Thailand’s destructive political crisis is on the brink of its most
dangerous phase yet as the prime minister’s opponents press for a “judicial
coup” that critics claim risks tipping the country into dictatorship or even
Supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration have vowed to rise to
defend her if the country’s legal institutions eject her from office via two
cases due to conclude in the next few weeks.
The deadly conflict crippling southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has
become an increasingly naked struggle between a cronyist but electorally
dominant movement centred on Ms Yingluck’s family and an establishment
elite-driven opposition determined to oust it.
Jatuporn Prompan, new leader of the pro-government “red shirt” movement,
warned this month of civil war if democracy was “stolen” via a “coup” by
“If the court verdict comes out against the prime minister, we can expect
some turbulence,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, an academic and ex-spokesman
for the previous opposition Democrat-led government. “The military and the
police must be able to stabilise the situation.”
Thailand’s constitutional court is expected soon to rule on whether Ms
Yingluck should be forced to step down over her replacement in 2011 of
Thawil Pliensri as national security chief, allegedly to allow her to
promote a relation by marriage to the post of police chief.
The court – which has fast-tracked a petition on the case submitted last
month by opposition senators – is due to rule on Wednesday on whether to
allow the prime minister more time to mount a defence, or whether to move
straight to a verdict.
Ms Yingluck could also be ejected by a separate case at the National
Anti-Corruption Commission, which is due soon to recommend whether she
should be impeached for alleged dereliction of duty over her handling of a
financially disastrous government rice subsidy scheme. The premier, who has
faced months of street protests, denies all the allegations against her.
The institutions and their defenders say they are acting according to the
law, adding that the wide powers they enjoy – including a role in appointing
half of the Senate – are justified because of the need to secure Thailand’s
Critics however say there is a risk the legal cases simply provide more
evidence of the pro-establishment bias of the country’s institutions, after
a blizzard of rulings that have paid little heed to popular electoral
mandates, parliamentary sovereignty or fair judicial process.
The courts have made a series of sweeping judgments dismissing elected
officials and dissolving political parties, including sacking two prime
ministers in 2008 – one because he received payments for a television
cooking show he had presented before taking office.
Kaewmala, a popular pseudonymous social media commentator, said the
country’s legal and regulatory institutions were proving anything but
“guardians of democracy”.
“In fact they are doing exactly what they were designed to do,” she said.
“It has little to do with democracy, but [is] a preservation of the old
elite power and interests.”
If the court verdict comes out against the prime minister, we can expect
some turbulence. The military and the police must be able to stabilise the
- Panitan Wattanayagorn
The constitutional court defended its treatment of the national security
adviser case, stressing that it had not yet made its decision or even set a
date for a verdict.
The increasingly contentious role of bodies such as the Constitutional
Court, the corruption commission and the national election commission goes
to the heart of an eight-year on-off crisis that sets the traditional urban
elite against rural voters loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the self-exiled
plutocrat former premier and Ms Yingluck’s brother.
While Thailand is nominally a parliamentary democracy, it has been plagued
by military coups for decades and still retains a prominent monarchy
protected by lèse-majesté laws carrying jail terms of up to 15 years.
But the country’s historic balance of power has grown progressively more
unstable amid social change, concerns over the succession to the
near-68-year rule of the octogenarian King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the
destruction of the old establishment’s political hegemony by Mr Thaksin and
his allies through a succession of election wins since 2001.
airport to open - at last
23 April 2014
Qatar’s new Hamad
International Airport (HIA) will open to all airlines, including the
country’s national carrier, at the end of May, according to a circular
issued by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA).
A Doha International Airport spokesperson confirmed the information to Doha
News this afternoon. The circular was issued shortly after the QCAA set a
soft launch date of April 30 for 10 budget carriers.
The new memo states that as of 9am on May 27, “all airlines shall entirely
move to Hamad International Airport.”
Thus far, no public statement has been made about either the soft launch or
the full opening by any of the airport’s main players. Oddly airport
spokespeople could not confirm when the airport would open. And Qatar
Airways, the airport operator, was unavailable for comment.
Additionally, while the Federal Aviation Authority’s website contains a
notice about the April 30 launch (and the opening of only one runway), there
is no mention yet of flights flying out on May 27.
The long-awaited move to HIA means that Qatar Airways’ first three A380s -
which are due to arrive in June, more than six months behind schedule –
would be able to operate out of an airport with facilities designed to
accommodate the double-decker aircraft.
The $15.5 billion airport was supposed to be completed in 2009, and has
missed several opening deadlines since then, including on Dec. 12, 2012
(12/12/12) and April 1, 2013, when the launch was scrapped an hour before a
plane was set to land there.
The exact reason for the delays remains unclear, though last year, Civil
Defense safety approvals were not met. More recently, officials have
suggested that the airport’s premium facilities and lounges were awaiting
Meanwhile, DIA has been struggling to accommodate an ever-growing passenger
load. Some 2 million people have been traveling through the airport each
month, straining services such as parking facilities, passport control,
and that has transit facilities that are close to a nightmare.
A sombre Thai new year
20 April 2014
Last Sunday was
the Thai new year and also the day that my wife lost her Dad. He had been
out with one of his friends. No doubt they had shared a few drinks. They
were on his friend's ageing motorcycle when it crashed. Neither men were
wearing a helmet. This is typical in rural Thailand.
Tai's father died
without recovering consciousness. His friend, who was driving, remains in
Tai's parents had
lived apart for years. But they had never divorced. Although apart, they lived
in the same village that they both grew up in. They are both well known
among the local community. The community comes together in death though it
is not an easy time and the temple becomes a daily meeting place.
In Thailand the
funeral rites are the most elaborate of all the life-cycle ceremonies and
the ones entered into most fully by the monks. It is a basic teaching of
Buddhism that existence is suffering, whether birth, daily living, old age
The monks will chant the sutras for the deceased, and conduct all
the funeral rites and memorial services. Conducting the rites for the
dead is one of the indispensable services rendered to the community by the
monks. The temples also house the crematory for the community. There is no
rival in secular society.
The idea that death is suffering, relieved only by the knowledge that it is
universal, gives an underlying mood of resignation to funerals. Even so for
most Thais there is the expectation of rebirth either in this world, in the
heaven of Indra or some other, or in another plane of existence, possibly as
a spirit. Over the basic mood of gloom there has grown up a belief that acts
of merit can aid the condition of the departed. For this reason relatives do
what they can to ameliorate their condition.
Perhaps this is especially true when a death is sudden and unexpected.
Usually a day
after death a
bathing ceremony takes place in which relatives and friends pour water over
one hand of the deceased. Because of the holiday this was done on the second
day. This is also when friends and relatives may look at the face of the
deceased. After head injuries this is not easy to do. The body is then placed in a coffin and surrounded
with wreaths, candles and sticks of incense. The coffin is purchased by the
The coffin in placed on a raised platform; a photograph of the deceased is
placed alongside, coloured lights are suspended around the coffin and
flowers and wreaths are displayed. Sornklin, a species of traditional
funerary flowers — the name literally means "hide the smell" — are arranged
around the coffin.
