Hot off the press

These are the top stories making the front pages of major newspapers from across Southeast Asia today.

Get up to speed with what’s happening in the fastest growing region in the world.

Singapore in global race to attract best tech talent

A global race is on to attract a small group of highly-skilled tech professionals in such fields as artificial intelligence and cyber security, and “if Singapore sits back and does nothing, we will almost certainly be left behind,” said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Monday. Already, Thailand, China and France are wooing these experts, he added, citing how both France and Thailand have special visa programmes to make it easier for tech talents to work in their countries. Mr Chan was giving the underlying reasons for the new [email protected] programme, which facilitates the hiring of foreign talents by tech companies, in his reply to labour MP Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) who had asked whether there was a need for it. - The Straits Times 

AirAsia eager to introduce bio-fuel powered flight, supported by Airbus

AirAsia Group is expected to introduce a biofuel-powered flight in the future as the airline initiated research and developments (R&D) into aviation biofuels supported by Airbus SE. Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes has expressed interest to explore the production of alternative and sustainable aviation biofuels in Malaysia. “However, it is too early to comment right now but obviously, we as an airline would like to do more in biofuels. We cannot do it alone. So, it is great that Airbus supports our vision of trying to get biofuels into the aircraft. Hopefully that dream is not so far away with Airbus’ support,” Fernandes said after the signing ceremony between AirAsia and Airbus involving the airline’s 42 new aircraft orders in Kuala Lumpur last Friday. - New Straits Times

Thai PM courts South Korean investment

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged South Korean investors to ramp up investment and trade with Thailand, pledging to consider offering incentives and privileges for them to invest in the country. Gen Prayut on Monday met South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who led an economic team and more than 500 private companies and investors from South Korea to attend the Thailand-Korea Business Forum during his official visit to Thailand. Mr Moon is the first South Korean leader to visit Thailand for seven years. To date, 400 South Korean companies have invested in Thailand, while the trade value between Thailand and South Korea stands at US$14-15 billion. - Bangkok Post

Plan to reinvent Lake Toba as ‘halal’ tourist destination sparks controversy

Indonesia’s North Sumatra administration recently announced a plan to initiate halal tourism around Lake Toba in Samosir regency in a bid to attract more Muslim tourists from neighbouring Malaysia and Brunei. However, the plan has received a less-than-favourable reception as some members of the public argue that such a concept would contravene local customs in the regency, which is a predominantly Christian area. North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi said last week that the administration would soon promote halal tourism to lure an influx of Muslim visitors from neighbouring countries. The plan, he said, would also entail a policy regarding food vendors that sell pork-based food. North Sumatra administration general assistant M. Fitriyus said the governor’s plan was never intended as an attempt at “Islamisation”. The administration will issue an official clarification. - The Jakarta Post.

Ho Chi Minh City to combat laundering in real estate

The HCM City Department of Construction (DoC) has asked real estate companies, brokers and trading floors in the city to strengthen preventive measures against money laundering and terrorist financing. The department asked the bodies to strictly follow regulations on customer identification, updating customer information, reviewing transactions and carefully monitoring transactions by high-risk customers. They were also told to send reports on suspicious transactions and reports on cash transactions worth US$12,800 or more to the Department of Housing and Real Estate Market Management under the Ministry of Construction and the State Bank of Vietnam’s Anti-Money Laundering Department. - Vietnam News

Malaysian PM hails Cambodia’s prosperity

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday hailed Cambodia’s prosperity, praising its “hard-working” and “skilful” people for rebuilding the Kingdom. The 94-year-old leader was speaking to university students, government officials and diplomats at the Royal University of Phnom Penh as he began a three-day visit, which is to conclude on Wednesday. “I have been here three times before. And each time I come here, Phnom Penh has changed. Now, of course, it is like any other big city, with many high-rise buildings. And I see that this is a very busy city with many shops and many people going around obviously shopping.  This is a sign of prosperity. And I believe that this is due to your hard-working people… highly skilful people who have contributed towards rebuilding Phnom Penh and Cambodia,” Mahathir said in his opening speech. - The Phnom Penh Post