We were tempted to link to Despair Inc’s Motivational Poster Generator in our daily links, but decided against it as it was not really Asian content.
We hope the below posters rectify that problem.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned mr brown, and the government’s role in his termination from the Today newspaper, in the recent National Day address. A Singapore Angle has the transcript, with the below passage:
So I give you the example of Mr Brown’s column in Today. Some of you may have read it, some of you may not. But it hit out wildly at the government and in a very mocking and dismissive sort of tone. So MICA [Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts] replied. How can you not reply? And some Singaporeans feel we were too harsh, we should have been gentler, or maybe just even accepted it, it is just niceness, he didn’t mean us any harm.
Well, my view is like this: Mr Brown is very talented man (in fact he is Mr Lee Kim Mun). If you listen to his podcasts, they are hilarious. And he is entitled to his views, and entitled to express them. But when he takes on the government and makes serious accusations, as he did in this case because he said the government suppressed information before the elections which was awkward and only let it out afterwards, then the government has to respond, firstly to set the record straight, and secondly to signal that this is really not the way to carry on a public debate on national issues and especially not in the mainstream media.
As noted earlier, and as explained by mr brown this week, the government’s right of response is not a concern. The concern is the silencing of dissent, through the sacking of mr brown from Today and the refusal of the newspaper to print any further replies in defense of mr brown. This is said here by mr brown.:
I believe the Government has every right to respond to my Humour column. I may disagree with what they say but it is their right to respond.
I also believe in responding in turn to what the Government said in their letter, but my Humour column was suspended immediately after their letter was printed. Perhaps Mediacorp/TODAY did not stand by what they published?
I understand that many people did respond on the matter by writing in to the mainstream press, but none of their letters were published by mainstream media. Not a single one. Some people who wrote to TODAY about the column’s suspension received a templated response to write to MICA instead, even though TODAY were the ones who suspended the column. Strange.
An equally controversial element of the National Day speech was Lee’s comment that he orders his noodles without cockles. While AsiaPundit has not found the moment in the transcript, mr brown has captured the controversial utterance in his latest podcast.
Xenoboy explains the significance:
When PM Lee in his Rally Speech delivers the ultimate punchline to lay the bak chor mee to rest, to signal Government’s engagement with the Digital Age Singaporean, those dreaming of somewhere else, he utters the phrase “Mee Siam Mai Hum”.
This becomes an instant classic of dis-connect….
Read the whole thing. The disconnect is explained in this passage:
Mee Siam has never had cockles as an ingredient. Two other distinctly Singapore dishes use cockles. Laksa and Fried Kway Teow Noodles. Most Singaporeans know this. Its a fact of life.
To put it simply, most Singaporeans will NOT make this mistake. Its like ordering bak kut teh, another classic Singapore dish, without the soup. Ordering pizza and telling the chef to hold the dough. No, actually its worse. Its like ordering pizza and telling the chef to hold the spaghetti. In short, the phrase “Mee Siam Mai Hum” is an oxymoron. Its like one of those chain e-mail wordplay jokes “military intelligence”.
From what I understand, our esteemed national newspaper, the Straits Times, “heard” and interpreted the crucial phrase as “Mee Siam Mai Hiam”; which means hold the chilli. If this “hearing” is correct, than the phrase is meaningless as a direct riposte against the bak chor mee podcast. I guess the ST is not being honest again. Its “hearing” certainly connects with PM Lee but it means all the rest of Singaporeans “heard” wrongly, very dis-connected.
Image taken from Sei-ji Rakugaki’s Sketchbook, a full size and legible version is here.
Singapore’s government has issued strict regulations on high-profile foreign publications seeking distribution in the city state. Having its local press on a tight rein and having threatened local netizens, the People’s Action Party is attempting to ensure that major overseas media do not print anything that goes against their ‘enlightened’ rule.
RSF has issued a condemnation:
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the Singapore government for putting pressure on on the Far Eastern Economic Review and four other foreign publications to censor themselves.
“The authorities are looking for effective ways, including fear of prosecution and heavy fines, to intimidate these publications into censoring themselves,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “This is the latest threat against the foreign media, which are the only means of reporting independently on political and economic events in the country since the local press is controlled by the government.”
The information, communications and arts ministry gave the monthly Far Eastern Economic Review until 11 September to comply with section 23 of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act. The magazine has been registered as a foreign publication since it criticised the government’s domestic policy in 1987 but had an exemption from some legal requirements which has now been cancelled. It must have a legal representative in the country by the ministry’s deadline and pay a deposit of 200,000 Singapore dollars (100,000 euros). For other foreign publications, the International Herald Tribune, Time magazine, the Financial Times and Newsweek, have been ordered to do the same when their licences come up for renewal.
This crackdown follows an interview in the Far Eastern Economic Review with opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, who the magazine called a national “martyr” because of the many lawsuits against him.
Mr Wang, a Singapore lawyer, notes the legal implications for FEER and the other publications for having ‘a legal representative‘:
The interesting bit is the MICA requirement that FEER “must have a legal representative in the country”. This probably means that FEER is required to appoint what lawyers call a “process agent” in Singapore.
What’s the significance of having a process agent in Singapore? Well, it’s one of those rather technical legal/ procedural matters. The basic idea is that it enables the Singapore government to sue FEER …. in the Singapore courts….
…The foreign newspaper has to consider whether the Singapore courts would regard the article as “defamatory” of the Singapore government.
Not what you or me or the man in the street would regard as “defamatory” … not what a Hong Kong judge or an English judge or a Thai judge would regard as “defamatory” …. but what the Singapore courts would regard as “defamatory” of the Singapore government. There are some potentially scary implications here, because we can expect the chilling effect to kick in once again.
AsiaPundit has grown slightly tired of commenting on the slow erosion on liberty in Singapore under Lee Hsien Loong. On this occasion, he will leave the commentary to Imagethief.:
We, the audience, are left to wonder if the tightened regulations are really due to a “changing media landscape” or to a combination of a relatively poor election showing (by Singapore standards) for the PAP, anxiety about the ability of the somewhat charisma-challenged Lee Hsien Loong to carry his father’s mantle, and a feeling that people are beginning to sense the shadow of mortality hovering over the revered and still politically active elder Lee and wondering over the inevitable consequences.
The Far Eastern Economic Review, in this month’s free feature, has an insightful and sympathetic interview with Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan.
It’s worth reading. Points of interest include Chee’s comments that Singapore needs a color revolution, Chee’s questioning the transparency of the city’s institutions and his doubts about the media intelligence of Lee Hsien Loong.:
.. tensions will erupt when strongman Lee Kuan Yew dies. Mr. Chee notes that the ruling party is so insecure that Singapore’s founder has been unable to step back from front-line politics. The PAP still needs the fear he inspires in order to keep the population in line. Power may have officially passed to his son, Lee Hsien Loong, but even supporters privately admit that the new prime minister doesn’t inspire confidence.
During the election, Prime Minister Lee made what should have been a routine attack on multiparty democracy: “Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 opposition members in parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time thinking what’s the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters’ votes, how can I solve this week’s problem and forget about next year’s challenges?” But of course the ominous phrases “buy votes” and “fix them” stuck out. That is the kind of mistake, Mr. Chee suggests, Lee Sr. would not make.
“He’s got a kind of intelligence that would serve you very well when you put a problem in front of him,” he says of the prime minister. “But when it comes to administration or political leadership, when you really need to be media savvy and motivate people, I think he is very lacking in that area. And his father senses it as well.”
AsiaPundit would agree that Mini-Lee is far less media savvy than his father, who still commands a lot of respect for his intellect and his economic record. AsiaPundit also appreciates that his opinion is considered completely irrelevant by the ruling People Action’s Party.:
(Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) Vivian) Balakrishnan said: “I am not concerned at all about what the foreign media thinks. We are not here to fulfil (sic) their agenda. Let me put it to you this way.
Even though the PAP doesn’t care about the foreign press, AP expects that the Singapore government will seek its ‘right of response’ to the latest issue of FEER.
It’s a shame that the government does not allow its citizens the right to a counter response when MICA drafts letters criticizing the opinions of Singapore’s private citizens.
In ordinary times, AsiaPundit would be concerned by the appearance of a group of Brownshirts with a political agenda.
Photo © Straits Times Online, July 9, 2006. The author believes that the use of this image, with attribution, constitutes “fair use” under current copyright laws.
I found out through my other correspondents at Singabloodypore that some people gathered at City Hall MRT at 2pm Sunday Singapore time, decked in brown, claiming to be bloggers showing their solidarity in support for mrbrown’s recent fallout with MICA, and subsequently TODAY. Netizens at Sammyboy’s are suggesting a week of brown outfits to carry on the show of support.
To quote seminal punk band Minor Threat: “tell your mama and your papa, sometimes good guys don’t wear white.”
Singapore’s godfather of blogging, mr brown, has just been suspended as a columnist for the Today newspaper after the Ministry of Information and Culture (MICA) objected to his previous column.
Although AP is not a citizen, he was a long-term resident of the Lion City and has a strong affinity for the place. AP is outraged by the treatment of mr brown, a personal friend.
AP also objects because the government has again, through its oversensitivity and brutishness, embarrassed Singapore and its people.
The Singapore government says citizens should not offer criticisms unless they offer solutions. With that AP offers the following criticism and an accompanying solution:
Inspired by the government’s four million smile campaign, AsiaPundit would like to propose the Four Million Finger movement. He urges readers to display their outrage in the method illustrated below. Photos and posts will show up on Technorati and when tagged ‘fourmillionfingers.’
In order to help better attain the four-million-finger mark, AsiaPundit encourages the use of the two-finger salute, illustrated below on Ministry of Information spokeswoman Krishnasamy Bhavani.:
Ms Bhavani is president of the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore, which offers diploma and professional certificates in PR and mass communication. AsiaPundit will suggest that the current travesty offers a great case study for the institute: “Bhavani v. Brown: How to create an embarrassing global incident by cracking down on an innocuous columnist.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have issued a statement condemning the Singapore government.:
It is not the job of government officials to take a position on newspaper articles or blog posts unless they are clearly illegal, Reporters Without Borders pointed out today after the Singaporean newspaper Today published an opinion piece by an official on 3 July condemning a recent post by blogger Lee Kin Mun as over-politicised and unconstructive.
“This reaction from a Singaporean official is disturbing,” the press freedom organisation said. “It reads like a warning to all journalists and bloggers in a country in which the media are already strictly controlled. The media have a right to criticise the government’s actions and express political views. Furthermore, a newspaper’s editorial policies depend solely on its editors. They should under no circumstances be subject to instructions issued by the government.”
Lee, who uses the pseudonym “mr brown,” wrote an article entitled “S’poreans are fed, up with progress!” for Today’s opinion pages on 30 June in which he criticised recent government measures and the constant cost-of-living rises in an amusing and acerbic fashion.
Krishnasamy Bhavani, a press secretary to the ministry of information, communications and arts, responded with an article published in Today on 3 July in which she defended her government’s policies but went on to criticise Lee for taking a political position.
RSF issued the above statement yesterday, before it was revealed that mr brown would be suspended.
Singapore’s best blogger, mr brown, has been targeted by the Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) in a letter to the Today newspaper. In it, ministerial press secretary K Bhavani attacks mr brown for his use of polemics, sarcasm and hiding behind a pseudonym.:
mr brown’s views on all these issues distort the truth. They are polemics dressed up as analysis, blaming the Government for all that he is unhappy with. He offers no alternatives or solutions. His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with.
mr brown is entitled to his views. But opinions which are widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Instead of a diatribe mr brown should offer constructive criticism and alternatives. And he should come out from behind his pseudonym to defend his views openly.
It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government’s standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics.
The original mr b column is here. AsiaPundit has had the pleasure of mr b’s company on several occasions. While he does indeed use a pseudonym, AsiaPundit understood that he does not write anonymously.
If mr b is attempting anonymity he is doing a horrible job of it. There are pictures of mr brown all over the internet and on his own site. Plus, he has made regular television and print media appearances.
Nevertheless, Kin Mun is clearly guilty of hiding behind a pseudonym to attack the government in a ‘partisan’ fashion. As such, he deserves all of the scorn that MICA has directed at him.
Worse than the pseudonym, mr brown has been known to hide his identity using clever disguises.
AsiaPundit will reiterate the call by K Bhavani that mr brown cease hiding behind his pseudonym and defend his views openly. Moreover, mr brown should come out from beneath that huge artificial afro.
Show some courage!
Security is always a concern for global trade and economic organizations, however the World Bank has decided that Singapore is a little too secure. Worried about a perception that civic groups are being ignored, the global development bank has petitioned the Singapore government to allow protests at its September meeting.:
The World Bank … has stepped in to assure activists that space for civil society is being negotiated to avoid what some critics of the international financial institutions says will undermine the credibility of the Bank’s claims to promote good governance, accountability, transparency and democracy.
”We are working closely with the IMF and with the Singapore Government — and have been for many months — to ensure that diverse civil society voices are very much heard before, during and after the Annual Meetings,” writes Peter Stephens of the Bank’s Singapore office in a letter to the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). ”We believe that meaningful civil society engagement is critical to the effectiveness of the meetings.”
The letter also dismisses the argument made by the NGOs that the Bank and the IMF are trying to shut the door on the world’s poor by giving shape to a restrictive process. ”Far from being a regulated or restricted process, as you appear to suggest, we are trying to enable a process that is open and led by civil society, and for the issues and means of addressing them to arise spontaneously, not through a formal process that we lead or try to manage,” adds Stephens.
But for veteran civil society actors in Singapore, the Bank’s letter appears to be out of touch with the stubborn reality on the ground in the city-state. ”It will be nearly impossible to protest in Singapore for locals,” Sinapan Samydorai, head of Think Centre, a human rights NGO, told IPS. ”Locals trying to express any political opinion in public will require a license. The licenses are often denied to locals.”
Singapore should have no reason to not permit protests. Its police and public security forces are some of the finest in the world. They have proven themselves very adept at stopping protests before they get out of hand.
The above images are from some of last year’s most impressive actions by the Lion City’s Finest. The arrest of an Australian woman in a bear suit and the that required 40 riot police to disperse.
(Article via Elia Diodati)
A Reader’s Digest survey conducted in 35 various cities across the globe analysed and tested the politeness and helpfulness of people in each urban centre. More than 2000 separate tests of behaviour were conducted to try and find the world’s most courteous place….
Researchers awarded the cities points for various tests such as holding doors open for other people, assisting in picking up dropped documents and whether shop assistants said “Thank you” to customers after they paid…
Asian cities featured highly on the survey’s least courteous list. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Seoul were all ranked in the bottom ten. Other unhelpful cities included Sydney, Moscow, Milan and Amsterdam.
The bottom of the list is a who’s-who of great Asian cities including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai. No mainland China or Japanese cities are mentioned in the list.
AsiaPundit is actually shocked by this, in no small part because New York captured the number one position as the most courteous. The Big Apple is a favorite city, but it does not have a reputation for politeness.
AP’s immediate reaction is to disregard the survey as a vacuous marketing gimmick, but he will briefly entertain the possibility that it is an accurate measure.
This article suggests there has been a change in NY since 9/11 and Rudy Giuliani’s politeness bylaws — noting a $50 fine for putting feet on subway seats. It the latter is the case, Singapore’s government should ask why its creation of a Fine City and it’s 37-year long courtesy campaign have been such a failure.
(Image of Singapore’s Courtesy Lion, ubiquitous in the City State, stolen from the Singapore Kindness Movement website.)
Singapore has announced a US$3.2 billion plan to make the city state more intelligent by 2015.:
Singapore has unveiled a 10-year, $3.2 billion Master Plan, titled Singapore Intelligent Nation iN2015, which seeks to integrate all the modern and Next Generation wireless and other infocomm technologies in every aspect of economy and social systems to retain its global competitiveness.
The iN2015 Plan, unveiled by Singapore’s Minister for Information, Communication and Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yong, during the launch of the annual imbX 2006 infocomm show here, is yet another manifestation of the government’s ability to strategize to catch the next wave of innovation and application to maintain its status as a global city.
Upon reading this AsiaPundit immediately felt a bit queasy. While AP feels that such developments should be led by the private sector rather than the state, that wasn’t the initial source of displeasure. No, AsiaPundit was bothered by the name given to the plan.
AsiaPundit won’t comment on whether this plan will likely make Singapore more intelligent, but is does immediately make the island seem dreadfully uncreative. The choice of iN2015 again illustrates the country’s terrible habit of adopting trendy branding that is already cliched and will only become even more dated. This is a problem that plagues both the state and private-sectors.
This would ordinarily not provoke a rant but AsiaPundit was further reminded of this unfortunate habit when he saw the below display today in a Shanghai shopping center. Witness the marketing genius of Singapore health-care product maker Osim.:
iSqueez massage boots? The uZap slimming belt? Even worse are some of the products on the Osim website: the iPamper massager, iCheck5000 blood pressure monitor and the iTango body toner. Would anyone in the market for a foot massager really spend S$700 on an iPoke?
Excuse me while iPuke.
