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

 

PM2.5 in Chiang Mai is not good
Whether it causes cancer or not
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday April 21, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday April 17, 2024

Re: "Three more areas on disaster list", in Bangkok Post, Monday April 8, 2024.
This article on Chiang Mai's air quality left me scratching my head.
The second-to-last paragraph quoted a renowned doctor as saying there is "no clear evidence" that PM2.5 is a "main cause" of lung cancer.
Then the last paragraph had the same doctor saying PM2.5 particles cause free radicals and inflammation "and it is this process that leads to cancer."
So what can be concluded from this apparently conflicting information?
That PM2.5 may be a main cause of lung cancer but there is no clear evidence proving that?
That it has been proven that PM2.5 is a contributory factor to lung cancer, though not the main cause?
That PM2.5 contributes to other cancers but not lung cancer?
Let's face it: PM2.5 is not good for one, whether it causes cancer or not.
As I continue scratching my head with one hand, I am donning my mask with the other.

Klongurchin,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Hard-working overseas Filipino workers
Turning into working poor of New Zealand
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday April 20, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday April 18, 2024

Nearly four months after hundreds of Filipino workers lost jobs when labor hire giant ELE workforce went into receivership, our worst fear is happening now: Every week, dozens of Filipino workers are seeking assistance to avail of emergency financial aid from the Philippine government.
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand has been calling on the Philippine and New Zealand governments to avoid another ELE mess but it seems that they just allow labor hire and recruitment agencies to keep spreading false promises of jobs in New Zealand and elsewhere.
Philippines President Marcos and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon can do better to ensure Filipinos in New Zealand will not be out of work and left in limbo.
With Luxon set to meet Mr. Marcos, they should be talking more about their state responsibility to investigate and stop the labor hire practice of recruiting hundreds of Filipino laborers that results in an oversupply of labor and leaving the Filipinos in insecure jobs and below 40 guaranteed hours.
Hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in New Zealand are voicing their concerns about widespread redundancies, limited working hours (often 30 hours or less), and the resulting struggle to make ends meet. Despite coming to New Zealand for work opportunities, many find themselves facing financial hardship due to the low guaranteed hours and insufficient work provided by labor-hire companies.
These challenges are turning hard-working OFWs into the working poor of New Zealand.
We have seen the extreme hardships of displaced ELE workers and many others in similar situations. Migrante Aotearoa reiterates the call for Mr. Marcos to immediately instruct the Department of Migrant Workers, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and all relevant agencies to fast-track the release of emergency aid for the families of displaced OFWs in New Zealand and all our distressed compatriots around the world.

Mikee Santos,
chair,
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
,
Philippines





Not all tourists in Thailand
Are there to sunbathe
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 19, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 8, 2024

Re: "Phuket court responds to surge in tourist-related cases", in Bangkok Post, Thursday April 4, 2024.
I well remember the first time I read, while relaxing in Phuket, of the Tourism Authority of Thailan (TAT) and government's desire to attract "better quality tourists".
I was lunching in an idyllic laid-back tree-shaded beach restaurant on the paradise island that was Phuket some 30 years ago.
Like everyone from that era, I've watched how the desire for "better quality tourists" has changed the "Pearl of the Andaman" into the "Costa del Crime" of the East or as it's more generally known: "Little Moscow".
The search for better quality tourists has, in recent times, focused on package tourists from New Delhi and Wuhan and long-stay tourists soon-to-be residents with the VIP bonus of a 90-day visa on entry to smoke-filled oligarch meetings and mafia dens of Russia.
Apparently, it has come as a shock that thousands of Chinese have not been staying in Thailand for the sunbathing, but to set up scam centres and indulge in other crimes.
Murder, kidnapping, extortion, fraud and illegal businesses are regular news items in the Phuket press. This island was once raunchy but relaxing, but is now corrupt, greedy and manic.

Chang Louie.
Bangkok,
Thailand





Tsunami warning in Northern Cagayan, Philippines
Followed earthquake in Taiwan
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 18, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday April 10, 2024

Last April 3, some of my provincemates from Northern Cagayan came across a tsunami warning issued by the Phiippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on social media following an earthquake in Taiwan.
This advisory caused widespread concern among the public, as the threat of tsunamis is always accompanied by the potential for significant destruction and loss of life.
As a natural reaction, parents, concerned for the safety of their children, immediately went to fetch them from schools without waiting for instructions from the school and government authorities.
Some even took it upon themselves to leave their homes and head to higher ground, while workers abandoned their public and private offices without hesitation.
This level of proactivity displayed by the public is commendable, as it shows a sense of responsibility and awareness of the potential dangers posed by natural disasters like the Taiwan earthquake.
However, amid these commendable actions, there were concerns raised about the lack of clear protocols and guidelines in place for such situations.
One friend expressed her worry about the delay in coordinating efforts between municipal and barangay disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) councils, highlighting the importance of having predetermined protocols for the public to follow during emergencies.
It is crucial to have established protocols and guidelines in place to ensure that everyone knows what to do during a disaster.
This can help minimize confusion, prevent panic, and ultimately save lives.
By having a clear set of instructions on where to go, what to bring, and how to stay safe during a tsunami threat, people can act quickly and decisively without needing to wait for the municipal and barangay DRRM councils to meet and rely solely on their official advisories.
Let us engage in regular drills and exercises to supplement our preparedness.
The public must become familiar with these protocols to ensure readiness for any situation.
Just as fire drills are practiced in schools and workplaces, it is just as important to conduct exercises for natural disasters like tsunamis.
By educating and training our people on emergency procedures, we can empower them to act swiftly and protect themselves and their families.
The uncoordinated response to the tsunami advisory serves as a reminder of the necessity to be prepared and proactive during crises.
While social media serves as a valuable tool for disseminating information and providing guidance, there is still a need for clear protocols and regular drills to ensure everyone knows how to respond effectively in emergencies.
Let us not wait for a crisis to strike before taking action. Instead, let us be proactive, prepared, and united in our efforts to safeguard our communities and prioritize our safety and well-being.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines





Simple action of registration of motorcycle
Is 200k away from Chiang Mai
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday April 17, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 4, 2024

Re: "The next two-wheel revolution", in Bangkok Post , Business, Wednesday March 6, 2014.
What is it with the Dept of Land Transport (DLT) that they take the simple action of registering a motorcycle and make it difficult?
Chiang Mai may be a big province, but we're well into the computer age, though sometimes you'd never know it.
From my home, it's 40km to the Fang Dept of Land Transport (DLT) but for certain actions, such as registering a bike coming from another province, you are required to go 200km to the main office.
And it gets worse.
My old bike was registered in my son's name in Chiang Mai eight years ago and has just been bought by a neighbour who seldom leaves the district but needs transport to deliver some food supplies.
My wife inquired about what was needed, and we were staggered to find that Fang district is now considered different to Chiang Mai, and the bike and documents would need to be presented at the city's main office to change ownership.
The new owner will never ride a motorbike 200km on roads he has never travelled on, and we can't do it for him.
Being way out in the hills, we don't have agents who do these tasks for a fee, so it's most likely we will all be breaking the law by not fulfilling these silly tasks, and the bike will never have insurance or the tax paid.
When will these people ever enter the 21st century?

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Rumors of 3-day darkness in Surigao del Norte
Example of lack of scientific literacy
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 16, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday April 11, 2024

I found the story, “Rumors of 3-day darkness sent people buying rice in Surigao del Norte,” by Chris Panganiban, April 8, 2024, relevant.
It is a striking example of a far darker problem in our society: the widespread lack of scientific literacy.
It is quite worrisome to see people simply give up on critical thinking when confronted with such an absurd assertion.
It is not for us to assign blame to the terrified locals.
When one lacks information, fear is a normal human reaction.
The system is to blame for not providing them with the necessary resources to safely traverse the dangerous waters of internet knowledge.
We are submerged in a sea of false information, and even the most well-meaning people might be carried away in the absence of scientific knowledge, which serves as a life preserver.
This is also a reminder that in education, a paradigm change is needed.
Science shouldn’t be just a boring list of facts to commit to memory.
Inquiry, critical thinking, and knowledge assessment should be ingrained in daily life.
Children need to be trained to read critically about the scientific environment in which they live, just as we educate them to read.
But knowledge on its own is insufficient.
It is the duty of organizations like the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration to convey difficult scientific ideas in a simple and understandable manner.
They must gain the public’s trust by becoming dependable information pillars amid a deluge of exaggerated claims.
Social media sites must also do more to combat disinformation, which spreads like a disease.
Stricter moderation and fact-checking procedures are essential to stop the spread of lies.
But ultimately, each of us must take responsibility for the other.
We need to develop a healthy distrust of internet sources of information.
Don’t use fear as your sole guide.
Take a minute when you share that frightening headline because of a popular post. Obtain confirmation from reliable sources.
Though it wasn’t the end of the world, the “three-day darkness” story is a serious warning.
May this be the moment of change.
Let’s make investments in science education, equip individuals with media literacy, and work together to drive out disinformation with reason.

Lemuel L. Barola,
Surigao City,
Surigao del Norte
Philippines




Philippines on the right side of the conflict
With China in the West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 15, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday April 9, 2024

In the West Philippines Sea (WPS) conflict, China brazenly usurps Ayungin Shoal through a display of military might, despite the 2016 arbitral ruling that favors the Philippines’ claim.
How has it become so emboldened as to defy the arbitral ruling and throw blatant accusation at our former presidents, while demanding that we abandon our claim over the shoal?
If this is canard spun by China and its paid media trolls here, both former presidents should vehemently deny it.
That former presidential spokespersons recall no such verbal commitment but only lame casual accounts, without categorical statements from both former presidents Joseph Estrada and Rodrigo Duterte, leave doubt on its veracity.
The commitment of a leader is a sterling and reliable virtue, whether written or spoken.
I remember in grade school what I thought Americans were like through the image of a military officer, sporting dark glasses under the blazing Philippine sun, with a Pershing cap on who waded ashore in Leyte to fulfill a commitment, a promise, to return.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was forced to abandon the Philippines in 1941, and dejectedly left behind 90,000 American and Filipino troops in Corregidor on the Bataan Peninsula.
Besieged and overpowered by the Japanese army, their spirits were buoyed by Macarthur’s parting words: “I shall return.”
On October 20, 1944, after Japan capitulated, General MacArthur triumphantly reached Philippine shores with his troops and declared: “People of the Philippines, I have returned.”
What impresses us most about the general’s leadership was his strong sense of commitment that he put above self-interest.
In the West Philippines Sea (WPS) conflict against China, we are on the right side; the territorial waters are within the UN-defined 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and they’re ours.
People expect our national leaders, past and present and across political lines, to show the same strong commitment to uphold our national interest and self-respect as an independent nation against a bully.

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila,
Philippines




Indonesia supports Palestinian human rights
But denies West Papuans their human rights
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 14, 2024

Vanuatu Daily Post newspaper has demonstrated bold journalism with its criticism of Indonesia’s contradictory stance in supporting the human rights of the oppressed Palestinians in Gaza on the one hand and denying the human rights of the West Papuans on the other hand ( VDP 4/4/24 ).
The Indonesian government’s response that it has not colonised West Papua is a self serving appraisal. Indonesia cannot be the judge of its own case.
There needs to be an independent authoritative determination on the question of West Papua’s struggle for sovereignty and the right to live as a free people and not under the yoke of Indonesian colonialism which is the prevailing perception among the West Papuans.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




The Move Forward Party seeks
What King Bhumibol wanted
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 13, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday April 1, 2024

Re: "Don't shift the blame", in Bangkok Post, March 23, 2024 and "MFP still wants S112 offences included in amnesty", Bangkok Post, February 6, 2024
Khun Vint Chavala asks "Knowing that to amend the Section 112 law is unlawful, why did the Move Forward Party (MFP) leaders try to mislead their junior members and the public to break it?"
I suggest that Move Forward Party (MFP) recognises our beloved national father as our outstanding expert on protecting the monarchy and seeks to follow his advice.
Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, a former national police chief, noted that Section 112 was amended in 1997, and emphasised that when he was top cop, "the royal institution instructed against the inappropriate use of Section 112, as it could lead to harassment under the pretext of protecting the royal institution".
So, there's precedent for amending S112, and we should, for Thailand's law of lèse-majesté has one prominent critic: His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great.
In 2005, King Bhumibol used his televised birthday address to note that the King is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism; that charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released; and the use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy.
What the Move Forward Party (MFP) seeks seems to be what His Majesty King Bhumibol wanted. Move Forward Party (MFP) wanted to use democratic means to implement changes to Section 112, which channels our father's desires to protect the highest institution.
Shouldn't they be encouraged?

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




China Coast Guard uses water cannons
On Philippine boats underway to Ayungin Shoal
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 12, 2024
First published in the philippine Inquirer, Wednesday April 3, 2024

For the ninth time, the China Coast Guard (CCG) used water cannons on a Philippine boat going to Ayungin Shoal to supply the needs of our personnel manning the BRP Sierra Madre, our long-lived outpost which conforms to our exclusive economic zone boundary.
Our response to all these provocations, harassment, and aggressions is to lodge diplomatic protests emphasizing that the China Coast Guard (CCG) injured our men and caused damage to our boats.
Why not provide our supply boat with escort ships equipped with water cannons?

Aeric P. Bernardino,
Manila,
Philippines





It is no fluke that Vietnamese students do better in reading
Science and mathematics than Filipino students
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 11, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday April 5, 2024

The gulf between the education systems of Vietnam and the Philippines is starkest in the lopsided performances of their students in reading literacy.
In the 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics, 82 percent of Vietnamese Grade 5 pupils reached the highest reading proficiency band versus 10 percent for the Philippines.
In the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), 77 percent of their students attained the minimum reading proficiency level against our 24 percent.
The wide gap in the reading proficiency of the students of the two countries is hardly surprising because Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) endeavors to make learners read in Grade 1.
The article in the PubMed Central website states: “According to the benchmarks outlined by the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam, children by the end of first grade are expected to recognize all letters and rimes and to read aloud at a rate of 40-50 words per minute with appropriate phrasing, to answer basic comprehension questions, summarize the main idea and details of a story, and identify key features such as dialogue and characters’ actions.
Based on Vietnam’s pre-COVID-19 learning poverty rate of 2 percent and its impressive reading literacy performance in international assessments, the MOET is meeting the target.
On the other hand, apart from setting the target for all learners to be readers to Grade 3 which is two years later than Vietnam’s standard, the DepEd blatantly disregards its grade level reading standards, inviting this unprecedented reading crisis.
In a desperate bid to address the crisis, in what could be a first in the world, DepEd just set aside half a day each week for Grades 1-12 learners to read.
Thus the recent study tour of the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EdCom II), the body tasked to assess Philippine education and recommend needed reforms thereto, in Vietnam could have been a golden opportunity to learn the secrets to competitive reading literacy.
Alas for the country, however, benchmarking on reading literacy was not in the declared purpose of the trip which was to “look at the areas of improving access, equity, and opportunity among learners; attracting and supporting qualified teachers; strategic use of its assessments; and its effective governance and ‘efficient financing’ of education.”
Apparently, EdCom II does not yet realize that it is no fluke that Vietnamese students do not only do well in reading but also in science and mathematics while Filipino students are miserable failures in all three domains. EdCom II does not yet accept the 2002 finding of the Pisa that there is a very strong correlation between reading competence and academic performance.
In 2022 Pisa, among the Top 15 countries in reading, only two countries were not in the Top 15 overall.
Among local regions, the Top 5 in reading namely National Capital Region (NCR), Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Region IVA, Region XI, and Region III also formed the Top 5 overall.
On the other end, Region IX, Caraga, and Region XII which were Bottom 3 in reading literacy and overall standings in 2018 repeated the performance in 2022.
The Pisa data and the contrasting basic education experience of Vietnam and the Philippines show that the latter can never kick off its education recovery unless it could make all its learners read starting in Grade 1 like the former does.

Estanislao C. Albano Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines





Filipinos are more vulnerable to cults
They tend to be very trusting and gullible

The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 10, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday April 8, 2024

Recent and widespread media coverage of probes into criminal suits alleging human rights abuses brought by individuals against a pastor and his cohorts has triggered a great deal of discourse unraveling the complexities of the cult phenomenon.
In this context, but without delving into the truth of the cult’s beliefs and practices, analysis and explanation of the many issues involved might contribute to better informing the discourse.
In addition, exploring the socio-psychological factors that induced some people to join cults and eventually adopt radically novel beliefs and practices might help.
Amid the cacophony of voices, some questions need to be asked about the cult phenomenon:
How did cult members become entangled with them and adopt behaviors they never otherwise would?
Are only crazy, stupid, needy people joining cults?
What factors contribute to their joining or refusing to leave despite threats to their well-being?
I turned to the literature on the social psychology of cults to understand the cult members, hoping to find some answers and insights on how to help us deal with it.
First, one of social psychology’s big lessons is that attitudes follow behavior (D.G. Myers, 1994:83).
People, Myers observed, usually internalize commitments done voluntarily, publicly, and repeatedly.
Perhaps knowing that people tend to act themselves in a way of thinking, recruiters of cults waste no time shaping their recruits into active members.
Eventually, the activities become more demandin, leaving their families, soliciting donations, tithing, and proselytizing.
Such behaviors further strengthen and deepen their commitment, making it much easier not to look back to their past.
Second, the commitment is induced by a persuasion strategy called the foot-in-the-door principle.
Potential recruits are invited to gatherings and stay-in weekends of warm fellowship and indoctrination on the cult’s beliefs and disciplines.
The recruiters encouraged potential converts to join in prayers, bible studies, songs, dances, and games during the encounters.
Once the recruiters identified qualified converts, they urged them to sign up for more extended training programs.
Third, social psychologists also made sense of the cult’s power to persuade in terms of three factors: who communicator said what the message and to whom the audience.
Successful cults have a charismatic leader who attracts and directs the members. Myers noted that sometimes, all it takes to persuade an unsuspecting individual is a credible communicator, perceived as expert and trustworthy.
There is a high chance that family members, relatives, and friends whom they trust have played a vital role in the recruitment of many cult members. In this respect, we wonder whether Filipinos are more vulnerable to cults because they tend to be very trusting and gullible.
The message also plays a crucial part in the recruitment process.
To lonely and insecure people, those who need belonging and acceptance, the vivid, emotional messages and the warm welcome with which the cult showers them can be irresistibly appealing.
The message is simple: “Trust the master and join us; we have the answers to all your needs and problems.”
For good measure, the message is delivered intensely and intensively for long periods, with testimonial support from previous converts.
In this light, mainstream churches have their work cut out for them.
There is a need to listen well to victim-survivors who might need a platform where they can share their traumatic experiences without judgment.
They can offer counseling and emotional support to them in rebuilding their lives. They can also raise awareness about the dangers of cults and educate their members about the tactics used by cults to lure and recruit them.
They can also collaborate with government agencies and nongovernmental organizations specializing in cult awareness and victim support.

Noel G. Asiones,
Manila,a
Philippines






392 negative votes and seven approvals
For dissolution of Move Forward Party
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 9, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday April 5, 2024

Re: "Court accepts petition for dissolution of Move Forward Party", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 3, 2024
As a guest of the kingdom for the past 28 years, I enjoy reading your publication.
I refer to the news item of today's date, headlined "Court accepts petition for dissolution of Move Forward Party".
This is one of the most critical political issues facing Thailand right now.
I concede that it is a factual and not an opinion piece.
Why would you deem it necessary not to allow for a public forum?
At the time of writing, there are 392 negative votes and seven approvals.
One would think that makes it a topic worth prompting a debate.
Surely that is part of your responsibility to your readers?

Don McMahon,
Bangkok,
Thailand




United Nations member states are encouraged to recognise
The expansive impact of the care economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 8, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday April 5, 2024

Re: "Gender gaps in politics and business", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Saturday March 30, 2024.
Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn's article warrants significant global attention.
In line with recent United Nations recommendations, all governments are called upon to prioritise addressing care needs across the lifespan and ensuring universal access to paid maternity, paternity, and parental leave, as well as social protection for all workers, irrespective of their employment status.
Member states are encouraged to recognise the expansive impact of the care economy.
This includes boosting labour participation, facilitating the shift from informal to formal employment, and establishing decent working conditions.
Crucially, according to the United Nations, there is a pressing need to invest in family-centric strategies and programmes that foster robust intergenerational connections.
Initiatives such as promoting intergenerational living arrangements, offering parenting education, and providing support for grandparents, particularly those serving as primary caregivers, are essential.
All of these efforts aim to cultivate inclusive urbanisation, promote active and healthy ageing, and nurture intergenerational solidarity. They will also bolster social cohesion.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
To extend the skywalk
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 7, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 1, 2024

I would like to thank the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA ) for the increase in green space all over the city, with beautiful parks that are well maintained at all times.
I also would like to extend my gratitude for skywalks around the city, which make walks more enjoyable, allowing pedestrians to get a better view of the city and the cool breeze, as I have experienced many times before entering the city's malls.
Can the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) now extend the skywalk from Phrom Phong station to Phloen Chit station, so people can walk from Emporium all the way to Siam station, Platinum and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (MBK) malls?
That would be a wonderful way to keep tourists happy.

Liloo Jiwatram,
Bangkok,
Thailand





To arrive at a conclusion such as ''drag is sacred''
Is a great leap of logic
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 6, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday April 4, 2024

A Facebook post by a certain Rev. Joseph San Jose of the “progressive” Metropolitan Community Church has been making the rounds on social media.
San Jose argues that Holy Week is nothing more but a drag festival.
He likens Christian liturgical expressions and the tradition of adorning “santos,” with their often elaborate vestments, as drag.
In his post, San Jose also appropriates religious terminology such as “incarnate” and “sacred” to contextualize drag within Christianity.
However, the roots of Christian sacred art predate drag by millennia, with some of the oldest Christian sculptures dating back to the second century.
On the other hand, the santero culture, to which San Jose also refers, traces its origins to the colonial era in the Philippines, with the earliest recorded instance being the Santo Niño brought by Magellan in 1521.
Holy Week processions and dramas also have roots in the 15th century.
The origins of drag are less clear.
While some historians point to instances in ancient Greek and Roman theater where men portrayed female characters due to restrictions on women onstage, these instances seem incidental to the essence of drag itself.
The term “drag” has been used since the 12th century, but its contemporary meaning, referring to dressing up and performing as another gender, is more recent, emerging in the 1860s, with the first drag competition recorded in 1867.
Rafael Japón, in his article “Holy Week and the Theater of Art: Sculpture, Retables, and the Spanish Baroque Aesthetic,” explores how social and political changes in the 16th century influenced visual culture, particularly among Catholics. The realism depicted in Spanish art during Holy Week processions served not only as a tool during the counter-reformation but also aimed to instruct the faithful about the transcendental mysteries of the Christian faith.
While a case can be made against the flamboyance of some of the images, the artworks are meant to convey the sacred to make visible what cannot be seen.
The processions, on the other hand, persist in contemporary Filipino religiosity because they are seen, not as mere performances or sources of entertainment, but as a contemplation of the history of salvation that has managed and continues to overcome scandals, heresies, and blasphemies.
San Jose also seems to imply that custodians of the santos could be anything other than gay, given it requires “dressing up” the images.
For a so-called “progressive church,” he seems more intent on perpetuating gender stereotypes.
Moreover, San Jose’s reductive reading relegates Christianity to one, big costume party.
While Christianity has always been countercultural, that is, it has always gone against the grain of social norms, to conflate this nonconformist characteristic of Christianity with drag, which belongs to a disparate historical period and persuasion, is to ignore entire histories of martyrdom and sanctity that have marked the lives of great men and women that have contributed to, among other things, civilization from East to West.
The problem of a reductive point of view is that it cherrypicks and fails to account for contradictions.
It’s like looking at the world after Sigmund Freud where everything is sex and the fault of the father, or after various feminisms where everything is a woman’s issue or the failure of men, or after Jacques Derrida where everything is a text and therefore, open-ended and unstable.
To arrive at a conclusion such as “drag is sacred” is a great leap of logic, as it simplistically explains and glosses over what are, in fact, oppositional in origins and futures.

Francis Harvey de Leon,
Manila,
Philippines





The pursuit of gender equality to include
Protection of men in LGBT relationships
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 5, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday April 3, 2024

Sad to say, the pursuit of gender equality in our country is still a work in progress. UNICEF says gender equality “means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities, and protections.”
In reality, “domestic violence knows no gender.”
Earlier, several legislators in the Senate and the House of Representatives have filed separate bills regarding anti-domestic violence against men/husbands/partners in LGBT relationships but to no avail.
Our lawmakers are somehow lackadaisical in supporting the enactment of laws in this regard allegedly since there are no conclusive data regarding abuses perpetrated by women/wives against their husbands based on the survey initiated by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Seemingly, the survey format is just focusing on physical and/or verbal abuse but not considering the other forms of psychological/mental violence, economic, and sexual abuse.
Hence, the emergence of limited data in this regard.
Since there is still no special law protecting men in LGBT relationships, an abused man who files a complaint case of domestic violence or abuse against his partner, despite the supporting medical certificate of contusions signs of physical abuse, etc., in barangay police desk, fiscal office, court since said agency, if woman is able to also show some marks of contusion in her wrists, etc. could easily overturn said complaint in favor of the woman per Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004.
However, various cases filed in family courts seem to reveal instances arising, among others, from domestic violence allegedly initiated by either partner that affects marriage and family unity, relations.
To level up the playing field, there is a need for a law to protect men in LGBT relationships from cases of domestic violence perpetrated by their partners.
It is only when a counterpart law aimed to protect the men in LGBT relationships is enacted that we can say, among others, that gender equality is already present in our society.

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines




Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin term
Is not dependant on Thai's
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 4, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 1, 2024

Re: "Smarter than you think", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Sunday March 33,
2024.
I'd like to support Yingwai Suchaovanich's wishes that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin might complete his four-year term.
It is not only because of his seven months of incessant overseas visits to market Thailand abroad and the ability to untie the knot that besets the Royal Thai Police, but also his towering height and fluency in English that do not cause one to cringe.
However, despite having a successful CEO for a leading public company managing our nation for the first time, there are still concerns surrounding his longevity.
His term is not dependent on most Thais, but on his party members and the de facto leader.
One can only hope that the excellent manoeuvrability he showed in his former business would be enough for him to survive Thailand's traditional politics.

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Democracy is about governance by laws
Not people
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 3, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Pos,t Friday March 29, 2024

Re: "Fueling opposition" and "Voter intelligence" in Bangkok Post PostBag, Friday March 26, 2024
If Buddhism was established in Thailand centuries ago, Thailand would be the perfect democracy.
Buddhism teaches unenhanced self-assessment and awareness of reality.
Were people aware of their true selves and the truth of what is, they would not be swayed by falseness and propaganda.
Reading both letters of David Brown and Felix Qui once again shows there is little understanding of democracy.
Democracy is about governance by laws, not people.
Democracy is not the right to vote.
The paramount law is the constitution, which states that the monarchy, since 1932, has been constitutional and the apolitical head of state.
The lese majeste law is perfectly democratic.
An attack on the monarchy is an attack on the constitution and, thereby, an attack on democracy.
In 1932, when the monarchy changed from being absolute to constitutional, people were given the right to vote for their lawmakers; universal suffrage was established. However, the basic principle of democracy, the rule of law, was not established. This gave Thaksin carte blanche to do as he wished, relying only on gaining votes, and he proved very successful at winning votes.
Until democracy is understood by the electorate, it will not exist.
The electorate must understand the constitution and the laws for which they are voting.
The electorate must judge those for whom they are voting into office.
They must ensure they are voting for democracy and not against democracy.
It is democracy alone that establishes universal suffrage.
The only truly democratic voter is one who learns and understands themselves and for what he/she is voting.
Above all, their vote must be for democracy; otherwise, democracy will cease to exist.

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippines Senate seeks to revise
Animal Welfare Act
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 2, 2024
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Tuesday March 26, 2024

On March 19, I had the opportunity to witness in person Sen. Grace Poe’s privilege speech on Senate Bill No. 2458 which “seeks a revised Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to strengthen animal welfare standards, policies, rules and regulations, implementation and enforcement as well as provide tougher penalties to violators.”
The session hall was packed with fellow animal welfare advocates and some popular AWA groups like Animal Kingdom Foundation which initiated the invitation to other AWA groups like ours.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri commented that it was the first time that “animals of the four-legged kind” were allowed in the session halls of the Senate, drawing hearty laughter from the audience.
He said that seeing his wife Audrey with their dog inside the session hall brought his blood pressure down, again drawing a hearty response.
Poe gave a 30-minute privilege speech which hopefully will progress.
This was followed by valid points raised by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
As a solo rescuer and member of a low-key Animal Welfare Act (AWA) group, Save Animals of Love and Light, our hopes are boosted once again as efforts on the amendments to the landmark Animal Welfare Act of 1998 Republic Act No. 8485 are spotlighted.
On the ground, it takes mental strength to take in the abuses and cruelty to animals, the abandonment of newborn kittens particularly on busy streets where they are sure to be run over, hoarding of pets, puppy mills, dog meat trading, and other chest-pain triggers.
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) of 1998 has weak fangs thus the amendments up to the present.
My wish list is as follows:
Cooperation from the local government units;
A more regular spay-neuter program in each barangay to curb the overpopulation of cats and dogs (that are subsequently abandoned or sacked);
Higher penalties for AW offenders especially those who shoot and kill animals with impunity;
And most important of all, education and more awareness on responsible pet ownership and animal treatment provided to all citizens. I see kids maltreating kittens.
Maybe they see adults doing the same.
A subject on humane animal treatment should be included in the school curriculum of elementary students.
Start them young, mold them young as they say.

