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These are the top stories making the front pages of major newspapers from across Southeast Asia today.

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More migrant workers and maids in S’pore falling victim to scams

When Sam (not his real name), a migrant worker, accepted a job offer on June 20 last year, all he wanted was to earn more money quickly, so that he could build a bigger and more comfortable home for his family in Bangladesh.

The 45-year-old, who last saw his loved ones in August 2019, said: “I think everyone has plans to build their own house. It is my plan to build a nice house for my family.”

Two days later, Sam, who works as a production coordinator in a warehouse here, lost more than $11,000, which is almost equivalent to his salary for a year, to a job scam. He told The Straits Times that he responded to a WhatsApp message from a foreign number which informed him that he could earn a commission by completing 60 orders on an online portal. However, he had to deposit some money into a bank account first.

Sam put in $135 on June 21 and received $404 on the same day.

The next day, he made eight transactions amounting to $11,730, but was unable to retrieve his money later because he could not complete the orders. That was when he realised that he had fallen for a scam and made a police report on the same day. The police confirmed that a report was lodged and are investigating. 

Last year, there were 3,181 migrant workers who were victims of scams, up from 1,965 in 2020, said the police.

About 357 domestic workers were scammed last year, an increase from the 216 in 2020.

As at December last year, there were 246,300 migrant domestic workers in Singapore and 318,400 work permit holders in the construction, marine and process sectors, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). – Straits Times 

Lawmakers demand explanation from health authorities over houseman’s death

Lawmakers in the state have urged the Health Ministry and the state Health Department to explain the death of a houseman attached to the Penang Hospital recently.

The houseman, who had just been posted to the hospital three weeks ago, had apparently fallen from a building along Jalan Datuk Keramat here.

For now, police are probing the incident as sudden death.

State Health Committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin and Bukit Mertajam member of parliament Steven Sim Chee Keong said health authorities must thoroughly investigate the incident as this was the second involving a houseman in less than two years. Norlela said the ministry and state Health Department should shed light on the case and the situation faced by doctors in hospitals.

She said she had brought up the illogical inhumane working hours faced by houseman based on her own family’s experience in Malaysia, which other employees in other sectors would never be subjected to. “She (my family member) experienced 27 accidents because of lethargy and survived all. Her friend, however, died.

“I remember a previous doctor who killed himself.

“But the response I got from the health authorities, including politicians, was that all doctors had to go through this rite of passage. It’s like an accepted culture in the medical profession.

“Since my daughter-in-law worked in the ICU Trauma Hospital in the United Kingdom for the past three years, she seemed so much happier with the humane work-life conditions,” she said in her latest Facebook posting.

Norlela said she was told that the issue of overwork was due to lack of manpower.

She, however, pointed out that many medical graduates needed to wait for a long time for job and some did not even get it.

“It is illogical for the Health Ministry to allow this to go on when doctors need to make life-death decisions when treating patients in the situation they are facing,” she added. – New Straits Times

Bribe plot rumours swirl

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday brushed aside a claim by former deputy prime minister Trairong Suwannakhiri that some MPs were each offered between 5-30 million baht to vote against him in an upcoming no-confidence debate.

Asked about a move to spend the money to buy votes from MPs to unseat him, Gen Prayut said: “Show me evidence. Anyone can say whatever they want … I don’t know I never did this.” Asked if he would launch a probe to find out who spread the rumour, the prime minister said: “Where did it come from?”.

Mr Trairong said via Facebook on Tuesday that he had learned that some 5-30 million baht had been offered to some MPs from small coalition parties to topple the government in the next few months when parliament reconvenes, and a no-confidence debate is expected to take place or during a vote on the budget bill for 2023. A group of 16 MPs from small coalition parties have said they will vote in support for anything that will be in the country’s best interests even if it goes against the coalition government’s line.

The group recently met for talks with Cholnan Srikaew, leader of the main opposition Pheu Thai Party, and they will also meet today with deputy Pheu Thai leader Yutthapong Charasathian, who will be a key speaker in the no-confidence debate.

Dr Cholnan previously said Pheu Thai plans to table a no-confidence motion against the government after the amendments to two organic laws for a new, dual-ballot election are submitted to parliament for second and third readings. – Bangkok Post

Marcos, Duterte welcome INC endorsement

Presidential candidate, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte on Tuesday night welcomed the endorsement of the religious group Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), as they vowed to pursue their platform of unity to help Filipinos recover from the crisis brought about by the pandemic.

During the UniTeam Alliance’s “Miting de Avance” in Guimbal, Iloilo, Marcos assured that he and Duterte would work to ensure that the trust given to them by the influential religious group would result in unity among Filipinos, leading to a brighter future for the youth.

“We will make sure that the trust you gave to our alliance would result in unity among Filipinos who love the Philippines and who would not hesitate to face the challenges ahead to prepare a brighter future for our youth,” Marcos said.

Duterte, meanwhile, said it was an honour to receive the INC’s endorsement, as well as a challenge for the UniTeam to unify the country to help its recovery from the pandemic.

“Your decision to support me and Bongbong Marcos in our bid for vice presidency and presidency, respectively, in the coming elections is both a huge honour and a challenge in our capacities to unite the country, unify the Filipinos, and help them get through the pandemic-induced crisis,” she said.

The INC, with about 2.5 million members worldwide, announced its decision to formally endorse Marcos as president and Duterte as vice president during the “Mata ng Agila” news program over Net 25.

The religious group is known for its capacity to deliver a bloc vote.

In the 2016 polls, the INC also endorsed the vice-presidential bid of Marcos and President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, lawyer Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ spokesperson and chief of staff, expressed gratitude to the INC.

“We will value the support you have given to us just like the support of the majority of our fellow Filipinos. This kind of trust will serve as a guide to presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos and vice-presidential leader Inday Sara Duterte in leading our nation should they win in the upcoming elections on May 9,” Rodriguez said. – Philippine News Agency

EVFTA boosts Viet Nam’s rice exports to the EU

Viet Nam’s rice exports to Europe continued to grow in the first quarter of 2022, thanks to the Europe-Viet Nam free trade agreement (EVFTA), according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

In the first quarter, Viet Nam’s rice exports reached 1.48 million tonnes, earning US$715 million, up 24 per cent in volume and 10.5 per cent in value on year.

The rice exports to the EU in the first two months of this year recorded an impressive volume of 15,500 tonnes, earning nearly $12 million. The exports rose almost four times in volume and 4.3 times in value compared to 2021.

In the bloc, Italy suddenly took the lead in the import volume of Vietnamese rice with an increase of 26 times over the same period. In addition, there were several other key markets such as Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The export price of Viet Nam’s rice to the EU recorded an increase of 9 per cent to $755 per tonne, while Viet Nam’s average rice export price fell 12.1 per cent in the first two months of the year to $469 per tonne.

Viet Nam’s rice export price to the EU was higher than the average price because the rice exported to this market was mainly aromatic rice with high value. However, Vietnamese export rice has still been unable to compete in price in the EU market against other competitors such as Cambodia, Thailand and India. – Vietnam News

PM: I acted in the interest of justice

Prime Minister Hun Sen, responding to criticisms that he had interfered with the judiciary, said he intervened in the case of a former MYTV presenter who was jailed last year as Prime Minister acting in the interest of justice. He said the girl, a 20-year-old student, had allegedly stolen tycoon Heng Sear’s phone after stabbing him.

The case went viral on social media and when he came to know of it, Mr Hun Sen said he instructed his lawyers to look into the matter. “If the problem is just a ‘male and female’ matter’, I would not have intervened, but the problem lies in the injustice of a girl student,” he said. 

Mr Hun Sen when he was informed that five tycoons were involved in the detention of the girl and that attempts were made to persuade his lawyers from being involved or helping the girl with “the Prime Minister is on the side of the tycoon” statements, “I acted when I learnt about this and instructed my lawyers to ensure that the girl was released from jail.”

Sear had reported on May 8 last year that Rita stole his gold iPhone 12 ProMax mobile phone after stabbing him in his car in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district.

Rita was subsequently arrested and put in jail.

“Do not be confused. I know what is right and what is wrong,” he said in reference to his detractors. 

“This forced the Prime Minister to intervene to help the girl get out of jail. If I had not intervened, she will still be in prison,” Mr Hun Sen said. – Khmer Times

Sanctioned Russian company looks to produce military trucks in Myanmar, advocacy group says 

Russia’s biggest truck manufacturer met with junta leadership last week to discuss the production of its vehicles in Myanmar, a move that could “deepen” the country’s relationship with the coup regime, according to advocacy group Justice for Myanmar (JFM).

A delegation headed by Rustam Minnikhanov, President of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, and including Sergey Kogogin – the general director for Kamaz, a civilian and military truck company – met with Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing and junta investment minister Aung Naing Oo on April 27. Members of multiple Russian companies who have previously engaged with the Myanmar military were also present, JFM said in a report published on Monday.

A manufacturing agreement between the parties is expected next month. 

Russian state-owned arms company Rostec is the majority shareholder in Kamaz, whose trucks were used in the country’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Through its parent company Daimler Truck, the German Mercedes-Benz also owns some 15 percent of Kamaz’s shares.

Just days before Kogogin’s Myanmar trip, the UK introduced sanctions against him for his corporation’s role in supplying vehicles to the Russian military. He has similarly been targeted by the EU and Australia, the latter of which has not yet introduced sanctions against the Myanmar junta, JFM spokesperson Yadanar Maung pointed out. 

“While it is positive that Australia has sanctioned Kamaz and Sergey Kogogin, they have not imposed any sanctions in response to the military’s illegal coup attempt,” she is quoted as saying. 

She described the international response to the February 2021 coup as “weak and uncoordinated.” 

Without similar action against Myanmar’s junta, sanctions on Russia could be rendered “ineffective,” JFM warned. – Myanmar NOW

Highest on-record exodus flow of 1.7 million vehicles: Jasa Marga

State-owned toll operator PT Jasa Marga again reported the highest vehicular movement during the 2022 Eid exodus flow.

A total of 1.7 million vehicles left Greater Jakarta for three destinations: East (Trans-Java and Bandung), West (Merak), and South (Puncak).

Such a figure climbed by 9.5 percent as compared to the 2019 Eid al-Fitr or pre-pandemic level, according to the company’s corporate communication and community development group head Dwimawan Heru.

“When compared to the normal traffic in November 2021 or the highest traffic during pandemic, the 1.7 million vehicles passing during the Eid exodus this year indicated an increase by 18.6 percent,” Heru noted in a press statement here on Tuesday. In terms of traffic distribution, the most favourite destinations remain the East via Trans-Java toll road where 53.8 percent of the total travellers were passing through.

Meanwhile, the other 27.6 percent and 18.7 percent travellers headed to Merak and Puncak respectively. Due to an increase in the exodus flow, Heru appealed to people, who are currently in their hometowns, to manage their time while going back to Greater Jakarta.

“The period of reverse flow is a bit short as compared to the exodus one. If all people plan to return during the long weekend of May 6, 7, and 8, 2022, then the traffic will simultaneously rise and the users should also take precautionary measures,” he noted. – AntaraNews.Com





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