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The Faults of Indonesia’s Urbanization

At risk of sounding grandiose, urbanization has driven progress since the dawn of man. People being in closer proximity to each other allows for specialization, and with specialization comes greater productivity. It allows for greater efficiency of communication, and often creates rapid intellectual blooms, formations of archives and universities, and the documentation of all of our research and knowledge. Without hyperbole, it can be said that humanity’s greatest achievements happen in our cities. But what happens when it just doesn’t quite work out?

jakarta slums

Indonesia, a large and rapidly growing nation composed of thousands of islands in southeast Asia, has seen some pretty remarkable growth in the past half century. In terms of population and growth, it remains in a similar range as Malaysia and the Philippines. Where it differs from these countries is in its massive increase in urban population.

indonesia rural v urban

As this table illustrates, The ratio of urban to rural citizens became 1:1 in 2010 and is expected to reach 1:2 by 2050. At a cursory glance, that looks great for Indonesia. China is undergoing a very similar process, in fact, the amount of land being urbanized in Indonesia is second only to China. With more urbanization comes GDP growth: for China, 10% GDP growth per 1% urbanization. For Indonesia, however, this is not the case.


Indonesia’s GDP has struggled to climb meaningfully, some sources say as little as 4% GDP per 1% urbanization. So what does this lackluster growth lead to? An increase in population without an increase of product to match leads to, at best, a stagnation of poverty and at worse, worsening quality of life.

poverty in indonesia


While the Gini coefficient has risen, given the rate of urbanization, it’s rather unremarkably so. What’s more, the access to important services has actually regressed. While a decade ago, 50% of households had access to safe water, that number has since fallen to 48%. Sewage covers only 11 of the nation’s 98 cities and less than 2% of city residents have access to it.

Jakarta Urban Breakdown


We can see in this figure that with the urbanization the outer suburbs and core city of Jakarta, Indonesia’s largest urban center, have actually not increased. Instead, we see the creation of a new classification all together. 


jakarta slums 2


These areas tend to be very poor and lacking basic necessities. If these people are so close to the city then, why is it they are not only left poor but also in need of basics?

First and foremost, Indonesia really has not done much to improve their infrastructure. In the mid to late 2000’s, while China was spending around 10% of its GDP on infrastructure, Indonesia spent a measly 3%. Furthermore, this rapid expansion puts strain on already existing infrastructure, worsening its condition and efficiency.

While it would certainly behoove Indonesia to invest in its infrastructure, creating temporary low skill jobs and improving quality of life, what it really needs to focus on to see the rapid growth of its cohorts is industrialization.


GDP breakdown


We can see that Indonesia’s former sources of income, mining and agriculture have fallen off, and manufacturing as seen some increase. We know that urbanization with industrialization means success in the modern world. However, we can see with Indonesia as a shining example, that urbanization without adequate industrialization leads to the creation of slums, and decreased quality of life for many of its citizens.

Urban Rise in Vietnam

Vietnam is facing rapid urbanization, and its cities are expected to be host to roughly half of all its citizens by 2030. This urbanization is due to the large increase in job opportunities within cities. The rapid urbanization of Vietnamese cities is also leaving rural migrants in terrible living conditions, and their lack of access to social services is posing a big problem.


There has been a significant rise in Vietnam’s population living in urban areas over the past 50+ years.

The continuous growth of Vietnam’s urban population signals the shift from a focus on agriculture to a more industrial based economy. This is seemingly beneficial, as cities create more jobs, education opportunities, and other important social services.

There is a drastic difference in technology and talent rank, which matches up with the heavy dependence on major cities for Vietnam. Their technology rank may be high, but that is due to specifically the major cities, as the rural population lacks economic stability.

“The Urban Elite Global Cities Index is a ranking of the most global cities based on five aspects of globalization: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement.”

