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Cambodia Deports Telephone Fraud Suspects to China

Police in Cambodia have deported to China 17 telephone fraud suspects, among hundreds of alleged scam artists who have been caught and expelled in recent years.

The 17 were flown out Wednesday from the airport in Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia, said the Interior Ministry’s immigration investigation chief, General Ouk Haiseila. Another 14 suspects are scheduled to leave this weekend from Siem Reap in the northwest, he said.

The two groups were being repatriated on commercial flights to different Chinese provinces for prosecution, he said.

The gang would target rich people and civil servants in China, contact women over social media, trick them into exchanging nude or sexy photos then extort money from them by threatening to circulate the pictures online, he said. They also used phone calls made over the internet for their activities, he said.

Phone scams come in many variations. When the authorities in Thailand this week announced the arrests of 44 people — 19 Chinese citizens and 25 Taiwanese — suspected of running a telephone scam, they said the perpetrators made calls over the internet in which they claimed to be banking officials and accused their targets of financial crimes.

The targets would then be put in touch with a fake police officer — also at the gang’s headquarters — and be told they could escape arrest by transferring the allegedly stolen money to a bank account belonging to the scammers.

Ouk Haiseila said police initially identified seven of the group detained in Cambodia as Taiwanese, but Chinese police said they were all Chinese citizens. It was not clear if the Chinese assertion was based on Beijing’s long-maintained claim that Taiwan is one of its provinces.

Cambodia last September deported 63 suspects, including 13 Taiwanese, to China over an alleged internet scam. Kenya and Malaysia have also deported Taiwanese internet scam suspects to China despite protests by Taiwanese officials.

Rights activists and Taiwanese authorities say such deportations reflect the great influence China exercises over Cambodia through aid and investment.

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ЄС починає провадження проти Польщі через суперечливу судову реформу

Європейський союз заявляє, що почне судові дії проти Польщі через суперечливу судову реформу, яка, як стверджують критики, може надати владній партії «Право і справедливість» забагато впливу на суди.

26 липня Європейська комісія заявила, що це стосується закону, підписаного напередодні президентом Польщі Анджеєм Дудою, що дозволяє міністрові юстиції, який також є генеральним прокурором, призначати голів судів загальної юрисдикції.

Інші два законопроекти судової реформи Дуда ветував. Ветовані документи передбачали право міністра юстиції звільняти всіх суддів Верховного суду і обирати їм заміну.

Єврокомісія заявила, що відкрила справу проти Польщі «за порушення законодавства ЄС». ЄС вирішив розглянути питання через те, що підписаний президентом Польщі закон передбачає різний пенсійний вік для суддів жіночої і чоловічої статі, що є порушенням антидискримінаційного законодавства ЄС.

26 липня комісія направила список рекомендацій Польщі і заявила, що відповідь має надійти протягом місяця.

У заяві зазначається: якщо Польща вирішить схвалити реформу, що дозволяє звільнення суддів Верховного суду, то ЄС розпочне процедуру, що може призвести до призупинення права голосу Польщі в Євросоюзі.

«У своїх рекомендаціях комісія просить польську владу не вживати жодних заходів для звільнення або примусу до звільнення суддів вищих суддів. Якщо такі заходи будуть схвалені, комісія готова негайно розпочати процедуру за статтею сьомою», – сказав віце-президент Європейської комісії Франс Тіммерманс.

Президент Польщі Анджей Дуда 24 липня ветував два з трьох законопроектів, які передбачають реформу судочинства. По всій країні відбувалися масові протести проти пропонованих законопроектів.

Закон різко критикували в Європейському союзі за те, що він, за словами критиків, знищує незалежність судової гілки влади і загрожує принципові верховенства права.

Прем’єр-міністр Польщі Беата Шидло відкинула критику ЄС, заявивши, що закони Польщі є її внутрішньою справою і що її уряд не підкориться зовнішньому тискові.

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Extension of Philippine Martial Law Signals Long Fight Against Muslim Rebels

An extension of martial law in the Philippine south through December indicates the government lacks a quick way out of its armed conflict against a group of ISIS-inspired Muslim rebels, but underscores how seriously it’s taking the fight.

On Saturday, the Philippine Congress voted 261-18 to put the southern island of Mindanao under martial law through the end of the year and give troops a new edge in their fight against the Maute Group in battles characterized by ambushes and executions of civilians.

