Weekly News Summary – March 11

A look at the headlines making news this week from around South-east Asia  and a little bit beyond.

ASIAWATCH — It was a week during which earthquakes rocked the region. An 8.9 magnitude quake struck 130km off Japan’s east coast, around 25km underground. Tsunami waves wereas high as 10m and travelled up to 10km inland. The earthquake triggered tsunami warnings and evacuations in at least 20 other countries.

Government authorities estimated the final death toll from the earthquake – the fifth strongest in the past 100 years – could far exceed 1,000 people. An explosion damaged a nuclear power station in north-east Japan, leading to the evacuation of a further 170,000 people in surrounding areas.

The earthquake struck two days after another 7.2 magnitude quake rocked the northeast coast without incident. On the China-Burma border, meanwhile, a separate 5.8 magnitude earthquake toppled more than 1,000 houses and apartment buildings, killing at least 22 people and injuring over 2,000.

Chinese security police reportedly beat a blind activist and his wife after they released a secret video showing their house arrest. Chen Guangcheng is one of China’s best-known activists and was imprisoned after claiming authorities had carried out forced abortions.

The Chinese authorities continued to crackdown on foreign journalists, with reports of foreign journalists being physically harassed by security officers. One videographer was hospitalized due to his injuries. China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, denied police had beaten reporters and reassured journalists that the government follows “the rule of law.”

The US Senate, however, heard China’s growing capabilities in illegal cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering were a “formidable concern.”

Also of concern to America officials is the Taliban’s ongoing efforts to create unrest in Pakistan. A Pakistani suicide bomber detonated himself at the funeral of a family member of an anti-Taliban peace committee leader, killing over 30 people and injuring a further 45.

The 75-year-old Dalai Lama announced he would step down as the “political head” of the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile. Tibetans the world over will elect a new “Parliament” on March 20. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, will remain a spiritual leader.

Inspired by the Middle East demonstrations, protestors in India fashioned a ‘Million Man March’ to Hyderabad. Although organisers had been determined to keep the protests peaceful, and even changed the times to accommodate for schooling exams, the protestors went berserk not long after the march began, smashing statues and attacking journalists.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the red shirt protests in Bangkok which ended in a bloody crackdown, 50,000 red-shirt members rallied in Thailand. Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra set himself a hefty task, promising to solve the country’s economic problems and “make the country boom again within six months.”

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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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