Strongman Hun Sen -- who said in June that he is grooming his eldest son, Hun Manet, 42, to take over leadership of Cambodia -- has had a wide range of young political, labor and environmental activists detained in recent weeks after protests over dire economic prospects, corrupt land deals, and a border dispute with Vietnam.
Thousands of students have boycotted classes and taken to the streets of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China to protest over plans by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to end Mongolian-medium education in the region's schools, a policy many local people resent as an effort at forced assimilation.
One of Cambodia's nature reserve forests disappeared at the shocking rate of one football pitch every hour of 2019, and the illegal logging that drives deforestation has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forest conservation activists say Cambodia's loss of 26 percent of its tree cover since 2000 is the result of authoritarianism and corruption in the de facto one-party state where the business tycoons and military officials who cull and sell off the country's tropical hardwood enjoy impunity thanks to their close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party.
The United States on July 13 declared that China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea are illegal and accused Beijing of treating the disputed waters as a “maritime empire,” bullying Southeast Asian nations and denying them their rights to the energy and marine resources in their waters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who with the declaration formally aligned the U.S. position with the legal outcome of a key 2016 international court ruling on the sea, said: “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”
Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun, a sharp critic of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party, was taken away by police in Beijing July 6 after police in far away Sichuan province accused him of seeking prostitutes. Friends dismissed the vice allegations as a timeworn trick used by ruling party to sully the reputation of critics like Xu, who had just published a collection of his trenchant essays outside China.
The standing committee of China's National People's Congress rubber-stamped draconian new security legislation for Hong Kong that bans activities deemed subversive or secessionist. The imposition of the law prompted political groups to disband and set the stage for protests in the city, as well as friction with Western countries over what is seen as a breach of China's international obligations under the 1984 arrangement governing the 1997 handover to Beijing of the former British colony, which was promised a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.
Forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwestern China have dramatically increased in recent years, slowing Uyghur population growth rates, according to a new report by researcher Adrian Zenz, who says Beijing's policies “might be characterized as a demographic campaign of genocide.”
Nuclear-armed Asian powers China and India have become embroiled in a tense diplomatic and military standoff over disputed points along their mostly undemarcated, 3,500km (2,200-mile) Himalayan border. The first deadly border clash in more than 40 years between the world's two most populous nations on June 15 left 20 Indian soldiers dead after fierce hand-to-hand combat.
Exiled activists with Cambodia’s banned opposition party are trying to help hundreds of thousands of people left jobless and unable to pay debts to microfinance lenders after the shutdown of the economy to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The campaign to urge rural borrowers to stop their loan payments for at least six months was denounced by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who threatened to arrest those who try to “sabotage” his government.
President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping passed his 67th birthday as China deals with fallout from the coronavirus epidemic, trade and security tensions with the United States while other Western countries are rethinking ties with China, a pushback from Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, civil unrest in Hong Kong, deepening estrangement with Taiwan, and global condemnation of its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong has led a campaign to pressure South Korea to stop the flow of anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border in balloons by defectors. North Korea cited the leaflets, which criticize Kim Jong Un's nuclear threats and human rights record, when it cut off communications with the South on June 9.
Laos has ambitious plans to become the "Battery of Southeast Asia" by building seven hydro-power dams on the Mekong River, and damming its tributaries, to generate and export electricity to its neighbors. But the mega-projects have displaced thousands of Lao citizens without bringing cheaper power. And dams are adding to the problems of farmers downstream in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos itself, who are suffering drought, a reduction in fish stocks, and from other environmental damage to the vital ecosystem.
Chinese state media and officials have tried to score easy propaganda points from U.S. racial tensions and social unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, but the tactic can backfire spectacularly, as Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying found out recently. When she tweeted "I can't breathe" — using some of Floyd's last words with a policeman's knee on his neck — readers were quick to shoot back: "I can't tweet," reminding everyone that twitter is blocked by China.