Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Pakistani Social Media Star Allegedly Strangled by Brother in ‘Honor Killing’

July 16, 2016


LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch was allegedly strangled by her brother in what appears to be an “honor killing”, police said on Saturday, shocking the south Asian nation where she divided opinion.

Baloch’s raunchy social media photos challenged social norms in Pakistan, a deeply conservative Muslim country where women are often repressed by their family or the community.

Baloch received multiple death threats and suffered frequent misogynist abuse, but continued posting provocative pictures and videos. In Facebook posts, she spoke of trying to change “the typical orthodox mindset” of people in Pakistan.

Punjab Police spokeswoman Nabeela Ghazanfar told Reuters Baloch, real name Fauzia Azeem, was killed in her family home on the outskirts of Multan, a large city in the Punjab province.

“Her father Azeem informed the police that his son Waseem has strangled Qandeel,” Ghazanfar said. “Apparently, it is an honor killing but further investigations will reveal the real motives behind this murder.”

Police were now looking for Waseem, who has disappeared, she added.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach the family for comment.

Baloch had struggled to reconcile her family’s conservative values with her social media stunts, including a selfie with a famous Muslim cleric that led to widespread condemnation from powerful religious figures.

Local media reported Baloch had traveled to Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, due to security fears.

Baloch’s death sparked an outpouring of grief on Twitter and other social media websites and reignited a debate about honor killings in Pakistan.

More than 500 people – almost all women – die in Pakistan each year in such killings, usually carried out by members of the victim’s family meting out punishment for bringing “shame” on the community.


Baloch has been described as Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian and had built a modeling career on the back of her social media fame. She recently also appeared in a music video, gyrating bare legged to an Urdu-language song in high-heels and a see-through top.

In May, Baloch offered to strip if the wildly-popular Pakistani cricket team beat arch-rival India. When they lost, she berated the Pakistani cricketers and posted a video in which she danced for the Indian team wearing a bikini.

Though popular with many liberals, Baloch often struggled with the frequent abuse aimed at her. In one Facebook post this month, she thanked her supporters for “understanding the message I try to convey through my bold posts and videos”.

She added: “It’s time to bring a change because the world is changing.”

After her death, #QandeelBaloch began trending on Twitter in Pakistan, with many people offering support for her efforts to make Pakistan a more liberal society for women.

Others, however, could not hide their delight that she had been silenced.

“What she (was) doing is a disgrace for Pakistan so she deserve this,” said Twitter user Asad Iqbal Orakzai.

(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in KARACHI; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Mark Potter)

Israel Accuses Facebook of Complicity in West Bank Violence — Many young Palestinians incite violence against Israelis on Facebook, Israeli Public Security Minister says

July 4, 2016

Israel sends a warning on content that promotes violence, direct threats, terrorist or hate speech


Bloomberg News

Israel’s police minister accused Facebook Inc. of complicity in Palestinian violence against his country after back-to-back attacks claimed the lives of a 13-year-old stabbed to death in her bed and a father of 10 killed in a drive-by shooting.

Many young Palestinians incite against Israelis on Facebook and the social network fails to take down such posts, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said. Facebook also sabotages police efforts and turns down requests for collaboration, he said.

“The victims’ blood is partially on Facebook’s hands,” Erdan told Channel 2 late Saturday. “Facebook has turned into a monster. The younger generation in the Palestinian Authority runs its entire discourse of incitement and lies and finally goes out to commit murderous acts on Facebook’s platform.”

AP Photo by Paul Sakuma

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company works “regularly with safety organizations and policy makers around the world, including Israel, to ensure that people know how to make a safe use of Facebook. There is no room for content that promotes violence, direct threats, terrorist or hate speeches on our platform.”

Israel’s claims against Facebook are another sign of the complicated role now played by social-media giants in global affairs as their platforms become center stage for everything from political activism to promoting terror. Facebook has struggled to police images posted by terrorist groups and online weapons bazaars. Just last month, a French Jewish youth group sued the company, along with Twitter Inc. and Google Inc., over how they monitor hate speech on the Web. At the same time, governments from around the world are calling on all three companies to help in the fight against terrorism. And Facebook has won praise for its “Safety Check” feature allowing users to tell friends and family that they are safe after bombings and natural disasters.

Shaping Unrest

A wave of “lone wolf” attacks by Palestinians on Israelis that began last fall is being encouraged by posts on social media that call for murder and glorify attacks, the Israeli government says. The violence, which had appeared to lull in recent months before a June 8 shooting at a Tel Aviv retail and food market, has intensified more than two years since peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians last collapsed.

In all, about three dozen Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians — most of them attackers or people involved in clashes with Israeli troops — have been killed since October.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a former high-tech entrepreneur, told Israel Radio on Sunday that by using a simple algorithm, Facebook could block videos inciting to murder from being posted. Israel’s inner security cabinet discussed blocking social networks in the Hebron area where the two deadly attacks took place last week, within the space of just over 24 hours.

The violence was the most serious in a week that began with clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at a contested Jerusalem shrine sacred to Muslims as the al-Aqsa mosque compound and to Jews as Temple Mount. There were also Palestinian stabbing attacks, rocket fire at Israel by Gaza Strip militants and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.

Over the weekend, Israel locked down hundreds of thousands of people in Hebron and surrounding areas, the largest such action since it went after the killers of three Jewish youths in 2014, according to the military.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to withhold some of the taxes and fees it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority on the ground some of the money is transferred to families of attackers. He and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also approved the renewal of a tender to build 42 apartments in the Jewish settlement outside Hebron where the teenager was killed.

On Friday, the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators said Israeli settlement construction and expansion, and denial of Palestinian development is “steadily eroding” the viability of a two-state solution. The group, representing the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations, also called on the Palestinian Authority to take steps to reduce incitement to violence.


Iranian protestors set US and Israeli flags afire during a parade marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on July 1, 2016. © AFP / by Eric Randolph and Ali Noorani

“In Lebanon alone over 100,000 missiles are ready at all times to fly… at the heart of the Zionist regime,” said General Hossein Salami, deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards in a speech before Friday prayers at Tehran University.

“Tens of thousands of other missiles… have been planted across the Islamic world and are awaiting orders so that with the push of a button a sinister and dark dot on the political geography of the world disappears forever,” he added.

Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, threatened to retaliate against the Bahraini government for its move.

Palestinian Man Stabs and Kills 13-year-old Israeli Girl Asleep in Her West Bank Home

Scene of terror attack that killed 13-year-old Hillel Yaffe Ariel in her Kiryat Arba home on June 30, 2016.Zaka Rescue Services



Israeli policemen arrest a suspected man following a shooting attack that took place in the center of Tel Aviv June 8, 2016.

China’s internet tsar to step aside as another of Xi Jinping’s close allies to take over

June 29, 2016


Lu Wei will soon relinquish his role overseeing China’s cyberspace

By Staff Reporter
South China Morning post

Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 4:08 p.m.

China’s internet tsar will soon step aside, with his deputy, a rising political star and one of President Xi Jinping’s close allies, widely expected to take over, sources told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

It remains unclear at this stage whether Lu Wei, 56, head of the Cyberspace Administration, would get another appointment on top of his other role as deputy head of the Central Committee’s publicity department.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a copy of Chinese President Xi’s book on governance at his desk while hosting China’s Internet Tzar Lu Wei. Lu Wei appears to have had a pleasant time during the visit to the Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. China State media photo. On or about December 8, 2015

Lu’s deputy Xu Lin, 53, was the front runner to succeed Lu as the top official overseeing China’s online arena, according to a source from Beijing.

Officials were briefed on the decision for Lu to step aside during an internal meeting on Tuesday evening, another source said.

Xu was Shanghai’s publicity chief before he was appointed Lu’s deputy in July last year.

He is regarded as one of Xi’s key supporters, having worked with him as a standing member of the Shanghai municipal party committee when Xi was Shanghai’s party head. Xi moved to Beijing in late 2007.

 Xu Lin

Lu, who is also seen as one of the president’s close allies, was in 2015 listed by Timemagazine as one of the world’s top 100 most influential people.

In a brief introduction on the outspoken Lu, Jon Huntsman, a former US ambassador to China, wrote: “As China aspires to become a global cyberpower, Lu could hold the keys to its future, determining whether there will be sufficient oxygen for the 21st century. Almost half of China’s 1.4 billion population is online.”

Lu, a controversial figure, has been blamed for tightening online freedom in China. But others say he has contributed to safeguarding social stability by streamlining public opinion on various social issues.

In this respect, Huntsman said: “Lu is imposing tougher internet regulations because of social stability concerns, which means a new generation of Chinese tech entrepreneurs may find themselves in a culture clash.

“Lu’s choices will either provide greater access to online freedom or further suppress the natural curiosity that thrives beneath the surface in China. Whatever he does, the gregarious former propaganda chief is certain to affect the lives of billions.”


CIA Chief Says Islamic State Plans to Intensify Attacks

June 17, 2016


CIA Director John Brennan said that the Islamic State is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks on the West. (J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE for AP)


Bloomberg News

Islamic State will intensify its global terrorism campaign by directing as well as inspiring attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere, despite its mounting territorial and financial losses in Syria and Iraq, CIA Director John Brennan said.

