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Obama defends Bergdahl Taliban prisoner swap deal

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Obama defends deal that freed soldier amid growing demands for hearings
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: President Barack Obama defended on Tuesday the prisoner swap deal that freed a U.S. soldier from Taliban captivity in Afghanistan, and the Army pledged to investigate the circumstances of his capture after fellow soldiers said he had deserted.

Trying to defuse concerns of members of Congress who said the president broke the law by not giving them advance notice of the agreement, Obama told a news conference in Warsaw: “Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop.”

Top White House officials also tried to tamp down outrage in the Capitol by calling key lawmakers to apologise personally for failing to fill them in on the administration’s plans before last weekend’s prisoner swap.

Obama said the five Afghans released into the custody of the Gulf emirate of Qatar would be closely monitored there. Under the terms of the deal that freed 28-year-old U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl after being held for five years, the Taliban leaders must remain in Qatar for a year.

A senior Gulf official said on Tuesday the men had been moved to a residential compound in the capital, Doha, and can “move around freely within” Qatar.

The White House tweaked some Republican lawmakers for their criticism. It pointed reporters to Senator Kelly Ayotte’s remarks two weeks ago urging the Pentagon to “redouble its efforts” to return Bergdahl to his family and Senator John McCain’s comment in February saying he might support a prisoner swap.

Lawmakers from both political parties are concerned about the terms of the prisoner exchange, questioning how closely the released Taliban leaders would be monitored and whether it would set a precedent. The five Afghans had been held at the much-criticized U.S. military base of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Congress is required to be given 30 days notice for any transfer of prisoners from there.

Senator Richard Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, emerged from a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and presidential adviser John Podesta saying there were questions about the required 30-day notification.

Durbin also said, “until I know the circumstances in Qatar, it’s kind of hard” to give an opinion about the prisoner swap.

HAGEL INVITED TO HEARING

California Republican Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday he had invited Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel to testify on June 11 at a hearing on the Taliban detainee transfer.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner endorsed a call for congressional hearings to look into the administration’s handling of the prisoner swap, as did Majority Leader Harry Reid of the Democratic-dominated Senate.

Reid said he had been told Obama did not violate the law requiring 30-day notice of Congress before transferring Guantanamo prisoners, but Boehner said the “administration has invited serious questions into how this exchange went down.”

An aide said the first call from the Department of Defence to Boehner came at 11:52 a.m. EDT on Saturday, when the news was already being made public. The caller acknowledged that the administration’s action was inconsistent with the law requiring a 30-day notification.

But Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the president put Congress on notice on December 23, 2013, that he would “act swiftly” regarding detainee transfers if necessary.

“Given that notice, members of Congress should not be surprised that he acted as he did in the circumstances that existed,” Levin said.

Bergdahl is in a military hospital in Germany, undergoing physical and mental assessments. Obama said Bergdahl was not being interrogated by military authorities and had not yet seen his family.

Bergdahl’s release has unleashed criticism from former comrades about the circumstances of his disappearance and capture. According to some online accounts of soldiers, Bergdahl left his unit quietly, without his flak jacket and heavy fighting equipment. Several soldiers were killed in searches for Bergdahl, according to some of these accounts.

The Pentagon has said it was unable to confirm media reports that six troops died in searches for Bergdahl. It said the circumstances surrounding his June 2009 disappearance were unclear.

After Bergdahl failed to show up for roll call, U.S. officials picked up radio communication between Taliban insurgents who said “an American soldier with a camera is looking for someone who speaks English,” according to U.S. diplomatic cables.

Josh Korder, a former U.S. Army sergeant who served with Bergdahl, told NBC he was “quite upset” about the sergeant’s release because his unit had worked hard to track down Taliban leaders like those released in exchange for him.

“You’re just going to let these guys go for somebody you’re already saying you know walked away?” Korder said on NBC’s “Today” program. “That’s just not right.”

Facing a flood of questions, the U.S. Army said on Tuesday it would further investigate, but not until after the initial stages of the reintegration process.

“Our first priority is ensuring Sergeant Bergdahl’s health and beginning his reintegration process. There is no timeline for this, and we will take as long as medically necessary to aid his recovery,” Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Condolences from Thailand to UK on Prince Philip’s death

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Condolences from Thailand to UK on Prince Philip’s death | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: The King and Queen of Thailand greet the King and Queen of England

The leaders of Thailand have sent messages of condolences to their British counterparts following the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand has sent a message of condolence to Prince Philip’s widow, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, released by the Thai Royal Household Bureau, stating that the King and Queen are deeply saddened by Prince Philip’s death.

“We all in Thailand join the people of Great Britain in mourning this great loss, a sense of loss being shared by peoples around the world, whose lives have been touched and enriched by His Royal Highness’ enduring legacies in their diversity.

We still recall, with much pride and warmth, the two historic state visits made by Your Majesty in 1972 and 1996, with His Royal Highness at your side, as guests of my beloved father, His late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Just as important to the people of Thailand was how His Royal Highness wished, during his later visits on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund, to share with them his love of nature and passion for the environment, thus inspiring a number of essential projects of conservation.

May I, on behalf of the people of Thailand, express to Your Majesty, the Royal Family and the British people our heartfelt sympathy and condolences for this truly grievous loss.”

Meanwhile, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha released a statement on behalf of the people of Thailand, saying their thoughts and prayers were with the people of Britain. PM Prayut sent a message to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson praising Prince Philip’s “exceptional leadership”.

“On behalf of the Royal Thai Government and the people of Thailand, I wish to extend to Your Right Honourable and the British people our deepest condolences and sympathy for this irreparable loss. We join the British people in mourning the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the British people in this time of sadness”

Prince Philip, who was married to Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years, died Friday at the age of 99 after recently being released from King Edward VII Hospital recovering from a February surgery for a heart condition. He was the longest-serving consort in British history. The Duke of Edinburgh had visited Thailand twice, escorting the Queen for state visits with King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1972 and 1996.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World & Thai Examiner

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Buckingham Palace announces the death of Prince Philip

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Buckingham Palace announces the death of Prince Philip | Thaiger

Prince Philip, the husband and consort to Queen Elizabeth II, has died at the age of 99. The Duke of Edinburgh was the longest-serving consort in the history of the United Kingdom, retiring in 2017 after more than 20,000 public engagements. Born on the Greek island of Corfu, Philip had 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren with the Queen. Buckingham Palace released a statement mourning the loss.

Prince Philip was born on June 10, 1921 on the island of Corfu, Greece. He married Princess Elizabeth on November 20, 1947.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

Buckingham Palace announces the death of Prince Philip | News by Thaiger

Buckingham Palace announces the death of Prince Philip | News by Thaiger

 

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Prince Philip dies at the age of 99 – Buckingham Palace

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Prince Philip dies at the age of 99 – Buckingham Palace | Thaiger

The husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, has died at the age of 99. Buckingham Palace announced his death in the last hour.

Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, 5 years before she became Queen. He was the longest-serving royal consort in British history.

The couple had 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

SOURCE: BBC

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