Episode 9: A Closer Look at Singapore
Through the Eyes of an International Relations Expert and a Journalist
March 24, 2022 — Journalist and activist Kirsten Han and international relations expert Dr. Yeo Lay Hwee share their perspectives on Singapore's successes and challenges, its human rights, the electoral system, and the city-state's relations with the world's superpowers — the U.S. and China. The episode is part of A Closer Look, a series hosted by Asia Society Switzerland with the support of BDO and the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies of the University of Zurich. The series sheds light on different Asian countries through the eyes of leading local voices. Other episodes in the series cover the Philippines, Brunei, and Bhutan. (1 hr.)
Where and what to eat in Singapore
Kirsten recommends the dim sum restaurant Swee Choon. Her favorite Singaporean dish is Hainanese chicken rice.
Lay Hwee recommends the Tiong Bahru Market, an old hawker center located in a gentrified neighborhood. Her favorite Singaporean food is laksa, a Malay-Chinese noodle dish.
What to read or watch about Singapore
Lay Hwee's reading tip is Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus (2014), edited by Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh and Donald Low. It is a collection of essays by various intellectuals, "questioning the orthodox view of Singapore and whether the country is fit for the future," as described by Lay Hwee.
Kirsten recommends a graphic novel called The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, first published in 2015, created by comics artist Sonny Liew. In Kirsten's words, the book is "a beautiful recreative telling of Singapore's history and the experiences of one fictional Singaporean character as he watches the city change around him."
Dr. Yeo Lay Hwee is Director of the European Union Centre in Singapore and teaches part time at both the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU). She is Council Secretary / Senior Research Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Adjunct Research Fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies and Senior Associate at the Centre for Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (CLASS), Nanyang Technological University. An international relations expert, she participates actively both in policy dialogue, research and in academic workshops and conferences. Her research interests revolve around comparative regionalism; ASEAN and EU; and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) process.
Kirsten Han is a Singaporean journalist and activist who runs We, The Citizens, a newsletter covering Singapore from a rights-based perspective. She also regularly freelances for international media publications; her byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and more. She received an Honourable Mention in 2018 for the World Justice Project’s Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism, and a Human Rights Press Award in 2019 for her commentaries on "fake news" and freedom of expression. Outside of journalism, Kirsten is a member of the Transformative Justice Collective, where she advocates for Singapore to abolish the death penalty and move towards harm reduction and transformative justice approaches.
Noel Clehane is the Global Head of Regulatory & Public Policy at BDO and a chartered accountant with over 30 years’ experience in professional practice and public policy affairs. He coordinates the involvement of the BDO network globally in regulatory and public policy matters and is heavily involved in Europe-ASEAN matters for BDO. He is a frequent visitor to South-East Asia as a result. Based in Brussels, Belgium, he is a member of the Executive Board of the EU-ASEAN Business Council, Treasurer of the ASEAN Chamber EU and chaired the European Services Forum from 2017-2021. He is an active member of both Asia Society Switzerland and Asia Housein the UK. Noel is a Fellow of both Chartered Accountants Ireland and the ICAEW in the UK. He also holds qualifications from Law Society Ireland, Instead Paris, the Institute of Risk Management, Florida Atlantic University and Zurich University of Applied Sciences.