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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

LETTERS AND COMMENT

"To report accurately and fairly the affairs of Asia
in all spheres of human activity,
To see the world from an Asian perspective,
to be Asia's voice in the world"
Mission Statement, 1975


Want to reach Asiaweek?

YOUR ARTICLE ON KABUL [THE NATIONS, May 16] was great because it focused on the humiliation and sufferings of ordinary Afghans in their daily life. The Taliban initially conquered the North without fighting. They used money to buy the loyalty of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostam's key commander. Where did that money come from? And the jets and tanks of these medieval-minded warriors?

Now that the Taliban have seized most of Afghanistan, the villains behind the curtains are coming to light. Pakistan rushed to recognize, then defend, the Taliban regime and the Clinton Administration cynically told us that "the international community must engage the Taliban in order to build peace and stability in Afghanistan." It is an irony that Bill Clinton, a Democrat president, finds the Taliban's tyranny palatable. The Saudis also are involved.

For all their quack-talk about Islamic virtue, the Taliban have corruptly bought leading opponents, get revenue from the drug trade, and impose sufferings on the people with their outdated doctrines. After years of civil war, Afghanistan needs a competent government. It doesn't need a "pure Islamic government" (whatever that means) any more than it needs an "Islamic airline" or an "Islamic public works system."

Religious zeal and brutality on the battlefield are not qualifications to rule a country. The Taliban will try to impose their beehive-style division of society and inflict other cruelties on the Afghans, but in time reason will triumph. Once the Taliban are overwhelmed by their inability to cope with modern realities, they will disappear for good.

Jaleel M.
Medical College
Trivandrum
India


Only the Times Have Changed

THE ARROGANCE OF C.A. Christian on the subject of geographical names [LETTERS & COMMENT, May 16] is almost beyond

belief. In Asia, the Portuguese, Dutch, British and the rest threw out the names that were current when they invaded and applied their own versions with sanctions for those who failed to subscribe to them.

The Ramayana, written perhaps 2,000 years ago, tells us that the demon-king Ravana abducted Sita and conveyed her to -- where, Ceylon? No, Lanka. When the Portuguese arrived, they couldn't handle "Sri Lanka"; they could only try "See Lang . . . See Long . . . Ceylon." Now with the colonial interlude finished, we call it Sri Lanka -- which is what the inhabitants called it all along.

In 1792 the Macartney expedition was in South China. A member asked "What is the name of this place?" and was told Guangdong. That was quickly mauled into Canton. Someone else asked for the name of the capital. The Cantonese pronunciation of the two characters that form the name is Pak King, so the Brits replied, "Oh, Peking." Its inhabitants have always called it Beijing and still do. So do we all now.

Before the Dutch appeared, the inhabitants of Ujung Pandang on Sulawesi had a small empire that incorporated a big slice of northwestern Australia. But the Dutch took the name away, substituting for it Macassar. Today Macassar has disappeared and the inhabitants just go on calling it Ujung Pandang. As they always did. The original and continuing names have been dug out of the rubble of imperialistic overlays; we should all use them.

R.H. Leary
Bangkok


Sex Education -- or Instruction?

I DISAGREE WITH DR. Choong Sim Poey ["End the Ignorance on Sex," VIEWPOINT, June 13]. His view that sex education effectively deals with the problems of teenage pregnancies, illegitimate babies, and schoolgirls working as prostitutes, is outdated and erroneous. We have the benefit of hindsight. Look at the gravity of the same problems in the more advanced countries which teach sex education and you have the answer.

Teenage pregnancies have shot through the roof in the U.S. Recently, there have been reported cases of teenagers dumping illegitimate babies. The number of schoolgirls in Japan selling sex to make pocket money has increased so dramatically that the authorities are alarmed and think that sex education may be partially responsible for the trend. Are we blind to these statistics and trends? Why do people like Dr. Choong bury their heads in the sand? Why do we want to follow others' mistakes?

Recently, A.M. Rosenthal of The New York Times wrote: "Those of us who accepted sex education for birth and disease control must now examine, in a hurry, any evidence that sex education is becoming sex instruction, so vivid that it leads to more family-destroying teenage pregnancies, not fewer." Although I doubt that the trends can be easily reversed in the West, we are fortunate not to have started on that slippery road to bigger headaches.

I believe that the solution is to beef up the science or biology curriculum. Teach about sex and the related diseases as a topic in science and nothing more. If teenagers choose to ignore the facts taught in class -- that having sex will produce babies and indiscriminate sex will lead to sexual diseases -- another hundred hours of sex education will not help, as has been amply proven in the West.

Yu Chien Ko
Singapore


Go for the Big Fish

SO WHAT ELSE IS new? ["Do You Need an Escort? For a fat fee, the Immigration Bureau will oblige," THE NATIONS, June 13]. Graft and corruption is rampant in most of Southeast Asia and at practically every level. For some in the Philippines, it is the only means of sustaining oneself. Don't write about small-time officials. If you want to rock the boat and get the message through, go for the big fish. Maybe then others will take ours laws seriously.

Mely Arribas
Toledo, Ohio


CORRECTION

THE ARTICLE REFERRED TO above, on the Philippine Immigration Bureau, inadvertently carried a picture of an officer of the Bureau of Customs. We regret the error.


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