Kazakh President’s Party Sweeps Parliamentary Elections

President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev’s governing party won every seat being contested in Kazakhstan’s weekend parliamentary elections.  The opposition has rejected the results, saying they were manipulated; international observers, including the US, have criticized the results and deemed the vote flawed.

Gonzalo Gallegos, a spokesman for the US State Department said Sunday’s election fell short of international standards.

President Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan (Light of the Fatherland) party received 88% of Saturday’s vote, and no other party cleared the 7% barrier needed to win a seat in the Parliament’s lower house.

Nazarbayev has ruled the oil-rich country since 1989, when it was still a Soviet republic.  He had pledged the elections would be free and fair.  These parliamentary elections were called two years early because of Nazarbayev’s intent to strengthen the Parliament and expand the country’s political spectrum.  This move was widely seen as a maneuver by him to try to improve Kazakhstan’s democratic image while maintaining his grip on power.  Critics say the 7% barrier for representation in Parliament is too high for a country where most political parties are in early stages.

Senator Consiglio Di Nino of Canada has said that notwithstanding the concerns, he believes that the elections continue to move Kazakhstan forward in its evolution towards a democratic country.

For more information, please see:

http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2007/08/20/kazakh_leaders_party_is_victorious/

http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2007/08/20/afx4034598.html

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/08/20/america/NA-GEN-US-Kazakhstan.php

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/20/world/asia/20kazakh.html

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1654203,00.html

Sri Lanka Forces Continue Abductions, Killings

In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, at least 21 civilians have been killed and 18 abducted over 15 days of August, according to the Jaffna Human Rights Commission. Over the past 21 months, 5,200 Tamils have been killed, thousands have been abducted and over 500,000 people have been placed in temporary shelters.

Human Rights Watch has called for a UN human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka to help to protect civilians, end impunity and promote a resolution to the conflict. The Sri Lankan government denies the claims of human-rights abuses.

Sri Lanka in a civil war since 1983, with the rebels fighting to create an ethnic Tamil homeland in the north and east against the majority Sinhalese government. More than 70,000 people have been killed.

This week, Sri Lankan fighter jets destroyed a separatist camp in the north. The Tamil Tiger sea camp had been identified as an arms and explosives supply center for the insurgents. Also this week, rebels killed four police commandos in an hour-long battle in the eastern Ampara district.

Both sides continue to violate the official cease-fire, but neither side has officially abrogated it.

For more information, please see:

http://www.tamileelamnews.com/news/publish/tns_8495.shtml

http://news.aol.com/story/_a/human-rights-group-says-sri-lankan/n20070806174809990002

http://www.hrw.org/wr2k/Asia-08.htm

Philippines Close to Outright War

The Philippines armed forces started a new campaign against southern Muslim insurgents. Their apparent aim is to topple the 300-member Abu Sayyaf group. They also threaten to increase the conflict with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

There are 5,000-12,000 soldiers there now. In August, 50 people were killed and thousands of civilians have evacuated.

The MILF, which signed a ceasefire in 1996, has allowed the army to pass through territories it controls to pursue Abu Sayyaf. However, the MILF and the army clashed on July 10 and several people were killed. Formal peace talks have stalled since September 1996, but are scheduled to reopen this month.

The MNLF has claimed responsibility for recent attacks. The MNLF is still the dominant force in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindinao, but a final peace been formed because the deal fell short of guaranteeing the ethnic Moro the ancestral homeland they sought.

Also, a new counter-terrorism law has given the government wide power to deal with internal security threats, including armed insurgent groups. That legislation may provide legal protection to the army as it launches its new campaigns.

For more information, please see:

http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-08-14-voa24.cfm

http://www.asiaobserver.com/content/view/324352/102/

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/IH17Ae01.html

India and Pakistan Mark 60th Anniversary of Independence

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Pakistanindia_3Image at MSNBC

India and Pakistan celebrated its 60th anniversary of independence from British rule today with parades, gun salutes, and speeches.  The anniversary sees both countries at important crossroads in their histories.

Sixty years ago, the departing British split the subcontinent in one of the most violent upheavals of the 20th century.  In one of history’s largest mass migrations, about 10 million people moved across borders, splitting the subcontinent into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India.  Riots and fighting surrounded the partition.  Even the fasting and pleas for peace by Mohandas Gandhi were of little avail.  In the end, an estimated 200,000 to over 1 million were dead from the bloodshed.

In marking the 60th anniversary of independence, the rivalry between the two countries is finally mellowing.  Even though mutual animosity still lingers, their focus is less on each other and more on their own aspirations and problems.

Pakistan, a nation of 160 million people, has found itself amidst a violent struggle between moderates and Islamic extremists.  Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, last week toyed with imposing an emergency rule.

Across the border in India, the story was different.  India, with a population of 1 billion, is racing to become an economic powerhouse.  Growth in the country has been fast and has transformed the country, hoping to regain itself as a great economic power.  Additionally, India has had fair and free elections for decades.  Many of its people, however, are being left behind.  Indian children are more likely to be malnourished than African ones.

For more information, please see:

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/13/ap4014300.html

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-South-Asia-at-60.html?em&ex=1187323200&en=0969a58d8cda09e2&ei=5087%0A

http://www.guardian.co.uk/india/story/0,,2148622,00.html

Philippines Close to Outright War

The Philippines armed forces started a new campaign against southern Muslim insurgents. Their apparent aim is to topple the 300-member Abu Sayyaf group. They also threaten to increase the conflict with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

There are 5,000-12,000 soldiers there now. In August, 50 people were killed and thousands of civilians have evacuated.

The MILF, which signed a ceasefire in 1996, has allowed the army to pass through territories it controls to pursue Abu Sayyaf. However, the MILF and the army clashed on July 10 and several people were killed. Formal peace talks have stalled since September 1996, but are scheduled to reopen this month.

The MNLF has claimed responsibility for recent attacks. The MNLF is still the dominant force in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindinao, but a final peace been formed because the deal fell short of guaranteeing the ethnic Moro the ancestral homeland they sought.

Also, a new counter-terrorism law has given the government wide power to deal with internal security threats, including armed insurgent groups. That legislation may provide legal protection to the army as it launches its new campaigns.

For more information, please see:

http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-08-14-voa24.cfm

http://www.asiaobserver.com/content/view/324352/102/

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/IH17Ae01.html

China’s Plan to Track People

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US financed China Public Security Technology will install about 20,000 police surveillance cameras along streets in southern China.  The cameras will be guided by sophisticated computer software to automatically recognize the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity.

Beginning this month, China residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips will be issued to most citizens.  The chips will include the citizen’s name, address, work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status, and landlord’s phone number.  Personal reproductive history will supposedly be included for enforcing China’s controversial “one child” policy.  Plans may be made to include credit histories, subway travel payments, and small purchases charged to the card.

Although China’s plans may be the world’s largest effort to meld computer technology with police work to track a population’s activities and to fight crime.  The plan is to better control an increasingly mobile population and to fight crime.  Experts say the technology may violate civil rights though, saying this may help the Communist Party retain power by maintaining tight controls on the population.

Shenzhen, a computer manufacturing center next to Hong Kong, is the first Chinese city to introduce the new residency cards.  Those who do not have the cards will not be able to live in China and cannot get government benefits.  Some civil rights activists  say the cameras are a violation of the right of privacy contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

For more information, please see:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aaCZvgCJIgTM&refer=asia

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/business/worldbusiness/12security.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

http://investing.reuters.co.uk/news/articleinvesting.aspx?type=tnBusinessNews&storyID=2007-08-12T201228Z_01_N12267967_RTRIDST_0_BUSINESS-CHINAPUBLICSTOCK-NYTIMES-DC.XML

South Korean hostage UPDATE

The Taliban has killed one of the 23 South Korean hostages.  Pastor Bae Hyung Kyu’s bullet-riddled body was found last week and was returned to his family in South Korea.  His family will not hold a funeral or memorial service until the other kidnapped men and women with him are released.

