Burmese political blogger Nay Phone Latt was jailed for sharing news online about the monk-led saffron revolution in 2007 against the country’s brutal military dictatorship. Released under an amnesty for political prisoners three years ago, he is involved in another kind of revolution, one against hate speech targeting Muslims that is becoming more and more prevalent in Burmese society.
The internet in Burma was once among the most restricted in the world but, since the lifting of censorship, people can now access whatever they want. Internet availability is still scarce but, with telecommunications infrastructure developing at a fast pace, many use the internet via mobile phones. Social media, especially Facebook, has become a popular way to discuss politics and share views and opinions, something not possible before. However, not only has it led to greater political debate, it has also lead to an outpouring of hateful and racist sentiment towards Muslims who make up about 4 per cent of the population.
“Now everything is open, and most people are using Facebook and social media,” says Nay Phone Latt. “But not only is there free speech but there is also hate speech spreading through social media.”
From a modest building in a quiet leafyRangoon neighbourhood, he and his civil society group Myanmar ICT Development Organisation, in collaboration with other activist groups, operates a campaign to counteract hate speech online. Called Panzagar (flower speech), their slogan is “not to spread hatred among our society; be careful of your speech”.
Like Hong Kong, the nearby former Portuguese colony of Macau is a Special Autonomous Region (SAR) within the People’s Republic of China. That means, on paper anyway, that Hong Kong and Macau operate autonomously from the national government in Beijing.
In practice, the autonomy is especially restricted by Beijing’s overwhelming desire to keep a tight control on every local government within the PRC.
In Hong Kong, students and other citizens occupied commercial districts for several weeks, demanding the right for the public to nominate candidates for the office of chief executive, as had been promised (on paper) when the British handed HK back to China in 1997. Full suffrage was promised for the chief executive election in 2017. That may yet happen, but the nominations will come from a special committee and the candidates will have to acceptable to Beijing.
Macau has now become another thorn in Beijing’s paw.
Macau’s gambling take, which makes up 80 percent of its revenues, has suffered the biggest decline since the industry was liberalized in 2001. This is partly because Xi’s sweeping crackdown on corruption has scared off high-rollers, including corrupt officials.
Xi is also helping inaugurate a second five-year term for Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui, who was re-elected by a pro-Beijing panel in August amid unprecedented political protests.
Au Kam San, a pro-democracy Macau lawmaker, said Beijing still viewed Macau as more controllable than Hong Kong. But the protests from July to October by Ieong’s gambling union, in a city where casinos raked in $45 billion last year, troubled Beijing.
“The gambling union is much more important and it has a higher risk for Beijing because it’s mobilizing potential is much stronger,” Au said. “It’s seen as a threat to Beijing.”
The controversies that have become common in other parts of China, like academic freedom, universal suffrage, and abuses of the criminal justice system to quell dissent, are now surfacing in Macau.
It sounds like Islamophobia isn’t just a problem in the west. The Rohingya, a group of Muslims that live in the majority Buddhist nation of Myanmar are being severally persecuted. They are being denied basic human rights, and government is even planning to take away their right to vote, and ban marriages between Muslims and Buddhists. Things are only getting worse as violence and persecution increases. Make no mistake about it, our “counter jihad” loves this sad state of affairs.
Jane Perlez reports,
SITTWE, Myanmar — The Myanmar government has given the estimated one million Rohingya people in this coastal region of the country a dispiriting choice: Prove your family has lived here for more than 60 years and qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed in camps and face deportation.
The policy, accompanied by a wave of decrees and legislation, has made life for the Rohingya, a long-persecuted Muslim minority, ever more desperate, spurring the biggest flow of Rohingya refugees since a major exodus two years ago.
In the last three weeks alone, 14,500 Rohingya have sailed from the beaches of Rakhine State to Thailand, with the ultimate goal of reaching Malaysia, according to the Arakan Project, a group that monitors Rohingya refugees.
The crisis has become an embarrassment to the White House ahead of a scheduled visit by President Obama to Myanmar next week. The administration considers Myanmar a foreign-policy success story in Asia but is worried that renewed conflict between Buddhist extremists, who are given a free hand by the government, and the Rohingya could derail the already rocky transition from military rule to democratic reform.
