Australians freed after they ‘hurt the feelings of all Malaysians’

Nine Australian men who provoked anger in Malaysia by donning skimpy swimwear bearing the Muslim-majority country’s flag at a Formula One race were let off with no charges on Thursday. Four days after their arrest, the men were taken to a Malaysian court to face potential charges of public indecency and national insult. But after expressing remorse – and getting a strong reprimand from a Malaysian judge – they were released without charge. “Your conduct on October 2 was totally inappropriate by dressing down to your swimming trunks,” Judge Harith Sham Mohamad Yasin told them. “It hurt the feelings of all Malaysians to display the flag in such a manner.”

What next? Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had little sympathy for the men and issued a warning to Australians travelling abroad. “What might be seen as a foolish prank or Aussie ‘blokey’ behaviour in Australia can be seen very differently in another country,” she said.

Duterte tells Obama he’ll take arms from Russia and China, if not the U.S.

Not a week goes by without Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte creating headlines. Last week, Duterte publicly told US President Barack Obama to “go to hell”, claiming the United States had refused to sell some weapons to his country. No problem, Duterte claimed, because Russia and China are willing suppliers, waiting to do business. “If you don’t want to sell arms, I’ll go to Russia. I sent the generals to Russia and Russia said ‘do not worry, we have everything you need, we’ll give it to you’. And as for China, they said ‘just come over and sign and everything will be delivered’.”

What next? Duterte’s outbursts have done little to dent his popularity. Only 11 per cent of 1,200 Filipinos surveyed by the Social Weather Stations agency said they were dissatisfied with his performance after 90 days in charge.

S Korean film festival marred by boycott over artistic independence

The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) kicked off on Thursday in the South Korean port city, but threatened to be overshadowed by a long-running and angry dispute over artistic freedom and a boycott of the event by high-profile local cineastes. The annual event has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Busan municipal government since a screening in 2014 of a controversial documentary about the Sewol ferry disaster. The film, Diving Bell, criticised the government’s handling of the sinking in 2014 that resulted in the deaths of more than 300 people, most of them schoolchildren. A subsequent flurry of official probes targeting organisers of the festival and an unprecedented cut in state funding last year were widely seen as acts of political revenge and an assault on the festival’s independence.

What next? There is particular anger over the treatment of former BIFF director Lee Yong-kwan, who was forced to step down from his post in the face of embezzlement charges. The festival runs until October 15 and four major South Korean domestic filmmakers’ groups, including the Producers’ Guild of Korea and the Directors’ Guild of Korea, insist they will maintain their threatened boycott.

Indian police swoop on call centre accused of scamming Americans

Police officers in India detained and questioned more than 750 workers at a bogus call centre, who stand accused of stealing millions of dollars from American citizens, using a scam in which they posed as United States tax officials. Some 200 officers raided seven properties masquerading as call centres in India’s financial capital Mumbai in a massive operation. Police allege that the accused would telephone people in America and pretend to be officials working for the Internal Revenue Service, the US tax collection agency. They would tell the person at the end of the phone that they had defaulted on their tax payments and owed money. After duping the victims into revealing their bank details they would then simply withdraw the money from their accounts.

What next? India rose to become the call centre capital of the world in the early noughties. American, British and other foreign firms – which were drawn by India’s large, educated and cheaper English-speaking workforce – farmed out a broad range of jobs, from answering bank customer calls and dealing with train timetable inquiries to technological support. However, the country recently lost top spot in that particular industry to the Philippines, and is struggling to maintain its share of the global outsourcing market.

Thai monks and activists remember Thammasat University massacre

Buddhist monks opened an emotionally charged commemoration on Thursday on the 40th anniversary of a massacre of student protesters in Bangkok, as survivors reflected on a battle for democracy that appears lost in junta-run Thailand. The killings of October 6, 1976 marked a nadir in the kingdom’s blood-spattered recent history. At least 46 student protesters were shot, beaten to death or hanged from trees as they massed at Thammasat University against the return from forced exile of hated military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn.

What next? No state apology has ever been issued and no officials have been held to account for the deaths, a reflection, critics say, of a culture of impunity for the military that endures to this day.

Chinese conflicted about U.S., and wary of growing global role

Chinese people are both pleased with China’s rising global might and wary of foreign entanglements, said a report released by the Pew Research Centre. Respondents ranked the US as the biggest “major threat” to China, with 45 per cent voicing concern about US power.

What next? Answers showed unease over China’s involvement in foreign affairs. While 75 per cent said China played a more important global role than 10 years ago, 56 per cent wanted Beijing to focus on domestic problems. “Such self-confidence about China’s international stature coexists with some degree of anxiety and a general tendency to look inward more than outward,” said the report’s authors.

Compiled by Thomas Sturrock