Stephen Tucker looks at the headlines making news this week from around south-east Asia and a little bit beyond.
The aftermath of the twin natural disasters in Japan dominated south-east Asian news this week. The official death toll topped 10,000, with more than 16,000 still missing. The damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continued to make headlines, with two workers hospitalized after being exposed to high levels of radiation.
Green groups celebrated an unexpected affect of the devastating earthquake and tsunami, with news that the nation’s whaling industry will take years to recover from the tragedy.
Tokyo’s legal system was back at work, imposing a death sentence on a 28-year-old man who admitted killing seven people in 2008. Tomohiro Kato ploughed his car into pedestrians, killing three people, before he stabbed and murdered another four people who were passing by. He was angered by online bullying. A total of 107 inmates are on death row in Japan, with public support for capital punishment at over 80 percent.
A US soldier avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to three counts of murders as part of a deal which will see him testify against four comrades. All five men are accused of being part of a rogue squad that assassinated unarmed Afghan men.
The arrival of thousands of Pashtuns fleeing conflict in north-western Pakistan has led to ethnic tensions in Karachi, where dozens of Pashtuns have been murdered over the past fortnight. Journalists and human rights groups estimate that at least 50 people have been murdered, whilst police officials put the number killed in the politically motivated attacks at 34.
Two of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, met some of India’s 55 billionaires in New Delhi, where they implored them to part with some of their immense wealth. Large scale charitable giving is yet to take off in India.
The Nepalese government pledged to invest US$275 million over five years in the country’s energy sector in a bid to improve its overwhelmed power grid. Nepal has around 12 hours of power cuts a day, forcing many industries to close early or reduce operations.
Nepal’s minority Christian community rallied in Kathmandu to demand a designated burial ground in the predominantly Hindu nation. Christianity is a growing religion in Nepal, where it has become popular among low-caste Hindus as a way of escaping the rigid caste system.
Smoking will be banned in most public places in China from May 1, 2011, although lighting up will be permitted in workplaces. More than a quarter of Chinese people smoke, and over one million die each year from smoking-related illnesses.
Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono is seen as “too weak and too reformist” by “senior retired generals” who support efforts to topple him, according to television news network Al Jazeera. The Islamic Defenders Front and other hardline groups are attempting to incite religious violence and force the overthrow of the president.