Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Burma

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Memoriam

September 11, or 911, has been etched into the psyche of many since that day when two Boeing 747 jets full of passengers deliberately crashed into each of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. I rose up that morning to prepare to go to work. As was my custom then, I switched on CNN and let it run while I busied myself getting ready, but there was nothing more busy then than what was appearing on my TV screen that morning.

Over and over, the news replayed the scenes where 2 planes, one after another, drove straight into the World Trade Center buildings, causing them to eventually collapse like a deck of cards, carrying everyone in the buildings with them, including the firemen who had entered the building earlier to rescue people from the towering infernos . My mother, who lived with me then, also witness the scenes, but she seemed nonchalant, as if these things happen all the time. You can't blame her. In her time, she has lived through the Second World War and seen more destruction and brutality and on a much wider scale and intensity than what was showing on TV that day.

Nevertheless, this latest drama was incredulous, it was terrible, it was shocking, and the enormity of the tragedy was yet unfolding though the actual incident had taken place 6 hours earlier half way across the world from where I lived. At work that day, I heard the first people mouthing '911' as if there was no other way to refer to the horror of the incident except through a coded reference. The Chinese media used the same numbers (jiu yao yao) to refer to the incident. I imagine that every other language on earth, including Arabic, used those same numbers.

On this day, 11th September, 2007, six years to the day that that tragedy occurred, we remember the over 3000 innocent people who died in the Towers, we remember the heroism of the firemen who died in the line of duty and we remember the reporters weeping while they reported on the incident near ground zero - it was heart-wrenching to watch these same reporters overcome with grief and yet having to bring the news of the terrible tragedy to the rest of the shocked world.

Of the men and organisations that perpetrated this atrocity, we remember them as we remember people like Hitler, nay, infinitely worst than Hitler. It would not be far from the truth if we remember them as we think of what Satan looked like. Ironically, their action was done in the name of their Islamic God. People of the west in the last 20 years or so had begun to be enamoured of the Islamic religion. Droves were abandoning their age-old religions and converting over to it. After 911, it was timeout and re-evaluation. I would like to think that this has nothing to do with Islam, but somehow, over the last six years, the association has stuck because the terrorists keep on invoking the name of their Islamic God while the moderates among them stand by quietly as if in acquiecense.

6 years on, these Islamic terrorists are still alive and bombing. 6 years on, the moderate and the faithful among the mighty Islamic faith have done little to effectively dent the extreme elements among them. 6 years on, we still have to take off our shoes in some airports, not because we need to walk on holy ground, but to show that we are not terrorists. 6 years on, countries still put up a security wall rivaling the Great Wall of China whenever any event involving 'Westerners' are staged. 6 years on, cities from London to Madrid to Islamabad still suffer aftershocks of 911.

We would like the 3000 odd people to rest in peace, but, sadly, the world continues its war on terror.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Power and Immunity

It has been reported that Hyundai Motor's Chairman, Mr Chung Mong-Koo, will not be doing jail time even though he was convicted by the 3-judge Seoul High Court for embezzlement because he was deemed too important to the Korean economy. Apparently, Mr Chung is a very hands-on CEO at Hyundai Motor, reputedly the world's 6th largest, in more ways than one (wink-wink). The court reckoned his doing time in jail (he was sentenced to 3 years) would do more harm to the economy and that therefore, he shouldn't be kept in the slammer.

I have never heard a more ridiculous argument from the bench. The less-than-learned judge said, "I am also a citizen of the Republic of Korea...I was unwilling to engage in a gamble that would put the (nation's economy) at risk." Did Judge Lee Jae-hong just deify Mr Chung? In the days when Korea had emperors, this statement, if it referred to the emperor, would have been accepted without question. But in democratic Korea where even its Presidents have been sued and thrown out ever so often?

There is a lesson to be learnt here. If you want to succeed in life and gain immunity from the law, don't do politics. Instead, set up a business and gain influence as much as possible. As far as South Korea goes, that's your ticket to doing whatever you want. The law will always stand on your side, never mind if you are crooked and rotten to the core.

The law in South Korea has sunk to a new low.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Great Al Qaeda Bluff

It would appear that Osama bin Laden is either too dead or too tired to make a new video. Al Qaeda just pushed out a Osama video to remind the whole that the dead and tired old man is still very much alive. If he were alive, he would have made a new video. In this day and age, it isn't difficult nor expensive to make a video at all, unless the subject of the video wants to pretend he is alive on video when he is actually dead. Now that's a miracle that Osama has yet to perform.

Al Qaeda should stop doing this because its credibility - i.e. its inability - in making a video of a really live and kicking Osama is rapidly receding. While the US and probably Britain take these videos seriously, for the rest of the whole, it is one old tired bluff.

Bug off, Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Truth be told

Japan's just-resigned Defence Minister may have committed a gaffe in Japan, but in the rest of Asia, we cannot agree more with him. He said that the US could not be blamed for dropping the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki towards the end of World War II.

Whatever the Japanese's feelings about the massive destruction and deaths on and in these two cities, there was greater grief and suffering by the people in rest of Asia in those war years. My parents lost the best years of their lives running away from the Japan Imperial Army and living in the countryside planting and eating tapioca. What Mr Kyuma said may or may not be correct. But he is not far from the truth that the war in the Far East and the Pacific would have gone on for much longer had it not been for the fortuitous dropping of those bombs on the two cities. Correspondingly, my parents would have had to endure much longer the oppression of the Japanese regime in this part of the world. The bombs immediately deflated the arrogance and ruthlessness of the Japanese war regime then and inadvertently led to Japan instituting and maintaining a pacifist stance ever since.

Were it not for this pacifist stance and the strong but benign support of the US after the war, Japan would not have recovered so fast and become so successful in leading the industrial world today.

The US celebrates its Independence Day today. Let Asia, including Japan, be reminded once again of VJ day and the probable role that the two bombs that the US unleashed had in it.

Mr Kyuma, thank you for reminding the world about the truth.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Legend of the undead

No, I am not referring to vampires. But it does seem like Osama bin Laden is becoming an undead species - though perhaps not a vampire.

More than 5 years have passed since the world saw credible pictures/videos of him alive. Since then, all claims of his still being alive have been backed by Al Qaeda who claim that they have had communications with him. These 'evidence' have turned out to be fiction at best, deception at worst. Now, a chief of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia, Mr Mansoor Dadullahsaid, has said that he received a letter of condolence from OBL over his brother, Mullah Dadullah's martyrdoom at the hands of US-led forces recently.

One thing Al Qaeda seem to be doing well is to perpetuate the myth that OBL is still alive. Given his penchant for showmanship (while he was alive), OBL seems to be uncharacteristically quiet for more than 5 years now. He can't speak for himself anymore - he appears in worn videos and he sends greeting cards and furtive messages from time to time. But he doesn't appear in person.

Conclusion: OBL is as dead as the stone in the mountains of Afghanistan. His memory, though, still lives strongly, continuing to bring a threat over mankind.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Oppression of the law

This is a sad day for justice. First, we learn that the highest Civil Court in Thailand today - the 9-member Constitutional Tribunal - has ruled that the political party set up by Thaksin Shinawatra - Thai Rak Thai (TRT) - has violated election laws and henceforth will be de-registered. On the other hand, Thailand's oldest political party, the Democrat Party has been absolved of any wrong doing although it was implicated in a case for which the TRT was found guilty.

Go figure.

Second, Malaysia's highest Civilian Court just ruled that they do not have jurisdiction over the case of a Christian convert (from Islam), one Lina Joy, who petitioned the same court to have the religion recorded on her Indentity Card to be amended to Christian from its current Islam. Why is this important? Well, if the record on her IC is not changed, she cannot marry a non-Muslim. She is in effect bound never to be married, and never be able to bear a child, so long as she remains under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Courts, where the Shariah reigns supreme. The land's highest Civil Court has just abdicated its responsibility to uphold justice and freedom for all Malaysians, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikhs, etc. by refusing to be drawn into any matter that has anything to do with the state religion, Islam. It is basically saying that it is incompetent of dealing with any matters that involves Islam, even when that matter involves people who are not Muslims.

Malaysian Muslims and Thailand's current political masters may feel vindicated, but they have merely made use of the highest Court in the land to rubber-stamp their oppressive behaviour. Truly, there is no justice, but only power. Power to oppress, power to sway, power to corrupt, power to silence, This is because the law has abdicated its responsibility to right wrongs.

This is a sad day in Thailand and Malaysia. The Law should hang its head in shame.

Straits Times - Thai Security Clampdown
France 24 - Thaksin's party to be disbanded

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Letters that spell
Taken ahead of time
In their prime
Promises lost
Never to be realized
Questions unanswered
Pain excruciating
Anger unbridled
Will Madness never cease
In this mad mad mad world?
It won't be the last
Though the grief
and the loss
will last
an eternity

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Expletive as language

ShitThe other day, a student used the 'shit' word on stage in front of over 200 parents and teachers. She didn't mean to offend anymore, nor was she berating at anyone. She was relating a conversation that she had had with her friends who were studying in another school. It was a paraphrase of this conversation and the 'shit' word seem to come out naturally. I don't know what the parents thought as this came out of the mouth of one of the school's top students. The teachers must have squirmed in their seats, feeling uncomfortable, not knowing what the parents thought of the way that they nurtured their best students. President George W Bush, a fervent Christian, was himself caught uttering this word unwares when referring to the conflict in the Middle East some months ago.

The 'shit' word is becoming rather common, much as the f**k word has in movies. But in movies, and elsewhere, the f**k word remains an expletive whereas the 'shit' word is increasingly used as a word to express emphasis, sometimes frustration and often almost as a sort of exclamation that the word 'damn' is used. This is not my opinion only. Wynrub wrote a book analysing expletives and the way and purpose expletives are used in society today. She concluded that some expletives are no longer used in the derogatory / foul connotation, but more to express valid emotions in conversations. Going by this recent experience of mine, I cannot agree more with her. Language evolves over time. This has been true from time inmemorial. So therefore, language standards shift, albeit inperceptibly. The next wave of change will surely come from the almost universal use of SMS language. In this case, the change might take on a leap instead of a quiet shift. Therefore those who still clinge on to a standard will be fighting a losing battle.

In any case, a person can speak and use the language's 'standard', but will switch to a more informal version in informal settings. The fact that a person speaks a non-standard form does not necessarily mean that he/she doesn't know the standard form and use it in an appropriate setting. One of the most unnatural and difficult things about carrying on in a standardised language is the frustration of getting your ideas across in quicker. So it is natural and necessary to revert to a local form. That way, people tend to identify with you more easily because they speak the same dialect as you, including using newly non-expletives expletives.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Toothless Nark Puggsin

I pity Thailand nowadays. Its military leaders do not seem to be able to get anything right. I do not doubt their sincerity in getting Thailand back on track, economically and socially. Only, there are 'professional protesters' standing by, ready to stage protests once an unpopular decision is made, like that of the appointment of Mr Somkid, once the No. 2 in the Thaksin government, to a senior government position.

The threat of protest forced the government and Mr Somkid to back down. Now I wonder why these protesters (read: PAD) are not the government instead? They seem to wield veto power over government decisions. But of course we know that there are talkers and there are doers. Unfortunately, in Thailand today, the talkers hold sway. And so long as this is so, the government, military or otherwise, cannot expect to do much. The No. 1 task is to keep these people's mouth shut. In fact, if not for these protesters, Thailand wouldn't be in the state it is in today. OK, so the Thaksin government is seen to be corrupt, but the situation hadn't degenerated to one of dictatorship. The constitutional process of government change through elections should have been taken instead of mass protests. You say that Thaksin's control is so strong that it is impossible to unseat him through the polls? But is a military coup an appropriate answer? I doubt many will say it is. Mass protests only presents half the answer, it is silent on the other half when the doing needs to be done.

My only regret over the entire episode is that I cannot visit Thailand nowadays without thinking twice. Vietnam looks to be a more attractive destination, business and holiday-wise. Heck, even Burma seem more peaceful.

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