Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

Malaysia Ruling Party Leaders Denounce Violence at Mahathir Forum — 92 Year Old Former PM “Chased From The Stage” — PM Najib Accused of “Gangsterism”

August 14, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — Leaders of Malaysia’s ruling party have condemned violence that erupted at a forum where former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad was speaking, as political tension rises ahead of a general election that could be called in coming months.

One opposition leader accused Prime Minister Najib Razak of “gangsterism” to keep Mahathir quiet after some people at the Sunday meeting threw shoes, chairs and flares at Mahathir, who has made it his mission to unseat Najib over his handling of the a multi-billion dollar scandal involving a state fund.

Mahathir, 92, was not hurt, his aide said.

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Malaysia — Troublemakers ignited two flare, threw chairs and flung shoes and slippers on to the stage when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was speaking. The fracas forced organisers to escor Dr Mahathir our of the venue. Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, August 13, 2017.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said differences of opinion did not give anyone license to act violently.

“As a country that practices democracy, such an incident should not have happened,” Ahmad Zahid was quoted as saying in the Star daily newspaper on Monday.

Mahathir, who served as prime minister for 22 years until he stepped down in 2003, chairs a fractured opposition alliance hoping to unseat the long-ruling government coalition in election due by next year.

Mahathir has offered to head a government again if the opposition wins.

Some opposition leaders allied with Mahathir accused Najib of orchestrating the violence. A deputy president of the People’s Justice Party, Azmin Ali, said in a statement the prime minister had resorted to “gangsterism”.

A senior member of Najib’s United Malay National Organisation, who is also a government minister, Salleh Said Keruak, said such accusations were “unhealthy” for politics.

“Remember that gangster politics is not part of our political culture,” Salleh said in a statement.

Another government minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, condemned the violence in a Twitter message saying it “cannot be tolerated”.

Media reported that police had detained two people.

Mahathir has been a prominent critics of his former protege Najib over the scandal-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib denies wrongdoing.

1MDB is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries. The U.S. Justice Department alleged in civil lawsuits that about $4.5 billion of funds were misappropriated from the fund.

The U.S. Justice Department said in its latest court filing on Thursday it was conducting a criminal investigation of 1MDB and asked for a stay on civil lawsuits it had filed to seize assets allegedly bought with money stolen from the fund.

Najib denied taking money from 1MDB after it was reported that investigators traced nearly $700 million to his bank accounts. Authorities cleared him of any wrongdoing, saying the money was a donation from Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)


Town Hall by Ex-Malaysian Leader Mahathir Marred by Violence — Opposition Blames PM Najib for “Gangsterism”

August 13, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A town hall meeting with former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who now heads an opposition coalition, was marred by violence Sunday, with several people hurling flares, chairs and shoes at the stage.

The 92-year-old Mahathir, who has set up a new political party to try to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak in elections due by mid-2018, was answering questions at the forum, hosted by his party, when chaos erupted. Shoes, water bottles and chairs were flung at the stage before two flares were ignited, filling the hall with smoke and turning it bright pink.

Mahathir was safely escorted out of the hall. Forum organizer Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said several people were injured but couldn’t give details on the exact number or their condition.

Police said three people, ranging in age from 17 to 19, were detained.

Syed Saddiq slammed the disruption as “sabotage,” saying officials from Mahathir’s Bersatu party had earlier noticed a group of youths wearing T-shirts with fake logos of Bersatu’s youth wing.

Opposition lawmaker Azmin Ali said: “Najib is using gangsterism to shut Mahathir’s mouth. It’s a cowardly act.”

There was no immediate comment from the government.

While it was unclear who was behind the fracas, it highlights that Mahathir — Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years before stepping down in 2003 — is seen as a political threat.

Mahathir has been spearheading calls for Najib to resign over a multibillion-dollar financial scandal in indebted state fund 1MDB, which is being investigated in several countries for money laundering. Najib has denied any wrongdoing.

Mahathir came out of retirement to set up Bersatu last year and was recently appointed chairman of a fractured opposition coalition.

Earlier at Sunday’s forum, which was dubbed “Nothing to Hide” and was attended by more than 1,000 people, Mahathir said Najib is unfit to be prime minister, calling him a “liar and a thief” over the 1MDB scandal.

