Digging up Malaysia’s Racial Past

Thirty-eight years on, the traumatic ethnic riots of May 13, 1969 in Malaysia remain as much a subject of official censorship as the events of June 4, 1989 in China. Now a new book by a Malaysian Chinese academic is on the point of being officially banned for suggesting that May 13 was the occasion…

Illness slows Mahathir’s attacks on his successor

It’s unclear today just how sick former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is after having been hospitalized Monday with what were described as breathing difficulties. But as much as anything, the 81-year-old former premier’s hospitalization has put on hold an increasingly frenetic schedule of bombarding his successor’s government with accusations of avarice, incompetence and treachery…

Doing the Impossible: Quitting Islam in Malaysia

Twelve years ago, when she was 26 years old, a Kuala Lumpur woman named Azlina Jailani came to a momentous decision. She converted to Christianity and changed her name to Lina Joy. Joy, now 42, today is at the epicenter of one of the most difficult issues in Malaysian society, one that authorities are approaching…

Some Asian Governments Want to Control Those Pesky Bloggers

In a sign that the ubiquitous critics and observers harrying governments and other institutions from behind the relative impunity of their computer screens are starting to bite, Thailand ‘s Information and Communications Technology Ministry on Tuesday ordered its staff to shut down websites deemed to be violating the orders of the junta that seized power…

Malaysia’s Deputy Premier Najib in Trouble?

Speculation is increasing in Malaysia that of one of the country ‘s elite politicians, Deputy Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, is in serious trouble due to a series of messy scandals. There is considerable speculation that Najib, the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, will be forced to step down from national politics.…

Are Hong Kong bankers clearing a path for forest destruction?

Environmental protesters are charging that HSBC and Credit Suisse have violated their own forest sector guidelines in cooperating in the public listing of a Malaysian logging giant with a record for environmental despoliation. Samling Global Ltd has long been criticized for the destruction of tropical rainforest across the world and in fact early this year…

Malaysia’s Losing Battle Against Corruption

An unappetizing stew of allegations against high-ranking politicians and top bureaucrats is eating away at Malaysian Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi’s popularity. Many of the ingredients emanate from an angry former Anti-Corruption Agency investigator who charges he was sidelined because he refused to shut up about corruption among top officials of the country’s biggest political…

Pan-Asian Beauty Battle

While Singapore Airlines has spent 35 years building its brand around the Singapore Girl – whose sexy-chaste figure, clad in a clinging floor-length dress, has become almost the emblem of Singapore itself – modeling agencies across Asia have spent an equal amount of time trying to come up with an Asian face that doesn’t look…

Malaysian Mongolian Murder Figure gets a new trial date

In a highly unusual development that stunned legal observers, a Malaysian judge has abruptly ordered the potentially explosive murder trial of an influential political figure moved up by a full year and transferred to another court. The Shah Alam High Court is scheduled to hear the month-long case starting June 4. Abdul Razak Baginda, the head…

Morality, Spies and Chastity Belts…

When Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi shot down a move last month by the Islamic government in the northeastern state of Terengganu to train spies to watch couples engaged in “immoral activities” like premarital sex, he was taking notice of a rising tide of fundamentalism in the country. “There’s no need for that. Why…