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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs         5  July 2011

Bersih rally delayed

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Malaysia's electoral reform group, Bersih, has put on hold a planned rally this Saturday, July 9, pending a meeting with the King.

This came after Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin said he wants the issues resolved through consultation and dialogue.

Tensions soared in Kuala Lumpur ahead of a planned rally this Saturday by Bersih, a coalition of 62 NGOs calling for a free and fair election.

The police initiated a crackdown since a week ago.

The Bersih premises was raided and more than 100 were arrested.

Six were put under the emergency ordinance that allows detention up to 60 days.'

Among them is Member of Parliament, Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj.

Human rights lawyer Edmund Bon said: "They don't want to use ISA (internal Security Act) because the ISA is so well known as being something so draconian.

"So, using the emergency ordinance in this circumstances is extremely unreasonable.

"It's turning Malaysia into a police state and a laughing stock of the international community".

Bersih's last big rally was in November 2007, when an estimated 50,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Now, outlawed by the government, Bersih had vowed to double the turnout this year to 100,000.

Opposition party PAS had also planned to mobilise its one million members to take part in Saturday's rally.

In addition, there were fears Kuala Lumpur look set to be a scene of chaos, as two other groups - the youth wing of the ruling party UMNO and Malay rights group, Perkasa - had plans to hold a counter rally on the same day.

The palace has intervened to defuse tensions.

In a statement, King Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin urged all sides to resolve their problems through consultations and not be swayed by emotions.

Bersih chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan said: "We welcome what his Majesty has done. It's a timely intervention. It's a necessary intervention.

"As far as Bersih 2 is concerned, we are a peaceful movement. We are going to abide by the advice of his Majesty".

Ms Ambiga has proposed separate routes for this Saturday's rally, supervised by its own 5,000-strong marshals, many of whom are lawyers and doctors.

It is believed former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi was roped in to broker a reconciliation in a bid to stop the rally, while Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government will offer a venue for the rally to be held indoors.

Bersih chairman Ambiga said a final decision will be made after meeting the King

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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