Daily Archives: 21 February 2004

Southeast Asia Picture Archive

Anyone interested in Southeast Asia who wants to do some online sightseeing will enjoy browsing through the huge picture archive of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i. Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam are particularly well represented, but there are also pictures from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

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Filed under Indonesia, Vietnam

Tonga court jester ‘to pay $1m’

The BBC reports that “Tonga’s former court jester has agreed to pay $1m to settle a legal dispute with the Pacific state, lawyers for the ex-jester have told AFP news agency.”

Court jesters are a very rare breed these days….

The island nation has for almost two years accused the king’s former jester – American national Jesse Bogdonoff – of mismanaging a $26m trust fund. Tonga alleged Mr Bogdonoff invested unwisely and took inflated commissions. But they have now come to an out of court settlement under which neither side has to admit any liability….

The row centred around Tonga’s claim that Mr Bogdonoff, who says he is the world’s only court jester, cheated King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and his government out of the money the country made from selling citizenship to Hong Kong Chinese people ahead of the 1997 handover of the former British colony to Chinese rule….

The scandal is said to have caused great anguish for Tonga’s 85-year-old King, who reigns over 100,000 people across 170 coral islands in the South Pacific.

“It’s good to be the king,” quoth the jester Mel Brooks, but it’s no joke for those who have to endure the whimsical rule of doddering despots and their court favorites.

Head Heeb has been tracking other recent developments in the sad decline of this anachronistic kingdom; and Peter Wagner’s interview with Tongan Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata in the Pacific Islands Report offers another perspective on current political tensions among Tongans.

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Filed under Polynesia