CORRUPTION IN CAMBODIA COULD HURT THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS

Peaceful Protester in Cambodia Voicing Her Opinion

Peaceful Protester in Cambodia Voicing Her Opinion

Local elections coming up in early June will be Cambodia’s biggest event of 2017. If the Cambodian National Rescue Party wins the popular vote in the upcoming June 4th local elections then Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister, and the People’s Party will be surprised and they will have to rethink their calculations when it comes to the 2018 elections. Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP, Cambodian People’s Party, severely intensified persecution on a political front. They began to target Cambodia’s political opposition, human rights workers, social activists, and public intellectuals.

“Protesters march in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Photo/Véronique Salze-Lozac’h”

“Protesters march in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Photo/Véronique Salze-Lozac’h”

Kem Ley, a highly admired political commentator, was murdered on July 10 in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Ley was not afraid to voice his frustrations with the government which led to his shooting. This shooting took place during the day and citizens of Cambodia ran after the gunman until the police were able to detain him. The shooter was later identified as a past soldier from the capital’s exterior, but controversy stirred when there was not a large effort to locate those involved with the shooting. Authorities in Cambodia decided to reject the citizens’ desire to hold a peaceful protest. Several veteran military officials stood by the authority’s decision to suppress protests and demonstrations. The resilience of the authorities frustrated the citizens even more and on July 24, 2016 tens of thousands of people marched in memory of the late Kem Ley.

Peaceful Protest in Cambodia

Peaceful Protest in Cambodia

Just three months ago, Sam Rainsy, the leader of the opposition party suddenly stepped down following the rise of pressure from the Cambodian government. Rainsy had led the party for over twenty years so it was surprising to see him depart from the position. The government of Cambodia was able to dispose of National Rescue Party that Rainsy led. Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen did not get along well and constantly disagreed. Rainsy had this to say about Hun Sen, “This guy is crazy, he can do anything he wants without consideration for legal, judicial principles, so I have to defend my party and tell Hun Sen and tell the Cambodian people and tell the whole world that Hun Sen no longer has any grounds to dissolve the C.N.R.P. on the basis that his kangaroo court has made me a convict”. Rainsy was very productive throughout his leadership, he presented a universally clear opposition opponent to carry out a campaign in elections.

“Sam Rainsy, until Saturday the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, arriving in Phnom Penh, the capital, in August 2015. He fled the country that November to avoid jail time”.

“Sam Rainsy, until Saturday the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, arriving in Phnom Penh, the capital, in August 2015. He fled the country that November to avoid jail time”.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen


Vietnamese Water Problem

Only 39% of the population of Vietnam has access to safe water. The surface water of rivers is often polluted by industrial plants and waste from local villages. The geography of Vietnam also contributes to the problem because the flatness makes the country very susceptible to typhoons, storms, floods, and droughts. These natural disasters allow pollution and waterborne diseases to spread quickly. Natural pollution and industrial waste in the water are only part of the problem. The Vietnamese often dispose of their waste by throwing it into rivers, canals, or ponds. They collect water from these sources to do laundry, wash dishes, and bathe, and then they throw the soapy water back into the water source. Needless to say water sources that the Vietnamese use for drinking water and for their livelihoods as farmers and fishers are very contaminated and unsafe.

trash

Arsenic has been leeching into Vietnamese wells as people use up the water in their own aquifers and contaminated water flows in to replace it. The World Health Organization recommends an arsenic level no higher than 10 µg per liter. Some regions of Vietnam have more than 10 to 300 times this level, especially regions surrounding the capital where agriculture leads to high water demands. Although most people know that there is arsenic in the water, they continue to use it because they don’t have any other choice. Arsenic poisoning can lead to a number of problems including cancer.

map

Nearly 80% of the diseases in Vietnam are caused by polluted water. There are many cases of cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria each year. Approximately 6 million Vietnamese contracted a major waterborne disease in the past year. People in rural areas have very little ability to dispose of human and animal waste. When there was a bird flu outbreak in 2004, they threw the dead poultry into canals and rivers.

