The real estate market is in most economies one of the main drivers in GDP and an important indicator of growth. Unfortunately this means if the real estate sector is not doing well it can have a major effect on a countries economy, as it could be observed in America in 2008, when subprime mortgages and risky investments caused a major financial crises in the US and Europe. In 2011 there has been a so called “housing bubble” in China which is described as an increase in housing prices due to demand, speculation and a strong belief in an unrealistic demand forecast. As remarked by CBS News, China has built several “Ghost cities” which are only occupied by 10 or 20 %. As a result prices are high and almost nobody is able to afford such buildings and therefore they will remain empty in the future if fiscal policies will not change. The question which has to be asked at this point is, if and how China is able to regulate property prices and will find its way back on the right track.
China´s House prices in 70 major cities from 2011 until 2013
The reason behind China´s urbanization is that most citizens are expected to move to cities in order to find labor and make use of the advantages of a large consumer market. According to a German Newspaper “Der Spiegel”, each year more than 10 million people migrate from rural areas to major cities.” That means that a general demand for properties in urban areas exists. However, speculations and risk full investments drove up prices until they were not affordable anymore. The people willing to migrate from rural areas to cities is, as a matter of fact, not overestimated but the cities and houses which have been built are simply not affordable for a population mostly living in poverty. The ones, who saw a major advantage, were people from the uprising middle class who bought sometimes even 4 or 5 properties. However, they do not use them for living but simply as an investment which means they remain unoccupied. Due to this investment demand prices keep rising and people make money. Read the rest of this entry »
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been named as the Roman Catholic Church’s new pope.
Habemus Papam Franciscum is a Latin phrase which can be translated as ‘we have Pope Francis’. On 13 March, the 266th head of the Roman Catholic Church was elected. After Pope Benedict XVI resigned on 28 February, saying that he could not carry out his tasks adequately anymore due to his declining health and mental condition, a new Pope had to replace him. When the newly elected Pope accepts his election, the Proto-Deacon of the College of Cardinals declares to the world “Habemus Papam” from the main balcony of the Vatican. Pope Francis will be installed officially in an inaugureral Mass on Tuesday 19 March, the Vatican said.
Fire fighters, policemen and security forces trying to control the damage caused by an explosion and on top of all many people being killed or injured. These have become typical images in the South of Thailand and occur on a regular basis.
The South of Thailand, in particular the three provinces Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, is an area of conflict between Muslims and Buddhist Thais and this already for many years. Although now this is a known fact the actual problems have not been addressed properly until January 2004. Only then did the Thai government recognize the terrorist acts as such and a year later declared the region being in state of emergency.
Two of our fellow bloggers, Lisa and Diane have addressed some of the events in the region last year. But what could have possibly caused this situation? We are trying to look into some of the reasons that lead to this problematic situation. We are going one step back and look at the combination of factors that made the situation escalate in the last few years, the way it did.
When we take a look at the early 20th century when England had colonies in Malaysia, back then called British Malaysia, we see that the South of Thailand originally belonged to the Muslim neighbor country and became part of the country because of territorial negotiations between the Thai and the British government. Today 80% of the roughly 4 mln. Muslims in Thailand live in the South. Whereas the Thai government considers the population to be Thais, the people themselves see the Thai government as oppressors. Most resisted becoming Thai speaking Muslims and therefore rejected anything Thai, including schools and education. And while the people wanted to have the region become a part of Malaysia again this was never an option. Neither the Thai nor the Malay government took these demands into consideration. The Muslim population suffered lack of education and the gap between the two populations widened. It should be mentioned at this point that the Thai government in 2004 actually condemned the Muslim schooling system “a hotbed of radicalism” and while the state took full control it prohibited any kind of financial support from outside the country.
It has become clear to us that if one wants to find a solution for a problem one must first recognize the problem. One problem was that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, back in 2002, said the killings had only to do with drug trafficking and denied religion being a reason for the attacks. Today we know the situation is much more complex than simply a few “bandits and drug runners” causing unrests in the region. Fact is the violent acts have started to increase tremendously as a reaction to Thaksin’s aggressive anti-narcotics campaign in 2003; many people were killed in the South that had no relations to drugs. It was only in 2004 that Thaksin came forward after 18 schools burned down and two empty police posts were vandalized that he called the incidents acts of terror and declared the three provinces being in the state of emergency.
Muslim uproar against the Thai government
A factor leading to blowing up the problem was that the situation increasingly became worse over the years and yet later Prime Minister Abhisit (2008-2011) refused any kind of dialogue which might have reduced conflict on some level. Then again if he would have tried to, there was still the problem of whom to address. “A striking aspect of the Southern Thailand insurgency is the anonymity of the people behind it and the absence of concrete demands.“ It was a conflict that was existing already for so long and developing over the decades that it was impossible to point at one person or group that would stimulate the situation but rather an inherited clash with the government. This complicated constellation makes it clear that a solution would as well have to be complex and well thought through. We also believe the general unstable situation of the Thai government has prevented efficient dealing with the entire conflict, as different governments had different opinion about how to address the issue.
Another crucial reason for the ongoing turmoil was the mere neglect of human rights on both sides. While the Muslim terrorists, referred to as insurgents, killed innocent bystanders including women as well as children, the Thai officials on the other hand used inhumane measures themselves. One incident was reported when 80 peaceful protesters were locked up in trucks without ventilation, 78 of them died as a consequence. Other reports tell of people, including a Muslim human rights lawyer, disappearing while being investigated by government officials.
For a long time the Muslim population experienced disrespect from the Buddhist Thai population which constantly fueled conflict in the area; which is why Thaksin’s comment, religion cannot have anything to do with it since Muslim police officers also were killed was only blurring the actual problem. People do not stop in a middle of a fight to check one’s faith to make sure not to kill the wrong person. At that time it was Muslims from the South against Thai officials, Muslim or not.
On 3rd of January 2013 something remarkable has happened: Thailand’s first Malay-language TV channel “TV Malayu” has been started to be broadcasted. So far there is half an hour of news programme per day which by next year is supposed to be 24 hours of broadcasting. This is an important development and one of the first crucial signs of willingness to communicate. Since not one person or instance can be addressed, the Muslim population as a whole has to be included in the dialogue. This has to happen before any kind of peaceful resolution is in sight and a stabilization of the situation in the South will be possible. Showing acceptance and respect to the Muslim population is crucial. Another aspect of course is that the Thai government becomes more stable itself. As our fellow blogger Angela already wrote we believe it is necessary for the Thai government to resolve the internal conflict between parties to resolve the conflict in the South. Since the roots of the conflict go back several decades, resolving the conflict will take the investment of time and money as well as the effort of both sides, Muslim and the government, to find a mutual resolution.
Meanwhile you listen to this song imagine this. Imagine that you are sitting in a taxi on your way to fit your newly tailored cashmere suit. While you’re waiting for the light to turn green, you see an elder man showering with dirty water on the street. You feel bad for him, but don’t do anything. The next day, after your nice shopping spree at the mall, you see another elder man, barefoot on the asphalt, pushing his fruit cart in the heat of the afternoon sun. You want to do something, but again, your help is not noticed by this man.
In my opinion, people have lost their connection to people, to humanity. Today those who actually matter to us are the people that we have on Facebook, the celebrities and the people in our close circle of friendship; but what about the others? What about the people we see every day having a hard time. The janitors, the mini market clerks, the street vendors, even the security guard that looks after you? Have you ever thought of what they feel, each time they see you splurging. People walk with their head full of problems like “I don’t like this shirt” or “I am too fat” and they don’t realize that right next to them there might be someone that does not have money for medicines, someone that has only 3 shirts or even worse, someone who has not eaten for days. Read the rest of this entry »
Sit back and imagine your next vacation: Amazing Thailand, the land of smiles. What do you see? Perhaps pristine beaches, beautiful Buddhist temples, unlimited shopping opportunities and not to forget, adorable elephants. These magnificent animals can paint, make music and even stand on their two rear feet. Elephants have long been the symbol of Thailand. White elephants have long been used by the Monarchy as a symbol of power and money. The more white elephants a King has, the more power and money it portrays. White elephants are sacred and each one forms a financial burden to the owner; therefore the more you had meant that the more money you possess.
The use of elephants has changed dramatically over the years. They were first used as military forces during wars. India was the first country to have an elephant army since the first millennia BC. During the time of Ayutthaya in the period of 1350 to 1767 different battled were fought on elephants. One important battle was between the King of Siam Naresuan and the Burmese crown prince Minchit Sra, in which the Burmese prince was defeated. New techniques of combat made elephants useless during military fights; therefore its role changed from soldier to carrier. They were then used as transportation method in the logging industry mainly for the transportation of timber. They were very useful since they had the ability to cross many difficult terrains vehicles could not access. Logging was banned in Thailand on 17th January 1989. This was as a response to devastating floods that occurred in the region of Nakorn Srithammarat Province November of the preceding year. Therefore, elephants had to again enter a new industry; tourism. Read the rest of this entry »
In this video, Vice President of Strategic Intelligence Rodger Baker examines the recent dispute over oil exploration in the South China Sea. As can be concluded from this, oil and gas resources are the main reason for this territorial argument.
Currently, the position of the US in the South China Sea dispute is uncertain. Vietnam Brunei and Malaysia are claiming territory; however, China and the Philippines are the strongest arguers. The US has been the military partner of the Philippines for over 70 years; however it is highly undesirable for its economy to be part of a military dispute with China. Read the rest of this entry »
Many people across the entire world donate money to charity. Generally, we give money, thinking that it will make a difference. However, have you ever considered how you would feel if you found out that it did not make a difference?
Part of the question is if the aid system has failed. I am not referring to corrupt organizations. I am not thinking about dictators blocking the help. These are issues that are usually talked about by the media. I am thinking about failed aid in countries with stable governments, such as Cambodia. This leads me to a more general question. Does the aid provided by the non-governmental organizations (NGOS) really help on a long-term basis?
For my part, I have to say, the system may not have failed, but at least it is damaged and it is necessary to fix it. The reason, why I think it is malfunctioning is that many organizations only focus on providing the hardware. NGOs like Engineers without Borders, CARE Bangladesh or Promoting Education, emPowering Youth (PEPY) build schools, houses or pipelines for wells. This shows that we approach the problems of the developing countries from a very western point of view. Often we do not consider what is happening on the ground, for example, conflicts between different ethnic groups or a different understanding of time and values. Read the rest of this entry »
Statue of Buddha in Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand
The quote above is derived from one of the most famous men in history- Buddha. Buddhists believe that nothing in the world is fixed or permanent; instead a change is always possible and not necessarily something negative.
Buddhism is about 2,500 years old according to BBC- Religion (2009). It is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, who aimed to find the key to human happiness. Buddhism is perceived as religion by some people whereas others perceive it as a philosophy. It teaches that every life on earth is interconnected. Additionally, it is concerned with personal spiritual development and the deep insight in the nature of life. Unlike other religions, Buddhists do not believe in a God. The enlightenment of a Buddhist can be reached through meditation, the development of morality and wisdom (BBC Religion, 2009). The four noble truths that were taught by Buddha are the basis of meditation: Read the rest of this entry »
“We hope this will be the beginning of a new era.”- Aung San Suu Kyi about the by- elections
Aung San Suu Kyi- The Lady- 22 years under house arrest
April 1st – a milestone in the history of Myanmar (Burma). Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro- democratic leader of the National league for Democracy party (NLD) and a significant women in Myanmar, won approximately 99% of the votes in the by- elections of Myanmar according to Bangkok Post (2012). 45 mandates were assigned in the by-elections and the NDL claims to have at least 43 seats. It is the first time in history that Aung San Suu Kyi had won a seat in the parliament after a turbulent past. Besides, she spent almost 22 years under house arrest imposed by the previous military junta (If you want to read more about her have a look here). The official results of the elections will be announced within this week.
In 1948, Burma became independent from the British thanks to Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, who fought for Burma’s independence. A constitutional period followed but a military coup changed the political system in 1962 and a military government started to rule Myanmar. After civil unrest and a military crackdown in 1988, the government agreed on democratic elections in 1990. In the same year Aung San Suu Kyi gave her first political speech.
Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to her supporters after the by-elections
In 1990, the NLD won the elections, but the victory was not recognized by the government. They declared the elections as invalid thus the military regime continued suppressing the population and arresting political activists. The protests persisted the years afterwards and reached their peak in 2007, resulting in another military crackdown. As a result, pro regime members started to create a new constitution planning elections for 2010 while still ruling under martial law without the permission of free debates. Two years ago, in 2010, the military appointed head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, Thein Sein, as prime minister. Furthermore, the next general elections will take place in 2015.
Considering the history, the reasons for civil unrest were the disregard of human rights by the military regime such as the lack of freedom of speech. Furthermore, political prisoners were tortured, demonstrators were killed and people were sexually abused. Consequently, the military ruled in their own interest without regard to the securities and benefits for the population. An example for a lack of support was reflected after the natural disaster in 2008 when a cyclone hit Burma. The government refused to provide support for the population and blocked initially international aid and assistance after the catastrophic destruction.
The political situation changed last year, when the military junta handed the power to a civil government, because of the increasing protests of the population against the regime. Several reforms were implemented by the new government, such as, the release of political prisoners and activists who were arrested because they spoke out against the political system. Further reforms are planned in order to move into a more democratic direction. It is assumed that the new civil government aimed to let Aung San Suu Kyi win the by- elections, in order to be perceived as democratic by the international community. This leads to the overall goal to release Western sanctions in order to start trading with the West and become economically more powerful in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Even the ASEAN members demanded a lifting of Western sanctions in Myanmar according to Channel New Asia (2012).
This time, the election process appeared to be more transparent compared to 1990 when it was not allowed for journalists and foreign observers to witness the polls. This year election observers were sent by ASEAN to monitor the election process. Nevertheless, the elections were not perceived as fair by some citizens who claimed that their names were missing on the voting list according to BBC News (2012). Moreover, some irregularities were detected and wax was discovered on the ballot papers over the check box of the NPD – possibly to be able to rub of the vote in the end to falsify the election result. This raises the question if the ballot papers were manipulated and if the election results might not reflect the real outcome.
How does the future of the next generation look like? A child in the with the flag in the colors of the NLD
After such a long ruling period of the military it remains unclear if the current parliament can be perceived as completely new and democratic. It is a positive development that Aung San Suu Kyi enters the parliament for the first time with her democratic party. However, it is not certain in how far the military is still ruling in the background and influencing politics in their own interests.The Telegraph even describes the military as still being “firmly in control” (2012). Consequently, the civilian government that accepted power last year might be a “smoke screen” for the previous rulers to hide behind and to let the international community perceive Myanmar as democratic. The military appointees maintain still one quarter of the parliamentary seats and consequently have the power to influence the government in their own interests.
It is questionable if the NPD can bring a change in Myanmar but at least the victory of the by- elections can be seen as a positive starting point in a democratic direction. Perhaps it is a destiny that “The Lady”, daughter of the independence leader Aung San, receives the chance to make a difference in Myanmar. She has the opportunity to fight against the violation of human rights and to introduce democracy in a country that was oppressed by the government for over five centuries. Perhaps she will ascend the throne in 2015 when the next general elections take place.
Gender differences have arisen not because of sex difference but due to social image. Feminists define gender as a set of characteristics that showcase masculinity and femininity. Gender is a structure that gives unequal power in relationships between man and women, whilst masculine characteristics are usually more valued than feminine.
After Aung San Kyi won the by-elections in Myanmar, the issue of gender in the world of politics has come into picture. Most definitely; gender equality in Asia. Thailand also has a female Prime Minister HE Yingluck Shinawatra. What are the roles these women play in the international political community and how do they influence other women?
There are different theories that explain feminism and why women are subordinates. There are the liberals, the Marxists, socialists, the post colonialists and post structuralism.
I think that the most important aspect defining and defying feminism is religion. It is the most controversial topic on gender equality. Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are the religions that most notably are considered to oppress women and influence gender inequality. However, I have not taken religion into consideration into this blog. Why? Because it is a choice made by people to have a certain religion and live to the standards of it.
In addition to religion, culture and state policies also play a big role, especially in some Asian countries. It is the right of a woman to be subservient if she wishes to. Indonesia has the practice of ibuism. This is described as the practice of being the companion of the husband, procreator of the nation, mother and educator of the children. The state practically brainwashes the community that women have to practice ibuism. These women do it with pride and are glad to serve their community by educating the man. They look forward to be the perfect wife and have the perfect family. This for them is seen as being successful.
I am usually an advocate of gender equality and think that females should have the same rights as males. However, during my research on this topic, I realized that man and woman will never be seen as equal. Not because they are not, but simply because it is a matter of culture and perspectives. It is the lens trough which we see women and their role and the paradigms we have that creates inequality. Many women are well educated but decide to serve their family. Others decide to be part of a certain religion and are happy with it.
Yes, we should have the same human rights as advocated by the UN, but we also have to take into account that democracy and capitalism are not the only answer.
As a believer in the law of attraction, I think that any woman can achieve anything that she wants as long as she truly wants it.