South Asia
rohingya camp

Bangladesh rings Rohingya camps with barbed wire

Authorities in Bangladesh are surrounding the Rohingya refugee camps with barbed-wire fencing and watchtowers, turning them into what refugees and rights groups liken to a “prison.” Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights says construction on some 28 kilometers of fencing is nearly complete around¬†the camps, which are home to some 900,000 Rohingya pushed out of Burma. Humanitarian workers fear the fencing could hamper aid delivery and block access to medical clinics. Bangladeshi officials say the fencing is a response to growing concerns about crime and gang violence; humanitarian groups say any security measures must be proportionate. “The civilian and humanitarian character of the camps must be maintained,” the UN Refugee Agency¬†warned. (Photo: Dhaka Tribune)

Southeast Asia
indonesia strike

Mass strike against neolib reform rocks Indonesia

Riot police used tear-gas and water cannons in Indonesia’s capital to disperse large protests against a sweeping new law that rolls back protections for workers and the environment. Hundreds were arrested in Jakarta, and rallies took place in cities across the archipelago nation. The National Police have issued a notice to regional departments with directives on how to control the protests. The “Job Creation”¬†Omnibus Law was passed despite calls for a general strike by the trade unions. It revises more than 70 laws and regulations in an effort to cut “red tape” and improve the investment climate. Most controversially, it abolishes the national minimum wage, reduces severance pay, and relaxes the criteria for environmental impact statements on development projects. (Image: Global May Day)

Southeast Asia
Bangkok protest

Thailand authorities arrest pro-democracy activists

Thai authorities¬†arrested six activists involved in ths month’s pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok. Anti-government rallies by students have been occurring on a daily basis for over a month, demanding constitutional reform, curbing the power of the king, and an end to the intimidation of dissidents. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the protests have gone “too far”¬†and urged demonstrators “not to create chaos.” Speaking against the monarchy carries a 15-year prison term in Thailand. Demonstrators have been asserting that democracy is “impossible” without limiting the monarchy’s constitutional role. (Photo of student protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument¬†via Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
landgrab

Destruction of nature linked to new pandemics

Leaders from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined to issue a stark warning that pandemics such as COVID-19 are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by human activity. In an op-ed published by The Guardian, top figures from each organization state that the destruction of forests and other habitats, coupled with trafficking in wildlife, is causing a growing number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts. In a call to action ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, the three representatives cite prior examples of environmental destruction that triggered new virus outbreaks in humans. (Photo: Schadomski/DW, used with permission)

Southeast Asia
#JunkTerrorBilllNow

Philippines: protests against ‘anti-terror’ bill

Hundreds of protesters marched in Manila against “anti-terrorism” legislation that critics fear will give Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping powers to crush dissent. The bill, approved by Congress and expected to be signed by Duterte, would create a council of presidential appointees empowered to order warrantless arrests of those deemed to be “terrorists.” It also allows for weeks of detention without charge. The Philippine Department of Justice is to issue a formal review of the bill, and opponents are demanding that it recommend a veto. In a letter addressed to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, human rights group Karapatan said the Anti-Terrorism Bill “will inevitably and ultimately infringe on the people’s exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.” (Photo:¬†Bulatlat)

Southeast Asia
Java repression

Land conflicts escalate in Indonesia

Agribusiness and resource companies embroiled in land disputes with rural communities in Indonesia appear to be using the lull in oversight during the COVID-19 outbreak to strengthen their claims to contested areas. Since the first confirmed cases of the disease were reported in the country last month, two local land defenders have been killed and four arrested in connection with disputes in Sumatra, Java and Borneo. (Photo: Mongabay)

Southeast Asia
Indonesia anarchists

Police raid Java ‘anarcho-syndicalists’

Police in Jakarta arrested five suspected members of an “anarcho-syndicalist” group they claim was hoping to trigger unrest across the island of Java amid public anxiety over the COVID-19 pandemic. The group allegedly painted graffiti inciting people to riot with messages such as “time to burn,” “kill the rich,” and “die ridiculously or fight” on the walls of a shopping complex in Tangerang, an outlying city of the Greater Jakarta metropolitan area. Their plan¬†to spark mass looting was announced on social media, police said. The five have been charged with “misinformation” and “public provocation,” and face up to 10 years¬†imprisonment. (Photo: Anarchist Communist Group)

