Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Philippines President Duterte’s first year in office marked by ‘human rights calamity’—HRW

June 28, 2017
By: – Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 11:02 AM June 28, 2017

Editor’s Note: Starting June 25, the Inquirer will run on its print, online, and social media platforms a series of stories, reports and commentaries on the socioeconomic impact – positive and negative – that President Duterte has made in his first year in office. The articles will focus on how the former Davao City mayor has coped with the challenges of the presidency in five major areas that Filipinos consider most important in their lives: peace and order, traffic, economy, governance and foreign policy. This evaluation of the administration’s achievements and shortcomings will take into account what Mr. Duterte had promised to do during last year’s presidential campaign, his June 30 inaugural speech and his July 25 State of the Nation Address.

Rodrigo Duterte


President Rodrigo Duterte has unleashed a “human rights calamity” in the Philippines in his first year in office, a New York-based human rights group said on Wednesday as it called for a UN-led probe to stop the killings in the country and hold the President accountable.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the government’s “murderous” war on drugs, drug-related overcrowding of jails, and alleged harassment and prosecution of drug war critics had caused a “steep decline in respect for basic rights” since Duterte’s assumption in office.

“President Duterte took office promising to protect human rights, but has instead spent his first year in office as a boisterous instigator for an unlawful killing campaign,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of HRW, said in a statement.

“Duterte has supported and incited ‘drug war’ killings while retaliating against those fearless enough to challenge his assault on human rights,” Kine added.

Duterte will mark his first year in Malacañang on Friday, June 30.

READ: Duterte: One year of bold initiatives, shock and awe

The group noted that since Duterte assumed office on July 1, last year, security forces and “unidentified gunmen” had reportedly killed at least 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers, including the 3,116 killings by police based on government’s data.

Yet, the HRC said the Duterte administration had rejected all domestic and international calls for accountability for these abuses, and instead, denied any government responsibility for the thousands of drug war deaths.

“During his first year in office, President Duterte and his government have demonstrated a fundamental unwillingness to respect rights or provide justice for people whose rights have been violated,” Kine said.

“A UN-led international investigation is desperately needed to help stop the slaughter and press for accountability for Duterte’s human rights catastrophe,” he said.

Duterte had already been charge at the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

The group, citing its own research, also branded as “blatant falsehoods,” the government’s claim that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful.

READ: Duterte criminally liable for ‘human rights calamity’—HRW report

“Interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records expose a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions that may amount to crimes against humanity,” the HRW said.

“While the Philippine National Police have publicly sought to distinguish between suspects killed while resisting arrest and killings by ‘unknown gunmen’ or ‘vigilantes,’ Human Rights Watch found no such distinction in the cases investigated.”

“In several such cases, the police dismissed allegations of involvement when only hours before the suspects had been in police custody. Such cases call into question government assertions that the majority of killings were carried out by vigilantes or rival drug gangs,” it further said.

The HRW said Duterte’s war on drugs has also “worsened the already dire conditions of Philippine jail facilities, including inadequate food and unsanitary conditions.”

“Government data indicates that the country’s jail facilities run by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which have a maximum capacity of 20,399, currently hold nearly 132,000 detainees, an overwhelming majority of them awaiting trial or sentencing,” it said.

“The bureau attributes the overcrowding to the arrest of tens of thousands of suspected drug users and dealers since the anti-drug campaign began.”

The drug war, the group said, has also boosted the number of “secret jails” in which police had reportedly detained suspects unlawfully, demanding bribes in exchange for their release.

The HRC, likewise, mentioned how the Duterte administration had subjected to harassment, intimidation and even arrest some of its prominent critics like Senator Leila de Lima.

De Lima was arrested and detained last February over her alleged involvement on illegal drugs.

“Other critics of the killings – including activists, journalists, international officials, and ordinary Filipinos – have been threatened online by pro-Duterte supporters and trolls. Among those targeted were Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and international experts on drug dependency,” the group added. IDL

Duterte Year 1

Explore on our special anniversary site the Inquirer series of multiplatform reports and commentaries on the gains and challenges during President Duterte’s first year in office. Daily content begins June 25 till July 24.

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China’s treatment of sick activist raises fears for others — “If Xi is going to stand up in public and say that China is a country governed by rule of law, how has this been allowed to happen?”

June 27, 2017


© LIU FAMILY/AFP/File / by Allison JACKSON, Joanna CHIU | This picture released by the family of Liu Xiaobo taken on March 14, 2005 shows 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo (L) and his brother Liu Xiaoxuan in Guangzhou in southern China

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s treatment of cancer-stricken democracy activist Liu Xiaobo reflects Beijing’s hardening crackdown on political dissent and heightens concern over lesser-known campaigners still languishing in jail, supporters say.

Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, has been transferred from prison to a hospital on medical parole for terminal liver cancer treatment, his lawyer said Monday.

The 61-year-old is one of China’s best-known activists, having spent decades campaigning for greater democracy and human rights in the country, and his jailing in 2009 drew global calls for his release.

Prison authorities said Liu was under the care of “eight renowned Chinese oncologists” at a hospital in Shenyang city, the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Activists said the move was not a humanitarian gesture but rather a cynical attempt by authorities to avoid a backlash for allowing such a high-profile human rights defender to die behind bars.

“Presumably they didn’t want him to die in the prison — they want him to die somewhere else,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, who described Liu’s treatment as a “travesty”.

Blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who fled to the United States in 2012, said: “If Liu died in prison this would arouse the anger of the people and accelerate the demise of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).”

– ‘No human rights’ –

Liu’s treatment offered little hope to lower-profile activists still in detention, supporters said.

“The international community can see that China has no human rights when even Nobel prize winners have been treated like this,” Beijing-based lawyer Yu Wensheng said, adding that when Liu dies it will be “a heavy blow” for China’s human rights movement.

China has long been criticised for its harsh treatment of activists and dissidents but since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012 the controls on civil society have tightened.

Campaigners say it is impossible to know the exact number of lawyers and activists in detention because many are held incommunicado with no access to legal advice or their families.

In the summer of 2015 hundreds of legal staff and activists were detained under the so-called “709 crackdown”, which was the toughest against civil society for years.

Most of those rounded up were released on bail but last year courts found six of them guilty of serious crimes, with sentences ranging from no additional jail time to seven years in prison.

Wang Quanzhang, one of several leading rights lawyers whose fate remains unclear, was charged in January 2016 with “inciting subversion of state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” but he has not yet stood trial and has been denied access to a lawyer.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of 99.92 percent and there are growing concerns about the use of torture to extract confessions and the lack of effective defence.

In an annual report in March, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang cited the harsh punishments imposed on rights defenders as the legal system’s top accomplishment last year.

“The crackdown on human rights defenders and activists has been getting more serious,” said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International.

– Still not free –

The exact conditions of Liu’s parole are not known but activists said he would likely be kept under police surveillance. Close friends of his told AFP his wife, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest in Beijing since 2010, has been allowed to visit him.

The US embassy in Beijing on Tuesday called on China to release the couple and allow Liu to choose his own doctors.

“Liu will never be free. He will still be tightly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party as his wife has been for so many years,” Chen Guangcheng said.

Activists are demanding to know whether Liu received any medical treatment while he was in jail and why he was not given parole earlier.

“It’s very difficult to understand why his illness is only being treated at the last stage,” said Poon.

But Richardson said China had a history of allowing “peaceful critics to become gravely ill and sometimes die in detention”.

Among them are Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who was 13 years into a life sentence for terrorism and separatism when he died in prison in July 2015.

Chinese dissident Cao Shunli passed away in custody in March 2014 after allegedly being denied medical treatment for months.

“If Xi is going to stand up in public and say that China is a country governed by rule of law, how has this been allowed to happen,” she said, calling for China’s president and other officials to be held accountable.

by Allison JACKSON, Joanna CHIU
See also:
Image may contain: 1 person
Cao Shunli passed away in custody in China in March 2014 after allegedly being denied medical treatment for months
Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in custody in China
Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses
Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang of Yixian — Died in prison in China
See also:
BBC News

Liu Xiaobo: Jailed Chinese dissident has terminal cancer

  • 26 June 2017
  • From the sectionChina
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is seen in this undated photo released by his families.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionLiu Xiaobo is a poet and human rights campaigner

Chinese Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has been moved from prison to hospital after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

Mr Liu, a human rights campaigner, was jailed in 2009 on subversion charges for calling for greater democracy.

His lawyer says he is being treated in hospital in northern Liaoning Province after being diagnosed a month ago.

His wife Liu Xia has been under house arrest since her husband won the award in 2010 but has never been charged.

Liu Xiaobo, 61, was a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

The Chinese authorities have never explained why they have restricted his wife’s movements.

Mr Liu’s brother confirmed the Nobel laureate had been diagnosed with cancer on 23 May, his lawyer Mo Shaoping told the South China Morning Post. He was released days later and is now being treated in the northern city of Shenyang.

“He has no special plans. He is just receiving medical treatment for his illness,” Mo Shaoping told AFP news agency.

A statement from the government in Liaoning said Mr Liu had been released on medical parole and was being treated by eight tumour experts.

Fighting for change from within – Stephen McDonell, BBC News, Beijing

Most people in China have never heard of Liu Xiaobo due to the censorship of discussion about him here. That it could take a month for news of his release to become public gives you an idea of the level of sensitivity.

It also shows that his transfer to hospital by no means guarantees his friends and family will be able to visit.

After the brutal crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989 Mr Liu was driven to the front gate of the Australian embassy and an Australian diplomat said that he had to choose in or out.

He decided not to leave, believing he could be more effective trying to make change from within. This commitment to a very different China has led to him paying a terrible price.

The Nobel committee described Liu Xiaobo as “the foremost symbol” of the human rights struggle in China.

He never collected his prize and was represented by an empty chair. The Chinese government, which regards him as a criminal, was infuriated by the award.

Diplomatic ties with Norway were frozen. Relations were normalised only last December.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia (C), together with human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping (L), arrive at the court for the trial of her brother, Liu Hui, who is charged for committing fraud in connection with a real-estate deal, in Beijing on April 23, 2013.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionLiu Xia (seen with lawyer Mo Shaoping, left) has been allowed only brief, intermittent visits to her husband

Mr Liu has three years left to serve of an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion” after drafting Charter 08 – which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

Amnesty International said he should never have been jailed.

It urged China to ensure he received “adequate medical care, effective access to his family and that he and all others imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights are immediately and unconditionally released”.

More Blood but No Victory as Philippine Drug War Marks Its First Year — Ignoring human rights, Police turned into murderers — “This president behaves as if he is above the law.”

June 25, 2017

MANILA — Launched a year ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs has resulted in thousands of deaths, yet the street price of crystal methamphetamine in Manila has fallen and surveys show Filipinos are as anxious as ever about crime.

Duterte took power on June 30 last year, vowing to halt the drug abuse and lawlessness he saw as “symptoms of virulent social disease.”

Thanks to his campaign, government officials say, crime has dropped, thousands of drug dealers are behind bars, a million users have registered for treatment, and future generations of Filipinos are being protected from the scourge of drugs.

“There are thousands of people who are being killed, yes,” said Oscar Albayalde, Metro Manila’s police chief told Reuters. “But there are millions who live, see?”

A growing chorus of critics, however, including human rights activists, lawyers and the country’s influential Catholic Church, dispute the authorities’ claims of success.

Police probers gather evidence near the bodies of two alleged drug pushers killed in Quiapo, Manila.STAR/Joven Cagande

They say police have summarily executed drug suspects with impunity, terrorising poorer communities and exacerbating the very lawlessness they were meant to tackle.

“This president behaves as if he is above the law – that he is the law,” wrote Amado Picardal, an outspoken Filipino priest, in a recent article for a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines publication. “He has ignored the rule of law and human rights.”

The drug war’s exact death toll is hotly disputed, with critics saying the toll is far above the 5,000 that police have identified as either drug-related killings, or suspects shot dead during police operations.

Most victims are small-time users and dealers, while the masterminds behind the lucrative drug trade are largely unknown and at large, say critics of Duterte’s ruthless methods.

If the strategy was working the laws of economics suggest the price of crystal meth, the highly addictive drug also known as ‘shabu’, should be rising as less supply hits the streets.

But the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s own data suggests shabu has become even cheaper in Manila.

In July 2016, a gram of shabu cost 1,200-11,000 pesos ($24-$220), according to agency’s figures. Last month, a gram cost 1,000-15,000 pesos ($20-$300), it said.

The wide ranges reflect swings in availability and sharp regional variations. Officials say Manila’s street prices are at the lowest end of the range. And that has come down, albeit by just a few dollars.

“If prices have fallen, it’s an indication that enforcement actions have not been effective,” said Gloria Lai of the International Drug Policy Consortium, a global network of non-governmental groups focused on narcotics.

The problem is, according to Derrick Carreon, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s spokesman, that while nine domestic drug labs have been busted, shabu smuggled in from overseas has filled the market gap.

“Demand needs to be addressed because there are still drug smugglers,” Carreon said.

While smuggled shabu has kept the price down in the capital, the official data shows the price has gone up in the already substantially more expensive far-flung regions, like the insurgency-racked southern island of Mindanao.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last month after militants inspired by Islamic State stormed Marawi City, and the army’s failure to retake the city quickly has dented the president’s image as a law-and-order president.


Surveys by Social Weather Stations (SWS), a leading Manila pollster, reveal a public broadly supportive of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, but troubled by its methods and dubious about its effectiveness.

SWS surveys in each of the first three quarters of Duterte’s rule showed a “very high satisfaction” with the anti-drug campaign, said Leo Laroza, a senior SWS researcher.

In the most recent survey, published on April, 92 percent said it was important that drug suspects be captured alive.

Respondents also reported a 6.3 percent rise in street robberies and break-ins. More than half of those polled said they were afraid to venture out at night, a proportion that had barely changed since the drug war began, said Laroza.

“People still have this fear when it comes to their neighbourhoods,” he said. “It has not gone down.”

Public and police perceptions of crime levels seem to diverge.

The number of crimes committed in the first nine months of Duterte’s rule has dropped by 30 percent, according to police statistics cited by the president’s communications team.

Albayalde, the capital’s police chief, said people, particularly in Manila, felt safer now, especially due to a crackdown on drug users who he said commit most of the crime.

In the first 11 months of Duterte’s rule, police say 3,155 suspects were shot dead in anti-drug operations. Critics maintain that many of them were summarily executed.

    Police say they have investigated a further 2,000 drug-related killings, and have yet to identify a motive in at least another 7,000 murders and homicides.

Human rights monitors believe many of these victims were killed by undercover police or their paid vigilantes, a charge the police deny.

For residents of Navotas fishport, a warren of shacks near Manila’s docks, the body count is too high. There were nine killings in a single night in Navotas earlier this month, according to local media.

In mid-May, said resident Mary Joy Royo, a dozen gunmen arrived on motorbikes and abducted her mother and stepfather. Their corpses were found later with execution-style gunshots to the head and torso.

“They should be targeting the drug lords,” Royo told Reuters. “The victims of the drug war are the poor people.”

Human rights activists light candles for the victims of extrajudicial killings around the country in the wake of “War on Drugs” campaign by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 in suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. The “war on drugs” campaign, which saw hundreds of mostly poor victims, has been condemned by human rights groups including the United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon. AP/Bullit Marquez


As the death toll has risen, so has domestic and international outrage.

In October, the Hague-based International Criminal Court said it could investigate the killings if they were “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.”

Police operations were halted for much of February after it emerged that anti-drug police abducted and killed a South Korean businessman last year, but the outcry over the rising body count has rarely slowed the killing or led to prosecutions.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights is investigating 680 drug-war killings.

“In this country the basic problem is impunity,” Chito Gascon, the commission’s chairman, said. “No one is ever held to account for the worst violations. Ever.”

Police chief Albayalde says that the force’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS) investigates all allegations of abuse by his officers.

“We do not tolerate senseless killings,” he said. “We do not just kill anybody.”

IAS told Reuters it had investigated 1,912 drug-related cases and recommended 159 officers for dismissal due to misconduct during anti-drug operations, although it didn’t know whether any had yet been dismissed.

Earlier this month, 19 police officers charged with murdering two drug suspects in their jail cell in November were released on bail and now face trial for the lesser crime of homicide.

Duterte, who has repeatedly urged police to kill drug suspects, had already vowed to pardon the officers if they were convicted.

