RFA in the News (June 2016)



June 30 “A Taiwanese steel plant caused Vietnam’s mass fish deaths, the government says

After months of waiting, Vietnam’s public finally has an explanation to the mysterious fish die-off that started in early April, lasted two to three weeks, and devastated the local fishing industry. As some suspected, the cause was pollution from a new Taiwanese steel factory, the government’s environment ministry said today (June 30) in much-anticipated press conference. … In a May 1 report from Radio Free Asia, oceanographer Nguyen Tac An said the nation’s scientists were largely in agreement over the cause of this year’s die-off.


June 28 “Two Chinese journalists detained for 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble'

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the detention of Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu, who systematically document protests on social media websites. … She dropped out of the university in 2014 as a result, according to Radio Free Asia and Wen Yunchao, a New York-based blogger and friend of Lu.


June 27 “Founder of China protest-tracking site detained for ‘picking quarrels’

Two citizen journalists keeping track of protests in China have been detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” … An exiled dissident told US-backed Radio Free Asia that Lu’s detention could be linked to recent events in Wukan, where continuous days of protests ensued last week after the village’s “democratically-elected” leader was detained on charges of corruption.


June 27 “N. Korean students forced to collect bracken

North Korea is using young students to collect bracken for food, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a U.S. government international broadcaster. "North Korea is mobilizing young students to collect bracken," an unidentified source told RFA. "If they don't meet the quota they have to pay for the shortfall in cash."


June 27 “N. Korean students mobilized to pick wild greens for soldiers

North Korea has mobilized residents and school children to pick wild greens for soldiers to make up for the country's food shortage, the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Monday. A North Korean source told the RFA that the impoverished country has brought in middle and high school students this year to gather wild edible greens of various kinds in the mountains and fields. The picked greens are being prepared as side dishes for troops.


June 24 “Book Review: 'China's Future' predicts the protracted decline of China's Communist Party

In China’s Future, Shambaugh predicts that the most likely long-term outcome for China’s ruling Communist Party will be one of protracted decline. This marks an evolution from Shambaugh’s earlier views, which suggested that the Party was adapting to multiple challenges, thus ensuring its survival. …

Dan Southerland, executive editor of Radio Free Asia, is a former Asia correspondent for the Monitor and former Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post.


June 24 “N.K. diverts U.N. food aid to other uses: defectors' group

North Korea has been diverting U.N. food aid for its infants to other uses, a group of defectors from the communist state claimed Friday, stressing the need for stronger oversight over the humanitarian aid program. … The U.N. has allocated US$8 million in humanitarian aid to the North, which has been designated one of the nine countries in the world that need emergency funding to cope with humanitarian crises, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia reported earlier this month.

June 24 “Report: North Korean forced laborers dying at high rates

North Korean forced laborers are dying from accidents, committing suicide or falling prey to disease at work sites in Russia, Africa and the Middle East. A Russian police officer who spoke to Radio Free Asia on the condition of anonymity said a North Korean worker who was subject to intense manual labor and was facing economic difficulties doused himself with a flammable substance on New Year's Day.


June 23 “What next ror Ma Ba Tha?

An uncertain future confronts Ma Ba Tha in the aftermath of the last year’s election triumph by the National League for Democracy, against which the hardline Buddhist nationalist group had strongly campaigned.  … “I decided to quit Ma Ba Tha because I didn’t like it when Ma Ba Tha was making speeches in many towns to vote for a certain party during the election campaign period,” Parmaukkha told Radio Free Asia.


June 23 “Lawyers Harassed, Security Tight as Wukan Protests Continue

Reporting on the fifth day of protest in Wukan, Radio Free Asia’s Wong Lok-to, Gok Man-fung, and Yang Fan note that Lin Zuluan is not the first official elected after the 2011 protests to be charged with bribery and removed from office[.]


June 23 “Nationalist party opposes official term for Muslim community in Rakhine

The Arakan National Party (ANP) said in a statement that they totally reject any other term besides “Bengalis” to refer to the mostly stateless minority which self-identifies as “Rohingya”. … But according to a Radio Free Asia report, a village in Ponnagyun refused the cards and would not provide information to immigration officials, again citing the inability to self-identify as Rohingya.


