Washington, DC — April 1, 2015) Radio Free Asia broadcast the following stories, and more, in March:
RFA Reports on Myanmar government and ethnic leaders signing tentative peace deal
March 31 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on Myanmar’s government and a coalition of armed ethnic groups inking a tentative nationwide cease-fire agreement. The cease-fire, if successful, would end six decades of conflict.
RFA Reports on Vietnam factory workers striking over new insurance law
March 31 – RFA Vietnamese aired story [text in English/Vietnamese] on thousands of textile workers at a Chinese-owned factory in southern Vietnam holding a strike to protest a government policy on social insurance coverage. The strike began at a footwear factory when as many as 90,000 employees gathered to protest the new law.
RFA Reports on rights leader turning down spot on Cambodia’s electoral committee
March 31 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on a leading Cambodian human rights activist declining an offer to join the country’s reformed National Election Committee (NEC) as a ninth, neutral member in the electoral body. The panel, as it presently exists, is split between members of the ruling and opposition political parties.
RFA Reports on China ‘weaponizing’ global Internet users
March 31 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on Internet activists accusing Chinese authorities of carrying out or enabling massive cyberattacks on the GreatFire.org anti-censorship website and coding site GitHub. They say Beijing "weaponized" unsuspecting Internet users around the world to target sites offering ways around its Great Firewall.
RFA Reports on authorities charging 25 Hotan Uyhgurs over religious classes
March 27 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English/Uyghur] on authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region putting on trial 25 people who were teaching Islamic religious studies or sending their children to schools that offered such classes. Four of the 25 were teachers, six were students, and the rest were parents and others who provided venues for the religious instruction.
RFA Reports on Kokang army denying reports of recruiting Chinese nationals
March 27 – RFA Myanmar and Mandarin aired story [text in English/Myanmar/Mandarin] on the Kokang ethnic army denying reports it is recruiting Chinese nationals to serve as mercenaries in its fight to reclaim territory in the country’s remote Kokang border region.
RFA Reports on fire destroying Uyghur homes targeted for evictions
March 26 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English/Uyghur] on over 50 homes in a Uyghur neighborhood marked for construction of a housing project being destroyed by fire. The fire left seven dead and eight in the hospital with severe burns. “It is strange that only those houses marked for eviction were burned,” a local man said.
RFA Reports on Lao workers protesting salary withheld by China-backed plant
March 26 – RFA Lao aired story [text in English/Lao] on scores of Lao laborers at a Chinese-backed potash plant in Laos holding a rare protest over an alleged lack of compensation. Operators of the plant, located just outside of the Lao capital Vientiane, have also drawn the ire of local residents who complain that its wastewater is polluting the area and destroying their farmland.
RFA Reports on Chinese feminist being subjected to ‘extreme’ interrogations
March 26 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin/Cantonese] on Chinese police subjecting a detained feminist to frequent sleep deprivation and repeated interrogations during her detention on public order charges. The woman was one of five activists detained ahead of International Women's Day, the focal point for a planned awareness-raising campaign about sexual harassment.
RFA Reports on nearly 70 students charged under penal law for protest
March 25 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on a Myanmar court pressing charges against nearly 70 students who protested against the National Education law. Authorities released 10 local residents and one student at a court hearing but charged 69 others two weeks after riot police violently broke up the rally.
RFA Reports on thugs attacking Vietnamese Mennonite church leader
March 25 – RFA Vietnamese aired story [text in English/Vietnamese] on the leader of the unregistered Vietnam Evangelical Mennonite Church being attacked by thugs in the facility they rent for worship services in a town north of Ho Chi Minh City. Two pastors and one of the pastor’s sons were attacked as police watched.
RFA Reports on accusations of Myanmar army brutalizing Kokang refugees
March 25 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on refugees in the conflict-torn Kokang region of Shan State accusing Myanmar government troops of gang rape, beatings, and shootings of unarmed civilians. Kokang refugee Liu Zhengxiang said groups of Myanmar government soldiers are brutalizing refugees.
RFA Reports on North Korea building large data facility to store hacked information
March 20 – RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on North Korea building a science and technology facility to store digital information obtained in part by hacking foreign websites. The facility, which is being built on an unpopulated island in Pyongyang, will disseminate information to North Korean scientists and technicians via the country’s intranet.
RFA Reports on Laos trying to avoid topic of missing activist at ASEAN summit
March 20 – RFA Laos aired story [text in English/Lao] on Lao activists crying foul at an attempt by their government to avoid discussing missing civil society leader Sombath Somphone at an ASEAN summit. Activists say a retired Lao official served as a proxy for the Lao government in lobbying the ASEAN People’s Forum to remove the issue from a list of human rights and governance problems for ASEAN countries.
RFA Reports on Myanmar resuming airstrikes against Kokang rebels
March 20 – RFA Myanmar and Mandarin aired story [text in English/Myanmar/Mandarin] on Myanmar’s military resuming air strikes against ethnic Kokang rebels in the country’s remote Shan state. The strikes began a week after a bomb fell across the border in China, killing five Chinese nationals and straining relations between the two neighboring nations.
RFA Reports on Cambodian villagers claiming partisan favoritism in mine clearing
March 20 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on local officials in Cambodia's northwestern Battambang province refusing to instruct the country's demining agency to remove land mines from villages that voted for the political opposition. Repeated requests to local authorities to direct the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) to send demining teams to certain areas have gone unanswered.
RFA Reports on China blocking Reuters website
March 20 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Cantonese/Mandarin] on Reuters’ news website being blocked in China a day after a massive cyberattack hit an overseas-based anti-censorship site targeting the country's "Great Firewall.” Reuters joined the websites of Bloomberg, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as being inaccessible in China.
RFA Reports on more than 100 Myanmar soldiers dead in Kokang fighting
March 19 – RFA Mandarin and Myanmar aired story [text English/Mandarin/Myanmar] on intense fighting between Myanmar government troops and rebel forces in the northern Shan State region of Kokang, leaving more than 100 people dead. Local sources told RFA the government forces sustained the majority of casualties.
RFA Reports on Cambodian parliament passing controversial election laws
March 19 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on Cambodia’s parliament unanimously approving two controversial and restrictive election-related laws. One law establishes a new National Electoral Committee to oversee polls in the country and the other one amends the current election law to include restrictions on campaigning and international NGO operations.
RFA Reports on Myanmar sentencing two reporters for defamation
March 18 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on two local Mon state reporters being sentenced to two months each in prison. The journalists sentences are the first on charges of slander in the country in more than 100 years.
RFA Reports on Chinese police shooting seven Uyghurs dead following fatal knife attack
March 18 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English/Uyghur] on authorities killing seven ethnic Uyghurs who had hacked a local armed forces commander and two members of his family to death, as well as a security guard who came to their aid. Police arrived at the scene around 10 minutes after the attack and quickly engaged the assailants, killing them in a hail of bullets.
RFA Reports on students charged with unlawful assembly in education law protest
March 18 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on Myanmar authorities charging three student protest leaders with unlawful assembly for their role in demonstrating against the country’s controversial education law. The charges came on the same day that authorities promised repeatedly that they would not stop the protest or take action against protesting students.
RFA Reports on Cambodian soldiers shooting forestry official
March 17 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on Cambodian soldiers shooting two local forestry officials after the officials reported them to a local opposition lawmaker for illegal fishing. The soldiers fired AK-47 assault rifles at the officials.
RFA Reports on Chinese authorities detaining seven Tibetan monks on unspecified charges
March 17 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on Chinese authorities arresting seven Tibetan monks on unspecified charges and holding them incommunicado. Police have clamped down on the monastery in the wake of the detentions.
RFA Reports on Cambodian activists urging U.S. First Lady’s help in releasing land advocates
March 17 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on the gathering of a small crowd of Cambodian activists in front of the U.S embassy in Phnom Penh. The activists, who numbered less than 100, requested the intervention of U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama to press Cambodian authorities to release 11 jailed land rights defenders.
RFA Reports on shooting of Uyghurs in a Xinjiang restaurant
March 13 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English/Uyghur] on police shooting and killing as many as seven ethnic Uyghurs who had been “acting suspiciously” while they gathered at a restaurant. A police officer had asked the Uyghurs for identification and then attempted to search them, which sparked the clash.