QUICKTAKE Fighting Islamic State: The Big Picture

The organization “will probably rely more on guerrilla tactics,” such as the attacks in Paris and Brussels in the past year that were directed by its leadership, Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing on Thursday. It will also seek to inspire more attacks similar to those in San Bernardino, California, in December and in Orlando, Florida, this week, he said.

So far, there’s is no indication that Omar Mateen, who carried out the Orlando shooting, the worst massacre in modern U.S. history, had a direct link to Islamic State or any other foreign terrorist organization, Brennan said.

The Central Intelligence Agency chief’s stark assessment of the group’s intentions and capabilities contrasts with the Obama administration’s portrait of the group as being in decline because of increasing success in the the U.S.-led military campaign to retake territory that the group has claimed, and to cut off its oil income and other revenue.

‘Global Reach’

“Despite our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Brennan said, using an acronym for the group. “As the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”

Islamic State has as many as 22,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, down from about 32,000, Brennan said. However, its Libyan branch has become the most dangerous, with about 5,000 fighters, he said, adding that the Islamic State operation in the Sinai succeeded in bringing down a Russian airliner with an improvised explosive device.

Russian airliner brought down over Egypt by an improvised explosive device

“We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks,” he said. “ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West.”

The group is also probably exploring how to infiltrate operatives into Western countries, including through refugee flows, Brennan said, in a comment that may bolster Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s calls to temporarily bar refugees from places “where you have terrible terrorism.” President Barack Obama has said such moves would only play into terrorist groups’ hands by portraying all Muslims as enemies.

Cybersecurity Challenge

Online, Islamic State uses devices and applications including Twitter, Telegram and Tumblr to spread propaganda while shielding many of its activities through encryption, Brennan said. He pleaded for “a national consensus” on the powers that U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement should have in cyberspace to combat such groups.

Offering rare insight into the CIA’s digital operations, Brennan said the agency is trying to use the Internet’s backbone, which refers to upstream service providers and fiber-optic cables, to identify those responsible for spreading extremist propaganda.

Brennan endorsed a proposal by Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Representative Michael McCaul of Texas for a commission of government and industry officials that would make recommendations on rules governing internet operations and authorities. It was proposed as a way to resolve disputes such as the FBI’s demand for Apple Inc. to help it break into encrypted iPhones to investigate terrorism or crimes.


Facebook helping France after killer broadcast murder of police couple

June 15, 2016

AFP and Reuters

© HO, Amaq News Agency, AFP | An image grab from an undated video published by Amaq News Agency, an online news agency affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group, allegedly shows Larossi Abballa.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-06-15

Facebook announced Tuesday that it was cooperating with French authorities in the investigation into the murder of a policeman and his wife by a man who claimed his act in a video posted on the social network.

“We are working closely with the French authorities investigating this terrible crime,” said a Facebook statement released a day after Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, a deputy police commander and his partner, Jessica Schneider, who was also a police official, were killed in the Paris suburb of Magnanville.

© Police Nationale/AFP / by Juliette Montesse with Sophie Deviller in Paris | This combination of pictures created on June 14, 2016 shows Jean-baptiste Salvaing (R) and Jessica Schneider the French police couple in an IS-inspired stabbing on June 13, 2016

“Terrorists and acts of terrorism have no place on Facebook. Any time terrorist content is reported to us, we remove it as quickly as possible. We process queries by law enforcement agencies with utmost urgency,” the statement declared.

Facebook’s response followed reports that the Magnanville attack suspect, Larossi Abballa, 25, took to Facebook Live to encourage viewers in a 12-minute video to follow his example: Kill prison staff, police officials, journalists, lawmakers.

In the Facebook video filmed shortly before he was shot dead by police, Abballa also called for Euro 2016 to be “turned into a graveyard”.

‘Unique challenges’ for social media companies

The incident underscores the immense challenges companies such as Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Google’s YouTube face as they push live video streaming to hundreds of millions of people.

Facebook in recent months has made its Live feature — which allows anyone to broadcast a video in real time — a central component of its strategy. Twitter, similarly, is focused on live content, and online video leader YouTube is also moving into live streaming.

All the companies have protocols in place to remove content that violates their terms of service, mainly by asking users to report offending material for review. But the companies generally promise a turnaround time of 24 hours on such reports, while live videos would have to be reviewed and removed in minutes to prevent wide dissemination.

“We do understand and recognise that there are unique challenges when it comes to content and safety for Live videos,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “We’re deeply committed to improving the effectiveness of how we handle reports of live content that violates our Community Standards.”

‘Difficult content takedown decisions’

Facebook is not the first company to grapple with abuse of live video. In April, an 18-year-old woman was charged after she livestreamed her friend’s rape on Twitter’s Periscope. In May, a young woman in France recorded herself on Periscope as she threw herself under a train.

“Making these decisions for live video broadcasts is even more challenging,” said Aaron Altschuler, a lawyer at ZwillGen and former associate general counsel for global law enforcement and security at Yahoo. “Companies already face difficult content
takedown decisions related to other types of user-generated content.”

Twitter did not respond to requests for comment. YouTube said it has teams around the world that review reported videos 24 hours a day, adding that it will terminate an account when it has reasonable belief that the person behind it is part of group that the US government has identified as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.

Facebook, which receives millions of reports a week of standards violations, said it reviews the vast majority within 24 hours. It said it is expanding a team dedicated to reviewing and staffing it 24 hours a day. Facebook can interrupt and remove broadcasts that violate policy.

The company said it is also testing the monitoring of broadcasts that go viral or are trending even before they are reported. That could give Facebook a way to stop offending broadcasts quickly, just as a television network might.

But as of yet there are no automated tools that can identify live videos that should be taken down, people familiar with the technology said.

Abballa told police negotiators he had answered an appeal by Islamic State (IS) group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “to kill infidels at home with their families”, Paris prosecutor François Molins said at a news conference.

During the Facebook Live broadcast, Abballa spoke mostly in French and occasionally in Arabic. Although the video was quickly removed from Facebook, the IS group shared an edited version through several of its channels.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)



Obama Proclaims Vietnam and the Unites States As Partners, Appeals For More Progress on Human Rights

May 24, 2016


By Foster Klug and Nancy Benac
The Associated Press
HANOI, Vietnam — May 24, 2016, 6:09 AM ET

President Barack Obama on Tuesday pressed Vietnam to allow greater freedoms for its citizens, arguing that better human rights would improve the communist country’s economy, stability and regional power.

On his second full day in the southeast Asian nation, Obama also met with activists as part of a push for closer ties with the fast-growing, strategically crucial country that included the lifting of one of the last vestiges of Vietnam War-era antagonism: a five-decades-old arms sale embargo.

In a speech at the National Convention Center, Obama sought to balance a desire for a stronger relationship with Vietnam with efforts to hold its leadership to account over what activists call an abysmal treatment of government critics.

Nations are more successful when people can freely express themselves, assemble without harassment and access the internet and social media, Obama said.

“Upholding these rights is not a threat to stability but actually reinforces stability and is the foundation of progress,” Obama told the audience of more than 2,000, including government officials and students from five universities across the Hanoi area. “Vietnam will do it differently than the United States does … But there are these basic principles that I think we all have to try to work on and improve.”

Freedom of expression is where new ideas happen, Obama said. “That’s how a Facebook starts. That’s how some of our greatest companies began.”

Journalists and bloggers can “shine a light on injustice or abuse” when they are allowed to operate free of government interference or intimidation, he added. And, stability is encouraged when voters get to choose their leaders in free and fair elections “because citizens know that their voices count and that peaceful change is possible. And it brings new people into the system,” Obama said.

Obama also traced the transformation of the U.S.-Vietnamese relationship, from wartime enemies to cooperation. He said the governments are working more closely together than ever before on a range of issues.

“Now we can say something that was once unimaginable: Today, Vietnam and the Unites States are partners,” he said, adding that their experience was teaching the world that “hearts can change.”

Earlier Tuesday, Obama met with six activists, including a pastor and advocates for the disabled and sexual minorities. He said several others were prevented from coming. “Vietnam has made remarkable strides in many ways,” Obama said, but “there are still areas of significant concern.”

Obama, in his speech, also referred to China’s growing aggression in the region, something that worries many in Vietnam, which has territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Beijing.

Obama got a round of applause when he declared that “big nations should not bully smaller ones,” an allusion to China’s attempt to push its rivals out of disputed territory. Obama said the United States will continue to freely navigate the region and support the right of other countries to do the same.

After Hanoi, Obama flew to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. He visited the Jade Emperor Pagoda, considered one of the most beautiful pagodas in southern Vietnam and a repository of religious documents that includes more than 300 statues and other relics. A strong smell of incense hung in the air as visitors frequently burn incense outside the main temple to announce to the heavens their arrival.

As Obama paused before one statue, a guide explained that if he wanted to have a son, he should pray to her.

“I like daughters,” Obama replied.

Shifting from the historical to the modern, Obama was also stopping by the Dreamplex business complex in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, a space for startup entrepreneurs that fits with Obama’s message about the potential benefits of closer ties to Vietnam’s growing economy and its burgeoning middle class.

Obama’s meeting with entrepreneurs will let him talk up the benefits of what he says will be enhanced trade under a 12-nation trade deal that is stalled in Congress and opposed by the leading U.S. presidential candidates. Obama said during his address that the agreement would give Vietnamese workers the right to form labor unions and would prohibit forced and child labor. He also predicted that the pact, if ratified, would lead to greater regional cooperation.

“Vietnam will be less dependent on any one trading partner and enjoy broader ties with more partners, including the United States,” Obama said.


 (Includes links to several articles, same topic)


President Barack Obama waves after addressing his speech to the Vietnamese people at the National Convention Center in Hanoi, Vietnam Tuesday, May 24, 2016. In a speech at the National Convention Center, Obama sought to ease fears that Washington wanted to dictate terms to Vietnam on improving rights. (Kham/Pool Photo via AP)

The Associated Press
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — May 24, 2016, 7:04 AM ET

The Latest on U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Vietnam (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain say President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam proves that old enemies can become new partners.

Kerry, McCain and former Sen. Bob Kerrey all served in the Vietnam War. They say in a joint op-ed that there are few easy answers about what lessons were learned from the war.

The three veterans say the U.S. must never again confuse a war with its warriors. They say U.S. leaders must be honest about the goals when deploying troops. And they say the U.S. must approach foreign cultures with humility.

Writing in the New York Times, they say they could never have imagined during the war that the countries would one day cooperate on trade and even security. They say mutual interests will drive the future partnership.


5:30 p.m.

President Barack Obama is talking with Vietnamese entrepreneurs about their business ideas and roadblocks to their eventual success.

The conversation is taking place at the Dreamplex, a shared office space in Ho Chi Minh City that rents workstations and rooms to startup entrepreneurs.

Obama is telling his audience that their success will send a message about Vietnam’s potential for innovation to the world.

He says the Dreamplex is where ideas are “becoming reality” and that the young people who use the space are “making things happen.”

Obama is also using the appearance to pitch a 12-nation, trans-Pacific trade agreement that’s stalled in the U.S. Congress and opposed by the leading U.S. presidential candidates. He says the pact will accelerate economic reforms in Vietnam, boost its economic competitiveness and open up new markets.


5 p.m.

President Barack Obama had a quick comeback for a Buddhist monk who urged him to pray to a certain statue if he’d like to have a son.

“I like daughters,” quipped Obama, who is the father of teenagers Malia and Sasha.

Obama was touring the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the most notable and most visited cultural destinations in Ho Chi Minh City.

The pink-colored building with a turquoise tiled roof was built in the early 1900s by the immigrant Chinese community and today serves multiple faiths.

Obama headed straight for the pagoda after landing in Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi, where he spent the opening days of his first visit to Vietnam.

Vietnam’s Ngoc Hoang (Jade Emperor or King of Heaven)


4:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama has arrived in Ho Chi Minh City.

It’s the second stop on Obama’s three-day visit to America’s former wartime enemy.

Ho Chi Minh City is formerly known and still referred to as Saigon, and is famous for its role in the Vietnam War as the capital of U.S.-backed South Vietnam.

Obama plans to do some sightseeing by taking in the Jade Emperor Pagoda. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful pagodas in southern Vietnam. It’s also a repository for religious documents and includes more than 300 statues and other relics.

Obama also scheduled a tour of the Dreamplex, a shared office space that rents workstations and rooms to startup entrepreneurs.

Obama spent the opening days of his trip in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. He arrived late Sunday.


2 p.m.

President Barack Obama taped the second part of an interview with CNN personality Anthony Bourdain before leaving the Vietnamese capital for his next stop: Ho Chi Minh City.

Bourdain’s “Part Unknown” food travelogue is one of the network’s most popular nonfiction series.

Obama and Bourdain met in a small complex in Hanoi’s Me Tri neighborhood in a heavy downpour.

The two met over a restaurant dinner on Monday to discuss Obama’s trip to Asia and his interest in the people, food and culture of Vietnam, CNN said.

CNN has aired Bourdain’s show since 2013. He travels to a different part of the world for each episode to explore that area’s culture, primarily by sharing in the area’s distinct native cuisine.

The interview with Obama will be featured in the eighth season of “Parts Unknown,” which begins in September.


1:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama is pressing Vietnam to respect rights to freedom of speech, a free press, and to associate and demonstrate that are written into the country’s constitution.

Obama says Vietnam has nothing to fear from upholding these rights. He says doing so reinforces stability and doesn’t threaten it. Obama also says nations are more successful when these rights are respected.

Vietnam is routinely criticized for its human rights record.

The communist nation holds about 100 political prisoners. There have also been more detentions this year, including some in the past week.

The government in Hanoi says that only lawbreakers are punished.


12:40 p.m.

President Barack Obama is pushing for ratification of a 12-nation, free-trade agreement as he speaks to the Vietnamese people, saying it will lessen reliance on one trading partner and broaden ties with more partners, including the United States.

Obama says the Trans-Pacific Partnership will lead to regional cooperation among participating nations and bring about higher wages for Vietnam’s workers. He says that would help them buy more goods from the United States.

He notes that the agreement gives workers the right to form unions and prohibits forced labor and child labor.

Obama is pitching a trade agreement that is stalled in Congress and opposed by the leading U.S. presidential candidates.

He says the U.S. is ready to help Vietnam as it works to fully implement its commitments under the agreement.


12:30 p.m.

President Barack Obama says improved relations with Vietnam, America’s former wartime foe, is teaching the world a few lessons.

Obama is in the midst of a historic visit to the southeast Asian nation and is delivering an address to the Vietnamese people.

Obama says what was once unimaginable has come true – that Vietnam and the United States are partners in a thriving relationship.

And it’s a partnership that he says is teaching the world that hearts can change.

Obama says it’s also showing the world that peace is better than war.

Obama is speaking at the National Convention Center in Hanoi.


10:40 a.m.

President Barack Obama is taking his push for closer ties with Vietnam directly to the people.

A day after knocking down one of the last vestiges of Cold War antagonism with a former war enemy, he faces calls Tuesday to more strongly address what’s seen as Vietnam’s abysmal human rights record.

Obama plans meetings with civil society members and entrepreneurs and then a speech aimed at the people of Vietnam.

On Monday he announced the lifting of a five-decade-old arms sales embargo that’s meant to help forge a new economic and security relationship.

Obama must balance this push for better ties with efforts to hold Vietnam’s communist leadership to account for charges of widespread abuse of dissidents.

From Hanoi, Obama will fly to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

Vietnam rights record puts Obama in a fix as U.S. seeks new Asian alliance

May 20, 2016


A security personnel (R) films Huynh Ngoc Chenh (L) holding a sign which reads, ‘Protecting the environment is more important than economic development’ during a demonstration demanding cleaner waters in the central regions after mass fish deaths in recent weeks, in Hanoi,…

With police watching his home around the clock, Vietnamese blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh sneaked out through a back door and reappeared the next day in a public square to hold a one-man, anti-government protest.

But having been given the slip once, police wasted no time in nabbing him after only five minutes.

It was one of many free-speech experiments squashed by Vietnam’s communist government, underscoring the dilemma U.S. President Barack Obama has ahead of a visit on Monday in which human rights will be central to decisions about how far Washington is willing to engage its former enemy.

Chenh got lucky. Unlike many dissidents, he was not arrested for Sunday’s demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City, which got him 12,000 Facebook “likes” for making a stand against what he calls an endemic problem of abusive police.

“There are six men watching my house right now,” said Chenh, 64, who was escorted home and told to stay there.

“Sometimes, they stop me from leaving, other times they let me go out but they follow me everywhere.”

His sit-in came as rights groups and activists accuse police of using heavy-handed measures to stop protests held in cities the past two Sundays to demand government answers over an unexplained environmental disaster that caused mass fish deaths last month.

The timing of protests could not be worse for Vietnam. The White House on Thursday said Obama was still grappling with a decision on whether to lift a lethal arms embargo on Hanoi, one of the last vestiges of the Vietnam War.

The United States has been clear that its removal hinges on progress on rights.

Vietnam wants closer military ties and access to U.S. defense technology as a deterrent against Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, over which the neighbors are bitterly at odds.

Though that fits in with the U.S. strategy of containing China, Vietnam’s jailing and intimidation of dissidents remains an obstacle to Washington’s push to turn its former enemy into its newest Asian ally.

Obama’s top Asia adviser Daniel Kritenbrink on Wednesday told reporters human rights would be a key factor in “whatever arms sales decisions we may or may not make”.

Obama will not try to duck the issue. He is expected to meet dissidents and will address human rights in Vietnam “both publicly and in private”, Kritenbrink said.


The issue is taboo for Vietnam’s government, which did not respond to Reuters questions about the extent to which rights improvements had been made.

The United States has been watching closely and is familiar with the Communist Party’s boldest opponents, including Nguyen Quang A, an intellectual who met U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski last week.

Quang A was among several dissidents named in a scathing, documentary-like news report broadcast on state television on Sunday that accused them of masterminding recent protests intended to violently overthrow the government.

The arms embargo is contentious, with support in Washington for countries threatened by China’s rise, but misgivings about losing leverage with Vietnam if too many concessions are given to a government that New-York-based Human Rights Watch described in a letter to Obama as “among the most repressive in the world”.

Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat on the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, said the United States should be wary of “giving a free pass to a government that continually harasses, detains and imprisons its citizens”.

Republican Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Hanoi who backed the easing of the embargo in 2014, said sales of technology for Vietnam’s maritime security should be unrestricted, but the transfer of other arms should be case-by-case and linked to human rights progress.

“There’s still repression,” McCain told Reuters. “Yes, there’s been improvement but there’s still quite a way to go.”

Obama will meet Vietnam’s new president, Tran Dai Quang, who until recently ran the Ministry of Public Security, a powerful police-run agency that U.S. rights envoy Malinowski last year said “holds the key” to how far U.S-Vietnam ties could advance.

But political analyst Le Hong Hiep said it was unlikely rights would constrain ties that are strengthening rapidly, as the United States had “other more vital interests” at stake.

“It remains an issue of low politics at a time when issues of high politics such as strategic cooperation, and joint efforts to check China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, have been placed much higher in bilateral agenda,” he said.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

Asia has become a much more dangerous place during the Obama administration….


 (May 19, 2016)

Thailand’s tyranny exposed — “Human Rights a Thing of the Past”

May 12, 2016

Facing the law: Natthika Worathaiyawich (left) and Harit Mahaton (centre), two of the eight activists jailed after posting comments criticising the junta on Facebook, arriving at a court in Bangkok. — Reuters

Facing the law: Natthika Worathaiyawich (left) and Harit Mahaton (centre), two of the eight activists jailed after posting comments criticising the junta on Facebook, arriving at a court in Bangkok. — Reuters


BANGKOK: Thailand faces a “moment of shame” when the United Nations Human Rights Council reviews its rights record, a rights group said amid fresh arrests of online critics accused of criticising the junta.

The crackdown comes as Thai­land’s military government prepares to put out a widely criticised military-written constitution to the public in August.

The military seized power in a May 2014 coup, saying it had to end a bitter cycle of political unrest that had rocked Thailand since 2006 when the army ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawat­ra.

Rights groups say the junta has tightened its grip on power and severely repressed rights in the past year.

It has jailed critics, introduced new laws aimed at curbing freedom of speech, censored the media and restricted political debate.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a cyclical review of the human rights record of the 193 United Nations member states.

Thailand, which was last reviewed in 2011, is one of 14 countries being questioned by the UPR working group in the current session, which ends on Friday.

“It will be a moment of shame for the Thai government at a major international forum where Thailand was once honoured and respected,” Sunai Phasuk, Thailand researcher for Human Rights Watch, said yesterday.

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha

“I hope it will send a clear message back to Bangkok that it immediately has to reverse its course.”

Colonel Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the junta, said it wanted the Thai delegation to “tell the truth about what is happening in Thailand”.

On April 27, troops arrested eight activists over Facebook comments critical of the junta and the draft constitution.

The eight were released on bail on Tuesday.

Two of the eight face separate charges of royal insult. They were charged yesterday with insulting the revered monarchy in private Facebook messages, the latest in a growing number of royal insult charges under the junta.

“We have additionally charged them with royal defamation and computer crimes,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Chaiporn Nittayapat, who is in charge of the case, said.

Issues raised in documents seen by Reuters submitted to the UN by rights groups and UN member countries include the expansion of internal policing powers for the military and the use of military courts to try critics.

Over a decade of political strife has seen occasional, violent street protests by both Thaksin’s supporters and their opponents. — Reuters


Facebook Ready To Help Duterte, The Philippines — “Eighty-seven percent of the world’s governments have some sort of Facebook presence.”

May 11, 2016
Facebook in a statement last month said around 15.2 million people have engaged in conversations related to the elections on the social media site, generating 124 million interactions on the platform from Nov. 20, 2015 to April 5, 2016. file

MANILA, Philippines – Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte never knew that social media would significantly help his campaign in the May 9 elections.

The 71-year-old Duterte often wonders what “tag n’yo ako” (tag me), means whenever people would ask him to pose with them for selfies.

“Unsa man nang tag-tag? (What is tag)?” Duterte would usually quip in the local dialect after every selfie.

Facebook in a statement last month said around 15.2 million people have engaged in conversations related to the elections on the social media site, generating 124 million interactions on the platform from Nov. 20, 2015 to April 5, 2016.

And for presidential candidates, 64 percent of conversations on Facebook focused on Duterte.

