The Region Today: Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories
19 May 2017
Four Indonesian soldiers killed in South China Sea ‘technical malfunction’
The Indonesian military announced Thursday that a Chinese made anti-aircraft cannon malfunctioned, claiming the lives of four of its soldiers and injuring eight more. Four of the injured remain in critical condition.
Unlike four Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia does not have any competing territorial claims with China in the South China Sea, although China’s “nine-dash line” overlaps with Indonesia’s internationally recognized maritime economic zone.
Nonetheless, Indonesia has recently bolstered its military presence in parts of the South China Sea. [Washington Post]
Duterte rejects EU funding that interferes with internal affairs
Facing condemnation of his war on drugs, which has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 mostly poor Filipinos, Philippine President Duterte has decided the country will no longer accept EU grants that could interfere with internal policies.
“The president has approved the recommendation of the department of finance not to accept grants… from the EU that may allow it to interfere with the internal policies of the Philippines,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
Abella said one grant has already been rejected, but declined to elaborate further. [The Business Times]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Duterte’s threat to withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court marks further shift East
Myanmar military sues two journalists for violating censorship law
Anxiety over freedom of speech in Myanmar, or lack thereof, is on the rise after the military sued two journalists for a satirical article they penned criticizing top military officials for living a lavish life while low-ranking soldiers face a bleak reality.
The military claims the journalists broke a controversial censorship law that broadly forbids “defaming or disturbing” people.
The lawsuit also highlights the broader issue of whether the civilian government elected in 2015 on promises of democratic freedom is being undermined by the military, which long controlled the country and maintains a stranglehold on large parts of the private and public sector. [The Straits Times]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Assassination of Myanmar lawyer suggests divide between government and military
Indonesia promises to cut down on forest fires for ‘haze-free’ year
The annual haze created by Indonesian farmers igniting fires to clear their fields for pulp, paper, and palm oil plantations spreads far beyond the Sumatra and Borneo islands where most of it occurs, spreading across the country and the region.
The forest fires are a particular pain for nearby Malaysia and Singapore, who find themselves shouldering some consequences. However, Nazir Foead, head of the Peatland Restoration Agency, which was set up last year to combat the fires, says that’s set to change.
“With the preparation the government is making, the re-wetting activities, I would say there should be no more haze going to the neighbours,” he said. [The Edge Markets]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Can Indonesia tackle its toxic haze?
North Korea vs Malaysia Asian Cup qualifier postponed – again
Malaysia’s Asian Cup Qualifier against North Korea, set to be played in Pyongyang, has been delayed for the second time. The first time was directly after the assassination of the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The recent suspension of the match comes due to concerns over “geo-political tension” and “safety and security,” according to the Asian Football Confederation, while observers are concerned that the match, if held in Pyongyang, could be tainted by the poisoning of players’ food or referee bias. The match has been rescheduled for 5 October, for now. [BBC]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Assassination of Kim Jong-nam highlights Malaysia’s close ties to North Korea