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Indonesian Court Orders Family of Former President Suharto to Return Embezzled Funds

Students in Karawang, Indonesia. Photo from Public Domain Images

Students in Karawang, Indonesia. Photo from Public Domain Images

Indonesia's Supreme Court has ruled that the foundation of the late President Suharto is guilty of embezzling state funds from 1976 to 1998. It ordered the family of Suharto to return 315 million US dollars to the state.

Suharto ruled Indonesia from 1967 to 1998. During his 31-year rule, he was accused of committing grave human rights violations and massive corruption. Several weeks of street riots and rallies forced Suharto to resign in 1998.

In 1976, Suharto ordered state-managed banks to set aside 2.5 percent of their profits in favor of Supersemar Foundation's scholarship program. But in 2010, the court found the foundation once chaired by Suharto guilty of misappropriating public funds. It also noted that only a tiny amount of the funds was actually distributed to students. Last month, the court issued its final ruling on the matter.

The ruling, which was made public only this month, is significant since it’s the first time that a local court has found Suharto guilty of corruption. Naturally, it got intense reactions from many Indonesians.

Kompasiana, Indonesia's leading citizen media platform, featured some commentaries about the issue. Vishnu Andang Jaya urged Suharto's family to respect the court's ruling and to immediately return the people's money. Fadli Zontor wrote that the foundation was a mysterious entity with many questionable dealings in the past. Indira Revi urged an audit of all ‘donations’ registered by state-owned enterprises, especially during the time of Suharto.

But Hatta Celebes testified that the scholarship program was real:

I am proud to have received a scholarship from this foundation and this foundation had a positive role that many in this country are now ignoring.

Masinton Pasaribu, one of the student activists who joined the anti-Suharto rallies in 1998, urged the government to quickly implement the court's decision.

Meanwhile, Suharto's youngest son, Tommy Suharto, is challenging the decision of the Supreme Court via Twitter:

No retreat in fighting for the truth. Tonight I initiated an appeal to protect the dignity of sons and daughters of the best graduates of (Supersemar Scholarship)!

Preserving Historic Thai Films

The Thai Film Archive has been uploading historic films and vintage news reports on YouTube.

One of the films is Chok Song Chun (Double Luck), which is Thailand's first feature silent film produced in 1927. Only 55 seconds of the film have remained featuring a fight scene and car chase.

Another rare film is Payut Ngaokrachang's Hed Mahassajan (The Miraculous Incident), which is the first Thai animated film released in 1955. Payut is known as the “Walt Disney of Thailand”. In the animated silent film, Payut witnessed a traffic incident in Bangkok.

PHOTO: 141 Dead in Indonesia C-130 Plane Crash

Indonesian rescuers and military personnel examine the wreckage of the crashed C-130 military airplane at the crash site in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo and caption by Yudha Lesmana, Copyright @Demotix (7/1/ 2015)

Indonesian rescuers and military personnel examine the wreckage of the crashed C-130 military airplane at the crash site in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo and caption by Yudha Lesmana, Copyright @Demotix (7/1/ 2015)

Indonesian officials have recovered 141 dead bodies after a military C-130 plane crashed in Medan, the country's third largest city. The plane crashed just two minutes after take off on June 30, 2015. Many of the fatalities were relatives of air force personnel.

Authorities are now probing the safety of other military planes. They also denied that overcapacity was the cause of the crash.

Malaysian Lawyer's Viral Post Criticizing the Proposal to Require Non-Muslims to Fast During Ramadan

Malaysian lawyer Azhar Harun criticized the suggestion of some local leaders to require non-Muslims not to eat when Muslims fast during Ramadan.

Why the need to close school canteens during Ramadhan? Why must non-Malay pupils be asked to drink behind closed doors and even in the toilet? Just because our kids are learning how to fast? Well, aren't the non-Malay kids as well?

His Facebook post received 20,000 likes and 50,000 shares as of this writing. He is overwhelmed with the response he got:

…it is heartwarming to know that there are so many decent and peace-loving people who are like-minded. At last I know I am not alone. That I am not an aberration of sorts.

Malaysia has a predominantly Muslim population.

Why the Numbers 64, 89 and 535 Are Missing From the Chinese Internet

Today is June 4, the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests of 1989.

In recent years, some numbers have gone missing on the Chinese Internet because of censorship. These numbers are 64, 89 and 535 — which stands for May 35, a popular way to refer to June 4. They are all unsearchable on mainland Chinese search engines and cannot appear in public timelines on social media.

Political cartoonist Biantailajiao highlighted such ridiculous way of erasing history on Twitter:

If possible, they would delete this particular date from the calendar.

An Online Joke Captures China's Censorship Practices

Image from Flickr user: Eric Constantineau (CC: AT-NC)

Image from Flickr user: Eric Constantineau (CC: AT-NC)


Letscorp, a site devoted to bridging information across Chinese speaking communities, reposted an online joke on Twitter that vividly captures mainland Chinese censorship practices.

Man on top [implying Chinese president Xi Jinping]: Whether a government official is performing well should be judged by ordinary people. The Propaganda Department: Add on to that, the majority of people don't know the truth. Central Communist Youth League: Don't worry, we have 10 million internet commentators to make sure that the public opinion is on the right direction. Police: Moreover, we will arrest those who don't follow the lead. Central Television Station: Catch them prostituting. Global Times: We can say that they have received money from the U.S.A. Foreign Ministry spokesperson: Our law and policy ensure freedom of speech. People's Daily: Look, this is the result of people's choice.

Photo of a Mexican Revolutionary Who Looks Like Pacquiao Goes Viral

A photo of a Mexican revolutionary who looks like Manny Pacquiao has gone viral few days before the Filipino boxing icon's fight today against Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas for three champions belts (OMB, CMB y la AMB) in the welterweight division.

In Twitter there were many tweets related to the picture:

So Pacquiao's grandfather participated in the Mexican revolution… Mexico supports Pacquiao

On Facebook, Latin Post uploaded the photo which has more than 50,000 shares and 150,000 comments.

“Besides being a boxer, Manny Pacquiao also participated in the Mexican revolution,” was the most common phrase among the comments, which also refers to the men in the picture as “Pacman” grandfather, according to the web portal Infobae.

How a Celebrity's Facebook Check-In Brought Down a Brigade in Taiwan

The snapshot of Janet Lee's Facebook check-in at the 601 Air Cavalry Brigade with Apache. She said, 'We are visiting the Apache helicopters, and the boys are crazy and screaming! This is so cool!'

The snapshot of Janet Lee's Facebook check-in at the 601 Air Cavalry Brigade with Apache. She said, ‘We are visiting the Apache helicopters, and the boys are crazy and screaming! This is so cool!’

On March 29, Taiwanese celebrity Janet Lee, along with some other people, was brought to see AH-64E Apache helicopters, the latest model of Apache attack helicopters.

These Apache helicopters were delivered to Taiwan in 2013, as part of a $6.4 billion arms deal with the U.S. signed in 2008.

After Lee posted several photos of her posing with the helicopters on Facebook, the Republic of China Army was criticized for letting unauthorized people enter the off-limits zone, where sensitive technology information is stored.

The scandal has led to the sacking of 18 military officials as of April 11. Ten of them belong to the 601 Air Cavalry Brigade.

Netizens made fun of the incident by comparing Janet Lee with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. All of them have taken on armies single-handedly, but while the guys did that in the movies, Janet Lee crushed a real life brigade with her Facebook check-in.

In China, Online Game Has To Comply With Laws in Real Life

Ministry of Culture's Online Game Content Censorship Workflow. Via China Digital Times.

Ministry of Culture's Online Game Content Censorship Workflow. Via China Digital Times.

An online game designer, Xu Youzhen revealed in his Weibo that the Chinese authorities require that childbearing in his company's video games comply with family planning. The guideline was issued by Internet Culture Office, Bureau of Culture Markets in their powerpoint explanation of “Ministry of Culture's Online Game Content Censorship Workflow” in 2010.

In addition to family planning law, the guideline also instructs game designer not to include content that violates animal protection laws and marriage laws.

China Digital Times picks up the story and translates some netizens’ reaction to the guideline.

Cleaning Up the Coastal Areas of Singapore

Volunteers during a cleanup event. Flickr photo by NUS Toddycats & ICCS (CC License)

Volunteers during a cleanup event. Flickr photo by NUS Toddycats & ICCS (CC License)

Since 1992, the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore has been organizing activities to remove garbage from the beaches and mangroves of Singapore. Every year, about 1,500 volunteers are joining the cleanup events that are able to collect 60,000 pieces of litter.

Clean up locations around Singapore

Clean up locations around Singapore

Muhammadiyah Wants Indonesia be a Key Player in the World

Indonesian President Jokowi attends the national congress of Muhammadiyah. From the official Facebook page of Persyarikatan Muhammadiyah.

Indonesian President Jokowi attends the national congress of Muhammadiyah. Photo from the official Facebook page of Persyarikatan Muhammadiyah.

Muhammadiyah, one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations, is officially holding its 47th congress in Makassar, South Sulawesi, this week. President Joko Widodo and several ministers, as well as ambassadors from neighbouring countries, attended the opening ceremony at Karebosi field on Monday, August 3.

Indonesia is the world's largest nation with a Muslim-dominated population. In recent years, the government has actively promoted the idea of a modern and moderate Islam amid the rise of extremist religious movements in the region and other parts of the world.

Muhammadiyah is an influential Islamic organization in Indonesia which claims to have a membership of 55 million aside from owning thousands of schools, clinics, and hospitals across the country. It has partnered with the government in endorsing Indonesia as the voice of moderate Islam.

No fewer than 6,000 people are participating in this year's congress, in addition to another 300,000 cheerleaders who aren't formally registered as participants, but will nonetheless enliven the event.

In addition, the chairmen of Muhammadiyah's special branches—present in 16 countries—will also be attending, along with several sister organizations who chose the name Muhammadiyah. While these sibling organizations don't have the same structural organizational relationship Muhammadiyah has in Indonesia, they do develop the same religious ideas, the same strategy of struggle, and even the same logo. The branches include representation in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Mauritius. Guests of the Community of Sant’Egidio, the organization's Catholic community (based on Rome) also attended.

The event is held concurrently with the congress of First Century of Aisyiyah—a women's organization of Muhammadiyah—and will take place over five days.

With a large population and abundant resources, Muhammadiyah has pledged to encourage Indonesia to emerge as a key player in the world. That promise was made by Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah.

The theme of the congress is the “propagation of enlightenment towards Indonesia progression”. Muhammadiyah wants to establish Indonesia as a country that is also founded by Muhammadiyah, which bound together communities even before the country was born.

Prof Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah.  Photo from the group's official Fcebook page

Prof Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah. Photo from the group's official Facebook page

Participants of Muhammadiyah’s Counseling Meeting

The congress ends today, August 7, with a closing ceremony attended by Indonesian vice president HE Jusuf Kalla.

 

Court Fines the Taiwan Immigration Authority for the Denied Entry of a Foreign Visitor Ahead Anti-nuclear Protest

Daniel Andres Helmdach, working as a volunteer on conservation projects in 2011.

Daniel Andres Helmdach, working as a volunteer on conservation projects in 2011. Photo is from Rui-Guang Huang's facebook.

Two years ago in March 2013, Daniel Andres Helmdach was detained and deported from Taiwan because the immigration suspected that he visited the country to join the anti-nuclear protest. The German youth had done nothing illegal in Taiwan before, he merely worked as a volunteer on conversation projects back in 2011. He sued the immigration office for the unreasonable treatment and finally the Taipei District Court ruled on July 30, 2015 that the immigration authority should pay a compensation of NT$125000 (US$4200) to Daniel for his plane ticket and as consolation payment.

Daniel's case has been considered a typical example of the Taiwanese authorities abusive use of power in clamping down dissent activities. Two Japanese people from Fukushima were warned by the country's immigration office immediately after they gave a speech at an anti-nuclear demonstration on April 30, 2011 in Taiwan.

After FIFA Ban on Indonesia, New Book Tells Story of Former Football Coach

Wina tells story on the creative process of writing a book about football coach

Wina shares the creative process of writing a book about football coach Petar Segrt. Photo by author

After the ban imposed by FIFA on Indonesia following the decision of the government to suspend the Indonesian football federation, a bit of good news greeted fans last week when a book was launched about the story of Petar Segrt, a Croatian who became head coach of the Makassar Football Association (PSM) from 2011-2013. The book is authored by Andi Widya Syadzwina, former media officer of PSM.

Segrt came to Indonesia when the country’s football clubs were split into factions. He became a popular coach during his stint with PSM.

In a video interview before he left Indonesia, Segrt hinted at some of the problems affecting Indonesian football:

You must be serious what you want. I think that in the beginning everybody was speaking to me: ‘We will build academy, we will be make this, will make this…’ But, in the end, you know what I mean, we have only problems.

Infographic Shows Thailand Junta Arrested Hundreds in the Past Year for Criticizing the Government

junta prosecutionThe free speech advocate iLaw uploaded an infographic which showed that 166 people have been arrested in the past year in Thailand for expressing an opinion against the military-backed government.

The army grabbed power in May 2014 but it vowed to restore civilian rule and conduct free elections next year. Protests and public gathering of five or more people are currently prohibited in Thailand.

The infographic also revealed that there are 68 political prisoners in the country.

Meanwhile, another infographic by iLaw showed that lese majeste (anti-royal insult law) cases have risen in the past year. Some scholars are petitioning the review of the law which they described as harsh and repressive.

lese majeste cases

These Maps Show Where Cambodian Journalists Have Been Killed and Harassed

harassment_of_media_cambodiaThe Cambodian Center for Human Rights has launched a portal documenting the human rights violations experienced by Cambodian journalists. Cambodia's constitution guarantees freedom of speech but journalists are still harassed and killed, especially those who report about the abuses committed by local officials and business interests with ties to powerful leaders.

journalists_killed_in_cambodia

Southeast Asia Migration Routes and Statistics

southeast asia migrant crossingsThe International Organization for Migration has released a map showing the routes taken by boat refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar when they sought shelter in several Southeast Asian countries.

As of May 19, 2015, the IOM estimated that 4,000 refugees are still stranded in the sea while 3,200 have already landed in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Malaysia and Indonesia have initially rejected the refugees but they are now ready to rescue those who have been victimized by traffickers.

Mapping Cambodia's Land Concessions

Land contracts awarded to foreign companies in Cambodia. Green represents Vietnamese companies, Red areas are Chinese-owned, and Yellow for Malaysian firms. Image from Licadho.

Land contracts awarded to foreign companies in Cambodia. Green represents Vietnamese companies, Red areas are Chinese-owned, and Yellow for Malaysian firms. Image from Licadho.

Licadho, a Cambodian human rights group, has released its dataset of land concessions approved by the government in the past years. The group is now urging the government to release all records related to the land contracts it awarded to domestic and foreign companies. According to activists, many of these concessions were given at the expense of small farmers who were subsequently evicted from their villages.

Mapping Vietnam's Socio-Economic Indicators

vietnam_world_bankThe World Bank has launched mapVIETNAM, an interactive map that shows various socio-economic indicators in Vietnam such as poverty rates, employment, and electricity connectivity. The photo above shows the number of households living on $2 dollars a day. Using the map, we can see that poverty rates are high in the northern and central parts of the country.

Open Letter Asks UN Human Rights Council to Probe Abuses in Vietnam

An open letter signed by 27 groups and 163 individuals is asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to probe the human rights abuses committed by the Vietnamese government. The signatories are also demanding the removal of Vietnam's membership in the UN human rights body.

We urge member states to vote against Vietnam based on its continuing rampant human rights violations. It is time for the Vietnamese government to learn that it can no longer escape accountability.

Some of the violations allegedly perpetrated by the government include the persecution of bloggers, censorship, religious oppression, wrongful convictions, abuse of political prisoners, and harassment of activists.

Worst Drought In A Decade Hits Taiwan

8 municipalities in Taiwan started second stage water restrictions (orange) since Feb 26. CC BY-NC 2.0.

8 municipalities in Taiwan started second stage water restrictions (area in orange).

As a subtropical/tropical island, Taiwan usually covers with wetness and green. However, last year, there were only two typhoons, the island is now facing the worst drought in a decade.

Independent reporter Chu Shu Chuan reported that the storage of 12 major reservoirs is reduced to less than 50%, according to the Waer Resources Agency on its February 8 press release. 8 municipalities in Taiwan have started second stage water restrictions since Feb 26.

Chu's follow-up report highlighted that the storage of one of the major reservoir, the Shinmen Reservoir has dropped to 27% and the water supply of its major industrial users will be reduced by 7.5% from March 13.

If the drought cannot be eased when rains come in spring, the industrial parks in Taiwan may face the shortage of water that cannot be simply solved by adjusting the manufacturing schedules.

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