Police in Indonesia have killed seven alleged terrorists and arrested another 13 after stand-offs in central and west Java. Police are investigating possible links between the incidents and an alleged plot to attack Burma's Embassy in Jakarta
Police in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, have arrested two men for an alleged plot to bomb the embassy of Burma to protest how the country treats Muslims. A terrorism analyst says the incident shows Burma's sectarian unrest has spread outside the country
Tens of thousands of people are vulnerable to being trafficked in Southeast Asia, with governments struggling to understand and respond collectively to the problem, say experts and government officials.
A 2012 UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report on human trafficking recorded more than 10,000 cases of trafficking in persons in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific between 2007-2010, but it is unclear what the situation is today.
"Nobody has been able to convincingly demonstrate the scale of the problem, let alone come up with clear ways of how to address it," Sverre Molland, a lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra who specializes in human trafficking, told IRIN.
"After all these years, we are still debating what trafficking actually is," he said, noting efforts to combat it were suffering from donor fatigue because of a lack of tangible results.
In 2011, 16-year-old Evi* left her remote village in Indonesia's Banten Province in the hope of making more money to help her family.
"My auntie introduced me to a broker who forged my travel documents so I could work," she said. "The broker then took me to a recruitment agency in Jakarta. I just wanted to earn more money. I thought God would protect me."
The agency arranged for Evi's travel to Jordan and placement as a domestic worker in Amman, but she soon found she was being exploited by her employer.
"I was allowed to sleep for about two hours a day, sometimes less," said Evi. "I had to take care of four children and clean the house. The mother and auntie of the children often beat me with sandals or punched me for no reason, and sometimes my nose bled."
In 2012, having endured physical abuse for over a year, her employer began to withhold her pay, and Evi attempted suicide by drinking a glass of kerosene.
"My employer found me unconscious and allowed me to rest, but the next day, they made me work again," she said.
Later, Evi ran away from her employer and roamed the streets of Amman looking for work until a local shopkeeper took her to a police station. Jordanian police then took her to the Indonesian Embassy, which arranged for her repatriation to a shelter for trafficked children in Jakarta, where she is recovering.
Cooperation between the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to tackle human trafficking has resulted in high-level initiatives and memorandums of understanding (MoUs).
"The MoUs should facilitate the exchanging of information and evidence between governments," said Sean Looney, operations, monitoring and evaluation manager at SISHA, an anti-trafficking and exploitation NGO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
"But in practice this does not happen at all. In a lot of human trafficking cases there's no resolution because there's no cooperation, despite the fact that agreements are in place."
According to Looney, cooperation was also hindered by a lack of trust between Cambodia and Thailand, and Cambodia and Vietnam, due in part to past conflicts.
Martin Reeve, a UNODC regional adviser on trafficking in Bangkok, said law enforcement agencies across the region were still developing.
"Securing a human trafficking conviction is at the best of times a difficult process," he said. "Intelligence-led policing is immature or non-existent, so the offenders arrested are less likely to be those organizing the trafficking, and police-to-police cooperation remains weak."
All ASEAN governments are part of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, a non-binding, voluntary forum co-chaired by the governments of Indonesia and Australia, which began in 2002.
Febrian Ruddyard, director of international security and disarmament at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, said the Process had only recently begun to address trafficking in persons because not all countries had strong national legislation in place.
To date, all ASEAN governments have passed anti-trafficking legislation with the exception of Laos and Singapore.
Indonesia and Australia have faced challenges in encouraging members of the Bali Process to take practical action to address human trafficking, Ruddyard said.
"Many member countries are interested in the Process but attracting funding from them [for projects] is difficult, not only because the issue is still a low priority in some countries but also because the Process is non-binding," he said.
Ruddyard cited last year's creation of a regional support office in Bangkok to implement practical arrangements to combat trafficking, and a plan to use the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation in Indonesia to train law enforcers across the region to better deal with human trafficking cases, as achievements of the Process.
A local problem
Part of the problem lies at the local level.
Ahmed Sofian, national coordinator of ECPAT Indonesia, an NGO based in Jakarta working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, said there was little effort made by local law enforcement officials in Indonesia to deal with trafficking.
"There are economic benefits for those living close to the brothels that children are trafficked to," said Sofian. "Locals will gravitate to the area to sell food or provide security, and local police officers - often on low salaries - will ask for protection money from the owners of the brothels."
"This is why it's so difficult to eliminate trafficking," Sofian went on. "There's a local economy that grows up around it, and if the local government attempts to close these brothels, the police will become angry."
Jonhar Johan, an official at the Indonesian Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, agreed, saying local implementation was a problem.
Of Indonesia's 497 districts, only 88 have anti-trafficking task forces.
"We need the commitment of district governments and police, but generally it is lacking," he said. "The districts need to … develop their own task forces."
