ASEAN links for Thursday:
The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, compares Xi Jinping to Nelson Mandela in his new book. Lee, who will turn 90 years old next month, said of the Chinese president: “He struck me as a man of great breadth. I would put him in the Nelson Mandela class of persons.” The former prime minister’s book, released yesterday, is titled One Man’s View of the World. Many attribute Singapore’s economic success to Lee’s strict oversight.
Speaking of economics – Goldman Sachs estimates that emerging Southeast Asian countries will have to invest $300 billion toward improving transportation infrastructure through the year 2020. Traffic bottlenecks are hurting Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, creating missed opportunities for increased financial growth. For example, Bloomberg reported that “the cost of transporting goods in Indonesia as a proportion of gross domestic product was 24.6 percent in 2011, more than double the 9.9 percent of GDP in the U.S.”
Indonesia is also reeling from the bombing of a Buddhist school on Sunday night. Witnesses claimed to hear two separate explosions at the Ekayana Buddhist Vihara in western Jakarta. Three people were injured. Buddhists account for less than one percent of Indonesia’s population – nearly 90 percent of which is Muslim.
The head of Indonesia’s National Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman, claimed that the bombing could have been initiated by Rohingya Muslims, a group who faces persecution at the hands of Buddhists in Myanmar. “I think the perpetrators were just aiming to make a mess here. They tried to provoke Buddhists and Muslims,” Norman said in an interview with The Jakarta Post.
Six blasts also rocked Mindano in the Philippines yesterday, just two days after eight people were killed and 40 were injured in a separate car bomb attack in Cotabato City. The blasts have been attributed to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The region is also struggling through power outages caused by extensive flooding.
Wednesday’s bombing wounded seven members of the Philippine armed forces, but no deaths have been reported. According to The Manila Standard, a United Nationalist Alliance official said that the bombings, blackouts and flooding resulted in three national conventions slated to be hosted this year by Mindanao having been cancelled.
Finally, in an effort to woo Thai tourists across the border, Malaysia has announced plans to develop a new tourist area between the two countries. The construction will take place in the town of Bukit Kayu Hitam, in Kedah state, directly opposite of the Sadao checkpoint that links southern Thailand and northern Malaysia. According to The Bangkok Post, “Last year 2.5 million visitors from Malaysia travelled to Thailand, a 2.17 percent rise year-on-year, the department said. But only 1.26 million Thais went in the other direction, a 12.4 perce drop.”
J.T. Quigley is assistant editor of The Diplomat.