Cambodian election results, Philippines ceasefire fails and Ramadan temptations

By: Will Feuer - Posted on: June 5, 2017 | Southeast Asia

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

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen prepares to cast his ballot at a polling station in Kandal province, 04 June 2017.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen prepares to cast his ballot at a polling station in Kandal province, 04 June 2017. Photo: EPA/Mak Remissa

The Region Today – 5 June 2017

Cambodian ruling party wins majority in commune elections

Though official nationwide results have yet to be announced, a government-aligned website has reported that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 70% of communes in local elections on Sunday.

Though a far cry from the 97% they won in 2012, the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party also fell well short of its own aspiration to win at least 60 percent of the popular vote.

Election observers noted few irregularities and are planning to release more comprehensive reports today. The local elections were seen as a barometer of the country’s political mood ahead of the national election in July 2018, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen is facing his toughest test in decades. [Phnom Penh Post]

Related reading from Southeast Asia GlobeCambodia’s premier enters campaign fray as opposition predicts victory

Ceasefire cut short in Philippines’ Marawi City

Islamic State-aligned militants continue to occupy Marawi City in the southern Philippines, leaving hundreds of civilians there who were supposed to be escorted out during a four-hour ceasefire trapped when the truce ended abruptly.

Authorities remain uncertain about the number of civilians left in the city, but some estimates put the mark as high as 2,000. The fighting has now claimed the lives of more than 170 people, including 20 civilians, according to officials. [BBC]

Related reading from Southeast Asia GlobePhilippines deploys tanks and helicopters in attempt to reclaim southern city

Malaysia offers prize for homosexuality prevention video contest

Through a new competition launched by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, contestants can win nearly $1,000 by submitting a video on “prevention, control and how to get help” with regard to topics varying from behavior to gender confusion.

Homosexual relations are forbidden in Muslim-majority Malaysia, punishable by prison sentences, corporal punishment and fines. The announcement of the contest comes amid increasingly harsh practices in nearby Indonesia, where a gay couple was recently punished with 85 strokes of the cane.

In response to outcry from LGBT activists, Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, Malaysia’s deputy director general of health, said the contest was “never intended to discriminate any specific group” and “purely to tap knowledge and creativity of adolescents on sexual and reproductive health related matters.” [The Guardian]

Related reading from Southeast Asia GlobeMale couple sentenced to 85 lashes for gay sex in Indonesia

Thai tourism authority turns to the Middle East for visitor boost

In a push to increase Middle Eastern visitors to Thailand by 15% this year, the country’s tourism authority is teaming up with airline carriers such as Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates and Fly Dubai.

The airlines are expected to promote travel to different regions of Thailand, with Qatar Airways focusing on direct flights to Phuket, Krabi and Chiang Mai. Other airlines will promote Thai cuisine, boutique hotels and attractions in secondary destinations.

“The Middle East contributes a lot of upper-class tourists, with average spending in Thailand of 7,000 baht [about $205] per person per day,” said Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for international marketing for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. [Bangkok Post]

Ramadan particularly painful for Muslim bazaar stall owners

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan upon him, Shazeril Jailani is fasting from sunup to sundown, but finds that running a market stall selling traditional goreng pisang, a variation of fried bananas, comes with constant temptation.

“Yes, I cannot deny that it does get challenging,” he said at his stall at the Geylang Serai Bazaar in Singapore. “There is so much food here, you can see and smell it. You just cannot taste it, at least not till it is time to buka (break fast).” [The New Paper]