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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 22, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
August 22, 2014

Thailand's newly appointed prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha (front), reviews honor guards on the outskirts of Bangkok on August 21, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). Thailand's newly appointed prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha (front), reviews honor guards on the outskirts of Bangkok on August 21, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed prime minister. In a 191-0 vote on Thursday, Thailand’s rubber-stamp legislature named as prime minister the general who in May led the military coup of Thailand’s elected government. General Prayuth awaits an expected endorsement from King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Some have described Thailand’s new system as one of “soft dictatorship,” where the military guides the democracy. The increase of military power in Thailand is one example of recent regression from the previously growing democracies in Southeast Asia.

2. Indonesian court affirms Joko Widodo’s victory. After a month of uncertainty, Indonesia’s constitutional court rejected a legal challenge to president-elect Joko Widodo’s victory, clearing the final hurdle for him to take office in October. Claims by Prabowo Subianto, who lost the presidential election in July, that the election was marred by “massive, structured and systematic fraud” were discarded due to a lack of evidence. The court did acknowledge claims of voting irregularities in remote provinces, but firmly upheld that a revote would still not overturn the election results. As police clashed with protesters in the hours leading up to the court’s decision, concerns that the transfer of power will be anything but calm linger.

3. Sri Lanka refuses to cooperate with the United Nations war crimes investigation. Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that United Nations investigators will be denied entry into Sri Lanka to probe alleged war crimes committed during the last stages of the civil war by Sri Lankan authorities and the Tamil rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. As many as forty-thousand Tamil civilians are believed to have been killed in the final stage of the twenty-six-year civil war, many in no-fire zones agreed upon with the UN. The UN investigative team still plans to move forward, relying on Skype interviews and satellite imagery to carry out the investigation. The team is expected to present its findings to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015.

4. China levies record fine on Japanese auto parts maker under anti-monopoly law. China’s anti-monopoly regulator, the National Reform and Development Commission (NRDC), fined twelve Japanese companies 1.24 billion yuan (US$202 million), the largest fine ever levied under the 2008 anti-trust law. The NRDC’s investigation revealed that the companies had colluded to reduce competition and establish favorable pricing. Earlier in the week, German carmaker Mercedes-Benz was found guilty of manipulating the price of spare parts; the likely penalty was not publicized. China’s regulators have been increasing pressure on foreign multinationals in the past couple years, most likely to reduce competition for domestic companies.

5. Landslides in Japan kill thirty-nine. At least thirty-nine people, including two children and one first responder, have been confirmed dead after severe rains triggered over thirty landslides in Hiroshima early Wednesday morning. Fifty-one were still missing as of Thursday, as evacuation orders went out to 106,000 residents in twenty-five locations in Hiroshima. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent over 600 self-defense force personnel to the area, which experienced a record 8.5 inches of rainfall in just three hours. A similar disaster in June 1999 killed twenty people in the same area and prompted legislation to require prefectural governments take more precautions against potential landslides.

Bonus: Taiwanese restaurant under fire for naming “Nazi” pasta dish. Taiwan, home to airplane and toilet-themed restaurants, encountered a scandal after a Taipei restaurant named a dish “Long Live the Nazis.” The dish was meant to evoke German themes because it contains sausage as the primary ingredient, said the manager, and “it never occurred to us that the word Nazi would stir up such controversy.” Both the Israeli and German representatives to Taiwan expressed regret at the choice. The restaurant has apologized and changed the dish’s name to the (still head-scratching) “Long Live Purity.”

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