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Phuket Gazette World News: Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons begins

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

PHUKET: International experts began overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal on Sunday, said an official from the mission that has averted a U.S. strike but could rob President Bashar al-Assad of his most feared weapon.

The process is being conducted amid a civil war in which 120,000 people have been killed, fragmenting Syria along sectarian and ethnic lines and drawing in Iran and Hezbollah on the side of Assad and his Alawite minority and Arab Sunni powers on the side of the mostly Sunni Muslim rebels.

The official, a member of a joint team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague and the United Nations, said Syrian forces used cutting torches and angle grinders to begin “destroying munitions such as missile warheads and aerial bombs and disabling mobile and static mixing and filling units”.

“Let it be clear that it is the Syrians who do the actual destroying while we monitor, observe, verify and report,” he said.

Witnesses said the experts, who arrived on Tuesday, left their Damascus hotel in the early hours of Sunday to begin their work in an undisclosed location.

The mission, which the United States hammered out with Russia after an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus prompted U.S. threats of air strikes against Assad’s forces, is expected to continue until at least mid-2014.

Even without his chemical weapons arsenal, Assad’s air power and better-equipped ground forces would still hold a significant advantage over the rebels, who remain divided, with large numbers joining hardline Islamist brigades.

On the ground, the war has largely settled into a stalemate, with Assad seeking to tighten his grip on the centre of the country, the coast, areas along the country’s main north-south highway, routes to Lebanon and Iraq, and Damascus, scene of the August 21 sarin gas attack.

Assad’s government and the rebels blame each other for the attack in Sunni Muslim suburbs of the capital that killed hundreds of people.

The United States and other Western countries say a report by U.N. investigators indirectly implicates government-allied forces for the attack.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution last week that demands the eradication of Syria’s chemical weapons and endorses a plan for a political transition in Syria.

The West is pushing, along with Russia, for the convening of a conference to nudge Assad and his foes towards a settlement to the conflict, the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” revolts against entrenched autocrats.

But Assad told a German magazine he would not negotiate with rebels until they laid down their arms, and said his most powerful ally Russia supported his government more than ever.

He said he did not believe it was possible to solve the conflict through negotiations with the rebels.

“In my view, a political opposition does not carry weapons. If someone drops his weapons and wants to return to daily life, then we can discuss it,” he was quoted as saying by Der Spiegel.

The opposition insists on a peace conference producing a transitional government with full powers that excludes Assad and his lieutenants, and the U.N.’s Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Sunday it was not certain that peace talks would take place in mid-November in Geneva as planned.

Heavy fighting between rebels and loyalist forces was reported in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, once the country’s industrial and commercial hub.

In the coastal province of Tartous, loyalist Alawite and Christian militia surrounded al-Mitras, a rebellious Sunni village inhabited by members of Syria’s small Turkmen community, which has been generally supportive of the revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a monitoring group based in the UK and headed by opposition activist Rami Abdulrahman, said eight people were killed defending al-Mitras and warned of a massacre if the village were overrun.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble Thai massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by the CNN Travel team. Thailand’s smooth coconut milk and potato-based curry (add meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at Number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also making it into the World’s Best food list.

The hot and spicy shrimp/prawn soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at Number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck, Penang Assam laksa, Malaysia and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

First Place, Massaman curryEmphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Eighth Place, Tom Yum Kung

This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

46th Place, Som Tam/Papaya salad

To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies

Caitlin Ashworth

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies | The Thaiger

A volunteer for a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial in Brazil has died. But he never actually received the experimental vaccine, although he was involved in the trial groups. He did, however, die of Covid-19.

But trials on the vaccine, being developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, are set to continue. The university says “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.” The vaccine is also planned to be produced in Thailand and be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021.

The 28 year old volunteer from Rio de Janeiro died from Covid-19 complications, according to CNN Brasil. He was apparently never injected with the experimental vaccine. If the volunteer had been given the Covid-19 vaccine and died, the trial would have been suspended, a source told Reuters, adding that the volunteer may have been part of the control group.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo is helping to coordinate the trials in Brazil and has also recommended the trials continue. So far, 8,000 volunteers have been injected with the first dose of the vaccine and some have already been jabbed a second time, a university spokesperson said.

“Everything is proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers.”

Thailand is set to be the Southeast Asia production site for the new vaccine. If the AstraZeneca trials are successful, the vaccine will be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021. For Thailand, the vaccine is seen as a lifeline to save the country’s struggling economy, allowing borders to safely reopen and revive the tourism industry.

The company Siam Bioscience will manufacture the vaccine in Thailand and provide injections for the Thai populations as well as the neighbouring countries Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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World

China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue

Maya Taylor

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China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bicanski on Pixnio

The Chinese government is to keep the current ban on inbound and outbound tour groups, amid fears that the winter months could bring a resurgence of Covid-19. The Bangkok Post reports that the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has confirmed on its website that the ban remains in place. After several months with very low case numbers, officials are wary of the virus surging back this winter.

The ban on outbound tours is severely impacting places like Thailand, where former tourist hotspots are already suffering devastating economic consequences from the closure of the country’s borders in late March. Earlier this week, Thailand welcomed its first group of Chinese tourists in 7 months, but the Kingdom has a long way to go to get back to the 10.99 million Chinese who visited last year – if it ever does.

As the Covid-19 virus made itself known at the start of 2020, China put a stop to both domestic and outbound tours in January. Since July, domestic tours have started up again as a result of a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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