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Phuket Gazette World News: NATO suspends cooperation with Russia over Ukraine crisis

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Phuket Gazette World News: NATO suspends cooperation with Russia over Ukraine crisis | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

NATO suspends cooperation with Russia over Ukraine crisis
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia on Tuesday in protest at its annexation of Crimea and ordered military planners to draft measures to strengthen its defences and reassure nervous eastern European countries.

Foreign ministers from the 28-nation, U.S.-led alliance were meeting for the first time since the Russian occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region touched off the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

They agreed to “suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia”.

NATO officials said the decision could affect cooperation with Russia on Afghanistan in areas such as training counter-narcotics personnel, maintenance of Afghan air force helicopters and a transit route out of the war-torn country.

Contacts between NATO and Russia at ambassadorial level or higher can continue so they can discuss ways out of the crisis.

Calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine unacceptable, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “Through its actions, Russia has undermined the principles on which our partnership is built, and has breached its own international commitments. So we cannot go on doing business as usual.”

Ministers ordered military planners to “develop as a matter of urgency a series of additional measures to reinforce NATO’s collective defences”, a NATO official said.

The measures could include sending NATO soldiers and equipment to NATO allies in eastern Europe, holding more exercises, taking steps to ensure NATO’s rapid reaction force could deploy more quickly, and a review of NATO’s military plans. Military planners will come back with detailed proposals within weeks, the alliance official said.

NATO and Ukraine agreed at a separate meeting of their foreign ministers to step up cooperation and to encourage defence reforms in Ukraine through training and other programmes. NATO allies will send more experts to Kiev.

NATO said there was no sign of a partial withdrawal of Russia’s troops from the Ukrainian border, as Moscow had announced on Monday. “Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops. This is not what we are seeing,” Rasmussen told reporters.

Russian warnings

As NATO ministers convened, Russia warned Ukraine against integration with NATO, saying Kiev’s previous attempts to move closer to the defence alliance had had unwelcome consequences.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has said the country’s new pro-Western leadership is not seeking membership of the Western alliance. However, NATO is expected to step up cooperation with Ukraine’s armed forces by training officers, holding joint exercises and promoting reforms.

The United States and its allies have made clear they have no military plans to defend Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, but they have assured allies in eastern Europe, which joined NATO in the last 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union that once dominated them, that they will be protected.

Diplomats said earlier that the NATO ministers would consider options ranging from stepped-up military exercises and temporarily sending more forces to eastern member states to the permanent basing of alliance forces in those countries – a step that Moscow would view as provocative.

The United States and other NATO allies have already responded to the crisis by offering more planes to take part in regular NATO air patrols over the Baltic States, which were once Soviet republics. The United States has beefed up a previously planned training exercise with the Polish air force.

In another sign of NATO support, Romanian President Traian Basescu said the United States has asked to boost the number of troops and aircraft it has stationed at an air base in his country, which has a border with Ukraine.

NATO allies differ on how aggressively they should ramp up forces in eastern Europe in response to Russia’s actions with eastern European states keen for more NATO support while Western European countries, further away from Russia, are wary of antagonizing Moscow.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that the pace at which NATO was increasing its military presence in Poland was unsatisfactory.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who said earlier he would be satisfied if NATO located two heavy brigades in Poland, said on arrival at the NATO meeting that he would welcome any NATO forces being stationed there.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

Saudi Arabia eases visa restrictions for US and European visitors

May Taylor

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Saudi Arabia eases visa restrictions for US and European visitors | The Thaiger

PHOTO: aawsat.com

American and European passport holders, along with those from most Asian countries, can now apply for Saudi Arabian tourist visas either online or on arrival, provided they meet certain criteria.

Prior to this, the only foreigners allowed to visit Saudi Arabia were usually those travelling on business, resident workers and their family members, or Muslim pilgrims on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

In an attempt to boost tourism and diversify the economy’s reliance on oil, the Kingdom has expanded the availability of tourist visas beyond what was initially 49 countries. Visitors from eligible countries no longer need to apply for a visa at an overseas Saudi embassy but can do so online or on arrival.

The multiple-entry visa costs approximately US$120, is valid for a year, and permits a stay of up to 3 months on each entry.

However, authorities in the Kingdom were quick to implement a public decency code following the visa announcement.

“Immodest dress and public displays of affection are banned, but foreign men and women may rent hotel rooms together without having to prove they are married.”

A strict ban on alcohol remains in place.

Last weekend the South Korean band BTS became the first foreigners to hold a solo concert in the Kingdom, allowing teenage and older woman to attend without a male escort and allowing them to dance and sing along (in Korean of course). The band, in turn, turned down some of their ‘ab flashing’ and physicality during their record-breaking “Love Yourself” stadium concert in Riyadh.

The septet were invited to perform in Saudi Arabia as part of the Kingdom’s attempts to become more open to foreigners and diversify their income away from oil production.

SOURCE: Reuters

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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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