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

 

Pending court cases against President Ferdinand Marcos Jr
Yet to reach the Philippines Supreme Court
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 19, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday May 16, 2022

A few days ago, we held crucial elections in the country and until now we are counting the results, not without recriminations and eyebrows raised on certain aspects of the electoral process.
But setting reservations aside, the reported commanding lead of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. over his rivals should not detract from the fact that there are pending cases to disqualify him, which may now reach the Supreme Court.
In the interest of the rule of law and the conduct of future elections, the Supreme Court should rule on this game-changing issue of eligibility and qualification of a candidate for president.
Its enthusiasm and mandate to confront the issue head-on should not be dampened by the reported huge popular vote of the challenged candidate, because the Court has said in 1989 in G.R. No. 87193 involving Sorsogon governor Juan Frivaldo on the issue of his citizenship: “The qualifications prescribed for public office cannot be erased by the electorate alone. The will of the people as expressed through the ballot cannot cure the vice of ineligibility.”
It is hoped that the petitioners whose cases were dismissed by the Commission on Elections only last May 10 will appeal to the Supreme Court.
What is at stake is the imperative of upholding the supremacy of the law on the eligibility of a candidate even over an electoral mandate.
Otherwise, in the future, through manipulation and duplicity, a popular but unquestionably ineligible candidate may be allowed to run in an election and, if victorious, will plead that we have to bow to the will of the people.

Ancheta K. Tan,
Lawyer,
Makati City,
Philippines


Let the truth be told
Let the publishers publish
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 18, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday May 16, 2022

The Manila Critics Circle, in no uncertain terms, condemns the Red-tagging of the respected publisher Adarna House by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica) and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
Not only is Adarna House an award-winning publisher known to produce only quality material, it is also a publisher devoted to the truth.
It is a disservice to our young readers to assume that they should be exempted from learning about important events in Philippine history like the imposition of martial law.
The truth does not “plant hate and lies in the tender hearts of our children,” as Lorraine Badoy, spokesperson for NTF-Elcac, has said. The truth does not “subtly radicalize” as Alex Paul Monteagudo, the director-general of Nica, has stated.
Monteagudo said that the very issue of presenting martial law in children’s books plants dissent and hatred in their minds.
Martial law is part of our history, as are its victims.
Like all true things, it is something they should learn from books and make up their own minds about.
Furthermore, Adarna House is an innovative, privately owned, educational publisher that should be encouraged to continue publishing such excellent material and commended for its devotion to telling the Philippine story to young children.
Let the truth be told. Let the publishers publish.

The Manila Critics Circle,
Manila,
Philippines



Yes,
Money should not be part of rituals
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday May 8, 2022

Re: "Alpha-male idols," Bangkok Post PostBag, April 29, 2022, "Never mind Nirvana," Bangkok Post PostBag, April 28, 2022 and "Fake faith," in Bangkok Post PostBag, April 27, 2022.
Many comments made to Bangkok Post about my submissions about Thai temples have been positive.
Yes, Ken Albertsen, we engage in rituals.
Rituals are mainly dedicated to the gods, goddesses and deities we've created. They usually require money.
And Ye Olde Theologian, my friend, the rebirth is just a notion.
The reality is that we will not know anything after we are dead.
Consciousness is part of being alive.
My thanks to Millie Tan for pointing to S N Goenka's teachings.
I had the good fortune of attending a 10-day retreat with him in Igatpuri, India, and also in the USA.
Yes, money should not be part of rituals.
Mr Goenka fully understood the path pointed by the Enlightened One.
Sadly, every religion now thrives on rituals and money is the driving force.
Therefore people keep visiting temples and so-called holy shrines just like they go to hospitals.
Spirituality has turned into a costly prescription given by monks, priests and pundits.
As Buddha said, this is the main cause of human suffering.
We do not spend time cultivating mindfulness and living in harmony with nature.
We need to learn the ways of Buddha to find our bliss ourselves, not by running around to seek happiness.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok.
Thailand



Education has lost it's way
In Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 16, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday May 11, 2022

Re: "Mental health guidance amid Covid", in Bangkok Post Opinion, May 6, 2022 and "Semen hazing will be probed", in Bangkok Post April 30, 2022.
I find it interesting to see the topic of education being brought up again and again in recent weeks.
Thai youth are thought to be frustrated at the "traditional" methods of education they are currently exposed to.
During this time there has been a report of a naval officer who forced conscripts to drink his semen, a cult leader who preached eating faeces and drinking urine and phlegm as a cure to various illnesses and a monk involved in a sex and payoff scandal.
There certainly does appear to be some trouble over what certain people consider to be correct and normal.
All this makes the upcoming ceremony where chosen cows will forecast this year's level of agricultural yield and rain to be rather benign but it does seem that education has somehow lost its way.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Open letter to retiring Philippines Senator Ping Lacson
Saying "the Philippines needs a son like you"
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 15, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday May 13, 2022

Dear Sen. Ping Lacson:

I understand that now that the elections are over, you expressed your desire to spend time with your family.
That you should. Life is too short, and it should be spent with your loved ones.
But I hope, in time, you would reconsider and not retire from politics.
Based on your long career as a public servant, I don’t see you as one who would even consider fading into the sunset.
When you ran in the national elections, you committed to serving the Filipino people for six years.
I hope that even without the title of president, you can still serve.
It seems to me the title of leader may not be one for you to hold.
But the title of patriot is one for you to keep.
I believe you can be a voice for those who have none.
I believe you can be an influence for those who have no power.
I believe you can stand up for those who may be too scared to speak.
I did not vote for you, Senator Lacson, and perhaps I have no right to send this letter.
But I hope you think of the one million men and women who did vote for you.
And, difficult as it is, think of the voters you were not able to convince but still need you.
And isn’t that what a great patriot is all about?
While I feel we are facing one of our darkest hours, it will be of some comfort knowing that you will not throw in the towel and raise the white flag.
The Philippines needs a son like you.

Danielle Marie S. Lizares,
Makati City,
Philippines

 


Pulling the plug means letting the water flow
Freely out of the tank
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 14, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday May 8, 2022

Re: "Plug pulled on diesel cap," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 27, 2022.
As a non-native English speaker who had heard before what was going on in this country, the headline looked alright at first glance.
But after more thought, it looked wrong.
So I chatted with my English friend living in Thailand who also reads the Bangkok Post daily.
His response is that "pulling the plug" means letting the water flow freely out of a tank.
His first impression was that the price of diesel would be reduced; with the plug removed at the pump much more diesel would flow into your motorcar tank for your money than before.
You cannot pull the plug on a cap!
He went on to say that "too many journalists try to show they are cleverer than the readers by using big uncommon words."
"I have to use a dictionary to read the Bangkok Post sometimes!"
I would go for some simpler headline like "Cap on diesel price lifted".

Thanin Bumrungsap,
Bangkok.
Thailand



Religion should not be a litmus test
For living on this planet
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 13, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday May 11, 2022

Re: "No state business", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, May 10, 2022.
Thanks, Burin Kantabutra for your defence of monks.
There is no concept of "expulsion" in Hinduism or any other religion in India.
You may choose to belong to a religion and you can leave and join some other. The same is the practice in the US.
True freedom of choice!
In the very first place, the whole concept of monks being celibate, or unmarried is against the law of nature.
Sex is a natural function of the human body.
Forced celibacy is the root cause of all sex scandals involving priests, monks, and pundits.
I had two very close Muslim friends in the US who frequented a bar after work. They did not feel guilty about doing what a mainstream American would do.
And they did not attend Friday prayers.
It was their personal choice.
Buddhists may choose to remain celibate when ordained as monks.
But there is nothing against getting married or having sex with consenting adults. Religion should not be a litmus test for living on this planet.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Bloomed branches of eternal Thainess criminalise any
Expression of less than perfect faith in Royal Thai Police
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 12, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 3, 2022

Re: "Police fail Tangmo test", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, April 29, 2022.
If the efforts of the officers of the Royal Thai Police, whose selfless service to the nation reliably doing whatever it took to eradicate the baddies, is suffering the casting of wicked aspersions and downright insinuation of truths, mere business as usual may not be enough.
Happily, the bloomed branches of eternal Thainess offer a more efficacious solution.
Impossible though it be to credit anyone seriously entertaining such a notion, should there indeed be as alleged some faintest sliver of "distrust in the police" the solution is simple: criminalise any expression of less than perfect faith in the Royal Thai Police.
That will immediately make them a perfectly revered Thai institution universally trusted, respected and loved by all for generations past.
Job done.
Joe Ferrari and his mentors would be proud, and that most impertinently inconvenient video would never dare have come to light.

Feliz Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for jail term for non-compliance of
Personal Data Protection Act
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday May 8, 2022

Re: "Panel seeks delay of Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) enforcement," in Bangkok, Thursday May 5, 2022.
We shouldn't apply the "mai pen rai" attitude to enforcing the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which will protect the confidentiality of your name, address, transactions, and so on when it comes into force.
As Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) committee chairman Thienchai Na Nakorn notes, "The PDPA will create confidence among foreign business operators conducting business in Thailand."
Singapore and the Philippines already have Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) counterparts that have jail terms for non-compliance.
Let's allow the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) to go into force on June 1 as planned but suspend punishment for two years.
If by June 1, 2024 a given firm was still in violation, the punishment would take effect in full.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Thailand to shine a light on
Sex trafficking of children
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday May 8, 2022

Re: "Dept fails noble task," in Bangkok Post, Editorial, May 6, 2022.
It is a sad state of affairs when government officials and those with trusted positions within society are all implicated in the sex trafficking of children.
Who are children to turn to when they are in trouble or traumatised when this type of situation is common?
Ever wonder why Thailand is on the ''Tier 2 Watchlist"?
What about going after the people who paid for sex with the children?
Should they also be charged?
After all, it is their actions that support such activity.
In my country, it is common for police to post images of people charged with paying for sex - and this is with adults.
In order to get rid of such a scourge you need "shine light on it" and use it as a disinfectant.
It seems this is another example of the government's promise to end corruption falling flat.
We need to do much better for the children since they are the future.
If you cannot rely on the government to protect you as a child, why would you expect them to be supportive of society as an adult?

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand



No surprise to learn failure of Myanmar military
To implement Five Point Consensus
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 9, 2022

It comes as no surprise to learn of “ the failure of the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar, Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to implement the Five Point Consensus “ ( ‘ Southeast Asian
Parliamentarians for Human Rights call on Myanmar military to implement Five Point Consensus
‘ The Southeast Asian Times 6 May ) which ASEAN Leaders Meeting in Jakarta on 24 April 2021 had adopted as a way forward following the brutal military coup .
I had predicted at the time that the rogue military rulers had no genuine commitment to it.
We learn from the article that “ National Unity Government ( NUG ) deputy foreign minister Moe Zaw Oo said then “ we have little confidence in ASEAN’s efforts “.
He was right.
They knew the rogue military rulers of Myanmar a whole lot better than the ASEAN mob.
One year later the rogue military rulers have become more entrenched in power.
I doubt they will pay any heed to what the Southeast Asian Parliamentarians say.
Mark my word on this.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Philippine elections are much more
Than placing bets on the winning cock
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 8, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday April 4, 2022

Elections are not your typical cockfighting sport where you place your bets on the winning cock and that is all that matters.
Elections are much more than that as it is a manifestation of our democracy.
Hence, for elections to work properly in a democracy, every citizen should be rightly informed.
Election debates are supposed to serve this purpose.
It is proven in the literature that debates have served as “information tools” for the electorate.
They can also spark interest among citizens to engage in civic activities and discuss issues.
Lastly, election debates can increase rational voting, which by definition is a vote that is based on issue positions.
Relevant studies show how debates can persuade voters to consider and acquire issue positions from their preferred candidate.
In other words, debates increase voters’ rationality.
This factor is crucial in a country considered rife with personality politics.
These benefits tell us that debates are more than just strategic tools for political campaigns.
It is used to bolster democracy by empowering the people.
Therefore, strategic withdrawals from debates can be seen as a deliberate rejection of collective welfare in exchange for strategic, selfish interests.
Given these things, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s deliberate aversion to election debates is telling of two things - his intention and character.
His intention is no doubt aimed at winning the presidential election at all costs.
He wants to win no matter what, even if it means trading off his integrity and being branded as a coward.
He wants to win even if the collective welfare is at stake.
For him, his family’s return to power is of utmost priority.
More importantly, this speaks of his character.
His aversion to debates is by no mistake a sign of weakness.
He can’t handle the heat.
Many netizens would point out how Marcos Sr., in comparison, was eloquent and quick-witted.
Marcos Jr., on the other hand, does not seem eager to prove that he can hold a candle to his father.
This could only mean two things. he is not his father or he simply has no backbone.
Disturbingly, his current attitude also seems to imply that any critical discourse or forms of dissenting opinion would not be welcomed in a potential “Marcos Jr. administration.”
The narrative of “positive campaigning,” although it sounds good, is no more than a façade - a veil that hides a fraudulent attempt to undermine critics and create an image of an unquestionable, benevolent dictator in the making.

John Jared Garcia,
Quezon City,
Philippines



 

Call for Philippines to vote regionally
Just like in the United States
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 7, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday May 3, 2022

Randy David’s “Why Filipinos vote the way they do,” May 1, 2022 is another excellent article dissecting all the reasons and manner of the Filipino voters.
We, Filipinos, are very tribal, not just in voting, but most will not admit it since the word tribal connotes something “low class” like the indigenous people and African tribes.
When we meet Filipinos for the first time, we always ask where they are from and what language they speak, and sometimes ethnic groups they belong to like Kapampangan, Bisaya, Ilocano, etc.
Of course, this is true too in the West like when they describe themselves as southerner, midwesterner, etc. but not as empathic as Filipinos do.
They will vote for an Ilocano because his father is Ilocano even if he does not speak Ilocano.
They will vote for a Bicolano because she/he is from that region, so on and on.
Regarding the local government units, I personally think that the system of the barangay, which I think is very similar to the community boards we have in New York, is prone to abuse especially when money is involved especially with “ayuda” (aid) during the COVID pandemic. Some of the aid extended is blatant vote-buying for this election.
I am sure that there is also some form of corruption in the community boards but as a rule, there is really no money involved, maybe just some form of minor lobbying.
Regarding the senatorial selection/voting, we have been voting for eight senators for years.
Why don’t we consider just voting regionally, i.e., two to four senators per region just like in the United States, two senators per state?
That way, the representation will be just and practical.
I enjoy reading Randy David’s articles about politics since they make me think and because he gives a sociological, historical, and psychological background.
Unlike other columnists, he is not endorsing any candidate.I hope that the Filipino people will be guided in their choices on May 9 since this is the only country we know and love.

Ida M. Tiongco,
New York, NY


 

It ain’t over until it is over
Still hope for candidates at the bottom of the poll
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 6, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday May 4, 2022

Chess players know that a winning position and a huge material advantage are no guarantees of winning the game.
Every endgame in chess is crucial.
A strong chess player may get the biggest surprise of his life when he loses because he made a terrible game-losing move during the endgame.
I remember my chess coach telling me not to give up even when I face an imminent checkmate.
Why?
Because my opponent might commit a blunder in his moves during our endgame that may open an opportunity for me to win the game.
Whenever I play chess, I always keep in mind the saying “It ain’t over until it is over.”
It is also uncalled for and rude in chess to tell your opponent to resign.
Such call is annoying and childish.
Quitting is a personal decision.
The universally recognized manner of expressing resignation in chess is to tip the King on its side.
Similarly in our present situation, the final index of winning are not poll surveys and huge political rallies.
There is still hope for candidates at the bottom of the poll. Remember, the election isn’t over until every vote is counted.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,
Philippines



United States hypocritical to ask International Criminal Court
To investigate Russian war crimes
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 5, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday May 3, 2022

Re: "Investigation due", Bangkok Post PostBag, April 28, 2022 and "US hypocrisy," Bangkok Post PostBag, April 26, 2022.
As usual my critics distort what I wrote on April 28.
The reason it is hypocritical for America to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Russian war crimes is because America took action against the International Criminal Court (ICC) when they tried to investigate American war crimes in Afghanistan.
America also opposed the International Criminal Court (ICC) efforts to investigate Israel's war crimes. I want the International Criminal Court (I CC) o be allowed to investigate all war crimes and atrocities whether committed by America, Russia or any other country in the world.
Get it?

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Call for investment in a solar park
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 4, 2022
First published in the National, Friday April 22, 2022

The Government and 21 provincial governments should invest in a solar park to harness the vast sun power that is abundant in Papua New Guinea.
One of the world’s best solar parks is the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maltoum Solar Park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which covers an area size of 77km.
This solar park has the capacity to supply 5,000 megawatts of electricity which can supply electricity to a lot of provinces in Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea has a massive land mass for developers to select a suitable site for such a renewable and sustainable project.

John Samar,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


It is political persecution to prevent Aung San Suu Kyi
From returning to an active role in politics
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 3, 2022

The military regime stole power from the democratically elected, legitimate government of Myanmar in a brutal military takeover in 2021 has through its kangaroo court “ convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison “ ( The Fiji Times 29/4 p. 41).
Independent legal experts and human rights groups have called her trial on trumped up charges “ a farce “.
It is political persecution pure and simple to “ discredit “ the long time pro- democracy leader and Nobel Laureate and “ legitimize the military’s seizure of power while preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from returning to an active role in politics “.
Her persecution has all the hallmarks of the modus operandi of a rogue military regime.
Only the intellectually challenged can fail to see that.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Former Papua News Guinea PM Peter O'Neill
To be prosecuted over K3 billion loan
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 2, 2022
First published in the National, Friday April 22, 2022

I refer to the article in The National accusing former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill obout the UBS transactions and that he be referred to the leadership tribunal and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac).
The former prime minister, I believe had followed procedures and proper channels and did not in any way involve in corrupt deals.
O’Neill has done no wrongdoing in the K3 billion UBS loan.
The commission of inquiry (COI) report also points out weaknesses in our system of government.
The UBS report tabled in parliament is astonishing due to the fact that it is ten days away for the issuing of writs.
The government’s survival tactics is now a subject of critics and discussions as of the moment O’Neill’s name made headlines.
At this moment onwards, our leaders are at a juncture of political pressure and avenues are sought to survive the coming election.
Let me tell us that nature is watching and a sheep in the skin and wolf inwardly are traits that is bad.
O’Neill will still survive political accusations as he is innocent and the commission of inquiry has found nothing wrong of him.
It is very surprising that ten days before issuing of writs, the UBS results mentioned that O’Neill be prosecuted.
This is a highly politised move and I believe it is not in the best interest of Papua New Guinea.
Let us all wait and see what Icac has to say.

Justin Max Undi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Ukraine must realise
That it has to live with Russia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 27, 2022

Re: "Ukraine Russia war becoming a nuclear end-game", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, April 22, 2022.
Before the war escalates into becoming a nuclear end-game, four things will happen to the detriment of the European Union.
First, a few million more Ukrainians will immigrate to the European Union; second, there will be more deaths and destruction; third, the United States and European Union policies will have a crippling effect on the economies directly involved in this conflict; and fourth, this crisis may lead to a direct Russian conflict.
All efforts to liberate Ukraine and prepare it to join the European Union are insignificant.
Ukraine must realise that it has to live with Russia, its immediate neighbour.
The United States and European Union must instead mediate peace talks rather than supply more arms.
Ukraine is not Afghanistan or Iraq.
There is still time for Ukraine to learn from Brexit.
Joining the European Union will not turn it into a free and prosperous nation.
It can be a free nation with its rich resources.
The option of a nuclear end-game will be devastating.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The rescue of road accident victims
Should be a free public service in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 30, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday April 22, 2022

Re: "One killed as rival rescue services clash", in Bangkok Post, April 19, 2022.
Two rival emergency rescue foundations fought over market territory, killing one worker.
But accident victims are helpless and should not be in a market to be monopolised and delivered to the place paying the highest fees - which would be private hospitals.
Rescuing road accident victims should be a free public service, just like the police or fire-fighters.
Victims should be delivered to the nearest hospital - public or private - able to treat them, perhaps as a Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) emergency service.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Pride and vanity keeping unwinnable candidates
In the Presidential elections in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 29, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 27, 2022

Re: "4 runners in presidential race refuse to drop out", in Bangkok Post, April 19, 2022
Due to the poorly structured presidential election process in the Philippines, the winning candidate only needs to obtain more votes than each of the other candidates.
There is no run-off election between the two highest vote-getters.
Thus, a candidate can be declared president without a majority of the electorate supporting him or her.
In the last election, Rodrigo Duterte won the election with less than 40 percent of the votes cast, meaning more than 60 percent of the voters preferred someone other than him to be the president.
By refusing to drop out of the upcoming May 9 election, the four minor candidates, none of whom have a realistic chance of winning, are essentially handing the election to frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
If they would withdraw from the race in favour of the only viable challenger to Mr Marcos, current Vice President Leni Robredo, there would be a reasonable prospect of defeating the scion of the former Philippine dictator.
Unfortunately, pride and vanity are keeping unwinnable candidates in the contest, with the likely result being another period of dubious and shady government controlled by the corrupt Marcos clan.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Travel to and from Thailand deferred
Until re-entry is made simpler
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 28, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 25, 2022

Re: "Tourists delay foreign trips" in Bangkok Post, Business, April 18, 2022 and "Rules, costs deter outbound travel" Bangkok Post, Business, April 14, 2022
Analysts cited in these articles have failed to highlight what is undoubtedly the biggest hurdle constraining outbound travel from Thailand.
It is not the costs and rules imposed by other countries that discourages Thai travellers from taking trips abroad.
Nor is it concerns over health and safety in other countries.
By far the biggest deterrent to outbound travel - and inbound travel as well - is the uncertainty over regulations and the hassles involved with returning to Thailand.
I know many Thais and foreign residents who are eager to return to their pre-Covid travel habits of making multiple trips from Thailand each year.
However, they are still deferring travel until re-entry to Thailand is made simpler and less uncertain.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Solomon Island PM Manasseh Sogavare
Wants a stronger hold on power
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 27, 2022

When I read in Terence Wood’s article ‘ Solomons security shambles:What it says about us ‘ ( The Fiji Times 26/4 ) that Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare who wants “ a stronger hold on power “ is “ Seen as the embodiment of a corrupt elite “ who is “ unpopular in Honiara” I knew the research fellow at the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University had a good handle on the politics and geo-politics in the region.
His analysis cuts through the noise from the western media mob and politicians regarding the Solomons-China security pact and gets to what really matters for the people in the region.
His is a valuable contribution to the discourse.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia




Lack of education and training of Thai monks
Responsible for distorting teachings of Buddha in Thaland
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 26, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 25, 2022

Re: "Beliefs are no excuse to damage our health", in Bangkok Post, ThinkBox, April 18, 2022.
I hope the authorities of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB), monks, and the patrons of temples will pay attention to the issues raised by Ms Sanyanusin.
Buddha's teachings are exact.
He emphasised that we should make truth our refuge.
We should use our minds to direct our behaviour and actions. Instead of cultivating mindfulness, temples are embroiled in empty rituals, buying and selling amulets, lotteries, caged birds, and accepting material things, including hard cash in merit-making.
In many temples, the devotees are brainwashed and taken on a spin, ride, or trance, reincarnating into Garuda, Naga, and other creatures which have become part of the fable of Thai Buddhism.
Ms Sanyanusin is correct that the enlightened one who taught us against rituals is now suffocated with the stench and smell of burning incense, candles, rotting flowers, garlands, and food. Some monks have also become experts in botoxing rituals for those who can pay.
In addition, there are scores of criminal cases against Thai monks.
The lack of education and proper training of monks is mainly responsible for distorting the teachings of Buddha and harming the reputation of Thailand as a Buddhist country.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thai version of #MeToo
Has arrived
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 25, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 20, 2022

Re: "Prinn's case, party's fault," Bangkok Post, Editorial, April 19.
Your editorial was spot-on in saying that the Thai version of #MeToo, the global campaign to seek justice for victims of sexual assault, has arrived and is in full swing when one of the country's prime minister hopefuls has been accused of sexual harassment and multiple rapes.
As a long-time supporter of the Democrat Party, I am ashame, no, disgusted is a better word, to learn that the party leader and party executives refuse to recognise the mistake they have made and take proper responsibility, because they are the ones who appointed this person as party executive and deputy party leader.
A close aide to the party leader, a lady whose name is too stomach-churning to mention here, has asked whether party executives should be investigated for an individual's personal conduct.
What a shame and what irresponsibility for her to say such a thing.
That said, all party executives should resign en masse.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand



ASEAN cities have some of the worst
Air pollution in the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 24, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday April 22, 2022

Re: "Pondering Asean's future beyond 2025", Bangkok Post Opinion, April 12, 2022
It is disheartening that Kavi Chongkittavorn's vision for Asean's future fails to once mention environmental improvement and protection.
This reflects Asean's track record on the environment, which has been anything but inspiring.
Major Asean cities have some of the worst air pollution in the world. Asean countries count among the biggest contributors to global plastic waste.
Waterways are clogged with debris and chemical discharge. Biodiversity is under threat across Asean.
The region lacks ambition in committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has been slow to sign on to the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use.
Asean's main environmental thrust of the past two decades was the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, intended to reduce forest fires and cut related transboundary haze pollution. Yet the agreement has been a dismal failure.
Hopefully, Asean officials will include environmental elements into their vision for the future.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill
Sets a bad precedent for the highest office
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 23, 2022
First published in the National, Friday April 22, 2022

The most corrupt and obvious unlawful act of former prime minister Peter O’Neill in rushing the controversial K3 billion UBS loan is criminal in nature as it bypassed certain processes and procedures.
The manner in which O’Neill acted is a form of dictatorship leadership.
He acted as if there were no other senior ministers available to approach for a collective view and discussions.
This is something sinister and sets a bad precedent for the highest office on this land.
What he did was a serious crime and he should pay the price that serves as a lesson for future leaders.
Why are the law enforcing agencies such as the Attorney General’s office, Ombudsman Commission, fraud squad and others not active in prosecuting high profile culprits?

Set Example,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Justice system in Thailand
Can be relied on for former Democrat Party leader
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 22, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 20, 2022

Re: "Have faith in the justice system," InQuote, April 18, 2022
Prinn Panichapakdi, ex-Democrat Party leader charged with sexual assault by many women wants us to believe that our justice system can be relied upon.
But let's look at the record. The colonels and generals responsible for Tak Bai (83 bodies) and Nong Chik (4 bodies) haven't even been identified, let alone court-martialled. Praewa Thephasadin Na Ayudhya (aka Rawinpirom Arunvongse) accidentally killed nine, yet served not one day in jail. Red Bull heir Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhaya has run free for a full decade. PM Prayut has swept under the rug the report of ex-NACC commissioner Vicha Mahakun on reforming the police and prosecutors with no apparent intention of resurrection.
When a hi-so, highly influential defendant tells us to have faith in our justice system, that should add to our worries that justice will not be done.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Thai Airways secures credit for leases
While in bankruptcy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 21, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 20, 2022

Re: "Leased 777-300ERs to join Thai's fleet", Bangkok Post, April 8, 2022.
Thai Airways just announced the lease of three new planes each with a three-class configuration, including First Class which is currently unavailable on any routes serviced.
This acquisition begs questions:
While in bankruptcy, how can they secure credit for the leases?
What kind of fiscal shenanigans are at work here?
Undoubtedly theses planes have a state-of-the-art First Class at the behest of those "senior people" who bemoan the loss of their comforts and rarely pay for their seats.
The article in the Bangkok Post said that Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (TG) is in the process of selling or has sold 45 planes from the fleet … Hogwash!!!
They have not sold a single one.
Why not retrofit some of the existing planes, as there are still some in the fleet with many years left on the clock.
Surely a cheaper option.
The soap opera never ends and once again the taxpayer who owns a substantial share is being abused.
Will it never end?

Rev Michael Palmer,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Much remains to be done by each one of us
Beyond the Philippines elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 18, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday April 18, 2022

Amongst those who support ABBB (Anyone but Bongbong), there are two prevalent themes of lament.
First is the depiction of the vote as an existential struggle between good, largely symbolized by the pink campaign, against evil, led by a son whose campaign is based on the revisionist recounting of his antecedent’s destructive corruption as a golden age for the country.
The problem with the first is that the reality is not a simple binary contest. Inequality, corruption, and patronage in our culture are now so deeply ingrained over centuries and generations and in our daily lives, that these forces have overcome and colored all of us to some degree or another.
Leni Robredo, try as she will, will struggle against these forces.
There is more to our problem than a change in the government will fix.
The most encouraging development in this election has been to witness the rising tide of volunteerism that is now powering Leni Robredo’s campaign.
A rising tide of truth and holding leaders to account is a necessary condition to our country rising from poverty and haplessness.
We need a change in culture as much as we need a better president.
The presidency is an opportunity to effect change, without which victory is meaningless.
In the corporate world, there is the aphorism that culture beats strategy.
A leader embodies culture.
Our country’s culture is only the sum of how each one of us behaves and what values we hold and live to.
A pervasive subservience to wealth and power is a national trait inhibiting thoughtful discourse and accountability.
We all have a part in consciously deciding to make this change and changing our behaviors to be more inclusive and equal, and demanding the same from others, in our daily lives.
We should be always striving to move from a society of haves and have-nots, to a community of inclusiveness, equality of opportunity, and equality before the law.
The second theme is how lamentably ignorant the unenlightened masses are that they know no better, that they fall so easily for the revisionism.
For all of us who are in a position to effect systemic change, the question is, have we done enough that people can see the fruit of good government?
In the absence of substantive differences in outcomes, why should the polity prefer one fable over another?
This is not to diminish the case for clean government, but those in our country who have no other recourse than to rely on the machinery of the government, to even the odds for them in the struggle for a better life, maybe have not seen sustained evidence that voting for the good guy actually works.
Rather than call out ignorance, are we reflecting enough on the failure to improve at a systemic level, the health, education, and opportunity of the masses, and take it as a rebuke that we and the system have not done better for those who number the most?
Nation-building is not done in six years, or every six years.
It is an ongoing work in progress of steadfast self-sacrifice, all too sadly lacking if you examine our nation’s history of party affiliation and the level of our political discourse, as well as involvement and inclusiveness over history.
It starts with our vote, with our engagement, but can only be meaningful if we appreciate that we can’t just leave it to the winner of the contest to make our life and our national community’s life better.
Whatever the outcome, much remains to be done by each one of us, beyond the elections.

Jay Mendoza,
Sydney,
Australia




Sanctioned Russian oligarch
Docks superyacht in Fiji
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 19, 2022

We learn from The Fiji Times report ‘ Amadea is here - Russian billionaire’s yacht in Fiji ‘ ( 13 April ) that Putin supporter Suleiman Kerimov, “ a Russian oligarch who is currently sanctioned over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “ has docked his super yacht in Fiji’s second port city Lautoka.
How has this been possible when one, such superyachts owned Russian oligarchs who are big time Putin backers, have been sanctioned by the USA, UK and Europe; and two, Fiji just voted in the UN for Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council?
Could that be because of a perception on the part of the Russian billionaire that Fiji being a coup country is a third world banana republic where there is no solid democratic accountability, transparency and public scrutiny of State action so he could get away with sailing smartly into Fiji?

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



The National Office of Buddhism shows that
Thai Buddhism's primary function is political
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 18, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday April 12, 2022

Re: "Men of cloth, not paper", Bangkok Post Editorial, April 9, 2022
When has the nationalistic religion known as Thai Buddhism, created by and for powerful political players, ever been primarily about the teachings of the Buddha, rather than the pursuit of power, property and prestige in line with its political origins?
Why else would the original example of gifting literally gilded temples and images to monks have been set, except to serve the very secular goals of using the religion so endowed as a means to keep the masses passive and peaceful underfoot as they contributed to the coffers?
Why else would Thai Buddhism have political protection and control at the highest level?
The very existence of such a thing as the National Office of Buddhism shows that Thai Buddhism's primary function is political.
If Thai Buddhism is to move from worldly concerns towards following the wise teachings of the Buddha, an essential reform is to free it from state management. Annul the National Office of Buddhism and other political control of the religion that it may independently pursue and preach the wisdom of the Buddha to the great benefit of those who will listen.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Leave the fight for Philippines President
To Marcos vs. Leni
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 17, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday April 14, 2022

In my commentary, “United we stand remembering a hero” March 26, 2022, I gave a subtle hint to the presidential candidates not named Marcos.
I recalled the sacrifice of Salvador H. Laurel who gave up his ambition, so Cory Aquino could become president in 1986.
Laurel was more qualified to become president then, a veteran lawyer, honest politician, experienced public servant, and freedom fighter, versus Tita Cory, a simple housewife.
Initially, Cory Aquino endorsed Laurel but later public clamor persuaded her to run, putting Laurel in a dilemma.
Run and both of them would lose.
Laurel gave way to Tita Cory and sacrificed his ambition to become a true hero.
Fast forward to today, and this time I will not be subtle.
It seems that the candidates against Marcos are dense and ambitious.
Masyadong bilib sa sarili. Sen.
Manny Pacquiao is raw and does not have enough experience in public service.
He needs ajinomoto seasoning.
Same with Isko Moreno.
He just started as mayor of Manila and should finish his first term before aspiring for higher office.
Too ambitious. Sen. Panfilo Lacson is not corrupt and has more experience, but he does not have public support.
The other candidates, whose names I refuse to recal, are just nuisance candidates.
As a senior citizen who has voted in 10 previous presidential elections, I urge these three candidates to withdraw now and leave the fight to Marcos vs. Leni, si Magnanakaw versus si Maganda.
This is the best chance for Leni to win.

Crispin C. Maslog,
Manila,
Philippine



Noise levels at Royal Thai Air Force airbase in Udon Thani
No louder than singers in bars and karaoke clubs
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 16, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday April 12, 2022

Re: "Jet blues in Udon Thani", in Bangkok Post , April 4, 2022
Either there are flaws in the assessment of the noise levels generated by fighter jets in neighbourhoods surrounding the Royal Thai Air Force airbase in Udon Thani, or local people have no legitimate cause for complaints.
According to the World Health Organization, sound levels less than 70 decibels are not damaging to living organisms, regardless of how long or consistent the exposure.
Thus, the reported noise levels of 64.8-65.2 decibels are in no way "too loud" or dangerous for local residents.
The noise levels measured in Udon Thani are essentially the same intensity as a normal conversational voice, which measures about 60 decibels. Other common sources of noise are far greater.
Hairdryers, lawnmowers, motorcycles, and most power tools, for example, register around 90 decibels. Music concerts and sporting events clock in at about 110 decibels.
I'd venture to speculate that the acoustic assaults of promo girls in department stores, amplified entertainment of singers in bars and karaoke clubs, and the loudspeaker campaigning in support of politicians that Thais seem to tolerate without complaint run far in excess of 100 decibels.
I personally lived in an area used in training jet fighter pilots, back in the days when such training regularly involved planes breaking the sound barrier. The sonic booms and screeching of jets overhead can indeed be very disturbing.
But if the noise levels in Udon Thani are no more than those being reported, locals have nothing to whine about.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Don't preach to others
Those who have blood on your hands
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 15, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday April 14, 2022

Re: "Asean tally", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, April 11, 2022 and "Thais abstain in UNHRC vote on Russia", in Bangkok Post, April 9, 2022.
Korean War: 2.5 million civilian casualties Vietnam War: 2 million civilian casualties Gulf War: 200,000 civilian casualties Afghanistan War: 70,000 civilian casualties Iraq War: 66,000 civilian casualties.
Above are the civilian casualties from some of the recent wars that America and Nato have fought.
Those who have blood on their own hands don't preach to others.
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the US and its European Nato allies have only stepped up their purchase of oil and gas from Russia, while preaching to the rest of the world as to what it should do. Ken Albersten is even willing to hug the military dictatorship of Myanmar simply because they voted how he wanted?

