ASEAN IN FOCUS

Thai junta poised to retain power as nation awaits vote results

by Joe Freeman Thailand’s election results were due Monday, with the junta appearing poised to hold on to power in a vote that saw its main rival diminished but vaulted a new pro-democracy force into the kingdom’s politics. Sunday’s poll — seen as a referendum on the military — was the first since a 2014 coup, and was held under new rules written by the junta to ease its transformation into a civilian government. Despite […]

Strong 6.1-magnitude quake jolts eastern Indonesia

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of North Maluku province in eastern Indonesia Sunday, US seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued. The quake was 150 kilometres (92 miles) northwest of the coastal town of Ternate at a depth of 37 kilometres, according to the US Geological Survey. The quake was felt in Ternate but residents were unconcerned, a local said. “I was watching TV when the earthquake suddenly happened, the jolt was […]

Thais go to polls in first general election since 2014 coup

by Sippachai KUNNUWONG / Joe Freeman Polls opened Sunday for the first Thai election since a 2014 coup, with a high turnout expected among a public who received a cryptic last-minute warning from the Thai king to support “good” leaders to prevent “chaos.” All television stations repeated the rare statement by King Maha Vajiralongkorn moments before polls opened across the politically turbulent country. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the palace is ostensibly above the […]

Jakarta opens first MRT to battle traffic

by Kiki Siregar Agence France Presse JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — Jakarta commuter Irnawati can spend up to four hours daily in her car, but now she and millions of others may get some relief as the traffic-clogged Southeast Asian city opens its first mass rapid-transit system. On Sunday, Jakarta will inaugurate the $1.1 billion project seen as crucial to tackling some of the world’s worst congestion, which can turn commutes into hours-long endurance tests. For […]

Indonesia’s Garuda cancels 49-plane Boeing 737 order after crashes

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda will call off a multi-billion-dollar order for 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after two fatal crashes involving the plane, the company said Friday, in what is thought to be the first formal cancellation for the model. “We have sent a letter to Boeing requesting that the order is canceled,” said Garuda spokesman Ikhsan Rosan. “The reason is that Garuda passengers in Indonesia have lost trust and […]

Senators ask US to sanction Myanmar army chief

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Senators called Wednesday for the United States to slap sanctions on Myanmar’s army chief, saying more needed to be done to bring accountability over the campaign against the Rohingya. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the four senators said Myanmar has shown “no credible signs of progress” despite widespread international condemnation of the killings and sexual violence against members of the mostly […]

At least two dead and dozens injured after Indonesia quake

MATARAM, Indonesia (AFP) — At least two people were killed and dozens injured Sunday after an earthquake on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok triggered a landslide, officials said. The 5.5-magnitude quake is thought to have caused the landslide at the Tiu Kelep waterfall in the north of the island. “Two people died in the landslide in the Tiu Kelep waterfall after the earthquake, one of them is a Malaysian,” a disaster agency spokesman told […]

Smuggler arrested in Indonesia with over 2,000 endangered turtles

JAYAPURA, Indonesia (AFP) — An Indonesian man has been arrested for trying to smuggle 2,000 endangered pig-nosed turtles, police said, marking the latest wildlife-trafficking arrest as the Southeast Asian nation battles the vast trade. Authorities in Papua province said they seized 2,227 of the palm-sized turtles which were stuffed into boxes on a boat docked in the remote town of Agats. “Officers saw a port worker carrying three big boxes and got suspicious,” Papua police […]

Vietnam woman in N. Korea murder case has release bid rejected: prosecutor

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AFP) — A Vietnamese woman charged with assassinating the North Korean leader’s half-brother lost her bid for immediate release Thursday as Malaysian authorities refused to drop a murder charge, days after her Indonesian co-accused was freed. “In reference to the representation submitted on March 11 to the honourable attorney-general, we got an order to proceed with the case,” lead prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad told the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala […]

Over 100 Malaysian schools shut after toxic waste dump

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — Over 100 schools in Malaysia have been closed after the dumping of toxic waste into a river caused hundreds of people to fall ill, including many children, authorities said. A lorry is believed to have dumped the waste in southern Johor state last week, sending hazardous fumes across a wide area and causing those affected to display symptoms of poisoning such as nausea and vomiting. Over 500 people, many of […]

Singapore aviation regulator bans use of Boeing 737 MAX in its airspace

SINGAPORE, Singapore (AFP) — Singapore’s civil aviation regulator Tuesday banned the use of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in its airspace following a deadly Ethiopia plane crash at the weekend. The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 went down minutes into a flight to Nairobi on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. It was the same type of jet operated by Lion Air which crashed in Indonesia in October, killing 189 passengers and crew. The […]

Malaysia court frees Indonesian in Kim Jong Nam murder case

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AFP) — A Malaysian court Monday freed an Indonesian woman accused of assassinating the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother after prosecutors withdrew the murder charge against her. Siti Aisyah had been accused alongside Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam of killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017, in a brazen Cold War-style hit that shocked the world. “Siti Aisyah […]