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

 

What happened to funds
For education in remote Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 June 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 16 June 2021

Development is supposed to be embraced and delivered to citizens in the remote parts of Nawaeb.
But the few engineers who are attached with local Member of Parliament Kennedy Wenge and a few protocol officers are entertaining themselves and their families.
The district funds are not changing the people’s life.
Can the Government check Nawaeb and blacklist those contractors who cannot deliver?
Check the education projects in the district.
Students are expected to learn without disruptions, but there are many delays.
Nawaeb High School still has an incomplete science laboratory.
There are also other projects in other schools that are also incomplete.
What happened to the funding?
We should do away with contractors who are only good on paper.
Students are struggling.

Worried Nawaeb Citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Papua New Guinea churches
Benefit from Casinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 June 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 16 June 2021

I had goosebumps reading that National Gaming Control Board chairman Clemence Kanau, said that churches also benefit from the gambling industry in the country and should “keep quiet” as the Government is working on establishing a casino at Paga Hill, Port Moresby.
I see why many churches are not against this move.
Even if they have said something against this move, it is not loud enough.
The churches who benefit from sponsorships and other financial support from the National Gaming Control Board cannot speak up against the building of this casino.
If it was some other issue, they would have been the first ones to raise their concerns.
They probably want to remain quiet in fear of risking their chances of getting more benefits from the National Gaming Control Board.
Where in the Bible does it say it is okay for churches to fund their ministries from the proceeds of evil activities such as gambling?
Is the National Gaming Control Board chairman telling Papua New Guinea that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob approves of his wayward and misconstrued assumption that it is okay to compromise righteousness?
The churches who knowingly remain silent on this development agenda will equally be accountable before God.
Churches should not be funded through proceeds from evil activities like gambling.
As a Christian, it sickens me to read this article.
May God Almighty rescue Papua New Guinea from the crooked people and their crooked decisions.

Paliaima A Tanda,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Thailand has a bloated military
With a legion of decorated admirals and generals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 16 June 2021

Re: "Thailand's irresponsible runaway debt", Bangkok Post, Opinion,
June 11.
Almost all governments are now on a spending spree to cope with the devastation caused by the Covid crisis.
Surprisingly, China is the only country to successfully avoid a serious blow to its economy.
In the USA, the deficit, a favourite pillar of the Republican agenda has completely vanished.
For stabilising the Thai economy efforts should now be made to prioritise spending on major projects and reducing the lopsided reliance on the tourism sector.
More attention should be paid to exports, innovation in green technologies, education reforms and labour skill development.
It is quite amusing that a country like Thailand with no imminent threats or enemies has a bloated military with a legion of decorated admirals and generals who have never fought a war?
Prof Thitinan is correct that the government is leaving a massive bill for younger Thais to repay over their lifetimes.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippine National Police
Fly too close to the sun
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday16 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 9 June 2021

In Greek mythology, there is the story of Icarus.
Icarus was given artificial wings made of wax and feather so that he could fly. Daedalus, his father, warned that if Icarus flew too close to the sun, his artificial wings would melt.
But Icarus, feeling the high of flying and unmindful of Daedalus’ warning, soared too high and saw his wings melt.
He plunged into the sea and drowned.
This is a tale of hubris - or the excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods.
This overbearing pride leads humans to follow paths that lead to certain self-destruction.
Some policemen have hubris in abundance, murdering hapless individuals.
The killing caught on cam of a 52-year-old woman and the alleged accidental killing of a man with special needs muddied the already dirty face of the police organization.
The saddest thing here is that it’s not only Zinampan, Nuezca, and their ilk who end up the recipients of public condemnation and mistrust, but also other officers who are law-abiding, loving, and kind.
Two years back, I spoke before police trainees in a Philippine National Police (PNP) training session.
I discussed their tenets of accountability, responsibility, and respect for life. Spearheaded by the Couples for Christ and the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, our session allowed us to talk about these vital values.
The sad, harrowing events where policemen execute civilians who cannot even defend themselves is downright deplorable.
What has led these humans to shed their humanity and descend to animal behavior? This is a question that should be answered by policymakers and leaders of the police force.
Zinampan once posted on Facebook that the sin of one is not the sin of all.
But there is a need to reform and look into the psyche of these men.
Their hubris needs to be checked, because the actions of a few misguided elements affect and undermine the thousands of other members of the organization.

Clemelle L. Montallana,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

The rise of the military in the political domain
Has shifted politics from where it should be
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 6 June 2021

Re: "PM shows he has political resilience," in Bangkok Post OpEd, June 4,
2021.
The analytical views of the columnist are appreciated from the vantage point of politics.
There is no doubt that Thailand is a political economy, and the truth that eludes us all is that the centre of focus had better be on critical constituents of the Thai body politic.
The rise of the military in the political domain has shifted the focus in Thai politics from where it should be:
First, with the farmers and with their markets which for a long time have always been domestic.
That is no longer the case.
Farmers need to be encouraged to yield more for the sustainability of Thais themselves and for world markets which are in need of their agricultural products.
The visionary King Rama IX tirelessly campaigned for farmers, saying he and farmers were fighting against a greater enemy than communism - which was hunger.
His self-sufficiency projects have benefited farming communities and the kingdom at large.
No military weaponry or armaments can sustain us in the face of impending global catastrophes such as land desertification through global warming and rising sea water levels which are already hitting so many countries.
Second, youth have always been the mainstay of innovative and novel approaches to solving problems.
Politicians need to look at the needs of the youth more critically and create avenues for them to progress in their studies and beyond that in the social and political realms so they will learn how to value and cherish their kingdom and their fellow beings.
We cannot trap our youth in cages. Through their forward-looking policies, politicians and governments lead hope for youth.
Do not jail them in prisons for daring to learn, to think and grow.

Glen Chatelier,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for lockdown
Of Drink-driving death clusters in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 6 June 2021

An analogy that we often hear is that if you are walking around without a mask, or not socially-distancing or refusing to get vaccinated, it is the equivalent of driving drunk, because besides yourself, you could kill someone.
Similar to having the coronavirus, you could also say that driving drunk is "highly transmissible from person to person" and that includes adults and children, since road accidents in 2016 were the most common cause of death for Thai children aged 10-14.
In 2018, as reported by the Bangkok Post, 90 percent of traffic offences were for drink-driving and 40 percent of road fatalities, 4,498, resulted from people driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Why doesn't that get more press for the other 51 weeks out of the year aside from those "Seven Deadliest Days" of New Year?
Why is having one of the world's worst road-fatality rates 32.7 per 100,000 people in 2018 and so many deaths caused by vehicles 22,491 in 2018 not as big a deal as cumulative deaths by Covid-19 a total of 1,177 as of June 5?
Everyone on mass transit is checked (to see if they have a high temperature of 37.8ºC or greater.
But we don't check people on the roads as diligently for signs of drink driving.
Why aren't roads that have drink-driving death 'clusters' ever locked down?
In other words, why - when it comes to talking about or dealing with these tragic road deaths - do we lighten up?

Eddie Delzio,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Ruling PDP-Laban party has deteriorated
Since its foundation against Marcos dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 4 June 2021

The ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party was established with the goal of opposing tyrants.
The murdered Sen. Ninoy Aquino and former Senate president Nene Pimentel coalesced their parties to take a principled stand against the dictatorship of President Marcos.
But look at how the party has deteriorated.
Its current leaders are mobilizing their members to make it appear there is a groundswell of support for a Duterte-Duterte tandem.
From its history and spirit of resistance, the PDP-Laban now wants a continuation of the same administration that has initiated mass killings, harassed media companies and personalities, and kowtowed to China.

Raffey Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines



Violence begets violence
As Myanmar shows
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 June 2021

Violence begets violence.
This is illustrated so clearly in the Myanmar case.
Aung San Sui Kyi had for over three decades advocated peaceful pro-democracy protest to bring about change in the entrenched military rule in Myanmar.
But now in light of the brutal military crackdown and killing of peaceful
pro-democracy protesters following the latest February 1 military coup many from within Sui Kyi's political party and other civilian protesters no longer regard peaceful protest as a viable option.
We learn from the SBS Dateline ( 8 June ) that many new generation youth have gone to acquire armed resistance training with the Karin military to equip themselves with the skills to fight the Myanmar military junta.
How is the country to benefit from the cycle of violence that now appears
inevitable ?
It's a crying shame that the power- hungry, kleptomaniac military generals in Myanmar have brought the country down to this counter-productive state of violence.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
New South Wales,
Australia

 

President Duterte urged to run
As vice president in 2022 elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 June 2021
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Monday 7 June 2021

The ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party internal squabble is its problem, but the group’s resolution urging President Duterte to run as vice president should be condemned outright.
It has to be named for what it is: a shameless maneuver to extend Mr. Duterte’s term beyond 2022.
The PDP-Laban is no ordinary party; it is the ruling faction whose members include top officials of the country.
Mr. Duterte himself is the head of this party.
Hence, its resolution is a matter of public concern.
It is highly unlikely that PDP-Laban members would come out with this unusual appeal without the implicit approval of the President or his inner circle.
Mr. Duterte authorized the meeting and he had the chance to comment or reject the resolution during his weekly televised address.
We fear that the ruling party is scheming to create a fake clamor aimed at convincing Mr. Duterte to run in 2022.
It is appalling that the party in power is proposing an action that would circumvent the constitutional provision prohibiting the reelection of the incumbent president. The term limit was placed there because of our painful experience during the Marcos dictatorship.
We do not want another president who will abuse his power and wantonly use government resources to guarantee his reelection bid.
We had thwarted previous attempts to amend the Constitution which would have removed term limits and allowed politicians and political dynasties to remain in power.
The PDP-Laban resolution is the latest variant that seeks to perpetuate the rule of the incumbent president.
Mr. Duterte’s party should offer new candidates instead of plotting the President’s reelection.
For many Filipinos who sincerely want reforms in society, our best option is to support not another Duterte candidacy, but the pursuit of accountability and justice.

Mong Palatino,
Chair,
Bayan Metro Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Approval for Pacific Pearl Casino in Port Moresby
Shows PNG running out of ideas to grow economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 June 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 3 June 2021

The approval by the Government for the establishment of Pacific Pearl Casino at Paga Hill, Port Moresby, indicates it has run out of ideas to grow the country’s economy.
There are more problems than benefits that this industry will bring into the country. National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) chairman Clemence Kanau mentioned that the industry would bring in much-needed foreign exchange and employ about 10,000 people.
However, these benefits should have been quantified and released for public consumption.
On the flip side, casinos around the world are sites where money laundering occurs.
This is an avenue where drug lords, terrorists and organised gang elements illegally channel their money to avoid being caught.
Without effective systems to monitor our international borders and no tough laws on money laundering and drugs, our country will be a haven for illegal activities to flourish.
It seems the recent major drug bust just outside Port Moresby, where the accused are yet to be penalised, has not taught the Government a lesson before approving the casino to be constructed.
The National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in its media release, has given the guarantee to the country that they would go out and source the best international operator to run the casino.
But how much experience do they have in executing this task?
If Australia’s major casino operator, Crown Casino, can be implicated in money laundering at their casinos in Sydney and Melbourne, how much guarantee can the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) give this country that all will go well once the casino is in operation?
The National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has no experience in effectively running other gambling activities.
It has mentioned that they would look at legalising lottery, bingo and online betting. These will add more misfortune to Papua New Guinean families who are already suffering because of our struggling economy.
The introduction of these gambling activities also contradicts the current consultation processes on making PNG a Christian nation.
This confused Government is bringing more pain than gain to the country.

Tore Kila,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



The Philippines National Police
Greatest threat to the Philillipines not China
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 June 2021

The greatest threat to the Philippines is not China or insurgent groups.
The greatest threat today against the Filipino people is the internal gangrene of abuse and corruption happening inside the police system of the Philippines.
This is an existential threat to the nation, and our leaders need to act swiftly.
The recent murder of an elderly woman named Lilybeth Valdez in Quezon City by a drunk policeman has once again brought too many painful flashbacks of abuse committed by the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies.
In August 2017, the nation saw the murder of Kian delos Santos and many others after him as unfortunate victims of the brutal drug war, while uniformed coddlers of syndicates went scot-free.
In December 2020, just five days before Christmas, the shooting of a mother and son in Tarlac shocked the entire nation.
Last February, law enforcers were killed during a supposed anti-drug operation between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Commonwealth Avenue - a case that up to now remains shrouded in mystery.
Even lowly barangay tanods (village watch) figured in mauling incidents against civilians in several communities during the lockdown.
These examples of abuse clearly show a systemic malignancy pervading the law enforcement and justice system in the Philippines. Did these scalawags and miscreants manage to enter the service because of the poor screening and recruitment policies of the government?
Or were these abusive officials once patriotic public servants who were later on co-opted by the corrupt system inside law enforcement?
Whatever the case, the situation is unacceptable to the Filipino people.
It is of absolute necessity that our leaders act with vigorous resolve to right what is wrong inside our law enforcement system.
Our existence as a nation depends on it.

Rod Templo,
Baguio City,
Philippines



Philippine President Duterte accused of pursuing
A policy of appeasement towards China
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 June 2021
First published in the Philippines, 4 June 2021

I totally agree with Solita Collas-Monsod that Filipinos should not feel they owe a debt of gratitude to China for its vaccine donations, or for that matter for any seemingly friendly assistance it has extended or plans to extend to our country
“A victory for tobacco, a defeat for our children,” Get Real, May 29, 2021
This “utang na loob” chant that President Duterte touts as his motivation for pursuing a policy of appeasement toward China is just a smokescreen for his real intentions, which are nowhere close to love of country and concern for the welfare of the Filipino people.
I cannot, of course, read the mind of Mr. Duterte, but as an ordinary citizen I am able to observe facts and events during this administration that stare us in the face and easily debunk any notion that the President’s partiality toward China, or more precisely toward Xi Jinping, is driven by nationalism.
Look at some of these facts and how Mr. Duterte can only manage to respond to them with deafening silence: the massive invasion by Chinese Pogos of our communities and their corrosive moral effects and rising criminality spawned by their presence; the mysterious entry of huge drug shipments from China through the Bureau of Customs that was never prosecuted, and the likely entry of more of such shipments; the meteoric rise of presidential crony Dennis Uy who has built a business empire in such a short period of time, and who has partnered with Chinese investors to gain a strategic foothold in the country’s telecommunications and natural gas industries; the onerous infrastructure contracts the government has entered into with China and, in the case of Kaliwa Dam, the displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands.
And look at how his apologists, led by the sycophantic spokesperson, fumble and lie in defense of Mr.
Duterte’s untenable position on the West Philippines Sea, even resurrecting the disgraced Juan Ponce Enrile in a desperate attempt to gain public support.
There are rumors and speculations that Xi Jinping has long given his assurance of support to the continuing stay in power of the Dutertes.
The coming national elections will truly be a test of our people’s political maturity, and if there is enough of it to save the country from a failed leadership that we ourselves allowed in 2016 to lead the country into a treasonous and ungodly path.

Donato Soliven,
Antipolo City,
Philippines




Moves to constitutionally make Papua New Guinea
A Christian country
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 June 2021
First published in the National, Friday 4 June 2021

Prime Minister, James Marape raised the hopes of Christians with his mantra of “Making Papua New Guinea the richest black nation”.
He has done so again with the move to constitutionally make Papua New Guinea a Christian country.
On the other hand, Marape has also approved the construction of a casino in the name of providing employment and generating revenue for the Government.
What is happening?
Casinos are places where evil and forces of darkness rule and control people to squander their hard-earned money.
Gambling is the reason for poverty and chaos in society.
Christianity is not practiced inside casinos.
I suggest you, Marape, stop your Christianity propaganda and allow Western and Asian paganism to be included in the Papua New Guinea constitution.
May The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rescue Papua New Guinea.

Paliaima A Tanda,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Proposed NGO Act in Thailand
Mechanism to silence civil society
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 2 June 2021

Re: "Dream on," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, May 31.
The point about "Bangkok as a second Geneva" at this moment in history is that we have to make it clear that divisions in society will irreparably and dramatically deepen if the NGO Act and amendment of the Official Information Act are sneaked through parliament in a period when public social life in Thailand is debilitated under a severe pandemic and chaotic "emergency rule".
It would nail down the total failure of reconciliation as the major justification of the most recent coup d'état.
Thus the constitution of 2017 should likewise be invalidated.
Back to the constitution of 1997 and forwards to peacebuilding in the region.
Post-Covid transformation is not only needed, it is possible.
"Bangkok: a second Geneva" is a metaphor we should allow ourselves to nurture as a powerful dream.

