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

 

The Philippines
Needs a rebirth
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 14, 2024
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Monday June 10, 2024

As we commemorate our so-called independence from Imperial Spain after more than a century, we reflect once again on the perennial question: “Are we really free?”
We have witnessed the highs and lows of our history; a few, we celebrate, and the rest, we regret.
Past is past and we always say, “Just move on.”
We always want to console our frustration by asserting that we learn from history, from our past.
Another perennial question arises: “Have we really learned?”
These two critical questions underlie fundamental truths that liberty and education are mutually cohesive with each other; to be free one should be enlightened; and freedom is only guaranteed when one is willing to learn.
This triad of social concepts encapsulates why our country remains poor and corrupt.
We have never learned.
Or worse, we refuse to learn.
If we look at our poor fellow Filipinos with no access to quality education, health, food, housing, and employment—we feel hopeless for our country but at the same time we feel sorry not only for them but for ourselves because we cannot do anything to help them.
For decades we have lost hope.
We feel there is nothing we can do for our country.
Yes, we are “free” but we remain poor.
And for how long?
That is the biggest question. Until when will our country suffer?
Will we get the chance to wake up one morning and see our precious land transform into a prosperous country where Filipinos no longer need to live and work abroad?
Sadly, many of us will die without witnessing the greatness of our nation.
The Philippines needs a rebirth.
To be born again with a new breed of passionate people who have great vision and dreams for our country, who are incorruptible and brave enough to change the status quo, whose objective is to selflessly serve the people, and who are competent to lead.
As we celebrate the independence of our country: we know, but we deny, that we are not truly free.
It is a dishonest celebration we do every year.
We can never genuinely celebrate it with glee and pride as we see our country poor and corrupt.
In the 1950s, our country was richer and more advanced than many Asian countries like South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and even Singapore.
But we have seen how our Asian neighbors progressed significantly while our very own Philippines regressed like a sick hopeless land with no opportunities.
Year after year when we celebrate our nation’s independence, we live like the walking dead with nowhere to go.
Thus, many of us find opportunities in foreign countries.
Let us be honest: we leave our country because we can only fulfill our dreams if we live and work in foreign lands.
Many of us have become numb to seeing the difference between good and bad, between right and wrong; we just accept everything that happens in our country:
It is what it is” and “normal.”
In our collective subconscious, we have accepted corruption and poverty as a status quo because “there is nothing that we can do.”
Do we lack visionary leaders who can make our country better?
Perhaps the answer is that we have never learned.
We even use our state of poverty as an excuse to be accomplices of corruption and incompetence.
But how can we blame our poor Filipinos for selling their votes when stomachs are more vital than morals for survival?
Like a malignant disease, we recycle incompetent and corrupt leaders.
The cure is to educate our people to end the cycle of poverty.
When we become better Filipinos, we can help the Philippines become a better country.
Let’s fight corruption!
Let’s fight poverty!
Then, when we succeed in this battle, we can all celebrate our Philippine Independence Day with genuine joy and pride.

Rado Gatchalian,
Manila,
Philippines




China's ills
Blamed on human development
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 13, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 11, 2024

Re: "More to China's Story", Bangkok Post PostBag, Sunday June 9, 2024 Historically, Michael Setter was correct in blaming the cause of China's ills during the Qing dynasty on pervasive corruption.
However, ML Krisdakorn is also correct that China's ills were aggravated by foreigners who took advantage of its weaknesses and exploited them during the 20th century.
During this time, there was allegedly a sign in a park in the foreign-administered Shanghai that read: "Chinese and Dogs Not Admitted".
Prior to that, there was the use of opium during the Qing as exploited by the West and the two Opium Wars.
But when it comes to exploitation, neither side can be exclusively blamed for China's ills, which some recognise as human development.
Imperialism was started by the Portuguese in their search for the new world. There were also structural benefits to being colonised.
However, to state the present ruler of China as negative to human rights and destructive to the human soul is extreme when China has now become a country that the West, especially America, has to reckon with.
The West may have its own standards, and China has different standards.
As one of China's diplomats said, the West may use a fork and spoon, but the Chinese use chopsticks.
Do call me a China apologist, but not a habitual one.

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand



International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice
Claim there are cases to be made against the state of Israel
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 12, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 4, 2024

Re: "Hamas is responsible", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday May 29, 2024.
Some of the best legal minds in the world work in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
They have determined that there are cases to be made against the state of Israel, genocide, and its leaders, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The whole world has been able to witness these crimes despite Israel refusing to allow international journalists access to Gaza and having murdered more than 140 journalists who were already in Gaza.
Jews, distinguished by their achievements, their intellect, their intelligence and their integrity, have been outspoken in their criticism of the state of Israel.
It is important to name only a few of these whose speeches can easily be accessed online: Prof Avi Shlaim, Prof John Mearsheimer, Phyllis Bennis, Prof Norman Finkelstein, who describes Gaza as the world's largest concentration camp, Ilan Pappe, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein.
Additionally, many Orthodox Jews have demonstrated on behalf of the Palestinians, including Rabbi Elhanan Beck and Rabbi Yisrael David Weiss, who argues that the existence of a Zionist Israel is antithetical to Judaism.
Yet, EL Wout has the arrogance and impertinence to describe these and others as ignorant protesters. Readers will make up their own minds about who the ignorant one is.

Keith Barlow,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The Filipino flag flies from May 28
To national independence celebrations June 12
The Southeasr Asian Times, Tuesday June 11, 2024
First published in the Philippine Star, Wednesday May 22, 2024

May 28 is Day One of the Flag Days when all government offices, corporations, agencies including local government units all over the country are to prominently display the Filipino flag until the celebration of national independence on June 12, per Executive Order number 179, series of 1994.
May 28, 1898 – or 126 years ago – is to be remembered as the first time Filipino soldiers led by General Emilio Aguinaldo overran a rather big contingent of superiorly-armed Spanish soldiers manning the fort in Alapan, Imus, in the province of Cavite.
Moments after the battle, the triumphant Aguinaldo instructed a soldier to take out from one of his followers the newly minted Filipino flag on a pole, held the pole himself and began waving the flag in the usual motion from the left to the right, repeating the action several times until he decided to hoist it atop some high point or flag pole of the former Spanish garrison amidst the shouting of the Filipino crowd, including the nearby villagers who quickly went to cheer the winning troops.
Then president Fidel V. Ramos signed EO 179 on May 24, 1994 as part of remembering the victory at Alapan as well as to create awareness for June 12 in celebrating the nationhood of the Philippines, the first in Asia to declare its independence from a colonizer.
Until the Independence Day celebration on June 12, establishments and facilities owned, operated or used by the government are mandated to prominently display in their respective areas the Filipino flag, something normally expected only in schools and government offices.
Previous to 1994, May 28 every year was declared as National Flag Day by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 374, series of 1965, to commemorate the national emblem that was unfurled the very first time after the Philippine Revolutionary Army defeated the Spanish forces.
Some of the country’s prominent national officials will join Cavite officials as well as history and culture enthusiasts at the flag raising ceremonies in an area near the battle site in Barangay Alapan.
Sewn in five days in Hong Kong by Marcela Agoncillo, her sister Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Herbosa, the flag was made of 100 percent silk and became known as “The Three Stars and a Sun Flag.”
On June 12, Aguinaldo, along with other leaders of the revolution, declared independence before a crowd of Filipino natives and foreign guests in his Kawit, Cavite residence and the Filipino flag flew on a pole while the San Francisco de Malabon Marching Band played the Marcha Filipina Magdalo, later to be known as the national anthem.
The independence declaration was written and read by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista. Ninety-eight persons signed the declaration, including an army officer of the United States.

Manly Garcia,
Manila,
Philippines






The Thai legal system has no creditibility
And Thais do not trust it
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday June 19, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday May 30, 2024

Re: "Justice at stake", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday May 29, 2024 and "Yingluck upbeat on democracy", in Bangkok Post, Thursday May 23, 2024.
Samcharoen writes: "It is crucial for the credibility of our legal system and the trust of the Thai people that all individuals, regardless of their connections, are held accountable for their actions."
Fine words indeed, Khun Samcharoen.
But the sad reality is the legal system has no credibility and Thais do not trust it.
This is the result of almost daily demonstrations of how the legal system can be interpreted or manipulated to favour the entitled, while ordinary Thais rot in jail without bail, on charges that no free and democratic state would have as legal statutes anyway.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Paetongtarn Shinawatra has no political future
Without her father's connections
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 9, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday June 5, 2024

Re: "Conservatives still wield 'lawfare' axe", Bangkok Post, Opinion, Saturday June 1, 2024.
The deal Thaksin is believed to have made with the coup leaders is wearing thin, and cracks are starting to appear.
Not unexpected when you turn your back on loyal supporters and make a deal with the devil. Recent polls suggest the deal makers and the public are not fooled by Thaksin's quest for self-promotion while on parole and banned from politics, and may also be sceptical of his countless ailments.
In the coming weeks, Pheu Thai may lose both its prime minister and de facto leader, but Paetongtarn Shinawatra says she is not worried.
Well, she should be because, without her father's connections, she has no political future.

Peter Jeffreys,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Thailand to look at other Asean countries
For valuable insights on how to protect sex workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 7, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday June 5, 2024

Re: "Sex workers in peril in Thailand: Fear of police silences assault victims", in Bangkok Post Sunday June 2, 2024.
Sex workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, just like any other members of our society.
It is imperative that they are protected by the country's laws, ensuring their safety and well-being.
Sex work is a demanding profession within the service and entertainment industry. It is essential that we acknowledge the challenges sex workers face and work to eliminate any forms of discrimination against them.
In Thailand, the situation is dire as sex workers cannot report cases of assault to the police without fear of being prosecuted for prostitution.
This fear of legal repercussions silences many victims, allowing perpetrators to act with impunity.
Looking at other Asean countries can provide valuable insights on how to protect sex workers better.
For example, in Singapore, sex work is legal, but soliciting in public for the purposes of sex work is criminalised under Section 19 of the Miscellaneous Offences Public Order and Nuisance Act.
Singapore operates a two-tier system where workers in approved brothels are free from police attention, whereas "illegal" workers are heavily targeted in police crackdowns.
While this system has its own challenges, it highlights the need for clear legal frameworks that distinguish between different contexts of sex work and offer protection accordingly.
In Cambodia, the government has introduced measures aimed at reducing violence against sex workers by working closely with non-governmental organizations to provide safe spaces and support services.
Additionally, in the Philippines, advocacy groups collaborate with law enforcement to ensure that sex workers can report crimes without fear of reprisal.
These initiatives have significantly improved the safety and rights of sex workers in these nations.
Thailand must follow suit by enacting comprehensive legal reforms to protect sex workers from violence and exploitation.
This includes ensuring they can seek help from law enforcement without fear of arrest or harassment.
By implementing such protections, we can create a safer and more just society for all.

