This week Just Asia begins with the Philippines, where rights groups and opposition lawmakers have condemned a bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old. The bill was passed with a 9-1 vote on Monday. According to rights groups, the bill is “not in the best interest” of children, but rather, is “an act of violence against children.”
Next, in Pakistan, activist Alamzaid Mehsud has gone missing since January 21. Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to disclose his whereabouts immediately. Mehsud is a prominent member of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, a civil rights movement demanding security and rights for the 30 million ethnic Pashtuns in Pakistan. Mehsud often shared videos and posts on social media documenting human rights abuses such as enforced disappearances, illegal killings, and landmines.
Moving to India, 2019 began with the continuation of the government’s witch-hunt against activists and rights groups, framing them under false charges, including sedition. On January 14, the Supreme Court refused to quash the First Information Report against prominent intellectual and activist Professor Anand Teltumbde, who is charged with sedition and conspiracy to violence. Also on January 14, the Delhi Police finally filed a 1200-page long charge sheet in the sedition case against Jawaharlal Nehru University student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban, three years after booking them.
Next, people in the Philippines’ volatile region of Mindanao voted on Monday in a historic referendum aimed at ending decades of violence between Islamist separatists and the Philippines Army. The referendum asked people if they support the creation of a self-administered area known as Bangsamoro. A ‘yes’ vote is widely expected, with final results to come in on Friday. Self-administration would transfer some powers from the central government, bring in more funding and give the region greater control of its resources.
Lastly, in Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and other officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding to end the detention of all child refugees and asylum seekers. The UNHCR welcomed this as a “positive example” of the country’s approach to the issue of refugees. Rights groups have for years condemned Thailand, which is not a signatory to the UN’s convention protecting refugees, for its hostility to asylum seekers. Thailand usually puts its bilateral ties with countries above protecting the rights of individuals.
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