8 February, 2006

asia press freedoms 2005

China has shown a sharp downward trend in press freedoms last year, while the Philippines remains dangerous and North Korea abysmal.:

While some countries in Asia have remained stable with regard to media freedom, there have been sharp downward trends in several Asian countries, particularly China, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Freedom House, a non-governmental organization that monitors press freedoms around the world, assessed the levels of press freedom in countries based on the prevailing legal environment, political and economic situation and the overall attitudes of authorities towards the media.

The surveys were generally concordant in their results, with China, Nepal, North Korea and the Philippines remaining the biggest causes of concern for journalists in Asia.

"Compared to last year, there really aren’t many positives in Asia," said Karin Karlekar, Managing Editor of the Freedom House survey. "While some countries have remained steady [Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong], we can see downward trends in many countries in the region."

North Korea was found to be the worst country in all surveys, showing no signs of improvement over the past couple of years. All media in North Korea continue to remain tools of Kim Jong-il’s state, while all foreign media are repeatedly portrayed by the regime as "liars" seeking to destabilize the government, according to the Freedom House report. However, the report also suggests that an increase in international trade has resulted in greater contact with foreigners, which might allow for greater access to international news reports in the near future.

China has also shown a sharp downward trend in 2005, said Karlekar, which can be attributed to increased censorship of newspapers and radio stations, and greater Internet surveillance.

According to RSF, the so-called "broadcasting Great Wall" in China has been growing over the past year: The Voice of Tibet, the BBC and Radio Free Asia are among the radio stations jammed by the government in 2005. 

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by @ 8:19 pm. Filed under Japan, South Korea, Blogs, Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Asean, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, South Asia, Thailand, Weblogs, Censorship, North Korea, Tibet

13 December, 2005

an asean constution

Rajan has come upon a preliminary draft of the proposed constitution for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean):

Asean7. Freedom of movement of people and goods shall be guaranteed except

a) When there is a national monopoly or well-connected corporation like Proton and PT Tri Polyta that needs to be protected.

b) When there is a pointless, wasteful, inefficient national industry that needs to be protected

c) For Jews…err, Israelis, in Malaysia and Indonesia.

d) For Filipinos and Indonesians going to Malaysia and Singapore, where in Malaysia they shall be placed in humiliating, delapidated camps where their rights shall not be protected.

e) To Acheh, Papua or occasionally, parts of the Spice Islands in Indonesia, the mountains of Vietnam, most states of Myanmar and the entirety of Laos, God-forbid any reporter sees anything there.

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by @ 8:20 pm. Filed under Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Asia, East Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Thailand

28 November, 2005

jilin, harbin and beijing

A young journalist in China explains clearly, on his must-read blog, why central government authorities as well as Jilin and Harbin authorities must take responsibility for the disaster along the Songhua river.:

JilinNow that everybody’s jumping in on the benzene spill incident, it seems there’s hardly any aspect of the story that hasn’t been covered by domestic or foreign media — from the Fascist rule of the CNPC subsidiary’s chief manager, Yu Li, to the old man shuddering in the howl of Harbin’s cold wind waiting in a long line to get rationed water, to the unsuspecting Heilongjiang fishermen who kept on catching and eating fish from the Songhua while the toxic stretch of water slowly passed their domain. Now everybody knows there was a shameful cover-up.

A friend who works at Jilin city’s drinking water corporation told me that they started testing water samples in the Songhua the night of the explosions. Although they mostly sampled water near their intake points, there’s reason to believe that they knew some pollution probably was created. I also got on the phone with water-quality supervision officials from the provincial capital of Changchun, who said that they were stationed in Songyuan (downstream of Jilin city, near the border of the two provinces) to monitor river water contamination levels 24 hours a day between Nov. 15 (two days after the explosion) and Nov. 24. On Nov. 16, they found the water with benzene levels over 60 times the national standard. It peaked on Nov. 17, when benzene reached more than 300 times above national standard. Hell, they knew it from the very beginning.

