Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Vietnam's anti-China riots turn deadly.
Might Vietnam be courting an investor backlash? This question is making the rounds in Asian markets after protests related to a Chinese oil rig appearing in disputed waters turned deadly -- 20 or more may have been killed, according to this Guardian report, although others put the death toll much lower. As Barclays economist Wai Ho Leong puts it: “Vietnam’s appeal as a destination for foreign direct investment, as a stable location for manufacturing has certainly taken a large beating. The worst thing that can happen to a strategic investor is sporadic unrest popping up at critical junctures, disrupting supply chains, in a world where margins are already under pressure.”
Crossing my fingers for San Miguel's airport.
The Philippines is an amazing place to visit. You will find few places anywhere on the globe that are livelier and more welcoming. But whenever folks there -- including government officials -- ask me about the nation's flaws, I always respond with one word: airport. As wonderful a place as the country is to visit, getting in and out of Manila's inefficient and antiquated international terminals is about as fun as a tax audit. That's why San Miguel President Ramon Ang's offer to build a $10 billion airport off Manila Bay could be such a boon for the nation's tourism trade. President Benigno Aquino would be wise to say yes and let construction begin immediately. Like, yesterday!
Indictments already flying in Seoul.
Barely one month after the Sewol ferry capsized and killed at least 284 people and left 20 missing, indictments are already flying. Prosecutors in South Korea charged four crew members with homicide, even as divers trying to retrieve remaining victims face collapsing structures inside the ship. Eleven more crew members also face trial on a range of charges. Koreans have been screaming for justice and President Park Geun Hye is right to offer some. With her approval rating down to 46 percent, the lowest in a year, Park needs to do all she can to salvage her government's credibility.
Japan's "working poor" on the rise.
By Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standards, Japan's poverty rate -- 16 percent -- is already the sixth worst among member countries. This Reuters story explains why things are about to get even worse for the working poor of a nation that's long prided itself on its egalitarianism. Unless Prime Minister Shinzo Abe builds a more expansive safety net to catch workers on the losing end of proposed labor reforms, the ranks of Japan's down and out may surge. They won't be homeless, per se, but a new underclass that certainly won't be buying new Sony products or Toyota's latest offerings.
Bangkok's "holy" traffic cones.
For international journalists, Bangkok's now semi-permanent state of chaos is the gift that keeps on giving. It's provided endless fodder for quirky items on everything from enterprising street merchants to girlie bars offering protest discounts to websites rating fashion trends among demonstrators. But "holy traffic cones?" This South China Morning Post piece looks a series of bizarre and vicious attacks on motorists daring to move traffic cones that protesters are arbitrarily placing around the city. Really, you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.
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