Southeast Asia Theater

Environment, free trade, terror top South Asia summit agenda

Leaders of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations, meeting in New Delhi, pledged to make "tangible progress" in the next six months on issues of water, energy, food and environment. Two agreements were signed — on setting up a South Asian University in India and forming a regional food bank. Leaders also pledged to work towards full implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement in "letter and spirit." The summit's closing statement stressed "the need for ensuring market access through smooth implementation of [the] trade liberalisation programme..." The leaders also called for the "urgent conclusion" of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

Thailand: more mosques attacked

Thailand's daily The Nation reports that "suspected militants" fired grenades into two mosques in Yala's Yaha district April 4, wounding 15 Muslim worshippers. In the first attack, assailants fired M-79 grenades into the Hassaladawa Yaha mosque during morning prayers. The assailants then got back into their pick-up truck and drove to another mosque about one kilometer away, firing another grenade into it. The explosion damaged the building but claimed no casualties. (The Nation, April 5)

Indonesia: DNA surveillance of "terrorists"

Indonesia has collected DNA samples from relatives of major terrorism suspects, police officials said March 26 at the opening of a new DNA laboratory developed jointly with the Australian Federal Police. Indonesian national police chief General Sutanto told reporters that Jakarta had asked for samples of DNA from the families of "Malaysian terrorists." Police spokesman Sisno Adiwinoto told reporters those included Noordin Top, a Malaysian national considered a mastermind of Islamic militant bombing attacks in Indonesia. Top was once considered a leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), blamed for the 2002 Bali blasts that killed 200 people, as well as other attacks including one aimed at Australia's embassy in Jakarta. Authorities say JI has now fractured into splinter factions. (Reuters, March 26)

Police kill jihadist in Indonesia

Indonesian police shot dead a suspected Islamist militant believed to be linked to Abu Dujana, the purported current leader of the Jemaah Islamiah network, blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people. One militant was also injured after the suspects opened fire during the night raid near the city of Yogyakarta. (Reuters, March 21)

Buddhist women killed in new Thailand attack

Suspected Islamist separatists shot and killed three Buddhist women involved with a project for victims of Thailand's insurgency March 19. The victims were headed to work at a farm project funded by Thailand's Queen Sirikit in the Nong Chik district of Pattani province, one of several in the area set up to help distressed women, including some widowed by the political violence. The project teaches the women to grow vegetables, fruit and other basic necessities. Assailants on a motorcycle drove up next to the truck the women were riding in and fired randomly. Thirteen other women escaped unharmed.

Thailand: who is behind school-house attack?

More than 500 Muslim villagers gathered at southern Thailand's Sabaiyoi town March 18 to demand justice after a midnight attack on an Islamic school left two young students dead and eight wounded. Students were asleep at the boarding school when assailants threw grenades and strafed the building with automatic rifle fire. Unidentified assailants also threw a grenade into a local mosque, injuring 11, on March 15, the same day suspected Islamist militants killed eight Buddhist civilians in an attack on a van. Local authorities blamed the schoool-house attack on Islamist militants, but this is disputed by local residents.

Ghosananda, "Gandhi of Cambodia," dies in Massachusetts

From AP, March 16:

NORTHAMPTON - Maha Ghosananda, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated monk who rebuilt Buddhism in Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, has died.

Narco-guerillas in the Philippines?

Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft of the US Joint Inter-Agency Task Force-West claimed evidence that secret laboratories for producing methamphetamine are operating in areas of the Phiilippines where Maoist and Islamic rebels have a strong presence, and that the guerillas are being funded by the trade. "That's one of our biggest concerns," Zukunft told Reuters during a break in meetings with Filipino counterparts at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). "It's much easier to stop them at the source than waiting for them to go into global distribution," said Zukunft, based at US Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii.

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