It is worth noting
that to make merit for the dead funerals are not cheap affairs; the coffin
and flowers need to be bought. Food must be provided each day for guests.
The amount of organisation is remarkable and having close friends and family
to help is critical.
The body can be
kept at home or (as Tai's family did) at a temple where prayers are chanted by monks
each evening for the
deceased’s soul. Visitors will join the prayers. And the deceased's family
will offer food to the guests. This normally lasts for three, five or seven days depending
on the host or number of hosts (the bereaved from the extended family or
community can be invited or can offer to host prayers).
Cremation took place at the temple. Though I was not able to attend as I was
meeting Alex in Rome for Easter weekend. There were some 500 guests at the
cremation. The family cook breakfast and lunch for the monks earlier in the
day. All the guests receive a small gift from the family. Many guests
will also give small amounts of money to the family.
A Thai music group is often hired to play at the cremation (and Tai's family
did this) as another way to banish sorrow,
loneliness and the fear of spirits through music and fellowship. It is
the duty of the family to surround the deceased with as many people as
possible until the soul has found a new home and is reborn.
And in death it is
generous to forgive unhappiness and difficult times. Tai's mother was
generous, strong, hard-working, considerate beyond expectations and more. In
difficult times she really was the central rock of the family. Maybe she
always has been. But her dignity in death was a lesson for us all.
schedule changes during DXB runway closure
20 April 2014
Dubai – Amman
Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Amsterdam Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Bahrain Reduced from 21 to 13 weekly
Dubai – Bangalore Reduced from 3 to 2 daily
Dubai – Bangkok Reduced from 6 to 4 daily
Dubai – Beirut Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Cairo Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Cape Town Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Colombo Reduced from 17 to 7 weekly
Dubai – Colombo – Singapore 1 daily service cancelled
Dubai – Delhi Reduced from 4 to 3 daily
Dubai – Doha Reduced from 42 to 20 weekly
Dubai – Frankfurt Reduced from 3 to 2 daily
Dubai – Hamburg Reduced from 14 to 10 weekly
Dubai – Ho Chi Minh City Reduced from 7 to 5 weekly
Dubai – Hong Kong Reduced from 3 to 2 daily
Dubai – Johannesburg Reduced from 3 to 2 daily
Dubai – Karachi Reduced from 5 to 4 daily
Dubai – Kuala Lumpur Reduced from 4 to 3 daily
Dubai – Lagos Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Mauritius Service reduced from 14 to 13 weekly
Dubai – Milan Malpensa Reduced from 3 to 2 daily
Dubai – Moscow Domodedovo Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Mumbai Reduced from 5 to 4 daily
Dubai – Munich Reduced from 14 to 13 weekly
Dubai – Muscat Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Nairobi Reduced from 2 to 1 daily
Dubai – Perth Reduced from 3 to 2 daily
Dubai – Phuket Service reduced from 7 to 6 weekly (this will become 5 times
weekly from 02JUN14, and 4 times weekly from 01JUL14).
Dubai – Riyadh Reduced from 28 to 14 weekly
Dubai – Seychelles Reduced from 12 to 7 weekly
Dubai – St. Petersburg Service reduced from 7 to 6 weekly
Dubai – Tehran Reduced from 3 to 2 daily
Dubai – Tunis Reduced from 7 to 4 weekly
Dubai – Zurich Service reduced from 14 to 13 weekly
There are also
timetable changes so passengers should check flight time carefully when
making or confirming a booking during these 80 days.
to DWC during Dubai runway closure
19 April 2014
Fourteen airlines have reserved slots for flights
at Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) while major runway
upgrade work is carried out at Dubai International Airport. The upgrade work, which is designed to improve
safety, service and capacity levels, will begin on May 1 and is set to last
for 80 days.
flydubai (some flights), PAL
Express, Jet Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Yemenia Airlines, Equatorial
Congo Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Ural Airlines are relocating from
All Emirates Airline flights will continue to operate
out of Dubai International. Emirates Airline said on Thursday it will be
forced to reduce flights to 41 destinations during the 80-day period of
runway upgrading works at Dubai International, which start on May 1.
Emirates said in a statement that its revenues will be hit to the tune of
Dh1 billion ($272 million) as it grounds 20 aircraft in May, 22 in June, and
22 in July.
The number of flights at Dubai International will be reduced by 26 per cent
while the refurbishment of the runways is carried out.
Dubai Airports is urging passengers to check their flight details to confirm
which airport they will be travelling from and arriving at.
“We have planned this project to optimise capacity while protecting service
levels and, in conjunction with Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects,
airlines and other stakeholders, have deployed all the resources necessary
to make it as smooth and seamless as possible,” said Paul Griffiths, the
Dubai Airports chief executive.
I do hope these words
will not come back to haunt him!
Some airlines are
moving flights to Sharjah during the runway closure including Sri Lankan
Airlines who will move one of their daily DXB flights. SHJ is a former
destination of theirs
Dubai International has recorded seven consecutive months of double-digit
growth and overtook London Heathrow as the largest airport in the world in
terms of the number of international passengers for the first two months of
the year, amassing 5.6 million passengers in February alone.
However, Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, the director general, General Civil
Aviation Authority (GCAA), said last week that the airport needs to find a
way to use both of its runways simultaneously to avoid exceeding its
realistically Dubai needs to accelerate the development of DWC and to
encourage some airlines to move there on a full time basis.
The flight of MH370
11 April 2014
As the search is
hopefully closing in on the final resting place of flight MH370 which went
missing 5 weeks ago this is the latest map of the likely route taken by the
flight. There is of course still no explanation of what happened on board
biggest move during DXB runway closure
11 April 2014
hometown airlines have taken very different approaches to the issues created
by the three month runway closures at Dubai's international airport.
depends so heavily on connectivity is reducing flights by about 25% during
maintaining a full flight schedule but is moving many of its flights to the
new Al Maktoum International (DWC) at Jebel Ali between 30 April and 21 July
flydubai will move flights departing to and arriving from: Ahmedabad,
Chittagong, Jeddah*, Kiev Zhulyany, Odessa, Amman*, Colombo, Kabul*,
Kuwait*, Riyadh*, Bahrain*, Dammam*, Kathmandu*, Malé (Maldives),
Samara, Beirut, Doha*, Kazan, Mattala, Ufa, Chisinau, Donetsk,
Khartoum*, Muscat* and Yekaterinburg
*Indicates that flight operations to and from this destination are spilt
between Al Maktoum International (DWC) and Terminal 2 at Dubai International
(DXB). Passengers should check the flydubai flight schedules carefully when
making a booking
If you’ve already
booked a flight, you can check your booking confirmation. All flight numbers
for flydubai services operating into and out of Al Maktoum International (DWC)
will have 4 digits and begin with the number 5 (e.g. FZ 5XXX).
