Some Friday ASEAN links:
A Christmas Day seizure of more than 80 kilograms of methamphetamine (shabu) at a storage facility in the Batangas, southwest Luzon, is the work of Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa drug cartel according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The 84-kilo haul, worth an estimated $9.5 million, was accompanied by a cache of weapons. Three suspected drug traffickers were also taken into custody by PNP agents.
“This is the first time [that] we have confirmed the Mexicans [are] already here,” Bartolome Tobias, the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force chief, told The Inquirer.
One of the arrested traffickers, Gary Tan, has alleged ties to a Filipino-American named Jorge Torres and two Mexican nationals connected to the cartel. Tobias claims that the group runs a “big-time drug syndicate” in Manila.
The PNP’s director general, Alan Purisima, said that the Sinaloa cartel was likely working in tandem with Chinese organized crime groups already active in the country.
“We can see they are just starting,” Purisima added. “We need to immediately act on this to stop them.”
Charges against the three arrested traffickers, along with Torres and his Mexican associates, have been filed.
In Thailand, student protesters were met with tear gas and rubber bullets as they attempted to block political parties from registering for the country’s February 2nd elections. The Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (STR) began their march toward the Thai-Japanese Sports Stadium early Thursday morning.
The Bangkok Post reported that many students were injured, as they “did not prepare equipment to protect themselves.”
Wind blew the gas toward a nearby school where more than 1,000 students had to be evacuated.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament and called for new elections after weeks of protests led by anti-government “Yellow Shirts.” The demonstrators said that more political reforms are necessary before polling can take place.
A different kind of protest is taking place in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Garment workers have teamed up with the political opposition, demanding that Prime Minister Hun Sen raise wages.
Cambodia’s Garment Manufacturers Association called on members to cease operations for the following week, stating that factories could be damaged if workers didn’t join the strike.
With about 500 garment factories employing more than half a million Cambodians, a strike could be damaging to the economy. Clothing is Cambodia’s number one export, but some factory employees are paid just $80 a month.
The garment industry protestors have voiced their support for Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader who has accused Hun Sen of election rigging. The Cambodian protesters, unlike their Thai counterparts, are demanding an election.