Indian Supreme Court Rules Sex with Minor Bride as Rape

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 
NEW DELHI, India – On Wednesday, October 11th, the Indian Supreme court ruled that any sexual relationship between a man and his wife between the age of 15 and 18 is a crime. The country’s highest court changed the rape law and declared that sex with an underage wife is an illegal act. According to the Indian Supreme court, the committed offense must be reported by the wife within a year.
There are over 26 million child brides in India. Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera.

Under the current law, the legal age of consent and marriage is 18. In the rural parts of the country, child marriages are not uncommon. Currently, there are more than 26 million child brides in India according to the United Nation’s children agency. Based on the agency’s report, between 2008 and 2014, more than 47% of the girls were married before their 18th birthday. Furthermore, an estimated 18 percent of the girls were married by the age of 15.  It is reported that most of the girls were from poor families with little education.

Previous Indian governments have defended the law as they believed the country’s poor social and economic conditions have made child marriage an unfortunate reality. Moreover, early marriage has been a part of the Indian culture though the “guana” ceremony.

Many activists around the country praised the recent decision as a “positive step in the right direction.” A member of the All India Democratic Women’s Association recently stated that “we strongly feel that this decision of the Supreme Court will work in impacting child marriages.”

Although activists still believe that the Indian Supreme Court’s decision is difficult to enforce, many agree that it will have long-lasting consequences.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Sex with underage wife is rape, Indian supreme court rules – 11 October, 2017

BBC – India Supreme Court rules sex with child bride is rape – 11 October, 2017

Al Jazeera – Indian court rules sex with minor wife is rape – 12 October, 2017

East Asia and the Pacific Reported to Have the Most Slum Dwellers

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

SINGAPORE – The World Bank’s latest report on urban poverty released on October 3rd, 2017 affirmed that East Asia and the Pacific are home to the largest slum population in the world. According to the report, more than 250 million people in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other surrounding countries currently live in slums. This population surpassed Sub-Saharan Africa’s 200 million and South Asia’s 191 million according to the World Bank.

The World Bank released a report that around 64% of people in Asia live in urban slums. Photo courtesy of Nikkei Asian Review.

Fast economic growth in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam alleviated millions of people out of poverty. However, lack of urban planning and inadequate social welfare have led to people settling in poverty stricken places. It is estimated that around 1 billion people of the urban population in developing countries live in slums. The figures were especially high in countries such as Mongolia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. Around 75 million people in the region are reported to live on less than $3.10 per day.

Although there are many factors that leads to poverty, access to public transportation, jobs and affordable housing are some of the main factors. For example, many people in the region are slow to transition from information employment into formal sectors. Out of all of the employment opportunities in the region, around 65% of the jobs are considered informal.

The World Bank stated that governments in the region must revise policies to assist the urban poor so they are able to obtain higher paying and secure jobs. Moreover, the report insisted countries invest in clean water, sanitation and solid waste management systems. The success models suggested by the report were partially based on the prior success of developed economies in the region such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea. By improving these factors, the countries will have significant impact on health, productivity, and welfare.

ABS-CBN News – World Bank flags widening inequality in East Asia, Pacific – 3 October, 2017

Asia Nikkei Review – World Bank says 64% of people who live in slums are in Asia – 3 October, 2017

Straits Times – East Asia, Pacific have most slum dwellers – 4 October, 2017

Former Prime Minister of Thailand Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BANGKOK, Thailand – On September 27, 2017, the Supreme Court of Thailand convicted Yingluck Shinawatra, former Prime Minster of negligence and sentenced her to five years in prison. The former prime minister was found negligent for her government’s role in a rice-subsidy program that cost the country billions of dollars.

Supporters protest Yingluck Shinawatra’s conviction outside the Supreme Court. Image courtesy of New York Times.

Under Yingluck’s government, the country’s rice farmers were paid 50% above market prices which lead to a large stockpile of grain. This scheme was planned with the intention of driving up prices for the global market. However, due to the fluctuation in prices, Vietnam became the world’s leading rice exporter.

For many years, Thailand went through power struggles between the traditional elites and the Shinawatra family. Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra served as the country’s prime minister for five years. He was ultimately ousted in 2006. Despite the country being controlled by the Shinawatra family since 2001, many judicial actions and two military coupes have impacted their control. In 2014, Yingluck, who served as the country’s first female prime minister was removed from office.

The Shinawatra family supported the rural poor through their populist policies while the traditional elites portrayed the family as corrupt and power-hungry. Before Yingluck left the country, she maintained her innocence and accused the military government of political persecution.

Last month, the current regime convicted a former commerce minister under Yingluck’s government to 42 years in prison for falsifying the rice deal.

Reuters – Fugitive former Thai PM Yingluck gets five years’ jail in absentia – 26 September, 2017

Time – Thailand’s Fugitive Former Leader Has Been Sentenced After Skipping Court – 27 September, 2017

NYT – Yingluck Shinawatra, Ex-Leader Who Fled Thailand, Gets 5-Year Sentence – 27 September, 2017

Deadly Stamped Kills 22 in India

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 
NEW DELHI, India – A deadly stampeded occurred on September 29th around 10:30 a.m. local time in India. The incident happened on a footbridge at Prabhadevi train station which is located in the Indian financial hub of Mumbai. More than 20 deaths and 35 injuries have been reported.
Relatives of victims wait outside the King Edward Memorial Hospital. Photo courtesy of CNN.

The crowd on the footbridge grew larger as people tried to take cover during a rain shower. It is reported that a person may have slipped which lead to the initial blockage. Many television viewers witnessed many bodies jammed together against a railing. Some of the victims even jumped from the bridge.

The injured were taken to the King Edward Memorial Hospital for treatment. The doctors at the hospital asked for blood donations.

The bridge is believed to be constructed during the British colonial times. For a while, the bridge has been described as a safety hazard according to a local lawmaker.

Piyush Goel, who is currently serving as the country’s railways minister expressed his condolences. The Indian rail network carries around 23 million passengers daily and connects 8,000 stations across the country. Moreover, suburban trains carry an estimated 8 million travelers daily.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a $17-billion high-speed train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. Since then, he has received criticisms for not addressing the overcrowding issues for the country’s local trains. Later that day, Prime Minister Modi expressed his “deepest condolences to all those who have lost their lives due to the stampede in Mumbai.”

In an analysis done by a data journalism website, around nine people die every day on Mumbai’s local train tracks.

For more information, please see:

LA Times – At least 22 killed in stampede at Mumbai rail station – 29 September, 2017

Chicago Tribune – Stampede on pedestrian bridge between Mumbai railway stations leaves at least 22 dead – 29 September, 2017

CNN – Mumbai stampede kills 22, injures 35 at train station – 29 September, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi Speaks Publicly About the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader finally spoke publicly on the Rohingya refugee crisis on Tuesday, September 19th. During her statement, she mentioned that she “feels deeply” for the suffering of “all people” who are impacted by the Rakhine state conflict. She went further and condemned any “human rights violations.”

Aung San Suu Kyi finally speaks publicly about the crisis against Rohingya Muslims. Photo courtesy of NPR.

She commented that the government does not fear “international scrutiny” over the crisis and the intention of the government is not to “apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility.” Aung San Suu Kyi, who does not have control over the military, maintained that the country’s military is not responsible for the attacks against the Rohingyas.

This was Aung San Suu Kyi’s first statement since the violence started last month.

On September 18th, leaders from the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia called upon the Myanmar’s leader to end the violence against the Rohingya.

According to the United Nations, over 370,000 Rohingya – Muslims, who live in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, have resettled to Bangladesh since August 25th. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights stated that the crisis in Myanmar seems to be “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Myanmar’s presidential office cited numerous reasons and announced that Aung San Suu Kyi will not be attending the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s recent speech in the nation’s capitol drew criticisms from the international community. Many have stated that Aung San Suu Kyi did not denounce the crimes against the Rohingya community. Moreover, Amnesty International described her speech as a “mix of untruths and victim blaming.”

NPR – Aung San Suu Kyi To Skip U.N. Meeting As Criticism Over Rohingya Crisis Grows – 13 September, 2017

Aljazeera – Aung San Suu Kyi condemns ‘all human rights violations’ – 19 September, 2017

CNN – Aung San Suu Kyi breaks silence on Rohingya, sparks storm of criticism – 19 September, 2017

North Korea Threatens Additional Nuclear Tests

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

PYONGYANG, North Korea – On Tuesday, September 19th, President Donald Trump made his first appearance before the United Nations General Assembly. During the speech, President Trump stated that the North Korean leader, Kim Jung Un is “on a suicide mission.”  He further stated that the United States would “have no choice but to totally destroy” the country.

An activist protests outside the North Korean embassy in Germany. Photo courtesy of CNBC.

Following the speech, Kim Jung Un stated that President Trump has “made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard” and said that “a frightened dog barks louder.” Kim has said that he is considering the highest level of retaliation against the United States for President Trump’s comments made during the United Nations Assembly meeting.

Ri Yong Ho, North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that North Korea is considering a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean. The Minister of Foreign Affairs described the possible test as “the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific.”

Since the exchange, United States Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew over waters east of North Korea. The military exercise, according to the Pentagon, is to display the range of military options available. It is reported that the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone that any United States fighter bomber had flown in the 21st century.

President Trump met with South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to continue its discussion on imposing new sanctions against North Korea.

Soon after President Trump issued a new executive order which expanded United States sanctions on North Korea, China’s central bank also ordered financial institutions to implement United Nations sanctions rigorously. President Trump thanked China’s president Xi Jinping on his bold move against North Korea.

For more information, please see:

Business Insider – North Korea suggests testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific after Kim Jong Un calls Trump ‘mentally deranged’ – 21 September, 2017

CNBC – North Korea may detonate nuclear bomb in Pacific, foreign minister tells reporters – 21 September, 2017

The Guardian – Japan braces as North Korea threatens hydrogen bomb test in Pacific – 22 September, 2017

Reuters – Trump cranks up North Korea threats as Pyongyang holds anti-U.S. rally – 23 September, 2017

Silent Protest Erupts in Singapore after Uncontested Presidential Election

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

SINGAPORE – Thousands of Singaporeans held a silent protest on September 16th to express their discontent with the recent uncontested presidential election. Mostly dressed in black, the protest started with a crowd of about 200 people but grew to around 2,000 people.

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock attends the silent protest at Hong Lim Park. Photo courtesy of Yahoo.

Two former presidential candidates, Tan Cheong Bock and Tan Jee Say, both attended the protest. On Facebook, Tan Cheng Bock wrote: “It is not President Halimah as a person that Singaporeans are unhappy about. It is about the way our government has conducted this whole walkover presidential election.”

In order to unite the country, Singapore had decreed that the presidency would be reserved for candidates from the minority Malay community. In Singapore, the presidency is viewed as a ceremonial six-year post.

There were five total applications for the presidency, but two were not Malays and two did not meet other requirements to be considered for the position. Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament, was selected as the country’s first female president. She had automatically qualified as she held a senior public post for over three years. Halimah was declared elected as soon as the nomination period closed on Wednesday, September 13th.

Gilbert Goh, one of the main organizers, stated that the protest was silent as the organization needed a special permit from the police if speeches made during the protest touch on race and religion.

In Singapore, displays of dissent are very unusual. As one of the richest and most political stable countries in the world, political protests are rare.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has been ruling the country since 1965. The current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, is considered as the country’s founding father.

For more information, please see:

Channel News Asia – Silent protest held at Hong Lim Park against reserved presidential election – 16 September, 2017

Yahoo – Hundreds turn up at Hong Lim Park for silent protest against reserved presidential election – 16 September, 2017

Reuters – Singaporeans protest against uncontested presidential election – 16 September, 2017

Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines Receives $25

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines government reduced the annual budget for the Commission on Human Rights from $17 million to just $25. The vote was supported by a margin of 119 to 32 in the country’s congress.

President Duterte’s government slashes the annual budget for the Commission on Human Rights.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pantaleon Alvarez, spoke to local television stations and stated that the commission deserved the cut for being “useless.” He went further and said that the commission defends criminals’ rights.

Although the Senate still needs approve the budget, many believe that it will pass as President Duterte has a majority in both the house’s chambers.

The opposition members believe that this is the government retaliation against the Commission on Human Rights for being critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, accused the government of attempting to eliminate independent institutions from investigating President Duterte’s possible examples of abuse of power.

