Cambodian Opposition Lawmakers Call For End To Persecution Of Former Commune Chief
Several former opposition lawmakers in Cambodia have asked the United Nations human rights agency and other international organizations to stop a ruling party lawmaker from politically persecuting a former commune chief in the northwestern town of Battambang. The 13 politicians sent letters dated Feb. 12 to Yuji Iwasawa, chairman of the U.N. Human Rights Committee under the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Rhona Smith, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. They requested that the organizations prevent Chheang Vun of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) from continuing to threaten and harass his main political rival Sin Chanpeou Rozeth of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Sin Chanpeou Rozeth won the O’Cha commune elections last June, becoming the only woman elected as a commune chief in Battambang.
Experts, Veterans Gather To Discuss Vietnam Hill Peoples’ Fate
Men Kimseng, VOA
Experts on Cambodia’s indigenous peoples met early this month to discuss challenges faced by the community and urged the authorities to address their concerns. The conference, organized by the Fainting Robin Foundation, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina Wilmington, focused on the Montagnards, an indigenous group that has been persecuted in Vietnam after working with the United States during the Vietnam War. Peter Maguire, founder of Fainting Robin and author of “Facing Death in Cambodia”, said the conference showed U.S. policymakers the situation for their former allies. “People talk very glibly about refugees and banning immigration and Muslim ban and what we saw today was a group that really sacrificed for the US military during the Vietnam war and paid a huge price for it,” he said.
Chinese Lawyers Pen Open Letter In Protest Of Professional Persecution
Dozens of Chinese lawyers have signed an open letter calling on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to respect their professional rights and release all detained human rights lawyers immediately. China’s embattled legal profession has been targeted with more than 300 detentions, summons, travel bans, and restrictions imposed on rights lawyers and law firm staff since July 2015. Rights lawyers who accept politically “sensitive” cases, or who are publicly outspoken on behalf of vulnerable groups, have also been prevented from practicing law because their business licenses are being revoked during a newly instituted annual review process. Lawyers who try to defend clients held on suspicion of crimes ostensibly linked to “state security” concerns are also denied permission to meet with their clients, or replaced by government-appointed lawyers amid threats and pressure on the people who hired them.
Hong Kong Lawyers Say Court Affirms “Political Screening” In Elections
A group of Hong Kong lawyers expressed concern on Wednesday over a court decision allowing low-ranking government officials to vet election candidates in the Chinese-ruled city which they said amounted to “political screening.” High Court Judge Thomas Au dismissed the case of Hong Kong National Party founder Andy Chan, who advocated the city’s secession from China, an end to its “one country, two systems” principle and the abolition of its mini-constitution, the Basic Law. Au ruled that a returning officer could throw out a candidate’s nomination when, after looking into his personal and political beliefs, he thinks there is enough evidence to show the candidate does not intend to uphold the Basic Law.
Ignoring Human Rights At The Olympics Is A Victory For China
Josh Rogin, WaPo
Last week at the Olympics, despite the dogged efforts of Vice President Pence, human rights promotion lost out to intrigue as the world fawned over Kim Yo Jong, North Korea’s chief of propaganda and sister to dictator Kim Jong Un. But this year’s games are just the latest evidence the world has stopped viewing these international events as opportunities to highlight liberal values. The power of the Olympics to be a platform for human rights advocacy was decimated after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, when the Chinese government reneged on its promises by perpetrating a crackdown while the world stood idly by. Now, 10 years later, the Chinese Communist Party is exporting its anti-human-rights policies to free societies.
Photo Of Liu Xia In Bookstore “Doesn’t Mean She Is Free,” Say Friends
The emergence on social media of an undated photograph of Liu Xia, widow of late Nobel laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, apparently browsing a Beijing bookstore, doesn’t mean that she is free to move around and contact friends and family at will, her friends have told RFA. The photograph appears to show Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since the announcement of her late husband’s Nobel prize in October 2010, poring over titles in a bookshop, with her characteristic shaved head, and wearing dark clothing. It has once more prompted speculation that the authorities may have relaxed their grip on Liu, whose continued house arrest in spite of having committed no crime, has caused an international public outcry. But Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, a close friend of Liu Xia, said she could have insisted on making a quick visit to the store on one of her frequent trips to the hospital for medical treatment. “For Liu Xia, true freedom would mean that she was able to engage in social interactions freely inside China, to meet up with friends, to receive visiting diplomats, to meet with journalists,” Hu said. “Is she able to do those things now? Has anyone seen her? Does anyone know?”
