This week Just Asia begins with Bangladesh, where the government has intensified crackdowns on civil society prior to December’s general elections. Most recently, prominent freedom-fighter and civil society actor Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury and his institutions have come under terrorist attacks, while the pro-government media has been maligning Dr. Badul Alam Majumdar, head of the Hunger Project and Citizen for Good Governance. Just Asia speaks to Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman of the Asian Human Rights Commission for more details.
Next, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh were relieved after Prime Minister Hasina’s government decided to postpone plans to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Burma last week, after none of the refugees volunteered to go. In fact, fearful of returning home, some people on the repatriation list left their shanties and disappeared into other camps. According to the UN, reports of ongoing abuses against the Rohingya remaining in Rakhine continue.
Moving to Indonesia, for over six years, the congregation of Filadelfia Church of Bekasi regency, West Java province, has been conducting a worship service in front of the Presidential Palace every Monday afternoon. The service is to protest against the refusal of the local government to issue an official permit for the development of their church. This is in spite of court orders to this effect.
Next, Taiwan is holding a series of referendums on gay rights on Saturday, which may restrict the rights of homosexual couples to wed. In a landmark ruling in May 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court said that same-sex couples have the right to be legally married from May 2019. While many couples have been eagerly awaiting the date, if conservative forces win out in the November 24 referendum, activists are worried that gay couples may end up with limited rights.
Malaysia is backtracking on ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Malay and Muslim groups, as well as the political opposition, are all against the ratification, which would affect Malaysia’s longstanding bumiputera policy that reserves education and jobs for Malays and other indigenous races, as well as the primacy of Islam. The opposition are planning a huge demonstration on December 8 in Kuala Lumpur, to protest the ratification.
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