South Korean Democracy: Crisis Coming?

South Korean Democracy: Crisis Coming?South Korean democracy is a paradox. Unlike many other young democracies in Asia and other parts of the world, it is characterized by relative stability, a working judiciary and, with a few striking exceptions, respect for human rights and civil liberties. Korean governments have become responsive and accountable to the public. Moreover, the idea of…

Canadian Legislation Annoys Hanoi

Canadian Legislation Annoys HanoiA bill introduced in the Canadian Senate to commemorate the struggle that began for refugees on the day Vietnam fell to the communists is generating friction between Hanoi and Ottawa. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has written directly to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to register his concern over the measure, which would declare April…

Malaysian PM Najib Takes on his Critics

Malaysian PM Najib Takes on his CriticsUnder severe fire from factions within his United Malays National Organization and from outside by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat, Malaysian Prime Minister has gone on the offensive to seek to keep his job, marshaling his forces within UMNO to stand off his critics. Over the weekend, the prime minister called together 160 of the 191…

Indonesian Executions Push Sovereignty Claim

Indonesian Executions Push Sovereignty ClaimIndonesia’s decision to kill convicted drug offenders – six already died in January with more scheduled to face the firing squad soon – has set off a diplomatic storm from Brazil to France to the Netherlands and Australia. But despite the protests, President Joko Widodo is clearly determined to defend his tough stand on executions…

Small Blasts in Bangkok Could Herald Stiffening Resistance

Small Blasts in Bangkok Could Herald Stiffening ResistanceThe peace and order supposedly guaranteed by Thai Army Chief-cum-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is increasing danger of coming to an end, with two small bomb blasts in Bangkok in recent weeks. The latest occurred Saturday night with a grenade attack on the Criminal Court, which did little damage and left no injuries. Twin pipe bombs…

Opinion: Western Arrogance in Indonesian Courts

Opinion: Western Arrogance in Indonesian CourtsThe death penalty has been shown to have little deterrent effect and will always be vulnerable to miscarriages of justice. Likewise, laws against drugs tend to generate more crime in the form of protection rackets, murder and money laundering than they prevent social ills. That said, the outcry from Australia (and others) about Indonesia’s probable…

China Profits in Thailand as US Watches

China Profits in Thailand as US WatchesThroughout US global wars against communism, drugs and terrorism, Thailand has been an indispensable strategic partner. But the recent sharp deterioration in ties was evident in January when Thailand’s Foreign Ministry summoned the top US diplomat in Bangkok to register displeasure over the State Department’s critical comments about the country’s military rule. As the erstwhile…

OPINION: Indonesian Executions Harm Jokowi, Country

OPINION: Indonesian Executions Harm Jokowi, CountryIf the world thought Indonesia was getting a warm, fuzzy and forward-thinking leader when it elected Joko Wido president last year, the pending second round of executions of several foreigners on drug charges should finally put an end to that. President Joko does not have to push these state-sanctioned killings ahead. He could stop them,…

Malaysia’s Controversial State Fund to be Dissolved?

Malaysia’s Controversial State Fund to be Dissolved?A Reuters news service report that 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the ill-starred and debt-ridden state investment fund, may be restructured and possibly dissolved, has to be considered a devastating political blow for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who has been under intense criticism for months over the fund’s debts and its opaque accounts. Reuters quoted sources…

India Tries to Block BBC Rape Film

India Tries to Block BBC Rape FilmThe Indian government is adept at shooting itself in the foot, especially on social issues. In the past three days, it has done this spectacularly by trying – and failing – to impose an international ban on an hour-long film, India’s Daughter, about an horrific and fatal rape that shocked the world when it took place on…