“You have a head of state who says, ‘Kill, kill, kill,’ a head of state who says, ‘I’ve got your back,'” said CHR’s Gascon. “That has a ripple effect.”

(Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)


 (The Philippines seems to be siding with China, Russia and Iran)

President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

UAE runs ‘informal prisons’ in Yemen: HRW

June 22, 2017


© AFP/File | The Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in 2015 against the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen

BEIRUT (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates runs at least two “informal detention facilities” in Yemen and has reportedly transferred detainees to a base in Eritrea, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The UAE is a key member of a Saudi-led military coalition that entered Yemen’s conflict in 2015 to battle on the government’s side against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

HRW said UAE officials appeared to have “moved high-profile detainees outside the country” including to a base in Eritrea.

The rights group said it had documented 49 cases, including those of four children, who had been “arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared” — at least 38 of them by UAE-backed forces.

The New York-based group said the UAE also runs detention facilities in southern provinces home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.

Children are among those detained in the centres, it said.

It said Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, had also “arbitrarily detained and disappeared scores of people in northern Yemen”.

The World Health Organization estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed in two years of conflict in Yemen, which also faces a deadly cholera outbreak and the threat of famine.

All parties in Yemen’s war have drawn harsh criticism for causing civilian suffering.

The United Nations and HRW have said air strikes by the Saudi-led alliance have killed many civilians and may amount to war crimes.

Vietnam defends decision to revoke dissident’s citizenship — The government has not said exactly what he is accused of

June 15, 2017


Thu Jun 15, 2017 | 7:15am EDT

Vietnam on Thursday defended its decision to revoke the citizenship of French-Vietnamese dissident Pham Minh Hoang, a former political prisoner who is accused of breaking the law and threatening state security.

Image result for Pham Minh Hoang, vietnam, photos

The 62-year-old mathematics lecturer was told of the decision last week, drawing criticism from human rights groups. The government has not said exactly what he is accused of.

“The removal of citizenship was conducted in accordance with the provisions of Vietnamese law,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang.

Hoang and the French embassy in Vietnam have been informed of the decision, she said.

Reuters was not able to contact Hoang for comment. The French embassy was not immediately available for comment.

Hoang was sentenced to three years in jail for attempted subversion in 2011 but was released after 17 months and served three years under house arrest.

The decision to revoke Hoang’s citizenship was unjustified and “marks a new low for Hanoi’s treatment of political dissidents”, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said this week.

Despite sweeping reforms to the economy and growing openness to social change, the Communist Party retains tight media censorship and tolerates no criticism. Dozens of bloggers and activists are serving sentences for crimes against the state.

(Reporting by My Pham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Arrests and Clashes as Police Evicts Hundreds From Myanmar Slum

June 12, 2017

YANGON — One policeman was injured and at least five people were arrested in clashes on Monday as authorities in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, demolished a shanty town to clear the land for development.

Some 100 police officers and over 1,000 workers hired by the government razed shacks with chainsaws and sledgehammers as many residents defended their homes, shouting at the demolition crews. The injured policeman was hit in the head by a stone.

Residents say they were not adequately consulted and were not compensated for the loss of their homes.

City authorities and a private company that plans to use the land for new homes, hospitals, parks and a golf course, said the people had occupied the land expecting compensation, knowing it would be confiscated for development.

Just 14 months into the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, the forced eviction drew comparisons to methods used by the previous, military-backed government. At that time, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was a defender of forcibly removed squatters.

Among the removed residents was Thein Htay, 49, and his 9-year-old son. They stood beside their blankets, television set, clothes and cutlery scattered on the ground next to a pile of bamboo which a few hours earlier had been their home.

“I can’t afford living in Yangon. I wanted to own a house for the first time in my life, but now everything has been destroyed,” said Thein Htay.

He had bought a piece of land two months ago from a broker who advertised in a state-owned newspaper. He paid over $440 and built his house with bamboo.

“Now I have nowhere to go and I don’t have enough money to move to another place,” he said.

Yu Khine, director at the Yangon government housing department that led the clearance operation, said: “We will not compensate any of them because they are squatters for their own profit. This land belongs to the government.”

The NLD in the past supported people facing forcible evictions, and, after coming to power last year, promised to solve land disputes, but critics say it has made little progress.

Yangon-based analyst for Human Rights Watch, Richard Weir, called on the government to uphold citizens’ rights.

If not, Weir said, “peoples’ rights to adequate housing would be particularly effected and, if not provided adequate consultation or compensation, could leave a large number of people landless and highly vulnerable.”

(Reporting by Thet Oo Mg Mg; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc — Signing business deals worth billions of dollars

June 1, 2017


Thu Jun 1, 2017 | 12:16am EDT

By Roberta Rampton and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and suit
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) welcomes Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Donald Trump talked trade with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a White House visit on Wednesday and welcomed the signing of business deals worth billions of dollars and the jobs they would create.

The U.S. Commerce Department announced 13 new transactions with Vietnam worth $8 billion, including $3 billion worth of U.S.-produced content that would support more than 23,000 American jobs.

These include deals for General Electric Co (GE.N) worth $5.58 billion for power generation, aircraft engines and services, its largest-ever combined sale in Vietnam.

Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) and its dealer in Vietnam also agreed to provide generator management technology for more than 100 generators in Vietnam, the company said.

“They (Vietnam) just made a very large order in the United States – and we appreciate that – for many billions of dollars, which means jobs for the United States and great, great equipment for Vietnam,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

The Commerce Department estimate of the deals was considerably less than the $15 billion figure given by Phuc during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, adding that most of the total involved the import of U.S. equipment.

Communist Vietnam has gone from being a Cold War enemy to an important partner for the United States in the Asia-Pacific, where both countries share concerns about China’s rising power.

Phuc told Trump the relationship had undergone “significant upheavals in history” but that the two countries were now “comprehensive partners.”

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.


However, while Hanoi and Washington have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, trade has become a potential irritant, with a deficit widening steadily in Vietnam’s favor, reaching $32 billion last year, compared with $7 billion a decade earlier.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said it was important to shrink the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam but noted that the southeast Asian country of 80 million people was the fastest-growing market for U.S. exports, rising 77 percent since 2014 to $4.4 billion.

“The growth of the middle class and the increasing purchasing power in Vietnam are further incentives to strengthening our long-term trade and investment relationship,” Ross said.

Trump, who has had strong words for countries with large trade surpluses with the United States, said he would be discussing trade with Phuc, as well as North Korea.

Washington has been seeking support to pressure North Korea to drop its nuclear and missile programs, which have become an increasing threat to the United States. Hanoi has said it shares concerns about North Korea.

In his Heritage speech, Phuc welcomed Trump’s plans to attend the November APEC summit in Hanoi. He called it a sign of U.S. commitment to the region and “an important occasion for the United States to assert its positive role.”

In a reference to somewhat warmer ties between Washington and Beijing under Trump, who has been courting China’s support on North Korea, Phuc said Vietnam welcomed good relations between the two powers, but hoped these would serve the interest of other nations in the region too.

He urged Washington and Beijing “to act with full transparency and in a responsible manner so as not to impact negatively the region and relations among other nations.”

Vietnam’s government said on its website Trump and Phuc had agreed to promote defense ties and discussed the possibility of U.S. vessels, including aircraft carriers, visiting Vietnamese ports.

It said they had expressed concern about the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei are involved in maritime disputes with China, which claims nearly all the strategic waterway. Taiwan also stakes a claim.

“They emphasized that parties must not take actions accelerating tension such as the militarization of disputed structures,” it said, an apparent reference to China’s construction work.


Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that while the Trump administration welcomed new business deals with Vietnam, its view was they were “nice, but not enough.”

“They want Vietnam to bring some ideas about how to tackle the surplus on an ongoing basis,” he said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the deficit with Vietnam. He said it was a new challenge for the two countries and he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

The deficit is Washington’s sixth largest and reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

On Tuesday Vietnam’s trade minister, Tran Tuan Anh, presented Lighthizer with suggestions to address some U.S. concerns, such as advertising on U.S. social media, electronic payment services and imports of information security and farm products, Vietnam’s trade ministry said.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, of which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, David Brunnstrom, David Lawder and Mike Stone in Washington, My Pham in Hanoi; Editing by Diane Craft and Bill Trott)


Trump Hosts Prime Minister Phuc of Vietnam and Announces Trade Deals

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam met with President Trump in the Oval Office on Wednesday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump welcomed the prime minister of Vietnam to the Oval Office on Wednesday, cutting business deals and discussing the transfer of a Coast Guard cutter to a onetime enemy that the United States now views as a front-line defender against an expansionist China.

