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Workers say some 60 Cambodian rescued maids still in Saudi Arabia

Some 60 Cambodian maids who complained publicly about abuse and labor rights violations remain stranded in Saudi Arabia, several workers told Radio Free Asia, several months after pleading with diplomats and others for help. The women, who went to the Middle Eastern country for jobs, said they have been physically abused by their employers and denied food and sleep. Some said they hadn’t been paid or were told they would be required to work for longer than their contracts stipulated. The maids and other workers in Saudi Arabia first sought Cambodian government intervention and assistance in March.  In April, Cambodia’s Labor Ministry said 78 migrant workers who had been misled into working in Saudi Arabia had been placed in hotel rooms under the care of Cambodian diplomats.  Two dozen women returned home in May. Another 48 women have since been flown back to Cambodia, according to Em Bopha, one of the workers who is still in Saudi Arabia.  A total of 133 Cambodian workers have been removed from their abusive employment situations. The 60 workers still in Saudi Arabia have been staying at several different facilities while diplomats arrange for their return, she said. Cambodian company Fatina Manpower Co. Ltd. helped arrange the contracts between the workers and their Saudi employers, and is now working on their return.  The remaining workers suspect the delay in sending them back to Cambodia is rooted in Fatina Manpower’s inability to pay compensation to partner companies in Saudi Arabia, Em Bopha said.  The owner of Fatina Manpower, Man Teramizy, is a senior official at Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor. Radio Free Asia was unable to reach the ministry’s spokesperson, Katta Orn, for comment on June 24. Cambodia’s ambassador to Egypt, Uk Sarun, said a group of about a dozen maids who left one of the holding facilities for a day on June 20 has complicated diplomatic efforts to coordinate their return.  The workers have been frustrated by the delays and uncertainty, Em Bopha said. But fleeing from the facility was “insulting,” Uk Sarun told RFA. “We have tried very hard,” he said. “We are still waiting for responses [from the company]. But now it’s a little more difficult. I asked them for understanding and I told them to return to the company’s facility.”  Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Edited by Matt Reed.

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China USA

Chinese Students in USA Committed to CCP?

