(Myanmar and Bangladesh) Rohingya Return to Myanmar: Confusion and Fear in Refugee Camps, BBC, November 15, 2018
Amid questions of safety highlighted by the UN, Rohingya Muslims are refusing to return to Myanmar from Bangladesh. In the wake of a joint resolution by the two countries, authorities sought to facilitate the return of some 2,000 Rohingya Muslims on Thursday the 14th. Widespread fear grips the refugee camps in Bangladesh, which is home to over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims, as the prospect of being sent back to Myanmar looms closer, evoking memories of torture and murder. The UN is closely monitoring this situation seeking to open an investigation into authorities from Myanmar.
(Cambodia) The Latest: Last Khmer Rouge Leaders Get Life Sentences, The Washington Post, November 16, 2018
In what may be seen as a final indictment of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the late 1970s, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were found guilty of genocide and sentenced to life in prison. Although this will not affect their prior lifelong prison sentences for related crimes, the sentencing of these two surviving senior officials of the Khmer Rouge regime serves as a reminder of the horror that was committed against Cham and Vietnamese ethnic groups over 40 years ago.
(North Korea and Japan) North Korean Official in South Demands Japan Compensate for War Crimes, Reuters, November 16, 2018
Experts indicate that matters of Korean compensation for Japanese actions in World War Two have been ongoing since 1991. North Korean officials on Friday demanded that Japan pay fair compensation for crimes of forced labor and conscription during the Second World War. Japanese authorities have responded, citing the problem completely settled two decades after the end of the war. It is argued that North Korea may have used deteriorating relations between South Korea and Japan as a catalyst to resurrect these issues.
(China) U.N. Rights Officials Criticize China Over Muslim Internments, The New York Times, November 13, 2018
U.N. authorities wrote a letter on Monday to the Chinese governments that Muslim internment in the Xinjiang region of China is in violation of international law. Around one million inhabitants in the region have disappeared into “re-education camps” as per new Chinese regulations. Chinese officials depict a situation in which religious and ethnic minorities receive vocational training and protection, whereas western officials critique forced homogenization and coercive internment. It is currently unclear whether Chinese authorities will continue to refute these claims or accept the allegations listed in the U.N. letter.
International Relations and Security
(East Asia) East Asia Summit Members to Boost Security Cooperation, The Straits Times, November 16, 2018
Counterterrorism and cybersecurity were hot topic items in the annual East Asia Summit held in Singapore this week. The summit, composed of 18 nations, highlighted recent terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines as grounds for increasing international security cooperation. Members of the summit resolved to tighten border security to stop foreign fighters from crossing international boundaries, as well as share vital defense information on suspected terrorists. The nations further committed to take a greater role in protecting cyber-infrastructure and promote technological advancements for small enterprises.
(East Asia) Abe Has Become the Pitchman for Maintaining Multilateralism in Asia, World Political Review, November 16, 2018
With increasing tensions between the U.S. and China overshadowing the East Asia Summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated this week that Japan’s focus will always remain on a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. Although a decade old position, Chinese relations with the U.S. have forced Japan to maintain strong relations with two opposing parties. With the unpredictability of the Trump administration and a history of fragmented trade deals throughout the region, Japan has the unique opportunity to fortify regional ties and influence the political direction of the Pacific.
(Indonesia and Brunei) Indonesia-Brunei Defense Ties in Focus with Joint Committee Meeting, The Diplomat, November 15, 2018
Relations between Indonesia and Brunei continue to progress positively as joint meetings were held this week in Brunei. Although historically murky and even hostile, relations between Brunei and Indonesia have never been more involved. During the joint meetings, diplomats discussed bilateral security agreements and the possibility of developing even closer cooperation in the near future. This represents another step in the right direction for diplomacy in Southeast Asia, and a strengthening of the militaristic capacity of both Brunei and Indonesia.
(Malaysia and Thailand) Malaysian PM visits Thailand, The Phnom Penh Post, October 25, 2018
Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently visited Thailand to discuss solutions to insurgency in deep southern Thai regions. For more than ten years, bloody conflict has cast a shadow in the region. Malaysian leaders have historically acted as intermediaries in peace talks between the Thai government and insurgents. Despite recent stalls in peace talks, Mohamad is hopeful that changes in political leadership will help jumpstart negotiations.
