Singapore and Southeast Asia

Coronavirus eats into Singapore’s already struggling hawker trade
(Published by Al Jazeera English, May 5, 2020)
With dining on site banned, food outlets set up online groups, adopt home-delivery services in bid to survive. Continue reading …

Singapore closes borders to keep virus at bay, but no shutdown
(Published by Al Jazeera English, March 22, 2020)
The move follows the island-nation’s first two coronavirus-related deaths and a surge in cases from overseas. Continue reading …

Going viral: Asia takes on the coronavirus with songs, dances
(Published by Al Jazeera English, March 11, 2020)
Public service announcements from Vietnam, Thailand, elsewhere in Asia spread awareness, go viral on social media. Continue reading …

Business, but not as usual, at Singapore Airshow
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb. 20, 2020)
Asia’s largest aerospace and defence event sees drop in participants, attendance amid deadly coronavirus outbreak. Continue reading …

China’s would-be tourists stay put along with their dollars
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb. 8, 2020)
A drop in visitors from world’s largest outbound market and fears at home over outbreak take a toll on other countries. Continue reading …

Asia taking no chances with new China virus as WHO meeting looms
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Jan. 22, 2020)
Enhanced screening in place from Taiwan to Singapore as countries trigger responses honed by SARS experience. Continue reading …

Prolonged airspace ban over Iran, Iraq could cost airlines dearly
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Jan. 10, 2020)
A protracted rerouting of commercial aviation from Iranian and Iraqi airspace will mean longer flights and higher fuel costs for long-haul carriers in the Asia-Pacific region. Continue reading …

Volocopter takes to Singapore sky, but can air taxis take off?
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct. 22, 2019)
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. Continue reading …

Hong Kong’s losses may be Singapore’s gain, new survey shows
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Sept. 13, 2019)
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. Continue reading …

The challenges facing India’s media landscape: Shouting on TV news, a social media cesspit, and broken business models
(Published by N3Magazine, May 2019)
“Billionaire Raj” author James Crabtree sees three large shifts affecting India’s vast media landscape — worrisome trends that will continue to have a coarsening effect on the state of the media in the world’s largest democracy. Continue reading …

Singapore’s answer to fake news: correction and takedown orders, fines and jail
(Published by N3Magazine, May 2019)
Singapore passed a far-reaching new law on May 9 to combat the problem of online falsehoods. Continue reading …

New Singapore opposition party backed by PM’s brother launched
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Aug. 3, 2019)
Tan Cheng Bock, a retired medical doctor, launches Progress Singapore Party amid speculation of early general election. Continue reading …

US-China competition to loom over key defence gathering
(Published by Al Jazeera English, May 31, 2019)
Beijing dispatches top military brass to Singapore to deliver ‘highly anticipated’ speech at annual Shangri-La Dialogue. Continue reading …

Singapore passes new law to police fake news despite concerns
(Published by Al Jazeera English, May 9, 2019)
Critics say approved measures grant government sweeping powers and threaten free speech. Continue reading …

Hosting a Trump-Kim summit: The Singapore experience
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb. 21, 2019)
Singapore case offers key lessons for Hanoi in dealing with security issues, diplomatic protocol and huge media influx. Continue reading …

Pirate or hero? Raffles bicentennial fuels Singapore debate
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Jan. 28, 2019)
Stamford Raffles landed 200 years ago. But not all welcome government plans to mark the start of colonial rule. Continue reading …

Life after the Lees? Singapore prepares for the future
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Nov. 30, 2018)
Finance minister becomes likely successor to Lee Hsien Loong as city-state positions for more challenging future. Continue reading …

Singapore’s bid for UNESCO hawker food listing eats at neighbours
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Nov. 5, 2018)
As regional rivals and food critics scoff, city-state is petitioning for UNESCO recognition of its street-fare culture. Continue reading …

