Monday, January 02, 2012

And Asian of the Year is ...

One Man's Meat

Newspaper network group ANN shortlists personalities who have left their mark in 2011.

SO who’s my Asian of the Year? Clue: She is the most beautiful Prime Minister in the world.

Last year, @asianewsnetwork (Asia News Network) tweeted: “Who do you think stood out in the region this year? #AsianoftheYear”

And I tweeted: Yingluck Shina­watra.

In June 2011, I was in Bangkok to cover the Thai general election and I witnessed how the 44-year-old businesswoman, against all odds, became the first Thai woman Prime Minister within 49 days of her political debut.

On second thought, I tweeted: Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, the former prime minister who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and the brother of Yingluck, is Asia’s comeback kid. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, Thak­sin is indestructible, politically.

And behind the scenes, the fugitive (he fled Thailand to escape a jail sentence) engineered the electoral victory of his younger sister’s political party.

So, who did Asia News Network, which is a network of national daily newspapers (including The Star) published in Asian cities, select as Asian of the Year?

I e-mailed the question to Yasmin Lee Arpon, an ANN editor. She is a former colleague as I was attached with ANN in Bangkok from 2006 to 2010.

Yingluck, according to Yasmin, received the most tweet nominations for ANN’s Asian of the Year. And Thaksin received the most unexpected tweet nominations.

So is Yingluck ANN’s Asian of the Year?

Before I reveal who, allow me to introduce ANN’s 2011 Blacklist. And the dishonour (drum rolls) went to Nuon Chea and Gloria Arroyo.

Nuon Chea, @ Brother Number Two, is the man behind the most grim, bloodiest episode in Cambodian history.

“After Pol Pot died in 1998, he became the most important surviving Khmer Rouge leader and now stands trial before a Cambodia-UN court for crimes against h umanity, genocide, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949,” wrote Nguon Serath of The Cambodia Herald.

Arroyo, according to Yasmin, is on the blacklist as “her rise and fall from power hopefully serves as a lesson to other leaders”.

The former Philippine president is in jail (a hospital suite at a government hospital in Manila) facing charges of electoral sabotage.

Here’s the shortlist for ANN’s Asian of the Year:

> Anna Hazare, India’s 74-year-old anti-corruption activist. “A modern day hero in fighting corruption in India,” explained Yasmin.

> Burmese president Thein Sein. “Some analysts compare Burmese President Thein Sein to former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev for introducing the Burmese version of perestroika and glasnost (reconstruction and openness) to the military-dominated country,” wrote Supalak Ganjanakhundee of The Nation (Thailand).

“But many others doubt whether he is a real reformer.”

> Queen Jetsun Pema, the 21-year-old lady who captured the hearts of Bhutan and its monarch King Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

“She is referred to as the Kate Middleton of Bhutan/Asia, capturing the heart of one of the region’s most eligible bachelors,” Yasmin explained.

> Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the boss of AirAsia. “For changing the course of travel in the region through AirAsia, which celebrates its 10th year,” said the ANN editor.

> Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, who took the reigns as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2008 after its figure head, ex-president Chen Shui-bian, chairman of the Democratic Progressive, was jailed for corruption.

“Whether opposition leader Tsai wins the presidential election, she will be credited for changing Taiwanese politics famous for its personal cult building, smear campaign and distracting fanfare,” explained Alan Fong of The China Post.

> And Yingluck. “Because she is the first female PM in Thailand,” Yasmin said.

ANN’s Asian Heroes are Japan’s Fukushima 50.

“They symbolise the faceless and nameless victims of the nuclear meltdown following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami,” the ANN editor explained.

And ANN’s 2011 Asian of the Year is Ai Weiwei.

“After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he raised the issue on the real number of schoolchildren killed and solicited information from netizens on their names, publishing them daily on his blog. The figures/information did not match the official ones,” Yasmin explained.

Ai Weiwei has been provoking the government through his art and blog posts/tweets. In April last year, he was arrested on charges of tax evasion on his way to Hong Kong/Taiwan to discuss a coming art exhibition.

For 81 days he was detained, not allowed to talk to lawyers and family. His supporters raised the money so he can pay the tax in part.

“He ‘educates’ people, particularly the Chinese with no exposure to the outside world thanks to the Great Firewall of China, through his art and tweets (his blog has been closed down),” noted Yasmin.

I wonder who will be ANN’s 2012 Asian of the Year?