By STEPHEN BRYEN Dr Stephen Bryen has 40 years of leadership in government and industry. He has served as a senior staff director of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as the deputy under secretary of defense for trade security policy, as the founder and first director of the Defense Technology Security Administration, as the president of Delta Tech Inc, as the president of Finmeccanica North America, and as a commissioner of the US China Security Review Commission.   The time has come for the United States to rebuild and rethink its approach to Taiwan’s defense and security. China is becoming too provocative and aggressive, not only in the South China Sea, but also in the Taiwan straits, where it is starting to encroach on well-established red lines. It has also been carrying out military flights around the Taiwanese periphery, then heading as far as Japan, sending a message to both countries. It is not a message of peace and cooperation. Over the years – and no matter under what administration – support for Taiwan in the United States has been, at best, mediocre. The supply of mostly obsolete defense hardware, the long delays in providing equipment, the stilted and mostly non-functional military-to-military relationship and America’s reluctance to respond to Chinese provocations: these factors have left Taiwan largely on its own. I was in Taiwan during the 1996 Taiwan Straits Crisis, when Chinese missiles and landing ships were conducting an exercise that directly threatened Taiwan. I remember just how long it took before Bill Clinton finally sent US aircraft carriers to the area, forcing China to stand down. It was frightening, and a very close call. Taiwan had very little chance without US support – even then, when its air force and navy were stronger than now. (I was part of a three-man unofficial delegation that included former CIA head James Woolsey and Admiral Bud Edney. Later I would serve for five years as a Commissioner on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.) But Washington hardly changed its ways toward Taiwan after 1996.  Most of Washington’s inaction derives from the perceived “imperative” to have good relations with China. China was regarded as an emerging power and as a huge market for the United States, while Taiwan was seen as an unneeded irritant, impeding ties to China. At least to a degree, the worm has turned, because China is no longer “emerging,” and it is no longer just the big country that, just a few years ago, the Pentagon regarded as 20 years behind the United States in military terms. Even back in 2011, when the Pentagon made that assessment, its conclusion was largely political and not at all the reality. It was a way to ignore reality and leave Taiwan and other allies, including Japan, in the lurch. With power-politics changing in the region and China having emerged as an aggressive player with advanced military technology, the US has to significantly modify its behavior pattern toward Taiwan But the appearance of China’s stealth aircraft, the Chengdu J-20, in the South China Sea, China’s aggressive takeover and militarization of islands it does not own, and increasing threats to American allies, especially Taiwan and Japan, has changed the game. And, while the China lobby in the State Department, with its long-held proclivity for appeasement, has kept the policy line without change, the truth is that the geopolitics have changed. In short, if the US wants to play a future role in the Pacific, it had better rethink its policy now. What is Washington going to do with regard to Taiwan? Wait until disaster strikes? Behave as we are doing in Syria, as the Syrian and Russian air forces decimate the population of eastern Ghouta? Imagine the humanitarian disaster in Taiwan if China were to attack. The US has to put in place a deterrence program that works for Taiwan and supports US interests. There are, at least, four important steps – three hardware-related and one policy step – that are urgently needed. On the hardware front, the US has to give Taiwan a real capability to challenge both the J-20 and Su-35 jets that China is using provocatively. This means Taiwan needs aircraft that can match these challenges. Either that means providing the F-35 to Taiwan, or another stealth aircraft that can do the same job. Boeing has proposed the F-15SE, or Silent Eagle, which is intended as a stealthed-up version of the F-15 that could use many of the same electronic and countermeasure capabilities as the F-35. Washington should facilitate providing one or the other to Taiwan and do so on an urgent basis. The existing F-16 upgrade program underway in Taiwan with US support is important but it falls way short of the mark as a deterrent to China. The game should not be left entirely in China’s hands, and China needs to understand that any air attack may fail and undermine China’s claims to area-wide superpower status. Taiwan also needs modern submarines. It hardly suffices for Taiwan to be running two broken-down 1985-era Dutch submarines which are uncompetitive with China’s growing fleet of nuclear and conventionally powered submarines. And if it is true that Germany transferred U-214 submarine technology to China, then the picture is worse and far more dangerous. Over the years, the United States has promised to help Taiwan acquire modern submarines, but such promises have turned out to be an unfortunate boondoggle, one that stirred controversy in Taiwan and never brought anything useful to fruition. What the administration should have done then, and can still do today, is to buy submarines from Europe, put US systems in them and either sell or lease them to Taiwan. The Germans, French, Italians and Swedes make first class diesel-electric submarines with air-independent propulsion (AIP). These would make it hard for China’s submarines to choke off Taiwan. I remember just how long it took before Bill Clinton finally sent US aircraft carriers to the area, forcing China to stand down. It was frightening The idea that Taiwan will build its own modern submarine is a noble one, but there are many challenges and no assurance of success because Taiwan lacks the design teams, experience and technology developed over decades in Europe and the United States. Furthermore, the projected ten years it would take to even have a prototype of a local version is too long. Surely Washington can and must lend a hand. Thirdly, Taiwan needs better and more numerous missile defenses.  The PAC-3 system is simply inadequate against top-of-the-line Chinese ballistic missiles. THAAD or SM-3 are the kind of defenses Taiwan needs, and not only should the US offer them but it should fix them so they work right. What we have seen – forget the excuses – is that neither THAAD or SM-3 are up to snuff and need to be upgraded. Probably the kinetic hit to “kill” interceptor warhead needs a rethink.  No one really is talking about this weakness in Washington, largely because not many people really believe in missile defense. But it is needed and the upgrade should be a top agenda item in Washington. (Basically, hit to kill is ineffective against MIRV’d missiles with decoys and an area kill warhead should replace it.) Lastly, the US relationship to Taiwan, which has been improved a little around the edges, actually needs radical change. Today the US should be working out protocols to be able to use Taiwanese air bases in any crisis, or for that matter for any issue requiring US emergency basing in the region, whether China-related or otherwise. With the right protocols like in place, China’s civilian and military leaders will immediately understand that the US is for sure coming to Taiwan’s defense if China gets more aggressive. Having a physical presence is more valuable than a written mutual defense agreement, although a strong mutual defense treaty would also buttress the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) which is Taiwan’s safeguard against China, remembering that it was really the Congressional answer to the Nixon-Kissinger deal abandoning Taiwan for a China relationship. In the current circumstances, with power-politics changing in the region and China having emerged as an aggressive player with advanced military technology, the US has to significantly modify its behavior pattern toward Taiwan by rethinking how to defend it and by upgrading and helping to rebuild Taiwan’s defenses. Any American administration can count on support from Congress for proposals like those outlined here. The real issue for Washington is moving the State Department away from a pro-China position (one that is also reflected in the Pentagon and National Security Council to a degree) to one that sees the military and strategic challenge ahead from China and responds to it correctly. President Trump needs to seize the initiative, because no one else will.