“The war is still ongoing and it’s difficult for people in Manila to know what’s going on,” said Rhona Canoy, president of an international school and part of a political family in the Mindanao city Cagayan de Oro. “The president or the military, they have to make an instant decision,” she said, speaking hypothetically. “Mindanao being under martial law would make that an easier situation to deal with.”

Protracted battle against Muslim rebels

Troops have been fighting in Marawi city since May 23 to rout the rebels suspected of forming ties with Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine group known for kidnapping and beheading foreign tourists. ISIS, the Muslim terrorist group based in Iraq and Syria, has tapped an Abu Sayyaf leader to be its Southeast Asia emir, news media and academic studies say.

Gunfire in Marawi has killed 105 troops, 428 militants and 45 civilians, domestic media said Sunday.

Officials from the government of President Rodrigo Duterte said in June the Maute Group had been confined to four neighborhoods of Marawi, a city of 200,000 people before civilians began fleeing the battle scene. But that month the Armed Forces of the Philippines apologized that the war was taking so long and hinted at a longer struggle.

Fighting could endure because, per military accounts, the rebels have received help from sympathizers in fellow Muslim countries such as Indonesia. Scholars believe the Maute Group also has enough money to arm itself for longer than the government might expect.

The Maute Group, which formed in 2013 by two brothers said to dislike non-Muslims, may be getting money from trade in illegal drugs such as the methamphetamine strain “shabu,” a professor in Mindanao told Philippines-based ABS-CBN News in June. “Weak governance structures and institutions” on the island make it “easy for drug lords and even war lords,” the news report said.

How martial law helps troops fight militants

Martial law lets troops make some staffing and resource decisions without checks and balances that could set back plans. Road checkpoints and curfews give troops an idea of who’s where.

“The rebellion in Marawi continues to persist and we want to stop the spread of the evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism,” Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said on the presidential office website. The Constitution allows for martial law to handle “invasion or rebellion,” he added.

As of Sunday, 1,723 people had been rescued from villages hit by fighting. Some reports say militants have killed civilians for giving sensitive information to troops.

Martial law gives troops the option to broaden its fight to other parts of Mindanao that might pick up the Maute Group’s cause if it’s quashed.

Previous defeats in Mindanao, where 20 Muslim rebel groups are based, tend only to anger sympathizers into regrouping according to Eduardo Araral, Mindanao native and an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school.

Muslims who settled on Mindanao and along the adjacent Sulu Sea centuries ago resent the Philippine Catholic majority for what they see as control of national resources. Many in their region live in poverty, seeding armed rebellions that have left about 120,000 people dead since the 1960s.

“In the long history of warfare in Mindanao, when the leader is killed, usually the organization would splinter into different smaller groups,” Araral said. “It’s like an amoeba, they just break up. You whack it and then they just splinter into smaller groups and they form again.”

Public support for martial law

An opinion poll by the Metro Manila-based research institution Social Weather Stations found that 57 percent of Filipinos support the extension of martial law.

People in Cagayan de Oro face a major highway checkpoint on the way to the local airport and hear air force helicopters overhead, Canoy said. But for most people there, she said, “life is going on.”

Outsiders such as investors may be heartened that Congress backed up Duterte’s request for an extension of martial law, showing that checks and balances work, but may worry about whether the government can get a grip on rebels after an optimistic start in May, said Christian de Guzman, vice president and senior credit officer with Moody’s in Singapore.

He added sentiment toward Mindanao was never strong.

“From the outsider point of view, I think the bar has been so low at the outset that failures to meet (the government’s) desired objective didn’t come as a surprise, so I don’t think there’s been a big change from their outsider perspective,” de Guzman said. “It’s always been kind of negative.”

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«Укренерго» припинило електропостачання неконтрольованої території Донеччини – заява

Україна повністю припинила перетоки електричної енергії на непідконтрольні території Донецької області, заявив керівник «Укренерго» Всеволод Ковальчук.

«Територія ОРДЛО наразі не споживає електроенергію, вироблену електростанціями на контрольованій частині України. Потреби окупованих територій в енергії покриваються за рахунок Старобєшевської та Зуївської ТЕС, іншими виробниками на НКТ, а також поставками з Російської Федерації, що відбуваються по лініях, які виключені з переліку міждержавних, перетоки по них не обраховуються в загальному сальдо «Україна-Росія-Білорусь»», – написав він у Facebook.

В угрупованні «ДНР» заявили про те, що згадані відключення не вплинуть на споживачів на підконтрольній їм території Донеччини, тому що електростанції на цій території – у змозі забезпечити електроенергією населення та підприємства.

Непідконтрольні території Луганщини, за словами Ковальчука, відключені від української електроенергії ще з травня цього року.

Національна енергетична компанія «Укренерго» здійснює експлуатацію магістральних і міждержавних ліній електропередачі, а також централізовану диспетчеризацію об’єднаної енергосистеми країни. НЕК є державним підприємством, перебуває в підпорядкуванні Міністерства енергетики та вугільної промисловості.








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Taliban Attack Kills 26 Afghan Soldiers in South

Afghan officials confirmed Wednesday a Taliban attack has left at least 26 soldiers dead and 13 others wounded in the southern province of Kandahar.

The overnight assault in the Khakrez district targeted an Afghan National Army, or ANA, base, an official statement quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri as saying.

He said the ensuing fighting also “killed and wounded” 80 Taliban assailants but gave no other details.

Local air force commanders told reporters airstrikes in support of ground troops forced insurgents to retreat and military helicopters then transported wounded soldiers to nearby hospitals.

The Taliban reportedly took away weapons and other military equipment with them.

A Taliban spokesman claimed it captured the army base after killing 74 Afghan soldiers and capturing six others.

It was not possible to independently verify claims made by either side.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Taliban insurgents staged an early morning attack against a key district center in the eastern Noortistan province.

Chief of the Wantwigel district, Rehmatullah Rehmat told VOA fierce fighting is raging in the area and all government security outposts were under attack.

A Taliban statement claimed its fighters have overrun major security outposts around the district, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan security forces.

The fighting is currently taking place 200 meters from the district center, it said.

The insurgent group has overrun the eastern district three times in the past 15 years but it could not hold the territory for long in the face of retaliatory attacks by Afghan forces.

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Посли ЄС схвалили розширення списку санкцій проти Росії після скандалу з Siemens

Посли країн Євросоюзу 26 липня у Брюсселі погодилися розширити санкційний список проти Росії після скандалу з газовими турбінами Siemens, завезеними всупереч контрактам до анексованого Криму, написав у Twitter брюссельський кореспондент Радіо Свобода.

«Посли ЄС погодилися додати чотирьох осіб і три компанії до санкційного списку щодо Росії після скандалу з турбінами Siemens», – написав він.

Раніше Німеччина закликала Європейський союз розширити список підсанкційних осіб у Росії через скандал із газовими турбінами німецької компанії Siemens, які Москва, всупереч контрактам, завезла з Росії до окупованого Криму, що забороняють санкції ЄС стосовно окупованого півострова.

Берлін прагне додати ще чотири юридичні і фізичні особи з Росії до переліку тих, чиї активи в ЄС заморожуються і кого не допускають до ЄС. Цей пакет обмежень, що нині містить 150 осіб і 37 компаній, наразі чинний до 15 вересня.

Раніше в уряді Німеччини вже заявляли, що обман Москви, яка, всупереч контрактам, завезла з Росії до Криму турбіни компанії Siemens призведе до подальшого погіршення відносин двох країн.


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Jakarta’s Traffic-clogged Economy Gets a Lift From Motorbike Deliveries

Three years ago, Ferly Aninditya’s stall at a Jakarta food court was losing money.

Deterred by the Indonesian capital’s paralyzing traffic, few customers were prepared to come to him.

But that was before he teamed up with Go-Jek, the ride-hailing motorbike service that delivers everything from meals and groceries to cleaners and hairdressers across Jakarta, all at the touch of a smartphone app.

Now Aninditya owns a chain of small restaurants with seven thriving branches that send Indonesian-style fish and chips by Go-Jek’s army of motorbike riders across Jakarta.

“I’ve come this far in part because of Go-Jek,” said Aninditya. “It’s not just sales, but they also helped by spreading our brand through the app.”

Go-Jek has become a crucial workaround in a city with some of the worst traffic in the world. The service’s riders can move goods and people faster around the city than cars, helping businesses increase sales dramatically as they reach more consumers.

Go-Jek, a play on the local word for motorbike taxis, ojek, was set up by Nadiem Makarim, a graduate of the Harvard School of Business and a former associate with McKinsey, who has quickly become a poster child for start-up success in Indonesia.

The company, which counts China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. and the private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC as investors, has transformed Jakarta’s economy, economists say.

Bank Indonesia, the central bank, is studying that economic impact. The bank’s chief fintech officer, Junanto Herdiawan, said data was still being collected, but the initial findings were “quite remarkable.” He added: “It could be a game-changer should society keep benefiting from Go-Jek’s services.”

Sri Hartati, the head of the Jakarta government’s Economics Bureau, said Go-Jek has had a “big” impact on consumption and trade in the city. “It has changed people’s behavior, that’s for sure.”

The Indonesia Franchise association estimates its members saw revenue improve 30 percent on average after using Go-Jek.

The Association of Hotels and Restaurants says Go-Jek has increased sales by 15-20 percent for most of its 3,000 members in Jakarta.

Companies pay a percentage of sales to Go-Jek; Aninditya says he pays 15 percent.

Eggi Banon, a 45-year-old beautician, signed up with the app this month and says she has already seen business increase.

“It turns out it’s more profitable working through an app, rather than waiting at my salon,” said Banon, who now hops on a motorbike and leaves the salon when clients order her services through Go-Jek. Other companies supply cleaners or masseurs, or dispatch a dizzying array of products – flowers, medicine, movie tickets, cameras and eyeglasses.

A Go-Jek spokeswoman declined to say whether the company itself, which is not listed, was profitable. Media reports put the value of the start-up at $2 billion when a funding round started this year.

Most of Go-Jek’s business is centered on Jakarta, but the company also has smaller operations in 24 other cities and is considering expanding to 10 more, capitalizing on transport and logistics shortfalls that have long hobbled Indonesia’s economy.

The World Bank estimates that because of traffic jams, every 1 percent growth in urbanization in Indonesia delivers only 4 percent of long-term GDP growth, compared with 13 percent in India and 10 percent in China.

The downside

Not everybody is happy about Go-Jek and the emergence of other ride-hailing services. Indonesia’s largest taxi operator, PT Blue Bird Tbk, lost three quarters of its market value over a 20-month period from the beginning of 2015, which coincided with the emergence of Go-Jek, as well as the international ride-hailing brands Uber and Grab.

Blue Bird’s shares have since recovered after announcing a partnership with Go-Jek that allows customers to order cabs through the Go-Jek app. But they remain well below 2015 peaks.

PT Tiki Jalur Nugraha Ekakurir (JNE), a logistics company, says Go-Jek has disrupted its same-city deliveries.

“It does make us feel that we have to improve our services,” said Mohammad Feriadi, the president director of JNE.

Go-Jek’s success also relies on pricing and the ubiquity of its riders, which means that many are now working longer hours to match the earnings they were making in the app’s early days when the team was smaller. Today, Go-Jek uses an estimated 250,000 riders, most of them in Jakarta.

“To get 100,000 per day is hard,” said Aming, 47, who joined Go-Jek in 2015 and only gave his first name, referring to his rupiah earnings worth about $7.50.

Go-Jek, though, says it increases job opportunities for low-skilled workers.

“It’s a fair market,” said Monica Oudang, who heads human resources at Go-Jek. “If the price is too low, then no drivers would take the order. If it’s too expensive, then customers won’t use it.”

Systemic concerns

Regulators are also examining Go-Jek and its activities.

Hartati, from Jakarta’s economic bureau, said she was concerned about safety, but was not considering issuing regulations at this stage.

Some academics have also raised concerns about the systemic risks of a company like Go-Jek becoming too ubiquitous. If businesses and consumers rely too much on it, they say, any problems for the company could have ripple effects for the entire economy.

“Go-Jek can create customer dependence,” said Telisa Falianty, a lecturer at University of Indonesia. “When customers have no other options, it could be troublesome.”

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Death Toll Rises to 17 in Mumbai Building Collapse

Seventeen people are now confirmed dead in Tuesday’s collapse of a multi-story residential building in Mumbai, India.

Search and rescue crews uncovered more bodies in the wreckage during a frantic search for survivors overnight. 

Authorities said they will launch an investigation into the tragedy after reports surfaced that the building, located in the suburb of Ghatkopar, was undergoing renovations at the time.

Also on Tuesday, at least two people were killed when a portion of a 100-year-old building collapsed in the city of Kolkata in eastern India. Many more were feared trapped.

Building collapses are common in India, especially during the monsoon season between June and September.  Contractors take advantage of lax regulations by using substandard materials or add unauthorized extra floors.  

Dozens of people were killed in 2013 in the collapse of a residential building, one of Mumbai’s worst housing disasters.