Pamela Claveria, M.D.,
Manila,
Philippines




Thailand's Les Majeste Law
Does not align with democratic principles
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 29, 2024

Re: "Voter intelligence", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Tuesday March 26, 2024.
Felix Qui wrote: "The root problem with the lese majeste law is it does not align with democratic principles."
I agree with his reasoning.
No laws are perfect.
However, there is a way to remedy this by changing the law through the proper constitutional process.
To start, the Move Forward Party (MFP) should have gathered support from a majority in parliament.
If successful, the process will proceed to a nationwide referendum and a change of law by parliament, as per the constitution.
As it has been, the Move Forward Party (MFP) did not only abandon proper legal proceedings, but has been encouraging people to break the law and when caught, accused its critics of "foul play and intimidation!"
Hence, it was the Move Forward Party's (MFP's) action that did not align with democratic principles.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Apollo Quiboloy spared from accountability
By his friends in the Philippine senate
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 31, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 28, 2024

Senators Robinhood Padilla, Bong Go, Cynthia Villar, and Imee Marcos seek to spare Apollo Quiboloy from accountability for his crimes.
By blatantly undermining a long-honored legislative process, they betray their fake understanding of its value to the jobs they were elected to perform.
Not much substance can be expected of amateur senators like Padilla but what about Villar?
She beats Padilla in the brazenness of her misplaced sympathy for Quiboloy.
She said Quiboloy is good to her family so he couldn’t possibly do bad to others.
If Villar honestly believes with all her heart and soul that Quiboloy is innocent, she should have pushed for an investigation if only to prove that his accusers are liars.
This is what should be done out of loving concern for a friend unless she is wary of ugly truths that might uncovered.

Fernando Garcia,
Manila,
Philippines




Earth Trusteeship aims to transcend
Historic ownership contradictions
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 30, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 22, 2024

Re: "It's ideal thinking", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Friday March 22, 2024
It's kind of Michael Setter to characterise my world as a "spiritual one".
Indeed, secular spirituality is not outlandish but an inherent capability of everyone. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises it, in addition to physical, mental and social health, as spiritual health.
An example is the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Conscious Food System Alliance (CoFSA) enabling system transformation open to "food spirit".
That is, the spirit of sharing and food as a "commons".
Earth Trusteeship is a new concept which aims to transcend historic ownership contradictions that hinder regeneration.
The foundation for this governance paradigm is provided by the Earth Charter (The Hague, 2000) as "community of life" which includes all sentient beings.
It refers to the Rights of Nature.
This is 21st-century law and governance innovation in progress.
A challenging perspective will be added once a United Nations Special Envoy for Future Generations is appointed, a planned outcome of the United Nations Summit of the Future to take place in New York in September 2024.
This innovation will add new perspective to the category "secular spirituality" and restoration of the local and global environment to tackle climate change.
Future generations are unborn and infinite, so they are not determined by national citizenship, race, seniority or gender.
In Thailand, even when they are already born, and peacefully assemble as a political party or manifest as a democratically elected majority, they are wiped from the political landscape.

Hans van Willenswaard,
Bangkok,
Thailand





To resist the evolution of the Thai language
Is short-sighted
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 29, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 21, 2024

Re: PostBag, "Literacy hurdles", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Thursday March 5, 2024.
F oreigners and others have been discussing the advisability of simplifying the Thai language.
As a non-speaker, I don't understand its intricacies, but to resist its evolution is short-sighted.
English is perhaps the nearest we have to a common language and it changes constantly and always has.
Woke, Google, umami, and crypto-currencies were not words our parents would have recognised.
If we were sitting in the Globe Theatre 400 years ago, we would have understood precious little of Shakespeare's plays.
Education is the important thing, not conservation.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Millions participated in annual Earth Hour
On March 23, 2024
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 28, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday March 25, 2024

Earth Hour has passed.
Did you switch off nonessential lights?
If yes, that’s great!
While millions have participated in the annual Earth Hour activity, which took place this year on March 23 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., many argued that switching off lights for an hour or Earth Hour itself does not significantly help and is no longer relevant.
That is saddening.
However, it is imperative to recognize that switching off lights for an hour is a global movement to benefit the environment and the future.
Moreover, there are actually a myriad of actions as well as counterparts for Earth Hour that individuals can take to contribute to a more sustainable environment, such as reducing energy consumption overall, advocating for and supporting conservation efforts alike, joining clean-up drives, and spreading environmental education.
While Earth Hour has passed, it is not passé.

Jhon Steven C. Espenido,
Surigao City,
Philippines




There are many solid or reputable companies
In Thailand worthy of responsible investing
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday March 27, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday March 20, 2024

Re: "SEC urges trading probe", in Bangkok Post Business, Friday November 27, 2023 and "Regulator to ban Thais from trading NVDRs", in Bangkok Post Business, FridayNovember 24, 2023.
Authorities just do not seem to realise that most rational individual retail investors in the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) seek out quality growth companies with low valuations which are likely expanding, hence the very ones that may issue new warrants, a key financial tool.
Not this trading galore around overvalued speculative stocks, often based only on rumours or punting, which invariably leads to a losing retail investor experience. And once burned, they won't return.
Perhaps they will even badmouth the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) for life, even though their losses are a result of a speculative strategy so often encouraged by inept brokers.
This is a contentious issue well-known and often frowned upon in the United States, which has almost a century of experience in such ill over-trading, with serious fines meted out to brokers who break the rules.
What is sad is that there are many solid or reputable companies here worthy of responsible investing.
But alas they are mostly ignored due to the poor but well-disguised practices of brokers, left unchecked by management and regulatory agencies.

Paul A Renaud,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Call for Thailand's Anti-Money Laundering Office
To investigate California WOW fitness outlet
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 26, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 22, 2024

Four years ago, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo), in one of their rare communications with us, said they were getting a court order to pay us the claims filed against California WOW, a former popular fitness outlet that closed down. Members who had paid in advance sued to get their money back.
The lawsuit came in 2016 after Amlo in January froze 88 million baht of Cawow's assets, accusing its executives of cheating members and siphoning huge amounts of money from the company.
Since our last contact from Amlo four years ago, we have not heard a word from them, let alone received our court-ordered judgment payment.
The only response is from their pet bot who responds weeks later saying it is being turned over to an unnamed person who will never do anything.
So, in my opinion, the Office of Attorney General should start an investigation into Amlo and determine where our money is.
It is also my opinion that Amlo is guilty of malfeasance since they admitted they were getting an order to pay us money awarded by the court.
The public prosecutor should look into the allegations.
And finally, it is my opinion that Amlo not only owes us the judgement amount, but also 7.2 percent interest calculated in a yearly basis until we get paid.
I wonder if Amlo will respond to this?
Probably not.

You Know Who,
Bangkok,
Thailand






Royal Thai Armed Forces produce result
At odds with election result
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 25, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 21, 2024

Re: "Pita power", Bangkok Post, PostBag, Wednesday March 20, 2024.
Like many foreigners here, I was amazed to see the legacy of the past military rule having such a devastating effect on the recent election.
The very people who received a minuscule amount of the popular vote have managed to produce a result completely at odds with the election result.
Worse still is the fact that it's not stopped, and selected courts are now ensuring that a popular choice of the electorate will no longer be available.
Unlike Vint Chavala, who appears to applaud this outcome, I feel sure the majority of Thais know exactly what has taken place and who is responsible.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Chiang Mai not declared a disaster zone
Despite dangerous levels of air pollution
The Southeast Asian Times. Sunday March 24, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday March 20, 2024

Re: ''Disaster zone label will hurt tourism", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday March 19, 2024.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's admission that he decided not to declare Chiang Mai a disaster zone because it might hurt the province's tourism industry demonstrates monumental and shameful duplicity.
Chiang Mai currently has dangerous levels of air pollution, some of the highest in the world. But PM Srettha prefers to risk the health of tourists so Thailand can continue to collect their tourist dollars.
How does he think those tourists are going to react when they have to breathe filthy air and fall ill with respiratory diseases?
Not to worry, says Prime Minister Srettha, because we have not declared Chiang Mai a disaster zone, the tourists' insurance policies will not be affected!
It is frightening that this is the thinking of the man in charge of the country.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Flood of Myanmar youths to Thailand is opportunity
To show that Thailand deserves seat on UNHRC
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 23, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday March 5, 2024

Re: "Seminar on Myanmar opens as junta objects", in Bangkok Post, Sunday March 3, 2024.
The impending flood of Myanmar youths and professionals fleeing the Tatmadaw draft gives Thailand a major opportunity to show the world that we deserve the United Nations Human Rights Council seat that we're striving for.
Instead of confining these refugees to camps, we should add Myanmar to the list of visa-optional countries that now send us 80 percent of our tourists and help them find jobs that jump-start our productivity, including an acculturation programme to ease them into our labour force.
We should also offer them a merit-based path to citizenship so that they can help us grow for decades.
At the same time, we should offer Thais subsidised training and products like high-yield seeds and agricultural machines to accelerate productivity.
These steps will lead to win-win results both for the Myanmar people and Thailand. By being innovative and acting fully in line with humanitarian principles, we will significantly lessen doubts about our qualifications for the prestigious Human Rights Council seat that we seek.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Pita Limjaroenrat has not indicated regrets
To amend Lese Majeste Law
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 22, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday March 20, 2024

Re: "Pita says Move Forward preparing to battle Election Commission", in Bangkok Post, Sunday March 17, 2024.
Pita Limjaroenrat, former leader and current chief adviser of the Move Forward Party (MFP), said his party was unfazed by the Election Commission's push for its dissolution.
He said the Move Forward Party (MFP) is ready to defend itself against any allegations. I have some observations:
Firstly, it is possible the court will allow the Move Forward Party (MFP) a chance to defend itself before giving the verdict.
If that is the case, the ball will be in the Move Forward Party's (MFP) court to offer new evidence to cancel out the accusations or give convincing assurances that such an alleged criminal act will not occur again.
Secondly, Mr Pita has never given any indication that he regrets the fact that he had led his party executives and members, 43 of them besides Mr Pita, to co-sign with him the Move Forward Party's (MFP) proposal to amend Section 112 in parliament.
And if found guilty, all of these party members will face a political ban for life.
It looks like Mr Pita has a lot of explaining to do to satisfy the Thai public.

Vint Chavala
Bangkok,
Thailand




Analyses question financial feasibility of proposed
land bridge 0ver Isthmus of Kra
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 21, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 1, 2024

Re: "A B1tn bridge to success", in Bangkok Post, Sunday February 25, 2024.
Considering that most independent analyses have questioned the financial feasibility of the proposed land bridge across the Isthmus of Kra, it appears there are primarily only two groups of supporters.
The first group for obvious reasons includes the "fifteen-percenters" the politicians and administrators who would be in charge of awarding construction contracts to build the land-bridge infrastructure.
The second group comprises Chinese entities eager to set a debt trap for Thailand. As demonstrated in several other countries, these salivating wolves are not really interested in the success of such megaprojects.
If truth be known, they actually prefer that such projects fail, allowing them to squeeze major concessions from the country unable to repay hefty loans and gain control over large swaths of the debt-ridden country's economy.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Clearing immigration at Suvarnabhumi airport
Is a chocking point for arrivals
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday March 20, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 8, 2024

Re: "PM aims high for airport: Premier outlines aviation ambitions", Bangkok Post, Saturday March 2, 2024 and "Srettha orders faster immigration, baggage claim at Suvarnabhumi", in Bangkok Post, Monday February 5, 2024.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's unannounced checks at Suvarnabhumi airport revealed that clearing immigration has been a choke point for the arrivals we sorely need to resurrect our stagnant economy.
The Immigration Bureau should follow the lead of the Passport Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which outsourced the entire passport renewal process years ago while staying in overall charge to maintain quality.
Over a decade ago, it took me several hours and a two-week wait to renew my passport at the Passport Office at Central Mall, Bang Na, Bangkok.
But recently, when I went to the Passport Office's new branch on Srinakarin Road, Bang Na, it took me just 20 minutes in-office and two days for my new passport to arrive.
Question is, what is the difference?
The proactive Ministry of Foreign Affairs had outsourced the procedure - with compensation evidently based on output.
The sole Ministry of Foreign Affairs person on-site was the supervisor, who efficiently ensured that all went smoothly and quality was maintained.
Applied to immigration, an outsourced supplier might require that prospective immigrants email proof of return ticket, in-country accommodation and fund availability a week or so in advance instead of reviewing the actual documents on arrival - saving cost, time and tempers.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippine government at top of the heap
In making public transactions miserable
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 18, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 7, 2024

Trust the government to be on top of the heap at making the public transacting business with any of its agencies more miserable.
Republic Act No. 11032 aka “An Act Promoting Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Delivery of Government Services, Amending … the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007” is such a big joke.
Take for instance, the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
The main office at East Ave., Quezon City, is always bursting at the seams at any given business day with the sheer volume of vehicles that have to be brought in for compliance with all kinds of requirements.
The drive-around for a space anywhere there to park one’s vehicle is an unmitigated nightmare.
Setting up branch offices in many other places “to promote ease in doing (LTO) business” has seldom helped since in most of those places chosen by the LTO’s “bright boys,” parking slots are just as woefully inadequate.
Don’t they ever use some common sense?
Vehicle owners are often put at risk of getting their vehicles towed away while being parked on the streets.
There’s simply nowhere else to go as whatever parking slots intended for public use are already reserved for its glorified personnel holding office there.
Public service demands that they should be the ones parking on the streets to feel what these LTO planners really are.
And now comes this ridiculous idea of forcing owners of e-bikes and e-trikes to register them under pain of stiff fines or outright impoundment.
What’s next?
Require plate numbers and/or stickers on them when LTO has up to now failed to provide many regular vehicles with the much-vaunted new plates despite being already pre-paid eons ago?
And where are the stickers for the windshields and the plates which used to serve as the visible proof of current registration to stop traffic enforcers from harassing motorists about the status of their vehicles’ registration?
The backlog in the LTO’s issuance of those items is horrendous with no end to the public frustration in sight.
The LTO should first get its act together before imposing more requirements to burden taxpayers with.

Steve L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines





Philippine President Marcos' economic team
Has failed to stir excitement in foreign investors
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 18, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 7, 2024

Newly appointed Finance Secretary Ralph Recto’s assurances to foreign capitalists on the ease of doing business in the country comes as a welcome whiff of fresh air. President Marcos’ erstwhile economic team had failed to stir excitement among foreign investors after more than a year in office.
Credibility seems to be our biggest problem because other countries in the region are getting a bigger share of foreign direct investments (FDI).
The sudden interest of local industrialists, led by San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) Ramon Ang, to go into long-term investments in infrastructure and natural gas exploration is cause for optimism.
An estimated trillion pesos’ worth of natural gas beneath the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao can now be tapped as part of our gradual transition from coal/oil-based power sources to alternative fuel, a goal in which 75 nations, the Philippines included, have signed on as they pledge to completely turn to green fuel by 2050.
Local taipans are now putting their money’s worth into the country’s long-term economic development.
San Miguel Corp.(SMC) has a good track record in its public-private partnership (PPP) with the government, notably in road infrastructure projects.
The consortium of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corp. also won the contract for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) rehabilitation project with its bid that gave government 82.16 percent of gross revenue, excluding passenger service charges.
This is more than triple that of the next best bid.
On the horizon is the projection that with a refurbished Naia, the airport would surpass the 45.39 million visitors it hosted in 2023.
The influx of more tourists into the country could well exceed the pre-COVID-19 figure of six to eight million a year.
Complementing this are the bridges and highways being built to connect most of the tourist destinations in the country, making travel by land faster, easier, and more practical.
San Miguel Corp. (SMC) is also negotiating with the Oriental Mindoro and Batangas provincial governments a deal to construct a 15-kilometer pontoon bridge costing P18 billion that will take five years to build. A floating bridge design was adopted to avoid damaging the seabed of the Verde Island Passage which is considered a center of biodiversity.
The bridge is planned to span the Verde Island Passage in two parts.
The first part is 6.4 kilometers long and extends from Barangay Ilijan in Batangas City to Verde Island.
The second component spans 4.4 kilometers from Verde Island to Barangay Sinandigan in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.
The Batangas-Mindoro bridge is touted to be the first floating bridge in Asia that will allow tall ships to pass through. In addition, the bridge will have pedestrian and bicycle lanes.
The bridge will also be designed to withstand typhoons with winds as strong as 350 km/h.
The shorter travel time on the bridge as compared to going by sea is a big boon to tourism in these parts.
For the longest time, entrenched businesses backed by political dynasties have effectively blocked foreign direct investments (FDI) as some families keep lucrative businesses for themselves, such as banking, electricity and power supply, telecommunications, agribusinesses, and mineral resources.
Few long-term infrastructure in power and energy generation have been undertaken.
Our country is known for year-round festivities that tourists love; if we can double the number of tourists from eight to 16 million, tourist-related businesses can solve our unemployment problem.
Hopefully, this new thrust in economic development by local industrialists under the public-private partnership (PPP) program would usher in a new era for the country’s development, and wean our government from incurring more foreign debts.

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines





Taylor Swift plays only in Singapore
Hurtful to neighbouring cities
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 17, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 1, 2024

Re: "PM impressed by Singapore's Swift deal", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday March 6, 2024.
The exclusive deal for Taylor Swift to play only in Singapore may not be unfriendly, but it is clever.
However it is more of self-interest and lack of empathy.
This may be hanging on to the political treatise of Nicola Machiavelli of the end justifying the means but likely hurtful to neighbouring cities.
Generally, there is a stigma in being Machiavellian for anyone associated with that standard and it is monumental and not erasable.

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand




We should be happy
With the color of our skin
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 16, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 7, 2024

Glutathione is an antioxidant capable of preventing damage to important cellular components, like free radicals.
A prominent side effect is hypopigmentation or loss of skin pigment or color (nakakaputi).
The Philippine Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings on its use for cosmetic purposes, especially intravenously.
Seeing the photo of a senator’s wife having her IV infusion in her husband’s Senate office for cosmetic enhancement is shocking.
Mariel Padilla looks very healthy so her IV drip is meant to make her skin whiter.
I really don’t know whose idea it was to put that photo on social media, which a lot of Filipinos are apt to believe in.
So this is a bad influence.
We used to elect officials who are statesmen/stateswomen, but I guess we just have to blame the electorate.
Too sad that our culture still believes in “colorism,” and that the lighter your skin, the higher your status is in the community.
We should be happy with the color of our skin.
As brown people or people of color, we don’t develop wrinkles earlier than those in the West so we look younger, and the incidence of skin cancer is low.
Maganda ang balat na kayumanggi.

Ida M. Tiongco, M.D., FAAD,
Manila,
Philippines




Former PM Najib Razak reputataion
Has gone down the toilet
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 15, 2024

We read in The Southeast Asian Times 13 March, 2024 that the new management of state funds has accused ousted Malaysian PM Najib Razak of breach of trust and abuse of power.
So Razak is back in the news. And again for the wrong reason. I am reminded of the Shakespearean quote in Julius Caesar : “ The evil that men do lives after
them … “.
It certainly does in Razak’s case. When he was PM he pocketed RM42 million from a state development fund ( read details in The Southeast Asian Times article ). For that he was put away in jail for 12 years which I gather has now been reduced to 6 by Malaysia’s new king. It does not matter . The fact is Razak’s reputation has gone down the toilet.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




11th anniversay of murder of Dexter Condez
Acquired certificate of ancestral domain title
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 14, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday February 26, 2024

Last February 22 was the 11th anniversary of the murder of Dexter Condez.
The Ati spokesperson and youth leader was shot eight times and killed in Barangay Manoc-Manoc in Boracay, Aklan.
At only 26, he has done so much for his community as he was instrumental in acquiring their certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT).
As a youth leader, he was an integral generational bridge who transformed indigenous knowledge from community elders to the language embraced by younger generations, who have increasingly been exposed to the ways of the dominant society.
Before he died, he busied himself developing an educational program for his community.
He was such a big loss.
While a suspect was eventually apprehended, the mastermind remains unknown and has eluded justice.
The Ati are a peaceful people, and they were simply fighting for their ancestral domain the land they have owned beyond the reach of memory.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples awarded them their CADT, but this only intensified the threats against them.
Consequently, the community could not peaceably enjoy ownership over the land. The community’s fears came to life with Condez’s murder.
Many changes happened on the island since Condez died over a decade ago.
In 2018, Boracay was closed for six months, and the pandemic restrictions hit and slowed down tourism.
For the Ati, however, the same trepidations persist.
Just recently, the community was again enveloped in a similar land conflict in another part of the island.
Ati families face eviction despite previously being awarded certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs).
The Department of Agrarian Reform, which previously awarded idle agricultural lots, is canceling the CLOAs because the lots are now claimed not to be arable but instead are suited for ecotourism and commercial use.
This is an insult to the Ati, who exerted indigenous knowledge and transformed these idle lands into fertile grounds.
Now they are being forced out.
Condez’s death should have been a threshold moment.
It should have paved the way for the government and society to recognize and act on the plight of the Ati. Sadly, the continuing struggle and injustice show otherwise. Worryingly, the Ati are not alone.
There are several reports of the Kankanaey and Tuwali in the Cordilleras being politically vilified, the Dumagat-Remontado in Quezon Province deprived of their right to free, prior, and informed consent, and Tedurays being forcibly relocated in Mindanao.
Much needs to be done to change the realities of numerous indigenous peoples, not only in Boracay but throughout the country.
We can all do something.
Unlike Condez, we can still wake up and start grasping the stark realities faced by indigenous peoples.
With the requisite empathy, we should learn more and work with indigenous peoples in whatever way possible.
Then, we give justice to the life and sacrifice of Dexter Condez and those who fought for the recognition of indigenous rights in the country.

Raymond Marvic C. Baguilat,
Manila,
Philippines





President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency
Was characterized by unwritten dictatorial rule
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 13, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday March 1, 2024

Edsa’s idealism right after deposed President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. left was dead in the water, with continued patronage politics under the presidential system. President Cory Aquino was strong, morally, but politically weak.
Her six years’ term was characterized by economic doldrums.
President Fidel Ramos’ leadership stride was different.
His rolled-up barong Tagalog sleeves symbolically said he was breaking away from the traditional failure syndrome and into novel approaches.
His solution to the crippling power and electricity problem was strategic, short of a military coup of sorts.
But came President Joseph Estrada, followed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and the personality syndrome again lorded it over in government.
President Benigno Aquino III’s turn brought a spark of economic success because he allowed his technocrats to run the government.
Our GDP rose to more than 2 percent for the first time in years.
The debacle returned with President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency which was characterized by unwritten dictatorial rule.
You’re either on his side or the wrong side.
Media behemoth ABS-CBN, because of a personal tiff with him in the 2016 presidential elections, could not renew its franchise despite its impeccable financial records and no unpaid obligations to the government.
All because Duterte vowed that renewal would never happen under his watch.
His Davao business cronies became the new guys on the block.
Patronage politics worsened because he acted like the mayor of the Philippines. Micromanaging the crises all over the country with billions of pesos in dole-outs made him immensely popular and made people dependent on dole-outs, which were found to have been siphoned from the unspent budget of government of offices.
Then President Marcos came and micromanaging was back in fashion, with ayuda for every disaster coming from P9 to P10 billion in discretionary funds.
That’s why no people in their right mind would believe that Charter change will get us anywhere.
Foreign direct investments are not coming in because they want special attention. The United States Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Investment Climate Statement on the Philippines, dated Jan. 24, 2024, tells us why: Poor infrastructure.
High power cost.
Slow broadband connection. Regulatory inconsistencies.
A cumbersome and corrupt bureaucracy.
The country’s complex, slow, redundant, and sometimes corrupt judicial system that decides commercial disputes.
Traffic congestion in ports.
This is the gist of our economic woes.
The reasons we hear for amending the Constitution are mostly self-serving and political.
We may overhaul the Constitution, but achieve nothing beneficial for the general public because the flawed dynastic patronage politics under the presidential form of government does not allow it.

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines




Swiss elephant sanctuary in Phuket
Under investigation
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 12, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday March 4, 2024

Re: "Phuket couple apologises for beach steps incident", in Bangkok Post, Friday March 1, 2024.
The news and video clip of a Swiss man kicking a young Thai doctor who was relaxing on the steps near the man's Phuket villa has gone viral on the internet.
The video clip appeared to have been recorded by the man himself.
The gentleman has audaciously recorded himself committing the brutal attacks on the young doctor.
The video is now self-incriminating.
The steps on the beach front have been ordered demolished since the company which owns the villa occupied by the couple built them on public land.
One charge of trespassing on public property has been pressed.
If the young doctor has to undergo treatment for more than 20 days, the man could be charged with assault with intent to cause severe bodily harm.
The punishment will be harsher.
The man's wife allegedly berated the young doctor with foul language.
She later sent two policemen she had called on the phone to pressure the doctor at the scene saying if the doctor pressed charges she would face a four-year jail term, while the woman would only face a fine for simply assaulting her.
Investigations are being carried out whether the couple's elephant sanctuary business is in line with the law.
Since police have learned the couple rented the villa for around 1 million baht a month, inquiries over whether their landlord acquired the villa in a legitimate manner will be carried out as well.
Finally, criminal proceedings aside, the Swiss gentleman might find it hard to extend or renew his visa in Thailand.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




In a democracy
A successful leader must also be popular
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday March 11, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 13, 2024

Re: "A 14th century warning for the 21st century", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Monday February 12, 2024.
Max Hastings suggests studying 14th-century history "can be a big help to understanding our own times".
Clearly, this premise is hard to accept given the advent of gunpowder, and AI happened subsequently, but Mr Hastings manages to take it into the realm of extreme nonsense.
After rambling on to add historical stuffing to his turkey, he finally makes the embarrassing leap to his unsurprising purpose - bashing Trump.
No doubt Hastings imagines that to criticise Trump for being a demagogue is a righteous accomplishment, but let's see how he does it.
The Oxford Dictionary defines demagoguing as "rhetorically exploiting an issue for political purposes in a way calculated to appeal to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people".
Every thinking person immediately recognises when someone uses the very thing they habitually do to blame others for their own selfishness.
Mr Hastings' opinion piece is readily seen as merely one more silly excursion into the indulgence of exactly that kind of thinking, despite its cloak of pretentious historicity.
In a democracy, a successful leader must also be popular.
This does not mean he or she is, therefore, illogical and thus a demagogue.

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Thailand's parliamentarians should be lauded not deplored
For seeking to end the Myanmar conflict
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 10, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 7, 2024

Re: "Thai MPs hold Myanmar seminar over junta's objection", in Bangkok Post, Saturday March 2, 2024 and "Myanmar now an 'endless nightmare'", in Bangkok Post, Sunday March 3, 2024.
Thailand's parliamentarians, including House committee on national security chairman Rangsiman Rome (MFP), should be lauded - not deplored - for seeking to work with all parties to end the Myanmar conflict.
Myanmar's junta objected to exploring such avenues at parliament's "Three Years after the Coup" seminar, saying it would "create negative impacts" on bilateral relations.
The junta asked the government to tell our parliament not to hold "any activity that could hinder cordial ties."
But the Tatmadaw's overthrow of Myanmar's freely and fairly elected government at gunpoint and as UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Turk said "three years of military rule have inflicted - and continue to inflict - unbearable levels of suffering and cruelty on people in Myanmar".
Myanmar men and women are increasingly fleeing there before they're drafted and forced to kill their fellow countrymen. Thus, our parliamentarians are duty-bound to seek and solve the root causes of the problem together with the main parties to the conflict - including the Tatmadaw - and for this, the peacemakers should be highly commended. The Tatmadaw is in error in decrying our efforts; in fact, it should work with us to bring peace and prosperity to our peoples.
Also, the Myanmar junta misunderstands the role of the various branches of a democratic government.
The executive branch cannot order the legislative branch, though of course any branch may and should seek the cooperation of its co-equals.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





For years, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia)
Has been a hotbed of flight delays and cancellations
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 9, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday March 4, 2024

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) will finally be privatized.
For years, the airport has been a hotbed of flight delays and cancellations, subpar service, and generally poor passenger experience.
The government hopes to resolve this by relinquishing control to the SMC-SAP and Co. Consortium in a P170.6-billion, 15-year concession deal.
I am less optimistic about the prospect of improvement under this new management.
A 2023 preprint published in the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the type of privatization matters a lot. Private equity (PE) fund ownership exhibits the best improvements in airport performance.
Non-private equity ownership, as in the Naia deal, is found to be no better than public ownership.
Looking into specific performance metrics, Private Equity (PE) privatization increases per-flight passenger traffic driven mostly by increases in domestic flights, indicating improvements in efficiency and capacity. Non-Private Equity (PE) privatization does not exhibit this effect and is merely at par with public ownership. Flight routes and the number of airlines also increased under both PE and non-PE privatization. In the latter, however, the trend already existed before Private Equity (PE) the change in ownership, which means that the increase in routes and airlines cannot be attributed to the privatization.
Flight cancellations also decreased under both Private Equity (PE) and non-Private Equity (PE) privatization, though the latter already exhibited the trend prior to change of ownership.
Flight delays actually increased under non-PE privatization while no change was observed under Private Equity (PE) privatization.
Meanwhile, passenger service quality such as security wait times, restroom cleanliness, store quality, and lounge amenities improved under both kinds of privatization.
The fate of airport employees also factor into the decision of privatizing Naia.
Both kinds of privatization see improved airport profitability but in two different ways.
Private Equity (PE) privatization increases profit through growth and efficiency, with no evidence of cost reduction and employee layoffs.
The same cannot be said of non-Private Equity (PE) privatization.
In sum, privatization works only if the new management is not just any private firm, but a private equity firm.
The state of Naia is so bad that any change in management would likely be better than its current one.
But the benefits of privatization would be better extracted if a private equity firm spearheaded it. It makes me wonder if the Marcos trips were a lost opportunity to convince foreign PE firms to take over Naia instead.

Julan Omir P. Aldover,
Leyte Normal University,
Philippines




Waving visa fees for tourists to Thailand
In stark contrast to treatment of 500,000 foreign nationals
The Southeast Asian Times Friday March 8, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday March 2, 2024

Re: "Tourism, trade MoUs to bolster Kazakh ties", in Bangkok Post, Monday February 26, 2024.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is focused on attracting foreign tourists from China, India, and Kazakhstan by waiving visa fees, aiming to boost spending in the kingdom.
However, this stands in stark contrast to the treatment of the 500,000 foreign nationals, mainly from the West, India, Korea, China, and Japan, who reside and work in Thailand.
These individuals, who are significant taxpayers and contribute to the country's progress through various sectors, such as education, technology, and manufacturing, face numerous challenges.
Foreign workers in Thailand are burdened with hefty exit and reentry fees, with charges of 1,200 baht for a single entry and 3,800 baht for multiple entries.
Additionally, they are required to report to immigration police every 90 days, and their landlords must report their movements, risking fines ranging from 2,000 baht to 10,000 baht if not complied with.
These regulations impose undue hardships on foreigners, deeply affecting their morale.
Ironically, it was Prime Minister Srettha's mentor, Thaksin Shinawatra, who implemented these anti-foreigner policies, significantly raising entry fees during his tenure.
Thaksin's eventual exile from the country can be seen as poetic justice for his actions.
Mr Srettha must rectify this injustice by reversing the measures enacted by the previous government.
It is imperative to treat local foreigners with respect and recognise their valuable contributions to Thailand's development and social security system, even if they do not fully utilise it.
As a crucial initial step, Mr Srettha must prioritise the abolition of re-entry fees, a burdensome charge absent in many other countries.
Secondly, it is imperative to eliminate the cumbersome 90-day reporting requirement imposed on foreign residents, as well as the unnecessary obligation for landlords to report their tenants' movements, which only serves to waste time and resources.
By implementing these reforms, Mr Srettha can demonstrate a commitment to fairness and inclusivity, ensuring that all residents, regardless of nationality, are treated with dignity and respect in Thailand.

