Saturday, January 22, 2005

Where Monsoons Meet No. 4

Being a miscellany of recent stories from Southeast Asia.
  • Indonesia-Aceh. Of course the major stories from Aceh still concern the aftermath of the earthquake-tsunami. Earlier in the week the death toll was revised dramatically upwards to 160,000 with over half a million homeless. Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, spoke yesterday on the festival of Eid al-Adha - the day of sacrifice - in Banda Aceh. His message: "I ask our brothers and sisters here to look ahead, to rebuild Aceh for a better future". But the Indonesian military doesn't seem to be listening too carefully. General Ryamizard Ryacudu, the hardline army chief of staff, says that his troops have killed 120 separatist rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in the last two weeks. He claims that they were stealing aid. Both the GAM and foreign aid workers are denying this charge. An Amnesty International report published on Wednesday - worrying about the turn of events - emphasises that "[h]uman rights must be at the centre of relief and reconstruction efforts at all phases of disaster-response". Meanwhile the current issue of Inside Indonesia has a special section on the Aceh national liberation movement and a comparison with East Timor.
  • Thailand. This week the Thai prisons director announced that the notorious Bangkwang prison - the so-called "Bangkok Hilton" - was planning to broadcast inmates' daily lives, as well as their final moments before execution, live on the internet. Predictably, the reason given for this barbarism was to deter drug trafficking. Almost 1,000 Bangkwang prisoners are on death-row. Thankfully, the prison authorities have now withdrawn the plan after an international outcry led by Amnesty. So what can snuff movie aficionados link to in place of real time executions? "... we will now carry a live broadcast of the opening ceremony of an exhibition on prison products made by inmates at Klong Prem Prison".
  • Philippines. Supporters of Walden Bello and others who were recently condemned as counter-revolutionaries by the Communist Party of the Philippines have responded to the threats here. The statement from Focus On The Global South, where Walden is executive director, emphasises the nature of retribution politics that lies at the core of the Party's values: "You’re beyond the pale. You’re a 'class enemy' to be eliminated, the o­nly questions remaining being when and where the party will carry out the execution". In the skewed, but deadly, worldview of the Party initiatives such as the World Social Forum (with which Walden is closely associated) are condemned as an "imperialist plot" to derail people from "world revolution". The effects of such dogma on the Philippine social movements and democratic Left are disastrous. Once again I point you to Bonn's incisive analysis over at A Good Game.


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