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Asean Today: Crossing Crash Kills 18; Thailand Slow to Adapt; Najib 'Afraid to Face Music'

Monday, December 7, 2015
Today Around Southeast Asia

PHUKETWAN recognises the importance of Asean with the Economic Community approaching and marks what's happening around the region with a column, Asean Today, that will cease when Phuketwan closes on December 31.


AP A commuter train slammed into a passenger minibus at a railroad crossing in Indonesia's capital, killing at least 18 people and seriously injuring six others. The bus driver allegedly ignored the warning signals. Smaller and mid-level states in Asia have tried to reduce the risks of becoming dependent on China. Some, like Indonesia, have rejected or distanced themselves from several of Beijing's initiatives, such as its proposal to conduct joint military drills with Asean countries in the South China Sea. Others, like Vietnam, have responded cautiously to China's proposed maritime Silk Road.

Thailand Among the founding Asean members, Thailand has the most disappointing record on compliance with the Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs). At present, the Asean Chartered Professional Engineers Register has recorded more than 1,250 engineers and 250 architects. As of November 2014, Thailand issued only three licences for architects and nil for engineers from Asean, Meanwhile, Singapore and Malaysia issued 218 and 199 for the former and 58 and 32 for the latter, respectively. This simply shows that Thailand is not really serious about implementing the MRAs. As of last year, even Myanmar showed a healthy statistic, authorising 72 architects and 12 engineers from Asean members.

Malaysia A brother of a businessman who was shot dead in southern Thailand denied allegations that his sibling's murder was connected to a RM4mil debt. Ah Lee, who is in his 50s, said that he was shocked to learn from reports that his brother Lee Ah Han, 54, allegedly owed RM4mil to another businessman: ''My brother does not have any debts.'' Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's absence from Parliament on its final day of sitting last Thursday has left critics with no choice but to once again demand for his resignation: ''Najib's absence from Parliament has given Malaysians a clear impression that the prime minister will not and cannot be bothered to be accountable, has skeletons in his closets, and is too afraid to man up and face the music from Malaysians.''

Cambodia Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to strengthen ties in trade, investment, and other forms of cooperation, aiming for double-digit annual growth in bilateral trade from now on. The agreement was struck at the fifth meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Trade Committee held in Bangkok last week, co-chaired by Thai Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn and Cambodian Senior Minister of Commerce Sun Chanthol. Democracy in Cambodia is more a turn of phrase than a reality. The July 2013 elections were replete with error and voter fraud. Despite this, the 2013 elections were closer to an opposition victory than in a great many years.

Singapore The good result for the People's Action Party at General Election 2015 is also a ''tremendous plus'' for the nation because it assures Singaporeans of at least another decade of ''predictability, political stability and good governance,'' Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the biennial PAP Convention.

Myanmar The tourism sector will create more than two million more jobs within the next five years, says Tin Tun, general secretary of the Myanmar Tourism Federation. ''This estimation is likely to be based on tourist arrivals. It may be true if tourist arrivals hit eight or nine million in the upcoming years. It may bring benefits to many people,'' he added. Revenge must be avoided and those who did wrong should be allowed to make amends but the National League for Democracy must start fighting corruption in the executive branch, Aung San Suu Kyi told her MPs in waiting.

Brunei The small, but oil-rich Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam on the northern coast of Borneo could be one of the first collateral damages of prolonged low oil prices, experts find. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Bruneians are employed by the state in more or less cushy positions, which pushes the overall productivity level of the country's economy down. But the comfortable times are seemingly coming to an end.

Vietnam Vietnam is forecast to face a serious shortage in information technology (IT) manpower in the next five years, according to a recent report prepared by local recruitment company VietnamWorks. The current growth rate of IT human resources will lead to a lack of around 500,000 IT professionals in the Southeast Asian country by 2020,

Philippines It's a back-to-back win for the Philippines in the Miss Earth beauty pageant. Miss Philippines Angelia Ong was crowned Miss Earth 2015 during a televised pageant held in Vienna, Austria.

Laos New drone footage provides a rare aerial view of the mysterious Plain of Jars in north Laos. The Xieng Khouang province is home to more than 2,000 stone jars that are believed to be 2000 years old. The site remains mostly unexplored because it is littered with unexploded deadly bombs dropped by the Americans during the Vietnam War.


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