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Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
Marcos Revisited: He Didn’t Have Strong Policies
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Marcos Revisited: He Didn’t Have Strong Policies

Richard Heydarian, Research Fellow at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, in his column Horizons in Philippine Daily Inquirer (September 22, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Bro Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ)

Marcos Revisited: He Didn’t Have Strong Policies

“Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, be considered for a national burial,” lamented the late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. “[Marcos] might have started off as a hero but ended up as a crook.”

What made Lee a legendary leader was his uncompromising work ethic, deep grasp of global geopolitics, ability to maintain optimal ties with both the West and the East, and zero tolerance for corruption and incompetence. Under his watch, Singapore developed one of the world’s centers of bureaucratic excellence. But even more impressive were his counterparts in neighboring Taiwan, South Korea and, later, post-Mao China. Unlike Marcos, or even Lee, the leaders of these countries oversaw the establishment of global brands and industries, from Hyundai (South Korea) to HTC (Taiwan) to Huawei (China).

So, what was the secret of their success? The first thing one notices is that it’s not about form of government or even type of regime. China remains a single-party communist regime, while Taiwan and South Korea, with their own unique presidential systems, have become even more dynamic since their transition to democracy in the 1980s.

Whether authoritarian or democratic, they have had remarkable economic performance. Clearly, it is not also about “race” or “culture” per se, since all of these countries were extremely poor just a few generations ago.

What is common in the success stories of these NICs (newly industrialized countries) is their well-organized, autonomous and competent bureaucracies, which have maintained national dynamism through proactive trade and industrial policies. The Philippines’ main problem is that it never had a “strong” state with a combination of “policy autonomy” and “functional capacity” to discipline the oligarchs and promote national interest.


With China as Backdrop, New Delhi’s Moscow Watch
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
With China as Backdrop, New Delhi’s Moscow Watch

Harsh V Pant, Professor of International Relations at King’s College London, and Director of Research, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), and Nivedita Kapoor, Junior Fellow, ORF, in The Hindu (September 22, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India)

With China as Backdrop, New Delhi’s Moscow Watch

As India-China tensions along their border continue to escalate, India pulled out of military exercises organized by Russia, where it was scheduled to participate alongside other Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states. While Covid-19 was cited as the official reason, the border situation with China likely prompted this decision.

In June, the Russian, Indian and Chinese foreign ministers met in Moscow after the violent border clashes between Chinese and Indian troops. The meeting ended with no communiqué. Moscow has been playing a quiet diplomatic role without taking sides. India and Russia are pragmatic players aiming to maximize strategic maneuverability. Both recognize the value of having a diversified portfolio of ties.

The combination of a changing regional order, closer Russia-China ties, and India’s alignment with the US and other like-minded countries to manage Beijing’s rise has the potential to create hurdles for India-Russia cooperation in Asia.

While India would like to secure Russian support in this changing Asian regional order, the latter has seen China become its key partner as relations with the West have hit a new post-Cold War low. India for its part has sought to include Russia in its vision of the Indo-Pacific that does not see the region as “a strategy or as a club of limited members”.

A world split into two blocs would be detrimental to the interests of both New Delhi and Moscow, making it imperative that contradictions in their respective policies are managed pragmatically while taking a long-term view of the strategic partnership. Although the evolving global order makes it difficult for India and Russia to pursue convergent policies, it does not preclude the relationship from retaining relevance. The strategic space both provide the other is critical and underscores the need to insulate their relationship from the vagaries of the international system.


Society Faces Challenges Beyond the Cycles of Protests
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Society Faces Challenges Beyond the Cycles of Protests

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (September 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: from video by prachatai)

Society Faces Challenges Beyond the Cycles of Protests

The major anti-government protests will not only be about demands – but also about numbers, legitimacy, and how to coexist with those who disagree with you. Anyone can make demands or counter-demands, to their hearts’ content. Being able to achieve their goals without violence or suppressing others is another story.

Whatever the numbers both sides may claim, both the protesters and royalists have to bear in mind that they cannot escape or avoid one another. They cannot wave a magic wand in hope that there will be no more opposition and resistance to their respective “idealized” version of a desired Thai society.

