Harsh government responses to Muslim separatist violence in Thailand and the Philippines risk drawing international terrorists more deeply into the region, analysts say. \nConflicts in Muslim areas of Buddhist Thailand and the mainly Christian Philippines have been fuelled by local issues but are getting increasing attention from Islamic militants outside the region, they say. \nArab websites supporting Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network have begun "highlighting the Thai issue," said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert with Singapore's Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies. \n"Prolongation of this conflict will mean greater involvement of other regional groups and global groups like al-Qaeda. The southern Philippines, where separatist conflicts have raged for decades, already has a "permanent al-Qaeda presence," Gunaratna said. \nIncreasing foreign involvement, particularly in Thailand, is "certainly a risk," said Robert Broadfoot of the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Consultancy. \n"The grievances in southern Thailand are local but as we saw in Indonesia and the Philippines, al-Qaeda and international groups have been able to take advantage of those local situations. \n"Their scope has broadened beyond strictly domestic issues to where they are commenting on United States policy in Iraq and international issues." \nThai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Philippines President Gloria Arroyo both pledged tough action against separatists in the wake of bomb attacks last week which killed a total of 16 people and wounded nearly 200. \nTen were killed in three blasts in the Philippines and six in the deadliest single bombing in Thailand's Muslim-dominated deep south, where separatist violence has claimed about 600 lives last year. \nArroyo vowed to crush the rebel group Abu Sayyaf, which claimed the Valentine's Day bombings and is said by the US to have al-Qaeda links, but added: "The government shall focus its operations against terrorist cells and there should be no fear of a witch hunt." \nThaksin, however, has unveiled a plan to cut state funds to villages deemed supportive of southern separatists. \nWith Muslims already complaining of political and economic marginalization, critics say the new plan will simply make things worse. \nIncreased Muslim suffering could make southern Thailand a fertile area for exploitation by al-Qaeda militants, Gunaratna said. \n"We saw on Jan. 5 an Arab Web site for the first time carrying images of the Tak Bai incident" in which 87 Muslim demonstrators died, most of them through suffocation after being piled onto the backs of army trucks. \nThaksin has charged that militants seek refuge across the border in mainly Muslim Malaysia and even train in the jungles in the north of that country, accusations which have led to sharp exchanges with Kuala Lumpur. \nInstead of antagonizing Malaysia, Gunaratna said Thailand should seek a special relationship with its Muslim neighbor, establishing common databases on militants, setting up joint training and operations and sharing resources and experience. \n"We are seeing that the operational leaders and the spiritual leaders are shuttling through the porous border between Malaysia and Thailand but we do not see any Malaysian government support for these groups," Gunaratna said.
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UNCERTAINTY: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not specify measures NATO might take, but many believe that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project could be canceled The US has said it has evidence that Russia has made plans for a “large scale” attack on Ukraine and said NATO allies are “prepared to impose severe costs” on Moscow if it attempts an invasion. Speaking at a NATO ministers meeting in Latvia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it was unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade, but added: “He’s putting in place the capacity to do so in short order, should he so decide.” “So despite uncertainty about intention and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to
NOT ELIGIBLE: Most of those charged over democracy protests were born after the UK handed Hong Kong back to China, figures form Hong Kong Watch showed More than 90 percent of people who have faced protest charges in Hong Kong are too young to access a UK visa scheme dedicated to helping Hong Kongers flee to the UK, say advocates and lawmakers calling for new laws to assist them. The release of the figures on Sunday by advocacy group Hong Kong Watch comes before a British parliamentary debate this week on proposed migration law amendments that would widen the pathway for people with British National Overseas (BNO) status to resettle in the UK. More than 10,000 people were arrested during or after the mass protests that swept Hong
An episode of The Simpsons in which the cartoon family from the US visit Tiananmen Square has been removed from Disney’s streaming channel in Hong Kong at a time when authorities are clamping down on dissent. The missing episode adds to concerns that Chinese-style censorship is becoming the norm in the territory, ensnaring global streaming giants and other major tech companies. Disney+ has made rapid advances since it was launched 18 months ago, reaching more than 116 million worldwide subscribers. The Hong Kong version started streaming earlier this month and eagle-eyed customers soon noticed that an episode of The Simpsons featuring China was