Is Thailand a flawed democracy?

The Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) 2019 Democracy Index – the 12th edition of the index – saw Thailand’s score jump 38 places in the global rankings to become a "flawed democracy" rather than a "hybrid regime".The upgrade was obviously due to the long-awaited general election finally being held following the May 2014 military coup. "The biggest score change in Asia occurred in Thailand, which finally held an election in March 2019, the first since t

28 January 2020

Malaysia's ex-PM sought royal's help over scandal

Malaysia's disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak allegedly sought help from Abu Dhabi's crown prince to conceal wrongdoing linked to a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal, recordings released Wednesday by investigators showed.Huge sums were looted from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and used to buy items ranging from a super-yacht to artwork, in a fraud allegedly involving Najib and his inner circle.The allegations contributed to ex-prime minister Najib's shock 2018 election los

9 January 2020

Duterte threatens takeover of Manila water firms

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened a government takeover of the capital's water services unless its two private utilities accept a new contract, his spokesman said Tuesday, an ultimatum experts warned could spook investors.Duterte's government will offer a deal to replace the one first crafted in the 1990s when Manila's troubled water system was privatised and which the president calls a "colossal rip-off", his spokesman Salvador Panelo said."Sho

8 January 2020

Jho Low denies masterminding 1MDB graft scandal

The fugitive Malaysian financier at the centre of a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal insisted he had not led the plundering of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund, a report said Monday.Low Taek Jho - commonly known as Jho Low - has been charged in Malaysia and the US for allegedly playing a major role in the theft of billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.Looted money was used to buy everything from a super-yacht to art, in a fraud that allegedly involved former l

7 January 2020

Vietnam ex-minister gets life sentence for bribery

A court in Vietnam sentenced a former communications minister to life in prison Saturday for receiving millions of dollars in bribes, as the hardline administration presses its anti-graft drive against once-powerful figures in the communist state.Nguyen Bac Son was charged alongside his then-deputy Truong Minh Tuan with receiving US$3.2 million in bribes to approve the 2015 purchase of a TV firm that would have lost state-run telecommunications firm Mobifone US$300 million.The two-week trial

29 December 2019

Philippines bans US senators

The Philippines banned two US senators and threatened to introduce visa restrictions for Americans entering the country, the president's spokesman said Friday, if Washington pushes ahead with sanctions against Filipino officials involved in jailing a leading opposition leader.Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy were banned from entering the country after introducing a provision in the 2020 US budget that would prevent officials involved in the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima

28 December 2019

Court accepts 'Illuminati' case against opposition

A Thai court on Wednesday said it would rule on a complaint to dissolve an upstart opposition party over alleged plots to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, a decision that could test the stability of the new government.The accusations against the Future Forward Party link its upside-down triangle logo to the supposed symbol of the Illuminati, which many conspiracy theorists - without offering serious evidence - claim is a secret society pursuing world domination.On 21 January, judges of

26 December 2019

Partial justice for Maguindanao massacre

The masterminds of the Philippines' worst political massacre were found guilty Thursday of murder a decade after they led the killings of 58 people, rare convictions of powerful figures in a country notorious for its culture of impunity.However, with dozens of other accused gunmen acquitted, and 80 suspects never having been caught, relatives of the victims as well as rights groups gave a mixed response to the verdicts.Leaders of the powerful Ampatuan family dynasty orchestrated the 23 N

20 December 2019

Google bans political ads in Singapore

Google has banned political ads in Singapore ahead of elections, an opposition party said Wednesday, sparking accusations the tech giant was "kowtowing" to the tightly-controlled city's government.The ban was imposed under controversial new rules aimed at fighting disinformation in the city-state, which critics fear could be used to stifle dissent.General elections are widely expected within months and weak opposition parties are relying on social media to reach voters in a cou

5 December 2019

Malaysia’s Najib to take stand in 1MDB trial

Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak will take the stand to defend his conduct in the 1MDB scandal Tuesday, as the first of several trials linked to the multi-billion-dollar fraud enters a crucial stage.Huge sums were stolen from sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, allegedly by the ex-prime minister and his cronies, and spent on everything from high-end real estate to artwork.His coalition was ousted at the polls last year after six decades in power, largely due to public anger

3 December 2019

Police to arrest anyone flouting vaping ban

Philippine police were ordered Wednesday to arrest anyone caught vaping in public, just hours after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would ban e-cigarettes.The abrupt prohibition, revealed by Duterte late Tuesday adds to a growing global backlash against a product once promoted as less harmful than tobacco smoking.Duterte, a former smoker, called the devices "toxic" and said vaping introduced "chemicals" into the user's body.He ordered the arrest of a

21 November 2019

Xi gives grim warning against splitting China

President Xi Jinping has warned that any attempts to split China would result in "bodies smashed and bones ground to powder", amid four months of anti-Beijing unrest in Hong Kong.Xi issued the dire message during a weekend visit to Nepal, according to a foreign ministry statement released on Sunday."Anyone who attempts to split any region from China will perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder," Xi said, according to the ministry."Any external for

14 October 2019