Hans Van Willenswaard,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Malaysia Shows true leadership
With salary sacrifice
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 June 2021

We read in The Southeast Asian Times 2 June that Malaysia's PM and all ministers and deputy ministers in his government will forego three months salary to
" contribute to the Covid-19 National Disaster Relief Trust Fund".
That is showing true leadership rather than paying lip service to it.
It's a rare thing that kind of personal sacrifice on the part of the political leadership anywhere.
Usually what we hear is the opposite.
How a political leader has used/abused his position to fill his own pocket.
That is a much more common phenomenon.
In light of that the Malaysian people should feel proud of their political leadership at this time of national struggle against the pandemic.
I would be if I were a Malaysian citizen.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia


Wanted fresh and new leadership
After 2022 elections in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday 28 May 2021

The Philippines will elect a new president in 2022.
Past elections have shown that those who get elected are the most popular and/or backed by a well-oiled machinery at the grassroots level.
The voters in the provinces who make or unmake a president are controlled and dominated by strongly held patronage/dynastic politics.
We witnessed how the Parojinog family of Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental built their political enclave and fortunes on drug running for two decades, and the Ampatuans of Maguindanao who milked public works funds for decades, ending in the tragic massacre of 58 people, including the spouse of the opposition candidate and 32 journalists, in what is now known as the Maguindanao massacre on November 23, 2009.
These family dynasties operated untouched and had their merry way under the very noses of several administrations.
Unfortunately, it is not the individual voter’s honest choice but that of mayors, governors, and congressmen that will decide who will become the country’s next president.
That is a sad and irrefutable fact we see often.
Local politics makes or unmakes a president.
The 1992 elections saw the country having two excellent choices for president: Gen. Fidel Ramos and Sen. Miriam Santiago.
Early on, Santiago was the runaway winner in most of the random pre-poll surveys over Ramos.
But some wizened media people saw it differently: Administration candidate Ramos would win by a small margin because, by experience in elections, 60 percent was controlled by local politics; that factored in when assessing “winnability,” and the administration had that sewed up for him.
True enough, the overwhelming early lead of Santiago from the National Capital Region and urban centers was slowly eaten up by the late Mindanao and provincial results for Ramos.
The rest is history.
Haven’t we noticed that congressional haggling with Malacañang over “pork” insertions facilitate legislation?
They’re a must for congressional incumbents, and not to have them in an election year will mean rough sailing for them, short of political suicide.
We need to change mindsets with a new brand of leadership, or else we perish in our own follies.
A fresh and new kind of leadership is exciting with the announced broad political coalition in 1Sambayan as a winnable alternative to the administration’s stable of stale choices.
The make-up of the general electorate, however, dampens the little enthusiasm we might have. Gut issues are still the overweening consideration.
Look at how many people, including wheelchaired senior citizens, lined up till the wee hours of the morning to wait for their “ayuda.”
What is worrisome and a challenging development for 1Sambayan and right-thinking citizens is the huge unspent public funds totaling around P4.2 trillion at the disposal of the administration from now until the electoral spending ban on December 31, 2021.
We each might have our criteria of who should be our best choice for a leader. However, we can brace ourselves to accept the predictable fact of life that in this country, patronage politics will elect the next president - your prudent choice or mine notwithstanding.

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for China to come clean
On how the viral infections started in Wuhan
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 1 June 2021

The global community continues to reel under the scourge COVID-19 has caused. As of May 25, more than 167 million infections have been confirmed and more than 3.4 million have died, as more infections and deaths are being reported on a daily basis.
Yet, after about a year and a half, no one knows for certain how this pandemic started, despite what seems to be the worldwide consensus that the virus came from Wuhan, China.
Whether it was nature from bats in its wet markets or culture from the so-called “gain-of-function” research in its lab that spawned it, the mystery has remained to this day. The worst fear was that the virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was manipulated to become a more lethal “biological weapon” - the idea fueled largely by suspicions about China’s pursuit of its hegemonic intentions as evidenced by its relentless aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and elsewhere.
China stonewalled all attempts to investigate how the viral infections started in Wuhan.
It suppressed early accounts of those who knew what was going on in its lab and silenced or disappeared witnesses, as the world cried desperately for answers. Gathering sufficient facts and information about the origin of the virus could help prevent another deadly pandemic from happening again.
Indeed, experts agree that had China been more cooperative from the start, the COVID-19 infections might have been contained.
Up to now, China has seemed to be under no moral or legal compulsion to come clean.
It has remained as intransigent as ever amid all calls for transparency. Nations - nay, the whole world - should now unite and take positive steps against China to determine its culpability for this pandemic and, more importantly, the reparations in the hundreds of trillions of dollars it should make for all the deaths and economic devastation the whole world has suffered and continues to suffer.
It’s time to put the kibosh on all speculations.
A basic principle of law that is generally accepted in civilized judicial fora says that evidence willfully withheld is presumed adverse to the party withholding it.
This is based on plain, common sense.
A party who has nothing to hide should have no problem bringing out such evidence when asked to produce it.
The more than 160 countries that boldly urged an investigation by the World Health Organization of the origin of the virus, but got nowhere near the truth because China denied access to necessary data, should now formally take legal action before the International Court of Justice and demand full disclosure of what China has been hiding about COVID-19.
If, as China insists, it is without fault, it should welcome its day in court instead of invoking technicalities the constant recourse of scoundrels, as it did in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) case filed by the Philippines against it before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
While China may have gotten away with its arrogance and disdain for the Arbitral Award in favor of the Philippines, no propaganda can save it from the scorn of all the nations around the globe that are still counting the deaths of their citizens due to its tortious, if not malicious, breach of world health protocols.
After all this time, chances are China has already destroyed all inculpatory
evidence - all the more reason to believe there was malice on its part.

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines turned from Pearl of the Orient
To Sick man of Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 June 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 31 May 2021

Despite serving three administrations, senior associate justice Antonio T. Carpio didn’t become chief justice.
Now retired, Citizen Tony is betting the credibility he has earned by challenging China’s false claims in the West Philippine Sea.
His new mission with 1Sambayan is to mobilize Filipino voters to elect a true servant leader in the May 2022 elections.
Filipinos have been overtaken by neighbors who used to revere Asia’s first democratic republic and sole Catholic nation.
Until the 1970s, the Philippines was much admired, even envied, as Asia’s pacesetter.
But a series of bad leaders after Ramon Magsaysay turned the “Pearl of the Orient” into the “sick man of Asia,” and COVID-19 isn’t helping the Philippine health and economy.
Thus, odds are stacked against 1Sambayan.
President Duterte still enjoys popular support and his anointed successor will be hard to beat, considering the name recall, financial resources, and campaign organization needed to win - and the fact that opposition egos won’t unite, even with 1Sambayan’s best efforts.
But other factors are in play.
One more pandemic surge, if met by the same incompetent response by lackeys like Duque and spokesmen like Roque, may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, galvanizing angry desertions by the public.
Even the military might join in if a COVID-19 uprising brings economic meltdown, since there appears to be no Duterte strategy to restart the economy.
The meteoric rise of community pantries shows that people power could erupt any time.
If health and hunger keep oppressing patient Filipinos, a tipping point could be reached soon.
Also, international tensions and digital disruptions add to uncertainty.
China’s moves can spark a shooting war given the animosity between Taipei and Beijing, and the competing claims over the West Philippine Sea.
The US, Europe, Japan, India, and Asean are all ready to block Chinese moves that may block trade or risk an invasion of Taiwan or the Philippines.
Disruptions wrought by artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies can dislocate economies and lead to desperate moves.
Mismanaged, the 2022 elections could involve Filipinos in a world war.
The potential for spontaneous combustion is too great.
We hope and pray that the servant leader sought by Carpio will emerge.

Jose Z. Osias,
convenor,
BalikProbinsiya,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

10 million doses per month over six months
Will only inoculate 30 million Thai's
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 31 May 2021

Re: "AstraZeneca jabs will be on time," in Bangkok Post 26 May 2021

Maybe it's time to put all of this planning, considering, mulling, ordering and promising into some kind of perspective.
The first thing we need to do is stop talking about doses and start talking about reality.
Each person will require two jabs.
So all this talk about 10 million doses per month over six months from Siam Bioscience, in the long run, will only inoculate 30 million people.
Let's stop with all these inane promises and suggestions.
Inoculate 70 percent of Bangkok.
That's 7+ million people or 14+ million doses.
How about vaccinating 100 percent of Buri Ram Province.
That's 1.6 million people or 3.2 million doses.
Add to that sandboxes, walk-in shot clinics, Hua Hin, Phuket, and who knows what else, and you've already used up three months' production from Siam Bioscience, if they come through as promised.

Fred Prager,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The democratic world condemns
Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 31 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 29 May 2021

Re: "Cardinal appeals for end to killing," in Bangkok Post May 27, 2021.
When will the military regime led by General Min Aung Hlaing stop killing innocent people?
Min Aung Hlaing is the military general who has used cowardly air strikes on ethnic people.
The democratic world unequivocally condemns Min Aung Hlaing who seized power from the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
He seems to follow in the footsteps of previous dictators, Ne Win, Sein Lwin, Saw Maung and Than Shwe.
The international community should not ignore the plight of Myanmar and its people.
Myanmar people hope to receive assistance from the US, the UK, the UN, Europe and democratic countries around the world to get their elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi free from the military dictatorship.
People have already lost respect for the military or army troops that have killed innocent civilians.
Please help them.

Aung Chin Win,
Bangkok,
Thailand



No need for amendments to the constitution
To make Papua New Guinea more Christian
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 30 May 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 27 May 2021

The Constitution is already sufficient in promoting Christianity and any other religion for that matter, including our traditional beliefs.
Religions and denominations have coexisted for decades in Papua New Guinea under the guidance of the Constitution.
There is absolutely no need for the Constitution to be amended to make Papua New Guinea more Christian.
Making Papua New Guinea a Christian country via the Constitution is totally irrelevant and a disproportionate attempt by our Government in the face of current state of affairs in the country.
For such a constitutional amendment to be made that will have a long-lasting impact in our society, there should be relational significant events or situations in the country that would warrant such actions.
At the moment, there is nothing threatening our Christian faith, except that our Government continues to steal from the people.
There are other more pressing issues that the Government should be concerned about.
For instance; improving and strengthening the capacities of existing State institutions to address pertinent issues of national concerns such as corruption, lawlessness and environmental injustice to name a few.
The risk of this proposition is that if it goes to pass, it will set a disastrous ingredient in our Constitution that will have serious implications in the future.
We do not know what ideals and values the Government have considered or may consider to be Christian or to constitute Christianity.
For example; if the Government adopts all the values of one particular denomination to be the true Christian values and legislate them under this amendment, then in respect to question 4 of the consultation questionnaire, there is a risk that certain practices and beliefs of other denominations may be deemed un-Christian and, therefore, people would be subjected to penalties through the courts.
Followers of traditional beliefs and practices may also become victims.
Given the lack of domestic jurisprudence on what constitutes acceptable or recognised religious practices in Papua New Guinea, religious violations, and its corresponding penalties, the enforcement and adjudication of this “would-be provision of the Constitution” is likely to be left open to arbitrary interpretations by the courts and consequently, arbitrary retributions.
As such, it is safer to ensure this amendment in the first place is not made.
As much as we want to be Christians or called Christians, it must be through of our faith and by our deeds and not by a piece of legislation.
If the law is to enforce compliance with Christian values and principles, what then would be the role of the church and the pastors?
The essence of evangelisation would then be lost, simply because there would be less emphasis on the practice of faith by conviction, self-reflection and spiritual connection to God.
It would be more a matter of compliance with the law and avoidance of retribution.
Is that the kind of Christianity that the Government envisage?

Jason Siwat,
Madang,
Papua New Guinea

 

 

Bank of South Pacific (BSP)
Listed on Australian securities exchange
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 29 May 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 26 May 2021

The move by the Bank of South Pacific (BSP) to be listed on the Australian securities exchange (ASX) is commended.
It is fitting to know that ASX is the eighth largest equity market in the world.
It also the largest interest rate derivatives market in Asia.
For BSP to be listed is an implication of our banks expansion into competitive market zones.
Credit goes to Bank of South Pacific (BSP) chairman Sir Kostas Constantinou and chief executive Robin Fleming for your leadership in bringing our local company to be listed on one of the largest security markets in the world.
It is a move that I believe our citizens admire.
Sir Kostas previously announced that if the bank’s submission to the ASX was approved, then Bank of South Pacific (BSP) shares would be traded on PNGX and ASX.
Despite the financial threat that the Covid-19 pandemic has on our emerging economy, Bank of South Pacific (BSP), with a strong leadership team, have managed to perform exceedingly well.

Justin Max Undi
Kerendah Village,
Papua New Guinea

 

Not for profit vaccines
For Thai's only
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 24 May 2021

Re: "Mission of misery", in Bangkok Post PostBag, May 22.
In May 2020 a "not for profit" agreement was signed between Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a joint British Swedish company, to produce their Covid-19 vaccine "at cost".
It was also agreed that the technology would be shared worldwide and that a "technology transfer service" would be made available to any country where a viable manufacturer was identified.
OU and AZ decided to forego the chance of making a huge profit, as this was a humanitarian and charitable act.
And so Siam BioScience was selected in Thailand to produce and distribute the OU/AZ vaccine in both Thailand and the region, and technology and training were provided by AZ at cost.
Therefore it is sad to read yesterday's letter, "Mission of misery", from Paul Williams, in which it is clear the government is instructing hospitals to cut foreigners out of queues for vaccinations on the ground that the limited supplies should be given to Thais first.

Geoff Simmons,
Bangkok,
Thailand



National security coordination in Papua New Guinea
Not serious in constitutional duties
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 May 2021
First published in the National, Friday 14 May 2021

There appears to be a complacency in attitude displayed by the key national security agencies.
While we understand that the challenges in the national security coordination, it’s almost evident that the government security coordination apparatus and the reporting is stuck in a myriad of internal institutional politics, spilling over into the national security scope, making it loo, as if everything has occurred because of politics and the Government’s lack of support.
My observation based on the general security attitude is that all these security apparatuses and the institutions are not serious in their constitutional duties.
It’s now become more apparent that these instruments are not supporting the Government and the prime minister properly.
It appears that decisions going to the prime minister through the office of security coordination and assesment are not substantively solid in the interest of the people, but structured to suit individual politicians.
That has to change for the good of this country.

Kumbaolkal Kep,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



China to vaccinate its citizens
Living in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 May 2021
First published in Bangkok Post, Monday 24 May 2021

Re: "Govt rolls out three vaccine channels," in Bangkok Post May 21, 2021
Authorities have made it clear foreign nationals living and working or retired in Thailand regardless of age and health condition are a low priority for vaccination. Thai citizens are the main priority, they said.
Now it seems the Chinese authorities have come to an agreement with the Thai authorities to get up to 150,000 Chinese citizens living and working in Thailand vaccinated.
This agreement seems to be based on China donating Chinese-made vaccine which will allow Chinese citizens to be given priority for a jab.
It was reported that Chinese citizens started getting vaccinations last Thursday.
Many expats I know, like myself at age 70, are concerned about a long wait to get vaccinated in Thailand.
Why can't the US, UK and EU come together and set up the same type deal that China has made with Thailand.
If the US, UK and EU come together and donated vaccines to Thailand this would improve the priority of US, UK and EU citizens to get vaccinated quickly.
Myself, like all other expats I know, still pay taxes in our home country.
We need the US, UK and EU to come together and help get us vaccinated.

Rob,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Overseas Filipino workers
Save Philippine economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 25 May 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 20 May 2021

We have many government officials rewarded with high salaries in government agencies and corporations, but what has the government done to similarly reward overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whose dollar earnings have saved our struggling economy for many years?
They have suffered the loneliness of being far away from loved ones for a long time. News reports of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) being victims of abuses by their foreign employers have become common.
As a result, many have returned home broken in body and spirit, and the most unfortunate ones in coffins.
If our government bans the deployment of our workers in countries with abusive employers, they would simply recruit workers from other labor-exporting countries. Thus, it is time for our government to ask the governments of other labor-exporting Asian countries to join it in negotiating, as a group, with host-employer countries for the protection of overseas workers and the punishment of abusive employers. To prevent a common form of employer abuse, for instance, they should be required to deposit in banks the salaries of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)
This will greatly prevent the nonpayment of workers’ salaries by erring employers.

