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Chinese and Thai air forces to hold 10-day joint exercise this month

China and Thailand are to kick off a major joint air force exercise on Monday after a two-year suspension due to COVID, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced. The ministry said in a statement on Friday that the Falcon Strike 2022 training exercise will be held at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Udon Thani province, northeastern Thailand. The exercise will begin on Aug. 14 and RFA sources say it will last until Aug. 24. It will include “training courses such as air support, strikes on ground targets, and small and large-scale troop deployment,” according to China’s defense ministry. “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will dispatch fighter jets, fighter-bombers and airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, and the Royal Thai Air Force will send its fighter jets and AEW aircraft,” the ministry said. The renewed exercise marks a new effort to “enhance mutual trust and friendship between the two air forces,” the ministry said, as well as to further the strategic cooperation between Thailand and China, as the latter seeks to project power and expand its influence in the region.  The Chinese military has just finished a week-long air-naval exercise around Taiwan as an angry response to a visit to the island by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. “Thailand cannot deny China’s military role in this region. The combined exercise enables Thailand to better understand and be more familiar with the PLA’s command and control system and its military doctrine,” Dulyapak Preecharush, Deputy Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at Thammasat University in Bangkok told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. Growing military links Reuters quoted an anonymous Thai air force source who said that Thailand will not deploy its F-16s for Falcon Strike 2022. Instead it will use its Swedish-made Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters as well as German-made Alpha Jet light attack aircraft. It is unclear which types of aircraft China will be deploying for the exercise. Chinese fighters have been seen taking part in recent Sino-Thai Air Force joint training exercises, said Andreas Rupprecht, an expert on China’s military aviation, in a recent interview with RFA. “Thailand has been shifting more towards China in recent years,” Rupprecht said.  Fighter jets from China’s PLA Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force fly in tactical formation during joint training exercise Falcon Strike 2019. CREDIT: Chinese Defense Ministry Since the Thai military increased its power after coups in 2006 and 2014, Bangkok bought tanks, armored personnel carriers and entered into a controversial multi-billion-dollar contract to procure submarines from China.  China’s arms exports to Thailand increased five-fold between 2014 and 2018 compared with the preceding five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden. The Thai-U.S. relationship has encountered some turbulence because of the growing ties between Bangkok and Beijing, despite Thailand being the U.S.’s oldest treaty ally in Asia. The Thai air force expressed a strong interest in buying some F-35 stealth fighter jets to replace its aging fleet of F-16A/B Fighting Falcons but Washington so far seems reluctant to consider the purchase, fearing the fighter’s sensitive technologies could be compromised by China, its biggest military and strategic rival. However the upcoming Falcon Strike exercise should not increase tension between China and the U.S. if it “doesn’t have a scenario such as an attack on U.S. interests or let China become familiar with U.S. military hardware,” argued Thammasat University’s Dulyapak. “Both the U.S. and China can take turns to hold joint drills with Thailand,” the analyst said, adding: “There is no monopoly in Thailand’s defense policy.” Falcon Strike joint training exercises have been held annually since 2015 but were suspended in 2000 because of the global COVID pandemic. This year’s event is the 5th training exercise between the air forces of China and Thailand.  Nontarat Phaicharoen in Bangkok contributed to this story.

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Vietnam sets up specialized police units to suppress protests across the country