Johan also said that even when trafficking victims were identified and returned home by the authorities, they remained vulnerable to being re-trafficked.
"We offer them financial help so they can start up small businesses when they return home, but when we visit them to formalize this, we find they've gone," he said. "Many victims are poor and they see the economic gain from working abroad, so maybe they leave home again because of the money. Traffickers like these kinds of people."
According to SISHA's Looney, while the Cambodian police's anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection division tackled human trafficking, at the district level police were hamstrung by a lack of funds.
"The police have to use their own money for fuel to go to interview victims, bring victims to court and feed the victims [while they are in police custody]," he said. "They don't have access to basic operational costs, and it's unclear whether that's down to ineptitude, a lack of funds, or whether funds are being siphoned off elsewhere."
SISHA was financially supporting police investigations into human trafficking and offering guidance on conducting criminal investigations, said Looney.
"Many local police officers are just looking for support so they can do their jobs. The average police officer wants to tackle the problem and help victims, but practical requirements make it difficult for them," he said.
International Organization of Migration (IOM) Indonesia chief of mission Denis Nihill said the changing nature of human trafficking made it more difficult to tackle.
"There's been a lot of work done on the Greater Mekong Region for many years on trafficking, but it's become more complex, as it's now inextricably woven with labour migration, which is a much more difficult nut to crack because it is less easy to detect than trafficking linked to the sex industry."
Nihill also pointed to the difficulties of tackling internal trafficking, which IOM's 2011 counter trafficking report highlighted as particularly problematic in Indonesia.
"For cross border trafficking, people must pass through the hands of several government agencies, but internally trafficked people need not come to the attention of any officials, so in many ways it's a more alarming situation," he said.
The US Department of the State's 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report categorizes most ASEAN countries as Tier 2, meaning they do not fully comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but are making significant efforts to do so.
*not her real name
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Dozens of people have reportedly been injured when an Indonesian budget airline Lion Air's new Boeing 737-800 landed in the sea after missing the Bali airport runway on Saturday.
The plane apparently broke into two pieces while landing at high speed in the sea, causing panic among passengers near Denpasar airport.
According to an airport spokeswoman, out of nearly 45 passengers sent to hospital for treatment, one of them is facing life-threatening injuries. No casualties have been reported yet in the incident.
The plane was flying between Bandung in West Java province to Denpasar in Bali province, carrying seven crewmembers and 101 passengers, including, 95 adults, five children and a baby.
Two Singaporeans and a Frenchman were also among the passengers. Judging from visual observations, Lion Air's General Affairs Director, Edward Sirait, said the aircraft broke into pieces and is no longer air worthy.
The crash happened in a perfectl weather less than a month after Lion Air bought the plane from Boeing. The air carrier is b banned from flying in European and American airspace over safety concerns.
In another unrelated transport incident, smoke-filled cockpit of a Korean Air flight on Sunday forced to make an emergency landing at Tokyo's Narita airport at around 10:05 pm (1305 GMT).
The Boeing 777 plane with 288 passengers aboard was flying between Seoul and Los Angeles, according to NHK television. No injuries have been reported in the incident.
The authorities later canceled the flight due to technical problems.
Eights months after dozens of Shia Muslims on Indonesia's Madura Island were driven from their homes by mobs from neighbouring Sunni villages, the displaced remain in poor conditions with no immediate prospect of returning.
Almost 170 Shias in Madura's Sampang District are still confined to a gymnasium, unable to work or travel. They are dependent on government provisions for their survival. Local authorities have warned them to stay near the gym for their safety.
"We have no chance to leave here. It feels like we're in jail," said Ustadz Iklil, 40.
He said families have limited themselves to one meal a day when government food provisions fall short, and that basic hygiene has been difficult to maintain.
The displaced are living on tennis courts in a tin-roofed hangar. A stench permeates much of the shelter's interior, where there is only one bathroom.
People there said they were psychologically and physically unravelling.
"At any given time, many of the people here are sick," said Ummi Kulsum, 37. She said medical personnel from the local state hospital were supposed to make daily trips to the shelter, but none had visited since October.
"We're struggling to live here, and we still have no clear decision from the government about our future," she said.
Rokiyah, 35, who goes by one name, said her two-month-old baby struggled to sleep in the stuffy, overcrowded compound. "The people in our district couldn't accept our difference so now our children are forced to grow up in these conditions," she said.
The children attend a makeshift classroom under a tarp in a field facing the complex. Classes are staffed by volunteers.
Although Sunni is officially the dominant form of Islam in the country, many Indonesians identify themselves simply as Muslim.
Madura Island, however, has a history of conservatism, and those on the island who publicly identify as Shia are regarded with suspicion and disapproval by some of the Sunni majority. The size of the Shia population in Madura - and the rest of Indonesia - is unknown due to underreporting and fears of reprisals. There are few villages on the island that openly identify as Shia.
In August 2012, local Sunnis, some wielding traditional machete-like weapons, attacked two of the district's Shia villages. One Shia man was killed and another, who suffered multiple deep cuts, barely survived. Dozens were seriously injured in the attack, which left 48 Shia homes destroyed by fire.
Villagers said the violence erupted when Shia schoolchildren, barred from attending their local school, attempted to reach a neighbouring school. Sunni men blocked them, and the confrontation escalated into a wider attack on Shia homes, said witnesses.
With few exceptions, the displaced Shias lost all their possessions.
Religious minorities targeted
Among the main targets of hard-line Islamist groups from the country's Sunni majority are minority Muslim sects and Christians, according to a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report .
The Jakarta-based Setara Institute, which monitors religious freedom in Indonesia, identified 216 cases of violent attacks on religious minorities in 2010, 244 cases in 2011, and 264 cases in 2012.
According to HRW, the state is complicit in the abuse. "Harassment and intimidation of minority communities by militant Islamist groups has been facilitated by the active or passive involvement of Indonesian government officials and security forces," the report said.
In an interview with international media, a spokesman from the Ministry of Religious Affairs denied religious intolerance was a serious problem , calling Indonesia a "laboratory of religious harmony".
It is not clear which authority ultimately controls the fate of the displaced Shias in Sampang.
According to Andreas Harsono, an author of the HRW report, national agencies with influence over such cases include the president's office, the national police chief, and the coordinating minister for legal, political and security affairs. But, he added, decentralization measures started in 2004 have boosted local officials' control over disputes within their jurisdiction.
Jakarta should step in as local solutions are not forthcoming, he said.
"We need time to address the issue that [led to] conflict there," said Rudi Setiadi, the head of the Board of National Unity for Sampang Regency, a government office responsible for security, stability and other issues.
"We have to obey our religious leaders very well, and the religious leaders say they [Shias] must return to Sunni Islam in order to return to the village," said Setaidi, echoing the hard-line position that displaced Shias must declare themselves Sunnis in order to return.
"From a [human] rights perspective, [the Shias] should of course be able to go back to the village and the government should be responsible for protecting them at any cost," said Akhol Firhaus of the Centre for Marginalized People, a local NGO.
"But the government has not given them any solution except to convert to become Sunnis or leave Madura Island," he said. "The government has a responsibility to give a better solution."
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When Indonesia's Mount Merapi, north of central Java's capital Yogyakarta, started spewing thicker and more colourful clouds of smoke in October 2010 , local residents wavered over the risk it signalled. The delay proved fatal.
The time lost put one family in a horrific predicament. With only a single motorbike, the parents could not transport their family of six in a single trip so it was decided to remain at home so that the whole family would live or die together. They and some 350 others perished.
The brother of the mother of that family, Margoutomo, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, said that after the 2010 tragedy, Merapi residents came to acknowledge they had lived alongside the 2,914m volcano for so long that they had become dangerously inured to its threat.
However, more than two years on, residents say they are much more aware of the danger and better prepared.
"Before 2010, if there was lots of smoke from the volcano or even rocks rolling down it, we didn't pay much attention," said Suwarni, a woman in her thirties who runs a gift shop for tourists on the mountain. "Now, even if there is a small sign of some activity from the volcano, people react quickly."
"Now there is much better coordination and we're always disseminating information about the weather," said Triyanto, 30, a tour guide and community emergency response volunteer.
Improved warning system
One simple but effective change is the introduction of hand-held radios, commonly seen on the belts of residents and set to the same frequency allowing for constant updates and interchanges about conditions on the mountain.
A three-tier warning system was also established in 2011 whereby government monitoring centres regularly inform appointed community representatives of the threat level so they can disseminate information to people around them. Before the 2010 eruption, such warnings were slower to spread and sometimes were contradictory because they came from various sources.
Road and bridge infrastructure leading off the mountain was also improved to make evacuation more efficient, said Aris Marfai with the Faculty of Geography at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, while government and non-governmental groups have conducted a number of training sessions in communities, so evacuations are less improvised.
Moving people out
However, probably the biggest preparedness step of all has been moving people off of the mountain's upper reaches.
Two thousand five hundred families have moved to government-built houses in relocation sites and the authorities want to relocate another 668 families, according to Subandrio, head of the Yogyakarta office of the Research and Technology Development Agency for Volcanology, a government agency that monitors volcanoes.
But hundreds of families are still refusing to go. Their reluctance stems from a desire to remain in familiar territory and from skepticism about their vulnerability if their particular corridor of the mountain was not directly affected in 2010, said Subandrio.
It was this mistaken belief that Merapi's eruptions follow a predictable pattern that caused many residents to delay their escape in 2010 and die as a result, he added.
