This week Just Asia begins with Thailand, where 181 ethnic minority refugees and asylum seekers, most with UN refugee status, were arrested on August 28. Including some 50 children, the detainees are mostly from the Montagnard population in Vietnam and Cambodia. The arresting officials showed little knowledge about refugees, or government obligations to protect them. Human Rights Watch and other groups are calling for their immediate release.
Next, in Burma, two Reuters journalists have been sentenced to seven years imprisonment for violating a state secrets act while investigating a massacre against the Rohingya minority. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Burmese nationals, were arrested in December 2017 while carrying official documents given to them by police officers. This sentence is a crushing blow to press freedom in Burma, as well as a setback for democracy.
In Indonesia, a Chinese Buddhist woman has been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to one year and eight-months imprisonment on August 21, for complaining about the volume of the azaan, the Muslim call to prayer. Mrs. Meliana’s defence petitions, witness testimony, and all other evidence presented by her lawyer were ignored by the judges. There are calls for the judgment to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Moving to Nepal, a 30-year-old man died in police custody, after police refused to give him medication and delayed taking him to the hospital. Ram Manohar Yadav was arrested on August 23, and since then was not given his hypertension medication. Only after he collapsed on August 30, did the police take him to the hospital, where doctors recommended he be taken to Kathmandu and admitted in the ICU. The police finally took him to Kathmandu on August 31, but Yadav was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
A student was arrested in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu for calling the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “fascist”. Twenty-two-year-old Sofia Lois raised her fist and said, ‘down with BJP’s fascist government’ when she saw BJP politician Tamilisai Soundararajan on Monday at the Tuticorin airport. Feeling ‘threatened’, Soundararajan filed a police complaint.
In Malaysia, two women convicted of attempting to have lesbian sex in a car have been caned in a religious court. The Muslim women, aged 22 and 32, were each caned six times in the Sharia High Court in the state of Terengganu. Human rights activists reacted with outrage.
Malaysia is known to be a moderate Muslim-majority country, but has seen rising religious sentiment in recent years.
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