In a revealing survey report titled “Experiences and Aspirations of Foreign Students in the USA” by “Investigative Journalism Reportika,” a significant pattern emerges among Chinese students studying in the USA. Despite recognizing the superior socio-political freedoms and personal liberties in the United States, many Chinese students still express a strong desire to return to China after completing their studies. This trend underscores a broader dynamic of technology and knowledge transfer from the USA to China, reflecting a blend of appreciation for American freedoms and a commitment to contributing to China’s development. Dichotomy of Preferences According to the survey, 78% of Chinese students in the USA feel a greater sense of personal freedom compared to their experiences in China. These students under anonymity cite freedom of expression, individual rights, and opportunities for self-determination as key reasons for their preference. The lack of media and social media censorship in the USA is particularly noted as a stark contrast to the restrictive environment in China. The students identify several major challenges facing China today. Notably, 38% point to censorship as a significant issue, arguing that restrictions on freedom of speech and expression hinder open discourse and societal progress. Additionally, 20% express concern about China’s global image, which they believe is often perceived as authoritarian and lacking respect for human rights and democratic values. These students emphasize the importance of improving China’s international reputation to foster better relationships with other nations. However, when asked about their post-graduation plans, a significant majority (76%) of Chinese students express a desire to return to China. They see their return as essential to contributing to China’s development and helping it become the world’s leading economy. These students believe that their exposure to advanced technology and education in the USA will equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to advance China’s ambitions. It is ironic that, 78% of Chinese students in the USA feel a greater sense of personal freedom compared to their experiences in China, yet a significant majority (76%) express a desire to return to China. This trend suggests that the decision to return might not solely be driven by personal ambitions or reasons, but rather influenced by external factors so compelling that even under anonymity, students feared to state their true preference. This article explores some of these influential factors, shedding light on the complexities behind these students’ decisions. The Role of CSSA The Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) plays a significant role in the lives of Chinese students studying abroad. Established in the late 1970s, the CSSA was created by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to monitor Chinese students and mobilize them against views that dissent from the CCP’s stance. This directive remains in place, with the CSSA actively working to suppress open inquiry on foreign campuses. In a 2017 New York Times article, CSSA chapters were described as collaborating with Beijing to promote a pro-Chinese agenda and suppress anti-Chinese speech on Western campuses. For instance, the University of California, San Diego chapter protested the university’s decision to invite the 14th Dalai Lama to speak at its 2017 commencement. Similarly, the Wayne State University chapter funneled money from the Chinese consulate to finance a trip to China for the mayor of Ypsilanti, Michigan, and three officials. The CSSA has also been involved in several controversies. In 2019, Human Rights Watch called for closer monitoring of CSSAs in response to threats to academic freedom. The CSSA chapter at McMaster University was stripped of its status as a student organization after coordinating with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) consulate in ways that violated student club rules. Additionally, in 2021, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting instances of CSSAs being used to monitor Chinese university students abroad. In 2023, a significant development at George Washington University saw Chinese international students forming an independent group called Torch on the Potomac as an alternative to the local CSSA chapter. This move was driven by concerns over the CSSA’s influence and its alignment with the Chinese government’s agenda. This shift reflects sentiments captured in the survey question, “What motivated you to pursue higher education in the USA instead of China?” Notably, 36% of respondents cited dissatisfaction with China’s political system and restrictions on freedom of speech and expression as their motivation for seeking educational opportunities in a more democratic environment like the USA. Confucius Institutes (CIs) The PRC has established and helped fund hundreds of Confucius Institutes (CIs) on campuses worldwide since 2004. These institutes are frequently staffed by a combination of Chinese scholars, U.S. citizen faculty, and CCP-selected Chinese instructors who teach the CCP’s interpretation of Mandarin and Chinese culture. Most agreements to establish CIs feature opaque nondisclosure clauses, do not explicitly protect academic freedom, and require strict use of a narrow, CCP-approved curriculum. In 2020, the U.S. State Department designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) as a foreign mission of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), acknowledging it as an entity that promotes Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaigns. Reflecting these concerns, several universities have recently taken decisive actions. In 2023, the University of Michigan shut down its Confucius Institute due to escalating worries about Chinese government influence and a strong push for transparency and academic freedom. Similarly, in 2022, Tufts University closed its Confucius Institute after extensive debate and pressure centered on national security concerns and maintaining academic independence. That same year, the University of Kansas also terminated its Confucius Institute partnership, aligning with broader national concerns about foreign influence and the imperative to protect academic freedom. The Strategy of Technology Transfer The PRC is engaged in a concerted effort to divert key technology and research to China and its military, often at the expense of U.S. universities, taxpayers, and the Federal government. Foreign technology acquisition is a major component of the PRC’s strategy to quickly advance its scientific, economic, and military development goals. The PRC’s national strategy of Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) directs collaboration with foreign universities to acquire cutting-edge research…

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North Korea draws navigable group in round 3 of FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers

The road to the 2026 FIFA World Cup for the North Korean team will go through three Middle Eastern countries and two former Soviet republics, the Asian Football Confederation decided in a  drawing for the third round of qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur Thursday. North Korea was drawn into Group A along with  Iran, Qatar, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Kyrgyzstan. Though the team, known by supporters as the Chollima, have the lowest world ranking among the six teams, Group A offers a chance for qualification, with only Iran ranked among the world’s top 30 teams.  In drawing Group A, North Korea avoids an inter-Korean showdown, with South Korea heavily favored to dominate Group B, full of Middle Eastern minnows Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Kuwait. Group C, meanwhile, is the “Group of Death,” with powerhouses Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia drawn together, and Bahrain, China and Indonesia rounding out the group. In the second round, North Korea finished second in its group behind Japan and ahead of Syria and Myanmar. They crushed Myanmar 6-1 in Yangon and 4-1 in a home match played in Vientiane, Laos. The campaign also featured a strong showing against 17th-ranked Japan in Tokyo, where they lost 1-0. But North Korea forfeited the home match because they refused to host. North Korea fans in the stands before the match against Japan, March 21, 2024 in Tokyo. (Issei Kato/Reuters) North Korea hasn’t hosted a home match since the last World Cup cycle, playing South Korea to a 0-0 draw in Pyongyang in 2019. The third round will kick off on Sep. 5, with North Korea set to face Uzbekistan in Tashkent. Should the Chollima finish in second place or higher after playing each member of Group A home and away, the team would advance to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Finishing the group in third or fourth place would advance North Korea to a fourth round of qualifying, where six teams would vye for two more spots in 2026 or a berth in the inter-confederation playoffs. Questions remain as to whether North Korea will host its own home matches or continue to coordinate them with third countries. Although the country has reopened its borders that had been shuttered since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020, it may not be ready to welcome teams from other countries and their fans. The Chollima are very popular among fans in their home country, but the team also has fans from outside its borders. Should the team advance to the finals and play on U.S. soil, Paul Han, a North Korean escapee who lives in Indianapolis, would cheer for the North Korean players, he told RFA Korean. “I cheer for North Korea especially when they play against South Korea, the United States, or Japan,” he said. “It’s a matter of the fate of those players, because they can be sent to a place where the sun and moon cannot be seen (if they lose).” Translated by Claire S. Lee. Edited by Eugene Whong.

