September 20, 2006
Remain calm

Thailand has its traditional coup d'etat but some hardy souls are bravely dealing with the dangerous situation:

The coup went largely unnoticed in Thailand's popular tourist districts, where foreigners packed beer bars and cabarets oblivious to the activity about three kilometers away.

But word raced among street vendors hawking T-shirts, who packed up their carts and started heading home.

Be strong, you visitors of Patpong. They shall not overcome.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 07:55
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November 02, 2005
Five morals

Singapore's former Prime Minister has taken another leaf out of the China book and said that there can be such a thing as too free a press. The SCMP:

Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong has defended Singapore's pro-government media industry from international criticism, saying a liberal press is not necessarily good for every country...Lee Hsien Loong, said Singapore's government and economic performance proved the city-state's system worked.

"Western liberals often argue that press freedom is a necessary ingredient of democracy and that it is the fourth estate to check elected governments, especially against corruption," he said in a speech on Monday night. "But a free press by western standards does not always lead to a clean and efficient government or contribute to economic freedom and prosperity."

The article doesn't mention if he provided examples to support this last statement, but I doubt it. Singapore was ranked 140th out of 167 countries for press freedom, while China was 159th (and Hong Kong 39th). As if to back up the ex-Prime Minister, the SCMP notes China's enlightened policy to coverage of bird flu:
ontrols over reporting on bird flu outbreaks have been tightened, despite Beijing's pledges to employ "complete openness" in the fight against the potentially catastrophic virus.

In a recently issued directive, the Publicity Department ordered newspapers to seek approval from the authorities before publishing any reports on new outbreaks of bird flu and any animal or human deaths which result...

Apart from the reporting of outbreaks and any deaths they cause, news about an exercise to prepare for the closure of ports in the event of human-to-human transmission of H5N1 has also been kept under wraps. Authorities were wary that news of the drill could spark speculation that human cases had been reported, according to government sources.

This stands in stark contrast to what the Secretary General of ASEAN was saying just yesterday: that Asian countries need to be open about bird flu news. It also contradicts comments by disease control director Qi Xiaoqiu on openness over bird flu. But remember, a free press is not necessarily does not always lead to a clean and efficient government or contribute to economic freedom and prosperity.

As a vote of thanks to Singapore, it appears PBoC's Huijin Investments has rejected Singapore's state-owned Temasek Holdings from taking a 10% stake in Bank of China (although Bloomberg contradicts the Caijing Magazine report). Why the rejection? The SCMP again:

"Huijin is BOC's major shareholder and at present it does not agree with Temasek becoming a strategic investor," a senior China Banking Regulatory Commission official told the South China Morning Post...The eight-member board of directors at Huijin, which controls 78.15 per cent of BOC, voted to reject the deal because Temasek's investments were seen as excessive, according to a report in Caijing magazine...

"What the government wants to do by allowing foreign strategic investors is to bring in the products, the management skills and the banking technology, and Temasek is not actually a bank," said Frank Gong, the chief economist at JP Morgan. "Temasek clearly doesn't bring as much to the table as Bank of America and Royal Bank of Scotland," added ABN Amro banking analyst Simon Ho, referring to the two banks' investments in China Construction Bank and BOC, respectively. "It brings a lot of money but not banking technology per se."

That's what not having an open press gets you.

Meanwhile in soon-to-be-police-state-for-a-week Hong Kong, an example of press freedom gone wrong. Again the SCMP:

Journalists adopting unethical tactics to pursue stories are ruining press freedom and destroying the credibility of the media, industry representatives warned yesterday. The accusations came after two reporters from a Hong Kong-based publication allegedly broke into Canto-pop star Gigi Leung Wing-kei's room in China World Hotel in Beijing last month while she was there to attend a Ferragamo fashion show...

Tam Chi-keung, vice-chairman of the Journalists' Association and convenor of its ethics committee, condemned media members who worked "under the umbrella of press freedom but were actually destroying it".

And you thought Western paparazzi were bad. At least you know in Hong Kong your personal data and privacy are well protected by the mis-named Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data. Right? Ummm...the SCMP one more time:
A privacy watchdog has found no reasonable grounds to launch an investigation into the disclosure of e-mail subscribers' information by Yahoo! that led to the imprisonment of a mainland journalist.

