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Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao after militants lay siege to Marawi City
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte on May 23 declared a 60-day period of martial law for the entire island of Mindanao after the militant Maute group attacked Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur Province in central Mindanao. Fighting for control of the city is ongoing between the Maute group—which claims affiliation with ISIS—and the Philippine military, which has conducted airstrikes and clearing operations to break the siege. The conflict has claimed more than 100 lives.
Vietnamese prime minister visits Washington
Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on May 31 met with President Donald Trump to discuss trade issues, including ways to reduce Vietnam’s trade surplus with the United States. Trump and Phuc, the first Southeast Asian leader to visit Trump, also discussed tensions in the South China Sea and shared concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. In conjunction with the meeting, the U.S. Commerce Department announced U.S. companies signed 13 new deals with Vietnam worth an estimated $8 billion.
Jailed Jakarta governor withdraws appeal of blasphemy conviction
Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on May 22 withdrew his appeal of a two-year prison sentence for blasphemy against Islam. In a letter read out by his wife, Purnama thanked supporters while adding that the appeal was dropped “for the sake of our people and the nation.” The governor’s lawyers added that the withdrawal would give prosecutors more space in their separate appeal of the sentence, which was harsher than they had requested. Three UN representatives on May 22 issued a joint statement urging the Indonesian government to release Purnama from detention and repeal the blasphemy law.
ISIS claims responsibility for Jakarta bus station bombing
Three police officers were killed on May 24 when a pair of suicide bombers struck a bus terminal in East Jakarta. The bombing, which also wounded 12, was the deadliest attack in Indonesia since January 2016. ISIS on May 25 claimed responsibility for the attack, which President Joko Widodo condemned while calling for expedited reforms to Indonesia’s anti-terrorism laws. Indonesian police have arrested seven individuals in connection with the attack.
U.S. Navy conducts first FONOP in South China Sea under Trump administration
The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Dewey on May 24 carried out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea, the first under the Trump administration. The destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef—one of China’s seven artificial islands in the disputed Spratly Islands—and conducted a “man overboard” drill inconsistent with innocent passage to demonstrate U.S. rejection of Chinese claims to a territorial sea around Mischief Reef. Official Chinese spokespersons voiced opposition to the operation and said two Chinese Navy frigates identified and warned the U.S. destroyer to leave the area.
Philippines rejects European development aid over conditions on human rights
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte on May 18 approved a Department of Finance recommendation to reject new aid grants from the European Union (EU) that interfere with Philippine internal affairs. The grant refusal could affect nearly $280 million in EU aid, much of which goes to development projects for Muslim communities in Mindanao. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on May 20 said the Philippines will decline foreign aid that comes with conditions—particularly regarding Duterte’s drug war—but will make those decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Hun Sen reiterates threat of war if opposition wins upcoming elections
Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen on May 25 repeated his threat of war if the opposition wins upcoming local elections on June 4. Hun Sen reiterated that his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) must defeat the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to ensure peace, and that war will break out if the CPP loses control and the opposition targets his family. Hun Sen told the CNRP to accept the election results and said he had ordered the military to crack down on any election-related protests.
Myanmar peace conference make progress on federal agreement
Myanmar’s 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference concluded its second meeting on May 29 with an agreement on 37 of the 45 proposed principles for establishing a federal system. Disagreement remains on the issue of permitting secession from the proposed federal union and on the treatment of ethnic armed groups. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on May 27 met separately with the seven ethnic groups who have not signed the nationwide cease-fire—led by the United Wa State Army—to hear their demands.
TPP members to assess options for implementing trade deal without the United States
The 11 nations remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreed on May 22 to assess options to bring the trade deal into force without the United States. The TPP members agreed on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Hanoi to complete the assessment before the mid-November APEC summit in Vietnam. The group also agreed to keep open the option of the United States rejoining the deal at a later date.
Vietnam Coast Guard acquires a cutter and six U.S.-built patrol boats
The Vietnam Coast Guard on May 23 received six U.S.-built Metal Shark patrol boats in the central province of Quang Nam, where they will conduct coastal patrols and law enforcement operations against smuggling, trafficking, piracy, and illegal fishing. On May 26, the Vietnam Coast Guard also received a decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter in Hawaii as a transfer through the U.S. Excess Defense Articles program.
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