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China trying to ‘normalize’ incursions in Taiwan Strait, Taipei says

China is attempting to normalize its increased incursions into the waters around the outlying Kinmen islands in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Wellington Koo has warned. Koo told a hearing at the Taiwanese legislature on Wednesday that by stepping up its activities in the prohibited and restricted waters around Kinmen, China is trying to establish a new normal. Kinmen is less than 10 km (6.2 miles) from China’s Fujian province. “Prohibited” and “restricted” waters are the tacit boundaries between Taiwan’s outer islands and China’s mainland that both sides have been adhering to.   “Prohibited waters” refer to the territorial waters around Kinmen that extend about halfway to the Chinese coast, or roughly 4 km (2.2 nautical miles) to the north and northwest, and about 8 km (4.3 nautical miles) to the south. “Restricted waters” extend a little further to the south, about 24 nautical miles from Taiwan’s main island. Taiwan Coast guard boats seen at a port in Kinmen, Taiwan, Feb. 20, 2024. (Ann Wang/Reuters) On Tuesday, Chinese and Taiwanese coast guards had a tense two-hour standoff after four coastguard ships from mainland China were seen patrolling in Kinmen’s restricted waters. Such incursions have become regular, according to the Taiwanese coast guard, which reported in May a record number of 11 Chinese vessels intruding into Kinmen’s waters. “The Chinese coast guard has organized a new fleet of cutters to establish a new enforcement model around Kinmen in an attempt to demonstrate their sovereignty over Taiwan,” said Su Tzu-yun, a research fellow at Taiwan’s state-run Institute for National Defense and Security Research, or INDSR. “This can be seen as an expansion of the gray zone tactic, that is the use of the coast guard fleet to expand China’s maritime control, not only against Taiwan, but also against the Philippines in the South China Sea, and against Japan in the Senkaku islands,” Su told Radio Free Asia. Gray zone activities are not explicit acts of war but harmful to a nation’s security as they are aimed at achieving security objectives without resort to direct use of force. RELATED STORIES Taiwan’s Kinmen Island: On the front lines of tension with China Rudd says China using ‘gray zone’ tactics against Taiwan Cross-Strait tensions at risk of rising after Kinmen incident New model of law enforcement China’s Global Times reported that the Chinese coast guard has adopted a new model of conducting law enforcement near Kinmen, by expanding its scope and intensity, as well as making it “all-weather enforcement.” According to the news outlet, since June the Fujian coast guard has organized a fleet of warships to conduct extensive patrols and further strengthen China’s control over the area. The newspaper quoted a Chinese Taiwan expert, Liu Kuangyu, as saying that this new maritime enforcement method can serve as an example for promoting a “one country, two systems” formula, providing an optional solution for resolving the Taiwan question. The Taiwanese government has repeatedly said that China’s incursions are harmful to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Beside activities at sea, Beijing has also flown military aircraft over the median line in the Strait into Taiwan’s air defense zone on a daily basis. This month, Taiwan has tracked 389 flyovers by Chinese military aircraft, including 141 over the past week, according to the defense ministry in Taipei. To respond to China’s gray zone activities “it requires the alertness and joint efforts of the Indo-Pacific countries and the ASEAN, because the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea are connected,” said INDSR’s Su Tzu-yun. “Regional sea lanes bear a great importance on the world’s economic development as well as serve the common interests of neighboring countries,” the analyst said, adding that China needs to be prevented from monopolizing and controlling them. Edited by Mike Firn.

