Stories written by Johanna Son

Donors Urged to Tread Carefully in Myanmar

Foreign donors are rushing into Myanmar (formerly Burma), whose government has been pushing the right political buttons as part of its democratic reform process. But development planners and local activists caution that  the best approach should still be ‘easy does it’.

PHILIPPINES: Past Starting to Haunt New President

The past, centred around the democratic records of his popular politician parents, may have sent Benigno Aquino III to the Philippine presidency, but it is now also biting at his heels, less than two months after he assumed office.

THAILAND: Political Wounds Go Far Beyond Burnt Buildings, Deaths

The charred skeletons of buildings in central Bangkok will be rebuilt after this week's violence, but repairing the gaping fissures in Thai society - deepened further by the army crackdown on anti-government protesters - remains a far harder task.

In this television grab shortly after his surrender at Thai police headquarters, protest leader Natthawut Saikua asks rallyists to return home. Credit: Johanna Son/IPS

THAILAND: Bangkok Burns after Protest Leaders Surrender

If there were any hopes that Wednesday's surrender by the leaders of Thailand's biggest anti-government protests in decades would instantly ease tensions, these were dashed by the ugly spasms of violence that wracked this capital soon after they turned themselves in.

THAILAND: Mayhem Has Little Room for Rights, Restraint

Amid gunfire and street battles here and heated, divided emotions playing out in Thailand's worst political crisis in decades, there has been little room for discussing human rights, restraint and finding a middle ground.

Smoke billows from street bonfires set by anti-government protesters to drive away military helicopters. Credit: Natharin Kittithaweepan/IPS

THAILAND: Violence, Uncertainty Follow Gov’t Crackdown

Burning tyres and buses with plumes of smoke billowing from them. Sniper shots and grenade attacks. Deaths and injuries. No-go zones in the Thai capital.

THAILAND: Uncertainty Hovers Over New Year Revelry

Very few things – not even the political gridlock that erupted into violence a few days ago – can prevent Thais from celebrating the traditional New Year, marked by drenching one another with water. But this year's festivities were more muted than usual amid the uncertainty around the anti-government protests, which have lasted for more than a month now.

ASIA: Mistrust Lingers as China Confronts Thorny Mekong Issues

Lost in the deluge of accusations that China's dams are the culprit in the Mekong River's unusually low levels is the fact that Beijing has actually become much less tightlipped about thorny issues with its neighbours than in the past.

ASIA: China’s PR Problem Rears Head at Mekong Forum

Powerful neighbour. A rising power. Old friend. Big, secretive investor. Big boy of the region. These were some of the terms participants at the just-finished Mekong Media Forum here used, when asked to share the images of China they get from the media.

PHILIPPINES: Muslim Unrest ‘A Political Problem in Religious Garb’

Pushing Muslims' long-held aspirations for genuine self-determination in mainly Catholic Philippines is a complicated struggle "because we are not a priority issue" for the central government.

HEALTH: Why Is Viagra Popular and the Condom Controversial?

Why is the popular drug Viagra so praised for its virtues, while the condom is vilified by conservative religious groups among others the world over?

Q&A: ‘It’s Not Difficult to Bring About Social Change’

Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the Washington-based International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), explains to TerraViva's Johanna Son why gender needs to be weaved more tightly into the response against HIV and AIDS.

ASIA: Prescription for HIV/AIDS Pandemic – Social Justice

The prescription that thousands of participants effectively issued at a just- ended AIDS conference here was clear: It is time to fight social and political inequities so that the medical gains in curbing HIV and AIDS can work with maximum efficacy.

Activists at ICAAP. Credit: Johanna Son/IPS

HEALTH: Activists Press for ‘People’s Property Rights’ to Medications

Pharmaceutical firms have developed drugs that have lengthened lives and cut death rates from HIV and AIDS, but their financial clout in no way overrides their social responsibility in fighting the pandemic, a key advocate argued at an Asian conference on AIDS Wednesday.

ASIA: Stigma, Cash Crunch Undercut Gains in Access to HIV Treatment

The failure to reach the neediest, often the most stigmatised, people and the global financial crisis, loom as Asia-Pacific's biggest challenges in coping with HIV and AIDS at this point, despite the major headway it has made in expanding the number of people with access to treatment.