RFA Reports on China’s censors cracking down on online commentators
March 13 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on China’s online censors launching a further round of account closures on popular social media sites in a bid to silence critical debate surrounding the annual session of its rubber-stamp parliament. Comments critical of the ruling Communist Party are most likely to be targeted.
RFA Reports on FIFA pulling support for North Korean soccer
March 12 – RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on the international governing body of soccer withdrawing plans to provide impoverished North Korea with U.S. $1.66 million in financial assistance to cultivate domestic growth of the sport. A spokesman for the Zurich-based Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) told RFA’s Korean Service that according to Swiss law, the organization is unable to provide funds to North Korea.
RFA Reports on concerns growing for missing Montagnards
March 11 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on at least four of the three dozen Montagnards who were deported to Vietnam in February by Cambodian authorities being reported as missing. Rights groups and advocates told RFA that concerns are growing for their well-being.
RFA Reports on Myanmar army conscripting civilians as porters, human shields
March 11 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on government soldiers holding at least 14 civilians and forcing them to work as porters and human shields. The men were conscripted after government forces detained a group of Kokang ethnic families in northern Myanmar, where conflict has escalated rapidly in recent weeks.
RFA Reports on two children dying in shell blast at crowded Kokang market
March 10 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on two children dying after a shell exploded at a crowded market in northern Myanmar. The shell is believed to have been fired by government forces amid intense fighting with ethnic Kokang rebels in the area.
RFA Reports on Tibetans handing over weapons to monastery in vow of nonviolence
March 10 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on Tibetan villagers celebrating the Lunar New Year in western China’s Sichuan province by pledging themselves to nonviolence and turning weapons over to a local monastery to be destroyed. Possessions handed over in the March 5 observance at the Dzakhok Samdrub monastery included “pistols, rifles, and a variety of other weapons.”
RFA Reports on villagers refusing to give up land for rubber plantation
March 10 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on more than 200 villagers refusing to accept gifts from a land concession company in exchange for clearing their communal land to make way for a rubber tree plantation.
RFA Reports on detentions for Chinese smog protesters amid online film’s popularity
March 9 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English/Mandarin/Cantonese] on authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xi'an holding two activists who tried to launch a street protest over the toxic smog that routinely blankets the country. The detentions occurred as Chinese censors removed all access to an environmental documentary from local websites after it went viral on the country's tightly controlled Internet.
RFA Reports on Tibetan woman self-immolating in protest of China’s rule
March 7 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on a 47-year old Tibetan woman living in western China's Sichuan province burning herself to death in a protest against Chinese policies in the Tibetan areas. The woman became the 137th known case of self-immolation by Tibetans since 2009.
RFA Reports on North Koreans buying smartphones, evading censorship checks
March 6 – RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on North Koreans buying secondhand smartphones smuggled in from China to access prohibited South Korean movies and avoid surveillance by North Korean authorities. The authorities recently launched an intensive censorship program monitoring North Koreans’ cell phones.
RFA Reports on officials claiming a chemical plant ‘improved’ after shutdown, leaks
March 6 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on continued pollution problems at a chemical plant in the southwestern province of Guizhou, though an official claimed things had “improved.” Residents report deaths, foul smells, and that “everything has turned yellow.”
RFA Reports on Tibetans displaying banned images on flags at prayer gathering in Ngaba
March 6 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on Tibetans taking part in a prayer festival holding up flags bearing photos of the Dalai Lama and other exiled Tibetan leaders in defiance of Chinese orders forbidding display of the images. Thousands of Tibetans took part in the festival.
RFA Reports on Muslim villagers protesting over alleged graft
March 4 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on Chinese Muslims publicly protesting over alleged corruption surrounding years of property deals by a local ruling Party official in their neighborhood. More than 1,000 Hui Muslims protested for days in a bid to remove the village-level official accused of decades of corrupt dealings at their expense.
RFA Reports on North Korean authorities offering rewards for informing on defectors, smugglers
March 3 – RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on authorities in North Korea offering incentives to informants on would-be defectors and smugglers who try to cross the frozen Tumen River into China. The rewards included food rations and Workers’ Party membership.