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Phuket Gazette World News: Polish mine collapse; Congo up in arms; Pakistani schoolgirl shot by Taliban starts school in UK

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Phuket Gazette World News: Polish mine collapse; Congo up in arms; Pakistani schoolgirl shot by Taliban starts school in UK | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Seventeen workers trapped underground at Polish mine
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Seventeen miners are trapped underground in a Polish copper mine after an earthquake caused a cave-in, a spokesman for mine operator KGHM said this morning.

The miners were trapped 600 metres below ground at the Rudna mine, about 400km southwest of the Polish capital, and there has been no contact with them for two hours, KGHM spokesman Dariusz Wyborski said.

Rwanda refuses visas for two U.N. Congo sanctions experts
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Rwanda has refused to issue entry visas to two members of a U.N. expert panel that accused Kigali last year of arming rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, describing them as biased, Rwandan and other diplomats said yesterday.

Several U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, disputed the allegations of bias.

The U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with sanctions and the arms embargo on Congo, said in a report last year that Rwanda’s defence minister was commanding the M23 revolt in Congo and that Rwanda was arming the rebels and supporting them with troops. It also accused Uganda of supporting M23.

Rwanda’s government was furious about the experts’ report, as was the Ugandan government, and denied the allegations. U.N. officials and Security Council diplomats, however, said the Rwandan denials were not credible.

A Rwandan diplomat confirmed the refusal to issue entry visas to Bernard Leloup of Belgium and Marie Plamadiala of Moldova. Several council diplomats dismissed the Rwandan allegations of bias, saying they suspected Kigali may be getting revenge over the group’s revelations about M23’s Rwandan links.

“We told the DRC (Congo) sanctions committee … that no visa will be issued to either of them,” Rwanda’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Olivier Nduhungirehe, told Reuters. He was referring to the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee.

Several diplomats said the other four members of the expert group are currently in the Rwandan capital Kigali for discussions with the government regarding the panel’s continued investigation of Rwanda’s role in supporting M23.

Britain, France and the United States are among the countries that have urged Kigali to cooperate with all six members of the expert panel, council diplomats said, adding that they hoped Rwanda would relent.

Last year’s report by the Group of Experts caused significant grief for Rwanda. The United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain and the European Union reacted to the experts’ accusations by suspending some aid to Rwanda, which relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget.

Accusations of bias

The Rwandan U.N. mission prepared a memo complaining about Leloup and Plamadiala. In that memo, obtained by Reuters from a diplomatic source, Rwanda accused Leloup of “a clear pattern of a deeply-seated bias against the GoR (government of Rwanda).”

The memo said Plamadiala has “no demonstrated expertise” suitable to being a member of the expert panel and “demonstrates inappropriate professional boundaries not befitting a U.N. expert.”

Despite Rwanda’s complaints, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reappointed Leloup and Plamadiala to the expert group.

The U.N. press office did not have an immediate response to the question of whether the Rwandan memo complaining about the two experts had been received by Ban’s office.

Plamadiala declined to comment in an email to Reuters. Leloup did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Last year, Rwanda accused the Group of Experts’ coordinator, Steve Hege of the United States, of bias and leaking information to the media. Several council diplomats told Reuters those allegations about Hege were unfounded. The experts’ new coordinator is Emilie Serralta of France.

Recently the M23 rebellion started to implode, U.N. diplomats and officials say. Hundreds of Congolese M23 rebels loyal to warlord Bosco Ntaganda fled into neighbouring Rwanda or surrendered to U.N. peacekeepers over the weekend after being routed by a rival faction.

Ntaganda, the fugitive Rwandan-born former Congolese general, walked into the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda on Monday and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court, where he faces war crimes charges racked up during the rebellion.

African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated regional accord late last month aimed at ending two decades of conflict in eastern Congo and paving the way for the possible creation of a U.N. intervention force to combat armed groups.

Italian president seeks way out of political stalemate
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano starts consultations with political leaders today to see if any of them has a chance of forming a government after last month’s election left no party with a majority in parliament.

Italy’s political stalemate and the prospect of months of political uncertainty has created alarm across Europe just as the standoff over bank deposits in Cyprus reawakened fears that the euro zone debt crisis could flare up again.

Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who won a majority in the lower house but not in the Senate, commands the largest bloc in parliament but cannot govern unless he has support from one of the other parties.

However there has been no sign that an accord is possible with either former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right alliance, the second biggest force in parliament, or the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by ex-comic Beppe Grillo which holds the balance of power.

If no agreement can be struck between parties that remain bitterly divided, Italy faces the prospect of a brief period under a caretaker government followed by a return to the polls, possibly as early as June.

Napolitano meets minor parties, including Prime Minister Mario Monti’s centrist bloc today before seeing representatives from the 5-Star Movement, Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party and Bersani’s Democratic Party (PD) on Thursday.

Bersani, 61, received a small boost at the weekend when his two candidates were elected the speakers of the two houses of parliament, despite the centre-left’s lack of a majority in the upper house.

