me if I got that wrong.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 

Capitalism for socialists in the USA
And for communists in China
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 February 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 29 Jan

Re: "In the US, socialism is for the rich", in Bangkok Post Opinion, January 28.
In the USA, capitalism is driven by consumerism.
The supply-side economy is in the grip of the stock market, banks, and credit card companies.
Three major industries, healthcare, pharma, and insurance have become so entrenched that 40 percnt -50 percent of the income of working people ends up in their pockets.
The American version of socialism romanticised by the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders basically feeds into the current trend where working people with higher hourly wages and universal healthcare will fall prey to the same Wall Street sharks - the big consumer industries.
The tech industry led by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and many others has successfully forced their hands in every American wallet.
As a result, the average debt of an American is the worst in the world.
In spite of all these problems, the rest of the world wants to sell to the USA.
In this century, consumerism thrives while ideologies strive.
The real "socialism" in America will arrive on the day the House and the senators would fall behind Mr Sanders and work for the American people on minimum hourly wages.
Other than that, all this hoopla about "socialism" is nothing more than an empty slogan, just like "communism".
To some, capitalism is the principal cause of inequality and poverty in the world; to others, socialism is nothing more than snake oil.
For more than a century we have been told that socialism has failed every place it has been tried.
However, in this new century, the rise of China is a testimony of the failure of Western-style capitalism.
Now the Covid pandemic is forcing nations to rise above political and economic ideologies and deal with the invisible enemy born out of reckless exploitation of natural resources, air pollution, and contamination of water and food around the world.

Kuldeep Nagi.
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Asean to adopt Papua New Guinea
Hotline corruption model
The Southeast Asian Times 2 February 2021

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has directed that a hotline be established " for people to report cases of bribery and corruption in the public service" .
He also pointed out " When you don't report you are perpetuating corruption " ( The National 29 January 2012 ).
He couldn't be more correct.
Other countries in the region too should adopt that Papua New Guinea model to fight corruption in the public service and in the corridors of power.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Papua New Guinea wants 10 million more
Tourists a year
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 February 2021
First published in National, Friday 29 January 2021

There is a lot of potential for Papua New Guinea with tourism.
The tourism sector has been given lip service and has not been fully realised.
The tourism sector involves all citizens and needs people to be part of it to ensure it grows.
The Government needs to set the direction for Papua New Guineans.
It needs to focus on our strengths and capabilities.
Our cultural diversity is already an advantage.
Papua New Guinea needs to take the opportunity of this modern era to utilise technology to its advantage.
The Government needs to look into the sector in a holistic manner.
The current trend of technology has given many countries the advantage to showcase their image to attract tourists.
The way of doing things should be reconsidered in order to build tourism.
By the use of platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, the country can showcase our unique cultures and traditions.
Tourism, when tapped into fully, will help many Papua New Guineans.
Many businesses will thrive on it.
For instance, if we can increase the number of tourists into our country by 10 million a year, Papua New Guinea can increase its revenue by approximately K1 billion.
In order to realise this, we all have to work together.

Maru Gabi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


The Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia applauds enforcement
Of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 31 January 2021
First published in the Star, Friday 22 January 2021

With great hope, the Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (Abim) along with international communities celebrated the enforcement of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on January 22.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is a result of a mutual agreement arising from several international conferences and dialogues, including the three conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Oslo March 2013, Nayarit February 2014 and Vienna December 2014.
The Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (Abim) is confident that the enforcement of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will have a positive impact on global peace, particularly in saving human lives from the devastation of war involving nuclear weapons.
At the same time, the Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (Abim) applauds the commitment shown by Malaysia in becoming the 46th country to ratify the treaty on September 30,2020.
Apart from the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), Malaysia has ratified almost all international treaties related to disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
This is a commitment by Malaysia as a proponent of a global peace mission.
May all international citizens regardless of colour, religion, and boundary of states live together in peace and enjoy their rights to a better quality of life.

Muhammad Faisal Abdul Azia,
President, Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (Abim),
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




The threat of an asset freeze in the Philippines
Is the most troubling aspect of the anti-terrorism law
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 29 January 2021

When a country falls into dictatorship, it is more prone to poverty.
Call it ill luck, karma, or whatever, the curse is there, irreversible and unappeasable unless people wake up from the moral stupor of consenting to one-man rule.
Take the case of an oil-rich country, formerly one of the richest in the world and now one of the most impoverished.
The blame is laid upon its toleration of political dynasties, no-term-limit presidency, dissolution of opposition parties, disenfranchising of media, and the most dictatorial action of all-overturning of free election results.
Who in his right mind would place money on a country where signs of an impending dictatorship are waving like red flags?
Having to put up with a leader’s moods, lies, moments of pique, and other childish irrationalities is an extra risk an investor would not likely take up.
It is therefore the height of irresponsibility on the part of a leader to indulge in ego-driven speeches and actions that betray a despotic disposition, as if he only had his die-hard supporters, sycophants, and flatterers for an audience, when in fact the international business community and the whole world are listening.
Especially if a return to martial law or a bill that bears a resemblance to it is floated, the consequent disincentive could be fatal to an economy already on the brink of collapse.
Granted a terror bill is well-intentioned; the question is, will it be perceived favorably in the market? Isn’t it naïve to expect that its safeguards will be honored in a country with a disgraceful track record of jailed dissenters, extrajudicial killings, and selective justice?
The threat of an asset freeze is the most troubling aspect of the anti-terrorism law. Once tagged as a suspect, you have to go through legal red tape for authorization to withdraw money to fund your business operations and feed your family.
Won’t this inspire a repeat of the capital flights that crippled the economy during the Marcos regime?
Did not this scenario of jinx-laden repercussions ever frighten the Senate and the House of Representatives before allowing themselves to be dictated upon to endorse that law?
Once the law is implemented in a manner that will undermine the confidence of investors, traders, and depositors, the dictator wannabe might as well lead his nation in singing a dirge for the economy.

Fernando Garcia,
Manila.
Philippines




Call to adopt Singapore model
On sales and use of vehicles to reduce pollution
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 27 January 2021

Re: "Old solutions no answer to dust menace", In Bangkok Post Opinion, January 25.
The only way to eliminate the menace of air pollution is to take drastic action.First, Thailand must reduce the manufacturing and sale of petrol-based and diesel-based vehicles. Second, the government should increase the taxes on cars and trucks to 30 percent -35 percent.
Third, Thai banks should use more stringent income criteria to provide loans to buy cars and trucks.
Fourth, enhance public transport nationwide by improving railways.
Fifth, the public and private sectors should curb the use of cars, provide their employees with Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BTMA). and Bangkok Sky Train (BTS) passes and give incentives for carpooling.
The government should also put a hefty fine on single-person occupancy in cars.
Lastly, wherever feasible, encourage people to work from home.
Adopting the Singapore model on the sales and use of cars will go a long way.
The ongoing Covid crisis, combined with air pollution, has taught us one lesson: We must keep our lungs safe and clean, for breath is life.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for University Philippines (UP) to restrict entrance
Of organisations that provoke armed revolution
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 January 2021

I am dismayed with the response of University Philippines (UP) prioritizing their
so-called academic freedom instead of protecting their students and preventing them from becoming a terrorist.
It was like the University Philippines (UP) doesn’t even care about those fallen University Philippines (UP) students in the battlefield, disheartening that it makes me support the abrogation of the accord.
The accord is meant for the university to protect the students from harm, for decades the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) have conformed to the terms and conditions of the accord but the university has been tolerating the radicalization of the leftist inside the university.
University Philippines (UP) has been unfair and one sided considering that they restricted entrance of the government forces but having the guts to stomach the recruitment of rebels.
If it is for the purpose of academic freedom and peaceful learning, University Philippines (UP) should restrict both sides and any other organization that may inflict harm or provoke armed revolution inside their campus.
University Philippines (UP) definitely has bright students, topnotchers, and was able to produce competitive and productive leaders of our society now that is why, it is very important to keep the university free from the armed rebels.
We have such talented and intelligent students that we cannot afford to lose in the battlefield.
Although there were only a few students who turned out to be rebels and died in the battlefield it should not be ignored and forgotten as these few numbers already implies a problem of safety and security in University Philippines (UP).
If we do not put an end to these, if we keep on ignoring these numbers of dead combatants, more young blood of our future leaders will be shed in the battlefield. The accord, as significant as it seems, is merely a paper, incomparable to the lives of our Filipino youths.

Katie S. Alvarez
Holy Trinity University,
Manila,
Philippines




Students deemed enemies of the state
Await trial in Philippine prisons
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 January 2021

At a media briefing on January 20, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana showed a list of what he said were University of the Philippines (UP) students who had joined the communist rebel movement and subsequently died in encounters with the military.
Among those he named was my daughter, Myles Cantal Albasin, who has been in detention for close to 35 months now.
Myles and five young men were illegally arrested in Mabinay town, Negros Oriental, on March 3, 2018, by soldiers in what the military claims was an “encounter.”
Although the Mabinay 6 tested negative in paraffin tests, they were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which has become standard for those the state brands its “enemies,” whether in drugs, politics, or dissent.
Today, we are still waiting for the court’s ruling on our petition for bail, hearings for which concluded in June 2019 with no opposition from the prosecution.
When I saw the list handed out during the media briefing and Lorenzana’s tweet that showed Myles’ photo along with other young people he was referring to, I feared for my detained daughter’s life as well as our family’s safety, given how, under this government, such lists have become a tool of terror, a mark of death.
My fears were heightened when, toward evening,
I received a friend request on Facebook from a certain “Matt Florence,” whose profile photo was of a foreign-looking male with what appeared to be a Photoshopped hand aiming a gun.
My daughter has been incessantly vilified through videos and memes on social media, and through tarps and posters in public places.
Have you now marked her, and we, her family, for death?
This is utterly despicable.
Facts do not matter to this government, which hides behind lies.
Lorenzana also lied about Rachel Mae Palang, whose photo appeared alongside Myles in his tweet, who was not even from UP but from Velez College in Cebu.
So why did she and Myles end up in his list?
But there’s the rub.
With their vaunted billions in intelligence funds, it is hard to believe this was a mere error.
I believe it was deliberate, intended to send a message.
Mr. Lorenzana, have you no respect for the dead anymore?
How can you continue rubbing salt on their families’ wounds every time you parade their faces like trophies?
You say you are a parent, too.
Do you even feel their pain?
You were once a soldier.
Is there no more honor among warriors?
We are parents who dream of a land free from oppression, of a society that upholds equality, and of a rule of law for all people and not for a privileged few. We raised our children to explore and ask and make up their minds.
We sent them to schools we know would open their minds and give them the tools to scrutinize the world and seek to make it better.
Because of this, we respect their life choices.
Like all Filipinos, this pandemic has made our lives difficult.
Jail visits have been suspended.
It has been more than a year since we last saw Myles.
In the male dormitory of the Dumaguete City District Jail where she is detained, a jail officer died and two others tested positive for COVID-19.
We all know that face masks are essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But the government has not supplied masks for everyone in the jail.
And yet it has billions of pesos to spend against those it perceives to be a threat to President Duterte and his ruthless administration.
On March 3, the Mabinay 6 will have been behind bars for three years.
Yet their trial has not even begun.
In a country where impunity for the violence and corruption plaguing our people has become the norm, we take comfort in God’s protection and divine intervention.
Still, we have waited long enough for justice to take its course.
We will no longer be silent.

Grace Cantal Albasin,
Manila,
Philippines




Malaysia wants to increase severity of punishment
For Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenders (LGBT)
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 January 2021
First published in Malaysiakini Saturday 23 January 2021

Recently, Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister’s Department Religious Affairs Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, issued a statement about the government’s intention to amend the Syariah Courts Act 355 to push for more severe punishments on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
KLSCAH Women is deeply disappointed and dissatisfied with this, and firmly oppose the violation of their rights in the name of religion.
KLSCAH Women believes that this law amendment will encourage harassment and violence against LGBT groups, placing them in far more dangerous situations, which goes against the government’s duty to protect citizens from discrimination and violations of human rights.
Society, in general, believes that LGBTs not only violate the laws of nature or moral standards but even regard it as a mental illness and has been marginalised for a long time.
However, scientific communities have already proven that this is not a mental illness, but a natural phenomenon.
On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality as a mental disorder, and no longer considered sexual orientation to be any form of disease.
As a cabinet member, Ahmad Marzuk should have a clearer understanding of the situation. Moreover, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin recently suggested that Asean take a stronger stance against hate speech on gender and sexual orientation at the first Asean Digital Ministers Meeting.
Many countries have also passed legislation to protect the rights of LGBTs.
This poses a critical question to the cabinet:
Why hinder progress, be unwilling to face the facts, and try to impose your values on others?
LGBTs are neither against nature nor are they morally corrupt.
As members of society, everyone should be given equal treatment and rights.
For this reason, KSLCAH Women asks Ahmad Marzuk to stop discriminating against LGBTs and government spending.
Inciting hatred based on sexual orientation not only violates the core values of openness and tolerance but also creates many social problems.
With the ongoing pandemic and floods, we hope Ahmad Marzuk prioritise matters and deal with the most pressing issues that concern the people first.

Ng Geok Chee,
Chair,
KLSCAH Women




Business is vital to socioeconomic development
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 Juanuary 2021
First published in the National, Friday 22 January 2021

Gulf is one of the toughest provinces in Papua New Guinea since most of the geography is covered by swamps and mangroves.
The basic needs and services in Kerema are missing.
Most of the schools and health centres and other government buildings are deteriorating due to the geographical isolations.
The only positive outcome we could get to develop Gulf is via social relationships and businesses.
Business is one of the vital element that will contribute more effectively to the province’s socioeconomic and infrastructural growth and developments.
The national Trans Highway will serve this interest if we are to see changes in our province.
If not, then Gulf will remain a stagnant undeveloped province as it has since it was discovered by the European missionaries in mid 1800s.
Trans Highway and other two national highways, the Magi and the Okuk, were built purposely to provide services and development to provinces.
I do not agree with what the Gulf PMV Association acting president Victor Posu said.
He said ‘outsiders’ were taking their land and businesses which the locals were supposed to manage themselves.
No one is taking your land.
It belongs to you.
You have every right to do anything you want on your land.
This is your home.
But if you can’t meet the daily needs and wants of the Gulf people, then they have the right to sell their land to people who want to develop it.
This is business.
Business relationships cut through different ethnicities, races, provinces, or countries.
You can’t express your frustration by demanding other PMV operators to cease operations; that is not business.

Silas Brownford Oro,
Mafuan Oro,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea




Thai well-heeled elite remain
At top of social hierarchy
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 22 January 2021

I must say Prof Thitinan Pongsudhirak in "What the 'Pimrypie' sensation foretells", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, January 22 correctly exposes the flaws of Thai hierarchical society.
In spite of the superhighways, BTS Skytrain, malls, majestic wats and palaces, Thailand remains rooted in its feudal past.
It is the same in a few other countries surrounding Thailand.
There is no doubt that for the well-heeled elite who remain at the top of the social hierarchy, the poor people are there to be helped and aided in a romanticised fashion, usually as a celebration.
The rural masses are kept uneducated and poor to bow and beg for sustenance and survival.
Yes, if there are no masses of poor rolling on the floor for mercy, what's the point of being the few at the top?
Yes, the view from the top of ivory towers without others looking down makes some elite feel like gladiators and liberators?
It is often said that in a country badly governed, people with wealth should be ashamed of their possessions.
Ms Pimrypie's work with the poor reminds me of a quote by John F Kennedy
"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



E-cigarettes
Illegal in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 22 January 2021

We can clearly see that making gambling illegal is not effective in stopping gambling among Thai people at all.
A complete ban is considered a measure that is too extreme without taking into account the social context or the needs of the people in the country.
Therefore, we see illegal gambling, illegal casinos or even the underground lottery everywhere.
It is similar to e-cigarettes: many countries say they are less harmful than cigarettes, yet our government makes them an illegal product and lets the underground trade grow.
This money flows into the smugglers' pockets despite the fact that, like many other countries that regulate e-cigarettes, we should be able to collect taxes from these products and at the same time reduce illness and death associated with tobacco use.
The situation indicates that state authorities may be involved in aiding and abetting illegal gambling activities.
The same could apply to underground trade in e-cigarettes and the government must find the appropriate solutions; a ban is not one of them.

Asa Saligupta
End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST)
Bangkok,
Thailand



What's in it for Philippine President Duterte
In promoting China's Sinovac vaccine
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 January 2021

President Duterte has announced that when the Sinovac vaccines arrive, health frontliners and other sectors would be the first ones to be injected with the vaccine. He said he would be vaccinated together with the police and soldiers, who are fifth in the priority list.
If he claims that Sinovac is safe, maybe the President, Sen. Bong Go, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Solicitor General Jose Calida, and other flatterers of the President should volunteer to be inoculated first with the China-made vaccine.
This will surely boost the confidence of health frontliners and other target participants of the Sinovac vaccine drive.
Why is the President insisting on Sinovac when there are others vaccines that are less expensive and have a higher efficacy rate?
What’s in it for him and his minions that they persist in promoting Sinovac?
What gains will they receive?


Raffy Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines




Sweden is one of few countries in Europe
That has avoided recession
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 19 January 2021

Re: "Don't knock the lockdowns" in Bangkok Post PostBag, January 17. Before 2020 I had never heard of lockdowns, which were first introduced in Wuhan, China, a country many see as a totalitarian state.
It was copied almost all over the world as a way to stem the disease.
A few countries did not follow the Chinese path, including Sweden, which was heavily criticised for leaving schools, restaurants, etc. open.
Preliminary statistics show that in 2020 around 97,000 people died in Sweden during the year from all causes.
To put things in perspective, that is a similar tally to 1993, a year with severe seasonal flu.
As the population has grown by over 1.5 million since then the mortality in the total population stood at 1.1 in 1993 compared with 0.9 in 2020, indicating that that year's flu was more deadly than the current Covid-19.
Sweden is one of the few countries in Europe that has avoided a recession so far but has, like everyone else, taken a hit.
The Covid-19 situation is by no means good, as in almost all of Europe, and I am thankful for living in Thailand, which so far has fared much better.
However, I also feel for all the millions of Thai people who have lost their jobs and income from lockdowns and closing of borders.
So, I do not know where I stand at the moment on these lockdowns. Things are almost never black and white ... except in chess.

Dr Hansson,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call to change colours
Of Papua New Guinea Flag
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 January 2020
First published in the National, Monday 18 January 2021

I would like to make a comment regarding our national flag.
The black, red and gold is a misinterpretation and does not depict Papua New Guinea well by representing the true colours of the bird of paradise.
If you look carefully through a microscope, the colours of the bird of paradise are brown, gold, black, green and white.
I suggest the flag be redesigned and incorporate these colours.
The red, black and gold is a replica of the flag of Germany who colonised parts of New Guinea.
How can a grade six pupil who is still a child design a perplex flag diligently without computers and internet in those days?
I doubt that, someone could have did it for her.
I suggest that the country change its name from Papua New Guinea to Papua Niugini or otherwise East Irian, because West Irian is across the border.
This is a personal perspective.

A.Gandhi,
Bukbuk
Madang

 

Philippine President Duterte's daughter, Sara
Not interested in the presidency
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 18 January 2021

Sen. Risa Hontiveros and the Makabayan bloc did not get it.
President Duterte does not really think that the presidency is not for his daughter Sara.
He simply is trying to use his old line.
Remember in 2016 when he pretended that he was not running for the top position?
He had a proxy and, at the last minute, he pretended that he was pushed into the race.
But he had, in fact, been going around the country for two years prior to the 2016 elections.
Now that he is President, now and then he would say that he wants to resign from his position.
He tells the military, you rise and demand my resignation and I will promptly resign.
He also says, I am not for term extension.
I will not stay a minute longer than my original term.
So now Sara says she is not interested in the presidency and is asking the polling firms to exclude her from the surveys.
This means that Sara will be a serious candidate in 2022.

Rene Torres,
Manila,
Philippines



Chaotic charm of Khao San Road destroyed
Rendered as exciting as 21st century shopping mall
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 16 January 2021

Re: "Tourist hub to get facelift", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday January 12.
It seems that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is never content to leave well-enough alone.
After largely destroying the character and chaotic charm of Khao San Road, the Mahakan fort community and other areas of attraction to foreigner visitors and Thais alike, they now have their eyes set on "developing" the last remnants of authentic shops, vendors and homes in the Bang Lamphu area.
With military precision surely no accident, BMA has brought "order" to street vendors, ensured all shopkeepers strictly adhere to uniform stalls, painted row houses in flawlessly coordinated colours, and installed a perfectly laid pavement up and down Khao San Road - in other words, rendered the area about as exciting as a 21st century shopping mall.
In the process, of course, they have killed the golden goose that was the allure of the area to tourists.
Sad to anticipate that Rambutri and Tanao Roads will soon become as sterile and unappealing as the "new" Khao San Road.
Sad also that BMA is about to wipe out what had been a great source of jobs and income for locals by ridding the area of its tourist appeal.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand


China's SinoVac Biotec vaccine
Cheapest vaccine in the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 January 2021
First published Bangkok Post, Saturday 16 Januray 2021

Re: "Questions over Chinese vaccine", in Bangkok Post, 14 January.
I've maintained for a long time that the reason the Thai government preferred the SinoVac Biotec Chinese vaccine was that it came cheaper than the Western vaccines.
Malaysia is now also questioning the effectiveness.
This government under Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's has its nose so deeply imbedded in the Chinese government's backside that it is difficult to be practical and go for what's best for the population.
A Western vaccine costs a bit more but is also more effective.
Penny wise, pound foolish as we are taught, or should be taught as children.

Charcoal Ridgeback,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Will China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd give refund
Should Philippines authorities not approve the vaccine?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 14 January 2021

According to reports, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines to be administered to Filipinos will arrive in February, as part of a contract for 25 million doses to be delivered over the year.
The government said the vaccine will only be used once it obtains an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Given the managerial constraints, including the low prestige and power of the Department of Health (DOH), the government is doing well getting the much-needed vaccine into the country as early as next month.
The stipulation that the vaccine will be put into large-scale use only if the FDA issues an EUA is correct, and should protect the population against undue risk of side effects.
But what happens if the FDA does not grant the EUA? Hopefully, the procurement contract is conditional, meaning that Sinovac takes back its vaccine if it is not approved, and returns payments made. If the contract is not conditional, Filipino taxpayer money will be lost.
Based on cost estimates, 25 million doses would be more than P40 billion.
With such amounts at stake, there may be pressure on the FDA.
Therefore, it is essential that other branches of government protect the integrity of the FDA, whatever the potential losses. As for the FDA, it should be transparent about its decision-making, preferably making the main criteria public.
Good communication about the regulatory process ensures trust among the population.
The communication drive should be led by the FDA and the DOH.
There is no such thing as an absolutely 100-percent safe vaccine (or drug or medical procedure).
As different new vaccines are rolled out, the DOH should set up a system for monitoring side effects (phase 4 studies). If that had been done for Dengvaxia, the sad debacle around the dengue vaccine would have been avoided.

Allan Schapira, MD.,
Legazpi City,
Philippines




No to proposed amendments to Constitution
No to Cha-cha
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 January 2021

Whatever justifications or diversionary antics the present Congress may dish out to revive attempts to amend the 1987 Constitution, these will not be acceptable to our people still reeling from the menace that is COVID-19 and its dreaded variant, and the evil of official corruption and ineptitude.
Considering the credibility baggage that our so-called lawmakers have been carrying so far, entrusting the critical task of amending the Constitution to them or their constituent assembly may be likened to throwing the already emaciated body of Juan dela Cruz into a river teeming with rapacious crocodiles.
No to Cha-cha!

Manuel A. Collao,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Papua New Guinea government report on progress
Of Wafi-Golpu mining project in Morobe
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 January 2021
First published in the National, Monday 11 January 2021

The people of Morobe and the country need clarification from the Government and stakeholders on the progress of the multi-million kina Wafi-Golpu mining project in Morobe.
Late last year, the Government, landowners and stakeholders in Morobe held a three-day forum which they discussed the waste management system and other issues related to the project.
The Government clarified that mining waste would be a major issue.
The Government resolved through the National Executive Council that they preferred the deep-sea mine tailings placement (DSTP) method; even though the majority of landowners and neighbouring local level governments and coastal villages opposed it.
Other clarifications that need to be made known by the Government are:
Mining township location;
Access road to mine;
Waste pipeline route; and,
Legitimate landowners between three villages – Hengabu, Yanta and Babuaf – a court case is still pending to identify the legitimate landowners of the mining site.
Is the project meant to serve the people’s interest or is it for political interests to gain support for the 2022 general elections?
Enough of the political games and give your people what they deserve.

Buang Nalu,
Dombkak,
Ruk Mala

 

 


Call for new law in Papua New Guinea
To keep Member's of parliament at home
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 January 2021
First published in the National Monday 11 January 2021

A new law should be enacted for all Member's of Parliament to be based in their respective electorates or provinces.
They should only fly into Port Moresby for parliament sessions.
Other than that, they should be in their respective electorates and provinces.
The Member's of Parliament should be near their constituents to identify their needs and address issues of their people.
Leaders are as shepherds; they should be close to the flock to feed, protect and look into other needs of the farm.
While operating from Port Moresby, almost all Member's Parliament are distracted from executing their primary responsibilities.
Member's of Parliament have more freedom in using public funds at will and at any time but if they operate from their constituencies, they won’t misuse people’s money because they will fear for their lives.
This would be a solution to end mismanagement of public funds by MPs and governors.

Paul Minga
Ambang Village
Jiwaka




Wealthy populations to be vaccinated
Before low-income countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 January 2021
First published in the Star, Monday 11 January 2021

The recent approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by the US Food and Drug Admin-istration and the Oxford-Astra Zaneca vaccine by Britain’s Medi-cines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency are a great milestone in the fight against Covid-19.
Large numbers of doses of these vaccines were bought by Western countries before they were even approved.
It is estimated that 3.73 billion doses of these vaccines were bought through advance purchasing agreements.
And an estimated five billion doses are still being negotiated.
This means that many wealthy populations will be vaccinated before most people in low-income countries are vaccinated.
Fortunately, Malaysia to date has secured a supply of vaccines for 40 percent of its population.
But this is still much less than the 80 percent that must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
The United States aimed to vaccinate 20 million of its population by the end of 2020. However, only five million Americans have been vaccinated. This alarming trend of not meeting targets has also been seen in Britain and Europe.
Why did this happen?
There are various reasons but the general agreement is that the planning for the rollout of these vaccines in the United States was poor.
Initial vaccine doses went mostly to frontline healthcare workers, meaning that administration of the vaccine shots were largely the responsibility of the same hospitals that were also overwhelmed by a flood of Covid-19 patients. Furthermore, the vaccine rollout coincided with Christmas and New Year holidays. There was also an additional administrative burden caused by the requirement for people to register before being vaccinated.
The Western countries also have many people who are sceptical about vaccines in general.
There was and is a lot of misinformation, especially on social media, regarding the vaccines.
We can learn from these experiences and prepare better for the rollout of vaccines in Malaysia.
The government recently outlined the National Vaccination Plan which will start in February 2021.
It is a comprehensive plan that covers the process for vaccination and involves a private and public partnership.
Hopefully, this plan will roll out without major hindrances.
At the same time, the government must continue to explain the vaccination programme in an effective and transparent manner to calm any fears among the people.

Dr Azuzay Zamani,
Ampang,
Selangor
Malaysia

 


Philippines call on Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
To rely on opinion of peers in First World countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 8 January 2021

Every country is looking to provide itself with enough vaccines, shore up extra doses for eventualities, and be ahead of others.
This is selfish, perhaps, but the reality is that it looks like it’s becoming to each his own.
It is better for a country to be assured of not running out of vaccines until the 85-percent herd immunity is achieved, than be nitpicking and speculating on the vaccines’ efficacy.
It would be naive to think political alliances are not going to be set aside for one’s own domestic priorities.
The hesitation by our own leadership in getting vaccines soonest will be very costly to the nation in terms of lives lost and damage to the economy.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health cannot wait for the vaccine suppliers to come to our doorstep to submit the documents we require, especially with major countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and China already vaccinating their people en masse.
If there are doubts about a vaccine’s applicability to the Philippine environment, that should be resolved by our epidemiologists and scientists in the soonest possible time, by consulting with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of these countries and with guidance from the World Health Organization.
Time is not on our side.
The suppliers have enough problems meeting the huge demand for their products to worry about our documentation requirements.
This is not an encouragement for haphazard shortcuts on the vaccine, but to point out that there could be room for initiative with practical, reasonable scientific reliance by our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the opinions of their peers in First World countries, because of the emergency we all are facing.

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines




Registration of illegal migrant workers
In Thailand could act like a magnet
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 8 January 2021

Re: "Interior Ministry seeks cabinet nod for registration of illegal migrant workers", in Bangkok Post, December 29.
By an amazing transformation, the government is about to become an employment agency!
That's surely what they are proposing under their registration scheme.
Not only will they allow registration of illegal migrants from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar and other countries to stay in Thailand.
They will even help those without work to get a job.
And who will they be recruiting for?
The truth is they'll be serving the interests of greedy bosses, many of whom have for years flouted minimum wage, insurance and safety regulations, as well as migration laws.
The chief offender is the construction industry.
Throughout the past 11 months, their employees have been a familiar sight. Seemingly unaffected by lockdown, thousands of them have been moved to and from building sites around Bangkok, squeezed like sardines into the backs of small vehicles where social distancing is impossible.
True, they have sometimes worn face masks.
But that prompts me to wish the government had been as successful in ensuring the use of safety helmets as they have with face masks.
Too many die from work-related injuries in Thailand every year.
The powers-that-be describe their new scheme as an anti-Covid measure.
It will, they suggest, help them monitor the health status and whereabouts of illegal migrants. But their scheme could act like a magnet.
Are they ready for the surge in illegal migration that will follow?
Besides, is it ever justified for a government to sanction breaking the law?
It's bad enough when a country's rulers turn a blind eye.
In my view, the government will be sinking to a new low by positively aiding and abetting illegality.
And it's yet another sticking-plaster solution where an attack on root causes is required.
Meanwhile, a legion of businesses that follow the law scrupulously have gone unaided during an immensely challenging year.

Linus AE Knobel,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Senate inquiry into illegal vaccinations
Not to be intimidated by Presidents Duterte's threats
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 8 January 2021

I hope the senators would not be intimidated by President Duterte’s public threats and push through with their investigation of the illegal vaccination of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel.
This is not a question of whether they sacrificed their lives for the sake of the President, but the need to uphold the rule of law.
The Presidential Security Group (PSG) is not above the law.
They are duty-bound to uphold the Constitution and the laws.
They are not the personal security of Mr. Duterte, but of all presidents who will succeed him.
Unfortunately, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, instead of upholding the law, is being lame.
Kahit pabalatkayo, hindi man lang nanindigan.
Have the courage to stand up to the rude and bullying occupant of Malacanang, Mr. Senate President.

Raffy Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines


Misinformation about Covid-19
Can be as dangerous as the virus itself
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 7 January 2021

George N in his January 4 letter claims that the results of a published study of mass screening in Wuhan "undermines the need for lockdowns".
His claim is not supported by the authors of the study.
The study found 300 asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 in a screening of around 10 million residents of Wuhan in late May, after the January-April lockdown, which was far more restrictive than most countries could contemplate.
Tracing of those in close contact with these 300 cases found no infections.
George N and others have concluded that no asymptomatic case can be a source of infection and that therefore lockdowns are unnecessary.
This conclusion is rejected by, among others, Prof Fujian Song, of the Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia, who conducted the study in collaboration with the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan. The report notes that "no viable virus was found in the identified asymptomatic cases.
This means that these people were not likely to infect anyone else".
This is attributed to control measures, including lockdown.
But Dr Song warns that the results must not be interpreted thus.
The cases in Wuhan were "truly asymptomatic", showing no signs of infection before or during the study.
"But there is plenty of evidence elsewhere showing that people infected with Covid-19 may be temporarily asymptomatic and infectious before going on to develop symptoms."
The results of a meta-analysis by statisticians from University of Florida, Gainesville, University of Washington, Seattle, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle have been subject to a similar misinterpretation by opponents of lockdowns.
It should be warned that the spread of misinformation about Covid-19 can be as dangerous as the virus itself when it misleads the public into potentially dangerous activities, such as ignoring lockdown restrictions.

Alec Bamford,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police says
Dirty cops are collaborating with criminals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 January 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 5 Jan 2021

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador’s statement about the existence of dirty cops who are collaborating with criminals is a serious allegation, more so when it comes from the highest office in the police force.
Going by his constant and consistent emphasis on the gravity of the situation, I am of the opinion that the matter at hand is more worrying than at anytime in the past. Many of his predecessors have acknowledged the same problems and made similar statements on the need to weed out these black sheep within the ranks.
As the alleged deviant officers are able to make use of their police powers for illegal intent, they are more potent than the common criminal.
But I believe there are only a few of such officers and that the majority are performing their duties with integrity.
I trust the Inspector-General of Police would have the evidence to back up his statement.
Who are these wolves in sheep’s clothing and how are they working with criminals?
These are basic questions that need to be asked.
An even more crucial question is whether the Inspector-General of Police needs help in facing off these traitors.
Only meticulous investigations can identify them and subsequently open more doors in the effort to rid the police force of its black sheep.
It is surprising that politicians on both sides of the aisle have not sought further clarity on the matter so far.
We need answers and we need them fast as the integrity, pride and honour of the police force is at stake.
An independent inquiry should be set up as soon as possible to get to the root of the matter.
We owe an explanation to not only the personnel who are currently serving dutifully and honestly but also to all those who have served in the past with total dedication.

G. Selva,
Ipoh,
Malaysia



Why can't the Phillipines be like Japan
With Japan's faithful adherence to Confucianism
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 January 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 January 2021

Each time I travel to Japan and see its beautiful cities and high-rise buildings, I can’t help but ask: “What makes this country strong?”
I must admit this question takes away the delight of each trip, because it makes me reflect on why our country cannot seem to move up as a nation.
Nevertheless, I believe that Japan’s strength lies in the Japanese people’s faithful adherence to moral (social) values.
Confucianism, the religion that shaped the Japanese culture, emphasizes the importance of correct behavior and the cultivation of virtue in a morally organized world.
Moral values are at the crux of the Japanese character, in effect allowing Japan to face its challenges and rise as a nation.
Vaclav Havel, former Czech leader, said: “Without commonly shared and widely entrenched moral values and obligations, neither the law nor democratic government nor even the market economy will function properly.”
Our country is inundated with corruption, poverty, and strife; let us do our part and make our country strong - let us make moral values the guiding force of our lives and use them to conquer our adversities.
But what are moral values?
Moral values are the standards of what is right and wrong.
They direct us how to behave toward each other, as well as how to understand and meet our obligations to society.
Some examples of moral values are honesty, trustworthiness, being respectful of others, loyalty, and integrity.
Meanwhile, an immoral person is one who does wrong despite knowing the distinction between good from evil.
And an amoral being is illustrated by an animal who is completely ignorant of what is right and wrong.
Our country’s problems exist not because of bad luck or a “faulty alignment of the stars,” so to speak.
Our problems lie in ourselves, the people of this country.
For a predominantly Christian nation, where virtue or morality is emphasized, it does not make sense that many people steal, disrespect their neighbors, lie to and deceive each other in record numbers.
Unless we take on moral values diligently, we may never attain the best that we deserve as a people, much less become a strong nation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that it is the people of a nation and not jewelry, gold, wealth, and resources that make a nation strong and rich, for in all their actions they do not do anything that dampen the image of their nation.
The task for us is to teach and instill among ourselves the importance of moral values.
We need our institutions - the government, church, schools, and media - to be involved in a concerted effort to curtail bad behavior in our country.
One way to achieve this is for the government to create programs and enact more laws that discourage erring/immoral behavior, and reward good conduct.
Another is to add more courses in schools to inculcate courtesy, integrity, and honesty in students.
Large amounts of public money are squandered in our country by individuals; I am sure we can find ways to put such money to good use to fund programs to instill correct conduct in our people.
This will bear a lasting and rewarding effect - making our nation strong, and elevating us to greater heights as a people, becoming “relevant” citizens of the modern world.

Julius D. Turgano,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines threaten to end US Visiting Forces Agreement
Over delivery of vaccines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 31 December 2020

The Duterte administration’s handling of the COVID-19 vaccine is not just an issue of incompetence, but also of selfishness.
Imagine, it took 43 days for the Department of Health to approve the shipment of vaccines from the United States.
Pfizer got tired of waiting and sent its vaccines somewhere else.
The President blamed the US and threatened to end the Visiting Forces Agreement.
How stupid!
Then, our President admitted that most of the soldiers and officials around him have already gotten their vaccine shots.
As President, he must provide leadership.
The responsibility rests at the door of Malacañang. He has betrayed our trust in him by not buying vaccines promptly like our neighboring countries have done.
It is selfish for politicians to get inoculated ahead, and let the public be damned: “I’ve got mine, so screw you!”

Jonathan C. Foe,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Thai immigration and other services
To be outsourced to the private sector
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 January 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 3 January 2021

Re: "Impossible dream", in Bangkok Post PostBag, January 2, 2021
Needless to say, all state-run institutions in Thailand are infested with red tape and rampant corruption.
The lopsided rules and regulations created by inept bureaucrats continue to harm the economy.
It is no surprise that the travel sector will not come back to the pre-Covid era for the reasons covered by Mr Stephan in his letter.
His letter captures the mindset of the workforce employed in the government sector.
Sadly, this workforce is also a product of an educational system that thrives on fuzzy logic.
Hence in most agencies, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing? As a consequence, the people working in these agencies make up their own rules and laws.
In a nutshell, in spite of all its natural beauty and abundant resources, an army of gatekeepers keeps the country in shackles of mediocrity and misery.
Thailand's private sector is one of the best in the region and should be utilised to enhance the quality of services in the government agency.
I am not sure why immigration and other services are not outsourced to the private sector.
It seems the government has not learnt any lessons from the Thai Airways fiasco.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Philippines congress and courts complicit
In Duterte administration underming civil liberties
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 January 2020
First published in the Philippines, Thuesday 31 December 2020

This has been a terrible year because of the pandemic, but there are people who made the lives of Filipinos more miserable.
The “naughtiest” is President Duterte, whose incoherent late-night speeches did nothing to ease our worries.
His militarist mindset proved ineffective and counter-productive in dealing with the health crisis, aside from enabling anti-communist generals, red-taggers, and Cabinet secretaries who gifted us with “motorcycle barrier” and “dolomite” solutions.
The police were the notorious “pasaway,” led by a “mañanita” general, while many continued to be accused of killing “nanlaban” drug suspects.
The police must explain the surge in extrajudicial killings despite the imposition of strict lockdown measures in most barangays.
It is infuriating that supposedly independent institutions like Congress and the courts were complicit in allowing the Duterte administration to undermine our civil liberties. We remember how Congress voted to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise, the slow action and tone-deaf response of the Supreme Court regarding the petition for the release of elderly and pregnant political prisoners, and the controversial issuance of search warrants by a Quezon City judge which the police used to arbitrarily conduct raids and detain activists.
Thieves grabbed headlines throughout the year, from the “pastillas” scam to the systemic corruption in PhilHealth.
But we survived the disastrous year of 2020, thanks to the heroism of our health workers, relief volunteers, and government personnel serving on the front lines.
We salute all those who continue to provide for our basic needs, which also kept the economy afloat.
We thank the media for standing their ground amid the nonstop assault on press freedom.
We recognize the role of human rights defenders in challenging impunity.
Our biggest tragedy of the year was the death of Baby River Nasino.
We continue to cry for justice, and we will greet the new year with a resolve to fight harder for her and other innocent victims of state violence.

Mong Palatina,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Thai private hospitals charge patients
Booking fee for purchase of vaccine
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 28 December 2020

Let's hope that the latest news that a private hospital's attempt to attract bookings for the purchase of the Moderna vaccine in Bangkok Post, December 28 is not a taste of things to come.
The bookings cost 4,000 baht with a price of 6,000-10,000 baht for the vaccine, well beyond the means of ordinary Thais.
The Ministry of Health ordered it to take the ad down.
According to UK's Financial Times newspaper, Thailand has signed a deal to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine in Thailand and it is already in production by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by the Crown Property Bureau.
To date there is no news of any country, already administering the vaccine, charging patients.
We can but hope in the interest all Thais that the government will follow this example and give the vaccine for free.

Brian Corrigan,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Papua New Guinea women in uproar
Over government management of business ventures
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 January 2021
First published in the National, Tuesday 29 December 2020

In the past months, Morobe has witnessed an uproar between its women leaders and the management of Morobe Resources Holdings Ltd, the current business arm of the Morobe government.
That has brought to light the new business name and its current management – something many people of Morobe do not know about.
Many are only aware of such ventures under names Kumgie Holdings and Morobe Sustainable – and many are now curious to know what happened to these ventures.
Is the provincial government operating all three businesses?
Can the Morobe administrator or the governor explain to the people of Morobe how their money has been used to create such ventures and the state of affairs of these corporate entities or which one is currently operational?
After all, it is the money allocated towards the development agenda of Morobe that has been diverted towards future revenue generation through creating these ventures.
There should be transparency and accountability on the use of these monies.
There should be annual reports each year so that the Morobe people through Tutumang are kept informed of the financial affairs of these business ventures.
Since the registration of the business arm from Kumgie to the current Morobe Resources Holdings a few years back, there has never been reports on its management and financial affairs.
The people of Morobe have been blindly taken for a ride for far too long.
I kindly ask the governor to do the right thing by bringing to light the current situation of the business arm.
As the deputy Pangu leader and the governor of Morobe, you will only be practising what the party preaches by taking back what is rightfully Morobe’s – so I appeal to you to fix the affairs of the business arm of Morobe by bringing transparency and accountability.
Please ensure that the process of selecting management and board members for these business ventures are transparent so that qualified people are appointed on merit.
Doing these will bring justice to the people of Morobe – and only then would the province have sustainable business ventures where the people can be proud to associate themselves with and call their own.
So governor, lets’ start 2021 by taking back Morobe.

Good Governance Advocate,
Morobe,
Papua New Guinea




Papua New Guinea Eastern Highlanders
Wait for payment for projects in Port Moresby
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 December 2020
First published in The National, Tuesday 29 December 2020

The people of Eastern Highlands are awaiting explanation of the non-payment of projects and SME scheme, which were supposed to be settled by Governor Peter Numu before the end of this financial year.
They have been flooding the provincial headquarters for almost a fortnight but nothing has happened.
As a result, they stoned the security personnel at the entrance and stopped vehicles from entering the headquarters.
They have been sitting outside the office from 8am till 5pm.
It is sad to see them camping and waiting for what they were promised.
They left their families behind just to wait for their payments.
It’s a costly exercise for us to travel long distances just to and hang around in town.
The governor isn’t listening to them.
Can he address their concerns directly instead of using his officers to speak on his behalf?
How can we be at peace if he continues to play his hide and seek game with us?
He needs to come out and feel the atmosphere from outside.

John Sine,
Goroka,
Urban resident,
Papua New Guineas




Malaysian Bar calls for Malaysian government
To abolish Security Offences Special Measures Act 2012
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 December 2020
First published in the Star, Tursday 24 December 2020

The Malaysian Bar welcomes the courageous decision of the Federal Court to release on bail a person charged with a security offence under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
We deem that this landmark ruling by the highest court of the land brings to a definitive end the question of the constitutionality of Section 13 of Sosma in relation to the rights of an accused person to be granted bail.
The three-person Federal Court bench had decided to instead utilise section 388 of the Criminal Procedure Code to permit bail.
The judgment clarifies the inherent judicial power of the courts and restores the independence of the judiciary that acts as a gatekeeper against any encroachment on human rights and the rule of law.
This decision carries the same impact as that of the 2017 Semenyih Jaya case which effectively restored judicial power in land acquisition cases.
The case had revisited Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution and declared that Article 121 empowers the High Court with judicial power when it comes to the determination of compensation in land acquisition matters.
Similarly, in the current case of the person charged under Sosma, the Federal Court has reaffirmed the doctrine of judicial independence and the separation of powers in Malaysia – all the hallmarks that are necessary in a democratic system of governance.
We are of the view that Section 13 of Sosma (which provides that bail shall not be granted to a person who has been charged with a security offence, from the time of arrest until trial) is repugnant to the rule of law and natural justice, and believe that no one should be incarcerated until his/her guilt is proven in a court of law. It is also incompatible with Article 121 of the Federal Constitution.
The Malaysian Bar renews its call to the government to abolish Sosma as well as other outdated and draconian laws so that we can safeguard the welfare of the rakyat.

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia

 

 

Malaysian Bar calls for independent investigation
Into deaths in police custody
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 December 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 28 December 2020

On December 21, the Shah Alam Coroner’s Court ruled that police were responsible for the death of 38-year-old Thanabalan Subramaniam, who died in police custody in 2018.
In the wake of this finding, the Malaysian Bar calls for the setting up of an independent external organisation to investigate all deaths in custody.
It is our view that an external civilian oversight system will complement and enhance existing mechanisms and create accountability for detention authorities.
The Malaysian Bar applauds the coroner’s decision but also calls on the government to consider establishing custodial medical units at detention centres throughout the country.
When a person is taken into legally sanctioned custody, the law imposes a duty on the custodial officer to ensure the health and safety of the person in custody.
Detention authorities must ensure that medical treatment is available for all suspects, especially those with health risks and pre-existing conditions.
The Malaysian Bar also calls on detention authorities to ensure the proper sanitation of lockups, and that basic amenities are made accessible in all places of detention.
The Malaysian Bar hopes that, based on the decision of the Shah Alam Coroners Court on Thanabalan’s unfortunate and preventable death, a thorough and extensive investigation will be conducted to bring those responsible for his death to justice.

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Call for corn waste in Thailand
To be converted to biofuels
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 26 December 2020

The haze is already upon us, but where does it come from?
In Chiang Mai, most point to forest fires, but as the valleys fill with haze with not a forest fire in sight, there must be another source.
What is that?
Small farmers burning their corn field waste before the burning ban arrives.
What to do?
The obvious thing to do is to use the millions - yes - millions - of tonnes of corn waste for something useful like biofuel.
Treating corn stalks, cobs and husk not as waste but biofuel would serve national interests: reduce dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels and electricity, help Thailand meet its international commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 25 percent by 2050, and lower healthcare costs and economic losses from morbidity and mortality, imposed by PM2.5 emissions from burning.
With government funding, top university and think tank engineers are researching crop waste for biofuel energy solutions.
They have successfully designed high capacity, high efficiency, high-technology furnaces, boilers and incinerators that operate without releasing GHGs or PM2.5.
Unfortunately, these solutions are worthless today because they float above grassroots realities. As always, the devil is in the detail.
In this case, the devil is in the distribution of the corn waste.
In North Thailand where half of Thailand's 5.5 million tonnes of corn is grown, most fields are inaccessible because they are located on steep, rocky mountain slopes.
Nationally, it is estimated that 52 percent of corn is grown on state "protected" forest mountain) land.
There are no roads and no way to collect the waste efficiently or economically. Many focus on cob alone, because it is available in relatively centralised, accessible locations. Cob, however, is just 11 percent of corn biomass.
Any such scheme leaves stalk, 63 percent of corn crop waste, to burn, hardly a satisfactory ending.
The problem does not stop with the simple impracticality of collecting corn waste. Missing from the above are the costs of (1) labour to cut and collect corn stalk, (2) building access roads, (3) trucks, drivers, loaders and diesel fuel to haul waste to the plants, and (4) CO2 emitted by construction and trucking. These devilish costs are immense and hide in the weeds between the excellent, emission-less designs of biofuel burning furnaces and actual country corn fields.
It is not surprising that although there is a flurry of academic and think tank laboratory design work around furnaces that emit neither GHGs nor PM2.5, there is no evidence of lab or field work focused on collecting corn field waste efficiently and cost-effectively. Until these problems are solved, however - until the devil is rooted from the details - corn crop waste burning will continue to generate GHGs charged to Thailand's CO2 emissions allotment and PM2.5 that sickens or kills thousands of Thais annually.

Michael Shafer,
Director,
Warm Heart Foundation,
Chiang Mai,
Thailand




Covid-19 Network Investigations Alliance
Could work for Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 25 December 2020

I and my colleagues at Mahidol University find the advice from Doctors Aldis and Coker in their December 24 letter on the nature of Covid-19 in Samut Sakhon useful and timely.
The implementation of genomic and evolutionary data will be instrumental in curbing the new outbreak.
Covid-19 Network Investigations Alliance or CONI is a multi-institutional cooperation launched to implement genomic surveillance in the fight against Covid-19 in Thailand.
We can answer some questions raised in the letter from Aldis and Coker regarding the Samut Sakhon virus population.
Based on the data from 40 cases collected in Samut Sakhon and 4 cases from Tachileik workers provided by the Institute of Urban Disease Control and Prevention, these virus populations are related, but they are not genetically close enough to be direct chains of transmission.
The grave concern is that genetic variations found in the Samut Sakhon samples suggest multiple generations of transmission.
There are two possibilities that could explain this phenomenon.
These virus populations could propagate in another country, likely to be Myanmar based on their association with migrant workers, before entering Thailand in multiple events.
Another alternative explanation is that their ancestor has been spreading in Thailand, starting probably at the end of October to early November of this year. The genomic data from CONI is now openly accessible at GISAID.
By analysing more cases from different provinces, Thailand can gain insights into this new outbreak.
The coordinated effort to analyse virus genomic data in real-time has been proven successful in several countries. It could work for Thailand as well.

Thanat Chookajorn,
PhD, Genomics and Evolutionary Medicine Unit,
Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Majority prefer James Marape
As Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 December
First published in the National. Wednesday 23 December 2020

The United Labour Party president John Paska revealed their reason to move with their leader to the Opposition about four weeks ago.
Paska complained that they were promised the prime ministers’ post by the Opposition so they moved, but when it was given to Aitape-Lumi MP Patrick Pruaitch, they decided to move back to rejoin the Government under Prime Minister James Marape.
Paska with his parliamentary leader and Bulolo Member of Parliament Sam Basil should apologise to other Members of Parliament, the people of Tari-Pori and the nation for lying that Marape was not running the country well so you left him.
Some of you were even prepared to forego your ministries to ensure Marape remained as prime minister.
I thank the media organisations and their journalists for publishing news updates on the political issues and for the survey reports which showed majority of the people still preferred Marape as prime minister.

Charles Jasari,
Popondetta,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Philippine Media to report on imprisonment
Of Sen. Leila de Lima without trial
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 23 December 2020

As we head toward the end of the year, I wonder how much longer Sen. Leila de Lima will be illegally jailed, with no trial.
Will she have to wait until the present regime changes in two years’ time?
That is, if we get a new president with principles who will not be as vindictive as the present one.
Or will she continue to be deprived of her freedom if the new president decides to carry on with Mr. Duterte’s policies?
The media channel Al-Jazeera has, for the past year, been running a streaming commentary, under its daily news reports, noting that their journalist Mahmoud Hussein has been unjustly imprisoned by the Egyptian regime for three years now.
Why can’t Philippine media carry a similar daily streaming report about how long Senator De Lima has been detained?

Isabel Escoda,
Manila,
Philippines




Zero covid-19 testing
Results in no infections found
The Southeast Asian Times. Thursday 24 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 21 December 2020

Re: "Outbreak highlights our complacency", in Bangkok Post Commentary, December 21
The virus has been lurking undetected since it arrived here at the start of the year. Thailand has done virtually zero testing of the population and as a result no cases of infection were ever found.
But look at what happens when you actually do testing.
Look at the numbers of infected arrivals via air travel. I have never seen how the reported cases compare to the total number of arrivals per day. And what is the status of vaccines? When will Thailand start mass vaccinations and whose vaccine?

WhizBang.
Bangkok,
Thailand



Dr. Mary Rose Genisan Sancelan
On anti-communist hit list in Negros Oriental
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 21 December 2020

We, the Council for Health and Development, a national organization of community-based health programs in the Philippines, condemn in the strongest possible terms the cold-blooded murder of Dr. Mary Rose Genisan Sancelan and her husband Edwin Sancelan last December 15 in Negros Oriental.
We are enraged that such act of impunity knows no bounds even at a time when the whole nation is gripped by the pandemic.
Her killers deprived the people of Guihulngan much-needed health services especially at this most difficult time.
Doctor Sancelan in her youth dreamt of becoming a doctor to serve her people in Guihulngan.
That dream was made possible through the help of the Franciscan friars who supported her as a scholar until she finished medicine.
Instead of using her license to heal to pursue a more lucrative practice in the cities, Doctor Sancelan went back to Guihulngan and served as its only public health physician until she became city health officer a few years ago.
She was a quiet, soft-spoken, and dedicated doctor whose gargantuan tasks as the city health officer involved not just medical consultation but administrative work as well.
But instead of getting recognition for her selfless service as Guihulngan’s only public doctor servicing 33 barangays, she found her name in a “hit list” of Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista, an alleged anticommunist group in Negros Oriental, in 2019.
She was tagged as “JB Regalado,” the spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command of NPA-Central Negros.
Also in the list were lawyer Anthony Trinidad and teacher Heidi Malalay Flores who were killed in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Although she feared for her life, Dr. Sancelan chose to stay in her beloved hometown and continued to be involved in public service even after her work in the city health office.
She served as the city nutrition action officer of Guihulngan and was the incident commander of Guihulngan’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases before her death.
Our hearts go out to the Sancelan family as well as her friends and colleagues.
We remember Zara Alvarez, a beloved health and human rights worker of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, who was also brazenly killed in August this year.
Despite threats to their lives, both Alvarez and Dr. Sancelan never cowered and chose to continue serving the people of Negros.
Even as we mourn their deaths, our rage impels us to condemn the impunity reigning in our land. Red-tagging kills. Stop the attacks. End impunity.

Magdalena Barcelon, MD,
Eleanor Jara, MD, Sr.
Edita Eslopor, OSB, Board of Trustees,
Council for Health and Development,
Manila.
Philippines


 

The Thai Constitution defines Thailand as having
A government with the King as Head of State
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 December 200
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 11 December 2020

As Constitution Day again rolls around, what do Thailand's constitutions tell us about the kingdom?
The current and previous permanent constitutions of the Thai nation explicitly define Thailand as having "a democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State" Section 2 of the 2017 constitution.
This fact tells us that those who make up these constitutions, or at whose behest they are made up, feel the need to at least pay lip service to the democratic aspirations of the Thai nation, which is the Thai people, to whom, so it is written, "sovereign power belongs" (Section 3 of the 2017 constitution).
Since it is acknowledged in its supreme rule of law that the Kingdom of Thailand is and desires to be a democracy, "one and indivisible" (Section 1 of the current constitution), those who would claim the mantle of patriot must, at a very minimum, respect these primary principles explicitly set out at the head of each Thai constitution.
The protesters bravely taking a stand on the streets qualify as Thai patriots: there is no doubt that they share the Thai nation's aspirations for the justice that comes only from democracy.
Conversely, could anyone who sees democracy as inimical to their own selfish interests, even to thwarting or colluding to thwart the Thai nation's just aspirations for democracy, qualify as a Thai patriot?
You cannot overthrow the defining rule of law of a nation and pretend to respect its highest ideals as written in that constitution.
Well, perhaps you can so violate the nation's deepest wishes whilst loudly protesting loyal friendship, but can such a claim be credited where honest reason is permitted?
Only in the land of 2+2=5 could such a deceit thrive.
You might as rationally hold that suppressing free speech is a cure for corruption.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Thai Immigration Bureau to be removed
From Royal Thai Police jurisdiction
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 19 December 2020

Re: "Immigration games", Bangkok Post PostBag, December 19, 2020.
While this contains some interesting comments, one must realise what the writer does not understand.
Regardless of the Immigration Bureau's laws, rules, regulations, whatever else anyone wishes to call it, this bureau is a state within a state, with total disregard for uniformity, politeness or anything else.
These people are powerful, with absolutely no controls or anyone to control them. When they say they can kick ass, they mean it, and do it.
Rules and regulations are interpreted differently within different offices throughout the country.
The Immigration Bureau should have long ago been removed from the jurisdiction of the Royal Thai Police and placed in civilian hands, made up of lawyers and others associated with the legal profession.
It will not happen, so do not expect miracles.
Simply try to abide by the changes in rules, regulations, and do not work yourself into a stressful heart attack mode.
Just do what an American cartoon used to say, "Grin and bear it".
Even the mighty PM seems to sidestep them and their issues and our problems.

Russian Shmehkalkeh,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Membership of Communist Party of the Philippines
Is not per se illegal
The Southeast Asian Times. Sunday 20 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 14 December 2020

Our Constitution guarantees freedom of political beliefs, that no man shall be detained, more so murdered solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations. Thus, a person being a communist or an organization being a communist front is not per se illegal, as long as the person or the organization so identified espouses their political beliefs through peaceful and lawful means.
Even under the repealed anti-subversion law, mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is not punishable.
There must be a specific intent to further the unlawful goals of the organization (i.e., to overthrow the government through violent means), which must be shown by overt acts and therefore proof of direct participation in the organization’s unlawful activities and not just mere adherence to the organization’s illegal objectives.
If there is evidence then that persons or organizations President Duterte has identified as communists are involved in illegal activities, then by all means, file cases against them in court.
What is definitely wrong with red-tagging is prejudging or assuming without proof that persons or organizations so identified are ipso facto already involved in illegal activities.
Despite his denials, Mr. Duterte has precisely red-tagged those persons and organizations he has identified as communists, as he has accused them to be in conspiracy with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) or the New People’s Army in the latter’s illegal activities.

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines



Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great
Was critic of the Lese Majeste law
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 17 December 2020

Re: "Not beyond criticism", in Bangkok Post PostBag, December 16.
Khun David Brown is right when he says that "King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great said that the lese majeste law only diminished the dignity of the king, or words to that effect." PM Prayut's seeking to protect himself not the monarchy by wielding S112.
Let's listen to HM Rama IX in his own words from a Palace-approved book: "Thailand's law of lese-majeste has one very prominent critic: King Bhumibol. ..In 2005, after an increase in politically inspired lese-majeste complaints, King Bhumibol used his annual televised birthday address to convey that: 'Charges against those accused of lese majeste should be dropped, and those held in jail for lese majeste should be released. The use of the lese-majeste law ultimately damages the monarchy... When criticism is prohibited and people are jailed for lese-majeste, damage is done to the king' " (Grossman and Faulder, King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life's Work).
HM Rama X agrees with his royal father, for he's asked PM Prayut to go lightly in using S112. We who love our monarchy should heed our kings not PM Prayut on S112.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Give PM James Marape a chance to make PNG
The wealthiest black Christian nation
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 December 2020
First published in the National Wednesday 16 December 2020

When Prime Minister James Marape took office, he had a clear vision to make Papua New Guinea the wealthiest black Christian nation in the world.
His message raised the hopes of many Papua New Guineans.
This is the sort of dream that we have been waiting to hear for a very long time from our leaders, especially the politicians who are managing our country and resources.
We want leaders who have qualities; they should be role models, set the best standards, have an honest Christian background and are family-oriented.
Marape has those qualities.
He is paving the way to a bright and prosperous future for this nation.
We were surprised to hear that several senior MPs have crossed the floor of parliament to join the Opposition.
As an observer, it seems that there is a breakdown of communication internally with MPs resorting to childish behaviour by publicly slandering each other.
To the MPs that have forsaken Marape, are you telling the nation that you do not share the same vision to become the wealthiest black Christian nation in the world?
Please give our prime minister enough time to fulfill some of his promises.
Marape’s dream is ambitious but with small steps, our future generations will benefit from the decisions he is making now.
Change doesn’t happen overnight.
Papua New Guineans are just starting to enjoy the consideration and funding of the small and medium enterprises.
This SME initiative will encourage youths, many who loiter the streets, to join this initiative to build something for themselves.
We have to appreciate that initiative.
I urge all those MPs who have moved to the Opposition to return.
Give Marape a chance and let the people decide in 2022.
This is our wish, the people’s wish.

Miriam Layton,
OL,
Goroka
,
Papua New Guinea




Philippine Constitution guarantees
Freedom of political beliefs
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 14 December 2020

Our Constitution guarantees freedom of political beliefs, that no man shall be detained, more so murdered solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations. Thus, a person being a communist or an organization being a communist front is not per se illegal, as long as the person or the organization so identified espouses their political beliefs through peaceful and lawful means.
Even under the repealed anti-subversion law, mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is not punishable.
There must be a specific intent to further the unlawful goals of the organization (i.e., to overthrow the government through violent means), which must be shown by overt acts and therefore proof of direct participation in the organization’s unlawful activities and not just mere adherence to the organization’s illegal objectives.
If there is evidence then that persons or organizations President Duterte has identified as communists are involved in illegal activities, then by all means, file cases against them in court.
What is definitely wrong with red-tagging is prejudging or assuming without proof that persons or organizations so identified are ipso facto already involved in illegal activities.
Despite his denials, Mr. Duterte has precisely red-tagged those persons and organizations he has identified as communists, as he has accused them to be in conspiracy with the CPP or the New People’s Army in the latter’s illegal activities.

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines
The sick man of Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 14 December 2020

We are the sick man of Asia again with the slowest economic recovery after COVID-19 -11.5-percent growth in the third quarter.
Businesses have yet to rebound as they await stimulus, and we cannot expect them to recover on their own without government’s aggressive assistance.
Apparently, the voices of the social development scientists in government have not been listened to by the politicians who frame the agenda that will address an economy in disrepair.
Our latest per capita income is one of the lowest among the East Asian and Pacific nations.
Vietnam, which used to be the 12th in a cluster of East Asian and Pacific nations, has already sped past us in per capita GDP.
The two most significant indicators of per capita GDP are the numerator, which is a country’s total GDP, and the denominator, its population.
The business performance in the country is dismal, with 90 percent of business being domestic firms catering to domestic consumption, which relies heavily on government spending.
We have been for decades at the lower half in total GDP among 12 East Asian Pacific nations.
But our population has increased unabated at an annual average rate of 2 percent. The population now stands at 110 million, compared to many First-World economies with much smaller populations like South Korea, 52 million, Canada, 38 million, Australia, 25 million, and Singapore 6 million.
Like a candle, we seem to be burning on both ends: While the population increases by 2 percent, our GDP growth falters.
Population control needs to be legislated and business stimulus should be an urgent and priority agenda.
When do we start being sensible as a nation?

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines




Royal finances tackled
On Thai TV
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 5 December 2020

Re: "Well done, Rung", Bangkok Post PostBag, December 1.
One is indebted to Janice Wongsurawat for drawing attention to the contribution of Panusaya "Rung" for having the courage to discuss royal finances in a TV debate.
In a country where there is never a shortage of snake oil merchants ready to defend the indefensible, the fact these matters have finally become a topic for open discussion is surely something all serious journalists should celebrate.

Yanawa David,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Call for China to clean up
Their human rights regime
The Southeast Asian Times. Monday 14 December 2020

The strident criticism The Global Times, renowned mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, makes on Australia's human rights regime/record ( Yahoo!News 8/12 ), is something Australian citizens and the Australian media themselves do regularly to remind the Australian State that it is straying from the norms of democratic good governance.
Can Chinese citizens and the Chinese media do that in China?
Even the people in Hong Kong and their media was hounded by the Chinese State whenever anyone had the audacity to criticise the Chinese State.
The Chinese State and its media mouthpiece should not point accusing fingers at any countries human rights regime.
They should clean their own diabolic human rights regime first.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Malysians dealing in cryptocurrency
Do so at their own risk
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 December 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 8 December 2020

Can the government clarify what is its position on cryptocurrencies?
Bank Negara has clearly stated that digital currencies are not legal tender in Malaysia.
Further, according to the Central Bank, digital currencies are not covered by prudential and market conduct standards that are applicable to financial regulations regulated by Bank Negara Malaysia.
The Securities Commission Guidelines on Digital Assets clearly states that “digital currencies and digital tokens are not recognised as legal tender nor as a form of payment instrument that is regulated by Bank Negara Malaysia”.
Yet, the Securities Commission is registering companies involved in cryptocurrencies.
Is the Securities Commission promoting the sale of illegal tender?
What is the message that the government is informing the Malaysian consumers? What one regulator clearly states as illegal, another regulator registers agencies promoting illegal currency?
The government policy is thus very confusing for consumers.
Admittedly, the nature of this kind of currencies means that the sellers can, through the Internet, reach a wide audience bypassing regulators.
That is no excuse for the government to not make a clear and consistent stand on what is its position on the legality of this kind of currency.
Consumers who deal in cryptocurrency, do so at their own risk.
They are well aware that it is not regulated by the Malaysian regulators.
That much is clear.
Thus for a regulator to register a company promoting cryptocurrency may give the impression that the regulator is managing the risks and that consumers will be protected.
This may create a false sense of security.
This may promote dangerous risk-taking by consumers.
Will the government make a clear and consistent stand?
Can the regulators get their act together?

Dr Paul Selva Raj,
Ceo, Fomca.
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 

 

Call for Indonesia to hold referendum
To resolve West Papua conflict
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 December 2020

We read in the Southeast Asian Times article' Indonesia lodges formal protest with UK ambassador over Benny Wenda declaration of West Papua independence'
(7 Dec ) that according to Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal,and Security Affairs, Mahfud Md, " the declaration of an interim government in-exile by Benny Wenda for West Papua has no foundation under international law" and that " Papua was made a legal part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) in a Referundum in 1969".
But isn't that Referundum in dispute and under challenge by the people of West Papua?
By contrast the people in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia have rejected independence from France in a Referundum for the second time - once in 2018 and again in 2020.
There is no dispute there about the authenticity of the Referundum and the expressed wishes of the people of New Caledonia.
New Caledonia has been a French territory for nearly 170 years.
Why can't Indonesia which made Papua a part of Indonesia only 51 years ago hold a proper rererundum to resolve the West Papua conflict in a dignified manner under international law?

Rajend Naidu.
Sydney,
Australia




Philippines House of Representative members
Charged with being members of the Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 December 2020

In the 1946 elections for the House of Representatives, the Democratic Alliance participated and won six seats fair and square.
But they were not allowed to take their seats and were falsely accused of committing fraud during the elections.
Five of them were later on allowed to take their seats after the the parity rights amendment was approved which gave Americans equal rights to invest in the country.
Today, there is a concerted effort to harass and oust the members of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT and Kabataan party list organizations from the House, just like in 1946, by charging them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The Duterte administration, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police must be reminded that the Makabayan bloc representatives are duly-elected by the people.
The four party list organizations garnered more than 2 million votes.
This should be respected by the Duterte administration.
The more than 2 million people who chose them should not be deprived of their voice in the House of Representatives.

Raffy Rey Hipoloto,
Manila,
Philippines



RM62 billion in rare earth minerals
Buried in Malaysia's Bukit Enggang Forest Reserve
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 December 2020
First published in the Malaysiakini, Friday 4 December 2020

A member of Parliament has warned the Kedah government about its determined plan to mine for rare earth elements in the state.
According to news reports, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor he will be watching closely the progress of the hunt for rare earths in the state.
It seems that some RM62 billion will be the treasure trove from untapped minerals lying buried in the virgin forests of Bukit Enggang Forest Reserve covering 20,230 hectares.
The agreement that has already been inked by the state government will in all likelihood go beyond mere soil sampling.
Raping the forest for logs in the process is anyone's guess too. It certainly will be if it is confirmed that there are precious minerals to be profited from.
You cannot dig out the rare earth metals without uprooting flora and dislodging fauna, can you?
We have to ask ourselves some hard, painful and honest to God questions.
For decades we had oil. Today in the face of a coronavirus pandemic, where has all that wealth gone?
We plundered countless trees in many of our forests (east and west of the nation) for decades. What is left? Has it made our GDP resilient or eradicated the B40 segment?
And now we are chasing after rare earth metals in Kedah. Where will it lead us to?
Will the ravaging and impoverishing coal and diamond mining in Africa teach us any lessons of foresight?
It appears that we are either greedy, desperate or out to seek economic salvation for Malaysia.
What then is this RM62 billion treasure hunt all about?

JD Lovrenciear,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Australian Aborigines under British colonial rule
Protest Nazi persecution of Jews
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 December 2020

It's truly remarkable that at a time that they were themselves suffering immense persecution and oppression at the hands of white Australian colonialists,
the Australian Aborigines' League submitted a letter of protest about Nazi persecution of the Jews to the German consult in Melbourne 82 years ago ('Germany sorry for snubbing Aboriginal protest at persecution of Jews' by Jewel Topfield, The Age 6 Dec,2020).
This expression of solidarity with the Jewish people showed the humanity of the Aboriginal .

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Malaysia to look into
Dependence on foreign workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 December 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 5 December 2020

Malaysia's dependence on cheap labour provided by foreign workers is again under close scrutiny.
Some are describing it as an unsustainable addiction and asking whether it is time to stop the practice and just employ locals.
This would at least ease the unemployment situation in the country.
But those involved in certain industries are arguing that they cannot do without foreign workers.
They are mainly from the plantation, construction and manufacturing sectors.
The Covid-19 pandemic may finally be the game changer as it has exposed some worrying health consequences of our dependence on foreign workers.
It has become clear in recent weeks that the spike in Covid-19 cases, especially in states like Selangor, can be attributed to foreign workers.
It is not the fault of the workers themselves but the condition of the living quarters provided by their employers.
These are said to be mostly overcrowded, creating fertile grounds for the spread of infectious diseases including Covid-19.
In fact, if we look at the clusters that have cropped up recently, most are in overcrowded dwellings such as prisons, detention centres for illegal immigrants and workers’ quarters.
Singapore also had to deal with similar challenges recently, but the authorities there have managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 with their programmes for targeted testing and isolating.
It is good to hear that our government is also taking the appropriate regulatory steps to address this issue.
Economists have warned for years that using cheap foreign labour is one of the factors that has prevented Malaysia from escaping the middle income trap.
It is also preventing us from embracing the use of technology to reduce reliance on manual labour.
Take the construction sector as an example.
The government has for years been promoting the use of IBS (industrialised building system) in construction, but the take-up is very disappointing and many still prefer to hire foreign workers.
The negative aspects of that choice are playing out now as Covid-19 continues to ravage our public health system.
The oil palm sector is also heavily dependent on foreign labour, particularly during the harvesting period.
With the current restrictions on the movement of labour, especially foreign labour, the industry is losing millions of ringgit in unharvested fruits.
The loss is even higher now as the price of palm oil, at more than RM3,000 per tonne, is in an unusually bullish state.
To be fair to the industry, attempts have been made to mechanise the harvesting of the fruits, but it has not been easy to come up with something that can adequately match manual labour.
Hiring locals is also not easy despite the fact that most oil palm plantations have comfortable living quarters and other amenities for workers.
Apart from the public health issue, employment of foreign workers is also not good for the economy.
Repatriation of their wages, which has run into billions of ringgit, deprives our economy of consumption spending.
On paper, it would appear that the cost of using foreign workers is low, but looking at the big picture, it may not be.
The Human Resources Ministry will have to think of more creative ways to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign workers.

Professor Datuk Dr Ahmad Ibrahim,
Fellow,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Philippines Department of National Defense (DND)
Procurement outsourcing not new
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 3 December 2020

We would like to share with your publication and its readers the defense department’s position on the recent news articles regarding the transfer of funds to the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) for procurement.
We confirm the earlier reports that the Department of National Defense (DND) and its bureaus, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), engaged the services of the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) to conduct activities relating to the procurement process, including market research, bidding, and contract implementation, for several projects in its behalf.
The practice is not something new, as the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) has been the Department of National Defense (DND) procurement outsourcing agency since 2003.
This is provided for by law, particularly, Section 6 (a) of Presidential Decree No. 1071 (PITC Charter), Sections 7.3.3 and 53.5 of the revised IRR of Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, and covered by several memoranda of agreement between the PITC and DND/AFP, which were crafted over the years.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has continuously tapped the services of Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) because the latter has proven that it can deliver what is required of them, even generating savings for the Philippine government from some of the acquisition transactions.
Most of the procurement projects transferred to the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) are for items classified as capital outlay, which are more complex than those under maintenance and other operating expenses.
In the procurement of goods and services, including infrastructure projects, the Department of National Defense (DND)/Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) pays the corresponding service fees to the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) which are deducted from the funds that are transferred.
These are paid in two tranches, with the first half paid upon the issuance of Notices of Award, while the remaining half is paid upon the completion of deliveries.
We must emphasize that while the procurement of defense equipment entails time for completion and delivery before payment if effected, the funds transferred to Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) are not idle.
In fact, our data show that the money is being utilized as intended.
Since 2018, P10.17 billion have been transferred to Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC).
Of these, P803.82 million worth of projects have been completed and delivered. From the remaining P9.36 billion, projects amounting to P1.89 billion are now in the process of contract implementation and delivery.
These include the repair of ships, delivery of medical supplies and munitions, as well as communications requirements of Pagasa island.
The rest of the projects, amounting to P7.47 billion, are now in various stages of procurement.
We hope that we have adequately provided information on this matter and clarified certain points that may have caused any misperception among our public.

Jesus Rey R. Avilla,
Assistant Secretary for Logistics, Acquisitions and Self-reliant Defense Posture
Department of National Defense,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for Papua New Guinea government
To nationalise all mineral, oil and gas companies
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 Dec 2020
First published in the National, Tuesday 1 December 2020

The role of the multinational companies operating in Papua New Guinea and the Organic Law on Local Level and Provincial Governments 1998 (OLLLPG) is a significant factor in the current political turmoil.
The multinational companies are major players in the current political crisis.
Barrick (Niugini) Ltd deliberately took the Government to court in its bid to delay the recommencement of the Porgera Mine.
Oil Search Ltd, ExxonMobil, Total and others have deliberately delayed the development of the Papua LNG project and P’nyang LNG project.
The delay tactics to secure much better project terms for their shareholders abroad is ruining our economy from loss of potential employment, economic activity and tax revenues.
These companies have engaged a number of former politicians to lobby for their interest, who are in the opposition camp.
The autonomy of provincial, district and local level governments from the national government ensured effective delivery of development and services after independence.
Approval by Parliament and implementation of the OLLLG in 1998 re-centralised political control and administrative power in Waigani, and abolished the provincial assemblies.
The implementation of the OLLLPG has enabled the elected MPs to dominate and control both the national, provincial, and local level governments since 1998 to the detriment of Papua New Guinea.
It resulted in the loss of effective management, governance and accountability, and separation of powers at all levels of Government in the management of our country.
The current political turmoil is a clear manifestation of these problems which resulted from the OLLLPG.
That is destroying our economy and the future.
The Government should introduce a new organic law on production sharing arrangement and nationalise all the mineral, oil, and gas companies in PNG to stop multinational corporations from interfering in the domestic politics.
The Government should abolish the OLLLPG and re-introduce the independent provincial assemblies, and divest power and control back to the provincial, district and local level governments.
It will give them autonomy and accountability to address the development needs in the provinces.

Concern citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Former Prime Minister Peter O'Neil
Not above the law in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 December 2020

So like Vanuatu where a former PM is on trial for corruption ( see letter in Southeast Asian Times 27 Nov ) Papua New Guinea too has its former PM standing trial for corruption ( see Southeast Asian Times article ' Former Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neil to stand trial for corruption ' 3 Dec for particulars of the case ).
It shows democratic maturity in these island nations.
It takes transgressions against the norms of good governance seriously.
No one, and that includes the Prime Minister, is above the law.
That is as should be in a democracy.
These cases should send out a solid message to other bent state officials that the long arm of the law will eventually catch up with your crooked dealings.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney
Australia

 

Call for border surveillance
Thai-Myanmar border
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 30 November 2020

Re: "Virus girl's truck driver helper 'has been found'", in Bangkok Post, November 25
The fact that a young Covid-positive Myanmar woman could illegally cross the Thai-Myanmar border three times without being intercepted and properly processed should raise major alarm bells.
If one person is able to cross the border three times within a week without detection, we can only assume there are hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal entries going unnoticed.
With Covid-19 cases raging in Myanmar, Thailand is highly vulnerable to rapid spread of the virus unless everyone entering the country is properly screened.
Everyone knows that migrant labourers from neighbouring countries fan out across the kingdom to work in construction, factories, agriculture and food processing. If Thailand does not step up border surveillance dramatically, we will soon be following the US and Europe with out-of-control Covid cases.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Marape led Papua New Guinea Government
All talk and no action
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 3 December 2020
First published in the National, Tuesday 1 December 2020

The Marape-led Government has lost its integrity and has lost track with the people.
It’s a talking government with no action.
Important services across the country are struggling to survive, workers confidence have diminished and criminal activities are increasing.
Business houses are crying foul of their losses.
The mishandling of the Covid-19 funds.
Among these, the matter of three per cent increase for public servants did not capture any attention this year.
The time for change through the motion of no confidence is here.
So for the betterment of Papua New Guinea, this Government led by Marape should be put aside.
Excuses and reasons won’t change the system.
The ideology of creating the richest black nation and taking back Papua Neww Guinea will adamantly go down history lane as a failed slogan created to rally unsuspecting citizens of Papua New Guinea.
But in reality, this is only a dream.
The country needs a stable government headed by a strong-headed prime minister who can make things happen.
And not just another rhetorical MP who knows how to talk.

Observer,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Call for monuments to Bonifacio
In the Philippines and the globe
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 December 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 30 November 2020

It has always been a point of argument among Filipinos as to who should be our national hero: Jose Rizal or Andres Bonifacio?
This has stirred a virtual schism, in which we have to identify ourselves either as a reformist or a revolutionary and choose between an intellectual and a rebel, the elite versus the masses.
This Filipino split personality has caused a huge identity crisis in us.
But this should not be the case.
In fact, it is unfair that as we celebrate Bonifacio Day every November 30, we continue to subconsciously think about Rizal in the background - as if Bonifacio does not have an equal claim and place in our history.
Bonifacio’s legacy should stand on its own.
It is my dream that one day we will also have monuments of Bonifacio around the country and the globe, like Rizal.
There should be no competition as to who is better or greater between the two heroes.
They chose different paths, but both genuinely dedicated their lives to our country. The Philippines would not be the same without these two great men.
Rizal’s weapon was the pen, Bonifacio’s the bolo.
Whether the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, what is essential is that both men fought for the country with all their capabilities and skills.
Bonifacio was born on November 30, 1863, in Tondo, Manila.
Unlike Rizal, Bonifacio did not finish his education.
However, despite this limitation and condition, he exhibited a natural intelligence and sense of leadership.
He sought to improve himself by reading books, among them Rizal’s two novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.”
The lack of adequate education did not hinder him from becoming the Father of the Philippine Revolution.
Bonifacio’s life proves that patriotism requires two essential ingredients: true love of country, and bravery.
Alas, he was murdered by fellow Filipinos under the order of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Republic of the Philippines. In fact, both Bonifacio and Aguinaldo were Masons, but this did not prevent the latter from ordering the death of the Katipunan’s founder.
My hope for all the new generations to come is to never forget how Bonifacio was killed by fellow Filipinos.
This is a reminder that our own countrymen can be our worst enemies and that we always need to be prepared and cautious.
As we celebrate Bonifacio Day, may it become our mission to educate the youth about this sad part of our history and to learn from it.

Rado Gatchalian,
Sydney
Australia




Call for Thai military think tank to form
Nato-like mutual aid force for ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 December 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 29 November 2020

Re: "Think tank to help reform conscription", in Bangkok Post, November 27.
Our army's new think tank is most welcome to help set objectives and strategy in national security, starting with questioning the most basic of assumptions.
For example:
(a) If the military, and especially the army, is the nation's fence to fight foreign foes, then keeping domestic peace should be the role of the police and the military should keep out.
The army's main manpower should be along our borders, not Bangkok.
We should identify possible enemy countries and arm ourselves accordingly.
If we cannot imagine fighting any Asean nation, we'd need a strong army only as a part of a Nato-like mutual aid force;
(b) In conscription, why not go the voluntary route?
(c) How about requiring national service, perhaps by serving in the military, or other options, such as teaching in hardship areas?
(d) Why not make our military, especially the army, gender-blind? We should ask US senator and war heroine Ladda Tammy Duckworth for her views on this matter.
(e) How to make military purchasing more effective, efficient and corruption-free?
This think tank can take us into the 21st century ... if we let it.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Call for climate state of emergency
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 26 November 2020

We express our solidarity with the urgent plea made by climate-action and climate-justice advocates urging the government to declare, amid a raging health pandemic, a climate emergency in response to the massive destruction in the Philippines brought about by the climate crisis.
It can neither be denied nor ignored that we are in a climate crisis.
Now more than ever, our vulnerable people - who bear the brunt of a warming planet - are experiencing first-hand the cruel consequences of climate change as manifested in our series of battles against more frequent and more destructive weather disturbances, which are claiming lives and causing massive damages to homes and communities, the food, agriculture, and fisheries sectors, and the ecosystems that provide vital goods and services for sustaining the people’s well-being.
To put climate action and justice at the heart of the government’s policy and program, we urge President Duterte to declare a state of climate emergency now. Such a declaration will compel the government and society to acknowledge that we live in, and are seriously threatened by, a climate crisis.
We strongly believe that the declaration of a state of climate emergency will pave the way for the urgent implementation of climate action strategies and plans to address the vulnerabilities of the most impacted sectors and communities, including the suspension of environmentally destructive and climate change-driving activities, and the allocation of funds for climate mitigation and adaptation to protect, repair, and rehabilitate destroyed ecosystems, to increase society’s adaptive capacity and resilience, and to reduce the crisis’ economic, environmental, health, and social costs.
Our government must also use and prioritize in our COVID-19 recovery efforts policies and programs to address the longer-term climate emergency, and not simply put in place stopgap and short-term measures.
This declaration will also drive the country toward more ambitious mitigation measures that faithfully adhere to our Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.
Furthermore, it will speed up our efforts to transition toward healthy, sustainable energy and away from fossil fuels, including false solutions such as waste-to-energy incineration that are designed to perpetuate the extraction from, exploitation, and destruction of our environment and natural resources.
To this end, we further urge the government to embrace zero waste and clean production as key strategies for protecting the climate and our people and for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
These strategies are proven to conserve energy and raw materials, stimulate product design for environmental sustainability and local economic development, promote substitution for hazardous chemicals, reduce waste and pollution from extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal activities, create jobs and livelihoods, and support local self-reliance and a local circular economy.
Finally, we urge the government to ban single-use plastic, reduce plastic production, issue a list of nonenvironmentally acceptable products and packaging, stop waste importation, and halt deceptive schemes undermining zero waste, including the coprocessing of waste in cement kilns and waste-to-energy incineration.
Declare a climate emergency now, and pursue the path toward a zero waste and toxics- and fossil fuel-free society.

Eileen B Sison,
President,
EcoWaste Coalition,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Papua New Guinea government
To address bogus land claims
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 November 2020
First published in the National Friday 20 November 2020

The Department of Lands and Physical Planning and the Department of Works are not working to the expectations of customary landowners who raised and lodged claims for compensation of their customary lands.
Many such matters are still sitting on tables collecting thick layers of dust while insignificant bogus claims continue to attract much attention from these places.
Traditional customary landowners with genuine claims keep hitting brick walls and are going through all kinds of complicated channels without positive feedback.
These landowners are exhausting thousands of kina to do follow ups when travelling from their respective provinces to Port Moresby.
It is a costly expense.
Now, who’ll be responsible to reimburse their money due to the inconsistency of the departments concerned?
Will the Government take this responsibility?
The Government has to take a drastic step forward to address this issue in conjunction with the ideology of taking back Papua New Guinea.
This will greatly relieve the over-burdened customary landowners with genuine compensation claims.
Even the officers responsible to sort claims employ delay tactics expecting kickbacks for working on claims.
The Government should kick butts and have genuine claims rolled out now.
Over to the Works Department and Lands and Physical Planning Department to deliberate more on this.

Claimant,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Call for quarantine at home
Rather than in hotels
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 November 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 25 November 2020

As a retired medical doctor, I would like to congratulate the government and Health Ministry for their tireless efforts in curbing the spread of Covid-19.
Herewith, I would like to put forth some views on behalf of a group of retired medical doctors.
Although the pandemic is a universal issue, Malaysia is tackling it pretty well.
The basic principle behind preventing the spread of disease is health education. Keep reinforcing this preventive aspect and we should be able to flatten the infection curve.
We suggest that Malaysians free of Covid-19, who work outside the country and wish to return to Malaysia for the festive season, be allowed to be quarantined at home rather than in hotels.
To ensure compliance, those found breaking their home quarantine should be slapped with a heavy fine.
We also suggest reducing the quarantine period down to five or seven days for those who have tested negative for Covid-19.
Yesterday, the foreign press reported that England will introduce a new system from mid-December allowing travellers into that country to take a Covid-19 test after five days of quarantine and be released from any further self-isolation if they test negative.
This is something Malaysia could look into as well. It would allow Malaysians returning home from abroad (who are Covid-19 free) to spend time with their loved ones.
In the meantime, the growing list of vaccine candidates announced in recent weeks is bringing hope to Malaysia and the entire world.

Retired Medical Director,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia




On one is above the law
In Vanuatu
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 Novemebr 2020

We learn from the RNZ Radio New Zealand report ' Govt ministers to take stand in trial of former Vanuatu PM ' (25 November,2020 ) that six government ministers, including the PM Bob Loughman, are due to appear as witnesses at the trial of former prime minister Charlot Salwai today.
The Speaker of Parliament, Gracia Shadrak, is also due to take the stand in Salwai's trial for bribery, corruption and perjury. Two other former ministers are also standing trial.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial - whether there is a successful prosecution or not - one thing is abundantly clear : Vanuatu takes seriously the legal precept that no one, regardless of status, is above the law. In some countries often lip service is paid to that foundational principle of the application of the law when it comes to applying it to political heavyweights.
The people of Vanuatu can hold their heads high and be proud of their adherence to the rule of law as it is meant to function in a democracy.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Philippines flood control projects
Should not be left to engineers and politicians
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 25 November 2020

The editorial “Reforestation is key” November 20,2020 observed how even if the amount of rainfall brought by Typhoon “Ulysses” was only a third of Typhoon “Ondoy’s” in 2009, the water level in Marikina River still breached the 21.5-meter depth during Ondoy.
The apparent narrowing of the Marikina River stretching between the outlying barangays of Banaba and Ampid, San Mateo, Rizal, or thereabouts, could partly be the culprit.
The newly built concrete dikes on the opposite banks along the said stretch perched with concrete “biking and jogging lanes” construction of the lanes is still ongoing on the upstream side resulted in the narrowing of the river and the consequent decrease in its carrying capacity.
The elevated dikes or retaining walls were rendered less or ineffective to contain the rising water from spilling over to the outlying areas and subdivisions at the height of Ulysses because of the river’s resultant contraction.
The project could have even contributed to the river’s precipitate swelling.
Because of their impact to lives and properties, not to mention their huge financial costs, flood control projects should not be left to engineers and, more so, to politicians alone, but planned and designed in consultation with hydrologists, geologists, environmentalists, and other experts in the geosciences.
They should be undertaken beyond what columnist Richard Heydarian termed as “performative populism.”

Diosdado V. Calonge,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Winning hearts and minds
New strategy to win insurgency war in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 November 2020

I came across National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon defending the P16 billion budget intended to solve the insurgency problem once and for all.
I’ve heard this kind of statement many times before, but we all know that the insurgency problem remains healthy after 75 years of fighting and killing.
It appears that our security people are now weary in solving the security problem. Accordingly, Esperon came up with a new strategy.
His new strategy, “Winning hearts and minds,” is not really something new.
The fact is that it has been there since the time of Magsaysay and Crisol at the defense department.
Truly, it must be the core strategy to win the insurgency war.
And so I looked at the curriculum of the Philippine Military Academy, which trains officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who are in command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and who will implement this strategy.
This is what I found: The core of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) curriculum is founded on the study of land warfare, naval warfare, and air warfare.
None was said about insurgency warfare, yet this is the kind of war the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been fighting on a daily basis for the past 75 years.
Our war is an insurgency war, an asymmetric war or more commonly called a guerrilla war.
It is the kind of war that has existed for ages, buried among the poverty of the people, to erupt at the proper opportunity.
I agree with Esperon’s strategy to win this war.
That is why I was interested to see the depth and direction of the training of our officers who will implement this strategy.
It is woefully inadequate to fight an asymmetric war, but I am not an educator to even make a suggestion on how the curriculum must be written.
Since the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is led by Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates, perhaps it is time to modify their curriculum to teach their cadets, who will one day lead the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), on the rudiments of winning hearts and minds.
The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was the brainchild of the US Military Academy.
In all aspects it is an excellent school, but unlike USMA graduates, its graduates will not lead land armies to fight tank battles, or lead air forces to fight air battles, or lead warships to fight naval battles.
We do not have the technological know-how or the funds to produce such war machines.
True, we have a few of the inferior types, but they are employed to fight the insurgency war.
After all, the enemy has no warplanes or battleships or air fleets.
They are the New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf, Moro National Liberation Front, pirates, kidnappers, smugglers, drug lords, and criminals of all kinds.
But the insurgency war will remain until we can win the hearts and minds of our people. One Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduate said that we need a profound social change to win the insurgency war.
And that profound social change could start and must start with the people who will fight this war.
They will need the support of all government instrumentalities for this purpose. Indeed, it is a big challenge, but it must be the war we have to win.

Lt. Gen. Antonio E. Sotelo, AFP (Ret),
Alabang Hills,
Muntinlupa City,
Philippines

 

 

 

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
Increases demand for retail space in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 November 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 21 November 2020

The signing of the Regional Com-prehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on November 15 signifies the world’s largest trade agreement.
RCEP will contribute towards sustaining Malaysia as a preferred trading hub and investment destination.
It will promote international trade among the 15 participating countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The expected increase in free trade among the participating countries will have a significant impact on the Malaysian property market.
Higher trade and economic activities will affect the occupation, investment and development sectors of the property market.
Real estate space is a local input in the production and supply of goods and services.
Increased exports lead to the expansion of domestic production.
Increased domestic production increases the demand for industrial space.
Imports also have an impact on demand for real estate space as goods imported need to be stored and distributed through warehouses and logistic properties. These goods are then displayed and marketed at various outlet points, thereby also increasing the demand for retail space.
Regional trading blocs and trade liberalisation will encourage foreign direct investment.
This in turn will create demand for industrial land and buildings.
And new capital investments will spur demand for more financing activities from the banks.
Once plants and machines are operating, they will create employment and demand for other factors of production.
Higher economic growth will then drive the capital market, which will attract more foreign investment fund flows investing in local equities.
With increased economic activities, occupation demand for real estate space will cause rental increase.
With an inelastic new supply, potential future rental growth and prospective capital appreciation, people will begin to invest more in real estate, leading to an active investment market with more participation from institutional investors.
Developers will react to prevailing rents and capital values when they appear to signal a profitable opportunity.
If prices rise, more developers will respond to these signals, and the aggregate flow of supply into the market increases.
Real estate service providers such as property consultants can play an important role in the whole process by aligning their service standards with the requirements of regional and global clients.
We envision that RCEP will open up markets and help the post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
Increased economic activities will trigger more demand for various real estate spaces, thereby leading to an improved property market performance in the future.

Prof Dr Ting Kien Hwa,
Professor, Centre of Real Estate Studies,
Faculty of Architecture, |
Planning & Surveying,
Universiti Teknologi Mara
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




50 year jail sentence for bribery
No small sentence
The Southeast Asian Times Monday 23 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 21 November 2020

Re: "Pair lose bribery appeal", in Bangkok Post, November 17
While I'm all for serious prosecution of corruption and malfeasance, it is only fitting that sentences be commensurate with crimes.
The acceptance of bribes totalling some 60 million baht by former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan is no small offence.
But I'm thinking the 50-year sentence imposed on the former tourism official perhaps has more to do with who her boss was at the time than the severity of the crime.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



ASEAN has capacity
To drive multilateralism
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 21 November 2020

Re: "Asean is still alive and kicking (softly)", in Bangkok Post Opinion, November 17
The fruitful outcome of the 37th Asean Summit under the chairmanship of Vietnam is persuasive proof of the capacity of this regional organisation to be a genuine driving force in the complex process of promoting multilateralism.
The final comprehensive document of the Summit (28 pages, 88 paragraphs) deserves to be mandatory reading for diplomats and students of international relations worldwide.
According to this instructive programmatic document, regionalism and multilateralism are important principles and frameworks of cooperation, and their strength and value lie in their inclusive, rules-based nature and emphasis on mutual benefit and respect.
Guided by this belief, the 10 Asean members are expected to bring a valuable contribution to the success of deliberations of the special session of the United Nations General Assembly in response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, a significant event of multilateral diplomacy scheduled to take place in New York, at the headquarters of the world organisation, on December 3 and 4, 2020.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The wrongs the Marcoses did
Are historical facts
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 19 November 2020

Further then to Pit M. Maliksi’s edifying letter last November 13 containing a list of Marcos untruths, there are many other facts, illustrative, not exhaustive, like unforgettable accounts of:
The February 7-8, 1974
“Jolo-Caust,” where our military razed Jolo to the ground and killed 20,000, mostly noncombatant civilians, after intense continuous bombardment.
The 1977 disappearance/salvaging of student Archimedes Trajano, whose heirs won against Imee in Hawaii but the judgment remains unsatisfactory.
The November 17, 1981 Manila Film Center tragedy, when a high-floor scaffolding collapsed and killed numerous workers toiling round the clock due to the caprice of Imelda who didn’t want a postponement of the film festival scheduled for early 1982. Imagine being “serenaded” by kith and kin while awaiting death, being encased and trapped in quick-drying cement? Those quickly enveloped in cement were luckier.
To stress the unnecessary, we merely illustrate, not exhaust, the wrong the Marcoses did, as historical facts. They should look at what Germany has done, taking responsibility and doing the right thing.

Rene A.V. Saguisag,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Thai politicians
To do their job
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 18 Novemeber 2020

Re: "Chuan Leekpai wants everyone to let parliament do its job", in Bangkok Post November 17.
The politicians cannot, or will not, do their jobs.
There is too much infighting, too much party interference, and way too much open corruption with a "so what" attitude.
How long, for example, does it take to find the Red Bull brat?
How can an Member of Parliament who was jailed in Australia for his role in drug smuggling continue to be a government Member of Parliament?
How many politicians have members of their families in appointed jobs to increase income?
How many politicians are enjoying heavy and extensive government perks?
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Khun Chuan, if one was to leave things to the politicians, Thailand would be in a worse shambles than it is now.
It is only the student protests that are keeping the parliamentarians alert and semi-conscious, because they do not know when or where the wrecking ball will hit next. Change is coming.
It is not a question of "if", but "when".
And the longer the parliamentarians delay, the longer they will hang on to their worthless positions and continue to collect salaries for sleeping in the House, not attending meetings, etc.
The axe will fall one day.
The students will be the executioners, the politicians the victims, due to their own stupidity and myopia.

Jack Gilead,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Animals in zoos are in lockdown
For life
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 Novemebr 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 16 November 2020

As the Philippines begin to open again and we look forward to a new year, now is the time to remind everyone that having fun should never include harming or exploiting animals.
There’s growing recognition that keeping animals confined to cramped cages for the public’s amusement is ethically indefensible.
At zoos, animals are in lockdown for life and have no choice concerning their food, their mates, or who they live with.
If you think quarantine has been hard on humans, imagine how animals like Trixie, a lonely orangutan suffering at the Avilon Zoo, must feel.
She’s isolated there in a concrete cell.
Animals in captivity lack opportunities for mental stimulation and sufficient room to exercise, often becoming despondent and developing abnormal and self-destructive behavior patterns, including pacing, rocking, swaying, and self-mutilation.
And no one should underestimate the significant health risks to animals associated with petting them at zoos and other interactive displays.
Primates like Trixie could contract COVID-19 from visitors, and increased contact with handlers also increases their risk of contracting the virus.
Animals with underdeveloped immune systems may be less able to fight it.
When humans use animals for entertainment, they’re denying them the opportunity to enjoy everything that’s natural and important to them.
We must be vigilant in choosing our activities and help animals in captivity by never visiting any place that uses them for human entertainment, in the Philippines or abroad.
Visits to zoos, aquariums, animal circuses, attractions offering elephant rides or tiger-petting, and swim-with-dolphins excursions must be left off travel itineraries.
Among all the lessons that we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope there’s one of compassion. By speaking out against injustice - simply by never buying a ticket to places that exploit animals - we can acknowledge that all sentient beings deserve to live free from domination and abuse.

Jason Baker,
Senior Vice President
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia,
Manila,
Philippines



Papua New Guinea National Executive Council
Awards contract to work on coronaviris cure to chemist
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 November 2020
First published in the National, Friday 13 November 2020

It is shocking to read in the news about Prime Minister James Marape, and the National Executive Council’s decision to approve a K10.2 million contract to a Papua New Guinea firm to work on the cure of the coronavirus.
It is something that is unprecedented, a government regime signing a multimillion-kina deal with a team of scientists led by a Papua New Guinea chemist, for a task that even the best brains in the world are working on.
There is no doubt that Papau New Guinea chemists will one day come up with the wonder drug that may be used as a remedy against a virus.
Papua New Guinea chemists such as Dr Topul Rali, Dr Clement Waine and Dr Stewart Wossa are among scientists who have worked on related research topics which considered the use of substances in Papua New Guinea’s backyard in treating diseases in plants and human beings.
However, Marape’s decision to fund this new firm is not good and raises a lot of questions especially when K10.2 million was given to a firm that is just over a month old.
K10.2 million is a lot of money.
Not even an existing Small Medium Enterprises (SME) in Papua New Guinea gets that kind of money from the National Development Bank or the Government easily.
The last time a government department gave that kind of money to a firm was deemed a scandal that landed a minister in prison and the firm owner fighting a long battle in the courts.
It would have seemed more sensible if K1.2 million kina or less was given to the new firm and upon its report about the progress of work, then another K100,000 or so can be given periodically.
That would have been the better strategy for Marape and the National Executive Council (NEC) to take.
Even postgraduate students in Papua New Guinea who are doing a lot of research on different themes are looking for funding and possibly some of that K10.2 million can go into financing their research.
I am aware of the fact that Google’s first financier gave them much less, about US$30,000 (K105,000) to kick start their work.
Marape and the National Executive Council (NEC) should draw up a process where such money is contracted to local firms who have good proposals.
We hope what they have done does not set a precedence for any local firm that promises a cure for a disease to easily gain that much money upon pitching the concept to a prime minister and the National Executive Council (NEC).
Again, K10.2 million is a lot of money to give to a local firm that has no track record.

PNG Man,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


 

Australia's Special Air Service Regiment faces investigation
For war crimes in Afghanisatan
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 November 2020

A day after Remembrance Day we get the news that Australian SAS soldiers face fresh war crimes investigations regarding their conduct in Afghanistan ( The Canberra Times 13 November ).
It is clearly not a good way to remember what soldiering in general and in foreign lands in particular is meant to be about?
It is despairing to hear soldiers of an advanced First World democracy facing investigation for committing war crimes atrocities.
The good thing though is that those responsible are being held to account and the matter not swept under the carpet.
That is as should be to maintain the credibility and integrity of our democratic system of governance.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

Call for Thailand
To decriminalise defamation
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 15 November 2020

While Thailand is seen as one of the world's most tourist-friendly places its laws against criminal defamation, improper online content, sedition, and contempt of court, which led to the imprisonment of an American tourist who made a critical review of a Thai resort in Koh Chang, have backfired on the resort in question. Trip Advisor has had the last word by posting a notice warning travellers that the hotel was behind the jailing of the guest for his harsh reviews.
The warning comes with a penalty: a substantial drop in the hotel's ranking on the website.
Is it time for Thailand to decriminalise defamation, making it a purely civil law matter?

Brian Corrigan,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Papua New Guinea to stay neutral
In Bougainville sovereignity decision
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 November 2020
First published in the National, Friday 13 November 2020

It is pleasing to hear that someone who ran a successful Bougainville referendum has again raised his hands to be a moderator of the consultation between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea delegations.
However, one thing we all need to understand is that Bertie Ahern cannot dictate or influence decisions from either the National Government or the Autonomous Bougainville Government team.
Ahern was the former chairman of Bougainville Referendum Commission and was appointed this week as the moderator on post-referendum consultations.
We all note that after the referendum results were announced, Bertie Ahern said Bougainville was not ready to assume full sovereignty from Papua New Guinea.
We just hope that he will stay neutral throughout the talks and that the question of whether Bougainville is ready or not is something that is up to the Bougainville people to decide and not something a foreigner or Papua New Guinean to decide on.

Weko Tantanu,
Buka,
Papua New Guinea



On the 48th commemoration of martial law
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 13 November 2020

Once again it’s important to remind Filipinos not to forget the truth.
As Vice President Leni Robredo said on the 48th commemoration of martial law, “Our national aspirations can only be as strong as our national memory.”
There’s the revision of history as supervised by Imee and Bongbong Marcos, who insist their family has done no wrong - which their loyalists and protectors swallow hook, line, and sinker.
The two aid trolls and hackers who have argued implausibly that dictator-plunderer Ferdinand Marcos was a progressivist, the best president ever, and that the martial law years were golden.
That all of them profess to know nothing about any of the crimes of Marcos is absolutely untenable.
As they try to appeal to Filipinos who easily forgive and forget, here are a few hard facts:
July 15, 2003/April 25, 2012 - Supreme Court decisions GR Nos. 152154 and 189434 affirmed the $658 million and $30 million Marcos ill-gotten wealth in separate Swiss bank deposits and forfeited the same in our country’s favor.
May 1, 1991 - A Hawaii court found Imee Marcos responsible and ordered to pay an indemnity of $4.16 million for the murder of student-leader Archimedes Trajano.
Also, Marcos heirs were barred from entering the US for refusing to pay the $2-billion judgment against them won by 75,730 human-rights victims on December 4, 1984.
Sept. 24, 2018 - Harry Roque spoke on behalf of President Duterte: “But as far as the Palace is concerned, there are decisions affirming that there were grave human rights violations committed during the Marcos regime. There’s even a law in Congress which provides for compensation for victims of martial law.”
Nov. 9, 2018 - Imelda was found guilty of seven counts of graft.
April 10, 2019 - A US court directed the distribution of $13.75 million to martial law victims who had won a class suit against the Marcos estate.
And Marcos loyalists - you’d better get Imelda to hold an umbrella over you while you skim through these facts you can never revise:
“Who’s Who in the Twentieth Century,” c1999: “The Philippines paid a heavy price for the twenty-year rule of Marcos, with his extravagant wife Imelda… it also led to him raiding the national finances to maintain his opulent lifestyle, and to declaring martial law in 1972. Marcos made the mistake of using fraud to win the 1986 election over Cory Aquino, as a result of which, he was deposed and exiled.”—John Crossland, p.133
Encyclopedia Americana, c1993: “In 1972, Marcos suspended habeas corpus, interned thousands of dissidents.… muzzled the press, nationalized major industries, and seized properties of his opponents… International groups protested Marcos violations of human rights, charging his government with torture and murder… Sen. Aquino’s assassination on Aug. 21, 1983 shattered diplomatic and financial confidence in Marcos… When Marcos was flown out of the Philippines, his luggage included over $1 million, crates of jewelry, and documents indicating the possession of bank accounts and properties worldwide worth billions more.”—Leonard Casper, pp.305-306
The 21st Century Webster-International Encyclopedia, 2003-edition: “After continued popular demonstrations against the government, Marcos and his wife, Imelda, left the country on Feb. 25, 1986 to settle in Hawaii. Both Marcos and his wife were indicted by the US government on charges that they embezzled from the Phil. Treasury to purchase assets for themselves in the US.” p.708.
2004 Transparency International Global Corruption Report: Marcos was listed second to Suharto as the most corrupt leader. And in 1986, the Guinness Book of World Records credited him for the world’s greatest government robbery.

Pit M. Maliksi,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Call for Consumer Credit Act in Malaysia
For hire purchase, money lending and pawn shops
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 November 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 11 November 2020

One of the most important announcements from Budget 2021 is the formulation of a Consumer Credit Act aimed at providing a regulatory framework for the issuance of consumer credit and strengthening the supervision of non-bank credit providers.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) has long advocated for this Act to enhance consumer protection in the financial sector.
After the Act is formulated, it is hoped that it would be enforced by Bank Negara Malaysia and the Securities Commission.
Three credit forms that are of great concern to Fomca are hire purchase, money lending and pawn shops.
The Hire Purchase Act is under the jurisdiction of the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry while the Moneylenders Act and Pawnbrokers Act are both under the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
There is an urgent need to effectively regulate the interest rates and trade terms of non-bank institutions that provide credit to consumers.
Very often, the interest rates are exorbitant while the contractual terms are severely unfair to consumers.
Through the Consumer Credit Act, Malaysians could be informed of the true annual percentage rates (APR) or effective interest rates of their financing or purchases.
The regulations on consumer credit should also be realigned to ensure that interest rates are fair and reasonable and consumers are aware of the rate they are paying to their creditors.
Credit sale is another form of unregulated consumer credit that is of great concern. This facility is offered by some large retail outlets of consumer durable goods such as furniture and household electrical and electronic products.
Consumers are required to pay in weekly or monthly instalments for a long period of time.
The weekly or monthly sum may look small but if the instalments are added up, the amount being paid is extremely exorbitant.
What is particularly unfortunate is that many consumers are from the low-income category who are attracted by the low payment rates.
Without a comprehensive Consumer Credit law, where interest rates are not only regulated but also enforced, these consumers will continue to hold the short end of the stick. Most importantly, the Act should state the limit on calculation of interest rates, including late payment interest rates and any other payments.
The Act should also provide strict guidelines on debt collection and repossession, and advertising and marketing practices must be transparent.
Finally, the Act should accord law enforcement agencies more power to deal with credit providers.
In these challenging economic times when consumers are faced with severe pressure due to job loss, reduction in income and increase in cost of living, which often force them to borrow to make ends meet, the Consumer Credit Act would provide some protection against unscrupulous lenders.


Datuk Dr Paul Selva Raj,
Chief executive officer Fomca,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia





US government does not exists
To carry out impulses of the majority
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday12 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 11 November 2020

I have not checked Siraphop C's maths in his November 7 letter "Trump could lose, yet win" but what he considers an obvious flaw in the Electoral College is actually a feature.
He misunderstands the purpose for the creation of the US government.
It does not exist to carry out the impulses of the majority, it exists to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity".
As such, the US Constitution contains many explicitly non-majoritarian provisions, including the Electoral College.
In fact, the Constitution does not even require any popular election at all for the chief executive.
The power to choose electors of the president is given to states, and states can choose any method they wish to select those electors.
Only since 1880 has each state chosen their electors by popular vote.
Before that, many state legislatures chose to directly appoint their electors.
This tension between majority rule and individual liberty was at the heart of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.
Stephen Douglas argued that the issue of slavery in new states should be decided by popular vote in those territories, hence his approval of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
Abraham Lincoln argued that the purpose of government was to protect rights, not to have the will of the majority threaten the rights of political minorities.
There is very good reason to be sceptical of majority rule and the Electoral College is just one of many features in the US Constitution designed to protect the principle of federalism and the rights of individuals from an overzealous majority.

Jeff Gepner,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for accountability in Philippines
For overkill lockdown restrictions
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 10 November 2020

National Capital Region Police Office chief Debold Sinas is a pasaway general who has yet to face accountability for his crimes against the people.
At the very least, he should be penalized for clear violation of ECQ rules when he allowed a “spontaneous” mañanita to celebrate his 55th birthday.
Under Sinas’ watch, Metro Manila became a hotspot for human rights abuses. Lockdown restrictions led to draconian control of the population, the overkill deployment of troops in communities, and the imposition of harsh penalties on so-called pasaway or quarantine violators.
Tens of thousands of desperate individuals seeking food, aid, and jobs were slapped with fines and even spurious charges for alleged ECQ violations. Sinas’ approach not only failed to flatten the COVID-19 curve, but also exacerbated the living conditions of Metro Manila residents.
Sinas is President Duterte’s brutal enforcer who is remorseless in undermining civil liberties and subverting due process.
He is accused of masterminding the relentless attacks on peasant communities in Negros.
When he was deployed in Metro Manila, he quickly gained notoriety for the raids he conducted targeting leaders and community organizers of Bayan Metro Manila. Trumped-up charges based on fabricated evidence were used to detain five of our comrades from Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Kadamay. One of those arrested in the crackdown was Reina Mae Nasino.
He continued to use terror tactics in demonizing people’s organizations that are campaigning against the Manila Bay reclamation.
Sinas must answer for the ECQ violation, but we must also not forget his key role in militarizing the government’s COVID-19 response, and the human rights abuses conducted by troops under his command.
His promotion as PNP chief is an insult to the thousands who were victimized by police aggression and state terror during the pandemic.
It is another proof that the people’s clamor for justice and accountability cannot be realized under the Duterte administration.

Mong Palatino,
Chair
Bayan Metro Manila
Manila

 

Chinese poke fun
At democracy
The Southeast Asia Times, Tuesday 10 November 2020

Trump's election antics undermining the integrity his country's election system has become a source of entertainment for the Chinese people who poke fun at America's democracy ( DW News 7 November ).
Tells you just how great Trump has made America in his 4 years as President.
No wonder the majority of the American people decided to vote him out before he did any more harm to the country's standing at home and in the international community.
Hope the country recovers from the big damage Trump inflicted on its social fabric during his short stay in the White House.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


How will the American experiment
In representative democracy end
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 6 November 2020

Like a star that has reached the end of its lifecycle, America seems to have burned through its fuel and to have begun a long and inexorable phase of collapse.
The political system crafted by the nation's Founding Fathers is failing to deliver governance that is stable, competent, and recognised by the majority of its citizens as legitimate.
Almost half the electorate observed a transparently fraudulent snake oil salesman lay waste to political norms, lie endlessly and blatantly use the office of the presidency to enrich himself, only to conclude that this was what they really wanted in a leader.
Even if Joe Biden scrapes together a wafer-thin victory, it will likely prove to be a pyrrhic one.
The only question now seems to be how the American experiment in representative democracy will end; whether America will explode violently into competing shards of gun-toting, unhinged extremism, or simply fizzle out into a third world backwater governed by increasingly authoritarian kleptocrats worshipped by their adoring, "low-information" minions.

Nigel Woodward,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Buddhism in Thailand
Turned into ceremonial pomp
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 6 October 2020

Re: "Putting virtues first", in Bangkok Post Opinion, November 6.
Yes, indeed. Mr Stephen Young puts a very idealistic road map for creating a governance model based on virtues.
Sadly, there is a complete disconnect between the "Principles of Righteousness' based on the teachings of Lord Buddha and the actual practices in and out of Buddhist temples and all over in Thai society.
The principles of sila, ajjava, avihimsa, and khandi are missing from the lives of Thai people and those leading key institutions.
A country where any creatures that walk, flies or swim is a part of the daily menu is far removed from the virtue of sila and avihimsa.
Those in power have turned Buddhism into ceremonial pomp and show filled with empty rituals that have nothing to do with the real teaching of Buddha.
In this modern era, it is the people who should decide who will lead the society in a righteous way, not one or the other institution.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



PNG government funding of a private company
Appears to be misappropriation of public funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 November 2020
First published in the National, Friday 6 November 2020

How can Prime Minister James Marape inject K10.2 million into private company Niguini Biomed Ltd when we already have institutions such as the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research?
Is this part of Marape’s famous slogan “to make Papaua New Guinea the richest black Christian nation’?
The K10.2 million should have been given to Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research to boost scientific research.
It should have been used to encourage medical professionals at the University of Papua New Guinea to lead medical students in research and not undermine the capabilities of established institutions such as the PNGIMR.
In developed countries during the upsurge in the pandemic, they were channelling millions of dollars to established universities for research but our prime minister has not done that.
Public funds should be dispersed in areas that will benefit the majority.
This country is receiving medical kits for Covid-19 from other countries.
How will K10.2 million curtail the contagious virus and others in the future?
The Niugini Biomed Ltd team have since said they formed and registered the company to protect their intellectual property right as they pursue their research into Covid-19.
They said there is nothing secret about their work as they have followed all the processes.
No one is questioning the processes and rights of the company.
All we are saying is that the deal is fishy and appears to be a misappropriation of public funds.

Jeffsatu,
Lypin Lokait,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




President Duterte order for investigation into corruption
Should begin in congress
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday 6 November 2020

The public outcry against massive corruption has recently been dramatized by President Duterte’s order to investigate thievery in all branches of government.
Even the newly installed Speaker seconded such call, knowing that almost all members of the House of Representatives he leads are contractors either by themselves, or by their relatives, cronies, and or their dummies who corner infrastructure projects and pocket billions of pesos of taxpayer money.
Needless to say, the investigation on corrupt practices should begin in Congress, as corruption and abuse of power emanate from it.
The mega task force created at the Department of Justice to investigate corruption will go nowhere as it will not be able to imprison a single plunderer.
Not under the Duterte administration, not under the present Congress, not under the present Constitution.
At the end of the period, I could see Mr. Duterte once again grinding his teeth as he speaks with frustration not only because no one was dismissed from public service, not one arrested and sent to jail, but also because many of those he brought in and appointed would turn out to be corrupt, or be corrupted by the powers in imperial Manila.
That is why we in the People’s National Coalition for a Revolutionary Government and Charter Change propose a revolutionary government that would highly prioritize the fight against corruption, by conducting the speedy resolution of all pending cases in the Office of the Ombudsman within a 90-day period from the date of an executive order issued for this purpose.
Expand the Office of the Ombudsman into every province.
Each provincial office of the ombudsman shall hence be given a 90-day period to resolve cases of graft and corruption from the date of filing, dismiss those without merit, and file criminal and civil cases against government officials and employees with strong evidence before an expanded Sandiganbayan.
Enlarge the Sandiganbayan into all regions and allow each regional Sandiganbayan only six months or 180 calendar days to resolve corruption cases, to acquit those falsely accused or without merit, and convict those accused government officials when evidence so warrants and send them to jail.
No more “Justice delayed, justice denied.”
Institute the “Nakaw na Yaman” Recovery Program.
All elected and appointed government officials, including their private accomplices, who have accumulated ill-gotten wealth through fraudulent practices in violation of all pertinent corruption laws, and/or those whose wealth have become disproportionate to their salaries and legitimate income, shall be subjected to confiscation policies in favor of the government.
Confiscated wealth and/or properties shall be returned only upon submission of proof that they have been legally and/or legitimately earned.
This is the way to stop corruption within the bounds of law, and this can only be possible under a revolutionary government.

Bobby Brillante,
secretary-general,
People’s National Coalition for a Revolutionary Government and Charter Change
Manila,
Philippines




Philippines officials who disallow display of anti red slogans
Are deemed to be welcoming communist rebels
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 5 November 2020

Shameless was the first word that came to mind when I read the response of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Southern Luzon Command, to Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, who said the former “should be ashamed of himself” for warning female celebrities Liza Soberano and Catriona Gray against engaging with Gabriela Youth, and for supposedly accusing Manila Mayor Isko Moreno of sympathizing with “terrorists” when he ordered the removal of tarpaulins declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines,(CPP) New People’s Army, (NPA) and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) “persona non grata” or unwelcome persons in the city.
Ironically, Parlade, who also serves as spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), said it was not right to accuse him - especially in social media - of putting propaganda tarpaulins (although he fully supports it) in Manila and Cavite, but he does not see anything wrong with labeling legal mass organizations as communist fronts.
Following the red-tagging general’s logic, any local official who does not allow the display of anti-red slogans in his locality is actually “welcoming” communist rebels.
As rabid anti-communists, Parlade and his cohorts couldn’t care less if they endanger the lives of unarmed activists and critics of the government whom they link to the underground movement.
Their intention is to discredit the essential role of activism and criticism in our society by spreading communist fear.
They want to keep the Filipino people subservient, even as the Duterte administration has failed miserably to improve the lives of the masses with its neoliberal policies, which feed corruption and undermine the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NTF-Elcac, which was created by President Duterte and has a P19-billion budget allocation for 2021, is trying very hard to portray the communists as the Big Bad Wolf that everyone should fear, yet reality shows otherwise.
Last time I checked, it was not the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that waged the bloody drug war that killed thousands of poor Filipinos; it was not the New peoples Army (NPA) that massacred farmers and indigenous people; it was not the National Democratic Front (NDF) that allowed a hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose regime was responsible for countless human rights violations. So, really, who is the terrorist?

Daniel Aloc,
Bacoor,
Cavite




Call for the Philippines
To make cockfighting history
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 November 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 3 Nov 2020

The death of a Filipino police officer who was slashed by a fighting cock’s spur while trying to break up a cockfight is a wake-up call.
We were very sorry to learn of the officer’s death, but we would like to point out that for the birds, this pastime is almost always deadly.
The blade that cut the officer is standard in this bloodsport.
Strapped to the birds’ feet, razor-sharp gaffs tear through flesh and bone, inflicting agonizing and sometimes fatal injuries.
Roosters sustain broken wings and legs, punctured lungs, severed spinal cords, and gouged-out eyes.
Before a fight, the feathers of many birds are plucked, and their combs and or wattles the flesh at the top of the head and under the beak, respectively are painfully cut off, usually with scissors - all so that their “opponent” can’t tear themoff in the ring.
When not fighting for their lives, most of these birds spend their lives tethered by one leg to overturned wooden baskets or confined to small wire cages.
In their natural habitat, birds may fight over mates or to establish their position in a flock’s pecking order, but they rarely fight to the death, because the weaker one generally flees. In cockfights, there is no escape.
The world has evolved, and times are changing rapidly.
It’s time for the Philippines to relegate cruel cockfighting to the history books.

Ashley Fruno,
Director of Animal Assistance Campaigns,
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia,
Manila,
Philippines



Protests in Thailand continue
Despite arrest of protest leaders
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 November 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 2 November 2020

Charging Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul with sedition will do nothing to quell the unrest; it will only make the students more determined.
The government doesn't seem to understand that the student demonstrators are not blind followers, but young people with their own ideas and aspirations.
The protests have carried on despite the arrest of leaders such as Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.
The government can continue arresting those they feel are leading the demonstrators, for understanding what is going on is beyond simply beyond their capabilities.
The generals live in a world of cronyism and patronage, so they can't understand the students who wish for so much more.
It's ironic that this government, which is led by generals who seized power from a democratically-elected government in 2014, should be accusing others of sedition. That they don't see the hypocrisy in this proves how outmoded their thinking is.

Howard Star,
Bangkok,
Thailand



ASEAN makes its decisions by consultations and full consensus
Without leaving any Member State out
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 Novemeber 2020
First published in the Khmer Times, 31 October 2020

This is my personal view in response to a view expressed by a former diplomat of one of the ASEAN Member States, which has called for the expulsion of Cambodia and Laos from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In addition to this call, this person also attempted to mislead the public by making accusations against Cambodia.
I could not stand by silently when someone has engaged in the acts of manipulation of Cambodia.
Through this response, I wanted the public to know the real facts so that they can better understand the whole issue at hand.
First, according to the ASEAN Charter, no Member States of ASEAN could either be expelled or withdrawn from the Association, an inter-government regional organisation.
By calling for the expulsion of Cambodia and Laos from ASEAN, one has engaged in an act of manipulation of the public opinions by pretending not to know or understand the ASEAN Charter as well as by attempting to divide ASEAN. According to the procedure, the ASEAN Charter could only go into effect when all ten Member States of ASEAN had ratified the chartered and no ASEAN Member States could be expelled from this regional association.
Please go back and read the ASEAN Charter and the reports of the ASEAN meetings, including the ASEAN Summits, on issue related to membership expulsion.
Second, one should not call any country to be a proxy to any power, superpower or superpowers.
No country in this world, including ASEAN countries, wanted to be a proxy to any superpower.
Every country on this planet cares about, protects and defends its own independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Certainly, for Cambodia, the issues of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity are absolutely important. In addition, Cambodia has adopted a policy of engaging with all friendly countries.
Third, as we all know, ASEAN makes its decisions by consultations and full consensus, without leaving any Member State out.
This is one of the core and fundamental principles of ASEAN: all decisions are made by consensus.
Fourth, on the matter of the non-issuance of the ASEAN Joint Communique (JC) when Cambodia was the Chair of ASEAN, Cambodia had served both ASEAN and the Member States of ASEAN to its very best, with the ASEAN principles of consensus, inclusion, pragmatism and core interests.
To be fair and just to Cambodia, one could not accuse Cambodia of being rigid and inflexible, when Cambodia had done its best to be flexible and pragmatic.
If all ASEAN Member States were flexible and pragmatic at the time, as well as respected the established practices, ASEAN could have issued the JC in 2012 easily.
By being so inflexible and unwilling to compromise by some Member States because they were calling for the inclusion of the drafted texts which not all the Member States could agree on, ASEAN could not reach a full consensus.
At the same time, if Member States were to follow the established practices by not going back on the agreed-upon and the already-approved texts of the ASEAN Joint Communique (JC), ASEAN could have issued the ASEAN Joint Communique (JC) in 2012. Based on the established practices, the disagreed texts, and in the case of the 2012 ASEAN Joint Communique (JC), there was only one paragraph which ASEAN could have taken it out from ASEAN Joint Communique (JC) and put in the record or report of the meeting. Then it could have resolved the issue easily.
However, due to the rigid and inflexible positions as well as the non-observance of the established practices by some Member States, ASEAN could reach a decisive consensus on the ASEAN Joint Communique (JC).
Therefore, in the ASEAN spirit of unity, solidarity, community and collective interests, we should not undertake any activities that could mislead the public opinions, undermine the spirit of ASEAN integration and community building, and divide and fragment ASEAN.
As a full member of ASEAN since 1999, Cambodia, especially Prime Minister Hun Sen, has done its best to serve, protect and advance ASEAN interests, particularly in regional peace, stability, security, development and integration.

Dr. Kao Kim Hourn,
Minister Attached to the Prime Minister,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia



Thai kids protesting with global slogans
Is a sign of Thailands prosperity
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 November 2020
Firts published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 31 October 2020

Wasant Techawongtham is apparently not aware that Thailand is now an upper-middle income country that has almost eradicated extreme poverty.
Maybe when he was news editor, the poverty rate was 65 percent .
It is now 10 percent.
I'm not sure of which echo chamber he has picked up his conspiracy.
The fact that Thai kids now protest with the same slogans as their peers in developed countries is a sign of the country's prosperity.
So, yes, a little thank you to and respect for grandpa and grandma, and mum and dad, seem to be well-deserved
And, yes, perhaps, old people understand what it takes to achieve prosperity because they have provided for the comforts kids now take for granted.
I'd think that they are a better source of wisdom than social influencers on Snapchat or Tik-Tok who try to sell them stuff that they now can buy with their parents' money. What is really shameful is to suggest that they should hang their head in shame.

Attentive Reader,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

King Sultan Abdullah overrules PM's call
To declare state of emergency in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday 1 November 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 28 October 2020

The news titled "No Emergency, says King" in the Star, October 25 brought to mind an important discussion I had with my Form 4 students early this year.
Chapter One of the new syllabus for Form 4 History (KSSM) discusses the role of the king.
Among other things, the discussion we had in class was about the role of DYMM Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
There were questions in the textbook, and one of the answers regarding the role of the King was: keeping the country in a stable environment.
The students were wondering in what way the King could play this role since it’s more of the Parliament's role in terms of the government of the day versus the opposition.
We discussed many scenarios then.
Today, in our History lesson, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah's decision in recent days about the Emergency was a real-scenario lesson for the students.
We shared how His Highness used his wisdom to not announce an Emergency.
The calling of a conference of the Malay Rulers by the King to discuss this important proposal presented by the government of the day, shows the King's wisdom in getting the opinion from the other state rulers as well.
The students told me that they now understand the role of the King, and are grateful that Malaysia has through the years steadfastly upheld the constitutional monarchy.
At Your Service, Your Highness

Daulat Tuanku.
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia





Why red-tag communists or terrorists or just about everyone
Who stands for what is right and just
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 31 October 2020
First published in the PhilStar 29 October 2020

There are three kinds of insurgency or insurgents in the world: the ideologue, the brainwashed and the mere oppressed.
Communism is not an ideology and movement as it used to be, three or four or five decades ago.
Governments and millions of people around the globe have awakened to become aware not only of communism’s failure to effect good and meaningful changes in society, but of the vile and destructive doctrine it espouses to achieve its goals.
In the case of the Philippines, the communist insurgency that the current administration is fighting at this juncture, as the military touts and I believe, is but a dwindled, small, weakened/powerless expedition of rebellious dissidents.
What the military, perhaps, doesn’t realize is that this insurgency is likely and largely composed of members who are mere oppressed and those that have the idealism to fight for their cause.
Therefore:
Why “fight” communist insurgency as though the country is still in the era of the 70s, 80s or 90s?
New Peoples Army's (NPA) are still New Peoples Army's (NPA), but they are no longer as they were during the time of Marcos or Cory.
The same is true with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or the Moro secessionist groups.
Times and situations have changed.
Thousands upon thousands of rebel returnees have surrendered and joined the government.
Why exaggerate the problem and do rabidly in manner and mentality to solve the malaise?
I just can’t figure out the tune being played, unless they have something up their sleeves, motivation or “incentives” that probably only a few of them know.
Why employ scare tactic when it is no democratic, acceptable and effective way to persuade people and manage government, and create or alter history?
Why red-tag as communists or terrorists just about everyone who stands for what is right and just?
For what sane purpose do we have the recently passed Anti-terror Law?
Is it not another obvious, ignominious act by the Senate and Congress that is beyond comprehension except, of course, there is something more and clandestine behind it?
Don’t we instead need to have an “anti-madness” law to curb folly and farce among our political leaders?
Why threaten the sweet and pretty Catriona Gray and Liza Soberano simply because they voiced out their sentiments on certain issues and or are supportive of the cause of the marginalized sector where they belong?
Isn’t the braveness and fortitude of these two truly beautiful souls worth emulating by their fellow celebrities?
And why ask the Commission on Human Rights to condemn the already condemned by the people?
The commission exists as a watchdog to stop and prevent abuses to humans by humans who are in positions of power.
To solve the problem of insurgency, the president needs just a listening ear away from “whispers”, in a dialogue with different insurgent groups to come up with a real and lasting panacea.
Nevermind Nur Misuari and Jose Maria Sison who have long been “away” and “detached” from their compatriots to be considered material in addressing the problem.
Oh, I wish to see proof in my own country that would belie what American professor and writer Isaac Asimov said, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
The Duterte administration still has time to prove its mettle, and the chance for the Chief Executive to redeem himself from grave mistakes.

Reni Valenzuela,
Manila,
Philippines



Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. called out
For red-tagging civilians without evidence
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 October 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 28 Oct 2020

In the on-going debate among Philippine Military Academy graduates in our Viber forum PMARAI about the public response to the red-tagging by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. of celebrities Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray, and Angel Locsin, a fellow alumnus, who is one of the many who support General Parlade’s continuing rant against leftists, I supported Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for calling out Parlade for making accusations without evidence, asked rhetorically why the AFP approach in the last 50 years has not eliminated the long-running insurgency.
May I share with you, and the public, my post in response to that PMAer’s question:
“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind."

Military solution, alone, will not defeat the insurgency.
For as long as there is hunger in the countryside and in the slums in urban areas. For as long as social inequalities exist and make people feel oppressed.
For as long as the government protects the corrupt against us instead of protecting us from the corrupt.
The answer, my friend, is eradication of poverty, the attainment of social justice for all, and making the military bear hard on those who continue to engage in violence in the pursuit of their godless communist ideology - even as the government does its best to give us all a better life.
The answer, my friend, is a profound social change - the drastic reform of our oppressive social, economic, and political order that consigns most of us Filipinos, the rich and powerful excluded, to a life of misery.
The answer is not in red-tagging civilians without evidence.

Col. Leonaro O. Odoño, (Ret.)
PMA’64,
Manila
Philippines



Thai protesters want to be proud
Of King and country
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 26 October 2020

As an Australian who admires the Thai nation and the institution of the Thai monarchy, it troubles me to see how Thai leaders are handling the conflict.
I was in Bangkok for the events of October 2017.
It was moving to see Thais united as one family, mourning the death of their beloved Father, King Rama IX. The spirit of unity, generosity and devotion filled the air.
The late king brought out the best in Thais and at no time more so than in his death.
Yet families have their problems.
I understand the young protesters, some of whom are my best friends.
And I understand those who are angry with the young protesters, some of whom are also my best friends.
Loyalty to parents is a sacred duty.
However, I do not see the young protesters as disloyal when they want their monarchy to be a shining example to the world.
They want to be proud of their King and country.
To see them as disrespectful rebels is to miss whole the point.
On ascending the throne, the late King Bhumibol declared: "My duty is to be with my people."
He went back to Thailand to spend the rest of his life doing good for his people.
It is a great pity that many of those in power in Thailand (not everyone in power, of course) seem unwilling to follow the example of the late King.
Their reaction to the youth in the streets is incomprehension, anger, self-justification.
They put their heads in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich.
History teaches that such blindness leads to disaster.
Please, please, do not let this happen to Thailand.

Paul Folley,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for ban on nuclear weapons
To be included in Catholic religious instruction
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 October 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 26 October 2020

October 25,2020, is truly a historic day for humanity.
On this day, Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), thus achieving the threshold for it to enter into force globally in 90 days.
Thus, the treaty will enter into force in late January next year.
Malaysia itself had just ratified the treaty on September 30.
Up until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction that had not been made illegal under international law.
It now joins the ranks of chemical weapons, biological weapons, land mines, cluster munitions and the like to become weapons outlawed by humanity.
Humankind as a whole has entered a new age of peace, security and happiness in spite of the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
We have also fulfilled the wishes of the hibakusha, the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during WWII, that these demonic and destructive weapons are never again used on anyone.
Never again will anyone have to undergo the suffering they have endured for 75 years.
Many leaders in various spheres have called for the outlawing of the most destructive weapons of all that have caused untold suffering not only to those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 but also the victims of nuclear weapons testing, such as the people of the Marshall Islands.
The development of nuclear weapons has also resulted in international tensions and caused billions of dollars to be spent in developing and maintaining them – money that can be put to better use, such as alleviating the effects of this pandemic.
It is not just political leaders but religious leaders of all faiths who have called for a ban on nuclear weapons.
Pope Francis has called the use and possession of nuclear weapons “immoral” and called for the Catholic Church’s opposition to nuclear weapons to be included into its catechism religious instruction.
Japanese Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda said: “I would like to strongly stress the importance of ensuring that it (the TPNW) enters into force within this year, which marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This would make 2020 the year that humankind finally begins to leave the nuclear age behind us.”
This is but a beginning, the start of a hope-filled tomorrow.
It has been reported that the current US administration has written to nations that have ratified or are intending to ratify the TPNW to retract their support for this historic treaty.
Thankfully, the world’s nations are standing firm against this form of “persuasion”.
To the leaders of states that have nuclear weapons: You must realise that you are now in possession of illegal weapons.
Though you have chosen not to support this treaty, you cannot possibly ignore the voices of the rest of the world who have proclaimed a resounding NO! to nuclear weapons.
We call upon the leaders of these nations to enter into negotiations in good faith to disarm their nuclear arsenals at the earliest possible opportunity.
We realise that many citizens in states with nuclear weapons also oppose the weapons and cherish the dream of a world free from them.
Let us extend the hand of friendship and camaraderie to such people in these states. Let us warmly encourage them.
Let us use the power of dialogue to convince everyone that nuclear weapons and humanity cannot coexist.
I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all humanity, in particular to my compatriots here in Malaysia, who have worked tirelessly for the sake of peace and a world free from nuclear weapons.
Though we are in a particularly trying period in the history of the world and our country, as long as we cherish the desire for peace and are solidly united, we can transform this great calamity into great happiness, just as we have done with nuclear weapons.


Dinesh Chandren,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for ban on nuclear weapons
To be included in Catholic religious instruction
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 October 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 26 October 2020

October 25,2020, is truly a historic day for humanity. On this day, Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), thus achieving the threshold for it to enter into force globally in 90 days. Thus, the treaty will enter into force in late January next year. Malaysia itself had just ratified the treaty on Sept 30.
Up until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction that had not been made illegal under international law. It now joins the ranks of chemical weapons, biological weapons, land mines, cluster munitions and the like to become weapons outlawed by humanity.
Humankind as a whole has entered a new age of peace, security and happiness in spite of the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We have also fulfilled the wishes of the hibakusha, the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during WWII, that these demonic and destructive weapons are never again used on anyone. Never again will anyone have to undergo the suffering they have endured for 75 years.
Many leaders in various spheres have called for the outlawing of the most destructive weapons of all that have caused untold suffering not only to those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 but also the victims of nuclear weapons testing, such as the people of the Marshall Islands. The development of nuclear weapons has also resulted in international tensions and caused billions of dollars to be spent in developing and maintaining them – money that can be put to better use, such as alleviating the effects of this pandemic.
It is not just political leaders but religious leaders of all faiths who have called for a ban on nuclear weapons. Pope Francis has called the use and possession of nuclear weapons “immoral” and called for the Catholic Church’s opposition to nuclear weapons to be included into its catechism (religious instruction). Japanese Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda said: “I would like to strongly stress the importance of ensuring that it (the TPNW) enters into force within this year, which marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This would make 2020 the year that humankind finally begins to leave the nuclear age behind us.”
This is but a beginning, the start of a hope-filled tomorrow.
It has been reported that the current US administration has written to nations that have ratified or are intending to ratify the TPNW to retract their support for this historic treaty. Thankfully, the world’s nations are standing firm against this form of “persuasion”.
To the leaders of states that have nuclear weapons: You must realise that you are now in possession of illegal weapons.
Though you have chosen not to support this treaty, you cannot possibly ignore the voices of the rest of the world who have proclaimed a resounding NO! to nuclear weapons.
We call upon the leaders of these nations to enter into negotiations in good faith to disarm their nuclear arsenals at the earliest possible opportunity.
We realise that many citizens in states with nuclear weapons also oppose the weapons and cherish the dream of a world free from them.
Let us extend the hand of friendship and camaraderie to such people in these states.
Let us warmly encourage them.
Let us use the power of dialogue to convince everyone that nuclear weapons and humanity cannot coexist.
I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all humanity, in particular to my compatriots here in Malaysia, who have worked tirelessly for the sake of peace and a world free from nuclear weapons.
Though we are in a particularly trying period in the history of the world and our country, as long as we cherish the desire for peace and are solidly united, we can transform this great calamity into great happiness, just as we have done with nuclear weapons.

Dinesh Chandren,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippine President Duterte has mastered
Practice of packing supreme court with "friendlies"
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 October 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 23 October 2020

The editorial “Mockery upon mockery,” in Philippine Inquirer October 20, 2020 illustrated unmistakably how political appointees behave when push comes to shove.
They defy all principles of law and common sense just to please the one who put them in such positions of power.
It has always been an “utang na loob” thing, more egregiously in the current regime.
What has just happened in the Commission on Elections, dominated by Duterte appointees, who rammed down everyone’s throat Ducielle Cardema’s proclamation as representative of the party list group Duterte Youth “marginalized” sector, seriously? despite all legal impediments, can very well be deemed a given in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), which is about to resolve losing vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos’ protest against sitting Vice President Leni Robredo, who now must do a lot of “Hail Marys.”
In his column “Accommodating Bongbong Marcos,” October 20, 2020, John Nery explained succinctly why, under its own rules, the PET should have long dismissed that pesky protest and upheld Robredo’s election. Alas, dominated also by appointees of President Duterte, the PET aka the Supreme Court en banc has kept that protest alive - obviously, in deference to the President’s preference.
Two political influencers are now in positions of great power, and perceived as totally beholden to Mr. Duterte and best typifying that utmost loyalty:
Socorro Inting in the Comelec and Henri Jean Paul Inting - her brother in the Supreme Court (PET) - both from Davao City.
The Americans cringe at the mere thought of “packing” the Supreme Court with “friendlies.”
Mr. Duterte has mastered that practice to perfection.

Arnulfo M. Edralin,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for dissolution of Thai parliament
Hold new elections open to all
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 October 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Friday 23 October 2020

I believe dissolving parliament with all positions declared vacant would achieve greater representation for the people.
It also would help to get rid of elected members who were given their status because of their friendship with the current leaders.
An election open to all would demonstrate a fair and democratic approach. Whatever the result there is going to be some dissent but this happens in elections all over the world.
A period of time when the new elections are to be held should be clearly defined and a law passed to that effect.
It would take time for the elected representatives to establish policies and these should be declared prior to the election to give the people some understanding of the direction the new government hopes to achieve.
These are my personal thoughts and I have not been influenced by others.
I am an ex-vet and ex-policeman, who performed these duties in Australia.

Raymond Clauscen,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Call for Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister
To cancel Sarawak Youth Day in November
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 October 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 17 October 2020

As at October 14, Sarawak had recorded 52 Covid-19 cases since September 26.
According to State Disaster Management Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, almost half of the cases originated in Sabah –
46.15 percent cases involved people who had returned from Sabah.
So although the situation is more or less contained, Sarawak is not completely out of the woods.
Then, on October 15, the Sarawak Youth Day event, to be held on November 7, was announced.
Imagine my horror when state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah announced that the ministry aims to get a crowd of 1,000 participants “1,000 expected at Sarawak Youth Day” according to theborneopost.com!
There will be a motivational talk held before the event, for which the organisers are hoping to get 250 participants.
Sarawakians, like all Malaysians, are still dealing with the repercussions and the ripple effects of the pandemic.
As much as our leaders wish to assure us that event participants will adhere to the SOP strictly, that reassurance rings hollow when we observe the consequences of the recent state election in Sabah.
Cases in three-digit numbers and new deaths are being reported every day now. Have we learnt nothing from that?
Have we not taxed our medical frontliners enough?
Has the rakyat not suffered enough?
Can we, for once, prioritise responsibility and sensibility before publicity and popularity?
The minister may have noble intentions to motivate the state’s youth but how motivating will it be when their health is compromised, Covid-19 clusters appear, schools have to shut down, their parents’ livelihoods are affected - need I say more?
On behalf of Sarawakians, we appreciate the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee’s valiant efforts to enforce restrictions to curb the recent spread. However, let us not allow complacency to creep in and undo all the good that has been done.
Let us not allow history to repeat itself.
I humbly appeal to the authorities to exercise wisdom and sound judgment.
Please, please do not proceed with that public event in November.

Rebecca Chieng,
Kuching,
Malaysia



Thai model of governance
Rooted in ancient class system
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 23 October 2020

Re: "A closer look at Thailand's model of Baramee", in Bangkok Post Opinion, October 21.
Since the word Baramee has its roots in Buddhism, it has a very specific meaning - "reaching the other shore".
It's usually rendered in English as "perfection".
In the Mahayana practices, it means obtaining enlightenment; giving, ethics, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom.
The traditional Thai governance model is no different than the ancient Mughal model of "Durbars".
In the olden golden times, the feudal lords and kings who ruled Southeast Asia were always surrounded by a group of sincere advisers and loyalists but also with a score of sycophants and cronies.
A close-knit organisation of sycophants will do anything to please their masters which led to the rise of corruption, cronyism, and nepotism.
We see such traditions still alive in the Middle East and here in Thailand.
In the old British and Mughal Empires, the lords and the kings will shower these sycophants with pieces of land, gold ornaments, coins and nuggets, gems, and jewels.
Thailand's system of governance has evolved around this ancient model.
In other words, the Thai model of "Baramee" is nothing more than a well-organised hierarchical power play rooted in its ancient class system.
Sadly, Thai Buddhism has also become a victim of patronage.
We still see such a model in many primitive societies.
In a nutshell, Baramee has no place in the 21st century where there are no illiterate masses or "subjects"; people are now free, educated, and self-reliant.
Any system or model-based patronage, cronyism, and nepotism can't last forever.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Always maintain a glass half-full outlook
Rather than glass half-empty outlook
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 october 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 21 October 2020

In the midst of our third pandemic wave, it is not surprising that many Malaysians from all walks of life are struggling with their mental health.
However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have the financial means to access professional mental health support.
So perhaps some self-help is in order.
At the individual level, we can strive to practise the three Cs:
Calm yet cautious attitude: Be mindful not to contribute to panic that can hinder efforts to positively manage our fears.
Maintaining a calm outlook helps to deal with isolation or quarantine rules that may feel daunting or overwhelming.
Connect with family and friends: Even doing so online can improve one’s sense of wellbeing.
Form support groups so everyone can encourage each other to stay physically active, have a balanced diet and, if things get too hard, to seek professional mental health support.
Compassion and kindness: Showing compassion and kindness helps to connect with others, which in turn strengthens our key sense of community and solidarity.
The worst of this pandemic will pass, especially given the concerted global efforts to find an effective vaccine.
As always, strive to maintain a balanced, glass half-full rather than glass half-empty outlook.


Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Selangor,
Malaysia



Call for Thailand to heed the sage advice
Of the late King of Thailand
HM Rama IX

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 October 2020
First published in Bangkok Post Wednesday 21 October 2020

In these dire times, let us again turn to our beloved national father, HM the late King Rama IX, for advice on how to respond to criticisms.
In his 2005 birthday speech, broadcast nationwide, he said:
"No one would dare to send those who insult the King to jail because the King will be troubled, since people will claim that the King is not a good person, or at least is over-sensitive - sending them to jail for minor insults.
Actually, the King has never told anyone to send them to jail.
Under previous kings, even rebels were not sent to jail or punished. King Rama VI did not punish rebels.
During the time of King Rama IX, who were the rebels?
There have never been any genuine rebels.
I also followed the same approach: do not send them to jail, but let them go.
If they are already in jail, release them.
If they are not in custody, I will not press charges as the offended party.
The person who is insulted is the one in trouble.
People who insult the King and are punished are not in trouble, rather the King himself is in trouble.
This is a strange business."
The late king's views in 2005 were consistent with his 2003 birthday speech, also broadcast nationwide:
"If they criticise correctly then thank them, if they criticise wrongly tell them, very discreetly, but the person who is greatly troubled by this, is the king, he is troubled because no one can reproach him. … We did not tell those who wrote the constitution that no one can criticise or contradict the king.
Why this was written, I do not know.
If I cannot be contradicted, how can I know if I am right or wrong?"

We should ponder the late king's advice, for surely he was the expert on the monarchy - and, to me, HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn's audience with
ex-Communist Party of Thailand members a few days ago signals that he is following in his royal father's footsteps of forgiving those who disagree.
Our universities should lead debates on what HM Rama IX's speeches mean today.
Does criticism mean that one is not loyal?
What does our lese majeste law allow?
Heed HM's sage advice.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thursday




Doctor reputes report that death of Philippines school children
Linked to mass innoculation of Dengvaxia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 21 October 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 19 October 2020

Re: Inquirer.net article, “SC orders trials of all Dengvaxia cases transferred to a single court” by Darryl John Esguerra.
We call your attention to the inaccurate and misleading statements contained therein:
Sanofi Pasteur Inc. did not recall Dengvaxia in 2017 nor at any other time.
The vaccine is currently used globally and was in fact made an essential medicine by the World Health Organization in 2019.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Philippines revoked the product certification due to alleged lack of documentation which Sanofi Pasteur denies.
The “reported cases of death among children who received Dengvaxia shots due to severe dengue” and “claims of families of victims” are not factual. There are no confirmed cases of deaths due to Dengvaxia vaccination as of now worldwide.
Your reporter is citing a source (Erfe) who is not a pathologist and who conducted fake autopsies that are the basis for the charges.
As of today, 8 of these cases filed in various Municipal Trial Courts have been dismissed.
As such, these misleading statements and omissions tend to cast aspersions on the persons being charged with nonexistent crimes.
This is contrary to your professed philosophy of “Balanced News Fearless Views”.
Further, the article fans the flames of anti-vaccine sentiments at a time of the pandemic when COVID-19 vaccines are being developed which will be impacted by such misleading statements.
We need to have fair and open minds regarding vaccine acceptance and your story slant certainly does not help in this regard.

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go,
Manila,
Philippines




Divine justice for assassin
Of Indonesian civil rights lawyer
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 Oct 2020

Assassin of Indonesian civil rights lawyer dies of Covid-19 in the Southeast Asian Times 19 October.
One could read that as divine justice.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



Call to follow in HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn footsteps
King meets ex-communists
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 17 October 2020

Re: "Water cannon blast rally", in Bangkok Post October 17, 2020
Friday night's highly visible crackdown set our economic recovery back significantly.
What tourist would want to encounter such an unpredictably dangerous situation?
I'm reminded of JFK, who said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
We should follow in the footsteps of HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn: "King meets ex-communists", in Bangkok Post October 17 2020, our beloved national father HM the late King Bhumibol, and then-PM Prem Tinsulanonda when they reached out to Communist Party of Thailand members to bring them back into society - and used their inputs for the common good.
We must rapidly open up avenues for safe discussion of how to quickly and peacefully bring about the deep changes we know we need - maybe have universities or committees like Khun Vicha Mahakun's or Khun Anand Panyarachun's the latter on revising the constitution recommend changes in the areas pointed out by our youth.
Visibly show society and our youth that we recognise the need for change, appreciate their thoughtful input, and rapidly act on it.
Show that we, working together, will make peaceful revolution possible.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Court denies appeal from imprisoned activist mother
To visit her dying baby
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 19 October 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 October 2020

In November 2019, Reina Mae Nasino, 23, a Kadamay community organizer, was among 62 activists arrested in Metro Manila and Bacolod.
She was pregnant.
On July 1, she gave birth to River but was separated from her baby on August 13. On River’s third month, she got sick and was brought to the intensive care unit.
Reina Mae Nasino, through her lawyers, appealed to the court for furlough but was denied.
River passed on without her mother by her side.
We don’t need more villains.
The court could’ve been kind, but it chose to be cruel.
It could’ve been nurturing, but it chose negligence.
Why punish the child for being born to an activist mother?
Refusing her the sustenance of milk from her mama’s breast, the court betrayed her future.
It stole a child’s life even before she had the chance to do more than begin to live.
Why file charges and detain a community organizer?
Is it because Reina Mae Nasino is poor, or is it because she works for social change and the court is under the sway of bigoted, militarist ideologues that think activists deserve to rot in jail?
Even in River’s final moments of life, the court denied her the embrace of her mother.
Instead of compassio - even for a little time - this country’s legal system chose depravity.
Every one of you is complicit in this tragedy.

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




Rigorous testing for airline passengers to Thailand
But not for truck drivers from Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 14 October 2020

Re: "Urgent testing out after scare", in Bangkok Post, Sunday 11 October 2020
Authorities have incessantly insisted on tedious and rigorous Covid-19 safeguards for foreigners who might fly into Thailand to conduct business, restart international tourism or simply reunite with their Thailand-based families.
I was therefore shocked to read that truck drivers hauling goods from Myanmar to the market in Mae Sot are only "randomly tested" for the Covid-19 virus.
This is especially perplexing given the current known explosion of Covid-19 cases in Myanmar.
Such a cavalier approach by border authorities seriously risks inflicting another serious wave of coronavirus infections on the Thai population.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Debate on Thai monarchy reform
Moved from parliament to the streets
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday17 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 14 October 2020

The destruction of the political party that young people voted for has caused the removal of debate from parliament to the street.
This is the "order" that Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha created and there was plenty of it.
All relevant institutions packed with his friends and cohorts committed to the orders he gave them.
But peace is not created by arrest, bans, detentions and prison sentences. Discussions are needed but the traditional establishment figures are determined never to talk about certain issues.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Justice delayed is justice denied
In Philippines Supreme Court
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 October 2020
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Thursday 15 October 2020

Allow me to react to the column of retired chief justice Artemio Panganiban “Solving the SC’s heavy caseload,” August 23, 2020 that informed the nation that as of December 2016, the backlog of unresolved cases in the Supreme Court numbered close to 14,500 per Gio-Samar v. DOTC, 2019, with each justice assigned to take care of almost 1,000 cases.
One of them is our family’s case, which is now in its 11th year there without any resolution in sight.
Our father had already passed away due to old age.
Anyway, given the herculean task involvedsaid to be “mission almost impossible”one cannot help but wonder why that job is still to die for.
In our own pedestrian view, it is simply because, for most lawyers and lower court judges/justices, it is the best place to spend their last years before retirement at age 70.
The pay is tremendous in millions of pesos per annum and the retirement benefits even better amounting to tens of millions regardless of the amount of work they have done or left undone.
Quite a number of them retire after having put in only minimal work in that court, leaving tons of unfinished business to their successors without being subject to sanctions of any kind whatsoever.
What other explanation could there be why so many cases more than 10 years old in that court like ours just get routinely passed on to and inherited by newly appointed justices who must start from square one to study those cases all over again?
Then they themselves retire soon thereafter without having done much about those cases, leaving them to get passed on again to the justices who come in next through the high court’s revolving door, and so on and so forth.
The Supreme Court keeps amending the rules supposedly to expedite the disposition of cases; but no matter how fast the cases below may move, the mantra “justice delayed, justice denied” will keep resonating in the people’s minds if the highest court of the land itself remains as excruciatingly sluggish as it has always been.
To reverse the public perception of it being so indifferent to the miseries of people with cases there hibernating for what seems like an eternity, something has got to give.
President Duterte, in the exercise of his extraordinary power and influence as chief executive and overlord of the entire government now obviously with a tremendous hold on the Supreme Courtshould put an end to this travesty.
For starters, he can have retiring justices audited and, if found grossly delinquent in the performance of their duties, meted out some penalty in the form of substantial reductions from, or perhaps forfeiture of, their retirement benefits.
The Supreme Court itself has been doing that to retiring lower court magistrates. But being “supreme,” no such sanctions are ever applied to anyone of their own. It is time to really hit them where it hurts the most and only Mr. Duterte can make that happen, if only he would start acting like the statesman he often said he never signed up or ran for.

Scarlet S. Sytangco,
Manila,
Philippines




Future saints in Philippines Catholic Church
Play video games
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 October 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 14 October 2020

Filipinos often shrug off, and sometimes even ridicule, the idea of an average person born in recent times being recognized as holy in the eyes of the Church. They will say it is a foolish idea, a brazen effort to place religion back to relevance, but will somehow ironically also venerate the saints of old in a cruel twist of hypocrisy.
My quarantined self has just watched the live stream of the beatification of Carlo Acutis, the late millennial who is credited with a miraculous intercession in the case of a sick boy in Brazil.
I was jubilant because this was a future saint who played actual video games, and someone I can totally relate to, even more perhaps than other saints of the Roman Catholic Church.
The thought, however, pointed to a more somber realization: My generation, including all young people today, want some purpose in life.
This is perhaps why there is a rise in student activism, a wave of advocacies led by young people, and the general pushback of the youth against the existing order.
In a way, Blessed Carlo Acutis serves as the literal symbol for what young people such as myself dream to aspire, even if it isn’t something that necessarily points to holiness: having a purpose in life.
Perhaps it may be as subtle as talking somebody out of suicide, or as ambitious as having your work published in the Inquirer.
In any case, our prodigy generation needs a dose of divine intercession.


Arnel Christopher Calatrava
Bacolod City,
Philippines




Malaysia calls for abolishment of death penalty
In line with international human rights
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 October 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 12 October 2020

The Malaysian Bar Council renews its call to abolish the death penalty in conjunction with the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, which falls on October 10 each year.
The Malaysian Bar has persistently, during its annual or extraordinary general meetings in the past 30 years, passed resolutions advocating the abolition of the death penalty.
We have always been, and remain, a vocal opponent of the mandatory death penalty, and have repeatedly called upon the government to abolish it.
There is no empirical evidence to confirm that the death penalty deters crimes. Despite the existence of capital punishment in Malaysia, there is nothing substantive to support that this form of punishment has resulted in a reduction in crimes, especially for drug-related offences.
In December 2018, Malaysia cast its first vote and joined a record number of United Nations member states in favour of the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions, with the view to abolish the death penalty.
In conjunction with the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the Malaysian Bar once again calls upon the government to continue to support the resolution to abolish the death penalty when the time comes for a vote again at a later date.
It is of utmost importance that Malaysia maintains its global reputation and credibility by reaffirming and fulfilling its international commitments and pledges.
The Malaysian Bar urges the government to make public the recommendations of the Special Committee to Review Alternative Sentences to the Mandatory Death Penalty, which was established in September 2019 to study the abolition of capital punishment and to consider meting out alternative sentences.
We renew our recommendation for the establishment of a Law Reform Commission to review outdated laws and sentencing procedures to bring our country in line with international human rights standards.

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Proposed tax break
Will not jump start Thai economy
The Southeast Asuian Times, Tuesday 13 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 11 October 2020

What kind of elitist joke is the proposed scheme of a 30,000-baht tax break for only 6 percent of the population?
The beneficiaries of the 7 percent VAT tax write-off are the people that socio-economically are not really hurting.
They are not the ones that have lost their jobs and incomes, if they are still paying income tax!
This will not "jump start" the economy because this break applies to mostly standard consumerism that the elite already engage in.
It will not apply to the street vendor, taxi driver, or family stores.
Any meaningful solution has to a bottom-up approach.
That is where the economic ruination is being felt the most!
For there to be a true economic stimulation, money should be given freely to the lower 90 percent to spend as they wish.
This is how developed countries and democracies are handling the economic devastation from Covid.
There is plenty of money in the government coffers for this if useless major military expenditures and questionable projects are tabled for a few years to get through these trying times.

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thai hierarchy wants cheap labour
Not critical thinkers
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 11 October 2020

I was an educator in the best secondary schools of America, Thailand and Korea for 25 years.
Thai students do not inherently pursue learning, because "Thainess" has not instilled intellectual motivation in them.
Those at the top of the Thai hierarchy want cheap labour, not critical thinkers.
The academic is right, "rote learning in primary and secondary schools has been designed to prop up a socio-political hierarchy of power and authority".
And, extinguish curiosity in Thai people.
Those in power are too ignorant and greedy to implement what the world knows - a high tide lifts all boats.

Jacobusse,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Friends of the Earth organisation in Malaysia
Call for end to fossil fuel financing
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 October 2020
First published in the Star, Fruday 2 October 2020

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), Friends of the Earth organisation in Malaysia, welcomes the efforts of Bank Negara Malaysia and the Securities Commission to accelerate climate action in the financial sector via the Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3).
We laud efforts to ensure financial institutions are adequately measuring, mitigating and building buffers against climate risks.
A recent JC3 statement affirmed the importance of managing climate change “given the significant risks and systemic impact that climate events can inflict on our lives and livelihoods”.
It is vital to push the financial sector towards scaling up environmental and low-carbon financing, and giving equal attention to investments in climate adaptation.
Adaptation deals with implementing measures to increase the nation’s resilience to climate impacts, such as implementing early warning systems for floods or other economic activities involving adaptations to climate change.
What is most startling from recent studies is the apparent lack of sufficient preparedness in many cities around the world, including our own, in addressing the possible climate impacts of climate change
More than two in three cities globally are already noticing the effects of climate change, from more heatwaves to worsening flooding, but few have effective plans to deal with the threats.
Apparently, budget restrictions are a key reason.
Hence, investing in adaptation now is most vital. It is well known that financing for mitigation (i.e. reducing emissions) is usually prioritised over adaptation, as the former can be revenue-generating while the latter is not.
But to ignore adaptation actions will lead to severe economic losses, as exemplified by forest fires and flooding.
In the case of investments in mitigation-related efforts, we stress the need to put an end to fossil fuel financing.
It is troubling to know that Malaysian banks are at risk of having to prop up a dying industry, given huge investments in coal power, while the global landscape of renewable energy continues to expand rapidly.
While some Malaysian banks have stated they are taking a phased approach to easing up on coal financing, more urgency is needed in ending this altogether.
Our financing choices will determine whether we are on the path to a low-carbon and safe future that is also resilient to climate impacts or whether we are exposed to a whole load of risks similar to the Covid-19 pandemic that will have far-reaching consequences across all economic sectors as well as our lives.
Hence, we reiterate the urgency for the financial sector and banks to ensure climate-friendly investments.

Meenakshi Raman,
President, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM),
Friends of the Earth organisation in Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippines hope that the Christmas season
Will boost spending to fuel depressed economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 October 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 6 October 2020

Just recently, Social Weather Stations released a survey showing that an alarming 30.7 percent of the population experienced involuntary hunger for the period September 17-20.
That’s around 30 million Filipinos, or 7.6 million families!
This brings to mind those jeepney drivers begging on the streets holding signs that said: “Di bale mamatay sa COVID, huwag lang sa gutom.”
It did not seem so serious a message then.
But now we are seeing the full scope of hunger that will surely affect more people in the days ahead.
This problem only means that our policymakers should consider more sensible solutions and clear-cut policies.
For one, the distinction between Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) has lost relevance, as seen in people jostling at transportation terminals to get a ride, paying no mind to safety protocols.
In addition, there is confusion as to the number of people who are allowed to gather.
The rules on wearing face masks and face shields and observing physical distancing in public transportation also need to be strictly enforced.
If these simple solutions cannot even be implemented properly, how can we expect to bring down the number of COVID-19 cases in the country and allow the economy to resume fully?
The government has proposed a P4-trillion budget for next year, but with the economy down, where will it source tax revenues to fund this?
The country cannot live on borrowing for long.
There are hopes that the Christmas season will be able to boost spending to fuel a depressed economy.
But it remains to be seen, especially when there is no guarantee that the lockdown on National Capital Region (NCR) can be eased and the metro can be placed under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) by Oct. 15.
It’s a chain reaction: As long as there are new COVID-19 cases being reported, lockdowns have to continue, and this means a lackluster economy as businesses will remain closed or will operate minimally.
If nothing is done, more people will go hungry!

Marvel K. Tan
Manila,
Phioippines



Nepotism in Papua New Guinea
Leaves students from struggling families unemployed

The Southeast Asian Times Friday 9 October 2020
First published in the National saturday 26 September 2020

It is scary that about 70 per cent of our graduates are still looking for jobs.
I think it is fair to say that the number of unemployed people have exceeded the total number of the students in school.
How can we address this?
I see that many people are employed through nepotism while students who have graduated with flying colours are without jobs.
Most of our graduates come from struggling families.
It is an issue that needs urgent solutions.

Eager eye,
Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea


Tourists on a 30 day visa
Don't want 14 days quarantine
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 6 October 2020

What tourist is going to want to travel thousands of miles to spend 14 days or even 10 days in quarantine - on a 30-day tourist visa?
Americans and Europeans spend lots when they visit Thailand, but they come for its beaches, mountains, architecture and culture, not to be confined to a hotel room.
Meanwhile, retirees like myself, who spend months and years at a time in the kingdom, are not allowed to return.
It is especially insulting to US and Australian military veterans like myself, who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War, helping Thailand to preserve its culture and constitutional monarchy.

Terence A Harkin,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Vaccine nationalism
Guarantees access to vaccine
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 October 2020
First published in the Star, Fruday 2 October 2020

There is a clear and present threat that an additional 0.4 percent to 2 percent of the world’s population will die by the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the crisis shows no signs of abating, there is an international scramble for vaccines that has been complicated by nationalism and geopolitical tensions.
Two crucial issues with vaccines are effectiveness and safety.
The SARCov2 virus belongs to a family of viruses that commonly mutates, thus making an effective vaccine for Covid-19 is difficult.
Vaccines created based on past strains may be less protective when used against future mutated strains.
The second issue is the vaccine’s safety.
Vaccine trials are powered to detect common side effects.
As we plan to vaccinate whole populations, infrequent side effects may become frequent.
“Vaccine nationalism” (when governments sign agreements with manufacturers to supply their own populations) has resulted in some countries enacting policies to develop and procure sufficient vaccines for their population before engaging with other multinational agencies.
The advantage of this strategy is guaranteed access to the vaccine under development.
Another strategy is developing bilateral vaccine trade deals with favoured partners. The benefits of this policy are guaranteed access to a vaccine in development, direct cost negotiations and better diplomatic relations.
An important risk to both these strategies is that all resources are put into a smaller basket of possible vaccine targets.
An alternative strategy is the establishment of broad coalitions or consortiums comprising multiple international agencies that countries can join.
With a larger basket of vaccine targets, and due to the inclusive nature of collaboration, this strategy is likelier to produce a vaccine that is more accessible and equitable.
However, the price-setting formulations, along with guaranteed commitments to purchase, may differ.
A significant cost determinant is the stage of development.
However, price negotiations must be valuebased, incorporating measures of effectiveness and safety.
The first generation of approved vaccines may not be cost-effective as a public health intervention for the whole population as subsequent generations are likelier to incorporate newer knowledge of the virus that will make for better vaccines.
Governments are in a challenging position now.
Delaying a national vaccination campaign of first-generation vaccines may result in more people getting Covid-19; however, utilising first-generation vaccines may lead to muted benefits and lowered cost-effectiveness.

Dr Sanjay Rampal,
Universiti Malaya (UM)
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for strengthening of laws
For the sale of animals in pet shops
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 October 2020

Do you know that the state of Queensland in Australia has some of the worst 'Puppy Farm' laws in the country because:
Puppy factories and the sale of animals in pet shops remains legal.
There is no cap on dog numbers or litter limits.
Dogs can be made to breed until no longer physically able, and back-to-back.
Dogs can be killed without a vet.
There are no time requirements for exercise, socialisation or enrichment as long as it's 'once a day'.
Soft bedding is not a requirement.
Up to 600 dogs can be kept in disgusting, squalid conditions in cages and sheds and forced to breed all their lives until they are no longer useful.
They are then abandoned or killed.
Nothing can be done to help these poor dogs who never experience love or sun or grass. They live in misery and loneliness because of Queensland's weak legislation which makes no effort to help them.
If you care about this terrible situation, ask each of your local candidates if they will introduce and push legislation to strengthen these laws.

Jennifer Horsburgh,
Queensland,
Australia




Call for five more years for Bougainville
As province of Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 October 2020
First published in the National, Friday 25 September 2020

Congratulations Ishmael Toroama, the new President-elect of Bougainville.
A big thanks to the other presidential candidates and those who contested for the Autonomous Bougainville Government seats.
The supporters and voters should be acknowledged for allowing the polling processes to be conducted fairly and freely without fear or conflicts.
A new day is dawning for Bougainville.
I am concerned that over the years, Members of Parliament representing Bougainville have turned a blind eye on the development of tertiary education in the province.
There are no state-run teachers college, nursing college and business college in Bougainville.
Does that mean the young Bougainvilleans who are in secondary school now will have to travel abroad to further their education?
I think Bougainville should take five more years to operate as a province of Papua New Guinea before being independent.
Enough time should be given for Bougainville to set up tertiary institutions with the help of the National Government.
I wish the people of Bougainville all the best.

PNG Man,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Call for Singapore to stop persecution of lawyer
Defending Malaysian on death row
The Southeast Asian Times Monday 5 October
First published in Malaysiakini, Wednesday 23 September 2020

We refer to the persecution of prominent Singapore human rights lawyer M Ravi by the Singapore authorities over his advocacy and defence of Malaysian death row prisoners in the notorious Changi prison.
On September 19, the Disciplinary Tribunal of Singapore’s Law Society inflicted a fine of S$10,000, as well as S$3,000 in costs, upon Ravi as a result of a complaint initiated by the Singapore Attorney-General.
This action by the Singapore authorities on Ravi, arose from a press conference held in Kuala Lumpur by Ravi together with Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) on July 23, 2019.
In the press conference, Ravi strongly criticised Singapore’s plans to execute Malaysian death row prisoner Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who is mentally ill. Nagaenthran has an IQ of only 69 and has very little understanding of the situation he is in.
Nagaenthran was convicted and sentenced to death on November 22, 2010 for allegedly smuggling 42.72g of diamorphine into Singapore.
Despite evidence from an independent psychiatrist that Nagaenthran suffers from mental illness, the Singapore judicial system has sent him to death row.
At present, Nagaenthran remains on death row and could be executed at any time.
It is shocking and unacceptable that Singapore is now targeting Ravi for speaking out and calling for justice for this Malaysian citizen.
Ravi is the lawyer for Nagaenthran’s family.
Hence, this is a serious interference by the Singapore authorities with Nagaenthran and his family’s right to legal advice and assistance.
The action against Ravi for taking up the cause of this mentally impaired Malaysian citizen who is facing death by hanging is clearly intended to undermine or sabotage the legal efforts to save Nagaenthran.
The baseless punishment meted out to Ravi by the Singapore authorities is in breach of international legal norms as well as Singapore’s own Constitution. Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution enshrines the right to a fair trial. Punishing Nagaenthran’s family lawyer for carrying out his duties jeopardises this right.
We urge the Singapore government:
to retract the hefty fine levied on Ravi, and nullify the finding of guilt recorded against him;
to cease all current and future attempts to interfere with, intimidate or silence Ravi;
to respect the right of Malaysian death row prisoners to legal advice and advocacy.
We further urge the Malaysian government to make the necessary objections or representations to the Singapore government over the ongoing intimidation of the Nagaenthran family’s legal counsel.

N Surendran,
Advisor for Lawyers for Liberty (LFL)
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippines Holy Angel University refutes claim that university
Is requitment ground for Communist Party of Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 4 October 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 30 September 2020

The Holy Angel University (HAU), as a Catholic institution of higher learning, places itself at the service of Truth, truth not merely as a concept but as a person in our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Truth is the teaching of our Lord; any deviation therefrom is a disservice to Him. The Holy Angel University (HAU), at the service of this truth, continues to holistically develop students to become more conscientious, competent, and compassionate.
Forefront to this is the preaching and living of the Truth, a relevant aspect to the development of the moral fiber of society.
Recently, Facebook took down 155 accounts, 11 pages, nine groups, and six Instagram accounts for violating its policy against foreign or government interference, which involve trolls and fake accounts, including posts about the red-tagging of schools, the Holy Angel University (HAU) included.
It is in this sense that the Holy Angel University (HAU) strongly decries the use of the university’s brand and image in the red-tagging that surfaced on social media recently.
These posts cite “Holy Angel Academy Pampanga,” along with two other higher education institutions, as alleged recruitment basins of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Central Luzon.
The red-tagging of the Holy Angel University (HAU), with a reference to “Holy Angel Academy Pampanga,” appears to be based on an article in the Manila Times dated Oct. 8, 2018, that was written by Rigoberto Tiglao.
He wrote that “The claim by an Army general that the (CPP) has been recruiting students in the country’s universities to join it and its (NPA) is nothing new,” and cited Bernabe Buscayno, the first commander of the (NPA), and his associates Nilo Tayag and Rodolfo Salas as HAU alumni. While the University recognizes them as part of its roster of alumni, recruitment, or any other communist-related activities, is not happening on our watch. Rather, Holy Angel Academy HAU continually educates and forms its students to practice vigilance and prudence in joining organizations. As a recommended Catholic college of the Cardinal Newman Society for faithful Catholic education, our Code of Conduct prohibits membership in any organization which is anti-Catholic, or whose philosophy is in any way contrary to the ethical or moral teachings of the Catholic Church.”
The world today faces the father of lies - Satan - who, since there is no truth in him (John 8:44), sows disinformation and discord.
As seekers, we need to sow and speak the truth, an act of charity for one another. Pope Francis himself said that sowing fake news is a grave sin against charity Pope Francis, Speech to the Catholic Media, 2017.
The Holy Angel University (HAU), being a partner for the propagation of truth, likewise urges the government to shed light on the fake accounts purportedly connected to the Philippine military and the police.
While we believe that as a Catholic institution it is our duty to obey and respect authorities (1 Timothy 2:1-3), we expect no less commitment from our government, that it may continue its moral ascendancy to govern (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1900-1903).
The University continually dedicates itself to being an agent of truth, because, like our bishops, it believes that a just society depends on truth (CBCP, Consecrate them in the Truth, 2017).
Finally, Holy Angel University (HAU) echoes the exhortation of the CBCP:
To refrain from patronizing, popularizing, and supporting identified sources of “alternative facts” or “fake news.”
To rebut and refute falsehoods whenever people are in possession of facts and of data.
To refuse to be purveyors of fake news, and to desist from disseminating this whether on social media, by word of mouth, or through any other form of public expression.
To identify the sources of fake news so that our brothers and sisters may be duly alerted and may know which media and which sites to shun.
Let us pray that we may all be consecrated in the Truth (John 17:17). For the greater glory of God! Laus Deo semper!

Dr. Luis María R. Calingo
University President
Holy Angel University



Call for Thai protesters to widen agenda
To include reduction of carbon emissions
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 October 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 25 September 2020

Re: "Reforms need broadening of the agenda", Bangkok Post,
September 25.
Recommending that protesters widen their agenda and allow for new circumstances to seep into the hitherto blinkered collective public consciousness are useful notions.
However, if backward-looking institutions show reluctance to adapt and continue to protect privilege and profits through authoritarian means, the very order they wish to preserve will not endure.
That Siam escaped colonialism and Thailand escaped communism was not just due to favourable circumstances.
In both cases, some astute policy befitting the moment helped circumstances flow fortuitously.
Do Thailand's people uniformly believe Thailand's institutions are making wise moves to protect their future?
The military government talks of armoured cars and submarines but how much action, let alone forward-looking discussion, has there been to reduce carbon emissions by creating a distributed and sustainable power supply using abundant solar resources, for example?
The young know it is well past time to widen the agenda but can the institutions listen and act wisely?
May the nation's young succeed in overcoming all obstacles, for it is not just the future of the nation's institutions that is at stake.

Kuntree Bumkhin,
Bangkok,
Thailand




A museum to honour victims of Martial Law under Marcos
Or a social amelioration program
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 October 2020

Which one to prioritize, the Social Amelioration Program for the low-income families or the University of the Philippines Martial law museum that cost almost ?500 million?
The said museum will be committed to honoring the victims of state violence and persecution during the Martial law under the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos.
It was considered as the most important project of the Human Rights Violations Victims Memorial Commission (HRVVMC).
Also, there is a planned Hall of Agony that will depict the various methods of torture employed by the perpetrators of human rights abuses during martial law.
They say that it will be the first museum that officially recognizes the atrocities committed during the period of martial law.
Amid the pandemic, I'm just wondering why the government will push this project. It looks unnecessary knowing we are having a hard time recovering our economy. It is not just an ordinary issue for some of us.
Is it worth building a museum amid the struggle that many Filipino families are facing at his time?

Kareen Asistio,
Manila,
Philippines



Rio Tinto has long history
Of corporate bad behaviour
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 October 2020

It came as no surprise to learn that Rio Tinto has been accused of environment destruction and human rights abuse in Papua New Guinea.
It has a long history of corporate bad behaviour.
Recently it was condemned for its callous destruction of a 40,000 year old Aboriginal cultural heritage site.
Rio Tinto is all about the pursuit of profit through its mega mining.
It mostly pays only lip service to concerns about the affected people and the environment.
And, the money it forks out in fines and compensation is small change compared to the profits it makes.
Rio Tinto represents the downside of unfettered capitalism with State complicity.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


Tuberculosis in Philippines
Highest in ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 29 September 2020

As we watch how the COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the Philippines, there is another pandemic that has been with us for the longest time. Tuberculosis has put the Philippines on top in the whole of Asia, with the highest incidence rate of 554 cases per 100,000 people.
TB is curable.
Yet four of five Filipinos who experience signs and symptoms of TB do not immediately go for proper check-up.
They either self-medicate or simply do nothing.
When asked why, they would talk about how trivial the symptoms were, or how costly it was to seek care and get treatment.
TB treatment is free in public hospitals, clinics, and health centers.
Yet, about 60 percent of Filipinos with TB go to private doctors for comfort and anonymity.
They spend for consultation, diagnostic tests, and medicines. Experts have reported that 35 percent of Filipinos with TB experience catastrophic costs or “out-of-pocket” expenses beyond their means.
How much does it cost for the Philippine government to find and treat one person with TB?
Excluding expenses for transportation, an initial TB screening at a government health facility will cost P300 for a chest X-ray and P7,000 for a rapid confirmatory diagnostic test.
For drug-susceptible TB (DSTB), or the type of TB that can be treated by first line drugs, treatment for an adult may cost P2,300 for six months.
For the more potent type called drug-resistant TB (DRTB), the treatment cost ranges from P35,000 to P600,000, depending on the treatment regimen.
The estimated costs are significantly higher if a person with TB chooses to pay for the treatment regimen from his or her own pocket.
Our goals are to reduce the TB incidence rate from 554 to 448 cases per 100,000 people in 2023, and to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for TB care.
To reach these, we have to find and treat as many TB cases as possible to prevent the further spread of the infection.
Our plan has been to find and treat 2.5 million Filipinos with TB from 2017 to 2022.
As of June 2020, we have diagnosed and started on treatment for 1.2 million persons with TB.
This means we still need to find and treat 1.3 million more, including 43,000 people with DRTB.
This requires us to allot at least P6 billion in the next three years for anti-TB drugs alone.
Add to this the cost of human resources and other diagnostic commodities and logistical items to make sure that the drugs reach every hospital, clinic, or health center.
Based on our analysis, we require about P50 billion to meet our goal by the end of 2023.
In 2021, we need about P15 billion to implement the National TB Program.
We estimate that we could raise P4.4 billion from national and local government budgets and other donor funding sources.
This leaves us with a huge funding gap of about P10.6 billion.
Although we allocated an estimated P500 million for the national TB program for 2021, extensive efforts on the political and programmatic levels should be done, so the government can increase the National TB Program’s budget allocation to at least P2 billion every year to contribute significantly to ending TB in the country.
At the local levels, we ask mayors and governors to review and increase their local allocations for TB services.
We enjoin the private sector and civil society groups to support the government in finding and treating more Filipinos with TB.
We have all the means and the will to end the burden of TB in the Philippines.
But we need to fill in the funding gap to make this happen.
Our failure to address this gap will prove to be very costly to the health of all Filipinos.

Rep. Angelina Tan,
chair, committee on health,
House of Representatives,
Manila
Philippines




Call for education for Thailand
Not re-education
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 25 September 2020

Re: "Reforms need broadening of the agenda", in Bangkok Post Opinion, September 25.
It is quite striking that Prof Thitinan Pongsudhirak feels the need to remind us that communism is a bad idea.
It has been in this region, and everywhere else.
This does not seem to be taught at Thammasat University, apparently.
However, I think he is mistaken when he asserts that the Thai population has been successfully brainwashed by state propaganda.
Thai mediologists have shown that there is a strong element of class contempt in this opinion: Thais, in general, as in other countries with state propaganda, are aware of this propaganda and are skilled at trying to interpret or discard its messages.
Where Prof Thitinan seems to veer completely off course is when he states:
"Re-education about what constitutes Thainess and a rethink about the force-fed symbols of Thai identity are taking place but it will take more time than the young protest leaders seem willing to give."
In short, he is a Gramscian.
A democrat would not talk about "re-education" (propaganda under another name; Mao's China springs to mind), but of "education", so that citizens have the capacity to discern and opt among different versions of Thainess (including Thitinan's) competing in an open political arena.
Education, yes! Re-education, no!

Attentive Reader
Bangkok,
Thailand


Call for local companies to have fair share
Of renewable energy development in Mynamar
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 September 2020
First published in the Myanmar Times, Wednsday 16 September 2020

Madam - I follow The Myanmar Times excellent and extensive coverage of the solar tender with enormous interest.
Reporting by John Liu - via his latest scoop on the tender results - and other journalists at your paper captures the controversy surrounding what could have been the defining solar power initiative in Myanmar.
Alas, the bidding conditions - including the barriers facing local firms and most foreign companies - leave a lot to be desired.
Myanmar renewable energy transition ought to allow local companies to have a fair share of the opportunities.
Domestic firms, especially the small and medium-sized enterprises, are not given the chance to take part in this solar tender.
Furthermore, the government should roll out policies that encourage local developers to be sub-contractors in energy projects.
They should also standardise renewable energy products in the country before approving any major project proposals.
John September 9 story reported that the average winning price to be US$0.0422 per unit, considerably below industry expectations.
A reader responded and said this represents a great deal for Myanmar consumers.
Competitive pricing is surely welcome, for now.
But is it wise for Myanmar to rely on companies from one particular country all the time?
Beyond pricing, the authorities should recognise the importance of developing the capacity of local industry players and the growth of small businesses.
Myanmar can do better than this.
We need a comprehensive industry strategy that is clearly and transparently communicated and consulted with the private sector and other stakeholders.

U Pyi Wa Tun
Yangon,
Myanmar




First celebration of Independent India
Was held in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 September 2020
First published in the Star, Thursday 24 September 2020

Many Malaysians do not know that the first celebration of Independent India was held in Taiping, Perak.
The occasion was held on the day Chandra Bose came to Taiping during the Japanese Occupation.
Chandra Bose was the forerunner of Mahatma Gandhi, who fought the British in Independent India.
He came to Taiping to revive the spirit of several thousand Indians soldiers who were stationed in the Military Garrison.
Taiping was a Military Garrison before the Second World War. Hence, the Indian soldiers were stationed there.
They were brought by the British from India to fight the Japanese in Malaya, a place known in those days.
They fought the Japanese in Ipoh, Kampar and lastly in Singapore.
Later when the Japanese army occupied Malaya, they brought in another group of Indian soldiers known as the 14th Indian Regiment.
They were also the British Army who surrendered in Burma.
Hence, the Indian soldiers who had surrendered in Singapore and Burma were transformed into the Indian National Army, of which Chandra Bose was their Supreme Commander.
They would fight alongside the Japanese army, which the populace of India would view the invasion as a liberation force to overthrow the British.
I remember the day when Chandra Bose came to Taiping.
Almost every Indian came out to greet him.
I too followed the crowd shouting, 'Jai-Hind, Jai-Hind' (Victory to India).
We assembled at the circus Padang where the Indian Army paraded while waiting for Chandra Bose.
I saw Chandra Bose was waving to the crowd while travelling in a car.
The car stopped before the entrance, and Chandra Boss dismounted. People continued shouting 'Jai-hind.'
Chandra Bose then went up the stage and took a salute from the Indian Army. Then he gave a speech, and after that everybody dispersed but continuing on shouting 'Jai-Hind' several times.
The crowd then made their way to the toddy shop where all eating and drinking were served free of charge.
As for me, I took murukku, masalode and sherbet for a drink.
Water sports were held at the lake garden on that day.

Abdullah Sani Ismail,
Tanah Merah,
Kelantan,
Malaysia



“Never forget, never again”
Marcos and martial law in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 September 2020

“Never forget, never again” perhaps the most iconic words in the discourse surrounding the legacy of Marcos and martial law.
In every mobilization, every statement, every shirt, and every banner, those words have echoed throughout the many years of the struggle.
And, indeed, it is an ongoing one.
The past few years have made us all witnesses to the capriciousness of human memory, a rejection of orthodoxy, and an all too willing acceptance of lies, fabrications, and half-truths as absolutes.
Dare I say, we have forgotten, and as a consequence, find the injustice of that time once again rearing its ugly head, breathing down the necks of the basic principles that govern the free and democratic society we hold on to, and aspire to be.
I have thought endlessly of this question: “Why?”
The answer, I think, lies in how this legacy is told.
And by that I do not mean either a lack of information, poor storytelling, or even historical distortion, but an irreconcilable divide between past and present exacerbated by the sheer magnitude of the events and the characters of the individuals that comprised it.
It is, at times, presented in a manner so wholly detached; retained within the past as a lesson, rather than manifesting through the present and future condition of Philippine society.
Our experience now is not an imitation but a continuation.
This last fact is undeniable, for the abuses of martial law had set forth the precedent for the abuses of our own time; from emboldening state apparatus, to theft and plunder, to outright violence and murder - all of them political maladies which had outlived even Marcos himself.
The combination of these, I believe, evokes an almost mythical recollection of what is otherwise a very dark and real period in our nation’s history.
Pertaining to Marcos himself, and perhaps to the idea of tyrants and dictators in general, it is easy to reduce them to malevolent forces of nature or personifications of pure evil either because of their own character or the nature of their atrocities to hammer harder the moral wrongness and depravity of their existence.
We would be justified in doing so.
At times, it is even unavoidable.
But this, I believe, has cultivated the breeding ground for the natural skepticism which Filipinos have acquired, moving such skepticism from the vein of mere inquiry to outright delusion. The larger-than-life character of Apo Lakay both the brilliance of his mind and the violence which he had put it to use has turned him into a folk hero around which the skeptical, the delusional, and the disillusioned rally, willing to justify that legacy.
The brutality of the Marcos regime’s atrocities is inconceivable in their minds.
Their experiences do not mirror that reality, for the only logical truths for them are ones of attestation.
Fr. Ranhilio Aquino is but the most recent example of this phenomenon, stirring quite a controversy on social media.
As a youth myself, I believe Father Rannie embodies precisely the kind of willing dismissal and unhealthy skepticism that has led me to write this in the first place.
A “condemnation of the present generation,” as John Nery puts it, describes the nature of Father Rannie’s tirades against detractors who he claims know only of a Marcosian “construct,” having been born well past the martial law years.
To this I say, that unless he had personally witnessed the entirety of Marcos’ activities during the tragic years of 1965-1986, then he himself knows, to some degree, only a “construct” of the man.
Much worse, he is rationalizing the bloody legacy of conflict, persecution, and violence of one whose existence had been so blatantly beneficial to him and his family, all to justify the ironic subjectivity of the peace and order to which he claims to have been witness to.

Vincent Kyle Parada,
Manila,
Philippines



Selection or interpretation of data on Martial Law
In Philippines under Marcos cannot be arbitrary
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 24 September 2020

Fr. Ranhilio Aquino originally tweeted that the present generation is loud in its condemnation of Marcos.
Having not experienced Marcos, he adds that its rant against him is but directed at its construct of Marcos.
As to what he means by construct, he explains that “construct is not fiction.
It is not false. It is the way we arrange and select and interpret data,”
pointing out that “there are rival constructs, rival interpretations, rival selections of data considered significant,” with some constructs prevailing and are favored.
He ends up saying that all human knowledge is interpretation.
So what does that make then of Marcos?
Is he really a dictator, plunderer, and human rights violator as the present generation condemns him to be?
Father Rannie said they never experienced Marcos and thus a different selection and interpretation of data could possibly lead to a different and even contradictory construct of who Marcos really is, i.e. that his being a dictator, plunderer, or human rights violator is but a figment of wild imagination.
What is the truth then insofar as Marcos is concerned?
Is he in fact a dictator, plunderer, or human rights violator?
As a student of law which all of us are, Father Rannie must grant that the selection or interpretation of data cannot be arbitrary.
There are rules for ascertaining the truth respecting matters of fact and that to lawyers goes by the name of evidence.
As a student of philosophy, he must certainly be aware of the principle of non-contradiction, that if one construct sees Marcos as a dictator, plunderer and human rights violator and a rival contradictory construct sees him otherwise, both constructs cannot be true at the same time.
The present generation may not have experienced Marcos.
But can they ignore the body of testimonial evidence of those who suffered during the Marcos dictatorship who to this very day still bear the scars of torture they were subjected to?
Can they ignore the body of documentary evidence indisputably proving the thievery of the Marcoses which served as basis for a number of Supreme Court decisions rendered against them?
As a student of the law, Father Rannie must surely be aware of the body of laws of the martial law period which prove without shadow of doubt that Marcos arrogated unto himself all governmental powers establishing one-man rule in this country.
Sadly, whatever rival constructs, rival interpretations, and rival selections of data which Father Rannie may have in mind cannot possibly be given any credence at all in the light of these insurmountable evidence that Marcos indeed is a dictator, plunderer, and human rights violator.
Regarding Marcos, one construct of someone who listed the many edifices he built concluded that he is a “nation builder.”
Sadly, said construct ignores relevant evidence.
My response: the edifices that you credit Marcos for were built out of a people he has oppressed, whose freedoms he has robbed, out of the blood whose lives he has imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
Those edifices were built out of loaned money, which he himself has robbed, for which he has earned worldwide the notoriety as one of the most corrupt leaders of the world, which until now we and generations to come will pay for.
It is utter violence to the truth and complete disrespect of facts to imply that one construct is just as good as another.

Severo,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for rule of law for those who stole original 1932 plaque
Commemorating transition from absolute monarchy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 23 September 2020

Re: "City plaque prank draws activist vow", in Bangkok Post, September 21.
I have no problem with political activist Srisuwan Janya petitioning the Fine Arts Department and chief of Phra Nakhon district to take legal action against pro-democracy protesters who put a copy of the Khana Ratsadon plaque into the concrete surface at Sanam Luang, a registered historical site.
Lawbreakers must accept the consequences.
But, as Secretary-General of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, Khun Srisuwan knows better than most that the rule of law must apply equally to all, including those who stole the original Khana Ratsadon plaque in April 2017.
The original plaque has significant historical value but there's been no progress in identifying the culprits.
Khun Srisuwan should constantly pressure the police to capture the thieves.
Also, if the stolen plaque cannot be found, it should be replaced with as close to the original as possible, not have its original historical purpose distorted.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Nothing remotely communist or fascist
In Thai students petition for monarchy reform
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 22 September 2020

Re: "Point taken, but no", in Bangkok Post PostBag, September 21.
Attentive Reader is to be thanked for acknowledging that a considered response was needed to the noted errors of reasoning and the mistaken claims in his previous letter.
Nonetheless, the new set of specious suggestions of communist tendencies based on false historical parallels shows a questionable intent.
There has been nothing remotely communist, certainly not fascist, in the students' considered petitions.
The idea Attentive Reader raises of an ideologically driven Ministry of Truth applies more obviously to the defects in supposedly traditional Thai myth that the students oppose.
It was no accident that one of Prayut Chan-o-cha's first acts after unilaterally making himself prime minister in 2014 was to ban the public reading of Orwell's famously Orwellian novel 1984 in public, especially when done in the presence of sandwiches being eaten with political intent.
It is precisely such dishonesty protected by morally questionable law that the students correctly identify as a serious failure of many decades, one in urgent need of reform if the Thai nation is to progress intellectually, socially, morally and economically as all Thai people deserve.
Attentive Reader makes a more explicitly false claim: it is not foist on them by oppressive others; rather, it is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
(LGBT) students who proudly take that label for themselves.
This error is then compounded.
However serious a problem it might be in the US and elsewhere, the claim about cancel culture is fake for the students petitioning for a better Thailand for all Thais. Attentive Reader gave not a single instance of toxic cancel culture for the very simple reason there has been no cancel culture engaged in by the student protesters.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The Malaysian Bar calls on government
For legislation on workplace safety
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 September 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 19 September 2020

Employers and employees are reminded that workers are entitled to employment rights such as a minimum wage, annual leave, termination or lay-off benefits payment and, most importantly, the right to a safe workplace as provided under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994.
In this regard, the Malaysian Bar welcomes the Selangor government’s decision to give one final chance to unlicensed factories and landowners to legalise their operations and land ownership by the end of this year.
Legalisation would ensure that the workers receive their entitlement as employees, as the factories would need to adhere to the relevant laws and regulations, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994.
Much more can be done to better safeguard workers’ right to a safe workplace.
The Malaysian Bar proposes increasing the capacity of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health to handle the responsibility of administration and enforcement of legislation related to occupational safety and health.
This would ensure that the employers who have flouted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994O and its regulations are prosecuted expediently and punished for causing unnecessary injury or casualty to workers.
In line with the International Labour Organisation’s Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006, as ratified by Malaysia in 2012, the Malaysian Bar also calls upon the federal government to introduce stricter legislation on workplace safety to provide a more conducive working environment for workers in our country.

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar




Will Japan pick up
Where US left off
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 16 September 2020

Re: "Suga timed his entrance perfectly", in Bangkok Post, Commentary, September 16.
At the time of writing, Yoshihide Suga is poised to become the next prime minister of Japan.
In the heyday of American affluence, Uncle Sam, the mythical embodiment of the United States, was sometimes called Uncle Sugar because of his generosity in dispensing financial aid to developing nations.
Those days seem to be over.
My question: Will Japan now pick up the baton that the US has dropped and henceforth be called Uncle Suga?

Just Wondering,
Bangkok
Thailand



China can hit Philippines with nuclear warheads
And missile arsenal from mainland

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 September 2020

We cannot blame the United States for tagging China as the worst country when it comes to being the most violator of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. US Secretary Michael Pompeo stated that The United States ratified sanctions and visa limitations on both Chinese individuals and entities accountable for the Chinese Communist Party’s imperialism.
This is also because China keeps on occupying more territories that it claims as its own despite the protestations of other claimant-countries.
It continues building manmade islands and turns them into missile bases, even as it causes massive destruction of the environment.
There are also traced jamming devices in Fiery Cross Reefs on the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Also, there were military planes spotted on Mischief Reef.
This is part of its strategy to project supremacy and advance its economic agenda and military designs.
China wants to take control of the Spratly Islands, and obviously is interested in Philippine water territories, because of its vast economic resources and strategic location.
It desires to secure all methane hydrate for its own and make the West Philippine Sea as an asylum for its nuclear-armed submarine.
China’s government has already declared that the military installations it has built on the islands will be limited to required resistance necessities
The Kagitingan Reef now occupied by China is also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
China’s display of power signals its aggressive designs which the international community has condemned from the day the sea disputed erupted.
Nevertheless, such aggression does not diminish our sovereign rights which the Permanent Court of Arbitration of categorically acknowledges on July 12, 2016.
The question is, are we allowing China to exploit our natural resources?
Are we permitting them to militarize our territories?
Our country should be extra concerned with this because such activity poses a serious threat to our country as well as to other claimant-nations.
This particular issue should awaken the spirit of patriotism in every Filipino and unite the nation in asserting our sovereign right to our exclusive economic zone or EEZ.
The hard part is that we cannot call for war or for a more hardline reaction.
China is a global superpower with nuclear warheads and a missile arsenal that could hit the Philippines from the mainland.
But if China wants to respect as a global power, it should abide by the UN-backed arbitral court ruling that invalidated its expansive maritime claims.
We hope China would not threaten peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea nor disrupt other countries in the exercise of their sovereign rights.

Ann R. Aquino,
Cavite,
Philippines




Call for Philippines Catholic Church to speak less
About Philhealth corruption and more about terrorism
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 September 2020

With reference to Members of Gomburza, led by Sister Teresita Alo article, “Covid-19 pandemic has opened more opportunities for corruption in the Philippines” September 1, 2020, I was so disappointed that the Catholic Church speaks too much to the controversial Philhealth corruption issue when they do not have the courage to stand when it comes to terrorism and killings of innocent civilians.
The Catholic Church shows its political view involvement that should not be.
The members of Gomburza state about commitment to human dignity and good governance but quiet and speechless when it comes to terrorism.
Now it seems that the Catholic Church is politically motivated instead of being spiritual and Human Rights concerned.

Lea Denrial,
Mulanay,
Quezon Province




Catholic Church allowed 10 percent seating capacity
Casinos allowed 30 percent seating capacity
The Southeast Asian Times Friday 18 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 17 September 20202

While the Philippines Catholic Church appreciates the decision to allow 10-percent seating capacity to attend religious activities while we are under Covid-19 General community quarantine (GCQ), I am saddened that casinos will reopen with a 30-percent seating capacity.
At an average 2,000 slot machines and gaming tables in a casino, 30 percent would mean some 600 people with prolonged contact with each other in an enclosed space where there is said to be a higher risk of getting the coronavirus; while a church with an average of 300 seats, if given 10-percent seating capacity, will mean 30 churchgoers only in an open-space building where social distancing and health protocols could be properly maintained.
On the other hand, even at a 10-percent seating limit, a casino would still have some 200 patrons given the said average of 2,000 machines and gaming tables.
Thus, I join Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines acting president and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David in his lamentation that your decision will lead to “a wider road to perdition as you gave more importance to the operation of casinos than religious devotions.”
I hope that not only the casino owners’ claim that they were “hit hard” by this pandemic was considered in the decision.
Even the church is in the same predicament.
They are similarly situated.
The only difference is that casino owners took the risk of investing a huge sum of money, so they lose more with the advent of an unexpected crisis.
Hence, it is only but fair that if casinos are allowed 30-percent seating capacity, the same privilege should be extended to religious activities.
You should consider the fact that once a parishioner takes his seat inside the church, he does not move around as he stays in his pew till the Mass is over.
But a casino player will never be comfortable in one seat alone as he will keep on transferring from one slot machine or one table to another until he finds his lucky machine or table.
A Mass lasts for an average of 40 minutes only - the longest time a parishioner would stay inside the church.
But a casino player has no time limit as to the number of hours he’d stay in the casino, which makes him more vulnerable to coronavirus infection.
Your guideline should also make clear if senior citizens are allowed to play or enter the casinos because, under your rules, senior citizens are not allowed to leave their residence even for religious activities.
But if senior citizens are allowed to enter the casinos, there is no rhyme or reason why they cannot be allowed to leave their houses to attend religious activities.
Finally, I maintain that it is better to have more people praying inside the House of the Lord, than more people playing inside the House of the Gambling Lords, especially in this pandemic period.

Romulo B. Macalintal,
Parishioner and Church Server
Last Supper of our Lord Parish
Las Piñas City



Call for public servants
To do true public service
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 14 September 2020

The Duterte administration is perceived to have been consistently pursuing state policies and actions that are mostly controversial, such as the following:
The “bloody” drug war that has resulted in the “neutralization” of thousands of drug users and pushers, mostly poor - innocent or otherwise - while big-time illegal drug dealers or drug lords have eluded prosecution or gone scot-free.
Allowing the burial of a former dictator’s remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani amid public outcry.
The release from detention or hospital arrest of some convicted “plunderers.”
Adopting an “independent foreign policy” by pivoting to China, splurging on foreign loans, allowing the unrestricted entry of Chinese nationals as workers in Pogos even during the onset of the “made in China” pandemic; disregarding the international tribunal’s arbitral ruling against China’s “nine-dash line” won by the previous administration; practically allowing China’s incursions into the West Philippine Sea, and being reluctant to seek redress or protect local fishermen from harassment or bullying by Chinese militias; also, the unilateral abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement and distancing from the US and Western Allies, all despite official surveys showing more public trust in the United States than in China.
The signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Before the present leadership’s term supposedly ends in 2022, more controversial issues may be forthcoming.
Take the recent PhilHealth multibillion-peso corruption mess, which prompted congressional inquiries and uncovered the shenanigans of the “mafia” that allegedly ravaged the state insurer of the funds collected from the hard-earned contributions of members, both here and abroad.
But, having heard again the usual “I still have full trust” in beleaguered allies remarks from no less than the Chief Executive, and his previous handling of corruption cases involving his appointed public officials at the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Corrections where they ended up merely “recycled” to other offices, one could not help being skeptical at the possibility of bringing to justice the scoundrels at PhilHealth.
Now, here comes this revolutionary government (RevGov) initiative from the Duterte camp, the congressional attempt to rename the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the enactment of a law declaring the former dictator’s birthday as a holiday in Ilocos, the “white-sanding” of Manila Bay despite the still raging pandemic and the government’s “depleted funds,” and, most recently, the grant of presidential pardon to an American soldier convicted of “homicide” for killing a Filipino transgender.
These controversies could divert public consciousness away from the most pressing real issues like the COVID-19 mishandling and the PhilHealth scandal.
It is high time our so-called public servants did true public service by pursuing programs and projects that directly benefit our people, particularly the poor and the vulnerable.
Our lawmakers should enact pro-poor laws on transparency, health, education, anti-poverty, anti-political dynasty, and anti-turncoatism, or work for drastic reforms in our flawed political and justice systems.
The government’s priorities should not be on anything that clamps down on legitimate dissent or further perpetuates the culture of corruption, injustice, and impunity. Instead, there should be more about putting “terror” in the hearts of government crooks, if only to deter them from depriving our people of their right to live in peace and in progress.
It’s about time our so-called leaders heeded public opinion, adverse or not, and listened to their own conscience, or whatever remains of it.

Manuel A. Collao,
Manila,
Philippines



Failed casino development
Eyesore in middle of Port Moresby
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday 16 September 2020
First published in the National Monday 14 September 2020


The recent parliamentary discussions regarding the probe into the failed casino development at 4-Mile are misguided and would result in loss of money.
The project has always been questionable and the people of Papua New Guinea and the National Capital District should have been screaming for answers for years.
How does a questionable project get approval in the first place?
It was all dodgy and has been now left to rot as a monument because of the greed of our leaders back then.
It’s hard to believe that we want to create ‘Amazing Port Moresby’ and make developers jump through crazy hoops to build quality projects yet we let this eyesore sit in the middle of the city.
Tear it down!
What’s even worse is that we have a ridiculous claim by the Hela Governor Philip Undialu that the landowners from his province that invested in this circus should somehow be entitled to possible reimbursements.
There should be no money paid by the Government to these landowners.

City Voice,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Prosecutor who dropped Red Bull heir charges
Appointed senior prosecutor
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday15 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 14 September 2020

It appears Nate Naksuk, the prosecutor who let the Red Bull scion off the hook, has not only been exonerated, but also has been appointed as a senior prosecutor to central Bangkok district.
I have always supported Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, but now I think the PM is playing with a card missing from his deck.
Mr Nate is too controversial to still be on the scene.
The PM should have made a decision long ago to get rid of this guy.
The student protesters have been given more fuel for their fires of protest, and frankly, more and more people are agreeing with them.
The cronyism, nepotism, corruption and the flaunting of Mr Nate appears to be too much for anyone's craw these days.
Either Gen Prayut does not see the writing on the wall or refuses to understand how his house of cards can crumble.
The man has become oblivious to the real world around him, thinking himself so indispensable as to be untouchable.
Rather than be an instrument to help bring about positive change, he has entrenched himself in his old buddy network of protecting those who would dump him and switch sides at the first opportunity if it benefits themselves.

Tsimmes,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Covid-19 danger for Thailand
Myanmar and Malaysia clandestine border crossings
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 8 September 2020

Although there are aspects of Phil Fox's letter with which I agree 'Masking Reality', PostBag, September 4, there are others which I think are wrong, and potentially fatally wrong.
New Zealand went over 100 days with no known new cases of the virus, only to have an apparently untraceable new outbreak, with which they are dealing with another lockdown.
And a recurrence in New Zealand is easier to cope with since they have far more medical and other resources in relation to population size.
In addition, unlike Thailand, it is an island nation, which makes border control comparatively easy.
In a country of almost 70 million with limited testing facilities, a fresh outbreak can get out of control before the authorities can effectively deal with it.
That is partly because of the phenomenon of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers, who are typically highly infectious in the first three to five days.
Additional to that is the latest science highlighting aerosolisation of virus particles and their capability of remaining suspended in the air for a lengthy period in confined or unventilated spaces.
No doubt compliance fatigue with regard to physical distancing - and masks to a lesser extent - has already set in to some degree.
However, much in its favour is the easy cultural acceptance of mask wearing in Thailand, plus the general cooperative attitude.
Against that must be placed the reality of long and porous borders, with particular reference to the border with Myanmar.
After quite a long period of apparently minimal infections, Myanmar has now detected sizeable and growing outbreaks in several areas of the country.
The very limited medical resources they have, especially outside the major cities, means they will very likely be unable to cope.
Aung San Suu Kyi has already said "this is a disaster for the country".
The obvious danger for Thailand is the possibility of clandestine border crossers seeking employment or just to escape the situation, and bringing in the virus.
Given their illegal status and poverty, they are unlikely to apply for testing unless experiencing major symptoms.
That is only one of the potential dangers for Thailand. Another is the Malaysian border, which is difficult to seal off entirely.
As Mr Cox himself has written "undoubtedly the virus will rebound here ..." Therefore now is definitely not the time to relax the protocols that are in place, even if some people have started to ignore them.
Until a vaccine is widely available this continues to be a time for maximum vigilance and self-discipline.
In addition, out of compassion and in its own interest, Thailand should offer what medical assistance it can spare to Myanmar.

