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Lima Charlie’s SE Asia Week-in-Review – July 25

25th of July – Lima Charlie’s South East Asia Week-in-Review News Briefing

#Malaysia #WolfofKualaLumpur

On Wednesday, the #US Government filed a 136 page civil complaint, the “Kleptocracy Enforcement Action,” that charges The Wolf of Wall Street producer, Red Granite Pictures with participating in an international conspiracy to launder money intricately connected to an investment company owned by the government of #Malaysia. This marks the largest Kleptocracy case in history that the #USJusticeDepartment has ever brought charges for.

The lawsuit seeks to seize $1 billion USD in assets bought with money stolen from the 1MDB fund. The complaint names Riza Aziz, stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister #Najib, in its filing. According to the documents, Aziz and close friends and associates of the Prime Minister diverted upwards of 3 billion from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, known as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or #1MDB. Part of this money was funneled from bond deals controlled by Goldman Sachs and an international oil deal, as well. As the complaint alleges, about one-third of this money was then transferred and embezzled into the US through shell companies and client banks accounts at law firm Shearman & Sterling.

The Justice Department is moving to immediately freeze these assets, which were allegedly used for the personal benefit of Malaysian public officials, their relatives and associates. The assets being seized ranged from luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, to valuable paintings and a private jet.

The Justice Department is also trying to seize proceeds from the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

Prime Minister Najib set up the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad in 2009, as a fund intended to turn Kuala Lumpur into a financial hub and boost the economy. This is yet another scandal to rock Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s tenure in office.

Even #Singapore factors into the investigation, given that 240 million dollars worth of assets were seized by Singaporean authorities in the course of their investigations. This, in connection to various 1MDB-related fund flows, belonging to flamboyant #Malaysian billionaire Low Taek Jho and his immediate family, as was disclosed on JUL21.

#Indonesia #MostWanted

Jakarta, Indonesia—On JUL23, the #Indonesian National Police used DNA testing to confirm that the country’s military had killed the nation’s most wanted terrorist, #Santoso—also known as Abu Wardah—in the jungles of the Central Sulawesi Province.

Santoso, who was the head of the East Indonesia Mujahidin—also known as the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT)—had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) in July of 2014.

Santoso began his life as a career criminal during the Muslim-Christian conflict that wreaked havoc in the port city, Poso from 1998 to 2001. He was allegedly involved in numerous attacks against Indonesian authorities and local Christians, in the province town that has long been known as a hotbed for terrorist operations. After the conflict ended, he transitioned over to Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant group which Indonesian authorities blame for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing, which left 202 people dead, including 88 Australians.

In 2011, Santoso later became the leader of MIT, where he conducted hit and run attacks against Indonesian security forces, until his recent death at the hands of the Indonesian military earlier last week. The militant group MIT, attracted members of China’s Uyghur Muslim population from Xinjiang province, and it had been reported that the group received funding from ISIS, as well.

Indonesian authorities believe that Santoso had links to the ISIS affiliated cell that carried out the Jakarta attacks in January, which left as many as 6 civilians dead, including the four attackers, and marked the first assault on the Muslim-majority country by the radical group.

Santoso was killed along side Mukhtar, Santoso’s right-hand man, in a spectacular operation conducted by a combined force of 3,500 military and police officers, supported by surveillance drones from the Indonesian Air Force. It was also reported that Santoso was with his wife when he was shot dead. In the end, Santoso was taken out by a team of soldiers who had to lay in wait for days at an ambush point.

The Straits Times—a daily Singaporean newspaper—reported that Indonesian military (TNI) chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo said, “The team had to lay low for eight days in an area where they suspected Santoso would be, waiting for the right time to move in … They only moved at night to avoid being detected … They were not the only team, there were others; but they were the fortunate ones that got Santoso.”

National Police Chief Tito Karnavian told the Agence France-Presse, “There are up to 19 others,” adding that troops on the ground would be reinforced to pursue the other militants still at large.

Now that their most wanted terrorist is dead, Indonesian authorities fear that there could be reprisal attacks by domestic terrorists who support the Islamic State (ISIS) movement.