Hong Sin Kwek,
Bangkok,
Thailand





On foreign land ownership in Thailand
What's to fear ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday June 7, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday June 1, 2024

Re: "Phuket targets nominees", "PM pitches Thai, US partnership", and "?'Illegal' British guide nabbed", in Bangkok Post , Saturday June 1, 2024.
Prime Minister Srettha has emphasised worldwide that we welcome foreign investors, yet several of our key laws repel those whose help we sorely need and don't benefit Thailand.
Notably, the US, UK, and EU have very few restrictions on foreign ownership by companies of land, or occupation with exceptions for national security.
For example, Mohamed Al-Fayed acquired Harrods department store in London in 1985 by controlling 51 percent + of House of Fraser shares.
Or, our Central Group owns 50.1 percent of Berlin's KaDeWe Group department store. Buyers give great importance to having control, which we deny to others.
On foreign land ownership - what's to fear?
Thaksin bought a home in Hong Kong for a reported US$27 million (995 million baht) in 2007 and sold it for a 41 percent profit in 2023.
If we fear foreigners will turn their companies/land to uses which we disapprove of, then we should ban those acts regardless of the nationality of the actors.
If non-Thais could own land here, they'd drive up prices, benefitting the Thai owners, and they would pay Thai taxes on the sale.
The new owners would want to add value to their purchases, raising the prices of the neighbourhood in the process.
Why would we stop them from doing so?
Review and reform our laws so they lead to win-win investment solutions.

Burin Kantabutra,s
Bangkok,
Thailand





To Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand
On the occasion of her birthday
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday June 6, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday June 1, 2024

Dear Editor,

Kindly publish my attached poem to greet Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her birthday this year.

At the dawn of a new day

Heralding the anniversary of your birth

We your subjects, fairest queen greet you

With blessings of the heavens and the earth

Gift to the kingdom in rarest array

You mark your reign in a benevolent way

Bestowing on your people due care and concern

Gifts of royal design through generosity woven

Blessed thus your life in no small way

Your judgements hold wisdom's sway

Blessing those to whom you bestow

The true value of queenly gifts in radiant glow

May this birthday, fair majesty

Be with infinite joy and happiness' felicity

Glen Chatelier,
Director of the Office of International Affairs,
On behalf of the Assumption University of Thailand community,
Bangkok,
Thailad





Thailand Election Commission accepts court ruling
That candidates release profiles to the public
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday June 5, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday May 30, 2024

Re: "EC to respect court Senate race ruling", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 28, 2024.
I'm glad the Election Commission (EC) decided to respect the court's ruling that candidates may release their profiles to the public.
As they stand, the Election Commission (EC) rules are designed to give voters whether they be the candidates who must choose from among their number or the constituencies they are supposed to represent, minimal information.
This is madness.
To make an intelligent choice, voters must have as many facts as possible.
For example, instead of being banned from presenting their visions of what they'll accomplish if chosen, each candidate should be required to present their plans, posted online, followed by televised debates, with studies to show that his/her visions are not hallucinations.
Otherwise, we might have cases like Pheu Thai's promised B10k handout to each Thai, which could put every taxpayer in debt for many years so big business and their billionaire owners can get richer.
Promote informed selections, Election Commission (EC).

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Marriage in the Philippines is not an ordinary contract
That can be negotiated,
amended or terminated
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday June 4, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday May 31, 2024

Article XV, Section 1 of our Constitution recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation.
It also mandates the state to strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.
Section 2 further states: “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”
The passage of the divorce bill in the House of Representatives last week reminds us citizens that families have a social role to see that the laws and institutions of the state not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family.
Just as the family must be open to and participate in society and in its development, so also society, specifically the state, should never fail in its fundamental task of respecting and fostering the family.
The marriage bond is not an ordinary contract that can be negotiated, amended, or terminated.
Marriage is a covenant with God in the middle of the union of husband and wife. This gives marriage a divine function, elevating human love to a supernatural order. For marriage to work under God’s plan, it needs the characteristics of unity and indissolubility.
The state must protect and defend that.
Each marriage is imperfect because the persons within the marriage are imperfect themselves. Married people realize the difficulties and the challenges they go through, especially in this culture of the ephemeral—a throw-away culture, where things and people are disposable, substitutable, and replaceable, which prevents a constant process of growth.
Pope Francis in “Amoris laetitia” inspires married couples to accept the challenges and make their love grow as time passes.
The quality of a society is only as good as the quality of its families.
A French saying goes, you can tell the quality of a society by the quality of its women.
Here the state should work on the real problem of families: poverty, education, health, violence, pornography, and immoral lifestyles promoted by media.
We already have legal separation for impossible marriage unions.
There is available nullification of invalid married unions.
Why go further to legalize divorce that will cheapen the marriage bond?
Wasn’t the 48 percent rate of divorces to total marriages in the United States in 1975 likely to spiral and be assimilated into the Filipino culture?
If in divorce societies half the number of persons who marry fail to find happiness in marriage, will they find happiness in a second marriage?
Studies by Fr. Cormac Burke, a noted authority on marriage and the family, say the divorce rate is three to four times higher among divorcees than among those who marry for the first time.
Divorce in the case of battered wives ends up in abusive husbands beating up other women.
And in our poor country, how can the average divorced man afford to maintain children from a previous marriage if he has a second family?
We pray our senators will protect and defend the Filipino family and not pass the divorce bill.

Lella M. de Jesus,
Diocese of Parañaque,
Manila
Philippines





Africans would not buy 10-year-old
Imported rice from Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times Monday June 3, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday May 30, 2024

Re: "African countries want answers over old rice sale", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 28, 2024.
Frankly, I don't think self-respecting and canny citizens from African nations would ever buy imported 10-year-old rice that is getting mustier by the day while it moulders in warehouses here.
Apart from weevils, let's not forget the possibility of bird and rodent droppings entering the mix.
Any order would be a significant test of the purchasing government's probity in the context of disseminating information about the rice's age and origin to the public sector and its welfare.

Ellis O'Brien,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Folks,
The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train!
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday June 2, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday May 31, 2024

Several articles from the latest Programme for International Student Assessment results again highlighted the terrible state of our education.
Our Department of Education assessment states that we have a five- to six-year learning level deficit.
It says that our 15-year-olds Grade 10 have a learning level equivalent to Grade 5. We were one of only three countries in the world with 10 years of mandatory schooling and for some time, the only one in Asia without a K-12.
In 2012, we finally added Grades 11 and 12, two years of senior high school.
We could not see beyond the tip of our noses, content with a populace with innate
talent and diligence to put us as one of the leading powerhouses in Asia in the ’60s. But the same dynamism and energy of our people began the country’s decline. Rampant corruption and cronyism created a cynical and disaffected middle class. The pent-up energy of these great, talented masses saw no outlet to create wealth and better themselves.
What started as a trickle became an exodus of the best and the brightest.
People wonder why we don’t attract the manufacturing behemoths of the world as well as Vietnam and Singapore do.
Why would we?
How, for example, can Honda or Volkswagen start an electric vehicle plant in any part of the Philippines?
We don’t have enough workers with STEM training to run high-tech manufacturing in the Philippines.
In the coming artificial intelligence (AI) industrial revolution, we will not see the Philippines anywhere close to South Korea population, 51 million or Taiwan population, 23 million, and now even Vietnam population, 99 million.
While the world is preoccupied with AI, 6G the sixth generation of cellular networks, and quantum computing, we are still mired in the same ongoing crisis of bad governance, corruption, poverty, education woes, and bureaucratic infighting dominated by political dynasties.
The poor are powerless to affect reforms.
Those who can bring change are part of the ruling class and have a self-serving agenda that preserves the status quo. Still, others are too busy preparing to exit the country.
The most disappointing assemblage of eldership in this country is stuck in an outdated bias of a Christian worldview that, to put it mildly, has immobilized the masses into subservient sheep encapsulated in an antiquated box.
Our power brokers ignore a new generation of people who are products of social media, educated with a more “left of center” outlook and an information technology wind on their backs.
Our pseudo padres and influence peddlers, which abound in the Philippines, cannot understand and assimilate a progressive mindset.
As if that’s not enough, we even have a self-declared “appointed son of God” in our midst.
The Vatican no longer calls for a “World Day of Prayer” for all the ills that beset humanity because they know it doesn’t work and it further ruins their credibility. Why?
The Vatican runs on myth and superstition.
Why do our ecclesiastic elders never learn from the successes of others who “took the bull by horns” and said “enough”?
Look at Vietnam.
Coming out of the war and the Christian French influence, Vietnam declared sectarianism passé.
From one of the world’s poorest to the fastest economic growth in Southeast Asia achieved in a single generation, Vietnam has redirected sectarian energy into a path of productivity.
And here we are, with an educationally challenged youth, politicians pointing fingers at each other, and archaic religious ideology weighing us down like a grounded child.
Folks, the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train!

Edwin de Leon,
Manila,
Philippines




Hundreds of thousands protest against WHO-proposed
Pandemic treaty in Japan, EU and around the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday June 1, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 28, 2024

The WHO-proposed pandemic "treaty" is satisfying to neither the left nor the right.
Human Rights Watch noted the current draft fails to enshrine core human rights standards protected under international law, most notably the right to health and the right to benefit from scientific progress, risking a repeat of the WHO's tragic Covid failures.
A recent New York Times story, "Countries Fail to Agree on Treaty to Prepare the World for the Next Pandemic", pointed out that talks were stalled and "negotiators were scrambling to ratify the treaty before elections in the United States", because presumptive US President Donald Trump would never accept any agreement that compromises national sovereignty.
Though less publicised, hundreds of thousands have protested against the so-called treaty in Japan, the EU, and around the world.
The reasons include a deep-rooted mistrust of the UN's corrupt elitist leadership and their planned pandemics, which coincided with illegal bioweapons research funded by governments while the UN turned a blind eye.
Remember what happened at the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
Or how about the BSL-4 labs on the Ukraine-Russian border operated by the CIA?
This is how advocates for the treaty express themselves: "One can only hope the next pandemic wipes out the anti-vaxxers … in one heavenly swoop so we don't have to keep listening to this laughable rot."
The choice is an important one.

