Weekly News Summary – May 13

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

ASIAWATCH — Osama bin Laden’s assassination in Pakistan continued to dominate news across the globe this week.

Media reports detailed the 9/11 mastermind’s ongoing attempts to attack the US, gleaned from intelligence analysts who had pored over evidence captured during last week’s raid on his luxurious Pakistani compound.

Bin Laden pressed followers to find new ways to hit the US, suggesting they focus on smaller cities and target trains as well as planes.

Meanwhile, the US continued its drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan, with three strikes occurring since US commandos killed bin Laden.

In India, police briefly arrested prominent politician Rahul Gandhi this week during a farm protest.

The nation’s ruling Congress party reacted with fury at the arrest of the Uttar Pradesh MP, who is touted to be a future prime minister. Gandhi is also the son of Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi.

Newspapers across the country printed front-page images of a smiling Gandhi being driven away from the protests in a police car. The arrest is viewed as likely to further burnish his leadership credentials.

Police were also busy in Beijing this week, with the theft of seven art pieces from the famed Forbidden City leading to an intense manhunt.

The thief knocked a hole into the historical site’s outer walls in order to steal the million-dollar cache. Police eventually arrested a man in an internet café, but have yet to recover all the stolen items.

Whilst the brazen robbery may sound like its made for television, it won’t make it to air in China anytime soon courtesy of strict new regulations imposed by the government.

It has ordered an immediate three-month suspension of detective shows, spy thrillers or dramas about time-travel. China’s Communist Party is preparing its 90-year anniversary and authorities want stations to focus on the celebrations, which it expects will attract one billion television viewers.

In north-west Vietnam, hundreds of Hmong people are in hiding after last week’s unrest.

The worst ethnic violence in seven years broke out during protests over religious freedom and land rights.

Burma’s prolific opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi scorned the new government this week, saying that no “meaningful change” has occurred since November’s elections.

In March, the military junta passed power to a nominally civilian government but the legendary Suu Kyi says the army hierarchy retains a firm grip on power.

A Thai court sent two leading “red-shirt” politicians back to jail after they allegedly hurled insults against the monarchy.

Both men were charged with terrorist after last year’s violent street protests in Bangkok. This recent incarceration relates to interpretations of speeches they made to mark the anniversary of the protests.

An Indonesian passenger aircraft crashed into the sea off the coast of West Papua, killing all 27 people on board.

The plane went into the sea in poor weather, falling just short of the airstrip. The Indonesian archipelago has one of Asia’s worst air safety records.

Papua New Guinea’s government was in turmoil this week, with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare unlikely to return to the leadership due to a heart condition.

Somare has been prime minister for almost half of PNG’s 36 years of independence.

Problems continued to plague Japan’s stricken nuclear plant, with a water leak from a reactor vessel and another spill of contaminated water into the ocean. The update came as the government announced the culling of thousands of livestock roaming through the 20km evacuation zone.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami also forced the government to announce rethink of its plans to increase Japan’s reliance on nuclear power in Japan.

And the ever-shorter skirts of female schoolgirls in South Korea has prompted schools to place boards in front of all school desks.

The move is designed to make students feel more “comfortable”, although critics are demanding teachers merely enforce greater discipline.

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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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