Since President Duterte started his anti-drug campaign last year, more than 3,800 people have been killed in police operations. The government’s goal is to eliminate any drug trade in the Philippines, but the campaign has drawn international criticism over the number of deaths.

An opposition member, Congressman Edcel Lagman, who opposes the budget cut stated that the President is “virtually imposing the death penalty on a constitutionally created and mandated independent office.”

Mr. Chito Gascon, who is serving as the head of the Commission on Human Rights, believes that the budget cut is an attempt to force his resignation. If necessary, he has vowed to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

The Commission on Human Rights was founded in 1987 after the fall of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

BBC – Duterte drug war: Philippines cuts rights body’s budget to $20 – 12 September, 2017

ABC – Philippines: Commission on Human Rights budget cut to almost nothing amid Duterte’s drug crackdown – 13 September, 2017

Independent – Philippines cuts its human rights budget to £15 – 13 September, 2017

40 Million People Affected by Historic Flood in South Asia

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 
NEW DELHI, India – Since August, millions of people in South Asia have been impacted by the region’s worst flood in 40 years. It is reported that around 40 million people are affected by the massive flood.
The flood leaves over 1,000 deaths in South Asia. Photo courtesy of BBC.

Over 1,400 have died so far and tens of thousands are living in tents all across the region. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states in India, the Terai region in Nepal, and Kurigram and Chimari districts in Bangladesh have been hit the worst.

In Bangladesh alone, over 8 million people are affected. It also reported that over 13,000 people are currently suffering from diarrhea and respiratory infections after the flood. According to the Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, diarrhea, malaria and dengue are on the rise in some parts of the country.

In Nepal, around 1.7 million people are affected with 26,844 cases of illness around the country. Although no epidemic has been reported, many health officials are taking extreme caution and monitoring the situation closely.

With the danger of mosquito and waterborne diseases, the risks are said to be greater for children and women. In India, around 17 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance.

Because the floods were so extreme, many families have been struggling to find proper burial grounds due to the lack of dry land.

Recently, the Scottish government donated from the government’s Humanitarian Emergency Fund. The money is to provide any immediate and life saving aid in the region.

Reuters – Thousands hit by malaria, dengue as South Asia’s worst floods in a decade recede – 6 September, 2017

ABC – South Asia floods: Estimated 40 million across India, Bangladesh, Nepal affected – 8 September, 2017

BBC – South Asia floods: Scottish government donates £300,000 from emergency fund – 9 September, 2017

Cambodia’s Main Opposition Leader Arrested for Treason

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – On Sunday, September 3rd, Cambodia’s main opposition leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested for treason. He is accused of violating Article 443 which prevents officials from “colluding with foreigners.” If convicted, Mr. Sokha could face a 30 year jail term.

Kem Sokha was arrested outside his house in Phnom Penh. Photo courtesy of New York Times.

The opposition leader was arrested during a heavy crackdown on critics of Prime Minister Sen’s government. The government officals accused Mr. Sokha of discussing plots with the United States government to undermine Cambodia.

The government, as evidence, disclosed a four-year-old video of Mr. Sokha giving a speech and stating that he has received advice from the United States government on establishing an opposition group in Cambodia.

According to Mr. Sokha’s daughter, Ken Monovithya, more than 100 police officers surrounded their home and arrest her father without a warrant. She stated that Mr. Sokha was handcuffed and escorted to an unmarked vehicle by numerous officers. It is reported that he is currently being held at a remote prison near the Vietnamese boarder. He has not been given an opportunity to speak to an attorney.

Upon Mr. Sokha’s arrest, the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh commented that the charges “appear to be politically motivated.”

The Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party will face a tough election next year. After ruling the country for more than three decades, Mr. Sen’s critics have accused him of trying to eliminate his oppositions prior to the upcoming election.

The New York based Human Rights Watch group has recently stated that “the government and the ruling CPP have manufactured these treason charges against Kem Sokha for political purposes, aiming to try and knock the political opposition out of the ring before the 2018 electoral contest ever begins.”

NYT – Cambodia Arrests Opposition Leader, Accusing Him of Treason – 2 September, 2017

Reuters – Cambodia charges opposition leader with treason – 5 September, 2017

Aljazeera – Cambodia politician Kem Sokha charged with treason – 6 September, 2017

North Korea Conducts its Sixth Nuclear Test

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Korea on Sunday, September 3rd, carried out its sixth nuclear test. It is reported that the explosion was heralded by a 6.3- magnitude earthquake near the nuclear test site. The tremor was felt near the Chinese border in Yanji.

North Korean media releases a photo of Kim inspecting the new bomb. Photo courtesy of CNN.

The North Korean officials claimed that it has tested a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on to an intercontinental ballistic missile. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released a photo of Kim Jung Un inspecting the weapon and stated that North Korea has “succeeded in making a more developed nuke.”

The South Korean officials estimated the blast to yield at between 50 to 60 kilotons. In a later report released by the South Korea’s parliamentary defense committee, the blast was as high as 100 kilotons which equates to 100,000 tons of TNT.

The regime’s sixth test is reported to be five to six times stronger than their September test. The officials estimated the fifth test to have been about 10 kilotons.

Since the test, many countries in the region have condemned North Korea and their actions. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea called the test “utterly disappointing and infuriating.” Furthermore, China strongly condemned the test and Japan asked an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. In a joint statement released from the European community, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and President Emmanuel Macron of France also condemned North Korea’s recent test.

The North Korean leader has repeatedly used American holidays to test its missiles. It is reported that the timing of the Sunday’s test was purposefully scheduled for the American Labor Day weekend. Saturday is also the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean government.

Although hydrogen bombs and atomic bombs both involve detonating nuclear energy, hydrogen bombs are more powerful due to the usage of a second stage that increases the chain reaction.

President Trump is reported to be in conversations with world leaders and relying on similar strategy his predecessors have used.

For more information, please see:

NYT – North Korea Says It Tested a Hydrogen Bomb Meant for Missiles – 2 September, 2017

CNN – North Korea says it can make new bomb in volume – 3 September, 2017

The guardian – North Korean nuclear test confirmed in major escalation by Kim Jong-un – 3 September, 2017

Violence Erupts in India after Guru is Sentenced to 20 years for Rape

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – On Friday, August 18th, India’s spiritual guru was sentenced to 20 years in prison. India’s Central Bureau of Investigation announced that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of raping two of his followers. Two women accused Singh of rape at the headquarter of his sect. In India, the minimum sentence for rape is seven years.
Singh’s followers are protesting their leader’s 20 year prison sentence in northern India. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Singh, leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, has an immense following in Haryana and Punjab states. He is an influential figure in the country as thousands consider him as a cult icon. Also known as “the guru of bling,” he is the star of five films and many popular music videos. He currently has 3.75 million Twitter followers and claims to have 60 million worldwide followers. On his website, Singh’s work is described as a “social humanitarianism and selfless services to others.”

On the day of his sentencing, thousands of troops were deployed to control Singh’s supporters. Since the conviction, 30 people were killed and 200 were injured when clashes occurred across northern India. Many followers came out to the streets and smashed cars, torched buses and attacked police officers. An army officer stated that the troops were deployed because “the police couldn’t control the situation.”

His followers mostly sit at the bottom of the social hierarchy in India. They have relied on Singh and his sect for basic needs, such as food, medicine, and a sense of equality.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminded the Indian people on his monthly address that India was the home of “Gandhi and Lord Buddha.” He went on to condemn the violence.

Singh is also facing murder charges in connection with the death of a reporter.

NYT – Violent Protests in India Turn Deadly After Guru’s Rape Conviction – 25 August, 2017

The Guardian – Indian states in lockdown for guru’s rape sentencing after deadly protests – 27 August, 2017

CNN – Indian guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh sentenced to 20 years for rape – 28 August, 2017

NPR – After ‘Guru Of Bling’ Sentencing, Indian State Stays On Alert For Violence – 28 August, 2017

Hong Kong Jails Three Young Activists

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

HONG KONG – On August 17, 2017, three Hong Kong activists were sentenced to prison. Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow led a pro-democracy protest in 2014. The three were among a group of students who occupied Hong Kong’s legislative headquarters in 2014. The forcible removal of these students from the premise angered the public.

Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy activist, led a demonstration in 2014. Photo courtesy of NYT.

After the incident, the activists were convicted of unlawful assembly.

They were originally sentenced to community service and a suspended jail term, but in a rare move by the Hong Kong government, an appeal was filed to reconsider their “lenient” sentences.

A Hong Kong court recently sentenced Joshua Wong to six months in prison, Law was sentenced to eight months, and Chow was sentenced to seven months. In Hong Kong, one is ineligible to run for local elections for the following five years if they were sentenced to more than three months in jail.

After the ruling, Amnesty International referred to the appeal for jail terms as a “vindictive attack” on freedom of expression. Many other organizations have condemned the authorities.

However, the government stated that “there is absolutely no basis to imply any political motive.” The authorities went further by stating that freedom of speech is guaranteed in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” principle. Although this governing principle assured a degree of autonomy, the public has been skeptical as the Chinese government has been asserting their power.

For example, the Chinese government removed seven dissident lawmakers from Hong Kong’s citywide elections last year. Nathan Law, who was the youngest-ever legislator, was removed last month.

For more information, please see: 

CNN – Joshua Wong and two other Umbrella Movement leaders jailed in Hong Kong – 17 August, 2017

NYT – Joshua Wong and 2 Others Jailed in Hong Kong Over Pro-Democracy Protest – 17 August, 2017

BBC – Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong jailed for six months – 17 August, 2017

Violence Continues in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Members of the Rohingya minority group stormed 30 police stations on August 25th. Around 150 fighters, armed with guns and machetes, attacked Myanmar security forces. The officials believe that around 60 of the insurgents and 12 Myanmar security forces were killed. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Myanmar police are heavily patrolling parts of Rakhine. Photo courtesy of BBC.

This conflict occurred soon after the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, released the long-awaited report.

The commission was established last year to evaluate the situation in Rakhine State. Soon after the report was released, Annan stated that “unless concerted action – led by the government and aided by all sectors of the government and society – is taken soon, we risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization, which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine State.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, stated that the attacks were deliberately planned to coincide with the release of the Advisory Commission’s report.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, requested that the commission evaluate the conflict in Myanmar last year. However, many humanitarian groups have been critical of her leadership and expressed their disappointment.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director publicly stated that since the report has been published, “the ball is now in Suu Kyi’s court.”

Because of the ongoing chaos, Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing to Bangladesh by the thousands. However, the Bangladeshi officials have been turning people back at the Ghumdhum border area. The officials estimate that around 3,000 Rohingya have found refuge in Bangladesh since the attack.

Reuters – At least 71 killed in Myanmar as Rohingya insurgents stage major attack – 24 August, 2017

Fox News – Myanmar: Attacks on police, border guards kill at least 12 – 25 August, 2017

CNN – Police killed in new violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State – 25 August, 2017

BBC – Myanmar Rakhine: Thousands flee to Bangladesh border – 28 August, 2017

Maldives Tries to Resume Execution in 60 Years

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

MALE, Maldives – The Maldives is planning to carry out its first execution since the mid-1950s. The last execution in the country was carried out during the British colonial rule which ended five decades ago.

Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayoom is photographed with his wife, Fathimath Ibrahim. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Chronicles.

As the Maldives government plans to carry out its first execution in 60 years, many human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development have expressed concerns about the recent decision. These organizations have sent a letter to President Abdulla Yameen about human rights violations. According to these organizations, three prisoners who are on death row did not receive fair trials.

Currently, Hussain Humaan Ahmed, Ahmed Murrath, and Mohammed Nabeel are believed to be at risk of execution. All three were convicted of murder since 2009.

In 2014, Mr. Yameen’s administration reintroduced the death penalty. After the military coup removed then president Mohamed Nasheed, Mr. Yameen’s government worked towards restoring the death penalty in the Maldives.

The South Asia director for Amnesty International, Biraj Patnaik, stated that the talks of executions were a “feeble attempt to look tough and distract attention” from the current political climate against the president.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has been working to stop the Maldivian government from conducting planned executions. In their recent letters, the committee stated that “should your government go ahead with the executions, it would violate Maldives’ obligations under international law, including to protect the three men’s right to life.”

For more information, please see: 

Financial Times – Maldives set to restore death penalty as political crisis deepens – 7 August, 2017

San Francisco Chronicle – Rights groups alarmed over planned executions in Maldives – 10 August, 2017

ABC – Rights groups alarmed over planned executions in Maldives – 10 August, 2017