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Asean Today: Repression Deepens in Malaysia; Corruption Stall Progress; Viet Vets' Fate Worsens

Saturday, December 5, 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.

Thailand Thailand-United States relations have entered a new tumultuous phase, just two months after Washington's appointment to Bangkok of a veteran diplomat with a remit to repair damaged ties. US ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies' innocuous remark on the ruling military junta's unprecedented use of lese majeste charges to stifle free speech and imprison critics of the monarchy has sparked a firestorm of high-level rebukes and anti-US protests calling for the senior envoy's expulsion and an end to perceived American interference in domestic affairs.

Malaysia Malaysia's Parliament has approved a security law that gives sweeping security powers to a council led by the prime minister, in a move slammed by rights groups and critics as a step toward a dictatorship.

Malaysia Update A Human Rights Watch spokesperson said: ''Given the incredible range of broad and abusive laws already being used by Prime Minister Najib and his government to arrest and harass government critics, the breadth of the bill's language is truly frightening. The law would also establish new lows on impunity by security forces by protecting them from any legal proceedings for any actions taken 'in good faith' and impose a sweeping obligation of secrecy on all those involved with the council.''

Indonesia Indonesian bureaucrats are holding off spending billions of dollars on everything from schools and clinics to garbage trucks and parking meters, fearful that any major expenditure could come under the scanner of fervent anti-corruption fighters. The paralysis is so bad that President Joko Widodo, desperate to pull Southeast Asia's largest economy out of a slump, is considering a decree that would shield civil servants from graft busters until big-ticket projects are completed.

Philippines A Philippine court has ordered its public transport agency to suspend all Uber and GrabCar applications for 20 days as it had affected the livelihood of public service vehicles operators. The decision comes as a shock as the Philippines had legalised ride-sharing services. Washington-based analytics firm IHS Global Insight believes the Philippines would be the only sovereign entity in Asia with improving credit prospects and is expected to become a $1-trillion economy by 2030.

Singapore Zhangzidao Group, a China-based seafood distributor with a marine farm three times the size of Singapore, has ambitious plans: It aims to have every household in Singapore consuming at least one can of its abalone come Chinese New Year in 2017.


AP The US is preparing to amend sanctions on Myanmar (Burma) after banks complained they can't finance trade that goes through the nation's main port terminal because it is run by a blacklisted business tycoon. Myanmar will tell the international community that while its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will almost certainly increase in the coming decades, it plans to undertake a number of steps to minimise the increase, and prepare for the effects of climate change. In particular, it will maintain its forests so it remains a net GHG emissions ''sink''.

Cambodia The year 2015 has been a year of mixed fortunes. The country maintained a relatively high economic growth rate of about 7 percent, largely due to the expansion of garment manufacturing, construction and services. But tensions between the two main political parties - the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) - pose serious challenges to economic development.

Vietnam Higher than average death rates among Vietnam War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggest that combat trauma may still be affecting veterans' health even decades after the war, according to a new study.

Laos A groundbreaking ceremony in Vientiane on December 2 marked the formal start of construction of a Chinese-backed standard gauge main line running north-south through Laos from the Chinese border to the Thai frontier at Nong Khai. Lao President Choummaly Sayasone ceremonially dug into a pyramid of sand, telling assembled guests that the railway would take around five years to complete.

Brunei Scot Steve Kean is a national hero in Brunei after winning their first Singapore League title and being named Manager of the Year. The ex- Blackburn boss has just led DPMM FC to a historic triumph in the 10-team S League.


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Sunday October 2, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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