Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

April 02 2014


January 27 2014

Malaysia: The Most Beautiful Sound in the World

The winner of the ‘most beautiful sound in the world’ competition is ‘Dusk by the Frog Pond’ by ‘Wild Ambience’ recorded in a Sarawak swamp in Borneo, Malaysia.

Sponsored post

January 26 2014

Pig Photos Censored in Malaysia

We know that it is forbidden for Muslims to eat pork; but can they look at pigs?

A local printing company in Malaysia believes it is also haram for Muslims to see the pictures of pigs that is why it unilaterally decided to blacken out the snouts of pigs in two photos that appeared in the January 22, 2014 edition of the International New York Times.

The photos accompanied an article titled “Demand grows for pigs raised outside”.

The controversial 'blacked out' photo that appeared on the Malaysian edition of the New York Times. Photo from website of The Malaysian Insider

The controversial ‘blacked out’ photo that appeared on the Malaysian edition of the New York Times. Photo from website of The Malaysian Insider

A spokesman for the KHL Printing Co said that it has been their practice to cover ‘banned’ images in the Muslim-majority nation such as nudity, smoking and firearms. But the Malaysian government denied that it has a regulation that prohibits the publishing of images of pigs. The New York Times is also unaware about the decision to blacken out the photos.

Malaysians reacted humorously to the issue but many were also dismayed. anak1malaysia is worried that children in the future may not be able to know what a pig looks like:

I can foresee in the not too distant future, people would not know how a pig look like. And that would be dangerous if our muslim small kids may happen to cuddle a little cute piglet unknowingly because he/she has not seen one before even in their school text book.

Shawn Tan thinks this is a negative impact of self-censorship:

This is the culture of self-censorship because nobody wants to get into any trouble. Businesses especially, will try to avoid any mess. Play it safe.

Mediha reminded the printing company that it is not haram to see pigs:

It is not haram to see pigs. It is just haram to eat it, and need to purify if touched. Duh.

This is not the first time that an image was blackened out in the paper. Kilgore remembered how an article about a ‘kissing protest’ in Chile was given a similar ‘black out’ treatment:

Previously, the New York Times did a story on Chilean students’ ‘kissing protest'. These same people censored the picture by painstakingly pasting black boxes over thousands of students’ mouths as they simultaneously kissed.

Malaysian public saved again. Taxpayers’ money well-spent.

January 21 2014

Malaysian Prime Minister Sparks Water Spinach Meme Over Rising Prices

Worried about rising food prices? Keep calm and let them eat kangkung (water spinach).

Since last week, Malaysians have been commenting, debating, and joking about the controversial statement of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak who said that people are always reacting when food prices are rising but not when these are going down. He specifically mentioned that the price of kangkung has gone down in the country.

Below is the translation of some parts of Najib’s speech (watch also the video):

There are times when the price of vegetables, sawi (mustard green) and kangkung goes up and there are times it comes down. I read in the newspaper that some prices have come down. Kangkung prices once went up and now it is down. When the prices come down, why are there no praises for the government? When it goes up, the government gets the blame. This is unfair because (such issues are determined by) the weather condition.

The price of basic goods in Malaysia such as petrol and sugar is expected to rise because of the government’s decision to cut subsidies. It is fueling a rising discontent in the country which became evident in the New Year protest when thousands joined a street celebration to denounce the rising cost of living.

Najib defended his kangkung remark by arguing that he cited the green vegetable as an example in explaining an economic concept:

I had used the kangkung as an example of the supply-demand principle. My favourite foods are kangkung and sotong (squid).

A Kadir Jasin described kangkung as ‘the most widespread plant and the most loved vegetable’ in Malaysia. But he also emphasized that it’s a wrong indicator of household expenses:

…it is pointless to use kangkung as an example or barometer when households spend a mere 2% of their total monthly expenditure on buying greens.

OutSyed The Box reminded Najib that people are complaining against the price increases in products and services which are subject to government regulation:

You do not seem to understand simple basic things. If left to market forces the people will not blame you for high prices.

The people never blamed you for the up and down movement of kangkung prices.

People are blaming you for the prices of goods, foods and services that are INDEED THE SUBJECT OF PRICE CONTROLS.

Because of the huge Internet buzz it enjoyed in the past week, Anil Netto believes kangkung has now become a symbol of growing economic difficulties in Malaysia:

…the humble kangkung has become a symbol of the economic difficulties facing ordinary Malaysians.

Given that outward expressions of dissent (e.g. street protests) are strictly curtailed, the laughter over kangkung provides a ‘safe’ outlet for the pent-up frustrations of many people who are feeling the burden of rising prices, low incomes and the impact of corruption and cronyism.

Below are some reactions on Twitter:


Najib should at least apologize to the people, according to blogger ordinary Malaysian:

That was where the clueless or insensitive Pm faltered. You don't make fun of people's favourite food by implying that they could always eat more kangkung to tighten their belts, while those in power continue to live like kings at the people's expense. Now that Najib is choking on kangkung, the least decent thing he could do is to apologise for his faux pas, not trying to seem proletariat by proclaiming he loved kangkung too.

Zan Azlee urges the government to be more sensitive to the plight of ordinary citizens:

What they do not deserve is a government that is insensitive. They do not deserve a government that, upon responding to their rants, sound more mocking than emphatic.

Thumbnail used is from @Duurianne

January 13 2014

‘Red Pencil Protest’ Demands Media Freedom in Malaysia

Journalists shouted 'Free The Media' and 'Free The Heat' during the 'Red Pencil' protest in Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Sam Ruslan, Copyright @Demotix (1/4/2014)

Journalists shouted ‘Free The Media’ and ‘Free The Heat’ during the ‘Red Pencil’ protest in Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Sam Ruslan, Copyright @Demotix (1/4/2014)

Malaysian journalists and activists banded together and organized a ‘red pencil’ protest early this month in reaction to the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs to suspend news weekly magazine The Heat for an indefinite period. Protesters accused authorities of suspending The Heat in retaliation for publishing a story on the spending habits of the Prime Minister and his wife.

More than 200 people gathered to demonstrate in downtown Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital. Participants belonged to the Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) or Angry Media Movement, a loose coalition of journalists which was formed to push for greater media freedom in the country.

During the protest, red pencils were broken in half to symbolize the violence perpetrated against the media. Fathi Aris Omar, spokesman of Geramm and editor of online media site Malaysiakini, explained further the meaning of the red pencil:

The red pencil represents journalists who were injured (in the past, by the authorities) and a culture of control by the powers that be.

Listen to the breaking sound. That is the suffering of journalists and the media when it is ‘broken'.

Geramm has eight demands addressed to the government. Aside from calling for the withdrawal of the suspension order against The Heat, the network is also pushing for the easing of the tight media regulation in the country. Some of the other demands include the following:

Abolish the publication permit which is made mandatory under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984.

Allow all media practitioners to cover government events and access to public buildings for news gathering purposes.

Apologise to media practitioners for any breach of media freedom and rights.

The controversial PPPA was invoked by the government when it suspended The Heat. Malaysian journalists and activists are demanding the repeal of the law which they argue institutionalizes media censorship in the country.

The appeal for the review of the law was supported by Christopher Leong, president of the Malaysian Bar:

It is an archaic piece of legislation that no longer holds any relevance in a modern democracy. The Act has been used and abused to influence, bully, intimidate, threaten and punish the press. Such legislative and governmental control of the press, including licensing regimes, should end.

Red pencils were broken in half to symbolize media violence in Malaysia. Photo by Sam Ruslan, Copyright @Demotix (1/4/2014)

Red pencils were broken in half to symbolize media violence in Malaysia. Photo by Sam Ruslan, Copyright @Demotix (1/4/2014)

Prominent activist and Bersih (clean) founder Ambiga Sreenavasan attended the protest and noted the political importance of the gathering:

This is one of the first times I have seen journalists come together fighting for this very important fight. I know you are not just fighting for online or specific media, you’re fighting for all journalists. For me, this is about your self-worth and integrity as journalists.

Ambiga founded the Bersih a few years ago to push for electoral reforms.

Meanwhile, journalist Eric Loo criticized mainstream media for tolerating censorship in the country. He asked Malaysian netizens and the alternative media to persist in reporting the truth:

Let’s refuse to buy their interpretation of political realities, their version of history. It’s time we tell our own stories and circulate online what we know to be true, stories that reflect today’s political realities than those framed by the mainstream media.

Alternative Malaysian TV station KiniTV has additional reporting on the ‘red pencil’ protest

January 11 2014

History of the Translation of the Bible into Malay Language

Robert Hunt's paper on the history of the translation of the bible into Malay could provide more background into the current controversy in Malaysia where hundreds of bibles were recently confiscated for containing the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. Non-Muslims are prohibited by law in Malaysia to use ‘Allah’ in their religious publications so as not to confuse the public.

January 07 2014

Bibles Seized in Malaysia for Using ‘Allah’ to Refer to God

More than 300 bibles were seized in the office of the Bible Society of Malaysia during a raid conducted by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department or Jais which wanted to enforce a law that prohibits non-Muslims from using the word Allah in their religious publications. Allah is used to refer to God in the Bahasa translation of the bible.

The Non-Islamic Religious (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 listed 25 words and phrases which non-Muslims cannot use. A few months ago, Malaysia’s Court of Appeals ruled that a Catholic paper cannot use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God because it might create confusion among Muslims.

The issue sparked an intense debate in Malaysia which is a Muslim-majority country. About 10 percent of the population are Christians who have been using the term Allah to refer to God in their religious publications and rituals for many years already.

Despite the court ruling, a Catholic priest declared that he will still use ‘Allah’ in the church service which enraged some Muslim groups. The Klang Muslim Solidarity Secretariat, a coalition of Muslim NGOs, have been holding street protests to denounce the use of Allah by non-Muslims.

The Twitter photo below shows some progressive Muslims showing solidarity to Christians after Muslim groups vowed to hold bigger protests.

Meanwhile, the National Unity Consultative Council has been working on a proposed 10-point solution to settle the issue peacefully. One of the proposals is to put a ‘Christian publication’ label on bibles and a cross sign so as to not confuse Muslims.

June H.L. Wong thinks that an international panel can help Malaysia resolve this controversial matter:

…if we can’t resolve this internally by ourselves, perhaps we should seek an international panel of eminent ex­­perts to act as mediators to help us get out of this impasse rationally and equitably.

There is no shame in seeking outside help in times of crisis and if this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is.

Several Chinese youth organizations urged all parties to be tolerant and respectful:

In a pluralistic country like ours, all parties need to continue being tolerant and respectful of and appreciate each other. We also call on both sides to actively contribute to talks to work towards finding a solution to this problem on the basis of fairness and harmony.

