RFA in the News (April 2016)



April 30 “1st bank robbery reported in North Korea

The unknown robbers infiltrated the Shinam branch of the Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the city of Cheongjin, North Hamgyong Province, on Apr 4, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday citing a source from the province.


April 30 “Vietnam Dead Fish Crisis: Critics Blast Formosa Plastics As Environmental Disaster Devastates Region

Outraged citizens in Vietnam and across social media are still seeking answers and demanding action as large numbers of fish turn up dead along extensive stretches of the country’s central coastline, putting fishermen out of work and leading to a ban on seafood sales in the region. … Activists in the Tran Hong Ha province protested Formosa Plastics last week by piling up dead fish along the national highway, according to social media postings cited by Radio Free Asia.


April 29 “It’s not just Dolkun Isa: India has barred at least eight other Chinese activists from its democracy conference

Several Chinese human rights activists and dissidents based outside the country have been banned from traveling to India for a China-focused conference about democracy—sparking concerns that Delhi is bowing to Beijing when it comes to human rights issues. … Five other associates with the World Uyghur Congress, including president Rebiya Kadeer, were also declined visas to travel to India for the meeting, the US-backed Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday, citing a spokesperson with the organization.


April 29 “N.Korean Arms Dealers Run Out of Safe Havens

North Korea's sources of hard currency overseas are drying up as even friendly countries implement UN sanctions against the regime and expel its arms dealers. … Egypt has also deported three blacklisted North Korean officials, according to Radio Free Asia.


April 29 “Religious affairs minister to halt monk’s stupa streak

With the state government unable to put an end to a dream-inspired monk’s stupa-building craze, the Ministry of Religious Affairs is taking over. … Local residents have accused the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army of backing the stupa-building to foment discontent. But Colonel Saw San Aung of the DKBA told Radio Free Asia that the accusations were baseless, and accused Border Guard Forces of failing to control the Myaing Kyee Ngu area.


April 28 “N. Korean beer sale in China

Taedonggang beer, a state-owned North Korean brand, is available in grocery stores in Dandong and Shenyang, China, according to news reports. "I noticed billboards promoting Taedonggang beer on a street near Dandong Station, and also newspaper advertisements showing the addresses and phone numbers of retail stores," a source told Radio Free Asia.


April 28 “Of 16 who assaulted MPs, only three, all Bodyguard Unit members, face trial

With three men set to face court today over the brutal bashing of two opposition lawmakers outside parliament last year, official documents have confirmed the accused are members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s personal Bodyguard Unit – while additional evidence suggests further involvement by the elite unit. … It is from here, according to the owner of a truck hire company interviewed by Radio Free Asia, that men were ferried to the parliament on the day of the attack.


April 27 “N. Korean doctors accused of illegal Angola abortions

North Korean doctors are illegally performing abortions in Angola to earn extra money, according to media reports. "The dispatched doctors perform abortions after work or during days off at their homes because they are short of money," a source told Radio Free Asia. "Most of their salaries are taken by the state."


April 27 “N. Korea to hold party congress on May 6

North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea is slated to hold its first political convention in 36 years on May 6, Pyongyang’s state-run media said Wednesday, during which the communist state is expected to reaffirm Kim Jong-un’s leadership. … He added that preparation for the congress had sparked complaints from North Korean citizens. Radio Free Asia reported last month the Pyongyang government had been pressing its people to put their money in banks to acquire funding for the congress.


April 27 “Only Virak suit in works: CPP

A day after prominent political commentator Ou Virak was slapped with a defamation complaint, a Cambodian People’s Party spokesman said the filing of cases against people who maligned the party would be limited to Virak – for now. … He also reiterated his position, stated in the complaint he filed with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday, that Virak wrongly claimed in an interview with Radio Free Asia that the CPP played a role in the controversy surrounding an alleged extramarital affair between CNRP acting president Kem Sokha and 24-year-old salon worker Khom Chandaraty.


