Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories – 3 July 2017
The Region Today – 3 July 2017
Obama warns of troublesome sectarianism in Indonesia
Former US President Barack Obama delivered a speech couched in the language of globalism on Saturday at the opening of the Fourth Congress of Indonesian Diaspora in Jakarta, using the opportunity to promote the virtues of multilateralism and pluralism.
Taking a stroll down memory lane, Obama, who also used the speech as an opportunity to indirectly call out US President Donald Trump on his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, spoke about his short-lived childhood in Indonesia before broaching the more serious subject of religious tolerance.
“Rich religious diversity – that is such an important piece of the fabric that holds Indonesia together,” he said. “Not everybody is going to agree on how to pray … if we can’t respect each other’s differences then humanity will not go far.” [Asian Correspondent / New York Times]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Indonesia says it has arrested dozens of suspected militants since suicide bombings
Duterte threatens critics amid calls for Supreme Court ruling
Amid an intense battle between Philippines Armed Forces and Islamic State (IS)-linked militants in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to imprison those who criticize his decision to declare martial law on the island of Mindanao after a failed raid at the end of May to imprison an extremist leader.
Opposition lawmakers have since called into the question the legality of the President’s actions and suggested taking the case to the Supreme Court.
“It’s not dependent on the whim of the Supreme Court. Should I believe them? When I see the situation is still chaotic and you ask me to lift it? I will arrest you and put you behind bars,” Duterte said, according to AFP. [Newsweek]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Philippines deploys tanks and helicopters in attempt to reclaim southern city
Thai military forcibly deporting migrant workers
After new foreign labor laws were passed about a week ago, expanding enforcement authority beyond police to also include the military, Thai authorities are stepping up their fight against migrant labourers.
In the short time since the passage of the laws, almost 500 Cambodians have been deported every day, according to Chin Piseth, Cambodia’s deputy chief for the military’s border relations with Thailand.
Despite some Thai media reporting a 120-day grace period for Cambodians to leave on their own volition, Piseth says the crackdown was unrelenting. “Soon, it will be a lot more than this,” he said. [Cambodia Daily]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Thailand and Malaysia plan wall along border to combat trafficking
Future of Malaysia’s ambitious economic zone hangs in the balance [Paywall]
A special economic zone in Malaysia three times the size of Singapore hopes to become the ‘New Jersey to Singapore’s Manhattan’.
Dubbed ‘Malaysia’s Shenzhen’, the development in the country’s South offers businesses the benefits of cheaper operational costs associated with doing business in Malaysia, as well as close proximity to the financial expertise in the neighbouring city-state.
However, the Iskandar project, which is slated to be completed by 2025, faces a growing list of challenges, such as a rising minimum wage, a glut of property development on the country’s Southern coast and China’s tightening of capital controls, which threaten to drive investors elsewhere. [Financial Times]
Otters in Singapore defying the odds
Singapore’s much-adored otter population has demonstrated its resilience since the 1990s by making its home in the largely urban city-state – a far cry from their natural river and wetland homes.
Experts say that the population is able to survive because of clean waterways, an abundance of food and a lack of predators.
The otters’ tale of survival against the odds has given rise to a number of fan groups and offered a rather surprising sight to those not used to getting up close to the animal.
“It is unimaginable to all my scientist friends from all over the world where these sort of images are typically what they get by laying out camera traps,” said N Sivasothi, a senior lecturer of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore. [Channel News Asia]