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Audio Overview of East Asia Pacific Issues, WEDNESDAY, 20 March 2019

Bhargav Reddy- APAC Assistance Operations Assistant

Major Issues In EAST ASIA PACIFIC

WEDNESDAY, 20 March 2019

 

INDONESIA

 The KPK raids the office of Religious Affairs Ministry.  Yesterday, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) confiscated more than USD 42,000 from the office of Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin. The commission is probing the minister’s possible links to its bribery charges against the United Development Party Chairman Muhammad Rohamurmuziy, an ally of President Joko Widodo. Rohamurmuziy is accused of accepting bribes from two Religious Affairs Ministry officials seeking to pass a job selection process at the ministry’s East Java offices. The seized money may strengthen the KPK’s case against Widodo’s ally. The commission is yet to establish the source of the money.

 

THAILAND

 Petition filed against Thanathorn. An activist has petitioned the Election Commission to investigate the Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for claiming to be the first politician to transfer his assets to a blind trust. The activist said at least 15 politicians have transferred their assets to asset management companies. The activist alleged that Thanathorn is deceiving and misleading voters. The offense if proven is punishable by a prison term of one to 10 years and political ban for 20 years. A few days before the March 24 general elections, there are still efforts to disqualify the opponents of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha. There is another pending complaint against Thanathorn and two other executives of the Future Forward Party at the Constitutional Court which the court said it will decide on after the elections.

 

MYANMAR

The TNLA threatens to join the Arakan Army. The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has called on Myanmar’s military to stop its operations against the Arakan Army in the Rakhine State. The TNLA threatened to fight with the Arakan Army if the military does not stop. The government is set to begin peace negotiations tomorrow with the armed rebel groups that have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. The Arakan Army and TNLA are among several groups invited by the government to the negotiations. Both groups are yet to decide whether to join the peace talks. Clients are advised to avoid Rakhine and its neighboring states as fighting between the military and ethnic rebels continues.

Politician sentenced to 20 years in prison. More protests and fighting in the Rakhine State are expected after the Sittwe District Court sentenced a prominent lawmaker and a writer to 20 years in prison. Aye Maung, a member of parliament and the former chairman of the Arakan National Party, and Way Hin Aung were convicted of high treason and defamation for making inflammatory speeches against the government at a public event in September 2018.  The court’s decision, which has been criticized by political observers and people in Rakhine, is likely to spark more protests and inspire more intense fighting between the Arakan Army against the military. Aye Maung reportedly enjoys wide support among people in Rakhine.

 

THE PHILIPPINES

Election hotspots to be under the Commission on Elections. The Commission on Elections declared the entire Mindanao, the Abra province in Northern Luzon and two towns in the Isabela province in the Visayas as election hot spots for the upcoming legislative and local elections on May 13. These areas will be under the control of the Commission on Elections. The designation of the entire Mindanao as an election hot spot is because of armed threats posed by armed groups in the island, including the New People’s Army, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf group. The island has been under martial rule since 2017. Clients are advised to employ high-risk security measures in Mindanao and the other election hot spots until after the May 13 election results are announced.

Two Abu Sayyaf militants killed. A brief encounter between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf militants occurred in Talipao of the southern Sulu province yesterday. The military killed two Abu Sayyaf militants. Intensified military operations against pro-Islamic State Muslim militants continue in rebel strongholds in Mindanao and in other southern provinces.

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