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

 

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



Call for Philippines to commence legal proceedings
Against China for spread of Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 30 July 2020

In “Make China accountable for COVID-19” in Philippine Inquirer, Letters July 8, 2020, Stephen Monsanto urged the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to file class suits against China for the unabated spread of COVID-19, which has brought the whole world to its knees, including the Philippines.
That is something long overdue.
The Filipino people cannot continue to just suffer what is happening to this country in silence.
The Philippines stands indebted to China in the sum of $167 billion to finance President Duterte’s ambitious “Build, build, build” program.
Under very onerous terms, that debt alone could easily balloon to over $300 billion, including interests, charges, penalties, or what-have-you.
In pesos, that would amount to about P15 trillion, which surely the Philippines can never afford to repay.
China’s obvious intent is not to be paid, but to take over this country in payment of that debt - all courtesy of Mr. Duterte’s “friendship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In self-defense, the Filipino people can do a preemptive strike by demanding any outstanding part of that Chinese loan as compensation for the terrible things China’s COVID-19 has done to our country.
If other countries have already commenced legal proceedings for compensation against China in their own jurisdictions, what is the Philippines waiting for?
Never mind the Office of the Solicitor General, which has proven itself to be of service only to Mr. Duterte.
What about the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and other law associations run by “brilliant” lawyers in our midst?
Haven’t they found the balls yet to do something about this clear injustice?
And even if one may think of it as nothing but “suntok sa buwan” because China would only be laughing at us - as it did when the Philippines sued and even won the arbitration case against it in The Hague - it does matter that we are seen as standing in solidarity with the world in condemning China for its blunders and cover-ups relating to this pandemic.

Carmela N. Noblejas,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for President Duterte to prove
He cannot stand a whiff of corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 24 July 2020

With regard to the editorial, “‘Year of Filipino Health Workers’” July 21, 2020 where nurses in public hospitals and health institutions were said to be “finally” receiving P34,801 per month after “nearly two decades” of begging for it, allow me to give my two cents’ worth.
That kind of pay is hardly enough considering the great hazards they have to face amid this current pandemic which could last for years!
Comparing that to the shamelessness with which high government officials are robbing the people blind, collecting more than P1 million per month in salaries, perks, allowances, bonuses, incentives, etc., even in these times when the country’s economy is teetering on the brink of collapse (e.g., Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas officials), one cannot help but curse at the government that allows this kind of stupidity and blatant iniquity.
And think about this biggest joke of all: What is Mocha Uson doing for this country to deserve being paid P155,000 plus per month - more than four times the paltry sums being paid to those nurses at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, and who run the risk of getting infected (and God forbid, dying) every day?
Thousands of other good-for-nothing bureaucrats have been taking advantage of similar or bigger entitlements.
If an honest-to-goodness restructuring of the entire bureaucracy were to be done, there is no doubt half of those scalawags would be jobless.
Good riddance.
Will President Duterte please show the same political will to prove he cannot stand even just a “whiff of corruption” as he did in “dismantling the oligarchy”?

Marites dela Merced,
Manila,
Philippines



Red Bull heir
Walks free
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 26 July 2020

Re: "Public fury as 'Boss' allowed to walk free", in Bangkok Post, July 25
Regardless of whether it's Thaksin, Yingluck or Gen Prayut in power: Our jails are to incarcerate the poor.
Look at Orachorn "Praewa" Devahastin's highway massacre, Vorayuth Yoovidhya's fatal hit-and-run, or a construction tycoon's possession of a dead pheasant: guilty, but no jail.
But, for the destitute husband and wife caught digging for mushrooms for their own consumption in a protected forest -12 years!
Democracy offers a non-violent, sustainable way to correct such injustices.
But voters must analyse and question - which is why the powers that be, Gen Prayut included, emphasise rote memorisation in school and unquestioning obedience in Thai society.
How long will the poor, who are the vast majority of Thais, put up with such abuse?
They aren't stupid.
Gens Prayut and Prawit - and you and I - are doing Thailand no favours by perpetuating the status quo, for the tipping point may not be far off.
I fear violence.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thai state funded universities
Turned into teaching factories
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 July 2020

Re: "Covid-19 hastens university revolution", in Bangkok Post, July 19..
We should keep in mind that every problem in higher education is also caused by the Education Ministry and its allied entities, such as Search Results Web results Office of Higher Education Commission (OHEC), now called the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovations, Office for National Education Standards and Quality (ONESCQA), Thai-Journal Citation Index (TCI) and many others.
As a result, most state-funded universities have turned into teaching factories, not by accident, but by doing what is dictated by these entities.
In every world ranking, private universities dominate because of their autonomy, innovative teaching and learning practices, and cutting edge research.
It is very sad to see that private universities in Thailand have been choked by the red tape tied around their necks.
It is high time that they are allowed to be fully autonomous and lead the change in higher education.
Everything former higher education minister Suvit Maesincee mentions is key to the future of Thai higher education. Adoption of blended learning, outcome-based teaching, upskilling, collaboration with industry, and forging alliances with foreign universities is important.
But he ignores the fact that for Thai universities to find their place in regional or global competitive space, the country must drastically change its immigration policies.
To attract foreign faculty and bring students to conduct research will require proficiency in English, advance technical and communication skills and dynamic curricula.
In addition, scholarships, student visas, work permits, and employment-related issues must be addressed. A pool of highly educated and talented expatriates living inside Thailand can't contribute to this effort because of the arcane immigration and work-related policies.
In a nutshell, a revolution in Thai higher education will require more than a lockdown to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Fewer than 200 Malaysian tigers
Left in the wild
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 July 2020
First published in the Star, Thursday 24 July 2020

WWF-Malaysia commends the Malaysian government’s anti-poaching and anti-wildlife trafficking efforts, following the statement of Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah that a total of 64 poachers have been caught since early this year in the The Star, July 22, 2020.
With fewer than 200 Malayan tigers left in the wild, protection of this species must be prioritised.
We need key actions to address the main threats.
Increased patrolling efforts to deter wildlife crime that decimates tigers and their prey is a critical step.
In view of this, WWF-Malaysia impresses the urgent need for the establishment of a wildlife crime unit within the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) force, in order to effectively combat poaching and wildlife trafficking.
This unit could gather intelligence on poaching syndicates that are part of larger illegal wildlife trade networks.
This would ensure that legal action is followed through right from evidence collection to the prosecution process.
In most reported cases, those prosecuted for poaching could have been working for foreign syndicates.
Putting a stop to these syndicates should be made a priority, apart from penalising those who are guilty of committing wildlife crimes.

WWF-Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for governments to protest
Against cruel treatment of wildlife
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 July 2020

Britain has ordered thousands more monkeys for covid vaccine testing in laboratories.
And, of course, this is happening everywhere in the race to be first.
Please spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of animals that suffer and die in agony for us.
Shame on all governments around the world, including ours, for not making any effort to protest against the cruel treatment of wildlife which probably sparked this pandemic.
How selfish we are!

Jennifer Horsburgh.
Queensland,
Australia



China claims over South China Sea
Predicted to galvanize ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 22 July 2020

In “China: A rogue state?” Opinion in Philippine Inquirer, December 6, 2012, then University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque, an “expert in international law,” wrote about the unwarranted claims of China over territories in the West Philippine Sea.
Its unlawful aggression, he opined, “may finally galvanize not only Asean… but also the rest of the world into branding China as the ultimate rogue state.”
Then when President Duterte, who is best friends with Chinese President Xi Jinping, appointed him presidential spokesperson for the first time in 2017, and again this year, Roque turned rogue himself and has since been all praises for China.
This guy is as malleable as play dough!
It would really take some gall for him to be able to face his law students again at that premiere university - assuming that the latter would be crazy enough to hire him again, despite his utter lack of integrity and credibility.
But the most frightening thing is, Mr. Dutere just might appoint him to the Supreme Court for fun and allow him, being only in his 50s, to inflict himself on the Filipino people for more than a decade.
OMG!

Annalee Lauder,
Manila,
Philippines



Covid-19 pandemic has exposed
Tolerance for corruption in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 July 2020

This pandemic has taught us many things.
It has exposed the vulnerability of the ordinary working Filipino in terms of health care, job security, and food security.
It has also exposed our tolerance for corruption.
Instead of learning from our shortcomings, many in our community still have the temerity to hide from the law under their “padrino” blanket.
For years, we admired people who are “malakas” - those who got away with violations, those who could cut through lines, those who had “magic” calling cards to show to law enforcers, and sometimes, those who just happened to have a silver insignia on their shoulder boards, or an “honorable” to their names.
We used fixers to make life more comfortable for us.
We resorted to “pampadulas” to get things done.
We tolerated the wrongdoings of people simply because they were our “ka-brod, kaklase, kabaro.”
Today, even after all our sufferings, we place fake logos on our windshields just to get through checkpoints, cut through fast lanes dedicated to essential transport, skip quarantine just because facilities are “not comfortable” enough for us, and we call on our padrinos, ka-brods, kaklase, kabaro to help us get away with it.
The consequences are now higher, and lives are at stake.
This virus moves faster than a graft investigation.
So, stop putting fake passes on your windshield, stop skipping quarantine procedures, and stop using your padrinos.
If we can get rid of these “getaway cards” completely, maybe we’ll recover faster from this pandemic.
Maybe the “new normal” will be a “better normal,” maybe our government will become more competent.
Because one thing is certain, your padrinos won’t make you immune to the virus.

Tristan Velarde,
Naga City,
Philippines



Illegal dumping of toxic waste in Malaysia
Immediate and long-term effect on health
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 July 2020
First Published in the Star, Friday 17 July 2020

The discovery of another illegal dumping site of scheduled wastes in Selangor, as reported in “No leniency for illicit dumping” in The Star, July 16, is yet another stark reminder to the public to be ever vigilant of such activity in areas close to their residential premises.
If they come upon such sites, they should immediately alert the authorities concerned so that prompt action can be taken against the culprits, who could be construction and landscaping contractors, factory owners, waste removers, scrapyard operators or anybody looking for a quick, easy and cheap way to get rid of their waste.
In this most recent case, the authorities had been monitoring a site in Johan Setia, Klang for a whole month using, among others, drones and found 1,000 drums and large bags of suspected oil sludge, rubber sludge waste, dangerous pigments and other toxic waste there.
These wastes will have immediate and long-term effects on health as toxins and hazardous materials will penetrate the soil and contaminate drinking water.
The wastes also damage the environment and cause adverse economic consequences.
If the dump sites catch fire, the surrounding air will be polluted with toxic particles. It is not uncommon for children to be exposed to these dangerous elements as some of these dump sites are close to schools or residential areas.
The scourge of illegal dumping is fast becoming a perennial problem.
For this reason, the public must play their part to assist the authorities by reporting any suspicious activities to the Environment Department.
As our nation’s resources are being stretched, especially with having to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, we do not need any additional burden posed by such noxious activity.
Safeguarding the environment’s safety and health is everyone’s responsibility.
We may also need to examine the existing laws pertaining to illegal dumping of wastes to see if the penalties provided therein are sufficient to deter such serious illegal activities.
The Environment Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005 provides for a mandatory jail term and a fine of up to RM500,000 for convicted offenders.
Perhaps additional penalties could be legislated, like withdrawal of their operating licences and seizure of their assets to drive home the message that there will be no compromises when it comes to the safety, health and well-being of the people.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Chairman,
Alliance For A Safe Community,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Former Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neil
Only interested in up-down policy and not bottom-up policy
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 July 2020
First published in the National, Friday 17 July 2020

Peter O’Neill should know very well that whatever criticisms he makes to this Government during these trying time will reflect back to him when he was holding the seat of the prime minister.
O’Neill - you did nothing good for our rural population.
Now you are eating your own words by criticising the Government led by James Marape on issues of church-run health services.
What have you done during your tenure?
You did nothing for the church-run health services.
During your time, you were only interested in up-down policy and not bottom-up policy.
That is why most of the country’s money was used in places such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen.
Only in urban centres.
Most of our church-run health services are in rural areas.
During your stint as the prime minister, you dictated every policies, and did everything for your own interests causing the downturn of our country’s economy.
So please, you do not have to go on the print media and tarnish the good work of this current Government.
They are trying their best to sort out most or I could say all of those mess created by you.
When you comment or criticise on matters pertaining to Covid-19, handled by this Government, you must understand that the coronavirus is an imported disease where we do not have much knowledge about, however quick response and precautionary measures were put in place by this Government.
You must also understand that, due to the frequency of this deadly virus that has caused lives in millions, as per the World Health Organisation (WHO report), PNG is no exception.
Therefore our good Prime Minister James Marape has taken the right direction and has been very careful in handling the situation, as it is sensitive and fragile.
I commend our prime minister and all the hard working committees of the Covid-19 headed by the Controller David Manning, Commissioner of Police.

Tom Khangai,
Madang,
Papua New Guinea




Call for Malaysian MP to be penalised
For discrimination based on colour of skin
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 July 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 18 July 2020

Colourism is defined as prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, and it is a component of racism.
There is no place for colourism or treating people differently based on their skin colour in a multiracial nation like Malaysia.
Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia (Sirom) is appalled by the remarks made by Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim at Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto about the colour of her skin in Parliament on July 13.
Being discriminated based on the colour of one’s skin is extremely damaging to one’s self-worth.
It has serious mental and emotional effects that can last for generations.
Recent world events have shown how racism can turn destructive very quickly. This is especially relevant today when the “Black Lives Matter” campaign has gained momentum and forced many countries to re-evaluate their policies and laws.
Regrettably, such sexist and divisive comments are not alien in our Parliamentary proceedings.
The behaviour of the MPs uttering these comments must not be tolerated nor dismissed as harmless.
Women MPs must be empowered to champion their cause and uphold their community’s values without fear of being belittled by caustic personal or sexist attacks.
As leaders of their constituents, all MPs should be subject to a higher standard of decorum and propriety, and the Baling MP ought to be penalised. A retraction and apology are simply not enough.
To move Malaysia forward, we urge all MPs to practise mutual respect and tolerance in our multiracial nation.

Agnes Tan,
President 2019-2021 Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia, (Sirom)
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for Chinese Embassy in Bangkok to read
Ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius (Mengzi)
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Saturday 18 July 2020

Re: "Clearing the waters", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, July 16.
I'm a long-time American expat living in Thailand.
I have no official status.
The views expressed below are my own.
Chinese Embassy in Bangkok spokesperson Yang Yang tries to tell us why non-regional countries (like the US) should not interfere in China's activities in the South China Sea.
"Mind your own business!" is a common cry from governments engaged in unsavoury activities.
Such governments always invoke the principle of national sovereignty.
But that principle, left unfettered, would allow governments to imprison, brutalise, and even massacre segments of its own population with impunity.
We saw it illustrated in the Holocaust, in which the Nazis massacred millions of Jews.
We see it in the more recent Chinese oppression of the Tibetans and the imprisonment of the Uighurs.
Such atrocities are unacceptable by civilised people.
When they occur, the rest of the world should have the right to intervene.
We are all humans.
Our common humanity should override narrower considerations of race, ethnicity, or ideology.
The principle of ren, benevolence or humaneness, championed by the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius (Mengzi), ought to be paramount here.
The worthy officials of the Chinese Embassy could profit from a perusal of the book that bears his name.
As I understand it, the objection to Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea is that its ultimate aim is to turn that sea into a Chinese lake.
There, other countries will have no rights save those graciously granted by China. The artificial islands that China has been constructing constitute the chief evidence for this perception.
If China wants to convince the world that it has no imperialistic ambitions in the South China Sea, it can easily do so by dismantling and abandoning those artificial islands. Somehow I have a feeling that this won't happen.

S Tsow,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Australian media failed to report
Black deaths in police custody
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 19 July 2020

It is good to see The Age letters column of 18 July captioned 'Do not treat this as just another death in custody ' and the accompanying letters.
Some years ago I heard in the news that a young black man ( 21 or 23 years old ) was taken into what the police called " protective custody ".
I wonder whether the family of that man is also among those seeking answer in light of the current Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
A couple of days later he was dead in " protective custody ".
I wrote a letter to the editor questioning what kind of " protective custody " was that?
That letter was not published.
It left me bewildered.
I thought it was a legitimate question to raise.
I was left feeling then that the media wanted to put a lid on the case in the same way that the police did.
That the media had failed to uphold its public watchdog role.
That was not a good feeling.
I thought Australia was a democracy that took transparency, accountability and public scrutiny seriously.
I felt let down.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



China calls on US not to take sides
In claims of sovereignty in South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 16 July 2020

The South China Sea issue should not be a tool for implementing the strategy of containing China by non-regional countries.
In his July 14 interview piece, "US turns focus to South China Sea", US Ambassador Michael George DeSombre ignored the historical background and facts of the South China Sea issue.
His statement deliberately distorted international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), abandoning its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty of the South China Sea, ignoring the joint endeavours of China and Asean countries to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, exaggerating the tense situation in the region, attempting to sow discord between China and other littoral countries and defaming China with untrue words so as to mislead the public.
The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it.
China's position on the South China Sea issue has been consistent, clear-cut and firm.
China has been committed to resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation with countries directly involved, and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea by joint endeavours of China and Asean states.
At present, with the joint efforts of China and Asean countries,the situation of the South China Sea has remained peaceful and stable and is still improving.
China and Asean states are not only fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), but also accelerating the consultation on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), which is an upgrade of the DOC.
It will be more suited to our region's needs and more effective in regulating the conduct of the parties.
It will provide stronger safeguards for safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and enable China and Asean to build trust, manage disagreements, strengthen cooperation and maintain stability.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, China and Asean countries have assisted and supported each other to beat the virus.
Ships and planes carrying critical supplies are sailing in and flying over the South China Sea, a body of water that's witnessing mutual assistance and cooperation between China and Asean.
Moreover, a lot of progress has been made in our cooperation on maritime search and rescue as well as marine conservation and research, which are tangible and pragmatic fruits of peaceful cooperation.
I would like to stress again that the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all states under international law in the South China Sea has never been affected by the relevant disputes in the South China Sea.
As a country outside the region, the US is not directly involved in the disputes, refusing to ratify the UNCLOS itself, and has kept interfering in the issue and disturbing the tranquility of the South China Sea by making a show of force arbitrarily. What is the real intention?
From the statement of the US Department of State on the South China Sea and the US ambassador's interview, it doesn't take much imagination to understand that the US side is reluctant to see the hard-won stability in the South China Sea, to see China and other littoral countries are capable of resolving the South China Sea disputes through peaceful consultation on our own efforts.
China believes the South China Sea issue should not be a tool for implementing the strategy of containing China by non-regional countries and no external interference should become the source of distracting or sabotaging the peace and stability in the South China Sea.
We advise the US side to earnestly honour its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty, and play a constructive role in the peace and stability of this region as a non-regional country.
China will as always stick to resolve disputes through negotiation and consultation, realise the benign interaction through rules and mechanisms, achieve common development through mutually beneficial cooperation and work with regional countries to transform the South China Sea into a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.

Yang Yang,
Spokeswoman,
Embassy of The People's Republic of China,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Give the Philippines Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020
A chance
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 13 July 2020

Now that the President has signed into law the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), I believe it is high time each one of us gave this law a chance.
I understand the predicament of the people against this law, but then again, with all the safeguards the law provided, I think we must at least give it a chance.
If indeed there are unconstitutional provisions stipulated in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), then by all means the Supreme Court can take the final action. And if the Supreme Court finds it constitutional, then we must respect and obey the law.
I am certain amendments are always available if there are things that need to be polished in the law.
But for now, let’s remain positive that this law can help the Philippines prevent and check terrorism.

Ezekiel Manaois,
Manila,
Philippines



Refugees arriving in Malaysia by boat
Will not be pushed out to sea, says PM
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 July 2020
First published in the New Straits Times, Tuesday 14 July 2020

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's statement that Malaysia will not send refugees who come by boats back to the sea is most welcome.
Applying a humanitarian approach is appropriate while seeking for a better solution depending on the situation.
Malaysia needs to act with caution so as not to be seen as violating international law, what more as an Islamic country that should act in accordance with Islamic principles.
The PM's reply in the Dewan Rakyat confirmed that the action of sending them back to the sea will not be done.
This should be emphasised as a policy so that enforcement agencies will not be in a dilemma when accepting refugees.
Refugees who have no choice when they are under oppression and trapped in conflict are now seeking protection around the world.
While conflict and oppression must be stopped, victims seeking refuge need to be managed by world bodies and countries that become transit for refugees.
Rohingya refugees do need international protection based on the principle of
"non-refoulment" which is not to surrender oppressed groups to countries where they are persecuted and exemptions are given to immigrants who need United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations agency (UNHCR) protection based on humanitarian principles.
They should not be evicted and the government should allow them to stay temporarily until a solution is found.

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid,
President,
Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations (Mapim)



Using same pen to register for Track and Trace Covid-19
Same as using same serving spoon on cruise ship buffet
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednsday 14 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 13 July 2020

As an epidemiologist, I support the government's efforts to combat the Covid-19 virus in the country. The Track & Trace mobile app is an excellent tool and easy to use.
However, the written registration method used for people not wanting or able to use the mobile app is almost useless and could potentially do harm.
Hundreds of people per day are using the same pen to register at shopping mall entrances.
This pen can easily spread the virus from an infected person to anyone else.
You could compare it to hundreds of people using the same serving spoon in a cruise ship buffet line.
Most of the printed entries are not legible or accurate, with many clearly false names being used.
If the government really wants to protect the population from the spread of the virus once international tourism is opened up again, registration in writing should be scrapped and a more secure method such as scanning or copying IDs or passports used.

Kim Johansen,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Frantic effort by Thai international universities
To tap into the Chinese higher education market
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 12 July 2020

Re: "Can Thai unis attract foreign pupils?", in Opinion, Bangkok Post July 9
The answer to Mr Singh's question is simply "No".
With the exception of half a dozen international universities in Thailand, there is no ecosystem to attract foreign students.
Although there is a frantic effort to tap the Chinese higher education market, there is little chance of bringing students from the Middle East and Western countries.
The lack of scholarships, stringent work permit rules, stale curriculum, lack of proficiency in English, and poor communication skills of the faculty are major impediments to attracting foreign students.
Although a few Thai universities, such as Chulalongkorn, Mahidol, AIT, and NIDA may have good infrastructure and facilities and found their place in the world rankings, their academic standards are no way comparable to universities located in Australia, Europe, and the USA.
These countries not only provide a higher education but also provide opportunities for a career, better quality of life, and chances to settle down and eventually become a citizen of the country.
Thailand lacks all such incentives; hence, attracting foreign students to Thailand will remain a pipe dream.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Days of mass tourism are over
Charter flights way to go
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 July 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 10 July 2020

Ever since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented on March 18, tourism industry players and associations have been making repeated calls on federal and state governments for emergency aid and temporary relief during this period with little to no income.
There have also been announcements about putting hygiene, safety and security protocols in place and calls to publicise Malaysia as a safe destination.
But many countries are doing the same and at this time, tourists would choose destinations that offer more meaningful experiences.
It would be a waste of time and money to repackage old wine in a new bottle, ie promote the same old products.
Clearly, the days of mass tourism are over, and likewise mass advertising.
It is now crucial to target and create niche markets and for industry players to consolidate.
Malaysian outbound and inbound tour operators must work together with their overseas counterparts to generate a constant flow of passengers for air charters, starting with only one weekly flight, then progressing daily and ending with many flights a day.
Unlike scheduled flights that passengers can travel on at short notice, those booked for charter flights could be screened in advance and their health condition and movements constantly and closely monitored to ensure they will be free of Covid-19 when travelling overseas.
Before departure, these passengers may have to be quarantined at a selected hotel and then transferred to the aircraft in chartered buses with minimum contact with other people.
The hotel, bus and aircraft would have be thoroughly disinfected, of course.
Such a controlled group would be welcomed by many governments around the world as economies everywhere are at an all-time low and need tourist dollars more than ever even while countries remain fearful of opening borders and risking a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
It would be most viable to start with charter flights to and from Indonesia and China, as people from these two countries are the second and third largest number of foreign visitors to Malaysia after Singaporeans.
The countries are also highly popular with Malaysian tourists travelling overseas.
As almost every industry and citizen are affected by this pandemic and funding is limited and never enough for everyone, the only long-term solution is to generate revenue, particularly foreign exchange.
So instead of merely offering promotions and waiting for foreigners to come to us when borders are open, tourist arrivals can be speeded up by trying these air charters.
And it is time for leading industry players and leaders to rise to the challenge by several notches by consolidating and gearing the industry to operate charter flights in a big way.
It can be made popular with initial promotional offers which would fill up the aircraft.
This is crucial for inbound tour operators as almost every passenger would be using their service, unlike the millions of foreigners that used to visit Malaysia monthly prior to the Covid-19 outbreak that were independent travellers.

YS Chan,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



Malaysia fails to meet minimum standards
For elimination of human trafficking
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 July 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 8 July 2020

It’s a growing concern that Malaysia is on Tier 2 watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons Report for the third consecutive year for its failure to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking of foreign workers.
Anti-racism protests, which started in the United States with the police killing of George Floyd, have spread to Europe and other parts of the world, and monuments linked to colonialism and slavery are being toppled or defaced in the name of racial justice.
Will the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests arouse significant changes in the mindsets of people like the historic Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 or the Berlin Wall protests in 1989 did?
It is still too early to say.

M. Veera Pandiyan,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Call for investigation of rampant open burning
In Taman Tambun, Ipoh, Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 July 2020
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 10 July 2020

Over the first weekend of July, I took the opportunity for a short holiday since the uplifting of travel restrictions by visiting my grandparents back in Taman Tambun, Ipoh.
Hoping that this trip would be rejuvenating, I was horrified by the amount of open burning that took place during the few days of my stay there.
Several residents in the area and in the surrounding neighbourhood were burning what I assumed was garden waste as the weather has been hot and dry.
This happened several times throughout the day.
Every now and then you see plumes of smoke rising, made worse by wind that blows it into houses and choking its residents.
If that is not bad enough, the burning sometimes continues at night.
During the night, smoke is acrid and smells of burning plastic waste.
Imagine the long-term health effects of these pollutants on the residents here, a significant number of them happen to be the elderly and children.
I urge the relevant authority to investigate this matter of rampant open burning taking place in Taman Tambun and its surrounding areas.
We live in a time where rubbish of various materials can be dealt with in a more environmentally friendly manner, not by burning which not only pollutes the environment but endanger the health of others.

ACMK,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Chinese usually fatten up a duck
Before killing and eating it
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 8 July 2020

Re: "Kind words are not enough", Bangkok Post, Editorial, July 7.
It's interesting that your editorial suggesting that China should deepen its current relationship with Thailand by easing up on building dams on the Mekong is juxtaposed with Kavi Chongkittavorn's perceptive analysis of the choices facing Thailand at a time of Chinese resurgence and US decline.
The current Zhong-Tai yi jia (Chinese-Thais) one family romance reminds me of the Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (Indian-Chinese) brotherhood fantasy of a bygone era. Readers know how that ended, with China now occupying Indian border areas, recent clashes on the frontier, and mutual animosity on both sides.
Nobody can reasonably expect any country to do anything contrary to its own interests.
Clearly, maintaining and increasing the number of dams on the Mekong is in China's interests.
So Thailand would be wise to give up the pipe dream of getting China to desist.
Of course, there will be soothing and honeyed words oozing from the Chinese side.
Readers should also note that the Chinese usually fatten up a duck before killing and eating it.
Of course, nothing like that would ever happen in the blissful Chinese-Thai family.

S Tsow,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for compensation for Filipino people
From China for damage and misery caused by Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 8 July 2020

As the courts reopen for redress of grievances, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) should start mulling ways to seek recompense for the Filipino people from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which, either by deliberate intent or culpable negligence, caused the spread of COVID-19 around the world.
This deadly disease from Wuhan, China, has brought untold miseries upon this poor country that are by now immeasurable and irreparable.
There is preponderant evidence available worldwide that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had covered up the outbreak within China in the months of December 2019 and January 2020, in blatant disregard of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) written protocols on health hazards and diseases that could raise concerns of pandemic proportions.
Thousands of lives might have been spared had that virus been properly contained from the get-go in accordance with the rules of the WHO.
Independent scientists from around the world were snookered by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda that everything was copacetic and outside interference uncalled for.
Our Rules of Court allow suits against foreign individuals, companies, firms, or entities doing business in this country (Rule 14, Sections 12 and 15).
The Securities and Exchange Commission can confirm what and where these Chinese companies are.
Their assets here could amount to trillions of pesos.
It is public knowledge that Chinese companies doing business anywhere in the world are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The time for just rolling over as this plague from China continues to hit this country hard is up.
Class suits for equitable compensation should now commence.
China’s immunity from suit as a sovereign state does not extend to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the political party running the affairs of that country. Writs of attachment/garnishment could freeze the bank accounts and assets of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), conduits in this country indefinitely and render them available to pay the amount of damages the courts may find the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), lliable for. For one, there is the Bank of China, whose umbilical links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are beyond cavil, with branches around the globe, including the Philippines. As a matter of fact, civil forfeiture cases against the known purveyor of COVID-19 have already been filed in Australia, Europe (United Kingdom, Germany), and the United States (Florida, Texas, Missouri), for loss of lives in the hundreds of thousands and their near-total economic devastation. Many others are contemplating following suit.
The IBP is the Filipino people’s only hope to file claims for damages (pro bono) in the hundreds of billions of pesos - if only it were not hobbled by the astronomical amount of judicial filing and docket fees required to be paid (currently about P25,000 for every P1 million in claims) under Rule 141, as amended. So, outside of the “pauper-litigant” statute, will the Supreme Court make an exception to that rule just this once?
It would be free of charge if the Office of the Solicitor General took up the cudgels for the Filipino people and did the filing itself on their behalf. But, alas, that’s another story.

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines




Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me
Should we be ashamed?
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 6 July 2020

Re: "Debate heats up over fire helicopters", in Bangkok Post July 4, 2020
Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda wants 1.8 billion baht to buy six wildfire-fighting helicopters, saying his Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation picked the helicopter supplier via a transparent and accountable bidding process, and "as long as the company that won the bid had strictly followed the law, there was no problem".
In 2010, the Royal Thai Army bought GT200 bomb detectors at a cost of more than 1 million baht each.
Our National Science and Technology Development Agency tested them and found them to be less effective than flipping a coin - yet no army officer has been charged or held accountable for the fiasco.
Gen Anupong obviously knew something was wrong: so, why haven't the army officers who perpetrated this fraud on us been held accountable?
How do we know that the government will deliver this time?
A wise man said, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Should we be ashamed?

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for PNG government to address poverty
And corruption in People's National Congress
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 July 2020
First published in the National, Friday 3 July 2020

There is not much time left for the Government to make its dent in the socio-economic landscape of Papua New Guinea PNG if it tries to bog itself with social media warriors and People’s National Congress (PNC) heavies on governance matters.
The Government should take bold and hard decisions on what needs to be taken for the best interest of the country and ensure it is implemented without reasonable delays.
Bulk of the population are in poverty and that should be an area where the Government should address within the next 10 years of policy intervention to sustain the aggregate demand within the full dimensions of the domestic economic space.
There are remnants of corrupt in People's National Congress (PNC) appointees who are still in key state organisations which needs to be weeded out for wasting development opportunities for the country.
The Prime Minister has already declared curses on those who fail this country in their areas of responsibilities and the cries of the silent majority will continue to haunt them to their graves they don’t repent and repay what they owe to the country.

LG,
Observer,
Port Moresby
National Capital District (NCD),
Papua New Guinea




Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
Is sell-off of the nation's sovereignty
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 4 July 2020

Re: "CPTPP delay the right call", Bangkok Post Editorial, July 3.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
(CPTPP) is a sell-off of the nation's sovereignty.
There is a reason everyone isn't jumping on board.
Can you imagine your country being sued because you aren't allowing yourselves to be exploited to your full potential and that court is run by the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) with their judges and lawyers?

Konajake,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Turn Covid-19 crisis into opportunity
To prune all state owned enterprises
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 July 2020
First pulished in the Bangkok Post Friday 3 July 2020

Re: "Debt-ridden group lays off 961 staff", Bangkok Post, July 1.
The Business Organisation of the Office of the Welfare Promotion Commission for Teachers and Educational Personnel has laid off 93 percent of its 1,035 staff due to staggering debts and a lack of liquidity - the exact same causes that forced THAI into bankruptcy.
I laud Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan for, as he said, basing his decision on data, not emotions.
Minister Nataphol says that the survivors will be sufficient to carry out the organisation's mission - which either means that 93 percent of the organisation's staff have been basically spinning wheels, or the organisation's raison d'etre has been streamlined.
As with the private sector worldwide, the wave of closings and drastic cost cuts in state enterprises is just beginning.
The government should follow the saying, "When life serves you lemons, make lemonade": turn crisis into opportunity to prune all state enterprises so that the survivors meet the same standards as their private sector counterparts - or become history.
Start from the basics: Can a private enterprise be more effective/efficient at achieving a given state enterprise's reason for being?
For example, instead of having the Government Savings and Housing Bank, why not give tax breaks for savings investment mortgage programmes run by commercial banks?
Instead of having THAI on stand-by 24/7 to evacuate Thais from harm's way, why not charter private carriers on an as-needed basis - as we and many other countries did at Wuhan?
Where we absolutely must have a state enterprise to perform a given function, require that it sustain the same level of achievement as their private sector competitors on each key performance indicator.
Use this opportunity to make our entire state enterprise sector a lot smaller, slimmer, and cost-effective.
Then, use the savings to help the tens of millions of low-income Thais laid low by Covid-19.

Burin Kantabutra.
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippines Makati Medical Center denies
Backlog of 8,000 Covid-19 tests
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday 3 July 2020

We categorically deny that Makati Medical Center (MMC) has a backlog of close to 8,000 COVID-19 tests as stated by Manuel L. Quezon III in his column “Shotgun approach puts everyone at risk” Philippine Inquirer July 1, 2020.
The information cited by Mr. Quezon from a certain Andrei Diamante based in Australia is erroneous and ludicrous.
We deplore that during these unprecedented and challenging times, a medical institution and its frontliners would be put in a bad light by such misinformation.
As of June 14, Makati Medical Center (MMC) was one of the top 10 licensed centers doing RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.
The Makati Medical Center (MMC) molecular laboratory has undertaken 14,558 PCR tests since it was accredited in April 2020 averaging 250 tests per day.
The probable underlying reason is a reporting or encoding error on a daily report obtained by the Department of Health (DOH).
This has previously been clarified and addressed by both Makati Medical Center (MMC) and the Department of Health (DOH).
The source, Mr. Diamante, must have obtained the erroneous report, not the corrected version.
I have always held Mr. Quezon in high regard because of his insightful columns.
In this instance, however, he failed to undertake a very important task incumbent on any responsible journalist - which is a simple source verification.
A basic communication with Makati Medical Center (MMC) to clarify this matter could have averted the publication of misleading information that puts a hospital’s credibility and reputation on the line.

Saturnino P. Javier,
MD, medical director,
Makati Medical Center,
Manila,
Philippines




The renaming of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)
Is a national disgrace
The Southeast Asian Tmes, Friday 3 June 2020

Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara is absolutely right in saying " The Manila International Airport ( MIA ) was renamed in recognition of the historical impact that Ninoy Aquino's assassination had not only on our country the Philippines, but around the world " ( The Southeast Asian Times 30 June ).
We received the news of the brutal assassination with profound shock and sorrow in remote Fiji .
It brought home to us just how ruthless the Marcos dictatorship really was.
Kashiwahara is again right : " The blood he shed on the airport's tarmac ( he was shot in the back of his head ) symbolises the ultimate sacrifice he made ( as he fought ) for the return to democracy in the Philippines ".
Ninoy Aquino's death at the hands of the military henchmen of the Marcos dictatorship was not in vain.
It galvanised the people power movement for the eventual overthrow of the dictatorship and a return to democracy.
The proposed rename change is a debasement of that historical heritage of the Philippines and illustrates just how much the current State in the Philippines has strayed from upholding the ideals of democracy that the national hero Ninoy Aquino stood for.
The name change is a national disgrace.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


Malaysia continues to be the hub
For human trafficking
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 July 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 29 June 2020

For the third consecutive year, Malaysia remains on the “Tier 2” Watchlist of the Trafficking In Persons Report.
The report was released by the US State Department on June 25, 2020.
The tier rankings are based on an assessment of a country’s efforts to prevent trafficking in persons, to prosecute traffickers and to protect survivors of trafficking through a combination of legislative acts, collaboration with civil society, funding, and other proactive measures to identify and protect victims of trafficking.
Malaysia’s position on Tier 2 reflects a lack of political will on the part of the Malaysian government to collectively, systematically and holistically combat modern day slavery and human trafficking.
There appears to be confusion about what exactly human trafficking is.
Each enforcement unit, the ministries, the National Council on Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Mapo) as well as civil societies and non-governmental organisations have different ideas about and interpretations of human trafficking.
We are still grappling to understand what constitutes human trafficking without basing these efforts on the protection of the victim/survivor.
We are constantly giving excuses and justifications for our failure to identify victims based on the misconception that migrants and trafficked victims are “bad people” and therefore deported without delay.
What is even worse is that many victims/survivors of human trafficking are charged with offences under the Immigration Act and penalised instead of being protected. As long as the authorities and the Attorney General’s Chambers continue to labour under these misconceptions, stopping human trafficking will not be a priority in Malaysia.
And it does not help when other countries in the region move up to tier two and one.
The most immediate step is for Malaysia to have the fortitude to buck up to fight corruption – if we fail at this, we will be in the same position or pushed down to Tier 3 next year.
Many efforts and initiatives in the past to combat human trafficking have failed simply because of the corruption embedded in all our systems.
Malaysia continues to be a hub for human trafficking for that very reason, so there is a burning need for all to come together to fight corruption without fear or favour.
We must put corrupt people behind bars, not just fine them, seize all their assets and their bank accounts, and take all the actions provided for in the Anti-Trafficking Act to cripple their operations.
Furthermore, it is of utmost importance that the government invests in strengthening the competencies of prosecutors and enforcement officers, and demonstrates increased transparency in case management and prosecutions of human trafficking cases.
This can be carried out with the establishment of a review committee Mapo to review all human trafficking cases handled by the authorities.
This is crucial in moving forward in the right direction because transparency is critical – especially where corrupt officials may work hand-in-glove with human traffickers.
Tenaganita is aware that Mapo is trying very hard to bring about changes by putting together the National Action Plan on Anti-Trafficking of Persons, and we appreciate the collaboration but it is also high time that different ministries and authorities start listening to survivors/victims, civil society and non-government organisatons.
We cannot just talk about victim-centred approaches without placing the victim/survivors’ needs at the centre of the discussions, debates and actions.
Until and unless the key players in the different government agencies and departments are prepared to listen, to sit together, to debate and change the style of working, we will continue to languish on Tier 2 and maybe even slip down to Tier 3.
There is no other way, we cannot hoodwink ourselves and the global community with national action plans.
Let us have the courage to take a stand against the perpetrators of human trafficking rather than choosing to prosecute and punish innocent victims.
So let’s stop simply having diplomatic handshakes and sit together seriously with other stakeholders to discuss critical issues that concerns the heinous crime against humanity, human trafficking, once and for all.

Glorene A Das,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Wanted: Red Bull Boss
For hit and run killing of police
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 July 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 June 2020

Re: "Prosecutors tell cops to hurry up and find "Boss", in Bangkok Post,
June 28.
I fully agree with Office of the Attorney-General Deputy Spokesman Prayut Phetkun that the cops should urgently pursue Red Bull scion Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, wanted in the high-profile 2012 hit-and-run killing of a motorcycle cop. Years ago, the Associated Press tracked the fugitive down without trouble to his London apartment - yet our highly skilled police, who know exactly where every critic of the regime or royalty is, cannot find this alleged cop-killer?
Try Chelsea or a Red Bull-sponsored car racing event.
You have just seven years before the statute of limitations runs out.
But the prosecutors are also accountable for the slow-as-molasses pace of this case - for they took five years to charge him with reckless driving causing death and failing to help a crash victim.
They knew the court dates, approved hearing postponements seven times, and took no action to have his passport seized.
The Office of the Attorney General should keep the case before the media - and clean up its house to be ready in case PM Prayut Chan-o-cha finally extends rule of law to cover the mega-rich "Boss".

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Symbol of return of democracy to Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 30 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 29 June 2020

The Manila International Airport (MIA) was renamed in recognition of the historical impact that Ninoy Aquino’s assassination had not only on our country the Philippines, but around the world.
The blood he shed on the airport’s tarmac (he was shot in the head), symbolized the ultimate sacrifice he made (as he fought) for a return to democracy in the Philippines.
I wonder whether those proposing to change the airport’s name would even be in office today had it not been for Ninoy.
Many countries have used airports to honor their own historical figures, including Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the United States.
In doing so, they have not lost their national identities.
If the congressmen proposing change intend to rebrand the Philippines as a tourist destination, the question is, for whom?
Most foreign tourists will have no idea what the Tagalog name means, and Filipinos already know the airport is in the Philippines.
The revisionist congressmen are playing politics while attempting to deny their country’s history.

Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara,
Manila,
Philippines





Call for Thai government to give
Covid-19 stranded international students a visa
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday 28 June 2020

There are at least 200 international schools and a dozen universities that offer courses in English in Thailand.
Most of them are hit by the financial crisis induced by the coronavirus and are desperately seeking students whose visas are most likely to end soon.
Many of them came on campus visits in March on tourist visas, and are now held up in the country due to lack of international flights.
There is an international school on Bangna-Trat Road that started with plenty of fanfare after spending 3 billion baht in infrastructure.
Today they want students to join without paying tuition fees.
That is how distressed the educational institutions are.
The government must facilitate educational visas to all students by relaxing the visa norms.
That way it will help prevent educational institutions, who haven't paid their teachers for at least a couple of months, from collapsing.

Kaito Yamamoto,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Risk that Singapore election is reduced to a referendum
On the Government's managment of pandemic
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 June 2020
First published in the Straits Times, Wednesday 24 June 2020

News of the upcoming general election has been welcomed.
The pandemic has created urgency for us to re-examine many of the fundamental socio-economic issues that should be decided through the political election process.
This will, however, be an election vastly different from the ones we have experienced before.
Gone will be the familiar rallies, when the entire country takes on a festive atmosphere and many are focused on the political contests. This time, it will be a very sedate affair.
But it should not be any less significant, because what is at stake is our future, which is now dependent on how we successfully complete a political transformation.
Those elected will have to craft a new economic and social narrative to make Singapore as exceptional as before despite the challenging conditions ahead.
In the midst of a pandemic, there is also the risk that the election is reduced to a referendum on the Government's performance in managing the crisis.
This is certainly an important issue, but not the only one.
But discussions on a whole range of critical issues that affect our lives need a social context and atmosphere that may be missing - the hustings and rallies, as well as arguments in coffee shops and our neighbourhoods.
Even with the limitations, we can still be passionately engaged.
New election rules must not dampen the spirit and avenues for robust discussions on our collective interests.
In recent months, many people have gone through an experience that has affected and shaped their lives and choices, perhaps forever.
We must hear their stories, because those elected carry a responsibility to represent their constituents in the highest office.
This is also about our own political education.
We must respect anyone who wishes to take up the noble cause to represent and serve the people, regardless of his background and political persuasion.
We should not dismiss those who are brave enough to mount an attempt to defeat the familiar incumbents who have been consistently elected in the past.
Instead, we should collectively ensure that despite the restrictions imposed for necessary safe distancing, there is a good, clean, transparent and honest fight.

Zulkifli Baharudin,
Singapore




Philippines call for new strategic plan
To halt the spread of Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 27 June 2020
Firts published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 25 June 2020

The Philippines, as of June 21, has one of the world’s longest lockdowns, at 98 days, counting from March 15.
It is time we raise two consequential questions:
With 98 days of lockdown, are we winning the fight against the COVID-19 threat?
Are our sacrifices from the draconian lockdown measures enforced by the government for 98 days worth it?
To both questions, my answer is no!
From April 1 to 30, the positive cases reported by the Department of Health averaged 243.5 per day.
From May 1 to 31, the average was 309.6; and in the first 21 days of June, it was 561.8!
In terms of cumulative cases, it was 2,311 as of April 1, and 30,052 as of June 21 - an unimaginable increase of 1,200.3 percent over that 82-day period.
These numbers say we are nowhere near “flattening the curve.”
We need a new strategic response plan that gives priority to isolating and blocking the sources of community transmission, cutting the chain of infections at the roots, and halting the spread of the virus.
And we need a plan that will enable the full reopening of our economy soonest - before businesses are bankrupted beyond help, and before hunger and diseases hit the jobless, the poor, and the most vulnerable among us.
As part of “consolidation of forces,” using military terminology, on where they are most needed, let us, for one, put the plan for mass testing in the back burner for now.
Testing - rapid or clinical l - does not cure the sick.
It should not be a priority item in the response plan except for use in quarantined barangays and in testing and critical care facilities.
Besides, we do not have enough resources for mass testing. It should be targeted testing.
Let us stop the checkpoints as they do not contribute at all to preventing the spread of the virus - even if we spend considerable man-hours and energy keeping policemen and soldiers there.
In all probability, individuals being accosted in the streets are some of the 99.985 percent of the National Capital Region (NCR) population who are healthy.
They have no virus to spread around.
Why plan on arresting and detaining them, even for minor lockdown violations?
Let us mobilize those soldiers and policemen instead to do contact tracing work.
As part of the consolidation of forces, the new strategic response plan should provide for selective quarantine and enforce hard lockdowns on those with reported cases until declared virus-free; simultaneously do 100-percent testing of residents and contact tracing covering those identified as having come in contact with positive cases.
Organize and mobilize health workers for deployment in those barangays, recruit armies of contact tracers to do a quick job of finding those who are possibly infected, and undertake response operations simultaneously in all barangays with reported cases.
We then plan to free residents of virus-free barangays from quarantine restrictions so they can go back to the workplace, and so we can reopen businesses.
The International Automotive Task Force (IATF) can make use of experts in epidemiology and in crisis management.
I also propose that the poor and the vulnerable be represented in the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) so that, if necessary, the representative can push back on measures that make ordinary workers jobless, and keep the poor from moving out of their homes to find work and food for the table, before adequate mitigation measures are put in place.

Col. Leonardo O. Odono (Ret.),
Manila,
Philippines





Philippines experiencing second wave Covid-19
"God save our country"
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 20 June 2020

Malacañang debunked the claim of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that we are already experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
National Capital Region Police Office chief Debold Sinas did not only keep his badge, President Duterte even reaffirmed his trust, confidence, and support for him despite the general’s violation of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
When will our leaders pull themselves together?
How much longer do we have to suffer from a government that knows not what to do about anything except through guesswork, and pushes down our throats government people who are untouchable and above the law?
Incoherence and inconsistency of policies, and speaking without thinking, have always been the hallmark and downfall of our government.
God save our country!

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City
Philippines



Thailand wants policies that will not not intensify
The extreme disparity in wealth distribution
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 21 June 2020

The minister of tourism has said he wants to use the coronavirus hiatus to reset tourism to attract only big spenders.
Big spenders are always desirable, but over the past 50 years Thailand, encouraged by its governments, has courted and catered for mostly mass tourism.
This means that up to 5 million people are dependent on the industry, which some estimates say contributes up to 20 percent of GDP.
Airlines, taxis, hotels, guest houses, small restaurants, car hire, retailers of clothing and souvenirs; the list is endless.
If you filled every five star hotel I doubt 95 percent of these people would get a single baht of income.
The money would go to the already rich and international hotel chains.
Europeans and Americans already have a multitude of luxury holiday locations like Majorca, Sardinia, the south of France, Italian Riviera, the Caribbean.
How successful are we going to be getting them to take a 12-hour flight post coronavirus?
Or are we to rely on the rich Chinese?
We put our eggs in that basket before and it did not end well.
The most important focus for the government is to improve the lot of the mass population.
Not develop policies that will intensify the extreme disparity in wealth distribution.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Huge influx of stimulus money in Thailand
To build roads and bridges to nowhere
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 June 2020
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 22 June 2020

Re: "MPs plot while the people struggle", in Bangkok Post, June 15.
It comes as no surprise that more than 10,000 projects proposed for funding under the government's social and economic rehabilitation programme relate to road construction and maintenance or digging artesian wells.
Road construction projects are among the most abused and corruption-riddled around the world.
As Covid-19 restrictions have eased slightly, I've recently made several short forays outside Bangkok.
Everywhere I go, I see new roads and bridges under construction, many of which seem unnecessary or illogically located.
With the huge influx of stimulus money, it's likely we will see even more of these "roads and bridges to nowhere" and many cases of disappearing taxpayer money and shoddy road construction.

Samanea Saman,
Bankok,
Thailand




A law that results in inequality and injustice
Is not a good law
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 June 2020

The editorial “Harsh only on the powerless” in the Philippine Inquirer June 11, 2020 vividly illustrates how laws were construed in favor of the powerful.
The administration apologists and minions love to argue: Dura lex sed lex, the law is harsh but it is the law.
But a law that results in inequity and injustice is not a good law.
A law that is not applied equally is mirrored like a spider web.
Diogenes Laertius, quoting Solon in “Lives of the Eminent Philosophers,” said: “Laws are like spiders’ webs: if some light or powerless thing falls into them, it is caught, but a bigger one can break through and get away.”
Former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim had this slogan: “The law is applied to all, otherwise none at all.”

Diosdado V. Calonge,
Manila,
Philippines



Struggle for basic rights in the Philippines
A marathon run in the mud
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 22 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 June 2020

The struggle for basic rights in our country can be compared to a “marathon run in the mud.”
From the period of martial law imposed in the ’70s until today, which has been characterized by killings in our inner cities with impunity, we have stood together against the repressive reality and rhetoric in our midst.
In the face of the anti-terrorism bill, it is important to realize that once again the basic rights of our people to express ourselves, to dissent, and to associate freely - all enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution - are under threat.
Moreover, this legislative overreach reinforces the long-standing politics that exclude the more vulnerable in society.
It is the disadvantaged and those who stand with them who will be the most probable victims of this policy that is open to abuse and the arbitrary application of ambiguous provisions.
It is apparent that under the present dispensation, not only manifested in the anti-terrorism bill but also in House Bill No. 78 that undermines Filipino ownership of vital public utilities such as telecommunications companies, the mindset and the actions of this government tend to violate the letter and the spirit of the 1987 Constitution, which was forged in the aftermath of the people’s overthrow of dictatorship and later reaffirmed in the ousting of foreign military bases in our national territory.
True to the reckless remarks of the President who has at least once derided our Charter, we stand foursquare against this alarming attitude and cavalier posture of our so-called leaders in setting aside provisions of the fundamental law of the land, undermining the respect for the rule of law.
We take this stand precisely in the midst of this para-pandemic period where we face the combined and intertwined health, economic, and climate crises that will be with us for some time to come.
There is, moreover, a moral meltdown in our politics here at home that mirrors the social unrest spreading across the United State due to the racist virus that has been endemic in American society since its founding.
We need to convert this breakdown into a breakthrough in our societies.
Fellow citizens, our imperative is to reinvent resistance!
In big and small ways, directly and indirectly, as well as virtually, young and old alike, we need to rise up and not be afraid.
We need to be brave and breathe freely together.
This a turning point, and there can be no turning back.

Former senator Bobby Tañada and Prof. Ed Garcia.
Manila,
Philippines



Call for compensation for victims
Of nuclear weapons testing in South Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 June 2020

It is good news to hear the court in French Polynesia has ordered the French State to pay compensation to a cancer victim of its nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific ( 'Compensation for nuclear victim' The Fiji Times 19/6p.25 ).
France carried out 193 nuclear weapons test between 1966 and 1996 .
Until a decade ago France strenuously claimed its test "were clean and caused no harm to humans".
There is solid empirical evidence to show the tests were far from clean.
They were environmentally destructive and they damaged the lives of thousands of people living in the area.
The American State did the same with its nuclear testing in Bikini and Rongelap in the Marshall Islands.
The same is true for "the British government exploding twelve atomic bombs on Australian soil" ( see acclaimed journalist and best selling author Frank Walker's book Maralinga (2014).
Many lives have been destroyed by these weapons tests.
It is high time the Government's responsible were held accountable and made to do the right thing by the victims.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia




Covid-19 pandemic has produced
Long term damage to earning prospects
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 June 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 17 June 2020

In the past three months, we have all been adjusting to the realities of partial lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has produced a labour-market “scarring” or long-term damage to our earning prospects.
Malaysia’s labour market felt the brunt of the Movement Control Order (MCO) implementation, with unemployment in April spiking to 5 percent, the highest since 1990.
Economists say it is likely to go higher in the coming months.
The government, particularly the Health Ministry led by Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, has been recognised as one of the best institutions in curbing the spread of the pandemic.
The government, with strict implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) assisted by various parties including the armed forces, has provided some flexibility for essential services to continue operating.
This is to ensure that the economy still ran despite the Movement Control Order (MCO).
So far, there are no cases or new clusters from these essential services.
This deserves our praise.
The same measures should also be imposed on other services in stages to ensure the survival of the nation’s economy without compromising precautionary
measures – social distancing, no direct contact between individuals and the compulsory use of face masks for business owners who wish to resume operations.
These measures would help reduce the burden shouldered by employers earning zero income to provide an opportunity for them to retain their employees as well as to indirectly reduce the unemployment rate.
An economic recovery plan, which includes short-term, medium-term and long-term measures, needs to be created on an urgent basis in order to diversify the economy and create new employment opportunities.
Lack of experience, low English proficiency and monetary issues are the usual reasons, but looking at different perspectives, difficult circumstances are also contributing to unemployment.
Now, people either work in low-paying, “dirty” jobs or remain unemployed.
Recently, a fitness trainer’s determination and willingness to work at a wet market that had been allowed to reopen has earned wide-ranging praise.
This would be able to “wake” up people who were emotional and having a hard time. Some youths are even starting to consider working as labourers in plantations and farms.
Tough times are not exactly about choice but survival.
To find a job in a flaky market, we must be prepared to step out of our comfort zone.
When the employment market is down, demand for jobs will exceed supply.
As a result, salaries will also be lower, which is intuitive.
To adapt to this environment, we need to be flexible and realistic in our expectations.