In a turn of events, however, there is speculation that the Taliban has killed a second South Korean hostage on Monday.  This comes only hours after the Afghan government said it negotiated a stay of execution for the group of hostages.  According to the governor of Ghazni province, the Taliban agreed to extend the deadline for the other 22 surviving hostages until noon tomorrow.  Afghan officials say they have not recovered a body and could not confirm the claim.  The hostages have been held since July 17.

A video possibly showing seven of the female hostages was broadcast last night on al-Jazeera television.  The women in the undated, silent video were wearing head scarves and appeared to be unharmed.

The Taliban has set many deadlines for the release of 23 imprisoned insurgents in exchange for the lives of the 23 South Korean hostages.  Reports say, however, that it is unlikely that the Afghan government will release any prisoners in exchange for the hostages, despite Taliban threats.

In March, Afghan President Hamid Karzai approved a deal that freed five captive Taliban insurgents for the release of Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo.  Karzai was later criticized by the United States and Britain, and called the trade a one-time deal.

For more information, please see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/world/asia/30afghan.html

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/30/asia/30taliban.php

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/30/asia/AS-GEN-SKorea-Afghan-Kidnappings.php

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2169856.ece

http://news.bostonherald.com/international/middleEast/view.bg?articleid=1014262

Myanmar human rights defender sentenced

Myanmar human rights defender sentenced

A Myanmar human rights defender was sentenced to eight years in prison for inciting unrest.  He was beaten by a pro-government mob.

Myint Naing was sentenced in the Henzeda Township Court, 60 miles northwest of Yangon, Myanmar (Burnma). 

Five people others were sentenced to four years imprisonment each.  Myint Naing and a fellow member of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network, Maung Maung Lay, were attacked and seriously wounded April 18 at Oakpon village in Henzeda.  They were headed to another village to continue to conduct human rights training.

Fify to 100 men with clubs and other homemade weapons attacked them.  The attack was carried out by the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a government-backed group accused of assaulting and intimidating the military government’s opponents.

The USDA was linked to attacks against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy supporters in the Yangon in 1997, as well as a deadly attack on the party leader and her supporters in northern Myanmar on May 30, 2003.

The junta created the USDA in 1993 as a social welfare organization. It claims more than 20 million members, more than one-third of the country’s population. Public servants and local officials come under heavy pressure to join.

The military has ruled since 1962, with the latest junta emerging after a 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The military has been widely accused of atrocities against ethnic minorities and of suppressing the democracy movement.

For more information, please see:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070725/ap_on_re_as/myanmar_human_rights;_ylt=ArDbmTo7SPgt5jINnLz3nnwBxg8F

http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2007/07/myanmar-rights-activist-sentenced-to.php

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=22345&Cr=myanmar&Cr1

South Korean hostage deadline extended

Twenty-three South Koreans, including 18 women, were kidnapped on Thursday, July 19, while riding a bus through the Ghazni province in Afghanistan.  Korean negotiators accompanied by Afghan elders and clerics met face-to-face with the kidnappers of the hostages on Tuesday in Afghanistan, as a threatened Taliban deadline to execute them passed by once again.  The rebels have pushed back their ultimatum on the Koreans’ fate at least three times.

Ghazni villagers demonstrated, demanding the hostages be released.  The province’s police chief, Mohammad Zaman, said the Taliban should release the hostages as they are guests in the country and they want them to be safe.

Originally, the rebels have threatened to kill the South Koreans unless 23 Taliban prisoners held by Afghan authorities are released and Seoul withdraws its 200 soldiers from Afghanistan.  Now, it is reported that the militants are demanding monetary payment for the South Korean hostages’ release. 

The 200 South Korean troops serving in the US-led coalition in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave by the end of 2007.  The hostages  were said to be involved in medical and volunteer aid. 

