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Singapore prime minister visits Washington
Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Washington on October 22-26 for meetings with President Donald Trump, cabinet secretaries, and key congressional leaders. At the White House, Lee and Trump witnessed the signing of a deal worth $14 billion between Singapore Airlines and Boeing to purchase 39 aircraft. The two leaders also discussed North Korea, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, coalition efforts to counter the Islamic State, and the strong commercial relationship and close and long-standing defense ties between their two countries. Following the meeting, Trump praised U.S.-Singapore ties, saying that “our friendship has never been stronger than it is right now.”
Philippine military kills Islamic State-linked militant leaders in Marawi City
Philippine military officials on October 16 announced the deaths of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, top leaders of Islamic State-affiliated militants battling government security forces in Marawi City. The killing of Hapilon, the emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, marks the climax of the five-month-long Marawi siege, which has sparked fears of a resurgence of jihadist movements in Southeast Asia. Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana on October 23 announced the termination of combat operations in Marawi, and affirmed Manila’s desire to cooperate with Southeast Asian nations in addressing potential security threats in the region.
U.S. ends travel waivers for Myanmar military officers for role in Rohingya crisis
The U.S. State Department said on October 23 that it had ended travel waivers that allowed current and former Myanmar military officers to visit the United States and was exploring further economic actions against those responsible for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims that have prompted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee the country. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an October 18 speech at CSIS said the United States held Myanmar’s military leadership accountable for the humanitarian crisis. In a statement, the State Department called on the Myanmar government and armed forces to “take immediate action to ensure peace and security; implement commitments to ensure humanitarian access to communities in desperate need; facilitate the safe and voluntary return of those who have fled or been displaced; and address the root causes of discrimination against the Rohingya.”
U.S. officials apologize after Indonesian military chief claims denial of entry to U.S.
The interim chargé d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta on October 23 issued an apology after Indonesian armed forces commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo alleged that he was denied entry to the United States. Gatot, who was scheduled to travel to the United States on October 21 for a conference on countering violent extremism, claims he was in the process of boarding a flight to Washington when he was notified that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency had denied his entry. Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi on October 23 said that she had requested clarification about the incident from the U.S. State Department. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on October 24 said that Gatot had been warned that his travel to the United States might be delayed due to unspecified security protocols and that he chose not to travel after being rebooked on a later flight. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta on October 25 said that the delay was caused by an administrative error and that there are no restrictions on Gatot’s travel to the United States.
U.S. State Department declassifies documents on 1965 killings in Indonesia
The U.S. State Department on October 17 declassified diplomatic cables that shed light on the 1965 mass killings in Indonesia, revealing U.S. knowledge of and support for the anti-communist campaign. The cables—sent by U.S. diplomatic facilities in Indonesia between 1964 and 1968—show that U.S. officials had detailed knowledge of the Indonesian army’s purge of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), including records of which PKI leaders had been jailed or killed. The cables also highlighted the involvement of Indonesia's Islamic organizations in identifying and executing alleged communists. Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto on October 18 downplayed the significance of the declassified documents, saying that their contents were difficult to corroborate.
Jakarta governor faces controversy over inaugural speech
Newly inaugurated Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan on October 16 sparked controversy with a speech that contained what some criticized as racially divisive language, stoking continued ethic and religious tensions in the city. During the speech, Baswedan implored Indonesia’s “pribumi”—a term for native Indonesians that excludes minority groups, particularly Chinese-Indonesians—to become “masters in our own country.” Baswedan has faced criticism over the past year for his overtures toward hardline Islamic activists, many of whom are staunchly anti-Chinese. The term “pribumi” has largely fallen out favor among Indonesians, following a 1998 presidential instruction that discouraged its use in government statements and policies.
Malaysian attorney general forms task force to investigate anti-corruption chief
Malaysian attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali on October 16 formed a task force to investigate Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Dzulkifli Ahmad, who is accused of engaging in an extramarital affair following the release of a viral video purportedly depicting him traveling with a married woman. Dzulkifli on October 17 denounced the allegations and calls for his resignation as a smear campaign designed to discredit the MACC’s anti-corruption efforts. The MACC has in the past year investigated several high-profile cases, including the alleged embezzlement of $3.5 billion from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry. Committing adultery with a married woman is a criminal offense in Malaysia and carries a sentence of up to two years’ imprisonment.
Timor-Leste, Australia agree to draft maritime border treaty
The Permanent Court of Arbitration on October 15 revealed that Timor-Leste and Australia have agreed on a draft treaty delimiting their maritime boundary in confidential talks in The Hague. The draft treaty also addresses the status of the Greater Sunrise gas field and is expected to open “a pathway to the development of the resource, and the sharing of the resulting revenue.” If approved by both governments, the new treaty will replace the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea treaty, the validity of which has been disputed by the two countries.
Cambodia set to redistribute opposition party’s parliamentary seats
Cambodia’s National Assembly on October 16 amended the Law on Political Parties to pave the way for redistribution of the 55 parliamentary seats held by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The amended law stipulates that if a party is dissolved, all its seats in the parliament will be revoked and redistributed to other parties. The Cambodian government on October 6 filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court demanding the dissolution of the CNRP on treason charges, but the court has yet to rule on the case. Party leader Kem Sokha has been imprisoned on treason charges for allegedly trying to topple the government, and many of the CNRP’s members of parliament have fled the country.
Son of former Thai prime minister charged with money-laundering
The Thai Department of Special Investigations on October 18 announced that Panthongtae Shinawatra, the only son of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had been charged with money-laundering. The department revealed that Panthongtae had turned himself in on October 17, but had been released since no warrant had been issued for his arrest. Panthongtae has denied the charges, which allege that he received 10 million baht (roughly $300,000) in 2004 that could be traced back to fraudulent loans issued by state-owned Krungthai Bank.
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