Weekly News Summary — February 26

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

ASIAWATCH — Predictions the ongoing turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East would domino through Asia remained stubbornly unproven. The Chinese government continued to arrest and censor those linked with a so-called “Jasmine Revolution” of silent demonstrations.

Authorities cracked down on those “inciting subversion of state power” with several well-known human rights activists badly beaten and key internet search phrases blocked. Protest-related searches on the US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, remained authorized; the possible 2012 US Presidential candidate was criticized for attending one such rallies.

There is no sign of a winter of discontent in neighbouring North Korea either, despite drastic food shortages caused by the longest the longest consecutive stretch of freezing temperatures since 1945. Officials in Seoul saw no signs of unrest in the reclusive regime where social media does not exist.

By comparison, Indian police were shown on national television hitting dozens of cricket-lovers’ legs and backs as they queued for tickets to a World Cup match between India and England.

Indonesian human rights groups accused their government of failing to uphold the law after 13 Muslim hardliners received extremely light sentences for an attack on a Protestant Church congregation. The day prior the Religious Affairs Minister had claimed “liberal thought” was infecting the nation and that Indonesian students studying philosophy abroad needed to stay away from liberal Islam as, “Ultimate freedom belongs to Allah only.” Meanwhile, and in a somewhat contradiction, a Religious Affairs Ministry official blamed rising intolerance among local religious communities on a lack of government funds to promote religious harmony.

Malaysian recruitment firms said a burgeoning market for maids had arisen following an Indonesian decision 19 months ago to bar its citizens from taking new jobs as domestic workers in Kuala Lumpur. Thirty-five thousand Malaysian families are waiting for domestic help, whilst in East Timor the government planned to regulate the cost of basic needs in an effort to avoid price rises.

 

India’s economy continues to grow at an enviable nine per cent a year, courtesy in large part to an insatiable desire amongst the consumer cars for mobile phones, cars and large homes. Despite this impressive performance and a strong push by multinational corporations into developing nations, foreign investment in India fell more than 31 per cent in 2010. Outsiders blame corruption and bureaucracy for the shift away from India, highlighted by a massive US$1.4 billion in foreign investment being pulled from the country’s stock market in the last two months.

Japan may have yet another short-lived government, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan struggling to maintain public support for his eight-month old leadership ahead of a crucial budget battle. A scandal-tainted kingmaker was dumped this week, although this was largely overshadowed by the world’s first marathon for two legged robots held in Osaka.

In Shanghai, the focus was on real-life pets after regulations were passed stipulating that in addition to following the one-child policy, people could now only have one dog per household. There are more than 600,000 unlicensed dogs in Shanghai with over 140,000 dog bite incidents per year.

ENDS

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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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