But according to Heilongjiang officials, their bretheren in Jilin didn’t notify them of the contamination until Nov. 18. The truth may be even more shocking. My colleague who went to Harbin learned that Jilin authorities probably never sounded the alarm to Heilongjiang — the latter only knew about the toxins in the river on Nov. 19, when their own water-quality monitoring outposts tested alarmingly high levels of benzene near Zhaoyuan.

Despite what some people may think, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) didn’t play an honorable role either, at least not initially. They also knew about the spill from the very beginning. SEPA sent officials down to Jilin on Nov. 13, and they later claimed they tested and found benzene in Jilin waters on that day. In theory they should have access to all statistics from both provinces all along, and we confirmed this partially. Again, they chose to remain silent until Nov. 23. Presumably the central government agency waited out the finger-pointing and political bantering between the two provinces, and then jumped in at the perfect moment to play God.

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by @ 10:45 pm. Filed under China, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Asean, Censorship

4 November, 2005

malaysian triads

Lucia Lai stumbles on to a disturbing interview with a Malaysian Triad member - disturbing for the most part because of the alleged friendliness the gangster has with local officials,:

Ahhing“If someone betrays me personally… I will get a few gang members together and beat him up until he’s paralysed or he’s a vegetable, but if the matter is really big then they’ll be brought before my tai ko for a trial,” he said.

“If my tai ko asks us to deal with someone, even if we kill that person, we won’t be worried, because if the police arrest us, my tai ko will get me out,” he added.

“Last time I was taken in the front door of the [police] lock-up, and right away I walk out of the back door.”

This comes from a man named ah hing, a person like me who is out to make a living… but as a ‘bad businessman’, otherwise more known as a triad member, or gangster.

jonathan kent from BBC, had an interview with ah hing and discovered that gangsterism in our country is like running a business. however, that was not the interesting part. the interesting part was that the government ‘runs his world’, so as admitted by ah hing when he was asked who runs his world.

“If I want to operate on a particular street and ask a politician to ask the authorities not to disturb me, the politician might say: ‘It’s impossible to have zero arrests, so you can operate on certain hours and we will patrol after those hours’ - so it’s a win-win situation,” Ah Hing said.

“If my tai ko asks us to deal with someone, even if we kill that person, we won’t be worried, because if the police arrest us, my tai ko will get me out,” he added.

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by @ 8:10 pm. Filed under Malaysia, East Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia

27 August, 2005

saturday links

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is seeking answers from his cabinet!


There are some politicians that I’ve grown to like since they’ve left office, I’m adding another to that very short list:

Influential Muslim cleric Abdurrahman Wahid (aka Gus Dur) and one of Indonesia’s most respected public figures (and its fourth President) has made a stand against the anti-Christian activities of violent Muslim group Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders’ Front):

GusdurWahid on Tuesday (23/8/05) demanded that President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono take action against the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), which
is notorious for its attacks on religious minorities and nightlife
He warned that Banser, the security task force of the
nation’s largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), would be mobilized
against FPI if the government fails to stop the radical group from
attacking churches. Wahid is the former leader of NU.

HK Dave at Simon World brings us a bit of interesting history.

NukeThe New York Times ran a story today about how 1963 tapes reveal that the United States was preparing to drop The Bomb on China
in the event that China invaded India again. President Kennedy and his
advisors, discussing the possibility of another invasion, strongly
believed, given his pro-India stance, that the United States should
support India against China. One of his advisors, Robert McNamara, is
heard on tape as saying that instead of introducing large numbers of
American troops, that nuclear bombs should be dropped on China instead.

From the article:

On the tapes, Robert S. McNamara, who was President Kennedy’s
defense secretary, is heard to say: "Before any substantial commitment
to defend India against China is given, we should recognize that in
order to carry out that commitment against any substantial Chinese
attack, we would have to use nuclear weapons. Any large Chinese
Communist attack on any part of that area would require the use of
nuclear weapons by the U.S., and this is to be preferred over the
introduction of large numbers of U.S. soldiers."
Mr. McNamara
said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he could not remember
the conversation, "but it is probably correct."

Via Boing Boing, a look at Japanese sex toys and other sundries (nsfw):

First, though, there’s plenty of pervasive material available right out
on the street, before you even make it into a porno store. For example,
these delicious-looking treats I found at a market - "Yokohama Bust


 I like how, the way the packages are set up, the girl on the right
appears to be scowling at the girl on the left, as if jealous of her
younger, perkier pudding breasts.

At Peking Duck, something Gordon G Chang didn’t mention: "The Coming Collapse of (apartment buildings in) China"

Recently, a friend of mine was enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon in his
expensive Guangzhou apartment when suddenly the entire living room
ceiling collapsed. Fortunately, the only damage came from his
girlfriend who, amazingly, took great exception to the fact that he
took more interest in his new plasma television than he did of her.
Trying to diffuse matters by reminding her much it cost was a mistake I
think. Following this incident the neighbours informed the couple that
similar incidents had been occurring all over the estate. As well as
bits of the building literally falling apart, the electrical wiring in
several apartments had also packed in. Not good for an 18-month old
building of ‘executive’ apartments.

Poor workmanship is a common problem for rapidly developing economies - due to a lack of skills, corruption, evolving regulations and a plethora or other reasons. On my first overseas posting in South Korea, I was often asked: "Aren’t you worried about the North invading?" My reply was: "No, but I am worried about a shopping mall collapsing on me."


Anti-globalization protesters are having trouble finding accommodation, I thought they enjoyed camping out al fresco.:

Not unsurprisingly, WTO protester organizations are having difficulty securing hotel rooms for the weekend of the big meeting.

Hong Kong People’s Alliance on WTO, which says it’s helping about 3,000
overseas protesters find accommodation, said it has heard of at least
three cases in which hotels and travel agents refused to serve

Why should hotels want to serve people that
have been violent in the past? And also, the government probably
doesn’t want these clowns running around throwing rocks and clashing
with police either. It would be an embarrassment to both Hong Kong and

Though I am pro-globalization, I support the right to protest. If anti-WTO crowd can’t find real hotels, I suggest they try looking for some of the free locations reviewed here.

"The 24 hour MacDonald’s on Peking Road in Tsim Sha Tsui (the Kowloon
      side of Hong Kong) (two blocks west of Nathan Road, the TST MTR stop and the infamously nasty "Chungking Mansions") lets people crash out in the booths at night. On any given night there are a couple backpackers and at least a dozen "locals" snoozing on the tables. (Sorry, MacPillow is NOT on the menu.) It might not be comfortable and it is noisy, but it’s doable! To top it off, they wake you in the morning with a cup of coffee to get you out of there! "

Asiapundit is a pet owner and an animal lover. I will keep this site free of petblogging and stick to politics, economics and salatious tabloidism - I have other places to do my own petblogging. But I was touched by some petblogging in the Asiasphere this week.:

The good news, Jodi is a mother, and her son is a cutie:


The bad news, HK Macs has lost one of the family.:


Seeing a huge cost differential on dialysis treatment in Singapore and Malaysia, Mr Wang spots an opportunity:

The ever-entrepreneurial and creative Mr Wang thinks that
there is a potential business idea here. Singapore bus companies can
diversify into Malaysian health tourism, arranging for Singaporean
kidney patients to get treatment in Malaysia and also providing regular
transport direct from Singapore to the relevant Malaysian medical
centre, and back again.

Amit Varma sums up some of my thoughts on why AsiaPundit calls himself an libertarian. Though in my case I would add it’s because my prefered term, liberal, has been so abused that it is useless.

Indeed, why should we trust Musharraf?

As much as I will complain about Putin and the CPC, they woud probably run North Korea far better than Kim Jong-il and his clique.:

The truth is out. The joint war games on northern Chinese beaches, part
of a military exercise between China and Russia, are not designed to
send warning messages to the United States about the limits of its
global unilateralism.
It’s really all about China and Russia practicing for a joint
occupation of North Korea, or so the Russian media will have us

Two blogs that I don’t link to enough that you should be reading are The Aseanist and Friskodude.

Via the Flea, AsiaPundit presents art:


I’m not sure if this indicates a growing tolerance of homosexuality in Japan, of if it just further indicates that Japanese television is weird.:

Hard Gay it would appear struts the streets of Tokyo; performing acts
of ‘social improvement’, shouting “Wooooo!” and “Hard Gay!” a lot, and
interspersing all this with liberal doses of hip thrusting – his
trademark movement.


by @ 7:50 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, South Korea, Blogs, Singapore, China, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia, Philippines, South Asia, Thailand, North Korea, Central Asia

4 July, 2005

world record watch vii

Holy Catfish Batman!

…two fisherman made a world record catch when they landed a 646lb catfish out of the Mekong River in Chiang Rai, Thailand.


by @ 7:24 am. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia, Thailand, World record watch

3 July, 2005

short sunday links

Headlines you don’t often see "China Threatens Iceland." (via Iceland News blog).

The infamous revisionist Japanese history textbook is now online in Chinese and Korean.

China’s state security officials are always thinking two steps ahead.

More evidence of closer ties between the Holy See and the CPP?

It’s not just the nationalist protests that are causing Japanese companies to have second thoughts on China - nor is it just mounting evidence of a downturn - staffing issues and weak rule of law are also problems.

With all of the heavy (and deserved) CPP bashing on this site, for balance it’s fair to have a link to an ESWN translation of an item critical of Taiwan’s administration.

China’s biggest hacker group has announced in advance that they will be mounting an assault on sites in Japan. Giving advanced warning to the enemy? I recommend they brush up on Sun Tzu.

Deutsche Bank is the latest foreign bank in South Korea to be be accused of irregularities in its dealings with state-run companies.

Jodi looks at Korean Air’s new advertising campaign - suggestion, find different music.

Amit Varma has distressing news on Gujarat.

Fabian at Macam Macam has comments on the UN’s 2005 Global Drug Report. I’m familiar with last years - the comparative pricing tables should be a good resource for anyone interested in arbitrage opportunities.

Arms Control Wonk looks at probable expanded US controls on exports to China.

At Global Voices, reactions from Chinese bloggers on the website registration deadline.

Not a good sign, 31% of Malaysian students say they would accept bribes.

Finally, Happy Independence Day. remember, the British Crown at one point didn’t care for ’splittists’ either.


by @ 11:15 am. Filed under Culture, Japan, South Korea, Blogs, Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, South Asia, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Censorship, North Korea

25 June, 2005

late saturday links

It was a busy week, here are some items of interest that Asiapundit missed from yesterday and last week:

Daniel Drezner asks whether the liberal paradigm - that markets bring democracy - is failing in China.

At Diacritic, a look at how Vietnamese language press - both domestic and overseas - covered Prime Minister Phan Van Khai’s US visit.

Brad Setser has a good analysis on CNOOC’s bid for UNOCAL (one key point: "China’s oil firms have cash and customers but not enough oil: their current interest in stretching their wings abroad makes a certain amount of commercial sense.")

The Ordinary Gweillo points to an Economist item that explains last week’s shoe incident.

Ian Lamont also weighs in on Microsoft’s banning of democracy and other words on sections of its China blog portal - also keep checking Ian’s other blog a site on his developing thesis based on content analysis of China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

Via China Digital Times a the Guardian spins a tale of two massacres. Plus a long piece from the Online Journalism Review on blogging in China.

Spirited discussion on China’s ‘new left’ continues at Simon World.

