Contrast in style as Duterte meets Myanmar's Suu Kyi

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 12:03 PM
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 12:01 PM


            Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, shakes hands with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Monday, March 20, 2017. Duterte arrived in Naypyitaw on Sunday at the invitation of Myanmar's President Htin Kyaw for an official visit to the Southeast Asian country. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

Regional politics makes for strange bedfellows, and at first glance, it is hard to imagine more of an odd couple than tempestuous Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his cerebral de facto Myanmar counterpart, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who met Monday in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.

After his arrival in Myanmar on Sunday, Duterte rejected European criticism of his deadly war on drugs with his usual profanity, insisting that "more people will die."

"I said I will not stop," he declared. "I will continue until the last drug lord in the Philippines is killed and the pushers out of the streets."

Suu Kyi has just as little time for critics, but her crisp Oxford-accented speech is more like a dagger to her guest's blunderbuss. The Philippines' hard man thrives on press coverage, while Myanmar's leader barely conceals her contempt for the media. She is the ice to Duterte's fire.

The main purpose of Duterte's visit to Myanmar is to complete visits to nine fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, which the Philippines is helming this year.

While their meeting is said to have included the usual pro forma talk about trade and investment, it had a tangible result when Duterte promised $300,000 in humanitarian aid for Myanmar's Rakhine state, where communal conflict has displaced more than 100,000 people, mostly Muslims, from their homes.

Here is a look at two Southeast Asian leaders who have made a name for themselves worldwide:

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AUNG SAN SUU KYI

As the daughter of Myanmar's martyred founding father, Gen. Aung San, she is the closest thing the country has to aristocracy. Many would say her manner is aristocratic — imperious and uncompromising. For those around the world who admired her as a democracy icon, her government's lack of transparency and less-than-wholehearted embrace of remedying human rights problems have been a disappointment.

BACKSTORY: Suu Kyi had spent most of her life abroad as an academic until she found herself in Myanmar — then called Burma — during its 1988 pro-democracy uprising against military rule. When she stepped up to support the unsuccessful rebellion, her fresh face, name recognition and eloquence rocketed her to the leadership of the pro-democracy movement. It cost her 15 years under house arrest, won her a Nobel Peace Prize, and brought her National League for Democracy party to power in 2015.

CHALLENGES: Suu Kyi's biggest problem is probably meeting the expectations of her supporters in Myanmar and abroad. Myanmar's economy lagged badly behind most of its neighbors after five decades of military rule. Widespread prejudice against the country's Muslim Rohingya minority has led to deadly communal violence, posing a political threat to Suu Kyi while earning international opprobrium. Other minorities are restive, seeking greater political autonomy promised since the nation became independent in 1948. All the while, provisions in the military-drafted constitution restrict Suu Kyi's ability to make any reforms affecting the army's considerable influence.

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RODRIGO DUTERTE

A foul-mouthed, crime-busting mayor credited with turning the southern Philippine city of Davao into an oasis of relative tranquility and economic vibrancy in an insurgency-pestered region, he expanded his brutal anti-drug crackdown when he rose to the presidency last June. Supporters cheer his anti-establishment and populist mindset but critics regard him as a human rights calamity.

BACKSTORY: A former government prosecutor who dealt with rogue policemen, outlaws and insurgents, he parlayed that background to build a name in politics as a tough and hands-on overseer of a city who dealt harshly with law breakers, especially drug dealers and addicts, hundreds of whom ended up dead in Davao. His expletive-ridden speeches, often spiced with sex jokes, are adored by his followers but have unnerved the predominant Catholic church and the intelligentsia and upended Philippine politics and foreign policy.

