Archive for ‘Crime’

May 28, 2014

FACEBOOK IS NOT LIE

 

Kidnapped newborn found ‘thanks to Facebook’

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Mayra Cuevas, CNN
May 28, 2014 — Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/27/world/canada-kidnapped-baby-facebook/

(CNN) — The woman wore a nurse’s uniform when she walked into the maternity ward.

She left the hospital driving away in a red car with a sign that said “Baby on Board.”

Police say there was a baby inside the Toyota Yaris the 21-year-old was driving Monday evening as she left the hospital in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.

But the little girl wasn’t hers.

At the hospital, baby Victoria’s parents were frantic.

Their child was only 16 hours old when she was abducted, mother Mélissa McMahon said in a Facebook post describing the ordeal.

“The worst case scenarios played out over and over in our heads,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, the endings are not often happy, above all in this type of case.”

But just a few hours after the baby went missing, authorities returned her to her parents.

Thanks to “four marvelous people,” McMahon wrote, and “thanks to Facebook.”

“It is the only reason that explains why Victoria is in my arms at this time,” she said.

Amber Alert goes viral

Publicity about Victoria’s disappearance started with an Amber Alert sent out by Quebec police.

In social media posts, messages from police described the vehicle and the woman driving it. The newborn, police said, was wrapped in a blue blanket.

It wasn’t long before the alert and a photo went viral.

A group of four friends spotted it on Facebook when they were hanging out on Monday night, Canadian media reported.

We just wanted to do something for the night, so we went out to find the car,” Charlène Plante told Canada’s CTV network

When police released a photo of a woman wearing scrubs in the hospital, Plante said she immediately recognized her former neighbor.

The friends drove to the woman’s apartment and saw the car parked outside.

“The patio door was open. The lights were on,” Mélizanne Bergeron told Canadian public broadcaster CBC. “It was clear that she was there.”

Then, they called police. Officers were there within minutes, Plante said, kicking down the apartment door. The baby was recovered and a woman was taken into custody.

“After the baby was in the hands of the police, it was the best moment in my life,” Bergeron told CTV. “We were crying.”

On Facebook, she posted a video showing her tearful friends as a police officer appeared in the apartment building’s stairwell, the baby safe in his arms.

Woman in custody

Quebec police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe wouldn’t confirm details about how the baby was found, but she said police received tips from the public after publicizing the case on social media.

The woman was hospitalized for evaluation and was on 24-hour police watch, but she had not met yet with investigators Tuesday, Coulombe said.

It is not known whether there was any previous link between the woman and the baby’s family, she said.

In a statement, the hospital from where the baby was taken thanked police investigators and said a team of risk-assessment experts would be analyzing the circumstances surrounding the incident and making recommendations about whether any changes are needed. Details from the police investigation will also be part of that analysis, the hospital said.

“At this time, it is difficult to discuss in more detail the situation without revealing specific elements that could harm the investigation and court proceedings,” the Center for Health and Social Services of Trois-Rivières said in a statement. “The establishment will therefore be reserved in public statements in the coming days.”

Daniel Cossette, the baby’s uncle, told CTV that he spoke with the woman in the nurse’s uniform as she walked down the hospital hallway with the newborn in her arms. She told him she was taking the baby for routine tests.

“She had the attitude, the uniform, all of it,” he said, “and we never presumed she was a kidnapper.”

‘Every click, every share made the difference’

As authorities continue investigating, the baby’s mother says she has no doubt about how Victoria ended up in her arms again.

Alert hospital staff realized quickly that the baby had been taken, she said. Fellow patients at the hospital provided details about the woman and her vehicle. Security guards tracked down a photo of the woman with help from police. And investigators sent out the Amber Alert and image very quickly.

“The photo saved our daughter! In less than an hour, the photo was everywhere…You were more than thousands of people who shared the photo of this woman on social media. … Know that it was this that saved her, our little Victoria. Every click, every share made the difference,” McMahon wrote in a message thanking people for their support.

But along with her thank-you message, she also sent a word of caution to other mothers, saying that her experience with the woman dressed as a nurse should be a warning.

