Weekly News Summary – April 15

Stephen Tucker looks at the headlines making news this week from around south-east Asia and a little bit beyond.

The dramatic fallout from last month’s twin natural disasters and the ensuing nuclear crisis continued in Japan this week.

The government finally ordered the operator of the nuclear plant damaged by last month’s quake and tsunami pay compensation to 48,000 families affected. Each household will receive 1 million yen (USD12,000), with the total compensation bill estimated to reach a massive USD24 billion.

The Japanese government, already suffering from low-approval ratings, had faced intense criticism for not demanding compensation earlier. Residents have been sheltering in temporary evacuation centres for the past month after the nuclear meltdown forced them to flee their homes.

The disasters left 28,000 people dead or missing, and the ensuing nuclear safety crisis has disrupted supply chains.

The recovery effort in Japan is likely to expand the economy in July and September this year, as the country continues to rebuild itself.

China, however, continues to suffer from the opposite problem – a booming economy creating too much growth.

March economic data showed that while the economy continued to go gangbusters, inflation accelerated to its fastest rate since 2008.

Despite government efforts to cool property and food prices, the growth rate was 9.7 per cent for the first quarter. Chinese President Hu Jintao described this as unbalanced and pledged to boost domestic consumption.

A teacher at a private Islamic school in Malaysia was charged with murdering a seven-year-old student who stole a couple of dollars from a classmate.

As punishment, the teacher allegedly tied the boy up to a classroom window and then caned and beat him for two horrifying hours. The boy then fell into a coma and tragically died in hospital three days later.

The boy’s death understandably caused enormous outrage. If convicted, the 26-year-old male teacher could receive the death penalty, which would be carried out by hanging.

North Korea arrested a US citizen and is preparing to charge him with “committing a crime” against the country. Few details have been revealed about the case, but the US state department called for his release on humanitarian grounds.

South Korean media reports suggested he was a Korean-American Christian missionary.

Despite protests, the Taiwanese government began accepting applications from Chinese students looking to study university there.

Up to 2,000 Chinese students will receive student visas as part of the new policy, which is partly a response to dwindling enrolments at local universities courtesy of Taiwan’s low birth-rate.

Independent human rights groups estimated more than 2,500 people were killed in militant attacks in Pakistan in 2010. Nearly half of the victims were civilians murdered in suicide blasts.

The release of figures came as at least 10 people were shot dead in targeted political killings across Karachi. The attacks bring to 18 the number of people killed over the past three days.

And south Asian countries will continue to suffer from a disproportionate rate of stillbirths, according to The Lancet. Around 7,000 stillbirths occur globally every day.

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Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

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