Asian Insider, Jan 12: Malaysia declares state of emergency; Indonesian Sriwijaya’s old planes

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

Hello there,

In today's bulletin: Malaysia's declaration of state of emergency sparks concern and criticism; Transparency issues arise in Covaxin trials in India; Indonesia's Sriwijaya airline's strategy of buying old planes and flying on second and third-tier routes to gain market share; Thai King and royal consort sweep prison floors, and more.

Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.

Malaysia declares state of emergency till Aug 1 to battle pandemic

Malaysia's King Abdullah Ahmad Shah has declared a state of emergency, to battle coronavirus infections that will remain in effect till Aug 1 or till an independent committee recommends that the pandemic is in control.

The state of emergency was declared following a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the country recorded more than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus infections daily for the past week. The number of infections in the past two months now nearly total those in the first 10 months of the pandemic.

The decision, however, has led to widespread concern and criticism of the government that does not have significant majority support in Parliament. For now, the government has said that there will be no military rule and a civilian government will remain in place.

The announcement had a bearing on stock markets and the local currency, the ringgit, came under selling pressure. Experts say a rebound from the economic contraction will be more difficult.

Meanwhile, Umno lawmaker Nazri Abdul Aziz withdrew support for PM Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional government, becoming the second party leader in recent days to do so.

Delve deeper

Emergency compounds Malaysia's already troubled risk profile

Malaysian PM Muhyiddin sharply criticised for emergency declaration

Malaysian PM Muhyiddin's government has collapsed, says Umno MP after withdrawing support

Malaysian government has adequate powers, does not need to declare emergency, says ex-PM Mahathir

Indian vaccine trial participants say they weren't informed

Worries were mounting in India over the process of vaccination after 750 people in the city of Bhopal complained that they were included in an ongoing trial of Covaxin, without being informed that they were test subjects.

Covaxin is one of the two Covid-19 vaccine candidates approved in India. The allegation comes as India prepares to vaccinate 30 million front-line workers starting Saturday (Jan 16), reports India Correspondent Rohini Mohan.

This and other instances has led to experts raising questions about the lack of transparency, illegalities and poor data recording in India's ongoing Covid-19 vaccine trials.

Chinese President Xi says time on China's side

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about "opportunities in general outweighing challenges" in an unusually upbeat assessment of the country's future, at a study session at Communist Party School, that has caught the media's attention.

"Time and situation" were on the country's side in a new year, he said in what the media said was a marked shift from his warnings in recent months. And he expressed new confidence that China would gain in the long run. His remarks come amid optimism about the Chinese economy picking up pace and the United States in turmoil.

"The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, but time and the situation are in our favour," Mr Xi said. "This is where our determination and confidence are coming from," he remarked.

Indonesia's Sriwijaya flew old planes to become the country's no. 3 carrier

While Indonesia continues to probe possible reasons for the airline crash over the weekend, it is emerging that the plane - a Boeing 737-500 - was a 27-year-old aircraft and those behind the company were into buying old planes at cheap prices and flying on non-traditional routes.

Starting out with just one plane in 2003, Indonesia's Sriwijaya captured markets away from main cities by focusing on second and third-tier routes, to become the country's No. 3 airline group.

As such older jets can be operated just as safely as newer ones but the cost of maintenance is higher. Meanwhile, investigations were continuing into the reasons for the crash.

Also read:

Sriwijaya Air crash places Indonesia's aviation safety under fresh spotlight

Thai king, royal consort photographed sweeping prison floors

Thailand's palace released images of King Maha Vajiralongkorn visiting prisons with his royal consort, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, following mass protests demanding reforms to monarchy and the resignation of Prime Minister Chan-o-cha. The King's appearances in public have increased since he returned to the country last year.

In other news…

GIC was most active state-owned investor in 2020: Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC emerged as the most active state-owned investor globally last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, while Temasek Holdings was the top tech investor, in a report by Global SWF, a financial firm that tracks the activity of state-owned investors.

Gold mine explosion in China traps 22 workers underground: Chinese authorities have dispatched rescue workers to a gold mine in the country's northeast after 22 workers were trapped underground following an explosion, reports said today. The accident happened at 2pm local time on Sunday in Xicheng Township, located in eastern Shandong province.

India's army chief expects China talks will solve the border crisis: India's army chief has said he expects that another round of talks with China will lead to an amicable solution to the Himalayan border crisis which escalated after a fight in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed last year. While several rounds of talks have taken place, but little headway has been made.

Thanks for reading The Straits Times and this newsletter. We will be back tomorrow.


Want more insights into fast-changing Asia from our network of correspondents? Get this article in your inbox by signing up here.