Can there be a compromise, an accommodation of one another – or will it have to be another zero-sum game with no middle ground, with violence, a military coup or people’s revolt as the only outcome?

Thai history shows that change, including regime change, by force is much more common than peaceful transition and transformation. Now both sides, particularly the government of Gen Prayut Chan-ocha must ensure peace and guarantee the right to peaceful assembly.

To make the matter more complicated is the fact that even among the anti-government alliance, they seem to still differ on the priority of what should come first, Is it a new charter, new elections or monarchy reforms?

Many on the side of the protests are young. All sides do not need to repeat the same mistake of the violent past and instead seek a common solution that is peaceful. The time has also come for the young protest leadership to make its movement not just democratic by name but democratic and participatory and transparent in how it is being run.

Thai society faces challenges beyond protests and counter-protests. We have to learn how to deal with them and resolve them peacefully and democratically.


Biden Win a Boon or Bane?
Friday, September 11, 2020
Biden Win a Boon or Bane?

Kavi Chongkittavorn, journalist, in Bangkok Post (September 8, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Michael Stokes)

Biden Win a Boon or Bane?

If Joseph Biden wins the US election, Thailand must prepare a new strategy to "renew" and "reinvent" engagement with the US that will be tougher on issues related to China, human rights and democracy. The Biden administration's approach could be a boon or bane for Thailand, one of its five allies in the Indo-Pacific. With a new administration under the Democrats, the US State Department would again shape overall policy towards its benign ally.

Mr Biden would follow President Donald Trump's templates on China. Indeed, Mr Biden cannot appear to be soft on China, especially at this critical juncture. The US status as the most powerful country in the world has been severely challenged by China. It also happens at a time when Mr Trump's global leadership continues to falter as he continues to damage US credibility with his personal style of diplomacy and unpredictability.

Under a Biden presidency, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia will be high on the American agenda as the key countries in continental Southeast Asia that have close relations with China. For Thailand's future, it is imperative that the US and China have a stable relationship. The most important issue for Thailand is how to manage the two most powerful countries in the world to avoid any miscalculated risks. Healthy competition between China and the US will allow Thailand to balance its "win-win" approach more efficiently.

Southeast Asian countries cannot afford to become anti-Chinese as the United States has often been inclined to be. What the future US administration could do is to help the region to become more resilient and prosperous, so that these countries can engage their giant neighbor in the most efficient and beneficial way.


Clergy in Need during the Pandemic
Monday, August 31, 2020
Clergy in Need during the Pandemic

Kim Jin-ho, chief researcher at The Christian Institute for the Third Era, in The Kyunghyang Shinmun (August 15, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Puttipong Klinklai / Shutterstock.com)

Clergy in Need during the Pandemic

Covid-19 cases are on the rise again, and this time, clusters have been centered on religious institutions, especially small churches located in the capital. One of the clusters was found to have started with the pastor himself, who is believed to have been infected while working as a salesman.

Clergy holding a paying job outside the church have long been disallowed, but there has been increasing support for permitting this practice in case of dire economic need. According to one study, the average annual household income for a pastor is 17 million won (US$14,500), which is astonishingly low.

The cleric who started the cluster of recent infections is likely to have depended on his second job for financial survival. It is well known that infections tend to break out in the worst type of work conditions and usually these are the only type of employment to which destitute clergy can turn.

Although this is a serious problem not only for public health but for basic human rights of the clergy, there is little being done to alleviate the problem. Every year there are over a thousand churches that cease operations and fewer than three percent of churches survive beyond five years. Nonetheless, the number of religious institutions continues to increase along with the number of closures. Unless this situation is properly addressed, more desperate church leaders might create Covid-19 clusters, which would make all religious institutions look bad.