Despite having a population of over one million more people than Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City ranks over 100 spots lower on the Global Cities Index list. Urbanization in Vietnam has been very inefficient so far, as there is a rapid increase in urban population, but a lack of economic development to match it.

Ho Chi Minh City ranks very low in terms of economic output per person, at the equivalent to $8,660.

Along with the Global Cities Index figure, Ho Chi Minh Citys low economic output shows the lack of economic development for Vietnam, despite rapid urbanization.

The problem with urbanization in the east is that unlike the west, southeast Asian countries like Vietnam are urbanizing without significant growth.

There is a strategy for Vietnam in their urbanization process. The strategy focuses on spreading out the urban population, reducing losses of agricultural land, moving polluting factories out of cities, and improving urban services. Vietnam must harness its full potential in this wave of urbanization by developing its system of cities. It seems clear that the main issue for urbanization in Vietnam is overgrowth of population in cities. The clear solution to this is developing a plethora of cities and a system that links them all together, thus spreading out the urban population.

Speaking broadly, it seems as though the solution to Vietnam’s urbanization problems are somewhat straightforward. However, the country must modernize and reform its coordination in government and planning systems in order to carry out programs to execute these solutions.

The rural, Nomadic ways of Mongolians living in the steppes may be dying out, due to particular weather patterns killing their livestock. Winters in Mongolia bring on a strange, ultra-cold weather phenomenon known as a “Dzud.” They occur when the summer drought combines with the severe winter temperatures. In the past, these dzuds seem to stick to a 5-year cycle but in the past few years, they have increased in frequency. Aid officials warn that nobody pays attention to this silent killer, but the impact is severe. This means serious problems for livestock owners, as dzuds leave thousands of animals dead.

An animal's skull in the snow

In Mongolia, it hasn’t rained since July 2017. The grass is now unable to grow in the steppes during the summer and the grazing animals cannot put on enough weight to withstand the winter. Herders rely on their animals for everything. From the meat, milk, and skins, to the animal waste they burn to heat their homes. Losing their animals can mean a fall into poverty.

A herdsman on a horse next to a pile of animal carcasses

So far this year over a million animals have died from the dzuds. Due to the lack of a support system, the only other choice is to abandon herder life and move to the city for work. Over the last 20 years, the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, has seen a 70% population increase due to the dzuds.  Mongolian’s Land Law of 1994 entitles every Mongolian to 1.2 acres of land within the limits of urban centers, free of charge, for a term of 15-60 years. The perceived improved living conditions of cities employment and education opportunities helped spur this migration.

Steppe-dwelling Mongolians typically live in “gers” all through the year.  A ger is a traditional tent-like dwelling used by Mongolian people from early times until today. Gers are house-like structures that look like a small yurt.

Image result for mongolia social issues

Groupings of the gers have made their place on the outskirts of the capital city. The rapid urbanization due to the inability to sustain their past lives in the steppes, is the main cause of these ‘ger’ districts.

Figure 1: Ger district sections. Aqua blue- river basin, bright orange-central ger areas, orange-middle ger areas, yellow-peripheral ger areas, grey-the city, green-green areas/camp zone. Source: Ulaanbaatar City Development Strategy-2020 and Development Trend till 2030.This map of Ulaanbaatar shows the sprawling and extended nature of the ger areas. Those living in the gers face social prejudice as well as increasingly limited access to basic human needs. The prejudice towards people living in these areas continues to cause a social rift in the community. The lack of availability and accessibility of local transportation is one of the most pressing issues for Ulaanbaatar’.Woman with mask in Mongolia

People walk over 1km on roads in horrible conditions just to reach the nearest bus stop or medical facility. Because they are so long and extended, it is hard to get proper services (water, sewer, electricity, even postal service). They use stoves to heat their poorly insulated gers,  as well as cook their 3 meals a day, running them at all hours.  80 percent of all pollution in Ulaanbaatar is caused by ger stoves, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).Pollution in Mongolia

in December it experienced pollution levels five times higher than in Beijing. Trying to survive in the world’s coldest capital is expensive: many throw everything onto the family stove—old shoes, tires, and scrap plastic. Pneumonia caused by the particles in the air is causing the city’s hospitals to fill with sick children, accounting for 15% of all deaths.

Image result for mongolia social issues

There is no doubt the ger areas are a massive issue for Mongolia’s capital. In 2013 the Mongolian Parliament passed planning to build housing for the increased population in ger areas. Above shows the hopeful future and differences between the regulation city apartments and the unregulated, sprawling ger areas where so many people have come to live in the past few years.

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Favelas in Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian urban slums, known as favela, resulted from rapid urbanization in Rio de Brazil, and present many health and safety problems but the government failed to improve the situation because of housing crisis, unevenly divided resources in Rio, and inefficient programs.

Located on the outskirts of countries’ largest cities, like Rio de Janeiro, were originally formed by impoverished former slaves in the late 19th century, but proliferated by migration from 1940s to 1970s.

From 1950 to 2015, the percentage of Brazilian population living in urbanization jumped from 36.5% to 87.5% and it is estimated that by 2030, up to 90.5% of the population will live in cities. As Brazilian government try to expand metropolises, the rural poor found themselves relegated below the elite in the city center. The poor squeeze into urban areas for job opportunities, higher qualities of education, and health care but it turns out they may live in crowded and dangerous favelas. For example, approximately two million individuals, 22.03 percent of population, live in favelas of Rio De Janeiro.

Social Divides and Urbanization in Brazil

Favelas in Rio are dangerous and crude; they are built on steep slope where buildings can’t be built on. They are mainly made of cardboard, corrugated iron or scrap wood, which offer little protection from elements and can’t support homes safely. Majority of them lack in water, electricity or a safe means of sanitation so favelas are susceptible to disease outbreaks. They are always far from shops, schools or transportation routes as well.

Image result for favela rio

Rocinha is the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. It is estimated that anywhere from 150 thousand to 300 thousand residents crowded in the 0.8 square miles of Rocinha. Houses in Rocinha are built nine, ten, or eleven stories tall to fit 21 neighborhoods.


Due to lack of infrastructure, especially sanitation, Rocinha is ranked 120 out of the 126 neighborhoods in Rio on the Human Development Index. People in Rocinha suffered from tuberculosis and other contagious diseases as other favelas. Another major problem with Rocinha is that the population of Rocinha is younger and less educated than other favelas. Violence is a major concern here. Due to Wrld Cup and Olympics in 2016, Rocinha’s young population connects more to the world around and looks for a better future with better education, less violence and less disease.


Cities lack enough spaces to accommodate migrant people and the situation is worsened by the Brazilian housing crisis. The housing shortage around 7 million units, most among those earning less than minimum wage.  In fact, Brazil has enough housing but the most housing estates exist vacant in urban centers for real-estate investment. Housing investments exist mainly in more wealthy urban areas where favela residents can’t afford. The resources that are supposed to be devoted to favelas remain stagnant in city centers.

The Brazilian government has run multiple programs to eliminate or reduce favela violence problem in Rio but they all failed. In 1930s and 40s, the government launched a favela removal program to redistribute all the favela residents but it failed to solve the root problem of Rio’s housing shortage. The favela’s population continued to grow steadily during 1960s, 60s, and 70s. The government constantly redistributed residents during these years but the result wasn’t satisfying. As a result, the government officials eventually decided that a complete elimination of favela was impossible. In 1998, the Pacifying Police Unit(UPP) program was launched, which stationed 9,500 officers in 37 favelas, serving nearly 780,000 people.

It sought to end violent confrontation between rival gangs by getting weapons out of the favelas and maintaining a permanent police presence. At first the program worked and the homicide rates went down largely.

But overtime police officers have gradually reduced the practice of community policing and become more repressive. Tension between the police and residents rose. By 2015, armed gangs had returned to once-pacified favelas and the UPPs were disappearing. Police also feel frustrated in favelas because they found themselves helpless and had to choose between daily shootouts and a coexistence between gangs and police.  Due to Brazil’s economic crisis, police haven’t been paid in months so that also kidnap suspects, take bribes and negotiate to save lives of criminals. The violence and crossfire in favelas isn’t fundamentally resolved up until today.

Favelas in Brazil is still an urgent issue for Brazilian government to settle. Without proper measures to reduce the number and stop the violence inside, it will only get worse and hurt the benefits of citizens living in the inside circle.


Indonesia is Now Facing the Consequences of Rapid Urbanization

Since 1995, an increasing number of Indonesian citizens are moving from rural Indonesia into the urban cities, like Jakarta. By 2025 it is estimated that 68 percent of Indonesia’s population will be living in these urban cities, that are expanding at a rate of 4.1 percent per year. While the rapid urbanization is changing the once rural economy into an urban economy, which opens the doors to more foreign investments, the toll of rapid urbanization is becoming increasingly apparent. Traffic congestion has worsened, leading to increasing pollution and making many Indonesian citizens vulnerable to poverty, and the central government has neglected the infrastructure of the major cities.

Source: Indonesia Investments

Recently, many impoverished Indonesians that have no or very little education are moving to urban cities in hopes that they may obtain jobs to better their families lives. The downside is that Indonesia’s heavily populated urban cities are failing to provide jobs for the city newcomers, causing Indonesia’s urban poverty and unemployment rates to rise. This comes as a shock after Indonesia’s central government created more than 20 million jobs between 2001-2011. In fact, city dwellers that do manage to obtain a job making twice as much money compared with their rural counterparts, according to the Central Statistics Agency. Of course, many new coming city dwellers have become vulnerable to poverty because of the worsening traffic congestion in cities like Jakarta and the lack of funding for bettering infrastructure. The president of Meikarta, an architectural innovations company, said, “Today, people typically spend three to four hours a day [in traffic], wasting precious fuel and adding to air pollution. This makes workers less productive.” His company along with many others are aiming to provide affordable housing to around a million workers in the area, hopefully raising productivity and bringing many people out of poverty.

Source: City Metric

Aside from increasing pollution and traffic congestion, as a result of urbanization, a lack of investment in Indonesian infrastructure also plagues the increasing population densities of urban cities. Although the Indonesian government has been raising its infrastructure development budget significantly since 2014, the central government does not have enough financial means to finance all the required infrastructure developments across the country, specifically in the growing cities. Because of the central government’s low financials, private participation in the nation’s infrastructure development, by foreign investors, is needed. A report by the World Bank entitled “Indonesia’s Urban Story,” noted, “The quality of urban infrastructure is poor in Indonesia, and access to basic services, such as clean water, sanitation, electricity, and transportation, has remained generally limited and not well distributed.” It has become increasingly apparent that the size of the urban infrastructure deficit is constraining Indonesia’s urban cities. Indonesia’s private sector is trying to battle against the underinvestment in infrastructure by building entirely new, cheap urban developments near sprawling manufacturing areas, allowing families to save money on both transportation and housing.

Image result for infrastructure deficit in indonesiaSource: Bloomberg

As urbanization rapidly rises in Indonesia the urban population is quickly increasing as the rural population continues to shrink. Although Indonesia is transitioning into an urban country, pollution, traffic congestion, and underinvestment in infrastructure continue to plague Indonesia’s urban cities.  

