PHILIPPINES (BBC) The Philippine government and the country’s largest rebel Muslim group have reached a peace deal, according to President Benigno Aquino. The deal will hopefully put an end to the 40-year conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The conflict has cost more than 120,000 lives. The deal calls for an autonomous region in the south, which will have a Muslim majority. The Philippines is a mostly Catholic nation. The agreement was reached after negotiations took place in Malaysia and a formal agreement is expected to be signed in Manila next week. Talks with MILF have been stalled over the last 15 years due to violence. The agreement could be implemented by the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016. “This framework agreement paves the way for a final and enduring peace in Mindanao,” President Aquino said in a speech. The MILF’s vice chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar told AFP news agency: “We are very happy. We thank the president for this.” President Aquino said the new autonomous region would be named Bangsamoro, after the Moros living there.
NORTH KOREA (Al Jazeera) A North Korean soldier has reportedly defected to South Korea, according to officials in Seoul. The soldier told military officials that he shot two officers dead before making the border crossing. The defector told officials that he had shot his platoon leader and company commander, according to a spokesperson for Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff after the incident took place on Saturday. “Six gunshots were heard and our guards spotted a North Korean soldier crossing the military demarcation line.” It was confirmed through loudspeakers that the soldier wanted to defect and he was taken into protective custody after he crossed the border. There was no independent confirmation of casualties; Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified military official as saying two North Korean soldiers had been seen “lying on the ground.” The last reported defection by a member of the North Korean military was in 2010 with other instances in 2008 and 2002. Defections across the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), a buffer zone dividing the two Koreas, are uncommon as the border is heavily guarded. The DMZ was created after the Korean War and is described by former U.S. President Bill Clinton as the, “scariest place on Earth.” The two Koreas are still technically at war since the Korean War ended only with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. North Koreans commonly flee across the border with China and make their way to the economically prosperous South, which is home to 20,000 refugees. There was no comment from Pyongyang about the incident.
PAKISTAN (Al Jazeera) An anti-drone protest lead by former cricket star Imran Khan embarked on a 44 kilometer (27 mile) journey from the capital Islamabad to South Waziristan. The protest, which includes thousands of Pakistanis as well as Westerners, are calling for the U.S. to stop targeting Pakistan’s northwest territories. The cricketer turned politician told the protesters he “condemn[s] the hypocrisy of the government, who tried their best to make this march fail,” as Khan told around 5,000 supporters at a brief halt on the outskirts of the Punjab town of Mianwali. It is unlikely the march will reach its final destination, a Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold, and often called the most dangerous place on Earth. Footage of shipping containers closing the road into South Waziristan were broadcast and the government warns the Taliban plan on attacking the rally. Sohail Mahmoud, a political analyst, believes that this move is a political move on Khan’s part. He pointed out that all political parties in Pakistan have opposed the U.S. drone attacks, even before Khan’s march. However, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says the march is symbolic and would not be a failure if it did not reach South Waziristan. The U.S. top-secret drone program is rarely discussed. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the U.S. has launched more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan in the last eight years, killing more than 2,500 people in North Waziristan alone. It is estimated that a quarter of those were civilians, including children.
CHINA (BBC) Eighteen children have been confirmed dead after a landslide buried their primary school. A missing adult has also been found, bringing the death toll to 19. The landslide hit the Tiantou Primary School and nearby houses in Yunnan province, southern China. This week was a school holiday and the school was closed, but the students were called in to make up work due to earthquakes last month, which closed the school. Three buildings at the school were damaged in the earthquakes in early September. As a result, more than 30 students had to attend lessons at Tiantou Primary School. Safety in schools has become a major concern in China, especially after an earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008 killed tens of thousands of people. After many school buildings collapsed in that earthquake, there was public outcry over shoddy construction and the lack of safety measures.
MALAYSIA (BBC) An anti-corruption inquiry was launched after allegations that public funds were used to pay for a government official’s son’s wedding. Ali Rustam, the chief minister of the southern state of Malacca, claimed the wedding was his own family’s arrangement, but political opponents wondered how the minister could afford such a lavish function, where food alone cost a reported $200,000 on his salary. Apparently, 130,000 people gathered in a sports center for eight hours of partying. Corruption is a sensitive topic in Malaysia as the government cuts back on subsidies during tough economic times. Malaysians are now having to pay more for food and gas. After 55 years in power, the governing coalition, Barisan Nasional, are accused of arrogance and corruption. The wedding of Ridhwan Ali, 26, the eldest son of Ali Rustam, was meant to show that the party still had support from the people, which included estate workers. However, it may have had the opposite effect. According to a BBC correspondent, the wedding is seen as another sign that the governing coalition is out of touch with Malaysians.