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North Korea, again, demands halt to US-South Korea war games

Jakarta Post Latest News - Thu, 2016-03-31 09:58

War games: In this March 12, 2016 file photo, US Marines, left, and South Korean Marines, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on the beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. It’s a demand North Korea has been making for decades: The US and South Korea must immediately suspend their annual military exercises if they want peace on the Korean Peninsula. And, once again, it’s a demand that is falling on deaf ears. This year’s exercises are bigger than ever before and reportedly include training to take out Kim Jong Un himself. For Pyongyang’s ruling regime, that’s a bridge too far. But probably not far enough to fire the first shots over. (Kim Jun-bum/Yonhap via AP, File)

It's a demand North Korea has been making for decades: The United States and South Korea must immediately suspend their annual military exercises if there is to be peace on the Korean Peninsula. And, once again, it's a demand that is falling on deaf ears. Following the North's recent nuclear test and rocket launch, this year's exercises are bigger than ever.

In the Koreas, the cycle of tensions is as predictable as the changing of the seasons — they surge every spring, when Washington and Seoul hold their annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises. This year's drills, which are to continue through April, are not only bigger but also reportedly include for the first time training for precision strikes directed at the North's leadership and Kim Jong Un himself.

In the eyes of North Korea's ruling regime, that is a bridge too far.

Even before the exercises began, North Korea's formidable propaganda machine had been churning out articles every day condemning the United States and South Korea in the strongest terms, displaying nuclear bomb and missile mock-ups and warning it is ready at any time to launch a pre-emptive strike against the presidential residence in South Korea or even a nuclear attack on the US mainland.

Nightly news programs have been dominated by videos of leader Kim watching North Korea's own drills, replete with large-scale artillery arrays firing barrages from beachfront positions into the ocean and repeated claims that the North now has an H-bomb — which it says it tested in January — and a means of taking the war to the US mainland.

"This isn't just military training," Kim Il Sun, a teacher at the Pyongyang Tourism University, said of the U.S.-South Korea military activities going on just south of the Demilitarized Zone as she headed home after work on Wednesday.

"These are war exercises aimed at a nuclear war against our country," she said. "They are preparing to attack us."

Gauging the true level of concern among North Koreans as their government whips up anti-US and anti-Seoul feelings is always difficult.

North Korea has been in a state of virtual martial law since its founding and North Koreans are accustomed to the rise and fall of tensions and the threat — real or perceived — that their country is on the verge of being invaded. Apart from the war-like talk on the news and the more-than-usual number of missile and rocket tests, life in the capital continues to be business as usual, although the whole nation has been mobilized for a 70-day loyalty drive aimed at boosting production ahead of a major political meeting to be headed by Kim in May.

There are also strong signals that North Korea doesn't see the situation as serious enough to go to war over.


Despite threats it is fully prepared to carry out a pre-emptive strike and conduct a "sacred war of reunification," the government has repeatedly insisted it will only attack if provoked. Ultimately, it says, what it really wants is to sit down with the United States to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Such talk has always been a non-starter in Washington.

The longstanding US demand has been that North Korea must either give up its nuclear program or verifiably demonstrate it is willing to do so before any serious discussions can begin. North Korea wants talks first since it says the threat of a US invasion is what forced it to develop a nuclear deterrent to begin with.

Washington did suspend an earlier version of the joint military exercises in an attempt to make progress with North Korea.

But that was back in 1992 and there is no sign of that happening again soon, with tensions on the Korean Peninsula worse than usual and the US and South Korea leading efforts to impose new sanctions on the North.

In the meantime, officials here say, the ball is in Washington's court.

Jon Min Dok, director of the Institute for Disarmament and Peace, part of North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told an AP Television News crew in a rare interview this week that "as long as the U.S. persists in its moves to stifle our socialist system" North Korea has no intention of backing down.

"We consider that keeping the balance of force by bolstering our nuclear forces is the only way effectively to deter the persistent nuclear threat and war provocations from the US," he said. (**)

Categories: Indonesian News

Issue of the day: Police – better service or better image?

Jakarta Post Latest News - Thu, 2016-03-31 09:58

Violent rally: A driver with application-based Go-Jek was arrested by a police officer when he and many other fellow drivers thronged Jl. Satrio in South Jakarta to face taxi, public minivan and three-wheeled bajaj drivers who staged a rally to protest the recently increasing numbers of app-based modes of public transportation.(JP/P.J. Leo)

March 27, p5

Pictures of taxi drivers running amok and smashing vehicles during a rally last Tuesday quickly went viral on social media. The public also saw pictures of a Go-Jek (app-based motorcycle taxi) driver being mobbed and beaten up by a group of people.

There were other pictures of conventional taxi drivers blocking the inner-city toll road in front of the House of Representatives compound, causing traffic to grind to a standstill, while in separate incidents, some passengers were forced to get out of taxis.

Upon seeing those pictures on our gadgets, we all had the same question: “Where are the police?”

Your comments:

That the police were not present during the taxi demo, but think nothing of dispatching 500 personnel to safeguard a cultural event, which says a lot about the priorities of the police. It’s a well-known fact that the police as an institution are looking to earn money. They are, indeed, essentially just another business receiving minimal state subsidies.

As long as the basic set-up doesn’t change, you cannot expect any improvement. But then again, does the establishment want real change, or just a better image?

Kulit Merah

Meanwhile, I recently spent four days on an extended overland trip and — without elaborating — I was in total 13 times stopped for razia (raids).

The 10th time, I took a couple of selfies with the policeman who stopped me to celebrate this milestone — he didn’t mind a bit!

In fact, he was a decent chap, and seemed rather put out at having to stand in the road in the middle of the night, stopping cars.

Gordon Freeman

It would also help if the Indonesian police were paid more to stop them from extorting money from tourists, locals, motorists and justice-seekers.


Police were present in front of my office. My staff were asked by police to delete any photos they had taken of the scene — forget about enforcing the law or keeping the peace, photos are more important!

Funny that, because I regularly see police taking photos, probably to convince their bosses they are actually working.


Police are absent when a mob is present. There’s a definite trend — whenever the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) is present, the police are nowhere to be found, apart from a cursory few.


Do your job and people will respect you. Succumb to corruption and people will scorn you and even curse you.

Siang Malam

The police as an institution are not free from corruption.


Overall what the writer is trying to convey makes sense. Except for one thing, which is pride in a job well done. If that basic standard is instilled, where people follow SOP to the letter, and don’t cut corners, accept or give graft, then Indonesia and not just the police would be very different.

However, it will take much more effort by the police to change their image and the perception of the average citizen of them than T-shirts and key chains.

Deddy K

I have a novel idea — just do your jobs. Enforce the laws on the books and stop taking coffee money. Stand on the side of the law and your image will improve tremendously. Stop supporting those with criminal intent.


New T-shirts for the police at least could give them a different image; how about they wear pink, so they can blend in better with LGBT groups when they force them to disperse?


Categories: Indonesian News

Belgium premier's residence, office found on bomber's laptop

Jakarta Post Latest News - Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

On guard: Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel, second right, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi inspects the troops prior to a meeting at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Wednesday.(AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

A laptop used by one of the Brussels bombers contained images of the Belgian prime minister's home and office, an official said Wednesday, heightening fears after last week's attacks on the airport and subway system.

A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said that "it is alarming that they were apparently scouting the terrain" around the lush Royal Park where both his office, "Le 16," and his Lambermont residence are located.

Security around Prime Minister Charles Michel has increased since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and in Brussels last week. Michel also has had several unspecified death threats over the past years, the official said.

A laptop found near the hideout of the suspects of the March 22 airport bombing first gained notoriety because it contained a sort of will of suicide bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui, in which he spoke of being "in a haste" and "no longer know what to do."

The computer was also "full of stuff" on many locations around Brussels in information garnered from the Internet, said an official linked to the investigation.

The official, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is ongoing, said that at the moment there were "absolutely no" specific indications that Michel was under threat from the attackers.

The report was first published by De Tijd and L'Echo newspapers.

In propaganda material distributed Tuesday, the Islamic State group described the Brussels attacks as part of "a war against all their tyrants and pagans; a war against secularism." The material showed a cropped still of surveillance footage showing the two airport bombers. The attacker who escaped with his life, wearing a dark hat, was cropped out.

"Its most important results are that it showed the fragility of the security systems of the European states that claim they are the strongest in the world, and this was through the type of operation, its timing, its place, and the circumstances surrounding it, and the nature of those who executed it," the material said, according to a translation Wednesday by the SITE Intelligence Group.

In all, 32 people died in the attacks on Brussels international airport and the Maelbeek subway station and 87 remained in hospital. Three attackers were killed when their bombs exploded and police are looking for at least one more suspect.


Lori Hinnant contributed to this story. (**)

Categories: Indonesian News

Islands in focus: Illegal miners shot by police, hospitalized

Jakarta Post Latest News - Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

Twenty-one illegal gold miners are receiving hospital treatment after a clash with hundreds of police officers and forest rangers near Lore Lindu National Park in Poso regency, Central Sulawesi.

The 21 miners are being treated at Tora Belo Hospital in Sigi and Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Palu and were among thousands of miners and residents who made a convoy to Palu on Tuesday to protest a government plan to stop illegal mining activities in the park.

“Ten people suffered wounds from rubber bullets and are being treated at Bhayangkara hospital,” Central Sulawesi Police deputy chief Sr. Comr. Leo Bana Lubis said.

Hospital records show that at least 21 people suffered shot wounds.

At least 95 protesters were arrested after the clash. A police truck was destroyed during the clash while hundreds of miners’ kiosks along road leading to the mining site were torn down and the debris burned.

Categories: Indonesian News

Corruption court verdict implicates PKB chief

Jakarta Post Latest News - Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

A verdict imposed on a senior Manpower Ministry official by the Jakarta Corruption Court on Wednesday points to the alleged involvement of then-manpower minister Muhaimin Iskandar in a 2013 graft case and may lead to his prosecution over the same case.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) asserted that it would open a new probe against Muhaimin, who is also chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), and other alleged beneficiaries of funds embezzled by Jamaluddin Malik, who was declared guilty on Wednesday. Jamaluddin was a director general at what used to be the manpower and transmigration ministry.

In its verdict on Jamaluddin, who was sentenced to six years in prison for embezzling ministry funds in 2013, the court stated that he had funneled Rp 400 million (US$30,176) to Muhaimin in the same year.

KPK spokesman Priharsa Nugraha said a guilty verdict was a strong ground for the KPK to open a new probe into the possible involvement of other individuals in the graft case, especially those whose names were mentioned by the panel of judges in the verdict.

“We will collect more supporting evidence before we make a follow-up move in the case,” Priharsa said.

KPK deputy chairman Alexander Marwata, who is a former ad hoc judge at the Jakarta Corruption Court, confirmed the KPK’s planned move against Muhaimin and other people mentioned in the verdict.

“Witnesses’ testimonies and a verdict implicating other people in a case [is a strong ground to step up an investigation], and the involvement of other people in [Jamaluddin’s case] will be further examined,” Alexander said.

In connection with the case, the panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court found Jamaluddin guilty of instructing his subordinates at the ministry to siphon off between 4 percent and 5 percent of funds for programs financed by the state budget, enabling him to collect around Rp 6.7 billion.

The judges said Jamaluddin had pocketed Rp 5.4 billion of those embezzled funds, while the remainder had been funneled to numerous manpower ministry officials, including Muhaimin.

“The defendant is also obliged to pay a fine of Rp 200 million, and he has to return to the state the Rp5.4 billion he received in the case,” presiding judge Mashud said.

In a KPK investigation document obtained by the Post on Thursday, antigraft body prosecutors revealed details about the alleged flow of Rp 400 million to Muhaimin. Jamaluddin’s subordinate, identified as Sudarso, who was questioned as a witness in the case by KPK investigators, kept receipts on a number of transfers from Jamaluddin to high-ranking ministry officials, including Muhaimin, as well as House of Representatives lawmakers.

“In the notes made by the witness, there was a transfer marked as ‘for Gatsu [Gatot Subroto] 1’, which refers to then-minister Muhaimin Iskandar, whose office was located on Jl. Gatot Subroto,” KPK prosecutors noted in the document.

The document further revealed: “It was the defendant [Jamaluddin] who first asked the witness ‘Pak Sudarso, do we still have money available? The minister has yet to receive an honorarium’”.

Sudarso later told Jamaluddin that he was holding onto a sum of money at that time. Jamaluddin then instructed Sudarso to exchange the Rp 400 million in cash to US dollars.

Categories: Indonesian News

Trump suggests 'punishment' for women who get abortions

Jakarta Post Latest News - Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

Upbeat: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., Wednesday. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

Women who get abortions should receive "some form of punishment," Republican front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday, without indicating specifically what the punishment should be.

The comments came in a heated exchange with MSNBC's Chris Matthews during the taping of a town hall in Wisconsin, which holds its primary next week.

"There has to be some form of punishment," Trump told Matthews in the exchange over whether abortion should be banned. The subject remains highly controversial decades after the Supreme Court legalized it.

Pressed by Matthews on the nature of that punishment, Trump responded: "I haven't determined what the punishment should be." He also suggested that women could continue to receive abortions, but at "illegal places."

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton quickly responded on Twitter, noting Trump's comments and adding, "Just when you thought it couldn't get worse. Horrific and telling."

Trump has often said he's opposed to abortions except in the case of three exceptions: rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. He used to describe himself as in favor of abortion rights, but says his stance has evolved over the years.

Within hours, Trump's campaign sought to take back his comments in two separate statements, ultimately saying the billionaire businessman believes abortion providers — and not their patients — should be the ones punished.

"My position has not changed," Trump argued in both statements released by his campaign. "Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."

Even before Trump's comments, recent polls have put his negative ratings nearing or even eclipsing 70 percent among women.

The New York billionaire arrived in Wisconsin fending off another controversy. His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with misdemeanor battery in Florida on Tuesday over an altercation with a female reporter earlier this month.

Wisconsin's April 5 primary looks pivotal in the Republican race. If Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wins, it would narrow Trump's already tight path to the nomination and raise the prospect of a contested party convention. Delegates there might turn to other candidates if the billionaire fails to win on the first ballot.

Trump heads into Wisconsin with 739 delegates to Cruz's 465. Kasich lags behind with 143. Wisconsin has 42 Republican delegates, with 18 going to the statewide winner and 24 divided among the winners in each of the state's eight congressional districts

Trump would need 1,237 delegates by the end of the primary season to capture the nomination and avoid a contested convention.

All three Republican candidates now say they aren't committing to supporting whomever the party chooses as its nominee for the November election.

Trump on Tuesday said he was rescinding his promise because "I have been treated very unfairly," and he listed the party establishment among those he believes have wronged him.

Cruz said if Trump were the nominee, that would hand the election to Clinton.

Based on primaries and caucuses to date, Clinton has 1,243 delegates to rival Bernie Sanders' 975. Including superdelegates, party leaders who are free to support any candidate, Clinton has 1,712 delegates to Sanders' 1,004, leaving her shy of the 2,383 it takes to win the nomination. (**)

Categories: Indonesian News

National scene: House speaker takes one step back on library

Jakarta Post Latest News - Thu, 2016-03-31 08:29

House of Representatives Speaker Ade Komarudin has softened his stance on a plan to build the largest library in Southeast Asia at the legislative complex, saying that he will first seek government approval.

“If the government recommends we postpone the good plan due to the country’s unstable economic condition, then we will. However, we won’t give up on making it happen,” Ade said on Wednesday.

The politician stated that the government should have a clear argument and explanation for a postponement and ensure that construction would eventually start.

The plan to build a library has been opposed by a few House factions and People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) leaders, who say a library is not a priority amid a potential state budget deficit of Rp 290 trillion (US$21.6 billion), especially as the government had imposed a moratorium on the construction of state buildings for efficiency sake.

Ade claimed that he had previously intended to postpone the construction until a number of noted intellectuals went to the House to encourage him to forge ahead with the plan.

“I think establishing a library will help restore public trust in the legislative body, but I will involve the executive body in the decision,” Ade said, vowing to approach the government before attempting to garner support from House members.

Categories: Indonesian News

Security expert: Rio Olympic torch is target for protesters

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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

Jakarta Post Latest News - 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
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