The Straits Times: “Mahathir effect threatens Umno vote bank”

Umno ratcheted up the racial rhetoric last weekend, highlighting concerns within the ruling party that its grip on the crucial Malay vote bank could slip after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad formally took charge of the opposition last Friday.

The former prime minister led the dominant Malay party for 22 years before retiring in 2003 and, despite misgivings from civil society, the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance aims to use the 92-year-old’s influence to break Umno’s stranglehold on the Malay community that makes up the majority in more than half of the parliamentary districts.

With a general election due in a year’s time, politicians and analysts expect to see increased pandering to Malay-Muslim insecurities in the coming months.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said polls would be held after September, amid speculation that Prime Minister Najib Razak would call an election after the Aug 19-30 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

“Umno has to work extra hard to defend its turf as Barisan Nasional’s (BN) ethnic minority parties have so far not mounted a credible challenge against the opposition… leading to a more racially tinged campaign from both sides,” Vriens & Partners political analyst Adib Zalkapli told The Straits Times.

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The Straits Times: “DAP unlikely to be affected by order to repeat party ballot”

The Democratic Action Party (DAP) has gone from strength to strength in Malaysia’s last two general elections, and is perhaps the only opposition party certain of a strong showing in the next nationwide polls due in a year.

But on July 7, the Registrar of Societies (ROS) ordered the Chinese-dominated outfit to redo a leadership ballot dating back five years, a move widely seen as a government bid to derail its momentum.

Back in 2012, as is the situation now, DAP was rocked by the ROS declaring its party polls invalid because of irregularities just months before a general election was due to be called by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“This ROS move is clearly designed to derail if not sabotage the DAP and its planning for the GE,” said S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ senior fellow Yang Razali Kassim.

In 2013, despite the ROS controversy, DAP stormed to a record 38 parliamentary seats and was unbeaten in its Penang stronghold.

It is now the second largest party in Parliament after Umno, and has been part of four state governments since 2008, and still governs Penang and Selangor.

“The ruling Barisan Nasional could potentially benefit if DAP leaders who are more aggressive in challenging Malaysia’s established social compact emerge victorious. This damages the opposition as a whole, as it could scare off the Malay majority,” Vriens & Partners’ political risk consultant Adib Zalkapli told The Straits Times, but noted that leaders who were more pragmatic have triumphed in recent party elections. He was referring to DAP’s long-held view that the pro-Bumiputera policy that helps Malays and the indigenous races is unfair and prone to abuse.

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Bangkok Post: “Experts advise OTT regulatory caution”

Regulations on over-the-top (OTT) service platforms and operators should not be heavy-handed, according to industry experts. Bunyati Kirdniyom, director of government affairs at Vriens & Partners, a Singapore-based advisory firm, said several countries have considered OTT regulations, mainly related to data protection and consumer protection.

However, regulators should be mindful of the consequences of overzealous approaches to OTT.

“It [OTT regulations] could ultimately inhibit innovation and also affect their business models, which rely on low barriers to enter the market,” he said.

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Bangkok Post: “Parsing E-commerce tax options”

E-commerce, the online trading phenomenon breaching global boundaries, has enabled companies and even individual vendors to increasingly engage in transactions with customers without any of the contacts traditionally associated with sales of goods and services.

With an estimated value that runs into trillions of baht a year, it’s little surprise that the Revenue Department has been tempted to claim a piece of the online business pie.

The department last week announced its plan to catch up with the booming e-commerce business by levying a 5% withholding tax on all online purchase payments to be collected at the banks…

Bunyati Kirdniyom, director of government affairs for Vriens & Partners Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based advisory firm, said the withholding tax (WHT) is a deduction from payments made to suppliers who provide a service in the respective jurisdiction.

A WHT is enforced by most countries as a common tax practice imposed on both residents and non-resident people, he said.

But he added: “The nature of online or over-the-top content business models, which operate via the internet or digitally and across borders, will challenge the WHT philosophy, which was designed for the physical world.

Mr. Bunyati said issues determining jurisdictional authority to impose a tax on internet activities include where such service is being delivered and how to track each transaction.

To ensure fair tax collection and distribution in a digital, trans-border world, there has been a global discussion of possible taxation models based on origin of the service, destination of the service, and nationality of service providers or buyers. An unfair, fragmented and complicated tax landscape could stifle innovation and create unnecessary barriers to small domestic players and startups, he said.

“Certainly this is not something only one country can decide. Regulators need to collaborate in the digital world.”

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Bangkok Post: “NBTC Warned over OTT move”

Thailand’s move to control foreign over-the-top content (OTT) service providers by making them set up local entities is putting the government on rocky ground as there are no legal provisions for this, legal experts said this week.

No country has regulated its OTT services yet. This means Thailand would become the first to do so if the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission goes ahead with its plan, said Paiboon Amonpinyokeat, founder of P&P Law Firm.

Many are experimenting. European countries regulate the electronic communications services, and the information society services and the information society services, while in the US the Federal Communications Commission keeps tabs on online video distribution…

“Regulators around the world are struggling to deal with incoming OTT players with disruptive business models, said Bunyati Kirdniyom, director of Vriens & Partners, a Singapore-based advisory firm. Too-swift regulation could kill innovation while tardy implementation may put the OTT service providers beyond the scope of regulators, he warned.” 

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