Progress in SE Asian Migrant Crisis

By Rowan Williams
  • – Malaysia and Indonesia agree to take in migrants
  • – Prince Charles to visit site of Mountbatten killing
  • – AIIB board to include non-Asian member nations


Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to provide temporary shelter for thousands of migrants stranded at sea, in what is a breakthrough in the migrant crisis in South-east Asia. An estimated 7,000 Bangladeshi and Burmese Rohingya minority migrants have been adrift in boats in the Andaman Sea, having previously been turned away by countries including Thailand and Malaysia. After an emergency meeting, Malaysia and Indonesia said on Wednesday they would provide shelter to migrants that come ashore, and will repatriate or resettle the migrants within a year. Malaysia has appealed to NGOs in helping handle Rohingya migrants fleeing persecution. Burma has also offered some help in the crisis, though the country has also been blamed in part for the crisis due to its treatment of the Rohingya minority. Over the past 10 days, over 3,000 migrants have already been rescued or have swum ashore to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Authorities in the area had previously practised a policy of resupplying food and water for migrant boats before towing them out to sea.

On Wednesday, Prince Charles is to visit the Irish village where his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered in 1979, as part of the Prince’s four-day visit to the country. Mountbatten had been aboard a yacht off the coast of Mullaghmore, County Sligo, when Mountbatten and three others were killed by a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA. A fourteen and a fifteen-year-old boy were among those killed. As well as great-uncle, Mountbatten had been a long-time personal friend to Charles. Following his handshake with Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams on Tuesday, Prince Charles’ visit to the area is being seen as an attempt to further the reconciliation process between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will include non-Asian states on its board, the Philippines’ finance chief has said. The move will allow smaller shareholders in the bank the chance to have a voice in the organisation, it has been understood. Under the planned governance mechanism of the AIIB explained by the Philippines’ Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, no country will be allowed more than one seat on the bank’s 12-man board of directors. Nine seats on the board will be for regional members and three for non-members. Purisima’s comments come as founding members of the bank begin a three-day meeting in Singapore to discuss operational policies for the bank.

The Papers

Photos of Tuesday’s handshake between Prince Charles and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams dominate most front pages today, though headlines are more mixed. The Times leads with news of a report into the “Scandal of ‘appalling’ end-of-life NHS care”. According to a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, too many patients “die alone or in pain”, with new treatments started “instead of plans being made for a comfortable end to life”. The Independent leads with news of the same report, but states in its headline that “Terminally ill patients ‘should be allowed to die at home’”. The Independent refers to the “Shocking plight” of those ending their lives in hospital, adding that campaigners have called for “the right to be discharged”. The Daily Telegraph leads with a report into the “British supergrass” who reportedly tipped off the US on former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. The ‘supergrass’ was reportedly a “Pakistani OAP living in London” – the man’s family deny the accusations. The Financial Times leads with news that HSBC will “impose charges on bank deposits in some countries”, a measure planned to preserve profit margins while interest rates remain low. The charges will be imposed in countries with negative interest rates. The Guardian leads with news that businesses in Britain have ‘banged the drum’ for “staying in EU”. The chief of the Confederation of British Industry has warned of “exit risks”, the paper writes, and called for a “stronger argument to sway voters”.

British Media on China

On industrial espionage: The indictment of six Chinese nationals in the US on charges of industrial espionage received coverage from several UK media outlets. Only one of the six has been arrested, with the other five in China. The Guardian reports that the group “were part of a nine-year plot to obtain US trade secrets for universities and companies controlled by the Chinese government”. The Daily Telegraph reports that after leaving their US jobs, several of those indicted took up jobs at Tianjin University working with the same technology. The BBC features a piece asking “How vulnerable is the US to the threat of Chinese spies?” The piece goes over previous examples of Chinese industrial espionage in the US, but notes that some feel the threat of espionage is “exaggerated”.

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