The Southeast Asian Times


Thai Elite Card program to attract rich foreigners
Proves to be a boondoggle
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 19 September 2021

Re: "Govt to entice rich expats," in Bangkok Post September 15, 2021
Once again it shows how misplaced the Thai government's notions are?
If you have to invest $500,000, have a yearly income of $80,000, buy $100,000 insurance, and have few thousand dollars of loose change to enjoy yourself, why in the world would you relocate to Thailand?
Why not Portugal, Italy, Istanbul, or Mexico?
I must say that Thai officials do live in some La-La Land thinking that rich people around the world are ready to flock to Thailand with a load of money to rescue the Thai economy!
The Thai Elite Card programme touted to attract rich foreigners has proved to be a boondoggle.
The Covid crisis has already hammered the Thai travel sector.
Sandbox and other novel experiments are not working.
So why come up with more of the same ideas?
Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
Instead, the government must pay more attention to expats who are already inside. The retired foreigners who live here and own condos, and are married to Thai women, and spending lots of money supporting the Thai economy are subjected to 90-day reporting and the annual pilgrimage to immigration offices.
Why not allow these insiders to own land and provide them work permits and a 10-year visa?
The Thai government should entice this group to invest more, rather than coming up with exotic ideas to attract new expats during this pandemic?

Kuldeep Nagi,

Police torture of supects
Standard practice in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 19 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 16 September 2021

Re: "Anti-torture bill overdue," Bangkok Post Editorial, September 14, 2021"
This bill was written primarily to prevent rogue officials from torturing suspects.
But seriously, does the Bangkok Post leader-writer know for sure that torture involving police is "rogue behaviour?"
Police putting plastic bags over the heads of suspects during interrogation has been documented time and again.
It was even once demonstrated in parliament.
The group of policemen in the Joe Ferrari fatal torture clip didn't seem at all surprised at the method being used; just another day at the office.
Is police torture really rogue behaviour, or simply standard practice?

Alec Bamford,

Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Romualdez Marcos Jr.,
In violation of separation of powers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 18, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday September 17, 2021

Bong Go Marcos is an incumbent senator.
Despite his election to that national position, he has remained the most prominent member of President Duterte’s presidential entourage.
Former senator Serge Osmeña has derisively called Go Duterte’s caregiver.
But Go is more than a caregiver.
He is, aside from being Mr. Duterte’s gofer, a de facto Cabinet member, right-hand man, enabler, and overall surrogate.
His being all of the above almost all of the time, and on Senate time from where he draws handsome compensation, is a blatant violation of the separation of powers. It smacks of out and out opportunism.
By acting as he does, Go demeans his exalted position as senator, a mandate given to him as a gift by the Filipino people to whom he owes a sacred obligation that must be discharged with utmost honesty and fidelity.
Go should stop straddling the legislative and executive divide. He should realize the blatant anomaly in what he is doing. It is conflict of interest and corruption of the worst kind.
Go should resign forthwith from the Senate to become Mr. Duterte’s full-time caregiver, gofer, de facto Cabinet member, right-hand man, enabler, and overall surrogate.
By doing so, he shall have reduced the number of Duterte lackeys and toadies in the Senate.

Carnell S. Valdez,

US expat in Thailand looks forward to
Chinese and Korean movies
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 13 September 2021

I see Disney has cancelled Fox Sports Asia as it consolidates its streaming platform.
The loss of this international sports broadcast outlet just adds to the frustration of US expats who have already seen the demise of Major League Baseball, Nascar Racing and NCAA college football.
This Fox channel provided coverage of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the F1 racing season and other international sporting events.
Not to worry though, True says we can depend on its eight branded networks for quality sports programming. Currently being shown are the NFL pre-season, which ended two weeks ago, the 2020/2021 NBA season, which ended two months ago, and three tennis tournaments.
In addition, this 76-year-old US expat can look forward to a new Chinese movie station, a new Korean movie station, a new kids station and a new gaming-centred station.
We lost HBO and Showtime for Warner and Paramount.
Anyone see a trend here?

Fred Prager,



President Duterte connected with contract awarded to
Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp for Covid-19 equipment
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 14 September 2021

The “Davao connection” is all over the transfer of P42 billion COVID-19 funds from the Department of Health to the Department of Budget and Management in March 2020.
Lloyd Christopher Lao, who hails from Davao, is a fraternity brother of President Duterte, and is a former undersecretary in the Presidential Management Staff under Christopher Bong Go, approved the supply contracts with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
Pharmally had a paid-up capital of only P625,000, and had no declared income in 2019.
Pharmally officials were personally introduced to Mr. Duterte in March 2017 by Michael Yang, his former adviser on economic affairs who is also from Davao City.
The pattern is unmistakable: The Davao connection is entrenched in government corruption.
All good men and women should stay focused on the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation to see what other connections it can reveal.

Jose J. Ferrer Jr.,

Wanted: Public toilets
In Indo-Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 September, 2021

With reference to the Reuters report ‘ India, Australia security ties’ ( 12/9 )
I hope the security ties ( read, military and military intelligence ties ) will not take away resources and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to build more public toilets for the people of the India.

Rajend Naidu,

Mismanagement of Philippines pandemic funds
Trigger protest action from health workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 10 September 2021

As Covid-19 has raged on, corruption in government has also been exposed.
The report on the health department’s mismanagement of P67 billion for the pandemic response has triggered protest actions by health workers from public and private hospitals.
Their protest actions have gathered tremendous support and sympathy from different sectors, the public, doctors, and other health professionals.
Even the World Health Organization has recognized the health worker’s plight.
Who are responsible for the plunder of public funds?
It was to lawyer Lloyd Christopher Lao of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III entrusted P42.4 billion of the Department of Health (DOH) funds. President Duterte admitted he had appointed Lao to the PS-DBM. Lao was Mr. Duterte’s election lawyer in 2016.
Lao was also the assistant secretary at the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, formerly headed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go.
What about Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.?
This is a subsidiary company of Pharmally International Holding Company; its executives are associates of Mr. Duterte’s former economic adviser Michael Yang, and these executives have active criminal cases in Taiwan for alleged manipulation of stocks.
On March 17, 2017, Mr. Duterte was in a meeting with Pharmally executives and Yang, as Malacañang video footage shows.
It is a big question why Mr. Duterte has been defending Yang, Duque, and Lao while at the same time castigating the Commission on Audit and the senators investigating the P42-billion anomalous transaction of the DOH. He has admitted ordering Duque to transfer the amount to fast-track the procurement of medical supplies without bidding. Duque has also admitted his failure to execute a memorandum of agreement with the PS-DBM.
Who will be made to account for what is turning out to be “premeditated plunder,” in the words of Sen. Franklin Drilon?
As the Senate investigation continues, people are hoping that such investigation will not only be in aid of legislation, but, more importantly, will lead to convictions. I am one of them.

Ruth Elio, registered nurse,
National Council Health Alliance for Democracy Inc.,

Taiwan calls on Philippines for support
For Taiwan's participation in the United Nations vision
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 10 September 2021

The 76th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) is arriving when the world is still faced with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As highly-contagious variants of the virus continuously affect us, the world needs a more effective UN to help recover from the COVID-19.
The UN responds by declaring the theme for this year’s General Assembly, which is to be held in New York on 14-30 September 2021, as “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainability, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations.
The realization of UN’s vision requires all of us at the table.
After almost a year of successfully containing the virus, Taiwan experienced a surge of confirmed cases in mid-May this year.
Nonetheless, it has stabilized the situation with effective anti-pandemic responses, and emerged as a more reliable partner to work with in the global community on the fight against the COVID-19.
Taiwan has also dedicated itself to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and joins hands in pandemic response with like-minded countries, including the Philippines.
Despite Taiwan’s effective response against the pandemic and the important role it played in the global supply chain, the government and people of Taiwan continuously face difficulties when attempting to take part in the mechanisms, meetings and activities of the UN system.
This situation erodes the United Nations principle of universality.
Multilateral collaboration requires bilateral cooperation. As close neighbors and maritime nations, Taiwan and the Philippines are enduring partners which uphold the values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
The continued threat posed by the pandemic calls for the spirit of “bayanihan” to bring everyone to the table.
We sincerely hope our Filipino brothers and sisters to voice their support for Taiwan’s participation in the UN system.
The people of Taiwan need the international community to support our aspirations and our right to fair treatment by the UN.
At the very least, stop turning us away at the door.
Taiwan can do much to help build a more resilient UN system.
Let Taiwan be Taiwan and it is the right time to bring Taiwan to the table.

Peiyung Hsu,
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines.

Call for Hon. Senator Emmanuel "Manny" D. Pacquiqo
To hang up his gloves
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 10 September 2021

Your August 27 Philippine Inquirer, editorial, “It’s time, Manny” leads us to look at the record of the accomplished boxer.
He was a Great Pretender as congressman, contending for Top Absentee.
For our people to elect him as Senator is a form of estafa.
As senator, while he occasionally criticizes the Palace, he had two months preparing for his latest fight.
That time he could have devoted to proving his charges last June of administration corruption.
But nothing, while our cynical people may be getting insensitive to such claims over the decades.
Indeed, being a Great Pretender may be another form of corruption.
We don’t advise that if anyone reaches a fork in the road to take it.
Manny should hang up his gloves.

R.A.V. Saguisag Sr.,

People of Myanmar fight against military repression
For right to live in freedom and human dignity
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 September 2021

On the deepening crisis in Myanmar I refer to the article ‘ Call for Australia to make a stand’ in The Fiji Times 9/9 ( first published on Devpolicy Blog from the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University).
Don’t count on it.
Australia and the international community are good at paying lip service on calls for the restoration of democracy following a military takeover.
The bottom line is after an initial expression of condemnation for the takeover they find ways to return to business as usual with the rogue regime to further their own vested economic interests.
They are driven by what’s political expedient for them and not what’s right for the oppressed people of Myanmar and elsewhere.
Six months after the military takeover and brutal military crackdown in Myanmar if Australia has not taken a solid stand what does that tell you?
The people of Myanmar will have to fight against the tyranny of military repression and for their right to live in freedom and human dignity.

Rajend Naidu,

Thai police officer accused of murder
Keeps mask on at press conference
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 September
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 4 September 2021

Re: "Joe Ferrari' denies all accusations", in Bangkok Post, August 29,
Watching from beginning to end on Thursday the press conferences organised by the Royal Thai Police on the arrest of Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon - the suspect accused of torturing and murder of a drug suspect - I couldn't help thinking something fishy was going on.
First, at the first news conference to showcase the suspect in front of the public, the police generals failed to remove the mask covering the suspect's face.
This led to speculations and suspicion concerning the true identity of the suspect. The suspect on display seemed to be smaller and thinner than he should have been.
Second, during the second press conference late in the evening, the suspect was not shown, but was allowed to answer questions via a phone-in - it looks like the suspect has been given a chance to clear himself.
Also, cross-questioning by reporters was not fully allowed. The police generals who were present also refused to answer important questions concerning the case.
Lastly, instead of improving its image through these press conferences, the Royal Thai Police seems to have plunged to a new low.
It would have been better if this seemingly half-hearted and illusory press conference never happened.

Vint Chavala,

Philippine government hell-bent
On waging war against its own people
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 7 September 2021

Amid the controversy over the Department of Health and the Procurement Service-Department of the Budget and Management anomalies that were flagged by the Commission on Audit, the issue of the P28.1 billion budget being requested for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) has been lost in the din.
It appears to us that this government is hell-bent on waging war against its own people who are airing grievances over what they see as a lack of government support in their hour of need, and even for simply establishing community pantries as a means to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz was red-tagged when she asked the private sector for assistance in preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.
The people involved in the community pantries were Red-tagged, too. Their only sin was to help the needy amid the pandemic.
But while millions are suffering, those in government are swimming in humongous funds that they allocate for themselves.
The irony of it all is, why is this government waging a war against what it sees as local communists while at the same time cavorting with Communist China?
If the government has not been remiss in its job of looking after the well-being of its people, there will be little protest and few grievances.
If there is no corruption in government, there will be fewer poor people in this country.
And if the problems mentioned above are nonexistent, there is no need for that white elephant called the NTF-Elcac.

Ramon Mayuga,

Wanted U.S. resources in pivot to Indo-Pacific
To balance China's aggression policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 5 September 2021

Re: "Biden's pivot to free, open Indo-Pacific", Bangkok Post, Opinion, September 3, 2021.
Yes, after two decades of efforts to build democracy in a tribal land, the US military has gone home.
There is no doubt that the Afghan clans and tribes will go back to fighting among themselves.
This age-old pattern will unfold soon.
Any society where one holy book or scripture becomes the basis of life is doomed. A society where people treat guns as ornaments will have enemies.
As a consequence, they will hunt down each other and also harm the innocent.
It is happening in the USA.
It is quite customary in Afghanistan, tribal areas of Pakistan, and many other countries.
An enlightened and liberal society can only be built through tolerance to the diversity of faith, religions, cultures, and opinions. Nation-building requires educated masses and robust economies.
Preserving the sanctity of human life is what is missing in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world.
The Taliban and the IS may gather steam from US withdrawal and may again start new adventures into Southeast Asia.
Once again, Pakistan and Afghanistan will turn into a safe haven for radicalised and extremist groups.
The whole region from India's northern territories, from Kashmir to the border of Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China, will face the rise of Islamist radicals.
I also doubt the Biden administration will put resources in its Indo-Pacific pivot to balance China's aggressive policies.
Just like the USA, China's incursions within the region will backfire. It will also pay the price for its misadventures.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Waiting for Godot
In Pattaya and Phuket
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 5 September 2021

Re: "Pattaya needs sustainability", Bangkok Post Editorial, September 3, 2021
I agree: sustainability is the answer.
But is "sustainability" in Pattaya and Phuket only achieved by resurrecting
"beer bar tourism?"
The current hope of a renewed Walking Street boom is like an expectation for the return of dinosaurs.
Thailand is like the play Waiting for Godot on that score … an unfounded fantasy that may or may never be realised given the rapidly changing realities of business/tourism travel internationally.
In the past 18 months of this Covid disaster we have only heard from the government about restarting tourism.
Never a suggestion that, instead of filling defunct hotels and soapy massage parlours, that we could build technical colleges as quickly as temporary field hospitals, that would house and train Thailand's youth with skills-based education to fill new factories and businesses.
It beats waiting for the beer bars to reopen. There's a future waiting … and a great political opportunity for the visionary.

J West


In a plutocracy the plutocrates first duty
Is to take care of themselves
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 6, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 1, 2021

Re: "Booster shots start 'next month'", in Bangkok Post August 30, 2021
In countries where every human life is considered to have value, governments, even those which are otherwise inept, regard it as their responsibility to keep their populations alive. In the context of Covid-19 this has meant doing everything possible to vaccinate their whole population.
Because even the first shot of a vaccine can offer substantial protection, the length of time between the two prescribed shots was lengthened from three weeks to up to 12 weeks in some cases.
This was in order to ensure some protection for the greatest number of people.
Compare the situation in an imaginary plutocracy.
There, the plutocrats' first duty is to take care of themselves.
They will handle the contracts for purchasing vaccines and, in the process, increase their own wealth.
More importantly, they will ensure that they, their families and friends are at the front of the queue for vaccinations.
They will get their second shots after three weeks because only their lives are important, never mind the fact that the vast majority of the population cannot get even their first jab.
Once they learn though that a third,
booster, vaccination can give them still better protection, they will grab those too. In other words, to hell with the general populace.
So long as the betters, the important people, the elite, hi-sos or whatever are taken care of, everything is hunky-dory.

