‘Adhoc 5’ released in Cambodia, Myanmar bans entry of investigators and Singapore’s prison-cum-farm

By: Will Feuer - Posted on: June 30, 2017 | Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories – 30 June 2017

Yi Soksan (2-L), Nay Vanda (2-R), and Ny Sokha (back), walk at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 30 November 2016.
Yi Soksan (2-L), Nay Vanda (2-R), and Ny Sokha (back), walk at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 30 November 2016. Photo: EPA/Kith Serey

The Region Today – 30 June 2017

Cambodian courts release ‘Adhoc 5’ on bail

Four human rights workers and an election official who had spent 427 days in prison in a bribery case widely seen as politically motivated were released on bail on Thursday night.

Lim Mony, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, and Nay Vanda, all employees of human rights group Adhoc, as well as National Election Committee deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya, who previously worked for the organization, are still expected to face trial, though no date has been set. They were charged for allegedly paying a woman to deny an affair with opposition leader Kem Sokha. All five have denied the accusations.

“Even as a human rights defender, I was still badly mistreated, so I cannot imagine how ordinary people would have been treated,” Ny Sokha said after his release. Under the terms of their release, the Adhoc 5 cannot change their residence or leave the country without court permission. [Radio Free Asia]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Cambodian parties square off following conviction of Kem Sokha

Myanmar refuses to grant visas for UN investigation

All embassies in Myanmar have been ordered not to issue visas to UN investigators in response to the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution to investigate alleged atrocities against the Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine State, which some say meets the threshold of genocide.

Following a fatal raid in October on a police station allegedly committed by a Rohingya militant group, Myanmar’s military launched a fierce crackdown against the majority-Muslim Rohingya community, reportedly burning down entire villages and displacing tens of thousands amid reports of systemic rape and murder. The Myanmar government has denied accusations that the military was carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the group.

“Aung San Suu Kyi said we would not coordinate with UN fact-finding mission as we have disassociated ourselves from the resolution because we do not think that the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground,” said Kyaw Tin, Myanmar’s deputy minister of foreign affairs. [AFP]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘Ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression’ for crisis in Rakhine State

Vietnamese human rights activist and prominent blogger sentenced to ten years

Vietnamese courts have sentenced Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, more commonly known name “Mother Mushroom,” to ten years in prison for distorting government policies and defaming the Communist regime in Facebook posts and interviews with foreign media, according to her lawyer.

Quynh is a prominent blogger in Vietnam and has continuously written about sensitive topics such as human rights, civilian deaths in police custody and a toxic chemical spill that killed thousands of fish in one of Vietnam’s most damaging environmental disasters. The efforts have earned her a number of prestigious human rights awards.

The sentencing drew widespread international criticism. “The scandal here is not what Mother Mushroom said, but Hanoi’s stubborn refusal to repeal draconian, rights-abusing laws that punish peaceful dissent and tarnish Vietnam’s international reputation,” said Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson. [Associated Press]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Where China stokes conflict, Vietnamese dissidents find opportunity

From vacant buildings to urban farms in Singapore

While Singapore is seen as a beacon of modernity in Southeast Asia, it’s size means there is not much by way of natural resources. More than 90% of Singapore’s food is imported, leaving the city-state in a weak position when it comes to market disruptions.

Edible Garden City, however, is seeking to alleviate Singapore’s reliance by transforming vacant buildings into urban farms.The company has already built more than 50 ‘food gardens’ such as Citizen Farm, which used to be an 8000 square meter prison, but is now an urban farm “where the local community can learn and grow together,” according to the project website.

Darren Ho, head of the Citizen Farm Initiative, said it’s up to the community how much food they want to produce, which is often enough to feed roughly 500 people a day. “No system will replace imports, we are here to make us more food resilient,” he said. [Reuters]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Home on the farm

New Michelin star restaurants revealed in Singapore

In the second year that Michelin has brought their culinary senses to Singapore, eleven restaurants received their first one-star award. Recipients ranged widely from hawker stands like Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle to more modern Singaporean fusion restaurants such as Labyrinth.

For two years now, Singapore has proudly held the title of world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal, although there are also plenty of opportunities to empty your wallet over dinner with a diverse array of upscale eateries. [Channel News Asia]