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Asean Affairs  1  March 2011

Internet, mobile phones change the world

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     1 March 2011

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This week in Beijing China’s parliament opens its weeklong session.

The meeting is usually perfunctory as the 3,000-member body has limited power, however, the uprisings in the Mideast have jangled some nerves both in China and elsewhere in the world where authoritarian regimes hold power.

In China itself a Sunday protest was called by using text messages, however, the turnout was primarily policemen and plains clothes officers in the 13 cities that were the sites for the demonstrations. During a study session for provincial and ministerial leaders held in January, President Hu Jintao called for of increased Internet controls and investment in local government services to reduce “inharmonious factors to the minimum.”

The power and effectiveness of the new forms of electronic communication that have grown up with the under-30 generation worldwide are fostering the unrest in Mideastern countries that have been under the thumbs of autocrats for decades.

In Asean, democracy in one form or another is prevailing governance mode except for the communist states of Vietnam and Laos. And in Myanmar, there is no doubt that with a large standing army, autocracy prevails in spite of the recent “elections.”

During the red shirt protest in the spring of 2010 in Thailand many observers noted that the use of the new mobile phone technology on the part of the protesters was far ahead of the similar efforts of the Thai government.

This brave new world of high-speed communication is bound to increase the efforts of governments to maintain the secrecy of their “privileged communication” in the post-Wikileaks era. However, unlike Hans Brinker in the legendary tale, there are too many ways to access information and spread it rapidly on mobile technology for all the leaks to be plugged. This past weekend in China was a good example of that.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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