Myanmar Denies Human Rights Violations Against Rohingya Muslims

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Myanmar’s government stated that it will not allow members of the United Nations to enter the country to investigate potential human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, led the National League for Democracy party to a majority win in 2015. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

The United Nations Human Rights Council report which was prepared in February stated that thousands of civilians are getting killed and raped by Myanmar’s soldiers. Then in March, three legal experts and human rights advocates were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to lead the operation to investigate the alleged violations.

Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, denied the Council’s request to investigate in May and stated that it is not in keeping “with what is actually happening on the ground.” She further denied “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims and stated that “ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.” The government has previously denied human rights violations by stating that it was “propaganda.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has been condemned for failing to protect more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Historically, Myanmar has not recognized Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group and treated them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The Rohingya Muslim minority suffers from discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.  In 2012, around 140,000 – mostly Rohingya – were forced to leave their homes.

Myanmar officials maintains that a domestic investigation is being conducted under the leadership of the former lieutenant general and Vice President, Myint Swe. He has stated that the United Nations fact-finding mission will not contribute to their current internal investigation.

For more information, please see: 

Independent – Burma says it will not let outside world investigate Rohingya ‘genocide’ claims – 30 June, 2017

AP – Myanmar to bar UN human rights investigators from entering – 30 June, 2017

Reuters – Myanmar says it will refuse entry to U.N. investigators probing Rohingya abuses – 30 June, 2017

Top Vietnamese Blogger Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

HANOI, Vietnam – Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, one of Vietnam’s top bloggers, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of distributing propaganda against the government. Otherwise known as “Mother Mushroom,” Ms. Quynh is an activist raising awareness of social injustice and environmental issues in Vietnam. She first started the blog in 2006 and is known for her famous tagline, “Who will speak if you don’t?”

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, one of Vietnam’s top bloggers, was charged with distributing propaganda against the government. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Ms. Quynh was arrest in October when she visited a fellow activist in prison. Since her arrest, Ms. Quynh has not been allowed to meet any visitors. Her attorney, who she was only allowed to meet nine days before the trial, stated that the sentence was “too heavy and unfair for the accused.”

In 2009, she was arrested for 10 days for “abuse of democracy and infringing on the national benefit.” The Vietnamese government ordered Ms. Quynh to give up blogging and post a letter on the site explaining her love for the country. Upon her release, she blogged again two months later.

The United States government recently called on Vietnam to release Ms. Quynh. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch asked Vietnam to drop all charges against her.

Ms. Quynh has received numerous awards, including the Sweden-based Civil Rights Defenders award. Moreover, the U.S. State Department has also awarded the International Women of Courage Award early this year.

Since her arrest, around 1,000 activist, bloggers, and lawyers signed a petition demanding her release.

It is reported that the arrest of activists in Vietnam is not unusual. In fact, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch stated that the “Vietnamese government uses vague national security laws to silence activists and throttle free speech.”

In Vietnam, the internet has been the main forum for the country’s growing number of dissenting voices. Due to this reason, the Vietnamese government has asked social media sites, such as Facebook and YouTube to censor the content.

For more information, please see: 

NYT – With Social Media, Vietnam’s Dissidents Grow Bolder Despite Crackdown – 2 July, 2017

CNN – Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom jailed for 10 years – 29 June, 2017

BBC – ‘Mother Mushroom’: Top Vietnamese blogger jailed for 10 years – 29 June, 2017

U.S. Student Dies After Being Released By North Korea

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

PYONGYANG, North Korea – Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, died on June 19, 2017 after spending 17 months in a prison in North Korea. Mr. Warmbier returned to Cincinnati on June 13 after being released by the North Korean government.

Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea for allegedly stealing a propaganda sign. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

When he was traveling in China in 2015, Mr. Warmbier signed up for a five-day tour of North Korea with a Chinese company.

Mr. Warmbier was arrested in early January 2016 and was charged with “hostile act” against the regime for stealing government property. The North Korean government convicted him two months later after a one hour trial and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor.

The doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center received two M.R.I. scans from North Korea that showed Mr. Warmbier’s brain injury shortly after his conviction. The doctors believe that he suffered a “severe neurological injury.” The extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain was most likely caused by cardiopulmonary arrest that cut off the blood supply to his brain.

As the doctors are unable to identify what caused the initial injury, they found no evidence of broken bones or injuries that shows physical abuse. The regime blamed Mr. Warmbier’s injuries to a combination of botulism and sleeping pills.

Mr. Warmbier’s death increased tensions between North Korea and the United States as President Donald J. Trump spoke on the “brutality of the North Korean regime.” Previously, the North Korean government called President Trump a “psychopath.”

President Trump firmly stated that he is determined to “prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”

Over 2,500 people gathered at Wyoming High School for Mr. Warmbier’s memorial service. He graduated from the school in 2013.

Three U.S. citizens, Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak Song, are still held in North Korea.

For more information, please see: 

NYT – Otto Warmbier, American Student Released From North Korea, Dies – 19 June, 2017

BBC – Otto Warmbier: North Korea denies mistreating US student – 23 June, 2017

Reuters – North Korea says U.S. student’s death a ‘mystery to us as well’ – 23 June, 2017

Martial Law Continues In Mindanao

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

MANILA, Philippines – On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao. Currently, 21 million people are living under martial law. The order came after the failed attempt to apprehend Isnilon Hapilon, a terrorist leader associated with the Islamic State. Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups is known for kidnapping and decapitating westerners.

President Rodrigo Duterte addressing the country. Photo courtesy of CNN.

An estimated 400-500 fighters took over parts of Mindanao and attempted to create an Islamic caliphate. According to the head of military command in Western Mindanao, the militants control around 20 percent of the town. Around 200,000 civilians fled once the conflict began and hundreds are being held hostage. Currently, 100 militants are still fighting.

The conflict in Marawi City entered its fourth week as of June 13, and President Rodrigo Duterte stated that martial law will continue. More than 180 government troops and 200 militants have died from the battle.

Recently, President Duterte stated that he is willing to extend martial law for the region and continue the battle until the militants are completely destroyed. However, according to the constitution, martial law in the country cannot last longer than 60 days.

The opposition party in the country argued that the imposed law is unconstitutional and have asked the country’s supreme court to rule on the matter. President Duterte stated that he will revoke marital law if the Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional. Nevertheless, President Duterte also commented that if the militants continue to attack Mindanao, he will be “forced to declare martial law again.” He went further and said that he will “not consult anybody” and there is “no telling when it will end.”

President Duterte compared his order to dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The former president ruled the country under martial law from 1972 to 1981 to control communist rebels. During this time, many organizations have reported that the order allowed for human rights abuses by the administration.

Under the current order, many groups also fear human rights abuses in the country as President Duterte attempts to extend martial law in Mindanao.

For more information, please see: 

CNN – Duterte: Martial law in Mindanao to continue until I am ‘satisfied’ conflict has ended – 18 June, 2017

Reuters – Philippines army struggles as city siege enters fourth week – 13 June, 2017

Washington Post – Duterte has put part of the Philippines under martial law. Here’s how dangerous that can be. – 14 June, 2017

ABC – Philippines President Duterte revives Marcos-era memories in threat to extend martial law – 17 June, 2017

 

New South Korean President Raises Concerns On ‘Comfort Women’ Deal

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

SEOUL, South Korea – President Moon Jae-in of South Korea raised concerns on a landmark agreement made with Japan in December 2015 dealing with wartime sex slaves. The new South Korean president stated that the agreement is unfair.

South Koreans protesting outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Photo courtesy of NPR.

According to the deal, the Japanese government agreed to provide $8.3 million to help “comfort women” and for Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister, to offer his “most sincere apologies and remorse.” It was also agreed that both countries will not criticize each other on this issue in the international society.

The issue of “comfort women” has been an ongoing controversy between these two countries. Although the exact numbers are unknown, the authorities believe that around 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves when Japan took control of Korea in 1910.