dys

Last April, tons of fish washed up on the shore of coastal communities such as Ha Tinh and Quang Tri. It began with farmed fish dying in great numbers, and then wild fish, including rare deep sea species, began washing up on the beaches. This was especially worrying sense seafood is one of the main exports of Vietnam and the deaths lead to decreased tourism and economic troubles for the country. It turned out that toxic discharges from a Taiwanese owned steel plant were responsible for the fish deaths. The company pledged $500 million to clean up the environment and compensate affected people.

dead fish

People have been working on ways to filter the water, because the government only filters water that comes from a town aquifer. Many villages are left on their own. One of the best methods to filter the water is a sand filter because the iron and manganese in the sand filters out the arsenic and the finer particles of sand help to pull out some of the other pollutants. It isn’t perfect, but often the arsenic levels are with in World Health Organization standards and the water is drinkable.

sand

Manus Island: Refuge or Prison?

Around the world, countries are struggling to figure out what to do with the millions of refugees fleeing the Middle East. Each country is developing its own plan, usually to a chorus of displeasure from both sides of the political spectrum. In order to handle the thousands of refugees arriving by boat, Australia has been holding refugees in “offshore camps” like the one on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Theoretically, the refugees are to be held on these islands until they can be processed and settled on Nauru or in Papua New Guinea (the refugees are not allowed to settle on the Australian mainland). The reality of the situation and the conditions the refugees are forced to endure have attracted international attention.

Ghetto of the Pacific: Manus Island, just north-east of the PNG mainland. An extremely shit place to livehttp://www.betootaadvocate.com/

In 1992, the Australian parliament passed a law that required all refugees arriving by boat to be detained, and stated that a court could not order them released. Today, the detainees can only be released at the discretion of the immigration minister. This law became particularly significant in 2001, when the center on Manus Island originally opened to deal with the influx of refugees Australia was experiencing. The center was closed in 2008, four years after the last refugee had left, and remained closed until November of 2011. Because Manus is an inhabited island, the center is securely closed off.

Gate to Manus Island camphttp://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-33113223

Conditions in the center are widely criticized, with numerous reports of overcrowding, supply shortages, and abuse from guards. Journalists that managed to get onto the island (journalists need special visas, which are hard to attain, so some pose as tourists to get near the center) reported outbreaks of malaria and typhoid as well as rampant self-harm and attempts at suicide. Manus Island’s sister center, Nauru, was the source of a video of self immolation by a detainee.

Asylum seekers on Manus Islandhttp://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-31827074

A major riot broke out in 2014, leaving one dead and 77 injured; a food riot broke out in March 2017, with no reported injuries or deaths. Signs can be seen hung from buildings in the center, begging readers for freedom, calling the center a “jail” and a “cage.” After the 2014 riot, protesters and mourners gathered in honor of the death of Reza Berati, who was clubbed over the head by a local Salvation Army employee.

People attend a candlelight vigil in support of asylum seekers, in Sydney on 23 February 2014.http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-31827074

There have been several protests regarding the island since its opening, but perhaps none so massive as the one that took place in February 2017 during rush hour in Melbourne. Hundreds gathered in response to President Trump’s statement that the deal to take in 1,250 refugees was “dumb.” The refugees would come from both Manus Island and Nauru, but the Australian budget does not reflect a decrease in spending on either island for fear of Mr. Trump reneging on the deal. The US is expected to take in 50,000 refugees from around the world in 2017, though refugees will be subject to “extreme vetting” and must wait until the 120 day immigration suspension has passed. Whether any of those refugees will be from Australia’s detention centers remains to be seen.

Australia: Thousands rally to let refugees stayhttp://time.com/4309119/manus-island-detention-center-papua-new-guinea-australia/

Kim Jong-Soprano: North Korea’s Sicilian Government

The traditional western view of North Korea often paints the “Hermit Kingdom” as a farcical jester of a nation, an oddity that confounds onlookers with its many contradictions and bombastic threats.  However, this less than nuanced view of the nation and its intricate and complex governmental hierarchy tends to oversimplify the small Asian state, potentially leading to fatal missteps in policy regarding the progressing nuclear power, whose wild threats and curses could theoretically gain a terrifying bite behind them in the approaching years.  For these reasons, it is crucial that we properly understand the inner workings of Kim Jong-Un’s gang-like government.

The oddest thing about Mr. Kim’s government is the role Kim himself plays.  He runs his government like a fervent religious cult, building an image of himself among the people as a supreme leader who personally oversees every matter of state, with unbeatable records in every sport or competition, and a host of magical powers, such as the ability to read the minds of his citizens to make sure they remain loyal.   However, the truth behind the scenes of Kim’s magic show is much grittier.  As a military dictator, Mr. Kim derives all of his power from his control of the armed forces.  Like a mob-boss or feudal lord, Mr. Kim must manage the desires and demands of his subordinates to remain the supreme leader.  Without the support of his martial underlings, he is effectively naught but a pudgy lunatic.  With the army’s backing, he is a pudgy lunatic with the unilateral control of the nation.

Mr. Kim, of course, understands this well, and thus considers the well-being of the military above all else, affording them great rights, as well as granting them a massive amount of influence within the government of North Korea.  The powers of the North Korean military are best shown through the ideology of Songun, instituted by Kim Jong-Il in 1995.  The policy, translated literally as “military first” puts the military of North Korea before all other matters of state, prioritizing the well being of the military over civic and economic issues.  Unsurprisingly, this policy was instituted in the middle of the Great Famine of North Korea (known within the country as the Arduous March, as famine implies a government failure), when a combination of factors, including the loss of Soviet support, floods and droughts, and a failing of the centrally planned farming system, led to massive food shortages.  As international aid flowed into the country, the newly elevated military intercepted stockpiles of food, using them to keep their soldiers fed and content, while farmers and peasants starved to death.  Even after the humanitarian situation in the country stabilized slightly, Kim Jong-Il and the reigning Kim Jong-Un have since doubled-down on the policy of Songun, steadily increasing the authority of their base of power, the military.

Because of this system, where the army officials hold almost lordly privileges over their jurisdictions, and the rule of the government is determined by the authority of the gun, the government of North Korea often times operates almost as an organized criminal empire would, with laws and rules created and interpreted at the whim of the men holding the weapons, a constant power-struggle emerging between the hierarchy of capos and mob-bosses, and a flow of money that is robbed, embezzled, or appropriated out of the hands of the average citizen and into the pockets of the men in charge.  However, due to the special circumstances surrounding this particular crime-family, they aren’t looking out for the Feds, they are the Feds.

Ganging up on the Public: Thailand’s New Junta Government

Recently Thailand’s military government has doubled-down on efforts to restrict freedom of speech and privacy within their country in an attempt to silence critics. In August of last year, government official Takorn Tantasith announced that all foreigners stepping foot in Thailand would be obligated to carry a government-assigned SIM card with permanently unlocked locational tracking. While he claims that a court order would be required to access this data, the establishment of new cyber-laws have potentially opened the door for full-time civilian surveillance by the military. Tanatasith claims that Thais don’t need the new SIM card due to the ease with which the government can already track them, a concerning prospect.

These new cyber-laws, established under the new Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), give extensive powers to the government to censor and otherwise persecute individuals with dissenting opinions. The Act, passed unanimously by a junta-appointed assembly last month, will certainly exasperate the prosecution of activists—hundreds of which have already been punished in the past couple years without the aid of these new restrictions. The Act employs ambiguous terms, allowing one to be arrested for sharing “distorted or partially distorted” information online. Service providers under these new laws are required to remove any posts categorized by the government in any of the aforementioned criteria. To ensure that nothing slips by, the CCA also grants the power to the government to delete any non-illegal content if deemed “inappropriate” for any reason by an appointed committee.

The government recently displayed the extent of power granted by these new laws by arresting a student for posting to Facebook portions of a BBC article that mentions the king’s personal life. Under Thailand’s lèse-majesté policy, these individuals can be charged for insulting the king—a policy that is easily taken advantage of to silence would-be objectors. After being met with considerable opposition, the government has stated that citizens posting or sharing criticisms of the CCA could be persecuted under the CCA for “public disturbances [due to]…false information.”

These internet crack-downs are part of a larger movement by the junta government to suppress their people’s role in government. Last year Thailand’s government established their 20th constitution in 84 years, quietly seizing power from the people and vesting it in the military.[5] The military can now appoint all 250 senators, issue unchecked emergency decrees, and veto all political bodies. The referendum passed with 61 percent of the vote, but the Thai government arrested activists and banned the spread of “false information” in the media leading up to the voting. Political rallies, independent campaigns, and open discussion or criticisms of the draft were also banned. Voters were also asked if the prime minister should be selected by an appointed Senate; due to the widespread fear of instability following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, this proposal was passed by a margin of 16 percent.

By promising limitations of the power of appointed politicians, the junta government was able to facilitate its own power by tapping into the ‘bad taste’ in the mouths of Thais after the corrupt dealings of previous Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Recently sentenced to two years of imprisonment for corruption, Shinawatra fled to England where he is now facing extradition requests by the new military government. While the major players of the Thai ‘gang-government’ have changed, the game has not; Thai citizens still continue to fall victim to a government clinging to power at the expense of the country.

According to Time Magazine, coups cost the Thai economy 3.4 percent GDP in the two following years and cut national incomes by 7 percent. When one considers the fact that Thailand is statistically likely to have a coup every 4.5 years, it is easier to understand why the new government has been so successful at rallying support for what was touted as uncorrupt political stability. With an estimated $53 billion in assets at stake in the royal trust, it has been speculated that the military has been forced to take strong action to stabilize the country following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, yet the new laws seem to specifically favor the military over the general sentiments of the country, which will likely lead to disorder in the near future.

The Yakuza and The Yamaguchi-gumi: Japan’s Organized Crime

“Yakuza” is the blanket name for the organized crime groups in Japan. They developed during the Edo period of Japan, between 1603 and 1868, as a bunch of misfit gamblers and pedalers turned criminals. The term “yakuza” derived from the Japanese words for eight, nine, and three, which is the worst hand in the Japanese card game Oicho-Kabu. This is reflective of their gambling past, and gambling (which is illegal in Japan), along with loan sharking, drug trafficking and prostitution, are still the main ways that the yakuza groups make money. It is said that the oldest continuous yakuza gang, according to author Kazuhiko Murakami, is probably the Aizukotetsu-kai in Kyoto, which was founded around the 1870s.

 

After WWII, the Yakuza groups got themselves into the black market and started dominating it. Before then, they were “loosely run gambling associations,” until they started doubling down on their business, providing gambling and entertainment, and even managing singers and stars. They then started engaging in extortion, blackmail, and fraud, moving into construction and running real estate, and eventually got into politics. At the current moment, these yakuza groups are not banned, but heavily monitored by Japan due to their presence and the idea that banning them would cause them to go underground, making it harder for them to be monitored.

 

Yakuza groups, while mostly crime oriented, also run many legitimate businesses, which is one of the reasons the groups themselves aren’t illegal. For instance, they have some control over the entertainment industry and “rule over their empires ruthlessly.” Their influence also is very heavy within “the construction, real estate, currency exchange, labor dispatch, and the IT and financial industries.” Despite their influence in these fields, they also have some political influence, dating back to post-WWII times when “the notorious Yakuza Yoshio Kodama financed the Liberal Democratic Party in its early years.” They are also the last resort in the business world for “crushing labor unions, scandals and finding labor for jobs that no one wants to do.”

 

Like many gangs, the yakuza groups are mostly composed of marginalized groups of people, such as “the Korean-Japanese whose parents and grandparents were brought into Japan as slave laborers and members from the former outcast class of Japan.” Unlike typical gangs, however, these groups are not so territorial based. They are mostly social based, with a social hierarchy. These gangs do not shy away from publicity and tend to be very public, with “comic books and movies glamoris[ing] them” and “major gang bosses [being] quasi-celebrities.” They have magazines, headquarters, business cards, and even sponsor entertainers. Ironically, these gangs aren’t illegal. They are allowed to exist by law, but their actions aren’t.

 

Of these Yakuza groups, the largest of them is the Yamaguchi-gumi. This group was founded in Kobe “as a labor dispatch service” in 1915. This quickly changed when Taoka Kazuo joined as a member in the 1930s. During WWII, this organisation quickly fell apart before being brought back to life during the post-war years by Kazuo himself, and then made into a giant cartel that eventually became the powerful group it is known as today. It currently is headed by Kenichi Shinoda.
This group in particular, however, will probably be one of the main players in a possible war of all gangs. During August 2015, the Yamaguchi-gumi split into two groups, with one calling themselves the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. Other Yakuza groups will have to pledge their loyalties to the new or old group, further dividing gangs and causing conflict. Despite this division, there is hope that the gang warfare won’t spread to the streets, as the yakuza groups value money over bloodshed, thus leading to the possibility of matters being sorted out financially. It isn’t just looking grim for the groups and everyone else there, for Yakuza member numbers are dropping, causing them to hire freelance strongarms. The Yamaguchi-gumi, along with the rest of the Yakuza gangs, have permeated Japanese life to help their membership numbers, but they do not appear to have more than that, never mind acting as institutionally as the Sicilian mafia.

East Turkestan Independence Movement, Standing Shakily Against China

The Xinjiang Province of China has been populated for hundreds of years by a Muslim, Turkic people known as the Uighurs. Of the 10 million Uighurs alive today, all but 300,000 live in Xinjiang; however, China has had control of the governance of the region for most of the past 300 years, often using the province for military bases guarding against China’s Northwestern neighbors. Bordering six Muslim countries, the Uyghur people are culturally very similar to their Central Asian neighbors – but economic development and government-encouraged migration has brought scores of Han Chinese newcomers to the area, who bring their own language, culture, and ideas.

Today, the region is over 40% Han Chinese, and the Chinese government has large numbers of troops stationed there. Ethnic Chinese are widely seen, with much reason, as being given the best jobs and economic opportunity, and the Chinese government has repeatedly shut down protests and silenced Uighur dissidents. In contrast, many of Xinjian’s neighboring peoples had gained independence following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and set up their own governments with ethnically local, Muslim leadership, while the Chinese government continued to heavily regulate mosques, religious schools, and even banned Muslim civil servants from fasting during Ramadan. As a result of these historical developments, a growing number of the native Uighurs began fighting for independence from China, and the East Turkestan Independence Movement emerged.

One of the branches of this group, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), has received support from the leaders of al-Qaeda, and have begun perpetrating terrorist attacks in China, most notably on August 30, 2016, when the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, was attacked in a suicide bombing by a member of the TIP. These guerilla tactics are being employed with the goal of establishing an independent, ethnically representative government in Xinjiang, and have been done exclusively against the Chinese government, unlike groups like the Islamic State whose goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate.

This desired state of “East Turkestan,” however, is nothing more than an idea; the people of the region have not governed themselves since their brief Soviet-backed period of independence in the 1940’s. There is no vacuum of power to fill, and the Chinese perform all expected government functions. Wherever their loyalties lie, the people of Xinjiang by and large recognize the Chinese government and have no dependence on any Turkestani group.

While many Muslims in Xinjiang, which is literally translated as “new territory” in Chinese, believe that China’s borders should not extend beyond the Great Wall of China into what they refer to in private as “Turkestan” or “Sharqi Turkestan,” the powerful Chinese government has so far prevented this resentment from growing into a larger political movement that could unite ethnic Uighurs in the region.  A small group of Uyghur asylees in the United States led by Anwar Yusuf Turani has set up what they call the “East Turkistan Government in Exile;” however they are not currently recognized by any government, and their only action of “governing” is the production of extremely long English-language Youtube videos with little more than 100 views each. Thus, these Muslim, separatist guerilla groups of Xinjiang appear fated to remain small and disorganized, as China puts more and more energy into securing its borders.

Abu Sayyaf: The Filipino Guerrilla Group Gone Gang

The origins of the Filipino terrorist group known as Abu Sayyaf date back to the 1990’s. The group split from the Moro National Liberation Front, a movement in the Philippines seeking Muslim independence in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. When the Moro National Liberation Front signed a peace treaty with the Filipino government in 1996, some who still sought independence joined Abu Sayyaf. Abu Sayyaf became an extremist, Muslim terrorist group, forming under the leadership of Abdurajak Akubakar Janjalani, who fought alongside Osama Bin Laden in the Soviet-Afghan war. Inspired, funded, and trained by Al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf(“bearer of the sword”) gained traction in the thick jungles of the underpopulated southern Philippines, territory it controls to this day. Its exact membership has never truly been known, but Abu Sayyaf is currently estimated to have only about 400 members.

Over the years, Abu Sayyaf has degenerated from a notorious guerrilla group seeking a caliphate, to a fragmented gang whose goals seem to be mostly related to profit. The main factor behind Abu Sayyaf’s transformation is its decreased centralization. Under its first leader, Abdurajak Akubakar Janjalani, Abu Sayyaf had a clear chain of command and the political goal of a caliphate. His death by security forces in 1998 passed power on to his brother, Khadaffy Janjalani. The group was still strongly centralized, and it really began making its way into the limelight in 2000, when it kidnapped 10 western tourists, and 11 Asians. Abu Sayyaf acquired its first ransom for these hostages in August of 2001, as Muammar Gaddafi, then leader of Libya, is said to have paid millions of dollars for their return. Under Janjalini’s leadership the group continued many successful kidnappings for more ransoms, often beheading victims if their demands were not met. Seeking to assert its power and possibly scare the Filipino government into officially giving up some territory for a caliphate, the group firebombed a ferry in Manila Bay on February 27, 2004 , killing 116 people in the largest terror attack in the Philippines’ history. Khadaffy Janjalani was killed over two years later by the Filipino military in September of 2006fracturing the group’s centralization, and causing Abu Sayyaf  to begin its transformation into a gang.

Factions of Abu Sayyaf still claim to seek a caliphate, and a few have dedicated themselves to ISIS, but the reasons for this declaration are likely for monetary aid. No evidence of aid has come. This could very well be because of Abu Sayyaf’s fragmentation into what essentially is a group of gangs. Abu Sayyaf’s unifying goal may no longer be a caliphate, but the one common motivation amongst its factions remains the extortion through kidnappings. The group’s lack of unity proved to be a detriment in 2015, when one faction wanted a larger ransom than another. This disagreement led to the beheading of a Malaysian hostage.  Abu Sayyaf’s transformation into a gang has indeed not made it any less brutal. In April and June of 2016, two Canadian men abducted from a resort were beheaded when the Canadian government refused to pay the ransom. Clearly, even a decentralized Abu Sayyaf is not a group to be trifled with, even if their power is dwindling.

This dwindling power comes in large part from an order of eradication by President Rodrigo Duterte. When Abu Sayyaf formed it had a decent amount of support locally, but Duterte has mobilized the largest amount of Filipino troops in the country’s history to accomplish their defeat, and support from the villages of the Southern Philippines is, according to Filipino General De La Vega, now “considerable”. Working in familiar territory, constantly finding new hiding places, Abu Sayyaf, despite its minimal support will be difficult to destroy completely. The problem is quite vaguely reminiscent to the difficulties the U.S. military experienced in Vietnam, as well as the difficulties the British faced fighting the colonists in the American Revolution. Knowledge of the local terrain is undoubtedly an advantage in battle. However, compared to both the Vietnamese and the American colonists, Abu Sayyaf is a far less organized group. Abu Sayyaf by no means looks to be a threat to the broader international community, but its total destruction will prove challenging. However, all in all, being as fragmented as it is, the Filipino army’s growing presence, and its decreasing support among locals makes the likelihood of a resurgence by Abu Sayyaf nearly impossible.

Australia Immigration

In contrast to Europe’s openness Australia is known to have a very strict immigration policy. However, the policy has not always been this strict. The first people classified as modern asylum seekers to reach Australia’s shores were three young friends and two brothers from Vietnam in 1976; they tore a map from a school Atlas to navigate the seas. A larger group of Vietnamese followed, and they ended up being known as “the boat people” because that is simply how they arrived. For the next five years 2,054 more people would follow. Most Australians wanted to see these migrants stay, and they were therefore given refugee status.

People who arrived by boat today that are seeking asylum are not welcomed nearly as much. According to Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, Australia’s “’position is very clear, and that is we are not going to accept people who have sought to come to our country illegally by boat. They will not settle permanently in our country.'”[i] Instead Australia send them off to either Nauru, or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for “offshore processing” and most of the time the people are never resettled. This policy was developed in August 2001 by the Howard government. On September 28, 2001, it implemented by Philip Ruddock who was Australian Immigration Minister at the time. The policy of sending people to Manus Island and Nauru, has helped to slow the flow of migrants, and cut the number of refugees drowning at sea. The UN also sees this policy as a breach of their rights. Today, there are a large number of people who have committed no crime, and “are warehoused in appalling conditions in arbitrary and indefinite detention.”[ii] Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with dozens of countries, and the United Nations, have criticized the illegal detention.

Australia has recently made an agreement with Cambodia, in hopes to lower the number of people being held on Nauru and Manus Island. The refugee relocation agreement between Australia and Cambodia is the first of its kind. Since it is involving a traditional resettlement country, as well as a developing country that has limited capacity to meet their needs. The agreement states that Cambodia will offer a permanent settlement to the people who were seeking asylum in Australia, and instead were forced to be relocated to Nauru.

There was a United Nations convention in 1951 which determined who was classified as a refugee, Australia is one of the many countries that signed it. The convention not only defined a “refugee” but also set out rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities that the nations have who grant asylum. Through looking at the conditions of some of the center on Nauru and Papua New Guinee’s Manus Island, Australia may be in violation of parts of the agreement. People who are deemed asylum seekers, are granted individual rights, and on the islands, not all human rights are being upheld. This could become an issue, if other counties begin to see that Australia hasn’t upheld the agreement they might start to follow some of the same policies. If this is the path that Australia wishes to take, then they should consider removing themselves from the agreement.

[i] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/australia-immigration/480189/

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/10/

 

 

Rodrigo Duterte: Gambling with Foreign Policy in the Philippines

In all democratic societies, there comes a time when the people become frustrated with the way things are and thirst for change. They grow angry and impatient, and they want someone to lead them who advocates for a government focused on the drastic change they desire. The election of Donald Trump in the US is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The people want change, and they are willing to support drastic measures by their government to get it.

The same phenomenon occurred when Duterte was elected as President of the Philippines. His campaign was centered around his bloody “war on drugs.” Drugs were, and still are, a huge problem in the Philippines, and the Philippine people desperately wanted their next president to be someone who pushed for that kind of extreme campaign against issues like this. But, over the past decade, the Philippines has experienced growth that earned them a place as one of the most dynamic performers in Asia, and at times, Asia’s fastest growing economy. So why would they elect Rodrigo Duterte, an advocate for change?

The answer lies in the fact that despite their economic success the growth didn’t spread evenly throughout the country, leaving marginalized regions and social classes deeply dissatisfied. So although Duterte’s policies are extreme, the people are willing to sacrifice some lives if it means the betterment of their own.

Since Duterte became president, there has been a sharp increase in drug-related killings in the Philippines, with over 3,500 deaths in the last few months alone. Many were killed by police and many through vigilante justice. The US has stated its concern with this sudden increase, and the UN has called Duterte’s actions a crime under international law, leading Duterte to threaten to withdraw the Philippines from the UN.

Duterte’s foreign policy has been highly volatile in the past months as he cozies up to China and Russia and pushes away the Philippines’ allies, namely the US. His vicious criticism of the US might be beginning to pay off; earlier in October, Duterte visited Beijing, where he declared his intention to abandon a long-standing alliance with the US in favor of warming up to China. Philippine security officials said that China had lowered the number of ships at Scarborough Shoal, allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in this disputed part of the South China Sea. This could potentially be an important concession from China, one that could help greatly to reduce tensions. Yet, what China gives it can also easily take away. China has previously fallen short on promises to its supplicant states.

As Duterte pivots toward China, relations with the US are at an all time low. The foul-mouthed Philippine president has threatened relations with the US in ways ranging from calling President Obama a “son of a whore,” to canceling a US weapons deal to flat out announcing that “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” and “maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Duterte’s foreign policy as of late is definitely a gamble whose outcome cannot be foreseen. It begs questions concerning the future of foreign policy in the Philippines, the future of the country’s relationship with the United States and whether it was a bad idea to take the US’s support for granted. If the Philippines becomes friendly with and gains support from China and Russia rather than leaning on the US, will there really be no price to pay? Will the Philippines end up under China’s thumb, with no US to help them? President Obama took Duterte’s insults with grace, but would President-elect Trump do the same? One can only wait and see how this gamble in the Philippines will end.