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                                                                                                                       Asean Affairs  15 July 2017

Biweekly Update

Philippine Supreme Court upholds martial law in Mindanao
The Philippine Supreme Court on July 4 upheld President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law for the southern island of Mindanao. Eleven of 15 justices ruled to dismiss challenges to the martial law declaration, which Duterte made for 60 days beginning on May 23. The Philippine Congress is discussing an extension of martial law in Mindanao, with the Senate and Philippine military pushing back against the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ July 9 proposal that martial law be extended for the remainder of Duterte’s term in office.

Philippines holds joint naval patrols with the United States and Indonesia
The Philippine Navy and U.S. Navy on July 1 conducted a joint patrol, with the littoral combat ship USS Coronado and the frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz patrolling the Sulu Sea in the southern Philippines. The Philippine Navy joined the Indonesian Navy on July 4 for a joint patrol of the Celebes Sea, also in the southern Philippines, which was the third regional patrol in a month. The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia on June 19 began a trilateral maritime patrol program to monitor terrorist and criminal activities in the Sulu and Celebes seas.

China provides military aid to Philippines
The Chinese government on June 28 provided the Philippines with around 3,000 rifles and 6 million rounds of ammunition worth approximately $7.3 million in a ceremony at Clark Air Base. The ceremony was attended by Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who personally inspected the gifted small arms. The rifles were primarily Chinese copies of the U.S. military’s M4 carbine, along with less than a hundred longer-range marksman rifles.

Indonesia looks to China as replacement for Japan-backed rail project
Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on July 6 announced that Indonesia may consider Chinese funding for the Jakarta-Surabaya rail project currently backed by Japan. Pandjaitan said that plans to upgrade the existing rail line may not be sufficient to support faster trains and that building a new track may be necessary, which would greatly increase the cost of the $7.7 billion project. Pandjaitan would not guarantee that Japan would remain involved if the project costs increased and said Indonesia would consider the country with the cheapest funding offer to minimize the burden for the state.

Cambodia deports 74 Chinese nationals accused of extortion
Cambodia on July 6 deported 74 Chinese nationals sought by Beijing on charges of Internet and telephone extortion. Cambodian police arrested the suspects at China’s request and turned them over to Chinese police at the Phnom Penh airport for transport to China. Reporters were not allowed access to the suspects before they were removed from Cambodia, and it was unclear whether the suspects had been allowed to dispute the accusations against them or challenge their deportation.

Thailand delays new foreign labor law
Thailand’s military government on July 4 delayed parts of a new labor law intended to better regulate the foreign workforce within Thailand after the law prompted more than 60,000 foreign workers to flee the country. The law, which came into effect on June 17, calls for heavy fines on undocumented workers and their employers and was intended in part to counter human trafficking in Thailand. Parts of the law will be delayed for six months to allow employers and workers more time to obtain work permits.

Malaysia cracks down on illegal foreign workers
Malaysia’s immigration department on July 1 began a crackdown on illegal foreign workers following a June 30 deadline for employers to register their undocumented workers with the government and obtain an enforcement card, or E-card, for them. The crackdown began with raids on a foreign worker dormitory in Kapar, Selangor, and a construction site in Ipoh, Perak. Malaysian officials said that only about 155,000 out of the estimated 600,000 illegal foreign workers in Malaysia had been registered with the government by the June 30 deadline.

Malaysia to reorganize police counterterrorism bodies
Malaysian deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on July 7 said that the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) needed a second deputy inspector-general position devoted to fighting terrorism. Zahid said the new deputy would lead a new police Counter-Terrorism Department that would take over the duties currently fulfilled by the counterterrorism division of the RMP’s Special Branch. Zahid said the government would wait until after a meeting of the police commission to announce the new position. Current Special Branch chief Fuzi Harun will likely fill the new deputy inspector-general spot, according to the New Straits Times.

Singapore’s GIC downgrades expectations in annual report
Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC on July 10 warned that a period of lower returns is to be expected over the next decade due to high valuations across asset classes and modest economic growth. GIC’s chief executive officer, Lim Chow Kiat, said in an interview that GIC was cautious about future performance even as other investors have taken on greater risk as a result of “very accommodative” monetary policies by central banks. GIC said that current low market volatility was out of sync with increasing uncertainty—including the U.S. election results and the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union—and that current valuations seem overly optimistic about future earnings.

Myanmar journalists arrested for covering ethnic armed groups
The Myanmar military arrested three journalists on June 26 for covering a drug-burning ceremony organized by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in northern Shan State. The journalists were charged with violating the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act and potentially face up to three years in prison. A presidential spokesperson on June 28 said members of the media are required to inform security forces before reporting in conflict zones and that journalists had no special right to violate the law. State Counselor Aung Sang Suu Kyi on July 6 said that the arrests should not be viewed as a problem between the media and military, but as a question of whether existing laws are just and democratic.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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