#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

#Ukraine – Kiev puts finishing touches to Eurovision as song contest gets political.

With the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest set to kick off in a few days, host city Kiev puts final touches on preparations.

With the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest set to kick off in just a few days, host city Kiev is rushing to complete the final touches on preparations for the international competition.

Kiev has started welcoming Eurovision fans and set up food stalls, performance stages and big screens in the centre of the town which will broadcast the semi-finals and final next week. But as Ukraine prepares to host the final stages of the Eurovision competition next week, a dispute remains over its decision to bar Russia’s entrant to the contest – because she had performed in Crimea after it was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russia has vowed to boycott the competition, saying Ukraine’s move had tarnished the event. Ukraine hit back by saying that Moscow had deliberately tried to provoke Ukraine.

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Relations between Ukraine and Russia soured following the annexation and the outbreak of a war between Kiev and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people. Hostilities spilled over into the glitzy Eurovision show after Ukrainian contestant Jamala unexpectedly won the contest last year with an entry that Russia called politicized.

Russia’s proposed entry, Yulia Samoylova, is due to perform in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Tuesday, May 9, coinciding with the first semi-final of Eurovision.

Ukraine expects about 12,000-14,000 spectators to attend the competition next week with millions more watching on television. It will be the second time that Kiev hosts the event.

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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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Emmanuel Macron (a Rothschild Banker) wins french elections

Emmanuel Macron the new French president.

PARIS — The European political establishment breathed a heavy sigh of relief Sunday, as French voters elected pragmatic centrist Emmanuel Macron as president over right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen, who threatened to upend Europe’s existing order, according polling agency projections.

Macron won with 65.5% of votes against 34.5% for Marine Le Pen. Le Pen called Macron to congratulate him on his victory.

Her National Front party had threatened to curb immigration, particularly for Muslims, pull France out of the European Union and return the country to the French franc currency — moves that would have caused political and economic upheaval not only in Europe, but the rest of the world.

Macron, 39, is a former investment banker and economy minister who strongly supports the European Union. He is France’s youngest ever president.

His supporters gathered outside the Louvre museum Sunday for a victory party.

Macron’s victory, coming on the heels of defeats for right-wing populist candidates in Austria and the Netherlands, appears to blunt the anti-establishment fervor sweeping Europe amid a backlash against economic stagnation, a flood of migrants pouring into their countries and a string of nerve-rattling terror attacks.

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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

Diego Simeone ‘convinced’ Atletico can pull off Real miracle

Atletico Madrid’s Argentinian coach Diego Simeone (L) gestures on the sideline with Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane in background during the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg football match Real Madrid CF vs Club Atletico de Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, on May 2, 2017. (AFP/Gerard Julien)

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes overturning a 3-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg deficit against Real Madrid would be “impossible” for others, but not for his side.

Simeone’s men must pull off a remarkable comeback in Wednesday’s second leg to avoid being dumped out of the Champions League for a fourth straight season by their cross-city rivals.

“On Wednesday we have a very difficult game. For some impossible, but not for us,” said Simeone after Atletico secured a top-four finish in La Liga for a fifth straight season with a 1-0 win over Eibar on Saturday.

“I’ve told the players it is very difficult, that we are facing the best team in the world, who score goals in every game, but that it is possible.

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“I am convinced of it. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t say it. If we are united and understand that it is a semi-final at home we have a chance.”

Wednesday’s clash is likely to be the final European game at Atletico’s Vicente Calderon as they move to the new 67,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano next season.

Atletico were given a rousing reception throughout at the Calderon on Saturday despite the disappointment of their 3-0 first-leg capitulation to Real in midweek.

And Saul Niguez’s winner 21 minutes from time ensured they now need just one more point from their final two games to guarantee third place in La Liga ahead of Sevilla and avoid a Champions League qualifier in August.

“They have been nearly six marvellous years. The fans are grateful and the players continue to give their all, to fight and raise themselves after they’ve been knocked down,” added Simeone, who took over as coach in 2011.

“We had big difficulties at the start of the season and situations that meant we lost our consistency that this team has always had.

“With two games to go we are in a strong position and we hope to be able to finish it off in the next game.”

Source – TheJakartaPost

#Thailand – 9 policemen sacked as Mae Hong Son child-sex investigation widens

. NINE MAE HONG SON police-men have been dismissed from the civil service and put under serious disciplinary investigation after be…

Source: #Thailand – 9 policemen sacked as Mae Hong Son child-sex investigation widens

NINE MAE HONG SON police-men have been dismissed from the civil service and put under serious disciplinary investigation after being implicated in the northern province’s underage prostitution scandal.

#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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Most adventurous countries in the world revealed in new ranking

The Dutch, Australians and Swedes have emerged the most adventurous travelers in the world in a new ranking that aims to identify which countries are more likely to sign themselves up for running off a cliff or jumping out of a plane and embodying the spirit of adventure.

For the Global Adventure Ranking, analysts looked at eight popular adventure activities like skydiving, bungee jumping, surfing and rock climbing on Google.

For each country, findings were calculated based on the search volume of keywords associated with these activities in the last 12 months. An average was made per 100,000 citizens in each country.

The results show that the Netherlands ranks highest for total searches of adventurous activities per capita, followed by Australia and Sweden.

The ranking was compiled by ShareaCamper, a peer-to-peer motorhome rental platform based out of Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

The report also breaks down the adrenaline-pumping activities that are most popular around the world.

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For example, per capita, the French are most inclined to hit dirt roads on their BMX bikes.

Hiking is the most popular activity in India, while the Swiss are most interested in the idea of free-falling off a bridge or bungee jumping.

And per capita, Aussies topped the ranking for expressing the most interest in skydiving, surfing and rock climbing.

Rounding out the activities is caravanning.

A second list was also compiled to reflect a ranking of countries by the overall number of searches, which is led by the United States, Germany and France.

Here are the top 10 most adventurous countries in the Global Adventure Ranking:

1. The Netherlands
2. Australia
3. Sweden
4. Germany
5. France
6. Denmark
7. Norway
8. United Kingdom
9. United States
10. Austria

This article appeared on the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper website