Duterte gives EU the finger in defence of his bloody anti-drugs crackdown
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave a profane tirade against the European Union in his latest response to critics of his anti-drug crackdown. The European Parliament last week said it was concerned about the “extraordinarily high numbers killed during police operations” and insisted Duterte must “put an end to the current wave of extrajudicial executions and killings”. Singling out France and Britain, Duterte said the parliament’s members were “hypocrites” whose colonial-era ancestors killed “thousands” of Arabs and others. “They’re taking the high ground to assuage their feelings of guilt. But who did I kill? Assuming it to be true, 1,700, who are they? Criminals,” he said. “Now the EU has the gall to condemn me. F**k you,” he said, raising his middle finger.
What next? The EU called for an investigation into the alleged excessive use of force. Instead, pro-Duterte boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao called for the president’s harshest domestic critics to step down from leading a parliamentary inquiry into the anti-drug sweep.
Japan’s defence minister reveals husband’s shares in arms firms
Eyebrows have been raised in Japan over the scale of personal assets reported by Tomomi Inada, the hawkish new defence minister in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, as well as the shares her husband holds in defence companies. The 57-year-old declared 181.78 million yen (HK$13.84 million) in assets, the largest of the 120 members of the cabinet. Included are stocks in three major defence contractors under her husband’s name. Of the Inadas’ 260,000 shares in 41 companies, 8,000 are in IHI Corp, 6,000 in Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and 3,000 in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
What next? “I feel that there is a clear clash of interests here and it is possible that this could cause some political problems for Prime Minister Abe, who has been relatively scandal-free since he has been in office,” said Stephen Nagy, associate politics professor at Tokyo’s International Christian University. “It is possible that something like this could push ordinary Japanese people in the direction of increased cynicism towards politicians because we have seen the defence budget rising 2 per cent or so a year in recent years, and owning shares in contractors means that she would directly benefit.”
Vietnam to delay approving trade deal until after US presidential elections
Vietnam will delay ratifying the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) until after the US elections, a legislator said on Wednesday, in the latest blow to the massive trade pact. Vietnam, which stands to gain enormously from the deal that spans 40 per cent of the world’s economy, had set a July target for its approval. “Everybody knows that the US is the most important member in this deal and the country is in the middle of an election,” said assembly member Dung Trung Quoc. “Therefore, Vietnam pushing back the discussion of TPP is only normal,” he said, adding that the pact still had full support from parliament.
What next? Prospects that the 12-country deal could be ratified in Washington this year have dimmed, with US lawmakers casting doubt on whether President Barack Obama’s signature Pacific trade deal – seen as being aimed at turning trade away from China – will receive substantial backing or even come to a vote. Both US presidential hopefuls, the Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, have said they oppose the TPP, meaning even bigger questions about the future of the pact.
Governments reject experts’ report into Indonesian forest fire haze
Indonesian forest fires that choked the country and neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore with smoky haze for weeks last year may have caused more than 100,000 deaths, according to researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities in the US. Other researchers, and Indonesia’s medical profession, welcomed the paper as an advance in quantifying the fires’ public health effects.
What next? Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean authorities have all dismissed the research. A spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said it “could be baseless or they have the wrong information”. Singapore’s health ministry said short-term exposure to haze would generally not cause serious health problems. Malaysian Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said officials were still studying the research, which is “computer generated, not based on hard data”. “People have died but to what extent the haze contributed to it, it’s hard to say,” he said.
Attack in restive region aggravates India-Pakistan ties even further
Militants attacked an Indian army base near the de facto border with Pakistan, killing 18 soldiers in the most deadly such attack in the region in two years. Four fighters were confirmed killed after penetrating the base in Uri, an army spokesman said. The raid comes amid tension in India-controlled Kashmir, which has seen more than two months of protests following the killing of popular separatist Burhan Wani. At least 78 civilians have died and thousands been injured in street clashes.
What next? On Wednesday at the UN, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif warned that the world ignored the tension at its peril. He told world leaders he could not ignore India’s “unprecedented” arms build-up and would “take whatever measures are necessary to maintain credible deterrence”. He also praised Wani as “the symbol of the latest Kashmiri Intifada, a popular and peaceful freedom movement”, drawing immediate condemnation from the Indian foreign ministry.
Former footballer’s food tweet sparks three-way cultural rift
Former England and Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand unwittingly sparked a cross-border food fight after suggesting rice dish nasi goreng was Singaporean, much to the chagrin of Indonesians. During a trip to watch the Singapore Grand Prix, Ferdinand tweeted a picture of himself with the dish next to the comment: “Nasi goreng lunch.. Keeping it local in #Singapore.”
What next? The suggestion the dish was not Indonesian caused horror in the archipelago nation and sparked a flood of angry tweets. “M8, its (sic) Indonesian food, actually. There’s no ‘nasi’ and ‘goreng’ in Singapore,” Agung Prasetyo tweeted at Ferdinand. That angry reaction was met with irritation in Singapore and Malaysia, where Indonesians’ defiant defence of the rice dish was contrasted with refusal to accept the blame for forest fires that blanket its neighbours with haze every year. “Ohhhh nasi goreng can claim but haze cannot,” said one Twitter user. Ferdinand later attempted to calm the bickering by tweeting: “Was there really uproar with my Nasi goreng tweet??!! Relax guys... ‘local’ in SE Asia”.