The Southeast Asian Times


The Philippines Catholic Church is silent
And it is deafening
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday October 5, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesdau October 3, 2023

The Catholic Church is supposed to be the church of the helpless but faithful poor. But where is the Church amidst the issues of confidential and intelligence funds, alleged election fraud, and other scandalous political and social controversies? When is the Church going to make a pastoral statement regarding these issues to be read before the faithful during Sunday Masses?
The Church is obviously silent and it is deafening.
The controversial funds are people’s money and they are for the poor.
If these funds are misused and the Church silently, deliberately, or otherwise, ignores them, then something is wrong with it.
God has always commanded his followers to help the poor because it’s a great way to worship Him.
It is a double oppression of the poor if Catholic politicians and the Church who are expected to incarnate preferential action for the poor appear to be in every inch not for the poor. God loves the poor and so should we.
As I have written previously, “The Church can never be silent about these social evils. When it becomes silent, it ceases to be the real Church. The Church remains to be the voice of God, and this is the true essence of the Church that Jesus founded.”
The Church should heed God’s commandment. God says, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City.

Thailands May election made history
Voters turned their backs on dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday October 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday September 2, 2023

Re: "Senate committee to monitor constitution rewrite", in Bangkok Post Friday September 27, 2023.
The Senate will monitor our constitution re-writing closely.
Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva correctly noted the goal of our current charter was not to solve the people's problems but to keep the military junta in power.
Thus, we can conclude that the junta-appointed Senate will do all it can to keep its authority as kingmaker so that its candidate can become prime minister with just one sixth of the popular vote, again making us a sham democracy.
May's election made history by showing that the majority of voters have turned their backs on a dictatorship.
Our elected MPs must ensure that we have indeed turned the page and are now headed towards a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" (Abraham Lincoln). For a fuss-free revision, the best place to start would be the 1997 People's Constitution, definitely not the current one.

Burin Kantabutra

Debt left by former Philippine President Duterte
Has doubled in six years
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 3, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday September 30, 2023

Discussions in the congressional budget deliberations have so far focused mainly on how the proposed P5.768 trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) would be best allocated for various services.
The projected shortfall in revenues, a yearly phenomenon of revenues falling short of expenditures, has been skirted.
With slight adjustments and revisions, budget approval is a foregone conclusion.
What looms ahead, however, is the serious concern that revenues will be short by P2.4 trillion, which must be sourced through borrowings. It’s high time for Congress to control the purse tighter by putting a cap on government debt which has been spiraling.
From hereon, annual borrowings by the executive branch through the treasury must show repayment and amortization plans to get congressional approval as part of the National Expenditure Program (NEP) budget proposal. Payment plans for any proposed borrowing in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) must be a requirement for approval as well.
The executive branch should live within the Congress-approved financial plan; supplemental budget requests may be resorted to for emergencies, but with authorized legislation.
Congress should, henceforth, include such financial oversight over the national budget. It shouldn’t leave hanging the serious accountability of the economic team to manage the proposed debt.
We now ask: how would this huge proposed loan of P2.4 trillion be repaid, and what is the timeline for repayments within the term of President Marcos?
We have seen this undesirable practice of leaving to the next administration so many financial woes: the economic missteps and financial albatross left by the Duterte era have doubled our debt in six years, from P6 trillion in 2016 to more than P13 trillion in 2021.

Marvel K. Tan,
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Senators show great will to defend
Philippines from China
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 2, 2023

I commend our Senators for their bravery in assailing China for installing floating barriers in the West Philippine Sea.
Their actions show great will to defend our country from China.
Their unanimity shows a strong message to the world that the Philippines is united and ready to fight for its territorial rights or exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Their actions speak for the rest of the Filipinos.
I hope that their conviction and stand will remain and unwavered.

Macoy Piloto,

None of the many smoking weed around Thailand
Are doing so for medical purposes
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 1, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 27, 2023

Re: "Drug war harm", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saturday September 23, 2023.
I have wanted to write to you on many occasions over the past 15 years of reading your daily publication, even the many interesting letters from just a handful of commentators who use your publication to try and educate us readers in their often "mixed up" thinking of whom Felix Qui is one.
He seems an intelligent fellow at times, but his comments within the above-dated PostBag have really let him down.
To remark that narcotics do no more harm than alcohol is rather strange.
To compare shooting yourself up with heroin to drinking a glass of fine wine is somewhat absurd and obviously suggests that Felix lives in a different world than most of us.
As I write, I'm sitting in a Pattaya coffee shop where two Russian ladies are sitting on the patio smoking weed with its stench drifting into the shop.
It stinks and makes me want to vomit, so I won't return here again.
Last week in Bangkok, several bars on Sukhumvit allowed customers to smoke weed inside.
My winter break on a big bike tour in Chaing Mai was spoilt by the same experience, and my colleagues vowed never to return to Thailand.
Personally, I've nothing against anyone smoking weed, but do it where it's legal and does not intrude on others.
Oh, and by the way, none of the many people I witnessed smoking weed around Thailand were doing so for medical purposes.
As for the future, Felix, Thailand will not and should not rely on a liberal narcotic policy to drive growth. It did not need it in the past and will not require it in the future.
I think Felix needs to get out and about more and see for himself, though I guess he may be too scared of the truth.

Christian Reeve,

Greatest global threat in the history of mankind
A global dystopia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 30, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday September 25, 2023

Re: "BlackRock 'expresses interest' in Thailand", in Bangkok Post, Business, Thursday September 21, 2023.
While the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) gives an open-arm welcome to LGBTQ tourists, the government is courting pro-woke America in welcoming BlackRock investment.
BlackRock is associated with the woke capitalism, the World Economic Forum and pro-Ukraine policy.
Like its political globalist associates, it gains control with mega money.
It promotes acceptance by corporations of woke policies in return for increased financial credibility and increased credit rating.
A globally unaware and a geopolitically uninformed electorate produced a prime minister of Thailand in their image and now we have the result.
The appointed senators warned about the danger to patriotic democracy of the unenlightened voter and they were right.
The kingdom of Thailand is a highly respected sovereign country with a strong economy.
It is well financed and does not need finance from BlackRock as its finance comes with control.
The coincidence of a woke PM, the political involvement of Blackrock, the return of Thaksin Shinawatra and the officially-accepted LGBTQ should cause alarm in a free sovereign country.
We must teach our children the truth, not propaganda.
Our planet is not under threat from a mythical climate emergency.
All of us are under the greatest global threat in the history of mankind: a global dystopia.
Only Brics will restore our world to a healthy planet of freedom.

J C Wilcox,

Will Malaysia be a party
To the weaponisation of space?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday September 28, 2023
First published in the Malaysiakini Thursday September 21, 2023

In an effort to explore new economic opportunities, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry through the Malaysia Space Agency (MYSA) will be looking at developing a study guideline on the feasibility of building a spacecraft launch site in Malaysia.
The strategic location close to the equatorial line with the belief of more competitive operating costs gives birth to this initiative.
If viable, Malaysia will join an elite group of nations and it would be the 16th such facility in the world.
The current eight countries to have a spacecraft launch site are China, India, Israel, New Zealand, Russia, France, Japan, and the US.
News reports said the development of the space industry could be worth an estimated RM10 billion by the end of the decade, along with the growth of 500 space-tech startups and the creation of 5,000 job opportunities.
Currently, the cost to build a spacecraft launcher varies significantly depending on the type, size, and capabilities of the launcher.
The development and construction costs for a large, heavy-lift launcher can reach several billion US dollars.
The SLS currently under development by NASA exceeds US$10 billion.
Additionally, operational costs such as propellant, launch pads, and personnel also need to be considered.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said a Starship launch could eventually cost just US$10 million or less but the company’s Falcon 9 costs about US$62 million today and has far less carrying capacity.
If the environment is a priority, what should we do now?
Malaysia increased its mitigation ambition with an unconditional target to cut carbon intensity against GDP by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
When it comes to environmental impacts, not all rocket fuels are equal. There are industry’s “dirty secrets”.
Experts caution that not enough data has been gathered to precisely assess the impacts of various types of rocket propellants and rocket engines.
Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine, a fuel dubbed “Devil’s venom” by Soviet scientists, is responsible for turning a vast area of the Kazakh steppe into an ecological disaster zone as reported by the United Nations Development Programme published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.
Massive clouds generated during space shuttle launches contained rather reactive chemicals and spread in the surrounding environment, affecting soil and water quality, and damaging vegetation.
I do not want to sound negative but addressing our present concerns may be preferable than focusing on future opportunities that may or may not be viable.
We are still dealing with food shortages, poverty, inflation, and structural weaknesses at home.
The handful of benefits such as money spent on space research will spur economic expansion by bringing new job opportunities and technological advancements can wait for another day.
Another point is, will it include building and operating satellites?
I appreciate the ministry’s vision of making Malaysia a high-tech nation through science, technology, innovation, and economy.
But now, there is a scarcity of valuable and usable resources that need to be well-planned and allocated.
We need sustainable development and a just transition. The budget could run into millions, necessitating foreign expert involvement.
It makes more sense for the ministry to embark on developing a study guideline through a scientific approach and advanced technology to assist in environmental sustainability and societal wellbeing.
In today’s context, as per Maslow’s pyramid of needs, we urgently need to tackle the bottom part of the hierarchy, i.e. physiological. food and clothing,, safety job security, and love and belonging needs friendship.
Esteem and especially self-actualisation can wait.
By the way, will we be a party to the “weaponisation of space” which will be fundamentally destabilising.
What say you?

Saleh Mohammed,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippines Senate panel
Approves divorce bill
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 28, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday September 26, 2023

What a relief that at long last, the Senate panel has approved the divorce bill.
We need more practical laws dealing with the everyday life of regular Filipinos. What should an ordinary Filipino couple stuck in a loveless marriage mostly prompted by infidelity do?
For well-off Filipinos, they will go for a civil and/or religious annulment.
This process though is quite expensive since in most cases, in addition to lawyers and court fees, it involves certification from a psychiatrist.
Some will get their divorce abroad until now, not valid in the Philippines.
These are expensive for the regular Filipino worker.
What is important in this law is to make it simple and workable so that any regular Filipino can avail of it without paying so much fees.
When you talk to a Filipino and ask them why we don’t have any divorce laws, most will answer that we are a predominantly Catholic country.
But, there are only two countries in the world that have no divorce laws, the Philippines and the Vatican, the seat of the Holy See.
Living in a loveless marriage is traumatic to the couple itself and to the children, with its bickering and fights.
As long as there are provisions for spousal and child support, it is a plus since especially the children are taken care of. Divorce will give a chance for those miserable in their current marriage to seek happiness with another party officially.
I am just surprised that it took so many years to approve this and hope that it will be a law soon.

Ida M. Tiongco,

New PM Sretta Tavesin address at United Nations
Speaks volumes
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 27, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday September 25, 2023

Re "PM talks up Thai credentials at UN meet", in Bangkok Post, Saturday September 23, 2023.
No doubt PM Srettha Tavesin's trip to New York served a useful purpose in publicising Thailand on the world stage.
However, a picture is still worth more than a thousand words.
The picture on your front page of Srettha addressing an almost completely empty room speaks volumes about the real interest in a small country like Thailand at the United Nations meeting, while the picture of his much vaunted meeting with Elon Musk reveals the meeting was merely a zoom call with Musk that could have been done from Bangkok any time.
I for one look forward to seeing Srettha getting back to work in Bangkok and solving Thailand's many problems.

George Morgan,

ASEAN should make all necessary efforts
To forge stronger partnerships with ASEAN's partners
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 26, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday September 8, 2023

Re: "Asean summit forges fresh strategies", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Tuesday September 5, 2023.
It is important to note that on the occasion of the 43rd Asean Summit, in the first paragraph of the Asean Leaders' Declaration on Sustainable Resilience, it is emphasised that the ten members of this regional institution stand in solidarity.
In the current world characterised by global vulnerabilities, perplexities and discontinuities, promoting solidarity is an imperative duty which must inspire the future strategies of an institution reuniting 672 million people.
Indeed, as asserted in fundamental diplomatic documents, solidarity and a strong sense of moral responsibility must be the guiding light of national, regional and international policy.
Asean should have the ambition to make all necessary efforts to give tangibility, in a spirit of solidarity, to its aspirations to forge stronger partnerships and collaboration with Asean's partners and related stakeholders to further develop an enabling framework for sustainable resilience.

Ioan Voicu,

Malaysia's promise to eliminate corruption
And provide good governance are fading away
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 25, 2023
First published in the Malaysakini, Wednesday September 20, 2023

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) party has called themselves saviours through their strong support and endorsement for the “Save Malaysia” rally that just concluded a few days ago.
It seems like they have forgotten that they are the ones who are always attempting to tear the social fabric of Malaysia apart by constantly issuing extreme statements that undermine the rights and existence of the minorities.
No one would be afraid of the “Green Wave” if it is not led by a bunch of racial and religious extremists.
Meanwhile, as a response to the “Save Malaysia” rally, Federal Territories of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) information chief Gulam Muszaffar has jumped out to protect his party chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi by crediting the latter as Malaysia’s saviour who ended the post-GE15 political deadlock.
In his view, Zahid’s commitment to realising the current structure of the unity government “saved Malaysia”.
He seems to forget the fact that the unity government came together as a political decision to share power.
No one could guarantee that Pakatan Harapan (PH) would never work with Perikatan Nasional (PN) if the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) did not come forward last year, given politics is the art of possibility.
Therefore, Zahid’s move to collaborate with Pakatan Harapan (PH) to form the government is not “brave” but rather a desperate move for political survival, especially after Barisan Nasional (BN) party gruesome defeat.
He would need to answer both the elite leaders and grassroots members of Barisan Nasional (BN) party if he could not secure any power or positions for the remaining winners.
Moreover, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) participation in the federal government has become one of the biggest reasons for the “Green Wave” gaining momentum in Pakatan Harapan (PH) strongholds.
Their presence has also tied up the reformists’ hands.
The reformists within the government would need to see their faces before proposing any reforms that may go against their interest as a conservative racial party.
Thus, we see old practices being brought back and the government’s promise to eliminate corruption and good governance fading away from our sight.
You call this “saving Malaysia”?

Lew Guan Xi,
Kuala Lumpur,

Rice prices increase in Philippines
Alternative carbohydrates dangerous to health
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 24, 2023
First published in the Philippines Inquirer Thursday September 14, 2023

A lot of media mileage is being generated promoting the consumption of kamote in place of rice, coming from government and health functionaries, with even some in the media and celebrities joining the chorus in an apparent knee-jerk reaction to the increasing rice prices and supply fears.
But is this the healthy and economical alternative or clearly a misinformed, misplaced recommendation, and potentially dangerous to health?
Presenting the basic, science-based nutrient facts as plainly as possible per kilogram of polished rice compared to kamote as sold:
Carbohydrates—rice, 712 grams; kamote, 210 g
Fat—rice, 5 g; kamote, 1.5 g
Protein—rice, 79 g; kamote, 2.0 g
Calories—rice, 3,350; kamote, 900
Prevailing cost/kg—rice, P50; kamote, P40
The nutrient comparisons are even smaller for a 100 g serving.
With rice comprising the major caloric source in the diet of the majority of Filipinos, at almost the same cost, replacing rice with kamote will lead to intake of 3.4 times less carbohydrates, 3.3 times less fat, 39 times less protein, and 3.7 times less calorie, clearly a starvation diet.

Joel F. Mangalindan DVM,
Clinical Nutrition Practitioner,

Bricks members, Russia, India China and South Africa
Are opposed to USA hegemony
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 23, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday September 12, 2023

Re: "Time to shine", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Sunday September 10, 2023
All the points raised and questions posed in Kuldeep Nagi's letter need to be seen in a macro situation: liberty against totalitarianism.
Countries are queuing up to join the multipolar Brics for one simple reason; they want national sovereignty, liberty to choose for themselves.
The collectivist doubts about Brics stem from the fact it is multipolar.
Unlike the EU with its Euro that impoverished its poorer members like Greece, Brics does not have a common currency and multi-polar also means multi-currency.
Brics members are opposed to the USA hegemony with its petrodollar enforcing sanctions on countries it considers non-compliant with its military-industrial-complex-controlled "democracy".
G7 is another euphemism for the totalitarian World Economic Forum.
Headed by Klaus Schwab, it seeks to impose an Orwellian dystopia on the global population.
Asean is a regional economic bloc with sovereign countries as members.
Members have right to vote but there is far more to democracy: there's law and accountability as occurs in individual democratic sovereign states.

J C Wilcox,

Thailand is no longer
The Land of Smiles
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday September 22, 2023
First published in Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 13, 2023

Re: "Thailand is a 'sick' nation", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday September 12, 2023.
What a ugly PR stunt to tell the whole world that Thailand is a "sick" nation, maybe near bankruptcy.
So where are all the healthy companies, hotels, banks, clinics, small companies, street food vendors and so on, managed by excellent, honest, and diligent people?
They all help to attract, with outstanding high-level service, tourists from across the world.
The speechwriter for the new prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, is ignorant about the power of speech.
Now Thailand is no longer the "Land of Smiles"?
Furthermore, the doctor's remedy for healing Thailand's sickness is to inject money medicine not only into needy people but also into the rich.
Ten thousand baht is a drop in the ocean for people with debt liabilities.
The impractical giveaway within a radius of 4 kilometres excludes millions of people who live in Bangkok but are registered maybe in Chiang Mai.
Good luck, Thailand, and really needy Thai people!

Thai observer,

Call for Thailand's Interior Ministry's civil service
To discontinue discounts for guns to civil servants
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday September 15, 2023

Re: "Mafia blitz spurs gun amnesty", in Bangkok Post, Tursday September 14, 2023
While I dare say amnesties for illegal weapons from time to time are no bad thing, it seems that the big news in this story was that 100 policemen went to a colleague's house in Nakhon Pathom and seized nine guns in a raid ordered by Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
Almost certainly, these guns are legally owned by the policeman and will be returned to him after the media excitement dies down.
Aside from grandstanding, there is one thing that Minister Anutin could do that would have a lasting positive effect on gun violence.
That would be to discontinue the Interior Ministry's civil service welfare scheme that discounts guns to civil servants, state enterprise employees and village defence volunteers.
The recent murder of the police major in the kamnan Nok case was carried out using a gun supplied by the Interior Ministry under the welfare scheme and illegally sold on the black market.
Welfare scheme guns were also used in the mass murder of nursery school children in Nong Bua Lamphu and at the start of the murder spree carried out by a soldier in Korat.
The Interior Ministry is the biggest importer of civilian firearms. It imports thousands of firearms annually distributed nationwide, with many sold on the black market; some even find their way to neighbouring countries.
These guns are sold at a discount rate to the Thai retail selling price but at a large markup compared to manufacturers' recommended selling prices overseas.
So, some huge profits must be made somewhere, but sacrificing these profits would be a small price to pay for less gun violence.
Police should also be issued with standard service firearms, properly maintained by police armourers, that should be returned when they leave the force or even, as in some countries, when they go off duty so they would no longer be obliged to buy their guns from the Interior Ministry's welfare scheme.

George Morgan,

Ten years of the military coup
There has been no reform of Thai police
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday, September 17, 2023

Re: "Kamnan surrenders after 'ordering' officer's killing", in Bangkok Post, September Friday 8, 2023.
Apart from watching the usual news about the busting of underground casinos or illegal online gambling under alleged police protection, the public rarely knows much about behind the scenes police corruption.
Until the recent case when a police officer was killed in cold blood by a gunman at a party organised by an influential kamnan (subdistrict head) in front of more than 20 guests who were police officers.
In a related clip of the deadly party, we can see sturdy men with close-cropped hair, buzzing with euphoria around the kamnan, like butter wouldn't melt in their mouth.
Anyone who walks into a Thai police station to file a complaint or seek assistance, would most likely find the police officers there different from those jolly fellows they saw in the clip.
Ten years after the military coup, there has been no reform of the Thai police force as the coup makers had promised. How much longer do we have to wait?

Yingwai Suchaovanich,



Call for points-based approach
For immigration to Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday September 17, 2023

Re: "Cabinet to talk visa-free China policy", in Bangkok Post, Sunday September 10, 2023.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin should decide on short-term Band-Aid like visas on arrival in the context of a long-term approach to reforming our immigration laws.
We should use a points-based approach, perhaps like Australia's, to approving applicants who will give us the type of people we need.
We want those who will appreciate our culture, rather than look down on us, while helping us to learn from theirs.
So, give points for passing in-depth culture appreciation programmes, perhaps like those that the US Peace Corps require their volunteers to pass before going on-station.
We need those with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills. We should give points to recent Stem graduates from the world's top 150 universities, so investors will have the highly-skilled staff needed.
We should reserve any given occupation for Thais only for two years so that we can prepare for and be able to compete with the world.
The quality of Thai education is poor, as shown by our Pisa scores and low university rankings. Import the instructors needed at all levels.
We should look upon immigrants, including refugees, as sources of skilled people whom we sorely need. For example, the Taliban has virtually condemned their girls and women to a life of bondage.
We should seek out those with the needed skills, and their immediate families, to help us, especially in our rural areas as they learn our culture and language.
Thailand has consistently had the highest suicide rate in Asean, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29 year-olds. But a 75-year-old study by Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger found that "good relationships keep us happier and healthier".
So, we must design programmes to teach and promote strong, healthy relationships, which will involve importing many foreign experts to train their Thai counterparts in secondary schools and universities.
Immigrants are more law-abiding than the native-born see "Two charts demolish the notion that immigrants here illegally commit more crime", Washington Post, June 19, 2018.
We require about 20 year's worth of criminal records, if any, from overseas for each applicant for long-term stay vs none for those born on Thai soil.
Also, we've given millions of visas on arrival through the years, with satisfactory results, which is why we're considering giving them again. I see no reason why we need to know the backgrounds of non-Thais to a greater degree than for Thais.

Burin Kantabutra

Foreign fund depositor not easily convinced
To invest in Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC)
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 18, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday September 14, 2023

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the law creating the Maharlika Investment Fund takes effect September 12, 2023.
Many foreign funders await the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) before investing their funds into the Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC) with nine board members, of which six are government and government-owned banks, Land Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines.
Of the P500 billion total capitalization, government will own P50 billion voting common shares and part of the P125 billion preferred shares.
By all counts, it is a sovereign-guaranteed fund.
The foreign funders are naturally aware of the risks with sovereign wealth funds, and their questions probably are:
Will they get better returns in MIC?
How safe is the security of their funds in our country?
The first question is speculative, and depends on their appreciation of the investments track record of the government’s economic managers handling the Maharlika Investment Corp (MIC).
The second question depends on the government’s international credit rating, now threatened by overborrowing exceeding the 60 percent prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.
It appears that a foreign fund depositor will not be easy to convince to invest into Maharlika Investment Corp (MIC), unless it comes with some political considerations.
For instance, Malaysia will likely put in some funds into the MIC only because o
ur government is not helping the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate pursue the recent $15 billion Arbitral Award against Malaysia over Sabah.
What can likely make the Maharlika fund succeed are the domestic depositors—us.
The treasury department has been bidding out long-term treasury bonds, around P120 billion a month, some at 8 percent coupon rate.
As far as this goes, it benefits the country in that the government debt will be mostly domestic and does not endanger it with international loan sanctions in case of defaults, and it teaches Filipinos to save more and help their debt-drowning government with their personal savings.

Marvel K Tan,



Sangguniang Kabataan youth council
Marred with corruption and nepotism
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 17, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday September 13, 2023

The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) is the barangay youth council dedicated to the development and promotion of programs and activities that cater to the Filipino youth’s needs.
On paper, this is an excellent platform for emerging leaders to hone their skills in public service.
However, it has turned out to be a microcosm of the “adult” government where it is marred with issues of corruption and nepotism.
What really qualifies a candidate for SK?
Be 18-24 years old, a Filipino citizen, and literate.
Basically the same as a candidate for local and national government.
I believe that these qualifications are not enough to assure the barangay’s youth that their aspiring leaders are ready to serve them if they meet the age and citizenship requirements.
The future leaders of the barangay youth must be able to prove that they are not merely names in a popularity contest and that sitting in public office is a reminder that their fellow youth trust them to carry out their campaign promises and forge a better community for their constituents.
It may shock people to see that some of the candidates have no leadership experience or have taken up service roles in the school or the community.
What do they expect when some of the country’s “leaders” are celebrities who have no idea what parliamentary procedures are?
Grim as it may sound, the youth leaders must now set a precedent for future leaders by taking up active roles in the community and in school before they can even file their certificates of candidacy.
Can the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) do more than barangay beauty pageants and basketball tournaments?
Of course, they can, and should. Symposiums on the risks of drugs and alcohol, teenage pregnancy, and leadership training should be more of the norm.
Is it not the SK’s responsibility to mobilize the youth in nation-building?
And yes, anti-corruption and good governance as well. Corruption is so deeply rooted in Filipino culture that there are rampant Facebook posts about SK chairs inquiring about motorcycles days prior to the election.
By enabling corruption among the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) ranks, they do nothing more than train and breed traditional and corrupt politicians.
Reasons such as “mabait” and “tumutulong naman” are not valid enough to vote for a candidate.
A friendly candidate can be as incompetent as a rude one.
A candidate with a strong moral fiber and a track record that vouches for their service is the one the youth should vote for as their representative.

Wilhelm Matthew A. Tan,

"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth approach"
Standard form of compensation in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 16, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday September 12, 2023

The ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ approach is already becoming a standard form of compensation in our society.
The principal meaning is that if you believe someone does something wrong, that person should be punished by having the same thing done to them.
A biblical perspective is fixed in the principle of revenge: punishment is deserved in proportion to the seriousness of an offence.
Our ancestors have taught us to treat others as we would like to be treated, as well as the justice system.
It is unfair to commit a crime without a consequence.
Therefore, the term an “eye for an eye”, if you choose to steal something you will be required to deal with the consequence.
It is the only way to teach and learn lessons.
But today in society, it is like, you slap me, I return with my relatives or friends and we bash you, even to the extent of sending one to the hospital.
We have come off the primitive and by now should lean towards allowing the law to take its course and let those who do wrong feel the full brunt of it.
Punishment is a universal phenomenon.
No human society confronted with violations of its laws or customs leaves itself powerless to impose sanctions.
For all this accrued experience of dealing with offenders, punishment remains a problematic matter under constant debate.

Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister Sreetha Thavisin policy statement
Little more than a wishlist
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 14, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 13, 2023

Re: "Nation 'like a sick person' ", Bangkok Post, September 12, 2023 and "It sounds like a wishlist", InQuote, September 12, 2023.
Prime Minister Sreetha Thavisin omitted the specifics to make his policy statement to parliament credible.
He correctly pointed out the massive obstacles he faces.
But the rest of his speech was little more than a wishlist.
To build credibility, he should have set out specific steps that showed his political will and strength.
For example, "I will not revise our constitution by starting with the current version, which Abhisit Vejjajiva correctly described as being drafted to keep the junta in power rather than solving the people's problems.
"Rather, I will update the 1997 version, known as the 'People's Constitution' from the participative nature of its drafting, and its support of human rights and advances in political reform."
He should also have vowed, "I will fight corruption and establish the rule of law. This very morning, I posted Vicha Mahakun's report on reforming the Royal Thai Police and Office of the Attorney-General on their respective websites. Specific actions and timelines based on that document will be posted this month."
Also, Prime Minister Srettha cannot admit that he lacks the right people for the job. So how will he reform education when the army general in charge has shown no major accomplishments relevant to the task?
Show us substance as well as form.