VB,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Change in Pakistan happened
Without military playing any part
The Southeast Asia Times, Thursday April 14, 2022

The popular Pakistani prime minister former legendary cricketer Imran Khan “ was ousted in a no-confidence vote” in parliament .
It’s a reminder that in politics fortunes can change rather suddenly.
In the Pakistan context it’s good to know the change has happened without the military playing any part in it as has often been the case historically since the country’s formation ( for further illumination see renown author and academic Tariq Ali’s book Pakistan : military rule or people’s power ? )

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

Thai temple funds should adhere to legal obligations
Applicable to bona fide businesses
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 13, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday April 8, 2022

Re: "'Temple swindler' assets to be investigated", in Bangkok Post April 6, 2022.
If a close acquaintance of a temple's abbot can embezzle 190 million baht from the temple's funds in less than four months, isn't it time that these entities are subject to some sort of oversight?
They should be registered as a legal business/charity and thereby obliged to adhere to all legal obligations applicable to bona fide businesses.
Misappropriating funds intended for temple or school improvements is simply depraved.
I cannot see anyone arguing against introducing equitable regulations in this area unless those making the argument have ulterior motives.

Shane Simpson,
Bangkok,
Thailand



ASEAN members Laos and Vietnam voted
To let Russia stay on the UNHRC
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 12, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday April 12, 2022

Re: "Thai's abstain in United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) vote on Russia", in Bangkok Post April 9, 2022.
Regarding Thursday's vote in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on whether to kick Russia off the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), of the 11 countries within Asean, only Laos and Vietnam voted to let Russia stay on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Six countries abstained, including Thailand, indicating they were too cowed to vote for freedom
Three countries had the cojones to do what was right and vote in favour of kicking Russia off the the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Myanmar, East Timor and the Philippines.
Those of us who watch these sorts of things were not surprised that China voted to keep Russia on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), while India abstained.
We expected better from India, and were pleasantly surprised that Myanmar voted for freedom for Ukrainians.

Ken Albertsen,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

The global response to Covid was tyranny
Plain and simple.
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Friday April 8, 2022

Re: "Covid-19's lessons for democracies", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, April 5, 2022.
The global response to Covid was tyranny, plain and simple.
People were forced by threat of violence to comply with draconian measures such as loss of economic liberty, being imprisoned at home through curfews, and forced to be "research monkeys" by coercing people to take untested medicine.
The government responses were motivated by political concerns of exercising power and social control, not by scientific information and standards.
Even the WHO admits lockdowns, masks and jabs were ineffective against a virus with less than a 1 percent rate of mortality.
More so if there are not any co-morbidities health issues present with the infected.
An easy way to see this is with the government response to the one of the major mortality factors, that is cancer!
There are more deaths every year from cancer than Covid can ever cause.
Yet the collective global governance does not ban the usage of carcinogens or declare "lockdowns" for commercial activity that are carcinogenic.

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Property seizures carried out in Myanmar by military
Before accused found guilty in court
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 10, 2022

It is patently clear from The Southeast Asian Times report ‘ Myanmar military held accountable for illegal seizure of property’ ( 7 April 2023 ) Myanmar has fallen into rogue rule under the military regime that grabbed power from the democratically elected government.
How else is one to describe a regime that has “ seized more than 54 homes and other properties belonging to civilians opposed to the Armed Forces
( Tatmadaw )”
, the power grabbers when the “ Seizures were carried out before the accused were found guilty in court? “ ?
This modus operandi of the Myanmar military junta is reminiscent of the disgraceful confiscation and thieving done by the Nazi regime.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



February 1986 revolution cause for missing aplication
For Nobel Peace Prize for President Cory Aquino in 1987
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 9, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday April 4, 2022

We appreciate the commentary of Oscar Arias, the former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, which came out on March 30, 2022.
But you may not be aware that it was his peace plan concerning three countries that made us miss the Nobel award for Philippines President Cory Aquino in 1987.
The February 1986 peaceful revolution made us miss the application with the February. 28, 1986 deadline, and postpone our candidacy to 1987.
The undersigned spent one year preparing the file, which was quite substantial.
First, we had the backing of many previous awardees, Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, Irish, Catholic, Protestant girls, whom we had difficulty tracing in the US.
Backing of parliaments, we got Mrs. Simone Veil for the European Parliament, and universities, historical and cultural departments, Notre Dame, the US, etc.
In the end, when Mrs. Aquino was informed, she asked our friend Raul Manglapus, who was secretary of foreign affairs, to assist.
We had an impressive file, but came out second to President Arias, with a very slim backing, but his peace plan concerned three Central American countries, while we were concerned with one country - the reason why we lost.
As far as we know unofficially, we came out second; there are some 300 candidates yearly.
It is too bad nobody took up the case to try the following year, possibly with a better chance. We certainly had solid grounds as Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.

W A Mialhe De Burgh,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

 

Things will only get worse
Until we start reducing greenhouse gases
The Southeast Asian Tmes, Friday April 8, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, April 7, 2022

Re: "Chilly rain forecast for much of country", Bangkok Post April 3, 2022.
The news mentioned that it would be up to 4C cooler and rainy in most areas of Thailand until at least Monday of this week.
It should also be mentioned that it was up to 7C cooler and rainy in some northern regions of the nation during the weekend.
I believe that this unusual weather pattern is more than just a coincidence and is consistent with global warming, wherein extreme weather patterns are expected to occur with greater frequency in the future.
Things will only get worse unless we start reducing greenhouse gases now.
The just-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) makes this clear.
If we want to reduce global temperature increases to 2C, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025, and be reduced by a quarter in 2030.
There will be net-zero greenhouse gas emitted by 2070 under this scenario.
In order to have a global temperature increase of only 1.5C, greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by 2050.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand



 

Royal Thai Navy needs no engines in submarines
As showpiece on Children's Day
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 7, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post. Wendnesday April 6, 2022

Re: "Subs deal at risk: PM", in Bangkok Post, April 5, 2022.
I don't understand why the prime minister and assorted lads are so fussed about whether their desperately impressive subs have engines or not.
The Royal Thai Navy's aircraft carrier needs no engine to passively sit serving its purpose as a showpiece.
Why would their subs need engines at all to perform at the same sub standard expected? They will look every bit as impressive for Children's Day without.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Estate tax on Marcos inherited assests
Is six percent of P388.2 billion
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday April 6, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday March 29, 2022

There’s no doubt that one of the most serious issues against the Marcoses in this election season is their unpaid estate tax.
Originally amounting to P23.29 billion, it has now ballooned to P203.82 billion, inclusive of interests and penalties.
The Marcos camp argues that there is nothing final on this issue, while Marcos critics insist that the Supreme Court ruling on it has long been final and executory.
It appears, then, that the high tribunal should be able to resolve this controversy. But only at first glance.
Because, fortunately or unfortunately, under our system of government, the Supreme Court is not like the legendary Muhammad who can go down the mountain anytime to resolve a problem below.
There is reason to believe that the primary bone of contention here is whether the controversial P23.29 billion estate tax was assessed based on the value of assets and real properties that the Marcos heirs had actually inherited from the elder Marcos, or whether the tax base used was inclusive of the so-called ill-gotten wealth already sequestered and eventually forfeited in favor of the government.
That said, may I offer a simple way to determine the truth behind this issue?
Consider this: the estate tax, also called inheritance tax, is six percent of the value of the inherited assets and payable to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Simple arithmetic easily tells us that the Marcos heirs had inherited some P388.2 billion worth of assets which, needless to say, must now be under their possession. On the other hand, there is another kind of estate tax, otherwise called real property tax.
This is payable to the municipality, city, or province where the assets or real properties are located.
Plain common sense should tell us that though computed at different tax rates and certain other considerations, the estate or inheritance tax and the estate or real property tax must be based essentially on the same list of assets and properties. (Essentially because the taxpayer may have assets other than those inherited). Otherwise, something must be wrong, In turn, this clarification should be enough to enlighten the electorate on the truth or myth behind this issue.

Rodolfo L. Coronel,
Manila,
Philippines



If Thailand wants to retain US billion-dollar market
Would be prudent to assuage the concerns of the buyer
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 5, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 4, 2022

Re: "US solar panel probe draws protest from ministry", Bangkok Post, Business, April 2, 2022.
The reaction by the government concerning the United States wanting to ensure that China is not dumping solar panel-related technology and parts does not look good.
When someone is "not" breaking rules, offering transparency is a great way to disprove an allegation of cheating or malfeasance.
To protest the inquiry or probe itself gives the impression that something is being hidden or that the allegation is based in truth.
If Thailand really wants to retain a US billion-dollar market, they would be prudent to assuage the concerns of the buyer rather than protest a legitimate concern of a customer.
When your position is "to prepare a defence" rather than proving through transparency, it makes one believe that there is something off. I would like to see the Thai economy retain this export potential but in order to do this I feel the government's actions need to change.

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

China's Shanghai lockdown policy
Is swatting at flies
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 4, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 31, 2022

Re: "Half of Shanghai in lockdown to curb Covid-19 outbreak," in Bangkok Post March 28, 2022.
While I wish the Chinese government all the best in their efforts to manage Covid-19, I must say that I do not think a zero-Covid approach really is in China's best interests anymore.
Frankly, much of the world is starting to move on now and has grown accustomed to simply living with a manageable chronic illness.
The illness is simply here to stay until we develop a new generation of vaccines and, as Covid-19 has a very low mortality rate, the time has come to largely reopen and move on.
Our economies cannot sustain endless lockdowns.
I wish China well, but this policy is swatting at flies.
It discourages international travel on their airlines and will do few people much good.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for United Nations military adviser to advise
Role of the military in a democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 3, 2022

After his courtesy visit to the Black Rock military facility in Fiji ( ‘ UN Military Adviser pays a courtesy visit to Black Rock ‘ The Fiji Times 28/3 ), can the United Nations military adviser visit Myanmar to advice the military general who grabbed power in a military coup from the democratically elected government of Aung San Sui Kyi what the role of the military is in a democracy?
That would be a very worthwhile visit for the United Nations military adviser to make to have a military man to military man talk with the rogue military ruler of Myanmar who has been engaged in terrorising the people of Myanmar since his takeover.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



How stupid are humans?
They destroy cities and cultures
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 2, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 31, 2022

Re: "Odessa and Ukraine that was," in Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 29, 2022.
Alas, before Odessa, many other famous cities became the victims of wars. Warmongers have destroyed the beautiful culture and heritage of Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad.
A little search on Google will show that many other cities have been damaged or destroyed by evil wars.
Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia; Vijecnica (City Hall) of Sarajevo, Bosnia; the Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan; Djinguereber Mosque of Timbuktu, Mali; and the Great Mosque of Aleppo, Syria are a few examples.
These sites became targets of unnecessary devastation and destruction brought by ill-conceived wars.
And let us not forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
How stupid are humans?
They destroy cities and cultures which took a millennium to establish.
Do our ancestors, the chimpanzees and apes, have a better understanding of the world?

Kuldeep Nagi
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Why is Julian Assange
Being persecuted?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 1, 2022

It is true that with his war of invasion in Ukraine and the atrocities committed against the people of Ukraine Putin “ undermines an international system which gives us all an equal voice in the world and an ability to defend our own sovereign interests “ ( ‘Putin’s threat to the Pacific, and our defence’ Advertisement, The Fiji Times 28/3 ).
Did Julian Assange not reveal a serious breach of the rules-based international order in Iraq?
Why is he being persecuted for doing that?
Why the selective condemnation?

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Mind your own business
In order to be civilized in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 31, 2022
First published in the National, Thursday March 31, 2022

MYOB (mind your own business) is an abbreviation used by old civilisations that usually bears fruitful impacts in life.
It is a reminder that drives one to divert their attention and concentrate on self-matters.
The multicultural societies like the US and Brazil are occupied by individuals of diverse walks of life.
Although there are homosexuals, transgender and bestiality, to state a few, they interact respectably together.
There are thousands of religious groups from Christianity to Muslim and Scientology to Satanism.
Since they are civilised, they tolerate and participate collectively as part of the society.
In 2015, the US president Barrack Obama spoke in the Rose Garden of Whitehouse after the US supreme court declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry anywhere in the US.
While commemorating the event, the president told the overwhelming crowd that the nation was founded on a bedrock principle – that we are created equal.
After a few congratulatory statements, the president embraced the then secretary of state and kissed him on stage to mark an exemplary day.
The boiling celebration was sparked by the aid of rainbow-coloured fireworks that dyed the murky space, alongside an overflow of warm individuals of various genders.
Another occasion erupted in 2017 when the Christians celebrated Christmas Eve in the Whitehouse.
While encircling and devoting a holy-cross with a statue of Saint Mary, the followers of Satanism also held their ritual, having worshipped a gold-carved sculpture of a black-coloured snake that coiled around an apple made of pure bronze.
Christians stormed out with frustrations as they approached the group.
They informed Satanism that they were celebrating the birth of Christ and insisted on knowing the purpose of the ritual.
The Christians were told that if Satan did not intervene at the beginning, life would not have come that far.
Others added that they haven’t recognised under the constitution which forbids the free will of religions.
The responses defeated the Christians as they dissolved unnoticeably.
To cut a long story short, they presume that only God is righteous to judge, otherwise it would be a breach of privacy and self-determination if sued.
But not in PNG society.
We are experts at privatising other people’s affairs.
This uncivilised personality enables one to consider what others might think, which leads to exhaust both time and resources to please others.
It accumulates in breeding countless hypocrites, which handicaps our progress at large.
In order to be a civilised and successful person, one must terminate the trend to judge others and step on their own path to positively head out.
Life is too short to be wasted on another life.

Petrus Gand,
Social-Justice-Advocate,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Call for Commander-in-chief of Myanmar military
To be hauled before the International Criminal Court
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 30, 2022

We read in The Southeast Asian Times 27 March that the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar, Sr Gen Min Aung Hlaing, said the National Unity Government ( NUG ), the People’s Defence Force ( PDF ) and the Civil Disobedience Movement ( CDM ) were “ terrorist groups”.
But if you ask the people of Myanmar they will tell you it’s the Myanmar military that has become a terrorist outfit under the rogue ruler Sr Gen Min Aung Hlaing who grabbed power in a military coup from the democratically elected government of Aung San Sui Kyi.
The rogue military general should be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the killings and atrocities committed by his military thugs against the people of Myanmar.
A Red Notice should be issued on him.

Rajend Naidu.
Sydney,
Australia


 

Now the EU and USA have no choice
But to work with China and India
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 29, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday March 25, 2022

Re: "Sanctions aren't new, ask the Romans", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 19, 2022.
Yes, it is indeed true that sanctions do not work. Cuba, Iran, N Korea, and many other countries face sanctions imposed by Western powers. In 1970 when India started to become a nuclear power, it faced the same situation.
Mr Trump tried to impose sanctions on China during his tenure, but it quickly backfired.
In all the cases cited above, the economic disruptions caused by sanctions have prompted these countries to fight harder to defend themselves.
There is no doubt that the anger and anxiety brought by economic disruptions can accelerate rather than conclude wars.
Unjust sanctions also generate long-term hatred towards countries that create hardships for ordinary citizens.
We can clearly see that countries that were sanctioned have come out stronger. Now the EU and USA have no choice but to work with China and India.
They will have to get back to work with Russia to end the devastating war in Ukraine.
The time has come for Western countries to stop abusing sanctions and punishing countries that do not bow to their powers.
It is just a matter of time before they will be forced to work with Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, N Korea and Cuba. Alas, these days, sanctions are as useless as nuclear weapons that were one time signs of supremacy.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for new Commission on Elections (Comelec)
To decide Marcos Jr. disqualifications immediately
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 28, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday March 21, 2022

The reorganized Commission on Elections (Comelec), with the recent appointment of its chair and two new commissioners, seems to have a less than auspicious start, and still much less of an assurance of a honeymoon period to prove itself trustworthy and credible.
Aside from the alarm raised by netizens regarding the lack of transparency in the printing of the official ballots, which the commission later rectified with a walk through, an exposé by a senator that a commissioner was involved in a case of bribery, is not making it easy for the new Comelec to prove its worth - if it is minded to.
Yet, it can redeem itself simply by acting swiftly and reasonably in the promulgation of election rules and in the resolution of cases.
We saw the rules on the posting of election materials, and other related issues, caused an uproar that prompted a court in Baguio City to restrain their implementation.
And this came after the questionable act of a commissioner, who delayed the issuance of the decision in one of the Marcos Jr. disqualification cases in order to marginalize a colleague.
It could only have been done for a fiendish objective, because simple courtesy would have moved one to do everything to make sure that colleague is heard, not silenced.
At the moment, the final decision on one pending Marcos Jr. disqualification case, and on motions for reconsideration in the others, is a challenge to Chairman Pangarungan and a litmus test of his political will.
The disqualification cases should have been decided weeks ago so that the aggrieved parties could have sought final relief from the Supreme Court to settle all issues of eligibility and qualification of a candidate before election day.
It should not be left undecided after election day, as this will potentially cause a political crisis.
That there is silence on this subject at the moment reminds us of the Ferolino playbook of delaying action for questionable reasons.
The new commission can stop this by deciding the Marcos Jr. disqualification cases immediately.
Will Chairman Pangarungan rise to the challenge?

Ancheta K. Tan,
Makati City
Philippines

 

Call for environmental policies to be on agenda
For next president of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 27, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday March 25, 2022

We seldom hear politicians outrightly campaign for environmental policies.
In the recently concluded Philippines presidential debates at our university, the University of Santo Tomas, I cannot help but be alarmed that the questions posed to the candidates did not even touch on environment-related platforms.
On top of this, green policies are not reflected in the candidates’ major campaigns.
It is high time that environmental policies should be part of the mainstream agenda for the next president of the Philippines.
The absence of green policies has ramifications on ordinary people’s lives. Although not seen in plain sight, the change in climate contributes to armed conflicts across the world as states vie for limited resources.
The Philippines is ravaged by typhoons, earthquakes, and landslides every year. People living in poverty are the most vulnerable and bear the disastrous impacts of these catastrophes.
Yet, every year, it’s always the same news - deaths, destroyed houses, damage to agriculture, crowded evacuation centers. Should this always be the fate of the Filipino people?
What is toxic about this is that survivors of disasters are always praised for their resilience when the government could have put in place safeguards that protect and prepare them for such calamities.
This is why it’s crucial that the country’s next president should have unwavering support and participation in green policies, and honor commitments to international treaties.
As the Latin legal maxim says: salus populi est suprema lex, the welfare of the people is the supreme law.
A president for the environment is a president for the people.

Eduardo Fajermo,
Manila,
Philippines


Philippine Society of International Law
Calls for withdrawal of Russian military from Ukraine
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday Match 26, 2022

First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 25, 2022

The Philippine Society of International Law (PSIL) joins the call of the United Nations and the Philippine government in demanding the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukraine.
Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits states from using armed force against the territorial integrity or political independence of other states.
Russia’s act of invading and bombing, and maintaining armed forces within Ukraine violates this prohibition.
Calling it “special military operations” or any other term does not change the character of Russia’s actions as a full-scale invasion and an unlawful use of force.
Moreover, international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions, directs the parties to an armed conflict to limit hostilities solely against military objectives and not against civilians, and to minimize incidental injuries against civilians.
The invasion of Ukraine has exacted grave human suffering among innocent civilians, including children. Homes, hospitals, and schools have been indiscriminately razed and destroyed by the hostilities.
Over three million Ukrainians have been displaced and have sought refuge in neighboring states, and the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has opened an investigation on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the most brazen challenge to the international legal order in recent history.
This is not to say that the UN Charter has not been stretched and strained to legitimize the recourse to armed aggression in the past.
But the aggression against Ukraine, that is to say, the full-scale armed invasion by one sovereign state against another state, without the thinnest legal veneer, if allowed, will embolden future acts of aggression by other states similarly disinclined to respect the international rule of law, especially in the territorial and maritime disputes in Asia.
With the fast escalating conflict in Ukraine, once again, the world community finds itself on the precipice of a cataclysmic war.
The Philippine Society of International Law (PSIL) joins the international community in calling for a return to the paths of diplomacy in order to resolve soonest these disputes through peaceful means, and the immediate cessation of hostilities and violations of human rights and other acts that could amount to international crimes.

Philippine Society of International Law,
Manila,
Philippines


Ban on alcohol sales on Buddhist holy days
Exposes authoritarian despotism in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 25, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday March 21, 2022

Re: "Regulate in moderation", in Bangkok Post, Life, March 14, 2022
A personal devotion to the teachings of a religion is an excellent reason for those so devoted to follow when making personal decisions as to how they live their own lives.
Devout Buddhists might, for example, choose to abstain from drinking alcohol on the holy days of Buddhism, just as they similarly abstain from paying others to kill sentient beings on their orders merely to enjoy some tasty animal flesh.
However, neither the personal religious beliefs of some, not even of a majority, nor the teachings of any religion, are relevant to forming public policy and law.
For the state to be persuaded by some group to force their personal religious doctrines on all is to expose that religion as an authoritarian despotism, something I do not think that the Buddha set out to create.
The ban on alcohol sales on Buddhist holy days is every bit as rationally defensible as a universal ban on the sale and consumption of meat on those days.
The retailers and restaurant owners petitioning for reform of the laws regarding the sale and also advertising of alcohol are doubtless acting from the capitalist profit motive, but that does not reduce the cogency of their call for law reform.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Responsible mining accomodates open-pit mining
Open-pit mining alters ecosystems irreversibly
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 24, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday March 18, 2022

"Responsible mining" is an umbrella term under which questionable features take shelter.
For example, the term accommodates the open-pit mining method, which, no matter how responsibly it is carried out, alters an ecosystem irreversibly; this is elementary science.
In fact, built into the DNA of mining is the risk of a host of potential impacts, according to the World Resources Institute: habitat loss/fragmentation, disturbance to wildlife, chemical contamination of surface and groundwater, declining species populations, toxicity impacts to organisms, loss of original vegetation/biodiversity, among others.
While mining companies can try to mitigate these scenarios, we must calculate if they are worth the trouble.
The term also covers mining primarily for export.
Data from the Mines and Geoscience Bureau finds that almost all of the minerals extracted in the Philippines are exported, thereby using national patrimony to benefit not the Philippines but foreign nations.
Mining also does not preclude social impacts. Mining in environmental areas affects ecosystem services - potable water, protection from storms, food - on which communities depend.
All this falls under the narrative arc of responsible mining, and all sanctioned by law, through the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Thus, while we recognize the role of mining in modern life, we can’t rely on responsible mining to administer such an invasive undertaking.
Alternative minerals management (AMM), which views mining from a whole-of-life approach, is a proposed framework for mining governance in the Philippines. Alternative minerals management (AMM) is encapsulated in a proposed bill filed in the 18th Congress by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Grace Poe and Rep. Lawrence Fortun.
In Alternative minerals management (AMM), only so-called strategic minerals, or minerals needed for national development, including national industrialization, shall be marshaled. Mining that does not serve this goal shall be disallowed. Strategic minerals shall also be processed domestically, so they rise in value, bolstering the GDP.
Crucially, Alternative minerals management (AMM), fills the void left by the 1995 Mining Act in protecting the environment.
In Alternative minerals management (AMM),, the open-pit method is prohibited, and mining in key biodiversity areas, critical watersheds, critical habitats, and other such areas is forbidden.
Alternative minerals management (AMM), is also anchored in the climate discourse.
A mining project which is powered by a coal plant flies in the face of the proposed moratorium on coal by the Department of Energy. Mining must not slow down the Philippines’ shift to a low-carbon development pathway.
Some believe mining is atavistic; a post-extractive future is gaining traction in light of the oncoming climate catastrophe.
Its proponents argue:
How can mining be endorsed when every effort must be made to conserve the environment and not destroy it?
A just minerals transition must thus be conceived to interrogate the role of mining in the shift to renewable energy for the production of solar panels, for example.
Every care must be taken not to inadvertently allow renewable energy to destroy the environment it avows to conserve in the first place.
Alternative minerals management (AMM) then is a compromise.
It’s a solution that allows mining but only under stringent conditions, which the environment, as the source of our nourishment, must deserve.
Responsible mining, which rolls off the tongue, is admittedly popular.
However, in alternative minerals management, the language for the primacy of the planet and people over profit is clearly articulated where in responsible mining, it has been lost in translation.

Maya Quirino,
Advocacy coordinator,
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center,
Manila
Philippines



Many ways that the Russian Ukraine war
Can become far more catastrophic
The Southeast Asuan Times, Wednesday March 23, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday March 21, 2022

In February.24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine.
A titanic struggle started which for now is confined within Ukraine itself.
But the danger of a wider and far more destructive war is very real.
What if Russia, caught in a quagmire and reeling from the severest sanctions in living memory, lashes out in an unexpected way - such as by using chemical or even nuclear weapons in Ukraine, or by striking at the three Baltic states?
What if Nato pushes its assistance to Ukraine too far and inadvertently clashes with Russian forces?
There are many ways this war can become far more catastrophic.
All that’s needed is a proverbial spark.
History is full of such sparks -sudden and momentous events that have profound consequences for humanity.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, on June 28, 1914, set off the powder keg of World War I.
The invasion of Poland by Germany on September 1, 1939, triggered the even greater horrors of World War II.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by Japan on December 7, 1941, pulled the United States into that same war.
More recently, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, caused a wounded and enraged the United States, together with its allies, to attack Afghanistan and commence the so-called “war on terror.”
Oftentimes, the belligerents do not even wish or intend to escalate tensions, but they are somehow swept into a conflict that spirals out of control.
Miscalculation by either side provides the spark which distinguishes these armed conflicts from near misses like the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
If the world is to avoid yet another devastating global conflict, Russia and Ukraine, as well as the countries that support them, need to be very mindful of what these potential sparks might be.

Dennis Joseph D. Judan,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Thailand to propose Eco-Peace
In the framework of Asean and Indo-Pacific strategy
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 22, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday March 20, 2022

Re: "Thailand must take stand on Ukraine", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 1, 2022.
I was so happy to see two former ambassadors saving the honour of Thai diplomacy, which as a Dutch citizen living in Thailand I admire so much. Indeed, neutrality, a status the Netherlands observed during WWI, is often merely based on opportunism and lack of courage, unless it produces initiatives like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) based in Switzerland.
What I would understand is if Thailand wanted to be independent.
This does not only allow a country to take sides with the vulnerable and support international law, as Thailand has done already in the UN General Assembly.
An independent position would go much further than neutrality. Independence needs inner strength and free, mutual collaboration.
The latter, although difficult in the domestic arena, Thai diplomacy excels in.
But since Dr Puey Ungphakorn's vision of the "Cradle to Grave" welfare state and Dr Surin Pitsuwan's pioneering advocacy of human security, it seems there has been little civic inspiration toward common purpose but "security" and "stability" in defence of the status quo.
Could Thailand propose the concept of "Eco-Peace" in the framework of Asean and its Indo-Pacific strategy, as a counterforce to rivalling dominant powers?
"Eco-Peace", based on global citizenship and common care for ecology and in line with the UN secretary-general's Our Common Agenda, a possible rationale for re-purposing the Trusteeship Council could equally become a leading security concept for an emerging Eastern European coalition, forming a buffer zone between Russia and Western-Europe-cum-US-driven Nato.

Hans Van Willenswaard,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Russia's 19th century actions
Must be resisted
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 21, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday March 19, 2022

One half-baked theory put forward by certain people regarding the current Ukraine crisis is that Western democracies are somehow responsible for the invasion.
Nato is a defensive alliance.
The states of the former Soviet Union would not have wished to join this alliance if they had not felt threatened by Russia, and we are now seeing the perfect illustration of why that feeling of threat was not misplaced.
Vladimir Putin did not invade Ukraine because of the various sins, some real and some imagined, of America and the West.
He invaded Ukraine because he is a sociopathic and an increasingly deranged despot sitting on top of a pile of rusting nuclear missiles in a crumbling kleptocracy, with delusions that he might soon be crowned the new Tsar of a Russian empire.Putin is responsible for Putin's actions, and his rapacious, 19th-century tendency to devour smaller nations must be resisted.

Nigel Woodward,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Papua New Guinea calls for liquor ban
In this year's election
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 20, 2022

Papuan New Guinea’s deputy Police Commissioner has called for a total liquor ban during this year’s election polling and counting period ( The Fiji Times 11/3 p. 36 ).
This is to ensure the election is safe and peaceful.
And, it will no doubt help if voters voted with a clear head !
The deputy Police Commissioner’s Call has received widespread support for good reasons in the Papua New Guinea election context.
Wonder if we can use the Papua New Guinea model to ban somethings in our election context like for instance big business political party donations?

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia





Call for Philippines to respond to Sino-Russo effort
To destabilize United States hegemony
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 19, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday March 13, 2022

As the 2022 Philippine presidential race gets underway, the respective foreign policy agendas of the presidentiables must receive closer scrutiny.
This national electoral issue is a highly critical policy area of concern for the Philippine state.
In fact, Manila is by now urgently compelled to respond to the new global strategic shift commenced by the latest China-Russia summit in Beijing last February. 4.
In particular, the Sino-Russo bloc has just vowed to jointly confront the destabilizing hegemony of the United States in both Europe and East Asia.
Indeed, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly proclaimed their joint opposition to America’s growing “regional security threats” threatening “international strategic stability.”
Thus, given the direct security implications for Southeast Asia, the Filipino electorate must already know and grasp how their next head of state aims to effectively protect Philippine independence and sovereignty in the years ahead.
Manila vitally strives to safeguard the country’s archipelagic sovereignty within maritime Southeast Asia.
But geopolitical impacts, linked to the rising great-power competition between America and China, are perilously roiling the vast realm of the Southeast Asian Sea (aka the South China Sea).
This maritime area’s strategically decisive environment is also undermined by a host of bilateral and multilateral territorial disputes involving the Southeast Asian Sea’s littoral states.
So, from Manila’s outlook, the regional security environment’s overall stability is largely viewed through the lens of the country’s maritime zone, known as the West Philippine Sea.
Yet it is against this volatile external backdrop that certain presidential candidates have brashly declared their plans to further militarize Southeast Asia.
Their bellicose external affairs stances were expressed during recently aired interviews.
Chiefly set through the international question of the Southeast Asian Sea, these alarming foreign policy views are narrowly framed within the reactionary limits of national-chauvinist and militarist courses of action.
As such, these prospective Malacañang tenants intend to further violate the peaceful, independent, and non-aligned foreign policy provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution - by either commission or omission.
For instance, both Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Ping Lacson assert the need for the Philippines to bolster its longtime military alliance with America. Likewise, former senator Bongbong Marcos Jr., Sen. Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno merely cite generalities for regional peace - yet they loudly remain silent on the presence of US military forces posturing against China from Philippine soil.
So clearly, they all seek to preserve the Philippines as US imperialism’s premier tripwire-state in Southeast Asia today.
Therefore, given the “same old, same old,” an alternatively progressive foreign policy path is crucially needed.

Rasti Delizo,
Manila,
Philippines



Thailands vote at UN against the war in Ukraine
Nothing to lose but a small market of Russian tourists
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 18, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 17, 2022

Re: "Not our fault," Bangkok Post, PostBag, March 15, 2022 and "Stuck in neutral," in Bangkok Post, March 13, 2022.
In the Russian-Ukraine war, Thailand can afford to take sides.
By its United Nations vote against war, it does not have anything to lose but a small market of Russian tourists.
On the other hand, India has been a close Soviet ally since its independence from the British empire.
During the 1970s, when India was developing its nuclear arsenal, the US kept it out of its markets.
After Bill Clinton became president in 1992, India and China have become strong economies, and therefore they no longer have to take sides.
For Thailand, taking sides is a matter of convenience.
It has nothing to do with taking a high moral ground against the war in Ukraine.
Just look at its stance regarding Myanmar.
As they say, "all politics is local".
After the fiasco in Iraq and Afghanistan, the UN has also lost its role.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Russia's special military operation in Ukraine
Bears hallmarks of war crimes
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 17, 2022

Wow!
What a euphemism calling Russia’s war of invasion in Ukraine a “ special military operation “ ( The Southeast Asian Times 15/3 ) when it bears all the hallmarks of war crimes and crimes against humanity that we associate with fascist regimes?
Shame on those who describe the Russian war of invasion in that manner.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Papua New Guinea calls for a direct voice
In Parliament for direct influence
The Southeast Asian times, Wednesday 16, 2022
First published in the National, Monday March 14, 2022

Papua New Guinea’s copy-paste constitution adopted from the British and Australians is still in its colonial form, wielding more powers to the rulers.
Whatever those in power prefer becomes the final solution and answer to questions.
The prime minister’s post is typically occupied by a leading party in Parliament, whereby ministry portfolios are shared among affiliated party leaders under a common understanding.
So, when the Prime Minister wants to ensure its demands are met, a direct call is made to the respective ministries to carry out its missions.
The prime minister remains the chairman to the National Executive Council (NEC) and calls the shots in any situation.
The prime minister, through procedural-protocols, reserves the right to hire and fire whoever works under him.
This system has made our prime minister's become systematic dictators.
Ministers, commissioners, managing directors, chief executive officers and vice-chancellors have all been entangled by a strain of string attached to the ruling government.
The National Executive Council (NEC) has the final say.
How can Papua New Guinea rely on the Ombudsman Commission when the commissioner is selected and appointed by the National Executive Council (NEC)?
People under the National Executive Council's (NEC) reliance-sphere are frequently engaged to uphold the highly-sensitive offices.
When functional, they honour and do what the National Executive Council (NEC) says.
Failure to follow orders would lead to removal of powers and a new official is substituted with the aim to do things according to the National Executive Council's (NEC) liking.
This process is evident in every prestigious institution that provide standardised operations for our nation.
For instance, the recent University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) students’ protest that erupted against former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was a dead-end.
As in the case of the students unrest, the Prime Minister gave directives to the Police minister to contain it.
The command was then conveyed to the police commissioner and an order was passed down to the National Capital District metropolitan superintendent to quell the unrest.
The city’s police commander mobilised his men and dispersed the peaceful protest and labelled it an unofficial turmoil.
Although the protest was legal under the Constitution, the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) vice-chancellor advised the students to leave the agendas to the parliamentarians and concentrate on studies.
This reflects how those in key positions always submit to the Prime Minister.
The structure of our systems is constrained under the knot tied by our laws, which allows the Prime Minister to use our mandated leaders as puppets.
Therefore, we need a direct voice in Parliament to guide our welfare.
Papua New Guinea should establish a mechanism such as the citizens’ initiative, which will consist of voters who will have direct influence in Parliament.

Petrus Gand,
Anticorruption Advocate,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Build Build Build program effective method
To address insurgency NTF-Elcac
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 15, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday March 11, 2022

I’m still undecided about who I should vote for as president because their platforms aren’t clear to me.
To be honest, I don’t care about the notions of “dilawan” or Diehard Duterte Supporters (DDS).
What I am looking for in a presidential candidate is someone who will continue the “Build, build, build” program and the fight against insurgency (NTF-Elcac), because I believe that development cannot flourish while we are still in a state of long-raging chaos.
I am a firm believer of the NTF-Elcac; I have not seen a more effective method to address insurgency than a national unity in addressing the root cause of insurgency, which is poverty and a lack of access to government services.“Build, build, build” complements the objective of NTF-Elcac, by hastening the development of public services and creating additional job opportunities for former rebels.
I’m also looking for someone who has plans to make the Philippines a self-sufficient country, by which I mean having a cheap and adequate supply of power and food.
For this reason, I am in favor of reopening the nuclear power plant and prioritizing agriculture in rural areas so that we do not have to face a shortage of rice and import food.
This development in agriculture will not only improve the lives of our fishermen and farmers, but this will also have a negative effect in the recruitment of the CPP-NPA.
I strongly believe that the Philippines is endowed with resources, and that Filipinos are capable of utilizing them for the benefit of all.
I understand that education and political experience are important factors to consider when electing a leader.
However, I have seen far too many educated people in management and executive positions who fail because they lack a strong vision of making the world a better place.

John Paul B. Sandoval,
Manila,a
Philippines




High hopes for Filipinos to choose a president
With clean and pure intentions to serve Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 14, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday March 4, 2022

It is heartbreaking and disappointing to see people still supporting the Marcoses at this point, knowing the crimes their family did to this country and to our countrymen.
But our approach should always root from “understanding.”
Why do they still support them?
Is it out of necessity?
On the other hand, I still have high hopes that Filipinos will keep their dignity and choose a leader who has a clean and pure intention to serve the country, most especially the marginalized ones.
Let us not sacrifice our future and our country from having a good, clean, and honest government by voting for robbers instead of a leader who has served the marginalized, and genuinely and passionately works for the country.
Doon tayo sa ipaglalaban tayo hanggang dulo.

Prynces Therese L. Lacdang,
Philippine Normal University,
Manila,
Phiippines


 

Dutch dredging company contradicts recommendations
For sustainable development of Manila Bay.
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday March 13, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 10, 2022

In 2021, the Dutch dredging firm Royal Boskalis Westminster announced that it had won a $1.5 billion project in Manila Bay. Boskalis intends to reclaim an area of 2,565 hectares of land on the coast of Bulacan province - equivalent to more than 3,500 football fields - upon which the Duterte administration is planning to build the New Manila International Airport (NMIA).
Because it is such a high-risk project, Boskalis has applied for a so-called export credit insurance from the Dutch State through the export credit agency Atradius DSB.
Atradius’ decision regarding Boskalis’ request is expected to be made soon and for this reason, we, a coalition of Philippine and Dutch civil society organizations and scientists, call on the Dutch government and Boskalis to withdraw from this controversial project.
The New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project is completely at odds with the Netherlands’ climate ambitions.
What is particularly striking about Boskalis’ planned land reclamation activities is that they completely contradict recent recommendations from the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan, which was recently developed by Dutch water engineers in collaboration with the Philippine government.
The master plan, which was also funded by the Netherlands, provides concrete recommendations for the sustainable development of Manila Bay.
With regard to the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) location, the master plan states that it should in fact be designated as a strict protection zone due to the area’s vulnerable wetlands and high biodiversity value.
The master plan advises against the construction of the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in that area.
Should the Dutch State decide to insure the Boskalis, it will effectively be using Dutch public resources to undermine the master plan, which was also funded with Dutch public resources, thus serving as a salient and shocking example of policy incoherence.
Manila Bay is extremely vulnerable to climate change and is routinely faced with floods brought on by land subsistence, sea-level rise, storm surges, and hurricanes. The New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project exacerbates these vulnerabilities with disastrous implications for communities and ecosystems.
So far, hundreds of fishing families have been forced to make way for the project, many of whom have been pressured to self-demolish their own homes.
In addition, thousands of fishermen have been cut off from their fishing grounds, upon which they depend for their livelihoods.
The planned land reclamation will also cause irreplaceable wetlands to be wiped out, such as mudflats and mangroves that play a vital role in carbon sequestration. The area is currently an important spawning ground for various fish species such as sardines, and it also serves as a refuge for protected migratory bird species within the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, one of the world’s largest flyways.
Moreover, the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) development will likely accelerate land subsidence in the region, which will in turn exacerbate flooding in a much larger area.
Sand mining for land reclamation is also expected to have a disastrous effect on marine life and fisheries elsewhere in the bay.
In recent years, the Netherlands has marketed itself as a world leader in the field of climate adaptation.
The Dutch water sector, which Boskalis is part of, plays a key role in this strategy. But climate adaptation means that communities and ecosystems are made more resilient to the effects of climate change, while projects like the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) do the exact opposite.
We are calling on Boskalis and Atradius DSB to withdraw from this project. Instead, the Netherlands should refocus its climate ambitions toward policies that support sustainable, inclusive, and locally-driven adaptation initiatives.

AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People,
AKAP KA M
anila Bay,
Both ENDS,
CARE Philippines,
Devralin Lagos-University of the Philippines,
IUCN NL,
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment,
Oceana International Philippines,
Wild Bird Club of the Philippines



Malaysia calls for international community to unite
In affirming anti-war stance and safeguarding world peace
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday March 12, 2022
First published in Malaysiakini, Friday March 4, 2022

We, the undersigned Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), hereby strongly condemn Russia’s aggression and stand in solidarity with Ukrainians as a sovereign and independent nation.
We also condemn the Russian government for their action and brutality, including arresting protesters against the war.
Russia's use of armed forces is an act of aggression and is against peace and security, as enshrined under the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter, and may amount to a war crime and a crime against humanity.
It has infringed the fundamental human rights of all Ukrainians and endangered the safety of humans all over the world.
This crisis will render many Ukrainians as refugees, including women and children, and trigger a humanitarian crisis in Europe and the neighbouring region.
We urge Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
The international community must unite in affirming its anti-war stance and safeguarding world peace.
Genuine efforts and serious commitments must be made by all sides, including Russia, Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and Nato to achieve a successful peace talk and immediate ceasefire.
We also urge the international community to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine to prevent more casualties immediately.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram); KLSCAH Youth; Undi 18; University of Malaya Association of New Youth (UMANY)’ Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (MAJU); Kolektif Iklim; Dewan Belia India Malaysia; Student Progressive Front UUM; People Like Us Support Ourselves (PLUsos); Architects of Diversity Malaysia; Centre for Independent Journalism; Pertubuhan Solidaritas; New Student Movement Alliance of Malaysia; ENGAGE NETWORK; UTM - MJIIT Voices; Voices of Youtharian; Demokrat Kebangsaan; Tunku Abdul Rahman Association of New Youth; Citizen Lab; Unit Pendidikan Angkatan Muda Keadilan Malaysia; Malaysians Stand with Ukrainians; Pertubuhan Serikat Rakyat Malaysia; Democratic Action Party Socialist Youth Kota Kinabalu (DAPSY Kota Kinabalu); Lyceum Society; Angkatan Mahasiswa UM; and University of Malaya Student Union.


 

Thai national father HM King Rama IX
Wants Lese Majeste law to be reformed
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday March 9, 2022

Re: "Ex-PM offers views on lese majeste law", in Bangkok Post, March 7, 2022.
In responding to calls to amend our lese majeste law, we should first consider the careful conclusions of he who was our foremost expert on the Thai monarchy - our beloved national father, HM King Rama IX.
Our national father clearly wants these laws to be reformed, for Thailand's law of lèse-majesté has one very prominent critic: King Bhumibol.… who used his birthday address to convey three concerns:
The king is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism..
Charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released...
The use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy' he said" Grossman and Faulder, King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life's Work
Even today, we, led by politicians, constantly and deliberately go counter to the late king's clear wishes.
We have allowed any of the 54.1 million adult Thais to lodge a Section 112 complaint.
It's no wonder that Section 112 has often been weaponized for political ends. Given King Rama IX's considered opinion above, I suggest that this law cries out for thorough-going reform lest we "ultimately damage the monarchy" further.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for ASEAN to join in global action to punish
Russia's military aggression against Ukraine
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 10, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday March 7, 2022

Re: "Might doesn't make right, unjust wars will fail", Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 3, 2022.
We would certainly wish that "unjust wars will fail"; the ugly reality is that they have often succeeded.
It is not yet certain that Putin's war will not succeed.
It certainly seems, to cite another current example, that the war against the Myanmar people that began a year ago with the military coup has not failed.
In that pursuit of unjust gain by violence, both coup committers and war wagers also wage a disinformation war by suppressing free speech.
On a more optimistic note, the global response that seeks to non-violently punish Putin's aggression is appropriate.
Let us hope it will prove victorious.
It is encouraging to see so many nations, organisations and even international businesses unite in working to deny the aggressors the economic fruits so dear to them.
Under Putin's repressive rule, the Russian people have been subjected to financial inequality, as gross as that which has also come to exist in Thailand; with the spoils going, no surprise, to those close to and supportive of Putin.
As Mr Borrell explains, Thailand should join in the actions to punish those using violence and intimidation to force their personal agenda on entire nations.
If Asean and its individual member nations hold to any decent values such as respect for democracy founded on just law or respect for human rights protected by just law, it would unequivocally join in the global actions to punish Russia's military aggression against Ukraine.
Even traditionally neutral Switzerland has joined in the non-violent confounding of Putin's aggression.
But then, had Asean any commitment to such values, it would also act to isolate and economically punish those who commit coups against the people of Asean member nations.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Pronouncement of Catholic Bishops is unprecedented
Underscores perilous state of sociopolitics in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 9, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday March 7, 2022

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) pastoral letter on the May elections “‘Radical distortions’ of Edsa 1 alarm CBCP,” News, February 26, 2022 is a loud wake-up call for Catholics and Filipinos as we elect our national leaders this May.
To quote the bishops’ statement: “We are appalled by the blatant and subtle distortion, manipulation, cover-up, repression and abuse of the truth, like: historical revisionism — the distortion of history or its denial; the proliferation of fake news and false stories; disinformation—the seeding of false information and narratives to influence the opinion of people [and] hide the truth to malign and blackmail people.”
Compared to their previous pastoral letters that simply reiterated long-standing moral guidelines in electing the country’s political leaders, this pronouncement by our Church leaders is unprecedented and underscores the perilous state of the current sociopolitical situation.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) statement is the result of intensive communal discernment but still begs the question: who is the source of the massive disinformation campaign?
People exercising their better judgment during this electoral season would easily know which presidential campaign is engaged in this wicked enterprise.
But many rabid supporters of the leading candidate have become so falsely indoctrinated by social media and oblivious to historical facts that they easily fall for the “pandemic of lies” generated by the camp of their beloved candidate. They are even viciously purveying these lies.
Our good bishops have shown their firm resolve to exercise their role as spiritual and moral guides to their flock, given the methodical fabrication of lies and half-truths in social media and organized attempts to obliterate the gains of the Edsa People Power Revolution.
But by directly naming the insidious forces behind the fake news about martial law and the black propaganda directed at political rivals, Church members would be even more confident of their moral choice when they vote.
Many priests, religious and Catholic lay groups have endorsed Vice President Leni Robredo in their individual capacities after assessing the relative qualities of the leading candidates and weighing the likely adverse impact of a Marcos victory.

Donato Soliven,
Manila,
Philippines



Humanitarian crisis in Ukraine
Is no differenct from Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 8, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, March 6, 2022

Re: "EU to grant blanket protection to refugees", Bangkok Post, March 4, 2022 and "Early implications of Russian invasion", Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 4, 2022.
European countries and Nato are still recovering from the hangover of the old Soviet empire. It is wishful thinking that the EU and the US will be able to save Ukraine. The rise of the far right in France, Germany and other EU countries against immigration from Asia, Africa and the Middle East exposes the hypocrisy of human rights. The hostile and racist policies against immigrants and refugees from these regions are now out the window to make way for allowing millions of Ukrainians to settle in the EU unconditionally.
The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is no different from what we see in Myanmar, Palestine or Afghanistan. Sadly, Putin will still be there. He has fans and friends like Mr Trump and many others in Asia, including India and China. Yes, I agree that this time the EU and the US will do lasting damage to the Russian economy. But make no mistake, Mr Putin and his powerful clique are still here.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



More than 650,000 Russians have signed
A petition against the war in Ukraine
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday March 7, 2022

To my foreign friends.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is not my war.
This is the war of an insane Russian leader whom we cannot stop.
This war is a real horror, and pain, and tears, and shame for me and hundreds of my friends.
Almost all of us have relatives and friends in Ukraine.
My whole family is from Ukraine, and all my childhood was spent in Ukraine.
I am writing this so that you do not equate this war with the Russian people.
All the best Russian people are against this war and are horrified by it.
More than 650,000 Russians have already signed a petition against the war.
The letter of Russian scientists against the war was signed by more than 2,000 scientists.
More than 60 groups have signed a letter from Russian charitable organisations to end the war.
There are petitions against the war by Russian teachers and cultural figures.
The number of signatures for each such petition grows every second.
This war has broken the lives of all of us.
This war is not only killing Ukraine; it is also killing Russia.
I just wanted to tell you about it.

Alexandra Goryashko,
Russian Writers Union,
Russian academic,
Specializing in Nature, Biology and Ethology
Moscow
Russia


Hundreds of Thai's support Russia's right
To protect security against threat of aggression
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 March 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 3 March 2022

Re: "Ultra-royalist pro-Putin stance a worrying sign," Opinion, March 1..
This article is illogical, in some extent. In my humble opinion, the number "hundreds" may be over-exaggerated or over-extrapolated from the few such supporting messages seen by the writer.
The fact that there are a few or tens or even hundreds of "royalists" coming out in support of Putin is no reason to conclude that all or most of the "royalists" support Putin.
On the other hand, there are certainly hundreds of "royalists" who do not agree with the move by Russia.
And there are hundreds who support Russia's right to protect its security against the threat of aggression from over the fence, but who are not royalists per se, like me and scores of my friends.
The fact that there are some Thais supporting the Russian move has nothing to do with the fact that they happen to be perceived by the writer as "far-right ultra-royalists".
Thus the "pro-Putin stance" is nothing to worry about.

Thanin Bumrungsap,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thailand remains neutral
In Russia-Ukraine conflict
The Southeast Asian Times. Saturday March 5, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday March 3, 2022

Re: "Neutral on Russia-Ukraine: PM," Bangkok Post March 2, 2022
The prime minister's insistence on maintaining neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is no surprise given Asean's stance of neutrality about Myanmar.
Meanwhile, two shining lights of democracy, the US and the EU, also have no problems doing business with communist China or selling weapons to rich Middle Eastern regimes.
France recently sold billions of dollars' worth of war machines to Saudi Arabia. Where are the big drums of freedom and democracy?
In 1987, Turkey applied to join what was then the European Economic Community, and in 1999 it was declared eligible to join the EU.
It's worth mentioning that Turkey's membership came with many conditions because it is a Muslim country.
On the other hand, Poland and Hungary joined the EU in 2004 without any preconditions.
Even today, some of these Eastern bloc countries that are members of the EU have little to do with freedom and democracy.
For decades, we have witnessed similar crises between Israel and Palestine, Indian Kashmir, and the deep south of Thailand. Despite decades of efforts, there is no peace in these conflict zones.
Thanks to the EU, Ukraine will now face the same fate.
It may become a proxy for the Russian regime resulting in unnecessary deaths and destruction.
With its utter failures in Vietnam, the Korean peninsula, Iraq and Afghanistan, the US should keep out of the Ukrainian conflict.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



War between Russia and Ukraine
Huge impact on price of crude oil for Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday March 4, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday March 3, 2022

I worked in the fuel industry for almost four years as a sales representative and managed the smooth process of the distribution from bulk plant to dealers to end-users.
Before I started working in the field, we had trainings to understand the oil and gas industry and for us to be equipped in the business.
I was not the best student in our class but I have better understanding of how oil and gas affect our lives.
“Factors affecting the prices of crude oil”
was one of the major topics.
We need crude oil to transport food from farm to market to your houses and to your tables and to power our electric generators: gasoline, diesel, LPG, asphalt, and lubricants.
The many lists of the factors include geopolitics.
The war between Russia and Ukraine will have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil in the world market.
This means that the P60-P65 per liter diesel in Mindanao will increase.
This means that the electricity and transport costs will increase.
This basically means that the ordinary Filipino can hardly afford food.
I interact with farmers in my present job.
Last January, the cost of a live pig was P140 per kilo; a week ago, it was P185 to almost P200.
If not mistaken, the price of the meat in meat shops has an almost 50-percent gross profit margin.
That’s P300 to P400 per kilo.
I hope it’s not too late for our government to strengthen the agriculture sector so that we can have affordable food and we can produce what we consume.

Joesam Bag De Quia,
Manila,
Philippines



Russian Federation points finger at West
On expansion of Nato eastward
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday March 3, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday Febriary 28, 2022

Re: "West's unkept promises the problem, not Russia", Bangkok Post, Opinion, February 26, 2022 and "US, Nato no bystanders", Bangkok Post, Opinion, February 25, 2022.
The ambassador of the Russian Federation is right when pointing a finger to the West, on the expansion of Nato eastward after the end of the Cold War.
This point was well mentioned by Western media including the New York Time's, Thomas Friedman.
However, the rest of his reasoning largely reflects what his president has offered to sell the invasion, ie the purported "genocide" of Russians in the eastern provinces of Ukraine.
Missing in the good ambassador's litany was the "de-nazification" that his president and other government dignitaries have peddled, apparently overlooking the irony of "de-nazifying" a country whose president is a Jew.

Peter Hegenbarth,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Call for Ukraine
To observe Minsk ll agreement
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday March 2, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday February 28, 2022

Re: "Maximum impact sanctions" and "Kremlin wants whole of Ukraine but army failing, Britain says", in Bangkok Post, February 26, 2022.
As the conflict in Ukraine enters a new phase, Western politicians are busy making up stories to fit their eternal narrative "it's all Putin's fault".
Casualties on both sides could easily have been avoided if Ukraine had observed its responsibility under the Minsk II agreement and if the West had understood and taken seriously Russia's concerns about their relatives in Eastern Donbass and their own safety.
Instead, Western politicians and media have encouraged Ukraine's aggressive stance against Russia and have turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed against the Russian-speaking minority in Luhansk/Donetsk committed by the neo-Nazi militias of the Right Sektor and the Azov Battalion.
British media even went as far as to laud sniper Olena Bilozerska as a heroic freedom fighter despite her having killed both armed and unarmed people in the area which the Minsk II agreement covers, and being well known in European neo-Nazi circles.
Meanwhile, the West has continued to supply money, weapons to these militias which are part of the Ukrainian army.
Recently the President Zelensky suggested Ukraine should start developing nuclear weapons.
Putin previously has been begging for negotiations and some form of agreement which all signatories would adhere strictly to.
But no.
If the West had intelligent leaders who acted in the best interests of the people, not in best interest of the military industry and global corporations, this could have been easily avoided.

Jensen. K.
Bangkok,
Thailand



Aaron Kauma Ariku, remembered for his contibution
To Papua New Guinea’s independence
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday March 1, 2022
First published in the National, Thursday February 24, 2022

When it comes to understanding Papua New Guinea’s political history, particularly the events that occurred somewhere in Sydney, Australia, that resulted in the granting of independence to Papua New Guinea, very little is known about a man from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville who negotiated for Papua New Guinea’s independence while studying in Australia.
Aaron Kauma Ariku, a former Papua New Guinea unionist in the early 1970s, was sent to Sydney on a short-term study programme by the then chief minister, the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
However, before his studies in Australia, he was already in close contact with Gough Whitlam, his fellow Australian unionist of Australia’s labour party, who was also aspiring for the Australia’s prime minister’s seat.
Sir Michael was close to Ariku since both of them started the Pangu Pati’s Madang branch in the late 1960s when Sir Michael was teaching at Tusbab in Madang.
Before Ariku departed, Sir Michael, knowing well that Ariku’s fellow unionist was contesting Australia’s prime minister’s seat, whispered to Ariku and told him to use his union ties with Whitlam to secure Papua New Guinea’s independence if Whitlam became the prime minister of Australia.
All went well.
Young Airiku departed for Sydney.
He met Whitlam.
Ariku, who was outspoken, played a part by campaigning for his fellow friend, Whitlam, among the students at university.
Whitlam then became the prime minister of Australia from 1972 to 1975.
He called Ariku and asked what he would prefer as a present for supporting him.
It was that very moment that Airiku told him: “I would like Papua and New Guinea to be given independence”.
Back home in Port Moresby, Sir Michael already knew that things were looking good for Papua New Guinea when Ariku’s close friend became the prime minister.
This is how Ariku played a significant role towards Papaua New Guinea’s independence from Australia.
Last week in Madang, Ariku was buried at his wife’s Furan village outside of Madang town.
He died at 90 years and is survived by five children and his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Ariku, the man from Tonu village in Siwai, Bougainville, spent much of his life as a senior public servant and a unionist.
In recognition of his service to Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Madang, Madang Governor Peter Yama and Madang Member of Parliament Bryan Kramer provided financial support for funeral expenses for Ariku.

Joel Minsipi,
Port Moresby (Pom),
Papua New Guinea



No one should turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed
During Marcos martial law years in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 28, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday February 24, 2022

My 65-year-old aunt, who witnessed the martial law era, argued that the martial law years were the “golden era” since there was peace and order in the country, and Filipinos were disciplined at the time.
She added that, in Naga City, there were no human rights violations as far as her memory could recall.
There are still Filipinos, including seniors from my own family, who have romanticized the martial law years’ “orderliness” and believe that Marcos was a great leader - totally disregarding the human rights violations committed during the darkest era in the country’s history.
What “golden age” when there is a lot of evidence documenting the abuses, extrajudicial killings, corruption, and violations of human rights during Marcos’ rule? The numbers speak for themselves: 70,000 incarcerated, 77 disappeared, 3,257 extrajudicial killings, and 35,000 tortured, according to Amnesty International.
These atrocities were further corroborated by Primitivo Mijares, media man of Ferdinand Marcos and author of “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.”
Mijares’ youngest son disappeared, was tortured, and eventually found dead due to his father’s revelations in the said book.
This horrific tragedy that happened to Mijares and his son manifests the brutal rule of Marcos.
The Martial Law Museum reported that the debt of the Philippines skyrocketed to $28.26 billion in 1986 from $0.36 billion in 1961.
In addition, the infrastructures that Imelda Marcos bragged about were funded by foreign loans that the present and future generations have the burden of paying.
With these historical facts and data, no one should turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed during the martial law years.
Now more than ever, it has become even more crucial for students to seek historical truths about this period.
Students are now being targeted to believe in the lies of the Marcos family through historical revisionism in our textbooks.
The youth who were not yet born at that time are likely to be susceptible to such lies, while privileged adults can easily dismiss history because they never experienced the cruelty and hardships under the Marcos administration.
It is high time for all of us to be united on what is right. Filipinos should dispel lies and apathy if we want justice to prevail, especially now that the dictator’s son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong“ Marcos Jr., aspires to be the president.
We, the students, must ensure that our educators preserve the historical facts about martial law in our textbooks.
This is our responsibility: to preserve history, protect historical truth, and advance Filipinos’ interest first.

Paolo Gabriel D. Jamer
Manila,
Philippines



The more we test for Covid-19
The more Covid-19 infections we will find
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 27, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 23, 2022

Re: "Antigen Test Kits (ATK) answer," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, February 23, 2022.
Khun Burin Kantabutra has always proposed many novel ideas in the Post. However, I beg to politely differ with his suggestion in "Antigen Test Kits (ATK) answer" for a disease which is already basically everywhere in the kingdom.
In reality, due to previous limits on testing which all governments have faced, we really have only detected a moderate, if not very small percentage of the population which is Covid positive.
Having spent 25 years dealing with HIV/Aids as a volunteer nurse (granted, a disease with different transmission methodology), one of the lessons we learned in the Aids years was that for every positive result we got, we had to assume that there was at least one other positive result we often did not yet have.
As a rule of thumb, we often simply assumed that actual transmission rates were three to four times higher than we recorded, because testing then had limits, just as Covid testing today has.
Readers need to live with harsh reality that the more we can test, the more Covid-19 cases we will find.
The number of cases might be far more that Thai public can probably even imagine. The dream of massive Antigen Test Kits (ATK) testing is at this time neither workable, nor a solution and is blinded by a two-week incubation period.
Until we have a cure, the best we can do is simply manage cases based on severity, expand access to food and medicine for the poor and move on with life.
The mortality rate on Covid-19 is very low, and while anyone of us could be a victim, most of us are far more at risk when we get in a taxi or on a motorbike.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Chickens no longer boiled alive after 2024
At McDonald's Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 26, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday February 21, 2022

Re: "Billionaire Icahn blasts McDonald's on animal welfare", in Bangkok Post, February 18, 2022.
While it's noted how horribly the pigs that Mcdonald's uses for food are treated, their chickens don't have it any better.
McDonald's agreed to use suppliers who use a more humane method of slaughtering the chickens so that they will no longer be boiled alive in scalding water.
But that's not until 2024 and it will only involve 70 percent of their chickens. People always tell me it's okay to kill animals for food as long as they don't suffer.
Would it be okay to kill humans for food as long as they're not tortured?
Even while eating at places such as McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken where the animals killed for food suffer terribly.
What hypocrisy!

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Corruption has become a swaggering Goliath
In Philippines political culture
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday February 25, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday February 23, 2022

It would be an invaluable public service in the encircling gloom of disinformation and political dirty tricks - when even the convicted’s delusions of greatness are accepted - if the Inquirer could be persuaded to publish a summary table of pandemic funding.
Perhaps an ongoing reporting?
We are in dire need of facts, particularly as the elections approach.
Thinking has to be fed, judgment improved, and, as someone said, in a democracy people have a right to change their minds.
And without accountability, there can be no good governance.
I am reminded of Robert Sarnoff’s definition of finance: “It is the art of passing currency from hand to hand until it finally disappears.”
Let us at least be allowed to watch the trick.
Some basic questions to consider:
How much has come from the public purse?
What has been donated from other governments which ones, how much?
What has been contributed by international agencies which ones, how much?
Which local corporations have contributed cash kind both and how much?
How much has been borrowed from banks give details?
Which government agencies have received funding and to which undertakings have these been appropriated?
What balance remains and what are the projected uses for this?
I am sure there are other noteworthy points of reference that could be raised by expertise. Bernard Levin writes passionately that “… the terrible truth is that evil, when it is in arms, can be defeated only by arming good.”
Perhaps the Inquirer can assist with the latter.
Corruption has become such a swaggering Goliath in our political culture that one almost gives up hope.
However, a few well-aimed stones might still do the trick.
A David could do it.


Virginia Calpotura,
Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ),
Manila,
Philippines



Parliamentry sessions in Asian Countries has degenerated
Into dog fights, fistfights, hurtling chairs, brawls, beatings
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday February 24, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday February 13, 2022

Re: "Can't beat question time," Bangkok Post, Post, Script, February 7, 2022
Qestion time Q&A in British Parliament is the most significant evidence of the merits and the purpose of a democracy.
It is also a sign of a civic society where leaders are held accountable to their party and the constituents who elect them.
The British Q&A sessions must be added to one of the world's wonders because it keeps our faith in democracy.
Sadly, there is no Q&A session in US institutions, but there are intense partisan debates in the conference or committee hearings.
So far, the American House and Senate have maintained their grace by calling the opposition members "My honourable friend" during debates.
However, the Senate filibuster in the United States of America has become a spectacle designed to prolong the discussion and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment or other debatable issues.
Usually, a filibuster session is amusing because the Senate hall looks empty, and there is no one to listen to the chosen ones.
So much American democracy?
Democracy in many Asian countries has degenerated into dog fights, fistfights, hurtling chairs, brawls, and beatings during elections and in parliament sessions.
Some find it exciting to see a bloodbath in the halls of Asian parliaments.
Forget about Q&A sessions; Thai parliamentarians even do not show up.
Fortunately, Thais need not worry when the government is a coalition of the unwilling?
I must say that British democracy is the only hope that still kindles and excites the minds and soothes the human spirit.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thailand statesman Nai Pridi
Had rare and tremendous courage
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23, February 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 21, February 2022

Michael Jackson's song, Who's loving you starts like this:
"When I had you
I treated you bad and wrong my dear
And girl, since you went away
Don't you know, I sit around with my head hanging down
And I wonder who's loving you".

In Thailand, a statesman who is known simply as "Nai Pridi" made a statement just before he died:
"When I had power, I had no experience; when I had experience, I had no power".
The words from these two late gentlemen show us they had rare and tremendous courage - to display to the world the mistakes they had made in the past.
That's something most people of today don't care about.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Despite promises of unity and democracy
Philippines has become more divided
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 22, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday February 21, 2022

This February marks the 36th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
It has been perceived as a national victory and reconciliation in the face of adversity, struggle, and crisis.
The reconciliation for unity proved to be a key factor in restoring our democracy and gaining our freedom, as well as bringing about the change we desired in our society.
However, as time passes, our yearning for national unity is still far from reality. Despite Edsa’s promises of unity and democracy, we appear to have become much more divided.
It is not unity that has dominated, but animosity toward fellow Filipinos that obviously threatens peace and stability.
Some continue to use the issues of the past as fuel to discredit fellow Filipinos.
Isn’t it better to just learn to forgive in order to strengthen the call for reconciliation we forged and shared during Edsa while recapturing and cultivating the sense of oneness in confronting today’s issues?
Reconciliation for unity and democracy is the true spirit of Edsa.
May it remain with us, keeping us awake and vigilant, especially during this election season, to choose a leader who will strengthen our nationalism and our anti-terrorism campaigns, as well as address the nation’s ills, to ensure that the loss of freedom and democracy will not be repeated.
In protecting our democracy and promoting sustainable peace and development, there is no one to depend on but us Filipinos in unity, along with our responsibility, regardless of the challenges confronting our country, our differences of opinion and political colors.
So, as Filipinos, let there be dissenting social and political biases among us, but let us be inspired and united by the spirit of democracy and live in peace and harmony.

Erica T. Maniago,
Central Luzon,
Philippines




Reforestation cannot replace ecological values
Of fertile forests in Thailand lost to reservoirs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 21, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday February 13, 2022

Re: "Dam plans threaten forests," in Bangkok Post, February 2, 2022.
We must not allow Royal Irrigation Department (RID) officials to fool the public by touting claims that they will "reforest an area at least twice the size of the forest lost to reservoirs".
Even if this were true, a highly dubious claim in light of past reforestation failures, people need to recognise that tree plantations are no substitute for destroyed rich natural forests.
It doesn't matter if Royal Irrigation Department (RID) plants twice the area of forests they flood or 20 times the area, it is virtually impossible to replace the ecological values of the fertile forests that would be lost to reservoirs.
The promised planted forests will not contain the plant diversity and habitats needed to sustain tigers, leopards, pangolins, hornbills, elephants, gaur, civet cats, gibbons, binturong and the myriad of other threatened species that depend on healthy native forests for survival.
It should also be questioned why Royal Irrigation Department (RID) wants to bring yet more agricultural land under irrigation.
Does the country really need to produce yet more rice that rots in warehouses or is sold for low prices in international markets?

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thai PM accuses Thammasat University in Bangkok
Of teaching courses that distort history
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 20, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday February 13, 2022

Re: "Don't believe all you read," in Bangkok Post Editorial, February 9, 2022
The Bangkok Post accurately outlines Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's failures to respect basic principles of truth seeking and recklessly accused the demonstration school of Thammasat University of teaching courses that distorted history.
But the failure is a tad more profound.
The students and teachers at Thammasat demonstration school clearly understand the importance of a critical review of current beliefs in protecting us from retaining false beliefs.
Honest people who value truth and who do not wish to propagate fake beliefs insist on a healthy discussion that considers other possibilities.
Unless intellectual and moral honesty are deemed by unjust law and deluded social mores to be bad, Thammasat demonstration school, following the sound example of historians who actively review Thai history and society to better avoid mindlessly repeating fake claims, is entirely in the right.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippines, Lebanon and North Korea only three
World countries with ultra-strict bank secrecy laws
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 19, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday February, 2022

Dindo Manhit in an article published last February 12 said: “Everyone must fight corruption. It starts by electing leaders who won’t tolerate it at all.
Simply put, good leaders produce good results.
But given our chronicled and worsening corruption, the same conclusion may also suggest that we have always been wrong in electing leaders, through nearly two generations since the Edsa revolution.
Maraming korap kaya maraming mahirap.
In this month of hearts and flowers and lovers of every kind, it is fitting yet relevant to revisit a piece of examination by Anna Cristina Tuazon “Love and elections,” Safe Space, February 2, 22 “When choosing a life partner, you’d want someone who can dream - and know how to actualize that dream.
In politics, you’d want a candidate who carries ambitious ideals because this means they won’t be too cynical to attempt to change the current system that has preserved our inequalities.
At the same time, you would want someone who actually has a credible plan. Wanting to change the system is simply not enough; they need to understand deeply how the system works, appreciate its complexity, and offer a systemic solution. Simple solutions like imposing bans and taxes are not likely to solve anything in the long term.”
We all want a corruption-free nation.
Every candidate promises the same. Ambitious ideal? Yes.
But have we been told by any candidate of a radical, credible plan to root out this evil of dishonesty and deceit?
No. This should make us wary.
How can anyone realistically commit to financing or aiding basic needs of the great many on food, shelter, education, health care, jobs if 40 percent of people’s money is lost annually to corruption?
How can anyone attract the private sector, local and international, to invest and create jobs if we are to remain a corrupt nation?
How can anyone put behind bar grafters in government, rent-seekers in business, and elements of criminal syndicates if our laws of today shield and favor them?
Is anyone, imbued not with self-interest or obligation to return a favor, prepared and equipped to repeal the nearly century-old, obsolete Republic Act No. 1405 or the bank secrecy law?
The law was enacted in 1955 to encourage individuals to deposit their money in banks instead of hoarding them.
It declared banking a private matter.
Put simply, no one can go to your bank and ask for your bank balance.
While there are exceptions, securing them is not an easy task.
The easiest way is to waive the secrecy in writing, but it’s not that simple.
As a matter of practice, banks will require the depositor to state in his waiver the specific bank account, bank branch, name of depositor, period covered by the transactions, and the name of the person authorized to access the bank account. The only other option is to secure a court order.
Imagine, then, the difficulty in going after persons suspected or accused of corruption without any money trail.
The Philippines is among only three countries in the world Lebanon and North Korea are the other two that have ultra-strict bank secrecy laws.
There are stories affixed to banking transactions.
They are not just empty figures.
So, unless our next president and Congress realize and act on the need to repeal this age-old law, no end to corruption will ever be in sight.
This is the golden time to challenge candidates and to get commitment, not after elections.
Else, we can all just end up fighting the same endless corruption.

Norman Cabrera,
President,
Kapatiran Party,
Manila,
Philippines




Education system in Thailand needs review
Not school uniforms
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday February 18, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post,Wednesday February 16, 2022

Re: "Uniform rule needs review", Bangkok Post Editorial, February 11, 2022
Our education system's among the bottom 13 in the world.
But what upsets us most?
Not its poor quality but the appearances of our students.
Our priorities are upside-down and we think things can't change.
But as Kenan Foundation Asia found, "countries as diverse as Poland and Malaysia made significant jumps between 2015 to 2018, dispelling the sticky myth that education systems cannot change. With smarter investments, a focus on developing quality teachers, and encouragement for students, education in Thailand can indeed improve".
I suggest that half of the compensation for education staff, all the way up to the education minister, depend on gains in average scores from Pisa and other international tests of students under that person's charge other things being equal.
If his students have gone from 300 to 400 points, for example, he's accomplished more than if they've gone from 450 to 500 points.
This will motivate the best teachers to focus on the underprivileged masses, for their low base means it's easier to make big gains.
It'll make the rural millions more productive and help close our massive rich-poor gap.
Ministry of Education expenditures to schools prioritise those making the highest average score gains, other things being equal, to motivate them.
For example, a school whose students have gone from 200 to 300 points would get more per student than one whose scores have risen from 400 to 450.
Schools charge what the market will bear -with full scholarships available for half of each class, fully merit-based and gender-blind.
This will greatly aid the disadvantaged and raise their education ambitions.
Average test scores for Pisa etc be posted on the internet by school, teacher and subject area but not by student, to aid parents' decision-making.
How do we improve on the above - and get Prayut to fulfil his seven-year-old promise to fully reform education?

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



ASEAN prone to follow Chinese model
Of stability based on purge, pride and progress
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday February 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, February 16, 2022

Re: "Myanmar poses Asian quandary", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, February 13, 2022
Well, it has been a year and so far, Asean has nothing to show for in ending the crisis in Myanmar.
We need to keep in mind that Myanmar and its immediate neighbours have a common history of being ruled by coups, authoritarian regimes, despots, and dictators.
Hence, I do not see that Cambodia, or for that matter, any of its neighbours has any urgency or moral strength to restore democracy.
Democracy in Asean is like a balloon, it is easily burst with an instant coup, arrests and imprisonments of elected officials.
As long as the military remains above the law, there is very little hope of creating a civic society in Asean.
The region is prone to following the Chinese model of stability based on purge, pride and progress.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippines Catholic church no longer accepts
Donations destructive to environment
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday February 15, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday February 10, 2022

It is indeed a cause to celebrate and commend the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) bold and maybe long-overdue decision to stop accepting donations from businesses that are proven destructive to the environment in “The bishops’ bold move,” Editorial, February 5, 2022.
It also urged other church organizations to withdraw not later than 2025 their resources from banks and other financial institutions, which are without clear commitment to divest from fossil fuels.
In turn, Filipino Catholics are called to stand with their pastors and assist them in this fight to save our common home.
While it is easier said than done, its expected impact on the financial resources of the whole Church and the individual dioceses still reeling from the significant drop in collections due to suspended public Mass must have weighed heavily on them.
The Church mainly depends on in-person, pass the basket donations, and the arancel system or fixed rates for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, and offering of Mass intentions.
It must be noted that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also gradually seeks to abolish the system as it can hinder the poor from receiving God’s grace and blessings.
Regardless, the Church depends on divine providence and the generosity of its members to meet its financial needs.
As Bishop Broderick Pabillo bravely said, “The Church survives on faith, not fees.
Be that as it may, it remains to be seen how the individual bishops will walk this talk in their own dioceses.
In the exercise of its apostolic and pastoral role, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) does not encroach on the autonomy of the individual bishops whether to implement this policy statement in the varying context and needs of their dioceses.
In this regard, we can only pray and hope that at least most if not all the bishops shall find the courage and wisdom to change the things that they can to promote that “greater good which the Church offers to humankind, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate which are fittingly adapted to the circumstances of the time and place” (CIC, c. 447).
In a world where people listen to witnesses more than teachers, the bishops cannot but lead by example!

Carmelo Pablo,
Manila,
Philippines



Families in Thailand grieving loss
On Thaksin's war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 15, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday February 13, 2022

Re: "Expansive gestures from hopeful leaders," in Opinion, January 10, 2022 and "Thaksin's war on drugs a crime against humanity," in Opinion, December 13, 2013.
I follow Khun Veera Prateepchaikul's column with much interest, and been wondering if ever Thaksin's drug war can be tried by the International Criminal Court.
The International Court of Arbitration (ICC) announced last year their investigation into Duterte's deadly drug war, which he fashioned from Thaksin's drug war.
I remember reading that a human rights group petitioned United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) to investigate Thaksin, along with the late senator Kraisak Choonhavan writing this related piece for the Bangkok Post.
I hope the Post can explore this issue with the International Court of Arbitration (ICC).
So many families in Thailand are still grieving their loss.

Sukanya Malcott,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Call for daily publication
Of Air Quality Index for Bangkok

The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 14, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post February 10, 2022

I suggest you publish the Air Quality Index numbers every day for Bangkok and other cities.
One thing we should realise is there's nothing more effective and fearful than seeing facts in numbers every day.
Hopefully, if they see it every day the government and public will be forced to do something.
This is an urgent matter: no matter how developed you get or how big your GDP, if basic air quality isn't good enough, we will only become weaker as a human race.
As with Covid, we will have to live inside with masks and air purifiers - a future no one wants for our children.
It should be your duty as journalists to inform people daily with numbers and colour warnings, which is way more informative than editorials and opinions.

Rishi Jain,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Only two ASEAN states are parties to International Convention
On Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers
The Southeast Asian Times , Sunday February 13, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday February 10, 2022

Re "Migrant workers get a raw deal," Bangkok Post, Opinion, February 7, 2022.
Fairness by host nations' legal systems is indeed crucial while dealing with migrant workers.
From this perspective, it seems unacceptable to ignore the existence of a comprehensive International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990) which has been in force since 2003.
In accordance with this convention, state parties undertake to respect and ensure all migrant workers and members of their families within their territory, or subject to their jurisdiction, receive the rights provided for.
Regrettably, this convention was ratified by only 56 out of 193 UN member states. Only two Asean members (Indonesia and the Philippines) are parties to this multilateral legal instrument.
It is only when this convention is taken seriously by all states can it be asserted that real legal progress will have been achieved in solving a crucial human rights problems.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for US to impress on Fiji the importance
Of safeguarding democratic governance
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 12, 2022

My prayer for Fiji is that after the very serious threat to its democracy, that America experienced in the post election January 6 insurrection, the visiting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin will impress on the leaders in Fiji and the region the critical importance of safeguarding the integrity of the institutions of good democratic governance.
The well-being of the people depend on that above all else.
We lose that we lose all else.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


Unless justice is done here and now
Many will go to their death underservedly rich
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday February 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday February 3, 2022

Re: "Do not mistake ritual for repentance" in Bangkok Post, Opinion, January 31, 2022.
Whilst true as Paritta Wangkiat writes that "taking a genuine responsibility for our actions would be a good way to start atoning", it is false to say that "at the end of the day, we all, Pol L/C Norawich and his ilk included, will pay for our sins in one way or another."
And that falsehood is a dangerous one.
The blunt reality is that unless it be done here on Earth by their fellow human beings, justice will not be done.
Unless their fellow humans insist on justice in the here and now, many bad people will prosper mightily, and will go to death undeservedly rich, at ease, and respected by all.
At best, an improved historical awareness allows some material justice to be done among the generations now living.
Their children cannot be guilty of the sins of the mother or father.
However, if a fortune was, for example, acquired unjustly, such as by conquest or corruption, then that unjust initial acquisition, like the fruits of the harms inflicted on those from whom it was unjustly taken, does continue to affect later generations, and for those very real present consequences of past injustice, reparations can and should be made, especially by a due redistribution of wealth, preferably by voluntary acts of those holding it, to better serve distributive justice in the here and now by correcting the baleful influences of historical wrongs.
This is why some narrowly defined forms of affirmative action can also be just.
It is also held by those who value truth seeking and speaking that the impartial quest for right understanding of history and its figures is a good thing in itself, a value that, while often unkind to myth, comports perfectly with justice as with truth.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippines vice-presidential candidate
To lobby Congress to approve military conscription
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday February 10, 2022

Vice-presidential aspirant Sara Duterte stated that if elected, she will continue to lobby for a program that her father struggled to implement as president, and that she will continue to press for mandatory military service for young people.
Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte and a reservist in the Army, has stated that she intends to utilize the vice president's office to lobby Congress to approve a military conscription law.
She wants all citizens over the age of 18 to be required to serve in the military, which should include humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness training. Her proposal gathers different sentiments on social media, including those netizens asking why the government is anticipating war.
We need to be prepared, in my opinion, because we don't know when or where an invasion will occur.
We lack the required credibility in defense, and we are unable to protect our country effectively if we lack soldiers.
We can't let our country's defense go unnoticed. Filipinos must also keep in mind that without a guarantee of security in our country, we cannot have a stable economy with booming industries.
Amid security challenges such as China's presence in the South China Sea, we may need to develop a reserve force to supplement the military.

Ann R. Aquino.
Cavite State University,
Philippines


China is a signatory to 1982 UNCLOS
UNCLOS provides regulations for South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday February 9, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday February 8, 2022

The stand of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. over the West Philippine Sea issue, particularly on the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) 2016 ruling in The Hague in favor of the Philippines that invalidated China’s sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, is vague and truly disturbing.
Asked on the issue by host Boy Abunda during “The 2022 Presidential One-On-One Interviews with Boy Abunda” recently, Marcos Jr. effectively dismissed the arbitral decision, claiming that “arbitration is no longer available to us” and that the only option left to us is “to continue to engage the Chinese” through bilateral agreement.
He further asserted that superpowers such as the United States and the Soviet Union must not be involved in the dispute, saying that “the problem is between China and us.”
In effectively asserting that the arbitral ruling could not be enforced, he claimed that China was not a signatory to that ”arbitration agreement,” arguing that in arbitration there must be an agreement between the two opposing parties “agreement of the two different parties” were his exact words."
In fine, he sided with China’s stubborn position that it was not bound by the PCA’s questioned ruling in that it was not a party to the arbitration proceedings.
Marcos’ argument is misplaced.
In arbitration, there are at least three parties, the third or independent party being called the judge or arbitrator. In simple terms, arbitration is a way of settling disputes between parties who agree to submit such disputes for resolution by their chosen judges or arbitrators.
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS came into force on November 16, 1994, an international law that provides a regulatory framework for the use of the world’s seas and oceans, among others, to ensure the conservation and equitable usage of resources and the marine environment and to ensure the protection and preservation of the living resources of the sea.
It also addresses such other matters as sovereignty, rights of usage in maritime zones, and navigational rights.
Article 287(3) of the law provides a procedure for the settlement of the maritime dispute if, for instance, a member-state has not expressed any preference with respect to the means of dispute resolution under Article 287(1) thereof, or otherwise fails or refuses to cooperate.
The People’s Republic of China signed and ratified the UNCLOS, and therefore it cannot legally and rightly disclaim not to be a party to the questioned case arbitrated and decided by the UN-backed PCA pursuant to the provisions of this international law.

Diosdado "Dads" Calonge,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for all food factories in Thailand
To be inspected
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 8, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday February 4, 2022

Re: "Cops raid sausage factory as kids fall ill", Bangkok Post, Friday February 4, 2022.
Nine kids have developed a blood disorder after eating sausages from an unnamed Chon Buri factory.
The factory owner admitted to making products without the required permits for five years.
He didn't observe good manufacturing procedures, and displayed false product labels.
The case reeks of corruption, for how could the owner get away with breaking the law for so long?
For starters, the head of the government's factory permit division and his subordinate responsible for Chon Buri should be fired for incompetence and investigated for corruption.
All food factories nationwide also should be checked to see if they are qualified to make the products they sell.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand


China and Thailand to face labour shortages
Declining populations and ageing societies
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday February 7, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday February 4, 2022

Re: "Worker shortages a 'new normal,'" Bangkok Post, January 26 and "Shrinking Asia changing global demographics," Bangkok Post Opinion, January 26.
Japan, Korea and many European countries are facing critical shortages of labour as a result of stagnant or declining populations and ageing societies.
China and Thailand are about to follow suit.
At the same time, population growth in many African countries and the Philippines outstrips the ability of those countries to create jobs.
The win-win solution is for countries with labour shortages to relax immigration to allow more foreign migrant workers from countries with an excess of working-age individuals.
This should be an especially promising proposition for more developed countries that currently have high labour costs.
Workers from less advanced economies would undoubtedly be willing to work for far lower wages, filling vacant worker positions and bringing down overall labour costs in the process.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Papua New Guinea Criminal Investigator Division and
Office of the Public Prosecutor to be honest
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday February 6, 2022
First published in the National, Thursday February 3, 2022

There should be a stronger working relationship between the criminal investigation division (CID) and police prosecution.
It is vital for these two sections in the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary to work together to ensure better outcomes are achieved, especially in courts.
Both CID and prosecution need to work closely to ensure good reports are filed and presented in courts within the three months’ timeframe that courts usually give.
The three months’ timeframe that the courts give is not a law but it is the common practice.
From my experience, there have been times when serious cases are thrown out of courts and this is all because police hand-up-briefs are not ready for court within three months.
If investigators need more time to complete their investigations, it is advisable to approach the prosecutors and inform them so that they can then be in a better position to inform the court and ask for adjournment.
Prosecution and CID should discuss regularly and identify failures and come up with solutions to move forward.
I am making my exit from the force as a prosecutor as well others from different sections and we will be watching as citizens.
You have to move forward.
At the moment, there are corrupt practices creeping in.
Go very careful and avoid getting involved in such practices.
I encourage CIDs and prosecutors to be honest in their jobs in order to get good results in court.

Hove Genderiso.
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Call for next Philippine administration
To shy away from stereotypes in drug use policy
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday February 5, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday February 2, 2022

In a recent interview that was published in Inquirer.net’s Facebook page, presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he cannot engage in drug use because “that kind of lifestyle, para lang ’yan sa mga walang ginagawa, walang trabaho.” He added that “if you expect to produce good work, hindi ka pwede sumailalim sa ganyang bisyo.”
Nonetheless, he said he is in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, citing several studies.
I recommend that he read the 2018 study of Prof. Regina M. Hechanova Alampay of the Ateneo De Manila University.
The study, “The Development of a Community-Based Drug Intervention for Filipino Drug Users,” was published by the Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology.
Let’s check his stereotypes:
That kind of lifestyle, para lang ’yan sa mga walang ginagawa, walang trabaho.”
In the study of Alampay, about half of the participants were employed in manual and contractual work, such as construction, electrical, and street-sweeping.
Their primary reason for using drugs?
Work-related, i.e., “Gives me more energy,” “I can work better.”
These individuals are gainfully employed.
They use drugs not for recreational purposes, like what Marcos implied. Instead, they use drugs to keep their energy levels high at work.
This is understandable given that they are involved in manual labor.
“If you expect to produce good work, hindi ka pwede sumailalim sa ganyang bisyo.”
In the same study, the oft-cited benefit of drug use was increased energy and productivity.
Her study participants talked about energy trip that allowed them to work longer and harder.
On “bisyo,” only 14 percent of participants had scores indicative of full dependency and 39 percent had some symptoms. Close to half had even no symptoms of drug dependence.
This shows that drug use per se will not lead to drug dependence.
Let us move beyond these stereotypes about persons who use psychoactive drugs. It is unfortunate that the current drug war is built around these stereotypes.
It has since led to the deaths of thousands of individuals without due process of law.
The next administration should already shy away from these stereotypes as bases for its drug use policy, and, instead, embrace community-based programs that are based on sound research evidence.

Rejinel Camboa Valencia
Manila,
Philippines



Philippino's dream of social change
Despite failures of Duterte administration
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday February 4, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday February 3, 2022

The first sentence in Prof. Randy David’s column last Sunday went: “At least once every six years, we are invited to dream that enduring social change, is at last, within sight.”
As Filipinos, I think that we had been dreaming about this since the revolutionary days up to now.
Except for a few years just before Commonwealth status was given to us by the United States up to the pre-martial law days, we were able to have parts of our dreams fulfilled.
We were led by politicians who as a rule were nationalistic, ethical, educated, and “cultured.”
If you remember, when Rogelio dela Rosa first ran for senator, most voters questioned his qualifications, being a movie star.
Right now, if you are an actor, TV or radio personality, or an athlete like a boxer or a basketball player, you have an advantage over the other candidates.
Our presidents then acted presidential in public, i.e., no swearing, no bad words, no misogyny or sexism, and “polished” in dress and attitude since he is the father or she is the mother of the country.
Without endorsing anybody, he just dissected why the public voted for Mr. Duterte who to the regular voters acted like a regular person or “common tao” who will solve our everyday problems: “People just saw in him someone who could jolt the post-Edsa ruling elites out of their smugness.”
He also discussed the causes why Mr. Duterte “has hardly made a dent on the problems that he himself set out to solve.”
I just wished that this time, Filipino voters will start to use their minds since the future of the Philippines depends on them who will elect our future leaders.
In spite of the Duterte administration failing the Filipino people, I think that I can still dream, can’t I?
Puwede pa ring managinip o mangarap.

Ida M. Tiongco,
New York,
NY



Call for National Economic and Development Authority (Neda)
To be raised in presidential candidate campaigne
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday February 3, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday February 1, 2022

The series of “presidential interviews” on TV, radio, and social media lacks serious discussions on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.
The term of the next administration, 2022-2028, is critical to the achievement of the goals by 2030, the year the United Nations General Assembly has targeted when it launched the SDGs in 2015.
According to the UN, the SDGs are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
The goals address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.
Actually, the Philippines through the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) has integrated the SDGs in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.
The attainment of the SDGs supposedly in 2030 should pave the way for the achievement of AmBisyon Natin 2040 per Neda. Ironically, there is no legitimate administration presidential candidate so this Neda plan will never be raised in the campaign.
The candidates have to promote most of the 17 goals or even half. Vice President Leni Robredo is pushing for women’s empowerment, obviously; while Manila Mayor Isko Moreno earlier announced to create more open and green spaces in Manila. The others are silent.
Maybe their campaigns do not see the SDGs as essential in the future of the country.
This is to challenge the media, the Inquirer, and other groups which will organize debates to choose several SDGs as talking points for the candidates.
The more goals the candidates promote the better for the Philippines in terms of compelling the government, private sector, and civil society to take action.

Art Popoy Los Banos,
Dubai,
UAE



UN wants more sanctions against
The Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday February 2, 2022

I was not surprised to hear the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres say on the eve of the one year anniversary of the military takeover of the democratically elected civilian government in Myanmar that there was almost universal international condemnation of the coup but apart from that the international response was
" weak ".
This follows an all too familiar pattern . Gutteres said a lot more needed to be done to sanction the Myanmar military's unlawful takeover of power and its continue violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
The big question is will that happen? Australian State is one of those whose response has been weak.
And that damages Australia's international standing in upholding democracy.
But Australia's reputation has been somewhat salvaged by several major corporations including Woodside mining no longer wishing to do business with the Myanmar military junta.
That must become the norm to make it abundantly clear to the rogue rulers of Myanmar that their power grab is totally unacceptable.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

Japan is uniquely empowered
To rekindle pacifist non-alignment
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday February 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday January 23, 2022

Re: "Japan's post-Covid regional dilemma", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, January 2, 2022.
As a member in good standing of Dr Thitinan's fan club, being always appreciative of his trenchant rejection of our ruling elite's authoritarian attempts to deny the Thai people's democratic aspirations, I hesitate to question his analysis of Japan's role in our post-Covid world.
However, in answering his own question about what kind of great power Japan wants to be, Dr Thititnan trudges down the same old familiar Big Power, Big Stick path that has led the world to its current near hopeless dead-end.
He bemoans Japan's lack of military might and veers toward favouring the abrogation of Article 9 in Japan's so-called pacifist constitution.
But what if Japan were to choose a path to peace?
The words of Article 9 are spine-tinglingly inspirational: "...the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes...The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognised."
What if Japan were to reinvigorate its geostrategic role in the world by reclaiming Article 9 in its foundational sense and offering the nations of the world an alternative to Big Power rivalries and trillions in wasteful military expenditures?
As the only country to suffer the horrors of atomic bombs, Japan is uniquely empowered with the moral authority required to rekindle pacifist non-alignment as the only sustainable model for international relations.
And mighty Indonesia, with a history deeply rooted in non-alignment, might be a willing partner on this journey. If only...

Julian Spindler.
Bangkok,
Thailand



Electric vehicles
Need alot of electricity
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 31, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday January 28, 2022

Re: "Clear as air," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, January 26, 2022.
While I certainly agree that changes will need to be made to clean up the air pollution, I am afraid I am going to politely beg to differ with Kuldeep Nagi on the solutions being offered.
First of all, neither the affluent, nor the disabled, are giving up their private gas-powered vehicles, and initiating such draconian means might even initiate some kind of open revolt.
Electric vehicles seem like a nice solution, but a quick Google search will show that many electric vehicles still need a lot of electricity, and over the past decade, that has translated into a global increase in coal-powered power plants and other polluting forms of electricity.
While many of today's electric vehicles don't belch fumes, the eventual rise in nuclear power to juice those vehicles up puts plenty of pollution into the environment.
It just moves the pollution into someone else's backyard and increases the chances of what would be the yet another major nuclear accident in my remaining lifetime.
Perhaps what is best for Bangkok and many parts of Thailand with high air pollution is a "mid-term" plan.
For example, we could do a lot by taking the diesel motors out of Bangkok's red buses and simply replacing those motors with gasoline/natural-gas powered motors until such time as we really do have better options.
We could also offer more financial incentives for car-pooling in areas with consistently poor air quality.
We could use limited AI to improve the efficiency of our traffic light system, and we could look at a long-term redesign of our roads for young, healthy people who can bicycle rather than use electric or gas-powered motorbikes.
However, with all due respect, if any reader thinks draconian measures can be used to stop the sale and use of motorcycles and cars, they are dreaming, and you'll still have even more pollution.
Finally, if Covid taught us one thing, it was not that there is no time to waste, but rather that maybe it would be a good idea to use common sense and not engage in risky experiments which have been untried before.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for more information
On closure of Thailands insurance company
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 30, 2022
First published in Bangkok Post, January 28, 2022

Re: "TGH subsidiary ceases operation," in Bangkok Post, Business, January 27, 2022.
The Bangkok Post reports on the sudden closure of Southeast Insurance company, owned by one of Thailand's richest families, apparently due to concerns about paying out Covid claims.
But the article is rather thin on important details, such as: When does this closure take effect - immediately?
Does this mean that existing insurance policies with Southeast Insurance are null and void - leaving clients to scramble for new policies elsewhere?
Will Southeast Insurance refund existing premiums to its customers, or will these simply line the pockets of the owner estimated net worth: US$10.5 billion?
How about a
more informative follow-up article.

Concerned Client,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Call for social media platforms to discuss
Issues faced by candidates in Philippines elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 29, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday January 26, 2022

We are seeing a deluge of oftentimes uncouth exchanges on Twitter, Instagram, and the other social media platforms between and among the bunches of trolls favoring a candidate over another.
Some of the language used is even unprintable. But rarely do we read from these exchanges a discussion on issues and the challenges their candidates will have to face once elected.
What is their candidate’s platform of government for the next six years on the following gut issues?
How will he/she solve unemployment the Philippine Statistics Authority estimated it at 6.5 percent last November, or about 3.2 million unemployed Filipinos?
What concrete measures will they undertake, if elected, to provide more jobs and not see an average of 1 million Filipinos leaving for abroad every year to look for greener pastures?
How will they bring down the mounting public debt—P11.92 trillion as of Sept. 30, 2021?
How will they accelerate our economic development and industrialization in the countryside where land and sea resources are untapped?
How will they get rid of the systemic graft in government offices where connivance happens in high places and in broad daylight as Senate inquiries have unearthed?
We expect the young and educated voters to at least find time to ferret out the truth amid the nearly pointless internet exchanges. After all, it’s their future that’s at stake. They should make the right and enlightened choice for their president.

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila,
Philippines



Repealing of death penalty in Papua New Guinea
In line with 1977 UN General Assembly resolution
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday January 28, 2022
First published in the National, Wednesday January 26, 2022

The People’s Progress Party (PPP) has welcomed the Parliament’s decision to do away with penalty as a punishment for serious crimes.
Death penalty was a draconian and primitive law that has not proven to be a deterrent to serious crimes anywhere in the world.
People’s Progress Party (PPP) has always opposed the death penalty with one of its founding members of the party and former Middle Fly Member of Parliament Warren Dutton who vehemently opposed capital punishment in any form.
In the 21st Century, Papua New Guinea cannot be resorting to the most primitive and barbaric act against Christian principles and the belief that God is the giver and taker of life.
The repealing of death penalty in Papua New Guinea is in line with the 1977 United Nations General Assembly resolution and desire to progressively restrict the number of offences for which the death penalty might be imposed, with a view to the desirability of abolishing this form of punishment.

Sumasy Singin,
National President,
People’s Progress Party



Australia wants Indo-Pacific alliance
To ensure peace
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 January 2022

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, wants us to believe the latest military alliance between Australia and UK and US will ensure peace and security and all that in the Indo-Pacific region, the new theatre of geo-politics.
I don't believe that.
But that's because I am a pacifist.
But has that kind of military mumbo-jumbo delivered peace and security anywhere?
It has only profited the military-industrial complex.
It's a failed approach to world peace and what Morrison and like minded leaders are advocating is more of the same failed approach.
It's irrational and a waste of valuable resources that should be channeled to more important areas of human need.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia




Mafia style modus operandi
Is not confined to authoritarian regimes
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 26, 2022

When I read in The Southeast Asian Times ( Jan.24 ) article ' Whistleblower threatened after filing corruption allegations against President Jokowi's sons with KPK ' that Jakarta State University lecturer, Ubedilah Badrun, received threats against his life I was not at all surprised.
This Mafia style modus operandi is not confined to authoritarian regimes.
For an insight into that see Bill Browder's book Red Notice : How I Became Putin's No.1 Enemy ( 2015 ) which is ' A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice'.
This is something that regrettably happens fairly frequently in democratic countries as well damaging the democratic credentials of these countries.
The good part in this sordid story of the persecution of the public spirited Indonesian whistleblower is that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK ) spokesman, Ali Fikri, said " all reports received from the public will be examined ".
That is as should be in a good democracy.
Independent oversight bodies must do what they are meant to do to uphold good governance with fear or favour.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Thais unwilling to do work
That migrant workers have readily accepted
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 25, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday January 24, 2022

Re: "Demographic doomsday" in Bangkok Post, Business, Monday January 17, 2022
There's more than a touch of irony evident in this article about the impending demographic cliff that Thailand is approaching.
On one hand, employers are lamenting a lack of workers and some factories have even closed due to the so-called "labour shortage".
In the next breath, however, several economists are expressing concern over what they perceive to be "soaring unemployment", currently at a rate of 4.58 percent.
The reality, of course, is that many Thais are unwilling to do the work that migrant labourers have readily accepted in the past.
Barring a greatly relaxed system easing labour mobility into Thailand, the country will need to find ways to entice more Thais to accept these jobs if some sectors of the economy are to survive.
To do that, however, requires employers to pay decent wages, provide safe and comfortable working conditions and extend favourable benefits to employees.
Even then, it is questionable whether many Thais can be convinced to accept employment in jobs that they have come to believe are beneath them.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thailand calls for qualified foreigners
To transform corporate culture
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 24, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday January 23, 2022

Re: "Billionaire takes bold stance on racism", in Bangkok Post, Spotlight, January 16, 2022.
The courage of Luiza Trajano is what is needed in the people leading the public and private sectors in Thailand.
On the birthday of Martin Luther Jr, who sacrificed his life fighting racism in American society, we must recognise that racial discrimination and prejudice remain the most dangerous pandemic in every culture.
Like in the USA and Brazil, these problems also exist in Thailand.
It is the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.
So, forget about immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, or Myanmar.
Even well-to-do expatriates funnelling millions into the Thai economy face all kinds of issues: double pricing, immigration hassles, job discrimination, and workplace exploitation.
You seldom see foreigners residing in Thailand being involved in the upper echelons of decision-making.
I am still waiting to see qualified foreigners being part of any government agency. Diversity in the workplace is seen as a threat to people in authority.
Thailand needs CEOs like Luiza Trajano to transform its corporate culture through education and training programmes.
Otherwise, the elephant in the room will trample the economy; it is just a matter of time.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok.
Thailand




Let the private sector
Run the lotteries in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 23, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday January 17, 2022

Re: "Panel set to probe high ticket prices", in Bangkok Post, January 15, 2022.
The most effective way to control lottery ticket pricing is to move sales online, as in the United States.
Thousands of e-commerce transactions are performed in Thailand every day. Online ticket sales will be much simpler, more transparent and easier to control.
In these countries, tickets could be purchased at any ATM or convenience store.
What about the vendors, many of whom are handicapped?
They are talented in other ways; for example, the finalist in last year's Plaeng Ake singing contest was blind but has a beautiful voice.
The government should help them discover their potential so they can live to their fullest.
Last but not least, the Lottery Office has no business being a government-run agency.
Let the private sector run it, with government supervision.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Call for corrective action
For fake vaccination certificates in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 22, 2022
First published in the Star, Tuesday January 18, 2022

With the latest arrest of six workers and the owner of a private polyclinic in Gombak over the issuance of fake vaccination certificates, it is apparent that corrective action needs to be taken immediately.
Hence, here are two suggestions that can be implemented to prevent such incidents in the future:
Review the existing vaccination standard operating proceedure (SOP) adopted by private clinics, as well as the list of authorised clinics by following certain criteria and;
Enhance the supervision mechanism for authorised private clinics and impose harsher punishments to issuers and users of fake vaccination certificates.
Within this month, there have been two arrests involving private clinics for issuing fake vaccination certificates.
These 2 arrests are likely just the tip of the iceberg, causing many to be worried that more may still be operating in the dark.
Therefore, the Health Ministry could review and tighten existing regulations to filter the list of authorised private clinics based on medical qualifications and their operating history, among other factors.
Furthermore, to prevent the AntiVax group from gaining more traction, all individuals involved in the issuance and usage of fake vaccination certificates should be sentenced with harsher punishments to create a deterrent effect.
The Covid-19 pandemic remains a real threat every day.
Thus, we urge all Antivaxxers to rethink their decision, get accurate information on vaccinations and support the nation’s effort to vaccinate the people and save lives.

Wong Siew Mun ,
Spokesperson,
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


 

Thai roads are the most dangerous
In the world
The Southeast Asian Times Friday January 20, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday January 12, 2022

Re: "7 deadly days", in Bangkok Post January 3, 2022
Time and again we are reminded that Thai roads are among the most dangerous in the world.
Speeding, drunk driving and lack of common sense in general are mostly responsible.
However, around 80 percent of all casualties are motorcycle riders.
It would be interesting to know how many accidents are caused by careless motorists, and how many are due to irresponsible bike riding.
I suspect the latter account for many mishaps.
Wouldn't it be better to focus more on the reckless bike riders in order to reduce casualties instead of running useless campaigns during new year periods?
Helmets often seem unnecessary to these dimwits, and police seem to regard them as a mere cash cow.
Why not introduce a more stringent motorcycle licence with appropriate enforcement?
Seeing helmet-less 13-year-old children ride to school with three piled on a bike is just asking for trouble.
All the while the police just look on.
The safety campaigns that are run now clearly aren't working. Time to do better.

Tom Bundaberg,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Hope for the best
But prepare for the worst
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 20, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday January 17, 2022

I have been living in the Philippines since 2004 and I have come to love this country.
So I am concerned about who will lead the country after the May 2022 elections.
A change of direction is desirable.
The next president will face very big tasks that whoever wins is not to be envied. The biggest challenge is likely to be the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact will be with us for a long time to come.
It is not yet certain whether the pandemic will end in an endemic situation after the mild Omicron variant, and whether the concerns about it will be negligible.
By the time a disease becomes endemic, a relatively large number of people have already contracted it or been vaccinated.
The number of people who become seriously ill is then significantly reduced compared to the acute phase of the pandemic.
In addition, there are foreign policy issues with China.
These must be solved in a diplomatic, peaceful way and that requires a thinking president, not one with a macho demeanor and muscular strength.
As far as the endless fight against corruption in this country is concerned, we have made very little progress in the last six years; President Duterte himself personally confirmed this.
Even military conflicts are not excluded from the incoming president’s concerns. What if the conflict in Europe between Ukraine and Russia escalates militarily and, in the end, even gets NATO involved?
What if China simultaneously attacks Taiwan with military means and thus initiates its reunification through an invasion?
In such situations, we need a president who can keep us away from military adventures.
A country hit hard by the coronavirus like the Philippines cannot race into a war. The priority of the president should therefore be the pandemic.
Many people are suffering from depression (I pay for this myself and freely admit it) and afraid of losing their livelihood.
Financial problems are no longer just exceptional cases but the new normal.
It is about putting food on the table that counts.
During my internship as a scientific assistant in a biosafety laboratory level 4, my professor said: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”
There is nothing to add.

Dr. Jurgen Schofer,
Rizal
Philippines




Air pollution in Bangkok kills
More in a year than from Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 19, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday January 17, 2022

Re: "Haze cannot be ignored", Bangkok Post, Editorial, January 12, 2022
It's laudable that the Bangkok Post editorial team continues to keep alive the concern over the choking air pollution in Bangkok.
Although the editorial pleads that the "haze cannot be ignored," of course we can expect that it will be ignored.
By now, we know the pattern very well.
According to the State of Global Air 2020 Report, around 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand are attributed to air pollution each year. Thus, in the past two years, foul air has caused more than twice the number of premature deaths than Covid-19 during the pandemic. Many of these deaths could be averted if reasonable actions were taken to reduce air pollution. Where is the outrage over these deaths? While we're kept in a state of near-panic and endless mitigating gyrations over Covid-19, no apparent action is taken to avert the air-quality health threat that is killing more people than the coronavirus.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



High political corruption underlies
Philippines socio-economic syndromes

The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquier, January 17, 2022

The article of columnist Solita Collas-Monsod, “The ‘Buwaya Problem’” January 8, 2022 is a well-argued and evidence-based diagnosis that high political corruption is the main culprit underlying our country’s socioeconomic syndromes.
It gave me three insights.
First, using the crocodile as a metaphor is a compelling way to depict the breadth and depth of greed for political gain.
On the one hand, it is a fact that there are many similarities between politicians and animals, and thus we can compare their behaviors.
On the other hand, it seems not fair to the crocodiles, and for that matter, to other animals, when we, without qualifying, compare the politician’s behavior to theirs. Because while the crocodile is wholly driven by pure instincts to grab its prey for lunch, the corrupt political dynasts are driven by unbridled greed for power under the guise of altruistic intent.
In addition, aside from the fact that there are politicians who would not hesitate to go down to the level of animals to perpetuate themselves in power, there are others who would unconscionably do things animals themselves cannot do, such as the intentional killing of the weak and the innocent, for their political gain.
Second, the article should provoke anger against the systemic injustices committed on the poorest and vulnerable.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) wrote that “he who is not angry when there is a just cause for anger is immoral because anger looks to the good of justice and if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral and unjust.”
Moreover, the social injustice becomes more inexplicable because we pride ourselves as the only Christian country in these parts of the world.
Where have gone the values of social charity and justice that 500 years of Christianity taught and upheld as the way to genuine peace and prosperity?
Third, in a democratic society like ours, elections are the most effective way to boot corrupt politicians out of power.
This coming May 9, 2022 national elections, we can only hope that many of us will elect as president the one candidate who has the proven integrity, probity, and competence to lead our country from darkness into light. Matauhan na po sana tayo!

Noel G. Asiones,
Manila,
Philippines



Thai public is paranoid
Regarding Covid
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 17, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 12, January 2022

Re: "Heedless manhunt, Omicron marches on", in Bangkok Post PostBag, January 10, 2022.
As I read the Second Secretary to India's remarks concerning the Bangkok Post's recent coverage of an allegedly Covid positive foreign couple who were allegedly taken off-guard by a surprise positive Covid result and/or alleged miscommunication, I could not help but sympathise with the secretary because the recent debacle really reveals just how paranoid much of the Thai public still is regarding Covid.
The Bangkok Post's front page (online) article says that Thailand had 7,926 known new cases yesterday.
As such, it was sad to watch this recent hysterical reaction to this couple because there are almost certainly plenty of Thais and local residents who are also Covid positive, asymptomatic and spreading the disease without knowing it as I write this.
Getting two people into quarantine is probably not going to even put a ping in Thailand's rising Covid numbers.
We are just going to have to accept that we have Covid throughout most of the country.
It is here to stay, but the country's attitude towards Covid-positive people presently gives potential foreign tourists and investors every reason not to travel here.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Manhunt for two law-abiding
Indian nationals in Bangkok
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday January 16, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday January 10, 2022

Re: "Couple spark Covid alert", in Bangkok Post January 5, 2022
The report quotes Dr Apirat Katanyutanont, chief of Chon Buri health office, saying he was in contact with the Embassy of India to help "locate them", which is incorrect.
The report also published the phone number of Vibharam Laemchabang Hospital asking the public to report their whereabouts, which in fact launched a manhunt for two innocent law-abiding Indian nationals who were available on the phone and in contact with Vibharam Laemgchabang Hospital.
They could also be located on the Mor Chana tracking app installed on their phones.
You may also note that the Embassy of India put out a tweet at 7.35pm on Jan 4 saying that two individuals were in touch with the embassy and were trying to get admitted to a hospital in Bangkok.
It is brought to your notice that Mr Ankit Sejwal and his spouse Mrs Preeti Panwar left Chon Buri for the airport in anticipation of a negative RTPCR result.
They were in fact in regular touch with Vibharam Laemgchabang Hospital as they could not have boarded the flight without a negative RTPCR.
They, like any responsible citizen, isolated themselves once they come to know about the positive RTPCR test.
Mr Ankit did not want to travel back to Chon Buri as it would have put at risk the taxi driver, and he wanted to be admitted in Bangkok.
All throughout, he was in touch with the embassy, members of the diaspora and the hospital.
The embassy too was in touch with the hospital and the health office of Chon Buri.
It is unfortunate that a reputable newspaper like the Bangkok Post did not bother to check the embassy website, nor did it reach out to the embassy for comment before launching a virtual manhunt for two fully vaccinated individuals.
They had travelled to Thailand on Dec 28 to spend the New Year, having taken a RTPRC test before departure and after arriving in Thailand, and following all rules and regulations.
This kind of reporting has a tendency to harm the reputation of individuals and the countries to which they belong and is unacceptable from an organisation of your repute.
You are free to verify all the facts from the sources/individuals concerned.

A Roy Chowdhury,
Second Secretary Embassy of India,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

China trojan train
To Kunming
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday January 15, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, January 13, 2022

Re: "Focus on Laos-China rail amid fruit export hopes", Bangkok Post, Business, January 11, 2022.
Like a Trojan Horse, whilst the new express train to Kunming will export Thai produce, it does nothing without putting China's national interest first and foremost. I think they have already saddled the country with a huge debt.

Tony Jackson,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Local elections in the Philippines
Are as important as general elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 January 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 13 January 2022

While there is no lack of analysis at the national level, the conversation on politics at the local level leaves much to be desired.
One might be wont to think that voters hold the same standard for elective positions at the national and local levels. But our experience proves otherwise and may even surprise us.
We vote for a president, a vice president, a party list, and 12 senators at the national level.
At the local level, we vote for a district representative, governor, vice governor, provincial board members, mayor vice mayor, and municipal councilors.
In the last presidential election, debates were organized for presidential and vice presidential candidates spearheaded by the Commission on Elections.
Various media organizations dedicate segments to interview candidates to know more about their platforms and to give them the equal airtime that would otherwise be denied from them due mainly to the cost of running advertisements.
But what about at the local level?
I hardly know of any organized debates that tackle platforms of local candidates. The most that we can get are from social media pages of individual candidates which have again become active after the filing of certificates of candidacy.
Most recently, candidates have resorted to organizing online raffles where participants watch a livestream.
Candidates giving tokens and dole-outs before an election have not only had their stakes raised but have also morphed into new platforms and methods adapting to technology and mobility restrictions.
As many scholars have pointed out, this is patronage politics.
Without actually devising plans that would address the problems that have long beset their localities - housing, health care, employment, public spaces, and many more - the people are kept begging in front of local politicians.
Running for local elective positions has seemingly been reduced to who can control the local coffers and give them away as if it’s their own.
What is lamentable is that some politicians have created a cult for themselves, thereby perpetuating themselves longer - in many cases, literally carving out their names or initials on almost every public infrastructure or dole-out possible.
By this, they not only remind voters of the current ruling politician but also of family members who will soon enter the local political arena to replace those whose term of office is ending.
What is more disheartening is that people have long been accustomed to this practice and have come to accept this kind of reality of dynastic politics.
This only shows why local elections are as important as national polls, and should be given equal attention in the media because politics at the local level shapes the kind of national leaders we will have.

Edward Joseph Maguindayao,
Manila,
Phiippines



Refugees in Australia's facilities
Locked up and languish in limbo
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 January 2022

Novak Djokovic'c court victory in overturning the Federal Government's decision to cancel his visa without giving him " procedural fairness" exposes the arbitrary exercise of State power by the mob in power in Australia.
Djokovic had the means and the international high profile to successfully challenge the Australian government decision.
Many refugees locked up and languishing in limbo ( some for 8 or 9 years ) in Australia's detention facilities don't have Djokovic's clout.
Their predicament is an indictment on the Australian State's cruel, unfair and inhumane treatment of people who sought our protection from the political persecution they suffered in their homecountry forcing them to flee.
It's a crying shame.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Nothing honourable about Cambodia's
Official visit to Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 January 2022

We read in The Southeast Asian Times article ' Cambodia's official visit to Myanmar gives legitimacy to military dictatorship says NUG ' ( 9 January ) that Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen was welcome on arrival in Myanmar on Friday 7 January with " a guard of honour ".
What honour?
It's a disgrace.
Giving legitimacy to a brutal rogue military regime that has been committing atrocities against its own people - men, women and children - since day one of its violent takeover of the democratically elected government and locking up Aung San Sui Kyi, the leader of the peoples' free choice, is morally repugnant.
There is nothing honourable about the Cambodian PM's official visit.
It's more a case of birds of the same rogue feather flocking together!

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Call for China to delay
Opening of 2022 Winter Olympics
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 January 11, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday January 6, 2022

Re: "Controversy greets countdown", Bangkok Post Sports, January 4, 2022.
The National Hockey League (NHL) announced before recent Christmas that its pulling out all of its players from participating in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing in early February of this year.
This is a huge blow, considering that men's Ice Hockey is the signature event of the Winter Olympics.
The Canadian Mixed Curlers soon followed suit, withdrawing from the games also, in what is sure to be the first of many other withdrawals from the Winter Olympics.
Now the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee(COC), David Shoemaker, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation(CBC), that he "is worried whether the games can go ahead" as planned.
It should be noted that Canada was the first country to withdraw from the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
So one would think that they would not be hesitant to withdraw also from the upcoming games, and that nor would other Western European nations be hesitant.
Being that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has only recently cropped up onto the scene and seems to be spreading quickly, and that the Chinese government has already locked down entire cities in a bid to control things, I think it is time for the Communist government to seriously considering doing what Tokyo did at the 2020 Summer Olympics, and delay the opening of the Winter games to later in 2022 or at another date.
If the Chinese government fails to do this, then there is a good chance that some nations will voluntarily withdraw from the games.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for examination of Philippine politicians
Who project themselves as would-be-messiahs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 10, 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday January 6, 2022

I agree with columnist Randy David’s very interesting analysis on the appropriation of the messianic motif in Philippine politics “The messianic motif in Philippine politics,” December 19, 2021.
More importantly, it provoked me to ask what must and can be done to address the straightforward challenges we will face in the 2022 elections.
The least we can do when politicians project themselves as would-be messiahs is to examine their previous performance and accomplishments to ascertain their fitness for the public office they seek.
You will know them by their fruits,” as Matthew 7:16 puts it.
But without fact-checking, it is most likely that ordinary voters will be mesmerized by the highly questionable messianic narratives that politicians brazenly peddle during election seasons.
Economic and moral factors would partly explain why people would gravitate not toward those who are genuinely competent, experienced, and accomplished, but more toward dysfunctional politicians who sound like a broken record.
In light of the ills currently besetting our political landscape, the usual questions “How shall we vote?” and “How can we help?” have gained renewed traction and pertinence.
First, as many groups have already been voluntarily doing, let us leave no stone unturned to unmask the false messiahs in our midst.
Second, let us actively campaign and fight for those candidates who incarnate our shared dreams for a better future.
Third, since there is strength in numbers, let us set aside our parochial divisions by joining groups and communities who share the same advocacies and programs to turn the potentially catastrophic political exercise in May 2022 into an opportunity to liberate our country from its deep-seated economic, social, and political problems.
We owe these to our future generations.

Noel G. Asiones,
Manila,
Philippines



Covid-19 related law suits against China
Have so far been few
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 January 2022
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 6 January 2022

Everywhere around the globe, people are being punished in varying degrees of severity or cruelty for breaches of public safety and health protocols shoved down their throats on account of COVID-19 and its seemingly never-ending mutations, the latest of which being Omicron.
If that is not adding insult to injury, then what is?
But how come nobody is seriously thinking of punishing China for being responsible for this pandemic in the first place?
As of December 2021, about 282,000,000 infections and about 5,500,000 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization.
God knows how many more have not been reported.
China should be held to account for what now amounts to a “crime against humanity”!
How many more millions have to die before the world starts kicking China’s ass?
COVID-19-related suits pending against China have so far been few - all private initiatives with little or no leverage at all.
As their governments prefer to just sit this pandemic out, lawyers and lawyers’ groups all over the world should unite and use “lawfare” to thwart China’s hegemonic intentions which are bankrolled by its gazillions in wealth scattered around the globe.
Lawyers worth their salt know that freezing those assets within their courts’ respective jurisdictions is the best way to go.
But no one has seen that happening.
Has China got the whole world by its balls already?

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines




Big Mac Index
Measures purchasing power parity
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday January 8, 2022
First published in Bangkok Post, Friday January 7, 2022

Re: "Prizes for fries", in Bangkok Post PostBag, January 4, 2022
S Tsow posits that economists might be able to forego actual research and instead visit McDonald's and price the fries in order to determine a nation's economic status.
The Economist magazine is way ahead of him having established the Big Mac Index in 1986.
From the Wikipedia entry: The Big Mac Index is a price index published by The Economist as an informal way of measuring the purchasing power parity (PPP) between two currencies and provides a test of the extent to which market exchange rates result in goods costing the same in different countries.
It "seeks to make exchange-rate theory a bit more digestible".

Mike Newman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Economic growth in Thailand
Measured by size of McDonald's french Fries
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 January 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 5 January 2022

Re: "Large-size fries back on the menu", in Bangkok Post Business, Friday December 31, 2021.
This article gives us a new standard to measure the economic status of any nation. No longer will economists have to analyse reams of data to figure out where a nation stands in the world economy.
All they'll have to do is visit their nearest McDonald's outlet and examine the size of its french fries.
"Show me the size of your fries."
It would make a great motto for economists.

S.Tsow,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Business as usual for China
With convicted former Malaysian PM
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday January 6, 2022

We read in The Southeast Asian Times article ' China invites convicted felon former Malaysian PM Najib Razak to World China Economic Forum ( WCEF ) ' ( 4 Jan. 2022) that the former rogue leader was " a guest speaker " at that Forum held in Kuala Lumpur last week.
A former Malaysian diplomat described the invitation " an insult to the nation ", saying " By giving him an international platform China hopes to redeem the man and whitewash his criminality".
The invitation is most certainly an insult to the nation when only last month the Malaysian Court of Appeal upheld the High Court verdict that found Razak guilty as charged of criminal breach of trust and sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
But is anybody really surprised by China's action when it is a well known fact that China has no qualms about embracing and doing business as usual with fully fledged brutal dictators around the world ?
By contrast Najib Razak is just a big crook.

Rajend naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict
Harrasses libraries to withdraw subversive books
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday January 5, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday January 4, 2022

The removal of books with “subversive content” from Philippines state university libraries confirms the nation’s status as an underdeveloped country.
In fact, it lowers the level of our civilization.
These so-called subversive books, alongside books on anti-communism and the local anti-communist movement in libraries, would have been a good sign of cultural maturity.
University libraries must have an ample collection of books of various persuasions and viewpoints for use by students and teachers for their academic needs.
This will enrich the capability of our scholars to come out with more objective, meaningful, and relevant research.
Reportedly, it was the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) through the military that “harassed” library personnel to withdraw these “subversive” materials more specifically, books authored by Jose Ma. Sison and the National Democratic Front.
If the NTF-Elcac believes that the government has the right formula for national development, it should not be afraid of books that are accessible only to those in the academe being in university libraries.
If these agents of the state and preservers of the status quo believe that what they are doing is for the good of the country, then they should not be threatened by documents that present alternative socio-political-economic analyses and alternative programs for the people’s welfare and the nation’s development.
In fact, these kinds of books should be read by more people outside of the academe, especially the rabid anti-communists, so they will know what communism is all about its history, meaning, and the personalities behind it and they will have an educated understanding of why they are against it.
The government should be happy that groups and individuals are condemning the withdrawal of the “subversive” books. It means there are still Filipinos who value culture and reading. Instead of withdrawing books from state university libraries, the government should focus on the more basic problem of improving literacy among our people.

Julie L. Po,
Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino,
Manila,
Philippines



It is not widely known that AsreaZeneca vaccine
Is sold at cost US$4
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 4, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday January 3, 2022

Re: "Who Invented Covid-19 Vaccines? Drugmakers Battle Over Patents", in Bangkok Post Business, December 31.
In the 1940s, the research team in Oxford that researched and produced penicillin went against all advice and did not patent it, saying it was "for the good of mankind".
Instead they gave it to five large US companies to work on; one of these became Pfizer.
Later on these same companies would not pass on the production details as they said it was proprietary commercial information.
Eighty years on, again at Oxford, AstraZeneca announced it would not profit from a pandemic and all its Covid vaccines are, at present, "at cost", about US$4 (132 baht).
This is not widely known.
All the other manufacturers are making huge profits, charging $20 up and squabbling among themselves about patents' worth, apparently billions of dollars.
It saddens me that the profit motive still seems to be the only consideration.
Profit is important, but not the only driver of progress.

Darhid Pattaya,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Papua New Guinea parliamentarians
Love money more than justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday January 3, 2022
First published in the National, Thursday December 30, 2021

The people of Papua New Guinea have been longing and looking for justice leadership for the last 40 years.
Only two or three leaders who truly love justice are struggling to restore and protect justice, but to no avail.
Almost all parliamentarians love money more than justice.
They continue to lust after desires of the flesh and cannot lead from the front.
We know that leaders are divinely assigned to be the shepherds of their people.
Instead, they continue to abuse the people’s office and the leadership roles bestowed upon them through the ballot papers every five years.
They knowingly mislead their people to slavery and guide to live in bondage.
Their primary role of serving the people’s basic needs disappears when they enter the house of the people.
The law and the leadership code for the elected leaders is seen to be shelved under the cupboard collecting dust.
Member's of Parliament first priority appears to be accumulating wealth for themselves.
Where is justice?
The law enforcement agencies and the heads of statutory bodies are either compromised or threatened to stand up against such wrongdoings.
These key sectors are very well aware of this corrupt strategy, but they cannot come out and speak the truth because they are afraid of losing their jobs.
The time to elect leaders to lead us for the next five years is just around the corner, so the citizens of this country should stand firm and elect leaders who love justice more than money.
Fight corruption.

JML,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



The year 2021 has been a tumultuous one
Filled with challenges.
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday January 2, 2022
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday December 31, 2021

The Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, famously said: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
As we leave 2021, let us reflect on the disastrous events as a reminder to increase our resolve for mitigation or prevention.
The year 2021 has been a tumultuous one filled with challenges.
Covid-19 continues to disrupt our daily lives as new variants manifest themselves globally. It changed the way we live, it affects every level of society and takes a toll on the economy.
Malaysia was initially commended for the steps she took to contain the pandemic.
Treat each other well with humility and respect to reflect true nobility
Unfortunately, for reasons best known to those in the corridors of power, we let our guard down so much so that the pandemic reached unprecedented levels, recording high death and infection rates.
Just as we grapple with the pandemic, extreme weather caused by a tropical depression resulted in the flood disaster in several states leading to a number of deaths.
To the families of the victims, Ikatan extends our heartfelt condolences.
We also extend our sympathies to the thousands of families that have been displaced.
While the flood victims were seriously traumatised, the rakyat by and large note with frustration that the action by the powers that be fell short of expectations and rescue efforts had shortcomings.
The disaster in Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam, Selangor, and elsewhere showed rescue efforts were badly managed.
It has opened our eyes to agencies that were initially not fully prepared in dealing with the floods.
The coordination effort could have been better.
Indeed, the impacts of climate change have been made worse when coupled with disasters stemming from man-made actions such as indiscriminate development, encroachment into environmentally sensitive areas and overdevelopment that had benefited a few but had adversely impacted the masses.
The government and development players must be fully committed to a precautionary approach to development in order to protect and cushion the impacts of disasters such as floods, landslides and land subsidence upon our communities.
If there is one thing that reflects the true spirit of Malaysia, it is the solidarity among the rakyat in times of crisis.
The front-liners of Covid-19, particularly healthcare staff and the volunteers worked tirelessly round the clock.
Specific mention must be made of the numerous volunteers from non-governmental organisations, or as individuals who braved the dangers to help those affected by the Movement Control Order and also the flood victims.
They are our unsung heroes.
The Fire and Rescue Department personnel, the armed forces and the police also did their part.
The ordinary Malaysians have come together during the flood crisis to help each other not blinded by race and religion.
It was so heartening to see Malaysians united to help fellow Malaysians in the true spirit of voluntarism and "Keluarga Malaysia".
It shows that at heart, we are all Malaysians, caring, compassionate and colour blind as we have strived to be.
The recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the floods will take time before we resume our normal lives.
We have to be strong to wade the metaphoric tide.
Let us take this opportunity for our leaders and citizens to self-reflect. We live to learn well, and learn to live well.
We shall never carry into 2022 the mistakes of the past.
Life can only be understood backwords; but it must be lived forwards.
With that let us usher in the new year.

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

 

 

Thai dreaming 2022
Marijuana-laced Covid-19 vaccine
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday January 1, 2022
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 31, 2021

Re: "There have probably been better years", in Bangkok Post PostScript, December 26, 2021
I must add two more guffaws to Roger Crutchley's list.
First, the scientists at a prestigious Thai university will successfully develop their world-famous marijuana-laced Covid vaccine.
They claim that a high dose of this revolutionary vaccine will do what Astra, Pfizer, and Moderna, and other vaccines have failed to do.
When the sky is clear for the arrival of accidental tourists and the porous Thai border opens for rich infiltrators and legal immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, this vaccine will be made available to the new arrivals for free.
Also, they will not be asked for any insurance or proof of money in a bank account.
Secondly, a long-pending reform will happen.
The educational system will go on a new trajectory.
In the post-Covid era, schools, colleges, and universities will not require uniforms. In addition, students will be allowed to bring their portable devices and mobile phones into their classrooms.
They will be also be allowed to come to class twice a week. Thanks to Covid, freedom at last. Happy New Year.

Kuldeep Nagi.
Bangkok,
Thailand



Did Filipino nationalist Jose Rizal re-embrace
His Catholic faith
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 December 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 30 December 2021

With the advent of historical revisionism, Filipinos are confronted with so many doubts and questions.
Generations new and old are in constant struggle as to who holds the truth.
Every historical fact becomes a matter of debate.
Today, as we commemorate his death anniversary, let us reflect on the following what-ifs and questions about Jose Rizal.
If Rizal did not die for our country on December 30, 1896, and he succeeded as a volunteer doctor in Cuba, would the Philippines still have gained independence from Spain?
If Rizal agreed to the Katipunan’s plan to rescue him from execution, would he have become a key figure in Philippine history?
If Rizal’s son survived, what could have happened both to father and son?
If Rizal did not die early, would he have become the President of the Philippines?
Rizal’s retraction is still a matter of debate.
If it’s true that he retracted, does that mean Rizal has no intellectual integrity?
Rizal’s marriage to Josephine Bracken is still in question.
Their marriage certificate was never produced.
If they were indeed married, does that mean Rizal re-embraced his Catholic faith?
Many Filipinos believe that Rizal wanted the Philippines to remain a province of Mother Spain.
If he didn’t die in 1896, would he have supported Philippine independence in 1898?
If Rizal is still alive today, do you think he can win as the president of the Republic of the Philippines?
Lastly, if we fulfill Rizal’s request that we don’t celebrate his death anniversary, how can we promote the life and legacy of the country’s foremost hero?

Rado Gatchalian,
Order of the Knights of Rizal,
Sydney,
Australia



Neither riches nor poverty
Are a clear indicator of spirituality
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 30, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post. Tuesday December 28, 2021

Re: "Power and the glory", Bangkok Post, PostBag, December 26, 2021
Ye Olde Theologian mentioned that early Christianity glorified poverty but such theology is not quite accurate.
The New Testament does warn against the love of money, but not money itself.
Most folk quote this wrongly. Jesus said no man can serve both God and mammon.
Helping the poor and being generous to those in need is a virtue.
In days of yore, monks took a vow of poverty to live simply and to focus on ministry.
Taking the biblical teachings in context, nowhere is poverty encouraged.
It would be more accurate to say that Christianity teaches empathy for the poor.
Balance this with the teaching that God blesses those who serve and obey, and the fact that the vast majority who embrace the Christian faith are uplifted economically anywhere on the planet, it would be safe to say that neither riches nor poverty are a clear indicator of spirituality.

Lawrence Seow,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Cardinal Charles Bo eats cake
With Myanmar General Min Aung Hlaing
The Southeast Asian Times. Wednesday 29 December 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 28 December 2021

Re: "Uproar over cardinal's cake photo", in Bangkok Post Saturday December 25, 2021
The photograph, published in newspapers and online media around the world, of Myanmar Roman Catholic Cardinal Charles Bo holding hands with Min Aung Hlaing as they cut a Christmas cake, is horrifying.
The report included the explanation that they were meeting to "talk about peaceful and prosperous affairs".
This defies credibility. What "peaceful and prosperous affairs" exist today in Myanmar, where we read that the Tatmadaw has attacked and killed numerous civilians in an attack on the Karen in Myanmar, burning their bodies in an attempt to hide the atrocity?
You have to go back to Pope Pious XII in the 1940s to find equal acts of pious (pun intended) hypocrisy.
Before he was elected pope he was the Cardinal Secretary of State to Germany when the Vatican and Germany signed the "Reichskonkordat", which allowed the Vatican to sit back and watch Germany kill 6 million Jews.
The Catholic Church has made many attempts to rehabilitate this notorious prelate, saying he was working behind the scenes to save Jews.
But it doesn't wash.
Neither does Cardinal Bo's talk of peaceful and prosperous affairs.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Fijian scholar against tyranny of military dictatorship in Fiji
Dies in exile in Australia on Christmas day
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 28, 2021

Australian National University (ANU) academic emeritus Professor Brij Lal, Fiji's preeminent historian and recipient of Order of Australia medal, died in exile on Christmas day without being able to visit his home country and his friends and family because he was banned in 2009 from returning to his birth country by the post 2006 coup rogue rulers in Fiji.
His " crime" was that he had the courage of his conviction to speak out against the coup in defense of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms for the people of Fiji against the tyranny of military dictatorship by the post coup political rulers in Fiji.
A grave injustice was done to this true son of Fiji by the ruthless post coup power grabbers.
Many people have since the ban was imposed spoken up for the cruel and inhumane ban to be uplift particularly after Fiji's purported return to " true democracy " following the first post coup elections of 2014.
But it was all in vain.
The rulers ignored the calls for the lifting of the ban making bogus claims about the professor being a threat to national security , peace and public order blah blah blah.
Those responsible must hang their heads in shame at the appalling and undignified way they treated this most gentle, peaceful, humble and brilliant Fijian scholar.
As a keen follower of Fiji politics I am not aware of any person from within the ranks of the governing party in Fiji voicing an objection to Professor Brij Lal's treatment?
Shows the moral cowardice of the mob who have aligned themselves to the twin rulers of Fiji : Frank Bainimarama the coup leader turned prime minister and Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, the Attorney-General and " Minister for Everything".
It's a national disgrace.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Thai sex workers
Deserve assistance from the state
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 27, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 24, 2021

Re: "'High heels mob' wants wage relief from state," in Bangkok Post Thursday December 23, 2021
It is encouraging to see another group of informed Thai citizens peacefully protesting for justice.
Thailand's famous sex workers are yet another group who suffer the real harm that comes from bad policy leading to unjust law at the behest of hypocritical social values.
The men with power and money want to buy sex cheap by exploiting the poor, but at the same time want to pretend to be against such behaviour.
Their work should be legal and respected as any other labour freely chosen, from lawyering and cooking to engineering and teaching.
They should be paying taxes.
And in hard times, they deserve the same assistance from the state as any other group of Thai citizens.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Removal of Pillar of shame sculpture from Hong Kong
Removes memory of Tiananmen massacre from Beijing
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 December 2021

It is hardly surprising to learn from the Southeast Asian Times article ' Tiananmen Square massacre enshrined in Pillar of Shame sculpture removed from Hong Kong ' ( December 24,2021) that was done in the stealth of night at the University of Hong Kong where the sculpture stood for over two decades as a remainder of the evil deed of the Chinese Communist State against its own people.
The sculpture was like holding a mirror to Chinese state fascism.
The removal of the sculpture under fictitious pretexts is but further proof of the Chinese communist takeover of control in Hong Kong and the obliteration of Hong Kong's independence, democracy and freedom.
The memory of the Tiananmen massacre has long been deliberately erased in mainland China by the communist state.
The removal of the Hong Kong sculpture is an extension of that same Chinese State design to erase public memory of its dark past and to distort an integral part of China's history.
The removal of the sculpture compounds the shame.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia

 

 

Christmas will not be very merry
In Thailand for a long time to come
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 December 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 24 December 2021

Re: "Covid policy flip flops," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday December 22, 2021,
While I agree that the Bangkok Post made a number of key points regarding the government's unreliability on Covid-19 policy in the face of new Covid variants,
I commend the prime minister for a sincere attempt at rebooting tourism in a Covid-19 world with Test & Go.
Sadly, this virus will continue until a major medical advance is made.
Covid-19 is here to stay, and Thailand's economic future will probably take decades to recover because our vaccines have proven too weak to stop Covid-19.
For Thailand, barring a major medical advance, this means decades of financial gloom and no matter who the prime minister is, it will probably take several decades to undo the tourist industry carnage and national financial damage.
Sorry, Thailand: Christmas will not be very merry for a long time to come.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



 

Call for Human Rights
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 December 2021
First published in the National, Tuesday 21 December 2021

The recent eviction exercises carried out in Kamkumung settlement, Lae, Morobe and Garden Hills settlement in Port Moresby are a direct violation of human rights.
I urge the Ombudsman Commission, non-government organisations and relevant government authorities to ensure the conduct of police during the eviction exercises is investigated.
I see that our justice system is not fair anymore.
Evictions and abuse of human rights in Papua New Guinea reflects a lack of political will on the part of the Government to promote and protect the rights of the people.
The Government has not established a human rights protection institution and the people continue to become victims of human rights abuse.
Set up a human rights institution in PNG to deal with human rights issues.

Jonathan Dege,
Eastern Highlands,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Communist China clones
Political order in Hong Kong
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 December 2021

The recent Hong Kong election merely confirms what keen Hong Kong watchers have known all along : that Communist China has cloned its political order in Hong Kong.
That political order has scant regard for human rights and democratic freedoms such as freedom of expression and a free press.
The people elected with Beijing's prior approval are there to do Beijing's biddings, not to serve the best interest of the people of Hong Kong. But is anybody really surprised that the Chinese State has gone back on its word to arbitrarily imposed its sway over Kong Kong even after having pledged to uphold Hong Kong's long standing democratic political culture at the time of the handover of the former British colony?
Nobody should be.
The Chinese State has a long history of imposing its political will on different people and even its own.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



ASEAN has failed
To uphold human rights and freedoms
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 December 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 December 2021

Re: "Implications of Blinken's aborted visit", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, December 17.
I think it is the responsibility of Asean to push for democracy in Myanmar and stop the appeasement of Cambodia.
Yes, there is no doubt the USA will continue to support democracy and human rights in Myanmar but reinforcing this message across the block is not the responsibility of the USA alone.
Asean has miserably failed in its collective responsibility to uphold human rights and freedoms.
Some Thai policy elites will perceive Mr Blinken's missed visit as a snub to Thailand.
But in reality, Thailand is not very different from its neighbours and the collective ideology of Asean is also no different from China.
As long as the military has the upper hand in governance, democracy will remain a pipe dream.
Mr Blinken's visit to the region is too little too late to help Myanmar.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

The disparity of wealth distribution between Thailand's
Rich and poor is well documented
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 December 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 19 December 2021

The sheer unmitigated vulgarity of some Thai television shows astounds me.
Tonight we were enjoying a casual dinner in front of the television when Channel 3's The Red Ribbon came on.
Each episode of this programme is a tour of the house perhaps "estate" is a better word and possessions of Thailand's oligarchic plutocrats, in which they display their obscene wealth for all to see.
Their luxurious homes, extensive manicured gardens, the swimming pools, jacuzzies and spas, their antiques, their Parisian and Italian designer clothes and extensive shoe collections some outdoing Imelda Marcos, their million-baht carp fish collections and other exotic pets, or their garages full of priceless antique or top-of-the-market imported luxury cars, we get to see these, and more.
The disparity of wealth distribution between Thailand's rich and poor is well documented.
The Credit Suisse Research Institute's "Global Wealth Report 2018", showed Thailand had the widest income inequality in Asean.
An earlier report showed that 1 percent of Thais owned 58 percent of the country's wealth, putting Thailand third behind Russia in first place and India in second place.
Other reports differ, but all of them show the huge chasm between the few rich and the many poor in Thailand.
I am puzzled as to the target market of this ostentatious programme.
It it aimed at their fellow plutocrats, with the sub-theme : "Ya, ya, I am richer than you"?
Or is it aimed at the humble rice farmers sitting on the bare boards of their humble homes, with the message: "Know your place, peasant; don't upset the system."

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Call for reduction
In population growth
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 December 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday December 19, 2021

The COP-26 climate control meeting failed to produce the consensus needed to meet the targets on fossil fuel limits and may not provide the solution.
To fill the gap, another approach would be to promote a reduction in population growth.
This would result in consuming less foods, cars, clothes, plastic waste, electricity and more.
To achieve a reduced birth rate, the generally accepted method involves the increased promotion of contraceptives at lower or no cost.
Second is to increase awareness of the subject.
This simple, two-pronged approach could be implemented at a fraction of the cost of the other proposals.

Richard Bryant,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thai minister admits land for industrial park project
Resold by relatives at double to triple price
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday December 19, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 17, 2021

Re: "The Chana Hustle," in Bangkok Post, Dec 12, 2021
I fully agree that the Chana industrial park project in Songkhla smells like rotten fish. Consider:
How good can the judgment of the minister involved be when he smuggled "flour" into Australia, couldn't prove to Aussie customs that the powder wasn't heroin, lied to the court by confessing to smuggling heroin but served four years in Parklea Prison for it?
The Chana developer's holding a public hearing online when most Songkhla locals aren't internet literate
Deputy Interior Minister Nipon Boonyamanee, key policymaker behind this project, admits that his relatives gathered and resold land for this project at double to triple the amounts paid just a month earlier. No prizes for guessing where they got their inside information from.
Last December, Capt Thamanat signed an MOU with the Chana Rak Thin group. He should live up to it, suspend the project, hold a public hearing in person (with social distancing) near the proposed site, and have an organisation acceptable to both parties conduct an SEA.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Supreme Court of the Philippines
Let Marcos Jr. off the hook
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 18, 2021
First published in Philippine Inquirer December 14, 2021

We agree with letter-writer Romano Montenegro in Philippine Inquirer December 9, 2021 that the Court of Appeals erred horrendously in deleting the imprisonment in the conviction of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and imposing only the fines, thereby making that case look like a “jaywalking” violation.
What were those Court of Appeals justices thinking?
They owe the Filipino people an explanation.
A Google search yielded their names: Gloria Paras, then 3rd division chairperson and writer of that 1997 decision, with Lourdes Tayao-Jaguros and Oswaldo Agcaoili concurring.
Could they not read the law where any lawyer or layman could see that both imprisonment and fine should be imposed for any conviction under the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977?
The Supreme Court likewise let Marcos Jr. off the hook so easily by refusing to see how the Court of Appeals screwed the Filipino people over.
It allowed the sudden withdrawal of Marcos Jr.’s submission without any consequence never mind the travesty of justice that appeared on the face of his appeal.
Without that verdict of imprisonment, voters who were polled in the latest surveys must have thought the anti-Marcos groups are just making a mountain out of a molehill.

Yvette San Luis,
Manila,
Philippines



Manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles
Outsourced to Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday October 17, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday December 16, 2021

Re: "Village chief's fruitless fight for justice", Opinion, Bangkok Post December 15, 2021
I am constantly amazed at the business culture here and how the quest for profits overrides common sense and decency.
The fact that the first environmental civil lawsuit in Thailand has yet to be resolved and adjudicated in a decade speaks volumes about politicians and officials' claims to be good stewards of the nation.
More effort and resources are spent over frivolous claims of verbal defamation than directed towards actual actions that cause true physical harm through commercial pollution.
Much of the industrial activity, such as making batteries for electric vehicles, is outsourced here not for the stellar performance of Thai workers, but because of the poor performance of environmental protection guidelines and weak enforcement.
What good is business and jobs if the environment and people are sacrificed in the process?

Darius Hober,
Bangkok Post,
Thailand



Welcome to the real world
Of third world politics
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 16 2021

I know the news report ' Thai MP holds ministerial position despite drug trafficking conviction and imprisonment in Australia ' in The Southeast Asian Times of 12 December is meant to shock us because it is so patently wrong and absurd for a personal with such a background to become a government minister in a democracy.
But to tell you the truth I am not shocked or surprised.
I know for a fact that men who committed treason by carrying out military coups against democratically elected governments have subsequently gone on to install themselves as prime ministers.
Need I provide examples?
And, what's more mind boggling is how the international community after expressing initial indignation at the rape of democracy go on to accept the perpetrators as respectable leaders of their country and return to business as usual with them because it is politically expedient.
So at one level there is nothing particularly absurd about the Thai appointment of a convicted drug dealer as a government minister.
Welcome to the real world of third world politics.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Call for Catholic church to convert
The hearts and minds of Filipinos to the Gospel
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday December 15, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, December 10, 2021

Randy David argues that the almost magical attraction felt by many Filipinos to Duterte’s “charisma” should not be attributed to ignorance and lack of reasoning ability in “Charisma and Rodrigo Duterte,” November 28, 2021.
Competence and charisma can overturn conventional standards when voters choose their leaders.
From a sociological perspective, the majority of the citizenry can be mesmerized by a charismatic, even if corrupt and incompetent, leader whose unconventional, irreverent, and narcissistic ways appeal to them.
This can be traced to growing anti-elitist sentiments and a profound longing for change ignited by deep frustrations over the broken promises by past leaders.
But why is this “charisma,” which is illusory and mostly contrived thanks to mass media, seemingly impervious to countercultural and constructive influences from supposedly enlightened institutions of society such as the church, schools, and media?
These watchdogs of morality and civility are expected to advance life-giving values and neutralize the corrosive effects of iniquitous and death-dealing systems.
Why have they failed to deliver?
As a Catholic, I have always wished that our religious institution would finally wake up to its general ineffectiveness to convert the hearts and minds of Filipinos to the Gospel values that ground its existence and mission.
That we are the only Catholic nation in Asia and yet the most corrupt testifies to this failure.
Understandably, the Catholic Church, as a human organization, has had to deal with its own weaknesses and internal issues since its founding, including endemic clericalism and even corruption.
And to be sure, many complex factors have contributed to our society’s disintegration.
But think of what the Church can do to combat the corruption, dishonest self-promotion, lying, killing, and stealing perpetrated by evil men and politicians in our society.
The Church can reach out to all its members through its extensive network of local dioceses, parishes, and affiliated organizations.
It can match the geographical reach of even the most well-entrenched political dynasties.
It can effectively send out its messages of repentance, moral regeneration, and spiritual salvation, which have reverberated throughout human history and enabled the transformation of individual lives and communities.
The 2022 elections will be a watershed moment in our country’s history.
It has galvanized powerful forces of tyranny, deception, and plunder never before seen in our history.
We need contradictory forces to stop them in their tracks.
I hope the Catholic Church will choose to wield its manifest influence more resolutely to help its members discern authentic from fake charismatic leaders, separate the grain from the chaff among all the candidates, and direct the outcome of this political exercise toward real social, economic, and political changes that rest on humane and Christian foundations.

Donato Soliven,
Manila,
Phiippines




Court of Appeals ignored the Tax law
In the Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. tax evasion case
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 14, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday November 9, 2021

Practically all lawyers, law professors, and students agree that it was wrong for the Court of Appeals after deciding to affirm the conviction of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. by the Regional Trial Court in the tax evasion cases under the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977 - to delete the prison terms altogether and retain only the piddling fines imposed therein.
The facts were undisputed.
Presidential Decree No. 1158 (the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977) explicitly provided for both imprisonment and fine as the mandatory penalty for violation of any of its provisions.
No discretion is allowed the court to impose only one or the other.
The Court of Appeals justices were not ignorant of that law - for reasons known only to them, they simply ignored the law.
It has given fillip to the argument that Marcos Jr.’s “conviction” was not that big a deal to serve as basis for the cancellation of his certificate of candidacy for the highest office of the land.
To paraphrase Marcos Jr.’s lawyer Estelito Mendoza: “What is clear and certainly beyond dispute is that the Court of Appeals decision has not found BBM to have committed a crime involving moral turpitude and no such inference can be made from (that) decision.”
This is said to be self-evident from the very fact that the Court of Appeals had totally junked the imprisonment meted out by the trial court.
When Marcos Jr. himself elevated that case to the Supreme Court in 1997, the matter was laid open for cursory examination and evaluation.
If the Court had only done that minimum degree of due diligence, it could have easily seen from the very bare allegations contained in the appeal how the Court of Appeals had gone rogue in its disposition of that case.
Despite Marcos Jr.’s withdrawal of that appeal in 2001 presumably for fear that he might get into more trouble, the high court could have held the Court of Appeals justices concerned to account for their temerity in making a mockery of the law. Mendoza would surely have shied away from relying on that unlawful aspect of the decision to boost his client’s defense.
Now, it has become his wrecking ball to demolish the case against Marcos Jr.
While the Supreme Court may have been barred by that withdrawal not to mention, “double jeopardy” from doing anything about the Court of Appeal’s scandalous decision, it cannot wash its hands of that mess.
Nothing stood in the way of citing the Court of Appeals justices concerned to show cause why no disciplinary action should be taken against them for that injudicious adventurism.
In failing to do so, the high court itself betrayed the trust the public reposed in the judicial system, which is supposed to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor.
If any credence is to be given the recent poll surveys among potential voters, the son who idolized his father the corrupt dictator the Filipino people kicked out of the country in 1986, along with his whole family, but bestowed by the high court in 2016 the “honor of a hero’s burial” is about to ascend to the same throne by “popular demand.”
Thanks to the Court Appeals and the Supreme Court for contributing a lot to this abomination.

Romanano M. Montenegro,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for United Nations Assembly to invoke
Responsibility to protect Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 December 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 11 December

Re: "Junta court hands Suu Kyi 4 years for incitement," in Bangkok Post 7 December 2021.
In my opinion rather than just reacting, the international community, including the UN, Asean, the UK, EU, China, US and others should take the following actions:
Mobilise the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with a motion to invoke a "responsibility to protect"; to protect the country's people from mass atrocity crimes committed by Myanmar's military; with the eventual outcome of a peacekeeping mission on the basis of the 2005 United Nations World Summit commitments.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) could then mandate the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to operationalise the initiative.
Hopefully, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decision would force an abstention vote from both China and Russia in the Security Council.
Strengthen, broaden and activate the wide array of sanctions already passed by bilateral and multilateral bodies and have these applied in a personalised manner to dependents of the senior Tatmadaw leadership, particularly in educational institutions overseas (where they are probably enrolled under assumed names).
Offer full diplomatic recognition to the National Unity Government NUG), which is the parallel government of opposition and provide civil, humanitarian and governance support within Myanmar..
Mobilise the Buddhist communities of Southeast Asia to challenge the monasteries of Buddhist monks in Myanmar, with links to the junta, to convince the leadership that the current time or circumstances are not "propitious" for undertaking violent actions against the people.

Joseph Mullen,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Fitting that former PM Najib Razak's guilty verdict
Upheld on International Anti-Corruption Day
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday December 12, 2021

It was most fitting that on International Anti-Corruption Day (9 December ) 2021, The Southeast Asian Times carried a headline report on the corruption case of former Malaysian PM Najib Razak ( ' Court of Appeal rejects claim that PM Najib Razak acted in national interest in misappropriation of state funds').
The Malaysian Court of Appeal made the absolutely right decision in upholding the High Court verdict that had found the former PM Najib Razak,67, guilty of Criminal Breach of Trust in the misappropriation of state funds.
The Court of Appeal correctly pointed out Razak's interest in the state funds went " beyond his public office' and that " Razak knew that funds deposited in his personal accounts were proceeds from unlawful activities".
Rejecting Razak's claim that his actions were in " the national interest" the court deemed it to be a " national embarrassment ".
It is mind boggling that the former PM should make such a perverse claim in his defence.
The court of appeal upheld the validity of the High Court " conviction in July 2021 on all seven charges and the 12 year jail sentence'.
The court decision should serve as a warning to all leaders that you can't use your position of power to engage in corrupt dealings and expect to get away with it.
The long arm of the law will eventually reach you as has happened in Razak's case. Justice was delayed but not denied. And, we must acknowledge the role PM Mahathir Mohammed played in ensuring justice was done.
He returned to politics after retirement on the platform to remove Razak his former protege from the high office of prime minister and to restore the public funds misappropriated by Razak.
Following his election in May 2018 as PM Mahathir Mohammed initiated " the declassification of the 1 Malaysia development Bhd (1MDB) audit report that
had been marked secret by the Najib Razak government under the Official
Secrets Act ".

Razak clearly intended to cover up his corruption with the devious manipulation of state institutions and mechanisms. But failed when he got booted out of power.
There is a cautionary tale in Najib Razak's disgraceful exit from power.

Rajend Naidu.
Sydney,
Australia



The King should be subject to criticism
Says the Thai King
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday December 11, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 10, 2021

Re: "Royal pardon for prisoners," in Bangkok Post, December 6, 2021
I'm glad that 138,175 inmates will have their sentences reduced due to royal pardons.
But in addition, there's another most meaningful way for us to show our love and appreciation of the late HM King Rama 9 - and he's specifically spelled out what he wishes done.
As the book King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective put it: "Thailand's law of lese-majeste has one very prominent critic: King Bhumibol.
In 2005 King Bhumibol used his annual televised birthday address to convey three concerns:
The king,' he said, 'is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism;
Charges against those accused of lese-majeste should be dropped, and those held in jail for lese-majeste should be released.
The use of the lese-majeste law ultimately damages the monarchy.'"
We've been using lese-majeste laws to muzzle critics even though such usage "ultimately damages the monarchy".
We should put King and country above our petty vested interests.
Let's drop charges and release prisoners in all lese-majeste cases each Father's Day.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Marcos Jr. campaigning for continuity
Of the Duterte brand of governance,
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday December 10, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday December 7 2021

Kudos to Richard Heydarian for reminding Filipino voters come May 2022 how this country has been “taken for a ride” by China, whose “pledges of investments” in return for President Duterte kissing President Xi Jinping’s ass have been more illusory than real “After Duterte: Avoiding China’s ‘pledge trap’,” November 30, 2021.
Heydarian noted, among others, that after all these years, “Mr. Duterte can’t pinpoint even a single major concession by China in the West Philippine Sea, where an armada of Chinese paramilitary vessels have been harassing Filipino troops and fishermen on a regular basis."
Neither can he point out any real big-ticket investment by his strategic patron.
In other words, for more than five years now, the cunning president of China has made a fool of our President, who for all his bravado and braggadocio, is really so naïve and clueless.
Compared with other Asian leaders who are standing their ground against China’s bullying, our President slavishly kowtows to China.
Just about the only thing Mr. Duterte can boast of as a direct result of his subservience to China is the fulfillment of its assurance that “China won’t allow his ouster” Inquirer.net, May 15, 2018.
So, after Mr. Duterte, what will happen next? “The next Philippines president will have to avoid the same strategic blunders,” Heydarian wrote.
But if poll surveys are to be believed, there’s a good chance presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos will make it to Malacañang.
And Marcos Jr. has been campaigning for “continuity” of the Duterte brand of governance, including the same stupidity vis-à-vis China.

Rey Chavez Escobar,
Manila,
Philippines



 

Aung San Sui Kyi trial and jail sentence
Is political persecution
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday December 9, 2021

The Aung San Sui Kyi trial and jail sentence is political persecution, pure and simple, the rogue Myanmar military junta grabbed power from her democratically elected government in a brutal military coup in February 2021.
The bogus politically motivated trial reminds me of what I read in the book, " Julian Assange : The Unauthorised Autobiography. "
The Wikileaks founder and editor wrote " It amazes me to think about how these guardians against 'offences' were themselves so offensive".
That is quite clearly the situation in Aung San Sui Kyi's trial.
It's no wonder there is all round condemnation of the trial and sentence against
Sui Kyi, including from the United Nations.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Hopefully the petitions to block
The Marcos presidential candidacy succeed
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday December 8, 2021

The news report ' Phillipines Electoral Commission receives two more petitions against Marcos presidential candidacy ' ( The Southeast asian Times 4 December ), " bringing the number of petitioners campaigning against the resurgence of the Marcos family to seven" would come as no surprise to people in the Phillipines and around the world who are familiar with the legacy of the corrupt and tyrannical Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship .
The last thing any clear thinking Filipino would want is another Marcos in power in the country and the potential return to the dark days of the Marcos era.
I hope for the sake of the people of the Phillipines that the petitions to block the Marcos presidential candidacy succeed.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 

Philippines Catholic church endorses Constitution values
In prayers for peaceful and honest elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday December 7, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday December 6, 2021

In preparation for the perennial challenges facing our political exercises, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has endorsed an intercessory and petitionary prayer for the May 9, 2022 national elections.
The prelates have asked their members to recite the prayer in all Sunday Masses. According to former CBCP president Archbishop Romulo Valles, the prayer takes off from the 16 values enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution.
It is also a moral compass directing voters to choose only those candidates who personify genuine filial fear of God and social charity toward the vulnerable and marginalized.
The Catholic Church has been praying for peaceful and honest elections for as long as we can remember.
But historical and deep-seated social injustices have remained largely unaddressed despite promises made by politicians during election campaigns.
So the question is: Beyond prayers and on-and-off advocacies for fair and just elections, what programs must we collectively and individually put in place to make our shared prayers for our benighted country more realizable?
I will continue to pray with the Church that we love, and join hands with all men and women of goodwill working so that the 2022 national elections will genuinely reflect both the will of the people and the will of the Lord who guides the destinies of nations.

Noel G. Asiones,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Thai in USA in 1960's civil rights protests
Free to make political comment
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday December 6, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday December 3, 2021

Re: "Still an outsider," in Bangkok Post, November 30, 2021
I beg to disagree with Khun Millie Tan, who says that a non-Thai should not comment on our politics despite that person's having a Thai wife and lived here for 18 years - unless he has Thai citizenship and can protest and argue like a Thai.
Studying in the US Deep South during the 1960s civil rights crisis, my letters to the editor were regularly published in the campus newspaper, and I always signed myself as coming from Thailand; I was the only Oriental on our picket line.
Never did anybody say that I should not comment.
I suggest that considering outside views can be highly beneficial because they give insights which those immersed in the hurly burly of daily activities may not see.
For example, my college roommate believed that his Southern Baptist god had created Caucasians to be superior to all other races; I hope that our daily interaction helped him see otherwise.
Or, on a national basis, why can some societies, like the Japanese or Singaporean, value and practise honesty and integrity in public life - while we Thais can give it only lip service?
Also, just as "No man is an island, entire of itself" (John Dunne), so no country is figuratively an island.
For example, the Myanmar Tatmadaw patterns itself after our military, and we seek more Covid-19 vaccines from the US.
To help others, or expect others to aid us, listening to their points of view is essential.
We should ask from non-Thais only that which we ask from all critics: be civil, constructive, and fact-based. Don't get personal.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Let the Morning Star fly
In West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 5, 2021
First published in the Malaysiakini, Wednesday December 1, 2021

Sixty years ago, on December 1, 1961, the West Papua national flag, the Morning Star, was raised for the first time on West Papua's soil. The flag represents Papuans' dreams for a Free West Papua.
Ever since the flag was first raised 60 years ago, the people of West Papua have continuously been denied their fundamental right to self-determination.
Numerous West Papuans have committed themselves to the unfinished battle for self-determination by a variety of actions, including the hoisting of the Morning Star flag.
Since Indonesia's takeover of West Papua, the Indonesian government has deemed hoisting the Morning Star flag as illegal, and anyone who does so is at risk of imprisonment and punishment by the authorities.
Despite constant harassment, the people of West Papua maintain the annual practice of raising the Morning Star flag on December 1.
Not long after the Morning Star flag was first raised in 1961, the Papuans' dream of a Free West Papua was crushed by the 1962 New York Agreement.
The agreement to hand over power of West Papua to Indonesia from the Dutch colonial government was part of the US Cold War plan to distance Indonesia from the Soviet Union's influence.
It is crucial to note that the agreement was signed by the Netherlands and Indonesia under the supervision of the United States and no representatives from the indigenous Papuan community were involved.
In 1969, the "Act of Free Choice" became the "Act of No Choice", with 1025 "representatives" being handpicked by the military to vote in a "referendum" held under the gunpoint of the Suharto dictatorship, formally annexing West Papua to Indonesia.
The annexation and colonisation of West Papua was the result of imperialist meddling to safeguard the international capital's interests in the resource-rich region.
Since Indonesia's annexation of West Papua, an estimated 500,000 Papuans have been slaughtered in their quest for self-rule by the oppressive Indonesian military.
The people of West Papua have undergone decades of violent subjugation and a fear-based society.
The Indonesian military and police have systematically suppressed Papuans by inciting racial sentiments.
West Papua has a long history of torture, extrajudicial murders, and forced relocation.
In 2019, a wave of huge demonstrations erupted in West Papua in reaction to police and racist right-wing mob assaults on Papuan students.
It was, however, greeted with another wave of brutal repression from the authorities.
Since the 1960s, the Indonesian government has acted as a protector of foreign capital's interests in West Papua. Freeport-McMoRan, a giant US mining firm, signed an agreement with the Indonesian government in 1967 to mine gold and copper in West Papua.
The extractive industries in the resource-rich region, which are supported by the repressive Indonesian military and imperialist powers, are not benefiting indigenous communities in West Papua and have left a lasting scar on them as a result of continuous land theft and systematic ethnic cleansing.
Numerous Papuans and Indonesians who backed West Papua's fight for self-determination have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, detentions, and prosecutions under Indonesia's oppressive laws throughout the years.
According to the Papuans Behind Bars, 2021 report, 418 individuals were arrested during a one year period from October 2020 to September 2021, with as many as 106 persons still detained, the majority of whom have been charged with treason by Indonesian authorities.
Despite living under oppressive circumstances, the Papuan people gathered 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for an independence referendum, which they presented to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization in 2017 and to the United Nations Human Rights Office in 2019.
Nonetheless, the Indonesian government is mostly rejecting the Papuan people's demand for a legitimate referendum separate from the 1969 "Act of No Choice".
On this historic 60th anniversary of the raising of the Morning Star flag, we would like to reiterate our support for the struggle for self-determination of the people of West Papua.
We urge the Indonesian government to:
Recognise and respect the right to self-determination of the people of West Papua, including holding a referendum to decide on the future of West Papua;
Stop repression against the people of West Papua who are voicing out their demands for self-determination, including those who raise the Morning Star flag;
Free all political prisoners from West Papua and those who supported the Papuan cause for self-determination;
Protect the right to freedom of information, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of thought for the Papuan people;
Improve the lives of the people of West Papua by enhancing social protection;
End racism against the people of West Papua.
We also reject all forms of imperialists meddling in the process to achieve self-determination for the people of West Papua.
We call upon the people around the world to strengthen our solidarity with the struggle of the Papuan people for self-determination.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



West Papuans refer to the Act of Free Choice
As the Act of No Choice
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 November 2021

West Papua Council of Churches spokesperson, Dr Benny Giay has called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to visit Papua and see the prolonged suffering of Papuans for themselves ( The Southeast Asian Times 2 December ). Yes, the UN should do that because it is part of the problem of the bogus 1969 referundum and so called ' Act of Free Choice' which endorsed West Papua as Indonesian territory without genuine regard for the West Papuan peoples right to self-determination and the right to live with human dignity as a free people.
It's no wonder the West Papuans disparagingly refer to the Act of Free Choice as the " Act of No Choice"!
Why has the UN and the international community stood by and allowed the Indonesian colonial penetration in West Papua to continue unchecked for so long?
The prolonged suffering of the West Papuans should be a source of shame for the UN and the international community.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Why would anyone
Invest in a virtual asset
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 3, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday November 28, 2021

Re: "Embrace adventure with care", in Bangkok Post, Business, November 22, 2021
In reading about the brave new world of the digital universe, I really struggle to understand the concepts behind the buying and selling of virtual assets.
I conclude that buyers are essentially just purchasing tickets to play games, akin to buying the online versions of Boardwalk or Park Place in a virtual game of Monopoly.
Why would anyone pay good money for an imaginary asset?
Wake up people; you're not buying anything real.
Those who buy virtual land plots in Ekamai or elsewhere will never recover their "investment" unless they can find another sucker foolish enough to buy something of no intrinsic value.
It is highly likely that, sooner rather than later, the population of suckers willing to buy worthless "assets" will dry up and most investors will be left holding titles of no greater value than titles to the Brooklyn Bridge or swamp land in Florida.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Plight of Solomon Islanders worsens
Under PM Manasseh Sogavare
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday November 2, 2021

We read in the article ' Protests Rocks Solomon Islands: Here's What's Behind the Unrest' by The New York Time's Australia bureau reporter Yan Zhuang (Nov 26) that Malaita's premier Daniel Suidani, a vocal critic of the Solomon Islands prime minister, said " Over the last 20 years Manasseh Sogavare has been in power, the plight of Solomon Islanders has worsened whilst at the same time foreigners have reaped the best of the country's resources. People are not blind to this and do not want to be cheated anymore".
I wonder if that kind of perception of external influence in the Solomons has any bearing on other Pacific island countries as well?

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



Raymond Bonner's book "Waltzing with a Dictator"
An insight into Philippine presidency of Ferdinand Marcos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 1, 2021

In her most illuminating letter ' Ferdinand Bongbong Romualdez Marcos Jr. Fails to file income tax returns' in The Southeast Asian Times 29 November, Marua Margarita Aytona says " Marcos Jr. having enjoyed to the hilt the privileges of being the president's son, imagine what he might be capable of being and doing when he becomes president himself?".
I think there is very little to imagine.
The privileged son of a rogue president - which is what President Ferdinand Marcos was - is now himself aspiring to become president for one reason : to follow in his father's crooked footsteps.
See Raymond Bonner's book Waltzing with a Dictator for an insight into Ferdinand Marcos' corrupt, crooked, dictatorial two decade reign in power. Marcos Jr. knows only too well what plunder is possible as the holder of the most powerful office in the country. He has learned from a master Machiavellian politician, his father.
If the people of the Phillipines have not learned the hard lessons from one Marcos in power then they have only themselves to blame.
I only hope thinking Filipinos will pay heed to what someone like Marua Margarita Aytona says for the sake of good governance in the Philippines.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Ban on Amnesty International in Thailand
Guarantees votes for opposition candidates
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 30, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday November 28, 2021

Re: "Ex-red shirt boss seeks Amnesty ban", in Bangkok Post, November
23, 2021.
Regarding Seksakol Atthawong, an assistant minister at the Prime Minister's Office, who is campaigning to expel Amnesty International from Thailand ... is he serious?
Does he realise that worldwide Amnesty International has over 10,000,000 members, and over 150,000 members just in Germany?
Does he have any idea of what Amnesty International's objectives are, or what they have accomplished?
Should he succeed in his endeavour I can guarantee that in the next national election the opposition candidates will get millions more votes.

Johnny Waters,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Ferdinand Bongbong Romualdez Marcos Jr.
Fails to file income tax returns
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 29, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday November 22, 2021

The disqualification cases against Bongbong Marcos Jr. all boil down to his failure to file income tax returns for the years 1982 to 1985 and, naturally, failure to pay the taxes for those years when his father still ruled the country under martial law. What puzzles many is why he never bothered to do so given their family’s enormous wealth. Surely, the taxes supposedly due were just a drop in the bucket.
It’s pretty obvious, though. Hubris. Marcos Jr. must have really thought he and his family were so above the law that no one could tell them what to do and they could get away with any violation of the law.
At that time, he was not just a spoiled child (brat) who might be excused for lack of discernment. He was already an adult holding public office.
Marcos Jr. having enjoyed to the hilt the privilege of being the president’s son, imagine what he might be capable of being and doing when he becomes president himself!
And come to think of it, is it possible that his sister, now senator Imee Marcos, did not file any tax returns or pay any taxes during all those years, too?
Hubris runs in the entire family, right?

Marua Margarita Aytona,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Bougainville to wake up
To the Pacific Labour Scheme
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 28, 2021
First published in the National, 25 November 25, 2021

While many provinces and districts in the country are benefiting from the Pacific Labour Scheme to work in Australia and New Zealand, Bougainville is missing out in a big way.
Recently, Milne Bay’s Esa’ala sent 100 young men and women to pick fruits in Australia under the scheme.
This is a reflection of their hard working local member.
When will leaders in Bougainville wake up to create something better for young Bougainvilleans?
Bougainville’s internal revenue stands as one of the lowest in the country, yet our leaders are always good in talking and talking with nothing to show for.
According to the National Research Institute report on Bougainville’s income revenue, one of the recommendations was for Bougainville to create opportunities to send its young unemployed youths to join the scheme.
Who is going to implement this recommendation?
Why is the Bougainville Autonomous Government sleeping too much?
Why is the regional member for Bougainville sleeping too much?
When will Bougainville leaders start creating something better for Bougainvilleans to earn money to boost Bougainville’s revenue rather than depending on monies from the National Government?

Mason Jason,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Covid-19 not the main problem
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 27, 2021

The policymakers’ decision to cut the projected budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will impede progress efforts in the rural areas, particularly in the communist terrorist infiltrated areas.
We already saw the effect of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
We knew where the main roots of the insurgency came from.
We learned how to counter it, but still, those selfish lawmakers focused only on the COVID cases.
The COVID-19 in the Philippines started 2 years ago, but the insurgency which is hampering our country’s progress has been on-going for almost 5 decades.
From my point of view, the administration has already done its part.
Making health protocol guidelines, giving relief goods and assistance, and providing a vaccine for every Filipino.
The question is, did they consider this the main problem in this country?
How about those people who suffered from atrocities, extortion, harassment, and killings by the communist terrorist group? They are also our countrymen living in the far-flung areas who need help, attention, and support from the government to have a peaceful community. Don’t they deserve some assistance?
Let us be just and distribute the benefits and advancement of government projects to our fellow citizens.
They were the ones who had endured the most and required the greatest assistance.
They hope that legislators will put their political interests aside and focus on the Filipino people who have suffered for so long.

Cybi Aariv R. Manto,
Butuan City,
Agusan Del Norte.
Philippines



Beware of false prophets
In Philippine elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 November, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 24 November, 2021

Election season has begun. People have started going crazy, including so-called servants of God.
Guard against churches, ministers, pastors, and priests who barter their pulpits for “offerings” or donations from candidates who buy votes.
They are those who exploit their members, pray over “anointed ones” and raise their hands; those who solicit attention or are lured by political courting during elections.
They invite/allow candidates or politicians to their “prayer meetings” and sell their souls to the devil in exchange for political favors and pieces of silver.
Don’t believe their “hints” or endorsements.
They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The church’s role is to guide the flock toward being filled with the Holy Spirit and having the mind of God in electing the right leaders for the nation.
However, the church getting embroiled in politics or endorsing candidates is evil, because it always is apt to endorse not the will of God, but the parochial agenda of the politicizing church and personal interests of its false leaders - to the nation’s doom.
What does mobilizing “millions” of their cultic followers exactly mean to these wolves except to dictate upon the blind and muster votes to build political clout in the guise of religion or a morality movement?
Leave them alone and so be healed and truly saved - through Jesus Christ not religion..
For much of human history, religion may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessary?
Isn’t killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?” - George Washington.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…” - Matthew 7:15-16

Reni M. Valenuela,
Manila,
Philippines



China and Russia noticeable by their absence
At the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 25, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 24, 2021

Re: "Stop this fake news", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, November 15, 2021.
"A Reader" chastises the Bangkok Post newspaper for saying that the Chinese and Russian governments did not send delegates to recent the COP26 Climate Summit meeting in Glasgow.
Russia and China were about the only two major countries whose leaders did not attend the summit. Mr Biden, Mr Johnson and other world leaders were there. So why was not Mr Xi or Mr Putin?
Considering this was basically the "meeting of the century", as important as any in our lives, it says a lot that the leaders of these two countries, who are at the top of the world polluting totem pole, did not attend the summit.
The headline might have been misleading, but the fact remains that the leaders of China and Russia should have attended the summit. Its just as well that both countries sent no delegates to the COP26 meetings, considering that almost every other major country, including Thailand, did.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Unfitting for Philippines to ask China's permission
To enter territory that Philipines has sovereign rights to
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 November 2021

I am extremely dismayed over the news that Chinese vessels had once again blocked two Filipino registered boats that are destined to deliver supplies to our military personnel stationed in Ayungin Shoal.
These bullies really have no respect for international law.
It’s annoying how they accuse us of trespassing an area without having secured consent from their government.
Are they out of their mind?
It is indeed unfitting to be demanding any sort of permission to enter a territory that we have sovereign rights and jurisdiction to.
Nonetheless, it has given me little solace that the Department of Foreign Affairs, has at least conveyed the country’s condemnation of the incident to its counterpart in China.
Even if this type of protest is just always disregarded, still, it is the best thing to do and a manifest insistence of our rights towards something we are validly entitled to.

Nica Amorsolo
Rizal Technological University.
Manila,
Philippines




Coal sold as black gold
In US, China, Australia and India
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 23, 2021
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 18, 2021

Re: "The rich world's climate hypocrisy," Bangkok Post, Opinion, November Wednesday 17, 2021.
Well, blaming rich countries for the past and the present emissions will not solve any problems.
Yes, every country, including the US, China, Australia, and India where coal is used and sold as "black gold" will not stop using it.
It is quite possible that in a few years, in some cities in these countries people will not be able to see the sun.
But who cares about the polluted sky as long as we have our space station and thousands of satellites.
In every major economy, powerful corporate interests are clearly intertwined with political leadership.
The rich countries, Asean, or Thailand are no different.
Thailand only pays lip service to the environmental crisis.
Everything related to environmental degradation is swept under the rug of "sustainable development".
Sadly, the real change in environmental policies will only come when we are face to face with death.
Unless governments around the world respond to environmental catastrophe the way they are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, nothing much will change. Only urgent global action can avert this crisis, not green hypocrisy or dubious policies of sustainable development.
To many sceptics, the chants of "net-zero" target mean "do nothing".

Kulddep Nagi.
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Catholic church welcomes budget cut to National Task Force
To End Local Communist Armed Conflict

The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 22, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 17 November 2021

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) welcomes the decision of the Senate committee on finance to cut the 2022 budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) from P28 billion to P4 billion, and to reallocate the excess funds to the COVID-19 response.
However, P4 billion is still a very substantial amount for an agency that, since its existence, has espoused a culture of hatred and violence instead of a culture of dialogue and peace.
The NTF-Elcac has received billions of pesos in the wake of President Duterte’s unilateral termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 2017.
The government could have used these billions of pesos to address the basic needs of our people, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This also raises the issue of transparency as even the Commission on Audit has admitted having trouble auditing the expenses.
Contrary to its name, which is to end local armed conflicts, the NTF-Elcac has become a hindrance to the promise of peace.
The NTF-Elcac is now the critical weapon in the government’s total war against what it calls terrorists.
This total war relies on the use of violent means. Consequently, it only increases violations in human rights and international humanitarian law.
We are witnesses to the results of the government’s total war strategy as seen in the numerous killings, threats, harassment, bombings, and restriction of movement of farming and indigenous communities in remote rural areas.
A recent case was the aerial bombing in the Bukidnon hinterlands.
The NTF-Elcac has also become notorious for its rampant Red-tagging.
It is responsible for vilifying even church organizations, church leaders, and members.
It is also responsible for the withdrawal of the publications of the NDFP from several state universities, among them the printed agreements related to the peace talks.
Based on our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the PEPP believes that violence breeds injustice, which results in conflict.
This complicated conflict will not be solved by an all-out war, not even a counterinsurgency program with billions in budget, if the government does not address the roots that fan its flames.
Several personalities and groups have called for the task force’s abolition.
For us church leaders, the most viable option for a just and lasting peace is to forge a negotiated peace settlement coupled with meaningful social and economic reforms.
Principled peace negotiations also require much, much fewer funds and are less costly to life and limb, which would ultimately mean more funds for our people who are mired in hunger and poverty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
We thus affirm that a peace process that addresses social injustices is the will of God, and we will not stop working for it, starting with the call to resume formal peace talks between the government and the NDFP.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform
Archbishop Emeritus Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, cochair, PEPP/em>
Rt. Rev. Rex B. Reyes JR., cochair, PEPP
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Margiza, general secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Rev. Dr. Aldrin Penamora, director, justice, peace & reconciliation, PARC PCEC
Sr. Mary John D. Mananzan, OSB, OWGC-AMRSP-Women
BP Emetirus Deogracias S. Iñiquez Jr., DD, cochair, EBF




Call for Jesus Christ to be Head of State
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 November 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 18 November 2021

Papua New Guinea is the only country in the world where original King James Holy Bible is placed in heart of the legislative house of Parliament which confirms our identity as a Christian nation where God is our only source of life and all that we are blessed with.
With that being said, I strongly believe our country should make King Jesus, who is God, Christ and Holy Spirit, the head of state for the independent state of Papua New Guinea.
Because He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth and maker of angel and man.
Our Constitution was drafted based on the Bible and its principles and with the original King James Holy Bible in Parliament, to consolidate these godly acts, we must legally make King Jesus the head of state to fulfil the prophecies in the Bible that speaks about our country.
I am calling on all pastors, priests, laymen and Bible teachers to study the Scriptures and advise the Government on this spiritual development and well-being of our nation.
Make it happen for our spiritual benefit and good of our country.

Christopher W Taweg,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Shock to see due for redevelopment billboards
Installed around Manila's Arroceros Forest Park
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2o November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 November 2021

In May 2019, environmentalists heaved a sigh of relief after years of consistent threats of losing Manila’s last lung, the Arroceros Forest Park.
We were assured by the new city authorities that the forest will be preserved to help in the air quality of the city.
The Save Arroceros Movement, of which Pamanlahi is an active partner, has been zealously crusading for the park’s preservation.
Mayor Isko Moreno guaranteed not to touch the forest by signing Manila Ordinance No. 8607.
However, this July, we were stunned to see billboards installed around the forest announcing that it was due for “redevelopment.”
This move was made without due notice to the Save Arroceros Movement. Immediately, the Winner Foundation, the forest’s main steward and a partner of the City of Manila, sought an audience with the mayor’s office.
But it was for naught.
Today, it’s a shock to see that the forest has given way to a manicured theme park. In lieu of the felled trees, ornamental plants have been hurriedly planted to “landscape” what used to be a canopied forest, in time for the contractors’ deadline in the first week of December.

Norma G. Atienza,
Pamanlahi,
Manila,
Philippines




All things related to environmental degradation are swept
Under the rug of sustainable development in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 18 November 2021

Re: "The rich world's climate hypocrisy," Bangkok Post, Opinion, November 17, 2021
Well, blaming rich countries for the past and the present emissions will not solve any problems.
Yes, every country, including the US, China, Australia, and India where coal is used and sold as "black gold" will not stop using it.
It is quite possible that in a few years, in some cities in these countries people will not be able to see the sun.
But who cares about the polluted sky as long as we have our space station and thousands of satellites.
In every major economy, powerful corporate interests are clearly intertwined with political leadership.
The rich countries, Asean, or Thailand are no different.
Thailand only pays lip service to the environmental crisis.
Everything related to environmental degradation is swept under the rug of "sustainable development".
Sadly, the real change in environmental policies will only come when we are face to face with death.
Unless governments around the world respond to environmental catastrophe the way they are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, nothing much will change. Only urgent global action can avert this crisis, not green hypocrisy or dubious policies of sustainable development.
To many sceptics, the chants of "net-zero" target mean "do nothing".

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The claim that the Philippines Golden age
Occurred under the Marcos dictatorship is disputed
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 November 2021

Why do we keep saying “never again” to what the Marcoses have done to the Philippines and to the Filipino people?
As if the plunder has stopped, or that the corruption has ceased.
The plunder continues only the methodology and the maneuvers have changed. Plundered money buys sophistication.
It pays trolls.
It brokers Machiavellian alliances.
The right amount attracts the services of analysts, the military and the police, and behavioral scientists, including psychologists.
As a former lady president famously said: “Everyone has a price.”
The Marcoses have never admitted their guilt, notwithstanding convictions by several courts.
They have never apologized to their victims.
There has been no reparation for the wrong they have done. They have not returned the money they have stolen.
They continue to inflict harm on the country.
Isn’t enough enough?
The escape to Hawaii courtesy of the Reagan administration was only a comma, it did not put a period to the saga of evil that Ferdinand E. Marcos began when he succeeded in having his conviction for the murder of Julio Nalundasan overturned. His conviction for contempt, however, stayed.
Why are we wasting time and energy debating the “moral turpitude” of Bongbong Marcos?
What morals are we talking about?
A discussion on amorality might do some good, but a conversation on the morality of the Marcoses would serve no purpose.
They speak as if they were the country’s liberators even as their behavior betrays predatory habits.
What “golden age” are they talking about?
They lie through their teeth about their competence and accomplishments and urge the people to move on when, in fact, they constitute the main obstacle for the country to be able to move on.
What could moving on back to the Marcosian “golden age” mean?
To label the Marcos dictatorship as the country’s “golden age” is a brazen lie.
It’s sheer trollspeak and the height of revisionism.
We’re still paying for the debts of the late dictator, his widow and heirs, his cronies. And if plundered money would be allowed to determine the outcome of the coming elections, the next generation, and that after, would still be indebted.

Fr. Wilfredo Dulay,
Convener
Religious Discernment Group




Planet Earth will incur more environmental damage
While the deck chairs are being rearranged
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 16 November 2021

Re: "Nuclear power the answer", Bangkok Post, PostBag, 14 November 2021
At the risk of incurring the wrath of fellow environmentalists, I tend to agree with much of the unpalatable conclusion of "Climate Realist" that we must continue to invest prudently in nuclear power for a finite number of decades.
It's plain to see from the Glasgow climate conference that fossil fuel reduction targets are not going to be met by 2050, let alone 2030.
Renewables and other technological solutions are not sufficient to "break fossil fuels' back" in the short term.
Phasing out of subsidies and construction of coal-fired power plants are steps in the right direction, but politically-driven decision-making will inevitably impede progress in this regard.
The planet will incur even more damage while the "deck chairs" are being rearranged.
With all due respect to Angela Merkel, I think her knee-jerk decision after Fukushima to remove nuclear from Germany's energy mix was one of the few major policy mistakes of her distinguished tenure.
For all its flaws, nuclear power remains a necessary bridging option until irreversible momentum in favour of "green" energy is achieved within the next few decades and even more progress is made with hydrogen-based alternatives.

Another Realist,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Don't be surprised
If Philippines nomination to UN succeeds
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 November 2021

Stephen L. Monsanto’s vehement opposition to the nomination of President
Duterte’s spokesperson legal adviser Harry Rogue to the International
Law Commission is understandable ( Letter, The Southeast Asian Times
11/11).
Rogue’s track record in his own country according to Monsanto is appalling.
This is endorsed by the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific
( COLAP) who consider Rogue’s bid an unmitigated insult, “ disservice to all
the victims of human rights violations under the regime of President Duterte”.
Monsanto applauds COLAP for “ having the balls to call Rogue out publicly on his lack of personal integrity and shameless hypocrisy”.
I couldn’t agree more.
How can such a person - deemed by many Filipinos to be a “ Palace Pinocchio for his uncanny ability to twist the truth of almost everything “ aspire to be part of a prestigious UN affiliated body in Geneva?.
How indeed?
But let us not forget that it is not uncommon to find such types sitting pretty in such UN bodies.
I will be the least surprised if Rogue gets in despite the strong
opposition.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for nuclear power to avoid exceeding
1.5ºC rise in temperature before 2030
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 14 November 2021

Re: "Reducing emissions not so easy," in Bangkok Post Opinion, November 10, 2021
Your readers might have guessed the author of this article, Bjorn Lomberg, was once listed as one of "The 10 most respected global warming sceptics".
His book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, was criticised by the Union of Concerned Scientists as being "seriously flawed and failing to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis".
Like most climate crisis sceptics, Mr Lomberg first cites the obvious with which all can agree:
We haven't done enough and reducing emissions is not easy. His only solution: Ramp up research in new, cheaper low CO2 energy.
He seemingly ignores the fact that many renewable energy sources are already cost-competitive with fossil fuels, especially so if we factor in the price of carbon emissions, which we surely must do in the near future.
Unfortunately, because governments have failed to respond to the climate crisis in a timely manner, the global carbon emissions budget remaining before we breach the dangerous 1.5º Celsius temperature increase means that there must be a massive decommissioning of fossil fuel power stations before 2030.
Of the electricity generated globally today, over 63 percent comes from fossil fuels, with just over 10 percent coming from nuclear, 15.8 percent from hydro and the balance of some 10 percent from solar, wind and other renewables.
To avoid exceeding the world's carbon budget for a 1.5ºC temperature rise, we need to decommission a large portion of current base-load fossil fuel electricity production by 2030, while not building any new fossil fuel plants, and replace this firm capacity with power from low or zero carbon sources.
This simply cannot be achieved by solar and wind alone, leading us to the unpalatable conclusion that we must invest massively in nuclear power, as countries like France have already done.

Climate Realist,
Bangkok,
Thailand



State parties at COP26 Glasgow summit
Solicit climate change mitigation financing
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 November, 2021

President Joko Widodo’s claim at COP26 in Glasgow of success in the
reduction of forest and land fires, the plan to rehabilitate 600,000 hectares of mangrove forest by 2024 and the phasing out of coal fired power by 2040 for transition to renewal energy that was brought forward from 2056, was all “ empty talk” according to Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaign spokesperson M Iqbal Damanik ( ‘ The Southeast Asian Times 6 November).
Who should one believe?
I think I will go with the Greenpeace campaigner.
The environmentalist organisation has a better grasp of the ground realities in Indonesia from working with people at the grassroots level.
President Widodo’s claim strikes me as Indonesian State propaganda to
attract big time climate funding.
That is not an uncommon strategy employed successfully by other State
parties at the climate summit to solicit huge climate change mitigation
financing.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Average earth's temperature
Will start to increase by 1.5C in 2030
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday November 14, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 11, 2021

Re: "Don't climate blame", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, November 9, 2021
Kuldeep Nagi in "Don't climate blame" insists that "the US and European countries have been polluting the environment for more than a century", but China and India have only done so for decades.
So he basically implies in his letter that it is only reasonable for the US and Europe to do more stop climate change, than it is for China, India or other South Asian countries.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that if all countries do not do more now to fight climate change, the average temperature of the earth will start increasing by 1.5C starting in 2030, and irreversibly to 2C after that.
If anything, it is the countries of the southern hemisphere who should be doing more, given that global warming affects them most, what with the constant typhoons and floods we are now seeing here. So it was disappointing to see that China and even Russia did not send their leaders to the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow last week. Even Prayut went!
Mr Nagi ends his letter by saying that the "US must lead by its actions, not empty rhetoric", when it comes to environmental policies.
The reality though, is that "all" countries must lead by actions, and not empty rhetoric, when it comes to stopping global warming.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Investigation into Department of Health (DOH) expenditure
To be conducted by Philippines Office of the Ombudsman
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 13, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday November 12, 2021

Jake Maderazo wrote: “Please, senators and congressmen, file those charges ASAP in the DOJ, the court, Ombudsman and jail those Pharmally officers and their government accomplices who will be proven guilty” in Philippine Inquirer Tuesday November 9, 2021.
He noted as the “best development” the announcement of Ombudsman Samuel Martires that his office is already “conducting its own investigation on Pharmally transactions. This is the better and quicker way of putting to jail the perpetrators, if any.”
Honestly, we are not sure what rock Maderazo has been under and is now crawling out of.
His faith in the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the courts is simply astonishing.
Pharmally is just laughing at those charges because it has, not necessarily the best, but the most powerful defense lawyer in town: President Duterte, who can tell Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to go jump in the lake and Ombudsman Martires to go fly a kite!
Like dreams brought to the doorstep of Mona Lisa, any charges will “just lie there, and die there.”
And the courts, yeah right 20 years to come up with a final judgment, and the billions of money stolen all gone.
Never mind the investigation being conducted in the House of Representatives by the committee on “good government and public accountability”
What a joke!, which is all “in aid of corruption.”
The people are actually rooting for the Senate blue ribbon committee to keep on pressing for answers regarding the plunder of pandemic funds by Mr. Duterte’s friends.
Like the previous Senate investigation into the venalities of then presidential candidate Jojo Binay in 2016 which lasted all the way to near election day, the ongoing probe into Mr. Duterte’s alleged complicity in Pharmally’s shenanigans must be kept in the minds of the voters for as long as necessary, before his underlings do their dirty work of burying all evidence.

Ramon Norman Torrefranca,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

"While your hands are not helping in paddling
Do not drag the boat by putting your feet in the water"

The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 12, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday November 7, 2021

Re: "Consumer confidence growing amid recovery," Bangkok Post, Business, November 5, 2021.
The news report quoted the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) as saying that "its consumer confidence index rose to 43.9 in October, from 41.4 in September and 39.6 in August, hitting a five-month high, while business sentiment rose for the first time in seven months, boosted by a drop in new Covid-19 infections, the easing of the lockdown restrictions, and the country's reopening to fully vaccinated foreign tourists."
I welcome the report as good news indeed.
It indicates the government has been moving in the right direction. An ordinary citizen like me would do what we can to help support our country.
Yet the Bangkok Post editors seem to see the opposite, by again unreasonably condemning the situation by printing a cartoon on the opinion page the same day depicting a tiny "tourism industry" trying in vain to lift up the huge Thai economy which is being dragged by the much bigger Corona virus cell, with the economy nearly falling off a high cliff.
I would like to offer my advice by quoting a wise man's words well known in Thailand: "While your hands are not helping in paddling, do not drag the boat by putting your feet in the water".

Thanin Bumrungsap,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific oppose Philippines nomination
To United Nations International Law Commission
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 4 November 2021

The Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) has opposed the nomination of President Duterte’s spokesperson legal adviser Harry Roque to the International Law Commission (ILC), an adjunct to the United Nations whose function is to “initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its clarification.”
The multinational lawyers’ group considers Roque’s bid an unmitigated insult,“disservice to all the victims of human rights violations under the regime of President Duterte” (“Asia-Pacific lawyers’ group opposes nomination of Roque to UN commission,” Inquirer.net, October 31, 2021.
Roque, with his wife in tow, has been reported to be in New York for some time now to boost his chances for election to that 34-member commission this November.
He dreams of being among the eight lucky lawyers from the Asia-Pacific region to join the International Law Commission (ILC), for five years at Geneva, Switzerland, and ensconced among other legal luminaries from all over the globe in January 2023.
That trip is said to be “official business,” and so all expenses appurtenant to that “junket” are courtesy of Filipino taxpayers.
Why does Roque need to spend precious dollars to “campaign”?
Does he think the election by the United Nations General Assembly ay puedeng daanin sa pambobola tulad dito sa Pilipinas?
In his own country, the highest office he could ever hope to get “elected” to was as a “party list” representative, a merciful mechanism designed for the benefit of those who are generally deemed “unelectable.”
In the minds of many Filipinos, Roque has long earned the epithet “Palace Pinocchio” for his uncanny ability to twist the truth of almost everything that comes between his ears.
Consider the time he was bird-dogging China’s “creeping invasion” of swaths of West Philippine Sea (WPS) territories over which international law grants exclusive economic rights to the Philippines, which led him then to excoriate China as a “rogue state.”
But just when everyone thought his patriotism was beyond question, like the quintessential chameleon, he changed his color and is now virtually moonlighting as China’s mouthpiece, justifying its incursions into the West Philippine Sea as nothing but gestures of neighborly concern and friendliness.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if his colleagues in the International Law Commission (ILC) (should he get elected, God forbid) are laughing at the Philippines for having offered one who talks out of both sides of his mouth as its best candidate.
But more egregiously, while the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court (ILC) explicitly holds an offending head of state accountable despite the latter’s government’s “withdrawal” from that covenant if the offenses complained of occurred prior to such withdrawal, a view affirmed by the Philippine Supreme Court itself (G.R. No. 238875, March 16, 2021)
Roque went rogue with his own theatrical “dissent” from that unanimous decision. President Duterte should have fired him already for his incompetence and ignorance of international law, and for the embarrassing advice he was giving his boss all along.
How Roque got so drunk with his delusions and ambition for membership in a very prestigious United Nations body given his dubious claim to being an “international law expert” dishing out wishy-washy opinions, and the flippancy with which he regards the basic tenets of international law when they don’t suit his own selfish agenda, is beyond us. Kudos to the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) for having the balls to call Roque out publicly on his lack of personal integrity and shameless hypocrisy.

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines



Extravagance and self -aggrandisement are traits
Associated with leaders in poor developing countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 10, 2021

The Southeast Asian Times headline news report Vietnam’s Public Security Minister eats a steak at $1000 a bite at a London restaurant ‘( November 8), comes as no big surprise.
Extravagance and self-aggrandisement are traits frequently associated with the leaders in poor developing countries even as their own people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet.
Thus it is hardly surprising to hear Vietnamese Pham Viet Duc say “ Vietnamese are experiencing extreme hardship due to COVID-19, but officials are enjoying themselves like world-class celebrities “.
And, Vietnamese Tommy Lee summed it up quite succinctly by pointing out such practices by officials is “ not unusual” .
According to him “ they’ve always spent their money this way”.
It’s more likely their money is actually public money or even corruption money.
It is pertinent that human rights activist Hoang Dung, who posted the Minister of Public Security of Vietnam dinning on steak coated with edible 24 carat gold on his face book, questioned “ the claim that Vietnamese officials were entitled to a spending allowance while on a business trip”.
If it’s an entitlement it’s obscene and it stinks.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Thailand to amend repressive laws
Eliminate coups and strengthen democratic institutions
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 9, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday November 7, 2021

Re: "Thailand can't have it both ways abroad," Bangkok Post Opinion, November 5, 2021.
Well, in today's world everything seems transitory but the image.
In spite of its stellar cousins, exotic temples, and pristine beaches, Thailand's image abroad is overshadowed by its history of coup-installed regimes, its poor human rights record, its travel industry embroiled in prostitution, massage parlours, and rampant corruption.
Its arcane immigration and property ownership laws and exploitation of foreign retirees is another matter.
Yes, doing business with Western democracies will require Thailand to adhere to international norms and expectations.
Mr Thitinan is correct that Thailand's tainted image puts it in the same bracket as Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
China, Russia, and other authoritarian regimes are not good role models for Asean. And yes, there is no way for any repressive regimes to become a shining light of hope for the rest of the world.
Hence Thailand must change its image first by amending its repressive laws, eliminating coups, and refining and strengthening its democratic institutions.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




No mention of vegetarian and meat industry
At the UN Climate Change conference (COP26) in Glasgow
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 3, 2021

As far as I know at the so-called "climate summit" words such as "vegetarianism" and "meat industry" were not mentioned once.
This despite the fact that the UN has said the meat and dairy industry causes more climate change than all forms of transportation combined.
The politicians know who "butters their bread" (pun intended) so let the planet be damned.

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Required one night hotel stay on entry into Thailand
Is an unnecessary scam
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 3 Novemner 2021

I am tiring of reading the lie that the Bangkok Post keeps printing for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
What do you call the one-night Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Hotel required stay upon entry to get a Covid 19 test?
If that is not a mandated quarantine then please tell me what it really is?
International standard by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is two doses of approved vaccine and a Covid-19 test within 72 hours before entry. That's all!
Thailand wants you to also feed the hotel industry, medical establishment and insurance companies which is an unnecessary scam. Just more Amazing Thailand.

Brian Springer,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The Australian way of tackling climate change
Is the wrong way
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 November 2021

PM Morrison’s purported Australian way “ of tackling climate change is according to climate experts, scientists, climate activists, civil society groups and other world leaders the wrong way.
Allow me to borrow an analogy from our road warning sign “ Wrong way, Turn Back’.
That’s what Morrison and his political mob must do and do without delay to get back on track with the rest of the world on how best to approach this most pressing problem confronting humanity and planet Earth.
Morrison must stop acting the ostrich with his bogus “ Australian way “.
It’s a spurious way which clear thinking Australians have roundly denounced.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Philippines want US bases back
To help expel China from Philippine territory
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquierer Wedmesday 3 Novemeber 2021

The present situation in the West Philippine Sea requires a Philippine military pushback against China.
To expel China the bully from our country’s territory, we need the help of the much more powerful superpower who is our true friend and ally, the United States of America.
I propose that, upon takeover by the next Philippine president, who must be competent, sane, pro-Filipino, pro-Western, and NOT pro-China, the Philippines starts negotiations with the US for the conditional return to the Philippines of US military bases the size of the former Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base, which were removed in the 1990s.
The conditions for the return of the US bases must be:
The renegotiation of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty to clearly specify that the US will immediately and automatically retaliate when any foreign third party attacks Philippine territory, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or any Philippine aircraft, ship, or boat, government-owned or private.
For the United States to immediately and automatically evict, using whatever force is necessary, any foreign third-party intruder, civilian or military, that enters or occupies any part of Philippine territory, territorial seas, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or any island, reef, shoal, rock, or sandbar that belongs to the Philippines.
China became aggressive and started occupying our territory, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) only after the United States bases were removed.
Without the massive American military presence and support that will be provided by the proposed US bases in our territory, China will one day just annex the Philippines as a colony or vassal state and enslave the Filipino people under its hegemony.
I strongly appeal to all my fellow Filipinos to agitate for and support the return of US bases.
Other countries also host US military bases, among them Japan, Italy, and Thailand.
These countries are indeed protected by the US defense umbrella.
The 2016 Arbitral Award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration places the Philippines on high legal ground in this military pushback against China. Furthermore, China’s ancient maps show that Hainan is China’s southernmost territory.
Alongside and simultaneous with the return of the US bases, we must also build strong military alliances with other friendly Western nations, namely the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, as well as NATO countries; and also with friendly, like-minded neighboring countries such as Australia, Japan, India, and South Korea.
Most important of all, with the US bases back and with additional military support from our other allies, we could buy time to make the Philippines militarily strong. Our government and the private sector must exert an all-out effort to build and maintain our own armaments/munitions manufacturing and naval shipbuilding industries.
In war and peace, these industries must provide our armed forces with a continuous supply of indigenous modern warplanes, warships, missiles, tanks, ammunition, and other advanced military equipment.
Through this military-industrial cooperation, the armed forces will crush and defeat bullies and fight to win even decades-long protracted wars against invaders.
The same industries can turn the Philippines into an arms-exporting country, if and when we sell to other countries Philippine-made weapons.
Thousands of Filipino workers will be employed in these Industries, reducing unemployment in our country.

Pedro I. Santos,
Manila,
Philippines



Persecution of participants in Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong
A blot on China's political landscape
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 4, 2021

The Southeast Asian Times article ‘ Eight charged under Beijing national security law for participating in banned Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong ‘ ( 3 November ) is a blot on China’s political landscape.
In today’s world many countries acknowledge their dark past and especially the atrocities committed against their own people.
That apparently is not the case with China which seeks to erase the memory of the gruesome Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy protesters through State propaganda pretending the massacre did not happen and the ongoing persecution of peaceful protesters who want that part of China’s brutal, authoritarian history remembered and the victims honoured.
And, that remains China’s national shame.
As one of the vigil keepers pointed out “ Commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is a just cause”.
It most certainly is.
Nothing the Chinese communist state does can alter that reality.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Thailand on bottom of list of countries
When it comes to emission-reduction ambition
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 3, 2021
Firts published in the Bangkok Post, November 2, 2021

Re: "Embracing COP26 climate challenge", Bangkok Post Opinion October 15, 2021.
Paritta Wangkiat is definitely on the right track in urging Thailand to be bold and ambitious in moving toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
But she is entirely too timid in calling for action from Thailand.
Few countries of the world have as much potential as Thailand to rapidly move toward the net-zero target.
The country is blessed with abundant sunshine and wind that could be captured to provide virtually emission-free electricity.
There are also large areas that could be planted with trees to soak up carbon from the atmosphere.
Major gains could be achieved by accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, expanded efficient public transportation, low-emission agriculture, and cleaner operating factories.
Thailand is not without opportunities for accelerating progress toward net-zero emissions.
Instead, it seems Thai officials and policy makers are without real ambition.
At the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, countries will be expected to make more robust commitments to strengthen and speed efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions.
All Thais should be embarrassed if as it now seems likely - the country remains near the bottom of the list of countries when it comes to emission-reduction ambition.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Port Moresby General Hospital
Is preparing for mass burials
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 November 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 25 October 2021

Many people are hesitant to get vaccinated because of the amount of misinformation currently being circulated on the social media platforms.
For those people who are hesitant, go and visit the general hospitals in Port Moresby, Lae and Goroka and see for yourselves what is happening there.
More than 10 people are dying every week in these hospitals.
The Port Moresby General Hospital is currently preparing for mass burials.
These hospitals are struggling with manpower, logistics, oxygen and other things to assist the patients with the fight against the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Delta variant.
Can those who are contributing to spread of misinformation be realistic?
Why are you sharing everything?
Think about yourselves, your family, your community and your country.
Yes, we have our democratic rights to say no to vaccines, but think of those that are dying who were not vaccinated.
If we want to get back to some normalcy, follow the “New Normal” direction of wearing masks, avoiding crowded areas, sanitising your hands regularly and/or get vaccinated.
Our vaccinated population is around two per cent only while our Melanesian neighbours Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, their vaccinated population stands between 80 and 90 per cent.
I got vaccinated for my health, my family’s safety and my employment.
If developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand could have many months of lockdowns, who are we to ignore and avoid the directions that could save our lives.
Anyway, buckle up for another lockdown.

Vaccinated Papua New Guinea Citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 

 

Call for freedom of information law
To curb graft and corruption in Philippines government
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 28 October 2021

For many, many years the people have been waiting and hoping for a freedom of information (FOI) law.
But, despite President Duterte having promised during the 2016 presidential election campaign that he would curb graft and corruption in government, there has not been any determined and serious effort to address the problem.
That Mr. Duterte has failed miserably is evidenced by so many huge anomalies that have surfaced during his administration involving the Department of Health, the Department of Budget and Management, PhilHealth and, needless to say, the Bureau of Customs.
This problem persists amid calls and pleas by well-intentioned individuals and sectors in society that he must certify to the necessity and urgency of an freedom of information (FOI) law if he really wants to make corruption a thing of the past.
An freedom of information (FOI) law will nip in the bud any evil scheme to defraud the government, since it will require the public disclosure of any deals and transactions involving public funds.
It will also obligate government offices or agencies to respond to public complaints and furnish people detailed information about expenditures of earmarked money.
Let’s study closely the stand of the presidential candidates vis-à-vis corruption. How will they solve this long festering problem? Are they in favor of an freedom of information (FOI) law?

Eusebio S. San Diego,
Founder, Kaguro
Former President, Quezon City Public School Teachers Association
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines St. Luke's Medical Center Employees Association
Enraged by government mishandling of Covid-19 funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 31, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday October 27, 2021

The St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association agrees with all the points raised by the Philippine College of Physicians and other prominent health experts on the issues of corruption and mishandling by the government of its COVID-19 response.
We understand the basis of the sentiments of these experts not just as observers but based on their factual findings and experiences in addressing the present health crisis.
We too are enraged that amid the crisis pummeling the country, some roguish individuals are amassing wealth from the funds intended for the COVID-19 response.
The mishandling of funds sourced from taxpayer money is a crime that should not go unpunished.
Barring Cabinet members and other officials from attending hearings conducted by the Senate blue ribbon committee does not only disrespect the august chamber, but is also a clear attempt by the Duterte administration to shield the executives of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. and their cohorts from possible persecution.
As union leaders who are at the forefront of protecting the rights and general well-being of our members, we feel betrayed by these allegations of rampant corruption, and are in concert with our health experts’ call for an impartial investigation to unmask the culprits and masterminds of this heinous crime against the people.
A grave injustice was committed against health care workers (HCWs) when we were deprived of the benefits and rights accorded to us by law. We are indignant that laws were passed in our name, but were circumvented and violated by agencies that were supposed to implement them.
We know for a fact that our health experts are economically well-off compared to us ordinary workers who “kung hindi kami kakahig ay hindi kami tutuka.”
But we commend their bravery in speaking for the welfare of the health community to which we all belong.
The conditions of health care workers (HCW) are at their worst, especially in private hospitals.
We only have our unions to rely on for our rights and benefits, and we are lucky enough that our employer, St. Luke’s Medical Center, has provided us other benefits that are more than what is stipulated by law.
However, what about the greater majority of HCWs who are not represented by unions or are non-unionized?
In one recent forum we attended in Laguna province, we were informed by our fellow HCWs that they were uninformed of the mandatory benefits they were entitled to under the Bayanihan law.
Terms such as special risk allowance, meals, accommodation and transportation, and life insurance were alien to them, and they only got the information from the news.
We salute the health experts for standing up on the issue of prevalent and massive corruption amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
We join them in our common pursuit of truth and justice.

Roldan Jao Clumia,
President
St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association




Call for recognition of Myanmar civilian government
Is an absolutley correct call
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 October 2021

We read in The Southeast Asian Times 29 October that the Association of Southeast Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights ( APHR ), chairman and Member of the Malaysian Parliament, Charles Santiago called on ASEAN member states and governments world wide to recognise Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government ( NUG ) and to sanction the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar for the takeover of the elected civilian government in February.
It’s an absolutely correct call.
We learn from a PBS NewsHour ‘ Myanmar torture ‘report on 28 October that torture has been the modus operandi of the military and police since the takeover.
It’s high time regional and the international community responded in that way to make it crystal clear that military coups were totally unacceptable.
That is the only effective way to end coups by making sure the coup makers did not benefit from their coups at the expense of the people.
It would be relevant to note the African Union has joined other western democracies and the UN in condemning the military coup in Sudan a few days ago.
That is as should be.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
New South Wales,
Australia


Monks in Thai cities
Not offered alms
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 October, 2021
First published in Bangkok Post, Sunday 24 October, 2021

Re: "Don't limit monks," Bangkok Post PostBag, October 16 and "More Meditating, Less Talking Please", in Bangkok Post PostBag, October 18.
Nowadays monks especially those living in the cities, live as monks like another occupation, such that we don't feel like offering alms because we don't know whether they are genuine monks or not.
We see monks shopping for mobile phones, buying amulets, buying lottery tickets, etc. Monks study just to get the title "Phra Maha"
There are so much indulging in desire, so much attachment which is not supposed to be as a monk.
They can't even understand the most basic teachings of the Buddha -The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path.
Don't argue about now we are in the modern era.
If you really have the intention to be a monk, be a good one and be enlightened and teach lay people to understand what the Buddha taught.
There are many good monks around.
Don't smear others.

Millie Tan,
Bangkok,
Thailand



ASEAN non-interference policy cannot stand
Against overwhelming moral imperative
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 26 October 2021

Re: "Give Asean seat to Myanmar opposition", Bangkok Post Opinion, October 22, 2021
Thais owe the Myanmar people an enormous debt of gratitude for two reasons. Firstly, for their courage and bravery in showing us how to resist a coup d'etat. Secondly, for teaching Asean that the so-called principle of non-interference can no longer be allowed to stand against an overwhelming moral imperative.
By recognising two competing claimants for the Myanmar seat at the upcoming 38th and 39th Asean summits, and failing to reach the much vaunted consensus by selecting either the junta Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar or the National Unity Government (NUG), Asean dealt a black eye to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Forceful words from Indonesia and Malaysia at the emergency foreign ministers' meeting on Oct ober15, combined with strong anti-junta signals from Asean's major democratic partners, saw Thailand's defence of the Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar crumble, opening the way for a similar scenario of rejection the next time the Thai military stages a coup.
Given the intertwined history of our two countries across many centuries, much of it marked by distrust and war, perhaps now is the time our two people can learn from each other; how to consign our respective militaries to their rightful subservient roles in democratically elected civilian governments.
As the most coup-prone country in the world we need help.

ASEAN Insider,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for global solidarity
In Glasgow climate change negotiations
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 24 October 2021

Re: "Spirit of climate cooperation faces test in Glasgow," in Bangkok Post Opinion, October 20
A fundamental question to be asked before the global climate change negotiations in Glasgow is: Do wealthy countries really mean business and are they sincere in their solidarity?
A meaningful, effective global cooperation on climate change is impossible without global solidarity which cannot be spontaneous even in cases of planetary crises.
Yet, we may express the hope that acting in a spirit of global solidarity the 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 and China will manage to reach a win-win situation in their negotiations on the matter with the group of developed countries.
In this regard, an encouraging sign can be expected from an informal UN diplomatic event scheduled in New York on 26 October on climate action and focused on capacities at country level.
This event, titled "Delivering Climate Action - for People, Planet & Prosperity", will highlight best practices and achievements in renewables, in climate finance, and in adaptation.
The value of global solidarity cannot be promoted and enhanced without robust diplomatic action at the bilateral, regional and universal levels.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Tourism market in Thailand
Cannot be taken for granted
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 October 2021
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 20 October 2021

Re: "Tourist fee could be nail in coffin", Bangkok Post, Editorial, October 10, 2021
The Bangkok Post editorial is spot on in warning of the risks of losing tourists to other markets as the world reopens after the Covid pandemic.
Thailand cannot take the tourism market for granted. Instead of adding to the perceptions that Thailand is simply out to milk tourists with exorbitant dual pricing, vague tourism development fees, over-pricing by taxi drivers and various other scams, the country needs to review every aspect of how international tourists are treated.
As the editorial pointed out, the tourism industry is restarting with a clean slate after Covid.
Countries that make visa and entry procedures simple, ensure the safety of visitors, offer quality tourism experiences and good value for money, and genuinely make tourists feel welcome and appreciated will come out on top in the competition for tourist numbers and income.
This is not the time for creating additional new schemes to fleece tourists.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Historical sites endangered by construction of
Pasig River Expressway
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 22 October 2021

The 19.3-kilometer Pasig River Expressway (PAREx) has drawn flak from environmental and cultural groups who believe many cultural sites will be jarred by the construction of the elevated highway, thereby endangering historical sites such as Intramuros, Fort Santiago, Arroceros Park, and many others.
Worse, it will suffocate the fauna of the Pasig River.
The positions of both sides appear to stand on valid arguments.
Scores of projects have been undertaken to rehabilitate the Pasig River, both by civic organizations and the government.
Yet, the silt deposited on the river is a continuing problem, aside from the negligence of the communities around it.
The river also catches floodwater and debris from Laguna de Bay.
It seems in our society one problem engenders another, and we cannot get to the bottom of it all.
There has to be a more lasting heritage solution, not just to the traffic congestion or the environmental pollution.
The reality is that the Philippines has a much bigger problem in the unabated population increase of 1.5-2 million annually.
Urban life in Metro Manila will continue to be compromised by the influx of more people from the provinces to find work and escape extreme poverty.
Among the cities with the highest population densities in the world are Manila, Pateros, and Mandaluyong.
Congestion will suffocate the entire Metro Manila soon.
It can only be arrested by the government developing other less congested areas in the country to move work opportunities there, such as vast Mindanao.

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila
Philippines

 

 

Papua New Guinea
Proves to have a functioning democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 October 2021

The allegations of misappropriation, official corruption and abuse of office against former PM Peter O’Neill might have been a case which was “ highly politicised “ as O’Neill contended ( Letter, The Southeast Asian Times 22/10).
But the fact that the case was thrown out by the court means Papua New Guinea PNG has a functioning democracy with an independent judicial system upholding the rule of law without fear or favour.
That’s something the people of Papua New Guinea PNG can be proud of and other countries in the region can draw lessons from to strengthen their democratic governance.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Exclusion of Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
From ASEAN summit is long overdue
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 20 October 2021

Re: "Junta 'extremely disappointed' over summit snub", in Bangkok Post, October 18, 2021
At last Asean has shown some intestinal fortitude and has excluded the tyrant-despot Senior General Min Aung Hlaing from attending its next summit.
This is long overdue, because in the past several members of Asian, including Thailand and Malaysia, have heaped honours upon this most despicable man, who has being playing Asean as a fool.
Just look at a photograph of him in his uniform, which is stretched to breaking point with the weight of the medals, honours and awards hanging around his neck and pinned on both chests.
These include The Most Gallant Order of Military Service; Honorary Malaysian Armed Forces Order for Valor (1st Degree); Medal for Strengthening the Military Commonwealth (awarded by Russia); Badge of Honor for the Merits in the Field of Military-Technical Cooperation (whatever that means); and most disturbingly the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant Knight Grand Cross (1st Class) and the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand Knight Grand Cross (1st Class), both awarded by the Thai government.
There is not one award or medal for actual combat in defending Myanmar from foreign invasion.
The fact is that he was born in 1956. a decade after Burma's fight for independence from British rule and centuries after Burma's last wars with Siam. The only combat experience he has is against his own people, including the ethnic minorities of Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Rakhine and Shan et al.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Allegations against former PM Peter O'Neill
Not proven in Papua New Guinea court
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday, 22 October 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 October, 2021

A stunning example of a life to draw inspiration from when facing adversity is the life of former Prime Minister and Ialibu-Pangia Member of Parliament Peter O’Neill.
Travelling from Brisbane, Australia, with his family one Saturday afternoon last May, police set up on him and took him in for questioning on allegations of misappropriation, official corruption and abuse of office over the purchase of two generators from Israel.
The allegations stem from a National Executive Council decision in 2014.
When asked about his arrest, O’Neill calmly said: “The case is highly politicised. I look forward to having my day in court soon so that the truth can prevail and this injustice corrected and exposed.”
Springing up a surprise arrest and hastily filing of a police complaint ended up marred in errors and the case was instantly thrown out.
That was the writing on the wall right there.
But that did not dissuade then-Police minister Bryan Kramer, who filed a fresh complaint and took one whole year to gather evidence and assemble witnesses for the case that was dismissed last Thursday.
Of all the allegations brought against O’Neill, nothing to date has been proven in court.
He is now free to concentrate on his People’s National Congress party and prepare for next year’s general elections.

David Lepi,
Port Moresby,
Papua News Guinea




Why would someone intentionally limit another's quest
For truth and understanding?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 20 October, 2021

Re: "Don't limit monks", Bangkok Post Editorial, October 16, 2021
The myopic decree to forbid Buddhist monks from expanding their intelligence and studying subjects not directly related to Buddhism will not preserve Buddhism or enhance a monk's awareness of reality.
In the 21st century, knowledge and information is increasing exponentially and any institution desiring to stay relevant must address this by expanding their knowledge base, not retarding it.
The Dalai Lama in his book The Universe in a Single Atom says that Buddhism must incorporate Science.
If science shows a Buddhist tenet is wrong, then Buddhism must adjust accordingly.
This flexible willingness to adapt is crucial in order to adjust to change and we are certainly in a time of rapid change.
There are numerous fields of study from brain research to historical trends of monasticism that would benefit a monk as he attempts to gain enlightenment.
Why would someone intentionally limit another's quest for truth and understanding?
If Buddhism is to be a part of society's future here, it has to adjust accordingly to the changes that society is encountering.
If not, it will swiftly be left out of the composition.
Already, most people I speak to claim they are Buddhist, but almost none say they meditate.
If someone could be shown the science that documents the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation practices, maybe they would be more inclined to practise it personally.
Finally, what would Buddha do?
Would he say to avoid knowledge and wisdom and remain ignorant or would he encourage seeking?

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Politics in the Philippines
Is a family business
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 October 2021

The 2022 elections will once again provide proof that politics in this country has become a family business.
It is a family business that is guaranteed by the Constitution on one hand - they are elected by the people - and discouraged on the other - prohibition against local dynasties - “as may be defined by law”.
We have read stories of elective positions being unopposed or getting token opposition from brave souls or nuisance candidates.
We have been desensitized at the sight of family members exchanging positions regardless of qualifications for the new positions they are gunning for.
We have seen new family members running for positions because mom, dad, sister, or brother moved up to run for a national office.
In some instances, these new family members just relocated to the place, having grown up in Metro Manila or abroad, and not knowing the local culture or language.
Nevertheless, they are adored “ang guapo” or “gandang artista!
These political dynasties and agreements among politicians to effectively divide the governance of local governments need to be destroyed in order to give life to the constitutional mandate to the State to “guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service.”
The barrier to entering public service has become too high for the ordinary good Filipino citizen.
While these monopoly-minded politicians have gamed the system, we are not without remedies.
First, let us not vote for these politicians.
Second, let us educate our friends and family members on the evils of political dynasties.
Third, let us teach critical thinking to the next generation.
They are our only hope.
As they say, the only way for evil men and women to win is for good men and women to do nothing.

Jason Salazar,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Decision to exclude Myanmar military
From ASEAN summit is a good one
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 October 2021

We read in the Reuter’s article ‘ ASEAN excludes Myanmar junta leader from Summit ‘ ( 18 October,2021) that the foreign ministers from ASEAN took that unprecedented step at an emergency meeting on Friday night .
The bold and rare step was taken “ to uphold ASEAN’s credibility” according to the Singapore foreign minister.
The decision is a good one and will restore ASEAN’s credibility following the earlier one in April which allowed the junta chief Min Aung Hlaing to attend and give assurances and agree to a roadmap to restore peace .
Subsequent brutal crackdown on pro- democracy protesters in Myanmar showed the military leader who carried out the coup against an elected civilian government in February was not genuine in his commitment.
ASEAN had in good faith given the junta a chance to show it was committed to returning the country to good democratic governance but it has failed to do that.
So it is only proper that the junta chief be excluded to show him in no uncertain terms that the conduct of the military junta was totally unacceptable.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for PNG police and defence personnel
To enforce ban on mass gatherings
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 October 2021
First published in the National, Friday 15 October 2021

The many ground breaking ceremonies are putting people’s lives at risk.
The recent one in Menyamya, Morobe, by the Prime Minister James Marape and his delegation showed hundreds, even thousands, of people without face masks in a mass gathering.
Here we are talking about the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and banning mass gatherings, yet on the other side, the total opposite is happening.
Let us put a stop to ground breaking ceremonies now.
The statistics show that the increase in Covid-19 deaths right after Sept 16, which was celebrated in mass gatherings in many centres.
Marape himself, who was a guest of honour at Walume in Southern Highlands and in Maprik, East Sepik, during the Independence Anniversary celebrations was part of a crowd that had no regard for the Covid-19 health measures.
The celebration at Uiversity of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) was even worse with the Highlands traditional dance “Waipa” consisting of more than 10 groups where people were holding hands and jumping up and down.
The responsible authorities did not bother too much about the virus.
Now we have the same authorities concerned over the surge in Covid-19 cases.
It is a bit too late for that.
Despite the Covid-19 measures, Papua New Guineans have an attitude problem.
The bulk of the population is semi-educated.
If you tell them what to do, they will not do it unless it is enforced.
Therefore, measures must be strictly enforced by relevant authorities so that people will comply.
Put police and defence personnel on the streets so that people will listen to them and follow.
Otherwise, it is all a waste of time and we cannot deny that.

Siki Mangi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 



Call for Former PM Mahathir to explain
Failure to defend sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 October 2021
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 October 2021

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy must be taken to task for demanding that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must answer for the colossal failure to defend the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh.
In a Facebook post, Ramasamy tried to clarify that it was not up to the Pakatan Harapan government of Dr Mahathir to have decided against the appeal on the grounds that they had no chance whatsoever.
He is attempting to divert all responsibility to Dr Mahathir. However, his remarks score an own goal as they reflect the incompetence and lack of political and administrative power of Democratic Action Party (DAP) former ministers within the Pakatan Cabinet.
If Ramasamy’s remarks do not confirm the inadequacies of the six Democratic Action Party (DAP) ministers namely Lim Guan Eng, Anthony Loke Siew Fook, M. Kulasegaran, Yeo Bee Yin, Gobind Singh and Teresa Kok in upholding Pulau Batu Puteh’s sovereignty, they only suggest these six were in deep slumber in the Cabinet, despite their mighty remuneration.
One can’t help but wonder if PM7 Dr Mahathir made this unilateral decision!
While Ramasamy’s remarks attempt to divert blame from Democratic Action Party (DAP) he is advised to not use this crass method as the party cannot evade responsibility.
In fact, responsibility for losing Pulau Batu Puteh does not rest solely on Dr Mahathir; the entire former Pakatan government is equally accountable.
On February 2, 2017, Malaysia under the Barisan Nasional government filed an application for revision of the judgment rendered by the International Court of Justice on May 23, 2008 on Pulau Batu Puteh.
However, on May 28, 2018, it was the Pakatan government which decided to withdraw this review application.
This withdrawal by the Pakatan government caused Malaysia to lose our right to claim Pulau Batu Puteh.
Pakatan’s decision to drop the territorial claim is exactly identical to the cabotage exemption approved by Democratic Action Party (DAP) then transport minister Anthony Loke for foreign-registered vessels to perform undersea cable maintenance in Malaysian waters.
Both these decisions disregard the importance of upholding national sovereignty.
Removing the requirement that foreign-registered vessels apply for a Domestic Shipping Licence (DSL) before entering Malaysian waters to repair undersea cables, sacrificing the sovereignty of our nation and the safety of our citizens' data, are akin to derhaka, treason!

Datuk Tan Teik Cheng,
Vice-president
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia




Risk of radiation leaks
From struggling nuclear power plants
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 14 October 2021

Re: "Bitcoin miners eye nuclear power as environmental criticism mounts", in Bangkok Post, Business, October 3, 2021
As if the world didn't have enough reasons to reject the silliness of cryptocurrency, we can now add the risk of radiation leaks from struggling nuclear power plants that otherwise might thankfully be shut down due to lack of demand for the power produced.
This seems to be an example of one dubious industry climbing into bed with another.
The processing of cryptocurrency transactions requires voracious amounts of electricity at a time when the world should be aggressively trimming the unnecessary use of power.
Among the main attractions of cryptocurrency is the facilitation of dodgy transactions and the avoidance of taxes.
Rather than trying to extend the life of unneeded nuclear power plants and nurturing the sketchy cryptocurrency sector, the world would be far better off letting both succumb.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine state involved in lawyer killings
Lawyers advised to protect themselves
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 October 2021
First published by Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 12 October 2021

Your editorial “Impunity gone berserk” October 9, 2021 contains much with which all would agree - the killing of lawyers with impunity is a threat to the rule of law and therefore to a democratic Philippines.
However, it seems that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has also gone berserk.
The number of lawyers killed under President Duterte, now 69, is lamentable, but it is nowhere near the 500-percent increase that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) proclaims and which, willy nillly, the media continues to trumpet unquestioningly.
Unfortunately, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) continues to use the inaccurate numbers first produced by the Free Legal Assistance Group.
Here are the numbers recorded by the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers: According to numerous monitoring groups, there were 18 lawyers killed from the Marcos to Estrada presidencies, 83 under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and 47 under President Benigno Aquino III.
Thus, pre-Duterte there were at least 148 killings.
Your editorial cites the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) claim that ”the number of lawyers killed since President Duterte came into power in 2016 has skyrocketed by 500 percent.”
That is obviously a claim that cannot be justified.
What is true is that at 1.1 lawyer killed per month, the rate under Mr. Duterte far exceeds the rates under his two predecessors: Arroyo at 0.74 and Aquino at 0.65.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) would be well advised to seek ways in which the lawyers can protect themselves.
Relying on the government, especially when state forces are involved in lawyer killings, is rather like waiting for snow in Manila.
They might follow the example being set now in Nigeria where the national Bar has called a temporary boycott of the courts, in similar manner as in France, India, and Pakistan. Governments must be persuaded to act, and not only expected to do so.

Gill H. Boehringer,
Co-chair,
Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers
Manila,
Philippines











Call for ASEAN to rethink its position
On how to restore democracy in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday October 14, 2021

It is absolutely wonderful news that the EU Parliament has taken the decision to support the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate representative of democracy in Myanmar ( The Southeast Asian Times 13 Oct).
It has done the right thing by the oppressed people of Myanmar whose will to chose their government democratically was overridden by the military takeover at the beginning of the year.
Since then there has been a reign of terror in the country against all pro-democracy activists.
They can now draw immense inspiration and courage to continue their fight for democracy in Myanmar.
ASEAN on the other hand did the wrong thing by allowing the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar, Sr Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to attend the ASEAN Leaders Meeting in Jakarta.
That sends the wrong message.
It says the military takeover of a democratically elected government is acceptable. It’s not.
And, that should be made abundantly clear to the rogue military leaders. ASEAN did not do that.
It’s action gave tacit recognition, even legitimacy, to the rogue military rulers of Myanmar.
That’s totally unacceptable. Let’s hope the EU Parliament decision will get ASEAN to rethink its position on how to restore democracy in Myanmar .

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Call for Papua New Guinea government
To help take back Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 12, 2021
First published in the National, Monday October 11, 2021

I agree with Jack Anis Kukiwa’s comments in National paper about the banks’ lending policy regarding the money from the funds allocated by the Government for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) .
The government should set the criteria for simple people to access these funds instead of big and well established business to have the upper hand over SME owners.
This kills the interest of the people and does not help with improving lives.
The Government should come up with an alternative to help the majority if it wants us all to play an active roll in taking back Papua New Guinea.

Gende Kiman,
Lae,
Papua New Guinea




Ruling party looking for clone of President Rodrigo Duterte
For
Philippines 2022 elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 12, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday October 11, 2021

We will end up with many presidential candidates, but will the best of them win? Even a lame foot can win a hundred meters if the others collapse before the goal.
A choice in which the majority sees no other way out but to choose between bad, worse, and worst is certainly not a great moment for democracy.
The one perceived as the least unsuitable by the citizens can win.
The ruling party is looking for a clone of Rodrigo Duterte.
The opposition - whose clone is it looking for?
Who actually wants to continue the politics of the last few years?
The problems have just gotten too big to sit things out any longer.
We need a government that renews social cohesion and an industrial base that does not pay low wages and makes further cuts in social benefits.
We need more investments, better education, better pay for skilled workers, the restoration of a performance-oriented welfare state, and consistent promotion of future technologies.
If you instead let the middle class and the lower half of the population pay for the mistakes of the past, you are committing a sin against democracy and our future.

Dr. Juergen Schoefer, Ph.D. Cainta,
Rizal,
Manila
Philippines



Marcos wealth and abuses of martial should be consudered
In choosing the next president in 2022
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11, October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 8, October 2021

If one is fully aware of the kleptocracy under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, the revelation about the P203 billion in unpaid estate taxes by the Marcos family in “Tax debt of the Marcos estate,” Philippine Inquirer, Crosscurrents, September 30, 2021 would be revealing but no longer shocking.
It just tells us the kind of people that have been trying to regain lost political power after looting government coffers dry during their 20 years in power.
The way Imelda Marcos and her children have brazenly disregarded the payment of their estate taxes shows how they have become used to trifling with the rule of law in the country with so much impunity.
The ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses has long been proven to exist, as declared by several Supreme Court decisions “Do the Marcoses have ill-gotten wealth?,” With Due Respect, September 9, 2021.
And yet that continues to be vigorously denied by the Marcos heirs.
Equally disgraceful are arguments that exculpate the children for the misdeeds of their father, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Marcos children and their families have lived luxurious and privileged lives on the fruits of their father’s plunder.
Did they ever wonder for a second where all the billions of money came from?
And now they have been using this stolen wealth to make a grand political comeback, with support from President Duterte who idolizes his dictator-hero so much that he allowed Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The Marcos wealth and the abuses of martial law are legitimate issues that should be considered by our countrymen in choosing the next president in 2022.
This is not indulging in blame game and politicking, even if political opportunists are sure to surface during this political season.
We are very close to the next elections, and the country’s future will be shaped by the kind of leaders we will have for the next six years.
The electorate should scrutinize the track record of those who present themselves as the best candidate that can save the country from its current terrible situation.
Maybe we can start with the COVID-19 response of the Duterte administration, which has been so mismanaged and corrupted as to enable overpricing and manipulation in the procurement of COVID-19-related medical supplies and cause so much human misery.
As voters, we cannot be so smug and indifferent as to turn a blind eye to the corruption and misgovernance that have afflicted the country, and so undiscriminating as not to recognize false and pretentious leaders whether from the past or present who have brought this curse upon the nation.
We have to demand accountability and even retribution for their crimes against the people - by not electing them into office and depriving them the opportunity to commit the same transgressions again.

Donato Soliven,
Manila,
Philippines



Preserve Thai land
For Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 October 2021
First published Bangkok Post, Friday 8 October 2021

Re: "Selling the family silver?", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, September 27, 2021
Thailand does not allow direct foreign ownership of land. Since I am a foreigner, this policy works against my interests as I would love to own a freehold home in Thailand.
But I have always admired this Thai policy because it protects the interests of Thai citizens. That is precisely what the government should be doing.
In many countries worldwide, there are appalling numbers of empty homes and properties purchased by investors.
They may not need to live there, and they may never intend to. But when investors purchase property, it becomes unavailable for would-be homeowners.
I also have a different point of view to offer. Market competition can be beneficial and improve efficiency, but the global and domestic economies must be considered separately to protect Thai citizens.
Foreign investors will gladly walk through any door you leave open.
As I mentioned, I would like to buy a freehold house.
What do you think would happen if investors were offered a choice between apartments and land?
Would any foreigner ever buy another condo?
How many well-heeled foreigners might there be worldwide that are capable of investing a few million dollars in an infrequently used "vacation home" upcountry? And what would this scenario do to the price of real estate for average Thais, not to mention the poorest and most at-risk?
Thailand appears to be taking reasoned steps towards rebuilding the economy.
I am gratified that although there are differences of opinion about what approaches to take and what to prioritise, there is a vibrant, spirited debate and well-intentioned effort.
Please do not compromise Thai ownership of the country for a one-time gain of foreign investment. Preserve Thai land for Thailand.

Jeremy Lucas,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Papua New Guinea terms of agreement with ExxonMobile
Good for Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 October 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 7 October 2021

The Government’s negotiation team recently met with ExxonMobil executives in Houston, Texas, United States.
Prime Minister James Marape, ExxonMobil president for up-stream Liam Mallon and other executives were part of the meeting.
The gas agreement, as highlighted in the meeting, captures key fiscal, regulatory and licensing terms negotiated over the last two months.
The terms set in the meeting are good for the country.
It is a commendable move Marape and the negotiation team.
The Government, under Marape, has made a bold decision which reflects a win-win solution for the State and the developer.
The first negotiation failed.
The government had to find another way around.
I remember the original development plan, mooted in 2018, called for the development of P’nyang as a one train liquefied natural gas (LNG) addition to the existing two-train PNG LNG project.
In 2019, a set of fiscal terms of Papua LNG project was agreed upon, but P’nyang segment of the plan collapsed last year when ExxonMobil would not agree to the Government’s push for increased benefits and walked away from the negotiation.
Despite a dark moment, Peter Larden, the new managing director for ExxonMobil PNG, said he hoped new negotiations would be fruitful.
The recent discussion of P’nyang gas agreement in Houston ended with a better deal, a deal that is promising for our landowners and the Government.
In addition to all the entitlements, the State’s take is at 63 per cent in the deal, compared to 49 percent in PNG LNG and 51 per cent in Papua.
This is made possible by increasing production levy of 3 per cent and the State equity (including the commercial purchase) being at 32.5 per cent compared to just 19.5 per cent in the PNG LNG and 22.5 per cent in Papua.
I believe the prime minister has achieved a significant milestone in the history of PNG’s extractive industry.
The construction cost of both projects will exceed K25 billion.
I believe this would be a tremendous investment and our economy should pick up once PNG produces and exports gas all the way to 2050.
What a deal.

Justin Max,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Bougainville to become an economic power
In the Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 October 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 6 October 2021


Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama should split Bougainville into special free trade zones or economic corridors and encourage manufacturing and downstream processing for all our commodities.
Develop and declare three seaports and airports of Buka, Kieta, and Buin into world-class international entry and exit ports.
Redevelop Arawa town, which will become the capital city of Bougainville.
Satellite towns should be built in all the districts of Bougainville.
This is to ensure Bougainville has a strong currency and will allow trade with other economies.
Ensure the central bank of Bougainville looks after and manages all the wealth of Bougainville, including Bougainville’s sovereign wealth fund.
No foreign banks should look after and manage the wealth of Bougainville, the central bank of Bougainville should do it.
The people should not be paper-figure observers, but be real custodians and managers of their wealth.
Any foreign countries that want to have monetary trade with Bougainville should come and do it in Bougainville.
With these suggestions, I hope Bougainville becomes an economic power in the Pacific.
Bougainville can assist other countries in terms of development.
It can provide aid to other countries.
It should build world-class research institutions, health and education institutions.
Bougainville will not necessarily need a sophisticated military force to protect its national security because it will use niche diplomacy as a national security tool
It will only have a paramilitary unit in its police service to ensure the safety of everyone and to respond to other internal security matters.

Arob Blood,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Slow tourism recovery
Forcast for Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 6 October 2021

Re: "Collection of B500 fee from foreigners starts next year", in Bangkok Post, Business, October 4, 2021.
I have been stranded in Thailand since March last year.
I read the Bangkok Post almost daily, though in some places the printed edition is not available.
I was reading many predictions by the boss of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn.
As an experienced tour guide and travel agent for 30 years, I have been laughing all year about his forecasts for millions of foreign tourists.
Last year, my forecast was a slow recovery in April 2022. It looks like I am not too far off.
Who protects the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand TAT?
Is he a relative of Coup Minister Prayut (minister for everything) or just related to a family of the Thai Tatmadaw?
In all Western countries he would have lost his job a long time ago.
Even in today's Bangkok Post article, it seems like he just rolled his dice to any seven-digit number.
Believe me, there are many cheaper countries in Asia than Thailand, which has a ridiculously high alcohol tax similar to Muslim nations like Malaysia and Indonesia.
I've come to Thailand probably 100 times since 1993, when I spent one night in Bangkok.
I had to, because of the famous song.
I stayed at the Dusit. It was still the Land of Smiles.
During my 19-month "Covid stay" here, the friendliest people have been immigrant workers from Myanmar.
In 2019 I visited Vietnam four times, because for my nationality 15 days are visa-free.
I flew in to Ho Chi Minh, left via Danang, flew into Nha Trang, left from Haiphong, etc.
As a writer (Lung Stib) to PostBag said in a letter more than a year ago, Thailand is a failed state.
And I agree!

Travelagent,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Catholic politicians in Philippines
To campaign on teachings of the Church
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 October 2021
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 October 2021

Time and again, Catholic bishops say there is no such thing as a “Catholic Vote.” In fact, they do not even endorse candidates or support politicians during elections. But they continue to shepherd the flock and enlighten Catholic voters on the prudent use of their freedom to select the next leaders of this country.
Bishops are often quoted as saying that the faithful should vote according to their conscience.
Catholics with their informed conscience, they say, are free to discharge their grave and moral responsibility to vote their own candidates according to the principles and teachings of the Church, on the belief that an informed conscience leads to an informed vote.
It’s about time the Church should catalog the performance of Catholic politicians, especially on how they stand on issues of the day.
We Catholic faithful may rather support a non-Catholic politician who lives a public life reflecting the Gospel values than a Catholic politician who openly opposes the teachings of the Church.
We therefore challenge Catholic politicians to become proxies of the living Church and be moral exemplars and leaders of our times.
We ask them to stand by the commitment of the Church regarding the political, social, moral, and economic issues besetting our society.
Their political actions and decisions should be reflective of their enlightened faith and the teachings of the Church.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for investigation into Covid-19 vaccination
With empty syringe
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 October 2021
First published in the Star, Monday 4 October 2021

Deputy Health Minister I Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali must be applauded for the quick reassurance he gave to the public on the case of the empty syringe at a Covid-19 vaccination centre, “Dr Noor Azmi: Empty syringe was an accident, 12-year-old boy got vaccine immediately after” in The Star Saturday 2 October 2021.
He said it was a genuine mistake by the vaccinator, and described it as “an on-duty mistake or human error”.
He was referring to a video, which went viral on social media, showing a vaccinator at the Vaccination Centre in Universiti Malaya plunging the wrong empty syringe into the arm of a 12-year-old child.
Despite the deputy minister’s assurance that action against the staff had been taken to ensure such an incident would not recur, some questions still remain, and these must be addressed in order to restore full confidence in the vaccination process among the public.
If one examines the video carefully, it can be clearly seen that besides picking up the wrong syringe, the vaccinator did not press the plunger.
This fact would cast doubts on the assertion that the episode was a mistake.
And if she had pressed the plunger, the lack of resistance would have immediately alerted her to the fact that the syringe was empty.
Having jabbed many a person, it is inconceivable that the health worker could not have forgotten to press the plunger.
Saying that it was a mistake seems to be a convenient way to avoid a full-scale investigation into what could be the tip of an iceberg.
It is therefore incumbent upon ProtectHealth, which conducted the investigation and advised the health authorities, to do a complete investigation to assuage the troubled rakyat.
We do not wish to see the laudable work done by the Health Ministry so far sullied by any deliberate despicable act.
It seems to be a good move, as stated by the deputy health minister, to allow parents to witness their children’s vaccination process, but this is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
We want to know how many “horses” are now roaming free, posing a threat to others as well as to themselves.
The public are concerned.
Did they really receive the vaccines?
Do they now have to go for antibody tests?
These are searching questions that cannot be answered in a cavalier fashion.
It calls for a full investigation and for the findings to be made public.
When we exhort the public to take the jabs, it is incumbent upon us to keep them fully informed of the benefits and risks, if any, along the way.
That is the responsible thing to do.
I concur with Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, chairman of Alliance for Safe Community, when he said incidents of empty syringes being used during the vaccination process should be viewed more seriously and should not be swept under the carpet.
He also said these incidents could lead to those who had been vaccinated doubting the integrity of their jabs.
He has asked, and I support him, that the authorities should quickly release the results of investigations into previous allegations of empty syringes.

Emphil,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Philippine Supreme Court ruled a hero's burial
For late President Ferdinand Marcos
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 30 September 2021

In his column “The Supreme Court as historian” in Philippine Inquirer September 23, 2021, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio wrote: “Those who seek to revise the historical narrative of the Marcos plunder during martial law will run against a formidable wall of authoritative decisions of the Supreme Court which were rendered after the Marcoses were duly heard.”
Indeed, numerous decisions of the highest court of the land had long settled the issue of whether or not the Marcos family was a bunch of thieves after finding ill-gotten wealth in their Swiss bank accounts amounting to almost $670 million, and ordering the same “forfeited in favor of the petitioner Republic of the Philippines.”
But not so fast, Justice Carpio.
The same Supreme Court virtually hailed the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, a “hero” deserving to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in its 2016 decision by a majority of nine votes - three of them by Atenean justices, Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, both retired; and Estela Perlas-Bernabe, retiring in May 2022.
That “hero’s burial” would never have happened and Marcos’ carcass would have remained in a refrigerated coffin had the latter three justices dissented or at least abstained as the five dissenting justices had, resisting President Duterte’s importuning to accommodate the Marcoses, who had extended financial support to his election campaign.
Dahil lang sa pera, niyurakan ang dangal ng Pilipinas.
We became the laughingstock of the whole world.
That 2016 decision being the latest from the Supreme Court concerning the despicable rule of the late dictator, all those prior pronouncements adverse or derogatory to Marcos seem to have become meaningless now in the face of the “heroism” judicially bestowed on him.
No wonder the Marcos heirs have now found the gall to rewrite history to conform to the “heroism” of their disgraced patriarch.
And, to the disgust of many, this is all thanks to the three Atenean magistrates who should be remembered for having been too confused to tell the difference between a hero and a world-class thief.

Scarlet S. Sytangco.\,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Alcohol ban in Thai restuarants
Gives rise to generation of state-at-home alcoholics
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 3, 2021
First published in Bangkok Post, Friday October 1, 2021

As we slowly awaken from this Covid-19 nightmare, I hope the government will learn lessons from its disastrous and repeated alcohol restrictions.
Thailand's arcane alcohol laws conflict with its desire to become a premium tourist destination.
The stupidity of restricting sales for three hours in the afternoon speaks for itself.
The knee-jerk blanket ban on alcohol in restaurants has served not only to fuel police corruption, but has also given rise to a whole generation of stay-at-home alcoholics.
God knows what damage this has done to the health of the nation.
I do not call for a "free-for-all" over alcohol, but we must stop the process of demonising it.
The recent hint that the tax on wine may be reduced is a step in the right direction.
Please, no more nonsensical restrictions that continue to blight our lives.

Alan Mehew,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for investigation into Thai Airways
Purchase of Rolls-Royce jet engines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 28 September 2021

Re: "Thaksin linked to THAI's losses", in Bangkok Post, September 18, 2021

It is unfortunate but not necessarily illegal when national leaders make bad policy decisions.
Surely, Thai Airways THAI was not the only airline in the world to purchase the A340 aircraft, which are now widely recognised as inefficient fuel-guzzlers.
The fact that the planes led to Thai Airways THAI losing large sums of money for years after their purchase is not itself an indication of wrongdoing.
That said, I'm all in favour of investigating the background of the purchase of the planes with a view to increasing transparency and uncovering possible malfeasance. At the same time, it would be very appropriate for investigators to look into deals that Thai Airways THAI made for Rolls-Royce jet engines between 1991 and 2005.
If anyone needs reminding, in 2017, Rolls-Royce admitted to British fraud investigators that bribes were paid to Thai intermediaries. Sadly, Thai investigators never saw fit to probe the cases or even request related evidence from Rolls-Royce or the UK Serious Fraud Office.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Covid-19 testing
Before entering Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 25 September 2021

Re: "Disease law set for change", in Bangkok Post, September 22, 2021
Instead of requiring all foreigners to be vaccinated before entering Thailand, which is no guarantee they are clear of Covid 19, why not just test them before entering the country?
Hell, you could even test them on the airplane.
And if they test positive you can quarantine them until they recover.
My proposal is cost-effective and could help revive the tourism industry.
But any suggestion that doesn't benefit the vaccine industry will never be considered.
I am convinced that all this obsession with vaccines is about money, not health. And if I'm wrong then why not go ahead with my proposal?

Eric Baht,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Countries, nations, cultures, customs and traditions
Are all at heart human fictions
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 28 September 2021

Re: "China's Xi warns of 'grim' Taiwan situation in letter to opposition", in Bangkok Post September 26, 2021.
More humans need to realise that countries and nations, along with cultures, customs, and traditions, are all at heart only human fictions, as historian Yuval Harari correctly explains in his justly famous book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2015).
Mindless faith in blind nationalism or spurious ethnic myths notwithstanding, should be irrelevant to its right to self-determination today.
If the people on the piece of land called Taiwan, or Tibet, or Texas, or Catalonia, or Australia, or whatever do not want to be Chinese, or American, or Spanish, or British, or whatever, that is for them to decide today constrained only by just contractual agreements entered into.
Should they wish the people currently occupying some piece of real estate to remain within the same fiction that is a nation, it is for China, the United States, or Britain to persuade those citizens to freely remain in that organisational structure. Force or threats of force already betray any pretence to respecting the rights of the people.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for deportation of foreigners
In Papua New Guinea with illegal visas
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 September 2021
First published in the National, Friday 24 September 2021

I commend the taskforce team that includes officers from Immigration and Citizenship Authority and police officers for confiscating illegal visas from foreigners who knowingly abuse the laws of this country and making a mockery out of it.
While the authority is making money from fines, these foreigners should be detained at Bomana Immigration Centre and deported to their home countries.
These foreigners know how weak our systems are.
What are fines compared to them living and running business illegally?
Paying a fine is too easy for some of them.
They will pay you, then what?
It is recommended these foreigners should be detained and be deported immediately.
Throughout Papua New Guinea, foreigners operate in groups, so the more we become too relaxed by just collecting fines, more will take advantage of our weak system and continue to live and operate illegally.
For example; if you go to Australia and your visa expires and you continue to reside illegally and work, you will automatically be deported and blacklisted from travelling back to Australia once you are caught by Australian authorities.
The same should be done for foreigners in Papua New Guinea.
Our laws should be respected.

Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 


Contract awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp
Is a sweetheart deal
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 28, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday September 27, 2021

Congressmen said the Senate blue ribbon committee’s investigation of the transfer of COVID-19 funds from the Department of Health to the Department of Budget and Management is meant to destroy the President.
Far from it.
The President himself said he requested Michael Yang, a Chinese national and a long-time Davao businessman, to help Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a newly organized trading company with a capital of only P625,000 and with no track record.
The award of the P8.7 billion contract to Pharmally is a sweetheart deal. One who has P42 billion will not even think of talking to a new entity with only P625,000 capital, no declared income, and no track record.
The award to Pharmally is grossly disadvantageous to the government; it calls for a thorough investigation for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In a similar situation, Malacañang would say: “If they have nothing to hide, they should let the hearings continue.”

Jose J. Ferrer, Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines



Manila streets renamed since independence
From United States in 1946
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 24 September 2021

This is not the first time we’re renaming a street.
We do this rather often.
We renamed Forbes Avenue to Lacson Avenue, Divisoria to Salas Street, Echague to Carlos Palanca, Morayta to Nicanor Reyes just to name a few.
There are about 170 streets in Manila alone that have been renamed after we gained independence from the Americans in 1946. Historian Gregorio Zaide said this is a fruit of “bigoted nationalism.”
And yet up to now, people still use the name Divisoria, Forbes, Echague, and Morayta.
This phenomenon shows both a lack of historical sense and collective memory when we change the name and also the presence of both when we still use the old names.
It would be good to foster in our people greater historical sense and true patriotism in contrast to nationalism by preserving the old names of our streets and using the names of people in our history to name new streets.
If a street has had the same name for some generations, perhaps it would be wiser not to change the name anymore.
As we can see, even if we change the name, the old one is still used by the people.
Other countries seldom change the names of streets, so that some street names are preserved even for centuries.
For example, the Via Appia in Rome was built about 300 BC.
It still exists, and it still has the same name.
The street and the name teach us a lot of history.

Fr. Cecilio L. Magsino,
Manila,
Philippines


 

One day jail sentence for corruption
For Malaysian senior federal council
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 26, 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday September 18, 2021

Anti-Curruption campaigners were startled by the decision of the Sessions Court in Butterworth last month to sentence a senior federal counsel to jail for one day and a fine of RM130,000 after he pleaded guilty to three charges of accepting bribes amounting to RM700,000 last year.
They would have been quick to point out that in contrast, more severe sentences have been meted out in cases of petty theft, such as on a labourer in Terengganu who was jailed 15 months for stealing petai, and on an unemployed man who was sentenced to 10 months’ jail for stealing RM50 from a fund belonging to a mosque.
Under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, punishment for corruption-related offences are imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years, and a fine of not less than five times the sum of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
The previous Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) 1997 carried a more severe punishment, namely a mandatory jail sentence of not less than 14 days and not exceeding 20 years and fines amounting to five times the bribe amount or RM10,000 (whichever is higher).
In comparison, under Section 406 of the Penal Code, penalty for criminal breach of trust (CBT) is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year and not more than 10 years and with whipping.
The convicted person would also be liable to a fine.
For cheating, the penalty under Section 420 of the Penal Code is imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than 10 years and with whipping, and also a fine.
Corruption is far more serious when compared with other offences such as criminal breach of trust CBT, cheating and even homicide because it has far-reaching consequences.
Compared to, for example homicide, which generally involves the offender and the victim’s family, corruption affects the wider public as the money could otherwise have been used on healthcare services or in the building of new schools and roads.
The theory of deterrence developed by Hobbes, Beccaria and Bentham states that “the more severe a punishment, the more likely that offenders will desist from criminal acts.”
Therefore, the one-day jail sentence for corruption cases should be scrapped.
It would be more appropriate under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) MACC Act 2009 to impose a mandatory jail time of at least two months with a minimum of two strokes of the rotan plus a fine.
A heavier sentence coupled with a longer prison term with whipping will open the eyes of the public to the fact that corruption will surely lead to the ruin of not only the persons involved but their entire family as well.

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar,
President,
Malaysia Association of Certified Fraud Examiners,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


 

Senate digs up evidence of plunder in investigation
Into shenanigans of President Duterte’s friends
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 September 2021
First published in the Philippines, Tuesday 21 September 2021

The commentary “Politics as farce” by Gino Paje in Philippine Inquirer, September 14, 2021 contended that the ongoing investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee of the shenanigans of President Duterte’s friends and associates known as the “Davao group” is just “politics,” given that the main investigators used to play footsie with Mr. Duterte and are now eyeing elective positions in 2022.
However, regardless of their motives, the Senate probers are actually doing a great service to the Filipino people.
They are destroying the myth that Mr. Duterte is an invincible opponent, by exposing the massive corruption in his administration.
It has now become clear that hundreds of millions of public funds intended to address a raging pandemic wound up in the pockets of the President’s greedy “Davao group.”
And the farther Mr. Duterte goes out of his way to protect his boys, the more guilty as hell he looks.
But there is one thing that needs to be reckoned with in spite of all the compelling evidence of plunder that’s being dug up in the Senate: Only the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman are authorized by law to commence criminal prosecution against crooks.
But with the officials running these government offices afraid of displeasing Mr. Duterte, who else can hold the crooks accountable?
Thus, it’s all up to the electorate if they still want more of the same, or they will finally save this country from going to the dogs.

Rey C. Escobar,
Manila,
Philippines



The military and government are distinct
In a functioning democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday Septemeber 24, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday September 20, 2021

Re: "Coup anniversary fizzer", in Bangkok Post, Sunday September 19, 2021.
Gen Sonthi said "there are different types of democracy and Thailand should find one that fits its needs".
It is true that democracy spans a range of institutional arrangements.
But functioning democracies share several principles: the people elect the government; political institutions support and maintain their choices; the government serves the country; the military and the government are distinct, not overlapping, entities; and the military serves the country, not the government.
Thailand has a long way to go before it can claim to be a functioning democracy.

Tom Parkinson,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Espionage comes to mind with Chinese national appointment
As Philippine presidential advisor on economic affairs
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 September 2021
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 21 September 2021

Michael Yang of the Pharmally scandal is a Chinese national doing business in Davao City.
Mr. Duterte has trusted this man as a friend for decades, and in fact appointed him at one point as a “presidential adviser on economic affairs.”
How that patently unlawful designation was justified by Malacañang is as clear as mud. Yang’s connection with the Chinese Communist Party is quite evident from the fact that a Chinese ambassador to the Philippines was said to have had no problem sleeping over in Yang’s house.
It would thus be the height of naivete for anyone to believe that Yang is only a businessman.
Doesn’t espionage come to mind?
Never mind the oxymoron, but is that part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines doing “military intelligence” okay with Yang traipsing the corridors of power and getting privy to practically everything that President Duterte has been doing all these years?

Rimaldo Pacifico,
Manila,
Philippines

 

New normal industrial-era education model
Will weaken education mafia in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 20 September 2021

Re: "Classroom enhances the value of learning", in Bangkok Post Opinion, September 18.
Mr Ferguson makes some excellent observations about the virtues of classroom or on-campus teaching and learning.
We are the products of the industrial-era model of the brick-and-mortar system where we had all kinds of experiences the good, bad, and ugly.
It is quite possible that in the "new normal," the industrial-era model of education, focusing on time, process, and teaching, will be eclipsed by online learning rooted in outcomes.
In the past two years of the pandemic, students have discovered their potential to learn by themselves.
The drastic changes in their behaviour will not allow them to go back easily to the usual conformity and compliance most instructors in Thailand expect.
There is enough evidence to support the idea that the institutional control of education will decrease, and the power of students will increase.
With near-universal access to digital devices and the internet, students will seek from the education sector the same things they are getting from other sectors, such as the music, movies, gaming, and eCommerce industries.
Online learning entities will drive up competition and drive down prices.
The education mafia in Thailand which has been squeezing families with its deceptive advertising and exorbitant fees for decades will weaken.
We should all come to terms with the fact that in the post-pandemic era the dominance of degrees will diminish.
According to experts, non-degree certifications and diplomas and "just in time" education will increase in status and value. In reality, education is all about experiences, not necessarily confined to schools or classrooms.
The "golden era of ivory towers" is over.
Online learning and students themselves will now drive reforms.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Face shields a symbol of waste and corruption
Under Deterte administration
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 September 2021

We echo the assertion of some senators that face shields add little or even no protection against COVID-19 infections.
It adds to plastic pollution aside from being an unnecessary expense for citizens.
We are outraged to learn in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing that the government procured overpriced face shields.
Face shields are important for medical workers, but under the Duterte administration, these items have become a symbol of waste and corruption.
It is useless to convince the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to reconsider its order for the mandatory use of face shields, that is why they are now appealing to local government units to stop requiring the use of face shields in their respective jurisdictions.
The optional use of face shields will hopefully partially reduce plastic garbage aside from removing an inconvenient financial burden on our people.
We ask the government to make a concrete plan on how to properly dispose of the plastic mess they had created, and to make officials and so-called experts accountable for legitimizing the improper use of public funds for an irrational pandemic policy.

Kevin Paul Aguayon,
Campaign Coordinator,
Nilad Metro Manila Environmental Network,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Manila,
Philippines





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,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

 

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.,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Sydney,
Australia


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.,
Manila,
Philippines



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,
Representative,
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines.
Manila,
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.,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Sydney,
Australia




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,
2021.
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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Manila,
Philippines

 


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

Mitchell,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

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,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Malaysia




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,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

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,
Manila,
Philippines




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:
Education.
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.

CK,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Selangor,
Malaysia




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,
Manila,
Philippines

 


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,
Manila,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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.
Seriously?
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,
Malaysia



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,
Malaysia



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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,
Malaysa




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,
Manila,
Philippines



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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Malaysia

 


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,
Sydney,
Australia



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,
Philippines




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,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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,
Manila,
Philippines