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Phuket Gazette World News: Suharto family tests Indonesia political comeback on strongman’s legacy

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Phuket Gazette World News: Suharto family tests Indonesia political comeback on strongman’s legacy | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Suharto family tests Indonesia political comeback on strongman’s legacy
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: It was Indonesia’s most ubiquitous smile. Once dubbed the smiling general despite his iron rule of more than three decades, the image of former President Suharto now waves genially from the election campaign poster of one of his daughters.

It marks a tentative return to national politics of the family of the autocratic leader who was forced from office in 1998 as the world’s fourth most populous nation descended into economic and social chaos.

Much of the blame for that crisis focused on the nepotism and corruption that became the hallmark of Suharto’s later years in power and which saw family members and close associates amass fortunes and come to dominate the country’s economy.

But as Indonesia’s economic growth has weakened and disenchantment among voters with the current government grows, so Suharto’s political heirs have tried to promote an image of him as a leader who brought strength and stability ahead of parliamentary elections next Wednesday.

Enter 54-year-old Siti Hediati Suharto, popularly known as Titiek, who on the campaign trail in the city of Yogyakarta in central Java claimed that Indonesia had made little headway since her father’s downfall.

The Golkar party, which she is campaigning with and which was the parliamentary rubber stamp of Suharto’s long rule, is also turning openly to a legacy that until recently would have been political poison.

“I want to continue to take the struggle (of my father) forward,” she told Reuters in an interview in the densely populated region from which her father came and which she hopes to represent in the national parliament.

“Reformasi (the reform era) started 16 years ago and we’ve been changing presidents but it seems Indonesia isn’t going anywhere,” she said before heading off to a campaign rally with her older sister Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, 65 and known across Indonesia as Tutut.

After the parliamentary election, voters on July 9 will choose the fifth president to lead Indonesia since Suharto fell from grace. He died in 2008.

Despite warnings it could disintegrate without Suharto’s strong hand, Indonesia has remained intact to become the world’s third largest democracy.

But opinion polls suggest voters are disappointed with the outgoing government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and will most likely opt for a completely fresh face in Jakarta governor and relative political novice Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

His popularity is likely to give his party, the PDI-P, the largest number of seats, polls show. Golkar, which polls predict will come second, hopes nostalgia for the economic successes of the Suharto era will bring in votes.

“(Titiek’s) lineage will definitely increase votes for Golkar in the legislative election, because there are many loyalists of Suharto and many people who miss that … era,” said Tantowi Yahya, a legislator and spokesman for Golkar, saying it would help nationally, not just in her constituency.

To help polish that memory, Suharto’s half-brother Probosutedjo just over a year ago helped build a museum at the site of the former president’s humble birthplace outside Yogyakarta. At the entrance are displayed images of the ex-leader as a general and a pious Muslim.

That cuts no ice with some.

“The way he governed was tyrannical,” said Litifah, 18, who works with one of Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organisations.

Romanticising Suharto era

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) coordinator, Ade Irawan, criticised what he saw as romanticising the Suharto era.

“It was a time for cronyism and corruption on a very large scale,” he said. “Suharto’s children should also be held responsible for their wealth. But no one will try them. Instead they’re trying to come back as heroes which is very ironic.”

Suharto was charged with corruption but never went on trial.

His youngest son Hutomo Mandala Putra, or Tommy as most refer to him, had a graft conviction from 2000 relating to a land deal overturned. He was jailed in 2002 for ordering the killing of the judge who convicted him in the graft case, for which he served five years of a 15-year jail term.

None of the other children has faced trial over corruption.

With no suggestion of irony, Titiek did point to graft as a major issue in Indonesia.

“If I watch TV, every day (there is) corruption, there are all these food imports, all these problems,” she said in a reference to a stream of high profile corruption trials, almost unheard of in the Suharto era, and concerns that Indonesia is too reliant on imports of basic food.

It is a sentiment her supporters share.

“Even if the Suhartos were corrupt, at least the people were well off,” said Juani, a middle-aged housewife attending the relatively modest campaign rally.

Titiek’s older sister, Tutut, once a political and business force during their father’s rule, failed to muster enough support to herself be able to contest the presidency in 2004.

But the way some of the crowd rushed to shake her hand at the latest rally pointed to her continued popularity. She declined, via an aide, to talk to Reuters.

Their four other siblings have stayed out of the latest political limelight, including Tommy, 51.

However, some media reports have suggested he might have his sights on the next campaign in five years.

“The people demand (we have a role),” said Titiek. “We try to shy away but some people always ask why doesn’t the Suharto family show up.”

She said she did not seek the presidency for herself. As for other members of her family: “I don’t know. Maybe in due time.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

Most travel-friendly passport list 2021 revealed

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Most travel-friendly passport list 2021 revealed | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Japan tops the list of most travel-friendly passports.

The Henley Passport Index, which rates what passports are the most travel-friendly, has just released the list for 2021, with Japan once again topping the list. The Index commented that this international travel freedom comparison is mostly theoretical since Covid-19 has severely limited most travel worldwide. With a Japanese passport, travellers can enter 193 countries without a visa or with a visa-on-arrival. On the other end of the list, Afghanistan can only get into 26 countries. The gap of 167 countries is the widest gap since the Henley Passport Index began tracking this data 15 years ago in 2006.

Singapore kept its second-place standing with just one less destination than Japan, followed by Germany and South Korea tied for 3rd place with 191 destinations. The rest of the top 10 are mainly European countries, with the exception of New Zealand and the US as part of the 5-way tie for 7th place with 187 destinations, and Australia and Canada tied for 9th place with 185 destinations.

The United States and the United Kingdom took a tumble, once tied for the most travel-friendly passport in 2014, now losing ground slipping to 7th. On the other hand, United Arab Emirates strengthened diplomatic ties worldwide and jumped 50 spots this year from 65th all the way to 15th. Over the decade, the climb is even more dramatic, with the Emirates exploding from 67 destinations 10 years ago up 107 destinations to 174 this year. China did well also, climbing 22 places since 2011, up to number 68 on the list.

Thailand’s passport is tied with Saudi Arabia at 66th with 79 destinations available without an advance visa.

The full 2021 top 10 list:
1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Australia, Canada (185)
10. Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia (183)

Henley and Partners predict that the spread in passport access will mirror Covid-19 affected travel. Rich and mobile regions like the US, UK, EU and UAE are getting access to vaccination, hastening their ability to travel, while poorer and developing economies are experiencing a much slower vaccine roll-out. Experts from Syracuse University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Migration Policy Centre predict this trend will continue with potentially devastating long-term effects.

Countries that can afford and facilitate vaccination for their citizens quickly will be able to welcome travellers in for tourism and business and be able to travel more themselves. Conversely, countries that can’t afford the storage and distribution of vaccines will be less able to travel or welcome tourism income, widening a global wealth gap. Remote working and the digital nomad lifestyle has been booming in recent years and with Covid-19 forcing businesses to adapt to telecommuting, the post-pandemic world will see more remote working, and countries falling behind with vaccinations will suffer the long-term loss in tourism dollars too.

SOURCE: CNN

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World

The Queen sits as a lonely figure as she bids farewell to her husband Prince Philip

Tim Newton

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The Queen sits as a lonely figure as she bids farewell to her husband Prince Philip | Thaiger
PHOTO: VOA news

Prince Philip was laid to rest Saturday afternoon, UK time, in a simple but soulful funeral ceremony honouring his lifetime of service to the UK, the Commonwealth and his wife of 73 years, Queen Elizabeth II.

Clad in black, her head bowed in prayer, the elderly monarch set an example for the UK community during the Covid pandemic, socially distancing herself from the rest of her family.

Prince Philip died just 2 months short of his 100th birthday – some reflected that he was just 2 months away from receiving a telegram from his wife.

The service at Windsor Castle was light on pageantry but steeped in military and royal traditions. The whole pre-funeral procession and service was held away from the public eye, entirely within the grounds of Windsor Castle, but a full live stream of the proceedings was shown on UK TV and internet services.

Instead of the expected nearly 1,000 mourners, there was a mere 30 allowed inside the grounds of the castle to take part in the procession and service, although there was a larger entourage of socially-distanced musicians, camera-people, guards and organisers on site.

Attending were Prince Charles his wife Camilla, Prince Andrew, Prince William and his wife Kate, and Prince Harry, who had returned from the US without his pregnant wife Meghan. The Queen and Prince Philip’s other children, and grandchildren, were also in attendance.

The most poignant image from the entire ceremony was the lone figure of Queen Elizabeth, entirely in black with a black face mask and hat, a very human and frail figure who spent the entire service buried in deep contemplation, rarely raising her head to watch the proceedings. Whilst the service was all about remembering the service and duty of her consort, Prince Philip, there were few who wouldn’t have been thinking of the 94 year old woman sitting all alone, grieving the loss of her husband.

Britain officially observed 1 minute of silence in honour of Prince Philip just before the funeral started.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin arrived at the chapel in a modified Land Rover conceived by the prince. Known for his sense of humour and off-the-cuff one-liners (that often got him into hot water), the arrival of his own coffin in an army-green pick-up truck was his final poke at the outrageous pageantry he often shied away from.

His coffin was draped in his personal standard with his Royal Navy cap, sword and a wreath of flowers sitting atop.

Prince Philip was placed in the vault along with the remains of 24 other royals, including 3 kings of England. But following the Queen’s death, the pair are expected to be buried in the Royal Burial Ground on the Frogmore Estate close to Windsor Castle.

Along with Philip’s children and grandchildren, the 30 funeral guests included other senior royals and several of his German relatives. Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark and, like the queen, is related to mash-up of European royal families.

The two sons of Price Charles and Princess Diana, William and Harry, were seen walking together after the service and chatting as mourners were leaving the chapel.

The Queen sits as a lonely figure as she bids farewell to her husband Prince Philip | News by Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide

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Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide | Thaiger
PHOTO: 3 million Covid-19 deaths recorded around the world.

Today marks a grim milestone as the Covid-19 pandemic officially crosses 3 million deaths around the world, with outbreaks still surging in various parts of the world. Over a year into the pandemic, and we are currently seeing over 700,000 new infections and 12,000 deaths per day, with Brazil, India, and France facing growing crises.

The 3 million figure reflects official numbers, though many suspect that real totals could be much higher, pointing at government conspiracies and early deaths that were not attributed to Covid-19 when little was known about the novel coronavirus in the early days.

Still, the official number is overwhelming enough – equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine, or the state of Arkansas in the US, and larger than world cities like Lisbon, Caracas, Dubai, Manchester or Chicago. Imagine nearly one-third of the people in Bangkok wiped out, or the entire nation of Armenia or Jamaica.

Following a steep decline in both new infections and deaths at the start of this year, the graph is again in an upward trajectory, both in terms of new cases and deaths from Covid.

Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide | News by ThaigerThe World Health Organisation laments the dire condition of the world dealing with the pandemic after 16 months and so many opportunities to prevent the spread with basic safety precautions. Brazil has spiralled out of control, racking up 3,000 deaths a day, nearly 25% of all the Covid-19 deaths in the world in the past few weeks. New variants have been spreading like wildfire throughout Brazil as more dangerous strains have wriggled their way into countries around the world.

In India, the distribution of vaccines has been thwarted by swelling Covid-19 outbreaks and deaths. In New Dehli, 13,000 infections were reported in a day amongst the 29 million residents, but the city only has 178 ventilators available as of Wednesday.

Only 1.1% of the Indian populations has been vaccinated, and officials faced criticism of their vaccine exports while so many need jabs domestically. In Thailand, the percentage of people vaccinated is even lower.

700 million vaccines have been distributed worldwide, but they have been shipped disproportionately to the wealthier populations throughout the world. In rich countries, 1 in 4 people have been vaccinated, while in poor countries that number is less than 1 in 500. In fact, 87% of the vaccines distributed worldwide have been to wealthy nations, and the delays in India due to increasing Covid-19 deaths will not help close that gap for many months to come.

SOURCE: Sky

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