Today, there are 21.3 million refugees worldwide. That is 21.3 million people who have been driven from their countries by fear of violence or oppression based on race, religion, nationality, politics or identity. Many live in overcrowded and unsafe camps, often lacking basic necessities, as they wait for some country to grant them asylum.
We are almost at the end of the year. For many, it’s the start of a journey, home to see the family, to be with friends. A journey that ends in reunion, togetherness, sharing. Even if we travel alone, we travel hopefully, knowing that there will be a warm welcome at the end of the tiring journey. It’s the time of the year when strangers help one another, when we smile and exchange greetings with people we don’t know.
During a recent trip to the scenic valleys of landlocked Bhutan last week, a young Bhutanese tour guide’s sophisticated and highly fluent English caught the Thai entourage by surprise. Given that he’s 28-years-old and is a high school graduate without an overseas education or a college degree, they couldn’t help but ask: How can his English be so good?
At a luncheon last week, a British businessperson with interests in Myanmar told me that in his view State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has taken on too many responsibilities. As she tries to run the country, her government and her party, and satisfy military, religious and ethnic forces, he compared her to a circus performer juggling too many balls, “She is in danger of dropping them all,” he said.
US President-elect Donald Trump has just said that he considers America’s “One China” policy a bargaining chip, to be traded off against other things that the US wants from China. In other words, the “One China” policy isn’t a big deal – it’s a bargaining issue, like many other issues. So is Trump right?
On December 9, Hong Kong’s unpopular pro-Beijing leader, CY Leung, announced that he will not seek re-election. The announcement was a surprising. Leung clawed back rare support last month by holding a hard line on two pro-independence lawmakers, who insulted China in their oaths, prompting Beijing to intervene.
The South Korean parliament has approved an opposition-proposed motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye in a majority vote by a number far exceeding two-thirds of its members. A considerable number of members of the ruling party, including those of the anti-mainstream, voted in favour of the motion. Under constitutional provisions, Park’s executive powers have been suspended and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn will act as president in her place.
At the end of November, China’s National Energy Administration published its Hydropower Development Plan for the next five years (2016-2020). In a noticeable turnaround, the roadmap – which identifies river basins where further hydropower projects will be built – no longer includes the upper section of the Nu/Salween River in China. This is a major reversal from government plans in 2013 to build five dams, and signals an important victory for the scientists and environmental groups in China.
The fresh outbreak of fighting that started on November 20 in Myanmar’s northern Shan State caught many people by surprise. The main artery to China and civilian targets has been hit, resulting in casualties. The scale of the fighting and its coordination shows that the offensive had been carefully planned. But by whom and with what objectives?