Foreign Worker Employment: A Modern Form of Slavery
Friday, August 28, 2020
Foreign Worker Employment: A Modern Form of Slavery

Hong Myung-kyo, researcher and activist, in Kyunghyang Shinmun (August 26, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Jose Antonio Diaz)

Foreign Worker Employment: A Modern Form of Slavery

The Employment Permit System (EPS) in Korea came to existence as a necessary measure following an ugly incident involving harsh public mistreatment of a Bangladesh foreign worker in 2003. It was meant to legalize foreign work permits in specific industries such as manufacturing, construction, agriculture and fisheries, where there is acute shortage of local labor supply. There are an approximate 200,000 foreign workers from 16 Asian countries who are legally employed for three to four-year periods under this system.

The EPS, however, has many flaws, of which the most serious is the restriction on foreign workers from having any say in renewing their work permit. This allows employers to dictate fully often unfair terms of employment in exchange for renewal. Another shortcoming is the restraint on foreign workers from freely changing employment. Currently, foreign workers may not change or terminate employment without pre-approval of the existing employer except for non-payment or outright abuse, for which the foreign worker would bear the burden of proof. According to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, over 96.5 percent of workers experienced difficulties in changing employment. In many ways, this is a modern form of slavery.

This model of foreign labor extraction to amplify domestic capital accumulation is but a local version of global labor abuse. Similar practices are easily observed in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong where foreign workers’ rights to choose better employment, fair working conditions, and a workplace free of abuse are suppressed to varying levels.

Humanity has seen colonization and enslavement during most of 20th century. Sadly, today’s foreign labor system is reminiscent of the old days, with the oppressed continuing to suffer and the oppressors perpetuating an unfair system.


“Mafia” Deals in the Public Healthcare System: In Need of a Better Normal
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
“Mafia” Deals in the Public Healthcare System: In Need of a Better Normal

Michael L Tan, medical anthropologist, veterinarian, and chancellor of the University of the Philippines Diliman from 2014 to 2020, in his column Pinoy Kasi in Philippine Daily Inquirer (August 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Ben Pederick/Good Morning Beautiful Films)

“Mafia” Deals in the Public Healthcare System: In Need of a Better Normal

Our chronic problems with PhilHealth and its predecessor Medicare reflect a deeper malaise: our refusal to build a public healthcare system that responds effectively to the needs of people, regardless of their paying capacity. This happened because we insisted on blindly following the US model of healthcare, which has been an abject failure. While Western Europe and many other countries around the globe put up national health services with tax-based benefits so everyone had access to care, we followed the Americans with patients left to pay out of their own pockets, or through expensive insurance.

Think back to scandals like ghost patients in dialysis centers, and the victimizing of senior citizens in urban poor communities, recruited for unnecessary cataract surgeries. “Mafia” deals have eroded PhilHealth’s funds, with predictions that there will be no funds left in a year, this happening during the pandemic.

This is not surprising because the Philippines just does not look at healthcare as a right. Nor do we look at it as an investment. We look at public health as inferior healthcare for the poor so our dismal record handling public-health problems is not surprising. When Covid-19 broke out, our health department abdicated its duties and left them to the military and politicians.

Worse, PhilHealth and Medicare were seen as milking cows for bureaucrats, in collusion with unscrupulous doctors and hospitals. Covid-19 was a wake-up call. The lack of universal healthcare and other social safety nets like unemployment insurance made us so much more vulnerable to the pandemic’s adverse effects. We need a better normal for our social services. We need a public-health system – one that covers the preventive, curative, rehabilitative and promotive aspects of healthcare – supported by well managed funds, and one to which committed and competent health professionals would be drawn to serve.


Turkey’s Erdogan and India’s Modi: Using Religion as a Cover-up
Monday, August 24, 2020
Turkey’s Erdogan and India’s Modi: Using Religion as a Cover-up

Faizul Islam, Treasurer, Bangladesh Development Initiative, in bdnews24.com (August 18, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office)

Turkey’s Erdogan and India’s Modi: Using Religion as a Cover-up

Two headlines – “Erdogan joins thousands in first prayers at Hagia Sophia” and “Modi lays foundation stone for Ram temple in Ayodhya” – have captured international media attention. History is replete with instances of political leaders using their faith to conceal their weaknesses and failures as well as promote their own personal agenda. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and India’s Narendra Modi join that growing list.