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China’s Communist Party expels ex-defense chief, predecessor in graft probe

China’s ruling Communist Party on Thursday expelled ex-Defense Minister Li Shangfu and his predecessor over corruption charges, state media said, in the latest move in a purge that has toppled more than a dozen senior military officers and defense industry figures. Li’s removal from the party came 10 months after he disappeared from public view, and was reported to be under investigation in connection with the procurement of military equipment. He was sacked without a replacement in October, amid a series of sudden firings and disappearances. “Li seriously violated political and organizational discipline,” the official Xinhua news agency reported. China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu delivers a speech at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 4, 2023. (Roslan Rahman/AFP) “He sought improper benefits in personnel arrangements for himself and others, took advantage of his posts to seek benefits for others, and accepted a huge amount of money and valuables in return,” the agency said in a report also carried by state broadcaster CCTV. “Li’s violations are extremely serious in nature, with a highly detrimental impact and tremendous harm, according to the investigation findings,” the Xinhua report added. The official agency used almost identical language for the case of Wei  Fenghe, Li’s predecessor as defense minister from 2018 to 2023. “Wei lost his faith and loyalty,” it said.  Wei’s alleged misdeeds “severely contaminated the political environment of the military, bringing enormous damage to the Party’s cause, the development of national defense and the armed forces, as well as the image of senior officials,” the agency added. The two generals were stripped of their military ranks, and their cases have been handed to the military procuratorate for prosecution, Xinhua said. The expulsion of Li and Wei came almost a year after Communist Party chief Xi Jinping fired two top generals of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which controls the country’s nuclear missiles. Xi also heads the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). China’s President Xi Jinping walks past China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe, left, after the opening session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on March 5, 2023. (Noel Celis/AFP) In the dozen years since Xi Jinping came to power, his wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign has targeted party, state and PLA officials. Nine senior officers and at least four defense industry executives have been sacked. In 2014, Xu Caihou, a former CMC vice chairman, was expelled from the party and the PLA for corruption. A month later, another vice chairman of the Commission, Guo Boxiong, was ousted from the party, and later given a life prison sentence. “The signal sent to other PLA leaders is very obvious.” said Ye Yaoyuan, a professor of international studies at the University of St. Thomas. “For Xi Jinping, he hopes to set a more authoritative example before the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party Central Committee,” he told Radio Free Asia, referring to a key party meeting in mid-July. China’s President Xi Jinping meets with senior officers of troops stationed in China’s Yunnan province, in Kunming, Jan. 20, 2020. (Li Gang/Xinhua via Getty) “That is, ‘if something happens to the PLA leaders, I am really willing to take action, and my means of handling it are definitely not a simple transfer or other simple ways to end it.’” Ye said. Thursday’s report, the first official confirmation that graft was the reason for the sudden and secretive removal of Li and Wei, made no mention of another mystery high-level purge: that of former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. Qin has been absent from public view since he met with the foreign ministers of Sri Lanka and Vietnam in Beijing on June 25, 2023. His disappearance came amid widespread and unconfirmed rumors that he was under investigation for having an affair, and possibly a child, with Phoenix TV reporter Fu Xiaotian. Edited by Paul Eckert.

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UN rights envoy urges action to stop Myanmar’s access to weapons, funds

