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Pyongyangs lonely path

SPECIAL REPORT

Pakistans nonMuslim women

SOCIETY

Game of love, China style

ENTERTAINMENT

APRI L 20 -MAY 3, 2012

Myanmars New Era


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COVER STORY Myanmar In Transition 8

The wind of change is blowing and big things are in store. But others choose to be cautious while many are hopeful this will usher in a new era
ENTERTAINMENT 40

VIEW 7

SOCIETY 22

The US Is The New India Unlike with India, Pakistans relationship with the US is fraught with much uncertainty
SPECIAL REPORT 16

Living On The Fringes Being a woman in Pakistan presents a myriad of challenges, let alone for non-Muslims
POLITICS 24

F E AT U R E S

ARTS 34

Taking Pyongyang Down Lonely Path The global community will have to play the same old waiting game for North Korea to either implode or effect a change of heart

An Uneasy Alliance The escalating brutality at the border sparks tension between Bangladesh and India
LIFE 28

Guerillas For Art A group of Filipino revolutionaries provoke and inspire through street art
CULTURE 36

The Great Wall Of Deception In Chinese showbiz, there is a prevalence of presenting a harmonious facade even when competition is cut-throat
EXPLORE 44

Do You Have A Gambling Habit? Online guide also has tips on how to avoid temptation, limit cash access

The Good Old Movie Days Moving towards the new era and breakneck developments, cinemas have taken on a more splendid and professional look

All Quiet On The Eastern Front Tranquil and pristine, Koh Kood is ideal for anyone wanting nothing more than to sit on the beach with a book

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The View By Karim raslan


The Star

MALAYSIA

Illegals In Sabah
Kota Kinabalu

Illegal immigration has risen to the fore in the state

ampung Putaton is deep in the heart of Penampang, some 10km from Kota Kinabalu. Im waiting in the villages community halljust opposite the home of Upko chief and Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Bernard Dompoks fatheralong with a few Sabah is a complex patchwork hundred deeply tanned cocoa of loyalties, ethnicities and smallholders. religious affiliations. This is Kadazan country: Its sleepy and bucolic with small hills, streams, bamboo groves, fruit ties have been questioning the orchards and houses on incredibly dramatic rise in the number of tall stilts. Muslim Sabahans over past decOf course, over the years the rustic adesan increase that has altered atmosphere has changed as apart- the power equation in the Land ment blocks, housing developments Below the Wind. and shophouses have started nibThe issue strikes at the core of bling at the edge of this rural idyll. what it means to be Malaysian, not Dompok is expected to arrive at to mention the intrinsic value of our any moment to officiate at the an- citizenship. nual meeting of the Penampang It also raises other questions: Can Cocoa Planters Association. we be Malaysian and Christian? Can With the 13th general election we be Malaysian and Kadazan? around the corner, the Kadazan, What is our collective identity? Dusun and Murut communities (colWhile nothing has been anlectively dubbed KDM) have become nounced officially, Barisan is broadan increasingly important part of the ly in agreement about the need for a ruling Barisan Nasionals Parlia- Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) mentary calculations. on alleged illegal immigrants in Currently, 22 of Sabahs 26 parlia- Sabah. mentary seats are held by Barisan Nonetheless, the terms of referan integral part of the coalitions ence on any potential RCI remain East Malaysian fixed deposit. unclear. As a consequence, many in Of these, six are majority KDM in the KDM communities are waiting composition and seven either major- anxiously to see when Prime Minity Chinese or mixed with non- ister Najib Razak will make an anMuslim majorities. nouncement on this issue. Indeed, Sabah is a complex patchAs one observer explained: This work of loyalties, ethnicities and has become the mother of all probreligious affiliations. lems in Sabah. The KDM communiHowever, a long-running issue ties want the RCI. They want to concerning illegal immigration has know whats been happening over once again risen to the fore. the years. Its all about transparThe KDM and Chinese communi- ency, integrity and sincerity.
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However, theres no doubt that a full-on inquiry might well unearth extremely compromising material on whats been happening under previous administrations and theres a degree of uncertainty in Barisan circles. As one Umno insider said: The RCI cant be an excuse for a witch hunt. Dompok has himself been among the most straight-forward on the issuemuch as hes been on matters of religious freedom. He said: Its important that the announcement on the RCI should come be fore the dissolution of parliament. The RCI mustnt be seen as window dressing. The people appointed should be seen as credible. At the same time, hes more than aware of both the sensitivities and the complexities of the issue, of how the issue of illegal immigration is often tangled with that of undocumented citizenship. In a separate speech to the Upko party congress last month Dompok had said: We must welcome registration of Malaysian citizens who have not received identification documents. I will support all efforts by the government in registering Malaysians and for them to get the necessary documents that they are entitled to as Malaysians. As I leave the Dewan, I cant help wondering whether the KDM communities are just another embattled minority pushed increasingly into the periphery? Will the RCI serve to reverse this sense of alienation, or only increase it? Whatever the case, political developments in Sabah will have implications for Malaysia as a whole.
April 20-May 3, 2012

PH OTO BY T EN GkU BAHA R /A FP

PAKISTAN

By Cyril almeida
Dawn

The US Is The New India


Islamabad

Unlike with India, Pakistans relationship with the US is fraught with much uncertainty

f there were a Sigmund Contrast this with the relaFreud of international tionship with the US, where relations, hed probably theres so much more room for ask, What does Pakiuncertainty and doubt. stan want? Take the drones. The AmeriThe trajectories of Pakistans cans themselves are figuring two critical relationships out the potential of the rapidly with India and the USin reevolving technology. The first cent months suggest that we strike in 2004 already seems like to keep things complicatlike another era. By 2008, the ed, very complicated. systems capacity was up to For just as we start to apnearly a dozen strikes a month A Pakistani protester holds a burning US flag as they shout proach the relationship with slogans during a protest in Multan in February against the and didnt have to rely as much India more rationally, the US US drone attacks in the tribal region. on Pakistani intelligence input. becomes the new India and we An acceptance here behind plunge that relationship into the scenes of the inevitability yet more incoherence and uncer- tant to green-light before. of some strikes combined with fretainty. There have been similar moments quent public denunciation of the Its the same set of principals here, in the past, but nobody to take advan- strikes is an approach borne out of so why are they producing such dif- tage of them. This time, there was a fear and uncertainty. What if a strike ferent outcomes? tenacious and committed commerce every other day became the norm? The army still dominates the na- secretary and a political government The Americans could then press to tional security and foreign policy eager to improve ties with India. expand the area of operation. To domains but there is also the politiSo they pushed hard and it started date, an overwhelming majority of cal government, the Foreign Office to yield results. Notice how virtually the strikes have occurred in the Waand a loose-knit group of security every other subject in the full- ziristan agencies. and foreign-policy experts who help spectrum dialogue has meandered Unlike the relationship with Inshape policy. along without much progress. Trade dia, the relationship with the US is Whats causing them to collec- and investment got a bigger, more characterised by too many untively choose such different paths, concerted push and hence the break- knowns and too much uncertainty where the decades-old Enemy No. 1 throughs. about what will happen even two or gets deepening trade and investment It helped that the armys own se- three years down the road. ties while a damaging clash over red curity prism was changing. Realising Uncertainty causes the security lines with the USon drones, for that Pakistan had fallen signifi- establishment here to go into a deexampleleaves everyone wonder- cantly behind India in economic fensive position and treat with great ing where a vital trade and security terms and that strategic competition suspicion anything that could blow relationship is headed? with India will be more and more up on their face. The India problem Theres no Freud to help out here, expensive in the years and decades is well understood. With the US, so guesswork will have to suffice. ahead, the army is also more ame- while everyone in policymaking cirStart with India. The security es- nable to new ideas. cles agrees that the relationship cantablishment hasnt suddenly unPerhaps key to it all is that India not be allowed to break down, the learned all that it believed to be true is a well-understood problem. Its army is filled with uncertainty about about Indian policymakers and war- such an old adversary, the con- how to proceed; there are too many riors for decades. tours of disagreement and avenues variables in play at the moment; and But the series of crises that rocked for conflict so well understood, the civilians neither have the resolve the army leadership last year created that Pakistan can be confident nor the understanding to push for a small window of opportunity here. there are few surprises in store. If potentially game-changing options. Uncertain and unsure, the army was India tries anything funny, the So thats the difference. What Pamore amenable to being convinced thinking would be that Pakistan kistan wants is to feel like it knows to do things it may have been reluc- can quickly respond. what its agreeing to.
April 20-May 3, 2012 7

PH OTO BY S . S. MI R z A /AF P

COVER STORY

By Leslie Lopez The Straits Times

MYANMAR IN TRANSITION
THE WIND OF cHANGE IS bLOWING IN MYANMAR. bIG THINGS ARE IN STORE AND WHILE OTHERS cHOOSE TO bE cAUTIOUS, MANY ARE HOPEFUL THAT REFORMS WILL USHER IN A NEW ERA FOR THE RESOURcE-RIcH SOUTHEAST ASIAN cOUNTRY
P H OTO Y E AU N G TH U/A F P

April 20-May 3, 2012

April 20-May 3, 2012

COVER STORY

YE AU NG TH U/AFP PH OTO

Yangon

n a recent hot and dusty Sunday afternoon, a crumbling neighbourhood in downtown Yangon was heaving with local pop music. In smoky roadside kiosks, young men and women traded giggles over cold beers, while watching a Thai television soap opera. Myanmar is better now. Not like before when you cannot talk about anything, said a young man who wanted to be identified only as Thant Min just before the April 1 by-elections. Outside, street vendors pushed colourful T-shirts printed with the picture of opposition leader and Noble Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, while at a roadside kiosk, older men in the traditional Burmese sarong called longyi engaged in more serious political talk. A Yangon resident had expressed confidence that the National League for Democracy (NLD) will win because the people want change. The NLD, led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, won 43 of the 44 seats in the by-elections. While there will be no change in who controls
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the parliament, tne NLDs strong performance boosts the partys presence in Myanmar politics. Myanmars legislature has 664 seats with more than 80 per cent held by members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party backed by the military. The 45 seats in this months by-elections were vacancies created by the promotion of parliamentarians to the Cabinet and other posts last year. With the victory of NLD, an air of optimism has swept through the Southeast Asian country. International business delegations have flocked to Myanmar over the past year eager to seize opportunities as the country embraces capitalism to rebuild its collapsing but resource-rich economy. Asian businesses reckon they have an edge over their Western counterparts. Our governments werent imposing sanctions against Myanmar and we are more comfortable with the way business is done, said a Singaporean businessman who spent two weeks in Myanmars capital scouring for opportunities. But long-time residents, diplomats and business executives caution that the optimism needs to be tempered and that Myanmars fron-

tier economy carries equal amounts of promise and pitfalls. This is no Klondike, said a Western diplomat, referring to the great gold rush in Alaskas Yukon region in the late 1890s. A lot of people will be disappointed because those in government and the military dont like being rushed. That is only part of the problem. Before foreign investment can start to flow, Myanmar will need to put in place basic building blocks for a functioning economy. These range from establishing a formal exchange rate for the kyat, the local currency, to overhauling the countrys decrepit telecommunications and power infrastructure and rebuilding the tattered civil service. Infrastructure is not only the hardware but also the software such as putting in place a capable workforce. That will be the major challenge not just for the country but also our industry, said Philippe Bissig, the managing director of luxury travel group Orient Express, which has a regional office in Yangon. Then there are the bloody conflicts between the military and ethnic populations who live in resourcerich regions. Myanmar can have all the reApril 20-May 3, 2012

PHOTO BY C HRISTO PHE A RC HA MBAULT/A F P

sources and make the right noises about reform. But if there is no stability, particularly with regard to ethnic conflicts, the reform plan wont be sustainable, said David Tegenfeldt, a long-time Myanmar resident and country representative of the Canadabased HOPE International Development Agency, which promotes development programmes in troubled regions. Still, there is no denying that Myanmar is turning the corner. The renewed confidence has resulted in property prices more than tripling in value in parts of Yangon over the past 18 months. Foreign visitors are taking advantage of relaxed travel rules and hotels are running at peak occupancy rates. There were also surprising developments on the political front. Recently, the Union Ministry of Mines took the unprecedented step of initiating legal action against a local newspaper, The Voice, for defamation over a report alleging misappropriation of funds and graft by ministry officials. In the past, the editor would have been summoned and slapped so hard for an offence like this,
April 20-May 3, 2012

and the newspaper would shut down after that, said a Southeast Asian diplomat, who notes that several local newspapers are actively testing the limits of reporting political and economic development in the country. The results of the by-elections have also turned Suu Kyi from a dissident outsider to an active partner of the civilian government in national development. The problem for Myanmar and the government is that Western countries look at us through the Suu Kyi lens. If she says it is okay, then it is okay. If it is bad, it is bad, said a local businessman who asked not to be named. But this election will also show her supporters whether she can deliver as a politician and has the countrys interests at heart, he added. More immediately, a thumbsup from Suu Kyi for the polls will jump-start the rollback of sanctions imposed by Western governments. The government and the military realise that she (Suu Kyi) is the best asset that they have to push ahead with developing the country, said Andrew Heyn, the British Ambassador in Myanmar.

RiCh in RESOuRCES
ith a population of 55 million people, Myanmar shares borders with five countries: Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. Its commercial capital Yangon can easily re-establish itself as one of the regions more strategic international ports. International financial institutions estimate that the local economy expanded by 5.5 per cent last year and will grow at the same clip this year. Resource-rich Myanmar produces more than 90 per cent of the worlds jade and rubies while 60 per cent of the worlds teak grows in the upper and western regions. Myanmar is rich in minerals such as copper and has huge deposits of gas and oil. Gas is its biggest and most lucrative export, with most of it going to Thailand. When construction of a huge pipeline from the Bay of Bengal to Chinas Yunnan province is completed, gas and oil exports are expected to surge. The central bank issued money exchange licences to 17 local private banks in November last year and granted licences to 11 banks to carry out foreign banking services.
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COVER STORY
PHOTO BY S O E THA N W IN/A F P

Men In Green
Naypyidaw

n the surface, democratic change is sweeping through Myanmar. But visitors arriving in Naypyidaw, the surreal administrative capital located more than 300km from Yangon, are quickly reminded of who is really in charge: Myanmars men in green. The city, with its largely deserted boulevards, has a military zone that is off-limits to ordinary citizens. Built from scratch under the watchful eyes of the armys top brass at an estimated cost of US$5 billion, the architecture is drab Soviet-era with a distinct army feel. Shoddy workmanship, peeling wall paint and water-stained ceilings are commonplace at ministry buildings, completed only five years ago.
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The most impressive structure is the National Parliament. There is also a 20-lane highway that can be converted into runways for fighter jets. From this bunkered city, overlooked by the Shan hills in central Myanmar, the countrys generals watch the reforms being carried out by the civilian government headed by President Thein Sein. The elephant in the middle of the room is the military. Unless its role is clearly defined soon, Myanmar will be a two-bit player in the region, said a long-time foreign aid worker who visits the country regularly. The fact is that the military will continue to cast a shadow over Myanmar for years to come. And the pace at which Myanmar integrates with the international community after 49 years of isolation will be dictated by the military, which has

the constitutional right to seize power during an emergency. Myanmar, a country of 55 million people, has a 400,000-strong military. The military controls 25 per cent of the seats in both Houses of the Union Parliament and the regional assemblies. This political clout gives it a veto over constitutional amendments, which require the support of more than 75 per cent of Parliament. The 11-member powerful National Defence and Security Council, which counts the commander-inchief of the armed forces and the defence minister as members, have the final say on national issues, according to diplomats. The key will be to assure the military of its place and assurances that there will be no witch-hunt for the past. As long as the military feels comfortable, the reform process will continue, said a local businessman who enjoys close ties with the civilian government. For now, the military is backing
April 20-May 3, 2012

PHOTO BY Y E AUNG THU/ A F P

the reform agenda. Two weeks ago, the Commanderin-Chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, defended the militarys continued role in national politics and declared that the armed forces would support the functions of government in Myanmars march towards democracy. The reasons behind the militarys move to loosen political control are not clear. Several analysts suggest that Myanmars collapsing economy is a key driving force. Another is the fear that deepening hardship for most of its people could raise the spectre of unrest similar to the uprisings racking the Middle East. What particularly worried the generals is the prospect that Myanmars ethnic groups, locked in a bloody struggle for greater autonomy in the border regions, would join such an uprising. The military is aware that with economic development, the political and ethnic tensions can be reduced, said a Bangkok-based Southeast
April 20-May 3, 2012

Asian diplomat who monitors closely developments in Myanmar. The real movers here arent the military but the President (Thein Sein) and (opposition leader Aung San) Suu Kyi, who have a very strong partnership, said a Western diplomat. Thein Sein, a former general who took power in March last year, has surprised long-time Myanmar watchers with the pace of reforms, which has caused unease among hardline elements in the military. The public debate in parliament over government spending and budget cuts for the military has lent greater legitimacy to the reform movement. Perhaps the biggest boost for the juntas tattered image is Suu Kyis decision to participate in mainstream politics, a move that is likely to jumpstart the process for the gradual removal of sanctions against Myanmar. While the ongoing reform process will take the heat off the countrys generals, foreign diplomats and lo-

cal businessmen argue that the military must urgently confront the protracted conflicts in the border regions. Consider the problems in resource-rich Kachin state, which borders China. Ethnic groups fighting for greater autonomy have accused the military of widespread abuses because it wants to exploit large deposits of jade and gold through its crony corporations. Other ventures have also raised tensions in the northern state, including the Chinese-led US$3.6 billion Myitsone Dam. The government suspended the project in October last year on environmental grounds. The government cant unilaterally suspend the project because this isnt international business practice. But to resolve this, the ethnic problem needs to be resolved first, said a human rights activist who has regular contacts with Kachin leaders. The key to this issue is the military. LesLie Lopez/The sTraiTs Times
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COVER STORY
By Mark Fenn The Straits Times

Playing To Myanmars New Beat


Yangon

F
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or the world outside, Myanmar conjures an image of a slim woman draped in a tunic and traditional Burmese sarongAung San Suu Kyi. Now, prepare for a new ideal of M y a n m a r w o m a n h o o d a fi v e member all-girl band in jeans and T-shirts, called Me N Ma Girls. The moniker is a pun on the name of their homeland, and the membersuniversity graduates in their

early to mid-20sknow exactly what they want. First, we want to be famous in Myanmar, and then we want to be famous in other countriesand then go to Hollywood, said singer Wai Hnin, 23. As Myanmar opens up after decades of isolation and military rule, the band seems to have picked up on the air of optimism that is sweeping the country. Property prices are soaring in Yangon, and throughout the streets,

vendors sell posters and T-shirts bearing the image of democracy icon Suu Kyi, who enters parliament for the first time on April 23. Someone asked me if I saw the change in the government and the change in the girls as a parallel process, said their Australian manager Nikki May, referring to their transformation from being soft-spoken women to singers with an attitude. And I said yes! May, 34, fell in love with Myanmar after arriving three years ago to volunteer in orphanages. However, she noticed a lack of really strong female role models in the entertainment industry, so two years ago, she placed advertisements in the local press and radio stations. In all, 120 young women turned up for the auditions and five made the final cut. After releasing one album under the name Tiger Girls, the band changed its name and released another album last year. The lyrics on its next albumdue for release in Julywill be mainly in English as it reaches out to an international audience. Above all, the band members want their would-be fans to know they are just like young musicians everywhere. All they hear about Myanmar is that it is a poor, closed, military-run country, said member Ah Moon, 21. We just want them to know that we are the same. We have the same dreams. The members list Shakira, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga as influences, and their music has won them a solid fan base. Outside the monsoon season, they play at least one concert a week to crowds of between 400 and 2,000 people around the country. They earn between US$200 and $300 a month from their concerts, making them well-off in a country where the average monthly salary is less than $28. Their families, who were initially apprehensive, have since come around. But 24-year-old band member Cha-Cha still has an 8pm curfew.
April 20-May 3, 2012

PH OTO BY SOE TH AN WI N/ AFP

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SPEcIAL REPORT
By William Choong The Straits Times

NORTH KOREA

Taking Pyongyang Down A Lonely Path


The global community will have to play the same old waiting game for north Korea to either implode or effect a change of heart

Singapore

orth Korea, hosting nearly three dozen foreign journalists on a rare media visit last week, has sought to sell them two hoary chestnuts. Pyongyang has the right to launch a peaceful satellite, the journalists were told, and a successful launch will further its aim of becoming a strong and prosperous nation.The chestnuts, however, were roasted rather than toasted. The Unha-3 rocket splashed into the Yellow Sea after a minute of powered flight on April 13. Ironically, an Associated Press journalist tweeted from Pyongyang that a traditional Korean folk song, Roasted Chestnuts, was being played on state television at the time of the launch. The launch, not unexpectedly, drew strong condemnation from many
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countries, which stressed that it was a cover for a ballistic missile test. For the first time, Pyongyangto its creditadmitted that the launch failed. In 1998 and 2009, it insisted that satellites had been lofted into orbit when in fact they had not. Pyongyangs insistence on pushing through with the launch has rallied the global community, which has been seeking to manage its missile and nuclear programmes for more than two decades. They want to show the world that they are capable of developing a longrange ballistic missile, Dr Andrei Lankov, an associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, told Bloomberg News. It has not happened. So this will decrease the efficiency of their blackmail diplomacy. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security CouncilBritain, China, France, Russia and the United States have held informal

talks, according to an Agence France-Presse report, and the council is expected to issue a statement to condemn the Norths latest act. The US, South Korea and Japan called the launch a provocative act. Even Russia, an old ally of North Korea, has said that the launch was in breach of UN resolutions which imposed sanctions after Pyongyangs first two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. The Friday the 13th launch Pyongyangs third test of a space rocket since 1998would accelerate joint efforts by the US, Japan and South Korea to build missile defences. This would blunt the Norths missile threat and impact Chinas relatively small arsenal of nuclear weapons. China, a long-time ally of North
April 20-May 3, 2012

A F P PHOTO/ kC NA V IA kNS

FIRST PUBLIC ADDRESS: This picture, taken by North Koreas official Korean Central News Agency on April 15, 2012, shows Kim Jong-Un reviewing a military parade commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung at the Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang.

Korea, said it was very concerned by the launch and that all efforts should be made to defuse tensions. But even Beijing would be hardpressed to maintain its support for Pyongyang. More importantly, Pyongyang under new leader Kim Jong Un seems to be on a path that will leave it increasingly isolated. News reports said the North might proceed with a third nuclear test to make up for the humiliation. Mark Fitzpatrick, a non-proliferApril 20-May 3, 2012

ation expert at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the failed flight would still provide North Korea with information necessary for missile development. Unless the North Koreans are deterred or otherwise dissuaded, they probably will eventually meet their goal of developing a long-range missile, he said. Taken together, however, a third nuclear test and the development of long-range missiles would only ac-

centuate Pyongyangs isolation. In the long term, the global community will have to play the same old waiting game. The Americans call this strategic patience, or waiting for North Korea to either implode or effect a change of heart. In his latest book, The Impossible State, Dr Victor Cha says that a growing contradiction in North Korea would only accelerate under its youthful new leader. A growing gulf between the state and the North Korean people will cause a crisis of governance and uproot the foundations of the regime, writes Dr Cha, who served as Asia director at the National Security Council under former US president George W. Bush. Ultimately, an easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula would come about only when the North, in the words of President Barack Obama, unclenches its fist. For now, this looks unlikely, given Kims need to stage a show of strength to bolster his currency at home. This is why South Korea will continue to be wary of further provocations by the North. China, too, will continue to worry whether any softening of Pyongyangs hardline position would lead to a historic reunification of the two Koreas, and the deployment of US troops near the Korea-China border. Korea watcher Leonid Petrov, from the University of Sydney, says the global community might have to wait for new administrations to be installed in South Korea and the US before any new policies are put in place. Both countries are holding presidential polls at the end of the year. Obama is in a fix: He can seek to reconcile with the North and be accused of appeasement, or stand firm and be accused of being too inflexible. As Dr Cha says: I can tell you that North Korea... is truly a land of lousy options.
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SPEcIAL REPORT
By Song Sang-ho The Korea Herald

NORTH KOREA

PHOTO BY PE D RO UGA RTE /A F P

IN GRANDFATHERS FOOTSTEPS: North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un (top left) waves at the end of a major military parade to mark 100 years since the birth of the countrys founder and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung (portrait below), in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. The commemorations came just two days after a satellite launch timed to mark the centenary fizzled out embarrassingly when the rocket apparently exploded within minutes of blastoff and plunged into the sea.

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April 20-May 3, 2012

Little Kim And His Grandfathers Legacy

Seoul

n aura of strong leadership was hardly sensed when North Koreas young head of state Kim Jong-un delivered his first public speech on April 15 to mark the centennial of the birth of the communist states founder Kim Il-sung. In stark contrast to the autocratic image of his late father Kim Jong-il, the fledgling leader, thought to be in his late 20s, looked down and fidgeted while reading the script in an unenthusiastic, monotonous voice. Although the speech went smoothly given his lack of experience, the outside audience cast doubts over whether he would be able to maintain the delicate mix of coercion and forced public consentthe key elements his familys dynastic rule is based on. He looked somewhat daunted by the fact that it was his first time to deliver the speech to a gathering of tens of thousands of people. He appeared to imitate Kim Il-sung, but was lacking confidence and energy, though he might have practised a lot, said Ahn Chan-il, director of the World North Korea Research Centre. Observers said his relatively weak appearance indicates that Jong-un, who gained top posts in the ruling Workers Party and the National Defence Commission last week, still needs more time to establish firm leadership. Unlike his father, who was groomed for about two decades to
April 20-May 3, 2012

officially take power in 1998, Jongun rose to power only after a few years of preparation. Kim Jong-un looked like a man wearing someone elses clothes, appearing uneasy with his (leadership) role yet. He has yet to be fully trained for the national public speech and thus looked nervous, said Kim Heung-kwang, head of the North Korean Intellectual Solidarity. As he looked shy when he received cheers at a parliamentary session rather than showing an image of his wielding a formidable power, he doesnt look as if he has already held a strong leadership control. Palpable during Sundays speech was what analysts called an imitation of Kim Il-sung, whom the grassroots still have considerable nostalgia for. His gestures and appearance were apparently designed to conjure up the image of the beloved leader. North Koreans still harbour nostalgia for the Kim Il-sung era when economic conditions were quite good. They have been told and educated to idolise and honour him as an eternal leader, said Ahn. By imitating his grandfather, Jong-un can ride on the revived loyalty and respect for the national founder. Then people might believe that they can start anew with the new leader from scratch though all social, economic conditions are bad. By trying to project an image as a leader communicating and caring more about his people, Jong-un appears to strengthen public support

for the regime, which has apparently been eroded due to his fathers lack of efforts to reach out to his people. Kim Jong-il was negligent of politics based on communication. To his people, he was the subject of fear and awe as he did not reach out to the people, said Cheong Seongchang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute. Unlike his father, Kim Jong-un appears to take more care in communicating with the public through his on-site guidance and direct contacts with his people. The content of the speech, however, indicated that he would uphold his fathers military-first policy, which analysts said has made it easy to mobilise the military manpower in state projects and others at a time of economic travails. In apparent efforts to make power elites coalesce around him, Jong-un has conducted a leadership reshuffle in the ruling party and the 1.2-million-strong military. What drew much attention is the rise of Choe Ryong-hae, a longtime aide to the Kim dynasty. Last week, he made it to the fivemember standing committee of the ruling partys Politburo and also was given the post of a vicechairman of the Central Military Commission at the party. Experts said that Kim Kyong-hui, Jong-uns aunt, and her husband Jang Song-thaek still hold considerable power without bringing themselves to the fore, possibly to avoid blame for possible policy flip-flops. The most important heavyweights do not appear at the vanguard. His aunt and uncle are behind the scenes and appear to have strong influence in the decision-making process in the North, said Ahn. With Jong-un focused on enhancing the military in line with his fathers military-centred policy, experts said that the communist state may continue to resort to aggressive foreign policy and could conduct a third nuclear test in the near future.
19

SOCIETY

INDONESIA

By Ika Krismantari The Jakarta Post

Aikido students fight each other during a class in Senayan. In Indonesia, women arm themselves in a society that fails to defend them.

girl more prone to many types of crimes. Th e s ex u a l a b u s e o n p u bl i c transportation that has occurred lately has added to her concerns over her safety, encouraging her to take matters into her own hands. Famega and perhaps other Indonesian women know that they cannot always rely on the authorities to defend them all the time.

LaCK Of pROTECTiOn

EAT, PRAY, FIGHT bAck


In a society unable to protect them, Indonesian women learn self-defence

Jakarta

ts not easy being a woman. But that doesnt mean women cant cut it in this tough world. As in Indonesia, the rising c a s e s o f v i o l e n c e a ga i n s t women in public places and in the home have left women with no choice but to fight back to protect themselves. And, these womens battles now include kicking, hitting, attacking and pepper spraying any men who threaten their safety. One of the women joining this band of sisters is Famega Syavira Putri, who recently bought pepper spray online to arm herself against
20

the bad guys on the street. The 26-year-old decided to purchase the spray following an incident when her wallet was stolen. A group of pickpockets cornered Famega on a bus last year, snatching her wallet without giving her a chance to fight back. I bought the device so I can give these guys a lesson in the future, Famega explains. The journalist seems to have plenty of solid reasons to arm herself in such a way, mostly to protect herself from criminals on the streets of Jakarta. Being in a profession that requires her to be mobile all the time, including late at night, makes the

The increasing cases of violence against women from year to year have actually shown how unreliable Indonesian law enforcers are when it comes to protecting female citizens. The National Commission on Violence against Woman recorded a 13 per cent increase in the number of cases reported in 2011 with 119,107 cases from 105,103 the previous year. The commission collected the data from 395 centres for women scattered in 33 provinces in Indonesia. The commissioner, Yustina Rostiawati, blamed the escalation on the ignorance of law enforcers in dealing with such cases. She referred to the way the authorities handle rape cases. Instead of offering assistance, for example, they tend to corner the victims and blame them for dressing inappropriately. If that is the case, it will be difficult for women to get protection (from the authorities), Yustina says. Looking at the states inability to defend its women, it is no surprise that some brave female figures decided to act to defend themselves. These courageous figures include 37-year-old Winta Dewi, a petite woman who works as a secretary in Jakarta. Her diminutive figure and innocent look have made her an easy target for criminals. The mother of two said she
April 20-May 3, 2012

SELf-dEfEnCE TipS

frequently received threats from unknown men who harassed her on the street. Luckily, Winta has been in aikido class for two years so criminals really should not underestimate the small woman of only 151 centimetres tall. I once beat a guy trying to harass me at a crossing bridge in Sudirman, she proudly shares. Winta, however, explains that the goal of learning aikido, a Japanese martial art, is not solely to learn good fighting skills but also to maintain alertness of the surroundings. Aikido, which doesnt promote violence, trains people to increase their self-awareness and use the enemies power to beat them. Most of the women in my class learn aikido for self-defence, says Emilia kusuma, the founder of Sakura Dojo, an aikido training centre in Senayan. As the need for self-protection for women is increasing, almost half of Emilias 400 students are women. The cases of violence have not only increased womens insecurity about their own safety and prompted the swarming of Indonesian women to martial arts classes, but have also triggered a new trend of b uy i n g p e r s o n a l s e l f- d e fe n c e weapons like pepper spray and handheld stun guns. Women can easily get these devices on the Internet at affordable prices of less than 100,000 rupiah (US$10.90) for pepper spray. In fact, it is not only women who are interested in buying. Denny Armandhanu plans to buy one for his wife so she can protect herself when she goes home late at night. We also plan to buy a taser gun for our child, who is still 4 months old, the 26-year-old says jokingly.

and the most realistic solution is to fight, says kristi Poerwandari, a psychologist focusing on gender and womens studies from the University of Indonesia (UI). Women need to react actively, kristi says, under conditions in which the country has failed to defend them. However, sociologists and other experts on womens issues doubt its effectiveness, believing the personal fight is only a short-term solution that does not resolve the root of the problem. We must remember that most abuse of women happens at home

ROOT Of pRObLEm

Psychologists consider this a womans last resort to protect herself. This means that the feeling of being threatened has culminated

UNFPA national programme officer on gender Lany Harijanti, is that women have never been its priority. One example showing the governments indifference is the small number of female police officers, Lany says. She estimated that currently female police officers only account for 3 per cent of the total, a figure that is deemed far from enough to give assistance to female victims in cases of violence. The law enforcers lack of gender sensitivity has also worsened the situation, she adds. Indonesia Police Watch coordinator Neta S. Pane has acknowledged the polices wrong approach in handling these cases. In domestic violence cases, fo r i n s t a n c e, i n stead of processing the report, they tend to seek reconciliation between the victims and perpetrators, Neta says. Things can get worse, he adds, as Self-defence is considered a last resort for women who have victims are prone undergone or fear abuse in Indonesia. to b e v i c t i m i s e d again during interby family members and close rela- rogation sessions as law enforcers tives, Martha Santoso Ismail of also place the blame on the womthe United Nations Population an, accusing them of instigating Fund (UNFPA) says, referring to the crime. the fact that more than 70 per cent This kind of approach has made of cases of violence against women perpetrators of rape and sexual are domestic violence. violence take their crimes lightly Looking at the problem, UI soci- as they may go unharmed in the ologist Purnianti urged society to legal process. become more sensitive and be on But these culprits may have to guard to womens safety. beware of the existence of a group Wh en the country and law of women who arent afraid of enforcers cannot be relied on to turning violent to fight for their protect women, it is better to safety. seek help from your surroundThese female forces are a reings, she says. minder of the mens saying that a The reason why Indonesia is womens place is in the kitchen. considered to have failed to pro- Just remember, thats where the t e c t i t s wo m e n , a c c o rd i n g t o knives are kept.
21

April 20-May 3, 2012

SOCIETY
By Faiza Mirza Dawn

PAKISTAN

LIvING ON THE FRINGES


Being a non-Muslim woman in Pakistan is very challenging and difficult

PH OTO BY A. MAJEED/AFP

Islamabad

f being a woman in Pakistan presents a myriad of challenges, more so for a nonMuslim Pakistani woman. The recent spate of forced conversions, killings and abductions for ransom of non-Muslims living in Pakistan puts the democratic governance of the country in question. Unless we protect and strengthen the weak, we will not be able to exercise the true power of democracy, said Nazish Brohi, an independent research professional and a human rights activist. Inaccessibility to appropriate health facilities, education and other essentials of life have transf o r m e d m a ny P a k i s t a n i s i n t o weaker beings, with non-Muslim factions topping the list. It is consequential to understand that protection of the suppressed and marginalised population of Pakistan indeed, is the only way to prove our stance towards a secular country.

A Pakistani nomad woman carries a bucket of camel milk on her head for sale along a street in Peshawar on the eve of International Womens Day.

dOubLE jEOpaRdY

In a country such as Pakistan, where male section of the society


22

is predominantly overpowering, women generally face an unequal share of hatred and discrimination. Pakistani women are more susceptible to violence and other violations of human and civil rights. However, non-Muslim women are subjected to more discriminated behaviour on different stages and level which increase the magnitude of their ordeal. A vast population of Pakistani women suffer from effects of double jeopardy as they are discriminated because of multiple reasons, says Brohi. Women in general are discriminated by men of their own families because they are considered to be carrying the responsibility of safe-

guarding their honour. Women are then subjected to discrimination because of the fact that they profess other faiths. And then the never-ending discrimination goes on, added Brohi. According to a report published by National Commission for Justice and Peace, 74 per cent of minority women living in Pakistan faced sexual harassment during 2010 and 2011, respectively, whereas 43 per cent complained about facing religious discrimination at workplaces, educational institutions and neighbourhoods. Moreover the report also proved that 68.4 per cent of non-Muslim women have no political participation which according to
April 20-May 3, 2012

PHOTO BY FA RO O G NA E E M/A F P

B ro h i ev i d e n t ly s i g n i f i e s t h e mistrust of minority women in the political system primarily because it does not offer significant assistance to them. With forced conversions and kidnappings for ransom on the rise, many non-Muslims have fled Pakistan to seek refuge abroad. Mangla Sharma, Chairperson of Pak-Hindu Welfare Association said, forced conversions and blasphemy laws affect non-Muslims of Pakistan at every level. In fact it will not be unwise to say that legislation and laws are manipulated to favour the majority. Proper committees, representing people from minority, civil and judicial groups, should be established to assess various cases pertaining to blasphemy law and forced conversion, adds Sharma. Sharma is of the view that the judiciary does not counter-question the newly converted people or ask them about Islam in detail which is why most of the brainwashed girls are then sent to shelters. According to Sharma, victims of forced conversions should be provided counselling opportunities so that it can be evaluated if the conversion was their personal choice or external influence was involved. Laws are for people and they should not serve religions, comments Sharma. Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Catholic Archdiocese karachi says, Most of the people we live with are unaware of the problems we are facing as other religious groups which is why it is very important to reach out to the masses and share our plight with them. Unless our society admits the issues pertaining to women abductions and forced conversions, we will not be able to address them so it is essential to activate the silent majority, adds Archbishop Coutts. Saleem khurshid khokhar, member of the Provincial Assembly and
April 20-May 3, 2012

fORCEd COnVERSiOnS

Pakistani health workers protest in front of the Parliament House in Islamabad on March 26, 2012. Hundreds of female health workers working on temporary contracts demanded the government for permanent jobs.

chairman of the Standing Committee on Minorities Affairs in Sindh says, Do not misjudge our intentions because we do not oppose conversions; however, we demand to end the conversions which are carried out under the influence of guns and threats.

KnOwing OnES RighTS

Ernestine Christaline Pinto, a practicing advocate says, There are two major shortcomings in our group namely, lack of awareness and education. It is important to identify collective issues and then formulate groups to voice them. Unless we work united towards our mutual cause we will remain unable to exercise our rights. According to Justice Majida Razvi, 80 per cent of the women in Pakistan are marginalised because they do not have complete access to education, justice and other primary resources whereas 66 per cent of the women are not given the right to choose their own spouse. This has more to do with our cultural values and traditions and we see this happening everywhere regardless of womens religious orientations, said Razvi. Discrimination is carried out against all Pakistani women and the primary reason why this happens is because a major chunk of our women are unaware of their rights and privileges, adds Razvi.

Razvi is of the view that fighting for justice is perhaps the only solution to end the injustices carried out against minority women in Pakistan. The constitution of Pakistan discriminates us as women. However, the constitution also empowers us by clearly outlining our rights and unless we fully understand them, our success to demand justice from the system will remain incomplete, adds Razvi.

TEaChing TOLERanCE

In order to nurture and spread the ideology of coexistence, it is important to educate the youth of Pakistan. Tolerance is almost nonexistent because our curriculum is designed in a way which encourages young minds to harbour animosity towards other religions, says Sharma. According to Sharma, Muslims in Pakistan do not consider the rights of non-Muslims and treat them as third-grade citizens. khokhar is of the opinion that Christians, Hindus, Parsis and students professing other religions should be given the liberty to study their respective religions in schools and colleges. We have requested the Punjab assembly to change the curriculum and introduce other religious books in the academia to ensure r e l i g i o u s e q u a l i t y, a d d e d khokhar.
23

POLITICS

BANGLADESH
PHOTO BY D IP TE NDU DUTTA /A F P

By Probir Kumar Sarker The Daily Star

Indian Border Security Force personnel patrol the border with Bangladesh, outside the Fulbari Border post.

An Uneasy Alliance

The escalating brutality at the border sparks tension between bangladesh and india

Dhaka

illions of Bangladeshis in home and abroad greeted the national cricket team for bringing them joy after beating India in the Asia Cup at Mirpur cricket stadium last March. Certainly, it was a special match to celebrate. It was a victory against the world champions, who in the inaugural match of the World Cup at the same venue last February defeated the host team. But within the cricket match, there was something else not related to cricket. There were some 10 fans of the Tigers, who, spurred on by the spirit of nationality, raised placards in the gallery of a jam-packed stadium with STOP BSF BRUTALITY written on them. They cheered when the Tigers were bowling and fielding well, and thrashed the Indian team bowlers. Besides enjoying the high-voltage match, they intended to tell the spectators in the stadium and those around the world watching the match on television the outrage they felt at the excessive use of force by the Indian frontiers along the Bangladesh border. The band of demonstrators who regularly watch the Tigers matches in stadiums is also active on Face24

book. Mostly teenagers and youths, they seemed to be students. After the match they uploaded a photograph of their group standing at the top of a gallery holding several posters that had the slogan written. The photo was quickly shared by hundreds and several comments were made, expressing solidarity with the call.

STEpS TO CuRb ViOLEnCE

The Indian Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) chiefs have regularly sat together in Delhi and discussed ways in which casualties can be reduced. BSF chief U K Bansal said they would avoid, at all costs, the use of lethal force against unarmed people and those inadvertently crossing the border. They had taken a three-point initiative, which denotes deployment of additional security forces on both sides at the vulnerable patches, increasing peoples awareness on not crossing the border without documents, and sharing of information by the two frontiers on movement of smugglers and other criminals during hours of darkness. The number of deaths is an uncomfortable thorn between two countries that have no ongoing war. Dhaka also strongly rejected Indias suggestion to impose night curfew along its areas very close to

the border to check illegal crossborder movement. The BGB chief said they did not believe in curfew as every citizen of a country has an equal right to movement within the boundary of the country. Border killing has become a burning issue among the common people of Bangladesh as well as to many politicians other than those with the ruling government. Protesters are asking why there should be any exttrajudicial deatha violation of human rightsdespite repeated promises by the Indian top authorities. Rights group Odhikar in its 2011 repor t said BSF killed 31 Bangladeshi nationals last year when the killing of 15-year-old Felani was a much talked about incident. The number was 74 in 2010 and 98 in 2009. Amnesty International has also protested this human rights violation. Both governments try to cash in on the
April 20-May 3, 2012

new. These happened in the past, are happening now and will also happen in the futureThe state is not too concerned about it. It is not right that the state shall focus only on these issues, leaving aside all other businesses.

nO End in SighT

statistics mentioning that it is on the decline.

bORdER KiLLingS

On February 28, the BSF chief invited the ire of Bangladeshis after saying in a BBC Bangla interview that they were unable to totally stop firing along the border. He explained that so long criminal activities continue to take place along the India-Bangladesh border, the BSF will have to prevent those offences and it is the duty of the force. The Indian approach is, in no way, acceptable since they have been carrying out the murders without any provocation since the number of Indians killed at the hands of the BGB for intrusion or smuggling is nominal. Moreover, the number of deaths is an uncomfortable thorn between two countries that have no ongoing war between them and are both striving for peace and regional cooperation.

The Bangladeshi foreign minister, BGB chief, National Human Rights Commission chairman, former diplomats, academicians, and the people protested Bansals remark. The BGB chief in response told a local news agency that the members of his force do not shoot at Indian trespassers, but arrest and try them under the laws of the land and in line with the International Human Rights Convention. On January 21, Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam in Dhaka said the government was not worried at all over the incidents of torture and killing of Bangladeshi nationals along the border, since such killings are not new. Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Kolkata echoed Ashraf, who also said, Many such incidents are taking place in the bordering areas of the countries cattle lifting, drug smuggling and many other things. This is nothing

These statements were heavily criticised by the opposition political parties as well as the people. They were heat-waves blown in both the countries following the revelation of a video footage showing a Bangladeshi cattle smuggler being stripped and tortured by the Indian border guards in Murshidabad aired by Indian TV channels, firstly NDTV in early February. The victim alleged that BSF men in uniform tortured him on December 9 last year as he refused to pay them a bribe. It was a part of the continuous suppression by the BSF men, who are now reportedly kidnapping Bangladeshis from the border areas. Earlier, the bodies of those missing at the borders were found to be flowing with the river current, media reports suggest. These horrific images of torture on video show what rights groups have long documented: that Indias Border Security Force is out of control, said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. The Indian government is well aware of killings and torture at the border, but has never prosecuted the troops responsible. This video provides a clear test case of whether the security forces are above the law in India, he said, demanding that the forces members be prosecuted for such extralegal offences. India categorically regretted the deaths in December, but defended its barbaric behaviour by saying that the BSF sometimes shoots for selfdefence, a term used by Bangladeshs elite force Rab while publicising reports of deaths of criminals in so-called crossfires. So, the killings continue despite repeated pledges, perhaps because the directives from Delhi do not reach the outposts.
25

April 20-May 3, 2012

POLITICS

INDIA

By Nirmala Ganapathy The Straits Times

Heavy Mix Of CriMe & POlitiCs in india


Local mafia dons, strongmen and criminals have always been prominent in Indian politics
New Delhi

I
26

n February, Indian anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal stirred up a hornets nest by calling the countrys parliamentarians criminals. Politicians erupted with fury, with one MP, Mulayam Singh Yadav, saying it was the anti-corruption crusaders who were a den of criminals. Now, Yadavs son Akhilesh has reignited the debate by appointing politicians with criminal records as ministers in his Samajwadi Party government in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Eleven of the 47 ministers in the new Cabinet have criminal cases pending, inviting criticism of 38-year-old Akhilesh Yadav, who

swept to power a month ago promising to rid the state of crime. Perhaps the most controversial is the appointment of the infamous Raghuraj Pratap Singh as prisons minister. Popularly known as Raja Bhaiyya, Singh spent 26 months behind bars some years ago on charges of terrorism, after assault rifles and explosives were found in his house. He also has eight other criminal cases pending against him, ranging from murder to extortion. Singh, who won as an independent, has played a crucial role in helping the young Chief Minister garner votes from his Kunda constituency in western Uttar Pradesh. He maintained that his prison stint made him the right person for the job.
April 20-May 3, 2012

PHOTO BY SAJJA D HUSSA IN / A F P

My first-hand experience will help me usher in jail reforms, the 42-year-old told an Indian newspaper. Since taking office about two weeks ago, Singh has started work on improving the lives of prisoners, asking one prison chief to improve the quality of jail food. Local mafia dons, strongmen and criminals have always been prominent in Indian politics. Their wealth and influence have served political parties looking for support across multiple castes and religions. Most of them, like Singh, maintain that they have been framed by their political rivals. A s t u d y b y the Zee Resear ch Group found that in four out of seven states that got new governments in the past year, politicians facing criminal charges have control over the departments of law, justice and prisons. Uttar Pradesh is not the only state with the dubious distinction of having Cabinet-ranked ministers with criminal records or facing criminal charges. For example, there is Moloy Ghatak from the eastern state of West Bengal, where he is in charge of the Law and Judicial Department. He has six criminal cases against him. Then there is the southern state of Keralas Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who heads the Department of Criminal Justice and Vigilance, and has one criminal case against him. Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda, who also heads the Vigilance, Law and Justice Department, is facing six criminal charges. Analysts said the problem is that political parties choose candidates with criminal backgrounds because they have influence in their areas and can get votes from their communities. Said Anil Bairwal, national coordinator for the Association for Democratic Reforms, an advocacy group: I dont think people want this type of candidate to represent them, they just dont have a choice. There are so many allegations that tickets (for contesting elections) are
April 20-May 3, 2012

Indias civil society member Arvind Kejriwal burns a copy of the Lokpal Bill during a protest on the outskirts of New Delhi on August 4, 2011. The Indian government on August 4 introduced a new anti-corruption bill in parliament, which activists have panned for exempting the prime minister from the scrutiny of a powerful new ombudsman.

given to candidates with muscle power or money. Milan Vaishnav from the University of Pennsylvania wrote in a recent article on Uttar Pradesh: Voters are not ignorant or uninformed... They are simply looking for candidates who can best fill a perceived representational vacuum. In many remote areas, it is the local mafia dons and strongmen whose influence remains the strongest. In Indias Lower House of Parliament, 162 of the 545 members are facing criminal charges, compared with 128 in the previous parliament. After the recently concluded elections in Uttar Pradesh, 143 members of the 403-seat assembly have criminal backgrounds.

Akhilesh Yadav, who took pains to change the image of his Samajwadi Party from a party of goons to a progressive one, has himself struggled since taking power. In the past month alone, more than two dozen violent incidents involving his own party workers have been recorded. These include incidents of party workers shooting at government officials, firing guns in the air in celebration, illegal tax collection, and attacking and holding journalists hostage. Spokesman Rajendra Chowdhary said the party is taking action in all the cases. Some 25 people have been kicked out of the party for these incidents. In two to three months, you will see a change in the state, he said.
27

LIFE

A dealer stands by a table at the opening of Singapores first casino, the Resorts World Sentosa complex, in February last year.

By Cheryl Ong The Straits Times

PH OTO BY RO S LA N RAHM AN/AF P

P DO YOu HAvE A GAmblING HAbIT?


An online guide offers tips on how to avoid temptation, limit cash access
28

Singapore

lacing bets I cant afford? Check. Spending all my familys money on gambling? Check. A new online g uide could prove the best bet for those who like a flutter but are worried they might be getting addicted. The site features a do-it-yourself checklist to help alert people at risk of problem gambling. It also gives them tips on how to stay away from temptation and restrict their access to cash. The workbook was released earlier this month by the Institute of Mental Healths National AddicApril 20-May 3, 2012

tions Management Service (Nams) in Singapore. It has a calculator that balances gamblers salaries against their expenses, to see whether they are spending beyond their means. Nams psychologist Lawrence Tan said the sitewww.nams.sg/ workbookcould provide a first step for those who have yet to come to terms with their gambling problems. For people who use gambling as a way to cope with diff icult emotions, it could be frightening to admit they have a ga m b l i n g p ro b l e m b e c a u s e i t would mean that they have to give up gambling, which they are not ready to do, he said. These are people who seem satisfied with
April 20-May 3, 2012

maintaining status quo and who would usually not proactively seek help unless coerced. But Tan added that online help schemes like these are not meant to replace traditional modes of treatment. Nams has been dealing with a rising number of gambling addiction cases. In 2010, 259 new patients turned up seeking treatment, up from 217 the year before. Chan Boon Huat, who heads volunteer management and programmes at One Hope Centre, believes the online guide will be of more use to concerned family members than to gamblers themselves. Gamblers will not get help until theyve hit rock bottom, and thats when theyve run out of money and feel helpless, he said. When that happens, they wont go online to look for answers. Most would turn to their family. But the g uide is useful for families to prompt the gambler to get treatment. Any help they can get is good. A recovering problem gambler, who wanted to be known only as Tan, said the guide will help make people more aware of where they can go to for help. The 64-yearold technician said he spent nearly a decade struggling with an addiction to 4-D before turning to Nams for help after a relapse three years ago. Having the website will be good because many people still dont know where to get help, he said. They turn to illegal places to solve their money problems, like illegal moneylenders, and thats very dangerous. Nams is also officially launching its outreach programme for relatives of problem gamblers, called Families in Recovery through Education and Empowerment. Pilot sessions held from May 2010 to January this year were attended by 195 people. The National Council on Problem Gambling has been stepping up its efforts to make help availa-

ble to addicts families. Four family service centres (FSCs)Tanjong Pagar FSC, Ang Mo kio FSC, Tampines FSC and Hougang Sheng Hong FSCwill provide them with financial and legal advice.

dO YOu haVE a pRObLEm?


The website asks visitors questions designed to assess whether or not they have a gambling problem, and tells them where they can go for help. Its five main sections are: WHAT IS GAMBLING? This spells out the difference between social and problem gambling, and asks visitors if they have ever bet more than they can afford, and whether they have financial and emotional problems. AM I GAMBLING MORE THAN I CAN AFFORD? This section calculates how much money they have left after monthly expenses. IDENTIFYING HIGHRISK SITUATIONS Visitors are asked to think about why they gamble, the sort of games they tend to play and whether they do so because of the company they keep. UNDERSTANDING HIGH-RISK SITUATIONS This section explains why the person chooses to gamble in certain social settings. MANAGING HIGHRISK SITUATIONS Visitors are asked how they should react when faced with temptation to gamble, and how to control their expenses. At the end of the guide, they are urged to call the national problem gambling helpline: 1800-6-668-668.
29

LIFE

CHINA

By Chen Nan China Daily

ON THE ROAD TO INNER PEAcE


An actress and a photographer go on a pilgrimage in search of true self

PH OTO S PROV ID E D TO CH INA DA ILY

30

April 20-May 3, 2012

Beijing

ling. I n t h e s u m m e r o f 2 0 1 0, t h e 34-year-old actress spent 16 days learning to take control, while the 44-year-old photographer spent a similar amount of time learning how to follow instructions. They spent half of June 2010 working together and created 26 photos and a documentary for an exhibition, Thus. The pair made pilgrimages to Buddhas birthplace in Nepal, the B o d h i Tr e e w h e r e B u d d h a achieved enlightenment, the Ganges River and the site of Nalanda, one of the first great universities in recorded history, to search for the truth of self. The journey was very, very personal, Hao says at the exhibit i o ns o p e n i n g ce re m o ny. S h e shaved her head before travelling. To get the sense of pureness, I started with changing my appearance, she says. I wanted to be a symbol in these pictures, rather than the actress Hao Lei.
April 20-May 3, 2012

or anyone who wants to try something radically different or challenging, the story of Hao Lei and Wei Bing will be compel-

Wearing a hand-embroidered headscarf and a long robe, she stands in front of a picture called Ganges River. With her back to the camera in the photo, Hao stands at the front of the wooden boat, her long white robe drifting and one arm rising toward the sky. In other pictures, most of them black-and-white, Hao wanders the forest, immersed in sunlight, staring at the camera without makeup and covering her face with a large piece of white cloth. Th is rep re se nt s, t hey say, a radical rethink of who they used to be. Hao gained international attention by starring in director Lou Yes film Summer Palace in 2006. Wei is known for taking celebrity pictures for fashion magazines, such as the Chinese editions of Marie Claire and Vogue. At the time, Wei was bored of taking celebrity photos in the studio, while Hao was dealing with the fallout from a break-up. We wanted to do something different, Hao says. We sought to find a way to refresh ourselves and find truths about our lives, which had been twisted and covered by the chaotic world. Wei says: Hao is known for be-

ing brutally honest, and its true. She is not simply a model in those pictures. She also came up with ideas and provided direction. I knew who and where I was going to shoot. The theme of those pictures I was going to take was clear in my mind. However, with Hao, I didnt know what I could get from her. I also didnt know what the journey could bring me. I loved the uncertainty of everything, which inspired me. Shortly after they arrived in Nepal and India, Wei and Hao were amazed by the landscape and its connection to Buddha. The glamour of showbiz blinded my eyes during the past 10 years, and my personal troubles also disturbed me, Hao says. I regained my inner peace through the journey. I used to think that facial expressions were the best way to communicate. When you are happy, you laugh, and you frown when you are sad. But I had no facial expressions in those photos, she continues. We w e r e g l a d t h a t w e stepped out of our comfort zones. The journey was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
31

LIFE
By Kelly Chung Dawson China Daily

Tunney F. Lee and his family pay tribute to their deceased relatives ahead of Tombsweeping Day at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts.

SWEEP TOmbS IN SPRING SuNSHINE


Wherever they are, the Chinese honour those who came before us and made life possible
New York

O
32

nce a year, families in China gather at the graves of deceased relatives, bearing food, wine, joss sticks and paper replicas of worldly delights that their loved ones left behind. The celebrations of Qingming Festival, or Tomb-sweeping Day, also happen on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as the long-standing commitment to tradition continues among Chinese Americans. The holiday originated with the story of Prince Chonger (697-628 BC), a young royal forced out of the imperial court by a conniving concubine. Accompanied by a loyal government official called Jie zitui, the prince lived in exile for

three years before eventually ascending to the throne. Later, as king, he summoned Jie to his side, but when his previously loyal companion refused to accede to the request, the king burned down the mountain on which Jie lived to force him out. Jie died in the fire. Overcome with remorse, the king designated a day on which Jies memory would be honoured. Thousands of years later, the holiday bears little resemblance to its origins. But the sentiment remains unchanged: To honour those who came before us and made life possible.

COnTinuing TRadiTiOn

It is incredibly important to us that we honour our ancestors, said Tunney F. Lee, an urban planner

and former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On Qingming, Lees family visits the graves of his grandfather and mother, who are both buried in Boston. The family brings chicken, i ce d w i n e, i n ce n s e a n d pa p e r money. Each member of the family bows three times before the gravestone, lighting incense in honour of the deceased and pouring wine on the ground. In the past, food might have been left at the graves, but were practical people, Lee said, with a laugh. Terry Abraham, former head of the Special Collections library at the University of Idaho, described the ritual as an exchange between the living and the dead. In a sense, the families are saying, We provide you with certain objects and representations of objects, and we are asking you to provide us with your support and good fortune, said Abraham. There is an exchange taking place, and the common sentiment is that people who have died and have gone beyond to the next world are not really very far away at all. Theyre shadows around the corner, just outside the vision of your eyes, and you can provide them with what they need. For some families, there is a deeply superstitious element to the ritual. In my family, there is an elaborate process of burni ng joss sticks and bank notes, both when you arrive and when you leave, said Silvia Pan, a student at Macaulay honours College at the City University of New York, and a third-generation immigrant. There is a feeling that if you leave without paying, your ancestors will follow you when you leave, and you dont want spirits to follow you. Its really bad luck, so if you dont do everything youre required to do, youll have bad luck in the next year. The negative connotations of this superstitious aspect of the holiday may be a contributory factor to why younger generations of
April 20-May 3, 2012

PHOTO PROV ID E D TO C HINA DA ILY

Chinese in the US are less interested in the holiday, Pan said. I think that because the holiday is centred around the belief that ancestors will give you bad luck if you dont worship them, theres a negative feeling, from an American point of view, she admitted. Its very superstitious, so Im not really sure if the younger generations will want to continue celebrating the holiday.

a TiE wiTh ThE dEad

For many third-generation immigrants, their ancestors may be buried on the Chinese mainland or Hong kong. So for them, the sense of connection with the past

mortuary directors in the Bay Area have noticed a substantial increase in cases of remains arriving from China for burial in the US. As more Chinese immigrants make their homes in America, the remains of loved ones overseas are reunited with the present generation, reversing the previous custom, she writes. This practice of shipping the remains from China to the US is a reversal of a common practice during the 1800s, when the bodies of Chinese railroad workers who died in the US were shipped home to ensure burial near their families, Crowder said. In most cases, the bodies were

Skylawn Memorial Park in the San Francisco Bay Area hosts performances of lion and folk dances to observe Tombsweeping Day.

Dorothy and her husband Joe choose shirts made of paper for their grandparents who have gone for long time basket at a funeral supply store in New Yorks Chinatown.

may be weaker. But Chinese immig rants are combating the distance by shipping the burial remains from China to the US, to be reburied closer to the family, said Sue Fawn Chung, professor of history, and the chair of Asian studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. There is a belief that the spirit stays with the ashes, Chung said. Some families will accept a memorial tablet, but for many, the memorial tablet isnt sufficient and the bones of the ancestors must be honoured directly. In The Chinese Mortuary Tradition in San Franciscos Chinatown, Linda Sun Crowder reported that
April 20-May 3, 2012

exhumed several years after death, and the bones shipped home in tin boxes. In addition to this practise, approximately 10,000 embalmed bodies were shipped from the US to China at the close of the 1850s, Crowder said, although the practice was later discontinued.

Changing COnnOTaTiOn

T h e Q i n g m i n g Fe s t iva l wa s among the death rituals celebrated by Chinese immigrants to the US from the very beginning. According to Wendy L. Rouse, in an essay t i t l e d W h a t We D i d n t Understand: A History of Chinese Death Ritual in China and California, one anecdote tells the

story of a Caucasian man mocking a Chinese man for placing food and money at a grave site. Come now, do you really think your ancestors can eat the food, drink the wine, and spend the money? The Chinese man replied, As much as your ancestors can sniff your flowers. Vincent Mak, owner of Fook On Sing, a funeral supply store located in New Yorks Chinatown, said that celebrating has been steady in recent years, although some details changed. The process of celebrating has been simplified somewhat because some of the grave sites here do not allow fire-related activities, Mak said. But the most important thing is that the offspring still choose to dedicate the day to (honouring) their ancestors memory. While it is generally a private affair in China, the festival is becoming more public-oriented in the US. Skylawn Memorial Park in San Francisco, which has seen a rapid increase in Chinese funerals in recent years, hosts various perform a n ce s i n h o n o u r o f Qingming. Participants would be able to watch a s p r i n g d a n ce p e rfo r mance, learn about the origins of the holiday and make kites in honour of spring. Qingming is ultimately about family, paying respect to our ancestors, and also as an awakening for spring, said karen Lew, education director at the Museum of Chinese in America. Were hoping to bring it more into the public sphere. Pan believes that the holiday will change over time: I dont think Qingming will fade completely, but maybe it will take on a new meaning, she said. It happens during spring, so I think that over time it will be more about celebrating life, instead of focusing on death. I believe it will be more positive in the future.
PH OTO BY WANG JI NG SH U / CH I NA DAI LY

PH OTO PROVI D ED TO CH I NA DAI LY

33

By Jodee Agoncillo Philippine Daily Inquirer

GUERILLAS FOR ART

A group of filipino revolutionAries provoke And inspire through street Art

The artists (from left): Ralph Lumbres, Nico Villarete, Janno Gonzales and Nico Zapanta
Manila

Rangers volt in

T
PH OTO S COURTE SY O F G E RILYA

he Filipino dictiona r y defines gerilya as an irregular armed force, people engaged in or experienced in warfare. They are the bad guys, the thieves, and the rebels for a cause. But five street artists, who call themselves Gerilya, gave the word n e w m e a n i ng a s t h e y r e c e n t l y launched a graffiti exhibit in Kanto Gallery at The Collective in Makati in Metro Manila. University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts students Janno Gonzales, Nico Zapanta and Nico Villarete, all graphic artists of Philippine Collegian, the universitys official publication, and Ralph Lum34

bres, and Myxkaella Villalon, Collegians former Kultura (culture) editor, comprise Gerilya. Their first collective project, the Gerilya Komiks, Tagalog indie comics about the everyday life of a Filipino, became an instant hit at the university. They soon found inspiration on the streetsa place closer to ordinary people, a medium that reaches a wider audienceand gave birth to Pinoy Rangers: Mandirigmang Kabataan; Tanod ng Kasarinlan. The series borrows the concept of the famous Power Rangers. First seen in 2011, a wall art made up of wheat paste showed faces of guerillas covered with red f lags, t h e i r f o r m a t i o n re s e m b l i ng t h e popular stances of Power Rangers,

San Gouku, Naruto, and Eugene of Ghost Fighter. It decorated a side of an overpass. In this case, the graffiti, mostly seen as an eyesore, communicated a different meaning. To make their work more recognisable and relevant, Gerilya would post graffiti during historic events, such as the birthday of Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio. In some ways, its a tribute to Katipuneros (revolutionaries), says Zapanta. Their first graffiti dealt with legendar y, mythological and underworld creatures like aswang and tikbalang. We do street art to inspire storytelling and initiate public discussion, and connect the old and the young, says Lumbres. Gerilya aims to preserve culture
April 20-May 3, 2012

and instill awareness by being attractive to kids, thanks to a youthful attack, without neglecting depth and content.

ChiLdhOOd ExpERiEnCE

Gerilyas artwork was born from a collective childhood experience. Growing up in the 90s, Gonzales recounts play ing ninja, wearing capes and imagining himself as Superman. The group was very much

like the potential fusion of the Magdiwang and Magdalo, and what could have happened in history had the two groups teamed up. Working with images and symbolism is something we learned in the Collegian, Gonzales says. Let the image be striking and allow the audience to decipher the meaning. The group claimed they are not in the business of spoonfeeding. What binds them, more than their

authentic and personal. A setup without hierarchy and impositiona setup that is free works for Gerilya. T hough composed of artists with different expertise, the group is considered one. Each artist has his own role. Gonzales, who spec ialises in conceptual, editorial artworks, does the rendering. Villarete, an expert on comics and cartoons, does the anatomy; Lum-

Graffiti tribute to the rangers

Fusion dance of soldiers

into Shonen manga and Super Sentai, a Japanese superhero genre. But their artwork goes beyond the mere popular anime stances. One must ask, who are the real Filipino superheroes here? Arent they the Katipuneros who fought for us, the reason we are free? Gonzales explains. The audience may be captivated by the popular stances, but the f lagheads would point to the real focus, he adds. The artwork involved ample research. When Gerilya did the Pinoy Rangers collection, they researched on the Katipunan, for the accuracy of the flag details. There was, however, no intention to explain the evolution of the flags. They even studied the dynamics of the pieces: What goes together, the colours. Street art might not be that aggressive compared to other popular media, but Gerilya believes its not as tame, subtle and irrelevant as some people think, either. They tried to play up symbolism,
April 20-May 3, 2012

skills, is the joy they experience ever y time they are about to do something they think is cool.

ViSiOn TO CREaTE

Villarete says they dont have any vision or mission, like a typical organisation does. There is a vision to create, but their motivation mainly is to enjoy what they do, he says. Their work, they claim, is not even for profit, though their graffiti art is for sale. We just enjoy what we do, adds Lumbres. While some are already working and one is finishing his thesis, Gerilyas members usually work during their free hours on weekends. Lumbres says their effort is part of a consc iousness. We didnt start out with a similar cause, a common goal; its part of a lifestyle. The message just comes out naturally. In this way, Gerilya claims that their artwork is more free, more natural, not forced, spontaneous,

bres, who does studio art, focuses on exploration and mounting. Zapanta, who works in a PR agency, specialises in promotions, aside from painting. Villalon is in charge of writing. Para kaming banda, pero ang banda nagdi-disband; kami naka-blood compact, eh (Were like a band but we dont disband. We sealed it with a blood compact), jokes Zapanta. G e r i l ya b e l i e ve s t h e s t re e t i s their place, even if theres no assurance that their work will be intact in the next few days. Tomorrow, enemies of their artistry, from rain or weather to a cleanup by authorities, c an r uin their work. But Gerilya says they will not stop. Hanggat may idea, sug gestion, tuloy pa rin ang paggawa (So long as we have an idea, we will continue creating). Never stop believing and never hesitate to seek helpfrom your family, your teammates and co-artists. Open up and enjoy.
35

CULTURE

MALAYSIA

By Sin Chew Daily

The Good old days of Movie TheaTres


Seremban

Moving towards the new era and breakneck developments in the entertainment industry, cinemas have taken on a more splendid and professional look

T
P HOTO S BY SI N CH EW DAI LY

he recent demolition and refurbishment of two old building s in Seremban town centre in Malaysia was reminiscent of the good old days of movie-watching among local residents. Capitol, Rex and seven others theatres used to be perfect companions for local residents, but they are all gone today. During the olden days when there were not much entertainment around, watching movies was the only pastime for most Seremban

residents. Cinemas were almost always full and scenes of people grabbing for movie tickets were still vividly remembered until this day. Among the cinemas that used to thrive in town were Sapphire, Ying Wu Lu o , C a t h ay, O d e o n , Re x , Capitol, Metropole (later c al led Plaza Theatre), Golden City and Ruby.

ertheless, smokers could indulge in their addiction as no-smoking ruling was not implemented back then. As for the youngsters, scalped tickets were often sold near the ticketing counters. A movie ticket cost only 25 cents in the 1950s but now a movie ticket would cost anything from 8 ringgit (US$2.60) to 13 ringgit ($4.25). All of the old movie theatres have either been closed down, demolished or redeveloped into shophouses or converted to other businesses. Moving towards the new era and bre akneck developments in the showbiz industr y, cinemas have taken on a more splendid and professional look. Most of the cinemas today are attached to shopping malls or commercial centres to provide higher quality of visual and audio enjoyment to the movie goers. While old cinemas have died out, they still remain in our memories.

naTiOnaL anThEm bEfORE ShOw

Some of the old folks could still recall that the audience could only be seated after the national anthem was played before every show. Nev-

OLd ThEaTRES

Sapphire Theatre was the earliest cinema in Seremban built more than 70 years ago. The cinema began to lose some of its patrons after the

36

April 20-May 3, 2012

opening of other cinemas in town. Sapphire was later converted to a discount store and now redeveloped into a modern furniture shop. Ruby cinema had thrived before the opening of commercial centres and mini cinemas. Built in 1964, Ruby became a part of the collective memory of many local residents. After Ruby ceased operation, the premises were rented to a private college and a karaoke lounge. Golden City Theatre, also known as Tai Hwa Cinema, used to be a hive of activity with opera performances at the beginning. Owing to the intense competition from other cinemas, Golden City had to close dow n and be transformed into home living centre, although the original structure and signage still remained. Famous for the screening of black and white Wong Fei Hung movies in the 1960s, Metropole is stil l fondly remembered by many Seremban residents. Stage performances after the screening of Survivor Island by Petrina Fung Bo Bo made sensational headlines in Seremban back in those days. Following the change of name to

Plaza Theatre later, customers began to drain away and the owner decided to let it out to a community care centre for missionary purposes. With almost 60 years of history, Rex was turned into a shopping complex after it ceased operation. The new owner demolished the old building this January to make way for three-storey commercial centre. Rex theatre used to cast Shaw Brothers films including the hottest film One-Armed Swordsman starred by Wang Yu. Opening for business in the 1960s, Capitol Theatre screened mostly Shaw Brothers productions along with some Western movies. The most popular films during its heyday were Come Drink With Me and New Dragon Gate Inn. Conversion to shopping complex was carried on until recently when it was glutted by fire. Ying Wu Luo Cinema start to screen mostly Western movies from the 1950s, and later Chinese titles were introduced. Due to the severe loss of audience and tough competition in the film industry, Ying Wu Luo was reduced to a porno cinema frequented by foreign workers.

A year after it was converted to a hawker centre, a fire destroyed the building and it has since been reconstructed into a shoe store. One of the earliest cinemas in town, Cathay used to show Western movies in the 1950s, such as the top-selling The Ten Commandments and award winning 1959 classic Ben-Hur. Cathay was closed down in the 1980s and refurbished into a threestorey shophouse. Odeon used to be Paramount night club. The dance f loor was blown up by a bomb blast with many patrons suffering serious injuries and dance g irls esc aping barefooted. T he incident is still vividly remembered by the towns older residents until this day. Even the porn stars on stage continued to lure some patrons after the blast. However, the business had dwindled and the club was subsequently converted into a movie theatre. T he premises were recently taken over by a businessman who converted it to a restaurant after massive renovation. TransLaTed by
Winnie Chooi

April 20-May 3, 2012

37

ENTERTAINMENT
By Ho Ai Li The Straits Times

CHINA

GAME FOR LOvE, cHINA STYLE


top-rAted mAtch-mAking tv show provides entertAining insights into love And mArriAge

W
38

Beijing

hile jogging at the gym recently, I felt tired and hungry but pondered a more pressing concern: Which girl would the guy choose? The question drives many a romantic-comedy programme and is at the heart of Chinas top-rated TV show, If You Are The One, which I was watching during my workout. It is a match-making game that millions here are hooked on. On a weekend, I asked the same question again as I sat on a blue plastic stool, the knees of the boy behind jutting into my back, in a

packed studio at the Jiangsu TV station in Nanjing, where an episode of the show was being filmed. A Singapore friend who knows a producer of the show had helped another friend and me get muchcoveted tickets to watch the male contestants appear one by one before 24 female ones. The ladies quiz the guy, size him up and mull over what his friends say before deciding if he is the one. If more than one woman leaves the light on for him, the guy gets his choice of prospective bride. If all the lights go out, off the show he goes. Paired couples get prizes ranging from holidays in Hawaii to crystals.
April 20-May 3, 2012

But so far, only one couple from the show have tied the knot since its premiere two years ago. The popular programme, called Fei Cheng Wu Rao in Chinese, which literally means Dont disturb if insincere, is a wonderful window into what young Chinese think about love and marriage. As befits a society where filial piety is a big deal, for example, the men on the show often ask: Do you mind if my parents live with us after we get married? In a country as big as China, the women often have to decide if they would move to another city to be with a guy. So the man might ask: Would you move from the northApril 20-May 3, 2012

east to the south for me? As the show unfolds, viewers all round China are asking questions too--of each other: Why did she go off with that guy? Aww, isnt that guy sweet? Wow, Female Guest No 2 is hot. Really? I think No 11 is better. You can go on and on. Unlike a romantic comedy, there is no time to layer in the details and convince viewers that A and B will fall for each other. Instead, it is love China-style, at super high speed: The women run through five suitors in one hour and make snap decisions. During my up close and personal look at the show, the first man up is a plump Beijing bloke in traditional garb. We clap as he clears the cruellest round--first impressions. None rejects him based on his looks. But he seems a tad old-fashioned, with his love of gardening and Chinese paper cutting. You look like someone from a different era, one of the women says. The lights slowly go out one by one. When all go, cue tragic opera music. Next! They could not have scripted it better. The second guy is the total opposite of Mr Beijing. Let us call him Doraemon because he was apparently so inspired by the blue and cuddly Japanese cartoon character that he went to Osaka to work and study. If Beijing bloke is grandfatherly at 3 1 , D o ra e m o n s e e m s way m o re childish than his 27 years of age. I speak the best Japanese among all the Chinese in the school... My social skills are fantastic, he says in the pre-recorded self introduction shown on studio screens. Female Guest No. 8, who looks Korean and sports a 1980s wavy hairdo, bursts his bubble: Where does your unwarranted superiority complex come from? Where do the producers find such experts in cutting male egos down to size?

Or attractions such as Female Guest No. 22, who wears a Cyclopslike visor, a straw hat and a white backpack with colourful spikes. Or No. 24, who bears an unfortunate resemblance to the pointy-haired lady in the American comic strip, Dilbert, about life at the office. Many viewers tune in each week more for the three hosts than to see if the guests are good-looking. Bald and bespectacled Meng Fei, the main man, casually curses as he fluffs a line about a sponsor before the cameras roll. Fellow baldie Le Jia asks all the hard questions. The shows Paula Abdul is Huang Han. Like the former American Idol judge, she is ever ready with smiles and encouragement. As for the contestants themselves, there is no getting round the fact that city slickers with high-paying jobs tend to be more of a hit with the women than small-town guys with dead-end jobs. The show has already tried to tone down any hint of materialism, however. It used to be worse. Once, the ladies snuffed out their lights in quick succession when it was revealed that the handsome dude before them was a tennis coachin other words, he did not earn much money. But then there was a 27-year-old corn farmer with a degree in agriculture from Gansu province in the north-west who moved the audience when he talked of taking care of his blind childhood pal, who was also in the studio. He even got his pal to go on stage to appeal to potential spouses. My eyes moistened, no doubt along with millions of other viewers all round China. I had expected to be entertained, but to come across people with strong convictions who want more out of life than money is a real bonus. So besides its mix of the strange and the beautiful, not to mention t h e i n s ig h t f u l , t h e s h ow h a s a heart. Whats not to love about it?
39

ENTERTAINMENT
By Raymond Zhou China Daily

CHINA/HONG KONG

The Great Wall Of Deception


In Chinese showbiz, there is a prevalence of presenting a harmonious facade even when competition is cut-throat
Kung fu supertars Zhao Wenzhou (left) and Donnie Yen before their public falling out.

Beijing

ad blood between two public figures spills over to the general populace, testifying to the dangerous obsession with hushing up disputes and putting on smiley faces. They made a public appearance together, smiling and waving their fists in unison. T hey said they were going to work for the common good. There was not a trace of discord even though both of them are in a position to succeed the older generation of head honchos who are retiring. Then, one of them was kicked out of the core group. He attempted to make a direct plea to the public. By doing so, he said he risked never working again in the profession. The other retorted tersely. Most of his peers took his side without openly denouncing the ousted guy. But the public is divided. Vociferous condemnation from both camps
40

lingered on for a long time. Of course, Im talking about the volcanic feud between two kung fu superstars, Donnie Yen and Zhao Wenzhuo. (What? You thought I was referring to something else?) You see, Jackie Chan and Jet Li are getting old for ass-kicking fight sequences. At 60 and 48 respectively, their reign as kung fu emperors of Chinese c inema is gliding to a smooth end. Even though they never faced off in their prime, they did attempt a token gesture of reconciliation in the form of The Forbidden Kingdom, the 2008 Hollywood action fantasy that served to tantalise more than satisfy with a definite answer as to who ruled Chinese kung fu. Donnie Yen, 48, started his film career in Hong Kong in the early 1980s. Zhao Wenzhuo, 40, entered in the early 1990s. Both were groomed to follow in the footsteps of Chan and Li. Zhao had more luck than Yen in the initial phase, but both were eclipsed

by their forerunnersuntil now. In a sense, it is an ingenious idea to pit Yen and Zhao against each other in a project that has them playing opposite roles. An attempt to blur onscreen hostility with off-screen rivalry is difficult to pull off, and it exploded before filming was finishedin a way totally beyond the control of any producer. Showbiz rivalries are common. Think of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Hollywoods golden age. W h a t s u n i q u e i s C h i n a s culture of presenting a h a r m o n i o u s f a c a d e e ve n wh e n competition is cut-throat. On reality television, contestants are so chummy, calling each other brothers and sisters and giving unremitting hugs, that one may assume they are all competing for the title of Mr or Miss Congeniality. Truth is, showbiz is more competitive than most professions. Although there is no stipulated quota for the A-list, only a handful of positions are available for a given
April 20-May 3, 2012

genre, say, the action hero. Once it is dominated by a few e xisting superst a rs, ne wcomers would have to wait for a decade or two, as was the fate of Donnie Yen and Zhao Wenzhuo. And you do not unseat the king by guerilla tactics. The reigning king or emperor in the genre may flop disastrously, but his staying power is much longer than his equivalent in Hollywood because the Chinese public tends to cling to the old and is notoriously risk-averse for the young. Since superstars have far more choices for plum roles and a significant majority of Chinese filmgoers are magnetised by star power, a star who has gained the top-tier status may never fear losing work again. On record, they invariably cite the love of acting as their only raison detre for being in showbiz. But everyone knows fame begets fortune, and the stakes are so high that people are willing to do everything to get into the envious coterie
April 20-May 3, 2012

of top earners. Casting couch scandals are no longer novelties. Some actually pay big money to be in certain productions, usually playing supporting roles. And a select few can have their sugar daddies underwrite big-budget projects and surround t h e m s e l ve s w i t h b ig names. T here is nothing wrong with the desire to get ahead, though. Eve n t h e e t h i c a l l y dubious practices in the process do not rea l l y t h re a t e n p u b l i c order because onscreen talent, or the lack thereof, has nowhere to hide. It is the hypocrisy that poisons the public mind, espec i a l l y t h e c re d u l o u s and the young. The effort to conceal normal competition creates a false impression of harmony and unity. Not only do actors battle for roles, but also, those who have different roles in the same production fight for more screen time. Stepping back further, you may see those in different films struggling for exposure at screenings. A black comedy ensued when three major releases, all starring Ge You, found themselves in the same time slot at the 2010 year-end holiday season. Of course, one should promote t h o s e f i l m s i n wh i c h o n e h a s vested interests. But in Chinas film industr y, some have stepped over the line and launched clandestine smear c ampaig ns ag ainst competitors, such as films slated for the same period. Pay ing for positive reviews is destroying the credibility of film criticism, and hiring anonymous agents to attack opponents is even more unsettling. Its not that other countries have

pristine showbiz but that Chinas is hampered by an overemphasis on outward unanimity and a lack of channels for normal debates. To n o t b r u i s e g i a n t e g os i n volved, the industry would go out of its way to fawn on power players, who are despotic by necessity if not by temperament. All the while, these celebrities assume an almost condescendingly endearing persona to the public. Compare it with James Cameron, who never apologises for his hot temper on the setbut never denies it either. Had his image been handled by a Chinese publicity machine, his behaviour would be sold as strict discipline and pursuit of perfection, which are not exactly incorrect but add a thick gloss of virtuousness. At the risk of being accused of schadenfreude, I dare say the kind of outbursts of acrimony as seen bet ween Donnie Yen and Zhao Wenzhuo is not badat least not as harmful as sweeping every hint of disagreement under the rug. It is quite natural that those with varying interests clash. The trick is to create platforms where people clash over issues but maintain respect for each other. In China, we go to such great lengths to save face that, once the face is broken, the outcome is irreversibly disastrous. No t o n l y w i l l Ye n a n d Z h a o never work together again, but those who aligned themselves to one or the other will find it hard to be under the same roof with the opposing camp. What started as regular bickering for kung fu supremacy has evolved to be a litmus test for loyaltyloyalty that is based more on guanxi (network) than on knowledge about the stars in the brawl. That is why the most striking thing in a US presidential election, a t l e a s t t o m e , i s t h e g ra c i o u s s p e e c h o f d e f e a t by t h e l os i ng party. Over here, it would be get-even time. Well, US has that, too, but usually agitated from the base.
41

TRAVEL

THAILAND

By Hou Weiping Asia News Network

Wat Mahathat (Temple of the Great Relics) at sunset.

Remnants Of A Kingdom
deteriorating towers and destroyed statues are proof of ayutthayas last lingering breath
Ayutthaya

The main Grand Hall of Wat Ratchaburana.


42

fter two and half hours bus trip from Bangkok, I found myself standing at the gate of the Ayutthaya Historical Park. My heart flipped at the sight of an immense wine-coloured brick sea. Each of the solid, rectangular

red clay was baked hundreds of ye a rs a go to pave ro a d s , p i l e shrines, construct spires and celeb rate g ra n d n e ss . Th ey m ad e every aspect of the old Buddhist s te e pl e s exq u i s i te, eve r y l i n e sharp, every detail distinct. They drew up so high as if an invisible magnet was stretching the steeples they built toward the sky. I stood,
April 20-May 3, 2012

The ruins of Wat Mahathat.

Headless Buddha statues at Wat Mahathat.

amazed, amidst the huge constel- ruled large parts of present day lations of red brick buildings glow- Thailand, was already in decline. ing in the sunset. It was finally defeated by AyutI lingered outside the iron fence thaya in 1431. of the park for a while. Few people Thriving on the land of red soil, were inside. Occasionally, a tourists having fish in the water and rice in lone figure could be seen ascending the fields, the young kingdom was one of the huge brick towers with a proud and enthusiastic fighter. It admirable vigour. A white-and- fought numerous wars with differbrown dog saw me, and, as if eager to get intimate with any human, wildly ran to me, flapped ears and wagged tail. Behind the dog was a sparse lawn scattering with grey rocks. But after I approached, I realised they were not common rocks but discarded Buddha statues. They sat straight-backed and cross-legged, but no longer smiled. Their heads The main gate of Wat Buddha statue in had been chopped off. Ratchaburana. one of the temples. Suddenly I realised I was treading on the ruins of warsthe burial place of a dead ent purposes: crushing rebellions, kingdom. The deteriorating towers conquering new kingdoms, and and destroyed statues were the controlling more trade ports. Durkingdoms last lingering breath. ing its heyday, Ayutthaya had more T h e k i n g d o m o f Ay u t t h aya than one million population. As (1350-1767) was a Siamese dynasty one of the wealthiest countries in and one of Thailands most splen- Asia at the time, it was courted by did historical episodes. Founded traders from China, Japan, Camboby king Ramathibodi I in 1350, it dia, France, Britain, Portugal and absorbed a short-lived kingdom, the Netherlands. Engelbert CamSukhothai, to its north, and soon pher, a then British explorer, was became a new rising power in recorded saying: Among the Asian Southeast Asia. At the same period, nations, the kingdom of Siam the k hmer empire, which had (Ayutthaya) is the greatest. The
April 20-May 3, 2012

magnif icence of the Ayutthaya Court is incomparable. However, Ay utthaya met i ts doom in 1765. A 40,000-strong force of Burmese invaded its territories, coveting Ayutthayas rich trade sources and also seeking revenge for its supporting of the rebels in the Burmese border regions. After 14 months of siege, the capital of Ayutthaya fell. Art treasures, buildings and historical records were utterly wiped. Today, sailing between the ancient monuments of Ayutthaya, a tourist needs a stretch of imagination to recognise the old capital of Siam. It rose from war, and ended in war, too. Maybe in numerous days between the two wars, crowds of residents would gather in the grand capital city and bring flowers to offer the Buddha. Monks would pray and sing, peddlers would sell food outside the temple and children would scream on the street. But history took everything away. Only bricks and rocks remained. I stopped before a statue with almost 4/5 of its torso chopped off. Its arms were gone; but hands were still there on the thighs. Someone, probably a tourist, had left a fresh wild flower on the one of the Buddhas remaining palms.
43

EXPLORE

THAILAND

By Sirin P Wongpanit The Nation

All QuIET ON THE EASTERN FRONT


A beautiful, largely unexplored island awaits discovery
Koh Kood

Koh Kood is a paradise to those who enjoy a quiet getaway.

T
44

ranquil and pristine, koh kood is ideal for anyone wanting nothing more than to sit on the beach with a book. The fourth largest of the kingdoms islands and located right at the end of Thailands eastern marine territory, koh kood has remained relatively unscathed from developers bulldozers thanks to its distance from the mainland and a lack of convenient means of transportation. Having witnessed how the tourism industry has treated Phuket, Samui, koh Chang and other is-

lands in Thailand, I was reluctant to write about koh kood for fear of what the publicity might mean for this pristine paradise. But koh kood is too pretty not too praise. Looking at Had klong Chaos long stretch of white sand and azure sea, I had a flashback to Phuket more than 20 years ago. A peaceful clean beach dotted with just a handful of swimmers and without unsightly parasols and beach recliners is such a rare sight, I felt like I was dreaming. koh kood has been part of Thailands border dispute with neighbouring Cambodia for centuries.

hiSTORY

Legend has it that the island, once totally unpopulated, was found accidentally by a young Vietnamese prince who took refuge in Thailand during the reign of king Rama I. king Rama V, who frequented islands in Trat province, stopped by koh kood on at least two occasions to enjoy its unbeatable beauty. Back then, the easternmost part of Trat, once a thriving commercial seaport, was named Panjakirikhet. Today, it is called koh kong and is part of Cambodia. Its remoteness is the reason why koh kood has so far escaped an invasion by busloads of tourists and investors. The island is almost a two-hour ride by boat from Trat, itself more than 350 kilometres from Bangkok. Ferry and speedboat services operate only twice a day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. That and the fact that most people in Thailand do not take long vacations inside the country, has kept it safe.
April 20-May 3, 2012

many people seem to eat at the noname noodle place where the owner plants her own bean sprouts. Next to her stall is a nondescript som tam place offering pa paya sa l ad w i t h f re s hwate r black-and-white crab called Manorah thats abundant in the nearby mangrove swamps. The vast and unspoiled klong Chao beach is a perfect place to chill out and swim during the day. For a good view from above, climb up to the hilltop Dick and Wan caf at the southern end of the beach a n d e n j oy t h e i r a ro m at i c a n d strong Vietnamese-style filtered coffees, freshly baked banana cake and home-made yoghurt. But koh kood has more than beautiful beaches. Its lush tropical ChiLL forests boast waterfalls and abunThe best way to explore koh dant mang roves and kayaking kood is to rent a chauffeured along the peaceful klong Yai kee pickup truck or a motorcycle. river or the wider klong Yai river Thanks to the narrow concrete can be a peaceful and exhilarating road running along the west side experience. Many local families of the island, tourists can access live and run their own restaurants many the beautiful beaches lining by the rivers so visitors can inthe coastal side. The east side of dulge in a home-cooked meal and delightful company. One dining experience not to miss is khun Benz restaurant, which is a part of Soneva kiri on the north of the island. Tucked away at the back of klong Yai kee river, khun Benz showcases Thai cooking at its best. Benz, who hails from Phang Nga, offers no m e n u b ut c re a te s a d a i ly multi-course dinner based on whats available. Enjoy Vietnamese-style filtered coffees, freshly If you have a little cash to baked banana cake and homemade yoghurt by the beach. spare, stay for a few nights at Soneva kiri koh kood. Comthe island, however, is mostly un- pleted in 2009, the third Sonevacharted steep slopes and cliffs: if branded resort introduced the you want to explore, youll need to concept of intelligent luxury to hire a boat. koh kood. Soneva kiri defines that klong Mad community in the luxury is nature itself, offering spanorth is the islands centre and the cious villas tucked neatly amidst oldest village. This is where most the tropical forest. local people live, work, go to If you cherish nature, koh kood school or consult a doctor. There is a real paradise on earth. What are some local restaurants though could possibly be better than
April 20-May 3, 2012

Explore villas hidden deep in the forests

ExpLORE

Go kayaking around the island and explore its mangroves and waterfalls

lazing around the casuarinas trees with f ine powdery white sand under your feet and nothing on the horizon but the sea? Just pray the developers dont find a way of building here too.

if YOu gO

rat is less than 400 kilometres from Bangkok and takes about four or five hours by car along Highway 3 or 344. If you are taking a speedboat or ferry to Koh Kood, plan ahead because they only operate twice a day (morning and afternoon). Most resorts on the island will help you with ferry or speedboat ticketing and reservation. Private cars can be parked at the Laem Sok pier. Soneva Kiri Koh Kood operates its own daily flights on an 8-seater Cessna Grand Caravan from Suvannabhumi Airport to its landing strip on nearby Koh Mai See. Promotions are available for Thai residents through September. Visit www.SixSenses.com. Bangkok Airways (www. BangkokAirways.com) operates flights from Bangkok to Trat.

45

DATEBOOK

SEOU L

ORcHESTRA FESTIvAL
Top soloists, rising stars and up-and-coming conductors are all on the programme at Seoul Arts Centres Concert Hall during the spring Orchestra Festival. Orchestras from around the country visit to perform alongside the national Korean Symphony Orchestra. When: Until April 29 Info: www.sac.or.kr/eng
H ONG KO NG

LE FRENcH MAY
Some of the worlds biggest French-speaking stars perform at Le French May Arts Festival. Exquisite programmes ranging from visual arts, opera, classical and modern music, ballet, contemporary dance, theatre, cinema, multi-arts performances to fashion, as well as culinary arts. When: May to June Info: www.frenchmay.com

SI N GAPORE

FASHION FESTIvAL
While many catwalk shows across the world are open solely for industry insiders and style journalists, Singapores Fashion Festival bucks the trend. The buzzing runway shows and

red carpet after-parties on Orchard Road are open to the public. Fashion power houses from across the world showcase their latest designs at the shows. When: May Info: www.audifashionfestival.com

TO KYO

DESIGN FESTA
Design Festa at Tokyo Big Sight sees artists from across the world come together and showcase their works under one roof. Browse the creative talent on display in the booths and catch live entertainment in the performance and music areas. When: May Info: www.designfesta.com/ index_en 46

BEI J I N G

STRAWbERRY MUSIc FESTIvAL


The Strawberry Music Festival shows how huge the Chinese indie music scene is right now. Beijings Haidian Park is packed with fans eager to catch well-known international acts and local bands giving their own distinct take on the genre.

When: April to May Info: www.festival.modernsky.com April 20-May 3, 2012

For more information www.facebook.com/stateofthenation2

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