June 23 “UN Special Rapporteur Visits Myanmar's Conflict-Torn Rakhine State

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has arrived in the country's western Rakhine State to meet with displaced members of local Muslim communities amid ongoing and sporadic armed skirmishes between the Arakan Army and Burmese military forces, an epa journalist reports. … The Arakan National Party (ANP) aligned with the interests of the Buddhist Arakanese population in the conflict-torn state declined to meet with Lee, saying that she "has been constantly favoring Muslims since 2012", according to ANP chairwoman Aye Nu Sein, who added "We don't believe she will submit a fair report in Geneva even if we were to meet with her this time," reports Radio Free Asia (RFA).


June 23 “North Koreans arrested for questioning Kim Jong Un's legitimacy

More North Koreans are questioning Kim Jong Un's legitimacy, but authorities are cracking down on increased skepticism in the country. … A Pyongyang resident visiting Jagang Province along the China border told Radio Free Asia two students at Kim Il Sung University made an issue of Kim's indifference to paying respects to Kim Il Sung at Mangyongdae – his grandfather's designated birthplace.


June 21 “N. Korea unable to import luxury Swiss watches: report

North Korea has been unable to import luxury watches from Switzerland as the European country enforced tough sanctions on the reclusive country for its nuclear and long-range missile program, a U.S.-based media report said Wednesday. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), North Korea's Swiss watch imports fell to zero in May, in sharp contrast to the monthly average of 20 watches from January through April this year.


June 20 “Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex: Down but Not Out

… In March 2016, a Radio Free Asia report noted that it appeared that the “…steel mill only operated once in January and has been quiet since” due to shortages of raw materials (e.g., coke, coal, etc.) and power. The same report also indicates that the workers from the complex have been sent to other sites with the suspension.


June 20 “N. Korean traders going all out to receive permits: report

North Korean trading companies are making all-out efforts to get trade permits so they can earn as much foreign currency as possible, a media outlet reported Monday, citing sources in the reclusive country. According to the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA), the North's state-run trading firms, as well as state agencies, are competing to broaden their business boundaries as a way to export minerals and herbal plants.


June 17 “Chinese media: Attack to defend

Some 2,000 years ago Chinese philosopher Mencius famously wrote: "Who wins the hearts of people gains the whole world." Today, his words still ring true. … Libby Liu, director of Radio Free Asia, wants greater transparency. Liu believes that transparency would improve the Chinese media's credibility internationally. GMF 2016 China Panel Libby Liu Libby Liu, director of Radio Free Asia She also points to another controversial issue: "China can easily open offices abroad in Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles. And yet, at the same time, Beijing restricts foreign media access to China."


June 17 “U.N. agency assisting North Korea with pro-environmental practices

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization is to assist North Korea develop environmentally sound enterprises. UNIDO, the Vienna-based U.N. agency that aims to promote and accelerate industrial development in developing countries, said it is pursuing four different environmentally friendly projects in the country, Radio Free Asia reported.


June 16 “N. Korea bans individual trips to China since March: report

North Korea has not allowed its people to make individual trips to China since March, a U.S-based media report said Thursday, citing sources in the reclusive country. A source from the country's Ryanggang Province told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the North's State Security Ministry has not permitted travel to the neighboring country, and has even traveled to China to instruct North Koreans there to return to home.


June 16 “Report: Kim Jong Un's illicit funds short on foreign exchange

North Korea's economic difficulties are mounting in the face of prolonged sanctions and Kim Jong Un may be feeling the pinch in his personal slush fund. … Radio Free Asia reported Chinese authorities arrested smugglers in the northeastern city of Dalian in early March.


June 16 “NEC’s Ny Chakrya grilled over Sokha case

Imprisoned National Election Committee official Ny Chakrya yesterday faced questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over an alleged conspiracy to bribe Cambodia National Rescue Party acting leader Kem Sokha’s purported mistress to deny their relationship. … Chakrya yesterday told Radio Free Asia that he refused to answer questions because his lawyer was absent.


June 15 “N. Korea holds lectures for party officials to prevent defection: report

North Korea's intelligence agency has recently conducted lecture sessions on defection prevention for senior provincial ruling party officials aimed at stemming the tide of people fleeing the country, U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Wednesday.


June 15 “Taxi-driving, most coveted job in N.K.:RFA

North Koreans are paying bribes to become taxi drivers, Washington-based Radio Free Asia said Monday. RFA reported that driving taxi is one of the most sought-after jobs now in the reclusive regime pinched under global financial sanctions, as the job brings in foreign currency and provides privileged working condition.


June 15 “Pro-N. Korean Spaniard arrested for alleged arms dealing

Alejandro Cao de Benós, the only Westerner working for North Korea's Kim Jong-un regime, has been arrested for allegedly trafficking arms in Tarragona, Spain, a U.S.-based media outlet said Wednesday. According to Radio Free Asia, Spanish police found four modified guns and 2,000 cartridges at his home and arrested him for allegedly dealing weapons near Barcelona, Tuesday.


June 15 “China beef up security inspection along border with N. Korea: report

Chinese troops have been stepping up security inspections along the border with North Korea in what seems to be a move to check up on tourists visiting certain sensitive regions, a U.S.-based media outlet said Wednesday. An ethnic Korean source in Tumen, China, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that Chinese soldiers on border garrison have been reinforcing their security checks after North Korea vowed to retaliate against South Korea for the recent mass defection of North Koreans to the South.


June 13 “RFA: EU-N. Korea Diplomatic Exchanges Likely to be Stalled

A European diplomatic source says the European Union(EU) isn't likely to engage in diplomatic exchanges with North Korea for some time. U.S.-based Radio Free Asia(RFA) reported Tuesday that the source, who requested anonymity, said diplomatic visits and parliamentary exchanges between the EU and the North will be stalled for some time.


June 13 “N. Korean workers in China do not wear badge of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il: report

Some of the North Korean workers in China have been seen not wearing a mandatory badge bearing the images of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, a U.S.-based media report said Monday. An ethnic Korean source in China told the Radio Free Asia (RFA) that North Korean employees dispatched to the Hongju International Hotel in Hunchun, China's northeastern city in Jilin Province, are working without wearing the so-called loyalty badge these days.


June 13 “Desperate N.Korea Sends Soldiers to Labor in Middle East

North Korea is sending active servicemen as construction workers to the Middle East, Radio Free Asia reported last Thursday. A source said increasing numbers of soldiers are sent to the region through North Korean construction firms Namkang and Cholhyon.


June 13 “N. Korea's weather service relocated to scientists street: report

North Korea's state-run weather information service appears to have moved to the so-called scientists street in Pyongyang with expanded weather equipment and up-to-date facilities, a U.S.-based media outlet said Monday, quoting an American researcher. Curtis Melvin of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the North's Hydrometeorological Service has been relocated to a new building on the Mirae Scientists Street. He said the move marks the first relocation to the street for a state organization.


June 10 “RFA: N. Korea Sending Soldiers to Middle East Disguised as Civilians

North Korea has reportedly been sending active duty soldiers to Middle East countries by disguising them as civilian laborers in a bid to earn foreign currency. Quoting sources in the Middle East on Friday, Radio Free Asia said in a report that North Korean authorities allow the soldiers to grow their hair to look more like civilians.


June 10 “Lawyer who had his clothes torn by China court police refuses to accept court apology

Legal representatives of a lawyer who had his clothes torn open by court police have refused to accept an apology from the head of the local court, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia and copies of the statement circulated on Weibo.


June 9 “Tibetans protesting open-pit mining at a holy mountain were “severely beaten,” activists say

Hundreds of Tibetans in Western China have been protesting for several days to try to close an open pit mine on a sacred mountain. … For 15 years, a gold mine has been operating on Gong Ngon Lari mountain, despite local Tibetans’ repeated appeals to stop it, Radio Free Asia reported.


June 9 “Pilot census lays groundwork for citizenship verification in Rakhine

The project, which began on June 7, is largely carrying on with the citizenship verification project the last government had launched to address the large stateless community. … Radio Free Asia reported that a village in Ponnagyun refused the cards and would not provide information to immigration officials, citing the inability to self-identify as Rohingya.


June 8 “N. Korea summons workers from Kuwait after mass strike: report

North Korea has summoned dozens of workers from Kuwait for staging a mass strike in protest of their working conditions, a U.S.-based media outlet said Wednesday. According to Radio Free Asia, dozens of North Korean construction workers in Kuwait went on strike in December after their North Korean employer offered to pay them with checks cashable in the North instead of wages.


June 8 “N.Korea reveals identities of three restaurant defectors

North Korean online media has revealed the identities of three of the April restaurant defectors, including their pictures and ID numbers, as well as two South Korean citizens and one other North Korean involved in their defections. … Radio Free Asia on Tuesday reported that North Korea repatriated construction workers in Kuwait on May 17 via flight, after the strike in last December.


June 6 “Translator for Uighur Thai bombing suspects arrested

… “I am innocent. I’ve been jailed for translating for two Uighur who are Bangkok shrine bombing suspects,” he told Radio Free Asia by telephone Friday.

NATION (Thailand)

June 4 “EDITORIAL: Stop trying to please China on Uighur returns

More than 70 Uighurs locked up in the Thai Immigration Police detention centre have been on a hunger strike to appeal for help and raise awareness about their situation - facing the threat of being sent back to China, where they could be prosecuted for fleeing the country. A handwritten appeal by Uighur detainees was obtained by Radio Free Asia's Uighur Service, part of which was posted on the agency's website.


June 3 “FAO redesignates N. Korea one of 37 countries suffering from food shortage

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has redesignated North Korea one of 37 countries suffering from a food shortage, a U.S.-based news media reported Friday. Quoting the FAO's second quarter report on the crop outlook and food situation, Radio Free Asia (RFA) said North Korea's food shortage for this year is expected to reach some 700,000 tons, which may seriously impact food rations for ordinary citizens.


June 3 “Ministry official wary of Sokha arrest strategy

An Interior Ministry spokesman has questioned the wisdom of arresting opposition leader Kem Sokha, saying it could result in “bloodshed between Khmer and Khmer”. Khieu Sopheak, speaking to Radio Free Asia on Wednesday, said Sokha’s arrest in the near term would impact the nation negatively and suggested Sokha could be arrested at some indeterminate point in the future.


June 2 “UN gives $8 mln in emergency funds to N. Korea

The United Nations has released $8 million in humanitarian aid to help more than 2.2 million vulnerable North Koreans, Radio Free Asia said Wednesday.


June 2 “Lawyers condemn Tianjin police for ‘unlawful’ denial of access to defence counsels

One of the signatories of the statement, Yu Wensheng, told the US-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Tuesday that they had issued the statement because they have to verify rumours regarding maltreatment and sexual abuse of arrested lawyers in detention centres. … One of the signatories of the statement, Yu Wensheng, told the US-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Tuesday that they had issued the statement because they have to verify rumours regarding maltreatment and sexual abuse of arrested lawyers in detention centres.


June 1 “UNFC to Meet Government’s New Peace Negotiator in Chiang Mai

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of non-state ethnic armed groups in Burma have said that they will meet on Friday with Dr. Tin Myo Win, the Burmese government’s newly installed peace negotiator, after a two-day meeting of the alliance in Chiang Mai, Thailand. … Spokesmen from the TNLA and the MNDAA, interviewed by Radio Free Asia earlier in May, blamed “weak assistance” from the UNFC and its member groups in the face of assaults from the Burma Army over the last year—but the Burma Army’s insistence on marginalizing these two groups from formal peace negotiations may have contributed to their isolation from UNFC-member groups more eager for a timely peace deal.


June 1 “Xi calls for calm, restraint on Korean Peninsula

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged all parties to remain calm and exercise restraint on the Korean Peninsula in a meeting with a visiting North Korean delegation, Wednesday, according to China's Xinhua news agency. … Richard Bush, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, told Radio Free Asia, Wednesday, that there is little chance that Ri would show a forward-looking stance on the nuclear program.


June 1 “Wife of imprisoned Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong stages hunger strike outside UN HQ

The wife of Chinese human rights activist Guo Feixiong, Zhang Qing, began a hunger strike outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Tuesday. … “What can I do if not fight to the end?” she asked, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia.