October 24, 2022
Tidbits from last month in Asia: Vietnam becomes part of the UN Human Rights Council, while China holds its 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.


Chinese 20th Party Congress, what perspectives?

The National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is the most important official event in China’s political life. It takes place every 5 years at the end of the year. This October saw the 20th edition of the congress and ranged from the 16th to the 22nd. The National Congress is a venue where top figures of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pronounce discourses about the past five years and the five to come. It serves to publicly assert China’s goals and guidelines. Hence, China can expect other countries to carefully pay attention to what is said and use a diplomatic evasive lexicon to keep ambiguity. 

Xi Jinping opened the event with a 2-hours speech which according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) was more assertive than before. They also report that: “While Xi still voiced confidence that China’s power and prospects are on the rise, he also doled out stark warnings about the growing threats and challenges that China faces”. The current global environment of distrust towards China can be understood from Xi’s assertiveness.

This edition was important for the party leader who consolidated its grasp over power. Xi officialized his 3rd term as General Secretary of the party which comes in opposition to his predecessors. In fact, Xi who accessed this position in 2012 becomes now the Chinese leader who stayed the most in power after the founder of the Party Mao Zedong - who ruled from 1949 to 1976. Also, a new Politburo Standing Committee - the highest-level committee - composed of 7 members including Xi has been unveiled on the 23rd of October. New members are known for being loyal to Xi. Therefore, we can expect Chinese politics in the next years to be even more focused on the person of Xi Jinping.


Myanmar sentences Suu Kyi’s Australian adviser.

On 29 September, the Myanmar junta sentenced Sean Turnell, Aung San Suu Kyi’s economic adviser, to three years for violating an Official Secrets Act and visa violations. 

Since the early 2000s, Turnell has worked on economic and banking issues in Myanmar. He has assisted Aung San Suu Kyi as a special economic adviser and has been one of Myanmar’s greatest supporters for over 20 years.

Turnell was first arrested in Myanmar on 6 February last year, a few days after the military coup ousting the elected government. He was detained for holding confidential documents. However, after Turnell denied the charge, he has remained in prison for 20 months since February 2021 without the meet with his lawyer or representatives of the Australian embassy.

The Australian government has constantly disputed Turnell's charges and demanded his immediate release. With their best effort, Australia's chargé d'affaires and consular representatives in Myanmar were however denied access to the closed court. Yet, until Turnell has returned to his family in Australia, they reported continuing to advocate for him.

Though Myanmar’s civilian ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi had already been sentenced to 20 years in prison over separate cases, she also received an extra three years for violating a secrets law. Moreover, she recently received the latest corruption sentencing of a further three years, bringing her total sentence to 26 years.


Thailand faces a mass murder in a Kindergarden.

The attack on a kindergarten in Utthai Sawan, in the country of Thailand's North-East, took place on October 6th. Around 50 people were armed by a former police officer who had been discharged for drug use 4 months earlier. There were about 37 fatalities, including 23 out of the 24 children present at the daycare at the time of the attack. Due to their injuries, others were taken to the closest district hospital. The mass killing didn’t stop at the kindergarten as the attacker killed and injured many more on his way in and out of the daycare.

After the perpetrator's home was surrounded by police, it was discovered that the man had killed his own family and then committed suicide. The killer was identified as 34 years old Panya Kamrad, and was described by the headteacher, Nanticha Panchum, as always polite and chatty.

Strong criticism toward the slow police response was made as the killer ramped free for 3 hours, allowing him to kill many other people during his escape. Panya Kamrad displayed numerous worrying signs prior to his massacre that should have warranted police attention and intervention, such as the abuse against his girlfriend, and his admiration of the 2020 massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Only one day later, in the southern province of Kuan Phang, another man was apprehended in front of a school in the village of Moo. The man claimed he was planning on abducting his son after a heated argument with his wife on the same morning. However, Police found that he was in possession of drugs, one pistol, and a rifle with multiple ammunition. They described the would-be attacker as a copycat of the mass killing in Utthai Sawan, which happened only one day prior.


Vietnam’s Controversial Admission to the UN Human Rights Council

On October 11, 2022, the Southeast Asian nation was elected as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose term will begin on January 1, 2023. Out of 189 votes, Vietnam received 145, making it the third most elected Asian nation, only behind Bangladesh (160) and Maldives (154). Along with Vietnam, other countries set to form the next Human Rights Council are Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Romania, and South Africa.

Vietnam’s candidacy has attracted considerable backlash from human rights groups, due to Hanoi’s blatant violation of basic human rights, ranging from the imprisonment of journalists, activists and their family members, to manipulating the internet with its state-controlled censorship. Furthermore, the ASEAN member has previously denied the UN Special Rapporteurs’ requests to visit the country. 

The election of Vietnam as one of the next Human Rights Council members is controversial, yet it is no surprise, considering the UN’s history of choices for the Human Rights Council. Its current council consists of 47 countries, among which are Qatar, Cuba, Venezuela, and prior to its suspension earlier this April, Russia. 

Article by the editorial staff of the lunar times

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