Wednesday, November 30, 2005

With Expensive Speech in Singapore, Is Discounted Speech Possible?

According to Asia Times, two bloggers have been sentenced under the Sedition (definition: incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority) Act last month in Singapore. The ethnically Chinese individuals made remarks about the minority Muslim-Malay community on their websites. Although they may have committed an immoral act, this raises the question of justice, ethics, and freedoms of speech in Singapore and the broader East Asian region.

On the one hand, we all desire the freedom to say whatever we want and live free (or die). On the other hand, the saying "freedom isn't free" does carry some water, and in some cases we depend on people to be quiet for "the good life". It is essential to national security to have military and intelligence secrets, industrial secrets are important, and most of us can agree that it isn't right to call people names or ugly adjectives. But should laws or ethics govern these principles?

In the case of Singapore, an island-nation famous for its harsh penalties and unforgiving legal system, we are now faced with the clash between the IT-proliferation of bloggers, websites, rumors, and lots of crap being spread all over the world-wide-web at the speed of a mouse click. In Singapore the issue seems to be an even more hot-button issue in the US, where the Patriot Act has caused much pain to civil rights' groups. Singapore has to maintain a sensitive balance between its minorities, while at the same time sustain economic growth and prosperity--essentials for the legitimacy of the regime. A bit like China.

To complement, the article writes: "...some activist groups feel that Singaporeans have lost their right to freedom of information in exchange for social harmony and economic prosperity. "
Singapore again reminds us of PR China where the internet is even more censored and where the legal system is extremely severe. At the end of the day, however, free speech wins and those who sacrifice their freedoms to publish "the truth" will not have perished or lost their battles in vain. Most developed countries have eventually reformed their legal codes to adapt for freedoms of speech, and in the case of Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, we can see how Asian values do not make 'freedoms' an exclusively Western ideology.

While Singaporeans will continue to go to jail and pay hefty fines for speaking their hearts on the web, more and more bloggers will resist their inevitable desire for responsible freedom of speech.

Perhaps they will not have free speech in the near future - but can they instead have discounted speech?
Those are just some thoughts ....

What do you think?

What's up 'Stan?

Although this is the boundary of the scope of East Asia Blog, BBC has a cool segment/feature on the 'stans. How much do you know about them?

How about some cool facts, such as the fact that desert covers 80 percent of Turkmenistan. Tough.

Link to the feature

Monday, November 28, 2005

Another Mine Explosion in China: Does anyone care?

Although these tragedies happen quite frequently, I still think it is worth stopping whatever we are doing and send our thoughts to those who lost loved ones in Chinese mining accidents.

An explosion on Sunday night in northeastern China has killed 134 people, according to Associated Press (AP). Coal dust caught on fire in a mine deep underground the city of Qitaihe, Heilongjiang province.

Consider this, One, mining accidents have occurred often in china, and second, accidents in general have covered the headlines in China.

Now, why should we care? Well, that's up to us as individuals, but I think we should start to understand the importance of these mines to our own lives, and thank those who undertake such dangerous livelihoods.

Here's my logic: most manufactured goods and textiles that I have seen recently have all been either partially or fully "Made in China." How are they made? Without electricity they will definitely not end up in our shopping baskets. That's for sure! So what is the most used form of energy in China? ..... Coal, kemosabe!

Thus, these mining operations have an indirect effect on our lives and in addition to our sympathy from learning about awful things that happen to our fellow humans, we now have a business-economic reason for caring as well.

Let's all care!!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi's Detention Extended

"Why not", thought the Generals. "She's a pest to our system", said their cohorts. "Let's keep her in house arrest for another 12 months to make sure she learns her lesson", they agreed. That's at least how I imagine the process behind this decision...

I'm not surprised by these developments. Are you?
The SPDC military junta is still in charge and the international community has done little, despite Ms. Suu's resilience.
Do you think anything will change in the near future?
Has Aung San Suu Kyi's methods worked? Will they?

Let's hear your say!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New Constitution in Japan?

LDP reveals plans to amend constitution and become less pacifistic.

November 22 is the birthday of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), and this year it celebrates its 50th anniversary. PM Koizumi took the opportunity to propose a revision to the country's constitution by ending the ban on the military and allow for the military to be more active on the international stage. The change would require two-thirds of both legislative houses and a majority in a national referendum.

Now, is this good or bad? If history is the best judge, let's look at Japan's recent history. For the past 50 years, Japan has been one of the greatest donors of humanitarian aid, development, peacekeeping forces, and other benevolent undertakings. If we must judge someone by their actions in an appropriate time-frame, we must give Japan a chance acquiesce to a Japanese military. Although history doesn't forget, we must forgive.

On the other hand, is this the right time for such a bold act?

East Asian intramural relations are not exactly rollicking. Perhaps Japan must become better friends with Korea and China; the immediate neighbors. If not, these nations may judge the military buildup as a threat--and more tensions and distrust, we cannot have.
Perhaps the countries could become more involved in the ASEAN Regional Forum, 6-party, or the ASEAN +3 frameworks to solve their differences?

Or perhaps conflict is inevitable?

Nobody knows, but as long as these countries continue trading and doing business, I believe there is a greater chance of peace.

What do you think?

Relevant articles:
AP Article

Monday, November 21, 2005

Catching up... Mr. Bush in Asia

Wow. East Asia has been busy, but unfortunately, so have I.

While George W. Bush is touring the region (just finished by the time of this article) and hoping to appease an increasingly anti-Chinese sentiment in Washington, he also visited a Church and tried to get through the "locked doors" of Beijing--both metaphorically and literally.

In other words, Mr. Bush didn't get much accomplished, save a bike-ride and a trip to the a few temples.

So why not demonstrate Mr. Bush's feelings about his trip, and have a good Monday night laugh:

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

6-party talks resume

And so they will talk again. And they will translate. And they will drink some water, although it won't be from the dry throat of talking too much. It will be a good discussion between the 6 parties. But will it matter? Will they accomplish anything?

What does the media say?

BBC: George Bush's comments during his visit to Brazil has upset the North Koreans: "The North Korean delegation leader, Kim Kye-gwan, warned that the US sometimes made progress difficult. "
AP: "Even host China tried to moderate expectations, saying this week's meeting could be considered a success even if it produces no written agreement."
Overall, there seems to be little optimism, and generally very little information about this in the media.
What's next? Probably another round of talk.
We'll see. Bush doesn't seem to have much 'political capital' to spend on this with his plate full of concerns back in Washington.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Burma's New Capital

Burma now has a new capital city. Say good morning to Pyinmana. It's not as if Yangon is about to die out, or like Seoul, too much of a homogenous country is focused on one single city. Then why is Burma relocating its capital city?

According to the BBC: "The authorities have chosen Pyinmana because it is centrally located and has quick access to all parts of the country," Brig Gen Kyaw Hsan said.

It makes sense doesn't it! A government that cares so much about its citizens that it literally want to be 'closer' to everyone. But the government has apparently been planning this for quite some time, some calling it a 'pet project'. Alas, we all suspect that its only a step deeper into a trench already well-dug by the Burmese military junta. The FT revealed it intriguingly: "Foreign diplomats and international aid workers said the move suggested the military junta was retreating into a physical bunker."

What about the new capital?
Location: 600 klicks north of Yangon.
Sights: A 10 large governmental complex. I wonder if this is like a Pyongyang, but without any locals?

Next Capital: Somewhere on the dark side of the moon (see you there, Pink).