Asean Summit, Malaysia on Nov 21, 1015

Asean Summit, Malaysia  on Nov 21, 1015
Asean Establishes Landmark Economic and Security Bloc
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) - Text version)

“….. Here is the prediction: China will turn North Korea loose soon. The alliance will dissolve, or become stale. There will be political upheaval in China. Not a coup and not a revolution. Within the inner circles of that which you call Chinese politics, there will be a re-evaluation of goals and monetary policy. Eventually, you will see a break with North Korea, allowing still another dictator to fall and unification to occur with the south. ….”

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk
North Korean defector and activist Hyeonseo Lee, who lives in South Korea, poses as she presents her book 'The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story' in Beijing on March 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

US under fire in global press freedom report

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Trump hails 'exceptional' Modi at huge India rally

Yahoo – AFP, Bhuvan BAGGA, Jérôme CARTILLIER, February 24, 2020

Trump heaped praise on Modi as "a great champion of India" in front of around
100,000 people at the world's biggest cricket stadium (AFP Photo/Money SHARMA)

US President Donald Trump got a rapturous and romantic welcome to India on Monday, addressing a huge rally and holding hands with his wife at the Taj Mahal, in a maiden official visit big on photo opportunities but short on concrete results.

Casting a cloud over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's welcome, however, a policeman and at least three civilians were killed in clashes in New Delhi over a contentious citizenship law hours before the US president was due in the Indian capital.

At the world's biggest cricket stadium in Modi's home state of Gujarat in western India, Trump heaped praise on the Indian right-winger as an "exceptional leader, a great champion of India", before a crowd of around 100,000.

"America loves India. America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people," Trump told the ecstatic crowd, many in Trump-emblazoned baseball caps.

Trump namechecked Bollywood films and Indian sports stars in his speech (AFP Photo/

Name-checking Bollywood films and Indian cricketers, Trump -- with an eye on elections in November -- paid tribute to the four-million-strong Indian-American diaspora as "truly special people".

"President Trump's visit opens a new chapter in our relationship -- a chapter that will document the progress and prosperity of the people of America and India," Modi said.

"The whole world knows what President Trump has done to fulfil the dreams of America."

Excited spectators had queued from 4:00 am for the "Namaste Trump" rally, reciprocating a "Howdy Modi" event in Houston last year where Trump likened Modi to Elvis.

'Tariff king'

Workers rushed to finish the stadium and erect a wall along the route that locals said was to hide a slum. Stray dogs, cows and monkeys were also kept away.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pose at India's Taj Mahal, 
a marble monument that UNESCO calls a "jewel of Muslim art" (AFP Photo/Mandel NGAN)

"Events like these will galvanise people to start to cooperate in new initiatives," said Pramit Maakoday, an Indian-American in the stadium.

Before the speech, Trump and First Lady Melania visited independence hero Mahatma Gandhi's ashram, where Modi gave him a "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" three wise monkeys statue.

Later Trump and Melania -- in an off-white jump suit and sash alongside her husband in a buttercup-yellow tie -- flew to the Taj Mahal for a pre-sunset tour.

Then they headed to Delhi ahead of the main talks on Tuesday.

Parts of the Taj Mahal, the marble monument to love that UNESCO calls a "jewel of Muslim art", were given a mud-pack facial to remove stains, while efforts were made to lessen the stench of the adjacent river.

Activists in Kolkata from the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) shout slogans 
and hold a cutout of US President Donald Trump to protest his visit to the country (AFP
Photo/Dibyangshu SARKAR)

Behind the platitudes and blossoming bromance between the two leaders lies a fraught relationship as Trump's "America First" drive collides with Modi's "Make in India" mantra.

Trump has imposed tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium and suspended duty-free access for certain goods, prompting India to raise duties on US produce such as almonds.

The US leader has called India the "tariff king", and said before his visit that Asia's third-largest economy had been "hitting us very, very hard for many, many years".

Rather than a wide-ranging trade deal, reports said Trump and Modi may instead sign smaller agreements covering products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles and US dairy products.

"We are in the early stages of discussions for an incredible trade agreement," Trump told the rally, calling Modi a "very tough negotiator".

An Indian idli, savoury rice cake, decorated in the image of US President Donald 
Trump, gets the final touch beside a cake with the image of Indian Prime Minister 
Narendra Modi -- honoring Trump's first official visit to the world's biggest democracy 
(AFP Photo/Arun SANKAR)

"I am in no rush," he told reporters later.

US pressure

With the US and India sharing concerns about China, the two men were expected to sign a number of defence deals during the visit, and to discuss the supply of six nuclear reactors.

Russia, however, remains India's biggest supplier in arms, with India having agreed to buy Moscow's $5.4-billion S-400 missile defence system despite the threat of US sanctions.

The US has pressured India to stop buying Iranian oil, while US businesses have raised concerns over New Delhi's plans to force foreign firms to store Indian consumers' personal data inside the country.

India has bristled at Trump's offer to mediate in the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan which a year ago again brought the two nuclear-armed neighbours close to war.

Workers rushed to finish the cricket stadium and erect a wall along the route that 
locals said was to hide a slum (AFP Photo/Money SHARMA)

In Washington, India has faced criticism over its clampdown in restive Kashmir, and the recently passed citizenship law that has led to protests across the nation, including in New Delhi on Monday.

A senior US administration official told reporters Trump would raise concerns about religious freedom in the Hindu-majority nation during the trip, "which is extremely important to this administration".

Trump ridiculed Modi last year for "constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan".

"That's like five hours of what we spend," Trump said.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Exiled Dalai Lama marks 80 years as Tibet's spiritual leader

Yahoo – AFP, February 22, 2020

The Dalai Lama is the universally recognised face of the movement for Tibetan
autonomy (AFP Photo/STR)

The Dalai Lama on Saturday marked the 80th anniversary of his enthronement as the spiritual leader of Tibet, a position held almost entirely in exile and as a target of constant vilification by the Chinese state.

Hundreds of miles from Lhasa's imposing 1,000-room Potala Palace, the sandal-wearing monk now ministers to his fellow Tibetan exiles from Dharamsala in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya.

He remains the universally recognised face of the movement for Tibetan autonomy, but the global spotlight he enjoyed after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 has dimmed and the deluge of invitations to hobnob with world leaders and Hollywood stars has slowed.

Partly because the ageing leader has cut back on his punishing travel schedule, but also due to China's growing economic and political clout.

Beijing accuses the 84-year-old Dalai Lama of wanting to split China, and regularly refers to him as a "wolf in a monk's robe".

His office said there would be no commemoration of the anniversary and a teaching event scheduled for March -- that usually would attract devotees from across the world -- has been cancelled over coronavirus fears.

Born into a peasant family in the Tibetan village of Taksar on July 6, 1935, he was identified as the incarnation of Tibetan Buddhism's supreme religious leader at the age of two after picking out objects that belonged to his predecessor.

He was given the name Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso -- Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate Defender of the Faith and Ocean of Wisdom -- and two years later arrived in Lhasa where he was formally enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama.

In 1950, aged 15, he was hastily enthroned as head of state after the Chinese army invaded Tibet.

For the next nine years he tried to keep Tibetans out of harm's way. But the effort failed in 1959 when China crushed a popular uprising.

Fearing for his life, the young monk trekked through the Himalayas accompanied by a 37-strong entourage, and crossed into exile in India.

There he set up a government-in-exile and launched a campaign to reclaim Tibet that gradually evolved into an appeal for greater autonomy -- the so-called "middle way" approach.


It is unclear how, or even whether, the current Dalai Lama's successor will be named, but few religious leaders have had to give the matter as much thought.

The centuries-old practice requires senior monks to interview sometimes hundreds of young boys to see whether they recognise items that belonged to the Dalai Lama and pick one as a reincarnation.

But the 14th Dalai Lama announced in 2011 that he may be the last, seeking to preempt any attempt by China to name its own successor.

Formal negotiations with Beijing broke down in 2010 after making no headway.

The following year the Dalai Lama announced he was retiring from politics, ending centuries of Tibetan tradition to make way for a new leader elected by exiled Tibetans around the world.

In his India exile he has been treated as an honoured guest -- an official policy stance that has been a source of tension with Beijing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Southeast Asia feels the burn as virus keeps Chinese tourists at home

Yahoo – AFP, Aidan Jones, with Dene-Hern Chen in Pattaya, Thailand, February 16, 2020

Across Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, tourist takings have plummeted as
Chinese travellers find themselves subject to a host of travel restrictions (AFP Photo/

Elephant parks unvisited, curios at markets unsold as tuk-tuks sit idle: Southeast Asia is facing billions of dollars in losses from a collapse in Chinese tourism since the outbreak of a deadly new coronavirus.

From Luang Prabang in northern Laos to Pattaya in Thailand, Hoi An in Vietnam and the Cambodian casino town of Sihanoukville, takings have plummeted as Chinese travellers find themselves subject to a host of restrictions at home and abroad.

"We haven't had any Chinese for 10 days since they closed the road from Yunnan," says Ong Tau, 47, from behind her stall of fruit shakes in the temple-studded Laotian colonial town of Luang Prabang.

"Business is down 20-30 percent... it will get worse."

Tour guides, mall workers and restaurant staff are all feeling the burn as Chinese -- the world's biggest travellers -- stay at home in the middle of a global health crisis.

"My friend has lost four or five big tour groups... they would have paid for his low season," said Tee, a guide in Luang Prabang, giving only one name in the tightly-controlled communist country, a mass of tuk-tuks standing idle behind him.

Business is also slow at the Chang Siam Elephant Park in Pattaya, a few hours 
south of Bangkok (AFP Photo/Mladen ANTONOV)

But in one of Southeast Asia's least well-resourced countries, there may be one bright side to the sudden economic pain.

"We don't know how to protect ourselves," he added. "The government doesn't tell people anything... so maybe less Chinese is a good thing for now."

Loans and job losses

The slump is being felt sharply in Thailand, where tourism authorities say arrivals from China -- usually close to one million a month -- have plunged by 90 percent so far this February.

At the Chang Siam Elephant Park in Pattaya, a few hours south of Bangkok, owner Nantakorn Phatnamrob fears he will soon be pressed into debt to float a business which has lost nearly $65,000 since the outbreak.

"People are afraid to visit," he told AFP. "If it stays like this, I will have to get a loan from the bank."

In Cambodia's Sihanoukville, a southern beach resort known for its casinos, the 
tourist take has shrivelled (AFP Photo/TANG CHHIN Sothy)

Crocodile farms and tiger sanctuaries -- controversial tourist beacons where visitors can pet the animals -- are also deserted, leaving owners to feed expensive star attractions.

The outbreak has also spooked western tourists at the height of peak season in what has already been a tough period for Thai tourism thanks to a strong baht.

Thailand anticipates shedding five million tourists this year, taking with them "250 billion baht (over $8 billion) in revenue", according to Don Nakornthab, director of economic policy at Bank of Thailand.

"Our hopes that the economy will do better than last year are very low... it's possible it could grow below 2 percent," he added.

That will spell bad news for the untold number of Thais working in the tourism sector.

Ma Mya, 22, who sells trinkets in Pattaya, says she may soon have to return to her home in northern Thailand.

"There's no more profit -- everything has gone bad."

Vendors wait for customers at the main tourist market in Luang Prabang, northern 
Laos (AFP Photo/Aidan JONES)

Things can only get better

With so much riding on the seasonal influx, some Mekong countries are desperate not to deter those Chinese still travelling.

Thailand offers visa on arrival for Chinese tourists despite having one of the highest numbers of confirmed infections -- 34 -- outside of the mainland.

At least two of those cases were Thais who contracted the virus after driving infected Chinese passengers, raising fears that the economy was taking priority over tackling the health crisis.

For staunch Beijing ally Cambodia, where only one case of the virus has been confirmed so far despite a large Chinese presence, strongman leader Hun Sen has repeatedly played down the risk to his country.

Still, Cambodian tourism is taking a hammering.

Ticket sales at the famed Angkor temple complex in Cambodia have fallen
between 30 and 40 percent (AFP Photo/Manan VATSYAYANA)

Ticket sales at the famed Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap have fallen between 30 and 40 percent this year, while in Sihanoukville, a southern beach resort notorious for its casinos, the tourist take has shrivelled.

"I used to make $100 a day," said Chantha Reak, a ride-hailing driver. "Now it's $10."

Businesses are praying for a bounce back if and when the virus is controlled.

With 10 million Chinese visitors each year, Thailand hopes the pain will ease in a few months.

Regular visitor Yen Ran, 25, from Chengdu, came to Pattaya despite the health warnings.

"I am a little concerned how other countries perceive us," she told AFP. "But when there's a cure, things will get better."

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

South Korea hails top prize for 'Parasite' at Oscars

Yahoo – AFP, February 10, 2020

A man walks past a screen showing a poster of Bong Joon-ho's film 'Parasite'
at a cinema in Seoul on the day the movie won the Oscar for best picture
(AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

Seoul (AFP) - South Koreans reacted with joy and stunned disbelief Monday to the historic best picture Oscar for "Parasite", with one film fan suggesting the feat should be recognised with a public holiday.

Director Bong Joon-ho's movie -- about the widening gap between rich and poor -- became the first non-English-language film to win Hollywood's biggest prize, prompting celebrations in South Korea.

Even President Moon Jae-in got in on the act, saying he was overjoyed to see South Korean cinema receive world recognition.

"I extend my gratitude especially for giving a sense of courage and pride to the (Korean) people," Moon said.

"I am very proud of director Bong Joon-ho and the cast, as well as the staff members."

K-pop supergroup BTS -- who Bong has previously praised -- also joined the congratulations.

"Congratulations so so so so so so very much, director Bong Joon-ho," the members wrote in a tweet.

"Parasite" won four awards -- best picture, best director, best international feature and best original screenplay -- defying the received wisdom that the Academy would overlook a subtitled Asian movie.

South Korean film fans were overjoyed.

"I am in tears," one wrote on Twitter. "I'm so proud of Bong Joon-ho. It's amazing to hear acceptance speeches in Korean."

Another joked: "Shouldn't today be declared a public holiday?"

Along with a congratulatory tweet, US ambassador Harry Harris posted a photo of what looked like jjapaguri -- an instant noodle dish featured in "Parasite", where it was unusually garnished with sirloin steak.

"Wow! Congrats Director Bong, Team #Parasite & ROK cinema!" Harris wrote.

The success of "Parasite" comes despite the global dominance of the English language in the 92-year-history of the Academy Awards.

Actor Sandra Oh, the Canadian-born daughter of South Korean immigrants who was among the award presenters in Los Angeles, tweeted her congratulations, saying: "So so proud to be Korean".

Darcy Paquet, a Seoul-based film critic who wrote the English-language subtitles for "Parasite" said: "I'm so happy... this isn't real."

"I hope that all Korean filmmakers can share in this moment and be proud, because it's the tremendous hard work and professionalism of the industry as a whole that makes a movie like 'Parasite' possible."

South Korean filmmaker and scholar Kim So-young, who introduced Bong's early comedy "Barking Dogs Never Bite" to programmers at San Sebastian Film Festival back in 2000, said the win was "well deserved".

"I've been following his work for the last 20 years, and I can confidently say he is a true artist," she told AFP.

"I'm very happy for him as a fellow cineaste in South Korea, as Bong has always been a respected colleague who always remained a socially conscious, outspoken citizen even outside the film industry."

Shim Woo-hyun, a 31-year-old film fan in Seoul, said: "I heard the news while eating tonkatsu at a food joint, and I was just speechless.

"I screen-captured the news immediately and shared with people through my mobile messenger. I will never forget today's tonkatsu."

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Coronavirus puts Shanghai into a coma

Yahoo – AFP, Dan Martin,February 7, 2020

The deadly coronavirus epidemic has brought much of China to a standstill, but perhaps
nowhere has the change been more stark than in Shanghai (AFP Photo/NOEL CELIS)

For more than a week, the rare resident of Shanghai who dared venture outside has encountered something unfamiliar: a surreal peace and quiet.

The deadly coronavirus epidemic has brought much of China to a standstill, but perhaps nowhere has the change been more stark than in the country's biggest and most vibrant city.

Gone are the traffic jams, crowded sidewalks and businessmen hurrying to work, replaced by eerily empty roads, shuttered bars and businesses, and only the occasional pedestrians -- always behind a protective mask.

Shanghai is the most populous of China's many mega-cities, but its usual gathering points look like they were hit with a neutron bomb.

The scenic Bund riverfront is normally filled with gawkers taking in the European neo-classical architecture on one shore, facing a futuristic financial district on the other.

Shanghai's slumber is due partly to a more than week-long city extension of the Lunar 
New Year holiday to help combat the novel coronavirus (AFP Photo/NOEL CELIS)

But the heavily-laden barges that usually keep the Huangpu River's surface churning have been absent, the towering corporate skyscrapers largely empty.

The stillness is only occasionally interrupted by the clang of the 90-metre-high (300-foot) clock tower atop the 93-year-old Shanghai Customs House.

Zhao Feng was one of only a few scattered amblers on the promenade on a recent day.

"We know it's not good to go outside, but we're wearing masks as a precaution," said Zhao, 40, on a stroll with family.

"(Shanghai) is so quiet because everybody has a strong sense of self-protection."

Shanghai's towering corporate skyscrapers are largely empty due to coronavirus 
concerns (AFP Photo/NOEL CELIS)


Shanghai's slumber is due partly to a more than week-long city extension of the Lunar New Year holiday to help combat the virus.

That ends on Monday, but many businesses and government departments are planning to allow staff to work from home.

Shanghai has avoided the full or partial lockdowns seen in other parts of China.

But residents are largely complying with official directives -- issued via mass text messages or over blaring public loudspeakers -- to avoid going outside unless absolutely necessary.

When they do, pedestrians often move far to one side of the pavement to avoid other approaching residents.

Shangia's subway system has made masks mandatory, as has nearly every 
business that remains open (AFP Photo/NOEL CELIS)

The city's subway system, one of the world's longest, has made masks mandatory, as has nearly every business that remains open.

And few bat an eye any more at pausing for the ubiquitous temperature reading -- a plastic thermometer gun aimed unnervingly at the forehead -- when entering almost any public building.

For those stuck at home, the government has issued a steady stream of tips on things like home exercise or how to avoid being stressed by the prospect of a pneumonia-like death.

"Reduce your consumption of media reports that make people unhappy, thereby reducing your worries and troubles," one government circular said brightly.

Shanghai's residents are largely complying with official directives to avoid going 
outside unless absolutely necessary (AFP Photo/NOEL CELIS)

But sheer boredom weighs on many.

"All I can say is that I'm sick of staying home!" said one social media response to the government's stress-reduction post.

Clear weather that graced the city several days into the viral crisis briefly lured many stir-crazy citizens out for some sun.

But that prompted yet another government social media post.

"You cannot disinfect yourself by standing out in the sun," it said.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Some Saudis apprehensive over 'blistering' social change

Yahoo – AFP, Haitham El-Tabei, January 31, 2020

Saudi women have also been allowed to go to stadiums to watch sports (AFP
Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh (AFP) - Social changes sweeping Saudi Arabia have been embraced by many but Ibrahim, a middle-aged teacher, frowns as he rejects the "blistering and shocking" reforms that are breaking long-held taboos.

The kingdom's ambitious de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has introduced multiple economic and social innovations in a kingdom where public life was once severely curtailed by uncompromising religious police.

Under the reform drive, women are allowed to take the wheel of cars after a decades-old driving ban was scrapped, and permitted to go to stadiums to watch sports and concerts.

Cinemas were reopened after many years of closures, noisy parties are permitted, and authorities turn a blind eye as shops remain open during prayers times -- a grave offence in the past.

The metamorphosis has been widely welcomed in a country with a large youth population, and endorsed by clerics perceived to be pro-government.

But some conservative Saudis beg to differ, even if they do so quietly for fear of punishment.

"Loud musical parties, mixing of the sexes and easing restrictions on the female dress code -- these were all unthinkable just a few years ago and are not permissible in the home of the two holy mosques," said Ibrahim, a 55-year old Arabic teacher.

"Of course, there was hidden moral degeneration in the country like all other countries. Now it has become public," the bearded father of five told AFP, declining to use his full name due to the sensitivity of the issue.

He shook his head as two women walked past, their billowing traditional abaya cloaks worn unfastened and revealing skinny jeans underneath.

Along the boulevards of Riyadh and on restaurant terraces, men and women can now be seen socialising together, reflecting a quiet end to the ban on the mixing of the genders.

Foreign women are now, in theory, allowed to venture out without the black abaya and some pioneering Saudi women are daring to do the same.

"My problem is not with freedom. My problem is that it is freedom without restrictions and guidelines," Ibrahim said as he walked out of a mosque in central Riyadh.

"I asked religious scholars and they said we have to obey the Almighty, the Prophet and the rulers. Therefore I accept the reality as they -- the rulers -- are responsible for us," he said.

Saudi women have also been allowed to go to stadiums to watch sports (AFP 
Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

'Everything is possible'

Given the reluctance to speak out against the crown prince's vision for the country, which is aimed at bringing in investment and diversifying the oil-reliant economy, it is hard to know the extent of the pushback among ordinary people.

Even as the kingdom has forged ahead with the reforms, it has earned condemnation for a heavy-handed crackdown on dissidents including intellectuals, clerics and female activists.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to comment publicly, defended the reforms, saying they "are needed by the Saudis to feel they are leading a normal life."

At the end of last year, Riyadh hosted the three-day MDL Beast, billed as the biggest party ever hosted by the conservative kingdom where hardliners have long opposed music shows.

Touted by some as Saudi Arabia's Woodstock, international DJs blasted dance music as thousands partied in the open air for three days, including women -- many of them unveiled and sporting glittery face paint.

"I refuse to allow my children to go to such parties. They asked me and I refused," said one government employee, who declined to be named.

"I am not sure if they went without telling me. Everything has become possible these days," said the father of four, including two girls.

"The problem is not with the change. The problem is that it has not happened gradually. It has taken place so suddenly," said the 47-year old man as he drank coffee at a cafe outside Riyadh.

Two sides collide?

Even among some young women, the transformation has been head-spinning.

"The openness happened in an unpleasant and shocking way and without preparation," said Manar Sultan, a 21-year-old student dressed in the traditional abaya.

"We have moved from the extreme right to the extreme left in the blink of an eye," she said at an amusement park in Riyadh.

Local media have published reports in the past few months of cars owned by women being set ablaze in several Saudi cities -- some of the victims accused unidentified men of acting in protest over the lifting of the driving ban.

In a gesture appeared to be aimed at alleviating the fears of conservatives, Saudi authorities last month held 200 people, including dozens of women, and penalised them for wearing improper dress and other "moral" violations.

"There has been a giant change but things remains fragile and extremely delicate," said one diplomat who has lived in Riyadh for the past six years.

"Many people support it and many others oppose it. The problem is if the two sides collide."