More than a half-million Rohingya flee violence in Myanmar
- Since August, nearly 520,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from their homes in Myanmar into Bangladesh, and dozens—many of them children—have died attempting to reach Bangladesh by boat.
- Refugees spoke of attacks by the military and Buddhist vigilantes, including the burning of villages and physical assaults throughout the state of Rakhine.
- The U.N. has condemned the violence as “ethnic cleansing” on the part of the Burmese state, which targeted Rohingya communities following an attack by Rohingya militants on a military outpost.
“‘I can’t take this any more:’ Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar in new surge” (Reuters | October 2017)
“Rohingya crisis: Children die as boat capsizes off Bangladesh” (BBC News | October 2017)
“Bangladesh to build one of world’s largest refugee camps for 800,000 Rohingya” (The Guardian | October 2017)
Filipino Christians in Muslim-majority Marawi caught up in Mindanao violence
- Clashes between Islamist militants and Philippine soldiers in Marawi City have displaced as much as 90% of the city’s population.
- Militants have torched churches and reportedly taken hostages in the fight against the government, the extension of decades of conflict driven by increased Christian settlement in the region, the desire for more political autonomy by Moro (Muslim) liberation groups, and the rise of international terrorist organizations like the Islamic State.
- While the Philippine population as a whole is 90% Christian, Muslims comprise the majority of the population in Marawi City, located on the Philippines’ second-largest island, Mindanao.
“Christians caught up in Philippines’ urban battle with Islamists” (Reuters | May 2017)
“‘They kill defenceless people’: thousands flee Philippine city of Marawi” (The Guardian | May 2017)
“Mindanao crisis: A city on fire” (Al Jazeera | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Erik De Castro/Reuters)
South Korean soldier convicted of same-sex sexual activity
- South Korea’s military court sentenced him to a six-month suspended prison sentence under the Military Criminal Act, which will lead to a dishonorable discharge.
- While same-sex relations are not illegal for civilians, the South Korean military code criminalizes homosexual activity by military personnel, among which all able-bodied men must serve for two years.
- Human rights organizations have reported that military leaders have ordered the revelation and tracking of gay military members, though the army has denied the allegations.
“South Korean military court hands army captain suspended prison sentence for having gay sex with fellow soldier” (The Independent | May 2017)
“Korean soldier convicted of gay sex” (The Korea Times | May 2017)
“South Korean soldier given suspended jail term for gay sex” (BBC News | May 2017)
More than 100 arrested and 2 publicly flogged as Indonesian authorities target gay men
- Jakarta police confirmed that 141 men had been rounded up at a sauna party and jailed, subject to pornography charges.
- In the conservative province of Aceh, two men, aged 20 and 23, were subject to public whippings after having been caught having sex, a new application of religious provincial law in a country that does not officially criminalize same-sex relations.
- Increased anti-gay sentiment in the country is seen as part of a rising wave of hardline Islamism in the country, which has in recent years been praised for its secular, relatively liberal social gains.
“Indonesian police arrest more than 140 men at alleged gay sauna party” (The Guardian | May 2017)
“Two men publicly caned in Indonesia for having gay sex” (Reuters | May 2017)
“Indonesian men caned for gay sex in Aceh” (BBC News | May 2017)
(Image Credit: via BBC News)
Jakarta’s Christian governor of Chinese descent sentenced to prison for blasphemy
- Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was sentenced to two years in prison after having accused political opponents of using a verse from the Qur’an to mobilize opposition to his re-election.
- His remarks drew massive protests in the Muslim-majority country and a religiously charged vote for the Jakarta governorship in April, where he lost to Muslim rival Anies Baswedan.
- Judges cited fundamentalist religious groups in the ruling, shocking observers with a prison sentence for Ahok because he “did not feel guilt.”
“Jakarta governor Ahok sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy” (The Guardian | May 2017)
“Jakarta’s Christian Governor Ahok jailed for two years for blasphemy” (The Sydney Morning Herald | May 2017)
“Jakarta’s former governor Ahok dropping appeal against jail sentence for blasphemy” (ABC | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Antara/Pool/Sigid Kurniawan, via The Jakarta Post)
High court opens door to marriage equality in Taiwan
- The Council of Grand Justices ruled that the section of the Taiwanese Civil Code banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
- The decision compels the government to revise the Code in accordance with the ruling, though it leaves open the question as to how that will be done.
- Once legally enshrined, the ruling will make Taiwan the first Asian country to secure marriage equality for its LGBT citizens.
“Same-sex Marriage: Marriage restrictions ‘unconstitutional’” (The Taipei Times | May 2017)
“Taiwan Is Set To Become The First Asian Country To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage” (BuzzFeed News | May 2017)
“Court Ruling Could Make Taiwan First Place in Asia to Legalize Gay Marriage” (The New York Times | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Tyrone Siu/Reuters, via The New York Times)
First female chief executive chosen in Hong Kong
- Carrie Lam was elected chief executive of Hong Kong by an electoral committee in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, inheriting growing divisions between a youth-led pro-democracy movement and increasing Beijing influence.
- The election was mired in controversy as the committee is stacked with pro-China business and political figures, seen by critics as promoting more Communist Party control over Hong Kong affairs.
- Lam led the failed effort to reform Hong Kong’s electoral process, in which Beijing sought to pre-screen candidates before presenting options for direct popular vote.
“Carrie Lam Wins Vote to Become Hong Kong’s Next Leader” (The New York Times | March 2017)
“Hong Kong’s first female leader a ’tilted bridge’ over troubled water” (Reuters | March 2017)
“Newly elected Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vows to unite sharply divided city” (South China Morning Post | March 2017)
(Image Credit: Bobby Yip/Reuters)