If you arrive at
Al Maktoum International (DWC) and need to connect to another flight
departing from Dubai International (DXB), you will need to enter the UAE
(clearing customs and immigration) and collect your checked baggage. The
same applies if you arrive at Dubai International (DXB) and need to connect
to another flight departing from Al Maktoum International (DWC). Passengers
should check whether you need a visa to enter the UAE and ensure they have
sufficient time to travel to the connecting airport.
If you have
already booked your flight and find that it has now moved to Al Maktoum too
bad; the airline's standard rules for changing or cancelling a booking apply
whether a passenger travels into and out of Al Maktoum International (DWC)
or Dubai International (DXB).
flights per week at Dubai's Al Maktoum airport from May 1
11 April 2014
Meanwhile Dubai Airports is advising that more than 300 flights per week are
expected to be relocated to Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World
Central (DWC) in Jebel Ali during the 80-day runway refurbishment of Dubai
International Airport starting May 1, 2014.
this is less than fifty a day; many of them are presumably freighters. It is
hardly a clarion call for the new airfield. And a number of airlines are
relocating their flights to Sharjah during the runway closure. Sharjah is
better established as a full service airfield and is closer to downtown
Dubai and many residential areas than is Jebel Ali.
Dubai Airports says DWC will also serve as an alternate airport should any
flight be diverted due to bad weather or any other delays at Dubai
International (DXB). But it already does so this is hardly news.
So far, 17 airlines including flydubai, have confirmed their intent to
temporarily relocate their services to Dubai’s second airport from May 1 to
On April 30, Dnata will have to move equipment overnight to DWC to ensure
they are ready to receive flights that have relocated from Dubai
Dubai Airports says that it will also be using the airshow building to
process passengers should any flights be diverted. It will allow passengers
whose final destination is Dubai to clear immigration while those with
connecting flights to be flown or bussed back to Dubai International. It is
a sensible contingency plan. Let's hope the airshow buildings can withstand
any adverse weather; they failed notoriously during the airshow itself.
To help the smooth connection between the two airports Dubai Airports will
introduce a luxury bus service for passengers connecting between the two
If there are any
more details about the airlines moving to DWC and transport to downtown and
to DXB I will post the information on this site.
Court orders end of Emirates Milan to New York
11 April 2013
An Italian court
has ruled that Emirates cannot operate flights directly between Milan
Malpensa airport and New York, upholding a legal challenge brought against
the Gulf airline by the Italian carrier association Assaereo.
Assaereo, whose biggest member is domestic flagship airline Alitalia, had
complained that Italy's civil aviation authority ENAC had granted Emirates
the right to extend flights from Dubai to Malpensa onwards to New York's
John F Kennedy airport.
Delta Air Lines
has backed the suit.
The airlines have argued that the new service violates international
aviation laws. Alitalia, Delta and American are Emirates' main competitors
on the lucrative route.
Now to confuse the
issue it appears that Abu Dhabi based Etihad is likely to take an up to 40%
stake in loss-making Alitalia. Effectively Etihad would take control. There
are also rumours that Etihad would seek to merge Alitalia with its Air
Now did Etihad
support the legal challenge against its Dubai-based neighbour in order to
try and keep Alitalia competitive?
The Wall Street Journal reported that: "The airline industry has closely
watched the Emirates' flight, launched in October, as a sign of how three
fast-growing Persian Gulf-based carriers may pursue expansion beyond their
According to the court, Assaereo said in a statement on Thursday, the right
to use Milan as a stopover cannot be granted to a non-EU operator or a
carrier from a country which is neither the port of departure nor
destination, which in this case are Italy and the United States.
Emirates, which may appeal the decision, started to fly the Malpensa-New
York route in October last year. Emirates can apparently fly the route until
current permissions expire. developments.
So even though the
traffic rights have already been granted, the Italian authorities are now
saying “the route [Milan-New York] is already abundantly served by US and
Italian airlines. On the one side is the open skies argument. On the other
side there are the protectionists seeking to shore up the local airlines.
It does appear that the Milanese are unhappy with this decision. Writing on
Twitter, Roberto Maroni, president of the Lombardy region, says “The
decision is amazing and shameful, Rome continues to damage the North."
What the Italians are proposing flies in the face of international aviation
law. Fifth-freedom rights where governed by bilateral agreements are
enshrined in international aviation law. There are many examples in the EU
already of fifth-freedom services by non-EU airlines which have operated for
So airline experts are wondering if this ruling is really intended to remove
competition from struggling national airline Alitalia to encourage
investment by Abu Dhabi’s Etihad.
If Emirates do launch a legal challenge given the pace of the Italian legal
system functions it could be some time before the outcome is determined.
Oscar for best amateur dramatics
8 April 2014
This year's oscar
for best amateur dramatics may belong to Oscar Pistorius.
He has had a year
to prepare for this role in court and his tears and strong emotions must be
for the benefit of the public and the judge in his trial for the murder of
This appears to be
a guy who liked guns; a guy who always had a gun nearby. He had no problem
finding his gun. But could not find his girlfriend.
He is of course
the only person alive who knows what really happened that night. Was there a
fight. Was he in a rage. Did Steenkamp hide from him.
that there were intruders is his defense. Yet the house is in a secure
estate. How often do heavily-armed men with ladders climb up and open your
bathroom window in a secure estate?
was screaming & shouting even before shooting, yet Steenkamp, who was in the
bathroom, did not respond? The idea that Steenkamp
did not utter a sound throughout Pistorius' gun rampage is hard to believe.
The whole thing
sounds very rehearsed to me. Yet there are still big holes in the
story. I believe his remorse is genuine. Arguing premeditation is hard. Heat
of the moment; a crime of passion. A lost life. But the defense strategy is
clear; consistent story; emotional break downs. And later a cross-examination
that will be crippled by his
reasonable doubt. No one wins in this sorry story, except maybe the lawyers.
It does expose the rampant gun culture that exists in South Africa and maybe
the high profile case will lead to stronger legislation and control.
Margaret Thatcher began Britain's obsession with property. It's time to end
Observer (Worth showing in full and well worth a read - this is a very
real problem - not just in the UK)
In 1975, in her first speech as leader to the Conservative party conference,
Margaret Thatcher declared her belief in a "property-owning democracy". She
didn't invent the phrase – the 1920s Tory MP Noel Skelton should take the
credit for that, and the American liberal philosopher John Rawls picked it
up before she did – but it became the most distinctive of all her many
distinctive ideas, the one that most succinctly describes the Britain she
wanted to create.
Through thrift and hard work, went the theory, ordinary families should be
able to buy their own homes. It would give them security, dignity and
freedom and liberate them from the nannying of local council landlords. It
would make them better citizens, with their own stake in the economic
wellbeing of the country, they would have an incentive to contribute to
national prosperity. It exemplified her belief that capitalism was good not
only for the rich, but for people on modest incomes. As the then environment
secretary, Michael Heseltine, put it later: "Home ownership stimulates the
attitudes of independence and self-reliance that are the bedrock of a free
So Thatcher allowed council tenants to buy their own homes at reduced
prices, and since the right to buy was introduced, about 1.5m have been
bought. She presided over an economy in which house buying became a national
obsession and home ownership went up from 9.7m to 12.8m. Fundamental to her
idea was that government, which had built between a third and a half of all
homes for the previous three decades, should step back. Councils could no
longer build council housing. The market would provide. Houses would be
built by housebuilders, to use the standard term for the companies that buy
land, win planning permission and then (sometimes) put homes on it.
Thatcher's idea is now at a point of crisis. Housebuilders are not building
enough houses, and the proportion of people owning their own homes has been
falling since 2007. People have long ago found that it does not always make
you free to be shackled to a mortgage, still less if you cannot cross the
increasingly high threshold into ownership. In London and the south-east,
businesses lament the effects on them of expensive housing caused by the
lack of mobility of potential workers.
Debt and speculation have been encouraged more than thrift and people who
only wanted a home were forced to be gamblers in a turbulent market. The
property-owning democracy is not turning out to be democratic, excluding as
it does the large minority who don't own homes. In a sick practical joke,
people have been encouraged to take on long-term mortgages at the same time
that secure lifetime employment, which might pay for them, is disappearing.
As for public spirit, with rising house prices goes rising nimbyism, as
owners seek to protect their investment from all possible threats, above all
the threat of more homes being built nearby that other people might live in.
Over three decades, a culture has been created in which the price of homes
colours almost every aspect of life. It affects people's decisions about
whether and when to live together, stay together and have children. An
economy has been created in which inflation, otherwise frowned upon, is
desirable in house prices, even essential. Property values are used as the
principal tool of urban regeneration and, when those values fail to
materialise, so does the regeneration. The infamous bedroom tax regards a
few square metres of spare space as such a great asset that it must be
wrenched from the grasp of the undeserving poor. "Values", indeed, is a
telling word – we use it more to describe property than anything to do with
ethical or social ideals.
It is amazing, beyond satire, that the two biggest stories in housing are on
the one hand the bedroom tax and on the other the streets and squares of
empty houses in Belgravia and Kensington, bought as investments by owners
who rarely visit. At the same time that, when it comes to poor people,
vacant rooms are deemed an offence to be expunged, they grow unchecked in
the most desirable parts of London.
At almost every level, the market isn't working, from ex-industrial towns in
northern England, where the values are too low to justify repairs to
existing houses, to the under-supply and high prices in London, where an
average home now costs £458,000, or 13 times the median full-time income.
Hidden favelas are growing up in suburbs such as Newham and Southall, with
unauthorised developments in back gardens and flats occupied at many times
the levels for which they were designed.
Newham, London: favela-style housing is on the increase in suburbs such as
Newham and Southall, with severe overcrowding and unauthorised developments
in back gardens and yards. Photograph: Newham Council/Archant
A system has been created with a few winners, for sure, but not the people
excluded from the market, nor those barely able to pay for their homes, some
of whom will drown when interest rates start going up. Even those who bought
early enough to have a profit on their home find it to be largely nominal,
impossible to realise without removing themselves or their children from the
all-important property ladder.
Not even housebuilders are entirely happy, although recent government
policies such as Help to Buy and the encouragement of easy credit have
helped their share prices rise. They grumble that planning restrictions and
regulations make their work unreasonably difficult and that the margins in
their business are low. "It is a fantastically hard business," says one of
those involved, because of its booms and busts. The most obvious winners
were people such as Judith and Fergus Wilson, the Kent-based buy-to-let
magnates said to be worth £180m. But here too there are losers – the people
who got their fingers burned when this particular market crashed.
As Danny Dorling, in his recent book All That is Solid: The Great Housing
Disaster has pointed out, the home is now seen as a commodity, as a unit of
investment to be traded up or down. Attachment to a place, or the
interconnectedness of units to make a community, is given little value. The
pursuit of ideals, the idea of social or architectural betterment in the
provision of housing, has all but disappeared.
Early in the last century, when Arts and Crafts architecture was flourishing
and the first garden cities were being planned, the German architect Hermann
Muthesius published The English House, which was based on the premise that
this country was particularly good at domestic architecture and that
countries such as Germany should look and learn. It is unlikely anyone would
want to do this now, as new British homes have, as well as the highest
prices, the meanest dimensions to be found anywhere in Europe. What we have
instead are a series of distinctive if largely inadvertent types, created by
a warped market, which might be summarised thus:
An attempt to squeeze housing units into places where people want to live
(the countryside in southern England), but the people there already don't
want any more. Compromise ensues, in which new houses take on a huddled,
crowded air and are given a traditional style to mitigate their intrusion.
Making a new place with positive and exceptional qualities is out of the
question, as all the developers' creative energies have gone into wrestling
with the planning system to get their permission.
In London and some other big cities, dense apartment blocks are built with
the primary purpose of creating vehicles for investment. Sometimes they are
towers. In the previous decade, these developments were primarily aimed at
British-based buy-to-let investors; currently the main target are overseas
buyers. These projects typically have just enough decking, white paint and
glass balustrades to allow good-looking young couples to be photographed
inside them holding glasses of white wine, such that the adjectival nouns
"luxury lifestyle" can be attached. They also have enough odd angles, or
multicoloured cladding, to claim the adjective "iconic".
Similar to an investment silo, to the extent that housing associations are
now the main providers of affordable housing, and are also pressured to
behave more and more like property developers. Their products therefore look
increasingly like those of developers, although with some reductions in the
luxury lifestyle and "iconic" elements. On the other hand, they tend to be
built with better standards of space, as housing associations have to follow
stricter rules than private developers.
Exploiting loopholes in the planning and regulatory systems, which make
fewer demands on student housing than other types, property companies have
in recent years rushed into this market. Among the attractions of students
to developers is that they can be put into even smaller spaces than anyone
else. The typology is similar to other types of silo, but with still less in
the luxury lifestyle department.
Northern disaster zone
Parts of Liverpool and Gateshead have been demolished by the government, the
old streets replaced with smaller numbers of new homes. The result? The
uprooting of people who wanted to stay put and zones of demolished and empty
buildings. Photograph: Nigel R. Barklie/REX
Parts of Liverpool or Gateshead, for example: places afflicted by the last
government's Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder project, where about £2bn of
public money was spent buying up streets in areas of low value, demolishing
them, and replacing them with smaller numbers of new homes. The theory was
that, under the laws of supply and demand, reduced supply would raise
values. The reality was the breaking up of communities, the uprooting of
people who wanted to stay put and devastated zones of demolished and empty
Flats and backyards adapted to house as many people as possible.
Extraordinarily expensive houses owned by people with properties in several
other countries, such that they are usually unoccupied. Often also iceberg
houses, with multifloor basements expensively created underneath, to create
further quantities of void.