“Never allow yourself to be influenced by a uniform….I know that it can seem trivial, but if I had been more skeptical, all of this could have been avoided….Verify the badge of the nurse…ask questions…it is your child, don’t let them out of your sight,” she wrote. “I would not like anyone else to live this.”

She did not describe further details about any interaction with the woman.

As for her baby, McMahon said “little Victoria wears her name well for this victory.”

“To give life to our child is an incredible moment,” she wrote, “but finding our child safe and sound is an indescribable feeling.”

Her post had been shared more than 18,000 times on Facebook by Tuesday night.

How to guard against baby snatchers

Woman who kidnapped baby 25 years ago sentenced to 12 years in prison

May 12, 2014

Laos: Crony scheme in control of press and civil society

Laos: Crony scheme in control of press and civil society

By Helen Clark / 12 May, 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/05/laos-crony-scheme-control-press-civil-society/

The Laotian president, Choummaly Sayasone, made a five day official visit to France in October 2013 — the first such visit in 60 years. (Photo: Serge Mouraret / Demotix)

When travellers and writers talk about Laos, they mention how peaceful it is, and how Buddhist. The people, says Lonely Planet, are some of the most chilled out in the world.  People forget, as they rarely do with Vietnam or China, that it is still a communist state.

The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) has absolute control over the press and civil society. Professor Martin Stuart-Fox, a Laos expert with the University of Queensland, has written widely on the country’s history and government and has said that the party is little more than a crony scheme, with many of those in power now descended from the old Lao aristocracy. It is necessary to have a powerful patron, almost always in the party or closely connected to it, for success. Information is difficult to get hold of and even local journalists, who often have close ties to the government, complain publicly, if respectfully, about the impenetrability of government departments.

Freedom House writes: “Press freedom in Laos remains highly restricted. Despite advances in telecommunications infrastructure, government control of all print and broadcast news prevents the development of a vibrant, independent press.”

These media restrictions are part of a wider pattern of suppression of information, lack of transparency in business dealings, prevention of protests and cultural and religious oversight by the government and party.

However the most noticeable event of the past 18 months has been the disappearance of Sombath Somphone. At the end of 2012 the Lao development expert went missing and many of his colleagues quietly believe the government may be responsible. Little but the bare facts have been written in the local, state-owned press.

Somphone was, according to reports, well respected by both the local and international communities and hardly an anti-government firebrand. He did, however, jointly give a presentation in late 2012 to the ASEAN-Europe People‘s Forum held in Vientiane  with the United Nations Development Program. A western aid source told Index on Censorship: “In my opinion — one shared by many others as well –Somphone’s statement at the AEPF was the last straw for the government. He was particularly concerned with forced resettlement, directly linked to government land grabs to provide natural resources to Chinese companies [that are] full of bribes.” The source says since Somphone disappeared any attempts at criticism of government policy, either by the press or organisations “have taken a quantum leap backwards and are currently frozen”.

The World Trade Organisation accession of last year appears not to have much of an effect in promoting a freer or transparent climate. Though the global trade body did make the right noises little concrete action was taken.

This is in contrast to Vietnam’s 2007 WTO accession. In the lead up, the Vietnamese government made public attempts at allowing more freedom of press and speech and open criticism of government policies. Once it became the 150th member crackdowns began again. A small measure of transparency in regards to the business climate has been seemingly taken in Laos.

The LPRP has been in power since 1975. Agricultural reforms began in 1978 and economic reform in 1986, known as the New Economic Mechanism, which began its transition to a more market-based economy. Vietnam instituted its own doi moi, or renovation, policy the same year.

Laos has, in the past 15 years, pursued a policy of economic growth and regional and global integration with an eye toward world affairs. Joining ASEAN in 1997 was a step forward for the small nation, though the spillover Asian financial crisis engendered a certain skepticism among leaders of the manifold benefits of globalisation.