More than a dozen provinces and cities in Vietnam have set up Riot Police Regiments or Battalions to be held in reserve to crack down on people accused of “disturbing public order” and carrying out “illegal demonstrations.” RFA research shows at least 15 provinces and cities had launched forces as of Oct. 10, 2021. They include Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Dong Nai, Nghe An, Lao Cai, Bac Giang, Thanh Hoa and Gia Lai. The riot squads have been formed to crack down on worker protests at the many industrial parks in southeastern Vietnam, in places such as Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, and Dong Nai. They could also be used to stop demonstrations by ethnic and religious minorities such as the Protestant Ede and Duong Van Minh sect in provinces like Cao Bang and Gia Lai. On Wednesday the Ho Chi Minh City Police held a launching ceremony for its Reserve Riot Combat Police Regiment. State media said the force was established under a ruling by the Ministry of Public Security to set up Reserve Riot Police Battalions in province-level localities. News sites did not publish the full text of the ministry’s Decision No.1984, which called for the regiment’s formation. According to the Công an Nhân dân (People’s Police) online newspaper, the regiments and battalions must be ready to fight in any situation when they receive orders from the Ministry of Public Security or directors of province-level police departments. The Ho Chi Minh City Police Department outlined the riot squad’s duties to the media. They include “preventing and suppressing cases of public disorder and illegal demonstrations,” “conducting rescue operations,” “protecting important political events of the Party and State and [maintaining order during] major holidays,” “ensuring political security, social order and safety of the locality,” and “performing other tasks as required.” Police try to stop protesters demanding clean water in Hanoi on May 1, 2016. CREDIT: Reuters Suppression of protests ‘unconstitutional’ A Ho Chi Minh City-based lawyer, who did not wish to be named for security reasons, said “suppression of unlawful protests” goes against Vietnam’s Constitution. “I think Vietnam doesn’t yet have a Law on Protests, so it can’t be said that demonstrations are illegal,” the lawyer said. “The right to protest is a constitutional right, so repression is unconstitutional.” “The Vietnamese state does not mention a Law on Protests, perhaps because it does not want to because it is afraid people will protest [against it].” A woman, who asked only to be named as Phung, participated in protests against China’s placement of the HD981 oil rig in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone in 2014. She told RFA the government has been suspending the Bill on Protests for too long.  “According to the Vietnamese Constitution, people have the right to protest, but the bill on demonstrations has been frozen for many years,” she said. “Basically, in Vietnam, every protest is suppressed, because they have not passed a bill which would allow people to ask for permission to organize demonstrations like in other countries.” “Article 25 of the 2013 Constitution stipulates that ‘Citizens have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, access to information, assembly, association, and demonstration.’ The exercise of these rights is prescribed by law.” Government drags its heels on protest law In 2013, the government directed the Ministry of Public Security to take primary responsibility and coordinate with relevant agencies to develop a draft Law on Protests. The bill has been repeatedly withdrawn from the National Assembly’s agenda for further study and amendment. In 2017, national legislator Truong Trong Nghia, from Ho Chi Minh City, told the National Assembly that the promulgation of a Law on Protests was necessary in order to implement the 2013 Constitution on ensuring human and citizens’ rights. Since 2018, no National Assembly member or domestic newspaper has mentioned the Bill on Protests. Strengthening the suppression of resistance  According to Hanoi-based journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, in Vietnam what is written in the Constitution is one thing, how it is implemented is another. Binh said the establishment of a specialized agency and riot police force is intended to quell all resistance by the people and comes after a series of fierce crackdowns on protests. “Following the trend of increasing repression in the past four-to-five years, the professionalization of these forces to suppress protests and people’s resistance is normal in my opinion,” Binh said. Oil rig protester Phung told RFA the repression and suppression of protests has always taken place in Vietnam. She said Vietnam does not need to sign any more international agreements so the government is not interested in respecting human rights. “At this stage Vietnam does not need to join any treaty or agreement, so they want to deal with [whichever protest] they want. Now they are also bolder,” she said. “I believe that even if a force is formed, they will not use uniformed forces to take action to suppress protesters because that will affect the image of the Vietnamese government. They don’t want to show their true face to the world.” Human Rights Watch’s latest report on Vietnam, published in February, said: “fundamental civil and political rights are systematically suppressed in Vietnam. The government, under the one-party rule of the Communist Party of Vietnam, tightened its grip on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion.”  

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Cambodian authorities clash with NagaWorld protesters, leaving several injured