The most important factor is the US President-elect's praise for Vladimir Putin, since Russia has so much influence over the region By CHOLPON OROZOBEKOVA    If we look at United States foreign policy through the prism of Russia, then Central Asia definitely comes into the reckoning, especially as President-elect Donald Trump seems determined to reboot the US-Russian relationship. Central Asian leaders appear genuinely cheered by Trump’s election victory and his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he is expected to meet soon after taking office — an event they believe could lead to visits to the region. It seems Trump has no problems with dictators. His former foreign policy adviser Carter Page said in Moscow recently that the US has had an “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, China and Central Asia. Page added that “Washington had missed opportunities to work with leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping because it had ignored principles of ‘respect, equality and mutual benefit.'” These words are music to the ears of the regimes in Central Asia’s five republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Democratization is not going to become a headache for Trump. He is an entrepreneur and instead will focus on economic cooperation. This is exactly how China operates in the region. Beijing has been successful in its dealings with Central Asia involving security and economic cooperation because it does not bring a political agenda to the table. As a result, Central Asian leaders feel comfortable as there is no pressure. Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Reuters/Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin   But the most important factor is Trump’s regular praise for Putin, since Russia has so much influence over the region through economic and political blocs, such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Taking this Russian influence into account and the fact that the Russian media been has never been so over the moon with a US president-elect, Central Asia’s leaders are inclined to have the same feel-good expectations of Trump. Over the past five years, Putin has strengthened Russia’s foothold in the region through the SCO and the EEU and by successfully dealing with political issues. In 2012, the Kremlin put pressure on Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambaev that eventually forced the United States to close its air force base in the country. It is odd how Trump continually compliments brutal dictators. Apart from Putin, who is for him a “strong leader,” Trump even praised Iraq’s Saddam Hussein for being good at fighting terrorism and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un for his leadership skills. He said of Kim: “If you look at North Korea, this guy, I mean, he’s like a maniac, okay? But he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible.” Trump made numerous statements during his campaign that raised doubts about his commitment to fundamental democratic principles like press freedom, judicial independence, the rule of law, and the rights of women and minorities. It is clear he prefers authoritarian methods over democracy, which is why human rights organizations, for the first time in recent history, feel at odds with the United States. Freedom House, for example, has urged Trump to protect “freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, judicial independence, the rule of law, and the promotion and protection of the rights of minorities and women, so that the United States can be an example of democracy at its best.” The back of the new 10,000 tenge banknote, depicting the portrait of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Photo: Reuters/Handout   Apart from Kyrgyzstan, the other Central Asian countries have no experience of democratic elections, with their Presidents-for-life usually becoming irritated by US demands to embrace democratic processes. Their poor human rights records are constantly criticized in US State Department reports and by American NGOs. Now these long- serving dictators feel are likely to feel they are about to be given some respite under a Trump presidency. The Central Asian rulers are well-known for their narcissistic behavior, while their paranoia has no limits. Just last month, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had his face put on the new 10,000 tenge (US$30) banknote, while Tajikistan celebrated “President’s Day” on November 16, an official national holiday introduced by President Emomali Rahmon this year for people to celebrate his achievements. He also recently brought in a law that carries a jail term for people who criticize him. In Uzbekistan, interim leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev won a crushing presidential election victory earlier in December, but people expect little change from the previous authoritarian regime of the late Islam Karimov, while, Turkenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has a reputation for running one of the world’s most repressive countries. If Trump disregards fundamental values such as human rights and democracy, the US will stop being an example for such dictators, allowing them to thrive with impunity.

US probes into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election are scrutinizing the lobbying and slush funds of certain regional leaders By ALAN BOYD   A banknote shows horsemen competing at Buzkashi, a long-time Central Asian sport in which horse mounted players attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in a goal Photo: iStock/Getty Images   Investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election have put new focus on the lobbying activities of certain suspect Central Asian political leaders abroad – and the cash trails of their multi-billion dollar slush funds. Donald Trump’s former campaign director, high-profile Washington lawyer Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s partner Richard Gates have been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for failing to disclose US$75 million they received for work conducted on behalf of ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Mueller has also charged George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser, with making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his efforts to coordinate a meeting between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin before the poll. Two other former Trump associates, Felix Sater and Daniel Ridloff, have been implicated in a civil lawsuit against Kazakhstan’s ex-Energy Minister Viktor Khrapunov, who is accused of laundering stolen government money through luxury properties, including Trump-branded condos in New York. Meanwhile separate inquiries are being conducted in Europe and the US into a US$2.9 billion Azerbaijani money laundering operation and slush fund that paid off European politicians and financially benefited the country’s ruling elite for two years. An Azerbaijan flag on a stump with a syringe of US currency. Photo: iStock/Getty Images   Another US inquiry will decide the fate of US$850 million that was seized from Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimova. It is allegedly bribe money paid by telecommunications firms for contracts. Former Soviet republics have funneled billions of dollars into lobbying activities since the end of the Cold War in an effort to influence the policies of Western governments, including sanctions imposed against their own corrupt actions. The US Foreign Agent Registration Act records 54 “foreign principals” from Georgia that have recruited lobbyists, law firms and publicists to represent their American interests. There are 44 from Azerbaijan, 34 from Kazakhstan, and 19 from Uzbekistan; Turkey and Afghanistan also have principals listed. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in particular have made public efforts to tighten rules against corruption in recent years. Tajikistan has arrested more than a dozen officials in its own anti-corruption agency for abusing their positions. In Kazakhstan, two former prime ministers are serving jail terms for corruption and a one-time sports minister was given 14 years in 2016 for embezzling about US$18 million in kickbacks from contractors building Expo 2017 projects. But graft charges often are little more than a lever for discrediting political rivals and taking their seat aboard the gravy train. Hence the US Department of Justice’s reluctance to hand over the money seized from Gulnara Karimova, now under house arrest, which Uzbekistan insists belongs to its citizens. Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbekistan’s former president Islam Karimov, is under house arrest on corruption charges. Photo: AFP/Muhammad Sharif   American agencies got involved because the money was transmitted through US financial institutions to accounts that were set up by Karimova in Hong Kong, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. “What do you do when assets stolen from a country’s state coffers by corrupt individuals have been recovered and can now be returned to the country – but the government is still controlled by corrupt people?” asked Transparency International, noting that cronies of Karimova run Uzbekistan’s government. Uzbekistan was ranked 156th of 176 assessed nations in the 2016 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index; Afghanistan was ranked 123rd, Kazakhstan 131st, Kyrgyzstan 136th, Tajikistan 151st and Turkmenistan 154th. Transparency International says that bribery and slush funds have become institutionalized in most of the region, and the sheer scale of the Azerbaijani operation suggests that money still opens many political doors, at least in Western European capitals. Labeled the ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’, the scheme used four shell companies registered in the UK to buy the silence of European lawmakers who were initially critical of Azerbaijani crackdowns on political opponents. These included the detainment of scores of human rights activists and journalists. Azerbaijan President Ilham Heydar Oglu Aliyev (L) with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Geneva, Switzerland October 16, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse   A collaborative investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and a dozen media groups also found the slush fund was used to launder money, purchase luxury goods and enrich Azerbaijani politicians. More than 16,000 transactions were handled by the Estonian branch of Denmark’s Danske Bank on behalf of four front Azerbaijani companies. US agencies are tracking claims that some money funded terrorist activities. Further disclosures of funding links to Central Asian governments are likely, with much attention focusing on apparent dealings by Felix Sater, the key figure in the civil lawsuits surrounding Kazakhstan’s Viktor Khrapunov. An ex-convict with known links to organized crime syndicates in Russia and the US, Russian-born Sater – birth name Felix Sheferovsky – once stabbed a man in the face with a cocktail glass but avoided a 20-year jail sentence by agreeing to turn federal informant in a case involving fraud and extortion by the mafia. Sater is now assisting US Mueller with his investigations, and reports from Washington suggest that the Kazakhstan money trail – with its meandering route to Donald Trump’s Administration – remains the center of attention.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is accused of turning a blind eye to the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. By Jesselyn Cook   Three Nobel Peace Prize winners sent a stark message to fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday: Bring an immediate end to the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, or face prosecution. Iran’s Shirin Ebadi, Yemen’s Tawakkol Karman and Northern Ireland’s Mairead Maguire are on a week-long humanitarian trip to Bangladesh, which now hosts some 700,000 Rohingya refugees. They say they’re planning to “take Myanmar’s government to the International Court of Justice.” Security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have waged a gruesome crackdown against the minority group over the past six months, causing mass displacement. Human rights groups have documented widespread, state-sanctioned violence against Rohingyas in western Myanmar, including rape, torture, shootings, arson and other forms of abuse and crimes against humanity. Human rights activists have accused Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civil leader and a former political prisoner and activist during the country’s decades-long military dictatorship, of turning a blind eye to the crisis, increasingly described as a genocide. She has neglected to condemn the atrocities committed against Rohingyas, and has even rejected critical reports as “misinformation.”  As Myanmar’s government has tightened restrictions on desperately needed aid supplies and services in Rakhine state, Suu Kyi’s inaction has drawn rebukes from world leaders and sparked protests around the globe. Some activists have discussed revoking the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 for “her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” At a press conference in Dhaka, Karman said Suu Kyi must “stop turning a deaf ear to the persecution of the Rohingya or risk being complicit in the crimes,” and “wake up or face prosecution.” “If she fails to do so, her choice is clear: Resign or be held accountable, along with the army commanders, for the crimes committed,” Karman added. In its recent State of the World’s Human Rights report, Amnesty International described the current abuse of Rohingyas as “a targeted campaign of ethnic cleansing.” “Throughout 2017, millions across the world experienced the bitter fruits of a rising politics of demonization. Its ultimate consequences were laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar,” the report noted. “The atrocities –- an unlawful and disproportionate response to attacks on security posts by an armed Rohingya group in August –- created the worst refugee crisis in decades in Southeast Asia.” Myanmar has repeatedly denied access to international authorities and investigators, making it difficult to accurately grasp the scope of the situation. Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe, who both covered the crisis extensively from within the country, have been detained since December for allegedly intending “to send important security documents regarding security forces in Rakhine State to foreign agencies abroad,” according to Myanrmar’s information ministry. The Rohingya have long been victims of state-sponsored discrimination in Myanmar, where they have limited rights and are classified as illegal immigrants rather than citizens. Their plight rapidly and drastically worsened after Aug. 25, when Rohingya militants attacked government security posts ― triggering the extreme retaliation by state security and military forces. “This is genocide ... the torture, rape and killing of any one member of our human family must be challenged,” said Maguire. “We can’t remain silent. Silence is complicity.”

