Tag Archives: news

the games

I’ve been thinking about the Olympics torch relay. It seems to be rousing deep emotions — perhaps some kind of opportunism, or maybe pent up frustrations. But one thing’s clear: Even before the Olympic Games begin, there are some serious political games going on here. Just look at the torch’s run through India and Pakistan (not to mention the way each country’s national press covered it).

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sad posters in Kuala Lumpur

In yesterday’s general election, the ruling coalition party in Malaysia lost control of Kuala Lumpur. And Penang. And Selangor, Kedah and Perak.

kl-newspapers.jpgAnd I know it’s big news because I couldn’t find an English-language paper anywhere in Chinatown — all of the newstands were sold out. And last night, as election results began coming through at about 1 a.m., opposition and alternative media websites were near impossible to load. The main page of Malaysiakini and Jeff Ooi’s (now MP Jeff OOi of Penang) Screenshots blog were completely stalled, and Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s Malaysia Today was very slow. I found my hotel’s last remaining copies of today’s paper in the business center.

The Barisan Nasional has made its worst showing since Malaysia’s independence in 1957. Including Kelantan, which has been lead by the Islamic Party of Malaysia since the 90s, five states and one capital city are out of ruling coalition hands. This is the first time since 1969 that the coalition has not held a two-thirds majority in parliament. With only a simple majority, the party will no longer have as easy a time changing the constitution.

But why change now? Different media are giving a lot of reasons — the Asia Times ran a good pre-election article summarizing some of the major issues; long-time government leader Dr. Mahathir, according to Malaysiakini, can think of at least one reason for the turnaround.

There’s something thicker in the air though — the Malaysian Indian Congress, which is under the umbrella of Barisan Nasional, lost many seats in Parliament and state assemblies. It’s president, S. Samy Vellu (on his birthday), and major leaders were all dethroned. Meanwhile, a protest leader from the Hindu Rights Action Force who is currently detained under the Internal Security Act won a state assembly seat in Selangor.

Kuala Lumpur is still aflood with Barisan Nasional posters and flags and fliers —  I wonder how the city will (or won’t) change as the fliers come down and new leadership comes to town.

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One Night in Bangkok

Ok — so, I couldn’t help this one.

I was sitting in a cafe in Bangkok, and, well, this is the song that came on the radio. But it was a cover that I can’t find on YouTube. It sounded almost like a love song — but maybe everything in Bangkok has that soft rock feel to it. (They also play a lot of Dido here, which I know at least one of you might appreciate.)

My week in Bangkok coincided with the week leading up to Thailand’s legislative elections, the first since a peaceful military coup in September, 2006. There has been a lot written about the elections, so I won’t spend too much time on it here,except to say that people told me that the ousted prime minister, Thaksin, maintains a lot of support, and they were right. The People’s Power Party, a reincarnation of Thaksin’s dissolved Thai Rak Thai party, took the most seats in the parliament and is looking to form a coalition and create a majority in the goverment. The results of the elections are being contested on several fronts, but it will be interesting to see how the Democrat Party and coup leaders respond, and if Thaksin returns to Thailand, though he has publicly stated that he will not return to politics.

Even if the election is seen as a referendum on the coup, and even if coup leaders and anti-Thaksin politicians lose their seats of power, they have certainly left a mark. On the Thursday night before the election, the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly quietly passed the Internal Security Act, a vague law that gives the military to take action during security crises. The bill was one of many that were being pushed through ahead of the election and activists are calling on those laws t be annulled by the newly elected parliament.

Included in the Act is the Act on Computer Crimes, which establishes many vague new authorities about content on the Internet. The provision that is making journalists and activists most nervous — though this is also a part of the law that many people are not aware exists — is one that will require Internet Service Providers and companies to keep logs on their users and employees activities (see sections 26 and 27 of the Act). They have to be able to match specific activity on the Internet to specific names of people.

Don Sambandaraksa of the Bangkok Post does a better job of explaining this than I do (reprinted here by Freedom Against Censorship Thailand). Companies, including newspapers, have to comply by keeping logs, or face heavy fines for being asked to hand over information they don’t have or aren’t willing to give up.

Internet logs or no Internet logs, Bangkok is truly a fantastic, vibrant city. Below are Muay Thai boxers and a view from the commute out of the city center on a water taxi.

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(Also this week, for new music — including my own little tip, which was actually a tip from someone else — and other goodies, check out Asia Pacific Art’s Best of 2007 issue.)

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Smoking

I’m just catching up with the news about the wildfires in Southern California. A friend told me that the Los Angeles Times is really covering the story well — and it’s true. I really like the “Voices from the Field” stories — I was happy to see the coverage not focused on the Malibu elite, including a nice feature about a firefighter’s wife. The Governator is getting some good press out of this whole thing, as well.

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