08/08/2023, 13.40
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New tensions between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea

News of the day: A Myanmar general responsible for a civilian massacre is promoted. India bans the use of Chinese parts in Indian drones. Chinese propaganda appears on a wall in London's Brick Lane. Iran plans to open a free trade zone on its border with Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is cutoff from the Internet. Russia has launched more treason investigations this year than in the previous 20 years.


Manila summoned the Chinese ambassador after the Chinese Coast Guard fired water cannons at a Philippine Coast Guard ship that was escorting a supply convoy to a military base in the South China Sea. In response, China reiterated its demand that the Philippines remove the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusty warship dating back to World War II that Manila uses as a military outpost in the disputed waters.


A general responsible for the massacre of 29 civilians last year in Ye-U, a township in Sagaing region, was promoted to the post of chief of Myanmar’s Southern Command in the Bago region. Calling themselves the Ogre column, some troops are among the most ruthless in the country’s civil war, massacring civilians and members of the resistance, as well as setting fire to hundreds of houses and raping women.


Some Chinese characters exalting the ideology of the Communist Party have appeared on a wall in London’s famous Brick Lane, a street known for its graffiti and street art. The 12, two-word red characters refer to fundamental values of socialism and the usual political slogans used under the government of President Xi Jinping. This has sparked a debate online on the boundaries between art, freedom of expression, and political propaganda. Some artists promptly added graffiti criticising the Chinese government. One of the authors who goes by the name of Yi Que said the writings "didn't have much political meaning”.


India has banned its domestic drone makers from using Chinese parts over security concerns and fear of intelligence gathering by China. In 2020 India gradually began to restrict imports of surveillance drones. Pursuing a military modernisation programme, it allocated almost US$ 20 billion for 2023-24.


Iran’s parliament has approved a plan to establish a free industrial and trade zone in Dogharoon, a region located on the border with Afghanistan, to boost trade between the two countries. Last year, more than two million tonnes of goods passed through the border, including 460,000 tonnes were Iranian exports. This is also the main route for Iranian fuel going to Afghanistan.


Russia is set on a record number of criminal cases for treason in 2023, more than in the previous 20 years combined. Through publicly available media reports, independent news website Kholod determined that some 82 inquiries were launched this year. The actual number of cases is likely larger since some investigations by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) are not made public. This is moving towards levels not seen since Stalin’s times, and is far greater than during the 40 years that followed the death of the Georgian-born dictator.


Turkmenistan will be the first country in the world without social media, after IMO, an instant-messaging software service, was effectively blocked as Internet became unprecedentedly slow. All other messaging apps and social media available in other countries had already been blocked, completely cutting off the Central Asian country from the rest of the world.

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