A roundup of yesterday’s news at China-e-lobby.

ESWN ponders the reliability of reports on bird-flu deaths in China.

Disappointment. After only recently discovering one of the best essayist blogs in China, Richard Willmsen announces he’s leaving China.

Taipei is taking the ‘love hotel’ and moving it upmarket.

China’s Nurse Ratchet may sometimes be acting in the people’s interest. CSR Asia notes authorities are shutting how-to suicide sites. Also, a good number of questions raised on China’s suicide statistics.

The FEER’s Traveller’s Tales blog informs us that the June issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review has been banned in Beijing "because of the content on pages 44 and 55-59." My copy arrived Thursday, page 44 is an item on poaching with a similar thesis to this one. Pages 55-59 contain content similar to what got the Economist banned a earlier this month. Btw Hugo, when do I get my password for archive access?

China may be viewed in a better light than the US globally, but lets forget about ‘Old Europe’s’ opinions and be thankful that the US is held in high regard in Asia’s other rising economy. (via the Acorn)

The Swanker starts on Rebecca’s request with a post on the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Malaysia’s LoneStar and Lucia Lai also oblige. As does Alan in Canada. And Roger L Simon.

Nicholas in Canada alerts us to addictive Malaysian curries.

Sepia Mutiny brings news that Australia’s Handi Ghandi has bowed to pressure and changed its logo: "their solution is to make Gandhi a Punjabi rapper. Apparently they felt that was the polar opposite of a nonviolent vegetarian."

Maobi points to a report saying that Malaysia is terror free (translation, not on-guard).

New Mongols alerts us to a new Central Asia blog. Also at New Mongols, a look at Taiwan’s changing view of Mongolia.

Lost Nomad helps us realize that South Korea’s riot police look a lot less threatening out of uniform.

Via NK Zone, in spite of a looming return of famine, Pyongyang’s range of restaurants is growing.

Kenny Sia’s new quiz: Which Malaysian blogger are you?

Cowboy Caleb alerts us to a Singapore Press Holdings reporter who is having an ethical dilemma about blogging and privacy. My view, anything that isn’t password protected is public.

Singapore’s mr brown brings us news that Mr Miyagi has joined him as a Today newspaper columnist.

The Singapore government may try to stop the use of Singlish in the city state’s media, but the People’s Action party has no power over DC Comics.

Over at XiaXue, Wendy has decided to post the private e-mail addresses from her critics. She knows, of course, that they will now be bombed by hate mail from her readers, making her appeal for sympathy seem more like a quest for revenge. Very bad form Wendy.

Tom Vamvanij has noted some creative translating by Thailand’s (usually respectable) Nation Media Group.

Reacting to China’s latest blocking of blogs, Instapundit says boycott Chinese goods. CSR Asia responds.

Naming a child something like this almost makes me want to call welfare services.

Finally, despite having too much on my plate already, I have accepted Dan’s invitation to become a contributor to the Shanghaiist. While he has literally offered to pay me in peanuts, even in ‘beta’ form the site is attractive enough to make me want to join. Still, Dan may want to consider James Goldsmith’s proverb.

by @ 10:39 am. Filed under Culture, Japan, Blogs, Singapore, China, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia, Media, South Asia, Weblogs, Censorship, Terrorism, North Korea, Mongolia, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam

19 June, 2005

aung san suu kyi

Gateway Pundit has a collection of links on the Lady’s 60th birthday.


Fabian and Carl have further linkage. All three note international leaders have sent best wishes to the Lady, who remains under house arrest at the whim of the junta that runs Burma.

With the exception of , Malaysia’s former prime minister, I have not noted any reported comments from Asean’s leadership.

by @ 6:25 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Asean, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia

18 June, 2005

happy birthday to The Lady

Vaclav Havel has an item in the Washington Post that is worth reading.:

On Sunday Aung San Suu Kyi will celebrate her 60th birthday, which in a Buddhist culture marks an important milestone in one’s life. I would like to meet her and give her a rose like the one she is seen holding in a photograph in my study. Such an ordinary wish, however, in the case of such an extraordinary woman as Aung San Suu Kyi may seem a silly idea. The last time I wrote about her in The Post [op-ed, Oct. 12, 2003] was shortly after "unknown" assassins tried to deprive her of her life and Burmese generals put her under house arrest for the third time since 1989. Since then, except for the occasional purge of senior generals, an ever-increasing population of political prisoners and multiplying human rights abuses, nothing in Burma seems to have changed.
Aung San Suu Kyi is still kept under strict house arrest, and the Burmese generals have fortified themselves even more against any attempts at a dialogue. A dialogue? To conduct a dialogue with a regime that consistently disdains basic human rights and freedoms — that uses arms instead of words and harassment and violence instead of discussion — probably does not make any sense.

UPDATE: FriskoDude has more.

by @ 9:59 am. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Asean, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia

16 June, 2005

stuck with burma

The Aseanist comes to a depressing conclusion that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations needs Myanmar/Burma more than the despotic nation needs Asean.

He pointed out that ASEAN needs Myanmar more than Myanmar needs ASEAN.
I have to admit that he’s largely right. In his eyes, Myanmar, if somehow expelled from ASEAN for its reluctance to change, could go either to India or to China. I think there’s more of a worry about the latter than the former. Yangon and New Delhi, of course, have history, and Myanmar is particularly sensitive about its colonial history. A link to New Delhi would seem like a reconstituted Raj, although there are enough Burmese Indians to make this happen. China is the greater worry. Even though, like most Southeast Asians, most Burmese are rather suspicious of Chinese intentions, China has long developed an economic foothold in Myanmar, particularly in the north. And I’d wager many of the ruling generals have developed quite cozy relationships with Chinese business interests.

by @ 8:27 am. Filed under China, India, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Asean, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, South Asia

9 June, 2005

blog the tsunami


A request from Rebecca McKinnion at Global Voices Online:

It has come to Global Voices’
attention that a number of mainstream media outlets are going to be
doing some special reporting looking at the Tsunami and its legacy 6
months on.
Given what a big role the blogosphere played in
the tsunami coverage, it would be great to see the perspective of
bloggers living in tsunami-affected regions.
How did the
tsunami change your life, and that of the people around you? Do you
know about efforts to improve evacuation and early warning systems in
your area? Are people getting the aid they were promised? Are they
getting the help they need? Why or why not??
Please let the world know in your blogs, podcasts, photo feeds, and videoblogs!!
 Please DON’T FORGET to tag your work with “” so that we will know about it!!


by @ 3:05 pm. Filed under Blogs, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Asean, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, Media, South Asia, Thailand

26 May, 2005

the aseanist

Discovered through Andrea, a very sharp blog on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations from the Aseanist. Here are his/her thoughts on the embarrassment of Myanmar/Burma’s impending presidency:

I’m starting to wonder, though, whether a Myanmar presidency might be a good thing for ASEAN. First, it will force the member states to internalize fully the costs of carrying the junta. A boycott by its most prominent non-Asian dialogue partners and a possible delay in implementing E.U.-funded regional integration projects would drive home to member states capitals how much of a liability Yangon has become for the region. Second, it could remind the member states that they have to generate their own resources for ASEAN as soon as posssible. The organization remains so dependent on outside funding and support that a Western boycott is a real threat. It shouldn’t be for any self-respecting regional organization. Finally, a boycott could actually be a welcome respite from the diplomatic circus of meetings and fora and dialogues that can be distracting from the task of making tough decisions about integrations.

Of course, all this is a little like putting lipstick on a pig. I don’t think a Myanmar presidency is desirable. But there can be a silver lining.

by @ 7:57 pm. Filed under Asean, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia

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