For more information, please see:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/25/1987410.htm

http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2007/07/23/afx3941168.html

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/24/asia/AS-GEN-Afghan-Kidnappings.php

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Afghan-Kidnappings.html?ex=1185854400&en=5fb2bf217bf9406f&ei=5070&emc=eta1

Indonesian provincial legislature considers HIV-microchip implants

The Papua legislature is now debating whether to approve a bill allowing microchips to be implanted in people infected with HIV. The proposal is a way of preventing the spread of HIV in Indonesia.  However, health workers there strongly oppose the bill.

About 2.4% of Papuans are known to be HIV-carriers. Infection rates are estimated at 15 times the national average.

A member of the parliament’s health committee made the proposal. He said that microchips could track people who continued to infect others. The bill also proposes mandatory testing of every Papua resident. Also considered was tattooing HIV-positive people.

The Papua AIDS Commission has rejected the bill. It said the proposals were illogical and a violation of human rights.

To become law, the bill would need to be approved by government, health and legal experts and pass a public consultation.

The province has just over 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, and there have been 356 deaths reported. Papua has a population of about 2.5 million.

For more information, please see:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6913869.stm

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/24/1987295.htm

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070724075657.4w2f978g&show_article=1

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/afp/20070724/ttc-health-indonesia-papua-aids-b4393f8.html

India Elects First Female President

India elected its first female president, Pratibha Patil, on Saturday.  Ms. Patil, 72, was widely expected to win and had won almost two-thirds of the votes cast by federal and state legislators.  She had the support of the governing Congress Party and its political allies.  The election of a woman to the historically ceremonial post continues an Indian tradition of using the presidency to give a high-profile voice to disadvantaged groups.  Past presidents include Muslims and a Sikh, minorities among India’s dominant Hindus.

Women still face widespread discrimination in the workplace and at home.  Although one of India’s most powerful leaders  was the female prime minister, Indira Gandhi, many Indian families regard daughters as a liability because of a tradition requiring a bride’s family to pay a large dowry of cash and gifts.  Consequently, their education and overall health is often neglected, and thus women are still underrepresented in politics.

Ms. Patil’s election will make India the largest country to boast a female head of state.  She defeated the current Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, and will replace A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.  Ms. Patil’s campaign was not easy, however, with opposition politicians and the media scrutinizing her, her past, and her family.  Opponents said she lacked the national stature for the post and complained that her only qualification was her loyalty to the powerful Gandhi family. 

Ms. Patil received 2489 out of the 2706 votes cast on Thursday.  She will be sworn in as India’s 13th president on Wednesday, and will serve for a five-year term.

For more information, please see:

http://abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/21/1984713.htm?section=justin

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118504676893474168.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/world/asia/22india.html?em&ex=1185249600&en=7eb036a14c52eb06&ei=5087%0A

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-india22jul22,1,3238015.story?coll=la-news-a_section

Attackers kill Siberian environmental protester

Attackers raided a camp of environmental protesters, killing one person and injuring seven people.

More than 20 demonstrators had been camped out by a reservoir near Angarsk, about 2,600 miles east of Moscow, to protest nuclear waste processing at a state-owned Electrolysis Chemical Plant. Local police detained two suspects and identified 13 others.

Angarsk is about 60 miles from the southern end of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. Russia is setting up a uranium enrichment center at the plant to enrich uranium from Kazakhstan, a major uranium ore producer.

President Vladimir Putin proposed setting up the site as a way to provide uranium fuel to nations intent on building nuclear power plants, while making sure they don’t develop weapons programs.

The enriched uranium supply would be made available only to countries which have made nonproliferation commitments. These would include a pledge of no use for nuclear explosive purposes and acceptance of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The demonstrators say Russia plans to become a center for processing and storing spent fuel from abroad, and that this plant could be part of the lucrative business.

For more information, please see:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070721/ap_on_re_eu/russia_demonstrator_killed_2

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/21/europe/EU-GEN-Russia-Demonstrator-Killed.php

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/21/world/main3085019.shtml

Malaysia arrests blogger

The Malaysian government detained Nathaniel Tan under the Official Secrets Act for posting information on the Internet (www.jelas.info) the government considered sensitive.

His arrest was part of a government campaign to combat alleged to inaccurate information being spreading by bloggers.

Police arrested Tan and seized his computers. Tan also manages the website of the opposition National People’s Party. Police questioned Tan for four days of police.

Tan potentially faces a large fine and a mandatory one-year jail sentence if charged and found guilty under the OSA. The OSA has “vaguely worded definitions” of what constitutes an official secret.

Tan is well known in blogging community. He is noted for his criticism of government leaders. He had previously criticized minister Baharum and asked readers to “vote this guy out.” Baharum was investigated and cleared last week after allegations that he had received $1.6 million in bribes to release three convicted criminals.

Analysts see the government’s campaign as an attempt to instill fear and suppress attacks on national leaders, especially on Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi before of a general election expected later this year.

The ruling National Front coalition does not want to see a swing in voter support for the opposition party, which is promising more transparent government, affirmative action to help all Malaysians, and to end racially-discriminatory policies.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance and Reporters without Borders both urged the government to respect human rights and restrain the police. “By arresting [Tan], the authorities are trying to intimidate Malaysian Internet users and get them to censor themselves,” SEAPA said in a statement. “Until now, they had limited themselves to threats and abusive prosecutions. Now they have gone further and adopted a more radical form of repression.”

For more information, please see:

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=38581

http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=29966

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/IG20Ae01.html

Japanese war orphans end suit

Approximately 2200 Japanese orphans who were abandoned in China following Japan’s defeat in World War II have agreed to accept a proposal from the government.  In the agreement, the government would provide more aid to the war orphans after dropping their compensation lawsuits.  The proposal comes in response to suits filed by the 2200 orphans.

The lawsuit accused the Japanese government of failing to adequately support them when they returned to Japan.  Many of the orphans are now sick and elderly, while struggling to survive because they cannot speak fluent Japanese.

Under the proposal on new livelihood support measures, the war orphans will receive a monthly pension payment of $535, an increase from the $178 they now receive.  Additionally, they will receive a special subsidy in place of welfare benefits, and the government will help cover their housing, medical, and nursing care.  In the proposal, the orphans will abandon their lawsuits against the government.

Thousands of Japanese children were abandoned in China by their parents as former Soviet troops closed in at the end of the war in 1945.  Many were adopted by the Chinese and were too young to remember their Japanese names or their biological parents. 

In 1972, approximately 6300 people, including 2500 war orphans, returned to Japan after Tokyo normalized ties with Beijing.

For more information, please see:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070709a2.html

http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2007/07/japan-war-orphans-to-accept-aid-deal.php

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20070709TDY01005.htm

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/07/09/ap3894912.html

Shutdown of nuclear facilities in North Korea

Photo of a tanker leaving South Korea on Thursday, carrying 6200 tons of oil to the North.

After four and a half years of operation, North Korea is expected to begin shutting down its main nuclear facilities this week.  The United Nations have verified that North Korea has shut down its nuclear reactor already.  The director general of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei said the shutdown of five facilities in Yongbyon, North Korea should not be difficult, and should be completed within approximately a month.

This shutdown would halt North Korea’s only declared program for producing fuel that can be used in nuclear weapons.  Experts say these five facilities can yield more than thirteen pounds of plutonium a year, enough for one atomic bomb.

North Korea agreed to shutdown its Yongbyon facilities in an agreement with the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.  The agreement called for shipping 50,000 tons of fuel oil to North Korea.  The North now says it is ready to permanently disable the reactor if the US lifts economic sanctions and strikes the North from a list of terrorism sponsors.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said progress on disarmament would depend on the measures the US and Japan would take to rescind their hostile policies toward North Korea.

After the freeze of the facilities, however, many questions remain.  These include whether North Korea will provide the agency with a complete inventory of its nuclear materials, how much plutonium it has produced thus far, and whether it may return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  The North withdrew from the Treaty in 2003 after Washington accused it of running a secret uranium enrichment program in violation of a disarmament deal and stopped oil deliveries.

For more information, please see:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aHC5gM6whvMU&refer=home

http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSSP1037320070716

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/13/world/asia/13korea.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=3380339