U.N. says Rohingya crackdown may be ‘crime against humanity’

The United Nations suggests Myanmar’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims may be crimes against humanity. The army carried out a bloody crackdown in the western state and thousands of the Muslim minority flooded over the border into Bangladesh last month, making claims of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of security forces. Some 30,000 fled their homes and Human Rights Watch says hundreds of homes in Rohingya villages have been razed to the ground. Myanmar has denied the claims, saying the army is hunting “terrorists”.

WHAT NEXT? Myanmar’s government lashed out at media reports of rapes and killings, and lodged a protest over a UN official in Bangladesh who said the state was carrying out “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya. The situation in Myanmar is removing more of the shine from Aung San Suu Kyi’s increasingly tarnished “rule”. While she has appointed former UN chief Kofi Annan to study the crisis, she appears to have done little to end persecution of Rohingya’s by the army or her Buddhist supporters, who want them out of the country.

Pakistan warns India its patience is not weakness amid tensions

Pakistan’s outgoing army chief warned India over violence in Kashmir after months of tension bubbling across the Line of Control dividing the region. “I want to make it clear to India, that taking our policy of patience [in Kashmir] as a sign of any kind of weakness will prove to be dangerous to it,” said General Raheel Sharif as he handed over command last week. “The rising state terrorism in [Indian-administered] Kashmir and India’s aggressive steps have put regional peace at risk,” he said, referring to New Delhi’s crackdown following the killing of a young Kashmiri separatist.

WHAT NEXT? In his first comments after assuming command, General Qamar Javed Bajwa signalled that the tension with India is temporary. “The situation at the Line of Control will hopefully improve soon,” he told reporters. Observers say Bajwa will offer more support to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to improve ties with Pakistan’s neighbours India and Afghanistan. Relations with Kabul have also soured amid allegations from Afghan officials that Islamabad shelters the Taliban, who have intensified attacks against the government of President Ashraf Ghani. Pakistan’s army says it has dismantled militant sanctuaries in the tribal regions, but the militants have still carried out attacks.

Suspected Islamic militants ambush Duterte’s bodyguards, soldiers

Seven bodyguards of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and two other soldiers were wounded in an ambush by suspected Islamic militants on the eve of his planned visit to the same area. Duterte, however, vowed not to cancel his trip, which came amid military operations against dozens of armed members of the Maute group hiding in an abandoned government building on Mindanao island. The attack also came the day after police said the Maute group left a bomb near the US embassy in Manila which was safely exploded.

WHAT NEXT? Two men described as Islamic State sympathisers were arrested for the Manila bombing attempt. Police said they belonged to a small Muslim armed group called Ansar al-Khilafa Philippines and wanted to impress Islamic State and divert the military’s focus from an offensive against militants in the south.

Muslims rally again against ‘blasphemous’ Chinese Christian leader

At least 200,000 conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital on Friday in the second major protest in a month against its Chinese Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, who has been accused of blasphemy. Leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, a vigilante group, gave a fiery speech to protesters in which he asserted Indonesia would be peaceful if there was no blasphemy and other problems such as gays.

WHAT NEXT? Ahok is an ally of President Joko Widodo, which puts the leader in a tight spot, since he may be seen as being lenient if his friend is not convicted of the offence. Widodo sought to ease tensions by making a surprise appearance at Friday’s rally. After prayers, he told the crowd: “Let’s all now go home peacefully”.

Thais hail their new king 50 days after death of beloved monarch

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has been proclaimed the new king of Thailand after the death of his father in October. The 64-year-old inherits one of the world’s richest monarchies as well as a politically troubled nation. He will not formally be crowned until after his father’s cremation next year.

WHAT NEXT? To many Thais Bhumibol was the only consistent force in a politically combustible country. Vajiralongkorn, who has been named successor for more than four decades, does not yet enjoy the same level of popularity. The ascension ends a period of uncertainty after the prince reportedly asked to delay his official proclamation.

Well-known brands tied to palm oil company using child labour

Global firms behind popular brands such as Kit Kat, Colgate toothpaste and Dove cosmetics use palm oil produced by children as young as eight working without safety equipment and exposed to toxic pesticides, Amnesty International claimed. The organisation traced a range of well-known products back to the palm oil company Wilmar, which it alleged employs children to do back-breaking physical labour on refineries in Indonesia. Companies including Kellogg’s, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser and Nestlé are among Wilmar’s clients, according to Amnesty.

WHAT NEXT? Amnesty called on the companies implicated to tell customers whether the palm oil in products such as Magnum ice-creams, Ariel detergent, Knorr soup, Pantene shampoo and Aero chocolate bars were made using child labour. Wilmar said it was aware of the allegations and was taking steps to remedy any failings. The companies it supplies to said they would investigate.

Compiled by Benjamin O’Rourke