Burin Kantabutra,

Hidden Vally Mine stakeholders bypass
Genuine landowners in development of project
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 13, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday September 12, 2023

The delay to the Hidden Valley Mine is clear and all stakeholders are watching.
The Hidden Valley Mine management team as well as the Bulolo and Morobe provincial administrations know this, yet none have taken the issue on in getting the identified landowners onboard in the development of the project.
The stakeholders continue to bypass the landowner and are dealing with others who are not the genuine landowners.
How can the Government and the mining developer play such game where the two stakeholders should be doing what is right to the people, the very resource owners?
The stakeholders have turned a blind eye on the Social Economic Study outcome report presented by Burton John from the National University of Australia in 2001 well before the construction of the Mining.
Again final social mapping report released on 2010 finalising the whole issues surrounding the mining, nothing has been done to date.
The Morobe government and its administrations and the Hidden Valley Mining management need to get this issue rectified in order to give effect to the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed in 2005, then follow by the pending review which has been every now and then being talked about in media and so on.
I suggest the management team of the Hidden Valley mining and the Morobe administrations and the government of the day revisit the reports presented by Burton John and make changes to some issues lying unattended since the beginning of the Mining.
Failure by the concerned stake- holders have given an extreme poverty rise to the affected land owners, LLG, district, province and the nation as a whole.
This cannot be let continuing like this.
Someone has to make changes to the ongoing issues’
Talking on imagination will never get anything right.

HV Red Eye,
Port Moresby,
Papua News Guinea

Call for Thailand's new justice minister to make good
On poll pledges to fight corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 13, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday September 11, 2023

Re: "Graft-busters implicate 15 in 'Boss' case", in Bangkok Post , Wednesday September 6, 2023.
In 2020, ex-National Anti-Corruption Commissioner Vicha Mahakun submitted his panel's report on reforms to the Royal Thai Police and Office of the Attorney-General to then-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The panel looked into allegations that high-ranking officials helped Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, who killed a cop with his Ferrari, evade justice.
He left the country with help from corrupt officials and his clan's wealth and influence.
Gen Prayut stonewalled the report for three years.
Then-opposition Member of Parliament Pol Col Thawee Sodsong rightfully dragged Gen Prayut over the coals for inaction on the Boss case.
Now that he has become the new justice minister with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's backing, he needs to make sure the politicians make good on their poll pledges to fight corruption.
It's easy to act on the Vicha report. It was on Gen Prayut's desk; if not, Khun Vicha undoubtedly has a copy. Just post it on the ministry website tomorrow, and act on it.

Burin Kantabutra,

Thorium ore is far more abundant than uranium
And Thailand has much of it
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 12, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday September 9, 2023

Re: "Heed water dump danger", Bangkok Post, PostBag, September 3 and "Fukushima fish still safe to eat: govt", in Bangkok Post, August 27.
Thorium reactors offer the extremely important advantage of not posing a meltdown hazard such as that occurred at Fukushima and Chernobyl.
They can use spent fuel from conventional reactors, which is otherwise disposed of in environmentally unsound ways and can be built in surprisingly small to large footprints.
Thorium ore is also far more abundant than uranium, requires less processing, and Thailand has much of it.
It has been over a decade since I recommended the Thai government consider developing thorium reactors in conjunction with the US and Canada.
This suggestion was made as an alternative to the various environmentally destructive projects, such as a coal-fired power plant in the South and a conventional nuclear plant, which the Thai government has repeatedly considered.
Perhaps it is time to revisit this opportunity.

Michael Setter,

New Srettha Thavisin government
Is not what the Thai nation voted for
The Southeast East Asian Times, Monday September 11, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday September 9, 2023

Re: "Fighting to regain the public's trust" in Bangkok Post, Monday September 4, 2023 and "No special care for ex-PM" in Editorial, Bangkok Post Monday September 4, 2023.
In their "special report" on Pheu Thai's betrayal of voters, both its own and others, three Post reporters - Mongkol Bangprapa, Penchan Charoensuthipan and Apinya Wipatayotin - begin by admitting the indisputable fact that Srettha Thavisin's government, hobbled together by Pheu Thai and those partying with them, is not what the Thai nation voted for on May 14.
The three then more partially note that Pheu Thai's move, harshly criticised by so-called (sic) pro-democracy supporters as an act of betrayal, has raised questions about its trust and integrity and what ethical standards politicians can be held to." These questions deserve answers.
Those answers are obvious to Thai voters on May 14. The ethical standards politicians can and should be held to are those exemplified by Move Forward. This fully explains Move Forward's popular success on election day.
The Move Forward Party's integrity, honour, and standing up for principle to respect the people, especially the 38% who voted for them, refreshingly smash the norms of traditional Thai politics.
Regarding the editorial on the same day, the editorial seeks to mitigate the widespread outrage.
No matter how many saccharine editorials the Post shamelessly publishes to vainly sweeten the rancid aftertaste of what has been forced down the people's throats.
The silver lining is that support for Move Forward and every one of its policies has likely now soared to new heights as the events of the past three and a half months have opened a lot more eyes that will never again be closed.
This is the most pertinent poll Nida could now run: If an election is held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?
That poll must be worth far more than the uninformed speculations of so-called political experts and any unfounded claims of so-called "respect".
As a proxy for national feeling, it will be interesting to see how people vote in the upcoming by-election in Rayong tomorrow.

Felix Qui,

Papua New Guinea
About to celebrate 48 years of independence
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 10, 2023
First published in the National Thursday September 7, 2023

We are about to celebrate 48 years as an independent state of Papua New Guinea.
Yet the rise of social problems law and order are at alarming rate.
The negligence of basic government goods and services has become a hindrance to our ordinary citizens across the nation.
Many of us were blindly led and being deceived because of bribery and nepotism that has crept into the government system.
Therefore, we don’t know where justice can be applied for the sake of common good.
As a result, our nation has been manipulated by corruption and led by the political thief.
The political thief succumbed our rights and privileges and we cannot stand and united as a nation.
When we compare the political thief from the ordinary thief bag snatcher which of the two robs us more and as a long term effect in our lives.
The ordinary thief steals your phone, your bag, your watch, and jewellery.
But the political thief steals your future, your career, your education, your health and your business.
Hilariously, the ordinary thief will choose whom to rob but you are the ones who chooses the political thief to rob you because you voted them.
Again, I am not defending and encouraging anybody to commit any form of illicit activities.
What is morally wrong cannot be justified.
The end does not justify the means.
But the ridiculous part of the whole issue is that, we are not realising our nation has been led by greed and power.
As a matter of fact, we are being bribed by those who are stealing our future rather than protecting our human rights and dignity.
What a shame.
It is time now for us to act and defend our rights rather than become an on looker for too long.

Ruarri Constantine,
Holy Spirit Seminary- Bomana,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for candidates for cabinet posts
Be approved by a parliamentary committee
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday Septemer 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Re: "Pheu Thai 'not at a disadvantage'", in Bangkok Post, August Monday 28, 2023.
Thais should be able to believe that each cabinet member has a job-relevant vision and ability to make it a reality.
Now, positions are allocated mainly based on party affiliation - not job competence.
Lacking ministerial ability is a major reason why, for example, we've consistently been at the bottom of Asean GDP annual growth for the past decade.
Candidates for cabinet posts should be approved by a parliamentary committee of elected Members of Parliament from both sides of the aisle.
Hearings would be broadcast live and focus on the job-relevant vision and achievements of each candidate.
For example, if a would-be minister had been convicted for smuggling 3.2kg of heroin to Australia, would that fatally damage his prospects?
Or, how would a would-be education minister match Vietnam's achievements in Pisa scores, as supported by his past record?

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for census in Papua New Guinea
Before next National General Elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday September 8, 2023
First published in the National, Thursday September 7, 2023

The National Population Census must be conducted before the next National General Elections.
This country is within striking distance of hitting a bomb.
This country has been ruined and treated as a jolly phonics class, and no capable Member of Parliament is anywhere in sight who can standup and take up the cane to the noise of destruction about to sweep all asunder.
If no census is conducted than the future of this country is in blackness.
Everything falls back to the people, it’s the people that makes up the country from its roots from the valley to the mountains, hills, and islands.
No one in his or her good sense of mind could deny the fact that he or she isn’t independent.
All people are interconnected.
The Government stands for the people.
Count your people first than you will know what to deliver according to real people number.
Stop the talk!

Count Me In,
Papua New Guinea

Thank God that new travel requirements
For Filipinos going abroad have been postponed
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday September 7, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday September 4, 2023

Thank God that the Department of Justice (DOJ) postponed the implementation of the new Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking’s (Iacat) travel requirements for Filipinos going abroad.
One of the prominent persons who commented on this was the former Bureau of Immigration (BI) director and now Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who stated that “the decision of Iacat to impose additional and stricter rules on Filipino travelers is both unreasonable and intrusive.”
He also added: “They will give Filipino tourists, overseas Filipino workers, and other travelers a lot of inconveniences, and they could make them vulnerable to harassment and extortion by corrupt immigration officers and other airport personnel.“
The Iacat stated that they upgraded the guidelines to fight human trafficking.
It took the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Passenger Forum, and the Senate to convince the DOJ to postpone implementation of these travel rules.
To start with, whose idea was it to have new rules and regulations regarding Filipinos traveling abroad just to prevent trafficking when we have enough laws and regulations regarding Filipinos traveling abroad?
A passport is not a right but a privilege and before one gets a passport, he/she is already scrutinized with proper documents.
Another hurdle is getting a visa from most countries where more documents and information are needed, too.
It will be a different story with non-visa countries.
Instead of making things complicated, why don’t we just go for the basics: tougher implementation of our laws with tough punishment on illegal recruiters, unscrupulous travel and employment agents.
Government employees like those in the BI who deal with travelers with jail terms as well as human trafficking syndicates should be subjected to the loss of their pension and other benefits.
In addition, educate our people including our children on how to avoid fraud by just being honest and being careful in trusting others.
Maltreated maid says she was also hanged in a meat hook exp-customer-logo

Ida M. Tiongco,

We would not be on planet Earth
Without fresh water
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday August 17, 2023
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 6, 2023

Re: "Rising flows of concern", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Tuesday August 15, 2023.
The editorial highlights mankind's inability to manage our most vital resource: fresh water.
While we value gold and silver greatly, we would not be here on planet Earth without fresh water.
Mankind has still not devised a means of managing the evaporation of saline sea water resulting in the precipitation of fresh water.
Instead, he blames flooding on the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption.
With the same primitive mindset, humans blame forest fires on the harmless but vital gas, CO2.
There is no connection between CO2 and flooding and fire.
But it is a characteristic of the human species to blame anything but itself.
Political new world-order globalists know that and use gullibility to achieve their ends of an Orwellian dystopian planet under their control.
Vast freshwater storage systems need to be built and managed.
Avoid building in natural waterways, and there will not be "natural" disasters, and before building, design and install adequate drainage systems. Roofs and roads prevent natural soil absorption of rainwater.
To prevent forest fires, particularly in man-made forests, the dead and pruned wood should be removed from forest floors.
Broad fire breaks must be created. Arsonists must be incarcerated.
Education, not political indoctrination, and common sense management of our affairs will solve these problems of "climate emergency".
They will allay the fears of political propaganda causing young people to commit suicide.
The truth will induce a peaceful world with improved living standards with electricity, free of starvation.

J C Wilcox,

Artists Council for the Promotion of Buddhism of Thailand
Puts statue of the occult deity Khru Kai Kaeo on the block
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 5, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday August 17, 2023

Re: "Civic groups press for relocation of bizarre statue", in Bangkok Post, Thursday August 17, 2023.
The Artists Council for the Promotion of Buddhism of Thailand demonstrates a flawed understanding of the Buddha's teachings if they think that merely because something "went against Buddhist teachings", it could be grounds to abolish or suppress it.
Bangkok and the rest of Thailand are full of churches, cathedrals, mosques, meat-selling markets, and restaurants, and no end of other things that are at least as "against Buddhist teachings" as the rather bizarre statue of the occult deity Khru Kai Kaeo.
The council might find more constructive ways to promote Buddhism than an intolerance that seems itself to contradict the Buddha's ideals of reason and example rather than brute force, including brutish legal force.
The statue and its prescribed worship are no more superstitious than any other religious teaching or practice touching on supernatural matters.
When it comes to the supernatural, every religious claim is, without exception, exactly as well-evidenced as every other such claim.
The teaching attendant on Khru Kai Kaeo is as sacred as any and, on that score, as deserving of the same respect accorded any other equally well-substantiated sacredness.
Why wouldn't they be?
The sacred is, after all, the sacred, however scary of visage and divine command.
Those who find such things distasteful are free to ignore the crimson-manicured Khru Kai Kaeo or point out that it's all a bit beyond reason, but that is as far as their horror may justly go.
Those finding it a source of comfort should be allowed to exercise their faith as long as their worshipping rites do not violate rights or harm others, including innocent puppies, or pigs, neither of whom appreciate being sacrificed.
Meanwhile, those who are "gripped by fear" should get a grip and take a more rationally informed, more Buddhist approach to such nonsensical beliefs as ghosts, spirits, demons, gods, and other such perfectly unsubstantiated fantasies.
But before this latest deity on the block is cast into the darkness, Khru Kai Kaeo is required to deliver Thailand from the curse being cast by Pheu Thai, the Senate, United Thai Nation (UTN) party, and the rest of that most unholy alliance against the will of the Thai people as manifest on May 14.
Those gargoyles being gathered into the warm embrace of the Pheu Thai family are the truly scary ones stalking the land.

Felix Qui,

Is the burning of the Koran
An expression of speech or is it an action?
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday September 3, 2023

Re: "Control hate speech", in PostBag, August 28 and "Denmark to ban Koran burnings", in Bangkok Post, August 25.
In his letter, Eric Bahrt raises a number of interesting questions.
Can the burning of a book be regarded as an expression of speech, or is it an action?
If the purpose of this book-burning was to cause violence, is the problem purely with the person committing that act, or is there also a problem with the people who would turn violent?
If the burning of a book is banned because it may incite violence, does it imply that violence in this situation is justified?
Does this proposed ban refer to all religious books or just one religious book?
Five months ago, a 15-year-old UK schoolboy took a Koran to school as a forfeit for losing a game.
The Koran suffered some minor damage after it was accidentally dropped. The boy was suspended.
A local politician falsely claimed on social media that the book was desecrated. The boy's mother had to plead for forgiveness at the local mosque after her son's life was threatened.
The police recorded the accidental dropping of the Koran as a "hate incident".
A boy who made death threats was "given words of advice by an officer".
The answer may be obvious to Mr Bahrt, but we need to tread carefully when passing laws banning words or stupid actions.
We can all find certain speech or actions to be distasteful or offensive.
Who gets to decide what is offensive and which of us is to be sheltered from offence?
It's obvious to the UK police that unintentional damage to a Koran is more serious than making death threats.


Call for Papua New Guinea Government
To support the Gatop Mini-Hydropower damn
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 3, 2023
First published in the National, Friday September 1, 2023

The lack of government’s determination in the clean energy generations, especially in rural areas around the country is obvious.
A case in point is the Gatop Mini-Hydropower project 13km inland from Wasu in Tawae-Siassi, 20km away from Kabwum District Station in Morobe.
After almost 17 years of operations without concrete support by relevant government authorities, workmen have resolved to shut down the power plant on the Independence month of September.
The project started in 2002 by our late German Missionary attached with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG).
The first electricity was produced in December 2006 and has been in operation since.
Sadly, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG) and responsible government entities have no plans to further develop this environmentally friendly power project to fully serve the populace despite so much hypes, plans, workshops, visions and overseas trips on the subject.
Gatop Hydropower uses transformers and high voltage transmission lines to ensure electricity is available in Wasu but the capacity is insufficient to feed the whole township.
Hence; only communal buildings, government offices, schools, and health centers are connected.
Morobe government under its Satellite Townships Plans has selected Wasu as one of the growth centers; however, no one from the head offices in Lae ever visited Gatop Hydropower or talked about the energy needs of the fast-booming Wasu Township.
We commend Member of Parliament Dr Kobby Bomoreo and Tawae-Siassi district development authority for a K250,000 funding in 2019 and a support vehicle this year.
They used K150,000 to get a 20ft container load of supplies shipped from Brisbane to Wasu and K100,000 was utilised to hire surveyors and engineers to draw up the upgrade and expand plans.
We have approached responsible offices like the Ministry of State Enterprises for Papua New Gguine Power Ltd’s support and National Energy Authority directly responsible for such developments to no avail.
The 2018 Apect Summit has approved support from partner nations (the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan) in Papua New Guinea Government Vision 2030/2050 specifically making available access to electricity in rural Papua New Guinea.
It’s frustrating to see agencies responsible have done so little in the last 5 years since Apec.
One of the partner countries is willing to work with us but our government must step up to counter fund.
This shutdown is a protest and call out to the Government to step up and do its part or we miss that opportunity.
We will resume supply on October 1.

James Zoriong
Gatop Mission Station,
Papua New Guinea

New property developer PM
To develop Phuket's Mai Khao beach
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday September 2, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 30, 2023

Re: "PM puts Phuket project back on agenda", in Bangkok Post, Thursday August 29, 2023.
Srettha Thavisin has demonstrated the dangers of naming a property "developer" as prime minister. Phuket is already overdeveloped in that it has constant traffic jams, very limited parking in the town, a water shortage, and inadequate capacity to dispose of its solid waste.
Yet the prime minister designate has proposed building a new airport and a huge convention centre on one of Phuket's lovely beaches at Mai Khao. These proposed projects can only hasten the spoiling of the once-idyllic island.

Jerry Huguet

Bridge callapses in northern India
Same day India lands on the moon
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday August 25, 2023

Re: "India makes Moon history", in Bangkok Post, Thursday August 24, 2023.
Without detracting from India's amazing achievement of landing a capsule on the Moon, is it not ironic that on the same day, 17 people were killed when a bridge in the Sairang area of Mizoram state in northeast India collapsed?
Like many other countries, it would appear that we are prepared to spend billions on outlandish space projects before maintaining and improving what we have on Earth.
India's rail system, once the envy of the world, is in neglect.
With regular reports of accidents and deaths.
If only the space programme funds had been put into maintaining the rail system and improving it.

Ron Martin,


Leaders in the Melanesian Spearhead Group
Under the sway of Indonesia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31, 2023

The Southeast Asian Times report ‘ Melanesian Spearhead Group cannot reach consensus on membership for West Papua ‘ ( 29 August 2023 ) is a case of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) adding insult to injury on the people of West Papua.
The injury is from the long history of Indonesian colonial occupation and oppression.
The insult is from the failure of the Spearhead Group (MSG) to do the right thing by West Papua .
The Papua New Guinea National Capital District Governor, Powes Parkop, echoed the sentiments of all freedom and pro-democracy activists when he said he is “ totally disappointed in the failure of the Melanesian Spearhead Group”.
The leaders in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) have apparently come under the political and financial sway of Indonesia as Governor Parkop contends.
They will have to live with the shame of shying away from showing solidarity to the just struggle of West Papua for freedom and self-rule.

Rajend Naidu,

Without fossil fuel-generated electricity
We would have remained in medieval misery,
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 30, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 25, 2023

Re: "Solar silence", in Bangkok Post PostBag, August 24, 2023 and "Here comes the sun", in Bangkok Post Business, August 21, 2023.
Energy officials are aware of the fact they have a huge responsibility to industry, commerce, healthcare and domesticity to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity.
They know even hundreds of thousands of rai covered in solar panels would only meet a very small percentage of the vital electric energy required.
They also know the environmental destruction caused.
The total input of solar panels, mining raw materials, manufacturing, installing and disposing of after their short life is far, far greater than their beneficial output.
Without fossil fuel-generated electricity, we would have remained in medieval misery, sticking animal fat on sticks for light when the sun goes down.
Fossil fuels are plant life formed millions of years ago when CO2 formed 500+ ppm, far greater than the current 180 ppm.
At 130ppm, plant life dies, so we urgently need more CO2 to save life on Earth.
It is strange, is it not, that 500+ppm has left the planet uninjured, and yet it is believed currently that 180ppm is a threat to its existence.
But of course, when fossil fuel plant life thrived, megalomaniac, primitive-thinking politicians and their gullible followers did not exist.

J C Wilcox,

Malaysia bans rainbow watches
To stop normalisation of LGBTQ+ movement
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 29, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday August 25, 2023

Re: "'Pride' watch seizures challenged in Malaysian court", in Bangkok Post , August 23, 2023.
Whilst not in any cheerful, gay or otherwise happy colours, Malaysia's government paints Malaysians as snowflakes of extra special delicateness.
Could it be true, as their government warns, that attractively colourful watches "may harm … the interests of the nation by promoting, supporting and normalising the LGBTQ+ movement that is not accepted by the general public"?
Perhaps the Malaysian government should worry more about the prevailing bad public morals that fail to equally respect all citizens, including those who are LGBTQ+.
Merely being a majority consensus does not make an ugly prejudice less rotten.

Felix Qui,

Call for rethink about disproportionately large amount
Of funding set aside for military purposes
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 28, 2023

It’s good to know USAID administrator Samantha Power believes “ military leaders have an essential role to play in speaking clearly about the security risks caused by in action related to climate change“.
She said that at a chief of defense gathering .
According to climate change activists the world over one major reason for the inaction on the climate change front is the disproportionately large amount of funding set aside for military purposes.
There is clearly a real need for leaders to do a rethink about that.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for ban on cultural shows and live music
In Papua New Guinea is totally wrong
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 28, 2923
First published in the National Friday August 25, 2023

Papua New Guinea is a country in the Pacific and not a small district where everyone has a say on its culture.
I writing this in response to Rex Maso’s letter to the editor on August 19.
He is suggesting that responsible authorities ban cultural shows and live music festivals because it brings problems.
This is totally wrong.
These events are friendly events.
They never bring problems.
Problems are caused by bad people with attitude problems.
We can’t squeeze in all the cultures in one basket and say PNG is unique and united.
We must showcase our own cultures to make ourselves different from each other.
Culture and tourism department is purposely for this and no one will go ahead and talk about it.
Authorities should provide security during these events and not to stop it from happening in the country.

Lupzon Kenowai LK,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Was the Senate capable of making a fair decision
In appointing Thailand's next PM
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 27, 2023
First published in the BangkokPost, Thursday August 24, 2023

How fittingly sarcastic of the Post to write that "It is hoped that senators will make a fair decision" regarding the vote on the shameful Pheu Thai's nominee for the post of prime minister.
Or is the editor suffering severe amnesia?
Were the Senate capable of making "a fair decision" on appointing Thailand's next Prime Minister, Pita Limjaroenrat would already be the prime minister in a government led by Move Forward.
Has it somehow escaped the Post's notice that this is not, in fact, the reality even in Thailand?
If fresh from betraying its voters, the Pheu Thai nominee wins the Senate's approval, that endorsement can only prove that Pheu Thai's nominee is not, in fact, a fair choice for prime minister.
It will then have to be wondered what unspeakable deals have been done with whom to have enabled such a travesty of democracy, such a rejection of justice, such a betrayal of Thai voters.

Felix Qui.

Papua New Guinea calls for accountability in the approval
Of foreign entities exclusive right to mine the sea floor
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 26, 2023
First published in the National, Thursday August 17, 2023

The controversial Solowara 1 Deep sea Mining project in the Bismarck seas of Papua New Guinea’s New Guinea Island region is a serious issue that responsible authorities at the time have miserably failed to understand its implications before granting the exploration licenses, mining leases and approvals.
There should be coordinated efforts between the departments of mining, environment and conservation, climate change and local state agencies of the districts in which projects are located to be consulted in a rigorous consultative effort to come up with such plans.
Deep seas mining or mining under the sea has never been tried in this country before and how can some persons in authority just by signing legally binding documents which allows the foreign entities like Nautilus Minerals or Deep Sea Mining Finance in the current second attempt to have exclusive right to mine the sea floor without having regard to the cultural and traditional significance of the area which supports thousands of families’ livelihoods.
Who was that government officer or officers at the time who saw fit to go ahead without much consultation and its effect on the environment and blindly sign such agreement without following due diligence processes.
Does a due diligence process exist in such cases of approving mining exploration and licensing on the country and if so, why approving a project that was never tested before in this country after damages in contracts and costs have incurred costing the state and the stakeholders concerned to some extend unnecessarily?
In future, cases like this the government should legislate laws to hold public officers of state or public servants personally accountable so that this can encourage wider consultation and approval for public transparency and accountability of such projects for mutual benefit to the people of Papua New Guinea through the government and the developers.
We just can’t turn a blind eye on some clumsy and complacent public officers’ actions which are unnecessarily causing the state in millions of kina and contingency liabilities.

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Ordinalry Filipino's seethe in silence
Over China's aggressive acts in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday August 25, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday August 21, 2023

After observing and reading all the news reports about the aggressive acts of China in the West Philippine Sea, that have steadily aggravated the situation over the last three decades, ordinary Filipino citizens can only seethe in anger silently.
Beyond the security and sovereignty aspects of the dispute, the continuing harassment of Filipinos by the China Coast Guard and Chinese militias within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has gone too far, triggering an awareness in us that our national pride and self-respect have been and continue to be severely challenged.
The persistent bullying by China and, in a larger context the overall relationship between China and us, are the most compelling and complicated our country has faced in modern times.
This is because our relationship is ambivalent and our national leadership is understandably stymied in any given situation as to how to address untoward incidents in our relationship. We have had many bilateral talks with China but each time, China behaved differently afterwards. After such dialogues, it occupied Scarborough Shoal. Then came the construction of artificial islands within our EEZ.
The behavior of China toward us is downright condescending, which treats the Philippines with disdain and contempt. How else would you describe these responses from China: (a) it proposed joint military exercises between the aggressor and its victim; (b) when our former president implored the president of China “to be kind to my country,” a few days later the China Coast Guard fired water cannons at our vessels at Ayungin Shoal; (c) China is activating talks about a code of conduct in the South China Sea after demonstrating its misconduct in Ayungin Shoal.
The diplomatic challenge to our President vis-à-vis China is formidable and will summon the utmost patriotism, courage, and wisdom from him and his team. It is a David confronting Goliath, a rider on the back of a tiger. Unfortunately, there is not much comfort from the inarticulate secretary of foreign affairs in this respect. And none from us except the humble proposition that our foreign policy must be based on the assumption that China is not a friend, but a predator. And when we are lured into the talks on a code of conduct, through the auspices of a compromised Association of Southeast Asia Nations, do not give up the 2016 Arbitral Award and make sure that the Code does not condone past violations of international law, but must rectify them instead.
This is a time for unity and we empathize with the call of the Philippine Coast Guard for support and for Filipinos not to betray their country.
For indeed, there are a few critics who continue to devalue our 2016 arbitral victory and others who, wittingly or unwittingly, are acting like lackeys of our powerful neighbor.

