Australian planes in Philippines, Uber in Cambodia, and troubling times for Chinese property developers

By: Will Feuer - Posted on: June 23, 2017 | Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories – 23 June 2017

Acting secretary of foreign affairs of the Philippines Enrique Manalo (R) and Australian minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop (L) chat prior to their meeting in Manila, Philippines, 16 March 2017. Photo: EPA/Francis R. Malasig

The Region Today – 23 June 2017

Philippines gets Australian aerial support in fight against Islamic State

Australia has agreed to offer military support to the Philippines to bolster efforts to bring an end to the conflict with Islamic State (IS)-linked militants in Marawi City by the end of ramadan this weekend, an event it fears that could bring a fresh wave of reinforcements.

The Royal Australian Air Force will fly two P-3 Orion aircraft over Marawi City. While the specific capabilities of the planes are classified, they are known to provide high-technology surveillance and some can intercept phone conversations.

“I recently spoke with my counterpart Secretary of Defence Delfin Lorenzana about how Australia can assist the Philippines in its fight against extremists,” said Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne. “We agreed the best way to defeat terrorism in our region is for us to work together.” [Sydney Morning Herald]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Philippines deploys tanks and helicopters in attempt to reclaim southern city

Myanmar security forces kill three at alleged insurgent camp in Rakhine state

Three men were killed by Myanmar security forces as they cleared a suspected Rohingya insurgent training camp in the mountains of Maungdaw-Buthidaung township in conflict-plagued Rakhine state, according to a government spokesman.

During a two-day security clearance operation earlier this week, the military says it uncovered tunnels, weapons, huts, rations, and training materials in camps hidden in the Mayu mountain range, according to state mouthpiece Global New Light of Myanmar.

The military has been roundly condemned for an alleged campaign of rape and murder that some observers say amounts to ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Rakhine state, causing tens of thousands to flee and take refuge in squalid camps. [Radio Free Asia]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Rampant nationalism in Myanmar leaves Rohingya without allies

Animals seized from Malaysian trafficker at Thai border

Thai wildlife officers arrested 63-year-old Malaysian Ismail Ahmad as he attempted to smuggle two baby orangutans, 51 tortoises and six raccoons across Thailand’s southern border, according to officials.

Ahmad had the animals packed into plastic boxes and suitcases while trying to cross the border at Songkhla province, an area torn by insurgency and now a hub for contraband, most notably illicit drugs and weapons.

“The suspect said he was hired to transport the animals from [neighbouring] Perlis state in Malaysia to Hat Yai [in Thailand] for 1,000 baht [$30],” said Mr Prach Kongthong, a wildlife officer manning the checkpoint. [Straits Times]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Malaysia blocks import of 330 endangered tortoises from Madagascar

Uber sneaks into Cambodia with exclusive launch

Starting with a select group of technology-forward participants from Phnom Penh, Uber is making a quiet entrance into Cambodia.

While Uber representatives have yet to confirm their launch, Ros Khemara, a regional manager at the Asian Development Bank, posted a text message he received to Facebook offering him early access to Uber at a discounted price. The ride-hailing app also posted four Phnom Penh-based job advertisements on LinkedIn.

“I don’t really think the city has enough transportation service providers just yet,” said Bun Tharum, a popular tech blogger. “The convenience of ordering a ride with reasonable price (without being ripped off) offers an ideal choice.” [Cambodia Daily]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Uber could face stiff resistance in Cambodia’s crowded ride-hailing market

Major development in Malaysia comes to grinding halt as China enforces capital controls (Feature)

In a bid to shore up its reserves and protect the struggling Yuan, China has begun enforcing in earnest a ban preventing its citizens from investing their $50,000 foreign exchange quotas in offshore property, slamming the brakes on its myriad development projects around the globe.

And few projects will be affected more than the ambitious Forest City development in Johor, Malaysia, which receives roughly 90% of its funding from Chinese investors. [Bloomberg]