Melati Timur does not support the argument that the use of Allah by Christians would weaken the faith of Muslims:

Why is the Muslim faith deemed the more fragile, more in need of protection? Aren’t we told all the time how superior this faith is, this faith of the majority and political elites? If it is so superior, why is it that our confusion is considered so inevitable compared to people of other faiths? Are you saying there is actually something wrong with our faith, something so close to the surface that the mere use of an Arabic word that means God by Christians will reveal all and thus turn us away from Islam in droves?

Lucia Lai also doesn’t believe that Muslims will be confused if Christians would use the term Allah:

no. 1: does muslim goes to sunday church to listen to their sermons? if no, how will they get confused?

no. 2: even if muslim does hear sermons with ‘allah’ in it, why you think they can get confused? simple! it is because you don't trust your own muslim brethren – you think their faith is so weak that just listening to it, they will get confused or get converted

Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, expressed solidarity to Christians by visiting a church service:

anas zubedy tries to probe deeper as to why some Muslims are not comfortable with Christians using the word Allah:

Their apprehension is in a sense understandable, given the attempts by some Christian missionaries during the colonial epoch to impose their religion upon Muslims and people of other faiths. Even in the post-colonial period this has continued albeit in different forms and through different channels.

Thumbnail used is from @fzdotcom

January 05 2014

One Year in Asia

Antoine Lavenant, with his girlfriend spent a year in Asia – China, Laos, Cambodia, Thaïland, Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka. The video is a brief record of their exciting journey.

January 01 2014

Malaysia’s New Year Protest Against Price Hikes

A New Year’s Eve party in Kuala Lumpur was turned into a protest event as thousands of Malaysians voiced their opposition to looming price hikes in several basic goods and services.

Organized mainly by students, the Reduce Cost of Living Movement (Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup), or Turun mobilized thousands to join the annual New Year countdown at Dataran Merdeka park and use the occasion to protest against the rising cost of living in the country.

The government has announced that it will be cutting fuel and sugar subsidies to rationalize public spending. On the other hand, there will be price increases in electricity tariffs, petrol, sugar, assessment rates for Kuala Lumpur properties, public transport fees and toll rates for highways.

The police allowed the protesters to go near the venue but they accused the protesting youth of disrupting the event. Fireworks were cancelled and the concert was stopped which disappointed many people.

anilnetto noticed that most of the protesters were young:

Many of the protesters appeared to be youths who will be hard-pressed to cope with the rising cost of living.

… salute to the brave Malaysians who defied warnings and claimed their democratic right to assemble peacefully last night.

Alternative news group Malaysiakini covered the event and observed the following:

The majority of the protesters are youths. The atmosphere is boisterous with the singing of the national anthem, speeches and slogan chanting throughout the entire procession.

Interestingly, the traffic police who were directing traffic at the nearby intersections have left their posts.

This video shows several scenes of the New Year protest:

But the police believes the rally received minimal public support:

Actually, they are only a small group trying to ride on the wave of the New Year celebration to give an impression that the rally received a widespread support with the visuals downloaded onto social websites.

Meanwhile, the protesters denied they were unruly during the activity and they cited the community singing of the national anthem before the dispersal of the protest as proof that ordinary Malaysians were supportive of the protest.

Using the Twitter hashtag #turun, Malaysian netizens shared their reactions about the protest. Some expressed admiration for the bravery of the protesters but others urged the group to air their grievances at a proper time and venue.

A few days ago, the government announced that it will implement 11 austerity measures in an apparent bid to quell the rising public dissatisfaction over the price hikes. But despite this announcement, the Turun protest continued to pushed through.

Zurairi AR analyzed why the Turun protest quickly gathered momentum in the past few days:

In a way, the group made its point: 2014 is “the year people suffer” from price and rate hikes, it claimed. There is nothing to be happy about the New Year.

The objective of the rally had been made very clear from the beginning by its organisers: to protest against a number of price and rate hikes, and the spiralling cost of living.

Perhaps there is another lesson here for activists: that the issues most dear to the people and capable of spurring massive turnouts are about civil liberties and bread-and-butter issues.

And Turun was about the falling value of money in our wallets, and just like the others they attracted people from all walks of life.

The Turun protest was perhaps a preview of what will happen in Malaysia in the next few months if the government fails to reverse the economic hardships experienced by its citizens.

December 31 2013

Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia

The Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development has published a policy briefer that tackled the extent of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Many Southeast Asian countries are at the bottom of a lot of the world's supply chains, including for food, garments, and technology. Yet few countries in the region have adequate laws for addressing corporate responsibility for human trafficking, including in their supply chains.

The primer also provides country-specific recommendations on how to best address the human trafficking issue in the region

December 30 2013

PHOTOS: Humans of Southeast Asia

Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York Facebook page has inspired many photographers around the world to share photos and stories of ordinary people in the streets in their respective countries. Let us review similar initiatives in Southeast Asia.

The Humans of Brunei page was created on May 17, 2013. Below is a photo of Brunei students

Photo from Humans of Brunei Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Brunei Facebook page

Meanwhile, the Humans of Indonesia page was created on August 16, 2013. Below is a photo of Indonesians in the Harau valley waterfalls in the Bukittinggi area:

“It was a very special experience … these pristine waterfalls were turned into some kind of public bathing area. So if I would zoom out you would see kids riding inflatable ducks, souvenirs, people selling noodles & bunch of other activities …” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

“Those young coconuts look fresh?” “Oh, please take one if you like” “Thank you so much. Why don’t you just drop them down? Seems heavy to carry like that” “Don’t you see that few kids play under these trees? I am worry these coconuts would hit them.” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

“Those young coconuts look fresh?”
“Oh, please take one if you like”
“Thank you so much. Why don’t you just drop them down? Seems heavy to carry like that”
“Don’t you see that few kids play under these trees? I am worry these coconuts would hit them.” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

There is also a Humans of Jakarta page. Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia

Photo from Humans of Jakarta Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Jakarta Facebook page

Check the Humans of Bali page. Bali is a popular island in Indonesia.

In Malaysia, Avinash explains the idea of creating the Humans of Malaysia page:

…firstly its because I want those people know that there are people out there who care, for their opinions, for their stories, for their time, for their attention, for their thinking, for their views on life, on every issue, on everything, and that these people make Malaysia home. Second, i like to listen. and ask questions of course. And thirdly, well because I was at a point of my life where i really just needed to talk to someone, i needed someone to not help, but to just listen, no one was there for me then. I always have this thing in my mind, thinking that i might come across someone today who really just need someone who would listen. Thats why I do this

“What scares you the most?”
“Being poor. Having no money. Everything is about money nowadays. Supporting my family, food, transport, bills. Its everywhere.” Photo from Humans of Malaysia Facebook page

There is a separate page for the Humans of Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital.

“Abang (brotherly term for a guy) Hafiz washes and arranges the fish and vegetables at one of the agricultural grocery stores in KL. It is late at night and people are still coming in.” Photo from Facebook page Humans of Kuala Lumpur

The Humans of Thailand page has not been updated regularly but the Humans of Bangkok page seems active. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. Zon explains the project:

The page is a small urban project that I've just started about the people and their everyday lives in Bangkok, which has become a much more hybrid-society than ever. Revealing lives of the city inhabitants would make us better aware that everyone is interconnected.

“My daily challenge is riding. I have to manage to ride through the gaps between big cars. And actually it's extremely dangerous. I've been a taxi rider for a year but honestly I don't know how long I could continue with this job, or either know what I want to do next with my life.” Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Bangkok police. Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Bangkok police. Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

As the political crisis deepens in Thailand, Bangkok residents are calling for a ‘peaceful Sunday’

“Political conflict in Thailand now. We hope for #peacefulsunday and that no violence will take place tomorrow.” Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Check also the Humans of Chiang Mai page. Chiang Mai is located north of Thailand.

Photo from Humans of Chiang Mai Facebook page

“No texts, no calls, nothing. Cause I'm still thinking abt my Painting!” Photo from Humans of Chiang Mai Facebook page

In Vietnam, we’d like to feature the Humans of Saigon and Humans of Hanoi:

Photo from Humans of Saigon Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Saigon Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Hanoi Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Hanoi Facebook page

In Laos, there is a Humans of Vientiane page. Vientiane is the country’s capital.

“Local law enforcement in Luang Namtha enjoying a game of petangue.” Photo from Humans of Vientiane Facebook page

Below is a photo of Stacy from Singapore relaxing at Clarke Quay. Photo from the Humans of Singapore page:

“I've been sitting here because it's quite breezy. And you can watch the boats passing by too. They've been doing a tour of the entire river all the way till Marina Bay Sands, where they tell you about the history of these places and Singapore. It's quite interesting, you hear all sorts of things which you didn't know and it's always a bit of a surprise.” Photo from Humans of Singapore Facebook page

Visit Humans of the Philippines and Humans of Manila. Manila is the capital of the Philippines.

Children of Tondo in Manila. Tondo is a working class district. Photo from Humans of Manila Facebook page

Children of Tondo in Manila. Tondo is a working class district. Photo from Humans of Manila Facebook page

The People of Yangon page created by Chris James White was also inspired by the Humans of New York idea. Yangon is major city in Myanmar.

People of Yangon Facebook page

People of Yangon Facebook page

December 26 2013

Haze and Haiyan: Southeast Asia’s Deadly Disasters of 2013

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

2013 will be remembered as a year of disasters in Southeast Asia. Oil spills, dengue outbreaks, earthquakes, coral reef destruction, bus crashes, hail storms, and massive floods devastated many towns in the region. But the two biggest disasters of the year are the transboundary haze pollution which covered the skies of Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia; and supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which hit the central part of the Philippines.

Forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia caused a thick blanket of smog to descend on Singapore and many parts of Malaysia last June. While it is true that forest fire is a recurring problem in the region, this year’s transboundary haze was worse than in previous years. It was bigger, blacker, thicker, and harder to clear. It caused air pollution indexes to soar to record levels in both Singapore and Malaysia.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized to Singapore and Malaysia for Indonesia’s failure to prevent the burning of forests in Sumatra which caused the haze in the region.

Naturally, the haze gravely affected the lives of many Singaporeans and Malaysians. In Singapore, the wearing of face masks as protection against the haze has become the new normal in the prosperous city state. N5 face masks have become ridiculously expensive and many people have had to wait in line for several hours just to buy them. Workers have been advised to go home, travel has been restricted, and the young and old have remained indoors. Dozens of schools in south Malaysia also suspended operations.

Numerous apps and online portals were developed to help citizens monitor the haze situation, as well as to track the location of reliable haze masks, clinics, and shelters.

As expected, media reports focused on the impact of the haze in Singapore and other urban areas of Malaysia. Unfortunately, there was scant reporting on the situation of Indonesian citizens who have tremendously suffered from the impact of both the haze and forest fires. Riau, located west of Indonesia, is considered the ‘ground zero’ of the haze disaster.

Aside from writing about their haze experience, many netizens also highlighted the need to address the root of the haze problem. In particular, they wanted palm plantation companies to be made accountable for the burning of forests. They also pressed for greater protection of the environment.

Children preparing a big Christmas lantern in the typhoon-hit city of Tacloban in Leyte. Photo from Facebook of Max Baluyut Santiago

Children preparing a big Christmas lantern in typhoon-hit city of Tacloban in Leyte, Philippines. Photo from Facebook of Max Baluyut Santiago

After the haze subsided in the region, a series of disasters struck the Philippines. A strong earthquake destroyed many buildings in the Philippine provinces of Bohol and Cebu on October. A few weeks later, a super typhoon wrought destruction in the nearby provinces of Samar and Leyte.

Haiyan was the world’s strongest storm of the year. It was also the fourth strongest to make landfall in world history. Situated in the typhoon belt of the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines gets battered by more than a dozen storms every year. But Haiyan was different. It proved to be a real super typhoon when it caused a tsunami-like storm surge that instantly killed thousands. As of this writing, more than 6,000 have died but the fatalities could be higher as relief workers continue to clean the debris in many villages.

The areas hit by Haiyan are among the poorest provinces in the Philippines. In fact, Eastern Visayas is the third poorest region in the country.

Many survivors have complained that aid was not properly and quickly delivered to communities. Many dead bodies were still seen lying in the streets, refugees had been begging for food, and rescue efforts have not yet reached the other remote islands of typhoon-ravaged provinces a week after the disaster.

After the partial restoration of telecommunication signals in some areas, some survivors and relief workers were able to connect online and they were able to narrate their ordeal during the storm; and also about how they coped for several days without power, food, and shelter. These were heartbreaking and powerful stories of loss and survival.

After the disaster, environmental activists pressed for more effective climate change treaties to prevent large-scale destruction in small island nations like the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Filipinos have been inspired by the global outpouring of aid and sympathy for the typhoon victims.

As 2013 draws to a close, it’s important to remember the painful lessons from Southeast Asia’s experience with the haze and Haiyan. The haze will return once more in 2014 if no regional effort is made to prevent forest fires in Sumatra. In the case of the Philippines, rehabilitation in the typhoon-hit provinces must be aggressively pursued or else the humanitarian crisis will further prolong the suffering of the typhoon victims.

December 24 2013

7 Rallies that Rocked Southeast Asia in 2013

1. ‘Million People March’ Against Corruption in the Philippines. Filipinos were outraged after a whistleblower exposed how legislators have been systematically stealing from their pork barrel allocations. Netizens called for a massive gathering in Luneta, the biggest park in the country’s capital to push for the abolition of pork barrel. Days before the August 26 rally, the president and congress vowed to abolish pork but it didn’t stop citizens from joining the event. It turned out to be the biggest rally during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

2. Thailand protest against the ‘Amnesty Bill.’ Various sectors, including those supportive of the government, rejected the controversial ‘Amnesty Bill’ which was approved by the parliament on November 1. Opposition to the bill emerged after it was reported that the amended version of the measure would benefit corrupt politicians and human rights violators. In particular, the opposition party said the bill will ‘whitewash’ the crimes of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who fled the country after being found guilty of plunder by a local court. The Senate eventually voted down the measure.

3. Anti-Government protest in Thailand. The shelving of the unpopular ‘Amnesty Bill’ didn’t end the protests in Thailand. More rallies were organized by the opposition but this time they started to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra whom they accused of being a proxy of her elder brother. Rallies have intensified in the past few weeks and protesters were able to occupy several government buildings. Yingluck announced that the parliament will be dissolved to make way for an election on February. But the opposition said they will boycott the polls and instead they wanted to set-up a People’s Council. Thailand’s political crisis is expected to deepen in the next few weeks. This video shows the size of a rally in Bangkok last November.

4. Cambodia’s post-election protest. Tens of thousands participated in several assemblies, marches, and camp-ins organized by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party since September to protest the alleged manipulation of electoral results by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The ruling party won by slim majority after it took 68 seats compared to the opposition’s 55 seats. It was the ruling party’s worst electoral performance since 1998 which has been in power in the past three decades. This video shows a protest scene at Phnom Penh's Freedom Park last September:

5. Malaysia ‘Black 505’ post-election protest. On May 8, 2013, hundreds of thousands gathered in Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital, to protest the outcome of the election which gave the administration coalition a slim majority. ‘Black 505’ refers to the May 5 General Election which was tainted by allegations that the ruling coalition committed massive electoral fraud to remain in power. The ruling party, which has been in power since the 1950s, lost in the popular voting but it still retained majority of the parliament seats. The series of protests, which spread to other provinces, was also referred to as the ‘Malay Tsunami’. This video shows the protesting crowd assembled in a stadium:

6. Rallies in Singapore’s Hong Lim Park. Thousands gathered in Singapore’s Hong Lim Freedom Park on May 1, 2013 to protest the government’s White Paper on population. The May Day protest was the second time that a big crowd gathered in the park to speak out against the population program which many Singaporeans criticized since it would mean the hiring of more foreign workers. Then on June 8, 2013, an assembly organized by the ‘Free My Internet’ movement became the ‘largest blogger-led protest’ in Singapore which aimed to oppose the government’s new licensing scheme for news websites. The video below shows some of the Singapore blogs which replaced their homepages with a black image in solidarity with the protest:

7. Indonesia General Strike for Pay Hike. Workers in Indonesia have launched a two-day general strike on October 31-November 1 aimed at pressuring the government to raise the minimum wage. Tens of thousands joined the factory shutdowns, union visits, and rallies across the country although the turnout was smaller compared to last year's general strike.

