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Indonesian police uncover plot to bomb presidential palace, arrest five suspected militants
Indonesian police on August 15 arrested five suspected Islamic militants and seized chemicals intended for an attack on the presidential palace at the end of August. The plot was uncovered during a raid by police counterterrorism unit Densus 88 in the city of Bandung, and unveiled several bombing targets including a local police headquarters. Indonesian authorities have identified the attackers as part of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, a local terrorist network with ties to the Islamic State.
Malaysia and China launch $13 billion rail project
Malaysia and China on August 9 broke ground on a $13 billion rail project connecting the east and west coasts of peninsular Malaysia. The planned 430-mile East China Rail Link is expected to serve as an alternate trade route connecting the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca. The project, a major part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is expected to be financed with a soft loan by the state-owned Exim Bank of China. The China Communication Construction Company has been awarded building rights.
Secretary of State Tillerson visits Thailand and Malaysia to bolster ties
U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson paid visits to Thailand and Malaysia on August 8 to bolster bilateral ties while urging those countries to maintain pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs. During his five-hour trip to Bangkok, Tillerson met with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai while also paying respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In Kuala Lumpur, the secretary discussed trade matters and terrorism during a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Myanmar government deploys additional troops to Rakhine, as tensions rise
Myanmar on August 10 imposed new curfews and sent hundreds of soldiers to northwest Rakhine State after a recent spate of killings in the region, including the deaths of seven Buddhists near the town of Maungdaw. According to state media, clearance operations were heightened in the May Yu mountain range where the government says Muslim Rohingya fighters remain active. Around 500 additional troops are reported to have been sent to several towns near the Bangladeshi border to tighten security in the region.
Indonesia sees threefold increase in drug-dealer deaths
Amnesty International on August 16 reported that at least 60 suspected drug dealers have been killed so far by Indonesian police in 2017, more than tripling last year’s total of 18. The report followed earlier comments by President Joko Widodo calling for a merciless crackdown against drug dealers who are ruining the future of the younger generation. Widodo’s remarks during the annual state of the nation speech echo a previous order calling for security forces to shoot drug traffickers who resist arrest.
Cambodia creates border brigade after Lao troops cross border
Cambodia established a new military brigade in the northern provinces of Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, and Mondulkiri, on August 16, following a military incursion from Laos into the area five days earlier. Laos pulled out its troops on August 13 after Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen flew to Vientiane and met with Lao prime minister Thongloun Sisoulith the previous day. Hun Sen said the new brigade would defend national sovereignty, not prepare for war, and that it would draw resources from already-existing units.
Philippines conducts new wave of drug raids, killing more than 90
Philippine police escalated the war on drugs by conducting operations dubbed “one-time big-time” against alleged drug dealers beginning on August 14. Within four days, the operations had caused more than 90 deaths, including that of 17-year-old student Kian Loyd delos Santos, which triggered protests across the Philippines. On August 20, Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle and Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the two highest-ranking officials of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, criticized the violent war on drugs. President Rodrigo Duterte admitted on August 21 that Santos’s death could have involved police abuse.
Cambodia arrests 225 Chinese nationals over telecom fraud
Cambodian police arrested 225 Chinese nationals, including 25 women, in Phnom Penh on August 16 on suspicion of operating a telecom scam to defraud victims in China. The arrests followed a raid on a group using similar tactics on August 2 in the western provinces of Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey, which captured 151 Chinese and 3 Taiwanese. On July 6, Cambodian authorities deported 74 Chinese nationals who were arrested in Phnom Penh and in Kampot and Kandal provinces in the south.
Vietnam fires vice trade minister over corruption charges
Vietnam on August 16 fired Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa for her alleged wrongdoings at electricity firm Dien Quang Lamp and her illegal appointment of former PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Corp chairman Trinh Xuan Thanh. Thanh, who was charged with corruption and causing massive losses to the company, sought asylum in Germany, from where the German government charged he was kidnapped and brought back to Vietnam. Thoa was the Communist Party secretary and chairwoman of Dien Quang Lamp from 2004 to 2010, a time when she and her family held nearly a 35 percent stake in the company worth around $30 million.
Thailand arrests nine suspects for royal defamation
Nine suspects including a 14-year-old boy were arrested and charged with royal defamation on August 18. The suspects allegedly set fire to portraits of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at several sites in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen in May. If the province’s juvenile court accepts the case, it could become the first royal defamation case against a person under 15. On June 9, a Thai military court sentenced a man to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence to date under the royal defamation law.
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