Marcelo L. Tecson,
Bonifacio Global City,
Philippines



Thai gvernment under no obligation
To save Thai Airways
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 24, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday May 19, 2021

Re: "State 'not obliged to save THAI", in Bangkok Post, Monday May 17, 2021
I fully agree with THAI Acting President Chansin Treenuchagnon that the government is under no obligation to save THAI, such as by putting in more taxpayer funds or guaranteeing more loans or bonds.
The airline has been consistently losing money hand over fist when its competitors were consistently profitable. It serves no national purpose other than image - eg, PM Prayut correctly sent in a chartered private carrier, not THAI - to evacuate Thais from Wuhan when Covid-19 began.
We're desperately fighting the Covid-19 third wave, with the WHO's director-general forecasting that worse is yet to come. Our government coffers are running dry - and Thailand has now outpaced China in the total number of Covid-19 cases. Surely we have not a satang to spare for THAI.
The Finance Ministry should do all it can to facilitate matters -but must not throw more taxpayer funds at it.
What will be, will be.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

High time for Philippines
To grant amnesty to insurgents
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 23 May 2021

I applaud the House of Representatives for joining President Rodrigo Duterte in granting amnesty to former rebels.
It is high time to grant amnesty to the country's main rebel groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The majority of congressmen voted to pass resolutions supporting Presidential Proclamations Nos. 1090, 1091, 1092, and 1093, which offered amnesty to Muslim and communist insurgents who committed crimes in the name of their political beliefs.
I am convinced that rebels need a second chance, and that this amnesty would allow them to reintegrate into mainstream society under the rule of law, including those who may have committed illegal acts.
I am sure that the Philippines will now maintain sustainable peace thanks to the government's new initiative.

Denver Alex Ambrocio,
Manila,
Philippines


Bangkok
The Geneva of Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 19 May 2021

Re: "Implications of new draft law on NGOs", in Bangkok Post Opinion, May 11, 2021
It is always useful to remind that Thailand has a long-held dream to transform its capital into a second Geneva.
This community is larger and more diverse than in most countries, because Bangkok is already a major United Nations diplomatic centre.
Diplomats have even nicknamed this city "the Geneva of Asia".
It is common knowledge that Bangkok is a major hub for multilateral diplomacy, hosting a wide range of global and regional organisations.
There are all reasons to believe that after the Covid-19 pandemic an already promising connection between the magic of multilateral diplomacy and the City of Angels will be further strengthened by an increasing number of prestigious global and regional conferences.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

United Nations to vote
On Arms supply to Myanmar military
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 May 2021

UN to vote on halting Myanmar arms supply ( Canberra Times 18/5 ) is good news for the people of Myanmar who have been suffering brutal repression at the hands of their own military since the military coup of February 2021.
Let's hope the 193 voting members do the right thing and stop the arms supply to the rogue military.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia




Myanmar military proved itself
The enemy of the people
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 20 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 19 May 2021

Re: "Myanmar issue a test for the govt", Bangkok Post Editorial, May 16.
When it overthrew both the supreme law of their nation and the popular, democratically elected government of the people, the out-of-control Myanmar military proved itself the enemy of the people that it is has for months now been assaulting both with weapons of war and unjust law made up for that corrupt purpose.
Does the Bangkok Post's editor see not manifest parallels but significant differences between the respective self-serving, self-enriching and self-adulating sacred ones of Myanmar and Thailand?
Does the Bangkok Post's editor seriously expect so morally amazing a Thai government as that of Prayut Chan-o-cha, who consistently boasts a convicted heroin dealer elevated to high status in his cabinet, to act according to any moral standard other than that set these past seven years?

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Indonesia's allies silent
About genocide in West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 May 2021
First published in the National, Tuesday 6 April 2021

Over the years, armed clashes between the West Papua National Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces have caused the internal displacement of thousands of West Papuans.
Deadly attacks were repetitive in West Papua, inflicting suffering on civilians who flee to the bushes to escape violence and raids by Indonesian security forces.
In recent years, more West Papuans were brutally massacred for their voice for independence.
I’m deeply saddened by what our people across the border are experiencing.
In recent years, there has been a series of deadly gun fire exchanges in the highlands of Puncak Jaya, Nduga, Timika and Lanny Jaya.
The former Dutch colony has seen brutal bloodshed on for the sake of independence.
It is time to end the genocide.
West Papuans are humans.
It is worrying that Indonesia’s allies are silent about the ongoing conflict.
I urge countries from the Melanesian Spearhead Group to be more vocal at the United Nations’ meeting in New York, United States of America, come September.
I’m also appealing to Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s regime, through the Indonesian ambassador to Papua New Guinea, to constructively address the grievances of West Papuans.
It is in line with Indonesia’s international human rights obligations and the political commitments made in the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review.
I am suggesting a renewal of calls for an independence referendum amid repression in the Indonesian-ruled Melanesian province.

Justin Max Undi,
Olgaim,
Kerendah Village
Papua New Guinea



Call for guidelines for the disposal
Of Covid-19 face masks in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 May 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday 15 May 2021

The wearing of face masks is a legal requirement in public areas in Malaysia and around the world to control the spread of Covid-19.
However, enforcement of the law on wearing face masks does not come with instructions on how to dispose of them.
This is equally important not only to protect the environment but also to curb the spread of the virus.
Waste management experts estimate that at least 10 million single-use face masks are discarded daily in the country.
These masks cannot be recycled because they may be contaminated and could potentially lead to indirect infections if they enter the recycling system.
A large quantity of used masks end up on our roads and drains as irresponsible people just discard them wherever they like.
Used masks must be placed in special bins and disposed in proper places or incinerated.
The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) has also advised against open dumping or burning of medical waste, including face masks, as this could cause serious health and environmental issues.
Hence, proper guidelines on how to dispose of masks must be circulated widely to the public.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), face masks should be discarded in the “correct” bin and not mixed with general household waste.
The Brazilian Sanitary and Environmental Engineering Association has come up with a guideline whereby used masks should be sealed in two plastic bags, one inside another, before disposal.
As an extra precaution, when removing the mask, the user must ensure that she/he touches only the elastic parts. Washing hands after disposing of one’s own mask is highly advisable.
A centralised waste collection system could also be enforced for proper segregation at the household level.
This has been implemented in China.
It is important for the public to be aware that it is indeed a shared responsibility among all to help stop the spread of the virus and also to not incur or create a new issue along the way (environmental pollution). It should start with the responsible disposal of masks.
The government, in particular the Environment and Water Ministry, must play an active role in spreading awareness among the public of the guidelines on proper disposal of face masks.
I call on the ministry concerned to not only spell out the rules/guidelines but also allocate special bins to the local authorities for the proper disposal of face masks.

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

 


Call for Papua New Guinea PM
To take back PNG land from foreign nationals
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 May 2021
First published in the National, Friday 14 May 2021

Prime Minister James Marape should take back our land from foreign nationals if he is really serious about taking back Papua New Guinea.
Foreign nationals claiming to be title holders over land in Port Moresby and others parts of the country are evicting Papua New Guineans settling on vacant state land.
We are not from China or any other countries but we are treated as foreigners in our own land by them.
So what does “Take back PNG” mean to Marape?
Why should a taxpayer living on state land be evicted by a foreigner?
I don’t know if I can buy a piece of land in China or other countries as I have never been outside of the country.
Many evictions have taken place over the years in Port Moresby and other centres by foreigners in the pretext of development.
They have forced taxpayers out of their homes, school children out of school and local small to medium enterprise (SME) operators out of business?
What happened to the Government’s settlements-to-suburbs plan?
Do we have a law that protects human rights?
I urge Papua New Guineans against voting in the next general elections because the Government seems to be on their side and not ours.
It is their government, not ours.

John Sinene,
Concern Settler,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea


 

Buoys installed on Benham Rise to assert
Philippine sovereignity over China incursions
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 16 May 2021

Although the Philippine rise is not a contested territory unlike Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, this should not serve as reason for us to be complacent, since China is also showing interest in the Philippine Rise, considering their ships that have been spotted in the area in 2016 and during that time the China Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that even UNCLOS is in our favor, does not mean that the Philippine Rise is part of our territory.
They also named five underwater features in Philippine Rise implying serious interest in that territory.
That is why the government's current move to install Modern lighted ocean buoys at the Philippine Rise or Benham Rise is very important, as the country faces challenges to its maritime territory between China.
In 2017, President Duterte said that he had ordered the military to put up structures to assert the country’s sovereignty in Philippine Rise.
But, while we have not yet been able to construct structures, these buoys will serve as a strong significant marker that these maritime areas are part of the Philippine territory and it will heighten our defense and claims to the Philippine Rise’ riches before it’s too late.
According to the Philippine Coast Guard 10 modern buoys that were designed and manufactured by the international marine aids to navigation company Mediterraneo Señales Maritimas in Valencia, Spain would be installed in the Philippine Rise.
The Benham rise was officially part of the Philippine Territory after it was approved by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2012 and later renamed as Philippine Rise pursuant to Executive Order 25 on May 16, 2017.
I hope that the government’s actions over Philippine Rise even the regular maritime air patrol and maritime surveillance of the Armed Forces will continue to safeguard our maritime territory from foreign incursions as well as protect our fishermen in the area and secure their livelihood.

Gab Daguio,
Manila,
Philippines



Thailand 5th in ASEAN
In Covid-19 vaccination per 100 people
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 13 May 2021

Re: "PR campaign to boost trust in Covid-19 vaccination," in Bangkok Post, May 11, 2021.
Lampang province has outshone all other provinces save Bangkok in registering those aged over 60 with underlying illnesses for vaccination appointments.
Prime Minister Prayut, Minister Anutin and Lampang governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn should work hand in glove to apply and adapt the Lampang model nationwide.
Lampang residents report that Governor Narongsak opened a hotline for senior citizens so officials could help them register - which was a big help for the elderly, who are often not very IT-conversant.
Also, this service was open until midnight!
Volunteers reached out to those to help to sign them up.
Many residents reported that they registered because they trusted Governor Narongsak - so he and local celebrities could star in the government's publicity campaign.
We're now 5th among the 10 Asean countries in terms of Covid-19 doses per 100 people, and vaccination is proceeding at a snail's pace.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea
Virtually waved by President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 May 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 11 May 2021

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is obviously in over his head when it comes to the country’s security issues with China over the West Philippine Sea (WPS). Though admirable for his sense of patriotism “PH can be cordial with other nations but not at the expense of sovereignty - Lorenzana,” in Philippine Inquirer May 2, 2021, his comments only have the effect of raising eyebrows or dropping jaws, or both.Lrezana’s credibility is shot through and through in the face of his own commander in chief’s oft-repeated pronouncements about our defense being “inutil” to stop China from its acts of aggression in the WPS.
Whatever is left of our “sovereign rights” over those waters have been virtually waived by President Duterte, who has thrown himself into the clutches - and mercy - of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
With Mr. Duterte exclusively dictating the terms of “engagement” with China, nothing there may be worth defending anymore.
Should Lorenzana just resign to preserve his honor and integrity?
Absolutely.
That sacrifice should send the message to all Filipinos - the ones he has sworn to serve and protect - that Mr. Duterte has got it all wrong: that war with almighty China is the only fate awaiting us if he said no to Xi.
Democratic Taiwan has been saying no to communist China for decades and still lives to this day to continue saying no!
How sad that Taiwan’s woman President Tsai Ing-wen seems to have more balls than our “macho” president.

Rose Anne Bartolome,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for international community to protect
The people of Myanmar from military repression
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 May 2021

Myanmar military declaration of groups opposed to their takeover of the democratically elected civilian government as " terrorist groups " is pure hogwash ( ' Myanmar military declares groups against takeover of elected government " terrorist groups" The Southeast Asian Times 12 May ).
The whole world (minus the Chinese state hierarchy ) know only too well who are the real terrorist in Myanmar.
It's the Myanmar military which has no regard for the rule of law, for democratic processes and governance and respect for human rights and citizens rights in the country.
They have foisted rule by terror on the people of Myanmar.
They should rightfully be deemed a " terrorist group" and not fit to be called a national military which serves and protects the people.
It's a self- serving armed group which rules through the barrel of the gun. It's the same as a terrorist group holding a country hostage.
The Myanmar military fools no one with its spurious claim that those opposed to the military takeover are " terrorists".
It's a pretext to round up dissenting voices and even to summarily execute opponents of the illegitimate military junta.
The international community must not allow this to happen. It must protect the people of Myanmar from military repression.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



More lawyers killed in Philippines under President Duterte
Than under Presidents Marcos, Arroyo and Aquino
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 May 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 10 May 2021

The recent report from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on lawyers killed in the Philippines has been widely reported in the media.
Unfortunately the report is flawed by its historical revisionism.
Whether intended or not, it cannot serve the purpose of understanding the problem and attempting to deal with it adequately.
The basic flaw in the FLAG report is the claim that there were relatively few lawyer killings, 28, from the Marcos martial law period (1972) to the end of the second Aquino presidency (2010).
These numbers are wide off the mark.
My research in the pre-Duterte period focuses on the terms of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2010) and Benigno Aquino III (2010-2016).
Under Arroyo, there were at least 78 killings, almost three times that reported by FLAG from 1972-2010.
Under Aquino, there were at least 41 killings compared to the 1 asserted by FLAG.
From that basic flaw comes the incorrect assertion by FLAG that there have been more lawyer killings, 61, under President Duterte than under the previous six presidents.
One thing FLAG got right is that the intensity of lawyer killings is highest under the present regime.
My research indicates that under Mr. Duterte the rate is about 1.1 lawyer killed per month, compared to Arroyo (.68 ) and Aquino (.57).

Gill Boehringerco,
Chair,
Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers
International Association of People’s Lawyers
Manila,
Philippines


 

Call for re entry permit
For China's rocket return to earth
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 9 May 2021

Re: "Returning rocket will be safe", in Bangkok Post May 8, 2021

Somebody should tell the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that by allowing its rocket to crash on Earth, China is interfering in the internal affairs of whatever country it lands on.
The nations of the world must rebuff and condemn this outrageous violation of their sovereignty.
The rocket doesn't even have a re-entry permit, much less a visa.
I call upon UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres to summon Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi give him a proper dressing-down.
Should the rocket cause any damage to people or property, the Chinese government must be subjected to severe sanctions.

S Tsow,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Did Philippine President Rodrigo Dutere promise
To reclaim the West Philippine Sea or not
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 10 May 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 May 2021

Who can forget the statement of then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte bragging that he would ride a jet ski and plant the Philippine flag at the Spratly Islands?
Now he is saying he did not promise that he will reclaim the West Philippine Sea. What is the meaning of planting the Philippine flag there?
Does it not mean asserting our rights over the islands?
If the President claims he did not promise anything about the West Philippine Sea, it either proves he is a liar and he deceived the people just to win the election in 2016, or he does not think thoroughly and carefully before saying anything.
It is similar to his promise that he would solve the drug problem in six months. Many were mesmerized and thought he would achieve it.
But it was all hot air.

Raffy Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines



 


Thai jailed in Australia on drug charges is serving as
Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister in Thaland
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 5 May 2021

Re: "Charter court rules Thamanat qualified to serve as MP", Bangkok Post, May 5.
The Bangkok Post reported - as had been expected - that "the sentence handed down by a New South Wales court in Australia is not binding on Thailand.
"Therefore, Mr Thamanat is still qualified to be an MP and a cabinet member under the constitution, the court ruled."

Folks, don't let the news mislead you that Thamanat did not commit a crime.
He did.
The court merely ruled that his conviction in Australia cannot be used to constitutionally disqualify him from political posts.
The ruling literally means that even if a Thai national was convicted of rape and murder in a foreign country, the conviction cannot be used to bar him from serving as an Mwmber of Parliament, cabinet member, or prime minister.
Let's go back to Thamanat.
''Newspaper in Australia reported that he had been jailed there for four years on a drugs charge.''
As a result, the media can rightly refer to Thamanat as Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister ... and a convicted drug dealer.

Somsak Pola,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The Australia government has done the right thing
Extending Visa's to Myanmar nationals
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 May 2021

I applaud the government's decision to grant visa extensions to Myanmar nationals living in Australia ( abc news 5/5 ).
As someone who has come from a serial coup country I know only too well what the extension would mean for the Myanmar people living in Australia in light of the brutal military takeover in their home country on February 1, 2021.
They would be exceedingly grateful.
The Australian government has done the right thing in this instance and that has to be acknowledged with deep appreciation.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Filipinos
To defend national territory
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 May 2021

Much has been said about the West Philippine Sea situation, and it is past time to remind everyone that this issue needs cooperation from all parties involved.
It cannot be carried out solely by the Philippine Defense Department and Armed Forces.
I agree with Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's comment that the Philippines will continue to cooperate and be friends with China, but not at the detriment of our sovereign rights.
This issue should be free of political overtones.
We're all interested in this.
We only have one country.
Now is not the time for squabbling; now is the time to work together.
Now is the time to send one clear message- defend the national territory.

