This week Just Asia begins with Bangladesh, where a fast-moving fire in the historic district of Chawkbazar in the country’s capital city of Dhaka has killed 78 persons and injured 55. The death toll and the number of victims is expected to increase as more bodies are found from the wreckage. The 400-year-old Chawkbazar district is very crowded, with many residential buildings having chemical concerns operating on their ground floors. According to officials, the fire started at a chemical warehouse on the ground floor, and then raced through three other buildings.
Next, after the deadly terror attack in India, killing 40 paramilitary officers in Pulwama, Indian-administered Kashmir, there have been increasing attacks on Kashmiri students throughout the country. Most of these attacks have come from right wing Hindutva groups affiliated with the RSS, the organization to which even India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party belongs. The attacks have forced many colleges to suspend Kashmiri faculty and ask Kashmiri students to leave.
Moving to the Philippines, veteran journalist and editor in chief of news site Rappler, Maria Ressa posted bail last Thursday, after her arrest on cyber libel charges. Ressa called the charges ‘an act of naked intimidation to quash critical reporting of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration’. The cyber libel law adds to an already difficult environment for journalism in the Philippines. The country ranked 133rd out of 180 countries on last year’s World Press Freedom Index maintained by Reporters Without Borders.
In Burma, a court sentenced two men to death last week for the killing of prominent Muslim lawyer Ko Ni in 2017. Ko Ni, a close adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, was shot in the head at close range on 29th January 2017. The Yangon Northern District Court found the shooter, Kyi Lin, guilty of premeditated murder and illegal weapons possession. The mastermind, Aung Win Khine however, remains at large.
Next, in Nepal the government allegedly forced a singer to remove his song from YouTube. The song exposed the wrongdoings and corruption occurring in the country. The government’s youth outfit even threatened singer Pashupati Sharma with dire consequences and the end of his career if he did not remove the song. Nepal is steadily becoming intolerant and resorting to the “reasonable restrictions” found in Article 17 of the Constitution to silence critical voices.
Lastly, in Indonesia, Central Java Governor has called on the relevant authorities to ensure the ‘immediate re-enrollment’ of the 14 elementary school students with HIV/AIDS in Surakarta, who were recently expelled. Following pressure on the school’s management by other parents, 14 children were expelled from Purwotomo 74 state elementary school. The students are currently being given assistance by the Lentera Foundation.
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