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Audio Overview of East Asia Pacific Issues, Thursday, 24 January 2019

APAC Assistance Director Paul Quaglia discusses Main Issues in East Asia Pacific

Main Issues in East Asia Pacific

Firstly in TIMOR LESTE

  • Yesterday President Lu-Olo vetoed the State Budget. The State Budget was passed by parliament on December 24. He questioned various aspects of the budget and criticized it for being unsustainable and for inefficient use of the country’s financial resources. Lu-Olo raised concerns over the current pace of withdrawal of funds from the Petroleum Fund and the sustainability of the Fund.
  • The budget will be sent back to the parliament for reexamination and the government will have to gain two-thirds majority support to pass it in the second attempt.
  • The veto is likely to delay the government buyout of the ConocoPhillips and Shell holdings in the Greater Sunrise consortium. The buyout plan may face further delay if the government fails to muster a two-thirds majority to pass the revised budget.

THAILAND

  • Yesterday the Election Commission announced that the general elections will be held on March 24. The announcement was made hours after a royal decree to hold the election was issued by the King and countersigned by Prime Minister Prayuth.
  • Candidates for the general elections can register from February 4-8. Each political party can submit a list of up to three prime ministerial candidates. Pro-democracy campaigners have called off the rallies planned on Saturday. Political parties will increase their campaign activities as they only have 58 days until March 23 to campaign for the election.
  • The announcement of the election date is expected to defuse political tensions in Thailand. Clients are advised to monitor political developments before the elections. Monitor alerts and advisories from APAC Assistance for further updates.

The PHILIPPINES

  • Government forces are engaged an armed encounter with the Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Sultan Dumalondong town south of Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao. Three soldiers have been reportedly injured since the firefight began at 8 a.m.
  • Mindanao is plagued by a prolong insurgency by Islamist groups many of whom are inspired by the Islamic state. Martial law is in force in Mindanao since the Maute group attacked Marawi City in May 2017.
  • Clients are advised to employ extreme caution while visiting Mindanao. Avoid traveling to smaller towns and remote areas on the island where the insurgent groups are more active.

INDONESIA

  • Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) was released from prison today. He was serving a 20-month prison sentence after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam in May 2017.
  • Ahok’s supporters had gathered outside the Mobile Brigade Detention Centre in Depok, South Jakarta, to celebrate his release. There were no protests in Jakarta upon his release. The police feared and prepared for a protest against his early release by right-wing groups and political parties who led several protests against him during his trial in 2017.
  • Ahok is an influential politician, his political career is uncertain after his release from prison. He has not disclosed any plans for a career in politics. His support for any of the presidential candidates may have an impact on the general elections. APAC Assistance assesses that a move back into politics prior to the May election is unlikely.

 

Main Issues in South Asia

Firstly in SRI LANKA

  • Yesterday 87 mortar bombs and four landmines were unearthed by the police near a playground in Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka. Police suspect the bombs were buried by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the civil war.
  • The LTTE rebels in the northern region of Sri Lanka were defeated by the Sri Lankan forces in 2009 after a protracted battle that killed more than 27,000 LTTE rebels and 28,000 soldiers. More explosives are likely to be buried in the northern provinces of Sri Lanka. Accidental detonations of ordnance left over from the civil war pose a threat to civilians in the area.
  • Clients are advised to employ extreme caution in cities like Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka which were former strongholds of the LTTE rebels. Avoid traveling to remote areas in the northern provinces of Sri Lanka.

BANGLADESH

  • The Cyber Security and Crime Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police have reportedly increased the surveillance of social media platforms. The police monitoring fake news portals and posts that are threatening individuals or the state. Five people were arrested this week for their involvement in committing fraud on Facebook using the name of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her family members.
  • More than 22 people have been arrested in the last two months for allegedly disrupting the state machinery, hurting the state and country’s democracy.
  • Clients in Bangladesh are advised to be aware of cyber fraud and fake news accounts prevalent on social media platforms. Avoid engaging with posts on political issues on social media which are being monitored by the police.
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