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                                                                                                                       Asean Affairs  17 June 2017

Biweekly Update

Philippine military strikes Marawi militants’ stockpiles, seizes cash
The Philippine military continues to fight ISIS-linked militants in Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao. The military claims the ongoing battle started on May 23 when government troops conducted a raid in pursuit of Isnilon Hapilon, the declared emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia. The siege has so far killed 58 members of the Philippine security forces and 26 civilians, with the death toll for militant fighters believed to be over 200. Philippine marines discovered $1.6 million in cash and checks in a former militant stronghold on June 6. The military failed to meet a June 12 target date to take back control of the city.

Resorts World Manila fire kills 37, officials say not a terrorist attack
A lone gunman attacked and set fire to the Resorts World Manila casino on June 2, killing 37 people and himself while injuring 70 others. Philippine police said the attack was not an act of terrorism and that suffocation caused most of the casualties. Authorities identified the gunman as ex-Department of Finance employee Jessie Carlos and accused Resorts World Manila management of security lapses and fire code violations.

Myanmar military plane carrying 122 passengers crashes
A Myanmar military transport aircraft crashed into the Andaman Sea on June 7 with 122 passengers—soldiers, family members, and crew—onboard. Search and rescue teams continue to recover bodies, but recovery efforts have been slowed by monsoon storms. While no official explanation for the crash has been provided, Myanmar’s army chief suggested that weather was the likely cause. The Myanmar government has rejected offers of assistance from neighboring countries, including China.

Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party wins commune election with 51 percent of popular vote
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party won June 4 commune elections with 51 percent of the popular vote and will control 70 percent of the country’s commune councils, according to unofficial results. The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) won 46 percent of the popular vote and will control 30 percent of the commune councils, a large increase from the 3 percent the CNRP won in 2012 elections. Vote recounts at a small number of communes began on June 12, and the official election result is due on June 25. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for July 2018.

Thai man jailed for 35 years for insulting the royal family on Facebook
A Thai military court on June 9 sentenced a man to 35 years in prison for Facebook posts that allegedly insulted the royal family, a violation of Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws. The man was arrested in Chiang Mai Province in December 2015 and had his initial sentence of 70 years cut in half because he confessed to all charges. His penalty is the longest sentence relating to defaming the royal family on record—surpassing the previous record of 30 years—according to iLaw, an advocacy group monitoring human rights cases in Thailand.

Singapore and China to cooperate on Belt and Road Initiative, marking an uptick in relations
Singapore foreign affairs minister Vivian Balakrishnan on June 12 announced his country’s support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative in a joint press briefing with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who welcomed Singapore’s participation. The move appeared to mark an uptick in ties after China responded to Singapore’s support for an international tribunal ruling last July on the South China Sea by intercepting some Singaporean military personnel carriers en route from Taiwan to Singapore. China also did not invite Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong to the recent Belt and Road Initiative summit in Beijing. The two countries have agreed to cooperate on various issues related to the Belt and Road Initiative, including trade linkages, financial cooperation, and training and technology transfer.

Malaysia sentences nine Filipinos to death for 2013 invasion of Sabah
The Malaysian Court of Appeal on June 8 sentenced nine Philippine militants to death for their role in an invasion of Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah in 2013. In a unanimous decision, the court overturned a previous court’s life sentence for the militants, following an appeal by prosecutors for a harsher sentence. A six-week standoff in 2013 between the Malaysian armed forces and around 200 fighters from the Philippines claiming to represent the Sultanate of Sulu—which has historical claims to Sabah—left more than 70 people, mostly militants, dead. The Philippine government plans to ask Malaysia to reconsider the death sentence.

Six Indonesian militants sentenced for harboring Uighur militants
An Indonesian court on June 7 sentenced six Indonesian militants to three-four years in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorism and funding terrorist activities. The militants—who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State—were arrested in late 2016 for allegedly plotting a rocket attack on Singapore’s Marina Bay from Indonesia’s nearby Batam Island. While the district court ruling cleared the militants of the rocket plot, they were found guilty of committing other offenses under Indonesia’s anti-terror laws, including assisting and hiding two Uighur militants in Indonesia.

Malaysia anti-corruption agency arrests six in Telekom Malaysia graft probe
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on June 6 arrested six top officials—including the chairman, secretary, and treasurer—of a Telekom Malaysia cooperative for alleged graft and abuse of power.  The alleged scheme involved bulk goods purchases from a complicit supply company at inflated prices, which were then sold back to the supplier without any goods changing hands and with some of the profits going to the suspected officials. The Malaysian Cooperative Commission took over management of the cooperative following the discovery of $5.4 million in losses.

Jakarta prosecutors withdraw appeal of Ahok’s sentence
Indonesian prosecutors on June 8 withdrew their appeal of the two-year prison sentence handed down to former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok). Attorney General HM Prasetyo said the appeal was withdrawn because of Ahok’s decision to end further legal action challenging the ruling. The former governor’s legal team was given written notice of the appeal withdrawal, which makes the ruling final and legally binding.  

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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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