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Phuket Gazette World News: Mugabe election showdown; UN to inspect Syrian chemical weapons sites; Sweden drops charge against fake serial killer

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Phuket Gazette World News: Mugabe election showdown; UN to inspect Syrian chemical weapons sites; Sweden drops charge against fake serial killer | The Thaiger

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

Zimbabwe votes in Mugabe election showdown
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Zimbabweans voted in large numbers on Wednesday in a fiercely contested election pitting veteran President Robert Mugabe against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who has vowed to push Africa’s oldest leader into retirement after 33 years in power.

With no reliable opinion polls and amid allegations of vote-rigging, it is hard to say whether Tsvangirai will succeed in his third attempt to oust 89-year-old Mugabe, who has run the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980.

Both sides are forecasting landslide wins but in a country with a history of election violence the big question is whether the loser will accept the result of a poll dogged by logistical problems and reports of intimidation and irregularities.

Mugabe, who rejects past and present charges from critics of vote-fixing and intimidation by his ZANU-PF party supporters, has said he will concede if defeated.

“I’m sure people will vote freely and fairly,” he told reporters after casting his ballot in a school in Harare’s Highfields township.

“There’s no pressure being exerted on anyone.”

Polls opened on time at 0500 GMT, with long queues of people braving unseasonably cold weather to stand in line from well before dawn.

At one polling station in the eastern province of Manicaland, a key swing region, the queue of voters, many wrapped up in blankets, stretched for a kilometre (0.6 miles).

“I got up at 4 but still couldn’t get the first position in the line,” said sawmill worker Clifford Chasakara. “My fingers are numb but I’m sure I can mark the ballot all the same. I’m determined to vote and have my vote counted.”

Way to change

In Harare, the epicentre of Tsvangirai support, the mood was excited and upbeat. A large turnout, especially in cities, is likely to benefit the 61-year-old and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, analysts say.

“We are here to vote and I’m convinced Harare will lead the way to change,” John Phiri, a domestic worker in his 30s, said in a polling station in the upmarket Mount Pleasant suburb.

Casting his vote at a Harare high school, Mugabe’s rival Tsvangirai said he expected to win “quite resoundingly”.

Around 6.4 million people, or half the population, are registered to vote. Results are expected well within a five-day deadline intended to prevent a repeat of problems seen in the last election in 2008, when big delays led to serious violence.

The threat of unrest remains at the back of people’s minds but the atmosphere was markedly lighter than five years ago, with both party leaders preaching peace and tolerance.

The pair met at State House late on Tuesday in the presence of African Union (AU) monitoring chief Olusegun Obasanjo, an AU official said. Details of the meeting – an unusual encounter on the eve of an election – were not immediately known.

Asked at a news conference on Tuesday whether he and his ZANU-PF party would accept defeat, Mugabe was unequivocal: “You either win or lose. If you lose, you must surrender.”

So far so good

His comments were in marked contrast to the acrimony of what he described as an “energy-sapping” campaign, and may help to ease fears about a repeat of the turmoil that broke out in 2008 after he lost the first round of voting.

Around 200 Tsvangirai supporters were killed then before South Africa brokered a power-sharing deal that stopped the bloodshed and stabilised the economy, but established a unity government criticised as fractious and dysfunctional.

Western observers have been barred from the elections, leaving the task of independent oversight to 500 regional and 7,000 domestic monitors.

Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president, said there were no grounds at the moment to suggest the elections could not be declared credible.

“So far so good,” he told reporters after visiting a polling station in Harare.

The monitors’ verdict is crucial to the future of Zimbabwe’s economy, which is still struggling with the aftermath of a decade-long slump and hyperinflation that ended in 2009 when the worthless Zimbabwe dollar was scrapped.

The United States, which has sanctions in place against Mugabe, has questioned the credibility of the poll, pointing to a lack of transparency in its organisation and pro-Mugabe bias in the state media and partisan security forces.

However, if the vote receives broad approval, there is a chance Western sanctions may be eased, allowing Harare to normalise relations with the IMF and World Bank and access the huge investment needed to rebuild its dilapidated economy.

Tsvangirai urged African monitors not to give the vote the thumbs-up simply because they do not witness bloodshed.

“Mugabe is the world’s oldest leader and one of its longest-ruling dictators. He is fixing this election in a more sophisticated fashion than previous ZANU-PF campaigns of beatings, killings and intimidation,” he wrote in an editorial in the Washington Post.

In an interview with ITV broadcast on the eve of the election, Mugabe said his government had “never ever rigged elections” and said he had no regrets about his years in power.

Taliban jailbreak prompts fears of more attacks
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Pakistani authorities moved some of their most notorious militant inmates after an intelligence warning of an imminent jailbreak but a Taliban raid this week has raised fears about the security of all Pakistani prisons.

Pakistan was taken off guard on Monday when a squad of highly trained Taliban fighters overran a century-old prison in Dera Ismail Khan, a town on the edge of a lawless ethnic Pashtun tribal area, setting free a band of senior militants together with more than 200 other inmates.

