Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance, and social issues across Asia today.
Clapton cancels Bangkok.
Well, so much for hearing the rock icon belt out "Layla" and "I Shot the Sheriff" in Thailand on Sunday. Turns out, the deadly direction anti-government protests have taken is anything but music to Slowhand's ears. On a serious note, though, Eric Clapton's cancellation of his Bangkok concert speaks to global concerns about the degenerating standoff between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the demonstrators trying to unseat her. The latter's numbers of are dwindling, but the radicalization if those who remain is increasing. In recent days bombs have claimed the lives of at least four innocent children. Talk about tears in heaven.
Qantas clips 5,000 wings.
As Australia’s biggest airline slashes 5,000 jobs and defers new jets, the question buzzing around Down Under is whether a government bailout is afoot. CEO Alan Joyce says the 93-year-old carrier can’t compete in a domestic fare war with Virgin Australia, whose three biggest shareholders are state-controlled foreign airlines. Can it be long before Prime Minister Tony Abbott offers assistance or, at a minimum, a debt guarantee? The odds appear to be rising along with Qantas's already long list of competitive challenges.
Murder in Cambodia, the political kind.
This chilling piece by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans explores the plight of too many Cambodians, targeted by security forces for their political views. From his vantage point, "recent killings repeat a pattern of political violence that has recurred all too often at crucial moments in Cambodia’s history." We're not talking a repeat of the genocidal Khmer Rouge of the 1970s or killings on the scale of those in Syria. Nonetheless, Evans writes, "Cambodia’s government has been getting away with murder."
South Korea's own Abenomics?
Asia's fourth-biggest economy rose from the devastation of war by following the Japan Inc. model of cheap exports and government-picked corporate champions. Now, as Park Geun Hye tries to enliven growth, is the Korean president looking over Japan's shoulder and copying Shinzo Abe's program? I'm not fully convinced by this argument being made by the Wall Street Journal. Park is far more concerned with structural reforms than Abenomics, which so far is all monetary smoke and mirrors. Still, it's a worthwhile read as two Asian nations that are barely on speaking terms compare notes.
Singapore gets a Bitcoin ATM.
In the annals of dismal timing, Tembusu Terminals deserves mention for choosing this moment to open Singapore’s first automated "tele-exchange" machine -- a Bitcoin ATM. The opening comes just days after a Tokyo exchange for the virtual currency vanished into thin air. Nor does it help that Singapore’s finance minister said last week that the central bank didn’t recognize Bitcoin as legal tender and cautioned individuals about its use. Clearly those who lost money when Tokyo-based Mt. Gox went offline wish they'd heeded that advice.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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