On Ju 24, Erdogan took part along with tens of thousands in Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia, seated on the first row, reciting the Quran in fluent Arabic in a melodious voice. Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537. The church was converted into a mosque after the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. The founding leader of the secular Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, converted the mosque into a museum in 1934.

In July, ignoring criticism from around the world, Erdogan issued a decree restoring the iconic building as a mosque, soon after a Turkish high court ruled that the Hagia Sophia had been illegally made into a museum more than 80 years ago.

A similar scenario just took place in India. On Aug 5, Modi offered prayers and laid a ceremonial foundation stone for a grand Hindu temple at the site believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram in Uttar Pradesh’s river city of Ayodhya. Hindus believe Muslims built a mosque – the Babri Mosque – over the temple in the 16th century.

In essence, the Hagia Sophia or the Ayodhya Hindu temple as religious edifices demonstrate that political leaders will use their religion to change the narrative of the time and engage in cultural wars to promote their self-interest.


The Mass Party and the Digitalization of Politics
Friday, August 21, 2020
The Mass Party and the Digitalization of Politics

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Associate Professor of Political Economy, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, in Dawn (August 21, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: @Ahm4dJamal)

The Mass Party and the Digitalization of Politics

Popular politics used to be the preserve of mass political organizations that could legitimately claim to represent the interests of significant sections of the population. The idea of the mass party was inextricably tied to democratic statecraft.

Some would argue that this idea is now dead. Even though Pakistan has always been dominated by an authoritarian and militarized state that sabotaged democratic politics, mass political parties have thrived. The field of politics has been transformed by digital technology with profound implications. Digitalization allows for millions of people to articulate themselves politically and highlight the injustices and inequalities that litter our social landscape. Yet it also reinforces the feeling that mainstream political parties are at best unable and at worst unconcerned with what takes place at the grassroots.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) certainly claims the mantle of a popular mass party. But it is far more accurate to describe it at as an agglomeration of entrenched “electables” that has nevertheless been able to project itself as a mass organization on the basis of successful media projection and active digital cadres. It relies on tried and tested signifiers like “corruption” and “national security” even as it benefits from a youth bulge that has been bred on an anti-politics narrative championed by our own establishment and emblematic of neoliberal “governance” around the world.

The vision of rule by a popular and progressive majority has been displaced by institutional and subjective logics that are producing majoritarian tyranny. It may not be possible to reconstitute the mass par­ty of the 20th century. Pakistanis who want to overturn the establishment-centric system and institute genuine economic and political democracy have to think more deeply about building a meaningful political form rather than limiting themselves to outrage in an online space already dominated by the right.


New Government: Reaching Out to Unify the Nation
Friday, August 21, 2020
New Government: Reaching Out to Unify the Nation

Jehan Perera, Executive Director, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, in The Island (August 18, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Sagara Lakmal de Mel/President’s Media Division)

New Government: Reaching Out to Unify the Nation

Much is hoped for from the new government which triumphed with an unprecedented majority. There was an expectation of new faces who would be equipped with the professionalism that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has brought. However, the exigencies of politics and the need to reward loyalty and those who can bring in votes appear to have prevailed over professional competence.

Most of the ministers selected are from the past, including those accused of offences and have cases in the courts. Particularly disappointing has been the failure to appoint women, with only one of 27 cabinet ministers a woman. The minister of women’s affairs is a man not known to be a specialist in gender equity.

One silver lining is that the number of ministers was kept to under 30. Another encouraging action was the appointment of Mohamed Ali Sabry as minister of justice. By doing this, the government ensured that the cabinet will be multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Muslims have been the target of hate and vilification by extremists mainly from the Sinhalese community. There is a lack of politicians who can reach out to minorities to make them feel included. During the campaign, no major party proposed how they would bridge ethnic and religious divides.

The need for national reconciliation continues. Despite the gains by the ruling party and its allies, the electoral map continues to show signs of division. The government’s approach to national reconciliation will lie through economic development which requires both political stability and an assurance that those who invest will be protected by the law. Ensuring a balance between the imperatives of justice, the rule of law and national reconciliation are the prerequisites for economic development if Sri Lanka is to live up to its potential in a way that it never did in the past.


Censoring the President for his own Good
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Censoring the President for his own Good

Manuel L Quezon III, writer and television host, in Philippine Daily Inquirer (August 12, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Minette Rimando/ILO)

Censoring the President for his own Good

In the past, a late-night television appearance by President Rodrigo Duterte would have been a major event. But times have changed. The president recently made an appearance, but the spirit of the times is such that, in mid-rant about his wives, state media cut him off, abruptly ending the broadcast. The government was having to censor its chief executive for his own – and his administration’s – good.

From the start of his administration through the mid-term, academics and analysts would outdo each other in arguing that the president was far more cunning, crafty, consistent and capable than people assumed. The president is none of the above, but instead is a member of a petty provincial dynasty long used to doing a minimum of executive work by bullying and blustering his way out of every predicament. And has quite a chip on his shoulder not least because his bark and bluster disguises weak leadership. Having been forced to resume the pandemic lockdown in Manila and then rambling on air to cover his helplessness, the people saw through the act. State media dared to do what they have never done to a sitting president – kick him off the air in mid-sentence.

A rumor has been circulating that the armed forces would be unable to meet its payroll. This was denied, but the seriousness of the fiscal situation was underscored by the president himself. Fitch Ratings has warned that the government might be forced to spend more on fighting the pandemic and to help revive the economy. There will be even more pressure to spend if the recovery stalls, it added.

Besides bayonets, it is the fiscal stick that is the most potent in the arsenal of any president. But with empty coffers, even the reliability of bayonets becomes shaky.


Lotus to POTUS: How Kamala Harris Might Bloom
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Lotus to POTUS: How Kamala Harris Might Bloom

Chidanand Rajghatta, Foreign Editor based in Washington, DC, in The Times of India (August 17, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Lotus to POTUS: How Kamala Harris Might Bloom

Traditionally, American vice-presidents were considered so nondescript and superfluous that Thomas Marshall, the country’s 28th VP, joked about two brothers, one who ran away to sea, the other who became vice-president: Neither of them was ever heard from again. Franklin Roosevelt’s first veep, John Nance Garner, said the title was not worth “a bucket of warm spit”.

The choice of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate sends a different message. The US has had 45 presidents and 48 vice-presidents, none women. Only 14 veeps have gone on to become presidents, nine of them after the president’s death.

The Biden-Harris team offers a ticket to unprecedented history should it be victorious. Veeps go on to become presidents in the worst of circumstances, not necessarily in better circumstances. Biden himself, after serving two terms as Barack Obama’s veep, had to defer to Hillary Clinton’s bid for the party nomination in 2016, choosing “dignity over ambition” when he realized the odds were stacked against him. Harris, the first putative female veep of Black and Indian heritage, is viewed in some quarters as a possible regent under any circumstances for a man who would be the oldest president to be sworn into office – if he wins.


Urgently Rethink Pandemic Policies - or the Future is Bleak
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Urgently Rethink Pandemic Policies - or the Future is Bleak

Kavi Chongkittavorn, journalist and commentator on regional affairs, in Bangkok Post (August 11, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Madelline Romero/PSI)

Urgently Rethink Pandemic Policies - or the Future is Bleak

Thailand's future might well be in danger if the government does not take urgent action to recalibrate its anti-pandemic policies. All the excellent measures the concerned authorities, as well as the public, have taken in mitigating the coronavirus over the past six months could easily turn against them. Thailand could emerge from Covid-19 with more disgruntled Thais including those who were repatriated. Worse, there will likely be additional unhappy foreign countries including their diplomats and citizens who have encountered discrimination.

Two important trends must be considered. First, public expectations are so high that any new community transmissions will not be tolerated. For the past 78 days, not a single local case has been reported. Thailand has been touted by the international community as one of the world's top countries in containing the virus. Second, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has been tough in handling foreign visitors, causing protests from the diplomatic community. This could have far-reaching repercussions for the country's economic recovery plans.