Keith Barlow,



Plastic bags drawn over drug suspect's head
To prevent him seeing police officers faces
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 4 September 2021

Re: "Fears mount cops will shield 'Joe Ferrari'", in Bangkok Post August 28, 2021.
"I covered the suspect's head with plastic bags to prevent him from seeing officers' faces," says former Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, charged with murdering an alleged drug trafficker in custody.
Ah, how we remember our childhood hours, playing games like Blind Man's Bluff, where one child had to be blindfolded by wrapping multiple plastic bags around their head!
Happy days!
Former Pol Col Thitisan is clearly not aware and as a high-ranking police officer. How could anyone expect him to be aware that placing a plastic bag over a suspect's head has been adjudicated by the courts as attempted murder?
May I suggest that if the police wish illegally to hide their identity in future interrogations, they wrap each other's heads in plastic bags.
This may of course lead to the accidental suffocation of a few officers.
But then again, the loss of would-be anonymous torturers might actually benefit the police in the long run.

Blind Pugh,

World Bank reports that the Philippines education system
Has much room for improvement
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 September 2021

The Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) working paper titled “Foundational Mathematics and Reading Skills of Filipino Students Over a Generation,” which corroborates the dismal findings on our basic education contained in the World Bank (WB) report, “WB apologizes for PH education report; Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) echoes findings,” in Philippine Inquirer July 10, 2021 that aggrieved the Duterte administration, particularly the Department of Education (DepEd), has resurfaced on the internet after around a month of disappearance.
Was the temporary removal perhaps prompted by the reaction of the government to the World Bank report?
It was taken down a few days after the World Bank bowed to the demand of Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III for the bank to apologize over the report and take down the report from its website.
The Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) paper then reappeared under the name of main author Takiko Igarashi and is no longer on the website of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI).
Most interestingly, the last paragraph of the conclusion, which contained the verdict of the authors on the effectivity of our education system to impart foundational skills, has been deleted.
The missing paragraph is as follows: “Considering the Philippines’ status as a low-middle income country, improving the quality of the education system must remain a matter of national priority. The likelihood for the country to achieve high income status would be determined, first, by its ability to ensure that all students master foundational skills. Our findings, together with the results from international assessments, show that the Philippines educational system still has much room for quality improvement.”
Before the arm-twisting of the World Bank, the DepEd leadership went all out to discredit the article “70,000 Bicol pupils can’t read DepEd” in this paper’s Feb. 17, 2020 issue. It branded the report as “exaggerated,” “inaccurate,” even “ malicious” and “shoddy.”
In a press conference in Malacañang on that same day, Briones argued that there could not be 70,000 nonreaders in Bicol because the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI), the reading diagnostic test that surfaced the nonreaders, is supposedly a tool that determines if a student is reading and comprehending at his grade level, and since the purpose of the Phil-IRI is to place reading levels, all the takers are already readers.
Apparently, Briones did not read the Phil-IRI Manual 2018 which she herself issued. Pages 6, 8, 696, and 697 of the manual say that nonreaders are identified by their classroom teachers, with the information passed on to the administrators of the Phil-IRI.
“Not knowing how to read is different from being illiterate,” Briones also stated. No comment needed on that one.
Similarly, Undersecretaries Diosdado San Antonio and Nepomuceno Malaluan questioned the data of the DepEd-Region 5 on the ground that the Phil-IRI is only intended for Grades 3 to 6, and included in the report are Grades 1 and 2 and high school students.
The two officials forgot that the subject of the report is the number of nonreaders and not the classification of the entire Bicol studentry into the different reading levels, thus the kind of tool used is irrelevant.
Like Briones, they, too, don’t seem to know that nonreaders are not identified by the Phil-IRI but by the classroom teachers prior to the Phil-IRI process.
San Antonio and Malaluan were trying to say that in order for the DepEd to detect that a child can’t read, it needs an official reading diagnostic test when any printed text, even that on candy wrappers, can separate the literate from the illiterate.
Unfortunately, the unseemly, unprofessional, and immature reaction of the top brass of the DepEd was effective in stopping the circulation of information on the country’s reading crisis.
No subordinate official has dared to report to the media on the subject since then. Given the ADBI’s action on the working paper, it also appears that our international partners were put on notice by the vehement reaction of the government to the WB report, and are now wary of putting out helpful findings and assessments that could ruffle the feathers of the DepEd.

Pacifico Veremundo,


Thai VIP's to recieve third vaccination
Millions of Thai's yet to recieve first vaccination
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday Septemebeer 3, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 1, 2021

Re: "Booster shots start 'next month'", in Bangkok Post, August 30, 2021.
Starting in September through October third shots will be given to the 3 million Thais who already received two doses of Sinovac at least three months ago.
What about the 7 million Thais who thus far have only received one dose and are being told they cannot get their second shot until October and November?
My wife, who owns a restaurant in Bangkok, has her second shot of AstraZeneca scheduled for late November, as do her entire staff, and cannot open her place of business which has been closed for now going on the eighth of nine months in 2021 because this government has not provided the ability for her and her staff to be vaccinated as they need to do to open.
And yet here they are giving third shots to all these others.
And what about the 40 million Thais who have not received their first shot, let alone their second or now third?
The plan to use the precious Pfizer vaccine as a third shot booster vaccines for anyone other than frontline workers, medical doctors, nurses and hospital staff, is just another move by this obtuse government out to please their hi-so ultra-wealthy VIP friends, themselves and their oligarchy cohorts.
Making regulations that they themselves, this government, make impossible for the average Thai business owner of eateries, restaurants and pubs to meet, and then using the needed vaccines that will allow them to meet these requirements as third shot boosters instead of making sure all have at least one vaccine and getting those who do not have, their second vaccine must be the priority of this government now.
Stop playing a life and death game with the people of Thailand in order to please yourselves and your VIP friends and take care of the Thais and foreign residents.
For once, do what is right for the people


Philippine President Duterte
"Is the best communicator"
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 1 September 2021

In her column A legacy of bad communication” in Philippine Inquirer August 16, 2021, Kay Rivera wrote: “Among the many legacies of this administration is one of truncated, illogical, false, unhelpful communication, and it is a legacy that will continue to color spokesperson Roque’s career, long after the need for this blatant sycophancy has receded.”
One would think a former University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law professor would still have the slightest dignity to distance himself from blatant lies. Yet Harry Roque found the gall to say that “President Duterte is the best communicator” he knows.
What planet is he from?
Indeed, just when we thought nothing could beat the anecdote about an ultra-loyal general during martial law who was said to have replied “from what floor, sir?” when his commander in chief ordered him to jump from a tall building, now comes Roque who would probably sky-dive from a plane without a parachute if his boss told him to do so.

Danica Monica R. Mortiz,



Call for Thailand to accept reality
Learn to live with Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 29 August 2021

Why are we still locked down if covid-19 has become endemic?
I can no longer comprehend why we remain in lockdown into month five if you start from April, and month six if you include January.
I won't even speak to pre-2021 as this experiment made sense then, when clearly it is doing nothing to curb numbers now.
Yes they fluctuated slightly down these last few days but this is based on opaque information given that many people are now self-testing and not reporting their cases otherwise they have steadily increased from April to now in a de facto lockdown.
If we all agree on a few points. Covid-19 is now endemic and is not going to disappear no matter how hard we try, look at China, Australia, and New Zealand the strictest of all nations.
We believe in the vaccines as an effective method of prevention from serious illness last report was 81.4 percent of people in Bangkok had received at least one dose of a vaccine according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) English briefing on August 20.
Vulnerable populations should isolate if they choose until we have further information.
Why are we still locking our children at home and not educating them, let's not pretend virtual school is a reasonable method any longer, closing our restaurants, hotels, and shops; blatantly wreaking financial havoc for no reason at all?
We are now killing people with Covid-19, along with a widespread mental health disaster, and financial challenges.
The world is collapsing around us and we persist like little mice to think we can stop an unseen virus from entering our space when we should be learning how to live with it.
Does Thailand really want to continue letting the baht devalue to the point that we will be in an economic recession worse than the Tom Yum Kung crisis of 1997? Let's accept the reality.
Let's focus on how to stay healthy to be ready for when we are, in fact, infected, while continuing to engage in safe practices such as mask wearing, hand washing, and some distancing, but not at the behest of our lives, our education, our livelihoods, or our mental and physical health.

Nicole Sheldon,


Call for protection and promotion of rights of women
In Papua New Guinea Parliament
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 August 2021
First published in the National, Friday 27 August 2021

The Government has so far passed eight new bills in Parliament, including the Oil & Gas Act Amendment Bill 2021 and MVIL Third-party Insurance Bill among others.
The decision to revert to the first-past-the-post voting system which was abolished in 2007 in preference for the limited preferential voting (LPV) system was voted against through a bipartisan support.
The LPV system was adopted because it minimised problems including vote rigging and other inequalities that were identified in elections prior to 2007.
The LPV system ensured that the elected MPs had wider mandate from the electorate and province by redistributing second and third preferences of losing candidates in each rounds to the leading candidates.
However, in a culturally diverse country such as Papua New Guinea, inequalities often exist regardless of the voting system and it’s often difficult for the election officers and security personnel’s to mitigate vote rigging and the disenfranchisement of different groups of voters.
One of the agenda to address inequalities in general elections in the country has been alluded to the reserve seats for women in Parliament.
This agenda was tabled in Parliament by Dame Carol Kidu in 2009 after her observations of the limited number of female candidates being elected into Parliament since 1975.
Despite the push to have reserve seats for women in Parliament, the Government saw that the move was untenable due to an absence of a supporting bureaucracy and the lack of financial capacity.
Since then the agenda has become a trivial agenda but discussions are still continuing between different groups and the government to ensure that the agenda is brought to fruition.
At this juncture, the Government should also consider amending the Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates (Olipac) to ensure that more female candidates are endorsed by the political parties as an alternative means to elect more female candidates into Parliament.
The Olipac has been recently amended to instil compliance, efficiency and transparency, however, the practice of electing more male candidates than females continue to be an issue with less women being elected into Parliament.
Hence, the Olipac should be amended to allow political parties to endorse equal number of male and female candidates with the result of increasing the probability of voting more female candidates into Parliament.
The Government has been passing bills in its endeavour to fulfill its “Take back PNG” slogan so importantly it should consider the protection and promotion of the rights of women in Parliament and elsewhere.

Mickey Haro,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for reform of Thai drug laws
To respect indivual right
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 30, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday August 27, 2021

Re: "Custody death clip sparks storm," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 25, 2021.
It comes as no surprise that the policeman accused of masterminding the torture and murder of a drug suspect at a police station is, in fact, "regarded as one of the best drug suppression officers".
It must be wondered for how long such extortion has been going on in that police area.
It must also be wondered, given the prevalence of such accounts of brutality and extortion, how widespread such practices are in Thai society in general.
I also wonder what other evils lie secreted in closets protected by repressive censorship from healthy public knowledge and open debate.
Had the video of the man being tortured by these upstanding men of law and order waging war against druggies not gone public, would there have been even a pretense of seeking justice?
Perhaps if Thailand's drug laws, which have conspicuously failed to reduce drug use, were reformed to respect individual rights, we would see not only no big increase in drug use, but savings in tax money and police resources.

Felix Qui,

2022 Philippines general election
Is a catch-22 proposition
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 27 August 2021

With no less than President Duterte perfunctorily exonerating high-profile crooks in his government who squirreled away or by their sheer incompetence, if not collusion, helped squirrel away billions of public funds, juxtaposed with his boast that he has “sackloads” of money to bankroll the election of his candidates in 2022 “Duterte to campaign for PDP-Laban bets; to bring ‘sackloads’ of cash,” in Philippine Inquirer July 17, 2021, it takes no rocket science to figure out where that filthy lucre might be coming from.
And this, coming from the man who used to say he hates corruption and cannot stand even just a “whiff” of it?
How is it that voters still give Mr. Duterte the “highest approval rating” despite his colossal failures?
Can we really blame it on the mediocrity of the vast majority of our voters?
If that be the case, are not Vice President Leni Robredo and some of the really brilliant members of Congress also products of that same mediocrity?
We were trying to understand this dilemma from Richard Heydarian’s “The foolish myth of ‘bobotante’ voters” in Philippine Inquirer August 10, 2021 in light of the “inequality” in our society between those “wealthy enough to buy the electorate” and those too poor to have qualms about selling themselves.
Alas, not much help there.
A great thinker like him seems just as bewildered.
It’s a catch-22 proposition: Only an enlightened electorate can produce good government.
But only good government can produce an enlightened electorate. So where do we go from here?

Yvette San Luis-Petrocelli,

Thai protesters against military constitution
Don't have pro-civil rights administration to turn to
The Southeast Asian Tines, Saturday 28 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 August 2021

As an American I'd like to respond to Burin's letter August 25 in which he notes the non-violent tactics during the civil rights movement in America worked better than the violent tactics of protesters in Thailand.
He overlooks one important point - although America has a racist history it is still a democracy and the governments in power during that era the Kennedy and Johnson administrations were pro-civil rights.
President Johnson, the Senate and the Congress used their government power to enforce civil rights in the Southern states which resisted it.
In Thailand, it is the oppressors who rule.
Unlike the civil rights protesters of the 1960s, the Thai protesters don't have a higher power to turn to.
While I am not promoting violence, non-violent protests are much more effective in a country that has a Western-style democracy.

Eric Bahrt,

Bishops accuse Philippine President Duterte of muzzling
Investigation into Department of Health pandemic funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 23 August 2021

Instead of reproaching the independent state audit body for doing its job, President Duterte should have called for an investigation on the alleged deficiencies of the Department of Health (DOH) in the use of its P67.3-billion pandemic funds.
The Commission on Audit (COA) said “the deficiencies in the handling of the P67.3-billion pandemic response fund were caused by noncompliance with pertinent laws, rules and regulations, and undermined the timely and efficient response to the pandemic last year.”
It said “the DOH failed to utilize P59.124 billion of its 2020 budget and was unable to use as much as P11.8 billion of the COVID-19 funds, which meant that these ‘were not translated into much-needed health supplies, equipment and services that could have benefited both the health workers and the general public during the critical times of the pandemic.’”
But what was more appalling was the reaction of the President who said on national television that Commission on Audit (COA) report implied corruption.
The President even told Duque to “ignore the COA report,” obviously unmindful that Commission on Audit (COA) is an independent constitutional body whose mandate includes publicly disclosing expenditures by state agencies.
One of Mr. Duterte’s avowed commitments at the start of his presidency was to rid the government of corruption.
He declared that he would fire officials with just a “whiff” of corruption on them. Why is he now muzzling the agency that guards against corruption, and shielding those who committed irregularities in using public funds?
What all these reek of is colossal mismanagement, even clear and present signs of corruption, that should warrant the resignation of Duque.
In the best interests of the suffering Filipino people, he must resign immediately even if his boss tells him not to.
And if the President cannot or will not rid government agencies of corrupt officials, he must resign, too!

Ecumenical Bishops Forum
Bishop Emeritus Deogracias S. Iniguez Jr.,
Ft., Revd. Rex B. Reyes Jr.,
Bishop Joel E Tendero.
Bishop Ciriaco Francisco,
Bishop Dindo Ranojo.

Malaysia's Pharmacists calls on government
To manage sale and distribution of Covid-19 self-test kits
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 August 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday 21 August 2021

The Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) is concerned about the unregulated sale of Covid-19 self-test kits especially via social media platforms including WhatsApp.
We are particularly concerned about the rampant sale of fake kits as well as sales by unqualified sellers who are neither pharmacists nor doctors.
Fake Covid-19 self-test kits and wrong use of these kits would produce inaccurate results such as false negatives that would not help in combating the pandemic. Moreover, with more cases of brought in dead (BID) being recorded, the government must act immediately.
Ideally, self-test kits should be provided free to the public.
But if the government is not able to do this, a mechanism to subsidise the cost should be activated.
Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) urges the government to manage the sale and distribution of self-test kits efficiently via a subsidy or price control mechanism. This would immediately curb and eventually stop the sale of fake kits as well as sales by unqualified sellers.
Should a price control mechanism be the way, Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) urges the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to allow a grace period of one month before implementation.
This would assist pharmacists who have already purchased the self-test kits at a higher cost to clear the more expensive stock.
If a grace period is not granted, Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) wants a subsidy or refund mechanism to be put in place to prevent losses to pharmacists who purchased the stocks in good faith.
To benefit the public, the ministry must ensure that the price control mechanism includes not only standardisation of the sale price but Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) also control of the cost price from the supplier.
Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) has received numerous complaints from both the public and pharmacists of self-test kits that are being sold online and via WhatsApp at extremely low prices and with no guarantee of the product being genuine.
Currently, as the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry only has a general complaints page on their website Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) would like to suggest that a dedicated page be set up for complaints against fake products and sales by non-pharmacists and non-doctors.
This would enable turnover of complaints to be handled quickly and efficiently by the enforcement arm of the ministry.
It is critical that a mechanism to identify fake and genuine stock of self-test kits be implemented to further protect the public.
Suppliers of self-test kits, the ministry and the Medical Device Authority (MDA) should work on this immediately.
The ministry should also help to enforce the Medical Device Authority (MDA) policy on conditional approval for importation and distribution of Covid-19 self-test kits, which allows only licensed pharmacies and healthcare facilities to sell the kits online.

Amrahi Buang,
President Malaysian Pharmacists Society,
Kuala Lumpur,

Cash payment required in Philippines
For Covid-19 admittance to Intensive Care Unit
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 August, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 August, 2021

A close relative of ours in Quezon City who is over 60 years of age recently had her vaccine shots.
But some weeks later, and contrary to expectations, she was found positive for COVID-19.
It was so severe that she needed to be hospitalized.
Her son drove her around as they looked for any hospital in Quezon City that would admit her.
None could be found.
He had no choice but to bring her back home.
On the second day of her illness, her son brought her to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila and got her “waitlisted” at the emergency Room (ER), which was already full.
On the third day, she finally got a room, but her condition so deteriorated that she was immediately “waitlisted” for admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which was also full.
At around noon of the fourth day, her son inquired how much was required to get his mother admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) the moment a vacancy would occur.
No information came until way past 6 in the evening, when he was told that the bill was over a hundred thousand pesos.
He didn’t have that kind of money on him, so would Philippine General Hospital (PGH) accept his credit card, the credit limit of which was more than enough to cover the bill?
He got the shock of his life: Philippine General Hospital (PGH) does not accept credit cards, only cash!
A vacancy in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) finally occurred later that evening.
But no hard currency, no admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was the final word.
The son only had P20,000 with him at that time, and he tearfully pleaded with the hospital because banks were already closed.
Had people in charge of billing informed him much earlier that only cash payment would do, he would have had no problem getting the money from the bank before it closed.
Private hospitals do allow settlement of bills through credit cards.
So why can’t Philippine General Hospital (PGH), a public hospital funded mainly by taxpayer money?
Perhaps because a lot of its patients are not able to pay after treatment, hence it needs to be “segurista”?
But Philippine General Hospital (PGH) losses are practically covered and insured by Congress, which appropriates taxpayer money to keep it going no matter what. On top of that, it is constantly the recipient of hundreds of millions in donations from philanthropists here and abroad.
It’s really no skin off its back if destitute patients abscond.
There is a hard and inconvenient lesson to be learned here for those not familiar with Philippine General Hospital (PGH) protocols.
Anyone taking any sick relative to Philippine General Hospital (PGH) that could potentially require Intensive Care Unit (ICU) treatment had better bring along a bagful of hard cash because the country’s premier public hospital appears to have not heard of the payment facility known as credit cards.

Stephen L. Monsanto,



Philippines President Duterte's communications skills
Revolve around the word "kill"
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday August 23, 2021

Of all the shameless lies Harry Roque has been dishing out to the public, this one must surely take the cake: President Duterte is the “best communicator… he has no lapses in his way of communicating”
“Roque asked: If Duterte ‘good communicator’ why do you have to explain him?" in Philippine Inquirer August 10, 2021.
A "good communicator," indeed, whose vocabulary practically revolves around the word "kill"?
Well, come to think of it, with tens of thousands already killed under his regime, can anyone still doubt Mr. Duterte’s "communication" skills?
How the heck can Roque, the former human rights lawyer whose heart used to "bleed" and eyes "shed tears" for the downtrodden, live with those atrocities?
How he would worm his way back to the University of Philippines (UP) academia to teach young idealistic students after Mr. Duterte is gone would be one eyebrow-raising spectacle to watch.

Dino M. Capistrano,

Call to include concept of accountability
In Thai education system
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 22 August 2021

During the past few years, I've been advocating a wake-up call for Thai society to try, learn and accept the concept of "accountability" and simultaneously oppose, reject and segregate "the conflict of interest".
Admittedly, I've not seen a light at the end of a tunnel.
There are two simple routes for us Thais to consider:
It's time that the government, Ministry of Education and those concerned agencies ought to seriously start and include the concept of "accountability" including responsibility in our education system, beginning as early as elementary schools and up to higher levels.
The issue of "conflict of interest" should start at a higher level because of its complexity.
Exemplary examples.
We've been taught to follow "the phuyai" elders for centuries.
It's time the phuyai in the government Education Ministry included, judicial, congressional and business sectors, including those in the "high social" echelons, must act in this regard for the younger generations "to follow".
No less important is the leading role of the families, parents in particular, in this regard.
It should be noted here that the adoption learning of "accountability" and opposition to rejection of "conflict of interest" will surprisingly put down the problems of injustice and corruption in our beloved country.
By the way, the appointment of the current 250 senators in the Senate and the Red Bull saga are clear examples of these two subjects accountability and conflict of interest.
But it's the reverse.
The conflict of interest is clear-cut but there's no accountability at all.
Please think about this my dear senators, police and Attorney-General officials. Also, the Minister of Education.


Call for Philippines
To adopt China's development model
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 August 2020

This is regarding the commentary “Learning from an awakened dragon” in Philippine Inquirer, July 21, 2021 by Roland Simbulan.
The transformation of China from an impoverished nation into a global economic power in a matter of four decades was made possible by the Communist Party of China (CPC), which enjoys monopoly under a one-party system.
This enabled the Communist Party of China (CPC) to launch a strategic vision that conceptualized policies and long-term plans and programs through a combination of authoritarian rule and a market-oriented economy based on state-led capitalism.
Our country, on the other hand, is under a democratic system of government with a multiparty system characterized by personality politics, with policies and long-term plans and programs that change every six years.
The challenge is for us to call for strong leadership from our leaders, especially the members of Congress which is the policy-making body, and for them to institutionalize a strategy that envisions long-term plans over 50 years.
Such plans will undertake reforms in the economic, social, and political order to address the socioeconomic inequality and mass poverty in the country, by adopting the mechanics of the Chinese model of development into our democratic system of government.

Antonio de Guzman,

Message for new Malaysian PM
The people are counting on you to deliver
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 August 2021
First published in the Star, Thursday 19 August 2021

I have a message for the incoming prime minister: “Do not reset the good progress to date towards achieving national herd immunity and the ongoing financial assistance to the suffering rakyat and ailing businesses.”
Whoever is selected, do not rejoice.
Instead, roll up your sleeves and take loads of vitamins because you will be living on borrowed time and have nightmares even during your daytime naps.
Your appointment letter will come with a mother lode of problems that must be addressed and solved as soon as possible.
I would advise you to retain the Science, Technology and Innovation minister and Finance minister, who are instrumental in driving the vaccination and financial relief programme respectively.
You can also retain those ministers in charge of Youth and Sports, Agriculture and Food Industries, etc, who can be entrusted with supporting roles in the vaccination and financial assistance programme.
Please get rid of the non-performing ones.
You must quickly set up a unit in the Prime Minister’s Office comprising technocrats who have excellent problem-solving skills to quickly devise sound plans to reduce the Covid-19 mortality rate once herd immunity is achieved.
Until we reduce the mortality rate to an acceptable level, don’t waste your time and effort in developing plans to reopen the economy or set up travel bubbles.
The months of September and October will be crucial in gauging whether Malaysia is on track to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and economic doldrums.
I wish you the best of luck and we, the rakyat, are counting on you to deliver.

Mohd Shukri Abd Aziz,

Philippines calls for solar power
Instead of nuclear power
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 17 August 2021

Last July 8, Peter Wallace wrote in his column about nuclear power plants being safe and that there are many countries operating their nuclear power plants safely over the last 50 years: the United States, Germany, Taiwan, Japan. etc.
I agree about recommissioning the Bataan nuclear plant.
As a chemical engineer, I can say that we have enough controls to operate it safely.
However, reviving the Bataan plant will take at least five years.
Why not recommend the use of solar panels instead, per Republic Act No. 11285 or the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, which requires building owners to use renewable sources like solar?
The Philippines is the only country in the world with 2,000 hours of sun per year.
Germany went on to use solar panel systems on roofs and, in a short period of time, four million houses have been generating power, resulting in the shutdown of many coal plants.
In the United States, New York appointed an energy czar to speed up the use of renewable energy.
Australia gives incentives to households that use solar batteries. lberdrola Spain has made tremendous progress on the use of renewable energy, becoming one of the top five electric utility companies in the world.
Portugal and Spain have invested in photovoltaic battery storage systems.
In the Philippines, solar energy can be a solution.
We can follow the Iberdrola strategy to use this renewable energy, along with wind and hydroelectric plants.

Cesar V. Campos,
Chairman Emeritus,
Cenel Development Corporation,


Philippine President Duterte denies claim
That he was bankrolled by China to win 2016 election
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 17 August 2021

In “Duterte scoffs at claim that China made him president” in Philippine Inquirer, July 21, 2023 President Duterte was said to be really pissed off at former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario who virtually accused him of having been bankrolled by China to win the 2016 election and now becoming its puppet.
Mr. Duterte lashed out at Del Rosario and accused him in return of being the one “liable for treason,” because it was during his watch as top diplomat under the presidency of the late Noynoy Aquino that Philippine ships withdrew from Scarborough Shoal during the 2012 stand-off with China, which resulted in the country losing control of the area to Beijing.
A little fact-checking is called for to see whose sense of history got skewed. Aquino’s former ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr. was the point man involved and, therefore, knew whereof he spoke.
Mr. Duterte was then just mayor of Davao City, who knew nothing and didn’t give a hoot about international politics.
Cuisia said it was a US-brokered deal for China and the Philippines to mutually withdraw from the contested area to avoid a potential shooting war and pending a more peaceful solution to the conflict.
The Philippines complied in good faith, but China did not.
So how is that “treason” in the mind of Mr. Duterte, who keeps reminding everyone he is a lawyer?
He has been pushing the narrative that it was wrong for the Philippines to withdraw. Look who’s talking. Hasn’t he himself been “withdrawing” even from mere conversations adverse to China, out of fear of what China might do at the slightest provocation?

Ramon Norman Torrefranca,

Call for outdoor activities
In Covid-19 dark-red Thai provinces
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 August 2021

The risk of infection from Covid-19 is high but the risk of dying from it is very low: 99.17 percent of those infected in Thailand were cured as of August 12.
The danger is not of dying, but of getting infected.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that Covid-19 spreads mainly through the air not surface infection.
At the Tokyo Olympics, with full vaccination, etc, of the 299 Covid-related cases, very few involved athletes despite the inability to mask or social distance in many sports. Even with no herd immunity, political protests here or elsewhere have not resulted in super-clusters probably due to the outdoor ventilation and fleeting contact between participants.
Let's experiment with outdoor activities in a few dark-red provinces like dining, jogging, selling products or going to parks and zoos.
Some classes can be held outdoors, with teachers and staff being fully vaccinated. If it works well, expand those activities and pro-vinces.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for anyone for PM for Malaysia
But for former PM Najib Abdul Razak
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 August 2021
First published in the Malaysiakini, Friday 13 August 2021

I nearly choked on my lunch today when I read the news that an Non-Government-Organisation (NGO) has submitted a memorandum asking the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to pardon Najib Abdul Razak and appoint him as interim prime minister.
Do we want a Prime Minister who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and a fine of RM210 million, not to mention still facing a litany of criminal charges?
Are we so bereft of prime ministerial candidates that we have to shamelessly elevate a convict to become the most powerful man in the country?
The current administration may not be perfect.
But to even entertain the notion of Najib's return is to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
Even if we were to rule out Perikatan Nasional leaders as successor to the prime minister, surely we can think of other leaders than him?
Lest we get carried away by the Bossku's rapid-fire daily social media posts, a former "Malaysian Official 1" is the man who led a nation the US labelled as kleptocratic for being party to one of the most brazen heists of public funds in recent times.
The shenanigans sparked investigations by over a dozen countries with the money trail littered with his fingerprints and that of his fugitive co-conspirator, Jho Low. This is the same man whose conviction was described as "the worst case of abuse of position," by the judge who presided over and meted out the sentence against Najib.
Do we still want to become a global laughing stock for bringing back a convicted PM?
Have we not been shamed enough by the international media's reports on how brazen the grand larceny was carried out right under our noses during his administration?
Imagine what he will do upon his return.
Remember how ex-AG Abdul Gani Patail was unceremoniously removed just as efforts were underway to charge Najib between July and August 2015 for corruption and abuse of power?
Not only was Najib spared from prosecution, but his enemies became victims of a witch-hunt.
Who can forget the sight of boxes and boxes of designer handbags seized by enforcement officers from posh condominiums?
Or the list of assets like luxury yachts, Monet paintings and prime addresses in New York bought using money from 1MDB?
Can we trust this man again with our public funds which have been running short due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
We certainly will not fall for tall tales about how his family's fortunes were amassed from menabung sejak kecil (savings since young).
Or that Najib's family wealth was from his father's inheritance.
So please, we can have anyone as prime minister but not him.
I'd rather settle for a cat to be the Prime Minister than to see Najib's return.

Chai Xin Seng,
Kuala Lumpur,

Malaysian Bar calls on PM Muhyiddin Yassin
To act in accordance with Federal Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 August 2021
First pulished in the Star, Saturday 14 August 2021

The Malaysian Bar takes the view that in light of the ongoing political impasse in our country, the honourable thing for the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to do, is to act in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
In his public address on national television on 13 August 2021, the Prime Minister admitted that several Members of Parliament (MPs) from the governing coalition had withdrawn their support for him, casting doubt on whether he still commanded the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat House of Representatives.
He went on to say that under such circumstances, he had two options according to the Federal Constitution - namely to seek the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament and call for a general election, or to resign.
It is thus clear that he himself acknowledges that his position is no longer tenable.
He, however, went on to say that this situation notwithstanding, no other Member of Parliament MP has shown that he/she commands the support of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat.
As such, if he were to resign, there would be no one to replace him.
And if he resigned, he would also have to tender the resignation of the entire Cabinet, which would leave the country without a functioning government at this crucial time of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
He expressed concern for the future of the nation. In order to avoid this vacuum of governance and political leadership, he announced a detailed list of constitutional and Parliamentary reforms, as well as pre-legislative procedural and practical changes which he was prepared to offer in exchange for support from Members of Parliament from the Opposition in the upcoming vote of confidence.
With all due respect to the Prime Minister, the questions raised by him reveal a misunderstanding of his position under the Federal Constitution. The provision of Article 43(4) is clear:
“If the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.”
The words are clear and the meaning and intent are beyond doubt: If the Prime Minister no longer has the support of the majority, unless at his requests the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament, the Prime Minister must resign.
The Federal Constitution also does not provide that the Prime Minister shall only tender the resignation of the Cabinet if there is another MP that has emerged who can demonstrate that he/she commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat.
The question of who else might be called upon to try to form a government and whether he/she has the requisite Parliamentary support and confidence, is one that is accorded under Article 43(2) of the Federal Constitution, to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
It is therefore not the place of the Prime Minister to usurp that consideration to himself, or to pre-empt the decision and discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Neither is it the place of the Prime Minister to make that question the condition for his future actions.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that he wants to comply with the Federal Constitution and take the honourable route. In his announcement, he stated that he believes that “we will heal this nation together and bring back its glory”.
The Malaysian Bar is of the view that the best way that the Prime Minister can begin the process of healing this nation and bringing back its glory, is to honour and respect the words, spirit, meaning and intent of the Federal Constitution, and to abide strictly by its provisions.
When the Prime Minister does not command the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat, the honourable and gracious route that the Prime Minister should take is to step down, because that is the right thing to do.
We further call upon all Parliamentarians to carry out their duties in accordance with the Federal Constitution to ensure a functioning government for the well-being of our beloved nation.

AG Kalidas,
Kuala Lumpur,

Covid-19 death toll in Papua New Guinea
Doesn't make sence
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 August 2021
First Published in the National, Thursday 12 August 2021

During the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak, there were fears that Papua New Guinea would be hit hard because of our poor health system and our Melanesian way of congregating.
Thousands died from the Covid-19, which caused Papua New Guinea to impose lockdowns and strict measures.
Businesses, schools and people’s way of living were disrupted.
The economy stopped.
A year and a couple of months later, the since Covid-19 penetrated our shores, our cases now stand just above 17,700.
However, what doesn’t make sense is the Covid-19 death toll in Papua New Guinea.
The death toll doesn’t correlate to the fears and expectation we had for the virus.
We were told that we would die in thousands, our health facilities would be overwhelmed and our country would be in chaos.
But, so far, our death toll is just about 200.
I am not a medical expert, but from what I’ve learnt through the media about the rate of Covid-19 death tolls around the globe, a 190-plus deaths in Papua New Guinea is confusing.
We have thousands dying per day with cumulative death tolls skyrocketing to hundreds of thousands in the developed nations that are more advanced in science and medical facilities with cutting edge technologies.
But a small country with a poor health system is recording less deaths than expected.
This doesn’t make sense.
Can we find out why we’re recording less infections and deaths?

Prentice Kewanu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Whitewash in the works
In Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 13 August 2021

Thailand's curse is its continuing lack of accountability in the halls of power.
Juntas commit high treason by overthrowing elected governments by force - then pardon themselves.
Vicha Mahakun submits two reports to fight the graft that allowed Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhaya to get away with killing - and PM Prayut hides them from the media.
Another whitewash is in the works - for PM Prayut plans that as long as they "act honestly and decide based on empirical evidence", those involved in procuring anti-Covid medical equipment, medicines and vaccines cannot be sued.
If so, Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) head Donald Duck and Minister of Public Health Mickey Mouse could not be sued even though they lacked the competence to evaluate evidence presented and so made gross errors.
In a special cabinet meeting in April, PM Prayut took on the authority to manage any aspect of the Covid-19 fight himself.
Thus, no matter what anybody does related to Covid-19, PM Prayut bears ultimate accountability - which cannot be washed away.
No whitewash!

Burin Kantabutra,

Thai Government advised to help large companies
With provision of Covid-19 test kits
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 12 August 2021

Re: "Uncertainty continues", in Bangkok Post, Business, Monday, August 9, 2021.
The chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) proposes that the government helps companies to pay for Covid rapid antigen test kits.
We are only a small company with 12 employees but of course the company pays for the test kits.
But the big shots - the richest 10 of them just added almost a trillion baht to their assets in the last 18 months - need government support to buy test kits for their staff?
This is a small snapshot of what is wrong with the existing Thai political and economic system.
Meanwhile, protest leaders are put in jail.
I would propose putting some of the sycophants and bad advisers to the government in jail.
They do enormous damage.
But the real problem are of course the "important" people they act up to.

Karl Reichstetter,

Don’t change the ship
Just kick out the failed captain
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 August 2021
First published in the Star, Friday 6 August 2021

Last year, as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the world, the country’s democratically-elected government imploded.
Pakatan Harapan could not hold back from prioritising their politics, positioning their heir-apparent to take over the seat of Prime Minister.
Then-Prime Minister Tun Mahathir lost his calm and tendered his resignation after Dato’ Sri Anwar Ibrahim and his close supporters’ kept pushing for succession.
This serves as a reminder, the cohort of politicians we have are hard-wired to the fact that they need to consolidate power.
This has proven dysfunctional for the country as the opposition’s motivation is to add more political weight to sink the Perikatan Nasional ship.
But these manoeuvrings are short-sighted ventures.
Our Prime Minister was the first to announce in November 2020 that a General Election will be held once the Covid-19 situation is brought under control.
This is the constitutionally right way to correct the political error that has wounded our democracy.
Now, do we hear of any calls for that from any other leader? Very little, if any.
The current rhetoric against the government is - don’t change the “ship”, just kick out the “failed captain.”
This will take us back to the uncertainty that we saw in the Sheraton move.
It takes a lot to remove the Prime Minister.
What will happen to the Cabinet then?
Some politicians are happy where they are.
Some political parties think they are underrepresented despite their electoral significance.
Some have ambition.
While these concerns may have their time and place, this certainly isn’t the right time to pursue politics.
A political stalemate is the last thing we need in Malaysia right now.
As we approach close to 20,000 cases a day, we have to admit that we are all guilty of politics.
But we can also be guilty of pursuing peace.
But what is the cost of peace?
Perhaps, it will be at the expense of our politics.
No amount of politicking and jockeying for positions of power will change the fact that we are in a race against time to suppress the pandemic before it further mutates and claims more lives.
We need to remain focused on the task at hand to combat Covid-19, protect livelihoods and secure a future where we can still have a stable and safe society to return to.
We need to deliberate on what this stable and safe society means to us.
If it is eradicating the pandemic to finally bring this matter to a vote, then perhaps all we see with our politicians is unnecessary.
There are plenty of opportunities in the pipeline for our MPs to make a political stand in the coming months.
The tabling of the Budget 2022.
The reading of the 12th Malaysia Plan.
The vote of confidence that was announced by the a Prime Minister yesterday. These are the opportunities that politicians can take to determine our future.
But right now, our people are falling sick and dying.
Right now, many are left jobless.
Right now, some even don’t have enough to eat.
So as we are all guilty of our politics, we should use our energies, resources, and influence to fight the pandemic.
This way, we can win this battle and all be guilty of peace.

Chan Quin Er,
Kuala Lumpur,

Bounty from Chinese tourists to Philippines
Could buy elections for President
The Southeast Asian Times. Wednesday 11 August 2921
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 August 2021

The editorial “Hollow fight,” August 5, 2021 in Philippine Inquirer took note of a report from the Ateneo School of Government which showed that President Duterte miserably failed to do the one major thing he promised during his 2016 election campaign - to eradicate corruption in government “by the end of that year.” The fact of the matter is, it only got worse thereafter and is much worse today.
That Ateneo paper posited that such “failure followed from the presidential approach to governance that removed or weakened the guardrails already proven necessary to control corruption.”
Having institutionalized impunity, Mr. Duterte has grown very fond of talking tommyrot, frequently saying he has fired corrupt officials here and there when in truth he would just “recycle” his favorite appointees to other lucrative posts.
The editorial failed to mention the one thing that made the Duterte administration more prone to corruption: Ombudsman Samuel Martires, who obviously continues to look after Mr. Duterte’s interest.
Take the case of that continuing airport “heist” by some 43 or is it now 86? Bureau of Immigration personnel in the form of “pastillas” bounty from Chinese “tourists” reportedly amounting to P40 billion.
Everyone is wondering why that scandal never got any prosecutorial attention from the Ombudsman. Mischievous minds can’t help thinking:
That kind of money could buy elections for president, vice president, senators, and congressmen this 2022.
When will Filipino voters quit thinking like they were born only yesterday?

Ulysses Bermudez,

Poverty could transform Thailand
Into a national tourist sandbox of danger
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday 9 August 2021

Re: "The shame of Thai tourism", Bangkok Post, Editorial, August 7, 2021.
I agree with the Bangkok Post's editorial on recent tourist deaths and murders in Thailand, but I think the writer missed one point.
The article seems to place the burden for tourist safety almost entirely on the government, and better policing.
Yet I must ask if tourists really will be as safe as they used to be among the Thai people themselves, given the massive escalation in Thai poverty brought about by Covid-19.
Poverty always escalates violent crime, and videos are emerging showing starving Bangkok residents fishing in dirty canals for their meals, or Thais going hungry in displays of blatant poverty elsewhere; people waiting in breadlines, and many sleeping on the street.
Given these scenes, I ask if it really is possible for the government to keep tourists as safe as they once were, as poverty usually breeds desperation and increased violence.
So, with so much of Thailand steeped in abject poverty, I can't help but wonder if those mounting levels of poverty might eventually transform Thailand into a national tourist sandbox of danger.

Jason A Jellison,

Sedition Act denies Malaysians
Right to voice opinion
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 August 2021
First published in Malaysikini, Wednesday 3 August 2021

Being born and living in Malaysia for 22 years, the current political instability truly disappointed me. I couldn’t see an end to it.
The economy is going down, and people are suffering. But the government remains useless to cope with the ordeal.
So here we are, fighting for the future of Malaysia.
But the authority wanted to silence us with Sedition Act.
One of the founders of Misi Solidariti, Sarah Irdina Mohammad Ariff, was arrested by the police a few days before the #Lawan protest.
She was released afterwards, but the motive is clear: to deter the people from protesting the Perikatan Nasional government.
If voicing out discontent toward the government is deemed wrong, does democracy still exist in Malaysia?
People should have the right to voice opinions.
However, the existence of the Sedition Act has denied us the right.
People should be the watchdogs, but who dares to speak loud when there is a law to shut down the voice?
However, the government could not silence the people forever.
If they silence one, there will be others.
Like the case of Sarah, the arrest does not stop the youths from attending the #Lawan protest.
We will unite even stronger against oppression.
I stand strongly with the #Lawan movement and the protesters.

Chong Xin Yi,
Kuala Lumpur,


Nothing concrete will come out of appointment
Of ASEAN special Envoy to Myanmar
The Southeastasian Times, Sunday 8 August 2021

To go through the ritual motions under its “ five point consensus plan “ we are informed ‘ASEAN appoints Brunei diplomat Special Envoy to Myanmar’ ( The Southeast Asian Times 6 Aug 2021 ).
Nothing concrete will come out of that. Just ask any pro-democracy person in Myanmar.
A brutal military regime does not understand the language of democratic engagement. That is not the way it operates.
It’s not its modus operandi. Rule by dictatorial fiat and fear is .
The tentacles of the military junta needs to be cut to liberate the people of Myanmar from ruthless repression and restore democratic rule.

Rajend Naidu,

How to hold Philippine government officials
Accountable for handling of pandemic
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 5 August 2021

While the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge that has to be overcome, it is also an opportunity for us as citizens to reflect about what we do as a society, what we value as a people, and, more importantly, what we can do to change the social mechanisms and our priorities as a nation.
This pandemic underscored the source of our collective misery and disappointment: inefficient and corrupt leadership, disinformation, and social inequality.
These factors have made it difficult for the country to manage COVID-19 better than our Asian neighbors.
There has been a shortage of testing kits and personal protective equipment, as well as slow distribution of relief goods.
Disinformation has bred anxiety and panic.
Social inequality has highlighted the limited access of the lower classes to health facilities, transportation, and digital technology during lockdowns when movements are limited.
With the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine anew, we have a limited window to make immediate changes.
We can monitor the actions taken by our government officials in managing the crisis, and check the reliability of information that we see and share on social media.
Through these, we can ensure that checks and balances in government remain.
We have to reflect as a society:
How do we hold government officials accountable for the lousy handling of the pandemic, poor health care facilities, and backward digital technology?
For change to happen in our country, we have to take collective action.
Otherwise, any future crisis will remain a challenge to be overcome and never an opportunity for ourselves and our society to transform into something better.

Prince Aldama,
University of the Philippines
Los Banos,

Covid-19 Antigen rapid test kits
Repackaged at Thai Pharmacy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 August 2021

Re: "The importance of testing", Bangkok Post, Life, July 26, 2021.
Recently I went to my pharmacy to purchase a Covid-19 Antigen rapid test.
I asked for two kits and was given two clear plastic zip top bags each with a sealed kit, sealed swab, solution tube and drip attachment.
I was charged 400 baht for each.
When I arrived home, I realised there were no instructions enclosed so I searched the manufacturer and found, to my amazement, that this kit normally came packed in a small cardboard box containing two complete sets.
It would appear the pharmacy was buying the kits as packaged, opening them, and repackaging them as individual units.
This increases the chance of cross contamination from handling and allows them to sell the kits at a ridiculously high price.
If this is common practice it places the kit out of the reach of many.
Like failing to price control the green chiretta herb this opens the door to price gouging.

Fred Prager,


Victims of pandemic in Thailand
Dumped at temple
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 4 August 2021

Re: "Death rites pose deadly risk", in Bangkok Post Saturday 31 July 2021.
I agree with the idea that monks, undertakers and other temple workers should be among the first to be inoculated with anti-Covid vaccines.
In any ordinary situation, temples are a place where people normally dump their pets such as dogs and cats which they no longer love.
But in a situation such as we are having today, as appeared on television news a few days ago: a woman and her husband drove her octogenarian father who was seriously sick with Covid-19 to a temple in Korat, left him there, and quickly disappeared.
Hence, temples are not just a dumping ground for discarded animals at the moment but live humans as well.

Vint Chavala,

Time to ponder if the Duterte family
Is truly God’s gift to the Filipino people
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 29 July 2021

Regarding the “tangled web” Stephen Monsanto wrote about “The question of succession,” Letters, July 26, 2021, it really started on the day more than 16 million Filipinos were first deceived by a small-time mayor who became president of the entire archipelago with promises of better things to come, which he now admits are impossible to fulfill after almost 6 years in office.
President Duterte has been prone to making “palusot” ever since.
But his even darker side was his profanity, which was evidenced by his total lack of respect for the leader of more than 1.2 billion Catholics around the world when he denounced Pope Francis as a “son of a bitch” for clogging up traffic and disrupting his presidential campaign due to that once-in-a-blue-moon papal visit in November 2015.
Anyone who might have thought Mr. Duterte would at least start minding his tongue once he got elected to the country’s most exalted post got it all wrong.
He has turned out to be the most incorrigibly foul-mouthed president this country has ever had.
It’s our misfortune that he speaks for all of us here and abroad.
This country prides itself in being the only “Christian” nation in Asia, with around 86 percent of the population being Roman Catholic.
So, what, dear Lord, have the Filipinos done to deserve this miserable state of the nation’s affairs?
Well, for one thing, despite the unmitigated insult Mr. Duterte had hurled at Pope Francis, people still voted for him.
The President later proved he had no problem calling their God “stupid.”
As incredible as it may seem, Mr. Duterte is said to have bagged the highest “approval rating” more than 90 percent! in recent surveys, a record no president before him had even come close to obtaining.
And given the convoluted “succession” Monsanto was talking about, Mr. Duterte’s dynastic misrule may stay longer than anyone is expecting.
Evangelist-turned-party-list-representative Eddie Villanueva’s fear that Mr. Duterte’s unbridled “blasphemy” may “bring curses” to this country should give everyone pause, and time to ponder if the Duterte family is truly God’s gift to the Filipino people.
Will Hail Marys work for any opposition candidate?

Jeremias H. Tobias,

Call for Papua New Guinea Parliament
To ratify results of Bougainville referendum
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 August 2021
First published in the National, Friday 30 July 2021

I want to raise this concern in relation the recent Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) consultation between Prime Minister James Marape and his counterpart – Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama.
Both parties resolved to find a political settlement for Bougainville by 2025 and not later than 2027.
The question is whether this Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) resolution is consistent with the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) constitutions. The two governments should cease discussing political settlement for Bougainville.
They should continue discussing the shortest possible time frame for Parliament to ratify the results of the referendum.
Fix a time for this current parliament to ratify the results of the referendum.
Propose an act of parliament to specify a manner in which parliament will ratify the referendum results.
Get parliament to convene to ratify the referendum results.
If parliament fails to master enough numbers to ratify the results of the referendum, the people of Bougainville should accept the parliament’s decision.
If none of the above takes place, Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) needs to reconvene consultation that will result in reaching a political settlement similar to the ones enjoyed by Palau and the United States or the Cook Islands and New Zealand.
This is the settlement that will cater for 98 per cent for independence in which Bougainville and Papua New Guinea will remain as associated states.

Pau Piahe,
Kangu Beach,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Duterte wants to be successor-president
God save the Philippines!
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 2 August 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 30, 2021

We have known all along that President Duterte has very little respect, if at all, for the Constitution.
Not content with blatantly betraying the public trust reposed in him to protect Philippine sovereignty by warmly welcoming China to come in and trample our sacred shores, he also mocks the constitutional mandate limiting his term to only six years and absolutely no more.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has put in black and white what everyone was already saying:
Mr. Duterte is shamelessly lusting for a power grab, “Lagman: Duterte wants to be ‘successor-president’ with VP bid,” Philippine Inquirer July 18, 2021.
Knowing as a lawyer that the vice presidency is just a “spare tire” post and there is absolutely nothing in it for him, what in God’s name is Mr. Duterte really up to?
This is very ominous.
Since a VP bid for Mr. Duterte seems to be a “sure thing” if the surveys are to be believed and they usually come true and could carry his presidential “manok” or dummy to victory with him, it is a foregone conclusion that he will have the latter step aside pronto to give way to his succession.
And it will all be legal, albeit totally immoral.
God save the Philippines!

Jan Vincent L. Martinez,

Philippine President Duterte obliged to cooperate
With International Criminal Court (ICC)
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 1, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 30, 202

The Supreme Court has ruled: “Withdrawing from the Rome Statute does not discharge a state from the obligations it has incurred as a member. Consequently, liability for the alleged summary killings and other atrocities committed in the course of the war on drugs is not nullified or negated here” in “Inevitable fate, Philippine Inquirer, Opinion, July 27, 2021.
It was a unanimous pronouncement by the highest court of our land.
No one, not even any of President Duterte’s appointees, dissented.
Only Palace spokesperson Harry Roque “dissented” in defense of his boss, lamely arguing that it was “obiter dictum” or, to his way of thinking, empty words in a 101-page resolution!
The petition questioning Mr. Duterte’s unilateral withdrawal was itself dismissed for being “moot and academic” following the United Nations’ acceptance of that withdrawal.
The withdrawal was Mr. Duterte’s desperate attempt to escape criminal prosecution for his alleged crimes against humanity in the conduct of his war on drugs, which has seen the slaughter of tens of thousands of suspected drug users and pushers, including innocent bystanders.
Bottom line is, between 15 Supreme Court justices who were one in ruling that Mr. Duterte is obliged to cooperate in the criminal process, and Roque by his lonesome who disagreed that his boss is not so obliged, is there ever any doubt in any right-thinking person’s mind whose word carries more weight?
So, is this really now the absurd, ridiculous extent to which the former University of the Philippines College of Law professor is willing to go in his obsequious service to his principal?

Angeli O Marconi

Scott Morrison says 'sorry'
For his failings as PM of Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 31 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 26 July 2021

Re: "Australian PM 'sorry' for slow vaccine rollout", in Bangkok Post July 23, 2021.
It's refreshing to see the rare instance of a leading politician actually take responsibility for his shortcomings.
While most leaders around the world are deflecting, pointing fingers at others, and making excuses for poor outcomes related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Australian prime minister has taken ownership of his decisions and mistakes, including apologising for the slow pace of vaccinations in his country.
The world needs more leaders who assume responsibility for their decisions and actions and work to correct them rather than simply make excuses for failings. It takes a real leader to accept responsibility, admit errors, and move swiftly to remedy mistakes.

Samanea Saman,

Neutral polling organisation to evaluate police
More credible than police reporting on police
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 27 July 2021

Re: "Deal struck to cut police graft", Bangkok Post July 24, 2021
I laud new police chief Pol Gen Suwat and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) head Pol Gen Watcharapol in working together to reduce graft in 88 Metropolitan Police stations in Bangkok.
This is to elevate operational quality and encourage better budget allocation in hiring and human resource management.
But rather than stressing just self-assessment by the cops, Pol Gen Suwat and Pol Gen Watcharapol should focus on the citizenry whom they are supposed to serve in each precinct.
The reason is simple: if you want to know how delicious the food is, you ask the diners - not the chefs. Asking anybody to evaluate themselves is an obvious major conflict of interest.
A major and neutral polling organisation, such as the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) or Suan Dusit polls, could design and carry out the survey, and their reports would be far more credible than if the police reported on themselves.
Also, the police and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) should not reinvent the wheel.
Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn's panel proposed in-depth police reforms to then-Prime Minister Abhisit, and Khun Vicha Mahakun's committee recommended thorough changes at the police and Attorney-General's Office to PM Prayut.
Their work provides an excellent starting point in cleansing the police of graft and should be used.

Burin Kantabutra,


Sara Duterte's bid for presidency
Could be for real
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 27 July 2021

In his column “Isko vs Sara: The battle of mayors” July 20, 2021, Richard Heydarian seemed to make the argument that presidential daughter Sara Duterte’s reported bid for the presidency with her father as running mate could be for real, given that her “philosophy of governance stands in sharp contrast to her father’s, who is more visceral and top-down in his decision-making.”
Her independent-mindedness may therefore be her strongest suit against critics who see her as no more than a dummy being used by her father to extend his term and gain immunity from prosecution for another six years via succession.
If Sara becomes - and stays - president, we may yet see the difference and breathe a sigh of relief.
Or, she may just follow her father’s advice to step down and be spared from all the hurtful political intrigues that come with the job.
So if she dutifully resigns and her father takes over, who then becomes vice president?
The line of succession allows the Senate president and the speaker to succeed to the presidency only in default of the president and the vice president.
There is no succession to the so-called “spare tire” position.
Section 9 of Article VII of the Constitution provides: “Whenever there is a vacancy in the Office of the Vice-President… the President shall nominate a Vice-President from among the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all Members of both Houses of Congress voting separately.”
Unlike the US Constitution which gives the new president the prerogative of appointing anyone to fill his old post with the approval of Congress, our Constitution limits the president’s choice to the members of Congress.
Thus, if President Duterte does get recycled as president, he can nominate either Sen. Bong Go or Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte to fill the position he vacated, thereby placing any one of them in the position to succeed him in the event he feels he’s too sick or tired to continue running the show.
And with either his son Paolo or best friend Bong as “president,” Citizen Duterte can remain just as powerful and untouchable, and may continue to dictate the terms of our elections even beyond 2028.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Stephen L Monsanto,

Thailand fines rapper for accusing government
Of bungling Covid-19 crisis
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 28, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday July 27, 2021

Re: "Rapper fined for govt slur", in Bangkok Post, July 23, 2021
Rapper Danupa Milli Khanatheerakulat has been fined 2,000 baht for "accusing the government of bungling the Covid-19 crisis".
She said the mismanagement has led to surging infection and death rates.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed by our Prayut-drafted constitution, and she was exercising that right.
Not only that, during the recent past, the curves of our confirmed Covid-19 infections and deaths have been rising almost vertically, ICU beds are almost full, and three bodies lay in Bangkok's streets for hours before being collected.
Was she telling the truth?

Burin Kantabutra,


President Duterte to jet-ski in West Philippine Sea
In defiance of China's claim over South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 July 2021

President Duterte has idiotized the Filipino voters like no past president had, as shown by his "high approval rating" to this day.
This is precisely why he has become so bold as to announce that he is available for a second term by running for vice president, with the obvious intention of immediately eliminating the dummy he picks to run for president.
If the voters bought his improbable bravado about "jet-skiing" to the West Philippine Sea in defiance of China, they would most likely believe more of the false promises coming out of his mouth.
The framers of the Constitution had fixed the term of the president to be no more than six years.
But they clearly failed to reckon with the shamelessness of a president who wants to cling to power longer by any means, fair or foul.
Didn’t they ever see how mischievous many of our politicians have been - going up and down the ladder ad nauseam as they reached their term limits, and getting away with it?
There is a saying:
If the letter killeth, the spirit that giveth life should prevail. Now, is it the other way around?
The spirit killeth Mr. Duterte’s bid for another term, but the letter giveth it life!
The plain language of the Constitution does not prohibit his run for vice president, and therefore allows it—so scr*w the "spirit"?
God, please spare this country from more COVID-19 misery - and especially from more of Mr. Duterte, who was said to be "praying" for divine guidance if he should run for vice president or not, despite having called Thee you-know-what. Let not his blasphemy cause us all this suffering.
Hirap na hirap na po ang Pilipinas. Parang awa N’yo na po!

Nimfa Rina Ricafort,

Philippine government loses another case
In recovery of Marcos ill-gotten assets
The Southeast Asian Times. Monday 26 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 20 July 2021

As if the 2019 Sandiganbayan decision dismissing the case for recovery of P200 billion in ill-gotten assets against the Marcoses was not jaw-dropping enough, comes now the report that the government has lost another Marcos case.
This makes people wonder:
What the hell is wrong with our judicial system?
It seems that when it comes to the Marcoses, Philippine courts are more fixated on the hole in the donut rather than what’s on the dough - conveniently finding evidence that does not suffice, instead of finding evidence that suffices.

Rogelio S. Candelario,

Ministerial "leakage" in Thailand
Can cause cost and value to diverge
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 July 2021
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 23 July 2021

Re: "Three months on, govt inks Pfizer deal," in Bangkok Post, July 21, 2021
"The government has signed a supply agreement for 20 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine - the delivery is expected in the fourth quarter of this year."
We've heard this before.
Public Health Minister Anutin also "expected" AstraZeneca to grant Thailand more than its contracted supply so the government could meet its jab target.
I don't trust what the government expects any more.
What is the specified delivery date in the contract?
Furthermore, "The value of the deal was not disclosed."
Why the big mystery?
The value should be public knowledge.
After all, the article references the US embassy website as saying the 1.5 million doses of donated Pfizer vaccine are worth US$30 million about 984 million baht. That works out to 656 baht per dose or 1.312 billion baht for the 20 million doses purchased.
But perhaps it's the cost of the deal that the government does not wish to disclose - since it is often rumoured that ministerial "leakage" can cause cost and value to diverge.

Tom Parkinson,

Is saying anything that is positive about China
Necessarily appeasement?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 July 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 22 July 2021

We thank Solita Monsod for recognizing that there are large benefits in our relationship with China in “The costs of appeasement,” Get Real, July 17, 2021. She also brought up the need to study net benefits vs costs.
Our difference then in outlook is in the valuation of these contributions and the attribution of intentions.
Is saying anything that is positive about China necessarily “appeasement”?
We briefly share some alternative views.
The value of timely assistance in times when we confront life or death is incalculable.
The quick ending of the Marawi siege is by no means attributing this to Chinese or Russian donation of arms alone.
But planeloads were donated at a time when the US initially blocked arms delivery but later released, just when we were at risk of becoming an IS-run state.
The early donation of billions in lifesaving personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and vaccines protected our frontliners.
It also allowed the start of our turnaround - value in the hundreds of billions a month, with the help of medical workers, private donors, and public servants.
For months, the US hoarded all vaccines, and countries like India that waited suffered immensely.
Yes, we have to control poachers.
Why do Antonio Carpio and Albert del Rosario never mention that the most frequent poachers are Vietnamese, or that Indonesians blew up dozens of Filipino boats they claimed were poachers, or Malaysians physically punished arrested Filipinos?
Yet we manage those issues and expand cooperation.
Has Professor Monsod calculated the million Filipinos dead in the war with the US, the millions killed in wars worldwide, the various sovereignty violations, including the US abandoning our claims on Sabah - are these already justified by US benefits?
To calculate lost income as billions of dollars yearly is based on theoretical potential and has no bearing on our practical reality.
Why do our children not dream of becoming fishermen?
Over 90 percent of our own coral reefs and coastal fish are endangered as reported by World Resources Institute, the UN Environment Program, our own fishermen.
Yes, we need to help and work together.
We are also in a deficit to Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, etc., because we consume more than we produce, and our people and educated class don’t have much interest in manufacturing.
Trade is mutually beneficial, we have the choice to not buy from China.
Industry players know China’s technologies have enabled millions of our people to afford smartphones and broadband.
Much of our improved internet coverage recently allowing our lives to resume online is due to Chinese tech companies partnering with our Filipino telecoms and upgrading the skills of our engineers.
How we approach issues productively rather than emotionally, to uplift our people, is the goal of IDSI.
The first step is obtaining accurate facts, then using proven frames of analysis that give good results.

Integrated Development Studies Institute (ISDI)



Bougainville secession from Papua New Guinea
Ploy to salvage Government plunging popularity
The Southeast Asian Times. Friday 23 July 2021
First published in National, Wednesday 21 July 2021

Gone are the days of Sir Noel Levi, Sir John Kaputin, Kilroy Genia to name a few of our very own Henry Kissingers, who graced the world of statesmanship with an aura of dignity and proudly wore Papua New Guinea on their sleeves.
Those who ardently followed the Bougainville reconciliation and peace process right from the beginning wouldn’t miss former Foreign Affairs minister Genia’s remarkable skills of negotiation and statesmanship in finding a diplomatic solution.
Secession was never on the agenda.
Our leaders and negotiators at the time were so mindful in the peace talks to never compromise the sovereignty of Papua New Guinea.
In every way possible, our unity in diversity as one nation, one country and one people was defended right up to the hilt.
Not until in 1997 former prime minister, the late Sir William Skate opened the flood gates to Bougainville self-determination.
Notorious Sir William with alleged connections to Port Moresby’s criminal underworld soon brought the country to its knees.
His erratic fiscal mismanagement jeopardised Papua New Guinea’s standing with international aid donors and investors.
Coupled with economic mismanagement the country suffered in his two-year rule through a prolonged drought, a tsunami that killed some 2,000 people and the Asian financial crisis hurting the country’s exports, Sir William needed something to salvage his dying popularity.
He set foot on Bougainville as the first Papua New Guinea prime minister since the conflicts started in 1988.
Sir William committed to fast-track the peace process.
In mid-1999, he resigned to avoid a no-confidence motion.
Former United States president Abraham Lincoln once said: “The central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy”.
Now it is stomach churning when “lesser men”, men not grounded on smart statesmanship are attempting the Bougainville question.
Today, Prime Minister James Marape’s government is no different to Sir William’s.
Papua New Guinea is confronted with a worst ever economic recession, now heavily relying on tax with the closure of all revenue streams, blatant economic mismanagement killing off investor confidence, public debts racing pass manageable thresholds, mine and business closure leaving thousands out of job and an over sensitised Covid-19 pandemic with billions of emergency funding becoming the Government’s milking cow while imposing unnecessary restrictions.
Bougainville may again pose as a perfect sacrificial lamb to salvage the Government’s plunging popularity.
It is best for the country that Marape, a man standing at the very shadow end of the statesmanship pool to not try grandstand the Bougainville issue for political expediency.

David Lepi,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Call for lawyer to be disbarred for defending
China against Philippines fishermen
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday, July 22, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday July 19, 2021

“Palace Pinocchio” Harry Roque should be disbarred.
Once lawyering on behalf of some fisherfolk in Zambales and Pangasinan who were being harassed in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard, he now brazenly lawyers for China in the fishermen’s complaint against the bully that keeps on doing what it has been doing all these years, to the detriment of their livelihood.
The editorial “Who’s parroting whom?” July 16, 2021 took note of the fact that this time around, Roque has taken up the cudgels for China despite evidence-based “abuse and bullying of those whom China considers interlopers in the South China Sea,” like his own former clients.
Many years ago, Roque had no problem branding China as a “rogue state” for claiming that the West Philippine Sea is “its lake and, hence, part of its internal waters.”
He vehemently denounced that claim as “utterly bereft of legal merit.”
Now, in exchange for the dubious fame and fortune attached to his main duty of sanitizing all the codswallop that President Duterte spews in constant praise of China, Roque has no problem eating his words.
Lawyers have been disciplinarily dealt with for lesser instances of malfeasance.

George Del Mar,

Russia is providing strong support
To Asean's guiding role in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 18 July 2021

Re: "Russia is back and it's a little bit better," in Bangkok Post Opinion, July 13, 2021.
In his commentary, journalist Kavi Chongkittavorn said that "for unknown reasons, Moscow has attracted admiration for its strong tactics and unwavering support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and besieged Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, not to mention the annexation of Crimea".
Let me make these reasons clear.
Unlike other great powers' inconsistent double standards, and hidden international manoeuvres, Russian foreign policy insists on observing international law, adherence to governing rules, principles and due procedures that accompany them.
Attempts to overthrow a legitimate government with the assistance of illegal foreign military intervention, however motivated, correspond to none of the above.
On the contrary, a limited Russian military presence as well as support of Syria were entirely legitimate, since both had been requested by the Syrian government.
Belarus is a Russian ally and closest partner.
Russia is engaged in building an allied state in accordance with bilateral agreements.
Threats to its stability by mobs in defiance of political procedures are naturally detrimental to immediate Russian security and economic interests.
For the same reason, the support for Venezuela was aimed at opposing overthrowing an elected leader bypassing due political process rather than helping Mr Maduro alone.
As for Crimea, before calling annexation, Khun Kavi forgot to mention a referendum that won the unequivocal support of the peninsula's entire population to reunify with Russia.
Russia is providing strong support to Asean's guiding role in Myanmar.
The Russian position is consistent with the provisions of the association's five-point consensus; first of all, provisions regarding the cessation of violence and the exercise of utmost restraint by all conflicting parties and the development of a dialogue among them aimed at stabilisation.
Together with Asean, Russia shares the view that unilateral sanctions, rhetoric of threats and any attempts to interfere in Myanmar's internal affairs will have destructive effects and further polarise its society.
Hopefully, the expected appointment of Asean's special envoy for Myanmar will be the next big step that provides necessary momentum to Asean-Russia's joint efforts to settle the situation in that country.
It is for consistency, predictability and adherence to principles that Russian foreign policy attracts admiration worldwide.

Pyotor Ivanovich,

Court in Hague ruling on South China Sea
Nothing but a piece of waste paper
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 July 2021

The news item “Gov’t urged to act immediately on latest issues concerning West Philippine Sea,” July 14, 2021 left us wondering whether we should laugh or cry.
There was supposedly public outrage over the Chinese ambassador’s remark that the Arbitral Award in favor of the Philippines was nothing but a “piece of waste paper,” but seriously, what’s the fuss all about?
The Chinese envoy was just repeating what President Duterte had said months ago “Duterte on PH win over China: ‘That’s just paper; I’ll throw that in the waste basket’,” June 5, 2021!
Mr. Duterte himself saw no value in the Philippines’ victory, so why blame China for agreeing with him totally?
Thanks to their duly elected president, our people deserve this utter humiliation. Yet, despite knowing now that they had voted for a president who couldn’t care less about the public outrage his subservience to China is causing, they continue to give him very high approval ratings, which has only emboldened him to go for another six years, by hook or by crook.
“Duterte-Duterte tandem leads in Pulse Asia survey,” July 13, 2021 reads a recent news item.
Is there still any doubt what lies ahead for this country?
For the love of God, are there no more Filipinos in the current regime decent enough to say enough?

Marcelo “JR” Garcis,



Call for investigation into misappropriation of funds
Marked for PNG islander resettlement program
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 19 July 2021
First published in the National, Friday 16 July 2021

We have been following the news about the investigation into the misappropriation of funds marked for the Manam Restoration Authority.
It is sad that the millions of kina allocated were allegedly misappropriated by people in authority in Madang while the islanders suffered and did not benefit from the funds that were released by the Government.
We in East Sepik are asking if an investigation of some sort can be done into funds that were released for the Kadovar islanders.
They are currently temporarily settled at the care centre at Dandan, along the Wewak eastern coast.
We ere told that K5 million was marked to help the islanders in a possible resettlement programme.
However, we are not sure if the money has been released.
We have been asking questions for people in authority in Wewak and East Sepik to tell us how the islanders could be helped.
So far, no one has responded to our questions.
We, the people in Wewak, are asking too about the long-term plans for the islanders who are settling in Dandan.
Are they going to be living there forever?
If so, have the landowners agreed to this.
We want the people in authority to tell us that.
We are aware of the problems faced by Manam islanders who have been resettled on the mainland.
We do not want our Kadovar islanders in Wewak to face the same issues.
As a start, we want an investigation into the money that was marked to help with the Wewak islanders.
Was K5 million from the Government given?
If so, where is it?
How was it used?

Wewak Islander,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Military dynasty in national security apparatus
Holds monopoly of power in Philippines today.
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 18 July 2021

Since 1986, the entire national security apparatus of the nation has been sick.
The 1986 Edsa Revolution started it all.
The Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff who came from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Philippines) (ROTC) was replaced by Fidel V. Ramos, a US military academy graduate.
Thereafter, graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) succeeded him to the position of chief of staff.
Down the line, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates started occupying key positions in the national security apparatus.
Was there anything wrong?
Not at all, after all Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates were well trained and well selected.
They came from the best of our youth, trained by the best military school.
But however good it was, there was a bad side.
It was the beginning of the military dynasty in the national security apparatus that holds the monopoly of power today.
That monopoly of power has placed Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates in almost all key positions, which has split the officer corps in two: one for them and the other for the second-class officers who came from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Philippines) (ROTC) but occupy 70 percent of the officer corps.
With this structure, it is easy to see that morale had become a rooted problem. Such a problem erodes the efficiency, effectiveness, and efficacy of the organization. The indicators are there to see.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has an unwholesome reputation.
Their generals go to jail.
The rank and file don’t report for duty.
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) flight safety record is not something to be proud of. Their mistah system doesn’t work well.
I know. I was there for 35 years.
The Air Force of the Philippines (AFP), managed by Philippine Military Academy (PMA) grads, has been fighting the insurgency for 70 years.
The public can judge for itself how well or unwell it has gone.
The truth of the matter is that in any organization where there is monopoly of power, elitism will rear its ugly head.
Competition becomes extinct. Camaraderie disappears.
People lose the elan to strive for excellence.
Power corrupts.
It is as true today as it was in the days of Lord Acton.
That is why there is always the need for checks and balances as enshrined in our Constitution. Seven years ago, there was a bill in the Senate filed by five senators to establish separate academies for the Air Force and the Navy to produce officers in the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) that would serve that all-important doctrine of checks and balances.
Instead, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was reinvented to become a tri-service academy.
The result: more of the same.
The graduates have continued to flood the entire security apparatus.
The monopoly of power is for us to see.
It is from one mistah to the next like a revolving door. The military dynasty enshrined elitism in the entire national security apparatus.
Let it be said that the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is not an elitist school. Most of the cadets come from the middle class and poor families.
Elitism is never a doctrine or policy in the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP).
I sent two of my sons there, and we are not by any means an elitist family.
But the course of human events led the organization to what it is today.
Truly, the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) Officers Corps is now too powerful. It is a monster.
The public knows that. Sadly, there is nothing to provide checks and balances.

Lt., Gen. Antonio E. Sotelo,
the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) (Ret.)

Call for US donated vaccines to Thailand
To include vaccination of US citizens in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, July 8, 2021

Re: "Thais set for 1.5m US doses", in Bangkok Post, July 8, 2021
While the US donation of vaccines to Thailand is welcome support, many Americans are wondering why some of the vaccines being sent here cannot be explicitly earmarked for US citizens residing in the kingdom.
China can do it.
France can do it.
Why can't the US do it?
Is the provision of vaccines to Americans too costly?
Is the operation too difficult?
Or, are American officials simply too uncaring?

Samanea Saman,

Dismissed court justices recieve retirement benefits
Despite justices found guilty of corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Tuesday 13 July 2021

Once again, the Supreme Court has demonstrated how generous it can be when it comes to dispensing taxpayer money like an ATM in favor of people deemed “more equal” than the rest of us.
“Special people” like former Sandiganbayan justice Gregory Ong and the late chief justice Renato Corona have been allowed to enjoy the whole package of retirement benefits despite having been both found guilty of corruption during their “public service” time in the bench (“SC shows ‘mercy’ for ex-justice who fixed Napoles case,” July 7, 2021; “SC vindicates Corona, grants full retirement benefits,” February 9, 2021
If the Supreme Court has no better use of surplus cash in the tens of millions being showered on those former magistrates, it could have thought of the millions of Filipinos wallowing in abject poverty, misery, and sickness amid this raging pandemic, now without much help from a supposedly bankrupt government.
Not to be insensitive to the “miseries” of the Ong and Corona families, but what greater acts of corruption did the millions of Filipinos do to be treated to the spectacle of being denied even just a sprinkling of similar financial aid from the “highest court of law and justice”?

Chin Chin Katigbak,

Call for moral excellence in Presidential candidate
In 2022 Philippines elections
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday 15 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 July 2021

President Duterte has turned our country into a topsy-turvy land defined by a culture of violence and lawlessness; extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses; a crisis of confidence in institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Senate, House of Representatives, Commission on Elections, and local government units; wanton violation of the Constitution and democratic system; suppression of the freedom of speech and of the press; historical revisionism, political patronage, and rampant militarization; jarring mass poverty, widespread corruption, unaccomplished benefits for workers and the poor, and inferior health programs; complaisant subservience to China; and the betrayal of our country and people with his divisive, incompetent, autocratic leadership.
Such ills must not describe the next presidency.
We have a chance at real change in 2022.
Let’s not elect/reelect the self-advancing wreckers of the nation’s hard-earned democratic institutions - those mutilators of our political-social-moral-economic fabric.
Miriam Defensor Santiago said that academic, professional, and moral excellence are needed for the presidency. Vice President Leni Robredo has these qualities, and more. We, the 1,000 plus-members, families, and friends of Mga Apo’ Ni Tomas are ready for her presidency.

Pit M. Maliksi,

Call for differentiation between
Religion and state in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 July 2021
First published in the National, Monday 12 July 2021

I am against the move by the Government to declare Papua New Guinea a Christian Country.
I know some people are against it as well.
This move seems to be a practice of dictatorship.
We need to embrace the type of governance this country adapted since Independence.
We’re a democracy.
Democracy promotes citizens’ rights to freedom of choice in voting Members of Parliaments, rights to education, and rights to choose to follow whatever religion that suits an individual’s belief.
Section 45 of our Constitution is one of the basis of democratic laws and it guides the citizens’ rights to religious beliefs and practices.
So long as the creed and practices of a particular religion are morally right, they can be allowed to practice their faith.
If we successfully declare Papua New Guinea a Christian country, what would be its limits, restrictions or implications?
The non-Christians in the country should be advised on this.
As it is now, the move sounds dictatorial to non-Christian religions such as Baha’i, Islam and Judaism, which are already in Papua New Guinea.
In the case of Islam, I am a follower of Islam (reverted Muslim).
It was established in Papua New Guinea in 1982 as The Islamic Society of Papua New Guinea Inc.
Currently, Islam in Papua New Guinea has nearly 6,000 followers and is one of the fastest growing religion.
As the saying goes: “You can take a horse to the river, but cannot force it to drink the water”.
The Government cannot deprive our democratic right to choose whatever religion we want to follow.
It’s a conviction that comes from the heart and cannot be replaced with whatever external physical means. When we have to look at the Bible, some teachings are yet to be understood.
Different people have different interpretations when it comes to understanding certain messages in the Bible.
Different denominations have different practices. All in all, there are so many bible versions (roughly more than 40 versions today), which differs in so many verses.
Therefore, when we want to uphold certain agreed concepts or values and practices, it will be much more complicated to come to a better resolution. The Constitution itself is enough to provide a better community, promotes individuals prosperity and our interactions with other countries, if properly enforced.
It encounters every facet and dooms of morals and values that can prompt a better and peaceful living.
Just look at Australia, it is better off with a democratic system of governances.
Religion and politics are two different controversial topics and should be dealt with separately.
Political leaders should make a distinctive decisions as political leaders and not religious leaders so as to minimise conflicts of interest and opinions and to represent people well.

Abdul Ahemed (Muslim brother)
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Tons of used Covid-19 face masks
Getting into waterways
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 July 2021

Dr. Wong Chen Seong of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases of Singapore said that improper discarding of face masks that are soiled or have a “large amount of respiratory secretions” is a potential health hazard.
The virus on such masks that are left exposed is said to survive for a few hours to a few days and even for months to years if kept in a cold place.
According to Dr. Wong, one should wash his or her hands before taking off the mask.
Remove it not under the chin but rather through the ear loops.
Next, fold the mask in half inward so the droplets from the mouth and nose will not be exposed.
Fold it again to another half, then to another half until the mask looks like a roll. Finally, wrap it with its ear loops and put inside a piece of tissue before throwing it into a rubbish bin.
Associate Professor Alex Cook of National University of Singapore also said that those infected with the virus “should be more mindful of where they discard their mask. It would be a good idea to put it in a bag and throw it immediately in the trash rather than leave it sitting exposed.”
Experts say used face masks are getting into waterways, where they reach fresh water and the marine environment.
Oceans Asia reported in February 2020 the presence of face masks in waters off Hong Kong.
BBC has also reported that in Anilao, Batangas, scuba divers found numerous face masks in sea corals and in other marine areas, posing a danger to fish and other sea animals.
In my morning walks, I have seen face masks on streets, dogs biting into face masks, and children playing with dirty masks.
Just recently, a friend forwarded a plea from garbage collectors asking that homes segregate their face masks from other waste.
A study conducted by the University of Phayao, Thailand last year showed that in 49 Asian countries including the Philippines, 16,659.48 tons of medical waste, mostly face masks, were being generated daily during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In India, it’s 6,491.49; Iran, 1,191.04; Pakistan 1,099.30; the Philippines, 353.03.
As we continue to grapple with the pandemic, we must do our share to protect the environment.
We should also kneel harder in prayer that our garbage collectors, like our other frontliners, may do their job well and will not get sick.

Mario D. Dalangin,
Kapatirang Bihiya treasurer,

Call for Integrated Bar of the Philippines
To redress death of Filipinos due to China's Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 8 July 2021

While admitting that there is no law prohibiting President Duterte from running for vice president, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Domingo Cayosa seemed to make the argument that a challenge can be lodged with the Supreme Court in case Mr. Duterte makes good that threat.
He warned that “the process can be tedious and drawn out” “No legal obstacle to Duterte VP run, but will his 16 million voters back him again? lawyer,” July 5, 2021, suggesting it may not be resolved during Mr. Duterte’s extended presidency through succession.
Our own takeaway is that the challenge will not be long and drawn-out, but will be quickly disposed of for being pointless.
Take the case of former president Gloria M. Arroyo who ran for Congress after her term expired. Has any lawyer ever doubted her right to do so?
The Constitution plainly bars any president from seeking election again to the same office, but not to any other office regardless of his or her ulterior motive.
It all simply boils down to how the electorate will view such "lust for power."
Cayosa should find better use of his influence and time by rousing his colleagues in the currently moribund Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), whose only proof of life is felt in its vigorous effort to collect the annual dues from its members.
He could rally them to do something more patriotic: to seek redress in a court of law on behalf of about 1.5 million Filipinos sick and the heirs of about 25,000 dead due to China’s COVID-19.
More evidence is already coming to light, pointing to the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as having ginned up the virus in its Wuhan lab to make it more lethal and highly transmissible to humans - a biological weapon, many are convinced, for all intents and purposes.
The task is no doubt herculean and unprecedented.
There might arise the need for a special tribunal composed of the best legal minds in the country to preside over a class suit that could be deemed sui generis, as it seeks indemnification amounting to an astronomical sum.
Suing a foreign political party or organization running a foreign government whose satellite companies are doing business and holding enormous assets in this country is fraught with extreme difficulties.
Only the cachet that the members of the Supreme Court hold can lend credibility to such proceedings.
And while, as a rule, our Supreme Court has been declaring itself not "a trier of facts," the truth of the matter is it can disregard that rule any time it needs to. Indeed, if it can take time out to act as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to receive evidence of electoral fraud as in Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos vs. Vice President Leni Robredo, surely it can deviate from its regular role and become a “people’s tribunal” of sorts for a matter of so much more transcendental importance and higher public interest than any case in its docket.
Isn’t it time this course of action is put on the table for serious consideration?
Given their talent to think of the often unthinkable, has any group of lawyers hereabouts ever thought of finding ways to hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable for what could well be the “crime of the century”?
Or, are we all resigned to just suffering in silence and rolling over as this pandemic continues to ravage our people and country with no end in sight?
Elite Filipino lawyers and statesmen once found the great patriotism and guts to go after China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), despite knowing that any judgment in the Philippines’ favor was going to be unenforceable.
The message was what really mattered: The Philippines was not going to be pushed around by a bully.
And yet, the ripple effect of that judgment has seen powerful countries challenging China’s ambition to exercise dominion over all the islets, the waters, and resources within its “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea, a claim the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has ruled to be bogus.
We won’t be alone.
More enterprising lawyers around the globe have commenced COVID-19-related class actions against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its surrogates in their respective jurisdictions since last year. In around 40 countries including the United States, Great Britain, Canada, litigations are ongoing for punitive damages aggregating hundreds of trillions of dollars against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with an eye on its businesses and cash-rich assets in their territories.
What will it take for our own former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to wake up and start lawyering for the Filipino people? Or is anybody even home?