Thousands of workers left production in a Sanyo factory. Photo from Facebook page of Tia Claudia E. Mboeik

Thousands of workers left production in a Sanyo factory. Photo from Facebook page of Tia Claudia E. Mboeik

December 07 2013

Review of University Websites in Southeast Asia

Le Minh Khai reviewed the websites of the leading universities in Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and was disappointed with the design and content of these online platforms.

November 19 2013

Monitoring Media Bias in Malaysia

Tessa Houghton shares the findings of a study which monitored media bias in Malaysia during the 13th General Elections a few months ago:

Malaysian citizens who relied on English and Bahasa Malaysia newspapers and/or television as their media source/s during the GE13 campaign were not provided with fair and accurate information with which to construct informed voting preferences, with clear voting patterns emerging along these strata of info-communicative diversity and scarcity, and the media used more as a tool of division than of reconciliation.

October 24 2013

Malaysia Revives ‘Detention Without Trial’ Law

According to the government, the new law will empower police to defeat organized crime. Photo by Deucrox99, Wikipedia (CC License)

According to the government, the new law will empower police to defeat organized crime. Photo by Deucrox99, Wikipedia (CC License)

To defeat organized crime, Malaysia has passed an amendment to the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) of 1959 which would empower authorities to detain criminals and gangsters for up to two years even without trial.

The government asserted that a tough measure like the PCA is needed to address the problem of rising criminality in the country. It blamed the repeal of the controversial Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Internal Security Act (ISA) for the recent surge of crimes. For a long time, the EO and ISA were cited by the opposition as draconian measures which were often used by the government to detain or harass political dissenters.

The PCA amendment was passed early this month although critics have accused the administration of railroading the approval of the measure in parliament.

The government assured the public that the new law will not be used against critics and the opposition. It clarified that the provisions in the law are fair and transparent. But this assurance didn’t stop many groups from protesting and raising their objections against several aspects of the measures.

William Leong, Member of Parliament for Selayang, emphasized that ‘high-quality policing’ is needed to combat criminality:

…what Malaysian citizens need is not a convenient tool or temporary measure for the executive to simply persecute individuals in addressing the spate of crime, but essentially, a high-quality policing that is capable of curbing the crime rate in the long run without violating the fundamental rights of citizens.

Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, parliamentarian for Sepang, described the PCA as a bad law and wrong medicine for the social problems of Malaysia:

The amended PCA is a bad law. It prescribes the wrong medicine for our social maladies. Even if proving a case in court is hard in cases of mafia-type criminal activity, the solution lies elsewhere.

The police force needs to be upgraded and modernised toward professionalism.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Robert Phang of Social Care Foundation understands the necessity of introducing new laws to tackle the changing patterns of crime:

Today's crime pattern is very different from those of yesteryears. Do not oppose for the sake of opposing. A shooting case happens almost every other day and it involves ordinary people. This is frightening.

Changes take place every now and then. Today, the police may be well-equipped, but we cannot rule out the possibility that gangster heads are able to position themselves better using the Internet.

This is a real war against criminals. Therefore, the right law must be in place.

But Tan Sri Simon Sipaun of Proham decried the reintroduction of arrest without trial:

The latest nail on the coffin of human rights in Malaysia was in the form of the amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA) which have been bulldozed and passed by Parliament just after mid night on October 2, 2013.

The ISA has come back with a vengeance. It is ISA 2. Arrest without trial represents one of the worse forms of human rights violations. It is a common feature in totalitarian states. If the government has enough evidence to arrest a person it should have enough materials to charge that person.

The Malaysian Bar, the Sabah Law Association and the Advocates Association of Sarawak rejected the amendments that would diminish Malaysia’s adherence to international human rights standards:

…the answer to the fight against crime cannot lie in re-introducing laws that diminish our adherence to the rule of law, due process and constitutional safeguards. The proposed draconian amendments are not a reflection of the state of crime in our country. Rather it speaks of the inadequacies and inability of the police to deal with crime in a proper way.

October 21 2013

Malaysian Court Rules Catholic Paper Can’t Use ‘Allah’ to Refer to God

Members of Al-Ehsan Islamiah Malaysia Welfare Association gather in a peaceful rally protesting the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. Photo by Zulkifle Che Abdullah, Copyright @Demotix (1/6/2010)

Members of Al-Ehsan Islamiah Malaysia Welfare Association gather in a peaceful rally protesting the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. Photo by Zulkifle Che Abdullah, Copyright @Demotix (1/6/2010)

Malaysia’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the Catholic Weekly Herald cannot use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. The court was responding to the petition filed by the government which initially prohibited the paper from using ‘Allah’ in its Bahasa language publication.

The court agreed with the government that the use of the word ‘Allah’ by a Catholic paper would create confusion in the Muslim-majority country:

It is our common finding that the usage of the name “Allah” is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity. From such finding, we find no reason why the respondent is so adamant to use the name “Allah” in their weekly publication. Such usage, if allowed, will inevitably cause confusion within the community.

The Attorney-General interpreted the court’s decision as a move to preserve public order:

…the use of the word “Allah” in the Malay version of the Herald is without doubt, has the potential to disrupt the even tempo of life of the Malaysian community.

…the use of the word Allah as interpretation of the word God or the concept of God by the Herald may cause religious sensitivity and has the potential to harm the public order and safety.

But Rev Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, countered that Malaysian Christians have been using the word ‘Allah’ for many years already:

We have been using this word for nearly four or five hundred years, people have been living in peace and harmony. We have published The Herald for 19 years and we have not caused any trouble.

Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng of the Christian Federation of Malaysia is worried that the court’s decision would undermine unity among Malaysians:

The Bahasa Malaysia-speaking churches have been using the word Allah both before and after the independence of Malaya and the formation of Malaysia. The use of the word Allah by the Malaysian churches had not been an issue all these decades.

However, the various authorities in this country, by making an issue of it and by what would appear to be selective action or inaction, have only encouraged and fuelled further misunderstandings, mistrusts and brokenness between the Muslim and Christian communities. This will only further undermine the unity of Malaysians.

Joe Fernandez debunks the confusion theory which was argued by the court:

The confusion theory does not hold water either because no one anywhere in the world outside Malaysia has raised it as an issue.

Borealis commented that religions don’t need protection:

You can't own a religion, you can only practice it or have faith in it.

Religions don't need protection. Confusing Malaysians by using race and religion issues is too late now because the majority Malays have “awakened”.

Zan Azlee blamed Malay Muslim nationalism:

I, an official Muslim, hereby publicly declare that I have no problems with other religions aside from Islam using the word Allah to refer to God.

In my humble opinion, it is a way for Malay Muslims to show that they are the dominant race and everyone else who are not of that status should be put in their places.

It is sad to see this happening, but I think that I still have faith in Malaysia and the Malaysian people in the grander scale of things.

anas zubedy noted that the issue has further divided the Malaysian society:

…the stances adopted by some politicians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have exacerbated the situation. Because issues of identity are at the centre of politics and power in our multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation, they are hoping to reap a harvest from the Kalimah Allah controversy. In the process, society is becoming even more polarised along religious lines.

KTemoc believes that the issue should not have been brought in the courts:

I once wrote that religion should be about faith and morality and not legality or for that matter, political approval. Thus I find it unfortunate that the Catholic Herald had taken the issue to the courts. In doing so they have opened a nasty Pandora Box where some innocents may well end up getting hurt.

Bru accuses The Herald of ‘politicizing’ the issue:

…it wasn't the Christians in Malaysia who wanted Allah as their God, it was The Herald, the Catholic Church's official publication, that demanded to be allowed to use “Allah” as and when it saw fit.

But I say The Herald has put Malaysian Muslims and Christians through enough trouble already. They allowed – even encouraged – the whole issue to be politicized and turned into a Malaysian election gimmick.

Mustafa Akyol insisted that there should be no copyright for ‘Allah’:

This is one of the most illogical, insensible and childish decisions I have heard in my life. It is sheer nonsense.

…the Malaysian decision to claim a Muslim copyright for “Allah” is grossly wrong. It is both un-Islamic and irrational. And it only reveals the burning lack of intellectual self-confidence among Muslims, not just in Malaysia, but also elsewhere.

Endy M. Bayuni, editor of The Jakarta Post, observed that there is a rising ‘religious exclusivism’ in both Indonesia and Malaysia:

The problem with religious exclusivism is that it breeds intolerance, which leads to prejudices against the others.

But there is only a thin line dividing tolerance and intolerance, so we should not take this moderation for granted.

With the rising exclusivism that the Muslim majorities in these two countries are pushing, we may be witnessing the Islam in Malaysia and Indonesia becoming less and less tolerant. In fact, it may already be happening.

October 03 2013

Malaysian Communist Leader Chin Peng: Hero or Terrorist?

A mourner pays his last respects by laying flowers. Photo by Hon Keong Soo, Copyright @Demotix (9/23/2013)

A mourner pays his last respects by laying flowers. Photo by Hon Keong Soo, Copyright @Demotix (9/23/2013)

Communist Malayan Party leader Chin Peng died in Bangkok last month at the age of 88.

Chin Peng was a controversial but important figure in Malaysia and Singapore. He led the resistance against the Japanese occupation during the Second World War; and then subsequently, against the British colonial forces in the late 1940s and 1950s. As an independence fighter, he was called by some as “Malaysia’s version of Myanmar’s Aung San, Indonesia’s Soekarno and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh”.

But his campaign to establish a communist state which led to many years of civil war also made him unpopular.

He lived in exile in Thailand even after a peace agreement was finalized with the Malaysian government in 1989.

Malaysian officials have rejected the request to bring home the ashes of Chin Peng by claiming that he was not a Malaysian citizen. Furthermore, they are worried that a memorial could be erected by Chin Peng’s followers.

Before his death, Chin Peng wrote a letter to family and friends. Below is an excerpt of the letter:

I have given both my spiritual and physical self in the service of the cause that my party represented, that is, to fight for a fairer and better society based on socialist ideals.

I wish to be remembered simply as a good man who could tell the world that he had dared to spend his entire life in pursuit of his own ideals to create a better world for his people.

It is my conviction that the flames of social justice and humanity will never die.

But Barrie accused Chin Peng of being a terrorist:

It makes me sick to the bone whenever I read articles or news that claim Chin Peng was some hero to be worshipped. Isn't this like glorifying and making a hero out of Hitler? Or for that matter, Osama bin Laden?

Redbean explains how Chin Peng could be seen either as a good or bad patriot:

Chin Peng was a good man turned bad for fighting the British. If one is a member of the British Empire, Chin Peng was bad. If one was anti colonialism, Chin Peng was a patriot.

Koon Yew Yin echoed Chin Peng’s desire to return to his homeland:

…he yearned to return to his homeland and to die in his birth place. He also emphasised that Malaysia is a rich country and that the Chinese must work together and cooperate with the Malays to make Malaysia a better country.