By Pearl Lee, CNN   Dr Mahathir was interviewed by CNN at his office in Putrajaya on Tuesday, Jan 2, 2018   Story highlights Mahathir had retired after 22 years as Malaysia's leader He's partnered with former nemesis Anwar Ibrahim to oust current PM Najib Razak   Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been named the prime ministerial candidate for the country's opposition in the next elections, completing a stunning return to politics at the age of 92. The doctor, who served 22 years as the country's leader before retiring in 2003, is determined to topple the party he once led -- and in his quest to do so, has joined forces with his arch nemesis, former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, whom he once jailed for corruption and sodomy. The former leader told CNN in an exclusive interview that his return to the political spotlight is down to his determination to oust the current prime minister, Najib Razak. "I think it's a job I have to do. I cannot accept this country being destroyed by selfish people who only think about themselves... who steal money," Mahathir told CNN last week. Malaysia's next elections will be held before August 2018, with many people widely expecting it to occur sometime in March. "They [the political opposition parties] have not been able to get rural Malay votes," Mahathir said, explaining the rationale behind the opposition's decision to welcome him into their pact. "They had a majority of popular votes in 2013, but they were not able to get [the] constituencies with Malay voters. They think I can."   Mahathir has made a bad habit of sniping at those who stepped into his shoes as prime minister. Post-retirement, Mahathir criticized his anointed successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi incessantly from the sidelines. But that is nothing compared to the energy and viciousness with which he has torn into Najib. Mahathir, who said he attacked his successors because 'they were doing wrong things,' told CNN he doesn't mind "being used by the opposition" to oust Najib, who for years has been embroiled in accusations that hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen from state investments. The US Justice Department filed lawsuits in 2016, amended earlier this year, to recover more than $1.7 billion that prosecutors said were laundered through a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund headed by Najib.   Malaysian prime minister    Besides the United States, several other countries are investigating state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which Najib founded. US justice officials said that between 2009 and 2015, more than $3.5 billion from 1MDB was misappropriated by high-level officials of the board and associates. Najib has been accused of siphoning money from the investment fund after $681 million was transferred into his accounts. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said the money was donated by a member of the Saudi royal family. The 1MDB scandal, rising costs of living and a growing rift among the country's multiracial, multi-religious populace have been often blamed on Najib's party, and the question now is, can Mahathir, the former leader, help the opposition boot the ruling government from power? Mahathir and Anwar: From friends to foes and now, friends again The opposition in Malaysia is weaker now compared with the last election in 2013, when the Barisan Nasional coalition led by Najib limped to the finish line, losing the popular vote and failing to snag a two-thirds majority in parliament. Embroiled in internal squabbles and sullied by scandals of their own, the opposition for the longest time could not even agree on who would lead the country should they win the elections. Cue the strange alliance between Mahathir and Anwar, who is back behind bars after being found guilty of sodomy a second time in 2015. The opposition convention on Sunday declared that while Mahathir would be their candidate for prime minister at the next elections, Anwar would assume the position if they manage to upset Barisan Nasional at the polls and Anwar is able to obtain a royal pardon for his sodomy conviction, which disqualifies him from contesting the elections or holding office.   Dr Mahathir was interviewed by CNN at his office in Putrajaya on Tuesday, Jan 2, 2018   Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is the candidate for the deputy prime minister role. In his interview with CNN, Mahathir praised Anwar, a man he'd once mentored and then maligned, fired and incarcerated. Mahathir said they are putting aside a bitter rivalry to focus on defeating Najib and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the Najib-helmed party that forms the largest constituent in the Barisan Nasional coalition. "It is to get rid of this government. He [Anwar] wants to get rid of Najib and I want to get rid of Najib," Mahathir told CNN. "If you want to get rid of Najib we have to work together. We have to forget the past." "I am 92 going on 93," Mahathir pointed out. "I won't last long and I am prepared for that. But for as long as I can contribute, I will continue, and I will back Anwar if that is the wish of the party." Can Mahathir bring in the votes? Analysts are split over whether Mahathir has the x-factor needed to oust Barisan Nasional, which has ruled uninterrupted since the country's independence in 1957. Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Kuala Lumpur, said Mahathir clearly has influence, judging by how quickly the opposition accepted him. Mahathir "has the capabilities to bring in and influence people ... just like Anwar," Wan Saiful said. "He is very attractive among the rural voters who feel Pakatan Harapan (the opposition pact) has not been defending the rights of the Malays," he said, referring to the country's majority race, which forms the bulk of the electorate. Wan Saiful added that support for the opposition is growing, especially in states where Barisan Nasional rules. "Regardless what you think of the opposition, people want democracy to flourish. There are those who may disagree with Mahathir returning to active politics, but for the sake of democracy they feel UMNO must lose," he says. However, Jayum Jawan, a professor of government and politics from Universiti Putra Malaysia, feels differently and said Mahathir's shelf life as a politician has ended. "He will have no impact on the election. The opposition has not been able to penetrate rural areas as the people there seem comfortable with what the government has done for them. Rural voters want stability," he says. 'He has done a lot of damage' While opposition leaders have welcomed Mahathir, some rank and file politicians remain skeptical. S. Manikumar, an opposition politician, said many party members are reluctant to back Mahathir openly because policies drafted during his reign favor the Malay majority at the expense of ethnic Chinese and Indian nationals. "He has done a lot of damage in the past 30 years. He has no doubt developed the nation but many still view him as a racist," Manikumar said. "The Indians, for one, were marginalized during his tenure as policies were not in their favor. As far as the lower and middle-class Indians are concerned, their votes may sway to Najib."   Trump meets Malaysian PM under investigation    Other opposition politicians, such as Othman Karim, said while those in the party may have their differences with Mahathir, "an enemy of an enemy is a friend." Yet others believe that Mahathir's alliance with the opposition and his willingness to admit to past mistakes means he will atone for previous political blunders. Charles Santiago, an opposition Member of Parliament, said the opposition needs a strong personality like Mahathir to lead its mission. "Many say the country is headed in the wrong direction and we need someone strong from the Malay community to counter Najib," he said. "Dr Mahathir is our top dog right now. Politics is a very strange thing. One minute you are enemies, the next minute you are friends."   Source: CNN

By Pierre-Henry DESHAYES  Agence France-Presse        Praised to the skies and bearing great hopes, they went on to disappoint the world: as the case of Aung San Suu Kyi shows, Nobel Peace Prize winners have not always lived up to expectations.   The Norwegian Nobel committee’s announcement every October is usually followed by some protest and occasionally a heated debate. Rare are the laureates who are unanimously embraced.  Aung San Suu Kyi was one of those. Honoured in 1991 for her pro-democracy resistance to Myanmar’s junta, the wispy “Lady of Rangoon” was long hailed as a saint.  But now, as Myanmar’s figurehead leader, she has been broadly criticised for failing to protect the Muslim Rohingya minority from what some world leaders are calling ethnic cleansing. “I’m disappointed,” said Geir Lundestad, the influential Nobel committee secretary from 1990 to 2014.   “Aung San Suu Kyi was an extremely popular and deserving laureate, heroic under the circumstances, but I can’t condone her behaviour toward the Rohingyas,” he added. Suu Kyi’s supporters and many observers say she lacks the authority to rein in the military, which ran the country for 50 years and only recently ceded limited powers to her civilian government. Nevertheless, almost 430,000 people have signed an online petition calling for her Nobel to be withdrawn, and several other well-respected Peace Prize laureates – Desmond Tutu, Malala and the Dalai Lama – have urged her to take action to end the violence. “It’s dramatic,” admitted Nobel historian Asle Sveen.  “For a person who fought so hard for democracy and was so popular for so long to find herself in such a situation, it’s unusual.” Unusual, but not completely unprecedented. While Suu Kyi may be in a league of her own, other Nobel stars have also seen their lustre fade over time. Flagrant faux pas  For starters, there’s former US president Barack Obama – “the most similar case”, according to Sveen.  His 2009 Peace Prize, awarded just nine months after he took office, was met by many with incredulity but at the time, he was still at the peak of his popularity. Eight years later, there are still calls for his prize to be withdrawn, especially on social media, because of his failure to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his intensive use of drone strikes. “It was impossible for anyone to meet those expectations. They were totally unrealistic,” Lundestad said recently.  “I don’t think the committee expected Obama to totally revolutionise international politics: it’s not about transforming everything, it’s about making steps in the right direction.” Other laureates have been accused of committing flagrant faux pas. Lech Walesa – the founder of the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union Solidarity and who won the 1983 Peace Prize – has repeatedly been accused of collaborating with Communist secret services. Rejecting the allegations in 2009, he threatened to leave Poland and return his awards. Long before him, Italian pacifist Ernesto Moneta was criticised for having supported his country’s decision to go to war against the Ottoman Empire in 1911, four years after receiving his Nobel. Austria’s Bertha von Suttner, the 1905 laureate and a close friend of Alfred Nobel’s “proposed that Moneta lose his Nobel Peace Prize and his titles in the peace movement”, recalls historian Ivar Libaek in the collective work “The Nobel Peace Prize: One Hundred Years for Peace”. Twice during the post-war period, the choice of Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been so explosive that some committee members have resigned. One quit in 1994 to protest against the choice of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat alongside Israelis Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, a year after the signing of the Oslo Accords.  Two others stepped down in 1973 when US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Vietnamese peace negotiator Le Duc Tho were honoured for reaching a ceasefire – albeit short-lived – in Vietnam. Each time, the debate has smouldered for years. “He won the Nobel but he dishonoured it. Whether he returns it or not doesn’t matter, it must burn his hand when he touches it,” fumed former Nobel committee member Berge Furre in 2009 about Peres.  The career politician, who was Israel’s president at the time, had defended an Israeli attack on a Gaza school that left more than 40 people dead. While Le Duc Tho immediately declined his prize, Kissinger accepted his but chose not to go to Oslo to pick it up for fear of massive protests. In 1975, he even offered to hand it back. The committee refused. The Nobel Foundation’s statutes do not allow for it. Neither do they allow for a prize to be withdrawn. “None of the Nobel laureates is perfect,” Lundestad said. “Many of them probably feel an extra responsibility to act in an exemplary fashion, but once the prize has been awarded, the committee can’t do anything anyway.”

Claire Provost Claire Provost is editor of openDemocracy 50.50 covering gender, sexuality and social justice. Previously she worked at The Guardian and was a fellow at the Centre for Investigative Journalism at the University of London, Goldsmiths.  Founding member of the Demosistō political party talked to World Forum for Democracy youth delegates about the importance of social movements and direct action. Agnes Chow. Photo: Okstartnow/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC0 1.0).   Agnes Chow was still a teenager in September 2014, when she joined thousands of other young people on the streets of Hong Kong, in a historic pro-democracy protest lasting 79 days that became known as the “umbrella movement.” Last week Chow travelled to Strasbourg, France, to attend the Council of Europe’s 2017 World Forum for Democracy (WFD). This year’s event focused on populism and the crises of traditional political party and media institutions. “It’s never easy,” she said, to take on “an authoritarian regime, and to fight for things we believe in.” Chow spoke to WFD youth delegates Karla Ng and Skye Riggs on the sidelines of the conference. Protest is important “even though it might fail, even though it might not be a success every time,” she said. “It’s not easy to fight for democracy, but the most important thing is we should not give up.” Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates. Photo: Claire Provost.   Now 21, Chow is a student at Hong Kong Baptist University – and one of the founding members of Demosistō, a new political party formed last year by some of the organisers of the 2014 umbrella movement protests. Those demonstrations saw tens of thousands take to the streets, to demand ‘universal suffrage’ and the right to directly elect Hong Kong’s chief executive, its top political leader, currently chosen by an elite selection committee. Police responded with tear gas and pepper spray, and eventually evicted occupiers from city spaces. Since then, activists have been arrested, prosecuted, and jailed. Others are awaiting trials. Amnesty International warns the state “is toughening its stance” against pro-democracy organisers, with freedom of expression and assembly under attack. Umbrella movement protests, September 2014. Photo: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).   Joshua Wong, the skinny bespectacled student who became an icon of the movement, was imprisoned with two other activists in August. They were recently released on bail while courts consider their appeals. The umbrella movement captured attention internationally, with media coverage and solidarity rallies around the world. Wong is the subject of a recent Netflix documentary, Joshua: Teenager Vs Superpower, in which Chow also appears. A generation’s “political awakening” 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the handover of the former British colony Hong Kong to Beijing. The city has its own separate political and legal systems but it is not independent and Beijing’s influence over it has provoked numerous protests. The umbrella movement was called a defining “political awakening” for an entire generation, including young women who appeared on “the front lines” and organised “everything from food and water distribution to communications.” Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, October 2014. Photo: Stowers Chris/ABACA/PA Images.   