Many smaller nations racing towards development, especially those with sometimes problematic political systems, usually host an event that is as something of a “coming out party”. Vientiane’s hosting of the 2009 Southeast Asia Games was Laos’. Longtime Asia journalist Bertil Lintner pointed out in the Yale Global Review, that though the SEA Games may not have been compelling for much of the globe they are an important regional sporting competition. Chinese and Vietnamese donors and investment built much of the needed infrastructure, such as stadiums.

Despite the rapid development and a “strong” growth outlook for 2013 – 2014, according to Euromonitor, the country still struggles under Least Developed Nation status and poverty rates are high outside the cities while access to services remains low, as do literacy rates.

Unemployment is officially at 2.6 percent of the population, but it is widely believed to be far higher and according to market research and intelligence firm Euromonitor there will be twice as many job entrants as positions for them to fill. Labour export is favoured by the government to partially solve the issue and earn currency. The poverty rate has dropped in recent years and the government’s plan has been to halve it by 2015.

Freedom of the press?

“The Ministry of Information and Culture controls all media in Laos. There is no freedom of the press and no legal protection for Lao journalists who fail to reflect the party line. Most Lao journalists are actually party members attached to the MI,” Stuart-Fox wrote for Freedom House in 2012.

“Laos is the region’s black hole for news…. Because there is no functioning independent media, there are few overt press freedom violations,” Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists told Index. “No local reporting is allowed whatsoever on government corruption, official abuses or factional divisions inside the ruling communist Lao Revolutionary People’s Party. These are all pervasive in Laos, but you’d never know it reading local papers on watching local TV.”

Laos enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution, written in 1991, while ensuring harsh penalties in its penal code that can easily be applied to journalists, or bloggers — though bloggers are few and generally timid. Slandering the state, distorting party and state policies, inciting disorder or propagating information or opinions that weaken the state can all be prosecuted. The vague wording means many things can, if deemed necessary, fall under this ambit.

The English language Vientiane Times largely functions as a platform for photographs of handshakes, ribbon cuttings and deeply earnest affirmations of the great friendship between Laos and whichever national delegation dropped off in the capital on its Southeast Asia tour. It is essentially a showcase organ for what the government wishes foreigners to see, and understand, about modern Laos however its often rather old-fashioned, orthodox rhetoric and complete dearth of anything interesting do not ensure an avid readership.

“The Vietnamese media is much more open, skilled, and sophisticated than the Lao media. And the Lao media are dominated by self-censorship,” a senior Lao source from Radio Free Asia said in an email to Index. “Within limits some publications in Vietnam do try to do investigative journalism. You simply won’t find that in Laos.” The source pointed out that a query on the large scale illegal logging with logs going to Vietnam might not yield much past government authority saying that the government tries to protect the environment.

The 2008 media law is theoretically more friendly to the media and transparency — journalists are guaranteed the right to seek and publish information and to access to public records — there is in practice not much more freedom. The government allows a small measure of criticism of bureaucracy or government actions but reporters have not fully tried to push barriers until they push back. Self censorship is endemic and might be one reason why reporters do not languish in prison as they do in Vietnam or China. Stories on culture and social ills are permitted to a degree, but rigorous investigation of, for example, detainment in rehabilitation centres for all drug users might be going too far.

There is also the tricky situation that government bodies rarely respond to media requests and little information is provided to reporters, though a couple of departments do apparently have a communications department. The information that is provided is expected to be used to further the government’s message and aims.

“There is an endemic culture within our society where people are wary of the news media, and adequate protection is not granted to those willing to speak out on sensitive topics. As such, accessing information is not easy, which makes presenting it even harder”, said a Vientiane Times report quoted by a Southeast Asia Press Association report from 2012.

News on HMong returning refugees, hydro plants, land clearance and illegal logging — some of the most contentious issues in the country — do not make it into the news often. Many of the issues of concern to Lao people can thus remain localised either with those directly affected or educated urban dwellers able to afford access to foreign news sources. It does not appear activist groups have mass organised online yet. Those with access to Thai media may be able to learn more — the government does not block the Thai channels whose broadcasts make it into border areas.

