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. 

Singtel to spend US$32.7 million to enhance staff’s digital skills

Singaporean telecommunications giant Singtel will invest $45 million (US$32.7 million) over the next three years in organising training programmes for its workers to deepen their skills and knowledge in order to fuel the digital economy, it announced today.

These programmes will include workshops and courses that it will hold at its new four-storey office which it officially opened today.

In a statement, Singtel said the programmes that will come from this investment will also help its 12,600 local employees create their own skill pathways and transform their roles to suit the digital economy’s changing needs. - The Straits Times

M’sia, Indonesia and S’pore should bring those responsible for forest fires to justice

A joint investigation team (JIT) should be set up by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to find and bring those responsible for the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan to justice.

Malaysian sustainability expert Dr Mohd Yusoff Ishak said Malaysia and Singapore had to band together to impress on Indonesia the urgency of getting this done.

“The JIT is one method. The lead investigators should be from independent environmental bodies or organisations, such as Greenpeace, that are associated with climate change,” he said, adding that the steering team must not have links to any of these three countries to come up with neutral findings. - New Straits Times

Former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie dies

Former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie died at the age of 83 at the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital (RSPAD) in Central Jakarta on Wednesday.

Habibie had been in intensive care since Monday after a sudden deterioration in his health condition.

The prominent enginee served as research and technology minister for 20 years in the administration of late president Soeharto. 

Habibie assumed the presidency after Soeharto’s resignation in May 1998 and served in that role until fresh elections were held in 1999. - The Jakarta Post

Philippines, China eye possible energy deal  

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping had offered the Philippines a controlling stake in a proposed joint energy venture in the West Philippine Sea if it would set aside an international arbitral ruling award that went against China.

The President said Xi told him during their meeting in Beijing in August that if he ignored the 2016 ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, China would agree to be the junior partner in the proposed joint venture to develop gas deposits in Recto Bank, located in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the heavily disputed South China Sea. - Philippine Daily Inquirer

US$33 million target for Thai farmer support

The Industry Ministry plans to conclude the government’s agriculture development plan in October, expecting to spend 1 billion baht (US$32.8 million) to launch support measures for Thai farmers.

Pasu Loharjun, the industry permanent secretary, said the ministry is in talks with the Industrial Promotion Department and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives about launching measures early next year.

The expense will be part of the ministry’s annual budget for the 2020 fiscal year which starts next month and totals 14 billion baht (US$459 million). - Bangkok Post

Vietnam leads ASEAN in women’s employment

Vietnam is leading ASEAN in terms of the percentage of working women in total employment, according to a report by the ADB and OECD.

The share of Vietnamese women in total employment stayed at about 48.5 percent in 2016, however this was little changed from 2009.

Vietnam was closely followed by Laos at 46 per cent and Thailand at 45 percent.

The numbers were published in the ‘Government at a Glance: Southeast Asia 2019’ report that was released on Tuesday in Manila by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). - Vietnam News

Parliament rejects motion to join international civil rights treaty

The Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) has rejected a motion from the ruling National League for Democracy for Myanmar to sign the 1996 UN convention to protect and respect the civil and political rights of individuals. 

In voting down the motion to join the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Tatmadaw (military) MPs and their allies said late Tuesday the treaty could infringe on the country’s sovereignty and endanger its security.

They also said the proper procedure was not followed in submitting the international treaty for ratification, because a NLD legislator had submitted the treaty to the Lower House instead of the President’s Office. - Myanmar Times