The Region Today: Pence in Jakarta, bombing in Thailand, and more trouble for Cambodia’s opposition

By: Euan Black - Posted on: April 20, 2017 | Featured

Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories

US Vice President Mike Pence (L) talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) during their meeting at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, 20 April 2017. Pence is currently on a 10-day trip in Asia. Photo: EPA/Darren Whiteside
US Vice President Mike Pence (L) talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) during their meeting at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, 20 April 2017. Pence is currently on a 10-day trip in Asia. Photo: EPA/Darren Whiteside

20 April 2017

Mike Pence visits Indonesia in wake of Jakarta election

US Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Indonesia today to discuss bilateral trade and security issues with President Joko Widodo as part of his 10-day Asian tour.

His visit comes just months after President Trump signed an executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations. While Indonesia was not among that list, the country’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, expressed “deep regrets about the policy” when it was announced.

Pence enters a tense atmosphere in Jakarta. Yesterday, Joko’s successor as the city’s governor was swept from power by Anies Baswedan, an establishment candidate supported by Islamic hardliners, after a deeply divisive campaign. [CNBC]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ met with anger in Southeast Asia

Two killed in bomb and gun attacks in Southern Thailand

Two people have died in bomb and gun attacks in Thailand near its border with Malaysia, according to a senior military spokesman. No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack.

The southern region has a long history of separatist violence: 1,300 successful bombings, an average of 14 per month, have been carried out since 2009.

“This is the work of people who want to cause chaos. It looks like their intention wasn’t to kill but rather to cause disorder,” Colonel Yutthanam Petchmuang, a spokesman for Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command, told Reuters. [The Australian]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Is there any hope for peace in Thailand’s troubled south?

North Korea and South China Sea on Asean summit agenda, says Philippines official

The region’s leaders will discuss the ongoing problems in the South China Sea and the dangers posed by an increasingly assertive North Korea at the upcoming Asean summit, the acting spokesman for the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said at a briefing yesterday.

Robespierre Bolivar said the South China Sea discussion would focus on nailing down a code of conduct to minimise the chance of armed confrontation in the troubled waters, an agreement that has thus far proved elusive. [The Straits Times]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Why is Southeast Asia so nice to North Korea?
The motives behind Beijing’s South China Sea expansion

Cambodia bans opposition officials from visiting jailed lawmakers

Officials from Cambodia’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been banned from visiting their imprisoned colleagues after bringing a prominent radio personality with them on a prison visit, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Prison officials were “cheated” when Hout Vuthy, the director of Radio Free Asia’s Khmer service who goes by the on-air pseudonym Chun Chanboth, joined CNRP officials on a prison visit on Wednesday, said General Khieu Sopheak.

According to rights group Licadho, at least 18 opposition officials and activists are among 27 political prisoners in the country. [RFA]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: With Sam Rainsy gone, what’s next for Cambodia’s opposition?

Indonesian Marvel Comics artist fired for inserting hidden political messages

Marvel Comics have fired Ardian Syaf, the Muslim comic book artist from Indonesia who made headlines last week for embedding thinly veiled political messages into the first issue of the X-Men Gold comic.

Syaf drew a character wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo ‘5:51’, in reference to a verse from the Qu’ran, which some interpret as prohibiting Muslims from voting for non-Muslim leaders. The verse is at the heart of an ongoing blasphemy case against Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta’s outgoing governor.

Marvel have said it goes against their brand message of ‘inclusiveness’. [Al Jazeera]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: What will the Ahok trial mean for Indonesia?