Southeast Asia Theater

Jemaah Islamiyah funds Mindanao insurgents?

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)

Thailand: clash of chauvinisms?

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]

Mindanao: drones scan jungle for kidnapped priest

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)

Hmong leader Vang Pao charged in Laotian plot

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.

Protest and rail sabotage in southern Thailand

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)

Thailand: paramilitary troops, mosque attacked

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)

Philippines: peace deal with Moro rebels?

The Philippine government and the country's largest Islamic rebel group are moving closer to a deal on defining Muslim ancestral, leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have announced. "It's almost in the bag," said Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman. "The two sides are prepared to resume negotiations right after the dust of the elections settles. We're close to an agreement on the territory issue." The nearly 40-year-old conflict has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 2 million in the southern island of Mindanao.

East Timor: violence at presidential transition

Renewed violence in Dili left one dead as Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta was sworn in May 20 as East Timor's president. UN police to fire teargas and warning shots, and arrested 42. Following the first election since independence in 2002, Ramos-Horta was sworn in to replace the former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao on the same day that East Timor marked five years since independence. Gusmao, a close Ramos-Horta ally, did not contest the election for the largely ceremonial job of president, but will run for the more powerful post of prime minister in next month's parliamentary polls. Ramos-Horta was sworn in by the man he trounced in the May 9 election, parliament speaker Francisco Guterres from the ruling Fretilin party. The street violence was apparently between Ramos-Horta supporters and Fretilin youth. (AFP, May 21)

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