|Asia News Digest
Philippines in Turmoil; State of Emergency Called
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called a State of Emergency Feb. 24 in the Philippines as reports circulated of troop movements around the city of Manila and the Presidential Palace. Tension have been building around the weekend, which is the 20th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos's overthrow (EDSA I).
Reports of a military coup have circulated in the Philippines media for months as dissatisfaction with the economy, President Gloria Arroyo and her election, man-made and natural disasters have risen. The weekend started with a boast by Army head Lt. Gen. Esperon that a coup by 14 officers had been discovered and foiled. But soon afterwards, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, head of the elite Scout Rangers, was arrested and other officers sought.
All troops and police and army units were put on full alert and deployed to strategic locations especially around Manila. Many notable anti-Arroyo figures such as ex-President Cory Aquino vowed to go ahead with protests.
Threat of Coup in Thailand Escalates
The threat of a bloody riot in Bangkok, aimed at facilitating a monarchist/military coup, dramatically escalated Feb. 20, as the front man for the 1992 coup against General Suchinda, Chamlong Srimuang, called for his "Dharma Army" to join in the planned mass demonstration against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra scheduled for Feb. 26. Chamlong, a former general who served as Secretary General under the premiership of Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda (who is now head of the Privy Council, serving the King), was the public figure who rallied mass riots in 1992, fronting for U.S. government and AFL-CIO operations from Washington, much as Cardinal Jaime Sin did in Manila in the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. In 1992, Chamlong led his followers into a slaughter by charging police barricades. The "blood on the streets" forced Suchinda's resignation, and the takeover by IMF-friendly interests. Chamlong, who helped found Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party, has now turned against him, and stated that if there is violence this weekend, "the government will have to take responsibility."
Chamlong heads the Santi Asoke Buddhist cult, which is in conflict with the Sangha (the central board of Buddhists) of Thailand, but has a significant following.
Despite Thaksin's continued broad popularity outside Bangkok, and the relative stability of the economy, the potential for an explosion is high, due to anger in the population over the Prime Minister's planned free-trade deal with the U.S., highly unpopular privatization plans for the state electricity company, the continuing bloody crisis in the Islamic south of the country, and Thaksin's $2 billion sale of his telecom company to the Singapore government.
Two experts on Thailand, one Thai and one American, told EIR that U.S. support for this scenario, although not public, is certain, and that the target is Chinaa view with which Lyndon LaRouche concurs. Thaksin, while promoting numerous globalization policies, has also maintained close ties with China and Myanmar, to the anger of the neo-conservatives.
Iran and India Put Their Heads Together
An Iranian delegation, led by Vice Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari, is slated to visit India soon, the Iran Daily reported Feb. 22. The objective of the visit is to repair relations and to seek a way to sell gas to India in case UN sanctions are imposed. Reports indicate Iran is now willing to pay for the gas pipeline within the country and into Pakistan, while India will have to purchase the gas at a border terminal.
On Feb. 20, the Managing Director of Ports and Shipping Organization of Iran, Ali Taheri, told the Tehran Times that the Indians have promised to participate actively in the $150 million deal for the construction of two container piers at Iran's Chabahar Port in southeast Iran bordering Pakistan. India, Iran, and Afghanistan had earlier agreed on a deal whereby India will build a 200-kilometer road connecting Chabahar Port to Afghanistan, connecting the port in essence to Kabul.
French President Says India Should Be a Full NPT Member
French President Jacques Chirac, on a two-day (Feb. 19-20) visit to India, suggested in his talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that France favors India joining the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) regime as a nuclear weapon state and fulfill all NPT obligations. Chirac added that, in the interest of the global community, India, as a responsible nuclear power, must bear some responsibility, adding, the time has arrived to shed old mindsets. India, like Pakistan, Israel, and Libya, has not signed the NPT, although it is a founder-member of the IAEA.
Earlier, India and France signed a declaration promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy and an agreement on defense cooperation between the two countries. However, no nuclear reactor deal with India would mean anything concrete unless France arranges a supply of enriched uranium to India. The control of enriched uranium supply worldwide is in the hands of the 40-member nations who belong to the Nuclear Supplier's Group (NSG), and the NSG, in accordance with the NPT regulations, allows supply of enriched uranium to only those countries who have signed the NPT.