Ancheta K. Tan,

The law of a democratic nation may not
Justly implement a ban on public Koran burning
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 24, 2923
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday August 17, 2023

Re: "The bigger picture on speech", in PostBag Bangkok Post, Sunday August 13, 2023 and "No conscience", in PostBag, Bangkok Post, Thursday August 17, 2023.
Regarding "free speech related to Koran burning," Don MacMahon states that the intention of those who want to burn to Koran must be used to determine how the law is formulated and applied according to the principle of "what would a reasonable person think or do?"
In his earlier letter, "The bigger picture on speech", Felix Qui argues the law of a democratic nation may not justly implement "a ban on public Koran burning".
I agree.
And so does the recent strongly worded opinion by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
In summary, they state that those who refuse to bend the knee to zealots of any stripe who wish to force their subjective and manipulative views upon society such that they become the defining reality for everyone must be protected under the law.
Having read them, I don't find most of the content of the ancient Western religious texts to be particularly instructive, whether it be the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Torah, or the Bible.
I think most of the trees cut down to make the paper they were printed on would have been better left standing.
Then again, burning books is a sin; I will never do it.

Michael Setter,

Call for end to starving torturing and beating elephants
For tourism in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 23, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 31, 2023

Re: "Court orders Department of National Park (DNP) to move naughty jumbo", in Bangkok Post, Sunday July 23, 2023
In the past, I've written PostBag letters about the horrible way elephants are tortured so that they would become submissive and give rides to tourists.
While I noted many agencies in Chiang Mai that promote elephant tourism now have signs reading: "NO Riding", unfortunately, elephant riding continues at many tourist spots.
Therefore, I'm urging everyone to google: "Stop Starving, Torturing and Beating Elephants for Tourism, Force Change" and sign the petition to the Minister of Tourism, who has the power to end this barbaric practice once and for all.
The fact that this treatment of elephants has gone on for decades shows that every Thai government, past and present, has been beneath contempt.

Eric Bahrt,


Nothing has changed in Myanmar
Since the military coup
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday August 22, 2023

We read in the Southeast Asian Times of 20 August that “ The Association of Southeast Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights ( APHR ) urged ASEAN to recognise Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government ( NUG ) and ASEAN dialogue partners and governments world-wide ‘ to sanction against the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar’ … APHR chairman and Member of Malaysian Parliament Charles Santiago called on ASEAN dialogue partners that include Australia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States to officially meet with the National Unity Government ( NUG ) “ to extent solidarity with the people of Myanmar “.
Some of the dialogue partners have a strong commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law and some have a dubious record in these regard. However their own vested economic and other interests take precedence over the plight of the people of Myanmar who are languishing under the oppressive military regime which grabbed power from the elected democratic government of Aung San Sui Kyi.
That explains why nothing has really changed since the Myanmar military coup. If anything the usurpers have entrenched themselves in power.
And that is a crying shame!

Rajend Naidu,

Papua New Guinea is highly dependent on imports
Exports have waned since independence
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 21, 2023
First published in the National Thursday August 17, 2023

The Government is promoting trade and investment in Papua New Guinea.
The issue boils down to whether it is paper or real promotion of investment in the country.
Trade and investment in Papua New Guinea must be anchored on long-term national growth and development targets set in a national development plan.
The national development will lay out sectoral and overall growth targets for non-mineral sector agriculture, forestry, fisheries, services and mineral sector mineral, oil and gas of the economy.
A commitment to growth targets requires dedication of funding through the annual national budget by the Government to build infrastructure and institutional and implementation capacity to develop the non-mineral and mineral sectors of the economy.
Achieving the long-term growth targets of the national development plan through dedication of resources and capacity building will naturally encourage trade and investment in Papua New Guinea.
However, experience in Papua New Gunea has be very dismal.
The Government is diverting funds allocated in the annual national budget to sectors that are not encouraging production for export and domestic consumption.
The creation and ownership of inefficient Government-controlled monopolies are elevating more operating costs for the Government and private business.
This situation has created an economy that is highly dependent on imports, while exports have waned since independence in 1975.
The exceptions are palm oil and mineral production and exports.
It has resulted in sectoral and total growth outcomes that are highly volatile and unpredictable.
The economic environment is now not conducive and is discouraging private sector trade and investment in Papua New Guinea, especially in the non-mineral sector.

Concerned citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Without Move Forward Party more Thai's
Would be in jail for lese Majeste
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday August 15, 2023

Re: "Tip for MFP", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Wednesday August 9, 2023.
Let's cut the bull!
The only way the Move Forward Party (MFP) could join the coalition would be by selling out every principle they believe in.
The Move Forward Party would be nothing more than window dressing.
Without any opposition, more and more people would be tossed into jail for lese majeste, and those poor people will have no one to speak for them.

Eric Bahrt,

Papua New Guinea to stand firm on theme of
"Friends to all and enemies to none"
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 19, 2023
First published in the National Thursday, August 17, 2023

I write to clarify that Papua New Guinea Labour and Employment Minister Kessy Sawang’s intention to replace 10,000 foreign workers with the local workers is offensive and portrays the act of rudeness towards the foreigners in our country.
Foreigners in the country give us the best employment service.
They are time conscious, quality oriented and they uphold visions relevant for the long run of organisations or the departments they serve.
The true stewardship in this country are the foreigners.
For instance, a foreign librarian in one of our university use to open the library perfectly at 7.30am and close it up 9.30pm sharp every officially days.
Time came that the foreigner went home offshore and the university replaced a local librarian and everything changed.
Opening time varies between 8am, 8.30am and 9am.
On the other hand, the new closing time turned to vary between 8.30pm to 9.30pm.
By this scenario, who practices good stewardship?
Is it the foreigner or the local librarian?
Additional concern is that the outsourcing of such idea will turn around to hinder our citizens from negotiating employment and business opportunities overseas.
To this point, let us stand firm on our theme of “Friends to all and enemies to none” and use our ministerial portfolio appropriately.

Philip Banga George
East Sepik Province,
Papua New Guinea

Thailand's National Office of Buddhism
Tells monks not to be political
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday August 18, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday August 3, 2023

Re: "Monk treated too harshly", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Tuesday August 1, 2023.
The Post is to be thanked for its timely editorial on the shameful treatment by the political managers of Buddhism of a genuinely Buddhist monk, Phra Rajadhamnithet, better known as Phra Phayom, the well-known abbot of the Nonthaburi-based Suan Kaew temple.
As a political body itself, it is a bit rich for the National Office of Buddhism to be telling monks of the religion known as Thai Buddhism not to be political.
The reality is that Buddhism always has been a useful tool for political players, who did not want a religion of clerics speaking truth to power.
The richly gilded temples, jade statues and rich living quarters are not gifted to those who say what is displeasing merely because its true, moral, or in accord with the Buddha's wisdom.
There is not anything apolitical about this pillar of Thainess, certainly not in its officially sanctioned forms.
What Thai Buddhism needs is more monks like Phra Phayom and less of the legalistic political interference from the National Office of Buddhism and other political bodies of the state.

Felix Qui,

"Thai politics resembles a revolving door
That keeps going in circles"
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 17, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday August 4, 2023

Re: "Thai charter court deserves scrutiny", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Friday August 4, 2023
It is evident the current coalition government crafted by the military, the courts, the Election Commission (EC) and other state entities involved in writing a hodgepodge constitution, including the appointed "senate", will not enhance democratic values in Thailand.
Traditionally, the foundation of Thai governance is closely tied to the establishment, including the police and military.
Many other countries in South East Asia thrive using this model.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, the political scientist, is correct in saying the establishment's belief has long been that politicians are bad and untrustworthy, whereas "good" and appointed officials and rulers conversely gain moral high ground.
Because of rampant corruption, they are often seen as "saviours" of Thailand's glory.
One must then ask why the Election Commission keeps conducting new elections here and there when their outcomes mean nothing.
Sadly, Thai politics resembles a revolving door that keeps going in circles.
Many Western countries have reached a point where they think none of this election stuff is worth anything, but why does Thailand keep holding them?
Why all this drama? Sadly, few seasoned politicians and those in the establishment think they will win another contest, start a new party, or invent a new manoeuvre to slow down the young people and their enthusiasm for tangible reforms.
In a nutshell, forget about democracy; the traditional revolving-door governance is back.

Kuldeep Nagi,

What about human rights
For Australian journalist Julian Assange
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday August 16, 2023

It is indeed heartbreaking to hear the plight of Australian journalist Cheng Lei who has been languishing in a Chinese prison for three years now ( ‘ I miss the Sun ‘ : Australian journalist speaks about harsh China imprisonment, FT 12/8 ).
Australian PM Anthony Albanese is right to point out to the Chinese State that “ It is important that her human right as an Australian be respected “.
But what about the human right of Australian journalist Julian Assange who has been languishing in a British jail for I lost count of how many years now?

Rajend Naidu

Call for reform for selection of Thailand's
National Anti-Corruption commissioners
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday August 8, 2023

Re: "Passawat set to be NACC commissioner", in Bangkok Post , Tuesday August 8, 2023.
The selection of National Anti-Corruption commissioners (NACC) is opaque and cries for reform.
The Senate approved Passawat Kanoknart, a former Supreme Court vice president, as an NACC member, as he won backing from over half the Senate.
But should the Senate be the appointing body?
All senators were hand-selected in an opaque process by Prayut/Prawit and would probably support tearing up constitutions as the junta sees fit.
They wouldn't put enforcing the rule of law as a top priority in personnel selection.
Also, if they avoided conflicts of interest, the junta-appointed senators would have recused themselves from voting for a PM if a junta leader was a candidate.
Yet all 250 senators dutifully said "Aye" to Gen Prayut's candidacy.
How Khun Passawat fared against key performance indicators hasn't been mentioned or were there any KPIs which were job-relevant, transparent and measurable?
For example, did any S112 cases come up before the Supreme Court?
If so, did he recognise that our beloved national father had noted, "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," and act accordingly?
Or did he bend with the political winds which bodes ill for a post which is supposed to be non-partisan?
Lastly, giving the Senate only one candidate to choose from isn't much choice; there should be at least three candidates.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for new Thailand PM
To control annual military reshuffle
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 13, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday August 6, 2023

Re: "Annual military reshuffle back", in Bangkok Post, Sunday August 6, 2023.
The incoming Prime Minister should control this year's military reshuffle not the caretaker government and outgoing PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The leaders of our three armed forces and of the overall military retire September 30.
Caretaker Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut will chair a seven-member panel to decide on the list to be sent for royal approval, with Gen Charoenchai Gen Prayut's protege being the favourite to be army chief.
But it's the incoming PM and cabinet not Prime Minister Prayut who will have to work very closely with the new military heads.
It's the newcomers not those about to leave who should select the key military men. This change is especially vital since voters have so recently and decisively expressed their wish for a clean break with Gen Prayut's junta.
Let the present leadership continue for a month or so as caretakers until the new government formulates their list for royal review.

Burin Kantabutra

The Dark Fleet discharges its crude oil cargo
In ship to ship operation in South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 13, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday 10 Aug 2023

Re: "Race is on to clean up large oil spill", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 9, 2023.
Due to the war in Ukraine, there have been record re-sales of aged oil tankers that are 18 years old or more to new owners.
These ship owners are moving oil cargo outside conventional channels.
Ship managers are often new to the game, vessel insurance is a mystery, and the owner may not be easily identified.
These vessels have new names and are registered in countries like Cameroon, Palau, Gabon, Antigua and even land-locked Mongolia, where port state control is an idea only.
These vessels often turn off their Automated Identification Systems (AIS), which may make them a collision risk.
With the AIS switched off, these ships can only be tracked by expensive satellite tracking services.
Phuket used to have tar balls aplenty 20 years ago.
Then as single-hull tankers were phased out, so too was unsegregated ballast water.
The ships described above are called "The Dark Fleet". And the Dark Fleet may not care about Thailand's beaches.
In this case, a ship was carrying heavy oil or crude oil.
It may have discharged its cargo in an ship-to-ship (STS) operation in the South China Sea or on its ballast leg back to the Middle East or the Mediterranean, the ship may have cleaned its tanks and pumped the ROBs (bbls that stubbornly remained on board) into the ocean where the southwest monsoon brought the oil to Mai Khao Beach.

A W,


Philippines senate condemns China's activities
In West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 12, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday August 9, 2023

I would like to express my opinion regarding the actions of the Senate in response to China’s continued harassment of our fellow countrymen in the West Philippine Sea.
I am pleased that they passed a resolution at the Senate condemning China’s illegal activities. It is disheartening to think that China continues to claim and build structures on the islands and waters within our country’s territory.
I hope that the international community will take a stand and recognize the harassment that is being inflicted on the Philippines.

Ava Margaux,

Japans and China's economical status
Does not necessarily transform into a world power
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 10, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday August 6, 2023

Re: "What Japan's economy can tell us about China?", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Saturday August 5, 2023.
Japan's current situation tells us that becoming the second or third-largest economy does not necessarily transform a country into a world power.
Western economies have pumped big money into Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan for over seven decades.
These four nations kept their close ties to the USA and EU to thrive.
China and Russia also followed the same course in this new century.
In 1993, the EU was born to diffuse the USA's dominance.
After a few years, in 1999, the block created its own currency, the Euro, to encourage regional free trade.
No one raised any issues about the erosion of the US dollar in the EU.
A common Brics currency and creating the largest geopolitical trade block will jolt the US dollar.
My comment to the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is there is nothing much to learn from the current economy of Japan.
It is the result of over-reliance on trade with the USA and EU.
Sadly, since the beginning of this century, the trade ties with China, the new war in Ukraine, and the reckless use of sanctions are forcing Brics and many other regional economies to trade in their own currency.
If it happens, it will further diminish the sheen of the US dollar. In addition, the weaponisation of the US dollar, the abuses of G-7, the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank are forcing China and other major economies to create their own formula to exist.
Simply said, what goes around, comes around. The US dollar may go down the way of the British pound.

Kuldeep Nagi,

The Royal Thai Armed Forces
Will continue to protect Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 10, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday August 6, 2023

Re: "Prayut vows army will continue to 'protect the country'", in Bangkok Post, Saturday August 5, 2023.
What does Prime Minister caretaker Prayut Chan-o-cha mean by his extraordinary claim that "The armed forces will continue to lead in 'protecting the country'"?
How exactly does the caretaker Prime Minister think that repeatedly committing coups against it could possibly constitute "protecting the country", let alone "taking the lead" in doing so?
If at least a few of those coups had not been committed, had the nation of the
Thai people been allowed to develop as did other nations following the end of military interference in their civil matters, Thailand could now be equal in economic success and international stature of Taiwan and South Korea. It conspicuously is not.

Felix Qui

Move Forward Party
Has not proven their pudding yet
The Southest Asian Times, Wednesday August 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 31, 2023

Re: "Bending on S112", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Monday July 31, 2023.
Your urging on the Move Forward Party (MFP) to drop the steadfast amendment to Section 112 of the criminal code or the lese majeste law, in preference to pursuing other declared policies in curing our present social and economic malaise is moving.
In addition, it would be wonderful to test the words of most senators and some parties to determine whether they then would no longer object to the Move Forward Party in a coalition government led by Pheu Thai Party (MFP).
It may look academically nice to be dogmatic as urged by his mentor, who is not on the scene, and now has caused havoc in the political scene. It is clearly not pragmatic and not to the Move Forward Party's (MFP's).pursuit of change to steadfastly be unbendable though heroic in an academic world.
It now appears obvious that the Move Forward Party's (MFP's leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, is very downtrodden in spirit, as seen when interviewed by CNN's Christiane Amanpour recently.
It is enough and praiseworthy of the last decade in the opposition, but he should, for a change, test his party on whether they are as good as their campaign's words while in government instead of being in the opposition again for the next four years.
So far, the new party, Move Forward Party, has not proven their pudding yet, and this is maybe the only and last chance.

Songdej Praditsmanont,

Call for Thailand to adopt US approach
In keeping Thailand free from criminal motorycycle gangs
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 8, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday August 3, 2023

Re "Driving out the gangs", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday August 1, 2023
In order to keep the kingdom free from foreign motorcycle gang members who engage in criminal activities on Thai soil, Thailand should adopt the same approach as the US.
Consular officers in US embassies and consulates are prohibited from issuing visas to anyone with a known history of membership in a motorcycle gang.
Their applications have to be referred to the State Department in Washington and are invariably denied.
I know this from someone who worked as a visa officer in more than one US diplomatic post.
Thailand would also do well to deny visas to these people and cancel visas issued to those later found to be members of recognised motorcycle gangs.
This can often be determined simply by reviewing their social media pages which should be disclosed with visa applications, as is required for US visa applications.

George Morgan,

Pheu Thai Party
Are facing a dilemma
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 7, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 2, 2023

Re: "Gears of power grind on", in Bangkok Post, Sunday July 30, 2023.
Pheu Thai are facing a dilemma.
Obviously, they crave power, and the ability to achieve it is within their grasp if they break the faith.
But are they willing to pay the price?
If they forsake the Move Forward Party and join army-backed factions, they can form a government, but they will lose much of their grassroots support.
History shows how the once-mighty Democrat Party lost its support after it joined the army coup coalition.
The decision is complicated by Pheu Thai's de facto leader, Thaksin, vowing to return to Thailand.
If he does, he will need friends in high places.
If that is how it plays out, I would not be surprised to see a landslide victory for the Move Forward Party next time around.

Phil Cox,

Former PM Thaksin in exile
Can seek Royal pardon on return to Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 5, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 31, 2023

Re: "Ousted premier can seek royal pardon", in Bangkok Post, July 28 and "New rule on royal pardon put in place", Bangkok Post, April 14, 2023.
The news indicates that all inmates have the right to seek a royal pardon on the first day of imprisonment, says Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is also the acting justice minister.
"If the pardon is not granted after the petition is lodged, it cannot be repeated for the following two years," he added.
Last year a report emerged quoting Mr Wissanu saying prisoners can receive a jail term reduction via a royal pardon after serving a jail term of at least eight years, provided they are deemed to have "excellent conduct" in prison.
So jail term reductions can be sought by a prisoner by either having served one-third of their sentence or spending at least eight years in prison, whichever comes first, according to Mr Wissanu.
One law for all?

Sad Optimist,

Move Forward Party demonstrates
That Thai democracy is a sham
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday August 5, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 31, 2023

Re: "Pita leaves chamber after court suspension ruling", in Thursday July 20, 2023.
With masterstrokes of theatre, strategy and guile, Pita and his party have already accomplished what they set out to do: Demonstrate to the world that Thai democracy is a sham; no more genuine than the "Rolex" watches for sale on Sukhumvit Road.

Michael Newman,

Thai Airway bribery charges dropped
Against former PM Thaksin
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday August 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 31, 2023

Re: "Thaksin ouster: Time to come home", in Bangkok Post, Thursday July 27, 2023.
After 17 years in exile, former Prime Minister Thaksin has announced he will return on Aug 10, and this time the odds for him to come back are high.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission's (NACC) timely dropping of charges against Thaksin in the Thai Airway bribery case could be a signal from the powers that be to bury the hatchet.
The sudden popularity of the Move Forward Party (MFP) has changed everyone's game plan.
Thai history has not seen a real threat to the royal institution as it does now, and the force that can counter the orange movement is none other but the reds.
After a decade of suppression the red shirts have come to understand the reality. They were the poor sectors of society back then and are even now.
For them to alleviate poverty is more important than to listen to the French revolution's shibboleth to undermine the monarchy.
Under the Prayuth government, the North and Northeastern regions have seen little economic development.
The long awaited Chinese-Lao-Thai elevated high speed train connection stops at Nong Khai, while billions were spent on the multicolour transit rail system in Bangkok.
Thaksin's economic insight and cunning political manoeuvres could create policies to benefit the rural people more than his predecessor's did.
And with economic success the new government can hopefully, in four years time, come back again after another general election.
As a white knight to contain the Move Forward Part (MFP) movement and maintain national stability, he could get a quick royal pardon following the correct legal procedure; it's not impossible.
After all, 17 years in exile is enough punishment for a former PM who is now 76, although many regard that as an exile in luxury.
Welcome home, Thaksin

Yingwai Suchaovanich,

Call for the liberation
Of the people of Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday August 3, 2023

The Southeast Asian Times report ‘ Would-be-assassin convicted in US for conspiring to attack Myanmar UN ambassador ‘ ( 2 August, 2023 ) is a telling insight into the rogue regime that is ruling Myanmar.
The ambassador had following the military takeover denounced it as “ illegal and unconstitutionally” saying “ the seizure of a legitimate and duly elected government by the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar is not acceptable in the modern world “.
It isn’t.
But that is unpalatable for the power grabbers and their cronies.
That is why they tried to get rid of him Mafia style.
This is a tyrannical regime that must be brought to an end and the people of Myanmar liberated.

Rajend Naidu,

Feudal power structures in Thailand
An international disgrace in the 21st century
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday August 2, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 31, 2023

Re: "Deal struck on next govt", in the Bangkok Post, Friday July 28, 2023
The feudal power structures in Thailand which dominate society through the military, old family-based oligarchs, and extensive networks of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have once again seized power from the people.
This is an international disgrace in the mid-21st century, and truly shameful.
It would not surprise me if Thais, who want change and voted overwhelmingly for it, resort to a collective mindset that believes it is better to burn it all down and start afresh rather than endure another generation lost to enslavement and oppression.
Therefore we must ask, what will this catastrophic development cost society and how much more strife will it take to bring about real change?

Michael Setter,

Call for more democracy in Cambodia
With economic development
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday August 1, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday July 27, 2023

Re: "Over 9m vote in 'lopsided' election", in Bangkok Post, Monday July 24, 2023.
Although I'm not an expert on Cambodia, I've been to that country several times, and I'd like to give a balanced view of its leader Prime Minister Hun Sen.
As a dues-paying member of Amnesty International,
I don't approve of his human rights record. On the other hand, he played a significant role in overthrowing the Khmer Rouge one of the most murderous regimes in history.
Yet if the great "democracy" America had its way, the Khmer Rouge would have remained in power, possibly killing another one to three million people.
And while it's my understanding that Cambodia was in economic shambles when Hun Sen took over, today, Phnom Penh looks like a very modern city, and I assume he deserves much of the credit.
He should follow the examples of Taiwan and South Korea, which allowed for more democratic freedom after their countries developed economically.

Eric Bahrt,

Maharlika Investment Fund Act No 11954
Reeks of irregularities in its passage
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 31, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday July 24, 2023

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers,” says Nikita Khrushchev.
A few days ago, President Marcos signed into law Republic Act No. 11954, known as the Maharlika Investment Fund Act, meant to be a tool for the government to invest in key sectors and earn profits.
The wealth fund is expected to jumpstart the implementation of 194 infrastructure projects approved by the National Economic and Development Authority.
Labeled as an urgent bill by Mr. Marcos in 2022, this bill reeks of so many irregularities in its passage.
Spraying cologne in the restroom after doing number two to mask the bad smell makes the original smell, well, more noticeable.
The two hoarse voices in the Senate wilderness, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Koko Pimentel, were overwhelmed by the pliant super majority.
An idea introduced by Mr. Marcos and then planted in the supermajority in the House of Representatives eventually reached the last ray of hope back then for a logical argument in the Senate.
But the Maharlika sovereign wealth fund bill stealthily wormed its course into enactment.
This bill, now a law, earns the reputation of being developed on the fly adjusted as it progressed.
Definitely railroaded, it can either be the greatest legacy of this administration or its Achilles’ heel.
It will definitely be the star of the show today, July 24, when Mr. Marcos delivers his second State of the Nation Address (Sona).
For many ordinary Filipino citizens, it’s more like Soda State of the Nation in Distress.
Sometimes it is exasperating to be a Filipino. Pwede po mag-leave muna?
Why don’t we address the problems on our plate before adding more “food” to the plate of problems?
The COVID-19 pandemic is almost an endemic one but health-care practitioners have yet to receive their pandemic-related benefits/allowances; the band-aid solution to our agricultural woes is importation; transportation system is still bad and the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are proving to be the poster boy for the real state of the nation. Per Commission on Elections rules, the official campaign period starts on October 19, 2023.
But we are already inundated by tarpaulins on all imaginable public places, pasted with faces of law-abiding honorable public servants.
They have found a loophole in the law.
As long as there is no “vote” word, the tarps should be allowed.
Pilipinas, ang hirap mong mahalin.
Mag-file muna kaya ako ng leave?
God bless the Philippines.
“Bagong Pilipinas” indeed.

Pamela I. Claveria, MD,

Pita Limjaroenrat's quest for Prime Minister
Was like a whirlwind
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 30, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday July 27, 2023

Re: "MFP won't quit coalition, leader says", in Bangkok Post, Sunday July 25, 2023.
Pita Limjaroenrat quest for Prime Minister was like a whirlwind, but he missed the goal as expected.
Perhaps the best word to describe the phenomenon is the Thai word mano, which means "dreaming up".
Pita Limjaroenrat's mano is that he has won the election with a majority, even though there was never one.
Let's examine why the "majority" has voted for the Move Forward Party (MFP). The rejection of Prime Minister Prayut's failure to reform after eight long years is the main motive for dissatisfied citizens voting for Move Forward Party (MFP), especially in Bangkok.
In the North and Northeast, even Thaksin Shibawatra was caught off guard by the surprise uprising of the Move Forward Party (MFP). For example, Udon Thani has been a red-shirt stronghold, but its staunch supporters switched boats and voted for the Move Forward Party (MFP).
Apparently, a lot of social media clips attacking the monarchy with negative and fake information were circulating in the province for a long time before the election, especially among the young.
During the red shirts' uprising, local radio broadcasts sent propaganda messages to the rural working class and farmers.
After the coup, the military government more or less shut down these red radio stations, but the authorities overlooked the powerful role that social media can play in spreading fake information.
Perhaps all those democracy lovers in this forum who praise Pita Limjaroenrat from heart to toe can shed some light on who is behind all those fabricated fantasy clips.

Yingwai Suchaovanich



Papua New Guinea wants to watch Women’s World Cup
Underway in Australia and New Zealand.
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturdat July 29, 2023
First published in the National, Thursday July 27, 2023

OCEANIA Football Confederation (OFC) nations, including Papua New Guinea are being denied their rights to view free-to-air TV broadcasts of the Women’s World Cup underway in Australia and New Zealand.
Football players at all levels and categories, fans and followers and the public are missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the best women footballers displaying top class and quality football skills.
It is a very good learning opportunity for Papua New Guinea’s young footballers and all those involved in football one way or another.
Sadly, this is just passing by in the current women’s world cup.

Just a thought,
Papua New Guinea

Call for the Royal Household Bureau
To determine Lese Majeste charges
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 28, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday July 25, 2023

Re: "Pheu Thai solicits coalition support", in Bangkok Post, Sunday July 23, 2023.
To solve the current impasse, the Move Forward Party should reduce its Lese Majeste reform and let the Royal Household Bureau (RHB) be the sole determiner of whether to charge a given suspect with the Lese Majeste Law.
No private individual knows better the extent to which our beloved institution is harmed by a given act than the Royal Household Bureau (RHB), representing the injured party.
Leaving Section 112 of the criminal code as it is while involving the Royal Household Bureau (RHB) should be a win-win solution.

Burin Kantabutra,

Parable of the boiling frog
Humans oblivious to extreme heat
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday July 27, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday July 20, 2023

As one who considers this planet our home, I read with much interest and concern lawyer Joel Butuyan’s column, “Uncharted life of extreme heat,” (Flea Market of Ideas, 7/13/23), where he wrote about its causes and dire effects on human lives and properties and called on all stakeholders to act and mend their ways. Lamentably, it generated 10 comments as of this writing, almost all sounding sarcastic, if not outrightly dismissive.
Regardless, it reminded me of the parable of the boiling frog.
The idea is that the shift in temperature is so gradual that the frog fails to realize that the boiling will eventually lead to its demise.
However, can humans really afford to be oblivious to a life of extreme heat like the frog?
Aided by reason and science, we are asked to respond to the impending catastrophe scientists have warned us about before it is too late.
Our response may start by changing our mindset about our relationship with nature and the land we live in.
The dualist view separates the land where we live and the spiritual realms where god, gods, and spirits live.
Our indigenous religions strongly connect with nature and their lands because they believe that their ancestors, deities, and spirits are embedded in every aspect of the environment.
Given this belief, they, as stewards of the land and everything in it, must maintain their land’s social and cosmic order.
Pope Francis, recognizing the crucial role of indigenous people in the struggle against climate change and global warming, said:
“We should listen more to indigenous peoples and learn from their way of life to properly understand that we cannot continue to greedily devour natural resources because ‘the Earth was entrusted to us in order that it be a mother for us, capable of giving to each one what is necessary to live.’
Therefore, the contribution of indigenous peoples is essential in the fight against climate change.”

Noel Asiones,

Time for Thailand's older powers that be
To accept that the world has changed
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 25, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 24, 2023

Re: "How the prime minister race can take a whole new turn", in the Bangkok Post, Friday July 14, 2023.
While my politics are fundamentally different than those of Pita Limjaroenrat and Move Forward Party's well-wishers, and I personally would not have voted for him, I think most global onlookers see this political takedown campaign for precisely what it is and it is a disgusting display to the world.
Speaking as a conservative Theravada Buddhist royalist who even taught at Vajiravudh College, I think it's time for Thailand's older "powers that be" to accept that the world has changed, that they are only harming their own interests by shutting down the next generation who will soon become their caretakers; and it may simply be time for the older ones to do what I did: let someone younger drive for a while.
A good and long life means learning how to lose.

Jason A Jellison,

Thailand wants elected representatives
To represent not dictate
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 25, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 24, 2023

Re: "Scuttling of Pita's PM bid", in Bangkok Post, Thursday July 20, 2023
Our elected representatives' vital role is to act as we would have acted not to unilaterally decide for us.
Those who do otherwise on key issues should be impeached as in selecting a prime minister, where the people's clear collective will be being thwarted.
We say we are "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people", with our monarch as head of state.
We elect representatives to lead and guide us not decide for us.
If our representative disagrees with us, he or she must persuade us to change our minds.
If our guide/leader cannot do so, he must resign be impeached.
For example, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte recently resigned because he was unable to persuade his coalition on a key issue.
He acted properly.
In the US, electoral college members must vote according to what their state's citizens have decided.
On a local scale, if your golf group wanted to go to Chiang Mai, and your guide or leader preferred Phuket, would you let him decide unilaterally, or have him make his case so the group can decide?
Elected reps, represent us not dictate to us.

Burin Kantabutra.

Move Forward Party determined to amend
Leste Majaest law Section 112 of Criminal Code
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 24, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday July 22, 2023

Re: "Questions for Move Forward Party", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Tuesday July 18, 2023.
Vint Chavala wonders what explains the Move Forward Party's determination to amend Section 112.
Could that be the wise words of the late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great as expressed to the Thai nation?
Khun Vint Chavala is free, of course, to disregard the advice, but he cannot expect everybody to be equally dismissive of such a valuable opinion.

Przemo Kranz,

The MFP proposal for amendment of Lese majeste law
Aligns with the late Thai monarch's opinion
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 23, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday July 22, 2023

Re: "Questions for MFP", Bangkok Post, PostBag, Tuesday July 18, 2023.
Khun Vint Chavala asks Move Forward Party to: "describe why Section 112 of criminal code known as the lese majeste law, is a detriment and must be amended. Please also reveal the details of the draft amendment of (S112) your party previously did but was turned down."
Here's a credible reply, our leading authority on our monarchy noted: "Thailand's law of lèse-majesté has one very prominent critic: His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great. In 2005, the late monarch used his annual televised birthday address to convey (that):
(a) 'The king is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism.
(b) Charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released, and
(c) The use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy'".

MFP wants to allow honest criticism of the monarchy, sharply reduce punishment terms, and allow only the Royal Household Bureau, instead of private citizens, to file lese majeste complaints with police (to) prevent abuse.
The MFP's proposal aligns with the late monarch's opinion.

Burin Kantabutra,

Charter court suspended Pita
Welcome to 17th century Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturdau July 22, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday July 20, 2023

Re: "Charter court suspended Pita", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday July 19, 2023.
Thailand came so close to entering the garden which the free world relishes and enjoys.
Poor Thailand, the country will reap what it continues to sow; overseas investment from civilised countries will dry up; independent thinking starting at school will never develop; the roads will continue to be a death trap policed by no one, and uneducated people will continue to pour grease down the drain outside my condo!
Welcome to the 17th century Thailand!

David Jackson,

Of 250 senators, 13 were absent and 159 abstained
From the Pita Limjaroenrat prime ministerial vote
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 21, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday July 20, 2023

Re: "Respect our senators", Bangkok Post PostBag, Sunday July 16, 2023.
I fully agree with Khun Vint Chavala that our senators must be respected, be allowed to vote of their own volition, and not be looked down on or intimidated. He also notes that Thai senators, like those in Britain's House of Lords, are acquired through selection, not election.
But respect must be earned; making every sergeant a field marshal will only make them a laughing stock.
Britain ensures that members of its House of Lords are fully worthy of this respect through its House of Lords Appointments Commission an "independent, public body which recommends individuals for appointment as non-party-political life peers and vets nominations for life peers to ensure the highest standards of propriety."
Au contraire, our senators were appointed by a committee whose membership and selection criteria weren't even made public and all dutifully voted en bloc for he who'd selected them to the premiership, making a mockery of their supposedly being politically independent.
Thai senators are paid out of taxpayer funds; their loyalty must be with the public as a whole not he who hand-picked them.
They must be free to vote as their conscience dictates but must be able to defend their choice to voters.
Of our 250 senators, 13 were absent, and 159 abstained.
The 13 no-shows should be summarily fired unless they were in the ICU, for who's prime minister is of the highest importance to the country?
The 159 who abstained either knew that they didn't have a decision worth recording or that it was indefensible; they should have done the honourable thing and resigned before the meeting started.
Are our senators worthy of respect?

Burin Kantabutra,

Pro-democracy Vietnamese from Sydney
Released from prison in Vietnam
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday July 20, 2023

Chau Van Kham 70 the baker and pro- democracy activist from Sydney jailed in Vietnam for four years said at his press conference upon his return home that he felt “ 100% free “.
That’s a sentiment shared by millions of people who have fled repressive regimes across the world to make Australia home.

Rajend Naidu,

"The Kings is a human being and as such
should be subject to criticism,"
says the King
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday July 15, 2023

Re: "Pita fails to secure support", in Bangkok Post, Friday July 14, 2023.
Most of the opposition to Pita centred around MFP's proposals on how to protect our monarchy. Our beloved national father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, surely was far more expert than us on this subject.
Thus, before deciding on such an important institution, we should consider his views on it.
As Grossman and Faulder put it in their palace-approved book: "Thailand's law of lèse-majesté has one very prominent critic: King Bhumibol.… In 2005... King Bhumibol used his annual televised birthday address to convey three concerns: (a) 'The King,' he said, 'is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism. (b) Charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released, and (c) the use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy'. "
Scholars of our monarchy may have different viewpoints also.
Either way, our universities should host nationwide intensive and open discussions, with both sides given equal opportunity vigorously moderated to shed light and not heat so that we may have rational, defensible decisions.

Burin Kantabutra,

In Thai democracy an abstention is regarded
As a vote against Pita Limjaroenra for PM
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 18, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday July 15, 2023

Re: "Thai elections without democracy", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Friday July 14, 2023.
The bizarre Thai interpretation of democracy goes on. In the recent vote, Pita won a clear majority of the votes of those who voted for or against his appointment as prime minister.
In any real democracy, this would validate his election.
The votes of those who abstained would have no influence on the outcome.
The abstainers have decided not to use their vote; they are neutral and are regarded to have left the decision to those prepared to make a decision either way.
In Thai democracy, however, an abstention is regarded as a vote against.
It makes no difference whether a senator votes against or abstains or, indeed, fails to attend the vote.
Pita Limjaroenra has no chance against such shameful machinations to thwart the democratic will of the people.

C. O. Jones,

Chinese Coast Guard activities
Expanding in the West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 17 2023
First published in the Philippines, Thursday July 13, 2023

The Philippines and its coast guard continue to experience harassment in the West Philippine Sea from the Chinese Coast Guard despite being favored by the historic 2016 ruling of the international Permanent Court of Arbitration.
It appears that the Chinese government still stubbornly insists on its claims for maritime expansion in the said waters.
Their maritime activities seem to be expanding and even intensive as the months pass by, to the point that even our own coast guard’s resupply operation has been jeopardized.
Their rough and forced action toward our troops is a clear manifestation of their so-called supremacy over the said territorial dispute, which shows our incapacity to defend our own waters.
The best that the country can do is to strengthen its relationship with other Southeast Asian countries and even its alliance with Japan and United States, and hope that they will also defend our beloved Philippines when our worst kryptonite comes haunting us.

Ryne Rosales,
Bantayan Island,


The Philippines is a country worth loving
And even dying for
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 16, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 14, 2023

Do we have an independent judiciary, a nonpartisan legislature, a pro-people military, and a truth-seeking press, which are all incorruptible and free from political machinations?
Do we have a leadership that prioritizes the needs of the masses over its vested interests; values the truth, justice, and human rights; upholds the rule of law; promotes transparency and accountability, and protects our sovereignty?
And, do we have a people who don’t get easily fooled, bought, or cheated by crafty politicians and an electorate that elects qualified public servant instead of crooks, bums, clowns, or ex-convicts?
If we do have, then our country is worth loving and even dying for.

Manuel A. Collao,

Vote for new prime minister
A real democracy-day in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday July 14, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday July 13, 2023

Re: "D-Day for Pita, but change inevitable", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday July 12, 2023.
Well, it looks like the junta made a big blunder crafting their new constitutions. They could easily rule forever if they had put down 300 or more appointed senators.
What does it tell you?
For Thailand and its neighbours, the elections are just a show to look like a modern or progressive country.
The real power lies with the vested interests, the top-down loyal bureaucracy, and self- serving institutions, not the people.
Tomorrow’s D-Day can be dubbed another Doormat-Day, Drama Day, Disaster-Day, or a real Democracy-Day.

Kuldeep Nagi,

What are the ramifications of the Solomon Is and China
Policing cooperation agreement for democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 14, 2023

As a sovereign state the Solomon Islands has every right to sign cooperation deals with any country it chooses to.
That right must be respected.
What I can’t understand however is why the Solomon Islands has signed a policing cooperation deal with a totalitarian regime like China which has a long history of political repression of critics and dissidents?
What are the ramifications of this policing deal for Solomon Island’s democracy?

Rajend Naidu,

Call to uphold the law to ensure a fair
Honest, and transparent Lagaip election
The Souutheast Asian Times, Thursday July 13, 2023
First published in the National, Wednesday July 5, 2023

I appeal for your attention and cooperation regarding the forthcoming supplementary election in Lagaip.
It is paramount that we, as individuals and stakeholders, uphold the law of the land to ensure a fair, honest, and transparent electoral process.
With the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission (PNGEC) having set the date for the issuance of writs on July 13, it is our shared responsibility to take ownership of this supplementary election.
Active engagement and assuming responsibility will help us prevent the repetition of any undesirable outcomes experienced during the previous 2022 election.
We must rise above any negative connotations and demonstrate our civilised nature as proud citizens of Papua New Guinea.
We must emphasize the importance of adhering to these principles as we approach the forthcoming supplementary election.
It is crucial that each and every one of us recognises the gravity of this election and the profound impact it will have on the future of our electorate.
Let us remember that the candidate who emerges as the winner in this election will serve only the people of Lagaip Open and no other electorates in the country.
By fostering unity, respecting the law, and promoting transparency, we can establish a democratic process that genuinely reflects the will of the people.
Together, let us stand as a beacon of integrity and fairness, setting an example for the entire nation.
I call upon all individuals involved, including the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission (PNGEC) officials, candidates, supporters, and the people of Lagaip Open, to embrace the legal framework set forth by our forefathers of this great nation.
By doing so, we ensure a level playing field, where every vote counts and every voice is heard. In conclusion, I urge everyone to approach the forthcoming supplementary election with utmost respect for the law and for one another.

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


The Thailand elections and their aftermath
Do not bode well for democracy
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday July 12, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 10, 2023

Re: "The post-election showdown explained", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Friday July 7, 2023.
The elections and their aftermath do not bode well for democracy.
Prof Thitinan is 100 percent correct that the current stalemate is all about stopping any reforms of the established institutions that hold real power in this country.
Sadly, because of the 250 turncoats appointed by the junta, whatever purpose the costly elections had bringing about a democratically elected government will be lost.
You will also see frivolous court cases, party dissolutions, suspensions, and the usual buying and selling of power brokers of all stripes.
The turncoats should understand that democracy is also called the "rule of the majority".
Prof Thitinan is right on the money that the current regime and its various appendages, beneficiaries and vested interests are not interested in democracy.
They will fight tooth and nail to undermine whatever little progress is made in promoting the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
If elections mean anything, Thailand will have a proud place, a new image, and a status led by young visionaries.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Thais have shown they want
Pita Limjaroenrat to be Prime Minister
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 11, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday July 8, 2023

Re: "A time for unity", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, Thursday July 6, 2023.
The Thai constitution, both the current and many previous, states in Section 3 that "Sovereign power belongs to the Thai people".
The people have shown through their properly elected representatives in the pro-democracy coalition that they want Move Forward's Pita Limjaroenrat to be the next prime minister of their nation.
The trivial number of shares in the non-functioning iTV media company that Pita Limjaroenrat has previously held on behalf of his late father's estate being a non-issue, the Senate has not a single good reason to deny the sovereign will of the Thai people in this matter.
It should, as a matter of democratic principle that demonstrates good manners, unanimously support the majority coalition's nominee for prime minister.
Should the Senate be so reckless as to hide behind alternative but equally lame excuses to deliberately thwart the Thai people's sovereignty in this matter, they will thereby put whatever excuses they so use in direct conflict with the majority of the Thai nation.
It is hard to see how such a rejection of the nation's will could be construed as being in any way unifying, helpful, respectful, or remotely wise.

Felix Qui,

Deployment of Australian police in Papua New Guinea
Granted with immunity
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 10, 2023
First published in the National, Friday July 7, 2023

Morobe Governor Luther Wenge is well versed on the current affairs of Papua New Guinea and is always ready to provide alternatives or go to court to put things right.
One such example can be seen in the deployment of Australian police in Papua New Guinea granted with immunity.
Wenge foresaw the potential breach of our constitution and succeeded in court making the arrangement ultra vires.
As a seasonal and wise politician, he foresees that leaders need to have sound skills in debating.
The art of speaking, listening and presentation are skills in themselves.
Governor Wenge hinted that most of the current members of Parliament lack proper skills in Parliamentary debates on issues of national importance.
Proper research, dissecting of information, orderly presentation and arguing based on factual data is lacking in Parliament.
His observation is very important and he wasted no time to provide part solution to prepare better debating leaders in the future.
Wenge presented K300,000 to the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) to encourage students for inter faculty debate.
That is his prerogative as a leader but may I remind the governor that not all future leaders will come from University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG).
How about making such payment available to all tertiary institutions to have intervarsity debate rather than Inter faculty debate?
Intervarsity debate brings the best speakers and presenters from among the best as done in the late 80s.

Manevi Gene.
Former President,
Unitech Debating Club 1987-88,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Papua New Guinea to export
Agricultural products to Indonesia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 9, 2023
The National, Monday June 26, 2023

The invitation by Prime Minister James Marape to his Indonesian counterpart President Joko Widodo’s visit to the country next month is an important bilateral meeting between the two closest neighbours.
There should be an effective engagement of stakeholders on either side with well-prepared agendas on various areas of economic and technical cooperation for mutual benefit.
Indonesia, our closest neighbouring country linked by land border is a ‘sleeping giant’ which Papua New Guinea has to tap in by taking advantage of this visit by the president of one of the top five populous nations on earth.
As Indonesia is part of the emerging Asian Tiger economies, this bilateral cooperation would enhance and facilitate trading, diplomatic relations, technical and cultural exchanges for mutual benefit between the two countries.
The sprawling archipelago of Indonesia is home to about 270 plus million people and this is a good market for Papua New Guinea to enter under long-term bilateral trade agreements.
Also, we have much to learn from Indonesia, particularly in the area of technical manpower skills and knowledge in the areas of modern agro-technical mechanised farming, civil construction works and technical vocational education, among others.
We also have common cross-cutting issues of illegal border crossing, illicit drugs and illegal firearms and armaments movement and security.
Further, logistics, common trade centre establishment and regulative and promotional trade authority are effective administrative functions to be improved.
The cost of our products would be very competitive and cheap because of the two country’s close proximity to each other and the huge demand-driven market next door with the huge populace.
During this bilateral meeting, one of the primary discussions should be to develop a border trading facilities, especially building major economic enablers like international wharf, reliable energy source, effective customs clearance processes, immigration and diplomatic easy access on Papua New Guinea side in which Indonesia can assist in those establishments.
For this bilateral meeting to be fruitful, Papua New Guinea has to do much on its part to utilise this opportunity by actually engaging in actual production of our agricultural commodities for export cheaply across the border and earn a proportionate return on investments over the long run.

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Massive fascination with uniforms
In Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturdat July 8, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 28, June 2023

Re: "Yok case shows need for a rethink", Bangkok Post Editorial, Sunday June 25, "Conflicting values", in PostBag, Sunday June 23 and "Teen activist presses school to take her in", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 20, 2023
Surprisingly, there is a massive fascination with uniforms in Thailand.
Some consider wearing a uniform a great honour to appease an authority figure.
We should ask if these values are critical for a child attending a school or a college. The "uniforms" promote conformity, obedience, loyalty, and honour.
These values may be necessary for military service and similar government agencies and organisations.
The primary purpose of education is to cultivate a free-thinking or an open mind.
Sadly, most private Christian schools in Southeast Asia were created to educate the poor.
But now, these schools only serve the rich and the elite.
The costly British public schools, such as Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster, Rugby, and Shrewsbury, have been accused of serving rich families and producing snobs.
On the other hand, public schools in the US promote freedom of choice.
Although other serious issues confront US public schools, wearing uniforms is not on that list.
An intelligent kid once said, "I couldn't decide how to feel. Was my school uniform allowing me to focus on school, or was it distracting me from knowing myself?"

Kuldeep Nagi,

Papuan New Guinea's devaluation of the Kina
Can only add fuel to fire
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday July 7, 2023
First published in the National, Wednesday July 5, 20

The Government is lauded by most Papua New Guineans for the fundamental reforms in laws and structural reforms in the government systems and economic strategies going forward.
The most notable reforms are in the legislations to fight corruption, growing and empowering the economy, promoting large scale agro-economic downstream processing industries in selected sites in Papua New Guinea under Special Economic Zones concepts.
These are good homegrown Government intervention policies to grow the economy and create wealth for improved livelihood of ordinary citizens.
With the five new extractive industries of New Porgera, Papua LNG, Wafi-Golpu Mining Project, Pasca Gas Condensate, P’nyang and existing industries, the future looks positive in the next 10 – 15 years.
However, we now read on the dailies and the mainstream media outlets that the Government is going to devalue our local currency the Kina by 15 or 20 per cent.
Which Government is talking about this devaluation of the Kina while the same Government has just spent K70 billion into the economy in less than four years in office (The National, June 28, p.39).
Instead of waiting to see the implementation of the reforms and its positive outcome over time, it decides to throw everything into chaos and jeopardise its own good works by resorting to devaluation of the Kina.
If we have local economics graduates from University of Papua New Guina (UPNG) out there can you use this column in our two dailies and shed some light on this issue of devaluation of the local currency by a significant portion of 20 or 15 per cent and its rippling effects in the economy.
Economics is not ‘Rocket Science’ and I am not afraid to challenge local economists who are silent on this issues.
Can they advise the Government on the pros and cons of the devaluation of the Kina and come out on public media, especially our two dailies, so that the average Papua New Guinea middle class can be better informed of this crucial impending decision?
We are already battling with skyrocketing basic prices of goods, income earning opportunities have dwindled over time, no new investments in the private sector and our few manufacturers are on the brink of downsizing operations or in the worst case scenario completely shutting down operations.
How can devaluation of the Kina help in the immediate term undersecretary economic conditions?
I doubt very much this measure (devaluation) will help relive the economy, but instead this action would be beamed to be rubbing salt against the bleeding wound, so to speak.
Can the Government shelve this idea of devaluation advice from whoever is advising behind the curtains?
Our country has already fallen victim to such major advices from foreign or local sources in collaboration in the last three decades and today we are faced with this outcome.
Our economy is not highly industrialised and complex, it’s a simple rural-based semi-commercial subsistence economy where 97 per cent of the people fend for themselves.
How is it too difficult to control only less than 5 per cent of the economic activities in the country are deemed to be formal?
Where is the logic behind hiring so-called economic advisors with their hard to understand jargons to make it look genuine and confusing at the same time?
Let me take this opportunity to give my advice to this government, that if they go ahead with the devaluation of the kina concept, you as well prepare to calculate the costs of your actions and prepare for the likely unprecedented and uncontrollable magnitude of lawlessness, chaos and anarchy that can erupt across the country due to economic hardship that is possible under current trend.
Devaluation of the Kina can only add fuel to the fire.

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

The younger Thai generation
Could learn a lot from the old
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday July 6, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday July 3, 2023

Re: "Pita: Senators should not abuse lese majeste issue", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 27, 2023
A decade ago, a party was formed by a group of young Thais with the intention to divide the people into two opposing groups.
Now, in Thailand, one side is accusing the other of trying to pit the country's revered institution against the people; and the other side is accusing its rival of pitting the people against the people.
The outcome of this battle could be disastrous indeed.
As I see it, most Thais from the older generation are not opposed to changes in the country, as long as they are done in a peaceful and meticulous manner.
In my opinion, the younger generation could learn a lot from the old, since they have lived longer.
They shouldn't think that older people are all unwise, and that their warnings can be disregarded.

Vint Chavala,

Cambodian PM provides good example
Of how a ruler stays in power
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 5, 2023

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen provides a good example of how a ruler can stay in power.
He has prevented the main opposition party from running in the election to be held later this month.
The 70 year old military strongman has ruled the Southeast Asian nation of 16 million for four decades .
It’s not hard to see how he’s managed that. Critics have called it a sham election.
Now his son Hun Manet is also a candidate in the coming election and he is widely tipped as his successor ( The Fiji Times 3/7 ).
It would not surprise any Cambodian man and his dog if the Hun mob rule the country for another four decades with their Machiavellian hold on power.

Rajend Naidu,


General in coup as Prime Minister
Against wishes of most Thai's
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday July 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 30, 2023

Re: "Other names could be put up for PM's job", in Bangkok Post Monday, June 26, 2023.
As the parliament is about to name a new prime minister, it appears that the Move Forward Party will become, yet again, an opposition party.
General Prawit Wongsuwon, who has the backup of the majority of senators, becomes a favourite candidate for Prime Minister.
But to name one of the generals in the coup as Prime Minister may go against the wishes of most Thais who voted against the current government and spark nationwide protests by Move Forward Party supporters that no one wants to see.
A bold prediction is an outsider Prime Minister for a Pheu Thai, Bhumjaithai and Palang Pracharath coalition government.
In that scenario and formula, Thaksin Shinawatra of Pheu Thai can then retain hope of returning to Thailand after fencing off the Move Forward Party from power. Bhumjaithai can retain ministries - like the transport ministry, which it has controlled for almost a decade.
And Gen Prawit's presence in the cabinet can guarantee there is no immediate threat for others to settle accounts with the generals, at least not for the next four years.
The qualification of the Prime Minister is they have to be an experienced politician who can be trusted by all parties, a democracy advocate who can silence the Move Forward Party, a loyal supporter of the monarchy, and most important of all - not a loose cannon.
Does the name Abhisit Vejjajiva ring a bell?

Yingwai Suchaovanich,


Lack of spare parts for engines
Blamed for cancellation of flights
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 3, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday June 30, 2023

The airlines are blaming the engine factories for delays or cancellation of flights allegedly because of the lack of spare parts for engines, etc.
This is not true.
All aircraft manufacturers are committed to supplying their clients with the necessary requirements to maintain the highest degree of efficiency and safety regardless of nationality.
Aircraft maintenance is required to ensure the continuing airworthiness of an aircraft or a/c part, including overhaul, inspection, replacement, defect rectification, and the embodiment of modifications, compliance with airworthiness directives, and repair.
If the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ (CAAP) inspectors are diligently performing their duties, this could be avoided.
The Senate and the House of Representatives should investigate CAAP whose investigators conduct an audit every six months and airlines are informed of any deficiencies observed.
Airlines have sufficient time to make the necessary rectification or purchase of needed supplies.

Daniel Dimagiba,

Call for United nations to resolve
China's claim over South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday July 2, 2023

The Philippines has been facing territorial disputes over the West Philippine Sea for several years now.
It has caused tension between neighboring countries, including China.
Many Filipinos feel their sovereignty is being violated, and it is time to elevate this issue to the international community. Some senators support sending this concern to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to get a resolution to this problem. This move will bring global attention to this pressing matter and will empower the Philippines to assert its rights.
The Philippines' claim over the West Philippine Sea is based on its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
However, China insists on its historical claims over the disputed waters, leading to a standoff in the area.
Elevating this issue to the UNGA can pressure China to adhere to international laws and recognize the Philippines' rightful claims.
The outcome of this move can help establish a peaceful solution to this issue and promote stability in the region.
I fully support this action by the Senate to truly urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to raise this issue in UNGA.
I believe there is nothing wrong if we will continue to assert our claim in our territory.

Shermaine Anacleto,

Good times are over for commercial trawlers
In southern Thailand waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday July 1, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday June 28, 2023

Re: "Keep coastal waters safe", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Friday June 23, 2022.
The protest by commercial trawlers in deep south Satun province to get a rule change and allow fishing in the coastal waters is nothing more than the end game for high-seas fishing.
Catches have dropped so dramatically that fishing boats have recently been involved with illegal migrants, cigarettes, and diesel.
Their business is bust, and they are desperate to find new ways to bring in money. Allow them to fish the coastal waters, and in just a few years, that will be dead also.
It's over, the good times are gone due to overfishing, and they won't be coming back.


