Southeast Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder Sun, 23 Oct 2016 16:08:48 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb China's Xi to consolidate power at key meeting: analysts imageBEIJING: The leaders of the world's most powerful political party gather in Beijing on Monday for a conclave that could change the course of Chinese history.

In meetings at the exclusive Jinxi Hotel, safe from the public's prying eyes, nearly 400 top members of the Chinese Communist Party will confer for four days, discussing changes to how the giant party will be managed.

The meeting, according to the official Xinhua News service, will focus on the issue of "party discipline".

The dry rhetoric hides what may be a ferocious, high-stakes battle for control over the world's second largest economy.

The Sixth Plenum, as the meeting is known, comes as the party -- which has more than 88 million members -- faces a period of tectonic change.

Since taking its helm in 2012, General Secretary Xi Jinping has sought to bend it to his will, and taken control of more levers of power than any leader since Mao Zedong.

And his anti-corruption campaign has laid waste to the party's organisational chart, felling seemingly invincible bastions of power such as former security czar Zhou Yongkang, and paralysing lesser bureaucrats across the nation with fear.

Xi has described the party as a "magic weapon" that can be used to implement reforms necessary to achieve his goal of the "Great Rejuvenation" of the Chinese nation, an idea that he frequently describes as the "Chinese dream".

But attempts to rein in sclerotic state-owned enterprises -- which control strategic sectors of the economy and are sources of patronage for powerful politicians -- have met stiff resistance from entrenched interests.

"These reforms have really gone nowhere over the last three years," said Anthony Saich, an expert on Chinese politics at Harvard University.

"Clearly, Xi sees the party as the only vehicle that can push ahead with reforms. He does not trust society or the state to move ahead with the reforms he wants."

At the meeting, he added, "there will be jockeying between those who enjoy Xi's support and those who are negatively affected by the campaign against corruption and by the potential for further reforms of the state-owned sector".

- Anti-corruption campaign -

For Xi, improving party discipline means more than simply reducing cadres' bad behaviour.

"He has been very ambitious in grabbing power, in arrogating powers to himself," said Willy Lam, a China expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The "major motivation" of any new rules passed during the plenum will be to "consolidate (Xi's) position as the big boss", he said.

Several measures have already been introduced to make sure party members toe Xi's line, he added, including prohibitions against officials making "groundless criticism".

"Only one person in the party, namely Xi Jinping, has the right to define what the political rules are," Lam added.

The meeting comes as speculation mounts that Xi could look to stay on in power after 2022, when he would normally be expected to step down after two terms in office.

Such a move would be "an extremely risky proposal, as it would create severe frictions among China's political elite", the Mercator Institute for China Studies' president Sebastian Heilmann wrote in a research note.

Xi is also China's president, but derives his power from his Communist Party post.

He will take the plenum as an opportunity to "strengthen his leadership position and the base of his power in office", according to Mao Shoulong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing.

The anti-corruption drive has had "breakthroughs" in previously untouchable areas, he said.

The campaign has disciplined hundreds of thousands of members and, in the process, "illuminated the universality and seriousness of the corruption of power within the party", it said, a revelation that has "seriously weakened the foundations of the party's rule and its ability to govern".

Critics say the drive has been used for internal faction-fighting and, in the absence of systemic reforms, does not tackle the root causes of graft.

Hu Xingdou, an expert on China's governance at the Beijing Institute of Technology, hoped the meeting would introduce and enforce rules to make party members more accountable and transparent, such as a national property registry.

"There have been regulations in the past, but none of them were implemented," he said.

This time, he said, "I hope that they can pass public disclosure of assets.

"Only in this way can they win the entire nation's respect."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South East Asia Sun, 23 Oct 2016 13:38:34 +0000
Ousted Thai PM Yingluck to fight order to pay $1bn$1bn.html$1bn.html imageBANGKOK: Ousted Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra said Friday she would fight a junta order demanding she personally pay nearly $1 billion in compensation for a rice policy prosecutors say was riddled with graft.

Yingluck, Thailand's first female premier, was removed from office by a court days before the army seized power in a 2014 coup.