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand





PM Strettha showing favouritism
Towards Thaksin Shinawatra
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 30, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday May 29, 2024

Re: "Yingluck upbeat on democracy", in Bangkok Post, Thursday May 23, 2024
I am writing to express my concern regarding the relationship between our current prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, and convicted ex-prime ministers, Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra.
Yingluck, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid serving a prison term in Thailand, is the sister of Thaksin.
Thaksin, also a convicted ex-prime minister, maintains a close friendship with Mr Srettha, meeting him frequently.
Given the prime minister's duty to uphold the law and ensure justice, it is imperative that Mr Srettha uses his position and connections to facilitate Yingluck's return to Thailand to serve her sentence.
The Shinawatra family, particularly Thaksin, likely knows Yingluck's whereabouts. By failing to leverage his close relationship with Thaksin to bring Yingluck to justice, Mr Srettha is not fully committing to his responsibilities and appears to be showing favouritism toward his friend and his family.
This situation raises questions about the sincerity and integrity of our prime minister's commitment to justice and the rule of law.
It is crucial for the credibility of our legal system and the trust of the Thai people that all individuals, regardless of their connections, are held accountable for their actions.

Samcharoen,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Call for royalist to present best case
Why lese majeste laws are not morally indefensible
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 30, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 28, 2024

Re: "Srettha distant fourth in popularity poll", in Bangkok Post, Monday May 27, 2024 and "Move Forward MP gets 2 years on lese majeste charge", Bangkok Post, Monday May 27, 2024.
As confirmed by the latest poll, it is no surprise that the popularity of Move Forward Party (MFP) and its leadership have continued to rise.
The conviction of Move Forward Party (MFP) member of parliament, Ms Chonthicha Jangrew, on a lese majeste charge will only further boost support for the party.
Meanwhile, the assault on Ms Chonthicha Jangrew listed by Time magazine on its 2024 list of Next Generation Leaders, will further stain the reputation of every person and institution actively or tacitly associated with such legalised rights violations.
Perhaps the Bangkok Post could invite a royalist to present their best case and explain why those laws are not morally indefensible rejections of justice that go against basic democratic principles.
Perhaps that is to ask the impossible, but they deserve the chance to peacefully speak their case.
It really is time a few polls are conducted to discover the truth about what Thais actually think on these issues, but to be fair, that would threaten the unsubstantiated fancies being regularly uploaded to computer systems there for many years.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

 

Must read Nic Maclellan analysis of the disaster
Waiting to happen in 'Civil unrest in New Caledonia'
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 29, 2024

Anyone interested in acquiring a deeper understanding and insight into the misreading of France’s colonial agenda in New Caledonia, without taking proper cognisance of the aspirations of the indigenous people, must read Nic Maclellan’s illuminating analysis of the disaster which was waiting to happen in ‘ Civil unrest in New Caledonia ‘ ( The Fiji Times 21 May 2024 ).
Hope the relevant state parties and the UN decolonisation body will heed the inherent problems Nic Maclellan identifies and address them accordingly and not make the kind of mistake that was made regarding West Papua.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia




Thailand constitution requires that the head of state
His Majesty the King be Buddhist
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 28, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday May 26, 2024

Re: "Why an alcohol ban?", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saturday May 25, 2024
"Cheers Grumpy" declares that Thailand is secular, and questions why alcohol is banned on Visakha Bucha Day.
Yes, in theory Thailand is secular and there is freedom of religion.
Buddhism represents 93 percent of the population, Islam 5 percent Christianity 1.2 percent and Brahminism, Hinduism, Sikhism and other minor religions and atheism make up the rest.
The constitution requires that the head of state, His Majesty the King, be Buddhist in a similar way that the King of England must be Church of England.
So putting ideas of secularism aside, by sheer weight of numbers the reality is that Thailand is a Buddhist state.
In short, Buddha Rules. Okay!
So, "Cheers Grumpy": Stock up on a few bottles of beer or wine before the next Buddhist holy day rolls around and enjoy them at your leisure.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Urgent need for majority of Filipinos
To develop critical thinking
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 27, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday May 17, 2024

In about a year from now, we will once again be electing officials for local government units and both houses of Congress.
It is essential that our mayors and governors take responsibility for ensuring that local and national laws are beneficial to all Filipinos and our country.
Similarly, our senators, House representatives, board members, and councilors have the crucial task of crafting legislation that is in the best interest of their constituents.
I have previously emphasized in a newspaper article the urgent need for majority of Filipinos to develop critical thinking.
Without this fundamental shift, we will continue to be at the mercy of elected officials who rely solely on popularity and political connections, instead of necessary qualifications such as education, experience, and expertise.
Our electorate, especially those from the socioeconomic classes C, D, and E, must become discerning, analytical, and capable of identifying unqualified candidates, many of whom come from political dynasties.
Otherwise, governance will remain mediocre, and favor only the rich and influential.
Legitimate nongovernment organizations, which have the wherewithal and capacity, must take the lead in promoting critical thinking.
Unfortunately, due to various circumstances related to their existence, they find themselves preoccupied with urgent issues such as protecting children from online abuse and combating climate change.
While these efforts are commendable, they only address superficial needs in society and do not bring about transformative change.
Intellectuals, who should ideally be leading societal transformation, often focus on pursuits such as the arts, literature, and culture.
While these endeavors are enriching, they have limited direct relevance to the pressing economic, social, and political challenges our nation faces.
In both urban and rural areas, many heads of poor households, mostly men, engage in risk-taking through various forms of gambling.
This diverts a significant amount of time, money, and effort away from entrepreneurial endeavors and into activities like cockfighting, bingo, jueteng, lotteries, and the like.
The majority of the population, referred to as “ordinary people,” disengage from politics, opting instead for leisurely activities such as watching movies, dining out, and so on, especially during weekends and holidays.
The forthcoming May fiestas, sponsored by entrenched political families in preparation for the 2025 local elections, further highlight this detachment from political realities.
The political circus for the upcoming local and national polls has already begun more than a year in advance.
Unfortunately, the legitimate opposition appears ill-prepared, as recent polling data show significant leads for Vice President Sara Duterte and Sen.
Raffy Tulfo for the presidency.
Notably absent from the top senatorial posts are opposition stalwarts, with the list being dominated by administration and pseudo-opposition loyalists.
It is widely acknowledged that big corporations strategically support candidates from both sides, ensuring influence regardless of the election outcome.
This symbiotic relationship extends to corporations associated with the administration due to family connections or lucrative government contracts.
Despite hopes for internal conflicts within the ruling elite, as seen in the feud between the Marcoses and the Dutertes, genuine change remains elusive as these powerful factions engage in power struggles.
Given this disheartening reality, it is understandable that many Filipinos, particularly critical thinkers both in the country and abroad, seem helpless in confronting this bleak state of affairs.

Nono Felix,
Manila,
Philippines

 



Thailand's chance of winning a place
On the United Nations Human Rights Council is good
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 26, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday May 20, 2024

Re: "Thai Human Rights Council aspirations", in Bangkok Post, May 1, 2024 and "Amnesty panel to mull inclusion of S112 cases", in Bangkok Post, May 16, 2024.
Thailand's chances of winning a prestigious United Nations Human Rights Council slot this October are good but could be made a lot better by a few steps:
A flood of Myanmar citizens is fleeing the Tatmadaw'.
Rather than confining the Myanmar citizens to a refugee camp, we should offer them an acculturation programme, rural jobs at market rates and a merit-based path to citizenship.
Our application of Section 112, known as lese majeste law, should be brought in line with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great's advice.
As His Majesty noted in his 2005 birthday broadcast, he would have dropped charges against those accused of the lese majeste and released those jailed for lese majeste
Let's show that we belong on the Human Right Council.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Laugh of the year
Senators want to impeach PM and Minister Pichit
The Southeast Asian Times Saturday May 25, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday May 20, 2024

Re: "Senators ask charter court to impeach PM, new minister Pichit", in Bangkok Post, Friday May 17, 2024
The laugh of the year came from reading this news in which senators ask the charter court to impeach the Prime Minister and new minister Pichit "based on Section 170 (4) and (5) of the charter which deal with moral and ethical standards of a cabinet minister".
What could possibly not meet that established standard?
How about the blatant "moral and ethical standards" of the senate itself?
How about using the lese majeste law as the pretext to deny the clear outcome of the May 14 election last year?

Felix Qui,
Bangkok.
Thailand




Proper utilization of blood and blood products
Poorly regulated in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 24, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday May 7, 2024

In 2010, the World Health Organization called for global action toward 100-percent voluntary blood donation.
It aims to phase out family blood donation, replacement donation, and paid donation which are prone to donor abuse.
This vision has been adopted by the Department of Health by issuing policies that call for rational blood use and 100-percent voluntary blood donation.
However, replacement donation has not been fully eliminated and remains one of the sources of blood supply in the Philippines.
The blood demand and supply imbalance remains a concern.
Several factors have been identified that contribute to this issue such as decreased blood donors, decreased operational capacity of blood banks, consistently high demand for blood products, and irrational blood use.
Despite strategies to ensure rational blood use in the hospital, evidence shows that the proper utilization of blood and blood products remains poorly regulated. Therefore, the imbalance continues to exist affecting the health system’s capacity to equitably allocate blood supply.
These issues present a challenge in maintaining a sustainable supply of blood that will meet the demand while complying with existing policies on voluntary blood donation.
Hence, there is an urgent need to look at evidence-based measures to improve current strategies that can effectively ensure rational blood use and the availability of blood and blood products.
Addressing the persistently low supply of blood will entail more resources and is challenged by systemic issues that cannot be immediately or easily resolved.
It is then imperative to ensure that the health system can properly allocate the limited blood supply to patients who need it most.
Thus, strategies must be instituted to ensure that the supply of blood products that barely meet the demand is given to the right patient, at the right time, and for the right indication.

Reiner Lorenzo J. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines




Rice stored in Thailand for ten years
Worth more than price of gold
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 23, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday May 21, 2024

Re: "Lab tests show rice 'edible'?", in Bangkok Post , May 20, 2024 and "Push to sell old rice raises questions", in Bangkok Post, May 19, 2024.
With due respect to that private lab's finding of 10-year-old rice stored in Surin as free from aflatoxins and other chemical residues, an internet search with the words "expiration of rice" said otherwise: "Dry white rice has a shelf life of up to 2 years ... Mould contamination in expired rice may lead to mycotoxin intake, which may be detrimental to your health."
In a prior Sunday front-page report, "Push to sell old rice raises questions", it was stated that 17.8 million tonnes were sold for 146 billion baht 8,200 baht/tonne in 2018.
Now, the hope is to auction these 15,000 tonnes of "expired" rice for a price of 270 million baht 18,000 baht a tonne.
Am I missing something that the expired rice after five years could fetch 120 percent more than the price in 2018 even gold could not rise that much!?
In addition, for 10 years, the storage cost of 380,000 baht per month has amounted to 45 million baht, not to mention the fumigation costs.
The key questions are why it has been kept as a hot potato for so long by officials in the early government and why it is being highlighted now by this government?

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Where have all the Manhole covers gone
Smelters picked them, every one
The Southeast Asian Times Wednesday, May 22, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday May 17, 2024

Re: "No surprises", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Monday May 13, and "Accident waiting to happen", in Bangkok Post, Sunday May 12.
I agree with Shane's letter and would like to add to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) article that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) should review and improve its own performance, not just blame other agencies.
In Lumpini Park, all the manhole covers of the sewer network are in poor condition.
On top are out-of-shape thin steel plates apparently borrowed from some other facilities.
Some are placed over cracked concrete covers; some have plywood planks sandwiched beneath.
The manholes are surrounded by plastic string tied on makeshift sticks at the four corners, with signs in Thai and English: "DANGER".
It is obvious these things are old must be months or years old, and some of the string has loosened.
These deteriorated facilities should take days or weeks to correct, not months or years.
The facilities are under the full control of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
Lumpini Park is a popular place, with thousands, or tens of thousands, of visitors each day.
Yet, it receives such poor attention from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

Thanin Bumrungsap,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Majority of Thai ministers support Thaksin Shinawatra meeting
With anti-Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar groups
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 21, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post Thursday May 16, 2024

Re: "Hard to justify", Bangkok Post PostBag, May 9, "Thaksin met with Malaysia's Anwar", Bangkok Post, May 9 and "Thaksin in Myanmar rebel talks", Bangkok Post, May 8.
Comments by Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang that publicly support Thaksin's move to talk to Myanmar's rebels are shameless.
I found Thaksin to be a second-rate actor.
He should have taken professional training at a proper drama school where they teach breathing techniques, facial expressions, body language, and to act naturally.
What is worse is the majority of the ministers supporting Mr Thaksin in meetings with Myanmar armed rebel groups and Anwar Ibrahim, who is the prime minister of Malaysia. So scary!

Jayut Jayanandana,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Animal cruelty
Is common in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times Monday May 20, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Wednesday May 8, 2024

Animal cruelty, such as violence and neglect, is still common in the Philippines.
Not only does this stem from a lack of knowledge and awareness of animal welfare, but there is a blatant lack of compassion and humanity for living creatures.
Last March, Killua, a golden retriever, was brutally killed in Camarines Sur.
Other dogs have also been victims of abuse.
A puppy was thrown from a pedestrian overpass by a security guard in Quezon City.
A tourist’s dog was found butchered by fishermen in Sariaya, Quezon.
How many more cases of animals being killed and butchered would it take to stop animal cruelty once and for all?
“Changing a mindset of a person can be very difficult, we can only inform them the proper ways of handling dogs or pets,” said Nelfe Joy Tagarian, an eight-year small animal practitioner and veterinarian when asked how people can change their negative minds about animals.
Tagarian explained that it is not an option to kill an animal, whether rabid or not, without first going to the local authorities to hold the owners accountable.
Pet owners under Republic Act No. 9482, or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007, are mandated to have their pets vaccinated against rabies.
This is to ensure the safety of the pets, owners, as well as the public.
Killua’s case has highlighted concerns regarding pet care and the responsibilities of pet owners.
Owning a pet could be financially hefty, and an aspiring owner must be prepared to cater to their potential pet’s needs.
Getting vaccination shots, checking for possible diseases, maintaining the pet’s diet and nutrition are just among a pet owner’s responsibilities.

Frances Zipagan,
University of the Philippines Baguio,
Manila
Philippines




No need to cement riverbanks to stabilize them
Plant cash crops bamboo, nipa, malunggay, katmon
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 19, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday May 3, 2024

I recently visited Nueva Ecija and saw two riverbanks being cemented unnecessarily: First is the Labong River in Barangay Santa Clara, Quezon, Nueva Ecija, and the second is the river in Barangay Cavite, Guimba.The first one is being done by R.A. Pahati Construction and Supply, Inc., with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as the implementing agency.
The cost is a staggering P47 million, as shown in the Commission on Audit advisory board which also says that the project is the rehabilitation of the riverbank slope protection structure.
There is actually no need to cement riverbanks to stabilize them.
There’s a better alternative planting cash crops like bamboo, nipa, malunggay, katmon, and kalumpit, to name a few. Riverbanks can also be stabilized with “dao,” “hagimit,” and “tangisang bayawak.”
Dao has edible fruits like santol; hagimit has anti-rheumatic properties, while tangisang bayawak has edible fruits and a sap that relieves toothaches.
Local legislators can enact ordinances to compel the planting of indigenous trees along riverbanks instead of them being cemented.
Another heart-wrenching sight on this trip is the unnecessary construction of the Talugtug-Umingan Road which connects Talugtug, Nueva Ecija to Umingan, Pangasinan.
The otherwise perfectly paved road is being dug up, a waste of people’s money since in 2021, this same road was already repaired. Now, construction is again ongoing from the start of the Talugtug side—in Barangay Patola and extends to close to two kilometers.
Congress should really look hard at the national budget and check if a lot of leakage is due to DPWH repairs. Let us be guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 1. no poverty; 2. zero hunger; 3. good health and well-being. The way Congress allocates the budget for DPWH, we are going the opposite way in slashing poverty incidence.
Based on the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s 2023 data, Nueva Ecija has a poverty rate of 28 percent—the highest in Region III, although the Philippine Statistics Authority pegs it as between 10 percent to 14 percent for the first semester of 2023. Instead of unnecessary DPWH repairs, Nueva Ecija can focus on export items like mangoes, native tree timber, and agarwood which can sell for half a million pesos a kilo. This they can intercrop with native livestock. What is the value of one mango tree? According to Ramon Barba, father of mango flower induction, he has seen families send kids to college with just one mango tree!
Instead of cementing and recementing our country, our legislators and leaders should plan to alleviate poverty and hunger starting in the country side.

Chester C. Chang,
Manila,
Philippines




Forest fires in northern Thailand
Can't be seen from a gilded tower in Bangkok
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 19, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday May 15, 2024

Re: "Clean air comes before animal feed", Bangkok Post, Editorial, Sunday May 12, 2024.
I read with interest in Sunday's editorial that "field burning in corn plantations" is "the main source of toxic haze in the North."
Only last week, the Thai government's Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda) released data that shows that forest fires, including conservation forest and national forest, accounted for 94 percent of the burn area in Chiang Mai between January 1 and April 30 this year.
The data used by Gistda is based on data from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Is the Bangkok Post suggesting that Nasa and the Thai government are lying and making data up?
Around a week ago, a spokesperson for the Northern Breath Council was quoted in the media saying that along with the main cause being forest fires, not agriculture, the main problem with dealing with fires is that they are often difficult to reach.
Is the peak body for tackling PM2.5 in the north lying, and does the Bangkok Post believe that space aliens or cargo helicopters are bringing corn out of difficult-to-reach forest areas that can sometimes take 3-4 hours on foot for firefighters to reach?
Going back a year or two, Chiang Mai University presented data on emissions from fires in Northern Thailand in 2019 at an air quality conference supported by the US Consulate General in Chiang Mai.
The study found that between February and April of that year - burning season, PM2.5 emissions from corn/maize accounted for 2.8 percent of the smoke in the air in the north of Thailand (not just Chiang Mai) versus 96.87 percent from the burning of forests.
Did they make that up as well?
People in the North, myself included, who have two eyes can see what the overwhelming majority of forest fires are about -something you clearly can't see from a gilded tower in Bangkok.
The reality on the ground, not Greenpeace talking points, is that the fires are primarily related to forest products ranging from hed thob mushrooms, pak whan, red ant eggs, honey, illegal logging, animal hunting and more.

Duncan Riley,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Call for China to be held accountable
For destructive use of its coast guard water cannons
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 17, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday May 9, 2024

China must be condemned and held accountable for the wrong and destructive use of its coast guards’ water cannons.
Recompense must also be levied for the structural and mechanical damages suffered by the Philippine vessels, including injuries to passengers, if any, when they sailed to conduct a civilian humanitarian mission at Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal recently.
There are ethics even at sea.
Though still unwritten, proper and ethical use of a ship’s water cannon ought to be covered by protocols to put a stop on its use for hostile purposes.
They are designed specifically for putting out fires hobbling other ships in the vast ocean, where means of traditional firefighting are unavailable.
It is uncommon to utilize it to cause harm, or as a tool for harassment and, above all, to endanger lives.
There are already a number of treaties and conventions covering almost every facet of human activity that, for centuries, were tied to people’s use and enjoyment of the oceans and the seas.
Among these is the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, which provides guidelines governing sea collisions. Then followed the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, as amended.
Thereafter, in 1988, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, initiated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), was institutionalized and ratified by participating nations.
Interestingly, China ratified the latter treaty in 1991 that took effect the following year.
Its Chapter V pertains to navigational safety with regard to an operational nature applicable in “general to all ships on all voyages.”
It includes the general obligation for shipmasters to lend assistance to those in distress not add or cause stress on any or to an already distressed ship at sea.
The whole world watched in horror when supposedly responsible coast guards ran amuck and blasted high-pressure waters that nearly crippled a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and a chartered civilian craft.
To paraphrase a Biblical injunction: “What does it profit a country in grabbing an entire piece of the sea yet loses its repute?”
In light of the indiscriminate use of water cannons and blinding devices like military lasers by the China Coast Guard (CCG), it behooves responsible states to craft regulations that will govern their use of similar steps taken by the governments of Austria, Egypt, and Italy in 1986 when they successfully urged International Maritime Organization (IMO) to undertake a convention on the subject of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation.
This was meant to provide a comprehensive suppression of unlawful acts committed against the safety of maritime vessels and those that endanger human lives, including those performing their duty in connection with their work, such as among others, the coast guards, other mariners, journalists, and media practitioners.
We cannot fall, hook, line, and sinker, for the populist clamor of some, including a senator, for “a tooth for a tooth” approach in response to the thuggery shown by the China Coast Guard (CCG).
It will only exacerbate the already tense situation; it will not make us any different from those whose behavior we object to.
What the times call for is the crafting of a rules-based solution in the form of a treaty that will govern the use of water cannons and other harmful vessel-bound devices at sea.
The Philippines, together with similarly minded nations, could initiate a move at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) or before other relevant international treaty organizations to, once and for all, address the lack of rules and regulations on these areas of grave concern in a civilized manner.

Ted P. Peñaflor II,
Manila,
Philippines





The only explanation for Rosmah Mansor’s behaviour
Is pure greed
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May16, 2024

We learn from The Southeast Asian Times report ‘ New 1MDB Management charge Rosmah Mansor, wife of incarcerated former PM, with embezzlement ‘ ( 13 May 2024 ) that the charge relates to “ 320 payments totalling US $346,010,489 for the purchase of luxury brand name handbags, watches and jewellery … “ ( read details in the report ).
Why would a 70 year old woman do such a thing?
Of course the opportunity was there during the reign in power of her husband Najib Razak who is doing jail time for over US $1.8 billion siphoned from the state development fund .
The only explanation for Rosmah Mansor’s behaviour is pure greed. That is not an uncommon thing when the husband is a rogue ruler with his hands on state funds.
It’s disgraceful.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Refugees from Myanmar
Can be a win-win opportunity for Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 15, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday May 3, 2024

Re: "Protect rights of refugees", in Bangkok Post Editorial, Tuesday April 30, 2024.
Refugees from Myanmar can be a win-win opportunity for Thailand if we have the vision to see it.
We endanger winning the highly-prized UN Human Rights Council seat we want by falling short of our trumpeted vows to treat Myanmar refugees in line with humanitarian principles.
For example, we're only able to accommodate 3,000 people in five temporary shelters but hundreds of thousands are headed our way.
Also, we're one of the world's fastest-ageing societies and face an acute skills crisis.
We should offer refugees acculturation workshops, rural jobs at market rates, and a merit-based path to citizenship, inducing them to help us grow in the long term.
Act now for a win-win outcome.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Vietamese-French woman challenges US corporation claim
To immunity from Agent Orange warfare in Vietnam
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday May 14, 2024

Whatever the outcome of the Paris Court of Appeal decision regarding jurisdiction it is still absolutely fantastic that Vietnamese-French woman Tran Ta Nga 82 has taken court action to hold the multinational chemical companies that supplied the US military to conduct chemical warfare in Vietnam responsible for their action in pursuit of profit taking no cognisance of the serious human health and environmental degradation impacts ( The Southeast Asian Times 12 May 2024 ).
History must be remembered so that we do not repeat the atrocities of the past.
This court action by the 82 year old woman reminds us to do that.
She is to be applauded for her courage to challenge the purported claim to immunity by the powerful multinational companies.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia





The West Philippine Sea
Is one of the vital trading routes in the world

The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 13, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday May 8, 2024

Defending a state’s territory is one of the significant roles of the government.
The Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli mentioned in his book, “The Prince,” the importance of sovereignty and the autonomy of the state, as he described it as a superior entity of the land.
The state has the responsibility to preserve its territory and resources, as well as protect the welfare of the people.
The Philippines has played a massive role in implementing these mandates in accordance with international law and the 1987 Constitution.
The West Philippine Sea is one of the vital trading routes in the world.
Billion-dollar worth of cargo passes this route coming from big economies of East Asia, China, Japan, and South Korea. This area is known for its abundant natural resources.
Maritime countries in Southeast Asia, like the Philippines, have exploited the region as a traditional fishing ground ever since.
In addition, this particular area has untapped billion barrels of oil reserves and trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
These discoveries in the area and their significant role in the global market made the countries in the region want to assert their claims, sparking regional tensions.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has buffed up its capabilities by acquiring new weapons and armaments through a modernization program and strengthening partnerships with traditional allies like the United States, Japan, and Australia.
The Philippines won at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague and that decision only affirmed the Philippines’ sovereignty and significantly bolstered its jurisdiction over the resources within its exclusive economic zone.
Territory is one of the pillars of the state.
Without it, we cannot govern and create laws for the nation, and there will be no sustenance for the population to survive.
Defining a territory also signifies autonomy, away from the control of the external force, and recognition in the international arena.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), led by the commander in chief, President Marcos, is the custodian of our territory and sovereignty.

Ceddie Carlos,
Manila,
Philippines





Philippines yet to hear of Open Government Partnership role
In eliminating extensive corruption in the bureaucracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 12, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday May 3, 2024

Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global initiative promoting transparency, fighting graft, and improving governance at both the national and subnational levels, of which the Philippines is among the eight founding nations alongside Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman chairs Open Government Partnership (OGP) in the Philippines.
Until now, however, we have yet to hear of the Open Government Partnership (OGP’s) role in eliminating extensive corruption in the country’s bureaucracy under the auspices of the Department of Budget (DBM), which dispenses budgets and funds.
We should congratulate, however, a dozen or so of our cities and towns that, according to the Department of Budget (DBM) secretary, were accepted into the ranks of transparent and accountable governance for promoting transparency and fighting graft.
But what about the more than 300 other government offices and agencies, which in total suck an estimated 20 percent of the national budget?
Unless Department of Budget (DBM) has a game plan to end these corrupt practices at source, here and now, let’s stop lulling ourselves with the isolated performance of a few government units that have a conscience, lest we become a laughingstock in our helplessness.

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila,
Philippines





Call for humanitarian assistance in conflict zones
For Myanmar citizens on Thai-Myanmar border
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 11, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 10, 2024

Re: "?'Brain drain' follows military coup", in Bangkok Post, Monday April 8, 2024.
Humanitarian assistance to citizens in conflict zones on the Thai-Myanmar border must be carried out without discrimination. Myanmar refugees are being forced by the Tatmadaw to kill their fellow countrymen.
Thailand must not send them back to be jailed or killed but give them humanitarian aid on our soil.
Also, it appears that anti-Tatmadaw groups are taking control of Myawaddy, and 617 people have surrendered to the Karen National Union.
The Tatmadaw sent an aircraft to bring an initial group back but none apparently showed up to be repatriated.
They, like any other refugees, must be given free choice as to whether they wish to stay in Thailand or be repatriated.
If the latter, they must be sent to an area where they feel safe, under the principle of non-refoulement.
Refugees electing to stay in Thailand are a golden opportunity for Thailand.
We are one of Asia's fastest-ageing societies, with an increasingly heavy burden on our workers to support us elders.
The Myanmar refugees are the exact age groups and professions needed to slow our ageing society and kickstart our lagging economy.
We should help them find jobs with an acculturation programme and merit-based route to citizenship.
But we must move quickly. They are literally knocking on our doors as we speak.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Former PM of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra
Is on record saying ''The United Nations is not my uncle".
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 19, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday May 2, 2024

Re: "Parnpree stuns govt with move to quit", in Bangkok Post, April 29, 2024 and "Rights, freedoms hang in balance", in Bangkok Post Opinion, Saturday December 30, 2023.
I refer to the resignation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara.
How sad.
Mr Parnpree was a supporter of Thailand applying to join the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR) for 2025-2027.
I had to time travel back to December 2023 to find anything substantive in your publication relating to Thailand's hopes to be admitted to this organisation: an opinion piece titled "Rights, freedoms, hang in the balance" by Prof Emeritus Vitit Muntarbhorn, a human rights law expert.
Surely a successful application to the UNHR would be a source of pride.
There is, however, a sour note; the effective leader of Pheu Thai, Thaksin is on record as saying that "The UN is not my uncle". I guess that means we can kiss goodbye to joining the real world, since it is beyond the imagination of one man.

Don McMahon
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippines call for new follow-up arbirtration in Hague Court
Against China for reclamation of West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday May 8, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday May 7, 2024

In addition to filing routine diplomatic protest, I fully support the ongoing recommendation of retired Supreme Court justice Francis H. Jardeleza for President Marcos to file a new follow-up arbitration case against China on its large-scale reclamation of parts of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), including areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
If we fail to do this, then, surely China will continue its very aggressive encroachment stance into our territorial jurisdiction and the continuing harassment of our Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea WPS.
On a similar note, I fully agree with lawyer Ancheta K. Tan’s prodding to show crucial widespread support for Mr. Marcos’ foreign policy.
As stated by Tan in his Letter to the Editor on May 1, 2024 “President Marcos has embarked on a courageous but logical and pragmatic shift from the servile stance of his predecessor to a multilateral partnership with other nations to enhance, not only our own, but regional peace and stability.” Among others, if we do not show our support to this move, Tan opines: “Lest we will be caught off guard, and wake up one day with our neighbor entering our door without firing a shot.”
Definitely, the filing of a new arbitration case will entail costs but I suppose it is more than worth it considering the very high stakes and concomitant risks of losing our sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction and becoming a pitiful vassal of China.
Therefore, let us “put our money where our mouth is.”
Our nationalistic and patriotic posture in this regard is hereby exhorted.

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines





The power problem in the Philippines is complex
''We cannot point to a single solution''
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 8, 2024
First pubished in the Philippine Inquirer Thursday May 2, 2024

The Luzon grid has been practically under yellow alert for most of the day for weeks now.
The Visayas grid experiences the same deficiency in reserve.
The prevailing explanation has been due to the simultaneous plant outages.
It is important to stress that an outage does not automatically result in power interruption.
To use a more relatable analogy, if you’re running a laundry service, the loss of one washing machine does not mean the whole shop would close down.
The loss of two or more should keep you worried.
A power plant may be allowed to be on planned outage for maintenance but it does not mean the reserve will be thin; the reserve does not necessarily have to be thin.
This is because there is a schedule to be followed and planned out ahead of time when and how long power plants should be on shutdown.
Therefore, we know if the schedule is followed and when generators will be on outage.
But why do generators shut down in the first place?
Generators are made up of many parts which may be moving or not.
These generator parts need to be maintained because the cost of having a fault is usually higher than the cost of preventive maintenance.
In other words, there is an allowable time for generators to be on outage for the upkeep.
Any exceedance of this allowable time is penalized because they are expected to be already synchronized to the grid to supply power.
The Department of Energy (DOE) declared early on that there would be no power crisis. It was a bold and sweeping declaration that was eventually found to be not true.
At the grid level, that means we are not talking about power interruptions at the distribution such as those caused by maintenance of lines, substations, or localized power interruptions caused by faults, we can quantify how many hours in a year there will be brownouts because of the probability of simultaneous plant outages.
The very nature of plant outage is probabilistic.
This means there is a chance that plants will be on outage at the same time which will lead to insufficient generation.
The question that needs to be answered is this probability, the likelihood of occurrence that many power plants will be on outage.
The more plants that are on outage, the greater the chance of having power interruption.
I make a distinction here that power plants, for whatever reason, are on shutdown. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) can sanction generating units that will exceed the allowable shutdown.
This means that the ERC can legally ask generators to pay if they are already more than the planned outages.
So, what is the solution?
We need to build more power plants.
If we are targeting increased renewable energy penetration, we need to study how this can affect the stability of the grid, given that we want to phase out thermal power plants providing inertia.
Modifying end-user behavior, which is what the DOE is gearing toward, will take some time to take off.
It will not be easy to tell consumers to lessen the use of appliances given that the heat mitigating measures heavily involve the use of cooling appliances which use up much energy (read: higher electricity bills).
The power problem of the country is a lot more complex and we cannot point to a single solution.

Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao,
University of the Philippines Los Banos,
Manila,
Philippines






Call for Philiipines to convert the status
Of contractual employee to permanent employee
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday May 7, 2024
First pubished in the Philippine Inquirer Friday April 26, 2024

Per Civil Service Commission (CSC) data in June 2023, there are about 1.97 million government personnel in career and noncareer positions and more than 832,000 were hired as contractual or job-order workers.
Contractualization is one of the most controversial labor practices in the Philippines. After all, employees under contractual or casual appointments are entitled to the same benefits enjoyed by regular employees.
Meanwhile, CSC chair Karlo Nograles has urged top graduates (summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude) to consider joining the government to infuse new talents into government service.
This is provided under Presidential Decree No. 907 or the “Granting Civil Service Eligibility to College Honor Graduates.”
Sometime in November 2022, the Department of Budget and Management reiterated that there are more than 160,000 unfilled positions in the national government, while 62,000 workers hold nonpermanent positions. We are aware that regular positions in government require civil service eligibility for professional and nonprofessional levels.
In this regard, I would like to propose that the CSC seriously consider a special form of equivalent eligibility considering, among others, educational qualifications and length of service/tenure that a contractual had continuously worked with the government, i.e., professional eligibility could be replaced by eight years service tenure and subprofessional eligibility by five years service tenure.
If doable, the CSC could recommend to the President to issue an executive order regarding this special form of eligibility, the objective of which is to convert the status of contractual employee to a permanent one as well as fill up the numerous unfilled positions in the government.
If successfully implemented, the government will send a strong signal to private companies to likewise reconsider the hiring of regular rather than contractual employees.
In this regard, the government can still become a model employer.

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
Manila,
Phlippines





Malaysia's Indian community want their fundamental rights
To be acknowledged and fulfilled
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday May 6, 2024
First published in the Star, Friday May 3, 2023

“Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races that wish to be loyal, live together, defend the nation and work together, live in harmony, because the situation in this country is different from other countries in the world.
Because of this, one race cannot take everything for itself.
'' In order to set up an independent government, we must compromise and make sacrifices,'' Tunku Abdul Rahman, speech at the Sungai Besi Airport after returning from London, June 3, 1957.
One year and five months ago, the nation witnessed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim taking the oath as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia.
It was a moment etched in memory with one particular scene standing out – an Indian man, overwhelmed with emotion, stood in the middle of a highway, tears streaming down his face as he witnessed his idol ascend to the highest office in Malaysia.
This wasn't just a political event; it was a symbol of resilience and triumph.
Anwar, once hunted and harassed, had returned with greater strength, now poised to lead Malaysia as its prime minister.
As a prominent figure in the opposition, Anwar had captivated the Indian community with his impassioned speeches and promises, reminiscent of the charismatic moves of the legendary Indian superstar, MGR, from the 70s.
He spoke of lifting the Indian community from the shadows, addressing their long-standing grievances and advocating for their rights.
However, since assuming office, his actions have fallen short of expectations, particularly concerning the Indian community.
There have been instances of insensitivity and disregard, such as when he dismissed concerns about the quota system and matriculation, or when he brushed off pressing issues raised by a minister pertaining to the Indian community.
His recent call for Indians to "stab him" if they felt he wasn't doing enough for them only exacerbated tensions.
Such remarks not only lack statesmanship but also fuel resentment within the community.
Most recently, his statement urging the Indian community not to harbour jealousy or resentment towards the bumiputra community has stirred controversy.
Contrary to his assertion, the Indian community isn't envious of the progress made by others; rather, they want their fundamental rights to be acknowledged and fulfilled.
Financial loans/grants, such as RM100mil from Mitra (Malaysian Indian Transformation Mitra, RM60mil from Tekun (Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga), and RM50mil from AIM (Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia), are not new.
They were given by Datuk Seri Najib Razak who also allocated equally enough to the bumiputra, Chinese and Indian communities.
The former prime minister gave Malaysians hope of equal opportunity.
By framing the Indian community's legitimate concerns as jealousy, Anwar risks deepening racial divisions and perpetuating misunderstandings.
Instead of fostering unity, such rhetoric only serves to widen existing rifts and sow discord.
What the Indian community seeks is not preferential treatment but fairness and inclusion, a sentiment echoed by many across Malaysia.

Viknesvaran Goppal,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia






Philippines call for a think tank to monitor
All activities of China's impingment on the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday May 4, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday May 1, 2024

More than any initiative of his two-year-old administration, President Marcos’ foreign policy, specifically as it involves our relationship with China, is shaping up day by day as the most consequential and eventful course of action impacting various levels of our national life.
He has embarked on a courageous but logical and pragmatic shift from the servile stance of his predecessor to a multilateral partnership with other nations to enhance, not only our own, but regional peace and stability.
The focus on China, an erstwhile friend when it suits its agenda, is neither random nor a form of racial profiling, but a hard-nosed reality that the Asian superpower poses the gravest threat to our national security.
For this reason, every Filipino, including those in the Left, must wake up and fully support Mr. Marcos’ diplomatic thrust.
As a renowned American diplomat said, “No foreign policy—no matter how ingenious—has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.”
This is especially crucial because of hostile forces undermining the President’s actions at every turn, not only from beyond our borders but among our countrymen.
Externally, the threat to us is real. Our powerful neighbor, with its awesome military and economic capabilities, is crouching just 500 nautical miles from the shores of Palawan and Batanes.
It is the only nation that has intruded into our territory, constructed artificial islands inside our exclusive economic zone, and mounted aggressive actions against our assets and people in the West Philippine Sea.
It is therefore a strategic and inevitable option for the administration to forge mutual assistance with the United States, Japan, Australia, France, and even India on maritime affairs.
It must be assumed that a predator, with billions of hungry mouths to feed, will not spare a prey floating alone in the open sea.
To be clear our country will never engage, and is incapable of engaging, in warmongering and aggression.
Whatever we do is defensive because we are a peaceful people and our Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy and adopts international law as part of the law of the land.
But we cannot say the same thing of China, which has openly refused to comply with the 2016 arbitral ruling and continues to display a cavalier attitude to the rules and principles of international law.
If this is not enough to alarm us, internal subversion by the China strain of Makapili among our businessmen, government officials, and media personalities will be wrenching.
This is why we should not treat lightly reports about ''sleepers,'' the influx of Chinese students in Cagayan province which the Bureau of Immigration placed at 1,516 in 2023, and an earlier post that quoted Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba as opposing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and pushing for stronger ties with Beijing.
At the very least, there must be a comprehensive and thorough investigation of this situation to uncover the facts. Better still, I suggest a special body under the Office of the President, akin to The Russia House of British Intelligence, not a spy agency but a think tank to monitor all activities of China impinging on the Philippines, lest we will be caught off guard, and wake up one day with our neighbor entering our door without firing a shot.

Ancheta K. Tan,
lawyer,
Manila,
Philippines




China's fast economic growth
Is over
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday May 4, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 8, 2024

False China stories
Much of the Western press, for some time, has been filled with stories about the Chinese economy and how it's faltering.
There, we are told regularly that China's fast growth is over, that China's economic data is often manipulated, that a Chinese financial crisis may be looming, and that China will suffer the same stagnation as Japan starting in the early 1990s.
This is mostly US propaganda, not reality.
Surely, the Chinese economy faces headwinds but mainly created by the United States with multiple sanctions, which could even be illegal under WTO rules.
Yet many, like me, believe China can overcome US-EU-created headwinds and continue on its path of rapid economic development.

Paul A Renaud,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Enlightenment is not a trait
Transferable by genetic inheritance
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday May 3, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 29, 2024

Re: "NOB to investigate case of 'son of Buddha reincarnate'", in Bangkok Post, Friday April 26, 2024
I don't know why anyone should imagine the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) might require assistance with their deliberation about the authenticity of Nong Nice. Perhaps because they indicate a thorough investigation is necessary?
One point to consider is that enlightenment is not a trait transferable by genetic inheritance.
Therefore, whether one is a long lost family member of Gautama Buddha or Thaksin Shinawatra makes no difference in spiritual potential, despite what Jesus said about rich men being barred from the kingdom of heaven.
And surely telepathic phone calls with Vladimir Putin don't count for much either. By now National Office of Buddhism (NOB) should have Standard Operating Procedure (SOP's) from the flying saucer temple scam, the 747 flying-high monk debacle and hundreds of others, shouldn't they?
In summary all these scams are absurdly, self-evidently obvious.
But this is how people learn, and they should be allowed to learn it seems to me.

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Outgoing Solomon Is PM Manasseh Sogavare
Has millions in property
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday May 2, 2024

Solomon Islands PM has millions in property : Questions raised around wealth
( The Fiji Times 27/4/24 ).
Would the Solomon Islands PM have that kind of personal wealth without being PM?
Personal wealth amassment is a phenomenon in third world politics.
Some African political leaders become so wealthy they buy up market properties and mansions in UK, France and other first world countries even when their own people live in grinding poverty!

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Chinese in the Philippines could be spies
Or advanced occupation troops
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday May 1, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday April 26, 2024

This is in reaction to the article “Gov’t panel to meet amid ‘influx’ of Chinese students in Cagayan” in Philippine Inquirer, Thursday April 22, 2024.
In the face of Chinese militia’s aggressive actions using water cannons in the West Philippine Sea, which has already resulted in the injury of some Filipino fishermen and Philippine Coast Guard crew members, the reported influx of Chinese nationals who pose as students is reasonable cause for apprehension.
This, in addition to reports about the entry of many Chinese nationals allegedly aged about 35 years who were applying for special resident retiree visas and employees of Philippine offshore gaming operators who have long been in the country.
The latter has been reported to even have a practice firing range somewhere in Parañaque City.
We have reason to believe that these Chinese could be veritable spies or advanced occupation troops.
In one of your editorials, you mentioned the “Trojan horse.”
My late grandfather used to tell us about many Japanese nationals who were engaged in the business of buying old newspapers, bottles, and scrap iron before World War II.
It turned out that those Japanese men were intelligence officers who would later don military uniforms when the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Philippines.
Those Chinese who are already in the country are potential agents engaged in gathering human intelligence in addition to the information supplied by Chinese transmitters that can collect signal intelligence that the Philippine government allowed to be built right in military bases.
I cringe in horror at the specter of a Chinese invasion that can easily conquer us as a result of thousands of Chinese already deployed in our country.

Ramon Mayuga,
Manila,
Philippines




In 1947 the UN divided the British mandate into two parts
One for Israel and one for the Palestinians
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 30, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 18, 2024

Re: "Historical context", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Saturday April 13, 2024.
PostBag column has published letters condemning the Jews for the Gaza war.
The pro-Palestine protests in the world use the same arguments as these PostBag contributors, ie, the Jews occupied Gaza for the last 75 years, a Palestinian territory.
This statement is a lie, and it is about time the truth be known!
The fact is there is no occupied Palestinian territory.
In 1947, the United Nations divided the British mandate into two parts: one for Israel and one for the Palestinians.
Israel accepted the start of the Israeli state.
However, I know it is difficult to accept the truth when this doesn't confirm with pre-conceived opinions, as people in general are too lazy to inform themselves and like to wallow in the warm mud with the other ignoramuses.

Megon,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Air quality in Chiang Mai
Much worse than in Bangkok

The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 29, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 8, 2024

Re: "3 more areas on disaster list", in Bangkok Post, Monday April 8, 2024.
Living in the very far north of Chiang Mai province, where at this time of the year, our air quality is much worse than in the city, I feel it's time the blame was laid on the correct place.
Government officials could possibly be responsible for some of our mountain and forest fires, but without doubt, most fires are purposely lit by citizens from amongst the local population.
Certain individuals from the local community are removing weeds, extending their cropland into forest areas and destroying the bamboo wastelands that are the result of previous logging to create new fields.
The effort to halt this burning and the harm it causes to people's health has to take place in the local community.
Schools need to teach the young that their parents' decision to burn is destroying their health, and neighbours need to approach their farming brothers and ask just why they are creating this polluted atmosphere.
The 50,000 individuals need to be brought to task by their fellow citizens and made to understand the dangers they are creating.
Enforcement within your own society is the answer, and if you must, report the errant farmer to the headman or the government office if the fires continue.
Blaming officials sitting at desks in the far city is nothing but a waste of time.
The problem is in your own community, and that's where it needs to be tackled.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for President Marcos to allow the ICC
To investigate former President Duterte war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday April 28, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday April 24, 2024

I cannot understand President Marcos’ continued refusal to allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate former president Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity, for causing the death of thousands of Filipinos in his failed drug war.
As president, he has the weighty responsibility to uphold the rule of law and to see to it that justice is served.
His namby-pamby stand proves him to be just your regular traditional politician who thinks only of his own vested and selfish interests.
A real statesman would have a utilitarian mindset; he’d be someone who knows that the best actions are those that result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
He chooses the actions that will result in the best overall consequences for his people.
If Mr. Marcos believes that Duterte is innocent, he should convince the former president to face the music.
Coddling and protecting him would just be sending the message that you are, after all, birds of a feather flocking together, crows that ravage the cornfields in unity and band.
How would the victims feel that you two are performing the danse macabre over the graves of their dearly departed?
Before the first visit of Pope John Paul II to the Philippines, on January 17, 1981, the President’s father Ferdinand Marcos Sr. lifted martial law through Proclamation No. 2045.
The Pope, who was a staunch advocate of human rights and used his position and influence to effect positive political change in the world, wrote an essay titled “Reflections on Working Toward Peace.”
The President should listen to what this great religious leader and statesman said: “An offense against human rights is an offense against the conscience of humanity, an offense against humanity itself. The duty of protecting these rights therefore extends beyond the geographical and political borders within which they are violated. Crimes against humanity cannot be considered an internal affair of a nation. The ICC was established to try such crimes, regardless of the place or circumstances in which they are committed. We must thank God that in the conscience of peoples and nations there is a growing conviction that human rights have no borders, because they are universal and indivisible.”
The indisputable fact remains that many people died during Duterte’s war on drugs and someone must have caused their deaths.
Can there be a crime without a criminal?
Let the ICC come in and let Duterte prove his innocence it’s that simple!
If Duterte is the BFF of no less than the living Son of God himself, then why is he afraid of appearing before what for him is merely a court run by lowly mortal kangaroos?
Our world has become a dangerous place to live in, not just because of the people who are evil but also because of the people who won’t do anything about it.
To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.
The President is invested with the power to do what is right and to impose and implement justice though the heavens fall.
When a man cannot choose good over evil, he ceases to be a man, let alone a president.
The dark period of Duterte’s war on drugs will live in infamy and time, history, and God Himself will judge its perpetrators, enablers, and abettors according to what they did or did not do at the height of the conflagration.
This is no time to dillydally.
The President should choose to do what is right and good.

Antonio Calipjo Go,
Manila,
Philippines




Elections in India to reaffirm sovereignty
And dispell fears of democratic erosion
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday April 27, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday April 21, 2024

Re: "Modi 'top pick' for election", Bangkok Post, World, Wednesday April 17, 2024.
The essence of a robust democracy is evident when leaders are elected through fair and open elections by the populace.
With Mr Modi securing two landslide victories, it's indicative that he has garnered widespread support through effective governance.
The legal scrutiny faced by some of his opponents underscores adherence to the rule of law.
Doubting the integrity of the Indian judiciary seems unwarranted given its pivotal role in upholding justice.
Moreover, among India's 31 states, 12 are governed by opposition parties, a testament to the diversity of political representation within the nation's democratic framework.
Addressing historical context, the demolition of a 16th-century mosque, often depicted as an act of "Hindu zealotry", was viewed by many as reclaiming a sacred site, the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram, steeped in religious significance. There was enough evidence to prove the existence of a Hindu temple at the site which was demolished to build the mosque in the 16th century and the judiciary decided to allow Hindus to build a temple at the place.
Critics often assail Mr Modi, yet the presence of a vocal opposition underscores the vitality of press freedom.
Recent revelations of tax discrepancies by organisations such as the BBC underscore the need for impartial scrutiny.
The Pew survey indicating widespread public approval of Mr Modi, including among minorities, challenges narratives of exclusion.
The Modi government's focus on socio-economic upliftment, rather than tokenism, has resonated even among marginalised communities.
Ultimately, the upcoming elections will reflect the true sentiments of the Indian public, reaffirming their sovereignty and dispelling unfounded fears of democratic erosion.
The so-called intellectuals must respect the diversity of opinions within the electorate, a hallmark of genuine democracy.

VB,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Filipinos stuck in out-of-date thinking
Of homosexuality being a ''sin''
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday April 26, 2024

First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday April 22, 2024

In our continuously growing culture, art has been a huge platform where people show their opinions and beliefs or simply express themselves like how LGBTQIA+ members express themselves through the art of drag.
Although many have been raising awareness of being queer, there are still some stuck in their out-of-date thinking of homosexuality being a “sin” even though it is not.
The performance of drag queen Pura Luka Vega, real name: Amadeus Fernando Pagent,where they are dressed as Jesus Christ while the remix of a liturgical song “Ama Namin” is used has caused chaos in the Christian community and has led people to choose sides.
Their statement brought light to a variety of viewpoints toward art. Art has no boundaries; it can be illicit or not.
An artist like Pagente is a testament to this; they push boundaries, go beyond social standards, and pose provocative issues.
Art is fascinating and influential because of this, giving art the ability to educate.
While some people understand its message, some have been offended. Negros Occidental declared Pagente persona non grata.
According to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “the separation of church and state shall be inviolable.
Pagente’s issue is connected to religion, thus, the government should not meddle in the said issue.
Declaring Pagente a persona non grata shows that the Philippine government is still a slave to the church’s conservatism.
Their intention was not for the people from the religion to be offended by what they had done. Pagente also said that the issue will not end their way of expressing and practicing faith.
For them, Pagente’s way of dressing up like Jesus Christ is like how Catholics do it during Holy Week for the Senakulo. Judging by the aggressive reactions the performance received, it shows that people of the faith are fine when a straight person dresses the same way as Jesus Christ with the purpose of deliberately ridiculing Him, but not if a queer person does it as an expression of their faith.
Taking everything into consideration, art can be used to express yourself. Pagente’s intention in their performance was to bring honor to the Catholic faith and worship God in a queer way.
The issue making it to the national government shows that they would rather debate over a drag performance than tackle more pressing issues.
Catholics should be able to understand other people’s points of view when it comes to practicing the faith. As Pagente said, “You may like a particular work of art but somebody else doesn’t. You can’t force anyone to accept or reject. Art may provoke; it may also soothe; it may spark joy or rouse anger, regardless of the artist’s intent. Appreciation may not necessarily match the intent.”
Art is a controversial matter. Faith, even more so. Both have the power to provoke, motivate, and educate. People do not need to stop making art just because some people dislike it. We as citizens should respect and understand others, and not be so quick to judge and criticize when a certain belief doesn’t resonate with ours.

