|25th of June – Lima Charlie’s South East Asia End-of-Week News Briefing:
On Thursday June 23rd, #Indonesian President #JokoWidodo visited the disputed waters around #NatunaIslands in an effort to send a strong warning to #Beijing that the waters around the Island are an integral part of Indonesian sovereign territory. The visit came on the heels of last Friday’s row between the Indonesian Navy and Chinese fishing vessels, when the Indonesian Navy fired warning shots at several Chinese fishing boats that were allegedly fishing illegally in the waters off the coast of Natuna Island.
#Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman #HuaChunying posted on his website that one of the fishing boats was damaged and the Indonesian Navy had detained one vessel and its crew of seven. Hua also said that one fisherman was injured in the incident but was later rescued by the Chinese Coast Guard.
#China has said it accepts Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna Islands and surrounding waters, but considers the waters to be the country’s “traditional fishing grounds”. Last Friday’s incident follows two other run-ins between the Indonesian Navy and China fishing boats in the area.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Minister #LuhutBinsarPandjaitan told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, “We have already conveyed our position to #Beijing, but we want to amplify it again in Natuna; we refuse to acknowledge the Nine-Dash Line and the claims of traditional fishing grounds. We also don’t want any power projections [by major powers in the region], and we want to ensure freedom of navigation”.
China’s Nine-Dash Line lays claim over the entire #SouthChinaSea where seven other nations in the region also have claims to various part of the sea.
This recent incident could not have come at a worst time for Beijing as the Permanent Court of Arbitration at #TheHague is getting ready to release a final decision on the case Philippines v. China.
The Philippines claims that China’s “nine-dotted-line” is invalid because it violates the #UnitedNations Convention on the Law of the Sea agreements on exclusive economic zones and territorial seas. China on the other hand, claims that the South China Sea is an integral part of its dynastic heritage and historic fishing grounds. Yet, China has provided little proof that the South China Sea has ever been part of China’s historical past.
A final decision by the Hague is expected to be released on 7 July 2016.
But China’s South China Sea woes don’t end there. At the recent Association of #SoutheastAsianNations meeting in Kunming, June 14th, many #ASEAN members were angered by Beijing’s claims that the issues must be settled bilaterally between claimants, and is not a multilateral issue involving ASEAN members.
“Kill them wherever you meet them … If you have a car, hit them … Use your weapons and knives to stab them in the chest.”
Police in #Malaysia are on high alert following the latest propaganda video released by the #IslamicState. In the graphic video three men in turbans, who are said to be #Malaysian, #Indonesian and #Filipino, stand over three other men in orange jump suits who are suspected of being spies. All three men released statements before decapitating the three captives.
The men in the video called on their supporters in the Southeast Asian region to carry out lone-wolf style attacks, and also threatened the police headquarters at #BukitAman.
Bukit Aman’s Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division Chief Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told the New Straits Times, a local #Singapore paper, that one of the men, a Malaysian, had been identified as #MohdRafiUdin from Negri Sembilan.
In the video Rafi said “Kill them wherever you meet them … If you have a car, hit them … Use your weapons and knives to stab them in the chest.”
The message was very clear and was intended to inspire lone-wolf attacks in the region. However Rafi had one chilling message for the people of Malaysia, “Those of you in Bukit Aman, you will no longer have peace. We will slaughter you …when we return. Our friends back home will hunt you down.”
“We are preparing for potential attacks within six months by two sources, Khatibah Nusantara in the #Philippines and central #IS,” Ayob was quoted saying, referring to the Southeast Asian branch of the Syria-based IS. Ayob went on to tell NST that the police have seen at least two lone-wolf attacks in Sungai Petani, Kedah, and in Kuala Lumpur, with the attackers armed with knives. He said that it was common for IS militants to use traditional weapons now instead of guns or bombs as it made it easier to go undetected.
He added that his division had already stopped nine planned attacks by IS supporters.
#Myanmar State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi better known as “The Lady,” started her 3 day office State Visit to Thailand on Thursday. This is #SuuKyi’s second official State visit since becoming State Councilor back in April.
On this highly anticipated tour to #Thailand, Suu Kyi is expected to discus a wide range of issues with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, including refugees, economic ties and labor issues.
It appears that Suu Kyi’s visit is being heavily managed by her Thai hosts. The first sign of this came when it was announced that her trip to Burmese refugee camp Ban Tham Hin was canceled. The Irrawaddy reported that Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee cited safety concerns over potentially bad weather. #BanThamHin camp in Ratchaburi province is 10 kilometres west of the Thai-Myanmar border and houses thousands of #Karen refugees who fled over the Thai border from Burma to escape fighting.
There are currently about between 100,000 to 120,000 #Burmese refugees in nine camps along the Thailand/Burmese border.
Questions have arisen whether Suu Kyi’s is prepared to deal with the current refugee situation. However Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha released a statement saying “Burma is willing to take back the refugees but we have to give them more time to prepare for such considerations as securing land to accommodate those who return”.
Thursday, thousands of Burmese migrant workers showed up at a seafood market in Mahachai to hear Suu Kyi speak, but due to poor planning and bad weather, many were turned away and only about 300 were allowed to meet her as she toured the market.
According to the Myanmar Times, Suu Kyi has pledged to help Myanmar migrant workers by addressing long-extant passport issues and ensuring their rights are upheld under Thai laws. Suu Kyi stated “It is important that our citizens here in Thailand feel they are secure in their work and can stay as long as they want to. But, it should be in the interest of both the employees and the employers … my desire is that you all get your passports. Our neighbour Thailand is not opposing it.”
Migrant workers from Burma make up the backbone of Thailand’s manual labour workforce.
It is estimated that there are about three million legal and illegal Burmese citizens working in Thailand. Workers are often exploited and mistreated by their Thai employers.
The exploitation of Burmese workers has prompted the #EuropeanUnion to consider a ban on Thai seafood sales if the government doesn’t clean up its fishing industry.
On Friday, Suu Kyi scheduled to meet Prime Minister #PrayutChan-o-cha to discuss many of these issues, including trade. Thailand is Myanmar’s second leading trading partner after China. Exports to Thailand in 2015 were valued at over US$2.677 billion and imports stood at US$1.181 billion. This number is expected to rise as foreign investment in Myanmar grows.
Although Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit has gotten off to a rocky start, it will hopefully have an impact not only on Thai/Burmese relations, but will help those who have sought out refuge or better wages in Thailand.
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