Southeast Asia

Burma: will ceasefire wind down opium war?

Posted on October 18th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

South East AsiaBurma's President Thein Sein signed a ceasefire Oct. 15 with eight armed rebel groups, in a bid to bring the country's multiple ethnic insurgencies to an end before next month's general elections—the first since a nominally civilian government took over and pledged a democratic transition in 2011 after decades of dictatorship. The agreement seeks to incorporate rebel groups into the political process, ending a war that has persisted (with varying levels of intensity) since Burmese independence in 1948. But while the pact is optimistically dubbed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), seven armed groups involved in the peace talks did not sign the final deal. Among the seven non-signatories is the largest rebel army, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), with an estimated 25,000 fighters. Trying to put a good face on things, Thein Sein said , "history will judge the value of the NCA not by the number of signatories but how the terms of the NCA are effectively implemented." Also not signing on are the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Kokang armed factions along the Chinese border. One of the most significant groups signing on to the deal, the Karen National Union (KNU), actually entered a bilateral ceasefire with the government in 2012.

Torture on Indonesia's death row

Posted on October 18th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

South East AsiaAmnesty International on Oct. 15 released a report finding that Death Row inmates in Indonesia are routinely beaten and coerced into confessions, and denied the right to counsel. President Joko Widodo's government has executed 14 prisoners since  he took office in October 2014—all for drug charges. According to the report, dubbed "Flawed Justice," in half of the 12 cases Amnesty analyzed, prisoners said their "confessions" were extracted by torture. One Pakistani man, Zulfiqar Ali, was held incommunicado at a private house for three days as police brutalized him. He was beaten so badly he required kidney and stomach surgery—but his confession was still used against him in court. No other independent investigation into the heroin charge against him was carried out. Amnesty is urging Indonesia to instate a moratorium on the death penalty and create an independent body to review Death Row cases.

Laos to lighten up on medicinal opium?

Posted on April 5th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , .

South East AsiaLaos was once a major opium producer—and now production is creeping up there again after eradication efforts had dramatically slashed it. But this time around authorities may take a more tolerant and realistic approach. Voice of America reported March 27 that the Asian Development Bank and other international donors helping Laos promote alternatives to opium production are actually listening to analysts who emphasize the reasons for the bounce in production. Poppy cultivation in Laos fell from a peak of 26,800 hectares in 1998 to 1,800 hectares by 2005 under an aggressive eradication program. In 2006 the Laotian government declared the country "drug free." Now, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) finds cultivation in Laos rose to some 6,200 hectares in 2014. However, while the far greater quantities of opium grown in neighboring Burma are largely processed into heroin for export, much of that in Laos is consumed locally for traditional and medicinal use by hill tribes in country's remote north.

Burma opium war spills into China

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

South East AsiaAfter weeks of escalating tensions along the remote mountain border, a Burmese MiG-29 fighter jet carried out an air-strike on Chinese territory March 13, killing four people working in a sugar-cane field in Yunnan province. Chinese authorities stepped up security along the border and registered a diplomatic protest. Burma, after initially denying everything, issued a statement expressing "deep sorrow" over the deaths. But Beijing says there have been at least three similar incidents of bombs from Burmese government forces falling in Chinese territory in recent weeks, and warned of "decisive" measures if there were any more. This all concerns the fast-escalating war in Burma's northern Shan state, where the rebel army of the Kokang ethnicity has again taken up arms against the government. More than 50,000 people—mostly Kokang—have fled the fighting into Chinese territory since the war was re-ignited earlier this year, and Burma accuses local military commanders in China of allowing the rebels to establish a staging ground in the border zone. (BBC News, March 16; Al Jazeera, March 15; Reuters, IBT, March 14)

Will Burma opium war draw in China?

Posted on February 16th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

South East AsiaIn another grim signal of a widening war in northern Burma's opium zones, last week saw an outbreak of intense fighting between government forces and ethnic rebels, prompting some 50,000 Kokang civilians to flee across the border to China. The clashes at the town of Laukkai (also rendered Laogai), Shan state, saw government air-strikes and helicopter strafing on villages controlled by the Kokang rebel group, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and two allied militias. Some 50 government troops have been killed in the fighting, and soliders have recovered the bodies of several rebels. A line of refugees 10 kilometers long has reportedly piled up at the Chinese border crossing of Nansan. (AP, Feb. 14; Democratic Voice of Burma, Feb. 12; The Irrawady, Feb. 11)

Napalm Death frontman to Indonesia: don't execute grandma!

Posted on February 7th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

South East AsiaIndonesia, facing global criticism over a spate of executions of foreigners on drug charges, is now under pressure from the grindcore lobby. The Independent reported Feb. 3 that Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway is personally petitioning President Joko Widodo for clemency—taking advantage of the fact that His Excellency Widodo is an avid fan. (The Independent amusingly shows him wearing a Napalm Death T-shit.) Last month, Greenway appealed in the case of two Australian members of the "Bali Nine," Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, facing execution on a heroin trafficking charge. Chan and Sukumaran are apparently also metal fans, and Greenway is reaching out to Widodo in a spirit of headbanger solidarity. Now, the English rocker has released an open letter to Widodo urging clemency for Lindsay Sandiford, a 57-year-old British grandmother who faces the firing squad in Bali on a coke-smuggling charge. Adopting considerably more dulcet tones than he uses onstage, Greeway writes:

Harsh abuses seen in Burma opium war

Posted on January 23rd, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

South East AsiaDespite a democratic opening and hopes for peace with the ethnic insurgencies in the northern hinterlands, horrific accounts of rights abuses continue to emerge from the multi-sided war over Burma's opium production. According to reports from village leaders, Burmese army troops on Jan. 19 tortured, raped and killed two young volunteer teachers. The women were both Kachin and Christians, so may have been targeted for ethnicity or religion. The attacks came when the village of Shabuk-Kaunghka, in Shan state's Mungbaw township, was occupied by a Light Infantry battalion that entered the area following clashes with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). New fighting erupted after three police officers and a local highway administrator were detained by the KIA while carrying out a road inspection in the area. They were released after mediation, but clashes continue. 

Indonesia executes six on drug charges

Posted on January 19th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

South East AsiaIndonesia executed six convicted on drug charges Jan. 17, rejecting last-minute appeals for clemency from international leaders. Four men from Brazil (possession of 13 kilos of cocaine), Malawi (1 kilo of heroin), Nigeria (1 kilo heroin) and the Netherlands (ecstacy production) and one Indonesian woman (3 kilos heroin) were put to death by firing squad on Nusakambangan Island, off the southern coast of Java. Another woman from Vietnam (1 kilo of methamphetamine) was executed in Boyolali, in central Java. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders were among world leaders to speak out against the executions. Koenders called them "a cruel and inhumane punishment... an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity." Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors in protest after the executions were carried out. Amnesty International called the executions a "retrograde step" for human rights.

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