Cambodian tycoon’s timber racket, Malaysia’s terrorist travellers and albino orangutan gets a name

By: Will Feuer - Posted on: May 17, 2017 | Current Affairs

The Region Today: Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories

Kith Meng (R), referred to as "Mr Rough Stuff" in a 2007 US Embassy Cable, with Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem in front of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam last month in Stung Treng province, in a photograph posted on the Facebook page of one of Mr. Meng’s employees.
Kith Meng (R), referred to as “Mr Rough Stuff” in a 2007 US Embassy Cable, with Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem in front of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam last month in Stung Treng province, in a photograph posted on the Facebook page of one of Mr. Meng’s employees.

Cambodian tycoon called out by police for links to illegal logging

Kith Meng, one of Cambodia’s most prominent businessman and an ally of the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has been called out by the National Police for his involvement in systematic illegal logging.

Citing anonymous sources, the brief report posted to the National Police website accuses Meng’s firms, which are involved in constructing the Lower Sesan II dam, of misusing their license to log the reservoir to launder illegally sourced timber from other protected forests.

While the official claims against Meng follow similar findings by journalists and NGOs, it remained unclear if police intended to do anything about it. [Cambodia Daily]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Lower Sesan 2 dam putting livelihoods and environment at risk

Philippines continues cozying up to China

Returning from a trip to Beijing for talks on the One Belt One Road Initiative, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that his talks with Chinese leaders had focused on strengthening economic ties and speeding up Chinese infrastructure projects in his country.

An ongoing dispute between the two countries over territory in the South China Sea, which an international arbitration court said belonged to the Philippines, was not on the agenda. “There is a time for me to ask about the arbitral ruling, but it is not now,” Duterte said, adding that how the topic would be raised needed more consideration.

White Duterte has drawn international attention mostly for his international war on drugs, he recently announced an ambitious economic plan dubbed “Dutertenomics” that would see some $160 billion in infrastructure spending, much of it dependent on warming relations with China. [Associated Press]

Malaysia a “dumping ground” for suspected terrorists

Some 30 foreigners barred from other countries over suspected ties to Islamic terrorist networks have been sent on to Malaysia due to its majority-Muslim population and visa-free entry for many non-nationals, anonymous sources have told the New Straits Times Daily.

After being arrested in Turkey when trying to travel to Syria, the individuals were given two options: get sent back to the last port of travel, or move on to Malaysia.

Members of the group might “look for a chance to plan an attack (in Malaysia) since their aim to go to Syria had been foiled”, said Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, Malaysia’s counter-terrorism chief. [The Straits Times]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Over 200 Malaysians reportedly detained for suspected ties to Isis

Changes in Myanmar doing little to better protect women

Thiri Aung Tin says her ex-boyfriend locked her in a dark room for days on end and verbally abused her for more than 2 years, until she finally tried to kill herself. Her ex-boyfriend was arrested, but has been released and faces a maximum sentence of one year if convicted of “cheating”.

The story illustrates what rights groups say is the failure of the government and courts to make progress on protecting women from a scourge of domestic abuse in the country. But some hope that as the country continues to democratize, pressure to institute measures protecting women’s rights will intensify. [New York Times]

Voters name albino orangutan Alba after rescue in Indonesia

An endangered albino orangutan that was rescued last month from a jungle in Borneo has been named Alba after the decision was put to a popular vote by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. The name means ‘white’ in Latin and ‘dawn’ in Spanish.

Hoping that the unique orangutan will serve as an ambassador for the critically endangered species, the Foundation is carefully nurturing the animal back to health and hopes to eventually release her back into the wild. [ABC]