Authorities in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh violently clashed with some 100, mostly female former casino workers demanding to be reinstated to their jobs on Thursday, breaking the nose of one woman and leaving several others injured, according to sources. The former workers are from a group that has been holding regular protests since they were among 1,300 laid off by the NagaWorld Casino in December 2021. The workers say they were unfairly fired and offered inadequate compensation, although only around 150 continue to protest, as an increasing number have accepted payouts after months of no salary and repeated confrontations with police. At around 2 p.m. on Thursday, dozens of authorities blocked the group from holding a protest outside the casino with metal barricades, and rained blows down on those who tried to remove them, according to Bun Sina, one of the former workers. “I came to demand the right to seek justice, [as the situation] has not yet been resolved, but I was kicked in the thigh by the authorities,” she told RFA Khmer, adding that she was shocked by the brutality of the officers. “How much more of this violence and torture will we have to suffer from the authorities before this dispute is resolved?” Police and striking NagaWorld protesters struggle over a barricade in Phnom Penh in a screengrab from a video, Aug. 11, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist Another worker named Sun Sreynich told RFA she was punched in the face by a police officer during the scuffle, causing her to bleed from the nose and pass out. “We were kneeling in front of the security forces and begging to be allowed to go to the NagaWorld building, but they assumed we were attacking them and fought us,” she said. “The officer hit me full force with his fist, breaking my nose and making me bleed. The blow knocked me unconscious,” she added, saying she is still in pain from the injury. The two sides clashed for around 15 minutes before resuming a verbal confrontation across the barricade line. The former workers eventually left the area around 5 p.m. Following the incident, the Phnom Penh government issued a statement calling the rally “illegal” for disrupting traffic and accusing protesters of intentionally attacking the reputation of the authorities by orchestrating the clash. “They created an event to put the blame on the government, inciting and provoking anger by cursing and insulting public officials before smashing 20 barricades and using violence against security forces who tried to block their path,” the statement said. “All workers should stop their unlawful demonstrations and try to resolve the dispute with the authorities,” it added. More than eight months since the layoffs, NagaWorld has said it will only discuss severance packages with former workers and Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor has deferred the matter to the courts. But the workers say they can’t afford to bring a lawsuit against the company and have urged the government to intervene in the dispute. Petition submitted Earlier on Thursday, a group of around 50 former NagaWorld workers and trade union representatives gathered to submit a petition to the Ministry of Labor, requesting that authorities drop charges against Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions President Yang Sophorn, who the ministry has accused of organizing the protests. The petition also requested a meeting with Labor Minister Ith Samheng to find a resolution to the dispute. Fellow NagaWorld strikers attempt to revive Sun Sreynich, who says a police officer punched her in the nose and knocked her out. Credit: Citizen journalist NagaWorld Union President Chhim Sithaw met with Labor Ministry officials on Thursday and told RFA she was “disappointed” by their response, although she did not provide details of what was discussed. “We only see that the government – through City Hall, the Ministry of Labor, the judiciary, the Ministry of Health, authorities at all levels – is standing by the NagaWorld company, which is prohibited by law,” she said. “They have a role in mediation, not in protecting one side, and they must remain independent in this dispute.” Attempts by RFA to contact Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour for comment went unanswered Thursday. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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Vietnamese authorities arrest air force officer involved in fatal car accident

Vietnamese authorities on Thursday said they arrested an air force major involved in a fatal accident in late June in southeastern Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province after determining he had been using his cell phone when his car hit and killed a high school student on a scooter. Maj. Hoang Van Minh of the 937th regiment, 370th division, of Vietnam People’s Air Force, formally called the Air Defense-Air Force, was driving a seven-seat military vehicle when he ran into 18-year-old Ho Hoang Anh on June 28. Minh is being temporarily detained for three months while investigators look into the crash, according to the Criminal Investigation Agency of Division 2 of the Air Defense-Air Force, authorities said. The provincial public security and information and communications departments held a press briefing on Aug. 2 to announce the action against Minh. Sr. Col. Ha Cong Son, deputy chief of the Phan Rang-Thap Cham city police, said that Minh has confessed to using his mobile phone while driving. Son also said the initial investigation indicated that before the accident Minh had changed lanes in an unsafe manner, causing Anh’s death as she drove her scooter along the right lane of the street and within the speed limit.   He added that he believed there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Minh. Security camera footage shows that on the day of the crash, Minh turned the military vehicle right into the driveway of a bank office, colliding with Anh’s scooter. The impact knocked Anh off the scooter and into an electricity pole, smashing her head. She died en route to the hospital.   The video also shows Minh still holding his mobile phone and talking while getting out of his car following the collision.   Medical authorities at Ninh Thuan Provincial General Hospital initially reported that Anh’s blood-alcohol concentration level was 0.79 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. That led to fears among her family and the public that the release of the test result was a part of an effort to exonerate Minh by placing the blame on Anh.  Ahn’s father filed a complaint asking for a review of claims that his daughter’s drinking caused the crash, and spoke with newspapers to make the point that alcohol was not to blame, according to an RFA report earlier this month.  After receiving his petition, the People’s Committee of Ninh Thuan province asked provincial police to verify the young woman’s blood-alcohol test result. On July 29, the hospital’s director apologized to the family for issuing an incorrect alcohol test result, blaming a technician for not following test regulations.  A week later, hospital administrators visited the student’s family to apologize in person and promised to invalidate the test result. On Tuesday, the hospital’s disciplinary committee said it would discipline those responsible.  Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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Manila backs Senate bill to officially rename contested waters ‘West Philippine Sea’