April 27 “Tibetans in Exile Re-Elect Lobsang Sangay as Prime Minister

Lobsang Sangay has been re-elected prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile in voting held last month, officials announced Wednesday, with Sangay saying the election shows that Tibetans in exile "are practicing democracy, whereas China is not." … U.S. government-backed Radio Free Asia puts the number of self-immolations at 144 since 2009.


April 25 “Chinese journalist sentenced to nearly 5 years for 'provoking trouble'

The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the sentencing of Chinese journalist Wang Jing to four years and 10 months in prison on the charge of causing disorder. … Wang denied the charges, and said she would appeal, according to Radio Free Asia.


April 25 “South Korea TV show going viral in North Korea

The North Korean regime may celebrate founder Kim Il Sung's birthday as the "Day of the Sun," but more North Koreans are soaking up the rays of South Korean media trickling into the country. … Descendants of the Sun is so well received in North Korea even border guards in the country secretly watch the show in their spare time, Radio Free Asia reported.


April 25 “Cambodian ruling party sues commentator for defamation

Cambodia’s ruling party filed a complaint Monday accusing a prominent social commentator of criminal defamation for saying the party manipulated a sex scandal involving an opposition leader. … Virak commented several days ago to the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia about a scandal involving taped phone calls between Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, and at least two women. The calls, which were posted on the Internet, appeared to indicate that Sokha was having an adulterous affair.


April 25 “Small-arms attacks in northern Laos highlight increased terrorism risk in the 6-12-month outlook

On 21 April Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that Lao military and police officials have arrested 30 people in central Vientiane province earlier this month in connection with a bus shooting that killed one Chinese national and wounded six others in March.


April 24 “N. Korea Allows Japanese Media to Visit Pyongyang to Report Party Congress

North Korea has reportedly allowed Japanese media to visit Pyongyang to report on its party congress set for early May. Radio Free Asia quoted on Saturday Japanese journalist Jiro Ishimaru of Asia Press as saying that the North Korean authorities notified Japanese media that they are allowed to visit Pyongyang to cover the party congress.


April 22 “N. Koreans in Kuwait engage in illegal brewing of alcohol

Some North Korean workers dispatched to Kuwait have been clandestinely brewing and trading liquor, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Friday. Quoting a source in the Middle East country, the RFA said that some North Korean laborers were found to be manufacturing a liquor called "sadeeqi" at their apartments in Kuwait.


April 22 “Protest over incinerator plan in Southeast China turns bloody

A two-day protest, involving more than 10,000 people, against a government plan to build an incinerator power plant ended in bloodshed and the arrests of a handful of protesters in southeastern China's Zhejiang Province, according to media reports Friday. … United States-based Radio Free Asia said dozens of people were injured while dozens more were arrested during the incident.


April 22 “Is China Gearing up for Another 'People's War'?

On July 1, 2015, China adopted its National Security Law. At the time, most media coverage focused on the areas of the law that had come under fire from concerned foreign governments (most notably the potential for restrictions on foreign investment and the effect on China’s already narrow space for free expression). … Citizens are urged to report suspicious behavior in other realms as well – witness the hefty rewards offered for tips about potential terrorist activity in Xinjiang. For reporting on their neighbors, Xinjiang residents can receive up to 5 million yuan ($770,000), Radio Free Asia reports. Informants also receive awards for reporting on suspicious religious activities as well.


April 22 “N. Korea, U.S. deny plan for bilateral contact

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong arrived in New York on Wednesday afternoon, starting his four-day trip to the United Nations. … The U.S.-government funded Radio Free Asia reported Thursday that Ri will likely meet with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zarif as they had a contact at the U.N. last September, raising the possibility of Tehran’s role.


April 21 “China Has Begun Cracking Down on Parents Protesting Substandard Vaccines

Angry parents who congregated at Beijing’s National Health and Family Planning Commission on Tuesday to protest last month’s vaccine scandal have complained of intimidation and arbitrary arrest by security officials. “Our children have suffered varying degrees of harm and disability as a result of immunization injections,” the lawsuit reads, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). “Some have even lost the ability to live independently.”


April 21 “North Korea 'recalls' overseas students following defections

Pyongyang is ordering students in China to return to North Korea, apparently out of concern that more of its citizens are planning to defect. Twenty North Korean students at a university in the Chinese city of Dandong are among those summoned by Pyongyang, Radio Free Asia reported.


April 20 “7 North Koreans defect during founder's birthday: RFA

Seven North Koreans from two families defected to an unidentified country despite the communist country's tight security for its founder's birthday, a U.S. radio outlet said Wednesday. Their defections occurred during the special alert period set from April 1 to 20 by the North Korean regime to commemorate the April 15 birthday of Kim Il-sung, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.


April 20 “Laos elects Communist Party chief Bounnhang Vorachit as president

The National Assembly of Laos on Wednesday elected the chief of the ruling Communist Party, Bounnhang Vorachit, as president in a transition of power necessitated by the completion of the maximum permissible 10 years in office by outgoing president Choummaly Sayasone. … Radio Free Asia says many Lao people took an apathetic view of the general election held in March.


April 16 “N. Korean capital sees slight population increase in 2015: report

The population of North Korean capital Pyongyang may have slightly increased from a year earlier in 2015, a report suggested Saturday, citing data from a private organization. According to the report by the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA), Pyongyang's population came to 2.86 million as of the end of last year, up from 2.85 million tallied a year earlier.


April 14 “North Korean Defectors, Armed With USB Drives, Try to Subvert Kim

On a recent day, North Korean defectors filled a classroom here to learn skills that could accelerate a challenge for the Kim Jong Un regime: the erosion of its information blockade. … A handful of other defector-run radio stations operate from South Korea, while the U.S. also funds Korean-language broadcasts by Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.


April 14 “North Korea missile launch ended in failure, Seoul says

North Korea attempted to launch a missile Friday, but the mission likely ended in failure, South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said. … Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Pyongyang on Thursday to refrain from "irresponsible behavior," Radio Free Asia reported.


April 14 “US human rights report markedly dry on N. Korea's situation

North Korea continues to control political activity and ban or limit political opposition, while maintaining a network of political prison camps, the U.S. State Department said in its annual human rights report. … The report also said that private citizens were subjected to public executions, and cited a Radio Free Asia report in April that the North executed the director general of the Unhasu Orchestra along with three members of the troupe.


April 13 “Foreigners continue to visit N. Korea despite sanctions: report

Despite the United Nations slapping punitive sanctions on North Korea about a month ago, foreigners are still heading to the Asian country, a radio report said Wednesday. The report by the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) quoted Paul Tjia, the head of the Netherlands firm GPI Consultancy, as saying that a group of Dutch businessmen plan to visit North Korea from May 23-28 to discuss joint ventures in various sectors like agriculture, garments, comic books and tourism.


April 12 “N. Korea attempts to sell clothing made at Kaesong complex in China

North Korea has been making attempts to sell clothing made at the now shut-down Kaesong joint industrial complex in some Chinese cities, a news outlet said Tuesday. ... An ethnic Korean in the Chinese city of Shenyang told the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) that a North Korean came to his store to sound out the possibility of purchasing the Kaesong-produced apparel.


April 11 “Nguyen Ngoc Bich, who directed the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia, dies at 78

Nguyen Ngoc Bich, a Vietnamese emigre who directed the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia, translated and wrote about Vietnamese poets, and taught Vietnamese culture and literature, died March 2. He was 78. …  In 1997, he became the first director of the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia. He retired in 2003.


April 11 “N. Korea calls on party members to participate in '70-day

North Korea is making a determined effort to encourage its ruling Workers' Party members to actively take part in a nationwide campaign to boost productivity ahead of the key party congress set for early next month, a media report said Monday, adding, however, that many are lukewarm about such prodding. Quoting a provincial source, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) said the central party has issued an order to ordinary party members across the country, emphasizing the need to show an exemplary attitude in joining the "70-day campaign," but many are not following party orders.


April 11 “Police attack Catholic church in Quang Binh, three parishioners injured

Three Catholics were injured during in a clash with security forces in Houng Phuong, a village in Quang Binh province (central Vietnam), Radio Free Asia reported.


April 9 “China jails activist who supported HK protests

Mainland China on Friday sentenced an activist who supported pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to four and a half years in jail, his lawyer told AFP as mainland leader Xi Jinping oversees a wide-ranging crackdown on civil society and free expression. … Liang Qinhui was jailed for 18 months according to his lawyer Wu Kuiming. Another of his attorneys previously told Radio Free Asia that Liang had posted images and messages critical of the mainland Chinese leadership and political system online, adding: "I don't think his actions amount to criminal behavior."


April 8 “U.S. senators behind 'backdoor' bill repeatedly voted for encryption funding

The draft of a Senate bill effectively banning strong encryption in the United States leaked to the public early Friday morning, delivering the latest thunderclap in a worldwide political storm over encryption technology, cybersecurity, and privacy. … The encrypted messaging now available to a billion WhatsApp users was funded directly by U.S government programs like those that run out of the State Department, Radio Free Asia, or the Broadcasting Board of Governors.


April 8 “N. Korean workers die of yellow fever in Angola: RFA

Around 10 North Korean workers dispatched to Angola have died of yellow fever in the southern African country, a U.S. radio outlet said Friday. … About 450 people have been confirmed to be infected with the viral disease in Angola since the first case was reported in December in the country's capital, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) report said. Among those that caught yellow fever, 178 have died so far, with the disease spreading rapidly in nearby countries, the RFA said, quoting sources.


April 8 “The weird world of North Korea’s overseas restaurants

On Friday, authorities in Seoul announced that 13 North Koreans had defected to the South this week. While such defections aren't exactly rare, the manner of this defection was: All of the defectors had been working in the same North Korean restaurant in an unnamed third country. … There have been signs that North Korean restaurants have been struggling recently. Radio Free Asia recently cited North Korean sources in China who said that many restaurants have been largely empty due to a lack of South Korean customers and rising tensions with the Chinese government.


April 8 “Time to use drones to deliver USBs to get more information

Now that a bill to fight the North Korean regime’s domestic stranglehold on information has been introduced in the House, it is time for the United States to design an upgraded strategy to effectively win the hearts and minds of the North Korean people and educate them through the latest breakthroughs in media technologies. … Though radio is a traditional and low-tech means of spreading information, it is still a very effective tool for providing North Koreans with real-time outside news that the content on USB drives cannot cover. Since the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004 went into effect, the United States has been focusing on increasing the quantity of uncensored information pumped into the North: expanding broadcast time of Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.


April 8 “RFA: N. Korean Defector to Receive Doctorate in Nuclear Physics

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Friday that a North Korean defector is receiving a doctorate degree in nuclear physics in the United States.


April 8 “RFA: China Tightens Inspections of N. Korea-Bound Cargo

Beijing's customs authorities are said to be tightening inspections on cargo that come and go between North Korea and China. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Friday that a trader at Dandong, China, said it has become impossible to send “apple rice” due to strengthened cargo inspections by Chinese customs authorities. … He said the term is also used as a jargon among traders to refer to China's sending of boxes to North Korea that have labels inconsistent with what they actually contain.


April 8 “71-year old Chinese journalist in hospital after demolition raid on home

Award winning Chinese journalist Gao Yu, has been hospitalised after officials forcibly demolished a shed of about 50-60 square feet outside her home on grounds of illegal construction, US-backed Radio Free Asia reports. Gao suffers from heart disease and high blood pressure, and is prone to dizziness. According to the RFA, her illnesses worsened after the shed was demolished.


April 8 “Amid Signs of Xi’s Weakness, Appeals for Detained Activists Get Results

Given the prodigious resources and brutality that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) employs against those it sees as a threat to its rule, one might conclude that the regime’s opponents are destined to fail. … A Uyghur mother is charged with “leaking state secrets” for speaking to Radio Free Asia about her son, who disappeared into police custody in 2009.


April 7 “Kim Jong Un assassination suspects arrested, source says

At least two suspects who attempted to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were arrested, according to unconfirmed reports in the country. The suspects had been reportedly arrested at the China border near the Tumen River as they were preparing a hit on Kim in the city of Hoeryong in North Hamgyong Province, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.

KOREA TIMES (Also in blog)

April 7 “N. Korea recently opens hospital in Tanzania: RFA

North Korea has recently opened a hospital in Tanzania and since been striving to boost earnings apparently to make up for its foreign income squeezed by international sanctions, a media report said Thursday. Maibong Sukidor Medical, a Korean traditional medical center, opened near the East African country's former capital of Dar es Salaam in early February, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) said.


April 6 “Small voice of dissent pays big price as China guards its image

Li Aijie stood alone in the courthouse, weeping as she scanned the verdict, looking for the single number that would determine her husband’s fate. … Mr. Zhang occasionally shared his views with Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, both funded by the U.S. government.


April 6 “How Hillary Clinton Helped Build WhatsApp’s State-of-the-Art Encryption

As a big a win for privacy advocates as it was a setback for U.S. intelligence agencies, WhatsApp’s move this week to fully encrypt its popular messaging service was funded in part by a little-known Washington initiative, launched during the Arab Spring. Its mission: to help activists get around censorship and communicate without being nabbed by authorities. … And in 2011, Congress stripped the State Department of one-third of its $30 million budget to fund Internet freedom initiatives and instead turned over the money to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs America’s government-supported overseas broadcasting arms, such as Radio Free Asia. With that funding boost, Radio Free Asia established what is known as the Open Technology Fund, a government-backed nonprofit that supports projects aimed at promoting liberty and security online.


April 6 “Barbershop Owner Questioned Over Kem Sokha’s ‘Mistress’

The owner of the barbershop where one of the alleged mistresses of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha is said to have met the politician while dyeing his hair appeared before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to answer questions about the alleged affair. … In a Radio Free Asia interview shortly after the recorded conversations were made public, Mr. Socheat said he did not believe that Ms. Chandaraty, whose nickname is Srey Mom, had written the angry messages that accompanied the first leaked recordings.


April 4 “Vietnam: 7 Convicted in One Week

The Vietnam government should immediately free prominent bloggers and activists imprisoned for exercising their rights, Human Rights Watch said today. During the last week of March 2016, Vietnam convicted seven bloggers and rights activists and sentenced them to prison. … A former staff member at Ho Chi Minh City Television, Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, 50, also known as Nguyen Ngoc Gia, writes about social and political issues relating to democracy and human rights for the Vietnamese page of Radio Free Asia, and on politically independent websites including Dan Luan, Dan Lam Bao, and Dan Chim Viet. He has also expressed support for bloggers and activists imprisoned for exercising their basic rights, such as Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Quoc Quan, Dinh Nguyen Kha, and Bui Thi Minh Hang.


April 2 “'N. Koreans anticipate reform, openness in party congress'

The North Korean people believe their government will announce policies toward greater, if limited, reform and openness at the Seventh Congress of the Workers' Party in May, Radio Free Asia reported Friday. "Discontent among the people has risen high because of the closed politics of three successive generations," the RFA quoted a source in Jakang Province. "For North Koreans, reform and openness is no longer just a wish but a must."


April 1 “Food shortages reaching North Korean bureaucracy in light of new sanctions

Key members within North Korea's bureaucracy are facing critical food shortages and some are allegedly reaching out to defectors for help. A North Korean defector with the surname Kim told Radio Free Asia that an acquaintance called him "numerous times" asking for assistance, according to UPI.