Jack Wong Kin Tung,
Ipoh.
Malaysia



Xenophobia and racism
Hidden behind the Thai smile
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 17 June 2020

Re: "'Thais-only' policy is racism, pure and simple", Commentary Bangkok Post June 13.
Most Thais will deny till the end of their breath that they are racist, yet the facts speak differently.
It is not only in this time of Covid-19 that Thais demonstrate shocking prejudice toward foreigners.
It's a rare Thai who doesn't look down upon migrant workers from neighbouring countries, black Africans, kee nok backpackers, loud Americans, overweight Europeans and poorly behaving Chinese, among others.
Aside from the notorious formalised two-tier pricing schemes at national parks and temples, Thais at every level - from the neighbourhood fruit vendor, to the hotel marketing representative, to the mechanic at the local garage - blatantly charge foreigners more than the "going rate" for goods and services based solely on the fact that the buyer is not Thai.
Rather than striving to change such practices, even those Thais who don't approve will usually just shrug and admit, "that's the way it is".
Thailand is a lovely country in many ways and Thais are generally warm and friendly at the core.
But most Thais are xenophobic and too many are also racist.
Xenophobia and racism hidden behind a smile are still xenophobia and racism.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Pattaya economy
Based on the sex industry
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post. Wednesday 17 June 2020

The scheme to gentrify Pattaya's world-famous "walking street" is flawed on so many levels.
Since the 1960s when Americans landed for R&R during the Vietnam War, the economy of Pattaya has been based around the sex industry.
Tourists have flocked there to partake, gawk, or be shocked ever since.
Many expats have retired there enjoying cheaper living and an easy-going environment. Is it pretty?
No.
Does the military government hate it?
Yes.
Should the eyesore be removed?
Absolutely not.
It may be inconvenient but Pattaya is a major source of revenue for the country and billions are being spent on improved road, rail and air communications.
The desire to replace existing tourists with more affluent or family orientated visitors is laudable but unlikely to succeed.
Pattaya simply cannot compete with the scenic beauty of Samui, Phuket, or Krabi. Removing the sex industry would be "throwing out the baby with the bathwater".
The policy is also flawed because it will remove needed controls.
Prostitution cannot be removed by any government.
At present, the police can easily check the age of bar workers, many bars insist on regular health checks for STDs and prostitution is concentrated in certain areas, with less activity in residential areas.
By all means, clean up the streets but leave Walking Street alone.
The country is going to need every tourist dollar soon.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Chinese President Xi Jinping is now
Philippine President Duterte's best friend forever
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inqirer, Tuesday 16 June 2020

Whenever he is asked why he has not lifted a finger to oppose China’s blatant aggression, invasion, and occupation of Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea, President Duterte would get irritated and snap back along the lines of: Kaya ba nating kalabanin ang Tsina?
A war with China would annihilate all of us in the blink of an eye!
The saying, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” has been applied by Mr. Duterte to the perverse extent of repeatedly bloviating about his “love” for Chinese President Xi Jinping, now his BFF.
He even bragged that Xi would readily protect him against any coup to oust him. The Chinese people must have been laughing hysterically behind his back - and at the Filipino people - for being so gullible and stupid.
Taiwan is the biggest argument against Mr. Duterte’s foolish fear of China going to war if he went against its hegemonic intentions.
Despite Taiwan’s continuing defiance of its threats since the 1950s, China has never given up on its efforts to bring back that recalcitrant “province” under its control and jurisdiction. Geographically, Taiwan is just in mainland China’s backyard, 180 kilometers from its southeastern coast.
The shoals in the West Philippine Sea that China has gobbled up are more than a thousand kilometers away. Being a military and economic superpower, China could easily smother and swamp Taiwan and bring it to its knees in no time at all.
But has China ever gone to war against Taiwan, as Mr. Duterte constantly fears it might do against the Philippines if he stood up to its bullying? Did China go to war with Vietnam or Indonesia after they called Beijing’s bluff recently?
We have lost so much of our territories and natural resources in the West Philippine Sea, now forever deemed no longer ours, mainly because of a bogey that Mr. Duterte has been foisting on the Filipino people.
And we thought all along that he was street-smart, as a former kingpin feared by all hoodlums in Davao City!

Janno M. Montecristo,
Manila,
Philippines





Corporations can sue governments but not the reverse
In the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 15 June 2020

Re: "Special panel to study worth of CPTPP deal", in Bangkok Post
June, 12.
After the parliament deliberation ended, a governmental committee of 49 members has been set up to study the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) for 30 days.
In addition to concerns about patented-drugs and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) which farmers will inevitably be forced to buy, and which will affect consumers' welfare, I am very disturbed by the "Investor-State Dispute Settlement" (ISDS) clause hidden in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
ISDS stands for "Investor-State Dispute Settlement".
In plain English: Multinational corporations can sue the government for financial losses or "unrealised expected profit" arising from their investment in the country.
As a case in point, in 2012, the largest tobacco company Philip Morris sued the Australian government for legislating the world's first plain packaging for cigarettes to reduce the number of young smokers.
The government had an interest in protecting its citizens' health and welfare.
What they got was seven years of legal battles via an "international arbitration tribunal court".
While the Australian government did eventually win, through legal manoeuvres Phillip Morris ended up paying only half the cost of the Australia's government legal expenses, and zero compensation.
Another case was the Ecuadorian government paying more than US$1 billion (31 billion baht) to US oil company Occidental Petroleum for cancelling a contract in 2006.
At this writing, there are 1,023 ISDS cases involving health, environment, land rights and labour laws disputes which you can find on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development website (unctad.org).
In theory Investor-State Dispute Settlement ISDS protects corporations' rights from unfair behaviour by the state.
In practice, however, it is a powerful corporate weapon to delay, weaken and kill regulations protecting consumers, environment and democracy, intimidating sovereign governments into submission.
All in the name of profit.
Moreover, Investor-State Dispute Settlement ISDS isn't a two-way street. Corporations can sue governments, but not the reverse.
Like other developing countries, Thailand has relatively weak rules of law on taxation, environment and consumer protection rights, with a large market size attractive to investors.
Letting Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Investor-State Dispute Settlement ISDS in would be tantamount to letting corporate predators in to take advantage of our resources.
And those very resources belong to taxpayers.

Edward Kitlertsirivatana,
Bangkok,
Thailand




ASEAN is not a political union
Like the Europeam Union
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 June 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 9 June 2020

There is a need for regional integration to accelerate and deepen post-Covid-19, as embodied in the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
The pandemic’s highly disruptive effect on global and regional economies has highlighted the case for a more integrated and cohesive Asean through AEC as the primary vehicle.
Asean is not a political let alone economic union like the European Union (EU). There is no need to aim that high, but aim we must towards fulfilling the vision of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) premised upon the free flow of goods and services, investment, capital, and skilled labour, revolving around one production base.
The push for accelerating regional integration now couldn’t be stronger, with the goal of an economically inter-linked, multilaterally-dependent, highly converged Asean within the framework of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2025, which is only five years away, as outlined in its blueprint.
Even if for argument’s sake externalities such as supply chain reconfiguration, reshoring, a shifting balance of economic power, evolving trends in consumer spending habits through digitalisation are not unprecedented, it is undeniable that Covid-19 is.
It is a catalyst and impetus for economic transformation.
And regional integration is one of the definitive routes by which Malaysia can transform and uplift its economy.
In driving regional integration, we can enhance and boost the pooling of resources and tap into respective advantages and work to move forward together as one bloc.
In other words, instead of acting singularly as separate countries, it’s better to move forward and outward as a bloc of countries offering the rest of the world access to what is a “single market” comprising a population of some 600-plus million and growing.
At the same time, each country would naturally, strategically and seamlessly serve as a gateway into the rest of the bloc - providing exporters and investors ease of access to a huge and growing market that is part of the wider Asia-Pacific geoeconomic centre towards which the shifting power balance is heading.
Put simply, what this means is that the unprecedented nature of Covid-19 should compel us to take a look closer to home where we might have taken things for granted and benignly neglected our neighbourhood, so to speak, in favour of the horizons beyond with the allurements of rich markets with strong purchasing power, backed by powerful currencies.
But as it is, with a growing middle-class population and increasing purchasing power, other Asean member-countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam are playing catch up.
The growing markets within our own neighbourhood are, of course, a result of the growing economies in the region driven by foreign direct investment (FDI), industrialisation and moving up the value chain.
In adapting to the rapidly evolving dynamics of globalisation precipitated by
Covid-19, regional integration is not meant to promote isolationism and protectionism.
It is not intended to forge and foster a political union a la European Union EU but is more akin to the European Economic Community as embodied by the single or common market founded upon the four fundamental freedoms, of movement, of people, of capital, and of labour and services, but without a separate “high authority” or (centralised) government as the EU has.
The idea of a common currency is not feasible for Asean.
The European Union's EU’s experience shows that for a single currency to work, there must be more than just monetary union - there must also be a fiscal and banking union.
The purpose of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), however, is more modest though no less important: to advance the common interests of the region that will, at the same time, promote regional stability and peace and prosperity.
A more integrated Asean will be a stronger, long-term partner of other regional groupings such as the emerging Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, East Asian Community, and not least the Asia-Pacific Economic Community, to which Malaysia plays host this time around.
In addition, the specific advantages of enhanced and deeper regional integration in the form of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) are as follows:
More than 99 percent of the products in the Common Effective Preferential Tariff inclusion list of Asean-6 - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – have been brought down to the 0 percent - 5 percent tariff range. The Asean Economic Community (AEC) would further allow member countries to take advantage of the lower costs by collaborating on joint production efforts to manufacture exports.
Our common regional production base would also be complemented and supplemented by the advantages and benefits of further regional integration through increased capital and investment flows alongside the transfer and sharing of skills and expertise through the movement of labour.
By extension, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) should also empower and spur member-countries to consolidate their economic interests into a stronger bargaining and negotiating power at the international table and fora such as the World Trade Organisation.
In view of the supply chain reconfiguration and shifting trends in globalisation such as digitalisation, the Asean Economic Community AEC would allow Malaysia to diversify and intensify its regional base so we will not be overly reliant on our traditional export markets and production networks.
Regional integration in the form of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) presents a golden opportunity for us to come out of Covid-19 in a much more dynamic and resilient state, ready to embrace a brave new world. Post Covid-19 regional integration is the way to go – for it is only by first turning inwards to rediscover our inner strength and core that we can turn outwards again with renewed spirit, hope and optimism.

Jason Loh,
Head of Social,
Law and Human Rights,
Emir Research
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Alot of Malaysian citizen's money
Used to build palatial government buildings
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 June 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 12 June 2012

A tale of architecture and democracy” in Over the Top, The Star, June 9 by Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is enlightening and insightful.
It is sad but true that many of us do not have a deep understanding of democracy and what it should mean in Malaysia.
Our education system does not provide sufficient information on this.
It is really interesting how the columnist highlights the lack of three important characteristics of a democratic system – ie representation, accessibility and accountability - by analysing the architecture of some important buildings in our country.
A lot of the rakyat’s or Malaysan citizen's money is used to build palatial government buildings.
Yet how many of us actually feel that our politicians or civil servants are there to serve us and not to make us feel that they are doing us a favour when attending to us?
Incidentally, now that Prof Tajuddin has pointed out that the architecture of Johor Baru’s Dewan Jubli Intan has elements of Malay, Chinese and Indian heritage, I will be viewing the building with fresh eyes the next time I see it.

Of Siew,
Johor Baru,
Malaysia



Alcohol control laws in Thailand
Are rife with double standards
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 11 June 2020

So, no wine to be served in restaurants after such a long shutdown?
Now Thais may incur hefty fines for posting images of their favourite tipple on Facebook!
No wonder the news has caused outrage.
For years, the powers that be have seemed wholly incapable of getting drunks off the streets of our city.
It's not as if drunks are hard to find in Bangkok.
But even aided by curfews and the recent lockdown, this apparently simple task has proved beyond the authorities.
Miraculously, though, the authorities are ingenious enough to hunt down netizens who post a flute of champagne or a can of lager among snaps of cute pets and funny road signs.
The kingdom's so-called alcohol control laws are rife with double standards, and all too easily exploited by less than scrupulous officials.
Similarly twisted logic surrounds the measures against Covid-19.
I can buy multipacks of alcohol at convenience stores and supermarkets with no questions asked.
But woe betide the restaurateur who offers me a glass of merlot with my filet mignon!
After many weeks bereft of conviviality, a country once fabled for its hospitality now seems intent on discouraging visitors in perpetuity.
We're asked to believe that the civilised custom of wine with a meal - more a matter of culture than binge drinking - threatens good order and the health of the nation.
But apparently there's no such danger from drinks bought at the local 7-Eleven or the nearest branch of Tops.
I'm told some eateries are serving alcoholic drinks, often disguised improbably in tea or coffee cups.
No doubt there's an unscrupulous official somewhere, smiling broadly.
Meanwhile, the instantly recognisable logos of Thailand's two most famous breweries are displayed all over the place.
They carry an unmistakable message, and it has nothing to do with abstinence.
But I doubt if 50,000 baht fines are threatened in these cases.
Does this bizarre mess originate from hypocrisy?
Or incompetence?
A mix of the two, of course - and it's not a cocktail I'd ever want to post on my Facebook page.

Linus,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Call for relaxation of State of Emergency
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 June 2020
First published in the Papua New Guinea, Thursday 11 June 2020

Any extension after the two months State of Emergency (SOE) by the government will have a significant impact on the lives of every Papua New Guinean.
People living in the cities are the ones who are badly affected.
We have seen an increase in unemployment, Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME)s shutting down, petty crimes increasing and the increase in police brutality during the SOE period.
The State of Emergency SOE came about due to the Covid-19 but the virus itself did not spread rapidly in Papua New Guinea PNG as compared to other countries.
We can only thank God for this as we all know that Papua New Guinea PNG does not have the capacity and capability to fight the Covid-19.
The eight cases is the lowest and all have recovered.
We have recorded no deaths.
Thus, do we still need to have the State of Emergency (SOE) in place?
Leaders, please consider all aspects when making decisions as a lot of Papua New Guineans are in the informal sector and live by the daily takings they make.
If you make it hard for them to make ends meet, they turn to illegal activities.
Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME)s are shutting down and the badly needed funding that was promised by the Government have not been made available – not sure how long this will take.
By the time it is available, how many Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME)s will benefit from that funding?
One can argue that a lot of people have died from the Covid-19 but that’s in other countries.
As pointed out by East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, we cannot compare ourselves to others countries.
We need to do our own research to come up with better decision making.
Relevant authorities that advised the Government for an extension should support their decision with actual facts and figures.
I personal think that we need to relax the State of Emergency (SOE) in-country but focus more on our international borders.
That way we boost our local economy which supports the informal sector while maintaining vigilance on any imported the Covid-19 cases.
The impact of the two months State of Emergency (SOE) has made life hard for most ordinary Papuan New Guineans. Extending it will only worsen the situation.
Let’s learn to live with the Covid-19 as part of the new normal.

Zuguru,
Bena Bridge,
Papua New Guinea





Call for visits by health inspecters
To restuarants in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 1 June 2020

I would like to bring to the attention of Metro Manila mayors the observations I have encountered during my several visits to the Philippines, with the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in mind.
These observations, if implemented and enforced through ordinances, will prevent food-borne microbial illnesses.
Most restaurants in the Philippines, especially mom-and-pop operations, do not have a supply of toilet paper in their restroom, or running water and soap for customers to wash their hands.
Additionally, restrooms must have a conducive environment, without unpleasant odor.
Street food vendors must also be regulated and educated about good hygiene.
Public market wet areas need to be reinspected to ensure that they follow cleanliness standards.
This practice must be adhered to before opening and closing individual stalls. Peculiar smells must be eliminated to ensure shopper satisfaction.
There should be no wet surfaces to prevent slippage and accidents.
Visits by health inspectors must be conducted regularly to prevent bad products, especially meat and poultry, from being sold.
Slaughterhouses must be kept clean all the time to prevent transmission of diseases. Periodic inspection must be done to ensure that they comply with health and environmental regulations.
Personnel in these areas must be properly trained to perform sanitary practices and prevent sick animals from being sold to the public.
Observing good hygiene prevents diseases and transmission.
If constituents are healthy, the public health system will not be overburdened.
This will ultimately save the government precious funds.

Zos Eusebio,
Manila,
Philippines




There are times
When a person just has to sppeak up
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 6 June 2020

Re: "Exiled Thai activist 'abducted in Cambodia'", in Bangkok Post,
June 6.
Sometimes it's difficult to consider yourself a guest when you were working here when six locomotives plowed into Hua Lamphong station in 1986, when your host government has undergone three violent military coups and you have witnessed 20 prime ministers in in-action and when you have a 29-year-old Thai national as a child.
In almost any other country of the world that guest tag would not exist - but then, not many countries try so hard to ensure foreigners never become immigrants.
But even if I felt like a guest, would it be incumbent on me to overlook the torture, the forced disappearances, the extrajudicial killings and the political trickery to produce a constitution and election result which defy normal standards and produce governments which refuse their citizens the most basic of human rights?
Is it right to say "It's not my problem" and ignore the moral imperative of speaking out when we see wrong?
I come from a country and an era when the convenient disappearances of Somchai, Billy, Kotee, Siam and Wanchalearm are things that can't be simply shrugged off or forgotten without proper investigation and explanation.
There are times when a person just has to speak up.

Fly-on-the-wall,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Australians call for change to system
In which indigenous deaths are a societal norm
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 June 2020

The thousands of people who joined the Black Lives Matter protests in Sydney and across Australia are progressive people fighting to change the existing system in which racism, discrimination, police brutality and black deaths in custody have become a shameful societal norm.
That is unacceptable.
They want racial justice for all Australians .
The protesters are people with conscience committed to creating a society where everyone is treated with respect and human dignity regardless of race.
('Australian protest racial discrimination in Australia in Sydney' ( Southeast Asian Times 8 June ).
By contrast with his condemnation of the protesters as " incredibly selfish " government Minister Mathias Corman and other ministers show just what a reactionary mob they are.
The change for a better world, a fair and just world that the Black Lives Matter movement is seeking is not likely to be facilitated by these reactionary political leaders in Australia just as it is not likely in America under Trump.
It's all the more reason why the protest is so relevant and why it must persist until the destiny of a better world order is reached.
I am immensely proud of the courage of conviction, the commitment to higher order values and altruism displayed by the protesters.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


Call for UNHCR to conduct health checks
On migrant schools in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 June 2020
First published in the Star Friday 5 June 2020

I wait for the director-general of Health's announcement on the Covid-19 statistics every day and sigh with relief when I hear that the number of new infected cases is low.
Our government did a very good job in implementing the Movement Control Order (MCO) to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
Most businesses are now open but they must follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) otherwise they will be slapped with fines or forced to close. This shows that our government wants businesses to get back on their feet but they must do so by strictly following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place to prevent new Covid-19 infections.
With the reopening of childcare centres (tadika/tabika), mothers can also go back to work.
I am glad to know that reopening of schools will be done in stages, with the Education Ministry allowing Forms 5 and 6 to start first.
I am sure the Education Ministry will allow primary schools to reopen after studying how the secondary schools are faring.
Recent statistics show that refugees and migrants were the biggest contributor to the number of new Covid-19 cases.
As such, it would be a matter of concern when refugee and migrant schools under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reopen.
Most of the refugee and migrant children attend schools set up by Non Government Organisations (NGO) in shop lots.
As all refugee and migrant schools come under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I think it is this agency's responsibility to screen all children as well as their families before they are allowed to return to school.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should also conduct health checks on the school premises.
The government should oversee the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in doing these tasks.
Just like businesses, if non government organisations NGOs flout the law and reopen refugee schools without approval from the government, they should be fined and the school should be closed.
It is the duty of our government to safeguard its citizens at all costs.

Deeply concerned,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Thai government in 2020
Making same mistakes as in 1929
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 5 June 2020

It has often been said that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.
Well, it seems that Samanea Saman's June 4 letter "Free the market", goes to prove that point.
The writer pointed out that whilst the Thai government did have good intentions in installing a protectionist egg export policy, the actual results two months later are a depressed market, supply chain problems and even more cries for government intervention - ie more debt.
I would like to add that the Thai government in 2020 is making most of the same mistakes which our forefathers did in 1929.
Back in 1929 and the 30s, countries around the world installed a raft of knee-jerk, protectionist policies for all the same reasons that Thailand restricted egg exports and the results are exactly the same: Markets collapsed, the economic crisis deepened and governments were called upon for more bailout and more social welfare programmes.
This is what I call "the FDR trap". Rather than cutting taxes and allowing the market to correct itself, President Franklin Roosevelt FDR responded to crises like this by unleashing large government intervention.
However, every time Franklin Delano Roosevelt FDR did that, the markets significantly declined and/or slowed; culminating with Franklin Delano Roosevelt FDR pushing America into an avoidable second recession in 1937. It seems to me that history is once again repeating itself.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Failed state applies to US
More than Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 1 June 2020

Re: "Are we a failed state?", in Philippine Inquirer PostBag, June 1.
In reading Khun Lungstib's description of a "failed state," I can't help but think that it applies far more accurately to the current state of affairs in the US than it does to Thailand.
The US is sadly now a state seemingly incapable of enforcing its laws uniformly and justly, a place where police intimidate minorities and carry out extra-judicial killings with impunity, a country with out-of-control urban violence, high drug addiction rates, near-record unemployment, government institutions undermined and misused for personal and political advantage, and a judicial system hijacked to serve political agendas.
It's a nation with among the highest health-care costs in the world yet unable to effectively stem the Covid-19 pandemic, a failing education system, inept and untruthful political leadership, and a population prone to propaganda and wild conspiracy theories advanced to divide the people.
Ronald Reagan once spoke of America as "the shining city upon a hill".
Martin Luther King had a "dream" of little black boys and black girls able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
For the time being at least, it appears the dream has been extinguished and the city no longer shines.
The encouraging thing about America, however, is that it has proven time and time again over the course of its history that it can overcome incredible adversity.
With a change of leadership and a renewed sense of purpose, there is reason to believe the country can again shine as a beacon for others.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Malaysia to uphold Malaysia's non-interference policy
On Hong Kong National Security Law
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 3 June 2020
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 June 2020

The Perikatan Nasional administration, led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is concentrating its efforts in dealing with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic by focusing on economic improvement while addressing social and health issues.
With the impact of Covid-19 expected to disrupt the societal climate, causing a surge in unemployment and reducing revenue for this year and the next, the federal government also manages foreign policy as well as it can especially in relation to recent developments along our border or territorial waters.
Over the years, Malaysia has solidified its mark as a tolerant and open nation, safeguarding its national borders with care, despite the risk of encroachment by outside parties, as well as threats, like pirates.
It is only logical and right that the country be more vocal and demanding in exercising its rights as a sovereign nation.
The presence of Chinese and American warships in the South China Sea, for instance, presents a real threat to regional peace and security, which directly affects us.
Judging by Parliamentary responses given by the foreign minister from 2018 to last year under the previous administration, the federal government, including the current administration, wants to avoid conflict with global superpowers and so will keep emphasising diplomacy, restraint and moderation as the way to go.
With developments still centred on US-China ties along the lines of trade policies, health-driven action plans due to Covid-19 and security co-operation, Malaysia, along with other Asean members, will probably continue to adopt a collective stance founded on the principles of global peace and harmony.
In addition, Malaysia's worrying economic prospects require policy flexibility, including in managing foreign affairs.
As Sino-Malaysian trade relations strengthened on the back of large Chinese investments in key industries such as manufacturing, information technology, agriculture and construction, the government should seek to maintain positive ties.
Within this context, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein should be measured in addressing related concerns, which includes Malaysia's position in the Hong Kong-China dispute over the proposed and recently passed National Security Law by respecting established norm.
Along this line, the most effective move could be to uphold Malaysia's non-interference policy, while championing democracy and the right to speak through alternative mechanisms.
To withstand the fragility of present economic terrain, coordinated internal policy execution and the preservation of external relations must go hand in hand - avoiding confrontation and focusing on continuous growth projection through close cooperation with indispensable partners instead.

Fadhil Rahman,
Shah Alam,
Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia

 


People power movement in Southeast Asia
Overthrew former Philippines President, Ferdinand Marcos
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 June 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 2 June 2020

China is allowing the people of Hong Kong to exercise democracy.
If they have democracy then they have the right to protest.
In a democracy, it is your right to support whom you want to support.
We too live in a democracy and, hopefully, we should support people who also want democracy.
Yes, business and security will be affected.
But just to remind everyone, do you think the French and Russian Revolutions could have happened if people kept quiet and worried only about business and security?
What about the American Civil War and the civil rights protests of African-Americans led by Martin Luther King Jr?
What about the Iran Revolution and the Arab Spring?
And let’s not forget the people power movements in this part of the world that overthrew Marcos, Soekarno, Suharto - all this happened and changed lives for the better because people protested.
There was also the Red and Yellow protests in Thailand.
And we had our own protests in 1968 and 2008 and the protests by Bersih. Nothing will be changed by sitting at home.
It is not that people like to protest.
What do you get for protesting except tear-gassed, sprayed by water cannon, arrested and even jailed.
But saying people cannot protest insults people like King Jr and Nelson Mandela, and puts you on the side of dictators.
Yes, there will be peace and security but also hardship and suffering.
Let me make my point very clearly: I am not supporting any country.
I am just saying that things can only get better if there is protest.
There are protests almost daily in India because they believe strongly in democracy.
Today there are huge protests in the United States over the killing of an African-American by a white policeman.
We have to protest for change, we can’t just sit at home and write about it.

Ambiagapathi Samarasan,
George Town,
Malaysia



Papua New Guinea Covid-19 food donation
Not working
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 June 2020
First published in the National, Monday 1 June 2020

This is a plea to the state of emergency (SOE) controller not to extend the national emergency after June 2.
There have not been any new cases of Covid-19 reported so far.
People will die from hunger instead of dying from the Covid-19.
The Prime Minister James Marape’s idea of donating food is not working.
The programme did not accommodate for the many struggling families in the city.
People who were affected in the private sector were never compensated well.
If the state of emergency (SOE) is to be extended, those who were already affected will be in double trouble, causing a lot of stress and inconveniences.
Some banks are not following the government’s directive to relax loan repayments.
The state of emergency (SOE) should not be extended.
Allow some control measures and do not make the situation harder for the ordinary citizens.

Covid-19 Victim,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Malaysia calls for national Fourth Industrial Revolution policy
To serve as spingboard into ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 June 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 30 May 2020

Between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030 around the world - McKinsey Global Institute
Malaysia 5.0 outlines a problem-solving approach to society's challenges and problems through the deployment and implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) technologies, which integrates both physical and digital environments.
The term "Society 5.0" describes the next stage of the evolution of societal communities, following the hunting society (Society 1.0), agricultural society (Society 2.0), industrial society (Society 3.0), and information society (Society 4.0).
The key differentiation of Society 5.0 (the digital age) from Society 4.0 (the information age) is the convergence of the virtual world with the physical world.
Covid-19 has accelerated the migration of society from physical infrastructures onto digital infrastructures, but Society 5.0 holds the promise to bring these back together through the use of IR4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain and digital assets (FinTech).
A national IR4.0 policy is needed to create a new narrative for Malaysia as an innovation economy that can compete in a disruptive technology world, serve as a springboard into Asean, bridge Asia, the Middle East and Africa, as well as connect with the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide.
Such a policy will support emerging technologies such as Blockchain, AI, IoT and Robotics, which are all essential tools in the new Malaysia 5.0 digital economy.
If such a policy is missing from our national strategy, Malaysia will be left behind and excluded from digital ecosystems and workforces.
Because of its ubiquitous reach, IR4.0 technologies raise all kinds of concerns. With proper guidance, these can be used to create a better life for all – including new and more meaningful jobs, reskilling of the workforce, better health and education, as well as smarter and greener cities.
Malaysia 5.0 can contribute to a more sustainable and circular economy, where greater well-being is possible for all citizens regardless of age, ethnicity, and class. In the face of such major changes, countries have an urgent need to develop a comprehensive policy that enables them to create a more inclusive and caring society for all.
A starting point for a national IR4.0 policy is a designated hub that connects IR4.0 companies in Malaysia to the rest of the world, with strong regulatory and strategic oversight, as well as direction.
The policy framework must be aligned with ongoing programs at Finance Ministry, Communication and Multimedia Ministry, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, Malaysian Investment Development Agency, Bank Negara Malaysia, Securities Commission Malaysia (SC), as well as other government and statutory bodies.
Whilst there is a lot of personal and economic pain being caused by the current pandemic and months of quarantine to both companies and households, there will ultimately be an end to the crisis.
The ensuing recovery relies largely upon a properly managed acceleration of IR4.0 technologies.
Malaysia 5.0 is an opportunity to pro-actively design the blueprint for converging the digital and physical worlds to overcome social challenges, improve productivity and create new markets.
As the dust settles, a new way of doing things will emerge and we will not only become more resilient as a society, but also more robust as a global world economy.

Dr Rais Hussin,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia




Eating with your hands
Goes back to the Karma Sutra
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 June 2020

When he says " Eating with your hands spread diseases; it's something that should never be done, Covid-19 or not " ( Southeast Asian Times 30 May ),
Ian Cruickshank forgets that people who eat with their hands also wrote Karma Sutra, the book of sexual wisdom, over 2000 years ago and also built the hundreds of awe-inspiring architectural sites around the ancient world that are in the World Heritage list and countless other works of art and culture and literature that remain a part of human heritage.
Just something for him and like minded others to reflect upon.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

Thai officials have budget approved
And their cuts organised in road works
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 30 May 2020

Re: "Seawall plan needs review", Editorial, Bangkok Post, May 29
At a time when a storm of protest is being raised about an unwanted seawall that some authority seems determined to construct, I have a story in a similar vein.
In my small village we still have several dirt lanes and recently the local authority promised the one leading to my wife's mango orchard and a local nursery school would get repaved in concrete.
It's wanted, a good idea, but what's also needed is good thought and planning.
Instead of that, a tractor and driver turns up one day and scrapes the surface approximately flat.
Then a work team arrives and lays some shuttering and, almost instantly, big concrete mixer trucks arrive and pour their loads.
The job is half done and already it's obvious the new road will be 20 centimetres above the old one and will sit on sand.
Everyone with a lane turn-off will have to do their own work to get trucks in and out of their plots.
Plus there has been no thought about where the water run-off from this sloping road will go.
It seems officials have had the budget approved and organised their cut without a thought to the actual implementation of the project.
There is no engineer on site and the workers just do what they think will fit in the time they have been given.
We will probably get a road that acts as a dam, or a situation where floodwater washes out someone's orchard.
No one is concerned once the budget has been dispersed among the suits; the road is not the object of their energies.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand



BRP Jose Rizal to enforce
Philippine maritime claims in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 31 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 28 May 2020

Last Saturday marked the arrival of the Philippine Navy’s first-ever brand-new frigate.
Appropriately named after the country’s national hero, Ship of the Republic of the Philippines, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas, BRP Jose Rizal, departed the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard last Monday, May 19, and arrived in Subic, Zambales, on May 23 “Watch: PH Navy’s 1st brand new frigate on its way home from Korea,” in Philippine Inquirer May 19, 2020.
Ship of the Republic of the Philippines, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas, BRP Jose Rizal, will be vital in protecting Philippine sovereignty and conducting future navy patrols around the whole West Philippine Sea including Scarborough Shoal, located within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
At the moment, Chinese vessels largely dominate the region and unlawfully intimidate, harass, and bully Filipino fishermen from exercising historic fishing rights in the shoal.
Subic Bay is approximately 120 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal.
With a declared average speed of 25 nautical miles, Ship of the Republic of the Philippines, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas, BRP Jose Rizal, can easily reach Scarborough Shoal in less than five hours.
As can be gleaned from reading former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio T. Carpio’s ebook titled “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea”any armed attack on a Philippine public vessel as part of either the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard in the Pacific area, which includes the South China Sea, is a ground to invoke the 1952 Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.
According to Justice Carpio, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) covers Philippine Navy ships and Coast Guard vessels patrolling the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.
The United States has unequivocally declared that China must comply with international law and the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Award dated July 12, 2016, in favor of the Philippines.
Accordingly, moving forward, the arrival of Ship of the Republic of the Philippines Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas, BRP Jose Rizal, in the Philippines is certainly a desirable development and a notable victory in the enforcement of Philippine maritime claims in the West Philippine Sea.

Marlon Inigo T. Tronqued,
Court Attorney,
Supreme Court,
Manila,
Philippines



Hygiene in Thai restuarants
Seems a fine way to spread Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 27 May 2020

Sirinya Wattanasukchai in her May 27 commentary in Bangkok Post thinks restaurant staff should somehow know a group are from the same household.
How?
More concerning is her primitive view of hygiene.
Eating with your hands spreads diseases; it's something that should never be done, Covid-19 or not.
I see restaurant staff blowing their nose into their shirt, picking their nose and not washing their hands.
That seems a fine way to spread a virus.
If that's okay for Sirinya then I hope she keeps her infections to herself.

Ian Cruickshank,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippines chief enforcer of Covid-19 lockdown
Violates lockdown rule on social gatherings
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 May 2020

I write regarding the mananita gathering in celebration of the birthday of Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas last May 8.
As a Philippine Military Academy graduate Class of 1964, I am embarrassed that one of our own in the Philippine Military Academy community, no less than the chief enforcer of the lockdown regime in the National Capital Region, himself violated the lockdown rule on social gatherings, a violation that struck hard at the heart of the law enacted to beat the COVID-19 threat in our country.
I understand that President Duterte has opted to keep General Sinas at his post as National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) head, pending “further instructions,” a decision which I thought could induce discordant voices among us at this perilous time when we should all be united in support of our government in its difficult task of driving the virus away.
With due respect to our Commander in Chief, I must say that General Sinas is not above the law - no one is.
That said, the general should be held accountable for his misdeed.
Not taking action against him will have serious implications and consequences.
It will irreparably undermine the sincerity and seriousness and sense of purpose of our government in pursuing draconian lockdown measures.
What if ordinary, less privileged, citizens caught violating some lockdown rule resist arrest and invoke the principle of equal protection of the law - saying that a general who violated the rule against social gathering has not been subjected to arrest?
General Sinas, please, as an elder Philippine Military Academy graduate, let me say to you:
The honorable thing to do is to offer to resign your position as National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) head, go on terminal leave, and save the President from agonizing over what to do with you.

Col. Leonardo O. Odono (Ret.)
Philippine Military Academy Class of 1964,
Manila,
Philippines



Call to reduce pay for Philiipine government 'boondogglers'
To avert mass riots and starvation
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 May 2020

President Duterte has warned that we cannot afford a second wave of
COVID-19 infections.
Given the miserable state of our national resources, millions of Filipinos will probably die if that happens.
The cost of treatment for those caught in that wave is just too prohibitive.
Going slow on the lifting of the community quarantine all over the country is the only way to go.
It’s the only thing a Third World country like ours can afford to do - minimize the spread of the highly contagious disease by voluntary or forced isolation.
With millions still out of work and with no other means of livelihood, the government simply cannot feed them for a prolonged period of time.
As the whole world still struggles to find a vaccine, Mr. Duterte is at his wits’ end and needs all the financial help he can get from anyone, from anywhere.
So why, with the almost absolute power he now wields, hasn’t he ordered the suspension of all forms of compensation to public officials, say, with pay grades above P50,000 per month until the crisis is over?
Does it not look so scandalously wasteful already?
The sums of money saved thereby could easily amount to billions which the government could use to avert mass riots and starvation.
For example, Mocha Uson and many other boondogglers in government who get paid from an obscene P150,000 to P200,00 per month for doing “nonessential” chores or errands should be furloughed and frozen for the time being.
The nationwide lockdown has rendered their “services” largely irrelevant, if not totally useless, anyway.
Desperate times necessitate desperate measures. It’s time for highly paid government officials to prove the stuff they are made of - that they are really in it for “public service” and “love of country,” not for plunder or personal aggrandizement.
And should they choose to resign from what they might then consider “thankless jobs,” well, good riddance!
Truth be told, there will always be others among more than 100 million Filipinos willing to make the sacrifice.
This country has never run out of heroes, especially in times of calamity.

Stephen L. Monsanto
Manila,
Philippines




Arrest of former Papua New Guinea PM
Warning for politicians in Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 May 2020

We learn from the illuminating reporting in the May 25 Southeast Asian Times article ' Former Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neil arrested for corruption ' that the former PM was arrested on arrival from Brisbane at the Port Jackson International Airport in Port Moresby on Saturday.
The Police Assistant Commissioner Crime said " there is reasonable evidence of misappropriation, abuse of office and official corruption".
The arrest of the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister contains a cautionary tale for political leaders in other Pacific island countries.
It provides a valuable reminder that if you do the crime whilst in office there is the very real likelihood that you will end up doing the time when you are out of office. This is the situation of the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neil. A situation not dissimilar to that of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, although his was on a whole lot grander scale.
Peter O'Neil is " charged with directing payments of $14.2 million for the purchase of two generators from Israel without due consideration for procurement processes as required under the Public Finance Management Act".
The purchase moreover " was not approved by the National Parliament".
This clearly is not the way good governance is meant to work in a parliamentary democracy.
That explains why the former Finance Minister and now the current PM James Marape had resigned.
He cited " lack of trust " in Prime Minister Peter O'Neil. And, the former Attorney General and Justice Minister Davis Steven who had also resigned said his resignation had nothing to do with " personal differences " but rather because " Papua New Guinea's political leadership is weakening state institutions".
It is not uncommon for political leaders in Pacific island countries to think that they can arbitrarily make decisions on the use of public funds when they are in power without reference to established procedures and state institutions.
This case is a stark reminder that these state institutions exist for a purpose.
It's precisely to check against the abuse of office the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister is accused of.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



Covid-19 has helped Papua New Guinea realise
That there is more to devellopment than high rise buildings
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 May 2020
First Published in the National, Friday 22 May 2020

Papua New Guinea is one of the struggling developing countries in the world who is trying to cope with the tide of the developed countries.
Papua New Guinea has been struggling with development issues for a very long time and has not in one bit overcome this problem.
The country went into lockdown in March due to the Covid-19 threat which lasted for two weeks and has triggered a dawn of a new health era for Papua New Guinea.
The public went silent, streets empty and the towns and cities became ghost towns – fear swept across the country.
Betel nut, gaming activities and alcohol sale in cities and towns and agents of crime were roped by the neck and hanged.
Mamas and papas at betel nut sale hotspots and markets were dispersed.
Crowded and unnecessary gatherings were reduced.
People have seen something new and good in a very long time.
After the lockdown, mass awareness on hygiene protocols by the government through various mediums led the people to practise health measures which was now called the ‘new normal’.
These health measures are everyday activities that should have already been a daily routine for individuals.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought this country up to a new stage in a very short period of time.
People are now cautious and vigilant when moving around.
Places that were once filthy and scrupulous are now clean.
Institutions have shifted and approached a more advanced operating system.
This Covid-19 threat has completely changed the phase and face of this country.
It will be worthy if the government continues to implement some of the state of emergency sanctions after the national emergency.
The pandemic is helping us realise that we will not develop only by building high rise buildings and underground tunnels but by appreciating the importance of trivial matters we tend to ignore in life.

E. Ulach,
The University Of Papua New Guinea (UPNG)
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Makes no sence for Thailand
To outsource craft beer brewing
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 21 May 2020

Re: "Small brewers pour into Vietnam", in Bangkok Post, May 18.
The continued restrictions on craft beer brewing in Thailand are pure folly.
It makes no sense for Thailand to export jobs and income generation by outsourcing craft beer brewing to Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, Malaysia and elsewhere when the beer could be brewed here in the country.
The huge costs and environmental footprint required for shipping Thai craft beers from overseas breweries back to Thailand make these restrictive regulations additionally dubious.
It is nonsensical for Thailand to miss out on the burgeoning craft beer sector sweeping the globe when the country urgently needs more local investment and quality employment.
The current restrictions on craft beer brewing in Thailand benefit only overseas economies and the two major Thai brewers that are consequently shielded from even modest competition.
It is long past time to eliminate these irrational policies and open up the Thai craft beer sector.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for legislation as last resort
For safe disposal of Covid-19 face masks
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 May 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 23 May 2020

As face masks are now an essential part of our personal protective equipment (PPE), it is important to pay serious attention to their disposal after use.
If used masks are not disposed of in the proper manner and place, they could cause the return of the very virus they were meant to prevent, SARS-CoV-2.
This matter is now urgent, given that more and more people are using face masks in public places, as advised by the Health Ministry.
The used masks are likely to be thrown in public rubbish bins or, worse, indiscriminately in back lanes and drains.
Used masks, especially those that are soiled or have respiratory secretions on them, could be potential health hazards should others come into contact with them.
The most vulnerable group will be garbage collectors who could then be a source of infection for whoever they come into contact with.
Indiscriminate disposal of masks will also have negative effects on the environment, especially on marine life if the masks are washed into rivers and the sea.
The relevant authorities and non-government organisations must do more educational campaigns to educate the public on the proper way to dispose of the masks not only in public places but also in their homes.
General advice from experts for people at home is to secure the masks in a plastic bag prior to their disposal as general waste.
If education and awareness campaigns do not work, the authorities should then consider legislation to discourage irresponsible behaviour or punish recalcitrant offenders in the interest of public health.
Legislation must only be the last resort if advice, persuasion and admonition fail.
Manufacturers of face masks could also print and distribute with the masks a set of instructions on how to use and dispose of them, as is done by manufacturers of other goods that require proper handling and care.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Chairman,
Alliance For Safe Community
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for Thai institutions to respect
Fundamental principles of Buddhist teaching
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 15 May 2020

It is hard to see how any Thai institution that respects the wise teachings of the Buddha could oppose a call to "search for the truth", Bangkok Post Editorial,
May 14.
The life of the Buddha as he went from prince, to ascetic to enlightenment exemplifies the need to continually seek out the truth, even when it might be uncomfortable or contradict traditional prejudices.
The Buddha's teachings explicitly stress the importance of right understanding in all things, with none so unspeakable that the truth should be rejected in favour of ignorance.
And as the Buddha's Kalama Sutta tells us, neither tradition nor authority, not even of monks, certainly not state officials, is any guarantee of truth, but that we must earnestly seek informed understanding by critically assessing, and reassessing in the light of new information, the sources available to us.
The efforts of the Progressive Movement would seem to align well with the precepts of Buddhism. Surely Thai institutions can comport themselves to similarly respect fundamental principles of Buddhist teaching?

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



It makes sence to employ skilled expats
In a socio-economic devoloping country
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 May 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 18 May 2020

It was welcome news when the government finally decided to let expatriates with Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) visas back into the country in the The Star, May 17.
They are certainly grateful for the Tourism Ministry’s support in making this happen.
What is surprising is that expats with employment passes are still being refused entry.
The government has opened up most businesses and these expats usually occupy management positions in some of them or have valued technical skills, so we cannot understand the logic of continuing to keep them out of Malaysia.
If the aim is to get the economy moving, doesn’t it make sense to let them back in to contribute to the country’s economic growth?
I am also receiving emails from distressed dependents of working expats; these are students studying overseas whose schools have closed but they cannot return to their parents in Malaysia.
There are very few of them probably under 50 and it would be so easy to let them in along with the over 30,000 Malaysians who have been allowed to return.
Is this a signal that the expat workforce is no longer valued?
It is quite a change of direction from past years when selected expats were given resident passes with 10-year visas because the country wanted to retain their skills. Now these same people who thought Malaysia really valued them, and made this country their home, are being banned from entering.

Andy Davison,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Thai education system keeps
Thai's subservient to sacred institutions
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday, 21 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 17 May 2020

Re: "Mis-education of Hong Kong", Editorial, May 17.
Education is a two-edged sword.
It can be used to turn a nation into a herd of sheep or it can cultivate a society that thrives on the power of free will and rule of law.
The Chinese formula of education for public officials and teenagers is not something new.
Communist and authoritarian regimes all over the world have used their brand of education to brainwash people by injecting dubious cultural values, patriotism, and false pride.
The history of old Germany, the Soviet Union, Egypt, and more recently, North Korea and a host of dictatorships in the Middle East, Africa, and South America has taught us one thing - indoctrination has lethal consequences.
It limits the potential of human beings and cripples societies.
Sadly, the Thai educational system is also cultivated to keep its people subservient to the sacred institutions.
Aldous Huxley, the English writer and philosopher put it well: "One of the great attractions of patriotism - it fulfils our worst wishes. In the person of our nation, we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous."

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



A table for four in Pattaya
Not at MK
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday 18 May 2020

My family of four went to MK restaurant in a shopping mall in Pattaya for lunch. As we entered the restaurant, we scanned our QR code, had our temperatures checked, sanitised our hands and were then directed to four separate tables.
"Sorry only one guest per table."
"OK, goodbye".
I fully understand and support the need for physical distancing in these times, but where is the logic that a family of four that lives together, arrives in the same car together and walks around together, cannot eat together?
There has to be some common sense when applying these policies.
Otherwise, businesses such as MK will suffer, people will lose their jobs and the economy will not recover.

Buathong Klomthaisong
Bangkok,
Thailand




That Christians are protected from Covid-19 by Jesus
Ignores the science and expert medical view
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 May 2020

The Myanmar State authorities have done the right thing by charging a Baptist pastor and a preacher for holding sermons in banned townships to curb the spread of COVID-19 with these religious nuts "telling worshippers that those who are deeply devoted to Christianity would be protected from COVID-19 by Jesus"
(' Worshippers protected from COVID-19 by Jesus : Myanmar pastor says ' Southeast Asian Times 18 May ).
Acting the ostrich and ignoring the science and expert medical view of the pandemic these religious nuts put the lives of people in grave danger .
And, they religious idiots come from all religious faiths.
I am not one for rounding up and locking up people who hold radically different views but these religious nuts deserve to be locked up because they are a very real threat to the community.
They have no idea what it means to do the right thing in the fight against this global virus pandemic.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Call for Papua New Guinea government
To provide clean water for dringking and washing hands
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 May 2020
First published in the National, Friday 15 May 2020

Denying the people for basic needs such as water will cause an uprising against the state.
People in Vabukori, Taikone, Kila Barracks, Sevese Morea School and Morata have been denied access to clean running water for drinking and washing for weeks.
Other suburbs in the city may be facing water crisis too.
Water is an essential need and every citizen in a city such as Port Moresby deserves that service from the government.
In a critical time such as this when the country is facing a pandemic, the government is doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
While the government is emphasising the importance of regular hand washing daily, Eda Ranu is doing the opposite thus contradicting government’s lawful instructions in providing service to the people.
Where was Eda Ranu when Prime Minister James Marape and his delegation were talking on behalf of the working population with financial institutions and super funds to ease some of their policies on loan repayments with the banks or advance borrowing from the member’s retirement fund?
During the crisis period Eda Ranu, a state owned entity should read and understand the actions of the Prime Minister and conform to the standards set by him.
While all state owned enterprises and government departments adhered to instructions issued by the state of emergency (SOE) controller and the PM to save lives, Eda Ranu felt money was more important than life.
The Prime Minister and State of Emergency (SOE) controller should reprimand the executive management of Eda Ranu for doing what the Prime Minister cannot do – denying ordinary people the right to access clean drinking water.
What happened in Tripoli a few weeks ago?
An uprising against the government for denying the people the right to essential services.
Over to you Prime Minister.

Ranu Lasi,
Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea



Malaysia calls for shift from capitalist economy
To economy that Incorporates Islamic principles

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 May 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 May 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the fore several pertinent issues about governance and the economy of our country.
First and foremost is the question of government resilience in addressing unprecedented challenges.
Previously, the government has handled small-scale disasters such as floods and localised epidemics such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and dengue.
Although the experience gained from these episodes are invaluable, they are insufficient to handle large-scale national or global disasters such as the Covid-19 pandemic or wars.
Disasters of such scale require the mobilisation of all available assets, especially money.
We may be providing huge economic stimulus packages, which we can ill afford as they strain the country's resources and would lead to future financial incapacitation.
We do not know when disasters will strike.
Thus, there is a need to plan for the logistics and algorithm to be put in place.
To do this, there has to be a shift from investing just for corporate and political profits to people's welfare.
This requires the government to undertake a paradigm shift from a merely capitalist economy emphasising profit maximization favouring those with capital and assets to one that is more welfare-oriented and incorporating the Islamic principles of wealth creation and distribution.
The new economic model should continue to reward entrepreneurial efforts towards wealth creation but without the capitalist wealth accumulation that perpetuates inequality between the general populace and the political corporate elites.
This model should not only ensure the sustainability of the economy but must also be able to address the needs of the B40 group and the abject poor in both good and bad times.
The current pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of the average wage earner and poor self-employed traders.
No amount of ad hoc stimulus package can alleviate their plight.
The authorities need to have strategic planning based on economic principles that reflect prudent and imaginative fiscal planning and zero tolerance for corrupt practices that lead to hemorrhaging of public funds.
There is a need to strategize fiscal practice to include a special safety net in times of local or global disasters.
This safety net should not just be in the form of direct financial aid but also injection of capital to sustain the infrastructure of small and medium
enterprises.
By doing so, the government directly provides purchasing power that would create demand for goods, which in turn would generate economic turnover. This must be an ongoing strategy.
As such, there must be a unit to monitor the pulse of these economic activities that would ensure sustainability of employment and also look into having additional saving schemes beyond the standard ones to tide over the difficult times.
This can be achieved if we manage our abundant resources with integrity and accountability and remove the elements that precipitate the hemorrhaging of public funds.

Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Centre for Policy Research and International Studies,
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Penang,
Malaysia


 

Death of capitalism and birth of something new
Post Covid-19 pandemic
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 May 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 13 May 2020

While the global community is grappling hard on how to fight the Covid-9, a new era of world transformation is dawning right before our eyes behind the corridors of world financial institutions.
This pandemic is a mere illusion of what is hidden and tucked away from the public eye and scrutiny.
It is only a fraction of what is really taking place at the global scale.
As the world is faced with this tragedy, another war is taking place that will shape the world financial system pushing governments, businesses and the world populace into a new era of economic reform and financial shift to dimensions never before seen.
As the pandemic hits world financial institutions, governments and businesses, the global community will adjust to a more rigorous borrowing exercise to combat the pandemic and provide stimulus for economic recovery.
Founder of analysis and advisory firm Quantum Economics Mati Greenspan said the world was witnessing the death of capitalism and the birth of something new.
Closing the gap and limiting space for capitalist models, a shift that will force investors and traders desperately searching for markets that are free of interference.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; the world is yet to shift into a new era of transformation.
The pandemic is a systematic diversion of true events taking place by way of financial and economic reformations.
And perhaps a well-orchestrated game for global dominance and world transformation.

G. Antal Kesa King,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Call for Phillipines to continue protest against China
For violation of international law in West Philippines Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 14 May 2010

China is obviously fulfilling its goals according to plan and making diversionary tactics to make its competitors and rival countries shift their attention to something else.
While the world is busy fighting against an unseen enemy - this deadly coronavirus that originated from Wuhan - China is now trying to position itself to become the most powerful country in the world.
Is this China’s plan all along?
Is this what Beijing has been trying to set up for a long time, to increase its capabilities especially in the West Philippine Sea through its reclamation activities there?
It’s a good thing the Philippines still managed to file two diplomatic protests against China for violating international law and Philippine sovereignty in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it is true that we are facing a health crisis, we should not forget other national issues, especially those that pertain to our security.
May our leaders continue to assert our sovereignty, as well as protect and defend our national territory.

Marion O. Santos,
Casiguran,
Aurora,
Philippines




Call for Philippine government officials to donate
Part of their salaries for Covid-19 fight
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 May 2020

The article “Entire PH military donating parts of salaries for COVID-19 fight” in Philippine Inquirer April 7, 2020 was welcome news amid the COVID-19 pandemic and dwindling government resources now spread ever so thinly across the archipelago.
Pray tell, why haven’t we heard from the other government officials receiving monthly salaries, allowances, bonuses, incentives, etc., in astronomical amounts? Take, for instance, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) officials who continue aggrandizing themselves with close to or over P1 million per month in salaries, etc. “4 top BSP execs highest paid in gov’t,” in Philippine Inquirer October 6, 2017.
And there are countless numbers of rent-seeking charlatans up there in all three branches of the government who continue to receive such obscene paychecks every month.
The amount to be realized from their own “donations” could be a hundred times more than what the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had generously offered.
Surely, President Duterte has the cachet to influence all of them to refrain from amassing more wealth and to donate the same to all efforts to deal with the untold miseries that COVID-19 has brought upon this country.
Ridiculously super-rich as they are already, they will undoubtedly survive a couple of months without being paid a single centavo for their “public service,” which is virtually nonexistent anyway.
Under the current lockdown, at least the taxpayers will be getting what they are paying for: Nothing for nothing!
Public Servant Number One, whose official monthly compensation amounts to a paltry one-fourth of what those Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) satraps and their ilk are helping themselves to, can start passing the hat around with his own paycheck in it.
While it’s good to hear that “most” of his Cabinet officials have pledged 75 percent of their pay to the fight against the pandemic, that’s really just a drop in the bucket.
It bears stressing that this disease will most likely continue to bedevil this country through the rest of the year, as even the most advanced countries in the world are still groping in the dark in search of an antidote.
So, Mr. President, please do what you do best: Shame the shameless!

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Malaysia's Movement Control Order (MCO)
Soft landing approach towards normalcy
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 May 2020
First Published in the Star, Saturday 9 May 2020

For us in the academic fraternity, life under the Movement Control Order (MCO) has not been too bad as we have managed to harness Internet connectivity to keep up with our work and daily activities.
Thanks to the Internet and, of course, our various institutions for conducting how-to workshops online, we have been able to take off smoothly in our new journey to deliver our lectures via the Internet.
In fact, I can safely say that in these past few weeks, lecturers have accustomed themselves to using online applications, and most have mastered one or two of these to use for meetings and lectures.
I am using WhatsApp Web to conduct my lectures since some of my students have limited access to the Internet. It works like magic and my students are happy so far.
With the conditional easing of the Movement Control Order (MCO), should we abandon all the practices and “skills” we have adopted or learnt?
To me, the conditional Movement Control Order (MCO), is a measure to avoid heavy economic losses.
Some businesses need to reopen to avoid incurring heavy losses, and employees in the manufacturing and services sectors need to get back to work to make ends meet.
Take the analogy of an airplane.
In order to land safely, it has to gradually descend in a calculated manner.
It doesn’t just hit the ground, right?
Similarly, the conditional Movement Control Order (MCO) is to allow us to slowly come back to normalcy.
It’s a soft landing approach taken by the government with input from various stakeholders.
The fight against Covid-19 is not over yet. Let us all be patient and cooperate with the authorities.
On the health front, continue to maintain good hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks, among others.
It will be sad to lose all the gains we have made over the past weeks.

Associate Prof Dr Ali Salman,
Centre for Language Studies and Generic Development,
Universiti Malaysia Kelantan,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Duterte government accused of weaponizing the law
Against independent Philippines media outlets
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday 12 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 11 May 2020

The debacle over the renewal of the ABS-CBN media franchise is not about the network’s sins of commission and omission.
It is about the pleasure of one man.
The President has made no secret of his ire against ABS-CBN because of its failure to air his political advertisements in the 2016 campaign.
He has made no secret of his view that ABS-CBN is an instrument of the opposition, notwithstanding that many of its television and radio personalities support him and have expressed this support over the network’s airwaves.
The order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for the network to go off the air is trumpeted as a triumph of the rule of law.
That rule of law is a travesty, an example of how the administration has manipulated the law to strengthen the executive’s arbitrary power.
The only reason ABS-CBN has no franchise now is that the President repeatedly declared he would not allow its renewal, while coyly saying the decision was up to Congress. The sycophants pretending to be legislators in Congress understood the veiled message.
They also understood there was no justifiable reason to deny the franchise’s renewal, and that if they denied it, there would be opposition from ABS-CBN fans (forget civil rights activists) whose vote they feared to lose. So they stonewalled, until the franchise expired.
This gave the administration the legal argument to order ABS-CBN off the airways, though that argument is under contestation - even by those sycophantic legislators who delivered ABS-CBN to the untender mercies of the executive, and who now perceive the NTC’s action as an encroachment on the legislature’s power to decide on media franchises.
Moreover, Congress’ failure to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise is part of an entire constellation of occasions in which the government has weaponized the law against independent media outlets.
That constellation harms not just the elite families or the young upstarts who own these media outlets, but the citizenry, because it deprives them of independent sources of information about how the government performs, or does not. That constellation disempowers the people.
In 1992, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the assembly that forged the current directions for the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, articulated eight Catholic principles that the Church committed herself to promote in Philippine society.
The eighth principle was “people empowerment.”
The Council’s participants still remember a time of national disempowerment six years before, when rule of law, freedom of the press, and other civil and political rights were subordinated to the will of one man.
They saw it as a Christian duty to work so that this should never happen again.
Some church leaders realize that it is happening again.
Among them, Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of Manila, has forcefully weighed in on the NTC order.
He has declared it not just a disservice to the nation in the midst of a pandemic crisis when the Filipino people need all the information they can get, but also the harbinger of a return to authoritarianism.
We in Gomburza, a community of faith, support this broader perspective on the ABS-CBN controversy.
We urge all Filipinos to reflect on this issue, and, if they object, vociferously to make known their objections.
Consider what we will be losing as independent media outlets are suppressed: not just “Ang Probinsyano,” but the right to information that empowers us to build a society of justice and human dignity.

Members of Gomburza:
Sister Teresita Alo, SFIC,
Fr. Roberto Reyes,
Fr Flavie L. Villanueza, SVD
Ruby G. Alcantara,
Lot Lumawig Allanigue,
Teresita S. Castillo,
Lucia Lucas Chavez
Percival Chavez,
Eleanor R. Dionisio,
Veronica Ester Mendoza,
Angelo Silva




Call for urgent end to war between
Philippine government and Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 May 2020

Never before in the history of our country’s armed conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army has the imperative of ending this interminable war been more urgent - particularly at this time, both unprecedented and opportune.
It has now lasted for over half a century certainly now the longest-running internal armed conflict in the world, and we cannot and must not leave such a legacy to our youth.
The momentary ceasefires separately declared by both sides have now lapsed, and we seem to be back on track for the resumption of armed hostilities that simply have lost meaning while our people are besieged by a virus that is both invisible and deadly, our livelihoods uncertain while a great number of our homes in different cities and towns are shuttered in lockdown.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres himself in a message rare for its compelling character put it bluntly: “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
He urged that all combatants silence their guns and added, “There should be only one fight in our world today, our shared battle against COVID-19.”
Pope Francis in his traditional Easter Message to the City and the World “Urbi et Orbi”, envisioning a world after the pandemic, made a stirring appeal for global solidarity aimed at combating the contagion as well as enacting an immediate ceasefire on all conflict fronts - particularly at this time when all our efforts must be focused on ending the scourge that has ravaged the lives of people in nearly all the continents.
We are veteran peace advocates, each one of whom has spent nearly four decades of our lives accompanying the peace processes in our country.
Although a peace agreement has been forged in the southern part of our country that is now called Bangsamoro, nevertheless a cessation of all armed hostilities throughout our land is imperative if we are “to heal as one” and begin to rebuild our country anew after this viral nightmare.
The “humanitarian pause” is but one step, but a necessary one at this time.
It is our hope that it will provide space for both sides of the conflict to rethink and explore ways to move the interminable peace process forward.
We call on our fellow citizens to demand from both sides to step back from the brink and end this “spiral of insanity.”
How can we in conscience resume armed hostilities at this time?
We daresay: “If you claim to fight in the name of the people, then we ask of you to stop the shooting on our behalf so that we can rebuild our lives that have been severely disrupted by this pandemic.”

Bobby Tañada, former senator,
Ed Garcia, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution,
Sol Santos, judge, Regional Trial Court in Naga City,
Philippines




Mass Covid-19 testing not solution to safe workplace
Attention to personal and environmental hygiene
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 May 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 8 May 2020

On Labour Day, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the vast majority of businesses throughout Malaysia could reopenfrom May 4.
Many organisations and business owners have since welcomed the announcement with mixed feelings.
On one hand, the news brought sighs of relief and new hope that all the losses incurred during the long movement control order (MCO) period may slowly and painfully be recovered.
On the other hand, there was fear and uncertainty over, among others, the steps to prepare for reopening the physical workplaces.
Large organisations, particularly multinational companies, should be well prepared for “safe return to work” with their own standard operating procedures (SOP) developed weeks in advance.
They may even have different versions of SOP for different pandemic scenarios.
But this may not be the case with most business owners.
They may be struggling to strike a balance between reopening their businesses and ensuring a safe workplace for their employees and prospective customers.
In the current climate where there is “special” focus on migrant workers, employers with foreign workers face even more pressure.
The International Trade and Industry Ministry has produced guidelines for reopening the economy.
Business owners have been asked to adopt these guidelines and warned that the minimum standards must be adhered to.
It has also been mandated that all foreign workers must undergo a Covid-19 test with their employers bearing the cost.
In response, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) cautioned that testing the foreign workers en masse is not a pragmatic approach, as this exercise may quickly turn into a “logistical nightmare”.
Instead, MMA advised that efforts be focused on educating the foreign workers and improving their working and living conditions that predispose them to higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2.
We agree and liken the act of mass testing of foreign workers to “mopping the floor while the tap is still running”.
Apart from being a logistical nightmare and an extremely expensive affair, testing foreign workers en masse will not lead to the establishment of safe workplaces, contrary to popular belief.
Many may then wonder what steps are needed to establish safe workplaces.
To address this, Occupational Health and Safety, Public Health, and Infectious Diseases specialists from the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya have produced a comprehensive set of questions and answers for all Malaysian employers and interested parties.
Please refer to “Return to Work after the Movement Control Order (MCO) for COVID-19 infection – A Guide for Workplace.”
This set of Q&A, among others, emphasises that a single point mass testing for Covid-19 may give a false sense of security to employers and employees alike.
We have also put forth a set of comprehensive guidelines for safe return to work and infection control at the workplace.
Finally, we would like to stress that mass testing is not the solution towards the establishment of a safe workplace.
Employers need to adopt a comprehensive approach that involves risk assessment and surveillance, attention to personal as well as environmental hygiene and infection control, education and training and, most importantly, building solidarity with their employees towards a safer work place.

Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman,
Chair,
University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) Covid-19 Task Force
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Universiti Malaya
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia





Call for Thai government to take sugar cane burning
As seriously as Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 8 May 2020

Re: "Sugarcane farming leaves a bitter aftertaste", in Bangkok Post Opinion,
6 May..
As someone in Bangkok who has felt the unhealthy effects of atmospheric Particulate Matter PM2.5 for several years now, I find it very discouraging to discover that the government is subsidising the sugarcane farmers whose field burning is apparently responsible for much of the ultrafine dust that I have been breathing.
I would like to see the government take the atmospheric Particulate Matter PM2.5 problem as seriously as they have Covid-19.
Given that growing sugarcane is so unprofitable that the government has to subsidise these farmers, I would think the agricultural ministry would be working hard to find alternative crops for these farmers, so that they can make a living without costing the taxpayers a bundle, and also stop poisoning our air.
I hope to read about how they are progressing in finding such crops soon.

A Reader,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Malaysia's readiness to lift Movement Control Order
Is wishful thinking
First published in the Star, Friday 1 May 2020
The Southeast Asian Tmes Friday, 8 May 2020

Lifting the Movement Control Order (MCO) on May 12, in my humble opinion, would be premature.
Currently, our rate for testing is less than 0.5 percent of the population.
Despite this, about 3.8 percent of tests turn out to be positive.
Singapore has tested about 1.74 percent of its population, recording an infection rate of 15.6 percent.
The majority of infections in Singapore has been among foreign workers who live in dense dormitory conditions.
I do not believe our Health Ministry has screened foreign workers extensively. They will become the new clusters, as they live in crowded conditions like their counterparts in Singapore.
Our readiness to lift the MCO is wishful thinking when government agencies such as the Housing and Local Government Ministry cannot enforce daily sanitising of markets.
As an example, the Petaling Jaya Old Town market off Jalan Othman was only sanitised after a stall holder was found to be infected.
To make matters worse, not all stall holders were tested for infection.
The National Security Council has to have more spine.
For one, its website should provide up-to-date information without errors.
On April 29, the website showed the “Covid-19 latest situation: Breakdown by country, April 24,2020”.
By the way, it should be state, not country.
There must be stringent cleaning procedures for workplaces.
Door handles and elevator buttons, for example, are prime contact places for spreading infections.
We can adopt the cleaning methods used in Hong Kong and Wuhan to keep workplaces safe.
My firm wishes to return to working full time, as do all other SMEs.
We have had no revenue since March 18, all the while paying for staff salaries, utilities and other expenses.
So get it right the first time.


IR. Patrick C. Augustin,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Nurse in Philippines
Shunned by community
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 May 2020

While nurses fighting the coronavirus around the world have been cheered in public, last month’s incident in Cebu, where a nurse was refused access to public transport, and even evicted from their rented homes.
Around the world, our nurses are demonstrating their compassion and courage as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and never before has their value been more clearly shown.
Nevertheless, in many studies, health care workers have been cited as experiencing a high risk of violence.
Many health workers suffer physical abuse at some point in their careers, and a lot more are threatened or exposed to verbal aggression.
Violence against health workers is unacceptable.
Violence against nurses does not only have a negative impact on their psychological and physical well-being, it also affects their job motivation.
As a long-term consequence, this kind of violence compromises the quality of care nurses can offer, and puts the health care system at risk.
What happened in Cebu or elsewhere in the country does not reflect the best of us Filipinos.
Not many people know that nurses who care for COVID-19 patients are feeling extreme physical fatigue and discomfort caused by the outbreak, due to the intense work, large number of patients, and lack of personal protective materials. Indeed, the physical exhaustion, psychological helplessness, and the health threat itself frequently lead to a large number of negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and powerlessness.
Our nurses have the right to live in an environment free of discrimination. They deserve our support and encouragement, and should be accorded respect.

Jerome Babate,
president,
Beta Nu Delta Nursing Society,
Manila,
Philippines


The pandemic show of human solidarity
Should be extended to the suffering Rohingya
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 May 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has brought many people in many parts of the world face to face with a life and death situation.
And it's terrifying and terrible.
The Rohingya have been faced with that dire situation well before the pandemic. Their plight is on account of state persecution which have rendered them a stateless people.
That is well documented by the United Nations Human Rights body which even went so far as to say the persecution of the Rohingya and the atrocities committed against them was " textbook ethnic cleansing ".
The pandemic has brought about an unprecedented spontaneous show of human solidarity with all sections of society giving a helping hand to people in distress and in dire need of food provisions.
This same sense of human solidarity - of our common humanity - should be extended to the suffering Rohingya.
It is therefore very uplifting to read in the Southeast Asian Times 5 May article ' Rohingya starving at sea: ASEAN Human Rights Calls for Compassion ' that the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights ( AICHR ) in Indonesia, Yuyun Wahyuningrum, called on a humane response from the ASEAN member states to the Rohingya.
The international community's response to the Rohingya is a true test of our humanity.
Let us heed that call for compassion.
It's the right thing to do.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 



Call for protection of Selangor River
Against pollution post Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 May 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 4 May 2020

Many rivers in Malaysia have become cleaner due to the Covid-19 lockdown. However, Selangor River continues to be polluted, as can be seen in the water supply disruptions in many areas since the beginning of the year.
Pollution is expected to worsen with the lifting of the lockdown as factories, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and commercial enterprises clean up their premises after more than a month of inactivity.
Various types of chemicals, oils, powders, paints, food products and other materials that have turned bad or gone to waste could be dumped in the drains or rivers leading to water catchment areas if the authorities are not vigilant.
The Selangor state government needs to put more emphasis and importance on protecting Selangor River, Langat River and smaller rivers which supply potable water to the surrounding urban and rural areas.
The river reserves must be cleared of any obstructions to enable closer and effective monitoring.
Currently, major parts of river reserves are blocked, fenced up or even built upon, thus preventing effective checking and monitoring of activities or usage of the land.
The state government needs to establish a river patrol unit, using staff from the district and municipal authorities, in all the districts.
The river patrol unit must be endowed with sufficient enforcement powers to act against polluters.
Areas with factories, refineries, recycling yards and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) processing chemicals, oil and other products should be closely monitored.
It is already a common practice for some to dump their waste into rivers during heavy storms, expecting the swift flow of water to disperse the pollutants.
It is truly amoral of these business operators to dump waste into rivers.
Don’t they realise that they will be using the very water they are polluting when it is piped to their homes, shops and factories after undergoing a costly cleaning and filtering process?

V. Thomas,
Sungai Buloh,
Selangor,
Malaysia



Call for US not to even think
About punishing China for Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 May 2020

Re: "Trump says China wants him to lose re-election bid", in Bangkok Post Friday 1 May 2020.
I have grave misgivings about US President Donald Trump's idea of "punishing" China for the coronavirus.
I notice nobody has ever punished the US for inventing and deploying the atomic bomb.
It is easily documented that the US government intentionally caused those events. No such evidence is available in the case of the coronavirus.
Current thinking admits the virus may have originated in a wet market in Wuhan, so may not have been a product of human intent at all.
China is a large and powerful country of over one billion people.
History shows that people can become extremely stroppy when their patriotic instincts are offended.
Common sense suggests it is unwise to arouse those instincts without solid proof.
The US president is appallingly ignorant about many things.
His recent off-the-cuff suggestion that people might ward off the coronavirus by inoculating themselves with disinfectant is ample evidence.
His ignorance is a danger both to the US and to the world at large because there is always the possibility he may act on it.
No country ought to base its actions on proactive ignorance.
So I caution the US not even to think about "punishing" China for the coronavirus, especially since it has never punished China for other, more demonstrable outrages, such as the Tiananmen massacre, the persecution of the Uighurs, and the enslavement of Tibet.
Even the announcement of such an attempt might provoke another bloviating letter to this newspaper from the Chinese embassy, and that would be hard for some readers to stomach.

S. Tsow,
Bangkok,
Thailand



State violence in Papua New Guinea
Is unconstitutional
The Southeast Asian Times. Sunday 3 April 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 29 April 2020

It is terrifying to see, hear and read daily about the increase in police brutality and abuse of constitutional duty, resulting in the state losing billions of kina and hundreds of lives.
It is not right for the police or any disciplinary officer to use violence against any civilian - whether it’s your family member of any other citizen for that matter.
Using violence to do State’s duty is unconstitutional.
There are many evidences of this happening in our country daily.
Police have a statutory duty to protect the rights of the State through maintaining law and order.
Police and other disciplinary forces should not see themselves as having the right to apply violence to anyone anytime.
The legitimate duty of the police is to protect the interest and rights of the people.
The powers of the police are primarily to maintain law and order through:
Arrest and charge lawbreakers so they can face the law through the courts;
Ensure peace and good order in the community;
Provide security to all citizens so that our rights to freedom and our properties are protected;
Investigate criminal activities;
Escort very important person when the need arises; and,
Enforce an order of the courts.
These are the main duties of Police.
Any activities done contrary and apart from these are deemed as criminal acts.
It doesn’t matter what social status or position or objective the officer has - their duty is to ensure that the law achieves its purpose.
Everyone should allow the law to operate as it is intended and this requires a collective effort.
If the law provides certain processes and procedures that requires them to follow in their line of duty, they have to follow these procedures.
They should also respect the rights of every individual.
Police have the constitutional duty to execute orders and have no legitimate right to apply extreme violence.

Eric Mumson Piuk,
Gerehu 24 Market,
National Capital District,
Papua New Guinea




Land of Smiles has become
The Land of Grimaces
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 May 2020

The Tourism and Sport Ministry push to shift the focus of Thai tourism to attract "quality" wealthy visitors and focus on quality over quantity is doomed to failure. This type of misguided thinking is rampant in a government of comprised of a military mindset.
Anyone with business acumen knows that your service and product must meet the needs of the consumer, not the other way around.
For the ministry to make such a pronouncement, where is the research to support such a transition?
Sure, wealthy elites have more money to spend then us peasantry, but there are not enough of them to sustain the tourist industry.
They are only "1percent" of the population and there are plenty of luxury vacation spots in the world.
Thailand's success at tourism was based on affordability and being seen as exotic by travellers with a friendly culture.
In my lifetime, it seems the "Land of Smiles" has become the "Land of Grimaces".
Who would want to come to a place rife with pollution, graft and tourist scams for a vacation?
There is no way to ensure "disease-free" tourism in a country where there is no competent universal healthcare.
Whoever came up with this scheme does not understand science or business.
The first time someone gets "sick", the entire project is destroyed through negative public relations and false advertising.

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Thailand
To lift ban on alcohol sales
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 29 April 2020

The continuing ban on alcohol sales makes no sense.
I support measures to combat the coronavirus, but the ban on alcohol sales simply doesn't help.
It is killing businesses and creating poverty among laid-off workers.
It is at the sharp end that this ban is most damaging.
In the hospitality industry, there is real pain being felt by laid-off workers and business owners alike.
Laid-off workers have no money in their pockets and businesses already struggling before the crisis are now staring into the abyss of bankruptcy.
To business owners in this situation, the alcohol ban feels like a kick in the teeth.
It isn't enough to allow restaurants to open selling only food.
Years of the overly strong baht and increasing costs mean that most proper restaurants are only viable if they can also sell alcohol.
The hospitality industry is the central pillar of tourism in Thailand, as well as serving a vital social role, in that it provides employment for many hundreds of thousands of less well-educated Thais.
Quite apart from anything else, the ban is universally unpopular and undermines the goodwill the authorities need to make the anti-Covid-19 measures effective.
No other country has instigated an alcohol ban, for good reason.
Of course insist on proper precautions to keep Covid-19 under control, but with new infection rates now firmly in single figures, I urge the government to act fast to lift the ban on alcohol sales.

AM,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Papua New Guinea school teacher says
Covid-19 not over yet
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 April 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 29 April 2020

Papua New Guinea as a growing nation doesn’t have medical facilities or proper medical kits to fight this Covid-19 pandemic.
But under the leadership of Prime Minister James Marape, our nation was well guided for the last four weeks - job well done.
However, I raise my points regarding the resumption of schools on May 4 and international flights.
I think it is too early to resume schools and international flights as the Covid-19 is not yet over in most of the countries around the globe.
They are still fighting hard to get it out of the way.
I think we are taking a risk.
The current student population in most of the public schools from elementary to secondary is so huge.
I am a secondary school teacher and I teach 80 to 90 grade 11 and 12 students in a very confined room.
That means we have over 100 students in grade 9 and 10 classrooms.
Overcrowding is an individual schools existing problem.
Therefore social distancing won’t be effective at the school level.
Following are some few personal opinions or suggestions to consider.
Allow only the teachers to resume next week to assess the situation.
The students can start probably after next week.
When teachers go back to work, they can plan and strategise on lessons plan to make up for the lost times, especially with the teaching and learning in the classroom.
This includes how to complete units or topics for the remaining months before the grade 10, 12 and final year students in the tertiary institutions sit for their exams.
Teachers need to consider the existing infrastructure in schools, especially classrooms and toilets and take measures on how to maintain health and hygiene and how to maintain social distancing if it means to have am and pm shift classes, to minimise the number per class.

Roselyne D Knox,
Mount Hagen,
Papua New Guineas




Social distancing reduces revenue for airlines
But cheap fuel increases revenue for airlines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 24 April 2020

Re: "Airlines face social distancing constraints", in Bangkok Post, Friday 24 April.
It's interesting that airlines are already trying to condition customers to the idea of higher ticket prices once flight operations can resume.
Social-distancing requirements may indeed mean lower load factors for airlines until such time that the Covid-19 threat abates, thus reducing maximum revenues.
But before we all buy into the idea of higher airfares, we should note that fuel prices are at record lows.
Airlines will be able to cut expenditures massively by locking in ultra-cheap fuel prices for years to come.
Rock-bottom fuel prices ought to offset a major part of any lost revenue airlines experience as a result of social distancing on flights.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for China's version of events
On detection of Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 15 April 2020

Re: China responds
I wish to thank the Chinese ambassador for highlighting how WHO and the Chinese government did, indeed, cooperate to fight the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan.
However, I am concerned the ambassador may be misleading us by saying, "after the outbreak ... China immediately reported it to the WHO and other countries".
It is being reported across the world that the virus was detected in November, and known to the hospital in December when a doctor was detained and prevented from exposing the truth.
He was exposed to the virus and subsequently died.
He became a hero across much of China.
I would be delighted to hear the ambassador's version of these events.

Watson,
Bangkok,
Thailand



China reported outbreak of Covid-19 to WHO
Says China's embassy in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 14 April 2020

Re: "WHO, China must own up", Editorial, Bangkok Post April 10.
The editorial recklessly criticised China and the World Health Organization (WHO) groundlessly and launched a stigmatised attack.
It is obvious to all that this editorial is against the mainstream public opinion of the Thai society to fight against the epidemic together.
It is following the latest "buck-passing" tweet of some Western politicians, with no new ideas.
At the same time, we must be highly vigilant against such remarks, because they will not kill the virus, but may undermine unity and interfere with the efforts of China, Thailand and even the international community to fight against the coronavirus epidemic.
The editorial is full of four thousand words attacking China's action against the coronavirus is not transparent and timely, but the only "evidence" is a report in the South China Morning Post that lacks scientific proof and solid data sources.
The Bangkok Post just take it on faith.
As early as March, our Embassy introduced the timeline of China's external reporting of the epidemic in several Thai media publications, including the Bangkok Post.
As long as the editorial author carefully reads his own newspaper, he will know that after the outbreak of epidemic, China immediately reported it to the WHO and other countries, shared the genetic sequence of the coronavirus with other countries, carried out international cooperation among experts in epidemic prevention and control, and invited professionals from China, the United States, Germany, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, Singapore and the WHO visiting Wuhan.
On Jan 23, China announced the "lockdown" of Wuhan.
The WHO declared the epidemic a public health emergency on January 30.
On February 10, the WHO warned that a small number of cases could be "sparks of a greater fire" and called on countries to use existing opportunities to prevent a greater disaster.
It can be seen that China and the WHO have already issued a strong warning continuously and done what we can and should do.
As for whether some countries outside of this region have made full and effective use of the precious time and important information that China has made great sacrifices to obtain, whether effective prevention and control measures have been taken in time, and who is responsible for "bringing the world to a standstill", we believe history has its own discretion.
The "culprit" of the current global epidemic can be clearly found in the delay and refusal to give extensive tests of some countries that have been caught in the serious epidemic situation revealed by many international media.
On March 26, the Lancet's editor Richard Horton said publicly in a TV programme: 'the message from China is very clear…we wasted February when we could have acted, but we didn't'.
Hatred and mutual blame are the worst viruses, while unity and cooperation are the best medicine to deal with the epidemic.
As the G20 special summit has stressed, it is imperative to strengthen international cooperation and work together to fight against the epidemic.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, China and Thailand have worked closely.
Both sides have been on the lookout for each other and have opened up and shared epidemic data and treatment plans.
Slanders and rumors are impossible to succeed in the end.
We advise some forces outside of this region to stop the narrow and wrong way of shifting attention and shirking responsibilities, stop futile propaganda against China, and really focus on coping with the epidemic in their own countries and promoting international cooperation.
We urge the Bangkok Post to abandon the political bias, not to fawn and flatter, and to treat the issue fairly and comprehensively.

The Chinese embassy in Thailand,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Malaysia prepares for life after
Movement Control Order
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 April 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 24 April 2020

The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) urges that decisions to lift the Movement Control Order (MCO) must be made in stages and in strict coordination with all branches of government and the Health Ministry.
We urge for the following to be considered.
Transition into risk-based conditional MCO: Some restrictions, such as physical distancing in public spaces, must continue.
Guidelines for conduct in public areas should follow a risk-based colour-coded system of green, yellow and red zones.
Specific criteria for what constitutes green, yellow and red zones must be developed by the Health Ministry and communicated to other ministries and the public.
The guidelines must clearly state the permitted and prohibited activities for each risk level, including inter-zone travel.
Criteria for transitions between risk levels must also be set.
Phased restart of the economy: It is crucial that any economic restart is done in phases with strict guidance from the Health Ministry.
The six criteria issued by the World Health Organisation on April 14 must be met before reopening any sectors or businesses.
The criteria are: Covid-19 transmission must be under control; sufficient health systems and public health capacities must be in place; outbreak risks in hot spots and vulnerable communities are minimised; preventive measures for the workplace are established; risk of imported cases must be managed; and communities are fully engaged in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Reinforcing new norms of behaviour: We understand that many Malaysians who are economically affected by the MCO are eager to return to work.
However, any restart of the economy must be accompanied by vigilance until this pandemic is fully eradicated.
In recent days, we have made progress.
To maintain this progress, we must continue physical distancing, maintain our hygiene practices, avoid mass gatherings and stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
Communities must be engaged and empowered to keep one another accountable to ensure that these measures are adhered to post-MCO.

Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC),
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Thai government should focus on Covid-19
Not opening new malls
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 22 April 2020

The mall operators are the same moguls who want to help the government.
It is the right time for the government to think and act in new ways as Thai society passes through the turmoil caused by Covid-19.
Starting next month, the focus should be on four key issues, not on opening the malls.
They are:
How to prevent the current stage of the virus from reaching a next-stage outbreak; how to help poor people affected by the Covid crisis;
how to reform immigration laws to attract foreign investment and prevent our image from deteriorating;
and how to reform education and integrate online learning at all levels.
Surprisingly, online businesses are thriving, hence malls can wait.
It is high time to bring structural reforms in commerce, immigration and education.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Philippines emergency Covid-19 subsidy
To include households in formal sector
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 20 April 2020

I have written a letter to Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista disputing the position of his department that the two-month emergency subsidy of P5,000-P8,000.00 provided for in Republic Act No. 11469, otherwise known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, is only for low-income families belonging to the informal sector.
I have pointed out in said letter that the target beneficiary of said subsidy as expressly provided in the law are low-income households, with no qualification whether or not the said household belongs to the formal or informal sector.
Thus, by limiting the beneficiary of said subsidy to households belonging to the informal sector only, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in effect is amending an act of Congress, which is not within its power to do so as its authority is only to implement or enforce the law.
Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1-Series of 2020, whose purpose is to implement the mandate of said law, does not, in fact, make said limitation as it provides that its target beneficiaries are families that belong to either the poor or informal sector which are at risk of not earning a living during the enhanced community quarantine, who may have at least one member belonging to vulnerable or disadvantaged sectors (and thus not only to families belonging to the informal sector).
Among the vulnerable or disadvantaged sectors which the said memorandum mentions are families whose combined income falls within the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority (P10,481) or those who do not own housing facilities or who live in makeshift dwelling units, and do not enjoy security of tenure.
Some families belonging to the formal sector or those who are employed (whether in the private sector or in government) meet said description.
In limiting the beneficiaries of said emergency subsidy to families belonging to the informal sector only, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is denying subsidy to families who are entitled to it under the law, and thus defeating the very intent and purpose of the law.

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines



Thai Airways was a business basket case
Long before Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 April 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 April 2020

The battle against anti-competitive practices by state-supported airlines began in earnest 60 years ago.
But Thailand is once again caught in a time warp and shows little sign of having noticed.
Your correspondents are right to call out the government for rescuing the chronically unprofitable Thai Airways under the guise of health crisis measures. Quite simply, the national carrier was a business basket case long before Covid-19.
Last year's losses of 12 billion baht were only the latest in a series of annual calamities, which will surely continue as long as taxpayers' money is hurled at this undeserving cause.
Meanwhile, those in the industry who operate without subsidy are at a disadvantage.
Not being propped up by their governments, they can't afford price dumping and other highly questionable devices that undermine honest competition.
This is not only unfair but does little to benefit customer's long term and makes other service providers suffer.
Wouldn't the money be better spent on support for all the country's employees during the crisis?
This would provide the security that people crave when faced with the unknown, and help keep businesses in shape for a swift return to action as the virus recedes. National unity would benefit too.
Guarantees of this kind would surely be more reassuring than the promised 5,000 baht handouts which, in the months ahead, may or may not materialise for the kingdom's unemployed.
By all means, consult the 20 biggest billionaires.
But let's not forget the dream of a truly competitive business environment, where all is above board and undistorted by government favour.
And let's not forget ideas like "Thailand together as one", either.
They're not mere sentiments.
At a time like this, they're indispensable.

Linus,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Fiji citizens
In fear of police
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 April 2020

Police knocking on a citizen's door at midnight; police assaulting and throwing a citizen off a bridge; police arresting a Member of Parlianment who is the leader of an opposition political party; and, citizens saying they feared police officers (The Fiji Times 21 April 2020) makes an outside observer wonder if Fiji has once again become a police state like it was after the 2006 military coup?

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




No obligation to heap praise on Philippine President
When he does good
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 21 April 2020

President Duterte asked his critics in his latest public address: “Ano ang nagawa ninyo para sa bayan? Pag sinabi ninyo ako, wala. Eh kayo?
"What have you done for the country except talk and criticize and talk?”
He has apparently contracted the same malady that has afflicted his apologists, as he is now mouthing the same nonsensical arguments his sycophants espouse.
The fanatical defense of Mr. Duterte’s loyalists over his inept response to and handling of the COVID-19 crisis is more dreadfully contagious than the disease.
It is so sickening and revolting that their resorting to ad hominem and non sequitur arguments leave no room for intelligent and reasonable discourse.
They equate criticism and dissent to lack of love for country, as though patriotism is solely measured by silence, blind submission, and subservience.
Just like the President, one inane and nonsensical script they’re spinning now on social media is this: “Before you say something foolish about him, ask yourself what did you do to help?”
To this I have an answer.
I call out the wrongdoings.
This is my contribution to nation-building.
I am not obliged to heap praises on the President when he does good, because that is what is expected of him as a leader and that is what he promised and swore to do.
How can we become a great nation if he sheepishly acquiesces to a bully nation like China and allows our islands to be grabbed?
Where is greatness when Chinese nationals boldly spit on our dignity in our own land because the President protects them more and sides with them even if Philippine offshore gaming operators do not really bring economic gain to the country?
How do I help?
By refusing to swallow the dirt he throws upon this nation and by not becoming a blind, rabid apologist and defender of a populist.
By refusing to take the hatred and bile he spews upon those who don’t agree with him.
By refusing to take his false bravado about making corrupt officials accountable while he has yet to jail anyone, not even one, of his appointees who have been exposed as corrupt.
By not being taken for a ride when he lashes out at “oligarchs,” when his oligarch friends expand their turfs.
As long as he wantonly disregards lives and looks at those who criticize him as lower beings and not deserving to live, I will rise and speak up.
That is what I am doing to be of help.

Pacifico Veremundo,
Manila,
Philippines



Cancellation of seven day Songkran fesitival in Thailand
Saved 66 Thai's a day from road death
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 19 April 2020

What would have been the Songkran holiday period is now over and I wonder why I have seen no comparative figures for road accidents this year?
The average daily road toll in recent years is near enough 63 road accident-related deaths every day of the year.
The "seven deadly days" of Songkran last year saw an average of 66 people pronounced dead each day with a total of 462 fatalities.
This year with the lockdown and travel ban thanks to the Covid-19 virus I wonder how many lives have been lost on the roads during those seven deadly days of Songkran?
Considering the total virus death tally since testing began in mid-March is 47, the overall death toll must be far less than normal.
Conclusion: Covid-19 can save lives, but only in Amazing Thailand.

Fireman Sam,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for fixed price for basic groceries
In Malaysia under Movement Control Order
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 April 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 20 April 2020

In this current crisis, many citizens, especially those in the B40 (lower income) group, are without income and struggling to survive.
Adding to their problems is the soaring price of vegetables and other food.
The Penang Hindu Association (PHA) and Penang Tanjung Muslim Association (Pelita) urge the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to immediately take action against anyone taking advantage of the movement control order (MCO) period to make huge profits by charging exorbitant prices for basic groceries, food and vegetables.
We hope the authorities will do more random checks, especially where B40 people reside.
The Penang Hindu Association (PHA) and Pelita hope that the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry will immediately monitor, audit and take appropriate action as per the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 against profiteering traders and merchants to protect consumers, especially the B40 group, during this Movement Control Order (MCO) period.
Logically and economically, the price of goods should be lower due to the drop in the price of petrol.
It is also our fervent hope that the government will introduce and enforce a standard price list to control prices during this In Malaysia under Movement Control Order (MCO) period, in the same manner as is done to control prices during festive seasons.

P. Murugiah,
President,
Penang Hindu Association (PHA) & Mohamed Nasir Mohideen,
President, Penang Tanjung Muslim Association (Pelita),
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for fallen Philiipines health care workers
To be buried at the Heroes cemetery in Manila
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 17 April 2020

Filipino health care workers have been lauded worldwide for their unstinting efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even as the enhanced community quarantine has been extended for another two weeks in Luzon, many of these frontliners - doctors, nurses, and other professionals have gotten sick in the line of duty.
There are those who have died while in service.
No less than The Washington Post has lauded Philippine health care workers, especially young doctors of the Philippine General Hospital. Philippine Ambassador to the United States Babe Romualdez wrote about how “Filipino health workers are outstanding worldwide,” such as the case of a Filipino nurse working for over 24 hours at an intensive care unit, and a Filipino health care worker from Leyte caring for an elderly woman without pay.
Amid stories of self-sacrifice, there are numerous other health care professionals who have sadly succumbed to the disease. Dr. Renato “Doc” Velasco, 66, former professor of the University of the Philippines, and who had worked with current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to contain the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, died due to pneumonia, a complication arising from COVID-19. Such professional health care workers are heroes.
When heroes go down, should it not be natural to pay them tribute for their selfless contributions to the nation’s battle against this pandemic?
And what better way to honor our fallen health care workers than to give them burial slots in the Libingan ng mga Bayani?
Let us give credit to whom it is due; let us continuously laud our heroic health care workers.
Those who have died, unfortunately, can neither hear nor appreciate those praises anymore.
They deserve another kind of tribute: a burial among their fellow Filipino heroes.

Godofredo V. Arquiza, c.p.a.,
National president, Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens,
Elderly in the Philippines Inc.,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines Covid-19 patients blamed
For death of three doctors
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 19 April 2020
First published the the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 April 2020

Immediately after the news broke out that three doctors died due to COVID-19, people took to Twitter to air their frustrations and were quick to blame patients for their failure to divulge accurate health and travel history.
To many, this alleged “lie” caused the life of an unsung hero who was at the frontline battling the pandemic.
A patient withholding facts and misleading health workers is no laughing matter. Physicians cannot appropriately diagnose and treat patients unless the latter share information freely.
Thus the feelings of anger, hatred, and frustration felt by many doctors were all valid.
These feelings make them human, after all.
But, this is more than a simple case of dishonesty.
To directly equate a person’s death to a lie, whether intentional or not, is a bit overstretched.
Alternatively, our frustration directs us to question what could have possibly gone wrong between the patient-physician relationship.
Much like the rest of us in the field of health care, patients also fear for their lives. Some patients are intimidated; it is sometimes difficult to share private information with our friends and families.
What more to people you barely know, like health workers?
Unfortunately, this is not an excuse for patients to deliberately lie about their health status.
Although motivations for withholding the truth vary from patient to patient, options to address this problem are rooted in one concept: a collaborative patient-health worker relationship.
It is important for our patients to feel that we trust them and that they, too, can trust us.
Let us allow our patients to freely verbalize their thoughts and feelings.
Let us take time to listen to them, so that they can put their trust in us.

Reiner Lorenzo J. Tamayo. RN.
Philippine General Hospital
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine workers face starvation
In Luzon-wide lockdown
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 April 2020

The Luzon-wide lockdown as a measure imposed against the spread of COVID-19 is unnecessarily burdening the poor who need to work, day in and day out, to assuage the grumblings of the guts.
While nations around the world - with notable exceptions like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore - have imposed lockdowns in major cities, no country has perhaps pushed the limits so far than the Philippines.
Aping the Chinese operations in Wuhan, the government has imposed a full lockdown over the island of Luzon including the banning of public transportation. While most of the cases are found in the Metropolitan Manila area, the “enhanced community quarantine” has progressed toward the inclusion of regions outside the metropolis.
This has hammered the poor in the worst possible ways.
Mass transportation and the informal economy have ceased to function, leaving families stretching their meager incomes.
Employees in the services, manufacturing and construction sectors have been advised to take forced leaves or are in limbo as everybody is ordered to hunker down in their homes.
With a “no work, no pay” policy in their companies, workers face imminent starvation as government aid is slow to arrive.
The directive on local government units to feed their hungry constituents does not appear to be working as politicians selectively provide undernourishing food relief that can only last for a couple of days.
Trapped in the cities and special economic zones are thousands of labor migrants who were unable to leave for their home provinces during the 48-hour window from the issuance of the lockdown order until its date of effectivity.
Mostly young females except for male construction laborers, they would have preferred living in these tumultuous times with their families, relatives, and friends. Unfortunately for them, however, they are stuck in limbo, trapped in the concrete jungle where their access to the basic necessities like food, water, and accommodation are getting more scarce as the socioeconomic impact of a draconian lockdown sinks deeper.

Armand Camhol,
Manila,
Philippines



China is the factory of the world
For face masks
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020

There is now intense debate in many parts of the world on the need to wear masks in public for protection against Covid-19.
In the United States, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advised all Americans to wear face coverings in public on Friday last week.
Many people the world over are already doing so, but the obvious problem is the availability of face masks. As the whole world is scrambling to get them, there’s now the suggestion of using cloth masks instead.
There are long lines of people lining up outside pharmacies whenever fresh supplies of masks are available.
People are even fighting to get them.
Stocks sold online are snapped up in hours, scam sellers have surfaced and there is apparently a huge black market for masks.
Doctors and clinics are often severely depleted and some have had to close simply because they cannot continue to see patients unprotected.
The business of face masks and personal protection equipment is not just any ordinary business.
It can mean life or death for some of the most vulnerable in the community.
It can mean the pandemic continuing unabated.
In January this year, the Malaysian government had fixed the price of three-ply face masks at 80 sen per piece.
This had resulted in a severe shortage.
In March, the price was raised to RM2 per piece but was subsequently reduced to RM1.50.
This flip-flop policy hasn’t alleviated the situation in the short and long term, however.
China is the factory of the world for face masks, and local producers also rely on it for their raw materials.
When many countries are bidding for face masks or vying for the raw materials, the price will naturally increase and supply will go to the highest bidder.
Hence, we can put whatever ceiling price we want, but if it is below the global price and there are many bidders, we will get none or very few.
Logically, price will come down when supply outstrips demand, which may not happen in the near future with the Covid-19 pandemic taking a foothold in many countries.
No doubt the government’s intention of fixing the ceiling price for masks is noble. Realising that masks are life-saving items, the government is attempting to ensure affordable access to everyone.
Sadly, this may backfire, leaving many frontliners and healthcare workers and the public as well to face a constant shortage.
If the government intends to continue fixing the price of face masks, then either it provides subsidies when the global price outstrips the local ceiling price or takes over the local production and make face masks available at a fixed price.
Alternatively, instead of fixing a ceiling price, the government can have a fixed percentage mark-up from the import or wholesale price, thus allowing the free market to function and ensure continuous supply.
The fixing of a ceiling price in the scenario of a global free market is a classical example of how a well-intended policy may backfire and result in undesirable consequences.

Dr R. John Teo
Kota Kinabalu,
Malaysia



Malaysia warned of Covid-19 reinfection
Call for opening of military hospitals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 14 April 2020

COVID-19 reinfection has now started in some countries.
The same will happen in Malaysia if the movement control order (MCO) is not lifted slowly and in careful steps to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system.
One of the lessons the world has learnt thus far is that healthcare systems have to react quickly, be highly flexible, and be able to deliver high quality care in great capacities.
Our healthcare system must be supported to match this configuration.
As healthcare professionals who have served in the Defence Ministry and the Health Ministry, we offer seven suggestions to prepare our country for a possible surge in Covid-19 infections.
First, the Health Ministry needs to be supported adequately.
Sufficient and reasonable budget allocations should be made available to prioritise the acquisition of modern technologies and the best available medication.
Training should also be sustainably funded for all frontliners to improve preparedness for crises.
Standard operating procedures and clinical practice guidelines need to be on par with the best available evidence.Second, the ministry should bring about realistic and logical partnerships between public and private health sectors.
This is commonly called a public-private partnership (PPP). PPP summates both public and private health centres and is able to greatly increase the nation’s healthcare response capacity.
A contracting model should be initiated for PPP to happen urgently in times of need. It is highly encouraged for PPP to be initiated now and sustained to ensure proper delivery of healthcare.
Third, interagency coordination must be optimised. Expertise and industries essential to sustaining the healthcare system must adopt modern technology to mount a rapid response against a surge of infections.
The government must guarantee a robust and efficient supply chain to support the healthcare system and increased demands despite the crisis.
Fourth, the Malaysian armed forces can be primed to enhance the nation’s healthcare capacity and capability.
These massive reserves of manpower can be deployed to set up field hospitals in infection hotspots if there is ever a need.
Greater national hospital capacity provides more opportunities for treatment of the infected, thus aiding the mitigation of Covid-19.
Fifth, the separate military healthcare system can be utilised to increase capacity if necessary.
Military hospitals can be opened to civilians to share the case load with designated Covid-19 hospitals.
Military healthcare workers can also be deployed to join the frontlines in handling the surge in cases.
Sixth, military medical personnel should be mobilised to facilitate efficient human resource allocation in areas of greater need, particularly the red zones, or infection hot spots.
This can act to relieve any healthcare staff shortages in the event of a spike in cases.
They should be included under the national financial aid plan for full PPE equipment and welfare.
Seventh, a well-organised emergency national logistical plan must be established under the deployment of military services.
Logistical skills of the military are pivotal to transport vital medical supplies to rural areas.
Transportation coverage should spread equally across Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.
Currently, our infection rates are stable.
Malaysia is in a position to consider this possibility and prepare the appropriate responses.
We must continue to remain one step ahead.
Finally, we quote inspirational speaker Israelmore Ayivor: “Leaders don’t venture without vision. They don’t pray without plan. They don’t climb without clues. They are always prepared.”

Major General prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zin Bidin (Rtd),
Low Wen Yan and Marjorie Ong,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Singapore learns from Malaysia
Adopts similar Movement Control Order
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 April 2020
First published in the New Straits Times, Thursday 9 April 2020

For the first time in my memory, our closest neighbour, Singapore, is learning from us in enforcing a similar type of Movement Control Order to fight Covid-19.
Singapore closed schools yesterday and most workplaces from Tuesday, to be opened again on May 5, its strictest measure yet to battle the pandemic that has led to more than 1,100 confirmed cases in the city state.
It is a case of better late than never, as Singapore has seen local transmission and community spread of the virus cases on the rise.
It is a decisive move to preempt escalating infections.
Like in Malaysia, the Singapore government advised its people to stay home as much as possible, avoid socialising with people outside of their households, and only go out for essential things.
The fact that Singapore is adopting a similar strategy means its leaders are convinced that what Malaysia has done is the best way to contain the spread of the virus.
It proves the farsightedness of Malaysia’s top leaders.
They have been quick off the mark in reacting to the outbreak.
They need to anticipate and take bold actions based on advice from experts.
Apart from a visionary leader, we also need a civilised society that adheres to the government’s directives.
If all precautionary measures are adhered to by the people, we will stop the virus transmission, much like a circuit breaker.
Singaporeans make up the highest number of foreign visitors to Malaysia at more than 10 million a year.
We are happy that Singapore has taken preemptive measures, working as part of a joint regional effort to battle Covid-19.
Failure is not an option.
We have to make the Malaysian model successful so it can become a role model for Asean and the world over.
Malaysia needs success stories, to be quoted as a country which had executed its MCO implementation well.
Malaysia Boleh. We will, we must and we can do it together. Stay home to stay away from Covid-19.

R.S.,
Pusat Bandar Puchong,
Selangor,
Malaysia




Australians cherish their freedom but deny
Refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea theirs
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 April 2020

Australians who had returned from abroad and completed their 14 day confinement in their " gilded cage " ( as one person called their hotel room ) they expressed utter joy at being " free" at last and being able to reunite with their families and do some simple things like have tea in their veranda ( source : Australian television news ).
If this is how people can feel about their freedom after only 14 days of confinement I wonder how the refugees and asylum seekers confined in limbo for years in our off shore refugee detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea must feel? We get a rather good idea of that from the ABC tv series Stateless, which was screened recently on Australian television.
It captures very succinctly the trauma of the refugees left languishing in detention camps.
Isn't their freedom - to live as other human beings - important?
It is a sad indictment of us as a people when we can so cherish our freedom and yet ignore the freedom of the refugees and asylum seekers who have come to us for the protection of their freedom to live as free human beings - free of political persecution, war and conflict, free of the threat to their lives and Liberty.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Malaysia to treat Non Government Organisations
As partners in distributing aid to the vulnerable
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 April 2020
First published in The Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020

There have been reports about Non Government Organisations (NGO)s being advised to stop distributing aid to the poor during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.
These NGOs have been advised to send the aid to the central distribution centre handled by the Welfare Department instead.
I personally disagree with this advice as, having been an active social worker for the past several years, I know NGOs can indeed provide a helping hand in difficult times.
NGOs understand the needs of their target groups.
They have built their networks and strong relationships with the community they serve, be it in specific locations or with social groups such as refugees, the B40 and Orang Asli communities.
They have good data on the people needing help and understand their needs through constant communication and regular contact.
Most importantly, the relationship is based on trust that took years to build.
The supply of essential goods to the target groups should be on a needs basis and customised to their preferences.
For example, certain groups may prefer a different type of rice for their diet.
Most NGOs are formed on compassionate grounds to help the needy and alleviate their suffering.
The underprivileged groups are the most affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic, hence it would be inhuman for NGOs to be doing nothing when they are most needed.
The fight against Covid-19 has strained the government machinery in both the public healthcare system and other agencies.
This then is the best time for NGOs to share and contribute their resources, both people and financial.
NGOs can assist with more volunteers and supply aid without straining the financial resources of the government.
They will know where to source for and deliver the essential supplies to their target groups.
Most of the people in the underprivileged groups live in squatter areas or unknown addresses, which could be difficult for others to locate.
If safety and health are the concerns, a public health officer can always train the volunteers on the precautionary steps to take and the protective gear to use.
The authorities can draw up a standard operating procedure (SOP) for those involved in such work.
We believe NGO volunteers can be trained like the welfare services officers who are not from the medical background.
The government can specify that only registered NGOs are permitted to carry out the aid distribution work.
We hope the government treats NGOs as partners and leverage on their resources so that we can tide through this difficult period together.
Constant dialogue on how to help our vulnerable groups should be held with good representation from NGOS.
They know the situation on the ground and are ever ready to assist.

Stalwart Malaysian,
Selangor,
Malaysia




Call for waiver of visa renewals
500,000 tourists stranded in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 April 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Wednesday 8 April 2020

I've seen pictures of Tuesday's scenes at Koh Samui's immigration office.
They should be a severe embarrassment to the authorities.
So many people gathered outside just trying to enter the building.
An estimated 500,000 tourists are stranded in Thailand and how they are treated will have ramifications for the country's tourism in the future.
Their experiences will be relayed to millions.
It is also unfair that immigration staff and their families have to be subjected to this level of risk and workload.
We desperately need a complete waiver of all visa renewals, including for tourists, people who work here, and those with retirement and permanent residency visas.
These people were vetted when they were originally issued visas and represent no sudden significant security risk.
We face a worldwide catastrophe and normal rules cannot be applied. Please let common sense prevail.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Covid-19
Wake-up call for Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 9 April 2020

COVID-19 is a deadly wake-up call.
It has exposed how vulnerable we are when we rely on China, Vietnam, and Thailand for our food supply.
The Philippines is an agricultural country.
Why can’t we modernize the sector?
Teach our marginalized farmers to plant crops the modern way.
Install an irrigation system to ensure continuous water supply to farms.
Build honest-to-goodness farm-to-market roads.
Construct postharvest facilities. And infuse adequate capital on the agri-industry.

Bob Gabuna,
Manila,
Philippines



The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)
Calls for halt to hostilities and release of political prisoners
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Thursday 9 April 2020

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) welcomes the announcement of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of a unilateral ceasefire from March 26 to April 15, 2020.
This declaration comes after President Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire that started last March 19 and will also last till April 15.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) appreciates the commitment of both parties - the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) - to halt hostilities, even for just a brief period, in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The parties’ separate declarations also address the call of the United Nations for a global ceasefire.
Peace, however fragile, is very much needed in these trying times.
We hope that these unilateral ceasefire declarations will be faithfully observed by each party especially on the ground, and let peace serve the healing.
We also call on the government to exercise its magnanimity and release on humanitarian grounds political prisoners, especially the sick and the elderly, like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and other National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants.
The sick and elderly prisoners are the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
In this season of Lent, let us reflect and pray that we will overcome this health crisis.
We hope that after this predicament, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiations will prosper and peace will be had by all in our country.

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, DD,
Rev. Fr, Rex R.B. Reyes Jr.,
Bishop Doegracias S. Iniguez Jr., DD
Bishop Noel A. Pantoja,
Sister Mary John D. Mananzan, OSB,
Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform




Malaysia's Movement Control Order (MCO) reminded
To use minimum force and act professionally
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020

It is a difficult and thankless job for those tasked with enforcing the Movement Control Order (MCO).
However, they must always remember to use minimum force and act professionally when carrying out their duties and responsibilities.
Anger and improvising physical methods of their own will lead to them breaking the law.
This was the case recently in Kota Kinabalu when a police officer apparently used a stick to hit an offender in the face, an act that amounts to a criminal offence.
In this case, the police must be as firm in taking action against their own as they are with members of the public who flout the law.
The criminal justice system must understand that the Movement Control Order (MCO) offenders are not your run of the mill criminals.
They are members of society trying to adjust to new rules and it can be traumatic for some.
Traumatic stress actually begins when someone is stopped by the police and taken into custody for investigation.
The pressure cooker can explode when these civilians are taken to court to be charged.
Many are in handcuffs and are for the first time exposed to the lengthy court procedures, especially when it comes to monetary bail conditions.
This has resulted in people from all walks of life, from students to the elderly, facing the possibility of prison time because some may not be able to furnish the bail conditions.
This was not the purpose of the law on infections and quarantine!
The prosecution and judiciary arms of the criminal justice system must act as a balance to any aggressive approach of enforcement.
This will ensure that enforcement officers do not unnecessarily infringe the laws themselves.
In fact, the process of investigations right up to court proceedings is creating new clusters of close gatherings, putting officers of the court at risk, apart from the fact that it is not complying with the intentions of the MCO.
This is an untenable irony!
Basically, society needs to be kept secure and safe.
Most understand that enforcement agencies have their work cut out for them and have to be cruel to be kind.
But while doing so, let’s not forget the humanity that needs to go hand in glove with everything we do.

G. Selva,
Ipoh
Malaysia




Malaysia calls for investment in healthcare system
Instead of erecting towers, big buildings and monuments
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020

This year's World Health Day April 7 takes on a totally different meaning altogether with humankind facing an existential threat from a pandemic.
In many parts of the world, healthcare systems are stretched to breaking point, if not already collapsed.
Universal healthcare is being laid bare and giving way tragically to catastrophe medicine.
Being healthy means a fighting chance of survival for many, yet it is acutely juxtaposed with very real bread and butter issues for all; and for some, bizarrely, mere toilet paper.
Money, materialism and economic growth mean nothing when health is relegated to the sidelines. Instead of erecting towers, big buildings and monuments, we should have invested in our healthcare system.
Spending on healthcare is paramount.
Of equal importance is a robust public health service and wise farsighted investment in biomedical research and development.
With the world reshaped, we can look again into the many aspects of our life. “New normal" might be a catchphrase for some but an unfathomable reality for many.
Wants and needs are dichotomised. Priorities are being reset.
When this pandemic ends, and yes it will, everything we know, think and feel about this life will never be the same.
How we relate with each other and Mother Nature will be different. Life has changed.
It is a humbling experience writing from the front line where our survival instincts are strongest and kindness knows no boundaries.
But it also reminds us that health, sickness and death are inescapable facts of life.
Sombre, but we are staying on and shall go through this together.
And we know it is going to be okay.

Letter from the front line,
Ipoh,
Malaysia



North Thailand suffering destruction by fire
And the increased fear of Covid-19 contamination
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 April 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Monday 6 April 2020

Today I had the dubious pleasure of a return journey from Chiang Mai to Tha Ton in what felt like a scene from an apocalyptic movie shot in monochrome on a lunar landscape.
The streets were almost deserted, the sky was a dull, grey blanket and a hazy red ball hovered above the horizon adding little light and no warmth.
Welcome to the doomsday scenario of a North Thailand suffering destruction by fire and the increased fear of Covid-19 contamination.
Surely no other species on the planet could instigate such a terrifying situation of a dying environment than humans wanting to add another few zeros to bank accounts that already contain far more money than a family could ever need.
It felt like a 50s black and white movie of the world's end and I can't help but think that this virus is the additional penalty delivered to species that has completely disregarded its commitment to life and nature by setting fire to the very world that could and should be sustaining it.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand




More and more Filipinos suffering from hunger
Vietnam suspends rice exports
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 April 2020

Twelve days after Luzon was placed under enhanced community quarantine, more and more Filipinos, whether food producers or consumers, are suffering from hunger.
The lockdown has been hurting both the pockets and stomach of the poor and marginalized, especially those who rely on a daily income.
While the Department of Agriculture has issued protocols exempting farmers, fishers, and workers in food processing and manufacturing from quarantine to ensure the unhampered production and distribution of food supplies, farmers from various provinces report otherwise.
Farmers either cannot harvest their palay or cannot sell their harvest.
Moreover, as palay farmgate prices have dropped, some farmers have been forced to sell their lands due to bankruptcy, while others have changed into cash crops. Vietnam has suspended its rice exports to ensure its people’s food security.
And so we are reminded that we are also fighting a losing battle to attain food self-sufficiency and self-reliance as the country has increasingly become dependent on rice imports since our membership in the World Trade Organization 25 years ago. With the implementation of Republic Act No. 11203 or the rice liberalization law, we became the top rice importer in the world.
Last year, the country imported 2.1 million metric tons from Vietnam, or 33 percent of Vietnam’s 6.37 million metric tons of total rice exports, and 65 percent of the 3.2 million metric tons of total rice imports of the country.
The rice liberalization law has likewise limited the function of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buffer stocks, crippling the state’s power to prevent hoarding and smuggling and ensure the supply of sufficient, safe, and affordable rice for poor and marginalized Filipinos.
The country’s dependence on rice importation is never an assurance of food security.
Vietnam’s move should be a wake-up call for the government to take the issue of rice self-sufficiency and self-reliance seriously, to prepare for circumstances such as COVID-19 and other calamities.
We urge the government to repeal RA 11203 and enact House Bill No. 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act, which pushes for the strengthening of the NFA and a rice development program that includes socialized credit, irrigation development, postharvest facilities, and production support; and HB 239 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which seeks to distribute lands to the farmers for free, provide them support services and subsidies, and protect agricultural lands from land-use conversion.
The government should take proactive measures to ensure the country’s food security based on self-sufficiency and self-reliance, for a battle cannot be won through half-hearted methods.
We cannot fight a war on an empty stomach.

