Asian Insider, Oct 15: Police summon Anwar, S’pore-HK travel bubble won't need quarantine

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

Hi all,

In today’s bulletin: Anwar summoned by police, Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble won’t need quarantine, Thailand bans protests, India’s game-changing Covid-19 test, and more.

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Malaysian police say they have summoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to assist investigations into a viral list of federal lawmakers allegedly backing his bid to claim the premiership. Datuk Seri Anwar had this week met Malaysia's King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, to prove he has a "convincing" parliamentary majority to form a new government. 

The country’s latest political turmoil has thrown up an unlikely kingmaker - Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid heads Umno’s most powerful faction, and how he plays his cards in the coming days will determine the longevity of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's administration and whether Mr Anwar succeeds in his bid for the country's top post, Regional Correspondent Leslie Lopez writes

Meanwhile, Malaysians are fuming over their leaders’ relentless politicking as coronavirus cases surge after a recent state election in Sabah. The trust deficit between Malaysians and their politicians is widening amid the power struggle and a worsening Covid-19 situation, Malaysia correspondent Ram Anand reports

Delve deeper: 

PAS demands answer over Umno's threat to leave Perikatan Nasional 

Senior Umno MP wanted confidence vote in Parliament over alleged 'political bribery' by PM


Hundreds of Thai protesters demonstrated in Bangkok on Thursday (Oct 15) in defiance of a ban imposed to end three months of anti-government action that has targeted King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. They held up the three-finger salute adopted as a symbol of opposition after Mr Prayuth’s 2014 coup. 

The protest movement aims to remove Mr Prayut, a former junta leader, saying he manipulated an election last year to keep hold of power. He says the election was fair. Those marching on the streets also want a new constitution and have called for a reduction in the powers of the king.

Within half an hour of the emergency orders issued on Thursday, justified partly on the grounds of disturbing a royal motorcade, riot police drove away protesters who had camped outside Mr Prayut’s offices to demand his removal and a new constitution. Police said more than 20 people were detained for refusing to cooperate with officers clearing the protest. 

Read more: 

As motorcade rolls by, Thai royal family glimpses the people's discontent 

A timeline of events as Thailand cracks down on protesters


A fast and easy paper strip test for Covid-19, much like a pregnancy test, is set to hit the market, and it could be a game changer for India as it seeks to curb the coronavirus pandemic that is raging across the country, India Bureau Chief Nirmala Ganapathy reports

The test, which provides results in less than an hour, is based on a technology called CRISPR-Cas, which can detect genes specific to the coronavirus. Touted as being cheaper, faster, easier and more portable than other Covid-19 tests, it is expected to be made available within the next few weeks. 

The availability of the new test would come at a critical time, as India braces for another surge of new infections in the coming weeks with virus restrictions lifted and its main holiday season just around the corner. 

In other Covid-19 news: 

Indonesia takes over Philippines as South-east Asia's new pandemic hotspot

Get the latest coronavirus updates at our dedicated website.


Singapore has announced its first two-way air travel bubble with Hong Kong, paving the way for leisure and other forms of travel between both places, Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang reports. People will be able to travel between the two locations without quarantine, subject to conditions including testing negative for Covid-19. 

“The risk of a Hong Konger bringing the virus into Changi (Airport) is not very different from someone coming from Jurong,” Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said, noting that both countries posed a low risk of Covid-19 transmission. Details are still being worked out, but people could be travelling between both places in several weeks. 

Also read: 

Mass air travel's return at least two years away: Singapore transport minister


The Quad of four nations has been revived because of China’s behaviour and the countries’ mutual wariness of the Asian superpower. With growing Chinese assertiveness, countries are now sitting down to try to shape a favourable balance of power in the region. 

Brookings Institute's Tanvi Madan and Atlantic Council's Robert Manning discuss the Quad and China with US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh on Asian Insider’s latest video this week. Catch the premiere at 8pm on ST’s YouTube channel.


ByteDance, the owner of popular Chinese video app TikTok, is upgrading to a bigger office in Singapore's financial district, paving the way for it to make the city state its beachhead for the rest of Asia. It has signed a deal to lease three floors of more than 60,000 square feet at One Raffles Quay, sources say. Staff will likely move in by the first quarter of next year. 

Bytedance's office expansion will help the world's highest-valued start-up anchor itself in Singapore, where it plans to invest several billion dollars. The move will support the firm’s hiring spree, as it targets adding hundreds of jobs in the country over the next three years. Bytedance is pushing its social media service across Asia after setbacks in India, Britain and the United States. 

You may also be interested in... 

From AI to facial recognition: How China is setting the rules in new tech


NZ PM ARDERN VOWS TO QUIT IF SHE LOSES ELECTION: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she will step down as leader of the centre-left Labour Party if opinion polls prove wrong and she loses Saturday's general election. The prospect appears remote, with Labour enjoying a 15-point lead in the polls. 

TAOBAO TAIWAN TO SHUT AFTER CHINA REGISTRATION ROW: Online marketplace Taobao Taiwan says it will shut down its service at the end of the year after being told by the government to register as Chinese. The move comes as ties between Taipei and Beijing worsen as the island tries to maintain its distance from the Asian superpower.

POLICE RAID HONG KONG TYCOON JIMMY LAI’S PRIVATE OFFICES: Hong Kong police raided the private offices of media tycoon and activist Jimmy Lai, a top executive at his company said, months after he was arrested under a new national security law and the newsroom of his pro-democracy newspaper was stormed. Fourteen officers raided the Next Digital founder's offices, took documents and departed before a lawyer arrived. 


Hope you enjoyed today’s stories. Do check out The Straits Times’ revamped website for its fresh new look and the latest offerings. We’ll be back with more good stories tomorrow!