Myanmar military beatings, Cambodian rallies and robots in Singapore

By: Will Feuer - Posted on: May 31, 2017 | Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories – 31 May 2017

Indonesian Muslim cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab, second from right, speaks to journalists shortly after arriving at Jakarta Metropolitan Police headquarters in February. Photo: EPA/Bagus Indahono

The Region Today – 31 May 2017

Leader of extreme Islamic group in Indonesia caught up in pornography scandal

Indonesian police say that Rizieq Shihab, leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, will be charged with breaking the country’s strict pornography laws after sexually-explicit text messages emerged, allegedly between him and a woman who is not his wife.

Rizieq’s front has used hate-filled rhetoric and sometimes violence to intimidate ethnic minorities in the Muslim majority nation, and led a successful campaign to convict the former governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, on blasphemy charges.

Rizieq denies that the text messages are real and many of his supporters are claiming that the charges are politically motivated – an ironic reversal of roles given Purnama and his allies, which include President Joko Widodo, made the same claims.

“It’s unlikely the police did this without direction from the president,” said Slamet Maarif, a spokesman for the Islamic Defenders Front. “The police are just a tool”. [New York Times]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Officials prepare for hardline Islamic protest against Jakarta governor

Myanmar under fire over latest video showing soldiers beating citizens

Myanmar is facing international criticism and calls for an investigation after a video surfaced on Facebook showing government soldiers beating and threatening to kill six prisoners – potentially a war crime.

Accents, uniforms and places mentioned by both parties in the video indicate that it was shot in Shan State, where a variety of armed ethnic groups are fighting the government.

While it’s unclear when exactly the video was shot, it was released just days after the second annual Panglong Peace Conference, part of efforts to end ethnic conflict in Myanmar. [New York Times]

Cambodia’s main parties plan dueling mass rallies ahead of local elections

Cambodia’s ruling and opposition parties are together expecting a quarter of a million people to take to the streets of Phnom Penh on Friday for final campaign rallies ahead of bellwether local elections on Sunday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to break from his tradition of staying out of campaigns to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) rally, during which he is expected to speak and join a march with 150,000 supporters down a boulevard named after him.

Opposition leader Kem Sokha is set to deliver a morning address in Freedom Park, the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s home base for post-election protests in 2013, before 100,000 supporters head off on a march which organizers are trying to ensure does not cross paths with the CPP.  [Cambodia Daily]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Cambodia’s premier enters campaign fray as opposition predicts victory

Vietnamese gaming company looks to become first to list overseas

VNG Corporation, a Vietnamese game developer, is set to go global after signing an agreements to list on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, pending approval from the Vietnamese government, according to co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Le Hong Minh.

If the decision is approved, which could take between 18 and 24 months, it would be the first Vietnamese company to go public overseas. “We are anticipating it will be a challenging process,” Minh said.

Despite an uncertain future, the chances of approval are looking up after Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who was already in the US for talks with President Donald Trump, met with Minh and a Nasdaq executive in New York City. [Bloomberg]

Ask and you shall receive: Singaporean boy gets a robot companion

Two years ago, a young boy asked his father for a robot as capable as the ones he saw on television. So Paul Zhang, the father, got to work along with a team of engineers and have now produced a prototype, GT Wonder Boy.

Zhang, who is also the founder of GT Robot Technology, says that the robot can hold a conversation in 13 languages, including English and Mandarin, recognise voices and faces, do mathematics, dance and sing.

The robots, which Zhang’s company plans to sell for $2,000 each with an initial batch of 10,000 produced in Singapore and China, has secured the son’s approval. “It can help me with my homework, especially mathematics,” he said. [Star2]