AP will note that he has purchased several Osim products for Mrs AsiaPundit, all of which have been appreciated and put to good use. However, the appropriation of lower-case vowels in almost every product diminishes them and makes them seem like cheap attempts to cash in on Apple’s successful branding of the iPod.
AsiaPundit takes some solace in the fact that Imagethief shares his discomfort.
AsiaPundit apologies for the past week of inactivity. The lapse was partly due to technical issues, partly due to Asia Blog Award-related administration and partly related to the World Cup.
In regards to the latter excuse, AP is not alone. While there has not been much data on the tournament’s economic impact on Asia, from experience he will note that in 2002 trading on several regional securities exchanges was essentially halted (resulting in some very odd movements as a result of low volumes). Truck and Barter alerts us to reports on the costs to the US and US economies.:
In the US;
“The World Cup will likely cost American companies 10 minutes of productivity a day for 21 days, according to the outplacement company of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That comes to about $121.7 million in lost productivity in the US, a large figure, particularly painful for any company dominated by Englishmen, Germans or Brazilians perhaps.”
“Based on an average hourly wage of £12.50, the law firm Brabners Chaffe Street calculated that during the tournament, if half of British workers surf the net for an hour a day, it will cost Britain nearly £4 billion in lost time”
In spite of the lost productivity, bosses are generally understanding and there are few sackings. In Indonesia, however, there has been one Cup-related firing and it was deserved.:
A vain attempt by former dictator Suharto’s middle daughter Siti ‘Titiek’ Hediati Hariyadi to improve her super-rich family’s bad image by presenting the World Cup soccer tournament on her SCTV television network backfired after she was pulled off the air following a deluge of complaints about her ineptitude.
Titiek, whose company is the majority shareholder of SCTV, was at the helm of a three-member panel of hosts for each night’s opening game over the first three days of the World Cup. Her dire lack of knowledge and passion for soccer were painfully obvious as she was seated alongside Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) vice president Dali Taher and former national soccer coach Danurwindo.
Her incompetence was perhaps best demonstrated during the opening game between Germany and Costa Rica, when she erroneously referred to Germany as “Jerman Barat [West Germany]” – apparently forgetting that West and East Germany had reunited back in 1990.
Soccer fans, forced to watch SCTV because it is the exclusive Indonesian broadcaster of this year’s World Cup, lambasted Titiek’s ignorance, inexperience and awkward performance. They demanded she be replaced by someone more professional.
(Image stolen from Indcoup)
While the Suharto clan isn’t making any gains some Indonesian retailers are hoping to capitalize on the event, as are retailers everywhere. Although one French retailer is having trouble in China (again).:
Carrefour has fallen into trouble again with its Fangzhuang Store in Beijing selling fake Adidas footballs promoting the 2006 World Cup.
The ball with the sign of “Teamgeist” and price of RMB59.90 sold in the store has a similar appearance as that of real official ball of the World Cup. An unnamed staff from Carrefour Fangzhuang store quoted in local media says that he has no idea whether the ball has anything to do with the World Cup.
In response to this, Zhu Chenye, a manager from Adidas China, says that the football found in Carrefour is certainly a fake product for they have never produced footballs of that price. According to Adidas, the football used for the World Cup usually costs about RMB900.
For those disappointed that they won’t be able to buy fake balls at Carrefour, Malaysia’s Kenny Sia has a DIY solution.:
Yes, that’s right. For a fraction of the cost of an authentic adidas Teamgeist, I could make my very own official FIFA World Cup 2006 soccer ball. And I’m gonna show you how.
First, you’d need a regular soccer ball. Any one will do. Get a “Made In China” one at your local sports store for a cheap RM40.
Sure, it won’t last as long and the specs aren’t as good, but the improvements in the Teamgeist ball are minimal in practice you probably won’t notice it anyway.
Use spray paint of ICI Dulux, whichever you prefer. Gotta have a white background before you paint the designs on later ya know?
Now comes the difficult part.
You know how the Teamgeist ball features the signature World Cup trophy-inspired ’rounded propellers’? That’s important. That’s the whole reason why so many wanted the ball in the first place.
But how do you do it?
You get a box of Kotex.
In neighboring Singapore, which is unlikely to soon produce a World Cup Team, a scandal is developing based upon the pay scale the city state offers to African imports playing in the S-League.:
A story that has been running here in Singapore concerns the working conditions of a group of footballers from Africa (Kenya, Cameroon and Nigeria). In stark contrast to the wages earned by those competing at the world cup these players moved to play in the Singapore S league. All had signed contracts with the club, promising them $1,600 a month in salaries. But the club also deducted $1,500 of that money for food and accommodation, as the players had signed a separate contract with the club authorising the deductions. It is now reported that the issue has been resolved - after a meeting over the weekend between the Football Association of Singapore, the players and club management, the players have accepted a new deal, which will now increase their monthly take-home salary from S$100 (US$62) to about S$600 (US$375) a month
When AP suggested that Singapore will not soon have a World Cup team that assumption was based solely on economics and demographics. The city state cannot compete with any of the regional behemoths in either population or resources. However, if one sociologist is to believed Singapore may also be at a disadvantage because it is majority Chinese and the Chinese can’t play football.:
“A lot of people are pained by the fact that Chinese football did not makes it way to the World Cup. Many people make it a point of patriotism and blame the systems or institutions involved. I feel that Chinese people being bad at football is related to the character of our culture.
Chinese people, especially the Han, are a elegant and scholary people, who were never a proponent of reckless bravey and battle, preferring softer and more elegant methods. Football is not like this, it is an attack-intensive sport, with a violent character. American football is even more violent. These sports are not suited to the character of our culture.
There is lots of evidence for this:
Look at the historically famous men, from 梁山伯 to 贾宝玉. They are all bookish people.
Until a few years ago, the Chinese language did not have the word 性感 (sexy). Chinese people historically did not value ferocious images of men.
The Chinese don’t understand aggressive sports or sexiness??? AP is pleased to have some evidence to the contrary… for instance this local Esquire pictorial.:
Continuing with China, while AP has never envied local reporters, he does presently wish he was a sports reporter for a local Chinese outlet. It seems that all you have to do is show up to the games and make stuff up.:
Since the beginning of the FIFA World Cup in Germany, something strange is happening in Chinese journalism. Xinhua, CCTV and other official media sent huge teams to Germany, but their news reports are unexciting. Instead, the local or Internet media have scooped some amazing exclusives. For example, when Brazil beat Croatia at 5am on June 14, the Sohu sports page immediately had an exclusive interview with Brazilian star Kaka.
Finally, Xinhua could not stand it anymore and published an article titled “People who are even more awesome (full of shit) than Parreira) to expose the massive fabrications from certain Chinese reporters. The report pointed out that the extent to which Chinese reporters have gone must have astonished even Brazilian trainer Carlos Alberto Parreira.
For example, Franz Beckenbauer must be very busy going from one game to another, but he seems to be interviewed by mainland Chinese media every few days. He does not speak Chinese, but in the Sports Weekly exclusive interview, he can name the individual players on China’s national team. Even better yet is the exclusive interview with FIFA chairman Sepp Blatter in Shanghai Youth Daily, in which he came over after the reporter called out his name in a hotel lobby.
The tournament has been relatively free of violence this year, although there has been one unfortunate incident in an unlikely place.:
Thai gunman kills two noisy World Cup fans
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thai police are searching for a gunman who shot and killed two soccer fans at a beach resort after complaining they were cheering too loud.
The two men, both Thais, were watching Italy’s 2-0 win over Ghana at a restaurant Monday at the Thai beach resort town of Pattaya, and erupted in roars when Italy scored its first goal, said Panipha Wattakul, a girlfriend of one of the victims.
A man seated at a nearby table asked them to quiet down, prompting a heated argument during which the man pulled out a handgun and shot the soccer fans at point-blank range, said Police Col. Somnuek Chanket. The victims were identified as Chamlong Rongsaeng, 30, and Somnuek Sonkun, 41.
Also in the Mekong region, Magnoy’s notes a Reuters item in which Cambodian strongman Hun Sen warns citizens not to bet the farm… literally.:
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged his impoverished people on Thursday not to sell their possessions to place bets on the soccer World Cup, saying it was probably a bad idea. “Go ahead and watch it, but do not sell your cows, motorcycles, cars, homes and land to bet on the games,” Hun Sen, a one-eyed former Khmer Rouge soldier, told farmers at a provincial hospital opening.
“Just bet verbally, for fun. Don’t sell your cows to bet on games of football,” he told the several hundred villagers and foreign diplomats at the ceremony.
World Cup fever has gripped the war-scarred southeast Asian nation, with Cambodians from every walk of life staying up into the small hours of the night to catch their favourite teams in action.
Hun Sen himself confessed to backing Japan — his government’s largest donor
AsiaPundit does not have a national team this year — and being Canadian likely never will — but he does have hopes for Korea, Japan, the US and Australia. For those who are also without a national team to root for, Owen offers a tool for making an ethical decision.:
The World Development Movement has a handy tool to help the ethical football supporter decide which team to support.
As I type, Tunisia is beating Saudi Arabia - according to the WDM, this is good news as it means that the 3rd most supportable team is beating the 29th most supportable, on measures such as carbon emmissions, corruption and military spending.
Finally, the Nomad notes with some disbelief a report that the South Korean cheering section has become a tourist attraction.:
Surely it can’t be so, but if I read it in a Korean paper, and it has something to do with Korea, then that’s the way it is. According to an article in the Korea Times, people from other countries are paying money (I know, unbelievable, ain’t it?) to come over here to take part in the outdoor cheering for the South Korean soccer team. Yes, you read that correctly, nothing wrong with your monitor or your eyeglasses.
“South Korea’s victory against Togo at the 2006 German World Cup on Tuesday put the country back into the world spotlight again after its achievement in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. The soccer match, however, was not the only thing that caught people’s eyes _ what really made people excited was the outdoor cheering in the streets, plazas and other public places filled with people in red shirts, just like during the 2002 World Cup.”
While the Nomad is doubtful, AsiaPundit is more inclined to support that thesis. There is something appealing about South Korean fans. Some of them in particular.
One year after Steven McDermott of Singabloodypore asked if the Singapore blogosphere is infantile, Hwee Hwee Tan of RMIT University offers a more optimistic assessment.:
Along with the increasing popularity of blogs as a means to prosume rather than consume information is an increasing tension between Singapore bloggers and the local news media - a relationship not unlike that between American bloggers and journalists.
This trend is arguably best reflected in the developments leading up to the recent Singapore Election. Aside from Brown and Miyagi’s persistently non-political podcasts, we witness the emergence of citizen journalism in Singapore blogosphere as known and lesser known bloggers including award-winning activist, Yawning Bread and the anonymous blogger behind Singapore Election Watch, made use of the multimedia capabilities on blogs to prosume political rallies and other major events during the election period. Along with these reports on the election events is the emergence of fresh young voices in the Singapore blogosphere, courageous in their attempts to confront and interrogate the flaws in their authoritarian nation-state. The contents of these posts, particularly the podcasts on Opposition Party Rally certainly fly in the face of a recent ban on any online streaming of any explicit political content.
Agagooga has developed a way to make Singapore’s media tolerable.:
Every time the Party, the State and the Government are conflated, drink once.
Every time you see a stupid ST Forum letter about how democracy and Freedom of Speech are bad for Singapore, drink once. If the letter ends with “Majulah Singapura”, drink twice.
Every time you see the archived shot of MM Lee crying, drink once. If it is accompanied with moving music in the background, drink thrice.
Every time a new buzzword is thrown up, drink once. Every time we have a new silly acronym (”SPRING Singapore”), drink twice. Every time a new false dichotomy is introduced (”Stayers” vs “Quitters”; “Heartlanders” vs “Cosmopolitans”), drink thrice.
Every time a Minister says things like “save on one hairdo and use the money for breast screening”, drink once. Every time someone else doesn’t say whether they want tur kwa or not and we get a week long scandal in the media, drink twice.
Every time ministers get a pay rise following xxx years of no pay rise, drink once. Every time the CPF contribution rate is cut, drink twice. Every time the GST rate is raised and income tax for the top brackets cut, drink thrice.
Every time citizens get lectured for being choosy or grumbling, drink once.
Every time someone talks about Asian Values, drink once. Every time someone talks about the decadent West, drink twice. Every time we want to emulate the decadent West, drink thrice.
Via Singabloodypore, an item from the unlinkable Straits Times on the heroic member of Singapore’s Finest who will be awarded a commendation for staying awake for two days in order to nab a potty-mouthed 17-year old.:
Station Inspector Mohamed Zulnizan Mohamed Arsis stayed awake for the better part of two days tracking down the blogger who posted racist remarks in October last year.
For his devotion to duty, he will be among the 335 police officers to receive commendation certificates today from Police Commissioner Khoo Boon Hui.
The 32-year-old inspector started tracking the blogger when a police report was made about his comments against Malays.
Inspector Zulnizan said: “I knew I had to check that particular blog every two hours so as not to miss any posting by the blogger’s friends. If not, some of the postings would be replaced with new ones.
“Within a day, I found out what school he was in. Then I found out his address and he was arrested.”
The 17-year-old blogger pleaded guilty and was placed on probation for two years and ordered to do 180 hours of community work for Malay welfare organisations to clear his misconceptions about Malays.
Why the officer had to check the site every two hours for two days escapes up.
AsiaPundit had assumed that Singapore authorities would have grasped either (a) RSS feeds or (b) working in shifts.
A Singapore study has discovered that soy sauce is a better antioxidant than red wine.:
BEIJING, June 5 — Dark soya sauce, widely used in East Asia, may prove to be more effective than red wine and vitamin C in combating human cell damage, researchers in Singapore said.
Scientists found that the sauce — derived from fermented soya beans — contains antioxidant properties about 10 times more effective than red wine and 150 times more potent than vitamin C, Singapore’s Straits Times reported Saturday.
Antioxidants — found in red wine, fruits and vegetables — counter the effects of free radicals, unstable atoms which attack human cells and tissues. Free radicals have been linked to the aging process as well as a range of ailments including Parkinson’s disease, cancer and heart disease. The National University of Singapore study also found that the sauce improved blood flow by as much as 50 percent in the hours after consumption.
The original Straits Times article is only available by subscription, so it isn’t immediately clear what volume of soy sauce needs to be equivalent to a glass of red wine. AsiaPundit is a regular consumer of soy sauce, but consuming a full glass of it would be vomit inducing.
Soy Sauce flavor — Putting the ’scream’ into ‘we all scream for ice cream’
Used in a wide variety of culinary dishes soy sauce is said to be “the flavor of Japan.”
But the dubious choice to add soy sauce to milk and sugar and pack it in a punnet has made the condiment a standout pick to headline the Wackiest World of Japanese Ice Cream and possibly soy, er, soiled ice cream as we know it forever.
Soy sauce ice cream was not a simple choice to lead, though, considering it was competing against such flavors as pit viper, Indian curry, miso ramen and salad.
And it was hard to choose soy sauce over the Pearl of the Orient — Pearl-flavored ice cream.
AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.
Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).
Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.
Region/Country Specific Blogs:
Non-region specific awards:
Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.
Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.
While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).
The names or sites of the judges will be public.
Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.
The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).
Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).
This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).
Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.
Although Singapore has restriction on street performers, during AsiaPundit’s 2000-2005 residence in the Lion City he on several occasions had the misfortune to run across Asia’s most annoying busker. How he ever received a license to ‘perform’ in the city state still amazes.
AP first sited this amazingly annoying man in an underground tunnel at the Orchard Road MRT stop, scaring small children and accosting pedestrians. In early 2005, he was again sited at the eastern station of Tampines. Singaporeans can be thankful that the lunatic finally made it all the way to Changi Airport…
As AP plans on making a brief return to Singapore, he is pleased to discover that this talentless freak is no longer in the country and is now haunting Taipei’s trendy Ximending shopping district. Via Anarchy in Taiwan, a video and comment:
Ok, I have to start this by saying that I am trying to keep an open mind about performance art and abstract art, but has anyone else seen this guy at Ximending with the moose hat? He is a foreign guy and kind of appears homeless, so I’m trying not to be harsh. BUT, he is either crazy or just plain the weirdest man I have ever seen trying to pan for a few dollars.
He puts on his moosehat, covers his face a bit, and has a couple of cat dolls around his hands. He proceeds to meow and fudgeall that I know through a microphone. Just animal noises and crap. I honestly can say I don’t get it, but it looks plenty retarded, so perhaps I’m not supposed to get it. Literally he just goes…..meow, meow..mea , meo, meeee, meows for hours!!!!
The above clip doesn’t quite capture the true nature of the man. Firstly, he has either lost the ’squeaking’ bunny slippers or the sound isn’t coming through on video, Secondly, he isn’t deliberately terrorizing small children — possibly due to the time of day, but it was something he used to do regularly.
AP has assumed that this lunatic was distinctly Singaporean, but is now suspecting that he may actually be raising enough cash from his ‘art’ to travel the region. Has his madman appeared elsewhere in the region?
