Wirathu is receiving treatment at a military hospital and had earlier complained about ill-treatment. Wirathu was charged under the sedition law in 2019 for making speeches criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy government. He went into hiding to avoid arrest for 18 months before surrendering to police in Yangon in November 2020.
Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu is said to have close links to the junta. (Photo: AFP)
Wirathu is a leader of now-defunct extremist Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha that had spread hate against religious minorities, especially Muslims including ethnic Rohingya. He was accused of inciting nationwide riots in 2013 and 2014 through his hate speeches.
He was barred from giving sermons for one year in March 2017 and banned from Facebook in January 2018 because of inflammatory posts. Since 2018, he has adopted a pro-military stance, targeting Suu Kyi and her civilian government.
In Thailand, extreme poverty and hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic have triggered a rise in suicides in communities who relied on tourism for a living. The pandemic has infected 1.3 million and killed over 13,000 in Thailand since March last year. Thailand’s tourism-based economy has suffered badly due to a drastic drop in tourists.
Last year about 800,000 Thais, many of whom worked in the tourism sector, lost their jobs. One of the worst-hit groups are tourist guides who fell on extremely hard times.
A Thai woman receives a shot of the Pfizer vaccine at MCC Hall in The Mall Ngamwongwan, one of several non-hospital vaccination points in Nonthaburi province, on Aug. 29. (Photo: AFP)
In the southern city of Hat Yai, on the border with Malaysia, nine registered tour guides have committed suicide and all of about 600 local guides have been out of a job since early last year. Most unemployed guides depend on handouts of food and other necessities as they have had no income for 18 months.
Out of desperation, several unemployed guides have resorted to stealing to support themselves and their families.
Filipino politicians have come under fire from a senior Catholic priest and a political observer for starting their campaign for next year’s election while people are suffering badly from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dominican priest Father De la Rosa, president of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, criticized politicians for taking advantage of their wealth to secure votes through paid advertisements that helped sell their image like commodities for public consumption. The priest urged people not to believe in surveys that condition the electorate to vote for candidates who are predicted as winnable even if they are crooks, thieves and suspected criminals.
Filipinos line up to receive government cash aid during enhanced community quarantine at a basketball court in Manila on Aug. 11. (Photo: AFP)
John Apil, a professor of politics, noted that the Philippines’ political system often allows candidates with more money to be elected, not those with good track records. He said a politician running for senator is required to spend about 6 million US dollars.
The Philippines will hold a presidential election in May next year when a tight battle is expected between the ruling PDP-Laban party of President Rodrigo Duterte and the opposition bloc.
Cambodian rapper Kea Sokun, whose lyrics and songs critical of the government has landed him behind bars. He has been released from prison after spending almost a year.
The 23-year-old was sentenced to an 18-month jail term on incitement charges. Following his release, Sokun said he was not sorry for what he did and dismissed the charges against him. One of his offending songs has garnered 4.2 million views on YouTube.
Rapper Kea Sokun says he was not guilty of incitement. (Photo: YouTube)
Under the increasing authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, more than 150 people have been charged with incitement over the past year. The government has been cracking down on dissent, arresting opposition politicians, artists, activists and netizens for incitement, spreading “fake news” and attempting to topple the regime.
Among those arrested is a 16-year-old autistic boy, Kak Sovann Chhay, the son of two opposition figures from the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party. UN experts urged authorities to release the boy, who faces up to two years in jail if convicted.