UPDATE: CHARGED!

Setting the stage for a lurid courtroom drama that is sure to grip a country that officially sees itself as upright and puritanical, one of Malaysia’s most prominent political analysts has been charged with the gruesome slaying of a Mongolian “free lance” fashion model who claimed that he was her lover and the father of…

Of mangoes and mistresses

Lin Bing-huang looked glumly down the street outside the Ocean Hotel he owns in downtown Hualien. “From Monday to Friday I have few guests. We could fill the hotel with more mainlanders – but they steal the cups, towels and pillowcases and spit on the carpets. Do we really want them?” A port city on…

When Will the Party End?

In 1976, Mao Zedong died, leaving China destitute. Shopping was a dreary chore, more space than stock filled shelves. Choice was almost unheard of because there was no competition, just control and command. Today, however, China’s supermarkets brim, the choices as dizzying as any in Europe or Japan. A big dash of capitalism then has…

Look For the Union Label

The blossoming labor movement in China, which in September claimed the scalp of the world’s biggest retailer, is a direct result of government concern about rising worker unrest that has sparked hundreds of disturbances a day across the country. Surprising just about everybody including the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, which pulled it off, Wal-Mart…

Paying the Shin Tax

A few days after his kids sold their stake in Shin Corp tax-free to Singapore investment arm Temasek Holdings for 73.3 billion baht ($1.99 billion), then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra dismissed critics howling about the deal as "jealous." "The rule is clear," Thaksin said in late January. "There is no tax on capital gains for share…

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…