There have been some moves towards private media ownership, although some sources have remarked the industry is too small and rewards too low at this point for anything but a nascent media industry. “There have been a few attempts to launch more trendy, lifestyle magazines, but most have been short lived, I suspect because the relatively small market size for this does not make it economically viable,” said one anonymous source.

There are really no permanent foreign news bureaus in Laos. Though Voice of Vietnam opened a bureau in 2010 and both Radio France International and China Radio International have broadcast from Laos. It should be noted that the 2008 media law does allow foreign news but Stuart-Fox argues that the hoops foreign papers must jump through are too difficult for it to be worth their while.

Problems of censorship go beyond no free press: even if a savvy reporter could persuade an editor to run stories on corruption finding any hard data would be difficult. Party members do not have to disclose their holdings or assets meaning their ownership of firms in Laos is hard to track down. A lack of data cannot be blamed simply on wilful or mendacious opacity; there is not always the capacity for nation-wide gathering and management of statistics.

It is also worth noting, as Stuart-Fox has, that Laos historically has a lower level of literacy and literary traditions than Vietnam. Policy documents often remain unread (many laws have been drafted with foreign help but few ranking civil servants remain au fait with them) and the fierce, bookish debate of intellectuals can be less prevalent in Laos than its Confucian neighbours. On the upside, Lao officials are sometimes, he says, more amenable to friendly informal chats over a Beer Lao or two.

Laos has some two dozen newspapers and almost twice as many radio stations–useful when one considers how remote some communities are. There has been investment into telecommunications infrastructure which better connects Laos to the ASEAN region.

The Southeast Asia Press Alliance wrote in 2012: “The launching of the country’s stock market towards the end of 2010 should be seen as a welcome step towards greater access to information inside this secluded communist regime as foreign investors need a more transparent government and greater access to its policies on social and economic development.” The World Bank ranked Laos at 159 out of 189 nations for ease of doing business, up from 163 the previous year.

Not all censorship is political. Authorities and the older generation worry about the cultural shifts brought about by rapid modernisation and integration with the wider world. A decade ago young people believed Western influences were “bad” according to a survey published in a 2000 book — Laos at the Crossroads —  by authors Vatthana Pholsena and Ruth Banomyong. Today, there are still moves by the government toward modesty and a “Lao” way of being that encompasses tradition and religion. Women still largely wear sins – an embroidered sarong, more or less —  and until not so long ago long hair on young men was frowned upon or outright illegal — along with earrings or “eccentric clothes”. The same Vientiane Post article quoted also noted that while Western music was technically illegal in nightclubs it could be permissible provided it made up no more than 20 per cent of the music content of the venue, which had to be well-lit to prevent “indecent acts”. However Vientiane’s nightclubs seem to play largely western music or at least the bland, synth-heavy electronica found across the world.

Religious freedom

Laos is Buddhist, which the government recognizes and publicly embraces. In fact, it even went so far as to argue, on more than one occasion, that Marxism and Buddhism are not so much mutually exclusive as eminently compatible. The Sangha, the Buddhist clergy, was asked as early as 1975 to study Marxism and be a kind of emissary or teacher of the doctrine especially to those in the countryside. Regimes in Southeast Asia reasserting legitimacy by linking themselves with the nation’s dominant religion is not new and serves a useful dual purpose: They are linked to something deeply esteemed by the people but also more able to control what could otherwise be a powerful dissenting force.

Christians face more persecution on the whole. Hmong Protestant Christians — as opposed to Catholic groups — possibly the more so. The Hmong were co-opted by US forces during the Secret War when the United States undertook a covert bombing of the nation to disrupt the supply chains operating through the Ho Chi Minh Trail that assisted Vietnamese forces.

It is important also to understand that though many Hmong face difficulties in the nation and are discriminated against, it is largely the Christian Hmong who face the worst persecution, similar to Central Highlands Protestants in Vietnam, who are loosely grouped under the umbrella term Degar. Both of these cases stem from involvement with and support of US forces during wartime. Lao Hmong in the United States make up a reasonable sized diaspora and the older generation not only rails against the communist government but enjoys support from US veteran’s advocate group the CPPP — which erroneously reported the murder of 72 Hmong by Vietnamese-trained Lao forces in 2011. Former leader, the late Vang Pao, went so far to plan a coup from his home in California. Many Hmong who fled to Thailand during the war years and remained in limbo were forcibly repatriated a few years ago.

