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The Daily Brief for Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Myanmar’s newest insurgency: An Asia Times investigation into Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh shows the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army relies on religion and coercion to recruit its sometimes reluctant members, Carlos Sardiña Galache writes. Little is known about ARSA and its overall strategy. According to the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution outfit, the group’s leadership is formed in a committee in Saudi Arabia. Its on-the-ground leader, Attah Ullah, is a Rohingya male born in Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia. In the group’s frequent public statements, ARSA insists that it is carrying out an ethno-nationalist struggle for Rohingya rights; the group’s unexplained sudden name change from Harakah Al-Yakin to ARSA, however, points to a desire to distance itself from religious connotations, at least in the international eye.
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Iraqi Kurdistan’s ‘Mandela’: Emotions are running high as the region’s veteran leader Masoud Barzani ends his presidential term on November 1, Sami Moubayed writes. Millions of Kurds have known no other leader in their lives and see him as a founding figure and symbol of their cause. He is to them what Nelson Mandela was to the people of South Africa, or Charles de Gaulle to the French. Unlike a new generation of Kurdish politicians who dabble in English and appear at public functions wearing neatly pressed Western suits, the 71-year old about-to-be-former president still dresses like one of his people, always in his warrior outfit — baggy camouflage pants and a checkered kufiyya wrapped around his head. Although fluent in Arabic and well versed in English, he insists on speaking nothing but Kurdish, and in an announcement to Parliament on Sunday, declared that his decision to step down was non-negotiable, coming after a historic referendum aimed at giving the Kurds their full independence from Iraq backfired in September.
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Thailand’s separatist movement: Spain may be halfway around the world, but that hasn’t stopped ethnic Malay political activists in the Southeast Asian nation’s Muslim-majority southernmost region from tuning in to developments in Catalonia, where a vote for independence has been met with a swift and firm counter-response from Madrid, Don Pathan writes. Political activists here have observed the political crisis in Spain with curiosity, wondering how the Catalan population developed their political platform, strengthened their movement’s grassroots legitimacy and ultimately through democratic means challenged the Spanish government’s notion of undivided national sovereignty. Such a platform is highly desirable for many Thai activists, as it would allow them a better understanding of how to not only gauge local resident sentiment, but also how to turn their grievances against centralized state power into a proper and powerful political agenda.
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Hong Kong’s future: The virtual coronation of hardline Chinese President Xi Jinping last week in the Great Hall of the People cast a long, dark shadow over the special freedoms and autonomy the city has enjoyed in the 20 years since its handover from British to Chinese rule, Kent Ewing writes. It’s no coincidence that Xi’s extraordinary ascension over the last five years has paralleled Hong Kong’s steady decline as a special administrative region of China operating under the “one country, two systems” principle agreed to prior to the handover. While Hong Kong today remains, by far, the freest and most vibrant and efficient city in China, during Xi’s presidency it has repeatedly seen its autonomy violated, its individual freedoms eroded and its independent judiciary compromised. Now that Xi’s near-absolute grip on power appears guaranteed for many years to come, the future looks bleak for Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million people, many of whom, despite their Chinese ethnicity, refuse to be labeled as Chinese.
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India refugee expulsion: A circular has been issued by the government directing states to identify and begin the process of deporting the Rohingya, Inder Singh Bisht writes. Having been driven out by Myanmar’s military, a little over 60,000 Rohingya refugees have found their way to India over the years. Now, faced with moves to send them back from where they came, they are living precariously in makeshift hovels, uncertain of what the future holds for them. Media reports of mass graves of Hindus in Rakhine state, allegedly killed by Rohingya Muslims, have heightened their insecurity. Such unverified news, the migrants say, creates a sense of suspicion and hostility in the minds of the locals. “Ever since the Indian government announced that it would send us back to Myanmar we are scared. The reason given, that we could be a security threat, is alarming,” said refugee Mohammad Zohar.
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Afghanistan infrastructure announcement: Addressing a gathering last week at the Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared that his country would not join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, a huge collection of works entailing a total investment of more than US$62 billion, Roohul Amin writes. Ghani said Afghanistan would not allow Pakistan access to Central Asia until Kabul was given transit access to India for trade via Pakistan’s Wagah border route. The problem for Afghanistan is not only its fight against epidemic terrorism, but also its own landlocked position, which creates trade barriers. Initially, Ghani was Pakistan’s hope in Kabul. He seemed more reliable in the eyes of Islamabad than Hamid Karzai, his predecessor, whom the Pakistanis saw as unpredictable and temperamental.
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Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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China Digest for Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Nation’s public mutual funds reach US$1.68 trillion

The Asset Management Association of China has updated the scale of the surging fund market in China, China Securities Journal reported.

China COSCO to raise US$1.94 bln from offering

China COSCO, the largest integrated shipping company in China and the second largest in the world, is considering a private share placement to raise 12.9 billion yuan (US$1.94 billion) from 10 specific firms, China Securities Journal reported.

Domestic airlines to open 95 new flight routes

China’s domestic civil airlines will open 95 new international routes along Belt and Road countries in the new season, the China Securities Journal reported on Monday. The new routes will be mainly concentrated in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and South Pacific countries.

Former central bank chief economist to join Tsinghua university

Ma Jun, Former chief economist of China’s central bank, told Caixin that he has now become the head of Tsinghua University’s Finance and Development Research Center.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.