Nonexistent new town
Successive governments are lured to the attractive idea of the new town, as
it enables large numbers of homes to be built while annoying fewer residents
than if they have been spread over a wider area. It appeals to politicians'
love of a visible gesture. The same governments then fail to provide the
infrastructure and planning to make these towns happen. The last
administration promised both a new city in the Thames Gateway, to the east
of London, and a series of "ecotowns". Very little of either appeared.
It is not in fact so difficult to create good modern housing. There are
well-known examples in continental Europe, often cited in discussions of the
subject, such as Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm, Vauban in Freiburg, and
Borneo Sporenburg in Amsterdam. Peter Hall, the planning expert whose recent
book, Good Cities, Better Lives, explores the best European examples, says
that there is an "extraordinary similarity" between these schemes: they have
good public transport, from which all homes are within easy walking
distance, and "a good disposition of semi-public spaces", such as
playgrounds and shared gardens.
St Andrews in East London: housebuilder Barratt, not always a byword for
design quality, is responsible for this project with its emphasis on robust
detailing, balconies and shared space.
Nor is Britain incapable of decent developments. Barratt, a housebuilder not
always associated with design quality, has built the St Andrews and Barrier
Park projects in east London, albeit only after prodding from the London
Development Agency, the public body that sold it the land. Richard Lavington,
one of the architects of these developments, says that the aims were "to put
a balcony on every unit, and to create a positive interface between private
and public", by which he means placing family homes close to shared open
spaces and streets in such a way that they might readily use them. He also
sought "clear, robust detailing" that would be "straightforward to build".
Again, this is not complicated stuff and the developments live up to these
claims. Cognoscenti of new housing will also know of fine, small-scale
projects by the developers Crispin Kelly of Baylight and Roger Zogolovitch
of Solidspace. Kelly says: "Big windows and high ceilings are a start, and
lack of fussiness – having the confidence to do things simply." Inside, he
likes bonus spaces – on a stair landing for example – where a child might do
homework, and outside something as basic as a bench that encourages
neighbours to meet. Like Kelly, Zogolovitch likes undesignated spots "where
you might set up a cello or an easel or write a novel". He uses design to
make small spaces feel larger and give them personality.
Kevin McCloud at The Triangle housing project in Swindon. Photograph:
In Swindon there is The Triangle, created with the help of Kevin McCloud's
company Hab, which also stresses the importance of shared space and simple
design. And, when you ask for examples of good new housing, you keep being
referred back to Cambridge. Here is Accordia, which won the Stirling prize
in 2008, and the university-backed £1bn plan to create 3,000 homes, half of
them for key workers, on 150 hectares in the north-west of the city. Also in
Cambridge are developments such as the "Scandinavian-style" Seven Acres, by
the multinational construction company Skanska, which again is based on the
virtues of simplicity and shared space.
But these bright spots are too rare and require favourable conditions, such
as having a TV personality or an ancient university to back them. They tend
to be in places such as London or Cambridge, where prices rise faster than
elsewhere. This helps to pay for more quality, but by definition makes it
harder to achieve.
The housing crisis is one of both quantity and quality. Some 250,000 new
homes a year are said to be needed, but after 2008 the number fell below
100,000, mostly built by private housebuilders but also by housing
associations. In the postwar peak in the late 60s, more than 400,000 were
created a year, many of them by the councils later banned from building by
Margaret Thatcher. Meanwhile, the private sector built at a reasonably
steady rate from the late 1950s on, between 150,000 and 250,000 a year.
Until the 2008 crash, that is, when output plummeted to a level not seen for
half a century.
Blame for this lack of supply is usually placed on the planning system.
There is nowhere in southern England for new housing to go or, rather,
nowhere where voters and therefore politicians want it to go. Suggestions of
building anything on the green belt bring accusations of desecration of a
national treasure and similarly with rural locations further from big
cities. The theory that brownfields, that is ex-industrial sites, could
answer all housing need has proved challenging in practice. Such sites are
not always where people want to live.
Suggestions for fixing the problem include, as always, the new town or, as
George Osborne likes to call it, the "garden city". He used the term when
repackaging existing proposals for Ebbsfleet in Kent, and presenting them as
his invention, but his duplicity should not obscure the possibility that it
might be a good idea. Peter Hall passionately believes that the principal
hope for housing is building new towns and town-size extensions to existing
cities. The new towns created in the 1960s, of which Milton Keynes is the
biggest and best known, may have become the butt of patronising jokes, but,
says Hall, "were really rather successful". They did their job of relieving
pressure and "all the evidence shows that people like living there".
Another idea is to fit more homes into London, which is several times less
densely populated than, for example, Paris. Another is to encourage people
to build their own houses, which currently accounts for a minute proportion
of the total. Another, popular with the current government, is the "neighbourhood
plan". Here, local communities (usually rural) put together their own
proposals for development so that some of the proceeds go to shared benefits
and growth is no longer an aggressive intervention by outsiders. It might
also help if we moved away from the preoccupation of home ownership with the
help of decent properties for private rent. Michael Heseltine once said that
"there is in this country a deeply ingrained desire for home ownership", but
in 1900 90% of homes, at almost every level of price, were rented.
All these suggestions have merit and the answer is almost certainly to
embrace all of them and more. We have to go from our current culture, where
new housing is treated as pollution, and something to be squeezed through
the planning system with the greatest difficulty, to one where it is seen as
a positive asset. There is a vicious circle – new development is poor
because it takes so much effort to overcome objections and people object to
it because it is poor.
But none of these ideas will happen without the thing the coalition has been
least willing to employ, which is active and forward-looking public
intervention. It is hard to build a new town, or a well considered rural
expansion, without things such as compulsorily buying land, paying
professionals to plan it or providing transport. As Dickon Robinson,
formerly of housing association the Peabody Trust puts it: "The market has
failed. It's time to put some controversial ideas out there."
The compulsory purchase by government from private landowners sounds
communist, but it was used (for example) in the "renewal" of northern
cities. It is just that politicians are more reluctant to wield it in Kent
than in Gateshead. If we are sceptical about the power of planners to
achieve their objectives, we only need to look at the Netherlands. There,
they had a similar scale of housing shortage, in proportion to the country's
size, to the one that has been diagnosed in Britain for the past 15 years.
Unlike Britain, they fixed it, by building nearly half a million new homes.
Planning apart, there is a deep flaw with the idea that the market alone
will meet all the country's housing needs. The problem is not only to do
with the numbers supplied, but with how much each home costs and
housebuilders cannot be expected to lead a process that results in the value
of their product going down. They would rather sit on their land until such
time as its price goes up, which means that some other agency has to do what
they won't, which means, in effect, that the government has to intervene
more actively in promoting building – by acquiring land, producing
considered plans for its development, and then promoting such development.
Given that in much of Britain the price of homes is high, a slow deflation
might be desirable; the ideal could be that prices stay the same, so that
they gently fall in real terms. But the coalition's big idea is the
opposite. With Help to Buy, changing pension rules and other measures, they
have stimulated demand without a corresponding increase in supply, such that
prices go up further. As the Financial Times has said, this is economically
illiterate. It would be a useful first step to reverse these policies.
We are now at a moment similar to the 1970s, when ideas about housing that
had lasted a generation stopped working. Then it was the legacy of Clement
Attlee's postwar government, which believed in massive state provision of
housing, but which ended up restricting freedoms and too often creating
homes people didn't like. Thatcher's policies were a necessary corrective,
and had real benefits, but now they too are failing. It is time for
It's not easy to champion planning, as it tends to summon images of faceless
bureaucrats and grandiose visions gone wrong. But, as Hermann Muthesius
recognised in the early 1900s, and as Peter Hall argues about 1960s new
towns, it is not un-British to plan and design new communities well. The
national dependency on high house prices has, in its effects, become an
economic, social and cultural disaster. Active intervention is needed. As
someone once said, there is no alternative.
The endless legal coup
5 April 2014
One way or another
the courts will remove Yingluck Shinawatra as Thai PM. The question is when?
There courts are
hedging their bets with a number of legal challenges.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is charging Yingluck with
dereliction of duty related to alleged corruption in her government’s
rice-pledging scheme, and is also bringing charges against against 308
lawmakers for their role in proposed constitutional amendments. That is
But bizarrely it
is a case involving a sole civil servant that may bring the government down.
The Supreme Administrative Court last week ruled that the removal of Thawil
Pliensri as National Security Council (NSC) secretary in 2011 was unlawful.
Mr Thawil was shifted from the position under the orders of the prime
minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Thawil Pliensri was reinstated
by the Supreme Administrative Court a couple of weeks ago. The court has
“affirmed its authority to consider the Thawil case that was submitted by a
group of senators led by Paiboon Nititawan.” This unelected senator is a
regular petitioner to the Constitutional Court and a member of the anti-Thaksin
Shinawatra group of appointed senators with royalist and military ties.
The Bangkok Post states that Paiboon’s petition claims “the transfer was not in the
public’s best interests, but is an attempt to find a position for
ex-national police chief Wichean Potephosree so the government could appoint
its own man to the police chief’s job.”
The Supreme Administrative Court argued that the prime minister’s signing of the transfer was unlawful and ordered Mr Thawil
Mr Thawil lodged his initial complaint with the Central Administrative Court
in April 2012, accusing Ms Yingluck of unfair treatment after he was
transferred from the NSC on Sept 30, 2011.
On May 31 last year, the Administrative Court ruled in favour of Mr Thawil,
revoking the prime ministerial order and ordering Mr Thawil’s reinstatement.
Appealing against that decision, Ms Yingluck claimed that as head of the
government she had the authority to transfer officials to ensure the
national administration was in line with the government’s policy manifesto;
not an unreasonable position.
However, the court ruled yesterday that while the prime minister could
exercise her judgement in transferring personnel, there must be plausible
reasons to justify her decisions. Transfers should be free from bias or
political preferences, the court said.
Thawil’s repeated appearances on the rally stages of the anti-government
protests in the past five months suggest someone who is never intending to
work with or for the Yingluck government.
The court alleges that Prime Minister Yingluck has allegedly violated
the second paragraph of Section 266, since her decision to remove Thawil was
politically motivated, since the reshuffle ultimately landed Priewphan
Damapong as National Police Chief, who is a brother of Thaksin’s ex-wife and
Yingluck’s former sister-in-law Potjaman Na Pombejra.
Since the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001, Britain, like other
western governments, has from time to time banned Islamist movements that
incite violence or sponsor terrorism. The announcement by David Cameron that
his government is conducting an inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood is
highly unusual – and has raised suspicions over the prime minister’s
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is the most important
pan-Islamic political organisation in the world. It has millions of
followers in the Middle East and beyond. In the past three years, of course,
its branch in Egypt has occupied centre stage. After the fall of the Mubarak
regime, the Brotherhood enjoyed a brief stint in power marked by chaos and
incompetence. In 2012 the military overthrew the government and the movement
is now being hounded. Last week an Egyptian court sentenced 529 of its
members to death.
Given the widespread disquiet in the west at those sentences, Mr Cameron’s
announcement of an investigation into the Brotherhood looks somewhat
ill-timed. It also has triggered unease in Whitehall. The prime minister’s
office said Sir John Jenkins, the British ambassador to Riyadh, will head
the inquiry into the “group’s philosophy and values and alleged connections
with extremism and violence”. Yet Foreign Office officials have expressed
concern privately that this cuts against its efforts to engage with the
organisation inside and outside Britain.
There are good reasons why the UK security services might want to take a
hard look at the Brotherhood. The more the movement is crushed in Egypt, the
more likely its members may lash out violently inside that country and
beyond. With political Islam again under pressure in the Middle East, the UK
must beware of allowing London to become a haven for radical Islamists as it
did in the 1990s.
Yet the very public announcement of this inquiry – and in particular the
fact that the ambassador to Riyadh is in charge – is bound to fuel
suspicions that the UK is acting under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the
United Arab Emirates. For the rulers in Riyadh, the Brotherhood represents
their most potent rival for influence across the region. Diplomatic and
commercial relations between Saudi Arabia and the UK have been strained by
Britain’s failure to act in Syria and by its engagement with Iran. This
inquiry therefore smacks of gesture politics.
The problem is that it also carries risks. Several peaceful community
organisations in the UK are sympathetic to the Brotherhood and have been for
decades. The announcement that the government is conducting an investigation
may gratuitously alienate those groups.
Western powers should also beware of threatening to crack down on what is an
amorphous and generally peaceable movement. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have
outlawed the Brotherhood. If the west follows, this will fuel the argument
of jihadists that the only way to forge an Islamic state is by the bullet
not the ballot box.
Above all, the UK must avoid giving the impression that it will pander to
the Saudis for commercial reasons. In 2006 Tony Blair’s government created
controversy by calling off a Serious Fraud Office investigation into
allegations that BAE, Britain’s biggest arms company, had paid massive
bribes to Saudi princes to win lucrative contracts. Such moves are
The announcement on the Muslim Brotherhood is therefore misjudged. If there
are individuals on its fringes who pose a security threat to the UK, they
should be prosecuted or proscribed under existing terror laws. Mr Cameron
needs to set limits to how far he will travel in pursuit of British
Busiest international airport is also among the least
With its boulevards of plastic palm trees, gleaming silver interior and "Zen
Garden" complete with lush ferns and refreshing mist machine, Dubai
International is a world away from the much-maligned Heathrow airport.
However, it is not just on pomp and glamour that Britain's flagship
transport hub is being outdone. Figures for the first two months of 2014
show that Dubai has overtaken Heathrow as the airport with the largest
number of international passengers in the world. It dealt with almost 2
million more in the period, and with a growth rate of 13.5%, it is likely to
continue to outpace Heathrow, which remains Europe's busiest airport.
But while UK politicians will be dismayed at Heathrow's fading significance
it would be nigh-on impossible for Heathrow to keep up with the aggressive
expansion of the Arab state. Dubai International plans to increase its
passenger numbers from 60 to 90 million over the next four years,
constructing an additional terminal space and concourse twice the size of
Heathrow's terminal five. Bearing in mind that Dubai's palatial terminal 3,
exclusively for the state's own Emirates airline, is already the largest
around – at 1,713,000 square metres, it has the second largest floor area of
any building on the planet – Heathrow does start to feel a little, well,
"Dubai really is in a sweet spot as far as global travel goes," says Jim
Krane, Gulf specialist at Rice University's Baker Institute and author of
Dubai: The story of the world's fastest city. "While Heathrow is a break
between North America and Europe, Dubai sits in between the far bigger
population centres of Asia; anyone flying West from Asia will fly over the
Persian gulf. It has set itself up as a venus fly trap for international
But even Krane admits the speed of growth is impressive. "In the 80s, when
Heathrow was already booming, the airport was just a couple of metal sheds
with some guys hand-stamping tickets," he says. "Dubai couldn't actually get
enough flights to come to it, which is why they ended up founding their own
airline. It really is a fairytale for them that they've now overtaken
Expect to hear much more about the pleasures of a stopover there. Such as
the opportunity to blow £160 on a raffle ticket for their rolling
million-dollar draw, or £6,500 on a bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc at terminal
3's fine wine store Le Clos. And nothing really says "you're in Dubai" quite
like a shop selling gold bullion in the duty free.
Oh, he's right about the glamour - nothing beats the legions of men wrapped
in their blankets and sleeping on the floor at all hours, the cloying
choking stink around the busy smoking rooms, queuing behind someone buying a
kilo of nuts in three different currencies at 2am or the fight for overhead
locker space because nobody else on the flight paid attention to the luggage
glamorous in arriving on an Emirates flight, being parked next to the
airport boundary fence and spending almost 30 minutes on a freezing air
conditioned bus before arriving at the terminal. Then walking through the
terminal, down escalators and travelling underground on travelators, up
escalators and into the arrivals hall, another thirty minutes, to wait in
the passport control queue for possibly another 30 minutes, before walking
into baggage reclaim. This is Dubai. Doesn't come close to Singapore for
traveller friendly, calm, organised and clean efficiency. The same goes for
the two Cities.
Dubai airport is the most depressing place on Earth. A temple to rabid
Falling out with Thailand
2 April 2014
My first ever
visit to Thailand was in 1984 in a previous life; long before this blog had
ever seen the light of day.
In was twelve
years before I was back there with Reuters salvaging a messy acquisition
which got even messier when the financial crisis hit Asia in mid 1997. By
that time I was a fairly regular visitor; but an expense account visitor;
staying in very nice hotels.
Then in late 2002
I moved to Bangkok for work; though initially most of the work was over in
Vancouver. I stayed in a serviced apartment a short walk from my office. The
frustrations were less with my lifestyle than with the frustrations of work
and trying to deliver a project that promised so much.
Tai and I now
visit regularly to see her family or for short vacations.
I don't think I
was ever in love with Thailand; but I enjoyed the sense of being somewhere
different; the smells, colours, noises, music, people. I enjoyed exploring
the country though you quickly realise just how dependent Thailand is on its
capital, Bangkok. Thailand's second city, Chiang Mai, is by comparison a
small, sleepy country town.
The problem is
that in 20 years Thailand really has not progressed. In many ways it has
Education is still
inept; lagging far behind most of Asia and still focussed on traditional
Thai beliefs, old world curricula and supporting a class based structure
rather than a meritocracy.
infrastructure investment is woeful outside of Bangkok. Bangkok has its
metro and skytrain; they were adequate when opened but are already woefully
short of capacity. The new airport opened. But it was too small on day one
and the old Don Muang airport had to be re-opened for passenger traffic. The
rail network is a national embarrassment. The city bus networks run on
antiquated buses. The long distance coach network fraught with the dangers
of poor roads and worse drivers.
who reads this web site will know that the country has regressed not
progressed. The privileged want to hold onto power. More or less by any
means. And the privileged include people across all colours of the political
But forget the
politics - it is the little things that make Thailand so depressing. Most of
these are not new problems. It is just that there has not been any
improvement in decades.
Roads are almost
too dangerous to cross; anyone walking on a pedestrian crossing is a target.
Sidewalks that are
impassable due to the market stalls, food stalls and worst of all
evening/late night bars that occupy them.
Metered taxis that
have no interest in using the meter.
Silly taxes on
wine. But not a problem if you drink Thai whisky.
Taxi touts as soon
as you emerge from immigration at BKK airport.
The road death
toll every Songkran.
The "if you dont
like it leave" argument. No; we would like to help you make it better. Don't
that self censor to avoid any discussion of the issues that really matter.
Double - pricing.
Farangs pay more - even if you have come half way around the world to see
Dogma. If you are
not with us you are against us. There is no debate. Actually that sums up
the country rather well. There is simply no educated, rationale debate about
the future of the country and how to get there for the benefit of all.
self - sufficiency economy or rampant consumerism and greed.
every level. Policemen with their hands out. Politicians with their hands
for no service.
Huge rats. And
many of them. And cockroaches. Can be hard to spot after dark. Not good when
you tread on one.
And too many parts
of Bangkok, away from the main tourist drags, that appear to be crumbling.
Again. No investment.
development. Ruining once attractive towns like Hua Hin.
biggest and ugliest advertising hoardings.
And that is just
my short list. It is such a shame.
contact center network
1 April 2014
There was an
interesting announcement from Emirates today about the opening of a new
contact center for teh airline - and it is in Hungary - Budapest to be
This is the
airline's second European customer contact centre in Budapest and will
create 300 jobs in the Hungarian capital.
that it had searched extensively across Europe to find the right location
for this facility; noting that "the support from the Hungarian Investment
and Trade Agency has been incredibly valuable."
Now anyone who has
been to Budapest will know that language skills are not abundant and
Budapest is not the first city that comes to mind when planning a new
customer support location. It is, however, likely that the airline received
significant support from the local authorities.
The center is
probably also better located to provide languages support to the growing
number of Eastern European nations that are now part of the EK network;
though many would argue that you could easily do that from the UK now.
The facility will manage reservation services as well as multi-lingual
support for the frequent flyer program, Emirates Skywards handling calls
calls and emails in nine languages.
confirmed that it has six established support centers in Dubai, Manchester,
Mumbai, New York, Melbourne and Guangzhou. They currently support over
35,000 calls and emails per day.
Treat MH370 tragedy rationally
31 March 2014 By Mei Xinyu
(China Daily)(Note this is a change of tone from China which had
previously supported/encouraged protests at the Malaysian Embassy).
Trying to force someone to do what something they are unwilling to do
usually tends to make things more difficult, a more feasible way is to use
official channels and promise not to disclose such information to the public
and third parties, so as to have access to more sensitive information.
We should know that the government will do its best to safeguard the rights
and interests of Chinese citizens and there is no reason to doubt that the
government is not taking pains to deal with the crisis.
Public opinion should not blame the Malaysian authorities for deliberately
covering up information in the absence of hard evidence. Whether by official
channels or follow-up civil litigation, we still need to speak with evidence
and act according to the law, rather than through "making a noise" or
indulging in aggressive or irrational behavior.
China is a great power and our government attaches great importance to the
incident. After flight MH370 went missing, the Chinese government not only
carried out intense diplomacy, it also deployed the largest rescue team in
its history of maritime search and rescue operations, including coast guard
vessel 3411, South China Sea Rescue 101 and 115, the amphibious landing ship
Jinggangshan, the guided missile frigate Mianyang, the guided missile
destroyer Haikou, the amphibious landing ship Kunlunshan, the warship
Qiandaohu, the guided missile destroyer Changchun, the guided missile
frigate Changzhou and integrated supply ship Chaohu. They carry several
helicopters, about 1,000 marines, and dozens of professional divers and
medical teams. In addition, China has also redeployed about 20 satellites to
hunt for the wreckage, which is unprecedented. Even though there are such
and such doubts, since the country has mobilized so much manpower and
resources, why cannot we be patient and just wait until they find the
wreckage and get the evidence.
We should acknowledge that in the face of the tragedy of flight MH370,
Malaysia did not pass the buck, and the whole of Malaysian society showed
their deep sorrow and shame. Malaysian citizens, media and scholars all
openly criticized the authorities for their misconduct in handling the case.
Their public opinion did not claim that the incident was masterminded by an
individual that does not represent Malaysia and its people and they did not
retort to outside criticism and pressure. Chinese people should refrain from
inciting criticism and instigating boycotts against Malaysia so as to avoid
hurting the majority of people in Malaysia.
All Chinese people sympathize with the relatives of the passengers on board
MH370 and share their sufferings. But we should also remember that a time of
adversity is no excuse for trampling on social norms.
We can understand and tolerate those victim families' emotional catharsis as
long as their behavior doesn't violate social norms.
We hope that those whose voices are being heard can carry forward
rationality, self-discipline and law-abiding consciousness, rather than
fermenting irrational, individualistic activities that trample on laws and
ethics. The basic line is not violating laws and ethics as the way to
safeguard rights; this is a basic manner and behavioral standard of human
society, and to abide by it does not require high academic qualifications or
high level of knowledge.
China is a highly civilized country and the Chinese government is fully
capable of maintaining order and making objective and rational decisions.
The rest of society should likewise take a rational attitude.
The author is a researcher at the International Trade and Economic
Cooperation Institute of the Ministry of Commerce.
Malaysia can take lessons from MH370 but not all
“We would not have done anything differently,” declared Malaysia’s defence
and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, when asked about his
country’s handling of missing flight MH370.
In the three and a bit weeks since the Malaysian Airlines aircraft
mysteriously disappeared on a routine flight to Beijing, critics have
feasted on missteps and muddle as Malaysia has struggled to get to grips
with what has become the biggest riddle in commercial aviation history.
On Monday, a multinational search in the ocean off Western Australia for the
Boeing 777 – with 239 on board – continued, after multiple sightings by
satellite and the naked eye of hundreds of pieces of debris. Still, nothing.
Malaysia, not used to being in the glare of global attention, has faced some
tough questions. Why did the country’s air force not scramble jets the
moment it was clear from radar that an unidentified aircraft was recrossing
Peninsular Malaysia in the opposite direction to MH370’s scheduled route?
Why was a week apparently wasted searching in the South China Sea, when it
later emerged that investigators had data showing the aircraft was likely
somewhere off the Strait of Malacca?
Even after the investigation had settled into a routine of daily news
conferences, Malaysia’s messaging was fumbling. The first few featured
officials who had probably never faced journalists before, and military
brass who bristled in sometimes inadequate English at what was being asked.
Mr Hishammuddin’s claim that the country would not have done anything
differently rings hollow when there have been identifiable errors of
But the analysis should not stop there. Malaysia was, and remains, faced
with an aviation disaster that is unprecedented on almost every level. The
last commercial aircraft disappearance – that of an Air France flight off
Brazil – turned up as debris fairly quickly; relatives were able to begin
mourning, even if it took a further two years to locate the aircraft’s black
The airliner was filled with mostly French passengers, and the
responsibility for the search lay cleanly with France. This case has
involved a Malaysian aircraft carrying mostly Chinese citizens, in a complex
effort that at one point involved 26 countries searching an area covering
2.3m nautical miles of ocean and land.
Few countries could have handled that flawlessly, not least China, one of
Malaysia’s biggest critics. Its state apparatus has excelled in recent years
in mismanaging a succession of big crises, starting with the attempted
cover-up over contaminated milk in 2008 to a high-speed rail crash that
killed 40 people.
And as one Malaysian cabinet minister said last week: “I would not rate too
highly the handling of the US government of Katrina,” a reference to former
US president George W Bush’s ineffective response to the hurricane that
devastated New Orleans in 2005.
Mr Hishammuddin, a UK-trained lawyer, has been polished and assured. He
likely understands the imperative of treating China with care; Malaysia’s
population of almost 30m is about the same as that of the Chinese
city-province of Chongqing. China is Malaysia’s biggest trading partner.
The lessons from MH370 go far beyond Malaysia. The airline industry will
probably need to speed up the deployment of the latest satellite navigation
systems to improve air traffic management. “People are beginning to file
away some questions that this episode raises,” says Andrew Herdman,
director-general of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines.
Yet Malaysia cannot escape the need to learn its own lessons. Its opaque
political system – dominated since independence 50 years ago by a single
party – is not instinctively self-critical.
Already there are worrying signs of foot-dragging over a proper commission
of inquiry into the handling of MH370. With US president Barack Obama set to
visit Malaysia later this month – the first by a sitting US president since
Lyndon Johnson in 1966 – Kuala Lumpur now has a chance to show it can behave
IPL Schedule for Dubai
30 March 2014
Sat Apr 19 (20 ovs) 14:30 local | 10:30 GMT
Indian Premier League Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians
Sat Apr 19 (20 ovs) 18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League Kolkata Knight Riders v Delhi Daredevils
Wed Apr 23 (20 ovs) 18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings
Fri Apr 25 (20 ovs) 14:30 local | 10:30 GMT
Indian Premier League Sunrisers Hyderabad v Delhi Daredevils
Fri Apr 25 (20 ovs) 18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians
Mon Apr 28 (20 ovs) 18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kings XI Punjab
Wed Apr 30 (20 ovs) 18:30 local | 14:30 GMT
Indian Premier League Mumbai Indians v Sunrisers Hyderabad