Michael Turton notes that Taiwan’s Chen Shui-bian - in a survey of civic groups - has an approval rating in the single digits:
President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) approval rating has dropped to a new low of just 5.8 percent, with 88 percent of respondents dissatisfied with the performance of Chen’s administration over the past six years, according to the results of a survey released yesterday.
The survey was conducted by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) — the Democratic Progressive Party’s ally in the pan-green camp — on 69 civic groups from May 5 through May 12.
The respondents gave the administration’s overall performance a failing grade of 57.5 percent.
Meanwhile Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also :
Just 37 percent of the public approves of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) job performance, the lowest rating he has registered in his 18 months in office, a poll has revealed…
The economy is the public’s greatest concern, with 73.9 percent saying they believed the Yudhoyono administration had failed to tackle the chronic problem of unemployment.
The poll also found 70.4 percent of respondents felt there had been no improvement in their household incomes.
Over 60 percent of respondents said they had experienced a drop in their purchasing power…
72.2 percent of the respondents said they were not impressed by the work of the economic team.
There is no need to fear for democracy in Asia. SBY’s ratings are still higher than those enjoyed by George Bush. Plus, Singapore’s People’s Action Party is still polling well.:
AsiaPundit is happy to note that the word ‘free’ in the above headline is an adjective and not — as in the previous item — an imperative-form verb. Singapore authorities have decided not to charge opposition candidate James Gomez with ‘criminal intimidation.’
It’s a pleasant surprise, given their record of jailing and bankrupting opposition leaders. The Feynman Boson ponders the reasoning behind the decision.:
Firstly, the Public Prosecutor claimed Gomez used threatening words to a civil servant. Unless I’ve read wrongly (from other sources), I believe he used the word “consequences” against the civil servant. So everyone, next time, please be very careful of using the word “consequences” on a civil servant.
Next, this move of not charging Gomez strengthens The Negative Man’s argument that the PAP (and the Elections Department) cannot do nothing after kicking up the storm. This move is probably employed to gradually lower the momentum of the storm, to cushion the ground for landing.
Then, the next question is, why does the PAP, traditionally intolerant of political opponents, willing to let go of this chance of eliminating a member whose team snatched a harrowing 44% in a GRC? There could be several reasons to this, and they’re not mutually exclusive. One, times are changing, and the new PM has greater tolerance that his daddy. Two, instead of scaring people away from the opposition, it has achieved an opposite effect. Three, there is insufficient ground to justify that Gomez has committed the act of criminal intimidation; even many experts agree that it is pushing the boundaries of the law. Four, the Enernorth case in Canada has sparked worries that the Singapore judicial system is deemed as unfair. Five, pursuing this matter will cause PAP to lose votes, judging from online public opinion.
Torn in Manila is a friend of James Gomez - the Singapore opposition activist currently being threatened with criminal charges by Singapore authorities. He offers a must-read essay on the insanity of the Lee dynasty’s crusade against the opposition, which contains an impressive anecdote about Gomez..:
I knew James when we were both postgraduate students in London in the mid-1990s. He’s a likeable and friendly sort of guy, who hardly fitted the stereotype of an exiled agitator. But then, as we know, it doesn’t take much to be a radical in the island republic.
I remember one story James told me that sums up his homeland quite well. He was president of the student union at the National University of Singapore (which is, by the way, quite one of the scariest tertiary institutions in the world – with hordes of fresh students all dressed exactly like little adults, wearing white shirts and black pants). James felt that such a huge university (it currently has over 30,000 students) should have at least one bar and set about persuading the university administration to let him establish one. After many lengthy meetings, the union finally wrung a concession out of the administrators: the cafeteria would serve beer for three hours on Fridays. The committee members of the student union traipsed down on the first Friday to witness the refreshment of their thirsty fellow students, as they were to do for the remaining Fridays that term. And do you know many of NUS’s tens of thousands of students took advantage of this new facility? Nada, wala, zilch. Fewer than 10 students dared to be seen associating with such a radical move. A better example of the famous Singapore “policeman in the head” it would be hard to find.
The greatest irony is that the “crime” James Gomez is accused of perpetrating is “criminal intimidation” of the election department. For the bullying Singapore government to accuse a single opposition candidate of “intimidation” – that’s just hilarious.
Whatever one’s feelings about the Worker’s Party, any man who can get beer sold on a stuffy campus like NUS is deserving of support.
Also see Torn’s comment on Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy.
AsiaPundit has known many good local journalists working in Singapore, but AP remains a critic of the Singapore press. However, so too are many of the reporters who work for it. An anonymous media worker reports on the chill felt in Singapore newsrooms during the general election.:
I had no illusions about the independence of the local media when I first started my job as a [——] in Singapore. I knew that my work would be edited, and possibly censored for political safety, and I was mostly fine with that - no media channel anywhere in the world is entirely free from some form of editorial trimming, after all.
What I didn’t bargain for was individual self-censorship, unspoken policies and rules, and the stoutness with which people swallowed their journalistic dignity and integrity (because it does exist, even strongly, in some places) to toe the party line. Incredible as it seems, reporters in Singapore do have the same fierce pride in their work as reporters anywhere else; I think this is especially evident in sections of the media that don’t touch on politics.
But when it comes to political news, particularly something as sensitive as the elections, many of us leave our brains and consciences at home and resign ourselves to doing what we’re told and writing what’s being dictated. To some extent I appreciate the rationale of this - there really is a very close watch being kept on the media and when we’re kept in line it’s largely for our own safety.
However, as someone still young and naive and idealistic, it’s hard for me to swallow the indignation I feel whenever I see the local media doggedly ignoring its otherwise sharply-honed news sense. Articles and TV programmes are edited to balance out pro-opposition views; awesome camera opportunities - like the opposition rallies - are studiously left out of media coverage; banal and unfair quotes and tactics are highlighted and headlined simply because they are tools of the ruling party.