It will be imperative to educate the Thai public about the situation instead of focusing on the numbers. The CCSA must know how to manage public expectations. Any new cases popping up with more easing of lockdown could have a devastating effect on the government's image and stability. It will ignite a new cycle of the blame game among stakeholders and politicians.

Thailand should learn from Vietnam, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore that opening up the country carries some risks – namely new infections no matter how efficient the preventive measures are – but it is essential to kickstart the country's economic recovery in the "new normal" era. Public understanding of this is essential, otherwise, the future is bleak.


Human Rights: Was Giving the Ruling Party Another Landslide Win Worth It?
Monday, August 10, 2020
Human Rights: Was Giving the Ruling Party Another Landslide Win Worth It?

Myagmardorj Buyanjargal, writer, in The UB Post (August 7, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Sasha India)

Human Rights: Was Giving the Ruling Party Another Landslide Win Worth It?

It is not necessary to explain how the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) won another landslide victory in the parliamentary elections. But consider the polls from a human rights perspective.

The most recent potential human-rights violation of the government is that it let a Mongolian woman and male driver stay in no-man’s-land for two days, refusing to let them enter their home country. The student had travelled from the Czech Republic since the government’s efforts to bring back citizens from abroad due to Covid-19 have been dismally slow.

When a large number of Mongolians were demanding that authorities let her in, she was stuck between Mongolia and Russia because customs authorities told her to go back to Russia. While the authenticity of this explanation may be in question, no reasonable man would be surprised if this explanation was authentic as the government closed the border indefinitely in mid-March. We perhaps need to remember that the Constitution prohibits the extradition and exile of citizens to any other country in any case.

Another very clear example of human rights violations would be the decisions issued by the State Emergency Commission (SEC) and the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar ordering mayors of districts not to accept any request to organize any kind of meeting, including peaceful gatherings and protests. According to the Constitution, citizens shall be guaranteed the privilege to enjoy “freedom of thought, free expression of opinion, speech, press, peaceful demonstration and meetings”.

If we follow this pattern of a quiet “abuse” of human rights, it started even before the election. When the authorities have things to hide, most likely there will be human rights violations. Is this the beginning of a gradual undermining of human rights? If so, was it worth giving the MPP another landslide victory?


Under the King’s Guidance, Covid-19 Strategies Have Succeeded
Monday, August 10, 2020
Under the King’s Guidance, Covid-19 Strategies Have Succeeded

Chenkyab Dorji, diplomat, in Kuensel (August 8, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Thomas Trunk/123RF)

Under the King’s Guidance, Covid-19 Strategies Have Succeeded

The first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Bhutan was detected on 6 March 2020. Since then, under the enlightened leadership and personal guidance of His Majesty The King, the government has taken many steps to mitigate risks and prevent the transmission and spread of the disease in the country. In fact, His Majesty was already aware of the risks and challenges that Covid-19 could pose to the people and country even before the detection of the first confirmed case and was pro-actively preparing response plans and strategies.

Bhutan’s preparedness, response strategies and efforts have been lauded as many steps were taken in a proactive manner despite the fact that there was no local transmission in the country. Covid-19 has brought the country together to combat and overcome one of the greatest challenges of our times. The swift and deliberate manner with which Bhutan acted to prepare and respond while countries in the region and beyond were overwhelmed by the pandemic is noteworthy, particularly given our constraints and limited resources.

Going forward, what is important and imperative is for each and every citizen to be responsible by supporting the efforts of the Royal Government to prevent local/community transmission. As a senior citizen, I urge and appeal to all Bhutanese to be responsible and comply with health advisories such as wearing face masks, washing hands frequently and physical distancing. The Druk Trace App is an extremely important tool for contact tracing and must be used whenever visiting any public place.

We all have a solemn responsibility, individually and collectively, to prevent the transmission and spread of Covid-19. We cannot afford to become complacent, irresponsible or reckless. We must continue to work together with steadfast resolve and unity of purpose to protect our communities and our nation.