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Video sets off furor between Malaysia and China (9 December 2005)

Malaysia probes threats on Islamist Web site (1 December 2005)

Indonesia seizes explosives smuggled from Malaysia (21 October 2005)

Malaysia calls for UN mechanism to track aid from rich nations (15 September 2005)


Video sets off furor between Malaysia and China (9 December 2005)

A widely publicized video that purportedly shows the police in Malaysia conducting a strip-search of a female tourist from China has touched off anger in both countries, sending Malaysian officials scrambling to soothe relations.

The incident has raised questions about whether the numbers of tourists from China are cloaking a wave of illegal immigrants, smugglers and prostitutes. Given Malaysia's eager efforts to defuse the issue, it also signals the extent to which China's growing economic clout is quickly turning it into an important diplomatic and political influence in Southeast Asia.
 
The recording on a cellphone's video camera contains a clip of a naked ethnic Chinese woman being directed by someone who appears to be a Malaysian policewoman to squat repeatedly while holding her ears. Its circulation followed complaints by four tourists from China of similar treatment by the Malaysian police.
 
With Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur next week for the inaugural gathering of the East Asia summit meeting, Malaysia's home affairs minister, Azmi Khalid, flew to Beijing this week to apologize officially for the mistreatment of Chinese in Malaysia and to try to salvage the country's reputation as a tourist destination.
 
Referring to other alleged incidents involving mainland Chinese in Malaysia, Azmi told reporters Tuesday in Beijing, "These are outside our control, actually, but we apologize, because we don't like to see these things happen."
 
After initially dismissing the strip-search in the video as an isolated incident, Chinese officials have become more insistent that the issue be resolved. The Foreign Ministry has called for severe punishment for those responsible.
 
"China will continue to urge Malaysia to take effective measures to, on the one hand, find out the truth and punish perpetrators and, on the other hand, ensure the dignity and personal safety of Chinese citizens in Malaysia, so as to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents," a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said at a regular news conference Nov. 29. The ministry did not respond to requests for comment on Azmi's apology.
 
Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia has appointed a five-member panel headed by a former chief justice to investigate the video incident and to look into allegations that the police subject Chinese women to racial profiling. "By Monday we'll know everything," said Othman Talib, director of internal security and public order for the Royal Malaysia Police.
 
Othman denied, however, that the police single out Chinese women. "We don't do that. There's no such thing as profiling," he said by phone in Kuala Lumpur.
 
Whatever the incident may suggest about police procedures in Malaysia, it illustrates China's growing importance to the region's trade-dependent economies, particularly the importance of its tourists. Perhaps more than anything, Malaysia's response underscores the diplomatic stature China is gaining in the region thanks to its meteoric economic expansion.
 
"There's no question that China has increased its influence," said Sheng Lijun, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Nations. "So Malaysia is not only concerned with the reduction of tourists but also with its trade with China."
 
Malaysia is also trying to avoid letting a public-relations scrap upset its longer-term strategic plans with China, Sheng said. Malaysia is to host next week's regional summit, which is intended to be the most significant effort yet to forge greater political integration among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, South Korea and China. Malaysia has been an outspoken proponent of increasing Asian unity to offset the U.S.-led strategic alliances that have prevailed in Asia for decades.
 
While the video clip has drawn comparisons by some to photographs published last year of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and the 1991 video of Rodney King being beaten by the Los Angeles police, the furor surrounding it is more reminiscent of the controversy created by photos that circulated across the Internet of ethnic Chinese women purportedly raped and murdered in the riots that swept Indonesia in 1998. Many of those photos proved to be hoaxes.
 
The Malaysian video has also sparked protests among the country's ethnic Chinese minority, who say the likelihood that the woman in the video may well have been a Malaysian citizen only attests to the discrimination they face.
 
But others say that the issue has only gained public attention because the woman depicted appeared to be from China. "At the end of the day all of this is being done because it might involve trade and friendship and tourism," said Aegile Fernandez, organizer at Tenaganita, a Malaysian rights group. International Herald Tribune

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Malaysia probes threats on Islamist Web site (1 December 2005)

Malaysia is investigating purported threats over the Internet by al Qaeda militants to attack government and diplomatic targets around Southeast Asia.

"We must investigate their claim. If they have terror infrastructure, we must take action," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama late on Wednesday night in the southern city of Johor Baru.

The threats have been aired on a Web site purporting to carry a message from a group calling itself the ASEAN division of al Qaeda, which planned the Sept. 11 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

The site carries a "Declaration of War" in Bahasa Indonesia and warns Muslims in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines to avoid government buildings, parliaments, army installations, police stations and embassies.

"These locations are targets for attacks," the site says.

It also describes two Malaysian bomb-makers blamed for a string of attacks in Indonesia as "tigers of Islam". One of them, Azahari Husin, died in a gunbattle with Indonesian police last month while the other, Noordin M. Top, has yet to be captured.

Najib, also defence minister, said many claims were made on Internet Web sites to confuse or frighten people.

"We do not want to arrive at the conclusion that anything posted on the Internet is the truth and will take place because this will put fear into people," he was quoted as saying. Reuters

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Indonesia seizes explosives smuggled from Malaysia (21 October 2005)

Indonesian police have seized a large quantity of explosive material and detonators being smuggled into the country from Malaysia, a spokesman for the East Kalimantan police said on Friday.

The materials included 675 kg of ammonium nitrate, 1,200 metres of cable used for fuse and 900 detonators, and was destined for Sulawesi island, spokesman Wayan Tjatra said.

East Kalimantan province is on the Indonesian portion of Borneo island. Sulawesi lies to the east. A man and a woman were arrested on the boat carrying the material, Tjatra said.

The seizure was made eight days ago, he said, although reports of the incident only emerged in local media on Friday.

Asked whether any link had been made to bombings in Indonesia, Tjatra said: "Not yet. We're still investigating".

In recent years Indonesia has seen a series of blasts blamed on Musim militants, most recently on Oct. 1 when three suicide bombs ripped through restaurants on the tourist island of Bali, killing 23, including the bombers.

Explosives are widely used for many purposes in Indonesia, including illegal fishing and mining. Reuters

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Malaysia calls for UN mechanism to track aid from rich nations (15 September 2005)


Malaysia called for a special UN mechanism to monitor overseas development aid provided by developed countries following criticism that most of them have not kept their pledges.

Rich nations had pledged 30 years ago to set aside up to 0.7 percent of their gross national income for aid to poor countries but most of them had not lived up to their promise, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi told the UN General Assembly.

"To ensure that the political will to achieve the target continues to be strengthened and the momentum generated is not lost, I believe that it is time to establish an effective mechanism to monitor ODA (overseas development aid) flows," he said.

"A small unit within the United Nations can be established for this purpose," Abdullah said.

The work of the unit, he said, need not begin from scratch as it could draw upon the activities of the so-called development assistance committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

According to the OECD, the level of overseas development aid increased to 78.6 billion dollars last year, representing a 4.6 percent increase from 2003.

This figure however represents a mere 0.25 percent of the combined gross national income of the members of the organization's development assistance panel.

"We are therefore still far away from achieving the target of 0.7 percent set more than 30 years ago," Abdullah said, noting that only five of 22 of the OECD panel member nations had met the objective.

Developing countries are also showing an increasing willingness to make bilateral aid contributions, he noted. � AFP

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� 2004 APC Process.  Last updated Sunday, December 11, 2005