16. South East Asia

Burma is ruled by reclusive generals from a newly built inland capital. Her people suffer greatly and did so specially at the time of the tsunami and of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 with a poor and apparently insufficiently caring response by its own government.

China obtains much wanted oil and gas from Burma and crucially the other crucially advantage that Burma has as far as China is concerned is that it offers China access to the Indian Ocean with having to negotiate the insecure and time consuming sea lane of the narrow Malacca Straight near Singapore.

I suspect it is China’s backing that lets the Burmese military remain so impervious to western criticism of its human rights record and its apparently callous treatment of its own citizens. Some ethnic groups come in for particularly hard treament.

They have kept the elected leader Aung Sang Suu Kii in various forms of detention for many many years to their shame. We trade with Burma. British tour groups provide tours and cruises. Total Oil extracts petroleum. I have heard justifying reasons but I am not convinced that such trade is the right way forward.

Thailand We saw on our screens to ultranationalist yellow shirted protesters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the left wing red shirts. It is of our screens and I haven’t kept up with the troubled situation but I doubt that it si really resolved and expect we should keep in touch with people involved. Thailand isn’t just a place with nice beaches. It has complex history, a lively economy, problems of drug growing and trafficking and Islamists in the south.

Cambodia lived through its Killing fields under the Khmer Rouge and must surely still be a scarred nation.

Vietnam endured its war and is now the site of growing international manufacturing of many products for world trade. Human Rights are not perfectly observed so we should follow it.

I understand there is a fast growing church in Laos but know little otherwise.

Indonesia is the largest Islamic nation in the world and covers a big area.It is the site of the Bali bombing  until it managed to release itself militarily it dominated East Timor which is now independent and probably needs friends.

Malaysia has lively industry but I hear that Indian workers feel unjustly treated and this became a political issue in recent years.

Singapore is a bright clean efficient place with a rich population but without what we would recognise as a fully functioning democracy.

Phillipines has much poverty and corruption and areas of Islamic militancy.

As you can tell my knowledge of South East Asia is very patchy but I see that there are justice issues to be addressed and I know that China is dominant in Asean (the Association of South East Asian Nations) which appears to matter a lot and this fact merits attention since ethics may sometimes take a back-seat. It is a part of the world with much growth and a large proportion of the world population so if I don’t know about it I had better learn fast! If we have something to say, at this distance it will have to be pretty precisely expressed to do any good. Maybe you can help me.