George,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Is the Edsa 1986 Philippines People Power Revolution
Intentionally left out of this year’s list of holidays?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 7, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday March 1, 2024

Perceptual selectivity is a basic concept in philosophy that explores how we selectively perceive and process sensory information from our environment.
A crucial aspect of perceptual selectivity is the limit to our attention.
It is impossible for us to perceive every stimulus in our environment simultaneously. Therefore, we must prioritize certain sensory information over others based on factors such as relevance, familiarity, and other considerations.
Let’s explore the concept of perceptual selectivity through an example.
Imagine being in a crowded room where we are engaged in a conversation with a friend.
Despite the noise and distractions around us, we are able to focus solely on our conversation, filtering out everything else to maintain our connection.
On the other hand, there are times when we intentionally ignore our friend in a crowd because we are not in the mood to interact with him or her.
This is known as perceptual defense.
Additionally, there are instances when we may perceive things in an exaggerated or understated manner.
For example, when we describe our friend’s pink dress as beautiful, though in reality we see it as flashy.
This is an example of perceptual exaggeration.
Conversely, when we comment about a friend’s jewelry as looking cheap even though we know it is actually expensive, we are engaging in perceptual understatement.
Is the Edsa 1986 People Power Revolution intentionally left out of this year’s list of holidays?
The omission can be attributed to perceptual selectivity and defense mechanisms by individuals in positions of power. If they choose to minimize the historical importance of this event through their biased viewpoints, they are engaging in perceptual understatement.
Moreover, if they insinuate that the Edsa 1986 revolution, which ultimately resulted in the drafting of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, is responsible for our current economic difficulties, they are guilty of perceptual exaggeration.
In other words, perceptual selectivity suggests that our perceptions are not objective reflections of reality, but rather subjective interpretations shaped by our biases and mental filters.
When examining current events through this lens, it becomes evident that our understanding of history can be distorted, leading to the perpetuation of myths, stereotypes, and misinformation.

Reginaldo B. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines




Thai's know best
The Thai's that are patriots
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday March 6, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 1, 2024

Re: "For the record", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Tuesday February 27, 2024.
I almost fell off my chair with mirth and laughter when I read the part of Felix Qui's recent letter that read, "Unlike the patriotic Thais being unjustly imprisoned in strict accord with the law created for that purpose, Vint Chavala has been able to peacefully express his opinion".
One reason why I came back to contribute to PostBag is the inability of the expat community living in Thailand to confine its criticism of my country in accordance with its limited knowledge of the whole truth.
Ask yourself this question: If my opinions were untrue and based on falsehood, would they have been allowed to be published on this page?
And in fact, I know better the Thais that are "patriots" and those who are just "ingrates" - because this is my country, the country that I should know best.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Thailand calls for exemption for Myanmar
From approval for visa on arrival
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 5, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 1, 2024

Re: "Myanmar influx 'no cause for concern'?", in Bandgkok Post, Saturday February 24, 2024.
We should very quickly add Myanmar to the list of countries whose citizens don't need prior approval or visas on arrival.
About 80 percent of international travellers to Thailand now enter on 30- or 90-day visa exemptions, and those from Myanmar should be at least as law-abiding as the others.
The Tatmadaw's surprise announcement of a military draft starting next month and covering men, women and some professionals will cause a massive surge in those seeking to avoid being forced to kill their countrymen.
As the draft gets underway, people will be pressured to cross our porous border without documentation, causing multiple problems.
Thailand is one of the world's fastest-ageing societies, increasing the burden on working-age Thais to support their elders.
Those whom the Tatmadaw is after are precisely those who can most help slow our ageing, giving Thais breathing room to upgrade our productivity and reproduction rates.
We can enroll the new arrivals in an acculturation program, perhaps based on that of the US Peace Corps, and including language training, to ease their integration into our workforce while we simultaneously improve our own output rates.
We must act now on this win-win opportunity.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





The requirement in Thailand is to transfer shares
To an independent management company
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 4, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday March 2, 2024

Re: "EC asked to probe minister's shares", in Bangkok Post, Monday February 26, 2024
This news report refers to the alleged subterfuge by Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol in shuffling company ownership shares to the value of 459 billion baht in exchange for loan papers.
On the surface, I have no problem with this kind of estate trust /planning. In my former profession, as a CPA, the normal thing to do is to set up a trust as a juristic entity. The requirement in Thailand is to transfer the shares to an independent management company. This ensures that not only does it appear that the law is complied with but that it has actually been done.
The reason I feel compelled to write this is with regard to the staggering amount of wealth reported; a single, relatively young Thai as compared with that of the average Thai. Recent reports indicate that approximately 50 percent of Thai youth are illiterate. I suggest that if they could read, they would find this "revolting". Viva!

Don McMahon,
Bangkok,
Thailand





The legalisation of marijuana in the Philippines
Is manifest colonial mentality
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday March 3, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday March 1, 2024

No, we are not losing the opportunity to legalize marijuana, as one letter writer has said.
If at all, we are simply looking at its bane, not just its boon, if any.
I hate to say this, but to readily emulate what’s happening now in other countries, like Germany and Thailand, is manifest colonial mentality.
Yes, some medical researches, especially in the West, have revealed a number of ailments for which medical marijuana has been recommended and its use as anti-nauseant and appetite stimulant, anti-spasmodic, anti-convulsive, analgesic or pain reliever, and anti-inflammatory, anti-immune system.
The problem is, these ailments have long been known to be equally, if not more effectively, treatable by many other well-known drugs that are accessible either over the counter or via a doctor’s prescription.
Why take the risk of legalizing an otherwise highly prohibited drug when such risk can be reasonably avoided?
That is how simple and commonsensical this controversial issue is.

Rudy Coronel,
Batangas City,
Philippines





A certain party has shown time and again
To have supported changing Thailand into a republic
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 2, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday February 26, 2024

A certain party consisting mostly of young and starry-eyed Member of Parliament's has been racking up political points and popularity.
This party has gained so much support from its fast-growing fan base that most people predict it will become Thailand's next government after the next election.
There are two reasons for this upsurge.
Firstly, this party utilises online and AI technologies that enable it to gain Member of Parliament's quickly and cheaply -unlike old-style parties that keep spending hundreds of millions of baht yet win relatively few Member of Parliament's.
Secondly, and this is a moot point.
This party has shown time and again to have supported the idea of changing Thailand into a republic, with its leader installed as the next head of state.
Such an action would start a civil war in Thailand.
Since this party is so sure of its strength, it is up to nation-loving Thais to do something to show their love and gratefulness for their beloved country.
Allow me to add: whatever we do, it must be in the name of peace and camaraderie.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand





PM Strettha Thavisin's outlines his vision
To make Thailand great again
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 1, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday February 26, 2024

Re: "PM maps out economic vision", in Bangkok Post, Friday February 23, 2024.
The headline concerns our Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's vision to make Thailand great again and boost the economy with policies ranging from tourism to digital economy.
He spent more than 70 minutes outlining his dream without focusing on any policies.
The event seems like a salesman's pitch to customers who happen to be government officials.
Considering that he has only four years in his administration, would it be more productive if he concentrated on the biggest priorities, and certain timelines and action plans as to how to achieve his goals?
Otherwise, it just sounds like fanfare and fireworks, all of which will simmer and fade away.
In the eyes of the public, some of the most urgent issues which the government must tackle are grassroots structural problems: bureaucratic and military, police, judicial reform; education; and corruption, without which, no matter how rosy his dream is, Thailand will remain as it is.

The Insider,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Thailand adds sugar and coconut milk
To Tea, or "chai" as it is known in India
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday February 29, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday February 26, 2024

Re: "Take this tea tale with a pinch of salt", in Bangkok Post, PostScript, Sunday February 18, 2024.
Tea, or "chai" as it is known in India, has a rich history in the country.
It is believed to have been introduced to India by the British during the colonial period.
Throughout the 19th century, tea cultivation expanded rapidly in India.
While tea initially gained popularity among the British in India, it gradually became an integral part of Indian culture.
Unlike the British tea culture, Indian tea culture involves adding milk and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves to create the tasty beverage known as "masala chai."
And of course, a lot of sugar, though no salt. Thailand has its unique version of "chai" added with sugar and coconut milk.
Chai remains popular throughout India, enjoyed by people from all walks of life, and is served in roadside stalls, households, and upscale cafes.
Overall, the history of tea in India reflects its journey from its introduction as a colonial crop to its becoming an integral part of Indian culture and identity.
We are always grateful to Roger's PostScript for adding refreshing flavours and aromas to our Sunday mornings.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand





February in the Philippines
Is National Arts Month
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday February 28, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday February 23, 2024

In the Philippines, February is celebrated as National Arts Month, as promulgated under Presidential Proclamation No. 683 and signed by the late president Corazon C. Aquino in 1991.
Its aim is “to celebrate the artistic excellence and pay tribute to the uniqueness and diversity of the Filipino heritage and culture.”
This celebration has significantly contributed to acknowledging our artists and appreciating their invaluable contributions to the past, present, and potentially the future of the arts in our country.
Considerably, our artists serve as both inspiration and guardians of the Filipino identity, helping instill a sense of nationalism and patriotism, especially among the younger generation.
Their profession is as noble as any other. Historically, they have enriched us with their creativity and imaginative works, shedding light on social issues, and fostering love for our identity.
Thanks to our arts subjects in elementary, high school, and college, we can muster enough memories of prominent artists like Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo, to mention a few.
Through film, music, dance, literature, and more, our artists help make sense of the world, providing us with glimpses into our history and important events of the past that remain relevant to this very age.
Likewise, their craftsmanship and cultural sensitivity transcend generations, and dedicating a month to them is a fitting recognition of their significant role in our country.
Their creative minds raise awareness, challenge norms, provoke thoughts, and widen our horizons.
Let us continue to support them in any way possible.

Jhon Steven C. Espenido,
Surigao City,
Philippines



Hey!
Give Thaksin a break

The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 27, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday February 26, 2024

Re: "Thaksin undermining premier's role", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Saturday February 24, 2024.
Hey, give Thaksin a break.
Can't one imagine he must have fallen seriously ill, on his return from self-imposed exile, after being put in jail without privileges?
Must have been a real shocker after having lived a billionaire's life for decades and as a globetrotter for years.
More over, he's done a lot of good for the country's poor, according to his daughter and won acclaim for this
.Last but not least, his illness must be serious, since his good friend from a neighbouring country visited him within three days of Thaksin's discharge from hospital

S de Jong,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Boeing Dreamliner order should remind Thailand
Of shenanigans over Rolls-Royce airplane enginines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 26, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Frday February 23, 2024

Re: "THAI plane order a record, says Boeing", Bangkok Post, February 20, 2024.
The super-big Boeing Dreamliner order that THAI just signed - worth a huge 476 billion baht at list price - should remind us about the past shenanigans of THAI intermediaries - yet we stay silent.
In a past bribery case, Rolls-Royce admitted in US/UK courts to having paid approximately US$11 million in bribes over 2000-2012 to Thai state-owned controlled entities to sell them Rolls-Royce airplane engines.
Though tracing the money trail would have been child's play, we made no serious effort to do so.
As PM Srettha Thavisin has not even bothered to read ex-graftbuster Vicha Mahakun's four-year-old recommendations about reforming the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney-General, it seems very unlikely that he will take serious steps to curb graft in this case.
The impending massive graft comes at a time when our economy's doing very poorly and we can ill afford to be fleeced again.
We're probably being fleeced; we should at least bleat.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Lowering interest rates in Thailand
Makes exports much cheaper
The Southeat Asian Times, Saturday February 24, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday February 23, 2024

Re: "BoT is absolutely right in holding rates", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Thursday February 22, 2024.
I am no expert, nor an economist, but the comment by economist Chartchai Parasuk ascribed to the current policy on interest rate policy by Bank of Thailand has left me scratching my head.
He is reported to have said that lowering interest rates is "not going to make Chinese tourists spend more", nor is it going to "cause Chinese firms to import more petrochemicals from Thailand".
But forgive me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that lowering interest rates would weaken the currency, thereby making Thailand not only a more desirable place for Chinese tourists to visit but also making Thai exports that much cheaper to foreign Chinese buyers.
Is this not "Economics 101", or am I missing something?
As with most central banks around the world, the BoT seems to be woefully behind the curve.

Richard Ferns,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Thailand's Move Forward Party
Got off to a good start
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 24, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday February 22, 2024

Re: "EC reviews court ruling on MFP: Decision on party dissolution 'soon'?", in Bangkok Post, Saturday February 17, 2024.
Some people might query why a political party formed just a few years ago should face a dissolution order by the Constitutional Court, and some 40-plus of its members should face jail terms and/or be banned from politics for the rest of their lives.
The devil is in the details here.
Firstly, this party got off to a good start.
In the 2023 election it won 36.23 percent of the vote, which is amazing.
But it could not garner enough votes to form a coalition.
Eventually, the rest of the parties in parliament chose to form a government among themselves, and left this party in the opposition bloc.
The reason for this was simple: they had negative feelings towards this party's aggressive stance towards the monarchy.
Secondly, the former leader and current advisory chairman of this party talks too much for his own good.
No matter how many years you have studied in an Ivy League university, it is nothing compared to a day's work in government.
Hence, most of what you say is basically gibberish.
Lastly, how many times has this party been caught out in its own lies?
Just like the former leader of this party once said: "Whoever spreads untruths or false accusations about us, those words will boomerang on them".
Well, that boomerang is coming back to this party, too.
Whatever you speak or do these days, your "digital footprint" will always catch up with you.
Just wait and see.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Thai politicians and judges
To be a little bit Buddhist
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday February 23, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday February 13, 2024

Re: "Illicit drug limit set for dodging jail", in Bangkok Post, Sunday February 11, 2024
Reading the article shows that it's about one or more government officials deeming that people busted for small amounts of illegal drugs should be able to avoid hard time in prison.
It's a baby step in the right direction and should be instated retroactively.
In other words, roughly half of the tens of thousands of inmates in Thai prisons are in for petty, bogus and/or victimless crimes.
Thailand ranks five or six in the world for the percentage of countrymen and women imprisoned.
Will this new edict affect the old Burmese man who is serving 28 years for getting caught with a speed pill?
How about the Malaysian old man whose legs are as thin as bamboo, who's been in a Thai prison for so long that he's lost count of the years, all because he got caught with three ya ba pills in the prior century?
Come on, Thai politicians and judges, be a little bit Buddhist. Quit ruining peoples' lives for a drug that's less harmful than beer.

Ken Albertsen,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Filipinos call for minimum wage
For teachers
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday February 22, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The article “World Bank study to decide pay hike for teachers – DepEd” in News, February 16, 2024 describes a future time for public school teachers when the days of overworked but underpaid mentors are finally a thing of the past.
This is why I am one with lawmakers in pushing for House Bill No. 9920 proposing to raise the minimum monthly pay for teachers to P50,000.
We have seen an upward trend of increases in the prices of basic commodities and services to the detriment of their interests.
It runs counter to the goal of improving their welfare. It’s time to stop the irresponsible act of merely ignoring the plea to provide them with higher wages. The negligence of those who should have exercised utmost care for them is appalling.
The interest in becoming a teacher is waning.
You see this in a disproportionate exodus of teachers.
Many are now working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong or as factory workers in Taiwan.
So provide support for the remaining people who still have faith and confidence in the teaching profession.
Great developments in the education sector don’t just happen.
I am, therefore urging Congress to pass this measure without delay.
Filipinos are sick and tired of hearing tales of teachers who are selling longganisa, underwear, and so forth to augment their meager incomes.
HB 9920 is a perfect encouragement for mentors to work hard in molding the minds of the young.
For their tenacity, dedication, integrity, and discipline, pass this measure now.
It will be an achievement far, far more important than Charter change. Acknowledging the hardships brought forth by the high cost of living, the government should prioritize an increased budgetary allocation for cash-strapped teachers.
No ifs and buts!

Florita G. Narciza, Ph.D.
Binalonan,
Pangasinan,
Philippines




Australia's Members of Parliament call on US and UK
To allow Julian Assange to return home
First published in The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday February 21, 2024

It is absolutely great to hear Australian MPs have come together to call US and UK to end the persecution of Julian Assange and allow him to return to Australia. They have done the right thing. The cruelty, inhumanity and mental trauma Assange has been subjected to for nearly one and half decades is unbecoming of the two leading democracies of the world. Hope the Australian MPs call is heeded.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia





Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office
Committs to full transparency except for winners
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday February 20, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday February 16, 2024

We are writing in response to your February 11, 2024 editorial "Gaming the game of chance," which tackles the state-run lottery operations by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Please be assured that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) upholds the highest ethical standards in all its operations and recognizes the importance of maintaining transparency, in as much as we value the continued trust and support of the public for the past 89 years.
As such, we understand the necessity of increasing transparency and accountability at Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Proposals to conduct live draw, publish detailed lottery statistics, and balance winner confidentiality with transparency are valid and should be considered.
However, while we commit to full transparency, we also give utmost priority to the safety and well-being of all lottery winners.
Maintaining anonymity ensures winners can better enjoy their newfound fortune without potential threats or unwarranted attention.
In this regard, we want to clarify some misconceptions on the controversial photo that generated various unfounded allegations against the agency.
Please be informed that the winner did not participate in an online betting system.
Instead, the winner who hit the 6/42 jackpot price on December 28, 2023, winning P43,882,361.60, placed the bet in a traditional lotto outlet in Bulacan.
As for the 6/55 GrandLotto sequence drawn on October 1, 2023, we must stress that lotteries are games of chance.
Each draw is an isolated, random event, ensuring no predictability and absolute fairness.
Additionally, our "Handog Pakabog" event on December 16, 2023, which boosted GrandLotto 6/55 and UltraLotto 6/58 jackpots, fully complies with all applicable policies and guidelines.
This strategy is designed to excite players, acknowledge patrons, and enhance sales.
By the way, we would like to report that last year, the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) named the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) one of the most improved and best-performing goverment-owned and -controlled corporations.
GCG recognized the PCSO’s remarkable accomplishments, outstanding disclosure practices, and high-performance ratings.
The agency’s 92.03 percent in 2022 is a massive leap of 35.73 percent compared to its 2021 score of 56.30 percent.
Finally, it cannot be overstated how crucial Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is in generating funds for charitable and social welfare services in the country.
As the government’s main charity arm, we are mandated to provide funds for health programs, medical assistance and services, and extending immediate help and assistance even to disaster victims.
Thank you very much and we wish to reiterate that sustaining public’s faith and confidence in the integrity of our operations is our paramount consideration, and we are committed to meeting this expectation.

Arnel N. Casas,
Manila,
Philippines

 

China's ships are tailing
Philippine's supply and patrol ships
The Southeast Asian Times Friday February 16, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday February 16, 2024

What China is doing to our soldiers who are patrolling and constantly guarding our territorial resources that they insist on claiming is irritating.
Now it is China who is harassing again and again the Philippine soldiers.
Aren’t they tired of the repeated harassment of our soldiers, those who have no conscience and pity the insults they do to the Filipinos?
They are like tail-to-tail shadows on Philippine ships, whether it’s a supply mission or regular patrolling.
Quick action is required by the government to make a good plan on how to silence and stop the violence and rudeness that China is doing.
Because what they are doing in the Philippines is no longer humane, they are belittling and trampling us too much. Let’s show that we can fight and that we can defend the wealth that should be ours.
There is a lot of wasted time if it is not acted upon immediately and there is even a possibility that we have soldiers who will sacrifice their lives.
We should not reach such a situation, but if war is the solution to the country’s silence and abandonment, we know that the country is ready to fight.

Srcha Valdez,
Manila,
Bangkok

 

 

Thailand's Department of Correction in an uproar
Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra referred to as an inmate
The Southeast Asian Times Monday February 12, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 20, 2024

Re: "Dept: Don't call Thaksin an 'inmate'", in Bangkok Post, Saturday January 17, 2024.
My, my, my, so the Department of Corrections has its knickers all in an uproar over what's his name being referred to as inmate.
It may hurt his feelings and cause him to flee the country again.
So, how do we refer to him? I have an unrefuteable one which requires a little explanation first.
What's his name was criminally charged with a crime.
That makes him a criminal.
Good start. Then, he was taken to court and convicted of his crimes.
That now makes him a convict.
Getting better.
Knowing that he was going to a place that didn't meet his standard of living, he decided that his sentence would be better served by touring and partying around the world.
Therefore, he decided to exit (flee) the country.
By definition, that makes him a fugitive from justice.
He then enjoyed serving his sentence in this manner for 15 years right up to the end, having his final parties in Hong Kong and Malaysia just days before he finally returned.
With his cult party coming into power, it is my opinion that a deal was struck to have him come back.
He was given a VIP police escort to get his sentence and then had that same escort drive him to prison, where he made it known almost immediately that the accommodations were still not up to his standards.
What to do?
Declare him deathly sick and give him a VIP (very important patient) treatment at the Police General Hospital.
There, he would get special dietary meals and liquid medication provided by nearby hotels.
He would also get special therapy from the secret, special swimming pool by the resident baby therapist.
And, because his illness was so serious, his cronies sought an immediate pardon from his eight-year sentence.
This treatment rendered a reduction in his sentence to one year.
Good, but not adequate enough.
They had to try to keep him there, so they refused to allow anyone other than those he selected to see him or to verify his condition.
That included members of parliament.
Bet you didn't know that the police and the Department of Corrections really run this country and not parliament.
So he will probably stay there until his "sentence" runs out when the doctors announce his miraculous recovery and ability to return home.
So, his new moniker based upon these facts?
I think that former fugitive, convicted criminal, what's his name fits the bill quite nicely.
Better than the simple inmate and it rolls off the tongue quite nicely.
Not one word can be disputed either.
How is that Department of Corrections?
By the way, I can be referred to by my Chinese moniker.

Hae Yu,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The China's treatment of Dr Yang
Reminder of incarceration of Julian Assange
First published in the Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 5, 2024

stralian Foreign Minister Penny Wong speaks for all Australians when she says the suspended death sentence handed down by the Chinese State to Dr Yang is appalling ( abc news 5/2/24 ).
He has been held in limbo since 2019 for security breaches.
The Chinese State treatment of Dr Yang is indeed appalling.
It also reminds us of the appalling incarceration of Julian Assange by the world’s foremost democracies.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


Phuket is crowded and busy
But it is not New York
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 10, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday February 5, 2024

Re: "AoT pushes Andaman airport build" in Bangkok Post, Tuesday January 30, 2024.
Why would you begin building another international airport 23km north of Phuket International Airport if the government is developing a "Land Bridge" in the next province?
Phuket is crowded and busy, but it is not New York nor London with multiple airports required. Planning could be improved.
The recently re-designed Phuket Airport has all southbound arrivals take an ill-planned U-turn on the north-south access road (as if one is stopping for chicken rice).
Compare this to Singapore or Hong Kong. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) was built too close to Singapore, nearer to Malacca than Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Air Systems almost went bankrupt trying to pay the bills while the budget carriers ate its lunch using the centrally located Subang.

AM,
Phuket,
Thailand




3,000 Americans died
In the World Trade Centre
The Southeast Asian Times Friday February 9, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday, February 5, 2024

Re: "Iran-US: Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Saturday February 3, 2024.
Gwynne Dyer asserts that 3,000 Americans died in the World Trade Center disaster.
It would have been more circumspect to say that 3,000 people died because other nationalities were among the lamentable death toll, too.
This is not the first time they have been overlooked by American hubris, even after many years. Respect the facts, sir.

Ellis O'Brien,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Human rights violations by the Myanmar military regime
Has been going on from day one
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 6, 2024

The Australian government has imposed strong sanctions against the Myanmar military regime for human rights violations ( SBS News 1/2 ).
Human rights violations by the Myanmar military regime has been going on from day one of the violent military takeover of the democratic government of Myanmar. Why has it taken the Australian government three long years to put sanctions in place?

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

Attacks in the Red Sea have forced the world's
largest shipping companies to reroute
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday, February 7, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Monday February 5, 2024

The Philippines, like Britain, is an open economy that depends on global free trade and freedom of navigation.
The Red Sea is a critical maritime corridor linking Asia, Africa, and Europe. Around 12 percent of global trade and 40 percent of trade between Asia and Europe, ttravels through the Red Sea maritime corridor, making it a crucial artery for global commerce.
For this reason, what happens in the Red Sea has consequences for all of us.
In recent months, Houthi rebels in Yemen have attacked foreign-owned commercial vessels operating in the Red Sea, inflicting economic damage and risking innocent lives.
Since mid-November, there have been over 40 such attacks, including against British and other naval vessels.
The attacks have forced many of the world’s largest shipping firms to reroute their vessels, at great commercial and environmental cost.
They have had great human cost, too, as we well know in the Philippines, with 17 seafarers held hostage by the Houthis since November.
Red Sea maritime terrorism is also driving up food prices just as the world economy and particularly developing countries is struggling to recover from other shocks.
The United Kingdom and like-minded partners have responded, diplomatically and with concerted action.
We helped establish “Operation Prosperity Guardian” an international naval force to deter Houthi attacks on commercial shipping.
But the Houthis and their backers continued to defy the international community, putting international security and prosperity at risk.
On January 10, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution demanding the Houthis cease their unjustified attacks.
That, too, was ignored.
Against this backdrop, the United States and UK, with support from the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, and Bahrain, have taken carefully focused military action in striking Houthi targets in Yemen to degrade their destructive capabilities and thus protect global shipping and seafarers.
These strikes were legal, limited, necessary, and proportionate, against specific targets.
Every mission carried out by Royal Air Force aircraft was assessed and analyzed carefully and there are no indications of any civilian casualties.
These are not decisions any government takes lightly.
Our ministers, officials, and military chiefs weigh such matters very carefully.
But we and our partners are clear that the threats involved need a credible, robust, and targeted response, a necessary part of the wider effort to protect the trade arteries on which we all depend.

Laure Beaufils,
Manila,
Philippines




 



No sports clubs, play parks, organised games
But lots of temples for Thailand's school children
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday, February 6, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, January 30, 2024

Re: "Backlash hits gang after latest assault", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday January 23, 2024.
I must be very lucky in that my neighbourhood lacks violence, graffiti and wanton property damage.
I say that because, quite honestly, there is absolutely nothing for young people to do out of school.
In the holidays, with two young girls to look after, I often feel hopeless in my inability to find things to entertain them.
There are no sports clubs, play parks, or organised games, and the nearest water park is almost 100km away.
We do, however, have temples, lots of them constantly spending huge funds to look grander than the neighbour.
When I see 13-year-olds on their parents' motorbikes getting together and, quite honestly, being a bit of a nuisance, I know why; they have nothing better to do.
I'm sure there are many reasons for bad and violent behaviour in Thai youth, but surely one of them is the complete lack of entertainment; hence, they have their face on phones all day.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand


The new king of Malaysia
Is known for being magnanimous and outspoken,
The Southeast Asuan Times Monday January 5, 2024
First published in the Star Wednesday Janauary 31, 2024

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar of Johor officially takes over as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Wednesday January 31.
His Majesty has been the Ruler of Johor since 2010.
Sultan Ibrahim is known for being magnanimous and outspoken, and he is considered to be a caring and progressive ruler.
His Majesty is also known for his unwavering commitment to the welfare of the people, particularly the poor of all races.
Sultan Ibrahim places great emphasis on the fight against corruption, and is quick to speak against those who practice racial discrimination.
His Majesty is also a champion for unity and discipline.
Despite his sternness, His Majesty has an amiable personality and is well liked and respected by all.
His Majesty is known for his various philanthropic efforts and initiatives aimed at improving the well-being of the people in Johor, especially the less fortunate.
The Johor Ruler has shown a commitment to environmental conservation by supporting initiatives to protect the state's natural resources, including efforts to preserve forests and promote sustainability.
Sultan Ibrahim has also taken steps to preserve and promote the rich cultural heritage of Johor, including supporting traditional arts, festivals, and cultural events.
Sultan Ibrahim also has a passion for sports and has participated in international championships, according to His Majesty's official coronation website.
His Majesty is also an avid sportsman, sailor, shooter, racer and parachutist. Polo is his favourite sport.
Malaysians are looking forward to His Majesty’s reign for the next five years to ensure stability and economic progress for all.

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

Thailand's high park entry fees for foreigners
Are a deterrent to many foreigners
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 4, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday January 30, 2024

Re: "National park chiefs bank on 'tourism challenge'", in Bangkok Post, Sunday January 21.
If Thailand is serious about using national parks to promote the country through tourism, as stated by the director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), their "tourism challenge" is a flawed strategy, at least with respect to foreign visitors.
Considering the far-flung locations of many of the country's parks, it's highly unlikely that any foreigner or any Thai, for that matter will actually be able to visit all 156 national parks and legitimately collect the required stamps to secure the promised prizes.
And if the target is deemed unattainable by most people, the "challenge" will hardly be effective in attracting more visitors.
To truly use the country's national parks to attract more foreign tourists, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) should reduce or eliminate the entrance fees for foreign visitors. New Zealand, which charges no entry fees for any of its national parks, provides an interesting example of how a country can build a major nature-based tourism sector around its parks. In contrast, Thailand's high park entry fees for foreigners are undeniably a deterrent to many foreigners.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Call for Philippines private sector to provide farmers
With market information to expand production
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 3, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday January 24, 2024

There is a wise move from the private sector to intensify its participation in the movement of agricultural goods in the country by setting up cold storage facilities in strategic points and avoiding spoilage.
However, there may be a parallel problem that must also be addressed which is the provision of vital market information in aid to farmers especially those wanting to explore expanding production of specific products.
Already there is a plan by the Ayala Group to establish cold storage facilities as part of an effort to help the agricultural sector and at the same time, it is informed that AC Logistics Holding Corp. is currently looking at putting up more cold storage facilities in the country.
Perhaps, our business sector may view the urgency of providing our farmers, especially the small farmer, market information on where and what are the price differentials and volume of products needed in various parts of the Philippine market at any time of the year.
The threat of spoilage (a threat of economic loss) is a very important factor to a small farmer. In terms of numbers, the small farmer who outnumbers the big farmer is the farmer in great need to have the proper market information. In my opinion, our agricultural sector will improve exponentially if small farmers find that small-scale farming can provide food for their families and can even send their children to school.

Jaime Delima Raneses,
Manila,
Philippines


Call for Port Moresby Police
To stop betel nut sellers and vendors
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 31, 2024
First published in the National Wednesday January 24, 2024

Port Moresby is a nation’s capital and first impression is very important for those entering Papua New Guinea as visitors, tourists, international travellers, ambassadors, high commissioners, investors including those wishing to operate business in the country.
Why Port Moresby city police on a daily basis driving around in police vehicles and not doing anything in stopping betel nut sellers and vendors – creating a frightening atmosphere for working class and foreigners along city roads, streets and other public places.
At every busy stops – there are street thugs and hooligans seen daily in carrying out their activities of bag snatching and other valuables.
Do we have police in Port Moresby is a question?
If there are police, then why this is happening every day at busy bus stops and other busy and congested area?
Why misbehaved people under influence of alcohol are seen roaming public places and causing terror and disorder.
Does something like this happen in other countries? Politicians need to ask themselves because they travel overseas every time.
This is a sign of a country, its leaders and law enforcing agencies not doing their job effectively and portrays a bad impression.
We need a strong and active police force in Port Moresby to end all lawlessness and eyesore activities.
Wake up leaders and law enforcement agencies and we must change the image of our capital city.

Mosbi Bagarap,
Ol White Man Poret,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Philippines don't want the 1987 Constitution
To remain unchanged forever
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday February 1, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday January 16, 2024

I couldn’t help reacting with knitted brows to the plan to amend the 1987 Constitution through a constitutional assembly and people’s initiative.
With due respect, nothing is as unthinkable, and amusing, too.
Why use two modes when one will do?
I believe amending our present Charter has been long overdue.
The jinx is, we are not moving in the right direction.
If I understand the concept of initiative correctly, the people may directly propose amendments to the Constitution should Congress be remiss in its duty under the two traditional modes: constitutional assembly and constitutional convention as provided by Section 1, Article XVII. Congress hasn’t as yet reached that point, I suppose.
So, why proceed to people’s initiative outright?
Moreover, there are other basic reasons why the people’s initiative is not the right mode to adopt
.First, there is yet no sufficient enabling law as required by Section 2, Article XVII, for its implementation.
Second, this mode is limited to mere amendment.
Following the last three and a half decades of our continuing failure to keep abreast with the times via constitutional change, this mode has grown irrelevant and out of place; we now need a revision.
Third, under Section 2, Article XVII, the petition for people’s initiative must be signed by 12 percent of the total registered voters; under Section 32, Article VI, which directly relates to the same system of people’s initiative, only 10 percent must sign.
As this glaring discrepancy need not be ignored, one wonders which number dwells in the House officials’ minds.
Meanwhile, having junked the feasibility of the people’s initiative does not automatically justify its outright replacement by constitutional assembly.
Any lawmaker worth his salt will readily agree that the constitutional provision under Section 1, Article XVII, is intended for and should strictly apply to governments whose legislature is unicameral, such as the elder Marcos’ 1973 Charter.
Ours is bicameral.
Amidst the foregoing concerns, we still have to see or hear of congressmen who seem to at least realize the inherent setbacks toward amending the present Charter. Meanwhile, some well-known senators are openly against amending the Charter now, saying we are still reeling from the impact of COVID-19.
Is that so, or, aren’t they just secretly revolting against their political disadvantage vis-à-vis the congressmen?
Let us get real.
How can we amend a Charter whose very own provisions for amending it are grossly wrong, self-defeating, and undoable?
At the very least, we certainly do not wish the 1987 Constitution to remain unchanged forever.
Common sense simply dictates that we eliminate all inherent obstacles first before we even start thinking of things to change and/or the proper mode to change them.

Rudy Coronel,
Batangas City,
Philippines


Report from Germany of Covid-19 deaths with no details
Of where and over what period is just lazy research
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday January 31, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday

Re: " 'Long Covid' can revive old ills: profs", in Bangkok Post, Monday January 15, 2024.
I was disappointed by the above article, both vis a vis the Bangkok Post's reporting and the lack of academic rigor on the part of Prof Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, director of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Centre at Chulalongkorn University, and Prof Panthep Puapongphan, dean of the College of Oriental Medicine at Rangsit University.
It is completely inadequate for the Bangkok Post to tell us that the academics "stated" on Sunday their views, without saying in what forum they did so. Presumably, they didn't stand on the steps of Chulalongkorn University and ad lib to whoever happened to be around.
Was there a written paper, and if so, where was it published?
Although it is Long Covid, which results from infection by the disease rather than vaccination, that is far and away the major source of post-Covid health issues, and it is not new to claim that deaths from myocarditis and pericarditis caused by mRNA Covid-19 vaccines "might be a lot higher than reported".
A two-month-old report from Germany of 25 deaths, with no details of where and over what period, is just lazy research.
Thailand had a very expensive compensation scheme for injuries and deaths from Covid vaccines.
Was it really impossible for two respected academics to tease out at least a basic figure of how many deaths were compensated for?
Without such a statistic, the rest is purely speculation.
The only way one could see this out-of-the-blue commentary as "bravery" would be for Messrs Thiravat and Panthep to point fingers and offer up some rational proof of their accusations. Otherwise, they are just buying into the Covid conspiracy theory.

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Thailand's big push to increase tourist numbers
Is worrying
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 30, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Saturday January 20, 2024

Re: "Strategy to achieve tourism targets revealed", in Bangkok Post, Business, January 18, 2024.
Having spent 30 years in the tour business and seen some of its negative effects in Southeast Asia, I am a little worried by the present government's big push to increase tourist numbers.
I watched with horror the destruction of Kuta in Bali as gardens gave way to rooms for rent, trees cut down for road-widening schemes and traffic jams similar to those in Bangkok became a daily event.
If I was a teenager in a Thailand tourist area I would also be worried that my future entailed nothing more than serving tourists.
Thai youths almost certainly wish for better than being waiters, cleaners, receptionists, bedmakers and sales assistants to foreigners here on holiday.
Yes, I do understand that people need jobs, and some will enjoy the work and accept the pay gratefully, but for many, it won't look attractive.
Thai youths need to put their skills and efforts into better work than this if they need to enjoy their life, earn a decent salary and feel good about their own children's future and prospects.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Malaysian call for Palestinian sovereignty
Is a just call
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 29, 2024

We read in The Southeast Asian Times 20 January 2024 article ‘ Malaysia calls on United Nations for full membership for Palestine ‘ that Malaysian state officials have called on the United Nations Security Council ( UNSC ) to take immediate action in the ongoing 75 year Palestine-Israel conflict, saying “ Palestinians should be granted their absolute right to freedom from illegal Israeli occupation “ and the UNSC needs “ to pressure Israel to end its apartheid policy and inhumane actions against the Palestinian people “.
All righteous people all over the world who believe in a people’s right to live in freedom and dignity would agree with the Malaysian call for Palestinian sovereignty.
It’s a just call on behalf of a long suffering and oppressed people.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia

Is the planned bridge across the Isthmus of Kra
A bait and switch exercise for a Japanese naval base?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 28, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 20, 2024

It is appreciated that the Bangkok Post remains in print - one of the longest-running stories since I first held the newspaper in my hands was the Saudi missing jewels story.
The other is the canal/land bridge story across the Isthmus of Kra.
Readers who have written to PostBag, like Khun Burin Kantabutra, AndyAgain and Khun Songdej Praditsmanont, have identified the plan's weaknesses.
Freight double handling, the location's lack of a hub status and the cost to build it negate any benefit.
To get the land bridge to handle the world's biggest container ships would require a draft of 17 metres on approach and on the berth. Both the Indian and Gulf of Thailand coasts are shallow.
Surat Thani's planned LNG receiving terminal that will feed gas into the new combined cycle power station ashore in Phunpin will be halfway to Koh Samui in the middle of Ao Thai.
This is due to draft restrictions - and gas is lighter than heavy containers filled with iPhones.
LNG vessels have a max draft closer to 13m. Ocean-going ships like to refuel while in port.
Where is the nearby refinery that will supply bunker fuel?
Maersk owns part of the Tanjung Pelepas Terminal in Malaysia next
to Singapore. Are they going to abandon their owned port for Thailand?
If Japan is interested in this project, then Kawasaki Line, Mitsui OSK and NYK will be the ones stepping forward with planning and funding.
Or is it a "bait and switch" exercise for a Japanese naval base?
Sri Lanka is in the process of losing Hambantota Port because of untenable development costs.
Let's hope cooler minds prevail in the kingdom.

AM,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Call for Papua New Guinea to use military
To curb increasing lawlessness in Port Moresby
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday January Saturday 27, 2024
First published in the National Wednesday January 24, 2024

Every year the Government budget allocation to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) used on administration, training, logistics and supplies with a bigger proportion going to its personnel salaries.
However, most times its personnel are not kept as busy as other officers from the two disciplined forces, Corrective Institutions Service (CIS) and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC).
Therefore, it is a good idea for our Government to use military manpower to curb increasing lawlessness in our capital city so law and order can be restored for business, tourists and investors’ confidence.
Port Moresby has become a place of nightmares with street thugs and hooligans ruling the streets.
There are unwanted people and migrants carrying out all forms of eyesore activities – turning our capital city into a pigsty.
It is time the State use military force and clean up our premier city because our police manpower is exhausted and stretched to the limit.
Look at all shop fronts, look around all government offices and other institutions, look at all bus stops, look at busy street walkways and street corners.
My goodness – gracious the city was not built and meant for betel nut sales.
These people are not the native Koiaris, Goilalas and Motuans but the illegal settlers and migrants – turning the city into a pigsty.

Stretim Mosbi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Fake news follows the enactment
Of the National Commission of Senior Citizens
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 26, 2024
First published in the Philippie Inquirer, Wednesday January 24, 2024

With the enactment of Republic Act No. 11350 creating the National Commission of Senior Citizens, (NCSC) the preponderance of fake news regarding the additional benefits for senior citizens has evolved, allegedly premised on the must registration of senior citizens with the NCSC.
Definitely, for the NCSC to realistically craft its plans, programs, and budget, there is an urgent need for them to generate an updated database population of senior citizens at the national level to reach at least the 2020 senior citizens population of 9.22 million per survey data of the Philippine Statistics Authority.
In its quest for the NCSC to update its database of senior citizens, numerous online fake news regarding additional senior citizens’ benefits and their implementation are circulating in social media (Meta, YouTube, vlogs, etc.) that further generate confusion and false expectations amongst the senior citizens such as the immediate granting of the additional P500 (for a total of P1,000) as stipend for seniors; the anticipated actualization of universal social pension (for said amount) to be given to all seniors (not just for indigents); additional P10,000 as Christmas gifts for seniors, etc.
To forestall the alleged negative impacts of such fake news among senior citizens, I would like to propose for NCSC Commissioner Franklin M. Quijano to optimize his “clarificatory” campaign in this regard by collaborating with the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs in local government units as well as barangay senior citizens associations.
Quijano should also make representations with the Department of Information and Communications Technology to address fake news involving senior citizens.
Collaboration is needed to attain goals and most importantly to ferret out fake news.

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines

Philippine health researchers
Compete for handful of grants
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 25, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday January 23, 2024

In the past years, we have observed growing investments in health research.
The importance of this has been further emphasized during the pandemic.
Even then, there remains limited availability of research infrastructure and facilities that stand as a barrier to the production of quality research outputs.
Moreover, researchers frequently find themselves competing for a handful of grants, leaving many innovative and relevant ideas unfunded, and ultimately, unrealized.
In the “Forum for Advancing Better Health Policy and Systems Research Institutions (HPSRIs),” organized by the Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes and the Department of Health in September last year, several HPSRIs across the country convened to discuss institutional and systemic challenges faced by Filipino researchers.
The same issues sustainability of and access to resources emerged as a recurring theme. Many of the participants expressed disappointment over the difficulty of tapping limited government funds citing tedious bidding, procurement, hiring, and financial processes.
Often, these complex bureaucratic procedures can be time-consuming and frustrating even for the most determined and seasoned researchers.
It is imperative to conduct a policy-level assessment of these processes.
Our goal should not only be confined to augmenting research funding but also include ensuring its universal accessibility and effective utilization.
Addressing these challenges is one of the most vital keys to empowering Filipino researchers and unlocking their potential for groundbreaking solutions to the pressing issues of our time.

Reiner Lorenzo J.Tamayo, Mahps,
Registered Nurse
Aparri,
Cagayan,
Philippines

Thailands procurement of submarines from China
Not as easy as suggested
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday January 24, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 20, 2024

Re: "Of mice and lions", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, January 13, 2024 and "Generals halved by 2027", in Bangkok Post, PostBag January 6, 2024.
In response to the letter from Burin Kantabutra, l believe your comments are very simplistic about the procurement of the submarine from China and your suggestion that the Chinese should offer a frigate for the same price as a replacement.
Your point A claims it is the fault of the Chinese for not providing the submarine as contracted with the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) because German authorities restricted the sale of German-made engines to China.
This is not completely correct as Germany, being part of the European Union, is bound by decisions made by that organisation.
It must be stressed that the EU, along with other countries, have an embargo on the sale of equipment to China when used in China's defence programmes.
Indeed, this embargo has been in place for over 20 years and is well known to all involved in defence procurement.
This means the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) and China were aware of this regulation when negotiating the technical specifications for the proposed purchase.
Therefore, placing blame on one party, as you have suggested, is not correct.
The real question should be which party wanted the change to the engine fit from that which the Chinese offered and was selected by Thailand as the best solution for their submarine programme.
In point B, you state that the frigate as a replacement should be offered at the same price agreed for procurement of a submarine. I fully agree with your sentiment if the Chinese were the only party at fault.
Also, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) may be reluctant to have a frigate or an OPV from China as it will give logistic issues with equipment already fitted to existing Royal Thai Navy (RTN) vessels.
This means additional inventory costs, training on new equipment from China (it cannot be equipment from Western countries due to the embargo) and long-term support throughout the life of the vessel.
Overall, whilst your proposed solution seems simple and logical, it will not be as easy as you have suggested.

Frank Lewis,
Bangkok,
Thailand






Jo Koy, stay true to yourself
And never stop making people laugh
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 23, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday January 15, 2024

After reading different comments and articles and watching some clips of some celebrities, it inspired me to share my thoughts on the ensuing backlash the Filipino-American stand-up comic Jo Koy received after his high-profile gig.
When I found out a few weeks ago that Jo Koy would host the Golden Globe Awards, I honestly thought that it was premature for him to take on this event as I don’t think he’s a Hollywood A-lister quite yet. I also did fear that mixed reactions to him were inevitable.
On the other hand, I applaud him for having the guts to take on the daunting task of entertaining the entertainers as well as its viewers or at least attempting to.
His hosting of the Golden Globes could be likened to an open mic comedy night where a stand-up comic subjects himself to a crowd that will either like or dislike his jokes.
Contrary to what others have said about Jo Koy, I don’t think his not-so-well-praised performance as host was a “wasted opportunity.”
In fact, I think it was a very good opportunity to promote himself, hone his skills, and just do what he enjoys doing the most, which is entertaining people.
To Jo Koy, may you have many more good opportunities come your way. Stay true to yourself and never stop making people laugh.

Maria A,
Manila,
Philillines



Philippines promotes patient choice
Under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 22, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday Januray 4, 2024

In the Philippines, there are many factors contributing to patient choice.
More often than not, patients cite accessibility, quality, and cost as primary factors in selecting a health-care provider.
At the center of patient-centered care is the freedom for individuals to make informed choices regarding their health care.
Historically, the right to choose has often been affected by several barriers including financial constraints, limited access to information, and geographical hindrances.
under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, patients have some degree of choice in selecting their health-care providers.
The road to Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, is set with many opportunities to amplify patient choice and make it truly patient-centered.
Thus, making the avenue for a health-care system that is not only universal in its approach but also unifying in its impact.
However, the journey to promoting patient choice within the context of under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act is not without its challenges.
The extent of this choice tends to vary depending on factors such as local differences in the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act and variations in health-care infrastructure and resources across the regions.
Therefore, this necessitates the development of health policies that are anchored to the realities of diverse patient groups.
Moreover, the transition to universal health care warrants a paradigm shift, requiring a balance between “standardization” and “customization” of health services to cater to both individual needs and preferences, respectively.
Ultimately, our health-care system must be grounded in empowering patients to make informed decisions while offering a comprehensive range of options, thereby upholding the core elements of Universal Health Care (UHC) Act and enhancing the quality of health care for all.

Reiner Lorenzo J. Tamayo,
Migrant Nurse Dilemma (Mahps),
Registered Nurse (RN)
Manila,
Philippines





Airports protesters would have faced lawsuits
In a developed country with rule of law
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 21, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 20, 2024

Re: "32 airport protesters acquitted", in Bangkok Post, Thursday January 18,
2024.
The airports are the country's main portals for tourists, investors and high-value imports/exports.
In a more developed country with the rule of law, the defendants would have faced a storm of lawsuits across the business sector as well as from individuals affected.
Tourists and investors couldn't arrive/leave, nor could imports/exports and who would want to invest in or travel to a country where their plans could be massively disrupted at will without the culprits being held accountable?
In addition, hospital patients might have died because medical aid couldn't get to them in time, exposing the defendants to criminal as well as civil charges.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The arms race has never served the cause
Of a more peaceful world
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 20, 2024

At a time of existential threat to humanity and planet earth by climate change impacts, the Australian State has, we are told, taken the right decision to manufacture long range missiles under a deal with an American arms manufacturing giant.
The priority is patently wrong.
The arms race has never served the cause of a more peaceful world. It never will no matter what spin politicians put on it to justify the preoccupation with armament . It’s a failed strategy which squanders national and global resources which should be utilised for more productive purposes for a better humanity and healthier planet earth.
Humanity is crying out for a paradigm change from militarism.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Hoping that new secretary of finance wakes up
Every morning with P20 million in government coffers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 19, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday January 16, 2024

My congratulations to Ralph Recto for his appointment as secretary of finance. According to him, his main goal is to collect P20 million a day in tax revenues. I am sure that with his leadership, this is doable.
I am not in business or finance but just a practical citizen.
My suggestions are:
Put teeth into the implementation of the current laws on taxation, no need to create new ones but follow the rules completely with no exemptions to the VIPs, even those in the executive department;
Demand payment in back taxes especially from our leaders both from the government, business, and industry;
Consider giving a discount or some form of tax abatement for payments of back taxes with a time limit to encourage prompt payment;
Encourage all citizens to pay taxes even how small through education by the use of media, TV, airwaves, print, and social media, that it is their civic duty to support the government;
Establish or strengthen rules on the corruption of employees from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, and Department of Finance starting with lifestyle checks, and if proven guilty, punishment by firing them, removing their privileges like pension and even jail with restitution of money they had stolen from the government.
An award with a certain amount can be given to the anonymous “whistleblowers” in addition to making them “heroes” for the department.
Maybe difficult but nothing wrong in trying.
Encourage all customers to request official receipts even in the markets.
Show the people where their tax money goes.
I wish him luck and hope that with these suggestions, he wakes up every morning with P20 million in the government coffers.

Ida M. Tiongco,
Malate,
Manila,
Philippines





Vietnam is known for sentencing officials
To death for corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 18, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday January 16, 2024

Re: "Vietnam former health minister jailed over Covid test bribes", "Just another day at work for US senator in graft case", "Heiress seeks 50 Austrians to give away $27 million" and "TV show exposes Britain PO scandal", in Bandkok Post, January 14, 2023.
What a mind-blogging Sunday's news with reports of social ills of two cases and another two of noble deeds in correcting miscarriages of justice in Austria and Britain.
Vietnam's case of bribery of 38 defendants in the health ministry is an example of how the rule of law should work against wholesale bribery in any government department.
The health minister was sentenced to 18 years receiving bribes worth US$2.25 million, and the CEO of the company, given a bribe of $172 million for overpriced Covid-19 test kits, was sentenced to 29 years.
Other officials and company employees were sentenced to between 15 years and two years of suspension.
This could have been a partial incentive to drive foreign direct investment into Vietnam.
The country is known for sentencing government officials to death for corruption.
The two remaining cases do give hope that social justice still prevails in correcting the unfair distribution of wealth in Austria and the miscarriage of justice in Britain.
The British case was not stirred up by any investigative committee but through a TV series that must have brought out tears among viewers in sympathy with 700 victims who previously ran branches of the Post Office and were wrongly accused of fraud because of a faulty IT system.
The aforementioned cases should be read by those who care about good governance in state and private enterprises.

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The Democrat Party of Thailand
Has never supported democracy for Thais
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 16, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday January 15, 2024

Re: "A party stuck in the mud", About Politics, Bangkok Post, Saturday January 13, 2024.
The Democrat Party's plunge towards oblivion is as easy to understand as it is richly deserved.
The party never has supported democracy for Thais.
That is clear from its failure to publicly come out in solid support of Move Forward's highly popular flagship policy of reforming the lèse-majesté law, the unjust, anti-democratic Section 112 of the Criminal Code.
You can either support democracy or you can support the lèse-majesté law.
Since they flatly contradict each other, you cannot consistently support both.
As PostBag's Burin Kantabutra regularly reminds us, in the course of a 70-year reign, even the late great King Rama IX, with an eye to history, had spoken out against the repressive law executed in his name, but apparently against his wishes.
He was right that history will judge those who taint or allow themselves to be tainted by such an indefensibly unjust law contradicting democracy.
The Democrat Party has made it perfectly clear that they do not support democracy. Thais in 2023 do support democracy.
That is why Move Forward went from nothing to the most popular party in less than a single election cycle.
The old parties who refuse to commit to democracy, along with every other institution that puts some antiquated, morally stunted and stunting ideology above actual democracy, will be rejected by Thais, against whom they have put themselves in opposition.
The results of the May 14 election and later opinion polls show that to be exactly what the nation wants.
They will no longer tolerate fakers like the Democrat Party, who have paved the path that Pheu Thai may also have now set itself upon.

Felix Qui,
Bankok,
Thailand





Redefining poverty in the Philippines
Is that it’s not just about money
understandingThe Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 16, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday January 9, 2024

Poverty, as defined by Republic Act No. 8425, or the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act, includes families and individuals whose income falls below the line.
povertyThese people face the terrible reality of being unable to meet their basic necessities consistently due to financial constraints.
These necessities include food, shelter, clothing, education, health care, and other fundamental elements required for a decent standard of living.
But poverty is much more complex than the definition provided by law.
It’s not just about lacking financial resources; it’s also about lacking access to education, health care, and other opportunities.
So, it’s important to redefine what it means to be poor and understand the various socioeconomic challenges that individuals face.
For instance, individuals who lack access to government services have considerable challenges in their efforts to improve their socioeconomic standing and are more likely to be classed as poor.
The provision of health care, education, and social welfare activities is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty.
It is critical for the government to emphasize the provision of essential services, ensuring that every citizen, regardless of socioeconomic background, has equal opportunities to grow and improve their living conditions.
RA 11291, or the Act Providing for a Magna Carta of the Poor, mandates the government to build a comprehensive framework that ensures the fulfillment of vital rights for the poor.
These rights include:
the right to appropriate nutrition;
the right to dignified employment;
the right to relevant and quality education;
the right to adequate housing; and
the right to the best possible health.
This law also requires the establishment of a strong social protection system and an effective benefit-targeting mechanism.
The passage of RA 11291 demonstrates the government’s commitment to resolving the suffering of the poor.
This law attempts to improve their living situations by recognizing and protecting their fundamental rights.
Redefining poverty means understanding that it’s not just about money.
It’s about a person’s overall well-being, what they can achieve, and the quality of services they receive from the government.
Sure, someone might not have a lot of cash, but they could have other valuable things like knowledge, skills, or a strong support system.
When we see poverty as a complex issue, we can start to tackle the challenges that keep people stuck in poverty.
But we can’t stop there.
Poverty needs to be redefined to include the bigger problems that keep inequality and marginalization going strong.
People with low incomes and communities are hit harder by things like discrimination, lack of resources, and limited opportunities to move up in society.
.If we want to find real solutions, we have to look beyond just giving out money. We need to help people overcome the bigger obstacles and strive for a better life.
We need to expand our definition of “poor” to include all the things that contribute to poverty, like feeling isolated, not having access to important government services, and facing prejudice.
Once we start seeing poverty in this broader way, we can start coming up with more effective ways like responsive policies and laws to fight it and create a society that’s fair and inclusive.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,
Philippines




Was Australia taken by surprise
By the riots in Papua New Guinea?
The Southeast Asian Times Monday January 15, 2024

The $200 million security aid Australia gave to Papua New Guinea a month ago when the country was in peace would need to be upped a fair amount now in light of the violent civil unrest, the burning and looting of business houses and the death destruction and in short the anarchy.
It’s good to know the Australian High Commission is closely monitoring the situation and in touch with the Papua New Guinea authorities after the riot erupted. What kind of monitoring was happening before the riot broke out?
Was the Australian mob in Papua New Guinea taken by surprise, the same way they were always taken by surprise when the coups happened in Fiji?

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

Why is gender identity important
In Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday January 14, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday January 8, 2024

Re: "Robbery done to 'fund revenge plot'", in Bangkok Post, Saturday January 6, 2024.
In regard to your recent article about a "transgender woman" robbing a gold shop in Sadao district, I fail to understand why her gender identity is an important issue.
Surely, you do not comment on "cisgender women" thieves, so why "transgender"?
This is especially unfortunate in the article's final sentence which mentions that the police "obtained clues about her whereabouts, confirming her transgender identity".
What does this even mean, and again, why is it important?
This is the same problem with headlines that read, "Hmong man robs store", when there would never be a headline about "central Thai man robs store".
These kinds of identity markers have no place in responsible journalism unless they are somehow central to the focus of the story.

Sheldon Shaeffer,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Economic vialbility of Land Bridge
From Port of Shanghai to Port of Durban is sceptical
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 13, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday January 11. 2024

Re: "PM plugs Land Bridge in Japan", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 19, 2023
Everything about the Land Bridge project is questionable, particularly the social and environmental impacts.
First of all, its economic viability is sceptical. A cargo ship departing the Port of Shanghai bound for the Port of Durban loads cargo once in Shanghai and unloads once in Durban.
Using the proposed land-bridge route, loading and offloading would occur twice. Terminal handling costs in time and fees to the ports thereby double.
A single 40-foot container fee can be more than US$300 (10,500 baht) each time it is moved - the costs are not trivial.
If one examines ship movements, especially in the Hangzhou Bay area, east of China, it immediately becomes apparent that cargo ships are often stationary prior to onloading or offloading.
In the Andaman Sea where Ranong port will be located and in the Gulf there will be an armada of cargo ships and tankers sailing around.
The Board of Investment's biocircular green economy scheme and all sustainability schemes to deal with climate change will become nonsensical.
The Gulf of Thailand is already a toilet of sewage and a cesspool of marine waste and mushy oil slicks, which make marine ecology inhabitable for aquatic animals. Exotic marine animals like dugong, whales, not to mention coral reef resources that are magnets of Thai tourism will be a thing of the past.
The worst of a plethora of negative implications, however, is geopolitical.
Thailand is not currently a target for nuclear weapons.
PM Srettha will make it one if the Land Bridge succeeds. May God help us if it is.

Michael Setter.
Bangkok,
Thailand




The Pheu Thais Party (PTP)
A party of the past
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 12, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday January 9, 2024

Re: "The best of enemies?", "About Politics", in Bangkok Post Saturday January 6, 2024.
Your "About Politics" reporters appear to have been coopted into the massive, nationwide disinformation campaign being waged against the Move Forward Party (MFP) by the ruling elites.
Not for the first time, by inferring that the Pheu Thai Party (PTP) and Move Forward Party (MFP) are potential allies and even hinting that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, founder of the now-defunct Future Forward Party (FFP), has suggested as much, your reporters and their "sources" are attempting to fabricate a new political reality.
The only possible purpose is to denigrate the Move Forward Party (MFP) and its forerunner, the Future Forward Party (FFP), by smearing them with the same unprincipled tar now covering Pheu Thai Party (PTP)
There is no universe today in which Pheu Thai Party (PTP) and the Move Forward Party (MFP) can team up to form a government for two reasons. Firstly, the scale of the Pheu Thais Party (PTP) betrayal of its many millions of supporters and its abandonment of any democratic principles it might have tried to claim mean it is a party of the past, a party against change - the polar opposite of Move Forward Party (MFP).
Secondly, Pheu Thai Party (PTP) is not its own master.
The ruling elites control Thaksin and his party's destiny, ensuring the MFP will never take power, at least until the next election.

Sad Optimist,
Bangkok,
Thailand




China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia,
Indonesia, and Brunei EZZ overlap
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 11, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday January 9, 2024

To begin with, there virtually seem to be some mists of unintended deception, if I may be allowed to call it so, when we speak of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as it relates to a built-in constraint invariably obtained in the South China Sea (SCS).
As defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in 1982, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) refers to an area of the ocean extending up to 200 nautical miles immediately offshore from a country’s land coast, in which the country maintains exclusive rights to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources.
The introduction of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extended the traditionally respected boundary of territorial waters which had been set at 12 nautical miles from the coast during the first Unclos (1958).
Whether such an extension enhanced or worsened the relationships among nations in the South China Sea. I do not wish to second-guess.
Let it suffice for me to state that a little research on this matter reveals the coast-to-coast distance among most countries in the South China Sea to seldom exceed 400 nautical miles.
It is then natural to expect the respective 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) allocated each to China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei to overlap with one another.
To put it more clearly, the boundary of one Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will always unavoidably touch, or worse, extend beyond, the boundary of another Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
This is the built-in constraint I earlier mentioned.
Given the overlapping Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) plain common sense would outright insist that there can never be a truly “exclusive” economic zone in the South China Sea.
To be honest, even so, not one of the South China Sea countries may indeed be totally faulted for viciously claiming all the marine resources inside the overlapping zones.
Alas, I know this impression is highly unthinkable!
But that is beside the point.
The point is, President Marcos has been quoted in the media as saying there is a need for a paradigm shift in the South China Sea issue owing to the failure of the Philippines’ past diplomatic efforts with China.
That is certainly good news, although no one yet knows exactly what foreign relations strategy freshly dwells in his mind.
Whatsoever that may be, it must necessarily lead once and for all to some kind of modus vivendi that is essentially characterized by mutually honest-to-goodness sharing and joint exploration of the bounties of the sea.
Incidentally, we should not let pass unnoticed that Vietnam and Indonesia have been known for years to be moving in the same direction, too, without much ado. At the very least, this is kind of reassuring.
Indeed, this government must struggle at all costs to take advantage of every emerging opportunity to pursue and achieve the above-mentioned goal.
I refuse to believe that China would in conscience remain forever against it, recalling that sometime in the not-so-distant past it had allowed Filipino fishermen to freely fish near the EEZs being claimed in common by China and the Philippines, albeit then on a relatively off-and-on basis. Methinks the time has come for such cooperative interrelations to be formally repursued in a manner that effectively bypasses difficulties. Then, only then, may we optimistically assure ourselves of the beginning of the only logical solution—well, other than war—to the two countries’ heretofore unending disputes.

Rudy Coronel,
Manila,
Philippines

 



Democracy
Is a form of government
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 10, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday January 8, 2023

Re: "It's an illiberal era", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Friday January 5, 2024.
Kuldeep Nagi's letter suggests a lack of understanding of what exactly
democracy is.
In 1932 the absolute monarchy ceased and became a constitutional monarchy and universal suffrage was introduced.
However, a constitution was not framed as the apolitical paramount law to establish democracy as the form of government.
This lack of constitution created the misconception that the right to vote constituted democracy.
The right to vote is not a form of government.
Democracy is a form of government: it is a form of government controlled by laws, not people or political legislation.
A country is only a democracy when the people, high and low, are accountable to the laws of the country.
In a true democracy laws should be established in the interests of the country and its people, not any political persuasion.
Political legislation must not be allowed to violate the fundamental laws.

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippines welcome the Chinese New Year
The Wood Dragon on February 10
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday January 9, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday January 4, 2024

As we bid goodbye to 2023, the Year of the Rabbit based on Chinese astrology, we welcome anew the Year of the Wood Dragon come February 10.
Evolution, improvement, and abundance are said to be characteristics of the wood dragon.
A time for rejuvenated beginning and setting the foundation of long-term success.

Borrowing from these concepts, as a Filipino in this wonderful country of 7,641
islands, I am optimistic about an evolution of the condition of our nation.
Evolution toward better governance and transparency particularly on the utilization of public funds or taxpayer money.
Evolution toward better quality of public officials, whether elected or appointed, who will truly serve the interest of the Filipino community and not their own interest in the name of public service.
From the improvement feature of the Year of the Wood Dragon, I am hopeful that there will be improvement in the following aspects:
State of public transportation;
State of the agriculture sector focusing on enrichment of local agriculture and not enrichment of importers;
Quality of education, producing world-class graduates or at least, literate graduates;
Treatment of health-care workers as they have yet to receive much-delayed COVID-19 related dues/benefits;
Iimprovement as better individuals of this nation.
As for the abundance aspect, may our national budget for 2024, pegged at P5.768 trillion translate, with fingers and toes crossed, to an abundance of investments that will create more jobs, an abundance of less corrupt practices, an abundance of Filipinos who eat three times a day, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs, an abundance of nationalism and, lastly, an abundance of prayers for all these things to manifest.
“A time for rejuvenated beginning” with less politicking and bickering and more hard work for a peach fuzz 366 days ahead.
Happy New Year to all!

Pamela I. Claveria, MD
Manila,
Philippines





The economic burden of long Covid
Is not to be sniffed at
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 8, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday January 6, 2024

Re: "Covid cases surge after NY holidays", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday January 3, 2024.
The world is in the grips of another large Covid wave, and Thailand is not excluded. And yet, there is absolute silence from the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) regarding when the updated XBB boosters will be available in Thailand. Current stocks of the bivalent booster are limited and nearing expiry, while for children, only the original vaccine is available and as hard to find as a needle in a haystack.
The scientific evidence is clear - apart from avoiding infection altogether - for which masking in N95s, HEPA filters indoors, and ventilation are vital, the next best way to prevent long Covid is through vaccinations. This includes for children. An October 2023 meta-analysis of 24 studies shows that effectiveness against long Covid was 68.7 percent for those who had at least three doses (Marra et al, 2023).
The economic burden of long Covid is not to be sniffed at - the UK is seeing its highest-ever levels of work absence, driven primarily by health problems. Additionally, the evidence is clear that vaccination prevents severe illness and hospitalisation. The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) should prioritise bringing in updated Covid boosters as soon as possible for the health of the country's population and economy.

Diane Archer,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Malaysia needs to do the right thing
By the Rohingya refugees
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 2, 2024

I agree fully with Association of Southeast Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights chair, former Klang Member of Parliament, Charles Santiago who says “ we should be more sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya refugees”
( Southeast Asian Times 5/1/24 ).
The calls for the deportation of the Rohingya refugees is a shame especially when only recently former Malaysian PM and elder statesman Dr Mahathir Mohammed expressed profound solidarity with the plight of the Palestinians suffering grave injustice at the hands of the repressive Israeli State and its complicit Western colonial allies. Watch “ A Disappointing Arab-Islamic Leadership - Dr Mahathir “ on You Tube.
Malaysia needs to do the right thing by the Rohingya refugees who desperately seek sanctuary from brutal persecution by the Myanmar State.
Theirs is a well-founded fear of that State.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

The state of the economy has made no difference
To the poor of Thailand for centuries
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 6, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday December 31, 2023

Re: "Tips for PM", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, December 19, 2023 and "PM 'heavy-hearted' about 2024 prospects", Bangkok Post, December 14, 2023.
In his criticism of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, Peter Jeffreys, in his opening paragraph, identifies where he feels the main focus should be the stock market and the economy.
While the wealthiest 1 percent of Thais would possibly agree with foreign investors like Mr Jeffreys, it was revealed at the beginning of the year that 88 percent of bank savings accounts in Thailand have balances of less than 50,000 baht.
My guess is that after the ensuing period of high inflation, that figure is now well over 90 percent.
This is a fair indication of the percentage of people living hand-to-mouth in Thailand.
This combined "ninety-something" per cent of the population would not agree at all with Mr Jeffreys's suggestion of where the government's focus should be concentrated.
Education, health and jobs which pay a living wage are three of many topics which they would rate more worthy of attention than ensuring that wealthy investors or to put another way, gamblers in the stock market receive a large return on their investment.
He is free to place his bet in any stock market in the world where he feels his selection has more chance of winning.
The state of the "economy" has made no difference whatsoever to the poor of Thailand for centuries.
What the prime minister must do as a matter of urgency is, according to
Mr Jeffreys, abandon his party's vote-targeting pledge of a 10,000 baht gift to Thais.
That will only ensure that Pheu Thai will never be voted into power again.
However, some people seem to be just in general opposed to money being devoted to the poor, rather than what form it takes.
This is underlined by the writer's second demand, that former Prime Minister Thaksin, hugely popular for improving the lot of the country's poor, should be incarcerated.
I would suggest that we should all focus our attention on the 90 percent of our population who need our help.
Particularly in the season of goodwill to all, Mr Jeffreys and all those too focused on their own finances should perhaps consider spending more time being thoughtful of others.

Chris Garnett,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Thailand's most important natural resource
Is the average Thai person
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 5, 2024
First published in the Bankgok Post, Wednesday January 3, 2024

Re: "Brace for an eventful year", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, Tuesday January 2, 2024.
I wonder how Thailand could have been if the country was governed by those who have vision and integrity.
If there are more people like former premiers, Anand Panyarachun, or role models at different levels in society, etc.
Instead, you have a convicted felon who so far has escaped doing time, but commits "honest mistakes" at every opportunity.
A minister who has actually done jail time abroad for trading in "flour", a chief of police who "borrowed" several hundred million from a mafia friend.
The list goes on.
Authorities claim that tourists come to Thailand for beaches and temples.
I beg to differ, I think that Thailand's most important natural resource is the average Thai person.
Not those with family names a foot long or those who say "do you know who my father is" but the men and women who by being uniquely Thai, stay in most visitors' hearts.
After spending more than 40 years here, I should not be naïve but one can always dream.
My heart gently weeps.

Johan Hanssen,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Discrimination against foreign shareholders
By some Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) companies
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 4, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday January 2, 2024

Re: "An unfair practice", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Friday December 29 and Re: "SET poised for upbeat finish", Bangkok Post Business, December 25.
Further to Paul Renaud's letter highlighting the discrimination against foreign shareholders by some Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) companies, when it comes to the property trust sector, denial of equal rights to foreign investors has been the established practice for years.
When Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) raise new funds by offering additional units at a discount price to current shareholders, their foreign shareholders are excluded, thus denying them equal benefits and in fact diluting their ownership.
By illustration, this month, the largest REIT gave only their Thai shareholders the right to buy new shares at 9.5 baht each and today, their shares have already risen in value to 10.7 baht.
A nice profit for their Thai shareholders and only a dilution in ownership for foreigners denied the equal right to subscribe.
This practice should be outlawed by the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET). They should enforce regulations insisting that all shareholders in any sector of the market be treated equally.
The credibility of the market is at stake if unfair treatment of foreign investors in REITs is allowed to continue.

Unfairly Treated,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Thailand
Has some of the deadliest roads in the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 3, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Saturday December 30, 2023

Re: "How not to hit the road", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, Sunday December 28, 2023.
Year in year out, Thailand has some of the deadliest roads in the world, yet the authorities give lip service to keeping us alive.
So in 2022, we lost 14,737 people to road accidents, with 924,799 injured.
An estimated 70-85 percent of road accidents here involve a motorcycle.
The World Health Organization reports that just over half of motorcycle riders and 20 percent of their passengers wear helmets while on the road.
The "Seven Dangerous Days" over New Year begins today, and so far, the only anti-DUI measure I've seen is PM Srettha asking us not to drive while drunk, as if that would work.
Effective measures that we can implement easily but haven't include:
Zero tolerance laws, which make it illegal for those under drinking age to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their systems;
Policies making alcohol less accessible, available, and affordable, eg, increasing tax on alcohol and reducing the number of outlets serving it.
Others are publicised sobriety checkpoints, conducted regularly; and (d) high-visibility saturation patrols, with a large number of officers patrolling high-risk accident areas regularly.
Considering the severity of the offence, I see no reason for police to accept guilty pleas to "injury caused by negligence or recklessness" instead of the more serious "driving under the influence of alcohol".
Also, those driving or riding motorcycles without TSI-approved helmets should not be shown leniency since helmets are so effective and low-cost.
Srettha, no more lip service to saving our lives please.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thailand
Has a massive debt problem
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 2, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 30, 2023

Re: "Will foreign investors still be wooed", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Sunday December 28, 2023.
This was the Bangkok Post economist columnist Chartchai Parasuk's final Post article of 2023.
And just like the first one, it was bleak.
As Mr Chartchai has been pointing out most of the year, Thailand has a massive debt problem.
But if that is not bad enough, he points out that Thailand lags far behind Asean countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia in direct foreign investment, which can only harm the country further.
Thailand is a country which is ageing too rapidly, has a severe labour shortage, wage rates which are higher than many Asean nations and even electricity rates which outpace those of the richest country on earth, the United States.
There are no easy solutions, Mr Chartchai makes clear, but something needs to be done about this to lift the economy to the government goal of 5 percent annual economic growth, such as a deprecation of the baht, or by focusing on new industries other than just tourism.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

How is climate change to be addressed
In the age of high mass consumption
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 1, 2024

In his famous seminal book on modernisation theory The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto ( 1960 ) W.W.Rostow forecast the ‘ Age of High Mass Consumption ‘ as the final ( 5th stage ) of society under the capitalist system of development.
Australia has clearly reached that stage because we are informed Australian “ consumers are expected to spend more than $23 billion in this year’s Boxing Day sales “( sky news.com.au 25/12 ).
Imagine then the consumption pattern in America, the world’s most gluttonous country!
How is climate change to be addressed with that kind of mass consumption?

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Call for extension of individual franchise
For traditional jeepneys
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 31, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Thursday December 21, 2023

We ask President Marcos to be nice, not naughty.
The government should extend the individual franchise of traditional jeepneys by another year as a holiday gift.
The impending revocation of individual franchises by January 1, 2024, threatens the livelihoods of tens of thousands of operators and drivers.
Let us not deprive hardworking Filipinos of their means of livelihood as we are all facing economic difficulties with rising prices of basic goods, especially rice, and the harsh impacts of climate change like El Niño.
Partido Manggagawa stands in solidarity with our fellow jeepney operators and drivers in their struggle.
While strikes do disrupt our daily lives, it is a small sacrifice for the preservation of affordable fares and the continued livelihood of our fellow jeepney operators and drivers.
If the outcome of consolidation and modernization is the displacement of informal traditional jeepneys with modern jeepneys under corporate management, this will result in higher fares, exacerbating the hardships of Filipinos amidst inflation.
Let us remember how water and electricity rates skyrocketed after privatization and corporations took control of public utilities.
The same will happen if corporations take over the routes and franchises on the roads.
There is no doubt that the current public utility vehicles (PUV) modernization will lead to a widespread phaseout.
The price of modern jeeps exceeds P2 million, making it unaffordable for struggling operators, especially when the promised government subsidy is only P160,000.
While traditional jeepneys should transition to reduce pollution, it bears emphasizing that private vehicles have significantly higher carbon emissions.
The transition should result in a better life for jeepney operators and drivers, rather than unemployment.
Jeepney cooperatives are a viable alternative to corporations, but they require sufficient time and support.
Negotiations should listen to the pleas of jeepney operators and drivers—a just transition amid climate change adaptation.
However, such negotiations for a just transition may not happen because the government insists on proceeding with the PUV modernization while pushing the consolidation deadline.
Therefore, it is right to oppose the government’s stubbornness with a jeepney strike.
If they win their demands, it will be a happy new year for jeepney operators and drivers.

Wilson Fortaleza,
spokesperson,
Partido Manggagawa
Philippines





To group democracies of Myanmar and Cambodia
With Europe, the UK and the USA, is a nonsense
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday December 28, 2023
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 30, 2023

Re: "Democracy risks", in Bangkok Post PostBag, December 19 and "Thailand's semi-democracy faces risk", in Bangkok Post Opinion, December 15.
I often skim through Kuldeep Nagi's letters without quite understanding exactly what point he is making. His contribution on the "dark side of democracy", however, leaves me completely baffled.
His juxtaposition of Bill Clinton's impeachment, which was for lying to Congress rather than his sexual indiscretions, and Donald Trump's well-publicised denigration of womankind in general seems to have little relevance to the potential of democracy to "tyrannise minorities".
His reference to the UK's decision to leave the EU, which was, for better or worse, the result of a referendum, is to my mind equally obscure.
It is far from clear to me in what way the existence of oppressive regimes like North Korea, China and Russia blinds us to the "dark side of democracy", and in what way this is causing supposed "social and political destruction" in the UK, EU, US and Thailand.
Perhaps I haven't been reading him attentively enough, but Mr Nagi seems to have veered off to the right to join a number of other contributors to PostBag.
It is patently obvious to anybody who has not taken on board the faddish concept of the Western world as a dystopian disaster that to group the sham democracies of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with the robust electoral processes of Europe, the UK and even, with all its travails, the USA, is a nonsense.

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Who would have thought that reformasts would win
The most popular votes in Thailands May's elections
The Southeast Asian Times Friday December 29, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday December 26, 2023

Re: "Writer's crusade", in PostBag, Saturday December 23, 2024.
I agree with Michel Barre that as long as the military, the judiciary and the government autocrats are in cahoots holding the real power in this country, the lese majeste law will fully be enforced in ways that the late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great emphasised would ultimately damage the monarchy but I believe that major change for the better is around the corner.
Societies must adapt, albeit slowly; in the United States, my roommate believed that his god had created Caucasians to be superior to all other races; I was in the Deep South when Birmingham, Alabama Sheriff "Bull" Conner intoned from his courthouse steps, "Segregation yesterday, segregation today, segregation tomorrow!"
The US has come far since.
In Thailand, a decade ago, who would have been foolhardy enough to bet that reformists would surge and win the most popular votes in last May's elections, outpacing even the populist Pheu Thai even though a key Move Forward plank was to reform our lese majeste laws as our national father wanted? We may not be able to make the former monarch's wishes come true in the next polls, or even the next after that but the tipping point's near.

Burin Kantabutra
Bangkok,
Thailand



Species extinction is a very real result
Of environment destruction and degradation.
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 28, 2023

I agree with Ning ( Southeast Asian Times 27/12/23 ) that “ Wild animals belong in the wild, not caged in zoos and acquariums “.
That is true in an ideal natural world. How much of that is left and how much continues to be ravaged in today’s real world often in the name of development and progress?
Species extinction is a very real result of environment destruction and degradation. A caring and well managed zoo and acquarium might be the only place left as a sanctuary for the endangered species at the rate we are going with human greed.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia





Wild animals belong in the wild
Not caged in zoos and aquariums
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 27, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 26, 2023

Re: "Restoring the roar at Safari World", in Bangkok Post Business, December 23 and "Santa Jaw", News in Pictures, December 23, 2023
Wild animals belong in the wild, not caged in zoos and aquariums to make businesses money.
In the wilderness, wild animals need to roam, explore, play and have relationships with each other as they raise their young.
Yet in zoos even open zoos they live unnaturally in cramped spaces and in fear of the humans who feed, see and get close to them.
Indeed, feeding them prevents them from their natural tendency to forage.
Despite Safari World being an open zoo, there is still nowhere near the same level of enrichment for the animals as in the wild.
Many zoos justify their practices as necessary to conserve endangered species, but this is not true; they are prisons.
Zoos and aquariums are not places for children to learn about animals because their behaviour is so different in forests and oceans.
After animals in zoos have lived much of their lives in confinement, it is difficult for them to be released back into the wild.
Sea animals in aquariums are the same; confinement in tanks is not viable for them and people getting so close to feed them that it is unnatural, and makes them scared.
These animals often end up getting sick and dying from the stress of living unnaturally.
Then new sea animals are abducted from oceans and land animals from forests to replace them.

Ning,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



Call for alcohol to be sold in Thailand
During normal shopping hours
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 26, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday December 25, 2023

Re: "Exploring the effort to axe duty-free stores", in Bangkok Post Business, Thursday December 21, 2023.
The proposal to disband duty-free on-arrival shops and a reduction in alcohol tax to boost domestic spending may have a sensible objective, but the wrong target.
It would boost domestic spending more if alcohol was actually allowed to be sold during normal shopping hours.
Try to explain to a tourist why he can't buy alcohol before 11am or during the peak shopping hours of 2pm to 5pm, or during religious holidays and elections.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Papau New Guinea’s artistic heritage
Is showcased during Christmas
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 25, 2023
First published in the National Wednesday December 20, 2023

Christmas in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a time of tradition, community, and creativity, with an array of vibrant crafts and artwork playing a central role in the holiday celebrations.
From intricately woven baskets to colourful tapestries and handcrafted ornaments, Papua New Guinea’s rich artistic heritage comes alive during the festive season, adding a touch of beauty and cultural significance to the Christmas festivities.
Art and craftsmanship are deeply woven into the cultural fabric of Papua New Guinea, with a myriad of traditional techniques and artistic expressions that have been passed down through generations.
During Christmas, these traditions are brought to the forefront as communities engage in a flurry of creative activities, showcasing their artistic talents and creating unique, handcrafted items that serve as symbols of the season.
One of the hallmark Christmas crafts in Papua New Guinea is the art of bilum-making. Bilums (string bags) are intricately woven bags, crafted from natural fibres and adorned with vibrant patterns and intricate designs.
Women, in particular, take great pride in creating these stunning pieces of functional art, using age-old techniques that have been handed down for centuries.
During the Christmas season, bilums are often crafted with festive colours and motifs, serving as both practical carriers for gifts and as decorative items that reflect the cultural richness of the country.
Additionally, traditional woodcarving and pottery, which hold a revered position in Papau New Guinea’s artistic heritage, are showcased during Christmas.
Skilled artisans meticulously carve and shape wood into exquisite sculptures and ceremonial objects, infusing them with intricate designs and symbols that hold deep spiritual and cultural meanings.
Similarly, potters mold clay into beautifully embellished vessels and ornaments, often depicting scenes from folklore, nature, and religious iconography, creating treasured pieces that grace homes and communal spaces during the holiday season.
Furthermore, the vibrant tradition of tapa cloth-making takes centre stage during Christmas, as communities engage in the arduous and intricate process of crafting tapa, a type of bark cloth adorned with colourful, symbolic designs.
Tapa-making is a communal endeavour, with both men and women contributing their skills to create these visually stunning and culturally significant artworks, often used as decorations, clothing, or ceremonial items during the festive season.
In recent years, Christmas crafts in Papa New Guinea have evolved to incorporate contemporary artistic expressions as well.
From paintings and sculptures to jewellery and textiles, local artists and artisans infuse their creations with a modern sensibility while drawing inspiration from the country’s diverse cultural heritage.
These contemporary pieces, often showcased in galleries, markets, and community events, offer a fresh perspective on Christmas traditions, presenting unique, handmade works of art that encapsulate the spirit of the season.
Moreover, the Christmas season provides an opportunity for artistic collaborations and community engagement, with workshops and events dedicated to fostering creativity and preserving traditional crafts.
Skilled artisans and craftswomen host demonstrations, teaching younger generations the techniques and intricacies of their respective crafts, ensuring that these cherished traditions continue to thrive and evolve in the modern era.
Importantly, Christmas crafts and artwork in Papau New Guinea are not just about aesthetic beauty; they serve as powerful expressions of cultural identity, heritage, and community spirit.
Each handmade item bears layers of meaning, representing the history, beliefs, and values of the diverse cultures that comprise the country.
The act of creating and sharing these artworks fosters a sense of unity, pride, and connection, enhancing the festive atmosphere and underscoring the significance of artistic expression in the Christmas celebrations.
As Christmas approaches, the people of Papua New Guinea eagerly anticipate the opportunity to celebrate their cultural heritage, express their creativity, and share the beauty of their artistic traditions with the world.
Whether through the intricate weaving of bilums, the masterful craftsmanship of woodcarving, or the vibrant artistry of contemporary creations, Christmas crafts in Papau New Guinea serve as a testament to the enduring legacy of art and culture, infusing the festive season with colour, tradition, and the timeless beauty of handcrafted masterpieces.

Romel Kuman,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 


Philippine lawyers want 1987 Constitution
Amended to keep up with changing times
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 24, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday December 22, 2023

The controversial issue of amending the present Charter had always been on the agenda of all our past administrations since the time of former president Fidel V. Ramos, but everything ended up in vain.
Now the issue is alive again.
Not a few lawmakers have long argued that the 1987 Constitution needs amendment or revision to keep abreast with the changing times.
Some sectors believe that changing the Charter at a time when the country is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic leaves much to be desired.
There are concerns that the Charter change process is likely to be abused since one of the amendments being pushed through relates to changing the term limits of lawmakers.
Seemingly lost and wittingly or unwittingly ignored amid the hustle and bustle of these controversies is the naked truth that there inherently exists a keyless lock toward changing the present charter.
Consider this: The 1987 Constitution provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, or a constitutional convention.”
To call a constitutional convention, meanwhile, requires a two-thirds vote of all members of Congress, meaning joint voting.
This is the lock I wish to point out.
The constitutionally mandated voting process applies to a government with a unicameral legislature, and ours is bicameral.
And I call this lock rather keyless because this error is constitutionally provided and may not be corrected by mere legislation alone, as certain sectors may probably have in mind. Neither, in the worst and most unexpected scenario, may it be eliminated by mutual agreement between the senators and congressmen to vote separately in a constituent assembly.
This error is that which primarily and essentially bars every legislative attempt for Charter change.
This brings me to my thesis.
Let us buy some time by having a two-stage Charter change process, the first stage to happen now or before the next mid-term elections in 2025 and the second and final stage toward the 2028 national elections.
To elaborate, Congress will immediately convene into a constitutional assembly with the Senate agreeing to a joint voting process, on condition that the only issue to be addressed is the correction of the aforementioned constitutional error, which correction will then be submitted to the people in a plebiscite simultaneous with the 2025 elections.
I don’t think the Senate will disagree with this joint voting process, its sole purpose being clearly the least of its concerns.
The next stage certainly needs no elaboration.
That is to say, the real and honest-to-goodness amendment or revision to the 1987 Constitution may then be tackled more comprehensively and smoothly as soon as the existing Charter error has been corrected, and in a manner bereft of the many controversies haunting it at present.

Rudy Coronel,
Batangas City,
Philippines




Call for the United Thai Nation party and others
To acknowledge King Bhumibol Adulyadej wisdom
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 23, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday December 20, 2023

Re: "Our proposal will not grant an amnesty to prisoners on lese majeste charges", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Monday December 18, 2023.
To me, our beloved national father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, would fully agree with Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement, who wants the Department of Correction's rule allowing inmates to be detained outside prison to apply to prisoners of conscience.
Again, as Grossman and Faulder put it: "Thailand's law of lèse majesté has one very prominent critic: In 2005 King Bhumibol used his annual televised birthday address to convey three concerns:
'The king,' he said, 'is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism.
Charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released, and the use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy.'"
"Seri Ruam Thai leader Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, a former national police chief, emphasised that during his tenure as police chief, the royal institution had instructed against the Lese Majeste laws inappropriate use, as it could lead to harassment of people under the pretext of protecting the institution.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej asserted that the law was being exploited to obstruct the Move Forward Movement (MFP) in forming the government."
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great wisely saw that governments would use our Lese Majeste laws to muzzle their critics even though so doing would ultimately damage the monarchy.
Thus, HM Rama IX would not just detain those convicted of Lese Majeste laws outside of prison but would free them.
The United Thai Nation party and others should reverse their stand and acknowledge the late monarch's wisdom.

Burin Kantabutra|
Bangkok,
Thailand





Thai rice farmers are in debt
Despite vast revenue from rice generation
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 22, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday December 17, 2023

Re: "Rice industry wake-up call", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, December, 13, 2023.
Some days you just have to shake your head and laugh in frustration when reading the news. Despite "rice generating vast revenue for the country" as reported, rice farmers are in debt.
It's been this way since I arrived here as a young man but never have we seen any attempt at revealing why, no investigation and no attempt at finding a reason.
The millers live in big mansions and drive expensive cars and the farmers suffer. Does nobody in this country think the public deserves an answer?
Come on Bangkok Produce Merchandising PCL (BKP), get on the job.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Call for Thai PM to cancel cash wallet inducement
And stop lies concerning Thaksin confinement
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 21, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 19, 2023

Re: "PM 'heavy-hearted' about 2024 prospects", in Bangkok Post, Thursday December 14, 2023.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's first 100 days in office have been mediocre to say the least and received a poor response from local and international media.
With the Thai stock market the worst performing in Asia and the economy in dire straits our prime minister could redeem himself in the eyes of the public and Thai financial advisers by making two decisions.
First, the government must cancel the 10,000-baht digital cash wallet inducement to voters.
The country can ill afford the cost of the 560-billion-baht scheme.
This was an inducement to gain votes made in panic two weeks before the election, which was apparently an effort to limit the progress of the Move Forward Party and without any idea of a repayment plan.
To cancel it would be a policy U-turn but this is not an uncommon occurrence for the Pheu Thai Party.
Secondly, stop the charade and lies concerning the special treatment of Thaksin. The continued lies and deceit concerning his confinement reflect so poorly on you as a leader and your government.
Have the courage to ensure your de facto leader returns to the general prison population to serve his remaining sentence befitting the convicted criminal he is.

Peter Jeffreys,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday December 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday December 17, 2023

Re: "PM urges action on PM2.5", in Bangkok Post, Thursday December 14, 2023

Deck the halls with yearly distractions
'Tis the season for urging PM actions
Don me now our rooftop sprinklers
Troll the old deflection gigglers
See the blazing fields before us
Strike up laws totally porous
Point blaming fingers at our neighbours
All the while, ignoring health dangers
Always call for more discussion
Profits remain the key seduction
Follow me in merry excuses
Sooner or later, smog reduces
Fa la la la la, la la la la....

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Bangkok's Metropolitan Waterworks Authority chops down trees
Turning road to Bang Sue district into an eyesor
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday December 17, 2023

Our Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) cut down several big trees along Rim Khlong Prapa Road on Monday.
More than 20 big trees fell victim to the chainsaw, including weeping figs (Ficus benjamina), sacred figs (Ficus Religiosa) and tropical almonds (Terminalia catalappa), along Rim Khlong Prapa Road, which runs parallel to Pracha Chuen Road in Bangkok's Bang Sue district.
Using a crane and chainsaws, workers hired by the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) cut all the branches of the trees, many of them more than 30-40 years old, leaving just their trunks standing a few metres tall from the ground.
A strip of the road from the Lotus modern trade store to the access road to the Bang Sue district office, which used to provide shade against the scorching sunlight for motorcyclists, has been turned into an eyesore.
Only the small Askoke trees, which do not provide any shade, were spared.
An ageing grocery store owner said she had seen the weeping fig and sacred fig trees since she was young, adding she was sorry they were gone.
She also wondered how they could ever regenerate, with all their branches having been chopped off, leaving just the ugly-looking trunks.
The way the workers cut off the trees was not the proper way of pruning the branches extending over the Khlong Prapa canal, which will enable new branches to grow when the rainy season comes, perhaps next May or June, due to the El Nino effects.
The cutting of the trees yesterday was different from the way district officials did it in the past.
The trees regenerated and regained their majestic form, beautifying the road and providing shade.
It was reported the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) wanted to get rid of the big trees because their leaves, especially from the tropical almonds, fall into the canal, the water of which is processed into tap water.
The workers took a break and will return next weekend to resume cutting of the trees along the canal.

