Pope Francis Visits Myanmar as Rohingya Crisis Looms

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Pope Francis visited Myanmar for four days as the country deals with Asia’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades. At the Yangon sports ground, Pope Francis delivered his first public mass in the country. Tens of thousands of people gathered to listen to his speech where the Pope demanded “respect for each ethnic group.” In his homily, Pope Francis talked about forgiveness and ignoring the desire to revenge.

Pope Francis travels to Myanmar for a four-day trip before heading to Bangladesh to meet with Rohingya refugees. Photo courtesy of Lauren DeCicca.

However, during his trip, Pope Francis did not publicly speak about the persecuted Muslim minority. The authorities believe that as many as 620,000 have fled to Bangladesh to avoid persecution in Myanmar. During his homily, he did not directly reference violence against the Rohingya.

The recent events in Myanmar has led the international community to accuse the country of ethnic cleansing. In Myanmar, the term Rohingya is rejected, and the people are labeled as “Bengalis.”

Although many Rohingya activists did not blame the Pope directly, they voiced their concerns to his advisors who appeared to have persuaded the Pope to avoid bringing up the Rohingya issue in a public setting.

On Wednesday, November 29th, in response to many criticisms, a papal spokesman stated the moral authority of the Pope “still stands.” He further stated that people can “criticize what is said or not but the Pope is not going to lose any moral authority on this question here,” referring to the Rohingya crisis.

Whether the Pope should address the Rohingya issue has been debated fiercely within the Vatican. Among many voices, the most vocal was Charles Maung Bo, Myanmar’s first cardinal. He has been very vocal about defending the Rohingya and condemned those who have persecuted them. However, before the Pope’s visit, he advised the Pope to refrain from using the word.

Pope Francis is scheduled to fly to Bangladesh where he will meet Rohingya refugees on Thursday, November 30th.

For more information, please see:

ABC – Pope heads to Bangladesh with Rohingya crisis looming large – 29 November, 2017

BBC – Pope in Myanmar: All or nothing for the Rohingya – 29 November, 2017

The Guardian – Pope Francis disappoints Rohingya by failing to condemn persecution – 29 November, 2017

Secretary Tillerson calls Rohingya Crisis ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – The Trump administration on November 22 announced that Myanmar’s Rohingya minority crisis constituted “ethnic cleansing.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Myanmar last week and stated that he witnessed “horrendous atrocities” by the military. He went to say that “after careful and thorough analysis of the facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine State constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.” Although Secretary Tillerson did not call for an international investigation, he asked for a “credible, independent investigation.”

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since late August. Photo courtesy of Adam Dean.

This announcement allows for long-anticipated sanctions against Myanmar and further pressures its civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The United States government is planning to issue “targeted sanctions,” but is ruling out additional sanctions against Myanmar’s government as it goes through a delicate transition to democracy.

The legislation in Congress requires the United States to eliminate all ties to the Myanmar’s military. Numerous lawmakers on capitol hill commended Secretary Tillerson’s announcement. In addition, the announcement was also praised at the United Nations.

Although the situation is not completely under her authority, Aung San Suu Kyi is facing harsh criticism over its response to the Rohingya crisis.

Since the crisis began, over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine state to Bangladesh. According to the United States delegation to Myanmar and Bangladesh, there were numerous reports of rape and murder of family members of the Rohingya Muslims. Furthermore, many news sources have heard of massacres, killings, and rape.

The announcement from the United States government comes shortly before the Pope’s arrival to Bangladesh and Myanmar. Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar on November 26th and visit with General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military chief, and Aung San Suu Kyi.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Rohingya crisis: US calls Myanmar action ‘ethnic cleansing’ – 22 November, 2017

NYT – Myanmar’s Crackdown on Rohingya Is Ethnic Cleansing, Tillerson Says – 22 November, 2017

Reuters – U.S. calls Myanmar moves against Rohingya ‘ethnic cleansing’ – 22 November, 2017

China Banned Travel to North Korea Ahead of Trump Visit

Brian Kim
Impunity Watch 
Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – On Tuesday, November 7th, the Chinese government banned tourism to the North Korean capital Pyongyang. This order was issued right before President Donald Trump’s first official visit to China.

The statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Images.

Based on numerous sources, Chinese tour groups based out of the border city of Dandong have been ordered to stop all trips to Pyongyang. The companies were also ordered to run only one-day trips to the North Korean city opposite of Dandong called Sinuiju. Previously, the Chinese tour companies were allowed to run three-day or longer trips to North Korea.

The government did not provide a reason for this recent ban. Although some believe that it is because there aren’t many people traveling to Pyongyang, many believe that it is connected to increasing sanctions against North Korea.

With 80 percent of all foreign visitors to North Korea coming from China, the experts believe that it will have an impact with the North Korean economy. Currently, tourism is one of few ways North Korea is able to earn hard currency. Moreover, a think-tank in South Korea has reported that tourism generates around $44 million in annual revenue for the North. In 2012, around 237,000 Chinese visited North Korea.

During his two-day trip to China, President Trump discussed with Xi Jinping on a number of issues. Most importantly, the two leaders discussed North Korea’s nuclear missile tests.

Earlier this year, the United States banned all travel to North Korea after the death of a 22 year-old student, Otto Warmbier. The University of Virginia student was held in North Korea for more than a year and died soon after arriving back to the United States.

For more information please see:

Reuters – Exclusive: China curbs tourism to North Korea ahead of Trump visit – 7 November, 2017

Independent – China ‘bans tourism to North Korea’ day before Trump visit – 7 November, 2017

Newsweek – CHINA BANS NORTH KOREA TOURISM ONE DAY BEFORE TRUMP ARRIVES – 7 November, 2017

Supreme Court of Cambodia Dissolves Opposition Party

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The Supreme Court of Cambodia, on Thursday, November 16th, dissolved the main opposition party. The ruling banned the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), a 118-member party, from politics for five years. With elections coming up next year, Cambodia’s highest court eliminated the most viable challenger to the current administration.

Heavy security was present outside the Supreme Court when the ruling was made. Photo courtesy of Tang Chhin Sothy.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has alleged that the CNRP has colluded with foreign countries to overthrow the current administration. Mr. Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for 32 years.

The chief judge of the Supreme Court, who is a high-ranking member of the governing party, stated that the opposition party has committed a serious crime and that “the party will be dissolved according to Article 38 of the Law on Political Parties.” The chief judge is also known to be close to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The opposition party is unable to appeal the decision.

In early September, Kem Sokha, leader of the CNRP, was jailed on charges that he conspired with the United States government to overthrow Mr. Hun Sen’s government. He could spend 15-30 years in prison. Moreover, Sam Rainsy, former CNRP leader, fled to France in 2016 after being charged with defamation. Since then, forty-four of the opposition party members have fled Cambodia.

Furthermore, in August, organizations such as, the National Democratic Institute and Radio Free Asia were shut down.  Both were run by organizations in the United States.

This recent action by the Supreme Court of Cambodia is seen by many as an end to Cambodia’s democracy.

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – Cambodia Supreme Court dissolves opposition CNRP party – 16 November, 2017

NYT – Cambodia’s Top Court Dissolves Main Opposition Party – 16 November, 2017

BBC – Cambodia top court dissolves main opposition CNRP party – 16 November, 2017

The Guardian – ‘Death of democracy’ in Cambodia as court dissolves opposition – 16 November, 2017

President Trump Did Not Visit DMZ

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – President Trump did not visit the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea during his trip to Asia from November 3 to 14. Every president since Ronald Reagan has visited the demilitarized zone with the exception of George W. Bush.

President Trump is scheduled to visit five countries during this trip to Asia. Photo courtesy of STR/AFP/Getty Images. 

The demilitarized zone was created in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. The zone is around 1 ¼ miles in each country, and it is near the 38th parallel. Since there has never been a peace treaty after the war, the demilitarized zone is seen as a symbol of hostility between the North and the South.

Instead of visiting the demilitarized zone, the White House had chosen to visit Camp Humphreys and stated that this visit “would make more sense in terms of the President’s message.” Camp Humphreys is a joint US-South Korean military base about 40 mile south of Seoul. The White House further stated that visiting the demilitarized zone is “cliché.”

The White House in their report stated that the visit would allow the president to address U.S. and South Korean troops and relay his message on sharing the burden with the South Korean government.

Because of recent tensions with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, the White House reported that North Korea would be at the top of the president’s agenda.

Previously, Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have all visited the demilitarized zone.

During his trip to Asia, President Trump visited South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

For more information, please see:

ABC – President Trump will not visit Korean demilitarized zone, official says – 31 October, 2017

Reuters – Trump will not visit DMZ during Asia trip: official – 31 October, 2017

CNN – White House says Trump will not visit DMZ – 31 October, 2017

Newsweek – TRUMP WON’T VISIT DMZ ON ASIA TRIP BECAUSE IT’S BECOMING “CLICHE” – 31 October, 2017

Xi Becomes Most Powerful Leader in China Since Mao

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – At the political summit led by the Chinese Community Party, Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, declared a “new era” for the country. Although this every five-year event is meant to declare the new Chinese leader to the world, the ceremony that was held in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People focused on displaying Xi Jinping’s power.

Xi introduces the new members of the China’s Politburo Standing Committee at the Great Hall of the People. Photo courtesy of Ng Han Guan.

During the ceremony, Xi introduced five of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee. The committee is considered to be the inner core of the Chinese government. It was noted during the ceremony that none of the men selected to be on the committee were considered to be Xi’s successor as it did not include a younger leader who would be groomed to take over the presidency.

The sources believe that the lack of possible successor to Xi was seen as a sign that he intends to stay beyond his next five-year term.

At the end of the ceremony, Mr. Xi was elevated to the same status as the country’s founder, Mao Zedong. Xi’s name and his political policy are both now enshrined in the Chinese constitution.

The political summit also allowed Xi to assert additional power over the military. Many of the top leaders in the military were replaced with Xi’s generals. By initiating these changes, Xi has stated that he intends to make China a world power by 2050.  Currently, China has the world’s biggest military with more than 2 million troops, but he is hoping to modernize the military.

Xi announced his economic plan for the next 30 years during the meeting as well. With his new plans to improve China’s socialism and bolster the country’s economy, many experts are describing this move as the beginning of the third era of Communist rule in China.

For more information, please see:

NYT – Xi Jinping Unveils China’s New Leaders but No Clear Successor – 24 October, 2017

Variety – Xi Jinping Emerges as China’s Unquestioned No. 1 Leader – 25 October, 2017

ABC – Chinese President Xi Jinping takes absolute control of armed forces in military shake-up – 26 October, 2017

Lawyers of Former South Korean Leader Alleges Human Rights Violations

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 
SEOUL, South Korea – The international legal team representing former South Korean president alleged “serious human rights violations” against the leader who is in prison awaiting trial. Since the 65-year-old former leader has been charged with corruption and abuse of power, the MH Group has been leading her international legal team.
Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was removed from office in March for abuse of power and accepting bribes. Photo courtesy of Choi Jun-Seok, Associated Press.

The MH Group is different from Park’s South Korean legal team as it is a global firm that deals with high-profile international cases. Previously, the group has represented the son of the late Libyan leader, Saif Gadhafi.

According to this organization, Park has been living in a dirty, cold, and dark prison cell. Due to these conditions, her lawyer’s claim that she is unable to sleep as she waits for her trial date.

Due to these findings, the MH Group is planning to submit all of the allegations to the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR). The council is scheduled to meet at the end of this month to review South Korea’s record on human rights.

Since her arrest, Park has been suffering from chronic conditions such as, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, malnutrition, and other forms of rare disorders. Based on the draft document published by her lawyers, her conditions have been “getting worse and there is no evidence that she is receiving adequate care.” Furthermore, it is reported that she has been sleeping on the floor in her cell.

The Seoul Detention Center facility where Park is being held, rebutted all allegations against the former leader. The spokeswoman for the detention center stated that she does not believe Park had been treated inhumanely. Moreover, the folding mattress in her cell is adequate as beds are not considered a necessity in South Korea detention centers. The detention center also stated that Park is given meals on a regular basis and allow her to exercise on a regular basis.

The South Korea’s Justice Ministry has released a statement since the allegations were made and said that  the government is “guaranteeing proper and sufficient medical treatment by allowing her to receive treatment from in-house medical staff at any time and allowing her to get treatment twice at outside medical facilities.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Ousted South Korean president suffering in jail, lawyers say – 17 October, 2017

The Straits Times – South Korea Justice Ministry rejects alleged mistreatment of jailed Park Geun Hye – 18 October, 2017

The Korea Herald – Ministry denies alleged mistreatment of jailed ex-president – 18 October, 2017

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