There are many things journalists see that the eyes of the public are not privy to, and that we would like to report on but can’t. Please remember that when you read an article or watch a broadcast that seems particularly, emetically subjective. And help spread the word that a lot of us in the media are sorry that we can’t do the job we want to.
AP will note that foreign media in Singapore is also guilty of self-censorship. While some of the better publications are willing to weather an annual libel suit and settlement for stating the obvious, most of the media operating in the country is very aware of what cannot be said in the city state. And none have been willing to challenge a libel charge in court. Of course, there may be a good reason for that.
Sam Crane points to an essay by Daniel Bell that, among other things, argues Mainland China offers greater academic freedom than Singapore.:
The willingness to put up with political constraints depends partly upon one’s history. In my case, I had taught at the National University of Singapore in the early 1990s. There, the head of the department was a member of the ruling People’s Action Party. He was soon replaced by another head, who asked to see my reading lists and informed me that I should teach more communitarianism (the subject of my doctoral thesis) and less John Stuart Mill. Naturally, this made me want to do the opposite. Strange people would show up in my classroom when I spoke about “politically sensitive” topics, such as Karl Marx’s thought. Students would clam up when I used examples from local politics to illustrate arguments. It came as no surprise when my contract was not renewed.
In comparison, China is a paradise of academic freedom. Among colleagues, anything goes (in Singapore, most local colleagues were very guarded when dealing with foreigners). Academic publications are surprisingly free: there aren’t any personal attacks on leaders or open calls for multiparty rule, but particular policies, such as the household registry system, which limits internal mobility, are subject to severe criticism.
As a resident of both countries, AsiaPundit is somewhat skeptical of Bell’s observations. The ‘out of bounds’ markers in Singapore do permit discussion of most matters of policy - discussions of nepotism or the integrity of the courts could cause some trouble. Still, AP has never been involved in academia and would welcome comments from those more experience in that arena.
Singapore’s People’s Action Party, as expected, routed the opposition in Saturday’s general election. Also as expected, the PAP has again embarrassed itself and the people of Singapore by demonstrating the government’s thuggish nature and fear of opposition.:
Authorities in Singapore have arrested Workers’ Party candidate James Gomez for allegedly “threatening the country’s election officials” — a day after he failed to win a seat in the general elections.
James was arrested Sunday for alleged “criminal intimidation,” said his aide Jacob George in an AP dispatch carried by AsiaOne.com.
The AP story said James, a researcher with Sweden-based Idea Foundation, was about to leave the country but was stopped by immigration officials, who turned him over to the police.
A security official, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity in line with policy, said James has not been charged. If found guilty for criminal intimidation, James could be jailed for up to seven years.
AsiaPundit has appreciated much of Gomez’s work on speech and expression issues, although he is not a fan of the Workers Party.
Truth be told, if AP were a Singapore voter he may be inclined to support the PAP, for reasons similar to those expressed by Han. However, the PAP’s continued repression of opposition leaders make it unworthy of support. For all of Singapore’s tropical efficiency and first-world charms, the government has again shown itself to be little different than the thug regimes that most of Southeast Asia has thankfully freed itself from.
Sam Crane offers more:
…again right on cue, the PAP demonstrates its authoritarian ruthlessness by orchestrating the arrest of a leading opposition candidate on trumped up charges of “criminal intimidation. Of course, if anyone is guilty of “criminal intimidation” it is the PAP leadership. This is all they know: intimidation.
The arrest of James Gomez does not signal the “end game” of the election. It is another phase of a political game that never ends. The PAP will now advance and take advantage of its tactical gains. They will use the power of the state to defend their personal political interests, as they have always done. But the opposition has gained some ground, and that matters.
“Ground” is an important concept for Sun Tzu. He tells us that, in war - which is, of course, a more extreme form of politics - we must always be aware of what kind of ground we are on. I have always understood this to mean awareness of the broad strategic context. The ground has shifted some in Singapore in recent weeks. The opposition has discovered new sources of strength. They have a new, young cadre of leaders and increased support throughout the city. The internet has proven to be an alternate means of getting their message out - so much so that the PAP is now investigating. Perhaps dissident can develop those strengths and exploit PAP weaknesses to achieve the next tactical goal:
FREE JAMES GOMEZ!
(photo stolen from James Gomez News)
Via Singabloodypore, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have been ordered to remove podcasts from the party website.:
SINGAPORE : The Returning Officer for the General Election has ordered the Singapore Democratic Party to take down audio files and podcasts from its website.
The Elections Department says the podcast contravenes the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations.
It says those found guilty are liable for a fine of up to S$1,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.
Dr Chee, the SDP’s Secretary-General, had recorded a podcast message and posted it on the party’s website two days ago.
The SDP’s website cannot be considered a blog, and the audio files on its site are not really podcasts. Nevertheless the PAP is making good on its threat to squash political speech in Singapore. The SDP is also making good on its attempt to be the most prosecuted political party is Southeast Asia.
In a related matter, the PBS MediaShift site takes a decent look at political speech in Singapore, including this money quote from Yawning Bread (yawningbread.org).:
“The freedom available to Singaporeans is quite wide,” Au told me via email. “However, there is a climate of fear that the government can clamp down anytime. There have actually been very few instances of arbitrary clamping down, but the fear persists, and thus a lot of people in Singapore, including bloggers, self-censor to some extent. With the passage of time, there is increasing confidence that freedom of speech on the Internet is pretty wide. The more years that pass without incident, the more confidence people gain.”
The article also cites AsiaPundit, somewhat unexpectedly but without causing any offense.
AP would like to clarify that his mention of the word ‘nepotism’ was done to illustrate an example of one of Singapore’s ‘out-of-bounds’ markers and that he was in no way implying that such a thing exists in the Lion City.
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