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Phuket Gazette World News: Dalai Lama decries Buddhist attacks in Myanmar; Russia, US target Syria peace; Ohio captives freed; SARS-like virus in Saudi

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Phuket Gazette World News: Dalai Lama decries Buddhist attacks in Myanmar; Russia, US target Syria peace; Ohio captives freed; SARS-like virus in Saudi | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Dalai Lama decries Buddhist attacks on Muslims in Myanmar
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday decried Buddhist monks’ attacks on Muslims in Myanmar, saying killing in the name of religion was “unthinkable.”

The Dalai Lama, a foremost Buddhist leader, told an audience at the University of Maryland at the start of a U.S. tour that the root of seemingly sectarian conflict was political, not spiritual.

“Really, killing people in the name of religion is unthinkable, very sad. Nowadays even Buddhists are involved in Burma,” another name for Myanmar, with monks attacking Muslim mosques, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said after delivering the Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace at the university.

“I think it is very sad,” he said, adding, “I pray for them (the monks) to think of the face of Buddha,” who had been a protector of Muslims.

A wave of sectarian violence erupted in March in the central Myanmar town of Meikhtila, causing 44 deaths and displacing an estimated 13,000 people, mostly Muslims.

A Reuters investigation found that radical Buddhist monks had been actively involved in the violence and in spreading anti-Muslim material around the country.

Sectarian clashes between Buddhists and Muslims, who make up about 5 percent of Myanmar’s population, have erupted on several occasions since a quasi-civilian government took power in March 2011 after five decades of military dictatorship.

The 77-year-old Dalai Lama also urged his largely student audience of 15,000 to create a new world in the 21st century, saying that he was a man of the last century.

“That group of individuals of the 20th century are ready to say bye-bye,” Tibet’s most revered spiritual leader said. “You have the responsibility to create a new world based on the concept of one humanity.”

China brands the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet, as a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

The address in College Park, Maryland, was the start of a U.S. visit that includes stops in Oregon, Wisconsin, Kentucky and New Orleans, Louisiana.

U.S., Russia push for rapid talks to end Syria carnage
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Russia and the United States have agreed to bury their differences over Syria and hold urgent international talks to find a settlement that can end the carnage of a civil war that is inflaming the entire Middle East.

Visiting Moscow after Israel bombed targets near Damascus and as President Barack Obama faces new calls to arm the rebels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia had agreed to try to arrange a conference as early as this month involving both President Bashar al-Assad’s government and his opponents.

East-West disagreement that has seen some of the frostiest exchanges between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War has deadlocked U.N. efforts to settle the Syrian conflict for two years, so any rapprochement could bring an international common front closer than it has been for many months.

But with Syria’s factional and sectarian hatreds more entrenched than ever after 70,000 deaths, it is far from clear the warring parties are ready to negotiate. There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government, which has offered reforms but dismisses those fighting it as “terrorists”.

The late hour of the announcement in Moscow – Kerry was kept waiting for three hours by President Vladimir Putin – also meant leaders of the Western-backed opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Coalition were not available for comment. Many on the body have insisted Assad’s exit is a condition for talks.

Inside the country, where rebel groups are numerous and have disparate views, a military commander in the north, Abdeljabbar al-Oqaidi, told Reuters he would want to know details of the U.S.-Russian plan before taking a view: “But,” he added, “if the regime were present, I do not believe we would want to attend.”

Alarmed at the prospect of the conflict spilling across an already volatile and economically important region, however, the major powers have, as Kerry told Putin late on Tuesday, “very significant common interests” in pushing for a settlement.

“The alternative,” Kerry later told a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “is that Syria heads closer to an abyss, if not over the abyss and into chaos.

“The alternative is that the humanitarian crisis will grow. The alternative is that there may be even a break-up of Syria.”

Geneva agreement

A year ago, at a conference in Geneva in June, Washington and Moscow agreed on the need for a transitional government in Syria but left open the question of what would happen to Assad, whose departure Obama has called for but which Russia, accusing the West of meddling, says should be a matter for Syrians only.

Rejecting a characterisation of Moscow as the protector of Assad, to whose army it has been a major arms suppliers since the days of his father’s rule, Lavrov insisted Russia was not concerned by the fate of “certain” individuals.

“The task now is to convince the government and all the opposition groups … to sit at the negotiating table,” he said.

Kerry said the conference should be held “as soon as is practical – possibly and hopefully by the end of the month”. Neither he nor Lavrov said where it might take place.

Kerry said there would be “a growing crescendo of nations who will want to push for a peaceful resolution, rather than the chaos that comes with the breakup of a country”.

Although the United States has said Assad should not be part of a transitional government in Syria, Kerry said the decision on who takes part in it should be left to the Syrians.

Lavrov said the aim would be “to persuade the government and the opposition together … to fully implement the Geneva communiqué” on creating a transitional government.

Russia, backed by China which shares its mistrust of Western enthusiasm for toppling autocrats, has refused appeals to consider sanctions on Assad, vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning his crackdown on opposition groups.

Assad defiant

Recent developments have helped focus minds on the risks of wider war in the Middle East: intelligence reports that Assad’s troops may have used chemical weapons had renewed calls for Obama to arm the rebels or even offer U.S. forces; Islamist fighters pledging allegiance to al Qaeda has highlighted how some of the rebels are also hostile to the West; and Israeli air strikes in the past few days, said to target Iranian arms headed for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have underlined the risk of escalation.

Speaking before the announcement in Moscow, Assad was quoted by a sympathetic Lebanese television channel as saying he would defy Israel, the United States and Arab powers who oppose him: “The recent Israeli aggressions expose the extent of the complicity between the Israeli occupier, regional countries and the West in promoting the current events in Syria,” he said.

“The Syrian people and their heroic army … are capable of confronting this Israeli adventure, which represents one of the faces of terrorism that is targeting Syri

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Economy

Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy

The Thaiger

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Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy | The Thaiger

The British pound fell today as investors fret over PM Boris Johnson’s chances of pushing his Brexit deal through the British parliament, while Asian markets were mostly down after data showed China’s economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades.

The pound rallied almost to US$1.30 yesterday following news that negotiators had hammered out an agreement that would avoid Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal – a move many warn would be economically catastrophic. But the brief celebrations were soon tempered by the realisation that the British PM faces an uphill task in getting the deal past lawmakers, with opposition MPs and even some in his own Conservative party saying they won’t pass it.

Most importantly, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson’s government, said it was “unable to support these proposals”.

Forex traders sold sterling, pushing it back down below $1.29, and it extended losses in Asia. Focus is now on a crucial vote in London on the deal scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday).

“Much will depend on the PM’s ability to get some if not all DUP and (Scottish National Party) MPs onside, in addition to also getting the backing from the 21 ex-Conservative MPs he expelled from the party last month,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

“Rejection of the deal might well see more political brinkmanship around a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but the most likely scenario would be yet another extension of the 31 October Brexit date.”

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said whichever way the vote goes, “traders should prepare themselves for some severe volatility on Monday morning, with multiple big-figure moves a strong possibility”.

China growth slows again

Asian equity markets, meanwhile, were mostly lower after China said its economy expanded 6% in the third quarter, the slowest pace in 27 years, as leaders struggle to address weak domestic demand and the long-running US trade war.

The reading was a drop from the previous three months but in line with an AFP forecast and the government’s 6-6.5% target for the year.

While the National Bureau of Statistics said the economy “maintained overall stability”, it added that it “is under mounting downward pressure” from weakness at home and abroad.

Shanghai ended down 1.3% with Stephen Innes at AxiTrader saying traders were concerned the figures were not weak enough to prompt the Chinese central bank to embark on a big stimulus drive.

“With the People’s Bank of China, who arguably have plenty of policy ammunition to right the ship, probably unwilling to turn on the monetary taps, investors are taking risk off the table,” he said in a note.

Hong Kong was off 0.5% amid concern over the possibility of more violent protests over the weekend, while Sydney closed down 0.5 percent and Singapore eased 0.4%.

Seoul shed 0.8% and Wellington lost 0.7%, with Taipei and Manila also lower. But Tokyo closed 0.2 higher at a 10-month high, while Mumbai and Jakarta also edged up.

Hopes for the China-US trade talks were given a lift after Beijing’s commerce ministry said negotiators have “accelerated efforts” to hammer out details of last Friday’s mini-deal and were holding talks on moving on to the next phase of a wider agreement.

Donald Trump said Wednesday he hopes to sign the deal with President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Chile next month.

And the Turkish lira jumped more than 1% after Ankara said it would pause military operations in northern Syria for five days and US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would not impose any fresh sanctions.

Key markets today…

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2857 from $1.2891 at 2050 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.48 pence from 86.31 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1122 from $1.1127

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.63 yen from 108.62 yen

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4% at 7,152.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2% at 22,492.68 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5% at 26,719.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.3% at 2,938.14 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $53.97 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 22 cents at $59.69 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.1% at 27,025.88 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Philippines

Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines

May Taylor

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Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines | The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck the southern Philippines, killing five, including one child, destroying property and disrupting power supply. The death toll is expected to rise.

The powerful quake was felt across the Mindanao region, even causing a 3-storey shopping mall to burst into flames. Residents were evacuated and a child was killed when a house collapsed in the town of Datu Paglas.

AFP reports that the quake was 14 kilometres deep and followed by two aftershocks. The Philippines is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of constant seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific.

Several injuries have been reported as a result of falling debris. The shopping mall that caught fire was evacuated when the quake struck, but it’s not yet known if there were still people inside as the fire took hold.

The mall was still on fire three hours later as nearly 100 firemen battled to put it out.

Residents on the coast in Davao fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami, even though a government seismologist reassured people there was no tsunami risk as the quake had occurred inland.

It’s understood that prisoners in the municipal jail in the town of Bansalan were also let out, but placed in handcuffs and held outside for the duration of the evacuation.

SOURCE: AFP

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World

Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags

The Thaiger

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Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags | The Thaiger

The British Pound tumbled again today after UK PM Boris Johnson’s key ally in parliament said it “could not support” his plans for a Brexit deal, throwing a spanner in the works – just as Britain and the EU were closing in on an agreement.

The comment caused an immediate reaction from this morning’s Asia Pacific markets.

After years of wrangling, the two sides said they were edging towards the basis for a treaty allowing Britain to avoid an economically catastrophic “no-deal” exit from the European Union.

With both teams working through the night, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been “good progress, and work is ongoing”, while France’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday a deal was “within reach but is not guaranteed”.

There had been optimism that a deal was in the offing, just two weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc, as they worked towards a solution on the vexed question of British-ruled Northern Ireland.

But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dropped a bombshell hours before the start of a crunch EU summit Thursday, saying it cannot support the plan.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity” on Value Added Tax, the DUP, which props up Johnson’s government, said in a statement on Twitter.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster had met Johnson several times this week to discuss the progress of talks and had described as “nonsense” previous reports that she was ready to give way.

The pound, which earlier in the day was hovering at five-month highs around $1.2877 sank to $1.2750 before edging back slightly, while it also lost ground to the euro.

The DUP are against any deal that would tie Northern Ireland to EU rules but cut the rest of the United Kingdom loose.

Markets react

In early trade, London’s FTSE added 0.1%, Paris was flat and Frankfurt eased 0.2%. In Asia, most markets were in the red, with traders unable to take advantage of weak US retail data that raised the chances of another Federal Reserve interest rate cut. Comments in the Fed’s Beige Book update on the economy also pointed to a slowdown.

Hong Kong added 0.7% but Shanghai finished 0.1% lower and Tokyo lost 0.1%.

Sydney sank 0.8%, Singapore shed 0.7% and Seoul retreated 0.2%t, with Wellington and Manila also off. There were gains in Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

Speculation about a possible US rate cut provided support to higher-yielding currencies against the dollar, with the Australian dollar 0.6 percent up and the South Korean won 0.1 percent stronger. The Thai baht, the Mexican peso and the South African rand also posted healthy gains.

Oil prices fell after data pointed to a sharp rise in US stockpiles that reinforced worries about the impact on demand from the China-US trade war and the global economic slowdown.

Key markets today

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2784 from $1.2817 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.65 pence from 86.33 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1081 from $1.1073

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.80 yen from 108.71 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,175.09

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1% at 22,451.86 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.7% at 26,848.49 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1% at 2,977.33 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 56 cents at $52.80 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 55 cents at $58.87 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1% at 27,001.98 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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