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Friday Asia Update: The Top Five Stories for the Week of November 8, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
November 8, 2013

Police stand guard in front of the Shanxi Provincial Communist Party office building after explosions in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province on November 6, 2013 (cnsphoto/Courtesy Reuters). Police stand guard in front of the Shanxi Provincial Communist Party office building after explosions in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province on November 6, 2013 (cnsphoto/Courtesy Reuters).

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Thailand delays debate on amnesty bill that has sparked mass protests. The Thai senate on Friday delayed debate on a bill that would grant amnesty to almost anyone facing charges arising from Thailand’s political turmoil that took place from 2004 to 2010. Opponents of the bill claim that it is an attempt to bring back former premier Thaksin Shinawatra from self-exile without serving jail time. (His sister, Yingluck Sinawatra, is currently serving as prime minister.) Thousands have taken to the streets in protest of the bill, some wearing yellow shirts to signify their opposition to the former premier, and others wearing red shirts as a call for justice for their comrades who were killed in a crackdown of 2010 political protests.

2. Blasts in Taiyuan, China, kill one and injure eight. Several home-made bombs went off near government buildings in the northern city of Taiyuan early Wednesday morning. According to the Global Times, police detained a 41-year-old ex-convict who wanted to “take revenge on society” and confessed to the details of the crime. The incident comes a week after a car crash and explosion killed five and injured forty in Tiananmen Square. At the same time, the Chinese government condemned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “China’s Desperate ‘Terrorists’,” because it insinuated that human rights abuses in Xinjiang province caused the recent violence.

3. Typhoon Haiyan batters the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, hit the central Philippines on Friday and is expected to hit Vietnam over the weekend. The Philippines News Agency cited unconfirmed reports that roughly twenty people drowned after the storm surge, and close to 720,000 were evacuated from the typhoon’s path. Thanks to evacuations and preparations that included emergency housing for those displaced, as well as less violent winds than previously forecast, the impact of the typhoon was not as severe as expected.

4. China’s Third Plenum starts on Saturday to much fanfare. The third plenary session of the Eighteenth Party Congress begins tomorrow, November 9, and will last until November 12; the meeting will lay out President Xi Jinping’s economic plan for the next decade. Anticipation over the meeting and its outcome has reached a fever pitch, with analysts predicting a wide range of reforms to be announced. As important as they are, though, CFR’s Elizabeth Economy argues that China needs to foster the appropriate policy environment for these reforms to flourish; it will be a few years, not a few days, before we know the real impact of this weekend’s meetings.

5. Indonesia will not take in rescued asylum seekers. Indonesian coordinating minister for security and political affairs, Djoko Suyanto, said that his government will not accept Australia’s call to take in a boat with over fifty asylum seekers. The two countries have engaged in what some have called a “mid-ocean standoff” since the boat made a distress call on Thursday. Some Australians have complained that their government has not released enough information about the event and left citizens in the dark as to what was taking place.

Bonus: Jimmy Kimmel’s China “joke” reaches the White House. A petition condemning a tasteless segment by Jimmy Kimmel—host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”—has reached the White House and will require a response after it received 100,000 signatures within a thirty-day period. On October 16, in response to a question about how to resolve the United States’ trade imbalance with China, a child concluded his answer “Kill everyone in China”; Kimmel proceeds to let the kids debate the merits of doing so. Kimmel has been compared to Hitler for airing the segment, and protesters have picketed outside ABC’s studios.

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