Mahathir said the four-party coalition he heads has set aside differences to focus on ousting Najib. “We are united and our focus is clear: to oust Najib and set up a new government,” he said.

Malaysia’s government has said it found no criminal wrongdoing at 1MDB. But the fund has been at the center of investigations in the U.S. and other countries amid allegations of a global embezzlement and money-laundering scheme. Najib started the fund shortly after taking office in 2009 to promote economic development projects, but it accumulated billions of dollars in debt.


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Malaysia — Troublemakers ignited two flare, threw chairs and flung shoes and slippers on to the stage when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was speaking. The fracas forced organisers to escor Dr Mahathir our of the venue. Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, August 13, 2017.

SEVERAL youths lit flares, threw shoes and chairs at Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad as he spoke at the Nothing To Hide 2.0 forum, creating pandemonium and panic in a Shah Alam hall this evening.

Bersatu security personnel detained two of the troublemakers at the event in the Selangor Youth and Culture Complex in Shah Alam.

The forum was organised by Bersatu Youth (Armada) as a platform for the former prime minister and Prime Minister Najib Razak to debate issues surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

At least five suspects were seen throwing chairs into the crowd after the flares were lit.

Dr Mahathir and moderator Azhar Harun, who were on stage, did not react when the commotion broke out but were quickly escorted out of the hall.

An aide told The Malaysian Insight that Dr Mahathir, his wife Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, Bersatu president Muhiyddin Yassin, former Kedah MB Mukhriz Mahathir, Perkasa vice-president Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, Bersatu youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman and veteran DAP lawmaker Lim Kit Siang were not injured in the incident.

“All the VIPs were rushed out of the hall when the commotion broke out.”

The forum saw mostly members of Bersatu in attendance.

Dr Mahathir, who was formerly the Barisan Nasional chairman, alleged that Najib had led a band of “thieves” who robbed the country of RM42 billion.

“I challenged the prime minister to come. What is there to be scared of? You said you are innocent and if I can’t prove your guilt, then I am wrong. So why are you hiding?” he said.

Najib was invited to attend today’s forum but was at Masjid Tanah Umno division delegates conference at Sekolah Menengah Imtiaz Ulul Albab, Durian Daun, Masjid Tanah in Malacca today.

Dr Mahathir said Najib must be made accountable to investigations conducted worldwide.

“The stolen money was brought to the US, it went through banks and was also used to fund the movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’.

“What is being done by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has to do with crimes committed in the US. Nothing can be hidden. The Department of Justice can obtain proof from bank letters.

“Everytime money moves, there’s a paper trail. We are not just speaking of amounts of RM10,000, which must be reported (to the central bank). RM1 billion is a lot of money. It can fit 1,000 lorries. We are talking about 42,000 lorries. This amount of money cannot be kept hidden,” he said.

In its civil cases, the DoJ alleged that between 2009 and 2015, more than US$4.5 billion belonging to 1MDB was diverted by high-level officials of the fund and their associates.

Last year, DoJ filed a civil asset forfeiture suit to seize more than US$1 billion in assets that were bought using funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.

A year later in June, DoJ filed another suit to seize US$540 in assets, including a US$165 million yacht the Equanimity, owned by Jho Low, and rights to comedy movie ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ produced by Red Granite, a production house co-owned by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Najib.

The DoJ last week applied to stay its civil forfeiture suits on assets allegedly purchased using misappropriated 1MDB funds to facilitate ongoing criminal investigations by the US government.

“I don’t like it when the laws are blatantly broken. Laws are important and meant to maintain peace and order. The country will fall apart without the rule of law.

“The DoJ says the trail ends with Malaysian Official 1. Who is Malaysian Official 1. It’s easy. (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department) Abdul Rahman Dahlan says it’s Najib.

“I will never return to Umno. The Umno that was formed by Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Hussein Onn has been hijacked by Najib and now the whole party is ruined and does not continue Umno’s struggle which is for race, religion and the country.”

“Now they steal money to live in luxurious houses. I hope the people no longer give them another chance. We must destroy them. Don’t be afraid.” – August 13, 2017.

South China Sea: Why the contested waterway is so strategically important.

August 11, 2017

The South China Sea has long been a source of territorial disputes between several Asian countries. DW takes a look at who owns what, and why the contested waterway is so strategically important.

