Restoring respect

Patama Chantaruck still remembers an unsettling encounter she experienced during her early days of living in the United States 28 years ago.

7 Jun 2021

NEWSPAPER SECTION: ASIA FOCUS

WRITER: NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG



Book a date

With a degree in English literature under his belt, John Brown never expected to become a businessman, let alone the CEO of one of the largest travel booking platforms in Asia, Agoda.

7 Jun 2021 1

Tackling Asia's plastic pollution

Less than a century ago, most products in Asia were made mainly from natural materials, and were built to last or to biodegrade easily. People wrapped food in leaves or paper and carried it in reusable containers, returned glass milk bottles so that they could be sterilised and used again, and ate in restaurants using ceramic plates and stainless-steel cutlery.

7 Jun 2021 1

Energy brightens regional economy

Amid the Covid-induced economic gloom, it was perhaps a surprise to see that the first-quarter profit of companies listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand had risen by 137% from the same period last year. The energy sector, which accounts for 35-40% of total SET market capitalisation, was the key contributor to this impressive performance.

7 Jun 2021 1

AROUND ASIA

Buzz

US President Joe Biden outlined his plan on Thursday for the first of 80 million coronavirus vaccine doses that the US will distribute globally, as Washington aims to close the gap with Beijing in vaccine diplomacy. The White House said 75% of the shots would be distributed through the Covax programme, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia including Thailand, and Africa. "We are sharing these doses not to secure favours or extract concessions," Mr Biden said. "We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic, with the power of our example and with our values." About 7 million doses in total have been allocated for India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands.

  • Philippines

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the public on Wednesday to get vaccinated against Covid-19, after data showed the government was far behind its immunisation targets. "This is the most, if not the only effective way, to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic," he said in a televised address. "Let us all keep in mind that the vaccine will not only protect you from the virus, it will also protect your loved ones, especially the sick and elderly." In the three months since early inoculations started, just 14% of senior citizens and 8% of people with health conditions had received first doses of a vaccine, short of the 21% target.

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  • Malaysia

    Malaysia is preparing to summon the Chinese ambassador to protest against flights by 16 air force planes over the South China Sea that Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says were a "breach of Malaysian airspace and sovereignty". The "suspicious" Chinese aircraft were spotted near Sarawak, the Royal Malaysian Air Force said. The Ilyushin II-76 and Xi'an Y-20 jets ignored "several attempts" to direct them to air traffic control. The US Air Force's Pacific commander condemned Chinese military flights off Malaysia and Taiwan as "escalatory" and "destabilising".Malaysian health authorities have raised concerns about a growing number of coronavirus deaths and serious cases involving children. The country recorded the deaths of three children aged below five due to the coronavirus in the first five months of this year, the same number recorded over all of 2020, according to Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah. A total of 27 children, including 19 below age 5, also had to be treated in intensive care between January and May, up from eight cases last year. Singapore has also warned that new virus variants, such as the one first detected in India, were affecting more children.

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  • Indonesia

    Indonesia has cancelled the haj pilgrimage for people in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation for a second year in a row due to concerns over the Covid pandemic. For many Indonesians, the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia is a once-in-a-lifetime event, with an average waiting time of 20 years under a national quota system. "Due to the pandemic and for the safety of the pilgrims, the government has decided that this year it won't allow Indonesian pilgrims to go again," Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said, adding that Saudi Arabia had not opened access to the haj.

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  • Myanmar

    Around 400 pro-democracy supporters took to the streets of downtown Yangon on Thursday to stage one of the biggest recent demonstrations against military rule in Myanmar. "We gathered … in order to show that we won't allow them to rule us," Zayar Lwin, a former political prisoner who attended the rally, told Reuters. Demonstrators have had to become more nimble to avoid security forces, often using flash mobs that quickly disperse, after big rallies earlier were frequently met with a violent and fatal response. Zayar Lwin pledged the protests would continue, though it was now harder to organise them due to the heavy security presence in Yangon.The top lawyer for deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi voiced concern on Friday that she had no legal representative listed in the case against her brought by the military junta for breaking the Official Secrets Act. Khing Maung Zaw said the Supreme Court had announced a June 23 date for cases to be heard against Suu Kyi and four others, but had listed all of them as representing themselves. The secrets charges are the most serious ones facing the former Nobel Peace Prize winner, carrying a 14-year jail sentence.

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  • Singapore

    Singapore authorities issued an apology after a 16-year-old boy was given the Moderna Covid vaccine, which is not approved in the city-state for people under 18, by mistake on Thursday. The boy's date of birth was erroneously entered when booking a vaccination appointment, the health and education ministries said in a joint statement. The boy remains "generally well" and is not expected to experience any health issues, according to the statement.

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  • Vietnam

    Vietnam has approved Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, making it the third shot to be endorsed in the country as it tackles a new outbreak of coronavirus infections, after AstraZeneca and Sputnik V. The country is trying to accelerate its vaccine procurement drive to tackle a more stubborn wave of infections, even though its overall case load and fatality numbers remain relatively low. Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said the country was nearing its target of acquiring 150 million doses this year to inoculate 75% of its 98 million population.

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  • Cambodia

    China will help to modernise and expand Cambodia's largest naval base but will not be the only country given access to the facility, the country's defence minister insists. Authorities last year razed a small US-built facility at the Ream Naval Base as part of a planned upgrade, but had denied reports that China would be involved in the project. Defence Minister Tea Banh told the news portal Fresh News that China's contribution to the development of the Ream port is "to upgrade the Cambodian defence sector in the maritime sector or to give Cambodia a base to have a suitable place, a workshop for repairing ships, a suitable port for docking".

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  • Japan

    Tokyo is donating 1.2 million doses of Japanese-made AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to Taiwan, as Taipei struggles to secure jabs, accusing China of interference. "At this point, we have finished the arrangement for the request from Taiwan. The Taiwanese foreign ministry welcomed the move, pointedly emphasising that the neighbours "share the universal values of freedom and democracy".

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  • India

    The Serum Institute of India (SII) has sought regulatory approval to make Russia's Sputnik V Covid vaccine, joining a clutch of drugmakers in the country that are already expected to make around 1 billion doses annually. SII, the world's biggest vaccine producer, is already making the AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines in India. Six Indian companies have already signed deals to produce around 1 billion doses of Russian-developed Sputnik V annually. The Indian government expects 156 million doses of Sputnik V between August and December.

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  • China

    US President Joe Biden has blacklisted an additional 28 Chinese companies linked to Beijing's "military-industrial complex" and barred them from American investment. The move increased the Trump-era blacklist of 31 firms to 59 and expanded the national emergency over Chinese surveillance technology used to "facilitate repression or serious human rights abuses", which "undermine the security or democratic values of the US and our allies," the Biden administration said on Thursday. The initial list included major telecoms, construction and technology firms such as China Mobile, China Telecom, the video surveillance firm Hikvision, and China Railway Construction Corp. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the ban "severely undermines normal market rules and order".

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  • South Korea

    South Korean exports surged by the most since 1988 in May as a reopening of overseas economies boosted demand for its manufactured goods. Overseas shipments rose 45.6% in value from a year earlier, the trade ministry said. Exports to China rose 22.7% while total semiconductor shipments grew 24.5%. While export growth was in part inflated by last year's 24% plunge, the outsized gains reinforce the view that global commerce is recovering from the pandemic and fuelling Korea's economic expansion. South Korea's exports are seen as a barometer of global demand as the country is home to world-renowned manufacturers for chips, cars and smartphones.

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  • Australia

    Deteriorating relations, including trade-related friction, have made normal operations for Australian exporters in China "impossible", according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Exporters see the need to pivot from China into other markets, including Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, because of the trade disputes, the chamber said on Friday, citing a survey of 189 business operators. Tariff management is "costing firms dearly", it said. Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner, China, have declined for more than a year after Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government called for independent investigators to enter Wuhan, where the coronavirus began, to look into its origins.

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  • Hong Kong

    Hong Kong barrister and activist Chow Hang Tung, vice-chairwoman of the group that organises annual vigils for the victims of China's 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, was arrested on Friday, two group members said. Chow was arrested for promoting an unauthorised assembly, Chiu Yan Loy, executive member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, told Reuters in a text message. Chow, 36, told Reuters earlier in the week that June 4 would be a test for Hong Kong "of whether we can defend our bottom line of morality". "As long as they haven't said candles are illegal, we will light a candle," she said.

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  • New Zealand

    New Zealand, which will host a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum summit in November, is pushing members to remove all tariffs on Covid vaccines and related medical products, but is facing opposition from some countries that believe the plan is too ambitious. The proposal comes amid growing concerns that while inoculation campaigns are helping wealthy countries recover, few shots have reached smaller, poorer nations where the virus still rages. The issue was raised at a virtual meeting of Apec trade ministers over the weekend, as countries sought to clarify "best practices" guidelines for movement of vaccines and related medical products across borders.

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IN NUMBERS

Nareerat Wiriyapong

COMMENTARY

Can we stop the baby bust?

Raising three children might not have been so difficult in the old days when most people lived in extended families. Take my mother and my aunt for example. Mom raised her three kids -- me and two brothers -- at home while she made desserts for sale with the help of grandma, while my auntie did so with a helping hand from her mother-in-law.

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Other News

7 Jun 2021

Can we stop the baby bust?

Raising three children might not have been so difficult in the old days when most people lived in extended families. Take my mother and my aunt for example. Mom raised her three kids -- me and two brothers -- at home while she made desserts for sale with the help of grandma, while my auntie did so with a helping hand from her mother-in-law.

7 Jun 2021 2
31 May 2021

Work-life balance eroding

Getting up every morning these days, I often feel like falling asleep again, but with nightmares. The unrelenting daily rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths is wearing us all down. Some days I try to avoid social media, telling myself that maybe the less I know, the less I'll worry.

31 May 2021
31 May 2021

In search of the middle ground

As the African proverb goes, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. The intensifying China-US rivalry is putting mounting pressure on smaller countries, and Southeast Asian economies are no exception.

31 May 2021
31 May 2021

The future of advertising could be drones

Intense competition for the public's attention is forcing brands to be more innovative to stand out. Some are doing just that by using drones.

31 May 2021
31 May 2021

Sex and the Chinese economy

China's recently released population census confirms the persistence of the country's alarming excess of males relative to the global norm. This numerical imbalance has several significant economic implications -- and not only for China.

31 May 2021 1
24 May 2021

Indonesian unicorns unite

The recent mega-merger of the Indonesian super-apps Gojek and Tokopedia -- essential fixtures in the daily lives of tens of millions of people -- has lent new urgency to the need for better personal data protection in the country.

24 May 2021
24 May 2021

Shall we spend?

Covid-19 has upended the life we know. The protracted global pandemic has stripped income and jobs from millions, forcing consumers to change their behaviours amid health concerns, and to reconsider how to spend their money amid an uncertain economic outlook.

24 May 2021
24 May 2021

Hands-on for success

As the top executive in charge of the fast-growing Asean, India and Australia-New Zealand markets of Delta Electronics, Jackie Chang is entirely occupied with work on weekdays.

24 May 2021
24 May 2021

Postpartum care booms in China

Postpartum recovery centres -- facilities designed to provide professional care for mothers and their newborn babies -- are booming in China, with numbers soaring from 550 in 2013 to 4,800 this year.

24 May 2021
24 May 2021

Why China is anxious about the Quad

Bangladesh's relations with China would be "substantially damaged" if the country joins the "Quad", a US-led security initiative that includes mutual neighbour India, declares Li Jiming, the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh.

24 May 2021