Leo Bourne,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Covid-19 widespread
In Thai border area hospitals
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 September 2020
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 7 September 2020

Re: "Border hospitals stretched", in Bangkok Post, September 7, 2020.
The situation at the borders underscores what is surely the greatest risk of a new wave of Covid-19 cases in Thailand.
The kingdom enthusiastically projects the idea that it has only a tiny number of locally transmitted cases.
However, if recent reports from border-area hospitals are reliable it appears the virus is widespread there, with many Thai medical staff and other local residents likely exposed to infected individuals.
Stopping it spreading to other parts of the country will be a major challenge.
Scores of individuals have been caught trying to illegally cross the country's borders with Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos in recent weeks.
Undoubtedly, those who have been intercepted represent only the tip of the migrant iceberg.
Given the porous nature of the country's borders, it is conceivable that the number of unchecked migrants numbers in the hundreds, if not thousands.
Authorities would be well-advised to step up monitoring of the migrant worker population, both at the borders and at work sites.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call to declare September 11
President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Thursday 10 September 2020

“One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation” Thomas B. Reed, speech, 1886.
To declare Sept. 11 as “President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day” in Ilocos Norte to commemorate the birth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is to desecrate history by legislation. It’s a shameful attempt at historical revisionism.
We have not learned from the lessons of Marcos’ martial rule sufficiently, which the Inquirer rightly described as “an exemplar of the culture of plunder, repression, impunity, and state violence that was the hallmark of the Marcos conjugal dictatorship” Editorial, “Desecrating history,” September 9, 2020.
It’s like rubbing salt into the wounds of the survivors of martial law and their succeeding generation.
While it has been conveniently rationalized by its proponents and no less than Senate President Tito Sotto as one of local application, the impending law the bill breezed through the House of Representatives on third reading has national as well as international ramifications.
Notably, Marcos was a national, not merely a local, persona; and therefore his shadow is cast not only over Ilocos Norte but across the nation and the international sphere.
As Solita Collas-Monsod, an Ilocano herself, effectively and tersely put it in her column “An insult to Ilocanos,” September 5, 2020, let us think and act as Filipinos first before being Ilocanos.
It’s another big joke that the monolithic house of Congress has visited upon the Filipino people.
It’s a joke that’s not even funny to the Ilocanos in general, and makes the Filipinos a laughingstock in the world which held them in high regard when they overthrew the dictatorship in an unprecedented peaceful people power revolt in 1986.
The recently passed House bill is also a portrayal of our misfortune - that of having a bunch of robotic and dumb legislators.
To paraphrase Georges Braque’s “Pensées sur l’art,” truth exists even if falsehood has to be invented.

Diosdado V. Calonge,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for China to abide by Permanent Court of Arbitration
Ruling over West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, 11 September 2020

We cannot blame the United States for tagging China as the worst country when it comes to being the most violator of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. US Secretary Michael Pompeo stated that The United States ratified sanctions and visa limitations on both Chinese individuals and entities accountable for the Chinese Communist Party’s imperialism.
This is also because China keeps on occupying more territories that it claims as its own despite the protestations of other claimant-countries.
It continues building manmade islands and turns them into missile bases, even as it causes massive destruction of the environment.
There are also traced jamming devices in Fiery Cross Reefs on the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Also, there were military planes spotted on Mischief Reef.
This is part of its strategy to project supremacy and advance its economic agenda and military designs.
China wants to take control of the Spratly Islands, and obviously is interested in Philippine water territories, because of its vast economic resources and strategic location.
It desires to secure all methane hydrate for its own and make the West Philippine Sea as an asylum for its nuclear-armed submarine.
China’s government has already declared that the military installations it has built on the islands will be limited to required resistance necessities
The Kagitingan Reef now occupied by China is also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
China’s display of power signals its aggressive designs which the international community has condemned from the day the sea disputed erupted.
Nevertheless, such aggression does not diminish our sovereign rights which the Permanent Court of Arbitration of categorically acknowledges on July 12, 2016.
The question is, are we allowing China to exploit our natural resources?
Are we permitting them to militarize our territories?
Our country should be extra concerned with this because such activity poses a serious threat to our country as well as to other claimant-nations.
This particular issue should awaken the spirit of patriotism in every Filipino and unite the nation in asserting our sovereign right to our exclusive economic zone
or EEZ.
The hard part is that we cannot call for war or for a more hardline reaction.
China is a global superpower with nuclear warheads and a missile arsenal that could hit the Philippines from the mainland.
But if China wants to be respected as a global power, it should abide by the UN-backed arbitral court ruling that invalidated its expansive maritime claims.
We hope China would not threaten peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea nor disrupt other countries in the exercise of their sovereign rights.

Ann R. Aquino
Cavite,
Philippines



Philippine President Duterte
Accused of weaponizing the bureacracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 8 September 2020

The specter of unabated killings is the brutal legacy of the Duterte administration.
President Duterte waged a bloody war on drugs that led to thousands of killings. Most of the victims are suspected petty drug users, peddlers, and barangay bystanders.
The police went on a deadly “tokhang” rampage but failed to end the drug menace.
Mr. Duterte relentlessly attacked activists, leftists, opposition leaders, and critics. Many of them became victims of extrajudicial killings.
These include lawyers, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, farmers, reporters, local officials, peace consultants, and human rights defenders.
We believe these are state-sponsored killings that Mr. Duterte enabled through official and unofficial policies and declarations.
From “tokhang” directives to martial law in Mindanao and the imposition of a state of lawlessness in Negros and Samar islands, the Duterte administration weaponized the bureaucracy, which led to fatal consequences.
It has to be made accountable for legitimizing the attacks against urban poor residents, activists, and rural communities.
Mr. Duterte’s anticommunist rhetoric demonized the work of activists.
He criminalized activism by linking the advocacies of people’s organizations with armed struggle.
Suspected communist sympathizers are harassed, red-tagged, charged with trumped-up cases, and targeted by death squads.
In 2020, Mr. Duterte’s bungled COVID-19 response led to several unnecessary deaths.
His criminal neglect has worsened the suffering of the people.
His militarist and harsh lockdown restrictions have curtailed the rights of workers. Official COVID-19 monitoring does not count the number of people who died because of lockdown impositions, the overkill deployment of troops in communities, and those who were deprived of hospital health care.
We remember the victims of “tokhang.”
We honor the lives of activists who were killed for bringing light to this world.
We mourn those who died this year because of government incompetence and repression.
The struggle continues until we achieve justice.

Mong Palatino,
Chair,
Bayan Metro Manila.
Manila,
Philippines




Adopting extreme measures to combat Covid-19 in Thailand
A thousand times worse than the virus itself
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 8 September 2020

Re: "New virus find a wake-up call", in Bangkok Post Editorial, September 6
Why do the media and the medical establishment behave like hysterical sissies because one person might have been infected locally by the Covid-19 virus?
Maybe one hundred or even a thousand people in Thailand were just infected and don't even know it.
Should we shut down the entire tourist industry and economy and drive millions of people into extreme poverty and starvation out of insane fear?
Isn't it possible to have a sane, mature policy in dealing with Covid, as opposed to adopting extreme measures that are a thousand times worse than the virus itself?

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippines legislation to extend line of succession beyond
Vice President, Senate President and House Speaker
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 September 2020

Please allow us to set the record straight regarding the column of Prof. Edilberto de Jesus “Dangerous distractions,” Business Matters, September 5, 2020, where he touched on a proposed piece of legislation that aims to avert a potential constitutional crisis and leadership vacuum by extending the constitutional line of succession.
It is unfortunate that De Jesus implied that the intent of Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson’s Senate Bill No. 982, informally dubbed the “Designated Survivor” bill, was to “eliminate those in the constitutional line of succession in favor of the president’s choice”; and that discussing such proposed legislation is a “waste of time and energy.”
Had De Jesus read the contents of the bill in the first place, he would have figured out that Lacson’s bill is not like what he described in his column.
Instead of subverting our 1987 Constitution as implied in his column, SB 982 seeks to enhance the Charter by extending the line of succession beyond the Vice President, Senate President, and House Speaker.
Not only that the bill seeks to fulfill two provisions of our Constitution.
Under Art. VII, Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution, “The Congress shall, by law, provide for the manner in which one who is to act as President shall be selected until a President or a Vice-President shall have qualified, in case of death, permanent disability, or inability of the officials mentioned in the next preceding paragraph.”
Art. VII, Sec. 8 of the Constitution provides that “The Congress shall, by law, provide who shall serve as President in case of death, permanent disability, or resignation of the Acting President. He shall serve until the President or the Vice-President shall have been elected and qualified, and be subject to the same restrictions of powers and disqualifications as the Acting President.”
As Lacson pointed out: “Needless to say, passing such legislation is not only constitutional. It is in fact, required under the 1987 Constitution.”
Under the bill, in case of death or permanent disability of those specified in the Constitution, the following elected and appointed officers who are not under any disability to discharge the powers and duties of the Office of the President shall act as President in the following order:
the most senior senator, based on the length of service in the Senate;
the most senior representative based on the length of service in the House of Representatives;
the member of the Cabinet designated by the President.
And contrary to De Jesus’ claim that it would be a waste of time and energy to discuss the bill, there is no more urgent time to do so than now, with recent events involving “exceptional circumstances” such as terrorism - which knows no time or border.
God forbid a situation where those in the current constitutional line of succession are rendered unable to function, and we are faced with scenarios such as a junta because of the resulting leadership vacuum.

Joel Locsin,
Media Relations Officer,
Office of Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Thai's to support
Land rights for Keren
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 31 August 2020

Re: "Karen seek rights over land usage", in Bangkok Post August 28.
All justice-seeking Thais should join in support of the Karen people's rights to continue living on their ancestral lands.
The Karen were living in the area now called "Kaeng Krachan National Park" long before the area was designated a park.
Their centuries-old stewardship of the area's natural resources is, in fact, one of the main reasons the forest remains largely intact in western Thailand.
It is a matter of fairness and justice that their rights to remain living in the forest be recognised.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The Catholic church
Is the conscience of the state
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 4 September 2020

With all the social ills besetting our country, the Catholic Church must speak out. Those who think the Church should not get involved against these social evils miss the Church’s teaching on prophetic criticism.
The Church is the conscience of the State.
When the State leads a wicked social life, the Church, its conscience, cannot afford to become scared and silent.
The Church is the State’s “best” critic.
The Church is called not only to speak out against the ills of society, but also to instruct the faithful on what to do when confronted with such, in the light of the Gospel values and teachings of the Church.
The Church is called to share the Gospel values to all and to shape society when it is not following the path consistent with these values.
Finally, when the Church speaks out, it may choose not to side with the prevailing winds of popular opinion, since the Church is never called to popularity but to faithfulness.
The Church can never be silent about these social evils.
When it becomes silent, it ceases to be the real Church.
The Church remains to be the voice of God, and this is the true essence of the Church that Jesus founded.

Reginald B Tamayo,
Marikina City.
Philippines


Teak trees logged
Ahead of dam construction
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 3 September 2020

Re: "Phrae villagers protest against 'unnecessary' dam", in Bangkok Post, August 31.
It is dismaying that politicians continue to resurrect costly, unpopular and unwanted dam projects - defying the deep-rooted opposition of environmentalists and local residents.
Of course, one needs only look to the huge contracts that are issued for dam construction to explain the motivation of authorities eager to build ever more unnecessary engineering structures.
In the case of Kang Sua Ten dam, the planned inundation of tens of thousands of rai of rich teak forest provide added inspiration.
Naturally, it will be argued, the teak trees should not be wasted.
Thus, they would be logged before the reservoir area is flooded - providing yet more opportunities for malfeasance.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Change is coming
Too fast for Thai generals
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 31 August 2020

Re: "Govt must act to shield protesters", in Editorial Bangkok Post,
August 30.
If the Thai military wants to lose the next election it should carry on without reforming the police, the Office of the Attorney-General, and the rest of the justice system.
The world is changing; perhaps too fast for the generals.
In China, even the population now demonstrates regularly against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which previously they wouldn't dare to do, because they have had enough of the oppression and corruption.
Change is coming and it can't be stopped.

Renaissance,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Each tourist generates income and employment
For dozens of Thais
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 September 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 30 August 2020

Re: "Little backing for govt's plan to reopen", in Bangkok Post, August 30.
While I can understand and appreciate the need for caution in reopening the country to large numbers of foreign tourists, it seems that many Thais have a serious disconnect when it comes to understanding how the economy works.
Local residents stating that cautious reopening to foreign tourists would "only benefit hotels and tourists" reflects an astonishing failure to recognise actual linkages in the economy.
Even cautious so-called "villa quarantine" would deliver substantial widespread benefits to the nation.
Each individual foreign tourist or family generates income and employment for dozens of Thais, including airline staff, drivers, van owners, hotel maids, laundry services, farmers, truckers, butchers, food processors, cooks, food-delivery services, massage therapists, waiters, pool maintenance workers, alcohol distributers, and immigration officials.
The list goes on and on.
To claim that foreign tourists benefit only hotels reveals a poor understanding of how jobs are created and sustained.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Covid-19 pandemic has opened more opportunities
For corruption in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 September 2020
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 1 September 2020

Corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is not only colossal thievery, robbing Filipino workers and taxpayers of their contributions to the fund.
It also violates the right of Filipinos to universal health care, bleeding billions of pesos away from state resources intended for this purpose.
In a pandemic that has caused thousands of deaths in our country, it violates the right to life.
PhilHealth corruption has taken many forms: diverted premium payments of up to P114 million in 2012, unnecessary or sham cataract removals worth P2 billion in 2014, fraudulent dialysis claims, the upcasing of mild respiratory infections to pneumonia, membership rosters with 500,000 people aged 100 to 121, and recently, a bid to procure overpriced and obsolete information technology equipment.
Sadly, the pandemic that is devastating our people and our economy has opened more opportunities for corruption: inordinately expensive COVID-19 test kits; an interim reimbursement mechanism that expedites COVID-19-related advances to hospitals in regions with low infection rates, while hospitals in high infection areas, including government facilities, still await reimbursement.
Yet even as the Duterte administration has coddled its appointee, PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales - requesting him to resign for the sake of his health - its supporters have viciously used the issue of corruption in PhilHealth against those it perceives as its enemies.
Its troll army has launched a campaign smearing former PhilHealth board member Sen. Risa Hontiveros, while its legislative lackeys threaten to file cases against officials of the previous administration, even though none of these have been named by whistle-blowers as parties to the corruption.
The Catholic Church, which has repeatedly admonished the administration against its excesses, has not been spared the mud of obfuscation, notably smeared by a congressman who represents not only the administration’s interests but also the interests of the anti-Catholic Iglesia ni Cristo.
We, the members of Gomburza, motivated by the Christian commitment to human dignity and good governance, support the PhilHealth employees who have demanded the investigation and prosecution of corruption, and thank them for their integrity.
While we are encouraged by the suspension of the PhilHealth officials named as complicit, we call for (1) a nonpartisan investigation of the allegations against those implicated in the Senate hearings; (2) commensurate punishment for those found guilty; (3) replacement of the guilty by appointees of proven competence and integrity in the field of health insurance; (4) periodic reviews of PhilHealth’s operations by independent agencies seasoned in insurance fraud detection; (5) timely reimbursement of claims by hospitals in high infection areas; and (6) an end to the deceptive manipulation of the PhilHealth scandal to discredit the administration’s critics.
We call upon our citizens to distinguish politically motivated from evidence-backed allegations, and to demand that their legislative representatives and relevant officials defend their right to universal health care by taking swift and appropriate action.
Finally, we call on those involved in this corruption: “Do not depend on dishonest wealth, for it will not benefit you in the day of calamity” (Sirach 5:8). Repent and make reparation, restoring to Filipinos their right to universal health care, and to life.

Members of Gomburza:
Sister Teresita Alo, Sfic,
Fr Roberto Reyes,
Fr Joselito Sarabia, CM,
Fr Flavie L. Villanueva, SVD,
Lot Lumawig Allanigue,
Teresits S. Castiullo,
Lucia Lucas Chavez,
Percival Chavez,
Eeanor R. Dionisio,
Veronica Ester Mendoza,
Angelo Silva



Russia offers Covid-19 cooperation with Philippines
Philippines priority partner with Russia in Asia Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 September 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 31 August 2020

With reference to Michael L. Tan’s article, “Vaccines and social solidarity” Pinoy Kasi, August 26, 2020, I would like to share with you some links to the interviews of Mr. Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the first COVID-19 vaccine SPUTNIK V, and Mr. Kirill Dmitriev, director general of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
According to well-known scientist Mr. Gintsburg, the Russian vaccine is based on a well-researched scientific platform called adenovirus human vector.
The same platform was used to develop vaccines against Ebola and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
It allowed Russia to create the Ebola vaccine within a short period of time, which later was highly assessed by the World Health Organization.
The technologies similar to the one used to create SPUTNIK V have been employed by the US Army for producing various vaccines for soldiers since the 1970s.
Since Aug. 21, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST), responsible for clinical trial, have started exchanging technical information on SPUTNIK V that was confirmed by Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, DOST August 25, 2020, The Manila Standard, “PH mulls Sputnik vaccine trial”.
I think you may ask the DOST to provide some information on the Russian vaccine.
For better understanding and to learn more about the technical details of SPUTNIK, you may also visit the website sputnikvaccine.com.
It is my professional and moral duty to clarify that Russia offered establishing COVID-19 cooperation with the Philippines not because it is a “poorer country” as mentioned in Mr. Tan’s article, but because the Philippines is our priority partner in the Asia Pacific Region.
Just for your reference, as of now more than 20 countries have officially declared their willingness to closely cooperate with Russia in terms of clinical trials, purchase, and setting up production of SPUTNIK V.

Vladislav Mongush,
First Secretary,
The Embassy of the Russian Federation to the Philippines
Manila,
Philippines



Call for return of Papua New Guinea forefathers
Who upheld principle of equality and participation
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 31 August 2020
First published in the National, Tuesday 25 August 2020

The important foundations our constitution was founded upon are equality and participation.
The constitution’s preamble goal two outlines that all citizens have an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from the development of this country.
The design of our constitution was based upon declarations and goal two is one of them.
Prior to engraving those laws, our forefathers called for an equal opportunity for every citizen to take part in the political, economic, social, religious and cultural life of this country.
The creation of political structures should be effective and must enable people to meaningfully participate in all aspect of development.
The current move by the Government to decentralise important decision making powers and service delivery structures to provincial level is commendable.
Our forefathers upheld that principle - preamble goal 2 - of equality and participation.
It was truly implemented and I must use my home province, East Sepik, as an example.
East Sepik did not and never experienced any major development under the reign of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
Sir Michael Somare never gave first preference to his home province in terms of development from the time he became the first prime minister of Papua New Guinea until his retirement in politics.
East Sepik remains the same.
Even his own village that he grew up in, there is no development.
I have been to Sir Michael Somare's village.
Because of equality and participation, he never put his own interest first.
That mentality that our forefathers such as Sir Michael Somare had should not change.

Hanam Bill Sandu,
Lae,
Papua New Guinea



Shops and restuarants boarded up
In Phuket
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 30 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 26 August 2020

We are just back from last week's trip to Phuket and I could not have imagined the destruction going on.
Boarded-up shops and restaurants, interiors torn out, even hard to find a place to have a dinner.
Eerie streets that you felt uncomfortable walking at night-time and I am not talking about small sois but main beach streets.
The contrast is striking with Hua Hin, where you have weekenders from Bangkok and a large retired expat community to support the economy.
Attracting long-staying retirees should obviously be part of the solution but the focus seems to be on elite cards and high-spending short-term tourists that will disappear once the next catastrophe arrives.
Alongside Thailand's excellent hospitals and with the right policies it should not be too hard to promote Thailand as a retirement destination.

Dr Hansson,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for PNG government to consult people
Before abolishing provincial and local government
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 29 August 2020
First published in the National, Tuesday 25 August 2020

I am calling on Prime Minister James Marape and Pangu Pati led government to consult the people of Papua New Guinea about the proposed law to abolish the provincial and local level governments before passing it.
Papua New Guineans should be allowed to publicly debate the proposed law and if possible, vote on it, before it is tabled in parliament.
We should not allow a few politicians and educated elites to dictate and push government hidden agendas forward without any meaningful consultations.
Our constitution supports a three-tier government system – national, provincial and district or local level government – which binds us together as a united country.
Any new law that defies the constitution must be screened properly.
The political indications of the proposed law to abolish the provincial and local level government will mean Papus New Guinea PNG is heading towards a republic system and introductions of the upper and lower house of representatives whereby only the governors will represent the provinces in the Upper House (parliament) and the Open Electorate MPs to serve on a state government at the provincial governments and getting rid of the LLG presidents, councilors and ward development committees.
This country has over 800 languages, 23 provinces and 89 districts which politically and administratively remains a problem to our government and we should not rush into any new concepts and models of government.
Our people need to be educated on government systems and decide on what is in their best interest.
I appeal to Marape to please listen to the people first instead of only few elite advisers.

Samson C Napo,
Buang LLG Bulolo,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




"Woe unto them whose conscience
With injustice is corrupted"

The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 24 August 2020

The Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) is an emergency program of PhilHealth that releases cash advances to hospitals and medical facilities during natural disasters and other unexpected events including COVID-19…” This statement was lifted from the news item, “PhilHealth funds used ‘like a bank check’ - Quimbo” in Philippine Inquirer August, 18, 2020
If the allegations are true, the plunder of PhilHealth funds by the very persons tasked to manage the resources of the national health insurer is a most heinous crime being committed against millions of our fellow Filipinos who pay premiums for their and their dependents’ health, and of the mostly poor citizens of this country who cannot afford expensive medication and hospitalization.
The health crisis and other unexpected events this PhilHealth program is mandated to alleviate are being used by crocodiles as opportunities to pad their pockets and fill their bank accounts at the expense of the ailing populace.
They have caused more serious suffering in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Woe unto them “whose conscience with injustice is corrupted,” to borrow a line from Shakespeare.

Ramon Mayuga,
Manila,
Philippines



US Embassy in the Phillipines
Swamped with Filipino's wanting to migrate to US
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 24 August 2020

In conjunction with the letter “Read the room: Filipinos do not trust China,” August 17, 2020, allow us to also point out the undeniable fact that compared to the Chinese Embassy in this country, the United States Embassy is always swamped with Filipino applicants desiring to migrate to that country.
If Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thinks there’s any competition between the two in terms of Filipinos’ preference, he must be just as blind or delusional as his boss.
This “made-in-China” COVID-19 has in fact intensified our people’s distrust of China into unspeakable disgust.
To us ordinary citizens, this scenario only means that our people’s preference obviously stands at 99 percent for America, while only 1 percent for China - only President Duterte, who seems to love China more than the Philippines, whose territories China has been relentlessly grabbing without even a “whiff of protest” from him.
Indeed, if he genuinely cares and speaks for the Filipino people, why is he ignoring the public’s preference?
Why is he always cursing and cussing at America?
Because long ago he was denied a US visa to visit his inamorata? Susmaryosep!

Janno M. Montecristo,
Manila,
Philippines



Military might plays dominant role
In third world politics
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 August 2020

The military is indeed "the strongest organisation in a third world country" as your correspondent Lt. Gen. Antonio E Sotelo ( Armed Forces of the Phillipines, Retired ) points out in his letter to the Southeast Asian Times of 22 August.
That is because, as Mao Zedong articulated and demonstrated, " political power grows out of the barrel of a gun ".
The military determines who stays in power and who doesn't.
In the case of Fiji on two separate occasions the commander of the military decided to remove the democratically elected government and install himself in political power.
What's more after a brief show of indignation over the departure from constitutional democratic governance the international community conveniently accepted the military regime as legitimate so that they could go back to business as usual!
The military does indeed play a dominate role in third world politics.
That's a reality that can't be denied .
There are many other examples to prove that.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Purchase of submarines from China
Lock Thai military into deeper hole of dependability
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 25 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 22 August 2020

Re: "B22.5bn sub buy gets nod", in Bangkok Post August 22, would the Royal Thai Navy kindly tell the citizens of Thailand how and where it intends to deploy two submarines?
I have a feeling these submarines, to be purchased from China, will lock the military into a deeper hole of dependability on Chinese technicians, trainers and maintenance.
I hope the student protesters take this unnecessary waste of money that could be used for the benefit of the country into consideration.
Those who must constantly procure toys to satisfy the needs of grown up boys need to be put in their place.

General Ya'akov Golani,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Buddhist liberalism as role model
Over French and US liberalism in Asean
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 24 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 20 August 2020

Stephen B Young in his August 19 article "John Locke and Thailand's future", conveniently clothes the Buddha in the robe of the father of liberalism.
"English and American precedents would serve the Thai people much better today than the divisive and failed experiments of the French Revolution," he concludes.
Young hardly mentions the destructive outgrowth of liberalism to extremist neoliberalism, which now rules our world.
No wonder it turned ugly, as the liberal emphasis on the protection of private property of John Locke later extended to corporate property is in USA historically founded in the massive expropriation of indigenous land, genocide of Native Americans and centuries of commercial property over slaves.
Noble, classic liberals like Stephen Young cherish pure values which are detached from their extreme manifestations; but so do genuine progressives embracing the three values of the French Revolution: freedom, equality and community spirit.
This pure triad of values not necessarily questioning egalitarian monarchy can be also clearly recognised in the 1947 Constitution of Independent India.
However, when asked, Dr Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution, explained that he derived these values not from the French Revolution, but from Buddhism as he understood it, namely as an emancipatory force.
His fierce loyalty to his Asian roots, even though he had studied in France like Pridi Banomyong, stood tall.
The Thai people, rather than being made to choose between the Anglo Saxon or the French model, would better dig deep into their own Asian cultural capital, rather than being lured into the adoption of American liberalism.
Anyhow, Dr Ambedkar also studied in USA, far appreciated John Dewey over John Locke.
Consequently, the way public trusteeship a very useful notion! is understood and promoted could be better guided by "Earth Trusteeship" as a modern interpretation of Sri Lankan Judge Weeramantry's legal vision, rather than by the "ethical" elite interpretation of Stephen B Young.
Earth Trusteeship can be formulated as "all global citizens are equal trustees of the Earth" - for the benefit of the "community of life" and future generations. This resonates well with the advice of Prof Thitinan Pongsudhirak, who wrote in the Bangkok Post on Dec 20, 2019: "For democracy to take root in the long term, Thai people should feel and act like they own the country in equal share, no one more than others. Previous constitutions, after all, stipulated that "sovereignty belongs to the people", implying that each and every Thai person owns Thai sovereignty, covering everything from territory and resources to the government".

Hans van Willenswaard,
Bangkok,
Thailand




In the novel “The Plague” Albert Camus argues
That viruses will always be a part of our lives
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 23 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 21 August 2020

“Nothing to fear but fear itself,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural address, and he was right.
Yet today the world has never been so scared of a virus they know so little of.
It has been over 150 days since the government-mandated lockdowns began, and we are prisoners of fear.
All this time, I thought that the COVID-19 lockdown would be good for the planet.
No pollution, no traffic, and a complete halt in production and movement.
Finally, the Earth was happy.
She could breathe again.
Her lungs had been suffocated by toxic pollution.
Aviation and transport pollution, coupled with oil and coal plants, spewed harmful toxins into the atmosphere until climate change began engulfing the planet.
For now, the Earth could take a breather and the animals were free to emerge from their forests and jungles into the emptiness of the world’s largest cities, left quiet and ghostly by the pandemic.
I was happy for Mother Earth. For a while, she could breathe as we reduced the carbon dioxide emissions that polluted our air and warmed our atmosphere.
As the people of the world’s cities and towns retreated to the safety of their homes, the planet could rest.
For a moment, the Earth slept in silence.
Months later, however, the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic hit.
Global economies have collapsed, and unemployment, poverty, hunger, and civil unrest are overwhelming us.
We are dying and suffering.
The search for a vaccine is slow as geopolitics plays an invisible hand.
Yet more die from other causes daily.
The world has never watched this episode and experienced such unprecedented times.
Sure, we had the Spanish flu that killed 50 million or more, and also the Black Death, H5N1, SARS, MERS, Ebola, and more.
We have yet to discover a cure for cancer, or even the common flu.
In the novel “The Plague,” Albert Camus argues that viruses will always be a part of our lives.
In “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” Jared Diamond asserts that man is the sole perpetrator in the destruction of civilization and the environment.
Many will fail and more will die, but governments will fall and change.
The right, the left, and the rise of the Green Party will unfold.
Survival is key today.
Now our forests are being felled at exponential rates, our biodiversity ravaged, our oceans and marine resources destroyed and dissipated, our coral colonies bleaching as the planet continues to warm.
As dire as the current coronavirus crisis appears, even deadlier climate calamities will surely come and wreak havoc on our world, just as Supertyphoon “Yolanda” devastated Tacloban and wiped thousands of lives in a single day.
This pandemic, like many others, will pass, but the climate catastrophes are finally here, and they pose a more severe threat.
Fear hyped by social media and inaccurate news is embedded in our brains. People are scared.
People will die as the flowers wither.
They are desperate, and I do not blame them.
We will go hungry and delirious.
The destitute will revolt. People are terrified of an infection they know little of.
But if you really think about it, we are the virus.
It is we who kill senselessly, who wage wars, and who destroy our Mother Earth.
Let us learn from the simple lessons the lockdown taught us.
Let us not waste food and water, let us plant trees, and let us conserve our dying planet.
Manage the fear and anxiety so that we can fight to conserve our only home. Sustainability is the key to our future.

Antonio M. Claparols,
president, Ecological Society of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines



The military is the strongest organisation
In a third world country
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tursday 20 August 2020

The strongest organization in any Third World country is its military organization.
It is from this organization where the head of state, elected or otherwise, obtains his capacity to protect his office, as his office is always subjected to challenges.
In the Philippines, past or present, we are all aware of this truism.
It is therefore the policy of the head of state to appoint a completely trusted and loyal officer of his military in the person of the chief of staff (CoS) to command the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and through him, he has control of the entire military.
In our structure, the chief of staff (CoS) is a very powerful man, and checks and balances hardly exist.
He commands the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with loyal subordinates, from top to bottom, who are also graduates of the same school where he came from.
Coming from the same school provides the culture that makes his subordinates loyal to him (right or wrong) in spite of the military structure and laws against it.
It is no wonder then that the head of state would rather have a chief of staff (CoS) who gets rotated frequently, to get the loyalty of the man who wields such vast power on the entire the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
But if the chief of staff (CoS) performs only his functions as described by his title, his power of command is taken away.
It reverts to the commander in chief (CinC) who can delegate such functions of command to the major service commands, separate or area commands like Cemcom, Nolcom, etc.
With that kind of structure, the chief of staff (CoS) position will become less significant, other than providing advice to the commander in chief (CinC) and more rigorous planning for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
At this point, the head of state will feel at ease with the safety and security of his office.
That would be reason enough for the CoS to have a term of office.
I will not suggest that the position of chief of staff (CoS) be abolished or the appointee be replaced by the secretary of national defense (SND) in an acting capacity.
The chief of staff (CoS) is a soldier position, but the secretary of national defense (SND) may be a civilian as it should be.
It is suggested, though, that professionalism in the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should be raised.
Today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a military dynasty controlled by Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates.
If one checks the roster of the major positions in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he will find that what I said is true.
Years back, there was a bill filed by several senators to create academies for the Air Force and the Navy, but that bill never came to pass.
The main points of that bill were twofold: to provide checks and balances in the the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and to provide training to sons and daughters of poor families.
Had these schools been created, I am sure we could have produced well-schooled officers for the two technical services of the the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and, further, contributed highly trained personnel for the management of the aviation and maritime industries.
It is never too late to create these schools now, as a law has been enacted for the government to provide free college education while there is also a need for highly educated officers to man the very expensive naval ships and fighter jets.

Lt. Gen. Antonio E Sotelo,
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) retired,
Muntinlupa City,
Philippines




Glorified public servants rake it in
While Filipinos starve
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 19 August 2020

President Duterte said he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in rejecting the appeal of medical frontliners to extend stricter COVID-19 lockdowns “No more funds; let Filipinos return to work - Duterte to doctors seeking longer lockdown,” Auguat 11, 2020.
It was a distressing report to read, especially when Mr. Duterte has continued to allow his favorite appointees to receive tens of millions in monthly “compensation.”
Why should it be only the workers in the private sector that must make the sacrifice of receiving paltry paychecks, amid the current pandemic that has pummeled the nation’s economy flat on its back?
Glorified “public servants” continue to rake it in while the people their real bosses starve.

George del Mar,
Manila,
Philippines



Surveys show that Filipinos
Do not trust China
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 20 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 17 August 2020

Allow us to react to the report “PH needs to balance ties with China, US - Lorenzana,” August 11, 2020 where Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed the need to balance the country’s President Duterte’s “friendship” with communist China and hostility toward the United States.
With due respect, is that even an option as far as the Filipino people are concerned?
Doesn’t Lorenzana ever read public opinion?
Surveys invariably show that a great majority of Filipinos do not trust China and prefer to keep close ties with the United States.
So, what “balancing” is he talking about?
It’s a no-brainer.
But perhaps, Lorenzana was making that comment only for President Duterte’s ears, in the hope that the latter might still snap out of it and moderate his excessive admiration for China, whose word is as trustworthy as his own spokesperson Harry Roque’s 11 out of 10, all malarkey!

Melissa Sy-Quiatan,
Manila,
Philippines



A war with China cannot end well
For a third world country like the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 August 2020
First published in te Philippine Inquirer, Tgursday 13 August 2020

“Inutil” was how President Duterte described himself during his State of the Nation Address regarding the country’s issues with China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
How pathetic is that for a “leader” touted by his sycophants as just the “strongman” this country needed to get things done?
He feels “inutil” because a lopsided war with a superpower like China can never end well for a Third World country like the Philippines.
That is so true.
But war with China would have been too farfetched to imagine if the biggest superpower like the United States has the other country’s back.
China, the nastiest bully in Asia, could have taken tiny Taiwan anytime, but it fears the United States’ mightier power, which has the latter’s back.
Before Mr. Duterte, America had the Philippines’ back, too.
So how did all this come to pass that we are now announcing to the whole world how weak and “inutil” we are?
Ever since the United States denied Mr. Duterte a visa to visit his girlfriend there “when he was in college” “Duterte assails US for strict visa policy,” October 21, 2016, he obviously has not forgotten that rebuff or forgiven America for breaking his fragile heart.
That deep-seated hatred has been simmering to a boil. And now that he is President, it’s payback time.
His pivot to China, which considers America its “mortal enemy,” is seen more as showing his spite for America than anything else.
That’s how petty it all really was.
See how Mr. Duterte instinctively reacted when Sen. “Bato” dela Rosa’s US visa was canceled?
That was all Mr. Duterte needed for a tit for tat.
With just a flick of his fingers, he unilaterally canceled the US Visiting Forces Agreement that made the only presence of America’s power in this country felt around Asia.
It has all been just tantrums.
With a fickle, feckless, unreliable partner like that, who can blame America for not taking the Philippines’ security issues seriously, as it does Taiwan’s?
US President Donald Trump’s words were ominous when asked about Mr. Duterte’s petulance: “I don’t really mind if they would like to do that, it will save a lot of money.”
So, will America come to the defense of the Philippines in the face of China’s “creeping invasion”?
Heaven help us!

Jeremias H. Tobias,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Thai universities
To follow Singapore model
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 14 August 2020

Re: "Promotions pose test for Thai lecturers", Bangkok Post Opinion,
August 14.
Although it is supposed to be a bastion of integrity and intellect, research and knowledge, Thai academia suffers from the same top-down hierarchy, red tape, cronyism, nepotism and corruption.
Every Thai institution is rampant with umbrella holders who shield the powerful from ultraviolet radiation, even when the sun has set.
During a conference, I saw a senior Thai professor being shielded by half a dozen umbrella holders.
Such people are in charge of running Ohec and other Thai agencies.
In any country, the desirable role of regulatory agencies is to enhance quality but it is unclear how poorly formulated policies by these agencies will be effective in this regard.
It is very true that Ohec and its allied agencies ONESQA, TCI and other rule-setters are the main culprits where people making decisions can hardly pass their own rules.
These agencies have contributed to a compliance-oriented culture.
One potential approach would be to bring about changes in organisational culture by following the successful models and practices that are being used by universities the world over, especially in neighbouring countries like Singapore.
Excellence through research and innovation is a capability that cannot be acquired by the poor quality of PhD programmes and advisory skills of the faculty.
Attitude for delivering the highest quality of research output or innovations can only come from the quality of people.
Four potential approaches for enhancing quality in research output are closely linked to university autonomy, English-language proficiency, the quality of the Thai faculty and its advising skills, and hiring foreign talent.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for compensation for Filipino's
For loss of West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 14 August 2020

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has ruled China was never in “possession” of the South China Sea, of which the West Philippine Sea is a part. But China still insists its historic rights and possession over the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea are based on its own ancient “documentary evidence.” It is a totally bogus claim which China knew has no leg to stand on, which is why it never participated in the The Permanent Court of Arbitration proceedings. It opted to bribe the “complainant,” i.e., the Philippine government now headed by President Duterte.
On several occasions, including this year’s State of the Nation Address, Mr. Duterte kept saying China “is in possession” of the West Philippine Sea , which raised eyebrows every time for being apparently contrary to the Permanent Court of Arbitration judgment.
Yet, it is absolutely true!
Indeed, while China might not have been in possession during the ancient times it was harping back on, it is now in actual occupation and possession of the disputed territories.
It has already developed military fortresses on them, standing ready and able to repel “intruders” with armed forces - all thanks to Mr. Duterte who just looked the other way as the “rape” was going on. Any attempt on the part of the Philippines to complain about China’s “rape” of the West Philippine Sea in the future would now ring hollow as a broken bell.
Who would ever believe the Philippines was aggrieved after the Duterte regime had welcomed the invader with open arms?
His slavish attitude toward China has rendered irrelevant the most solid arguments former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio could ever make “China is not in possession of West Philippine Sea,” August 6, 2020.
Let’s face it: We have already lost everything in the West Philippine Sea! Is there ever a way the Filipino people can be compensated later for just part of such irreparable loss from Mr. Duterte, along with all his co-conspirators in government who shamelessly aided and abetted him in betraying the public trust?

Danica Monica Rigor,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine taxes used for self service
Not public service
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 16 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday 14 August 2020

The report of the Commission on Audit regarding the multimillions in emoluments received by high government officials for their “public service” in 2019 alone is shocking - “Calida is 2nd highest-paid government official,” July 30, 2020.
Most likely, it was not only for that year but for countless years before, and continuing to this very day notwithstanding the economic devastation brought about by COVID-19.
How in the world are people in “public service” able to get away with their looting of the national treasury of a Third World country that is constantly coping, and barely, with the problem of making both ends meet?
Granting it is all “legal,” is it moral?
Even an idiot knows how immoral it is.
Kaya hindi umaasenso ang bayan.
Those entrusted with the public trust are not using taxpayer money for public service, but for “self-service.”

Nimfa Rina Ricafort,
Manila,
Philippines



Hong Kong rounds up newpaper executives
Under new national security laws
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 16 August 2020

The arbitrary arrest of high profile Hong Kong newspaper executives by Beijing
( see details in The Southeast Asian Times 14 August ) has all the hallmarks of the modus operandi of the Police/Totalitarian State where no dissent is tolerated.
Free speech is an anathema to such a State.
Hence the rounding up of the newspaper executives comes as no surprise so soon after the imposition of new draconian national security laws in Hong Kong.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia

 


Ghost beneficiaries of PhilHealth
Have long been in their graves
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 12 August 2020

Stupid, stupid, stupid!
That’s all anyone with some brain in his head can say.
The news, “Are they dead or alive? 5K members aged 130 are in PhilHealth database” August 4, 2020 and that “nobody knows if they are dead or still alive” because there is nothing in PhilHealth’s database to show if they died already and so they continue to enjoy the benefits - got us falling off the edge of our seat so early in the morning.
Counting out biblical figures who lived hundreds of years Methuselah, 969 years; Jared, 962; Noah, 950; Adam, 930; et al., who lives that long 130 years nowadays?
Ghost beneficiaries, anyone?
No wonder billions of pesos are lost, or worse, end up in the pockets of scalawags!
There were 5,000 red flags fluttering like crazy and no one in PhilHealth wondered about them?
PhilHealth has branches all over the archipelago.
Has it ever occurred to PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales to get his people off their butts and do some legwork - assuming PhilHealth has their addresses?
to check if those “undead” members are really still alive and kicking?
They would most certainly have found, to their “disbelief,” that all of them had long been in graves within their own barangay, city, or province.
That would have been a lot less expensive, as those trips are just part of their day’s work. Instead, Morales is asking Congress to shell out more billions in cash infusion so he can have PhilHealth’s database show more “intelligence” apparently because he and his people no longer have any.

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines



P154 billion missing from PhilHealth
Inside job
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday14 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 13 August 2020

In the report, “Palace: Gov’t won’t allow PhilHealth to go bankrupt” in Philippine Inquirer, August 7, 2020, presidential spinmeister Harry Roque tried to make the nation believe that as “the principal author of the Universal Healthcare in the Lower House, that will not happen… PhilHealth is guaranteed by the government”—as if bragging about his big role in crafting that law gave his statement any credence worth taking to the bank.
Roque is practically saying, “No worries, we got this!”
The guy never ceases to talk tongue-in-cheek or just downright tommyrot.
Mr. Duterte’s point man in PhilHealth, retired Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales, admitted he could not find where the P154 billion had gone “PhilHealth’s P154 billion loss still not found, remains ‘unsubstantiated’—Morales,” June 19, 2020.
The “perfect crime” seems to be nothing else but an “inside job,” with many in PhilHealth being in on the scam and its cover-up.
Those billions are now irretrievably gone for all intents and purposes.
Despite being also “inutil” at his job, Morales continues to enjoy Mr. Duterte’s trust and confidence in his competence.
Tens of thousands have already been infected with COVID-19 in this country and desperately needing medical attention and care.
So, how is the Duterte administration to make good on that PhilHealth “guarantee”?
With all the expenses to deal with the China-spawned pandemic almost bankrupting it already, where is the government going to get the funds to tide PhilHealth over?
More loans in the tens of billions on top of the trillions it already owes China?
What more “collateral” can Mr. Duterte offer China?
Another quitclaim over the rest of the territories within the so-called “nine-dash line” in the West Philippine Sea which the Permanent Court of Arbitration has rejected as nothing but a Chinese fantasy?

Arnulfo M. Edralin,
Manila,
Philippines


Call for Nobel Prize
For Joshua Wong in Hong Kong
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 9 August 2020

Re: Yingwai Suchaovanich's August 8 letter, "Wong is no hero", advocating that Hong Kong's Joshua Wong should be locked up for causing chaos toward China, I'd like to remind Yingwai that Joshua Wong is doing exactly the same thing that students and young people in Thailand are trying to achieve. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement, no fear of political dissention, and a rewrite of the constitution.
China broke its 50-year agreement with Hong Kong and the rest of the world, demonstrating that the Chinese are still barbaric communists without a regard to their promises or their word.
Joshua Wong and his fellow protesters should be applauded and given the Nobel Prize for fighting for democracy in Hong Kong, as China is like the black plague, spreading plague subtly over the entire world.

Jack Gilead,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Inexperienced investors in the stock market
Swim with sharks
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 August 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 7 August 2020

Why is the stock market behaving like a casino?
I suppose the better question would be why are the regulators allowing the market to be like a casino?
Are they salivating at the prospect of super revenue and profit from the huge daily volume or are they just at a loss for what to do?
What about investor protection, market governance, blatant manipulation, frivolous announcement just to move share price, etc?
Aren’t regulators supposed to focus on these important areas?
Being an ex-regulator with more than 20 years in the field, I have dealt with all sorts of market scenarios.
Looking at the current one, I feel it will likely end in tears for most of the inexperienced investors.
Regulators must act fast and decisively to nip these unhealthy activities in the bud by using stronger market management tools before more innocent investors get drawn into the frenzy.
Otherwise, they will be blamed again for not doing anything.
Anyone looking at the volume traded these days will know it is mainly due to two reasons – excessive gambling speculation and or manipulation.
And this is not a good reflection.
It reminds me of the property buying frenzy a few years ago when buyers were snapping up units by the floor or block, thinking that the good times would last forever.
Most are now stuck with empty and negative equity units.
The same scenario is now happening in the stock market.
Admittedly, there are companies that will benefit massively from the current pandemic, and their share prices have gone up accordingly.
There’s no need to issue the unusual market action query for them.
However, for the majority of the counters, there is no reason for their share price to rise, let alone have hundreds of millions of shares traded every day.
Investors need to be very aware that most of the volumes traded are not due to genuine investing but are in fact fake volumes churned up by certain parties hoping to make a quick buck.
These parties are known by various names such as proprietary traders, day traders, programme traders, high frequency traders, syndicates, punters, etc.
Their main job every day is to create volume in the market, hoping to lure unsuspecting investors and profit from them.
With the real economy in bad shape, many new and inexperienced investors are attracted to the stock market rage, hoping to make some money.
Little do they realise that they are swimming among sharks – and they are counting on the regulators to watch their back.
Regulators, please do something, say something, before it all collapses like a house of cards in this case, scrips.

Strictly Fair and Orderly,
Kajang,
Malaysia



Covid-19 pandemic has fueled
Counterfeit medicines in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 8 July 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has fueled the surge of not only fake face masks and other medical products related to the pandemic, but also counterfeit medicines, especially those over-the-counter (OTC) or sold without prescription.
As Covid-19 cases continue to increase globally, so are the counterfeiters who are exploiting the growing gaps in the market.
Recently, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an advisory against the purchase and use of counterfeit drugs.
A counterfeit drug is a fake drug.
Counterfeit drugs are those with the wrong or contaminated ingredients, with the correct ingredients but wrong amounts, or without the active ingredients.
They can also be mislabeled and can apply to both generic and branded products. In addition, they are not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and did not go through validation and standard tests to confirm their quality, safety, and efficacy.
Selling or offering for sale of such is a violation of Republic Act No. 8203 and the FDA Act of 2009. It is also against intellectual property.
Among the recently reported counterfeit drugs is paracetamol.
In the country, it is famously seen in huge advertisements and is commonly used for pain or fever.
Although some health authorities argue on the use of paracetamol in this pandemic, many experts around the world recommend the use of fever-lowering over-the-counter medicines to cope with Covid-19 symptoms.
There are many ways to identify an authentic drug from fake.
The physical signs serve as the quickest markers.
These include the color, size, weight, and design of both the drug and its packaging. It is also essential to examine the appearance of the foil and other parts of the packaging such as logo, lot/batch number, expiration date, and security features such as a hologram.
It is preferable that the product in question be compared side by side with the authentic medicine rather than relying on memory.
Also, check for any misspelling or questionable directions, especially in the leaflet, and if the manufacturer’s address is traceable.
Additionally, counterfeit drugs have a strange smell or taste, and they crack easily. When the counterfeit drug is already taken, a feeling that something is wrong may occur, such as an unexpected reaction.
It is advisable to buy medications from establishments with a license to operate from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Think twice if the price is lower than usual, especially those found online or in the black market.
Being able to identify authentic drugs from fake ones is the first step in the war against fake drugs, and to avoid a parallel pandemic of counterfeit drugs.

Teresa May Bandiola,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Doctors with minimum qualifications
To sit for qualifying test
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 10 August 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 5 August 2020

As a senior educator, I would like to raise my concerns about the quality of some young doctors in Malaysia.
Every year, I have to certify the documents of young doctors who are applying for housemanship in local hospitals.
I am shocked to see their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education examination results.
Many obtained just C and D for their Science subjects, namely Biology, Chemistry and Physics, and B for subjects like English and Mathematics.
These doctors are graduates from a local private medical college.
There were two who were already 29 years old and were just applying for housemanship.
Further questioning revealed that they had practically failed every semester and had to repeat, and only graduated because their university had the policy of showing 90 percent passes.
One obtained C for Chemistry and D for Biology and the other had C for Biology and Physics.
However, they managed to obtain the “No Objection Certificate (NOC)” to study medicine as their university had a twinning programme in a foreign country. No Objection Certificate NOC was part of the control mechanisms on the quality of Malaysian students who aspired to further their studies at the degree level abroad.
It was abolished in July 2020.
I remember reading the statement by the president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) that doctors who failed to obtain the minimum O-Level requirements to enrol into medical school have slipped into the Malaysian healthcare system.
This is so true and very alarming indeed. How did this happen?
Why did private universities admit students who did not qualify?
Why did the government issue the NOC to them?
Why didn’t the Health Ministry look at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education qualification before recommending these doctors for housemanship?
There have been mistakes at all levels.
Imagine the number of lives lost because of these incompetent doctors.
Who is going to take responsibility for this?
I have read letters in the newspaper from young doctors lamenting their long wait for housemanship.
It is unfair for the good ones, especially the Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) or Public Service Department scholars and students from public universities, who have to wait for their posting along with these unqualified doctors.
I think it is about time the Health Ministry does something about this problem. Doctors who do not have the minimum qualification from their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education examination must sit for a qualifying test before being considered for housemanship.
It looks like teaching is considered the top profession now, as only students with 7As would be accepted for training.
I must applaud the Education Ministry for taking proactive measures to upgrade the quality of new teachers.
However, I must say that the not-so-clever students will enrol in private medical colleges and become doctors as long as they have the money to pay for their studies.
I do hope the Health Ministry will look into this issue seriously.
I believe a few foreign universities, which had twinning programmes with our local private medical collages, had to cancel their programmes due to the substandard quality of students from Malaysia.
This is indeed a shame for our country and the medical profession.

Teacher,
Klang
,
Malaysia


Challenges against Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act
Filed in Supreme Court
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 August 2020

President Duterte wanted a law that would strike fear among those who say bad things about his misrule.
An obsequious Congress obliged and hastily passed the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) that allows his minions to keep anyone in detention for weeks on real or imagined charges of committing acts of terror supposedly meant to destabilize his administration.
Challenges against the constitutionality of that much-maligned law have been filed in the Supreme Court, which Duterte-handpicked justices now lord over.
Pundits think those petitions have a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing the light of day.
Would another petition filed by retired Supreme Court justices themselves - Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, both also known to be in the crosshairs of the current regime fare any better?
Both Carpio and Morales are no intellectual lightweights.
The big difference their petition can probably make is to jolt the incumbent Supreme Court justices into sitting up and doing their darndest to find the best and most plausible arguments to destroy that challenge.
No matter how palpably biased they may be, those sitting justices cannot afford to resort to meandering perorations as they often would with respect to pesky petitions filed by ordinary mortals who just suffer the insult in silence.
Their own intellectual credibility and right to be in the highest court of the land are being challenged, too.
As we keep our fingers crossed, we hope there would be no more of the balderdash about “humanitarian reasons” as in the Enrile case, or the fabricated necessity of pinpointing the “principal plunderer” as in the Arroyo case, or the nauseating gobbledygook about a “hero’s burial” for the most villainous president this country has ever had the greatest misfortune of enduring for decades.

Rey Chavez Escobar,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for increased government support
For Thai's who have lost their jobs
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 3 August 2020

Recent polls have found the approval ratings for the Prayut Chan-o-cha government are disappointingly low.
What's more, there have been a string of protests, especially by students, against the regime.
Considering how well the country has fared against the Covid 19 pandemic, and that WHO has chosen the kingdom as a model in its documentary about how to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, it is surprising why so many are against the government?
What it all boils down to, I think, is how important it is for a country to have a healthy economy with many people working.
And it is clear to all that Thailand does not have a healthy economy, nor are there enough people employed.
The situation is only going to get worse, as it is predicted the unemployment rate will jump to over 20 percent for the rest of the year, the worst in all of Asia, according to the pundits.
Yet the government has not provided enough support to those who have lost their jobs due to the strict lockdown measures imposed by the regime.
It is all well and good to pound one's chest and show off about how well Thailand has dealt with the pandemic; but it is quite another when one has to subsidise the people who have had to suffer because of the government's lockdown measures.
Providing 5,000 baht to a sprinkling of workers has proven to be insufficient.
Something more needs to be done, it is clear.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Malaysia and Singapore ensure Malaccca Straits
Secure for shipping
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 August 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 4 August 2020

August 9 would mark 55 years since Singapore separated from Malaysia.
Since then, ties between both countries have remained cordial, as they depend on each other for people, goods and services and capital.
Singapore and Malaysia enjoyed close ties during the premierships of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Goh Chok Tong as well as under the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Lee Hsien Loong.
Abdullah and Najib both adopted a moderate and pragmatic foreign policy stance towards Singapore, which significantly improved bilateral ties.
As things stand, Malaysia and Singapore would enjoy warm ties under the leadership of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee.
It would be important for the current and future leaders of both nations to continually engage in constructive and peaceful dialogues.
Collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore in economic, social and security areas would benefit both countries.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 450,000 people crossed the Malaysia-Singapore border daily, making it one of the world’s busiest land borders. About 40,000 Malaysian workers also travelled to Singapore every day.
Historically, there have always been large people-to-people connections and business linkages between the two nations.
On the economic front, Malaysia and Singapore are each other’s second biggest trading partner.
Both nations import and export a large number of goods and services from one another, which helps to support business operations and improve living standards.
Singapore also invested and collaborated on Malaysia’s $105bil Iskandar Development Region project.
On the security front, the military of both nations often interact and collaborate via visits, exchanges and exercises.
Both countries work together to face security concerns in maritime South-East Asia. Both are part of the Five Power Defence Arrangement, which also consists of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Malaysia and Singapore both conduct frequent and robust patrols, ensuring that the Straits of Malacca is secure enough for ships to pass through without facing piracy concerns.
This helps to preserve the Straits of Malacca’s status as the most important and strategic trading hub in the world.
Finally, it is heart-warming to note that both countries have resumed discussions on the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System and Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail projects.
By building infrastructure to facilitate the movement of people, both countries can better communicate and cooperate with one another, and benefit each other culturally and economically.

Bo Yang,
Singapore



Call for corruption distancing
To effectively prevent corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 August 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 4 August 2020

As the world waits in hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, a vaccine for a scourge that is equally harmful to society, corruption, already exists.
That vaccine is prevention.
Borrowing a phrase common in Covid-19 parlance, i.e. social distancing, we should introduce “corruption distancing” to effectively prevent corruption.
Today, corruption involves both the public and private sectors, making it a highly complex problem.
It is likened to a contagious disease that will eventually wreak havoc on our economy and institutions.
For every crooked politician or bureaucrat, there would be a businessman willing to grease their palm.
Such activities would erode integrity, reduce citizens’ trust in the powers that be, corrode the rule of law and eventually undermine democracy.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has consistently warned that the level of corruption in Malaysia’s commercial and business sector is alarming.
Data between 2019 and June 2020 show that 390 individuals were arrested, which represented 26.1 percent of the total arrests on record.
In the last five years, MACC has arrested more than 800 individuals in cases involving commercial organisations.
The illicit assets seized were worth billions of ringgit.
MACC has urged the private sector not to offer bribes and to take a more proactive role to combat corruption.
But the truth of the matter is, if there are no givers, there will be no takers.
The real culprits are the givers who bribe and offer attractive rewards to corrupt public officials to win contracts or gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.
A key legislative change in the fight against corruption in the private sector is the enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC Act 2009, which imposes criminal liability on commercial organisations for failure to prevent corruption.
Section 17A (1) states that a commercial organisation commits an offence if
“a person associated with the commercial organisation corruptly gives, agrees to give, promises or offers to any person any gratification whether for the benefit of that person or another person with intent to a) obtain or retain business for the commercial organisation; or b) to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of business for the commercial organisation.”
The onus has shifted to the directors, partners and management of the organisations or companies, who have to prove in their defence that they had put in place adequate procedures to prevent their associates from committing corrupt practices.
The MACC foresees more reports on corruption in commercial organisations falling under this section.
Local and foreign industries and trade organisations/associations in Malaysia must collectively support MACC’s efforts to curb corruption by practising good governance.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiner (ACFE), in its Report to Nations 2020, stated that any corporates that did not practise a culture of anti-corruption and integrity could suffer losses of up to 5 percent of their profits.
It is therefore advisable for companies to hold talks on how to prevent bribery and corruption.
By doing so, they may be able to save between 2 percent and 3 percent of their profits.

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar,
President,
Malaysia Association of Certified Fraud Examiners,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Masses of Filipinos live in poverty
And human misery
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 August 2020

From Dino M. Capistrano's letter in The Southeast Asian Times 4 August you get a pretty good sense that is no shortage of state officials in the Philippines who fill their pockets whilst the masses of Filipinos live in poverty and human misery.
It seems the Marcos legacy of plunder lives on with other state actors " ripping this country off " as Capistrano claims.
Will things ever change in the Philippines?
The people of the Philippines deserve a better Philippines given their historical struggle for it.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Severe breach of Covid-19 social distancing protocol
At Kuala Lumpur Courts
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 August 2020
First published in the Star, Sunday 30 July 2020

After the gathering outside the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex on Tuesday by supporters of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which many top healthcare officials agree was a severe breach of the movement control order (MCO) standard operating procedures (SOP), there is a chance that another spike of Covid-19 infections has been triggered.
Many of those present, including notable figures, were not wearing masks or social distancing.
This was the perfect recipe for a spread similar to the Sri Petaling Cluster in February and March.
At this point, we are now looking at damage control, and it is best that everyone at the gathering takes these three steps:
Stay indoors and work from home as much as possible;
Follow all the preventive measures strictly, like putting a mask on the moment you step out of your house (even if it is to throw your garbage out) and washing hands regularly; and
Forget about travelling interstate over the next few days.
Simply put, be a team player for Malaysia and stay indoors.
With many companies now racing against the clock to find a vaccine that will get us out of this dire situation, a special task force must be set up as soon as possible to start educating the public in all the languages spoken in this country on the importance of vaccination.
This will save time when the vaccine is ready to be administered to the people. There is no point in the government getting the vaccine if people refuse to take it.
From my personal calculations, we will need about 94 percent of the public, including foreigners, to be vaccinated so that the other 6 percent who cannot be vaccinated due to health reasons can benefit from herd immunity.
We must also target anti-vaxxers those who are against vaccinations in the fight against Covid-19 from now on.
We must convince them that eradicating Covid-19 is highly dependent on them accepting the vaccine when it becomes available.
I also hope vaccination will be given to everyone in the country, including foreigners as they are part of our society.
We need a holistic approach to overcome Covid-19.

Dr Arvinder-Singh HS,
Sungai Buloh,
Selangor,
Malaysia




8,400 Filipinos stranded at Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
Reflects the real state of the nation
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 August 2020
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Monday 3 August 2020

The July 30 editorialAppalling neglect” said it all: “Harrowing images of thousands of stranded Filipinos in appalling conditions at the Rizal Memorial Center… The chaotic scene involving about 8,400 locally stranded individuals… was the harsh reflection of the real state of the nation.” Practically ignoring them to rot in the miasma of filth and squalor, the government seemed too helpless to do anything about their condition.
Public funds have been severely depleted due to the current pandemic.
Yet, we are reading about public servants sucking up and pocketing tens of millions in salaries, allowances, bonuses, etc., "Calida is 2nd highest paid government official,” July 30, 2020.
By any equitable standard, this is tantamount to plunder in plain sight!
Mentioned in that report was the 2019 bonanza these public servants received: United Coconut Planters Bank officers Higinio Macadaeg Jr. P20.47 million, Eulogio Catabran III P15.09 million, and Edmond Bernardo P11.58 million.
Not to be outdone were Solicitor General Jose Calida P16.95 million; Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas officials Benjamin Diokno P15.45 million, Maria Almasara Tuaño-Amador P14.60 million, Chuchi Fonacier P14.59 million, Dahlia Luna P12.24 million, Ma. Ramona Santiago P12.17 million, and Elmore Capule P11.42 million.
Also specially mentioned among the multimillionaires and top earners in public service were Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe of the Supreme Court the highest court of justice which has remained callous and impervious to the woes and miseries of Filipinos whose cases there have only been gathering dust and cobwebs through decades of indifference, delay, and neglect.
How much more of the people’s money do they want to grab?
Filipinos at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum were suffering from the dismal lack of financial support or any form of material assistance from the government.
The pandemic has bankrupted the government, which is now scraping the bottom of the barrel and relying on loans amounting to trillions of pesos and charities to help tide it over this horrible crisis.
President Duterte’s lawful salary is said to be less than P5 million a year, as the most exalted head of government.
Apparently bereft of any sense of shame or delicadeza, those humbler public servants need to be told by him, if he really cares for the less fortunate, to moderate their greed and to cease and desist from ripping this country off.

Dino M. Capistrano,
Manila,
Philippines



Crucial for banks to provide buffer
In recovery from Covid-19 crises in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 August 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 1 August 2020

The anxiety among the rakyat over whether banks would extend the six-month moratorium on loan repayments after September was answered by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his announcement on Wednesday of targeted moratorium extensions “Targeted moratorium extension for another three months”, in The Star, July 29.
The loan repayment moratorium has provided huge relief for many individuals and businesses: as at July 20, over 7.7 million individual borrowers or 93 percent of the total have benefited from the measure worth RM38.3bil.
And 243,000 small and medium enterprises SMEs or 95 percent of the total, have also utilised the measure for a total of RM20.7bil. In total, the value of the moratorium is RM59bil.
Despite the short-term opportunity given by the banks for borrowers to save by participating in the moratorium, not everyone decided to opt in.
The number of individual borrowers opting out rose from 331,000 in April to 601,000 in July.
For SMEs, the number of non-participants jumped from 5,000 to 13,000 in the same period.
The increase was in tandem with the government’s decision to reopen most economic sectors beginning early May, which helped to re-start businesses that had been disrupted during the earlier phases of the movement control order (MCO).
This was then followed by supportive measures in the short-term economic recovery plan announced on June 5, such as the extension of the wage subsidy programme and hiring incentives.
These moves helped several parts of the economy to recover, which explains those opting out from the moratorium.
Nonetheless, many businesses and individuals are still struggling, as the following figures denote: in May, the overall unemployment rate escalated slightly to 5.3 percent compared with 5 percent in April as the number of unemployed went up by 47,300 to 826,100.
If you look at the more updated figures, based on the Employment Insurance System unemployment benefit claims, there was a total of 62,247 employment losses as at the third week of July.
There were also reports that 4,542 applications to cease business operations were processed by the Companies Commission of Malaysia during the movement control order (MCO) period between April 1 and July 19.
As we are still trying to recover from this unprecedented crisis, there is a crucial need for banks to provide a buffer should more assistance be required in the future.
Prior to this latest announcement, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz stated that banks faced losses worth RM1.06bil a month during the loan moratorium period, which will bring about a total loss of RM6.4bil by the end of the measure.
These losses by the banks explain the more targeted measures post-September in comparison with the blanket loan moratorium from April to September.
The efforts of the government to address the loan moratorium appear positive, as it was one of the emerging issues and suggestions raised by participants in a recent focus group discussion.

Sofea Azahar,
Research Analyst,
Emir Research,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Call for Malaysia to repeal
The Sedition Act 1948
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 August 2020
First published in the Star, Thursday 30 July 2020

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is perturbed that the government still sees the Sedition Act 1948 as relevant and has announced that it will be retained.
The Sedition Act is an archaic law introduced by the British colonial government in 1948 and was intended to suppress the voices of Malaysians calling for independence.
Activists and political leaders who fought for our independence were detained under this draconian legislation, hence its continued existence is an affront to their struggles.
Pakatan Harapan failed Malaysians when it didn’t deliver its promise to repeal the Act. In 2013, Barisan Nasional under Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration had made the same vow to Malaysians and the international community during our country’s second Universal Periodic Review process to review the human rights record of all United Nations Member States but failed to fulfil it.
The Perikatan Nasional government is now refusing to repeal the Sedition Act. Claims that the Act is still relevant are absurd as the Penal Code provides for all the offences described by the government.
Anyway, national harmony cannot be achieved through the force of law.
If Perikatan is genuine about wanting to improve national harmony, it should revisit recommendations made by civil society, Suhakam Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and subject matter experts to address concerns about national harmony, hate speech and discrimination.

Sevan Doraisamy,
Executive director Suara Rakyat Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Call for President Duterte to defer
Opening of schools in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 31 July 2020

Dear President Duterte,
We, the Parents Teachers Alliance, a nationwide organization, welcome and support the recent enactment into law of Republic Act No. 11480, amending Section 3 of RA 7797, otherwise known as “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from 200 Days to not more than 220 Class Days.”
We fervently appeal to Your Excellency to use the power and authority granted by RA 11480 to defer the scheduled opening of classes in August to a much later date to provide the Department of Education ample time to prepare and address the following concerns:
Uniform teaching modules are yet to be finalized, as the teachers tasked to prepare them were not professionally trained to do so, the same being the function of the DepEd Curriculum Bureau, aside from the fact that printing cost will be shouldered by classroom teachers.
Only a minuscule percentage of our 800,000 teachers have ready and actual access to internet facilities, which, on the average, would cost P1,000 per month for every teacher.
Almost all 47,000 public schools in the country have zero internet connectivity, while a great majority of our 27 million K-to-12 students do not enjoy such facility, let alone have access to tablets, laptops, and personal computers.
The government television station’s frequency effectiveness is very limited. Most, if not all, radio stations all over the country, on the other hand, cannot possibly accommodate the requisite airing time for the 13 grade levels with at least six subjects per grade or 78 class hours for a radio station that ordinarily airs 18 hours daily.
What block-time, then, if we may ask, is the DepEd alluding to?
The 4Ps Program was conceived to prompt parents to send their children to school instead of helping them out with work.
Blended learning, premised on parents’ willingness and competence to teach their children schoolwork, will negate this objective, not to mention its prohibitive cost which could easily be beyond the financial capacity of most local government units.
We most respectfully submit, Mr. President, that these are but some of the most pressing, critical, and fundamental issues that must first be addressed with haste and certainty before the opening of classes.
As such, we earnestly appeal to Your Excellency’s wisdom that the opening of classes in August be deferred to a later date if only to accord the DepEd such time to adequately, seriously, and honestly prepare for the same.
For our children’s sake.

Emilio B. Abelita,
Manila,
Philippines