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“Philippines: Deadliest country in the world for land defenders” – Global Witness

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“Philippines: Deadliest country in the world for land defenders” – Global Witness | The Thaiger

Murders of environmental activists and land defenders in The Philippines continue to rise sharply under President Rodrigo Duterte. The accusations from an international rights watchdog, alleging his speeches and policies have “emboldened” the killers.

Campaigners who challenge powerful logging, mining and fruit growing interests have long faced deadly violence in The Philippines, but the recent increase mark a “disturbing” jump, according to the report from Global Witness.

In July, the group said 30 killings in The Philippines last year made it the deadliest country in the world for land defenders – a first since the group began reporting such deaths in 2012.

Senior Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather says that since President Duterte came to power, there’s been a huge increase in the killings of land and environmental defenders including indigenous activists.

“The president’s aggressive rhetoric against defenders, coupled with the climate of violence and impunity fostered by his drugs war, has only made things worse.”

The report claims the toll was at least 113 since Duterte became president in mid-2016, while no fewer than 65 were killed in the three years before his rule.

Duterte’s presidency has been marked by his internationally condemned anti-drugs campaign that authorities say has resulted in more than 5,500 dealers or users being gunned down by police. Rights groups say the true toll is at least four times as high.

The president also threatens enemies in his frequent, rambling public statements that are peppered with profanity and are part of his popular appeal in The Philippines. During a 2017 press conference, he threatened to bomb tribal community schools, which he accused of pushing students to become communist rebels, according to the Global Witness report.

“The President’s brutal ‘war on drugs’ has fostered a culture of impunity and fear, emboldening the politically and economically powerful to use violence,” the report added.

Since January there has been at least 16 killings in the province of Bukidnon in the island of Mindanao – Jeoffrey Maitem/Global Witness

The report cited a series of killings carried out since Duterte won a landslide election victory on his promise to fight crime and corruption.

In 2017, a member of an environmental watchdog group was shot dead while attempting to confiscate illegally cut timber destined for boutique hotels being built amid a tourist boom on Palawan island, known as the country’s last ecological frontier, the report said.

The victim was the 12th member of the group to be killed since 2004, it added.

A community leader in Mindanao was shot dead in a 2016 ambush after speaking out against a mining project run by a company headed by a businessman who was an election campaign donor for Duterte, Global Witness said.

It said it also investigated cases of ranchers growing pineapples and bananas for fruit multinationals on land claimed by tribesmen, one of whom was killed — allegedly by security guards of a Del Monte Philippines contract grower in 2017.

In 2016, security guards of another rancher who grows bananas for Dole Philippines destroyed the houses of tribesmen claiming the land, uprooted their crops and chased them off the property with gunshots, the report said.

Dole and Del Monte dominate the industry in the Philippines, which the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation ranked as the world’s second-largest exporter of both bananas and pineapples last year.

Continuing to do business with these ranchers “makes both companies complicit with the violations”, Leather said.

Del Monte Philippines, in a statement, denied the report’s allegations, adding that it “vigorously promotes the welfare of stakeholders across its global supply chain”.

Dole Philippines, controlled by Japan’s Itochu Corp, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Myanmar

Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar

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Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Burmese surfer Thwe Thwe Soe practicing off the coast of Ngwe Saung – Myanmore

Paddling hard and smiling, Thwe Thwe Soe flung herself up on the board just as a wave was breaking, spreading her arms out for balance before getting knocked off.

“I can’t live without surfing. I did not expect to be chosen for the national team but I’m thrilled at the opportunity.”

Thwe Thwe Soe was speaking after a day in the blue waters off the small coastal resort town of Ngwe Saung. Competitive surfing was barely known in Myanmar a few years ago but one local beach town is riding a wave of enthusiasm to the Southeast Asia Games for the first time ever.

The Southeast Asian country is flanked by surf-ready coasts to the west and south, but decades of military rule, lack of equipment and poverty kept aspiring athletes from testing the waters. The 25 year old encountered the sport while studying in southern California and has been hooked since, saying she “always feels happy” on the water.

Now she is going up against the region’s giants at the December games in the Philippines. Thwe Thwe Soe has one of the best chances to medal among the handful of surfers going, but all are training hard.

“We surf for at least four to six hours a day,” said American coach Robert Brickell, a 26 year old originally from New York.

The mild waves at Ngwe Saung present a paradox for competitive surfers – they are good to learn on but much tamer than the conditions in surfing hotspots. The team went to Bali in Indonesia for two months to get used to some “big wave surfing” and have made enormous strides in a short amount of time, Brickell said.

“My hope is that we can show everybody that people from Myanmar, we know how to surf, we know how to respect the ocean. And of course our hope is to win some meets.”

The Surf Association of Myanmar was established only this year. The sport is slowly gaining prominence thanks to the impassioned surfers, most from a village near the beach and newcomers themselves. Ngwe Saung is the heartland of the growing craze and has now hosted several competitions.

“We hadn’t heard of surfing before 2017. It will be a difficult competition but we will do our best for sure.” said 19 year old Aung Min Naing.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Aspiring new Burmese surfer, Aung Min Naing – MMTimes.com

Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar | News by The Thaiger

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Philippines

Philippines calls for halt in aid talks with backers of UN probe into Duterte’s drug war

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Philippines calls for halt in aid talks with backers of UN probe into Duterte’s drug war | The Thaiger

“The 18 members that backed the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, and Uruguay.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has ordered the suspension of all loan and grant talks with foreign governments that backed a UN resolution to review human rights abuses during his signature anti-drug war.

The Iceland-sponsored UN Human Rights Council resolution passed by a minority vote in July, drew a sharp riposte from Duterte, who bristles at Western condemnation of his campaign which has killed thousands and drawn international condemnation but is widely supported by Filipinos.

Last month, Duterte’s chief aide issued a memorandum which he signed “by order of the president” to cut off all official development aid talks with the countries that voted for the resolution, according to the document.

The memorandum was issued to the heads of all government agencies by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on August 27 and was posted on the official website of the Bureau of Customs but was then taken down.

“All concerned officials are DIRECTED to suspend negotiations for and signing of all loan and grant agreements with the governments of the countries that co-sponsored and/or voted in favour of the aforesaid resolution.”

The directive said the August 27 memorandum was issued “in light of the administrations’ strong rejection of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council”.

However, asked late Friday whether Duterte’s office had issued the document, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said it was “not true”, adding he had spoken to the president about it.

“The President has not issued any memorandum suspending loans and negotiations involving 18 countries that voted in favour of the Iceland resolution.”

The 18 members that backed the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, and Uruguay.

The amount of aid that would be held up by the order was not known.

Some signatories are members of the European Union, one of the Philippines’ largest sources of official development assistance. The EU ambassador to Manila declined to comment.

Australia is also a key source of security assistance.

Panelo had told reporters shortly after the July vote that Duterte was seriously considering breaking diplomatic ties with Iceland, which had introduced the resolution.

Duterte launched the anti-drug crackdown in 2016, and since then police say they have killed over 5,500 drug suspects. However, human rights groups say the true toll is four times that number.

The UN review comes in addition to a preliminary examination already launched by war crimes prosecutors from the International Criminal Court, which the Philippines left earlier this year.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Philippines

Another 300 Chinese rounded up in Philippines fraud crackdown

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Another 300 Chinese rounded up in Philippines fraud crackdown | The Thaiger

PHOTO: rya.org

Aliens were reportedly rounded up in eight hotels and establishments where they were caught in the act of doing their illegal activities.”

Philippines immigration officials, backed by army troops, have arrested more than 300 Chinese over alleged cyber crimes, a week after a similar number were detained during a raid linked to investment fraud.

The Bureau of Immigration late Tuesday said 324 Chinese nationals were arrested in Puerto Princesa City on Palawan island during yesterday’s operation.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente says the detainees, most of whom appeared to be undocumented, will be deported.

Morente added that his bureau will continue to root out illegal aliens, especially those engaged in “unauthorised online gaming activities, cyber fraud and investment scams that prey on unsuspecting victims who are mostly abroad.”

Last Friday, Filipino authorities arrested 277 Chinese nationals in a raid on a gang wanted over a vast investment fraud that cost victims in China millions of dollars.

Agents swooped on an office building in the capital Manila to take four suspects into custody in connection with the 100 million yuan (US$14 million) scam, but said they stumbled on many more “conducting illegal online operations.”

Monday’s raids in Palawan stemmed from reports made by local officials about the presence of illegal Chinese workers in Puerto Princesa, the immigration bureau’s acting intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan said in the statement.

The Philippines has seen a spike in the arrival of Chinese tourists and workers since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in mid-2016 and immediately set about warming relations with Beijing.

The influx has had a mixed impact, and authorities suspect many of the arrivals are working illegally in the online gambling industry.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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