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 city planning more critical amid issues like climate change

The government will continue to lead urban planning efforts in Singapore to tackle issues like climate change, but it will need help from urban planners and other stakeholders in the private sector

This is essential to build Singapore into a better, greener and more livable city, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said yesterday at the Singapore Institute of Planners' Planning Awards Presentation Dinner.

Mr Wong said that how cities are planned and organised is becoming more critical amid challenges such as social inequality, environmental issues and climate change.

While the Government takes charge of urban planning here, it would be able to develop better plans working with planners in the private sector. - The Straits Times

AirVisual ranks KL seventh most polluted city in the world 

Kuala Lumpur was yesterday ranked the seventh most polluted city in the world according to Switzerland-based pollution mapping service AirVisual.

The Malaysian capital had an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 127 yesterday, which equates to “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.

Kuala Lumpur was on Wednesday ranked first of most polluted cities with a 165 reading, which equates to “unhealthy”, above Jakarta, Riyadh, Lahore, Delhi, and others.

However, despite showing a slight improvement, many parts of the country continue to be blanketed by haze. - New Straits Times

Indonesia elects controversial police general to lead KPK

The House of Representatives has elected as the new chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) a police general who was accused of committing “gross ethics violations” while previously serving on the anti-graft agency.   

Members of the House’s Commission III overseeing legal affairs voted for South Sumatra Police chief Inspector General Firli Bahuri to be the new chairman following a marathon confirmation hearing on Thursday night. 

Firli gained 56 votes, equal to the number of lawmakers on Commission III, in the first round of voting, which was usually held to first narrow the list of candidates from 10 to 5. 

Three other elected KPK commissioners, namely academic Nurul Ghufron, judge Nawawi Pomolango and lawyer Lili Pintauli Siregar gained 51, 50, and 44 votes respectively. - Jakarta Post

Ambassador confirms EU’s FTA interest

The EU ambassador to Thailand has affirmed that the bloc is poised to resume long-delayed free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between Thailand and the EU.

Pirkka Tapiola, the EU ambassador to Thailand, said the EU is ready to renew talks after five years on ice, said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who met Mr Tapiola yesterday. Both sides also agreed to resume FTA negotiations between ASEAN and the EU.

Mr Tapiola said the negotiations will commence after the EU settles on a new European Commission next month.

FTA negotiations between Thailand and the EU, the country's third-largest trading partner, have been on hold since the 2014 coup and introduction of military rule. The EU protested the suspension of democracy. - Bangkok Post

Transport ministry asks for more funding for airport renovation

The Ministry of Transport has submitted a report to the Prime Minister requesting funding to renovate and upgrade the runway and taxiway system at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat international airports.

According to the report signed by transport deputy minister Le Anh Tuan, the two biggest international airports in the country are under great pressure.

In particular, the runway and taxiway systems of the airports have been exploited beyond designed frequency, resulting in fractures, cracks, subsidence and material falling off from the expansion joints between concrete slabs. 

Some parts were reported as getting muddy in rainy weather, impacting the operations of large airplanes.

While the Aviation Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) has paid to fix the defects to ensure flight safety, investment in long-term repairs and renovation is still needed. - Vietnam News

Authorities working on permitting liquor imports

Arrangements are being made to allow liquor, beer and wine imports, albeit within limits, U Aung Htoo, deputy minister for the Ministry of Commerce, said in Parliament. 

Supporting legislation will also be drafted. 

As Myanmar currently bans the import of alcohol, large quantities of foreign liquor, beer and wine are smuggled into the country on a regular basis. 

Due to their illegitimacy, the authorities are unable to guarantee the quality of the alcohol and it is common for bootleg liquors to be found in the market, said U Bo Bo Oo, Pyithu Hluttaw MP of Sanchaung. - Myanmar Times