Philippines’ Catholic leaders grapple with Duterte presidency – National Catholic Register

Rodrigo Duterte (red shirt) speaking at Manila’s Rizal Park on May 7, 2016 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA — After Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s succession of tirades against the country’s Catholic Church leaders, bishops hardly expected a presidential climb down, even after their entreaty asking the government to ease up on a violent anti-drugs campaign. In less than eight months, more than 7,600 people, mostly drug traffickers and drug users, have been executed extrajudicially, often by a gunshot to the head, their bodies left on the blood-strewn street as a warning. Some have been killed in police operations and some have been murdered by unidentified paramilitary squads. The bloodshed prompted a February pastoral letter signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which said, “This traffic in illegal drugs needs to be stopped and overcome. But the solution does not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers.”

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Piracy falling fast across Asia, figures show – Nikkei Asian Review

Fishing boats moored at Banda Aceh (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA — Maritime piracy attacks in Asia fell by more than two-thirds in the first half of 2016 compared to a year ago, suggesting that regional efforts to reduce the number of incidents are making headway amid a global decline in the number of ships seized or ambushed. Even so, Indonesia remains a hotspot that in the first half of the year saw about one quarter of all piracy attacks reported worldwide take place in its waters. In addition, the waters between Malaysia and Indonesia remain dangerous because of kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which recently executed two Canadian hostages and is holding at least 10 more for ransom. “A search on our database shows 141 incidents [worldwide] this year until Sept. 5,” said Natasha Brown, an official at the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency. There were 223 incidents in the comparable period of 2015, indicating “a downward year on year trend,” Brown told the Nikkei Asian Review. The International Maritime Bureau, part of the International Chamber of Commerce, also reported that pirate attacks were down significantly in 2016 compared with a year ago, with only 98 attacks worldwide in the first six months of 2016 — the lowest in 21 years.

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Southeast Asia grapples with resurgence of ‘traditional’ piracy – Nikkei Asian Review

Fishing boats moored at Banda Aceh (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA – During the first six months of 2015, pirates launched an attack once every two weeks on average in Southeast Asian waters, according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau. “We have been busy, getting many calls, emails, even faxes,” Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, told the Nikkei Asian Review. The center was set up in 1992 as “a 24-hour and free service for shipmasters to report any piracy, armed robbery or stowaway incidents,” according to the IMB website. The increase in the number of incidents marks a return to the period between the early 1990s and 2006 when Southeast Asia was the most “pirate infested” region in the world, according to the IMB. It was subsequently overtaken by an upsurge in deadly attacks and hijackings in the waters off Somalia and East Africa, where ship crews were sometimes held captive for years.

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Britain seeks far-flung business opportunities – Nikkei Asian Review

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Indonesia President Joko Widodo at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on July 27 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA – Meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday to discuss mutual trade and investment prospects, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told media that “we [the U.K. and Indonesia] are natural business partners and there is much more we can do.” In return for considering British investments, Indonesia wants greater access to the U.K. and to the wider European market for its exports, which are mostly commodities such as palm oil, rubber, coal, coffee, copper, oil and natural gas. “The lower tariff [is] needed on Indonesian [primary] products like wood, clothing, coffee and fisheries,” Widodo said after meeting Cameron, adding that British applications for investment in Indonesian infrastructure would be considered.

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The politics of death – The Edge Review

The Indonesian parliament just before the start of a recent debate on direct local elections (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA – Despite his election on a reformist platform, Jokowi, as he is widely known, has made it clear that ending Indonesia’s death penalty for drug traffickers is out of the question. “Wars against drug mafia can’t be half-hearted, because drugs have ruined the lives of both the users and family of the users,” he posted on Facebook on January 18. David Mcrae, senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, believes Jokowi’s uncompromising stance is a disappointment, given that he came to office with “a blank slate” on capital punishment.

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Outcry after Indonesia executes 6 for drug trafficking – Los Angeles Times

Indonesia President Joko Widodo poses with supporters at Salihara, south Jakarta , before election result announcement in July  2014 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA – Indonesia’s capital punishment policy leaves it open to charges of double standards, given that the Jakarta government is seeking a pardon for Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad, an Indonesian domestic worker who has been on death row in Saudi Arabia since 2010. “It is ironic to see how we strive to save lives of Indonesians abroad from death penalty executions while in its country Indonesia practices the execution to other countries’ citizens,” said Indri D. Saptaningrum, executive director of ELSAM, a Jakarta-based human rights group.

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Rose-tinted history at Rangoon’s drugs elimination museum – The Irrawaddy

Rangoon's Drug Eradication Museum (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

RANGOON — If you’ve been to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and nearby mausoleum in Hanoi, Rangoon’s Drugs Elimination Museum has a familiar feel during Burma’s monsoon season, when a humid grayness hangs over the three-story building—a sweatier Rangoon version of Hanoi’s hoary and drizzly December days.

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