#SouthChinaSea

One week after The Hague issued its ruling on the South China Sea [reported by Lima Charlie News]

Rhetoric Runs High in the South China Sea

a #US delegation paid a courtesy visit to #Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, in #Malacanang. Among those who attended the meeting were US Senator Christopher Murphy (Connecticut), Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, US Senator for Hawaii Brian Schatz, South Florida Representative Ted Deutch, Maryland Representative Donna Edwards, and California Representative John Garamendi.

At the JUL19 meeting, Duterte assured his guests that the tribunal’s decision was non-negotiable. The Philippines would not yield its territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea—as they term it—to China.

Senator Chris Murphy even confirmed this pledge, tweeting, “In Manila – just out of meeting w/ new Philippines President Duterte. Assured us he has no plans to negotiate with China over islands dispute.” Murphy continued, “We were first elected officials to meet with Duterte. (He) says he will not trade territorial rights to China. Tribunal decision non-negotiable.”

#TheRock

#Taiwan, refusing to accept last week’s ruling at The Hague, made a symbolic move on JUL20, launching 5 fishing boats toward the country’s sole holding in the South China Sea, in protest against the decision. The boats departed for a weeklong trip to Itu Aba, which it has called Taiping for decades now. Taiwan takes issue with the court’s decision on two primary grounds:

Firstly, The Hague refused to acknowledge Taiping as an island, instead calling it a rock. Lo Chiang-fei, a spokesman for the maritime expedition issued a statement “This is to protest the demotion of Taiping from an island to a rock and zoning the waters to the Philippines.” The tribunal argued that no feature in the disputed Spratly Islands can be legally deemed an island because it lacks the ability to sustain human habitation or economic sustenance. As such, Taiwan suffered heavy losses, as only islands that can sustain human habitation are given greater than 200 nautical miles of “exclusive economic zone.” Taiwan was granted only 12 nautical miles of territorial water.

The second issue Taiwan has put forth is that The Hague did not properly refer to Taiwan in its decision. Taiwan, officially termed the “Republic of China” railed against The Hague’s “inappropriate designation” of Taiwan as “Taiwan Authority of China…demeaning the status of…the sovereign state.”

China’s Southern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army—the division which overseas the South China Sea—has released a new series of weapons for air and sea combat, following The Hague’s decision. Early reports say the theater is equipped with DF-21D’s, or carrier-killer anti-ship ballistic missiles, with a range of 1450 km.

#Philippines #DuterteDrugWars

Since Philippines President #Duterte was inaugurated into office, roughly 265 people have been killed by anti-drug death squads.

Vice President Leni #Robredo has voiced her concern saying, “This senseless and unjust violence must stop. We should not foster a culture of fear in our society — one that tacitly accepts death and one that does not give respect to human life,” according to the Phil Star Global.

“The rise in extrajudicial killings is a call for all of us to uphold every person’s right to due process. Each of those Filipinos who were killed over alleged crimes were denied their right to a fair trial, and those lives may never be returned to their loved ones,” she added.

In newspapers across the Philippines, it has become common to see photos of men who have been beaten, tortured and killed laying face down in the gutter usually with a cardboard sign placed on top of the victims that reads: “Drug Lord” or “drug deal”. In some cases the person’s nationality is inscribed on the sign.

These horrifying images are yet another reminder that President Duterte’s war on drugs continues with impunity.

Although China and the Philippines are embroiled in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Li Lingxiao said that China “has expressed explicitly to the new administration China’s willingness for effective cooperation in this regard, and would like to work out a specific plan of action with the Philippine side,” according to the Phil Star Global.

The extent of the Chinese government’s cooperation with the Philippines is still unknown. However one thing is very clear: most of the Chinese nationals that are working with illegal drug syndicates remain yet another source of contention between the Philippines and China.

#Vietnam #ElectionVietnam

Vietnam’s #Communist Party delegates are meeting in the capital of #Hanoi to begin the process of selecting new leaders. The Congress, which is made up of 1,510 members, meets once every 5 years to nominate the next president, prime minister and the party’s general secretary.

The eight day selection process will take place behind closed doors and is being closely monitored by the #US and #China. It will most likely come down to the current Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung or the incumbent, Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong.

Prime Minister Nguyen Trong Dung is seemingly friendly towards the US and popular domestically because of his strong stance on disputed territory in the South China Sea.

In contrast, Nguyen Phu Trong is more friendly towards China, Vietnam’s largest trading partner.

The victor in this election will greatly affect the relations between Vietnam, China and the US for the next five years, especially on issues of trade.

