Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
A half-century ago, Washington worried about Southeast Asian nations falling like dominoes to an international communist movement backed by Maoist China, and became bogged down in the Vietnam War.
Noordin Top, believed to be the mastermind behind most of the suicide bombings in Indonesia — including the July 17 attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels — pronounced himself to be al Qaeda’s franchise in Southeast Asia.
Top and his allies in Jemaah Islamiah (JI) aimed to create an Islamic caliphate across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, southern Thailand and Southern Philippines. Even before the 9/11 suicide airliner attacks, they were trying to spark an Islamic revolution with ambitious plots and attacks.
Their young foot soldiers dreamed these pro-Western nations (which had banded together to form ASEAN under the U.S. military umbrella at the height of the Vietnam War in 1967) might fall like dominoes to the righteousness of an Islamic jihad. Their martyrdom to the cause would given them a blissful reward in Heaven.
The Rohingyas, a Muslim minority fleeing oppression and hardship in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar, have been called one of the most persecuted people on earth. But they have seldom hit the headlines -- until recently, that is. More than 500 Rohingyas are feared to have drowned since early December after being towed out to sea by the Thai military and abandoned in rickety boats. The army has admitted cutting them loose, but said they had food and water and denied sabotaging the engines of the boats. (Photo: Rohingyas in immigration area in soutwestern Thailand, 31 Jan 2009/Sukree Sukplang)
The Rohingyas are becoming a headache for Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia where they have washed up. Indonesian authorities this week rescued 198 Rohingya boat people off the coast of Aceh, after three weeks at sea. Buddhist Thailand and mostly Muslim Indonesia call them economic migrants looking for work at a time when countries in the region, like everywhere else, are in an economic downturn. But human rights groups such as Amnesty International are calling on governments in the region to provide assistance to the Rohingyas and let the UNHCR have access to them.