Stephen L. Monsanto,

Permanent peace on Bougainville
When Bougainville gains independence
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 July 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 7 July 2021

As the second consultation between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea leaders progresses in Wabag, Enga, the people of Bougainville are wondering whether Papua New Guinea will honour their wishes for an independent Bougainville.
The people unanimously voted for independence in the recent Bougainville referendum.
The right to determine a political destiny by the people is a human right, which is recognised under international law.
It is known as the right to self-determination.
Through that right, people can freely determine their socio-economic, cultural and political future.
Through that right, the people of Bougainville were given the opportunity to determine their political future of which they voted for separation from Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea, on the other hand, as a sovereign state, will always want to safeguard its territorial integrity just as any other nation.
It does not wish to see disintegration.
In fact, as a general principle under international law, no territory within a sovereign state is allowed to disintegrate itself without the consent of the mother state.
However there is an exception to this.
Where the mother state conducts itself in a manner that is contrary to human rights practices or where the right to self-determination of a particular people within the mother state is being deprived, the mother state can no longer protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In the case of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea lost its cause for protecting its territorial integrity and sovereignty when it declared war on Bougainville and used its military to kill 20,000 Bougainvilleans and caused thousands to suffer for 10 years.
Human rights atrocities in Bougainville committed by the Papua New Guinea Government’s agents were serious that any state can cause to its own people.
The pain and suffering that the people went through is still fresh in the minds of the people.
About 20,000 Bougainvilleans who perished remain uncompensated while Papua New Guinea compensated those soldiers that lost their lives in Bougainville.
The Papua New Guinea Government needs to understand that it can no longer preach about protecting its national unity when it already lost its obligation to protect its territorial integrity over Bougainville.
Permanent peace on Bougainville and in Papua New Guinea will only be attained when Bougainville gains independence.

Weko Tantanu,
South West Bougainville
Papua New Guinea

Malaysia's creative arts industry
In desperate need of help
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 July 2021
First published in the Star, Wednesday 7 July 2021

The performance arts industry is facing a catastrophic crisis because of Covid-19. This pandemic has reshaped the arts world like it has never before.
As the post-pandemic future of the arts looks bleak, we end up with the vicious question we keep asking ourselves – “How do we move forward at least for the next three months?”
When a performing arts centre plans to stay afloat for the next three months instead of planning productions for the next one to two years, it is a clear indication that things are beginning to fall apart – and yes, we are beginning to crumble.
With our government’s lack of enthusiasm to address the pandemic’s effect on the creative arts industry, what more to safeguard us from tumbling over, we can only rely on ourselves to keep us alive.
This is nothing new to us, for we are all very much aware of the situation – unfortunately knowing does not make things any easier to swallow.
Like an old wound, we continue to bleed.
As we lower down our anchor, we have decided on drastic changes to stretch the duration of our survival.
After one year of struggling with a 30 percent salary cut, our team is forced to endure another round of salary cuts, effective June 2021.
Also, the employment status of our team has been transformed from full-time employment to contractual employment.
We are doing everything in our power to survive, unfortunately we also need to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
We still need to brace for further impact if the economy doesn’t rise up soon enough or no assistance is found.
If that happens, we may be forced to make a follow-up salary cut even when we find our salary barely enough to survive at the moment.
We are grateful to have a wonderful team who are in this difficult journey with us. However, as the journey gets harder, we may have to part ways with some of them.
It won’t be easy to say goodbye to family, but this pandemic has not made anything easy either. In fact, we have informed our team that we will accept their decision if they do receive better employment offers elsewhere.
We just can’t drag them along as we sink.
We are doing our very best to stay alive, however we do not wish to sugarcoat this very difficult situation.
Our survival is very much in a limbo; we do not even know if we can make it past August.
Our fund is depleting and we are working very hard to get donations and sponsorships in.
Unfortunately, nothing is helping much at the moment.
We are in desperate need of help.

Fa Abdul,
General Manager,
Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac)
Kuala Lumpur,


China has become as capitalistic and impericalistic
As the United States of America
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 July 2021

Randy David’s column “America and China: A tale of two systems,” Public Lives, July 4, 2021 strikes me as a challenge to our Filipino youth who are easily swayed by the communist ideology for whatever reason - youthful idealism, patriotic fervor, extreme poverty.
China has become as capitalistic as its biggest rival, the United States of America, and even as imperialistic as shown by its bullying of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.
It has been using its economic muscle to impose onerous and predatory loans on developing countries that leave them dispossessed of their patrimony in case of default.
It is quite perplexing, therefore, that our left-leaning youth movements are still captivated by the Chinese model of development which, as Randy David observed, only remains viable if fueled by an authoritarian and highly centralized system of government and a fiercely market-driven economic system.
It is quite amusing to hear our street activists continuously denounce US imperialism when our existential problem today is in fact Chinese imperialism, a superpower encroaching on our territorial seas backed up by military might.
How I wish the talents and energies of our young activists were directed toward exploring solutions to our national problems that harness democratic and Christian values and instincts and not those driven by deep ideological conflicts, hatred, and class struggle that leave no room for enlightened dialogue and peaceful coexistence. Instead of constantly organizing mass actions and engaging in political activities to create the “revolutionary situation” that will tip the balance in favor of a new political order, would not the intelligence, creativeness, and moral courage of our youth be better put at the service of the country through productive and nonviolent ways?
For instance, by being engaged in their chosen professional careers, whether in business, industry, government, or even in the political arena, our youth can channel their drive for excellence and patriotism to redressing existing structures of injustice, inequality, and discrimination, alleviating mass poverty, and helping build a better society.
Our society is fast collapsing under the weight of political corruption, socioeconomic inequality, and decades-long armed insurgencies.
All these will fall on the laps of our youth, the next generation of Filipinos, so that it is critical that they discern very carefully the pathways that will save our nation from endless strife and social disorder.
There are a number of alternatives to choose from, but five decades of debilitating and fruitless armed struggle modeled on a foreign ideology has not worked, and we need to look elsewhere for the solution.

Donato Soliven,


Former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III
Offered a narrative that could be used in next elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 July 2021

So much has been said about former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III in light of his untimely passing.
The various testimonies made us see a man who served his country well the best that he could.
The accounts of a number of people who worked with him when he was the chief executive offered the public a narrative that could be used as a reference next year.
This should open our minds to what the presidency should be.
We have already seen 16 presidents - from Emilio Aguinaldo to Rodrigo Duterte. The country has been offered a myriad of presidential styles.
There were those who managed the government well and there were others who left office with controversies hounding them, even to their grave.
The presidency is still the office where we place our collective aspirations as a country.
And it is in this perspective that we the electorate should envision the kind of leader we need.
One who would help us achieve our goals and address our problems.
This discussion is very timely as we go to the polls next year to elect a new president.
Names of potential presidential candidates are already floating around.
Some appear to be “reluctant” while others are just waiting for the right time to throw their hat in the ring.
The electorate needs to vet each one of them thoroughly.
Go over their respective platforms and consider their stand on various issues.
Once these are satisfied, vote for who you believe is best qualified for the job.
A reminder: Please choose wisely.

Mark Jerome T. Bongalon,
Tabaco City,

Former President Noynoy Aquino
An eye for an eye
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 5 July 2021

When I interviewed Noynoy Aquino end of August 1983, just days after the assassination of his father, for Celebrity magazine, I recall now what he told me then:
I am a biblical eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth guy. If you hurt my mother, if you hurt my sisters, I’ll get back to you.”

Amadis Ma. Guerrero,
Taguig City,
Metro Manila,

Malaysia raises safety concerns
Over pre-colonial buildings
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 July 2021
First published in the Star, Tuesday 29 June 2021

The collapse of the 12-storey beachfront condominium building in Miami, Florida on June 24, killing at least nine people and leaving 100 people still missing as of Sunday, should raise concern over the safety of buildings in our own country.
Could a similar incident occur in Malaysia, where there are many pre-colonial buildings that are still being occupied?
The Uniform Building By-Laws (UBBL) 1984 enacted under the Street Drainage and Building Act 1974 stipulates that all new buildings require submission of plans for approval prior to construction.
The plans must be submitted by a principal submitting person (PSP) such as a professional architect or professional engineer.
UBBL 1984 stipulates the building’s structural requirements related to the design and specifications of materials, loadings, foundation and superstructure. It also governs the design, specifications and construction of walls, floor and building structure and fire requirements of a building.
Section 85A of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 states that for buildings exceeding five stories, the local authority may “by a notice in writing served on the owner of a building, require the building to be inspected – after the 10th year commencing from the date the first certificate of fitness for occupation in respect of the building was issued; and thereafter at intervals of not more than 10 years from the date of the completion of the last inspection of the building under this section.”
The inspection must be conducted by a professional engineer registered under the Registration of Engineers Act 1967.
Section 85A(6)(c) states that “if, after having considered the results of the visual inspection, the engineer reasonably suspects or is of the opinion that there is a defect, deformation or deterioration in the building or its structural elements as will or will likely endanger or reduce the structural stability or integrity of any part of the building he shall request for permission from the local authority to carry out a full structural investigation on the building including investigation in respect of its structural elements...”
Furthermore, the Fire Services Act 1988 requires designated premises to undergo an annual fire inspection before they are issued with a Fire Certificate (FC) by the Fire and Rescue Department.
This shows that we have stringent laws and regulations in place to ensure the safety of buildings, and it is of paramount importance that they are strictly implemented and enforced.
All designated premises in Malaysia must be mandated to display the Fire Certificate and all buildings that are more than 10 years old must display proof that the periodic inspections have been carried out.
In the era of big data technology, it should be easy to compile information on all buildings that are more than 10 years old. Compliance with the regulations will ensure that buildings in Malaysia are safe for occupancy.

TS. IR. Wong Chee Fui,
Kuala Lumpur,


Thailand calls for flexibility
In purchase agreements with China
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 2 July 2021

Re: "China confirms purchase of 20,000 tonnes of rice," in Bangkok Post, Monday June 28, 2021.
It's reported that China agreed in 2015 to buy 2 million tonnes of rice from Thailand.
The buyers later reduced the volume by half, to only 1 million tonnes - and to date only three-fourths of that amount has actually been purchased.
When Thai officials speak of purchase agreements with China for dubious items such as submarines, tanks, and high-speed train systems, they emphasise the sanctity and rigidity of agreements made previously.
It seems that China is able to alter the terms of purchase agreements quite easily; why is the same flexibility not possible from the Thai side?

Samanea Saman,

Duterte candidate for 2016 elections
Turned out to be the Manchurian candidate
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 July 2021

Reading the news item “Duterte on 2022 VP race: ‘If there’s space for me there, then maybe’” June 29, 2021 left us feeling like puking over the sheer hypocrisy of it all.
Doesn’t President Duterte ever tire of speaking with a forked tongue?
Sobrang pa-cute! Kunyari ayaw, pero sige na nga!
He’s recycling the same gimmick he used in 2016: Pakipot.
Sir, tama na po, kumita na po yan! He really has no choice but to stay in power. Despite all his “bravado” about taking full responsibility and bluster about going to jail himself for the alleged EJKs committed by his minions, he now seems more like desperately seeking a continuum of his “immunity” as president, by hook or by crook, to escape criminal prosecution.
A win by the opposition in 2022 is for him not an option.
Mr. Duterte badly needs an absolutely reliable “president” who will have no problem stepping aside for his immediate succession.
Only his daughter, Sara, fits the bill; or alternatively, his gofer, Bong Go - both already seen to be positioning for the greatest hoax this country has ever known.
Only Vice President Leni Robredo can beat Sara, if only she could stop being so wish-washy about her intentions.
She’s said to be just thinking of running for governor in her hometown instead. Seriously?
Now is the time for her to show what stuff she’s made of.
Sara has already been brazenly “campaigning.”
So what the heck, shouldn’t Leni be?
The stark contrast between the decency a Robredo brand of governance offers and the unbridled vulgarity the Duterte brand has demonstrated should now open the eyes of the more than 16 million Filipinos who put their trust in a “macho” candidate in 2016 who turned out to be more “Manchurian” - more beholden to a foreign country than to his own.

Grace Po-Quicho,


Death of Noynoy Aquino a foreshadowing
Of return to a respectable president ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, 29 June 2021

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has observed that whenever our country is ruled by a corrupt, abusive, and tyrannical president, an Aquino dies and rouses individuals and democratic forces to fight for democracy.
During the Marcos dictatorship, the Left consistently fought for the rights of the people, but it was only after the assassination of Sen. Ninoy Aquino that thousands of Filipinos, especially the middle classes, became active in the so-called parliament of the streets and in the 1986 presidential election.
In 2004, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cheated her way to the presidency “Hello, Garci?”.
Corruption became a way of life and repressive measures were implemented by her Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to quell the various forces opposing her administration.
The death of President Cory Aquino swept to victory her only son, “Noynoy” Aquino, who instituted various social, political, and economic reforms when he became president.
Today, we are led by a president under whose rule billions of shabu still manage to slip in, thousands of petty pushers have died, fake news abound, and servility to China is the norm.
Is the death of Noynoy Aquino a foreshadowing of the return of a respectable president who will assert our rights against China, open up the democratic space, and provide medical and health solutions instead of police or military ones to the drug problem and the pandemic?

Raffy Rey Hipolito,

Not safe to be caught up in traffic
In Port Moresby
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 June 2021
First published in the National, Monday 28 June 2021

The rise in crime in Port Moresby is a challenge for the police .
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of crime.
People are living in fear
What are our authorities doing to address this?
It is not safe to be caught up in traffic.
It shows the city has become lawless and our leaders have not done anything to address it.
The city is growing fast causing a lot of issues with traffic.
Vendors and thugs are taking control of the traffic.
We have to address this before it gets worse.
When you study the success of cities such as New York, the fastest way to reduce major crime is to stop petty crimes.
Please hear the calls of our people in the city.
We are frightened.
We are worried.
If we want the country and our capital city to move towards a positive future, we need to eliminate these elements that are holding us back.
Let’s stop petty crimes now before we implement curfews and other drastic measures to slow it down.

Concerned City Resident,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Philippine President Duterte wants Filipinos
Who are not vaccinated thrown in jail
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 June 2021
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 28 June 2021

During the incumbency of United States Republican president Donald J. Trump, he submitted himself to a cognitive ability test in response to critics who excoriated him about his competence, i.e., to see if he is crazy or not.
He aced it and the doubt was settled, except for the hardliners of the rival Democratic Party.
President Duterte wants Filipinos who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 be thrown in jail “Amid scarcity, Duterte wants COVID-19 vax refusers jailed,” June 23, 2021, despite the fact that there are not enough vaccines available to millions of Filipinos.
He would need to build the biggest jail in the world to contain more than 100 million Filipinos.
Doesn’t anyone think it’s time for Mr. Duterte to undergo that same cognitive test?
Asking lang po.

Yvette San Luis-Petrocelli,

About the plight of indigenous forest dwellers
In Thailand's national parks
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 24 June 2021

Re: "Violence hampers Unesco park quest", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, June 17, 2021
I'm sure for many expats in Thailand the plight of indigenous forest dwellers in Thailand's national parks is something of a mystery.
I had to study a map to, vaguely, discover where some of the disputed lands were located.
It is not easy to understand what lies behind labyrinthine forest affairs or state-sponsored policies of violence against the Karen, or why laws were passed in 2019 enabling forest authorities to further destroy their property.
In one's efforts to make sense of this murky business, what little I have gleaned is thanks to the dedicated research and reporting of Sanitsuda Ekachai.
It is reassuring that this senior Bangkok Post columnist recognises her role entails more than rearranging pro-China hand-outs or acting as a state sycophant in defence of the regime's persecution of members of the pro-Democracy movement.

Yannnawa David,



Armed Forces of the Philippines
Show no mercy for Lumad children
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 June 2021

We, an association of consecrated women in Mindanao, express both lamentation and rage over yet another spilling of innocent “lumad” blood on ancestral lands.
The blood of Angel and Lenie Rivas, and Willy Rodriguez, “cry out to the heavens for justice.”
It is the same cry of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Datu Bello Sinzo who were massacred in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015 by government-sanctioned paramilitary forces.
We grieve with their families and community and with the Diocese of Tandag under the Most Rev. Raul Dael, who held a “Dialogue of Life” with the Manobo of Lianga earlier this year.
Angel was a Grade 6 student of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) lumad school.
Willy and Lenie were members of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu or Sustainable Struggle for Future Generations).
They were gathering abaca hemp to sustain their livelihood especially in these dire pandemic times when they were mercilessly shot by military men belonging to the 3rd Special Forces of the Philippine Army.
The lack of mercy from their attackers is shown by the fact that before they went to their farm, the victims had “sought permission” from the military - an ironic situation because as lumad they are supposed to exercise sovereignty and self-determination in their own land.
The military fired upon them with full knowledge of their being civilians going about their daily living.
This is, therefore, murder most vile.
Angel, Lenie, and Willy were presented as New People’s Army rebels as the military’s justification for the treacherous massacre.
It reflects the state policy of Red-tagging that leads to extrajudicial killings, and extrajudicial killings justified by the Red-tagging of its defenseless victims.
The Lianga massacre of 2015 is an example of the former, the Lianga massacre of 2021 of the latter.
We are witness to this ever-widening policy of death and destruction in the many communities where we live out our missionary work, especially among poor farmers, the Moro, and the lumad. Land-grabbing of ancestral lands, killings, forced evacuations, economic and food blockades, forced and faked “surrender” of civilians, the slander and harassment of community leaders, advocates, and support groups these are clear transgressions against human dignity and human life.
Our witnessing comes with the realization that the fullness of life for the Manobo as envisioned by the Most Rev.
Ireneo Amantillo, the Bishop of Tandag during the dark days of martial law when he pioneered the TRIFPSS school, necessitates a sustained work for justice, the same principle lived out by the “malahutayong pakigbisog” of Mapasu.
As consecrated women, we commit ourselves to this work of justice for the Lianga massacre victims.
We affirm God’s love, mercy, and justice for them and their communities.
We are not dismayed in the face of this violation of justice and righteousness against the poor.
We take comfort in the certainty that the high officials who perpetrate this violence and terrorism shall be made accountable to yet Higher Ones over them.
The instrumentalities of human rights nationally and internationally are higher levels of accountability.
The upcoming elections provide another arena for accountability in terms of raising awareness and providing guidance in choosing leaders that uphold life and human rights.
The peoples’ movement for social justice, while vilified and violently repressed, journeys on even more resolutely to bring about Shalom.
And, above all, we are strengthened in faith in our God of History, who walks with the people in building the “kin-dom” of solidarity, peace, and justice.

Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (Samin),

Call for Philippines nuclear power plant to be converted
Into center for manufacturing organic oil
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 June 2021
First published in the Philipine Inquirer, Thursday 24 June 2021

It is good that the Noynoy Aquino administration did not consider reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
Yes, we all agree, it is economical to operate a nuclear power plant. But if it fails, it is also expensive and destructive.
If the power cost is only P1 while the cost of repairing damages is P10,000 in case of failures, you don’t need to study economics at UP or Ateneo to know the difference.
I am not a licensed engineer to say that the strength of materials has a certain period to remain unbreakable, or what we call in layman’s terms “metal fatigue.” But what about other factors that cannot be seen by the experts like “meteorites” dropping from the sky, or if China’s relationship with the Philippines changes and it decides to bomb our nuclear plant, or we lack uranium because China and other suppliers do not want to sell?
Former president Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies - like Herminio Disini - got fat commissions from Westinghouse.
Cory mothballed the plant, and to prove to the world that the Philippines has integrity, she honored the country’s liabilities with Westinghouse.
Meanwhile, scrap scavengers, in connivance with people inside, had methodically stolen most of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) essential parts, like titanium condenser tubes.
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) can be converted into a center for manufacturing “organic oil,” because it is very near Pampanga, Bataan, and Zambales that have millions of hectares suited to plant jatropha, cassava, sugar cane, and malunggay.
Millions of jobs will be created, too.
About time we do something to erase the image that the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is “a showcase of world-class corruption.”

Isidro C. Valencia,
Taguig City,



Support for criminal investigation into Thai MP's
Conviction for smuggling herion into Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 June 2021
First published in the Bankgok Post, Thursday 24 June 2021

Re: "MP takes legal action over Thamanat's Aussie jail time", in Bangkok Post, 22 June 2021
I fully support Seri Ruam Thai leader Sereepisuth Temeeyaves' demanding a criminal investigation over Thamanat's conviction for smuggling heroin into Australia: if the drugs came from Thailand, his offence should have been illegal in Thailand, and he may not be eligible to be an Member of Parliament or cabinet member.
Can Thamanat deny his handwritten confession - and was he really smuggling "flour", as he vehemently told parliament?
Or should he come clean, confirm his heroin smuggling, but say that since he's served his sentence, he should be given a second chance?
To uphold the rule of law, as he's vowed to do, PM Prayut should move Capt Thamanat to an inactive post until the investigation is over and appoint an impartial probe panel.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for Catholic church in Philippines
To speak out against injustice
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 22 June 2021

I read with interest the letter “Amid violence and injustice, Church and media are no longer game changers”
I agree that “the Catholic Church since the passing of the Cardinal Sin era has been reduced to a whimper in a vast howling wilderness of violence and injustice with only a few prophetic voices that are hardly heard or even disregarded by its very own constituency.”
The Catholic Church must strongly speak out.
Those who think the Church should not get involved against the social evils in our country have missed the Church’s teaching of prophetic criticism.
The Church is the conscience of the state.
When the state leads a wicked societal life, the Church, its conscience, cannot
afford to become cowed and silent.
The Church is the state’s “best” critic.
The Church is not just called to issue a reflection of the evils in society, but also to instruct the faithful on what to do when confronted with such in light of the Gospel values and teachings of the Church.
The Church is called to share the Gospel values to all and to shape society when it is not following the path consistent with these values.
The Church is never called to popularity, but to faithfulness.
The Church can never be silent about social evils.
When it is or chooses to be, it ceases to be the real Church.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,




Military coups
Are totally unacceptable
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 June 2021

We read in The Southeast Asian Times ( June 22 ) that citing " the situation in Myanmar " the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said " we cannot live in a world where military coups become the norm ... it is totally unacceptable ".
He is absolutely right.
Just how totally unacceptable military coups are is something only people who have lived through military coups know.
Military coups result in the deaths of innocent citizens.
The lives and livelihoods of the living are ruined.
People live in perpetual fear of the military mob in power and their ruthless modus operandi which has no regard for human rights and democratic freedoms.
The country is taken backwards.
The tragedy is that often when a military coup happens after an initial perfunctory condemnation the rest of the democratic world return to business as usual with the post coup regime, including the sale of military arms.
Will that change ?
That's the big question.

Rajend Naidu,


Port Moresby pokie machine operators want
PNG government to increase shared revenue
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 June 2021
First published in the National, Friday 18 June 2021

A number of site operators of pokies machines in Port Moresby have taken offence to the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) bragging about increasing its revenues when it’s not sorting out the long-outstanding issue of an equitable sharing of current pokies revenues in the the National, June 15.
At the moment, the monthly revenue is shared 75 per cent to the NGCB and 25 per cent to the site operators.
A further two per cent is taken out of the operators’ 25 per cent share, leaving the operator with a mere 23 per cent or so each month.
The operator then has to pay for staff wages, security, rent, electricity, water and repay bank loans.
That leaves a tiny 5 per cent or so of gross monthly revenue for profit.
This has been raised to the NGCB chairman and chief executive so many times in writing and in meetings but the board has not done anything about this.
The issue of equitable sharing has not even been placed as an agenda before board.
We, the operators, demand that the NGCB immediately address this issue and make a determination.
A fairer equation is that 60 per cent of gross monthly revenue should go to the site operators who bear all the costs of making this money.
Some Papua New Guinean businesses are operating pokies machines and it is the Government’s job to assist them with better revenue so that they can grow family-owned businesses.
Even if the NGCB’s 75 per cent is seen as taxation, it is massively excessive by any standards in any country in the world.
Indeed, it may be argued that the Government, through the NGCB is using site operators, some of whom are citizens of this country, as slaves to increase its revenue.
Any forensic analysis of the board’s costs of regulating the pokies machines in this country will show that they are killing businesses.
Before the NGCB talks about casinos and any other forms of gambling, it should deal with the pokies site operators’ issue for a fair and equitable share of the monthly pokies revenue.
The site operators demand 60 per cent share of the monthly revenue and 40 per cent to the NGCB.

Pokie machine site operator,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for world to return to normality
For economic well-being of all
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 16 June 2021

Re: "Sandbox shambles", Bangkok Post PostBag, June 8, 2021
Rocket Scientist touches on a global issue, not just a Thai one.
The inescapable fact is that Covid-19 has arrived and is here to stay, in its various guises.
The world has to quickly function normally again for the economic well-being of all. The poor have certainly suffered disproportionately in the last 18 months.
This means that border restrictions and international movements must be eased. We cannot continue with quarantines and expensive multiple tests if this is to achieved.
Unless an instant free test can be devised, vaccinated people should be allowed to travel freely.
Travel to well vaccinated countries should present no discernable risk to those countries and the additional risk to unvaccinated countries will be minimal.
If every country insists on three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for travellers, as is currently the case, that is six tests for a return trip.
For a family of four, that is 24 tests, which is probably the cost of the holiday.
That is just unrealistic long term.

Phil Cox,

Where are Asian values when the young
Are shot and killed for raising their voices?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 18 June 2021

Re: "Asean, China promotes Asian values," Bangkok Post, Opinion, June 15
It is not clear what Kavi Chongkittavorn means by Asian values.
The region is ruled by many dictators and despots who muzzle the voices of young people, openly flout human rights, and put anyone opposing them in jail.
Mr Kavi forgets that Soviet Union was one time a rival superpower to the USA.
Its collapse teaches us one important lesson - smart leaders always use self-serving ideology to come into power and remain in power.
It is no surprise that for more than a century communist and socialist ideologies have been used to promote a false sense of pride in collectivism and for promoting herd mentality.
Democracy has its own flaws, but it does allow dissenting voices and the removal of despots through elections and voting.
Many Asean leaders also churn out their own unique models of governance.
China is in constant strife with India and the rest of the countries in the so-called South China Sea.
The sad happenings in Hong Kong and Myanmar are right in front of us.
Where are the Asian values of consensus and inclusiveness when young people are thrust in jail or shot and killed for raising their voices?

Kuldeep Nagi,



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

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

Worried Nawaeb Citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Paliaima A Tanda,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Clemelle L. Montallana,



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

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

Glen Chatelier,

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

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

Eddie Delzio,


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

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

Raffey Rey Hipolito,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,
New South Wales,


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

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

Mong Palatino,
Bayan Metro Manila,



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

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

Tore Kila,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Rod Templo,
Baguio City,

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

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

Donato Soliven,
Antipolo City,

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

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

Paliaima A Tanda,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Hans Van Willenswaard,


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Marvel K. Tan,

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

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

Stephen L. Monsanto,

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

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

Jose Z. Osias,



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

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

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

Fred Prager,

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

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

Aung Chin Win,

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

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

Jason Siwat,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Justin Max Undi
Kerendah Village,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

Geoff Simmons,

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

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

Kumbaolkal Kep,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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


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

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

Marcelo L. Tecson,
Bonifacio Global City,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,



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

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

Denver Alex Ambrocio,

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

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

Ioan Voicu,



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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Justin Max Undi,
Kerendah Village
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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


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

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

John Sinene,
Concern Settler,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea


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

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

Gab Daguio,

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Rose Anne Bartolome,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

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


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

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

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

S Tsow,

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

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

Raffy Rey Hipolito,


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

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

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

Somsak Pola,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Shermaine Anacleto,

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

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

Jason A Jellison,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,


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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

Leo Bourne,

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

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

Concerned Morobean,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Maung Maung,
President of Confederation of Trade Unions,


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Dino M. Capistrano,


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

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

ML Saksiri Kridakorn,


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao,

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

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

Tony Margetts,


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

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

David Brown,

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

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

Ed Dames,
San Lorenzo Village,
Makati City,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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


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

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

Alois Ruarri,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

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

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

Jose Mario De Vega,
University of the Philippines,

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

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

Arnulfo M. Edralin,

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

Rene Torres,
Makati City,

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

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

Rimaldo Pacifico,

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

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

Ulysses B. Uy,

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

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

Shah Alam,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Rajend Naidu

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

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

Shah Alam,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Aung Chin Win Aung,



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

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

Edwin De Leon,




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

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

Rogelio S. Candelario,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,



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

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


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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

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

Henk Hobbelink,

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

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

Michael Messner,
Patpong Museum,

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

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

Kuala Lumpur,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

David Brown,

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

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

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


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

John Sebastian Kriosaki,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

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

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

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

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

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

Walter Mensaert,

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

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

Glen Chatelier,

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

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

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

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

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


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

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

Salim Bashir,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Celeste Cruz,

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

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Leo Bourne,

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

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

Ted P Penaflor 11,

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,



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

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


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

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


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Isidro C. Valencia,
Taguig City,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nic Satur Jr.,
National Coordinator

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

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

Samanea Saman,




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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Ray Ban,

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

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

Say Kongs,

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

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

David Brown,


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

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

Charles Jasari,

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

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

Rene Magtubo,
National Chair
Partido Manggagawa

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Power to the People,



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

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

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


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

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

David Brown.

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

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

National Clergy Discernment Group,

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

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

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

Ye Olde Pedant,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Kuldeep Nagi.

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Maru Gabi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

Fernando Garcia,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Katie S. Alvarez
Holy Trinity University,

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

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

Grace Cantal Albasin,

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

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

Ng Geok Chee,

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

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

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

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Asa Saligupta
End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST)

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

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

Raffy Rey Hipolito,

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

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

Dr Hansson,

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

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



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

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

Rene Torres,

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

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

Samanea Saman,

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

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

Charcoal Ridgeback,

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

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

Allan Schapira, MD.,
Legazpi City,

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

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

Manuel A. Collao,

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

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

Buang Nalu,
Ruk Mala



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

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

Paul Minga
Ambang Village

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

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

Dr Azuzay Zamani,


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

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

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,

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

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

Linus AE Knobel,

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

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

Raffy Rey Hipolito,

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

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

Alec Bamford,

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

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

G. Selva,

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

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

Julius D. Turgano,

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

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

Jonathan C. Foe,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,


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

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

Mong Palatina,



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

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

Brian Corrigan,



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

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

Good Governance Advocate,
Papua New Guinea