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ASEAN in disarray over Chinese claims

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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BANGKOK: China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea are expected to be dealt a blow today as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (PCA) is scheduled to announce its decision on seven issues advanced by the Philippines against the People’s Republic.

The PCA, one of the world’s oldest and most widely-respected bodies for resolving international disputes, is likely to rule that China’s campaign of island building and its claims over areas of the sea contradicts international maritime accords.

China currently lays claim to some 2 million square kilometers of maritime space through a post-World War II plan known as the ‘nine-dash-line’. Only one of the seven submissions made by the Philippines, an ASEAN member, directly address the legality of Chinese claims. If the PCA found in favor of the Philippines in the other six submissions, it would undermine the legality of Chinese actions in the region.
To that effect, the People’s Republic has refused to take part in the PCA’s deliberations and has actively called into question the legitimacy of the body itself.

The Chinese government has also launched a national media campaign at home, in what appears to be an attempt to solidify government support ahead of international repudiation.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, says that the dispute between China and the Philippines is straining relations between ASEAN members, particularly between the more maritime-dependent Philippines and Vietnam and smaller ASEAN states located in China’s back yard.

“In fact, China is drumming up its own international support ahead of the PCA’s imminent decision, including a side agreement with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos that the international ruling will not impinge on ASEAN-China relations,” Mr Thitinan wrote in an op-ed piece in the Straits Times last month .

Should the PCA rule in favor of the Philippines, Mr Thitinan thinks it likely that those side agreements would undermine the unification of ASEAN by driving a wedge between the Philippines and Vietnam on the one hand, and Brunei, Cambodia and Laos on the other.

“The Manila-Beijing contest over the South China Sea has emerged as the most daunting and existential threat to all that ASEAN has achieved as the central linchpin of regionalism in Asia,” he wrote.

The stakes are high, both for China, which is expected to ignore the ruling if the Court finds in favor of the Philippines, and for ASEAN members, as Chinese influence erodes the economic organization’s political cooperation.

More than half the tonnage of the world’s global trade passes through the South China Sea annually, making it the second most used sea lane in the world.

The expected Chinese disregard for the PCA’s rulings and its undermining of ASEAN political unity also threatens claims by Vietnam and other member states to disputed off shore oil fields. The US Department of Energy Information estimates that there are oil reserves of around 11 billion barrels and natural gas of about 266 trillion cubic feet beneath the South China Sea bed.

The PCA has no means of enforcing whatever decision it delivers today. That means that should the Philippines wish to enforce its territorial claims against those advanced by China, it would find itself very much outgunned by the Chinese navy. This may shed some light as to the United States’ decision to dispatch two carrier-groups to Philippine waters over the last couple weeks.

With additional reporting by Wes Martin of the Phuket Gazette.

— Pornpimol Kanchanalak / The Nation

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Politics

Former Thai PM Thaksin makes appearance on popular Clubhouse app

Maya Taylor

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Former Thai PM Thaksin makes appearance on popular Clubhouse app | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Frank Franklin/AP

Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been living in exile for over 10 years, has made an appearance on the new “Clubhouse” social media app, in which he discussed his battle with Covid-19. Thaksin’s appearance was confirmed by the CARE movement, as he joined a forum hosted by the organisation on Monday night.

Nation Thailand reports that also taking part in the forum were former ministers from Thaksin’s cabinet, including Surapong Suebwonglee, Prommin Lertsuridej, Chaturon Chaisang and Pichai Naripthaphan. According to a Facebook post from CARE, Thaksin appeared under the name he has been using while living abroad.

“Thaksin would appear under the name ‘Tony Woodsame’, as Tony is the name he had used while studying abroad.”

During his appearance, Thaksin confirmed he had contracted the Covid-19 virus but has since recovered. He also brought up the “30 baht cure all” policy of his former party, Thai Rak Thai, designed to deal with Thailand’s healthcare problems. Asked about the current political turmoil in Thailand and how he would deal with protesters if he was still in power, he emphasised the importance of communicating with Thailand’s youth.

“Political rallies in Thailand are caused by young people starting to become uncertain about their future. The government must communicate with these young protesters based on reason, as well as find ways to make Thailand open and free.”

The exclusive, invitation-only Clubhouse app is gaining popularity in Thailand and around the world, helped by the approval of prominent figures like Elon Musk, Kanye West, and Jared Leto. Renowned Thai academic, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, himself living in exile, is also a Clubhouse member.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Politics

US government urges Myanmar military to stop violence and step down

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US government urges Myanmar military to stop violence and step down | The Thaiger

The US government is urging Myanmar’s military to stop the violence against coup protesters and step down, after the death of a young woman. The recommendation comes as the US, along with Britain, Australia, and Japan, commit to issuing sanctions against the military regime in an effort to support the toppled democracy.

Last November saw a landslide democratic, electoral victory for revered leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. But the military regime labelled its results as fraudulent, without offering any evidence to support its claims. The buildup of tensions in the country led to a coup by the military on February 1, which saw the arrests and detainment of Suu Kyi, along with other major government leaders.

Since then, civilians have taken to the streets in protest, with security forces responding by using increasing force against them. Tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons have been deployed at the protest sites. But a 20 year old woman, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, was shot in the head with a live round of ammunition in the capital last week, leading to her recent death.

The fatality sparked even more protests as some began calling her a martyr on social media, as demonstrators held her photos and a banner created showing the moment she was shot.

“We will regard you as our Martyr. We will bring justice for your loss.”

Now, people have created a memorial on the streets of Yangon for the grocery store worker, adorned with flowers and messages for the deceased woman. Her brother recently state that he was saddened, and had no words for the loss and Poh Poh, her sister, called for action.

“Please all join this protest movement to be more successful. That’s all I want to say.”

Around 550 people have been detained since the coup, with government workers walking off their jobs as part of a civil disobedience campaign. Neighbourhoods have began setting up watch groups to guard against evening arrests, as the nation has seen a overnight internet curfew for 6 days.

Internet monitor Netblocks revealed that Wikipedia, Facebook and other social media services have since been blocked in the country.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Crime

US charges 3 North Korean officials with stealing cryptocurrencies

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US charges 3 North Korean officials with stealing cryptocurrencies | The Thaiger

The US Justice Department is accusing North Korea of stealing crypto and traditional currencies and is charging 3 military intelligence officials with the alleged crime. President Joe Biden is calling the incident a “global campaign of criminality.”

The accusations include hacking and malware operation cyberattacks to steal $1.3 billion US dollars from banks and other institutions. The actions were allegedly under the radar to avoid UN sanctions that have cut off sources of the government’s income.

The US government says the stealing occurred over the last 7 years as the 3 officials allegedly created malicious cryptocurrency applications, hacking into the marketing and trading companies that include bitcoin. The case has been filed in the Los Angeles’ federal court and is built on the 2018 charges against 1 of the 3 officials, named Park Jin Hyok.

Hyok was accused in 2018, before the other defendants were identified, for allegedly stealing $6.1 million from Pakistan’s Bank Islami ATM machines after gaining access to its computer systems. Now the US government says all 3 worked together in that instance.

Hyok was also charged in 2014 with hacking Sony pictures, creating the WannaCry ransomware as well as the theft of $81 million US dollars from Bangladesh’s central bank.

Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il join Park Jin Hyok in being accused of working together in the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is known within the cybersecurity community as the Lazarus Group, or APT 38.

The 3 allegedly operated out of North Korea, Russia and China to hack computers that allowed them to empty victims’ crypto wallets. They also allegedly robbed digital currency exchanges in Slovenia and Indonesia and extorted a New York exchange of $11.8 million US dollars.

Kim Il has also been accused of developing the blockchain-based digital currency-like “Marine Chain Token” which was used as a fake instrument for investors to buy shares of shipping vessels. He is accused of not telling potential investors that it was designed to hide ship ownership identities to help North Korea avoid sanctions.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers says North Korea used keyboards rather than guns to steal cryptocurrency over bags of cash.

“Nation-state indictments like this are an important step in identifying the problem, calling it out in a legally rigorous format, and building international consensus.”

The case is the first open action taken against North Korea by the Biden administration, amid ongoing tensions over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that could be dangerous to the United States and allies.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the administration is “reviewing policy toward the country.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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