According to Stuart-Fox, Hmong who have maintained their traditional animist beliefs or became party-friendly communists do not suffer the same discrimination or persecution. One woman even made it into the Politburo.

Laos’ multitudinous ethnic minorities also follow many religions and the government officially allows this and officially advocates religious freedom. However this only goes so far as preserving or allowing “good” practices. Religious ceremonies considered backward have been suppressed where possible — like slaughter of animals in rituals. “Superstition” is not kindly looked upon.

Digital freedom

Internet access is far lower than any of Laos’ neighbours with only 9 percent using it in 2011. More recent data suggests an expansion: In 2012 there were 400,000 Facebook users in Laos; up from 60,000 in 2011 in a population of over 6.5 million.

Internet use is growing in Laos but still remains confined to larger cities and towns. A report from academic Warren Mayes guesstimated there were some 50-60 internet cafes in Vientiane in 2006. He noted then online life was growing fast for young people and their interactions with the wider Lao diaspora.

Laos may yet crackdown on Facebook. Last year the communications ministry was to introduce internet regulations to allow official monitoring of the internet — though sources suggest it is already very much unofficially monitored. The director general mentioned to the Vientiane Times information on Facebook circulating regarding a crashed Lao Airlines plane was not “helpful”.

The state controls all internet service providers, and there are some reports that the government sporadically blocks web activity. “The government’s technical ability to monitor the internet is limited, though concerns remain that Laos is looking to adopt the censorship policies and technologies of its neighbors, Vietnam and China,” says Freedom House.

Much of Vietnam’s surveillance ability is already sourced from western companies such as Finn Fisher, Verint and Silver Bullet, rather than homegrown. Sources have previously told Index that Chinese private companies are more likely to assist in surveillance than the government proper; however many including the CPJ strongly suspect Chinese government involvement.

One problem for Laos is that Lao language and alphabet programs have been slow to catch up, though young people do use a phonetic, romanised script known as pasa karaoke.

Deputy Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Thansamay Kommasith, told the Vientiane Times that an “official” Lao script program was being developed, saying: “This is for unity and prosperity, using the official Lao language in those technologies for the future development of IT in Laos as well as to develop the country through them.” There are already unofficial ones being used. Vietnamese military-owned telco Viettel is to assist in the development, according to local news stories. The telco was previously linked to malware attacks within Vietnam.

Laos has plans to launch its own communications satellite. Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Hiem Phommachanh, said at a “groundbreaking ceremony” the satellite would contribute to the nation’s socio-economic development. The $250 million (£147 million)  satellite will be funded by China, though Laos will hold a 30 per cent share.

Formerly message boards like Laoupdate and Laosmiles have been popular with both the younger diaspora and native Lao. The former site shut down, some suggest thanks to government pressure. The latter censored posts, explaining earnestly to the outraged users that it was to avoid trouble.

The Electronic Freedom Frontier has reported that Laos is on the Global Online Freedom Act’s blacklist, which was passed by a US House sub-committee, meaning US companies are prohibited from selling surveillance gear to repressive regimes. The EFF called it “an important step toward protecting human rights and free expression online”. US companies have sold such technology in the past to Vietnam.

Just as Laos has laws which can govern the press or activists, it has also specified similar acts in its internet laws. Article 15 (points 6 and 7) states people must “Not to use communication to defeat national stability, peace, socio-economic or cultural development of the country”; “7. Not to use the telecommunication system to defame persons or organizations.”

Staying friendly with the neighbours

Laos, neighbour to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Burma, has long been called land-locked for its lack of access to any sea. With so many roads being built, Chinese railway funding and Laos’ own ambition to turn itself into a goods transport corridor it’s now more often called “land-linked”. But Laos has been balancing its neighbours and acting as either a buffer or corridor for a long time.