Free Tibet, a London-based advocacy organization, has identified at least 100 fake Twitter accounts that were likely commissioned by Beijing to spread pro-Chinese propaganda in the West.
Curious about the people who were most prolifically tweeting pro-Chinese political messages, Free Tibet discovered they were fictitious personae created out of appealing photographs plucked from the Internet. @Tomhugo148, for example, used the photograph of a Brazilian underwear model. @Alayna Newark used the photograph of a Canadian actress.
The others were a grab bag of photographs of actresses, a New Zealand radio hostess and a handful of American high school students whose images were apparently taken from a commercial photography website.
Not only were the fake identities unusually good-looking, many of them had two first names, such as Tom Hugo, Ken Peters and Felix James, as though they were randomly chosen by a computer program. Some also had YouTube and MySpace accounts. They listed one another as followers, retweeting each other. One tweet criticizing the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, was retweeted 6,555 times.
If you have anyone in your timeline bashing Japan over ownership of the unihabited Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, now you know why!
Don’t even think about Kim Jong-un! You do not want to force the hand of America. Just because you can get away with that in your own country doesn’t mean that you will be able to force us to violate our first amendment, which I’m guessing you know nothing about. I agree with everything The Young Turks had to say about this. Your threats only show us how pathetic you really are.
China has woken up the whole region, and climate change ratchets up the tension with a slow certainty.
Announcing the dispatch of Japanese Coast Guard vessels to Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia, Mr. Abe said Japan “intends to play a more active and proactive role” in the region and issued strong, if veiled criticism of China’s recent behavior in pressing its maritime territorial claims.
“Japan will offer its utmost support for the efforts of ASEAN countries as they work to ensure the security of the seas and the skies and maintain freedom of navigation and of overflight,” he said, referring to the Association of South East Asian Nations.
In a keynote speech to the Shangri La Dialogue, an annual forum for Asian defense and security specialists, Abe acknowledged that a number of the countries in the region that he would like to befriend had bitter memories of Japanese occupation during World War II.
But since the war, he insisted, “Japan has walked a path … abhorring war … and we will continue to walk that path for generations to come.”
Thailand’s army chief announced a military takeover of the government Thursday, saying the coup was necessary to restore stability after six months of political deadlock and turmoil.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a statement broadcast on national television that the same military commission that had imposed martial law Tuesday would now take control of the country’s administration. Prayuth will head the body, a deputy spokesman said late Thursday.
The army also announced a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and a suspension of the country’s constitution.
“In order for the country to return to normal quickly, the National Peace Keeping Committee comprised of the army, the Thai armed forces, the Royal Air Force and the police need to seize power as of May 22 at 4:30 p.m.,” Prayuth said.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he was “seriously concerned” about the developments, and appealed for the military to return Thailand to civilian rule.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said there was “no justification” for the military coup, according to a State Department news release. “While we value our long friendship with the Thai people,” Kerry said in the release, “this act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially our relationship with the Thai military. We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law.”
The army has banned gatherings of more than five protesters, and told anti-government protesters to leave the square in Bangkok where demonstrations have been taking place since November.
The racist comments on Obama “was an adequate reaction against the one who insulted and defamed PRNK (People’s Republic of North Korea)”, a spokesperson for the external affairs ministry said in comments carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The North Korean spokesman criticised the US president for calling North Korea an “isolated state” that “condemns its citizens to hunger” by having a “reckless and irresponsible government” during his last visit to Seoul in late April.
According to the Pyongyang spokesperson, it was an “unpardonable insult against the people of PRNK who are leading a happy life under the benevolent socialist system”.
ahhh North Korea :
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
- Total $40 billion
- Per capita $1,800
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
- Total $12.4 billion
- Per capita $506
The average salary was about $47 per month in 2004. The average official salary in 2011 was equivalent to $2 per month while the actual monthly income seems to be around $15 because most North Koreans earn money in illegal small businesses: trade, subsistence farming, and handicrafts. The illegal economy is dominated by women because men have to attend their places of official work even though most of the factories are non-functioning. It is estimated that in the early 2000s, the average North Korean family drew some 80% of its income from small businesses that are legal in market economies but illegal in North Korea
Poor? yes. Benevolent?
According to Human Rights Watch, free religious activities no longer exist in North Korea, as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom.