Both speakers announced late yesterday that they would take a 30 percent wage cut and urged other parliamentarians to do the same, a move that followed an example set by 5-Star members elected as local officials in Sicily last year who gave up most of their salaries and used the savings to fund small businesses.

Limited

Bersani is proposing to present a limited package of reforms aimed at fighting corruption and creating jobs that he hopes can be backed by the 5-Star Movement.

Given the fractious climate, the prospects of a minority government surviving more than a short time are slim but Bersani has little alternative.

“The PD is not changing our line, we’ll go to the consultations with the proposals which were voted by the party leadership immediately after the election,” he told reporters yesterday.

Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported

The Thaiger

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported | The Thaiger
PHOTO: New cases reported over the weekend are concerning health offficials - BBC.com

Another 139 new cases of a flu-like disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus in China has shocked health officials. There’s also been a third confirmed death reported today. Worse, the outbreak has now spread beyond Wuhan in central China where the virus was first identified. There have been cases reported in Beijing, a province next door to Shanghai and Shenzhen in southern China.

Health authorities in Beijing have now confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus today, while Guangdong authorities in southern China reported one new case in Shenzhen as well. The Shenzhen case is the first confirmation that the virus has spread domestically beyond Wuhan.

The Wuhan Health Commission announced today that 136 new patients had been diagnosed over the weekend – 1 person died from the virus, 2 remain in critical condition, 33 are in serious condition. All three patients that have died are believed to have visited Wuhan in the last month or so.

The new cases have brought the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in China to 201. That’s a big jump over numbers reported over the weekend.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, say they are monitoring eight patient. All eight have been quarantined for treatment. In coastal Zhejiang province, bordering Shanghai, authorities have now reported five new suspected cases who have been confirmed to have visited Wuhan. Last week, three cases were detected outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan. All cases have been linked to Wuhan. On Monday, South Korea also confirmed its first case of the virus.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market at the centre of the pneumonia outbreak in he city of tWuhan has been closed for disinfection since January 1.

Meanwhile, Thai officials are stepping up screening efforts with many flights flying in from Wuhan over the next few weeks for the Chinese New Year holidays. Health officials say they’re confident that their screening efforts will detect any infected passengers getting off flights at Thai airports.

SOURCE: CNN

Coronavirus spreads north and south in China - 139 new cases reported | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Bangkok Post

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year

The Thaiger

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Conversation

Chinese medical officials have now reported four more cases of the viral pneumonia strain caused by a new coronavirus. The discoveries are causing rising concern that the disease is not fully understand and could spread during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

The new virus, originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the apparent epicentre of the outbreak – is believed to belong in the same class of coronaviruses that includes the deadly SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002/03. That outbreak also started in China.

At this stage all signs are that the virus isn’t as lethal as SARS, but there is still little known about the coronavirus’ origins and how it is transmitted. But it has been established at this stage that it is not spread human to human.

Both Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus. In Thailand the patient was detected when arriving on a flight from Wuhan. And Japan’s health ministry reported that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return to Japan.

Both patients have fully recovered.

The new cases detected in China, and the cases detected overseas, are stoking global concerns as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese will head overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays that begin next week and run through to early February.

The Wuhan Health Commission reports that the the four new cases are now in stable condition. 45 cases have been reported in the city as of last Thursday. A second patient died on Wednesday this week. Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all of them either lived in Wuhan or have travelled to the city.

The London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis speculates that there are probably “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently declared by Wuhan authorities. Their modelling estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by the second week in January.

Meanwhile US authorities say they are now screening at three airports to detect passengers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. And in Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are stepping up monitoring of travellers from Wuhan at airports.

SOURCE: Reuters | Science Alert

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Thailand

Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released

Greeley Pulitzer

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Johan van Laarhoven walks free after serving six years of a 100 year sentence in Thai prison - The Chiang Rai Times

A Dutch citizen who was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is now on his way home after years of campaigning for his release. His sentence was reduced to 75 years on appeal and later to 50 years by the Supreme court. Johan van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis “coffee shops” in Holland, was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, along with his Thai wife, though the offences took place in The Netherlands.

Thai authorities began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after a letter from a Dutch public prosecutor’s office, informing them that he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting their help. Last year, MPs called on the government to to extradite Van Laarhoven and his wife back to Netherlands. The Dutch justice minister even met with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.

Even though cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, Dutch officials bungled a tax query to Thai authorities regarding the sale of the Dutchman’s cannabis cafe chain. This led to a criminal investigation and his televised arrest in Thailand.

Thai authorities seized the Dutchman’s assets and he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was jailed for 13 years as an accomplice. The Netherlands has an extradition treaty with Thailand, but it can only be implemented after a case has been ruled “definitive.” Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution. It’s unclear whether his wife will be allowed to join him in the Netherlands.

Once back, Van Laarhoven will spend two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, and also face criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership in a criminal organisation and laundering €20m (675 million baht) according to a Dutch public prosecutor.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times | Dutchnews.nl

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