Historically beset from three sides by China, Vietnam and Thailand the nation has learned how to balance its neighbours’ needs and demands while paying expected tribute and playing them off against one another. Laos shares religion, a measure of culture and language with Thailand, as well as strong cross-border trade and cultural products like television shows and popular music. China and Vietnam have more invested both politically and economically. China’s projects and influence are seen more in the north of the nation; Vietnam in the south.

While China cooperates with the party and offers no criticism, Vietnam has more invested in the party. Both Professor Carl Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy and Stuart-Fox say that Vietnam has a greater interest in the political status quo in Laos being maintained. A change in regime could have repercussions for Hanoi. Vietnam has traditionally offered more political guidance and military assistance. The two nations also have a shared wartime history. But it has been Chinese involvement in Laos that has prompted some of the few public demonstrations, though protests over land reclamation often related to dams are also growing.

For example, the New City Development would have involved 50,000 Chinese workers to build the stadium for the 2009 SEA Games.  It was met with public opposition and even members of the largely party-member legislative National Assembly disapproved. There are also many towns, especially in the north, with large Chinese populations, Chinese markets and even signage in Chinese. Some in Laos have publicly wondered why, for example, Chinese workers must be imported for Chinese building projects when Laos has its own workers available.

China exerts political influence by virtue of not trying to. Unlike western aid, packages from China are not conditional upon human rights. China has a policy of non-intervention, though this is true for all nations it aids and invests in; there has been criticism of its similar policies in Africa. The two nations raised their bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2009. Chinese development aid from 1997 to 2007 was estimated at $280 million and the nation provided another $330 million from 1998 – 2001, according to Thayer.

The problems already present in Laos such as lack of transparency, corruption and environmental degradation have been raised as issues in regard to Chinese investment also by western aid agencies and NGOs and concerned Lao. At the same time there are worries about Chinese goods pushing out locally-made goods.

The ongoing non-investigation

Writing in the Asia Times in February, more than a year after Somphone went missing, his wife Shui Meng Ng pointed out that his disappearance has barely been mentioned in the local press and certainly no words of distemper from the foreign press have made it into local news. Questions on his whereabouts have been met with official blandness: “We have found nothing yet, but the relevant authorities are still doing their best to investigate the case.”

The European Parliament expressed grave concern, and many foreign aid groups and private NGOs have also tried to put pressure to bear on the government to explain or transparently investigate the man’s disappearance. The government, it seems, does not care. “Tough words,” from these groups she writes “have not been followed by equally tough actions.” She described questions by resident or visiting dignitaries as an “irritation” to local officials but nothing more.“Within Lao officialdom, no one wants to hear his name, no one wants to be reminded of his disappearance, and no one dares to talk openly about him.”

Given few in Laos read much aside from the official papers it is easy enough to whitewash his disappearance. Another source speaking to Index suggested a certain laissez-faire attitude even among some local, educated aid workers, characterised with: “Well, he should have known what might happen to him for speaking up so much.”

Ng makes a useful point: The nation’s steadfast drive to greater international and regional roles is, seemingly, belied by its refusal to even acknowledge what has gone wrong, or why.

Human rights and freedom of speech are not, despite what we would often like to believe, essential for a well respected global role. But for small, hitherto forgotten and least developed nations, a respect for international norms helps ease notions of “backwardness”.

This article was published on May 12, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

May 8, 2014

Ex-NSA head: Snowden likely being manipulated by Russia

Ex-NSA head: Snowden likely being manipulated by Russia

The NSA whistleblower, who fled to Moscow last year, has dismissed allegations he was working at the behest of a foreign government.

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.haaretz.com/news/world/1.589591
By Reuters | May 8, 2014 | 2:34 PM
Edward Snowden.  Photo by AFP

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the U.S. government’s data collection programs, is now likely under the control of Russian intelligence agencies, according to former NSA Director General Keith Alexander.

Alexander, who retired on March 31, made the comments in an interview with The Australian Financial Review newspaper to be published on Thursday, a transcript of which was made available to Reuters ahead of publication.

