Cambodia Calls On US To Reconsider Visa Restrictions, Despite Ongoing Crackdown
Cambodia’s government on Thursday urged the U.S. to reconsider visa restrictions announced in response to an ongoing crackdown against the political opposition and freedom of expression, but maintained that the move would not influence the internal affairs of the nation. On Wednesday, Washington announced visa restrictions on “individuals responsible for undermining Cambodian democracy” in response to the September arrest of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha on charges of “attempting to topple the government” and a decision by the Supreme Court last month to dissolve his party for its alleged role in the “conspiracy.”
China, Accused Of Abuses, Hosts Human Rights Forum
China touted its political and development model as it hosted an inaugural global human rights forum on Thursday (Dec 7), even as activists slammed the country’s own abuses. President Xi Jinping has overseen a sweeping crackdown on civil society since taking power in 2012, targeting everyone from human rights lawyers to celebrity gossip bloggers. Hundreds of activists have been detained in the past five years while Internet censorship has intensified. “The ‘secret’ of the ‘China success’ hinges on squashed protests, silenced complaints, and swollen jails and extrajudicial holding cells,” said overseas NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
Jailed For A Text: China’s Censors Are Spying On Mobile Chat Groups
Eva Dou, WSJ
One night this September, construction supervisor Chen Shouli fired off a joke in a chat group. “Haha,” he typed on his black iPhone 7, followed by an off-color wisecrack about a rumored love triangle involving a celebrity and one of China’s most senior government officials. Four days later, he says, the police telephoned, ordering him in for questioning. Mr. Chen responded that a post that starts with “haha” shouldn’t create such a stir: “I still don’t think I did anything wrong.”
Airbnb Mum On Privacy In Cuba Home Rentals
Susan Crabtree, Washington Free Beacon
Airbnb, which is struggling to defend itself against a wave of scrutiny after several guests discovered hidden cameras in the company’s short-term lease properties, remains mum on its privacy policies for lodgings in Cuba. Cuban dissidents and experts on the Castro regime’s use of its security police to monitor government opponents, as well as Americans, on the island are warning that the Cuban government has a long history of surveilling U.S. visitor activity on the island, including entering hotel rooms or other rented lodging and examining belongings.
Mysterious Cuba Embassy Attacks Left Victims With Brain Anomalies
Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics
Back in September, a strange mystery was unfolding in Cuba. American officials and their spouses were experiencing some kind of attack, but nobody was really sure what was going on. But new results from doctors at the University of Miami and the University of Pennsylvania have provided a valuable clue: The victims appear to have abnormalities in their brains’ white matter.
Bellingcat Report Alleges Senior Russian General ‘Figure Of Interest’ In MH17 Downing
A respected international investigative group says it has identified a senior Russian general as a figure of interest in the downing of a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014. The Bellingcat investigative group — which uses sophisticated digital techniques to analyze open-source audio and visual data — issued a report on December 8 alleging that a man identified on intercepted communications as “Delfin” (Dolphin) is retired Russian Colonel General Nikolai Tkachyov, who is currently serving as the chief inspector of Russia’s Central Military District.
On The Run: How One Opposition Mayor Fled Venezuela
Katy Watson, BBC
David Smolansky prepared himself for his escape. The mayor of the pretty El Hatillo neighbourhood in Caracas had been threatened with arrest for three years and he had seen other mayors detained. So in August when he was removed from office and sentenced to 15 months in prison for failing to prevent anti-government protests, it did not come as a big surprise. “I have to prepare for the worst,” he says. “My grandparents left the Soviet Union in 1927, my father left Cuba in 1970, so I am the third generation of Smolanskys who’ve have to leave a country because of a totalitarian regime.”
Opposition Denounces 4,000 Cases Of Human Rights Violation In Venezuela
More than 4,000 cases of human rights violation were recorded in Venezuela in 2017, according to Delsa Solórzano, an opposition representative who chairs the Permanent Commission on Internal Policy of the National Assembly. In a report released at a press conference, Solórzano said that the abuses range from illegal house searches to prison and political persecution. She added that currently, Venezuela holds 483 political prisoners. Her data also includes the lack of medicines to chronic diseases patients.
Venezuela’s Inflation Could Surpass 2,000 Percent This Year
Jim Wyss, Miami Herald
Venezuela’s inflation rate could surpass 2,000 percent by year’s end—worse than war-ravaged economies like South Sudan and Libya — as the once-wealthy nation continues to be mired in a deep economic crisis. In a report issued Thursday, the opposition-controlled National Assembly said that the inflation in November alone was 56.7 percent and that prices during the first 11 months of the year had increased a staggering 1,369 percent. The Nicolás Maduro administration will likely dispute the figures, but Venezuela’s Central Bank—the longtime source for the information—quit releasing regular inflation data in 2015.
Cambodia, Vietnam Highlight “Troubling Reality Of Southeast Asia’s Democratic Recession”
The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media. The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. In addition to the alarming democratic rollback in Cambodia, “a much less-noticed crackdown has been under way in Vietnam for several months now,” they add. “The most consistent target has been civil society organisers, online bloggers and democracy promotion activists, all of whom have been quietly detained by the ruling Communist Party.”
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
December 8th, 1991: The leaders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine sign an agreement dissolving the Soviet Union and establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States.