KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia — Malaysia has followed through on promises to deport illegal immigrants, sending more than 10,000 Filipino refugees back to their war-torn homeland. The move came as Philippine President Gloria Arroyo sought to reassure the U.S. that Manila will restart talks with Muslim separatists seeking to establish a homeland in the country’s troubled south. The numbers were well short of expectations after authorities boasted more than 100,000 could be sent packing, but were enough to raise eyebrows among regional analysts who believe forcing impoverished civilians back into a zone shattered by civil war, Islamic militancy and terrorism will […]

When Thailand’s new prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, paid his first visit to the country’s insurgency-wracked southern provinces last month, he was cautiously optimistic, commenting at the time, “I have been briefed by regional bodies and I consider the situation has improved, but we still cannot be complacent.” Somchai was wise to strike a note that balanced satisfaction with concern. Even skeptics grudgingly acknowledge that the Thai government is making progress in its fight against the insurgency in the restive Malay-Muslim provinces, annexed by the predominantly Buddhist country in 1902. Violence has plummeted by a jaw-dropping 50 percent compared to last […]

Humanitarian Aid and Strategic Pressure

In an op-ed for the Age (via the Interpreter), Andrew Selth argues that the global community should separate efforts to help the Burmese people form its desire to change the Burmese regime: The harsh reality is that there are few options against a regimethat refuses to observe customary norms of behaviour, puts its survivalbefore the welfare of its people and is protected by its allies. Symbolism is important in international politics, but we also have to be pragmatic. There needs to be a new approach. . . Instead of looking for new ways to punish an entrenched andnationalistic regime, a […]

BURMA CONVICTIONS RAISE CONCERNS — Burma’s ruling military junta has come in for another round of criticism and condemnation over the recent convictions of participants in 2007’s pro-democracy demonstrations. On Tuesday and Friday of last week, authorities convicted a total of 60 activists on various charges, including forming illegal organizations and illegal use of electronic media, sentencing some to as many as 65 years in prison. Human rights advocates and world leaders have expressed concern about the trials, which represent a spike in the Burmese regime’s ongoing crackdown on dissent. U.S State Department officials openly challenged Burmese authorities in public […]

Burma, Six Months Later

Via the In Asia blog, the Burma cyclone, six months after. Despite the heart-wrenching stories, the takeaway leaves room for hope: Six months on, most of the initial logistical and political obstaclesto providing aid have been overcome. And the overall relief effort isshifting its focus from emergency response to longer-termreconstruction projects that will help restore the livelihoods ofpeople whose lives have been irrevocably altered by Cyclone Nargis. Without making any apologies for the Burmese regime’s handling of the cyclone, I think we can conclude that a humanitarian invasion would probably have done more longterm harm than shortterm good. The post […]

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia — Early Sunday morning, the Indonesian government executed three men convicted of the 2002 Bali Bombings, ending a controversial period of postponements, court appeals and international media attention. Now, counter-terrorism officials and the public are braced for possible retaliatory attacks that the men — who operated under Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group held responsible for most of the bombings that hit the country from 2000 to 2005 — had promised. The 2002 Bali bombings killed over 200 people and remain the deadliest terrorist attack after 9/11. The executions, the first of Muslim extremists carried out under […]