MONTH IN BRIEF
Condemned militants flee court
Two Islamist militants sentenced to death for killing a US blogger critical of religious extremism have escaped from a crowded court in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after bikers sprayed a chemical on the police before snatching away the convicts. Avijit Roy, an engineer of Bangladeshi origin, was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants in February 2015 while returning home from a Dhaka book fair. Five members of Ansar Ullah Bangla Team, an al-Qaeda-inspired domestic militant group, were sentenced to death in 2021, while one was jailed for life.
Protests across China
China has blamed ‘forces with ulterior motives’ for linking a lethal fire in the Xinjiang region to harsh Covid lockdown measures, which have sparked nationwide protests. Online posts circulating on both Chinese and overseas social media platforms have claimed that Covid lockdowns in Urumqi hampered rescue attempts after the Nov. 24 blaze. Protesters are devising creative ways to voice dissent against the government and its zero-Covid policy, including brandishing blank pieces of paper to indicate a lack of free speech, and coded messages calling for President Xi to step down.
Khan’s march to resume after shooting
Pakistan’s former premier Imran Khan has called on his supporters to resume a march to Islamabad and continue pushing for early elections, following an ‘assassination attempt’ on him on November 3. Their march is due to restart from the spot where Khan was shot,according to Fawad Chaudhry, a leader in his Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI).The former cricketer-turned-politician has since been discharged from a hospital where he was treated for a leg wound suffered in the shooting at a public rally.
Milestone energy deal
China has signed a landmark US$60 billion (S$83 billion) agreement for purchases of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar, as the world’s second-largest economy looks to bolster its energy security for decades. Qatar Energy will send Sinopec 4 million tonnes of LNG a year starting in 2026, the state-controlled companies announced in a virtual ceremony on November 21. The deal will last for 27 years, making it China’s longest LNG supply agreement to date, according to data from BloombergNEF (BNEF). It is also one of the country’s biggest in terms of volume.
ASEAN snub to Myanmar
ASEAN defence chiefs have held their annual retreat without arepresentative from the government in Myanmar, amid the country’s prolonged political crisis. With Covid-19 on the wane, the 10-member bloc began to hold physical meetings under Cambodia, its current chair.But the regional grouping, which censures the Myanmar junta for not making meaningful progress under its peace road map, shut out junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin by inviting a ‘non-political representative’ from the country for its high-level summits.
US pledge to Philippines
US Vice-President Kamala Harris has reiterated Washington’s ‘unwavering commitment’ to protect the Philippines in the event of an armed attack in the disputed South China Sea, during a three-day visit aimed at mending ties with one of America’s oldest allies in South-east Asia.In a Nov. 21 meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Ms Harris described the relationship between their two countries as a ‘long and enduring one’ and promised that the United States would stand with Manila ‘in defence of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea’.
Oz floods impact wheat supplies
Flooding in eastern Australia is harming the quality of the wheat harvest in one of the world’s biggest exporters, exacerbating a global shortage of the high-grade variety used to make bread and ramen noodles.This will impact the international wheat market, which was counting on a bumper harvest from Australia to ease tight inventories and decrease food costs.While the crop is still likely to belarge, torrential downpours and floods could turn an unusually big chunk of the harvest into grain fit only for animal feed, and reduce the quantity that is suitable for milling into flour.
Countering fake news
Taiwan has been inundated with fake news ahead of its municipal elections, as has happened previously – but the island appears to be better prepared to deal with it this time around. ‘The Taiwanese are better informed about fake news now,’ said Ms Summer Chen, chief editor of the Taiwan FactCheck Centre (TFC), a non-governmental group that offers fact-checking services. In addition, Taiwan is seeing less Chinese interference in the run-up to the elections, possibly due to China’s own domestic problems and its efforts to improve its international image, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said.