Thai Senate should not have any say in the nomination
And appointment of the Prime Minister of Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 30, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday June 28, 2023

Re: "Other names could be put up for PM's job", in Bangkok Post, Monday June 26, 2023.
Senator Gen Akanit Muensawad and his colleagues play a blunt game by threatening to use the proposed moderate amendments to the lese majeste laws in the direction of justice as an excuse to deny Pita Limjaroenrat the opportunity to serve the nation as prime minister.
Move Forward's proposal is certainly in the best interests of the institution.
The Senate should not have any say in the nomination and appointment of the prime minister of Thailand by parliament.
Move Forward should require only the support of 251 members of the House of Representatives, which it comfortably has.
The requirement for 376 votes is unjust and contradict democratic principle if Pita is not elected as prime minister as nominated by the representatives of the Thai people because of the senate.

Felix Qui,

Judiciary arm of Papua New Guinea government
Undergoing milestone changes
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 29, 2023
First published in the National Tuesday 27 June 2023

It is encouraging to see the judiciary arm of the Government undergoing milestone changes under the leadership of current Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Pila Niningi.
Apart from many legislative changes made, the increase in the number of judges positions and magistrates in the judicial system of our country is a significant achievement to date.
Also, the composition of the judges and magistrates is a good balance of gender and expertise of few expatriate judges/magistrates currently serving and others in the planning for recruitment is morale-boosting for a vibrant democratic society and country at large.
In addition, the successful completion of the domestically funded state-of-the-art K600 million iconic National and Supreme Court Complex in Waigani, National Capital District (NCD) is another complementary feature of the overall strengthening of the Judicial Arm of the three independent arms of Government. The other two comprise of the legislature and the executive arms which are made up of the National Parliament..
However, the Judiciary is seen as more independent of the other two arms.
In other words, the Parliament makes the laws and the judicial arm implements and applies the laws under various circumstances in delivering justice to aggrieved parties.
The strengthening of the Judicial Arm at both the higher courts and the lower courts with inclusion of recently incepted Court of Appeals to accommodate the volume of cases that are registered daily would reduce the length of time for justice to be served on a timely manner.
A robust and effective judicial system can boost the confidence of both foreign and local investors to invest in the various resource sectors to generate wealth and create employment opportunities.
A further increase in law school programs or second university offering law courses, after University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), can alleviate the bottleneck situation faced in the annual output of the law graduates to proportionately increase local manpower strength in the judiciary system.

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Myanmar has been unresponsive to making
Asean's Five-Point Consensus a reality
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 28, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 26, 2023

Re: "Thailand's policy on Myanmar stinks," in Bangkok Post, Friday June 23,
Prime Minister Prayut and Foreign Minister Don seem to believe that "might makes right" in dealing with the Tatmadaw - but the Myanmar's State Administration Council (SAC) lacks legitimacy and can in no way be considered as the international representative of the people of Myanmar with whom it is embroiled in a deadly civil war.
For example, Prayut let the State Administration Council (SAC) - not the National Unity Government (NUG) - run the Myanmar embassy here, even though the question of representation is still in abeyance at the United Nations .
Gen Prayut's evidently did not even invite the National Unity Government (NUG) to any Thai-hosted informal talks on Myanmar.
Foreign minister Don insists such meetings have been productive - yet cannot specify any positive results from the three prior talks, and the State Administration Council (SAC's) been unresponsive to making Asean's Five-Point Consensus a reality.
Further, the State Administration Council (SAC) knows full well that in last month's elections, Thais made history and turned their backs on military dictatorship.
As Les Miserables would have put it, voters heard the song of angry men who would not be slaves again. Gen Prayut's is a caretaker government, without the right to make policy changes.
Gen Prayut and the foreign minister Don should follow international practice and recognise legitimacy.
Involve both Administration Council (SAC's) and National Unity Government (NUG) on an equal basis in any acts affecting Myanmar. Be neutral in word and spirit, whether it be at the embassy or talks.

Burin Kantabutra,

Police robots
On Singapore Streets
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday June 27, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 20, 2023

Re: "Singapore to put more police robots on the streets", in Bangkok Post Thursday June 15, 2023.
Da, my case is growing more already.
Also, readers should see excellent film I, Robot with actor Will Smith made many years ago, and read the works of Isaac Asimov.

Boris Lin-Lee,


Philippines to employ 22,000 police
To prepare for State of the Nation Address
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 26, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday June 24, 2023

If our democracy is strong, if human rights are respected, and if just peace is what we value, then why do we need to deploy over 22,000 cops just to prepare for the State of the Nation Address (Sona)?
Article VII Section 11(5) of the 1935 Constitution states that, “The President shall from time to time give to the National Assembly information on the state of the Nation, and recommend to its consideration such measures as shall judge necessary and expedient.”
It is now known as the Sona.
Expectedly, it is an obligation of the head of the state to report/account to the people the current situation of the country, inform Congress about the important legislative measures to carry the plans out, and to offer to the public the priority agenda of the government for the year.
Sona, theoretically, is an occasion when the Filipino people and the world would listen to the report of the President, somewhat submitting a report to his “boss” the collective Filipino people on the analysis and direction setting of governance.
The Filipino people deserve better.
We are always pushing for high hopes that our lives would be better than today. Sona is the day when we will analyze the depth and the ability of the president to grasp the basic economic issues of the people, the political landscape of the country, the sociocultural impact of the economic and political situation, and the purposeful, deliverable sound plan of governance.
Likewise, it is more abhorrent that often Sona feels like a time for pomp and circumstance by the powerful/political glitz, charm, and glamour rather than what it should be a reporting to the people on the accomplishments and next priorities of the administration.
Sona, in the congressional hall, is not an occasion when lawmakers, officials, and spouses flaunt their glamour and wealth in clothing.
In a society where there is a sharp gap between the rich and the poor, having this display of abundance and fascination over fashion, especially by elected officials, is not only insensitive but callous.
We look forward to a meaningful direction of governance, including the alleviation of poverty, salary increase of workers to living wage, addressing the agricultural problem faced especially by peasants, curbing corruption, and protecting natural resources, asserting national sovereignty and defending our patrimony.
These could be a shorter version of the long wish list of our people.
Protests and mobilizations of people to express their rightful demands on Sona are to be welcomed with listening ears, sans threats and intimidation.
It is so alarming that the drumbeating toward that day includes the deployment of over 22,000 police officers within the vicinity of the Batasang Pambansa, and 31 border control points within Metro Manila. In addition, there will be a strike force of 4,405 officers from the Reactionary Standby Support Force of the Philippine National Police and 500 individuals from volunteer groups.
The National Capital Region Police Office’s intention is to ensure public safety in case demonstrators stage protests.
There is no public safety to speak of when the rights of the people are undermined and repressed. Rather, it is the other way around, democracy is threatened by the presence of police forces who take advantage of their might and uniforms to threaten and undermine the rights of people for expression and assembly.
If police authorities want to ensure public safety at all times, they should first respect human rights, especially of the poor who most of the time are victims of atrocities and violence, e.g., war on drugs.

Norma P. Dollaga,

Call for Move Forward Party
To deal with archiac military regulations
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 25 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 20, 2023

Re: "MFP fever grips SE Asia", in Bangkok Post, Sunday June 18, 2023If the Move Forward Party (MFP) gets the chance to form a government and reform the military, I hope they will also deal with an archaic military regulation dating from when the Chinese immigrant community was considered a palpable threat to national security.
This regulation prohibits Thais with fathers who were not Thai from birth from being promoted above the rank of private in all three of the armed forces.
Strangely enough, there is no restriction on Thais with foreign mothers being promoted to the highest ranks of the military.
Whatever the original thinking behind this regulation, there is clearly no justification in preserving it today.
It is utterly pointless for the military to deprive itself of recruits with foreign-born fathers who might be keen on a career in the armed forces and would, for the most part, bring a high level of education and language skills with them.
Moreover, it is both racial and gender-based discrimination against Thai citizens, both of which are illegal under the current constitution.
In the case of my son, both of his parents were Thai at the time of his birth in Thailand.
You would think that would make him 100 percent Thai. However, because his
father was not Thai from birth, he is ineligible to be promoted above the rank of private in the military.
If having a foreign-born father exempted him from military conscription, that would be a fair trade, in my opinion, but it does not. For this reason alone, I am in favour of the abolition of military conscription.

George Morgan,

US sanctions imposed on Myanmar
Way to bring end to brutal repression
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday June 24, 2023

It was very good news for all pro-democracy people in Myanmar and around the world to learn that the US imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s Defense Ministry and two banks used by the ruling military junta to buy arms and military equipment from foreign sources to maintain its “ brutal repression “ in the country ( Reuters /FT 23/6 ).
That is the way to bring an end to the brutal repression and suffering of the people of Myanmar under the rule of their rogue military rulers.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for donor countries to spend toea
On development in rural Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 23, 2023
First published in the National Thursday June 15, 2023

This letter is written to aid donor countries such as Australia, China, New Zealand, the US, and others to use and manage your own donated funds to carry out whatever development projects or programme in the country.
Our country is known for its rampant theft and corruption of public funds and ranked as amongst the top corrupt countries in the world.
Papua New Guinea is almost 50 years old.
But the bulk of its citizens living in the most remote parts of the country are still crying for change and hoping to see development in their localities.
Why most Papua New Guinea rural areas are not seeing or experiencing developments is because leaders, top bureaucrats and those placed in position of trust do not spend funds on intended purpose in development needs.
As the saying goes, do not trust anyone but yourself.
Donor countries must trust themselves and should manage their own hard-earned funds if they wish to undertake any development aspirations and programmes in Papua New Guinea.
Donor countries must visit the rural parts of Papua New Guinea and do research for themselves and spend money on the development needs they saw lacking in districts or communities.
This is seen as the best possible way to develop Papua New Guinea where no single toea will be lost along the way.

Donor recipient,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

New era of public administration
Political watershed for Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 21, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday June 22, 2023

Currently, one is tired of the political uncertainty and tired of being bombarded with multiple wild opinions.
Being also an iTV shareholder, one feels rather bored hearing about the highlights of iTV when one's investment was a dead loss.
At present, it is so confusing with everybody being an expert on legal issues on Khun Pita's iTV holdings and possible disqualifications of his coming premiership.
It has come to a state where knowing less is a blessing in keeping one's mind calm.
In two months' time, hopefully the whole situation will be settled and we can continue with our lives as before, or change to the young ones with a new era of public administration as a political watershed for Thailand.
One can only pray for a peaceful transfer of power in either direction with no tanks on our streets.

Songdej Praditsmanont,

Rotation of Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary
Avoids the wantok system
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 21, 2023
First published in the National Monday June 19, 2023

One of our country’s biggest issue is a total lack of unity and ethnic division.
In the early days of the Australian administration this was identified, certainly it was an issue with law enforcement agencies, in particular the police.
The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) then had a policy where all police officers were rotated usually every year or so, never allowing officers to work in their own provinces.
This allowed the RPNGC to maintain a transparent position and avoid the disease of “wantok” system.
The idea that a politician should request the RPNGC to recruit police officers from a province and position them in their own province is a very shallow-minded and ignorant ideology, and goes against all ethics of transparent law enforcement and policing.
In recent times, the good Police Commissioner has identified this as being a major flaw and failure of previous commissioners to maintain this rotating protocol, and as such started to move it along.
However, some police officers see fit to challenge this, what many don’t understand is that it is the Commissioner’s privilege to do this is evidence of a very good understanding of operational matters and transparency.
Police officers have no legal basis and or privilege to challenge any decision of the Commissioner.
Insubordinate officers should be terminated immediately to stop this toxic ideology they believe they are owed.
The big question is why would RPNGC officers challenge any transfer directive?
Maybe many are operating their own business in addition to being employed and sworn to serve the people under the Police Act.
If so, then this is also illegal, and a breach of not only the RPNGC Police Act but also the Public Service Employment Act.
The Police Minister needs to remind his political cohorts to refrain from making such comments and to stay well away from interfering with the Office of the Police Commissioner.
The law is very clear, this office is protected under the “Separation of Powers” Act. Politicians making such comment merely display an ignorance of how the system should work.

Taiet pinis lo crime.
National Capital District (NCD)
Papua New Guinea


Call for Suprme Court to apply epistolary jurisdiction
In the case of former senator Leila de Lima
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 20, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday June 15, 2023

Detained in 2017 on three separate drug-related criminal charges two of them dismissed after her acquittal, there is no end in sight that former senator Leila de Lima will be released soon.
Each passing day is a cruel form of punishment for one who is in her 60s, a mother, experiencing health issues, and facing life-threatening hazards under detention.
The Supreme Court deserves an applause for the timely memorandum issued by Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva, a former no-nonsense Regional Trial Court judge, to Presiding Judge Romeo S. Buenaventura of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 to resolve the last criminal case within nine months.
However, the Supreme Court, the citadel of justice, human rights, and rule of law, can do more to stop the injustice of protracted detention being committed against De Lima, former law professor of San Beda University, former election lawyer, former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, former secretary of justice, and former senator of the Republic. Formidable credentials of a Filipino woman long-deprived of her freedom.
The Supreme Court can explore the use and application of the remedy called epistolary jurisdiction which was mentioned in the ponencia of Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro in the case of Resident Marine Mammals of the Protected Seascape Tañon Strait, et al., v. Angelo Reyes, et al., (G.R. No. 180771, April 21, 2015).
Epistolary rom the word “epistle” or letter is a remedial or corrective legal innovation, cleansed of procedural technicalities, through which the violated or wronged person or persons may seek judicial intervention and assistance by means of letters, telegrams, newspaper articles, etc.
It is also a new method through liberal interpretation of legal standing in court where any person can apply to the court on behalf of the deprived, distressed, and disadvantaged.
Applied extensively in India through various court decisions, it was first used in the United States in Gideon v. Wainwright, a unanimous decision, where on the basis of a prison stationary, penciled-written by the accused, the Supreme Court gave due course to it.
In 1982, an urgent telegram petition for issuance of writ of habeas corpus on behalf of seven detained persons in Camp Catitipan, Davao City, was filed and was allowed by the Supreme Court.
The formal petition followed and is entitled “In The Matter of the Petition for the Issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus for Rolieto Trinidad, et al., S.P. Case No. 59449, Jan. 21, 1982.”
May the Supreme Court, in the benevolent exercise of its mighty judicial power, wisely consider the use and application of epistolary jurisdiction in the case of De Lima.

Rene V. Sarmiento,
law professor,

Philippines proposed National Land Use Act
To harmonize claims on the land
The Southeast Asian Times Monday June 19, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday June 16, 2023

“It is the policy of the state to provide for a rational, holistic, and just allocation, utilization, management, and development of the country’s land resources.”
This is to ensure that their “optimum use is consistent with the principle of sustainable development.”
The state also recognizes the need for developing sustainable settlements, and shall “allocate lands for urban uses consistent with the principles of environmental management and equitable access to land and security.”
The foregoing are the declaration of policies and principles in the introductory provisions of the proposed National Land Use Act (NLUA), as introduced by Sen. Pia Cayetano under Senate Bill No. 898.
The measure is meant to harmonize all reasonable claims on the land, and to safeguard and promote the general welfare of present and future generations through proper management of this limited resource.
To do this, the state “shall institutionalize land use and physical planning as a mechanism to identify, determine, and evaluate alternative land use and allocation patterns.”
In my view, the centerpiece program component of the NLUA, based on SB 898, is the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) to be prepared and updated every nine years in every city and municipality in accordance with the national, regional, and provincial physical planning frameworks.
The CLUP will serve as guide to fast-track the country’s social and economic development projects, with sanctions on officials who fail to comply with performance standards.
The CLUP will substantially accelerate housing production to effectively address the huge housing backlog of about 6.5 million housing units.
The significant provision in the bill on this is the easier access to suitable land for housing development, as contained in Chapter VII, Section 42.
It says that residential zones as designated in the CLUP “shall be considered as outside the geo-hazard areas and shall be exempt from the environmental compliance certificate without the need for any further certificate of exemption from the [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] or any other government regulatory agency.”
Equally significant is that portion of Section 44 of the same chapter, that says “housing or residential lands designated in the CLUPs and zoning ordinances of cities and municipalities shall not be subject to further land reclassification by the LGU local government unit or land conversion procedure under the Department of Agrarian Reform."
On the other hand, "agricultural lands as designated in the CLUP which are no longer economically feasible for agricultural use may be subject to land reclassification or conversion to housing/residential purposes and such conversion, as the case may be, shall be exempt from the coverage of any moratorium on land conversion.”
These two provisions are critical in accelerating the production of affordable housing nationwide, particularly for the underprivileged sector, including the homeless and informal settlers.
A much greater volume of housing production will also stimulate economic activity in allied industries, such as construction, and create much-needed jobs and livelihood opportunities.

Jose S. de Guzman,

The old adage
"Misery loves company"
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 18, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday June 14, 2023

Re: "Ideals vs reality", Bangkok Post PostBag, June 9 and "The eyes of the world are cast upon Ukraine", in Bangkok Post Opinion, June 7, 2023
Kuldeep Nagi's criticism of Paul Krugman's opinion, again, shows his Russian sympathies and his anti-Western bias.
PostBag seems like a forum for professing to be an expert on global military affairs.
But, his country, India, along with Belarus, Iran, North Korea, Syria, China, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Eritrea, and Mali sided with Russia for aggression in waging a war against Ukraine.
The old adage, "Misery loves company", says much about their collective bonding.

Donald Graber,

Election Commission to pursue case against
Pita Limjaroenrat
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 17, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday June 14 2023

Re: "Organic law probe could doom Pita", in Bangkok Post, Sunday June 11, 2023.
In a significant move, the Election Commission has chosen to pursue a case against Pita Limjaroenrat based on violation of Section 151 of the organic law as opposed to going after him for allegedly owning media shares.
Why has the Election Commission chosen to pursue the former when most observers agree it is far harder to prove?
If I was a cynic, then I might think that all this is to drag out the proceedings for as long as possible, thus putting a great big monkey wrench in the workings of government and the election results.
But hey, I'm no cynic, right?
I've got a suggestion.
Put another candidate up for prime minister, from Pheu Thai if possible, because they are runners-up in the election, but someone who the Senate will accept and then give the house speaker position to the Move Forward Party.
What the coalition partners absolutely need to avoid is a delay in appointing the new government, and I can't see any way of avoiding that than what I have suggested.
And we certainly don't want to see Move Forward Party followers on the streets because they would be railing against the law, and the law is the law, even if it is not applied equally.
And we know what might happen if there are mass demonstrations, and we don't want that again.

Howard Stark,

Call for foreigners to leave Tiananmen Square protests
To unfriendly countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 16, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday June 14, 2023

Re: "Despots, no thanks", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Wednesday June 7, 2023
There are a billion people living in China who think otherwise.
The living standard and well-being of the people are improving.
Driverless robot taxis are starting to service passengers in the streets of several big cities in China.
Foreigners should travel to China and see for themselves and leave the Tiananmen Square protest that happened three decades ago to the propaganda arm of unfriendly countries.
Eric Bahrt is definitely confused about the economic data, or he refuses to believe that China, as the second-largest world economy, is moving far ahead of Taiwan in all aspects.
One of the reasons the current Taiwan government lost heavily in last year's
"9-in-1" local elections to the opposition Kuomintang Party is due to the drastic decline of its economy.
There is an old Chinese saying that the frog underneath a well sees the moon as big as the sky above.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,

Move Forward Party calls for end of ban
On sale of alcohol on Buddihist holidays
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 6, 2023

Re: "MFP slams holiday booze ban", in Bangkok Post Saturday June 5, 2023,
Move Forward is right that the current bans on the sale of the drug alcohol on Buddhist holy days should be ended.
Buddhists who take their religion seriously already abstain from alcohol and other drugs on such holidays exactly as they do every other day of the year.
That a small percentage of Thai adults actually follow that Buddhist principle is no just reason to force their religious precept on everyone else in society.
If such reasoning for a ban were actually sound, it would be equally reasonable to ban the eating of meat, which typically involves a meat eater paying others to kill for them, a reality that plainly violates the First Precept of Buddhism as largely ignored by Thai Buddhism.
The pro-ban excuse from Phetchawat Wattanapongsirikul, a list-MP candidate for the Pheu Thai Party, is even weaker since he presents zero evidence that such a ban on the sale of the popular drug actually "helps prevent road accidents caused by drink-driving".
As even Songkran Pakchokdee, director of the StopDrink Network Office, concedes, "People can still stock up in advance for consumption at their homes, anyway," making any causal relationship between interfering with adults buying alcohol on Buddhist holy days unlikely.
Unlike a ban on the recreational use of alcohol by adults, banning driving under the influence of drugs does not violate any right.
That is why such behaviour, but not the drug itself, may be justly banned by law, as is similarly the case for every drug in popular recreational use by adults.

Felix Qui,


Papua New Guinea's look north policy
Is rubbish
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 14, 2023
First published in the National Tuesday June 13, 2023

The Government's “look north policy” is rubbish.
Foreigners have flooded into our country for the last years and the gate is still open wide.
There is no control.
According to our current perspectives, these foreigners are here to stay.
They will never go back.
They don’t show respect to Papua New Guinea nationals.
We will be another Africa.
Our sons will be spectators in their own land.
Our sons will suffer in their own land.
If they are foreign companies, they should be bound by Labour rules, that is 12 or 10 hours on K3.50 hourly rates.
Any additional hours after 12 hours is regarded as overtime.
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays have their own rates.
How come our people are used as cheap labours?
They wake up early at 5am only to finish off late in the night at 7am/8pm exhausted.
They have no pick-up or drop-offs when they are paid lousy K250 to K300 a fortnight.
How come these people go right into remote areas of the nation and conduct businesses?
Is there any law that governs these so that can we fix these?
Could a good lawyer who has heart for Papua New Guinea read this and confirm if I am wrong and explain this to the nation?

James Yangiat
Central Mulitaka,
Papua New Guinea

Special Economic Zones (SEZ) come with significant
Development and maintenance cost
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 13, 2023
First published in the National Tuesday June 6, 2023

The need to promote economic growth and development are the primary goals of economic policies of a government.
The fiscal policy sets out tax measures that will be implemented by the government to raise revenues for the national budget.
The national budget is a plan of how the government will spend the revenues in its financial year.
The implementation of the fiscal policy and national budget directly influence economic growth and development.
This holds for Papua New Guinea.
The operation of a Special Economic Zones (SEZ) requires massive infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, wharves, communication, electricity, water, sewerage and sanitation, and institutional capacity development.
These come with significant development and maintenance costs.
A Special Economic Zones (SEZ) is essentially a domestic tax haven.
It requires significant tax concessions such as reduced tax rates, tax holidays, tax rebates, and exemption from duties and levies to develop and operate.
The concessions will allow investors to recoup their money, and repatriate it abroad in the case of foreign investors.
The tax concessions will have a major negative impact on Government revenues and national budget.
They will reduce the ability of the Government of Papua New Guinea to raise much needed revenues for development spending through the national budget.
The SEZs do not promote tangible developments needed by the ordinary citizens of Papua New Guinea . They, however, will promote tax shifting, evasion and avoidance at a significant development cost to Papau New Guinea .
The Government of Papua New Guinea, must instead focus on developing key infrastructure without sacrificing tax revenues, to promote business activities and achieve economic growth and development.

Citizen economist,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call for incoming Thailand government
To reach an understanding with military
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 12, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday June 6, 2023

Re: "Talk to the generals", Bangkok Post PostBag, Sunday June 4, 2023.
I fully agree with Khun Vint Chavala that the incoming government should reach an understanding with our military before reforming our defence mechanism, and sync closely with them, for they not only love Thailand, they hold the world record for most coups d'etat since 1932.
Each party should understand that the military's noble, vital role is to be a fence against external foes.
The civilian government should give them the wherewithal necessary to do a good job.
For their part, the soldiers should accept that a fence does not tell the homeowners what to do.

Burin Kantabutra,

The United States cannot intrude
On Papua New Guinea sovereignty
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 11, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday May 30, 2023

The Defence cooperation agreement signed between the United States and Papua New Guinea is timely and viable, given the global terror level and where all the super powers are at each other.
In the literal sense, the Pacific is no longer a safe region.
Different superpowers have different plans to deal with Pacific Island nations.
There is no point for anyone to panic as there is no imminent war at our doorsteps.
Papua New Guinea needs security to keep surveillance at its international borders to protect itself from external forces.
The United States is determined to provide security; it cannot intrude in to Papua New Guinea at will to stampede on Papua New Guinea’s sovereignty via the agreement.
The agreement will permit the United States Navy coast guard vessels to do a wider surveillance on our seas and air space because we do not have the capacity to counter react when presented with a hostile situation.
Every country is connected one way or the other through the many associations, alliances, partnership and agreements in defence, trade, tourism, science, etc.
Furthermore, it is hoped, the terms of the agreement do not impede any of the existing laws in Papua New Guinea including the Constitution.
If it does, it will have a very serious repercussions and perhaps the PM can be petitioned to resign.
The Government should publish the defence cooperation agreemen on the social media.
While this is a sure thing to do, the Opposition have to be mindful that Papua New Guinea’s own defence force personals pose a threat either or the police force for that matter.
Where is the undertaking that Papua New Guinea is the safest place?
They reportedly were involved in the many civil unrest and we don’t have a home grown special forces to counter their actions.
For that reason alone, Australia has always advised that Papau New Guinea keeps a minimal and a manageable size army always.
All in all, the United States -Papua New Guinea defence cooperation agreement was drafted out from a friendly bilateral understanding purely for the United States to provide security and not to build a military base anywhere within Papua New Guinea.

Andy Brum,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea economist says,
"Prime Minister is barking up the wrong tree"
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 10, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesda June 6, 2023

Prime Minster James Marape, was quoted in the daily newspapers of May 25 as “pushing the Bank of Papua New Guinea central bank to supply more forex to the market, with highest ever reserves of US$14 billion”.
At the outset, it must be made clear to the public that the Prime Minister is barking up the wrong tree.
Furthermore, the Central Bank does not manage US$14 billion, about K50 billion, in international reserves.
The key issue is Papua New Guinea has a very high dependence on imports.
However, the supply of foreign currency from exports has not increased significantly to match or overtake the import demand.
This supply and demand mismatch is now causing the glitch in the domestic foreign exchange market.
The main drivers causing a reduction in the supply of foreign currency in Papua New Guinea are:
Project development agreements that trap dollars outside Papua New Guinea, in foreign currency accounts;
Under-investment in non-mineral sectors (agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism sectors);
Lack of an integrated transportation infrastructure network, which discourages production and export;
Lack of finance and marketing infrastructure, to support production and export; and, Inefficient state-owned monopolies that provide expensive inputs that discourage production and export.
The same newspapers also reported that Porgera Mine will not be returning dividends to the Government for the next ten years, after re-commencement of operations. It means additional foreign currency supposed to be received by the Government in the form of taxes will not be realised.
It demonstrates the fact that the Government and politicians are negotiating bad project development agreements for Papua New Guinea..
The Prime Minister is well advised to introduce the production sharing arrangement for the extractive resource sector (mineral, oil and gas) and establish the Sovereign Wealth Fund, immediately.
This is a sustainable option and will supply much needed foreign currency to the domestic foreign exchange market for importers to use and buy goods and services from abroad.

Concerned economist,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Call for oversight body
To screen Lese Majeste complaints
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday May 27, 2023

Re: "Lawyer group calls to screen lese majeste complaints", in Bangkok Post, Saturday May 27, 2023.
The intent of establishing such an oversight body, if made a compulsory entry point requirement in laying Section 112 charges, will surely be a positive step to properly respecting the monarchy.
It would lessen abuse and minimise the use of this law for personal or political purposes, especially if the panel includes at least one prominent and reputable representative of the Crown Administration.

Old Aussie,

As U.S. President Bill Clinton once said
It's the economy, stupid!
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 8, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 6, 2023

Re: "Let's not kowtow", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Friday June 2, 2023.
To use "kowtow" as the headline whenever we touch on China is not appropriate.
Times have changed. China's economy is the second largest in the world and still growing.
More than a billion Chinese were lifted out of poverty, and millions of Chinese tourists travel around the world.
China has built the world's largest network of high-speed train railways that spans nearly 40,000km, the list of achievements goes on.
The world has become multipolar, the days of US domination no longer exist. Many people like "an expat of Thailand" denounce China out of jealousy or lack of information.
Calling out freedom like the lyrics in the lovely song Una Paloma Blanca would not feed one's stomach, it is the people's well-being and the prosperous society that reflects a regime's success.
As President Bill Clinton has once said, it's the economy, stupid!

Yingwai Suchaovanich,



Move Forward Party
Clearly won the Thai elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 7, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday June 2, 2023

Re: "Beware the boss", in Bangkok Post PostBag, May 15, 2023 and "30% not a majority", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, May 25, 2023.
In both of his published letters, Yingwai Suchaovanich acts as if he has the best interests at heart for the country when he says the Move Forward Party (MFP) did not want a majority of seats in the last general election, and so they have to wait their turn and respect the will of the 250 people in the senate to finally get a majority.
I wish to point out to Khun Yingwai that actually, the Move Forward Party clearly won the election and would already be in power in most other countries.
When he talks about wishing to avoid the Hong Kong-style democracy riots of 2019-20 and branding them "illegal", or the consequences of recognising Taiwanese independence and allowing more American military bases in Thailand, he is basically showing where his true interests lie at heart: in not offending China.
The bottom line is that Thais, who voted in record numbers during the last election, deserve to have a person who they voted for democratically, not somebody who is satisfactory to the communist regime of another country.

An expat in Thailand,

China is Papua New Guinea’s biggest trading partner
Over taking Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 6, 2023
First published in the National, Monday May 29, 2023

For Papua New Guinea to sign a military pack with the United States and have China to respect Papua New Guinea’s decision truly shows how China is very diplomatic in dealing with other countries.
The economic power struggle between the West and Asian countries, particularly China have reached our shore.
First is the Solomon Islands security pack with China and now the PNG-US military cooperation agreement.
A lot of talks and negative criticism were made about the Solomon Islands-China security agreement from Western nations.
But China respected Papua New Guinea’s decision and made known its intention that it will continue to do trade and commerce in the country.
China is Papua New Guinea’s biggest trading partner, over taking Australia in the recent years.
In the recent PNG- Australia Trade Forum, Minister Richard Maru made it very clear to Australia that we have other friends who are willing to buy our products or produce if you are not willing.
He gave an example saying, Papua New Guinea produce a lot of bananas and taros but when you go to Australia you see Fiji taros and bananas in the big supermarket shelves.
Maru was referring to China who is willing to buy Papua New Guinea products including minerals oil and gas
They are also investing in our country, competing with Australia and other countries.
Competition is good but as an ordinary Papua New Guinean I think China is winning the race in Papua New Guinea.
It was a relief to hear that China respected Papua New Guinea decision as this is truly a geopolitics agreement between Papua New Guinea and the US.
China is an economic powerhouse, remember how China stopped purchasing beef and grain products from Australia, as Australia accused China of creating the coronavirus (Covid-19) in labs.
Australia lost billions of dollars in revenue and had to apologise to China and mend their diplomatic relations.
Papua New Guinea let’s think before making friends or signing agreements.
Just a years ago, Australia and the US did not care much about Papua New Guinea, only when China starts investing and giving loans to Pacific nations that they show interest.

Bena Bridge,
Papua New Guinea


Move Forward Party has declared itself
To be an anti-growth regime
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 5, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday June 3 2023

Re: "Getting ready for a new economic era", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Thursday June 1, 2023.
I agree with economist/columnist Chartchai Parasuk that the Move Forward Party, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, in its intention to immediately increase the minimum wage to 450 baht per day and the monthly payments of 3,000 baht to the elderly, has declared itself to be an anti-growth regime.
I am another voter who refused to vote for the MFP for the simple reason that a party that has done a good job in the opposition cannot necessarily be good in the government, especially when that party is still young and inexperienced. In the long run, our country will become a welfare state even before it can break out of the middle-income trap.

Vint Chavala,


Lawyers Association of Thailand
Call for panel to screen Lese Majeste matters
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday June 1, 2023

Re: "Lawyer group calls to screen lese majeste complaints", in Bangkok Post, Saturday May 27, 2023.
The suggestion by the Lawyer's Association of Thailand for a panel to screen lese-majeste matters before they are pursued by the police and courts is to be commended.
It is a constructive effort to protect the highest institution from the harm being done to it by zealots who abuse the law, Section 112 of the Criminal Code.
Their proposal does not, however, go to the heart of the problem.
The best proposal is the sensible amendments proposed by the Move Forward Party.
Under that proposal, the Bureau of the Royal Household should be able to decide when such a serious threat has been made.

Felix Qui,

Supreme Court allows former PM Peter O'Neil
To challenge election of PM James Marape
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 3, 2023
First published in the National Monday May 29, 2023

The edict handed down by the Supreme Court to allow the embattled former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s legal challenge against the election of Prime Minister James Marape to be contemplated by the full bench of the High Court has triggered a seismic shift across Papua New Guinea.
O’Neill’s legal petition was primarily based on the alleged invalidity of the Speaker of the Parliament’s decision to allow the motion of no confidence against him to be voted on despite an earlier court adjournment.
This case is a litmus test for the fledgling democracy in Papua New Guinea.
And it will be keenly observed by political analysts, legal specialists, as well as deeply concerned citizens.
The country is currently grappling with a plethora of pressing issues, including a debilitated economy and an upsurge in criminal activities.
Whatever the decision from the High Courts, one thing is certain – this case will have momentous repercussions for the nation and its populace.
It will fundamentally be a defining juncture in the continued progression of Papua New Guinea’s democracy.

Romel Kuman,
Papua New Guinea

Karl Marx vision of communism
A crying shame in Vietnam
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 2, 2023

Vietnamese sent to prison for mocking Communist Party Officials for dinning on $1000 steaks in London ( The Southeast Asian Times 1 June 2023 ).
Wonder what Karl Marx would have thought of that?
Surely that was not his conceptualisation of the communist state or the classless socialist society?
What a crying shame that his vision of communism has been distorted, perverted in such a manner.

Rajend Naidu

Papua New Guinea has made it very clear
That Papua New Guinea has other friends
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 1, 2023
First published in the National Monday May 29, 2013

For Papua New Guinea to sign a military pack with the United States and have China to respect Papua New Guinea’s decision truly shows how China is very diplomatic in dealing with other countries.
The economic power struggle between the West and Asian countries, particularly China have reached our shore.
First is the Solomon Islands security pack with China and now the PNG-US military cooperation agreement.
A lot of talks and negative criticism were made about the Solomon Islands-China security agreement from Western nations.
But China respected Papua New Guinea’s decision and made known its intention that it will continue to do trade and commerce the country in The National, May 25.
China is Papua New Guinea’s biggest trading partner, over taking Australia in the recent years.
In the recent PNG- Australia Trade Forum – Minister Richard Maru made it very clear to Australia that we have other friends who are willing to buy our products or produce if you are not willing.
He gave an example saying – Papua New Guinea produce a lot of bananas and taros but when you go to Australia you see Fiji taros and bananas in the big supermarket shelves.
Maru was referring to China who is willing to buy Papua New Guinea products including minerals oil and gas.
They are also investing in our country – competing with Australia and other countries.
Competition is good but as an ordinary Papua New Guinean I think China is winning the race in Papua New Guinea.
It was a relief to hear that China respected Papua New Guinea decision as this is truly a geopolitics agreement between PNG and the US.
China is an economic powerhouse – remember how China stopped purchasing beef and grain products from Australia, as Australia accused China of creating the coronavirus Covid-19 in labs.
Australia lost billions of dollars in revenue and had to apologise to China and mend their diplomatic relations.
Papua New Guinea let’s think before making friends or signing agreements.
Just a years ago, Australia and the US did not care much about PNG, only when China starts investing and giving loans to Pacific nations that they show interest.

Bena Bridge,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Lese Majeste oversight body
To screen Lese Majeste complaints
The Southeast Asian Times Wesdnesday May 31, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 30, 2023

Re: "Lawyer group calls to screen lese majeste complaints", in Bangkok Post, Saturday May 27, 2023.
The intent of establishing such an oversight body, if made a compulsory entry point requirement in laying Section 112 charges, will surely be a positive step to properly respecting the monarchy.
It would lessen abuse and minimise the use of this law for personal or political purposes, especially if the panel includes at least one prominent and reputable representative of the Crown Administration.

Old Aussie,

Survey after survey shows that Thais
Do not mind corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 30, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday May 29, 2023

Re: "Make wages real", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Saturday May 13, 2023.
Lungstib writes it's time to look at why life here is so expensive and who is raking in the money in but still won't pay a living wage.
Sir, don't look any further for an answer.
A great deal of it is graft at all levels, be it infrastructure or politicians and everything in between.
Another one is monopolies of big companies like CP among others, controlling large swathes of the economy.
That alone could add up to half the price of goods and services.
The government stands by and does nothing.
Since the former senior country economist at the World Bank, Sawai Boonma, wrote his column about fighting corruption in 2010, nothing in Thailand has really changed.
And worst of all is that survey after survey shows the majority of Thais do not mind corruption as long as they get something out of it.
So, can we assume that the population itself is ultimately to blame that life here is so expensive?

S de Jong,

The people of Papua News Guinea wants life reflective
Of gold, copper, zinc, nickel oil and gas deposits
The Southeast Asian Times Monday May 29, 2023
First published in the National Friday May 26, 2023

Papua New Guinea boasts of several huge golds, copper and nickel mines with LNG gas deposits predicted to be the world’s largest gas deposit and of high quality and grade earning huge income for the country.
But what is as funny about this so-called rich and blessed country is that it cannot manage well money gained through its resources to bring tangible development and addressing the plights and welfare of its citizens.
A country of several gold mine with a largest LNG gas deposit and vast forests of high quality timber resources with its sea filled with marine resources.
This blessed Papua New Guinea must not remain like that in the eyes of other Pacific island neighbours and powerful countries of the world.
Fiji, which is smaller than Papua New Guinea do not have gold mines, LNG gas projects, timber and marine resources, its people are living a more decent and developed lifestyle than Papua New Guineans.
Why is this, a question we all Papua New Guineans need to ask ourselves.
Fiji has no valuable resources as us and even cash crops as coffee, tea, cocoa, copra and oil palm but has its own flight school.
It is a mockery for Papua New Guinea to send students to attend flight school in Fiji.
We must lead a life that is reflective of a country of gold, copper, zinc, nickel oil and gas deposits.
Remote communities, including islands and atolls community are hoping for schools and aid post to be built for them.
While some are hoping for a road to connect them to the outside world.
Others are hoping for footbridge, electricity, water supply, communication and radio signals in their communities.
Why our towns and cities daily filled with betel nut and cigarette sellers? Is this a good sign of a country that boast of all the resources of the world?
Why our towns and cities having beggars and drug addicts fronting the streets and public places daily?
Why are there prevalent robberies and other lawlessness in the country?
Why people are leaving their villages to take up residency in urban settlements and makeshift home and slums.
All those acts of eyesore activities and conduct will be minimised or stopped if we manage well funds from our resources in a meaningful and productive manner.

Paul Minga,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Thailand's public debt is much higher
Than the official 60 percent figure
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 28, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday May 26, 2023

Re: "Government faces 4 economic time bombs", Bangkok Post Opinion, Thursday May 18, 2023.
After reading the article by economist Chartchai Parasuk, I wish nothing but the best of luck to the incoming government; it's clear that whoever is in charge will have their hands full.
Firstly, even though Thailand s household debt to GDP ratio at about 86 percent favours quite well in comparison to other countries such as Switzerland, which has a rate of 129 percent, it should be mentioned that Thailand's non-mortgaged debt to GDP ratio is among the highest in the world at over 60 percent, while Switzerland's is at less than 5 percent. Mr Chartchai makes clear that the non-mortgaged household debt to GDP ratio is the critical figure since these contain high-interest rates, while the mortgaged ratios have low-interest rates and are usually long-term. Disturbingly, it's been found that those making less than 15,000 baht per month have seen their debts increase by over 25 percent during the last year.
Secondly, Thailand's public debt is much higher than the official 60 percent figure when one considers that lots of public debt is hidden in the government books at public banks, and the full cost of such things as the Covid-relief packages have yet to be fully accounted for.
Even worse is that there's been negative excess liquidity in the economy for about the last two years and that inflation has increased by over 8% during this period without a concomitant wage increase.


Call for Papua New Guinea government to refrain
Fom calling Papua New Guinea a Christian country.
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 27 2023
First published in the National Friday May 19, 2023

Is Papua New Guinea a Christian country in the true sense of the word?
Sadly, this is so far from the truth we see played out in PNG.
I don’t think Papua New Guinea is a Christian country.
We are simply professing to be a Christian country without providing tangible evidence to support our empty claim.
Deeply rooted corruption in a nation that profess to be a so-called Christian country is painting a wrong image on what true Christianity is genuinely about.
It hinders people from opening their hearts to know Christ.
I plead to our Government, of the day, to refrain from using the word Christian country.
Christianity comes from the noble of Christ and if we profess His Name.
Let’s live up to it.

Marcel Ezra Mapai
Author and speaker,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Khaka means house
Khana means party and group
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 26, 2023
First Published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday May 24, 2023

Yesterday, I went to Thammasat University at Tha Phrachan Campus and paid respect to the statue of Pridi Banomyong, the founder of the university and also a prime minister of the country.
His story in English, written on an engraved black marble at the bottom, said he was a leader of "Khaha Ratsodon, People's Party" not Khana Ratsadon, as I remembered.
According to Ajarn Plueng Na Nakhon's dictionary, Khaka means house while Khana means party and group.
I just hope someone helped correct this misspelling, as this name is important, isn't it?

Teacher Yongyut,
Nakhon Nayok,

Call for Democratic Party to back
Pita Limjaroenrat for Prime Minister
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 25, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 23, 2023

Re: "Lese majeste stance could sink Dems' PM vote", in Bangkok Post, Thursday May 18, 2023.
Now is the moment of truth for the Democrat Party: it alone has a long history in Thailand of adhering to the core principle of democracy: "rule by the people".
Thais have spoken: they want the Move Forward Party (MFP) and its leader Pita Limjaroenrat above other choices.
The Move Forward Party (MFP) and Pita have never been coy that they want to modify the way our lese majeste law has been administered.
The junta-appointed Senate stands in the way of MFP achieving this goal.
The Democrats should show that they believe that "vox populi, vox Dei" "the voice of the people is the voice of God" and back Pita for Prime Minister.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call to follow the King of Thailand's advice
On the Lese Majeste Law Section 112
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 24, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday May 22, 2023

Re: "Conflict or coup, warns academic", Bangkok Post, May 21, 2023
Move Forward Party (MFP) should not give up its core principles, even if it means joining the opposition.
If it compromises here and there to win votes, it'll lose the millions who thought Move Forward Party (MFP) will bring the reforms which we so badly need.
Move Forward Party (MFP) should list its priorities: what are "must haves", and what are "nice to haves"?
Hold your ground on the former, compromise on the latter.
For me, monopolies must be broken to lower living costs; education must focus on critical thinking for us to thrive in tomorrow's world.
Decentralisation, such as direct election of provincial governors, is key to make the government more responsive to voters.
But we should educate the public on why we should follow our national father's advice before voting on Section 112 - so that can wait.
Stay true to yourself.
If the situation turns south as a result, all will know that senators thwarted the will of the majority, hold them accountable, and turn to the Move Forward Party (MFP) in greater numbers.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for politicians to understand
Papua New Guinea not under colonial rule
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 23, 2023
First published in the National, Friday May 19, 2023

Papua New Guinea no longer lives under colonial or white men’s rule.
This is something our half-breed leaders or dual citizenship politicians should understand.
Our forefathers have fought hard to get this beautiful nation out from the hands of foreigners to make sure it stands on its own two feet.
Their vision was for Papua New Guineans to one day run their own nation.
We already gained independence.
We have doctors, teachers, nurses, lawyers, pilots, engineers, scientists, geologists and so forth.
We have our own parliament, our own constitution, our own national flag, our own airline, our own schools and universities, our own telecommunication company and the list goes on.
We are not primitives.

Frustrated Citizen
Papua New Guinea

Give Pita Limjaroenrat a chance
As Prime Minister of Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 22, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday May 20, 2023

Re: "Senators slow to warm to Pita's PM bid", in Bangkok Post, May 17,
While this letter is hardly Shakespeare, the results of the May 14 Thai election are just as overwhelming as they are undeniable.
The simple fact of the matter is that "the old guard" did not only unexpectedly lose Thailand's recent election in a result which shocked even many seasoned Thai political experts, but lost an election in what was arguably an outright shellacking delivered by the hands of very angry Thai voters who clearly all but chucked Thailand's past political norms straight out the window.
That all said, it is no secret to regular Post readers that I am a die-hard Trump supporter and, as such, I think I might have some advice for any Thai senator who might be "slow to warm" about the notion of putting Khun Pita Limjaroenrat into the prime minister's chair at only 42 years of age.
My message basically is to learn from my country's recent election mistakes: Specifically, back in 2016 or so, nobody took Trump supporters like me seriously. Indeed, so much of Washington's established Senate and Congress had become so disconnected from the will of increasingly poor blue-collar workers, a rapidly declining middle class and rural voters like me that the establishment simply assumed Hillary Clinton would crush us stupid "deplorables" as she called us at the polls.
My message to any Thai politician who might read this is that an unwillingness to accept change led my country to nothing but heartbreak, violence, unnecessary political polarisation, as well as the looming possibility of an authoritarian government being democratically elected, perhaps as early as 2024.
So, for any Thai senator or politician who might read my letter, I would say that
Mr Pita Limjaroenrat the MFP and Pheu Thai seems to have clearly won this election fair and square.
While I would prefer a more conservative prime minister, and while I really prefer monarchy and tend to dislike democracy, America's "Trump years" strongly suggest that the most constructive thing the Thai Senate can do is respect the overwhelming will recently expressed by Thailand's voters.
I would suggest the "powers that be" give Mr Pita a chance as prime minister and support the formation of a revised government which respects the minority rights of political parties who lost but is otherwise generally on par with these overwhelming election results.
I also suggest that whatever new administration emerges, deeply thank Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha for several decades of patriotic military and political service to a nation which he clearly loves.

Jason A Jellison,

Has any promised concession been given for return
Of fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday May 21, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday May 18, 2023

Re: "In Quote of presumptive premier", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Tues May 16, 2023.
The response of our presumptive premier, Khun Pita Limcharoenrat, to foreign media on the return of former premier, Khun Thaksin Shinawatra, was simple, wordy, but unhelpful.
Naturally, anyone has the right to return to his birthplace in Thailand from overseas.
But the question is whether, as a Thai fugitive and as the father of the leader of a major influential party, whether he will be treated by the next government as a privileged returnee without facing charges and sentences.
In allying with his daughter's party to command a majority vote in the House, has any promised concession been given?

Songdej Praditsmanont,

Move Forward Party proposal to reform Lese Majeste Law
In line with King Bhumibol's advice
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday May 18, 2023

Re: "Historic win faces hurdles", in Bangkok Post, May 16, and "Move Forward Party pushes to amend royal insult law," in Bangkok Post, February 10, 2021.
In deciding whether to support Pita Limjaroenrat for prime minister, our senators should look to our beloved national father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, for guidance.
Many senators are concerned that Mr Pita and the Move Forward Party (MFP) might damage the monarchy and curb the government's frequent usage of S112 to silence critics.
But the monarch was a prominent critic of how we've been using S112.
He does not seem to object to our having lese majeste laws but rather to how we've been using them.
HM King Bhumibol told us, "The king is a human being and, as such, should be subject to criticism.
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" (Grossman and Faulder, King Bhumibol Adulyadej; A Life's Work, Editions Didier Millet, 2012).
Move Forward Party (MFP) proposal to reform our usage of S112 seems to be in line with King Bhumibol's advice, for Move Forward Party (MFP) wants to allow honest criticism, sharply reduce punishment, and allow only the Royal Household Bureau instead of anybody at all to file lese majeste complaints.
Since the Royal Household Bureau would know King Bhumibol's wisdom far better than almost any other Thai, this step would greatly reduce abuse.
In any event, such changes would be made through parliament, and senators would have ample opportunity to provide input.
Senators should follow our beloved national father in listening to the people's voice and protecting the royal institution.

Burin Kantabutra,

New Thai government openly challenges Beijing
By supporting Taiwan independence
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday May 13, 2023

Re: "Senators coy over PM pick vote", in Bangkok Post, Saturday 13, 2023.
History could repeat itself for the election when the party with the largest number of elected MPs cannot form the government.
The only difference could be that this time the party with the highest number of Member of Parliament seats might not be the Pheu Thai Party, but instead the Move Forward Paty backed by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
It is alarming that of the many young supporters of the Move Forward Party who vote for the party because of dissatisfaction with the Prayuth government, only a few are aware of the background of Mr Thanathorn, who still wields enormous influence within the party.
Notwithstanding his support for the student movement and protests to undermine the monarchy in the name of democracy, Mr Thanathorn went as far as openly supporting the Taiwan independence and the illegal riots in Hong Kong from 2019-2020.
Imagine a new Thai government that openly challenges Beijing by supporting Taiwan independence.
Would that put the economy and security in jeopardy?
In such circumstances, the 250 senators may have all the reason not to support the Move Forward Party to form a government, and they could compromise and vote for an outsider as prime minister, with the support of Pheu Thai and the Bhumjaithai Party, the likely first and second runner up in this lacklustre election.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,

Thai senators have good reason
Not to support the Move Forward Party
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 18, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday May 15, 2023

Re: "Senators coy over PM pick vote", in Bangkok Post Saturday May 13, 2023.
History could repeat itself for the election when the party with the largest number of elected Members of Parliament cannot form the government.
The only difference could be that this time the party with the highest number of Member of Parliament seats might not be the Pheu Thai Party, but instead the Move Forward Paty backed by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
It is alarming that of the many young supporters of the Move Forward Party who vote for the party because of dissatisfaction with the Prayuth government, only a few are aware of the background of Mr Thanathorn, who still wields enormous influence within the party.
Notwithstanding his support for the student movement and protests to undermine the monarchy in the name of democracy, Mr Thanathorn went as far as openly supporting the Taiwan independence and the illegal riots in Hong Kong from 2019-2020.
Imagine a new Thai government that openly challenges Beijing by supporting Taiwan independence. Would that put the economy and security in jeopardy?
In such circumstances, the 250 senators may have all the reason not to support the Move Forward Party to form a government, and they could compromise and vote for an outsider as prime minister, with the support of Pheu Thai and the Bhumjaithai Party, the likely first and second runner up in this lacklustre election.

Yingwai Suchaovanich

Thai's should be able
To disagree with the King
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 17, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday May 14, 2023

Re: "Critics' feast", in Bangkok Post PostBag, May 11, 2023 and "Don't mess with lese majeste law: Prayut", in Bangkok Post, May 6, 2023.
Eric Bahrt boldly wonders whether enforcing the lese majeste law is not an act of lese majeste in itself and that by enforcing the law one is in effect disagreeing with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great's statement in 2005 that "the use of the lese majeste law ultimately damages the monarchy" and thus one should be allowed to disagree with the King.
Perhaps activist Srisuwan Janya and the cabinet's legal expert Wissanu Krea-ngam should take advantage of this opportunity to clear things up.
On the other hand, it should be food for thought for journalists from this newspaper as well.

S de Jong,

ASEAN call for continued engagement with Myanmar
Is a case of floggng a dead horse
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 16, 2023

Indonesia’s call as ASEAN chair 2023 to continue engagement with Myanmar military is a case of flogging a dead horse.
We read in The Southeast Asian Times 14 May that Indonesia, ASEAN chair 2023, calls on ASEAN to continue engagement with Myanmar military.
So what tangible or qualitative difference has ASEAN’s engagement with the rogue military rulers of Myanmar made since the military takeover over two years ago?
I am inclined to believe the call is a case of flogging a dead horse!

Rajend Naidu,

Thailand's two major parties have same wish
To halt return of pro-military party in election
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday May 8, 2023

Re: "Minority govt perils", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, Monday May 8, 2023.
It is a bleak thought, somewhat, to realise what the 250 senators could do in selecting our next prime minister and having a government with a minority of Members of Parliament s in the House of Representatives.
Painfully so, when the outcome of two polls appears to indicate that no single party will end up with 251 MPs out of a total of 500.
Based on the polls, a rough calculation could be 320 members (240+80) for two major parties.
To stymie the senators, the two could form an alliance since both appear to people to have the national interest at heart.
One is experienced and relatively efficient, but tainted with a few past lapses, and the other idealistic, young and extremely keen and confident to make Thailand better.
Hearteningly, both have the same wish in precluding the return of the junta-incumbents whose expected fortunes on May 14 appear to be miserable.
This scenario is attainable only if we all have the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship.

Songdej Praditsmanont,

Former PM Thaksin Sinawatra could have been
Thailand's greatest elected leader
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 14, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday May 5, 2023

Re: "Thaksin's tweet sparks debate", and "In Quote", in Bangkok Post Tuesday May 2, 2023.
Thaksin doesn't need anybody's permission to return to care for his new grandchild s a Thai; it's his right to return home at any time.
As a graduate of criminal justice Eastern Kentucky University, class of 1975, he knows that all are equal before the law.
He'll have the same visitation rights as any other inmate and can hug all seven grandchildren through his bars.
Years ago, I was introduced to then-prime minister Thaksin, and he said, "Oh, you're the letter writer!"
Had he followed my common-sense writings on governance, he'd be billions of baht poorer but able to spend his retirement adored by his grandchildren with an unblemished legacy.
He could have been Thailand's greatest elected leader, bar none, but he chose the low road.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for investigation into Papua New Guinea's
Forest Management Area (FMA) logging project
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 13, 2023
First published in the National, Thursday May 4, 2023

Since last year, the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority\rquote s (PNGFA) Project Acquisition branch has been working to acquire forest areas in Madang and around the country.
And in this process, the rights of the landowner have been trampled on.
Landowners in the Middle Ramu Block 3 Forest Management Area (FMA) are now very well aware of this acquisition drive.
We unknowingly assisted in the process thinking that we were assisting to speed up the process of the acquisition of our area for logging.
But we now realise that after obtaining landowner consent for an Forest Management Area (FMA) logging project to occur in our areas, the officers involved in this acquisition do not put these projects on public tender.
Instead, they select a developer of their own choice and award our forest areas to the developer who entertains them.
These officers are in the process of acquiring Raikos Forest Management Area and Ramu Block 4 Gama local level government in Madang, through the same illegal process.
The Marape Government, through Rai Coast MP Kessy Sawang, Usino-Bundi MP Jimmy Uguro, Governor Ramsey Pariwa and Middle Ramu MP Harwai Kamdaru, must rein in and investigate these officers within the Forest Authority and question their acquisition process and ulterior motives.
These projects are within your constituencies.
Landowners are uneducated and don\rquote t have the financial capability to hire lawyers to fight their cases in court.
Proactive measures now will prohibit future illegal logging project acquisition from illiterate landowners.

Maus blong garamut,
Papua New Guinea

Elections in Thailand
A road show to look progressive
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12, May 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 5, May 2023

Re: "Poster boys and girls near final straight", in Bangkok Post PostScript, Sunday April 30, 2023.
Yes, the Thai election season of festivities and freebies has begun.
All parties are now playing the game of snakes and ladders.
The men who used to don military uniforms loaded with medals and limbs decorated with pricy wristwatches and rings, now wear jackets with big numerals won in an election lottery.
The parties are already nervous about a spate of lawsuits and decisions from various courts to disqualify them.
The soggy flags, posters, and policies will keep us guessing about the fate of Thai democracy.
A rat race to join a new coalition government is on the cards.
In addition, the spectre of another coup may repeat, brewing a new crisis. It has happened in the past and may happen again.
In any country where the military remains the supreme authority or a catalyst, the elections usually become a road show to look progressive.
Some examples are Turkey, Pakistan, Sudan, South America, and a few Asean countries.
The election fiascos have a shared history that binds Thailand with its neighbours. Let us hope that things are different this election cycle.
I am sure Roger will have a good time covering the twists and turns of Thai politics.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Papua New Guinea does not have laws
To protect prisoners from deadly force by law enforcers
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 11, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday May 2, 2023

It is utterly disgusting that the Internal Security Minister and Correctional Service Commissioner are justifying the killing of the 16 prison escapees as the right thing to do.
Although prisoners do not have full constitutional rights they must be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.
Papua New Guinea does not have sufficient laws that protect convicts from the use of deadly force by law enforcers at least restraint and human dignity must be observed.
However, international institutions such as the United Nations and Amnesty International require that deadly force should be used in a finite set of circumstance, for example, when escapees are armed and shooting back, where deadly force is the last resort.
Among those killed, some were remandees waiting for their cases to come up, and it takes months and even years to process cases in our slow criminal justice system.
The 24 prisoners attempted to escape the Lakeimata prison in West New Britain on April 23 by cutting open part of the fence.
Commissioner Steven Pokanis confirmed that of the 24 prisoners who fled from the high security facility, 16 were shot dead, one was injured and seven others were still at large.
Opposition Leader Joseph Lelang claimed the justification by Minister Peter Tsiamalili Jnr was irresponsible and insensitive to the grieving families and will only serve to encourage police brutality.
This is not the first time prisoners have been summarily executed during an escape.
Perhaps prisons are not supposed to be a gangster’s paradise but certainly they are not supposed to be hell either.
The appalling conditions of some of the prison facilities around the country due to poor management is one factors forcing prisoners to dash for freedom.

David Lepi
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Institutionalised corruption is widespread
In all levels of government in Papua New Guinea.
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 10, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday May 2, 2023

A corrupt conduct is an action or decision made that is not in accordance with the generally accepted best-practice principles and norms of society, which is not intended to benefit the public.
A key manifestation of corrupt conduct is sustenance of power and control over resources and people, for self-benefit.
It applies to both individuals and institutions of government and private sector.
Institutionalised corruption is widespread in all levels of government in Papua New Guinea.
It started with the adoption and implementation of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments in 1998 (1998 Organic Law).
The 1998 Organic Law completely changed the manner in which the national elections were conducted and the political landscape.
The elections became a national disaster.
The Law expanded and made Parliament, National Government, and National Executive Council (NEC) disproportionally too powerful, relative to the provincial and local level governments.
This development led to wasteful misuse of public funds and resources under the expansionary fiscal policy that the Government is currently pursuing.
The misguided fiscal policy made Papua New Guinea become a heavily indebted country from borrowings, driven by corrupt motivations.
For example, the 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 loan funds provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were widely misused and never fully accounted for.
Further, the Prime Minister is swaying the National Budget funds far and wide to amass political numbers to stay in power and control.
The result of the corrupt political regime and government is high unemployment and inflation in Papua New Guinea.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout of Papua New Guinea is intended to address its own loan funds that were misused by the Government, which has been conveniently termed by the Fund as “Improving Governance”.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout will actually make the country worse off, with deterioration in unemployment and cost of living, because increasing inflation from exchange rate depreciation will accelerate business rationalisation and closures.
The bailout will inflate corruption in Papua New Guinea, and will not lessen it.
Papua New Guinea must implement legal, institutional and political reforms to reduce corruption and government spending, and live within its means, rather than living with borrowed money.

Concerned citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Motorists ignore traffic lights
At zebra crossings in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 May 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday April 29, 2023

Re: "Mean streets of the capital", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Saturday April 29, 2023.
This editorial reports about new zebra crossings in the capital; yes, in Thong Lor we now have one more zebra crossing with traffic lights, in addition to the one at Camillian Hospital and the one in front of Thong Lor Police Station, which was recently upgraded to a red zebra crossing.
Did it change anything?
No, every day, hundreds of motorists ignore the traffic lights at the zebra crossings, even the one at the police station.
Do the motorists have to worry?
Not at all; they continue to ignore the red lights.
The police must know it because it happens within their view, but no action at all, probably because it is too much work to stop unruly motorists and issue them a ticket.
Thong Lor is one of the meanest streets in Bangkok, with speeding motorists and very noisy vehicles; who cares.
Outpatients and nurses use the zebra crossing at the Camillian Hospital; their written complaints about motorists jumping the red lights are being ignored by the police.
This is the main cause of the mean streets in Bangkok; there is no enforcement of the traffic regulations by the police. Speed bumps and speed limits are useless.
I experience this every day.
The only solution is to educate the motorists by issuing traffic tickets; Thong Lor police could collect at least 100,000 baht daily.

Marcus Redfort,

Jeepney drivers and operators in Philippines
Want government subsidies and assistance
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 8, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday May, 4 2023

Jeepneys are a point of pride for the nation and a crucial part of its transportation system, serving as vital last-mile transportation.
They are a vital aspect of the Philippines’ cultural and national identity.
To improve public transportation, the Philippine government introduced the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) in 2017.
The PUVMP’s objective is to replace old buses, jeepneys, and other public utility vehicles with more comfortable, safer, and environmentally friendly alternatives in three years.
However, jeepney drivers find it difficult to afford the expensive new vehicles, which cost between P2.6 million and P2.8 million, and must pay for the additional expenses of establishing cooperatives.
This means that standard fares for commuters are expected to rise, which will hurt students and minimum-wage workers.
While jeepney drivers and operators are not against modernization, they require government subsidies and other forms of assistance.
The COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and corruption have made it challenging for Filipinos, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to adapt to the rapid changes.
The government must ensure that the modernization process includes the affected industry and provides subsidies that can be repaid over a longer period of time. Furthermore, using locally produced units rather than relying on foreign firms for upgraded vehicles would be beneficial.
Modernizing jeepneys is critical, but imposing strict deadlines is not a fair solution. Despite the existing system’s flaws, the government is still responsible for protecting vulnerable individuals, such as drivers and operators.
The government must address their concerns and implement an inclusive modernization plan that considers the impact on impoverished people.
Additionally, jeepneys have been an important part of Philippine culture for many years, and it will be fascinating to see if the culture can continue despite the changes.
In conclusion, the government’s modernization plan must be comprehensive and inclusive, considering the needs of jeepney drivers and commuters.
Although the goal of the initiative is to improve public transportation and reduce the impact of climate change, it should not come at the expense of human rights.
The government must ensure that the regulations are not discriminatory against the poor and provide assistance to those in need. It will take a collaborative effort to delay jeepney modernization and prevent the elimination of these cultural icons.

Daisy-Ree V. Ferrer,
Quezon City University,
Batasan Campus,

How can the Laos one party state contribute
To democratic governance in ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 7, 2023

We learn with disquiet from The Southeast Asian Times report ‘ Laos political activist who called for end of one party rule survives assisination attempt
( 6/5/23 ) that for daring to speak out about human rights issues and calling for an end of one party rule in Laos political activist Anousa Jack Luangsuphom 25 has been shot and is fighting for his life.
According to Amnesty International regional official Joe Freeman “ Laos is one of the most repressive countries in Asia “ and “ the Communist ruled, single-party country is known to stifle dissenting voices and political opposition “.
Is it any wonder then that the Laos government “ did not identify the perpetrator despite the available footage “.
My question is how come such a repressive country is a member of ASEAN?
How can it be expected to contribute in consolidating democratic good governance in the region ?

Rajend Naidu,

Development in Thailand
Connected to Indo-Pacific region
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 6, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday April 29, 2023

Re: "The politics of post-poll govt formation" and "Any peaceful solutions to the conflict over Taiwan?" in Bangkok Post Opinion, Friday April 21, 2023
On the same opinion page, two giants of international affairs express their views. Highly respected scholar Thitinan Pongsudhirak says, "more time is needed beyond this election for change and adjustment to take place in favour of pro-democracy forces".
And former Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya asks regarding China-Taiwan, "But how to peacefully end an unfinished war with each party seeking opposite, and even clashing, goals?"
Developments in Thailand as well as the Southeast and East Asia regions increasingly connected with the Indo-Pacific region, are vital parts in the emergence of a new world order.
It could strengthen our peace-building role if we conceptualise the challenges in a polycentric framework using two coordinates: how much priority is given to a healthy environment as our common goal, with the economy and state-governed security as enabling factors, versus the highest priority for military security and economic interests with the environment reduced to our backyard, with the lowest priority.
And, how much power do we adhere to states as owners of territory or corporations who can acquire legal ownership of natural resources by commercial transaction in proportion to the full "ownership" of sovereignty by the people? Should ownership be transformed into trusteeship?
In a polycentric world, each country will adhere to a typical priority rank of these factors.
If this framework would be accepted as an analytic tool for dialogue, with supporting evidence on the impacts of various combinations of factors including for future generations by independent academia, the Asia-Pacific region, with Thailand at its heart, would become a welcome lab for 'Earth System Governance'.
It is the assumption of the authors of the book Reflections on Earth Trusteeship. Mother Earth and a new 21st-century governance paradigm, to be launched April 28 at Chulalongkorn University, that an Eco-Peace scenario grounded in Earth Trusteeship will produce the best outcome for all.

Hans Van Willenswaard.

Philippines Land Transportation Office
Provides preferential treatment to LBTQIA+
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 5, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday May 1, 2023

What was Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Jay Art Tugade thinking? Recently brought to our attention was the Land Transportation Office (LTO) advisory to the effect that LBTQIA+ are now included among senior citizens, pregnant women, persons with disability (PWDs), and other disadvantaged groups, as similarly entitled to preferential treatment via the “priority lanes” set up in all Land Transportation Office (LTO) offices across the archipelago.
Needless to say, that really threw everyone for a loop, including, most ironically, the LBTQIA+ community most of whom, through their organization called “Bahaghari” (rainbow), said for their group to be lumped together with persons with physical or mental handicaps who need help is “dangerous.”
Not only is it a grotesque and really obtuse idea, but it also hurts senior citizens, pregnant women, PWDs, and others similarly situated, who are now practically robbed of their rightful and legal spaces on those lanes as able-bodied persons are now shamelessly asserting entitlement to the same priority. Is it too difficult for the Land Transportation Office (LTO) bright boys to imagine how those people, despite being straight, can so easily pretend to be LBTQIA+ just to get ahead of everyone else?
It negates the legislative intent to give senior citizens, et al. the “priority” they deserve in the delivery of government service.
Seriously, what is the Land Transportation Office (LTO) protocol to determine the “genders” of many charlatans and impostors competing against senior citizens,
et al.?
Can its security guards accost them and interrogate them about their sexual preferences to justify their being on those lanes?
Sad to say, as crazy ideas from government agencies go, this one most likely takes the cake.
This is an egregious overreach on the part of Land Transportation Office (LTO) . It should put the kibosh on this stupidity at once.

Stephen L. Monsanto,

Papua New Guinea coronation money guzzlers
To attend the coronation of King Charles
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday May 4, 2023
First Published in the National Tuesday May 2, 2023

It has been reported that 31 people are travelling with the Governor-General
(G-G) and his wife to see the coronation of King Charles.
I estimated that the airfares alone will cost up to K880,000.
Plus, accommodation in London will cost another K31,000.
The only two who maybe will be allowed into Westminster Abbey are the G-G
and his wife.
I say maybe as even peers and earls and some royals are not attending, so why do these hangers-on think they will “attend” the coronation.
This is nothing but a blatant abuse of power to extract monies that can be used for the urgent health and educational needs.
For example, the continuous instances of relatives having to provide medicines, food, etc for a sick relative in a public hospital.
Or the schools outside Port Moresby lacking basic supplies such as chalk, books and desks.
Those coronation money guzzlers will be among a small crowd watching as this king and wife pass by within 40 seconds.
Waste of money! A TV in Port Moresby will show the whole thing free!

Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea

Call for class action provision in Malaysia
To save the environment
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 3, 2023
First published in the Star, Monday April 24, 2023

The apex court’s judgment on Taman Rimba Kiara is a great achievement for the rakyat as it sends a clear signal that the judiciary stood firm with the rakyat to save the environment and ecological aspects of the park for present and future generations.
We, the rakyat, are hopeful that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL)’s new mayor Datuk Kamarulzaman Mat Salleh will drive home the message to his team for fresh pro-rakyat thinking.
In addition, we trust the Federal Territories Land and Mines Office (PPTGWP) will get the same message.
There is no need to continue with the “business as usual” attitude.
We at Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (SKL) look to the Law and Institutional Reform Minister to initiate a “class action” provision.
It is celebration time for the Save Taman Rimba Kiara Group, TTDI RA and many others who have been waiting for this judgment. Congratulations to them.
As a matter of fact, those who had been irresponsible in pursuing the legal action against the rakyat and wasting taxpayers’ money must be made accountable for the losses.
We at Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (SKL) have been advocating for the election of the mayor and councillors for Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) as well as all other local councils to make them accountable and responsible towards the rakyat.
Reinstate local government elections at national level.

Datuk M. Ali,
Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (SKL)
Kuala Lumpur

Call for Thailand
To legalise gambling
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 1, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday April 21, 2023

Re: "Govt cash cow", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Friday April 2, 2023
I fully agree with Khun Samanea Saman that the Government Lottery Office is a cash cow, and the priorities of this government like those of its predecessors are grossly misplaced.
A clean government would not place running a lottery over fighting corruption; quite the contrary.
Not only that, the government should get out of running games of chance which the lottery surely is.
Gambling is not a vital public service but a cash cow that the private sector is drooling to get into, as shown by the burgeoning underground lottery.
Legalise gambling, turn it over to the private sector, and control and tax it heavily, like with the alcoholic beverage industry.

Burin Kantabutra,

Myanmar will remain serious international concern
If Myanmar military expected to take initiative
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 31, 2023

It is very good of former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ( who is now the deputy chair of The Elders, a group of former world leaders that work to promote peace ) to make time to go to Myanmar to meet with Armed Forces
( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and urge the Myanmar military mob who had grabbed power from the democratically elected government “ to start constructive dialogue with all concerned parties … take the initiative to lift Myanmar out of the post coup political crisis” ( ‘ Myanmar crisis serious international concern ‘ warns former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ‘ The Southeast Asian Times 27/4/23 ).
I wonder how many people of Myanmar believe that will happen given the military’s record over the two years since the coup?
The Myanmar crisis is indeed of “ serious international concern “ as Ban Ki-moon has warned.
It will remain that way if we expect the Myanmar military to take the initiative to do what’s right.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Malaysia to map out new strategy
For the rubber industry
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 30, 2023
First published in the Star, Thursday April 13, 2023

The rubber industry in Malaysia has passed through major crossroads, but challenges continue to plague it in the upstream, mid-stream and downstream sectors.
Mired in poverty, 450,000 rubber smallholders perennially plead for more government assistance to augment the low farm gate price of rubber.
Yet our Standard Malaysian Rubber (SMR) standard Malaysian rubber factories are facing procurement challenges for raw materials because subsidies via the Rubber Production Incentive (Insentif Pengeluaran Getah) failed to arrest the annual decline in natural rubber production.
Vast areas of rubber plantations are now left unharvested, with the loss estimated to be RM3bil per year.
Our dipped latex products factories now depend on imported latex concentrates as smallholders are not incentivised to collect latex anymore.
Meanwhile, dry rubber products manufacturers have to compete in the brutal global market.
As a result, only about 60,000 tonnes of dry rubber are consumed locally per year.
Have our past rubber master plans failed to achieve their objectives?
Apart from meagre production subsidies, there has been no sustainable plans to increase producers’ income, leaving smallholders vulnerable to the international commodity price.
At the same time, local Standard Malaysian Rubber (SMR) factories are facing procurement issues for raw materials. The Malaysian Rubber Board’s epricing system is laudable, but it does not benefit smallholders in Sabah as the state continues to adopt a monopsony system, which results in even lower farm gate prices.
It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that smallholders’ income can only be increased by higher productivity and/or higher prices for their produce.
Developing new rubber raw materials that can generate higher sales value to our smallholders must therefore be a top priority for the nation’s rubber research activities.
Before we plunge deeper into the abyss, our nation’s rubber experts and industry leaders should join hands now to map out a new strategy for the industry.

Chik Chan Chee,

There are other ways
To launch a space rocket
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 29, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 27, 2023

Re: "Giant SpaceX rocket left craters, serious damage to launchpad", in Bangkok Post, Monday April 2, 2023.
There are other ways to launch a spacecraft. A large proportion of the propulsion is needed to get a heavy craft off the launch pad and its initial 20 or so metres into the air.
Picture it as a truck laden with boulders, which has stalled to a stop, while heading uphill on a steep grade.
To get the thing rolling again, the driver has to goose the gas pedal intensely.
Launchpads for space travel are most often located near the equator and their trajectories are eastward - to take slight advantage of the Earth's rotation.
That's fine, but they're all located near sea level, where air is thick, therefore offering more air resistance than higher elevations.
Here's a proposal for a space launch site which is closer to the equator than all major launch sites currently in existence: Kenya.
Kenya also has the tallest mountain in Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro.
I haven't been there though I'd love to visit, but perhaps Kenyans could build a launch pad part way up the dormant volcano btw, I've built buildings on volcanic rock.
It fractures easily, but probably absorbs heat well.
In a southwestern US desert, there is a prototype rocket launch apparatus the size of a five-storey house, which launches propane tank-sized rockets.
It uses centrifugal force to propel the rocket hundreds of metres up, until the projectile fires its propulsion fuel to go further.
Could Thailand partake in space launch activities?
But it would take innovative thinking, investment and collective will.
However, there could be big returns on investment ... the sky is no limit.

Ken Albertsen,

Call for Armed Forces of the Philippines to respond
To ballooning military and other uniformed pension services
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 28, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday April 15, 2023

This is in response to Inquirer’s article, “Gov’t eyes reforms in military personnel’s pension to avoid ‘fiscal collapse’” Philippine Inquirer March 28, 2023.
The article pertains to Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s proposal for a radical change to the military and uniformed personnel (MUP) pension as part of the government program to address the ballooning government budget deficit and avert possible fiscal collapse.
The current military and uniformed personnel (MUP) pension system covers retirees from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police, Philippine Public Safety College, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Corrections.
The services rendered by these various defense, security, police, and other uniformed services are generally referred to as “common goods.”
By technical definition, common goods are distinguished by nonrivalry and nonexcludability.
Nonrivalry in consumption means that “one person’s consumption of a good does not preclude consumption of the good by others.”
Nonexcludability means “there is no effective way of excluding individuals from the benefit of the good once it comes into existence.”
Everyone can simultaneously obtain the benefit from a common good such as street lighting, a global positioning system, or environmental protection.
On the other hand, the Philippine Constitution specifically provides an equal protection clause that guarantees no law shall be enacted that will exclude someone regardless of race, nationality, or religion from benefiting national defense, public highway system, or police services.
Since the military and uniformed personnel (MUP) pension is not a “common goods” but rather an individual pension benefit, therefore pension for retired military and uniformed personnel (MUP) has to be taken out from the Department of National Defense (DND) budget, and so with the Philippine National Police and other uniformed services from their respective department budgets.
To do this, the Department of National Defense (DND) has to do a lot of organizational soul-searching within the Armed Forces of the Philippines and so with other departments with a uniformed service attached to its organizational structure.
On the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the persistent issue of officers’ use of enlisted personnel as personal drivers, cooks, and gardeners continues despite the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFA) effort to get rid of this practice.
The utilization of junior officers enlisted in various Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), garrison noncombat units is squandered, serving menial janitorial jobs and errands despite that these enlisted personnel are receiving salaries comparable to public school teachers and public nurses.
In some isolated cases, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers on trial for some administrative cases under the Unified Military Justice System Articles of War have been on floating inactive status for years and continue to receive basic salary and allowances but when cases are resolved, these officers are already eligible to receive military pension.
Probably it’s time for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other uniformed services to rationalize and revisit the original purpose of the various military and police specialization and organization in order to come up with a responsive armed force attune to changes and in response to the ballooning military and other uniformed pension services.
By then, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other uniformed services can have a better argument on military and uniformed personnel (MUP) pension anchored on sound economic principles and rationality, rather than through emotions and self-preservation.

Proscoro Ervin Mundo, Ph.D.,
faculty of management and development studies,
University of the Philippines Open University,

Systematic corruption is a pervasive problem
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday Apri 27, 2023
First published in the National, Thursday April 20, 2023

I would like to shed some light on the issue of systematic corruption in this beautiful resource-rich country.
Systematic corruption is a pervasive problem that plagues many countries around the world including Papua New Guinea.
It is a form of corruption that is deeply entrenched in the political and economic systems of a country, and it affects every aspect of society.
Simply put, systematic corruption is defined as the use of public office for private gain, often with the aim of maintaining power or privilege.
Systematic corruption can be in the form of:
Bribery: Bribery refers to the offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of values as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty; Embezzlement “Stil pasin”: Theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer;
Nepotism “Wantok system/ save pes”: The practice among those with power of influence of favouring relatives, friends or associates especially by giving the jobs;
Cronyism “save pes”: The appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications; and,
Patronage: A type of corruption or favouritism in which a party in power rewards groups, families or ethnicity for their electoral support using illicit gifts or fraudulently awarded appointments or government contracts.
To combat systematic corruption, there needs to be a multi- faceted approach.
Government needs to adequately fund and empower the system that is already in place to curb the rampant cases of corruption.
These include the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate and Independent and Independent Commission Against Corruption.
A Post Courier report on March 22 titled “Fraud Squad Office Struggling to Investigate Cases” is a worrying sign.
The report further says: “To this end, no effort has been made by the Government on how they can support and assist in investigating the corruption complaints due to manpower and resources shortages.
The directorate is struggling to investigate multi-million-kina fraud cases because they do not have stationary nor they have a proper office.”

This is blatant ignorance by the Government.
Sadly, not much has been done by the current and previous governments to adequately fund this important institution.
Transparency International’s corruption perception index in 2022 shows Papua New Guinea ranked 130 out of 180 countries in the world.
This is a worrying sign for Papua New Guinea as it tries to become the richest black country in the world.
There needs to be a cultural shift in how corruption is viewed.
It is important to create a culture of transparency and accountability where individuals are encouraged to speak out against corruption and where those who engage in corrupt practices are held accountable for their actions.
In conclusion, systematic corruption is a pervasive issue in Papua New Guinea.
It is a complex issue that requires a multi- faceted approach to address.

Joel Willie,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Thai border authorities
To treat refugees humanely
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 26, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday April 11, 2023

Re: "Refugees 'voluntarily' go home," in Bangkok Post Saturday April 8, 2023
Tak Deputy Governor Surapol Wongsukphisarn is to be praised for emphasising that authorities stress voluntary repatriation of those fleeing Myanmar fighting not forcing them to go to areas which might be dangerous.
Thus, in this case, Thai rangers escorted the returnees to boats which would take them across the Moei River to safety.
Tak's practices are fully in keeping with Thailand's agreement with the US to commit to advance the peace, sustainability and prosperity of our two countries and the Indo-Pacific region.
In their joint communique of July 10, 2022, Thai DPM and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed that Thailand and the US would strengthen our shared values and ideals, including the rule of law; protecting human rights and human security; adhering to humanitarian principles, including non-refoulement.
Thai border authorities in all provinces should take the same care to adhere to our promises as Tak has done, and treat refugees humanely including ensuring that those who wish to return can do so safely.

Burin Kantabutra,

Thailand still waiting for Paetongtarn Shinawatra
To say no, yes or maybe to joining coalition
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 24, 2923
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 20, 2023

Re: " 'No alliance' with coup makers," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 19, 2023.
So Paetongtarn "Ung-Ing" Shinawatra, a Pheu Thai Party PM candidate, finally said no to joining any coalition government containing the coup-makers after the May 14 election.
Or did she?
Ms Ung-Ing said: "We did not give a clear answer previously because we wanted to show respect to the people as the election date was not yet fixed.
"If you ask me if we want to join hands with those involved in the two previous coups, the answer is clear in itself."

That's her answer, crystal clear!
So no, yes or maybe?
The people are still waiting, Ms Ung Ing.
Do you have the courage to shout out a loud and clear no?
Do you need your father's permission?
Or will his jail-free return to Thailand be the price we pay for no change?
Move Forward Party knows where it stands.
Do you?

Sad Optimist,

Thailand does not come close to being admired
For its values and inspiration
The Southeast Asian Times Monday April 24, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 20 April, 2023

Re: "Body art 'can boost Thai soft power,' " in Bangkok Post, April 16, 2023 and in Bangkok Post, April 17, 2023
As 18 months have elapsed since my previous letter on the topic, yer 'umble hopes to avoid the slings and arrows of PostBag's diligent monitors of "serial single-topic writers."
However, allow me to once again spit in the wind regarding Thailand's derisory misappropriation of the "soft power" concept.
The original and nearly lone promoter of political "soft power" is Joseph S Nye, a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. In his 1990 book, Nye posited that a country's ability to influence other nations without using coercion or force is a sign of "soft power."
This is achieved, Nye said, through and this is a key part Thai leaders seem to ignore the attractiveness of a country's political and foreign policies, as well as culture.
The idea was largely dismissed as most pragmatic theorists agree that nation states typically respond only to force and economic incentives.
How does "body art" even fit into the government's "5F" approach to promoting Thai "film, food, fashion, festivals, and fighting?
Yes, the food can be amazing, but Thai film is a tough sell internationally, and people everywhere seem to enjoy their own fashion and festivals.
Promoting tattoos seems desperate.
Foreigners can visit Thailand, even live here on a permanent basis, and enjoy all of its cultural amenities to their heart's content.
But Thailand's disappointing global ranking in education and training, human rights, and other issues to say nothing of military and political corruption and infrastructure failures don't come close to meeting Nye's criteria as a nation admired for its values and inspirational in its prosperity and openness.