Chandynee Domingo,
Wesleyan University
Philippines




The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Is the central diplomatic forum in Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday April 25, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday April 15, 2024

Re: "Asean juggles triangular power game", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Tuesday April 9, 2024.
Asean foresees and expects tougher times and unpredictable circumstances ahead.
However, solidarity plays a crucial role in Asean's diplomacy with other powers by providing the organisation with a unified voice and great negotiating strength.
It fosters regional integration within this organisation, strengthening economic ties, cultural exchanges, and political cooperation.
Acting in solidarity contributes to Asean's credibility and influence in its dialogue with big powers.
As Asean is the central diplomatic forum in Southeast Asia, solidarity serves as a cornerstone of regional diplomacy, enabling it to navigate complex geopolitical dynamics at the continental and global levels.

Ioan Voicu
Bangkok,
Thailand




Stray dogs locked up in dog pounds have more space
Than inmates in Thai prisons
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24, April 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday April 11, 2024

Re: "Overcrowded prisons need reforming", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday April 10, 2024.
Have you ever seen a photo of sleeping conditions at Thai prisons?
You haven't.
You may have seen pics of other countries' prisons' sleeping conditions, but you have never seen the same for Thailand because Thai prisons don't allow such photos.
Granted, there are a rare few photos taken within Thai prisons, but they're highly staged.
In other words, a few select inmates are given clean, new matching t-shirts to be given back after the photo and everyone, including perhaps a few dignitaries from town, is shown in the best light, in a non-sleeping area during the day.
Most prisons worldwide are very crowded, but only in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa do inmates have no beds or cots.
In Thai prisons, it's not unusual for an inmate to have a sleeping space as narrow as 33cm, on a concrete floor with no pillow nor mattress, overhead lights on 24/7.
One thin blanket per inmate in southern regions is standard, or two thin blankets for inmates in northern regions.
At some prisons, inmates are confined to sleeping areas for up 72 hours at a time but most often, inmates are confined in their narrow spaces for 16 out of each 24-hour cycle.
Stray dogs locked up at dog pounds have more space than inmates at Thai prisons. In some prisons, an inmate doesn't even have enough room to stretch his arms or legs, without thumping into another inmate.

Nek Nestrebla
Bangkok,
Thailand





Thai embassies should scan for doubtful visa applicants
Including for Koh Samui and Pattaya
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday April 23, 2024
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday April 21, 2024

Re: "Cops up ante on foreign criminals", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday April 17, 2024.
The government should instruct the Foreign Affairs Ministry to set up new rules for Thai embassies around the world to scan for doubtful visa applicants in vulnerable countries, apart from instructing the Royal Thai Police and the Interior Ministry to take measures to deal with the "crackdown on foreign criminals".
Investigate applicants' personal and criminal records in advance at the embassies. Rejecting visas will lower the burden on local and immigration police in Thailand.
The Commerce Ministry should draw up new strategies and execute them accordingly in investigating applicants' history.
It's not necessary to approve visas within a day.
It may take a month.
The idea is making rules and the screening process watertight before any damage is done.
The article focuses on Phuket and in the southern borders of Thailand, but places like Koh Samui or Pattaya, where transnational mafia set up their regional head offices and operate schemes, are left out.
Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, list Member of Parliament from a United Thai Nation Party, emphasised that "Thais should not be misled".
I like to stress that Thais are not misled.
The ones who agreed to be nominees are not normally misled.
They know the illegality and voluntarily accepted with greed.
It's the grid that works in their brains; they should be severely punished.

Jayut Jayanandana,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Cults and Sects operate under the cloak
Of religious freedom in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday April 22, 2024
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday April 18, 2024

It is with great interest and pleasure that I read Ma. Ceres P. Doyo’s column about ASOG” or Appointed Son of God in Human Face, Thursday April 4, 2024.
My profession is more inclined towards science, philosophy, and medical history, but this topic is certainly interesting.
It surprises me that a country like the Philippines is very conservative, and influenced by both the Catholic Church and Islam.
Yet there is still room for such types of sects and cults.
I know that the United States, especially the south, is teeming with and, sometimes bizarre, Protestant TV evangelists that are a peculiarity of American conservatism, much like McDonalds and KFC.
As the columnist correctly writes, former president Rodrigo Duterte who calls God stupid which is, of course, covered by freedom of expression in a free country but now claims to be the Appointed Son of God (ASOG) spiritual advisee, is one development quite far from any logic. Why? Because cults and sects under the cloak of religious freedom seem to operate here under the radar. This is completely unthinkable in atheist/agnostic countries such as China, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos, and Cuba, and Islamic countries like the Arab States, Iran, and elsewhere.
Even in Western democracies, stricter laws are now being passed after previous incidents of mass suicides, tax evasion, or manipulation. The Church of Scientology, popular with Hollywood stars in the US, is being monitored by the police in Germany because of unfair practices.
If people end up on social welfare or in poverty for their “faith,” intervention must be made. Jesus lived a life of poverty without women: what a contrast to other cult leaders!
Serious Catholic and Protestant churches are also called upon to warn people about sects. Contact points and information centers could offer help and set up exit programs. Bhagwan or Hare Krishna play almost no role today, thanks to the Enlightenment.

Jurgen Schofer, Ph.D.,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Klongurchin,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Mikee Santos,
chair,
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
,
Philippines





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

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

Chang Louie.
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

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




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

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

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Aeric P. Bernardino,
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

Estanislao C. Albano Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

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

Noel G. Asiones,
Manila,a
Philippines






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

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

Don McMahon,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Liloo Jiwatram,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Francis Harvey de Leon,
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Pamela Claveria, M.D.,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Fernando Garcia,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Hans van Willenswaard,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Jhon Steven C. Espenido,
Surigao City,
Philippines




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

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

Paul A Renaud,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

You Know Who,
Bangkok,
Thailand






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

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

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Vint Chavala
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Steve L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines





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

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

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

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




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




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

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

Raymond Marvic C. Baguilat,
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

Marvel K. Tan,
Quezon City,
Philippines




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

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

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Julan Omir P. Aldover,
Leyte Normal University,
Philippines




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

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

George,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Reginaldo B. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Don McMahon,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Rudy Coronel,
Batangas City,
Philippines





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

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

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

The Insider,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Jhon Steven C. Espenido,
Surigao City,
Philippines



Hey!
Give Thaksin a break

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

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

S de Jong,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Richard Ferns,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Ken Albertsen,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

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




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia





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

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

Arnel N. Casas,
Manila,
Philippines

 

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

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

Srcha Valdez,
Manila,
Bangkok

 

 

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

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

Hae Yu,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


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

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

AM,
Phuket,
Thailand




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

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

Ellis O'Brien,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

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

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

Laure Beaufils,
Manila,
Philippines




 



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

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

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

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

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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Jaime Delima Raneses,
Manila,
Philippines


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

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

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


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

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

Rudy Coronel,
Batangas City,
Philippines


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

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

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia

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

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

AM,
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Stretim Mosbi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Emiliano M. Manahan Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Lewis,
Bangkok,
Thailand






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

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

Maria A,
Manila,
Philillines



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

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

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





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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Ida M. Tiongco,
Malate,
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Felix Qui,
Bankok,
Thailand





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

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

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,
Philippines




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

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

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

Sheldon Shaeffer,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Michael Setter.
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Sad Optimist,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Rudy Coronel,
Manila,
Philippines

 



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

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

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

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

Pamela I. Claveria, MD
Manila,
Philippines





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

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

Diane Archer,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

 

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

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

Chris Garnett,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Johan Hanssen,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Unfairly Treated,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




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

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

Wilson Fortaleza,
spokesperson,
Partido Manggagawa
Philippines





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

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

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Burin Kantabutra
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia





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

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

Ning,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



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

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

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Romel Kuman,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 


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

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

Rudy Coronel,
Batangas City,
Philippines




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

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

Burin Kantabutra|
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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

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

Peter Jeffreys,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

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

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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Tree Lover,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

J C Wilcox
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bankok,
Thailand



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

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

M P Foscolos,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



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

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

Re: "It's now time for healing", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, Thursday December 7, 2023
In considering who, if anybody, to grant amnesty to, parliament should be guided by our beloved national father, who knew how to protect our monarchy far better than any commoner.
As Grossman and Faulder put it: "Thailand's law of lèse-majesté has one very prominent critic: King Bhumibol.… In 2005... King Bhumibol used his annual televised birthday address to convey three concerns: (a) 'The king,' he said, 'is a human being and as such should be subject to criticism. (b) Charges against those accused of lèse-majesté should be dropped, and those held in jail for lèse-majesté should be released, and (c) The use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy."
Parliamentary debate on the issue should be broadcast live, and voting be public. Thus, we will be able to see who gives only lip service to our national father's wishes, in particular his opinion that: "The use of the lèse-majesté law ultimately damages the monarchy."

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Wallace Minn-Gan Chow,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Ray Ban,
Bangkok,
Thailand





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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Jayut Jayanandana,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Fredric L Prager,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

J C Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Ben Levin,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bankok,
Thailand





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

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

Kuldeep Nagi.
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

A Johnsen,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 




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

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

Jayut Jayanandana,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines