British Human Rights Activist Denied Entry to Hong Kong

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HONG KONG – The city of Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 from its Colonial overseer, the UK. As part of this deal, Beijing would honor a system called the “one country, two systems” that would allow Hong Kong to remain more open and more democratic than the rest of China. It also allows Hong Kong to control its own immigration policies.

Benedict Rogers was barred from entering Hong Kong. Photo curtsey of The Guardian.

However, this ‘one country, two systems” idea was challenged when a British Human Rights activist, Benedict Rogers, was denied entry into Hong Kong by Chinese Immigration officers. Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong implied that Beijing officials were behind the decision.

Even with repeatedly asking why he was turned away, Rogers was never given any explanation as to the reasoning. He further went on to say, “I feel it is yet another example of, if not the death, then the death throes of ‘one country, two systems’.” The purpose of his trip was to visit friends and learn about the current political situation.

In the past Rogers was vocal about the imprisonment of three pro-democratic activists and Beijing’s political crackdowns in Hong Kong. The Chinese Embassy in the UK warned Rogers that he might be banned from traveling to Hong Kong.

Human Rights activists see this action form Beijing as a threat to the “high degree of autonomy” that Hong Kong was granted in 1997 with the “one country, two systems” policy.  There is a chance that any dissidents will be banned from entering Hong Kong in the future. Denying entry to the UK activist is seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to crack down on dissent and silence opposition.

China says they hold the right to deny entry to Hong Kong.  They justify this by saying that the central government is in control of the foreign matters related to the city.  This is allowed within China’s sovereignty.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – China rebuffs criticism of decision to bar British activist from Hong Kong – 12 October 2017

The Guardian – British Conservative party activist barred from entering Hong Kong – 11 October 2017

The Telegraph – Boris Johnson demands ‘urgent explanation’ from China after activist barred from entering Hong Kong – 11 October 2017

Reuters – China says it has the right to bar people from HOng KOng after British activist expelled – 12 October 2017  

Forced Labor in Uzbekistan Cotton Fields

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – Cotton drives the Uzbek economy. The country is the sixth largest producer of cotton. It is commonly known as “white gold.” Historically, it has a long tradition as part of the economy, being cultivated as far back as the 5th or 6th century. As part of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan’s cotton industry boomed. The state controlled the production, output, input, and quotas of collective farms.

Uzbek child doing mandatory labor in cotton fields. Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Twenty-six years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Uzbekistan government still controls the cotton industry. The government controls extensive acres of cotton fields throughout the country.  They continue to control the production and harvest of the cotton.

Cotton grown in Uzbekistan is not harvested by machines, but rather hand picked by 2 million forced laborers. The government calls on citizens to go into the field during the harvest for “work-for-the-nation days”. Laborers include teachers, nurses, university students, children, government employees, the unemployed, and those benefiting from government aid. It is considered their patriotic duty to do so.

This causes issues of child labor, children missing school, significant lack of teachers in classrooms, and too few medical staff present in hospitals.

The forced laborers are coerced to do so. Refusal to work leads to threats of penalties, dismissal and expulsions from jobs, and loss of benefits. For those who can afford it, one can pay for a “replacement” in the field or even pay to avoid work completely. The cost can be up to half the monthly salary of a citizen.

Each day of work, individuals are required to meet a quota of 50 kilograms. Most workers serve on average 12 days. They are paid roughly 5 cents per kilo collected.

There is immense pressure for farmers and overseers to produce large yields to support the economy. One such official, Asilbek Yusupov , received a brutal verbal attack for not meeting quotas early in October. The insulting language, derogatory words and language left Yusupov so shaken that he suffered a stroke moments after returning to his office.  He later died in hospital.

For more information, please see:

 Human Rights Watch – Uzbekistan: Some Wokers Excused from Cotton Fields – 5 October 2017

RadioFreeEurope |RadioLiberty – Rights Group Says Political Will Needed To End Forced Labor In Uzbekistan – 5 October 2017

Azernews – Uzbekistan to switch to mechanized harvesting of cotton – 6 October 2017

RadioFreeEurope |RadioLiberty – 5 Cents Per Kilo: Why Uzbek Government Still Forces People To Pick Cotton – 11 October 2017

RadioFreeEurope |RadioLiberty – Uzbek Official Collapses, Dies After Being Disgraced For Bad Cotton Harvest –9 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

Instability Amid Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Race

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Former Soviet territory, Kyrgyzstan, is set to hold Presidential elections on 15 October 2017. This will be the second presidential election since a Constitutional change in 2010. Presidents can only serve one 6-year term.  There are 13 candidates at the moment running for the position.   Parliamentary elections concluded the first week of October.

Citizens rally to support free and fair elections. Photo Courtesy of RadioFreeEurope|RadioLiberty.

Since the candidates were announced on 10 September, the campaign has been characterized by smear tactics and intimidation.

