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Thomas Maresca

Freelance Journalist in SE Asia

I am a freelance journalist based in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City and covering SE Asia.

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USA TODAY
03/10/2017
South Korea upholds impeachment of President Park Geun-hye; 3 dead

CLOSE South Korea's Constitution Court ruled to uphold the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on Friday morning, making her the first democratically elected president to be removed from office in the country's history. According to multiple reports, at least three people died in skirmishes that broke out following the verdict and about 30 protesters and police officers were injured in violent clashes.

USA TODAY
South Korea's trial of the century about to start against Samsung chief

CLOSE What is being billed as South Korea's trial of the century gets underway Thursday as the de facto leader of Samsung Electronics faces bribery and embezzlement charges, part of a larger web of scandal that forced the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in December.

USA TODAY
Fierce Duterte critic arrested on drug trafficking charges

CLOSE SINGAPORE - One of the Philippines government's fiercest critics of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs was arrested Friday in Manila on drug-related charges. Sen. Leila de Lima headed a commission investigating extra-judicial killings under the war on drugs, which has left more than 7,000 dead since Duterte took office in June.

USA TODAY
U.S. deploys carrier to contentious South China Sea

CLOSE JAKARTA, Indonesia - The United States deployed aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to patrol the increasingly contentious South China Sea, despite Beijing's warnings not to challenge its sovereignty in the resource-rich sea. The Navy described Saturday's launch as the beginning of "routine operations" in the South China Sea.

USA TODAY
Jakarta election pits Christian against rising tide of Muslim extremism

JAKARTA, Indonesia - This week's hotly contested election for governor of this capital region is exposing the fault lines of tolerance in the world's largest Muslim-majority country. The incumbent is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity - Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname, Ahok - the first non-Muslim governor of Jakarta in 50 years.

USA TODAY
06/24/2016
Red blood, blue blood: How do we begin to heal after Clinton vs. Trump?

How is America ever going to begin to heal after this divisive election? Every presidential contest leaves scars, especially as the margin of victory has become ever thinner in recent years. The 2000 election, after all, took weeks to decide. Still, the wounds seem deeper this year.

USA TODAY
Despite profanity and controversies, Filipinos love foul-mouthed Duterte

MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sparked worldwide condemnation for his profane rhetoric and controversial actions, such as the mass execution of alleged drug dealers. But at home, folks love him. Two recent polls show Duterte has approval ratings above 80% after three months in office.

USA TODAY
Rangers risk lives to save endangered tigers

UTHAI THANI PROVINCE, Thailand - The 4-inch scar running down the side of his neck is a daily reminder of the hazards of being a ranger in the wildlife sanctuary here, courtesy of a tiger poacher's bullet.

USA TODAY
Obama becomes first sitting president to visit Laos

VIENTIANE, Laos - This capital city, with its wide, tree-lined French colonial boulevards and old-fashioned tuk-tuk three-wheeled taxis, takes its turn in the international spotlight, as Barack Obama arrived late Monday to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Laos. The sleepy, landlocked country of 6.8 million may well be the final Asian stop during his presidency.

Featured

USA TODAY
Rangers risk lives to save endangered tigers

UTHAI THANI PROVINCE, Thailand - The 4-inch scar running down the side of his neck is a daily reminder of the hazards of being a ranger in the wildlife sanctuary here, courtesy of a tiger poacher's bullet.

USA TODAY
Mystery surrounds disappearance of Laos man after traffic stop

VIENTIANE, Laos - The last time Ng Shui Meng saw her husband, he was driving his beloved vintage American jeep. That was a December evening almost four years ago, after Sombath Somphone was stopped by traffic police. He never arrived home for dinner.

USA TODAY
Nepal still reeling from devastating 2015 earthquake

KATHMANDU, Nepal - Usha Pandey was dancing when the earthquake hit. She was at home with her younger sister and brother on a school holiday, listening to music and having fun. "As soon as the house started shaking, we ran outside," Pandey, 19, said. "The house collapsed right afterward.

USA TODAY
Vietnam's Mekong Delta hit with worst drought in 90 years

CAN THO, Vietnam - Huynh Van Loi, 50, a farmer who spent most his life in the same small Mekong Delta district, has experienced good weather and bad, droughts and floods. But this year brought something he'd never seen. "The water is salty," he said.

USA TODAY
ASEAN summit tarnished by Malaysian corruption scandal involving PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - As the summit of Southeast Asian nations ended here Sunday, much of the focus was not on the leaders' discussions with President Obama but on a corruption scandal dogging the summit's host and his government's crackdown on civil liberties.

USA TODAY
11/04/2015
Burma's persecuted Muslim refugees are trapped in a stateless limbo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - They have been called the least wanted and most persecuted people in the world. The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority living in Burma, are trapped in a stateless limbo - unrecognized as citizens and victims of institutionalized discrimination that restricts employment, education and freedom of movement.

USA TODAY
Voices: In Burma, hope where once there was only despair

In the frenetic atmosphere of covering Sunday's election in Burma, which produced a huge victory for pro-democracy forces, there were more than a few moments when I had to stop and try to take it all in, to reconcile what I was seeing in front of me with my earliest experience of a military-ruled nation some eight years before.

USA TODAY
40 years later, Vietnam still deeply divided over war

HO CHI MINH CITY - This bustling city of 8 million that is still called Saigon by many is going all out to celebrate Thursday's 40th anniversary of its fall - the day North Vietnam's Communist army captured South Vietnam's capital. Propaganda posters and billboards marking Liberation Day blanket a downtown brimming with construction cranes and new high-rise buildings.

The Times
04/30/2015
Vietnam remembers a dark day for America | The Times

About 6,000 soldiers, many wearing the uniforms identical to those of the North Vietnamese troops who stormed Saigon 40 years ago yesterday, marked their victory over American-backed forces with a vast military parade yesterday.

USA Today
Obama heads to Burma, where ethnic problems percolate

SITTWE, Burma - Ousman Gani, 28, used to be a kindergarten teacher. But after Buddhist mobs destroyed his village during the ethnic and religious violence that tore through Sittwe in 2012, he has been confined to a displaced persons camp. "I cannot work," said Gani, a minority Rohingya Muslim.

USA Today
McDonald's brings Big Macs to Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - Techno music blasted as a crowd of hundreds lined up behind velvet ropes, waiting to gain entrance into the city's hottest new attraction. But it wasn't a new nightclub that residents had queued up for in this energetic city of more than seven million; these lines were for the grand opening of the first McDonald's in Vietnam.

Selected Work

USA TODAY
Obama wraps up nine-day Asia-Pacific trip

VIENTIANE, Laos - President Obama on Thursday said that work must continue to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea as he completed a nine-day Asia-Pacific trip.

USA TODAY
Philippine President 'Duterte Harry' acts on pledge to kill drug dealers

MANILA - Controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who campaigned on a vow to kill 100,000 criminals, is making good on his promise less than two weeks into his term. In that short span, he has left a bloody trail of drug world executions that is drawing alarm from human rights groups and opposition politicians.

USA TODAY
Southeast Asia links to Panama Papers

HO CHI MINH CITY - One of Asia's richest families, the son of Malaysia's corruption-tarred leader and Cambodia's minister of justice - these are among names that surfaced this week in Southeast Asia in connection with the "Panama Papers" tax haven furor.

USA TODAY
Re-elected Vietnam communist boss: 'A lot of work ahead'

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) - Vietnam's Communist Party ended its five-yearly congress Thursday after re-electing its 71-year-old chief for a second term, an expected outcome that sees the conservative pro-China ideologue cementing his hold on power. "Let me be very frank.

USA TODAY
Vietnam Communist Party chooses stay-the-course leader over reformer

HO CHI MINH CITY - Vietnam's communist regime ended an unprecedented internal power struggle Wednesday by deciding to stick to the status quo over a more reform-minded challenger. Vietnam's National Party Congress, meeting behind closed doors, concluded a week of deliberations by naming ruling Communist Party General-Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, 71, to another five-year term, the official Vietnam News Agency announced.

USA TODAY
Taiwan's presidential election has China on edge

TAIPEI, Taiwan - When this island's 23 million people head to the polls Saturday to elect a new president, the results will be felt from Beijing to Washington. After decades of tension with mainland China, the last eight years have seen a thawing of relations under President Ma Ying-jeou and his Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT).

USA TODAY
Security tight as Obama arrives in Malaysia for ASEAN summit

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Security was heightened in the wake of several recent terror attacks as President Obama arrived in this capital city Friday for a series of regional meetings focused on terrorism and China's increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

USA TODAY
APEC ends summit in Manila th vow to combat terrorism

MANILA - Leaders of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit concluded their summit here Thursday with a vow to intensify efforts to combat terrorism. "Under the shadow cast by the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and against Russian aircraft over the Sinai, and elsewhere, we strongly condemn all acts, methods, and practices of terrorism in all their forms and manifestations," the group said in a statement.

USA TODAY
Trade, tensions with China mark Obama visit to Asia

SUBIC BAY, Philippines - Military tensions with China in the South China Sea and the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement are likely to be the key issues of President Obama's six-day trip to Asia, where he will attend regional summits in the Philippines and Malaysia.

USA TODAY
Polls close in long-awaited Burma election

Polls closed Sunday in the first openly contested national elections in Burma in 25 years, filling supporters of Burmese opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with hope of finally achieving a true popularly elected government in what was only five years ago a repressive and isolated country.

USA TODAY
Burma set to hold first contested national elections in 25 years

RANGOON, Burma - This country, repressive and isolated five years ago, will hold its first contested national elections in 25 years Sunday. Even before the votes are cast, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday she will lead the country in a role "above the president" if her party wins.

Ihsairport360
05/19/2015
Don Mueang continues its renaissance

Traffic from low-cost carriers continues to grow at Bangkok's second airport T2 is being expanded, as airport officials expect full-year passenger traffic of 27 million in 2015 When Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport opened in 2006, it was intended to replace the city's venerable, if outdated, Don Mueang Airport, but the older facility has become increasingly popular.

USA TODAY
04/29/1975
Vietnam celebrates 40 years since end of war

Thousands of people have marked the 40th anniversary of end of the Vietnam War with a massive military parade in the capital of Ho Chi Minh City. More than 3 million Vietnamese and nearly 60,000 American troops were killed before Saigon, then the capital of U.S.-backed South Vietnam, was captured by communist troops from the North on April 30, 1975.

USA Today
12/31/2015
6 bodies recovered from AirAsia crash

SURABAYA, Indonesia - Indonesian search and rescue officials say a sonar image appears to show the wreckage of AirAsia Flight 8501 at the bottom of the Java Sea, CBS News and CNN report. The reports say it remains unclear if the sonar image reveals an intact plane, or only a portion of the wreckage.

USA Today
12/31/2015
Somber New Year's as bad weather hampers AirAsia search

SURABAYA, Indonesia - As wind and rain hamper recovery operations of AirAsia Flight 8501, this city started a somber new year by canceling holiday celebrations as hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight vigil.

USA Today
12/31/2015
U.S. warship joining expanded search for AirAsia jet

SURABAYA, Indonesia - Helicopters began searching land Tuesday for possible wreckage from AirAsia Flight 8501, three days after the jet with 162 people aboard vanished in stormy weather over the Java Sea. More aircraft and ships, including a U.S. destroyer, were joining the hunt, which has focused on a 70-square-nautical-mile area between Belitung island, off Sumatra, and Borneo island.

Just-style
08/20/2014
Cambodia's future outsourcing prospects uncertain

If Cambodia's US$5.5bn garment industry is not at a crossroads, it is approaching one, according to participants at an industry trade show held in Phnom Penh over the weekend.

USA Today
11/27/2013
In Thailand, anti-government protests escalate

Mass protests aimed at ousting the Thai government escalated on a sweltering Wednesday in Bangkok. Protesters marched several miles to a government complex in the north of Bangkok, where they cut electricity and forced the evacuation of the Department of Special Investigations (DSI), Thailand's counterpart to the FBI.

Forbes
06/20/2014
Thailand Slammed for Human Trafficking in U.S. State Dept. Report

On Friday morning the U.S. State Department released its 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, an annual ranking of countries based on their efforts to combat modern-day slavery such as sex trafficking and forced labor. And as many in Thailand had feared, the Land of Smiles was downgraded to the bottom [...]

USA Today
Thailand polls close but election yet to be decided

BANGKOK -- Voting in Thailand's general election Sunday was disrupted by anti-government protesters who barricaded roads and blocked access to polling stations at several locations in Bangkok and southern provinces. The election took place under a shadow of violence after a gun battle in Bangkok on Saturday wounded seven people.

USA Today
Obama: Goal is not to 'contain' China

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - US President Barack Obama is welcomed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino upon his arrival at the presidentila palace during his two-day State visit on Monday in Manila, Philippines. The Philippines trip is the last leg of his four-nation Southeast Asian visit highlighted by the signing of a ten-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines.

USA Today
12/02/2013
Thai protest leader demands PM step down

BANGKOK - Political turmoil escalated this weekend as the leader of anti-government protests called for a takeover of all key government agencies, including the office of the prime minister. After declaring a "People's Victory Day," opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban said he met with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in person Sunday evening, giving her an ultimatum of two days to step down from power.

BBC World Service Business Matters
05/17/2014
Narendra Modi Sweeps to Power in India

Tom Maresca joins us from Ho Chi Minh City, where anti-Chinese riots have flared up as Beijing and Vietnam once more claim sovereignty over disputed waters.

USA Today
Violence erupts in Thailand ahead of elections

A pitched gunbattle places the already-tense capital city more on edge. BANGKOK - Violence erupted here Saturday on the eve of a deeply divisive national election, with a pitched gunbattle placing an already-tense city further on edge.

USA Today
Vietnam spared major hit from weakened typhoon

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -Vietnamese aware of the blasting that Typhoon Haiyan gave the Philippines were relieved the storm was weakened considerably as it struck their country Monday. The typhoon had landed in in the northern province of Quang Ninh at around 3 a.m.

USA Today
Obama visits Philippines; U.S. announces defense pact

MANILA - The U.S. and the Philippines have agreed on a new 10-year defense pact that will allow increased presence of U.S. troops in the Philippines, White House officials said Sunday. The deal came in advance of President Obama's arrival in the Philippine capital, Manila, on Monday, the last stop on his four-country Asian tour.

USA Today
11/25/2013
Thai protesters occupy government buildings, cut power

BANGKOK - Tens of thousands of protesters in Thailand's capital overran several buildings and cut power to the Finance Ministry on Monday in a stepped-up campaign to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Protesters say they want to paralyze the government by forcing civil servants to stop working.

USA Today
03/10/2014
Jet crash probe can begin without wreckage

Crash investigators have numerous avenues to investigate in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, even as an international search effort for the plane continues off the coast of Vietnam, a U.S. crash probe expert said Monday.

USA Today
03/08/2014
Oil slicks spotted, suspected to be from missing Malaysian jetliner

BEIJING - The Vietnamese government reported Saturday that oil slicks - thought to be from the missing Malaysian jetliner that vanished Friday - had been spotted between Malaysia and Vietnam amid growing fears for the 239 people aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

USA Today
03/10/2014
Searchers find debris that could be from missing jet

Six planes and seven ships from Vietnam have been unable to find an object spotted by a low-flying plane on Sunday afternoon that could be a piece of the Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared early Saturday, authorities said.

USA Today
11/23/2013
Political tensions rise in Thailand amid corruption claims

BANGKOK - Three years after bloody street protests left more than 90 dead and thousands injured, Thailand's simmering political tensions are once again threatening to boil over. Weeks of protests against a deeply unpopular amnesty bill have escalated into an attempt by opposition leaders to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Pheu Thai Party.

USA Today
Explosion hits Bangkok protests, wounding many

BANGKOK — At least 36 anti-government protesters marching in Bangkok were wounded when a grenade was hurled in their direction on Friday. "We're not sure if the aim was to take the life of (protest leader) Suthep (Thaugsuban) or to create chaos," said Akanat Promphan, a spokesman for the protest movement told USA TODAY.

USA Today
Vietnam remains on alert even as Haiyan weakens

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - Vietnam's central coast appeared to have been spared the brunt of Typhoon Haiyan's deadly force Sunday as the storm's forecasted trajectory shifted north and remained more than 100 miles off the coast. As of Sunday morning U.S.

Usatoday
11/10/2013
Official: Over 10,000 feared dead in Typhoon Haiyan

MANILA - As many as 10,000 people are feared dead in one city alone after Super Typhoon Haiyan - one of the most powerful storms ever recorded - slammed into the central islands of the Philippines, officials said. Regional police chief Elmer Soria said he was briefed by Leyte provincial Gov.

USA Today
Cambodia opposition begins 3 days of protests

Thousands protest against longtime ruling party and disputed July election. PHNOM PENH, Cambodia ­- Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital in a blazing afternoon sun Wednesday to demonstrate against the government's longtime ruling party accused of corruption and voter fraud.

Just-style
Cambodia fights to maintain competitive edge

Cambodia fights to maintain competitive outsourcing edge By Thomas Maresca | 29 October 2013 Cambodia's garment industry has long had a cost advantage over its competitors: paying some of the lowest wages in the world.

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