The Philippine foreign office said Thursday it was backing legislative efforts to formally rename the country’s portions of the South China Sea as the “West Philippine Sea,” in a move to bolster Manila’s territorial claims in the contested waterway. On Wednesday, Sen. Francis Tolentino announced he had filed Senate Bill 405, a proposed piece of legislation that aims to “institutionalize” the use of “ the West Philippine Sea” as the official name of territories claimed by the Philippines in waters that China and other neighbors also contest. The air space, seabed, and subsoil on the western side of the Philippine archipelago would be renamed “to reinforce the Philippines’ claim to the disputed territories found on the western side of the archipelago,” according to an excerpt from SB405. Maria Teresita Daza, spokeswoman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, said Tolentino’s bill was consistent with a 2016 international arbitration court’s ruling that sided with Manila. “The West Philippine Sea was already actually defined in 2012 through Administrative Order 29,” Daza told a press briefing on Thursday. “Nevertheless, the department recognizes what the process of legislation can do in terms of clarity and institution building. And we look forward to supporting the process, should we be invited to do so,” she said. Tolentino’s bill covers waters around, within, and adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal, as well as the Luzon Sea, or waters also known as the Luzon Strait between the northern Philippine island of Luzon and Taiwan. The Philippine senator said that the proposed legislation came about in response to the “archipelagic doctrine” embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Under it, the Philippines is granted a territorial sea of up to 12 nautical miles, a contiguous zone of up to 24 nautical miles, and an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles where the West Philippine Sea is located. The bill also directs government offices to use the name in all communications, messages, and public documents, and “to popularize the use of such [a] name with the general public, both domestically and internationally.” Six years ago, the Philippines won an arbitral award against Beijing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The landmark ruling nullified China’s expansive claims to the sea region, including in waters that reach neighbors’ shores. Manila had filed the case in 2012, when the Chinese occupied areas near Scarborough Shoal, a triangular chain of rocks and reefs that Filipinos consider a traditional fishing ground. Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim parts of the sea. China, for its part, draws a nine-dash line to delineate its claim of “historical rights” to almost 90 percent of the waterway. The line also overlaps with the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of another nation – Indonesia. And while the name “South China Sea” has gained near universal acceptance in usage, countries that have claims to the disputed waters have their own different names for it. Vietnam calls the maritime region “the East Sea,” and, to Beijing, it is plainly known as “the South Sea.” In 2017, Indonesia renamed a resource-rich northern region around its Natuna Islands, which lie off the southern end of the South China Sea, as the North Natuna Sea. The waters near the Natunas have seen some tense standoffs in recent years between Indonesian ships and ships from China and other nations, including Chinese coast guard vessels. Jakarta’s decision to change the name of the sea region north of the islands was spurred by the arbitration court’s ruling in Manila’s favor the year before that nullified China’s historical claim to the entire South China Sea through the nine-dash line, Arif Havas Oegroseno, then the deputy of maritime sovereignty at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told reporters at the time. Since the arbitration court ruled for Manila in 2016, Beijing has refused to budge from the area around Scarborough Shoal. On Thursday, officials at the Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to BenarNews efforts seeking comment on the Philippine bill. The proposed formal name change is a far cry from the policy on the disputed waters implemented by former President Rodrigo Duterte, who did not seek to enforce the ruling when he took office in 2016, but instead pursued warmer ties with Beijing. During his six-year term, Duterte, who left office on June 30, also pulled the Philippines away from the United States, the Philippines’ longtime ally and China’s main rival, until later in his term when he declared that the arbitration award was “beyond compromise.”  The U.S. government, meanwhile, has insisted on the doctrine of freedom of navigation and has sailed its navy ships into the contested waters. Duterte’s successor, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in his first “state of the nation” address to Congress last month, declared he would not preside over any process that would give away “even one square inch of territory” to foreign rivals. Marcos’ newly appointed military chief, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro, told his generals and other military officials during his first command conference on Wednesday that the armed forces supported President Marcos’ pronouncement. “We only do what is required of us to do and what is important is we are able to perform our mandate to protect (the state and) our people,” Col. Medel Aguilar, a spokesman for the military, told reporters.  BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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Vietnam appeals court reduces jail terms for two NGO workers

A court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on Thursday slightly reduced the jail terms of two civil society workers sentenced in January on tax evasion charges, saying one of the men had returned part of the money owed, while the other had not gained financially from the evasion. Mai Phan Loi, chairman of the Committee for Scientific Affairs of the Center for Media in Educating Community (MEC), will now serve 45 of the 48 months of his original sentence, while MEC director Bach Hung Duong will serve 27 months of a 30-month term, according to state media reports. In a story Thursday, the Ho Chi Minh City Law Newspaper said that Loi’s sentence was reduced because his family had returned part of the money claimed in taxes, while Loi himself had cooperated with authorities investigating the case against him. Duong will now serve a shorter term because he had received no benefit from the tax evasion and is suffering from an unspecified illness, the newspaper added. Speaking to RFA after the hearing, defense attorney Huynh Phuong Nam declined to comment on the trial, saying only that Loi’s family had given back VND 1.2 billion ($50,000) out of the VND 1.97 billion ($82,100) claimed by the government in taxes. The indictment filed against the men by the Hanoi People’s Procuracy said that MEC had received nearly VND 20 billion in support from domestic and international organizations, but had failed to create financial reports or submit tax declaration forms. Though nonprofit organizations are exempt from paying corporate taxes in Vietnam, the tax laws pertaining to NGOs receiving funds from international donors are particularly vague and restrictive, sources say. Jail term upheld In a separate hearing, the Hanoi High-Level People’s Court on Thursday upheld the 5-year prison sentence imposed in January on Dang Dinh Bach, director of the Research Center for Law and Policy for Sustainable Development (LPSD), saying Bach had refused to return VND 1.3 billion ($54,200) owed in taxes. Bach had failed to file taxes and to report sponsorship from groups overseas from 2016 to 2020, the indictment against him said. Speaking to RFA after the hearing, Bach’s wife Tran Phuong Thao said that security forces had barred her from attending her husband’s trial, forcing her to sit instead at the courthouse gate. Lawyers were also prevented from bringing laptop computers or mobile phones into the court, she said. “I was not surprised by the outcome of the trial and was mentally prepared for whatever would happen,” Thao said. “My husband continues to deny all the charges made against him and still declares his innocence. “Because my family has not paid the government’s so-called ‘remediation money,’ the court would not consider mitigating circumstances,” she said. Rights groups and activists have condemned Loi’s, Duong’s and Bach’s jailing, noting their arrests followed their promotion of civil society’s role in monitoring the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which came into force in 2021. Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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Bangladesh police: 2 Rohingya leaders were victims of ‘target killings’

Unidentified assailants fatally shot two Rohingya leaders as they returned home after overseeing community night-watch duties at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, police said Wednesday. The shooting inside the Kutupalong mega-camp in the Ukiah sub-district on Tuesday evening was the latest in a string of killings, as fears grow among Rohingya refugees about crime and deteriorating public safety in crowded camps along Bangaldesh’s border with Myanmar.  Abu Taleb, 40, and Syed Hossain, 35, were the victims of “target killings” by a criminal gang in Tuesday’s attack, said Kamran Hossain, an additional superintendent of the Armed Police Battalion that is responsible for security in the camps, which are home to about 1 million Rohingya refugees. Taleb was leader of a block in camp-15 while Hossain led a sub-block at the Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhia, he said. Both camps lie within the confines of Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp. “At around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, Abu Taleb and Syed Hossain went to a hill of Jamtoli camp to make cell phone calls after distributing the night surveillance duties among Rohingya volunteers. Then eight to 10 assailants shot them and fled the scene through another hill,” Hossain told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated news service, on Wednesday. “Both the slain Rohingya leaders had been active in curbing criminal activities at the camp. They used to cooperate with the police to arrest the camp-based criminals, so we are sure that they were the victims of target killings,” he said. The killings occurred a day after assailants killed Md. Ibrahim, 30, in the Nayapara refugee camp in Teknaf, another sub-district of Cox’s Bazar. Since mid-June, nine Rohingya men, including two suspected members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a militant group, were killed at the camps, according to the Bangladeshi authorities. “We have information that there is tension among different groups over the selection of camp leaders. We are examining all available clues,” Hossain said. “Most of the killings at the refugee camps are targeted – that are very hard to stop.” Mohammad Ali, the officer-in-charge of the Ukhia police station, told BenarNews that the bodies were sent to a Cox’s Bazar hospital for autopsies, and police were preparing to file murder charges once suspects were identified. The law enforcers said the rival groups have been attacking each other over control of the camps, where the trade in illegal weapons and drugs, along with human trafficking, are rampant. ARSA, based in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where Rohingya began a mass exodus to the Cox’s Bazar camps in August 2017, has been killing their rivals, law enforcers said. Members of the militant group have also been blamed for the Sept. 29, 2021, killing of Muhib Ullah, who had gained international fame and visited the White House in Washington on behalf of his fellow refugees. Until that time, authorities had denied the presence of ARSA in Bangladesh, but an investigation showed that ARSA members killed Ullah because of his popularity. Refugees feel unsafe In the wake of the recent spate of killings, camp residents said they worried about their safety. “We, the ordinary people, want peace at the camps. Many of the camp leaders help the police arrest the criminals and ARSA members,” Md. Kamal Hossain, a leader at the Balukhali camp, told BenarNews. “After coming out of the jail on bail, criminals identify informants and kill them in a premeditated way,” he said. “Therefore, ordinary Rohingya people do not dare to give tips about the criminals.” Hossain said the night surveillance by police and volunteers had led to a drop in criminal activities in the camps. “Very often the ARSA members threaten the camp leaders over phones so we immediately inform police about the threats,” Hossain said. “Though the police have been helping us, we are really worried.” BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.

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Naval standoff continues near Taiwan in spite of China claiming war games are over

Chinese and Taiwanese ships continued an apparent standoff in the waters near Taiwan despite the Chinese military saying major drills around the island were over, open source investigators said, citing satellite imagery from Sentinel Hub. As the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) wrapped up its week-long operation, held in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, “at least two sets of ships in typical ‘shadowing’ positions [were] observed East of Taiwan” on Wednesday, H I Sutton, a well-known independent defense analyst wrote on Twitter.   On the same day, Beijing released a White Paper on Taiwan and China’s “reunification” policy, which Taiwan dismissed. “Taiwan rejects the “one country, two systems” model proposed by Beijing,” said Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou at a media briefing in Taipei on Thursday. “Only Taiwan’s people can decide its future,” Ou added. Regular patrols Images from satellite data provider Sentinel Hub show two Taiwanese ships “shadowing” two Chinese vessels in waters off Hualian County in eastern Taiwan since early this week, several open source intelligence (OSINT) analysts said.  The PLA announced a major military exercise on Aug. 4 after Pelosi made a controversial stopover in Taipei. Beijing repeatedly warned her against the visit, which it condemned as a “gross violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and threatened retaliation. The military exercise was due to end on Aug. 7 but went on for two more days and only wrapped up on Wednesday. Yet the collected OSINT data indicate that China will probably continue to put pressure on the Taiwanese military in coming days.  Sr. Col. Shi Yi, spokesman of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said on Wednesday that the Command’s troops will continue to “organize normalized combat-readiness security patrols in the Taiwan Strait.” The PLA is starting to “normalize” its activities, including drills east of the median line, adding to the pressure it has already exerted on Taiwan, said Collin Koh, a Singapore-based regional military expert, in a recent interview with RFA. A Taiwan Air Force F-16V taking off from Hualien airbase during a recent drill. CREDIT: Taiwan Defense Ministry Less autonomy for Taiwan On Wednesday, the Chinese government office responsible for Taiwan-related affairs released a White Paper titled “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era,” to clarify Beijing’s policy towards the island that it considers a Chinese province. This is the third White Paper on Taiwan, the previous ones were published in 1993 and 2000. “We are one China, and Taiwan is a part of China,” the paper said. “Taiwan has never been a state; its status as a part of China is unalterable,” it reiterated. “Peaceful reunification and One Country, Two Systems are our basic principles for resolving the Taiwan question and the best approach to realizing national reunification,” the White Paper said, adding that “certain political forces have been misrepresenting and distorting its objectives.”  “Lack of details on ‘Two Systems’ compared with the 1993 and 2000 papers suggests an arrangement that might involve less political and legal autonomy for Taiwan,” Amanda Hsiao, China Senior Analyst at the Crisis Group think-tank, wrote on Twitter. The White Paper also provided guidelines for the post-reunification governance over the island. “We maintain that after peaceful reunification, Taiwan may continue its current social system and enjoy a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the law,” it said. However, while both the 1993 and 2000 White Papers pledged that China would not send troops or administrative personnel to be stationed in Taiwan following unification, the 2022 version did not have that line, said Crisis Group’s Hsiao. For the first time Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was mentioned in the paper. “The actions of the DPP authorities have resulted in tension in Cross-Straits relations, endangering peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, and undermining the prospects and restricting the space for peaceful reunification,” it said. “These are obstacles that must be removed in advancing the process of peaceful reunification,” it said, delivering a clear threat to President Tsai Ing-wen’s party.” Recently, China’s ambassador to France provoked an outcry when he said during a TV interview that Taiwanese people will be re-educated after reunification with the mainland. “We will re-educate. I’m sure that the Taiwanese population will again become favorable over the reunification and will become patriots again,” Ambassador Lu Shaye told BFM TV. The Taiwanese authorities have “effectively indoctrinated and intoxicated” the population through de-Sinicization policies, Lu said in another interview. “Re-education” is the indoctrination technique used by several authoritarian regimes against dissent. China has been criticized by foreign countries and human rights groups for its re-education programs for the Uyghurs in its northwestern Xinjiang province.  

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Woman killed, son injured, in shelling of Chin state village

A 55-year-old woman was killed and her son was injured when a shell hit a village during fighting between junta forces and local militia in Hakha city, the capital of Myanmar’s Chin State. Local residents told RFA Wednesday’s battle broke out between the Hakha Chin Land Defense Force and the military’s Ka La Ya 266 battalion near the city’s ministerial residences. A local, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, told RFA an artillery shell landed on a house in Hniarlawn village, 11 kilometers (7 miles) from Hakha city. “She was hit by the artillery shell and died on the spot while she was cooking in the kitchen,” the resident said. “One of her sons was wounded in the hand. Her body has been left there for now because everyone has fled to the forest.” The woman was cooking in her kitchen when the shell hit her home. CREDIT: Chin Journal Calls by RFA to Military Council Spokesman Gen. Zaw Min Tun went unanswered on Thursday. This is not the first time fighting has affected Hniarlawn village, which houses more than 600 people in over 100 homes. Last month, 22-year-old Salai Manliansan was shot dead by junta troops there, according to residents. Battles break out daily in Chin state, causing many locals to flee their homes and set up makeshift camps in the jungle. UNICEF says the state, in the west of the country, has the highest poverty rate of all Myanmar’s regions but aid has been slow to arrive. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said last week 866,000 people had become refugees in Myanmar in the 18 months since the Feb. 2021 coup. There are now more than 1.2 million internally displaced persons across the country, or more than 2% of the total population.

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Vietnam’s government struggles to counter what it calls “fake news”

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information & Communication is cracking down on “online fake and malicious news,” spread by users in a country where tens of millions of people use global social networking sites every day. The issue of distorted reports that could spread confusion and misinformation was brought up by legislators at the country’s National Assembly during the 14th session of the NA’s Standing Committee. State-controlled media carried quotes by Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung on Wednesday. Hung said “fake news” mainly appeared on homepages of global sites such as Facebook and YouTube. He said the multinational platforms had increased their response to Vietnamese removal requests from 20% in 2018 to 90-95% today.  Hung said before 2018 there were about 5,000 stories and videos that were deemed to be untrue by the government, which asked for them to be removed. He said the number has increased 20-fold to 100,000 stories and videos a day. Last year the ministry set up the Vietnam Counterfeit News Center to tackle the problem. It also ordered the National Cyber ​​​​Safety Center to detect “false information,” as early as possible. The processing capacity of the center has increased from 100 million messages per day to 300 million. The ministry has also issued an online code of conduct to establish standards of behavior by social network users and persuade them to act responsibly in their written and video posts. Hung said since the beginning of the year hundreds of violations on spreading “fake news” have been recorded and handled. A number of cases identified as criminal violations have been transferred to the Ministry of Public Security. Facebook said 20 million Vietnamese use the social networking site every day, 17 million of them on mobile devices. The country is 13% above the global average in terms of daily usage, Facebook said. YouTube had 66.63 million users in Vietnam last year, according to the data website Statista.com, which estimates the number will rise to 75.44 million by 2025. Vietnam led the Asia Pacific in terms of the number of YouTube broadcasters late last year, according to local website VNExpress, with 25 million live streamers.

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