Shermaine Anacleto,
Manila,
Philippines



Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak has been on a hunger strike
In Bangkok Remand prison since his arrest March 15
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday4 May 2021

Re: "Dept denies 'Penguin' seriously ill", in Bangkok Post, April 30, 2021
How is it that an individual can go from Olympic-athlete measures of vital signs related to blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and oxygen saturation one day to a hospital bed the next?
The public is clearly being misled with respect to the condition of imprisoned protest leader Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



After-effects of Covid-19
Will haunt Thailand for years
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 3 May 2021

Re: "Vaccine bond answer?" in Bangkok Post, Saturday May 1, 2021

I commend Pony Issacsohn for an intriguing and innovative economic initiative which could boost Thailand's prospects in fighting Covid-19 and reopening the economy.
Alas, even if such a grandiose plan were successful, history shows that the after-effects from Covid-19 in Thailand will probably haunt the nation for years.
Looking back to 1918, medical after-effects from the Spanish Flu carried on for decades and probably contributed to a premature end to WWI.
The Great Depression in 1929 and the 30s elicited massively accelerated social change and policy changes which really only started to ebb in the 1990s and early 2000s. Clearly, such social effects shall occur again now.
Moreover, the entire world including Thailand is soon to contend with a "lost generation" of young people whose education is probably damaged beyond repair; thus it will handicap their future university and corporate opportunities, led to mountains of bad debt, decimated businesses and lives already shattered.
Alas, while I commend the writer for a lovely dream, our reality shall simply be an inevitable 100-year nightmare.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Dangers are now beyond America and China
Human extintion has already started
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 3 May 2021

Re: "Kissinger warns of 'colossal' dangers in US-China tensions", in Bangkok Post May 1, 2021.
Yes, engagement with China is necessary. American politics and policies are partly responsible for the current situation.
For most of the last century, American politicians have referred to "communism" as an eternal threat to their country.
Even in 2021, Cuba, a small island nation, is being punished for its ideology.
More recently, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State, and ordinary Muslims and Mexicans have been used as scapegoats and blamed for its social problems and declining power.
As long as US elections are fought by creating external enemies, it will remain embroiled in its own quagmire.
Sadly, Mr Kissinger's thinking is still rooted in the past.
One thing is for sure, the era of being a superpower based on nuclear arsenal is over.
The nuclear weapons laced with AI are not a big threat.
Hence turning China into another enemy will not go very far.
The "colossal" dangers are now beyond America and China.
Bigger dangers are already here environmental degradation and the Covid pandemic.
These intertwined dangers require a new approach in diplomacy.
The process of human extinction has already started.
More than one-fifth of the global population is infected with the Covid virus and more than three million people have already died.
The pace of environmental degradation is also taking its toll.
Hence all nations should be spending more money and efforts on education, medical research, infrastructure, waste management, water and food security, emergency response systems, and healthcare.
More than ever, diplomacy should be focused on global collaboration and cooperation.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

The erosion of public faith in Thai Buddhism
Due to repeated scandals is a sign of hope
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 28 April 2021

Re: "Temple corruption erodes public faith", in Bangkok Post, Opinion,
April 28.
While I appreciated Thanthip Srisuwannaket's timely essay making constructive suggestions for the salvation of Thai Buddhism from itself, some deeper reforms might also be worth considering.
The clue is in Thanthip's first sentence: "As corruption soars in predominantly Buddhist Thailand, its temples are also facing a serious erosion of public faith due to rife corruption in the closed, non-transparent clergy."
The fact is that as popular as it might be, it is false to claim that Thailand is predominantly Buddhist.
It is not.
Thailand does not live according to the wise insights of the Buddha.
On the contrary, it lives under the tradition-bound, legalistic sway of a religion known as "Thai Buddhism".
This religion was made up over the centuries to serve an elite who wanted another prop for their ideology of control by legalism.
Thai Buddhism thus reflects too well the status quo of many decades, if not centuries, that remains rampant.
Relevant to Thanthip's points, one example of the respect unreasonably accorded monks of the nationalistic religion known as Thai Buddhism is their treatment when found guilty of crimes, such as financial corruption to steal public money.
They are disrobed.
This is wrong.
It is a manifestation of moral corruption, of dishonesty, that has no place in a genuine respect for the Buddha's teachings.
It falsely pretends that monks cannot be criminals, that monks are somehow holier than others: a manifestly false prejudice.
Going through a ceremony and putting on saffron robes does not make anyone more moral, more decent or a more respectable person than they were the day before, or than they will be the day after they exit the monkhood.
What, really, is merit making according to the preaching of Thai Buddhism?
It is the trade in merit to get a better deal in the next life, either for the devotee who contributes to the temple or does suitable good deeds.
But for the rich of Thai society, as for the rich of medieval Europe, the surest path to salvation in the next world is a generous donation to a monastery, or even to a revered monk himself.
It is the corruption of the karmic bureaucracy by money or other valuable consideration.
Naturally, when this example is entrenched at the heart of the national religion, endorsed for centuries by those who profit from it, finally, devout Buddhists sincerely believed in, and repeated the same attitude.
But as the Christian Reformation and later Enlightenment showed, and as Thanthip Srisuwannaket optimistically suggests, reform is possible.
I would suggest that a concrete step to help Thai Buddhism become more Buddhist would be to put the Buddha's brilliant's teaching known as Kalama Sutta in a prominent position in spreading true wisdom.
Regular reading of and reflection on the Kalama Sutta could do much to counter the too pervasively anti-Buddhist deference that make people easily believe in authority merely because it is authority, whether based on tradition, popular social consensus, accident of birth, official position, or whatever.
None of these, as the Buddha bluntly reminds us, are inherently reliable guides to right understanding; all should be constantly subject to critical review and questioning, along with temple finances.
Seen in the right light, the erosion of public faith in Thai Buddhism due to repeated scandals is a sign of hope.
It can lead to a reformation of Thai Buddhism so that Thailand might indeed one day become a predominantly truly Buddhist nation.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for good hearted Australians
To help India in out of control pandemic
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 May 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post

Re: "India reports record spike in infections," in Bangkok Post April 23, 2021
Surely there must be some way that the wealthy countries, the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Europe can rush surplus medical oxygen supplies to India.
I am Australian, I have heard nothing about supplies coming from there.
Too many people are dying, despite the fact they could be saved in the first place.
I can only hope that people who work in the embassies read the Bangkok Post. Such an operation should already be underway and I feel terribly sad.
I have been visiting India from Australia and Thailand for the last 40 years, so what I see happening there now is very real to me.
This may seem a very naive contribution but what else can I say?
There must be some way this can be organised.

Leo Bourne,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for investigation into fishy land deals
In Papua New Guinea
First published in the National, Monday 26 April 2021
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 31 April 2021

There was a notice in The National on page 39 on April 21, issued by the Lands and Physical Planning Minister John Rosso under section 122 of the Land Act 1996.
The notice was addressed to FTM Holdings Ltd to show cause on why the State lease should not be forfeited as it had failed to comply with the conditions of the agreement.
But while this notice was published in the media, a private company implicated in the recent National Housing Corporation’s evictions in Lae fenced the property perimeters.
The property is now subject to being forfeited.
Why is this development allowed?
As per the notice, the property is owned by FTM Holdings Ltd so how can another company be allowed by the Morobe physical planning board to fence the land?
People in Lae know that this property was a single-quarters government hostel occupied by young male public servants.
It is quite surprising as to how this government-owned property is under FTM Holdings Ltd.
How did FTM Holdings Ltd obtain a lease over the property in the first place?
Was the property properly advertised in the government gazette as available for leasing?
Under what land board meeting was this property deliberated upon for the grant to have been made to FTM Holdings Ltd?
Did FTM Holdings Ltd buy it from someone else?
Something fishy is going on with this land.
What is the motive behind this?
For those who are unfamiliar with the nature of forfeitures, after the expiry of one month given to show cause, if the response is insufficient to the minister’s satisfaction, the forfeiture process is commenced by gazetting the forfeiture in the government gazette.
After the above gazettal, the land then goes back to the State and becomes unallocated.
The ongoing fishy deal raises concerns of corruption and should be looked into.

Concerned Morobean,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


 

Not difficult to see what superpower is source
Of instability in the region
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesay 28 April 2021

Re: "US not entrapping," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, April 22
Kuldeep Nagi is absolutely correct in pointing out that most of the potential flashpoints in Asia are the result of high-handed Chinese policies and actions.
With China's aggressive illegal attempts at hegemony in the South China Sea in direct violation of international law, strong-arm bullying of neighbours, trampling of human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, debt-trapping tactics under the Belt and Road Initiative, and disregard for downstream Mekong livelihoods through dam-building and mismanagement of water resources, it is not difficult to see what superpower is the source of instability in the region.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




ASEAN leaders lack spine for not refusing
Myanmar military attendance ASEAN meeting.
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 April 2021

When I first heard it - this talk of Southeast Asian leaders reaching consensus with Myanmar's military coup leader on ending violence in that troubled country - I knew straightaway that it was bogus, false, and a con.
Now with the media report saying a man was shot dead by Myanmar's security forces two days after that " consensus" proclamation by ASEAN ( ' 'Myanmar forces kill protester : media ' Canberra Times 27/4/21 ), I know why I felt it was bogus and dubious from the very outset.
But it should come as no surprise. Rogue rulers often even game the United Nations mob!
Reaching a consensus on ending violence with the very military usurper and perpetrator of the violence with his brutal military takeover of the elected civilian government and violent crackdown and killing of protesters opposed to military rule is absurd, hypocritical and farcical.
It only showed the ASEAN leaders lacked the spine to do the right thing by the oppressed people of Myanmar by rejecting the military dictator's presence at the ASEAN meeting.
Shame on them.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for ASEAN not to block
United Nations approach towards Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 27 April 2021

Asean had been lied to after the bloody 1988 people's uprising, the 1990 election where the National League for Democracy (NLD) won, and then this coup.
These are solid proof that the Myanmar military does not care about elections and does not have ethics.
Being lied to once means the liar was good, twice means that the person on the receiving end was not that careful and third time means he was stupid to believe it.
In the meantime the people suffer.
We state to Asean that your judgement of the Myanmar military is wrong and the approach it is taking to seek a solution is wrong.
Most importantly the people should not be made to suffer more.
Asean is reminded to look back at the approach they took for successive coups and the results, and stay away from the worn-out approach of "there needs to be a line of communication open".
There are lines directly open with the UN, and Asean must not block the UN's approach.
This movement is not about one political party, one ethnic nationality, nor one class of people.
It is about getting together to get rid of a dictatorship from its roots and starting again from zero.
There is rule of law in the world and we will prevail.

Maung Maung,
President of Confederation of Trade Unions,
Myanmar


 

Thailand ranks 8th out of 10 ASEAN countries
In percentage of population vaccinated
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 26 April 2021

Re: "Pata calls for urgent vaccination strategy," in Bangkok Post, 23 April 2021.
Thailand made an all-time high: we had 2,839 new Covid-19 cases yesterday. Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) chief executive Mario Hardy said, "The Thai vaccination rate needs to be at least 10 times faster than the current rate", for we rank 8th out of 10 Asean countries in terms of percentage of population vaccinated.
Yet Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul insists, "The delivery of vaccine is according to plan."
But Minister Anutin is the owner of Sinothai Construction, the contractor of the long-delayed construction of our new parliament building.
The construction started in earnest in 2013, with the deadline for opening in 2015. So, don't rely on Minister Anutin's promises.
This acceptance of poor performance is a direct result of widespread corruption which we dare not confront.
For example, the current super-spreader, originating from nightclubs in Thong Lor district, is due in large part to:
Six members of the elite who went to Cambodia and didn't quarantine upon return;
Two nightclubs that flouted health regulations and whose owners have gone unpunished;
Political leaders, like the minister who tested positive for Covid-19 and refused to disclose his detailed timeline as required and the Deputy Prime Minister who let the above minister get away with it;
The police who turned a blind eye to the mischief going on under their noses;
You and me, who let the bigwigs in uniform get away with it. We sow the wind, we reap the whirlwind.
As Khun Samanea Saman in his April 23 letter noted, "From all that I'm hearing from politicians and officials, it's time to be worried - very worried!"

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Philippine President Duterte to step down
Over China invasion of West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 23 April 2021

In the news item “More netizens join call for Duterte’s resignation” in Philippine Inquirer April 20, 2021, more than 60,000 signatures - and still counting - are said to be supporting the call for President Duterte to step down due to his administration’s dismal performance vis-à-vis the pandemic and China’s almost total invasion of the West Philippine Sea, which now seems irreversible because of his own declaration to the whole world that he is “inutil” to do anything about it.
While that number may seem too insignificant to raise any alarm, there is no gainsaying the fact that this administration has really messed up its handling of COVID-19 and China’s continued occupation of the West Philippine Sea.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s constant praise of this administration’s “excellent” job in any aspect of governance is making people think the blabbermouth now badly needs “professional help” for seeing things only he can see.
And in response to the so-called “fake news” that “some military men planned to withdraw their support” “Duterte says he’s willing to step down if military, police no longer support him,” in Philippine Inquirer April 20, 2021, Mr. Duterte has made it clear that he really doesn’t give a hoot about what the “netizens” or the Filipino people think as long as he has the military and the police under his total control, not to mention the supposed assurance of his “beloved friend” Chinese President Xi Jinping that he’s got his back.
During his first years as president, Mr. Duterte’s focus seemed mainly on how to keep himself in power.
He did what any two-bit dictator would do: doubling or tripling the salaries of military and police personnel - the ones with the big guns.
And after their retirement, he kept them happy with lucrative jobs under his continued control.
It’s no wonder their loyalty is to him, rather than to the country.
This is exactly the same playbook the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had used to stay in power beyond his legitimate term.
But Mr. Duterte should realize that despite Marcos’ pampering of and iron grip on the military and the police throughout martial law, Edsa 1 happened.

Dino M. Capistrano,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Call for Thailand to grant permits
To the private sector to import vaccines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 23 April 2021

I would just like to point out the obvious here.
There are approximately 1,500 hospitals in Thailand, not counting neighbourhood clinics.
If each hospital can vaccinate 1,000 people per day which is not an unreasonable number under the circumstances, that would result in 1,500,000 people vaccinated per day or 45 million in a month.
We would be back to semi-normal within a month.
So what's the hold-up?
Because the authority has not granted permits to the private sector to import vaccines, there are not enough vaccines in general.
Look at the US as an example.
On December 11, 2020 the US Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorisation (EUA) for a vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease.
The EUA allowed the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the US.
That jump-started a far and wide vaccination programme.
Enough people have been vaccinated, of all ages and races, and that has created enough data and samples to give a statistically significant conclusion that all current approved Covid-19 vaccines are safe for humans.
Does the Thai FDA consider our current Covid-19 situation an emergency?

ML Saksiri Kridakorn,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Call for ASEAN to reject Myanmar
Military rogue ruler from ASEAN meeting
The Southeast Asian Times. Saturday 24 April 2021

I agree with David Brown ( Letter SEAT 22/4 ).
Myanmar's rogue military ruler General Min Aung Hliang should not be invited to the ASEAN meet in Jakarta. He has no legitimacy .
An Interpol Red Notice should instead be posted for his arrest for the slaughter of his own people to maintain his illegitimate hold on power.
Members of ASEAN should show some spine and do the right thing by rejecting the rogue rulers presence at the ASEAN meeting in Jakarta.
If anyone from Myanmar is to be invited it should be the NUG as David Brown points out.The oppressed people of Myanmar deserve nothing less.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia




Philippine President Duterte speaks of Police
As if Police are his personal bodyguards
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Thursday 22 April 2021

The editorial “Brute display of power” in Philippine Inquirer April 14, 2021 detailed recent incidents of brutality against suspects regardless of the severity of their crimes.
This is the behavior emboldened by a tough-talking President who puts justice into his own hands.
The President has made it a point to speak of the police as if they are his own personal bodyguard to deploy at whim.
We have seen and heard the Philippine National Police say time and again that it will do “internal cleansing” every time a new chief takes the helm.
As commentators would say, lumang tugtugin na ’yan!
How can we even trust the institution when its current chief, who himself violated simple health protocols during the first enhanced community quarantine, was not even reprimanded, let alone sanctioned for his clear mischief?
How can we exact the same standard on ordinary Filipinos when the police can easily flex their muscle and brand any good reasoning by citizens as “resisting arrest” or “disobedience”?
When every bit of law is stretched and used against helpless individuals while it is conveniently waived for those in power?
What iota of trust do we have left for law enforcers who are supposed to “serve and protect” us?
These cases of abuse are not unique to the Philippines. In many countries, the abuse of police power is also rampant.
And who are the victims?
The poor, the voiceless, the marginalized, the oppressed.
The line our parents told us, “Hala ka, huhulihin ka ng pulis,” was not merely a work of fiction.

Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao,
Manila,
Philippines



Treated radioactive discharge from Fukushima
Will not effect anyone healthwise
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 21 April 2021

We live in a nuclear-powered universe and nuclear radiation is all around all the time.
There is additional radiation measured in sea water from Fukushima but the levels are extremely low compared to natural sources.
It is important for people to understand that low levels of radiation don't affect us because we're exposed to it all the time.
This is a communication problem, not a public health problem.
Discharges from Fukushima will not affect anyone healthwise and there are reports that surfers have returned to the area.
It is important to know that prior to 2011, there was already cesium-137 in the ocean remaining from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing that peaked in the 1960s.
Today, levels above 2.0 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3) in the surface ocean, indicate additional cesium from the Japanese releases.
Levels are still well below regulatory limits of 7,400 Bq/m3 set for drinking water (US EPA).
By my calculations, even if levels increased to 10 Bq/m3, swimming eight hours every day for an entire year, would only increase one's annual dose by an amount 1,000 times less than a single dental X-ray.
The marine biosphere is much less sensitive to radioactive contamination than the terrestrial biosphere.
This is due to: (1) shielding by water, (2) the huge mass and volume available for dilution and (3) suppression by non-radioactive isotopes that are omnipresent in seawater in high concentrations. Natural radioactivity, notably from polonium, is a much larger contributor to the radiation dose of sea life and indirectly also to humans.

Tony Margetts,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



Call for National Unity Government in Myanmar
To be invited to ASEAN summit on Saturday
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 21 April 2021

The news that Myanmar's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing will attend the Asean summit in Jakarta is distressing news, not only for the suffering people of Myanmar, but for the credibility - or what is left of it - of Asean itself.
By giving this mass murderer a platform at the summit, Asean is giving de facto recognition to a regime that since it illegally seized power on February 1 has killed more than 700 of its own citizens, and the bodycount continues to rise.
Prime Minister Prayat Chan-o-cha and Min Aung Hlaing are too much like kindred spirits for anyone to expect Thailand to take a stand on this issue.
But how about Indonesia taking a stand and refusing to allow this tyrant to land on its territory?
Or other members of Asean who might have with some some remnants of dignity of propriety left, boycotting the summit.
What should happen is that representatives of the shadow NUG should be invited to the summit. They have far more legitimacy as representatives of the Myanmar people than Min Aung Hlaing.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine seniors promised AstraZeneca
Reject Sinovac
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 19 April 2021

As long-time Makati residents and business owners, my wife and I have always been supportive of the Binays as leader of our beloved city, from the time of Jojo Binay, and now his youngest child, the hardworking Mayor Abby.
And we were so happy when she announced that we seniors after the frontline health workers would be vaccinated with AstraZeneca after it got the highest vote in a preference poll they conducted last year.
Our high spirits turned to disappointment, however, when, upon showing up at the San Lorenzo Gym for our scheduled vaccination on April 13, we were told that we would be jabbed with Sinovac instead of the promised brand.
We, along with a good number of San Lorenzo Village residents, decided to walk out.
Why would we settle for a brand that has the lowest efficacy rate among the World Health Organization-approved vaccines?
And Sinovac is not recommended for seniors!
As dutiful taxpayers, we won’t settle for nothing less than the best vaccine, because:
We don’t believe in the quality of Sinovac and the intention that comes with it from the Chinese government;
We are holding Mayor Abby to her promise.

Ed Dames,
San Lorenzo Village,
Makati City,
Philippines




Myanmar has fearlessly maintained
Protest against military takeover
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 April 2021

The people of Myanmar demonstrate the Plato quote " Courage is knowing what not to fear ".
They have fearlessly maintained their protest against the military takeover of the elected civilian government and are demanding the restoration of democracy despite the brutal fascist military crackdown.
That's pure courage in facing tyranny without fear.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Physical presence in office required
Despites approval of virtual AGM's
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 19 April 2021
First published on the Bangkok Post, Thursday 15 April 2021

While the government and stock exchange have graciously approved virtual AGMs, protecting both shareholders and boards, there are still processes that require physical presence at the office at this time, such as sorting through paper proxies.
Thus, even if offices are being closed to protect employees, certain members of staff are required to go in to deal with paperwork that is still a requirement of the exchange and other authorities.
So many documents for the government and quasi-government institutions are still required on paper, while the technology to digitalise them is commonly available. No doubt plans are afoot to transform the government over time, but we now know that the virus waits for no man.
Any acceleration of this digitalisation would be welcomed by all companies.

Willie,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Papua New Guinea can never be like China and India
Unless entrenched corruption in government is eliminated
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 April 2021
First published in the National, Friday 16 April 2021

As late as the 60s and 70s, China and India were largely at the backwater, illiterate in Western standards and poverty-stricken with their respective governments grapping to contain and sustain their huge population scattered over large land masses.
Today, they are a far-cry from that scenario and rubbing shoulders with the Western world.
Both came up with the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of most advanced countries, typifying innovated break-through in medical science.
China’s Sinovac Biotech came up with Coronavac, while India’s Bharat Biotech discovered Covaxin.
What is their magic formula that triggered advancements in science and technology?
It is the advancement in education, mass industrialisation, innovative infrastructures and improvements in governance.
All these factors can transform any nation’s status and outlook.
Massive reforms have revolutionised these countries to what they are today.
The human factor at the helm of societal structure makes all else happen.
Mass education entails acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Of course, advancement comes through hard work but it is achievable as long as the political will is there.
India and China have set a glaring paradigm for Papua New Guinea to learn from.
However, unless we eliminate the deeply entrenched corruption in our political and bureaucratic systems and embrace good governance, we can never ever hope to be like China and India.

Alois Ruarri,
Mikarew,
Bogia,
Papua New Guinea


 

Call for Philippine President Duterte
To be role model for children
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 April 2021

So after two weeks of being missing in action and engaging in his usual disappearing act, the President has finally shown himself.
Not bothered a bit by his Houdini-style “leadership,” President Duterte even justified his action: “Noong nawala ako ng ilang araw, talagang sinadya ko yun. Pag kinakalkal mo ako, parang bata, pag lalo mo akong kinakantyawan e mas lalo akong gagana…”
Is this the president of a republic, or a spoiled brat?
Mr. Duterte’s actuations, demeanor, and overall conduct are unworthy of the Office of the President.
Instead of talking about the problems of the nation, he utilized his time-tested technique of engaging in diversion.
Millions of our countrymen are unemployed and a great number have lost their jobs and income due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), but rather than using his power and virtual platform to unite the people and give them hope and inspiration, the President instead once again threw a tantrum.

"Dear President Duterte,
At home, we are told to respect one another. There are words that we are not allowed to say. Sometimes I hear you on television. I am shocked at how you curse and badmouth others. As president, don’t you think you should be a role model for good manners and right conduct? I hope that you will change your attitude. Then maybe I will respect you more.
Thank you.
Sincerely yours,
Skye"

I believe it is the right time for Filipinos to call out Mr. Duterte and his enablers, to tell them that enough is enough.
If they cannot do their jobs, it is time for them to come clean. In this time of crisis, what we need are leaders who will tell us the truth and do the right thing.
The truth, in fact, is that the emperor has no clothes, and the right thing for him to do is to resign.

Jose Mario De Vega,
University of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Philippines to lean on US
Against China's bullying
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 15 April 2021

In the news item “Row over Chinese vessels won’t hurt ties, COVID-19 vaccines supply - Duterte” in Philippine Inquirer April 7, 2021 we saw presidential spokesperson Harry Roque having another field day lying through his teeth:
The row would be “resolved through diplomatic channels and … peaceful means.”
The so-called “expert in international law” has conveniently forgotten that the Philippines had already done that at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
Nothing could be more “diplomatic and peaceful” than that!
The Philippines won, but China simply sneezed at the arbitral judgment declaring its claim over numerous islands in the West Philippine Sea to be more imagined than real. China continued to build, build, build on those islands while President Duterte continued to adore Chinese President Xi Jinping and cautioned everyone in this country against displeasing his “best friend” who, in his mind, would go to war against the Filipinos at the slightest provocation.
What a friend, indeed!
Roque must think Filipinos are hopelessly dumb and cannot tell when he is lying -which he does all the time to cover up his boss’ reckless and indecorous utterances.
Talking diplomacy with China is like talking good manners with Attila the Hun!
In geopolitics, the only way to deter a bullying superpower like China from its ever-increasing aggression is for the Philippines to lean on a greater superpower like the United States.
How else has Taiwan survived more than 70 years of mainland China’s continuing threat of invasion if not for its very cozy and well-entrenched relations with the United States?

Arnulfo M. Edralin,
Manila,
Philippines




Thai Hotels profit from Covid-19 pandemic
Under alternative state quarantine (ASQ) programme
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post. Monday 12 April 2021

Re: "Rebranding for post-virus tourism", in Bangkok Post April 6, 2021
The experiences of the Royal Rattanakosin Hotel and others remind us that even in times of crises - perhaps especially in times of crises - there are opportunities to profit.
The report indicating that Royal Rattanakosin is fully booked with customers under the alternative state quarantine (ASQ) programme makes one wonder what other entities are profiting from the pandemic.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippines call for new system of elections
Where money not necessary to win
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 April 2021

Lawyer Alex Lacson, in his speech “The Filipino Dream” which he delivered at the Universitas Foundation last March 20, presented some recommendations to solve the problems of our country.
He gave examples applied by successful countries such as Denmark, among them regulating business so that employees can get a fair share of their companies’ income to enable them to live a contented life, and teaching the value of a good election system as part of the curriculum in senior high school.
Unfortunately, I do not think our current government leaders would be willing to give up their privileges and follow such a formula for progress, because they run counter to their selfish interests.
And without the honest support of our leaders in Congress, we know we cannot get such suggestions implemented through constitutional means.
Our politicians invest so much for their election, spending huge amounts to win votes.
Naturally, they will try to recover their “investments” and set aside more for their reelection.
The only way they can do this is through corruption, be it directly robbing the government or using their position to gain “lagay” from others.
Which means they will have no incentive to push for the right legislation or their implementation.
Such initiatives would run counter to their primary but often illegal objectives in office.
The only way we can remedy our situation is to have a new system of elections where money is not necessary to win.
That way, the winning candidates will be satisfied with a reasonable increase in compensation, which is a little more than what they will get outside the government.
But why would our congressional leaders not want a system of elections that is not expensive?
It is because their advantage in elections will no longer prevail.
The people will then be electing leaders who are competent and intelligent, because they can no longer sell their votes.
Of course, changing our system of elections and governance will not be easy. Changing our system by constitutional means is in the hands of our current leaders. It may only be through a direct exercise of our sovereign right as a people that we can change things.
Such an initiative is legitimate, and it is our only remaining road to freedom.
As the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 when it decided on the legitimacy of the Cory government: “It is an inherent right of the people to cast out their rulers, change their policy or effect radical reforms in their system of government or institution by force or a general uprising when the legal and constitutional methods of making change have proved inadequate or are so obstructed as to be available.”
We seem to have no other alternative but to change the way we elect our leaders. Or we will continue our path to downfall.


Col. Guillermo G. Cunanan (Ret.),
Parañaque City,
Philippines




Papua New Guinea has lost the plot
In management of Covid-19 pandemic
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 April 2021
First published in the National, Friday 9 April 2021

The Government has lost the plot on managing the spread in the Covid-19 pandemic.
The respective government authorities failed to put in place measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
They are now introducing vaccinating our citizens without any proper testing programme.
How can you go on injecting people with vaccines without proof of the virus’ severity?
What are the side effects?
The Government should be spending these millions of Covid-19 funds on boosting the capacities of provincial and districts hospitals, clinics in local level governments and aid posts.
For example, Morobe’s nine district hospitals in Menyamya, Bulolo, Huon Gulf, Markham, Lae, Nawab, Finschhafen, Tewai-Siassi and Kabwum, should be upgraded with proper staffing and get the World Health Organisation to help us out with combatting the Covid-19 and other diseases.
Let us not forget the Covid-19 pandemic is not the only disease that can kill.
There are other dangerous diseases already in Papua New Guinea that can destroy lives as well.
We have been going around in circles without any improvement.
Let us seek God’s wisdom and guidance and ask Him for forgiveness and blessings.
I said that because the Covid-19 pandemic has penetrated the country just years after former prime minister and Ialibu-Pangia MP Peter O’Neill illegally took over the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare’s government.
Sir Michael never handed this country to any political leader in a respectable manner.
And now, he is gone.
Yes, it is true that some of our parliamentarians confessed and apologised to the Somare family in front of our founding father’s casket but that was not good enough.
They should have apologised to him when he was alive.
Prime Minister James Marape must also apologise to us - many former MPs - for not keeping his promise to bringing us to Port Moresby to witness Sir Michael’s funeral.
My wife and I spent our own money to look after many elderly people who came to our family home to show respect to our founding father and listening to the live broadcast of his funeral from start to finish.
The 2017-2022 parliamentary term has been in total confusion that has resulted in court battles and political fights between the Government and the Opposition.
Our political leaders have lost their way.

Samson C Napo,
Former Bulolo MP 1992-2002,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea


 

Half-measure vaccination in Thailand
Will lead to demise of Thai tourism sector
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 11 April 2021

Re: "Travel agents worried slow jab distribution delays restart", in Bangkok Post April 6, 2021

Travel agents have good reason to be worried about the lack of a clear strategy for full immunisation of Thailand's population.
What tourists in their right minds will be willing to travel to a country with only 40 percent or 50 percent of its residents vaccinated when other tourism destinations have 80 percent or more immunised?
The current clumsy half-measures with respect to vaccinations will unfortunately lead to the likely demise of Thailand's once dynamic tourism sector.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippine President Duterte hurls words at the US
But is silent about China
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 April 2021

China is slowly eating up our territory, but President Duterte remains quiet.
Many are confused as to why he is maintaining his position of quiet passivity.
I believe the problem stems from his life-long reputation of being a tough guy.
He never runs away from a fight - backing down would mean loss of face.
He can hurl tough words at the United States and he is sure he would not get challenged to a fight.
But if he stands up to China, he would immediately be confronted, and he would have a fight that he realizes he cannot win.
He would have to back down and lose face.
Hence, it is easier to flaunt his friendship with China and assert that all differences with a friend can be resolved through silent diplomacy.
We can only hope that Mr. Duterte and his group will be replaced after the 2022 elections.

Rene Torres,
Makati City,
Philippines



To honor Marcos with a hero's burial
Is a mockery of justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer,

The editorial “An excellent Filipino” March 1, 2021 paid tribute to the Atenean priest and lawyer, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, who passed away on March 6, 2021: “Those who had the privilege of knowing him hailed Bernas for raising a new generation of lawyers with a strong sense of social justice, and for helping a country just coming out of 14 years of authoritarian rule to again find its bearings as a democracy.”
Needless to say, Ferdinand Marcos, who plundered this country for decades, was absolutely no “hero” to Bernas.
In his column “Q&A on the game-changing SC cases,” April 4, 2021 retired chief justice Artemio Panganiban reminded us how three prominent Atenean lawyers - namely, retired justices Arturo Brion and Mariano del Castillo and sitting justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe - never learned their lessons from Bernas on “social justice.” It is now on record that, to them, Marcos was a “hero” and deserved to be enshrined at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Truth be told, had the three Atenean justices voted according to their conscience in light of their supposed moral upbringing, the carcass of Marcos would have remained to rot where it had been for decades - in a refrigerated coffin at an altar in his Ilocos hometown far, far away from hallowed grounds.
They conveniently forgot that in many decisions of the Supreme Court in the past, Marcos had been found guilty of massively amassing ill-gotten wealth - indeed, a scoundrel through and through!
The gobbledygook those Atenean lawyers had used to justify their decisions to “honor” Marcos with a “hero’s burial” had caused this egregious mockery of justice to be perpetually inflicted on a nation of believers in Edsa I, a phenomenon the whole world hailed as the Filipinos’ finest hour.

Rimaldo Pacifico,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines will become a province of China
If President Duterte wins another election
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 April 2021

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was reported to have taken a strong stand against the “month-long presence of Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef, accusing China of planning to again occupy maritime features in the West Philippine Sea…” and saying he is “no fool” to believe those vessels are there merely to seek shelter “due to bad weather”China intent on occupying West Philippine Sea-Lorezana,” April 5, 2021.
For his part, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. declared: “Irrelevant whether we possess commensurate military power to mean the challenge; we will not yield but die - or trigger World War 3."
Not a bad outcome, living is overrated. Honor is.” War drums sounding like squeaks!
Do Lorenzana and Locsin still not get it?
Their boss, President Duterte, has been saying that he is “inutil” when it comes to China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
As pathetic as that can be, that is the only way it will go in Mr. Duterte’s puny mind.
“Honor,” indeed, should have long compelled Locsin and Lorenzana to resign. How can these “honorable men” continue working for a President who has shed all “honor” to become a puppet of the bully they are trying so hard to resist?
The handwriting is on the wall.
People, wake up!
If Mr. Duterte wins another six years come 2022 through stand-ins like his daughter Sara Duterte or Bong Go who are already being floated as presidential wannabes with him as their so-called vice presidential candidate to circumvent the constitutional prohibition against his reelection to the same office this country will become a province of China, and everything else be damned.

Ulysses B. Uy,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for written rule or code
For bestowing titles on Malaysians
The Southeast Asian Times,Thursday 8 April 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday 3 April 2021

Looking at all the scandalous and embarrassing news lately about the shenanigans of a few Datuks and Datuk Seris, one feels that it’s really time that all authorities stop granting such honours as Datuk, Datuk Seri, Datin Paduka and Tan Sri to individuals from the non-government sector who are 39 and below unless on grounds of exceptional cases that merit the award.
We have all seen how, from time to time, quite a number of such young recipients brought dishonour not only to the titles bestowed upon them but also embarrassment to those who gave them the awards as well as other recipients who have remained honourable.
Federal and state honours must be awarded only to those who have made contributions to society above and beyond the call of duty.
There cannot be that many among us who have contributed so much to society or the state/country while still in their late 20s or early 30s.
Thus, one salutes those states that have recently been quite stringent in bestowing their honours.
This should always be the case, but a written rule or code would ensure it’s a uniform practice.

Rahmanpin,
Shah Alam,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Myanmar Beauty Queen pleas for help
For Myanmar at pageant in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 April 2021

When I read in the Reuter's article ' Beauty Queen Takes Myanmar's Democratic Fight To International Stage ' ( 3 April ) that Myanmar's 22 year old model Han Lay used the platform at an international beauty pageant in Thailand last week to make a passionate plea for " urgent international help " for her country, the same day that 141 anti-coup demonstrators were killed in a brutal crackdown by the military rulers who she described as " selfish and abusing their power ", I was awe struck by her courage to speak out.
Now she is unlikely to be able to return safely to her home country for her bold stance .What a huge sacrifice for such a young person.
What an inspirational role model this young beauty model for other young people, both male and female.
She is clearly a conscientious person who has been deeply affected by what is happening to the people of Myanmar at the hands of a brutal and thuggish military junta.
She said at the pageant they are expected to maintain a permanent smile on their face but how could she do that when her fellow citizens were were being killed for standing up for their rights and fighting for the restoration of the elected civilian government.
So far over 550 lives have been claimed in the two months since the General's overthrew Aung San Sui Kyi's elected government.
The young model Han Lay told Reuters "I can say one thing that we Myanmar citizens will never give up " the fight for the restoration of democracy in our country.
I say all power to the people of Myanmar in their fight for democracy and dignity. And, I hope the international community heeds her plea for urgent help.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia




Call for written rule or code
For bestowing titles on Malaysians
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 April 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday 3 April 2021

Looking at all the scandalous and embarrassing news lately about the shenanigans of a few Datuks and Datuk Seris, one feels that it’s really time that all authorities stop granting such honours as Datuk, Datuk Seri, Datin Paduka and Tan Sri to individuals from the non-government sector who are 39 and below unless on grounds of exceptional cases that merit the award.
We have all seen how, from time to time, quite a number of such young recipients brought dishonour not only to the titles bestowed upon them but also embarrassment to those who gave them the awards as well as other recipients who have remained honourable.
Federal and state honours must be awarded only to those who have made contributions to society above and beyond the call of duty.
There cannot be that many among us who have contributed so much to society or the state/country while still in their late 20s or early 30s.
Thus, one salutes those states that have recently been quite stringent in bestowing their honours.
This should always be the case, but a written rule or code would ensure it’s a uniform practice.

Rahmanpin,
Shah Alam,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Aung San Suu Kyi
Is the best hope for Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 April 2021
First Published in the Banfkok Post, Sunday 4 April 2021

Myanmar people from inside and outside the country hope to get assistance from US, UK, Europe and other democratic countries around the world for getting elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 2020 election free, from the military regime.
The military rulers in Myanmar have been killing innocent people with no remorse.
If Myanmar is a democratic country, there will be no refugees and no conflict within the country.
Ms Suu Kyi is the best hope for the people of Myanmar if they want their country to be a democratic civilian government, rich in natural resources.
She could also lead it to prosperity, rather than having the country trapped in poverty.
For this reason, Myanmar people need help and the world should not ignore them.

Aung Chin Win Aung,
USA

 

 

Adam and Eve being Ethiopian blacks
Is out of the question in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 4 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tursday 1 April 2021

Re: “Not the best of times for Asian Americans, by Ramon Farolan March 22, 2021: Indeed, it is not the best of times for us and our Asian kin.
So we cried foul and offered our sympathies to the victims - primarily Chinese, some Filipino brethren, and six Korean women - who paid the ultimate price for the hate and name-calling fomented by Donald Trump.
But guess what, Mr. Farolan, we Filipinos could be our own worst enemy!
It is not difficult to hear and see our prejudices directed at blacks and people of color.
We have our homegrown rednecks, and they need not come from the boondocks. The most educated among us are as guilty and capable of stereotyping, name-calling, and being openly prejudicial toward our Asian brothers - Pakistanis, Indians, Koreans, and Chinese, among others.
We can be outright hostile to blacks and dark-skinned Africans.
We constantly and openly judge others; the darker the skin, the more prejudiced we become.
Our preoccupation with fair skin has even become the primary adjective when describing a person iyong “maputi”; maganda, medyo “maitim” lang!.
According to Filipinos, all the other beautiful attributes beside fair complexion favor characteristics that are not Asian or black - high-bridged nose, blue eyes, blond hair, etc.
I don’t know whether we are the only country that sells “whitening soap.”
But here, any talk of Adam and Eve being Ethiopian blacks is out of the question.

Edwin De Leon,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

 

Call for Filipinos to wake up to China's
Trampling of their sacred shores
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 April 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 April 2021

In the news item “New potential irritant: PH to raise China buildup on Zamora Reef” on March 28, 2021, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Sta. Romana was said to be poised to raise grave concerns over China’s new “‘construction activity on the island built by the Chinese on top of Zamora Reef” which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at a top-level meeting by Filipino and Chinese officials scheduled soon.
Yeah, right!
Why does our Department of Foreign Affairs keep saying things all Filipinos know mean absolutely nothing, when it comes to matters concerning China’s “creeping invasion” in the West Philippine Sea?
Its officials can waste all their saliva and the people’s money confabulating with their Chinese counterparts in very expensive venues regarding issues that only President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have any say on.
And given Mr. Duterte’s latest act of worshipping Xi after the latter “donated” vaccines to fight the disease it has spread around the globe, any such “diplomatic” protest amounts to nothing more than a charade.
Thus, after surreptitiously taking the Julian Felipe Reef, which is within our territorial maritime zone, as “unofficial recompense” for such “generosity” in “‘Friend,’ indeed,” Editorial, Philippine Inquirer March 26, 2021, China is obviously targeting the Zamora Reef next.
When are people ever going to wake up to the irreparable damage being done by this blatant “trampling of their sacred shores”?

Rogelio S. Candelario,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for unified coordinated military strike
To oust the Myanmar coup-makers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 March 2021

Re: "Global criticism after bloodiest day in Myanmar", in Bangkok Post, March 29.
It is naive to think that influential members of Asean will do anything to stop the carnage in Myanmar.
It is also futile to think that Russia or China will come forward to condemn the military and provide any help in restoring democracy.
Except for India which remains a fragile democracy, there is no other country from the Middle East to Myanmar that has any moral ground or economic interest to intervene in Myanmar.
The only way to stop the coups in the region is to oust the coup-makers by a unified military strike coordinated by India, the EU, Australia, the USA and others willing to join the coalition.
As they say, old regimes die hard. Myanmar needs to be liberated from the clutches of the military just like Bangladesh was liberated from the tyranny of the military junta of Pakistan in 1971.
Diplomacy does not seem to stick with the rulers of the region. It is time that the military regimes in the region are imposed with severe economic sanctions and are given a taste of external military strikes and made to fear their own extinction.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Thailand attends Myanmar military
Annual Armed Forces Day celebration
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 April 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 30 March 2021

In the March 29 Bangkok Post report, the Myanmar military celebrated Armed Forces Day.
Thailand attended, to hear junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing defend the coup and threaten that acts of "terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquillity and security" were unacceptable.
With respect, Prime Minister, what were your representatives doing there, partying in tuxedos?
You promised that you were no longer a military man, but a politician.
I cannot see that any change has occurred in the principles you should follow as a Buddhist man.
Where is the compassion for those innocents being shot, because they are "a threat to state tranquillity and security"?

Distressed,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for a coalition of the willing
To take on the Myanmar military
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 31 March 2021

Is there any Coalition of the Willing to take on the rogue military rulers of Myanmar and liberate the oppressed people of Myanmar from the tyranny of militarism and fascism?
Or, will we in the international community be left to count the daily civilian deaths - including death of children - from the brutal military crackdown on anti-coup and pro-democracy protesters?
It's a sad and shameful indictment of the international community if we can't act to end rogue military rule in Myanmar.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 

Call for cross-border mutual assistance
To prevent civil war
The Southeast Asian Times Monday, 30 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday 28 March 2021

To: Attorney-General Wongsakul Kittipromwong, Office of the Attorney-General, Thailand.
Right Livelihood Laureates and representatives of Right Livelihood Colleges from all parts of the world, deeply concerned about the worrisome increase in power of authoritarian regimes engulfing us, in particular alerted by escalating violence against citizens and arbitrarily imprisonments in the Southeast Asia region, laud the young changemakers.
They include students, human rights lawyers, young vocational trainees in Thailand in their courageous struggle for freedom of expression and the right to people's self-determination. In particular we hail the formulation, debate and promotion of proposals for fundamental reform of institutions and laws toward transformation of society as a whole in order to achieve agreed sustainability goals and justice for all citizens.
We support senior Right Livelihood Laureate Sulak Sivaraksa in his continuous engagement with the young changemakers.
As well as his passionate appeal to the activists to strictly observe non-violence and to exercise patience.
We are proudly aware that young people stand up globally against denial of climate emergency, indifference to economic and social inequality, and against the mere ignorance of cultural challenges new generations face.
We encourage regional associations like the Milk Tea Alliance which started from exchanges and solidarity among young activists in Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan and is now spilling over to other parts of Asia.
In the face of the cruel and barbaric coup in Myanmar, and the ongoing farmers' protests in India against corporatisation of the agriculture and food sectors, we support firm efforts to exercise our "responsibility to protect" in a regional and global context of so lidarity and non-violent intervention.
What the farmers - many of them women - are striving for, in the spirit of Right Livelihood, is vital for the survival and dignity of the rural population as well as for all families who celebrate having food together, especially in crisis, in a spirit of sacredness and care for Mother Earth.
Moreover, we encourage cross-border mutual assistance to prevent civil war, international conflict, and a looming collective race to the bottom. The group of activists in Thailand who have been accused -- and even pre-maturely imprisoned -- of lese majeste, sedition and disruption of security stands symbol for the courage of the new generation to say NO to "business as usual", unaccountable "stability" and "blind obedience to authorities" which lead us on a development path that is far from sustainable. We therefore call on the Thai authorities to uphold their international Human Rights obligations and free these young changemakers immediately.

Most Respectfully,
The undersigned Right Livelihood Laureates: Sulak Sivaraksa, Thailand, Right Livelihood Laureate 1995; Angie Zelter, for Trident Ploughshares, United Kingdom Right Livelihood Laureate 2001; Chico Whitaker, Brazil, Right Livelihood Laureate 2006; Maude Barlow, Canada, Right Livelihood Laureate 2005; Pat Mooney, Canada, Right Livelihood Laureate 1985; Raul Montenegro, Argentina, Right Livelihood Laureate 2004; Sima Samar, Afghanistan, Right Livelihood Laureate 2012; Medha Patkar, India, Right Livelihood Laureate 1991; Andras Biro, Hungary, Right Livelihood Laureate 1995; Anwar Fazal, Malaysia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1982; David Shaw, Coordinator, Right Livelihood College Santa Cruz; Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria, Right Livelihood Laureate 2010; Dipal Barua, former managing director of Grameen Shakti, Bangladesh, Right Livelihood Laureate 2007; Alyn Ware, New Zealand, Right Livelihood Laureate 2009; Paul Walker, United States of America, Right Livelihood Laureate 2013; Fidelis Allen, Coordinator, Right Livelihood College Nigeria; Wes Jackson, United States of America, Right Livelihood Laureate 2000; Ruchama Marton, Israel, Right Livelihood Laureate 2010; Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda, Right Livelihood Laureate 2015; Campaign Against Arms Trade, United Kingdom, Right Livelihood Laureate 2012; Colin Gonsalves, India, Right Livelihood Laureate 2017; Bianca Jagger, Nicaragua, Right Livelihood Laureate 2004; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad, Right Livelihood Laureate 2011.

Henk Hobbelink,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Covid-19
An accelerator of change in Patong
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 26 March 2021

The hardship that Covid-19 brought upon the estimated one million sex workers in the country also resonated heavily in Patpong.
However, the local community including Non Government Organisations (NGOs) like Swing our Museum and local businesses have joined hands to provide help to those in need.
Patpong shed its skin several times.
It started in the 1950s as Bangkok's first modern central business district.
Silom and Sathon roads followed.
It hosted international news agencies, airlines and, somehow hidden beneath these, foreign intelligence agencies and their affiliates in the 1960s.
With the end of the Vietnam War, Patpong transformed into one of the world's most famous entertainment areas.
Covid-19 is an accelerator of change, and we can see Patpong retransforming into a vibrant yet authentic contribution to the subcultural scene along the river, Charoen Krung and Chinatown.
It's time to shed the skin once more.

Michael Messner,
Patpong Museum,
Patpong,
Thailand



Call for respect for Malaysian Constitution
And national ideology
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 March 2021
First published in the Star, Friday 26 March 2021

I am an octogenarian who has lived through many major events of historical significance, including the Pacific War, Japanese Occupation, Malayan Emergency, birth of an independent Malaya, Indonesian Confrontation, formation of Malaysia, separation of Singapore from Malaysia, and the riots on May 13,1969.
I cannot understand the sudden surge in groups of irresponsible elements that are currently hell-bent on creating racial and religious tension in our country.
Frankly, I have never seen such discord and disrespect being openly expressed without any regard for the feelings and sensitivities of those who are targeted.
Time and again, these individuals or groups make inflammatory statements that threaten to tear apart the social fabric of our society, which is built on trust and mutual respect.
They undermine the government’s efforts to foster goodwill and greater understanding among the various races.
They resort to telling lies and sow seeds of discord to advance their own agendas.
There is a large number of None Government Organisations NGOs in the country committed to bringing down barriers and building bridges to promote social cohesiveness and harmonious living.
But there are also evil and destructive forces at work to destabilise the efforts of these NGOs.
There is no place in civil society for those who do not respect the Malaysian Constitution and the cherished principles of the Rukun Negara, our national ideology.
Perhaps the government should seriously consider legislating a Race Relations Act to rein in these rabble-rousers.
Let’s live and let live.