Initially, most residents resisted government orders to relocate: Residents were accustomed to living and farming on large plots with fertile soil, and local culture emphasizes attachment to ancestral land.
But, with the offer of a relocation house and little or no capital to rebuild their previous homes, most people came to accept the deal.
Of the relocated families, 81 now live in Karang Kendal, several kilometres further down the mountain from their previous village. The government constructed a new community there, with homes and paved roads.
The transition to such sites has not been seamless and there is a prevailing sense of aimlessness among older residents who are not accustomed to the confines of the new community, which has no fields or even private yards.
Many farmers who lost their crops and livestock in 2010 have yet to find new work. They still own their former plots higher up on Merapi but they say they lack the capital to start over. Limited education levels limit their prospects of getting non-agricultural work.
Budiutomo, 55, has been in his new home for six months but remains idle. He used to be a dairy farmer but he has yet to sort out what he will do. "There was more work to do there. Here, it's difficult to know how to find regular work," he says. Two male neighbours, also unemployed, nod in agreement.
"It's painful to leave our former homes," chimes in Andri Joko Supatra, 27. "But the good thing is that we are further from the danger."
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Recent research shows there was a 78.3 percent decline in leatherback turtle nests over a 27-year period in West Papua.
According to Jakarta Post, The research which was performed by an international team comprising scientists from the University of Papua (UNIPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Marine Fisheries Service, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia showed leatherback nests have fallen from a peak of 14,455 in 1984 to a low of 1,596 in 2011 at Jamursba Medi Beach in West Papua.
The research which published in the scientific journal Ecosphere on Feb. 25, also noted that less than 500 leatherbacks are nesting annually there.
The study used year-round surveys of leatherback turtle nesting areas since 2005 and is the most extensive research on the species to date.
The researchers believe if the decline continues, within 20 years it would be difficult, if not impossible, for leatherbacks might be on the road to extinction.
Indonesia has banned the trade and consumption of sea turtles, considered endangered animals.
Scientists in Indonesia are experimenting with cloud seeding, or firing salt-based chemicals into clouds to force out rain, to try and prevent flooding in the capital Jakarta, home to increasingly destructive rains
More than 100 works by a master of Indonesian modern art have been stolen from a museum in Central Java. Some people believe the rare, high-profile theft was an inside job
The conflict in the South China Sea may be long running, but there are several reasons why it has become much more dangerous. There can be little doubt that President Obama in his second term will find the South China Sea one of the hottest issues in East Asia
Indonesia's Shi'a minority is under heavy attack. It is becoming increasingly clear that Saudi Arabia's intolerant brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam is behind most of the assaults
Poor awareness about hepatitis infections and a lack of treatment have made the disease a growing public health threat in Indonesia
Despite the unifying power of the monarchy, Thailand remains bedeviled by political tensions and ethnic unrest. These may eventually determine the country's relations with the United States and China
Survivors of sexual violence in Indonesia face an uphill battle in recovery as a result of an inadequate legal system, police inaction, and prevailing societal attitudes that tend to be suspicious of victims
Recent cases of missing children in Indonesia have raised concerns about human trafficking and a lack of law enforcement resources to combat it
In Indonesia, a diagnosis of leprosy can cut patients off from family, employment, public services, even marriage and places of worship
Asia has one of the largest concentrations globally of aging persons, creating a host of potential challenges
Hundreds of people in the city of Banda Aceh in the northwestern tip of Indonesia are still living in poor quality 'temporary' accommodation more than six years after the devastating December 2004 tsunami
At least nine people have been killed in two separate incidents of violence in the Papua region of Indonesia
Indonesia needs to cut fuel subsidies in order to attract foreign investment, but this could threaten social stability
Human rights groups have urged Indonesian authorities to drop treason charges against five activists in the easternmost province of Papua
A pattern of violence against the Ahmadiyah religious community, in which the perpetrators enjoy near-impunity and official indulgence, is disfiguring Indonesia. It also presents a wider challenge to the country's vital search for a model of religious tolerance in public life
Indonesia has become a geopolitical focus of three forces -- China, Islamists and the United States.
Indonesia's attempt to wean its population off rice has been hampered by a lack of viable alternative staples and cultural attachment to the grain
Today, Indonesia is hailed as a model democracy and is a darling of the international financial community. The Jakarta Stock Exchange has been among the world's top performers in recent years, and some analysts have even called for adding Indonesia to the ranks of the BRIC countries. Yet despite all the fanfare, the Indonesian score contains some decidedly discordant notes
Recent months have witnessed renewed tensions over disputed territories in the South China Sea. In response to China's encroaching military maneuvers and the country's designation of the whole area as part of its indisputable sovereignty, several South East Asian countries have found themselves dangerously vulnerable