The DailyBrief

Monday September 25, 2017

Kurdish independence vote: There is no precedent in diplomatic history for the whole world closing ranks against the aspirations of a small people, let alone one that has governed itself admirably amidst regional chaos for the past generation, David P Goldman writes. However, on Thursday, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to warn of the “potentially destabilizing effects” of today’s independence referendum by Iraq’s eight million Kurds. Then on Saturday Turkey’s parliament renewed a mandate for the Turkish army to invade Syria and Iraq, and Ankara’s defense minister warned that the vote could collapse a “structure built on sensitive and fragile balances.” Supporting that view, the White House has warned that “the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat [the Islamic State] and stabilize the liberated areas.”

Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis: Neighboring Bangladesh’s Awami League government views the fleeing Muslim minority group as a national security risk due to the long history of militant activity along its border, Bertil Lintner writes. After a series of attacks carried out on August 25 by the shadowy Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and a fierce Myanmar army response that has forced a flood of over 400,000 refugees into Bangladesh, analysts are wondering whether Myanmar’s unfolding Rakhine state conflict will morph into a full-fledged insurgency akin to those long waged in the country’s northern and northeastern regions. The answer to that question will rely largely on who’s in power in Bangladesh after elections due to be held sometime next year and the level of outside support local Rohingya militants can muster from foreign allies to sustain and escalate their shadowy hit-and-run campaign.

Indonesia’s Rohingya dilemma: President Joko Widodo is under political pressure to react more forcefully to the spiraling humanitarian refugee crisis blamed on the brutal ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Muslim minority group, John McBeth writes. Stirred up by hardline Islamic groups who have always had an eye for issues that attract mainstream Muslim support, the controversy is something that can’t be ignored by a populist president looking to win a second term in 2019. But with Malaysia — already home to 60,000 Rohingya — reluctant to join in, and the rest of the Asean states sitting on their hands, Widodo has found it difficult to confront a problem that threatens to create an enclave of Palestine-like outcasts and spark wider Muslim-Buddhist tensions in the region.

North Korea sanctions: US President Donald Trump’s executive order last week authorizing the Treasury Department to target just about anyone, anywhere doing business with Pyongyang is a welcome improvement on the sieve-like sanctions against North Korea and near non-existent effort against the many countries that do business with the Kim Jong-un regime, Grant Newsham writes. The US government now has all the legal tools it needs to impose real sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom – and its aiders and abettors – and appears ready to use them. China, North Korea’s principal backer, needs to worry about forceful “secondary” sanctions in addition to penalties threatened under the Section 301 inquiry into improper Chinese trade practices recently authorized by Trump.

Serving HK’s maids: The underpaid expats have found their purchasing power shrinking due to inflation, but some businessmen have been able to make a fortune by serving their basic needs – sending money to their homeland, calling home and buying necessary goods, Ben Kwok writes. TNG Wallet, a Hong Kong-based mobile payment company, said more than 100,000 domestic workers – one in three – used the company’s services to wire money to their home countries. TNG reportedly wired some HK$400 million to the Philippines and Indonesia last month – so, it is definitely a lucrative business. Now, the first company focused on the activities of Filipino and Indonesian maids is set to be listed in Hong Kong. Mobile phone-card reseller Hong Kong Asia Holdings plans to debut on the city’s mainboard, thanks to the lucrative business it has with foreign maids working in Hong Kong.

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.