S.Sundareson,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for India to invade Myanmar
Liberate the people from military rule
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday 27 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 28 March 2021

Re: "Thailand must be a friend to Myanmar people", Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 24.
Since he is a diplomat, it is not surprising that Kasit Piromya's solution to the Myanmar problem is long on talk and short on action.
He decries Thailand's failure to take the lead in pushing Asean to take action.
He urges Thailand to "publicly and proactively support efforts" by other nations "to play a direct role in addressing the disastrous situation in Myanmar", and favours the call for "a special Asean leaders' summit to discuss the situation".
All of this is a call for more frothy talk while multitudes of Myanmar people are being slaughtered by their own army.
What is needed is immediate action. But by whom?
The United States, Britain, and the European Union are far away and preoccupied with their own problems.
Asean is toothless.
Thailand will do nothing, because just as there is honour among thieves there is loyalty among military officers.
The Thai generals will never do anything to oppose their Myanmar buddies.
This leaves India as the last man standing if the murderous and genocidal Myanmar junta is to be brought to justice.
In 1971, India played a vital role in ousting what was then West Pakistan from its genocidal role in what was then East Pakistan but is now known as Bangladesh.
What it did then it can do again.
I call on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order the Indian army to invade Myanmar, liberate the people from the junta's despotic rule, hang the junta from the highest possible gallows, free the thousands who have been arrested, and restore democratic rule.
Only thus can India fulfill its role as the dominant power in South Asia and meet the demands of dhamma to crush evil, establish righteousness, and liberate the oppressed.
This sounds extreme, but these are extreme times, and I can see no other way to stop the ongoing genocide in Myanmar.
If anybody has a better idea, I'd like to hear it.

Spartacus,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Democracy functioned under Aung San Suu Kyi
Despite military stacked parliament
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 March 2021
First published in the New Straits Times. Wednesday 24 March 2021

We demand Asean not to delay acting on Myanmar to prevent its military repression of its own people and to turn it into a regional conflict.
The betrayal of democracy by the coup should not be allowed to evolve into more bloodshed of civilians.
The coup is not really a suprise.
Democracy was actually functioning marginally even during Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the country's erstwhile ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), who has done very little to bring about meaningful change since she was designated State Counsellor.
The dismissal of the government by military decree and the imposition of Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, as an unelected ruler, is unlawful , though it had been planned earlier.
The military only eased the NLD to participate and reclaim democracy to Myanmar to placate for a reason to lift the western sanctions on Myanmar. However there was no commitment for democracy.
Even Suu Kyi was subservient to the partial democracy by the military when it comes to the Rohingya issue.
She allowed the military to continue the military's impunity on the Rohingyas.
Suu Kyi has positioned herself to being a mere icon in the party but has done little to reform the government.
While Suu Kyi was hailed to become a de facto leader, she failed miserably in championing the human rights of millions of citizens who belong to marginalised ethnic groupslike Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya - who were excluded from the ballot box.
Despite the celebration of Myanmar's fledgling democracy, international conglomerates - mostly Western - rushed to Yangon, to cash in on Myanmar's natural resources, left unexploited because of economic sanctions imposed on the country.
The rush to capitalise on the so-called democracy only strengthened the military.
The victory for democracy in Myanmar, was short lived amid a continuos genocide reality by the junta.
Asean cannot dismiss the genocide of the Rohingya, a pogrom of murder, rape and ethnic cleansing.
The junta's "cleansing" operations of Rohingya Muslims cannot be erased from the history of the so-called civil government under Suu Kyi.
The human rights violations in the country and the genocide intensified in 2016-17 which continued unabated.
The culpability of Myanmar's ruling NLD party and of Suu Kyi personally cannot be ignored.
The genocide at the hands of government forces and local militias was not a mere communal violence.
It was a clear violation of international law, the worst ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity to the core.
Asean as an association of 10 member countries cannot allow human rights violation to persist in its member states as this will have ramifications in the region.
The rational of non-interference in internal affairs of a member state cannot hold, as its spill over effect on the region is real.
Asean should foresee the cross border impact on the Myanmar situation.
The Rohingya issue is a recurring theme in the international media as hundreds of thousands of refugees were forced to flee, mostly into Bangladesh.
The magnitude of their misery is glaring. Horrific Incidents of rape and murder were documented by the UN and international human rights groups.
The group of 57 Muslim countries, which took a landmark lawsuit accusing Myanmar of genocide was filed at the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2019.
Suu Kyi's defiance to object international criticism and openly defended her government and military is regretful.
Her testimony at the UN Court in December 2019, which she described the genocidal violence of the Rohingya as "cycles of inter-communal violence going back to the 1940s" is atrocious.
Asean should voice its stance clearly that the return to military rule in Myanmar is objectionable.
However, equally, Asean must insist that Myanmar embraces true democracy for all of its citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.
We demand the military brutal suppression against its own people to cease immediately.
The more than 100 people gunned down by the armed forces must be accounted for.
Those responsible must be taken to task for the killings of the civilians.
We demand the release of all the political detainees.
The crackdown operation to raid homes to detain the anti coup activists must stop.

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid,
President Malaysia Consultative Council of Islamic Organizations (MAPIM),
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Thai treatment of Karen in Bang Kloi
Similar to treatment of Rohingya in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 24 March 2021

Re: "Thai superiority complex harms Karen", Commentary, Bangkok Post March 22
There are disturbing similarities between the Thai government's treatment of the forest-dwelling Karen and the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
I am not suggesting that the Thai government's treatment of the Karen is as criminal and so totally inhuman as the fate of the Rohingya, but the comparisons are nevertheless worrying.
The Rohingya are an Indo-Aryan ethnic minority of some 1.4 million people who claim to have lived in what is now western Myanmar for centuries.
The previous military junta denied this claim and stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship in 1982, restricted their right to free movement and limited education opportunities for their children, among many other debasements.
The more recent history of the Tatmadaw's atrocious treatment of the Rohingya is a matter of public record that is best defined as genocide, murder, rape and infanticide.
As Paritta Wangkiat points out in her commentary, the Karen have lived in upper Bang Kloi for centuries, long before it was declared a national park in 1981.
She says: "But park officials nevertheless criminalised them for encroaching on the forest. The eviction was completed in 2011, in what is known as the Tanao Sri operation in which their huts and rice barns were reduced to ashes."
How resonant is this with the Tatmadaw not only forcing some 750,000 Rohingya out of Myanmar and into neighbouring Bangladesh, but burning their huts, their crops and appropriating their fields for use by ethnic Burmese?
Most alarming, as Paritta reports, is Prime Minister Prayat Chan-o-cha's response to reporter questions which was to say he did not blame the indigenous community for demanding land rights, but condemned "the people behind them", supposedly influencing the Karens as part of a malicious effort to stir up conflict in the country.
He went on to say: "Thai people are not happy with Karen living in the forest ... because it is against the government's forest conservation policy."
This reveals two major flaws in the thinking of the man who is meant to be the leader of a united Thailand.
Firstly, it suggests that Karen are not Thai.
Secondly, it puts forward a spurious and unsupported argument that "the people are not happy" with this.
How the hell does he know?
Has he bothered to ask them?
Shame Prayut.
Shame!

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Lest we forget, the murder of north Korean, Kim Jong Nam
Was carried out in Malaysia in 2017
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 March 2021
First Published in the Star Sunday 21 March 2021

I am writing in response to the decision by the North Korean regime on March 19, 2021, to sever diplomatic relations with Malaysia.
As a Malaysian, I think the focus should be directed to the Malaysian judiciary.
The decision made by the Federal Court to honour the extradition treaty between Malaysia and the US is exemplary.
Extraditing Mun Chul Myong is the epitome of Malaysia’s relentless commitment towards strict enforcement in United Nations-backed sanction and global financial transparency.
Long has Malaysia been tarnished alongside other countries such as Belarus, Russia and India as amongst the breeding grounds for North Korean trans-boundary covert crimes.
In 2017, Glocom – a Malaysian based tech company – was identified by the United Nations as a front-company supporting North Korea’s cybercrimes global network.
Lest Malaysians forget, the murder of the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un – Kim Jong Nam – was carried out also in Malaysia in 2017.
The murder has led to the suspension of diplomatic relations between both countries.
Thus, it is time for Malaysia to take a stern stand against the illicit criminal activities believed to be sponsored by the North Korean regime.
Enough is enough.
North Korea has to understand that decision was taken against a North Korean suspect, not against the North Korean government. Hence, the sovereignty of the North Korean regime remains intact.
Moreover, Mun Chul Myong was not a North Korean diplomat; an esteemed profession that is subject to another international treaty i.e. the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.
If Mun Chul Myong was a diplomat, the issue of diplomatic immunity, amongst others, will come into play. In such a case, Malaysia will address the issue tactfully to avoid the recurrence of the expulsion of former North Korean ambassador Kang Chol as persona non grata in 2017.
In either situation, Malaysia has to act objectively, and such objectivity is guided by universal values such as the rule of law and natural justice.
Mun Chol Myong has been afforded the right to a fair trial in Malaysia up to the ultimate level, the Federal Court.
During the extradition proceedings, his defence lawyers stated that their client was caught in the diplomatic cross-fire between North Korea and the US, not between North Korea and Malaysia.
This is evident to show that Malaysia is not bowing to external pressures as alleged by North Korea.
In fact, the proceedings in Malaysia are only for extradition purposes.
The actual criminal hearing will be conducted entirely in the U.S.
North Korea has to adjust her misconception of Malaysia as her enemy since Malaysia, as a sovereign State, is merely assisting a legally binding extradition treaty with the US.
As an isolated state with few friends, North Korea should keep her neutral friends like Malaysia closer, especially during the post-Covid-19 era.
In a globalised world, North Korea could not afford to be too naive in diplomatic relations by resorting to a knee-jerk reaction such as severing her diplomatic relations with Malaysia, a decision which Pyongyang will later regret.
On the other hand, the Federal Court has lived up to its prestige as the ultimate pillar of justice.
The decision has sent a reverberation not only in Malaysia but also to the entire world.
To date, Mun Chol Myung is the first-ever North Korean suspect to be extradited by any country in the world to the US, and Malaysia is the first country in the world to manage to do so.
This is a feat that ought to be celebrated by all Malaysians.
As a nation, we have to acknowledge the independence, competency and transparency of the Malaysian judiciary, which lately has been under intense criticism following a number of decisions on high-profile cases.
The extradition of Mung Chul Myong is the embodiment of such ethos.
The ground-breaking Federal Court decision has paved the way for meaningful contributions to other stakeholders in international relations and assisted in the growth of international law.
Member-states in Asean could leverage the decision as a strategy in addressing the incessant presence of North Korean illicit activities in the region; the same way how North Korea has exploited the region as her hotbed for cybercrimes and evasion of economic sanctions.
North Korea has been manipulating the legal and institutional weaknesses in the Southeast Asian region in achieving this end.
Therefore, Asean must manage issues related to North Korea collectively via regionalism, and Malaysia has taken the first step through a no-nonsense approach.
That giant leap was taken by the Malaysian judiciary and it truly deserves recognition.

Mohd Ridwan Talib,
Lawyer, post-graduate student,
Faculty of Syariah and Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Aung San Suu Kyi prime target
Of Myanmar military persecution
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 March 2021

In light of the current brutal crackdown on its own anti-coup civilian protesters by the Myanmar military, with over 230 killed and hundreds injured, one can now better understand and appreciate what the former UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein meant when he slammed the Myanmar military for conducting " cruel military operation " against Rohingya Muslims, who the Myanmar State basically didn't even recognise as citizens.
It was no exaggeration when Mr Zeid in September 2017 said the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military was a " textbook example of ethnic cleansing ".
The Myanmar military has demonstrated it is quite capable of that.
It is ironical that when Mr Zeid had made those claims at the time of the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims and there was universal condemnation of the conduct of the Myanmar military, State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of democracy, tried to defend the Myanmar military.
Today she is herself the prime target of Myanmar military's persecution following the military's takeover of the elected civilian government.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Call for Philippine President Duterte to certify
Freedom of information (FOI) legislation
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 22 March 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 19 March 2021

The recent report that Pasig City Mayor Vico Nubla Sotto has been hailed as one of 12 international anti-corruption champions should serve as a wake-up call for President Duterte.
It will be recalled that Sotto, in the early days of his term as Pasig City top executive, issued an order that can be termed as a local government version of a freedom of information (FOI) law.
This action of the mayor made him a trailblazing crusader against graft and irregularities in public service. It also did not go unnoticed, with the US state department now commending Sotto as one of the world’s top anti-corruption leaders.
How about the Philippines’ national officials led by Mr. Duterte? What is the administration’s score on this matter?
Sad to say, it is still zero. Nada. Wala. Nothing.
If only the President had certified the necessity of freedom of information (FOI) and the legislative branch of government did its job, the problem of corruption could have long been a thing of the past.
Alas, the President did not give a damn that corruption still exists and persists.
What happened to the anti-corruption promise that he made during the 2016 presidential campaign?
Corruption instead became more rampant; the financial scandal in PhilHealth is a very embarrassing example.
Wake up, Mr. Duterte!
The people are so fed up. Gising!

Eusebio S. San Diego,
founder,
Kaguro and former president,
Quezon City Public School Teachers Association,
Quezon City
Philippines




Lawmaking in Thailand is a business enterprise
Engineered to serve military-big business
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 19 March 2021

So the National Anti-Corruption Commission has suggested, without any apparent irony, that MP Pareena Kraikupt has "violated ethical standards expected from a lawmaker", in Bangkok Post, March 17.
Many would agree with this assessment but exactly what is expected of lawmakers?
Judging from the current crop of fine upstanding members, we can assume that we should expect heroin smuggling; conspiring in and then perpetrating the military overthrow of a democratically elected government; the deliberate subversion of constitutional process; "unexplained" great wealth; shady land deals in potential development areas and the shameless betrayal of public trust by way of colossal conflicts of interest which are now so routine as to be almost completely ignored.
Lawmaking in Thailand is a business enterprise engineered to serve the military-big business bureaucratic behemoth.
It is most certainly not a matter of public service.
Until, if ever, this poison is purged from our body-politic then Thailand will continue its downward trajectory into irrelevance as an ethically serious and credible player on the international stage.

Ludwig,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Lack of Indo-Pacific Quad consensus
Will be conveniently blamed for inaction
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 18 March 2021

Re: "The Quad wakes up ... to take on threat of China", in Opinion, Bangkok Post March 17.
I disagree with Gwynne Dyer that China won't be interested beyond it's borders. China may well pursue adventurism if it sees benefit in doing so.
But I do agree the Quad gives its members and particularly the US a useful excuse to delay possible responses to China as none of the members will be able to respond without first consulting other members and gaining consensus.
The lack of Quad consensus will be blamed for inaction.
Very convenient.

Sibeymai,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for international community to act against
Rise of fascism in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 March 2021

We read in the Southeast Asian Times report ' Myanmar military imposes death penalty for sedition under martial law ' ( March 18/2021 ), that both the President of the National League for Democracy ( NLD ) Win Myint and State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi who were arrested and locked up after the military takeover of the elected civilian NLD government face sedition charge alongside other charges. They therefore are subject to the death penalty under the military imposed law.
There is only one reason for this pernicious law to be put in place by the military junta.
It is a tool for political repression .
It is to facilitate the military's reign of terror by silencing all dissent against the military takeover.
That's the sole ulterior motive and purpose of this military imposed law.
The international community must act without delay in ending the rise of fascism in Myanmar and free the oppressed people of Myanmar from tyrannical rule.
To delay is to abdicate our international responsibility.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 

Philippine President impervious to sensibilities
Of impossibility to respond to benevolence of China
The Southeast Asian Times. Thursday 18 March 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 March 2021

The World Health Organization WHO has encouraged worldwide vaccine diplomacy to help poorer countries.
China’s response to the Philippines is not unique; other nations have done likewise, without much fanfare, with the traditional reserve of philanthropy.
It should not be beyond the centuries-old decorum of the Chinese to insist that there is really no need for the Philippine President to embark on rendering a personal “thank you,” surely an extravagance at this period of desperately depleted resources, with so many going hungry.
What’s a planeload of vaccines between friends anyway?
And it is not as though the Philippines has been short of gift-giving, mostly in sufferance, from way back.
There’s the West Philippine Sea trespassing, the sourcing of drugs, kidnappings and human trafficking, plunder of protected fauna, corruption of immigration officials, etc.
Is this list not ample proof in aid of reality check, of why Filipinos remain unconvinced by the hand of friendship extended?
Is there hope in altering the vision of the infatuated?
Someone did say that there is none so blind as he who would not see.
Is the President impervious to the sensibilities of people who are embarrassed, betrayed, disgusted, and finding it nigh impossible to respond to the benevolence of China with unqualified gratitude, a gratitude that has been laid on with a trowel?
A devastating health crisis has sadly been politicized.
Fortunately there is W.H. Auden to turn to: “The true men of action in our time, those who transform the world, are not the politicians and statesmen, but the scientists.”
Indeed; there’s the Mars landing to prove it.

Virginia Calpotura,
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ),
Manila,
Philippines



Thai government
Is doing nothing about polution
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday 16 March 2021

Your March 14 editorial, "Don't take toxic air problem lightly", and Danny Marks' March 13 article, "Transboundary haze control lacks political will" are to be commended for their contribution to understanding the pollution problem, especially in the North.
Both articles pointed to an agro company.
It is negligent in contributing adversely to the health of the nation, and the wealth of the nation through the flailing reputation of the North as a holiday destination.
The farmers have taken the blame while corporations are mainly behind the pollution, and the government in the pockets of big businesses are doing nothing.

Watson,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Big man Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare
Passed away at 12 midnight
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 March 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 11 March 2021

As I was leaving for work on Friday February 26, my brother called me and said: “big man Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare passed away at 12 midnight”.
I hurried to Boram Airport to see a friend off and to confirm Sir Michael’s passing.
The Air Niugini flight at 10am from Port Moresby came with sad news.
I wept silently, looking at the two runways which will change the face of Boram Airport this month to an international airport to take jet planes such as 737 and 747 from around the world.
This was the dream of Sir Michael.
From 1968, growing up at Wewak Point Gavaman Compound, my late papa Paul Bimpoli Kriosahi worked for the Australian colonial administration as a linesman for the foreign power.
He used to tell us about Sir Michael, the Radio Wewak niusman who was running for the House of Assembly that year.
My father said he would vote for Sir Michael and he was going to win.
In 1947, Sir Michael went to Boram Gavaman School with two men from Haniak village, late John Sataro and late Peter Kambori, who took him as their younger brother or hendi niong special child.
Sataro and Kambori ensured no one bullied or mistreated Sir Michael in soccer games or in class.
That continued all the way to Finschhafen in Morobe when they parted ways.
Sir Michael completed his certificate in teaching at Sogeri High School.
From our village of Haniak, stories of our two men attending Boram and Finschhafen schools had adopted a young brother Sir Michael from Karau village in the Murik Lakes, there was excitement and high expectations to welcome him to the village amongst our tutuls, luluais and kukurais chief for the barter system to be enhanced.
Today, our villagers are mourning him as one of their own. They are mourning from dusk to dawn, abandoning their chores such as gardening, hunting, sago scrapping and others.
That will continue until their kukurai is buried.
Chief, they will not forget you.

John Sebastian Kriosaki,
Wewak,
Papua New Guinea

 

 

The late PM Michael Somare
Said Japan
was like a brother to Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Tmes, Monday 15 March 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 11 March 2021

On behalf of the people of Japan and Japanese citizens who are living in Papua New Guinea, I express sincere condolences to Lady Veronica, Bertha, Sana, Arthur, Michael Jnr, Dulciana and extended families of the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
He started his early education in his village of Karau, Murik Lakes, in East Sepik at the Shibata School which was funded by a Japanese army officer, Capt Yukio Shibata, early in 1944.
Shibata does not specifically remember Sir Michael the way Sir Michael remembered Shibata, but he does remember a boy who was very intelligent, quick and outgoing, a boy who produced a clever piece of writing called “Kaup is Japan”.
Kaup is one of the Murik villages and Shibata has speculated that Sir Michael might have been this clever boy.
Shibata taught the children Japanese classic stories such as “Momotaro” and songs such as “Akatombo”.
When they met again in Tokyo in 1985 and in Wewak in 1986, both Shibata and Sir Michael showed that neither had forgotten the words of these traditional songs, even though the meanings had been lost over the forty year period.
Sir Michael believed the Japanese were not only educating young people but training them as future soldiers as well.
He had acknowledged that it was the Japanese who provided him with his first formal education and that he appreciated the experiences he had with Shibata and the Japanese, who were favourably different from the white men he saw in Rabaul.
When Shibata was asked what he hoped the outcome of Sir Michael’s village school would be, he said he hoped it would help young people, particularly those with leadership abilities, develop attitudes that would suit them for self-determination.
Perhaps Shibata was being idealistic after the event because it was difficult to assume that the Japanese would not have replaced one form of colonial administration with another.
But it is worth noting that Sir Michael, in later years, was motivated by a desire for self-determination, which would lead eventually to the realisation of self-government and independence achieved through political means.
Sir Michael had his first official overseas visit in 1977 to Tokyo, Japan, after he became the first prime minister in September 1975.
Until his death, he made more than 10 official visits to Japan, including receiving the Order of the Rising Sun the Grand Cordon Imperial Prize from the Emperor of Japan Akihito in 2015.
He contributed immensely to the friendship between the people of Japan and Papua New Guinea not only officially, but personally as well, especially the few remaining Japanese soldiers – late Yukio Shibata, late Kokichi Nishimura, late Shizuka Kawabata and his long term friend late Tadashi Nishigaki, who built the Japanese war memorial on Mission Hill (Boys Town) in Wewak in 1969.
When Sir Michael received the highest rank of Emperor’s award, he said the award was not only for him – it marked the long friendship between the people of Japan and the people of Papua New Guinea.
He said Australia was like a father to Papua New Guinea but Japan was more of a brother.
More than 600 Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) volunteers have been in Papua New Guinea since 1980 and some volunteers remain after their volunteer contract period ended.
They continued to work in Papua New Guinea.
A number of them were fortunate to meet Sir Michael, including me.
When he visited Japan in 2005, Paul David from Eastern Highlands and I had the opportunity to meet him at the welcome reception in Tokyo.
I told Sir Michael about my ICT and educational achievements in Papua New Guinea as a Jica volunteer from 1997 to 1999.
At that time, Paul had received a level one (4th grade) certificate of the Japanese language and Sir Michael recognised and signed his autograph on his certificate paper.
I am a long-term Papua New Guinea resident.
I have lived here for 24 years, which is nearly half of my life.
Most of my time is dedicated to improving ICT in education for Papua New Guinea tertiary institutions.
On Sunday, my family and I attended the memorial service for Sir Michael at his birth place in Rapindik, Rabaul.
Sir Michael had a grand dream.
He said: “Our People and our future generations demand a very different and better outcome. We have no choice but to do things differently”.
I will adopt his thinking, wisdom and dream and try to do my best to provide better education through technologies the way Sir Michael and Captain Shibata did before.
Arigato Gozamashita, Sayonara, Sana Somare-san.

Russell Deka Harada,
Japanese resident in Papua New Guinea,
Vudal,
Papua News Guinea




A coup is a coup
Myanmar is a coup in all manifestations
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 March 2021

The UN Security Council whilst calling on restraint against the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters failed to denounce the Myanmar military takeover as a coup
( Reuters l11/3 ).
But the people of Myanmar know only too well what the military takeover is.
It's a fully fledged military coup with its trademark fascist brutality and total disregard for human rights.
More than 60 protesters have been killed and some 2000 people detained by the security forces since the Feb.1 takeover.
Clear thinking people around the world also know the true status of the military takeover of power from the elected civilian leaders is a coup in all manifestations.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




The war on drugs in the Philippines
Is a war on women
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 March 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 12 March 2021

As the war on drugs rages on, it is easy to overlook the long-term impacts of the punitive drug approach on the country’s female incarceration rate.
As we marked National Women’s Day last March 8, the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP-IHR) with the United Nations
Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) placed a spotlight on the disproportionate effect of the drug war to female incarceration and its gendered consequences.
In a series of webinars conducted by University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP-IHR), it was revealed that in the Correctional Institution for Women that struggles with a 125-percent congestion rate, 63 percent (out of 3,364) of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) were placed behind bars for drug offenses.
Other offenses paled in comparison, as they only ranged no higher than 19 percent of the total percentage.
This disparate figure highlights the government’s focus on criminalizing, as opposed to rehabilitating, even nonviolent drug offenders.
The government’s approach profoundly impacts women, as there have been notable failures in providing for gender-differentiated needs for women deprived of liberty (PDLs), particularly mothers with infants and young children.
Even after release, former women persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) face both the stigma of incarceration and the prevailing bias and discrimination against girls and women.
This intersectionality compounds the situation of women persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who may not be able to fully reintegrate due to their prior status.
As of 2019, over 85-90 percent of those detained nationally are inside due to drug-related offenses, and this figure will rise further as the government doggedly continues with its punitive approach.
Unless people start realizing and voicing calls to shift the punitive approach to treatment and rehabilitation, this war, in the words of Deborah Sibila and Andrea Yatsco, may also be described as a “war on women.”

Raymond Marvic C. Baguilat,
Senior lecturer,
Senior legal associate,
University of Philippines (UP) College of Law,
Manila,
Philippines




The people of Myanmar do not deserve
How they have been treated by ASEAN and China
The Southeast Asian Times, 12 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 10 March 2021

The military should not govern.
The military should only defend their country and their fellow countryman.
What is happening these days is a shame for every civilised country.
The way that Thailand is obstructing Asean in condemning the coup in Myanmar is proof that Thailand has become, like many others, a client state of China.
The people from Myanmar are some of the most generous and friendly people in the world.
They don't deserve how Asean and China treat them.
One day the situation might change - you can't kill the entire population and put millions of people in jail.
I pray God will help these poor brave people.

Walter Mensaert,
Veldegem,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Global community forgets Aung San Suu Kyi
On International Women's Day
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 March 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 10 March 2021

The International Women's Day celebrations this year have not been meaningful with the current detention of Aung San Suu Kyi by the Myanmar military.
While agencies like the United Nations, the UN-ESCAP and many other International Governmental, Non-Governmental and Civic groups have hosted commemorations of International Women's Day, the one glaring and odd omission was any reference to the unfair detention of the Myanmar democracy icon and all her supporters in the National League for Democracy.
Perhaps all is not lost or dismal if the global community of leaders, justice-loving people and campaigners for the rights of democratic systems can still put pressure on the intransigent Myanmar military to release Ms Suu Kyi, stop the killing and brutalisation of peaceful protesters, and allow democracy to take its true place in Myanmar.
International Women's Day of 2021 could thus be truly commemorated in a more meaningful way.

Glen Chatelier,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Women in the Philippines
Call for eradication of corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 March 2021
First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Monday 8 March 2021

The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) strongly supports the call for the eradication of corruption across all levels of society since it is an obstacle to achieving a transparent, accountable, and participatory government and people-centered development.
The abatement of corruption requires the serious efforts of all in the public and the private sectors.
As citizens, we need to stop offering bribes.
We need to be vigilant and vocal about corruption issues in our communities.
We need to strongly champion the use of innovative strategies to make government transactions more efficient and responsive and to lessen or curb opportunities for corruption.
We must cultivate a culture of cooperation and compassion for one another so we can thrive and succeed as a nation without leaving anyone behind.
We are inspired by Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto’s anti-corruption efforts, along with the inspiring stories of other upright mayors, conscientious business persons, honest drivers returning sums of money left in their vehicles, and even ordinary government workers doing their jobs with fairness, diligence, and competence. These are reasons to hope that corruption could be eradicated with our individual and collective advocacies.
Our warmest commendation to all government officials around the country who exemplify integrity, transparency, and accountability in the performance of their jobs.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
Manila,
Philippines




Call for condemnation of China and Russia for blocking
United Nations condemnation of Myanmar coup
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday March 2, 2021

After two years of living in Yangon of Myanmar, I had to agree with my brilliant French doctor who owns a home in both countries Thailand and Myanmar, that the people of Myanmar are so much more pleasant, friendly and generally nicer than your average Thai person, and far less corrupt when dealing with their foreign guests.
This makes what is happening in Myanmar, courtesy of an illegal military junta taking control of the country using arms and reprehensible and indefensible criminal actions against an unarmed and peaceful democratic civilian resistance, utterly heart-breaking and purely evil in every way.
One of the problems faced by their nascent and promising democracy was encouraging local nationals who are educated abroad as doctors and the like, to return home to raise the quality of life in their own country, rather than staying overseas to work.
That has been dashed by the recent military occupation.
When will the world rightly condemn, reject and contest the wicked regimes of Russia and China - who repeatedly side with the criminals at the United Nations and in everyday practice - and stand against their attempts to control the people of their countries and the wider world instead of allowing freedom of expression, assembly, speech, movement and - well, you name it.
The world is walking blindly or mindlessly into an authoritarian abyss from which there is no escape and no hope, unless we wake up and read the writing that has been on the wall for a painfully long time - left unread, or internalised and acted upon by an increasingly politically illiterate populace.
How can we allow these superpowers to support these evil acts unopposed in any tangible and life-saving way?

GMT,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

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



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

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

Celeste Cruz,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




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

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

Leo Bourne,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Ted P Penaflor 11,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia

 

 

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

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

Bigart,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

MBW,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

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


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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bamgkok,
Thailand



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

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

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


 

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

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

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




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

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

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

 


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

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

Isidro C. Valencia,
Taguig City,
Philippines





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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

 

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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Say Kongs,
Wabag



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

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

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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

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

Charles Jasari,
Popondetta



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

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

Rene Magtubo,
National Chair
Partido Manggagawa
Philippines



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Power to the People,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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

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

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

 


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

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

David Brown.
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

National Clergy Discernment Group,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

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

Ye Olde Pedant,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi.
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




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

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

Maru Gabi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

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




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

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

Fernando Garcia,
Manila.
Philippines




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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Katie S. Alvarez
Holy Trinity University,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Grace Cantal Albasin,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Ng Geok Chee,
Chair,
KLSCAH Women




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

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

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




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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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



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

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


Raffy Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Dr Hansson,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

A.Gandhi,
Bukbuk
Madang

 

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

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

Rene Torres,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Charcoal Ridgeback,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Allan Schapira, MD.,
Legazpi City,
Philippines




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

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

Manuel A. Collao,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Buang Nalu,
Dombkak,
Ruk Mala

 

 


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

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

Paul Minga
Ambang Village
Jiwaka




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

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

Dr Azuzay Zamani,
Ampang,
Selangor
Malaysia

 


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

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

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines




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

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

Linus AE Knobel,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Raffy Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines


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

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

Alec Bamford,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

G. Selva,
Ipoh,
Malaysia



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

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

Julius D. Turgano,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Jonathan C. Foe,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


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

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

Mong Palatina,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

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

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

Brian Corrigan,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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

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

Good Governance Advocate,
Morobe,
Papua New Guinea




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

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

John Sine,
Goroka,
Urban resident,
Papua New Guineas




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

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

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia

 

 

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

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

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



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

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

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




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

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

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




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

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

Charles Jasari,
Popondetta,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

Isabel Escoda,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

WhizBang.
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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


 

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

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

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Russian Shmehkalkeh,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Miriam Layton,
OL,
Goroka
,
Papua New Guinea




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

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

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines




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

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

Yanawa David,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Rajend Naidu.
Sydney,
Australia




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

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

Raffy Rey Hipoloto,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

JD Lovrenciear,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

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




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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Concern citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Rajend Naidu
Sydney
Australia

 

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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Observer,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




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

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

Rado Gatchalian,
Sydney
Australia




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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

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



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

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

Claimant,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Retired Medical Director,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Diosdado V. Calonge,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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




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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Rene A.V. Saguisag,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Jack Gilead,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

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



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

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

PNG Man,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


 

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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

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

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

Brian Corrigan,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Weko Tantanu,
Buka,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Pit M. Maliksi,
Manila,
Philippines

 

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

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


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





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

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

Jeff Gepner,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Mong Palatino,
Chair
Bayan Metro Manila
Manila

 

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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


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

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

Nigel Woodward,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Jeffsatu,
Lypin Lokait,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




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

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

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




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

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

Daniel Aloc,
Bacoor,
Cavite




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

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

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



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

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

Howard Star,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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



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

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

Attentive Reader,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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

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

Daulat Tuanku.
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia





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

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

Reni Valenzuela,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

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

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



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

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

Paul Folley,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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


Dinesh Chandren,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



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

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

Dinesh Chandren,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



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

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

Arnulfo M. Edralin,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Raymond Clauscen,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


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

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

Rebecca Chieng,
Kuching,
Malaysia



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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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


Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Selangor,
Malaysia



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

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

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thursday




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

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

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

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




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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Scarlet S. Sytangco,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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


Arnel Christopher Calatrava
Bacolod City,
Philippines




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

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

Salim Bashir,
President,
Malaysian Bar
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




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

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

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Jacobusse,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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



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

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

Marvel K. Tan
Manila,
Phioippines



Nepotism in Papua New Guinea
Leaves students from struggling families unemployed

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

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

Eager eye,
Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea


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

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

Terence A Harkin,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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




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

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

Jennifer Horsburgh,
Queensland,
Australia




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

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

PNG Man,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

Kuntree Bumkhin,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Kareen Asistio,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia