The Region Today: Hun Sen’s WEF outburst, Thai Facebook clampdown and Uber arrives in Yangon

By: Euan Black - Posted on: May 12, 2017 | Current Affairs

Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a press conference during the World Economic Forum on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 11 May 2017. Cambodia is hosting the World Economic Forum on Asean from 10 to 12 May 2017. Photo: EPA/Mak Remissa
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a press conference during the World Economic Forum on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 11 May 2017. Photo: EPA/Mak Remissa

12 May 2017

Cambodian leader Hun Sen lambasts local media at global forum

Prime Minister Hun Sen responded to questions from Radio Free Asia and the Cambodia Daily about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and China’s One Belt, One Road policy by telling them not to be “servants of foreigners”.

After briefly discussing the challenges facing Asean – from the “rise in anti-globalisation and protectionism” and “nationalist and populist politics” to the “fourth industrial revolution” – Hun Sen used the platform to chide the local media outlets.

“You work for Radio Free Asia, which is a radio against the government. And you write for Cambodia Daily, which opposes me all the time,” he said, before arguing that the two journalists would not be able to write for “American radio and newspapers” were it not for his government’s successful elimination of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Towards the end of the briefing, Hun Sen rounded out his lecture.

“Now the two…who work for Radio Free Asia and Cambodia Daily, now write it properly because it is a live broadcast,” he said. “So if you write it wrongly, make a wrong commentary, then it will be seen that you, niece and nephew who are working for foreigners, are actually the servants of foreigners. I don’t want to hear such a word.” [Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: The price of loyalty: is Cambodia’s ruling party losing its traditional strongholds?

Facebook blocks pages in Thailand, but authorities still threaten legal action

Facebook has blocked access to 178 pages in Thailand deemed by the country’s courts as contravening its strict laws on insulting the monarchy, known as lèse-majesté.

But that did not satisfy the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, which said on Thursday that it would take legal action against the social media site if it did not block the remaining 131 pages on its blacklist.

One of the pages that Facebook has blocked was a video of the Thai King walking around a shopping mall in Munich dressed in a crop top with a female friend. [Al Jazeera]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: The “ultimate weapon”: lèse-majesté

Vietnam and China have “positive” talks on South China Sea

Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang met Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing yesterday as the two nations continue to repair relations following China’s decision to move an oil rig into disputed waters in 2014, which sparked protests across Vietnam.

The South China Sea dispute was top of the agenda again at the recent talks, which a senior Chinese diplomat described as “positive”.

“I think that talking about the South China Sea this time is really a positive piece of news,” said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin. “Neither side raised any criticisms of each other. There were no voices of that were out of step.”  [Reuters]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: The motives behind Beijing’s South China Sea expansion

Malaysia’s opposition coalition crumbles

Malaysian opposition party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) ended its ten-year alliance with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) yesterday, after the PRK opposed it on a number of decisions, such as the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

The move is expected to have severe ramifications for the Selangor state government, which has long been an opposition stronghold, and will also dramatically reduce its ability to contest the upcoming general election.

“Barisan Nasional has been handed a clear advantage with no clear gain for PAS,” Ibrahim Suffian of independent pollster Merdeka Centre said of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling party . [Channel News Asia]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Divide and rule: the racist roots of Malaysia’s Redshirt movement

Uber makes accommodating arrival in Myanmar  

Tech giant Uber launched their ride-hailing services in Yangon yesterday morning.

But, in a departure from their usual business model that attempts to undercut the traditional taxi industry, Uber will require its drivers in Myanmar to be registered taxi drivers with registered vehicles with red taxi plates.

It is hoped the collaboration will help to reduce congestion in the city. Uber’s arrival comes after competitors Grab and local startups Hello Cabs and Oway Ride already started operations in Yangon. [Coconuts]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Uber to face stiff competition as ride-sharing service targets Southeast Asia