The Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Cambodia charged four environmental activists with conspiracy and insulting the king, a prosecutor confirmed June 21, after three activists were arrested for documenting raw sewage discharge into the Tonlé Sap River. Three of the charged conservationists were sent to pre-trial detention, while the fourth, Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC) co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, was charged in absentia and has not been arrested. The four activists face a sentence of five to 10 years for the conspiracy charge. The charge for insulting the king carries an additional sentence of one to five years.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors on Dec. 15 rejected a complaint filed by exiled Uighurs calling for an investigation of China on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds; the People's Republic of China, like the United States and Russia, does not recognize the ICC. The office of chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated in a year-end report on preliminary examinations: "This precondition for the exercise of the court's territorial jurisdiction did not appear to be met with respect to the majority of the crimes alleged."
Lawyers have submitted a complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), demanding that an investigation be opened into senior Chinese leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed against the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples. The complaint was filed on behalf of the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM).
In countries across the world, the impoverished are in the paradoxical position of being disproportionately impacted both by COVID-19 and by the police-state measures imposed in response to the pandemic—and consequent economic pain. In Lebanon, which had been in the midst of a national uprising before lockdown orders were imposed in March, protests have been re-ignited just as the lockdown is being eased—and with far greater rage. Violence escalated April 28 in the northern city of Tripoli as residents angered by the country's economic collapse set banks on fire and met volleys of tear-gas from security forces with barrages of pelted stones. The outburst came at the end of a massive funeral procession for a young man who died the previous day, apparently after being shot in a street clash with army troops. Mirroring a similar incident in Venezuela last week, mourners dubbed the deceased "Martyr of the Hunger Revolution." (WaPo, Foreign Policy)
It's certainly an irony that with police-state measures mounting worldwide to enforce lockdowns and contain COVID-19, Trump is now claiming sweeping executive power to lift lockdowns in the US in spite of the pandemic. Asserting his prerogative to override state governors and order economies open again, Trump stated April 13: "When someone is president of the United States, the authority is total." After requisite media outcry, he later reiterated this assertion on Twitter. (NYT, The Guardian) The response in media and the Twittersphere has been to call this out as blatantly unconstitutional. While it is, of course, necessary to point out the illegitimacy of Trump's pretended power-grab, it is also side-stepping the real threat here: of the pandemic being exploited to declare an actual "state of exception" in which constitutional restraints are suspended altogether—perhaps permanently.
Cambodia's National Assembly on July 10 passed a bill which prohibits political parties from being affiliated with convicted criminals. Commentators believe the law is aimed at weakening the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The CNRP's former leader, Sam Rainsy, recently resigned from the party after he was sentenced to two years in prison on defamation charges. As a result of the new law, Rainsy will no longer be able to be affiliated with the CNRP in any manner. The CNRP gained significant political strength in the 2013 Cambodian elections when the party took a total of 55 seats in the National Assembly, leading many to believe the defamation charges against Rainsy were politically motivated.
This is very telling. While Kremlin mouthpiece RT is now bashing the anti-Trump protesters in the US, China Daily is gushing with enthusiasm for them. At first, this seems a little counter-intuitive. In some obvious ways, Trump's victory is good news for Beijing. Trump says he will pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on his first day in the White House. (BBC News) On the campaign trail, he blasted the TPP as "a disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country." (ChinaWorker) Beijing views the TPP as a bid for US dominance in the Asia-Pacific region, and a reaction to China's territorial ambitions and superpower aspirations. Just as the US-backed TPP excludes China, Beijing is pushing a rival Pacific Rim trade initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), that excludes the United States. After the US election results, China's Commerce Ministry announced a new push to conclude negotiations on the RCEP. (Reuters)
Journalist Taing Tri of the local Vealntri newspaper in Cambodia's Kratie province was shot dead Oct. 12 as he attempted to photograph trucks transporting illegal luxury wood near Pum Ksem Kang Krow village. Tri is the 13th journalist to be killed in the line of duty since Cambodia's first democratic elections in 1993, and his death bears a disturbing resemblance to the 2012 murder in Ratanakiri province of Heng Serei Oudom, who was known for his reporting on illegal logging in the region. The Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) condemned Tri's murder and called on local authorities to bring the killers to justice "in order to end the cycle of impunity for those who perpetuate violence against journalists in Cambodia." To date, no one has been convicted for the murder of Oudom or any of the other journalists killed in Cambodia over the last 11 years. (IFEX, Oct. 15)