Lee Ok-seon, now age 90, spoke about the time when she was captured by the Japanese military. In 1942, at the age 15, Lee was grabbed by men in uniform and was forced to work in a brothel in a Japanese-occupied area in China. As the survivors age and die, Lee remains as one of the last “comfort women.”

Former “comfort women” and many of their supporters have been protesting outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. In 2011, a group erected a bronze statue of a seated woman outside the Japanese embassy. Back in January of 2017, the Japanese government withdrew diplomats from South Korea after the same statue was erected in the city of Busan arguing that such action violated the 2015 agreement.

The victims believe that the apology made by the Japanese Prime Minister does not go far enough. Moreover, the polls show that the majority of Koreans believe the 2015 agreement to be unfair.

South Korean president, Moon Jae-in spoke with Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister, and discussed the common threat posed by North Korea. Although President Moon stated that the people of South Korea “cannot emotionally accept the comfort women agreement,” he was clear that the issue should not affect the relationship in finding ways to respond to North Korea.

On June 7, Kang Kyung-wha, President Moon’s pick for foreign minister said during her confirmation hearing that she seeks to renew discussions over the 2015 agreement with Japan.

For more information, please see: 

NPR – Not All South Koreans Satisfied With Japan’s Apology To ‘Comfort Women’ – 30 May, 2017

CNN – South Korea’s New President Questions Japan ‘Comfort Women’ Deal – 5 June, 2017

Nikkei Asian Review -South Korea Foreign Minister Pick Vows ‘Comfort Women’ Talks – 8 June, 2017

Taiwan Court Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

TAIPEI, Taiwan – On May 24, 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled in favor of same-sex couples and declared that the couples have the legal right to marry. The first such ruling in Asia, the court struck down the Civil Code’s legal definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrating the court’s ruling in Taipei. Photo courtesy of NYT.

The court declared that the Civil Code’s definition of marriage violated articles of the constitution and allowed the legislatures two years to change existing marriage laws. If the body fails to pass a legislation in the next two years, the court wrote that the same-sex couples “shall be allowed to have their marriage registration effectuated to the authorities in charge of household registration.”

The court made its ruling in response to two petitions to review the existing law. One was brought by a longtime gay rights campaigner, Mr. Chi Chia-wei. Mr. Chi was in favor of changing the Civil Code’s definition of marriage. The other petition was brought by the city government of Taipei after being sued for rejecting same-sex couple’s marriage applications.

The decision was celebrated by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists. Hundreds of supporters gathered to celebrate the decision in Taipei, the nation’s capital.

Democratic Progressive Party that overwhelmingly swept national elections last year supported this change and a bill to enforce the court’s ruling has been presented.

For more information, please see: 

Reuters – Taiwan court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, first in Asia – 24 May, 2017

NYT – Court Ruling Could Make Taiwan First Place in Asia to Legalize Gay Marriage – 24 May, 2017

Washington Post – Taiwan is set to become the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage – 24 May, 2017

Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Admits To Being “Brainwashed”

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – Chinese human rights lawyer, Xie Yang was brought up on charges of subversion in 2015. Initially, Xie maintained his innocence.

In recent court proceedings, Xie then altered his statement and plead guilty to charges of subversion and disrupting a court order. Xie stated he was “brainwashed” in Hong Kong and South Korea to promote western constitutionalism in China. Xie appeared in a video where he stated he had not been mistreated in custody by Chinese officials.

Xie’s trial was said to be open by the Chinese government. However, Western journalists and diplomats were denied entry. Many friends and supporters of Xie Yang reported that his confessions during trial appeared rehearsed.

Xie Yang and his wife, Chen Guiqui. Photo courtesy of New York Times.

Since President Xi Jinping took office, his government warns against Western ideals and the threat these ideals can have on national security.  Cases dealing with “land grab victims” and proponents of democratic reform are considered highly sensitive to government authorities in China. Recently, Xie Yang and several human rights lawyers were put on trial dealing with these issues.

