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Thousands protest Duterte, drug war on martial law anniversary
Thousands of Filipinos on September 21—the 45th anniversary of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s declaration of martial law—gathered in Manila and other cities to protest Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s signature drug war and his threats to impose martial law nationwide. Vice president Leni Robredo warned Filipinos to remain vigilant for signs of “rising tyranny,” saying “if we do not remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it.” The protests follow growing concerns over police misconduct in the execution of the drug war. Metro Manila’s police chief on September 15 ordered that the entire 1,200-member Caloocan City police force be relieved of duty and retrained following the controversial police killing of a teenager in August.
Myanmar defiant amid mounting international pressure over Rohingya crisis
Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on September 18 condemned “all human rights violations and unlawful violence” in Rakhine State, but refrained from criticizing the Myanmar military, which has been accused by the United Nations of “ethnic cleansing” against the Muslim Rohingya minority. Suu Kyi said action would be taken against all human rights violators and that Myanmar was ready to readmit “refugees from this country,” which may not include the stateless Rohingya. She also invited the international community several times to “join us” in addressing Myanmar’s problems. Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing on September 21 did not include the Rohingya in a call for internally displaced people to return to their homes in Rakhine State.
Malaysia rejects ASEAN chairman's statement on Rohingya crisis
Malaysia on September 24 disassociated itself from an ASEAN chairman's statement on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, with Foreign Minister Anifah Aman calling the grouping’s statement a “misrepresentation of reality.” While the ASEAN statement—issued by the Philippines—condemned “all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people,” Anifah noted that Malaysian concerns were not reflected in the statement, which did not identify the Rohingya as an affected community. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on September 25 said it respected Malaysia's decision to dissociate itself from the statement and that the Philippines toleration of public dissent demonstrated a “new level of maturity” on the implementation of “ASEAN’s consensus principle.”
Singapore prime minister visits China
Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong on September 20 met with Chinese president Xi Jinping as part of a three-day visit to China to boost ties and explore new areas of cooperation under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. Lee and Xi reaffirmed the deep friendship between their two countries and discussed bilateral cooperation in financial, judicial, legal, and defense matters. Lee also met with Chinese premier Li Keqiang, top legislator Zhang Dejiang, and anti-graft czar Wang Qishan during his trip. Lee's visit came after a period of tension in Sino-Singaporean relations resulting from disputes over Singapore's relationship with Taiwan and stance on the South China Sea.
Cambodian prime minister asks U.S. to withdraw Peace Corps
Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen on September 15 called on the United States to withdraw its Peace Corps volunteers in an escalating spat over an alleged U.S. conspiracy to aid Hun Sen’s political opposition. Cambodia on September 14 also suspended cooperation with Washington to find the remains of U.S. soldiers missing in action during the Vietnam War. Cambodia’s actions followed the September 13 announcement of a U.S. travel warning for Cambodia and U.S. visa restrictions on senior Cambodian foreign ministry officials instituted in response to Phnom Penh’s refusal to accept Cambodian nationals deported from the United States.
Indonesian anti-communist mob besieges foundation after attempted forum on 1965 killings
Indonesian police on September 18 clashed with anti-communist protesters besieging the Jakarta offices of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation, which was alleged to be harboring a meeting of the long-outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The foundation had attempted on September 16 to hold a seminar on Indonesia’s 1965 anti-communist massacre, but police had stopped the event because it lacked a permit. An anti-communist mob subsequently surrounded the foundation’s building—responding to “a hoax or fake news” about a PKI event, according to a foundation statement—and had to be dispersed by police with water cannons and tear gas. Five police were injured in the clash, and authorities on September 19 named seven suspects sought for their involvement in the protest.
Former PetroVietnam chairman faces death penalty for embezzlement
Vietnamese prosecutors on September 14 announced they were seeking the death penalty for Nguyen Xuan Son, former chairman of state-owned oil company PetroVietnam, on charges of embezzlement, mismanagement, and abuse of power. Son is accused of embezzling around $11 million from Ocean Bank, where he was CEO from 2008 to 2010, and directing the bank to make excessive interest payments to favored customers, including PetroVietnam. PetroVietnam in 2009 acquired a $35 million stake in Ocean Bank that was completely written off when the central bank took over the failing bank in 2015. Son’s lawyer on September 17 said his client had just been enforcing executive orders issued by Dinh La Thang, another former PetroVietnam chairman who was recently removed from the powerful Communist Party Politburo.
Yingluck sentenced in absentia, three police detained for allegedly aiding her escape
A Thai court on September 27 sentenced former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to five years in prison for negligence in a rice subsidy scheme. Thailand’s deputy prime minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, on September 25 rejected the creation of a special panel to investigate the late August disappearance of Yingluck, urging the public to be patient with the ongoing police investigation. Prawit on September 22 accused the police of helping Yingluck flee Thailand just prior to the verdict in her trial. His accusation was based on the questioning of three Thai police officers detained on September 21 for suspected involvement in Yingluck’s escape. The officers reportedly admitted to arranging Yingluck’s travel to the border with Cambodia in a now-seized Toyota Camry. The officers have not been charged with a crime, as there was no warrant for Yingluck’s arrest when she escaped, and no others have been detained despite Prawit’s claims that the escape plot was ordered by someone in Thailand.
Judge grants stay in 1MDB civil cases as Justice Department pursues criminal investigation
A federal judge in Los Angeles on September 13 granted the U.S. Department of Justice’s request for an indefinite stay in civil forfeiture cases involving assets allegedly purchased with funds misappropriated from Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). The judge granted the halt in the asset seizure cases to avoid adversely affecting the prosecution of a related investigation into possible criminal charges against individuals alleged to have laundered 1MDB funds through the U.S. financial system. The delayed civil forfeiture cases involve almost $1.7 billion in assets, the largest action brought under the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. Despite the stay, Red Granite Pictures on September 18 reached an undisclosed settlement with the government to resolve an 1MDB-related asset seizure case involving future royalty rights to three films, including “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Timor-Leste swears in new minority government
Timor-Leste on September 15 swore in a new government, with Fretilin party leader Mari Alkatiri taking over as prime minister of a minority government after an expected coalition partner withdrew at the last minute. Fretilin—which holds 23 seats in parliament—and its partner Democratic Party—which holds another 7—failed to win the support of the 5-seat Khunto party, leaving the ruling coalition with only 30 out of 65 parliamentary seats. The minority coalition will rely on opposition parties to provide confidence and support on key votes. Alkatiri, who served previously as prime minister from 2002 to 2006, has pledged to maintain good ties with neighboring Australia and Indonesia and to create a better economy, education system, and health system.
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