Asian Insider, June 13: Mahathir’s coalition in trouble; Abe in Teheran

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

Azmin: Once a future Malaysia PM, now his future is uncertain

More revelations, a police report, accusations and denials continue to rock Kuala Lumpur, as Malaysians try to make sense of the latest political upheaval in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government.

More videos have surfaced since the first set of videos, showing a man resembling Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali and an aide to a deputy minister engaged in sexual acts, mysteriously surfaced in the early hours of Tuesday. The aide, 27-year-old Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz, who claims to be the other individual in the videos, says the Minister’s aide had asked him to lie about the affair. Others have found errors in his claims. Meanwhile, the accuser has also filed a police report, fearing for his safety.

The bigger picture: The scandal is tarnishing the reputation of Datuk Seri Azmin, who was seen as a favourite of ruling Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and someone who could possibly even succeed him as PM, although, as such, Mahathir is expected to hand over to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). It is unlikely that the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, which is backed by PKR, will unravel, but decisions on other key national issues will quite likely take longer.

Carrie Lam pushes debate on controversial extradition bill to next week

Some pressure was beginning to build on Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign as reports of excessive police brutality began to emerge, even as the debate on the controversial bill was pushed to next week. Meanwhile, protesters vowed to hold another rally on Sunday.  Here are some updates on the issue:

* Telegram founder Pavel Durov said that a massive cyber-attack on his messaging service originated in China, raising questions about whether Beijing tried to disrupt the protest involving hundreds of thousands that erupted on the streets of Hong Kong.

* China has hit out at the European Union for making "irresponsible and erroneous" remarks about the extradition bill. The EU has called for the "fundamental right" of Hong Kongers to assemble and express themselves to be respected, as it became the latest grouping to add its voice to a growing chorus of criticism of the Bill.

* Videos of Hong Kong police beating unarmed protesters have fuelled public anger and sparked accusations of brutality. Reports emerged that police fired more than 150 rounds of tear gas on protesters during Wednesday's violent clashes, which was far more than those during the Occupy movement in 2014.

* Asian markets fell on Thursday, with Hong Kong suffering a second straight day of losses as investors fret over the impact of protests in the city.

* 200 members of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Election Committee have called on Ms Lam to resign and withdraw the extradition Bill. There are 1,200 members in the pro-China Committee.

* Eleven people have been arrested for their role in the protests.

Abe meets Iran's Supreme leader

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during which the latter reportedly told him that Teheran has no intention of making or using nuclear weapons. And he also said Iran will not repeat its “bitter experience” of negotiating with the United States. 

Why Abe’s visit matters: This is the first time that a Japanese premier is visiting Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Mr Abe is on a trip to ease tensions between Teheran and Washington, but it's not clear how much he succeeded.

Go deeper on Abe’s visit:

Why did Abe go to Iran?

Trump, Japanese premier Abe discuss Iran during phone call

Abe on high-stakes two-day visit to Iran

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wins ruling party's nomination for 2020 election

Ms Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan, has won the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) nomination for the 2020 Presidential election due to take place in January, 2020. She still needs a nod from the party executive committee, next week to be DPP's official nominee.

Why it matters? Her win signals a rebound in support for her. It comes at a time when tensions with China have increased over potential US arms sales to Taiwan. Lim Yan Liang, ST's China Correspondent has more on this front: China repeats warning to US against arms sale to Taiwan

Go deeper on Taiwan-China-US relations:

US eyes Taiwan risk as China's military capabilities grow

Taiwan can take advantage of US-China trade war, says President Tsai

Xi Jinping says China 'must be, will be' reunified with Taiwan

Rescued! After drifting in South China Sea for 80 hours

Miracles are rare. But they do happen. Sixty-year-old John Low was drifting in the South China Sea for four days last month, after his speed boat sank near Tioman Island. He'd almost given up hope but he was spotted by the crew members of a dredging vessel sailing from Nantong, China to Singapore. And rescued. Captain Cornelis Plugge, one of the two who spotted him, said Low looked more dead than alive. "His body was swollen, his face was severely sunburnt and dark brown, and the skin on his arms attached to the life buoy had peeled off. His body was in shock."

Other developments:

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against China after the crew of its fishing boat sank a Filipino vessel carrying 22 fishermen in South China Sea, potentially inflaming a dispute calmed by warmer ties between their leaders.

Australia has approved the construction of a controversial coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef, paving the way for an increase in coal exports. Queensland's government said it had accepted a groundwater management plan for the Indian-owned Adani Carmichael mine - the last major legal hurdle before construction can begin.

China's Huawei has applied to trademark its "Hongmeng" operating system (OS) in at least nine countries and Europe, data from a UN body shows, in a sign it may be deploying a back-up plan in key markets as US sanctions threaten its business model.


That’s it for today. Thanks for reading The Straits Times and we’ll be back with more, tomorrow.