Southeast Asia Theater

Real estate vultures exploit tsunami

In Nam Khem, a poor coastal village in Thailand, when displaced survivors returned to the ruins to search for the remains of their loved ones and rebuild their homes, they found the area had been sealed off my armed men. The thugs told them the land now belonged to the "Big Boss," a nameless real estate speculator who had been battling for control of the land in the courts for years, hoping to cash in on the local boom in tourist resorts.

US protests Indonesian sentence in Bali bombing

An Indonesian court March 3 sentenced militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to 30 months in prison for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings, but cleared him of more serious terror charges. The sentence was criticized as too light by the US and Australia, who regard the aging preacher as a key regional terror leader. Judges also cleared Bashir of charges that as head of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group he planned the 2003 suicide bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta which killed 12 people, and that he incited his followers to launch terrorist attacks. (AP, March 4)

Terror in Thailand

Six are dead and over 40 injured following a car bomb attack in the southern Thai city of Sungai Kolok. The bomb went off in a hotel parking lot hours after newly-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had completed a visit to the restive Muslim-majority region. The government blamed relatives of wanted insurgent leaders for the blast.

Indonesian justice: firing squad for pot possession

More ironic timing for Washington's push to restore military ties with Indonesia. With Condi Rice on the stump claiming Jakarta is cleaning up its nasty human rights situation, the DC-based Marijuana Policy Project sends us the following chilling story:

In Indonesia, a 27-year-old Australian woman is facing death by firing squad for allegedly bringing marijuana into the country.

US to resume Indonesia military ties

What an irony: Just after the tsunami's horrific toll has (briefly) focused world attention on Indonesia's grisly counter-insurgency war in Aceh, the US State Department is moving to approve restoration of official Pentagon ties to Indonesia's military. Indonesia's participation in the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training (IMET) program was suspended following atrocities in East Timor in 1999. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is now advocating restoring it, telling key members of Congress "IMET for Indonesia is in the US interest."

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