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Bangsamoro in Transition
After decades of armed conflict, Muslims of the southern Philippines -- the Bangsamoro -- now have the right to self-governance.The new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao encompasses five provinces and more than four million people. But it faces many challenges -- brutal splinter groups, Islamic State sympathizers, and lingering differences between the region's two main separatist groups. Can the Bangsamoro end one of Asia's longest-running conflicts?


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Sketching the Prison Life of Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh’s Opposition Icon
Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia has spent more than a year in prison after being convicted on corruption charges she claimed were politically motivated. Authorities have barred the former three-time prime minister from giving interviews during her time at the Old Dhaka Central Jail. No photographs or other images of Zia, 73, have been published since she arrived there. She has since been occasionally hospitalized due to poor health. Now, in sketches drawn for BenarNews and based on interviews with experts and officials from Zia’s BNP party and the ruling Awami League, illustrator Rebel Pepper recreates scenes from the opposition icon’s life inside prison.


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Indonesia Votes
Indonesia, a vast archipelago and the most populous nation in Southeast Asia, held its first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections on April 17, a one-day exercise in democracy viewed as one of the most complex ever staged. During a six-hour span voters cast ballots for a president, 575 members of the House of Representatives (DPR), 136 members of the Regional Representative Council (DPD) and nearly 20,000 members of local legislatures in 548 provinces, districts and municipalities.


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Thai Elections
On March 24, 2019, the people of Thailand voted in national polls for the first time after five years of military rule. Since the military seized power through a coup in May 2014 and before the vote, Thais lived with strict controls on political gatherings and free speech that tamed the kingdom’s polarized politics and ensured a smooth royal succession. Now that the new king is in place, will the military step aside? Will the party of the exiled Shinawatra siblings -- who won every free election since 2001 -- find a way back to power? Or will new faces emerge to lead Thailand?


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Bangladesh Votes
Some 104 million voters go to the polls in Bangladesh on Dec. 30 for the first competitive parliamentary polls in a decade, in which 71-year-old Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is seeking a third consecutive term while her rival, Khaleda Zia, sits in jail and opposition party members allege they are subject to arrests and attacks.


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Power Shift in Malaysia
Malaysian voters will go to the polls on May 9. In setting a mid-week date for Malaysia’s 14th General Election, the EC announced that the nomination date for candidates would take place on April 28 – kicking off 11 days of official campaigning – and absentee ballots known as postal votes would be due on May 5.


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The Rohingya: World's Least-Wanted People
A persecuted Muslim ethnic minority—in Myanmar for centuries but denied citizenship by the government—finds itself vulnerable and unwelcome around the world.


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Dhaka’s July 2016 Café Attack
On July 1, 2016, five Bangladeshi youth steeped in the Islamic State's violent ideology targeted a cafe in Dhaka's diplomatic quarter, singling out foreigners and non-Muslims for slaughter in an attack that left 29 dead. "A massacre of this magnitude never happened in our country," Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews. A year later, top police counter-terrorism official Monirul Islam says security forces have destroyed the domestic network they blame for the attack, Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). "But militancy may not be uprooted and JMB may reappear with another name unless we have a proper de-radicalization program,” he said.


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The Rohingya Exodus
At least 70,000 Rohingya Muslims have entered Bangladesh since October 2016, amid a military crackdown on the minority community in Myanmar triggered by an attack on Burmese border guards in early October 2016 that killed nine. Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing to Bangladesh -- and to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India -- since the 1970s to escape repression in Myanmar.


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South China Sea | Conflict and Diplomacy on the High Seas
The U.S. and other Western nations have pushed for a “rule-based order” in the South China Sea, which carries a large portion of the world’s maritime freight traffic, calling it critical to regional security and economic prosperity. But Beijing largely views U.N.-backed codes of maritime governance as incompatible with domestic laws, and has continued dredging projects on seven disputed formations for nearly two years, creating artificial micro-islands.

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Dangerous Words
Ten people have been hacked to death by violent extremists in Bangladesh since February 2013: writers, publishers, a professor, an actor, a gay rights activist. The so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks; local authorities say Ansaralluh Bangla Team, the Bangladeshi affiliate of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), is to blame.

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Torn Lives
From Bali to Mumbai to the rise of the “Islamic State,” the ideology and actions of violent extremists have damaged many lives. Beyond the numbers are people: people struggling to forgive, to move on, to rebuild lives, to reclaim a religion.


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