Southeast Asia
Rohingya refugees

Aung San Suu Kyi to face genocide charges

Human rights groups, together with the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, filed a criminal lawsuit in Argentina, alleging that the government and military of Burma, including State Counsellor (and de facto leader) Aung San Suu Kyi, have committed crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya minority. The complaint includes numerous accounts of mass killings, rapes and torture committed by government forces. The suit was filed with the Argentine federal courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that any country can prosecute for certain grave crimes regardless of whether the crimes were committed within that country’s territory. (Photo: VOA via Jurist)

Southeast Asia
Indonesia anarchists

Indonesia: inauguration amid revolt, repression

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term amid an official ban on protests, and Jakarta’s streets flooded with military troops. The inauguration was preceded by a wave of mass protests, led by students but joined by labor unions and radicalized anarchist youth. The demonstrations were sparked by a new law that weakens Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency, and another instating such moralistic measures as a ban on extramarital sex. But anger was also directed at plans for a tough new criminal code, at troops mobilized to put down unrest in Papua region, and failure to stem forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo now causing toxic haze across Southeast Asia. (Photo: Anarchist Communist Group)

South Asia
Rohingya

Bangladesh: ‘climate of fear’ in Rohingya camps

Rights groups say there’s a “climate of intense fear” in the Bangladesh refugee camps for Rohingya who have fled Burma, following the killings of six refugees by police officers. Police officials say the men were involved in the murder of a local Bangladeshi man and killed in “crossfires”; critics say such language is often used to cover up extrajudicial killings. Tensions in southern Bangladesh have risen over the last two years as the refugee emergency evolves into a long-term crisis. (Photo: UNHCR)

Southeast Asia

Duterte defiant in ‘crimes against humanity’

Both UN human rights experts and Amnesty International are accusing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of “crimes against humanity” in his drug war. Calls for an international investigation were endorsed by a vote of the UN Human Rights Council. But Duterte remains intransigent and refuses to recognize the International Criminal Court. Amid growing international scruitny, his police killed a three-year-old girl in a drug raid. Duterte’s former police chief, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, now a political ally in the Senate, dismissed the incident with the comment “Shit happens,” fueling further outrage. (Photo via Rappler)

Southeast Asia

Vietnam: ‘free trade’ advances; free speech retreats

The European Council announced that it has approved the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), hailed as the most ambitious trade pact between the EU and a developing country. Under EVFTA, upwards of 99% of tariffs on goods from both sides will be lifted. The deal was approved two weeks after a Vietnamese environmental activist was sentenced to six years in prison for “anti-state” Facebook posts. Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a shrimp farming engineer, is accused of writing posts that urged people to take part in peaceful protests over corporate pollution. The posts especially noted the Formosa Plastics disaster in 2016, in which a Taiwanese-owned steel plant dumped toxic waste into the ocean off the coast of central Vietnam, killing millions of fish. (Photo of Nguyen Ngoc Anh via Human Rights Watch. Sign reads: “Fish Need Clean Water, People Need Transparency.”)

Southeast Asia

Amnesty: war crimes continue in Burma’s Rakhine

Amnesty International released a report asserting that Burma’s military is continuing to commit war crimes and rights violations in the context of its campaign against the rebel Arakan Army in Rakhine state. The campaign began after rebels launched coordinated attacks on police posts in Rakhine in January. The report finds that the military has fired indiscriminately in civilian areas, and at times obstructed access to medical treatment for civilians, including children, injured by such attacks. Despite international outrage over the Burmese military’s attacks on the Rohingya people in Rakhine, it now appears to be using the same methods against the Arakan people. (Photo via Amnesty International)

Southeast Asia

Burma: soldiers freed in Rohingya massacre

Seven soldiers imprisoned in Burma for killing 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys have received an early release—serving less time than the reporters who uncovered the massacre they were convicted of. The soldiers were sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for the killings at the village of Inn Din, but they “are no longer detained,” prison officials told Reuters. The news agency said the men were freed in November. This means they served less than one year of their 10-year terms. They are the only people to have been convicted for atrocities committed during the 2017 military campaign against the Rohingya in the western Rakhine state, in which more than 700,000 were displaced. Meanwhile, the two Reuters reporters who were imprisoned on charges of revealing “state secrets” for reporting the massacre were also just released—after serving 16 months. (Photo via Reuters)

Southeast Asia

Burma sentences Arakan leader to 20 years

A Burmese court sentenced prominent Rakhine ethnic leader Aye Maung to 20 years in prison for treason and defamation stemming from a January 2018 speech made one day before deadly riots broke out in Mrauk-U township. Maung, a member of parliament and former chairman of the Arakan National Party, was arrested along with writer Wai Hin Aung days after giving "inflammatory" speeches. Maung is said to have accused the ethnic Bamar-dominated ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government of treating the ethnic Rakhine people (also known as the Arakan) like "slaves." Seven people were killed the evening after the speeches, when Rakhine protestors seized a government building and police opened fire. Maung’s lawyers are unsure if he will appeal at this time, as a new trial in the case could result in a death sentence. (Photo via Myanmar Times)

Southeast Asia

Autonomy vote at issue in Sulu cathedral bombing?

Twin explosions left at least 20 dead and some 80 wounded at the cathedral in Jolo, capital of Sulu province in the restive southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The first blast went off inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as Sunday mass was about to start. This was followed seconds later by another blast in the cathedral's parking area. The attack came just days after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was approved by voters in the region, creating a new Muslim-led autonomous government. The new Bangsamoro autonomous region replaces the weaker Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Of the five provinces in the autonomous region, the only one to reject the BOL was Sulu. (Photo via PhilStar)

Southeast Asia

Arakan Army escalates insurgency in Rakhine state

Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have been driven from Burma's northern Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh by the Burmese army's brutal "clearance operations," ostensibly launched in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in August 2017. But over the past weeks, the state has seen a new outbreak of attacks—this time by the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine insurgent group opposed to the central government's Burman-centric rule. Ambushes by Arakan Army fighters have targeted both the Burmese army, or Tatmadaw, and the Border Guard Police. Fighting in several townships has left some 2,500 displaced. Last month, the Tatmadaw announced a four-month ceasefire in Burma's north to facilitate peace talks with multiple armed groups fighting for local autonomy, but that announcement excluded Rakhine state. (Photo via Asia Times)

Southeast Asia

Protest forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees

Authorities in Bangladesh and Burma must immediately halt plans to send Rohingya refugees back to Burma's Rakhine State, Amnesty International said. A first wave of organized returns could begin imminently, following announcement of a bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Burma last month—which Amnesty says falls short of international obligations. "This is a reckless move which puts lives at risk," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty's director for East and Southeast Asia. "These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar [Burma] military's grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled." (Photo: UNHCR)

Southeast Asia

Philippines: who killed the ‘Sagay 9’?

The massacre of nine farmworkers, including two minors, at Hacienda Nene, outside Sagay City in the central Philippines, constituted the single most deadly attack against peasant activists under the Rodrigo Duterte administration. A fact-finding mission led by human rights and civil society groups has pointed to members of the Special Civilian Auxiliary Army, a private militia associated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as the most likely perpetrators of the "Sagay 9" massacre. But the Philippine National Police have charged two members of the farmworkers' union for inciting the violence by launching a land occupation at the hacienda. Duterte issued a new warning that his troops will shoot to kill if landless peasants begin any new occupations. (Photo via Philippine Inquirer)