She has since been tangled in a web of legal cases that she says are politically motivated, including a criminal negligence trial over the rice policy that could see her jailed for up to 10 years.

Outside the court on Friday, she told reporters she received a order signed two days ago demanding more than $1 billion in civil damages for the rice scheme.

"Such an order has violated my rights and is not fair," she said as supporters greeted her outside the Bangkok courthouse.

"I affirm that I will exercise all my rights to deny this allegation and the civil charges," she said.

The ex-premier added that she would not comment further as the country is still grieving the death last week of its revered monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej.

But she has previously called on the ruling junta to file civil claims in court instead of ordering the $1 billion fine -- a figure that dwarfs the $17.4 million she declared in assets in 2015.

She can now petition an administrative court to block or withdraw the order.

Under the rice scheme, Yingluck's elected government purchased paddies from farmers at nearly twice the market rate.

The policy was wildly popular among farmers in the northeast -- a key support base for her political party -- but pilloried by critics as a costly and corrupt populist handout.

Yingluck insists the rice scheme was a measure to help the poor in Thailand's rural heartlands, a demographic for years ignored by Bangkok's military-allied elite.

Parties backing Yingluck and her billionaire brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former PM ousted in a 2006 coup, have won every election in the past decade with support from the populous but poor north.

But their governments have been repeatedly taken down by court rulings and military coups backed by a Bangkok establishment unnerved by the siblings' political ascent.

Analysts say Yingluck's corruption case is being used to legitimise the coup, brandish the junta's reputation as graft-busters and prevent a political comeback by the Shinawatra's political dynasty.

Her brother Thaksin has been living abroad in self-imposed exile for years to avoid serving jail time for a corruption conviction.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Fri, 21 Oct 2016 07:47:05 +0000
Duterte causes Philippine foreign policy confusion imageMANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte's shock "separation" from the United States has thrown Philippine foreign policy into confusion, with the Americans saying they are baffled and some of his top aides contradicting him.

The firebrand leader rarely lets a day pass without taunting or abusing the United States but his latest comments, made during a state visit to Beijing, were the strongest signal he wants to torpedo a 70-year alliance in favour of China and Russia.

"I announce my separation from the United States," Duterte said Thursday as he paused to soak up the applause from hundreds of Chinese businessmen in the audience.

"I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way."

Until Duterte took office on June 30, the Philippines had been one of the United States' most important and loyal allies in Asia, and a key to President Barack Obama's "pivot" to the region.

The Philippines had also been a bastion of democracy -- albeit a chaotic and corrupt one -- in Southeast Asia since shedding the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

But Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist and has close links with communists still waging a rebellion in the Philippines, has revealed a deep dislike of the United States.

He has repeatedly branded Obama a "son of a whore", and called on his countrymen to remember crimes committed by Americans when the Philippines was a colony of the United States from 1898 to 1946.

Ignoring the thousands of American lives that were lost to liberate the Philippines from Japan during World War II, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, Duterte has also told Filipinos that the United States had done nothing for them.

He has said there will be no more joint US-Philippine patrols in the South China Sea, nor will there be any further joint military exercises with the United States that see thousands of troops pass through the Philippines each year.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Fri, 21 Oct 2016 07:42:38 +0000
6.2 quake hits western Japan imageTOKYO: A strong 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit western Japan Friday, the US Geological Survey said, but there was no tsunami risk.

The quake, at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres (six miles), struck shortly after 2:00 pm (0500 GMT) in Tottori prefecture.

Initially, the USGS had pegged the quake's magnitude at 6.6 before downgrading it.

Public broadcaster NHK quoted local officials as saying they had received reports that a house collapsed in the town of Yurihama, while fires broke out in another part of the prefecture, without giving details.

In Kurayoshi City, the fire department reported receiving seven emergency calls for injuries.

Television images showed severe shaking in the region.

"We felt fairly strong jolts, which I think were the biggest in years, but we have not seen any damage or things falling," Suminori Sakinada, a local government official, told AFP.

Bullet train services were suspended in the area, while nearly 40,000 homes were left without electricity as the quake damaged power lines, officials said.

NHK said switched-off nuclear reactors in the region were not affected.

Japan sits at the junction of four tectonic plates and experiences a number of relatively violent quakes every year, but rigid building codes and their strict enforcement mean even strong tremors often do little damage.

A massive undersea quake however that hit in March 2011 sent a tsunami barrelling into Japan's northeast coast, leaving more than 18,000 people dead or missing, and sending three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

In April, two strong earthquakes hit southern Japan's Kumamoto prefecture followed by more than 1,700 aftershocks, and left at least 50 dead and caused widespread damage.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Fri, 21 Oct 2016 07:38:27 +0000
Duterte aligns Philippines with China, says US has lost imageBEIJING: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his "separation" from the United States on Thursday, declaring he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks.

Duterte made his comments in Beijing, where he is visiting with at least 200 business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally Washington deteriorate.

"In this venue, your honours, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States," Duterte told Chinese and Philippine business people, to applause, at a forum in the Great Hall of the People attended by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. "Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also.

America has lost." Duterte's efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the previous administration in Manila, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30. His trade secretary, Ramon Lopez, said $13.5 billion in deals would be signed during the China trip.

"I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way," Duterte told his Beijing audience.

Duterte's remarks will prompt fresh concern in the United States, where the Obama administration has seen Manila as a key ally in its "rebalance" of resources to Asia in the face of a rising China.

The administration agreed a deal with Duterte's predecessor granting US forces rotational access to bases in the Philippines and further doubts will be raised about the future of this arrangement.

However, a White House spokesman stressed the traditional bonds between Washington and Manila when asked about Duterte's comments and stuck to a US approach of seeking to play down the Philippine leader's repeated attacks.

"The US-Philippines alliance is built on a 70-year history, rich people-to-people ties, including a vibrant Filipino-American diaspora, and a long list of shared security interests," spokesman Ned Price said.

"We also remain one of the Philippines' strongest economic partners; the current stock of US foreign direct investment stands above $4.7 billion."

A few hours after Duterte's speech, his top economic policymakers released a statement saying that, while Asian economic integration was "long overdue", that did not mean the Philippines was turning its back on the West.

"We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbours," said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia in a joint statement. "We share the culture and a better understanding with our region."


China has pulled out all the stops to welcome Duterte, including a marching band complete with baton-twirling band master at his official greeting ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, which is not extended to most leaders.

President Xi Jinping, meeting Duterte earlier in the day, called the visit a "milestone" in ties.

Xi told Duterte that China and the Philippines were brothers and they could "appropriately handle disputes", though he did not mention the South China Sea in remarks made in front of reporters.

"I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things," Xi said.

Following their meeting, during which Duterte said relations with China had entered a new "springtime", Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said the South China Sea issue was not the sum total of relations.

"The two sides agreed that they will do what they agreed five years ago, that is to pursue bilateral dialogue and consultation in seeking a proper settlement of the South China Sea issue," Liu said.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

In 2012, China seized the disputed Scarborough Shoal and denied Philippine fishermen access to its fishing grounds.

Liu said the shoal was not mentioned and he did not answer a question about whether Philippine fishermen would be allowed there. He said both countries had agreed on coastguard and fisheries cooperation, but did not give details.


Duterte's tone towards Beijing is in stark contrast to the language he has used against the United States, after being infuriated by US criticism of his bloody war on drugs.

He has called US President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch" and told his to "go to hell", while alluding to severing ties with the old colonial power.

On Wednesday, to the cheers of hundreds of Filipinos in Beijing, Duterte said Philippine foreign policy was veering towards China.

"I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there," Duterte said. "So time to say goodbye my friend."

The same day, about 1,000 anti-US protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Manila calling for the removal of US troops from the southern island of Mindanao.

Duterte's abrupt pivot from Washington to Beijing is unlikely to be universally popular at home, however.

On Tuesday an opinion poll showed Filipinos still trust the United States far more than China. Duterte on Wednesday said the South China Sea arbitration case would "take the back seat" during talks, and that he would wait for the Chinese to bring up the issue rather than doing so himself.

Xi said issues that could not be immediately be resolved should be set aside, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

China has welcomed the Philippines approaches, even as Duterte has vowed not to surrender any sovereignty to Beijing, which views the South China Sea Hague ruling as null and void.

China has also expressed support for his drug war, which has raised concern in Western capitals about extrajudicial killing.

Copyright Reuters, 2016

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South East Asia Thu, 20 Oct 2016 14:46:42 +0000
Myanmar ferry disaster toll nears 50 imageYANGON: The death toll from a ferry disaster on a river in central Myanmar four days ago has risen to nearly 50, officials said Wednesday, with most of the deceased identified as women and at least two dozen others still missing.

The overloaded vessel, whose passengers included scores of teachers and university students, went down early Saturday while it was travelling on the Chindwin River in Sagaing region.

Some 150 people were rescued alive on that day but officials believe the ship was carrying up to 250 passengers when it sank on its way to Monywa, a city around 72 kilometres (45 miles) south.

"We have found altogether 48 dead bodies so far," said local MP Tun Tun Win, a jump up from the 32 people pronounced dead on Monday.

"Many more could be dead," he said, adding that local monks have begun leading memorial services for the deceased.

An official from the local relief and resettlement department said two thirds of the dead were women.

At least 23 people -- 17 of whom are women -- are still missing, the official said, requesting anonymity.

One end of the brightly-painted ferry has been raised above the river's surface, with bloated bodies found trapped inside, but most of the vessel remains submerged.

On Wednesday rescuers continued efforts to raise the rest of the ship using cranes.

"The boat still can't be lifted out (completely)," Sa Willy Frient, the director of the relief department, told AFP Wednesday morning.

At least four of the boat's staff have been arrested and will face legal action, according to local authorities.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Wed, 19 Oct 2016 12:58:15 +0000
Magnitude 6.5 quake shakes Indonesia's Java imageTUBAN: A magnitude 6.5 earthquake shook western parts of Indonesia's Java island including the capital Wednesday morning, but no tsunami warning was issued.

National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told Anadolu Agency that the epicenter was located at a depth of 654 kilometers (406 miles) in the Java Sea around 120 km northeast of the island.

"The intensity of the quake was felt moderate to weak," he said, adding that some parts of western Banten province and Jakarta were rocked for five to eight seconds.

"People in Jakarta living in multi-story buildings and apartments felt more powerful shocks."

There have been no reports of casualties or damage, according to Nugroho.

"Although the strength of the quake was large enough, this did not result in damage because the epicenter was very deep," he said.

Indonesia lies within the Pacific's "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide and cause frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

In June, a magnitude 6.5 tremor damaged buildings in western Sumatra Island, with its shocks reportedly felt in parts of Singapore and peninsular Malaysia to the north.

On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude-9.1 earthquake struck the eastern coast of Sumatra, causing a tsunami that killed around 230,000 people as it tore along the coasts of Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Wed, 19 Oct 2016 11:03:26 +0000
Millions in Philippines on alert for super typhoon imageMANILA: Millions of people in the Philippines were ordered Wednesday to prepare for one of the strongest typhoons to ever hit the disaster-battered country, with authorities warning of giant storm surges and destructive winds.

Super Typhoon Haima was forecast to hit remote communities in the far north of the country about 11:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Wednesday, bringing winds almost on a par with catastrophic Super Typhoon Haiyan that claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.

"It's not just heavy rain and strong winds that we are expecting. It's also floods, landslides and storm surges in coastal areas. Those in these areas, you are in danger. Find safer ground," Allan Tabel, chief of the interior ministry's disaster and information coordinating centre, told a nationally televised briefing.

With Haima having a weather band of 800 kilometres (500 miles), more than 10 million people across the northern parts of the Philippines' main island of Luzon will be affected, according to the government's disaster risk management agency.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Wed, 19 Oct 2016 11:02:14 +0000
Iran says Kerry's remarks on sanctions 'unacceptable' imageTEHRAN: Iran has rejected remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry that its policies in Syria and Yemen are blocking efforts to encourage banks to do business with it.

In an interview published Friday, Kerry told Foreign Affairs magazine that Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and Yemen's Huthi rebels made it "very difficult" to help Iran improve its banking system and business practices.

"Mr Kerry's comments are totally unacceptable," Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told state television on Sunday night.

"We are surprised. During the nuclear negotiations, we clearly said that questions of security, defence, ballistic missiles and our regional policies were not negotiable and are not linked to the nuclear talks," he said.

"It is unacceptable that Mr Kerry is today talking of new conditions."

Iran supports the Assad regime in Syria, supplies Lebanon's Hezbollah with funds and weapons and backs Huthi rebels in Yemen -- all of which place it at odds with American policy in the region.

The historic deal between world powers and Iran, which came into force in January, saw a partial lifting of sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear programme.

But Iranian officials have said the United States has not done enough to reassure banks they will not be penalised for doing business in Iran.

Araghchi said the United States was not doing enough to help Iran reintegrate into the global economy.

"Mr Kerry and other American officials who say they have met their commitments forget that they were not only meant to lift some sanctions, as they have done, but also guarantee and facilitate Iran's access to financial, banking, energy, technology and commercial markets," he said.

Kerry told Foreign Affairs that the US was meeting its commitments under the deal.

"We've lifted all the sanctions that we agreed to lift. But there are other problems," he said.

"We could help on technology and certain other things. But it's very difficult when Iran is engaged in Yemen and supporting Assad and supporting Hezbollah and firing missiles that people deem to be threatening and so forth. That hugely complicates efforts to move forward rapidly."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Mon, 17 Oct 2016 13:02:18 +0000
Japan PM Abe sends offering to war shrine imageTOKYO: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to a controversial war shrine on Monday but did not visit, possibly avoiding an angry reaction from China and South Korea.

The conservative premier -- who has been criticised in the past for what some see as a revisionist take on Japan's wartime record -- sent a sacred "masakaki" tree bearing his name to Yasukuni Shrine at the start of a four-day festival.

The shrine honours millions of Japanese war dead, but also senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after World War II.

The site has for decades been a flashpoint for criticism by countries that suffered from Japan's colonialism and aggression in the first half of the 20th century, including China and the two Koreas.

More controversial than the shrine is an accompanying museum that paints Japan as a frustrated liberator of Asia, and a victim of the war.

Abe and other nationalists say Yasukuni is merely a place to remember fallen soldiers and compare it with Arlington National Cemetery in the United States.

Abe visited in December 2013 to mark his first year in power, a pilgrimage that sparked fury in Beijing and Seoul and earned a diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States, which said it was "disappointed" by the action.

But he has since refrained from going, sending ritual offerings instead.

Scores of conservative lawmakers, possibly including cabinet ministers, are expected to go to the shrine to mark the autumn festival on Tuesday.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South East Asia Mon, 17 Oct 2016 07:15:04 +0000
Iran leader urges polls transparency, rejects foreign meddling imageDUBAI: Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Saturday for more transparency in elections due in May following allegations of electoral fraud in the last polls.

He also warned against any foreign funding and interference.

State media carried election guidelines issued by Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state. They called for "setting the scope and type of expenses and sources of legal and illicit campaign expenses by candidate and increasing the transparency of resources..."

Election fraud is rarely reported openly, but the head of the Guardian Council, the top election watchdog, said after parliamentary elections in early 2016 that "vote-buying is becoming more common" and should be fought.

Iran will hold its next presidential election in May 2017, a vote in which pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani may seek a second term to push ahead with reforms resisted by powerful hardliners.

"The use of foreign resources, both financial and promotional support by candidates and parties is banned," said one of the 18 articles of Ayatollah Khamenei's guidelines, issued after consultation with a top clerical body, according to state media.

Khamenei has often called for vigilance against what he calls a "soft war" mounted by the West and aimed at weakening the clerical establishment.

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last month he would not run in the presidential elections, bowing to the wishes of Ayatollah Khamenei who warned his candidacy would increase divisions in Iran.

Copyright Reuters, 2016

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South East Asia Sat, 15 Oct 2016 13:24:04 +0000