Asia - Issue 67 - Magazine | Monocle

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Me and my motorcade No.41

On a high horse


Like most heads of state, the president of Mongolia has a decent supply of planes and cars to ferry him about his sparsely populated nation and beyond. Unlike most heads of state, the president of Mongolia also has a horse.

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj’s ties to the land are part and parcel of his political persona. He even presented US vice-president Joe Biden with a horse during his visit to the land-locked country in 2011. But reconciling old traditions with the explosion of industrial growth (Mongolia is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world) means Mr Elbegdorj can’t always hoof it.

A lack of decent runways outside the capital, Ulan Bator, means the city’s airport is the only suitable place to land most visitors from abroad. Many of the country’s rural airports can only handle small turbo-props. The government is rumoured to be in talks with Cessna to purchase a Citation jet or two but we think that’s only viable after laying a bit more tarmac. Besides, the president’s four biological sons and 20-odd adopted children wouldn’t fit in such a modest plane.

Having the equipment and number of seats to get from A to B is one thing but knowing where a particular place might be on a map is another. After all, many who live in rural Mongolia are nomads – whole villages have been known to move. Ulan Bator is said to have moved nearly 30 times throughout its history. For trips around town, the president has been seen getting out of a Mercedes S-Class, flanked by black Toyota Land Cruisers. But where do all the kids sit? A bus or two wouldn’t go amiss.

State airline MIAT flies the leader on longer trips aboard a Boeing 737-800 or 767-300 – depending on the entourage (or number of kids). But they aren’t dedicated to him unless he is travelling abroad.

Fokker 50
Saab 340B
Hops across the Gobi desert or into the Altai mountains happen aboard a smaller Saab 340B or a Fokker 50 – both owned by regional carriers.

Mercedes S-Class
It’s not known how many S-Class limos are in the motorcade but new money from the resource boom means a Mercedes sighting in Ulan Bator is ever more common.

Horse Most presidents don’t drive themselves but there is no backseat, per se, on a horse. And that’s just fine with President Elbegdorj, who has posed many times for the press atop one of his fine equines.

In the dock

Cambodia — TRIBUNAL

After 212 days of hearings, 92 witnesses and 4,000 documents, the Khmer Rouge tribunal this month wraps up its case against two old men – the only remaining people on trial from a regime that killed about a quarter of Cambodia’s population in the 1970s.

Nuon Chea, who was deputy to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, and Khieu Samphan, who was head of state, were among four charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes but Alzheimer’s claimed one defendant and another died. The charges now focus only on the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in 1975. With the two in their eighties and funding problems for the court, many worry justice will never be done.

First stop


The Mumbai Metro rail network (above, on a trial run) is set to open to the public in December, a long-awaited and much-needed transport option in one of the world’s most densely populated cities. It’s a collaboration between Reliance Infrastructure, Veolia Transport and the local government body, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority. Only a small portion of the 76km network is complete: the first of the three corridors that make up phase one is being opened, servicing an 11.4km stretch in the northern suburbs. The entire project is slated to be finished by 2021.

Rail progress

Indonesia — TRANSPORT

Jakarta’s public transport may be about to get a much-needed upgrade. Work starts this October on the Jakarta Eco Monorail Transport (JET), a €590m project backed by firms from China, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. City planners hope that JET will carry 500,000 people each day through the city along two different lines. It is set to open in 2016.

Big plans


Burma will expand Yangon International and Mandalay Airport and build a larger facility set to open by 2018. The state had around one million tourists last year, which it hopes will rise to 7 million by 2020.

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