American Samoa, N. Korea and Central African Republic

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on December 10, 2013

AMERICAN SAMOA – Police to be armed with guns

Photographer © Peter Hendrie / Lonely Planet Images

Ofu Island, American Samoa

American Samoa’s [police commissioner] is going to provide police with guns for the first time despite critics warning the remote Pacific islands “are not like Chicago” and the move could lead to increased violence.

The group of islands, a territory of the United States with a population of 55,000, has received a shipment of 24 Glock-17 handguns for the local police who will begin carrying them next year.

The move has been criticized by residents but was demanded by the hard-line police commissioner, William Haleck, who came into the post in January and has warned of increasing drug-related gun violence. Mr Haleck and his supporters have pointed to the fatal shooting of an officer outside the High Court three years ago.

“Our motto is to serve and protect,” Mr. Haleck said. “Right now we can serve but if any incidents should pop up surrounding any kind of weapons how can we effectively respond to someone, with a weapon, with our bare hands?”

image1198But locals say the shooting was an isolated incident and the island does not have the culture of gun violence that is common on the streets of the US.

“We don’t have many murders on this island and certainly we don’t have the gun culture that you would in Los Angeles for example,” Monica Miller, a journalist, told ABC News.

Another resident, Dale Long, told Radio New Zealand: “There is no gun problem here. It’s not like Chicago or something where people are running around with machine guns and stuff. There are no guns to speak of here and it’s just going to escalate the problem.”

Mr. Haleck has pledged a slow approach to introducing the guns and will require officers to undergo extensive psychological tests and training.

“We want to make sure that when we do do this thing that our officers are properly trained – mentally and physically to be able to deal with whatever comes along their way and act prudently with this weapon,” he said.

NORTH KOREA – North Korean gulags ‘expanding’, satellite images show

North Korea’s largest gulag appears to be expanding its population, according to satellite images released by Amnesty International.

image1197An Amnesty report included rare testimony from a former camp guard, as well as from former inmates about the brutality prevalent in the prison system.

“For Amnesty International, which has been investigating human rights violations for the last 50 years, we find North Korea to be in a category of its own,” said Amnesty’s East Asia researcher Rajiv Narayan.

North Korea denies the existence of the political prison camps which, according to independent estimates, form a network holding between 100,000 and 200,000 people.

The images analyzed were taken over a two-year period from 2011 to 2013, and were of Camp 15 in the south of the country and Camp 16 in the north.

Amnesty estimated the size of Camp 16 is 216 square miles – three times the size of Washington, DC – with around 20,000 prisoners.

Analysis indicated a slight increase in the remote camp’s population, with new housing blocks clearly visible and signs of “significant” economic activity such as mining and logging, the report said.

A former security guard based at the camp from the 1980s until the mid-1990s, named only as Lee in the report, told Amnesty of the methods used to execute prisoners. He said detainees were forced to dig their own graves and were then killed….

Former Camp 15 inmates said [they and their fellow] detainees were subject to forced labor – usually for between 10 to 12 hours a day on near-starvation rations with a strict production target.

“Often we did not meet our targets because we were always hungry and weak,” one former Camp 15 prisoner told Amnesty. We were punished with beatings and also reductions in our food quota,” said the prisoner, whose name was withheld.

Camp 15 covers an area of 140 square miles. In 2011, an estimated 50,000 people were imprisoned within the camp. …

Amnesty called on North Korea to close the camps immediately, and urged countries like China to stop repatriating [to return (someone) to his or her own country] North Koreans who flee the country on the grounds that they would likely be sent to the gulag.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – UN authorizes military action

The UN Security Council has authorized increased military action by France and African troops to try to end the crisis in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.).


French military peacekeepers in Central African Republic.

The council unanimously approved a French-sponsored resolution Thursday aimed at restoring security and protecting civilians in the impoverished country. The authorization is expected to lead to an increase in troops for an African Union-led force and French troops.

The vote came as French troops continued to pour into the C.A.R. amid an outbreak of violence near the capital Bangui’s airport and in suburbs in the city’s north and east.

At least 105 people and likely many more were killed during Thursday morning’s fighting, the worst day of violence in Bangui, for several months. …

An existing 10pm to 6am curfew was extended by four hours, with Michael Djotodia, the president, ordering the capital’s citizens indoors by 6pm. Already, the streets were empty except for military patrols including the armored vehicles of 250 French troops in Bangui as the vanguard of the force that was expected by the weekend to increase to 1,200 soldiers.

image1196Rebel gunmen in pick-up trucks toured suburbs that they controlled, as the fighting waned at lunchtime. It had begun before dawn and lasted several hours. …

The fighting appeared to have started with Christian militia and supporters of the ousted president, Francois Bozize, began house-to-house searches for Muslim militants who backed country’s new leader, Michael Djotodia (the rebels’ former commander). Those rebels, named Seleka, or “alliance” in a local language, then began fighting back.