Amnesty International has stated that the Chinese government wanted to use Xie Yang’s trial “to discredit his lawyers and the Western media.” The United Nations requested that Chinese authorities release all activists and attorneys being held in custody who have been accused of defending basic rights of Chinese citizens.

Xie Yang’s attorney, Chen Jiangang, who represented him throughout trial was also taken into custody, according to sources close to Xie Yang.

For more information, please see: 

BBC – China human rights lawyer Xie Yang ‘admits being brainwashed’ – 8 May, 2017

NYT – In Reversal, Chinese Lawyer Confesses, and Rights Groups Denounce His Trial – 8, May 2017

Reuters – China begins trial of rights lawyer for ‘subversion of state power’ – 8 May, 2017

 

Thai Lawyer Faces Up To 150 Years in Prison for Insulting Royal Family

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BANGKOK, Thailand – A Thai human rights lawyer appeared in court on May 3 where he was charged with 10 counts of royal defamation. If convicted, Prawet Prapanukul faces up to 150 years in prison. His case is the most number of charges for the crime brought against an individual in recent history.

A portrait of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej is see on the building of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Photo courtesy of EPA.

Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté law makes it a crime to threaten, insult, or defame the king, queen, heir-apparent, or the regent, as enshrined in Article 112 of the country’s criminal code. There is no definition of what constitutes such an insult to the monarchy, and lèse-majesté complaints can be brought by anyone, against anyone, and are always required to be formally investigated by the police.

In addition to 10 counts of insulting the monarchy, Prawet is accused on three counts of breaking section 116 of Thailand’s criminal code, which covers sedition. Human Rights Watch has warned that the laws are being used by military authorities to curb the opposition.

It is still not known what Prawet might have written or said that led to his arrest and charges. A spokesperson for the military government declined to comment on the case. Thailand’s military seized power from an elected civilian government in a spring 2014 coup. Since the government was overthrown, the junta has detained hundreds of journalists, activists, and politicians for alleged protests and anti-junta activities.

It is unclear what will happen in Prawet’s case, but the Thai junta have made it clear that it is unaccepting of any acts in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Thai lawyer faces 150 years in jail for royal insult – 4 May, 2017

The Telegraph – Thai rights lawyer faces up to 150 years in prison for royal insult – 4 May, 2017

Jurist – Thailand human rights lawyer charged for insulting royal family – 4 May, 2017

Asian Correspondent – Thailand: ‘Missing’ lawyer appears in court, faces 150 years’ jail for royal insult – 4 May, 2017

RT News – Top Thai human rights lawyer faces 150 years in prison for ‘royal insult’ – 4 May, 2017

BBC News – Thailand’s lese-majeste laws explained – 3 December, 2016

North Korea Welcomes UN Human Rights Expert

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

North Korea is once again hitting headlines in the international media, this time on a positive note. The autarkic country has invited a United Nations representative to visit and assess the rights of the disabled. U.N. special rapporteur Catalina Devandas-Aguilar will be visiting North Korea for six days to collect information on the conditions of disabled persons in the country.

The UN will send human rights expert Catalina Devandas-Aguilar to North Korea to assess the conditions of persons with disabilities living in the state. Photo courtesy of the United Nations.

Devandas-Aguilar spoke on her upcoming visit, saying that the visit represents an important opportunity to learn firsthand about the country’s realities, policies, programs, and laws regarding the rights of people with disabilities. Devandas-Aguilar is also concerned with the shortcomings and challenges disabled persons face in the country. The trip will take place between May 3 and May 8.

The visit also marks the first U.N. sponsored trip to North Korea since 2004, when the U.N. Commission on Human Rights sent an investigator to report on North Korea’s human rights situation. Devandas-Aguilar is scheduled to visit the state’s capital, Pyongyang, as well as South Hwanghae Province.

North Korea ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities in December 2016.

Devandas-Aguilar plans to hold a press conference in Pyongyang at the end of her visit. Her official findings will be submitted to the United Nations next year.

For more information, please see:

Deutsche Welle – UN disabilities representative announces observer visit to North Korea – 27 April, 2017

Independent News – North Korea agrees to visit from UN human rights expert for first time – 27 April, 2017

Reuters – North Korea opens door a crack to welcome U.N. disability expert – 27 April, 2017

UPI News – U.N. disabilities rapporteur to make observation visit to North Korea – 27 April, 2017

Tensions Rise with North Korea as Another U.S. Citizen is Detained

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

Tensions are rising with North Korea as Kim Jong Un continues to threaten the United States. North Korea has actively begun a campaign to grow its nuclear weapons supply and develop means to convey those weapons further than has ever been possible for the autarkic country. Last week, the country put on a display of its power in a military parade through the capital. A few days later, the North Korean government tested its long-range missiles, which failed almost immediately.

North Korea paraded its missiles in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

This week, North Korea has stated it is “ready to sink” a U.S. aircraft carrier headed its way. The aircraft carrier was dispatched by President Donald Trump amid warnings that U.S. patience towards North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has come to an end.

Even more troublesome is the detention of a third U.S. citizen in North Korea. On April 21, 2017, Korean-American Tony Kim was detained as he attempted to leave the country. Kim had spent a month teaching an accounting course at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. His arrest is the third arrest of U.S. citizens trying to leave the country.

The human rights implications of North Korea’s actions are vast. It is unclear what conditions U.S. prisoners face in North Korea. Additionally, North Korea’s willingness to use nuclear weapons is a major national security concern for every nation on Earth. It is unclear what lies ahead, but it is clear that measures need to be taken to ease tensions between North Korea and the U.S.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – North Korea detains third U.S. citizen – 23 April, 2017

CNBC – North Korea reportedly detains US citizen as rhetoric, tensions ramp up – 23 April, 2017

Sydney Morning Herald – North Korean threats will leave alliance countries little choice – 24 April, 2017

BBC – North Korea ‘ready to sink’ US aircraft carrier Vinson – 23 April, 2017

 

Human Rights Organizations Warn Against Vietnam’s Human Rights Offenses

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

HANOI, Vietnam – The Vietnamese government is receiving international criticism for its human rights offenses. According to a study which measures global levels of human rights offenses, Vietnam is considered one of the world’s most authoritarian police states. Activists are concerned that too little attention is paid to the human rights abuses in Vietnam, despite the fact that its neighboring states are often criticized for their offenses.

Protesters hold signs calling for justice in the trials of dissident blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and land protection activist Can Thi Theu in Hanoi, Vietnam in September 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

One major human rights offense propagated by the Vietnamese government is the imprisonment of anyone voicing political opposition to the communist state. Amnesty International reports that Vietnam detained 91 prisoners for their political beliefs in 2016, eight of which were journalists.

Amnesty International has also called attention to Vietnam’s execution rate, as it is the third largest executioner over the last three years. The government executed 429 people between August 2013 and June 2016, the human rights organization reported. The high death toll raises questions about the victim’s cases, legal proceedings, as well as the nature of their crimes. The government, however, has yet to release answers to such probes.

Vietnam is a communist country, so the government is able to control much of society, culture, and political philosophy. Recently, citizens have begun to act out in protest against the government and in favor of more rights and liberties. Villagers in a Hanoi suburb are holding twelve police officers and more than a dozen others hostage over a land dispute. The government attempted to seize land for official use, but villagers were unhappy with the stipend they were paid in turn. Activists are applauding the effort and encourage more to speak out against oppressive state action.

For more information, please see:

The Diplomat – Vietnam’s Quiet Human Rights Crisis – 17 April, 2017

Foreign Policy – This Village In Vietnam Is Holding A Dozen Police Officers Hostage – 17 April, 2017 

Asian Correspondent – Vietnam’s ‘conveyer belt of executions’ condemned by human rights watchdog – 11 April, 2017 

Radio Free Asia – Detained Vietnamese Human Rights Attorney to Receive Award For His Work – 4 April, 2017

Two Men Face Caning for Gay Sex in Indonesia

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

Human Rights watch has called on the Indonesian government to immediately and unconditionally release two men detained in Aceh province under a local ordinance that criminalizes homosexuality. On March 28, 2017, unidentified vigilantes forcibly entered a home and brought two men therein to the police on allegations of homosexual relations. The two men have been detained under Islamic Sharia law in Banda Aceh, the capital of the province.

A Sharia law official whips a man convicted of adultery with a cane in Banda Aceh, Indonesia in March 2017. Photo courtesy of AP.

The chief investigator at the facility indicated that both men have confessed to being gay and have been detained for sentencing. Under Islamic Criminal Code, the two men face up to 100 lashes for their behavior. This form of punishment constitutes torture under international human rights law.

Aceh’s Sharia law has been vehemently enforced, and the province’s police have previously detained lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual people. In October 2015, Sharia police arrested two teenage girls on suspicion of being lesbians for embracing in public. Aceh’s parliament has gradually adopted stringent Sharia-inspired ordinances that criminalize activity like a woman’s failure to wear a hijab, gambling, alcohol, and extramarital sexual relations, all of which can be legally enforced against non-Muslims.

Aceh is the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that may adopt bylaws derived from Sharia law. Under Indonesian federal law, the national home affairs minister has the authority to review and repeal such local bylaws. However, in June 2016, the Minister backtracked on his announced commitment to abolish any forms of Sharia law in the county.

Though international media and human rights organizations are speaking out against the government on this issue, Indonesian officials have yet to act on the matter.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Indonesia: Release Gay Men at Risk of Torture – 9 April, 2017

ABC News – 2 men in Indonesia’s Aceh province face caning for gay sex – 8 April, 2017

The Guardian – Indonesia: gay men facing 100 lashes for having sex – 11 April, 2017

Deutsche Welle – Two men may get 100 lashes after gay sex in Indonesia – 8 April, 2017 

Taiwan Bans Slaughter and Consumption of Dogs and Cats

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan has joined Hong Kong as one of the first Asian country to outlaw the sale of dog and cat meat for human consumption. Parliament passed legislation on April 11 to outlaw the consumption, purchase, and possession of dog and cat meat. The fine for violating the law can get as steep at 8,170 U.S. dollars.

Dogs wait to be slaughtered in cages for sale as food in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

The legislation is a direct response to the growing social pressure calling for improvements in animal welfare and increased protections against animal cruelty. The new legislation includes a provision raising the penalty for killing or abusing animals to a maximum of two years in jail and a fine of NT$2 million in Taiwanese currency.

Similar legislation had already been passed in Taiwan in 2001, which like the new legislation, prohibited the slaughter of pets and the sale of that meat. The 2001 legislation, however, failed to include a penalty for violations of the law. The new law includes strict provisions on the care and treatment of animals, as well as minimum and maximum fines and jail sentences for those found guilty of violating the law.

Rights activists are thrilled at the new measure, calling the new legislation a momentous step in the right direction for ensuring stronger animal protections. In the past, these activists argue, legislation has been too lenient on individuals accused of animal cruelty. The new law aligns to a greater global social movement for increased animal rights and protections. However, some activists warn that this measure is not enough to ensure the safety and well-being of other animals, as the legislation applies strictly to cats and dogs.

For more information, please see:

The China Post – Taiwan becomes first country in Asia to ban eating of cat and dog meat – 11 April, 2017

PRI – Taiwan bans eating dogs and cats but the meat trade is still big business in Asia – 12 April, 2017

Hong Kong Free Press – Taiwan bans the consumption of cat and dog meat – 11 April, 2017

BBC – Taiwan bans slaughter of cats and dogs for human consumption – 11 April, 2017

Thailand Facing New Controversy Over Death of Teen Activist, Despite Dropping Defamation Suits

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – The controversy surrounding the death of teenage activist Chaiyaphum Pasae, who was shot and killed by Thai soldiers during a drug raid, continues to grow. Conflicting accounts of what happened leading up to Pasae’s death are adding to the uproar warning of intimidation and manipulation by Thailand’s military.

Chaiyaphum Pasae, ethnic rights activist, was shot and killed by the Thai military on March 17, 2017. Photo courtesy of FrontLineHRD.

Accoring to the military, Pasae was travelling in a car when he was stopped at a routine checkpoint. While the car was being searched for drugs, the military says, Pasae ran from the scene and into a nearby jungle. He was about to throw a hand grenade when one soldier intervened and shot Pasae in self defense. Eye witnesses, however, report a very different unfolding of events. Eye witnesses are claiming that the group of soldiers physically assaulted Pasae at the checkpoint, and as he attempted to escape, he was shot by one of the soldiers.

Human rights organizations have long warned of the lack of protections for activists in Thailand. The United Nations warned that groups like human rights defenders, women, and other vulnerable groups are most susceptible to such abuses. The UN report notes that hundreds of individuals have been jailed since the 2014 military coup for exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.

In early March, the Thai military took a small but significant step in ending government intimidation by dropping frivolous defamation suits against three prominent activists. In 2016, rights lawyers Somchai Homlaor, Pornpen Khongkachonkie, and Anchana Heemmina published a report citing 54 cases of alleged military abuse and torture of prisoners in military custody. The Thai Internal Security Operations Command responded by filing a criminal complaint against the lawyers, accusing them of defamation and breaches of the Computer Crimes Act.

Thailand has a long way to go when ensuring the equal protection of human rights, and human rights organizations will continue to keep an eye on the government and its actions.

For more information, please see:

Asian Correspondent – Thailand: Pressure grows for transparency in probe on teen activist’s death – 31 March, 2017

Asian Correspondent – Activists, women and ethnic minorities lack protection in Thailand – UN – 29 March, 2017

VOA News – Activists Welcome Thai Decision to Drop Charges Against Rights Report Author – 8 March, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Thailand: Defamation Cases Dropped Against Activists – 7 March, 2017

Japan Increases Surveillance of North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TOKYO, Japan – Ken Kato, director of Human Rights in Asia and a member of International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, has made allegations that a scientist with ties to North Korea is working for a Japanese University. More specifically, the scientist is working with technology required to achieve miniaturization of nuclear warheads.

North Korean soldiers look toward Kim Jong Un in 2013 as they march with packs marked with the nuclear symbol. Photo courtesy of AP.

Paragraph 17 of UN Resolution 2270, legislation meant to ban specialized nuclear and missile-related teaching or training currently applies only to individuals who identify as DPRK nationals. Under the current regulation, Kato argues, North Koreans living in Japan who sympathize with the North Korean regime are exempt from the ban.

Kato has addressed the UN Security Council on the matter, warning of North Korean “nuclear spies” operating in Japan. Kato singled out an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute. Dr. Pyeon Cheol-ho is “closely linked to the North Korean regime” and received “grants from the Kim Man Yu Science Foundation for research on nuclear testing in 1997 and 1999,” according to experts speaking to Japanese media.

North Korea’s nuclear agenda is not a new threat to international security. Japan recently launched a surveillance satellite meant to keep an eye on North Korea’s nuclear development program. Japan’s Radar 5 was brought into orbit atop the H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center on March 17. The new satellite is meant to replace an existing surveillance satellite, nearing the end of its time in commission.

Increasingly, international cooperation is crucial to monitoring the development of North Korea’s nuclear missile program.

For more information, please see:

Deutsche Welle – Are ‘nuclear spies’ in Japan providing Pyongyang with weapons technology? – 4 April, 2017

The Japan Times – Japan launches new spy satellite to keep eye on North Korea – 17 March, 2017

NASA – Japanese H-IIA rocket launches latest IGS spy satellite – 16 March, 2017

International Business Times – Eye in the sky: Japan launches spy satellite to watch North Korea amid rising nuclear threat – 18 march, 2017