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Security expert: Rio Olympic torch is target for protesters

Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

Torch protest: In this Aug. 5, 2015, file photo, people protest against the 2016 Olympic Games while they hold banners that read in Portuguese "Olympics for whom?" in front of the headquarters of the Olympic Organizing Committee in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The former head of national public security in Brazil expects the Olympic torch relay to be targeted by protests. The relay around Brazil kicks off May 3 in the capital Brasilia. (AP/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

Brazil's former head of public security expects protesters to target the torch relay for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The relay around Brazil kicks off May 3 in the capital Brasilia. Colonel Jose Vicente da Silva told The Associated Press that the impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff and the countless problems surrounding South America's first Olympics make the torch a convenient symbol of discontent.

"Wherever the torch goes, there will be a camera on it," Silva said. "There will be banners for or against President Rousseff. There is a chance of big protests during the torch relay."

Brazil is buried in its deepest recession since the 1930s, made worse by numerous graft and corruption investigations that have touched many of Brazil's most powerful politicians - from Rousseff to Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, who has been the main force behind the Olympics.

"The Olympics as a whole are a big stage with a lot of spotlights," Silva said. "Everyone in the world will be watching and that stimulates opportunism."

The relay visits 329 cities and towns, ending in Rio's Maracana Stadium at the opening ceremony on Aug. 5. Organizers say it will reach 90 percent of Brazil's 200 million people, with 12,000 torchbearers carrying the flame.

"To make it even more complicated, the relay will begin in Brasilia - home to all politicians," Silva said.

Rousseff is fighting impeachment charges and could be out of office when the relay starts. She could also be out of office when the games begin, raising questions about who will officially declare the Olympics "open", with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach standing alongside.

The lighting of the Olympic flame will take place April 21 in the Greek city of Olympia, before the torch is handed over in Athens for the trip to Brazil.

The relay is backed by several top Olympic sponsors including Coca-Cola, which is believed to pay about $100 million for its sponsorship deal with the IOC.

Asked by AP about possible protests, Coca-Cola declined to comment in an email.

Coca-Cola, which is also a FIFA sponsor, got caught up in protests in Brazil during the 2013 Confederations Cup. At one point, it was forced to cover a giant Coca-Cola bottle in front the Maracana Stadium, hiding it from the view of cameras.

In 2008, the IOC and Beijing organizers conducted an international torch relay that traveled around globe to celebrate China's first games. It was targeted by violent anti-China and pro-Tibet protests, prompting the IOC to do away permanently with the international portion of the relay.

Nike, which is not an Olympic sponsor, last month canceled the presentation of a new strip for Brazil's national soccer team. This came a day after protests against Rousseff's choice of former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff.

While protests are expected against the torch, at least one activist group —The Popular Committee — is planning alternate events just days before the games open.

Committee member Orlando Santos said "The Exclusion Games" would be staged in downtown Rio, far from the Olympic Park in suburban Rio.

"There will be too much security around the Olympic Park, and there will not be space for us," Santos said.

The group also staged a "Poverty Torch Relay" several days ago, highlighting the fate of 77,000 people that Rio's city hall says have faced forced eviction since Rio was awarded the games in 2009.

The activist group contends that the Rio Olympics will benefit only real estate and construction interests, leaving ordinary citizens with few advantages and most of the costs.

Mario Andrada, the spokesman for the Rio games, said organizers were aware of possible problems on the torch relay, which dates from the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

"We can't run the risk to having the torch taken as a main piece for manifestations (demonstrations)," Andrada said. "So we need to make sure we tell the story of the torch in the best possible way."


AP reporter Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report.


Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade (**)

Categories: Indonesian News

After Brussels, leaders tackling threat of nuclear terrorism

Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

Against nuclear terrorism: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine walk downstairs from a plane upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday. Erdogan is in Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. (AP/Jose Luis Magana)

Still reeling from attacks in Brussels and Paris, world leaders are wrestling this week with the chilling prospect of the Islamic State group or other extremists unleashing a nuclear attack on a major Western city.

Preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials is the central focus as President Barack Obama hosts leaders from roughly 50 countries for a nuclear security summit starting Thursday. Despite three previous summits and six years of Obama's prodding, security officials warn that the ingredients for a nuclear device or a "dirty bomb" are alarmingly insecure.

"We know that terrorist organizations have the desire to get access to these raw materials and to have a nuclear device," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser. Still, the White House said there was no indication of an imminent plot.

Decades after the Cold War, the threat of a nuclear war between superpowers has given way to growing concerns about non-state actors, including Islamic State and al-Qaida offshoots operating in North Africa and in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Although the US and its allies still worry about North Korea, Obama believes the threat posed by Iran has subsided due to the nuclear deal, leaving extremist groups among the likeliest perpetrators.

The havoc such an attack could wreak in an urban area like New York or London is concerning enough that leaders scheduled a special session on the threat during the two-day summit. US officials said the leaders would discuss a hypothetical scenario about a chain of events that could lead to nuclear terrorism.

Those concerns have taken on heightened significant following the March 22 attacks at a Brussels airport and subway station. Last year, authorities searching the apartment of two brothers linked to earlier attacks in Paris found video of a senior official at a Belgian nuclear waste facility. The brothers were part of the Islamic State cell that went on to strike Brussels; both died in the attacks.

On the summit's sidelines, Obama planned to meet with the leaders of China, South Korea and Japan, who all share US concerns about North Korea's nuclear program.

Yet other key players will be missing. Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to attend, as Moscow scoffed at what it deemed US efforts to take control of the process. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif canceled his trip following an Easter bombing that killed 72 people.

Some 2,000 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium being used in civilian or military programs could be turned into a nuclear bomb if stolen or diverted, the White House said. And fewer than half of the countries participating in the summit have even agreed to secure their sources of radiological material, needed for a dirty bomb.

"The policies are moving in the right direction," said Joe Cirincione, who runs the nuclear security group Ploughshares Fund. "But when you're fleeing a forest fire, it's not just a question of direction, it's a question of speed."

Nuclear security experts say there are four potential scenarios for a nuclear-related attack by an extremist group. Some are more likely than others.

The most devastating but improbable scenario involves a group stealing a fully functional bomb from a nuclear-armed country. Most nuclear experts point to Pakistan as the likeliest source, though that would require cooperation with someone on the inside of Pakistan's military.

Easier to pull off would be for IS or another group to obtain fissile material like highly enriched uranium, then turn it into a crude nuclear device delivered by truck or ship. A third possibility is that extremists could bomb an existing nuclear facility, such as the Belgian waste plant, spreading highly radioactive material over a wide area.

The most likely scenario that security experts fear is that a group could get ahold of radioactive material, such as cesium or cobalt, for a dirty bomb that could be carried in a suitcase. Those materials are widely used in industrial, academic and hospital settings, with no consistent security standards across the globe. Last year, an Associated Press investigation revealed multiple attempts by black market smugglers to sell radioactive material to Middle East extremists.

Unlike a nuclear bomb, the only people killed instantly by a "dirty bomb" would be those close to the blast site. But the blast could spread cancer-causing substances over a vast area, triggering panic and evacuations.

"Even if it is small, such an incident would create such havoc in the world that you have to take it quite seriously," said former Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who spearheaded US nuclear negotiations with Iran and North Korea before joining the Albright Stonebridge Group.

Detonated in a major city, a dirty bomb could cause tens of billions of dollars in economic damage, said Andrew Bieniawski, who studies materials security at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. People and businesses would have to be relocated — potentially for years — while the contamination is cleaned up. Few would be inclined to ever go back, a reality on display in Chernobyl, Ukraine decades after the 1986 accident.

Reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism has been a persistent theme for Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize after emphasizing nuclear disarmament. Four months into his presidency, Obama warned in a much-cited speech in Prague that nuclear weapons were "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War."


Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP (**)

Categories: Indonesian News

Microsoft pitches smart chats with computers

Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

"Conversational intelligence": A Case Western Reserve University medical student demonstrates using the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headset during the keynote address at the Microsoft Build Conference, Wednesday, in San Francisco. (AP/Eric Risberg)

Microsoft wants you to talk more with your computer — and have more useful conversations.

The giant software company is promoting new uses for Cortana — its voice-activated answer to Apple's Siri digital assistant — including the ability to interact with software "bots" that can have limited conversations with users and help with tasks like booking a hotel room, ordering a meal or arranging a delivery.

Voice-activated services like Siri, "OK Google," or Amazon's Alexa can already perform tasks for users like playing a song at a request or answering a question. Bots are smarter than traditional software apps, though, using artificial intelligence to respond to a wider range of commands and in a convenient, conversational way.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, at the opening Wednesday of the company's annual conference for software developers, touted the power of "conversational intelligence" as he outlined a long-term vision in which Cortana, a central feature of Windows 10, becomes a digital concierge for other online interactions.

"Bots are the new apps," Nadella told developers.

Lilian Rincon, a program manager for Microsoft's Skype service, demonstrated how this might work. After receiving a video message from her boss that mentioned an upcoming conference in Dublin, Rincon used Cortana to mark the dates on her calendar. Cortana then used Skype to contact a hotel chain's bot, which suggested a room and helped Rincon make a reservation for those dates.

Integrating Cortana with other companies' bots could increase the use of Microsoft's services, and make them more valuable, said analyst Ross MacMillan, who follows tech companies for RBC Capital Markets, in an email on Wednesday.

Bots are not perfect, however. Microsoft recently shut down an experimental Internet bot called "Tay" after some Twitter users taught it to make offensive statements.

Nadella acknowledged the episode Wednesday, saying it shows the importance of designing technology to be "inclusive and respectful."

Cortana isn't as well-known as Siri or OK Google. But unlike those services, which are mostly found on smartphones and tablets, Microsoft has made Cortana available on desktop and laptop PCs, via Windows 10.

But Microsoft, after seeing its business suffer because fewer people buy new PCs, has also released Cortana as an app for smartphones and tablets that run Apple's iOS or Google's Android operating software. Similarly, Skype also works on those platforms.

Microsoft is now releasing programming tools for developers to build bots that will interact with Cortana. Not surprisingly, Microsoft would be glad to see people use these services on Skype, the Internet video and voice-calling service that it owns. But some of its tools for creating bots will work with other messaging services: Microsoft listed Slack and standard text messaging, among others.

Microsoft Corp. also on Wednesday announced a free upgrade this summer to Windows 10 that adds some new features and expands others. The company has touted Windows 10 as the operating system for a wide range of devices, from personal computers to hand-held gadgets, Xbox game consoles and even the company's HoloLens augmented-reality headset.

Microsoft says Windows 10 is now running on 270 million devices, up from 200 million in January. Analysts say that's a respectable figure, considering it was released last July, although Microsoft is aiming for 1 billion devices in a few years.

The Windows 10 upgrade will include expanded abilities for Cortana, which will be able to provide reminders or answer questions even if it's on a device, such as a tablet or smartphone, where the user hasn't unlocked the screen.

Another new feature will extend Microsoft's biometric software, Windows Hello, so users can log into more apps and online accounts through fingerprint or facial recognition. The upgrade also expands the ways in which uses can write their own notes or draw lines and sketches with a digital pen on websites, maps and other images that are displayed on their screens.(**)

Categories: Indonesian News

Amnesty report alleges labor abuse at Qatar World Cup venue

Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

Forced labor: In this May 4, 2015, file photo taken during a government organized media tour, foreign workers walk between safety barricades at the site of the pitch of the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar. Migrant laborers faced abuse that in some cases amounted to forced labor while working on a stadium that will host soccer matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a new report released by Amnesty International alleged Thursday. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

Migrant laborers faced abuse that in some cases amounted to forced labor while working on a stadium that will host soccer matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a new report released by Amnesty International alleged Thursday.

Rights groups and news organizations have previously raised serious concerns about working conditions in Qatar, but the latest Amnesty report stands out because it links alleged abuses directly to work on a World Cup venue.

The group's findings will intensify pressure on Qatar to accelerate labor reforms as the tiny and immensely rich Gulf country races to transform itself with sweeping infrastructure projects ahead of the games.

Amnesty compiled the 52-page report based on interviews from February to May last year with 132 construction workers at the Khalifa International Stadium, one of several arenas that will host World Cup matches. The London-based group also interviewed 99 migrants doing landscaping work in a surrounding sports complex that is not directly related to the games, and three other gardeners working elsewhere.

Foreigners account for roughly 90 percent of the 2.5 million people living in Qatar, many of them low-paid migrant workers from South Asia. Most of the workers interviewed in the Amnesty report were from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

All of those interviewed reported some kind of abuse, including squalid or crowded living quarters, salary payments being withheld for months, and measures including passport confiscation that make it difficult to leave the country. Migrant workers elsewhere in Qatar have reported similar problems in the past.

Many in the Amnesty report said their sponsoring employer failed to obtain or renew their working permits, leaving the workers subject to fines and detention.

Each reported going into debt to pay recruitment fees — illegal under Qatari law — ranging from $500 to $4,300 to secure work. Most discovered on arrival that they would be paid less than promised by recruiters back home. Some of those interviewed reported earning basic salaries of well below $200 a month, plus allowances of around $50 a month for food.

The report's most damning findings center on what Amnesty says is evidence of forced labor involving workers employed on the refurbishment of the Khalifa stadium, a venue first built in the 1970s that is being overhauled to host World Cup matches.

The forced labor allegations involve workers employed by at least one small labor supply company contracted to provide manpower on the stadium project. The report includes comments from five workers who described being forced to work against their will after trying to leave or refusing to work because of pay disputes.

One who told Amnesty he tried to return home because of consistently late pay alleges his boss threatened to withhold his salary and told him to "keep working or you will never leave."

Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty's Gulf migrant rights researcher, said he believes many other workers face similar situations, but confirming that is difficult because of the challenges in reaching workers and the risks they face in speaking to researchers.

He acknowledged that Qatari authorities have taken some steps to improve labor conditions, but said they must put far more priority on the issue as preparation for the games intensifies.

"Clearly there's a problem here. Whatever they've done has not been enough to prevent abuse," he told The Associated Press. "What we'd like to see is not excuses but actual action."

Qatar has announced planned changes to its "kafala" employee sponsorship system, which critics say leaves workers open to exploitation and abuse. The system, versions of which are used throughout the oil-rich Gulf states, gives bosses considerable power over workers by effectively binding them to a given employer and, in Qatar's case, forcing them to secure exit permits before they can leave.

Changes signed into law by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani last October are designed to make it easier for employees to change jobs or leave. Workers still won't be able to immediately change jobs or depart whenever they want, however, and the changes don't take effect until later this year.

The government has already made other changes, including moving some laborers into improved accommodations and instituting a "wage protection system" to tighten oversight of salary payments.

It says it is committed to doing more, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs telling Amnesty in a letter this month that its reform efforts are a "work in progress."

The labor regulations at World Cup sites are meant to be particularly stringent. The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is leading Qatar's development of tournament venues and other projects, requires contractors to adhere to specific worker welfare standards that it and outside auditors monitor.

The Supreme Committee acknowledged in a statement to The Associated Press that Amnesty "identified challenges in worker conditions existing during early 2015," but it said many of the issues raised in the report were addressed by June because of its own monitoring and enforcement efforts.

Problems cited by Amnesty "were not representative of the entire workforce" and were limited to four out of more than 40 companies working on the stadium — three of which are currently banned from World Cup projects, it added.

"The tone of Amnesty International's latest assertions paint a misleading picture and do nothing to contribute to our efforts," it said. "We have always maintained this World Cup will act as a catalyst for change — it will not be built on the back of exploited workers. We wholly reject any notion that Qatar is unfit to host the World Cup."

Still, pressure is mounting. The International Labor Organization earlier this month gave Qatar one year to act on findings by an ILO delegation or face the possibility of a formal "commission of inquiry" by the UN labor agency.

Concern over Qatar's human rights record also extends to FIFA, soccer's world governing body, as it works to rebuild its scandal-tarnished image. In December, FIFA tapped Harvard professor John Ruggie to draft human rights requirements for World Cup hosts and sponsors.

FIFA told the AP it remains "fully aware of the risks facing construction workers in Qatar and of the opportunity that FIFA, together with other stakeholders, has to facilitate the improvement of working conditions in the country."

It acknowledged that "challenges remain" and said it will continue to urge Qatari authorities and others involved to take steps that ensure that standards put in place by the Supreme Committee become the benchmark for construction work in Qatar.


Read the Amnesty report: www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/03/qatar-world-cup-of-shame/


Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck (**)

Categories: Indonesian News

Indo Tambang allocates most of its profit to cash-hungry Banpu

Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

Activities are carried out at a coal mining site in Balangan, South Kalimantan. (JP/R. Bertho Wedhatama)

Coal producer Indo Tambangraya Megah (ITM), controlled by Banpu Group Thailand, has transferred 99.9 percent of its profits to shareholders, instead of storing the profits in internal cash for expansion.

The company allocated 1 percent of its profits for retained earnings, despite the US$63.1 million net income booked last year. The company allocated 99.9 percent of the profits for dividends, most of which went to Banpu as the owner of 65 percent shares.

"We’ve already paid US$57.98 million or around Rp 752 per share as interim dividends on October 26, 2015. The remaining $5.07 million or Rp 68.6 billion will be distributed on April 21," Finance director Yulius Kurniawan Gozali told thejakartapost.com in Jakarta on Monday.

Leaving only $50,000 of profit for retained earnings, the company is not preparing for massive expansion.

The decision is in line with the Banpu situation, which requires cash to pay the group’s debts and investment. According to its 2015 financial statements, Banpu Plc withdrew $265.8 million in dividends from its subsidiaries, a 152 percent increase from 2014 dividends of $105.13 million.

The parent company also received $237.1 million from investment disposal in its subsidiaries’ power plants and mining sites. To raise more funds, Banpu plans to issue 2.58 billion new shares, eyeing $363.83 million in cash to repay debts and interest.

It requires huge investment for its solar power plant projects in Japan, China and Thailand. As reported by Bangkok Post, the 1,320 Megawatt (MW) project in China will be commercially run at the end of 2016.

In Indonesia, the company is set to close its Tandung Mayang site, which contributed 8 percent of 28.5 million tons of its total coal production in Indonesia last year. However, there are no plans to acquire a new site, as the $38.4 million capital expenditure (capex) in 2016 will be used for equipment.

"If we need to, we will take out a bank loan, or just grab it from our internal cash," said Yulius.

ITM has a cash balance of $268 million. According to Yulius, the acquisition will only use around 10 to 20 percent of the cash balance.

ITM operates five sites, namely Trubaindo, which has 7.3 million tons of coal reserve, Bharinto 2.8 million tons, Jorong 1.3 million tons, Indominco 13.3 million tons, and Embalut 1.2 million tons.

"This year we are targeting 26.9 million tons of coal production, compared to 28.5 million tons last year," Yulius said, adding that the drop in production was due to a decrease in ITM's average selling price to $56.40 per ton. (ags)

Categories: Indonesian News

China attempts to unravel law of the sea: Expert

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

Strong protest: Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi says the government has conveyed a note of protest to the Chinese government over the recent move of China-flagged fishing vessel MV Kwang Fey 10078 and a Chinese coast guard vessel, which entered Indonesian waters in Natuna, Riau Islands. (Kompas.com/Sabrina Asril)

China's territorial claims over traditional fishing zones in a recent dispute with Indonesia in Natuna waters has no solid basis, an expert has said.

China's actions are an attempt to unravel the negotiated bargain agreed upon within the international community as stipulated in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), said Peter Dutton, a professor of strategic studies and director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College.

"China's trying to undo the UNCLOS 1982", said Dutton, when speaking to journalists on Wednesday during a teleconference hosted by the US Embassy in Jakarta, adding that Indonesia was right to protest China’s actions.

The agreement, which stipulates the compromise in the form of exclusive economic zones, has set systematic rules on the exercise of authority over resources, he added.

The South China Sea is a pull and tug of issues of power and law, on history and sovereignty, Dutton explained.

Since China is a much more significant country among its claimants, it has enabled itself to assert power through island building and expanding of territories, the implications of which could alter strategic changes in the region while undermining international law and regional security, he further said.

One of the best possible ways to address the issue is to develop a unified position from all the countries involved in the disputed region, presenting a message that is clear and consistent that every country will abide by international law, said Dutton.

Such statement he added, would mean the recognition of the importance of peace and stability in the long term even with the compromise of political and economic interest in the short term. "A strive for a win-win solution needs a strong political will from all parties," said Dutton.

Several Southeast Asian countries have overlapping claims in the area over large territories on the strategic strait.

Indonesia, who is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, could lead the discussion of peace processes, Dutton added. "Indonesia, who has been implementing quiet diplomacy and behind the scenes leadership, should be more public. To make a clear public stance in its approach to a peaceful dispute resolution," Dutton said. (bbn)

Categories: Indonesian News

UN chief urges nations to let in more Syrian refugees

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech during a one-day conference meant to further efforts to resettle Syrian refugees at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments around the world Wednesday to let in more people from Syria, as the global body tries find new homes for almost half a million people who have fled the war-torn country.

Ban's appeal came as Europe is striving to halt the unchecked flow of migrants across the Mediterranean and through the continent's porous borders.

Police evacuated nearly 1,000 migrants from a makeshift camp near a Paris subway station Wednesday, and hundreds of people sought to cross the seas from Turkey to Greece despite European efforts to slow down the arrivals.

The Paris operation was peaceful and authorities offered the migrants temporary lodging and help applying for asylum, France's Interior Ministry said. They reportedly included people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Afghanistan who had been living beneath elevated train tracks for several weeks.

The Paris transit authority closed the Stalingrad metro station during the operation. The area has seen multiple migrant camps in recent years.

"The street should not be a refuge" for people fleeing persecution, the ministry said.

France has not seen nearly as many Syrian refugees or other migrants over the past year as Germany, but has experienced tensions around the northern port of Calais, where migrants converge in hopes of crossing into Britain.

The flow of migrants to the Greek islands, meanwhile, seems to be on the rise again as weather warms.

Figures released by the Greek government showed 766 people reached the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios and Kos in the 24 hours until Wednesday morning. The number is a roughly a three-fold jump compared with arrivals in previous days.

In Turkey, the coast guard said it rescued dozens of mostly Syrian migrants as they tried to reach Greece in an inflatable dinghy. Off the coast of Libya, a German navy vessel on Tuesday picked up scores of people trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy.

A new European Union-Turkey agreement comes into effect next week to curb the flow of migrants.

The United Nations has urged countries to ensure that people fleeing war and persecution can still find refuge abroad. Over the next three years, the UN refugee agency wants to resettle one-tenth of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees who are crowded into countries in the surrounding region.

To date, 179,000 places have been pledged, according to Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees.

Speaking at a one-day conference in Geneva, UN chief Ban called on countries to "counter fear-mongering" about refugees that has pressured governments into clamping down on migration routes.

"I ask that countries act with solidarity, in the name of our shared humanity, by pledging new and additional pathways for the admission of Syrian refugees," Ban told the gathering of officials from over 90 countries. "These pathways can include resettlement or humanitarian admission, family reunions, as well as labor or study opportunities."

Ban said countries can benefit from accepting refugees as they can bring new skills and experience to aging workforces.

"Attempts to demonize them are not only offensive. They are factually incorrect," he said. "I call on leaders to counter fear-mongering with reassurance, and to fight inaccurate information with the truth."


Categories: Indonesian News

Indonesians still largest group of foreign workers in Malaysia

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

Hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers being repatriated to Indonesia from Malaysia ride on a truck from a detention depot to Entikong on the Indonesia-Malaysia border in West Kalimantan on Dec. 8, 2015. (Kompas.com/Yohanes Kurnia Irawan)

Indonesians still make up the largest group of foreign workers in Malaysia, said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

In a written response to Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz (DAP-Raub), Ahmad Zahid said that there were 792,571 Indonesians who had foreign workers’ permits (PLKS), as of February 29 this year.

Based on the number of active permits, there are 1,978,948 foreign workers in Malaysia, he added.

Nepalis are the second-largest group of foreign labor, with 455,952 in Malaysia.

Ahmad Zahid also said there are 244,973 Bangladeshis, 138,617 Myanmars and 10,590 Indians and the rest from other countries.

Categories: Indonesian News

Govt to cut subsidized fuel prices by Rp 500 per liter

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said (left) talks with Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan during a limited Cabinet meeting on Jan. 2. Sudirman announced on Wednesday that the government had decided to cut the price of subsidized fuels.(ANTARA FOTO/Widodo S Jusuf)

The government announced on Wednesday that it would cut subsidized fuel prices by Rp 500 (4 US cents) per liter, which is expected to reduce transportation fares by 3 percent.

The government will cut the price of subsidized Premium gasoline from Rp 6,950 per liter to Rp 6,450, down by Rp 500. Similarly, subsidized diesel will drop from Rp 5,650 per liter to Rp 5,150. Kerosene remains at Rp 2,500 per liter.

"The new prices will be effective from April 1 at 12 a.m.," Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said said at a press conference at the State Palace.

The new prices will be valid until September, with the ministry planning to review fuel prices every three months. The new prices, Sudirman continued, had taken into consideration Ramadhan and Idul Fitri in June and July.

"Hopefully over the next six months we can maintain these prices, so people can plan properly and also not be bothered by volatile fuel prices," he added.

Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan expected that transportation fares would fall by 3 percent on average following the fuel price cuts. "I will send letters to local administrations to cut the transportation fares for trains, ships and land transportation," he added.

Pertamina president director Dwi Soetjipto said the company was ready to implement the new prices for subsidized gasoline and diesel. "Pertamina is ready to maintain these prices until September so that there is no significant turmoil for six months," he said.

Earlier, the state-owned energy firm said it would cut non-subsidized gasoline and diesel prices by Rp 200 per liter from 12 a.m. on March 31. It will be the second price cut this month, with total cuts of Rp 400 per liter.

With a Rp 200 cut, Pertamax gasoline will drop to Rp 7,550 per liter and Pertalite to Rp 7,100.

The high-quality diesel Pertamina Dex is set at Rp 8,400 and Pertamax Dex at Rp 8,450. The price of conventional non-subsidized diesel will drop from Rp 7,150 per liter to Rp 6,950. (bbn)

Categories: Indonesian News

Ahok demands dismissal of ambassador for racist remark

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama attends a NasDem Party event at Istora Senayan in Jakarta on March. 20. (Antara/Puspa Perwitasari)

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama is on the warpath against what he claims was a racist remark made on Twitter by Ambassador to Japan Yusron Ihza Mahendra, whom he demanded be fired by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi.

Yusron, who is the brother of Jakarta governor hopeful Yusril Ihza Mahendra, wrote on his Twitter account that “Ahok should not be arrogant. Pity the destitute, good Chinese-Indonesians who could become victims.”

"I have sent people to Minister Retno to say that this type of ambassador should not be a [representative of] Indonesia," Ahok said on Wednesday.

Ahok said Yusron’s statement was disrespectful, particularly because it was made by an Indonesian ambassador.

Ahok also accused Yusron of using religion to attack him. "Even God is not racist. You are a Muslim and I am a Christian, we breathe the same air. If God deems Christians to be infidels, He may just kill me now," Ahok said.

Previously, Ahok accused Yusril him of discrediting him by falsely claiming that the Jakarta administration would demolish the ancient Luar Batang Mosque in North Jakarta. According to a recent survey, Ahok is the strongest Jakarta gubernatorial candidate while Yusril is his closest contender. (bbn)

Categories: Indonesian News

China proposes new Web rules that could enhance censorship

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

Pedestrians past by an advertisement for a Chinese news web portal in Beijing, China, March 30. (AP/Ng Han Guan)

China is consolidating its ability to censor the Internet by drafting rules requiring businesses that serve domestic Internet users to register their Web addresses inside the country, a move seen as targeting Chinese companies but that has raised concerns among foreign businesses.

In its most draconian interpretation, the proposed requirements could also further limit access within the Chinese network, analysts said. That appears to be the latest step by the ruling Communist Party to erect cyber barriers in the name of what some officials call "Internet sovereignty."

"This expands control over domestic Internet operators and contributes to the gradual buildup of the capability underpinning Internet sovereignty," said Rogier Creemers, an expert on Chinese media policy at the University of Oxford.

Under the draft regulations released this week by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, any firm that provides services to Chinese users must register its domain, or Web address, with a Chinese provider. The rules are found in Article 37 of the ministry's proposed update to a set of decade-old Internet laws.

Analysts said the main targets appear to be Chinese Internet companies that store their content domestically but keep their Web address registered overseas with reputable, international firms for security purposes.

Requiring them to shift their registration to a domestic provider under Chinese government control would allow censors to react more quickly in blocking access to certain sites, said Long Weilian, an IT consultant based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen who has blogged extensively on the issue.

"Before, they had to contact the server, get the address, talk to the manager and then ask them to censor something," Long said. "If the domains are all domestic, they can directly stop traffic going to your domain with a command."

Jacob Parker, vice president for China operations with the US-China Business Council, which lobbies the Chinese government on trade policy, said his group was concerned that the rules would block the free flow of information.

"Any kind of restrictions would undermine China's broader economic development goals," Parker said.

Concerned that a borderless, U.S.-led global Internet could weaken its political control, China's government has repeatedly issued cyber regulations that have drawn criticism from Western trade groups. Following pushback from the White House last year, China dropped a provision in a cybersecurity law that would require companies to keep Chinese user data at facilities in China, allowing the government access to personal information.

Questions remain about the new rules' true purpose and how strictly they would be enforced. The ministry is currently soliciting feedback on the proposed registration regulations, and Chinese laws are often softened during the revision process.

Fang Xingdong, the director of a top Chinese technology think tank, said he believes Chinese leaders are seeking to enhance their control, but not to wall China off from the rest of the world.

"Under the current wording, all this is doing is integrating large Chinese Web service providers under a more rigorous supervision framework, while most small businesses won't be affected," said Fang, whose organization regularly submits opinions to the government on Internet issues.

Any attempt to seal off the Chinese Internet "would hurt China as much as America," he said.


Categories: Indonesian News

Thai junta chief gives military broad new police-like powers

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

Thai soldiers form a line while guarding a bus stop area to prevent an anti-coup demonstration at Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, May 29, 2014. (AP/Wason Wanichakorn)

Thailand's junta chief has given the military broad new police-like powers to arrest and detain criminal suspects, in an unannounced move that rights groups criticized Wednesday as a recipe for human rights violations.

The decree Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha issued late Tuesday night comes amid a wider crackdown on civil liberties. Authorities the same day charged a woman with sedition for posting a Facebook photo of herself holding a red plastic bowl that was deemed too politically charged.

The order, published in Thailand's Royal Gazette under the title "Suppression of wrongdoings that could threaten Thai economy and society," gives soldiers in the army, navy and air force who are ranked sub-lieutenant and higher the power to summon, arrest and detain suspects in a wide range of crimes for up to seven days.

The soldiers can act against people suspected in 27 different types of crime, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, fraud, forgery, defamation, debt collection, gambling, child protection, prostitution, loan sharking and tour guide services. It says the soldiers are appointed "crime prevention and suppression officers" and anyone ranked below sub-lieutenant can act as their assistants.

Prayuth, the former army chief, invoked the powers under a law he enacted after leading a May 2014 coup that gives him as junta chief near-absolute authority without any accountability. The law, known as Article 44, allows Prayuth to take any measures deemed necessary to promote public order and unity. Rights groups say Article 44 is essentially martial law in all but name.

"There are people whose behavior and wrongdoings are considered crimes. They threaten the country's economy and society," the order says. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan was quoted by The Bangkok Post as saying that soldiers would also act as interrogators and were taking on the new role because there were not enough police to tackle crime.

Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, called the move "a recipe for abuse, not greater peace and order."

"By erasing the line between the military and the police, Prime Minister Prayuth has further reinforced his dictatorship and guaranteed more blatant human rights abuses, increased numbers of civilians being tried in military courts, and further impunity for soldiers to do whatever they want whenever they want," he said.

Since toppling an elected government in the 2014 coup, Prayuth has restricted freedom of speech, barred public protests and relentlessly pursued critics by detaining journalists, academics and other perceived dissidents at military bases for so-called "attitude adjustment." The junta says criticism could destabilize the nation, which it says needs unity after almost a decade of sometimes violent political conflict.

On Tuesday, a 57-year-old woman in northern Thailand was arrested and charged with sedition for posting a photo of herself holding a red plastic bowl inscribed with a New Year's greeting from two former prime ministers, siblings Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra, according to Human Rights Watch. A military court in Chiang Mai released her on 100,000 baht (US$2,800) bail pending a military trial. If found guilty, Theerawan Charoensuk could face up to seven years in prison.

"The Thai junta's fears of a red plastic bowl show its intolerance of dissent has reached the point of absolute absurdity," said Adams. "It's clear that the end of repression is nowhere in sight."

A Thai journalist who is one of the junta's prominent critics, Pravit Rojanaphruk, said he learned Wednesday that the junta will not allow him to leave the country in May to attend a conference in Finland on World Press Freedom Day.

He posted the news on Facebook, along with a tweet from Finnish Ambassador to Thailand Kirsti Westphalen: "The Embassy of Finland regrets Thailand government decision to forbid [Pravit] to travel to Helsinki to attend World Press Freedom Day."

Pravit was twice detained for "attitude adjustment" while working for The Nation newspaper, which ultimately asked him to leave because of pressure from the junta.

A government spokesman, Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said he was not aware of the ban against Pravit but, "if it's true, it must be related to national security."

Categories: Indonesian News

Klaten residents refuse autopsy for alleged terrorist

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

The chairman of Muhammadiyah Youth Association, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak (left), scatters flowers on the tomb of alleged terrorist Siyono in Pogung village, Central Java. (Antara/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho)

The chairman of Muhammadiyah Youth Association, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak (left), scatters flowers on the tomb of alleged terrorist Siyono in Pogung village, Central Java. (Antara/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho)

The local residents of Pogung Village in Klaten, Centra Java, have refused to allow a Muslim organization to open the tomb of Siyono, an alleged terrorist who died suspiciously under police custody. The residents claim that they do not wish for an autopsy to be conducted.

The residents of Pogung Village in the sub-district of Cawas in Klaten claim that Siyono's family previously provided a statement letter saying that they would not be requesting an autopsy.

While the family are entitled to proceed with the autopsy plan, the procedure must be conducted outside the Pogung area, Pogung Village chief Djoko Widoyo said, emphasizing that, in such a case, locals would not allow Siyono's body to be returned for burial in the village.

The villagers have threatened to expel Siyono's family from the village if they support the autopsy.

"This is a collective decision based on a joint meeting between the village administration and local public figures with RT [neighborhood] and RW [community] representatives last night," Djoko said on Wednesday.

The refusal is said to be based on a letter written by Siyono's family in which they are said to have requested protection from the village administration.

The family said they had let go of Siyono and would not request an autopsy on the dead body.

"Siyono's father asked local people to guard Siyono's tomb. So we refuse autopsy based on the mandate of Siyono's father," Djoko said.

The letter was written by Siyono's parents and his brothers, natives of the village, Djoko said.

However, Siyono's wife Suratmi went to the Yogyakarta branch of Muhammadiyah's central committee to ask for legal protection file and to file a report on the alleged abuse and the injustice her husband received at the hands of the police while he was under arrest.

Subsequent inquiries lead the country's second largest Muslim organization to request an autopsy, a plan supported by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

Djoko emphasized that Suratmi was not a Pogung native and had no right to make a decision with regard to the matter.

In hopes of assisting with the request for autopsy, Muhammadiyah Youth Association head Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak said on Tuesday that he would travel to Yogyakarta to discuss the matter with Klaten PP Muhammadiyah chairman Busyro and Komnas HAM member Maneger Nasution.

Muhammadiyah had decided to uphold Siyono's rights, taken away by Densus 88 following his arrest in Klaten on March 8, Dahnil said on Tuesday.

Siyono died without clear cause of death after four days under police custody.

The National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti has ordered the National Police Internal Affairs Division to investigate the cause of death.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) suspect that the police tortured Siyono while he was detained in custody as Siyono's body had been returned to his family covered in blood and bruises. (afr/rin)

Categories: Indonesian News

Hanura requires members to vote for Ahok

Thu, 2016-03-31 07:00

Chairman of Hanura’s Jakarta chapter Mohamad "Ongen" Sangaji shakes hands with Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama during the declaration of the party’s support of Ahok’s reelection bid in Jakarta on March 26. (kompas.com)

The Hanura Party is requiring all of its members to vote for incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in the 2017 gubernatorial election or face losing their membership, particularly for those who have a position within the party.

"Whether the members like it or not, they should comply with what has been decided by the party. We work based on one command, especially because our top leader is [ex] military personnel," Hanura deputy chairman Miryam Haryani told thejakartapost.com on Wednesday.

She was referring to Hanura chairman Gen. (ret.) Wiranto.

Hanura has officially thrown its support behind Ahok, who will seek reelection as an independent candidate. However, a number of political leaders, including two board members of Hanura’s Jakarta chapter, Rahmat HS and Bustami Rahawarin, have publicly stated that supporting Ahok was not in line with the aspirations of the party’s constituents.

Those members who were not willing to support Ahok could resign from their positions in the party or be fired, Miryam said.

 “Hanura is ready to dismiss the dissenting members,” Miryam said.

Chairman of the City Council’s Hanura faction, Muhammad Sangaji, offered a different opinion.

“The party does not mind if there are some members who disagree with the party line, but they must remain silent,” he said.

"The party may dismiss members who rebel against the party decision and make hateful statements," Sangaji said.

Meanwhile, Ahok has not made any public statement regarding the internal conflict within Hanura.  “Just ask Hanura about it," Ahok said on Wednesday. (bbn)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Say hello to Spotify: Can it beat the old players?

Wed, 2016-03-30 23:00

A user opens the Spotify application on her cell phone. Officially launched on Wednesday in Jakarta, Spotify boasts over 30 million songs with a 320 kbps bitrate streaming quality and even higher quality versions for those who upgrade to a premium service.(Shutterstock.com/Denys Prykhodov)

It's official — Spotify is finally part of the country's music streaming platform competition, joining the likes of Guvera and Apple Music.

Officially launched on Wednesday in Jakarta, the service boasts over 30 million songs with a 320 kilobits per second (kbps) bitrate streaming quality and even higher quality versions for those who upgrade to a premium service.

Founded in 2008, the Swedish company features details of albums and playlists, music charts from different countries, new releases and tickets. All are easy to navigate on the sleek black and green display. It also supports a wide variety of devices besides smartphones and computers, such as tablets, home entertainment systems and PlayStations.

Several membership options are available for subscribers in Indonesia including a free seven-day trial for Android users and a free 30-day trial for PC users. After the complimentary service is over, members will be charged Rp 49,990 per month (US$3.80) with benefits including offline streaming and no ads.

The placement of ads is indeed rather disruptive as they sometimes cover small parts of the page and come with sounds.

With a reported 30 million subscribers worldwide, Spotify also offers a premium service with a starting price of Rp 500,000 per year and a family package that starts at Rp 70,000 per month for a maximum of five family members.

In the archipelago, one of the company's toughest competitors is Guvera. Established in 2008 in Australia, the service uses a brand-funding system that guarantees both music labels and artists receive their rewards.

Supported by over 15 million subscribers in 20 countries, Guvera provides an easy-to-adapt display in an eye-catching red and a catalog of more than 30 million songs with a 256 kbps bitrate. Free membership is available with features including creating playlists and playing music in shuffle mode. Those wanting to skip songs anytime they want and access music offline might want to consider platinum membership, which starts at Rp 55,000 per month.

Available for web browsers and popular mobile operating systems (iOS, Android and Windows Phone), ad placement in Guvera for free accounts is quite friendly; they show up on the page but only last for six seconds without making any sounds.

Another strong contender in music streaming is, of course, Apple Music, which has over 30 million songs with 256 kbps bitrate in its library. Despite being an iOS-based app, the service can also be downloaded for a limited period on Android smartphones.

For new members, Apple Music offers a three-month trial, and subsequent rates from Rp 65,000 for individuals and Rp 109,000 for families with a maximum of six users.

Although free-trial users will particularly enjoy the fact that it is almost free of ads, the service arguably lacks some indie music and remix tracks that are not included on artists' original albums. (kes)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Uniqlo to open first global flagship store in Singapore, Southeast Asia

Wed, 2016-03-30 21:58

An artist's impression of the new Uniqlo global flagship store in Singapore. (Uniqlo via The Straits Times)

Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo will be opening its first global flagship store in Singapore and the South-east Asia region in Orchard Road this year and the store will create more than 300 jobs here.

The store, with a total area of 2,700 sq m, will span across three levels at Orchard Central, and will be its biggest outlet in Singapore and the region.

It is slated to open in the second half of this year.

Other than showcasing the latest lines for women, men, kids and babies, the new flagship store will also offer the brand's most extensive range of products in Singapore, said Uniqlo's PR manager Cheok Weiling.

"The opening of a global flagship store in Singapore not only highlights its prominence in the brand's expansion plan worldwide, but also it can showcase the Uniqlo's LifeWear concept through a global flagship store's innovative, high-tech display and extensive product lineup," said Ms Cheok.

"Singapore as the hub of South-east Asia is the ideal location for us to open our first Uniqlo global flagship store in the region," she told The Straits Times.

The company's South-east Asia CEO Taku Morikawa said in a press release that they are honored and excited to open their first global flagship store in Singapore.

"Having been a member of the local retail scene since 2009, we remain committed towards contributing to the local community and being an integral part of Singapore's growth and future," he said.

According to the press release, the new flagship store will create more than 300 jobs.

There are currently 13 global flagship stores around the world, including in New York, London, Paris and Shanghai. (+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Ally to power broker Suu Kyi sworn in as Myanmar's president

Wed, 2016-03-30 21:58

New Myanmar President Htin Kyaw (left) sits with outgoing president Thein Sein during a handover ceremony at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw on Wednesday.(Pool Photo via AP/Ye Aung Thu)

Htin Kyaw, a trusted friend of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, took over as Myanmar's president on Wednesday, calling it a "historic moment" in the country's long-drawn transition to democracy after decades of military rule.

In a day full of ceremony and symbolism, Htin Kyaw was sworn in along with his two vice presidents and 18-member Cabinet. Suu Kyi, the face of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement, takes on a prominent role as the country's new foreign minister and the head of three other ministries.

The swearing in was held in an austere hall of parliament, with lawmakers dressed in traditional costume. A few hours later, outgoing President Thein Sein shook hands with his successor and handed him a letter officially transferring power.

While it was a momentous day in the history of this impoverished Southeast Asian country, democracy still feels incomplete. The military retains considerable power in the government and parliament, and the president himself will play second fiddle to Suu Kyi, who has repeatedly said she will run the country from behind the scenes because the military has ensured — through a constitutional manipulation — that she cannot be the president.

Still, the day belonged to Htin Kyaw and Suu Kyi, who sat in the front row watching her confidant become head of a government she had long aspired to lead.

"The Union Parliament has elected me as president, which is a historic moment for this country," Htin Kyaw, 70, said in a speech after being sworn in. He pledged to work toward national reconciliation, peace between warring ethnic groups and improving the lives of Myanmar's 54 million people.

Rightfully, the job belonged to Suu Kyi, who led her National League for Democracy party to a landslide win in November elections, ushering in Myanmar's first civilian government after 54 years of direct and indirect military rule.

Suu Kyi endured decades of house arrest and harassment by military rulers without ever giving up on her nonviolent campaign to unseat them. The constitutional clause that denied her the presidency excludes anyone from the position who has a foreign spouse or child. Suu Kyi's two sons are British, as was her late husband. The clause is widely seen as having been written by the military with Suu Kyi in mind.

She has repeatedly made it clear that she will run the government from behind the scenes, and in his speech on Wednesday, Htin Kyaw signaled the dominant role Suu Kyi will play in his government.

"The new parliament and new government are formed in accord with the policies of the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi," he said, and referred to the party's goal to amend the constitution.

"I have the obligation to work toward achieving a constitution that has democratic norms and is suitable for the nation," Htin Kyaw said. "I want to tell the new government, we must constantly try to fulfill the hope and will of the people of this country. I wish all citizens of this country a successful and peaceful life."

The constitution, drafted by the former junta, reserves 25 percent of the seats in parliament for military officers, guaranteeing that no government can amend the constitution without its approval. The military also heads the Home Ministry and the Defense Ministry, which gives it control over the corrections department, ensuring that the release of political prisoners is its decision to make.

The military also ensured that one of Htin Kyaw's two vice presidents is a former general, Myint Swe, a close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe. Myint Swe remains on a US Treasury Department blacklist that bars American companies from doing business with several tycoons and senior military figures connected with the former junta.

As Htin Syaw was sworn in, Suu Kyi sat in the front row watching. The same pledge was simultaneously read by First Vice President Myint Swe and Second Vice President Henry Van Tio. After a 20-minute tea break, 18 members of Htin Kyaw's Cabinet, including Suu Kyi, took a joint oath of office read out by the speaker.

The speaker then announced the portfolios of the 18 ministers. Suu Kyi will head four ministries — foreign, education, energy and the president's office.

Despite her inability to become president, Suu Kyi's entry into the government is a remarkable turn of fortune not only for her, but also for the country, which had been under iron-fisted military rule since 1962. For decades, the junta kept Myanmar in isolation and economic stagnation while refusing to listen to international counsel or homegrown demands for democracy.

Suu Kyi came to prominence in 1988, when popular protests were building up. The junta crushed the protests, which had turned into anti-government riots, killing thousands of people and placing Suu Kyi under house arrest in 1989.

The junta called elections in 1990, but refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, or NLD, won overwhelmingly. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a year later while under house arrest.

The junta finally started loosening its grip on power in 2010, allowing elections that were won by a military-allied party after the NLD boycotted the polls as unfair. Thein Sein, a former general, was installed as president for a five-year term that started March 30, 2011, and ended Wednesday. (+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Donald Trump gets schooled by Anderson Cooper

Wed, 2016-03-30 21:58

Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump participates in a CNN town hall with Anderson Cooper in the historic Riverside Theatre on March 29 in Milwaukee, US. (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The ongoing bickering between Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump took a new turn last week when Donald Trump re-tweeted an unflattering photo of Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi, next to Trump's own wife, Melania.

"@Don_Vito_08: "A picture is worth a thousand words"
@realDonaldTrump #LyingTed #NeverCruz
@MELANIATRUMP pic.twitter.com/5bvVEwMVF8"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2016

During a CNN town hall event on Tuesday night (local time), journalist Anderson Cooper confronted Trump about the tweet, to which he replied: "I didn't start it."

Cooper, obviously not delighted with this answer, retorted: “Sir, with all due respect, that’s the argument of a 5-year-old. The argument of a 5-year-old is 'He started it'.”

In a video posted on YouTube, Trump kept on insisting that it was Cruz who started the fight.

Various media outlets have reported Trump's sexist stand on women. The Huffington Post even went so far as to compile a list of all the things the presidential hopeful has said to women, which includes his feud with Fox News Channel's anchor Megyn Kelly and him insulting just about everyone, from celebrities to female reporters. (kes)(+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Pakistani police warn Islamists to disperse 4-day rally

Wed, 2016-03-30 21:58

Protesters from Pakistan's Sunni Tehreek group sit in protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday. (AP/B.K. Bangash)

Pakistani police were readying Wednesday to disperse hundreds of radical Islamists rallying outside the parliament building in Islamabad if they failed to disperse peacefully, officials said.

Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan warned the demonstrators late Tuesday that the government would use force if they did not halt their sit-in, underway since Sunday.

Thousands of riot police and paramilitary troops have been deployed around the site, police official Nauman Alvi said. Khan, the minister, said nearly 7,000 security forces were awaiting a government order to move in.

"We don't want any violence, but we can't tolerate it anymore," Khan said.

More than 10,000 Islamists from Pakistan's Sunni Tehreek group descended on Islamabad on Sunday to denounce last month's hanging of officer Mumtaz Qadri for the 2011 murder of secular Gov. Salman Taseer who had campaigned against Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws.

The protesters also demand the death of a jailed Christian woman whom Taseer had defended against blasphemy allegations, as well as enforcement of Islamic Shariah law in the country. The government has said it will not fulfill their demands.

Their rally turned violent on Sunday and police fired tear gas but failed to disperse the protesters. Though the sit-in continued, the number of protesters has dwindled down to about 1,200.

Qadri's hanging was part of the government's latest efforts to turn the tide against extremism and militancy, which have claimed tens of thousands of lives over the last decade.

The Islamabad protest comes against the backdrop of a massive suicide bombing by a breakaway Taliban faction that targeted Christians gathered for Eastern Sunday in a park in Lahore, killing 72 people, most of them Muslim.


Categories: Indonesian News

ADB says Asia economy to grow 5.7 percent in 2016 and 2017

Wed, 2016-03-30 21:58

A crane moves a shipping container in the container pool of a seaport in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province, Oct. 13, 2015.(Chinatopix via AP)

Softer growth prospects for China and a weak recovery in major industrial economies are expected to push down economic growth in developing Asia to 5.7 percent this year and next, below projections, the Asian Development Bank said Wednesday.

The gross domestic product of the region, made up of 45 countries, grew 5.9 percent in 2015.

China's economic growth is seen moderating to 6.5 percent this year and 6.3 percent next year, compared to 6.9 percent last year, the ADB report said. Slower exports, a falling labor supply and supply-side reforms are reshaping the world's second-largest economy toward more domestic consumption and a further reduction in excess industrial capacity, it said.

The report said that India will remain one of the fastest-growing major economies, while South Asia is forecast to post the most rapid growth among sub-regions. India's economy is seen expanding by 7.4 percent in 2016, and 7.8 percent in 2017. Last year, India's economy grew 7.6 percent on the back of strong public investment.

South Asia's economic growth is projected to slightly dip to 6.9 percent this year, from 7 percent in 2015, but that is seen to accelerate to 7.3 percent in 2017.

Southeast Asia's economy is set for stronger growth at 4.5 percent this year and 4.8 percent next year, up from 4.4 percent in 2015. The region will be led by its biggest economy, Indonesia, as it ramps up investment in infrastructure and implements policy reforms to spur private investment.

"[China's] growth moderation and uneven global recovery are weighing down overall growth in Asia," said Shang-Jin Wei, ADB's chief economist. Still, the region will continue to contribute over 60 percent of total global growth, he said.

Aggregate growth in the United States, the euro area and Japan will stay at 1.8 percent in 2016 and inch up to 1.9 percent in 2017, the report said.

It also cited a United Nations' projection that growth in the region's working-age population will be lower in 2015-2020 than in 2008-2014, and that demographic effect alone could depress developing Asia's potential growth by 0.4 percentage points.(+)

Categories: Indonesian News