Audio Overview of East Asia Pacific Issues, Monday, 28 January 2019

APAC Assistance Operations Assistant Bhargav Reddy discusses Main Issues in East Asia Pacific

Main Issues in East Asia Pacific

Firstly in the Philippines

  • Yesterday two bomb blasts at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the Jolo island killed 20 people and injured more than 100 others. Six soldiers were among the dead. Police suspect the bombs were improvised explosive devices. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • The bomb attack comes after the results of the referendum held in Mindanao to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region were announced last week. The Sulu province including the island of Jolo rejected the proposal while other regions of Mindanao overwhelmingly voted favor of the proposal. Several Islamist insurgent groups in the region have pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State. The Filipino government has been fighting the insurgent groups for decades killing over 120,000 people.
  • Clients are advised to avoid the province of Sulu. Be aware of the insurgent groups like the Abu Sayyaf groups active in the region. The insurgent groups have frequently targeted foreign travelers for kidnapping and extortion. Several hostages including Dutch nationals are still being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group.


  • Floods and landslides were reported in 12 regencies and one city across South Sulawesi last week. More than 68 people were killed and 6,700 other were displaced due to heavy rains during the week which caused the floods and the landslides.
  • Across the province, a total of 550 houses and 34 bridges were damaged. The local authorities have warned that the heavy rains and flooding are likely to continue this week.
  • Clients are advised to avoid traveling to the South Sulawesi province. Consider contingency measures for the disruptions expected this week.


  • Heavy rains in the northern regions of Queensland have caused floods and landslides. Some areas received 400ml of rain in last 24 hours, with the worst hit areas being Port Douglas and Daintree.
  • The heavy rains caused the Daintree River to overflow. A severe weather warning has been issued for a large stretch of the coast between Cairns and the Whitsundays, and the adjacent inland area. The river level is now dropping but the weather bureau says that the tropical low will continue dumping heavy rain in the far north over the coming days. The forecast is for storms and showers all week.
  • Clients are advised to be aware of the transport disruptions in the affected areas and consider contingency measures for the disruptions expected this week.

Main Issues in South Asia


  • Investigations into the murders of liberal bloggers and activists have reportedly progressed at a snail’s pace. More than 10 bloggers who were labeled ‘atheists’ were murdered since 2013 by the Islamist terror groups. The last murder was in June 2018.
  • The investigations have been disrupted allegedly through political influence or through corrupt means. There has been no major progress in any of the 10 murders cases. Some cases which have progressed to trial have been stalled by the bureaucratic judiciary.
  • The slow progress in these cases reflects the superficial investigations by the authorities and efficiency of the judicial system. Liberal bloggers and activists continue to face threats by the Islamist groups. The murders have triggered several nationwide protests in Bangladesh.


  • People of Keppapulavu, in the Mullaitheevu district in Northern Sri Lanka, have escalated their protests against the acquisition of land by the Army. The land acquisition by the army in northern Sri Lanka has been controversial which has also triggered protests in major cities across the country. The protests have been ongoing for 700 days in the vicinity of the army base in the area. The protests have been low profile, the tensions were high last week after allegations of intimidation by the army personnel.
  • The protests may have been peaceful but the escalation of tensions between the locals and the army is likely to trigger widespread clashes in the region. The army has occupied vast areas to set up their base in the region while fighting the civil war against the LTTE rebels which ended in 2009.
  • Clients are advised to monitor the developments in the protests and avoid the northern provinces of Sri Lanka where the tensions between the local people and the army can potentially trigger clashes in the region.


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