Southeast Asia Theater
Authorities in Burma on May 21 closed the trial of pro-democracy advocate and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after briefly opening it to 30 foreign diplomats the previous day. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said he plans to visit Burma "as soon as possible" to urge the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. In an interview with CNN, Ban said that he was "deeply concerned" about the detention of "an indispensable patron for reconsidering the dialogue in Myanmar."
Nicaragua has issued a passport for Thailand's former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thai authorities have verified. The document allows Thaksin—wanted in Thailand on charges of inciting the recent political riots—to travel internationally. His previous passport had been revoked, and he is currently in hiding. During the protests, he hopped from Australia, China, Hong Kong, Dubai and Cambodia in his private jet, issuing video messages to his followers. The Thai ambassador to Mexico met with the Nicaraguan ambassador to that nation April 17, to convey the message that the Thai government does not wish to see Thaksin using any country as an off-shore base to destabilise the Kingdom. The Thai ambassador also requested Nicaragua extradite Thaksin, although Thailand and Nicaragua have no extradition treaty. (Electric News Paper, Singapore, April 19; Thai News Agency, April 17)
Security forces April 14 raided a marijuana plantation and arrested four people in the southern Philippine island province of Sulu, Mindanao region. Police said some 1,500 plants were uprooted in the hinterlands of Talipao municipality. A military statement linked the militant Abu Sayyaf group to the plantation. The identities of those arrested were unknown, but police said investigations are underway.
The summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Thai resort town of Pattaya was abruptly canceled April 11 after hundreds of protesters forced their way past security forces into the convention center where leaders were preparing to discuss the global economic crisis. About half of the leaders at the meeting were evacuated by helicopter, including those of Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines, while other officials fled by boat.
An improvised bomb exploded outside a popular fast-food restaurant near a public square, killing at least two people and wounded eight others April 3 in Isabela township, Basilan Island, in the conflicted southern Philippine region of Mindanao. Although nobody has claimed responsibility, Basilan is a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, a militant group which is on the US list of terrorist organizations. The group on April 2 freed a Filipino Red Cross worker after 10 weeks of captivity in the nearby island of Jolo, but continues to hold two other hostages— a Swiss and an Italian. (AP, April 3)
From the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), April 3:
On the tenth anniversary of the massacre at the Catholic Church in Liquiça, ETAN urges the international community to finally respond to the demand for justice of the victims of this and other horrific crimes committed during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor (Timor-Leste). Those responsible for the many crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide committed during Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor between 1975 and 1999 must be held accountable.
A hostage crisis involving three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers may force agencies to stop bringing assistance to some areas of the Philippines, officials told the UN news agency IRIN. Stephen Anderson, the World Food Programme (WFP) country representative, said additional protection measures for his 60 local and foreign staff were paramount as the situation in Mindanao had become "dramatically more insecure".
Indonesian authorities, facing international pressure, said they will allow the United Nations refugee agency access to about 400 Burmese Muslims who landed on the country's shores over the past month to help verify their claims of persecution. The decision announced Feb. 6 comes days after a boat carrying nearly 200 men belonging to Burma's Rohingya minority was discovered off Sumatra. Another boat, also with about 200 Rohingya aboard, was discovered in early January.