Zenaida Soriano,
Manila,
Philippines





Hundreds and thousands of returning Malaysians
Share communial showers toilets under Covid-19 quarantine
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 April 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 4 April 2020

The government is currently doing a commendable job in the fight to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in our country.
Our Prime Minister has delivered impactful speeches and laid down economic packages to help Malaysians.
Furthermore, the movement control order was initiated and currently extended based on the scientific rationale that it is imperative to break the chains of transmission to reduce the infection rate.
However, the government isn’t perfect in putting forward all of its strategies to fight Covid-19.
The ludicrous disinfection strategy and forceful quarantining of Malaysians returning from abroad are two strategies that should be revisited.
While the Health Ministry is revisiting the disinfection strategy, the forceful quarantining of returning Malaysians in government facilities should be studied carefully.
The argument is not about the draconian usurpation of civil liberty of Malaysians in the name of public health but rather about its poor implementation.
One can accept that there is an underlying scientific rationale for quarantining Malaysians returning from abroad – to make sure those without the symptoms pass the purported 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus before being allowed to mingle with other Malaysians.
However, the method of quarantining does not follow the same scientific rationale. Some of the government facilities listed as quarantine centres have communal showers and toilets.
Given that the coronavirus could live on surfaces for hours and even days, how would quarantining hundreds and thousands of returning Malaysians in places with communal showers and toilets help to curtail Covid-19?
Didn’t the government and Health Ministry consider whether these quarantine centres by virtue of their poor design could be incubators of Covid-19?
Will the government then be held accountable if returning Malaysians are infected in these quarantine centres?
This is another layer that perhaps has been missing in the execution of a thoughtful strategy given the rush to make decisions.
As recently as two weeks ago, the emetic and poor conditions of government quarantine centres, such as those in Sabah with their filthy bathrooms and inhabitable conditions, had made news in our country.
Would any of our ministers and their children like to be quarantined in those places if demanded by the state?
The government should allow returning Malaysians an option to quarantine themselves in hotels with bathrooms attached.
This is being done in Singapore, Australia and even Pakistan.
If the government refuses to pay for the hotel stay, let the returning Malaysians handle the bill.
This would allow for a better implementation of that strategy.
Don’t rush to make decisions before studying carefully the implementation.
There are many humans involved here.
Let’s hope the quarantine centres in Malaysia would not turn out to be the next epicentres for the spread of Covid-19 in Malaysia.

A Concerned Malaysia,
Subang Jaya,
Malaysia




Thailand Institute of Justice's calls for release of prisoners
Of victimless crimes
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 1 April 2020

Re: "Unburden deathtrap jails", in Bangkok Post Editorial, April 1.
The Bangkok Post is right that a proposal from the Thailand Institute of Justice's (TIJ) executive director Kittipong Kittayarak should be promptly followed, however radical it might appear.
The proposal to free several groups of prisoners crammed into Thailand's famously overcrowded system is measured.
It is sensible and rational.
It is informed. It is compassionate and humane.
It is, in short, just.
When a society locks people up to protect itself from harm by offenders, which is the sole moral justification for any prison sentence, it has an obligation to care for those it has locked up.
If it refuses to provide adequate care, then the incarceration becomes unjust.
At the moment, the required social distancing cannot be maintained in Thai prisons, which means that the Thai prison system is even more of an "injustice system" than it has traditionally been.
But the injustice in the Thai and many other traditional prison systems grievously flouts good morals.
To the groups of prisoners the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) suggests be released, a further group needs to be added.
Those who ought never have been imprisoned in the first place should also be released.
Specifically, release all who are truly guilty of nothing more than a victimless crime, which includes all drug crimes, gambling and similar personal vices that do not, in themselves, directly harm or threaten others.
There has never been any justification for locking people up merely because they drink red wine or shoot up heroin, because they sell Singha beer or deal ya ba, because they gamble or bet on dice with friends, or because they freely consent to buying and selling adult sex.
Victimless crimes are exactly that: victimless.
Yes, if someone has a track record of drinking and driving, or if their drug use combined with driving harms or directly threatens to harm others, imprisonment is justified.
If someone deliberately breaches social distancing guidelines for no good reason, that is a crime that threatens others so they might justly be punished.
If, however, the people involved in that violation were forced to do it by the official justice system, then it is the prison system that is guilty of the crime committed against its victims.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call to replace the PNG health minister
With someone with a medical background
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 April 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 1 April 2020

The tussle continues.
The job of getting out information and update to the public on the coronavirus in the country is now a tussle between the Health Minister Jelta Wong and the Police Minister Bryan Kramer.
With coronavirus being a ticket agenda, fame seeking Kramer cannot wait to allow the opportunity to carve himself a name slip pass.
He started off with a mistake by giving wrong information to the country by declaring the first suspect case as negative which was later confirmed to be a positive case.
Kramer had to blame someone to save face but he blamed the Papua New Guinea PNG Medical Research Institute for inconsistencies in the test results.
But that couldn’t hold water so he diverted attention to a different subject and went on to discuss the legality of the state of emergency.
The Health Minister is even no better.
He started off on a streak of misinformation with his haphazard probable and possible case analysis putting everyone in an unnecessary panic and anxiety mode.
It was his incompetence that paved way for the conniving and manipulative Kramer to snake in.
Now who shall we take it from, Kramer or Wong?
Updating the country on vital statistics on an epidemic that is decimating economies and putting the world to its knees should not be left to the mediocre that is turning all this into a popularity contest.
Replace the health minister with someone from the medical background such as Elias Kapavore, Dr Tom Lino or Sir Puka Temu.

Covid-19,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Malaysia's GP's want to contribute
To national agenda for Covid-19 eradication
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 28 March 2020

The health fraternity is working very hard to contain the spread of Covid-19 as well as treating those who are infected with the virus.
With the enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO), I hope we will be able to break the chain of transmission soon.
Throughout this period, general practitioners about 7,000 nationwide have also been helping the Health Ministry, and most of them have had to pay more to acquire the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required.
A random survey shows that most General Practitioners (GP) are seeing less than 30 percent of their normal capacity, making it hard to sustain their practice.
Despite this, they are still keeping their clinics open to reduce the burden of the overworked government health clinics and hospitals.
GPs are also vulnerable to infection, but we are loyal citizens who want to contribute to the nation’s efforts in fighting Covid-19.
However, there has been neither an appreciative word for, nor inclusiveness of, GPs in the national agenda for Covid-19 eradication.
In Singapore, many GP clinics are activated as Public Healthcare Preparedness Clinics (PHPC) during pandemic seasons, such as for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and now Covid-19.
Citizens can walk into those clinics for subsidised treatment and thus allow early detection of the virus.
We could have followed the Singapore experience but, unfortunately, this is not being done.
A few days ago, the Health director-general announced the availability of a new screening kit for Covid-19.
When this new kit is launched, I would suggest that the Health Ministry uses a readily available manpower, namely GPs, to carry out this screening.
We are all aware that the fight against Covid-19 is the toughest battle we and most other nations face today.
GPs are the nearest healthcare point of contact for patients, hence using their services will definitely help to contain the disease and also reduce the burden of the overworked public hospital system.

Dr Sivanaesan L,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



Call for Filipinos to ask
“What can I do for my country?”
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 April 2020
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Tuesday 31 March 2020

Crises bring out the best in people.
The 1986 Edsa Revolution showed how a fired-up group of leaders galvanized and rallied an entire nation behind a national cause.
One of those in the forefront of the movement was Big Business.
Recent events suggest that Big Business is rising to confront and beat another challenge - the looming economic havoc that COVID-19 threatens to bring to our nation.
This time it’s not a struggle for freedom, but a similar concerted effort to use massive financial resources to bring us economic relief.
I can hear distant sounds of hope as Big Business starts to flex its muscles and take the bull by the horns.
Ramon Ang, Manny V. Pangilinan, the Ayalas, the Villars, the Gokongweis, Lucio Tan, and many others are stepping up to the plate.
Saving our economy is not only patriotic, it also makes good business sense.
The Filipino market generates wealth for our business titans, and I suppose they won’t allow adversity to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
When Megaworld donated prime property in Iloilo City for a convention center, they were not only being civic-spirited, they were also smart.
Over and above mundane considerations is the wellspring of goodwill that suddenly springs out of one’s heart when the conscience is pricked and moved by something beyond the ordinary.
You may call it destiny, reality, or even divine intervention, but we have seen that miracles do happen, like the one that occurred in Edsa.
The flame has been lit by Ang and other early birds.
I may be overly optimistic, but I hope to see a bandwagon effect.
I like to visualize the fire building up to a conflagration where politicians will cross party lines, businessmen will start giving back, and Filipinos will ask, “What can I do for my country?”
One may talk to that seamstress in Batangas who made face masks to give away for free.
One may also ask that motel owner in Pasig who once hosted seekers of fleeting pleasures but who has offered his place as a shelter for COVID-19 patients.
The motivations behind these acts of benevolence may be varied, but they all proceed from human goodness at its best.
Hope springs eternal. I may neither be “churchy” in my ways nor scriptural with my language, but I believe in the grace of a Supreme Being delivering relief to those who seek it.
May God bless the Philippines!

Jose B. Maroma Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines



How come Indonesia has such poor health infrastructure
With all the aid it gets from Australia?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 March 2020

The report ' Indonesia's medical workers threaten to stop treating COVID-19 patients ' in The Southeast Asian Times 30 March makes for very depressing reading.
We learn from the grim report that the medical workers threaten to stop treating COVID-19 infected patients if they are not provided with protecting clothing.
Why does Indonesia not have adequate protective clothing for the frontline medical workers?
The Indonesian Medical Association in conjunction with the Medical Professors Council at the University of Indonesia, the Indonesian Dentist Association and the Indonesian Nurses Association have issued the warning to the Indonesian government to safeguard the medical workers.
They are right to point out who will treat the patients if the medical workers are themselves infected?
The shortage of protective clothing does indeed put the medical workers in " grave danger of catching the disease ".
The report tells us Indonesia's " health facilities are not ready ".
Why not?
Only a few hospitals have ventilators.
Only 2 beds in the intensive care unit per 100,000 people , the lowest in Southeast Asia.
How come Indonesia has such poor health infrastructure with all the aid it gets from Australia?
Is it because a disproportionate amount goes into bolstering the Indonesian military capability?
There is no shortage of military and police riot gear in Indonesia, is there?
The coronavirus pandemic exposes the wrong priorities of not only the Indonesian State authorities but others in the region as well.
For example see the 30 March Canberra Times article ' Coronavirus : experts warn of health catastrophe in Papua New Guinea '.
Warnings of ' bodies in the streets ' if COVID-19 takes off in PNG .
PNG is another country that receives heaps in Australian foreign aid.
There is a clear need for governments to rethink priorities to serve the public good.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



What system is there in place
To contain Covid-19 in Thailand ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 March 2020

I have symptoms of Covid-19 after coming back from overseas.
I tested positive for the disease and was isolated at a private hospital.
Luckily, I had a mild case and was released when I had shown no symptoms for six days.
As of today, 10 days after I first tested positive, no one from Ministry of Public Health or any other state department has contacted me to inquire about who I was in contact with in Thailand or other countries, no advice or instructions were given on what I should do post-release (besides medical advice from the hospital), and I still haven't received results of the follow up Covid-19 test I took over a week ago.
What system is there in place to contain this disease in Thailand?
What can we learn from neighbouring countries like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea or Hong Kong?

B Singh,
Bangkok,
Thailand




COVID-19 has created an opportunity
For investment
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 March 2020
First published in the Star, Sunday 29 March 2020

COVID-19 is not only killing humans but also the global economy.
On March 12, the Dow Jones dropped 2,353 points, the worst single-day drop in history.
Bursa Malaysia also plunged 75 points on March 15, the steepest drop since the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2008.
When a major economy sneezes, many countries would catch a cold.
This is a price we have to pay in a globalised environment.
I can still remember the daunting volatility of our stock market caused by the Asian financial crisis that gripped much of South-East Asia in 1997.
As an inexperienced investor then, I was utterly helpless at seeing the value of my investments dwindling by the day.
Fortunately, the stocks invested then were all acquired by my hard-earned money without any borrowing.
Thus, I was able to keep them as long-term investments.
It was an unforgettable experience, but I had learnt an invaluable lesson.
Unfortunately, the stock market is always treated like a gold mine or casino by many retail investors and speculators.
They trade heavily and actively in the market.
When there is a sudden crash, they would not only panic but also act irrationally to pull out from the market.
Their inability to average down the costs of their stocks or invest further in a depressed market would cause them to lose heavily.
It’s a golden opportunity to pick up some undervalued stocks with attractive yields now.
However, as nobody knows how low the market could go, it is wiser to invest cautiously even at the current depressed level.
Adopt a long-term investing strategy in accordance with your financial capability and don’t forget to diversify.
By doing so, you should be able to build a resilient portfolio before the market recovers.
A market wouldn’t remain depressed for too long.
Upon accumulating your desired stocks, just sit back and wait for the attractive dividends to come.
Investments are for long term, thus you don’t need to worry too much of the daily price movements.
Enjoy your cup of coffee every morning and think positively of your investments.
A happy mood allows your brain to think better.
Covid-19 has caused havoc, but it has also created an opportunity for those with financial capability to invest now.
As the saying goes, “When there is a crisis, there is also an opportunity.”
Let’s hope that the pandemic would be contained as soon as possible.

Patrick Teh,
Ipoh,
Malaysia



COVD-19 is not a fight for one or some
It is a fight for everyone
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 March 2020

The health issue on CORONA VIRUS or also known as the COVID-19 is not really a joke.
It is a worldwide problem that we are battling now.
It does not discriminate age, sex, race nor the state of life.
The truth in here is that it kills and who ever be the victim will die alone, no family and friend in his/her side until he put into rest.
Today, the death toll jumps to 45 including our medical front liners who are not only battling the Pandemic COVID-19 but also battling for their own lives.
As of today, nine Philippine doctors have died because of the virus.
As health practitioners, they did not escape from the COVID-19 infection.
How many ordinary citizens have died from the COVD-19 infection?
Accordingly, the doctors contracted the virus because there were infected by persons or patients who did not declare that they have symptoms of COVID-19 or that they are infected by the COVID-19 because they were afraid that they will be isolated or discriminated against.
Well, this is truly an irresponsible act.
If these people continue to do such thing, not only doctors will die but all of us.
If we want to go back on our normal lives, go back to work, to schools, to vacations, and community quarantine or total lock down will be lifted, let us cooperate and do our part. Let us be responsible.
Let us help fight COVID-19. Cooperate with the government.
This is not just a fight of one or some, it is a fight of everyone.
So, Stay at home and Save lives.

Sandra Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,
Manila,
Philippines




China Embassy in Thailand accuses the US
Of using coronavirus to smear and attack China
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 21 March 2020

Re: "Don't believe lies", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, March 21.
Michael George DeSombre, the US Ambassador to Thailand deliberately used the novel coronavirus epidemic to smear and attack China.
It is necessary for the Chinese side to set the record straight.
At first, some American officials arbitrarily labelled the virus and linked it to China, which was strongly opposed by the international community, including many Americans.
The chair of the US Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus said it is dangerous referring to Covid-19 as the "Chinese virus" at a time when misinformation has led to racist and xenophobic attacks against Asian Americans. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasised to avoid any indication of ethnic, geographic or other associations with the virus.
The pandemic of influenza H1N1 in 2009 originated in North America but we don't call it "the North American flu".
Not to mention even Robert R Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prevaricated over the actual number of deaths from Covid-19 during 2019-2020 influenza season.
Who on earth is lying?
Who's hiding the truth?
The US administration owes the world an explanation.
Some Americans turned to distort the facts, attacking China for not being open or transparent on information sharing.
As a matter of fact, China has been providing very timely updates to the WHO and related countries starting from last December.
Since Jan 3, China has been notifying the US side of epidemic developments, prevention and control measures on a regular basis.
Principal officials of Chinese and American health authorities and the CDC spoke on the phone frequently.
Two American experts attended the China-WHO Joint Mission and conducted a nine-day field trip to China.
Interestingly, on Jauary 25, President Trump tweeted that "China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The US greatly appreciates China's efforts and transparency".
And later on March 13, President Trump told reporters that the data China shared are helpful for the US efforts against the epidemic.
The US's performance of a 180-degree turn begs the question: Who on earth is lying?
The outbreak is growing rapidly in the US and lies cannot save American people's lives.
While the US administration is still having trouble updating accurate national data on daily cases, and trying to blame China's "misinformation" for its failure to prevent the epidemic, the US media revealed that several US senators were informed of the real seriousness of US outbreak and secretly sold off their personal stocks as early as February.
Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia admitted that "the country which has actually been responsible for a large amount of these (coronavirus cases in Australia) has actually been the United States".
Who is not open, transparent and accountable?
While continuing our fight against the disease at home, China is also reaching out to the international community, providing assistance to about one hundred countries in need, including Thailand.
This virus knows no borders.
The urgent task for the international community is to defeat Covid-19 together.
We urge the US side to stop blame-shifting and lying, put its own house in order and play a constructive role in enhancing international health cooperation against the disease.

Yang Yang,
Counsellor and Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand,
Bankok,
Thailand




Call for ASEAN to coordinate policies
To mitigate spread of Covid-19 in the region
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 March 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 24 March 2020

The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
Hidden in his terse statement was an ominous warning: “We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time.”
Given that the world is more integrated today that ever before, pandemics can disrupt international trade and supply chains.
This in turn will affect health, transport, tourism and trade sectors across the globe. In South-East Asia, members of Asean have not taken a coordinated response yet despite the serious threat of the pandemic.
Every country has implemented different strategies.
Thus far, Malaysia has taken the most stringent action by implementing a two-week national movement control order (MCO).
Others have taken different measures.
International visitors have been banned in some countries.
Unfortunately, given the transnational nature of a pandemic, individual national responses cannot be fully effective.
The recent tabligh gatherings in Malaysia and Indonesia demonstrate how lack of coordination can open new opportunities to spread the disease.
What we need is a global response.
Asean should urgently coordinate policies to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the region while making sure that trade, medical and food supply chains are not disrupted.
Asean could lead the global response by convening a virtual emergency summit on Covid-19 to:
Implement an Asean Movement Control Order (Amco) until March 30 this year. During this period, the Asean visa-free regime should be suspended.
There should be a total ban on inter-state travel to control events like the tabligh and other religious gatherings.
Under Amco, a common list of travel restrictions for other nationals sho
uld also be instituted.
Amco could be extended by a further two weeks or more depending on the situation;
Give exemptions to experts, diplomats and other emergency travel needs, if necessary;
Identify guidelines for inter-state land, air and sea movement of cargo, including food and medical supplies;
Identify major hospitals in each country as the key crisis response centres;
Secure international support for these hospitals from Asean’s dialogue partners; and Issue common Covid-19 health guidelines in multiple languages through the Internet and media.

Datuk Dr Ilango Karuppannan,
Director
Public Sector Reform Division
Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit




When will the wayward Australians learn that
No man is an island
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 March 2020

( see the article ' Coronavirus : Australian woman to be kicked out of China for going jogging ' ( Yahoo News Australia 20/3/20 ) in disregard of China's
self - isolation regulation ).
Australians on the beach : Disregard COVID-19 social distancing warning
( The Southeast Asian Times 24 March ) is a display of the " I'm alright, Jack " mentality that has come to characterise the Australian nation.
It is the same mentality that has been responsible for disregarding climate change notwithstanding its harmful impacts.
It's a shame that a literate people living in an advanced First World democracy - with unhindered access to appropriate scientific evidence and information - should conduct themselves in such a " toad in the well " backward manner.
When will the wayward Australians learn that " no man is an island " and that
we have a duty of care for our fellow human beings and for planet earth?

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Thai's returning to home provinces
From Pattaya and Bangkok taking COVID-19 with them
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 22 March 2020

For the past two months, I have been closely following news about Covid-19.
Today, Italy reached a new record in deaths.
It seems like an entire generation is being wiped out there and many younger patients are also becoming "history".
In the past three days, Thailand has had 50+ cases, which proves things are escalating.
Soon, if not already, people from Pattaya and Bangkok will be returning to their home provinces and taking the disease with them.
Soon we will see local clusters across the country, and in the near future, the number of cases per day will surge to 500.
France did not go into lockdown mode until they had about 7,000 cases.
It was the same in Germany and Spain.
China, however, issued stringent lockdown measures as soon as it hit 570 cases.
I predict most large countries will fare the same as Italy if not worse.
For Thailand, the situation can become really critical if the virus gets out of control. We have to remember that people testing positive today have incubated the disease for six to 14 days.
It is possible the virus is spreading like wildfire in the country because social distancing is not Thai people's best quality.

Morten Brendefur,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Filipino's call for acceptence
Of COVID-19

The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 22 March 2020

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, many people worry about possible loss of income, resources, and lives.
Some people worry about imaginary and trivial things, and others worry without doing anything.
Some people do everything they can and still worry.
However, some people do what they can and don’t worry, because they know that beyond what they can do, things are no longer in their hands.
They find it reasonable and soothing to accept things that are beyond their control, and find it irrational, predictably frustrating, and stressful to resist things that are out of their control.
The frustration and stress not only add to the tragedy, but are even worse than the tragedy itself.
Acceptance relieves, calms, and gives peace of mind.
In the Lord’s prayer, a person asks for God’s will to be done.
Jesus accepted his passion.
In the serenity prayer, a person asks God to grant him or her the serenity to accept the things he or she cannot change.
The Greek stoics were experts in acceptance.
Because they acknowledged the fact that many things are temporary, matter is destructible, and people are mortal, they gladly accepted losing them.
They also believed that everything and everyone they had belonged to nature.
If they lost these things, they said to themselves that the owner had simply taken them back.
They even embraced their own deaths.
While we quarantine ourselves, let us take precautions, rest, pray, bond with our family, develop ourselves, assess our values, declutter our homes, and accept things beyond our control, instead of worrying.
As Leo Aikman says, “Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.”
The Bible also asks, “Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?” So why worry?

Jori Gervasio R. Benson,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for deployment of health care workers
Not deployment of police and military
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 March 2020

I am a medical student, and I don’t understand why a lot of people think we want health care workers to literally replace the military manning the checkpoints.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for adequate medical support.
The COVID-19 pandemic is, after all, a health crisis.
What we need is free, accessible health care for all.
We need enough funding for the mass production of the UP-developed COVID-19 test kits; free massive testing; free masks, soaps, alcohol, and medicines; mass sterilization of schools and other public places; more health care workers deployed especially to far-flung communities to detect infections as early as possible and to decongest hospitals; increased budget for our hospitals and emergency response teams; and enough medical supplies for our medical frontliners who risk their lives every day, without them having to beg for donations.
And yet, we are met with thousands of policemen and soldiers armed with rifles - many of whom have no personal protective equipment and thermal scanners, are lenient on the enforcement of social distancing and unaware of what their protocol is if ever they encounter an individual suspected of being infected, and are unaccompanied by barangay health care workers.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for adequate economic aid.
In any crisis, it is always the poor that are most severely affected.
The farmers.
The contractual workers.
The jeepney drivers.
Those who can’t work from home.
Those who don’t even have homes.
Those who only have enough money to get through the day, not for stocking up on food and medical supplies.
Those who can’t afford to self-quarantine or be admitted into a hospital and risk leaving their families to starve.
Those who don’t even have the means to go to the nearest hospital or health center.
What we need are food, clean water, shelter, and other services for those displaced by the “community quarantine.”
We need reliable water supply.
We need the prices of basic commodities to be frozen.
We need subsidy for the workers who have now been deprived of their only source of income.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for informed rule.
We need a clear and comprehensive nationwide information drive to explain how to protect one’s self and others who are more vulnerable at a time like this, and to alleviate mass panic and hoarding of supplies.
We need more scientists and health professionals in charge, instead of an incompetent politician whose knee-jerk reaction to a public health crisis is to call on his troops and threaten with arrest those who don’t comply.
We need a leader who acts like one - who doesn’t act based on his own personal interests; who has concrete plans backed by science and data; and who recognizes and gives credit to the real heroes of this story, instead of feeding the egos of his best friend and his master.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for accountability. After slashing P10 billion off our national budget for health and allocating this to intelligence funds and “confidential” funds instead; after donating $1.4 million worth of masks to China when our own country was in need; after repeatedly refusing to impose a travel ban from mainland China as a precautionary measure in the name of “diplomacy” - we ask: Who does this administration really serve?
We need information, not force.
We need medical and financial support, not guns.
Enforcement of a “lockdown” must go hand in hand with the necessary health and economic measures. Otherwise, it’s just another disaster waiting to happen.

Lorielle Ann Aquino,
Manila,
Philippines




The illegal trade of wild animals is still flourishing
In Bangkok's Chatuchak wet market
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 18 March 2020

Re: "Will our food bring new diseases?" in Opinion, Bangkok Post, March Wednesday18, 2020
Jason Baker raises important issues regarding the risks which wet markets present as sources of diseases like Covid-19. Of critical concern is the harbouring of wild, exotic animals at such markets.
A recent episode of 60 Minutes Australia again highlighted Bangkok's Chatuchak market as a major centre for the illegal trade of wild animals. It is disturbing that after years and years of repeated exposés the illegal trade of wild animals is still flourishing in Chatuchak. This dangerous and risky trade should be closed down immediately, both for the benefit of the environment and wildlife, but also in the interest of the health and well-being of the population.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Deaths and abuse in police and immigration detention
Continue in Malaysia unabated
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 March 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 13 March 2020

EDICT (Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together) is glad to join the chorus of welcome for the honourable Tan Sri Idrus Harun’s appointment as Attorney General.
We look forward to him filling the lacuna of leadership in the AGC (Attorney General’s Chambers) with respect to addressing the scourge of deaths and abuse in custody in Malaysia.
The government does not publish data regularly about deaths and abuse in custody. Monitoring by civil society organisations indicates that deaths and abuse in custody, whether in police lock-ups, prisons or immigration detention centres, continue unabated.
Edict’s involvement in coroner’s inquests and subsequent civil action against the authorities in high courts and courts of higher jurisdiction have revealed many shortcomings that can be addressed by the Attorney General's Chanmbers (AGC).
The following are five examples.
First, in a civil action taken by the family of a victim against the perpetrators of a death in police custody, the Attorney General's Chanmbers (AGC) chose to represent the perpetrators while prosecuting them in a criminal court.
Edict recommends that the Attorney General (AG) establishes and enforces a rule barring such representation.
Second, deputy public prosecutors (DPP) who serve as conducting officers during inquests often act as if they are defending the authorities instead of assisting the coroner to arrive at findings of fact.
Edict recommends that the Attorney General (AG) establishes training and monitoring of deputy public prosecutors (DPP) to ensure they assist the coroner rather than the authorities.
Third, there is a lack of urgency in conducting inquests.
In one case we are handling, the coroner failed to conduct an inquest.
The inquest date was eventually set by order of a high court and subsequent highlighting of the matter via the media by Edict.
Edict recommends that the Attorney General's Chanmbers (AGC) establishes a monitoring system to track and ensure timely conduct of inquests in all cases of custodial deaths (as laid out in Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code).
Fourth, currently the Attorney General's Chanmbers (AGC) as a matter of routine appeals the award of damages by civil courts
to “bargain down” substantial awards which judges choose to hand down in order to “send a loud message” to the authorities and the government about reprehensible and egregious malfeasance.
Edict recommends that the Attorney General (AG) accepts, as a matter of course, awards handed down by judges and treat appeals as an exception rather than the rule.
Fifth, also due to appealing as a matter of routine (rather than case by case), awards for damages are subject to appalling delays.
In one case where negligence has been amply established, the wife and six children of a victim haven’t received one sen eight years after he died.
Our fourth recommendation covers this and will loudly signal a humanitarian response to suffering caused by misfeasance and a refusal to even appear to condone belligerent abuse of power.
Edict wishes Idrus much success and joy in his tenure as Attorney General and hopes that his legacy will include actions to end the scourge of deaths and abuse in custody.

Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT)
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for Thai immigration office
To take stepes to avoid spread of Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 18 March 2020

It looks like the government is asking everyone to take steps to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Everyone except the Immigration department, that is.
Mass gatherings are to be avoided, yet Immigration herds hundreds of people into its offices every single day.
Some government officials blame foreigners for the spread of Covid-19, yet foreigners are amassed five days a week and then sent back out onto the streets.
What is the Immigration department going to do to alleviate this problem?
Probably nothing, because foreigners are cash cows and who cares if one of them gets Covid-19?
After all, they are making a big deal about foreigners having insurance, and foreigners are "rich".
Maybe a foreigner who contracts Covid-19 from going to an Immigration office should sue Immigration for being forced to enter an unsafe area.

Koff-koff Sneeze,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Indigenous lands damaged by mining
A very common trend in the region including Fiji
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 March 2020

We learn from the letter by Luwi James of Port Moresby that Indigenous people of Madang, PNG to sue China for environment damage from mining ( The Southeast Asian Times 17/3 ).
There might be a cautionary tale in the experience of the indigenous people of Madang for other indigenous people in the region, including Fiji, who are quick to accept Chinese mining without proper due diligence regarding possible damaging environmental impacts.
The mining deals are often cut by local politicians purporting to advance the interests of the indigenous/local people.
The subsequent reality following the commencement of mining is often the very opposite.
The mining and the accompanying environment damage undermine their sustainable livelihood, health and well-being.
It's a very common trend.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Indigenous people of Madang, PNG
To sue China for environmental damage
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 March 2020
First published in the National, Thursday 12 March 2020

The status of Ramu Nickel and Cobalt Mine has reached extreme point of concern and requires accurate information to be made known to the resource owners and the Madang people.
All parties have to understand the initial inception of the mine to its current stage.
According to the records, a company known as the Carpenters sold the mining licence to Highlands Pacific and later Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), developer of Ramu Nickel and Cobalt project purchase the licence from Highlands Pacific.
To operate the mining, a meeting was convened in Beijing, China and an agreement was signed based on compulsory land acquisition between the developer Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), respective members of Madang and the Government in which Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare reigned as prime minister and former member of parliament James Yali was the governor of Madang.
Current Madang Governor, Peter Yama was then member of parliament for Usino-Bundi but was not a member of the party that went to Beijing.
Yama is now backing the indigenous people of Madang to sue Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) for the damages done to the sea.
Madang Government is fighting against piles of lawsuits and propagandas to deliver services to the rural population of Madang.

Luwi James,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Generations of Filipino's affected by cancellation
US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 March 2020

Annulling a marriage is often lengthy and messy, while it only takes one bad hair day for the President to trash a long-standing treaty.
Annulment only involves both spouses.
Writing off a treaty, on the other hand, impacts the entire nation and, potentially, generations of its citizens.
When the framers of the 1987 Constitution were stacking the final texts on Article VII, Sec. 21, they probably did not have in mind a future where someone occupying the highest post in the land would brook no qualms trashing international agreements, ex parte.
The constitutional provision reads: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.”
The apparent lapse in putting safeguards on what happens next was what the recent hubbub was all about.
The Senate’s hands are tied, perhaps mindful of the statutory proscription “expressio unius est exclusio alterius,” i.e., what the law does not include, it excludes.
And a lacuna has also found its way into Article IX (Duration and Termination) of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), viz: “This Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) agreement shall enter into force on the date on which the parties have notified each other in writing through the diplomatic channel that they have completed their constitutional requirements for entry into force. This agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.”
Inattention to filling the sentence with qualifiers (colatilla), even at the risk of sounding like a broken record, enabled one person to scrap a document that presumably went through a long vetting process during the deliberative phase.
With the noise that followed, the Senate had to run to the Supreme Court for relief. Meanwhile, the omission is now costing so much confusion, not to mention frayed nerves between long-standing allies.
If there’s any lesson this issue has brought to fore, it is that writers and authors of treaties and other international agreements (or even common documents) should have known better.

Ted P. Penaflor II,
Manila,
Philippines



New Philippines Ant-Terrorism Act 2020 allows the military
To detain and arrest without a warrant
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 13 March 2020

The Senate recently passed Senate Bill No. 1083, which aims to repeal Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007, replacing it with an amended version dubbed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
If enacted, the new antiterrorism bill will become the most potent weapon the government can use to stifle dissent.
In the hands of an administration that has shown its penchant for using the law to silence and punish its critics, and security apparatuses known for human rights abuses, the proposed measure will only serve as a legal framework for a crackdown on progressive organizations, civil society groups, activists, members of the media, and individuals labeled as dissidents or “enemies of the state.”
SB 1083 would broaden the powers already granted to law enforcement agencies under RA 9372, enabling them to conduct lengthier surveillance operations, wiretap and record private communications, access databases, examine bank records, and freeze the assets of persons and organizations suspected of financing terrorism or having connections with alleged terrorists.
Worse, SB 1083 would also authorize the military to carry out surveillance activities previously reserved only for the police.
Under the proposed law, military personnel and other law enforcement agents would also be allowed to carry out warrantless arrests and detain suspected terrorists for an initial period of up to 14 days, extendable for another 10 days - a significant increase from the three-day maximum period for detention permitted under RA 9372.
Notably, under SB 1083, those arrested and detained without warrant would not even have the benefit of being presented before a judge, as the bill removed, with no justification, this safeguard under RA 9372.
Apart from the dangerously broad powers given to the police, the military, and other government agencies under SB 1083, the proposed measure also expands the already vague definition for “terrorism” under the Human Security Act, with no clear parameters that could limit its application.
SB 1083 takes it a step further by criminalizing acts that have traditionally been considered legitimate exercises of free speech, freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
Arguably, the most dangerous innovation sought to be introduced by SB 1083 is a mechanism allowing for the immediate declaration of an organization as a terrorist or outlawed group, with no prior notice whatsoever to the subject organization, no opportunity for it to respond, and no hearing.
The brazenly oppressive provisions of SB 1083 are alarming, to say the least. Unless vigilance is exercised in the coming weeks, and action taken to prevent it from becoming law, we risk finding ourselves, once again, having to contend with a significantly diminished democratic space and considerable threats to even the most fundamental of freedoms.

Ephraim B. Cortez, secretary general,
Josalee's S. Deinla, spokesperson,
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Thailand to move beyond
20th century economics
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 8 March 2020

Edward Kitlertsirivatana’s thought-provoking questions about why there are so many Thais labouring abroad both legally and illegally should give rise to serious contemplation of the country’s economy.
Ironically, while hundreds of thousands of Thais venture to other lands in search of daily wages ranging up to 2,000 baht or more, the Thai economy itself is hugely dependent on labourers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Without the migrant workers from neighbouring countries - eager to work for the 320 baht daily wage or less - the Thai economy, as currently structured, would rapidly collapse.
Thailand needs to urgently develop supporting infrastructure, policies and a high-tech workforce needed for a robust and vibrant future economy.
The chronic poverty of rural farmers trapped in low-income drudgery highlights the futility of maintaining tens of millions of people in the agricultural sector.
Thailand must move beyond 20th century economic approaches if it is to avoid being left in the dust of more progressive and visionary countries.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



New Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief
Must be able to act without fear or favour
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 March 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 11 March 2020

Congratulations to Datuk Seri Azam Baki for being appointed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner.
Assessing our past and thinking aloud about what has happened in the last 20 months, it seems that Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has done better than expected.
And some decisions made by the previous Pakatan Harapan government - not all - have been wise ones that have put us on the path towards being a better nation with a culture of integrity.
For a start, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), among nine other government agencies, has been operating as an independent entity since July 1, 2018, reporting directly to Parliament.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), previously known as the Anti-Corruption Agency, was established in 2009, modelled after Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption with the hopes that our version would be able to combat corruption effectively here.
One of the most important and unique features of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), is the five independent committees that monitor it to ensure its integrity and to protect citizen’s rights.
These five committees are the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, the Special Committee on Corruption, the Complaints Committee, the Operations Review Panel, and the Corruption Consultation and Prevention Panel. Even Hong Kong’s agency does not anything like this.
However, I believe these committees have not been operational for a while.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), one of some 150 anti-corruption agencies around the world today, can offer an effective institutional approach to eradicating and fighting corruption – but only if it is provided with the means to carry out its mission.
Our government of the day must ensure that it is a capable, functionally independent and well-resourced anti-corruption agency in line with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Article 6: Anti-corruption Bodies and Article 36: Specialised Authorities.
The agency should also be in line with the Jakarta Statement on Principles for Anti-Corruption Agencies.
The Jakarta Statement provides more credible guidance and parameters for a strong anti-corruption agency and merits endorsement by the the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Conference of States Parties.
Among the guidelines is to have a clear mandate to tackle corruption through prevention, education, awareness-raising, investigation and prosecution; and the anti-corruption agency head must be appointed through a process that ensures his or her apolitical stance, impartiality, neutrality, integrity and competence.
Malaysia signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) on December 9, 2003, and subsequently ratified it on September 24, 2008.
The Convention entered into force on October 4, 2008, in Malaysia.
Perception about the state of corruption in the nation has improved, as seen in Malaysia’s performance in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2019 where Malaysia scored 53/100 points and was positioned at 51/180. Only one year into our National Anti-Corruption Plan at that point and Malaysia had jumped 10 spots to 51st place out of 180 countries from previous year’s 61st place with a score of 47/100.
Still, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) requires more autonomy and independence from the executive branch of the government if it is to eradicate corruption effectively.
The agency must be given full and complete independence as a Constitutional body.
The appointment of the new chief commissioner is hopefully independent and not influenced by anyone with a higher power and authority.
The new chief must have security of tenure and he must be able to act without fear or favour.

Dr Km Loi,
Subang Jaya,
Selangor,
Malaysia

 

 

China would protect Philippine President Duterte
Against any move to oust him from power
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 10 March 2020

This is in connection with the articles Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) probes Sino soldiers in Pogos” in Philippine Inquirer News March 7, 2020 and “Duterte has chosen: Province of China” in Philippine Inquirer Opinion, March 5, 2020, the latter by retired senior associate justice Antonio Carpio.
We are very much concerned with these developments.
The entry of able-bodied Chinese nationals into the country posing as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers, the influx of hundreds of millions of dollars, the permission given to Chinese firms to build communication infrastructure inside Philippine military bases, the shooting range in a subdivision in Parañaque, and the surreptitious “visits” of Chinese warships in Davao are a serious cause for concern.
The stories my late grandfather told us come to mind.
Before Imperial Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941, there were thousands of Japanese citizens working here as buyers of used bottles, scrap iron, and old newspapers.
When the war broke out, those Japanese turned out to be officers of the Japanese imperial army.
President Duterte’s unilateral abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, simply because he was irked by the visa cancellation of Sen. Ronald de la Rosa, now looks to be a lame excuse.
As we see it, the abrogation may have been nudged by China.
With the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) gone, China’s People’s Liberation Army fills the vacuum.
This is similar to US President Donald Trump’s order to pull out the US forces in Syria to satisfy Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose troops took the place the US Army vacated.
If the allegations of Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon are true - that there are 3,000 China's People's Liberaton Army (PLA) soldiers posing as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers here, then we are in very deep trouble.
Why is Mr. Duterte silent about all this?
The reason for his reticence may be his earlier statement that in case there is a move to oust him from power, “China is going to protect him.”
This then gives credence to Carpio’s March 5 column.
Where are the patriotic officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines?

Ramon Mayuga,
Manila,
Philippines



COVID-19 infections
Rise in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 March 2020

It is quiet alarming when news came out that the number of confirmed cases of COVID in the Philippines rose to 10 already.
For some they may say that it is somehow small number compared to other countries but for me it is already disturbing since there is still no cure for this virus.
I understand that different countries are now doing their best on how to cure and contain this virus however, as of this writing there are a number of patient all over the world that undergoing tests and observation.
Philippine President now declared the state of public health emergency therefore all government agencies including uniformed personnel will now assist the Local Government Units (LGU) and patients if needed to prevent the spread of this virus.
It is in the midst of a crisis that we need to strengthen the medical experts, local leaders, the police, and the military working hand in hand to help those affected of this disease.

Ezekiel Manaois,
Manila,
Philippines



No one in the Philippine Cabinet objects to ending
The US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) do they ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 March 2020

I can support the reported position of Senate President Tito Sotto to seek a judicial pronouncement on terminating international agreements, in Philippine Inquirer March 1, 2020.
One-man rule is anathema, or at least, not preferred, if we are a true democracy. Any great silence in the Constitution must be seen in the context that it is a document of distrust in absolute rule.
No one in the Cabinet objects to ending the US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) do they ?
Was it really ever put in the agenda for a thorough full-blown deliberation?
We may have a “chuwari-wari” Cabinet of echoes, who are just told, not voices who may say, “wait a minute…” and ask “foolish” questions.
And is loyalty to fervent supporter Sen. Bato de la Rosa paramount?
The surprise sudden termination didn’t result, though, in the United States capitulating by resurrecting his canceled visa.
US President Donald Trump instead trumpeted the savings arising from the termination, and our President, said to have had his own US visa problems long ago, oddly claims he has just ensured the former’s reelection.
Involving others is simply more democratic in deciding an issue with polycentric dimensions.
It is to recognize the citizen as a particle of popular sovereignty.
If direct democracy in a country of 105 million is not workable, there is the Senate, through which the people can be heard in a representative democracy.
In one-man rule, the ruler does not feel bound to convene a body like the National Security Council (NSC).
But the Senate may hold hearings, which makes the process not only legally tenable and intellectually respectable, but also leads to a decision that is also sychologically satisfying to the people heard and given some importance.
Pamahalaan ng nakararami, ‘di po ng isang tao lang.
The President should have made a credible show of consulting the Cabinet, the National Security Council (NSC), previous presidents, and the Senate or its leaders, indeed, even the House of Representatives and its leaders.More democratic to avoid unilateral rash decisions.
As Talleyrand would advise, “above all, no zeal.”
The US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) stands for Visiting Forces Agreement, not Virus from America.
If ending it was the right thing, and it may arguably well be, I am not certain it was done in the right way at the right time for the right reason.

R.A.V. Saguisag,
Palanan,
Makati City.
Philippines



A time of crises proves to be an opportune time
For Thai entrepreneurship
The SoutheastAsian Times, Monday 9 March 2020

We gather from the news that three women in Thailand have been arrested and are likely to face prison time for selling hundreds of thousands of used face mask amid the coronavirus crisis ( after washing, ironing and repackaging them to con the buyers into believing them to be new).
A time of crisis is a time of opportunity ( Chinese proverb ).
Indeed it is.
The opportunity more often than not is of the crooked, predatory kind as this case illustrates.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Malaysia to explore
New electoral system
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 March 2020
First published in the Star Thursday 5 March 2020

On November 3,1774, upon being elected as Member of Parliament for Bristol, England, Edmund Burke told his voters about his role as MP: “But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion...
“Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole – where not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest or should form a hasty opinion evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far as any other from any endeavour to give it effect.”

In 2020, after 246 years, his audacious speech remains relevant even though no people’s representative is frank or brave enough to speak like Burke.
The Malaysian electoral system based on the mother of parliaments, Westminster, perpetuates the practice.
The moment you elect your MP, it is up to him or her to exercise the power bestowed on him/her subject to the limited disciplinary rules imposed by their party whips.
You can do nothing when your MPs shift their allegiance or decide matters at their own will.
Your only option is to wait for the general election when you would be the boss for one day.
Is our electoral system flawed? You can have your opinions.
However, I do feel that the system has served Malaysia well as it provides stability and certainty especially after each general election.
Proportional representation can cause lots of uncertainty and instability.
A mature democracy can survive such uncertainty, but it can cause havoc in a nurturing democracy.
Proportional representation does have the positive effect of preventing one or two dominant parties from monopolising power. But are we mature enough to adopt proportional representation?
I think it is time for the country to explore a new electoral system to suit the needs of Malaysians in view of the unpleasant events in the past few years.
However, are the parties benefiting from the existing system prepared to forgo their advantages?
In the meantime, fellow voters, you have to live with the representatives you elected in 2018.

Chang Ko Youn,
Ipoh,
Malaysia



Call to reject attempt to call into question
Malaysia's democratic system
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 March 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 6 March 2020

Judging from the vitriolic backlash that many political opinions, including mine, face when expressing any hope in the wake of the recent chaos in government, it’s obvious that the public’s recollection of corruption and autocracy is still an open, festering wound.
That the twists and turns of the last few days were no more beneficial to me than to many who abuse me appears to be lost on the haters, who seem to need to vent their rage on anyone trying to establish a factual narrative around the events that have passed.
But, leaving trolls in chatrooms aside, there is also a sinister bias in some mainstream news and foreign opinion writers that take liberties to stretch the facts to suit their perspectives.
The Op-Ed in a recent issue of The Guardian newspaper in Britain struck me as one such glaring example.
A few days back I was accused of click-baiting readers with an opinion piece entitled “Never Forget the 99%” in which I argued that the new government – indeed all governments – should be laser focused on the wellbeing of many, not the select few, if they want to remain in office.
I would submit that the case I was making was relatively benign compared to the yelping headline in The Guardian: “A royal coup: King overturns a historic election”.
This kind of revisionist sensationalism undermines the integrity of Malaysia’s democracy, which worked well enough in 2018 when Pakatan Harapan unseated Barisan Nasional, and, whether we like the result or not, worked again in recent days.
Before you start throwing stones, let me be clear about one thing.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was my party’s (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia) chairman.
In his capacity as its leader, he undertook a political gamble which he lost, hugely. In his determination to retain the PM’s office, he triggered a crisis that spun out of control and could have unleashed great destruction.
Thanks to our Constitutional process it did not, and we should be grateful for that, and debunk any attempt by foreign observers to challenge our rule of law.
Clearly many are dismayed at the outcome.
Their blood is boiling over, in fact.
I certainly don’t blame them, having fought tooth and nail to assist the Pakatan coalition to win the government.
I am no apologist for the corrupt regime that preceded them and I certainly don’t hope for their return.
But we cannot allow accusations of coup d’etats to go unchecked.
The King did not overturn any election.
Instead, he painstakingly interviewed all Members of Parliament until he was satisfied that a government could be formed, and decided swiftly to restore stability to the country.
All this was within his Constitutional authority to do.
Can his decision be challenged, either in court or in Parliamentary session? Absolutely it can.
And it likely will be.
Again that is part of the Constitutional process that we must follow, preserve, and uphold.
Meanwhile, we should reject any attempt to call into question our democratic system itself, for to do so would be to return to jungle law, not the rule of law.
Hopefully, we can at least all agree that if the system keeps working, the rest will follow as the people desire - either at the voting booth or in the courts or through their elected representatives.
That’s as it should be.

Datuk Dr Rais Hussin,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for accountability for Papua New Guinea's
State owned Enterprises
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 March 2020
First published in the National, Monday 2 March 2020

The partial privatisation urging superfunds to invest in State Owned Enterprises sounds like a rescue strategy proposal.
What makes me think that way is that, I have not read too much about State Owned Enterprises (SOE) such as Air Niugini, National Development Bank, Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd and Papua New Guinea Ports in the media.
Water Papua New Guinea, Eda Ranu, Papua New Guinea Power and Telikom Papua New Guinea are always making headlines and these were the same State Owned Enterprises (SOE) the Nasfund Chief has mentioned as reported last Tuesday in The National.
Why squander our contributions and invest with State Owned Enterprises (SOE) with bad management reputation?
Kumul Consolidation Holdings Ltd (KCHL) needs to look into issues affecting these State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and help strengthen their accountability and depth recovery systems.
State Owned Enterprises (SOE) such as Water Papua New Guinea (PNG), Eda Ranu and Papua New Guinea (PNG) Power suffered because government departments cannot pay their utility bills.
Ongoing in-house issues is one of them.
We cannot solely blame the impact of our economy.
People are behind these organisations.
By looking at this line of issues, my retirement savings can be jeopardised if these State Owned Enterprises (SOE) continue to operate that way.

Annoyed Contributor,
Lae,
Papua New Guinea



Philippines fear that Chinese workers in the Philippines
Are conducting espionage activities
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 4 March 2020

That the suspects in the recent killing of a Chinese in Philippine offshore gaming operations (Pogo) worker were found to have Chinese military identification cards with them indicates that the fears expressed by some that these Chinese workers are part of China’s People’s Liberation Army conducting espionage activities in the country have factual basis, and thus not just products of wild imagination as claimed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
This likewise gives credence to the suspicion that the Chinese nationals who secretly entered a naval facility of the Philippines that was not part of any tour package and who took pictures in the dead of night were there for that precise purpose.
Those Chinese nationals should have been immediately arrested (as what became the fate of a Chinese national caught taking photos at a US naval base) and charged for espionage under Article 117 of the Revised Penal Code, for without authority, they entered a naval establishment of the Philippines, took photographs, and thus obtained information of a confidential nature relative to the defense of the Philippine archipelago.
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, their criminal intent is conclusively presumed from the commission of their patently unlawful act.
It is most strange why our military establishment did not charge them, considering their most serious threat to our national security, in light of rumors that Chinese soldiers are, in fact, entering the country in disguise, and who may be called to action at the opportune time to accomplish some sinister plan most clearly against the interests of our people.
More strange is the decision of this administration, through former AFP chief Benjamin Madrigal Jr., to sign a deal Mislatel renamed Dito Telecommunity, which will allow this China-backed telco to set up equipment and infrastructure in military camps and installations, and consequently allow, too, its Chinese personnel to enter our military establishments, surely giving them the opportunity to obtain information of a confidential nature relative to the defense of the Philippine archipelago, which clearly may be used to the injury of the Philippines.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is the approving authority to the said deal and who should know better, has been reported to have expressed the view that there is nothing wrong with the deal, and that he will probably sign the agreement.

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines



Human Rights Malaysia calls on Royal Malaysian Police
To cease intimidation of peaceful activists
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 March 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 2 March 2020

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) Human Rights Malaysia condemns the actions of the Royal Malaysian Police against peaceful assemblies in the past week and the investigation into activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri under the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
The government of Malaysia does not belong to any ruling elite, nor does it belong to politicians.
The government of Malaysia belongs to the people, and the people must be allowed to voice their support, concerns and criticisms in times of crisis.
The people are the root of any legitimate government and any attempt to stifle their voice is a betrayal of our democracy.
The police should be providing a safe platform for all voices to be heard and not clamping down on civic space and free speech.
They ought to be protecting the rights provided for under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and ensure that the public can express their views freely, without intimidation.
To this end, Suaram calls on the Royal Malaysian Police to cease its intimidation and protect our democratic space.

Sevan Doraisamy,
Executive Director,
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM),
Human Rights Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Call for new Cabinet to represent
All groups and races in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 March 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 2 March 2020

Congratulations to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on being appointed as Malaysia's new Prime Minister.
His appointment as the country’s eighth Prime Minister reduces a little bit the political uncertainty that engulfed the country when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tendered his resignation as Prime Minister last week and the Pakatan Harapan government collapsed less than two years after it was voted in.
Focus now will be on the appointment of new Cabinet ministers.
It is very important that the new Cabinet is representative of all groups of people and races in Malaysia.
The Cabinet cannot only comprise individuals from any one single group or race if the new government is to govern the country effectively.
The country’s new leader must accept the reality that Malaysia is a complex country made up many different groups of people and races.
Disregarding this fact could lead the new government and the entire country to chaos once again, and eventually even destruction.
In a multiracial country, mutual respect and tolerance is crucial.
Without such an attitude, it will be hard for anyone to govern.
As such, it is important for everybody to set aside any differences they might have had previously and work together to ensure the progress of our country.
We should actually be grateful that ours is a multiracial society, as this mix enriches the country.
We can learn about each other and help each other to better the nation as a whole.
This matter is written in the Quran, as God made human beings into many races so that our lives would be made more meaningful and enjoyable through the spirit of friendship and cooperation we can generate between different races.
Just imagine what would happen if only a single race occupied this planet - life would indeed be dull.
Every individual, as well as every race, has strengths and weaknesses.
There is no such thing as a perfect individual or a perfect race.
We all need each other if we want to succeed, and if we want to make our country great. Instead of arguing with each other, we must learn from and cooperate with each other so that we can live in peace and enjoy prosperity.
Malaysia has been and will always be a multiracial country.
Even before we gained our independence in 1957, Malayan society comprised different races.
This fact is undeniable and must be accepted by everyone in the country.
As a multiracial country, conflict and misunderstanding can easily arise if we are not respectful towards each other.
As such, it is very important that the new government takes this point seriously and ensures that the new Cabinet represents all groups of people and races that Malaysia contains.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Senior Lecturer,
Faculty of Syariah & Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Political manoeuvring to change government mid-stream
Is not in Malaysia's national interest
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 March 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 28 February 2020

Emeritus Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi’s article “An overturning of popular view” in The Star, February 27, 2020 best summarises the legitimacy of the political events currently unfolding in our country.
On top of the complex constitutional issues raised by the good professor, there is the simple yet valid argument that reasonable and right-thinking Malaysians would support the fundamental principle that the Pakatan Harapan government elected by the majority of Malaysian voters is entitled to run its full term unless it is involved in financial or criminal maladministration.
It is important to remember that a strong democracy and government helps to provide a stable environment for economic progress and social growth.
Right now, it is a triple whammy for Malaysia as it has to deal with the economic slowdown due to tensions and uncertainties stemming from the US-China trade row, checking the spread of Covid-19 and now the current disruptive political shake-up.
No doubt politicking is part and parcel of our democratic system, but intense political manoeuvring to change a government mid-stream is simply not in our national interest.
Our democratic convention is based on a five-year election cycle to ensure political and social stability. A full term allows the incumbent government and leaders to focus their energies and efforts on the country’s needs, which currently includes dealing with Covid-10.
It is not surprising to see the high level of dismay and disagreement at replacing the present government and the formation of a new coalition. Pakatan should be allowed a full five-year term of government.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Malaysia



Separation of powers looks more like
The fusion of powers in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 28 February 2020

It has been said that the most important foundation of a healthy democratic system, i.e. the separation of powers or the division into the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary branches - the trias politica model.
Although the powers that be, claim that we have such a checks-and-balances system, in practice and in reality it looks more and more like the fusion of powers, starting from the drafting of a constitution that blatantly favours one group of power while shunning the voices of other groups.
The excuse is that this is a Thaksin-proof constitution in response to the claim at the time of a parliamentary dictatorship.
But look where it got us.
The executive branch also has the privileges of having a Senate at its beck and call, undermining one of the key principles of participatory democracy which ideally should be inclusive.
The Constitutional Court verdict, though does not deviate from the letter of the law, confirms what many critics of the regime have feared all along, that it may be just a disguised authoritarian tool.
Let's hope this is just a conspiracy theory that has no basis in reality.
Otherwise, it would be very hard to see how real democracy can take root in this country.

Anan Pakvasa,
Banglok,
Thailand