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Phuket Gazette World News: Brazil nightclub fire toll climbs; 31 militants slain on Borneo; China land grab

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Phuket Gazette World News: Brazil nightclub fire toll climbs; 31 militants slain on Borneo; China land grab | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Victim from Brazil nightclub fire dies, 16 still hospitalized
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A young woman died yesterday from injuries sustained during a January 27 fire at the Kiss nightclub in southern Brazil, bringing the death toll from the college town tragedy to 241, Brazil’s health ministry said.

Driele Pedroso Lucas, 23, was the last victim on a respirator in Rio Grande do Sul state, but 16 people remain hospitalized after inhaling toxic fumes when a band member’s flare ignited soundproofing foam in the ceiling and set the club ablaze.

Authorities warned in February that some survivors could have to return to the hospital because symptoms for late-onset pneumonia often appear gradually but can be fatal.

The U.S. government shipped cyanide-treatment kits to Brazil to help victims, but cautioned the medicine would not deal with other toxins they inhaled while trying to flee the party through a single exit in the wealthy university town of Santa Maria.

The tragedy has spurred much soul searching in Brazil, which is trying to tighten regulations and its relaxed enforcement of rules before hosting the World Cup football tournament in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

China village seethes over land grabs as Beijing mulls new laws
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Torched vehicles and violent clashes in the Chinese village of Shangpu as farmers protest the loss of land to developers is an uncomfortable reminder to Beijing’s incoming leadership that, for many, pledges of reform to prevent land grabs ring hollow.

Seizures of land across China have been fuelled by soaring prices and Beijing’s urban expansion drive. But outdated laws mean farmers have little legal recourse to oppose land grabs – commonly where village leaders sell off plots to a developer with little or no consultation – or to demand fairer compensation.

Following a spate of high-profile cases, including that of Wukan – a southern village that openly revolted over murky land sales in 2011 – outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao pledged last year to overhaul the regime for land expropriations to give farmers more power. But turning draft policies into law is taking time and in some cases laws are being watered down, leaving land grabs as a leading cause of social unrest.

The case in Shangpu is typical of thousands of others in China each year, according to the accounts of villagers. They say a 33 hectare plot of land now being used to grow rice on the outskirts of the village, also in southern China, was sold off without their consent to make way for the construction of an electric cable factory.

They want the land back and the contract scrapped. Tensions boiled over on February 22 when thousands of residents fought and chased off several hundred men wielding steel pipes and spades who were hired as thugs to try to intimidate the villagers into acquiescing on the deal, they say.

Residents then gutted and overturned more than 20 vehicles driven by the intruders. The smashed jeeps and cars still litter the roads.

“We had every right to fight back and protect ourselves,” said a 16-year-old villager who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals. “The land is our livelihood. We can’t survive without it.”

Rule of Law

Residents have now barricaded the village. Groups of young men – rocks, sticks and walkie-talkies at the ready – watch and block roads from makeshift guardposts, while others have petitioned authorities and are waiting for them to come to their aid.

“Every day we wait but the officials here are ignoring us. The police sit around and won’t help. We haven’t heard anything. The pressure is building,” said a middle aged village leader, who would only be quoted by his family name of Li.

About 90,000 “mass incidents” – a euphemism for social unrest – occur each year in China, of which some two-thirds are triggered by land related disputes.

The Landesa Rural Development Institute – a body advocating land rights that made this estimate based on wide-ranging surveys in China – says land reform is crucial to safeguard the rights of the country’s 700 million rural people and mitigate a growing source of social upheaval.

Bringing greater security to China’s farmers is also seen as crucial to developing a consumer-led economy in China, a pillar of Beijing’s vision for the future. Policymakers hope that more assured land rights would encourage farmers to save less and spend more and also feel more secure about seeking urban jobs.

While all farmland is state-owned, Chinese laws allow farmers long-term land lease rights under village collectives charged with oversight. Land certificates are imprecise at best and over half of rural households lack documentation – leaving possession dependent upon villagers’ knowledge and officialdoms’ whims.

A revised land management law now being debated by China’s parliament, stipulates farmers be paid a “fair” commercial or market value, rather than 30 times the land’s annual agricultural output as before – a small, but significant distinction often exploited by officials who buy cheap and sell the farmland for a massive markup to businesses.

New laws take time

“The rural land system is central to maintaining rural stability and ensuring China’s long-term development,” Wen said at this week’s parliamentary session that will formally confer China’s new leader Xi Jinping with full power.

“We intensified protection of farmland and farmers’ rights and interests, and made a lot of preparations to improve the system of compensating for expropriation of rural collective land,” he said in a report on China’s policy blueprint for 2013.

Wu Xiaohui, a Chinese land expert and Beijing-based lawyer with Landesa, said revisions to the land management laws would “introduce procedural safeguards” so the likes of Shangpu’s farmers can be heard and local government power restricted during land expropriation.

“The revision will not fix all the problems but it will be a significant improvement over the current laws,” said Wu.

But the wheels of Chinese lawmaking turn slowly, involving multiple parties and government agencies. Already the scope of proposed revisions to the laws have been substantially watered down since Wen’s push last year.

The Legislative Affairs Office of China’s cabinet, the State Council, has backed the push to change laws. But some government entities, including the Agriculture Ministry and State Forestry Administration, “oppose any substantive revision”, China’s state-run Legal Daily reported recently.

The Forestry Administration was quoted as saying more study and time should be taken on the issue.

The draft laws have already been submitted to the heads of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, but at least two more reviews are needed before they can be passed.

Even when new laws are in place, the challenge of ensuring adequate enforcement is unlikely to be resolved so long as oversight of local officials nationwide is patchy and lax.

For now, only places that go to extremes such as Wukan and Shangpu tend to get noticed.

“This is a movement for justice,” said a Shangpu elder dressed in green army fatigues as he drank tea with others.

“Xi Jinping said the whole country must fight corruption. This is good for China and the policy i

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 death toll exceeds 100,000 in the UK, government mulls quarantine for travellers

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Covid-19 death toll exceeds 100,000 in the UK, government mulls quarantine for travellers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bloomberg

With the Covid-19 death toll exceeding 100,000 in the United Kingdom, the British government is considering a mandatory hotel quarantine for visitors entering the country. A quarantine system is considered to be an effective way to limit virus transmission and stop new coronavirus variants from spreading into the country.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with senior officials in a meeting yesterday, saying that the government will consider tighter border measures. UK citizens and residents arriving from most of southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal, will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense.

Currently, people arriving in the UK from abroad must show the Covid-19 test results, while direct flights from South Africa, Brazil, and Portugal are banned to prevent the spreading of new variants in the Kingdom.

Hotel quarantine measures have been used in Australia, New Zealand, China, India, and Singapore, but the disease control practice has not been widely used in Europe.

In Thailand, those who enter the country from abroad must quarantine for 14 days at either a state quarantine facility or at an alternative quarantine hotel. Travellers must also be tested for Covid-19 before their flight to Thailand and tested at least another 2 times before they are released from quarantine.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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Mass Covid-19 immunisation in poor countries could take until 2024

Caitlin Ashworth

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Mass Covid-19 immunisation in poor countries could take until 2024 | The Thaiger
Stock photo by Gustavo Fring for Pexels

While developed countries, like those in the European Union, are likely to vaccinate most of the population within the next year, most poor countries won’t be able to reach mass Covid-19 immunisation until 2024, according to an analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

84 of the world’s poorest countries will not receive enough vaccinations to reach herd immunity within the next year, according to the unit’s global forecasting director and author of the report, Agathe Demarais.

Agathe told the Guardian that disparity in vaccinations between the rich and poor countries will “define the global economy, the global political landscape, travel, pretty much everything.”

Poor countries may have poor medical infrastructure and few health workers that are trained to administer vaccines. Some countries may also have issues securing vaccine ingredients as well as production constraints and delays in delivery.

Countries with many people living in rural areas, like India and China, may also have problems reaching people in remote areas, according to Agathe.

SOURCE: Guardian

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Moderna vaccine is proved ‘protective’ against Covid-19 variants

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Moderna vaccine is proved ‘protective’ against Covid-19 variants | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

As fear over new variants of Covid-19 had prompted the travel restrictions to tighten worldwide, the United States biotech firm Moderna announced that its vaccine should protect against the variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Latest studies on the efficacy of Moderna vaccines confirmed that the vaccines are effective and protective against new variants. The company will continue more tests adding a second booster of its vaccine, bringing to 3 shots in a total.

“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants.”

Last month, a private hospital in Bangkok advertised pre-orders for the Moderna vaccine, which still needs approval from Thailand’s FDA. Thailand’s Department of Health Service Support demanded that the hospital remove the advertisements.

In the ads, the hospital was charging 4,000 baht for a booking of the vaccine. In the post the hospital said the vaccine would arrive in Thailand in October 2021. They also announced that the vaccine would cost 6,000-10,000 baht.

Health officials say private hospitals will be allowed to administer vaccines that are approved by the FDA. So far, the Thai government has only approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use. The first batch of 50,000 doses are expected to arrive next month. Frontline health care workers and vulnerable groups in high risk areas will be first to receive the vaccine.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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