Commissioner Roderick Woo Bun told a special Legco panel meeting on information technology and broadcasting yesterday that Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) had only disclosed information related to an office of a Chinese newspaper. He said that according to a verdict of the Changsha Intermediate People's Court in Hunan , "the information disclosed by Yahoo! ... to mainland authorities was only about the Contemporary Business News office in Hunan, which is not personal data".

Calling Rebecca MacKinnon.

To sum up: free press is bad for you, agreeing with China won't get you a piece of their banks, being a celebrity sucks, China learnt nothing from SARS and your email isn't private. Welcome to the Asian Century.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:20
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» Imagethief links with: The Asian Exception: Singapore Rejects a Free Press
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September 22, 2005
Burma Watch

You will notice that one of my advertisers is from, a blog that does what it says. Here is a guest post from them on Burma's plight:

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The authorities routinely subjected detainees to harsh interrogation techniques designed to intimidate and disorient. The most common forms of mistreatment were sleep and food deprivation coupled with around-the-clock questioning; some detainees also were kicked and beaten. Credible reports continue that prisoners are forced to squat or assume stressful, uncomfortable, or painful positions for lengthy periods.

There continued to be credible reports that security forces subjected ordinary citizens to harassment and physical abuse. The military forces routinely confiscated property, cash, and food, and used coercive and abusive recruitment methods to procure porters. Those forced into porterage or other duties faced extremely difficult conditions and beatings and mistreatment that sometimes resulted in death (see Sections 1.a. and 6.c.). In June security forces beat NLD members (see Section 2.b.).

There were frequent reports that soldiers raped women who were members of ethnic minorities, especially in Shan, Karenni, and Karen states, where the majority of armed encounters between the army and insurgents took place.

This from the 1998 State Department Human Rights Report, which may ( or may not ) be one of the first disturbing stories I ever heard of out Burma. I had been told of the oppression there but not in a way you would think, you see in high school I would wear a shirt which stated Mission to Burma, to me at that time it meant nothing more that a cool 70's punk band until one day I was pulled out of my class for making a political statement.

"Are you trying to say that the people of Burma are oppressed?" they asked. "It's just a rock band, you know music." A few years later I read the above report. I remember then thinking how odd it was that I was almost sent home for (accidentally) mentioning what was going on in Burma, to this day I meet many people who have no idea.

This all in a nation from which some in Burma wait to be saved. Actually the working theory among those educated in the fight for democracy is that there would be no need for a war, no need for America to actually save the people of Burma and I'll tell you why.

The conventional vision is that if the US showed up in Burma, all the people who are against the junta, which would included many in the military, would then stand up leaving so few left that are for the junta that surrendering would be the only option. That is the working theory anyways. And that is loosely how cluttered Burmese society is.

The Burmese are a mystical and wonderful people who once you get to know you can't help but admire.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

The first name Daw is just a formality, typical in asian culture and Kyi is pronounced chee. For those of you who don't know, she was democratically elected in 1990 for her party the National League for Democracy, but the junta refused to give up power and as of taday she has spent almost 10 years under house arrest. For a time last year there were report the Nobel Peace Prize winner was ill but she was not permited to see a doctor. Once or twice a year President Bush calls for her to be released, along with other leaders around the world but the media doesn't cover those calls, only people like me even know such words are said.

There are sanctions against doing business with Burma but that doesn't stop many nations and companies, and the US doesn't hesitate to do business with those doing business with Burma. Here is a wonderful list of companies profiting in Burma.

Tourism is booming in Burma. Obviously the junta gets most of your tourist dollars but over the years I have decided that what little business owners get is better that nothing which is the result of boycotts. But that is just my opinion, one that took me years to come to.

Through out the cities, the mountains and the jungles of Burma there are many different peoples, the Kachins, Karennis, Was, Palaungs just to name a few. Beggining to know Burma may be a bit confusing, but once your acquainted!

As I stated previously, the english name Myanmar was given to the land by the junta, to call be Burma is to be in defiance.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:26
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