|17th of June – Lima Charlie’s South East Asia End-of-Week News Briefing:
Cambodia / Thailand
Wednesday, in a U.S. federal court in Los Angeles, five #Cambodian nationals filed a civil complaint against four U.S. and Thai companies, accusing them of human trafficking and making them work in forced-labour conditions in a Thai seafood factory. The four companies have been accused of violating the #TraffickingVictimsProtectionAct, a U.S. law that aims to prevent human trafficking. The companies named in the lawsuit are Rubicon Resources, Wales & Co Universe Ltd, Phatthana Seafood and SS Frozen Food. The two former companies have offices in the United States and are registered to conduct business in the State of #California.
The retail giant #Walmart purchased shrimp and other seafood from the accused companies. Walmart has yet to officially respond to the accusations.
Over the last few years, Thailand’s multi-billion dollar seafood industry has come under fire from human right’s groups and news organizations for human trafficking, slavery and violence toward its workers. It has also been the subject of numerous investigations and unflattering news reports. The accusers, five men and two women, claim they had their passports confiscated by factory managers and were forced to work up to six days a week. The workers are hoping to be compensated for unpaired wages, metal anguish, pain and suffering.
As countries around the world debate whether to create stiffer penalties or decriminalize drugs altogether, Gen. Paiboon, #Thailand’s Minister of Justice, has proposed that methamphetamines or speed should be removed from the list of dangerous illicit narcotics in order to treat users as patients and not criminals, thus giving them treatment over jail time. According to the #BangkokPost, Paiboon Koomchaya says that jailing small-time traffickers and users does more harm than good as they might become more serious criminals. However critics of this plan fear that this new strategy will only promote the use of drugs and lead to more overdoses.
A new bill to reform the existing Thai drug laws has been introduced by the National Legislative Assembly. The bill would give courts more flexibility to decide the punishment offenders would receive. Thailand has some of the world’s toughest drug penalties. Currently methamphetamines, or #Yaba as it is called on the streets, are considered a Category I substance. If caught, one can receive up to ten years in prison and or a fine of two hundred thousand baht. If caught with more than twenty grams of Yaba, the offender is charged with “intent to sell” and may receive the death penalty.
As many of the #ASEAN nations are in the middle of a drug epidemic, this current bill to reform the Thai drug laws might be an indicator that some of the ASEAN nation are chaining their tactics when it comes to fighting the #WarOnDrugs.
This week in the #Philippines, the Islamic militant group, #AbuSayyaf, threatened to behead two more hostages, after the group’s brutal beheading of Canadian, Robert Hall, earlier this week. The group warned that it will behead two more, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Maritess Flor, if its ransom demands of 600 million pesos ($13 million) are not met. The Philippines has an official, no-ransom policy when it comes to dealing with criminal organizations.
#AbuSayyaf was established in 1991 with initial funding from #alQaeda. The group is known to carry out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and extortion in what they describe as their fight for an independent Islamic province in the southern Philippines. The name Abu Sayyaf means “bearer of the sword” in #Arabic. The group has pledged allegiance to #ISIS.
In other news president-elect #RodrigoDuterte has agreed to resume stalled peace negotiations with Maoist-led rebels “The Communist Party of the Philippines” in Oslo starting in July. During the recent Philippine presidential election Duterte promised to end all insurgencies in the Philippines. Over the last 50 years both #Islamic and #Maoist insurgencies have claimed more than 120,000 lives and displaced two over million people. The two sides will adhere to all previous agreements and discuss social and economic reforms.
In #Vietnam, on Thursday the Vietnamese military suffered a second air tragedy this week when a Coast Guard CASA C212 plane carrying nine military personal went missing off the coast of #HaiPhong around noon local time. The CASA C212 plane was part of a search and rescue team that was looking for a Sukhoi SU-30 MK2 fighter jet that went down on Tuesday. According to Thanh Nien news, a debris field from the crashed Coast Guard plane was found 12 to 15 nautical miles southwest of Bach Long Vi Island in the Gulf of Tonkin.
The Coast Guard plane was searching for Col Tran Quang Khai, 43, who ejected from a SU-30 MK2 fighter jet on Tuesday but has been missing ever since. Col Tran Quang Khai’s co-pilot, Nguyen Huu Cuong, was rescued by fishermen Wednesday and was said to be in stable condition. Over the last two years the Vietnamese military has suffered a string of air disasters.
This week in #Malaysia, security levels remain high after police detained seven men suspected of being part of an Islamic State militant cell. Khalid Abu Bakr, Malaysian National Police Chief stated “All the suspects are members of the same cell, which is responsible for planning to launch terror attacks in strategic locations across Malaysia.” Reportedly, the men were receiving orders from #BahromNaim, an Indonesian based #Daeesh militant commander in Syria who has a role in the recent #Jakarta attacks last January. The men were found with 30 types of bullets, jihad books and Islamic State flags and videos.
Over the past two years, Malaysia has had over 150 people with suspected links to Islamic terrorism.
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