#Thailand – TAO chief and four others held over Big C bombing

Suspected murder of owner of pickup used in Pattani blasts

FIVE MEN, including a Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) chief, have been detained for questioning over their alleged involvement in the broad daylight bomb blasts in Pattani province, Fourth Army Region Commander Lt-General Piyawat Narkwanich said yesterday.

This is the first time that a state official has been identified and detained for alleged involvement in the insurgency in the deep South. Piyawat did not name the TAO chief.

The chief of Pattani’s Nong Chik district was arrested after another suspect implicated him in the alleged murder of a pickup owner and the theft of the vehicle that was used in the attack in the province’s Muang district on Tuesday.

 Evidence found at the scene and footage from the Big C department store’s security camera led to the arrest of the suspects, Piyawat said.

The five suspects allegedly stole the pickup of Yala resident Nuson Kajornkam, which was used in the car-bomb attack at the Big C outlet.

Piyawat said there was a likelihood that Nuson had been killed as one of the five detained suspects had confessed to wiping blood from the pickup.

The body of Nuson was later found in a paddy field in Pattani’s Nong Chik district. His wife earlier said that someone had telephoned Nuson on Monday, saying he wanted to buy items from him in Pattani.

She said her husband left at around 10am on Tuesday for Pattani. Nuson’s vehicle, bearing Yala licence plate Bor Jor 3303, was later packed with explosives and parked at the Big C store where it exploded at about 2.30pm, leaving more than 80 injured, including children.

Investigators have concluded that the pickup was stolen from a mosque in Ban Mai, a village in Nongchik district’s Tambon Kohpoh in Pattani.

Witnesses told police they saw four men surrounding the pickup before the owner was killed and his body was taken away in another pickup. Despite a fresh concrete floor having been laid, bloodstains were found at the spot identified by the witnesses.

Piyawat called for understanding from the public, as tighter security would mean difficulties in commuting.

“Authorities will be checking every vehicle, including ice-cream trucks because the insurgents are trying to adjust their operations, so we have to be one better than them,” he said.

The insurgents’ attack on the Big C department store in Pattani had led to great loss of support among Thai Muslim local residents, Piyawat said. The bomb attack had most affected Thai Muslims who were shopping in the store, including children, he added. About 95 per cent of the population in the area is Thai Muslim.

“The blasts have badly affected not only the Thai Muslim community but also every group of society, particularly women and children. They are just people who went to the store to buy things before going home,” Piyawat said.

Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said police had been warned about the Big C bombing about an hour before the attack.

Source – TheNation

#Thailand – Pattani bombers targeted back-to-school shoppers.

Police forensics specialists and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad on Wednesday morning inspected the scene outside a Big C department store in Pattani’s Mueang district where a powerful car bomb had exploded the previous day, injuring 61 people.

Investigators believe the culprits parked a pickup truck at the store’s entrance containing two cylinders of cooking gas in its rear cab space. 

The explosion occurred at about 2.30pm on Tuesday when the store was crowded with parents and their children buying school materials for the new semester.

Source – TheNation

#INDONESIA – ASEAN lawmakers alarmed at conviction of Jakarta governor

Lawmakers across Southeast Asia have expressed concern over the sentencing of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, to two years in prison for blasphemy on Tuesday.

“The verdict is deeply disconcerting not only for Indonesia but for the entire ASEAN region. Indonesia was thought to be a regional leader in terms of democracy and openness. This decision places that position in jeopardy and raises concerns about Indonesia’s future as an open, tolerant, diverse society,” said Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament and chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

“Ahok has become a victim of rising extremism and religious identity politics. But this decision has impacts beyond justice for one individual. It is a triumph for intolerance and an ominous sign for minority rights. At a time when fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, are under increasing threat region-wide, this verdict sends the wrong signal to Indonesia’s neighbors in the ASEAN community,” he said in a written statement.

Ahok, Jakarta’s second Christian governor after Henk Ngantung (1964-1965), was convicted of blasphemy by the North Jakarta District Court and sentenced to two years in prison.

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The charges stemmed from a September speech, in which he invoked a verse from the Quran in criticizing the arguments of those who suggested that Muslims could not vote for a Christian leader.

APHR said the ruling could embolden religious hard-liners in the country and called into further question Indonesia’s harsh Blasphemy Law, which permits prison sentences of up to five years for those found guilty.

Source – TheNation

Residents yet to get Myanmar-China pipeline compensation

Despite the fact that the Myanmar-China pipeline has started to import oil, local residents have yet to receive the compensation due to them for damage to their crops arising from digging works on the pipeline.

Crops had been pressed down by soil and landslides have occurred on cultivated fields near the Myanmar-China oil pipeline in the Ngape township of the Magwe Region due to extension of the oil pipeline. Aggrieved farmers said that they had not received compensation even though they have been waiting for more than five years.

“More than 10 letters have been sent and letters have also reached Nay Pyi Taw. We sent letters twice to the current government. We have also been called to meet officials once. But, nothing has come out of it,” said farmer Daw Hla Yi from Gote Kyi village in Ngape township.

Another farmer, U Yan Naung Tun said although the Magwe Region land and crops compensation group, township land records department and ward and village land committee made a field trip in February 2012 they did not visit the areas where the crop was damaged.

“Two years after this field trip, we were given money as assistance for our damages. But we don’t want assistance money, we want full compensation. They have to compensate us at these rates – K20,000 for a coffee plant and K120,000 for a lime plant or lemon plant and so on. But they just paid us K3.99 million per acre. Now, some places cannot be cultivated anymore,” said Daw War War from Gote Kyi village.

The Myanmar-China oil pipeline cuts through plantations and villages in the Magwe Region. (Nay Aung/The Myanmar Times)

Although some financial assistance had been given on June 10, 2016 for damages suffered, 7 farmers refused to accept this assistance as they claim it was 10 times less than the amount of damages suffered.

One of the farmers, Daw Hla Yi, said some of the farmers took the money as they had no choice because they were flat broke.

The Myanmar-China oil pipeline cuts through the following plantations; the Gote Kyi, Bone Baw, Soon Tet, Lin Tet and Pa Bae villages in Ngape township.

U Nay Myo Kyaw, a minister in the Mandalay regional government, told The Myanmar Times that the regional government should push for compensation and read the farmers reports.

“Whether the amount of compensation will cover the loss or not will depend on how they negotiate. If the farmers are not satisfied with the amount then we [the government] have a duty to urge the compensation team. Myanmar and Chinese governments signed an MoU for compensation. The compensation team has a responsibility,” he said.

Source – mmtimes

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#Cambodia – Ground broken for oil refinery

After years of delays and setbacks, the Cambodian firm set to operate the Kingdom’s landmark oil refinery finally broke ground yesterday on a $1.62 billion project with an updated completion date set for the middle of 2019.

The oil refinery, which will be built on 365 hectares across Kampot and Sihanoukville provinces, was first expected to be completed in 2014 after receiving full financial funding from the Export-Import Bank of China in December 2013.

Developed by private firm Cambodia Petrochemical Company (CPC), the refinery plans did not move forward until May of last year when the company granted a $620 million first phase construction contract to the state-owned Chinese National Petroleum Company. Construction was then outsourced to China’s Sino Great Wall International Engineering Group.

When all phases of the project are finally completed, the facility is expected to have an annual refining capacity of 5 million tonnes of crude oil, according to Vinh Hour, chairman of CPC. He added that the refinery would reduce the need for imports and improve national security by creating domestic reserves.

“Any country that does not have a stockpile of petroleum can be in a dangerous situation because if there is uncertainty in the international market and supply stops, the economy will grind to a halt,” he said.

Hour said that the refinery project was delayed for numerous years because of a prolonged environmental impact assessment process and a long wait for Chinese financial backers to give the go ahead for construction.

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The refinery would be dependent on crude imports from the Middle East in the near term and would initially be used for domestic distribution, though Hour claimed that once Cambodia produces its own oil, the facility would help the country become a net exporter.

KrisEnergy, the Singaporean firm with full rights to Cambodia’s Block A oil field in the Gulf of Thailand, is close to finalizing a revenue sharing agreement with the Cambodian government to begin the first domestic crude oil production. Extraction could begin within 24 to 26 months of the agreement.

Cheap Sour, director general of the general department of petroleum at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said the refinery would fulfill domestic demand while lowering prices at the pump.

“We hope that the oil refinery project will lower the price of petroleum in the market and benefit consumers,” he said, adding that the waste from the factory can be used to produce plastic and fertilizer.

“This refinery will help us to gain energy independence,” he said.Danish petroleum expert Tommy Christensen said that while the refinery could add “national value” to Cambodia’s energy supply chain, it would be difficult for the company to be profitable as long it relied on large amounts of crude imports.

“Cambodia’s national interest is to have their own crude production and possible refining capacity, but as long as they have to import crude oil in competition with neighboring countries, in particular Thailand, then the economics might not work for Cambodia,” he said.

He added that once Block A finally begins production, having domestic capabilities could place Cambodia on the global energy trade map.

However, he said the refinery was built with a fundamentally flawed business model as it was not a Cambodian state-run initiative, which would have created more value for the economy.

“This is not a Cambodia initiative, but a private sector and Chinese strategic interest initiative,” he said. “And due to [strict] regulations in [China], Cambodia is the nearest country they can invest in.”

“If Cambodia was really the owner of the refinery, with its own crude oil production in years to come, then taxation and revenue from this refinery would benefit the economy on a larger scale.”

Han Phoumin, an energy economist for the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia, said the venture could occupy a unique and lucrative place in the domestic market due to the fact that oil imports to Cambodia are heavily monopolized.

However, he noted that if the refinery was primarily built to feed China’s energy appetite, it could struggle with established competition.

“Of course, any refinery in Southeast Asia will find it difficult to compete with Singapore’s refineries which can produce efficiently with the best quality products at a fair price,” he said. “It should be cautioned that many refineries in Asia cannot make profit.”

Source – PhnomPenhpost

#AirAsia opens new routes from Indonesia to Mumbai, Macau

AirAsia has opened new international routes to Mumbai, India, and Macau, China, to tap into high demand among tourists from the two countries.

“The growing number of Chinese and Indian tourists coming to Indonesia boosts our spirit to launch the new routes,” said AirAsia Group CEO for Indonesia Dendy Kurniawan on Wednesday, as quoted by tempo.co.

Dendy added that the company was committed to supporting the government’s efforts to develop Indonesian tourism by extending its route network and offering services at affordable prices.

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AirAsia Indonesia is set to operate the direct flight from Jakarta to Macau three times per week in a first phase starting on Aug. 7 and four times per week starting on Sept. 1 for the second phase. With promo fares starting from Rp 888,000 for the period of Aug. 7 to June 5, the new service will use an Airbus A320-200 that can accommodate 180 passengers.

Meanwhile, the Mumbai route will start on May 19 and connect to Bali – with a transit of 65 minutes in Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia X Indonesia plans to serve the flight seven times per week using aircraft that can accommodate 377 passengers.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Read also: AirAsia to launch Denpasar-Tokyo route

#Thailand – Facebook lese majeste charges

SIX PEOPLE were charged and put on remand for alleged royal defamation, sedition, and computer crimes on Wednesday after being in military custody since last weekend, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Among the six was Prawet Prapanukul, a human rights lawyer widely known for defending red-shirt political prisoners such as Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul.

Prawet has denied he posted provocative and insulting messages against the monarchy on Facebook. He has been charged with lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition.

Another suspect who was identified as Danai faced the same charges but officers who brought the case to court did not describe the details of his alleged crimes, only saying he was the same person facing an arrest warrant dated April 28, the TLHR reported. Danai has denied the charges. The four others were accused of defaming the monarchy and committing computer crimes by sharing a Facebook post regarding the mysterious disappearance of the Siamese Revolution plaque. 

Three of them admitted the crimes while the fourth denied the charges. The criminal court rejected bail requests for the six and ordered that they be remanded in custody until May 14.

The THRL stated the six might have been detained in the 11th Military Circle since last Saturday. Relatives and lawyers had not been able to contact them since then, the THRL wrote on its website.

Source – TheNation

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Palangkaraya hopes to be chosen as Indonesia’s new capital

The Central Kalimantan administration said it was hopeful that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would move the nation’s capital to Palangkaraya, saying such a move would fulfill the “dream of Indonesia’s founding fathers.”

The province’s capital was reportedly among cities being studied in regard to their readiness to become Indonesia’s new capital.

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Central Kalimantan Governor Sugianto Sabran, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician, said he hoped Palangkaraya was named the country’s new capital during Jokowi’s presidency, claiming the province had the “potential to be on par with other more developed provinces” in Indonesia.

“We just pray the plan materializes […] Central Kalimantan is in the center of Indonesia and less prone to earthquakes,” Sugianto said at his official residence in Palangkaraya.

The government included Palangkaraya on the list because Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, had planned to move the capital city there.

National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro told Antara earlier that the government had expected a final decision on an alternative capital city “within this year.”

(Read also: Indonesia studies new sites for capital city)

Source – TheJakartaPost

 

Malaysia, Indonesia to cooperate in Marine Tourism Triangle

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya and Malaysia’s Tourism and Culture Deputy Minister Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Marine Tourism Triangle Cooperation that will establish a cruise route between Langkawi in Malaysia, Phuket in Thailand and Sabang in Aceh province.

The agreement was made in Bangkok on Wednesday, during the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) 2017 Global Summit.

“We want to build a yacht and a sailing route that will allow travelers to visit three countries on one cruise,” said Arief.

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“After the Sail Sabang 2017 [event] in December, there will be a marine tourism project that is going to connect the three ports,” he added.

The agreement aims to help promote the Triangular Sailing Passage between Langkawi, Phuket and Sabang.

During a recent meeting with Arief in Bangkok, Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said that Phuket has agreed to join the cooperation and would soon sign the MoU.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Top 10 most attractive Chinese cities for foreigners

Shanghai ranked as the “most attractive” city for foreign residents due to its international atmosphere and multicultural environment, according to an annual survey.

Beijing remained second, thanks to its advantages in healthcare and educational resources, while Hangzhou also held onto third place.

The rankings, released on April 15, are based on a survey of about 25,000 expatriates nationwide in December and January.

The criteria ranged from living environment and local culture to administrative services and favorable policies for foreign residents.

The China Society for Research on International Professional Personnel Exchange and Development launched the annual survey in partnership with International Talent magazine in 2010 as a way to promote the nation’s cities.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 cities for foreigners.

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  1. Shanghai
  2. Beijing
  3. Hangzhou
  4. Qingdao
  5. Tianjin
  6. Shenzhen
  7. Suzhou
  8. Guangzhou
  9. Nanjing
  10. Changchun

This article appeared on the China Daily newspaper