Some Thursday ASEAN links:
According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency, February was the city-state’s driest month since 1869. Singaporeans experienced brief showers during only seven days of the 28-day month, with some regions getting as little as 0.2 mm of precipitation. The ongoing drought threatens food production and has some residents concerned about price hikes and a slowdown of the economy at large.
Perhaps even more concerning is the prospect of water rationing – a policy that was put into effect in neighboring Malaysia last month. Singapore’s public water utility has urged citizens to conserve water as much as possible for the time being.
“While Singapore relies on Malaysia for about 60 percent of its water imports, experts say that the country’s recent efforts in desalination and recycled water technology have made it much less reliant on neighboring countries,” wrote BBC. “Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Vivian Balakrishnan, has said that new technologies could provide about 55 percent of the country’s demand for water regardless of rainfall.”
Weak or nonexistent rainfall has many ASEAN nations on high alert. Forest fires are raging in Indonesia, heightening tensions about the availability of one of the region’s most lucrative exports: palm oil. Seasonal haze as a result of forest fires has plagued Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in recent years. Slash-and-burn farming, aided by the dry conditions, is often cited as the root cause.
Meanwhile, Filipinos are outraged over the public punishment of man who was forced to wear a sign that read “I am a thief.”
Mayor Thony Halili allegedly forced the accused to take the walk of shame after being caught stealing a bag of dried fish from a public market. His hands were tied behind his back, with the bag of fish left hanging from the knot. Government security personnel paraded him around the market, on video, before forcing him to beg for forgiveness on his hands and knees.
“There is a clear, gross violation of human rights here,” Loretta Ann Rosales, the chief of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, told AFP. “While he was not physically harmed, he was treated with indignity and psychologically punished. Only the court can determine guilt and punishment. There was no due process.”
The video, which was uploaded to YouTube and shared on the mayor’s Facebook page, was reportedly shared more than 1,000 times. The comments were largely filled with anger and disgust.
Over in Malaysia, Deputy Education Minister Il P. Kamalanathan reported that 10 children have died from dengue fever since January.
“The ministry views the alarming rate of increase in dengue cases seriously and we are working closely with the Health Ministry to keep the situation under control,” Kamalanathan said during a press briefing yesterday, after kicking off the annual Dengue Patrol Program.
He urged schools to focus on cleanliness and to clear surrounding areas that may contain mosquito breeding grounds.