Financial institutions must do more to stop the Myanmar junta acquiring weapons, a U.N. human rights rapporteur said, singling out Thailand as the new main source of military supplies that Myanmar was getting through the international banking system. Thailand said it was studying the report from the special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, adding that its banking and financial institutions follow the banking protocols of any major financial hub. Many Western governments have imposed sanctions on the Myanmar junta that seized power in a 2021 coup and Andrews said international community efforts to stop the flow of weapons have had some success. The junta’s procurement of weapons, dual-use technologies manufacturing equipment and material through the international banking system was down by a third from US$377 million in the 2022 financial year to US$253 million in 2023, he said. But the junta had taken opportunities to skirt restrictions and its “forces continue to systematically assault Myanmar civilians using powerful weapons of war obtained from abroad,” Andrews said in his report. The junta, known as the State Administration Council, or SAC, had altered its sources of weapons and military supplies and exploited gaps in sanctions regimes, changed financial institutions and taken advantage of the lack of political will on the part of governments to coordinate and enforce action, he added.  “The SAC has identified and is aggressively seizing opportunities to circumvent sanctions and other measures taken by the international community,” said the rapporteur. Andrews contrasted the response to Myanmar’s bloody crisis from two of its neighbors: Singapore and Thailand. Singapore, long a major supplier of military equipment with close commercial ties with Myanmar, had “articulated a clear policy opposing the transfer of weapons”, in line with a U.N. General Assembly resolution that passed overwhelmingly after the coup. Following an investigation by the Singapore government, exports to Myanmar of weapons and related materials from Singapore-registered entities using the formal banking system dropped from almost US$120 million in FY2022 to just over US$10 million in FY2023, according to Andrews. ‘Leading source’ Thailand, on the other hand, does not have an explicit public policy position opposing the transfer of weapons to Myanmar, Andrews said, adding that exports from Thailand-registered entities more than doubled over the same period, from just over US$60 million to nearly US$130 million. “Many SAC purchases previously made from Singapore-based entities, including parts for Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters used to conduct airstrikes on civilian targets, are now being sourced from Thailand,” he said. “Thailand has now become the SAC’s leading source of military supplies purchased through the international banking system,” he added. Andrews noted that, as with Singapore, he found no evidence that the Thai government was involved in or aware of the transfers but noted that if it were to respond in the same way the Singapore government had, “the SAC’s capacity to attack the people of Myanmar would be significantly reduced.”    Thailand’s foreign ministry said in a statement it had seen Andrews’ report and was looking into it. “Many countries have been named and certainly these are countries where the majority of financial transactions in the region would pass through,” the ministry said. “Our banking and financial institutions follow banking protocols as any major financial hub. So we will have to first establish the facts before considering any further steps.” Andrews called on states that support human rights in Myanmar to halt the sale of weapons to it by their companies and for financial institutions to freeze relations with Myanmar’s state-owned banks. The rapporteur said the findings in his report covered purchases via the formal international banking system and not military procurement pathways such as in-kind trade or purchases with hard currency. While Singapore’s military exports to Myanmar had dropped dramatically, and those from Russia and China also declined, Indian exports remained constant, according to Andrews, while acknowledging some of Myanmar’s military procurement from those countries may have moved to informal channels.  Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn. 

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Drug runners in Laos shoot at police, abandon vehicles packed with meth and heroin

Alleged drug runners in northwest Laos shot at police and fled on foot into dense jungle leaving behind two vans packed with meth and heroin, a police social media post said. At about 9 p.m. on June 21, officers noticed that the two vehicles did not have license plates and ordered them to pull over for inspection. The occupants of the vehicles allegedly shot at the police and abandoned the vehicles, fleeing into the forest, the Bokeo province police department said on its Facebook page. After inspecting the vehicles, they found around 5.8 million meth pills and 225 kilograms (almost 500 pounds) of heroin. It’s the latest incident in Laos’ struggle to eradicate drugs from proliferating inside the country. Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone reported on June 10 to the Lao National Assembly that cracking down on drugs remains a national priority and in the first half of this year, the government was able to arrest 2,616 drug suspects.  “Most of the drugs are from either Myanmar or China because they can’t be produced here in our country,” an officer of the Bokeo Police Department, who like all unnamed sources in this report requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA Lao. He said that part of Laos is prone to drug smuggling, and that by law, samples of the seized drugs would be sent to a lab to verify that they are indeed meth and heroin. The rest will be destroyed. The officer explained that they did not pursue the suspects because they were armed and it was very dark in the forest, so they didn’t want to take unnecessary risk. Related Stories Lao police seize 14 million meth pills, arrest two suspects Despite eradication efforts, opium poppy cultivation persists among Hmong in northern Laos Police raid karaoke bar in northern Laos area known for drugs, trafficking A resident who lives near where the incident occurred told RFA he heard gunshots at around 9 a.m. “It was at night and nobody at my house had gone to bed yet,” he said, “The next morning, I found out that there was a clash between police and drug smugglers.” He said he and his neighbors were disappointed that the suspects were not apprehended. Another resident said that he wished the police would have brought the suspects in because it is likely they are smuggling drugs in from other countries. There is a large market for drugs in Laos, particularly among younger people, an employee of a rehab center in the province said. “Many Laotians, especially youths aged 15 or 16 have become addicted to drugs and are admitted to the rehab center. Sometimes, the center has up to 30 of them,” she said.  “Drugs, particularly meth, are available anywhere in our village and region,” she said. “Drugs destroy people’s lives. If the government can’t stop this, many more people will be affected.” Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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‘Neither hospitals nor doctors’ for 10,000 displaced in Myanmar

About 10,000 people in Myanmar, most of them members of the mainly Muslim Rohingya minority displaced by fighting, are in urgent need of food and medical aid, residents told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday.  Fighting between junta forces and autonomy-seeking Arakan Army insurgents has intensified in recent weeks in Maungdaw township in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, compounding hardships for the population after junta troops shut down hospitals, prohibited travel and forcibly conscripted villagers into the army. The fighting has forced residents from four neighborhoods in the outskirts of Maungdaw town to take shelter in schools for the past two months.  Food and medical resources are now running out as the fighting in the area intensifies, said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.    “We can hear heavy artillery all the time. People have been killed and wounded as a result of shells landing on their houses. There are no hospitals, no doctors, that’s why people are so worried,” he said.  Fighting between insurgent armies and the junta that seized power in a 2021 coup has intensified since late last year in several parts of the country, including Rakhine state, where Arakan Army fighters occupy nine townships and have captured nearly all junta outposts, including those on the Bangladesh border.  While civilians have been suffering throughout the country, the Rohingya people have faced particular hardship with human rights groups saying both sides in the conflict have abused their rights, accusing them of helping their rivals and press-ganging them into their armies. Rohingya have for decades faced persecution in mostly Buddhist Myanmar with more than 700,000 fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 from a military crackdown following Rohingya insurgent attacks on police. The Maungdaw resident said this time, junta roadblocks imposed as part of their anti-insurgent operations meant fleeing to Bangladesh was not an option and no aid groups were able to provide food and medical care. Residents reported casualties from the shelling but could not confirm the number or details. Access to the internet and telecommunications has been cut. Rakhine state’s junta spokesperson Hla Thein did not respond to calls from RFA requesting comment on the situation. According to the junta-controlled Myanma Alin newspaper, junta officials provided more than 2,000 households in Maungdaw’s affected neighborhoods with a bag of rice each on Saturday. The World Food Programme said on Tuesday its warehouse in Maungdaw township was burned down on Saturday. The U.N. food agency has not been allowed to travel in Maungdaw township since last month.  The Arakan Army warned residents to evacuate on June 16, saying in a statement its fighters would attack Maungdaw town.  Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn.     

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North Korea holds nationwide anti-US rallies on 74th Korean War anniversary

North Korea held mass anti-U.S. rallies nationwide on Tuesday to mark the 74th anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, residents in the country told Radio Free Asia. The city of Hyesan, in the north on the Chinese border, herded more than 80,000 residents into a stadium and forced them to chant slogans against America and listen to speeches decrying Washington for four hours, a resident there told RFA Korean on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “The anti-American mass rally held today to commemorate the 6.25 War was larger than any mass rally I have ever seen in my life,” she said, referring to the war by the date of its start, as is customary in the Korean language when referring to important events. She said that the rally started at 8 a.m. and went until noon. Following the event the crowd split into three groups and headed for different parts of the town, shouting anti-American slogans and parading through the streets, she said. “At 3 p.m., a ‘War Veterans Reunion Meeting’ was held at the Hyesan Movie Theater, attended by members of the Socialist Patriotic Youth League and Socialist Women’s Union of Korea,” she said. People attend a mass rally denouncing the U.S., June 25, 2023 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (KCNA). Hyesan has a listed population of 250,000, but many registered there are either connected with the military or have been assigned to the city from elsewhere to work, meaning the actual population of the city is only about 140,000, the resident said. This means that more than half of the population was in the stadium on Tuesday. The resident said orders were given for “everyone from elementary school students to war veterans, who could walk” to be mobilized for the rally. “This 6.25 War-related event was not held only today but has been taking place every day since the 23rd, starting with the Socialist Patriotic Youth League and the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea,” she said. “This will also be the first time that this kind of event lasted three straight days.” A different take In North Korea, the war is officially called the “Great Fatherland Liberation War,” even though most historians agree that in the early hours of June 25, 1950, it was the North that crossed the 38th parallel that divided the peninsula to invade the South. Fighting ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a treaty, meaning the war is technically still ongoing.  North Korea claims that it was victorious against the United States and its allies in the war, even though 2.5 million Koreans died – fighting on both sides – and North Korea ended up controlling slightly less territory than it had before the war. People attend a mass rally denouncing the U.S., June 25, 2023 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (KCNA). On a national scale, Tuesday’s rallies, held all over the country are the largest ever held to commemorate the war, an official from Hyesan’s surrounding Ryanggang province told RFA Korean on condition of anonymity to speak freely. “Today’s mass rally was prepared nationwide from June 16 in accordance with (national leader) Kim Jong Un’s direction on June 13,” he said. June 25 kicks off an entire “anti-American struggle” month that ends on July 27, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which North Korea calls “Victory Day.” People attend a mass rally denouncing the U.S., June 25, 2023 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (KCNA). He said that Kim Jong Un ordered that this year’s anti-American struggle month be filled with events commemorating the war to whip up an anti-American atmosphere. “Each party and labor group will continue to hold gatherings on stories related to the 6.25 War, watch movies and visit the anti-espionage struggle exhibition hall and the class education center until July 27, which is the Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War,” he said, adding that students will participate in Korean War-themed writing and art contests. People attend a mass rally denouncing the U.S., June 25, 2023 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (KCNA). The event for the 73rd anniversary of the Korean War last year was only one hour long, so people are complaining that they had to do so much this year, the official said. For years, authorities promised that once North Korea had nuclear capabilities, a “flowery path will unfold, and tailwinds will blow for our people’s future,” he said.  Now that North Korea has nuclear weapons, though, the narrative has shifted. It’s the fault of Washington that living standards in North Korea are still so low. “Residents are complaining that they are talking about the U.S. and its imperialist plans these days,” he said. Translated by Claire S. Lee and Leejin J. Chung. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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China-backed hackers step up spying on Taiwan: security firm

Suspected Chinese state-sponsored hackers have intensified cyber-espionage activities against Taiwanese targets since late last year, with a particular focus on its technology sector, an online security company said in a new report. U.S. cybersecurity company Recorded Future said RedJuliett – a “likely Chinese state-sponsored group” – has conducted a campaign to collect intelligence on government, academic, technology, and diplomatic organizations in Taiwan over the six months from last November. The RedJuliett campaign likely aimed to “support Beijing’s intelligence collection on Taiwan’s economic and diplomatic relations, as well as critical technology development,” Insikt Group, a team of researchers from Recorded Future, said in the report.  The hacking group likely operates from Fuzhou, the capital of southeastern China’s Fujian province, according to the researchers. Fujian is on the west of the Taiwan Strait and is the closest Chinese province to Taiwan. Insikt added RedJuliette “exploited known vulnerabilities in network edge devices such as firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and load balancers for initial access.” The hacking group, believed to be active since at least mid-2021, also used the aliases Flax Typhoon and Ethereal Panda. RedJuliett conducted network reconnaissance or attempted exploitation of more than 70 Taiwanese organizations, including representative offices overseas. “Within Taiwan, we observed RedJuliett heavily target the technology industry, including organizations in critical technology fields,” the cybersecurity company said. RedJuliett conducted vulnerability scanning or attempted exploitation against a semiconductor company and two Taiwanese aerospace companies that have contracts with Taiwan’s military, as well as eight electronics manufacturers, two universities focused on technology, an industrial embedded systems company, a technology-focused research and development institute, and seven computing industry associations. Besides Taiwan, the group also expanded its operations to compromise organizations in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Laos, South Korea, the United States, Djibouti, Kenya, and Rwanda, according to the U.S. firm. China’s ‘destabilizing’ actions When asked about the Recorded Future report, Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Mao Ning said she was not aware of it.  Mao, however, said that the U.S. firm has “fabricated disinformation” about China in the past. International security companies have warned against multiple hacking campaigns linked to the Chinese state and targeting foreign governments and organizations. China has repeatedly denied any involvement. Beijing considers the self-governed Taiwan a Chinese province that should be reunified with the mainland, by force if needed. Last Friday, China warned that supporters of independence for Taiwan could be tried in absentia and sentenced to death for “splitting the country.” The U.S. on Monday condemned China’s “escalatory and destabilizing language and actions” against Taiwan. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told a press briefing that threats and legal warfare “will not achieve peaceful resolution to cross-strait differences.” “We continue to urge restraint and no unilateral change to the status quo. And we urge the PRC to engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan,” Miller said, referring to China by its official name the People’s Republic of China. Edited by Taejun Kang.

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