Southeast Asia Theater

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)

More terror in Mindanao

A home-made bomb ripped through a bus terminal in Mindanao's Cotabato City May 18, killing three and injuring 15 others. About half of the casualties were children. Authorities said the motive was probably extortion, as the bus company had been receiving letters from armed groups demanding money. But Mindanao has been hit by seven bombings this year, many of them blamed on Muslim extremists linked to the Jemaah Islamiah or al-Qaeda terror networks. The bombing came barely a week after Australia and the United States warned their citizens of possible terror attacks in Central Mindanao. On May 8, a device went off in a crowded market in Tacurong, killing eight. (Manila Times, May 19; GMA, May 18)

Thailand: Muslim separatists attack security forces

A roadside bomb has killed seven Special Forces soldiers in an ambush in Narathiwat's Rangae district, in southern Thailand [May 10]. [The Nation, Thailand, May 10] Two policemen have also been killed in a raid on a security checkpoint in the Narathiwat province, while a local government official has been gunned down. [AFP, May 11] The separatists are purported to be changing their tactics, increasingly concentrating attacks on security forces rather than on civilians. [Reuters, May 11]

Bomb hits Thai night market

Twenty people have been injured after a bomb exploded in a busy night market in the southern Thai province of Pattani on [May 1]. Officials believe that Muslim fighters carried out the attack as a means of stirring up communal tensions and in revenge for a mosque bombing on [April 29]. [AlJazeera, May 1]

Indonesia: Newmont Mining cleared in pollution trial

The following account makes it sound like the the litigants were whining and frivolous, just looking for a cynical buck. But a photo caption accompanying the story in the Denver Post read: "Protesters display a photo of a sick child whose disease believed to have been caused by pollution from the Newmont mining during a demonstration against the mining company outside a court in Manado, 24 April 2007." From the AP, April 24:

Thailand: Buddhist monks rally for state religion

Hundreds of Buddhist monks rallied outside the parliament building in Bangkok April 17 calling for Buddhism to be enshrined in the constitution as Thailand's national religion. The country's military-appointed government plans to unveil a new national constitution this month. In 1997, a campaign to make Buddhism the national religion was dropped amid concerns that it would divide the country. Since then, an Islamist insurgency has flared in Thailand's south, leaving more than 2,000 dead in the last three years. Previous Thai constitutions have never declared a state religion, although the current constitution states that the king must be a Buddhist and upholder of all religions. (MWC News, April 18)

Muslim nations call for halt in Philippine fighting

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), called on the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Manila to abide by a 1996 agreement that was meant to end conflict in the southern Philippines. An ongoing battle over the past three days has killed 18 people, including a child, and displaced thousands. Government forces dropped 250-pound bombs and fired rockets into the base of MNLF commander Habier Malik near Panamao town on the southern island of Jolo over the weekend after he fired mortars on their headquarters on April 13, killing a child that lived nearby. (Reuters, April 16)

Thailand: bomb blast in Yala market

A bomb blast tore through a busy market in the town of Yala in southern Thailand April 12, injuring 11 people. The attack happened amid a protest held by mourners after the funeral of Buddhist woman, Patcharapom Busamad, who was shot dead and then set on fire April 11. Police say Islamist insurgents, who have been blamed for over 2,000 deaths in the last three years, were behind this attack as well as the April 11 shooting. A second bomb near the scene was safely defused. Some 200 residents paraded the charred remains of Patcharapom Busamad through the streets of Yala to protest the escalating violence. The villagers wrapped her body in white cloth and placed it outside a government building where Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, head of the Thai junta, was meeting with local leaders.

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