DENPASAR Indonesia — The long overdue reform of the murky Indonesian intelligence service, Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN), could be spurred by revelations emerging in the trial of the alleged killer of the country’s top human right activist. Munir Said Thalib, known simply as Munir, died from arsenic poisoning while on a flight on Garuda, Indonesia’s national airline, from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Singapore on Sept. 7, 2004. Pollycarpus Budi Priyanto, an off-duty pilot who travelled on the same flight to Singapore, was first jailed for the murder, but then acquitted in October 2006 by the Supreme Court due to lack […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — August is celebration time in Southeast Asia, where Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are donning their best dresses and marking their respective independence days. However, while parades snake through the streets, fireworks light up the night sky and politicians try to outdo each other with poignant speeches and lists of their countries’ achievements, unresolved problems and the emergence of new ones in the three countries are dampening the spirits of average citizens. Singapore’s Income Gap Behind Singapore’s glitz and gloss, the country’s long-term prosperity — and perhaps its social harmony — is threatened by an ever-widening wealth gap […]

Rights & Wrongs: Congo, Iran, Cambodia, and More

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a new weekly column covering the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. BARBARIC VIOLENCE AGAINST CONGO WOMEN — A United Nations expert on violence against women reported July 27 that violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo is widespread and brutal to the point of incomprehension. Yakin Erturk said her investigations revealed massive incidents of torture, gang rape, sexual slavery, forced incestuous rape and women being forced to eat human excrement and flesh. Violence against women, Erturk said, is committed by armed groups, civilians, […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Tension remains high in the Philippines as an investigative team tries to ascertain who mutilated 10 of the 14 soldiers killed in a recent encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the island of Basilan July 10. Should the investigators fail to find answers, war could erupt again in the southernmost part of the country, where Islamic groups have been fighting for independence for decades. Manila has gathered 5,000 soldiers on tiny Basilan in the Sulu Archipelago, also home to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. But the […]

NEW YORK — Traveling across Southeast Asia, one regularly hears that the United States is losing its foothold in Southeast Asia, and squandering away the goodwill it has enjoyed for decades in most of the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The U.S. administration, say many in the region, is consumed with diplomatic and military fights in the Middle East, and has neither the time nor the interest to look at Southeast Asia. At the same time, thanks to its growing economic power, China is steadily expanding its sphere of influence by providing all manner […]