Khun Bill,

Papua New Guinea engineers and maintenance crew
Keep Air Nuigini flying with zero accidents
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 23, 2023
First published in the National, Thursday April 20, 2023

Is Air Niugini dying a slow, painful death?
The only reason Air Niugini is up in the skies is because of our smart engineers.
Whenever you safely disembark “long narapela ron blo PX” thank the engineers and the maintenance crew.
Air Niugini or PX its airline code, Iata Designator, is falling apart because of the years of politicising the national flag carrier like everywhere else across the state-owned enterprises.
Consequently, the fleet management, operation and aptitude for business had greatly suffered bringing the airline company to its lowest point for the very first time.
Air Niugini is among the few or if not one or two airlines in the world still flying the Fokker aircrafts.
Do you know that the manufacturer of your favourite Fokker 100 flying to Kagamuga, Tokua or Nadzab, and the lighter Fokker variants Fokker F27 and Fokker F28 servicing the smaller airports like my beautiful Mendi, declared bankruptcy on May 15, 1997 and subsequently folded?
This means finding spare parts and living up to the demands of wear-and-tear are serious problems.
It is sad to say but the most feasible approach to keep the aircraft flying would be to salvage or cannibalise parts of defunct and decommissioned Fokker craft littering the hangars.
And that is basically what the PX engineers are doing – improvising with whatever they can find to keep the “kumuls” in the skies.
Nonetheless, our hardworking engineers and their maintenance crew, who are often under-rated, yet have held an unimpeachable record of zero-accidents and fatalities since Air Niugini took to the skies in 1973.
Lukim yu ken long narapela ron blong Air Niugini.

David Lepi
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Who is responsible for fire
In northern Chiang Mai
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 21, 2023
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday April 11, 2023

e: "Forest suffers 'worst wildfire in 20 years'," in Bangkok Post, Friday April 7, 2023.
Living in the very far north of Chiang Mai province and up against the Burmese border, my district has been very badly affected by smoke pollution, and if I'd followed government guidelines, I wouldn't have gone outside the door for three weeks.
We have big mango and orange plantations which don't burn, farmers producing vegetables for local consumption who are not burning, and hillside ethnic minority villages Lahu, Lisu and Akha, who this year have mainly halted burning.
Two weeks ago, massive amounts of smoke and falling burnt leaf remains came down from the forest not one kilometre from our local nursery school full of 4 and 5-year-olds badly susceptible to this smoke pollution.
Whether they are legally owned areas, national forest or just areas of degradation people want to use doesn't really matter; what does is that the local villagers know who is responsible for that fire and did nothing.
The locals know centralised government doesn't give a damn and that a fire and smoke police doesn't exist, but for the life of me, I can't understand why they don't organise themselves, force the headman into action, and do something for their and everyone's health.
Fire maps showed hot spots quite clearly on the edge of our villages for 10km along the border area, and the culprits were local.
It's time to stop blaming our neighbours and "the others" and take proper local action to put things right.


The truth about Philippines maternal mortality
Is much worse than reported
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 21, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Monday April 10, 2023

I read with interest and concern Kathleen de Villa’s article, “DOH braces for more women giving birth in hospitals” in Philippine Inquirer News, April, 2, 2023 where the Department of Health (DOH) was quoted as referring to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data that the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 84.86 per 100,000 live births in 2021, thus on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 for the country.
Sadly the truth is much worse than what was reported:
On February 22, 2023, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) actually reported 2,478 women died of maternal causes in 2021. maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in 2021 was thus 189.21 per 100,000 live births 2,478/1,309,601 x 100,000.
Before 2021, the Department of Health (DOH) reported the highest number of maternal deaths at 2,511 in 1952 and 2,645 in 1951, making 2021 the third deadliest year for childbearing in the Philippines in 69 years.
In 2019, 1,458 women died of maternal causes, or four per day; 2021 with 2,478 maternal deaths, saw seven mothers dying every day only 1952 and 1951 saw seven maternal deaths per day.
In the Southeast Asian region, only Cambodia 218 and Timor Leste 204 had more maternal deaths.
The year 2021 was the deadliest in the country not only because of COVID but because the entire health system was reeling.
More people died from preventable causes almost 160,000 than from COVID 105,000 when you look at excess mortality.
It is now apparent maternal health was so affected that it has set us back by half a century.
But we should have seen this coming.
The country has reduced spending on reproductive health from 15.8 percent in 2018 to 8.3 percent in 2021 Technical Note on Key Observations on the Philippine National Health Accounts 2020 and 2021-USAID Protect Health.
Now is the time to rethink and strengthen social policies in the country that can address this burden on women and the vulnerability of the health and population sectors. We cannot be an upper-middle-income country with seven mothers dying every day.

Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD, MPH,
Former undersecretary and executive director,
Commission on Population and Development,

Thailand Election Commission wants
Details of election promises
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday April 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 13, 2023

Re: "EC wants Pheu Thai's giveaway details," in Bangkok Post, Sunday April 9, 2023.
The Election Commission (EC) is correct in ordering the Pheu Thai Party to provide details of its policies involving budget spending to the EC, as required by law. This will enable voters to separate hot air from dreams which could come true. But the EC should go further by:
mandating that all parties - not just the government's main opponents reveal the feasibility of their campaign promises involving taxpayer money to the EC and
posting the parties' feasibility data on the Election Commission website for other parties to scrutinise with fine-tooth combs.
Let's promise what can come true, not mirages.

Burin Kantabutra.

If you don't like it
Please go to another place
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 19, 2023
First published in Bangkok Post, Thursday April 13, 2023

Re: "UTN leader stands up for patriotism, tells 'nation haters' to leave," in Bangkok Post, Sunday April 9, 2023.
While it was not surprising to see the two Ps do a theatrical split, to broaden their collective net to catch conservative voters in the upcoming general election, many observers are shocked by the extreme royalist right-wing positioning being staked out by Gen Prayut's United Thai Nation (UTN) Party.
In sharp contrast to Gen Prawit's newfound enthusiasm for democracy and inclusion, UTN leader Pirapan Salirathavibhaga has vowed to take action against "nation haters".
Appearing on stage with him at a campaign rally were Prime Minister Prayut, Dr Rienthong Nanna, the ultra-royalist owner of a hospital and chairman of the party's committee on quality of life improvement, and party secretary-general Akanat Promphan, stepson of Suthep Thaugsuban, who led the 2014 street protests that paved the way for the military coup led by Gen Prayut.
Mr Pirapan didn't mince words.
"Someone asked me what I would do if my party was taking care of the country, and I replied 'It's easy. Thailand is a land for patriots and the land is holy with the monarchy serving as the pillar of the country. If you don't like it, you have no right to change it because the entire nation wants it. If you don't like it, please go to another place. No one is stopping you. Go now. Any country you like, you can go and stay there. But Thailand will be like this forever.' "
Mr Pirapan is caretaker Prime Minister Prayut's anointed successor when he completes his constitution-limited two-year term following the upcoming election.

Sad Optimist.

Call for plan of action
To put Papua New Guineans first
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 18, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday April 1, 2023

All over Papua New Guinea, we can hear the voices of change.
Our government officials, public servants, and not just politicians travelling across our country on duty, leave break, or on holidays must have in the last 50 years listened to those voices and learned from them.
I think I have the real solution now that all our past prime ministers and their successive administrations since 1975 have failed to identify while in office.
Our continuing conversation with Papua New Guineans in these past half-century tells us one thing.
We should have learned by now that today Papua New Guineans are desperately hungry for leaders who offer more than just empty slogans during and after all major elections, every five years.
Every government has failed to respond with the substance our people demand – with a vision and plan for the future.
There is one solution only that will contribute towards how we can all change our country, and that is “Putting Papua New Guineans first”.
Today’s parliament and government must now outline our plan of action to put our people first, and fight for what Papua New Guineans deserve.
Putting people first really means we all deserve a much better deal than before; good job opportunities, affordable and quality education and health care, safe communities, prosperous provinces and a safe, secure and an affluent society, and a strongly united country in a modern global world.
It is our grand plan to unite Papua New Guineans behind the hope we all share – that we can create a better future for our children and the next generation of smart Papua New Guineans and a lucky, wealthy country.

Reginald Renagi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Call for Judges to send corrupt politicians
To long-term prison sentences
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 17, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday April 11, 2023

Papua New Guineans have yet to see a local judge handing down a landmark court decision and sending a corrupt politician or a senior public servant to a long prison term for a high profile corruption or a scandal.
There have been many so-called high profile corruption court cases involving politicians and public servants hitting the news and drawing everyone’s attention.
The news makes the public think that the accused would get sentenced for committing such serious crimes involving substantial amounts of money.
But what the people anticipate to see in the near future never eventuates and the cases are delayed, prolonged or shelved away.
Judges should set precedents in sending corrupt politicians and public servants to jail following fair and transparent trials and decisions in the best interest for the country.

Stopim stilman,
Papua New Guinea

The whole world knows that Air Niugini’s aircraft
Are all but time-expired
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday Aptil 16, 2023
First published in the National Tuesday April 11, 2023

There are a number of contributing factors all playing a part in the slow but certain demise of our beloved airline.
Certainly, we have few or no suitable people at the top end of the company to ensure all stays on course without yaw.
The whole world knows that Air Niugini’s aircraft are all but time-expired, and as such fuel consumption from older turbo-fan aircraft along with the lack of parts and poor reliability are all eating away at its very limited revenue income stream.
I find it a very sad day when the CEO of PX can’t tell the media exactly how many aircraft he has operating.
He says 12 to 15.
Really, Mr CEO, is that 12 or 15?
Grounded aircraft are still incurring cost whether they are flying or not.
To have little idea exactly how much revenue he has accrued each day is nonsense, and if true he should not be there.
The elephant in the room here is the agreement known as the “Cape Town Agreement.”
Air Niugini and or Papua New Guinea Air for that matter will never be afforded proper financial support under this internationally competitive financing for any new and or replacement aircraft until such time as the Papua New Guinea Attorney-General Department gets off its backside and gets that agreement signed so proper airline/aviation financing for replacement aircraft can be sought.
So what’s the delay? What are we hiding?
Or are we worried that once this membership is obtained and the agreement is in place some may find themselves on the wrong side of a large repossession battle over non-payment of leasing charges?
Either way, it’s a lose-lose for all airlines in PNG until this mess is sorted.

Mangi Delta Fly
National Capital District (NCD),

Papua New Guinea

Fifa stripping Indonesia of hosting World Cup
Is a hasty, unfair and wrong decision
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday April 8, 2023

Re: "Fury, sadness grip Indonesia", in Bangkok Post, Friday March 31, 2023I strongly object to Fifa stripping Indonesia of hosting the Under-20 (U20 ) World Cup just because some people protest against Israel's participation.
It is a hasty, unfair and wrong decision.
As soon as anyone in the world just mentions Israel in a negative way, the whole world's establishment is up in arms and attacks the person or organisation complaining or criticising Israel.
Israel is also committing unspeakable atrocities and suppressing the Palestinian/Arab population, illegally occupying Arab territories and basically running an apartheid state within Israel.
No wonder Muslim countries and their populations protest against it.
I do too!
Why does Fifa allow this anomaly, and why does Israel enjoy this special treatment?
Why does it not then ban the Arab countries which refuse to play against Israel? Can you imagine Israel playing in Iran or Saudi Arabia?
Yeah. Israel can do no wrong, no matter how much wrong it does.
As they say on the terraces: "Are you blind, ref?"
In this case, Fifa
Bring on the Video Assisted Referee (VAR) and revise the above decision thoroughly and fairly.
Zoom in on the guilty party.

Miro King,
The impartial referee,

Military justification for takeover of Myanmar
All lies and fabrication
The Southeast Asian Times, ThursdayApril 14, 2023

What the Myanmar military top dogs said to justify their violent military takeover of the government of Myanmar and imprison Aung San Sui Kyi and other pro- democracy leaders of the democratically elected government was all lies and fabrications.
We now have a confirmation of that from The Southeast Asian Times report ‘ Myanmar military dissolves political parties under new Political Parties Registration law ‘ ( 13 April 2023 ).
The real reason for the military coup is abundantly clear : it was a power grab by the military top brass .
The banning of political parties is a self-serving agenda of the rogue military rulers to hang onto power.
Any body who can’t see that needs a medical check up.

Rajend Naidu,

No riding elephants
In Chiang mai
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 13, 2023
First publshed in the Bangkok Post Wednesday April 5, 2023

Re: "Be kind to elephants", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Saturday April 1, 2023
Thank you, Nuntanit Bumrungsap, for bringing more attention by writing letters that address the barbarity of elephant riding. In Chiang Mai, many agencies that promote elephant tourism now have signs reading: "No Riding".
Our message is getting out there and that is why no amount of insults or ridicule will ever stop me from fighting for justice.

Eric Bahrt,

Malaysia's expensive airfaires pose huge burden
On fellow Malaysians having to cross the South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 18, 2023
First published in the Star, Saturday April 8 2023

Wanita Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Sabah notes the announcement by Transport Minister Anthony Loke regarding additional flight frequencies to Sabah and Sarawak for Hari Raya Aidilfitri using wide-body or larger aircrafts to accommodate demand.
Although Loke did also mention that airfares are expected to decrease with the additional flights, the government should already have prepared contingency plans and options before passenger dissatisfaction was voiced.
How long do Malaysians have to encounter the same scenario year in, year out, where flight tickets between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak rise sharply before major celebrations such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri?
The government should anticipate that the price of air tickets will fly high during festive seasons and thus take the appropriate measures before airline companies raise their prices.
A proactive, quick reaction to such expected market speculation will discourage public perception of the government as a square block which only implements knee-jerk reflex responses after passengers air their grievances.
Why did the government wait for people to complain before making the announcement of additional flights during Aidilfitri?
The Transport Ministry should be aware by now that this is an annual occurrence.
Besides Aidilfitri, East Malaysians on the Peninsular relive the same predicament annually for Pesta Kaamatan in Sabah, Hari Gawai in Sarawak and for Christmas.
The expensive airfares pose a huge burden to our fellow Malaysians who have to cross the South China Sea to be able to reunite with their families as ticket prices can leap anywhere from 156 to 1,374 percent compared to non-festive periods.
Although Malaysia practises an open market system whereby prices are determined by a supply-and-demand mechanism, no other options are available for airline passengers because air travel is their only suitable mode of transportation.
We do not believe there is any justification for the costs to have suddenly compounded in terms of fuel prices or flight crew salaries and wages in the period before and after Aidilfitri, that is, from 18 to 26 April 2023.
Therefore, despite the “controlled” free market system here, the government should intervene by setting price controls or a ceiling which must be adhered to by local commercial airlines that provide the relevant routes.
The government could also instruct the airline companies to increase the flight frequencies so that airfare prices can be reduced thereby enabling more passengers to utilise their services.
This was carried out by the former Minister of Transport and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) President Datuk Seri Ir. Dr. Wee Ka Siong when the country was undergoing the 15th General Election (GE15).
In fact, he also requested the airline companies not to hike the price of airplane tickets during GE15, especially on voting day.
We hope that today's unity government has the political will to solve this problem to facilitate and not stymy air travel, as well as for the well-being of the rakyat.

Dr Pamela Yong,
Deputy Secretary General,
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
Kuala Lumpur


Over population and over consumption
Cause of world's environmental problems
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday April 11, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday April 8, 2023

Re: "The worldwide population boon", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Friday March 31, 2023
Overpopulation is the most problematic or one of the most problematic environmental problems worldwide.
Imagine a human is born and how many resources that human would consume all through their lifetime?
Over-consumption is another cause of the world's environmental problems.
The world's wealthiest people consume much more than the poor and middle class. Please consider carefully, if there is a smaller population and less consumption, then ecosystems the world over would be back to flourishing, wild animals would have their habitats back, there would be no more extinction, there would be less pollution, lower class people's hardship in their labour would be reduced with a decreased-in-size industrial civilisation, for example.
If each human stops having children, the virtues above will happen again like long ago in the world's history.
Therefore, there must be a reduction or an end to the world's over-population and less consumption.

Nuntanit Bumrungsap,

Call for deployment of woodchippers
To all Thai farms throughout the year
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 10, 2023
Bangkok Post, Saturday April 8, 2023

Re: "Forest suffers 'worst wildfire in 20 years,'" in Bangkok Post, Friday April 7, 2023.
Tambon organisations, credit unions, agricultural cooperatives, and corporate farms should work under the guidance of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to purchase and deploy woodchippers and make them available to all farmers on a rotating basis throughout the year.
The ministry must mandate that all organic waste is composted. Farmers should be instructed on how to do it in a scientific way using active biological cultures formed from organisms native to local wild areas and fed with molasses provided by the government.
If this initiative were implemented in an efficient manner, it would dramatically improve the quality of agricultural products, reduce the need for water, fertiliser, and pesticide, and improve yields.
And it could, in a single stroke, reduce the annual air pollution problem, which virtually everyone in the nation suffers from.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture needs to forgo paying for his staff to deliver speeches at the United Nations and begin to care for the Thai people in practical ways.
And all ensuing complaints and financial incentives from the multinational agri-chem industry must be ignored.

Michael Setter,

Keep in mind that leadership
In Papua New Guinea matters
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 9, 2023
First published in the National, Thursday April 6, 2023

When the incompetent, corrupt, money-loving, shallow-minded, stubborn, and ignorant are in power, nothing good will ever happen in our country.
Keep in mind that leadership matters.
Politicians, senior bureaucrats, departmental heads, constitutional office holders, heads of government agencies and institutions, the heads of disciplinary forces, and everyone across both the public and private sectors have to lead in the way of honesty and transparency.
They have to honour this great nation, build it, and lead in the way of righteousness.
They have to honour the blood shed in colonial times for the liberation of this land.
They have to think about the future and make fair and just decisions for the common good.
They have to let go of pride and serve with love and respect.
Respecting the rule of law is what brings about meaningful growth, order, justice, and peace.
We have millions of people in our country who haven’t been connected to towns and cities.
We have families struggling financially because of inflation.
We have young people doing nothing productive in their communities across the nation.
Our country and its people are suffering, yet most of those in positions of authority are still misbehaving.
We have a lot of lawbreakers leading this nation.
They are great pretenders.
They are wolves in sheepskin.
They know who they are.
In the dark, they plan how to rob.
In the dark, they share the stolen wealth.
In the dark, they laugh and party.
In the dark, they plan the downfall of the truth-tellers.
However, in the light, they share sweet talk.
They talk about benefits and plans.
They talk about liberation and growth laws to brainwash the public for favour and trust.
In fact, their time is limited.
Now, this message is for our leaders.
You do the right thing, and we prosper together as one people and as a great nation.
Be competent, transparent, and accountable. Stop finger pointing.
Work together for the liberation and growth of our nation.
Stop being ignorant, stubborn, and a money-lover.
Be a person of values.

Abel ToPidik Rudolf,
Port Moresby,
Papu New Guinea

Politics in Thailand is no different
Than what we see in Western countries
The Southeast Asian Times,Saturday 8 April, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 6, 2023

Re: "Lots of promises as big day approaches," in Bangkok Post, Sunday April 2, 2023.
Election season in Thailand is full of surprises.
The Thai landscape gets infested with posters, billboards with fancy pictures, and placards glorifying candidates as saviours of the nation.
Thai politicians are a unique species that start croaking like frogs.
Some turn into chameleons changing colours and hopping from one party to another.
All their agendas and manifestos are like lucrative offers in shopping malls.
They promote "90 percent Off" on everything to deceive credulous voters.
Politics in Thailand is no different than what we see in Western countries.
With so many alleged cases of womanising, bribery, hush money, and corruption, some people in the USA still think that the likes of Mr Trump can "Make America Great Again."
Nikita Khrushchev put it rightly: "Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers."

Kuldeep Nagi,

Don't ride elephants
In Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 April 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 30, 2023

Re: "Don't ride elephants", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saturday March 25, 2023 and "Pattaya honours elephants as part of their heritage", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday March 14, 2023.
Riding elephants is not honouring them.
When they are trained to be submissive for riding and circus performances, there is a cruel process called "broken spirit", or phajaan in Thai, which means "breaking the love between" referring to the love between a baby elephant and his or her mother.
Still-nursing baby elephants are roped around their four legs, dragged away from their mothers and immobilised in cages.
Further on, they're punished every time they try to be instinctive and natural in their behaviour until their spirits are broken finally, and they become obedient.
What everyone can do is refuse to support the elephant riding and circus industries.

Nuntanit Bumrungsap

Thailand awaits the advent of a society
That values freedom of speach
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 6, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday, March 30, 2023

Re: "Healthy options?" in Bangkok Post PostBag, Saturday March 25, 2023.
Although Jayut Jayanandana is obviously not trained in medicine, he makes two excellent points.
Allopathic medicine, which dominates in Western countries and increasingly globally, is extremely costly, is overly focused on alleviating symptoms, and, due to profit-driven obsessions with pharmaceutical treatment, is a leading cause of death.
Western medicine, combined with the agrochemical cartel and its handmaiden the processed food industry is the leading cause of death and disability in the developed world.
More than 90 percent of Americans are metabolically disabled, addicted to sugar and are either prediabetic or diabetic.
More than half of what they eat bears no resemblance to real food.
Insulin resistance which is associated with the consumption of sugar-laden, highly processed food, causes many common cancers.
Mr Jayut also rightly questioned whether Health Minister Anutin is fit for the job and wonders why the vaccine debacle is a taboo topic for Thai media.
Apparently, the answers to these important questions await the advent of a society which values freedom of speech more than the present one does.

Michael Setter,

Call for sunken HTMS Sukhothai
To be left to rest on the ocean floor
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 5, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 30, 2023

Re: "Vessel yet to be salvaged", in Bangkok Post, Sunday March 30, 2023.
The navy continues to seek 200 million baht for the salvage of the sunken HTMS Sukhothai, but your story makes no mention of why the navy sees the need to salvage this vessel.
Even if the vessel is salvageable and can be made seaworthy again, which is highly doubtful, where are you going to find the men to crew it, given even educated Thais' profound belief in ghosts and spirits?
Unless the navy can come up with the most convincing reason why Thai taxpayers should shell out this huge sum of money, HTMS Sukhothai should be left to rest on the ocean floor as a memorial to the 24 sailors and the other five who remain missing and are surely also dead, in much the same way as USS Arizona and USS Utah are memorials to those killed in the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour.

David Brown,


Call for state of emergency
To put out 55,000 fires in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 3, 2023

Re: "Smog lingers across North", Bangkok Post, March 28, 2023 and "Agro-troops needed", in Bangkok PostBag, March 11, 2023.
I felt like a lonely voice when I advocated for a state of emergency and the deployment of the 3rd Army It is encouraging to see that these "outlier" ideas have now become part of the public discourse.
Among other things, it details a post-hoc attempt to put out 55,000 fires with a limited number of army troops and helicopters.
The government should consider this to be a war: a battle against a man-made environmental catastrophe that is sickening and killing its citizens.
Thailand needs a massive mobilisation of troops sanctioned by an official state of emergency declaration.

Jonathan Nash,

Papua New Guinea manpower security strength
Four times higher than police
The Southeast Asian Times Monday April 3, 2023
First published in the National Friday March 31, 2023

It is encouraging and motivating to know that the security industry has been recognised by the Minister for Internal Security Peter Tsiamalili Jnr.
The significant contribution from the security industry relates to complementing the duties of reducing the law and order issues affecting all sectors of our communities in the country.
The manpower strength of security companies put together currently on active duty is 29,445 in comparison to 6,832 active police officers in the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.
This is about four times more manpower serving around the country to complement the police functions in combating escalating law and order issues.
The security industry also provides an employment opportunity for the youths in mostly urban centres.
The due recognition and acknowledgement by the national minister is morale boosting and motivating to the 562 currently licenced and registered security companies operating.
More than 90 per cent are nationally owned.
Only 15 are foreign owned.
There are certain regulative and motivating measures which the minister can look into which are:
Under the public-private partnership concept, make arrangements for local security firms to be established in government project areas, state-owned enterprises and under joint venture agreements in the extractive industry sector;
The household benefit relieve package announced by Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey should be channelled to this established industry to alleviate families of security personnel;
Liaise with the Minister for Labour to ensure most of these firms have complied and met the minimum wages rate of K3.50 per hour;
Rectify the reserve business listing under recent amendment to Investment Promotion Authority Act to ensure these 15 foreign-owned firms are scrutinised for compliance and adherence; and,
Provide training and logistics support with the support with the Department of Internal Security, development partners and other stakeholders on a regular interval to appraise the skills and knowledge of combating latest trend of crime involving technological advances and international and domestic illegal drugs/firearms trade and counter-terrorism activities.

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Why not publicise Covid-19 induced deaths
And hospitalisations now

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

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


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

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

Sam Wright,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,


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

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

Ioan Voicu,

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

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

Michael Henry Yusingco,


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

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



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

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

Abdul Hafiz Tacoranga Malawani,
Mindanao State University

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

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

Norman V. Cabrera,
Kapatiran Party,

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

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

Rajend Naidu

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

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

Eric Bahrt,

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

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

Joseph J Black,

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

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


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

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

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Joe Tau
Central Province,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

David Brown,

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

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

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

Than Htwe
Deputy Chief of Mission, Myanmar Embassy,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rajend Naidu


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

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



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

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

Thankful citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Houdini Lucas,
NGO worker,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Rose Bellini,

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

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

Eden S. Anni,

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

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

Norman V. Cabrera,
Kapatiran Party,

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

Trade Justice Pilipinas,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,


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

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

Yingwai Suchaovanich,


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

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

Rodolfo A. Plopinio,
MCO-Occidental Mindoro,

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

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

Emmanuel A Mungu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

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

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Nek Nestrebla,

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

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

Felix Qu.

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

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

Georgina Hunter

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

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

Joynandan Haldar,

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

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

Yingwai Suchaovanich,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Laura Reyes,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

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

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

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

An Expat in Thailand,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Tarquin Chufflebottom,

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

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

Antonio Calipjo Go,
Quezon City,

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

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

Naomi Rikimanin,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

Sad Optimist

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

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

Concerned citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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


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

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

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Jim Benn,
Natioal Capital District
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Jayut Jayanandana,



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

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

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



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

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

Jayut Jayanandana,

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

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

Ramon Mayuga,

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

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

Norma P. Dollaga,
Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan,

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

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

Jason A Jellison,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,

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

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


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

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

Major Rtd Chew Kok Liang

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

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

Gummy Herbs,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Founder of TYMBA Education Group,
Subang Jaya,

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

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

Antonio Calipjo Go,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

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

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

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

Tatiana Chang
Cornell University,

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

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

Abel ToPidik Rudolf,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
advocate and author,

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

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

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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



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

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

Datuk Wee Beng

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

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

Ken Albertsen,
Bangkok Post,

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

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

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,
advocate and author,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

George Morgan,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Samuel Wright,