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March 9 -22, 2012 • Vo l 7 No 5
COVER STORY Bhutan’s Happiness Formula 8
The country will begin quantifying gross national happiness by measuring natural wealth including human, social and cultural elements
Passage To India India must manage relationships within South Asia to rise to power
Fukushima’s Worst Fallout The nuke accident dealt a blow to the Japanese food industry, once respected worldwide for high quality standards
Basketball’s ‘Linderella’ Jeremy Lin’s phenomenal rise gives hope to Asian Americans and at the same time opens the floodgates to racial issues
CHANGING ASIA 16
In The Name of Terrorism Pakistan military’s new powers have led to arbitrary arrests and disappearances
Chollywood’s Biggest Challenges China is now the third largest film market in the world but half of its box office takings come from imports
F E AT U R E S
Reforms Are Irreversible Than Shwe is not like Deng Xiao Ping or Lee Kuan Yew, adviser Ko Ko Hlaing says
Pop Art From The North A North Korean defector is telling the world about his country through pop art
Ageless At 65, Hong Kong director Ann Hui discovers growing old offers new freedoms Pack Right For Flights Smaller is better when it comes to carry-on luggage but not so when emergencies and delays happen
COVE R IM AG E | ED J O N ES/A F P P H OTO
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By Akhilesh Upadhyay The Kathmandu Post
Passage To India
India must manage relationships within South Asia if it wants to rise as a great power ❖❖ Kathmandu
ndia’s foreign and strategic policy dilemma is a unique one and nowhere does it play out more acutely than in South Asia, its immediate neighbourhood. Growing at a fast clip in recent years and gradually emerging as a powerful voice in the global arena, India undoubtedly has the potential to take the lead in helping the economic performance of its neighbours. But that’s not going to be easy. I t h a s t o fi r s t o f a l l contend with a history of poor neighbourliness and the “noisy” discourse o f t h e d e m ocr a ci e s in South Asia. A recent 70-page report by an independent group of Indian analysts, "NonAlignment 2.0: A foreign and strategic policy report for India in the 21st century", outlines the Indian dilemma and priorities in some detail. India, the report declares, cannot hope to arrive as a great power if it is unable to manage relationships within South Asia. While it has the potential to lift its neighbours to better economic performance and social development, India cannot “wish away the fact that the history of inter-state relations in South Asia is such that India’s neighbours fear it or chafe at its perceived condescension.” That’s because of history. India, for instance, has been a key player in the last three regime changes in Nepal— in 1950, 1990 and 2006. And in just about every government change in recent years—especially after the 2008 elections—India is perceived to have engaged in strong backroom machinations to get its favoured 6•
candidate elected as prime minister. Opinions are deeply divided over the desired level and nature of Indian influence in Nepal’s domestic affairs and India’s long-term goals therein. As NonAlignment 2.0 concedes, India is a factor in the domestic politics of its neighbours and it will have to live with—and address the fact—that politicians in neighbouring countries will continue to bait India. However,
rather than getting distracted by the “noise” generated by the democracies, the report urges India to concentrate on long-term goals. Two of the six authors of NonAlignment—former Indian ambassador to Nepal Shyam Saran and editor of Hindu Siddartha Varadarajan—are notable Nepal hands. Others have strong policy research backgrounds: Pratap Bhanu Mehta, former Lt Gen Prakash Menon, Sunil Khilnani and Rajiv Kumar. The urgency of the tone of the report is noteworthy, which asserts that India’s internal development will "depend decisively" on how it manages its global opportunities. The authors believe that the
window of opportunity (10-15 years) for India is limited and the choices that are made now will lead to set of future choices, structures and dynamics necessary to achieve prosperity. They have not dished out specific policy prescriptions (which they leave to government officials) but made suggestions for a strategic consensus on India’s international engagements—across party lines, civil society, the corporate world and the media. While the report acknowledges that China and the US will remain the undisputed superpowers of the 21st century, the new and emerging world order will be structurally far more different from that of the Cold War era—which was neatly divided along Soviet and Western blocs. The new world order will instead be defined by many more and diffused power centres and regional hubs and middle level powers where coalitions will be fluid and the need for political management constant. For those of us in South Asia, what will be of principal concern is how India will use the “window of opportunity” in the next 10-15 years to further its interests in a changing world. Already, in the last two decades and for the first time in history, India has embarked on a path of rapid economic growth and, given the scale of the changes to come, it is bound to leave its mark on the new world order. Change starts at home. That the Indian intelligentsia has noticed India’s neighbourhood problem, however, will not mean much unless the foreign policy establishment puts the recommendations into practice. March 9-22, 2012
By Kavi Chongkittavorn The Nation
Democratic Pendulum’s Swing In Asean Its freedom can quickly reposition Burma within Asean and beyond ❖❖ Bangkok
March 9-22, 2012
old and new. The Thein Sein administration must show that it can deal with vexing issues of national reconciliation with minorities, remaining political prisoners and nuclear ambitions without reverting to extreme remedies of the past. For the world at large, violent suppression against minorities, monks and ordinary people are still fresh in people's mind. New challenges include the integration with the regional and global economy and harnessing the IT and social media revolution. As the chair preceding the Asean Community, Naypyidaw also has to set a right tone to herald the new beginning in 2015. In more ways than one, Burma's freedom and democratic promotion can quickly reposition the country within Asean and beyond. If the present trend proceeds genuinely and unhampered, Burma has the potential to serve as the grouping's new tipping point when it chairs Asean. The 2014 chair coincides with the reviews of the terms of reference of Asean Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR). Last November, Burma established a national human right commission—albeit non-operational at present, it pressures other members to follow suit. It remains to be seen how Burma with opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the mix will navigate its role on human rights and democracy issues that were earlier rejected by the former regime during the previous deliberations. For instance, the substances of AICHR which were drafted and agreed in 2009 when Burma was still considered a pariah state could be further amended to reflect on the new reality in Burma and Asean. •7
Photo by A F P
he road to democracy in Burma is so narrow that you cannot turn back," was Burmese President Thein Sein's reply whether the reform process in his country was irreversible, a question posed by UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon when they last met in November. Aung San Suu Kyi greets supporters in Yangon on It was a clever answer to a November 14, 2011. difficult enquiry which nobody knows exactly the outcome. Seizing the president's comment and impeding process intermittently, but his speech at the parliament last the overall democratic trajectory has week, it indicates that reforms will continued unabated which has now not face any hiccup. If the current become the society's DNA. process can be and is sustained, at the However, it would take another very least until 2014 with the Asean five years of consistency before chair, it will pose a huge challenge for Indonesia left memorable imprints the grouping's future overall freedom with Asean through chairing the 9th and democratic development. Asean Summit in 2003 at Bali. Since W h e n I n d o n e s i a b e c a m e a 2003, the Bali Concord III has served democracy after the people's power as a template for all outward looking overthrew former president Suharto changes in Asean which included the in 1998, it sent shock waves Asean charter, the roadmap of Asean throughout the region fearing region- Community and the establishment of wide negative contagion effects. All a human rights body. As a result, sorts of doomsday scenarios came Indonesia's international profile forth about the future of Indonesia expanded dramatically when it including its disintegration and hosted the Asean summit for the spreading of radical Islam groups. third time last year. Realising the Without knowing then what we know importance of chairing Asean, now, nobody expected that political Jakarta strategically moved up the developments and withdrawal of chairmanship in 2013 by two years to Indonesia military from politics 2011 due to a schedule conflict with would steadily consolidate the the Apec summit it will host next year Indonesian democracy and augment in Bali. Unmistakably, democratic its diplomatic weight within Asean progress and openness has increased and the rest of the world. To reach Indonesia's regional power and its that level of recognition, the global reputation. government has created a sustained Indonesia's experience offers a environment conducive for all vivid picture of dividends emanating Indonesian stakeholders to take part from democratic aspirations. Burma, in democratic participation. Local which just a few months ago carried lawmakers, civil society groups and the tag of pariah state, has to learn the media have done their fair shares. effective ways to manage and engage There are potholes here and there, multidimensional challenges both
COVER STORY BHUTAN
March 9-22, 2012
By Samten Wangchuk Kuensel
A NEW TAKE ON ‘HAPPINESS’ B
March 9-22, 2012
Photo by E d J ones/AF P
Bhutan is the only country in the world which puts happiness at the heart of government policy.
hutan will begin quantifying GNH (gross national happiness) by measuring what GDP leaves out, such as its natural wealth including human, social and culture ones like GDP does goods and services. During a recent press conference, Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley said while the country continues to focus on its financial and manufactured wealth, it would also create balanced GNH accounts. “From now on, we’ll be able to figure, for the first time, the true costs of economic activity, and we’ll be able to balance that activity with a proper accounting of our natural, human and cultural wealth,” he said. “We’ll create balanced GNH Accounts for this country, and thereby build the world’s first comprehensive set of national accounts.” He explained the new accounting system, which the UN-commissioned team of researchers helped with •9
Photo by Toshif umi Kitamura /A F P
COVER STORY Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema, Asia’s most celebrated royal couple in 2011.
meant it would begin accounting, for instance, for the health of the forests and other natural resources. For example, he said, if the country experienced a bad year of forest fires, the consequent forest loss as a depreciation of the country’s natural wealth would be counted. “If we plant trees, we’ll count that as an investment in natural capital, just as we presently account for investments in our built capital,” he said. All of these, Lyonchhoen said, was hidden in the conventional GDPbased accounts. The new accounts, he said, would point accurately to the country’s hidden strengths, like its rich natural and cultural heritage, on which it needed to build than taking them for granted.
Two researchers from the Institute for Sustainable Solutions in Portland State University, professors Robert Costanza and Ida Kubiszewski, worked out an estimate of the economic value of Bhutan's natural capital. In their estimate of the value of the country’s ecosystem services, Kubiszewski said it provided 760 billion ngultrum (US$8.3 billion) 10 •
worth of ecosystem services every year. Lyonchhoen said this was 4.4 times more than the country’s whole GDP of 72.3 billion ngultrum ($794 million) a year. Kubiszewski said the country’s 74.5 per cent forest cover added the greatest value of $14.5 billion a year, making up more than 93 per cent of the total value of the country’s ecosystem services. He also said 53 per cent of the total benefits accrued to people outside the country largely from climate regulation that worked out to $3.5 billion a year and another $2.5 billion a year from tourism and recreation. “Potentially there are ideas of payment for carbon sequestration,” he said, adding the forest in Bhutan was capturing carbon out of the atmosphere. “So, there may be the potential for payments for that purpose.”
A new model
If someone was producing these services, he said it should be kept preciously. “We shouldn’t fail to recognise it,” he said, adding there was a need for institutions that could send the right incentives. “We need something, at
the global scale that sees the need to protect the atmosphere as an aspect.” Kubiszewski said on the one end, there was the objective well-being, concerned with how people felt about life and how happy they were, while on the other side, there was the opportunities, assets and capabilities that allowed people to meet their needs, to feel the sense of well-being. “We need to understand what our assets for it help contribute to the well-being,” he said. “I think that’s the challenge we are incurring.” He said the task was a difficult one, which, had it not been, others would have done it already. “But I think, a country like Bhutan is a very good place to work out these details,” he said. “It’s a good model and by doing that, it can be a model for the rest of the world on how this process might work.” Lyonchhoen said the new accounting system would help the country understand “more profoundly” what the fourth monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, meant when he said GNH was more important than GNP. “In fact, it’ll help fulfil His Majesty’s vision of a happy and contented people,” he said. March 9-22, 2012
Photo by D eshaka lyan C how dury/A F P
A group of Bhutanese women walk with their children after shopping at a local market in Thimphu. The tiny Himalayan kingdom with a population of less than 700,000 people is guided by the concept of Gross National Happiness.
Do-It-Yourself: How To Be Happy In Three Small Steps
he first thing you have to know and hold to be true to the depths of your soul is that happiness lies in your own two hands. Don’t wait for Big Brother (read: those in power), well meaning though some may be, to do it for you or show you the way. What we all seek in life March 9-22, 2012
is well within our grasp; all we have to do is make a fist of it. Reach into the core of your being. Not literally, of course. Just get to the heart of you. You’ll find that space there that we’ve borne in us from the womb. That rock-a-bye place we all once knew and loved. For it was there that, snug as a bug, we were at our most content. The recall of that bliss is there for all of us to tap. It comes back night after night when we’re in deep sleep. To draw on it while awake takes some doing, but it can be
done, say, through prayer or some such meditation practice. We tend to discount, at great cost to our well being, the value of sleep in our lives. Don’t make that mistake hence. The second step is not to want too much to be happy. It’s like that old wives’ tale about how to fall asleep. What they tell us is not to try at all and, before you know it, you’re in the Land of Nod! Just try it and you’ll see how right they are. When you’re busy with stuff you like doing, and happiness is the last thing on your mind, why then you’re at your happiest. It’s a kind of subconscious byproduct, the spin off of a clear conscience and honest sweat. Don’t mistake pleasure for joy, though; it’s just the light side of pain. In fact, what goes on between these two— pleasure and pain—when you feel neither, is the time for bliss. Not high nor low, fast or slow, but like in cruise control. And you don’t have to smile, though it helps. The third and last step is to learn to be happy for others. This means if someone else wins a game, a wife, a bet, a seat, you name it, be glad for them, not green-eyed. The odds on your own joy go up in leaps and bounds that way. There’s just one of you and if you wait for yourself to win before you feel good, then you won’t be too happy too often. But if you’re pleased when a colleague, friend or even stranger does well, well then, this goes on all the time and so will you be happy that much more. It’s the best way to be happy, when you’re more that way for the other than the self. —John M. Chiramal/Kuensel
COVER STORY By John M. Chiramal Kuensel Photo by E d J ones/A F P
An elderly Bhutanese woman outside her home in a village near the town of Haa. The kingdom’s aging population pose challenges to its health system.
A Long, Hard Look At Happiness ❖❖ Thimpu
he sense of delight is a deep and private state of mind. One man’s pleasure is the next man’s pain. Still, there is common ground: Food in gut, shirt on back, roof over head, formal learning, well-paid job, good health, that sense of safety and a future for one’s brood. Powers that become rule with oaths to help folks meet such needs. How well they live up to their vows will decide how long they get to warm those seats of power. To invest in voter contentment is to earn poll capital. That’s a rule 12 •
straight out of the primer on politics. It’s a ticket to ride at the helm of state. The flip side of their let-me-helpyou spiel is a bent, once in charge, to think they know what’s best for the rest. This may hurt you, they’d then tell us, but it’s for your own good. Of the many systems that have come and gone, or hang on for dear life, there are some broad strokes one can draw. One, dictatorships aren’t so hot on happiness. Take, as a case in point, North Korea’s public display of grief at Kim Jong-il’s passing. In the past, on their “good” days, smiles were rare; to weep, on the other hand, came like second nature.
So, democracies, for all their warts, are no doubt far nicer places to be. When it comes to the rival camps of socialism (people power) and capitalism (the free market), such (laugh) lines in the sand aren’t that straight to raw. In the first, poverty is across the board. When need is shared, the load is pared. Want can else be such a drag on joy; but if all the rest are in the same boat, things don’t seem so bad. In the latter, the gap between haves and have-nots is a goad that keeps the mob in a constant state of angst. The only delights to be found, or so TV ads/shows would have it, are at the haunts of the gated rich; and for this lot too it’s all too short-lived.
Now it’s a no-brainer that wealth and happiness go hand in glove. In number crunch speak, it’s called positive correlation. Put in lay terms, the more funds one has at hand, the more well off one is bound to feel. Why belabour the obvious? I hear you say. Hang on, though, I recall a survey done once that found a poor country like Bangladesh to be more content than a whole bunch of rich ones: March 9-22, 2012
Photo by John Macdouga ll/AFP
Japan and Norway, to name but two. extent of its life. And in a dog-eat- survey teams ask to be quite absurd. Or look at Bhutan, where happiness dog world, humans are not immune “Are you happy?” they want to and the country’s progress isn’t based to the law of the jungle. We are in know. on GDP but on the people’s sense of fact at the head of the class—smackWell, if they came to me, say, on development and a sense of cultural bang on top of the food chain. payday, I’d be over the moon. Ask the and national belonging. Its search for All of which means that the pursuit same at the end of the month, when happiness lies not so much on of happiness, as the Yanks put it (in I’m skint, and this once happy camper material fulfilment but on family the US Constitution), can be a pretty would now be down in the dumps. relations and community life. How can one help but be subjective? darn selfish affair. It could call on So, it’s not all that clear cut, one to take a leaf out of the “me first” Happiness is from the holy roller’s after all. point of view. book of life. The Fortune 500 are not fonts of In most creeds, life is not meant to Which brings us to the next joy; the well-off can be quite question: Does happiness tread the be all fun and games. In the Judeo/ conflicted. Think of the few rich folk same well-worn path as wealth? Christian/Islamic tradition, our days you may know and you’ll see what I Insofar as it seems to take a sea of poor of joy came to a dead end way back mean. Or look to those—and they’re souls to keep a few fat cats afloat. when, with Adam (and Eve)’s exile not a few—who take from the Garden of their own lives in the soEden. By their books, we called first world. are here to suffer. The After a point, your stairway to heaven is cash kind of takes paved with pain. charge of you. If one Hindus and has too much, then one Buddhists, who set a lot can’t bear in the least of store by the doctrine the thought of its loss. of karma, are a bit less And when you know too doom and gloom. By you can’t take it with their lights, you can be you, it becomes a blinker glad in this life if you’ve that half blinds you in paid for it, in spades, the bardo. with blood, sweat and It has been said that tears, in a former one. If there is more than not, suffer in silence, enough money to go Bhutanese youths, and a mother lean into a small shop to watch TV, in Babesa. and do all the good you Television was introduced in Bhutan only in 2002 in a country where traditional ‘ r o u n d t h e w o r l d . values and culture are closely guarded. can while you wait for Wealth in the hands of a your place in the sun, few is the biggest bump next time around. Is it more of the same for some on the road to peace on our planet. The four noble truths are all to do There is no place on earth free of this to be happy? Or is there enough with pain; there’s not much joy to be joy (as there are riches, in truth) had in this life is the burden of their inequity. to go around? song. To put an end to suffering, Sailing through These are some of the moral and which is the goal of the eight-fold But one may ask, is happiness a social sides of the issue to be looked path, may help one start to be happy. purely human trait, or does it apply at, if one is to get to the nub of things. The Buddha taught that one to all sentient beings? If you’ve Then again, can happiness be a should neither seek out the things seen a dog grin, a croc in tears or lasting state of being? In the real that please, nor shun what puts us heard a cat purr, I’m sure you’ll see world, that looks like a real long shot. off. Extremes are to be steered clear eye to eye with me on this and say When life itself is so fleeting, how of; the happy medium is the middle that it’s the latter. long a span can joy hope to have? path. To ones in nirvana, the ups and It’s plain to me that if one has the Our lives are a roller coaster ride. downs of life are sailed through in breath of life, then so will one have Glad one moment, sad the next, and the way of a ship, whose bow cuts the potential (or is it a power?) to be so it goes. On and on, up and down, through choppy seas. They know no happy. Now, this might seem to be a round and round. troughs or peaks; their lives are flat sophist ploy, like I’m splitting hairs, Indeed, we wouldn’t know the one, lines of poise. but that was a vital point to make. had it not been for the other. The point is to take the highs and In this rat race we call life, more oft lows that strew all lives in stride. than not, one creature’s comfort Turning to religion Don’t be put off by failure nor drawn Which is why one finds the question to success. comes at the cost of the other, to the March 9-22, 2012
Photo by D eshakalyan C how dury/A F P
Tread Lightly: Bhutanese Not Yet Happy
he GNH index based on results of the GNH 2010 survey shows that 41 per cent of Bhutanese can be classified as happy, while 59 per cent are “not-yet happy”, according to an analytical presentation available on the GNH website. The categorising was determined by a sufficiency threshold and a happiness threshold. For a person to be considered happy, sufficiency in at least six of the nine domains of GNH needed to be met. The sufficiency threshold is how much a person needs to enjoy sufficiency in a particular domain and to create a happiness condition. The sufficiency thresholds were set using international (i.e. Millennium Development Goals, International Labour Organisation) and national standards. Normative judgments and participatory meetings with local communities were also used to set sufficiency thresholds. Next the happiness threshold is determined by looking at whether a person enjoys sufficiency in more than 66 per cent, or six GNH domains. A person who enjoys sufficiency in six or more domains is considered happy. About 41 per cent of Bhutanese enjoy sufficiency in six or more domains, so according to the GNH index, are considered happy. Bhutanese have the most sufficiency in health, then ecology, psychological well-being, and community vitality, it was found. In urban areas, 50 per cent of people are happy, while in rural it is 37 per cent. The unmarried and the young are among the happiest people in Bhutan. Around 59 per cent of Bhutanese did not fulfil the thresholds of being sufficient in six or more domains and were classified at “not-yet happy”. Of this, 67 per cent are women and 51 per cent are men. The findings show that on average, 14 •
An elderly loads a mule with straw in a village of Paro, some 65km southwest of Thimphu. Over 60 per cent of the population is dependent on subsistence farming.
the “not-yet happy” have insufficiency in four domains, with education being the highest contributor to unhappiness. Within the education domain there are four indicators: knowledge, schooling, literacy, and value. More than 50 per cent of Bhutanese are insufficient in three of four indicators. Bhutanese experience low levels of knowledge in cultural and historical aspects of the country, and in health and politics, irrespective of demographic characters. Insufficiency in literacy and schooling came next, although the presentation points out that policies are in line for its advancement. More than 40 per cent of Bhutanese were found insufficient in two of four indicators of good governance. By region, in urban areas, the highest insufficiency is in governance, time use, and culture, while in rural areas, it is living standards and education. The findings also shows that even among those considered happy, there are insufficiencies in knowledge, participation in festivals, donations, having more than six years of schooling, enjoying government services, political participation and believing in the practice of driglam namzha (traditonal etiquette).
By gender, men are happier than women, and the highest percentage of happy and “not-yet happy” people are found in the districts of Thimphu and Chukha. Besides measuring and categorising people into the happy or “not-yet happy” groups, the GNH index, using a formula, also calculates the real GNH index for 2010, which comes to 0.743. The GNH index is measured on a scale of 0-1, a higher number being better. The GNH inde x is us e d to understand happiness by finding how many people are happy and how they are happy. It seeks to increase happiness by also finding those who are “not-yet happy” and where there are insufficiencies. —Gyalsten K Dorji/Kuensel
The nine domains of GNH Living standard Health Education Time use Good governance Ecological diversity and resilience Psychological well-being Community vitality Cultural diversity and resilience
March 9-22, 2012
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CHANGING ASIA By Waris Husain Dawn
In The Name of Terrorism
Photo by A sif Hassan/A F P
Paki sta n
A woman carries her baby during a protest of missing persons’ families in Karachi in 2008. The Pakistani government is allegedly unlawfully detaining hundreds of people in the name of the fight against terrorism.
Pakistan military’s new powers lead to arbitrary arrests and disappearances
he prisoners who were snatched up by Pakistan’s intelligence agents years ago from Adiala prison hobbled their way into Pakistan’s Supreme Court recently. Their deteriorated condition was enough to illicit gasps from members of the court, and one of the prisoner’s mothers suffered a fatal heart attack the day after seeing her tortured and emaciated son. Unfortunately, there are many more mothers who will grieve for their sons without knowing their fate under the military’s policy of enforced disappearance. If the Supreme Court wishes to tackle the illegal actions of the military, they will need to start by striking down several laws permitting the military to indefinitely detain citizens, prosecute them under military tribunals and deny them their right to appeal. While many believe that the army is acting without regard for the law in their kidnapping and illegal detention of 'terrorist suspects', they are mistaken. The power to wage this aggression is codified by law, the 16 •
first dating back to 1952. The 1952 Army Act has been used to legally justify military detentions, even though its provisions violate constitutional principles. Article 133 of this act states, “it is hereby declared that no appeal… shall lie in respect to any proceeding or decision of a court martial to any court exercising jurisdiction anywhere.” Similarly, the Pakistan Armed Forces Acting in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance of 1998 states that a suspect who was convicted by a military tribunal cannot appeal to any civilian court. Rather, they must appeal to the military for relief, and the appellate military court’s judgment “shall be final and shall
not be called in question before any court”. The Army Act was further expanded in 2007, such that it can now be used against military personnel and civilians alike. The 2007 amendment allowed the military to detain and court martial civilians suspected of the following crimes: Condemnation of the creation of the state and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty, sedition and giving a statement conducive to “public mischief”.
The changes to the Army Act were installed partly to subject the Baloch to military detention and tribunals. March 9-22, 2012
March 9-22, 2012
Though this is unlikely to happen, the only way to truly confront the military’s extrajudicial behaviour is through a united attack by judges and politicians. The issues confronting suspects in military detention will not subside unless all branches of the government take immediate action to reign in the military’s abuses. Just as these abuses were facilitated by laws, these old laws will have to be nullified by the courts and new laws will have to be created by parliament. Without such a dual approach, the injustices faced by suspects in military detention will continue, and mothers will continue to desperately wonder where their children have “disappeared” to. The writer holds a Juris Doctorate in the US and is a researcher on comparative law and international law issues. A soldier stands on a secured location on a hill in Ladha town, a the stronghold of Taliban militants in troubled south Waziristan.
Photo by Faroog Naeem/AFP
Balochistan has always been an epicentre for ethnic nationalism in Pakistan, with a popular movement calling for a secession from the 'occupying' Pakistani state. Therefore, the Army Act expanded the army’s ability to deprive Baloch citizens of their right to appeal before a civilian court. The military was granted greater power in 2010 when President Asif Ali Zardari signed the “Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation 2011 for Fata”. Though this legislation gave powers to the president over the military, it is currently being abused to allow for indefinite “internment” of suspected terrorists by the military. The counsel for the army
recently stated that the individuals involved in the Adiala case before the Supreme Court are being detained under this regulation. This essentially means that the military can indefinitely detain any individual without charging them with any crime or releasing information about their detention to their families. The Supreme Court has flexed its muscles recently and publicly displayed its ire against a noncompliant civilian government. The Zardari-led administration has certainly played a waiting game with the Supreme Court, which has drawn criticism that the president is standing in the way of an independent judiciary. However, the greatest menace to an independent judiciary is the military, through the above mentioned articles that deprive the Supreme Court of Pakistan the right to hear appeals from citizens. The Supreme Court must rule that the military’s power to exclusively prosecute individuals, denying them the ability to appeal to a civilian court, is void ab intitio, or void from the start. Article 10a of the Constitution ensures the right to a fair trial and the Federal Shariah Court of Pakistan interpreted this Article as guaranteeing, “the right of appeal (as) a substantive right”. Further, the military should not be able to “court martial” civilians as is permitted under the Army Act, considering the several constitutional guarantees to a just trial in Pakistan’s Constitution. However, the Constitution also contains a roadblock for attempting to bring the military in check. Article 199 (3) states that the Supreme Court cannot pass any order “in relation to a person…who is for the time being subject to any law relating to any of those Forces.” Therefore, there must be an amendment passed that nullifies Article 199 (3) which can be done most expeditiously by the parliament and president.
By Suthichai Yoon The Nation
Reforms Are Irreversible Than Shwe is not like Deng Xiao Ping or Lee Kuan Yew, adviser Ko Ko Hlaing says ❖❖ Naypyitaw
urmese President Thein Sein’s chief political adviser, Ko Ko Hlaing, says Burma’s political reform is “irreversible” because of the president’s strong will, the specific constitutional stipulation towards democracy, the Burmese people’s taste of new-found freedom, and the need for the country to follow the international trend. In an exclusive interview with The Nation, the man known as Burma’s “political insider” said he was certain that former military leader Senior General Than Shwe was not running the country from behind the scenes and would not make a comeback. “As a Buddhist, you can understand the mentality of an elderly Buddhist. You should understand also the mind of a soldier—which is always the desire to accomplish his mission. After the mission is accomplished, he can take a rest. He (Than Shwe) had taken the responsibilities of the state for a long time and there were many hardships, pressures and difficulties. But he did the best for his country. He built a lot of bridges, roads and dams. He also laid down the conditions of democratic reform— the seven-step road map. He is now enjoying his retirement with his 18 •
grandchildren,” Ko Ko Hlaing said. Asked whether Than Shwe may be dictating the government from behind the scenes, the presidential aide said: “As far as I know, he has totally resigned from politics. He doesn’t want to be involved in this new set-up. He told some of his colleagues and some senior military officers that he had resigned from politics. He is not like Deng Xiao Ping of China or Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore (who retained considerable power after stepping down from the top political posts).” Responding to a question about whether the former military strongman is afraid to be taken to trial by a civilian government, Ko Ko Hlaing said: “This is a Buddhist country. Forgiveness is our principle. Also, Aung San Suu Kyi and the other opposition leaders, old and young, have talked about forgiving and forgetting the past and trying to do the best for the nation.” Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy leader, has said she is not clear whether the Burmese military establishment is solidly behind the reform “and until I know that they support the reform fully, I cannot say that the process is irreversible”. The presidential adviser said Suu Kyi had for a long time been under house arrest and, even when she
was in the country, she had been kept in isolation for many years. “It’s now only a few months since her release. So, this is the time she is trying to cope with the current situation. It’s quite natural that she doesn’t fully trust the Myanmar (Burma) military yet.” “We have faced much turbulence and riots in the past. We don’t want to return to the past. The Myanmar government and the people wholeheartedly want a smooth transition. It’s a top-down process. We star ted with a bottom-up approach in 1988 but, during 20042011, it was a top-down process. Why? Because we would like to see a very smooth transition. At that time, there was no Arab Spring. But we have to admit that we have had a long history of insurrections and insurgencies. That’s why the role of the military was quite significant in our politics,” he said. Burma at the time was risking disintegration like Bosnia. “The military tried very hard to keep the country intact at the peak of the Cold War between the Eastern and Western blocs. We also had to protect our territorial integrity. It was a very hard time for the Myanmar army. This experience has always haunted the military leaders. “That’s why the Myanmar military March 9-22, 2012
wants to have a role in the political arena, not to dominate the political stage but to take part as an element— as a balancing sector. That’s 25 per cent of the seats in parliament. The Indonesian constitution used to have a nearly 40-per-cent military presence in parliament,” he said. “Every revolution started from evolution,” he added. “The military regime (in Burma) back in 1988 had an idea to return power to the people and to build a democratic society, but
August of that year. And as soon as the military took power, they promised that one day they would return power to the people. At the time, the political opposition forces were quite nervous and frustrated after the political turmoil. They wanted democracy instantly—within a short time—but the situation was quite chaotic. At the same time, we have many minority groups,” he said. The presidential adviser explained that at the time, the biggest rebel Burmese President Thein Sein’s chief political adviser Ko Ko Hlaing talks to the author, Suthichai Yoon.
for many reasons, the process took over two decades.” Ko Ko Hlaing pointed out that the fall of the Berlin Wall happened in 1989, and that the Tiananmen incident in China took place the same year. But in Burma, the “people’s uprising” had broken out in 1988. “Actually, Myanmar was a pioneer in the democracy movement. At the time (1988), it was a bottom-up activity. People had suffered social economic hardship for a long time. When the spark occurred, there was an uprising. Unfortunately, there followed anarchy in our country. The defence services of Myanmar had to take responsibility of the state in March 9-22, 2012
group was the communist party. The BCP, together with other minority groups such as the KNU (Karen National Union), exploited the political instability by launching huge offensives against the government forces in the remote areas near the Burma-China and Burma-Thailand borders. They were very fierce battles, he said. Thousands of lives were sacrificed. Internal security became a problem. So, the military made as their first priority the restoration of stability. In the late 1990s, it was the first time the country had some degree of stability, and some minority groups negotiated peace with the government, he said.
The military government at the time changed the approach. Successive governments since independence had made many a t t e m p t s a t r e a c h i n g c e a s e fi r e agreements with the minority groups, but they all failed. That’s because the government held the position that the ethnic groups must first disarm, but the rebel groups did not believe in this deal, he said, adding that they wanted to keep their arms for their own security. There was no trust between the government and the rebels. “Now, the government has changed its position. The rebels can keep their arms while ceasefire agreements are being negotiated—and the government launched development schemes in the rebels’ areas,” Ko Ko Hlaing said. He explained that in the early 2000s, “we had agreements with 17 major ethnic armed groups. In Sri Lanka, they had only one rebel group—the (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). They couldn’t make a breakthrough. Eventually, the government had to crush them. In Indonesia, they only had the Merdeka, the Aceh freedom-fighters. They had very difficult negotiations for a peace agreement. Here in Myanmar, we had 17 major ethnic armed groups and about two dozen other minor groups, and we managed to reach temporary peace agreements at that time. For the first time, villagers in the remote areas didn’t hear any sound of gunshots. That was between the years 2000 and 2003-2004”. “Once we achieved a certain level of stability, the military government started the reform process. In late 2003, we embarked on a seven-step road map for political reform. By 2008, we completed the drafting of the constitution and held a national referendum. In 2010, we held the first election in 50 years. In March 2011, we had the first elected government in Myanmar. Actually, this president is implementing the plan that had been laid down earlier,” the presidential adviser added. • 19
By Anika Hossain The Daily Star
Born To Be Dark ❖❖ Dhaka
n a world where the most powerful man is African American, you would think people would dispel the idea that the colour of your skin determines your success in life. Unfortunately that is not the case, especially in the subcontinent, where there is a common perception that if you are not light skinned, you are doomed to misery and failure. In a part of the world where most people have varying shades of brown skin, trust us South Asians to have found a way to discriminate against each other. The most common victims of this prejudice are dark skinned women, who incidentally, make up a majority of the female population of South Asia. Parents lose sleep over the future of their kalo (dark) daughters—will they ever find good husbands? If so, how much dowry will it take to get these girls off their hands? Men reject prospective wives because they prefer someone “just a shade lighter”, darker women grow up hearing about their bleak futures, praying every night for a magical transformation. If you are thinking that this attitude is limited to rural cultures, think again. “I have grown up hearing my skin colour is moila as in dirty, from various family members and my parents’ friends,” says Samina Khalil (not her real name) who 20 •
Many beautiful dark -skinned women go unnoticed because of the notion that fairness equals beauty.
belongs to an upper middle class family in Dhaka. “They would then proceed to comfort my parents, telling them that since I come from a good family, it will make up for my shortcomings. You know, when I was younger I always believed I was quite ugly,” she says. “My grandmother would always fret about my dark skin,” says Amiya Hussain (not her real name), who comes from a well to do background, “When she passed away just recently, I discovered that she had left me a h u ge a m o u n t of m o n ey a n d instructed my father to use it as my dowry. I laugh about it now, but at the time I felt terrible that someone I loved so much thought so little of me,” she shakes her head. “I was rejected five times by prospective suitors because of my skin colour,” says Nusrat Jahan, a successful businesswoman, “I refused to have an arranged marriage after that. It was just too humiliating.”
From the dark ages
These accounts may make you wonder (one would hope)—where on earth did this ridiculous mindset originate? “This perception was developed centuries ago when our people were ruled by foreign invaders,” says Rezwana Karim, Lecturer of Anthropology at the Jahangirnagar University. From the Aryans and Persians, who were succeeded by the Mughals, followed closely by the British, for hundreds of
years, our people were oppressed by white-skinned rulers. “These rulers, especially during the colonial times, defined beauty,” says Karim. “They told us for years that to be beautiful you must be light skinned. This was nothing but a political construct. They wanted us to believe that in order to receive respect and equal status in society, we had to be like them and we were successfully brainwashed and therefore subservient. Back in the day, even when they raped our women, they believed that their victims were gaining something from this. If they gave birth to fair skinned babies as a result of the rape, they would be elevated within their society. The idea is disturbing, but that is the way things were.” Colonialism came to an end in 1947, but we unfortunate folks seem to be suffering from a long drawn-out hangover. We still associate fair skin with aristocracy, nobility, wealth and prosperity and dark skin with poverty and menial labour, which requires one to stay out under the sun for long hours. The world around us has changed, women of colour have become successful actresses, models and winners of prestigious beauty pageants, but we still hold on to the belief that fair is beautiful as though our very existence depends on it.
Colour a construct
The evidence of this can be seen everywhere. “Take an example from March 9-22, 2012
over the years from our original shade of colour and therefore suffer from an identity crisis of sorts. If you ask any average Bengali what the colour of their skin is, very few will be able to tell you they are brown. They will identify their colour as either fair or dark. This colour consciousness has been ingrained deeply in us.” Bad enough as this is, having to hear from older generations and sometimes even your peers that you are not fair enough to be good enough, manufacturers have found a way to make a profit from this defective thought process.
They try to convince viewers that seemingly unrelated matters such as job prospects, talent, intelligence and love are somehow dependent on skin colour. The worst part is, they are hugely successful in doing so. TV shows and movies reinforce these attitudes subtly, by casting fair skinned actors for lead roles. The fairness product industry is now worth billions. “In my opinion, when ad campaigns for fairness products are created by multinationals, they are shying away from their social responsibilities,” Multinational companies use messages to influence says media analyst perceptions attached to skin colour. Muhammad Jahangir. According to Jahangir, skinned woman. Most TV shows, these ads and media campaigns theatre performances and movies patronise all the negative values and made in the subcontinent have fair beliefs within the society and skinned protagonists. The question reinforce them, while discarding the that arises now is, why are we still g o o d . “ I f y o u h e a r a n d s e e holding on to this archaic mindset? something at least 20 times a day, “I think this is because unlike the you are bound to be convinced at black and the white population, our some point,” he says. “The problem people do not have a history is, very few people question these attached to the colour of their skin,” campaigns and of those who do, says Karim. “We are considered a even fewer stand up for their hybrid society that has changed beliefs. Many women lose their selfMarch 9-22, 2012
confidence because of these ads and they carry themselves in a way that makes them invisible or unnoticeable. These campaigns in a way cripple women psychologically. You look good if you think you do and are confident because you know you look good—people tend to forget that.”
No scientific basis
Jahangir shares that there is no guarantee or scientific proof that these fairness products actually work the way they are advertised. “I have worked with people in pharmaceutical companies who say that these don’t bring about the changes in skin colour that the ads promise,” says Jahangir. “However their voices are not heard. The multinational companies creating these ads have huge expensive campaigns and the people opposing them do not have funds to equal theirs to create anti-fairness product campaigns. So for the most part, they are ignored.” In the past the only way a dark skinned woman could change her skin colour was through the use of many layers of white make-up. Although the tradition of the unnaturally white bride (or person wanting party make-up done) still continues, nowadays every parlour in the city offers ways to become whiter, permanently. They offer whitening facials that contain bleach and encourage regular visits to maintain the resulting artificially fair skin. Those who can afford it spend thousands on what they call “skin treatment”. This phenomenon is not just limited to South Asia. East Asian women, who are already light skinned, try ways to be lighter, Middle Eastern women crave for a more pinkish white colour—the obsession is widespread. “We have progressed in terms of women’s education and development, but we have a long way to go, perhaps another century before this mindset can be changed,” says Muhammad Jahangir. • 21
Photos by A mirul Rajiv/ The Daily Star
religion,” says Karim, “The word Krishna means black/dark, but the Hindu god is depicted as a blue man, simply because there is no way black is a good colour for a god. Think about the goddess Durga who has many identities, one of which is Kali the warrior. Kali is the only goddess who is painted black, and that too because she is the angry and dangerous version of Durga— attributes that are generally viewed in a negative light. All other gods and goddesses are painted white.” Innumerable famous paintings and sculptures glorify the white
By Suvendrini Kakuchi InterPress-Service
A Japanese farmer dumps spinach at his farm in Nihonmatsu in Fukushima prefecture, 50 kms west of the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant after the government ordered a halt to shipments of certain foods in the aftermath of the disater.
Photo by Yoshikaz u Tsu no/AFP
Trust Deficit— Fukushima’s Worst Fallout ❖❖ Tokyo
azuya Tarukawa, 36, left a secure job in the Japanese capital to tend to his family’s organic farm located 100km away from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. Although falling outside the evacuation zone, set at 60km from ground zero by the Japanese government, the Tarukawa farm is not immune to suspicions of contamination as consumers grow increasingly wary of radiation contamination. Ten days after the disaster at the Fukushima plant on March 11, 2011, Tarukawa’s 74-year-old father, Hisashi Tarukawa, committed suicide in despair. “My father was devastated after the meltdown in the Fukushima nuclear reactor and reports of radiation contamination spread. He felt hopeless about not only his future but also for agriculture in Japan,” the 22 •
younger Tarukawa told IPS. The farm, that produces a variety of vegetables in the summer, has been carefully tilled for eight generations, a legacy that in the past decade included organic farming under the devoted efforts of the now deceased Tarukawa. “The nuclear accident has wiped all our efforts away,” said Tarukawa’s son and successor, who struggles with bouts of deep despair himself.
Need for policy
Farmers in the area are still struggling to come to terms with the fact that one of the worst fallouts of the Fukushima nuclear accident is the blow it dealt to the Japanese food industry, once respected worldwide for quality standards. “Japanese marine and agricultural products are reeling from domestic and international rejection due to radiation fear,” says professor Ryota Koyama, an expert on food safety at Fukushima University. “The time has come to develop
new safety policies that are based on both scientific evidence and social concerns, a critical step towards dealing with this issue,” said Koyama. The past few months have seen the government scrambling to re ga i n p u bl i c t r u s t w i t h fo o d g r ow n i n Fu k u s h i m a a n d t h e neighbouring areas by scraping away contaminated top soil from local farms. Other measures include pledges to conduct new testing for Cesium 1 3 7, a d a n ge ro u s rad i oa c t ive material, on more than 25,000 farms, establishing more stringent safety ratings from April this year and also intensifying screenings for the element in stores. Cesium 137 has a half-life of around 30 years and is a known cause of cancer.
This month, the Japanese health ministry proposed a special limit of 50 becquerels (measure of cesium) March 9-22, 2012
per kilogramme for milk and food items for infants, to lower their exposure to radiation. A panel of scientists has already approved the proposal, while pointing out in a release that new measures for all food items have “secured special considerations for children”. But anti-nuclear activists and parents who are continuing to lobby for better protection standards for children in Fukushima insist they will not be satisfied until the government takes steps to evacuate the entire younger generation to fully safe areas. According to estimates made by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in September 2011, an area of more than 8,000 sq km had accumulated Cesium 1 37 levels of 30,000 becquerels per sq metre. The contaminated area estimated included almost half of Fukushima prefecture, the third largest in Japan, covering 13,782 sq km. It included 1,370 sq km in Tochigi, 380 sq km in March 9-22, 2012
Miyagi and 260 sq km in Ibaraki, prefecture adjacent to Fukushima. Asahi Shimbun calculated the size of the contaminated area based on a distribution map of accumulated cesium 137 levels measured from aircraft and released by the science ministry on Sept 8, 2011. Fukushima and the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl are both rated at “level 7”, the worst on the International Nuclear Event Scale because the quantities of radioactive materials released exceeded several tens of thousands of terabecquerels. “Testing that indicated unsafe contamination level was initially done by farmers rather than the government,” observed Masai Shiina, spokesperson for the Fukushima Mothers Network to Protect Children. “Trust is broken with officials.”
According to Koyama, increasing public angst and mistrust of the government has raised the
importance of developing nuclear safety standards that are based not on scientific measurements alone. “ T h e p u b l i c re f u s a l t o b e appeased by scientific safety levels proposed by the government supports the dire need for the inclusion of a social approach to the current nuclear contamination,” he pointed out. A prospect that Koyama pushes in his research on food contamination is developing a variety of safety levels based on food items to replace the current limit set at 100 becquerels. At issue is the development of tougher standards on staples such as rice while fruits can stay at current levels, following a system practised in Ukraine. Koyama advocates dissemination o f c l e a r i n fo r m a t i o n o n t h e dangers posed by various kinds of radioactive contamination such as t h e fa c t t h at ce s i u m c a n b e controlled over several decades whereas radiation exposure from plutonium at Chernobyl lasts much longer. Farmer Kitaburo Tanno, who gave up his eight-hectare farm in Nihonmatsu, located 45 km from the damaged reactor, agrees that h o n e s t i n fo r m at i o n f ro m t h e government is the only way to save Japanese agriculture. “I decided to move away from my farm soon after the accident because I could no longer trust information from the government. I would have appreciated an honest assessment for farmers who could then move on with the support of public funds. This did not happen,” he explained to IPS. Mo re t h a n 10 0,0 0 0 p e o p l e, mostly younger people, have left Fukushima to escape radiation contamination. The mass migration is bound to affect agriculture production in the rich farming areas of the northeast prefecture a major a g r i c u l t u r a l b a s e f o r Ja p a n , leaving the government with having to make tough choices and decisions. • 23
By Trisha Sertori The Jakarta Post
No Time For Play Bali’s child porters dream of another life as they work to feed their families
Photos by The Jakarta P ost
A child hefts a load of items larger than herself.
o r t h e pa s t few ye a rs , Wa y a n N i l a h a s b e e n hefting a heavily loaded basket onto her head and ferrying vegetables, fruits and meat to customers’ waiting cars. This diminutive porter is tough and wiry, much like her friends Pitri Pitasari and Nyoman as they weave the aisles of Denpasar’s Badung Market in Bali searching for customers to make enough rupiah to eat and hopefully send some money home. These are the child workers of Badung Market; the youngest working there recently was 12-yearold Nyoman, who does not yet know how to spell her own name. The legal age to work in Bali is 17 according to the Social Welfare Agency. “I started working here about a year ago. I like this work because I can help my parents. I have no boss and no one tries to take my money,” said Nyoman. Acting as protector and friend to the 12-year-old is an old hand at the porter game, 17-year-old Nengah, who started working as a market porter when she was just 10 years of
Some of the porters at Badung Market rest together with friends. There is a school on Fridays and Saturdays at the market for the hardworking young porters in Bali.
age. She explains only girls and women are porters at the market. “Only girls carry the baskets, boys are not allowed to do this,” said the striking looking Nengah, adding that it was through working at the market that she learned to read. “I started here when I was 10 because there was no other work available—I come from Karangasem, like most of the girls here. At the market we have a school on Fridays and Saturdays so I learned to read here at the market. We’ve had this school for a long time,” said Nengah, who has dreams of one day opening her own stall at the market. She added that heading to work at the market as a child was her best shot at getting any education at all. “My family could not afford to send me to school in my village—we have no money.”
Dreaming of a life
These market porters said they have dreams of working in other fields, but the manifestation of these dreams seems unlikely. “My dream is to one day have a shop so I can sell things,” said Nengah, while little Nyoman dreams of cooking food to sell. “I can cook, my Mum taught me to cook so I could sell food. I don’t yet March 9-22, 2012
A young girl works amid the toys and other goods for sale at the market.
have the money to start.” Pitri’s dreams are harder to achieve. While she is now learning to read and write at the twice weekly market school, her dream of becoming a doctor seems a dream too far for this market porter. Most of these girls hail from small, impoverished villages in Karangasem in Bali’s dry northeastern region. They have created their own family structures, watching out for each other while getting competitive when it comes to customers. Nyoman’s family is still in her village, waiting each month for the few rupiah she can send home. “I live in a boarding house in Ubung with Sari, she is from my village, so I am not alone,” said this tiny 12year-old whose basket is almost larger than she is. Her boarding house friend, 15-year-old Sari, has been working at the market for several years. Being born into a family of six girls left her little option but to head to the city when she should have been going to school. “Nyoman stays with me so she is safe. We take the bus each morning at 5am and we work here until the evening. I didn’t ever go to school, because my family couldn’t pay. My March 9-22, 2012
older sister is married, so she has gone away. “I have one sister at school in our village, so there is only me to earn money for our family. Dad is in the village and Mum finds glass and wood to sell. We have one cow and I go home once a month. I take money for Nyoman’s family with me,” said Sari. She added that she loves her work, and the market school offers her an education she would otherwise have no access to.
Feeding a family
“It’s better I work here than being back in my village. I like the work and I can now read. I came here when I was 10 and lived with friends from Karangasem—I wasn’t scared leaving home because I had friends here to help,” said Sari, who at 15 has already been financially supporting her family for five years. Pitri is blunt in her reasons for portering the 12-hour days at the market. “If we don’t work our families are hungry. It’s busy here now with Galungan and Kuningan so we can make good money, US$5 a day is possible if the customers aren’t stingy. Most of the time I earn less than that each day, but it’s really good now,” said Pitri,
who, like all the young female porters, sends money home to support her family. It is not only youngsters scratching a living as porters at the Badung Market; for the past 25 years Ibu Yuli has been making ends meet for her family, starting when she was still a child and continuing now as a mother of four. “I feel sorry for the kids working here, but they are hungry so they need to work. I want to see all these kids able to read and write so they have more choices in their lives, so they can build better futures for themselves. I’ve worked here as a porter for 25 years and I have managed to put all my kids through high school. One is a nurse, the other works in a villa and one is still in school. My work as a porter paid for their education, so I am proud of this. So when I see these kids at the market wanting to learn at the school here it makes me happy and hopeful,” said Ibu Yuli of these market children treading in her footsteps. “I never want my kids to work here. My dream would be for them to go to school and get good jobs,” said 15-year-old Pitri, determined in her long-term plans for a better future for the next generation. • 25
By Ho Ai Li The Straits Times
Chollywood’s Big Challenges AFP PH OTO
China is now the third largest film market in the world but imports account for half of its box office takings
ilms shown in Chinese cinemas pulled in 13 billion yuan (US$2 billion) at the box office last year, allowing China to pip the European Union as the third-largest film market in the world after the United States and Japan. But the rise in ranking—China came in fourth in 2010—masks the country’s reliance on imports, including Hollywood blockbusters. Some 40 per cent to 50 per cent of its box-office sales each year are generated by about 50 foreign movies from the US, Europe or Japan. China’s agreement during VicePresident Xi Jinping’s stop in Los Angeles on the last leg of his US visit to open its market to more US films will make the new year a challenging 26 •
one for Chinese movie-makers. Under the deal, China will raise the quota for US movie imports from 20 to 34 a year, the Los Angeles Times reported. The additions will be largely 3-D or Imax movies. Allowing in more US movies will give Chinese viewers more choice, but also put more pressure on Chinese film-makers, according to industry players. “The impact will be great in the short term,” Tan Hong, chairman of Chinese movie firm Stellar Mega Media, told Beijing News. “There are now already many home-grown movies and they have to try to avoid clashing with the release dates of Hollywood movies. (With the new quota), their survival space has become smaller.” Even without the new deal, the socalled ‘Chollywood’ express is hitting
BIG HIT: File photo of Chinese moviegoers watching science-fiction blockbuster 'Avatar' on 3-D. China has raised the quota for movie imports from 20 to 34 a year, with additions mostly on 3-D or Imax movies.
some speed bumps. Ticket sales of both local and foreign movies rose only 28.9 per cent last year—half that of 2010—even though the number of new cinema screens grew by 50 per cent to 9,200, according to figures from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. After a 60 per cent jump in ticket sales in 2010, fuelled by runaway Chinese hits such as Aftershock, which is about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, and satire Let The Bullets Fly, the momentum of made-inChina movies stalled last year. The Flowers Of War—director Zhang Yimou’s 600 million yuan epic about the Nanjing massacre—had yet to break even by the year end. Most of the big-budget films flopped, according to film critic Raymond Zhou. For instance, A Chinese Ghost March 9-22, 2012
Story, a 200 million yuan remake of the 1987 classic, made only 150 million yuan. The Warring States, a 150 million yuan period film, also failed at the box office. Observers say the problem is that there are too many movies of the same genre and with similar themes. “As the production value for action films, especially period dramas, gets higher and higher, audiences have their expectations raised even higher,” said Zhou. “That means they get bored easily.” These movies also tend to recycle the same well-known stories without adding much value to them, he added. The surprise hit last year was a low-budget romantic comedy, Love Is Not Blind, which raked in 350 million yuan. “This low-budget, no-star romance March 9-22, 2012
comedy proves that the most fundamental thing is still a good story,” noted Zhou. This could be one reason why most Chinese movies do not sell well overseas. Last year, 55 Chinese movies were exported, earning about 2 billion yuan, compared with 3.5 billion yuan in 2010. The sum is a fraction of the $12.7 billion that Hollywood’s six major movie studios made in global markets in 2010. Feng Xiaogang, one of China’s most successful directors, is unfazed by the new deal. “The more Hollywood movies released, the greater the creative space for Chinese film-makers. Whatever content they can make, we will be allowed to do the same,” he wrote on his microblog. “It’s good news for audiences. The
good will win, the bad will be eliminated. What’s there to fear?”
(at box office) 1 Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon: 1 billion yuan (US$159 million) 2 Kungfu Panda 2: 608 million yuan ($97 million) 3 Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: 463 million yuan ($73 million) 4 The Flowers Of War: 450 million yuan ($71 million) 5 Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2: 408 million yuan ($65 million)
By Nirmala Ganapathy The Straits Times
Bollywood Shoots For Foreign Stars ❖❖ New Delhi
s Pakistan demolished Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound last month, its replica was taking shape across the border in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh as part of a Hollywood production. The film crew of Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow recreated the Pakistani neighbourhood to shoot scenes for her upcoming movie, Zero Dark Thirty, based on the United States Navy Seal operation that killed the al-Qaeda leader last year. And the Indian authorities could not be happier with the 60-year-old director’s choice of location as India is hoping to interest more foreign film crews in shooting in the country. The government hopes this will raise India’s popularity as a tourist destination. 28 •
An agreement last month between the country’s tourism and information and broadcasting ministries aims to provide a one-stop shop to all foreign film crews, by providing the required clearances and visas as well as tax incentives for future shoots. “Movies have played a big role in enhancing profiles of a destination... We will work with states for singlewindow permission so that moviemakers find it easy to get permission for shooting,” said tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahai. India—a country whose filmmakers regularly fly overseas to shoot entire movies or at least its song-and-dance sequences—lags woe fully behind countries like Thailand when it comes to attracting foreign film crews. The producers of Skyfall, the la te s t J am e s Bon d i ns t al men t, shelved plans to shoot the film in India after failing to get clearances
for an action sequence and rumoured budget constraints. The last Bond movie to be shot in India was Octopussy in 1983. Even Bigelow’s crew had to face minor hiccups, with protests by Hindu right-wingers over the raising of Pakistani flags during the shoot, and by Muslim groups for disruption of peace. There has been a substantial increase in on-location shooting by foreign film-makers in recent years, with as many as 60 Hollywood productions shot in India since 2009. Still, Thailand has fared better with more than 75 foreign films shot in 2009 and 2010 alone. Interestingly, most foreign film crews shooting in Thailand were from India and Japan. Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol and Christian Bale’s Batman: The Dark Knight Rises were among the films recently shot in India, following the 2010 starMarch 9-22, 2012
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studded flick Eat, Pray, Love and the 2009 Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire. These two blockbusters propelled India onto the international stage, as classics like Gandhi and A Passage To India did in the late 1980s. However, these films had to be shot in India in order to look authentic. “Currently, this (decision to shoot in India) is driven by script considerations more than anything else,” said Uday Singh, managing director of the Motion Picture Distributors Association. He hopes that this will change with a little push by the government. “If India can bring in singlew i n d o w c l e a r a n c e s f o r fi l m i n g rather than creating a web of red tape, it could be a big boost to the country... Film tourism promotes cultural exchanges, technological exchanges and creates employment oppor tunities and boos ts local March 9-22, 2012
talent,” he said. Hollywood shoots in India have also been aimed at tapping the huge market for foreign movies in this film-crazy country. “India is a small but promising market... Having a bit of India in it, I think, helps the movie do a little better in these parts,” said Jehil Thakkar, executive director of KPMG India, an auditing and advisory firm. Cruise’s Mission Impossible, shot in the southern Bangalore city, generated much pre-release buzz for the film, which garnered a whopping US$4 million in the opening weekend last December. It was released in English as well as in Hindi. In future, ticket sales for foreign productions are expected to grow to 130 billion rupees by 2013 from 87 billion rupees in 2010, according to estimations by PricewaterhouseCoopers. With many international movies
on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the pipeline, experts believe that India can provide the right landscapes for many more film-makers. Those in the business of moviemaking hope the Indian government will keep its promise to make shooting more organised for filmmakers. This is currently managed by a host of middlemen and agencies which push the necessary paperwork through. “India should encourage foreign film shoots so that they can get more business and revenues flowing in from outside,” said producer Sanjay Singh, who is working on Gandhi Of The Month, a film starring American actor Harvey Keitel. “Movie-making is not seen as a business in India right now,” he said. “India should encourage foreign film shoots so that they can get more business and revenues flowing in from outside.” • 29
By Anne A. Jambora Philippine Daily Inquirer
You’re Only As Good As Your Gut Following a unique regimen will restore your way to wellness Feeding on only one type of food should not be calorie-based, says Dr Teresa Bitanga Valeros. ❖❖ Manila
ou’ve heard it before: Death begins in the colon. Your gut is home to millions and millions of bacteria, good and bad. Keep it healthy and you’ll create a balanced environment that will boost your immune system and help you fight off diseases. Approximately 30 feet long, it is that tube that runs from your mouth to your anus and plays a vital role to the health of your mind, body and spirit, said Dr. Teresa Bitanga Valeros, NMD and PhD. Your colon has been working hard to keep you in good condition since you were born. When you eat meat, for instance, it takes three days for your stomach to digest. That’s three days of meat sitting in your gut, fermenting and rotting away. This is not about turning vegan, said Valeros. This is about keeping 30 •
your gut healthy. It’s not a detox diet but rather a remedy, a way to “reverse from illness to wellness”, she said. When you’re healthy, that means the bacteria population in your stomach is balanced—there are more “good” than “bad” bacteria. If you easily contract diseases, then balance must be restored. “Eat a princely breakfast, a kingly—or queenly, as the case may be—lunch, and a meager or pauper’s supper,” said Valeros. Born a very sick child to a very ill mother, Valeros, now 62, is only too familiar with coping with diseases. Describing her childhood home as a virtual hospital—her mom had Parkinson’s, she had celebral allergy and inborn scoliosis, among other diseases, and a sibling had brain damage—Valeros said she came close to death so many times she never thought she’d find peace until she changed her diet. March 9-22, 2012
If you must eat calamari, remove the breading (starch).
Finding the balance
Meat like chicken is better paired with greens.
“When I started to eat right I found the balance. I still get allergy attacks, but my body is able to deal with it better,” Valeros said. The stomach has often been referred to as the body’s “second brain” by medical practitioners and professors. Ever felt queasy before a big interview? That, they say, is your stomach listening to your brain. “Only 10-20 per cent understand how the mind-body connection is very important. What you eat can make you irritable or happy. There are even some foods that can make you feel suicidal. And this is proven by science. This is all about the immune system. My job is to strengthen it,” Valeros said. Every person has a unique biochemical individuality; not even twins are the same, she said. Valeros said a four- or seven-day nutrition diet can help strengthen your immune system. Upon consultation, patients will be required to make a diary that includes not only food choices and diseases, but a list of genetically transferred diseases. Then she’ll recommend either a barium enema or flat/supine preparation, and total abdomen ultrasound. The focus of the tests is the digestive system. There are four factors that come into consideration during a s s e s s m e n t : A l l e r g y, f u n g a l infection, pollutants and parasites. From there, she can draw up a nutritional diet tailoured specifically for you. “Negative emotion can bring about uric acid so we need to heal the March 9-22, 2012
Fruits should be eaten on their own, ideally 30 minutes before mealtime.
spirit, mind and body. When you talk about complementary medicine, the simple layman’s term would be therapy. That includes music or art therapy. In fact, the principles of art have to be there,” Valeros said. Like music, she continued, the music of digestion is a waltz. Everything has a rhythm and a cycle. The goal is to achieve balance. “Whether it’s Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic medicine, the goal is always balance— restoring balance in your being,” she said.
Eating the right food
A monotrophic diet, or eating only one food at a meal, can help restore a healthy gut environment, but it is far too rigid for many to follow. Valeros has come up with a diet programme/chart that allows one to co m b i n e s o m e fo o d w i t h o ut disturbing the restoration of balance in your gut. Carbs, she said, are digested with an alkaline condition in the stomach; protein is digested with an acid condition. Combining both starches and proteins at a meal is not good because it “confuses the stomach,” she said. So carbs such as potatoes, whole grain cereals, chestnuts, etc are better off paired with greens. P roteins such as nuts, dairy products, seafood and “flesh” food (meat) are better paired with veggies. Fruits should be eaten on their own, preferably 30 minutes before mealtime. “Fruits should be eaten alone. It
Eat food that’s MSG-free, full of protein and veggies.
will be digested in 30 minutes. Never take fruit after a meal, except papaya, because this has digestive enzymes. Never take overripe fruits either because of the molds and fungus there,” she said. While fruits may be good, some fruits are not to be combined with other fruits. Rule of thumb is to never eat sweet fruits with sub-acid or acid fruits. Valeros said it is better to stick to one classification of fruit. For instance, you can eat acid fruits like citrus with pineapples or strawberries or sour plums. Just don’t eat them together with subacid fruits like apples, apricots or grapes. Or with sweet fruits like bananas, dates or prunes.
Healing of the body
“Just focus on your good partners. A good mix is two or three types. If you overdo things, your stomach will get confused. One leads to wellness while another leads to illness. Heavy meals should already be eaten by lunchtime to give your body the chance to do its homework. The human digestive system is like sunrise and sunset,” she said. Eat six meals a day, with snacks in between. Valeros also recommends the Formula 8 for maximum energy: Eight hours of sleep, eight hours of relaxation, and eight hours of work. “The body can heal itself, but then again it’s very subjective. It depends on how your body responds to the modification. Without a doubt it will get better, but probably not as good as your friend’s. Nobody has the perfect colon.” • 31
By Trisha Sertori The Jakarta Post
The kaleidoscope of life is represented in Balinese art.
Art Beyond Commerce Bali’s emerging, talented artists stay true to their art ❖❖ Ubud
“F Photos by J. B. D j wan/ The Jakarta P ost
rom the root if it is helped, a tree will grow bigger and stronger. If there is no help it will surely die,” said Pak Anak Agung Moening in a metaphor of Balinese art. Moening has been curator of Ubud, Bali’s fine art museum Puri Lukisan’s for the past 60 years and he was speaking of the threat to traditional Balinese art forms, if these are reduced to the commercial rather than the devotional, on the sidelines of an artists’ lunch for the recent opening of the Ubud Young Artists
exhibition at Ulun Ubud Resort. Now well into his seventh decade, Pak Moening said he has witnessed many fine artists turn from the true path of art making to become “factories” for handicrafts. There is a light now shining that may well support Bali’s fine artists. Sarasvati Art Management is currently promoting Bali’s most talented emerging artists to the nation, and also educating people on what constitutes fine art within traditional Balinese painting styles. The styles such as the extraordinarily detailed works of Keliki painters who use brushes as “fine as two human hairs”, for their line work, according to Sarasvati head, Syenny Setiawan. She is the March 9-22, 2012
Balinese artists strive to promote noncommercial art and stay true to Bali’s traditional methods.
wife of well-known traditional Balinese art collector, Lin Che Wei, who founded Sarasvati in 2010 with t h e goa l of “ p ro te c t i n g a n d sustaining traditional Balinese art, as well as the artists behind them”, according to the foundation’s mission.
Syenny explains the idea for Sarasvati Art Management came about “because my husband had long been collecting Balinese art and it was everywhere,” said Syenny who then set up a database of works and with Che Wei considered ways to protect and support Bali’s fine art practitioners. Syenny said she has relied heavily on the knowledge and guidance of Pak Moening in identifying Bali’s emerging artists and learning the stories and techniques housed in the painting that can take more than a year to produce. As a financial whiz, Syenny’s husband, Che Wei, has taken a pragmatic approach to his stable of artists’ promotion and support and
March 9-22, 2012
the education of the public on the fine art of Bali, planting what he terms “hidden jewels”, in exhibitions so viewers are not influenced simply by price tag, but by the qualities within the works. “We purposely put hidden jewels of works, purposely underpriced and we are sometimes surprised when collectors cannot spot that hidden jewel—others with a trained eye spot them and know ‘this is the one, so it’s (Sarasvati) about education,” said Che Wei. He adds the organisation breaks d ow n a r t wo r k s a n d a r t i s t s , “screening out decorative artists”, and focusing on collectible artists to bring them to the point where they become “investable” artists. “With these collectible artists we say why don’t you value yourself and we lead them forward,” said Che Wei.
Sarasvati recognises the great financial difficulties faced by artists who dedicate their lives and talent to following the true path to fine art, rather than cruising the down hill run of commercialism, which in the short term may offer a much better income for compromised art. “The trick is how to prevent these artists from temptation. Some feel this (working months on an art work) is too much hassle and are tempted by commercialism. Having a financial background, I saw if I wanted to help collectable artists, we needed to address their financial issues,” said Che Wei, who through Sarasvati “adopts pieces and supports artists”, with the longterm goal of bringing them into the bankable ranks of artists such as Affandi, whose works always attract buyers. For Bali’s “young artists” who are mostly now in their 40s, the opportunity to have their traditional style works exhibited and supported by Sarasvati is invaluable, not only in f inancial terms, but in its
recognition of their personal sacrifice to their art making. “This is important to promote paintings that are non-commercial art, but real art,” said 43-year-old Nyoman Sana of Tegalalang who has been painting since he was a child. “This (group) exhibition is good because Bali artists take a long time to create a painting so collecting enough works for solo exhibition is difficult. If we can exhibit like this (group show), we solve the problem of spending years not exhibiting. Sarasvati is very important because with support like this we can work totally in the art and don’t need to just chase money, but instead make special art, to express ourselves in art,” said Sana during the Ubud Young Artists Exhibition opening. According to artist Wayan Warta Yasa, commercialism over quality is not the only issue facing Bali’s art future, he fears people will not take up a brush at all.
“Organisations like Sarasvati are important because in Bali so many are leaving painting to work in hotels. For me, I follow art. I am happy and art makes life more active and valuable, meaning if we succeed from art in Bali we may become artists of Indonesia as Bali’s traditional artists. I hope that if people don’t know the paintings they will at least know the artists— if they die they will be remembered. If they work as hotel staff, who will remember them?” asked Yasa. Sa ra svat i , l i ke t h e a r t i s t s i t represents, is dedicated to Bali’s fine art and is ready for the hard work it will take to educate art lovers on Bali’s artistic traditions and join champions of this art form like Pak Moening who said, “It’s about the work. It’s hard work (art) you need to be creative, to trust in yourself, have your own ideas and be creative, then you can move forward.” • 33
By Reuben Ramas Canete Philippine Daily Inquirer
Mastering The Heart’s Desire ‘Modern Complementary Harmony’ ❖❖ Manila
Photo by RJ Aquino/ Fl ickr .com
or someone whose mastery of the craft of painting is that of Sofronio Ylanan Mendoza, popularly known as Sym, one must follow one’s heart despite the pleadings of many collectors who prefer his works in the 1970s. This was when Sym emerged as a champion of traditional painting during a period of national identitysearching; and his depictions of decaying colonial mansions and densely packed apartment blocks in the Sampaloc, Manila area where he lived were the rage. But for this painting master and founder of the famed Dimasalang Group, art was much more than bringing the bacon home. It was a c h a n c e t o f i n a l ly f u l f i l t h e
expectations of self-satisfaction which was imbued by his first mentor, Martino Abellana, the Fernando Amorsolo of the South. This meant a return to the style Sym had always wanted to do, but that circumstances required him to set aside until his senior years— Modernism. At first thought, it was an odd choice for a Cebuano mentored in the classical academic discipline of Martino Abellana in Cebu. But for Sym, Modernism meant freedom and the chance to partake in that universal promise of progress and self-expression he learned from subsequent Manila-based mentors like Florencio Concepcion.
Cubist master Sym Mendoza
Wondrous still life
Now based in the Canadian city of Vancouver, Sym’s vision has, since March 9-22, 2012
‘F-Composition No. II’
2000, returned to the hard-edged Cubist compositions of his youth, a vision that combines his mastery of composition and figure drawing with the geometric and conceptual challenges pioneered by Picasso and Braque in the 1900s, and for which the Canadian government has honoured Sym with the Transforming Art Award from the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society in 2004, in celebration of his “significant contribution toward transforming some aspect of traditional Asian culture to create a contemporary Canadian expression”. This contribution is on clear view in his recent set of works titled “New Visions III”, recently exhibited at the Crucible Gallery in Metro Manila. The set of 12 paintings in this exhibition all deal with the classic Cubist subject that had particularly enthralled Braque to the end of his life, the still life. Whereas Picasso would simply be content in exhausting the conceptual possibilities of style before moving off into another one in a restless search for artistic contentment, the Cubist still life in the hands of Sym becomes a wondrous world of endlessly refracting possibilities that begs March 9-22, 2012
yo u to s t ay a n d savo u r t h e adventure of looking.
This is exemplified by works like “Yellow Movement”, where the subject of yellow-green fruits at the table are handled with far more complexity than a simple faceting of the subject. Rather, the simple subject attains an organic, almost cosmic, multiplication of the same wedgelike forms denoting bananas, pears and what looks like slices of green watermelon from the table to the floor and on to the very edges of the canvas. The complex faceting is subdivided into smaller wedges, and include repeating patterns of dots, circles, triangles and diagonal lines that meld fruit and fabric pattern together into a single surface. The veritable explosion of wedges are kept in disciplined control, however, by the set of white planes that constitute the “edges” of the table, giving a visual focus on the fruits, but denoting the movement from the brightly lit “tabletop” to the darker shadows of the “floor” and “walls”. This is contrasted with another warm-toned composition, this time
in pinks and reds that dominate the works titled “Red Harmony with Apple” and “Transparent Tilapia”. In both works, the common reference to a dining-table dish (fruits in the first, fish in the second) becomes a motivational exe rc i s e fo r Sy m’s exq u i s i te composition of a series of wedges that multiply and grow out of the table, spilling onto the floor, and constantly changing our perception from an illusory two-point p e rs p e c t ive to a f l at pl a n a r composition, and then back again.
Need to simplify
Indeed, in most cases the subjects co u l d h a rd ly b e re co g n i s e d . Instead, what dominates is the fascinating series of flat-toned and linear shapes, in the forms of rhomboids, undulating polyhedrons, and truncated triangles that march from centre to upper right or lower left, and always from a bright-to-dark regression. These works sing of the same need to “simplify” and “carve out” nature, using the principles of Cezanne’s “cube, cylinder and cone” metaphor. And yet the Cubist results are not visually simpler, but the other way around. • 35
By Kirsty Taylor The Korea Herald
Pop Art From The North
A North Korean defector is telling the world about his country through pop art 36 •
im Jong-il and Marilyn Monroe crossover? Why not? A former North Korean propaganda artist who now makes pop art is telling the world about life in the reclusive regime through his works. North Korean defector Song Byeok has sought donations to exhibit his work outside of Korea for the first time. He was recently invited by disting uished US professors to tell people in the state of Georgia about his life and art. A campaign was launched to help cover his airfare and the shipping of his works for his first trip to America. Members of the public pledged to donate at least US$3,000 toward the $6,500 online fundraising target. March 9-22, 2012
Once a faithful propaganda painter for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Song lost faith in the Pyongyang regime after his mother and sister perished in the country’s famine of the 1990s. His father drowned attempting to cross the Tumen River to secure food in China, and Song himself was later captured, brutalised and forced into hard labour at a prison camp. Now living in South Korea, Song has taken advantage of his artistic freedom in paintings honouring the North Korean people and satirising Kim Jong-il. “It is time to reform and open North Korea, so that North Koreans can see what the real world is,” Song said. “Freedom of speech has nothing to do with North Korea. Here in South Korea, people can draw what they want. So every painting reflects the artist’s distinctive personality.” S o n g e x h i b i t e d 2 0 a c r yl i c paintings, including six new pieces at The Goat Farm arts centre in Atlanta last month. He also gave various lectures during his visit. “The more eyeballs we can get to see Song Byeok’s works of art, March 9-22, 2012
t h e b e t t e r, ” G r e g o r y P e n c e , Director of Operations of SB-ATL Group—a grassroots charitable organisation that helped bring Song to the US said. “His art understandably flows from a very raw and wounded place that runs contrary to his usual softspoken and cheerful disposition. Song retains his sense of optimism, knowing one day North Koreans will learn the truth about the outside world.” “The Korean Wave is a very real phenomenon that comes in many different forms. As a satirist, Song Byeok is part of an emerging Korean contemporary art scene that has inspired people worldwide to take a close look at the peninsula’s traditions and evocative history. The artist’s message right now is one of hope, humor and freedom that’s quintessentially Korean but universally appealing,” Pence said. “I personally hope (Song’s) US debut... inspires a period of artistic growth for Song, and I’m really excited to see what he produces in the next year,” said Pence. For more information, visit www. songbyeok.com. • 37
By Wu Ping China Daily
World Walker: Asia’s Jules Verne
Replica of photo published in the New York Times.
A Chinese sojourner who walked and biked the globe leaves a legacy
I llu stration by Li Min/China Dai ly
Photo provided to China Dai ly
A historical world map in Chinese shows the itinerary of Pan Deming’s travels.
oung Chinese associate world travel with selfd i s c ove r y, ro m a n t i c encounters and bourgeois sentiment. But 81 years ago, 22-year-old Pan Deming—aka Poon Tuck-ming— embarked on a journey that was even more enthralling than Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”. He became the first person ever to travel the entire world by bicycle and foot. Pan Su never met his grandfather but has been proud of his exploits 38 •
since childhood. “I was just familiar with his stories because my family constantly talked about my grandfather,” Pan Su said. Pan Deming didn’t just encounter amazing pl a ce s b ut a l s o m e t legendary people on his seven-year sojourn. They include literary giant Rabindranath Tagore, Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and then US president Franklin Roosevelt. Pan set out from Shanghai on June 28, 1930. He returned in 1937 with 1,200 signatures from world leaders and international organisations, and 571 postmarks from more than 40 countries.
A boy’s curiosity
Pan Deming was born to a tailor who made clothes for foreigners in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, in 1908. This enabled him to learn English
from age 4. He often wondered why blue-eyed people were so much richer than his compatriots. When he was about 8 years old, he climbed a mountain outside the city. When he reached the top, he marveled at how big the unknown world was. But an old monk’s words were an even stronger influence on his curiosity about the world. “If you stand higher, you can see farther, but you will never see through the whole world, no matter how hard you try,” the monk said. Pan and his family moved to Shanghai when he was 16. There, he studied business for two years. He later opened a Western restaurant in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. More contact with foreigners made him even more determined to see the world. He read a report in the Shun Pao newspaper about a sevenmember China Touring Expedition party that would begin a journey March 9-22, 2012
March 9-22, 2012
Photo provided to C hina Daily
around the globe. to Pan’s hotel. The team’s mission, Pan knew the moment the report said, was to had come but couldn’t awaken decadent and imagine what was waiting hedonistic Chinese for him. When propaganda youths, and show the minister Joseph Goebbels world what the Chinese introduced Pan to Hitler, the nation truly was. The Fuhrer shouted “Wunderbar 22-year-old immediately (‘Wonderful’)!” closed the restaurant Hitler promised to and joined the group. Pan Deming stands at the top of New York’s Empire State Building. provide every convenience, The three women and but Pan quickly left the five men set off. country that would soon But reality gradually overwhelmed the jungle. The big cat retreated. p l u n g e f o u r - f i f t h s o f wo rl d them. Pan was also chased by wasps in population into misery. Me mb e rs q u it , o ne-by-o ne, Egypt, wrestled a python in Turkey, because of physical or psychological saw seals repose on the ice near Coming home Seven years into his travels, he strains. Norway, was struck by a kangaroo In Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh), in Australia and was nearly trapped opted against visiting Japan in Vietnam, the group completely in a cave by wild elephants in protest of the country’s invasion of his homeland on Sept 18, 1931. unraveled because of conflicting Burma. Instead, Pan finally walked back opinions between Pan Deming and Meeting Hitler home. the other two. But Pan most cherished his He arrived in Shanghai on July 6, Pan continued alone. He bought a 1937. The War of Resistance against bicycle and a notebook for eminent human encounters. He met the great Indian poet Japanese Aggression erupted the figures to sign. Tagore, who gave him a painting next day, and Pan had to abandon Strange encounters and wished him a smooth journey his plan to visit the Qinghai-Tibet Pan wrote on the first page: “I will in Chinese on April 2, 1931. Plateau. take the world as my school, and This meaningful meeting was “My grandfather actually thought nature, people and events as my recorded in a photo. The respected he’d failed,” Pan Su said. textbooks. I will study by hearing Indian National Congress leaders “His mind gradually transformed with my own ears and seeing with Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru also during his travels. At first, he just my own eyes. I’ll take the wind, appreciated Pan’s grand tour and wanted to see the world. snow, rain, frost, scorching desert, met him. “But when he came back, he burning sun, morning stars and The founder of the Republic of h o p e d t o c o n t r i b u t e t o h i s lonely moon as my scholarship.” Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, received impoverished homeland through The full record of his day-to-day Pan in the presidential palace—a what he’d learned during the seven experiences has been lost. But a dilapidated temple—and introduced years on the road. But he could do basic outline emerges from the the reforms taking place in the nothing then.” photos, signatures, visas and tickets country. Pan was shocked Kemal He believes his grandfather’s sports editor Ji Yide retrieved from removed the requirements for willful spirit has become rare. The waste piles in a Shanghai police women to wear veils. He spent two 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games station in 1979. months exploring Turkey. committee asked him to introduce Pan passed away in 1976. But Ji It was during the Great Depression his grandfather’s exploits to youth compiled his stories in 21 articles in that Pan visited the United States. on the Games 1,000-day countdown China Sports Daily and later in a Roosevelt gave him a gold medal in last November. book. 1934. Roosevelt joked he would join Pan Su is glad to know the Pan had intimate and unexpected Pan to climb Mount Whitney—the committee plans to recruit youths wildlife encounters. US’ highest summit—if he weren’t from home and abroad to follow his One night, he tied himself to a in a wheelchair. grandfather’s footsteps this year. tree in the Indian jungle and fell Pan’s reception in Germany was “If the youth take the opportunity asleep. He awoke the next morning different. The Nazi regime had to really challenge themselves and to a tiger’s gaze. refused him entry until Adolf Hitler learn to face difficulties, it will be He beat a gong given to him by a wanted to meet him. such a wonderful experience,” he local villager before he’d entered On Sept 26, 1933, a limo pulled up said.
SPORTS A F P/GE TT Y IMAGE S
Basketball’s ‘Linderella’ The phenomenal rise of Jeremy Lin gives hope to Asian Americans and at the same time opens the floodgates to racial issues
t has taken Jeremy Lin, a USborn, Harvard-educated Asian whose roots are from Taiwan, less than a week to emerge from nowhere and become the latest international phenomenon in the NBA. On the evening of February 14, Lin’s last gasp game-winning 3-pointer secured the New York Knicks their sixth victory in a row. And in the next day’s back-to-back game against the Sacramento Kings, Lin continued to show his brilliance with 13 assists, a career high. Off the court, Lin’s current market value has soared to about US$14 40 •
million, no less than that of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. Since Lin’s first game, the stock price of the company that owns the Knicks has increased by 10.23 percent. Lin’s breakout was created with cries of “Linderella” and “Linsanity” in the United States and his popularity has soared worldwide. Lin’s success can help change the stereotypes and prejudice regarding Asian Americans in the US, where they are usually thought of as doctors, lawyers, financial analysts or musicians rather than athletes. There have been debates on his roots and whether he can play for China if he does not get drafted by
the American team in the coming Olympics. Lin was born in the US by Taiwanese parents and his relatives back in Taiwan are being chased around by the press because they are the closest they could get to the NBA sensation. Ethnicity issues aside, Lin’s sensational rise to stardom in the NBA reminds many of Yao Ming, who retired in 2011. However, Yao’s height and the harsh training he received under China’s sports system meant he was destined to play basketball. Lin, on the other hand, a 1.91m tall Harvard University economics graduate, shows that athletes of Asian heritage can succeed without these. March 9-22, 2012
∫ Lin mania
There is no doubt that the Taiwanese are very proud of Lin, including Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou who has spoken of his pride many times. Lin has captured numerous new fans in both Taiwan and among overseas Taiwanese communities. This connection with Taiwan threw Lin into the spotlight, attracting attention from sports fans i n Ta i w a n a n d Ta i w a n e s e immigrants and students presently living and studying in the US. St u d e n t s f ro m Ta iwa n h ave travelled several hours to ba s ke t ba l l co u r t s i n d i ffe re n t American cities to root for the Harvard-educated Lin. Some of them even spread the national flag of the Republic of China at the court to show support for Lin. They said that they are proud of the outstanding performance of Lin and that the player has recognised their strong support because he acknowledges the Taiwan flag. Lin, known as Lin Shu-how by his Chinese name, has visited Taiwan in the past to take part in charity events and help share his basketball te c h n i q u e s a n d ex p e r i e n ce s , including giving temporary coaching to young basketball players on the island. Lin’s popularity has also extended to the sports business with licensed T-shirts featuring Lin disappearing shelves from Taipei to Beijing faster than you can say “linsane”. In Taipei, a high school student surnamed Sun was the lucky guy who became the first Taiwanese fan to purchase Lin’s T-shirt, priced at NT$1,090 (US$37). He told reporters that he is a big fan of Lin even though his favourite team is the Los Angeles Lakers. He took half a day off from his school and had started to do the line-up since 7am the day before the shirts went on sale. In China, several Chinese brands are already fighting for the right to March 9-22, 2012
represent Lin. Xu Zhihua, chief executive officer of Peak Sport Products Co. Ltd, a sportswear manufacturer based in Fujian province, went to the US recently and is said to be meeting with Lin about an endorsement contract. “Our CEO met with Lin in New York, but I have no idea whether they talked about a contract,” said Liu Xiang, Peak’s public relations director. Other manufacturers, including Li Ning Co. Ltd and Qiaodan Sports Co. Ltd, have also shown interest in Lin, but refused to comment before contracts are signed. The greatest obstacle for Chinese manufacturers is Lin’s three-year contract with Nike Inc, which he signed in 2010. Online vendors are not standing on ceremony, however. “Lin’s uniform is already the bestseller in my online shop,” said one vendor surnamed Chen, who sells NBA players’ uniforms on Taobao. com.
∫ Racial issue
Lin’s phenomenal rise in basketball has left some US headline writers and sportscasters punchdrunk on the endless sludge of neologisms. However, what is more odious is how a sensational rise to stardom that could challenge stereotypes and prejudice has already turned a feel-good story into a racial issue. Within days of the New York Knicks sixth victory in a row, Sports Network ESPN was forced to apologise, fired one employee and suspended another after an ethnic slur directed at Lin was broadcast on air. Another Sports columnist Jason Whitlock from FOX also apologised for an inappropriate tweet following the Lakers and Knicks game. While some have realised the error of their prejudicial ways, others have been less apologetic. American boxer Floyd Mayweather posted on Twitter:
“Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.” Lin’s sensational success has reawakened the American dream for many Chinese Americans, but it also, once again, unearthed the pervasiveness of race in the US. The famous Saturday Night Live comedy show opened their latest show with a skit on New York Knicks breakout star. The actors made Asian stereotypes, came up with puns using the star guard’s last name and talked about the recent mishaps in the media. Lin could also learn a lesson from the Ming Dynasty: Yao Ming. When the retired eight-time NBA all-star first arrived in the US in 2002 he faced taunts and ethnic slurs. Ben Wallace a former Detroit Piston player said of the then 21-year-old Yao that he would receive a rude welcome the first time China’s national team played the United States in August 2002. “We are going to beat him up. We are going to beat him up pretty bad,” Wallace said. “Welcome to the league, welcome to our country. This is our playground.” Fo r m e r L o s A n ge l e s L a ke r Shaquille O’Neal once mockingly told a television reporter, “Tell Yao Ming, ‘ching-chong-yang-wah-ahsoh’.” But it didn’t stop his rise to fame and rightfully earned him a place in the hearts of Chinese fans everywhere. And the recent uproar does not seem to have fazed 23-year-old Lin who accepted the network’s apology and had no hard feelings. “I think there are def initely (Asian) stereotypes,” he said. There are a lot of them. The more we can do to break those down every day, the better we will become. “Hopefully in the near future we will see a lot more Asians and Asian Americans playing in the NBA.” —Reports from Lee Hannon/China Daily and The China Post
By S. Indramalar The Star
Jazzing Up Your ‘Tudung’ Malaysian shops cater to an increasing number of women who want to adorn their headscarves with a little glitter 42 •
❖❖ Petaling Jaya
f you’ve walked down Jalan Masjid India or Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur, you may have spotted many small shops selling accessories flanking the two streets. What appears to be rows and rows of dangling and studded earrings are actually the newest fad in tudung (head scarf) accessories. Available in plain metal (in silver, gold, copper or bronze) or studded with beads and stones, these accessories line the walls of shops that cater to an increasing number of women who want to adorn their headscarves with a little glitter. Traditionally, headscarves are March 9-22, 2012
secured with an indiscreet pin or brooch, either under the chin, on the lapel, nape of your neck or shoulder. These days however, the brooches and pins are hugely decorative, and meant to be showcased. Bank executive Ateena Rashid, 29, an avid fan of tudung accessories, says the accessories are an easy and stylish way to jazz up a plain tudung. “I don’t fancy printed scarves as I find them too ‘busy’ and difficult to match. I prefer wearing plaincoloured cotton headscarves that I drape loosely around my head. The accessories are perfect as they add some colour and style to an otherwise understated scarf,” says Ateena. The accessories come in various shapes, styles and colours. While they may look a little garish all lined up in a store, Ateena urges shoppers not to dismiss the pins so quickly. “At first, I was unimpressed when my cousin took me to the shop. The accessories seemed too bold for me. But when I took the time to look through the racks, I found many that suited my understated style. Some even looked a little vintage. I
March 9-22, 2012
pa r t i c u l a rly l i ke d t h e m e t a l brooches that had intricate carvings. And, some of the dangling ones in matte silver were also quite cool. I have about 35 in my collection now and though I don’t use them every day, I keep going back for more,” says Ateena. The best part, she points out, is how inexpensive the accessories are—often you can get three or four pieces for 10 ringgit or 12 ringgit (US$3-$4). The bigger, heavier (read: sturdier) pieces that are more intricate, such as the brooches, go for 10 ringgit or 12 ringgit a piece. And, if metal isn’t your preference, how about sewn-on fabric patches? Hiral Doshi offers a solution for women who want to refashion their existing tudungs by sewing on decorative patches, tassels or lace which she sources and imports from India and Dubai. “Instead of buying new headscarves, many of my customers bring in their old ones and ask me to jazz them up with some of my patches. Tudungs aren’t cheap to begin with and since most of them already have quite a collection, they find it more cost-effective to recycle
their old ones. I have an extensive catalogue of patches, lace and borders they can choose from, and they tell me how they want to use these decorative patches. They can choose to have them sewn on, or the patches can be made into brooches which they can pin on their scarves. Of course, if they want, I can help suggest some styles,” says Doshi, 26. Administrative assistant Siti Hajar Kadir finds Hiral’s accessories perfect for her as they provide something different from the usual items at the shops and boutiques which she frequents. “I like simple styles, but I also like accessories that are different and unique. I prefer stones and pearls ... but not too much. And I like what Hiral has to offer. They’re stylish and different,” says Siti Hajar. Hiral started her fashion business—Trendy Fusion Fashion— about a year ago after leaving her job as an auditor. She operates from her home in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Interested customers can call to fix an appointment but she also supplies her products to boutiques in the Klang Valley, particularly in Shah Alam.
By Liu Wei China Daily
For The Ages At 65, Hong Kong director Ann Hui discovers growing old offers new freedoms ❖❖ Beijing
ong Kong director Ann Hui, 65, still covers her mouth with her hands like a teenage girl when she laughs. She is not pretty but surely is impressive, with very her short bob, blue-rimmed glasses, all-black outfit and red sneakers. “I have eight pairs of Converse shoes—red, green, silver and peach,” she says. “As an old woman I don’t expect to look gorgeous, but I hope I at least don’t look bad.” Hui’s latest film, A Simple Life, which earned the best actress awa rd a t l a s t ye a r ’s Ve n i ce International Film Festival, focuses on an old woman’s final two years in a retirement home. Hui has completed many films in her 30-year career, but her best known characters remain “old women” - such roles as May Sun in Woman Forty, Mrs Cheung in The Way We Are and Ah Tao in A Simple Life. These roles earned the actresses awards—two for Deanie Ip in A Simple Life, in Venice, and at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, 44 •
which is known as the Asian Academy Awards. She has been nominated again for April’s Hong Kong Film Festival. Many say Hui is courageous to make f ilms about old women, because China’s box office has proven audiences prefer to see handsome young men and pretty women. “I am not courageous,” she says, smiling. “The bosses who invest in my films are. I just do something I like and know well. Remember that I’m an old woman myself.” Several years ago, Hui’s friend, film producer Roger Lee, told her the story of a maid who had served his family for 60 years. She brought Lee up and had taken care of the whole family for decades, until she fell ill. Lee looked after her in her last days but could not accompany her at the final moment. His guilt pushed him to want to make a film about her. Hui likes the story. She connects to old people, because she is one. And, more importantly, there is a social issue behind it, she says. “The graying population isn’t just a Hong Kong problem,” she says.”We have a
growing number of elderly people, but their voices are rarely heard.” Part of the film was shot in a Hong Kong retirement home. Hui stayed there for 15 days, working with eight actors and the house’s inhabitants. The experience changed Hui’s attitude about getting old. “I used to worry, especially when I discovered the changes in my body,” she says. “But you find everyone’s equal in the retirement home. They’re all old and fragile. The lucky ones are surrounded by their families, but adjusting to old age is a phase in life that can be undertaken with dignity.” Years ago, Hui—who never married or had children—joked with friends she would live in a building with elevators when she got old so friends could come visit. The house should also be near a subway station and a cake shop, so friends can bring cakes for parties. Now that she actually is old, she laughs at these younger ideas of her future and says she might actually end up in a retirement home. “I’m OK with living in a nursing home, as long as it has a good environment,” she says. March 9-22, 2012
She says her advancing age has taught her many things, including the value of taking it easy. “I seemed to not need sleep when I was young,” she says. “If I needed a particular actor or actress, I would do my best to persuade him or her and would get rather anxious if I couldn’t. But now, I believe there will always be someone else.” Hui entered the world of Hong Ko n g c i n e m a i n 1 9 7 9, a f t e r g raduating from the London International Film School. She soon became a flag bearer of Hong Kong’s New Wave Movement because of her audacious exploration of social and political issues, such as revolution, immigrant identity and midlife crises. She later worked with big stars and conventionally “commercial” genres, such as ghost stories and martial arts flicks. But she wasn’t able to reclaim her previous glory. Like many Hong Kong filmmakers, Hui went to the mainland to tap a broader market in the early 21st century. But her two films Jade G o d d e s s o f M e rc y a n d T h e Postmodern Life of My Aunt won neither box office success nor wide critical acclaim. Hui returned to Hong Kong in 2008 to make The Way We Are. The film, which cost only 1 million yuan (US$150,000), depicts two old women who help each other. It moves many with the beauty of its simplicity. She has found her new niche: f ilms about ordinary people’s lives and their relationships, with the least dramatic plotlines. They’re more like documentaries for later generations to understand a certain period. Hui knows well the genre will never thrive at the box office, but she enjoys it. The price she has had to pay is taking subways to work, not owning a house and struggling to find investors. “I used to make films to win acclaim, but I don’t care much now,” she says. “That’s the freedom an old woman wins.” March 9-22, 2012
Simply Inspiring A
s its title implies, A Simple Life is far removed from the extravagant blockbusters that have prevailed in the Chinese film market in recent years. The 65-year-old Hong Kong director Ann Hui does a beautiful job of making a film that could have easily fallen into shallow tearjerker territory into a tender, emotional and thought-provoking work. The story depicts the last two years of the life of Ah Tao, a maid who has served a Hong Kong family for 60 years. The 118-minute tale begins when Tao suffers a stroke. Roger, the son of the family she works for, takes responsibility for looking after the woman who has cared for him since he was born. Th e f i l m d e a l s w i t h t h e universal reality of growing old. Hui is brave to approach the subject because people tend to prefer young and beautiful people on the big screen and are reluctant to consider how people grow old and face death. But Hui shows that, although some elderly people stay in shabby retirement homes, the aged can still live in dignity. In one scene, Tao chooses to leave Roger’s house to move into the retirement home because she doesn’t want to burden him. She struggles to adjust to her
new environment and helps other people living in the facility with money and care. Hui’s sophisticated directorial approach means she never flashes back to show Tao’s early life but rather provides a portrait of her younger years as a hardworking and proud maid through presentday conversations with Roger. Hui also tries to show life as it is rather than create extremes to pull tears out of viewers’ eyes. The film’s simple storyline, set and score, make it anything but melodramatic. It’s more like a documentary of two good people supporting each other in life. Actress Deanie Ip’s portrayal of Ah Tao shines and captivates viewers’ full attention. She effectively communicates her character’s life philosophy: It’s unavoidable that we grow old, and some deal with it with dignity, humor and peacefulness. The film’s first 30 minutes might be difficult to make it through, because the film’s first part exposes the embarrassments and hardships of aging. But as the plot unfolds, the beauty of the simple kindness between two ordinary people brings comfort and warmth to viewers. This kind of film may not gross much at the box office, but it deserves two hours of patience. — Liu Wei/China Daily
TRAVEL By Akshita Nanda The Straits Times
Smaller is better when it comes to carry-on luggage but not so when emergencies and delays happen
W ❖❖ Singapore
hen travelling by plane, pack for a train—that is my new motto, coined after the bitter realisation that in-flight entertainment is no good when the aircraft is grounded. Last month, my return flight from Mumbai to Singapore was cancelled at the last minute because the carrier is near bankruptcy, according to recent reports—leaving me in the increasingly common position of having to keep myself occupied for several hours at the airport before taking a replacement flight. Veteran travellers may scoff or seek to brain me with their wellprovisioned haversacks, but until six months ago, I never had to 46 •
Photo by MI KE CLARKE/AFP
Pack Right For Flights worry about surviving more than a couple of hours at an airport. Every single one of roughly 100 flights I took before last August was charmed. Planes were punctual, connections seamless in spite of weather and every itinerary went as planned. My only grouses would be not having enough time to shop at duty-free shops or to complete the potboiler I had brought along to read. But in the past six months, I’ve been on six flights from hell. It started with the one from Mumbai to Doha, when the plane stopped dead while taxiing off the runway. The passenger a few seats down from mine had found a note warning of a bomb on board. Forget about making my connections to Heathrow and Toronto and arriving in time for a cousin’s wedding. I had to de-plane, identify my luggage in pouring rain on the tarmac, and be sequestered with hundreds of other travellers
until the plane was stripped to pieces. For security reasons, none of us was allowed out of the waiting area, though food and drink were provided. For the next 16 hours, until the note was dismissed as a terrible practical joke, I stared at blank walls, tried to plug my ears against co-passengers’ virulent tirades and tired children, all the while wishing fervently that I had packed more books to read in my carry-on bag or at least a change of clothing and breath mints. On the way back from Toronto, my flight was delayed in order to pick up passengers from the United States, who had been stranded by Hurricane Irene. I barely made my onward connection at Frankfurt and arrived in Asia by the skin of my teeth. My luggage stayed on in Germany for a while, returning fit and snow- burnt five days later. The flight provider did pay for the essential personal items I March 9-22, 2012
needed in the interim. However, even the thrill of shopping on someone else’s dime could not drown out the thrifty little voice in my head that pointed out that my comfortable walking shoes and inner wear could have fit into my handbag, had I been so inclined. For many years, I operated under the mistaken impression that smaller is better when it comes to carry-on luggage. It seemed more sensible and convenient to take a tiny tote for my wallet, cellphone, passport and holiday read, instead of a haversack equipped to keep me alive should I end up on a desert island. However, over the past six months I have been stranded in airports in deserts (Doha) and on islands (Heathrow, England). I now prepare for the worst and pack accordingly. Stringent and varying airport security regulations ensure that food and water are the hardest March 9-22, 2012
items to carry. Circumvent this with apples or oranges or some other such thirst-quenching fruit that can be consumed easily before boarding. Scale up, depending on how seasoned the traveller is: Last week in Mumbai, my father played the odds and bought biryani from one of the best restaurants in town before we checked in at the airport. When the flight was cancelled, the excellent food made the hours before the replacement flight much easier to bear. We spent most of the time snoozing on pleasantly full stomachs. For the best possible snooze, stuff in a pair of socks, a favourite T-shirt, a pair of flip-flops and a warm shawl, so you can change from travel gear to sleep mode. During the eight-hour wait last week, a long-haul passenger on my flight was reduced to walking around the airport in bare feet because he could not stand to have his boots on any longer.
Never skimp on the toiletries, for nothing brightens the mood like being scrubbed clean (especially as grubbier co-passengers look on enviously). Definitely pack the toothpaste, toothbrush, lip balm and comb, add in shower gel, face wash, shaving cream and anything else you fancy. Remember to bring a hand-towel or tissues as well, if only to mop up the liquid spill when all the toiletries are squashed together. Also consider a portable pharmacy of paracetamol, throat lozenges, motion sickness pills, medicated oil and band- aids, everything needed to keep yourself alive while marooned in the midst of an airport. Just be prepared to hand out samples to hypochondriac fellow travellers and overwhelmed parents with hyperactive kids who do not trust the local pharmaceutical brands. If the bag is still light enough to lift, it is time to add entertainment. If it is too heavy, take out everything else and put in these anodynes instead: long, entertaining novels (choose the kind that can be easily discarded after reading) and a deck of cards for solitaire. Some tout the virtues of Kindle and e-books or the multiple games available on today’s laptops and cellphones. To them, I quote words of wisdom from two friends stuck in airports recently: ‘After a while, I ran out of battery.’ The key to surviving and even enjoying airport hell is to treat the journey as more important than the destination and to embark on each trip only after adequate preparation for the worst possible scenario. It also helps to qualify, or pay, for airport lounge memberships. Then again, when I tried my luck with that at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport, every seat in the lounge was occupied. I took croissants and coffee to-go and ate while balanced on my oversized carry-on case. • 47
By Thanh Nga Viet Nam News
The Joys Of Nam Du
Sea change: Mau Island is blessed with beautiful landscapes of pure nature.
March is the best time to discover the archipelago’s 21 islands with white sandy beaches, smooth waves and clear blue waters. Sounds like heaven
T ❖❖ Kien Giang
he common local saying “on the waves of March, old women go out to sea”, means the sea is often calm in March, making it perfect to venture out to fish, or simply for pleasure. Now, as March swiftly approaches, the waters of the Nam Du Archipelago, 52 nautical miles off the coast of Rach Gia, the capital of the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, you’ll find the natural surrounds very inviting. The archipelago’s 21 islands, which can be reached only by boat, take up a total area of only 40sq.km, have white sandy beaches, smooth waves, and clear blue water. According to 34-year-old backpacker Nguyen Hai Son, Lon Island, the largest island of the archipelago, will be the first stop when you arrive. With the even asphalted road, you can travel by motorbike taxi to the
lighthouse to see the entire cluster of islands that make Nam Du stretched out like an artistic masterpiece and at night, the lighthouse illuminates the surrounding sea. You can rent rooms on the island for an overnight stay, but there are no real hotels on the islands, just a few local homes residents opened up as guest houses, with rooms costing about 50,000 dong (US$2.5) per night. “People here can also act as guides for you and you can experience the life of local fishermen by jumping aboard one of their vessels or houses, which don’t have refrigerators, bathrooms or other modern conveniences found in most houses,” said Son. You can also hire a boat to go around the Nam Du islands, for about 50,000 dong. Nom Ngoai, Nom Giua and Nom Trong islands are in the south of the archipelago, while Dam, Hang, Moc, Tre and Nhan are in the north, and be sure to see some of the beautiful waterfalls on Nam Du’s islands. March 9-22, 2012
According to the Viet Nam Institute of Geology and Minerals Research, the Nam Du Archipelago was created by two volcanic formations and at some of the islands’ peaks, it’s easy to image lava erupting, forming these islands. The local rocks are rough, similar to the texture of the flowing lava which created them and each rock bears its own distinct features and shapes. After exploring the small islands, you should then move on to Ngang Island. There are two boat trips each day to Ngang, one at 7am and one at 3pm, to ferry tourists and locals alike. Ngang Island is at the centre of Nam Du Commune and its wharf is full of vessels and fishing nets. Nearby, there is a range of stilt houses built of bamboo and concrete, which stretch 2km down the shore. From Ngang, you can stop at Mau Island, a 20-minute boat ride away. The 200-ha island has a fishing village with 100 households, two sandy beaches and three beaches with a pebbled shoreline. Residents on this small island will instantly know you’re here when you arrive, and they’re friendly and hospitable. Mau is blessed with beautiful landscapes of pure nature and the two white sand beaches, Chuong and Nam, are possibly the best in the archipelago, while their rocky counterparts Bac, Den and Trang, are also stunning. Nam Beach is very clean and has calm seas all the year round, and a steady stream of boats come to do business here and the residents often crowd around them. The cool waters of Chuong Beach is another highlight. The beach is surrounded by coconut trees and sand banks with transparent turquoise water. It is close to two rocky beaches, one filled with shiny black pebbles, named simply Den (Black) Beach. The rocks are a diverse range of shapes and shades and when the March 9-22, 2012
sun shines on them, rocks under the sea sparkle like diamonds. Some rocks have strange patterns and inspecting the distinct and unique array of these natural forms can swallow an entire afternoon. From Den Beach, you can reach Trang (White) Beach after a 15-minute walk. The entire beach is filled only with white rocks, ranging in size from those as small as fingers to some as big as hands. This beach has almost no sand and tourists coming to these rocky beaches often take home with them rocks to remember their journey. Spending a night in Mau, you can really taste the sea air, and after
“You will be moved to tears when you hear about their experience of harsh storms and raging waves, their feelings when relatives suddenly fell ill or simply the harsh realities of living away from their native lands,” said Son. If you have time, you can also discover the rest of the archipelago’s islands. In particular, spending time visiting Dau Island, which is larger than other islands, is a good way to experience the archipelago. The island is home to a primeval forest, which spreads across 95 per cent of the island, with Bai Nha fishing village occupying the rest. This is the most
Boating bliss: Nam Du Archipelago’s 21 islands, which can be reached only by boat, take up 40sq.km, have white sandy beaches, smooth waves, and clear blue water.
11pm, the power generator stops working and life on the island fades into the stillness of night. You also have the chance to sit with islanders and drink tea or rice wine, and enjoy fresh fish and snails caught from the sea, while listening to stories of life from the Nam Du Archipelago. According to Huynh Van Loi, chairman of Nam Du Commune’s People’s Committee, only 12 out the 21 islands of Nam Du are inhabited, and were settled around 30-40 years ago.
peaceful fishing village in the archipelago, with 20 households living amongst the picturesque coconut trees. At present, there are not many visitors coming to Nam Du, quite possibly because travelling here is still quite difficult. “At the end of last year, Nam Du attracted hundreds of tourists and we hope with projects to help develop tourism in the area, especially in Mau Island, more and more visitors will come to the archipelago,” said Loi. • 49
DATEBOOK the capital’s Big Sight centre for the four-day event.
International Anime Fair Tokyo, the anime capital of the world, hosts an international fair dedicated to those much-loved Japanese cartoons. Trade stalls, exhibitions, screenings and the Tokyo Anime Awards take over
Note that the first two days are trade only, when designers, animators and amateurs hob-nob with industry moguls. When: March 22 to 25 Info: www.tokyoanime.jp/en
SINGA PO R E
Mosaic Music Festival PATTAYA
International Music Festival Pattaya City’s International Music Festival features food and floral floats, beauty contests, stalls selling local delicacies and a spectacular fireworks
display on the beach of Thailand. The free concerts are put on by a wide range of local and international talent. When: March 16 to 18 Info: www.tourismthailand.org/uk
Singapore’s Mosaic Music Festival is a melting pot of jazz, world music, soul, electroclash and hip-hop. International and up-and-coming artists make up the eclectic concert programme at the Esplanade. Budding musicians can learn from the pros at instrument master classes. When: March 2012 Info: www.mosaicmusicfestival.com
H O N G KO N G
Independent Short Film & Video Awards
U DAIPUR, IND IA
Mewar Spring Festival The Mewar Spring Festival coincides with the Gangaur festival and is celebrated all over Rajasthan, India. In Udaipur, the women dress in their finest clothes and process to Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichola carrying images 50 •
of the Goddess Gauri (Parvathi). Celebrations include singing, dancing and devotional music. Mewar Spring Festival culminates with an impressive fireworks display and a procession of boats on the lake. When: March 25 to 27 Info: www.rajasthantourism.gov.in
Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Awards showcases creative animations by local filmmakers. Catch screenings at venues like the Hong Kong Arts Centre, and see live light and sound performances by multimedia artists at the lively closing gala. When: March 13 to 28 Info: www.ifva.com March 9-22, 2012
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Congratulations to 12 prize winning projects to be realized Global competition 2009: in Building Asia Pacific. TheyAsia are now together. finalists for the Global Holcim Awards and the Global Holcim Innovation prizes 2012. Two Holcim Awards for Asia Whether you’re building or investing in factories, homes, bridges, schoolhouses or shopping malls we’re the perfect partner make for sustainable construction The Holcim Awards to competition and visions attracted your project happen. As the No. 1 supplier ofprojects building materials inalmost 5,000 entries from 121 countries – the most outstanding were honored with Global Asia we can deliver the right solutions when and where it counts. Holcim Awards 2009. Find out more on page 15.
The Holcim Awards are supported by Holcim Ltd – one of the
Holcim in Asia-Pacific: world’s leading suppliers of cement and aggregates – and its Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam Group companies in more than 70 countries including Australia,
Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. www.holcim.com Accepting the Holcim Awards Bronze 2011 Asia Pacific for “Ecologically-designed retail and commercial building, Putrajaya, Malaysia” on behalf of winners Ken Yeang and Tengku Robert Hamzah – Andy Chong of T. R. Hamzah & Yeang International Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia. Details on all winning sustainable construction projects and their design teams at: www.holcimawards.org/apac
Strength. Performance. Passion. www.holcimawards.org