Malaysia, Indonesia close thousands of schools as toxic haze intensifies

Thousands of schools were closed across Malaysia and Indonesia on Thursday, affecting at least 1.7 million pupils, officials said, as toxic haze from rampant forest fires sent air quality plummeting.Nearly 2,500 schools were ordered to shut their doors in Malaysia – including nearly 300 in the smog-hit capital Kuala Lumpur – over soaring health concerns sparked by toxic haze from out-of-control blazes in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Borneo islands.Indonesia said hundreds of schools in hard-hit Riau…

Thailand’s iconic tuk-tuks get a makeover as start-up gears up for tests of self-driving models in Bangkok

Thailand’s ubiquitous tuk-tuk, the noisy, colourful three-wheeled taxi that has been belching exhaust fumes on local roads for almost a century, is getting a cutting-edge makeover to help carry the local auto industry into the future.Beginning in November, a public-private partnership will test the nation’s first self-driving tuk-tuk in an effort to nudge Thailand toward the forefront of developing autonomous-vehicle technology in Southeast Asia. Start-up Airovr, investor Siri Ventures and the…

Chinese investment in Australia faces litmus test with two new deals

Australia’s coalition government will face its biggest test regarding investment from mainland China since its May re-election with at least two corporate buyouts likely to require approval from a regulatory body increasingly vigilant against security risks.Beijing-backed Mengniu Dairy on Monday offered US$13.25 per share to buy Bellamy’s, valuing the infant milk powder producer at A$1.5 billion (US$1.03 billion).The deal has been recommended by Bellamy’s directors but still requires approval…

Anwar Ibrahim expects to succeed Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysia’s prime minister next year

Malaysian ruling party leader Anwar Ibrahim, who cut a deal to become the country’s next prime minister ahead of last year’s election, said he should take power around May 2020.“There’s an understanding that it should be around that time, but I don’t think I should be too petty about the exact month,” Anwar said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday, when asked whether the transition would happen two years after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad took power.“But there is this…

Indonesia’s pre-social media laws are no match for animal traffickers

Indonesia is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations. It is thought that as many as 300,000 species, or almost one in five of the world’s animals, are to be found in this sprawling Southeast Asian nation. It is home to 515 species of mammals and 1,539 species of birds, and almost half of all fish species live in its waters. Unfortunately, this biological wealth is not matched by efforts to preserve it. After drugs and human trafficking, offences against wildlife are the third-most pressing…

Indonesian parliament passes controversial revisions to law governing anti-corruption agency

Indonesia’s parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve changes to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption agency, which activists fear could undermine its powers to tackle corruption.The Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian initials, KPK, has prosecuted hundreds of politicians and officials since its formation in 2002, becoming one of the country’s most respected agencies. But there have been repeated efforts by politicians and police to undermine it…

Australian government reportedly concealed Chinese hack on parliament and political parties out of economic concern

Australian intelligence determined China was responsible for a cyberattack on its national parliament and three largest political parties before the general election in May, according to five people with direct knowledge of the matter.Australia’s cyber intelligence agency – the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – concluded in March that China’s Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack, the five people with direct knowledge of the findings of the investigation said.The five…

Explained: the Philippines’ communist rebellion is Asia’s longest-running insurgency

On September 10, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine military to crush the long-running communist rebellion in an “all-out war”, insisting “if I can, I will end the insurgency problem within my term”.There was nothing new about the exhortation and hopeful promise: it’s been made before by previous national leaders. When she was president, Gloria Arroyo also promised an all-out war and vowed to crush the communists in three years. Instead, Arroyo finished her term in 2010 with the…

In Japan, rising numbers of parents are harming their children. Why?

When police responding to an emergency call arrived at the Osaka home of Kazuya Ogawa on the evening of August 30, they were confronted with three bodies. Ogawa’s wife was lying on the floor in the bedroom of their two daughters, Risa, aged five, and Juri, three. All had sustained serious stab wounds. The two girls were rushed to hospital but were later pronounced dead. Ogawa’s 40-year-old wife underwent treatment for knife wounds to her abdomen and was reported to be in a stable condition.

Are Singaporean ‘tourists’ in North Korea actually eyeing ‘last untapped market’

Singapore travel agencies and globetrotters keen on unusual destinations were left guessing when the city state’s authorities issued a vague warning about travel to North Korea earlier this month.Although nobody is sure, observers say Singapore may have been reminding its businesspeople to end illegal deals with Pyongyang and stop heading there by pretending to be tourists.Others believe the United States may have pressured Singapore to ensure international sanctions against North Korea are not…