The Southeast Asian Times


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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ian Cruickshank,

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen L. Monsanto

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

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

Rajend Naidu

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

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

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

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

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

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Andy Davison,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Buathong Klomthaisong

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Ranu Lasi,
Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Marion O. Santos,

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

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

Stephen L. Monsanto,



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Reader,

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

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

IR. Patrick C. Augustin,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Jerome Babate,
Beta Nu Delta Nursing Society,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

V. Thomas,
Sungai Buloh,

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

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

S. Tsow,

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

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

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

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

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

Darius Hober,

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

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


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

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

Roselyne D Knox,
Mount Hagen,
Papua New Guineas

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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


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

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

The Chinese embassy in Thailand,

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

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

Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC),
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Severo Brillantes,

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

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


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Pacifico Veremundo,

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

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

Fireman Sam,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reiner Lorenzo J. Tamayo. RN.
Philippine General Hospital

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

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

Armand Camhol,

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

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

Dr R. John Teo
Kota Kinabalu,

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

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

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

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

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

Pusat Bandar Puchong,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Stalwart Malaysian,

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

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

Phil Cox,

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

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

Bob Gabuna,

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

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

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

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

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

G. Selva,

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

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

Letter from the front line,

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

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


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

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

Zenaida Soriano,

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

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

A Concerned Malaysia,
Subang Jaya,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Dr Sivanaesan L,
Petaling Jaya,

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

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

Jose B. Maroma Jr.,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

B Singh,

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

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

Patrick Teh,

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

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

Sandra Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Morten Brendefur,

Filipino's call for acceptence

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

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

Jori Gervasio R. Benson,

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

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

Lorielle Ann Aquino,

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

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

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

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

Koff-koff Sneeze,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Luwi James,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Ted P. Penaflor II,

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

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

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

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

Dr Km Loi,
Subang Jaya,



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

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

Ramon Mayuga,

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

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

Ezekiel Manaois,

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

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

R.A.V. Saguisag,
Makati City.

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

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

Chang Ko Youn,

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

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

Datuk Dr Rais Hussin,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Annoyed Contributor,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Severo Brillantes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,

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

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

Anan Pakvasa,

Call for Malaysia to follow China
Ban sale and consumption of exotic meats
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 29 February 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 28 February 2020

I refer to the special report headlined “Illegal trade might pose health risk” in The Star, February 25, 2020.
The pangolin, which is traded in the black market in China, has been identified as a possible intermediate host of the virus that causes Covid-19.
There are other animals, including lizards, monkeys, apes, snakes and rhino, that are traded in China, Indonesia and Africa and are considered as delicacies.
The global wildlife trade is rising in Asia due to e-commerce and social media openly advertising exotic animals for food as well as pets, and there are plenty of customers from all over the world.
The scales of pangolins are ground into powder and consumed for their healing powers while the flesh is sold as exotic meat in Hong Kong, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the consumption of exotic meat and illegal trade in wildlife is now under the eyes of the authorities, and seems to be a silver lining for endangered wildlife like the pangolin.
The Chinese government has issued a comprehensive ban on the sale and consumption of exotic meats, and is also looking at banning the illegal trade of all wildlife and other animals that could be possible hosts of viruses.
Malaysia should be looking at doing the same thing.
In Malaysia, the enforcement authorities must conduct random checks on food outlets that sell all kinds of exotic animal meat which could contain the deadly virus.
Some of these outlets in Negri Sembilan (Titi-Jelebu, Nilai and Lenggeng Broga, for example) also serve booze that are detrimental to humans.
When people stop consuming all forms of exotic meat, the illegal trade in wildlife would be ended. When that happens, we would see an end to the killing of wildlife for human consumption.

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu,

Malaysia's constitution allows
Interim PM to hold office indefinitely
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 February 2020
First published in the Star, Thursday 27 February 2020

At this stage, Malaysia may well be described as a dysfunctional state rather than a failed state as is commonly understood.
A failed state is usually associated with the collapse of a central authority, lack of the rule of law, widespread disorder and matters of such genus.
As things stand today, none of these elements of a failed state exist in our country.
However, we have a rather unique facade of a “Westminster style” democratically elected government now consisting of one man.
As I am writing this, we have an interim prime minister without a cabinet, not even a similarly constituted “interim cabinet” which ordinarily would allow its sitting members to continue to co-govern our country until permanent appointments are made.
This situation may be a first in a common law jurisdiction where the principle is that the prime minister is entrusted with the duty to govern in consultation with the cabinet.
Even in countries where presidents are directly elected, the principal officers of government are, at the very least, promptly appointed to ensure continuance of governance.
It has been argued that our Constitution allows an interim PM to hold office indefinitely and that there is no time limit imposed on the interim PM to appoint cabinet members even in key ministries.
Given that collective decision-making is the cornerstone of a legitimate democratic authority, this argument goes against every principle of good governance.
It is painful to see the breakdown of the very heart of our system of governance.
It is just as bad to realise that the expectations, or rather the sacred trust, that a majority of Malaysians placed in the hands of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government and its supporting components lie crushed.
The hopes and expectations of ordinary Malaysians do not seem to matter to some of our politicians of all stripes.
All politicians are therefore urged to take a step backwards and take a good hard look at the people you are required to serve.
You should be concerned with providing proper and accessible healthcare, quality education for our young ones, proper job creation, etc.
Stop being unduly focused on who should hold the levers of power or who should be absolved from their alleged crimes or how wealthy one could get through political positions or alignments.
Truth be told, the only reason why Malaysia has not yet descended from a dysfunctional country to a failed state is the principled and mature role played by His Majesty our Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Reports available in the public domain have revealed a King with a strong mind and hand.
His Majesty is the glue that holds our country together at this very moment.
He is the central authority in our country without whom we might have descended into chaos.
With no disrespect to the other Malay Rulers, it would seem that the Almighty has placed the right man at the right place and at the right time.
That said, the general request to Dr Mahathir is to honour his promises or representations (if preferred) in respect of the succession plans.
If indeed Dr Mahathir now has reservations in this regard, please tell the nation of such reservations.
The people need to hear it from him.
It should be noted that his utterances have great influence over the Malaysian mind, including those who do not always agree with him.
Further, while it is generally agreed that there are indeed pressing economic issues that require urgent attention, it is also a generally held view that announcing clear succession plans would go a long way in assisting to overcome our economic challenges.
Dear Dr Mahathir, what is at stake here is the stable growth and survival of our country.
Our government cannot disintegrate any further. Paraphrasing Robert Frost, you have “promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep”.
While most Malaysians hope and pray that you would have many more miles to go, the fragility of humans is also not lost on us.

Watson Peters,
Kuala Lumpur,

War on drug in Philippines
A war against the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 February 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 24 February 2020

Following Vice President Leni Robredo’s 18-day stint as cochair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs, the Vice President finally released her findings on the so-called drug war of President Duterte.
In a nutshell, Robredo’s study brought to light just how little the drug war has quelled the country’s drug problem.
The report was not intended to criticize Mr. Duterte politically, but merely to support and enlighten him on the status of his war on drugs based on actual reports from the government agencies themselves.
Remember when they had drug raids in exclusive gated villages?
I don’t.
Oh wait, that’s because those never happened.
Because this war is actually just a war against the poor.
We must agree with the Vice President that Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs is a massive failure.

Princess Mae Tapia,

Call for Filipino's to tour the Philippines
Instead of touring abroad
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 February 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 21 February 2020

I agree with the news, Patronize local tourist spots, Duterte tells Pinoys” in Philippine Inquirer February 15, 2020, given the declining number of foreign tourists amid the global threat of COVID-19.
This country has many beautiful places to boast of, and we should be able to entice our fellow Filipinos to go around the country in a bid to boost domestic tourism. With our huge population, it would be a big help to our local economy if we pick local destinations instead of touring abroad.
But first, we must ensure a hassle-free journey.
As a frequent traveler myself, I am disgusted when our domestic airports have different policies - for example, on what objects are allowed as carry-on.
More often than not, airport personnel act on a whim.
In one of our travels from Cebu to Manila, my daughter’s Victoria’s Secret cologne, though less than 100 ml, was confiscated at the airport; same thing happened to her facial cleanser.
I argued that both were allowed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Terminal 2.
To my dismay, the airport official insisted that the container, not the content, was the reason the cologne and the facial cleanser had to be surrendered.
In my recent trip from Dipolog to Manila, I was ordered to take off my wristwatch at the final check-in even though I was allowed to wear it through the check at Naia Terminal 3.
The airport employee insisted that they were just implementing the rule.
In other local airports, passengers cannot use the trolley unless they engage the service of porters, who charge a lot because there is no fixed rate.
These are just some of the unpleasant experiences at our own airports.
There are other travel-related inconveniences like jacked-up transportation fares. Just recently, I took a tricycle from the Montaño sardines factory in Dipolog to the airport.
I asked the driver how much the fare was, and he replied, “Kayo na ang bahala.” Transportation fares must be regulated, just like in other countries where passengers pay a standard amount wherever they go.
More often than not, tourists in the Philippines are taken advantage of whenever they take public transport, specifically via tricycle, taxi, or banca.
Could we not implement a standard rate?
The tag line “It’s more fun in the Philippines” should not only apply to foreigners.
Much is yet to be discovered by every Filipino right in our own backyard. However, a concerted effort must be done if we want domestic tourism to flourish.

Belel Docena-Asuelo

Not taking COVID-19 seriously
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 25 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 22 February 2020

Wow, Thailand, I am really disappointed to see that you don't seem to take the coronavirus outbreak seriously at all.
My son arrived from Taiwan yesterday afternoon and he was surprised to see there were no medical control stations, no fever checks with guns, no medical staff anywhere at the airport and, above all, more then 50 percent of the airport staff were not wearing any masks at all.
Where are you now, Minister of Public Health?
Complaining about the foreigners that do not want to wear masks while most Thais are in danger in many places around Bangkok - shopping malls, restaurants, the Bangkok Mass Transit System and so on.
Most of the locals do not care at all. But please note, this virus is not over yet and can become more ugly then you think. Take action before it is too late.

Huubie Lowlands,

Call for Thai Election Commission to prosecute
All political parties that have taken out loans
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 24 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 21 February 2020

In response to the Election Commission's action over the Future Forward Party (FFP) because it borrowed money from its founder, the Constitutional Court has disbanded the Future Forward Party (FFP) because it borrowed money from its founder, the Constitutional Court has disbanded the Future Forward Party (FFP) and banned its directors from political activity for many years.
But the Bangkok Post, February 21 reported: "There are no such rules barring political parties from taking out loans ... former election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said that at least four parties had taken out loans in 2013. Poll officials had advised the commission that taking out loans was not illegal because it had been done by other parties and had been allowed in the past."
I respect the court's verdict, but in light of the above, the Election Commission either has consistently practised double standards or has been seriously and continually derelict in its duties.
For that, the commissioners should be impeached.
Also, to maintain a single standard, provided it's within the statute of limitations of a given case, all parties making loans in the past must be similarly punished.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for course in comparative religions
In Thai high schools
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 15 February 2020

Re: "Religion not the answer", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, February 15.
Your editorial concludes with the suggestion that, instead of teaching Buddhism in schools, the Ministry of Education should introduce "extra ethics, philosophy, and human rights courses … in fields that can develop students' logical and critical thinking abilities."
It could do both.
I realise that this is a fantasy, but why couldn't we have a course in comparative religions including atheism, to be taught during the final two years of high school, when students' thinking abilities are at their peak?
Call the course "Worldviews".
Bring in accredited representatives of various religious and non-religious groups to present their cases.
Have units on Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i, and atheism.
Hold free-wheeling discussions dealing with questions like: "If there is a God who is both omnipotent and beneficent, why is the world in such a mess?"
"If there is no creating God, how and why did the universe come into being?" "What evidence do we have for the existence of any kind of afterlife?"
"If there is an operative law of karma, why does it take so long for some individuals' karma to bear fruit?"

Questions like these may not yield any conclusive answers, but they will certainly make students think.
And exposure to a variety of views will broaden their outlook.
I am under no illusion that the existing power structure would ever give such a suggestion anything more than a dismissive laugh.

Ye Olde Fantasist,

The Philippines should resist being drawn into a battle
Between two Goliaths
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 February 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 19 February 2020

With all due respect to Justice Antonio Carpio, he has unfortunately fallen into the trap of seeing our strategic choice as either pro-United States or pro-China in “Weakening our defenses in the WPS,” in Philippine Inquirer, Crosscurrents, February 13, 2020.
Washington has consistently told the Philippines that the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) does not obligate it to defend Philippine territorial and resource rights in the West Philippine Sea.
It has consistently asserted it “will not intervene in sovereignty issues” in the West Philippine Sea whenever our government, from Marcos to Aquino, asked for its intervention.
At the same time, Washington enmeshed us in a military alliance against China through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Entering into Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which was a key part of Barack Obama’s strategy of militarily containing China, seriously undermined the moral and legal assertion of our rights via our case in The Hague. This is why, as a member then of the House of Representatives, I authored a resolution renaming the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea (a peaceful moral and legal move), at the same time that I opposed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) (a provocative aggressive military move), along with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, and we both incurred the displeasure of the strategically deaf chief executive at the time.
Justice Carpio’s litany of President Duterte’s foreign policy statements even before he was president, in fact, provides evidence that Mr. Duterte was apparently slowly coming around to recognizing the truth that, when it came to the West Philippine Sea, the treaties with the United States were useless by Washington’s own admission, even as the United States was opportunistically pinning us down into a de facto military alliance that was part of the Pentagon’s offensively-oriented Asia Pacific-wide military strategy of AirSea Battle designed, by its own admission, to penetrate the A2/AD defenses of China.
In the most authoritative exposition of AirSea Battle (recently given the new name of Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC), the strategy is designed to carry out “kinetic and nonkinetic” (in other words, both explosive and electronic) strikes against inland command centers, radar systems and intelligence-gathering facilities, raids against missile production and storage facilities and “‘blinding’ operations against Chinese satellites.
It also says that China’s “seaborne trade flows would be cut off, with an eye toward exerting major stress on the Chinese economy and, eventually, internal stress.”
We were caught in a terrible fix that was definitely not in our national interest.
I don’t support Mr. Duterte’s tilting toward China instead of maintaining an independent course; like the proverbial David, the Philippines should resist being drawn into a battle between two Goliaths.
I condemn Mr. Duterte’s violations of human rights and strangling of democratic rights, but let’s give the devil his due: He’s right to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and hopefully he will withdraw as well from the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) agreements that totally subordinate our interests to the political and military interests of Washington. Justice Carpio should stick to points of law, where he has no peer, and not allow himself to be drawn to the military strategic designs of the United States.

Walden Bello,
Former Member of Congress,

Halt ordered to all logging activities on land claimed
By the Orang Asli in Gerik
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 20 February 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 16 February 2020

I refer to the report “Colour of greed marring Perak’s natural heritage” in The Star, February 8, about over-logging and forest-clearing work being done in an area belonging to the state development authority at the Kledang Saiong Hill.
The real fault here lies not with the current Pakatan Harapan state government because it was the previous administration that approved the project.
The former government contributed significantly to the problem, hence the rakyat’s anger should rightfully be directed at it.
Furthermore, the Perak State Development Corporation (PKNP) chief executive officer reiterated that no development project is being planned at Kledang Saiong Hill and the land would be left to revert to its original state.
Honestly, I am struggling to make sense of what the critics of the Perak state government really want to achieve.
Moreover, Perak Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, has proven that he is not afraid to make tough decisions, as he has ordered an immediate halt to all logging activities on land claimed by the Orang Asli in Gerik.
For the record, this is not the first time he has done this, as he also halted all logging activities along Sungai Rui in Gerik.
As he said early last year, “we are prepared to work with them. It’s not only the NGOs who are concerned about the environment; myself, the state and the assemblymen also care.”
He also emphasised that while the state aims to improve the economy, it would also ensure that activities such as development and logging would be sustainable.
Please remember that the state of Perak has the largest Orang Asli gazetted land in the country, at close to 13,000 hectares.
On my part, I strongly believe the people of Perak are behind this present government.

Ipoh Mali,
Subang Jaya,

When China sneezes
The whole world catches cold
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 February 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 18 February 2020

The Covid-19 outbreak is now at the centre of world attention.
Apart from being a major threat to public health, the virus also has the potential to disrupt the world’s economy.
Already we hear from economic experts around the world that global growth will be revised downwards.
Major world financial institutions, including the Inter-national Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have announced similar conclusions.
Many economic sectors will be impacted.
This is because China accounts for a major share of the world’s economy.
It accounts for a major share of manufactured goods sold around the world.
It is true what they say nowadays: When China sneezes, the whole world will catch a cold.
The cold is more serious now, and there is no known cure yet.
However, as a result of the virus, we also see more unity around the world.
Many countries have come forward to help stop the spread.
Malaysia has also done her part by sending rubber examination gloves to help medical personnel in Wuhan in China where the virus was first found deal with containing the spread of the virus.
The measures taken to halt the virus epidemic are commendable.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for actions to mitigate the climate crisis.
The urgency in dealing with this issue is much less, as has been evident from the haggling at the many United Nations climate summits.
Again, China has shown better leadership in beginning to rein in its contribution to global warming.
The fact that the repercussions of climate can be devastating for the world’s economy do not seem to bother some of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.
Perhaps this is because climate change is not something that is felt immediately, as in the case of the Covid-19 outbreak.
If the same urgency can be given to climate actions as the world is giving to containing the virus, we could possibly look forward to a more sustainable future.

Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Ibrahim,
Fellow, Academy of Sciences, Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for global monitoring centre
For communicable diseases
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 February 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 17 February 2020

The number of people infected with the Covid-19 will undoubtedly reach 70,000, having passed 69,000 on Sunday.
We have seen the developments surrounding the outbreak and in general it is not entirely erroneous to say that we were not well prepared.
Not that we are undermining the tireless and commendable efforts that have been undertaken, but just like with any crisis, we try to mitigate the effects and contain the impact post-event.
Is a coronavirus epidemic something that has never been anticipated, predicted or warned about before?
For the longest time, scientists around the globe have been warning humanity about the emergence of new infectious diseases, particularly those involving viruses.
Our lackadaisical attitude towards the environment is regarded as the single most important contributory factor to the emergence of new strains of pathogens. Genetic mutations are occurring at an unprecedentedly rapid rate thanks to climate change caused by us polluting Mother Earth.
And almost immediately after the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) epidemics, again scientists voiced concerns about future outbreaks caused by possible new strains of coronavirus.
The question is, did governments take heed of the warnings?
What did they do?
We have seen tremendous progress in the advancement of information technology and telecommunications but the same cannot be said about the treatment of transmissible diseases.
This is largely due to these notable, fundamental factors: 1)
The amount of Research and Revelopment (R&D) in this area is far less compared with the effort put into telecom technology; and 2) R&D is largely driven by projected financial gain.
While telcos invest in developing new technology for future returns, drug companies only “invest” in searching for a cure for a known pathogen so they can see tangible returns once the drug enters the market.
In simpler terms, it is not feasible to develop a cure for something that does not exist yet.
The economic impact of the last two outbreaks, SARS and MERS, was more than US$100bil (RM414bil) globally.
This excludes any stimulus packages injected into the economies of affected countries.
For the Covid-19 epidemic, the figures will be no less if not greater.
If a fraction of this amount had been used a few years ago on researching drugs that could work against coronaviruses, we probably would be seeing more effective treatment today.
It is high time for all governments to work together and not in silos.
A “pre-emptive strike” in the form of a global centre of communicable diseases, manned by the world’s finest and equipped with the latest technology can be set up to monitor any unusual incidences; perform experiments to project future traits/mutations of pathogens; develop broad spectrum antiviral agents and other new forms of treatments including preventative measures/ prophylaxis; improve the management system of future outbreaks, especially containment; and maintain a seamless flow of accurate information to all stakeholders, including the general public.
Only then will the people of this planet have a fighting chance against future “attacks” from an invisible menace.

Dr Faizal Tajuddin,
Kuala Lumpur,

Thai military involvment in business
Is no surprise to Thai's
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 14 February 2020

Bangkok Post columnist, Thitinan Pongsudhirak has the bravery to say in his February 14 article "Underpinnings of a Thai mass shooting " what millions have known for many years.
The military's involvement in business is no surprise to all but a few totally uninformed Thais.
The vast majority of people are fully aware of their involvement in everything from broadcasting, protection rackets and massage parlours to tourist amenities, land deals and loans.
Many other civil authorities - from the police in all its guises, metropolitan and local authorities to even the schools and colleges - are also involved in general day-to-day bribery and corruption. This list of course neglects the biggest pig's trough, politics, which represents the main obstacle to reform.
It seems the perpetrator of last weekend's heinous crime was not some brainwashed religious fanatic, just someone driven to psychosis by the depression and desperation of the injustice dealt by his most trusted superior.
I have no sympathy for him, but more importantly he should have been stopped long before he started murdering people.
It is evident the authorities were negligent and likely far too busy making money or spending it to do their real jobs.
Maybe some good could eventually come from this terrible tragedy, but it will take brave people indeed to reform so many rotten institutions.

Fireman Sam,

Singapore has raised its virus alert level to orange from yellow
An indication of the seriousness of coronavirus outbreak
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 February 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 14 February 2020

I refer to the report “Are packages from China safe from coronavirus?” in the The Star, January 31.
I am rather concerned about this issue as there is currently no point of reference on how to determine if packages from China are safe.
Such directions should only come from a health authority, namely the Health Ministry.
Are the assurances made by online shopping companies that the packages from China are disinfected prior to delivery reliable?
Are the precautionary measures taken by online shopping companies sufficient to safeguard shoppers from infection or does more need to be done?
I believe nobody will have the definitive answer to these questions until comprehensive research is conducted on the impact of the novel coronavirus which the World Health Organisation has named COVID-19.
Only the Health Ministry through consultations with national and international authorities on disease control, such as the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), should be authorised to issue statements as well as concur or deny claims made by online shopping companies.
Previously, it was thought that the quarantine period for COVID-19 was 14 days, but a recent report highlighted that symptoms won’t show until after a 24-day incubation period!
There is a lot we don’t know about this deadly virus.
It is therefore advisable for people in general to take precautionary measures to safeguard themselves.
As for online parcels and packages from China, we will not know the impact it would have on the purchaser or online shopper until it is proven that the virus is unable to survive without a living host, i.e. it cannot be transmitted via packages.
In the midst of this outbreak, there are companies that seem to be cashing in on the situation. Instead of showing social responsibility, they are making huge profits from the thriving sale of face masks!
Companies should actually be offering face masks to employees and the public as a way of showing that they care.
Singapore, which has raised its virus alert level to orange from yellow, provides an indication of the seriousness of the outbreak.
The orange alert in Singapore was last raised during an outbreak of H1N1 influenza in 2009 and 2010.
Deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak have now topped the 1,000 mark, hence it’s time not only for the government but also the private sector to play a more concerted role in curbing the spread of the virus.

Health conscious citizen,

Call to professionalise Thai military and police
"Lets learn from this massacre"
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 12 February 2020

I fully agree with Thai Prime Minister Prayut, who said, "If we had fully followed standard security procedures, we would have been able to mitigate the degree of violence where one soldier went on a shooting rampage that left 30 dead."
A single rogue shoots dead two people, arrives at an army camp an hour later, shoots dead a guard, steals war weapons and a Humvee, then goes to a shopping mall an hour away, where he kills and takes hostages - without being killed en route.
Was there nobody near the first killing, who could have warned the police?
Was there only one armed guard in the entire armoury?
Why were the gun bolts and ammunition so readily available, evidently unsecured? Why didn't the police and soldiers block him as he fled the armoury for the mall? This sounds like an operation from a James Bond movie, with a superman and inept authorities.
We have more army and police generals than all 28 Nato nations combined.
Is this the best that they can do?
The relevant House of Representatives committee should thoroughly, transparently, and quickly investigate their actions/inactions, and hold them accountable.
Also, our army's noble mission is to be Thailand's fence, defending us from foreign enemies - yet Nakorn Ratchasima's far from our borders; our "fence" shouldn't run through our living room, so to speak. Does the army have any military reason for being in that city - other than to participate in a coup d'etat, which by definition is highly illegal?
Let's learn from this massacre, and professionalise our military and police.

Burin Kantabutra,



Call for accountability in investigation
Of massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 12 February 2020

I'm sending my utmost condolences, through the Bangkok Post, to the families of those innocent victims who were killed, injured and hospitalised by the senseless military gunman in Nakhon Ratchasima.
This shooting massacre must be remembered and its causes scrutinised without impunity.
I would like to humbly recommend to the government authorities to seriously consider and apply the concepts of "accountability" and "conflict of interests" in their investigation.
The Prayut government ought to genuinely pursue and turn the aftermath of this unprecedented crisis into an opportunity to "clean up" those government agencies and officials involved.


Australia urged to raise West Papua human rights violations
Did that happen?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 February 2020

I refer to the Southeast Asian Times headline article ' Australia urged to raise West Papua human rights violations on Indonesian President state visit' ( 11 February).
Did that happen?
If it didn't, why not?
Doesn't the human rights and the right of the West Papuans to be free of Indonesian colonial occupation and oppression matter?
Is Australia's relationship with Indonesia dictated solely by what's politically expedient rather then what's right under international norms?
It's shameful if that is the case.

Rajend Naidu,



Royal Thai Military yet to explain availability of weapons
To Thai soldier who ran amok in shopping center
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 11 February 2020

We are all too familiar with the events that occurred at Terminal 21 Central Plaza shopping center in Korat.
It seems that every article concentrates on what happened after the shooter arrived at the mall.
But what is not being mentioned is what occurred prior to his arrival. What we know is that he shot his superior officer and, according to the news article, he then stole a collection of arms and ammunition.
This would lead one to believe that he was armed prior to obtaining the weapons used in the attack.
He then took his haul and went to another location and stole a vehicle which he then drove off the base to the mall. So why was the soldier armed in the first place? As I recall weapons in barracks were kept in a secure location, locked and issued individually as needed. All transactions were recorded, and an inventory taken daily.
He then commandeered a military vehicle which should have been under 24-hour guard in the base motor pool.
Again, vehicles are issued per orders, signed out and in and the motor pool is usually under 24 guard.
He then left the base.
Now, from the time he shot the officer, stole the weapons, commandeered the vehicle and arrived at the base exit you are telling me that no one heard or saw anything that would cause alarm?
Hard to believe, huh?
If the weapons and vehicle were readily available, then the Thai military has a serious issue with security. I would hope that we will hear more about these issues but that's doubtful.
My prayers go out to the families of the victims.

Fred Prager,

Self-serving instinct to suppress bad news in China
Has an unsettling echo in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 10 February 2020

It is sad to learn that the doctor at a hospital in Wuhan who first brought the coronavirus outbreak there to the attention of authorities has now died of the disease.
Immediately after reporting the outbreak, he was forced by the police to accept a reprimand for "making untrue comments that had severely disturbed the social order".
This is a typical reaction from dictatorial regimes, and occasionally democratic ones too, prompted by a self-serving instinct to suppress bad news, irrespective of any risk to the general public.
Unfortunately, this tendency has an unsettling echo here in Thailand, where the prime minister recently warned that anyone criticising his government's handling of the coronavirus threat would face legal action for "politicising" the issue.
This "mind your own business" attitude is hardly likely to give people confidence the government is in control of the situation and is doing all it can to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

Robin Grant,

Philippines dependent on neighbourhood bully
With one for you and two for me principle
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 February 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 February 2020

Now, why would Sen. Bato “Shit happens” dela Rosa’s wailing, whining and “hugot” lines about the cancellation of his US visa jerk President Duterte to shoot from the hip and find a target: the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)?
What is the connection between Dela Rosa’s canceled US visa, which is a personal issue, and the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a bilateral military agreement?
Such an irrational act by Mr. Duterte can eventually isolate us from the community of nations that is working to promote peace, unity, and cooperation.
For a Third World country prone to natural disasters, we need every ounce of help from the international community.
Unfortunately, puro atras si Mr. Duterte: atras sa Rome Statute, atras sa arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea, atras sa Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
We might end up totally dependent on the neighborhood bully that deals with nations on the principle of “one for you, two for me.”
On the one hand, Dela Rosa should stop harping about his canceled US visa.
He should take a cue from honorable and patriotic senior officials such as former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales who, when barred from entering Hong Kong, left with their dignity intact, because they knew that nations have the sovereign right to choose the persons who can partake of their hospitality.
But, then, they are learned Filipinos who know and follow the rule of law.

Evelyn Silay,

Call for China and Australia
To rethink modus operandi against progressive citizens
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 February 2020

The Chinese doctor Li Wenliang ( 34 ) who first alerted other doctors about the coronavirus and was reprimanded by the Chinese State authorities for spreading rumours has died of the illness ( USA Today 7 Feb ).
When will the Chinese State begin to do the right thing by its best and brightest citizens rather than hounding them like criminals?
The wrongful treatment of doctor Li Wenliang should be regarded as a national disgrace.
It's time the Chinese citizens stop cult worshipping the Chinese Communist State as if it's infallible .
Hope the Chinese State authorities have learned a lesson from it and rethink their modus operandi against progressive citizens who think outside the ideological box for the greater good of the country.
The political leaders do not have a monopoly on what's right and good for the people of China.
( This has been well illustrated in the recent Australian mega bushfires where the political leadership had failed the Australian people by not heeding the prior warnings of climate change experts).
That must be Doctor Li Wenliang's enduring legacy.

Rajend Naidu,

Malaysia protects sovereignty against China
A dear neighbour whose friendship is cherished
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 February
First published in the Star, Friday 7 February 2020

We are now being inundated with an avalanche of information on the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Within this avalanche, there is a lot of “news” that is clearly false.
Those responsible for such news can be classified into at least two categories.
The first comprises mischief-makers who derive some cheap thrill from generating and disseminating fake news that creates fear and causes panic among the people. The law should deal severely with such individuals.
The second category may have a political agenda of sorts.
The purpose may be to cast China in a bad light, tarnish its image and project the Chinese government as incompetent and even dishonest.
The false information manipulated by this group may be very similar to the one used by the first category.
Both categories allege that the government lied about the number of fatalities, which they contend runs into thousands.
They suggest that the authorities were slow in responding to the crisis caused by the virus.
Attempts to reveal the “truth” about what was really happening in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, by some doctors and journalists have been suppressed and the “whistleblowers” punished.
It is not just the Chinese authorities that have refuted these and other allegations. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has publicly commended the Chinese government for its “swift action” and “extraordinary measures” in containing the infection.
The government has attempted to be as transparent as possible from the outset and has provided accurate information to the people.
It was the director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanam Ghebreyesus, who stated emphatically that there was no need for other countries to restrict travel and trade unnecessarily.
The coronavirus, he argued, should be combated with “facts not fear”.
And indeed, some of the facts are simply amazing.
Chinese scientists were incredibly fast in identifying the genome sequence.
Together with their Russian counterparts, a Russia-China vaccine is in the making.
Chinese architects and engineers have also built a state-of-the-art hospital in Wuhan in just 10 days.
Designed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, the Huoshenshan Hospital has a thousand beds and medical staff drawn from the armed forces.
The Chinese government is building another hospital with 1,500 beds which was scheduled to begin functioning on February 6.
But facts like these mean nothing to those with a political agenda.
The motives that shape their agenda take precedence over all else.
There is a primary motive out of which has developed a secondary motive. Discrediting China is part of a larger geo-political drive that seeks to thwart China’s ascendancy.
The aim is to ensure that the present hegemon, the United States, remains on top at all costs.
A host of measures and moves – some economic, some technological, some related to security and politics, others linked to culture and human rights – have been adopted by those who are hell-bent on perpetuating their hegemonic power.
This is why some of the distortions about the current coronavirus threat should be seen in the light of disinformation about the alleged persecution of the Uighurs in China and the so-called suppression of the people of Hong Kong.
The name of the game is the same: It is the targeting of China.
This primary motive has now given rise to a secondary motive.
In the course of fighting the coronavirus, groups in certain countries are displaying negative sentiments towards Chinese people as such.
This impacts adversely upon inter-community relations both at the global and national level.
At a time when China and the Chinese are leaving large footprints all over the planet, a deeper understanding of the civilisation and its citizens is what the world needs.
It is not in the interest of inter-civilisational harmony to view a community in its entirety as an adversary and try to isolate it.
Similarly, in multi-ethnic societies with Chinese minorities, the checking of the spread of a virus should not be used as justification to stereotype and stigmatise a community.
Seen against this backdrop, Malaysia, China’s neighbour with a significant Chinese minority, has done well in managing the coronavirus situation.
It has accorded priority to the health and well-being of its people and at the same time handled this cross-boundary crisis in a calm manner without any hysteria.
It has been sensitive to the feelings of China and its people.
Once again, Malaysia has demonstrated that it is possible to protect our sovereignty while respecting the dignity and integrity of a dear neighbour whose friendship we cherish.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
Kuala Lumpur,

Anything that affects China
Affects Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times Friday 7 February 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 5 February 2020

The recent coronavirus outbreak in China has triggered a series of drastic measures by the Chinese government either to halt or slow down the spread of the virus.
As the factories grind to a halt, we, in Malaysia, should be very worried about how this crisis will impact out wallets.
China is both our main import and export partner as 16 percent of all our exports and 19 percent of all our imports are to and from China.
It is our largest trading partner.
Our economy is intrinsically tied to China’s.
In 2005, we depegged the ringgit from the old fixed exchange rate within 24 hours of China doing the same.
Anything that affects China, affects us
Many of our national assets are now in China’s hands, such as Proton; while some others remain in our hands but run on Chinese money, such as the rail projects.
Back in 2003, when the SARS outbreak ravaged China, the country was only Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner, with Malaysian exports to China worth a mere RM25.8bil or 6.5 percent of total exports.
However, the SARS outbreak even with its relatively short lifespan of 30 months, managed to trim about 0.15 percent of Malaysia’s GDP in 2003.
By 2019, China had become our largest trading partner, and Malaysian exports to China are valued at RM138.9bil or 13.9 percent of total exports.
Alliance Bank Malaysia chief economist Manokaran Mottain expects a dramatic 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent cut in our GDP as a result of the outbreak.
Finally, Malaysia is a vital member of the five Asian nations that make up the global supply chain, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, which are highly dependent on China.
Over the past two decades, change in trade composition between Malaysia and China has resulted in a premature deindustrialisation on Malaysia’s part, with China providing cheap imports for goods we used to make ourselves.
With that link gone, we may be facing a serious problem of shortages.
The fact that China is also Malaysia’s largest investor makes the threat ever more real.
It is not well-advised and even short-sighted for the Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali to say that the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak would not have any implications on Malaysia’s economy yet; nor for Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok to claim the impact of the virus would only be temporary.
It remains unknown as to how long it would take before the virus is contained or eradicated to safe levels, allowing unrestricted travel to resume.
As it is, the effects are being felt already, with the most conspicuous hit being the tourism industry.
With the government taking on such a lax attitude, many important decision-makers may be lulled into a false sense of security.
While blind public panic is not desired, we must also begin formulating a contingency plan for a partial or complete collapse of the Chinese economy.

Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon,
Deputy President,
Malaysian Chinese Association
Kuala Lumpur,

Chinese nationals have easy access
To tourists destinations in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 5 February 2020

Re: "Virus response highlights govt incompetence", in Bangkok Post Opinion, February 4, 2020.
Atiya Achakulwisut's column about the government's measures to deal with the virus being trashed on social media addressed the issue well.
From my point of view, the fact that thermal scanning does not exclude patients in the incubation period should also be mentioned by the government, so more people are aware.
I am also concerned about how much information people have about face masks. Only N95 masks can help prevent communicable diseases and despite many social-media posts about it, people still think that a normal non-sterile surgical mask will do.
Little has been shared about the use of these masks, the type, durability, etc.
Bangkok is home to a wonderful culture and traditions, where people mingle with each other at every possible occasion.
The city is known for its markets, for colleagues socialising, sharing food and friendly gestures.
However, with all this sharing, communicable diseases can spread easily.
Even though the new coronavirus is not as alarming as Sars, the fact that we don't have effective treatment, testing kits at all hospitals and there is easy access to destinations for Chinese tourists should be noted.
It will be appreciated if you can publish a column providing information on prevention measures, including details on masks and their usage so people can at least be cautious.
Prevention is always better than cure, and I'm writing this not to create paranoia but to help our society learn more.
I also want to say I appreciate the Bangkok Post's efforts to keep us updated with accurate information covering every little detail.

Dr Sithi,


Malaysians face greater risk of death on roads
Than contact with coronavirus (nCoV) virus
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 February 2020
First published in the Star Tuesday, 4 February 2020

On average, the number of fatalities on Malaysian roads was 16 a day in 2018. Many thousands more were seriously injured, some with life-long effects, which means they will never be able to lead a normal life.
Malaysia has been ranked as one of the top three countries in the world with the deadliest roads “We have the third highest death rate from road accidents”, in The Star, May 14. Yet, since the novel coronavirus outbreak, Malaysians have been in a state of panic even though not even one death has occurred so far.
Have we got our priorities right?
While the spread of the coronavirus is out of our control beyond taking individual precautionary measures as advised by the authorities, the incidence of road accidents and deaths lie in our very hands!
They can be reduced if all road users obey traffic laws and respect and show courtesy to other road users.
Just because the number of road deaths is not reported daily, Malaysians don’t seem bothered by them and ignore the fact that they face greater risks while on the road than coming in contact with the coronavirus.
There is so much of information circulating on the Internet and in Malaysian WhatsApp chat groups about the coronavirus but there is barely a word about the 16 deaths a day happening on our roads and highways.
Why is this so?
Perhaps we need a new wave of awareness especially in chat groups to warn Malaysians that they face greater risk of death each time they take to the road.
If we value lives which I’m sure we all do, shouldn’t we give serious attention and due regard to road safety rules and be law-abiding?
Over to you, Road Safety Department.

Pola Singh,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Thai stores to limit sales of face masks
To two packs per person
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Saturday 1 February 2020

Re: "Human transmission of coronavirus confirmed in Thailand", in Bangkok Post, Saturday 1 February 2020.
With the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency, it's time we reflect hard with cool heads rather than a knee-jerk response.
To the media: Please do not update coronavirus news every minute.
It will only increase people's stress level and scare them.
What is more viral than a virus is fake news and rumours.
Be reasonable.
More people are killed in car accidents than coronavirus infections to date.
To opposition parties and their affiliated media: Don't just criticise the government for political points.
Help them; work with them to contain the virus.
Take actions by, for instance, handing out free face masks, send e-newsletters on coronavirus (prevention, symptoms, containment), set up call centres to assist with queries, use personal resources to aid.
It is of no use pointing out the previous government was more proactive than the incumbent.
To facial mask sellers and Chinese buyers: In addition to being distasteful, price gouging is immoral, preying on people's fear.
Likewise, Chinese people in Thailand need to be considerate in leaving enough face mask supplies for Thais, instead of emptying every pharmacy and convenience store.
Stores should limit sales of face mask to two packs per person.
To the government: In this situation, honesty is the best policy.
Most likely there'll be more infected cases and more deaths.
Accordingly, set up emergency centres across regions, provide free testing of the virus to patients showing early symptoms, and have quarantine sections in hospitals across regions.
Hand out free hand gels and facial masks.
The cost of face masks pales into comparison to the cost of infections.
The best the coalition government can do now is contain the virus until a cure or a vaccine is available.
The management skills used here will be needed for PM2.5 and drought challenges in a similar fashion.
To the rest: Panic isn't going to help anyone.
Keep yourself healthy; avoid crowded areas and spend less time on "low-nutrition junk news".
Indeed, from coronavirus and PM2.5 to droughts and bushfires, we must realise that these days our actions affect other countries and vice versa in a much more connected way, with predictable and often times unforseen consequences.

Edward Kitlertsirvatana,

Philippines call for South China Sea
To be named Asian Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 31 January 2020

We are happy that the brilliant Justice Antonio Carpio is back with his column “Crosscurrents.”
Ordinary lawyers, including those in government, should read his January 23 column, “Why great powers comply with arbitral rulings,” and understand that asserting our national rights will not necessarily lead to war.
I suggest that we initiate moves to change “South China Sea” to “Asian Sea” so that the world will know that it does not belong to China but to all the countries in the region.
If our national leaders will not help us, let us communicate with the leaders of proud assertive nations, like Vietnam and Indonesia, to ask them to file the necessary petition with the proper international body.
The world will surely help us against the big Asian bully.

Rene Torres,

Call for Philippine government to take action
Against Chinese aggression in Philippine waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 February 2020

I am at the state of questioning how the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) made the grandest welcome party for the Chinese Coast Guard which sometimes or more often shoo away the Filipino fishermen in the areas of West Philippine Sea.
They even use water cannon to stop them from fishing in our own territory.
I just don’t get the idea of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) when they made this warm welcome.
I understand that things will be solved in a diplomatic way however, in the case of Chinese aggression in Philippine waters it’s a different scenario.
There are laws violated.
Rights of Pinoy fishermen were put in to test.
Lives at stake.
Why can’t we make a solid stand on this issue?
Why is the government blind on this matter?
Why can’t we give the treatment that they deserve?
We are not here to start a world war III but I believe it’s high time to finally take the necessary action.
The action that the Filipino is expecting from our government.

Shermaine Anacleto,

American Christian conservatives
Embrace "go forth and multiply" ideology
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 January 2020

Re: "China is facing a self-inflicted population crisis", In Bangkok Post Opinion January 20, 2020
China's population isn't growing fast enough to satisfy New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.
Like many other American Christian conservatives, he couches his "go forth and multiply" ideology in pseudo-scientific jargon and apocalyptic predictions of an "empty planet".
He makes no mention of the human population's continued growth, now 7.8 billion, and China's role as the most populous nation, currently about 1.4 billion.
Nor does Mr Douthat mention the strain this growing population has put on the earth's atmosphere, oceans and wildlife.
Instead, he focuses on the likelihood of a slowdown in the growth of China's economy due to an ageing population.
This obsession with perpetual GDP growth is what threatens to make the current Anthropocene one of the briefest of our planet's geological ages.

John Hail,

Call for taxi drivers and tour guides in Thailand
To wear surgical masks for protection from virus
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 30 January 2020

Thailand's very fortunate that we've had only a few cases of coronavirus to date but for-hire drivers, such as those of taxis, Grab, tour drivers and guides should wear surgical masks whenever they're in contact with others.
This is to protect them from possibly becoming infected from their passengers or tour members and to lessen the chances of them infecting others.
"The biggest concern that doctors have around recommending masks is the false sense of security that might come along with wearing one. There are a lot of reasons why face masks are not ideal: It's really hard to find one that fits perfectly around your nose and mouth or to keep it on for a long period of time," advises.
However, these drivers and guides come into contact with possibly hundreds of people daily, some of whom may be infected.
Thus, they must take all possible precautions, and the cost of surgical masks is affordable.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for Philippine Department of Health
To consider travel ban ASAP
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 January, 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 29 January 2020

The Department of Health must seriously consider issuing a travel advisory/ban for airlines and travelers alike amid the rising death toll from the coronavirus that originated in China - and just do it ASAP.
Our people have suffered long enough from natural disasters such as floods, typhoons, earthquakes, drought and, most recently, a volcanic eruption.
We do not want this killer virus to spread in our country, for Pete’s sake! People in airports, planes, trains, cars, taxis and even ships must be wary of touching surfaces that may be contaminated by it.
If we really need to travel, it would be wise to take precautionary measures and preparations like wearing face masks, using alcohol or sanitizer, boosting our immune system by taking appropriate vitamins and minerals, getting enough rest/sleep, and paying a visit to our doctors.

Ron Enrile Narca,
Advocacy group,
Philippine College of Intergrative Medicine & Homotoxicology,

Great offence to spread
Unfounded information
about Angkor Wat
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 January 2020
First published in the Phnom Penh Post, Monday 20 January 2020

I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid.
Below is my opinion of the article.
It is obviously free for the Traveller to express its point of view and we can say that we prefer Paris to Barcelona or Borobudur to Bali, without any problem.
But to directly suggest visitors not to go to Angkor is highly unacceptable and a great offence rather than objective advice.
Furthermore, the suggestion seems to forget that Angkor, inscribed on the World Heritage List (Unesco) since 1992, has been subjected to permanent monitoring and consistent international expert evaluation for a quarter of a century.
And that an institution set up in 1995 for the protection and the management of the Angkor Site, the Apsara National Authority, takes care of the site management and maintenance in general as well as the maintenance of monuments, in addition to consolidation and restoration works.
One should not forget that the most important aspect is the international guarantee given to the conservation and enhancement programme of Angkor by the International Coordinating Committee for Angkor (ICC-Angkor) created in 1993, which meets every six months, under the co-presidency of France and Japan with the follow-up of Unesco ensured by the standing secretariat of the committee. Moreover, independent international experts regularly monitor and evaluate the entire site, report on the situation to the committee and make recommendations to improve the situation.
Nothing escapes their vigilance.
Once again, tourists are free to choose where to go and it depends on their preference and culture but the assessment of site to be visited should be conducted on an objective way and does not admit false information or approximation.
For sure much remain to be done in this immense and inhabited site (40,000ha, with 113 villages).
Any advice, any positive suggestion is more than welcome.
But it is not permissible to spread unfounded information and to call for a boycott. It is openly damaging the interests of the Cambodian people and the World Heritage.

Long Kosal,
Spokesperson, Apsara National Authority,
Phnom Penh,

Stakeholder capitalism finds market
In Philippine slums
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 27 January 2020

Two remarks overheard on the same sidewalk, a real one, not metaphorical, have stuck with me for decades.
One was from a girl of about 8 or 9 to another girl of the same age, about some people she had encountered who were “mayaman pero mabait”—as though rich people were rarely kind.
The other was from an acquaintance; dirt poor, he was asking a relative for money to buy a shoeshine kit so he could work.
His relative asked why he should give him money at all, and my acquaintance replied, “Kasi meron ka, ako wala, because you have it and I don’t.”
He said it as if existential reality made it necessary to give something unearned.
These thoughts came to me as I read the part of Michael L. Tan’s “Davos ‘astig’” in Philippine Inquirer January 22, 2020) that said “I do wish our economic and political leaders in the Philippines would adopt more of that spirit of World Economic Forum] (WEF) and ‘stakeholder capitalism’ with its philosophy that we’re in this together, so let’s all see what we can do even if the capitalists do end up giving too little."
What struck me was that parenthetical aside, as it implied that capitalists were obligated to “give” and give “enough”—and that anyone would readily find that thinking valid.
Is it some kind of universal tenet that one side of humanity should give and the other receive?
Why not make it so that both sides give and receive?
I read somewhere about a company that made a change, and made it so it both gave and received.
It’s a water distributor - one of those being pummeled with the presidential verbal sledgehammer.
It had a problem in slum communities in its concession zone.
Residents there bought water not from it but from vendors, who charged more than the company did, for water that was generally less than safe. Some also stole water from the company’s pipes.
The “capitalist” innovation now seems simple.
The company installed pipes and faucets in the slum areas and now bills the barangay councils, which then bill the residents.
The residents get clean water 24/7 at a cheaper price than they had previously paid, and the company has turned big parts of its concession zone into paying customers. Both sides give and both receive.
I’d call that company “mayaman at mabuti.”

Atis Altamirano,

Call for Thailand to stay alert
For coronavirus (nCoV) virus
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 26 January 2020

I applaud the work that the Thai Public Health Ministry has done in finding five coronavirus sufferers in Bangkok Post, January 25, but given that the disease is asymptomatic or nearly so for some people and it takes some time to develop, and the fact that Thailand is a popular destination for the people of Wuhan, it seems premature for the ministry to be boasting that their screening has been effective.
We need to stay alert and take the usual precautions wash hands, wear face masks and see what develops rather than assume we are safe because five cases have been found.


Laser guns purchased by Philippines National Police
Cannot detect jeepneys without headlights on at night
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 25 January 2020

President Duterte has stripped the Philippine National Police (PNP) of any more purchasing power over the possible “bukol” (kickback) in the procurement of “laser speed guns,” said to cost P950,000 each when they cost only P10,000 per unit in Davao City,
Explaining the issue away as a mere matter of “semantics,” the Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson said the gadgets requested were not just “laser guns” but actually the more sophisticated “micro digital photo/video laser tech speed system” currently being used in more advanced countries that cost “about a million” each in Philippine Inquirer “PNP insists: No wrongdoing, only ‘wrong’ term,” January 16, 2020.
Thus, the Philippine National Police (PNP) was even going to “save” the country about P50,000. Ha!
The Philippine National Police (PNP) “wanted to acquire the latest equipment to stop speeding, drunk driving and overloading, which typically cause road accidents.”
It could not even detect jeepneys plying the streets of Metro Manila without their headlights being switched on at night!
More accidents have happened because of such wanton recklessness.
No high-tech, very expensive gadgets are needed there, but only their naked eyes!

Romano Morano,

Call for Papua New Guinea government to support
The Immigration Special Taskforce Rausim Alien
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 January 2020
First published in the National Friday 24 January 2020

It is not surprising to read in The National on January 20 that 20 foreigners were arrested.
It is the evidence of what we are seeing every day in urban centres and in some rural areas.
It is the result of foreign companies helping to aid unskilled workers abroad to enter our soil.
And on the other hand, it is the consequence of foolish frail government coordination of this nation.
It is interesting to see reserved business for the locals such as trade stores are run by foreigners leaving the citizens out of the business.
That is legally wrong.
It is apparent that foreigners are wandering around in rural areas involving in small sector businesses such as fishing, logging and running restaurants.
These nature of the business by law should be reserved for Papua New Guineans.
These are few of the million aliens hiding like rats in boxes, containers and drums to steal the wealth of our people.
I would like to ask these simple questions;
How are they entering Papua New Guinea and for what reason?
How can we get rid of these aliens to recoup our small business rightfully ours?
What is governments plans on addressing this issue?
Can the Government, through its relevant authorities, look into this before we become foreigners on our own land?
On that token, the Government should take tough legal actions on foreigners entering the country illegally.
Before allowing foreigners in, the immigrants should sit for the English language test.
If they fail the test, refuse their entry.
Allow qualified professionals to come and build this nation.
Those who have empathy to help without the intention to take.
The laws concerning foreigners and employments should be given more teeth to bite.
These laws should make foreigners think twice before entering the country.
If we cannot control the influx of foreigners, we will end up working for them.
I appeal to the Government to prop up a Taskforce Rausim Alien with logistics and finance support to do a good job.

Eric Mumson Piuk,
Gerehu Stage 5,
National Capital District,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Malaysia's Ministry of Health
To ensure that nCoV will not enter Malaysian
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 January 2020
First published in the Star Wednesday 22 January 2020

As the spread of the H1N1 virus remains a risk, it is vital for the Health Ministry (MoH) to improve on the efficiency of giving updates as well as the provision of vaccine supply.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) had claimed that they needed more time to confirm the cases and to collect relevant statistics before giving updates on the current situation.
This is largely worrying, because updates being untimely may lead to anxiety and uneasiness among the masses.
The Influenza A disease has been around for over one month, yet the MoH appears to not be in step with the current developments.
As new infections are being reported daily, the MoH cannot afford to just continue standing around collecting data, while there is no mechanism to generate a daily update on the latest statistics.
As MCA had previously suggested – form a H1N1 taskforce. Form a team specifically for H1N1-related issues and provide updates, so that there is an official portal for the dissemination of information and news.
If the MoH had been giving daily updates on the H1N1 and the vaccine supply, it would not have devolved into today's state of public uneasiness.
Besides that, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad has been reassuring the public that vaccine supplies in government hospitals would be sufficient; yet on the other hand, his deputy Dr Lee Boon Chye admitted to the shortage of vaccine in the market and spoke of how drug manufacturers are working to meet the demands. Subsequently, Dr Dzulkefly on 22 Jan 2020 said that vaccines are now being imported from overseas. This shows that there was not enough vaccines to start with.
Despite people speaking of vaccine and medicine shortage in both government hospitals and private clinics since December 2020, MoH failed to heed the warnings, leading to this last-minute effort to import vaccines.
Regardless, the MoH performed satisfactorily in the wake of the new Wuhan Coronavirus (nCoV) by swiftly implementing a 24-hour surveillance mechanism at primary airports nationwide.
I hope that the MoH will improve itself further, and ensure that the nCoV will not enter Malaysian borders.

Datuk Dr Lee Hong Tee,
MCA central committee member,
MCA social development committee chairman,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippines Commission on Elections (Comelec)
Thinking ahead of comming 2022 polls
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 22 January 2020

It is laudable that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering holding early presidential debates, “Comelec mulls holding of presidential debates early,” News, January 14, 2020.
The earlier the better, because why wait until the 11th hour?
A different but related news item stated that the Comelec is gearing up for the 2022 polls.
That is good news, too, because even a party list group needs three years of preparation to seriously campaign for a seat in the House of Representatives.
The Comelec is a constitutional body that needs to make sure the 2022 polls are held as scheduled, and without worrying the populace.
We still remember reports from last year stating that the Comelec was in “a race against time on the printing of ballots.
It’s good to know that for the coming 2022 polls, the Comelec is thinking ahead of time.

Godofredo V. Arquiza,
Former congressman,
14th and 15 Congresses



Call for "The Kingmaker" to be shown
At the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 January 2020
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 21 January 2020

There are many bad things going on in this country, but nothing more nauseating than the recent award given to Imelda Marcos by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The media photos at the grand dinner for the Marcos family, beaming along with Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) chief Margie Moran, were totally disgusting, particularly at this time when Taal Volcano victims need assistance.
One could dream that the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) had instead shown at that event the recent foreign documentary “The Kingmaker.”
But that, of course, would not have happened, given the servility displayed by Filipino officials with short memories.
But thankfully, the film is now scheduled to be shown in Manila on January 29.
I saw it some months ago in the United States and wished it could be shown throughout our country to remind people of the dark era when the Marcoses were in power.
There is a superb account of the building and collapse of the Manila Film Center by Tats Manahan in the November 2015 issue of Rogue magazine.
It chronicles how Imelda dreamed of putting up, next to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), a Parthenon-like structure to be a “filmmakers’ wonderland.”
With the grand opening scheduled for January 1982, 4,000 workers in seven shifts were tasked with finishing the construction on time.
In November 1981, the scaffolding on one floor collapsed, burying hundreds of men in the rubble.
Rescue efforts were slow.
There is only one extant photo taken by a TV network, showing a man being pulled out of the rubble - an engineer ironically named Benigno Aquino, who died in the hospital.
Since martial law was in place, Imelda ordered a news blackout to keep the public from learning about the incident.
Rescue efforts were stopped so the rebuilding could continue, but it was known that 169 men were unaccounted for and left buried in the rubble.
The grand opening was held on time, with foreign film celebrities like George Hamilton, Brooke Shields and Jeremy Irons being flown in for free by Philippine Airlines.
In 1990, an earthquake and a fire made the Film Center unstable, but after some restoration work, Imelda allowed soft porn to be shown to the public to raise revenue.
Manahan recounts exorcism rites being held in the film center, with Imee Marcos supervising. To this day it’s believed the ghosts of the buried men hover over the doomed building, a testament to Imelda’s entombed dreams.
There were a few muted cries at the time over the millions being spent on what the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. had called Imelda’s “edifice complex.”
Today, Imelda is being feted for her supposed contribution to the arts.
One really has to wonder if and when Filipinos will ever gain some self-respect.

Celeste T. Cruz,

Philippine nationalism
Only good during crises
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 15 January 2020

This refers to the editorial “Unfolding crisis” in Philippine Inquirer January 15, 2020.
It is now a common narrative that national unity comes to the fore when we are faced with natural disasters.
But this, in my view, is an artificial response - a pretentious, even scandalous, display of nationalism because it is only good during crises.
I consider this a case of unrealistic optimism, for after the crisis, we regress to our most habituated ways of responding - to sit complacently.
Our sense of national unity should be a daily habit and should find its deep roots in our culture.
Akin to optimism is opportunism during disasters.
We have the propensity to make sick jokes, which pop up in the immediate aftermath of catastrophe.
During disasters, news sensationalism, rumor-mongering, unverified tales and offensive gags quickly thrive in the country and on social media.
It may be a coping mechanism, but I consider it an unhealthy routine to find the suffering of others funny.
Disasters such as the Taal volcanic eruption in Batangas should provide us both optimism and opportunism - that is, for us to be optimistic that we can rebuild the lives of the evacuees and victims, and the opportunity for us to show our “bayanihan” spirit without much fanfare and political undertones.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Assistant City Council Secretary,
Marikina City,



Mekong-Loei-Chee-Moon water diversion project
Not in line with 1995 Mekong agreement
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 19 January 2020

Reference is made to the recent media report in which it is announced that by 2022, as a key project, the first phase of the water diversion project of the Mekong-Loei-Chee-Moon project will be implemented at a cost of 158 million baht.
This controversial project pops up at regular intervals.
The last time was in 2016 after which it was dumped following protests from farmers in the North and environmentalists questioning whether the benefits of such a costly commercial investment would ever be recovered by cash-poor farmers to pay for the pumped Mekong water in their paddy-fields.
But since this project is challenged by Section 5 (Reasonable and Equitable Utilisation) of the 1995 Mekong Agreement and apparently not in line with the water utilisation project (Section 26 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement) signed by all four member countries, it is questioned whether this ambitious water-diversion project would be harmful to downstream countries like Cambodia and Vietnam, which are equally in dire need of water.
The government of Thailand is searching all means to stop the silt progressing in the Chao Phraya River but gives little or no concern for the downstream Mekong countries which are struggling as well to keep their Mekong Delta free of intruding seawater.
The Mekong Delta with its two to three crops a year is the rice barn of Vietnam and is at stake.
Water-diversion projects (during wet as well as dry seasons) are always subject to notification to the joint committee and, as good neighbours, such projects should show genuine concern for the harm and damage that could be caused to its neighbours in accordance by Section 7 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement (Prevention and Cessation of Harmful Effects).
This controversial Mekong-Loei-Chee-Moon project seems to be an uphill battle that will make nervous neighbours with many eyebrows raise. It may be the end of the Mekong River Commission!

Jacques Dezeure,

Philippines remind the United States that the Philippines
Is a sovereign state coequal to the United States
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 17 January 2020

This is in reaction to US Senate Resolution No. 142 calling on US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions against Philippine officials in accordance with the Global Magnitsky Act.
The Philippines is a sovereign and independent state.
Even freshmen political science students know that the Philippines possesses the basic four elements and attributes of a state: 1) people; 2) territory; 3) sovereignty; and 4) government.
It is the third element that is now being challenged by this US Senate resolution.
ln general terms, sovereignty is understood as the inherent power of a state to control its internal or domestic affairs without external interference.
As a sovereign state, the Philippines possesses coequal status with the other independent states in terms of rights, privileges, obligations and duties imposed by international law, including international covenants.
One of the obligations of every state is to respect coequal states by not meddling in the other’s internal affairs.
This includes the manner and method by which that coequal state administers its government.
The authors of the said resolution seem to have forgotten that the Filipino people had already declared independence from the United States seven decades ago; perhaps they still imagine the Philippines as a colony of the United States.lf indeed the US senators have reasonable grounds to believe that the human rights of Sen. Leila de Lima were violated, there are diplomatic channels and international bodies that can properly investigate the matter.
But resorting to a resolution without even conducting an investigation is an act of intrusion into Philippine affairs and a mockery of our sovereignty.
Such unwarranted action by the US senators is tantamount to dictating on our Supreme Court about what to do with pending cases.
Trump, as the head of the US executive branch of government, should be circumspect and prudent in considering US Senate Resolution 142.
He should not forget that the Philippines is a sovereign state coequal with the United States.

Samrollah M. Dekire,
Pagadian City,

Praise for US President Trump
For turning America around despite CNN
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 10 January 2020

Criticism such as satire is a luxury enjoyed by those countries blessed with democracy.
However, like politicians, satirists mostly draw and write according to their own personal political bias.
They don't offer solutions to what or whom they criticise, they just simply criticise. Why?
Most likely because they don't want to be the target of what they themselves enjoy doing.
No risk!
President Trump, but for a few flaws, is doing a fantastic job in turning America around.
Yes, he stumbles once in a while, like all politicians, but look what he is up against. All the major newspapers and TV networks in the US, including CNN, are simply an extension of the Democratic Party's propaganda wing.
The only exception is one moderate cable TV station (Fox).
The majority, however, simply provide an onslaught of Democratic (aka socialist) Party satire and criticism.


Marcos son wants to revise history
Of his fathers dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer,Tuesday 14 January 2020

The Marcoses were able to bury Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani - heroes cemetery - in collusion with President Duterte - to perpetrate the lie, in a clear distortion of history, that Marcos the plunderer and human rights violator is a hero.
Now the son of the dictator wants to make the lie complete with his push to revise our history books.
We should oppose this sinister move of the Marcoses, pursuant to our collective responsibility to pass to the next generations what really happened during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.
Failure to do so may again allow tyranny to rule this sad land of ours.
We are now, in fact, experiencing a gradual descent into another tyranny, sadly because many of us are oblivious of our past and have really not learned the sad lessons of our history.
That Marcos was indeed a dictator who robbed our people of their basic rights and freedoms, who violated their human rights wholesale and who plundered the nation’s wealth is already beyond dispute as acknowledged by the Supreme Court itself in a number of decisions.
Speaking of Marcos, for instance, who on his deathbed had signified his wish to return to the Philippines, the Court declared:
“This case is unique.
It should not create a precedent, for the case of a dictator forced out of office and into exile after causing 20 years of political, economic and social havoc in the country and who within the short space of three years seeks to return, is in a class by itself.
We cannot also lose sight of the fact that the country is only now beginning to recover from the hardships brought about by the plunder of the economy attributed to the Marcoses and their close associates and relatives, many of whom are still here in the Philippines in a position to destabilize the country, while the Government has barely scratched the surface, so to speak, in its efforts to recover the enormous wealth stashed away by the Marcoses in foreign jurisdictions.
“Then, we cannot ignore the continually increasing burden imposed on the economy by the excessive foreign borrowing during the Marcos regime, which stifles and stagnates development and is one of the root causes of widespread poverty and all its attendant ills.
The resulting precarious state of our economy is of common knowledge and is easily within the ambit of judicial notice.” (Marcos v. Manglapus, GR No. 88211 Sept. 15, 1989).

Severo Brillantes,

Phillipines envious of ASEAN neighbours
Who show defiance against the common enemy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 13 January 2020

The editorial, “Sangley surprise” in Philippine Inquirer January 10, 2020, gave me mixed feelings of anger and sadness.
Anger because the present occupant of the palace by the Pasig with his much-vaunted bravery looks like a lame lamb who stoops so low and bows condescendingly before the giant dragon, while our neighbors
Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam are showing unmistakable mettle and defiance against the common “enemy.”
Malaysia is “unfazed by threats of Chinese reprisal.” We can only feel envy at the statement of Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah: “If we are to fear that, we will not submit our claim.”
The words of Indonesian Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan was more enviable. “I would not sell our sovereignty for investment,” he said.
I am saddened, because all these are in stark contrast to what the Duterte administration has been doing with regard to Chinese intrusion into and occupation of areas we have won in the international court of arbitration.
Mr. Duterte’s braggadocio that he would “jet ski” to our territory now appears like a whiff of hot air that has frozen in the atmosphere.

Ramon Mayuga,

Call for community consultation in Papua New Guinea
For mining mineral sands in Orokolo Bay
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 January 2020
First published in the National, Friday 10 January 2020

I wish to make a comment in response to the article in your business column on December 24 in which reported Paul Mulder of Mayur Resources Ltd saying that the intensity magnetic sepertions was purchased for the project to exploit (magnet) mineral sands out of Orokolo Bay in Gulf.
This project should not go ahead as indicated.
This is because there is no proper community consultation, including a proper land investigation report, and proper landownership identification and proper resource ownership investigation.
Environmental effect studies were not made clear to the community.
Was the environment licence (permit) obtained?
We fear the destruction that would happen once machines/equipment set exploiting, damaging grounds, leaving foot holes that would collect water for mosquitoes to breed.
Obviously, the ground holes will become swamps forever.
For the economic benefit, equity shareholding participation was not discussed.
According to Mining Laws of this country, any minerals discovered below 6 feet belongs to the State.
However, these mineral sands you are about to extract is found well and truly above a foot.
You know it.
Therefore, the community owns the resources in this case.
As I read your (Mulder) article, in this paper on Jan 9, you said, “Orokolo community will have job opportunities and spin-off businesses.”
You never mention anything about equity shareholding and partnership in this operation.
We would very much appreciate it if you would kindly respond to this letter of opinion for the best interest of this project.

Ohako Hoko,
Orokolo Bay Gas Pipeline Corridor Holdings Limited,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Air pollution from taxis, tuk tuks and trucks in Bangkok
Cannot be good for tourism
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 10 January 2020

I don't know about now, but in the past buses have been responsible for a lot of the dirty air in Bangkok.
I would like to suggest that the government send out teams of people to the garages where buses are kept at night to check all the buses in the garages even if it means going there after regular hours, so as to check all the buses that are either privately owned or owned by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
They could do this for taxis, tuk tuks and trucks too.
In my opinion, air pollution is life threatening to us and countering it should be given the highest priority.
It cannot be good for tourism either if potential tourists come across an article that says Bangkok, as one did last week, has the third worst air in the world.

A Reader,

Papua New Guinea wants soldiers and firefighters
At home not in Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 January 2020
First published in the National, Thursday 9 January 2020

Rather than sending the 1,000 soldiers and firefighters to Australia, funds that will be spared for that exercise should be sent directly to Canberra to help Australia with the ongoing fire disaster.
Airfares would be paid return and of cause allowance also.
While we all sympathise with those affected, how much impact would our men bring with their physical presence?
The thought counts and sending money would make a difference to someone.
If a small country such as Vanuatu can be the first Pacific island country to support Australia, what are we waiting for?
Let’s be realistic, we need our soldiers to help police bring the law and order situation under control in the country.

Concerned tax payer
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Pension system in the Philippines
Is lopsided in favor of certain sectors
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquiry, Thursday 9 January 2020

It is traditional that as a new year starts, people are hopeful that it will be better than previous years.
We seniors are no different, especially since 2019 ended with portents of good things to come, like the enactment of the law creating the National Commission of Senior Citizens.
The commission is tasked to create programs that will provide more care for the concerns of seniors, including welfare, benefits and pension.
It will also reportedly look into the pension system in the country.
In previous committee hearings on the proposed law, it was pointed out that the pension system in the Philippines is lopsided in favor of certain sectors.
For example, while pensioners from the private sector and from civil government service receive their pensions from the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), retirees from the military and the national police service get theirs from budgetary allocations in the General Appropriations Act.
It has also been pointed out that retirees from constitutional offices get their pensions at a much higher ratio to their base pay compared to those receiving pensions from Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
Such discriminatory practices should have been scrapped by now, since the Senior Citizens Act of 2010, signed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, mandated that ALL pensioners (and this includes pensioners under the Portability Law) be given the same rights, privileges and benefits given to pensioners under different laws.
With Congress about to resume session in a few days, we seniors are hoping that bitter pills like the Portability Law and lopsided pension rates be made better-tasting by amending these laws, or enacting new ones to make our sunset years brighter.

Mafeo R. Vibal,
Vice President,
External Affairs Philippine Association of Retired Persons,

International corporations must comply
With the Malaysian Employment Act
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 January 2020
First published in the Star Thursday 9 January 2020

The Malaysian Employment Act 1955 defines a work week as 48 hours, with a maximum of eight hours per day and six working days a week. It also provides for 10 days of paid holidays.
A worker’s rest day should be respected, so if he or she is requested to work on that day, the law stipulates that the individual needs to be compensated with a wage payment at the rate of 2.5 times the normal sum.
Ten days of holiday a year 10 Gazetted Public Holidays is provided for all employees. A break of 30 minutes should be provided by employers for each five hours in excess of eight hours of work.
The exception to the eight-hour day is when the specific project or work needs to progress continuously over two shifts.
These rules are expected to apply to all government, commercial and industrial and other professions. The employer who violates or contravenes any provisions of this law has committed an offence and would be held accountable by the director-general of Labour.
All employees need to review their conditions of employment to ascertain that indeed these guidelines are outlined in their contracts. It is imperative under the terms of international labour laws set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations labour laws and Malaysian labour laws that these provisions be upheld by employers irrespective of their status.
These labour laws and working conditions and hours need to be upheld by all employers, including international companies or corporations operating in Peninsular Malaysia.
Conventions set by ILO are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states. Recommendations are non-binding guidelines.
In many cases, a convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries while a related recommendation supplements the convention by providing more details.
International labour standards refer to conventions agreed upon by international actors, resulting from a series of value judgments “set forth to protect basic worker rights, enhance workers’ job security, and improve their terms of employment on a global scale”.
The intent of such standards is to establish a worldwide minimum level of protection from inhumane labour practices through the adoption and implementation of the said measures.
From a theoretical standpoint, it has been maintained, on ethical grounds, that there are certain basic human rights that are universal to humankind.
Thus, it is the aim of international labour standards to ensure the provision of such rights in the workplace, such as against workplace aggression, bullying, discrimination and gender inequality.
Talking to various Malaysian employees, their families and friends, I have come to realise that some local employers disregard and blatantly ignore the above guidelines and terms of their employment.
They pay no attention to the Employment Act 1955 and its approved amendments made by Parliament.
The long hours and adverse conditions enforced on Malaysian employees, if allowed to continue, could result in a terrible health toll on them and their families.
The adverse conditions under which employees work should not be ignored by the director-general of Labour and the Human Resources Ministry.
Long working hours enforced by employers and the related stress can lead to increased incidence of depression and hypertension, which can subsequently lead to cardiovascular damage and stroke. This state of affairs would lead to loss of morale and less efficiency in the workplace.
The negative impacts on family life and health of Malaysian employees cannot continue. They should and must be corrected by stricter enforcement of the law by the director-general of Labour.
International corporations must also comply with the Malaysian Employment Act, including the provision on working hours.
Any international corporation that fails to follow the provisions of the Malaysian Employment Act must be cited and reported to the relevant authorities in their home country, for example the State Department in the case of the United States, for further action.
The long hours and working conditions of Malaysian workers need to be examined critically to determine a solution.

Dr. J.V. Ananan,
Associate professor (retired)
Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics
Wayne State University
United States

Victims of Australia's destructive bushfires
Angry with Prime Minister Morrision
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 January 2020

It is very heartwarming and uplifting to learn that Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has written a letter to the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrision expressing solidarity in Australia's hour of need in the current mega bushfires ravaging the country ( Fiji Times 8 January ).
But the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a huge part of the problem as many Australians point out in their letters in all the Australian newspapers.
I share their view.
In my letter published in The Age 5 January I wrote Prime Minister Scott Morrison " should hold himself personally responsible for his administration's lacklustre commitment to the climate change emergency in the face of scientific evidence. He failed to provide the leadership the climate emergency called for. That's why the victims are angry with him. They are right in directing their indignation at him".
The anger over his failure to do what's right is still manifesting and we are likely to hear more on that front.

Rajend Naidu,

Thai's warned against taking Australia's response
To climate change
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 8 January 2020

Extensive daily coverage of the bushfires emergency in eastern Australia has been well covered in the Thai media including the Bangkok Post.
However, apart from the main focus on the death, destruction and trauma suffered by thousands of Australians, there has not been enough attention on gross failures of leadership by the federal government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
He has betrayed our people and the vulnerable environment which sustains our lives.
His role has been abysmal in terms of disaster response and, most critically, lack of action on climate change which is the biggest contributing factor in unprecedented bushfires affecting huge areas of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
Thai's need to take this as a warning for their wonderful nation, as Thailand will inevitably face its own increasingly severe weather events including more intense and prolonged floods, heatwaves, droughts, forest fires and air pollution.
It will require the government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to set and implement a strategic pathway for climate change mitigation and adaptation, building the resilience of communities and ensuring better preparedness for, as well as response to, natural disasters.

Pablo Bateson,

Call for paradigm change in the modus operandi
Of the Australian defence force
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 January 2020

I agree with everything Jennifer Horsburgh says about the need for a paradigm change in the modus operandi of the Australian defence force in her letter to the Southeast Asian Times 7 January.
That would be the best way for the Australian defence force to serve the best interest and welfare of the Australian people on home soil.
That is the enduring lesson to draw from the bushfires currently ravaging the country and the deployment of the defence force to combat the calamity.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Australian Defence Force
To be at the ready to fight fires at home
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 January, 2020

The Australian Defence Force should have been put on standby way back in September when these fires started, ready for deployment at a moment's notice.
It has taken far too long to get them involved.
Also we need a complete rethink of the way we spend our defence budget.
It needs to be redirected to buying thousands of trucks, and ships to transport people, goods, fuel, generators and animals, including farm animals, pets and wildlife.
And the army needs thousands of bulldozers to clear roads and firebreaks.
We need many hundreds of water and retardant bombers and helicopters equipped with smoke penetrating cameras and built to fly in all conditions.
All troops and equipment must be brought home from overseas because they are needed here.
And we need to keep out of foreign wars, because we are 'at war' within our own country!

Jennifer Horsburgh,

Forbidden for Muslims to wish their Christian friends
And neighbours a Merry Christmas
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 January 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 3 January 2020

I wish to commend my friend, Emeritus Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi, for his excellent article in The Star yesterday titled “Build bridges and dismantle walls” in the column Reflecting on the Law.
His article is most timely at the beginning of a new decade and should be taken seriously by all Malaysians if we are to move forward with peace and progress.
Shad has the intellectual depth, academic integrity and the necessary background to categorically reject religious bigotry and racism.
Sadly, these issues are not often openly addressed, as Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai wrote in his On the Beat column “Silence isn’t always golden”, December 29
As a patriotic Malaysian Christian with moderate views – and like most Malaysians, I’m sure – I am greatly encouraged by Shad’s positive comments in criticising narrow-minded guardians of religion who claim that it is haram (forbidden) for Muslims to wish “Merry Christmas” to their Christian friends and neighbours.
I have to ask: What have some of our so-called religious guardians come to?
What peace and national unity are they preaching, when Islam, as I understand it, is a religion of peace, harmony and good- will to all peoples?
Why should anyone from any religion who preaches hate be tolerated?
He should be hauled up and punished if we want a happy Malaysia.
We should all be true to our different – but often similar – religious teachings while isolating and rejecting the growing bigotry and rising racism to protect the well-being and success of our children’s future.
Indeed, the world is watching us!
Tourists will be reluctant to visit countries that tolerate hate and practise selectivity in the administration of the rule of law.
Visit Malaysia 2020 will lose its attraction if we have more hate speech, especially from religious leaders.
And foreign investors, already wary thanks to Islamophobia and its implications, will hesitate to invest in Malaysia, as other more tolerant societies will be more welcoming to them.
One of Shad’s quotes from the Holy Quran is, “So, compete with each other in doing good”.
But what goodness are religious leaders doing when they promote hate and strife?
As Shad also points out, our highly respected Council of Rulers, as the heads of Islam, can pull up those who preach and practise hatred that is based on religion and race.
Similarly, the Federal Government and all its relevant agencies should adopt a national harmony policy, as Shad suggests.
In fact, I was a member of the last National Unity Council that strongly proposed a National Harmony Act but nothing came of it.
Our firm recommendations to the previous government were ignored.
We thus concluded that national unity was only being paid lip service by the government of the day then.
Can this new government, in this new decade, give top priority to establishing this Harmony Act, to stamp out hate and to promote love and national unity?
It need not take long to introduce this popular legislation unless extremist elements with narrow and vested interests are allowed to have their way over the bigger national interest.
If that is the case, we the rakyat should resist all unMalaysian policies and practices, and do so consistently and always.
Happy new year, and may the new decade be filled with love and peace, not hate!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Chairman Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies
Kuala Lumpur,

Duterte's circumvention of 2022 elections
Is at war with the spirit of the Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 January 2019

Manuel L. Quezon III wrote in Philippine Inquirer on January 1 “The problem of the split ticket” about Boo Chanco first mentioning a possible Go-Duterte tandem in 2022.
A president may not run for re election.
So the answer I prefer to hear from my students is that what he cannot do directly, he may not, indirectly.
Such circumvention is at war with the spirit of the Constitution, the obvious intent or rationale in running for vice president.
President Duterte, with his health issues, will be 77 in 2022.
Those who care for him should advise him to avoid further stress and the strain of leading what may be 110 million rabbits in 2022.
He may be even more cantankerous by then.

R.A.V. Saguisag,
Makati City

Call for Philippine Military to account for funding
For Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 January 2019

The Makabayan bloc wants the House of Representatives to investigate the government’s program that encourages the rebels to return to the fold of the law.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said the manipulated photos released by the Philippine Army are proof that reports about the declared rebel returnees are not credible.
Brosas also said that the government allots millions every year for funding the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or Eclip, which provides assistance to rebel returnees, yet there is no auditing to ensure their proper distribution.
A hearing in Congress will allow the Philippine Army to explain its side. Editing photos and using them for press releases can lead to misinterpretation.
Our lawmakers should investigate this incident, and make sure the probe is transparent and open to the public.

Kareen Asistio,

Call for Malaysia's Human Resources Ministry
To monitor exploitation of migrant workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 January 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 2 January 2019

While Malaysia has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nepal to adopt fair practices in recruiting workers from Nepal “Malaysia adopts fair practices in hiring Nepalese”, The Star, December 12, I wonder whether the Human Resources Ministry will monitor the situation to ensure that these foreigners are not exploited when they are actually working in Malaysia and that their terms and conditions of employment are in accordance with Malaysia’s Employment Act.
I have been in contact with a Nepalese man who is engaged in the security services here.
He has been working in Malaysia for about two years.
While he is not so conversant in English and Bahasa Malaysia, this is what I gathered from him about the terms and conditions of his employment:
He is paid a gross salary of RM1,700 a month.
He works 12 hours a day, seven days a week - that is, he does not get a weekly rest day or public holidays off or any annual leave.
RM100 is deducted from his salary for each day he does not turn up for work.
I presume he has “volunteered” to work on his rest days and on public holidays and to forgo his annual leave.
His employer provides accommodation and transport to his location of assignment and back to his accommodation.
Based on the current minimum wage of RM1,100 a month, and assuming that he is entitled to the minimum of 11 public holidays and eight days of annual leave under the Employment Act, he should be getting a gross salary of RM2,715.97 a month for working seven days a week, including on public holidays and during annual leave.
From the RM1,700 a month that he is paid, I assume the balance of RM1,015.97 is most probably used to pay for the accommodation and transportation that his employer is charging him for.
It looks to me like these terms and conditions of employment do not follow the Employment Act, so I suggested that he seek clarification from the Labour Department.
However, he is not willing to do so and said that he will complete his contract and go back to Nepal.
I know that it is a norm for employees (both local and foreign) engaged in the security services to work 12-hour days and I would not be surprised if the terms and conditions of their employment do not comply with the Employment Act.
But not many employees are keen to complain to the Labour Depart-ment.
Worse still, some foreign workers are at the mercy of the employers.
With so many foreign workers employed in the country, if the Labour Department were to take the initiative to interview some of them, I would not be surprised to find that many are being exploited, like my acquaintance in the security services.

CP Lee,

Wishing everyone, friend or foe, a happy new year
And a successful new decade from the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 1 January 2019

That Digong and Joma reach an agreement and peace talks come to a successful conclusion in a neutral country with no one “losing face.”
That natural disasters, which are largely caused by people themselves, do not affect the Philippines.
That we live and trade in peace with all of our neighbors without exception.
That science and logic go their own successful way and defeat stupidity and superstition. That new creative ideas abound. And that AIDS, TB, malaria and cancer will be defeated by medicine and in the future be treated like a cold.
I wish everyone, friend or foe, a happy new year and a successful new decade.

Jürgen Schöfer, Ph.D.,

People who play the racial and religious card
Are few and far between in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 January 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 31 December 2019

I thank former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim for his common sense and sound advice to the Pakatan Harapan government “Make introduction of Jawi optional”, The Star, December 30.
Most Malaysians are not racist.
Most simply go about their own business without imposing their values on others from different racial backgrounds.
I must say, every Malaysian I have come across can communicate in at least bahasa pasar (colloquial Malay), including my grandmothers who died almost 50 years ago.
There is no language barrier among most Malaysians.
I was having a buffet lunch in a hotel the other day.
There were quite a few large company groups at their year end get-togethers.
What I saw were Malays, Indians, Chinese, Sabahans, Sarawakians
I heard the accents and foreign workers.
Happy groups of people interacting with one another.
Truly the Malaysia that I know and experience.
People who play the racial and religious cards are few and far between.
These are the people who want to find a niche in the political landscape, to garner support by always blaming other races for their community’s problems.
Are these people capable of solving real problems with real policies instead of finding excuses with their rhetoric?
They are holding the country hostage by creating mutual suspicion and distrust among the people.
Zaid is absolutely accurate in addressing the real problems and policies of Malaysia.
His insights should be heeded by all Malaysians, including politicians from both sides and the man in the street.

Ch' Ng Chin Yeow,

December 19 was a day for justice
For Philippines massacre of 32 journalists
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 December 2019
First published in the Philippines, Thursday 26 December 2019

When I heard the verdict handed down in the Ampatuan massacre case, I was ecstatic.
As a former journalist, I’ve waited 10 long years for a court to convict the perpetrators of the country’s worst case of political violence, in which 58 people, 32 of them journalists, were killed execution-style.
The masterminds of this horrific crime - Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan Jr. - were sentenced to life in prison without parole.
But out of more than 107 who stood trial, only 28 people were convicted for murder, receiving 40-year prison terms, minus 10 for time served.
Another 15 people were found guilty as accessory to the murders.
The court acquitted 55 defendants of all charges. Then there are the 80 suspects that police have failed to arrest.
So this was justice, if only partially, and may not fully comfort victims’ relatives.
I’m especially reminded of Reynaldo Momay, the 58th victim, whose case the court did not include because his body was never found.
I wrote about him and his family when I was still reporting for The New York Times, and the bitterness I felt then only worsened after the court shunted aside his fate.
But in today’s Philippines, this verdict is a victory nonetheless - a rare triumph of accountability in a country notorious for impunity and where politicians and warlords can get away with anything, including murder.
The challenge now is to finish this quest for justice, starting with the arrest of the 80 suspects who remain at large.
Both victims’ families and witnesses remain in danger as long as these suspects are free.
Then there’s the question of whether another massacre of this extent could happen again.
I’m afraid that so long as the national government ignores or even coddles local ruling families with “private armies,” it is inevitable.
Until the military and police can be trusted to dismantle politicians’ illegal forces, instead of participating in them, those who try to exercise their basic rights, whether as opposition candidates, journalists or ordinary citizens, will be at risk.
So I fear these convictions will not upend my country’s dysfunctional political culture.
But December 19, at least, was a day for justice.

Carlos H. Conde
Philippines researcher
Human Rights Watch



Holiday park-goers have a responsibility
To maintain park cleanliness
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 29 December 2019

This is a rejoinder to “Practice 5 Rs to help the environment” in Letters, December 17, 2019 by Pamela I. Claveria, MD.
During an evening walkathon from my house in San Francisco del Monte Quezon City to the Roxas Boulevard Service Road in late December two years ago, I passed by the Luneta Park in Manila.
Upon reaching the wide open space directly in front of Jose Rizal’s monument, my heart sank.
There was trash everywhere - empty water bottles and tetra packs, plastic cups, candy wrappers, paper and plastic bags, plastic forks and spoons, barbecue sticks, used tissue paper, food containers and boxes, etc.
Obviously, these were thrown or left behind by the park’s visitors that day.
The mere sight was disheartening, diminishing whatever holiday cheer I was feeling at that time.
I suggest to local government units and park managers that they set up public address systems in public parks and places like Luneta, the Quezon Memorial Circle, etc., to blare out a brief but clear recorded announcement every 15 or 20 minutes urging everyone to pick up after themselves.
Perhaps this is what a lot of holiday park-goers need to be reminded of - that they also have a responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of the premises, whether they are there to have a picnic or just to stroll around.

Claude Lucas de Castro Despabiladeras,

2020 is the year to walk tall and carry a big stick
For truly fortune favours the bold
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 December 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 27 December 2019

2019 was a tricky year for Pakatan Harapan.
After winning the election the previous year, the pressure was on full steam for the new government to meet the high expectations of the electorate.
Perhaps a resounding success was never realistic, but when you belt out a tune that is so different from what's written on the song sheet, then there's no choice but to face the music.
In quick succession, Pakatan wavered on repatriation of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) stolen cash, dithered on punishing the criminals responsible, withered in each of the parliamentary by-elections, and - most importantly - havn't delivered on economic fulfilment of the rakyat.
The list goes on, but suffice to say, the missed opportunities have weakened the coalition's stability, stunted foreign investment, encouraged the opposition, and discounted the government's credibility.
This is a dangerous cocktail as we head to the mid-way point of Pakatan's maiden term.
The same concurrence of outliers that converged to sink Barisan Nasional in GE14 could potentially do the same for Pakatan in GE15.
Still, before you cork the bubbly and smother the sparklers, there is still reason to hope in 2020, which has now become a make or break year for Pakatan - and for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PKR in particular. After fumbling through much of the last year, it is imperative for the administration take decisive action in the coming year in order to give itself enough runway to showcase definitive results ahead of the general election in 2023.
This includes clarity on many of the big debates that fill the digital newsprint and social media, namely, those of leadership succession, economic vision, digital transformation, recouping stolen funds from the 1MDB conspirators, and hunting down, prosecuting and jailing the criminals involved.
This means direction from the top on prioritising objectives, and discipline amongst the ranks in achieving them.
This isn't the time to get sidetracked on pie-in-the-sky schemes around flying cars; rather, it means grassroots common sense policy around curbing inflation, increasing knowledge workers, enhancing food security, and most importantly setting a generational course for transforming Malaysia from a low-cost manufacturing economy to a high-wage innovation one.
Indeed, this was the very objective laid out for the country in the 1990s by the then and now Prime Minister in his Vision 2020 campaign.
Let us use the year 2020 to set us on the path towards this destination, even if takes us a generation to achieve it.
We played with fire to get the chance to build a new Malaysia, and achieved what many thought was impossible.
No doubt there will be critical challenges ahead, as the opposition turns up the dial on divisive identity politics and we look down the barrel of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
2020 is the year to walk tall and carry a big stick, for, truly, fortune favours the bold. Happy New Year, Malaysia, may we enjoy the peace and prosperity we all deserve in the year ahead!

Dr Rais Hussin,
Petaling Jaya,

Goodbye Samui
You really dug a hole for yourself
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 December 2019

About two years ago I went to Samui with my family for a holiday.
As a Thai I was shocked by the outrageous prices that the song taew the standard local mode of transport on the island which charged 500 baht one way, and 1,000 baht return.
What a rip-off!
I regret to this day not having rented a car at the airport on that trip.
With such pricing don't expect locals like me to ever set foot there again.
Apart from transport, even local seafood is overpriced.
The island is now way overbuilt and will now suffer its long and slow decline! Phuket may not be much better but at least there are a few rental companies to pick from.
Goodbye Samui. You really dug a hole for yourself!

Patrick Ma,

Call for Thailand
To share the wealth
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 21 December 2019

Re: "Is return of political violence inevitable?", in Bangkok Post Opinion, December 21.
No, the return of political violence is not inevitable.
Despite the example of violence set by repeated coups, Thais still prefer peace.
Nor are Thais fools; they increasingly realise that the major problems besetting their nation today, from retarded social and political growth, to the gross economic inequality where the greedy 1 percent own 67 percent of the nation thanks to blatant injustice under the law, to the moral corruption that pervades Thai society, are largely attributable to the repeated coups against democracy that help foster injustice and inequality in society, politics and law.
The impressive popularity of Future Forward when they burst onto the political scene only a year ago shows that Thais increasingly understand how cherished myths of nationalistic deceit have been abused to enable the repeated assault on democracy's beneficial morals.
Thailand could be and should be a beacon of peace, justice and democracy to Southeast Asia.
Thailand could be an economically developed nation where all share in the wealth.
It should have a well-educated people with respected universities driving international standard research.
Under the morally stunted status quo clinging to past injustice, Thais have been robbed of their nation's great potential.
Despite the promises of the PDRC and coup-makers, there has been neither reform nor reconciliation since 2014; on the contrary, the law is now being used to harass Thais calling for healthy reform.
Set apart from the old ways, Future Forward repeatedly proves itself the party of peace-driven principle.
It has taken the wholly "unThai" step of expelling elected MPs who did not uphold the party's commitment to agreed principles.
Can anyone imagine the likes of the prime minister's Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) taking such a step, of PPRP's impressively credentialed monkey feeder, as he so aptly describes himself, in the PM's cabinet actually asking MPs to leave the party for breach of a core principle?
Peaceful protest is a legitimate means of voicing ideas.
A government that was committed to reform would listen to the nation.

Felix Qui,

Call for public-listed companies
Not to use plastic water bottles at board meetings
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 December 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 23 December 2019

The year 2020 is just around the corner.
It’s the time of the year when public-listed companies will be conducting their annual general meetings.
During the meetings, most of the time bottled water or packet drinks will be provided.
Eventually these containers end up in drains, along the roadsides and, finally, landfills.
It is time to stop the use of bottled drinks.
Inculcate the habit of bringing your own water bottles.
A little inconvenience goes a long way.
Less rubbish is created.
Floods can be avoided when there are no clogged drains.
Just look into the drains anywhere and you can find them full of rubbish and most of the time emitting a bad stench too.
Go back to the times when there were no plastic bottles.
Some companies even provide food packed in plastic containers.
When there is too much food, much of it is wasted.
Sometimes the food has gone bad since it was prepared much earlier to cater to the large number of attendees.
Giving cookies or biscuits is good enough.
We now have a climate change emergency.
It is time to do something about this by changing our throwaway and rubbish-creating habits.

Kuala Lumpur,


All we are saying
Is give peace a chance
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 December 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 24 December 2019

As 1914 drew to a close, Europe had been at war for months.
On the Western Front, opposing armies faced each other across a stalemated front line running from the North Sea to the Swiss border.
On December 24, 100,000 soldiers from both sides of that line decided to create some peace on Earth.
They decorated their trenches, they sang carols across “No Man’s Land”, then walked into the space between their trenches, met, smoked and drank together, and exchanged what gifts they could round up.
Chaplains conducted Christmas services for all comers. Impromptu football matches were played between shell craters - Germany’s Battalion 371 beat the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 2 to 1.
A similar truce occurred on the Eastern Front between Austro-Hungarian and Russian troops.
The “Christmas truce” didn’t end “the war to end all wars”.
World War I dragged on for nearly four more years, at a cost of more than 20 million lives.
But for a brief moment peace reigned, proof that the hardening hearts of opposing armies could at least temporarily melt and that soldiers could treat each other as human beings rather than as mortal enemies.
Not all of them, certainly.
A young Austrian soldier is apocryphally said to have sniffed that “such a thing should not happen in wartime”.
The high commands on both sides suppressed press coverage of the “Christmas truce”, and resolved to prevent it from happening again.
In 1915, artillery barrages and raids were pre-planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to prevent peace breaking out a second time.
More than a century later, does the “Christmas truce” offer any lessons we can take to heart, or hold out the prospect of similar pauses in the wars that have consumed the United States, the Middle East, and Central Asia since 1991?
One obvious argument against such prospects is that the current wars tend to pit people of very different religious views against each other.
The West has become far less Christian and far more secular over the last century. On the other hand, Jesus does hold a high place – just not the highest – in Muslim esteem.
And Muslim combatants have been known to observe truces for their own high holidays.
As for lessons, the greatest one may be this: Wars may be planned and ordered by governments, but they are fought by people.
People who mostly, unlike the Austrian soldier mentioned above (his name was Adolf Hitler), prefer song and sport and friendship to mindless mutual killing.
Those people – not just soldiers, all of us – can decide at any time to stop cooperating with the murderous plans of our masters and instead choose peace on earth and goodwill towards each other. That choice embodies the spirit of Christmas.

Thomas L Knapp,
Director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism,
United States

UK has influence over Hong Kong
Until 2047
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 19 December 2019

Recent letters by the Chinese ambassador, "Xinjiang China's affair", in Bangkok Post December 14, and his office would have us believe that Xinjiang and Hong Kong are affairs internal to China and the communist government alone. The underlying message is that everyone else in the world should mind their own business.
Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that even though the UK gave up control of Hong Kong in 1997, it still has decision-making powers and influence over the region until the year 2047.
Hence, it is incorrect for the Chinese government to imply that no outside forces have the right to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs; the Middle Kingdom's leaders would have more credibility if they stated that no forces besides the UK should be interfering in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, the boundaries of present-day China have only been in existence for about 100 years.
Before this, Xinjiang did not exist, and the Muslim inhabitants living there were not bound to the Middle Kingdom.
The people of Xinjiang never voted to become a member-state of China, and nor did the inhabitants of Tibet or Taiwan.



China uses political and economic clout
All the time
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 December 2019

Re: "Xinjiang China's Affair", in PostBag, December 14
For China to claim that the Xinjiang issue and the treatment of Muslims is an internal affair and beyond global consideration is disingenuous on several levels.
China is one of the charter members of the United Nations which uses its political and economic clout to interfere in the internal affairs of countries all the time.
If countries were not questioned or challenged on their "internal affairs" by other nations then the Holocaust would still be continuing, Pol Pot would still be committing genocide, Idi Amin would still be butchering his people, and apartheid in South Africa would not have ended.
The list of such inhumanities is long and they never ended through strictly internal mechanisms and balancing.
If the treatment of the Muslims in China is really such a great programme then invite the World to "see" with unfettered access to all the stakeholders involved.
Simple solution: Prove your point!
Until then, criticism is fair game from the global community.

Darius Hober,

There is no truly safe exposure level
For chlorpyrifos and glyphosate
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 19 December 2019

The Volunteer Network's claim that the information used to support the chemical ban is based on "poor sources" is ludicrous in Bangkok Post, December 18.
The idea of "safe levels" is actually poorly sourced while the exposure rate is merely a distortion derived from industry propaganda to support sales.
Organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos and glyphosate are toxic at low levels and listed as suspected carcinogens.
There is no truly "safe" exposure level, just levels that are tolerated for corporate gain by chemical companies.
I challenge the Volunteer Network to produce any peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate human exposure to such chemicals has any benefit.
If they can produce such research, then maybe there is room for debate on the ban. The chance of this occurring though is nearly impossible.
Is the health and well-being of both farmers and consumers really worth a few baht?
If the network coordinator is making allegations of poor sources, where are the better sources?

Darius Hober,

Call for the word "equal"
To be added to the Thai constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 15 December 2019

Re: "Charter amendment 'necessary'", in Bangkok Post December 15, 2019
Who would not welcome a constitution founding their nation on a broad consensus of the Thai people?
But for the latest permanent constitution of the kingdom to be amended with everyone's consent, all citizens must be accorded an equal right to a voice in forming the finally agreed upon legal foundation of their nation.
A good place to start the amendment process would, therefore, be to enable the necessary discussion by amending the current Section 34, which fails to give strong legal protection to the fundamental right to free speech.
One amendment to give Thais a just voice in their affairs could be achieved by adding the word "equal" and deleting a few words so the amended Section 34 reads: "A person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinions, make speeches, write, print, publicise and express by other means. The restriction of such liberty shall not be imposed, except by virtue of the provisions of law specifically enacted for the purpose of protecting the equal rights or liberties of other persons."
Such an amendment to respect the rights of all Thai citizens as equally entitled to a voice in forming their nation's government and society has the virtue of recognising democracy as fundamental to a just society that works for consent in forming the laws that govern it.

Felix Qui,

Thai military stuck in 60's and 70's
Worried about threat of communism
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 19 December 2019

I don't look forward to street demonstrations, but it has become apparent that our leaders don't have the mindset necessary to face the challenges that are facing Thailand.
For example, our prime minister has apparently only just discovered Google and Animal Farm and appears to support an army chief who seems to be stuck in the '60s and '70s and is still worried about the "threat of communism".
We have a huge inequality of wealth in this country and even after nearly six years, this premier has done the absolute bare minimum to address that.
Although the education system is well funded, our children's education leaves a lot to be desired, while the military's budget seems to be disproportionately large for peaceful times.
The air in Bangkok is nearly unbreathable, while an environmental disaster with fast-rising sea waters is looming on the horizon, but no one in this government seems to know how to deal with any of it except to spray some liquid in the air.
We are already or soon to become an ageing society, but outside of employing some of the elderly in parliament, the government doesn't seem to have any kind of a plan to deal with this either.
Corruption remains a big problem, and agencies that are supposed to tackle it don't seem to be doing anything, while the government doesn't seem to care.
In short, we have a group of old cronies with a reactionary mindset, hopelessly stuck in the past and who represent only a small group of rich people at a time when we need young, dynamic leaders who represent the majority and who have a progressive mindset and the energy, know-how and solutions to deal with the challenges facing us.



Call for Malaysian cities to adopt
Singapore city state transport model
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 December 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 December 2019

Oliver Wyman Forum and University of California recently unveiled the Urban Mobility Readiness Index that ranked cities with the best public transport system. Singapore came up on top.
Separately, McKinsey & Company had also produced their own index last year to measure the best public transport system in the world. Singapore also appeared at the top.
There must be something right about the city state’s public transport that we can learn from.
Singapore’s public transport is multi-modal, which means the entire infrastructure adopts several modes or types of public transport such as bus, mass rapid transit (MRT), light rail transit (LRT) and monorail.
In the late 1970s, Singapore was deliberating between having an all-bus system or a bus-rail system.
Despite having a team of experts from Harvard University pushing for the all-bus system, the government opted for the more expensive bus-rail system and began the construction of their first MRT.
The multi-modal system may be more expensive but it provides targeted solutions that correspond to the various needs of urban mobility.
For instance, a rail infrastructure, whether MRT or LRT, is more effective at high-demand corridors while buses work better in neighbourhoods with short-distance stops.
A good public transport infrastructure has various modes to complement each other to deliver the best result.
It is high time Malaysian cities adopt the multi-modal principle to improve our public transport.
Comprehensive strategies like the Penang Transport Master Plan – comprising light rail transit (LRT), monorail, tram, bus rapid transit or (BRT) and other transport modes – is an instructive model of how public transport infrastructure should be planned locally.

Joshua Woo,


Call for poverty in Papua New Guinea
To be addressed appropriately
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 December 2019
First published in the National, Monday 16 December 2019

Poverty in Papua New Guinea remains a development challenge.
Despite numerous efforts to curb, control and contain challenges in the face of development, the rate of poverty in Papua New Guines is alarming.
Fuelled by corruption and poor governance, poverty is killing Papua New Guinea.
Poverty remains a developmental challenge in our country.
The traits of poverty manifest in every aspects of life.
Our people are dying of curable and preventable diseases.
Maternal health, mortality rate and cervical cancer are some of the pressing health issues in our country.
But poor establishments of equipment, facilities and medicines in our aid post, rural health centres and hospitals is stressing our health system.
It is sad to note that our people are dying from curable and preventable diseases. Poverty in Papua New Guinea needs to be addressed appropriately as it remains a catastrophe.
Its prolonged negligence undermines the peoples’ right to live a simple and decent life.
Poverty is hindering chances to live a better life.
Though it cannot be undone, poverty will and always remain a challenge.

Ingiso Moss Hatavile,
Papua New Guinea


How many Filipino's affected by drugs?
Who are the drug lords in the Phiippines?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 16 December 2019

Sen. Bong Go has become so arrogant, impatiently urging Vice President Leni Robredo to disclose her findings.
He says drug pushers are the ones who should be scared, not the Duterte administration.
Really, drug pushers should be scared?
It was under Duterte appointees Nicanor Faeldon and Isidro Lapeña that billions worth of shabu were smuggled under the nose of the Bureau of Customs.
The two former Customs commissioners were simply reappointed to other posts. Who were arrested and prosecuted in these cases?
No one but the whistle-blower.
Unlike Go and his master, the Vice President carefully thinks and analyzes the situation before speaking her mind.
She does not promise that a problem as serious as drugs can be solved in six months.
She does not make easy threats such as “I will kill you if you destroy my country,” but tries to know what the real situation is how many are really affected by drugs, who are the big drug lords in the list, what are the programs/projects of other local and foreign agencies that would complement the government’s drug war.

Raffy Rey Hipolito,


Peace talks between Philippine government
And Communist Party of the Philippines to start again
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 December 2019

Former chief negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello stated that the peace talks may start again with communist rebels next month. It is very well-timed as government negotiators are in better position now to dialogue with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Defence Forces (NDF) to lay the insurgency to its end. The recent death of armed communist leader Armando Lazarte and the arrest of Jaime Padilla give the government the opportunity in the peace talks as these setbacks barely weaken the New Peoples Army (NPA) on the ground. The government must be watchful however to not allow the release of any arrested rebel leaders beneath the pretext of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and other preconditions set by the communist leaders.
The government has very little to lose if the said peace talks do not resume as it has all the time and resources to wipe out the remnants of insurgency in our country. The peace loving Filipinos hope that this will happen in Duterte’s term.

Kareen Asistio,
National Youth Commission,

A new magic word in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 12 December 2019

The Future Forward Party (FFP) is the biggest advocate for democracy in Thailand and uses "democracy" like it is a new magic word in the Thai vocabulary.
The party also claims quasi-ownership over what "democracy" expresses.
Future Forward Party (FFP got it right in saying each and every vote should count the same, and that votes should determine politics.
But it got it wrong about money in politics: Just how democratic is the FFP when big money is pumped in, not for the election, but at the level before, for the party? How much leverage does the lender have over the party?
And what happens if the party can't pay the money back?
Does Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, as lender, get more or less dictatorial power over the party than Thaksin had (or has?) over Pheu Thai and its predecessors?
It's not enough to point fingers at others and shout democracy.

A Johnsen,

Aung San Sui Kyi says the charge of genocide
Brought against Myanmar is misleading
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 December 2019

Aung San Sui Kyi says the charge of genocide brought against Myanmar is
" misleading ".
I agree. Sui Kyi is the one doing the misleading ( read, the distorting of the truth, or just plain lying! ).
The evidence of attempted genocide is well documented by reputable international bodies and is overwhelming.
Sui Kyi is trying to pull wool over the eyes of people at the genocide hearing in The Hague.
I can't understand why she has not yet been stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize?
She has disgraced the award.

Rajend Naidu,


Foreign athletes in the Philippines
Not asking for the moon
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 December 2019

Senate President Tito Sotto claims that we are too hospitable and should not pay too much attention to the complaints of athletes from other countries.
Were the foreign athletes asking too much that they be fetched at the airport at the soonest possible time?
Was it a very extravagant request that they be brought to the right hotel and the rooms were ready?
Were they very demanding to ask that adequate and nutritious food be served to them?
They were not asking for the moon, they were simply requesting basic amenities that we, as host country, should provide.
Yes, we would like our athletes to win.
But as the host country, it is our obligation to be good, effective and efficient guest relations officers for our guests.

Raffy Rey Hipolito,

Philippine Ombudsman dismisses plunder complaint
Against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 December 2019

We strongly condemn the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss the last plunder complaint against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) over the alleged misuse of P73 million of the PCSO’s intelligence funds.
The junking of the charges of plunder, malversation of public funds and graft against Arroyo came down while the Filipinos were busy watching the Southeast Asian Games and monitoring Typhoon “Tisoy.”
But we should not let a sports event or a severe weather condition divert our attention from national issues that affect us all.
Lest we forget, President Duterte offered pardon to Arroyo before the Supreme Court acquitted the latter of plunder charges in 2016.
The former president, on the other hand, thanked Mr. Duterte for the high court’s decision dismissing the plunder raps filed against her.
It’s no wonder that the Ombudsman recently junked that last plunder charges against Arroyo, and it’s impossible not to think that Mr. Duterte had a hand in the decision.
Evidently, the current administration has failed to give justice to the Filipino people and punish public officials who plundered the nation.Like Mr. Duterte, Arroyo should also be held accountable for imposing a fascist reign of terror through her counterinsurgency programs Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2.
The human rights group Karapatan has documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs), and thousands of illegal arrests and other rights abuses, under these programs. And as we commemorated last Tuesday the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners, we likewise condemn the special treatment given to known plunderers and human rights violators like the Arroyos and Marcoses, who enjoy freedom and comfort while hundreds of political prisoners are languishing in inhumane conditions in jail under the Duterte administration.
We also call for the immediate release of Jaime “Diego” Padilla, the 72-year-old spokesperson of the New People’s Army-Southern Tagalog, who was illegally arrested while seeking medical attention, in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which state that those hors de combat (outside the fight) should be treated with humanity.
Furthermore, Padilla is protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guidelines, or Jasig in his role as a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Jail the plunderers!
Release all the political prisoners!

Bagong Alyansang Makabayab-Cavate


Aung San Sui Kyi to answer charge of genicide
As private citizen at the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 December 2019

Is Aung San Sui Kyi making her uninvited trip to The Hague to defend the indefensible ?
The Myanmar State is facing a charge of genocide against the Rohingya Muslims brought by Gambia.
The evidence for the charge is well documented.
Aung San Sui Kyi claims she is making the trip to answer the charge as a " private citizen" ( ABC News 9/12 ).
So is she paying out of her own pocket to make the trip?
Or, is she going there as a paid propagandist for the brutal Myanmar military regime?

Rajend Naidu,


Call for helicopters to save Filipinos
Stranded and isolated in floods
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 December 2019

Please take a look at the devastation wrought by flooding in Cagayan Valley.
While local government units are extending a helping hand to the flood victims, the assistance is still not sufficient, perhaps due to limited resources and inadequate capacities.
The government should send out helicopters to save stranded or isolated people who have been left homeless, as well as transportation to move food, medical and other necessary supplies to flood-stricken communities.
As the water continues to rise, Magat Dam in Ramon, Isabela, also released water on December 6 at 7 a.m., adding more to the anxiety of flood victims as they struggle for their lives.
Cagayan Valley is on its knees, and it needs our help right now.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,

China bars Taiwan from the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 December 2019

I am happy to read about what Taiwan is doing to fight global warming, and it is a shame that they have been barred from participating in the Conference of the Parties held under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on climate change.
Every country in the world needs to do everything it can to mitigate the effects of global warming.
It also sounds like the Taiwanese Minister for Environmental Protection is a lot more impressed with Thailand's efforts in this area than even our government since as far as I know no one from this government has ever come forward to tell us about any plan to fight global warming, if such a plan exists.

Let Our Children Live,

Call for Fiji to do the right thing
For West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 December 2019

The Southeast Asian Times front page article ' Fiji women fly banned Morning Star flag in solidarity with West Papua ( 6 Dec ) tells us there are people in Fiji who are prepared to do the right thing by standing with the oppressed people of West Papua in their long struggle to free themselves from the yoke of Indonesian colonial rule.
This show of solidarity by the Fijian people must mean a lot for the West Papuans in their fight to live as a free people.
A right denied them by the Indonesian State.
Hope the Fijian State too does the right thing and support the just cause of the West Papuans and not come under the sway of the Indonesian State.

Rajend Naidu

"It is not always the same thing
To be a good man and a good citizen"
- Aristotle
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 December 2019

Re: "Elite hide behind phoney shield of 'patriotism'", in Bangkok Post Opinion, December 3.
Wrapping oneself in the flag is a fake and extreme way to love one's country.
Many have aptly defined true patriotism: "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen" - Aristotle,
"Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government when it deserves it" - Mark Twain, "To oppose corruption in government is the highest obligation of patriotism" - G Griffin, and "The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously" - Julian Barnes.
Certainly, ranting against one's nation is out of bounds, while showing pride in its achievements is nationalism and not patriotism.

Songdej Praditsmanont,


Call for much greater transparency
In Thai military spending
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 December 2019

Re: "Prawit defends army spending", in Bangkok Post, December 3, 2019.
I share Defence Ministry spokesperson Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich's concern that using incomplete information could cause misunderstandings and confusion among the public, and thus I propose much greater transparency be adopted. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon cannot get by with assurances that "spending of the military budget strictly adheres to relevant laws" any more than a SET-listed company's president can assuage shareholders by saying "your firm's spending strictly adheres to relevant laws" - and keep the company's books closed.
Since all funding for the military comes either from taxes or official work undertaken by soldiers, those monies properly belong not to the military but to taxpayers.
For example, if I have my driver open a car-washing business, using my time, equipment and staff, all revenues and expenses from the car-wash are mine, not the driver's.
Thus, to assure fund owners that their money is being used as intended, I suggest that, as with any listed company, the military be required to have its finances audited annually under the same standards and timetable as a SET-listed firm, by auditors authorised by the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission, with results including off-budget items posted on the internet.
The sole exception would be matters of national security, but even those must have controls, and we can look to how more transparent countries, like Singapore, control their military's finances.
Thus, for example, we should analyse income and expenses at military-controlled radio/TV stations, horse racing, etc, for their relevance to the armed forces' mission of defending us from external enemies, and at how we could get more value for money in achieving that mission.
Yes, Lt Gen Kongcheep, let's clear up public confusion through greater transparency.

Burin Kantabutra,

A tyrant cannot succeed without
A submissive citizenry in his grip
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 4 December 2019

Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Decembe 7, 1941, killing around 2,000 innocent people - soldiers and civilians - and thrusting America to the world war. Soon, some parts of the Philippines were bombed, too.
Never again should such a grisly, inhuman atrocity happen.
In today’s world where strongman leaderships are menacingly flying high, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that one of the darkest chapters in history cannot have a repeat.
On account of megalomania, power is attained and maintained at the expense of human lives.
The innocent becomes the primary victim of a leader who greedily wants to have it all.
It is worth noting that, back then, the people of Japan willfully surrendered their freedom and dignity so as to devote their lives to their emperor.
The culpability lies not only in those who are in positions of power, but also in the citizenry who are blind to the evils committed glaringly.
A tyrant cannot succeed without a submissive citizenry in his grip.
Our arch-enemy - the passion of the few to rule the many and accumulate so much wealth - is actually ever present, quietly lingering among us.
This is why the crusade for freedom should never cease, for freedom is not free, but has to be fought for.
The attack on Pearl Harbor should remind us of the necessity of unceasing vigilance.

Ian Carlo L Aragon,

Graffiti is not the answer to change in the Philippines
But it sure is an effective way to register protest
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 December 2019
Firts published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 29 November 2019

This is a response to Winna Vista’s letter, “Vandalism wastes gov’t money” in Philippine Inquirer, November 20, 2019.
In her letter, Vista expressed agreement with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who threatened to make the members of the cultural youth group Panday Sining lick their graffiti on the walls of the Lagusnilad underpass and other public spaces “because it costs a lot of money to clean and repaint those areas.”
Strangely enough, some of our countrymen - especially the middle class - see the costs of repainting walls but not the human costs of the government’s war on drugs and crackdown against unarmed activists.
What is the good of being decent when we see only what we want to see, or hear what we only want to hear?
People are getting killed without due process and workers are being jailed for merely asserting their rights, while the Duterte administration is selling out the country’s sovereignty to China.
Yet we choose to focus our attention on Panday Sining’s graffiti act itself, rather than the message it is trying to convey?
Why can we tolerate spray-painted signs like “bawal ang umihi dito” but not political slogans that expose government injustice?
“Will it be acceptable if people spray-paint the walls in University of the
Philippines (UP)?
Will it be the right thing?” asked Vista.
I did not study at Philippines (UP), but I don’t think its administration would react in the same manner that Moreno did, but would rather respond accordingly. Besides, University of the Philippines (UP) is no stranger to “vandalism.”
Last March, University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu’s facade was spray-painted with the words “SALOT” and “CPP-NPA,” Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) obviously Red-tagging the University of the Philippines (UP) community.
Not only was such graffiti malicious, it also endangered the university constituents by making them target of harassment or persecution.
Unfortunately, the incident did not attract much media attention.
True, spraying paint on walls is not the answer to change, but it sure is an effective way to register protest, especially when the democratic spaces are being compromised by the state.
We should not be fooled by the rhetoric of traditional politicians and bureaucrats equating blind obedience with good citizenship.
In fact, we should be grateful to the progressive youth artists for - in the words of Paul Simon - daring to “disturb the sound of silence.”

Daniel Aloc,

China in control
Of Philippines power grid
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 2 December 2019

Our lawmakers need to take a look at the news that our power grid is under the control of the Chinese government and can be shut off in time of conflict.
It’s alarming to know that the Chinese government now has the capability to interrupt our national power system.
This poses grave risks to our public structures and national security.

Ann Aquino,

The proposal to reform military conscription
Has wide popular support in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 December 2019
First published in he Bangkok Post, Thursday 28 November 2019

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha failed to grasp Future Forward's strategic brilliance when he accused its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of running the "wrong campaign" by calling for the abolition of military conscription," in Bangkok Post, November 28.
Future Forward has, on the contrary, chosen its first reform campaign very sensibly, as proven by the Prime Minister's failure to present any sensible opposing argument.
Future Forward's proposal to bring an antiquated conscription system, which is unfit for national defence or any other service to the nation, into the modern era of small, professional, well-equipped troops trained and equipped to respond quickly and effectively, including as "first rescuers" in natural disasters, is exactly what the Thai nation needs from the defence budget it pays for.
The proposal to reform military conscription also has wide popular support.
Future Forward is, therefore, to be congratulated on its political acumen in choosing to wage this particular campaign.
That Future Forward's proposal is already separating the good people from the bad old men in the eyes of the electorate will prove a valuable collateral benefit come the next election campaign.

Felix Qui,



Rice is no longer the backbone
Of the Thai economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post. Monday 25 November 2019

Re: "Make Thai rice great again", in Bangkok Post Monday 25 November
I respectfully disagree with the positions advocated in the Bangkok Post's editorial calling for increased government support to the rice sector.
While it is understandable that national pride would motivate Thailand to try to maintain its reputation for producing the highest-quality rice in the world, policymakers are on the right track in focusing research and development on the digital economy and other more promising emerging economic sectors of the future.
It should be painfully obvious to all that rice farming is a poverty trap for farmers and a huge drain on the country's financial resources.
Successive Thai governments have rained billions of baht in taxpayers' money on farmers to subsidise a sector that otherwise cannot provide a decent income to rice producers.
Despite the handouts and support, most rice farmers remain poor.
The assertion put forth in the editorial that rice production has always been the backbone of the Thai economy - while perhaps true in the past - is no longer correct.
The 180-billion-baht value of Thai rice exported annually represents barely 2 percent of the country's total exports, lagging far behind at least nine other categories of goods shipped abroad.
Thailand will continue to produce outstanding rice well into the future.
But, the sooner more rice farmers are shifted to other more lucrative sectors, the better for all.
Current farmers may finally escape the poverty trap of rice farming and the country will escape from the burden of treasury-draining subsidies.

Samanea Saman,



Time for Thailand to establish modern military
That would include women
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 26 November 2019

Re: "Military draft to stay: Prawit", in Bangkok Post, November 26.
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon's concept of the place of conscription in the Thai military seems completely inconsistent with the government's 4.0 modernising strategy.
Rather than helping to create a "stable, equitable and fair" society, maintaining military conscription simply perpetuates the same old social and gender divisions (why are women excluded from conscription?) that impede any real progress towards achievement of those national development goals.
Surely it's time for Thailand to create a fully modern professional army, along the model adopted by many developed countries.
As well as comprising of well-trained and equipped personnel, able to defend the country, that modern army would provide a career path and opportunities for occupational training for many young people, including women, who are disenfranchised by the current conscription system.
Gen Prawit worries that if conscription were abolished then there would not be enough soldiers to defend the country, but he contradicts himself by admitting that "conscripts represent a small percentage of all recruits".
But wouldn't the country be better defended by a well-trained body of professional soldiers than a motley assembly of men who don't want to be there in the first place, and many of whom have spent most of their time since recruitment assigned as household servants to high-ranking officers?
The general claims that "public opinion would also have to be factored in if conscription were to be abolished", but it seems to me that the majority of the public is actually opposed to conscription.
As one who is so passionate about watches, Gen Prawit must surely know that the time has come for Thailand to abolish conscription and move from the past into the present.

N. Parker,

Thai Buddhist heart has much in common
With a Christian heart
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 23 November 2019

Re: "Give the Gospel a Thai face, says Pope", in Bangkok Post, Saturday November 23, 2019
Pope Francis has a good heart and means well, but he's a little off base in wanting to give Christianity a Thai face.
It doesn't matter what kind of face Christianity has.
What matters is its heart.
The face is merely a superficial membrane.
The heart symbolically, at least is the core of one's being.
Insofar as the Thai heart is a Buddhist heart, it has much in common with the Christian heart.
The heart of Christianity, its primary virtue as taught by Jesus, is love.
The heart of Buddhism, as I understand it, is loving kindness.
If loving kindness (metta) is not the heart of Buddhism, as one of the four brahma viharas it qualifies at least as an auricle or a ventricle.
There isn't much difference between love and lovingkindness.
As near as I can make out, the major difference is that lovingkindness sublimates the element of attachment that we usually attribute to love.
So instead of focusing on what kind of face Christianity displays in Thailand, His Holiness would do better to focus on its heart.
If he does this, he will find that the heart of Christianity and the heart of Buddhism are pretty much the same.
Labels don't matter.
Buddhists don't need to become Christians, nor do Christians need to become Buddhists.
All that is needed is for both of them to become better exemplars of their own faith.

Ye Olde Theologian,

Graffiti not vandalism
But protest art
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 November 2019

I want to share my thoughts on the latest vandalism incident at Lagusnilad, Manila, where Mayor Isko Moreno challenged the members of progressive artist group Panday Sining to lick their graffiti.
Mayor Isko showed to the media how difficult it is to scrub off the graffiti on an electric box right in front of the Manila City Hall.
Members of Panday Sining said it was freedom of expression as art.
For purposes of discussion, what if we all go to their respective houses and spray-paint their fences, walls or vehicles?
They also quoted a University of the Philippines (UP) professor saying that it is legal and valid and should not be taken as a form of vandalism, but protest art.
Will it be acceptable if people spray-paint on the walls of the University of the Philippines (UP)?
Will it be the right thing?
I understand where Mayor Isko is coming from when he said that those who vandalized the walls in Manila should lick their graffiti, because it costs a lot of money to clean and repaint those areas.
In fact, that money could have been used for other purposes such as for indigent patients in the Philippine General Hospital, or relief efforts for quake-hit areas in Mindanao.

Winna Vista,



Judges and Justices getting killed
Left and right in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 November 2019

The Supreme Court has sent to Congress its draft of a bill creating the Philippine Marshal Service to gin up calls for special protection for all magistrates and their personnel.
It is virtually an admission that the Philippine National Police can no longer be expected to do its job of protecting everyone.
Judges and justices are getting killed left and right.
Come to think of it, so are lawyers.
Should not the Integrated Bar of the Philippines also draft its own “marshal plan”?
So how does that work, really?
Will judges, justices or their personnel under some kind of threat (imagined or real) be provided with such glorified security guards?
The proposed budgetary appropriation seems too paltry for such a gargantuan task.
Will the Supreme Court raise filing and docketing fees again?
Already, litigants are being forced to pay astronomically high court fees to fund astronomical increases in the salaries, allowances, etc. of judges, justices and their personnel without litigants perceiving any improvement in the usual snail-paced movement of their cases.
It is copycat legislation, patterned after models now in place in countries that have no problem footing the bill for such a cash-intensive scheme.
Let’s face it, it is a luxury that cash-strapped, Third World countries like ours can ill afford.
Besides, no one is really safe from a determined assassin.
Every citizen in this country is always in danger of being killed one way or the other.
Curiously, does not the Supreme Court-sponsored proposal violate the “equal protection” clause of the Constitution?
Are magistrates and their personnel more “equal” than the rest of us?
Obviously, the quality of law enforcement in this country sucks.
Police authorities are often seen as “sleeping on the job.”
We doubt, though, if transferring control of “special cops” to the Supreme Court will do the trick - given its already insurmountable problem of dealing with thousands upon thousands of unresolved cases.

Marcelo Jr., Garcis,

Malaysian government applauded for establishing
The Consultative Council for People’s Harmony
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 November 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 15 November 2019

The government should be applauded for the establishment earlier this year of the Consultative Council for People’s Harmony (Majlis Perundingan Keharmonian Rakyat).
This is an apt, wise and timely initiative to strengthen national harmony and begin a new narrative on race relations.
Over the past few months we have seen our unity and religious harmony fraying at the edges. Racial polarisation has worsened and ethnic divides have widened. It is time to heal the nation and bring our people closer together.
Hopefully, the Consultative Council will help overcome racial divides and promote closer relationships that are so vital for economic growth and continued prosperity, peace and stability. And, hopefully, the government will endorse and implement whatever recommendations the council proposes.
Having served on the previous NUCC (National Unity Consultative Council) and having been honoured to be one of 15 members appointed to the new council, I hope to be able to contribute constructively to the strengthening of national unity and harmony.
Growing up in the 1960s in a mixed multiracial school environment, I am reminded of moments of unity at school back then. I look forward to working with other members on the new council to recall such unity in strengthening national harmony.
To enhance national unity, I propose that we focus on the 4Rs and 4Ms. The 4Rs are respect, reciprocity, responsibilities of citizenship, and racial and religious tolerance. The 4Ms are moderation, morality, mechanisms to overcome conflicts, and middle Malaysia standing up for unity and harmony.
The silent majority must not stand silent when our unity and harmony are being threatened. They should stand up and speak up against intolerance and bigotry.
We must end ethnic and religious divides. We must not let polarising politicians from either side of the political divide to continue to divide us. Political leaders, whatever their political allegiance, must condemn and reject extremism and hate speech and promote policies that are just, fair and inclusive.
The government should also implement the Hate Crimes Bill that the previous NUCC had unanimously recommended.
There are several grassroots organisations that are committed to working towards national unity like Dialog Rakyat, Maju, G25 and others. We should support and applaud their efforts.
Moving forward, we should promote the values of acceptance, compromise and tolerance (ACT) and act boldly to enhance trust and confidence. National harmony can be further enhanced if policies are fair, just and inclusive.
Many people may be sceptical or cynical about what the new council can achieve, but give the council a chance to make a difference and place confidence in the Pakatan Harapan government to accept and implement what the new council will propose.
Let not our efforts be in vain. The time for national reconciliation is now and more important than ever.
Finally, we should uphold and practise the 4Cs: cooperation, confidence-building, consultation and upholding the Constitution as the bedrock of national harmony.

Tan Sri Michael Yeoh,
National Harmony Consultative Council,
Kuala Lumpur,

Many Asean countries
Kowtowing to China
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 15 November 2019

Re: "Trump gamesmanship risks Asean ties", in Bangkok Post Opinion, November 15.
Khun Thitinan wrote: "If Asean-US relations sour in the near term, China will be a major beneficiary, putting Asean at a disadvantage."
Many Asean countries are already kowtowing to the Chinese.
They are placing themselves in a disadvantaged situation, a situation which will soon prove too late to escape.
China will "own" these countries.
The Chinese understand that the greed of leaders of several Asian nations makes them easy to manage.


Call for Thai Minister Thamanat Prompow
To be moved to an inactive post
The Southeast Asian TImes, Saturday 23 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 12 November 2019

Re: "PPRP MP Parina under fire for Ratchaburi poultry farm," in Bangkok Post, November 12.
I have no problem with Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Capt Thamanat Prompow ordering Alro to check on Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP Parina Kraikup's poultry farm which rests on Sor Por Kor land, a special public plot assigned to local farmers to make a living.
But "Thamanat, using the name Manat Bophlom, was arrested in Australia and charged with conspiring to import 3.2kg of heroin ... pleaded guilty, was released from Parklea prison on April 14, 1997 after four years' imprisonment and deported"
("Sinister minister: Thai Parliament to ask for Australia's help over politician's criminal past," The Sydney Morning Herald, October 10, 2019; emphasis added.)
"The Thai Constitution states that a person who has been involved in narcotics offences ... is prohibited from being elected as an MP", July 10, 2019.
On the other hand, DPM Wissanu Krea-Ngam said Capt Thamanat's "eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary", which seems to be contrary to what our constitution says.
Should crimes committed overseas help reveal a person's ethics and integrity, especially since the man claims innocence and no jail record?
Being a Thai cabinet member is a very high honour and we surely should not have a sinister minister in it.
While his case is being investigated, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should move Capt Thamanat to an inactive post, as is customary to stop him from interfering with the probe.
The facts should be readily available from the NSW Supreme Court, NSW District Court, and Parklea Prison

Burin Kantabutra,

Philippine government’s three-year drug war
Mostly targeted the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 November 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo has recently responded to the seemingly overwhelming challenge to overhaul the flagship “war on drugs” program of the Duterte administration.
This bravado shown by the second highest elected leader of the country must have concrete support from all sectors of society, or else we will all fail.
With the immensity of the problem, we are required to commit time, effort and resources and not to stand by the sidelines, or else we become counterweights to the solution.
How much more blood will be shed, and how much more mourning will happen, especially among the poor?
As a people threatened by this social malaise, “It takes a village to raise a child” should be our guiding mantra.
The task of going to war against drugs demands the sustained commitment of every Filipino in each household of the community.
We must exhaust all means of communication to inform and educate people on the malevolence of drug addiction, especially with the government’s three-year drug war resulting so far in a limited achievement.
Based on reports, drug-based arrests and killings have mostly targeted the poor as hapless victims.
Now is the time to act as one people in addressing the massive problem of poverty.
We must awaken our love for country and not wait for a social upheaval, as in the case of Lebanon, Venezuela, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Hong Kong, to name a few.
Our village, our beloved country, is in dire need of volunteers - wherever you are in the archipelago, there your mandate is to serve the poor, the marginalized and the needy.
VP Leni cannot do it alone.
She is only demonstrating for us that while she can stay comfortable and allow time to pass by without dirtying her hands, she has instead chosen to act now and provide the leadership we need very badly. Halina, tulong din tayo!

Jaime D. Raneses,
Kugos Bikol Inc.



Call for Malaysia Election Commission (EC)
To reject restrictions for door-to-door campaigning
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 November 2019
Firts published in the Star, Thursday 14 November 2019

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) questions the condition set by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) that requires candidates for the Tanjung Piai by-election in Johor to apply for a police permit for door-to-door campaigning.
We call on the Election Commission (EC) as the highest body for electoral management to reject the the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) proposed condition as it is not based on the law and restricts the freedom to campaign.
There has never been such a restriction in the history of elections in Malaysia.
Bersih 2.0 wishes to remind the EC and all, that it is mandated by the Federal Constitution to request assistance from public authorities to assist in the conduct of elections as provided in Article 115(2): “All public authorities shall on the request of the Commission give the Commission such assistance in the discharge of its duties as may be practicable.”
The police cannot go beyond the limit set out in Section 24B of the Election Offences Act 1954 which states that the candidate only needs to obtain a permit from the police if he wishes to organise any meetings, a rally, display, or such entertainment involving speeches or lectures.
It is unreasonable for the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to impose unnecessary rules to restrict the campaigning methods of candidates, more so when the rules are set midway of the campaigning period.
With the short campaign period, the requirement to apply for a door-to-door campaign permit is unreasonable and unfair to the candidates.
Given that there is no need for police permits to assemble under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, it is very unreasonable to propose this new permit.
In fact, Bersih 2.0 proposes that provisions on the need for police permits for political talks under the Election Offences
Act 1954 be abolished in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.
Bersih 2.0, once again, urges the police and the EC to revoke this requirement for a permit for door-to-door campaigning and allow the Tanjung Piai by-election candidates the freedom to campaign in whatever way they feel is necessary as long as they adhere to the Election Offences Act 1954 and other related laws.

Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee,
Kuala Lumpur,

Prosecutors accused of colossal bungling in recovery
Of Marcos ill gotten wealth

The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 18 November 2019

The news “Sandiganbayan: PCGG can appeal dismissal of case vs. Marcoses” in Philippine Inquirer November 13, 2019 showed us the colossal bungling on the part of the prosecutors of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) handling the P102-billion ill-gotten wealth case against the Marcos dynasty.
Are they really the best lawyers the government can afford?
How pathetic!
First, they screwed up the presentation of evidence during the trial by exhibiting only photocopies of vital documents.
A big no-no learned in evidence class in any law school.
Without the originals being produced, no court can give any credence to photocopies which are so easy to manufacture.
And then, even after shamelessly and shamefully losing the case, they still had the temerity to file a fatally defective motion for reconsideration of the dismissal order. It was court procedure 101, for Pete’s sake!
How dumb can they all be?
It is no comfort that the Sandiganbayan has taken back its ruling to junk the motion for reconsideration.
The fact still remains: No competent and credible evidence exist in the wake of mere photocopies being the ones the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) prosecutors are principally relying upon.
Alas, given President Duterte’s “love affair” with the Marcoses whose huge contribution to his presidential campaign in 2016 made him what he is now, we would not be surprised if he promoted those nincompoops or appointed them as judges - instead of firing them.
Heaven help us!

Grace Po-Quicho,



The Chinese communist state
Cannot be accused of being hypocritical
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 November 2019

China has rejected the visa for two Australian senators for a China study tour because they had made negative/ critical comments on China.
Now there is no real surprise there because that is consistent with the way the Chinese communist state behaves.
It tolerates no criticism of its conduct.
That tends to be true also for some third world democracies where the ruling mob find criticism unpalatable .
The case of the ban on historian Professor Brij Lal ( of Australian National University ANU ) and his wife Padma Narsey by the Fijian State is an example in point.
What I find surprising is why some western democracies behave in a not dissimilar manner?
I have been the victim of a visa rejection by the US. I am a pro- democracy activist.
I can't understand why the US has denied me entry.
At least the Chinese communist state cannot be accused of being hypocritical.
We can't say the same for American democracy.

Rajend Naidu,

Going after small-time wildlife poachers or traffickers
Is not the solution
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 November 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 November 2019

The latest revelation by the Inspector-General of Police that VVIPs are involved in the illegal wildlife trade and poaching is indeed cause for concern.
Stopping poaching requires action against these wealthy and influential bosses of often extremely well-connected organised crime gangs.
It is not just about catching and jailing poachers because there’s an endless supply of them. Going after small-time poachers or traffickers is not the solution; the focus should be on the big players in the poaching networks and corrupt government officials.
Among wildlife traffickers, these VVIPs are typically big business people who cover up their crime by exploiting their status to benefit themselves, those close to them, and their organisations.
They usually have legitimate businesses acting as a front for their illegal activities, such as trading or shipping companies or commodity-based businesses, all of which makes it easier for them to move cargo around.
These individuals, often with honorifics to their names, have powerful connections with government officials, politicians, the well-heeled, and the elite.
Criminal groups dealing in wildlife tend to include multinational players which further complicates investigations.
Governments often do not share information or effectively collaborate across borders.
The spike in poaching recently, with animals slaughtered inside national parks or conservation areas, shows that poachers have little fear of tough new laws designed to end the killing.
They have no respect for borders; if one nation toughens its laws, they will move to a neighbouring country.
If protection is extended to one endangered wildlife population, they will target another species.
Corruption is another factor; and corruption among government officials, agencies and rangers has profound effects on the extent of poaching and wildlife trafficking. Corruption plays an important role in facilitating wildlife crimes, undermining efforts to enforce laws against such crime. Local communities, too, are often willing participants in the illegal wildlife trade.
Experts say it’s time to treat this billion-dollar illegal trade in the same way as other serious organised crimes, by adopting tools commonly used in fighting drug lords and other crime kingpins such as anti-money laundering techniques, and financial investigation.
There is virtually nothing done in terms of investigation into the financial side of the wildlife trade.
Money laundering experts should be involved in tackling wildlife crime.
Corruption and weak regulatory frameworks may offer several opportunities for criminal organisations to launder the proceeds of the crime.
A one-size-fits-all approach in tackling wildlife trafficking is unlikely to be effective and individual, case-dependent solutions must be developed if illegal wildlife trafficking is to be stopped and our animals saved.

Meenakshi Raman,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Malaysia's Council of Rulers to promote
National philosophy of resistance and intolerance to racism
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 November 2019
First Published in the Star, Thursday 14 October 2019

Malaysians were recently blessed with sound advice on unity from our royal rulers.
Firstly, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Riayattuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, in his address at Maulidur celebrations last weekend, said that “the Prophet’s administration emphasised the feeling of love among each other, and could universally be used as a major example to generate solidarity among the people” “Respect and love key to solidarity”, in the Star, November 10.
Secondly, the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, in his address at the National Islamic Affairs Council’s golden jubilee celebrations on November 7, said Muslims should not be passive spectators, as this would allow Islam to be hijacked by groups that manipulate the religion to fit their narrow purpose “Sultan: Islam is shaped by its people”, in the Star November 8.
Indeed, this could easily be applicable to all Malaysians regardless of race or religion.
These words from royalty could become a clarion call to all Malaysians to adopt their meaning to strengthen national unity.
It is my humble wish - and surely that of all patriotic Malaysians - to appeal to our illustrious Council of Rulers to more strongly promote this national philosophy of resistance to and intolerance of any form of racism, religious bigotry and the violation of human rights.
We should follow up with a national movement that could impose effective checks and balances on politicians and even some wayward academics who uttered sentiments that have harmed our maruah negara national dignity.
We are aware that these anti-Malaysian statements have caused much hurt to a large number of Malaysians and even shaken the confidence of friendly foreign investors in Malaysia’s future.
Many have asked whether this is, in fact, the deep state intention of the organisers of the recent “Malay Dignity Congress”.
If this negative perception is not corrected and put right in time, and before any elections, we may witness unfortunate consequences that could undermine our national well- being.
As a proud non-Malay Malaysian, and no doubt like many others, I feel sadly pained by attacks on my Malaysian identity and “Malaysianess”.
I ask my fellow Malaysians who uttered those hurtful words how they would feel in our shoes.
Where are the truly Malaysian values as reflected in our Constitution and Rukun Negara?
Actually, all our socioeconomic successes so far, and our hard-won peace and stability, could be easily wiped out by racial and religious extremists and corrupt leaders.
Thus we as patriotic Malaysians should stoutly rally around our royal rulers and supportive political leaders to build mutual respect and love for each other.
Let us all reject hatemongers in our elections.
We need to ensure that we will not be hijacked by extremists, as advised by our wise rulers, or we will easily self-destruct.
Hidup Malaysia dan semua warga negara patriotic Malaysia!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Asli Center of Public Policy Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,

Why take Filipino American Kalei Mau off the national team
When SEA Games are just around the corner
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 14 November 2019

Since the announcement that the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games will be held in the Philippines this year, Filipino volleyball fans have been very excited to watch the games.
The women power spikers in the national volleyball team to watch out for are Alyssa Valdez, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Kalei Mau.
Both Valdez and Maizo-Pontillas were standouts in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines during their collegiate careers, and in their stints with different professional volleyball leagues.
A good reinforcement is Filipino-American Kalei Mau, who emerged as the most valuable player and best scorer in the 2019 Philippine Super Liga All-Filipino Conference.
Mau also helped the national team secure third place in the first leg of the Asean Grand Prix in September.
But on November 8, Mau was cut by the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) from the roster of the national team.
LVPI said Mau failed to meet the two-year minimum residency requirement to play for the national team in an international competition.
Mau began to play in PSL late last year.
She would miss the opportunity to play for our national team in the SEA Games this year.
But why release a lineup for the national team without first screening the eligibility of all the players?
And why the decision just now, when Mau has already trained with the whole team and when the SEA Games is just around the corner?
How come Mau was able to be part of the national team in an international competition like the Asean Grand Prix?
She would surely be a big loss to our national team’s bid for a podium finish in the SEA Games.
The last time the team won a medal (bronze) in the SEA Games was in 2005. Would we miss the opportunity to have another podium finish this year?
I hope not.
I do wish Mau could finally join our national team in the next SEA Games.
Despite this heartbreaking news, I hope this would not affect the preparation and performance of the national team in the SEA Games.
There’s still the home court advantage, anyway.
Let us support the women’s national volleyball team and the rest of our teams in the 30th SEA Games from November 30 to December 11.
As the Games’ official slogan goes, “We win as one!”

John Patrick F Solano,

Philippines activists are at the forefront
Of upholding the people’s basic human rights
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 November 2019

A wave of raids and mass arrests have descended upon Metro Manila and Bacolod City since October. 31, specifically targeting activists and development workers.
Among them are farmers, agricultural workers, trade unionists, cultural performers, community organizers and even minors.
A few days later, government officials red-tagged several humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in disaster relief and rehabilitation, and also organizations advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights in the Cordillera region as fronts of the so-called “communist terrorist group.”
These organizations have already belied the government’s baseless accusations, and some have even subjected their offices to inspections by the Commission on Human Rights just to prove that they are not in possession of firearms and explosives.
With the threat to the lives of many activists, development workers and human rights defenders, the general public must realize that their individual rights are also endangered with the culture of impunity reigning in the country.
Development workers and progressive nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in providing social services to marginalized groups and strive to address maldevelopment issues such as unemployment, landlessness, hunger, illiteracy, lack of access to health services, workers’ rights, children’s rights, environmental protection and similar concerns.
However, with the success of their programs came the maltreatment of state security forces.
Many of the government’s actions are meant to criminalize persons involved in development work and to legitimize the harassment being perpetuated against them by the police and military.
The government justifies these brutalities by saying that development workers are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) or that their socioeconomic projects benefit the New People’s Army (NPA).
But the truth is that the beneficiaries of these projects are the poor rural and urban communities.
Moreover, activists are at the forefront of upholding the people’s basic human rights, are critical of unjust and dubious government policies and programs, and demand accountability from those in power.
Thus, every citizen benefits from their tireless determination and sincerity in serving the people.
Past Philippine presidents, and now President Duterte and his administration, continually fail to understand that genuine development happens when human rights are respected and enjoyed by the people, instead of being restricted.
The President’s efforts to silence his critics are failing miserably, and instead, their voices are growing louder with every human rights violation he instigates.

Bishop Dindo Ranojo,
Diocese of Tarlac, Iglesia Filipina Independiente,
Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network



Build, Build, Build and Belt and Road Initiative
Boldest and most ambitious infrastructure program
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 11 November 2019

This is in reference to your editorial “Downsized promise” in Philippine Inquirer November 6, 2019.
First and foremost, we wish to unequivocally state that the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program was never just a fleeting political sound bite of this administration - as your editorial seems to imply - but is the boldest and most ambitious infrastructure program for the future in order to sustain, and even accelerate, the country’s economic growth and, more importantly, make our people’s daily lives more comfortable.
This program was brought about by the urgent and dramatic need to build up our country’s infrastructure due to decades of neglect and underinvestment of past administrations.
As it stands, the country is at least 20 years behind and, as a result, the life of most Filipinos on a daily basis, especially in our urban centers, has become almost unbearable.
Yet, in the face of this glaring and real problem, your editorial even attempts to trivialize the program by framing it as a capitulation to China.
This completely false and narrow-minded view clearly demonstrates your failure or refusal to see that “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) is primarily for the Filipino people.
And any country - whether Japan, South Korea, China or the United States - is more than welcome to assist and participate for as long as the benefits will redound to our people, and without any strings attached.
Secondly, “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) was never just about the Duterte administration.
Following the President’s aversion to anything that smacks of self-promotion, we have never claimed these projects to be his nor that all the projects under the program would be completed during the President’s term.
The sheer scale of the program makes this impossible, a fact that should be obvious to anyone.
What we have committed, and this has been on record from Day One, is to start all of them, complete as many as we can and significantly progress on most of them in order to build momentum into the years after his term ends in 2022.
Continuity is what is most important to the President, especially at this stage in his term.
“Build, Build, Build” (BBB) is all about building momentum into the future so that whoever takes over will find it very difficult to discontinue these projects and will, hopefully, put the welfare of the Filipino above any political consideration.
Last Wednesday, the National Economic and Development Authority approved the revised list of 100 infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs), which is more reflective of our most urgent needs and also comprises projects that we can start immediately.
A significant number of these projects - more than half - will be completed, while some will be partially operational, by 2022.
That said, we strongly disagree with your assertion that there has been a downsizing in the Duterte administration’s promise of ushering in a “golden age in infrastructure.”
Please note that the estimated cost for the 100 projects, which cover five categories - transport and mobility, power, water, information and communications technology, and urban development and renewal - is P4.2 trillion, more than double the P2.4 trillion of the previous 75 IFPs.
More importantly, this only forms part of the P8-trillion budget for the whole BBB program composed of thousands of projects.
So clearly, there has been no reduction, rather we were simply rationalizing and prioritizing a portion of the whole.
Finally, of the total 100 projects, 26 will be implemented through public-private partnerships (PPPs).
Unlike in previous administrations where contracts were riddled with provisions that exposed future administrations to potentially huge liabilities and exorbitant user fees, the Duterte administration will ensure that PPPs promote public interest and shall be for the people.
Building strong momentum and ensuring continuity are the keys to the success of “Build, Build, Build” (BBB).
The boldness of this type of long-view thinking is what separates the Duterte administration from previous ones, which focused more on politics instead of the much-needed infrastructure buildup that our people so desperately need.

Vivencio B. Dizon,
Presidential Adviser on Flagship Programs and Projects,

It is not right for the Papua New Guinea police
To use violence against any citizen

The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 November 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 7 November 2019

It is not fascinating but very terrifying to hear and read about the increasing police brutality and abuse of constitutional duty daily.
The result is the loss of billions of kina by the State and hundreds of lives.
It is not right for the police or any disciplinary officer to use violence against any citizen, whether your family member or any other citizen for that matter.
Using maximum violence to carry out State duty is constitutionally erroneous.
We are seeing this happening in our country with policemen going rogue daily.
Police have statutory duties to perform which is the State’s right.
The right lies in the State and it controls the State’s institutions such as the Papua New Guinea Royal Constabulary.
The rights of the State lies in the hands of the public or citizens.
The institutions, especially the police and other disciplinary forces, should not see themselves as having the right to apply violence on anyone, anytime.
The police have the legitimate duty to protect the interest and rights of the people and have no right to apply maximum violence.
The powers of the police are primarily to maintain law and order through:
Arrest and charge lawbreakers and detain them in police cells so that they can face the law in courts;
ensure peace and good order in the community;
provide security to all citizens so that our rights and freedom and our properties are protected;
investigate criminal activities;
escort very important persons (VIPs) when the need arises; and,
Enforce court orders.
These are the main duties of the police and any activities contrary and apart from these are criminal. It doesn’t matter what social status or position or objective the officer has.
Their duty is to ensure that the law achieves its purpose.
Everyone should allow the law to operate as it is intended and these require a collective effort, whether the law achieves its purpose depends on actions and decisions they take.
Applying maximum violence will not achieve the purpose of the law, of our freedom, equality and the rule of law will be affected.
The consequence are escalating law and order problems.
The police have a duty to adhere to the law and act accordingly to the law.
If the law provides certain processes and procedures that require them to follow when carrying out State duties and activities, they have to abide by the sets of procedures.
They should also respect the rights of every individual.
Police have the constitutional duty to execute and not a legitimate right to apply extreme violence.

Eric Mumson Piuk,|
Gerehu Stage 4,
National Capital District (NCD)
Papua New Guinea

What will happen to Hong Kong?
Why has Beijing not interfered?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 November 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 5 November 2019

Suppose, in 1989, the tanks did not roll into Tiananmen Square in China.
Suppose, in that glorious summer, there was no crackdown and no deaths.
Would the students and workers’ protest have ended without incident?
More significantly, would the Chinese Communist Party have retained its power unscathed?
The answers are yes and yes.
Admittedly, counter-history is a rich fount of conjecture.
But these questions are not entirely hypothetical. Perhaps the most important consequence of Tiananmen is one missed entirely by foreign experts and historians. It relates to the Communist Youth League faction, and how it had, through Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, inspired and empathised with the protesters and how it had, through Hu Jintao and Li Keqiang, gone on to preside over the country’s pinnacle of power, the Politburo Standing Committee.
The aspirations and demands of Tiananmen, therefore, were in some way and to some extent fulfilled and subsumed by government following the event.
But what exactly were those aspirations and demands?
Here, we find another misconception the outside world holds about Tiananmen. The protesters had demanded democracy, it is true, but not in the form of de jure rights of liberty and property as the West believed.
Far from that.
The protesters had demanded protection for their de facto rights of person: protection from the avarice, corruption, and rapacity unleashed by the newly-liberalising Chinese economy – indeed, protection from the rights of individual liberty and private property itself.
Unfamiliarity with these two concepts of freedom is due to their nuance.
And three decades after Tiananmen, they are again confused by international observers of the protests in Hong Kong.
The people want democracy, the media reiterates – without first asking what democratic freedom might actually mean in a bastion of free trade in the Far East, where deregulated markets, private capital, and the rule of law survive in the shadow of state mercantilism and party rule.
Where is there no democracy in Hong Kong?
But, indeed, therein lies the problem.
The rights of individual liberty and private property have been so long sanctified in Hong Kong that they intrude upon the rights of the unpropertied and desolate classes to rest, eat, breathe, and exist.
Perhaps it is because of this that the propertied and law-abiding residents, though exasperated by the anarchy and destruction, have not turned on the protesters.
In fact, in an extraordinary solidarity incomprehensible to outsiders, they seem silently to empathise with their unhappy brethren – and are quick to tell foreign critics to butt out.
What, then, is really going on in Hong Kong?
Very simply, the unpropertied and desolate classes want security in their lives and livelihoods.
They want housing, welfare, healthcare, jobs, pensions – provisions traditionally (but no longer) administered by the secret societies.
In short, they are crying out for protection of their wellbeing – for good governance.
But the present government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), being from its historical legacy merely a non-interventionist overseer of trade, markets, capital, property, and the law, is unable to supply this protection and governance.
The result is deep-seated discontentment, directed with fury and loathing toward the government and its branches of judiciary and police.
Interestingly, the discontented seem to not begrudge their propertied and affluent brethren. Instead, they resent the Chinese mainlanders who, long their inferiors, have now both wealth and wellbeing.
The significance of this “human condition” context is the denouement it anticipates.
What will happen to Hong Kong?
This question is best answered with another: Why has Beijing not interfered at all?
Beijing, of course, knows perfectly what is going on and what lies ahead.
Social-political unrest is an intrinsic element of the Chinese state.
“The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide.
Thus it has ever been.”
– the opening lines of the famous 14th century saga, Romance Of The Three Kingdoms. For centuries, what every ruling dynasty had feared most of all was the truth of the maxim, nei luan, wai huan, or “internal disorder, external threats”.
To hedge against this prophecy, the central government had long deployed negative liberties abroad as a relief valve for positive liberties denied at home.
Thence emerged the phenomena of the porous border on the southern coast and of the “Overseas Chinese”, who, frustrated and oppressed at home, were allowed to venture abroad and freely acquire wealth.
Thus grew Canton, Qing China’s relief valve, and the inheritance of the same function by colonial Hong Kong.
This circumstance, however, has come full circle. In years to come, Hong Kong’s protests will become known as its Cultural Revolution moment.
They signify Hong Kongers’ laying waste their institutions of government and law and clearing the way for new ones.
As in the 1960s, Beijing need not intervene.
For, as after 1989, the aspirations and demands of the protesters will become fulfilled and subsumed by the HKSAR government – not the present one but a government new in form and substance.
This new government will not involve the party, because it will, in its own exclusive way, exercise socialism with Chinese characteristics and intervene more fully in society.
It has long been said privately that the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement of 1997 was always an anachronism.
One generation after Hong Kong’s handover, we are now probably witnessing the irony of free trade and individual liberties being discarded, by popular choice, in the Far East.

Petaling Jaya,

ASEAN dodges hard questions
On Myanmar and West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 November 2019

Gerry Popplestone ( Southeast Asian Times 10/11 ) informs us that no one at the recent ASEAN leaders meet strongly criticised Aung Sung Sui Ky for failing to improve the conditions in Myanmar so that the Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh to seek refuge from the atrocities - mass murder, burning of villages, rape, looting - committed against them by the Myanmar State military force could return to their homeland.
Is anyone surprised by that ?
No one should be because it has become pretty much the norm for leaders at such international and regional meets to dodge the hard questions requiring of them to do what's right and to dwell instead on what is politically expedient.
We see a not dissimilar situation in the case of the West Papuan struggle for the right to live as a free people.
It's a shameful sidestepping of the hard issues.

Rajend Naidu,


Call for Aung Sann Suu Kyi to improve conditions
For return of Rohingya to Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 November

Aung San Suu Kyi must be rubbing her hands in glee!
Everyone at the Asean Summit is busy celebrating "Advancing Partnership for Sustainability".
So far, no one has strongly criticised her for failing to improve conditions in Myanmar, enough for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return safely to their old homes.
She must be happy that the crisis for her is slowly receding.
If she keeps holding her breath a little longer, then maybe the problem will disappear!
Except for all those stressed refugees still surviving in the camps in Bangladesh.

Gerry Popplestone,

Call for policy alternatives that will ensure
The right of Filipino nurses to just compensation
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 November 2019

This is in response to Maristela Abenojar’s letter, “Pass law on nurses’ minimum base pay” in Philippine Inquirer, October 14, 2019.
I am one with the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) in their call for higher wages for nurses in both the public and private sectors.
However, pushing for a P30,000 minimum base pay for nurses in both sectors will not result in the equality that the proposed policy is aiming for.
Currently, Salary Grade (SG) 15 is equivalent to P30,531.
Thus, nurses in the public sector are already receiving a base pay higher than what is being proposed.
When Congress decides to change the law, it usually does so prospectively. Therefore, rather than setting the minimum or base pay at P30,000, it might be more beneficial for private nurses if we lobby for equal pay for both private and government nurses.
Equal pay would mean pegging the salary of all nurses, whether in the private or public sector, at the base pay set by the law for government nurses, which is Salary Grade (SG) 15.
Hopefully, in the long run, any increase in the base pay of government nurses based on the salary standardization law and the General Appropriations Act would mean the same increase for those in the private sector, creating equal footing for all nurses regardless of the sector they are working in.
While this is a far-fetched policy alternative, with possible resistance from private health care institutions, it will guarantee private nurses salaries at par with salaries of government nurses.
I call on Filipino Nurses United (FNU) the Philippine Nurses Association and the Bayan Muna party list to review House Bill No. 3478 and look at other policy alternatives that will ensure the right of Filipino nurses to just compensation.

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



Philippines drug war a failure
Few big time drug lords brought to justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 November 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo was being too nice when she said that the drug war needs to be reassessed. In fact, it has been a failure.
Back in 2016, I, along with many, was surprised to find out how many Filipinos were illegal drug users.
I recall that half a million registered with the police to admit using drugs even before President Duterte assumed office.
Many seemed to want help with their problem.
But his efforts have been a failure.
He boasted that he would clean up the drug problem in three months, and now admits that it will take his entire six-year term.
Looking back, the administration jumped to conclusions, and used wrong methods to deal with the problem.
For instance: Our prison system wasn’t ready for it.
According to an Inquirer editorial citing the World Prison Brief, we have the most overcrowded jails in the world.
On the average, 40 men are crammed into a space meant for 10.
We have a judicial system that is constipated, cannot move the additional drug cases along.
Criminal litigation can take forever.
Those who are denied bail because they have a drug charge are jailed in eternal purgatory.
The Ampatuan massacre trial, after 10 long years, has yet to be resolved!
So many policemen are corrupt.
How can the police, the guardians of morality and law in the nation, enforce the laws when they themselves are the suspects?
The best way to solve a problem is to go to the source, but this hasn’t happened. Five thousand small-time suspects have been killed “resisting arrest,” while over 3,000 have been killed by paid assassins.
Over 200,000 have been arrested for drug abuse.
Yet few big-time drug lords have been brought to justice, and the police admit they are having a hard time arresting them.
We now live in the world’s fourth most dangerous nation, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Yet unlike the other countries on the list, we don’t even have a civil war.
And now our state-sponsored murders are being investigated by the United Nations, an embarrassing statement to a nation that was the leader in democracy in Southeast Asia.
No drug abuse study was done prior to the war on drugs.
Yet other nations have statistics.
The online journal Inside Indonesia indicates there are 850,000 Indonesian “shabu” users, and they smoke the substance six times a month on average.
Less than 10 percent are considered problematic users.
Are we different?
What are the statistics here?
The antidrug government agency says 1.8 million Filipinos are addicts, while the President claims 8 million.
These figures must have been pulled out of thin air.
Yet, if a study is done now, anyone who admits that they use drugs would be a fool, as they are likely to be shot!
Rehabilitation centers were not in place to deal with the thousands who admitted they were addicts.
How can society help them overcome their problem if there is no place to help them?
Instead of dealing sanely with drug dependents, the administration of President Duterte locked them up in overcrowded jails or shot them like they were zombies. And now, three years after the start of the drug war, the question remains: Are we better off?
There are many things to like about the administration, but the drug war will remain a dark stain on Mr. Duterte, on his allies and on all Filipinos.

Jonathan Foe,


Thailand is being sucked into
China's sphere of influence
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 November 2010
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 November 2019

Nauvarat Suksamran writes a wonderful article in "Time to push China for real Mekong partnership", (Opinion, Nov 2). The flaw is that China cares for no one except China.
Remember that song, Whatever Lola wants? Well, whatever China wants, China gets, whether it is by force, by subtlety or other.
China does not care about its friends or neighbours. China makes no concessions unless there is something to be gained… for itself.
Thailand is foolishly being sucked into the Chinese sphere and does somehow not understand or realise it. If Bangkok will be underwater as predicted in 2050, then China will have inherited a piece of soggy real estate.

Jack Gilead,


Majority of Asean citizens are unaware
Of the goals and activities of ASEAN
The Southeast Asan Times, Wednesday 6 November 2019
First published in the Star Monday 4 November 2019

It has been reported that with the Apec (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Chile cancelled, global attention turned to the 35th Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) summit that took place in Bangkok over the weekend.
Formed in 1967, Asean has come a long way to be recognised as one of the foremost regional organisations in the world.
The five elder statesmen – representing Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – who gathered in Bangkok back then did so due to the fear of communism creeping down from Vietnam, following the “Domino Theory”.
The then US President, Lyndon B. Johnson, had put forth this theory that South-East Asian nations would fall like dominoes if they did not prepare to avert the inevitable.
These young nations, most of which had only recently become free of colonial rule, felt an urgency to come together and form a regional grouping to safeguard their independence and integrity.
Tun Thanat Koman, Thailand’s Foreign Minister, has been acknowledged as having played a central role in helping Asean to take off and succeed.
After more than 40 years of illustrious existence, Asean today faces many challenges that it needs to overcome lest it faces the same fate as the European Union which is grappling with the stark reality of breaking up thanks to Brexit, ie, Britain’s bid to leave the union.
Security and trade were the underlying necessities that prompted the formation of Asean.
For security, there was the declaration of Zofan – the Zone of Freedom and Neutrality – which kept in check foreign intervention or interference.
When it comes to the second reason for its formation, trade, Asean has done well. It is a leading trading partner of China, the United States, the European Union, Australia, Japan and Russia.
According to Kishore Mahbubani, the noted scholar and diplomat from Singapore, the greatest challenge Asean faces today is the trade war between the United States and China.
The world is hoping for an amicable solution to emerge from negotiations that are going on presently.
If this trade war drags on or no solution is found, Asean would be greatly affected, states Mahbubani.
Another problem Asean faces is China’s claim to the islands in the South China Sea that have not been addressed in spite of diplomatic efforts by different member nations.
The United States has also warned that the South China Sea is a free highway and that any attempt to lay claim to this important seaway would lead to confrontations. Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia have claims to several areas known to contain rich minerals resources.
The annual haze that engulfs Singapore, Malaysia and parts of Thailand is an example of a cross border issue that needs to be solved amicably.
During the intermonsoon period of June to August, the southerly winds that blow across Indonesia bring with it heavy smoke that affects the health of citizens of the affected countries.
The air pollutant index rises to alarming levels, forcing schools to be closed and citizens to wear facial masks.
Indonesia has been reluctant to accept aid from Asean member countries, and there is no mechanism to deal with this annual health hazard.
According to environmentalists, Asean should form an Asean Disaster Management Team to act in the event of transborder incidents.
When Asean was formed, the leaders specifically included the term “the Asean Way”, which enshrined the principal of non- interference in the internal affairs of member countries.
Principally, it emphasised that no member of Asean should interfere in the internal affairs of any other member country.
The acceptance of this principle helped to sustain a friendly atmosphere but it has also hampered certain necessary actions from being undertaken.
The plight and exodus of 700,00 Rohingyas from Myanmar to the borders of Bangladesh is an example.
Nations such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia that are also greatly affected by the Myanmar refugee problem could not act or say anything due to “the Asean Way”.
Furthermore, the concept of an Asean community has still not become a reality. The majority of Asean citizens are still unaware of the goals and activities of this grouping of nations in spite of its four-decade-long existence.
Asean faces many hurdles. It needs good leadership to overcome the many challenges ahead.

Dr HJ Ahmad,

Call for Malaysia to adopt
A laissez faire approach not bail outs
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 November 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 2 November 2019

I am a Malaysian born and bred here, and I am proud to call this country my home. It is my hope that every Malaysian would be able to call themselves proud homeowners in this land of plenty where we have ample land and space.
For many years, the pricing of houses has been going up, which is expected given the economic situation over the years.
However, the somehow rather sky-rocketing prices also seem to be due to marketing gimmicks and/or marketing hype.
In fact, according to an article in an online portal in 2017, a real estate expert claimed that “the rise in property prices... was consciously brought about by developers and gurus, with a lot of help from the banking industry.”
I myself have encountered these so-called marketing “middlemen” who sell the units for developers.
Many times when we look at specific units, the middleman would say they were already taken up but would call back later to say the loan didn’t go through and they were available again.
I would really like to know how much profit these developers and middlemen are making.
Can’t the developers take over the process of selling their unsold units and reduce the prices while retaining reasonable profit?
It really angers many to know that developers are getting help at the expense of ordinary citizens.
Foreigners who can afford to buy properties have no issues taking up more than one unit costing over a million ringgit, as was the case of the lady from Hong Kong who was reported to own three properties in Penang, “No turning back for woman who bought condos in Penang" in the Star October 22.
Reduce taxes or provide tax relief to locals for a significant number of years to enable them to buy the properties.
If some remain unsold, foreigners can be allowed to purchase them, but they must be restricted to one unit only.
This is to curb foreign speculators, otherwise whatever the government is doing will just be one merry ride for foreigners at the expense of Malaysians!
Government must adopt a laissez faire approach, not bail outs.

Angry Malaysian
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Asean to face facts
On Rohingya in Myanmar
The SoutheastAsian Times, Monday 4 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 November 2019

Assoc Prof Panitan wants some credit for mediating the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine state, in Bangkok Post October 28, 2019.
What an insult to the Rohingya people both still there and the 800,000 refugees in Bangladesh.
You also point out that the United Nations Report last Tuesday warned that "there is serious risk of genocide recurring there....and, if anything, the situation.....has worsened".
When is Asean going to show some courage in facing the facts now, instead of wanting just more information?

Gerry Popplestone,

Call on PM to make Papua New Guinea
A rich Christian black nation
First published in the National, Friday October 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 November 2019

I commend Prime Minister James Marape for his declaration that his Government would strengthen and support church-government partnership programmes.
He made the comments while in Manus for a Seventh Day Adventists church programme.
However, I have a few observations that I would like the prime minister to take note of.
All denominations need to be supported because we all contribute to help improve the lives of people – both physical and spiritual.
The prime minister knows too well that real life starts in the spirit, the flesh profits little.
What would be the criteria of support, is it just churches that have schools and hospitals?
Former prime ministers and members of parliament are members of a church.
Members of parliament tend to favour their church in terms of random support.
All Christian churches that preach the gospel should be supported to continue and extend their good work.
All churches should be encouraged to furnish to the government through a proposed Department of Religion and Home Affairs, their corporate plans.
This would ensure the government is aware of the church’s data, statistics, strategies, plans, visions and achievements to provide support where necessary.
All churches should be represented by its leaders at an open forum with government representatives, where there can be open dialogue, for partnership in development.
The prime minister’s assertions on taking back Papua New Guinea making Papua New Guinea a rich black Christian nation starts with God.
God is represented on earth by the churches and the churches are people, as such how can the churches be further enhanced?
Marape believes in the Bible as the authentic word of God and that it has the power to changes lives.
I speak on behalf of all Christian denominations.
I oversee the Assemblies of God (AOG) church in the Highlands Region.
We are praying for the Marape-Steven government, asking God to make his vision to take back the country and for the country to become a rich Christian black nation a reality.

Ps Peter Ropra,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Plunderers have a field day
Under Philippines judicial system
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 30 October 2019

At the rate the Sandiganbayan has been dismissing ill-gotten wealth cases against the Marcoses, it would seem that government prosecutors are either dumb or corrupt.
Any law student knows in just one class recitation that the production of mere photocopies of documentary evidence guarantees the dismissal of any case.
The originals themselves must be produced in court, either for marking as evidence or for comparison with the photocopies to be marked.
But it took more than 30 years for the court to see that?
What a waste of government money and time!
As government prosecutors are supposed to be topnotch lawyers, dumb is not the adjective everyone has in mind.
Is it any wonder plunderers are having a field day under our judicial system?

Arnulfo M. Edralin,



The Malay Dignity Congress
Widely condemned as a racist gathering
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 November 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 22 October 2019

The Kongres Maruah Melayu, or Malay Dignity Congress, held in a stadium near Kuala Lumpur on October 6 raised a furore among Malaysians.
Organised by four public universities – including Universiti Malaya, the nation’s premier institution of higher learning – the congress was attended by about 5,000 people, mostly students but also leading politicians from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) Malaysia's biggest and main national opposition political party and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) Islamist political party in Malaysia.
Rather than a forum to discuss issues faced by Malays and ways to overcome them, the congress has been widely condemned as a racist gathering. In his speech, Zainal Kling, the chief convener of the conference, declared that Malaysia belonged to Malays and reminded other races of their “social contract” with Malays, claiming it was the basis for granting them citizenship rights which could be revoked if they breached the agreement.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad aroused public ire by attending the conference; critics saw his decision to participate as a betrayal of the ideals of the reformist Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition which toppled the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government in a shock landslide victory at the polls last year.
Dr Mahathir made his mark as a champion of Malay rights early on.
In The Malay Dilemma published in 1970, he argued passionately that due to hereditary and geographical factors, the Malays could not keep pace with Chinese immigrants and advocated special rights for the Malays.
He became the chief architect of Dasar Ekonomi Baru, or the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was unveiled in 1972 for a term of 20 years and was designed to accelerate the development of the Malay majority (comprising circa 60 percent of the population of 32 million now through affirmative action.
The New Economic Policy (NEP), failed to achieve its stated goals, and Dr Mahathir stepped down as PM in 2003, but after 20 years in place, the New Economic Policy (NEP) privileges came to be seen as entitlement and could not be dismantled.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian economy trails behind smaller Asian territories with fewer natural resources such as South Korea, Taiwan or even Singapore 2018 GDP.
In his 50-minute speech at the dignity conference, Dr Mahathir pointed out that the New Economic Policy (NEP) failed “because the effort by the Malays was less than expected or hoped” and warned that “as long as we do not change our lifestyle, as long as we are unwilling to strive to face challenges at work, we will be left behind”.
He said, “Our dignity depends on our achievement, not on government aid. If we are capable of making good products and creating wealth, no one will look down upon us."
I believe that the Malay people have the capability but there is a difference between capability and willingness to work. They can do it but don’t want to do it, ” he chided. “We can build our dignity with our achievements in all fields, ” he declared. “Otherwise there will be another 10 dignity conferences and nothing will change.
What I am saying may be hard to accept... but this is the truth of what has happened and this is what will be inherited by the young generation of which there are many in this auditorium today.”
But his words fell on deaf ears and resolutions passed at the conference made no reference to his pleas.
There were calls instead for key government positions including the prime minister, deputy prime minister, finance, education, defence and home ministries and the attorney general to be reserved for Malay Muslims only.
Another resolution called for the abolition of vernacular Tamil and Chinese medium schools.
“Resolutions on five areas presented at Malay Dignity Congress, but PM says not all will be met”,
At 94, Mahathir has little need to make polite speeches to cling to power.
Time is not on his side.
He loves his people and deserves praise for his tireless efforts to change them but he forewarned in The Malay Dilemma that because politics created for the Malays a soft environment which removed all challenge to their survival and progress, “political power might ultimately prove their complete downfall”.
No other Malay leader has shown equal foresight.
To a significant degree, the previous government fell because of a massive corruption scandal involving the theft of billions of dollars by then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
But, partly through a lack of administrative experience and partly due to foot-dragging by civil servants loyal to the previous government which had been in power for 61 years, the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition has failed to deliver on much of its reform agenda and is far from certain to win the next general election.
Malaysia has often been held up as a model Muslim-majority country but in a society where it is all too easy to play the race and religion card, the economy will not realise its full potential and the political future of minorities will remain at risk.

Michael Tai,
Associate fellow at Universiti Malaya’s Institute of China Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,
Author of China And Her Neighbors: Asian Politics And Diplomacy From Ancient History To The Present Day.

The last thing Malaysia needs is to be bogged down
By archaic mindsets or laws

As Industrial Revolution 4.0 sweeps the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 October 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 25 October 2019

I refer to the report “MTUC urges Dewan Negara to reject ‘rushed’ labour law amendments” in The Star, October 13, 2019.
I am perplexed by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress’ (MTUC) vehement opposition to the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177), which was passed by the Dewan Rakyat recently.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has kept harping on the fact that the amendments tabled were not endorsed by the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), a body comprising the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) and Human Resources Ministry, among others.
But the reality is that the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) has met nine times this year, whereas it only met about twice a year in the past.
This excludes various technical and sub-committee meetings.
The National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) is a platform for consultation.
Not only are the views aired there diverse, but some would also be competing given that the tripartite platform is made up of entities with different interests.
But at the end of the day, it is the ministry’s job to protect the welfare of the 15.19 million workers in this country.
It would be naive to think that the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) will be able to come up with a solution that pleases all parties when the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president, Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor, and his secretary-general, J. Solomon, cannot even see eye to eye on fundamental labour issues.
What is important is that the opinions of all parties are sought with a view to cultivating a robust labour ecosystem that is in line with the needs of Industrial Revolution 4.0.
In fact, Sarawak Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary Andrew Lo had lauded efforts by the Human Resources Ministry in the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act, describing them as a “game-changer” for industrial relations.
This is evidence that even within Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) there are diverse views.
Lo also lauded the ministry for its comprehensive and robust consultations with not just the principal stakeholders, like Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF), but also with other workers and employer groups, Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO)
This now begs the question of why the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) headquarters is so opposed to the amendments without even spelling out clearly the specific provisions it has a beef with.
Could it be because Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is afraid that its powers would be diluted by the “freedom to form unions” provided for in the amendments?
Or could it be because the trade union office bearers are posturing ahead of their upcoming internal elections?
Do they have the interests of the workers at heart or that of their posh posts?
When it comes to politics, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has never hidden its leanings.
Its president has roped in Partai Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) the Islamic Party of Malaysia in an attempt to torpedo the passage of the Bill in the upcoming Senate sitting.
Let’s not forget that Abdul Halim himself had called on Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) members to back ruling political coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) party during the last general election.
As Industrial Revolution 4.0 sweeps across the world, it is imperative that governments and trade unions are ready to adapt to the rapidly changing human resources needs.
The last thing we need is to be bogged down by archaic mindsets or laws that will hamper our readiness to embrace this technological wave.
If the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is not prepared to rise up to this challenge, it is time we look for another body to champion workers’ welfare.

Leonard Hiew,



Call for training for Filipino's implementing
The public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 October 2019
First published i the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 19 October 2019

With the current challenges in our transport system, I have high hopes that the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program will address majority of the problems faced by Filipinos, and that it will offer the public an easier and safer way to commute in the years ahead.
Modernization is not bad at all, and this kind of progress must be embraced.
I am very positive that it will be a great opportunity to truly transform our public transport system.
But I fear that it will fail if the government only focuses on the vehicles and not on the people who will be affected and will be involved in implementing the program.
Most of the articles and even sentiments I have read and heard have been focused on the newly configured buses, vans and jeepneys, as well as on fleet management system, environment effects, passenger convenience and income of drivers.
But I have yet to hear plans on providing training for people who will be implementing the program.
Execution is very crucial in ensuring the success of the modernization program.

Aljane Largo,

Call for Public Private Partnerships
For all Filipinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 October 2019

This refers to your article, in “Revive PPP” by Peter Wallace September 9, 2019, where you recommended that “public-private partnerships should be revived to ensure that all 75 programmed projects actually get started before President Duterte bows out,” and outsourcing of expertise needed.
The goal of the Build, Build, Build (BBB) program is to deliver basic services in order to improve Filipino lives.
This administration is not against PPPs, provided certain issues are addressed.
Like projects implemented through the official development assistance, PPPs also suffer bottlenecks.
For example, the four-kilometer project of the Aquino administration (Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway) took six years, from 2009-2015, to be implemented as a PPP.
The BBB program is not only about delivery of services, but also ensuring the Filipino people and government are not burdened with unwarranted obligations imposed in PPP contracts. In previous PPPs, external consultants recommended the following provisions which are detrimental to regulators, and more importantly, a disservice to the Filipino people:
Automatic rate increases, where government is forced to approve concessionaire-proposed, parametric formula-based rate increases without the regulator determining whether the increase is just and proper.
Commitments of noninterference, where government adopts and promises not to interfere with contract terms for any reason, even when public convenience is at stake.
Noncompete clauses, where government allows concessionaires to maintain monopolies even in a scenario where more than one player can realize profit beyond target returns.
These provisions, among others, encapsulate “regulation by contract,” where government is stripped of its regulatory authority and ability to demand that concessionaires improve services rendered to consumers.
These terms have also increased contingent liabilities, currently estimated at P309 billion, which will be paid from taxpayer money - money of the Filipino people.
Concessionaires must agree to risk transfer, commensurate with the returns they have enjoyed. We will not subsidize private sector interests to the detriment of serving the public. It’s not enough to roll out PPPs - PPPs must be PPPs for the people.
PPPs should not restrict government in addressing the needs of the people quickly and efficiently.
Public infrastructure cannot be left to the unregulated control of companies fueled primarily by profit motives.
Likewise, consultants engaged to get a deal done, “experts” with no liability and fiduciary duty to serve the interests of the people, should not influence the creation of these contracts.
We will ensure that PPPs do not expose the government to unnecessary financial burden, and will require PPPs to conform to standards that better serve commuters.
The Duterte administration remains steadfast in its commitment to fulfill its responsibility to the Filipino people.
The full statement can be accessed at the Department of Finance (DOF) website.

Karen G. Singson,
Privatization Group and Office of Special Concerns
Department of Finance


Philippine commuters wake up to
Shortcomings of Duterte government
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 Oct 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 October 2019

This administration has failed, and continues to fail us.
There are so many issues our country is facing, but we see no concrete actions, we feel no improvement, we are left behind by the people we thought could save us and help us, and their incompetence and inefficient services are evident worldwide.
Take the transport crisis.
The commute that is supposed to be easy and fast takes hours and wastes so much time. Commuters can even take a long nap and yet when they wake up, they’re still stuck in traffic.
It seems that we commuters are the ones who should adjust to the shortcomings of our own government.
We suffer alone while our government is still caught up in denial.

Claudine Salvadaor,



State owned enterprises in Papua New Guinea
To return tithes to the church
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 October 2019
First Published in the National, Tuesday 22 October 2019

Prime Minister James Marape’s recent announcement for State owned enterprises to return tithes to churches should be applauded by all church leaders and members of the Christian denomination in Papua New Guinea.
The Prime Minister feels that it is a massive task to manage the affairs of the nation of 8 million people with over 800 dialects and diverse cultures.
Like in the biblical days, kings of Israel, prophets and patriarchs of God sought God’s advice and direction on a daily basis as to how they would manage the affairs of the country and its people.
In this difficult times of political strife, unfavourable economic conditions, natural disasters, violence, pestilences, our government certainly needs God for guidance, advice and blessing.
The worshippers of the true God of heaven faithfully practiced returning tithes and offerings to God.
Tithing is usually paid to workers in the church who are charged with the commission to preach the gospel. The Bible says “… the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:14 NIV)
Returning tithes to church signifies our relationship with God as His people.
The people, the government and the country are in partnership with the Sovereign God and King through the practice of tithing.
The tithing system as announced by the Government should remind every Christian of their duty to return 10 percent of their gross earnings to God.
And what is God’s promise to those who faithfully practice tithing? ‘Bring the whole tithe into my storehouse (church), that there may be food in my house (for His workers). Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.’ (Mal 3:10 NIV).

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Supreme Court decision on protest by losing
Vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 October 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Wednesday 23 October 2019

This is in connection with the editorial, “Suspicious dilly-dallying” in Philippine Inquirer October 18, 2019
While we understand that the election protest lodged by losing vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) needs meticulous examination, we cannot comprehend why it is taking the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) so long to decide, or to release what they have discovered.
It has been over three years now and the whole nation has been like a rudderless boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
What is the Supreme Court waiting for?

Ramon Mayuga,



Branding opposing view as an enemy of the state
Is counterproductive and divisive
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 18 October 2019

Ajarn Thirayuth Boonmee is right to be worried about the recent political developments.
In response to army chief Apirat's comments, he pointed out the "enemy mindset" which is the main obstacle in any meaningful national reconciliation.
It's this kind of mindset that led to the bloodshed in the past.
If history provides us with any lesson, it's that the reconciliatory tone and actions were instrumental in healing the scars of the event of October 14, 1973 and its bloody aftermath of October 6, 1976.
Gen Apirat should be mindful of the fact that there are many ways for people to love their country.
To brand any opposing view as an enemy of the state is not only counterproductive, it can also further divide the country which needs more than ever all the reconciliatory efforts we can muster.
Remember that there are many shades of patriotism.
And the highest form of patriotism is the one that elevates the country as a whole, not only the benefits of any particular faction.

Anan Pakvasa

Universiti Malaya (UM) cannot revoke degree of graduate
Who staged protest at University convocation ceremony
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 October 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 19 October 2019

With utmost respect, the statement by the president of the National Professors Council (MPN) Prof Datuk Dr Raduan Che Rose that Universiti Malaya (UM) has the right to revoke or withhold the degree of its graduate who staged a protest during the university’s convocation ceremony on Monday is misconceived in law. In particular, the University Senate cannot revoke the degree under its rules, as suggested.
The university is governed by the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971.
It provides for the adoption of a prescribed Constitution, which reigns supreme. Any inconsistency with its provisions is invalid under section 8 of the Act.
Under section 53 of the Consti-tution, the board of directors may recommend the revocation of a degree that has been awarded.
But this power is circumscribed.
First, the board must be of the opinion that the graduate is guilty of “scandalous conduct”.
This conduct is defined.
It is when the graduate has given false information to obtain the degree.
Then too the recommendation must be made by not less than two-thirds of all members of the board.
The recommendation is made to the chancellor.
The chancellor must then give the graduate an opportunity to be heard before taking any action.
The protest by the student awarded the degree clearly does not fall within the misconduct for which his degree can be revoked.
Arbitrary action of the sort advocated by the National Professors Council is not only against the law but is antithetical to the values of academic freedom and the ethos of a society governed by the rule of law.
There are other ways of engendering appropriate and respectful behaviour.
In the final analysis respect has to be earned and not imposed.

Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar,
Former professor,
Universiti Malaya President,
National Human Rights Society (Hakam),
Kuala Lumpur,



Call for Thailand to reform education system
Immigration and investment policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 29 September 2019

Thailand is facing an unprecedented demographic challenge.
Its population is ageing quickly, while the birthrate continues to fall.
As a result, the number of college-aged students is expected to keep on declining until 2040. This will have a serious impact on the job market.
The solutions provided by Thitinan Pongsidhirak in his Sept 27 column "Developing by managing demographics" must be taken seriously.
Hence a multithrong approach is urgently needed.
Reforming the immigration policy should be the first priority.
Foreigners from Western countries with adequate financial assets must be given residency and the right to work.
Those who are married to Thai women and take care of their families and livelihood should be given a "Green Card", similar to what Thais and other immigrants get in the US.
Other Asean workers who have been working in the country for five years must be considered for residency.
Thailand must do what Japan has already begun doing: hunt for talent and recruit a highly educated and talented workforce.
I am afraid that initiatives such as "Digital Access 2030" or "Bilingual Thailand 2020" cannot be achieved without drastic changes in the Thai educational system. While expensive international schools located in Bangkok provide cutting-edge curriculum, the mainstream Thai educational system remains rooted in wai khru, meaningless rituals and stale curriculum celebrating its past glory.
The whole educational system from top to bottom must become bilingual.
Thailand cannot become a high-income country without reforming its educational system, immigration, and investment policies. And sadly, its political system will keep it in the same orbit where it has been for the last seven decades - corruption, cronyism, conflicts, and coups.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Philippines Vice President Leni Robredo works silently
Introducing alternative livelihoods to fishermen and farmers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 17 October 2019

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is admirable. Just days into his first term, he has accomplished what his predecessors, despite their brutish ways, had not.
For this, he inarguably deserves the accolades.
But Moreno just got lucky - largely.
He is at the right place at the right time, with the resources of one of the Philippines’ richest local government units.
And the reforms that the capital city needs are sexy issues in the eyes of a public that has grown jaded, no thanks to years of unfulfilled promises and false hopes given by unworthy politicians.
Whatever Moreno does, whether it is bringing back the streets of Divisoria or the bloodless ferreting of drug criminals, sells papers and precious airtime.
But in the time of Isko Moreno - a “rock star mayor” - may we not push aside to the sidelines leaders like Vice President Leni Robredo who have walked on the road not taken by other politicians, who address issues that are as pressing but rarely make it even to the inside pages of newspapers or get a minute of TV newscasts.
Robredo does not have a marketplace to do some spring cleaning and doing so is not the Vice President’s main job, but she has concrete programs that address poverty where it hurts most: the countryside.
But introducing alternative livelihoods to fishermen and farmers is not sexy enough to attract media mileage.
As a rookie politician, I’d be lying to myself if I would say that no part of me longs to have the popularity that Moreno enjoys now.
But I also prefer leaders, like Robredo, who work silently to address issues that force people to leave the provinces - to risk it all - to congest the national capital with nothing but hopes for a better life.

Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Camarines Sur


Socialism North Korean style is an embodiment of
“The people are my God”
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 October 2019
First published in the Phnom Penh Post Monday 7 October 2019

Amid the sanctions imposed by the hostile forces on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) gaining momentum, the country is reporting one successful event after another in its efforts to strengthen its defence capacity and build its-economy.
What has made the small country so invincible?
First of all, the people have been guided by great leaders.
The territory, population and economic power are not all that determines the strength and weakness of a country.
Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), who is carrying forward the cause of his predecessors, President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il, has come under the political limelight of the world as the most distinguished political leader of the modern era.
Kim Jong Un is a matchless master of ideology and theory, an attractive politician possessed of a high level of people-oriented art of leadership, a versatile statesman, a man who implements without fail and on the highest level what he has planned to do, a brilliant commander possessed of unexcelled courage and mettle and resolute and adroit temperament, and the supreme defender of the prestige of his nation–this is part of the comment by mass media of the world.
The history and reality of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) testify to the fact that if the leader of a country is great, the country, though small, can become powerful.
Second, the Korean people have achieved single-hearted unity with their leader.
United single-heartedly around their Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, they are demonstrating the prestige of their country with unprecedented strength and miraculous events.
The basis of the single-hearted unity of the leader, the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the masses, which serves as the source of viability of the Korean-style socialism, has been the affection of the people cherished by the leaders of the country.
Socialism of the Korean style, which embodies the idea of “The people are my God” cherished by the President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il, is now being consolidated and developing thanks to the politics of loving the people administered by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
Third, the Korean people regard the socialism as valuable as their life itself.
Carrying forward the cause of his predecessors, Kim Jong Un is always concerned with the wellbeing of his people. Mingling with them, he listens carefully to what they have to say, and ensures that their thoughts and demands are reflected in the policies of the Party and state. And it is his iron rule to give top and absolute priority to people’s interests and convenience.
It is quite natural that the Korean people regard socialism as valuable as their life itself.
Fourth, the propellant of their advance is self-reliance.
The history of the Korean revolution is the one pioneered and advanced on the strength of self-reliance. Propelled by the spirit of self-reliance, the Korean people achieved the liberation of their country, emerged victorious in postwar reconstruction and realized socialist industrialization, thus building theirs into a socialist country equipped with solid foundations of an independent economy and strong self-defence capabilities.

Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK),
Phnom Penh,


Call for Papua New Guinea government
To address illegal mining
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 October 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 16 October 2019

Both Government and the operator of the Porgera Mine, Barrick, have to be blamed for not taking tough measures in stamping out illegal Mining activities in the Porgera Mine.
The effect of not addressing the illegal mining activities by the Government is contributing to the lawlessness and social problems in the communities.
Law and order problem is increasing in our communities.
Tribal fighting is a major problem that is costing a lot of human lives. There is no peace and harmony in the communities we are living in.
Government properties worth millions of kina, properties worth thousands of Kina and food gardens that are supposed to sustain the livelihood of the people in the communities are being destroyed due to unnecessary lawlessness issues caused by drunkards.
Illegal mining activities are contributing to social and moral decay, rise of HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, divorce, multiple marriages, killings, unnecessary untimely and avoidable deaths, unfaithful marriages, laziness and many other related issues.
According to Papua New Guinea’s Mining Act 1992, it states that all minerals existing on, in, or below the surface of any land in Papua New Guinea, water lying in any land in Papua New Guinea, are the property of the State.
This Mining Act 1992 needs to be comprehensively reviewed and amended, specifically that ownership of all minerals on and below the sea is vested in the province in whose waters minerals are located.
And maybe to minimise such illegal mining activities that will lead to reduction of social problems, landowners be given greater responsibilities over their resources.
Such issues are not addressed effectively and on time, we are leaving the door open for illegal miners, risking their lives at all costs, trying to grab a share of the benefits through stealing.
This is like a survival-of-the fittest game where only the strongest and the bravest men used to enter the state-fortified positions and grab themselves a gram of gold.
According to the law of man and of God, stealing is sin. And sin is the transgression of the law.
The wages of sin is death.
Many of our illegal miners have been killed by the security forces at the mine site.
Many illegal miners are creating social havoc in our communities.
Getting money through stealing has caused so much damage in our communities.
Getting money through stealing, buying alcohol and drinking, we are not responsible in our drinking behaviour.
We are getting drunk and behaving as animals with no human senses.
We are creating unnecessary avoidable problems that are damaging our social harmony.
Such issues needs urgent attention by the government.
More and more awareness needs to be carried out, educating people on how to respect the law and to behave responsibly.
Many are stubborn because there is no proper education.
On that, our illiteracy rate is very high and people do not know what appropriate actions to be taken.
Therefore, my life saving advice to the illegal miners is that it is better we refrain from risking our own lives. We need to think about the greater good of our communities.
Finally, the Government needs to urgently address this illegal mining issues because the longer it delays, the more problems are created by the illegal miners in our communities.

Bid Ambassi,
Muli City,
Papua New Guinea

Warrant for arrest of Papua New Guinea former PM
Comes as no surprise
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 October 2019

The news that Papua New Guinea police have issued a warrant for the arrest of the former Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill on corruption charges
( The Guardian 16/10 ), came as no surprise.
That's because it's a fairly common phenomenon. Peru, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea,to name a few in recent times, have had their former national leaders rounded up for corruption.
Power corrupts. And many leaders succumb to it.

Rajend Naidu,



Call for compensation for nurses in private institutions
To equal compensation for nurses in public institutions
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 15 October 2019

We welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling that upholds a provision of Republic Act No. 9173, or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, stating that government nurses should receive compensation pegged at Salary Grade 15, not Salary Grade 11 as specified in Executive Order No. 811 issued by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
But our fight for just compensation doesn’t end here.
We urge Congress to annually appropriate funds for this, for the provision to be effectively implemented.
We also reecho our call for higher compensation for our fellow nurses in private institutions.
They deserve compensation that should at least be equal to the minimum set by the government for public health nurses.
The government will hear more of nurses’ voices as we gear for 2020, which is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. It is high time our government saw the value of nurses in delivering quality health care services and improving the overall quality of life of the Filipino people.
The value of nurses should rise above the level of the hospital bed.
Rather than liabilities, nurses should be seen as valuable assets of the health care delivery system, and be given enough compensation for the essential work that they do.

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



Call for introduction of law in Thailand
For passengers in pickup trucks to wear helmets
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 9 October 2019

The serious road mishap involving a pickup truck that overturned, killing more than a dozen of passengers who rode on the vehicle's tray was sad.
A recent study shows that the vast majority of people killed when they fall off pickup trucks were killed by their head injuries.
The current Thai legislation allows a maximum of six people to travel on the tray of a pickup, but you can see significantly more on a single pickup truck every day. The police say that "they do not prosecute violations of the law because the entire transport system would fail if you followed the law, because there is no available public transport!"
My suggestion is: the state should introduce a law requiring the use of helmets for those sitting on the tray and hold the driver of the vehicle responsible if the passengers do not comply with the law.
A fine of 5,000 baht for every passenger without a helmet should also be introduced.
It is a cheap and effective way to let the prevailing threat to security continue, without causing more fatalities on Thai roads.

Goran Femrin,

Call for cancellation of paid-parental-leave in Australia
To discourage massive population growth
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 October 2019

It is well known that we, in the developed countries, use far more of the Earth's resources and cause much more pollution than anyone else in the world.
So, if the climate change activists are serious, they should campaign specifically to get rid of the popular paid-parental-leave in order to discourage our massive population growth.

Jennifer Horsburgh,


Less economic growth not necessarily an option
In solution for climate change
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 7 October 2019

Thank you Wasant Techawongtham for an enjoyably provocative read in "The girl who could just save the world", in Bangkok Post Opinion, October 5.
However, Wasant, we can agree Ms Thunberg's message is important while still disagreeing with some of her claims, and certainly with some of the suggested solutions.
There is no doubt that the climate is changing.
Even without our contributions, it would likely have happened anyway.
But Ms Thunberg is right that solid scientific evidence says that we humans are a major cause of the current levels of climate change, which is likely to accelerate irrespective of what we do now.
To dispute this, you have to have better evidence than the consensus of experts in the area.
The sincerely rabid deniers like Trump do not fit that description of informed dissenter.
It does not, however, follow that we should opt for less economic growth.
The poor of China and India have as much right to the lifestyle of Ms Thunberg as she enjoys in flitting around the world spreading her message of doom and gloom. We cannot in good conscience tell the poor of the Third World to suffer their meagre sufficiency, such an ugly ideological excuse for gross inequality, so that those of us from the First World can carry on comfortably at the top of the pile.
Better solutions might be to charge enough in taxes to offset harms from the production of cars, automobile trips, BTS trips, plastic bags, planes, flights to environmental conferences and the like.
But again, we who have the luxury of arguing about Ms Thunberg's message inherited our relative affluence on the back of the past environmental misdeeds pushed onto others in polluted rivers, ravaged forests, and poisoned air, all conveniently externalised economic costs that neither our ancestors nor us paid a just price for.
Now coming back to haunt us, these are the costs of our comfortable lifestyles as we sit, using my personal example, in a condo on Silom Road, typing on a computer while sipping the morning coffee, with the air conditioning humming silently to keep everything pleasantly cool.
It is not fair to expect the less-well-off today to pay a higher price than we and our hardworking ancestors did.
This suggests that the rich world has a moral obligation to pay very substantial tax arrears (not charitable donations, but owed debts) to help bring the rest of the world up to the same high standard of living.
And we should also prepare for the coming global reforms enforced by nature. Nature will not be susceptible to any coup by ignorant army generals who think they can thereby steal power, property and prestige for themselves merely by overthrowing the existing rule of law and system of government.

Felix Qui,Bangkok,

The Vagranacy Act is not the answer
For Papua News Guinea's rural-urban drift
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 October 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 9 October 2019

The Vagrancy Act as proposed by the Prime Minister James Marape, shows neglect and disrespect against human rights.
Any actions taking on that note will be barbarous for the citizens of Papua New Guinea.
Our human rights on freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state or provinces are protected by the rule of law.
Jobless people have the right to work.
The will or right of the unemployed people shall be the basis of the government authorities.
We have educated elites on the streets, struggling to look for jobs.
The Government should create opportunities for them rather than returning the jobless to their districts.
Whatever adversity that arises in Port Moresby between the public and the police, we have leaders and authorities who are there to handle it.
There are many ways to solve such problems in our own backwards. Vagrancy Act is not the answer for the citizens of this country.
When imposing the Vagrancy Act, the Prime Minister is inviting more problems to occur in the future – giving a very hard time to its own people.
Our population is rapidly growing and the earth is filled with human beings.
We are facing problems in the villages with limited land for farming, building houses and for developmental projects.
People flooding into our cities and towns have their own reasons.
Authorities have to do researches, investigate and find amicable ways to solve the problems relating to rural-urban drift. MPs are legislators; they should make policies to save the interest and welfare of the people rather than going after money.
Civil Registry and the national population census programme are good initiatives.
It gives us correct population figures that the government will use to plan budgets and draft policies on how to serve the people.
Not to use this system to oppress or suppress the people.
Despite being unemployed, some own businesses and properties.
They raise families in the cities, their children go to school at universities in the country and abroad.
One way or another, they contribute to nation building.
The place they are residing is their comfort zone.
The government should consider that.
The Prime Minister should have respect and faith in fundamental human rights principals.
Vagrancy Act is not the answer.

Jonathan Dege,
Papua New Guinea



Rubber manufacturers in Malaysia
On international radar for social justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 October 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 11 October 2019

The allegation of forced labour in the production process of glove manufacturing led the US Customs and Border Protection enforcement agency to block the entry of rubber gloves into the United States.
The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers’ Association (Magma) has rightly assured local manufacturers and American, European, and other international importers and consumers of our rubber products that only one company was affected.
Our government, the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council and Magma must be credited for handling damage control efficiently.
We urge all members of the Malaysian Rubber Products Manufacturers’ Association to take advantage of the various measures, incentives, and programmes introduced by Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council to raise social compliance, and especially to undergo training and compliance audits.
The matter is far from over, for rubber product manufacturers are now on the radar of international consumers and campaigners, as well as our competitors in the synthetic and plastic product manufacturers.
Furthermore, December 2019 being the centenary of the International Labour Organisation, matters related to labour will emerge in the international media arena to support social justice.
Malaysian rubber product manufacturers must be vigilant and treat matters related to labour, especially much needed foreign/migrant labour, cautiously.
There is no room for complacency when it comes to compliance with all socioeconomic matters related to employment and labour rules and guidance. Complying with the Code of Conduct initiative for the industry, the rubber product manufacturing sector will evolve to greater heights with increased productivity and sustainability in the marketplace.

Datuk Dr Ong Eng Long,
President, Malaysian Rubber Products Manufacturers’ Association (MRPMA)
Kuala Lumpur

Call for Thai MP's to spend time in their constituencies
Instead of finding faults with government officials
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 9 October 2019

I don't think it is correct for the chairman of the House standing committee on laws, justice and human human rights to criticise Maj Gen Burin Thongprapai, a legal officer of Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) southern forward command, for filing a complaint with the police accusing 12 panelists at a Pattani forum on September 28 for distorting facts "in order to incite unrest and rebellion against the authorities in a way that will cause upheaval in the country or encourage people to violate the law".
Maj Gen Burin was simply doing his duty.
If either he or his superiors did not act responsibly when they were made aware of the situation, they could have been charged with delinquency of duty under Section 157 of the Criminal Code.
This carries a jail term of one to 10 years, hefty fines and/or both.
This criticism is tantamount to interference with the responsibilities of civil servants, and threatening them if they carry out their legal duties.
It is also presses government officers to take sides and play politics, as has happened in the past.
The 12 people who were charged could not automatically be considered guilty. They would have to legally contest the allegations, and prove without doubt that they had no intention to break the law.
Otherwise, people could say or do anything they wish, and uphold claims of "democracy".
Human rights and freedom of speech do not go hand in hand with sedition!
Members of parliament should concentrate on objectively reviewing the current legal processes.
In doing so, they should either seek to abolish or amend laws which are unfair or obsolete, or conversely, create new laws to ensure the security and wellbeing of their citizens.
They should also spend ample time in their constituencies to see and hear the needs and hardships of the people.
Finding faults with officials will achieve nothing.
The current government has only been present for two months.
Like any other, it needs time to work.

Dusit Thammaraks,

Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus programme
Flights not always available for award travel
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 October 2019
First published in Bangkok Post, Monday 7 October 2019

I am a businessman who has lived in Thailand over 20 years.
I travel a lot on business, twice a month on long haul flights.
I am lucky enough to fly in first class if it is available, or business.
I am the kind of passenger airlines fight for.
Except for TG Thai Airways I have been a member of the TG ROP (Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus) programme for 20+ years and a Platinum member since they launched it.
I will no longer give TG (Thai Airways) my travel baht which literally runs into the millions each year.
They just flat out don't deserve it.
More than 50 percent of the time there is zero recognition of my Platinum status, which means that at times I do not get first choice of meals on flights, and, at times have my seat moved without my consent.
Some staff are very good, but the majority are too busy to bother.
The ROP (Royal Orchid Plus) mileage programme is also a joke.
I accrue hundreds of thousands of miles a year but I can hardly use them.
The ROP (Royal Orchid Plus) system at times shows flights as not available for award travel, but when I check on UA (United Airlines), with their miles I can find a flight on TG (Thai Airways) available.
How can it be?
The "taxes and fees" for the same "free" flights on TG (Thai Airways) are 2-4 times more than "taxes and fees" on UA (United Airlines) for the same itinerary, same class.
How can it be?
TG (Thai Airways) has old aircraft which are often delayed because they are unreliable.
Tomorrow Go, indeed.
When calling for service, I often have to wait on the phone for 20 minutes or more because I use the same number as the tens of thousands of Gold members.
UA (United Airlines) has a dedicated line for Global Services people like me.
Why doesn't TG Thai Airways?
Worst of all, I have written to them to complain, including to the lady who is "vice president of customer service" and I have been flat out ignored.
I suppose they have no excuse for their failure to serve.
Good luck on your way out of business TG (Thai Airways) .
Make sure to turn the lights off on your way out.

Disgusted in BKK Bangkok


Malaysian Bar calls on the police to reinvestigate
Death of fireman during riot in Subang Jaya
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 October 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 1 October 2019

In her finding of facts, Coroner Rofiah Mohamad announced that fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim’s death due to injuries sustained during a riot in Subang Jaya, Selangor, last year, was the result of assault from unknown assailants.
Consequently, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador reportedly said that the police will reinvestigate Adib’s death.
It is pertinent that the police be given enough time and latitude to conduct their investigation professionally and in accordance with the country’s laws to ensure justice is served.
Only after the police investigation has been concluded can the investigation papers be sent to the Attorney General for his consideration.
The verdict of an inquest, unlike a criminal conviction, does not impute liability against anyone.
It is merely a way to find facts to determine how a victim died, if there were any criminal elements in it.
Any verdict that touches on the involvement of “crime” can only be acted upon based on concluded police investigations.
The Malaysian Bar calls on the police to conduct a more thorough and rigorous reinvestigation to identify the perpetrators.
The death of a public servant in the course of his/her duty should not be in vain.
The Malaysian Bar also calls upon the general public to exercise restraint and allow the police to conduct a fair investigation.

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur,

Malaysia stands to reap immense benefit
From tapping into China’s technological prowess
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 October 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 30 September 2019

Last week, the Human Resources Ministry’s Manpower Department signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) to enhance cooperation in the fields of technical and vocational education training (TVET) and technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0).
The impact of this cannot be overstated.
As a Malaysian who has been based in Shenzen for the past 16 years, I can see the immense technological strides China has made in recent years.
I believe that for many Malaysians, China is all about the Great Wall, scenic tourist spots and a long chequered history.
China is all these but also more.
China has become a technological dragon in its own right.
The advances China has made in fields like artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology and the like has made the traditional technological giants wary.
In fact, this is one reason why the Trump administration in the United States has engaged in a trade war with China and banned US companies from doing business with Huawei, which has led the globe in the 4G race.
Malaysia stands to reap immense benefit tapping into China’s technological prowess.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran made the right decision to enhance technological transfer via China’s CEAIE.
This will allow Malaysian workers to upskill and reskill themselves in fields in which China has a distinct advantage, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things, and additive manufacturing or 3D printing.
As I shuttle between China and Malaysia rather frequently, I can see - and cannot help but worry over - our slow take-up of modern technology in areas like manufacturing.
The days of labour-intensive manufacturing is over. Malaysia needs knowledge workers to keep pace with the latest demands in a globalised, cut-throat economy. In this respect, having China as a strategic partner in TVET cannot be overstated.
I believe Kulasegaran’s pivot towards TVET began from the time he first took office and this is indeed a step in the right direction.
Countries like Germany and Japan are technological giants because of their emphasis on TVET.
China, with the advantage of a strong centralised government, has caught up.
We need to pull up our socks.
And tapping into this expertise from China is a game-changer that could propel us into the next level of technological mastery.

Au-Yong Hui Seng,


Thai Airways
Is a high price to pay for nationalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 1 October 2019

Re: "THAI may stick to renting after B156bn plane purchase axed", in Bangkok Post Monday September 28, 2019.
Thai Airways' (THAI) board decision to disapprove the 156 billion baht in new aircraft shows a real improvement in corporate governance at this basket case of a business.
Under past governments, new aircraft orders have been a big "cake" for the politicians.
THAI has been mismanaged and losing money for years.
They constantly change their CEO with new plans for turning it around which never materialise. Leasing is better than buying.
Purchasing ties up the airline's capital and weighs down its balance sheet.
Leasing will also enable it to buy newer aircraft, which means less maintenance costs.
The next step is to convert this airline to be a budget carrier.
Budget airlines like Air Asia are very well-run and are the wave of the future.
THAI has not offered to customers a value proposition for 20 years or longer.
A takeover by Air Asia would end the downward cycle.
Keeping this airline as it is because it is the "national flag carrier" is a very high price to pay for nationalism and it needs to be considered whether the airline is a credit to Thailand's image.

Larry the Liquidator,


Call for Philippines legislators to rid themselves
Of the greed for power and ill-gotten wealth
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 3 October 2019

There have been recent reports on multimillion allocations for lawmakers. Obviously, these serve more the interests of congressmen than the welfare of their constituents.
Not only do these funds offer opportunities for corruption, they become a tool for any self-serving autocratic leadership to lure a supposedly independent Congress into embracing political patronage, wielding the “tyranny of numbers” at the expense of the truth - and the electorate they have sworn to serve.
Thus, our “honorable” congressmen would continue to justify, even fight for, their pork allocations, saying these are needed for “countryside development” or for the “good” of their districts.
If only the millions or billions of taxpayer money at their disposal for so long a time now have been judiciously spent solely on important projects such as housing for the poor, well-equipped and staffed classrooms and medical centers, farm-to-market roads, etc., our countryside would have been truly developed, and the lives of these lawmakers’ constituents less miserable.
Why do vital government programs get insufficient or “reduced” funding, while billions of pork barrel money or dubious budget “insertions” seem to go unabated, and corruption remains unchecked?
This leaves this ordinary taxpayer wondering whether it’s a hopeless prayer for our “respectable” legislators to have the heart to finally rid themselves of the greed for power and ill-gotten wealth.
After all, their constitutional mandate is mainly to craft laws that uplift the plight of our people, not to handle or mishandle public funds for personal aggrandizement.

Manuela A Collao,



Time for Papua New Guinea to talk about
Transfer of sovereign powers to Bougainville
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 October 2019
First published in the National, Friday 4 October 2019

The Prime Minister during his launching speech on the Bougainville referendum writ in Arawa, stated that Papua New Guinea will transfer all revenue raising powers to Bougainville.
He made a similar speech during his address to the Bougainville House of Representatives in Buka two weeks ago.
The question is, has the Prime Minister James Marape read the Bougainville Peace Agreement?
For those who provide advice to the Prime Minister, have they provided necessary advise to him or not yet?
Someone should inform the Prime Minister that income generating powers were already available to Bougainville under the current autonomy arrangements.
Under autonomy, Bougainville has powers relating to fisheries, forests, minerals, land, or even the powers to raise its own taxes.
The reason why Bougainville has not seen full potential in implementing the current autonomy comes back to the National Government.
The Papua New Guinea government failed Bougainville by delaying the transfer of those powers to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).
It failed to provide necessary funding to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) so that the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) could use those funds to achieve fiscal self-reliance.
Thus, there is no time to discuss this issue of transferring economic powers to Bougainville.
That period transferring economic powers to Bougainville lapsed in between 2005 to 2018.
As for now, what is there for both governments to discuss is the transfer of sovereign powers to Bougainville.
These powers includes foreign relations, international trade, international civil aviation and shipping, emigration, telecommunication, Central Bank etc.
It is time now to talk about political independence and not economic independence.
The issue of discussing economic independence for Bougainville belongs to the period of 2005 to 2018 during which the PNG Government failed to address.
Now, the time has come to discuss issues relating to transferring sovereign powers to Bougainville.
Bougainvilleans want to be assured of their political independence by the Papua New Guinea government.
Then from there, they can work out how they can achieve economic independence as a separate independent nation.
Can someone advise the Prime Minister?

Hia Tokunoi,
Papua New Guinea

Catholic Filipino Youth, strongly plead against
Reimposition of the death penalty
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 1 October 2019

We would like to ask you to take a moment and imagine this: sweaty hands and staggering knees, and a clammy, overwhelming fear.
The clock is slowly ticking, similar to a heart monitor counting a person’s dwindling heartbeat.
A powerful voice echoes throughout the room: “I hereby sentence you to death.” Silence fills the air.
At that moment, injustice is delivered under the guise of justice.
If there’s anything that ignites the fire of violence, it is violence itself.
And our government appears bent on fueling this destructive cycle, intensifying the harmful flame of death with its push to reinstate the death penalty.
As part of the country’s youth, we are disheartened to see our President neglect the rights of fellow Filipinos and taint our country with the blood of its citizens, when his primary duty as our leader is to protect us.
We, Catholic Filipino Youth, strongly plead against the reimposition of the death penalty in our country.
Envision a world where violence serves as a blanket that swathes everything in darkness - this will become the norm for us Filipinos once we are under a death penalty regime.
We will fall victim to injustice, robbed of our humanity, once we are subjected to such remorseless treatment.
A more appropriate solution in place of the death penalty would be to enforce and strengthen rehabilitation efforts.
We strongly believe in condemning the crime, but for the perpetrator’s life and dignity to be protected.
We must never fight fire with fire, for it will lead to a remorseless cycle of desensitization to violence and bloodshed. In the same way that everyone receives forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, rehabilitation provides people with the chance to reform themselves into better human beings, even those under life imprisonment.
It is ironic that President Duterte has said, “We are our own tormentors - we are our own demons; we are as rapacious predators preying on the helpless…” The President’s demand for the reimposition of the death penalty will precisely lead to such a situation, where human life becomes compromised and much cheaper. The inhumane act of state killing will only breed harm and destruction in this country, for violence only begets violence.

Jamie De Luna,
Anne Dispo,
Bettina Granda,
Mika Ong,
Patty Ginzaga,



Call for responsible Malaysians to report negative postings
To the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 October 2019
First published in the Star, 27 September 2019

The Inspector-General of Police (IPG) warning that “Stern action will be taken against those who spread fake news or make irresponsible comments on social media” in The Star, September 26 is timely.
Online fake news uploaded or shared by irresponsible parties can easily spur hate and misunderstanding.
Hence, his strong reminder should be closely heeded.
Most right-thinking Malaysians will accept the reasonable notion that freedom of speech carries some responsibility with it.
The online medium, especially, should not be used as a shield to hide behind while you say and do anything you like.
Online news portals and owners of media organisations need to have clear guidelines to regulate and manage comments by the public and their journalists.
For example, perhaps do not let commentators hide behind a cloak of anonymity – it is, after all, an inherent requirement of free speech that people take full responsibility for statements they make.
Healthy debates do not preclude taking responsibility for the comments published.
Simply put, media agencies and commentators need to be responsible and accountable just like on WhatsApp, Facebook, etc, where writers are usually known to and judged by their groups and peers.
As a maturing democracy, most Malaysians would understand the need for reasonable speech or comments and not resort to name calling, bad language and insults.
And, by way of setting a good example, our politicians and social media leaders, too, should focus on making responsible comments.
Slander or harmful speech is just disappointing political expediency that can disrupt harmony, peace and law and order.
Responsible netizens should be proactive in promptly reporting insensitive and negative postings to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,


Call on Papua New Guinea government to involve
Landowners in development of LNG industry
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 October 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 26 September 2019

Baimuru district in Gulf is made up of nine tribal groups naturally bounded by seven big rivers which are connected to the Purari River.
In fact Purari River has seven mouths - Aivei 1 and 2, Panaroa, Urika, Arae’e, Varoi and Pie.
Well before the Papua liquefied natural gas LNG came into play, people were already living along the corridor of the river Purari - living freely of the land, river and sea for food and shelter, gardening, hunting and fishing.
The river system provides channel for transportation and movement.
These will soon be affected when the project begins.
I appeal to the government and the developer, Total, to involve landowners in any matters concerning the Papua liquefied natural gas LNG project development process.
Our leaders, especially Kikori Member of Parliament and Governor, should take a leading role in addressing most of these issues by educating the people on the status of the project and the impact and benefits that will follow.
Right now we are in the dark and wondering where and how we will participate as traditional tribal groups from this district.
The Baimuru people want to see the project go ahead without any delay because it will bring tangible development to the people.
However, we would like the parties involved to consider:
Wide range of consultation and awareness programmes throughout whole district;
request 100 percent involvement of landowners in any project participation in the process in partnership with Government and Developer; all spinoff benefits to be prioritised to the project areas and nearby neighbouring districts and provinces for fair and equal participating; project should not be bulldozed unless and until all outstanding land issues are solved properly; and,
Be reminded that land, river and sea are the only natural assets that people will turn to, for the basic daily needs after the project and should be taken seriously.

Adam Omae
Koriki Tribe,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for resignation of environment ministers
In Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 3 October 2019
First published in the Star Friday 25 September 2019

I refer to the report “Yeo shrugs off calls for her resignation” in The Star September 25, 2019.
For me, it is justified to call for Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin’s resignation.
Indonesians and Singaporeans must also ask for the resignation of their respective environment ministers because of the total lack of urgency and resolve to solve the haze problem that has been occurring for decades now.
Am I right in saying that after each episode, everything is forgotten?
May I know what concrete measures are being considered and actively pursued?
It is the same story every year: Malaysia and Singapore blame Indonesia while Indonesia blames Malaysian and Singaporean companies operating in Indonesia. At the height of each episode, ministers and heads of government would utter something politically correct to placate the situation.
But I am prepared to wager nothing will ever happen.
I think Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians must all ask their respective environment ministers to resign if nothing concrete is being done now.
This is the only way for them to get the message.
Imagine the amount of resources wasted fighting forest fires, and the inconvenience and health risks inflicted.
Can the governments see that not everyone works in air-conditioned areas or have air purifiers at home?
I suggest the governments of this region get their house in order.

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur,


Call for high rise buildings
To stop urban sprawl into forests
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 October 2019

With our ever increasing population, we must encourage as much high-rise building as possible.
If we continue to allow developments to sprawl out into our beautiful forests, there will be no trees or wildlife left.
If we can't control our population, then we need to build up!

Jennifer Horsburgh,


Thank you Vanuatu for speaking up
For West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 October 2019

I applaud the government of Vanuatu for standing up and speaking out at the United Nations against the political repression of the people of West Papua by the Indonesian State acting as their colonial masters.
The repression of the West Papuans is reminiscent of the repression of East Timor by Indonesia.
These people are suffering, they are dying and under threat of ethnic cleansing. History is repeating itself.
And yet again the international community has largely ignored the plight of the West Papuans as they struggle to live as a free people.
That's why Vanuatu's stance stands out as a beacon of hope for a long oppressed people.
I congratulate Vanuatu for doing what's right when many others stay quiet because it's politically expedient for them to do so.
Shame on all who remain silent in the face of the atrocities suffered by the West Papuans at the hands of the Indonesian State.

Rajend Naidu,