#Myanmar

On JUL20, the #Burmese military took responsibility for the JUN25 murder of five civilians in the Northern Shan State town #MongYaw.

The Irrawaddy, the online Burmese news magazine, reported that Lt-Gen Mya Tun Oo, one of Myanmar’s highest ranking officers, said the following at a press conference in Rangoon:

“We did an investigation, met the victims’ families, and even offered support to them. We found from our investigation that our troops violated laws and killed people. Therefore, we will take action against our troops.” A court martial has since launched an investigation into this violation of military procedure.

According to reports, soldiers entered the Mong Yaw village on JUN26 and rounded up dozens of men, leading 5 bystanders away, never to be seen alive again. Two additional men—brothers—were shot while attempting an escape. Their bodies were discovered in a shallow ditch. Sai Mong Tan, 22, told Reuters, he was weeding a cornfield with his 17-year-old brother, Sai Shwe Lu, when the soldiers arrived. “They seemed drunk,” and “I could smell alcohol on them. They were very angry.”

The military claimed they had come under attack from rebels in the area, although Sai Han and other local activists said there had been no insurgent activity. The soldiers beat and interrogated the men, demanding to know if anyone had spotted insurgents in the area, said Sai Mong Tan. He then watched as soldiers tied up his younger brother and the four other victims and led them away.

Sai Mong Tan told Reuters, he believes his brother was singled out because he didn’t speak Burmese and couldn’t answer the soldiers’ questions. The village of Mong Yaw is made up of people from the Shan or Palaung ethnic minorities. The majority of the military is made up of members from the Bamar ethnic group, and they often accuse villagers of harboring insurgents.

During Myanmar’s 52 year of military rule, it is extremely rare for soldiers to be prosecuted for human rights abuses.

It has been suggested that the military might be trying to shed its old image in order to gain closer ties with the West since Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy came to power after winning a land slide victory in last November’s elections. However this court martial might have more to do with upholding the National Ceasefire Agreement signed by Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) and the military, rather than closer ties with the West. In October of 2015, SSA-S was one of eight Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO) who signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), in the midst of heightened tensions between these ethnic groups.

Shortly after the signing of the NCA, around 1000 to 3000 SSA-S troops were transported by the Burmese military across Shan State from their main area of control along the Thai-Burmese border, to another area in Northwestern Shan State, to yet another small outpost that is controlled by SSA-S. This move put them in direct confrontation with another EAO, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and was clearly orchestrated by the military to try and uproot the TNLA.

Since November the SSA-S and the TNLA have clashed numerous times causing the displacement of thousands of villagers in the Northwestern Shan State. The TNLA have even accused the Burmese Army of supporting SSA-A troopers during some of the confrontations.

While the Burmese Army carries out this court-martial in Shan State, the Army is defending yet another incident, involving two soldiers accused of murdering an unarmed ethnic Kachin student, Gum Seng Awng, in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina on JUN20.

The Army continues to claim the incident was a case of self-defense and that the shot that killed the young Kachin man was a “misfire” from one of the two soldiers who where on guard duty at the Bala Min Htin Bridge, the first crossing at Irrawaddy River in Northern Myanmar. The soldiers claim they were being assaulted by a group of eight youths and were only trying to protect their guns from being seized.

Alternatively, the young men claim they were on their way home when they saw two girls and engaged in conversation with them. The boys said that the two soldiers followed behind them and asked what they were talking to the girls about. Then, an argument broke out between the boys and the soldiers before shots were eventually fired. After this incident took place, Zau Lat, the boy’s uncle, told the Irrawaddy that his nephews injuries “Looked like he was shot from behind deliberately at close range” and his body was riddled with three bullet holes.

Currently the Burmese Military and the Kachin Independence Army are engaged in fighting, which started five years ago, as of this past June. The fighting began in June 2011 after their 17-year ceasefire with the Burmese Military broke down. It is clear, however, that the Burmese Military is favoring those EAO who it has a ceasefire with.

In other news Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s government leader and head of the National League of Democracy, has just accepted President Obama’s invitation to visit the US. It will be her first trip to America since she won an election in November. Her party came to power in a historic election last year, after decades of railing against military rule. The trip is likely to coincide with the U.N. General Assembly session in New York in September.

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Lima Charlie provides global news, analysis and opinion by military veterans and service members Worldwide.

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