Duterte or­ders US ad­vi­sors out

The Myanmar Times - - World -

PRES­I­DENT Ro­drigo Duterte ratch­eted up his feud with the United States, or­der­ing all Amer­i­can spe­cial forces out of the south­ern Philip­pines where they have been ad­vis­ing lo­cal troops bat­tling Mus­lim ex­trem­ists.

Mr Duterte’s or­der came a week af­ter he called US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama “a son of a whore”, caus­ing Mr Obama to can­cel their bi­lat­eral meet­ing at a sum­mit in Laos.

The Filipino leader, the first to hail from the south and who claims Mus­lim an­ces­try, has been step­ping up ef­forts to bring peace to the south­ern Philip­pines, where decades-long in­sur­gen­cies with Mus­lim and com­mu­nist rebels have claimed more than 150,000 lives.

Last month he restarted peace talks with the largest sep­a­ratist group, the 12,000-strong Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front (MILF), which like oth­ers has been fight­ing since the 1970s for an in­de­pen­dent Is­lamic state or au­tonomous rule.

US ad­vi­sors in the area help train Filipino troops but are barred from en­gag­ing in com­bat ex­cept in self­de­fence.

Pre­vi­ously, about 500 to 600 US per­son­nel ro­tated through the Min­danao re­gion but in 2014, then-de­fence sec­re­tary Voltaire Gazmin said this would be cut back to 200.

Mr Duterte did not spec­ify when or how many Amer­i­cans would be ex­pelled but said the Philip­pines align­ment with the West was at the root of the Mus­lim in­sur­gency.

“These US spe­cial forces, they have to go in Min­danao,” he told a gath­er­ing of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees.

“The [Mus­lim] peo­ple will be­come more ag­i­tated. If they see an Amer­i­can, they will re­ally kill him.”

Mean­while, in Jakarta, In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Widodo said Mr Duterte gave him the go-ahead to ex­e­cute a Filip­ina maid on death row whose plight has gar­nered huge in­ter­na­tional sup­port.

The maid, Mary Jane Veloso, was ar­rested in In­done­sia in 2009 car­ry­ing a suit­case lined with 2.6 kilo­grams (5.7 pounds) of heroin and was sen­tenced to death.

“I ex­plained about the de­lay over the ex­e­cu­tion,” Mr Widodo said. “Pres­i­dent Duterte then said please, go ahead if you want to ex­e­cute.”

The Philip­pines how­ever de­nied the claim, say­ing Mr Duterte had sim­ply pledged to re­spect the out­come of In­done­sia’s ju­di­cial process.

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