Trouble Along Afghanistan-Iran Border
A riot instigated by troublemakers in the Shia-dominated western Afghan city of Herat against the recent Shi'ite celebrations of Muhurram, indicates destabilization along the Afghan-Iran border is in progress.
The western Afghan province of Herat, inhabited largely by Shi'ite Mongols, has always been very close to Iran. Under U.S. pressure, President Hamid Karzai had removed the all-powerful Herat Governor, Ismail Khan, and had given him a Cabinet position in 2004. The offering of a ministerial berth was widely acclaimed as an excuse to remove, under U.S. goading, Ismail Khan, a close ally of Iran, from the sensitive border areas. He was replaced by a governor who is close to Kabul, and, in essence, close to the United States. Subsequent reports indicated that the U.S. Air Force was setting up an airstrip within miles of Iranian borders in the province of Herat.
It is not clear as of yet who triggered the Muhurram incident at the Herat City, but it is said that Ismail Khan, backed by Iran as always, is making a move to get back his seat of power at a time when Iran is threatened with foreign invasion. The Iran-Afghan trade, which passes through Herat City, has been a major source of Ismail Khan's income and the source of his power.
A New Flap Around U.S.-India Deal
On the eve of his visit to India (March 1-3), it is evident that President Bush has shifted position again on a U.S.-India nuclear deal, by demoting India from the ranks of "leading countries with advanced nuclear technology"the phrase used in the Bush-Manmohan Singh July 18, 2005 India-U.S. agreementto those who merely have a "developing nuclear energy program." This came out in President Bush's speech at the Asia Society in Washington on Feb. 22.
The significance of this demotion, Indian negotiators point out, is that only those countries that have "advanced civilian nuclear energy programs" will have the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel under Bush's proposed "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership." On the other hand, those countries that are "developing nuclear energy programs" will have to hand over spent fuel to Britain, France, Japan, or Russiathe countries identified as ones with advanced nuclear energy programs.
India's former DAE (Department of Atomic Energy) chairman, M.R. Srinivasan, called it a major breach of the basis of the July 18 agreement, and he said he is surprised that "even though India set up its first reprocessing plant in Trombay in 1965, Bush has relegated us to the status of a recipient country."
Explosion at U.S. Base in Jolo Could Spark Further Violence
A bomb exploded near the U.S. military base set up in Jolo in the southern Philippines, killing one Filipino; no American Marines have been killed, yet. Such an event was to be expected. The insane deployment of 250 marines for "exercises" in the small island of Jolo in the Mindanao Sea off southern Philippines has set the stage for an attack on U.S. soldiers, which could then spark a U.S. military response, and all hell will break loose in the Philippines. Even Filipino military officers told EIR this deployment was lunacy, since Jolo is largely controlled by the terrorist gang Abu Sayyaf, and the population of Jolo remembers still today the bloody battles on the island between Moro warriors and U.S. troops during the Philippines' revolt against the U.S. colonial takeover in the early 20th Century.
The bomb on Feb. 19 in a karaoke bar next to the U.S. base killed a Filipino driver for the U.S. troops. The bomber was not caught. A few days earlier, the head of Jolo's police intelligence unit was murdered in the same vicinity, with the killer easily slipping into the village population and escaping.
U.S. Marines Redeploy for Mudslide Rescue
Over 3,000 U.S. Marines who were in Mindanao for military exercises with the Philippines Army have redeployed for rescue operations at the scene of the mudslide. With thousands feared dead under as much as 100 feet of mud in the town of Guinsaugon on the island of Leyte (the island on which MacArthur's forces landed in the reconquest of the Philippines in World War II), U.S. forces have joined in the gruesome task of digging out the bodies. Two U.S. warships and 17 helicopters have also joined the effort, which will certainly serve a far better service than the legally questionable exercises they were there to conduct, and will win far more support from the Filipino people.