The Cesspit of Malay Politics

The crisis that is wracking Malaysia’s United Malays National Organisation, the country’s biggest ethnic party, is not the crisis of a sex and murder scandal. Not the crisis of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s heart attack. Not the crisis of infighting between the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – Pak Lah -- camp and his predecessor’s interests.…

Murder and Politics, Malaysia Style

The United Malays National Organisation, Malaysia’s biggest ethnic party, goes into its annual General Assembly on Nov. 13, focused on a sensational investigation involving a murdered Mongolian “freelance model” and her relationship to a top political analyst with close ties to Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak. Model Murder Stuns Malaysia Top…

What the Thai coup was really about

It’s beginning to sink in now in Bangkok that the September 19 military coup which ousted Thaksin Shinawatra just a few months before elections was not really about corruption or democracy or rule of law. Nor was it, as some have claimed, a “different” (somehow more virtuous) coup. As with US President George W. Bush…

Getting Out of Jail Free

The conditional release of former dictator Suharto’s youngest son, 44-year-old Hutomo ‘Tommy’ Mandala Putra, after serving only five years for ordering the murder of the Supreme Court judge who convicted him of corruption, is a serious blow to those seeking to reform Indonesia’s legal system and an unfortunate signal to international investors of how far…

Signs of Unease in Thailand

Pro-democracy groups and supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra plan to defy martial law and stage a rally on Wednesday November 1 at Bangkok’s symbolic Sanam Luang protest ground near the royal palace as Thailand’s interim government and its military backers face early signs of dissent after September’s coup. A little-known group of largely…

The Royal Shaft

If your family has been in power for almost 50 years and you live in a very small country and can keep tabs on anyone of any significance, it can be difficult to understand the workings of power in more complex societies. Even royal families may be less tight-knit than your own. So spare some…

Gunpoint Democracy

Five weeks after many of Bangkok's academics, editorialists and opposition politicians cheered the generals who ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, some are starting to have second thoughts about the ability of the generals who engineered the coup to reintroduce democracy. Chuan Leekpai, a former prime minister and chief adviser to the longstanding Democrat party, complained…

The Abdullah-Mahathir Quagmire Continues

If Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi hoped to pull a nasty political thorn out of his side when he met his sharp-tongued predecessor Mahathir Mohammad on Sunday, he is likely disappointed. For months Mahathir has been twisting the knife into Badawi and he looks set to continue applying the pressure. But while the meeting may…

The End of the Thailand Visa Run

Jay thought that his life as an English teacher in Bangkok was set. There were few hassles with authority, other than traveling off to the Cambodia border once a month to pick up a new Thai entry stamp for his passport. Now Jay may have to change his lifestyle dramatically. He has stopped decorating his…

Did US diplomatic blunders trigger the North Korean bomb?

For Chinese academics in Beijing, US President George W Bush has only his own administration to blame for the nuclear test that North Korea announced on October 9, shocking the world and particularly the Asian region.  While the political debate rages across much of the United States, these academics say the answer is clear from…