Ron Moreau

Stories by Ron Moreau

  • Thailand Plays By The Rules

    Aids is the no. 1 cause of death in Thailand. More than 300,000 people have died already, and most people who have the virus are too poor to pay for any sort of treatment. But rather than challenge the drug companies for cheaper access to medication, as South Africa is doing, Thailand is playing by the West's rules.Last year, under pressure from Washington, the Thai government brought its intellectual-property laws in line with those of the developed world. Bangkok can no longer issue compulsory licenses for patented medicines or allow parallel imports to bring in cheap drugs. Most important, the new laws got rid of Thailand's Pharmaceutical Patent Review Board, the agency that forced drug companies to divulge sensitive cost data.The changes have angered local AIDS activists, who've begun lobbying their case to U.S. and U.N. officials. They've even helped persuade the World Health Organization to monitor the public-health implications of global-trade policies. Meanwhile, as U.S....
  • Mad About Mega

    Megawati Sukarnoputri is living proof that gut impressions aren't always right. Only three years ago, former president Suharto thought he had banished the opposition leader into political oblivion. Using his signature strong-arm tactics, he removed her as the Indonesian Democratic Party's chairwoman, banned her from politics and sent in his security goons to take over her party's Jakarta headquarters. After all, practically anybody who had met her said the 52-year-old former housewife and mother of three grown children was a political lightweight--an inarticulate and shy woman who seemed too timid to become a real threat. But last week, as much as the modest housewife tried to hide it, you could see sweet revenge written all over her face. Having won about 35 percent of the vote in last week's elections, Megawati knows she may soon be president of Indonesia. "With discipline and pride," she told NEWSWEEK, beaming with confidence, "we have become winners." ...
  • Put Away The Yellow Shirts

    During Indonesia's past six election campaigns, members of the Golkar party wore bright yellow with pride. After all, as the color of former president Suharto's powerful political machine, yellow meant only one thing: victory. Decked out in bright yellow vests, T shirts and jackets, Golkar supporters would attend massive campaign rallies featuring the country's top music, TV and film stars. Just for showing up, they received free food, souvenirs and a fistful of rupiah, the national currency. ...
  • A New Kind Of Hell

    I'm free," reads some of the graffiti in a poor neighborhood in Dili, East Timor's capital. Not yet. Early this month progovernment militiamen showed up with AK-47s to silence all calls for the province's independence from Indonesia. When Elizia dos Reis, a 17-year-old high-school student, rushed out to help a wounded friend, he took a round in the back and another in the chest--and finally a knife in the back of the head. The next day Elizia's body lay on a table in his parents' concrete-block house, his face streaked with dried blood, a rosary draped around his crossed hands. As his mother and sisters wailed, neighbors took turns digging his grave in the rocky soil of his own front yard. Elizia's family would have preferred the Roman Catholic cemetery--but they were too afraid of ambushes to take him there.Just about everybody in East Timor lives in such fear. Late last year more than a dozen militia groups sprang up to defend the status quo in the former Portuguese colony...
  • Running Through A Minefield

    Amid the brass bands, the wildly costumed marchers and the unfurled flags of 48 competing political parties, there was a persistent sense of dread. Indonesia's 16-day official parliamentary campaign began last week. If all goes well, the June 7 vote will easily rank as the freest, fairest national election that most Indonesians have ever seen. But things are threatening to go horribly wrong. Campaign-related violence has already killed at least 10 people, including three on the usually tranquil island of Bali--and those deaths came before the race's official start last week.This campaign season, the street fights aren't only between protesters and soldiers, or between ruling-party loyalists and their foes. Rival opposition parties have been attacking each other. On the eve of the formal campaign, more than a dozen houses went up in flames during a brawl between members of two rival Islamic parties in the Javanese coastal town of Pekalongan. Most Indonesians are convinced the unrest...
  • The Politics Of Terror

    Wahdi, a 70-year-old cowherd, was one of 60 villagers who attended a voter-registration meeting in the West Javan village of Selasari on a rainy evening in late March. As the meeting broke up, he was attacked by several masked men and a crowd of strangers who accused him of being a dukun santet, or evil witch doctor. They wrapped a rope around his neck, slowly choking him to death. Then they disemboweled him with a machete and ordered terrified villagers to bury him on the spot. Wahdi was not a dukun of any sort, insists his sobbing 45-year-old widow, Kayah, as other villagers nod in agreement. "He was simply a poor man and a good Muslim."The new politics of Indonesia is growing uglier by the day. Though the campaign for June parliamentary elections formally begins May 19, the opening skirmishes suggest that the tactics will include terrorism. Wahdi is one of some 150 Indonesians who have died brutally or have mysteriously disappeared in the populous West Javan regency of Ciamis so...
  • Of Peace And Poison

    Roughly a quarter century after the Vietnam War, the vestiges of the Ho Chi Minh Trail run through a nightmare landscape. Vast swaths of blighted countryside, once dense forest, now support almost no vegetation but the coarse weed known locally as American grass, useless for feeding humans, livestock or most wildlife. The afflicted region's inhabitants, about 5 million all told, get much of their dietary protein from fish raised in decades-old bomb craters. But the real horror is in the people's eyes. For more than a generation, practically every family in this stretch of central Vietnam has endured a medical hell of repeated miscarriages, crippling birth defects, chronic illnesses and untimely deaths.This is the heart of Agent Orange country. From 1961 to 1971, U.S. warplanes deluged strategic sectors of southern Vietnam from Quang Tri province to the Mekong Delta with more than 20 million gallons of chemical herbicide, of which 60 percent was Agent Orange. The Hanoi government...
  • Suharto's Siege

    The retired dictator greets each day with a tranquil routine. At his tree-shaded villa in central Jakarta's diplomatic quarter, the 77-year-old Suharto rises at dawn and bows toward Mecca in prayer. He takes a breakfast of rice porridge, fresh orange juice and tea, followed by a country-style shower, dousing himself with pots of water from a big concrete tank. He spends a few minutes looking after his pet birds. One of them has learned to whistle the national anthem. Then the old man begins his day's work: a relentless succession of personal conferences with his lawyers, family members and longtime business associates. The leafy street outside is empty--blocked by barbed-wire barricades and soldiers carrying automatic weapons.The daily meetings have an urgent agenda. Government graft investigators are scrutinizing the finances of Suharto's inner circle. His friends and family may be stripped of the billions of dollars they are said to have amassed during his 32 years in power. His...
  • The Back Beat Of Hard Times

    Tin Pan Alley has come to Jakarta. Each day, a ragged army of troubadours fans out across Indonesia's capital, singing out their bitterness at the collapsed economy and the politicians they blame for their woes. Husky-voiced transvestites, ukulele players, drummers banging the bottoms of large water bottles and children playing tambourines made out of bottle caps, they are a motley chorus, overflowing sidewalks and surrounding motorists at traffic lights. At the high end, accomplished musicians pass the hat on crowded public buses and sing songs that echo the protests of student demonstrators on the streets outside: the dictator Suharto is gone, but the misery remains. "The people get injustice, Suharto gets diamonds and houses," sings Agus, a guitar man on a downtown bus. "Where's the money?" croons his companion, Edy. "Common criminals go to jail, real criminals like Suharto go free."The street musicians are the vanguard of a recession-era renaissance in Indonesia. When the...
  • Cambodian Land Rush: Homesteading In Hell

    The land rush began in January, as soon as the dry season made the jungle roads barely passable. Merciless war has kept northwestern Cambodia's Samlot district practically uninhabited for most of the last 30 years. Now the return of peace is bringing thousands of former guerrillas and refugees scrambling from their camps on the Thai border to claim the first plots of land many of them will ever own. Almost all the newcomers were men who had left their wives and children in the safety of the camps. The new settlers are risking their lives with practically every step. "Samlot and neighboring districts are some of the most heavily mined pieces of real estate on earth," says Archie Law, director of Cambodian operations for the Mines Advisory Group, a London-based nongovernmental organization.Amputees are a routine sight on the road to Samlot--and all over Cambodia. Private relief groups estimate that since 1979, when Hanoi's invading Army toppled the genocidal Pol Pot from power, land...
  • The Prisoner Of Hope

    JUST OVER TWO YEARS AGO, INDONESIA'S then president Suharto found himself in a corner. During a visit to Jakarta, South Africa's President Nelson Mandela asked to meet the jailed resistance leader from East Timor, Xanana Gusmao. Suharto reluctantly agreed. After the meeting Mandela gave Suharto some trenchant advice: release Gusmao, who had fought to reverse Indonesia's 1975 occupation of the former Portuguese colony. In freedom, Mandela argued, Gusmao could help lead Jakarta and Lisbon toward a solution for East Timor, ending a long and bloody conflict. ...
  • Flames Of Faith

    NESTLED AMONG THE QUIET homes of central Jakarta, the Al-Munawara mosque is a refuge of the spirit. Ahmad Sumargono, deputy leader of Indonesia's new Crescent Moon and Star Party, spent the Muslim holy month of Ramadan there, contemplating his soul and the political storms outside. After a month of praying and reading the Koran, Sumargono's thoughts were crystal clear. He agreed to share them with a NEWSWEEK correspondent last week--as long as the visitor came unaccompanied by a woman. Indonesia, he said, has now ""changed, and is very conducive to Islamic people. Islam should be a complete way of life for Indonesians, not just a religion.'' The country's turbulence, he added, was the work of a Christian minority, largely ethnic Chinese, attempting to regain lost privileges. ""We can live together with Christians,'' Sumargono said, ""but I see a cloudy future.'' ...
  • Free--After 32 Lost Years

    CHIA THYE POH IS STILL LEARNing to savor his newly restored freedom. A former member of the Singapore Parliament and leader of the Socialist Front, a small opposition party, he was arrested in 1966 under Singapore's Internal Security Act, which provides for detention without charges or trial. Chia had attempted to organize a protest rally against the Vietnam War, timed to coincide with a visit to Singapore by the then President Lyndon B. Johnson. He had also resigned his seat in Parliament two weeks earlier in protest over the way in which -- as Chia saw it -- the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had been keeping the legislative body in almost permanent recess. In 1989 Chia was finally released from prison, but was sentenced to internal exile on a small island in the Singapore Strait. In 1992 the authorities allowed him to return home to Singapore, but under restrictions prohibiting him from joining any organization, making any public statements or contacting any of his fellow...
  • The Yugoslav Model

    THE YOUNG SOLDIERS WERE LAST seen alive on a public bus, traveling away from their base in Indonesia's remote province of Aceh. Dressed in civilian clothes and headed home for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, they were ill prepared to face an angry mob. About 200 machete-wielding villagers stopped the bus, apparently seeking retribution against the Indonesian Army. They demanded papers, and seized any man who could produce only military identification. Of 18 soldiers on the bus that December day, the mob took seven; their mutilated bodies were found scattered about the scene of the abduction, with bound hands and feet and signs that they had been tortured. ...
  • The Devil's Due

    THEY ARE THE ACCIDENTAL ART OF THE Khmer Rouge, a regime that thought it had abolished art: thousands of photographs of its own citizens, left behind in the notorious Tuol Sleng prison when it was abandoned in 1979. Collected and cataloged by researchers from the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale, they were reproduced in a glossy art book, and last month 22 prints, carefully restored and mounted, went on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In one photograph, a woman seems to ignore the hand of an unseen child reaching up to clutch her sleeve; in another, a boy of perhaps 12 stands up straight despite the weight of a thick chain around his neck. The subjects look straight into the camera, their dark eyes open wide, expressions opaque but for a glimmer of fear. Or perhaps the fear is in the eyes of the viewers, who have seen the other famous artifact of the Khmer Rouge: the great heaps of skulls that were what became of the people in the photographs. ...
  • Binding Up Old Wounds

    Imagine if the government of Vietnam believed that one of its estimated 300,000 missing in action (MIAs) had been mistakenly buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Would the United States allow the Vietnamese to go into Arlington in the middle of the night and dig up old bones? Be serious. Yet Vietnamese officials have allowed American officials to do the equivalent. A joint team of Americans and Vietnamese have dug up Vietnamese military cemeteries as part of a pursuit of the impossible- a full accounting of the 2,204 American MIAs in Indochina. While they found no GIs in the cemeteries, the overall level of cooperation by the Vietnamese is now extraordinarily high.Those wanting continued cooperation on the MIA issue should want the United States to normalize diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Last year Bill Clinton lifted a 19-year trade embargo. Since then the record has been clear: warmer contacts mean that Americans get more information about MIAs. One year of friendly...
  • Cambodia: Father Knows Best

    In his 70 years, Prince Norodom Sihanouk has experienced most of the highs and lows that life has to offer. His career in Cambodian politics has taken him from god-king to prime minister to homeless exile, from guerrilla leader to political prisoner and eventually back to head of state. For most of the years since 1941, when the French put him on his throne, the state-such as it was-was he. Glib, charming and quick to change sides, Sihanouk went through more metamorphoses than a whole dynasty of butterflies, raising inconsistency to an art form. But when a prince's own heir won't play along with his grand designs, what's a father to do? ...
  • Giving Peace A Chance

    When the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s, Cheung Ek was one of their most notorious killing fields. Pol Pot's Marxist guerrillas executed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of their "enemies" in the tiny village 12 miles south of Phnom Penh, the capital. Last week Cheung Ek came to exemplify the best in Cambodia. Within sight of a memorial containing the skulls and bones of victims, hundreds of eager peasants lined up outside a United Nations-polling station, jostling for the right to be among the first voters. "This turnout is beyond our wildest expectations," said Deborah Hopper, an American working as a U.N. election official. Despite threats of violence from the Khmer Rouge, who are still fighting a bitter civil war, nearly 90 percent of the country's registered voters turned out during six days of polling, the first free and fair election in Cambodian history. Results are expected this week, but clearly the big winner was peace itself. ...
  • Reliving The Nightmare

    Most flee in flimsy houseboats. Others crowd on to buses and trucks, or pile their belongings onto bicycles. Tens of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese are leaving their homes in Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge. Coldblooded attacks have killed more than 100 people in the 18 months since the country's warring factions signed a formal peace agreement. Some 70 of them have died since last month, when guerrillas began to machine-gun floating villages as the people slept. Last week clusters of up to 500 boats inched down the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers past the capital and on toward the border. "No one thought of leaving before the massacres," said Cambodian-born Nguyen Thi Loi in the tiny cabin of a fishing sampan with her husband, two sisters and mother. "We don't want to go to Vietnam." But Cambodians weren't complaining. "I'm happy to see them leaving," said Thi Da, a university student, as he watched from a bridge. "This is my country." ...
  • The 'Saigon Virus: It's Catching

    Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's founding father, would have been appalled. After the North won the civil war in 1975, its leaders renamed Saigon after the Communist leader and cracked down hard on what they considered its bourgeois decadence. But today billboards advertising MasterCard and Toshiba overshadow fading portraits of Ho. At a tony new restaurant in a restored colonial villa, a Japanese businessman murmurs into his cellular phone while dining with a young Vietnamese woman. The Floating Hotel, filled with guests paying $150 a night, features a weekly Texas Barbecue Night. High-school girls venture forth wearing the delicate ao dai-a traditional silk tunic worn over nearly transparent pants, still officially banned as indecent. Cranes and pile drivers are everywhere. And Vietnamese children once again greet Westerners with a friendly hello, rather than the taunt, "Lien So"-Soviet. Says a French banker, "When you're drinking, eating and enjoying yourself, you can easily forget there's...
  • Cambodia: 'This Is My Home'

    Living in Tippadei can be deadly. The village sits at the base of a mountain that Khmer Rouge guerrillas and the Cambodian Army fought over for years and left strewn with land mines. Last month a 7-year-old girl stepped on one and died; a recent brush fire set off 20 more. Malaria, dengue fever and armed robbery are rampant. Yet 1,246 people have returned to Tippadei, swelling its population by half, since the United Nations began helping refugees leave camps across the nearby Thai border last March. "We preach at them, plead with them not to go back to these dangerous areas," says a U.N. official. "But we can't stop them from going where they damn well please." After years of dislocation, the only place many refugees want to go is back where they came from. "I know it's not safe here, but this is my home, and I'll stay until I die," says Doueng Noi, 50, who returned to help his elderly father and work a small rice farm. ...
  • Sex And Death In Thailand

    When Pon and Tai were 15, a woman showed up one day in their village in Burma, just across the Thai border. She promised to take the two girls on a sight seeing tour of Bangkok. When they got there, she dropped them off at a brothel. They were locked up, and their virginity was quickly sold for $40. Soon, they say, they were forced to service four or five customers a day-up to a dozen on weekends without payment. Fearful of AIDS, which they learned about from Thai television, they offered to buy clients condoms out of their meager tip money. Most men refused. Now both girls are being cared for at Bangkok's Emergency Home for Women and have tested HIV-positive, according to officials at the home. "The men knew about AIDS but didn't care," says Pon, now 17 "They certainly didn't care about us." ...
  • The Perilous Road Home

    They're terrified of going home. "I'm afraid some villagers will hate us, even harm us, " said Serei Thi, 35. She was washing clothes last week in a stifling, dusty transit center set up for the first group of Cambodians to be bused back from refugee camps in Thailand since the 1970s. " I think I'll stay home and not look for a job until the United Nations holds elections, " said Sokim San, 28, adding: "I'm afraid of Cambodian politics. " Ghien Ien, 33, said his friends and relatives among the roughly 375,000 Cambodians waiting in camps across the border made him promise to write them once he reaches his home village. "[They're] waiting for me to tell them if Cambodia is safe to return to, if the war is over. " ...
  • Roughing Up The Khmer Rouge

    Khieu Samphan didn't look like a mass murderer. But as the pudgy, 60-year-old economist cowered in an upstairs room at a villa in Phnom Penh, an angry mob of Cambodians howled for his head. "Khieu Samphan's hands are dripping with Cambodian blood," some of them shouted. Then dozens of rioters burst through an invitingly thin screen of policemen and soldiers. Racing upstairs, they attacked Khieu Samphan, the nominal leader of the hated Khmer Rouge, and several of his aides. They kicked and punched them and showered them with rocks. Someone threw a wire over a ceiling fan, apparently for the purpose of stringing Khieu Samphan up. Finally the Cambodian authorities intervened in force, and when order was restored, foreign journalists found the Khmer Rouge leader huddled against a wall, wearing a steel helmet and bleeding profusely from a superficial head wound. "Please help me," he whimpered in French. "Please don't leave me." ...
  • Mias: Help From Hanoi

    On a hillside in Vietnam's Quang Binh province, American experts and Vietnam laborers have dug a massive pit. They work shovelfuls of dirt through fine, wire-mesh sifters. In three days, they turn up only bullets, metal fragments and aircraft springs. Their mission: to find proof that a Navy pilot was killed when he flew his A-7 attack jet into the mountain in 1968. "It's very grueling work," says Maj. Brenda Bradley, 42, her brown T shirt soaked with sweat. And there is no guarantee of success. Says Sara Collins, the search team's archeologist: "Sometimes there is simply not enough left to make an ID." ...
  • In Vietnam: Remembering 'The Terror'

    During the Vietnam War, B-52s dropped millions of tons of bombs on North Vietnamese targets. Last week NEWSWEEK's Ron Moreau, who covered the war and saw B-52 strikes firsthand, returned to Hanoi to talk to civilians and military sources about their recollections:Anyone who has survived a B-52 bombing raid will never forget it. Some say it's like being caught in an earthquake, others like being struck by lightning. Still others recall its deafening roar. If the explosion doesn't kill you, the bomb's concussion can. A B-52 raid can suck the air out of your lungs and shatter your eardrums. American soldiers used to tell tales of seeing North Vietnamese soldiers who had survived a B-62 strike staggering around the moonscape of bomb craters, bleeding profusely from the nose and ears.The residents of Hanoi's Kham Thien Street will certainly never forget the night of Dec. 26,1972, when a B-52 destroyed a square half-mile of their neighborhood during America's massive "Christmas bombing."...