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Southeast Asia fears militant fallout as Mideast conflict widens

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Southeast Asia fears militant fallout as Mideast conflict widens | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Southeast Asia fears militant fallout as Mideast conflict widens
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Four gun-wielding rebel fighters sit relaxing on a wall, their faces concealed by scarves and ski masks. All are Indonesians who came to Syria to join the Islamist insurgency, the cameraman says, speaking Indonesian peppered with Arabic phrases.

He pans around and introduces them as a former soldier, a businessman, and a college student, before settling on a boy in his early teens leaning on his AK-47 assault rifle.

“Brothers in Indonesia, don’t be afraid, because fear is a temptation from Satan,” says one of the fighters in the YouTube video, which has since been removed from the Islamist website.

As Sunni Islamist rebels surge from Syria into Iraq, security officials in Southeast Asia and Australia worry the conflict is radicalising a new generation of militants, who are being influenced to an unprecedented degree by social media.

In the 1990s, several hundred Indonesian, Malaysian and Philippine Muslims trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and brought their skills and ideology home, inspiring attacks such as the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202 people.

At least 30 Malaysians and 56 Indonesians are estimated by security officials to have gone to fight in Syria, although security analysts say the true number is likely higher.

Australia’s government estimates around 150 Australians have gone to the Middle East to join the fighting in Syria and Iraq, with some taking leadership roles.

Many, including those in the video, are believed to have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, whose hard-line Islamist rebels have led a Sunni Muslim charge across western and northern Iraq, including the capture of border crossings and the key city of Mosul.

“It’s a growing concern,” Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Reuters.

“Some Malaysians who may have been in contact with some of these people get motivated to participate. We have been arresting a lot of militants within the country.”

Malaysian police have arrested at least 16 suspected militants since April who they said were believed to have ties to ISIL and some of whom trained in jungle areas in northern Malaysia. Malaysian media, citing an ISIL website, reported that a Malaysian named Ahmad Tarmimi carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq in May, although Reuters was unable to verify the incident.

Malaysia is investigating a report by Syria’s permanent representative to the United Nations that 15 Malaysians fighting for ISIL had been killed, its Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said this week she had cancelled a “substantial number” of passports on security grounds in recent months and was considering further measures.

“There is a real danger that these extremists will come back home as trained terrorists and pose a threat to our security,” Bishop told the Australian parliament on Monday.

Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco and Russia are by far the largest contributors of the estimated 11,000 foreign fighters in Syria, according to strategic security firm The Soufan Group.

Official estimates of 236 militants from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia would account for nearly 9 percent of the foreign fighters from countries excluding those four.

THE FINAL BATTLE

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, has long been the epicentre of Islamist militancy in east Asia, breeding groups such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI) that carried out the 2002 Bali bombing and other attacks on Western targets.

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said in a report in January the Syrian crisis had inspired Indonesian extremists to an unprecedented extent, partly due to teachings that “the final battle” would take place in the greater Syrian region.

“We can see that ISIS is getting better, it’s growing and it’s widening its reach and influence over cities in Iraq – Mosul, Tikrit and then Ramadi. Soon, God willing, even Baghdad will fall,” said M. Fachry, the chief editor of al-mustaqbal.net, an Indonesian militant website.

Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual father of JI who has since split with the group, and Aman Abdurrahman, an influential extremist scholar, have urged their followers to support ISIL in recent months. Several pro-ISIL rallies have drawn large crowds in Indonesia, where support and recruitment for foreign militant groups remains legal.

The concern among security officials is that fighters in Syria and Iraq could breathe new life into the radical movement in Indonesia, where militant groups have been dispersed and weakened in recent years by security crackdowns.

“That’s why we’re focussing on it. Because it will be a massive problem when they come back to Indonesia, everyone agrees on that,” said an Indonesian security official, who is briefed on anti-terrorism efforts but declined to be identified.

Unlike in the 1990s, social media now plays an influential role, with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter widely used by militants to transmit their message and lionise “martyrs”.

“It’s the development of social media that has caused ISIS’s popularity to rise. ISIS has been using social media, especially Twitter, to massively increase their growth,” said al-mustaqbal.net’s M. Fachry.

Mohd Lotfi Ariffin, a Malaysian who says he is fighting in Syria, regularly posts pictures and videos of himself and other militants to his nearly 19,000 Facebook followers.

One of those followers, 21-year-old Malaysian Mohammad Fadhlan Shahidi, was inspired to join him in Syria, according to a video posted on his Facebook page on May 15 showing him side-by-side with Lotfi and another Malaysian fighter.

“At the beginning, I got in touch with Ustaz (teacher) Lutfi,” Fadhlan says. “The Ustaz told me how much I would need for the trip.”

Police in Malaysia and Indonesia face a struggle to keep track of militant activity and secure convictions, analysts say, because of the threat’s more diffuse nature and due to political changes in both countries that have undermined their reach.

The governments of both countries have been accused of sometimes fanning Islamist extremism for political gain. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was reported as telling members of his ruling party on Monday that they should be inspired by ISIL’s bravery and against-the-odds victories.

Indonesia’s security establishment no longer has the tight control over society that prevailed under late President Suharto up to the 1990s, said Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer at the Indonesian National Defence University.

“The problem we have is the chain of command of the government. The military is no longer the all-powerful entity it was when it was able to get the names of everybody,” he said.

Malaysian officials say they have been hobbled by the government’s repeal in 2012 of the Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention of suspects.

“The police especially think we are powerless to handle it like we did it before,” said Malaysia’s Wan Junaidi.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Technology

More than four million guests stayed in an Airbnb on August 10, 2019

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“Airbnb has created an opportunity to meet people from all around the world.” – Pim, an Airbnb Host in Thailand

Exactly 11 years since Airbnb was founded, the home-sharing hospitality company and ‘accommodation disrupters’ celebrated its biggest night ever, with more than 4 million people spending the night in an Airbnb listing on August 10, 2019.

To date, there has been more than half a billion guest arrivals at unique homes and properties all over the world since the company was founded in August 2008.

To work towards bringing the world closer, Airbnb has created the Airbnb Connection Index, which reflects the pairings of countries and regions between hosts and guests. For example, when a guest from Thailand becomes the first to stay with a host in Iceland, a new connection is made. In return, when an Icelandic guest becomes the first to stay with a host in Thailand, another new connection is made.

In 2010, the Airbnb platform had facilitated more than 1,300 connections. By 2015, that number had increased to more than 16,500.

More than four million guests stayed in an Airbnb on August 10, 2019 | News by The Thaiger

Today, approximately 26,000 connections have been made via the Airbnb platform, and by the end of 2019 more than 30,013 connections are expected to be made as the platform grows even further.

With the current presence of the Airbnb platform in 245 countries and regions, it is mathematically possible for there to be 60,025 place-to-place connections. By the year 2027, Airbnb predicts that there will be in excess of 50,000 connections.

As outlined in a recent report, much of Airbnb’s fastest growth is occurring in emerging destinations, propelled by a rising demand for travel to places across Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America.

Pim, an Airbnb Host in Thailand, shared, “Airbnb has created an opportunity to meet people from all around the world. It makes me understand that different cultures can live together. We can be happy, we can share, we can have good memories together no matter where you come from.”

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Southeast Asia

Bangkok to Hong Kong the world’s second most popular flight, what’s the most popular?

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Bangkok to Hong Kong the world’s second most popular flight, what’s the most popular? | The Thaiger

The world’s top five flying routes are all in the Asia Pacific region, according to an International Air Transport Association (IATA) report. Aviation writers say the growth can be attributed to the addition of flights operated by low-cost carriers in the region.

Passenger traffic between Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) and Hong Kong airport is Number Two on the list of the airports with the world’s busiest air traffic. The trip between Hong Kong and Taipei Taoyuan, Taiwan, is the most popular route in the world carrying 5.4 million passengers per year.

Passenger traffic between Suvarnabhumi and Hong Kong reached 3.4 million in 2018, up 9% from 2017.

The report of IATA world airline traffic for 2018 also shows that airlines in the Asia Pacific carried the largest number of passengers in the world.

Global passenger traffic results for 2018 showed that demand rose by a healthy 6.5% compared to full-year 2017. Although this represented a slowdown compared to the 2017 annual growth of 8.0%, it was another year of above-trend growth. Full year 2018 capacity climbed 6.1%, and load factor edged up 0.3 percentage point to a record 81.9%, exceeding the previous high set in 2017.

“Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before. The freedom to fly is more accessible than ever. And our world is a more prosperous place as a result,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director-general and CEO.

In terms of pure numbers of flights for 2018, here are the results. Eight out of ten of the routes are all in the Asia-Pacific.

  1. Kuala Lumpur – Singapore: 30,187 flights
  2. Hong Kong – Taipei: 28,447 flights
  3. Jakarta – Singapore: 27,046 flights
  4. Hong Kong – Shanghai: 20,678 flights
  5. Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur: 19,741 flights
  6. Seoul Incheon – Osaka: 19,711 flights
  7. New York LaGuardia – Toronto: 17,038 flights
  8. Hong Kong – Seoul Incheon: 15,770 flights
  9. Bangkok – Singapore: 14,698 flights
  10. Dubai – Kuwait: 14,581 flights
  11. Bangkok – Hong Kong: 14,556 flights
  12. Hong Kong – Beijing: 14,537 flights
  13. New York JFK – London Heathrow: 14,195 flights
  14. Tokyo Narita – Taipei: 13,902 flights
  15. Dublin – London Heathrow: 13,855 flights
  16. Osaka – Shanghai: 13,708 flights
  17. Hong Kong – Singapore: 13,654 flights
  18. Chicago O’Hare – Toronto: 13,503 flights
  19. Seoul Incheon – Tokyo Narita: 13,517 flights
  20. Osaka – Taipei: 13,325 flights
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Tourism

Which flight route makes the most money in the world?

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Which flight route makes the most money in the world? | The Thaiger

The world of aviation now has its first billion dollar route. That’s a flight route that makes more money for an airline than any other. And for the first time that route has breached the one billion dollar ceiling – British Airways’ service between London Heathrow and New York’s JFK.

OAG has come up with a list of the routes and airlines that generate the highest revenue around the world.

The Heathrow to JFK route pockets British Airways more than $1.15 billion in the 12 months up to April 2019. With 600+ flights per month, that equates to an hourly revenue of $27,159, a 10% increase on last year’s revenue. British Airways operates the venerable Boeing 747 and Boeing 777-200s on its Heathrow to JFK services.

So where is the second most profitable flight route in the world? QANTAS Airways’ domestic service between the southern cities of Melbourne and Sydney generates more than $861 million a year for Australia’s national airline.

Number 3 and 4 were also flights out of London’s Heathrow – Emirates’ service to Dubai and Singapore Airlines’ route to Singapore Changi. The Heathrow flights to Doha with Qatar Airways was number 7 and Cathay Pacific’s flights to Hong Kong were Number 8.

North American domestic routes also figured in the top 10. United Airlines’ San Francisco to Newark route delivered annual revenue of $689 million dollars and Air Canada’s Vancouver to Toronto route was Number 9 with annual revenue of $541 million dollars.

Highest-revenue flight routes: April 2018 – March 2019

1. British Airways: New York JFK – London Heathrow

(Total revenue: $1,159,126,794 / revenue per hour: $27,159)

2. Qantas Airways: Melbourne – Sydney

(Total revenue: $861,260,322 / revenue per hour: $23,773)

3. Emirates: London Heathrow – Dubai International

(Total revenue: $796,201,645 / revenue per hour: $24,926)

4. Singapore Airlines: London Heathrow – Singapore Changi

(Total revenue: $735,597,614 / revenue per hour: $18,771)

5. United Airlines: San Francisco International – Newark

(Total revenue: $689,371,368 / revenue per hour: $12,882)

6. American Airlines: Los Angeles LAX – New York JFK

(Total revenue: $661,739,788 / Revenue per hour: $13,099)

7. Qatar Airways: London Heathrow – Hamad International

(Total revenue: $639,122,609 / revenue per hour: $20,415)

8. Cathay Pacific Airways: Hong Kong International – London Heathrow

(Total revenue: $604,595,063 / revenue per hour: $13,887)

9. Singapore Airlines: Sydney – Singapore Changi

(Total revenue: $549,711,946 / revenue per hour: $20,821)

10. Air Canada: Vancouver YVR – Toronto Pearson International

(Total revenue: $541,122,509 / revenue per hour: $11,936)

SOURCE: CNN Travel

 

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