Weekly News Summary – May 6

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

ASIAWATCH — Terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was reportedly killed during a top-secret joint mission by US Navy SEALS and CIA agents in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The military operation was conducted without the support or knowledge of the Pakistani government. Its intelligence services have been accused of harbouring the 9/11 mastermind, who hid for five years in the luxurious compound in the centre of the military city located 100km north of Islamabad.

Whilst Al Qaeda has not – yet – launched any retaliatory attacks, in Afghanistan the Taliban announced a spring offensive with a suicide bomber aged 12 killing four people in the Paktika province. The boy, who struck in a crowded market, injured 12 others.

Also, in separate parts of the country, a gunman opened fire at a police checkpoint killing two officers and two civilians, whilst a bicycle bomb wounded 13 people.

In Bangladesh, a court sentenced 11 people to life imprisonment for gang raping a female school student during post-election violence in 2001.

The victim was one of more than 200 Hindu women who were raped following the parliamentary elections, which incited religious violence in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Indian police arrested eight people for stoning to death two young lovers who were from different castes. Police allege the murdered woman’s mother led a mob of almost 200 villagers in the attack.

There was progress in resolving Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis this week, after workers at the Fukushima plant managed to enter one of the nuclear buildings for the first time since it was hit by a powerful earthquake on 11 March.

A ventilation system was installed to filter out radioactive material from the air. Water continues to be pumped into the reactors.

Economic news dominated headlines in south-east Asia, including in the Philippines and Malaysia where their respective central banks raised the cost of borrowing after new data showed consumer prices were at a one year high. The Indonesian economy expanded 6.5 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

Global markets dipped on concern over Chinese inflation figures, whilst a new UN study found that the world’s largest nation had become the fastest growing investor in Latin America.

The investment is consistent with China’s new reputation as one of the world’s largest provider of foreign aid, often seen as being designed to increase its international influence.

The Chinese government continued to exert its influence at home, however, through the establishment of a new government body designed to control information on the internet. The changes will result in a tighter grip on the content available.

In Vietnam, thousands of ethnic Hmong people demanded autonomy and religious freedom in a rare outbreak of unrest that resulted in the brief kidnapping of a group of local officials.

Additional soldiers were quickly deployed to the remote mountainous region, where they used violence to quash the protesting Hmong, most of whom were Christian.

And Amnesty International reported that North Korea has built more of its secretive political prison camps.

Horrific witness accounts detail the torture, slavery, starvation and mass executions of political inmates. Severe food shortages meant some people inside the camps survived by eating rats and picking corn kernels out of animal waste.

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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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