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No tsunami warning system for Sunda Strait

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No tsunami warning system for Sunda Strait | The Thaiger

by The Jakarta Post – Asia News Network

The Indonesian government says, following a “volcanic tsunami” in the Sunda Strait on Saturday evening, the country did not have any early warning system for tsunamis not caused by earthquakes, since 2012 when vandalism rendered the system inoperative.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman, says was no warning about the Sunda Strait tsunami because Indonesia did not yet have any early warning system for tsunamis caused by underwater landslides or volcanoes in the sea.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reports that the tsunami that happened on Saturday night was likely to have been caused by an underwater landslide caused by volcanic activity of Mount Anak Krakatau, combined with an unusually high tides because of the full moon.

The BMKG stated in a press release that a tsunami hit coastal areas of western Banten and southern Lampung at 9:27 p.m. Earlier on Saturday evening, the BMKG had said the event was not a tsunami but a “high tidal wave”.

The Jakarta Post reports that the coastal areas most severely affected by the tsunami were Pandeglang regency, Serang, and South Lampung. In Pandeglang regency, most casualties were reported at the Mutiara Carita Cottage Hotel, the Tanjung Lesung Hotel and Sambolo village.

“According to preliminary data, there are no foreign casualties, only Indonesians,” he said.

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Crime

Booming regional meth industry – Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos

The Thaiger

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Booming regional meth industry – Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos | The Thaiger

“At the same time significant investment has been made in new highways and bridges in an out of Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos, Bangladesh and Vietnam. This has provided a boom in movement of products like food and clothing. And drugs.”

A UN Drugs and Crime report released this year states that the methamphetamine trade is now worth a staggering US$30-61 billion per year in East and South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh.

That’s a two to fourfold increase from the figures just a decade ago, the last time the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) estimated the value of the methamphetamine trade in the region.

Better enforcement, co-operation with neighbouring governments, increased manpower, more sophisticated surveillance and increased numbers of seizures have happened whilst the trade in meth has blossomed in the region.

Methamphetamine pills (aka. yaba in Thailand) are now being sold at highly discounted prices, and the well publicised massive seizures and interceptions do little to dent the operations of highly sophisticated and tech-savvy drug traffickers. Even the crystal methamphetamine (ice) from the region is feeding demand as far away as New Zealand.

Experts say the boom in South East Asia’s methamphetamine industry is the result of a series of regional and political factors, which have seen Myanmar’s lawless Shan State emerge as the regional meth factory.

The Shan State is in Myanmar’s north-east and borders Thailand, Laos and China.

Booming regional meth industry - Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos | News by The Thaiger

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Myanmar’s lawless Shan State warlords, militias and rebel groups typically sold opium and heroin, but subsequently shifted to synthetic drugs after realising how much easier they were to produce and more profitable they could be.

Lax enforcement in Shan State, coupled with porous borders, enabled methamphetamine producers to easily import the chemicals needed to make meth. Poorly enforced money laundering controls then allowed kingpins to easily clean their millions and flourish.

At the same time significant investment has been made in new highways and bridges in an out of Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos, Bangladesh and Vietnam. This has provided a boom in movement of products like food and clothing. And drugs. In the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’, China’s Belt & Road strategy to open up trade routes throughout Asia, has inadvertently made trafficking drugs a lot easier.

Booming regional meth industry - Thailand, Myanmar, China and Laos | News by The Thaiger

Routinely, seizures of truckloads of 1-5 million meth pills are intercepted then paraded by Thai police. But the biggest drug haul was in 2018 when authorities seized a record-breaking 120 tonnes of crystal meth and methamphetamine pills coming out of the Golden Triangle. More than half of the busts took place in Thailand, where authorities confiscated more than 515 million meth pills.

Now, Laos and Malaysia are also reporting record-breaking busts. In the first eight months of 2018 Chinese authorities reported a 22x increase in crystal methamphetamine seizures in Yunnan province, alone, compared with just three years before.

The UNODC report also states that organised crime groups are not only moving “staggering” amounts of meth to meet demand, they are also trying to increase that demand by flooding the region with cheap product. That’s led methamphetamine pill prices to hit historic lows. The flood also creates greater need and a myriad of social problems.

Pills are reportedly selling for less than US$1 (30 baht), even lower than the going price two decades ago.

At the start of this year Thai authorities began an “intensification campaign” along Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar. That’s where the main route south begins through Thailand. But those efforts, and the vast amounts of international investment to open new routes in and around the region, has just sent enterprising traffickers to use new routes, too numerous for effective enforcement.

John Coyne, a former Australian Federal Police official says the capacity for cashed-up and smart producers to simply ramp up production is allowing meth producers “to write off large seizures as a cost of doing business.”

“There needs to be a distinct rethink on what we do.”

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Myanmar

Family of Burmese rebel leader arrested in Thailand

Greeley Pulitzer

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Family of Burmese rebel leader arrested in Thailand | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Major General Tun Myat Naing and his wife Ma Hnin Zar Phyu – The Irrawaddy

Thai Immigration police arrested the wife and children of a top commander, Major General Tun Myat Naing of the Arakan Army, an active insurgent group fighting for greater autonomy in western Myanmar. Officials at the Thai Immigration Bureau’s Chiang Mai office arrested Ma Hnin Zar Phyu when she went there to extend her visa on December 4. She, and the two children, were sent to the border town of Mae Sai, in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, on Friday afternoon. From there the three are expected to be transferred across the border to Tachileik Township in Myanmar’s Shan State, where Burmese Special Branch Police are awaiting their arrival.

“Thai officials said she had been charged with illegal entry because Burmese authorities have revoked her passport.”

Rakhine state, also known as Arakan, is in Myanmar’s west. It came to global attention when 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape a Burmese military crackdown in 2017.

In recent months, civilians there have been caught in the crossfire between the Burmese military and the Arakan Army. According to the UN, more than 35,000 people have been displaced just this year.

Myanmar has designated the Arakan Army a terrorist organisation.

In July, Singapore deported a group of Burmese nationals with links to the Arakan Army over “security concerns”. Meanwhile, the head of the Arakan Information Centre says he is deeply concerned by Hnin Zar Phyu’s arrest.

Nyi Nyi Lwin told reporters that the mother and children should not be deported to Myanmar because she will be arrested, jailed and persecuted,”

“Arresting Tun Myat Naing’s wife is not good. It will create more conflict between the Rakhine people and the government and the Tatmadaw (Burmese army). It will never end, it will go on and on.”

Bilateral ceasefire talks between the Arakan Army and the government have been on hold since mid-September, when an alliance of three militias connected to the AA attacked a military technological academy in Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region, and police checkpoints in the Shan State.

SOURCES: Reuters | The Irrawaddy

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Malaysia

Former Malaysian PM Najib presents his opening testimony

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Former Malaysian PM Najib presents his opening testimony | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Voice of America

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak was in the witness box for the first time yesterday defending himself on criminal charges linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Bhd).

Najib, who unexpectedly lost a general election last year to his former mentor and former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad, is now facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received aboutUS $1 billion.

Najib stands accused of illegally receiving 42 million ringgit (about US$10 million) from former 1MDB business unit SRC International. A judge ruled prosecutors had successfully established a case against him over the matter and was ordered to present his defense last month.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in the SRC case.

Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who leads Najib’s defense team, maintains that his client had no reason to believe that proceeds of any illegal activity were transferred to him.

“Najib was not involved in any corrupt arrangement involving funds of SRC and did not solicit any bribes from any person.”

Najib yesterday read from his 243 page written testimony, in Malay. His testimony, prepared in a Q&A format, began with how he set up 1MDB in 2009 and how the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, said to be at the centre of the scandal, came to be associated with the fund.

The former PM looked noticably aged since his times as Malaysian prime minister.

“Low portrayed himself as someone influential in the Middle East countries who I believed was able to facilitate investments and partnerships between them.”

Low has been charged in Malaysia and the US over the alleged theft from 1MDB. Low has denied any wrongdoing. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World | Reuters

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