The Chinese military budget of $106.4 billion has been approved by the National People’s Congress this month. The amount was increased by 11.2% in 2011, which is twice as much as the spending in 2006. The spending in 2000 the spending was only $30mil, which is fairly low compared to today’s budget. According to the Economist, China will continue to increase this budget with 12% each year, which would mean that China would become the biggest military spender within only 20 years.
China often highlighted their ideas on of a peaceful increase of its army expenses and the peaceful nature of its military modernization. However, according to the World Socialist Website, the reason for the increased military spending is to defend the economic and strategic interest of Chinese capitalism. This is a reaction to the aggressive attitude of the US. China feels threatened, because Washington is strengthening its partnerships in the Asian region increases its military influence in South East Asia. Read the rest of this entry »
On Thursday March 29 the leaders of the BRICS countries came together in New Delhi, India, on their fourth summit since 2009. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, President Hu Jintao of China, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India were attending the one-day meeting. This is a meeting in which the BRICS countries of emerging economies pursue to utilize their economic strength for a stronger collective diplomatic influence. On top of their agenda for this meeting was the creation of ‘The BRICS Bank’, it is planned to be the grouping’s first institution.
Dilma Rousseff, Dmitry Medvedev, Manmohan Singh, Hu Jintao and Jacob Zuma at the fourth BRICS summit in New Delhi. Photograph: Li Tao/Xinhua Press
In economics, BRICS is an acronym that refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The BRICS are all deemed to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development.
The first summit the BRIC had, in that time without South Africa, was in New York in 2006. Since then the countries have met yearly to discuss issues of global significance. At the third summit in China, in 2011, the union invited South Africa to join them because of their economic growth and due to the fact that the country surprised the World with the successful organization of the World Cup tournament in 2010. Since then they became the BRICS. The agenda of the summits was mainly focused on encompassing topical global challenges, such as, climate change, developmental issues, international terrorism, food and energy security and the international financial crisis.
The group’s first institution is planned to be the BRICS Bank. A new development Bank that, according to the officials of BRICS, should be modeled similar to the World Bank. The institute will receive its money sources from the donor countries for development projects and infrastructure in developing nations. On the longer term the institute can also be function as a creditor in a global debt crisis.
According to the Brazilian trade minister, Fernando Pimentel, the BRICS Bank could turn out to be a very powerful financial tool to improve trade opportunities. The Russian news company RT published a statement, that the BRICS Bank would become a rival for existing organizations like the IMF and the World Bank, and that it will force the IMF and World Bank to reform themselves to become fitter for modern challenges. According to Xiang Songzuo, from the Bank of China, perceives the BRICS Bank as an alternative to the World Bank and as a substitute for a mortified system of financial institution. The IMF and World Bank will play smaller roles in the global economy whereas the BRICS financial institution will play a more important role. Another statement of Xiang Songzou is that, the influence of the IMF and the World Bank already decreased significantly over the past decade.
ZK, a Dutch business paper, even states that the BRICS countries are not at a similar stage of economic development. By analyzing the economic situation and interests of India and Russia there can be concluded that they are not similar at all. Russia is an old economy with a shrinking population and the state is depending on oil and gas exports. India is an emerging economy with a rapidly growing population, growing industry and growing services. However, it hardly owns raw materials.Opponents of the BRICS institution find the position of the BRICS overrated. Several western media mentioned that the BRICS countries would have never had a meeting if economist, Jim O’Neill, wouldn’t have published his analyze report, ‘Building Better Global Economic BRICs’, in November 2001.
According to CNN, there is a nagging reality weighing on the world’s fastest growing emerging economies, BRICS, they’re not growing as fast any more. Brazilian economy will slow down to 2.7% this year. Growth in India had steadily fallen and the World Bank said that Russia’s recovery from the global recession has been slow compared with other developing economies. Even China had been slowing down, according to the World Bank, statistics indicate that, with a growth of 7.5%, it will have the lowest growth rate since 1990. Other statements are, that countries, such as, the G7 power share common political, economic and democratic ideals. The BRICS only share a strong post-Cold War growth and a large population.
Analyzing the BRICS Bank institution opponents like for instance the news channel Al Jazeera concluded that the bank will only be a commercial hub to help the nations itself and to solidify economic growth between themselfs. CNN states that the move of creating the BRICS Bank is only for power enlargement and that the BRICS meeting appears to be more of a marketing tactic than it is meaning, unified force in the business world. CNN claims that, the BRICS are selfish with regard to their policies.
In the following video World Bank President, Robert Zoellick, mention that a joint development bank as being planned by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will be difficult to implement given competing interests.
Overall the BRICS countries are strong economic nations in the current status of the world. However they are too focused on their own positions and closed for other countries to join. Besides that, they do not have the knowledge and the experience that the IMF and World Bank have. Therefore, it will be unlikely that if there will be a BICS Bank, that it will replace the IMF’s and the World Bank’s position
Rice farmers transplanting rice out in to the paddy. Rice production in Thailand represents a significant portion of the Thai economy and labor force.
Currently the rice and wheat market in Southeast Asia is changing fundamentally. More than 90% of the world’s rice is produced and consumed by six countries in the Asian region. These countries are China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam as well as Japan. According to the Bangkok Post a recent Asian trend shows that the production of rice has been increasing but the export and the consumption has been decreasing.
One reason for this trend is the rising income, which causes a shift in the food chain. Wheat is gaining market share in Asia which decreases the demand for the national food – rice. In other words, with the growing prosperity and urbanization, the per capita rice consumption has started to decrease in the middle and high- income groups. The Tottori University analyzed the changing food diet in Asia in 2004 and concluded that there is westernization in diet in Asian countries. This westernization is only getting bigger and plays a big role in the decreased demand for rice. Read the rest of this entry »
On March 17 Thailand lost one of its greatest business man ever, Chaleo Yoovidhya passed away from natural causes at a Bangkok Hospital. The age of the business man was discussed in several different newspapers, ranging from 80 to 90 years old. However several Thai media announced his birthdate as August 17, 1923, which implies he died at the age of 88. According to the Forbes he owns an estimated net worth of $5 billion dollars, as of March 2012. This net worth makes him the third richest man of Thailand and number 205 on the Worldwide Forbes rich list. The Nation, a Thai newspaper, listed him as one of the 40 most important Thai persons worldwide last year.
Chaleo Yoovidhya’s funeral was preceded by bathing rites, and the fact that the royal family provided royal bathing water for this ceremony, which is a high honor for someone not born into nobility, reflects how important he was for Thailand. Read the rest of this entry »
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, visits a unit under the Command of the Korean People's stationed in the southwestern sector of North Korea, released by the North's KCNA on February 26.
Looking back at the history of North Korea it periodically asserted its need for nuclear weapons since the Korean War. This started when the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons against it. Although North Korea joined the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), as a non-nuclear weapon state in 1985, it announced its decision to withdraw from the NPT in 2003. The Country apparently used its membership in the treaty as a cover-up while it secretly developed a nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s long-standing nuclear weapons efforts concluded in nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. As a result of the test, the Talks about the NPT were suspended in April 2009.
After the death of Kim Jong Il, the former leader of North Korea and the father of Kim Jong Un, the U.S. had new hopes for a change in North Korea’s diplomacy. At this time, the world was speculating about the impact the death would have on North Korea’s nuclear program and the Six-Party Talks.
On February 27, it even seemed as if Kim Jong Un would continue his father’s strategy. The state run media of North Korea published that North Korea was ready to go to war against the U.S. and South Korea. Kim Jong Un, the new leader of North Korea and oldest son of the previous leader Kim, was visiting military units at this moment and ordered “to make a powerful retaliatory strike at the enemy, should they intrude even 0.001 mm into the waters of the country.” According to its leaders, molding Koreans ideology to a productive, communist mindset is the most important policy. Read the rest of this entry »
In February was a lot of commotion against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Thousands of people protested against it in many countries around the world, forcing state leaders to stop or freeze the process of the ratification of the agreement. The treaty seeks to protect digital copyright, for example, music and movies, but opponents say it restrict freedom of expression and leads to censorship for people all over the world.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a multinational treaty for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. The agreement aims that it should establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet. ACTA establishes the ACTA committee as its own governing body outside existing international institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or the United Nations. Read the rest of this entry »
Internet censorship in China is among the most stringent in the world. China has a whole government body to control information on the Internet. The China censorship machine which is also called “the great firewall of China” has a tight grip on the content available to Chinese internet-users inside the country. Websites deemed sensitive by the government are routinely blocked. Besides that restrictions once viewed as temporary, like bans on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, are now considered permanent. Wang Chen, minister of the State Counsel Information Office, argued in press conference on February the 18 that there are legitimate reasons for controlling the information on the internet, such as stopping the spread of rumors, blocking pornography and stopping illegal commercial activity.
An overview of the amount of global censorship An overview of the amount of censorship Worldwide An overview of the amount of censorship Worldwide
When the internet arrived in China in 1994 it has immediately become a common communication platform and an important tool for sharing information. In 1998 the Communist Party of China feared that another party of the government, the China Democracy Party (CDP), would start a powerful network that the party elites might not be able to control. So they immediately banned the CPD followed by arrest and imprisonment of some members. That same year “the great firewall of China” started, it has been nicknamed the Great Firewall of China in reference to its role as a network firewall and to the ancient Great Wall of China. A major part of the project includes the ability to block content by preventing IP addresses from being routed through and consists of standard firewalls and proxy servers at the Internet gateways. The system also selectively engages in DNS cache poisoning when particular sites are requested. The government does not appear to be systematically examining Internet content, as this appears to be technically impractical. Because of its disconnection from the larger world of IP routing protocols, the network contained within the Great Firewall has been described as “the Chinese autonomous routing domain”. It is estimated by Amnesty International that around 30,000 till 50,000 policeman are employed in this gigantic project. Read the rest of this entry »
Picture of Somyot with his quote, provided by links.org.au
Somyet was arrested by the Department of special Investigation (DSI) and imprisoned without bail since April 30, 2011. According to the DSI he is accused of the violation of section 112 of the Criminal Code, which serves to protect the prestige of the monarchy as Head of state. Somyot is known in Thailand for his establishment of democratic trade unionism. Additionally he was the executive editor of the now-defunct Voice of Thaksin magazine. Furthermore he is the leader of the 24th June Democracy group, and other groups of red shirts. The Democracy group held a press conference on April 25 to start a campaign to collect 10.000 signatures to repeal to the Article 112 of the Criminal Code. The arrest of Somyot is result of his keyrole in this campaign. They arrested him on April 30, when he was trying to leave to exile. This week it is expected that there will be a response on bail request number eight that his lawyer filed in last week.
The Socialist Party of Malaysia said to the Bangkok Post on February 13 that they are concerned that the hearings of the different witnesses are being held outside Bangkok. This has put a tremendous burden on Somyot and his attorneys, as well as restricting the participation of trial observers, which are the diplomatic corps and journalists. There are other concerns that they keep on transporting Somyot from prison to prison and this would be a threat for his health and security. Moreover they view that the authorities have violated Somyot’s Fundamental rights.
Panitan Prueksakasemsuk, son of lese majeste suspect Somyot, has his head shaved to protest against the court’s repeated rejections of his father’s bail requests. Bangkok Post
Somyot’s only son, Panitan Prueksakasemsuk, a second year student at the Faculty of Law, started a 112- hour hunger strike in front of the Ratchada Criminal Court on February 11. He is demanding to his father’s right, to be released on bail, after its being rejected for several times. The hunger strike of 112-hours is a link to the section 112 which his father is accused of. On February 13 Panitan took its action for attention even further by shaving his head and by handing in a letter to the court asking that his father’s and other similar cases are treated fairly and to allow his father’s bail request.
In an open letter on December 30, 2011 Somyot called the 112 law a criminal law and that it has been used in Thailand to diminish the freedom and rights of the Thai people. Besides that there are many student leaders, politicians and labor unionists who are been killed because of the Lese Majeste law. In addition, many people have been forced into exile to avoid punishment, violations of human rights that are being ignored by Thai society.
After all this is still the opinion of a red shirt member. According to an opinion of a yellow shirt the problems with the 112 law started when Taksin founded the red shirts. Since then 400 followers of the red shirts have been arrested by breaking this law and this is not to be blamed on the law but on themselves.
The answer to the bail request is expected to be announced soon, but probably the input that the Socialist Party of Malaysia and Somyot son gave will not lead to the output they want. Somyot asked his Red shirt followers; ‘I vigorously ask you to continue campaigning against this law, regardless of the personal consequences to me. Even if I spend my entire life as a political prisoner, I will not surrender until my last breath’.
According to a report of Oxfam Novib the world is in a bat state to provide assistance and help to several major disasters simultaneously. The United Nations don’t provide enough consistent leadership. Humanitarian organizations therefore have to put more money aside for disasters. The number of the natural disasters increased in the past few years. More than 300,000 people died in 2010 from natural disasters alone (member of people killed by natural disasters 1990-2010 and 1975-2010, 2011). Looking at 2011 Asia had a rough year, according to the Dutch newspaper NRC more than 17.000 people died in Asia alone and more than 8000 are still missing. The costs of the disasters were $6,1 – $8,5 billion for Thailand and $27 billion for Japan (Ploeg, 2011). Relief organizations have been working year-round to provide emergency aid when disaster strikes and long-term assistance in the months and years that follow. Oftentimes, help is needed long after the media attention subsides.
Picture of flooding in Thailand, photo provided by Bangkok Post