A digital-only magazine for AAJA-Asia’s first virtual N3Conference is now available online

To coincide with this week’s N3Conference, the annual conference of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia chapter, a team of us have produced our latest edition of the yearly conference magazine, and it’s now available in its first new digital-only format.

You’ll find great stories about journalists on the frontlines in Asia covering everything from the coronavirus to civil unrest and authoritarian governments, stories about media freedom in Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, India, and other countries, and a celebration marking the 10th anniversary of N3Conference.

Please enjoy the latest effort by the N3Magazine team at https://n3con.com/magazine/

For more about the conference, see N3Conference https://www.n3con.com/2020/

Coronavirus eats into Singapore’s already struggling hawker trade

With dining on site banned, food outlets set up online groups, adopt home-delivery services in bid to survive.

Published by Al Jazeera English, May 5, 2020

Son Melvin Chew, 42, with mother Lim Bee Hong, 63

Hawker Melvin Chew, 42, with his mother, Lim Bee Hong, 63

By Tom Benner

Singapore – Singapore’s hawkers serve tasty, quick and inexpensive dishes which have become a magnet for locals and tourists-in-the-know. But even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, they were already struggling. And the partial lockdown has only made it worse.

Dining at all outlets from the fanciest restaurants to no-frills coffee shops has been banned since April 7 and is expected to continue until at least June 1.

Hawker Melvin Chew saw his business drop by two-thirds as a result of the lockdown. But Chew was matter-of-fact about it. “Government says you have to stick to your own neighbourhood, try not to go out,” he said.

So when the shutdown order came Chew decided to do something about it. He created a Facebook group called Hawkers United – Dabao 2020 – to help hawkers and customers connect to arrange takeaway food orders and home delivery. (“Dabao” is a colloquial term in the Cantonese language for takeaway). Continue reading …


Singapore closes borders to keep virus at bay, but no shutdown

The move follows the island-nation’s first two coronavirus-related deaths and a surge in cases from overseas.

Published by Al Jazeera English, March 22, 2020

By Tom Benner

Singapore – A day after Singapore confirmed its first two coronavirus-related deaths, the country said it would close its borders to short-term visitors and some foreign labourers from 11:59pm (15:59 GMT) on Monday to help the limit the spread of the disease.

The new rules mean short-term visitors will no longer be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore, while semi-skilled workers on “work passes” will not be allowed to return to the island unless their job is in sectors that provide essential services such as healthcare and transport, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement. Continue reading …

Going viral: Asia takes on the coronavirus with songs, dances

Public service announcements from Vietnam, Thailand, elsewhere in Asia spread awareness, go viral on social media

Published by Al Jazeera English, March 11, 2020.

By Tom Benner

Singapore – Health officials in Vietnam, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries are teaming up with local creative talents to produce public service announcements (PSAs) that urge hand-washing, social distancing, and other best practices to combat the deadly virus.

Vietnamese health officials and lyricist Khac Hung produced an animated music video called Jealous Coronavirus, based on the V-pop hit Ghen by singers Min and Erik. (Ghen means jealous in Vietnamese; the PSA song is entitled “Ghen Co Vy”, likening the coronavirus to a jealous rival).

The song’s lyrics call on viewers to wash their hands thoroughly, not touch their faces, avoid large crowds, and “push back the virus corona, corona”.

After Vietnamese dancer Quang Dang choreographed dance moves to the song, creating another viral video, dance challenges began popping up on TikTok, the hugely popular China-based video platform. Continue reading …

Business, but not as usual, at Singapore Airshow

Asia’s largest aerospace and defence event sees drop in participants, attendance amid deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb. 16, 2020

By Tom Benner

Singapore – The makers of next-generation military jets and civil aircraft gather every two years at the Singapore Airshow, billed as Asia’s largest aerospace and defence event.

Suppliers and customers attending the high-profile show typically discuss cutting-edge technologies and network in the hope of making multi-million-dollar deals, while being entertained by overhead fighter jet aerobatics.

This year, however, the 7th Singapore Airshow opened on Tuesday in the shadow of the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus leading dozens of companies to pull out. Officially known as COVID-19, the virus emerged in the Central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread to more than two dozen countries around the world, with Singapore having the second-highest number of cases after China. Continue reading …

China’s would-be tourists stay put, along with their tourism dollars

A drop in visitors from world’s largest outbound market and fears at home over coronavirus outbreak take a toll on other countries.

Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb. 8, 2020

By Tom Benner

Singapore – China is the world’s largest source of outbound tourists. But travel bans, suspended flights, and government advisories are keeping many would-be tourists from mainland China at home – with their tourist dollars.

That means regional economies with traditionally high volumes of Chinese tourists are losing a lot of what used to be steady business and, in some of those markets, such as Singapore, many in the country are staying home for fear of the spreading coronavirus – delivering a one-two punch to many local businesses.

Tourists from mainland China make up about one-fifth of all visitors to Singapore. Yet despite its strong links with China, Singapore was among the first countries to impose a travel ban on Chinese visitors following the outbreak of the virus. Continue reading …

Asia taking no chances with new China virus as WHO meeting looms

Enhanced screening in place from Taiwan to Singapore as countries trigger responses honed by SARS experience.

Published by Al Jazeera English, Jan. 22, 2020

Singapore was hit hard after an unassuming traveller from Hong Kong brought the SARS virus to the Southeast Asian island in 2003.

The threat caused widespread public panic, prompting school closures and inflicting economic damage to business and tourism. People rushed to buy face masks or remained indoors. Some 238 people were infected and 33 died. The WHO says SARS killed about 800 people globally.

Singapore has close ties with mainland China and Changi Airport is one of the world’s busiest for international traffic. Wuhan is just four and a half hours away on a daily direct flight.

After initially screening only passengers from Wuhan, Singaporean health authorities this week began screening all inbound passengers from China, issuing them health advisory notices. Continue reading …

Prolonged airspace ban over Iran, Iraq could cost airlines dearly

After US regulator banned country’s airlines from flying over Iran and Iraq, other carriers are also taking precautions.

By Tom Benner

Published by Al Jazeera English, Jan. 10, 2020

Singapore – Did a missile, or even missiles, bring down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 in a Tehran suburb earlier this week, killing all 176 people on board, a few hours after Iranian forces launched attacks against military bases hosting United States forces in Iraq?

Western officials seem to be raising the possibility that a missile strike – whether intentional or not – did cause the tragedy. Iran has dismissed the comments by Canada and Ukraine suggesting a missile attack may have been responsible.

But if it was the cause, it would seem to vindicate the decision this week by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ban US carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf of Oman, as well as the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The European Aviation Safety Agency also recommended that EU-based commercial airlines avoid Iraqi airspace, prompting many carriers to reroute or cancel operations through the region.

But those decisions, while prudent, could add to the commercial and operational problems of many Asian and European airlines whose planes have to pass over the Middle East while travelling between Asia and Europe, aviation analysts say.
Continue reading …

Volocopter takes to Singapore sky, but can air taxis take off?

German aviation start-up Volocopter conducts urban air taxi test flight, but questions abound over emerging technology.


By Tom Benner

Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct, 22, 2019

Singapore – Singaporeans got their first glimpse of a flying taxi on Tuesday, however fleeting, with a public demonstration of what its designers hope could become a new way to get around urban centres far above congested roads.

The air taxi’s maiden flight above Singapore’s Marina Bay lasted about two minutes – a minute short of the advertised three-minute test run – perhaps because the thunder had begun to rumble. It was manned by a pilot, although future flights are expected to be fully autonomous.

The air taxi’s maker, German aviation start-up Volocopter, has previously conducted public demonstration flights in Germany, Dubai and Finland.

“[This] is an important milestone for the introduction of urban air mobility, simply because we give people the image in their mind and the opportunity to see how the vehicle behaves in the air, and how quiet it is in full flight,” Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter told Al Jazeera after the test run. Continue reading …

Hong Kong’s losses may be Singapore’s gain, new survey shows

As the rivals compete to be Asia’s top financial hub, fallout from protests in Hong Kong is seen as helping Singapore.

Published by Al Jazeera English, Sept. 13, 2019

By Tom Benner

Singapore – Business confidence in Hong Kong is being hurt by ongoing protests in the Chinese city, and Singapore – Hong Kong’s long-time rival – stands to become Asia’s leading financial hub and is likely to see economic gains as a result.

That’s the finding of a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore released this week. But analysts say it’s too soon to write Hong Kong off as an important Asian business centre.

Enormous and sometimes violent protests, now in their 14th week, have at times paralysed Hong Kong’s streets, mass transit system and airport. That is prompting employers in sectors such as banking, financial services, and hospitality to weigh the costs of doing business in that city and to consider relocation to other Asian cities, business analysts say. Continue reading …