Meanwhile, Azeem Abu Bakar agrees with the decision not to bury Chin Peng in Malaysia:

Should his ashes be allowed to be buried in Malaysia? No, because the tomb will be hailed by certain quarters. Indeed, the ashes could not resurrect and threaten our lives. He should be buried at sea away from anybody’s reach. It would be deemed offensive to Malaysians, even more so to the families of the brutally killed victims, should his remains be brought into the country and hailed like a hero.

Miyagi praises Chin Peng:

For all the ideological differences between Mr Ong’s comrades and the ones that built Singapore and Malaysia — I and many others consider Mr Ong Boon Wah, alias Chin Peng, a true patriot of the independent nations of Singapore and Malaysia. He fought tooth and nail for what he believed to be true and just — and held out for as long as his mind and body could muster — values we must admire

Malaysian opposition MP Tian Chua went to Bangkok to pay his last respects to Chin Peng:

I came as a friend and family and also as a Malaysian. We have our evaluation of his role in the country even if we agree or disagree over his ideology. We must recognize that he was part of Malaysian history. He and his generation have shaped what we are today. And together with other leaders in Southeast Asia, they shaped the map of Southeast Asia

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi elaborates on the decision not to allow the return of Chin Peng to Malaysia:

We know that if his body or ashes are brought back, there will be some who will deify him as a warrior-hero or make a monument to him. This will further break the hearts of our veterans and their families on top of the cruelty of Chin Peng and the communists.

MP M Kulasegaran clarifies that he is not in favor of communism but he believes the ashes of the late communist leader must be brought home to Malaysia:

I contend that the CPM's struggle against the Japanese during the latter's occupation of Malaya was valiant and their resistance to the British colonials after the defeat of the Japanese hastened the grant of independence to Malaya in 1957.

For that reason and also in deference to the terms of the 1989 peace accords, Chin Peng’s ashes should be allowed the courtesy of entry into the country and internment in the place of his wish.

September 10 2013

Fuel Price Increase Divides Malaysia

Gas station in Malaysia. Photo by Flickr user Sham Hardy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gas station in Malaysia. Photo by Flickr user Sham Hardy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Malaysia’s recently announced fuel price hike has been met with quite diverse opinions. On one hand, many feel that the government is putting more and more pressure on households and families as well as making the cost of living much higher due to a domino effect of price increases. On the other hand, some feel that the current increase is reasonable given that Malaysia already enjoys huge fuel subsidies and has one of the lowest fuel prices in the world. Plus, many believe that the savings from the reduced subsidies would be well spent as Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced that it will be channelled into the BR1M welfare fund.

Hoongling thought that Malaysians should learn to adapt to the changes:

Many people rant and blame everybody except themselves. Petrol price will hit us sooner or later, with or without government subsidies and whether or not we can control the price or whether or not we are oil producing country.

There are so many ways to save petrol. And we SHOULD save petrol not because petrol price will hit us but more for environment and a better future for our next generations.

Trav humorously agreed:

We all by all means should not feel enraged or pinched with forking up more money for fuel, and should instead look at the bright side of life. After all, with the fuel hike, these benefits can be achieved:

- With higher fuel price means petrol heads and rempits will think twice to burn fuel during Saturday nights, which means you can have quiet romantic moments with your partner. Don’t ever think of the word “I’m tired” excuse please.

- Crimes might go less! Snatch thieves may resort to bicycle or manual running since it is too much to fuel their bikes. Molotov cocktails will be too expensive which leaves arsonists to lose their jobs.

- The Selangor folks will have uninterrupted clean water since dumping expensive diesels/lubricants to rivers is not a good idea after all.

- Encourages carpool! Always want to know the cute receptionist girl in your office? Ask her where she stays and offer her the ride to work. Who knows she will become your wife which both of you can carpool for longer time.

Anil Netto was one of those opposed to the changes:

Malaysia’s middle- and working class are already squeezed by higher house prices (where are the low-cost houses?) while working class wages are suppressed by the policy of allowing cheap and more easily exploited migrant labour.

If you spend RM70 a week on petrol, you will end up paying about RM30 more a month. Expect petrol prices to get more expensive as reserves of fossil fuels are depleted and non-conventional fossil fuels become more difficult and expensive to extract.

When will we we get better public transport so that we won’t have to rely so heavily on private motor vehicles? Meanwhile, we appear to have made little progress in putting a lid on high-level corruption.

Hishamh argued that the fuel hike will have greater impact on higher income households:

The subsidy cut will disproportionately effect higher income households, not lower income households which spend a lot less on transportation (15.9% overall versus 12.3% for households earning less than RM3k per month). Strangely enough, rural households will also suffer more than urban households (slightly higher portion of transport costs).

As to why cut and why now, average global crude oil prices jumped 5% in the last month alone, and are 15% higher over a year ago. That’s well above the average the government was planning for in this year’s budget – if the deficit target was to be met, something had to give.

There were some reactions on Twitter as well:

On Facebook, a page ‘Saya Benci Harga Barang Naik!’ (I hate the increase of prices of goods) have become very popular, with almost 70,000 Likes. The cover and profile photos have been changed to reflect the rise of fuel prices, with many posting and commenting on the issue.

September 06 2013

Why Malaysia's Fuel Price Hike is Wrong

Anil Netto uploaded the analysis of Institut Rakyat which described Malaysia's recent decision to slash fuel subsidies as a ‘wrong approach” to address the country's fiscal deficit.

Wastage and corruption should be cut first and income-boosting policies should take effect before subsidies on essential goods should be open to reconsideration.

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...