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Brunei adopts sharia law, others in region consider it

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Brunei adopts sharia law, others in region consider it | The Thaiger

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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Brunei adopts sharia law, others in region consider it
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The sultanate of Brunei this week becomes the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law, the latest example of a deepening religious conservatism that has also taken root in parts of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.

Brunei, a tiny former British protectorate of about 400,000 nestled between two Malaysian states on Borneo island, relies on oil and gas exports for its prosperity, with annual per capita income of nearly $50,000 (29,715 pounds). It is the first country in east Asia to adopt the criminal component of sharia at a national level.

Run by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, 67, Brunei has no national elections, but any discontent has been assuaged by high, tax-free incomes and benefits like free education and health care.

By 2035, though, Brunei’s net exports of oil and gas will almost halve, according to the Asian Development Bank. Efforts to diversify the economy have made limited progress.

The sultan, said by diplomats to have become more religious, announced the introduction of sharia as a “great achievement”.

From Wednesday, residents of the country dominated by Malay Muslims face conviction by Islamic courts and fines or jail terms for offences like pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers, and propagating other religions.

A second phase comes into effect 12 months later covering offences for theft and alcohol consumption by Muslims, punishable by whipping and amputations.

The death penalty, including by stoning, will be introduced in the final phase a year later for offences including adultery, sodomy and insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad.

Most of the laws will also apply to non-Muslims.

That raises concern among Western workers in the oil sector and tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese Bruneians and 30,000 mostly Roman Catholic Filipino migrant workers. About 20 percent of residents are non-Muslim, including substantial Buddhist and Christian communities.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights denounced the new system for applying the death penalty to a wide range of offences. Several of the penalties constitute torture under international law, said Emerlynne Gil, Southeast Asia legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists.

“A lot of these provisions and penalties discriminate against women. Stoning to death normally has a huge impact on women because more often than not they are found guilty of these crimes,” Gil told Reuters.

U.S. news reports this week said celebrities, including U.S. television personality Ellen DeGeneres and British actor Stephen Fry, had launched a boycott of a hotel chain owned by the sultan on grounds that the new laws criminalised homosexuality.

Brunei’s religious affairs ministry, which is coordinating the implementation of the new laws, did not respond to Reuters request for comment.

A Christian priest in Brunei contacted by Reuters said he was concerned by the development, but hoped the new system would be enforced less strictly than set down in the written law.

“They have been giving seminars to different groups to clarify,” said the priest, who declined to be identified. Authorities, he said, “seem genuinely concerned” at suggestions that the system would have an all-pervasive enforcement network.

EXPERT SAYS NO EXTREMES

Brunei’s top Islamic scholar denied any suggestion the system would lead to extremes, persecution or cruelty.

“It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning,” Awang Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying by state media after the law was announced. “There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.”

Brunei officials have said there will be a high burden of proof required to sentence suspects to harsher punishments.

They say criminal cases rose by a third between 2000 and 2008. Arrests for drug abuse surged 50 percent last year from 2012.

Diplomats say it remains unclear how the new system will work in practice and operate alongside the police and courts under the existing British-based legal system.

The religious turn taken by the sultan contrasts with a reputation for decadent excess gained by the royal family.

Late pop idol Michael Jackson was paid a reported $17 million to give a concert in Brunei in 1996 to mark the sultan’s 50th birthday.

Details of the lavish lifestyle of the sultan’s brother, former finance minister Prince Jefri, including owning hundreds of luxury cars and a large yacht – became public during a family legal feud.

Critics say the new penal code will give authorities expanded powers to stifle dissent at a time when palace officials are concerned about dwindling energy reserves.

“A common concern among the palace elite is that the gas is going to run out. The population’s loyalty has been bought with gas money,” said Maung Zarni, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics who quit the Darussalam Brunei University in 2013 over what he said was a lack of academic freedom.

Responding to a rare outbreak of dissent on social media, the sultan warned in February that anyone criticising the new laws could be punished under their provisions. Strengthening the governing principle of “Malay Islamic Monarchy”, he said, was a crucial “firewall” against globalisation, he said.

Leaders of Malaysia’s Islamist PAS party, part of the opposition, say the move has accelerated their bid to install sharia punishments in Kelantan state, which they control.

A PAS plan to introduce a bill is sowing divisions within the opposition, with critics saying it would be at odds with Malaysia’s secular national constitution.

In Indonesia, some districts have sharia-inspired bylaws but Aceh is the only province allowed to implement it as law. The province has its own sharia police force and courts that enforce strict laws against gambling, promiscuity and alcohol.

— Phuket Gazette Editors



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People have short memories. Why the Boeing 737 MAX will survive the current crisis.

The Thaiger

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People have short memories. Why the Boeing 737 MAX will survive the current crisis. | The Thaiger

If history is anything to go on people’s current fears about the Boeing 737 MAX jets will be short-lived.

The make0ver of the venerable 737 plane, the most popular passenger jet in history, was supposed to set Boeing on a path to success. Airlines said it was the plane they wanted – perfect for short-haul, cheap to run, new efficient engines.

Boeing didn’t go down the path of coming up with a new single-aisle jet to compete with the new Airbus 320 Neo series, instead they decided to come up with a revised 737. The revised plane has slightly larger and more powerful engines, is a little higher off the ground, features some new hi-tech construction materials making it lighter, upgraded avionics and, importantly, new software that was meant to make it even safer.

You can identify a 737 MAX because of the two-spoke winglets at the end of the wings.