Alexander, the longest-serving Director of the NSA, also spoke in favor of backing Japanese militarization to counter-balance China and warned that a lack of norms governing cyber-conflict could trigger a war between traditional foes like North and South Korea.

Civil libertarians in the United States and Washington’s allies in Europe were shocked by the extent of U.S. surveillance revealed by Snowden, and a handful of U.S. congressmen have alleged that he was acting at the behest of a foreign government.

Snowden, who fled to Moscow last year, has dismissed the allegations. He expects his temporary asylum status in Russia to be renewed before it expires in summer, according to his lawyer.

“I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence. I just don’t know when that exactly started or how deep it runs,” Alexander said.

“Understand as well that they’re only going to let him do those things that benefit Russia, or stand to help improve Snowden’s credibility. They’re not going to do things that would hurt themselves. And they’re not going to allow him to do it.”

In the interview, Alexander described a traditional global security order that has been disrupted by rapid developments in offensive cyber technology, with the potential for unintended consequences rising as a result.

A 2012 cyber-attack on government oil company Saudi Aramco believed to have originated from Iran, he said, had been routed through servers in the United States and inadvertently almost disabled a major telecommunications company there.

An attack on South Korea’s banking system in 2013 that was believed to have originated in the North, he said, was an example where unintended consequences could accidentally have triggered a shooting war.

“I’m concerned there is a rising chance that individuals and/or nation states miscalculate because they don’t know where the red lines are. And this problem of a lack of transparency on red lines, and agreed escalation protocols, is especially acute in cyber-space,” he said.

Alexander, who was succeeded by U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, also signaled his concern over Chinese claims on the oil and gas-rich South China Sea that have increased tension in Asia, arguing that the U.S. should back Japan as a counterbalance to Beijing’s rise.

“If China continues to act aggressively, I believe we should welcome Japan’s increased militarization,” he said.

He praised Australia’s decision last year to ban China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from bidding for work on the country’s $38 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) over cyber-security concerns.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee last year described Huawei as a national security threat and urged American firms to stop doing business with the Shenzhen-based company. Huawei has denied the U.S. allegations that its equipment could be used by Beijing for espionage.

“I think what Australia did on the Huawei decision was tremendous,” he said.

April 18, 2014

Sombath Somphon the “Nelson Mandela of Laos,”

 

Kidnapping In Laos Affects Civil Society

Sombath Somphone is “one of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s most respected civil society figures,” according  to a December 2013 press statement from Secretary of State John Kerry on the one year anniversary of Sombath’s disappearance. Sombath was kidnapped from a police checkpoint in Laos and has not been heard from since. Sombath’s wife, Ng Shui-Meng, will be speaking about her husband’s disappearance and the challenges to free speech and human rights in Laos and in the rest of Southeast Asia while in Eugene on Monday, April 21.

“Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations,” Kerry writes. “Sombath’s abduction threatens to undermine those efforts.”

Ng Shui-Meng says that while some have called Sombath the “Nelson Mandela of Laos,” her husband was never involved in politics. He worked in nonviolence and consensus building, she says, and always worked with the approval of government officials. Sombath established the Participatory Development Training Center in Laos, which works to train young people and local government officials in community-based development.

She says one link to Sombath’s disappearance could be his involvement in the Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF9) that took place from Oct. 16 to 19, 2012, in Vientiane, Laos, as part of his civil society work. Civil society groups are non-governmental organizations and other groups working on issues including health, education and living standards in both developed and developing nations.

The forum sought to promote universal social protection and access to essential services, food sovereignty and sustainable land and natural resource management, sustainable energy production and use, and just work and sustainable livelihoods, according to the AEPF9 website.

Ng Shui-Meng, who is also involved in civil society work, is in the U.S. to promote awareness of Sombath’s disappearance in hopes of his safe return, she says. She says she will talk about who her husband is and the type of work he has being doing the last 30 years, what happened the day of his abduction as well as the aftermath and impact on the civil society movement. “In Laos there is not much media freedom, freedom of organization or freedom of assembly,” she says.

Ng Shui-Meng speaks at 6 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1685 W. 13th Ave.

Video footage of Sombath Somphone’s disappearance Dec. 15, 2012 in Laos.

March 31, 2014

Thailand: Separatists Targeting Teachers in South

 

Thailand: Separatists Targeting Teachers in South

March Sees More Teachers Killed; Investigate Security Force Abuses

 Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/30/thailand-separatists-targeting-teachers-south

March 30, 2014

Separatists need to stop attacking those who are educating children. Separatists in southern Thailand are committing war crimes when they kill and maim teachers and other civilians.

Brad Adams, Asia director

(Bangkok) – Separatist insurgents in Thailand’s southern border provinces should immediately end attacks on teachers and other civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. Since January 2014, insurgents have killed three ethnic Thai Buddhist teachers in the conflict-ridden region.

“Separatists need to stop attacking those who are educating children,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Separatists in southern Thailand are committing war crimes when they kill and maim teachers and other civilians.”

Under the laws of armed conflict, which are applicable in the fighting between the insurgents and Thai government forces in southern Thailand, deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes.Thai authorities should investigate and appropriately punish security forces committing abuses during operations in the south.

On March 20, insurgents shot dead Somsri Tanyakaset, 39, a teacher at Kok Muba Friendship School in Narathiwat province’s Tak Bai district, while she was on her way home. On March 14, insurgents shot 43-year old Siriporn Srichai while she was riding a motorcycle to work at Tabing Tingi Community School in Pattani province’s Mayo district. The assailants then poured gasoline on her body and set it on fire. A leaflet saying, “This attack is in revenge for the killing of innocent people,” was found nearby. On January 14, two days ahead of the National Teacher’s Day, insurgents shot Supakrit Sae Loong of Ban Nibong School in Yala province’s Kabang district while he was riding a motorcycle from school back home.

Separatist forces have killed at least 171 teachers and torched or detonated bombs at more than 300 government-run schools in 10 years of insurgency in the southern border provinces.

The Patani Independence Fighters (Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani) in the loose network of the separatist National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-Coordinate) have ambushed teachers while traveling to and from their schools, and killed them in their classrooms and lodgings. The insurgents say that they target teachers in retaliation for violence committed by Thai security forces and pro-government militias against ethnic Malay Muslims. Insurgents also attack teachers and government-run schools as a part of their campaign to eradicate symbols of the Thai state and drive the Thai Buddhist population out of what insurgents claim is Malay Muslims land.

During the decade of armed conflict, insurgents have killed more than 5,000 people, mostly civilians. Some insurgent cells have merged with underground cartels involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and human trafficking across the Thai-Malaysian border, adding to the thriving criminality in the region.

Insurgents have argued that Islamic law permits attacks on civilians in certain circumstances. However, the laws of war, which are binding on non-state armed groups as well as national armed forces, prohibit all intentional attacks on civilians, including reprisal attacks. The insurgents have also been responsible for other laws-of-war violations, including the summary execution of captured civilians and combatants, mutilation or other mistreatment of the dead, and deliberate attacks on civilian objects, such as schools.

Thai security forces have also been implicated in extrajudicial killings and other abuses against suspected insurgents or their alleged supporters in the ethnic Malay Muslim community. Instead of seriously investigating alleged abuses, the government has repeatedly extended the state of emergency in the south, which provides near-blanket immunity to military personnel and police for actions they take in the line of duty. The use of these extensive powers to shield officials who commit rights violations has generated anger and alienation in the ethnic Malay Muslim community.

The Thai government should launch credible and impartial investigations into alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights law by security personnel from regular and voluntary units in the region. Inquiries by the police and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center into rights abuses have proceeded very slowly and shown few concrete results. Officials often fail to keep the families of victims apprised of any progress in the investigation, compounding the families’ frustrations. While financial reparations were paid to some victims’ families, offering money to families of victims should not be considered a substitute for justice.

“The government needs to ensure that Thai security forces protect public safety with full respect for human rights,” Adams said. “Shielding abusive security personnel from prosecution will only boost insurgent extremism and intensify the atrocities.”

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