Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories
5 May 2017
Cut ties with North Korea, Tillerson tells Asean ministers at summit
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson urged Asean to cut economic ties and minimise diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, threatening to impose sanctions on companies found to be conducting business with the rogue regime in his first meeting with the bloc’s foreign ministers.
Tillerson also used the meeting as a platform to discuss competing territorial claims in the South China Sea and to express US commitment to trade with Asean, which is the US’ fourth-largest trading partner, according to the White House website. [Reuters]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Why is Southeast Asia so nice to North Korea?
Dissident Thai lawyer hit with barrage of lèse majesté charges
A Thai human rights lawyer and outspoken critic of the military junta has been charged with ten counts of lèse majesté, each carrying a 15-year sentence, and three counts under the Computer Crime Act, each with a seven-year maximum sentence, for Facebook posts that allegedly encouraged Thais to push the boundaries of the royal defamation law.
Prawet Prapanukul, who had previously defended prominent activist Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul in a case that saw him convicted of insulting the monarchy, was taken into custody after security forces conducted a raid on his home on 29 April. [Al Jazeera]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: The “ultimate weapon”: lèse-majesté
Myanmar officially opens diplomatic relations with the Vatican
Following a meeting between Pope Francis and Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Vatican and Myanmar officially established full diplomatic relations, with both sides agreeing to appoint a fully-fledged ambassador.
The move will give more influence to the pope, who publicly condemned Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya ethnic minority in February. There are an estimated 700,000 Catholics in Myanmar, whose population of 51.4 million is predominantly Buddhist. [Reuters]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Rampant nationalism in Myanmar leaves Rohingya without allies
After delays, massive oil refinery breaks ground in Cambodia
An oil refinery expected to cost $1.62 billion and eventually have the capacity to process five million tonnes of crude oil has broken ground on a 365-hectare swathe of land in the coastal provinces of Kampot and Preah Sihanouk.
Although the official developer of the project is the private Cambodia Petrochemical Company, it is being almost entirely funded and carried out by Chinese firms. The refinery will initially import crude from the Middle East for domestic consumption but hopes to eventually turn Cambodia into an oil exporter. [Phnom Penh Post]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: The pressure is on for Timor-Leste to prepare for a time without ‘black gold’
Indonesia’s Go-Jek ride-sharing startup raises $1.2 billion in investment
Go-Jek, a ride-hailing startup that claims to have 200,000 drivers across more than 20 cities in Indonesia, reportedly closed a new round of investment to the tune of $1.2 billion as it fights Uber and Southeast Asian player Grab in the rapidly expanding market.
Initially launched exclusively with motorbike taxis, Go-Jek has expanded its fleet of freelance drivers to four-wheeled vehicles. Indonesia’s ride-sharing market is expected to grow from an estimated $0.8 billion in 2015 to $5.6 billion in 2025. [TechCrunch]
Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Uber to face stiff competition as ride-sharing service targets Southeast Asia