Thailand and Singapore – crises and…opportunities in 2015

Some interesting news and insights from two Southeast Asian countries.

Exclusive: Who's Really Behind Thailand’s Erawan Shrine Bomb Blast?

Experts investigate the Erawan shrine at the site of a deadly blast in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 18, 2015. Image Credit: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

First, in Thailand, Shawn Crispin writes in The Diplomat exploring the possible deeper background, the players, and ultimately the causes of the Bangkok Erawan Shrine bombings, in ‘Who’s Really Behind Thailand’s Erawan Shrine Bomb Blast?

A security adviser with access to Thai intelligence reports says agents outside of the police are pursuing leads that indicate extensive Thai involvement in what appears on the surface to be a foreign-executed attack. Local intelligence cited by the adviser indicates that the plot was planned for over one year, before the Uyghur deportations but likely after the military’s May 2014 takeover. The adviser says the apparent Thai actors have concealed their identities in various ingenious ways, including the use of Internet-based communication applications that are knowingly difficult, if not impossible, for local intelligence agencies to track and detect.

Then, in Singapore, two different views of the Singaporean General (parliamentary) Elections with similar broad conclusions: see “No easy win for Singapore’s PAP” in The Diplomat again, and “In staid Singapore, a national election that could change its course” from the South China Morning Post.

No Easy Win for Singapore’s PAP

Image Credit: REUTERS/Edgar Su

“Bring the [ruling party’s lightning sigil] home”, states one placard above…because, you know, it was like a spy out in the cold, or stuck fighting senseless wars in a foreign land, or lost like sheep wandering a desert for 40 years…oh sorry, those are real issues.

Both articles conclude that the ruling PAP will form the next government.

Let’s then look at some of the main none-too-subtle differences, either by omission or commission/contradiction, and my token critique particularly of the SCMP article, in brackets.

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This blog is on (very) ‘partial blackout’…

…because I stand in solidarity. And I will also not be gagged.

They seek to move us; but we will not be moved.

For more information, see here:
http://www.petitions24.com/petition_for_the_immediate_withdrawal_of_the_licensing_regime

And here:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/free-my-internet/join-singapores-1st-internet-blackout-protest-130-websites-and-counting/583028208409283

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www.freemyinternet.com

Oppression and threats will not destroy our spirit

Jentrified Citizen

If you find it suffocating lately, it may not be the haze but quite likely it is due to the oppressive tactics by our government to suppress views that are critical of them and their policies. oppression-11

I had been hopeful that the PAP-led government would change for the better when I first started my blog post GE 2011. Unfortunately, those upbeat sentiments went downhill fast after watching the words and actions by the ministers over the past 2 years. To be fair, there were some positive changes, such as the review of ministerial salaries (lower but still the world’s highest) and various attempts made by the government to engage the citizens more such as through the National Conversation (which has been subjected to both praise and scorn).

However, such improvements get overshadowed whenever the Government issues threatening lawyers letters , exercises heavy use of the law and carries out other…

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The Politics of Being Dominant and Dominating

Fikir

I write this note not merely to explain the circumstances behind my departure from the Board of Directors of the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and stepping down as Chairman of the Board of Centre for Research on Malay and Islamic Affairs (RIMA).

More importantly, I am compelled to set out the approach taken by the State to suppress critical views.

This is troubling and goes entirely against the grain of reported statements by Deputy PM Tharman Shanmugratnam that the Ruling Party will be an open political party that “is dominant but not dominating”, but one that seeks to galvanize a diversity of views and ideas, including critical opinions.

The gist of the following account is set out in an Email that I had written to both AMP and RIMA Boards on 22 Apr 2013. The contents of this Email remain unchallenged.

I received a surprise phone call from Mr…

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The contemporary National Service conundrum (Part one of…infinity)

Two recent articles in Singapore’s TODAYonline caught my attention.

In the first, a commentary piece, Yolanda Chin discusses how and why National Service (NS, i.e. conscription) policies pertaining to male Permanent Residents (PRs) of the country should be changed, suggesting that such policies should adjust to the reality of “today’s new migrant” and complex, evolving social and global phenomena.

This, incidentally, comes on the backs of other ongoing issues regarding NS.

Now: Most male Singaporeans (especially) will notice the snazzy new digitalised camo uniforms, SAR-21 carbines, and the, uhh, fingerless gloves. Photo courtesy of TODAYonline.

Unlike today, the conscription of PRs was non-controversial when it was first introduced in the Enlistment Act of 1970.

There was no question then that citizens were better off than PRs; PRs were required to serve NS alongside citizens, even though state-sponsored benefits remained the exclusive preserve of citizens.

The readiness of these PRs to die for the defence of Singapore was due to the fact that they were stateless individuals displaced by Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, and they aspired for citizenship which few qualified for.


Statelessness was a condition
that allegedly led many (men) to consider – and fulfill – the obligations of citizenship then. Never mind that citizenship in a state should have been first and foremost seen and implemented as a human right, as per Article 15 of the UDHR – and not merely a framework for invoking a set of privileges and responsibilities in policymaking. (For further reading, case studies such as this on ‘Statelessness and the Benefits of Citizenship’ is useful to both get a broader picture as well as an idea of specific country situations.)

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2003 Invasion of Iraq – The ‘commemorative’ round-up (UPDATED)

Last month marked the 10th year (on 19 March 2003 to be exact) since the US-led invasion of Iraq, also known as the Iraq War. This is a war that has cost (for the United States at least) up to three trillion dollars and at least 190,000 deaths – military, ‘contractor’, and civilian(*).

Here is a selection of articles giving a broad overview of reflections.

Leading up to it, James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine ruminates on his initial and consistent opposition (good man!) to the George W. Bush administration’s and neo-conservatives’ folly. Fallows gives a seven-point commentary.

American academic and foreign policy wonk Daniel Drezner does some (perhaps necessary) navel-gazing about how US foreign policy has been affected since 19 March 2003. He has backed off from his initial support of the invasion, but still not repentant regarding the use of force – to achieve security, democracy, or whatever else. Does this then not make him a ‘chickenhawk‘?

And for the love of the gods, Dan, please stop using the phrase ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Oh look here, a ‘spade’! I call it what it really was – an INVASION. Of another sovereign state.

Where the neo-conservatives are not mentioned…
Former Ronald Reagan staffer, Republican, and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan does even more navel-gazing about how the invasion has affected the US Republican Party. (Why do I say ‘navel-gazing’? Hint: No mention of the neo-conservative ‘wing’ – any one of them – and their role, anywhere. Yes, exactly.)

…And where they are
International relations scholar Robert Kelly posits a neo-con ‘theory’ (of international relations or otherwise) behind their justification of the war. Bear in mind that he’s not trying to justify it from their point of view, but rather to come up with a plausible explanation why they pushed so hard for war – and got it.

Personally, I think any such theories are hogwash, flawed to the point of ridiculousness. There are theories and ideologies that are appropriate for certain times, and others that are not. The ‘justifications’ for invading Iraq – including from the so-called liberal imperialists interventionists – belong to the latter category.

In the meantime, from author and former US State Department employee Peter Van Buren: the World’s. Largest. Embassy. Ever. will soon stand largely empty.

Taylor Marvin ruminates about learning The Wrong Lessons from Iraq.

Daniel Nexon goes more ‘macro’ into IR theory to discuss the over-arching cause of war between as a form of classic ‘interstate rivalry‘ and explores its specific dynamics.

John B. Judis reflects on what it was like to oppose the Iraq invasion in 2003, giving emphasis on the media and perceived credibility of political figures (hint: NOT George W. Bush).

There is also the US failure in Afghanistan, as seen by Stephen Walt. David Rothkopf contemplates the lessons learnt there and in Iraq, while Paul Rogers observes more broadly the ‘war on terror’ and the West’s inability to eliminate violent conflict [The US seems to be able to eliminate lots of human beings, though. I guess that’s why they think they’re ‘an exceptional nation’. – Ed.] (I’m kidding! There’s no ‘Editor’ for this blog.)

And a little blast from the past: Ghassan Michel Rubeiz wrote this in the run-up to the 2008 US presidential elections (Remember that one? Where’s the Hope and Change now?):

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