More hints for a grand Robert Kuok exposé

THE POST'S OWNER IS THE MAIN CAUSE OF THE ORANGUTAN'S EXTINCTION

Yet another story you are unlikely to read in the South China Morning Post. Orangutans have about another five years before they become extinct in the wild. The UK's Observer tells of a new UN report which reveals that this is mainly due to the actions of palm oil plantation owners. Their actions have now overtaken the disastrous effects of illegal logging and fires. The main player in palm oil in one of the orangutan's main countries of habitat, Malaysia, is of course our old friend and SCMP owner Robert "Dirty Bob" Kuok. Kuok, one of the world's richest men, who thoughtfully joined Mitsubishi when the Japanese invaded Singapore (Forbes Magazine), is not only ravaging the ecology of his native Malaysia by monoculture and cynically converting palm oil to "biofuel" in his own refineries in Europe (thus depriving the poor of Asia and the world at large of an important cheap foodstuff), he is the main culprit in the rapid death of this important species, the orangutan, and indeed many other species. Sunday Post featurette anyone?

BIOFUELS ARE SLASHING FOOD STOCKS AND SENDING UP PRICES FOR THE POOR

As one of the main players in the disgusting business of making petrol out of foodstuffs like palm oil, the Robert Kuok clan is also starving the poor and making us all fear for our food supplies. George Monbiot reports in the Guardian: "Since the beginning of last year, the price of maize has doubled. The price of wheat has also reached a 10-year high, while global stockpiles of both grains have reached 25-year lows. Already there have been food riots in Mexico and reports that the poor are feeling the strain all over the world. The US department of agriculture warns that "if we have a drought or a very poor harvest, we could see the sort of volatility we saw in the 1970s, and if it does not happen this year, we are also forecasting lower stockpiles next year". According to the UN food and agriculture organisation, the main reason is the demand for ethanol: the alcohol used for motor fuel, which can be made from maize and wheat. .. Already we know that biofuel is worse for the planet than petroleum. The UN has just published a report suggesting that 98% of the natural rainforest in Indonesia will be degraded or gone by 2022. Just five years ago, the same agencies predicted that this wouldn't happen until 2032. But they reckoned without the planting of palm oil to turn into biodiesel for the European market. This is now the main cause of deforestation there and it is likely soon to become responsible for the extinction of the orang-utan in the wild. .... But it gets worse. As the forests are burned, both the trees and the peat they sit on are turned into carbon dioxide. A report by the Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics shows that every tonne of palm oil results in 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or 10 times as much as petroleum produces. I feel I need to say that again. Biodiesel from palm oil causes 10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel." More.

WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, ROBERT?

Like Augusto Pinochet (the same age), South China Morning Post owner Robert Kuok doesn't like to give interviews. He also prefers to draw a discreet veil over certain periods of his life. But keep your eyes peeled and little gems sometimes swim into view. Forbes magazine once dropped this little nugget last year in a typical sanitised Kuok hagiography:

"Kuok was a student at Singapore's Raffles College when, on Dec. 8, 1941,
the Japanese bombed the island and declared war. Retreating to Johore Bahru, he went to work in the local office of Mitsubishi Corp., the Japanese trading company. He was then 18."

The interesting trading product for which Mitsubishi will be always remembered for at that time is pictured above. Not to mention all the products which the grand old exploiter of Asia's natural resources and peoples keeps on churning out to the present day. Like Kuok, its links to Burma are well catalogued. Like Kuok's business empire, it is contributing to the wanton destruction of rainforest. Below is a selection of relevant links for more information on this latest vista in the Kuok success story. Just when is the SCMP going to do a piece on their owner? It has to be the juiciest story in town

ROBERT KUOK AND ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER IN INDONESIA

It is ironic that the Sunday Post Magazine recently ran a whole issue devoted to the environment. Perhaps in its next issue their intrepid cut and pasters, headed by Susan "Run It Again" Sams, will focus on the contributions to the environment made by their magazine's owner, Robert "Bagman" Kuok. Green Left Weekly reported that:


"Despite being the worst affected of Indonesia's neighbours, Malaysia has
failed to put any real pressure on Jakarta. The reason is not hard to find.
A report from industry sources says that the Indonesian government is
investigating 18 Malaysian and five Singaporean joint ventures for lighting
fires in Sumatra.

An article by exiled Indonesian academic George J. Aditjondro in the October
1 Sydney Morning Herald paints a familiar picture of nepotism and political
links between Malaysian timber and plantation firms, the Malaysian
government and Indonesian conglomerates.

Malaysian business tycoon Robert Kuok is a shareholder in a South Sumatra
oil palm plantation owned by Hashim Djojohadikusumo and his sister-in-law,
Titiek Prabowo, Suharto's second daughter and wife of General Prabowo
Subianto, head of the elite Kopassus military command.


Indonesian companies such as Raja Garuda Mas and Sinar Mas are involved in
joint ventures in Sarawak with well-connected Malaysian conglomerates.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad's son Mirzan and Suharto's son
Bambang Trihatmodjo are partners in the Malaysian Berjaya group, which has
been severely criticised by US environmental groups for its widespread
destruction of forests."

You don't have to dig all that deep to find out about Robert Kuok and his clan. With business connections to Burmese drug barons and a strong hand in the production and sale of caffeinated, teeth-rotting, obesity-and-diabetes-causing soft drinks in China, there's enough on the Kuok dynasty for a week of features. Funny how the SCMP, in its recent fired-up investigative reincarnation, has never taken this one up...

Another exposé the SCMP owner will never read in the paper he controls

ROBERT KUOK AND THE BURMESE DRUG BARONS

Funny how the two big press families in Hong Kong - the Ma brothers and Robert Kuok clan - are somehow linked in the end to Burmese drugs. Bet they'll never wake up one morning and read all about it in the Oriental Daily or the South China Morning Post. (Or, in Kuok's case, in any Malaysian, Indonesian or Singaporean rag either thanks to his deep connections with the relevant ruling shitbags.) Maybe that's why they bought the rags in the first place.

The 1995-96 report of the Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues, in an interesting section entitled "The Burmese Dirty Money Pipeline" , links Kuok, via his holdings in a company called Asia World, to Stephen Law, the son of Lo Hsing Han, one of Burma's heroin kingpins, and suggests that the company may be used to launder drug money :

"...Burmese traffickers have ties not only with national economic sectors, but also with foreign investors. Robert Gelbard quoted the case of Stephen Law, the son of Lo Hsing han. Law's company, Asia World, is a conglomerate involved in many different lines of business. For instance, Asia World is directly linked to Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok, who heads the Shangri La International company that has just invested in a new luxury hotel in Rangoon, the Trader Hotel."

Watch this space for more insights into the colourful personality who calls the shots at the Post.

Ready-made exposés - our new service for tired SCMP journos!

KUOK SCREWS POOR ASIAN HOTEL WORKERS

Date: 07 August 2002

We want to warn him that he can't come to Australia and treat Australian hotel workers like he treats them in Indonesia, Jeff Carr, LHMU Deputy National Secretary said.

" Robert Kuok - who rates in Fortune magazine as one of the wealthiest men in the world - hopes to extend his Shangri-La hotel empire to Australia, with new hotels in Melbourne and Sydney, " Jeff Carr told the rally.

" Robert Kuok has grown his fortune out of a chain of 5-star hotels in China where working people are not allowed to freely organise themselves for better pay and conditions.

" In Indonesia his Shangri-La hotel has locked out its workers for nearly two years just because they wanted decent pay, decent pensions and to be treated with respect.

" We're going to tell Robert Kuok that if he wants to come to Australia he shouldn't think he'll get away with this type of behaviour," Jeff Carr said.

" If he wants a trouble free existence from our union he will make genuine attempts to fix up the problems of his Indonesian workforce.

" And he will sit down and talk with our people about his preparedness to forget the way his company acts in China, and Indonesia, and accept Australian norms about working conditions and the treatment of workers."

Message from Indonesia

During the rally, Jasper Goss, one of the Asia-Pacific organisers for the hotel union international - the IUF - read out a message from the Shangri-La workers in Jakarta.

Odie Hudiyanto, Secretary of the Shangri-La Independent Workers' Union (SPMS) sends the following solidarity message to your gathering, Jasper Goss reported.

"Thank you very much for supporting us in our struggle.

" The Shangri-La owners said they would abide by national law, so why have they now broken their promise?

Implement the decisions of the State Administrative High Court and the ILO now.

It is enough that we have become victims, don't let there be any more repression of Indonesian workers. Reinstate the Shangri-La workers now!"

Delegation refused

A small delegation of LHMU members, led by National President, Helen Creed, attempted to meet and speak with the Sydney representatives of the Shangri-La hotel chain, but they were locked out.

" It was a silly game they played," Helen Creed told the 100-plus people rallying in the street outside Robert Kuok's offices.

" They locked the lift from going to their second floor office, and they also locked the stairwell just so as they could avoid a meeting with the hotel union delegation.

" Robert Kuok should know we are here today - and we'll be back again, and again,until he comes to a decent settlement with the Shangri-La Jakarta hotel workers," Helen Creed said.

This was the second time this year that the LHMU has organised a protest rally outside the Sydney sales office of the Shangri-La hotel empire.

The LHMU National Council is meeting in Sydney this week - the delegates to National Council met with local hotel workers and marched to the Shangri-La office to show their concerns about Robert Kuok's tactics.

Act Now! Send Robert Kuok a message supporting Shangri-La workers

You can held change the world with a click of a mouse:

Demand the re-instatement of Shangri-La hotel workers!

Want more info on the Shangri-La hotel dispute?

Visit the LabourStart website's Shangri-La hotel solidarity page by clicking here.

ROBERT KUOK: THE COKE CONNECTION

As the South China Morning Post embarks on a campaign of reinventing itself after its dismal performance of accommodation and self-censorship before and after the handover, it has recently published long but essentially replicated news featurettes on the environment, the tobacco industry and about sweatshop industrialists. Of course, as we have already pointed out, the Post should look no further than its own boardroom for further feature fodder. Robert Kuok, 76, owner of the Post, has a chequered history of acquisition and deal-making with just about everyone from the wartime Japanese (1941) to Rupert Murdoch (1990s). It is also well known that he serves as bagman for Peking's covert investments all over Asia.

Should the Post look at international foul play and the promotion of less than salubrious products in the Third World, it might choose to highlight Coca Cola. Robert Kuok owns 87½ % of the rights of production in the Chinese mainland for Coca Cola. An unscrupulous neo-imperialist monopolist, Coca Cola manufactures and promotes a product of very questionable usefulness - to naive young people especially - in poor Asian countries. With the problem of diabetes and softer drug addiction growing in Hong Kong and richer China for example, more caffeinated soft drinks are not what the doctor ordered.

A Kuok Summary - without all the nasty bits

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