Singaporean artist jailed after peaceful protest
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct. 12, 2018)
Human rights groups denounce two-week sentence as an affront to free speech and call for Seelan Palay’s release. Continue reading …

The Trump-Kim summit in Singapore

Stories by Tom Benner for Al Jazeera English, June 9-12, 2018

Trump and Kim sign agreement after historic summit 

Short on detail, the landmark statement includes a commitment by Kim to ‘work towards complete denuclearisation’. (June 12, 2018)

Trump and Kim meet after months of threats and insults

US president and North Korean leader hold face-to-face talks in an unprecedented summit in Singapore. (June 12, 2018)

Trump-Kim meeting: More theatrics than substance?

Both the US and North Korea have real incentives to negotiate, but optics could be the priority at the Singapore summit. (June 11, 2018)

Strict and orderly Singapore prepares for Trump-Kim summit chaos

City state known for its strict civil laws prepares for huge influx of journalists and diplomats. (June 10, 2018)

Meet the young Singaporeans building bridges with North Koreans

A Singaporean non-profit wants to foster closer ties between North Koreans and the outside world. (June 9, 2018)

Defence officials debate N Korea’s commitment as summit looms

(Published by Al Jazeera English, June 3, 2018)

The planned June 12 Trump-Kim summit took centre stage at the Asian security conference in Singapore. Continue reading …

Lost Horizon: The Shangri-La Dialogue
(Published by Fair Observer, June 5, 2017)
Amid a rising China, the big questions coming into this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue surrounded the Trump administration’s intentions in the Asia Pacific. Continue reading …

Water-short Singapore charts a course toward self-sufficiency
(Published by the Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 10, 2017)
The island nation has little water of its own but is determined to shed a reliance on water imports. One key is water recycling, alongside desalination and catchment. Continue reading …

The Phenomenon of Donald Trump Will Live On
(Published by Fair Observer, Oct. 18, 2016)
The causes that have put Donald Trump so close to the White House must be addressed. Continue reading …

Singapore’s road to multiculturalism
(Published by Fair Observer, Sept. 27, 2016)
What lessons can multicultural Singapore offer America in light of the latter’s ongoing racial and religious tensions? Continue reading …

Tensions escalate over South China Sea claims
(Published by Al Jazeera English, June 5, 2016)
At security summit, Beijing vows to ignore pending international court ruling while US steps up military patrols.
Continue reading …

Lion City Lit: Tom Benner
(Published by Asian Books Blog, Jan. 21, 2016)
Adventures in writing in the Lion City. Continue reading …

Singapore voters ask: How much change do we want?
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Sept. 10, 2015)
The status quo is a central issue in Friday’s election with opposition candidates saying checks and balances are needed. Continue reading …

Serviced apartments
(Published by Nikkei Asian Review, Aug. 26, 2015)
Demographic changes across Asia reflect a new class of mid-level migrant workers. Continue reading …

Singapore’s new generation wants a kinder, chiller country
(Published by Global Post, Aug. 12, 2015)
Fifty years after Singapore was accidentally born as an independent country after getting unceremoniously kicked out of Malaysia, it has become one of the most admired and envied countries in the world. Continue reading …

If you want to try Singapore’s famous street food, you’d best make your trip now
(Published by Global Post, July 10, 2015)
When the former British colony of Singapore became a country nearly 50 years ago, its people were sustained by a multiethnic street food culture that would make the island-nation a global food mecca. This was long before the arrival of celebrity chefs, Michelin-starred restaurants, eye-popping restaurant tabs, and the rise of Singapore as one of most expensive places in the world to live. Continue reading …

Arduous economic recovery in post-conflict East Timor
(Published by Al Jazeera English, June 23, 2015)
Next generation takes the reins of development to move troubled tropical paradise away from its bloody past. Continue reading …

War of words heats up over South China Sea conflict
(Published by Al Jazeera English, May 31, 2015)
At Singapore summit, critics accuse China of setting a confrontational tone and undermining Asia-Pacific security. Continue reading …

ASEAN Economic Community: Global economic powerhouse in the making
(Published by the ACCJ Journal, May 2015)
The unveiling of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as an economic community will take place on December 31. When the 10 countries that make up ASEAN join forces as a common market—the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)—there will be inevitable comparisons to the European Union. Continue reading …

Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew dies aged 91
(Published by Al Jazeera English, March 23, 2015)
Lee seen as power behind nation’s rise from glorified fishing village into one of the world’s economic powerhouses. Continue reading …

How technology and globalisation are redefining talent acquisition
(Published by Singapore Business News, March 17, 2015)
Multinational corporations are transforming the way they scout for talent, with technology offering new tools that enable both employers and prospective employees to reach wider and find the right fit. Continue reading …

Food paradise endangered: Trying to keep Singapore’s hawker culture alive
(Published by Nikkei Asian Review, March 7, 2015)
SINGAPORE – Kuah Yong Say started selling his specialty black carrot cake, a savory stir-fry with radish and dark soya sauce, as a street vendor back in 1964, his trishaw a kind of early-day food truck. He would serve his only dish not on a plate, but on a large plant leaf. Continue reading …

Southeast Asia set to become a new EU
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb. 19, 2015)
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is on course to declare its 10-member nations a unified common market as of December 31, 2015, but sceptics say European Union-style economic integration will be difficult to achieve. Continue reading …

Aerospace industry is making an Asian pivot of its own
(Published by Christian Science Monitor Global Outlook, March 11, 2014)
The aerospace industry – and its supporting services, from parts and equipment manufacturers to maintenance, repair, and overhaul firms – are pivoting to Asia. The Asia-Pacific region will account for one in three new aircraft deliveries over the next two decades. Continue reading …

Up, up, and away at the Singapore Airshow
(Published by Singapore Business News, March 9, 2014)
US firms race to meet demand in the world’s fastest growing aviation market. Continue reading … Innovations in aviation from the airshow. An American aerospace manufacturer takes off in Singapore.

Teaching Moments
(Published by the Early Childhood Development Agency, March 2014)
A primer on advocacy journalism. Continue reading …

Little India’s 50-dollar men: A new look
(Published by Element Magazine, Feb. 18, 2014)
The Little India riot last year cast the spotlight on the welfare of Singapore’s foreign workers. But how many of you have heard of the “50-dollar men”? Continue reading …

Singapore soul searching follows migrant riot
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Dec. 18, 2013)
Deportations follow last week’s unrest in Little India as officials debate the best way to move forward. Continue reading …

Singapore riot ignites burning class issues
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Dec. 10, 2013)
Experts say problems around foreign labour need to be addressed after Sunday’s riot by Indian and Bangladeshi workers. Continue reading …

Singapore poverty in the spotlight
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Nov. 9, 2013)
The island’s rich get richer while its poor get poorer, prompting calls for an official poverty line to be set. Continue reading …

Can East Timor dodge the ‘resource curse’?
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Nov. 1, 2013)
Despite oil and gas riches, signs of wealth remain scarce in the impoverished country. Continue reading …

‘Resource curse’ haunts Timor-Leste
(Published by Today, Oct. 25, 2013)
There is a free health clinic in Dili, the capital of Asia’s newest and poorest country, Timor-Leste, that treats some 400 people a day. Continue reading …

Mismanagement highlighted in East Timor
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct. 19, 2013)
Contracts with a Chinese company lead critics to blast government for alleged poor procurement policies. Continue reading …

East Timor leaders eye media curbs
(Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct. 17, 2013)
Draft law would restrict who can be a journalist and punish ethical transgressions. Continue reading …

Timor-Leste: The Next Bali?
(Published by the Singapore American Newspaper, Oct. 2013)
This is what Bali must have looked like, before it became Bali. Continue reading …

North Koreans are visiting Singapore – whither the ‘hermit’ kingdom?
(Published by The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 18, 2013)
A nonprofit in Singapore is paving a path that some say may help open up North Korea to the outside world and stoke interest in private commerce and economic growth there.
Continue reading …

Global education lessons: Singapore leads in STEM, now takes on the arts
(Published by The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 1, 2013)
Just as the US is abandoning funding of arts programs in schools to focus more on testing of core subjects, a leader in math and science education turns to the arts as a way of improving “entrepreneurial” thinking it admired in Americans. Will it beat the US at it’s own game?
Continue reading …

The Dangerous Cocktail: Sex, substance abuse, and the epidemic threatening gay men
(Published by Element Magazine, Sept. 1, 2013)
When Cory Monteith, a celebrity beloved by the LGBT community for his role in the television series Glee, died of an overdose a few weeks back, the circumstances were all too familiar. Continue reading …

Singapore rules US death a suicide, but suspicions linger
(Published by The Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 2013)
Singapore has invited the US to audit a firm to ensure the case of Shane Todd didn’t involve secret technology transfer to China. Continue reading …

American’s death in Singapore ruled suicide
(Published by Al Jazeera English, July 8, 2013)
Authorities in Singapore have ruled that American electronics engineer Shane Todd, whose hanging death in June 2012 touched off accusations of espionage and murder, was a victim of suicide.
Continue reading …

Some North Koreans Get Business Internships in Singapore
(Published by The Atlantic, June 11, 2013)
While world leaders bluster, young professionals in Southeast Asia build bridges with their peers from Pyongyang. Continue reading …

Gay culture gaining momentum in Singapore
(Published by Al Jazeera English, June 3, 2013)
Homosexuality in this Southeast Asian city-state has been illegal here for more than a century, dating back to law under colonial British rule. In a country that still lashes convicted criminals with a cane, sexual contact between men is punishable by up to two years in jail. But in recent years the country has become ambivalent about enforcing its homosexuality laws, and as a result, gay culture is slowly emerging here in ways that seemed unimaginable just a decade ago. Continue reading …

Hagel on the Asian pivot, China, and cyber espionage
(Blog post, June 1, 2013)
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered two messages this morning to the annual Shangri-La Defense Dialogue in Singapore: he reaffirmed the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot,” or “rebalance” of its focus and resources from the Middle East to Asia, and specifically named China as a source of cyber espionage that threatens US and global security. Continue reading …

Singapore Has Its First Gay Magazine Through This DigitalWorkaround
(Published by The Atlantic, May 14, 2013)
While Western countries debate the merits of gay marriage, countries in Southeast Asia remain far less accepting of homosexuality. In socially conservative Singapore, where sexual contact between men is still punishable with up to two years’ jail time, an online-only magazine targeted to gay men in Asia launched last month, with a second issue due in June. It is something of a test case for media and cultural barriers. Continue reading …

Ice cream in Singapore, coffee in Pyongyang
(Profile in Today newspaper, April 20, 2013)
The United States and South Korea are on high alert over North Korea’s nuclear threats. But far from the frenzied actions of officialdom grappling with the situation, a group founded by young Singaporean professionals has been quietly making inroads and building bridges with their peers in North Korea. Continue reading …

Learning to speak up, and learning to be published
(Blog post, March 27, 2013)
I spoke to a group of students recently on advocacy journalism. As future early childhood educators at Wheelock College-Singapore, the students will enter the workforce with the need and desire to articulate the methods and goals of their chosen profession. Continue reading …

Why waste so much if we love food?
(Op-ed from the Sunday Straits Times, March 25, 2013)
Singaporeans tossed out some 675 million kilos of food in 2011, according to the National Environment Agency, a vast amount that exposes the casual attitudes and habits of living in a food paradise and land of plenty. It is not just a Singapore problem; it is a part of a global problem of growing proportions. Continue reading …

Let’s converse like adults
(Op-ed from Today, February 27, 2013)
It would not be like forward-looking Singapore to ignore the factors that will determine its future. Nor would Singaporeans, however upset some may be over the White Paper on Population, want a Government that isn’t thinking for the long term. Continue reading …

Ruffled: Singapore’s Founder Gets a Modern-Day Sizing Up
(From The Singapore American Newspaper, March 2013 issue, page 24)

Vietnam’s lessons for Obama’s new team
(Op-ed from Today, January 30, 2013)
Last Thursday, I took a flight to Hanoi. An American tourist in Vietnam, I know, is a remarkably unremarkable thing, but for those of a certain age, the past poses questions for the present. That same day in Washington, confirmation hearings began for Senator John Kerry to become President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. And a few days from now, former Senator Chuck Hagel comes up for his confirmation as Secretary of Defence. Continue reading …

The Chinese art of pairing tea with food
(From The Singapore American Newspaper, January 2013 issue)
Italian and French cuisines typically are paired with just the right wine. To He Zheng Hong, a prominent tea master from China’s Sichuan Province, high-end Chinese cuisine and just the right brew of tea create a harmonious blend. Continue reading, pages 22-23 …

The problem with kicking the can down the road
(Op-ed published in Today, Jan. 4, 2013)
The United States fiscal cliff – an end-of-year deadline for automatic federal tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts, set by leaders frustrated by their own inability to fix America’s budget problems – has been averted. That is good news in the short term, because the fiscal cliff plan threatened to push the country back into recession. The trouble is, not much really got solved. Continue reading

Raffles, warts and all
(From The Straits Times, Jan. 1, 2013)
SINGAPORE, as we all know, is filled with streets, schools, hospitals and businesses named Stamford or Raffles, after Sir Stamford Raffles, the acknowledged founder of the place.
A new book sheds new light on the man, his exalted place in history, and the dark side of British colonialism. Continue reading …

The “Father of Singapore” portrayed in a new and critical light
(Story advancing a Dec. 15 book talk at Select Books in Singapore.)
The top-selling book at the recent Singapore Writers Festival offers a controversial reassessment of Singapore’s founding father. Sir Stamford Raffles comes off as the brutal face of British imperialism – far from the high-minded English gentleman and heroic figure of popular conception – in Tim Hannigan’s new book Raffles And The British Invasion Of Java. Continue reading …

The things that work
(Op-ed published in the Singaporean daily newspaper Today comparing mass transit and other public policy priorities in Boston and Singapore, Nov. 22, 2012.)
I moved from Boston to Singapore a few weeks ago, and I can’t help but compare the two places. As someone who is interested in public policy and how it can enhance quality of life, I noticed a few things right away that work on Singapore’s behalf. Continue reading …

The right visit at the right time
(Op-ed published in the Singaporean daily newspaper Today on President Obama’s historic visit to Myanmar, Nov. 21, 2012.)
Critics in the United States and around the world offered plenty of reasons why President Barack Obama shouldn’t have gone to Myanmar on Monday. Some called the visit premature, saying the country’s military junta has yet to atone for decades of human rights atrocities. Others worried it will be counterproductive, leaving the relatively new, nominally civilian government feeling complacent as political prisoners remain locked up. Continue reading …

Hillary Clinton in Singapore: US is putting economics at the center of its foreign policy
(Posted on Nov. 19, 2012.)
Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in Singapore on Saturday, telling her audience at Singapore Management University that with the war in Iraq over for the U.S. military and the war in Afghanistan winding down, US foreign policy in the second Obama term will emphasize economic solutions to strategic challenges over military might. Continue reading …

International businesses and investors can expect huge growth in Indonesian economy, AmCham Singapore members are told
(The Networker, the e-newsletter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, Nov. 7, 2012.)

Indonesia could become the world’s 7th largest economy by 2030, surpassing Germany and the United Kingdom, McKinsey Global Institute report finds. Fueled by a rising middle class and domestic consumption, Indonesia’s economy holds enormous potential – and has key challenges to overcome. Continue reading …

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