It was Mr. Trump’s first meeting with the prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the president had warm words for his guest, despite having raised concerns within the Vietnamese government on both economic and security fronts early in his administration.

Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade pact struck by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of which Vietnam is a member and would be a major beneficiary.

The president has also relaxed the pressure on China in return for its help in curbing North Korea, which has prompted concerns among Vietnam and its neighbors that the United States might not be as quick to thwart Beijing’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.

“Prime Minister Phuc has done a spectacular job in Vietnam, led so many different categories in trade and other things,” Mr. Trump told reporters before their meeting. “We’re going to be discussing trade. We’re going to be discussing North Korea. We have many things to talk about and we look forward to being together, very much so.”

Mr. Trump made no mention of Vietnam’s human rights abuses, which include the detention of dissident bloggers and religious activists, and have become the subject of persistent interest on Capitol Hill.

“The Vietnamese Politburo has drifted in a more conservative direction,” said John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “They’ve become more retrogressive.”

As has been his custom with authoritarian leaders, including Xi Jinping of China and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mr. Trump avoided raising those issues publicly. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, told reporters that in general, the president preferred to raise such issues in private.


Read the rest:

Duterte fires Dangerous Drugs Board chief for ‘contradicting official government’ stats (that were never correct in the first place)

May 24, 2017
/ 08:56 PM May 24, 2017
rodrigo duterte

DUTERTE ARRIVES FROM RUSSIA / MAY 24, 2017 — President Rodrigo Duterte arrives from his visit to Russia at NAIA Terminal 2.INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

President Rodrigo Duterte fired the chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board for allegedly using contradicting statistics.

“And I would like to put to task publicly this (Benjamin) Reyes. You know five years ago, Santiago who was the PDEA chief gave us a figure of three million,” Duterte said after arriving in Manila from Moscow.

“Ang binigay ni Reyes sa chairman sa Dangerous Board, ‘yung accomplishment ni Bato ng PNP. That’s 1.8. And dala-dala ng babae was 1.8. When I have been telling everybody, everything that there’s about four million drug addict(s),” the President said.

The Dangerous Drugs Board has been using a 2015 survey that says there were 1.8 million drug users in the country.

“You’re fired today. Get out of the service,” Duterte said. “You do not contradict your own government…You’re just a civilian member of a board.”

Duterte said Reyes is not an “implementor of the law.”

“The correct count is the police and the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” Duterte said.

In an interview with ANC on Tuesday, Reyes used the statistics of 1.8 million drug users but he also reportedly said that they have information that the number can go up to 3 million or 4 million.

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Duterte fires drugs board chair for ‘contradicting government’

The Dangerous Drugs Board shares its Quezon City office with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. File photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday announced he was firing Dangerous Drug Board Chairman Benjamin Reyes for “contradicting your own government” by presenting drug user data based on a government-commissioned survey.

“I would like to put to task publicly this Reyes,” the president said in a speech upon his return from Russia, a trip that had to be cut short because of the crisis in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.


Duterte said that former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Dionisio Santiago told him five years ago that the country had an estimated 3 million drug users.

It is unclear what Santiago’s basis was since, according to a Rappler report on government drug data, the PDEA did not release data to the public except in 2008, when there were 1.7 million drug users in the Philippines.

“Ang binigay ni Reyes sa chairman sa dangerous board [sic]… yung accomplishment ni Bato… ‘yung PNP. That’s 1.8 (million),” the president said.

But the figure of 1.8 million is actually from the DDB’s 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines, the results of which were released in September 2016.

READ: 4M drug users ‘in the realm of possibility,’ DDB insists

If anything, Reyes, in an interview with in February, tried to justify Duterte’s figure of 4 million drug users.