Czech PM Says His Listing As StB Agent Won’t Complicate Government Negotiations
Ruth Fraňková, Radio Praha
The outgoing prime minister Andrej Babiš doesn’t expect that the decision of a Slovak court over his listing as an agent of Czechoslovakia’s communist-era secret police, will complicate his second attempt to form a government. He made the comment after the cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday. Mr. Babiš on Monday lost a long-running dispute with Slovakia’s National Memory Institute, which handles historical archives. The case was being reheard after the Slovak Constitutional Court last year overturned verdicts from other courts, which had originally accepted Mr. Babiš’s assertion that he had been incorrectly listed as an StB agent.
Four International Organizations To Back Communist Crimes Research Center
Representatives of the leading historical memory institutions of Germany, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania signed a statement on Tuesday supporting the establishment of a center to investigate communist crimes in Tallinn. Representatives of the Latvian Museum of Occupations, the Lithuanian Museum of Genocide Victims, the Foundation for the Reappraisal of the Dictatorship of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, and the Polish Institute of National Remembrance took part in a vision seminar held by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory in the course of which they also visited the historic complex of Patarei prison.
Cheerleaders Are Tightly Controlled To Prevent Defections
Brian Padden, VOA
The cheering faces of North Korea’s Olympic charm offensive are carefully groomed and under constant surveillance to ensure they present an engaging image to the world, and to prevent any of them from trying to defect. The over 200-member all-female cheerleading squad, dressed often in matching red snowsuits, is the largest contingent of the North Korean delegation participating in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea. They have been prominently featured singing and cheering for the unified Korean female hockey team.
“How I Escaped North Korea”
Kate Schneider, news.com.au
“I began wondering if I was crazy. If what I had seen was real. Was it a dream?” Jun Heo had been so brainwashed that he questioned his own sanity the moment he finally stepped out of North Korea and saw the real world. Mr Heo, now 27, had grown up in the coastal city of Chongjin and had been led to believe by its leaders that he lived in the best country in the world. In fact, the reality was a stark contrast, a miserable existence with no electricity, little food and few things to do. His mother was painfully aware of this, however, and had started planning an escape to China in 2004. The following year she managed to reach South Korea, however Mr Heo wasn’t as lucky.
Kim Jong-un Lives In Fear Of Preventative Strike By US, Defector Says
Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News
A former high-ranking official in the North Korean regime said Wednesday that dictator Kim Jong Un’s recent overtures to South Korea have come out of fear that the U.S. will launch a preventative strike against him. According to Yonhap News, Ri Jong Ho—who defected to South Korea in 2014 and moved to the U.S. in 2016—told a forum at the Wilson Center in Washington that Kim is “trying to buy time to complete his nuclear and missile programs.” Before his defection, Ri worked for Office 39 of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. Despite the shadowy-sounding name, the outfit had a very clear mission: to raise money for the North Korean regime, even in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
North Korea’s Budding Entrepreneurs Defy The Odds In Kim Jong Un’s Totalitarian State
Heesun Wee, CNBC
As North Korean athletes participate in the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, you might be curious about how ordinary North Koreans live under the grip of Kim Jong Un. Is everyone starving and marching in lockstep? While poverty does exist and North Koreans don’t live freely inside the communist nation, more ordinary citizens are quietly becoming entrepreneurs. As business is incrementally tolerated yet monitored by the regime—everyone from millennials to wealthier professionals are bootstrapping ventures inside the world’s most totalitarian state. “It’s constrained and camouflaged, but it’s capitalism nonetheless,” says Sokeel Park, director of research and strategy at Liberty in North Korea, an international NGO that supports North Korean defectors.
North Korean Ship Spotted Likely Violating Sanctions A Third Time
Joshua Berlinger and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
A North Korean tanker has likely violated United Nations sanctions for the third time in recent months, according to authorities in Japan. Images taken from a Japanese spy plane show the North Korean-flagged Rye Song Gang 1 anchored next to another vessel early Tuesday morning, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Shanghai. The Rye Song Gang 1 is one of eight ships banned from entering ports across the globe under UN sanctions targeting North Korea. Japan’s Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs said in statements the government “strongly suspects” the two ships were involved in the transferring of goods while at sea. A United Nations Security Council resolution passed in September bans UN member states from facilitating or engaging in ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean-flagged vessels.
Rights Group Sounds Alarm Over Chechnya’s Role In Soccer World Cup
Human Rights Watch has said world soccer’s governing body must tackle rights abuses in Russia’s Chechnya region now that one of the teams in this year’s World Cup in Russia has chosen Chechnya as the location for its base camp. Rights groups and Western governments allege that the authorities in Chechnya repress their political opponents, discriminate against women and persecute sexual minorities, all allegations that Chechnya’s leaders deny. “This suddenly makes Chechnya, which was not on the list of Russia’s World Cup regions, one of the World Cup sites,” Tatyana Lokshina, Russia Programme Director for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters Television. “Chechnya has been run by Ramzan Kadyrov, a ruthless strongman who with the blessing of the Kremlin has been ruling it with an iron fist through brutal repression for over a decade,” said Lokshina.
YouTube And Instagram Must Reject Putin’s Demand To Censor Alexei Navalny
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner
The U.S. social media companies, YouTube and Instagram must resist Russia’s demand that they remove content containing evidence of corruption in Moscow. The issue at stake relates to a new investigative video by Russian activist and journalist, Alexei Navalny. In his video, Navalny documents efforts by billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska to woo Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko with lavish treatment and high-end escorts. Specifically, Navalny strongly implicates Deripaska in having taken Prikhodko on a yacht-vacation alongside escorts such as Nastya Rybka. This has infuriated both Deripaska and Putin’s government in highlighting Russia’s intimate synergy of wealth and political power. Unfortunately, Google—which owns YouTube—is now pushing Navalny to take down his video.
Iris Varela Stars In The Gocho Version Of “Goodbye, Lenin!”
Giancarlo Fiorella, Caracas Chronicles
The tweets show large crowds of people on the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, the main crossing point between Venezuela and Colombia. The international media has been running stories all year long about the surge of Venezuelans fleeing to Colombia looking for food and other basic necessities. But, according to former prisons minister and PSUV pillar Iris Varela, the opposite is in fact true. In a tweet shared yesterday, Varela says, “Observe the time and date, in real time, the exodus of citizens from the gringa colony called Colombia into VENEZUELA.” While a great many Venezuelans are relocating permanently to Colombia in record numbers, many others go just for the day to look for food or medical treatment. In all likelihood, what Varela’s tweets show is Venezuelans returning home at the end of a day looking for sustenance in Colombia.
Peru Retracts Maduro Invitation As Venezuela’s Crisis Deepens
Andrew Rosati, Bloomberg
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski says his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, is “not welcome” at this year’s Summit of the Americas in Lima, amid growing international outcry over the decision to hold snap presidential elections amid a deepening economic and social crisis. Kuczynski cited a rupture in the democratic order in Venezuela late Tuesday evening in his decision to rescind Maduro’s invitation, adding that he counted on the support of a dozen regional leaders. Hours before, the so-called Lima group, which is comprised of nations such as Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Canada, issued a rebuke of the upcoming April 22 vote, saying it “will lack all legitimacy and credibility” and demanded the date be changed.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
February 15th, 1989: The Soviet Union officially announces that all of its troops have left Afghanistan, ending the Soviet-Afghan War. This is commemorated as “Liberation Day” in Afghanistan.