The Southeast Asian Times

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

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

S de Jong,

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

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

Paul Minga,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Teacher Yongyut,
Nakhon Nayok,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Frustrated Citizen
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Jason A Jellison,

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

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

Songdej Praditsmanont,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Yingwai Suchaovanich,

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

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

Yingwai Suchaovanich

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

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

S de Jong,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Songdej Praditsmanont,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Maus blong garamut,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

David Lepi
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Concerned citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Marcus Redfort,

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

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

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

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Hans Van Willenswaard.

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

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

Stephen L. Monsanto,

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

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

Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Chik Chan Chee,

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

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

Ken Albertsen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel Willie,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

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

Sad Optimist,

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

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

Khun Bill,

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

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

David Lepi
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Burin Kantabutra.

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

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

Sad Optimist.

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

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

Reginald Renagi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Stopim stilman,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Mangi Delta Fly
National Capital District (NCD),

Papua New Guinea

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

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

Miro King,
The impartial referee,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Eric Bahrt,

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

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

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


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

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

Nuntanit Bumrungsap,

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

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

Michael Setter,

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

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

Abel ToPidik Rudolf,
Port Moresby,
Papu New Guinea

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Nuntanit Bumrungsap

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

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

Michael Setter,

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

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

David Brown,


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

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

Jonathan Nash,

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

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

Philip Ukuni,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Why not publicise Covid-19 induced deaths
And hospitalisations now

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

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


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

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

Sam Wright,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,


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

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

Ioan Voicu,

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

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

Michael Henry Yusingco,


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

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



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

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

Abdul Hafiz Tacoranga Malawani,
Mindanao State University

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

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

Norman V. Cabrera,
Kapatiran Party,

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

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

Rajend Naidu

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

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

Eric Bahrt,

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

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

Joseph J Black,

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

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


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

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

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Joe Tau
Central Province,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

David Brown,

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

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

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

Than Htwe
Deputy Chief of Mission, Myanmar Embassy,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rajend Naidu


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

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



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

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

Thankful citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Houdini Lucas,
NGO worker,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Rose Bellini,

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

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

Eden S. Anni,

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

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

Norman V. Cabrera,
Kapatiran Party,

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

Trade Justice Pilipinas,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,


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

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

Yingwai Suchaovanich,


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

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

Rodolfo A. Plopinio,
MCO-Occidental Mindoro,

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

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

Emmanuel A Mungu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

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

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Nek Nestrebla,

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

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

Felix Qu.

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

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

Georgina Hunter

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

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

Joynandan Haldar,

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

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

Yingwai Suchaovanich,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Laura Reyes,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

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

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

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

An Expat in Thailand,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Tarquin Chufflebottom,

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

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

Antonio Calipjo Go,
Quezon City,

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

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

Naomi Rikimanin,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

Sad Optimist

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

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

Concerned citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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


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

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

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Jim Benn,
Natioal Capital District
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Jayut Jayanandana,



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

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

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



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

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

Jayut Jayanandana,

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

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

Ramon Mayuga,

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

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

Norma P. Dollaga,
Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan,

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

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

Jason A Jellison,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,

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

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


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

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

Major Rtd Chew Kok Liang

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

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

Gummy Herbs,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Founder of TYMBA Education Group,
Subang Jaya,

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

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

Antonio Calipjo Go,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

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

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

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

Tatiana Chang
Cornell University,

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

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

Abel ToPidik Rudolf,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
advocate and author,

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

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

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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



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

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

Datuk Wee Beng

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

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

Ken Albertsen,
Bangkok Post,

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

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

Emiliano Manahan Jr.,
advocate and author,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

George Morgan,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Samuel Wright,