Opinion: Malaysia’s Broken System

Opinion: Malaysia’s Broken SystemIt is ironic that a chorus of leaders from the United Malays National Organization have accused critics of scandal-scarred Prime Minister Najib Razak of “seeking to destroy parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.” There is no parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.  Malaysia’s government is broken. Every institution that exists in a normal democracy to protect the people does…

Opinion: The Music has Stopped in Malaysia

Opinion: The Music has Stopped in MalaysiaAs Malaysian markets, bonds and the ringgit plunge, futile Bank Negara interventions fail and the last remaining cash reserves melt down day in day out, all we observe from far afield is a multilayered music chair dance going on among the Barisan Nasional and its leading component party, the United Malays National Organization. All of…

Opinion: Who Will Stand Up to Najib?

Opinion: Who Will Stand Up to Najib?The news this week that former strongman Mahathir Mohamad and his one-time rival for power, Tengku Razaleigh, have met in KL to discuss forming a “unity government” to take over from scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak, is predictably tantalyzing to many Malaysians looking for a way out of an intractable political crisis. But simply getting…

Opinion: Malaysia Needs Tengku Razaleigh Now

Opinion: Malaysia Needs Tengku Razaleigh NowThe current parlous state of affairs in our country reminds me of one of my favorite songs from the 1960s, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” only with the Joe Dimaggio reference changed to fit today’s crisis in Malaysia: Where have you gone, Tengku Razaleigh? / A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. (woo woo…

The Threat of Islamic Law in Malaysia

The Threat of Islamic Law in MalaysiaThe political debate in Malaysia appears to be trapped in menace as the specter of Kelantan’s barbaric hudud law, which advocates 7th-century punishments including amputation for theft and stoning to death for adultery, among others, continues to loom over the country. A paper by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, known as Jakim, that was discussed…

Revisiting US Policy toward Post-Coup Thailand

Revisiting US Policy toward Post-Coup ThailandAt a time when US relations with most countries in Southeast Asia are warming, the United States’ ties with its oldest partner in the region are a critical outlier. Thailand-US relations have been in a deep freeze for the past 13 months since Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha ousted an elected civilian government following six months of…

Malaysia’s Long Road to Change

Malaysia’s Long Road to ChangeThe headline issues behind Malaysia’s current political crisis often puzzle outside observers, not just for the specific and sometimes bizarre details but for what they reveal about a system designed to maintain the status quo at all costs. Taken in the current context, it is remarkable that Prime Minister Najib Razak remains in power. In…

Viet Activists Say ‘Bin the TPP’

Viet Activists Say ‘Bin the TPP’It has become an annoying habit for American politicians to air their “concern” about human rights in Vietnam. The latest episode has many Congressmen grappling with a vexing question: Should Vietnam be part of the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] – touted as the “most progressive free trade agreement in our nation’s history” by President…

Opinion: Climate Action is the Fight for Food Security

Opinion: Climate Action is the Fight for Food SecurityOn Nov. 11, 2013, Naderev ‘Yeb” Sano, the Philippine envoy to climate talks in Warsaw, broke down in tears over the devastation visited on his country that week by Super Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, one of the strongest storms to make landfall in recorded history, killing at least 6,300 people, most of them…

Opinion: Remembrance of an Activist Thai Poet

Opinion: Remembrance of an Activist Thai PoetIt is nearly one year since Kamol Duangphasuk, widely known among Thailand’s Red Shirt activists as “Mainueng Kor Kunthee,” was assassinated by an unidentified gunman who approached his car and shot at him five times in a restaurant parking lot in northern Bangkok. The gunman escaped on a motorcycle. Mainueng, whose pen name (ไม้หนึ่ง) means…