The Italian Govt. aka The Sicilian Mafia

The Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra is a gang that acts as a government within Italy. The Mafia started because of entrepreneurs who leased farmlands from aristocrats and would hire guards to protect their property. They really got their foothold in 1861 during the unification of Italy and the economic crisis. The Italian state was trying to find a way to control the government in Sicily which they knew very little about, and they relied on the Mafia. Nowadays even though they have been weakened they still control much of the drug trade into Europe partnering with several other drug cartels, with their main business being trafficking heroin. They have an estimated 25,000 members in total and 250,000 worldwide affiliates according to the FBI. They’ve also been taking advantage of the incoming migrants, which has become a crisis in Italy, by demanding bribes and payments from state-funded migrant shelters.
The Sicilian Mafia is split into different families that control areas or districts. These families are put into a hierarchical system in which each family has a head and appoints different people to power beneath them. The head is a boss who is helped by a deputy and sometimes up three trusted counselors. Under the deputy there are smaller bosses who command groups of roughly 10 soldiers although depending on the size of the family that number can change. The boss is usually elected on a yearly basis although sometimes violent successions do happen. According to informants and historians while some clans have influence over nearby clans there is no one person who commands the whole organization. They do have commissions, one for each province in Italy, from which clans in each region all elect a representative, these manage the violence between clans as well as issues of succession.
The biggest function of the Mafia does is how it got its start, protection. In areas of Sicily where the police and government cannot be trusted, the Mafia provide that trust. They mediate disagreements between criminals and even protect shop owners from thieves. Although many people are forced to pay protection in return for little actual protection others actively seek out protection from the Mafia. In 2008 an estimated 70 percent of stores paid the mafia protection money, either willingly or forcibly. This protection ranged from about $250 to $6,000. They also often enforce collusion, such as the garbage industry. They also provide this protection to smuggling gangs, acting as a trusted entity to help gain investors and to make sure the smugglers act safely. Because of their influence, during election years political candidates will try and appeal to the Mafia. There are 945 seats in the Italian parliament so if a candidate has the support of their local Mafia that alone can decide an election.
In 1995 it is believed Bernardo Provenzano took over leadership of the Mafia. Under him murders of state officials and informants significantly decreased as did defectors. The ‘Ndrangheta assumed most of the cocaine trade in Europe from the weakened Mafia in the late 1990’s. He was arrested in 2006 and is believed to have been succeeded by Messina Denaro. In 2012 it was reported that they had teamed up with several Mexican drug cartels. In late 2017 and early 2018 many arrests of mafia members and associated politicians were made on the grounds of mafia association, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud and vote buying.
There is a growing opposition to the “pizzo” or forced protection money called “Addiopizzo” which began in 2004. There are now 1,000 member businesses who advertise that they do not pay the Mafia. Many of these business owners have also testified in 27 separate trials against extortionists. And according to the Addiopizzo’s cofounder people are beginning to “openly questioning such extortion”. They also provide legal, and social support from Mafia retribution to those willing to name extortionists in court. This is having an impact on the Mafia, one of the members was recorded in jail saying that due to Addiopizzo there are fewer young recruits and the amount of businesses not paying protection money is putting a dent in the Mafia’s income.
The Sicilian Mafia is a gang that acts as a government within Sicily, but in recent years their power has decreased due to other gangs and anti-mafia movements.

North Korea, An Institutional Military Gang

There are many things that come to mind when people think of the North Korean government, their irrational leader, propaganda, their nuclear program. Yet, what few people realize is how similar it is to a gang. Since there is such an inequality in prosperity and an extreme government involvement in all aspects of life, the government of North Korea behaves almost exactly like an institutional military gang.

From the beginning of its creation in 1948, the North Korean government was set to run like a gang. Some of the earliest beliefs and guidelines for the country are rooted in gang-like behavior. The main concept of North Korea’s government is called “Juche.” “Juche” is a form of communism that takes from Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. It is a mix that has been created to fit the needs and desires of the North Korean government. The concept of “Juche” also fits into the North Korean “songbun system.” This system give its citizens a social classification based on their family history and the citizen’s education and work performance. This classification makes an immense difference in the way one’s life is lived. Another concept that fits into the idea of “Juche” and the “songbun system” is “Chawi.” This idea is a belief that is instilled into North Koreans throughout their entire lives. It is the idea that all military and government personnel are much higher in status than all other citizens. This idea reinforces the idea of social classes and the stark differences between them in North Korea. The North Korean government also has a set of traditional beliefs that are used as a sort of state religion, and they use this form of beliefs to control family life and marriage.

While North Korea is a communist state, it is also similar in some ways to a royal monarchy. The Kim family has been in power since the creation of the country and this has given them the ability to accumulate immense power. They also rule especially with fear, and in doing so violate many basic human rights. The Kim family and the North Korean government hold a tight grip on their citizens. Like being a gang member, being a citizen of North Korea, comes with many rules and guidelines for all aspects of life. As many gangs have representative colors or patches that they wear, the North Korean people have to wear pins that show their social status. While the pins may seem to North Koreans like a fashion statement, it is one reduction of their already fleeting freedom.

There are many ways that the North Korean government acts like a gang, in the ways that they control their citizens, but they also are involved in more directly in some activities that are usually reserved for actual gangs. North Korea does not have an easy time making money and expanding their economy, so some of their economic activities are somewhat understandable. The country has few natural resources, and that greatly hinders the country’s economy. They resort to illegal and risky business practices. Yet the country’s leaders do not seem to be trying to improve the country for all of its citizens but for a small group of party officials.

There is, however, one group that benefits from the strict restrictions of freedom and terrible lives of the North Korean people: the military elite. This group of highly ranked military personnel exercise many privileges that are not available to civilians and have a much greater amount of freedom. As one journalist said the Kim Jong-il regime resembles “a cult-based, family-run criminal enterprise rather than a government.” With North Korea’s disregard for legal business, human rights, and freedom, the government acts like a gang, much more than it does a government.

Triads Will Try Anything Once

“Hong Kong black societies [triads] are very powerful… Of course, not all black societies are dark. There are many good guys among them.” From a leader like Deng Xiaoping, an implicit endorsement of a criminal organization might seem odd. Yet, until recently, acceptance of triads, a multi-headed network of Chinese criminal gangs that dates back to the early 17th century, was crucial for political and economic success in Hong Kong. The structural foundation for modern triads lies in the secret societies of the Hung, created in resistance to the Manchurian invasion of mainland China in the mid 1600s. In modern societies, activity has shifted towards the criminal. This transition to criminality aligns easily with two traditions that, for the past two centuries, have defined and united triad gangs more than their 36 line oath or many-stepped initiation ritual ever could: adaptability and opportunism. Triad gangs have institutionalized themselves in China and, most notably, in Hong Kong, through a distinctly entrepreneurial brand of criminal business-savvy, capitalizing on economic and political opportunity to maintain influence.

Triads have long remained at the periphery of political power. When left unable to act as de facto governing bodies, triads have worked closely with those who can. Through the late 20th century and into the 21st, many triads carefully maintained links to the Chinese government. Sun Yee On, one of Hong Kong’s most notorious triad gangs, has offered protection to government officials on visits to Hong Kong, and is reputed to have contributed generously to the government’s disaster relief programs. In the early 90s, before China formally repossessed Hong Kong, Chinese government officials held negotiations with triad leaders, promising to turn a blind eye to criminality in exchange for peaceful acceptance of the new Chinese authority. Thanks to these talks, the transition was, at the very least, unmarred by triad violence. Although the gangs were active in the region under British rule, under the Chinese, they amassed even more influence, gaining footholds in virtually all tiers of the island’s governing bodies.

The decentralized structure of modern triad gangs has facilitated the organization’s entrepreneurial spirit. Although triad societies are controlled by individual bosses, most gang activity is driven by lower-ranking members. In modern triads, members have almost complete autonomy in the criminal ventures they pursue. They can experiment with new businesses and have little to no obligation to return any of their profits to their society. The activities of most triad groups are localized, centering around a certain territory or business. This allows gangs to focus specifically on the opportunities provided by their location and connections.

The breadth and versatility of triad business can be linked to this middle-centered structure. To further heighten profits, and to adapt to growing law enforcement efforts, many triad gangs have begun supplementing criminal entreprises with perfectly legal ones. While entertainment, especially, has become a hotbed for triad investment and activity, triads also have links to interior decorating businesses, valet services, and countless other industries. When opportunities aren’t readily available, triad gangs will create their own, launching extensive, often inventive, extortion campaigns. A bus driver may need to pay a fee to retain control of a profitable route, while a chicken seller might be forced to rent cages from a local gang.

This protean creativity has enabled triads to adapt to the agendas of whatever political, social, or economic interest guides them. Many of the most active modern triad gangs came into existence directly through the appropriation of the mythos and tradition of their predecessors for whatever end was most profitable at the time. The 14K triad began in 1947, as a secret society founded to augment Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist Army. As the Nationalist movement declined, 14K splintered into smaller factions. Few of its original members had any familiarity with actual Triad traditions, but they, like their Nationalist founders, used the Triad’s mystique to further their agendas. This time, however, these agendas were criminal.

Triads have embedded themselves in the economic fabric of Hong Kong, seizing on new opportunities to create profit and influence, and fracturing into smaller groups in the process. Emblazoned at the center of one of the most popular triad symbols is a dragon, a symbol of power and strength. A more appropriate figure, perhaps, would be the hydra.

Seeing Red: Shinawatra Cuts the Thai

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, dominated politics, creating a strong populist sentiment throughout Thailand. Prior to Shinawatra, Thailand was a constitutional monarchy, having political stability, despite the military staging constant coups, sometimes disrupting governmental processes. In 2001, Thaksin Shinawatra, a CEO businessman-turned-politician, ran under the populist guise, winning favor amongst the grassroots voters. He looked to improve life for those in rural areas.

After his election in 2001, Shinawatra, a telecommunications tycoon, successfully aided the country in cleanup after Asia’s financial and economic crisis of 1998. He implemented populist policies, such as his One Tambon (village), One Product (OTOP), as well as empowering several small-scale businesses and generating widespread interest from export markets to handmade products. In 2002, the Thai government recorded a 5.3 percent growth rate and the growth rate was forecast to grow by six percent in 2003. Some agencies even predicted an 8 percent growth rate for 2004, which would then match its neighbor, China’s, growth. In 2004, Shinawatra exceeded his goal of 8 percent expansion and Thailand’s reached 9 percent. Shinawatra’s populist policies allowed him to achieve his ambitious goal. According to the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), Thailand’s construction sector grew about 7 percent in the second quarter of 2004, adding “a lot of impetus to the economy.”

Although his social reforms aided the economy in recovery from Asia’s financial crisis, Shinawatra had a different approach to political reform. He attempted to win the absolute majority of votes, and form a single party government, rather than trying to win a plethora of votes. After winning his election in 2001, mainly fueled by grassroots voters in the north/northeast region of Thailand, Shinawatra entered the government with the hope of monopolizing the political scene, raising the stakes of the electoral campaign. Thaksin was able to build country roads, boost education and provide healthcare for the poor. However, Shinawatra did not heed the interest of the middle/upper-class, who would eventually resent him for it. They believed he favored his own personal business endeavors over the country’s.

By ignoring a vast majority of Thais, the middle/upper-class, Thaksin Shinawatra faced opposition. However, holding great disdain for any criticism regarding the government or his autocratic rule, Shinawatra limited freedom of expression, launched inhumane campaigns of extrajudicial executions under the guise of the war on drugs, and implemented several health policies, such as the responses to the bird-flu outbreak or the spread of AIDS, without having monitored the programs. His power spread into media outlets as well, for he owned the vast majority of many Thai media sources. After his election in 2001, Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party stifled the news sources, enforcing an image of a no-nosense, can-do government firmly in charge of a peaceful country. The media sources portrayed Thailand as picture-perfect, even though substantial, serious reports were concealed from the public. According to the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcasters Association, when Thaksin Shinawatra came into power, more than twenty percent of news personnel like editors were fired, transferred, or had their work tampered with in order to comply with the government’s wishes. At the Bangkok Post, one of Thailand’s largest English-language newspapers, the editor, Veera Prateepchaikul was evicted from his position for not censoring the paper’s criticisms on Shinawatra’s mishandling of the bird-flu outbreak. The news editor of Siamrath Weekly was forced to resign after publicizing critical views of the government and Shinawatra’s control. The manipulation of the media outlets led to the undermining of the fight against drugs and HIV/AIDS as well. Within three months, about 2,500 people were killed as a result of leaving police stations; however, the government claimed the deaths to be the result of gang rivalry not government corruption. In addition, in a sixty-page report conducted by the Human Rights Watch, drug dealers in Thailand were forced into hiding instead of being offered government aid to join prevention methods. Ultimately, Thaksin Shinawatra rid Thailand of basic human rights.

After five years as Thailand’s prime minister, enforcing a populist/authoritarian regime, Thaksin Shinawatrra was ousted from office in 2006 in response to a military coup. He remains as one of Thailand’s most controversial figures; however; his policies have left a lasting impression on Thai government.

Duterte: High on Power?

I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have (me). You know my victims, I would like (them) to be all criminals, to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.“This is not what one expects to hear from a democratically elected ruler, yet that is Rodrigo Duterte, the elected president of the Philippines. That quote surprisingly and perfectly illustrates why he was elected, not the killing of millions of people, but the reason he wants them killed. Drugs.

Duterte’s main platform for election and his focus since his first day as president has been the war on drugs. He blames many of the problems that Filipinos have on drugs, and as one can clearly see from his career as mayor of Davos and as president he has no problem going outside of the law as long as it ends with drug users, dealers and pushers dead or behind bars. But he has faced criticism for this. As he said in his inauguration speech; “I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal”. Since he was mayor these he has been in support of extrajudicial killings. People have been murdered without trial for being even suspected of dealing, using or pushing drugs. He has been admitted to taking part in these killings himself; “I killed about three of them… I don’t know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened and I cannot lie about it.” Since taking office more than 9,000 people have been killed in this drug war. But despite this carnage his policy remains somewhat popular.

It is difficult to be certain about Duterte’s popularity in the Philippines because although many people cite his popularity rating as the highest in decades they have only had five previous presidents to compare to, and his ratings have usually been only a few points higher than his predecessors. Although the approval rating for his war on drugs is high the percent of people concerned about his extrajudicial mass killings is higher. With 84% saying they were satisfied with his war on drugs and 94% expressed concern over killing suspects rather than giving them a proper trial. Even though he is an elected leader he did not win a majority of the votes. In the Philippines the person who has the most votes wins the election regardless of whether or not they have a majority. Dutere got 38.5% of the vote.

There are many things other than murder going on under the Duetere administration that seem to be in violation of their Constitution, such as that regarding Article III, Section 4; freedom of speech. One of his biggest critics and chair of the Philippines human rights commission, Senator Leila De Lima, was jailed on drug charges 6 months into Duterte’s presidency. She also led the investigation into extrajudicial killings in Davos while Duterte was mayor. Many people believe that this is suppression of her free speech by attempting to intimidate her into silence. This also eliminates any chance of Duterte being targeted by the human rights commission. Even though Duterte has committed several human rights atrocities, because their chair, DeLima, is in jail it is doubtful that the other members of the human rights commission will do anything for fear of being jailed themselves.

Duterte is fairly clearly a populist authoritarian, giving permission to the government and vigilantes to kill with no proof of crime and jailing anyone who dares to oppose him. The mob may be behind his drug war now but, perhaps if he expends this policy to more than just the war on drugs, the people will start to turn on him. Duetere’s fate lies in how hungry he is for power.