Asian Insider, Sept 25: Anwar’s rise shows ‘new Malaysia’ more about power than policy, Young women throng Thai protests, China finds first asymptomatic cases in 35 days

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: Anwar’s rise shows ‘new Malaysia’ more about power than policy, Young women take front-line role in Thai protests, China finds first asymptomatic cases in 35 days at Qingdao Port, India seeks to reform its cumbersome bureaucracy, Thai airways opens flight simulators to public for extra cash, and more.

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After waiting for decades to take power in Malaysia, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim this week claimed to have a “convincing” majority to unseat PM Muhyiddin Yassin, and vowed to prove the numbers in a meeting with Malaysia’s monarch that has yet to be scheduled.

Mr Anwar has paid a “high price” over the years and now wants to make his mark, said Malaysia analyst Greg Lopez, who thinks Mr Anwar has the necessary skills to manoeuvre Malaysia – or at least he won’t do any more damage than any of the other prime ministers.

Go deeper: 

PAS demands explanation over Umno MPs’ alleged shift of support to Anwar

Anwar shock adds to risks besieging Malaysian assets

Malaysia Correspondent Ram Anand: Infighting continues to dog PM Muhyiddin’s GRS in lead-up to Sabah polls, amid fresh questions over majority


As tens of thousands of people have gathered for a series of pro-democracy protests in Thailand in recent weeks, their ranks have been dominated by an emerging political force: young women. Women are increasingly speaking out against a patriarchy that has long controlled the military, the monarchy and the Buddhist monkhood, Thailand’s most powerful institutions.

“The male supremacy society has been growing since the coup,” said women’s rights activist Chumaporn Taengkliang, referring to the 2014 coup orchestrated by now prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. “Women are not taking the back seat.”

Read more: 

Thai republican hashtag trends after vote on Constitution change pushed back

‘Our first dictatorship is school’: Thai kids revolt


China detected its first local asymptomatic infections in more than a month as two port workers responsible for unloading frozen seafood tested positive, adding to alarm that contaminated imports could be transmitting the coronavirus.

The two cases, found in Shandong province’s Qingdao city during routine testing of port workers, were the first symptom-free infections that China has reported since Aug 20. The new cases will intensify concern in China over whether imported products are infectious.

For more Covid-19 stories:

Indonesia hits consecutive record highs in coronavirus cases

Myanmar extends travel ban to quell coronavirus surge ahead of election

South Korea to tighten social distancing curbs during two holiday weeks

Get the latest Covid-19 updates at our dedicated website.


India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attempting a feat which his predecessors have failed: streamlining the bureaucracy and cutting through the red tape. The Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Dr Jitendra Singh, tells India Bureau Chief Nirmala Ganapathy that a 5.1 billion rupee (S$95 million) programme that trains bureaucrats to be “innovative, capable of decision-making and technologically enabled” would be overseen by a council headed by Mr Modi.

The reforms – which would encourage specialisation in a system where civil servants are often seen as “generalists” – includes the setting up of an online system to match bureaucrats with the right job, said Dr Singh. But critics remain sceptical, saying the reforms do not go far enough.

Read also:

Indian PM Modi has fruitful 10 days in Parliament, with about 25 Bills passed


Thai Airways International is opening up its Airbus and Boeing flight simulators to the public, seeking a fresh revenue source amid the travel slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Customers can get into a mock cockpit of an Airbus A380, Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 737-400 starting next month, said the flagship carrier, which is coping with a debt restructuring under bankruptcy court. 

The 60-year-old carrier is facing one of its biggest challenges as travel restrictions pummel Thailand’s tourism industry. The company is restructuring about 350 billion baht (S$15.25 billion) of debt after receiving court approval on Sept 14.


KIM JONG UN OFFERS RARE APOLOGY FOR KILLING OF SOUTH KOREAN: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apologised on Friday for the shooting death of a South Korean man to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the South’s national security adviser said, as public and political outrage over the killing grew. The apology came in a letter from the North’s United Front Department, which handles cross-border ties, to South Korean President Moon Jae-in a day after South Korean officials said the North’s soldiers killed the man, doused his body in fuel and set it on fire. 

US SENATORS URGE NETFLIX TO DROP PLANNED CHINESE SCI-FI SERIES: Five Republican US senators have urged Netflix Inc to reconsider plans to adapt a Chinese science-fiction book trilogy into a TV series because they said the author has defended the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims. The Three-Body Problem and two sequels were written by Chinese author Liu Cixin. Netflix announced earlier this month that it was turning the books into a live-action, English-language TV series led by D.B Weiss and David Benioff, the creators of HBO megahit Game Of Thrones.

YEO YANN YANN GETS INTERNATIONAL EMMY NOMINATION FOR BEST ACTRESS: Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann has been nominated for an International Emmy Award for her role in the HBO Asia original Invisible Stories – a six-part series created by home-grown director Ler Jiyuan. Invisible Stories is shot entirely on location in Singapore and delves into the untold stories of the Singaporean heartland-dweller. It is available to stream on HBO Go. Yeo, 43, was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress.

That’s it for today. Hope you enjoyed today’s stories, and do check back next week for more insightful reads.

Choo Kiong

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