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Duterte proposes marine sanctuary at Scarborough Shoal
In an effort to ease tensions with China, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte proposed an executive order that would ban fishing in the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, a move that angered Filipino fishermen. Duterte discussed the proposed marine sanctuary in a meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru in late November. Since taking control of the shoal in 2012, China has barred Philippine access to the lagoon. Beijing has not indicated whether Xi has backed Duterte’s proposal.
Fighting in Myanmar’s Shan State escalates as thousands flee to China
Four armed ethnic groups—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and Arakan Army—on November 20 attacked military outposts in the Myanmar-China border region, prompting retaliation from the Myanmar military. Residents in the northeast Shan State towns of Muse and Kutkai fled to China to escape the violence. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi confirmed that about 3,000 refugees crossed the border into China.
Hero’s burial for Marcos sparks controversy
The Marcos family held a private memorial service on November 18 for former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was buried with full military honors at Metro Manila’s Heroes’ Cemetery, the Philippine equivalent of Arlington Cemetery. President Rodrigo Duterte approved the burial and said that Marcos, as a former head of state and a military veteran, met the criteria for burial at the cemetery. Widespread protests followed the burial, and an appeal was filed on November 28 seeking to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision allowing the burial.
Jakarta governor under police investigation on blasphemy charges
Conservative Muslim groups in Indonesia have staged several protests calling for the arrest of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy related to comments he made about the Quran. The largest of these protests brought Jakarta to a standstill on November 4. In response, the Indonesian national police officially named Purnama, who is an ethnic Chinese Christian, a suspect on blasphemy charges. The Attorney General’s Office has taken over the investigation and promises to bring the case swiftly to court, where Purnama is reportedly looking forward to clearing his name.
Malaysia protest proceeds peacefully despite arrest of leadership
Fifteen activists and opposition politicians were arrested ahead of a November 19 protest in Kuala Lumpur organized by Bersih, a coalition of Malaysian nongovernment organizations dedicated to combating government corruption. Despite the arrests, the protest, which called for the resignation of Prime Minster Najib Razak for his alleged role in the diversion of funds from state fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, attracted 50,000-100,000 participants. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association criticized the arrests as counterproductive. Bersih chairwoman Maria Chin Abdullah was released on November 28 after 11 days in detention.
Duterte mulls withdrawal from International Criminal Court
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said on November 17 that he may follow Russian president Vladimir Putin’s example and withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many suspect that Duterte’s threat is a response to international criticism of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines related to his war on drugs. Duterte has cited bias within the ICC as one reason he may elect to withdraw. The United Nations reported it has not yet received an application from the Philippines to withdraw from the ICC.
Cambodian court upholds conviction of former Khmer Rouge leaders
The UN-backed Supreme Court Chamber in Cambodia rejected the appeal of Nuon Chea, 90, and Khieu Samphan, 85, two powerful leaders of the Khmer Rouge under whose rule up to 2 million people died from execution and starvation before the movement was toppled in 1979. The pair, found guilty in August 2014 by the Khmer Rouge tribunal for crimes against humanity, murder, and political persecution, had their life sentences upheld. Their appeal accused the court of granting an unfair trial due to procedural errors stemming from inconsistency in witness testimony and the judges’ failure to remain impartial.
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi postpones Indonesia trip following protests over treatment of Rohingya
Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, postponed a visit to Indonesia due to begin November 30 following protests in Jakarta over violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s northwest. Hundreds of protestors took to the streets of Jakarta on November 25 calling on the government of Indonesia, a majority Muslim country, to cut diplomatic relations with Myanmar. Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is scheduled to join other political leaders at a rally in Kuala Lumpur on December 4 protesting the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Thai crown prince invited to succeed the Thai throne
The National Legislative Assembly on November 28 invited Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to succeed to the throne as the next Thai monarch. Vajiralongkorn will next meet with the assembly chairman to formally accept the invitation. Vajiralongkorn—the designated heir apparent since 1972—will be called Rama X, the tenth king of the Chakri dynasty. The succession precedes a public holiday celebrating the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej ’s birth on December 5. The coronation is likely to take place sometime in late 2017 or early 2018 following the late king’s cremation.
China protests Singapore’s military ties with Taiwan
Nine Singaporean armored personnel carriers were seized on November 23 by customs authorities in Hong Kong as they were being shipped back to Singapore from Taiwan after joint military exercises. China called on Singapore to respect the one-China principle, which forbids countries that have diplomatic ties with China from having any official contact with Taiwan. Singapore established diplomatic relations with China in 1990 but has had military ties with Taiwan since the 1970s.
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