Weekly News Summary – May 20

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

ASIAWATCH — An Australian report titled ‘Jihadists in Jail’ described Indonesian prisons as incubators of terrorism, where jailed terrorists form new links and even plan attacks.

Researchers interviewed 33 men convicted on terrorism charges, including members of the notorious Jemaah Islamiyah network which was behind the Bali bomb attacks of 2002.

They found that terror convicts are frequently located in the same prison blocks and allowed to mingle freely.

India is now searching its own prison population for terrorists, after a manhunt traced a terrorist fugitive back to a Mumbai prison.

The man had been included in a list compiled by India’s law enforcement agencies of its 50 most wanted men purportedly hiding in Pakistan.

It emerged that the man, who is accused of involvement in a 2003 Mumbai train bombing, had been released from the Mumbai jail on bail.

On the topic of terrorist leaders, Osama bin Laden made a posthumous appearance in the media this week courtesy of a recording purportedly made shortly before his assassination.

In the message, the 9/11 mastermind praised the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and called for Muslims to rise up.

Meanwhile the Taliban continued its spring offensive by bombing a US consulate convoy in Pakistan. One Pakistani was murdered.

Taliban insurgents also shot dead 35 construction workers in eastern Afghanistan.

In Sri Lanka, student unions protested over a new government scheme that demands university entrants undertake three weeks of mandatory training in military camps.

The Supreme Court has been asked to stop the program, which would include physical drills and conflict management.

The government defended the initiative, which it says will improve leadership skills.

East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao accused the United Nations of trampling over his country’s sovereignty.

A leaked UN briefing had described the Gusmao, a former guerilla fighter, as being an obstacle to democracy.

Military prosecutors in Taiwan indicted a senior general on suspicion of spying for China.

The defense ministry claimed the general began passing intelligence to China in 2004, receiving USD150,000 in exchange. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.

The Chinese government made a rare admission of failure this week, acknowledging that the controversial Three Gorges Dam has created a range of major problems that need to be resolved quickly.

Top leaders admitted the USD40 billion project has led to environmental problems and social issues caused by the forced relocation of 1.3 million people.

The youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il made a secret visit to China this week. It is the younger Kim’s first such trip since he was given key military and political posts last year.

Analysts see it as a clear signal of the reclusive state’s succession plans. Current leader Kim Jong-il is 69 and has had a stroke, prompting fears for the stability of the rogue nuclear state.

Japan officially announced it had returned to recession as a result of March’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

This came on the back of Tokyo Electric Power posting the biggest ever loss for a Japanese firm outside the financial sector. The beleaguered utility was hit by huge costs as a result of the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

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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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