With the imminent proclamation of Duterte, executives of Facebook said they have plans of reaching out to the incoming administration and offer support on how it can use the online platform in governance.

“We absolutely have plans to reach out and tell them we can help, not only to use Facebook on inauguration day but also in terms of governing after that,” Katie Harbath, director of Facebook global politics and government outreach director, told The STAR on Tuesday.

“Eighty-seven percent of the world’s governments have some sort of Facebook presence. Many of the world leaders who have used Facebook a lot in their elections continue to do so as the leaders,” she added.

Elizabeth Hernandez, head of Facebook public policy for Asia Pacific, noted the high level of engagement among social media users in the recent elections.

“Once they’ve tapped that kind of engagement, I don’t think you can stop doing that. That’s a great opportunity to continue that kind of conversation, but during the governance part of it,” she said.

Based on data released by the social media giant on Monday, 22 million people around the world engaged in conversations related to the elections, making it the most engaged elections in the region.

Duterte, who has taken a commanding lead in the unofficial count, remained the most talked about candidate in the social media site since it started monitoring election-related conversations in November.

“Social media’s biggest impact is really not only building up supporters, but persuading people to vote for you and actually getting them out to vote,” Harbath said.

“Now we have to see how they keep using Facebook for governing. That’s where I think we’ll really see if they can use it to actually help take citizens’ input to help determine what their policies are going to be,” she added.

Hernandez said Facebook has been instrumental in making the conversations reach more Filipinos, not just across the country but also those overseas.

“Through social media, the candidates were also able to reach those voters outside the Philippines,” she said.

The Facebook executives revealed they have conducted trainings for all the teams of the candidates to give them a level playing field on using the platform for their respective campaigns.

“There’s a lot of interest from all of the candidates in wanting to use Facebook. We did trainings not only for all the presidential and vice presidential campaigns, but also for many of the candidates for the Senate,” Harbath said.

“We are a neutral platform. We want to make sure that everybody has the same best practices,” she added.

Thailand defends rights restrictions at U.N. review

May 11, 2016
World | Wed May 11, 2016 8:14am EDT

A student activist is detained during a silent protest after Thailand’s election commission filed charges against a group for posting ‘foul and strong’ comments online criticising a military-backed draft constitution in Bangkok, Thailand. REUTERS/JORGE SILVA

Thailand on Wednesday defended its curbs on freedom of expression at a review of its rights record by the U.N. Human Rights Council, saying the measures were aimed at “those who stir up violence”.

At a time of fresh arrests of online critics accused of criticizing Thailand’s junta, U.N. member states attending the review in Geneva expressed concern over the deteriorating rights situation since the military took power in a May 2014 coup.

Some U.N. members urged the military to review controversial laws, such as a royal insults law, that rights groups say have increasingly been used to silence critics.

Thailand should “allow all Thai people to fully participate in the political process,” the United States said in a brief statement to the council, and called for the elimination of “mandatory minimum sentences for lese-majeste”.

The restrictions were “meant for those who stir up violence”, a representative of Thailand’s justice ministry said in a live broadcast of the meeting, responding to the concerns raised at the review, the country’s first since 2011.

The military seized power in May 2014, saying it had to end a bitter cycle of political unrest that had rocked Thailand since 2006, when the army ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Rights groups say the junta has tightened its grip on power and severely repressed rights in the past year. It has jailed critics, introduced new laws aimed at curbing freedom of speech, censored the media and restricted political debate.

The military government has stepped up prosecutions of those accused of defamation, handing down harsher sentences.

The latest crackdown comes as the military government prepares to put a widely criticized military-written constitution to the public in August.

Thai authorities on Tuesday released on bail eight activists arrested in April over Facebook comments critical of the junta and the draft constitution.

Two of the eight activists face separate charges of royal insult. They were charged on Wednesday with insulting the revered monarchy in private Facebook messages.

Thailand’s strict royal defamation law makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent. Those found guilty face prison terms of up to 15 years for each offense.

Thailand is one of 14 countries being questioned at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a cyclical review of the human rights record of the 193 United Nations members.

More than a decade of political strife has seen at times violent street protests by both Thaksin’s supporters and their opponents.

In their closing remarks, Thai officials told the council they expected to adopt some of its recommendations on Friday, when its current session ends.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence Fernandez)


Thailand’s Red Bowl Caper: Theerawan Charoensuk faces a sedition charge in Thailand’s military court for posting a photo of herself holding a plastic bowl that she received from the deposed prime ministers.

Backpackers David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were found beaten to death on Koh Tao.Source:Supplied

Luke Miller, left, was found dead in a hotel pool on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand. Picture: GofundmeSource:Supplied

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha


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