According to the electoral law of Kyrgyzstan, the media must present unbiased information and treat candidates equally. Free airtime in 15 minute slots is provided to all candidates.

However, contender Bakyt Torobaev, claims that the Public Television and Radio Corporation broadcasted harmful material to damage his reputation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was asked to monitor the elections, reports that the number of instances where public officials filed cases for civil defamation has increased recently.

A second point of concern is that influential members of society endorse politicians in very public manners. For example, an ex-mufti, Chubak azhy Zhalilov, stated that he would vote for Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Zhalilov is one of the country’s most famous imams. The Central Election Committee (CEC), which is in charge of monitoring and running the election, says religious authorities may not interfere in the election process. During the 2015 Presidential Elections the CEC issued Zhalilov two warnings about involvement in the elections. This round, he has received none.

Analysts from the Institute for Public Analysis argue that Zhalilov didn’t receive warnings because he favors the current government’s favored candidate. However another well-known religious leader found speaking about Candidate Jeenbekov’s opponent is involved in an ongoing investigation about his endorsement.

A third issue is the concern about the misuse of administrative resources. There are reports of bribery and use of political positions to pressure civil servants and students to vote for Jeenbekov. There are fears that if they don’t they could suffer uncertain futures.

There have even been arrests on 30 September around a coup plot supposedly developed by a MP supporter of Omurbek Babanov, the main opponent against Jeenbekov. Supposedly, if Babanov does not win the election, violent unrest would ensue to put Babanov into the seat of power. Babanov believes that this accusation is just a ‘black pr’ tactic used to smear his campaign.

Citizens rallied together in Bishkek at the end of September. Approximately 1000 people attended. They demanded fair and clean elections in response to the bribery, administrative resource misuses, and endorsements.

On October 15, Former Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov won Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election, receiving 54.3 percent of the approximate 1.7 million votes cast. 

For more information, please see:

Bloomberg Politics – Jeenbekov Wins Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Election – 15 October 2017

Radio Free Europe – Following The Twists, Turns In Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Race – 26 September 2017

OSCE – Interim Report – 29 September 2017

Eurasianet – Kyrgyzstan: Smears Soil Election Campaign– 2 October 2015

Radio Free Europe – “Rally Held ‘For Fair Elections’ in Bishkek Ahead of October Presidential Vote” – 30 September 2017

Institute for War and Peace – Kyrgyzstan: Religion and Politics Prove Sensitive Mix – 29 September 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

Myanmar Military Accused of Ethnic Cleansing

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Conflict between the Rohingya Muslims and the government of Myanmar have been ongoing for decades. Since 1982, the Rohingya have not been recognized as citizens, but rather illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They are a minority group that lives in the Northern state of Rakhine.

Rohingya Refugee, Photo Courtesy of Newsweek.

Conflict escalated in mid August after a group of militant Rohingya Muslims known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army or ARSA attacked 30 police posts and an army camp on the 25th of August. In retaliation the Myanmar government conducted operations to root out the militants and terrorists.

The response of the Myanmar military has been on a mass scale that primarily targeted citizens.   The Myanmar security forces looted, destroyed, and burned hundreds of Rohingya Villages. Men are shot and burned. Women are raped. Children and women are attacked brutally and killed. One mother reports that Myanmar soldiers threw her month old baby on the ground, killing him instantly. Another found her children beaten dead with a shovel. Around 100,000 Rohingya have been killed in Myanmar in this new wave of violence.

Overall more than 500,00 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to flee the violence. This migration is in addition to the 87,000 that fled from October 2016 to July 2017.

Myanmar officials deny these events, saying that it is all propaganda against the state.   A government representative goes further to say that all allegations brought to the government will be investigated and that state will protect any rape victims.

The UN Secretary-General said in a speech in regards to the violence, “I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law and recognize the right of return of all those who have had to leave the country.” The UN High Commissioner for Human rights said the crisis in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The Bangladesh Foreign Minister described the violence as genocide. The National commission for Human Rights in Bangladesh is considering compiling a case against Myanmar and the army in an international tribunal.

For more information, please see:

 Human Rights Watch – Burma: Military Commits Crimes Against Humanity – 25 September 2017

National Geographic – Myanmar’s Rohingya Are in Crisis – What You Need to Know – 29 September 2017

Newsweek – MYANMAR CRISIS: AS ARMY CLAIMS DISCOVERY OF ‘MASS HINDU GRAVE’ U.N. SEEKS AID FOR TRAUMATIZED ROHINGYA” – 25 September 2017

AlJazeera – UN urges Myanmar to end Rohingya violence – 14 September 2017

AlJazeera – Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya? – 28 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

Mass Graves Discovered in Myanmar

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

RAKHINE, Myanmar – Amongst the ethnic conflict between Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar (Burma), a mass grave of 28 Hindus was found on 24 September 2017. The Myanmar army discovered the two pits near Yebawkya Village. The Information Committee confirmed the news later that day in a Facebook post.

Myanmar’s government response on Facebook to discovery of first mass grave. Photo Courtesy of BBC News.

The Rakhine state is the scene of tense ethnic fighting between the Hindus and Rohingya Muslims that has spanned several years. However, the state has been in a state of crisis since the Rohingya militants attacked 30 police posts. The government responded with a military offensive that the UN declares as an act of ethnic cleansing against the Muslims. The High Commissioner called the government attacks disproportionate.

Hindu refugees from an attack on 25 August 2017 stated that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)* militants stormed a Hindu village in the north of the Rakhine state, killing many. Others were escorted into the forest. A list of 102 missing people has been presented by Hindu women who fled the village. The Myanmar government is working to confirm this list.

In the meantime, the military is searching for more mass graves and bodies in the same area that original two graves were found. One day later, 25 September, the military found 17 more bodies 200 yards away from the mass graves. Members of the village were present to identify the bodies. In a statement from the government, the bodies were found blindfolded with slit throats and hands bound.

The Myanmar government has not released a formal statement on who committed the crime. The military supports the idea that those responsible are members of ARSA. ARSA militants fight for the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state. An ARSA spokesman denies these accusations calling them “lies,” and reminds the community that “ARSA has internationally pledged not to target civilians.”

Currently, the government keeps Myanmar closed to foreigners, journalists and media personal specifically. Therefore, obtaining a neutral and independent view is difficult.

It is important to note that the majority of those afflicted by the ethnic violence in the Rakhine state are the Rohingya Muslims. There is little sympathy for the group. They are not universally considered citizens of Myanmar, but rather classified as invaders from Bangladesh. The Myanmar government seeks to rid out Rohingya militants. However over 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past month to escape the government violence.

For more information, please see:

Newsweek – MYANMAR CRISIS: AS ARMY CLAIMS DISCOVERY OF ‘MASS HINDU GRAVE’ U.N. SEEKS AID FOR TRAUMATIZED ROHINGYA” – 25 September 2017

The New York Times – “Myanmar Follows Global Pattern in How Ethnic Cleansing Begins” – 18 September 2017

The Hindu – “Myanmar looks for more Hindu corpses as mass grave unearthed” – 25 September 2017

Reuters – “Myanmar finds more bodies in mass grave; UN seeks rapid aid increase” – 25 September 2017

The BBC – ” ‘Mass Hindu grave’ found in Myanmar’s Rakhine state” – 25 September 2017 

Turkmenistan uses Athletic Games to mask Human Rights Violations

By: Katherine Hewitt 
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov welcomed the fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to Ashgabat on 17 September 2017. Turkmenistan is considered to be one of the most repressive countries in the world, with Freedom House scoring the “highly repressive authoritarian state” a 3/100. In addition, Turkmenistan is one of the most closed off countries in the world.

The capital city of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, is pristine but oddly quiet. Photo courtesy of The Atlantic.

In preparation for these games, there have been reports of multiple human rights violations. To make available real estate to build the sports facilities, athlete housing, and a new airport among other construction projects, homes have been demolished.  The government handed out inadequate compensation to those afflicted in order to create available real estate. The cost of the new construction is roughly $7.3 billion.

At the same time the government charged citizens higher rent for adequate sized housing. Many families could not afford the rise in prices, as Turkmenistan is in a severe economic crisis.

Other violations included restricting travel, requiring “minders” for foreign journalists, and denying entrance of human rights workers form the UN.

As the games progress throughout the 10 day period (17 September to 27 September 2017), the state continues to block the athletic village off form the rest of the capital city with barriers. Traffic cannot enter the central part of the city. It appears that Ashgabat is isolated from the rest of the country. The government claims this is for security measurers.

Homeless citizens, prostitutes, and drug users are removed from the city center to provide an illusion of a perfect city. In addition, a curfew is in effective during the games. Schools in the city center are closed for the duration of the games. Citizens are not to be seen outside after 8 pm. It is enforced by police. Small privately-owned businesses in the city-center will remain closed during the games.  The government is less clear on why these polices are in place.

Deputy Director at Human Rights Watch, Rachel Denber suggests that these measures are less about security than they are about repression of the Turkmen citizens. “The government deeply fears what will happen when Turkmen come into contact with foreigners. They worry that the government’s secrets about how repressive it is and how poor the social conditions are will suddenly spill out. It is doing everything to prevent that from happening.”   Whatever the rational, the government is intent on limiting the contact of the Turkmen from the outside visitors.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – IOC turns blind eye to Turkmenistan using sport to legitimize tyranny – 17 September 2017

Freedom House – Turkmenistan Country Report 2017 

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan: Repression Casts Shadow on Asian Games – 13 September 2017

The Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights – Cordoned off roads, curfew, soldiers guarding pyrotechnics and toilets made from freight containers. Ashgabat gets ready for the Asian Games – 17 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