RFA Reports (May 2016)

2016-06-30
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(Washington, DC — June 1, 2016) Radio Free Asia broadcast the following stories, and more, in May:

RFA Reports on Aung San Suu Kyi leading panel to restore stability in Rakhine state

May 31 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on Aung San Suu Kyi chairing a new government committee to work towards peace and development in western Myanmar’s impoverished and war-torn Rakhine state. All 27 members are government officials who will work, among other tasks, on the resettlement of 120,000 Rohingya Muslims who have lived in camps as ‘internally displaced persons’ since 2012.

RFA Reports on Cambodia’s political crackdown

May 31 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on an intensifying political stand-off in Cambodia as Prime Minister Hun Sen looks to jail opposition party leader Kem Sokha. Sokha resorted to hiding out at the opposition party’s headquarters after heavily armed police attempted to arrest him.

RFA Reports on Chinese police silencing founder of Tiananmen Mothers

May 31 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English/Mandarin/Cantonese] on Chinese police cutting off telephone lines and imposing restrictions on Ding Zilin, founder of the Tiananmen Mothers. Fellow members of the group say the move speaks to the increased level of harassment by authorities in recent years.

RFA Reports on Uyghurs in Thailand protesting status with hunger strike

May 31 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English/Uyghur] on more than 70 Uyghurs held in a Thai detention facility going on a hunger strike. They told RFA’s Uyghur Service in a handwritten letter that they would rather die in Thailand than go back to China.

RFA Reports on authorities cracking down on Tibetan anti-mine protests

May 27 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on Chinese authorities ordering residents of a Tibetan-populated county not to resume their blockade of road construction in the area. Tibetans object to the road project because the finished road may be used to support Chinese mining operations on nearby sacred mountains.

RFA Reports on arrest of Lao government critics

May 27 – RFA Lao aired story [text in English/Lao] on Lao authorities publicly acknowledging the arrest of three Lao workers who returned home from Thailand to renew their passports. The Laotians had criticized the Lao government on social media while abroad.

RFA Reports on low morale for overworked North Korean soldiers

May 27– RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on a series of nonstop deployments causing some North Korean soldiers to consider taking a dishonorable discharge rather than stay in the army. The elimination of vacation time and extra work for ‘megaprojects’ has driven many soldiers to discontent.

RFA Reports on China’s Tiananmen anniversary clampdown

May 26 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English/Cantonese/Mandarin] on Chinese authorities placing dozens of rights activists and dissidents under house arrest after they tried to mark the 27th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Others have been ordered to leave town ahead of the June 4 anniversary.

RFA Reports on Chinese state media’s sexist attack on Taiwan’s president

May 26 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on Chinese state-run Xinhua characterizing the positions of Taiwan’s recently elected President Tsai Ing-wen as being affected by her status as a “single woman.” The backlash generated by the piece led to authorities calling for its deletion in leaked directives.

RFA Reports on Myanmar’s plans to let exiled democracy activists return

May 26 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on the Myanmar government planning to allow exiled opposition activists who are still on an official “no-entry” blacklist to return home within 100 days. The move is the latest effort by the new NLD government to make right the wrongs of the past in their push for democratic reform and development in Myanmar.

RFA Reports on deadly jade mine landslide in Myanmar

May 25 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on more than 70 people missing and a dozen dead after another deadly jade mine landslide in northern Myanmar. Heavy rains caused huge piles of mining waste to collapse while scavengers searched the excavation site for leftover jade deposits.

RFA Reports on skyrocketing electricity costs in Laos

May 24 – RFA Lao aired story [text in English/Lao] on electricity rates rising significantly in Laos just as the hot season tightens its grip on the country that aims to be the ‘battery’ of Southeast Asia. When pressed to explain the change, power company officials said that costs are estimated and not “based on the real number.”

RFA Reports on ailing health of jailed Chinese activist

May 24 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English/Mandarin/Cantonese] on jailed Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong’s prison hunger strike entering its third week. Guo is refusing food to protest ill-treatment in his prison in Guangdong.