Today, four state-sanctioned churches exist, which freedom of religion advocates say are showcases for foreigners. Official government statistics report that there are 10,000 Protestants and 4,000 Roman Catholics in North Korea.
According to a ranking published by Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians, North Korea is currently the country with the most severe persecution of Christians in the world. Open Doors estimates that 50,000-70,000 Christians are detained in North Korean prison camps. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International also have expressed concerns about religious persecution in North Korea.
The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked it as the lowest country in the Democracy Index. Amnesty International Human Rights Watch and the UN’s commission on human rights in North Korea report of severe restrictions on human rights and crimes against humanity ‘without parallel in the modern world’. The government rejects these claims
North Korea is the model for everything that is wrong with humanity. That statement, while broad - is also correct. As they crawl their way around the edges of modern humanity, excerpting racism, oppression, crimes against humanity, starvation, concentration camps, and threaten world peace, the rest of us simply do not seem to understand how to effectively manage a state directly out of the 12th century.
Testimonies from former guards and former inmates of Yodok have revealed that prisoners are frequently subjected to torture, forced labour and execution.
Family members of those suspected of crimes are also sent to Yodok - a system of “guilt by association” used to silence dissent and control the population through fear.
In January 2012, at least 31 North Koreans who had been detained in China were reportedly forcibly returned to North Korea. These people could be sent to political prison camps where they are at risk of torture, forced labour, or execution.
North Korean authorities refuse to acknowledge the existence of these political prison camps.
Amnesty International activists around the world have been signing petitions and writing appeals to the North Korean authorities, urging them to close Yodok and other political prison camps.
“North Korea’s authorities must acknowledge these camps exist - they must close Yodok political prison camp, and stop these appalling, systematic human rights abuses,” said Narayan.
The United Nations Human Rights Council [UNHRC] has presented North Korea with 268 recommendations to improve human rights in the country, 185 of which the North has said it will consider.
The recommendations were presented in Geneva on the 6th after a Universal Periodic Review [UPR], set to be made public at the upcoming UNHRC meeting in September.
North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations So Se Pyong later slammed the move as “a work of prejudice and a misunderstanding of the Republic.”
Nevertheless, the North has agreed to review 185 of the recommendations put forth and is expected to let the council know of its decision prior to the September meeting.
Rejected recommendations include the scrapping of “guilt by association,” future cooperation with the international criminal court, the implementation of recommendations as outlined by the Commission of Inquiry into North Korean human rights, a visit to to the country by a UN human rights investigation team, the closure of the nation’s political prison camps and the abolition of discrimination based on the songbun class system.
If you are interested in reading more on NK - nknews.org is one of the best sources - their ‘defector profiles’ are highly informative ‘people on the ground’ accounts of life inside the despotic feudal state.
People are people, all over the world, we share that human vulnerability and a need to strive for something better. If, like Uttam, you can face those vulnerabilities with a smile on your face, then the entire world moves a step forward.
I admire her positive outlook, her bravery, and her refusal to be confined and defined by what the rest of us may consider to be weaknesses.
( i have edited the title to accurately reflect her gender)
Uttam baba, as she is popularly known among her ‘chelas’ (followers), dresses in bold colours and has a quintessential smile that never leaves her face. But her loud exterior belies the serious intent that is reflected in her beautiful kohl-rimmed eyes: she wants to be an agent of change. Although the 32-year-old admits that she may not have succeeded in making an impact on the upper crust Nagpur voter, she is confident that she has “made inroads into the hearts of ordinary people”. “It’s my right to dress the way I like. Nobody can object to my exercising this freedom of choice. And I really think it’s not fair to judge people on the basis of their attire or style. A politician should be known by his/her work and not by his/her clothes. I have the ability and the drive to prove myself in the arena of public service,” Senapati remarks.
Life has not been the easiest for Senapati; she knows what it is to face rejection and be denied basic rights and entitlements. After all in traditional society being ‘different’ is simply unacceptable. But it is precisely to change this oppressive reality, especially for transgenders, that Senapati made up her mind to fight this election.
China and India are facing a cancer crisis, with smoking, belated diagnosis and unequal access to treatment all causing large-scale problems, experts said on Friday.
In a major report, published in The Lancet Oncology, more than 40 specialists warn that Asia’s big two emerging giants are facing huge economic and human costs from the disease.