CHALLENGES: While seen as a tough and unorthodox leader who could break through an anemic bureaucracy and tradition to spark radical reforms, he faces the same deep-seated problems that have stymied his predecessors: crushing poverty that afflicts a fourth of more than 100 million Filipinos, decades-old Muslim and Marxist insurgencies, and often-turbulent politics. He is also unwinding his country's traditional ties with the United States, while jousting with China over its rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Missing man found dead inside 23-foot python: reports

Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2017 @ 12:35 PM

Police who were searching for a farmer who vanished Sunday in Indonesia found him after villagers cut open a 23-foot reticulated python who apparently swallowed the 25-year-old, according to multiple reports.

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Family members reported Akbar, who goes by one name, as is common in Indonesia, missing on Sunday after he failed to return from a trip to the family’s palm oil plantation on the island of Sulawesi, AFP reported.

Authorities found his body Monday after residents spotted the swollen python awkwardly slithering in the village of Salubiro, according to AFP. The python was near the plantation owned by Akbar’s family.

"We were immediately suspicious that the snake had swallowed Akbar because around the site we found palm fruit, his harvesting tool and a boot," Junaidi, a senior village official, told AFP.

Police spokesman Mashura told BBC Indonesia that villagers spotted the python in a ditch.

“They grew suspicious that maybe the snake had Akbar,” Mashura said. “When they cut it open, Akbar was inside the snake.”

Junaidi told AFP that the snake appeared to have swallowed Akbar whole. The death is the only known such fatality in the region, he said.

It’s unusual for snakes to attempt to eat people. Brawijaya University’s Nia Kurniawan told BBC Indonesia that pythons of a similar size typically hunt boars and other large prey. They stay away from human settlements for the most part, Kurniawan said, but “would see palm oil plantations as a good hunting ground.”

A security guard on the Indonesian island of Bali was killed in 2013 by a python, according to AFP.

Terrifying video captures sudden escalator reversal that injured 18

Published: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 @ 2:49 AM

A pair of escalator mechanics have been arrested after police say they tampered with an escalator in the Langham Place mall in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong, causing a dangerous situation.

They were questioned after an incident in which the escalator abruptly changed directions, sending passengers plummeting to the ground floor of the mall. Eighteen were injured; one man was hospitalized in serious condition for a head wound.

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In a statement obtained by CNN, Otis Elevator Co. spokesperson Ian Fok called the arrest of its employees “a surprise.” He added, “Our legal team is working with law enforcement to clarify the situation and intends to defend our mechanics.”

Video obtained by the South China Morning Post shows the moment the escalator changed directions, eliciting screams from dozens of people riding at the time.

Government pulls man’s license plate saying it’s too rude

Published: Monday, March 27, 2017 @ 7:03 AM

A Canadian man will have to come up with a new vanity license plate, or decide to go with the standard tag, after he was told his plate could be misinterpreted.

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Lorne Grabher has had his last name on his license plate for decades, but a few months ago received a letter from the Nova Scotia Registry of Motor Vehicles has canceled the plate after 25 years, CBC reported.

That’s because others “can misinterpret it as a socially unacceptable slogan.”

Grabher is now calling out Nova Scotia officials for discrimination.

The Department of Transportation told the CBC via email that they received a complaint over the plate “as misogynistic and promoting violence against woman” and that they cannot mark that it is a name vs. an action.

Nova Scotia has made about 3,100 words not acceptable for license plates including HESHE and GOD4U2.

London terror attack: What we know

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 12:55 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 23, 2017 @ 5:33 PM

Five people died and at least 40 others were injured Wednesday after a man rammed into several pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge before attacking a police officer stationed outside the British Parliament, police said.

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Mark Rowley, national head of counter-terrorism and policing for London metropolitan police and acting deputy commissioner, said the attacker and a police officer who he stabbed were among those killed.

The Islamic State group claimed through its Aamaq news agency on Thursday that the attacker, who  was identified by police as British-born man Khalid Masood, was “an Islamic State soldier,” according to multiple reports.

Police were called at 2:40 p.m. GMT to respond to reports of a “firearms incident” at the bridge, just down the street from Parliament’s home at the Palace of Westminster, London metropolitan police said.

Here’s what we know so far: