Category: Asia: South-East

South-East Asia

Thousands displaced, women raped in military offensive in Myanmar – rights groups

Thomson Reuters Foundation, By Alisa Tang, November 27

Bangkok – A Myanmar military offensive against ethnic rebels in the country’s east has uprooted more than 10,000 people, rights groups said, accusing the army of bombing schools and Buddhist temples, firing on civilians and raping women.

Since Oct. 6, the army has shelled six villages, shot and injured three people, and fired on 17 villagers who are now missing, according to activists in Shan state.

The Shan Human Rights Foundation has documented eight cases of sexual violence since April 2015, including a 32-year-old woman gang-raped by 10 soldiers on Nov. 5 while her husband was tied up under their farm hut in Ke See township.

“We are very concerned that there has been no public condemnation by the international community about these war crimes and these attacks on civilians,” rights activist Charm Tong told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Exclusive: ‘Strong evidence’ of genocide in Myanmar

Al Jazeera investigation reveals government triggered deadly communal violence for political gain.

Al Jazeera Investigative Unit, October 27

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has uncovered what amounts to “strong evidence” of a genocide coordinated by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya people, according to an assessment by Yale University Law School.

The Lowenstein Clinic spent eight months assessing evidence from Myanmar, including documents and testimony provided by Al Jazeera and the advocacy group Fortify Rights.
“Given the scale of the atrocities and the way that politicians talk about the Rohingya, we think it’s hard to avoid a conclusion that intent [to commit genocide] is present,” concluded the clinic.

Exclusive evidence obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and Fortify Rights reveals the government has been triggering communal violence for political gain by inciting anti-Muslim riots, using hate speech to stoke fear among the Myanmarese about Muslims, and offering money to hardline Buddhist groups who threw their support behind the leadership.

Military-backed Thai council rejects new constitution

Rejection of draft sets back plans for Thailand’s return to democracy, with the military retaining substantial powers.

Al Jazeera, September 6

Thailand’s military-appointed National Reform Council has rejected a new draft constitution, delaying a return to democracy following last year’s coup.

The authors of the draft in the National Reform Council had hoped the charter would move the country past almost a decade of political conflicts, but it met strong opposition from almost all sides of the country’s political divide.

One of the most contentious provisions included a 23-member panel, with military members, that would be empowered to take over from the parliament and prime minister in times of “national crisis”.

Almost all parties criticised the draft, and it risked being voted down in a referendum, further complicating a transition to electoral democracy.

Huge Anti-Government Protests in Malaysia Continue For a Second Day

The demonstration is the largest popular vote of no confidence to date against beleaguered Prime Minister Najib Razak.

TIME, By Nash Jenkins, August 30

Kuala Lumpur – Saturday’s massive but harmonious anti-government demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur continued overnight and into Sunday morning as historical numbers of Malaysians gathered in the streets of the capital to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“It’s what we need to do for the prime minister to hear our voices and realize we don’t need him anymore,” Abdul Muiz, a 26-year-old businessman in a plastic Guy Fawkes mask, told TIME early Sunday. “I think it’ll stay peaceful — the object is peaceful revolt, since we’re a peaceful nation.”

The marathon rally is expected to last until midnight on Sunday, which will mark the beginning of Merdeka Day, the anniversary of Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

By noon on Sunday, the crowd had swelled to rival Saturday’s, which drew 200,000 by organizer’s estimates and 20,000 by police’s. A number of protesters stayed in the streets near Merdeka Square overnight, sleeping on the pavement when tired.

Second Bomb Found After Explosion Kills 12 at Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine

Khaosod English, August 17

Bangkok — Explosives experts reportedly have located a second bomb set in the Thai capital’s commercial heart after a large explosion killed at least 12 people and injured others around 7pm tonight.

National police spokesman Prawuth Thawornsiri said the explosion was caused by a bomb and killed 12 people.

Photos from the scene show blood and bodies on the ground as rescue workers rush to provide aid near the local landmark, which is heavily frequented by Thais and tourists alike and is especially busy during rush hour.

In images tweeted by JS 100 radio just after the blast, fires were burning in Sukhumvit Road. A explosives unit has been dispatched to the site of a deadly bombing in Bangkok this evening to look for another possible bomb, according to a JS100 account.

India, Bangladesh swap border enclaves, settle old dispute

AP, July 31

New Delhi – At the stroke of midnight Friday, tens of thousands of stateless people who were stranded for decades along the poorly defined border between India and Bangladesh will finally get to choose their citizenship, as the two countries swapped more than 150 pockets of land to settle the demarcation line dividing them.

Television images showed people bursting firecrackers and raising an Indian flag in the Masaldanga enclave, which became part of India.

India’s External Affairs Ministry in a statement described July 31 as a historic day for both India and Bangladesh as “it marks the resolution of a complex issue that has lingered since independence” from British colonialists in 1947.

Nearly 37,000 people lived in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh, while 14,000 lived in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. These people are getting citizenship of their choice.

Why Is The U.S. Desperate To OK Slavery In Malaysia?

Huffington Post, By Akbar Shahid Ahmed, Ryan Grim & Laura Barron-Lopez, May 26

Washington – On Friday night, in an impressive display of dysfunction, the U.S. Senate approved a controversial trade bill with a provision that the White House, Senate leadership and the author of the language himself wanted taken out.

The provision, which bars countries that engage in slavery from being part of major trade deals with the U.S., was written by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). At the insistence of the White House, Menendez agreed to modify his language to say that as long as a country is taking “concrete” steps toward reducing human trafficking and forced labor, it can be part of a trade deal. Under the original language, the country that would be excluded from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership pact is Malaysia.

But because the Senate is the Senate, it was unable to swap out the original language for the modification. (The chamber needed unanimous consent to make the legislative move, and an unknown senator or senators objected.) So the trade promotion authority bill that passed Friday includes the strong anti-slavery language, which the House will now work to take out to ensure that Malaysia (and, potentially, other countries in the future) can be part of the deal.

Observers are left with a deeper question: Why, in the year 2015, is the White House teaming up with Republican leaders essentially to defend the practice of slavery?

[…]

But Malaysia also borders what is effectively China’s jugular vein: the Strait of Malacca.

Via Naked Capitalism: America’s First Black President Throwing Slaves Under the Bus on TPP

Super Typhoon Noul makes landfall in northeastern Philippines

CNN, By Jethro Mullen, May 10

Super Typhoon Noul roared over the northeastern Philippines on Sunday, prompting evacuations and warnings of flooding and landslides in the mountainous region.

The storm, referred to as Dodong in the Philippines, hit land Sunday afternoon at the northeastern tip of the island of Luzon, near the small town of Santa Ana, according to PAGASA, the Philippine government agency that monitors the weather.

Noul’s outer bands had lashed Luzon’s eastern coast through the afternoon as it drew nearer, packing maximum sustained winds of about 260 kph (160 mph) and gusts as strong as 315 kph (195 mph).

“The wind and the rain are just steadily building up and they have been for the last couple of hours,” said storm chaser James Reynolds from Santa Ana as the storm approached.

Authorities said they relocated more than 1,200 residents of vulnerable areas to evacuation centers ahead of the typhoon’s arrival.

Thailand junta replaces martial law with absolute power

The big topic of conversation in Thailand is martial law. Technically it’s gone, but in reality it’s still there.

AP, April 1

On Wednesday, Thailand’s junta lifted martial law, which was imposed in the run-up to their May 22, 2014, coup – but then quickly replaced it with another set of draconian laws innocuously called “Article 44.” But make no mistake – 10 months after staging the coup, a military junta is still ruling Thailand, essentially with absolute power.

The move is the junta’s latest cosmetic change aimed at putting a softer face on a military ruled country, according to scholars, jurists and rights groups who called the development a PR stunt and a sleight of hand aimed at helping restore Thailand’s image abroad while keeping the junta firmly in control at home. Others wondered half-jokingly if the government of former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha pranked the country with an April Fool’s joke.

“Martial law may be lifted, but Thailand remains deeply sunk in unchecked military rule,” Verapat Pariyawong, an independent political analyst and Harvard-educated lawyer said in a statement, noting that the announcement came Wednesday in “ironic fashion on April Fool’s Day.”
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Myanmar declares martial law in troubled Kokang region

Reuters, By Soe Zeya Tun, February 17

Kunlong, Myanmar – Myanmar President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the Kokang region in the east and imposed a three-month period of martial law there in an announcement on state television on Tuesday night.

Fighting broke out on Feb. 9 between the Myanmar army and an ethnic Kokang force called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

At least 47 Myanmar soldiers and 26 MNDAA fighters have been killed since then, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported, and thousands of civilians have fled, either to other areas in Myanmar or over the border into China.

Hong Kong protesters take to streets again, marching for democracy

Los Angeles Times, By Violet Law, February 1

More than 10,000 people marched in Hong Kong on Sunday to press for open elections in 2017, staging the first mass rally since police cleared pro-democracy demonstrators from the streets in December.

Protesters rallied in the financial district known as Central, and the prop that came to define the fall 2014 protests — the canary yellow umbrella — was ubiquitous, despite there being nary a threat of rain. But Sunday’s mood was perceptibly muted.

Whereas large throngs of university and high school students energized the autumn protests, the latest demonstration attracted a noticeably older crowd. Among the marchers were new coalitions, such as the Progressive Lawyers Group and Umbrella Parents, whose members said they believed it was time to take a proactive role in what so far has been a predominantly student-led movement.

The event felt less like a pep rally and more like a strategy session for those most determined to carry on their fight.

“The most important mission upon us right now is: How can we win over the other half of Hong Kong?” said Alan Leong, a legislator in the so-called pan-democratic camp of the territory’s Legislative Council.

Thailand junta squelches forum on media censorship

Bangkok press freedom event canceled, raising fears about future of free expression in Thailand.

Al Jazeera, January 29

Thailand’s junta has effectively forced a German foundation to cancel a forum discussing new restrictions on the media, scheduled to be held Friday in Bangkok, raising concerns among journalists and right advocates about the junta’s efforts to curtail press freedom and political dissent in what has long been a relatively open society in the region.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a foundation that has headquarters in headquartered in Bonn and Berlin, Germany, that promotes social democracy worldwide, said it would comply with a request from the junta — also known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) — to cancel the forum, which was to feature a panel discussion and a presentation about a study on media freedom in Thailand.

“We received a call from the government asking us to postpone the event indefinitely because of the sensitive nature of the topic and the political climate within the country,” Thatsanavanh Banchong, the foundation’s media and civic education officer, told the Bangkok Post.

Malaysia flooding: PM Najib Razak to tour inundated areas

Malaysia is battling some of the worst floods in decades along its east coast, which have killed at least five people.

BBC, December 27

More than 100,000 people have been forced from their homes, and Prime Minister Najib Razak has returned early from holiday in the US.

He was criticised for playing golf with President Barack Obama, but defended his trip in remarks on Saturday.

Eastern states are often flooded during the monsoon season but heavy rain and winds have worsened the situation.

In some areas, entire towns have been submerged.

Backlash after Hong Kong police release video of Occupy protesters’ ‘violent behaviour’

Backlash over video said to show the ‘hate and violence’ of Occupy protesters as lawmakers accuse security chief of ‘political propaganda’

South China Morning Post, By Tony Cheung , Shirley Zhao and Clifford Lo, October 28

Security chief Lai Tung-kwok yesterday attempted to lift the lid on “hate and violence” by Occupy protesters with a video of clashes with police – but found himself on the receiving end of a backlash amid accusations that he left out inconvenient events.

Lai premiered the video – said to have been gleaned from clips found on the internet – to members of the Legislative Council’s security panel. But panel members criticised him for using the meeting as a “tool of political propaganda”.

The minister insisted the video was meant only to show lawmakers what had happened.

Before showing the film, Lai spent seven minutes telling lawmakers how “Occupy Central … deviated from its nature of civil disobedience” and failed to live up to its promise to act “with love and peace”.

[…]

In the clips, protesters are seen apparently trying to seize barricades on September 28, while a man in the background shouts instructions such as “Charge! Put on goggles! The back row, proceed!” In other clips, officers are seen grabbing protesters’ umbrellas and using pepper spray and batons. In one clip, protesters are heard using foul language and shouting abuse at police in Mong Kok.

Joko Widodo sworn in as Indonesian president

BBC, October 20

Joko Widodo, the charismatic outsider who won Indonesia’s presidency, made a call for national reconciliation and unity as he was sworn in.

Popularly known as Jokowi, the 53-year-old took the oath of office at a ceremony held at parliament in Jakarta.

He was then cheered through the streets as he made his way on a horse-drawn carriage to the state palace.

The former Jakarta governor is the first president not to have come from the military or political elite.