Tree Lover,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The rule of law
Is the essential principle of democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 18, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday December 17, 2023

Re: "Simple solution", "No justice here", and "Insult to democracy", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Friday December 8, 2023.
The rule of law, its fair application and enforcement is not only the essential principle of democracy but to the very civilisation we enjoy.
These three PostBag letters illustrate the lack of this basic principle in Thailand.
The Founding Fathers of the USA framed an apolitical constitution 236 years ago, making the United States a federal constitutional republic.
The constitution is, therefore, the effective head of state to which all members of the military and national institutions swear allegiance.
Regardless of the political party voted into office, the constitution remains in control as the paramount law.
The Founding Fathers claimed their form of governance was based on laws, not men.
There is one thing missing in Thailand and other Asian countries to ensure stability: an apolitical, comprehensive constitution solely of sovereign interest that everybody respects.
All individual nations should have this basic guidance of what it stands for.
The greatest enemy of democracy is the naïve fallacy that it is essentially about universal suffrage, the right to vote.
Voting is open to all means of fraudulent activity, as we see in the US, with internet-connected voting machines and ballot harvesting prior to the voting date. This vote-rigging then results in the treasonous crime of overthrowing the constitution.
Any country without law and order is a failed state.

J C Wilcox
Bangkok,
Thailand



The wrong people are appointed
To oversee educational policies in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 17, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 12, 2023

Re: "English not for everyone", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Sunday December 10, 2023.
Poor electronic Frailty Index (eFI) and Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) scores are symptomatic of Thailand's poor educational system. Sadly, excessive focus on Thai identity based on a toxic concoction of loyalty, obedience, and distorted teachings of Buddha are responsible for the crisis.
As always, due to corrupt polity, the wrong people are appointed to oversee educational policies.
One thing is very clear from the poor ranking of the country.
The top-down system of rampant cronyism and nepotism is largely responsible for the malaise in the educational system.
Expecting drastic reforms from the same bloated and inefficient bureaucracy is nothing but a pipe dream.
Yes, Milo is correct.
The attitude of students is the result of the environment created by the incompetent teachers and policymakers.
There is no incentive for students to learn English. Singapore and many other high-ranking countries can show Thailand what to reform.
Thailand can learn from high-ranking countries.
Why?
Because "eagles don't take flight lessons from chickens".

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bankok,
Thailand



There is no obligation for Thailand to tax all foreign income
Under the International Tax Transparency (ITT) standard
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 16, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday December 9, 2023

Re: "FTA talks with EU to get reboot", in Bangkok Post, Business, December 3 and "Amendment to see overseas income taxed", in Bangkok Post Business, September 26.
The recent handling of the International Tax Transparency (ITT) standard, and imposition of a tax on foreign income, shows how Thailand can entirely miss the point of its obligations under its international agreements.
The Ministry of Finance has been quick to point out on several occasions that its proposal to tax foreign income from 2024 is not of its own making.
It claims the change was necessary to meet its commitments under the new ITT standard, and was a prerequisite to the all-important free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union.
Nothing can be further from the truth. There is no obligation to tax all foreign income under the ITT standard.
The obligation was to impose measures to combat companies operating in high tax jurisdictions booking profits in jurisdictions with lower or zero tax, a tax avoidance strategy of companies known as Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS).
This of course has nothing to do with individual taxpayers, who are already subject to global tax compliance through other more suitable means.
Yet perhaps due to legislative expediency, or more likely a misinterpretation of what is actually required to meet its international obligations, Thailand has sought, to its detriment, to impose a blanket tax on all foreign income remitted to the country irrespective of whether it's related to companies or individuals.
Other countries that signed up to the international tax transparency standard have been careful to ensure that they meet their international obligations to stamp out BEPS, but do so in a manner that does not impact their domestic economies.
Major wealth hubs (Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore among others) have made sure individuals are exempt from the tax on foreign income in a move critical to attract high-net-worth individuals.
Malaysia proposed a blanket tax on foreign income remittances in 2022, but wisely announced they would postpone the measure until at least 2026 after applications to its retirement/mobility programme plummeted by nearly 80 percent. The Philippines ensured its retirement/mobility hub status was protected by continuing its practice of taxing foreign income of companies and citizens, but not foreign individuals.
Even some EU countries Greece, Portugal, Hungry among others while imposing blanket tax on foreign income are openly offering exemptions and discounts to attract individuals to their retirement/mobility schemes, prompting the EU to reiterate they have no objection to countries offering tax exemptions on foreign income in certain circumstances.
Thailand on the other hand seems content to tax foreign income wholesale without a thought for its national interests.
Its status as a major retirement/mobility hub, decades in the making, lies in ruin. Foreigners are now beginning to contemplate their next move most likely out of Thailand and local service providers are hitting social media sites in a desperate attempt to convince potential and existing clients that there is nothing to worry about, or that a miracle solution lies just around the corner.
However, despite all this, there is a deafening silence from policymakers and the government agencies overseeing these retirement/mobility schemes.
Astonishingly, all this damage seems to have its genesis in Thailand's inability to correctly interpret and implement an international agreement.
This does not bode well as Thailand begins what is likely to be a complex negotiation for an FTA with the EU.

M P Foscolos,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



Thai King Bhumibol said of himself
"The king is a human being and as such
should be subject to criticicsm"

The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday December 9, 2023

Re: "It's now time for healing", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, Thursday December 7, 2023
In considering who, if anybody, to grant amnesty to, parliament should be guided by our beloved national father, who knew how to protect our monarchy far better than any commoner.
As Grossman and Faulder put it: "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."
Parliamentary debate on the issue should be broadcast live, and voting be public. Thus, we will be able to see who gives only lip service to our national father's wishes, in particular his opinion that: "The use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy."

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Taiwan is the 18th country in the world to codify
The 2050 net-zero emissions goal into law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 14, 2023
Furst published in the Philippines Inquirer Monday December 11, 2023

The dangerous impact of climate change on humanity is becoming increasingly apparent and urgent, as evidenced by such phenomena as the wildfires this year in Maui, Hawaii, and the record-high temperatures worldwide in July.
As a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan has launched a series of actions this year to combat climate change.
Domestically, President Tsai Ing-wen announced the amendment and renaming of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, which became the Climate Change Response Act in February, making Taiwan the 18th country in the world to codify the 2050 net-zero emissions goal into law.
Moreover, its Environmental Protection Administration was restructured into the Ministry of Environment to accelerate its efforts to enhance government capacity in August.
The Climate Change Administration and the Resource Circulation Administration were concurrently established to integrate the handling of environmental issues. Thirdly, Taiwan officially established the Taiwan Carbon Solution Exchange in August, aiming to create incentives for businesses to reduce their carbon emissions.
Internationally, Taiwan hosted the first Pacific Climate Change Forum in Taipei in July and signed the first Joint Statement on Combating Climate Change with the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu. In response to the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and supply-chain decarbonization trends, Taiwan has accelerated efforts to implement carbon pricing and carbon inventory mechanisms. Moreover, Taiwan has incorporated environmental issues into negotiations with the United States under the Taiwan-US Initiative on 21st-Century Trade and with the United Kingdom for the Enhanced Trade Partnership.
The aforementioned actions demonstrate Taiwan’s continuous efforts to pragmatically seek opportunities to contribute to the international community. Climate change does not discriminate, and mechanisms to address climate change such as the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement should not discriminate against Taiwan due to political reasons.
In the spirit of professionalism, pragmatism, and making contributions, we urge our Filipino friends to back Taiwan’s participation in the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) of the UNFCCC, ongoing in Dubai until December 12.
Support Taiwan in working with the international community toward a net-zero world.

Wallace Minn-Gan Chow,
Manila,
Philippines




Restrictions on the democratic freedoms of free speech
Is the thin end of the wedge of authoritarianism
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 13, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday December 12, 2023

Re: "Precious freedom", in PostBag, December 9 and "Silencing the critics", in PostBag, December 7.
Let me see if I've got this right, JC Wilcox.
The first thing we have to do to preserve democracy is to get rid of the "weakness of universal suffrage".
Just to make sure, it may be necessary to introduce a few "very tough" restrictions on the democratic freedoms of free speech and protests by any dissidents by locking them up.
Heaven forbid that they and their kind should win a majority of votes commonly known as the will of the people, take power, and upset the cosy status quo.
But that, I'm afraid, my dear Mr Wilcox, is what democracy is.
The moment an incumbent regime starts making decisions about the eligibility of its opposition to contest an election, it is the party attacking rather than protecting the democratic process.
It is a fallacy to believe that this is other than the thin end of the wedge of authoritarianism, and it will eventually encroach on your precious freedoms along with those of everybody else.

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Call for subsidies for farmers to restore
Habitats for elephants and other wildlife
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 12, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday December 9, 2023

Re: "Jumbos raid local farms", in Bangkok Post, Friday December 8, and "Cabinet okays B8bn package for sugarcane farmers", in Bangkok Post Business, Tuesday December 5.
Instead of subsidising farmers to grow yet more sugarcane for an already over-supplied market, why not subsidise farmers to restore habitat suitable for elephants and other wildlife?
By restoring tree cover and other native vegetation, the country would not only help recovering populations of elephants and similarly endangered wildlife, but also sequester carbon in the fight against climate change, expand water retention areas to prevent flooding and contribute to cleaner air quality.
Subsidies, if granted at all, should be targeted to benefit society as a whole, not only a narrow segment of the economy, and especially not to perpetuate economic activities that are largely detrimental to society.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Khalistani movement is designated a terrorist group
Not mere Sikh separatists
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 11, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday December 2, 2023

Re: "Denials of Sikh separatist plots sound hollow", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday November 29, 2023.
Mihir Sharma, a columnist for Bloomberg, tried to implicate India as a villain in the killing of Khalistan terrorist Nijjar, as alleged by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
He accused India of plotting to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, leader of the Khalistani movement, which is designated a terrorist group by the government of India. Sharmar miserably failed to tell readers that they are designated terrorists and not mere Sikh separatists.
He needs to make the point that the local Canadian police failed to arrest Nijjar's killers.
The Indian government is still waiting for the Canadian government to submit "credible evidence", as Sharma mentioned.
Sharma seems to have lost his ability to see Khalistani terrorist activities as terrorising and destroying the social fabric in the state of Punjab in India, where the majority of peaceful Sikhs do not support the radical Khalstani movement.
The situation can be compared with Hamas and peaceful Palestinians in Gaza. Khalistani terrorists who are funded and trained by a terrorist intelligence wing named ISI are often arrested for murder, human smuggling, currency crimes, extortion, and kidnapping.
The list is long.
Sharma proves himself a skilful rhetorician able to use language in a very effective way to create false narratives.

Jayut Jayanandana,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Buddha was an enlightened teacher
Not a god
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 10, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday December 2, 2023

Re: "Learn to let go", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Sunday November 26, 2023.
I agree with Sam Wright that Buddha was just an enlightened teacher, not a god.
He taught his disciples that they could all become "Buddhas" through meditation and self-realisation.
In fact, he was born when the Indian subcontinent was rife with gods, deities, hollow rituals, pilgrimages and all sorts of malaise and malpractices.
He taught his disciples to seek nirvana by developing a deep insight into their own minds, actions, and behaviour.
He was a naturalist who became famous by asking people to explore the connection between our minds, actions, and behaviour.
He explained that all our suffering originates in our minds.
One reason for his appeal to Western countries, and especially to the psychiatrists and philosophers, is because he asked them to study the "mind" rather than look outside the body.
Sadly, all other religions teach us that there is a supremo or a saviour that exists outside.
Hence, we should engage in prayers, pilgrimages, rituals and seek their help.
It is quite shocking that Thailand, being a Buddhist nation, seems to be light years away from his teachings.
Over time, other religions have also been distorted and corrupted and have turned into a commodity.
The teachings of Buddha are all about understanding our own nature and existence, not about lofty ideas of hell, heaven, and dancing apsaras waiting for us up in the skies.
Thank you, Sam, for your clarification.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Proposal for Andaman Sea to Gulf of Thailand bridge
Has been kicked around for years
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday December 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday December 1, 2023

Re: "Srettha touts land bridge project: Reworked vision does not include canal", in Bangkok Post, Business, Thursday October 26, 2023
There's been lots of talk recently about this bridge between the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand.
The trillion-baht project would comprise the bridge itself and port complexes at each end.
The project is expected to handle 23 percent of the Port of Malacca's total cargo. Current traffic through the straits is about 90,000 ships per year or 200 per day. The 23 percent figure would equal about 40 ships per day or between 240,000 and 360,000 containers daily.
This figure is based on the average large container ship's capacity of between 6,000 and 12,000 20ft containers.
No mention is made of 40ft ones.
These containers would have to be transported from one port to the other by truck. Where will all these trucks come from, and the qualified and licensed drivers to man them?
Once cargo is offloaded on one side one would assume it would have to be loaded onto a comparable vessel owned by the same company on the other side, otherwise the necessary documentation to change carriers, etc would be mind boggling.
Where will these extra vessels come from?
It would appear that the carrier owners would have to double their fleets unless they had a bunch of ships lying around somewhere.
This boondoggle has been kicked around for decades, including the idea of a canal. Hopefully this idea will meet the same fate.

Fredric L Prager,
Bangkok,
Thailand




"Communism never sleeps"
Thaksin and the red shirts are back
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 8, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday December 6, 2023

Re: "Thailand's semi-democracy returns", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Monday December 4, 2023.
What is a "semi-democracy"? Democracy is a form of government controlled by laws where people have the right to appoint their lawmakers and where the head of state is apolitical.
In 1932, the absolute monarchy in Thailand became a constitutional monarchy and universal suffrage was granted.
However, these two components alone did not establish democracy in Thailand. Without the rule and enforcement of law irrevocably in place, there is no democracy.
Accountability under the law for all, rich or poor, government or electorate, is vital to the stability and fairness of a democratic society.
Thaksin Shinawatra was voted into office with a large vote supported by left-wingers.
But his actions showed that he considered himself not accountable under the law. We witnessed the same situation when Yingluck Shinawatra was in power with her infamous rice-pledging scheme.
In support of their "democracy", the red-shirt supporters of the Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party blocked roads shouting, "respect my vote".
In 2010, Pheu Thai supporters set light to Central World right opposite the police headquarters, but the police did nothing.
I was there when they threw small bombs into the crowd near Democracy Monument.
The people's democracy protest in 2014 demanding accountability from the government brought an end to the Pheu Thai "democracy".
Thankfully, that resulted in the Prayut Chan-o-cha government.
For nine years, Thailand enjoyed its most peaceful, constructive period ever until now.
But as Margaret Thatcher famously said, "Communism never sleeps".
Well, Thaksin and the red shirts are back.

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The Islamist empire has gobbled up
Entire nations and populations
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 7, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday November 29, 2023

Re: "Learn from the past", in PostBag, Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 22, 2023.
Like most Third World apologists, Kuldeep Nagi talks about colonialism and warmongering but leaves out an important empire that was built on colonialism.
The Islamist empire, too, has been in power for 1,400 years, gobbling up entire nations and populations.
Now that the Islamists are challenged in Israel, India/Kashmir, Indonesia/New Guinea and South Sudan, the world sees them responding with violence to hold on to their empire.
Khun Kuldeep mentioned that Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union lost wars and had to give up their imperialist outposts. He neglected to include the Ottoman empire.
Only a little more than 100 years ago, the Ottomans owned much of Southeastern Europe until their defeat and their destruction in World War I.
That is also part of history.

Ben Levin,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for investigation into smuggling
Pork into Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 6, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 28, 2023

Re: "Illegal pork saga must end", in Editorial, Monday November 25, 2023.
The Bangkok Post editorial rightly urges a thorough investigation into who has been involved in the widespread smuggling of pork into Thailand.
The extent and volume of smuggling suggest the involvement of officials and traders at many levels.
The Post editorial failed to raise another set of important issues, however. Questions should also focus on why smuggled pork can be produced abroad, transported great distances, and still be sold at half the price of pork produced in Thailand.
Apparently, Thai pork producers have been so protected by tariffs and trade barriers over the years that they have become grossly inefficient and cannot compete in the global marketplace.
It is worth considering if Thai consumers should have to foot the bill in terms of higher pork prices to continue propping up an inefficient and uncompetitive domestic industry.

Samanea Saman,
Bankok,
Thailand





Thailand ranks 8th in English Proficiency Index 2023
In ASEAN 11 member countries
The Southeast Asia Times, Tuesday December 5, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 1, 2023

Re: "English proficiency on the wane, says latest EF survey", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 27, 2023
It is not a surprise that Thailand has been ranked 8th, or "very low", in Asean and is ranked 101 out of 113 worldwide on the English Proficiency Index 2023.
It not only lags far behind Singapore, one of the best in the world, but also the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia.
Sadly, in Thailand, even an international school or college graduate cannot speak, read, or write English properly.
State-run schools also do not give importance to learning English.
In Thailand, English teaching and learning problems cannot be solved only by employing "native speakers".
Switzerland and many other European countries, where teaching and learning English is a colossal success, do not rely on what I call "na(t)ive" speakers, but on their own teachers of English.
Singapore is a good example in Asean.
Although colonised for more than a century, it does not employ many native speakers to teach English. It has produced its own crop of highly trained English teachers.
Malaysia and Indonesia also follow the same model that focuses on improving the quality of their English teachers.
There is still hope that both Thai politicians and civil servants will realise that English is an integral component of soft power, which can act as a glue that binds the region together.
Thai popular media should also expand its services in English by providing more English-language newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television shows focused on creating sights and sounds that can facilitate the learning of English.
This is a missing link between Thai institutions and society.

Kuldeep Nagi.
Bangkok,
Thailand



ICC investigation into extrajudicial killings
Is clearly in the Philippines public interest
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 4, 2013

It’s not hard to see where Senator Christopher Bong Go is coming from when he contends “ there is no need for the International Criminal Court ( ICC ) to investigate “ alleged human rights violations by former President Rodrigo Duterte in his “ war on drugs “ campaign . He says “ let the Filipinos judge and decide “ ( Southeast Asian Times 3/12/23 ).
Senator Bong Go was a “ special assistant “ to the former president.
It therefore might not be in the Senators’s interest to see an ICC investigation into the human rights violations of Filipino citizens and the extrajudicial killings under that campaign but it is clearly in the public interest for it.
The Senator’s claim that “ there is no dictator here “ and that “ democracy exists here “ is a feeble argument.
History is replete with examples of evil things being done by rulers in countries purporting to be a democracy.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Thailand's procurement of China-made submarine engines
Is yesterday's way of defence
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 3, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 28, 2023

Re: "China-made sub engine is now ok," in Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 21, 2023.
They say Ukraine is a testing ground for new weapons for the Russians and the Americans.
It is now all about missiles, drones and autonomous weapons. Russian warships are threatened by such weapons and are now on the move out of Sevastopol to new locations farther away.
The Russians no longer control the Black Sea.
Has Thailand learned anything from the war in and around Ukraine when it comes to its own defence and the procurement of a frigate shown as yesterday's way of defence or the no better solution, the reappearing sub, considering the shallow waters around Thailand?
And where are Thailand's waterborne attacks supposed to come from Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam or Singapore?
Some say Thailand's navy needs a sub to be considered a proper navy.
If that is part of the thinking behind Thailand's defence, Thailand has no real defence but only harmless postures.

A Johnsen,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 




The Bharatiya Janata Party in India
Is a popular national political party
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 2, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday November 18, 2023

Re: "India's Hindu BJP seeks 'friends' for 2024 election", in Bangkok Post,Roundup, Saturday November 11, 2023.
I, as a Thai national, follow Indian politics as a follower and student of geopolitics. Hence, I read with shock the news analysis by Reuters' senior reporter, YP Rajesh, who labels India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as "Hindu", just like a few biased Western media and Chinese-funded individuals and media.
I would love to offer YP Rajesh a crash course starting with the fact that there is no such religion called "Hinduism" or "Hindu".
The majority of India's population follow a religion called "Sanatan", whose followers are called "Sanatani".
The word "Hindu" was created by Arabs and Persians.
They had to overcome a mountain called "Hindkush" to enter and attack Bharat now India.
That's where the idea or emergence of the word "Hindu" is derived from.
Mr Rajesh referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as "India's Hindu BJP" is a sign of his sheer ignorance, or that he is part of the so-called "secular" species funded by Western powers, Islamic countries including Qatar, an arch enemy of India and the Chinese government in order to create a fake narrative against Mr Modi and the emerging power that is Bharat (India).
There are 250 million Muslims in India, or 30 percent of its almost 1.5 billion population.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a popular national political party which won two landslide general election victories.
Thus, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cannot win by a landslide without the votes or support from the Muslim community.
There are other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Jainism that co-exist in harmony and peace.
Does Mr Rajesh think the followers of other religions do not cast their votes for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?
As I said, 30 percent of India's 1.5 billion population follows Islam and yet the West, the so-called secularists and the Chinese-funded Indian communists call them a "minority". Certainly, we cannot consider 30 percent a "minority".
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has consistently reached out to Muslim communities since it came to power in 2014 and not just before the election in 2024, as Mr Rajesh wrote.
The world has to know how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government created a quota system for Muslims and other minorities, thereby creating the opportunity to enrol in high numbers in colleges, universities, in government public services in order to bring them into the mainstream of society and better financially develop their community.
The writer should have brought up the situation in Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh and how they treat their minorities.
Does the writer or Western media say Christian Democrat or Christian Republican in the US, or Christian Labour or Christian Conservative in the UK, or Christian Spain or Christian German chancellor?
So why is he trying to create wrong and fake narratives by calling the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a Hindu party?

Jayut Jayanandana,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The Filipino people freely chose to empower
The International Criminal Court
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 1, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday November 27, 2023

Quoting President Marcos and echoing what Vice President Sara Duterte's father said when he was president, Vice President Sara Duterte declared that “Any probe conducted by the International Criminal Court would be an intrusion into our internal matters, and a threat to our sovereignty” and thus allegedly “patently unconstitutional.”
The Philippines indeed is sovereign and thus is in complete and exclusive control of all the people and property within its territory, therefore, other states do not have the right to interfere in our internal affairs.
By entering, however, into international treaties like the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, we in effect have agreed that the treatment of our citizens is not only our exclusive concern.
Thus, other countries can monitor and enforce human rights treaties against us for the way we treat our citizens.
Hence, the actions of the ICC its determination that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs are not an undue interference in our internal affairs and thus not violative of our sovereignty.
In the very first place, it is the sovereign Filipino people themselves who have freely chosen to be governed among others by the Rome Statute, when their duly elected representatives ratified it, thus empowering the ICC to assume jurisdiction and intervene if the Philippines is unable or unwilling to carry out the investigation and prosecution of crimes against humanity.
While protesting ICC interference, did not then President Rodrigo Duterte once bragged thus entangling himself in irreconcilable self-contradiction that China has given him an assurance that he will not be taken out of office?

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines



Inadequate labour conditions in Papua New Guinea
Can adversely impact workers and their rights.
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 23, 2023
First published in the National, Friday November 10, 2023

Resource projects, particularly in developing countries, often face human rights challenges related to labour conditions and land rights.
Foreign investment in resource projects often bring economic opportunities, including job creation.
However, inadequate labour conditions can adversely impact workers and their rights.
Issues such as poor wages, long working hours, unsafe working conditions, and the exploitation of migrant labourers have been reported in some Papua New Guinea resource projects.
Such conditions not only violate international labour standards but also undermine the overall
well-being and dignity of workers.
Ensuring fair compensation, reasonable working hours, and safe conditions for workers are essential to protect their rights.
Companies involved in resource projects must adhere to international best practices and labour laws, promoting the fair treatment of employees.
Close monitoring by regulatory authorities, regular audits, and collaboration with trade unions can assist in upholding labour rights and rectifying any violations that occur.
Landowner rights and the welfare of indigenous communities are critical aspects that often intersect with resource projects.
Displacement, loss of livelihoods, and potential cultural impacts can arise when land is acquired for extraction purposes.
Adequate consultation and negotiation with affected communities, respecting their traditional rights and knowledge, is essential to ensure their human rights are upheld.
PNG has a unique system of land tenure, where customary landowners have substantial control over their land.
However, disputes may arise over land ownership, leading to conflicts between resource companies and local communities.
It is crucial to establish effective mechanisms for resolving disputes, promoting consultation, and providing fair compensation to landowners who are affected by resource projects.
Additionally, ensuring that indigenous communities have access to benefit-sharing agreements is important for mitigating the negative impacts of resource projects.
Equitable distribution of economic benefits can contribute to the overall well-being and development of affected communities.
Transparent agreements, community development programmes, and capacity-building initiatives contribute to empowering indigenous people and safeguarding their rights throughout the resource project life cycle.
Effective governance plays a crucial role in addressing labour and landowner concerns.
Governments must establish clear policy frameworks, regulations, and mechanisms to monitor and enforce labour standards, land rights, and benefit-sharing agreements. Collaborating with civil society organisations, trade unions, and international partners can strengthen capacity and improve oversight to ensure adherence to human rights principles.
Resource companies have a responsibility to conduct due diligence and assess potential human rights risks associated with their operations.
Comprehensive impact assessments that account for labour and landowner concerns, as well as ongoing monitoring and evaluation, are necessary to identify and address any negative human rights impacts. Engaging with local communities, implementing grievance mechanisms, and fostering mutually beneficial partnerships are essential for responsible corporate conduct.

Romel Kuman
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Delay will be a major tactic
In squirming out of the 10,000 baht digital wallet
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 29, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday November 18, 2023

Re: "Economy crying for stimulus", in Bangkok Post, Thursday November 16, 2023.
It will be fascinating to watch as the Pheu Thai government tries to squirm its way out of the 10,000-baht digital wallet commitment.
As is the Thai way, delay will be a major tactic, in the forlorn hope that something will come up or the problem will just go away.
It has already taken three months simply to put some income and wealth caps on eligibility for the giveaway, and implementation has been postponed from February to May next year for unclear reasons.
Still to be addressed is the cost of administering the scheme, including the distribution of technology to all merchants likely to be involved, public education on using an app to spend digital money, and the extra workload on government departments and banks to provide proof of eligibility.
At the best of times, this is not the sort of stuff Thai bureaucracy handles quickly or efficiently.
If a whole new government department is set up, as it surely would have to be to administer 500 billion baht, even the six months between now and next May seems like an optimistic time frame to have the digital wallet scheme up and running.
The government's best hope at the moment is that one or other of the legal and constitutional challenges to borrowing the necessary 500 billion baht will be successful, and abandoning the scheme can conveniently be blamed on factors beyond its control.
In the meantime, many of the minor parties are remaining non-committal regarding the value of the digital wallet, so even if a bill to borrow the money is presented, the potential exists for all sorts of unholy alliances to save face for Pheu Thai by voting it down.

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Israel and Hamas should equally agree to a ceasefire
Peace is possible if you give it a chance
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 27 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday November 25, 2023

The genocide in Germany was unique in the history of this planet.
It must never be repeated anywhere.
The war in Gaza is also unbearable because it is often civilians who suffer, rather than the military.
A fair two-state solution is the only way.
There must also be no mutual apartheid as there once was in South Africa. All people are equal, no one is more “equal.”
It cannot be the case that there will only be peace on earth when the human species has disappeared.
All measures must always be proportionate and correspond to human dignity.
During the pandemic, it became clear to all of us that the culture of debate in our world no longer works so well.
The fact that peaceful coexistence is not possible is the fairy tale of those who are incapable of winning elections.
Victory in the current conflict cannot be achieved militarily.
The challenge is political.
It is about sustainable cooperation between Israel and the Arab states with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In addition to the United States and Israel, the Europeans and the Arabs have a special responsibility to work harder for a solution.
So far they have never delivered.
That has to change now.
The DNA of the future solution is also the social question (redistribution), the consistent peace policy.
I would like to see the establishment of a government of experts.
May we raise our voices together and work for a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully and all people can live in security and dignity and change the world for the better, through humanitarian aid, educational work, mediation friendliness.
Israel and Hamas should equally agree to a ceasefire. Peace is possible if you give it a chance.
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding” (Albert Einstein).
I am firmly convinced that the strong in the world should help the weak. It is not the individual but society that is to blame.

Jürgen Schöfer, Ph.D.,
Manila,
Philippines




Thais support justice, democracy
And national progress
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 27, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday November 20, 2023

Re: "PM pleads for return of talented Thais", Sunday November 19, 2023.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin should perhaps consider that the smartest, most talented Thais would be more tempted to live and work in Thailand if they were not subject to arrest and imprisonment for peacefully expressing a healthy range of opinion.
Contrary to myth, many Thais do in fact support justice, democracy, and national progress.
Many even favour the reform of bad old traditions too long institutionalised, a fact the May 14 vote demonstrated again.
Move Forward might have better success in persuading Thailand's best and brightest to return to contribute to a flourishing new era for their nation than those complicit in making Srettha their prime minister, including their eager pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra that former Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha himself signed off on along with others.
And speaking of those who drank deeply of his intoxicating brew, how is that poisoned chalice these days?
Is Thaksin still as gravely ill as ever in the comfort of the Police General Hospital?

Felix Qui
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Thai policy on Myanmar
To conform with rule of law as in UN and ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 26, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 21, 2023

Re: "Thai diplomacy in focus," In Bangkok Post Op-ed, Tuesday November 21, 2023,
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin should make our policy towards Myanmar's junta conform with the rule of law as reflected in the UN and Asean stances.
Yet this topic wasn't even on the agenda for his ministry-wide meeting with our ambassadors.
We claim we are no longer junta-led ourselves and are well on the road to democracy, yet we undermine the UN and Asean by continuing to recognise the Myanmar junta's nominee as their nation's ambassador.
We should reaffirm our commitment to the rule of law and support the UN and Asean.
In particular, as we have a long, common border with Myanmar, we should take the leadership role on this issue in international forums instead of ducking.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



China breaks international embargo
Manufactures German Diesel engines for military defence equipment
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 25, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 21, 2023

Re: "China-made sub engine is now 'okay'", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday November 21, 2023
Bangkok Post published an article quoting the navy chief about engines for the submarines purchased by the Royal Thai Navy (RTN).
I trust the chief has verified the facts in the article and is not relying on a statement by the Chinese shipbuilder.
Verification could be achieved by talking to MTU Germany about the licence to manufacture the engine in China. Also, the RTN could seek verification from the German embassy in Thailand.
My view is MTU would not have given a licence to China for the manufacture of diesel engines for use on military platforms as it would break the international embargo on the sale of equipment for use on military platforms by China.
The consequence for MTU, now owned by Rolls Royce UK, could result in sanctions and or fines against the company.
It should be noted that MTU and other engine suppliers have set up manufacturing facilities in China to supply diesel engines to be fitted in buses and trucks.

Frank Lewis,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine transport strike
Jeepney owners don't want modernisation
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 24, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday November 22, 2023

We are all concerned when natural disasters strike us everywhere, requiring government attention, so when manmade internal operating conflicts are protracted and unresolved, not only is government capability stretched, but taxpayers’ money and time are wasted.
We can grant the political conflicts we see in Congress as the politicians may have their luxury of time, but when we speak of the ongoing transport strike on the issue of jeepney modernization not acceptable to many jeepney owners, the general public is caught in between and suffers the most.
The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is bent on the deadline that by December 31, 2023, jeepney owners must be in a cooperative that shall be given the franchise, instead.
The repercussion of the approaching deadline has been long anticipated not without trepidation by the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board LTFRB.
The public is now treated to a media war on the issue.
Meanwhile, businesses and ordinary employees who commute using public transport suffer with no work, and schools, and even some offices, are suspended as a result.
The combined cost and the responsibility for this misadventure that no side is expected to own is incalculable if it continues.
We respectfully suggest that the President step in to resolve such operating conflicts within the executive department by creating an advisory Task Force on Resolving Operating Conflicts (TFROC) so that the issues are given the best perspective toward a solution acceptable to both parties.
Not a day should be lost on wasting precious tax and private funds, as well. Transport is just one area of conflict; later on, you’d have teachers, health workers, and other government workers with gripes and demands to the government, almost everywhere in the executive branch; the TFROC can get to work to solve the conflict, and resolve it the soonest possible time.

Marvel K. Tan,
Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
Manila,
Philippines,




Inadequate labour conditions in Papua New Guinea
Can adversely impact workers and their rights.
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 23, 2023
First published in the National, Friday November 10, 2023

Resource projects, particularly in developing countries, often face human rights challenges related to labour conditions and land rights.
Foreign investment in resource projects often bring economic opportunities, including job creation.
However, inadequate labour conditions can adversely impact workers and their rights.
Issues such as poor wages, long working hours, unsafe working conditions, and the exploitation of migrant labourers have been reported in some Papua New Guinea resource projects.
Such conditions not only violate international labour standards but also undermine the overall well-being and dignity of workers.
Ensuring fair compensation, reasonable working hours, and safe conditions for workers are essential to protect their rights.
Companies involved in resource projects must adhere to international best practices and labour laws, promoting the fair treatment of employees.
Close monitoring by regulatory authorities, regular audits, and collaboration with trade unions can assist in upholding labour rights and rectifying any violations that occur.
Landowner rights and the welfare of indigenous communities are critical aspects that often intersect with resource projects.
Displacement, loss of livelihoods, and potential cultural impacts can arise when land is acquired for extraction purposes.
Adequate consultation and negotiation with affected communities, respecting their traditional rights and knowledge, is essential to ensure their human rights are upheld.
Papua New Guinea has a unique system of land tenure, where customary landowners have substantial control over their land.
However, disputes may arise over land ownership, leading to conflicts between resource companies and local communities.
It is crucial to establish effective mechanisms for resolving disputes, promoting consultation, and providing fair compensation to landowners who are affected by resource projects.
Additionally, ensuring that indigenous communities have access to benefit-sharing agreements is important for mitigating the negative impacts of resource projects.
Equitable distribution of economic benefits can contribute to the overall well-being and development of affected communities.
Transparent agreements, community development programmes, and capacity-building initiatives contribute to empowering indigenous people and safeguarding their rights throughout the resource project life cycle.
Effective governance plays a crucial role in addressing labour and landowner concerns.
Governments must establish clear policy frameworks, regulations, and mechanisms to monitor and enforce labour standards, land rights, and benefit-sharing agreements.
Collaborating with civil society organisations, trade unions, and international partners can strengthen capacity and improve oversight to ensure adherence to human rights principles.
Resource companies have a responsibility to conduct due diligence and assess potential human rights risks associated with their operations.
Comprehensive impact assessments that account for labour and landowner concerns, as well as ongoing monitoring and evaluation, are necessary to identify and address any negative human rights impacts.
Engaging with local communities, implementing grievance mechanisms, and fostering mutually beneficial partnerships are essential for responsible corporate conduct.

Romel Kuman
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea





Sonar pulses likely injured divers,
Divers and other marine life
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 22, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday November 20, 2023

Re: "Chinese warship's sonar pulses 'likely' injured Australian divers", in Bangkok Post, World, Sunday November 19, 2023
The report of Chinese ships allegedly using sonar pulses that injured Australian divers helps explain why whales and other marine life that navigate and communicate by sonar pulses end up stranded on beaches around the world.
If the divers suffer pain and dizziness as claimed, the effect on whales must be pure torture. Man's desire to wage war and devise ways of doing it know no bounds and the devil take the hindmost.

Ron Martin,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for crimialisation of negative comments
For institutions like the Royal Thai Police
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 21, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday November 18, 2023

Re: "Police must inspire trust", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Wednesday November 15, 2023.
The Bangkok Post means well, but if the well-established image and well-known reputation of the Royal Thai Police (RTP) is to be brought into line with its unsullied repute, then drastic measures are needed.
The Post's editorial presents none, merely repeating anodyne wishes that have already been repeated for decades, as though mere historical veneration conferred value.
That won't work.
It never has worked.
The obvious solution, one blessed by tradition, is to follow the unquestionable example that has worked so well for other respectable Thai institutions: criminalise all negative comments, however peaceful, under pain of severe penalties.
That will ensure that the Royal Thai Police are spoken of as excellent, as is only proper.
Their reputation will continually rise thereafter as the laudatory accolades pile up with news of their good deeds to protect society and honest citizens being properly reported daily.
Could the image and reputation of this essential institution of Thai society then fail to win its deserved respect?
Could the Royal Thai Police (RTP) deserve less admiration and respect than must then flow?
I believe this solution also works well in China, where rude comments on people's betters, including revered public institutions, are strictly controlled.
Could the Communists, no less, be wrong about anything so important?

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thailand government sees every single individual
As an economic engine to creat growth
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday November 18, 2023

Re: "Economy crying for stimulus'", in Bangkok Post, Thursday, November 16, 2023.
PM Srettha Thavisin seems to be confused about the 10,000-baht handout. Dr Prommin Lertsuriyadet, secretary to the Prime Minister, said the government sees "every single individual as an economic engine to create growth" but now proposes leaving out millions of Thai adults.
He says "the 10,000-baht digital money handout scheme, backed by blockchain technology, is deemed the most effective way to restart the economy", but now proposes a distinctly non-blockchain handout process.
He says that "without intervention to stimulate the economy, the situation will go downhill rapidly", and the "economy is crying for stimulus", but now proposes a very gradual rollout, covering two to three years.
Either the Prime Minister is confused, or his secretary is, or both are.
Both cannot be correct.
Are we going in circles?

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Budddhism stands alone in its unemotional
Objective understanding of oneself and reality
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday, November 19, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday November 10, 2023

Re: "Isoc's role in society", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Monday November 6, 2023.
Karl Reichstetter is refreshingly correct in his letter "Isoc's role in society" when he confirms that Buddhism has no god or supernatural being to which to pray.
As he points out, Buddhism is not a religion but is simply about training one's mind to understand oneself and the world in which we live: simple to describe but not so easy to practise.
However, assuming Khun Karl to be from the Constitutional Republic of the USA, does not the military swear an oath of allegiance to the constitution?
The framing of the 247-year-old constitution was the work of exceptional wisdom and foresight.
It is apolitical and intended solely to protect the country and its people: it's a work of genius for all countries to follow.
Unfortunately, this exceptional guidance does not agree with the destructive ideology of the warmongers currently running the country from the shadows.
In all this global trauma, does Buddhism not stand alone in its unemotional, objective understanding of oneself and reality?

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Questions asked about the conventional narrative
On Israeli-Palestine conflict
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 18, 2023

Paul makes some pertinent points in his letter on the Israeli-Palestine conflict
( Southeast Asian Times 17/11/23 ).
His statement that “ The Israeli-Palestine conflict is more familiar to Western people, in particular Americans who strongly support the state of Israel “ is correct.
The explanation for this is quite straightforward.
They have uncritically accepted an overload of American-Israeli-Western propaganda.
Only now in light of Israel’s indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians, including children in Gaza and the West Bank and its reign of terror extending to hospitals have some started to ask questions about the conventional narrative.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 

The Israeli-Palestine conflict
Is more familiar to Western people
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 17
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday November 5, 2023

Re: "Call for accuracy", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Saturday October 28, "Accuracy matters", in Bangkok Post PostBag, October Wednesday 25, 2023 and "An Israel-Palestine conflict explainer", in Bangkok Post Opinion, October 23, 2023.
While the letter writers may have a point in what they are saying, I think they still should give your columnist Vitit Muntarbhorn who pens "An Israeli Palestine conflict explainer", a break.
All things considered, he has done an effective job in explaining a Middle Eastern problem to an Asian, and more specifically Thai, audience.
The Israeli-Palestine conflict is more familiar to Western people, in particular Americans who strongly support the state of Israel.
I believe that few of us could explain a Thai problem to outsiders as effectively as Mr Vitit has explained the Middle Eastern conflict.
He is correct the Palestinians are just as deserving of having a state as the Israelis.
While the letter writers may have a point that the Palestinians have refused to share a state with the Israelis, the fact remains they had to go to a deep level to make their arguments cogent.
I learned a long time ago that the best scientific theory is a simple one; once one needs to start coming up with complicated explanations to support a theory or argument, one really risks becoming irrelevant.
The fact remains, world opinion seemingly is on the side of the Palestinians.
And the reason is simple: they don't have a state, while the Israelis do.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand




To whom has Thailand
To defend itself
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday November 16, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday November 13, 2023

Re: "Sutin backs military modernisation", in Bangkok Post, Friday November 10, 2023.
The new defence minister Sutin Klungsang seems to have caved in to daily bombardments from the armed forces.
He is already talking about the need to make all kinds of purchases to defend the country. I ask myself against whom Thailand has to defend itself: Laos, Malaysia? The only dangerous country in the region is China, the source of many of the purchases. It seems the armed forces have to defend their interests.
Waiting times for patients to see a doctor at public hospitals or under social security schemes is already a routine five hours. It would be much better to pour more money into a reasonable health care system -- people are not animals -- than buy submarines or frigates or whatever.

Karl Reichstetter,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Real-world climate data has nothing to do
With UN's egregious regulatory overreach
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday November 10, 2023

Re: "Hottest October globally marks fifth record-shattering month", in World, November 8 and "Heat's rising for Thailand to go green", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday November 8, 2023.
The concerted efforts of climate alarmists and their United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and World Economic Forum (WEF) puppet masters is evident prior to the UNCOP28 climate conference this month.
Agence France Press (AFP) churns out its usual "2023 the warmest year in history" climate emergency propaganda which is supported by tailored mathematical climate modelling and highly selective data filtering.
Real-world climate data has nothing to do with this effort to make everyone eager to comply with the UN's egregious regulatory overreach.
UN climate policy is really designed to transfer wealth and power away from the petrodollar and into the hands of those who fund the UN and their unelected minions.
While I respect some of what Ajarn Somkiat Tangkitvanich has done for Thailand, he is a computer and policy guy, not a climate scientist.
In his TDRI keynote speech, he says: "The world is boiling hot, not simply warming. Therefore, Thailand's response must extend beyond planting trees and carbon credit sales."
There is simply no data to support the first statement.
Khun Somkiat should take a few days to study climate science thoroughly and understand a world full of lithium in toxic form, EVs which require electricity from the grid, sleep-depriving and cancer-causing pollution, fake food, endless wars, and a lack of carbon dioxide.
This deep destruction appears to be the ultimate goal of policymakers at the global level.
Covid-19 and the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) current global health treaty initiatives, among an avalanche of other ruinous policies, should teach us important lessons about their true agenda.

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Cashless society
Not so good for tourists
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday November 14, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday November 10, 2023

Re: "Digital wallet rules ease debt fears", in Business, Bangkok Post, Friday October 27, 2023.
Many countries, including Thailand, are heading towards a cashless society.
This is great for Big Brother governments, who can check where we all are and what we are doing. It's not so good for tourists who often have to pay overseas fees on their credit cards and get an extortionate exchange rate or old people who aren't comfortable with mobile phone apps and who are at higher risk of digital fraud.
In Thailand, power and WiFi outages are very common, especially in rural areas.
If the power, WiFi or terminals are down, you cannot pay for anything.
Last year, I was on a four-hour train journey in the UK, and the onboard cafe card terminal was not working.
A lady who was used to being cashless could not buy anything to eat or drink during the entire journey.
The Swiss have recently joined the Germans and Austrians and have voted against a cashless society. I hope that Thailand rethinks its current trajectory.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Papua New Guinea has amongst the worst
Life expentancy rate in the Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 13, 2023
First published in the National Friday, November 10, 2023

At last week’s 4th European Unuin Papua New Guinea Business Trade and Investment Conference, the President of the Papua New Guinea Europe Business Council, Michael Sullivan, urged the audience not to forget ordinary Papua New Guineans.
He noted that despite all the upbeat talk about Papua New Guinea’s big resource projects and Papua New Guinea’s potential to export to Europe and as a destination for European investment, ordinary Papua New Guineans have "done it pretty tough" over the last 10 years.
With amongst the worst life expectancy, immunization coverage and literacy rates and the highest rate of HIV/ Aids infections in the Pacific, with reduced purchasing power and a very low minimum wage, many Papua New Guineans live in poverty and daily face dire economic circumstances.
Good on you, Sullivan and the European Union for sparing a thought for the less fortunate in our society.
God bless them.

Grassroots supporters,
Port Moresby and Madang,
Papua New Guinea


 

The Pacific Cook Islands
To live happily ever after
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 12, 2023

Now that leaders at the Pacific Island Forum meeting in Raratonga, Cook Islands have embraced a vision of a “ region of peace “ for the Pacific ( The Sunday Times 11/11/23 ), I suppose we can all now live happily ever after knowing we need not have to worry about military coups, mutinies, militarisation of the “ zone of peace”, state repression of human rights and democratic freedoms and the violence of climate change and rampant capitalist exploitation of natural resources and the ravaging of the environment and natural ecosystems.
Looks like a pretty tall order to sustain, doesn’t it?

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Russia-Ukraine war has affected
Regional economies for sometime
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday November 11, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday November 10, 2023

Re: "PM doubles down on digital wallet", in Bangkok Post, Sunday November 5, 2023
Regarding this proposed digital wallet extravagance, has it occurred to its advocates that the Russia-Ukraine war has affected regional economies significantly for some time, including Thailand.
Thus, one would expect this government to spend with more caution due to the increasing fear of escalation in the Gaza conflict and subsequent financial and other ramifications if more countries become involved. And don't forget the warnings of a long-term drought that have been issued and what that portends.
As Mr Micawber from David Copperfield said: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery."

Bill Renoise,
Bangkok,
Thailand




No one will choose Thailand as a retirement work base
After new tax laws on January 1
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 10, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 8, 2023

Re: "New tax rules need clarification", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Wednesday October 8, 2023.
The Thai government seem determined to destroy the country as a retirement, digital nomad haven for the rich, in spite of their stated objectives to the contrary. The new tax law is set to come into effect on January 1, and it looks like it will tax virtually all remittances to Thailand by up to 35 percent.
Yes, many countries have double taxation agreements with Thailand, but who wants to spend their retirement battling with the government red tape and dealing with tax lawyers?
If you bring in your pension, savings and even money to buy property, it will be taxed.
Imagine what this will do to the property market with an extra 35 percent to pay. The developers will not survive.
No one will choose Thailand as a retirement work base, and many already here will have to leave.
The loss of GDP from property sales, retail, vehicles, restaurants, etc will be substantial.
Even if the government backtracks after it realises the full impact of the policy, the damage will have been done to its international reputation as a retirement digital nomad destination.
Many people have already changed plans since the tax was announced.
The loophole they are seeking to close could easily be done by only applying the tax to Thai nationals and excluding expat tax residents.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




"Terrorism is the word that is used
to insult the enemies"

The Southeast Asian Times Thursday November 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday October 31, 2023

Re: "Calling a spade a spade", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Wednesday October 29, 2023.
Please allow me to respond to those who ask why I don't call Hamas a terrorist organisation.
For decades America has given Israel tens of billions of dollars to steal Palestinian land, drive Palestinians out of their homes, impoverish them and murder them even before October 7.
Now Israel is committing some of the [worst] atrocities in modern history.
I have tried for decades pleading with people, especially Jews, to stop being so cruel to the Palestinians and they have generally responded by calling me a
"self-loathing Jew" and whining about the Nazi Holocaust which the Palestinians had nothing to do with.
So as both an American and a Jew I have no right to tell the Palestinians to
"be nice" when they respond to their oppressors.
Terrorism is the word that is used to insult the enemies.

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Papua New Guinea calls for adoption of white men's ways
To keep stock of every single cent and every dollar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 8, 2023
First published in the National, Friday November 3, 2023

A country that has gruesome news of its economy and all negative stories topping the list with its debt reaching an all-time high can’t afford to foot bills of its foreign missions.
The Government should realise that footing bills of foreign missions is an unprofitable approach and an expensive exercise.
A struggling country as Papua New Guinea cannot afford to spend on an unworthy cause as the expensive rental bills of foreign missions.
Are we out of our mind?
How profitable are those foreign missions?
Can someone clarify total number of Papua New Guinea foreign missions and the number of staff and their salary yearly budget including cost of yearly rental arrears of office and accommodation.
Can the Foreign Affairs Minister and secretary provide facts and figures of how much money the so called Papua New Guinea ambassadors, consul generals and high commissioners made for Papua New Guinea in a year.
Why we are not being realistic in managing every Kina wisely for the good of our country and its citizens.
We have to adopt white men’s ways and that is to keep stock of every single cent (toea) and every dollar (Kina).
How can we progress as a nation if we go on a spending spree and can’t manage well our country’s finance?

Paul Minga,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Call for new PM Srettha to follow historical
Successes as achieved by great kings of Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 7, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday October 16, 2023

Re: "PM's global choice", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Tuesday October 24, 2023.
I would like to help JC Wilcox expand his understanding of the Belt and Road Initiative, and specifically address his claim, "China's BRI is about education, manufacturing, and free trading. Silk Roads are the roads to freedom".
China, under Xi Jinping, has openly declared its goal is to rule the world by 2049 the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) centenary celebration.
Religion has always been considered by Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) strategists as their enemy and any openly popular expressions of it such as the distribution of Christian bibles, Tibetan Buddhists receiving instructions, or Falun Gong gatherings have been ruthlessly persecuted.
This is also present-day policy in the authoritarian surveillance dictatorship that is modern China to wit, the Dalai Lama continues to live in exile in India and there are essentially no Buddhists who can enjoy freedom in this hellish "people's paradise".
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is one of the means by which China has been planning for more than three decades to take control of the world and achieve "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
This is nothing less than the hegemonistic global expansion of its political, social, military, and governmental power.
I urge Prime Minister Srettha to follow the historical successes as achieved by the great kings of Thailand in delicately balancing foreign relations to avoid such risks in the future.

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Who decides what qualifies
The label "terrorist"
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 6, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday October 31, 2023

Re: "Calling a spade a spade", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Sunday October 29, 2023.
A thought-provoking letter from Jayut Jayanandana which had me thinking about the label "terrorist".
Who decides, what qualifies, and how many supposedly legal and law abiding governments get called it by their opposition?
The Oxford dictionary says "a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims". With no active and proper international court with all nations signed up to it we have witnessed behaviour that would fit this definition from the US and its allies in their post 9/11 activities with no court action.
The current bombing with a massive death toll of Gaza civilians certainly does, as does the Hamas atrocity.
As was recently mentioned in a good article I read last week, all war is in effect terrorism.
US President Joe Biden recently said "I'm sure innocents have been killed, and it's the price of waging a war".
Perhaps "terrorist" is just one side's view of its enemy.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Ask any Palestininian
The US is the last they would bank on
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 1, 2023

I agree with Kuldeep Nagi’s insightful analysis of the seven decade oppressive plight of the Palestinians since their dispossession in 1948 ( The Southeast Asian Times 4/11/23 ).
That is except the bit where he thinks the time is ripe for the US to act to create a sovereign state for the Palestinian people.
Ask any Palestinian and they’d tell you the US is the last they’d bank on to do anything for them.
The US has been a key part of the problem the Palestinians have been facing for seven decades on account of US backing of Israel and the supply of military weapons to Israel.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Air Niugini applies penalties for passengers who miss flights
But no penalty for Air Niugini when it cancells flights
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 5, 2023
First published in the National, Friday November 3, 2023

This is an ongoing issue with Air Niugini and has been practised for years.
When a customer misses his or her scheduled flights, Air Niugini imposes a penalty on the customer for missing the flight.
Customers then pay the penalty fee and rebook another flight.
However, if a customer is confirmed to travel on a flight and suddenly that flight is cancelled by Air Niugini, no penalty is met by Air Niugini to the customers.
This is totally unfair.
The cancellation of flights incurs additional costs to its customers.
Example; a passenger travelling down to Jacksons from Sogeri or Kwikila may have hired a vehicle just to get on the confirmed flight.
If the confirm flight is cancelled, all costs must be met by Air Niugini before another flight.
The additional costs are now caused by Air Niugini which will be met by the customer.
Can Air Niugini explain to its customers why they are not paying a penalty to its customers when they cancel scheduled flights?
Penalty fee must be a medium between Air Niugini and its customers so that customers don’t miss flights and also Air Niugini to make sure we travel as scheduled.
If one fails, penalty fee is there.
Here, it is obvious that Air Niugini is applying penalties to customers missing flights and not meeting its own penalty to its customers by cancelling its flights.
Air Niugini, please explain to us why you cannot pay your own penalty to us?
For the benefit of all customers, make us to understand.

Eye blo city,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

 


Australian former PM's
Sign joint statement on Israel-Hamas war
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 5, 2023

The 6 Australian ex PMs joint statement on the Israeli-Hamas war adds up to nothing for the Palestinian people suffering death and destruction from Israeli bombardments in Gaza.
It’s just a feel good thing for them and a pretence that they have done something very substantial regarding the crisis.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Seven decades of the Palestine-Israel conflict has resulted
In the death and dustruction of the "Holy Land"
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 4, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday October 27, 2023

Re: "Israel, I fear, is about to make a terrible mistake", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Monday October 23, 2024.
I must say that for the first time, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has done a fair analysis of the current crisis in Israel.
Seven decades of conflict have done nothing but more of the same land grab, encroachment, demolitions, and violence resulting in death and destruction of the so-called "Holy Land".
For Israel, it is time to accept that they cannot continue on the same path.
The time has come to let go of their false supremacy riding on the support of the USA. Imagine what will happen to them if the US support is withdrawn.
Just look at its legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the last seven decades, the other side has realised nothing can be expected from Israel but more annexation, control, and command, squeezing life and hope from their muted existence.
For them, the violence against the perpetrators is the only way out.
It is sad when you are surrounded by your immediate neighbours with this mindset.
The time is ripe for the USA to exercise its powers in bringing together the Middle East regimes to help carve a unified Palestinian state.
Israel cannot thrive surrounded by neighbours full of rage, hatred, and anger.
I agree with Mr Friedman that Israel cannot be a winner if it keeps making the same mistakes and expecting a different outcome.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Realising China's Complete reunification
Is a historic mission
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 3, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday October 31, 2023

Re: "Benign power", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Sunday October 29, 2023.
In this letter, Colin Roth claims that for, "centuries China got on peacefully with life without bothering the outside world, which might possibly have noticed had China tried to rule it when they had the chance".
Mr Roth, Chinese history is well recorded and tells us entirely otherwise.
Since 2,600BC, China has conducted countless expansionist wars too.
The Chinese have at one time, or often many times, conquered all of their neighbours, including North and South Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Nepal, Taiwan, Siberia as far north as Lake Baikal, Xinjiang and areas of central Asia, and Mongolia.
The Silk Road was one of the many means whereby this expansion was facilitated. They embraced imperialism as a virtue millennia before the birth of Machiavelli.
In his June, 2021 speech commemorating the 100th anniversary of the CCP,
Xi Xinping said, "Comrades and friends, resolving the Taiwan question and realising China's complete reunification is a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the Communist Party of China".
Does that sound like "getting along peacefully" Mr Roth?

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Buddhists and the military want emergency decree to stay
In Thailands three southern provinves
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 November 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 30, 2023

Re: "Explosions rock South ahead of anniversary", in Bangkok Post, October 22, 2023 and "Decree no longer a help", Editorial, October 17, 2023
We badly need to rethink our whole approach to the low-level separatist violence in our three southernmost provinces.
We first invoked the emergency decree there in July 2005 and it's been extended every three months for a mind-boggling 73 times without fail.
This reminds me of the quote, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".
We've been consistently applying a military-based "solution" to our southern problem.
But our nearly fourscore extensions of the emergency decree are proof that relying on the gun isn't working.
We don't even know which country would welcome/support the separatists; it certainly isn't Malaysia.
We should take a civilian's approach, seeking root causes and solving problems. Violence has only been in the South, so elected southerners should be in charge of coming up with a way out, supported by the rest of the country.
Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang endorsed extending the emergency decree again, as "a public hearing shows local Buddhists and the military want the emergency decree to stay", as it lets soldiers make arrests or search sites without court warrants and detain suspects for 37 days.
But most of Thailand's southernmost people are understood to be Muslim so our public hearing evidently ignored how most of those subject to the decree felt.
I suggest that if asked, they wouldn't have favoured being treated like second-class citizens.
Seek to win hearts and minds, not enforce compliance with a gun.

Burin Kantabutra
Bangkok,
Thailand




"For world peace and prosperity
Don’t bank on the US"
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 1, 2023

Kuldeep Nagi belief that “ The US can help usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in Palestine as it has done for Israel, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and many other countries “ ( The Southeast Asian Times 30/10/23 ) is misplaced.
Actually every theatre of war and conflict in today’s world has the imprimatur of US hegemony and militarism. Israeli’s fortress mentality and state of siege of Palestine has been helped by US arms supply and geopolitical agenda.
For world peace and prosperity don’t bank on the US.
For further illumination on this I recommend Kuldeep Nagi look up Noam Chomsky and C.J. Polychroniou’s insightful book Illegitimate Authority : Facing the Challenges of Our Time ( 2023 ).

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


Australia calls for humanitarian pauses on hostilities
But abstains in United Nations resolution
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 31, 2023

By abstaining in a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce in the Israel - Palestine War Australia exposes itself as lacking in spine to do what’s right for humanity’s sake.
That’s such a shame!

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



New Thailand PM supports two-state solution
To end Palestinian-Israeli conflict
The Southeast Asian Times Monday October 30, 2023
First pubished in the Bangkok Post Saturday October 21, 2023

Re: "The real dividing line separating Israel and Palestine", in Bangkok Post Opinion, October 20, 2023.
Opposing viewpoints, blame games, contradictions, deceit, deception and violence in the Palestine region have turned the so-called "Holy Land", the birthplace of three major religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism into killing fields.
In the first place, creating a state based on religion was the biggest blunder. Since its inception, Israel has been struggling to live in peace.
A two-state solution based on religion is not always good but must be tried. The division of India to create Pakistan is a failed experiment.
On the other hand, the autonomy achieved by Bangladesh is exemplary.
Also, the liberal Islamic nations in the Asean region, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, are good examples of the diversity of religions, faiths, tolerance and coexistence which are possible.
Despite occasional turmoil, people live in harmony and their economy thrives.
The new prime minister of Thailand, Srettha Thavisin, has also supported a two-state solution to end the war in Israel.
With the support of wealthy Middle Eastern countries, it is quite possible that a separate homeland for Palestinians will be a better solution than the ongoing violence and killings of innocent people on both sides.
The time has come for the US to stop supporting a one-sided hardline stance and status quo in Israel.
The US can help usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in Palestine as it has done for Israel, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and many other countries.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Under new PM Srettha's watch
Thailand's anti-corruption efforts have gone downhill
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 29, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday October 27, 2023

Re: "Mayor resigns after arrest over extortion", in Bangkok Post, Thursday October 26.
Police arrested the son-in-law of Deputy Interior Minister Chada Thaisedth, who's responsible for cracking down on mafia figures nationwide, on charges of bribery. Will the police and judiciary dare to impartially investigate, try and sentence him?
The contractor who won a Taluk Du subdistrict, Uthai Thani province bid for two underground water supply systems was summoned by the subdistrict's mayor, Weerachart Rasamee, who's Chada's son-in-law. Mayor Weerachart allegedly demanded one million baht to allow the project to proceed, but this sum was negotiated down to 600,000 baht.
The contractor blew the whistle on the mayor, leading to the cop's sting operation and the mayor's arrest.
Under Prime Minister Srettha's watch, Thailand's anti-corruption efforts have gone steadily downhill, including welcoming a convicted "flour" smuggler into the cabinet and the junta-appointed Senate forbidding the police from investigating a senator for graft.
Will our Prime Minister Srettha find the political will to encourage the police and judiciary to enforce the rule of law and treat all persons equally?
Remember, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" (misattributed to John Stuart Mill).
Will Srettha do nothing?

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




President declares a public holiday
For Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 28, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquiry, Thursday October 19 2023

I am delighted with President Marcos declaring Monday October 30 a special nonworking day “Marcos declares October 30 a special non-working day for Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE),” in Philippine Inquirer October 11, 2023 for the sole purpose of enabling Filipinos to take part in the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).
Needless to say, it is incumbent upon all of us registered voters to cast our indispensable vote for deserving candidates in our midst who we think are responsive, trustworthy, and goal-oriented, which will be more apparent during the campaign period starting today.
Accordingly, I am fervently hoping that on election day we choose leaders who are keenly aware of issues affecting our respective communities, leaders who are imbued with a strong sense of purpose as well as moral fiber, and who are likely catalysts for change.
Let’s vote for leaders who, in the coming months and years, can leave a great legacy something we can achieve, at least by voting wisely.

Jhon Steven C.
Espenido,
Surigao City




How can Thailand's digital wallet
Benefit the economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 27, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday October 23, 2023

Re: "The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) vows greater scrutiny", in Bangkok Post, Saturday October 21, 2023.
Like many others, I am puzzled by how the government's plan to give out 10,000 baht free money via the digital wallet works and how it can benefit the economy.
Digital wallets are easy to understand.
We receive and spend the money electronically, possibly through an app downloaded to our phone.
The sophisticated part is the blockchain that comes with the wallet.
A Google search explains that blockchain is a database that maintains a continuously growing list of transaction records, called blocks, linked together using cryptography.
It is a public digital ledger that is used to record transactions.
In other words the government knows when and where you spend your money.
We don't have to understand cryptography.
Experts are hired to create a blockchain system that will work for six months, apparently with a huge sum of money from the taxpayers' pocket.
We only have to sit back and make a wish list.
Shall we pay all the household expenses like food and utilities with the given wallet and keep the money that we can save?
But these are regular expenses which will not stimulate the economy.
Shall we join weekend tours to the countryside and visit more restaurants?
This can temporarily spur internal spending but the benefit is likely to be short-lived.
Or shall we go for a massage to entertain ourselves and risk the government knowing where we hang out from the transaction record?
Like many other potential recipients, my house is registered in a rural location not within the 10 or 12 kilometre sphere where there is a Lotus or Big C to shop.
If so, I may have to settle with the nearest mini-convenience store with less merchandise.
Then there is a time limit of six months to spend this 10,000 baht. Any unspent amount will return to the Treasury.
The ultimate question is who benefits from the handout?
The companies that supply the crypto wallet will have the first bite of the cake, followed by the big department stores and convenience stores and manufacturers of household products.
After six months, when the mission is accomplished, the Treasury will add a horrifying 500 billion baht of debt that critics said will need another generation of Thais to pay off.
But who cares?
The plan has already put its key advocate Prime Minister Stretta into office, and most Thais are more eager to receive 10,000 baht than to raise questions.
Only history can tell if it is a good and productive policy or another scandal for Mr Thaksin's Pheu Thai Party.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Australian Aboriginal death in custody
Is a national disgrace
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday October 26, 2023

There is only one thing to be said about another Aboriginal death in custody : it’s a national disgrace.
For people interested in a more elaborate explanation and analysis go to Robert Tickner’s interview on ABC on 23/10/23.
He provides a solid insight into the issue of Death in Custody and its root underlying cause - the lack of right leadership and political will - to address it.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Air Niugini's Pilot Cadetship programme
A dream come true for Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday October 25, 2023
First published in the National, Monday October 16, 2023

Air Niugini, our national carrier is our people’s pride.
Though we have encountered various inevitable hiccups with its services, it still delivers to the people of this country regardless of these issues.
On October 6 it advertised it’s Pilot Cadetship programme.
This was a dream come true for aspiring young people who wanted to be pilots.
For my son it was an advert he would never forget.
He was just two years old when he knew he wanted to be a pilot.
My husband and I taught at a primary school in our town located on the footage of the airport.
He would see the planes flying above preparing for landing or flight, and say,
‘I want to fly that plane’.
He would excitedly chase the plane as it flew above racing his little heart out just at the amazement it brought him as his little face lit up in awe.
Today, I commend Air Niugini for reviving this programme, bringing his dream back and giving hope to people like him to try their best shot in applying for the pilot cadetship programme.
My son is currently studying engineering in university, but he has a chance to apply and make his dream a reality.
The last time I saw this announcement for the pilot training was in 2016 and every year since than I have waited for my son to complete year 12 and to see if there was a chance that the pilot cadet programme would be advertised.
When the advert came out, my contacts sent me WhatsApp snapshots of it and I even bought the paper to view it.
I am grateful for such opportunities that an average Papua New Guinean cannot afford, to be provided by our national airline Air Niugini.
Thank you Air Niugini, for this opportunity and for giving hope to making dreams come true.

Air Niugini Best,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Philippines call for multibillionaire oligarchs
To invest in job-creating manufacturing industry
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 24, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday October 19, 2023

This is in connection with the article of Cielito F. Habito on “Trailing our neighbors,” in "No Free Lunch," October 3, 2023 wherein he pointed out, among others, that our country continues to get the least foreign direct investments (FDIs) among our Asean peers and followed by another article, enumerating the reasons on “Why investments elude us,” 10 October 2023.
The question is why do we have to depend on FDI?
We can adapt steps taken by the South Korean government in the 1960s to compel the “chaebols” or big business conglomerates, as described in the book “Korea: The Impossible Country” by Daniel Tudor in 2012, to help fast-track South Korea’s industrialization by exhorting them to go into the manufacture of cars, electronic goods, household appliances, and office equipment, among others. This catapulted South Korea to where it is now as one of the world’s largest economy and donor to developing nations.
Why can’t our political leaders seek the assistance of dollar multibillionaire oligarchs in this country to invest in the job-creating manufacturing industry, especially those that bring in new technologies, instead of concentrating only on real estate, retail, media, and banking services?

Antonio de Guzman,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Divorce in the Philippines
Has it's good sides
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 23, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday October 16, 2023

Divorce is reviled and anathematized by many, and the Catholic Church sees it as a public enemy No.1.
It’s true that this flip side of marriage can tear families apart and its aftermath can devastate people mired in it because it brings chaos and rupture among spouses, parents, children, relatives, and friends.
Divorce, however, has its good sides, and here’s one good new the blessing it brings to people entangled with it.
Fallen marriages that have wrecked families in reckless abandon and are chronically languishing in the abyss of brokenness could finally live in peace as there’s now a mechanism set by law to terminate them, with sufficient safeguards to protect and preserve the humanness and well-being of the parties involved, especially unwitting children who can do nothing but sleep tightly as the mighty waves roar.
They can now move forward and reset the rhythm of their lives to normal mode as they go on to find a new and happier place under the sun.
We give thanks and accolades to our lawmakers for crafting a divorce bill after letting it sit on the back burner for some time.
But do we know that contrary to popular sentiment, God in his infinite wisdom permits divorce in at least two instances?
In Matthew 5:32, in the New Testament, God through Matthew instructed that divorce is a sin but if a spouse commits porneia, the Greek word for “sexual immorality,” the innocent spouse can divorce the guilty spouse.
The sexual immorality alluded to is adultery or marital infidelity.
This is an explicit edict from God.
Another instance in the Bible that implicitly allows divorce is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15, which says: “If the unbelieving partner leaves the conjugal home, let it be so.
An example is when a Christian spouse is abandoned by a non-Christian spouse, the Christian spouse may say, “adios, you can go to hell my dear,” then rush to the bar and celebrate with a wide grin. This guideline is implicit, which means divorce is impliedly allowed.
Then come physical and emotional abuses which, in a wild chaotic world, may be acceptable excuses to scram a spouse forever and ever.

Manuel Biason,
lawyer,
Manila,
Philippines



Majority of migrants in Australia
Voted "No" in First Nation Voice Referendum
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 22, 2023

The tragedy of the big ‘ Vote No ‘ win in the Aboriginal voice referundum is that an overwhelming majority of the migrant mob settled comfortably in Australia voted against giving the First Nation people their just due to address the historical injustice of invasion, dispossession and marginalisation .
They believe the First Nation people are already getting too much, conveniently forgetting Australia is their country stolen from them!
That’s such a crying shame.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia




China’s navy violates maritime collision regulations
In West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 21, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday October 19, 20
23

A recent incident in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) involving a Chinese Navy vessel and the Philippine Navy’s BRP Benguet has reignited tensions in the region.
The Chinese Navy’s dangerous maneuvers, as reported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), not only endangered the safety of sailors but also challenged the international order.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy Ship 621 (PLAN 621) shadowed the BRP Benguet at an uncomfortably close distance, violating maritime collision regulations.
What’s alarming is PLAN 621’s use of the contested “10-dash line” narrative, indicating a broader challenge to international norms.
Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos rightly emphasized the dangers posed by such maneuvers, which risk maritime safety and regional stability.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. called on China to cease these provocative actions and engage in peaceful diplomatic channels for dispute resolution.
The commitment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to personnel safety and adherence to international norms is commendable. It underscores the importance of diplomacy over confrontation in resolving territorial disputes.
In the West Philippine Sea (WPS), where multiple territorial claims have created tensions, all parties must show restraint and respect international rules.
China should heed calls to act professionally and de-escalate tensions, prioritizing regional stability and safety.
This incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for peaceful and cooperative solutions to longstanding issues.

Arnulfo Jacinto,
Manila,
Philippines




Muslims know that using violence
In the name of Islam has no future
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 20, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday October 17, 2023

Re: "Give peace a chance", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Saturday October 14,
2023
The future can only be of a multi-polar world, free of dominance by one nation or a single ideology.
Christianity will be kept alive by the Russian Orthodox Church. Muslims know that using violence in the name of Islam has no future.
As we see with Muslims in Thailand, they respect the laws and the monarchy.
I've worked, lunched and protested with Thai Muslims.
Christianity exists in this Buddhist country, and foreigners, once established here, do not wish to leave.
In the next election, Thais must seriously consider these virtues of their country before voting.
Violent self-destruction has no future for humanity.

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Establishing an embassy in Jerusalem could be interpreted
As taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday October 19, 2023
First published in the National, Friday October 13, 2023

Recently, the decision by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape to establish an embassy in Jerusalem has sparked significant debate and raised questions about its potential consequences.
While some argue that aligning with other countries on this matter is necessary, it is crucial to critically examine the implications of such a move.
This editorial aims to shed light on the concerns surrounding the decision and its potential impact on our nation.
Jerusalem has long been a city of immense religious and geopolitical significance, with a complex history of conflict.
The establishment of embassies in Jerusalem has historically been a contentious issue, given the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United States’ decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem set a precedent that has been met with mixed reactions globally.
Aligning with other countries in establishing an embassy in Jerusalem may strain our diplomatic relations with countries that hold differing positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This move could potentially isolate us from other nations in the region and beyond.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a deeply rooted source of tension in the Middle East.
By involving ourselves in this sensitive matter, we risk becoming entangled in regional conflicts that could have far-reaching consequences for our stability and security.
Establishing an embassy in Jerusalem could be interpreted as taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This perception of bias may harm our reputation as a neutral player in international affairs, potentially affecting future negotiations and diplomatic endeavours.
By following the lead of the United States and aligning ourselves with their position, we run the risk of alienating countries that hold different views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This could adversely impact our ability to build strong bilateral relationships and partnerships.
Our focus should be on fostering stronger ties and cooperation with neighbouring countries and regional bodies, rather than engaging in divisive actions that may hinder regional stability and unity.
It is crucial for our government to prioritise the pressing needs and development of our own nation.
By redirecting our resources and efforts towards domestic issues, we can better serve the interests of our citizens and ensure their well-being.
While the decision to establish an embassy in Jerusalem may have been made with good intentions, it is essential to consider the potential consequences and implications it may have on our nation.
We should carefully evaluate alternative approaches that prioritise regional stability, neutrality, and the best interests of our citizens.
It is through thoughtful and informed decision-making that we can navigate the complexities of international relations.

Gandhi Joseph,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


 

For Christians in Papua New Guinea
Jerusalem is more than a political or geographic entity
First published in the National, Tuesday October 10, 2023
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday October 18, 2023

As a predominantly Christian nation, the decision to establish an embassy in Jerusalem reflects our deep spiritual connection to the city and our faith in Jesus Christ.
For Christians, Jerusalem is not merely a political or geographic entity; it is
the birthplace of Jesus and the setting of numerous biblical events.
Opening an embassy in Jerusalem is seen as a gesture of support and recognition
of the historical and religious importance that the city holds for Christians.
However, it is crucial to understand the concerns voiced by Arab countries and
Palestinians regarding Papua New Guinea’s move.
The opposition to this decision encompasses multiple factors beyond religious
differences.
The primary reason lies in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the
dispute over the status of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem holds immense religious, cultural, and historical significance to both
Israelis and Palestinians.
Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and opening an embassy there could be
seen as disregarding the Palestinian perspective and aligning with the Israeli
position.
It may be perceived as a step that undermines the ongoing negotiations and the
prospects of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Moreover, the international community, including the majority of Arab countries,
has long adhered to the principle of maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem
until a final agreement is reached by both Israelis and Palestinians.
This consensus is intended to avoid complicating the delicate peace process and
to ensure that the final status of Jerusalem is determined through negotiations.
While Papua New Guinea’s decision is rooted in our religious beliefs and our desire to express support for Israel, it is essential to approach this issue with
sensitivity and a broader understanding of the geopolitical landscape.
Engaging in dialogue and fostering mutual understanding between our nation and
Arab countries, including Palestinians, would be a constructive step towards
resolving any misunderstandings and finding common ground. It is my hope that
Papua New Guinea’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem will be seen as an expression of faith rather than a political statement.
In doing so, we can work towards building bridges of understanding and promoting
peaceful coexistence between different nations, religions, and cultures.

Elijah Kunjil
Pentina Village,
Kumdi Station,
Papua New Guinea




Call for Papua New Guinea Department of Ministry of Coffee
To develop the green gold domestic industry
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 17, 2023
First published in the National, Friday October 13, 2023

The recent meeting of Association of Coffee Growing Nations which the form the Coffee Council of the world in India is a step forward for Papua New Guinea.
Coffee Minister Joe Kuli led a Papua New Guinea delegation to India on behalf of coffee farmers.
The signing of the new International Coffee Agreement is a historic occasion and a significant achievement for the future of coffee industry.
Now that the international connections and links are established, the Department and Ministry of Coffee should start concentrating on developing the green gold domestic industry.
Since, coffee has been given a distinct recognition by the allocation of a separate ministry, there should be an administrative and legislative framework formulated for the effective implementation of policies, funding assistance and increased production to increase export revenue.
The coffee industry is here to stay because this is a renewable resource and every coffee growing provinces relay heavily on its income for basic necessities.
To start the improvement process, the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) should liaise with the provincial and district agriculture extension and development officers by directly working with respective provincial administrations going forward.
The reasons for this suggestion is simple: How can CIC which is based in Eastern Highlands handicapped with manpower and resources mobilised effectively to engage with coffee farmers?
The provincial coffee coordinator and district rural development officer or extension officer is already on the ground fully funded under current public service structures to be utilised to improve and expand the production capacity of the industry going forward.

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




If Puma Energy shuts its operation in Papua New Guinea
Then the whole nation suffers
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 16, 2023
First publshed in the National, Tuesday October 10, 2023

Monopoly is dangerous in a business circle as companies that control a particular service may have more influence over the Government.
Monopoly companies behave like multi-national corporations owned by first world nations in G7 and G20 groups.
Puma Energy is not a monopoly as it has Total Energies as the major competitor.
Other minor competitors make up less market share of fuel industry.
I’m mentioning monopoly in the opening to say that Puma Energy behaves more like monopoly due to its dominating market shares.
According to a senior politician Puma Energy dominated 70 per cent of fuel industry in the country.
The remaining 30 per cent is shared among Island Petroleum, Total Energies, Well Gris and other fuel distributors.
Over the years since Puma Energy’s entry into the country, it became a leading player in the distribution of fuel across service stations and national airports.
The Government seemed to become a spectator in the battle of Foreign Exchange played between Puma Energy and Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG) recently.
Puma Energy will still win over Government due to its dominating market share.
If Puma Energy shuts its operation, then the whole nation suffers.
Puma Energy is now the boss and the Government has to submit to its dictatorial orders.
What solution am I trying to bring on board?
My underlying message is that the Government must reduce Puma Energy’s market share to 40 per cent.
The other 60 per cent must be shared among other distributors.
This is to ensure fuel supply is distributed to service stations and fuel depot at all times.
Moreover, the lesser the market shares of Puma Energy’s are, the greater it will submit to the government.
Over to the Marape-led Government to decide.

Justin Soga Max,
Kerendah Village,
Papua New Guinea




Thai heart goes out to Thais
Held hostage in Israel
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 15, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday October 11, 2023

Re: "Bridging divides", PostBag, October 11, "18 Thais now dead in Israel" Bangkok Post, October 11 and "US president vows 'solid' support for ally", Bangkok Post, October 9.
I've been to Israel and know how horrible some people and situations are.
If you publish David Brown's letter, you should at least give someone who represents the Palestinian point of view a chance.
I am sick and tired of your newspaper being a propaganda sheet for America's racist, anti-Palestinian views.
Biden calls the Palestinian attacks "sheer evil" while giving billions of dollars a year to the Zionists to steal land from the Palestinians and allow Jewish settlers to run wild in the Occupied Territories.
Still, my heart goes out to the Thais held hostage in Israel.
Yet their families should also direct their anger at America and Israel, who provoked and caused this war in the first place.
The Palestinians had no other choice other than total surrender and virtual slavery.

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Papua New Guinea's embassy in Jerusalem
Seen as expression of faith rather than political statement
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 14, 2023
First published in the National, Tuesday October 10, 2023

As a predominantly Christian nation, the decision to establish an embassy in Jerusalem reflects our deep spiritual connection to the city and our faith in Jesus Christ.
For Christians, Jerusalem is not merely a political or geographic entity; it is the birthplace of Jesus and the setting of numerous biblical events.
Opening an embassy in Jerusalem is seen as a gesture of support and recognition of the historical and religious importance that the city holds for Christians.
However, it is crucial to understand the concerns voiced by Arab countries and Palestinians regarding Papua New Guinea’s move.
The opposition to this decision encompasses multiple factors beyond religious differences.
The primary reason lies in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the dispute over the status of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem holds immense religious, cultural, and historical significance to both Israelis and Palestinians.
Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and opening an embassy there could be seen as disregarding the Palestinian perspective and aligning with the Israeli position.
It may be perceived as a step that undermines the ongoing negotiations and the prospects of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Moreover, the international community, including the majority of Arab countries, has long adhered to the principle of maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem until a final agreement is reached by both Israelis and Palestinians.
This consensus is intended to avoid complicating the delicate peace process and to ensure that the final status of Jerusalem is determined through negotiations.
While Papua New Guinea’s decision is rooted in our religious beliefs and our desire to express support for Israel, it is essential to approach this issue with sensitivity and a broader understanding of the geopolitical landscape.
Engaging in dialogue and fostering mutual understanding between our nation and Arab countries, including Palestinians, would be a constructive step towards resolving any misunderstandings and finding common ground.
It is my hope that Papua New Guinea’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem will be seen as an expression of faith rather than a political statement.
In doing so, we can work towards building bridges of understanding and promoting peaceful coexistence between different nations, religions, and cultures.

Elijah Kunjil
Pentina Village,
Kumdi Station,
Papua New Guinea




Will there be a clash between
East and West in Thailand?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 13, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday October 8, 2023

Re: "BlackRock 'expresses interest' in Thailand", in Bangkok Post, Business, September 21, 2023.
BlackRock will be financing a military arms industry in Ukraine like the USA military industrial complex for democratic "freedom".
Fighting in Nato's war against Russia, almost 500,000 Ukrainian males have been killed and seriously wounded.
Kiev's answer now is putting high heels in uniform.
The USA Neocons and BlackRock have to save face regardless of human life.
BlackRock, at the invitation Prime Minister Srettha, has two feet in the front door of Thailand to feast on the goodies like U-Tapao and Don Mueang and building the Kra Canal to link the Gulf of Thailand with the Indian Ocean.
But then there is China's BRI: extending the high-speed rail line from Laos through to Thailand and linking the Gulf to the Indian Ocean.
Will there be a clash between East and West in Thailand: between Black Rock's avarice and Xi Jin Ping's BRI with PM Srettha Thavisin cast in the role of official arbiter?
PM Srettha is encouraging foreign investment. It will be interesting to see how he handles this situation. He has the added problem of the USA neocons advancing Nato towards the Pacific -- Brics territory.

J C Wilcox
Bangkok,
Thailand




Pacific Island Forum says "YES" to Aboriginal
And Torres Strait Islander Voice in Australian Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday October 12, 2023

Pacific Island Forum secretary general Henry Puna put it very well when he said
a yes vote would have positive ramifications for the nation “. It would indeed “ be wonderful to see Australia vote yes … it will elevate Australia’s position and maybe even credibility in the international stage. But it is a democratic choice that has to be made by Australian citizens and we respect that all the way “ ( The Fiji Times 20 October 2023 ).
Conversely if the yes vote fails it would damage Australia’s international standing and credibility notwithstanding the “ democratic choice “ made by Australian citizens.
It would expose Australia as still a backward country that is not prepared to give its First Nations people their just due over 200 years after the colonial invasion and takeover of the country and the dispossession and marginalisation of the Aboriginal people.
The referundum is a solid chance to repair the damage done by our colonial history. I hope the chance is not squandered .
That would be a crying shame.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Call for plastic credits
A mechanism for trading
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 11, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday October 8, 2023

Re: " 'Climate no burden' PM tells local event", in Bangkok Post, Saturday October 7, 2023.
Carbon credits and their commercial trading for offsets is now established internationally including in Thailand.
While the science which supports its necessity is questionable at best, the existence of ubiquitous plastic pollution in all sizes and geographic areas including the deepest part of the oceans and the highest part of the skies above is without question man-made and highly toxic to life.
The average human consumes 5 grammes of micro and nano-plastic every week.
I would like to see the concept of plastic credits become popular and a mechanism for trading them established.
The impact of such a system could be measured quantitatively with immediate planetary benefit.
It is well established that we absolutely require CO2 to survive, but nobody has proven we need non-biodegradable plastic.
There are many alternatives in existence and more will come given proper incentives.

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Indonesia is not unique in the supply of weapons
To rogue regimes
The Southeast Asian Times,Tuesday October 10, 2023

When I read in the Southeast Asian Times ( 9 October, 2023 ) that Human Rights Resource Centre for ASEAN director-general, Marzuki Darusman, has called “ for an investigation into Indonesia’s state-owned enterprises ( SOE ) for the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar “, I was not at all surprised.
Indonesia is not unique in this regard.
Many countries, including First World democracies and even permanent member countries of the UN Security Council, have circumvented international sanctions to engage in arms sale and supply to rogue regimes.
The Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) grabbed power from a democratically elected government and installed itself in power.
It is a rogue regime.
This Indonesian arms dealing with Myanmar’s rogue regime shows how the pursuit of self interest supersedes concern for the plight of the people lanquishing under a brutal oppressive regime.
It is morally bankrupt behaviour by State parties.
It’s pervasive and repugnant.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Austrlalia




Prime Minister defers arms procurement
To spend budget on those in most need
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday October 9, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday October 6, 2023

Re: "Srettha urges arms deals delay", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday October 3, 2023.
The prime minister has reportedly instructed his minister of defence to ask the leaders of our armed forces to defer their arms procurements for this fiscal year so the government can "spend the budget to help those who are most in need". Most commendable.
But ask?
Why ask?
Why not order?
Isn't the prime minister the boss?
Why cannot he simply order all armed forces' big-ticket procurements to be frozen, at least until the economy, which the Prime Minister himself describes as sick, has recovered?
You mean, he's not the boss?
Well, if the Prime Minister is not the boss, who is?
The Pheu Thai Party, of course, that money-making machine owned by the Shinawatra clan.
Pheu Thai put Khun Sretta in the Prime Minister's job.
So, that means Khun Thaksin is the real boss since he controls Pheu Thai?
Not exactly. Khun Thaksin Shinawatra gave up his boss power and his party's principles in return for a jail-free ticket home.
So who is the real boss?

Sad Optimist,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Thai chef in Iceland should be condemned
For berating Senator Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 8, 2023
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday October 4, 2023

Re: "Senators condemn chef's act", in Bangkok Post, Monday October 2, 2023
Chef Ari Alexander Guojonsson should be condemned for berating Senator Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan out of his restaurant in Iceland over her political views.
Khunying Porntip abstained in the first round of voting for prime minister, where Move Forward Party (MFP) candidate Pita Limjaroenrat failed to gain the post, and she also condemned Move Forward Party (MFP) supporters who harassed senators who didn't share Move Forward Party (MFP) views.
All are entitled to voice their opinion, but all involved must show respect for their opponents.
We humans are imperfect, jump to conclusions without significant facts and should learn from those of other viewpoints.
For example, chef Ari Alexander Guojonsson in Iceland should have noted that Khunying Porntip's stand was that senators should not be involved in deciding who our prime minister should be. In that case, her abstention was the same as a "Nay" because the constitution counts only "Aye" votes.
Since she wished to remain neutral, she should have let the collective voice of the people decide her vote.
Chef Ari should then listen to her reply with an open mind, sincerely wishing to understand her rationale.
Noisy confrontation, such as the chef's or harassment, is the anathema of truth-seeking; the chef wasn't starring in a Chinese kung fu movie.
Similarly, Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Chaithawat Tulathon lost the opportunity to teach his followers how to win friends and influence people by seeking to understand opponents before seeking to be understood by them in turn.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Blue jeans never die
Rhymes true with Philipine traitors
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday October 7, 2023
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday September 28, 2023

A hip denim slogan “blue jeans never die; they just fade away” also rhymes true with the country’s traitors of every hue and color.
And just like everyone’s favorite jeans, they fade away too to reincarnate at some future time, and the only color they see is money’s.
A traitor can be anyone breaking someone’s trust.
But the most sickening of all are those who betray their country in cahoots with foreign aggressors.
Throughout this nation’s history, they existed while creating all sorts of damage, especially on the nation’s moral fabric, most of them might not, or take generations to heal.
The “caciques” during the more than 300 hundred years of Spanish rule in the country were the indigenous heads who were co-opted by the Spanish conquistadors acting as their local overseers.
As agents of colonial hegemony, they were obsequious to Spanish overlords while hostile toward the rest of the local population.
During the American colonization, while the ink that seals the 1898 Treaty of Paris had barely dried, many of these caciques, like chameleons, only changed color and turned feudal lords toward the end of the Spanish rule.
In one of the historical accounts of renowned Filipino historian, Teodoro Agoncillo, in “Malolos: The crisis of the republic,” he described the villains of his story as the “Haves” whom he called the “plutocrats” which, betrayed their countrymen by collaborating with the American occupiers to undermine the war efforts of the Filipino nationalist.
These champagne-swilling plutocrats were some of the Philippines’ “who’s who” whose descendants continue to inhabit Philippine society today.
Then came the Japanese Occupation that saw the rise of the Japanese collaborators called the Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino, infamously known as the “Makapili,” whose notoriety still lives to this day.
Started in 1944 to assist the Imperial Japanese Army, the group was “born out of then-President Jose P. Laurel’s refusal to conscript Filipinos to serve in the Japanese army” whose mission is to fight fellow Filipinos particularly those who are members of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon or “Hukbalahap.”
It disbanded after World War II and condemned for the atrocities it perpetrated, together with the Japanese.
Its members faced trials before the military tribunal for treason.
The term “Makapili” describes traitorous whistleblower whose head is covered in “bayong” (straw bags) with holes enabling the eyes to see and point on Filipino guerilla fighters to the Imperial Japanese Army.
And now the buoys that China illegally laid to bar Filipino fisherfolks access on their traditional fishing area at the Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), which is well within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), aside from working as irritants, is an affront, not just on the government but to the entire Filipino race.
It did not do such brazen act without hideous design.
China might have calculated that its action would put some highly placed people in a quandary, whether to denounce it or not.
While at the same time, serving as bugle call to the neo-Makapili to come into the aid of China’s latest caper, which is making it the laughing stock of the world as a result of its increasingly bizarre behavior in corralling part of the sea where it does not have jurisdiction.
Taken together, their vade mecum remains the same. Only this time they mutated into fake news peddlers, gaslighters, and “cognitive warfare” purveyors, a form of soft invasion being utilized by a giant neighboring bully to pit Filipinos against one another. Today’s Makapili is no longer coy flaunting it and parroting warped narratives of a foreign aggressor, right in front of your TV screens and mobile devices.
If this gravely wounded nation has to survive we must first erase whatever trace of toxic Makapili DNA that tucks inside many Filipinos’ nerve system. Only then we can start building a new breed of Makapilipino!

Ted P. Penaflor II
Manila,
Philippines




Almost 40 percent of Papua New Guinea's population
Lives in poverty
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 6, 2023
First published in the National, Sunday October 1, 2023

Papua New Guinea (PNG), although a natural resource rich country, almost 40 per cent of the population still lives in poverty.
Since independence, we have made much progress in development.
However, after travelling to most provinces and rural villages, I have discovered that much more needs to be done to improve the quality of life for our citizens, especially those living in rural and remote communities.
There is no tangible development in rural communities and as a result, the current issues in the communities like lack of education, healthcare, hygiene, sanitation and safe drinking water.
Social issues like crime, gender inequality, gender-based violence (GBV), sorcery accusation related violence (Sarv) and climate change are some of the societal issues facing the country in the modern times that are currently affecting the lives of our young people.
After a baseline survey carried out by my team and Care International in Chimbu, we identified that in all communities the current issues are drug and alcohol abuse, student violence, unplanned pregnancies, pornography, crime, unemployment and cult activities.
The future of our younger generations are haphazard, young people are disoriented and heading down the wrong path.
We need the Government to look into those issues and come up with strategies and ways forward to minimise these issues currently faced.
Government and non-government organisations need to work in collaboration since partnership is the only way forward.
We need to integrate all community development activities to address those issues identified.
Predicting the future of our country if the issues still increase, we will have a population boom due to unwanted pregnancies, unemployment will rise resulting in criminal activities and prostitution and economic crisis.
Lack of proper healthcare services and system causing spread and outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), polio, measles, drug-resistant TB and malaria around the country.
We can make a change and eliminate the fast growing trend of negative issues in our community through supporting our youths in community development programmes to address those social issues by assisting them to become self-reliant and economic independence and educate them with community to change their negative attitudes and behaviours.
In addition, the Government must deliver quality basic services to improve our lifestyles and these will help people to live an effective and purposeful life in Papua New Guinea.
This will ensure a dynamic and active population in Papua New Guinea.

Wesley Mawe,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




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.
Philippines




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
Bangkok,
Thailand




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)
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Manila,
Philippines



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Malaysia




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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Malaysia




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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok.
Thailand

 

 

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
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Manila,
Philippines


 

 

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,
Manila,
Philippines




"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.

Blocki,
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Goroka,
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,
Malate,
Manila



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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.

Ajingpom,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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,
Wasu,
Kabwum,
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
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


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,
Sydney,
Australia



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Sydney,
Australia



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.
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Manila,
Philippines



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



 

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,
Sydney,
Australia



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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
Dagua,
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



"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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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, news.com.au/ 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
Sydney




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



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,
Valderama,
Philippines



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Sydney,
Australia




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Manila,
Philippines




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
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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,
Goroka,
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Manila,
Philippines



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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.
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Sydney,
Australia



"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,
Bangkok
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Cebu,
Philippines

 

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,
Manila,
Philippines



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Sydney,
Australia



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.

AMK,
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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
23

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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Sydney,
Australia


 

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,
Bangkok.
Thailand



 

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,
Manila,
Philippines



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,
Manila,
Philippines



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.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
2023.
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Yhailand




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,
Sydney,
Australia




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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.
Boroko,
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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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
Despots?
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


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,
Enga,
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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,
Bangkok,
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,
Zuguru,
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Kerowagi,
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
Sydney,
Australia



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,
Zuguru,
Papua New Guinea