“Pero may margin of error kasi iyan na plus or minus five percent, so it can even go as high as—so 2.3 plus 5 percent, that’s 7.3 percent. That’s even higher than the global average,” Reyes said then. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates a global average of 5.2 percent.


But Alyson Yap, a full-time member of the faculty at Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Quantitative Methods and Information Technology, said in February that Reyes’ assessment was incorrect and that the chairman was making a dangerous conclusion.

Yap, who teaches combined statistics and operations management, said that using the the rate and confidence level used in the DDB report, the range would actually be “between 0.0185 to 0.0267 or between 1.85 percent to 2.67 percent only.” That is around 1.4 million to 2 million people.

“Dala-dala nung babae, 1.8 … na I have been telling everybody that there is about 4 million drug addicts… and here comes a chairman… you’re fired,” the president said on Wednesday.

Duterte may have been referring to UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who has been critical of the government’s drug war, and who was at a drug policy forum at the University of the Philippines this month. Reyes, as DDB chair, also spoke at the forum.

“You do not contradict your own government,” the president said.

The president said that the figures of the PDEA and the Philippine National Police is the “correct count,” adding the “civilian” Reyes is not an “implementer” of the law.

The Dangerous Drugs Board, which is attached to the Office of the President, sets the country’s drug policy. The PDEA and PNP are technically civilian agencies.

PDEA: 4.7M drug users in Philippines

At a forum earlier this month, the PDEA claimed that the number of drug users is at 4.7 million.

The DDB survey indicated that more than 4.74 million persons in the country, or 6.1 percent of the population aged 10-69, have used illegal drugs at least once in their lifetime.

But, when sent PDEA a Freedom of Information request on what the basis for the estimate of 4.7 million was, the PDEA said the DDB and the PNP would be able to answer the questions better.

In a response to, PDEA Director Adzhar Albani, a PDEA 11 decision maker, said:

You asked for Basis for PDEA estimate of  4.7 million drug users.

The 4.7 million drug users is based on the the survey conducted by the Dangerous Drug Board itself plus based on the survey & operations as well of the Philippine National Police dubbed as the “Oplan Tokhang”

Please note that we are only able to provide such information to what you have requested. If you wish to get a copy of the data on how they conducted their survey, parameters used etc,  you may address your request directly to the Dangerous Drugs Board and/or the Philippine National Police.


The 1.8 million figure from the DDB survey was also the basis for the PNP’s drug targets for 2016.

Peace and Freedom Note: Duerte may think the higher number of drug users may give him a better excuse for his human rights abuses, thus lessening criticism from the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. He may also be hoping that the higher number will encourage more financial assistance from China and Russia.

Philippines’ Duterte mulls imposing martial law nationwide — “Martial law of Mr Marcos was very good,” Duterte said — (The most lawless nation in Asia goes one step beyond…)

May 24, 2017


© AFP | Philippine policemen check a car at a checkpoint in Iligan City, on the southern island of Mindanao, on May 24, 2017


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he may impose martial law throughout the nation, after declaring military rule in the southern third the cof ountry to combat Islamist militants.

Duterte on Tuesday announced the imposition of martial law in the region of Mindanao, home to about 20 million people, after militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group rampaged through a city there.

Duterte said he was considering also imposing martial law through the central third of the Philippines known as the Visayas, because this region is very close to Mindanao.

He then also raised the prospect of the northern third of the Philippines, known as Luzon and home to the capital of Manila, falling under martial law.

“If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people,” he said.

Duterte warned martial law would be similar to military rule imposed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos a generation ago.

Marcos’s two-decade rule ended in 1986 when millions of people took to the streets in a famous “People Power” revolution.

“Martial law of Mr Marcos was very good,” Duterte said.

Duterte said his own version of martial law meant security forces could conduct searches and arrest people without warrants.

He also said there would be curfews for some provinces in Mindanao.


 (with links to related reports)




Philippine President Declares Martial Law in Mindanao: Spokesman

May 23, 2017

(Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in southern Mindanao province after fighting raged in southern Marawi City between the army and militants linked to Islamic state.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made the announcement in Moscow, where the president is on a visit.

A meeting with Dmitry Medvedev will be canceled on Wednesday but Duterte will remain in Russia, Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said in a televised news conference.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Hugh Lawson)