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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 But outdated laws mean farmers have little legal recourse to oppose land grabs – commonly where village leaders sell off plots to a developer with little or no consultation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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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported

The Thaiger

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported | The Thaiger
PHOTO: New cases reported over the weekend are concerning health offficials - BBC.com

Another 139 new cases of a flu-like disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus in China has shocked health officials. There’s also been a third confirmed death reported today. Worse, the outbreak has now spread beyond Wuhan in central China where the virus was first identified. There have been cases reported in Beijing, a province next door to Shanghai and Shenzhen in southern China.

Health authorities in Beijing have now confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus today, while Guangdong authorities in southern China reported one new case in Shenzhen as well. The Shenzhen case is the first confirmation that the virus has spread domestically beyond Wuhan.

The Wuhan Health Commission announced today that 136 new patients had been diagnosed over the weekend – 1 person died from the virus, 2 remain in critical condition, 33 are in serious condition. All three patients that have died are believed to have visited Wuhan in the last month or so.

The new cases have brought the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in China to 201. That’s a big jump over numbers reported over the weekend.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, say they are monitoring eight patient. All eight have been quarantined for treatment. In coastal Zhejiang province, bordering Shanghai, authorities have now reported five new suspected cases who have been confirmed to have visited Wuhan. Last week, three cases were detected outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan. All cases have been linked to Wuhan. On Monday, South Korea also confirmed its first case of the virus.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market at the centre of the pneumonia outbreak in he city of tWuhan has been closed for disinfection since January 1.

Meanwhile, Thai officials are stepping up screening efforts with many flights flying in from Wuhan over the next few weeks for the Chinese New Year holidays. Health officials say they’re confident that their screening efforts will detect any infected passengers getting off flights at Thai airports.

SOURCE: CNN

Coronavirus spreads north and south in China - 139 new cases reported | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Bangkok Post

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year

The Thaiger

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Conversation

Chinese medical officials have now reported four more cases of the viral pneumonia strain caused by a new coronavirus. The discoveries are causing rising concern that the disease is not fully understand and could spread during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

The new virus, originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the apparent epicentre of the outbreak – is believed to belong in the same class of coronaviruses that includes the deadly SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002/03. That outbreak also started in China.

At this stage all signs are that the virus isn’t as lethal as SARS, but there is still little known about the coronavirus’ origins and how it is transmitted. But it has been established at this stage that it is not spread human to human.

Both Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus. In Thailand the patient was detected when arriving on a flight from Wuhan. And Japan’s health ministry reported that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return to Japan.

Both patients have fully recovered.

The new cases detected in China, and the cases detected overseas, are stoking global concerns as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese will head overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays that begin next week and run through to early February.

The Wuhan Health Commission reports that the the four new cases are now in stable condition. 45 cases have been reported in the city as of last Thursday. A second patient died on Wednesday this week. Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all of them either lived in Wuhan or have travelled to the city.

The London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis speculates that there are probably “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently declared by Wuhan authorities. Their modelling estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by the second week in January.

Meanwhile US authorities say they are now screening at three airports to detect passengers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. And in Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are stepping up monitoring of travellers from Wuhan at airports.

SOURCE: Reuters | Science Alert

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Thailand

Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released

Greeley Pulitzer

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Johan van Laarhoven walks free after serving six years of a 100 year sentence in Thai prison - The Chiang Rai Times

A Dutch citizen who was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is now on his way home after years of campaigning for his release. His sentence was reduced to 75 years on appeal and later to 50 years by the Supreme court. Johan van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis “coffee shops” in Holland, was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, along with his Thai wife, though the offences took place in The Netherlands.

Thai authorities began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after a letter from a Dutch public prosecutor’s office, informing them that he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting their help. Last year, MPs called on the government to to extradite Van Laarhoven and his wife back to Netherlands. The Dutch justice minister even met with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.

Even though cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, Dutch officials bungled a tax query to Thai authorities regarding the sale of the Dutchman’s cannabis cafe chain. This led to a criminal investigation and his televised arrest in Thailand.

Thai authorities seized the Dutchman’s assets and he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was jailed for 13 years as an accomplice. The Netherlands has an extradition treaty with Thailand, but it can only be implemented after a case has been ruled “definitive.” Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution. It’s unclear whether his wife will be allowed to join him in the Netherlands.

Once back, Van Laarhoven will spend two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, and also face criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership in a criminal organisation and laundering €20m (675 million baht) according to a Dutch public prosecutor.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times | Dutchnews.nl

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