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Protest at London’s Dorchester Hotel as international protests against Brunei ramp up

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Protest at London’s Dorchester Hotel as international protests against Brunei ramp up | The Thaiger

Anti-discrimination demonstrators staged a protest outside the Brunei-owned luxury Dorchester Hotel in London yesterday. The protest is part of ongoing protests around the world over the tiny South East Asian Sultanate of Brunei’s adoption of harsh new Sharia laws. The new laws include death by stoning for gay sex and amputation of hands for theft.

The Dorchester Hotel is majority owned by the tiny nation situated on Borneo Island.

The London protests were headed up by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, where up to 100 people gathered outside the famous Park Lane hotel, many armed with rainbow flags demanding a revocation of the new draconian laws.

A tough penal code in the tiny country, ruled as a monarchy by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, came into force last Wednesday after several years slowly ramping up Shariah law in the Sultanate.

It has sparked a storm of global criticism from politicians, celebrities and rights groups, with actor George Clooney, pop star Elton John and TV host Ellen Degeneres, among others, calling for Brunei-owned hotels to be boycotted around the world.

“If the Sultan will not listen to reason and compassion we believe the British government should sever all diplomatic, economic and military ties with the regime,” said Tatchell.

Brunei is part of the wider British Commonwealth but the historic bloc of British colonies has so far resisted calls for a stronger response over the penal code, including expelling Brunei from the Commonwealth.

Brunei is also part of the ten ASEAN-country trading bloc. ASEAN leadership, at this stage, has been silent on the implantation of Sharia Law.

Meanwhile, the University of Oxford says it will reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan. A statement says the University shares the “international revulsion” of the laws and that the decision to confer the honorary degree of civil law by diploma to Bolkiah in 1993 would be reconsidered.

Deutsche Bank has removed the Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection group from the list of hotels its employees use and Virgin Airlines Australia said its staff would no longer travel on the Brunei state-weened airline and would consider its current code-share agreement with the airline.

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia

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Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia | The Thaiger

From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.

Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.

Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.

A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.

“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”

And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.

“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.

The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.

China-fuelled boom

While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.

Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.

But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.

There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.

“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.

As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.

“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”

Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.

And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.

“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.

Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.

But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.

“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

PHOTO: newlaunches.sg

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Myanmar

Six more countries now get visa-on-arrival into Myanmar

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Six more countries now get visa-on-arrival into Myanmar | The Thaiger

Around Thailand the possibilities for foreigners travelling is growing with visa-free arrivals, waived fees, no paperwork and quick processing at Immigration ports.

Now, the Myanmar government is introducing new regulations to facilitate easier access as another step towards opening up the country to the world, and tourism.

Visitors from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Macau were granted visa-free entry last year. Indian and mainland Chinese nationals were also granted visas-on-arrival into Myanmar in a move to draw more Asian visitors to the country.

In the second quarter, Myanmar saw an increase in arrivals from countries granted visas free and visas-on-arrival treatment.

May Myat Mon Win, Chairperson of Myanmar Tourism Marketing says… “We hope the new regulation will lead to more foreign travellers to Myanmar, to discover the country’s unique culture and most of all, the hospitality of its people.”

Myanmar Tourism Marketing is organising roadshows, trade shows and media familiarisation trips for journalists, TV producers and digital marketing influencers from around the world.

“Visa-free and visa on arrival entry from these Western countries would further boost growth of the Myanmar tourism industry.”

SOURCE: The Nation

Six more countries now get visa-on-arrival into Myanmar | News by The Thaiger

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Cambodia

Raffles reopens historic Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Cambodia

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Raffles reopens historic Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Cambodia | The Thaiger

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, one of the most iconic heritage properties in south east Asia, reopened its doors to guests this week after a six-month closure for renovations and refurbishments.

One hundred and twelve of the landmark property’s 119 rooms and suites have been fully refurbished, buttressing the intrinsic appeal of a property renowned for its classic facade, its expansive pool, a celebrated metal and timber elevator, and a guest list that runs from Charlie Chaplin to Jackie Kennedy.

“In the Grand Hotel, we’re custodians of an incredible historical asset,” said Raffles Cambodia Cluster General Manager Oliver Dudler.

“The careful restoration and refurbishments will enhance guest comfort by offering new modern amenities while staying true to our longstanding heritage and classically elegant ambience.”

Among the contemporary touches, spotlights have been added to brighten up the rooms, and power ports and USB charging stations have been fitted. The French windows, which swing open to views of either charming street scenes or the plantation-style grounds of the hotel, have been upgraded, and each room now has a writing desk and vintage rotary telephone, thanks in part to the added floor space created by removing cabinets and replacing them with built-in wardrobes.

The greatest makeover is to the bathrooms, with all-new Italian tiling and fixtures, and separate rain showers.

Raffles reopens historic Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Cambodia | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s newly renovated Landmark Room features vintage touches such as a rotary telephone

The main difference that returning guests will notice upon arrival is that the façade and the entire exterior of the hotel is now painted alabaster white, rather than its former cream-beige hue which is the color of Royal Khmer architecture across the country.

The hotel’s Elephant Bar, renowned for its celebrity patrons, retains the air of a bygone era. Contractors David Grace Designs have brightened up the Café d’Angkor, while refurbishing the interior design in the conservatory, famed for its afternoon teas and baby grand piano. Meanwhile, a new signature restaurant, named “1932,” stands poised and polished, ready for its official launch next month.

The biggest structural addition to the property is the complete renovation of the outdoor Apsara Terrace, where Khmer performances are enacted, into a new MICE and banquets venue to be called the Raffles Marquee. With Angkorian boundary stones of laterite, and surrounded by lush gardens, the new canvas-roofed center aims to meet the growing luxury MICE business demand.

Fronted by a labyrinth of lawns, orchards and gardens, the Grand Hotel d’Angkor was designed in 1929 by French architect Ernest Hébrard, whose vision endures in many of the longstanding French colonial buildings of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Phnom Penh. Hébrard and his contemporaries set out to incorporate facets of local architecture, which was better suited to the regional climate, into their designs, which became known as the style Indochine.

The Grand Hotel opened in 1931-2 with just 63 rooms, all with private bathrooms – a revelation in its day. Its first visitors were treated to an interior combining Khmer art and furnishings with Art Deco influences such as black and white marble floors. Many of those early guests were foreign archeologists and explorers to the nearby site of Angkor Wat.

The property, along with its sister heritage hotel, Le Royal, in Phnom Penh, was taken over by Fairmont Raffles Hotels International in 1997 at the invitation of Cambodia’s King Sihanouk. The Siem Reap resort’s reopening comes two months after Raffles reopened its flagship hotel in Singapore following a two-year closure for renovations.

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