Southeast Asia
Sulawesi atrocities

Netherlands to pay over Indonesia atrocities

The Hague District Court¬†ordered the Netherlands to pay compensation to the relatives of 11 men executed by Dutch soldiers in South Sulawesi in 1946 and 1947, during the 1945-49 Indonesian War of Independence. Ten of the cases under consideration were found to be summary executions;¬†there was one case in which a man was randomly shot. The largest compensation, in the form of intangible damages of ‚ā¨10,000, was awarded to a man who witnessed his father’s summary execution when he was a child. The relatives of other men were awarded material compensation for lost livelihood, varying from ‚ā¨123.48 to ‚ā¨3,634. The court explained that the amounts are low because many of the executed men were farmers who only earned about ‚ā¨100 a year. This judgment follows a series of ‚ÄúIndonesia cases,‚ÄĚ which the Dutch courts have been hearing since 2011. (Photo: KITLV)

Southeast Asia
Rohingya refugees

ICJ: Burma must prevent Rohingya genocide

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled unanimously that Myanmar (Burma) must take “provisional measures” to address the “ongoing risk of genocide” faced by the remaining Rohingya people within the country’s borders. The Gambia brought the¬†complaint before the ICJ, and the trial commenced in December. The Gambia requested that the ICJ institute “provisional measures” against Myanmar to ensure the protection of the Rohingya people during the trial and to preserve evidence. The court found that given the inherent gravity of genocide allegations and the prima facie evidence already presented, provisional measures were necessary to preserve the rights of the Rohingya currently remaining in Myanmar. (Photo: VOA via¬†Jurist)

Southeast Asia
Indonesia

China-Indonesia maritime stand-off

Dozens of Chinese vessels that were fishing in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone¬†off the disputed island of Natuna began leaving the area after days of stand-off. Indonesia deployed eight warships and four fighter jets to the area, and summoned Beijing’s ambassador to complain. China reportedly sent three coast guard cutters into the area during the stand-off. The Natuna archipelago, off the northwest coast of Borneo, occupies a strategic spot in the South China Sea. Its waters contain significant oil and gas reserves, and it guards the eastern opening of the narrow Malacca Strait, a critical chokepoint for shipping lanes. The archipelago falls within China’s “nine-dash line,” covering nearly the entirety of the South China Sea. (Map: Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

Southeast Asia

Killings of ecological defenders rise in Philippines

Named the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders, the Philippines has become an even deadlier place for activists in 2019, with 46 recorded deaths so far this year, according to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. The same organization recorded 28 killings of land and environmental defenders in 2018. Global Witness, an environmental watchdog, tallied 30 such killings in the Philippines that year and designated the country the most dangerous in the world for defenders based on sheer number of deaths. Small farmers and agricultural workers accounted for the majority of the deaths recorded by Kalikasan PNE this year with 29, or 63%. This was followed by forest rangers or government officials involved in environmental oversight, at 35%. Next were members of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples at 20%, and finally lawyers and church workers at four percent. (Image of man from the Manobo tribe of Mindanao via Mongabay)

Southeast Asia

Philippines: convictions in Maguindanao massacre

More than a decade after 58 people were killed in the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history, a court in Quezon City found Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan guilty of overseeing the November 2009 massacre at Maguindanao. They were sentenced to 40 years without parole. The pair were convicted on 57 counts of murder in the attack on a convoy that included journalists covering an opposition candidate for the governorship of Maguindanao province. Police said 58 were killed in the massacre, but the body of one victim was never found. Their father, then-incumbent governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., was arrested in connection with the case and died in prison while awaiting trial in 2015. The court sentenced a further 15, including more Ampatuan family members and police officials, to between six and 10 years as accessories to the crime. (Photo: Relatives of victims burn portraits of Ampatuan clan members during visit to massacre site. Credit: MindaNews)