Now two of the new series 737 MAX have crashed within six months with investigators speaking about ‘similarities’ in the early days of the crash investigation.

Travel site Kayak even added an option to screen out flights using the 737 Max jets.

If panic persisted, the media kept writing stories about it and airlines were unwilling to buy it, the future of Boeing would be in jeopardy.

That’s the current situation. But it also reflects a similar time during a four-month period in late 1965 and early 1966 when four new Boeing 727 jets crashed. Three of the crashes occurred while the planes were attempting to land at US airports. Two of them happened within three days of each other in November 1965. The 727 was the first commercial jet to fly with less than four jet engines.

Like the 737 MAX crashes, the US regulator, the FAA, defended the planes’ safety and refused to ground the 727s at the time. It issued a statement the day after the third fatal 727 crash, saying that it could find no pattern in the crashes. It declined to ground the jet.

At the time Boeing was still riding on its reputation built around the Boeing 707 jet, the first successful commercial passenger jet (the British Comet was the first commercial passenger jet in 1952 but had a series of catastrophic crashes from which it never recovered profitable sales).

Eventually the Civil Aeronautics Board, which was created in the wake of the crashes, cleared the 727 and blamed pilot error for the accidents. Pilots were not prepared to fly the 727, and that led to the crashes. The new wings of the revolutionary (for the time) 727 made the plane descend much faster than was possible in the past, giving pilots the chance to slow the planes down faster and land on much shorter runways than the jets of the time, a big selling point.

But the pilots at the controls of the four doomed jets in the 60s were apparently unprepared for how quickly the planes would descend with the new wings.

But Boeing did get past the 727 crisis. Increased training led to safer operation of the plane, and these kinds of crashes ended. Customers soon forgot.

The 727 went on to become the bestselling jet of its time for Boeing. It eventually sold 1,831 of the jets, a lot when flying in jets was still mostly reserved for the ‘jet set’ and people able to afford the expensive ticket prices of the time.

“I don’t know that people will care that much for very long,” says Shem Malmquist, a Boeing 727 and 777 Captain.

“They only worry about the price of the ticket.”

People have short memories. Why the Boeing 737 MAX will survive the current crisis. | News by The Thaiger

The Boeing 727 suffered four high-profile crashes in the mid 60s and went on to become a flying favourite.

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World

Preliminary data suggests ‘similarities’ to Lion Air incident – Ethiopian Airlines crash

The Thaiger

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Preliminary data suggests ‘similarities’ to Lion Air incident – Ethiopian Airlines crash | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The ‘black box’ data recorder arrived in Paris last week

Preliminary data analysis from the black boxes of last week’s Ethiopian Airlines plane crash has revealed “similarities” to last October’s Lion Air incident.

Ethiopian Minister of Transport, Dagmawit Moges, says that investigators recovered all relevant data from the data recorders on board the fateful final flight of the Boeing 737 MAX jet.

He did not provide additional details about the alleged “similarities” between the two crashes saying they were “subject to additional investigation. The black box recorders are being evaluated in France after the Ethiopian aviation authorities said they didn’t have the facilities to analyze the data. The recovered recorders were sent to Paris last Thursday.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on March 10, just six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board. It mimics characteristics of the other Boeing 737 MAX crash six months ago in Jakarta where the pilot and crew reported problems with the flight controls before plummeting to the ground (or the sea in the case of the Jakarta crash).

Similarities between the two incidents, both of which remain under investigation, led aviation authorities around the world to ban the 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 model aircraft.

Investigators suspect the Lion Air crash may have been caused by a combination of software, pilot education of new flight systems (introduced by Boeing), and a faulty angle-of-attack sensor on the outside of the plane that could have transmitted incorrect data.

Boeing’s new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, special software designed for the new MAX model jets, may have been responsible for forcing the plane’s nose down, over0riding the pilot’s corrections.

The Boeing Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg issued a statement saying the company “continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available.”

He added the company is “finalising its development of a previously announced software update that will address the MCAS flight control law’s behavior in response to erroneous sensor inputs.

Boeing may apply for special permits to flight-test modifications of newly assembled 737 MAX aircraft in U.S. airspace during the worldwide commercial-flight ban of all 737 MAX-family jets.

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World

Accused Australian killer appears in Christchurch court charged with murder

The Thaiger

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Accused Australian killer appears in Christchurch court charged with murder | The Thaiger

A 28 year old Australian man smirked as he walked into the Christchurch District Court in New Zealand’s South Island this morning, charged with murder after a carefully planned mass shooting at lunchtime prayers at two mosques.

The public was banned from the courtroom for the proceedings, but an angry crowd waited outside the court building.

Brenton Tarrant was brought to court by armed prison officers into the heavily secured central city courtroom, packed with local and international journalists.

According to reporters, the man kept turning towards the media and ‘smiling’. They report the man was ‘eerily calm’ during his appearance.

He has initially appeared on one charge of murder but is expected to face further charges. In New Zealand a murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Press from all over the world gathered in the courtroom, but the general public was banned.

Meanwhile, 18 year old Daniel John Burrough of Christchurch has been charged with intent to excite hostility or ill will against any group of persons on the ground of the colour, race or ethnic or national origins.

The alleged mass slaughter of Muslim worshippers at Friday prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, in central Christchurch, left 49 dead and more than 20 injured.

41 people died at Al Noor Mosque, seven at the Linwood Mosque and another died after being rushed to hospital.

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