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Phuket Gazette World News: Kim Jong Un executes uncle; France calls to extradite Kazakh billionaire; 15 wedding guests killed in drone strike

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

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has powerful uncle executed
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: North Korea said on Friday the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un, previously considered the second most powerful man in the secretive state, has been executed for treason, the biggest upheaval since the death of Kim’s father two years ago.

The North’s official KCNA news agency said Jang Song Thaek had been executed after a special military tribunal found him guilty of treason, only days after he was stripped of all posts and expelled from the ruling Workers’ Party.

News of the execution followed a swirl of unconfirmed media reports that one or more of Jang’s aides had defected to South Korea. The South’s spy agency says it has no knowledge of any such defections.

North Korean politics are virtually impenetrable from outside and the reason could also easily be a falling out between Kim and his uncle, or even with Jang’s wife.

If true, the execution caps a spectacular downfall for a man who had long been a fixture in North Korea’s leadership.

“The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state,” KCNA said.

“The special military tribunal of the Ministry of State Security of the DPRK… ruled that he would be sentenced to death according to it. The decision was immediately executed,” it said, using the North’s title of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper also on Friday carried a photograph of Jang in handcuffs and being held by uniformed guards as he stood trial. It is not known how the sentence was carried out.

Jang was a vice chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission and a member of Workers’ Party politburo.

Married to the sister of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, Jang had been considered the man who could help his nephew establish himself in power but at the same time presented the greatest threat to the young and untested leader.

“This is a man who could have competently executed a coup in North Korea,” said Mike Madden, an expert on the North’s power structure and author of the North Korea Leadership Watch website and blog.

“He knows how the body guards work, how the security forces in Pyongyang work, how state security works – this guy had very intimate knowledge about very key nodes of control in North Korea,” Madden said.

Earlier this week, North Korea stripped Jang of his power and positions, accusing him of criminal acts including mismanagement of the state financial system, womanising and alcohol abuse.

“From long ago, Jang had a dirty political ambition. He dared not raise his head when Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were alive,” KCNA said, referring to leader Kim’s grandfather and father, the previous rulers of the dynastic state.

“He began revealing his true colours, thinking that it was just the time for him to realise his wild ambition in the period of historic turn when the generation of the revolution was replaced,” it said.

Regional powers have watched the purge of Jang and his associates – conducted in a rare, publicly prominent manner -for implications to regional security.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House was holding a ministerial meeting to review the developments.

The United States said it was following the developments in North Korea and consulting with allies in the region.

“If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime,” said Patrick Ventrell, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.

Congo signs peace deal with M23 rebels
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Congolese government has signed a peace deal with the M23 rebels it had been fighting until they laid down their arms last month, Kenya’s presidential spokesman said on his official Twitter account on Thursday.

“DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) govt, M23 sign peace agreement in Nairobi,” Manoah Esipisu wrote on his account.

M23 are the latest incarnation of Tutsi-led insurgents who have battled Congo’s government in its mineral-rich eastern regions for more than two decades.

Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said three documents were signed at the State House in Nairobi and their provisions include a reiteration of the dissolution of M23 as an armed group.

Other provisions include details of demobilisation and a renunciation of violence as a means of pursuing future claims, he said.

“The document is very clear: there is no blanket amnesty. Those who are presumed to have committed criminal behaviour in terms of international law, war crimes or crimes against humanity will not be reinserted into society,” Mende said.

French prosecutor urges extradition of Kazakh tycoon
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A French public prosecutor recommended on Thursday that Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, accused of embezzling up to $6 billion from his former bank, be extradited to Ukraine or to Russia, which wants to put him on trial.

The 50-year-old, who denies fraud charges, has been in custody at the Aix-Luynes jail in southern France since he was arrested near the Riviera resort of Cannes in July after 18 months as a fugitive.

The court adjourned a ruling until January 9, when it will also rule on the Russian extradition request.

Advocate-General Solange Legras, speaking on behalf of the French state, said Ablyazov, a former minister, should be seen as a “criminal on a grand scale” rather than as a dissident opposed to Kazakhstan’s veteran strongman, President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

“When you have so much money, you can buy everything,” she told the court. “But you cannot buy the French justice system. You will have to submit to its rules.”

The court favoured extradition to Russia because it had suffered a greater financial loss, at $5 billion, rather than Ukraine, which lost $400 million, as a result of Ablyazov’s alleged embezzlement, Solange Legras said.

“The budget of the French justice system is less than the sum diverted by Mr. Ablyazov from the Russian Federation alone,” she added.

Defence lawyers said Ukraine and Russia were acting as the “long arm” of Kazakhstan, which does not have an extradition treaty with France but wants him sent home indirectly.

Ablyazov is accused of having embezzled the money from BTA, the Kazakh bank he once controlled but which was seized by Kazakh authorities and declared insolvent in 2009. Prosecutors said he made loans to front companies which he controlled and which were never paid back.

“Everything is untrue. Everything has been fabricated in Kazakhstan,” the former oligarch told the court. “There is no proof of this diversion. This money is still in the bank’s accounts. It was never stolen.

“I’m convinced I am being persecuted for political reasons.”

His lawyers said a convention among Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia obliged each country to transfer wanted nationals to their home country.

However, the French prosecutor said both Kiev and Moscow were bound by the Geneva Convention and

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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