New green frontier

At COP26 in Glasgow, China joined hands with more than 40 wealthy and developing nations -- including Japan, South Korea and India -- to launch the Breakthrough Agenda, aiming to accelerate the development and deployment of clean technologies and sustainable solutions.

22 Nov 2021

NEWSPAPER SECTION: ASIA FOCUS

WRITER: PARITTA WANGKIAT



Transformation on two fronts

As the two-week COP26 climate conference in Glasgow drew to a close last week, hopes were high that countries could stay on track in efforts to avert a global warming catastrophe. One key will be redoubling efforts to get carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.

15 Nov 2021

Civil registration milestone near in Asia

Most countries in the Asia Pacific region are on track to reach universal birth registration by 2030: an incredible achievement and a significant milestone in realising human rights and equality.

15 Nov 2021

Thai at heart

Born and bred in the city-state, Raymond Han is 100% Singaporean. But his bond to Thailand goes deep, spanning almost two decades. It has led him to where he is now as a top executive of Patra Porcelain, which has been making some of the country's best-known products since 1982.

15 Nov 2021

AROUND ASIA

Buzz

Nearly a third of all job losses in five Asian countries during the coronavirus pandemic have been linked to tourism, with an estimated 1.6 million jobs lost, according to the International Labour Organization. Evidence from Brunei, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam showed that job losses in tourism-related sectors in 2020 were four times greater than in non-tourism industries, it said last Thursday. "Even with countries in the region focusing heavily on vaccinations and [reopening] borders, jobs and working hours in the tourism-related sector are likely to remain below their pre-crisis numbers in Asia Pacific countries into next year," said Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, the ILO director for Asia and the Pacific. In Thailand, average wages in the tourism sector decreased by 9.5% as workers moved into lower-paid jobs.

  • Philippines

    US prosecutors on Thursday announced sex-trafficking charges alleging that girls and young women were coerced to have sex with the founder of a Philippines-based church who is an adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte. A 74-page indictment charges Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, founder of a church called Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC) and other church officials with running a sex-trafficking operation that threatened victims as young as 12 with "eternal damnation" and physical abuse. Prosecutors in Los Angeles said church members were also brought to the United States on fraudulently obtained visas and forced to solicit donations to a bogus children's charity.

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  • Laos

    Laos is battling a new surge in Covid-19 cases even as it prepares to reopen to selected foreign tourists starting in January. Authorities on Thursday reported 1,401 new infections, a single-day record and the third straight day that infections topped 1,000. The Public Health Ministry says it is stepping up its vaccination programme to achieve a vaccine coverage rate necessary for reopening.

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  • Malaysia

    Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says his coalition is reviewing its current "understanding" with the government after the cabinet received a request from former premier Najib Razak (pictured) for a home and land. Mr Anwar said it was "immoral and nonsensical" to consider such a request from someone convicted by a court of corruption. If the opposition rescinds its agreement to support the fragile governing coalition in certain votes, the country could face more political turmoil.

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  • Indonesia

    Indonesia, the world's top exporter of thermal coal, will take a gradual approach to pricing and capping greenhouse gas emissions when it introduces its first carbon tax and trade policy next year. Starting on April 1, those emitting above a specified cap will be required to purchase offsets or pay a tax of 30,000 rupiah (US$2.10) per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, fiscal policy chief Febrio Kacaribu said. "We want to start it low and slow," he said, stressing the need to get buy-in from lawmakers amid "challenging" talks about the energy transition and its potential toll on jobs.

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  • Myanmar

    An American journalist jailed for six months by Myanmar's military rulers returned to the United States on Tuesday, saying it felt "incredible" to be reunited with his family. Danny Fenster hugged his parents after landing at New York's JFK airport with former diplomat Bill Richardson, who secured his release from prison. Mr Fenster, 37, told reporters he would briefly celebrate his release with relatives before turning his attention to other journalists and "prisoners of conscience" jailed in Myanmar. "There are a lot of citizens, doctors, teachers that are in prison. This will be a short celebration. Let's keep focused on what the actual story is here," he said. A Chinese envoy has lobbied Southeast Asian nations to let Myanmar's military ruler attend the China-Asean summit being hosted today by President Xi Jinping, but the effort has met stiff opposition, diplomatic sources told Reuters last Thursday. Asean leaders barred Senior General Min Aung Hlaing from their summit earlier this month after he failed to honour pledges to allow an Asean envoy to meet lawmakers overthrown in the Feb 1 coup in Myanmar. Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore all want Min Aung Hlaing banned from today's meeting, sources told Reuters.

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  • Singapore

    Efforts to ease inequalities in Singapore through wealth taxes face challenges, including ensuring fairness and risks to the city-state's competitiveness, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "We need to find a system of taxation which is progressive and which people will accept as fair," he said. "And fair means everybody needs to pay some, but if you're able to pay more, well you should bear a larger burden."

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  • Vietnam

    A court in Vietnam on Monday sentenced an aquaculture farmer to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of spreading "anti-state propaganda" on Facebook. Nguyen Tri Gioan, 42, was convicted at a one-day trial in the central province of Khanh Hoa. He was accused of posting poems and images to "distort, slander and defame the leadership of the (Vietnam Communist) party, the state and leader Ho Chi Minh", the indictment said.

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  • Cambodia

    Cambodia has released 26 political, environmental and youth activists facing charges of incitement against the government, which human rights groups said was a positive step but that many more remained incarcerated. Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled the country for 36 years, is facing calls to improve his administration's human rights record ahead of an Asia-Europe summit that it hosts this month. A justice ministry spokesman denied any international pressure and said the prisoners were freed partly to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

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  • Japan

    In a major shift for a country long closed to immigrants, Japan is looking to allow foreigners in certain blue-collar jobs to stay indefinitely starting as early as the 2022 fiscal year. Under a law that took effect in 2019, "specified skilled workers" in 14 sectors such as farming, nursing care and sanitation have been granted visas but stays have been limited to five years and without family members for most. If the revision takes effect, such workers — many from Vietnam and China — would be allowed to renew their visas indefinitely and bring their families with them.

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  • India

    India will repeal three agricultural reform laws that sparked almost a year of massive protests by farmers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, in a stunning U-turn for his Hindu nationalist government. Thousands of farmers have been camped out near New Delhi since November last year. The rallies became a lightning rod for opposition to Modi's administration in a country in which two thirds of the 1.3 billion population rely on agriculture for their livelihood. The government had claimed the laws would boost rural incomes and reform an inefficient agricultural sector. But protesters said the changes would allow conglomerates to take over the farming industry, long protected by state-run bodies that guarantee minimum prices. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned that bitcoin presents a risk to younger generations, sounding a hawkish tone as his government prepares to introduce legislation to regulate cryptocurrencies. Speaking at an online cybersecurity forum, Modi framed virtual money — which is highly popular in India and exists beyond state and central bank control — as a domain that needs to be closely policed. "Take cryptocurrency or bitcoin, for example," he said. "It is important that all democratic nations work together on this and ensure it does not end up in the wrong hands, which can spoil our youths."

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  • China

    An outcry over the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai escalated on Friday as the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) said it was prepared to pull its tournaments out of China if they were not satisfied with the response to her sexual assault allegation. Former doubles world number one Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since she said on Chinese social media on Nov 2 that the former vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli, coerced her into sex and that they later had an on-off consensual relationship. Neither Zhang or the Chinese government have commented on the allegation. Peng's social media post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China's heavily censored internet. Concern has grown over Peng's safety and whereabouts since her allegation, with top players, including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, tweeting #WhereIsPengShuai.

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  • South Korea

    More than half a million South Koreans sat for the annual national college entrance exams on Thursday, with pandemic rules adding stress to the eight-hour event seen as life-defining in Asia's fourth-largest economy. This year's test-takers didn't face the delays and uncertainties of the first pandemic-era exams last year, but Covid measures have left their mark. At least 173 people who tested positive for the coronavirus or otherwise required isolation had to take the test at hospitals or separate exam centres.

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  • Australia

    A group of women subjected to invasive gynaecological searches at Doha airport will sue Qatari authorities, seeking redress for an ordeal that sparked global condemnation, their lawyer told AFP on Monday. Women on 10 Qatar Airways flights from Doha, including 13 Australians, were subjected to the examinations late last year as authorities searched for the mother of a newborn found abandoned in an airport bathroom. The incident caused outrage, and fuelled concerns about Qatar's treatment of women as the Gulf state prepares to receive thousands of foreign visitors for the 2022 football World Cup. Lawyer Damian Sturzaker said the women were seeking a formal apology, compensation and protection for future passengers transiting through the airport.

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  • Taiwan

    Taipei on Thursday formally opened a de facto embassy in Lithuania using the name Taiwan, a significant diplomatic departure that defied a pressure campaign by Beijing. Lithuania in July agreed to let democratic self-ruled Taiwan open a representative office using its name, the island's first new diplomatic outpost in Europe in 18 years. That move prompted a fierce rebuke by China which withdrew its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded Vilnius do the same, which it eventually did. China also halted freight trains to Lithuania and stopped issuing food export permits.

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IN NUMBERS

Nareerat Wiriyapong

COMMENTARY

Securing our digital future

Paying bills and transferring money using a mobile phone is now second nature for most people in the digital era. My own digital journey started later than some, when the Covid-19 pandemic started to affect my life profoundly. Banks and restaurants were closed and commuting on public transport made me uncomfortable.

READ MORE >

Other News

23 Nov 2021

Pandemic Year 3: Old and new risks lie ahead

At the start of 2021, UOB's outlook for the regional economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic hinged on three things -- the wide availability of vaccines, aggressive fiscal stimulus and accommodative monetary policies.

23 Nov 2021
22 Nov 2021

Securing our digital future

Paying bills and transferring money using a mobile phone is now second nature for most people in the digital era. My own digital journey started later than some, when the Covid-19 pandemic started to affect my life profoundly. Banks and restaurants were closed and commuting on public transport made me uncomfortable.

22 Nov 2021
15 Nov 2021

Xi-Biden summit a hopeful sign

As the US and China stake out rival security strategies in the Asia-Pacific region, notably on Taiwan, the world takes heart from comments by Chinese President Xi Jinping that Beijing is ready to manage differences with Washington as the leaders of the two superpowers prepare to meet virtually today, the first since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

15 Nov 2021
8 Nov 2021

Digital drive

The protracted Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital finance across Asia Pacific, which could help play a role in promoting more equitable social and economic development.

8 Nov 2021
8 Nov 2021

Not just empty words, hopefully

Countries across the world orchestrated similar commitments last week with the aim of reversing the adverse impacts of the greatest threat facing humanity today, which is climate change.

8 Nov 2021
8 Nov 2021

Shorter, safer trips the leisure travel trend in 2022

Nearly two years after Covid-19 emerged at the end of 2019, several countries are moving away from zero-Covid strategies towards living with the virus in order to revive their economies.

8 Nov 2021
1 Nov 2021

Indonesia's green ambitions

Construction of the country's first floating solar power plant, along with other renewable energy installations, mark a new phase in Indonesia's green quest to phase out dependence on fossil fuel and achieve its goals of net zero emissions by 2060.

1 Nov 2021
1 Nov 2021

Assertive Asean more vital than ever

While Myanmar's "unusual crisis" dominated talks at the summits of Asean and its dialogue partners last week, the group's centrality and relevance in the new world order were also highlighted as the 10-country bloc has been dealing with critical challenges both at home and abroad.

1 Nov 2021
1 Nov 2021

Exit strategy needed

The swift and steady progress of the Asean+3 economies -- the latter are China, Japan and South Korea -- in mass vaccinations will be a game-changer for containing Covid-19 and spurring economic recovery.

1 Nov 2021
1 Nov 2021

Is Asia Pacific ready for the global climate stage?

As the leaders of Asia and the Pacific gather in Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), they can be sure that our region will be in the spotlight: many of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change are located here; the seven G20 members from this region are responsible for over half of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and five of the 10 top countries with the greatest historic responsibility for emissions since the beginning of the twentieth century are from Asia.

1 Nov 2021