RFA in the News (March 2016)

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March 31 “Blogger sentenced amid clampdown in Vietnam

In a mounting clampdown on dissent, Vietnam sentenced a prominent blogger on Wednesday to four years in prison on charges of disseminating "propaganda against the state," according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the sentence and calls for the immediate release of all journalists wrongfully held behind bars in Vietnam. … Gia was also a frequent contributor to Radio Free Asiareportssaid. The reports said he had published blog posts and commented on air to Radio Free Asia on the cases of three bloggers who were then detained on anti-state charges before his arrest.


March 31 “WATCH: A disgusting look at how Chinese street vendors are snapping up diseased chickens for cheap

Have you ever wondered why exactly chicken is so darn cheap on the street here? Well, a Radio Free Asia investigation may just have your answer, and you're not going to like it. RFA visited a poultry farm where a worker told them that around 40 to 50 chickens die a day from disease or stress. These poultry carcasses are then sold off to opportunistic street vendors at rock-bottom prices.


March 31 “North Korea bureaucrats facing food shortage, defector says

Core members of North Korea's bureaucracy could be facing critical food shortages in the wake of new sanctions, and some are reaching out to defectors for assistance. A North Korean defector in the South with the surname Kim told Radio Free Asia that an acquaintance in North Korea's State Security Department had called him at his South Korean phone number "numerous times" requesting help.


March 30 “China says U.S. has 'ulterior motives' in award to rights lawyer

China said on Thursday the United States has "ulterior motives" in giving a bravery award to a disabled Chinese rights lawyer who said she was not allowed to travel to the United States to receive it. Ni Yulan, who is known for defending people evicted from their homes, was chosen as one of 14 women to receive the State Department's International Women of Courage Award, which the department says is given to female advocates of human rights, justice and gender equality. Ni told Radio Free Asia and other media this week that she was unable to travel to receive her prize because authorities refused to issue her a passport, saying she was under a travel ban because of her contact with other rights lawyers.


March 30 “Power shortage stops N. Korean steel mill

The Kim Chaek Steel Mill, one of North Korea's largest, has stopped production because of a shortage of raw materials and power, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources.


March 28 “With Hong Kong booksellers silenced, China now goes after exiled dissidents

No matter whether you are in New York, rural Germany or Hong Kong, you’d better think twice before criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping. … It is not entirely new for China to put pressure on the relatives of exiled dissidents – the tactic has been used in recent years against blind “barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng after he fled to the United States in 2012, against Miss World Canada titleholder and Falun Gong practioner Anastasia Lin last year, and against Washington-based Radio Free Asia reporter Shohret Hoshur.


March 26 “UN sanctions drive up prices in N. Korean markets

As news about the United Nations' sanctions on North Korea spread, hoarding has been rampant in the North's private markets, driving up prices, Radio Free Asia reported Friday, quoting Chinese sources.


March 26 “China launches crackdown on letter calling on President Xi to resign

At least 20 people have been detained by Chinese authorities in a roundup of suspects linked to the publication of a letter calling on President Xi Jinping to resign, human rights organizations said on Saturday. … Earlier this week, the editor-in-chief of the Wujie News website, Ouyang Hongliang, was taken in for questioning along with other staff members, associates told US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia.


March 25 “Chinese activist in N.Y. says Beijing officials 'abducted' his parents and brother

A Chinese freedom of speech activist in New York said Friday that Chinese authorities have “abducted” his family on the mainland, highlighting Beijing’s growing determination to silence critical voices overseas. … Since 2014, Chinese authorities have detained three brothers of Shohret Hoshur, an ethnic Uighur reporter for Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-backed broadcaster in Washington D.C., possibly in retaliation for his reporting on the ethnically riven western region of Xinjiang. Two of the brothers have since been released; one is serving a five-year jail term for “endangering state security.”


March 23 “Chinese police arrest 37 in illegal vaccine sales scandal

Chinese premier Li Keqiang has weighed in on a scandal involving the sale of €80 million worth of improperly stored or expired vaccines against meningitis, rabies, polio and other diseases which has caused widespread anger and fear in China. … This lack of confidence is one of the reasons why infant milk formula is Ireland’s biggest export to China. “This is a matter of life and death,” a Beijing doctor surnamed Wang told Radio Free Asia, “but it’s not easy to identify these things; we need to know which year they were produced in.”


March 23 “Clinton notified of Boeung Kak release, emails show

A day after meeting Hillary Clinton in June 2012, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong moved to assure the then-US secretary of state that her exhortations to release 13 imprisoned Boeung Kak activists would be met, leaked emails suggest. … After that meeting, Cambodia’s foreign minister told Radio Free Asia the case was being reviewed. Namhong, however, maintained US pressure was not the reason.


March 22 “N. Korean ambassador to Egypt faces deportation

North Korean Ambassador to Egypt Pak Chun-il could face deportation from the Middle-Eastern country after his name was included on a blacklist issued as part of the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) recent sanctions on Pyongyang, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), Tuesday.


March 22 “N.K. leader observes test-fire of new multiple rocket launcher

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected the military's test-fire of a new large-caliber multiple rocket launcher, the North's state media said Tuesday, amid heightened tension on the divided peninsula. … According to Radio Free Asia, Larry Niksch, a U.S. expert on North Korean affairs, said there is a possibility that the North will conduct its fifth nuclear test within six to eight weeks given satellite imagery.


March 22 “North Korea's major export items flow into Jangmadang

North Korea's major export items are known to have flown into its marketplace or Jangmadang as U.N. Security Council's strong sanctions blocked the communist regime's outbound shipments. … Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia said major marketplaces including those in Pyongsong, Hamheung and Suncheon have seen counterfeit dollar and Chinese yuan notes, making North Koreans fear and making the exchange rate fall.


March 21 “Drought exacts toll on crops in region

Amid Thailand's worst drought in decades, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week visited the north-eastern region grappling with parched farmlands and low water reserves. … In Vietnam, rising salinity of water in the Mekong delta has already destroyed more than 200,000 tonnes of rice, reported Radio Free Asia.


March 20 “Tibetans voting for government-in-exile

Tens of thousands of Tibetan exiles are voting around the world Sunday to elect a new prime minister and parliament for a second time since the Dalai Lama stepped down as head of the government in 2011 to focus on his role as a spiritual leader. … Exiled Tibetan officials say at least 114 monks and laypeople have self-immolated to protest Chinese rule over their homeland over the past five years, with most of them dying. Radio Free Asia puts the number of self-immolations at 144 since 2009.


March 19 “Chinese President Xi Jinping has been asked to resign by loyal party member

In an unprecedented move Chinese citizens who claim they are loyal Communist Chinese members have signed an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping asking him to resign. … Radio Free Asia reports Chinese journalist Jia Jia has been missing ever since the letter calling for President Xi's resignation was published.


March 18 4 Things to Know About Thailand’s Trial of 92 Alleged Human Traffickers

Ninety-two people went on trial in Bangkok this week accused of being part of a transnational human trafficking network that held people in barbaric conditions in camps close to the Thai-Malaysian border. … Witnesses have told the trial they were lured from the shores of the Bay of Bengal with the promise of the good life in Malaysia, Radio Free Asia reports. But instead of disembarking there, they were held while traffickers demanded that their families back home paid ransoms. If they couldn’t pay, the victims were used as slave labor, or simply killed.


March 18 “Up to 100,000 N.Koreans Labor Abroad

Some 50,000-60,000 North Korean workers working around the world earn US$200-300 million a year for the regime, the Unification Ministry estimates. … Radio Free Asia reported that the North is now sending many women to work to China, taking advantage of a loophole in recent UN Security Council sanctions that do not ban labor export.


March 17 “Thailand: Dozens On Trial for ‘Boat People’ Smuggling

Thai prosecutors have called their first witnesses in the trial of 92 suspected human traffickers in the Rohingya “Boat People” smuggling case, the UK Telegraph reported. … Thai prosecutors charged the defendants with human trafficking involving international crimes, illegally holding others and concealing bodies, reported Radio Free Asia.


March 17 “FAO: Forest Area 5.6 Times the Size of Pyongyang Disappears in N. Korea

Radio Free Asia(RFA) says forest area five-point-six times the size of North Korea's capital Pyongyang has disappeared over the past five years in the country.


March 16 “North Korea's secret police spreading H-bomb rumors, source says

North Koreans are increasingly convinced their government is lying about its nuclear weapons capability, or at least making the announcements in order to appease the public. Pyongyang has issued statements claiming there are "no countries in the world that would wage war against a country with a hydrogen bomb" and has suggested the bomb's development is a buffer against war, Radio Free Asia reported.


March 16 “PJS leaders unaware of charges of violence against PJS

Leaders of the Christian Kachin-based anti-narcotic group Pat Ja San (PJS) said on 6 March that they were unaware that the group is being sued by U Zakhung Tin Ying’s family. On 7 March a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report said that the family had bought charges, including charges of defamation and mischief, against Pat Ja San members.


March 14 “North Koreans Can Either Work 70 Days Straight or Pay to Take a Day Off

Grappling with an intensification of global sanctions over its nuclear-weapons program, North Korea recently ordered its working population to toil nonstop for 70 days in a bid to boost production and demonstrate loyalty. Citizens of the authoritarian nation can, however, buy vacation days from the government during the 10-week period, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. “If you pay three Chinese yuan or half a U.S. dollar, you can officially take one day off,” RFA quoted an anonymous source in the country’s Yanggang province as saying. While that doesn’t sound like much, it represents twice what the average North Korean earns in a month.


March 14 “RSF Unblocks Sarawak Report And Five Other Censored Websites

To mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) yesterday launched Operation Collateral Freedom #2, in which it is unblocking access to websites that are censored in five countries and is unveiling the RSF Censorship Detector app. … After unblocking 11 news websites in 2015, RSF is now providing access to six other sites that are blocked in their respective countries – Radio Free Asia and Defend the Defenders (Vietnam), Sarawak Report (Malaysia), Boxun (China), Sendika.org (Turkey) and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (Saudi Arabia).


March 13 “Shootings in Laos prompt travel alert

Recent shootings on a road between two major tourist destinations in Laos have prompted the State Department to issue a travel alert. … The State Department did not mention a motive in its March 7 alert, but Radio Free Asia noted that construction on a dam had perturbed many in local communities.


March 11 “China's overseas critics under pressure from smear campaigns, cyber attacks

"I think my actions ... have harmed the national interest. What I have done was very wrong. I seriously and earnestly accept to learn a lesson and plead guilty," said Chinese journalist Gao Yu during a televised confession on the state-run channel CCTV in May 2014. … Award-winning journalist Zang Xihong, better known as Sheng Xue, moved to Canada after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. She was a Canada correspondent for Radio Free Asia for 17 years until 2014 and is now a freelance writer and democracy activist.


March 11 “Seoul Says Kim Jong-un `Oblivious to the World’

The government denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s repeated threats of nuclear provocation as insensible and rash. … Meanwhile, the spokesman said nothing has been confirmed regarding Radio Free Asia’s report that Kim Yong-chol, Director of the United Front Department in charge of policies on South Korea, flew to Moscow for talks either earlier this month or just prior to adoption of the new UN Security Council resolution against the North.


March 11 “China Detains Mongolian Herders for Protesting Over Appropriated Grasslands

Chinese authorities have detained upwards of 20 ethnic Mongolian herders after they allegedly gave interviews to foreign media outlets, accusing them of “assisting those who have ulterior motives to frame and denounce the socialist regime,” Radio Free Asia reports.


March 10 “RFA: Senior N. Korean Envoy Visited Russia Before UN Sanctions

North Korea appears to have sent a key official to Russia early this month to discuss the UN Security Council's new sanctions against the regime. Radio Free Asia(RFA) on Friday cited a source familiar with North Korean affairs as saying that Kim Yong-chol, Director of the United Front Department in charge of policies on South Korea, flew to Moscow for talks earlier this month.


March 10 “N. Korea's provocations reflect Kim's nervousness

North Korea's continuous provocations reflect its leader Kim Jong-un's nervousness over international sanctions as well as the ongoing Seoul-Washington joint exercises featuring advanced weapons, analysts and officials said Thursday. … According to the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA), news about those sanctions has been spreading fast among North Korean residents, so they that they now fear that another serious famine may hit the reclusive country.


March 10 “Aung San Suu Kyi's proxies prepare to contest Myanmar presidential vote

Myanmar's Parliament will begin the process of electing a new president on Thursday, but it won't be Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has found the country's dominant military unwilling to collaborate even on the choice of venue for the forthcoming transfer of power to the incoming government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) she leads. … Radio Free Asia reports the NLD is seeking to install a president totally subservient to Ms. Suu Kyi, who hopes the military will allow her to become head of state after a couple of years.


March 8 “N.Koreans Hoard Food Amid Crackdown on Markets

North Korea's nascent market economy has taken a downturn as the regime started cracking down on commerce in open-air markets ahead of the Workers Party congress in May. Radio Free Asia reported that some North Koreans are hoarding food amid fears of another famine. The North went through a famine from 1995 to 1998, largely due to then leader Kim Jong-il's addle-brained military-first doctrine.


March 5 “Tibetan delegates to China congress wear loyalty pins

Along with their traditional robes, Tibetan delegates to the annual meeting of China's ceremonial parliament are sporting unique lapel pins displaying their loyalty to the Beijing leadership at a time of simmering tensions in their Himalayan homeland. … The remarks by Hongwei came days after U.S. government-backed Radio Free Asia reported the death of 18-year-old Buddhist monk Kalsang Wangdu after he set himself on fire Monday in the Tibetan area of Ganzi in the western Chinese province of Sichuan, which adjoins Tibet. The area also is known as Kardze in Tibetan. The monk reportedly called for Tibetan independence while he burned.


March 4 “Protesting Chinese Rule, Tibetan Monk Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze

A young Tibetan monk died this week after setting himself on fire in Sichuan Province to protest Chinese rule, according to a Tibet advocacy group. It was the first known act of self-immolation in a Tibetan area of China since August. … Radio Free Asia, a news service funded by the United States government, also reported Mr. Kalsang’s death.


March 4 “Another Chinese Citizen Killed in Laos

A Chinese citizen was killed in an attack in Laos this week, China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday. Since the beginning of 2016, three Chinese citizens have died in two separate attacks in Laos. … Radio Free Asia-Laos has reported that there were at least 11 shootings or bombings in central Laos between November 2015 and January 2016.


March 2 “Chinese Activists Call On Authorities to Release Detained Rights Lawyers

A group of more than 200 lawyers and activists from across China have called for the release of 19 lawyers, law-firm staff and human-rights activists in a signed letter addressed to the National People’s Congress. A group of more than 200 lawyers and activists from across China have called for the release of 19 lawyers, law-firm staff and human-rights activists in a signed letter addressed to the National People’s Congress. The open letter to the country’s annual legislative session, which convenes in Beijing this week, said that the lawyers were unjustly charged with subversion for merely taking on “sensitive cases,” Radio Free Asia reports.


March 2 “Russian economic interests won't be hit by North Korea sanctions

A three-way logistics project that transports Russian coal to South Korea through a North Korean transfer point will not be the target of the new U.N. sanctions.A source who spoke to Radio Free Asia on the condition of anonymity said North Korean diplomats are already concerned about the impact of restrictions on their illicit activities.


March 2 “North warns its people of attack

Amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has urged its people to raise their combat readiness to protect their rulers from a military attack by the United States. Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a visit to a machinery factory known to be used for missile development.  Radio Free Asia quoted an unnamed source in North Hamkyong, North Korea, as saying the central government ordered local organizations and companies to be prepared for a war and to protect the Supreme Command of the North’s Korean People’s Army from attacks by the United States.

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