Asian Reporter Info
From The Asian Reporter, V29, #09 (May 6, 2019), page 2.
Myanmar pardons 9,551 prisoners but not two reporters
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — More than 9,500 prisoners are being released in Myanmar under a presidential amnesty, but they don’t include two Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters reporters. The Facebook page of the Office of President Win Myint says he has signed a pardon for 9,551 prisoners, including 16 foreigners, released nationwide on the occasion of the country’s traditional New Year. Official lists of those to be freed are usually not made public, but activists monitor releases, especially at Yangon’s Insein Prison, where most important detainees are held. Sympathizers waited outside the prison for the possible release of two Reuters reporters jailed for breaking the Official Secrets Act, but they were not freed. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says it knew of only two political detainees, imprisoned since 2000, being released.
Devotees nailed to crosses on Good Friday in Philippines
SAN PEDRO CUTUD, Philippines (AP) — Several Roman Catholic devotees were nailed to wooden crosses in a gory Good Friday ritual in the Philippines, and others flogged themselves or took part in religious plays to reenact Jesus Christ’s suffering. Four men and a woman wearing crowns of twigs were escorted by villagers dressed as Roman centurions and nailed to crosses on a dusty hill in San Pedro Cutud village. Similar reenactments played out in nearby farming towns. Thousands, including many tourists, watched the annual spectacle. The Catholic Church frowns upon it, instead calling on the faithful to mark Lent with prayers and acts of charity. Prior to the reenacted crucifixions, dozens of penitents beat their bare backs with sharp bamboo sticks and wood. Some had their backs cut to keep them bloody.
Four wives of Abu Sayyaf commanders arrested
ZAMBOANGA, The Philippines (AP) — Philippine police say they have captured four wives of Abu Sayyaf commanders who take care of their financial transactions, help procure guns and bomb parts, and arrange the travels of foreign militants to the country. Police say the women were arrested in raids on houses in southern Zamboanga city where authorities seized two grenades, a bag of suspected ammonium nitrate, and electrical parts that can be used to make bombs. Police say the women work under Abu Sayyaf leader Hajan Sawadjaan, who is the main suspect in the January 27 bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral during a mass that killed 23 people in nearby Sulu province. The cathedral attack by two suspected suicide bombers sparked the latest military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf.
Malaysia to revive major China-linked property project
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government says it will resurrect a multibillion-dollar property project in Kuala Lumpur involving a Chinese state company, calling it a contribution to China’s "Belt and Road" infrastructure initiative. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says the cabinet agreed to reinstate the Bandar Malaysia project, which is expected to cost 140 billion ringgit ($33.8 billion). He said the project, which is 40-percent owned by the government, will be developed with the same consortium partners, local developer Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and China Railway Engineering Corp. The project was started by the indebted 1MDB state investment fund, which sold a 60-percent stake to the consortium. The project was terminated in May 2017 due to a payment dispute. The 1MDB scandal led to former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s election ouster last May.
Thousands march in Hong Kong against extradition law
HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Hong Kong in opposition to changes to an extradition law that many see as eroding the territory’s independent legal system. Many of those who took part carried yellow umbrellas, recalling Hong Kong’s massive 2014 pro-democracy protests, the leaders of which have been sentenced to up to 16 months in prison. Hong Kong police said around 22,800 people took part in the protest at its peak period. Participants carried placards accusing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam of "selling out" Hong Kong, and called on her to resign. Revisions to the law would make it easier to send criminal suspects to mainland China, where they could face vague national security charges and unfair trials. Hong Kong’s legal system offers greater protections than in mainland China.
China seizes 2,700 ivory tusks in massive smuggling case
BEIJING (AP) — China has seized more than 2,700 ivory tusks in what customs authorities are calling the country’s biggest smuggling case in years. China’s Customs Administration announced that it confiscated nearly 7.5 tons of ivory on March 30. The illicit goods came from an international criminal group that has been smuggling ivory for some time, authorities said, noting that 20 suspects are now in custody. Since the start of the year, customs officers have seized a total of 8.5 tons of ivory products through 53 investigations. An additional 129 cases involved the smuggling of other endangered animal products, including pangolin scales, shark fins, and turtle shells. The ivory seized March 30 came from Nigeria and other African countries, according to officials. It was shipped across multiple countries, hidden in cargo containers of wood, and kept in an old Chinese waste factory while the suspects prepared to sell it. China has cracked down on smuggling in recent years and implemented in 2018 a total ban on all trade in ivory products. The ban does not cover the semiautonomous port of Hong Kong, which remains a major transit point for endangered species products and other contraband. The financial center is now working toward a complete ban on the local ivory trade, slated to begin by 2021.
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