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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                    6  August 2011

Anwar calls for increased democracy

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Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim warned Friday his country was being left behind as a wave of democratization sweeps the world.

Speaking at a forum during a visit to the Philippines, Anwar warned Kuala Lumpur against tampering with elections and said the "Arab Spring" proved that popular clamour for democracy could not be suppressed.

"The entire world, including the most conservative Muslim heartland, the Middle East has now transformed and is clamoring for change and reform. Why must Malaysia be lagging so far behind?" he asked.

"We are lagging far behind the Philippines and Indonesia in terms of building credible (democratic) institutions," he said at a forum hosted by his friend, former Philippine president Joseph Estrada.

Anwar also fretted that the Malaysian economy was even starting to slip behind Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in areas like competitiveness.

Anwar said that unlike in Arab countries, he did not expect violence in Malaysia, which has been hit by pro-democracy protests in recent weeks.

But he said Malaysians now wanted more political freedom and fair elections.

"We are not demanding the toppling of the regime. We want to use the ballot box but the ballot box must be clean," he said.

Anwar said he did not want Malaysia's leaders to suffer the same fate as former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who has been put on trial by the new government, but warned that they could not ignore the people's will.

He dismissed the high-profile sodomy case against him as "trumped-up charges" and assailed the government for violently cracking down on street protests.

On July 9 riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at thousands of protesters who were demanding electoral reform in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Police also arrested more than 1,600 people, while one demonstrator died. Anwar himself suffered a bruise on his head and a cut leg.

Anwar, once heir-apparent to ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 and found guilty of corruption and sodomy. He was imprisoned until 2004 when the sodomy conviction was overturned.

He then revived the opposition, forming a coalition that made major inroads during the last general elections in 2008, threatening the Barisan Nasional's five-decade grip on power.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   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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