“It’s a heartbreaking job, but you get used to the pain”.

 

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I interviewed Kimiko Kuramotto, she has been a volunteer for ACNUR for almost 12 years and now recently, almost three years ago, she’s been promoted to Profile Programme Officer, although she still does some volunteer work. Kimiko Kuramotto is from Tianjin, China. She moved to Spain 15 years ago when she was only 21 years old. ACNUR offered her a volunteer job due to her nationality and her fluency in Spanish, English, Chinese, Japanese and American Sign Language. Her first volunteer work was in Kabul, Afghanistan.

She had to help out an internally displaced camp in Kabul during the Afghanistan war between the USA and Afghanistan. She described it as: –

“The most empowering yet saddening experience I’ve ever had, I couldn’t believe the amount of violence I witnessed, not from soldiers, not from war criminals, but from these internally displaced people, men would hit their wives, children would get abused from their parents, some guy slapped me just because he felt like it! horrible, absolutely horrible.”

She helped out for almost three years until ACNUR assigned her to refugee camp, it was located in Tindouf, Algeria. There were people from all kinds of nationalities, including a Chinese family that was being tortured by the Chinese government because they thought they were terrorists and working undercover for Japan. ACNUR sent them to Tindouf. They didn’t send them to the other refugee camps located in Spain, Greece, Germany and many other countries in Europe because the family didn’t want to. She described this experience as: –

“One of the best experiences I’ll never forget, people were so nice, I played with the children, I even taught them some sign-language, I would talk to the seniors and listen to all of their stories. I would talk to everyone actually. I spent 2 Christmases there and we had a big feast. Wonderful.”

From 2011 to 2013, she had been helping a refugee camp in Kiribati, located in Asia-Pacific. She didn’t talk much about it. She said that it was so saddening that she had to leave a few months before, she said she could wait to get out of that “emotionally draining hell”.

I asked her if she likes being a volunteer, she replied:-

“It’s a nice job, but it has its pros and its cons. But between you and me, it’s a heartbreaking job, but you get used to the pain.”

Lastly, I asked her personal opinion on how we can help out these refugees around the world, including the ones from Asia-Pacific, she deeply exhaled, and explained: –

“People really don’t care about refugees, the donations and volunteers are becoming even smaller, people turn their back on them. I can assure you if they were in their situation, then they would want people to donate and help out. People are becoming cold-hearted and even more selfish. Donations and volunteering even for 2 weeks are extremely helpful. Anything counts.”

She then explained to me how with her new position in ACNUR, she still can help out refugees around the world, especially in Asia-Pacific. She works in the area of Asia-Pacific in which she assists in the planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting of protection and assistance programming for refugees, internally displaced and stateless people in the Asia-Pacific region.

She was incredibly nice and even though I realized that some questions brought her back some bad memories as well as good memories, she never hesitated to give me a nice, complete answer. I definitely enjoyed my interview with her.

Kimiko, thank you! I hope to see you in a near future.

 

Written by Nannie Nino.

 

 

 

Taiwan’s supreme court acknowledges same-sex marriage: why it’s a good thing

 

On Wednesday, May 24, the Taiwan Justice Department made the decision to give the ruling In favor of marriage between people of the same sex. This is a bit unusual because as we all know, Asian countries are often characterized by their very restrictive laws regarding the freedom of their population, their very conservative mindset and their discrimination among the LBGTQ community. This was a great move, because it not only means a change of laws, but also a change of mindset.

According to an article of opendemocracy.net, it states that in Asia there are still threats and abuse of power, Contributors have said that while these threats are even far worse in authoritarian regimes, it’s been proven that several countries in Asia such as China lack of freedom of expression. Although, it is being shown that the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen is not like the rest of Asia’s leaders, she is proving that she cares for the freedom of Taiwan’s population.

Not only is this decision affecting only Taiwan in a positive way, but there are also some countries part of Asia that are being affected by this and want to follow into Taiwan’s footsteps, for example Thailand and Cambodia. It is also a big surprise because most of Asia has a very conservative mindset, for example, countries such as China and South Korea.

This decision will also prevent deaths and sexual abuse among the LGBTQ community because according to an article of the huffingtonpost.com, stories have shown that kids and teenagers in the southeast of Asia (for example, Singapore) have been kicked out of their homes after telling their parents about their homosexuality, “corrective” rape has occurred to thousands of teenage girls and boys and sadly is still occurring. Below there is a list of countries and how these countries punish homosexual people.

