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Phuket Gazette World News: Hun Sen holds Cambodia; 36 dead in Italy tour bus plunge; Gaza talks are back; JJ Cale is dead

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Phuket Gazette World News: Hun Sen holds Cambodia; 36 dead in Italy tour bus plunge; Gaza talks are back; JJ Cale is dead | The Thaiger

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

Hun Sen wins Cambodia election, majority slashed
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen won Sunday’s election, taking 68 seats to the main opposition party’s 55, the government spokesman said, announcing a much-reduced majority for the ruling party.

Khieu Kanharith, who is also information minister, gave the figures on his Facebook page and said it was the final count. The National Election Committee (NEC) has not published figures but was expected to give a partial count later in the day.

Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said earlier his party had won the election but then withdrew the statement. No explanation was given.

Backed by a compliant media and with superior resources, the CPP was confident of victory, but analysts had said the recent merger of the two main opposition parties plus the return from exile of Sam Rainsy could lead to a reduction in its majority.

If the figures given by Khieu Kanharith are confirmed, they would represent a significant gain for the opposition and a setback for Hun Sen, who has served as prime minister since 1985.

The CPP had 90 of the 123 seats in the outgoing parliament and the parties that united to form the CNRP had just 29.

While not formally accepting defeat, Sam Rainsy was conciliatory and called for calm.

“We want to thank all Cambodian people … regardless of their political affiliation, Cambodians who support all political parties, for their dignified participation in this election, for their contribution to make democracy move forward,” he told a news briefing.

He appealed to his youthful supporters not to cause any trouble: “We call for peace and reconciliation.”

Earlier, in a highly charged atmosphere after the end of polling at 3 p.m. (0800 GMT), an angry crowd set fire to a car outside one polling station in the capital and some smashed up police cars, a Reuters photographer said.

Military police blocked off a road leading to the home of Hun Sen, who has been in power for 28 years, and one going to the offices of the CPP and the NEC.

Voting, like the campaign itself, was generally peaceful although some trouble was reported in various places, mostly involving people complaining about irregularities.

Sam Rainsy’s party had alleged electoral lists were manipulated to give the CPP more votes and also complained about the disruption of meetings plus campaigning by the security forces for Hun Sen.

“The partisanship of the military and police has created an intimidating atmosphere for voters in many parts of the country,” U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement ahead of the poll.

Royal pardon

Before his royal pardon, Sam Rainsy had faced a jail sentence handed down in 2010 for spreading disinformation and falsifying maps to contest a new border agreed with Vietnam, charges he called politically motivated.

He returned too late to register to run in the election, or even to vote, and the electoral authorities rejected his late request to do so.

But the charismatic former finance minister had attracted large crowds to rallies and appealed to younger voters with no memory of the turmoil before the authoritarian Hun Sen helped restore stability.

At one polling station set up at a pagoda in Phnom Penh, 29-year-old Khat Sreynit said she wanted a better country and jobs for university graduates. “And also that people have a living wage,” she said, before rushing into the crowd to get a glimpse of Sam Rainsy, who had turned up there.

A 70-year-old voter clutching an ID card declined to give her name but said: “This election is important for the country. I have always voted before, since 1993, I voted for living conditions and the country.” She paid little attention to Sam Rainsy’s arrival.

The United Nations organised an election in 1993 that put Cambodia on a rocky path towards stability after decades of turmoil, including the 1975-79 “Killing Fields” rule of the communist Khmer Rouge.

Under Hun Sen, a former junior commander in the Khmer Rouge who broke away during their rule, Cambodia has been transformed into one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies, helped by garment exports plus aid money and investment from China.

But economic growth has been accompanied by a rise in social tension over poor factory conditions and rural land rights in a country of 14 million where a third of the people live on less than 65 U.S. cents a day.

At least 36 dead after coach plunges off viaduct in Italy
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: At least 36 people died after a coach plunged more than 15 metres off a viaduct in southern Italy on Sunday, a spokesman for the fire service said.

Eleven people were pulled out alive from the stricken coach and taken to hospital, some with serious injuries, the spokesman said.

Rescue operations are ongoing, he said.

The coach was carrying about 48 people back to Naples after visiting Telese Terme in the southern region of Campania, Italian daily La Repubblica reported.

“The situation is dramatic,” the spokesman for the fire service said, adding that several other vehicles were also involved in the accident.

Driver of derailed Spanish train charged with 79 counts of homicide
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The driver of a Spanish high-speed train that derailed and killed 79 people was released pending trial on charges of reckless homicide, a judge ruled on Sunday night.

Francisco Garzon, 52, had been under arrest since Thursday. He is suspected of driving the train too fast through a tight curve on the outskirts of the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela.

Examining Magistrate Luis Alaez formally charged Garzon with “79 counts of homicide and numerous offences of bodily harm, all of them committed through professional recklessness,” the court said in a statement.

In a closed-door hearing before Judge Alaez, Garzon admitted taking the curve too fast, blaming it on a momentary lapse, according to media reports.

Alaez set the following conditions of release: Garzon must check in regularly with the court, surrender his passport and not drive trains.

None of the parties in the case, which include state train operator Renfe, state railway firm Adif and two insurance companies, had asked for Garzon to be jailed pending trial, and he was not seen as a flight risk, the court statement said.

At 8:41 p.m. on Wednesday the eight-carriage, high-speed train slammed into a concrete wall, crumpled, and some of the cars caught fire. The impact was so strong that one of the carriages was thrown several metres high over an embankment.

The death toll from Spain’s worst train disaster in decades rose to 79 after one injured person – a woman from the United States – died on Sunday.

Seventy people remain hospitalised with injuries from the crash, 22 are in critical condition.

Garzon has worked for Renfe for 30 years, 10 as a driver. His father also worked on the rails and he grew up in Renfe-owned housing in the northwestern town of Monforte de Lemos and went to scho

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote

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The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote | The Thaiger

Call it Super Saturday, call it Deal or No Deal, call it the most important day in recent UK history. Today (Saturday) the UK House of Commons will gather on a Saturday, the first time for decades. Golf games have been postponed, polo sticks will have to gather dust and the cleaner’s been told to come back on Sunday.

Earlier this week, British PM Boris Johnson did the near impossible and secured a new Brexit deal from the EU. The EU shocked everyone by throwing out the controversial Irish border backstop and replacing it with an alternative plan, after months of saying that Theresa May’s deal could not be changed. Moreover, the EU leaders seem happy with the deal and have been waxing lyrical about the scruffy British PM they all dreaded negotiating with.

But it’s not going to be easy. Some PMs have already tabled amendments that could make Johnson’s run of success fall short of a finish line. Opposition MPs will put forward proposals to scrap Brexit or schedule a second referendum.

So how is the crucial, and historic vote, going to roll?

It’s far too close to call. PM Johnson doesn’t have a majority in Parliament and his Northern Irish allies, the DUP, who he needed to pass legislation, have already said that they won’t back the new plan. Meanwhile, his opposition MPs are lining up to criticise the deal. And there’s serious concern that the arch-Brexiteers in his own Conservative party will vote against the deal too.

Bottomline, if MPs don’t vote for this deal then they can’t be certain that Brexit will be delayed, despite the fact that Johnson is legally obliged to request a Brexit extension if no deal has been agreed by 11 pm on Saturday night. Last month, opposition MPs passed legislation that binds the British to this commitment. Mr. Johnson says he will comply with the law but reminds his opponents that this decision relies on the EU still having to unanimously agree to it.

But, if the deal passes, the UK finally leaves the EU. Johnson would probably hope to capitalise on his success and call for a general election soon after. His poll ratings are good at the moment, and you’d think they would improve after delivering Brexit.

If the deal goes down, Johnson requests the extension and it’s approved, then we get into the nasty election where both sides will tear each other apart, adding more to a polarised community that may take decades to recover from this folly.

And if the EU refuses an extension, then all hell breaks loose.

Has it all been worth it?

Anyway, bring on Super Saturday as the deliberations continue.

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World

Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan

The Thaiger

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Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan | The Thaiger

British PM Boris Johnson is warning British MPs there was “no better outcome” to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambles to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of today’s knife-edge vote in parliament (Saturday UK time).

Johnson is urging lawmakers to back the “fantastic” terms he struck with EU leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31.

“There’s no better outcome than the one I’m advocating tomorrow.”

“I want colleagues on all sides of the House to think about a world tomorrow night in which we’ve got this thing done,” he added in a separate interview with ITV.

“I think the nation will heave a great sigh of relief.”

Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. But the deal’s fortunes, and Britain’s immediate fate, rest in the hands of a few undecided MPs, who will vote in the first Saturday session of the Commons since the 1982 Falklands War.

Political pundits suggest the vote could be exceptionally tight. Johnson has no majority among MPs, every opposition party has come out against the deal and even his parliamentary ally, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), says it cannot support the terms.

Johnson requires the support of 319 other MPs to guarantee victory – and claims he is confident of getting the numbers, as he spent the day meeting and calling MPs.

He must convince diehard eurosceptics in his own Conservative ranks, former colleagues he expelled from the party for seeking to block a “no deal” departure, and main opposition Labour MPs from Brexit-backing constituencies to have any chance.

Labour is ordering its MPs to vote against the deal but threatening no punishment if they vote in favour. Several MPs spent yesterday wrestling with their consciences as the more than three years of turmoil since the June 2016 EU membership referendum came to a head.

Johnson is expected to deliver a speech to parliament from 0830 GMT on Saturday, kicking off a day of debate that could last well into the evening.

The turning of the screws

If the Commons rejects the deal, Johnson will be forced by law to ask the EU to delay Brexit, for what would be the third time. He has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch”.

French President Emmanuel Macron piled the pressure on MPs, saying he did not want a new delay now a deal was struck.

“The October 31 date should be respected. I don’t think that new deadlines should be given,” he said at the EU summit in Brussels.

“We need to end these negotiations and get on negotiating the future relationship.”

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: “There is no choice between Brexit or no Brexit: it’s a choice between deal or no deal.”

Johnson took office in July vowing to keep to the October 31 Brexit deadline, deal or no deal.

He pledged to renegotiate the most contentious elements of a divorce text agreed by his predecessor Theresa May with Brussels last year, which MPs rejected three times.

The compromise deal that was finally struck on Thursday has a new arrangement for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The DUP has said it cannot support the plans, as efforts to avoid checks on the Irish land border would lead to new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

Meanwhile…

Former Conservative prime minister John Major (1990-1997) and his Labour successor Tony Blair (1997-2007) pleaded with MPs to back a second referendum, ahead of a major rally by the “People’s Vote” campaign outside parliament on Saturday (UK time).

“Whatever is the outcome, no deal or bad deal, it should not pass without the final say resting with the people,” said Blair.

Major said Brexit was a “thoroughly bad idea” that risked breaking up the UK.

The Pound steadied around $1.29 yesterday as dealers took a breather at the end of a dizzying week.

ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker said the market was “really gambling” on the vote and had “not priced in fully all scenarios – so expect big moves”.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse | PHOTO: Associated Press

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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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