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Phuket Gazette World News: Myanmar violence spreads; tourists hostage in Egypt; Aus Labor in turmoil; Iran preps for polls; Atheists abandoned

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Phuket Gazette World News: Myanmar violence spreads; tourists hostage in Egypt; Aus Labor in turmoil; Iran preps for polls; Atheists abandoned | The Thaiger

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

Myanmar riots stoke fears of widening sectarian violence
Reuters /Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in central Myanmar has reduced neighbourhoods to ashes and stoked fears that last year’s sectarian bloodshed is spreading into the country’s heartland in a test of Asia’s newest democracy.

Buildings in Meikhtila were still burning early yesterday and agitated Buddhist crowds roamed the otherwise near-deserted streets after three days of turbulence, said Reuters reporters in the city 540km north of the commercial capital Yangon.

Five people, including a Buddhist monk, have been killed and dozens wounded since Wednesday, state media reported. Other authorities put the death toll at 10 or higher.

The unleashing of ethnic hatred, suppressed during 49 years of military rule that ended in March 2011, is challenging the reformist government of one of Asia’s most ethnically diverse countries.

Jailed dissidents have been released, a free election held and censorship lifted in Myanmar’s historic democratic transition. But the government has faced mounting criticism over its failure to stop the bloodshed between Buddhists and Muslims.

“I am really sad over what happened here because this is not just happening to one person. It’s affecting all of us,” said Maung Maung, a Buddhist ward leader in Meikhtila.

Hundreds of Muslims have fled their homes to shelter at a sports stadium, said local officials. The unrest is a bloody reprise of last year’s violence in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, which officially killed 110 people and left 120,000 people homeless, most of them stateless Rohingya Muslims.

Burning mosque, armed residents

Locals complained there were too few police in this city of about 180,000 people to subdue the unrest. It erupted after an argument between a Buddhist couple and the Muslim owners of a gold shop spiralled into a riot involving hundreds of people, said police.

Reuters saw some Meikhtila residents arming themselves with knives and sticks in an eerie echo of the Rakhine violence in 2012, when pitched battles between the two communities later morphed into orchestrated attacks on Muslim communities by organised gangs of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

The United Nations warned the sectarian unrest could endanger a fragile reform programme launched after Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government replaced a decades-old military dictatorship in 2011.

“Religious leaders and other community leaders must also publicly call on their followers to abjure violence, respect the law and promote peace,” Vijay Nambiar, U.N. special adviser of the secretary-general, said in a statement.

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, but about 5 percent of its 60 million people are Muslims. There are large and long-established communities in Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar’s two largest cities, where tensions are simmering.

“Everyone is in shock here. We never expected this to happen,” said a Muslim teacher in Mandalay, requesting anonymity.

Rumours that violent agitators were heading for the city had set its Muslim community on edge, he said. Buddhist monks known for their anti-Islamic views last year staged several street protests in Mandalay.

In Meikhtila, at least one mosque, an Islamic religious school, several shops and a government office were set alight, said a fire service official, who declined to be named. Reuters saw both Buddhist and Muslim homes burned.

Sectarian unrest is common in central Myanmar, although reports were stifled under the military dictatorship.

Three people died in Sinbyukyun in 2006 when Buddhists attacked homes and shops belonging to Muslims and ethnic Indians, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable.

“The incident reveals underlying tense inter-ethnic relations in the heartland,” said the cable, which also referenced similar communal riots in Kyaukse, a town near Meikhtila, in 2003.

Australia’s Labour roiled by resignations after failed leadership coup
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced a string of ministerial resignations yesterday in the wake of a botched leadership coup against her, forcing a reshuffle of her Labour government just months from potentially disastrous elections.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said he would step down, joining departing Cabinet colleagues Simon Crean and Chris Bowen, as well as junior minister Kim Carr. All had backed Gillard’s chief rival Kevin Rudd as the party’s best hope to reverse polls pointing to a thrashing by conservative opponents at the September 14 elections.

“I have a view it’s the only honourable thing to do. I would have voted for Kevin Rudd yesterday and Simon Crean to try and give this party a fresh start,” an emotional Ferguson told reporters at parliament in Canberra.

The political unrest in the country threatens to cloud decision making with elections just six months away and as the minority government readies to take leadership of the G20 and after Canberra became a rotating United Nations Security Council member.

Gillard stamped her authority on Labour by being re-elected unopposed after Rudd conceded he did not have the numbers to topple her after a tumultuous day of backroom plotting that will do even more damage to the government’s fading popularity.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, widely derided by voters despite having steered the Group of 20 wealthy nations member through the last financial downturn with 5.4 percent unemployment and a 21st year of unbroken economic growth, was re-elected as Gillard’s deputy.

Crean was sacked immediately by Gillard on Thursday for backing Rudd in what newspapers called a political “suicide bombing” that appeared to have delivered no gains for Labour except the near-certainty of a thumping election defeat.

Talent drain

Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former prime minister ousted by Gillard in 2010 amid another round of plummeting polls, said on Friday he would never again run for the leadership – unless it was already vacant.

“I don’t think it’s worth raking over the coals. What’s done is done and let’s get on with the future,” Rudd said. “It’s really important that we bind together and that’s what the Australian people expect of us.”

Bowen, one of Rudd’s key backers and a former immigration minister, said he would also quit, stripping Gillard’s top ranks of another of its most effective political talents.

Ferguson, in particular, had been an influential advocate for the country’s mining industry and helped broker a 2010 deal with major resource companies including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto to abandon a damaging campaign against a mining profits tax introduced by Labour and later watered down.

Gillard, the plain-speaking daughter of Welsh migrants, has consistently failed to arrest a slump in opinion polls, which predict a major defeat in September with Labour losing about 20 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

But she attempted to draw a line under the divisions and concerns about her leadership, extending a press conference at a road construction site north of Sydney on Friday to face down questions from journalists about the government’s stability.

“This issue is over and done with. This issue has been resolved for all time, and I think Kevin’s stateme

— 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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ASEAN

Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women

Greeley Pulitzer

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Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women | The Thaiger

Hair extensions have become an essential part of the multi-billion-dollar hair industry, with estimated annual sales of 250 million to over 1 billion USD. Based on a 2018 Research and Markets report, the global hair, wigs and extension market is expected to surpass 10 billion USD by 2023.

Raw human hair has significant commercial value: it’s a coveted commodity to be processed into hair extensions and wigs. According to a report by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the global value for human hair exports in 2017 was 126 million USD. Asia exported 72.4 million USD, accounting for 58 percent of the global trade.

In India, the Tirupati Balaji temple earns 10 percent of its income through auctioning hair donated by devotees, raking in a profit of 25 million to 40 million USD annually.

There are three categories for collected hair: Remy, non-Remy and virgin hair. Remy is usually obtained from temple donations and is of the highest grade. Non-Remy hair is a lower grade, collected from individuals, and is typically broken or short. Virgin hairhas never been chemically treated.

In Southeast Asia, long hair is esteemed as a mark of beauty with deep religious and social meaning, especially in Buddhist countries. While most brands opt to acquire hair from India where it’s donated for religious reasons, in Southeast Asia, traders target impoverished areas to buy hair from desperately poor people whose poverty makes them easy prey. Hair extensions in the US can cost 500 to 2000 USD, but the owner of the hair usually receives only a fraction of that. For example, Nguyen Thi Thuy of Vietnam says the highest she has ever been offered for her hair is 70,000 Vietnamese dong, or 3 USD. Pheng Sreyvy from Cambodia fared slightly better at 15 USD for her locks.

According to the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, women don’t know how to bargain over the price of hair. “They decided to sell their hair because they are poor, and they don’t know where to sell their hair for international market price,” a spokeswoman said.

The high value of human hair has made hair-theft muggings a recurrent problem in some countries, and some companies have resorted to chemical processing or a mixture of human and goat hair.

Increased awareness of exploitation has prompted many companies to collect hair from more transparent and ethical sources. While the human hair trade has provided many communities with income and opportunities, practices that exploit and deprive women of opportunities continue.

SOURCE: theaseanpost.com

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Crime

Thai women in Japan drug bust

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thai women in Japan drug bust | The Thaiger

Japanese Police and Customs Officials at Fukuoka Airport reported the arrest of seven Thai women who smuggled in drugs weighing more than a kilogram into Japan. The women separated the drugs into tiny bags and hid them in random places on their bodies.

The women purchased tour tickets and tried to blend in as Thai tourists. When caught with the evidence, they admitted smuggling the drugs for foreigners living in Japan, alleging that they received orders from tourists to bring in the drugs.

Another recent arrest Thai women smuggling cocaine has prompted Japanese officials to consider tightening entry requirements for Thai tourists to protect against drug smuggling.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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World

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

The Thaiger

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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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