ASIA TERROR UPDATE
Rohan Gunaratna, associate professor, Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, Singapore said that the war on terror has weakened al-Qaeda. They have lost about one-third of their operatives, including many key leaders. Also the United States, Israel and Europe have ‘hardened’ many of their vulnerable targets against attack. Al-Qaeda is changing strategies to meet their new circumstances. They will probably attack United States’ allies in the ‘global south’, use more suicide bombings, stage ‘theatrical’ attacks against tourist spots, hit commercial shipping, and use their own shipping network to deliver shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles to cells in Europe, East Asia, and perhaps North America. He expects more ‘Bali’-style attacks, saying that Southeast Asia was always included in al-Qaeda’s plans and will remain a ‘center of gravity for terrorism’ for at least the next two years.
Dr. Gunaratna, who wrote Inside Al Qaeda, presented his ideas at the one-day Annual Regional Outlook Forum held by Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. More than 500 experts attended. Gunaratna said that while SEA’s regional terror network, Jemaah Islamiah (JI) has suffered setbacks in Singapore and Malaysia, they still retain ‘a significant ability to groom more terrorists’. He said that JI is intact in Indonesia and the Philippines: “South-east Asia has become vulnerable because there is a large Muslim Population and there is weak governance.” Strong leadership is the key, as the challenge is 95% ideological and only 5% military.
Barry Desker, director, Singapore Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, concurred. He said the job of SEA states is to challenge the belief system that rejects the secular state. Desker believes that al-Qaeda will remain a major security threat for at least the next 10 years. Prof. Yang Jiemian, Shanghai Institute for International Studies, blamed East Asia for not having a regional defense framework like NATO or the EU to coordinate a response to regional security threats.
SEA ASIA HIGH ON GLOBALIZATION INDEX
Singapore and Malaysia ranked as most globalized of developing nations in Foreign Policy magazine’s 3rd annual Globalization Index. The Index measures the degree to which 62 nations, representing 85% of the world’s population and 95% of its economic output, are integrated into global trade, finance, politics, and technology. Economic globalization declined in 2001 because of the world economic downturn and 9-11. But political, social and technological connections between nations grew. The War on Terror and China’s entry into the WTO increased cross-nation ties. Internet usage, and international phone traffic increased personal and business interconnectedness. But foreign travel and tourism declined for the first time since 1945. Contradicting common perceptions, the Index found that the more globalized countries tended to have more personal freedom, less corruption and greater income equality. World Bank data shows that more globalized countries tend to pay their workers more. The Index also tied its results to the index compiled by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and found that globalization positively correlates with more environmental protections. “The data simply [do] not support the notion that globalization begets a ‘race to the bottom’.”
Small European nation-states led the Index. Ireland, Switzerland and Sweden were the top three globalized nations. East Asia followed North America and Europe on the globalization scale. Singapore (4th) and Malaysia (18th) led Southeast Asia. South Korea ranked 28th, followed by Taiwan (34), Japan (35), Thailand (47) China (51) the Philippines (52) and Indonesia (58). The seven least globalized countries were Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Peru, Indonesia, Brazil and India. Saudi Arabia suffered the worst decline from 37th in 2000 to 61st in 2001. The US finished 11th. The US has a large domestic market so is not as interdependent as nations who rely on an export economy. [Krit 1-8: 4 story sources]
ชาวอินโดนีเซียประท้วงต่อต้าน การขึ้นราคานำ้มัน ค่าไฟฟ้า และ ค่าโทรศัพท์
INDONESIANS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST FUEL AND UTILITY PRICE HIKES
Indonesian legislators called on the government to reverse fuel and price hikes as protests took place in 14 cities and towns across the archipelago. Police in Surabaya, the 2nd largest city, fired shots to disburse the crowd. The demonstrations have grown daily since they began last week. On January 2nd, the government raised fuel prices by up to 22% and electricity charges by up to 6% in order to reduce heavy government debt due to subsidies. Phone rates also increased by 15%. After the Bali blast, the government revised its GDP estimates from an increase of 9% back to 5%, and has had to tighten its belt. Legislators also called for the cancellation of the government’s ‘Release and Discharge’ policy that cancelled loans to businessmen in return for help recovering funds from closed-down banks. Dependence on the IMF and other international lenders is being blamed for the crisis. The IMF has been overseeing a $US 5 billion assistance package in return for broad economic and political reforms. President Megawati said the government must continue to implement the price increases to get out of debt to foreign institutions, and that the current administration has inherited a bankrupt state budget, which must be dealt with. [Nittaya 1-13: AFP 1-13, and other sources]
FOREIGN MAIDS MARCH IN HONG KONG
1200 maids marched on HK government headquarters Sunday to protest a proposed $US 51-96 per month wage tax. This followed a march of 8000 workers on New Year’s Day. The government wants the tax to help ease budgetary woes. The governments of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka have met with Hong Kong’s labor chief saying that the tax would be a hardship on the maids and their families at home. The maids’ minimum wage is $US 470, reduced from $US 495 during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. The government is still reviewing the tax increase issue. The maids will be represented at the March meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva by the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development. [Prabhassara 1-12: AP 1-12, and other sources]
HONG KONG TO LEGALIZE BETTING ON SOCCER
3000-4000 protestors, including religious leaders and social workers, marched to government headquarters protesting the HK’s plan to legalize soccer betting. They said it would lead the young into gambling addiction. The government expects the plan to bring in $US 128 million and help end illegal betting rings. Underage betting would be banned and the plan would be only lightly advertised. The non-profit Hong Kong Jockey Club, which runs horseracing and a lottery, said it has allocated more than $US 3 million to help pathological gamblers. [Prabhassara 1-12: AP 1-12, and other sources]
HEAVY PEOPLE DIE EARLIER
Those who become overweight or obese by the age of 40 can expect to die sooner. Overweight non-smokers lose 3 years of life, obese non-smokers lose even more: 7.1 years for women, 5.8 years for men. Smokers get a double-whammy: men lose 13.7 years and women lose 13.3 years if they are obese. The rates of obesity are rising in the US: 64% of adults are overweight and 31% are obese. A decade ago ‘only’ 56% were overweight and 23% obese. Even if people lost the weight, they were still at risk of dying early, because the damage may have already been done. The study was conducted by Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Center and the University of Groningen based on health information from the Framingham Heart Study, which has followed that Massachusetts community since 1948. Their advice: effective prevention and treatment of overweight in young people under 30 may reverse this potentially preventable public health disaster. It should be a top public health priority. The study does not say if the decrease in life span is a result of the increased risk for chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease, or if there is some independent risk factor from the excess poundage by itself. [Jesda 1-7: Reuters 1-6, and other sources]
โดยสารรถประจำทาง กับ ความสะอาด
TAKING THE BUS? TAKE A SHOWER!
Bend, Oregon hopes to make its transit system safe and secure, a pleasant riding experience. To that end, they are considering regulations that would ban spitting, smoking, skateboarding, defecating, and stinking on city buses. Riders must wear shirts and shoes and refrain from cursing in the presence of a minor. The city already has an ordinance prohibiting property owners from releasing ‘highly objectionable odors’. The new regulations would ban anyone who “emanates a grossly repulsive odor” from being on a bus or even in the bus stations. Salem Oregon has a similar ordinance. Jeff Hamm, General Manager of that city’s transit system, said that odor can be a safety hazard as it ‘distracts the driver’ especially if the transit vehicle is small, like a van. [Chamroen 1-13: AP 1-13, and other sources]