The movement’s name came from the umbrellas protesters used as shields against tear gas and pepper spray. Yellow ribbons – long an emblem of women’s suffrage movements – also became symbols of the protests. Pop singer Denise Ho was an outspoken supporter of the movement. A 14-year old girl, arrested for drawing a chalk flower on a wall, was another icon. But there were also reports of discrimination and abuse against women protesters. Last year, activist Yau Wai-ching said she had been trailed by a local tabloid reporter looking to uncover details about her sex life. In 2014, Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wong said that many young women and girls faced “hostility” over their participation in the protests. She blamed a “gender expectation that for women their role belongs at home. If they stand up in public, they should stand back.” A “gender expectation that for women their role belongs at home. If they stand up in public, they should stand back.” At the WFD, Chow told youth delegates Ng (also from Hong Kong) and Riggs (from Australia) that she hopes “more and more females can have the bravery to participate in politics in the future.” This summer, following arrests at a sit-in protest, she and other activists filed a formal complaint with the city over male officers patrolling female holding cells, and a lack of privacy using the toilet while detained. Some Hong Kong campaigners have also warned that women’s rights progress is being held back by a lack of funding, with money going first to pro-government groups. From protest to political party “In Hong Kong it is more and more common for women to be involved in politics,” said Chow, though this doesn’t necessarily mean she agrees with their policies. In March, Hong Kong appointed its first female chief executive, Carrie Lam, described by the Guardian as “China’s preferred candidate... in a contest that pitted popular appeal against lobbying by Beijing.” Chow says Demosistō’s priorities are “advocating universal values such as democracy, freedom, human rights and equality,” along with “self-determination for Hong Kong,” with residents given “the right to decide their own future.” She says the party must be clear and uncompromising on core values, whilst “careful not to start any kind of politics of hatred or fear or discrimination” in their opposition to the Chinese government. Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and other Demosisto members, August 2016. Photo: Jason940728/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).   “We are different from other traditional or conservative political parties in Hong Kong, because we actually came from social movements and direct participation of people,” said Chow, who says Demosistō members still believe in direct democracy. “People should have some direct channels to participate in politics, not only for voting for be in some role, but also to directly be involved, and respected and heard by the government.” “We are different from other traditional or conservative political parties in Hong Kong, because we actually came from social movements and direct participation of people” As student activists, Chow said they focused primarily on “big issues” like ‘universal suffrage’. As a party, they’re also going to “different communities, different districts... to understand what social issues are more relevant for people’s lives,” such as housing policy, rent, and the distribution of resources including land. Public education is also needed “to help people understand the meaning of democracy... [and] how to get involved,” she said. “We are partly advocating social movements, we’re partly advocating civil disobedience... and we also advocate direct action.” Youth participants at the European Youth Centre. Photo: Claire Provost.   The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, has a stated mission to uphold human rights, democracy and rule of law in its now-47 member states. It has a committee of ministers, parliamentary assembly, and court of human rights. The WFD is held each November, bringing civil society, political, and academic representatives together to discuss challenges facing contemporary democracies. Youth political participation has been a main theme over the years. Ahead of the 2017 forum, dozens of youth delegates also gathered at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg for workshops and a special youth programme. During the WFD, a group of youth delegates worked with 50.50, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy, to explore issues related to populism and women’s rights. Forum sessions focused on topics from fake news and storytelling to women’s political empowerment and the increasingly ‘female face of the far right.’  

Marriage rates for children in the South Asian country are among the highest in the world, and for many girls in the plains region, schooling – often seen as a solution – is a double-edged sword BY ABBY SEIFFPRAGATI SHAHI   Arti, six, gets ready for school. Her mother, Babita Kumari Yadav, of Potohr village, was married as a young teen and received no education. She hopes that Arti will not marry until after she has finished her studies. Pictures: Abby Seiff         Inside the house of her husband’s parents, Apsara Devi Sah sits on a mat in a small, windowless storage room with a mud floor. Three days after her wedding she is still dressed in bridal finery – an ornately embroidered yellow veil and dress dipped in red, elaborate mehndi snaking down her arms and legs. Dozens of green, gold and red bangles trill when her hands dip to pull at the edge of her clothes. Against the grey walls, she glows. Apsara is strikingly beautiful. She is extremely eloquent. She is 16. “I didn’t want to get married but I was the only daughter and my father had to go abroad,” she says. “Society might think negative thoughts about having a grown daughter alone at home. “Most girls in my village are married at around 15 or 16. I think I’m too young to get married; it should be 18.” Despite the legal minimum age for marriage in Nepal being 20, in remote villages such as Potohr, in the Dhanusha district of the plains region, marry­ing off children has long been the norm. The country has one of the highest rates of child brides in the world. Fifty-two per cent of women between the ages 20 and 49 were married before they reached 18, according to the United Nations’ children’s programme. Fifteen per cent were married before the age of 15. By the age of 24, more than a third of them will have three or more children. The problem is particularly protracted in the plains, or Terai, region, where the most recent census, in 2011, found that 79 per cent of women were married before the age of 19. Veiled women shop at a market near Sabaila village, in Nepal.   Traditionally, underage marriage is a phenomenon asso­ciated with the uneducated. Studies have shown that girls with little or no education are six times more likely to be married early than those who attended secondary school. The corollary can be seen across the globe, with education initiatives pushing the rate down percentage point by percentage point, year by year. And yet, Apsara is an academic star by the standards of this remote, Maithil village. She speaks Nepali, her second language, more flawlessly and formally than many native speakers. She is third in her class, having passed her school-leaving certificate (SLC; a qualification exam that students take in Nepal at the end of 10th grade) and started grade 11. Thanks to remittances from her father’s job in Qatar, both she and her brother have been able to attend school. Her parents are both illiterate. Parents worry [the girls] will do something wrong when they get mature and study. It’s a very conservative society. Honour is the biggest thing for a girl Apsara, 16 When they married her off, her family did so because they felt mounting pressure within their community, Apsara says. But they did so too with an eye toward her academic promise. “I wanted to keep studying. My father-in-law had assured my father that he will support me to be educated up to grade 12,” she says. “But I can’t say what will happen.” Rina Yadav, 18, from Sabaila, has had no education, but, she says, her husband’s work abroad means that her two-year-old daughter will have more opportunities.   While education has long been touted by everyone from the World Bank to the United Nations to governments as a key to eliminating child marriages, situations such as Apsara’s are far from unusual. In fact, a trend appears to be emerging in some of Nepal’s migration hot spots. As millions of Nepalis seek better jobs abroad, remittances are used to educate their daughters back home, in hopes of attracting more educated grooms. Better marriage prospectscan, in turn, mean more stability and opportunities for the girls. But whether that is leading to delayed marriage is far from clear. “I think there’s a close relationship between the education level and child marriage. If the level of education is higher among the girls, it lowers the cases of child marriage,” says Madhuwanti Tuladhar, a child protection coordi­nator at Plan International in Nepal. “But child marriage is still taking place – even if the girls are going to school.” And once married, “almost 100 per cent drop out of school”. Though their mothers are uneducated, among Apsara’s classmates, she says, “most girls study up to class nine or 10. In almost every house, the father is abroad”. But by the time the girls are 15 or 16, the pressures are beginning to mount. “Parents worry [the girls] will do something wrong when they get mature and study,” Apsara explains. “It’s a very conservative society. Honour is the biggest thing for a girl. Everyone gets their daughter married. There is societal pressure. Parents worry they won’t get a good [marriage] proposal once she’s too old.” “Parents feel that girls are a liability,” Tuladhar says. “Once they get married, their responsibility is over.” In nearby Sabaila village, a group of children hang over the fence of Keheru Yadav’s home, eyeing his visitors. Yadav squats in a courtyard lined with bags of threshed wheat. As he speaks, the burly mustachioed 56-year-old cuddles a toddler grandson close. Keheru Yadav with his grandson in Sabaila.   When he was younger, Yadav worked for four years in Malaysia. “When I returned, my eldest son said: ‘You are old, I will go now,’” he says. Today, all three of his sons work in Qatar, sending home scant sums to support their families and parents. Yadav’s youngest child, a 15-year-old daughter, is soon to be married. Of his four children, the boys all dropped out of school by class four; only his daughter stayed on for lower secondary. “We put a lot of pressure on her to study [further] but she didn’t want to,” Yadav says. “I took a loan to pay the fees, my son sends money and we use it to pay back the loan.” Yadav is in no doubt that with more education his daughter could have secured a better marriage. “The family [of the groom-to-be] isn’t bad,” he says. “They have one bigha [6,773 square metres] of land and the boy is studying. But if she had more education she would have done better.” Keheru Yadav’s wife, Ram Pyari. The couple’s youngest child, a 15-year-old daughter, is about to get married.   Once their daughter made it clear she was done with school, the family had little choice but to have her married. Ram Pyari, Yadav’s wife, says, “The boy’s family had just one look and wanted [their son] to marry her.” She is beautiful and looks grown up, adds Ram Pyari, with a note of pride. Keeping such a mature-looking girl at home would have caused problems in the community. The fear is never precisely expressed, but families of an unmarried maturing woman worry she will engage in a sexual relationship or be a magnet for rape. At a neighbouring home, Usha Kumari Yadav (no relation to Keheru Yadav; Nepali family names refer to their caste) is making clothes on a sewing machine while her aged father-in-law sits nearby. Her children – a daughter and two sons – run under foot. In the household, Usha takes care of the cooking and cleaning. Her parents-in-law handle finances and “outside stuff”. Her husband of a decade has been in Malaysia for the whole of their marriage. Usha is so shy she has trouble speaking. She laughs nervously and pulls her veil across her face when asked a question. She is either 25 or 29, and is vague on her children’s ages. But what is clear is that Usha is a believer in education. “If they want to study to class 10, I will support it,” she says. “To 12, that’s fine.” Usha Kumari Yadav got married when she was in grade 10, but continued her studies through to grade 12.   Usha married when she was in 10th grade but continued her studies through to grade 12. She applied for a job in a public school, and when she didn’t get it, she took up seam­stress classes offered by a non-government organisation. She says she’s “thinking about starting a tailoring business”. Every week on Sunday, her husband calls. “He asks how the kids are doing, how we’re doing – just updates,” she says. The nearest sealed road is more than an hour away, but Potohr and Sabaila villages are at the epicentre of Nepal’s migration boom. Between 2009 and 2015, migration from Dhanusha district more than doubled to 22,000 permit issuances a year. Today, the district sends more migrants abroad than anywhere else in the country. In some areas of Nepal, migration has afforded women rare positions of power. Without husbands on the scene, many have become de facto heads of the household – making decisions on finances, child rearing and farm operations. But in the most remote and traditional Terai communities, which place extreme constraints on women, an absent husband can prove to be a stigmatising force. In this part of Nepal, Maithil women practise ghunghat. The word refers to the veil with which they cover their face when they leave their home, but it also refers to the strict regulationof movement and interactions with those outside the family. When young women whose husbands are abroad stay with their parents-in-law, they tend to remain inside – like Usha. But sometimes remittances allow for their own home. It is these matriarchal households that can face trouble. Three years ago, Babita Kumari Yadav got her own house. Her husband has been working in Qatar for a decade, sending money back to educate their children and build a home. Although she is married with three children, neighbours now view Babita as “alone and a single women”. Babita Kumari Yadav, of Potohr village, with her daughter, Arti.   “The community doesn’t see me in a good way. They don’t talk with me and I don’t go to anyone’s house,” she says. “I have a lot of fights with these villagers. They’re not supporting me and alienate me from everything going on in the village. If [my husband] were here, he would be the guardian of the house. If someone fought me, he’d protect me – now he’s not here so I have to go through all the fighting.” This is the prospect that worries the next generation of wives and mothers here. Life without their young, educated and more modern husbands is likely to prove difficult – particularly, and ironically, for those educated to know better. [My parents] won’t be happy when she goes out and talks to people, but I don’t mind. If I go abroad, she will not be allowed to go outside Ranjit Kumar Sah, Apsara’s husband Just three days into her marriage, Apsara has already begun urging her husband to stay and open a shop rather than return to Qatar. “In my village I used to know everyone. After getting married to a guy here, I can’t break any rules in our society. If I have someone who knows me, who is close, I can discuss things,” she says, explaining that if she makes a mistake she would expect to be able to talk it through with her husband. “It will be difficult if he’s not here – I can’t do so with my in-laws.” We have been allowed to enter her home and meet with the bride only because both of us are women and outsiders to the community, but we are likely to be the last strangers Apsara talks to for a long time. “In Maithil tradition, the wife has to stay in the household for two years,” says Ram Dayal Sah, 45, Apsara’s father-in-law and a boisterous father of five who is still giddy over the auspicious match. Apsara’s groom, Ranjit Kumar Sah, interrupts his father. “There’s a gradual change in tradition, it’s not as strict as before. I think in two or three months she’ll be able to come out and talk,” he tells us, shyly. At 23, Ranjit looks far younger than his years, and far too thin to be a labourer. He is drowning in his dress shirt and trousers and, when he speaks, he looks at his hands and feet. “[My parents] won’t be happy when she goes out and talks to people, but I don’t mind,” he says. That modernity, however, has its limits, and, Ranjit admits, “If I go abroad, she will not be allowed to go outside.” Ranjit stopped going to school in 10th grade and has made a living as a construction worker in Qatar for two years, but he has some hopes for his wife. “I would like to support her to continue her education,” he says. Experience says this is unlikely to happen. “Now we’re poor and I need grandchildren,” his father interjects, “so let’s see how it goes.”   This article was supported by the International Reporting Project.

by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali is the former Bishop of Rochester and now president of Oxtrad, which works with persecuted Christians. posted Friday, 10 Nov 2017   A young Rohingya refugee carries a child at a camp in Bangladesh (CNS)   The international community's failure to prevent ethnic cleansing may fuel radical Islamism The tragedy that has unfolded on the border between Burma and Bangladesh over the past two months is one that was predicted, should never have happened and should have been stopped before it reached this point. More than 600,000 people – more than half the entire Rohingya population – have now fled across the border from Burma to Bangladesh. Thousands have been killed. Thousands more face starvation. International experts are warning of genocide. We should not have got to this point. A year ago, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta and human rights activist Benedict Rogers wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “A human tragedy approaching ethnic cleansing is unfolding in Burma, and the world is chillingly silent.” They concluded: “It’s also time for the international community to speak out. If we fail to act, Rohingyas may starve to death if they aren’t killed by bullets first. We could end up as passive observers once again wringing our hands belatedly, saying ‘never again’. Let us act now before it’s too late.” A year later, it is almost too late. Yet the stark simplicity of the ethnic cleansing and religious persecution unfolding before our eyes is matched by a more complex context. For while the desperate plight of the Rohingyas is without doubt the most grave, acute illustration of religious and racial hatred in Burma, it is not the only one. Over the past years, it seems that a warped understanding of Buddhism has arisen in Burma, mixed with extremist nationalism and populism, a lethal cocktail that has led to an outpouring of hatred against the “other”. This is in keeping with the horrific trends around the world, and is in part fuelled by fear of the global rise of Islamist intolerance and terror. While until recently Burma had few problems with radical Islamism, by tugging the tail of the tiger it may well have provoked one. The failure of the international community to respond adequately to the latest potential genocide may well fuel more radicalisation of Muslims, both in Burma and elsewhere, further compounding the problem. In the 1990s, I saw for myself how the West’s failure to prevent genocide in the former Yugoslavia gave radical Islamists a new card to further their agenda. In 2017, the West’s failure to prevent genocide in Rakhine State might well be a new recruiting sergeant. Muslims throughout Burma who do not identify as Rohingya have also suffered persecution. There are villages now closed off as “Muslim-free” zones. Muslims struggle to obtain identity cards. In the past five years there have been sporadic outbursts of violence against them in other parts of the country, most notably in Meikthila, Oakkan, Lashio and Mandalay. And it is not only Muslims who suffer. For decades, Christians in Burma, especially in the ethnic states such as Chin, Kachin, Karen and Karenni, have been attacked. The military has targeted churches, crosses and pastors. A combination of the Burma army and politicised Buddhist monks have lured Christian children to monasteries with a promise of education, only to forcibly convert them into novice Buddhist monks. The response from the international community? Pathetic minimalism at best, apathetic inaction more often. Indeed, the few people who have spoken boldly have mostly been religious and civil society leaders. Pope Francis, who will become the first pontiff ever to visit Burma later this month, has spoken out repeatedly. Burma’s Cardinal Charles Bo has been one of the most courageous defenders of the Rohingyas and other Muslims in the country. Their voices, as leaders of one religious community defending the rights and dignity of another, are vital. But they deserve support from governments and political leaders around the world, not least Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma, within Burma itself. Britain has led the way, and should be applauded for bringing the crisis to the UN Security Council agenda three times. But with what resulting action? Zilch. Britain has suspended military training – good. The EU has suspended visits by Burmese generals to Europe – good. But is that all? What about a global arms embargo? What about carefully targeted sanctions to ban investment in military-owned enterprises? What about a United Nations General Assembly resolution – one not led by the Islamic world, fuelled by an “us” versus “them” mentality, but a united resolution, led by the West and others not in the name of any one religion or race but in the name of humanity? The apathy, the slowness, the stupidity and the inhumanity are obvious. And the counter-productiveness of the slow response has to be seen to be believed. As Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Good men and women, of every race and religion, must now do something to stop yet another ethnic cleansing culminating in genocide, with severe collateral damage for the values of freedom of religion or belief for all. The time for action is now. Today, not tomorrow. Before it is too late.  

Tribune Editorial Published at 06:27 PM November 13, 2017 Photo: REUTERS There was no mention of the Rohingya crisis and Myanmar’s role in it in a draft statement of this year’s ASEAN summit The whole world is now aware of Myanmar’s overt ethnic cleansing operations against the Rohingya — the ethnic Muslim minority that have inhabited the Rakhine state in Myanmar for centuries — which began in earnest after August 25 this year. But the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional political and economic organisation with 10 member states including Myanmar, is choosing to turn a blind eye. As an organisation that has Myanmar as its member, ASEAN must also take some responsibility for it — at the very least have a dialogue about it. Yet, there was no mention of the Rohingya crisis and Myanmar’s role in it in a draft statement of this year’s ASEAN summit, which ends today, in Manila, Philippines. As the maxim goes: “Silence gives consent.” And ASEAN’s silence is making them look quite suspect. Malaysia was the only member country that voiced any concern, perhaps from some sort of Muslim solidarity, but this is a humanitarian crisis and all of humanity should be equally outraged, regardless of race or religion. Moreover, the crisis can easily turn into a regional crisis unless corrective steps are taken, and ASEAN is in an ideal position to take the lead here. Suu Kyi’s complicity in the cleansing operations has become clear over the months as she repeatedly lied, denied, and made excuses for the violence. But, according to a former foreign minister of the Philippines, she is still enjoying sycophantic treatment at the ASEAN summit. As a regional organisation, ASEAN should be playing a much more active role to find a solution to this potential regional crisis.

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