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Anies Baswedan wins Jakarta gubernatorial election
Anies Baswedan, a Muslim intellectual, on April 19 defeated incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, 58 percent to 42 percent based on unofficial “quick count” results of a gubernatorial election marked by religious tensions and charges of blasphemy against Ahok. The General Election Commission will not be releasing official results until early May, but Ahok has congratulated his rival on his victory. Baswedan, a former minister of education and former university rector, will take up his new post in October.
Jakarta governor’s blasphemy trial delayed until after election
The North Jakarta District Court on April 10 adjourned the blasphemy trial of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama until after the April 19 runoff in the Jakarta gubernatorial election. Jakarta’s police chief had urged the court to delay sentencing in the case to avoid pre-election unrest. The trial was officially delayed to allow the prosecution more time to prepare its sentencing recommendation.
Cambodia ends U.S. military aid program
Cambodia on April 5 ended a long-standing U.S. military aid program, asking the U.S. Navy Mobile Construction Battalion—or Seabees—to leave and canceling 20 planned civilian construction projects. Seabee-led projects had provided over $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Cambodia since 2008. This move continued the downward trend in U.S.-Cambodian military ties and followed the cancellation of a joint military exercise in January.
Aung San Suu Kyi denies ethnic cleansing of Rohingya
Myanmar state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on April 5 denied allegations that security forces were carrying out ethnic cleansing of Muslim minority Rohingya during an interview with the BBC. Suu Kyi acknowledged the ongoing hostilities in Rakhine State, but said ethnic cleansing was “too strong” a term for the current situation and claimed some of the violence was between Muslims. She denied that the military has free rein to commit abuses, and promised to work toward reconciliation and maintain the safety of Rohingya refugees who return to Myanmar.
Duterte cancels visit to South China Sea outpost after military fortification order
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte on April 12 canceled a planned visit to Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the South China Sea after receiving a warning from Beijing. He said he would not raise the Philippine flag on Thitu because he valued the Philippines’ friendship with China. Duterte on April 10 had called for the military to reinforce South China Sea features controlled by Manila, walking back a previous order to occupy uninhabited features in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Indonesia grants eight-month export permit to Freeport
The Indonesian government on April 4 granted an eight-month export permit to Freeport Indonesia after the latter accepted a temporary special mining license. Freeport will be allowed to resume export of copper concentrate under the temporary arrangement while both parties continue negotiations on the terms of a conversion of Freeport’s existing contract to a permanent special mining license. A 2009 mining law mandates that Freeport’s contract be converted to a special mining license, but negotiations have dragged on for years over issues like divestment and local smelter construction.
Abu Sayyaf leader killed in central Philippines clash
Philippine security forces killed an Abu Sayyaf leader and five others during an April 11 firefight on Bohol Island in the central Philippines. The leader, Muamar Askali, was linked to the beheading last year of two Canadians and a German hostage and was apparently attempting another kidnapping. The Philippine government is continuing the search for Abu Sayyaf fighters on Bohol, and said that the April 19-22 ASEAN trade meetings on Bohol would go on as planned.
Myanmar opens long-delayed oil pipeline to China
Myanmar president Htin Kyaw and Chinese president Xi Jinping signed an agreement on April 10 to open a long-awaited cross-border crude oil pipeline after years of delays. The pipeline, which connects Myanmar’s port in Kyaukpyu with China’s Yunnan Province, could supply as much as 6 percent of China’s crude oil imports. The agreement was part of a state visit by Htin Kyaw to China, his first since taking office in March 2016.
Malaysian minister urges investigation into fund transfers to North Korea
Malaysia’s deputy home minister, Nur Jazlan Mohamed, on April 11 called for an investigation into the possible transfer of funds to North Korea’s leadership from the head of a Malaysian conglomerate. A North Korean defector alleged that the chief executive of Malaysia Korea Partners—also under UN investigation for possible sanctions violations—had transferred money for over 20 years to the central committee of North Korea’s ruling party. Malaysia’s central bank on April 13 said it would support law enforcement in its investigation of the alleged fund transfers.
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