(China) Xi Jinping Starts Goodwill Tour of the Pacific Amid Rise in South China Sea Tensions, CNN, November 15, 2018
With the United States increasing its military activity in the South China Sea, Chinese President Xi Jinping has begun a rigorous trip through the Pacific to foster stronger relationships between Asian nations. President Jinping and other Chinese diplomats have recently held positive talks with the Philippines, Vanuatu, and other nations, discussing possible military and economic ventures, among other topics. Jinping’s visit will include stops in Papa New Guinea, Brunei, and the Philippines.
(Mongolia, Japan, and North Korea) Report: Japanese spies met with North Koreans in Mongolia, UPI, November 14, 2018
Japanese intelligence agents recently met with North Korean officials in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. While the topics discussed at the meeting remained classified, it is known that bilateral talks have been held between the two nations. Japanese government officials hope that these initial meetings between intelligence officials are a precursor to an eventual diplomatic summit. Government personnel refused any further comment on these proceedings.
(South Korea) South Korea Blows Up Its Own Guard Posts as Part of Deal with North Korea, Military Times, November 15, 2018
De-escalation of conflict at the border between South and North Korea occurred this Friday as South Korea detonated one of its vacated guard posts in the Korean DMZ. This is another step in the process outlined in a September agreement between the two nations. Both nations agreed to dismantle or destroy 11 guard posts by the end of November in a show of mutual good-faith and conflict resolution. This is the first such post that has been destroyed by explosives.
(North Korea) North Korea Says It Will Deport American Who Tried to Enter From China, The New York Times, November 16, 2018
Bruce Byron Lowrence, an American national, will be deported from North Korea in an apparent show of good faith from the Korean government. Talks were brokered by the Swedish embassy, which monitors U.S. interests in the region. Lowrence, as reported by the Korean Central News Agency, attempted to enter North Korea on October 16 of this year. Lowrance claimed to be working for the Central Intelligence Agency at the time of his detainment. The exact date for Lowrence’s deportment is currently unknown.
(North Korea) North Korea Says It Has Tested ‘Ultramodern Tactical Weapon’, The New York Times, November 15, 2018
On Friday, the North Korean military tested weapons that purportedly evade any violations on the self-imposed hiatus from nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The nature of the weapon remains unidentified, but Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was reportedly pleased with the work done by Korean scientists and manufactures on the weapon. This is the first known weapons test that Kim Jong-Un has attended since November of 2017. Skeptics in Washington demand more transparency after seemingly positive talks were held with the Trump administration earlier this year.
(Southeast Asia and China) China’s Ban on Trash Imports Shifts Waste Crisis to Southeast Asia, National Geographic, November 16, 2018
In January of this year, China dramatically raised its standards for the purchase of plastic scrap. This decision greatly affected a $200 billion industry, forcing hundreds of small Chinese plastic recycling companies to relocate to countries in Southeast Asia. Among other countries hit hard by this change, Malaysia quickly became the world’s largest importer of plastic scrap. When local governments began shutting down these often illegal operations and tightening restrictions on the importing and exporting of plastic scrap, Southeast Asian countries were hit hard. Various nations are seeking to rectify the problem, but with an expected 70% growth general waste over the next 30 years, it will take a gargantuan effort.
(Bangladesh) Bangladesh Moves Towards a ‘Managed’ Election, Al Jazeera, November 12, 2018
General elections in Bangladesh were postponed this week to allow minority parties more preparation time. This only partially satisfies the demands of parties in opposition to the Bangladesh Awami League, which has been in undisputed power for close to ten years. Minority parties are requesting that the elections be postponed at least one month and that the current administration be removed from power in the meantime. Calls for fair and free elections come as a response to the Bangladesh Awami League’s increasing authoritarian power.
(China) Labor Activists in China Go Missing After Suspected Coordinated Raids, Reuters, November 11, 2018
In the past two weeks, at least a dozen young Chinese activists have gone missing in connection with student support of unions at Jasic International, a machinery firm in eastern China. Reports indicate that the activists, mainly students, were whisked away from various locations, including university campuses. Sources close to the activists theorized that the Chinese government sought to quickly silence views contradictory to the quasi-Marxist form of government that currently rules China.