Those included about 30 mid-ranking Taliban fighters, but no internationally big names, security and Taliban sources said – a reflection of the fact that Pakistan’s most serious Taliban fighters are held elsewhere.

The raid, complete with suicide bombs, grenade explosions and hours of gunfire, took place almost one year after another big jailbreak in another northwestern city, Bannu, and was carried out with similar, military-style precision.

Like a year ago, the authorities scrambled on Wednesday to boost security at jails. And once again, there was talk of an insider job.

“It’s a massive security breach,” said an interior ministry official who asked not to be identified.

“Taking the cue from that, other major prisons around the country are being secured.”

He said additional police and paramilitary reinforcements were being deployed at all major prisons around the country, particularly those in the city of Karachi and in Punjab province where some of Pakistan’s most hardcore Taliban are held.

Intelligence about a new Bannu-style attack first appeared on the desks of senior officials a few months ago, sources said.

As a result, several high profile inmates including London-educated Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh convicted of the 2002 killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, have been relocated from the Karachi Central Prison to other, more secure locations, sources said.

The success of Monday’s jailbreak has only emboldened the Taliban. As additional units

— 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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Opinion

Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge

The Thaiger

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Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge | The Thaiger

OPINION: The Buddhist Times

Since its creation in 1996, Buddha-Bar Paris has been using the name and image of Buddha in it’s Bars and Hotels throughout the world. Typically the franchises use large statues of Buddha in their Bars and around dance floors and in restaurants similar to a Buddhist temple.

What makes the use of Buddha’s image in these bars most insulting to Buddhists around the world is that Buddhism does not support the consumption of alcohol. So to use the Buddha’s image as decoration to promote the consumption and sale of alcohol and as a prop on dance floors and in restaurants is especially disrespectful and hurtful to Buddhists.

Now comes a further insult with the Buddha-Bar franchise opening the Siddhartha Lounge at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. (Siddhartha Gautama being the full name of Buddha).

According to the Knowing Buddha Organisation in Thailand what the Buddha-Bar franchise is doing is not only disrespectful but it is immoral. The foundation points out that “Respect is Common Sense”.

Buddhists feel hurt by the misuse of the name and image of their father, as people of other faiths would be if the image of Christ or Mohammad were used to promote bars and nightclubs.

The Buddha–Bar, restaurant, and hotel franchise created by French-Romanian restaurateur Raymond Vișan and DJ and interior designer Claude Challe, with its original location having opened in Paris, France in 1996.

Raymond Vișan, according to Wikipedia, had the idea of establishing the chain of restaurants and bars which came from his fascination with the Orient. However at the age of 60 Visan suddenly died of terminal cancer. The franchise was continued by co-founder Claude Challe and Vișan’s wife Tarja, who took over the reins of the Buddha Bar franchise upon Vișan death.

Critics of the Vișan’s and Claude Challe say that these self described artists and creators have created nothing but bad Karma and Sin for themselves. They suggest that Buddha-Bar franchise is a form of “grotesque Plagiarism ” which has merely hi-jacked a 2500 year old religion, using the name and image of Buddha, who imparts peace, compassion and loving kindness, for the purpose of selling alcohol and making money. As any case of plagiarism it is expected that Buddha-Bar and Waldorf Astoria will soon find them selves in the courts say Buddhims advocats.

Buddhist around the world are calling the Boycotting of Waldorf Astoria Hotels Hilton Hotels, Buddha-Bars and the music of Claude Challe, demanding that they stop using the image of Buddha and instead creat their own brand.

The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of The Thaiger or its staff

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Hong Kong

1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally

May Taylor

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1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally | The Thaiger

PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Last night, Chater Garden, located near government headquarters in the Central district of Hong Kong, was the scene of the city’s first approved rally since the face mask ban came into being about 10 days ago. So far, the face mask ban has been largely ineffectual.

A day after an explosive device was detonated during protests, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in the park. They were calling on Washington to approve proposed US legislation that could see some Chinese officials face sanctions.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act aims to review the territory’s special trading status and sanction those responsible for undermining the rights of Hong Kong citizens. It passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last month.

The Chinese Government has responded angrily, accusing the US of “interfering in China’s internal affairs” with the aim of harming its interests, and says the law will only serve to worsen the situation in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has been the scene of often violent pro-democracy protests for over four months now, as its citizens call for greater democracy and less interference from Beijing.

SOURCE: The Nation

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World

Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home

The Thaiger

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Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Lost In Space? Or lost in reality? Maybe someone will fall for it – Lost in Space’s Jupiter 2

The Nigerians have somewhat of a reputation for scams and scammers. Who hasn’t received an email offering loads of cash in return for your bank account and a moderate deposit? But this letter takes the famous Nigerian Scam to another level. Or perhaps it’s true (we don’t think so…)?

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde – Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555, Misau Street, PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA

Dear Mr. Sir,

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14 years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-XXXX only.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
XXXX@nasrda.gov.ng

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