RFA Reports on ‘Black Monday’ protests in Cambodia

May 23 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on ongoing anti-government protests in Cambodia, launched by civil society groups to protest the arrest of four officers of the human rights group ADHOC and an election official. In response, government authorities have dictated that campaigners must obtain government permission before posting their views online on sites like Facebook.

RFA Reports on release of a Vietnamese prisoner of conscience ahead of Obama visit

May 20 – RFA Vietnamese aired story [text in English/Vietnamese] on Hanoi releasing a 70-year-old Catholic priest and prisoner of conscience in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of President Barack Obama’s state visit to Vietnam. Catholic Priest Nguyen Van Ly was tried in 2007 and convicted on charges of conducting “propaganda against the state” and sentenced to eight years in prison and five years on probation for violating Vietnam’s notorious Article 88 of the penal code.

RFA Reports on 20-year jail term for Uyghur ‘separatist’ teenager

May 19 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English/Uyghur] on a Uyghur teenager facing a 20-year jail term after he was convicted of plotting to join a militant separatist group and conspiring to help some of his friends escape from China. The boy’s family says he was just looking for work.

RFA Reports on detentions of Hong Kong democracy activists

May 19 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English/Cantonese/Mandarin] on Hong Kong police chasing down and detaining a group of pro-democracy activists after they tried to protest along the route of a motorcade carrying a visiting Chinese leader. 2014 pro-democracy movement student leader Joshua Wong was among those detained.

RFA Reports on Myanmar police arresting protestors marching for labor rights

May 18 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on about 200 police officers arresting a dozen striking factory workers and activists near Myanmar’s administrative capital Naypyidaw as they marched for labor rights.

RFA Reports on missing Chinese political refugees

May 18 – RFA Cantonese aired story [text in English/Cantonese] on two Chinese asylum seekers who are still missing after being repatriated to China from Thailand seven months ago. At the time of their repatriation, both men had UN refugee status and were awaiting resettlement in Canada.

RFA Reports on Vietnamese state media drowning out fish kill criticism

May 17 – RFA Vietnamese aired story [text in English/Vietnamese] on Vietnamese activists urging the Vietnamese people to protest the government’s sluggish reaction to an environmental disaster that killed tons of fish along Vietnam’s central coast. State media launched a barrage of criticism in response, which activists say will do little damage to their cause.

RFA Reports on Cambodian government silencing dissent through courts

May 17 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) attempting to tighten their grip on dissent through Cambodia’s courts. In a closed session, an appeals court in Phnom Penh denied opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker Um Sam An’s bail appeal, saying that releasing him would cause social unrest because he is a member of parliament and that the court has yet to finish his interrogation.

RFA Reports on Myanmar nationalists condemning U.S. use of ‘Rohingya’

May 13 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on more than 500 people protesting the U.S. government’s use of the term “Rohingya.” Xenophobic and nationalistic groups in Myanmar prefer to label western Myanmar’s Muslim minority group “Bengali,” as Myanmar does not officially recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group and denies them basic rights.

RFA Reports on ‘whistleblower’ website launched in China

May 13 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on China’s police force launching a whistleblower website targeting people who spread “rumors” online. Activists said the website is aimed at ensuring that ordinary citizens don't use social media to challenge the official version of events.

RFA Reports on order to Cambodian press to exalt top officials

May 12 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in English/Khmer] on the Cambodian government ordering that media outlets must use full honorific titles when reporting on high-ranking officials. The order requires media outlets to append the Khmer word “samdech” to all of their titles. Roughly translated, the word means “lord.”

RFA Reports on Vietnamese authorities interrogating pastor’s wife

May 12 – RFA Vietnamese aired story [text in English/Vietnamese] on Vietnamese police subjecting the wife of an imprisoned Mennonite pastor to an intense interrogation about a meeting she had two months ago with a U.S. religious freedom delegation. U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom David Saperstein had previously led a group of four diplomats to visit Tran Thi Hong at her home.

RFA Reports on China’s mixed message on the Cultural Revolution anniversary

May 12 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on the ruling Chinese Communist Party sending mixed signals about public events marking the decade of turmoil and political violence as China approaches the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution.

RFA Reports on deadly Lao shootout

May 11 – RFA Lao aired story [text in English/Lao] on a gunfight between Lao soldiers and unidentified armed forces leaving one soldier and eight members of the unknown group dead. The shootout is the latest in a string of roadside shooting incidents in Laos since November.

RFA Reports on protesters halting construction of petrochemical plant

May 11 – RFA Cantonese and Mandarin aired story [text in English/Cantonese/Mandarin] on authorities halting plans to build a petrochemical plant off the coast of eastern China after protests by residents of Longkou city. The demonstrations are the latest in a wave of environmental protests by local residents against petrochemical plants, especially paraxylene (PX) facilities.

RFA Reports on high number of China links in Panama Papers

May 10 – RFA Cantonese and Mandarin aired story [text in English/Cantonese/Mandarin] on China-linked offshore companies in the Panama Papers far exceeding the number of entities from other countries and regions of the world. Some 25,000 offshore companies with owners – either companies or individuals – from China have been listed in the leak.

RFA Reports on prison term for Tibetan monk

May 9 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on Chinese authorities sentencing a Tibetan monk and writer to seven and a half years in prison on unspecified charges. Jo Lobsang Jamyang, 28, is known for his poems and social commentary and has often advocated for freedom of expression for writers in Tibet.

RFA Reports on prison term for Uyghur who viewed a Muslim film

May 9 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English/Uyghur] on Chinese authorities handing a seven-year prison term to an ethnic Uyghur for watching a politically sensitive film on Muslim migration. Authorities suspected that Eli Yasin and his family who viewed the film had planned to go abroad “to wage jihad.”

RFA Reports on rights activists jailed in China

May 9 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English/Mandarin/Cantonese] on a Chinese court sentencing two anti-graft activists to multiyear jail terms. The two men had already been in jail for three years of ‘unofficial’ detention as they awaited trial.

RFA Reports on Tibetan mother of five self-immolating
May 6 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on a Tibetan mother of five burning herself to death in a challenge to Beijing’s rule. The self-immolation occurred in March but news of the death was delayed in reaching outside contacts due to communications clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.

RFA Reports on forced labor for North Koreans ahead of Workers’ Party Congress

May 6 – RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on North Korean citizens performing forced labor in preparation for the ruling Workers’ Party Congress. The government rolled out a “70-day battle” plan ordering citizens around the country to perform forced labor by building new structures and sprucing up existing buildings.

RFA Reports on struggling North Korean restaurants in China

May 5 – RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on a downturn in business for North Korean restaurants in China, as even North Koreans avoid patronizing them out of fear that such places make it easier for monitors to follow their movements. The restaurants have struggled because of financial difficulties resulting from strained relations between North Korea and China after the North’s recent nuclear test and missile launch.

RFA Reports on China stepping up ideological campaign on World Press Freedom Day

May 3 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English/Mandarin/Cantonese] on President Xi Jinping warning members of the Chinese Communist Party to make their loyalties clear in public and not to allow "Western" ideas to seep into their thinking as the world marks World Press Freedom Day.

RFA Reports on 1,700 Rohingya being left homeless by fire

May 3 – RFA Myanmar aired story [text in English/Myanmar] on a fire inside an internally displaced persons camp in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state destroying more than 400 huts and leaving 1,700 ethnic Rohingya homeless. The fire exacerbates the squalid conditions faced by Rohingya IDP camp residents, who have been forced to live in the camps under apartheid-like conditions.

RFA Reports on beatings, detentions for Tibetan monks after traffic dispute

May 2 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English/Tibetan] on the detentions and beatings of two monks attached to a large Tibetan monastery in southwestern China’s Sichuan province after they attempted to mediate a traffic dispute between a Tibetan and a Han Chinese driver. Lakyab and Tsering Gyurme, both monks at the Palyul monastery in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, were released after being held for ten days.

RFA Reports on hundreds in Hong Kong protesting newspaper editor’s firing

May 2 – RFA Cantonese and Mandarin aired story [text in English/Cantonese/Mandarin] on hundreds of people protesting outside the offices of Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper over the firing of a respected editor. Around 400 people, including journalists, rights activists and ordinary citizens, gathered outside the headquarters of Ming Pao, which fired former chief executive editor Keung Kwok-yuen on April 20 after the paper ran a front-page story linked to the Panama Papers leak.