Südchinesisches Meer Spratly-Inseln (Reuters/E. de Castro)

Who is claiming territory?

China, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims to the South China Sea – one of the most important trade routes in the world.

Powerhouse China has the biggest claim by far. It has demarcated an extensive area of the sea with a so-called “nine-dash line” that first appeared on Chinese maps in the late 1940s. The Paracel and Spratly Island chains, as well as dozens of rocky outcrops and reefs, fall within this area. These bits of land are highly contested, mainly because they are believed to be surrounded by large oil and gas deposits.

The Spratly Islands, for example, are claimed in full by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and in part by Malaysia and the Philippines. The Paracel chain is claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan.

Graphic showing Chinese claims and disputed islands in the South China Sea

These competing claimants argue that China’s self-crafted line is unlawful because it appears to extend far beyond the limits set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which gives states an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline. Although other nations can pass through, states have sole rights over all natural resources in their EEZ. They only have full sovereignty in territorial waters 12 nautical miles from their coastline.

Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan have carried out significant construction on the islands they claim. In recent years, China has also sought to bolster its territorial control by building on the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. Satellite images from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) show that Beijing has taken significant steps to militarize the islands, equipping them with runways, ports, radar facilities, anti-aircraft guns and weapons systems.

US destroyer in the South China Sea

The United States has challenged China’s territorial claims by sailing close to disputed islands

Why is the sea important?

An escalation in the conflict over territory in the South China Sea could have global consequences, given that more than $5 trillion (4.25 trillion euros) in traded goods and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide passes through its waters each year.

The sea covers about 3,500,000 square kilometers (1,400,000 square miles) and is a main route connecting Pacific and Indian Ocean ports.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, about 80 percent of China’s oil imports pass through the South China Sea via the Malacca Strait. Roughly two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, as well as nearly 60 percent of energy supplies for Japan and Taiwan follow the same route.

The waters are also lucrative fishing grounds, providing the main source of animal protein for densely populated Southeast Asia. And its floor is also believed to contain massive, mostly untapped reserves of oil and natural gas.

Graphic showing oil and gas in the South China Sea

The role of China and the US

If China secures more territorial control in the region, it could potentially disrupt shipments to other countries, as well as secure huge oil and gas reserves, thus easing its reliance on the narrow Strait of Malacca for its energy needs.

It could also potentially deny access to foreign military forces, such as the United States. The US has maintained that the South China Sea is international water, and that sovereignty in the area should be determined by the UNCLOS.

Washington has been critical of China’s island constructions, and from time to time sends military ships and planes near disputed areas as part of so-called “freedom of navigation” operations. These actions are seen as attempts to reassure allies in the region, such as the Philippines, and to ensure access to key shipping and air routes remain open.China's Liaoning aircraft carrier (imago/Xinhua)


 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: US destroyer in Mischief Reef not objectionable

August 11, 2017
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is forward-deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The US destroyer recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratlys. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian Senyk, file

MANILA, Philippines — The latest freedom of navigation operation of the United States near Mischief Reef in the South China Sea is not a cause of concern for the Philippines, a Malacañang official said Friday.

USS John S. McCain recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed displease with the operation and said that they will bring up the issue with the US side.

“The US destroyer’s actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harmed China’s sovereignty and security,” the ministry said in a statement.

On the other hand, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the Philippines does not find the US operation objectionable.

“We’re not the spokesman for the Chinese. On the other hand, in the words of [Defense] Secretary Lorenzana, the Philippines has no objection regarding presumed innocent passage of sea craft and that there is, in other words, freedom of navigation,” Abella said in a televised press briefing.

Last May, the US launched its first freedom of navigation operation in the disputed the South China Sea, traveling near Mischief Reef.

READ: Challenging China, US launches first South China Sea operation under Trump | Beijing protests US Navy patrol through South China Sea

USS Dewey also sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands, urging Beijing to seek an explanation with the US over the incident.

Mischief or Panganiban Reef, also being claimed by the Philippines, is included in the ruling of an international arbitration court based in the The Hague, Netherlands.

The United Nation-backed tribunal considered Mischief Reef as a low-tide elevation, which gives no entitlement to any exclusive maritime zone under international law.


U.S. destroyer challenges China’s claims in South China Sea

August 10, 2017


August 10, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The operation came as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area.

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USS John McCain

It was the third “freedom of navigation operation” or “fonop” conducted during Trump’s presidency. Neither China’s defense ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China’s cooperation to rein in North Korea.

Tensions have risen recently after North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and two ICBM tests last month, prompting a strong round of U.N. sanctions which angered Pyongyang who threatened to teach the United States a “severe lesson”.

Trump in turn responded by warning North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it further threatened the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to North Korea on Wednesday, telling Pyongyang that it should stop any actions that would lead to the “end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

In July, a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam.

Experts and officials have criticized President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.


Hard-pedaling soft power, China helps launch $13 billion Belt and Road rail project in Malaysia — “Game Changer”

August 9, 2017


KUANTAN, Malaysia (Reuters) – China and Malaysia broke ground on Wednesday on a $13 billion rail project linking peninsular Malaysia’s east and west, the largest such project in the country and a major part of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure push.

The planned 688-km (430-mile) East Coast Rail Link will connect the South China Sea, large parts of which are claimed by China, at the Thai border in the east with the strategic shipping routes of the Straits of Malacca in the west.

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Malaysia — Prime Minister Najib Razak walks along the platform during the official launch of the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang rail line in Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2017. PHOTO by AFP

It is among the most prominent projects in China’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a modern-day “Silk Road” connecting the world’s second-largest economy by land corridors to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia and maritime routes opening up trade with the Middle East and Europe.

“The ECRL is indeed yet another ‘game changer’ and a ‘mindset changer’ for Malaysia as it will significantly cut travel time to and from the east coast of the peninsula,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the ceremony half way along the route in Kuantan, which faces the South China Sea.

For China, the project is another expansion of its soft power in Malaysia, which also lays claim to some disputed South China Sea islands, and is critical for China’s geopolitical and strategic interests.

“The China government has attached great importance to the China-Malaysia relations and has always considered Malaysia a dear neighbor and trustworthy partner who is committed to seeking mutually beneficial cooperation and common development in the country,” Chinese State Councillor Wang Yong said at the ceremony, heading up a 100-strong delegation in Kuantan.

Najib said the project would be financed with an 85 percent loan from China Exim Bank and the balance through a “sukuk” Islamic bond program managed by local investment banks.

Image result for China Exim Bank, photos

China Exim Bank

The project is being built by China Communications Construction Co Ltd.

Beijing has repeatedly come to the rescue of Najib over the last year, as he sought foreign investment that would help him pay off a massive debt piled up by scandal-plagued state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib has announced a spree of infrastructure projects in the last few months, many funded by China, as he builds up momentum for a general election that he has to call by mid-2018.

A Nomura research report last month said foreign direct investment inflows from China into Malaysia surged by 119 percent in 2016 and continued to grow at 64 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2017.

The growing closeness to China has raised eyebrows among Najib’s opponents who have argued that the country has become too reliant on Chinese funds.

But Najib dismissed the concerns in a speech on Tuesday, saying turning away from Chinese FDI made “no economic sense”.

There have been protests in Sri Lanka and Thailand over the Belt and Road initiative. A planned rail link through Thailand hit some resistance with what critics said were Beijing’s excessive demands and unfavorable financing.

But Thailand’s cabinet last month approved construction of the first phase of a $5.5 billion railway project to link the industrial eastern seaboard with southern China through landlocked Laos.

Editing by Praveen Menon and Nick Macfie

Sending drug dealers to God is my business: Police Chief

August 9, 2017
  • Callistasia Anggun WijayaThe Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, August 8, 2017 | 07:41 pm

Sending drug dealers to God is my business: Jakarta Police chief

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Idham Azis (center) poses during an award ceremony held on Tuesday, Aug. 8 for police investigators who succeeded in foiling the smuggling of a record-breaking one ton of crystal methamphetamine, or sabu-sabu, in Anyer, Banten in July. (Antara/Reno Esnir)

The newly appointed Jakarta Police chief Insp.Gen. Idham Azis has vowed to combat drug dealers, especially those from other countries, and will take responsibility for his subordinates’ actions if they shoot alleged drug traffickers during raids.

“If the drug dealers want to apologize, it is their business with God. Sending them to God, on the other hand, is my business,” Idham said at the Jakarta Police headquarters on Tuesday.

Idham, who was inaugurated as the Jakarta Police chief on July 26, expressed his appreciation to the team of investigators that thwarted the record-breaking smuggling attempt of one ton of crystal methamphetamine, locally known as sabu-sabu, in Anyer, Banten last month. In the raid, investigators arrested three Taiwanese nationals and shot dead another alleged to have resisted arrest.

He asserted that he would also dismiss his subordinates if they failed to handle the mass drug trafficking in the capital.

Under his leadership, he said he would give all drug units in all police precincts under the Jakarta Police’s authority a month to crack down on drug dealers.

“There will be no compromises. If the drug unit chiefs cannot enforce the law against drug dealers, I will replace them,” he said.

Greater Jakarta has the highest demand for drugs of all provinces in the country, according to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN). The National Police announced that Indonesia had become the main target of international drug syndicates following tougher anti-drug policies imposed by neighboring countries like the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia. (wnd)

Analysis: US, allies slow Beijing’s South China Sea momentum

August 8, 2017
 August 8 at 8:14 AM
MANILA, Philippines — With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year’s ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters.The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.As President Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama, who had challenged China’s assertive advances in the disputed sea, U.S. allies wondered if Trump would press America’s role as a regional counterbalance to the Asian powerhouse.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. After their meeting, they issued a joint statement that blasted aggressive actions in the contested offshore territories — without, of course, naming Beijing directly, in line with diplomatic practice.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

Its top diplomat said that while his country and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “all fully recognized that the situation in the South China Sea is showing signs of changes and things are moving toward a positive direction,” some countries outside the region “are not seeing the positive changes” and are holding onto a mindset that “still stays in the past.”

After the Philippines, ASEAN’s leader this year, hosted the first of three major summits of the bloc in April, Duterte issued a traditional chairman’s statement that dropped mention of contentious issues, including Beijing’s island constructions in disputed reefs that China has lobbied to be struck out of such high-profile communiques. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

Closeted in their annual gathering in Manila over the weekend, however, ASEAN foreign ministers wrangled over the tone and wordings to depict the territorial rifts involving China and five other governments in their joint statement, which unlike the chairman’s statement is a negotiated document.

A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.

Vietnamese diplomats, for example, insisted on mentioning concern over “extended construction” in the contested waters. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, deferred a vote on the inclusion of worries over militarization.

The Philippines was one of the countries that opposed mention of land reclamation and militarization in the communique, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano acknowledged in a news conference late Tuesday. China, he said, threatened to end future talks aimed at resolving conflicts if the arbitration ruling was mentioned in the statement.

“We won’t make any progress,” Cayetano said. “China already said if you talk about the arbitration award there is no talks.”

The protracted quibblings delayed the statement’s release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP. When it was issued a day later, the joint ministerial statement — surprisingly — mentioned land reclamation and militarization and, to Beijing’s certain dismay, carried a vague reference to the arbitration ruling: “full respect for diplomatic and legal process.”

Wang played down mention of the issues, including land reclamation, that critics have used to refer to China’s massive island constructions in the South China Sea.

The next battle is over a proposed “code of conduct,” which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.

Most ASEAN states, including the Philippines, back a legally binding code. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants. With ASEAN unable to do anything unless it acquiesces to China’s wishes, it relented to reach a consensus. Proponents of the rule of law were dismayed.

The agreed framework “is a lowest-common-denominator effort. It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“With ASEAN itself divided and China’s sway over individual ASEAN members growing,” Glaser said, “this is an unsurprising even if disappointing development.”

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of “major disruption from outside parties.”

The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN “to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”

“Outside parties like the U.S. will do what they think is needed to promote peace and stability in the region,” Glaser said. “If China opposes those actions, so be it.”


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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

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North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: Did ASEAN Make Life Tougher For China?

August 8, 2017


 / 05:20 AM August 08, 2017

At last. Departing from a string of weak statements that glossed over or altogether avoided any mention of China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea, the joint communiqué issued on Sunday by the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila was notable for addressing not only China’s seizure and reclamation of islands in the disputed waters but also the militarization of the area.

“We discussed extensively the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” the statement read in part.

Further: “We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.”

For a while, it had looked like the 10-member regional bloc would once again succumb to pressure from China — through Cambodia, its closest ally in the group — to finesse its statement and avoid language that could be seen as chiding Beijing. Although five Asean member-nations — Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines — have claims on waters and islets in the South China Sea, almost all of which China claims as its own on the basis of a nine-dash map that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has declared as without legal basis, reaching consensus on stronger language and a united front has been a contentious process.

The Philippines, which is this year’s Asean chair and which had won an important legal victory over China with the arbitral ruling, itself chose to avoid reference to China’s island reclamation or to the ruling itself in the Asean Chairman’s Statement released last April, on the back of President Duterte’s conciliatory policy toward Beijing.

This time, the bloc failed to release its joint communiqué on Saturday evening as scheduled, reportedly deadlocked on essentially the same issue.

Vietnam, which has had clashes with China over fishing and exploitation rights in its own claimed waters, was reported to have wanted tougher wording to directly address the elephant in the room, but Cambodia stood squarely against it. (In July 2012, with Cambodia as chair, the meeting of foreign ministers was marked by conflict and failed to produce a joint communiqué.)

The impasse threatened to produce another oblique statement intended to somehow placate all parties — even China, which is strictly not a party in the grouping, but whose economic and military might figures heavily in the region’s calculations.

But Vietnam’s position appeared to have prevailed. In an 11 o’clock turnaround, the foreign ministers finally hammered out a communiqué that, for a change, unmistakably called Beijing out for its island-grabbing, and the rapid transformation of these islands into military outposts.

China has built seven islands so far in the disputed waters; three of these are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars, according to a Reuters report.

The ministerial meeting also announced the adoption of a negotiating framework that would advance a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an agreement that has largely been ignored, especially by China.

Now Beijing appears to have rediscovered interest in the code, pushing for talks on an outline for its implementation—though far short of what Vietnam wants, which is to make the document legally binding on all claimant-nations, including China.

Observers fear it’s a ploy for something else: to simply buy China more time to solidify its grip on this vital area. Asean might want to wise up to its giant neighbor’s long game.

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

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North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Nepal immigration officials trafficking women

August 8, 2017


© AFP/File | More than 60 percent of Nepali domestic workers who end up illegally in the Gulf travelled through the main airport in the capital Kathmandu, the report said

KATHMANDU (AFP) – Immigration officials at Nepal’s international airport are colluding with traffickers to illegally send Nepali women to the Gulf where they are often exploited and abused, said a parliamentary report released Tuesday.

The parliamentary committee tasked with international relations and labour rights said the government had failed to protect Nepalis working overseas and turned a blind eye to allegations of trafficking.

More than 60 percent of Nepali domestic workers who end up illegally in the Gulf travelled through the main airport in the capital Kathmandu, the report said.

“(They) travel on tourist visas via Tribhuvan International Airport in direct collusion with immigration officials, airline company staff, security officials and the traffickers.”

“The rest travel via different cities in India, Sri Lanka, China and various African countries,” the report said.

The women are lured to Gulf countries on promises of well-paid jobs in department stores or hotels. Instead, they are sent to work in private homes where their passports are usually confiscated.

Rights activists in Nepal have long demanded the government do more to protect the four million Nepalis who work overseas — mostly in the Gulf and Malaysia.

With remittances from migrant workers accounting for nearly a third of Nepal’s GDP according to government figures, activists suspect the authorities are reluctant to put pressure on host nations.

“The government has been closing its eyes to the problem of human trafficking,” Mohna Ansari, spokeswoman for the Nepal’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP.

Lawmakers on the parliamentary committee met with women who had escaped from abusive homes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Many had suffered physical, mental and sexual violence, the report said.

“Some women who have escaped and reached an embassy office have made reports about the human traffickers, but Foreign Affairs Ministry has failed to request the Home Ministry to take action against the culprits,” it added.

The number of migrants leaving Nepal for work has surged in recent years with nearly half a million leaving in 2015, up from 200,000 in 2008, according to the latest available government figures.

The vast majority are men working in construction, but around 20,000 women leave each year.

Nepal has previously attempted to ban women from working as maids in private homes in the Gulf over allegations that they are often overworked for low wages and treated poorly, but enforcement has been patchy.