Philippines’ Binays in Fight for Political Life

Philippines’ Binays in Fight for Political LifeIn October of 2006, the then-Makati City Mayor, Jejomar “Jojo” Binay barricaded himself in City Hall and refused to accede to a suspension order issued by the Philippines’ Department of the Interior and Local Government over charges that he was keeping “ghost employees” on the city payroll and enriching himself by pocketing the salaries of…

President Barack Obama’s Malaysia Problem

President Barack Obama’s Malaysia ProblemIt was still the evening of Feb. 9 on the US east coast when I learned that the Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest, had upheld the conviction of the  opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The next day I saw a press release issued by a spokesperson for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), saying that “the…

China’s Gamblers Flee Overseas

China’s Gamblers Flee OverseasWhen Chinese President Xi Jinping began his crackdown on corruption in late 2012, it was clear that the gambling spa of Macau was going to be collateral damage, packed as it was by cadres with cash, bearing bottles of Viagra and looking for several different kinds of action. Three years on, the carnage in China…

China Moves to De-Risk Local Government Debt

China Moves to De-Risk Local Government DebtChina today ordered the biggest debt swap in the country’s financial history, to replace opaque, off-balance sheet local government debt with standardized provincial government bonds, hopefully alleviating the immediate risk from huge local governments’ debt burdens. On top of that, however, the move is designed to expand what is a flailing bond market by 20-fold…

Myanmar: The More Things Change…

Myanmar: The More Things Change…After violent crackdowns on student protests in Burma have attracted worldwide condemnation, many are no doubt wondering whether the country’s much vaunted political reforms are back to square one.  The Internet has been overwhelmed by social media showing pictures of savage attacks by the authorities against clearly peaceful protesters. - students, monks and journalists – with…

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…