Lives on hold: Balinese grandmother awaits Mount Agung eruption

The last time Bali’s Mount Agung erupted in 1963, more than 1,700 people died. Pyroclastic flows, a fast-moving mixture of gas and volcanic matter, devastated the Indonesian villages around the sacred mountain. The only place spared was the Mother Temple of Besakih, which the lava missed by metres.
Since September 21, fears of a similar catastrophe have gripped the island, causing panicked villagers to flee. Nearly 150,000 evacuees are scattered across 471 relief centres.
On October 1,…

Bill tabled to raise legal smoking age in Singapore from 18 to 21

Six months after signalling its intention to raise legal smoking age in Singapore from 18 to 21, the Government put it in motion, tabling a bill to change rules, which it had said will be phased in over a few years. With a World Health Organisation report citing that those who do not start smoking before 21 are unlikely to do pick up the habit, Singapore has been mulling over raising the legal age for the last few years. The commitment came during the Ministry of Health’s (MOH)…

North Korea tensions sideline South's once powerful Unification Ministry

Every day, South Korea’s Unification Ministry sends officials to the border village of Panmunjom to call North Korea at 9am and 4pm. For more than 18 months, the North hasn’t picked up.
As North Korea steps up its nuclear weapons tests and threats, the Unification Ministry, dedicated to improving relations with the North and eventual peaceful reunification, faces an almost existential crisis.
Not too long ago the ministry was one of Seoul’s most powerful departments. It had…

China urges caution on North Korea as US supercarrier makes Hong Kong stop

The American supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived in Hong Kong on Monday morning amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme. The warship’s strike group commander, Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, said the carrier would stay in the city for four to five days before heading for “scheduled operational training”. Trump tells Tillerson he’s wasting his time negotiating with North Korea’s ‘Little Rocket Man’ South Korean media reported on…

More growth seen for Malaysia’s biodegradable packaging industry

By Neily Syafiqah Eusoff Malaysia’s biodegradable packaging industry is expected to see further growth as countries around the world and Malaysia boost efforts to reduce the use of plastic and polystyrene materials, said Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corp (Bioeconomy Corp). Globally, the eco-friendly packaging market is poised to reach US$177.7 billion next year, up 63.3 per cent from just US$108.8 billion in 2011, said Bioeconomy Corp chief executive officer Dr Mohd Shuhaizam…

End of the road for Indonesia’s motorbikes?

Motorbike regulations are creating more and more bumps in the road for commuters throughout Southeast Asia, as major cities try to curb two-wheelers to reduce traffic and air pollution.
Hanoi has vowed to ban motorcycles entirely by 2030. Last year in the Philippines, regulators in Baguio City prohibited two-wheeled vehicles, including bicycles, within the city limits but the rule was later reversed after a backlash on social media.
In January, authorities in Kuala Lumpur proposed banning…

Does China have the inside track in race with Japan for Singapore-Malaysia high-speed rail contract?

China and Japan are ramping up public lobbying efforts with Singapore and Malaysia as they gun for the multibillion-dollar contract to develop a high-speed train link between the Southeast Asian neighbours, but observers say the two rail building titans are unlikely to receive special favours. Singapore and Malaysia on Thursday said some 200 participants this week attended a London briefing on the project – a 350km bullet train line that will slash travel time from the Lion City to…

How much of a disruptor is Koike in Japanese politics?

When Yuriko Koike split from the Liberal Democratic Party in May 2017, 10 months after she had been elected governor of Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could have been forgiven for assuming that she could be relied upon to support the national government in at least some policy areas.
After all, she had served with the LDP for 15 years, held three cabinet portfolios – including that of minister of defence under Abe – and is widely thought to hold conservative views similar to the…