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Phuket Gazette World News: Myanmar releases political prisoners; FBI grilled on Boston bombers; Ricin letter man freed; France same-sex marriage approved

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Phuket Gazette World News: Myanmar releases political prisoners; FBI grilled on Boston bombers; Ricin letter man freed; France same-sex marriage approved | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Myanmar frees 56 political prisoners one day after sanctions dropped
Reuters/ Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Myanmar’s president announced an amnesty on Tuesday for about 100 prisoners, a senior official said, 56 of whom were confirmed as political detainees by a group monitoring activists held in the country’s jails.

The release is the latest in a series of amnesties decided by reformist President Thein Sein and came a day after the European Union lifted all sanctions on Myanmar excluding an arms embargo.

Bo Kyi, of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), told Reuters the group had confirmed the release of 56 political prisoners from five jails. According to AAPP, 176 remain in detention.

More than 800 political prisoners were freed in amnesties between May 2011 and November 2012.

Previous releases of prisoners of conscience, as they are often known, coincided with reviews of Western sanctions or high-level visits, such as that by Thein Sein to Washington last September and U.S. President Barack Obama’s landmark trip to Myanmar two months later.

“At key international moments the government releases a few political prisoners instead of releasing them all immediately,” said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK.

“Almost all the laws used to put the political prisoners in jail are still in place.”

The EU’s decision to lift sanctions was criticised by rights groups for ignoring Myanmar’s continuing human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of political activists and the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Human Rights Watch released a report the same day sanctions were lifted accusing state authorities of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims after violence broke out in June and October last year, leaving at least 125,000 people displaced and 211 people dead.

U.S. lawmakers grill FBI on Boston bombing investigation
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: U.S. lawmakers grilled top security officials on Tuesday about the handling of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation and why one of the suspects flagged as a possible Islamist radical was not tracked more closely.

FBI officials briefed members of Congress behind closed doors in Washington about the investigation into the April 15 blasts that killed three people and injured 264 others.

Authorities say the ethnic Chechen brothers, who immigrated to the United States a decade ago from the predominantly Muslim region of Dagestan in Russia’s Caucasus, detonated two bombs made from pressure cookers near the finish line of the iconic foot race.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shootout with police and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, lies wounded in a Boston hospital charged with using weapons of mass destruction.

Investigators have focused on a trip to Dagestan last year by Tamerlan Tsarnaev and whether he became involved with or was influenced by Chechen separatists or Islamist extremists there.

Russian authorities flagged him as a possible Islamist extremist in 2011. The FBI interviewed him in Massachusetts but found no serious reason for alarm. Some lawmakers have questioned if more could have been done at the time.

Senators said after a briefing by FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and other officials that there may have been a breakdown in communication that kept authorities from tracking his apparent radicalization.

Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, said the briefing raised questions about the flow of information among law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“I think there has been some stonewalls, and some stovepipes reconstructed, that were probably unintentional, but we’ve got to review that issue again, and make sure there is the free flow of information,” he said.

“I can’t say the FBI dropped the ball. I don’t see anybody yet that dropped the ball,” he said. “That may develop.”

The senators said there was tough questioning during the briefing.

“We had a full discussion back and forth over the process that’s followed, and we need to keep at that, and we need to see if there are any loopholes in it, and that we fix those loopholes,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who chairs the committee.

Lawmakers said they were unable to confirm an NBC report that the Tsarnaev brothers had been motivated by the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or speculation that they had used fireworks to provide the explosives used in their bombs.

Suspect’s wife cooperating

The wife of the dead bombing suspect is assisting authorities and in absolute shock that her husband and brother-in-law were accused of the deadly blasts, her lawyer said.

“She cries a lot,” attorney Amato DeLuca said of Katherine Russell, 24, an American-born convert to Islam who married Tamerlan Tsarnaev in June 2010. “She can’t go anywhere. She can’t work.”

People interviewed by Reuters described Tamerlan Tsarnaev as proud but angry, never quite achieving his own idea of the American dream, and instead finding solace in a radical form of Islam adopted by fighters in his homeland.

The sisters of the bombing suspects said they too did not know what had happened to their brothers.

Ailina Tsarnaev, who lives in West New York, New Jersey, and her sister Bella issued a statement through their attorneys expressing their sadness over “such a callous act.”

“As a family we are absolutely devastated by the sense of loss and sorrow this has caused,” they said. “We don’t have any answers but we look forward to a thorough investigation and hope to learn more.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s condition improved to “fair” from “serious” on Tuesday as he recovered from gunshot wounds at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, where in an impromptu hearing on Monday he was charged with two crimes that could result in the death penalty if he were convicted.

Since recovering enough to communicate by nodding his head and writing, the younger Tsarnaev has told authorities he and his brother acted alone, learned to build the bombs over the Internet and were motivated by a desire to defend Islam because of “the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” NBC News reported.

NBC cited an unnamed U.S. counterterrorism source who has received multiple briefings on the investigation. Reuters could not confirm the information.

Tsarnaev was captured on Friday night following a massive, daylong manhunt that shut down greater Boston.

Police say the Tsarnaev brothers also killed a university police officer on Thursday night and wounded a transit police officer on Friday morning.

The family of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person to die in the attacks, privately buried their son on Tuesday.

“This has been the most difficult week of our lives and we appreciate that our friends and family have given us space to grieve and heal,” parents Denise and Bill Richard said in a statement. “We laid our son Martin to rest, and he is now at peace.”

Texas fertilizer plant owner sued after deadly explosion
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The owner of a fer

— 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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Environment

Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming

The Thaiger

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Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Five patients remain in serious condition in Wuhan - New York Times

“At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain.”

Medical officials in China’s Wuhan city have announced that another man had died after being infected by the new coronavirus strain. Thailand and Japan have now reported new cases of a the Chinese Coronavirus that has already killed two and infected at least 40 in China. There are growing concerns about the spread of the virus beyond Chinese ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays. Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 25 this year but many Chinese, and people of Chinese ethnicity, travel before and after this date, including trips over seas.

The Chinese man, reported to be aged 69, was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 31 with “abnormal renal function”. The man died from pneumonia linked to the new strain of the coronavirus outbreak in the central China province.

Chinese scientists identified the illness as a new strain of coronavirus, which is in the same family as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Symptoms of coronaviruses can range from fever and coughing to kidney failure, and in some cases lead to death.

At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain, earlier called the “Wuhan Flu”, and now referred to as Chinese Coronavirus.

Five patients still remain in a serious condition. Chinese medical officials state that no cases of human-to-human transmission of the new viral strain have been confirmed so far.

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Crime

2 more alleged call centre scam suspects arrested in Japan

Greeley Pulitzer

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2 more alleged call centre scam suspects arrested in Japan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Japanese suspects arrested during a raid in Chon Buri in late March 2019

Two men arrested in Japan yesterday stand accused of operating a large-scale call centre scam based in Thailand, bringing the total number of arrests in the case to 28. Japanese police believe 36 year old Kengo Yasutake and 34 year old Shimpei Hirata operated a luxury home in Pattaya, where a team of Japanese men would call people across Japan and tell them their subscription fees for a website were overdue.

Police say the gang has tricked more than 200 people and collected a total of more than 55 million baht. Fifteen Japanese men have already been arrested by Thai police last March at another luxury house location, also in Chon Buri province, and Japanese investigators arrested more in May 2019 as they attempted to leave Thailand for Japan.

Investigators say the group had a well-organised division of labour conducting the scam, with individual members making phone calls, cashing swindled electronic gift cards and as managing the scam web site.

They were arrested on suspicion of scamming a woman and two others living in the city of Fukui, central Japan, alleging in an email that they had failed to pay website subscription fees, and coercing them into purchasing electronic gift cards worth a total 780,000 yen, or about 215,000 baht.

SOURCE: Japan Times
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Well-Being

First ‘China coronavirus’ case confirmed in Japan

Greeley Pulitzer

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First ‘China coronavirus’ case confirmed in Japan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The first case of the 'Wuhan Flu' identified in Japan - The Economist

As Thailand’s airports continue screening passengers arriving from China, Japan has confirmed its first case of the new China coronavirus that has killed one and attracted a travel alert from the US State Department. The patient, a man from Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo, had recently visited the Chinese city of Wuhan, where an outbreak of a pneumonia strain is believed to be caused by the new coronavirus.

The US State Department issued a warning on Wednesday about travel to the Wuhan region in China, citing an alert by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention which urges citizens travelling in the region to avoid contact with animals, animal markets or animal products, among other precautions.

Health authorities in Thailand announced on Wednesday they are stepping up screening of passengers arriving by air ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, when 800,000 Chinese tourists are expected to head for the Kingdom.

Though there has been no known human-to-human transmission, the World Health Organisation says the new virus could spread and is warning hospitals worldwide. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, aka. SARS. Some of the virus types cause less serious disease, while some, like the one that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), are far more severe.

The Japanese patient returned from Wuhan and was hospitalised with a fever. He was released yesterday after the symptoms subsided.

SOURCE: The Bangkok Post

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