Taiwan has become Asia’s pioneer, showing a true evolution in its politics, culture and traditions, even giving the possibility to its people of enforcing their rights of who to choose and love in marriage, whether it’s an heterosexual or homosexual relationship. Every human-being has the right to search for happiness, and if that happiness is same-sex marriage, then so be it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The art of the accusation

The cross accusations between North Korea and the US.

Ever since World War II, the United States and North Korea have been confronting and accusing each other. Presently, the situation has not improved, but it could be said that it has worsened significantly. The main actors of these accusations are Kim Jong-Un (North Korea) and Donald Trump (USA), who instead of trying to mediate in international politics, are once again a concern for the international community.
The usual accusations are not all of the same typology or thematic, but they have a clear objective, which in none other than to destabilize the image of the opponent, and at the same time they are adding even more “wood to the fire”. Earlier this week, a North Korean newspaper published a report accusing the US CIA of conspiring to attack North Korean’s leader in an attempt to murder him.

trump lol

Earlier this week, US newspapers published a report on China’s support for the US and the unpolite attention Kim Jong-Un allegedly had with the Chinese government, which is a bit ironic because North Korea is highly dependent on China and might even need its help… in case of a possible armed conflict. This is what is known as state marketing. Not everyone knows the existence of this department of government that the states have, whose purpose is none other than trying to make their people and even the rest of the world see what they want us to see through the media. There are clear, fully verified examples in which the US has used its state marketing services, like for example in the Vietnam war, the conflict with Fidel Castro (Cuba) and even more recently, the war in Afghanistan.

Recently Mr. Trump has made a series of very unfortunate statements, something very common since he began his electoral program last year (2016). These are statements where he shows his great ego and almost touching totalitarianism. In which he warns North Korea, that if they continue to ignore the international community, they will be punished with force, for example the US has already punished them with economic sanctions, but they haven’t stopped their nuclear activities and other military actions.

22 is too many

A large part of the world population is wondering: Why is President Donald Trump acting this way? Well, there is a study that explains the necessity of the US to enter a new war, not because of a mere economical, geographical or political issue, but because the American army cannot remain without activity in American territory, since this causes a great problem in society. The number of suicides among American military has increased exponentially recently, due to their lack of activity when they return from conflict. (20- 22 daily suicides according to Mission 22).      

To conclude, quoting Bertrand Russell: “Scientists strive to make the impossible possible. Politicians, for making impossible the possible.”

                                             

 

Mike Pence’s Asia-Pacific Tour

 

What at first glance seemed like a formal visit, to solve a small discontent over the breach of an agreement, really had a greater background. In many newspapers, they showed the meeting between the two representatives, where a simplistic approach was made to the visit of the US Vice President (Mike Pence) to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Australia). 

This is about the visit of Mr. Pence, as a matter of implication and commitment on the part of the US, to resolve the Australian complaints, on the problems produced by the pact signed by former President Barack Obama two years ago. This is about the relocation in the USA, of about 1250 migrants who are in centers in the island of Papu Manus (Australia) and it was not until April 2017, when the US through its vice president (Mike Pence), took those complaints into account and decided to take appropriate action.

The moment chosen by Mr. Pence, it could be said, is the result of the great telephone clashes filtered in different media, in the last weeks between Trump and Turnbull (among other great leaders). Here is a glimpse of the need for the US to iron out alliances with its allied countries, as Trump is once again unable to conduct a foreign policy with education, respect and consistency over others. But this has been the main theme of the visit, and there is a phrase that sums it up very well: “A winning car must be backed by a great driver, team of mechanics, tires … but it will never be the best. M. Schumacher, “with this I want to show the great need that the US has to keep all its possible Asia-Pacific allies holding hands, in case it needs any of them in a possible conflict.”

Pence toured Asia-Pacific for 10 days in April, stopping in different countries (South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia). Where he had high level meetings with very clear purposes, which are no other than to strengthen security relations. Due to two very notable causes, such as North Korea’s continuity in the missile test and the increase in Chinese military pressure in certain areas with its neighbors. For example, this week the US, has sent a very specific defense vessel, with the excuse that they were to test with the Australian Army. Although his most transcendent and provocative visit has been to South Korea. Where he dealt with senior leaders on various issues, but the main one was North Korea. Both countries are in a moment of high tension where both are boasting about their possible power.

And to conclude, take a small reflection, on a reality visible to all the population that has read a little about the bad forms, even on some unpleasant occasions of Donald Trump. Do you think that a nation like the US should be acting with the North Korean conflict, in the way it is doing? Do you think it is necessary to act like a rooster in a pen?

Interview to the consul of Bhutan

A few days ago I had the pleasure to interview Ian Patrick Guerrero Triay the consul of Bhutan and the first representative in Spain of this mystical country situated in the Himalayas.

We must stress that Mr Ian has been a very important person in terms of establishing diplomatic relations between these two countries, for example in 2010 the Prime Minister of Bhutan made his official visit to Spain and thanks to him  this Prime Minister had the opportunity  to achieve meetings with important figures of the Spanish scene as the King of Spain, strengthening the diplomatic ties between Bhutan and Spain.

We can say that the major target of Bhutan towards Spain is the tourism, as Mr Ian said “the percentage of Spaniards who travel to Bhutan are usually a few hundred, then one of the short-term objectives between both countries would be to increase tourism from Spain towards Bhutan, improving the country’s development”.

Speaking of tourism I asked to him why in the past the Government of Bhutan restricted the entrance of tourists and if there is any type of restriction now a days, in this issue he remarked ” the only thing that wanted and want now a days the government of Bhutan is to achieve a high quality and environmentally friendly tourism, also, we have to say that today there is not any restriction but what the government want to do is to avoid mass tourism like happened in Nepal “.

We have to say that Bhutan is a very Small state with less than 700.000 inhabitants and its between two major states of the world that are China and India, in words of Mr Ian Bhutan is ” the meat between two slices of a sandwich” and he said “Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world and because of this economically depends heavily of India, this country also, is the major financier of Bhutan, with  Indian finance of long-term soft loans Bhutan is  building dams to generate electricity with the fall of water from the Himalayas, thus supplying the north of India creating strong ties between these countries and improving development”

When I was with him I also asked about the diplomatic relations between China and Bhutan, he told me that they are not as strong as the relations with  India, but Mr Ian said to me that they maintain cordial relations. ” one of the reasons why China and Bhutan do not maintain great relationships is because these countries are divided by the Himalayas and this means that they are very badly connected and also we have to say that the boundaries between them are no well defined, because of this sometimes tensions are created” he remarked.

The international organization  Freedom of house gave to Bhutan in 2005 the status of a not free country and in 2015 they have given to this country the status of a partly free state,  because of this I asked him  what happened during this years  and he answered me “the former King of Bhutan abdicated in favor of his son to modernize the country and get a totally free and democratic country, in 2008 the first constitution was introduced to achieve this goal, based on more than 50 constitutions and one of them being the Spanish constitution and after this first elections were held”.

It is known that the Bhutanese Government cares more about the happiness of the inhabitants than the country’s economy.  “the government believes that the economic indicators are not the determinants of the welfare and happiness of the inhabitants because of this the actual king of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck had created a index that is called Gross National Happiness an index that measures the happiness of the inhabitants” he remarked.

The organization Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has just published its World Giving Index and places Bhutan as one of the most supportive countries in the place 17 of 134 countries. About this issue he told me: “in my opinion this is because the majority of Bhutanese are Buddhists and have the sense of helping others very involved, in my travels I have observed this and I think that in our country we have to recover this idea”

Oihan Iglesias Lamuedra.

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The Consul of Bhutan and Oihan Iglesias in Intercontinental Hotel (Madrid) 

 

 

Japan approves its largest defense budget in response to China’s strength

Japanese Government approved the largest defense budget in their history in response to the rise of Chinese military power.

Japanese Self Defense Force destroyer

Japanese Self Defense Force destroyer. Source: The Telegraph

Last Wednesday, 4th of February, it was approved by the Japanese Government the largest defense budget in Japan’s history.

The Japanese Government is going to spend 4,98 billion yen -36.000 million euros- in its defense budget, 2’98% more than last year. This would help Japan to reach position eighth of the world’s biggest defense spending country.

This is the third consecutive year in which the Japanese Government has increased its defense budget. However, this growth is still waiting for the approval of the Japanese Parliament. If this budget is approved, it will represent 5% of the national budget (2015).

The aim of this incensement of the defense budget is to strengthen aerial and maritime surveillance. They want to buy aerial surveillance aircraft and fighter jets to help the alertness system in some specific places of the country.

The Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs said that it is going to be useful for Japan as it is going to be seen as a force of peace and stability in East Asia.

The Japanese constitution was born after the Second World War when the Allied forces occupied Japan. They considered that the new constitution should not let Japan have a military force to avoid any chance for this country to enter again into a war. This mandate can be seen in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution of 1947, where it prohibits Japan to enter into a war and to maintain war potential, even though it does not specifically forbid self-defense military capability.

The policy of demilitarization of Japan changed when, for the sake of peacekeeping of the international community, it was allowed to increase its military potential only for self-defense purposes.

Article 9 has been very popular since the end of the Second World War, but it was not until recently that Japan has begun to take its security more seriously.

Japan’s rearmament is just a decision to face what the country believes that belong to them. In an Asian context: China is modernizing its navy and acting with growing assertiveness within territorial disputes –most of them tense relations within the China Sea- as well as challenging U.S. military access to Asia. Similarly, Vietnam and Indonesia are constantly growing.

Because of all that facts, Japan is just responding to Chinese behavior.

As a last issue, mention that China should rethink their own steps in order to contain not only India, Vietnam and US through the pearl necklace, but also to Japan itself.

The economic and political future in the Philippines with Antonio Manuel Reyes

I first met Antonio Manuel Reyes on the plane from Frankfurt to Madrid on a cold January evening, he was on his way to take part at a conference about minorities hosted by the UN. Mr Reyes, an International Relations graduate himself , started his impressive career by joining the UN in Vienna back in the 70s and since then he has successfully led development programmes in Latin America/West Africa, worked as a career diplomat in the Caribbean and held advisory positions in his native Philippines.

After talking on the plane, we kept in touch via email, so when I had the chance to cover the Philippines for my interview I felt it would be natural to consult mr Reyes on skype as he is possessing valuable information about the region.

He started off by explaining the political and economic situation in the Philippines, which he characterises as “chaotic and severly mismanaged” and he adds that authorities in Manila have lost touch with reality as they, in his words ”neglect the most basic of rights and undermines sustainable growth, favouring the elite and marginalizing the increasing number of poor.”

I further ask him to elaborate on this lack of sustainable thinking by the authorites and how the formidable economic growth is only benefitting a few. “I saw the same thing in Nigeria, vast oil reserves that is increasing GDP, boosting spending, however the overall picture remains the same, we are moving in circles, facing over-population and lowered quality of life. Economic growth is one thing, sustainability something else” I ask him about how the Philippines compare with other countries in the region, and if there is a pattern.

He takes a deep breath and explains me how the Philippines is still troubled by its past and how todays society inherited large structural problems in terms of lacking infrastructure, nepotism, bureaucracy and corruption. “Philippines is plagued with a sense of two steps back – one step forward mentality, in which we lack the basic tools to create a shift in living conditions seen elsewhere in in East Asia.”

“What we need is proper governance, and to increase our share of the world trade. Philippines possess vast human resources, and in many ways we could be the next Asian tiger, if we reshape our policies and manage to get people out of poverty.”

“I believe the Philippines will play an increasingly important role in the next few years, and its strategic position in the pacific could allow for new trade opportunities. We need to become a regional player, turning Manila into a hub for commerce. So much potential and more than 7000 islands, could you imagine!”

He then talks about the pitfalls of rapid population growth and how to address them, as I move on with my questions. How is the high birth rate and young population affecting the country, I asked. “Look at Indonesia, in many ways similar Geography, but a different way of tackling the massive population growth and the transition into a growing power, the secret lie in their Governance and how leaders are able to empower the younger generation, fostering innovation and giving the new generation new ideas. We need to change our mindset.”

I continued our interview, Mr Reyes seemed more enthusiastic than ever. What about relations with China in the East Asian Sea? “The Philippines depend on China as a trade and diplomatic partner, a partnership deemed very beneficial to our country. However, some matters need a firm hand, and geopolitcally speaking Philippines is not afraid of sticking to their principles, in this case it means to fight for something that could be considered rightfully ours”
Territorial disputes he said in the area is extremely widespread and 8 countries are currently fighting over vast areas of land. “Its all about the crude oil and controlling the supply routes to and from the South China Sea, something especially China is very keen on doing.”

“They have strong interests there, China is seeking energy independence. Controlling Malacca is a long lost battle, therefore they want something they can depend on” “I believe the Philippines should act carefully in the region, sometimes compromises need to be made” I gave him a puzzled look, but you just said the opposite?

“Well, it was my initial thought. However, I do understand the complexity of the issue. You have to ask yourself, if a good or bad relationship with China is more important” I answered him, saying integrity and predictability could be considered important in high politics. We need to get to grips with domestic matters, address the big challenges. Soaring unemployment, generations of filipinos growing up outside the world economy. Thats our challenge. Then we take on China”

I do feel I benefitted from talking to Mr Reyes as he is now turning 75 and have experienced a myriad of changes in politics and society. His background from diplomacy makes him very relevant when studying IR and he is possessing invaluable skills.