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Lawmakers Watching Porn, Playing Games, and Sleeping on the Job Is a Thing in Southeast Asia

Politicians watching porn, sleeping, or playing games on mobile devices—in parliament, when the parliament is in session—is a thing in Southeast Asia. In recent years, several lawmakers across the region have been caught in the act.

Last month, for instance, members of Vietnam's National Assembly were filmed sleeping while the legislature was in session. Millions of TV viewers tuned in to watch their now-infamous “sleeping performance.”

Eager to remain awake and avoid the shame of Vietnam's sleepers, lawmakers in Thailand have turned to looking at pornography during parliamentary debate. A senator and two members of parliament have been spotted browsing certain X-rated images on three separate occasions already.

Democrat Party MP Nat Bantadtan from Thailand admitted that he accidentally clicked a pornographic picture during a Parliament debate in April 2012. Photo widely shared on Facebook

Democrat Party MP Nat Bantadtan from Thailand admitted that he accidentally clicked a pornographic picture during a Parliament debate in April 2012. Photo widely shared on Facebook.

Several of Thailand's major newspapers have taken turns castigating and psychoanalyzing the men caught surfing porn on their iPhones.

One of the most common criticisms is that it is enormously hypocritical for these politicians—men who often pose as moral barometers in public—to look at pornography at work. In 2011 in Indonesia, for instance, an anti-pornography crusader from the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party was filmed watching pornography on a tablet device, forcing him to resign. (Afterwards, he vowed to change his ways and study the Koran.)

An Indonesian legislator caught watching porn in Congress. Photo widely shared on social media

An Indonesian legislator caught watching porn in Congress. Photo widely shared on social media.

Less scandalous but possibly just as unprofessional, Southeast Asian lawmakers have also been caught at work playing games on mobile devices.

90-year-old Philippine Senator Juan Ponce Enrile claims playing Bejeweled helps him stay alert and improve his memory. In 2013, Enrile was famously caught playing the video game, while another senator denounced him in a fiery speech.

Enrile is playing Bejeweled while Miriam is speaking?

Some members of the Philippine Congress were also caught using their phones during another important speech, when the country's president delivered the State of the Nation address, earlier this year.

In today's era of easy surveillance and social media, where anyone has a camera and a mass media outlet in their pocket, lawmakers will have to learn some self-restraint, if they want to put an end to these scandals.

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