News in Asia: Read All About It

PAKISTAN (BBC) A spokesperson for the Pakistani Prime Minister condemned the offering of a $100,000 reward for the death of the maker of The Innocence of Muslims,”the amateur film that has sparked protests from Muslims throughout the world. Shafqat Jalil, the PM’s spokesperson, has stated the government has completely disassociated itself from the comments made by Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour. The reward was offered the day after clashes between protesters and police left at least 20 dead in cities throughout Pakistan.

I call upon these countries and say: Yes, freedom of expression is there, but you should make laws regarding people insulting our Prophet. And if you don’t, then the future will be extremely dangerous. – Ghulam Ahmad Bilour

Protests continue in other countries like Bangladesh where scores of people were injured when fights broke out between demonstrators and police in the capital Dhaka. There have been peaceful protests in Islamabad and a report of one in the Nigerian city of Kano. The exact origins of the film are unknown, but the response to the low budget film has been volatile. The alleged producer of the trailer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is in hiding and U.S. citizens are warned against traveling to Pakistan. In an effort to counteract anti-American sentiments, the U.S. embassy has paid advertisements on Pakistani TV showing President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning the film.

MYANMAR (AL JAZEERA) A gang leader has pled guilty, along with five others, to the murders of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River last year. Naw Kham, leader of a gang based in Myanmar’s northern Shan state, was accused along with others, of raiding two Chinese cargo ships on the river last October. The attack was thought to have been carried out by a notorious gang in the Golden Triangle region, which is known as a center of drug production and smuggling. The six suspects were charged with intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and hijacking. All six suspects pled guilty, though Naw Kham denied the charges at first. The incident sparked outrage on the part of the Chinese government and called on the governments of Thailand and Laos to send envoys to speed up the investigation. After the attack, China and several of its Southeast Asian neighbors started armed patrols to protect cargo ships on the river. The Mekong River is a key waterway that flows through Yunnan province in China’s southwest and into Southeast Asia.

Note: The BBC also has a great story out of Myanmar about Aung San Suu Kyi.

AFGHANISTAN (BBC) The Afghani government has moved to block all Pakistani newspapers from the country. According to  the Interior Ministry, the newspapers serve as a propaganda resource for the Taliban. Police forces in eastern Afghanistan have been order to confiscate all copies. Tensions have been rising between the two neighboring countries due to shelling and violence along the border. Recently, Afghanistan has recently urged Pakistan to stop shelling in the Kunar province. The Interior Ministry has specifically ordered that papers be blocked from coming in at the busy border crossing at Torkham. When asked the reason for the ban, the ministry cited that Pakistani papers are not “based in reality and it is creating concerns for our countrymen in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan.” Cross-border violence is becoming an increasingly sensitive issue in Afghanistan and there are concerns about Pakistan’s historic ties to the Taliban. According to the UN, more than 4,000 people have been displaced because of cross-border shelling. The government blames the violence on Pakistani Taliban fighters sheltering in Afghanistan, who have infiltrated the border to resume attacks on its security forces. Pakistan says it only is carrying out shelling against militants.

SOUTH KOREA (AL JAZEERA) South Korean naval ships fired warning shots at North Korean fishing boats that were seen crossing the disputed Yellow Sea border on Friday. Six North Korean vessels crossed the boundary and refused to return until navy ships fired warning shots, said an official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. No North Korean naval ships were involved and none of the shots hit the fishing vessels. This is the latest incident in a series of incursions by vessels from the north over the past several weeks. North Korean fishing vessels have crossed the boundary four times in the last month, but all have retreated when they received a warning from the South Korean navy. An unidentified senior military official was quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency as saying the navy would take action if the incursions continued. The maritime boundary between the North and South Korea – the Northern Limit Line – is not recognised by Pyongyang. The North Korean government argues the boundary was unilaterally drawn by the U.S.-led United Nations forces after the 1950-53 Korean War. Violence is not unusual in this region as fishing vessels from both countries jockey for position in the seafood rich waters, particularly during crab-catching season.

PAKISTAN (BBC) No evidence has been found against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. The young girl, called Rimsha, was accused of burning pages of the Koran. However, a police official believes that a Muslim cleric has tampered with evidence. The young girl has been granted bail and is now with her family at an undisclosed location. This case has brought international attention and backlash to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, which critics say are used to target minorities. Mobs or vigilantes have killed more than 30 people suspected of blasphemy in the past 20 years, according to Christian leaders in Pakistan.

THAILAND (BBC) At least six people have been killed and 40 injured when a bomb exploded in a market in Thailand’s volatile south region. The bomb went off after gunmen opened fire at a shop in the Pattani province after prayers on Friday. The region is mainly Muslim. More than 5,000 people have been killed in an insurgency movement that flared in 2004. Successive Thai governments have tried to quell the violence with either military force or through negotiations though none have worked. The village-based insurgency movement has no public face and makes no demands, which makes it hard to track. The movement is able to flourish due to corruption and lawlessness and is attractive to young Malay Muslim men.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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