Southeast Asia Theater
From East Timor & Indonesia Action Network, June 28:
The presence in Papua of a senior Indonesian army officer indicted on crimes against humanity charges in East Timor (now Timor-Leste) endangers human rights defenders and political activists and is a sign of the Indonesian government’s lack of commitment to justice and accountability a coalition of Indonesian and international human rights organisations said today.
The Philippine military is waging a "dirty war" against leftist activists and journalists, Human Rights Watch charged in a June 28 report, "Scared Silent: Impunity for Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines." Based on more than 100 interviews, the report details the involvement of security forces in the murder or "disappearance" of members of opposition parties and NGOs, journalists, outspoken clergy and anti-mining and agrarian reform advocates. "To date there have been no successful prosecutions of any member of the armed forces implicated in recent extrajudicial killings," the report states.
Supposed Jemaah Islamiyah leader Abu Dujana was arrested June 9 by Indonesia's elite anti-terrorist Detachment 88 in a raid in the southern Java town of Yogyakarta, authorities say. The reportedly Afghan-trained Dujana is accused of assisting and harboring Jemaah Islamiyah militants Ali Ghufron, now on death row for leading the October 2002 Bali bombings; Azahari Husin, who was killed in a police raid in 2005; and the fugitive Noordin Moh Top. He is also accused of moving arms and supporting militants in conflicted Sulawesi. Additionally, authorities also they have uncovered evidence that Dujana repeatedly wired money to the Philippines, and assert a link to Islamist insurgents on Mindanao. (Balita News, June 15)
Buddhist monks and other Thais rallied over the weekend to have Buddhism enshrined in the constitution as the national religion of Thailand. [Some 5,000 blocked traffic outside the parliament building in Bangkok.] With ongoing violence in Thailand's predominantly Muslim south, such a move is only likely to alienate the country's religious minorities further. [Reuters, June 10] Three school teachers, all Buddhist, were killed by gunmen in the south [Srisakorn and Rangae districts, Narathiwat province]. Teachers are becoming an increasingly common target in the region. [The Nation, Thailand, June 11]
The Philippine military has deployed helicopters and spy drones with the help of US intelligence to search for Muslim rebels who kidnapped Italian Catholic priest Carlo Bossi of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in the Zamboanga peninsula. Bossi was taken at gunpoint after saying Sunday mass in Payao town June 10. Bossi, 57, is the third Italian priest to be kidnapped in the area since 1998. The other two were released after some months and it was not clear if a ransom was paid. Philippine security forces said the kidnappers, led by a certain Commander Kiddie, were linked to either the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or Abu Sayyaf. A MILF spokesperson said Khidi's real name is Abdusalam Akiddin and he is a loyal commander of imprisoned MNLF leader Nur Misuari. "He was once an MNLF member, but when the organization had a peace agreement with the government, this Akiddin formed his own group," said MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu. (Asian Journal, June 10; Reuters, June 11; Sun Star Network, June 12)
Vang Pao, a revered leader of the Hmong-American community and a former general in the Royal Army of Laos, is among 10 men charged with plotting to overthrow the Laotian regime. An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives secretly recorded a Feb. 7 luncheon meeting with Vang Pao, former California National Guard Lt. Col. Harrison Ulrich Jack and others at a Thai restaurant near the state Capitol in Sacramento. They then walked to a recreational vehicle parked nearby to examine machine guns, grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets, anti-personnel mines and other weapons, according to the agent's affidavit.
Thousands of protesters at a mosque in Pattani, Thailand, agreed to stand down June 4 after Fourth Army Region Lt. Gen. Wirote Buajaroon signed an order to establish an independent panel to investigate widespread reports of assaults and harassment of Muslims by the Thai military. Local Muslims businesses had shut down in support of the protest, led by students from Ramkamhaeng university. The protest was launched June 1. Protest leader Tuvaedaniya Tuvaemaengae defended the students who hid their faces with scarves, saying that they were concerned about their safety. (The Nation, Thailand, June 4)
A roadside bomb killed 10 government-hired paramilitary troops in southern Thailand's Bannang Sata district, Yala province, as they returned from negotiations with Muslim protesters May 31. Almost immediately after the bombing, gunmen opened fire on a group of Muslim villagers leaving a mosque after evening prayers in nearby Sabayoi district of Songkhla province, killing seven. (Xinhua, AP, June 1)