Conflict prevention group plays key role in tiny southeast Asian nation – The Christian Science Monitor

Cornelio Gama, aka 'L7. in conversation in Dili (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

DILI – Cornelio Gama, aka “Elle Sette” (L7), a former member of parliament in East Timor and leader of a murky clandestine group called Sagrada Familia, had just come home from a peacemaking mission at the University of Dili in the country’s capital. “There is a dispute between the rector and the students,” he says, “so I went there to try and resolve.” Peacemaker for a morning, Gama and his brother Paulino, better known as “Mauk Moruk,” are in fact at odds with the East Timor government, which they see as illegitimate.

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‘Mama Aleta’ defends west Timor’s natural habitat – The Christian Science Monitor

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BALI, INDONESIA — Pointing to the blue, purple, and yellow scarf wrapped ornately around her forehead and temples, Aleta Baun says that her vivid garb will be a regular sight inside the East Nusa Tenggara regional parliament in eastern Indonesia. The first-time lawmaker won a seat in elections last April.

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Thai politician turned protest leader follows own script in political drama – The Christian Science Monitor

Election poster for Puea Thai, the main governing party, on a street in downtown Surat Thani (Photo: Simon Roughneen)
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2014/0207/Thai-politician-turned-protest-leader-follows-own-script-in-political-drama PHUN PHIN, THAILAND – The politician’s house is hidden behind two giant billboards, one of Thailand’s revered monarch and...

A tale of two Thailands: Why the south will boycott Sunday’s election – The Christian Science Monitor

Anti-Government poster on gate of Surat Thani election commission office (Photo: Simon Roughneen)
  http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2014/0131/A-tale-of-two-Thailands-Why-the-south-will-boycott-Sunday-s-election http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/a-tale-of-two-thailands-1.1285045 – syndicated to GulfNews SURAT THANI – For months antigovernment protesters have rallied in Bangkok, blockading roads,...

Indonesia to Australia: stop crossing the line – The Christian Science Monitor

Indonesia's foreign minister Marty Natalegawa speaks to the press at 2010 ASEAN summit in Hanoi (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

BAGAN, MYANMAR – Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said today that Australia’s recent incursions into Indonesian waters were “disturbing” and said that Canberra’s apologies for the recent incidents were not enough. “We find it unacceptable for them to simply say that it is something that had taken place without their knowledge,” says Mr. Natalegawa, speaking to the Monitor today after a meeting of southeast Asian foreign ministers in the northern Myanmar town of Bagan. Australia apologized to its northern neighbor earlier today, saying that Australian naval operations to stop so-called “boat people” from entering Australian waters had “inadvertently” crossed into Indonesian domain. Australia said that the navy’s moves were due to technical errors and happened without the government’s knowledge.

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Buddhist charity aids storm-ravished Philippines – The Christian Science Monitor

Thanking the Tzu Chi Foundation: sign on Tacloban's waterfront (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

TACLOBAN, LEYTE PROVINCE, THE PHILIPPINES –Dotted around the storm-wrecked city of Tacloban in the central Philippines are notices thanking not the government, the United Nations, or the Roman Catholic Church. They give gratitude to the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwanese Buddhist charity that made its presence felt in the weeks after a devastating November typhoon. “Maraming Salamat Po [thank you very much] Tzu Chi Foundation,” reads one such cloth banner draped over a ruined shopfront on Tacloban’s smashed-up waterfront, a half mile or so from the town’s main Catholic church, Santo Niño. The Philippines’ 82 million Catholics comprise the third-biggest such population, behind Brazil and Mexico. It is a country known for public displays of devotion, taking in such elemental pageantry as annual voluntary and nonlethal crucifixions in memory of the death of Jesus.

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Organic farming buds in Laos – The Christian Science Monitor

Trader Sengphachan Phommaxay and customer Sonethong Syhalath cut a deal at That Luang organic market (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

VIENTIANE, LAOS – Every Wednesday, Sengphachan Phommaxay wakes at 4 a.m. and heads across town to the That Luang market in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. There she meets a truckload of papaya, onions and pumpkins dispatched that morning from her family’s 32 acre farm, which sits 20 miles outside Vientiane in green, sun-dappled countryside close to the Mekong River. As the sun comes up and orange-clad monks plod barefoot around the funereal Vientiane streets seeking alms, the 23-year-old business student gets in some hands-on practice for life after graduation — selling the family’s produce at Vientiane’s main organic market. “10,000 kip for one kilo,” or $1.25 for just over two pounds, says Ms. Sengphachan, a student at the Lao American College, when asked how much the papaya costs.

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