“There has been gunfire all over town,” said Amy Martin, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Bangui.

Christian vigilante militia and supporters of ousted president Francois Bozize were reportedly moving through areas recently controlled by Seleka rebels previously allied to the country’s new leader, Michael Djotodia.

The clashes appeared to have started in a stronghold of Mr. Bozize, who fled the country in March as the Seleka alliance took control of Bangui and installed Mr Djotodia as leader. Home mostly to Christians, the area where the fighting began has been repeatedly raided by Seleka gunmen, who are mostly Muslim.

Mr. Djotodia, a former Seleka commander, ordered the disbandment of the rebel group after taking power. But the order was largely ignored and Mr. Djotodia now appears to have lost control of his forces, which have been accused of mass murder, rape and looting.

image1196aThe Central African Republic has descended into what one UN official called “complete chaos” since March, with more than half a million people forced from their homes.

France agreed to send 1,000 troops to help bring order, and allow an African peacekeeping force drawn from the Economic Community of Central African States to assert more control.

The country is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium but decades of instability and spill-over from conflicts in its larger neighbors have kept it mired in crisis.

Western powers are lobbying for decisive international action to prevent the anarchy in Central African Republic leading to major atrocities against the civilian population. Officials in Paris and Washington have already said the fighting could descend into genocide.

As the Seleka rebels retreat ahead of the French and AU deployment, there are fears of widespread revenge attacks by Christians against Muslims, who make up 15 percent of the 4.6 million population.

“When Seleka entered, there were dead Christians. This time it could be worse…We need the French. The French have to come quickly,” Wilfred Koyamba, a resident of Bangui, said as Thursday’s fighting continued. …

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.)





    The internment camps for people accused of political offenses or denounced as "politically unreliable" are run by the State Security Department. Political prisoners are subject to guilt by association punishment. They are deported with parents, children and siblings, and sometimes even grandparents or grandchildren, without any lawsuit or conviction, and are held prisoner for the rest of their lives.

    The camps are located in central and northeastern North Korea. They comprise many prison labor colonies in secluded mountain valleys, completely isolated from the outside world. The total number of prisoners is estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000. Yodok camp and Bukchang camp are separated into two sections: One section for political prisoners in lifelong detention, another part similar to re-education camps with prisoners sentenced to long-term imprisonment with the vague hope of eventual release.

    The prisoners are forced to perform hard and dangerous slave work with primitive means in mining and agriculture. The food rations are very small, so that the prisoners are constantly on the brink of starvation. In combination with the hard work this leads to huge numbers of prisoners dying. An estimated 40% of prisoners die from malnutrition. Moreover many prisoners are crippled from work accidents, frostbite or torture. There is a rigid punishment in the camp. Prisoners that work too slowly or do not obey an order are beaten or tortured. In case of stealing food or attempting to escape, the prisoners are publicly executed.

    Initially there were around twelve political prison camps, but some were merged or closed (e. g. Onsong prison camp, Kwan-li-so No. 12, following a suppressed riot with around 5000 dead people in 1987). Today there are six political prison camps in North Korea (size determined from satellite images, number of prisoners estimated by former prisoners). Most of the camps are documented in testimonies of former prisoners and, for all of them, coordinates and satellite images are available. (from wikipedia)


    BBC News reports:


    The United States established diplomatic relations with the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) in 1960, following its independence from France. The C.A.R. is one of the world’s least developed nations, and has experienced several periods of political instability since independence. The Central African Republic is located in a volatile and poor region and has a long history of development, governance, and human rights problems. The U.S. Embassy in the C.A.R. was briefly closed as a result of 1996-97 military mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development and Peace Corps missions previously operating there did not return. The Embassy again temporarily suspended operations in November 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of a 2003 military coup. The Embassy reopened in 2005. Restrictions on U.S. aid that were imposed after the 2003 military coup were lifted in 2005. Due to insecurity and the eventual overthrow of the C.A.R. Government, the U.S. Embassy in Bagui has been closed since December 2012. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the C.A.R.

    In the spring of 2013, under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African states (ECCAS) regional leaders developed a political roadmap for CAR which established an 18-month transitional government, led by the Prime Minister, with a plan for elections in the fall of 2014 Since that time however, the security, human rights, and humanitarian situation has continued to worsen and in response the African Union authorized the International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (AFISM-C.A.R.) on August 1, 2013. (from