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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin laughs off topless protest; Body in Paris plane; UN whistleblower in spotlight

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin laughs off topless protest; Body in Paris plane; UN whistleblower in spotlight | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Putin laughs off topless protest, defends NGO moves
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Russian President Vladimir Putin laughed off a protest against him by topless women in Germany on Monday, joking that he liked what he had seen while sharply rebuffing German criticism of his human rights record.

Three members of the women’s rights group Femen, which has staged protests against Russia’s detention of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot around Europe, disrupted his visit to a trade fair in the German city of Hanover focusing on Russian business.

They stripped to the waist and shouted slogans calling the Russian leader a “dictator” before being covered up and bundled away by security men.

“Regarding this performance, I liked it,” grinned Putin at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding that it had helped to promote the trade fair though he suggested that the security men could have been “gentler”.

“I did not catch what they were shouting, I did not even see if they were blondes, brunettes or chestnut-haired… I don’t see anything terrible in (the protest), though I think… it is better to be dressed if one wants to discuss political matters.”

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the protesters of “hooliganism” and said they should be punished.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said people in a free society had the right to protest.

Putin and Merkel, who also held talks in Hanover on Sunday, want to further boost booming economic ties but the German leader also repeated her concerns about human rights in Russia after raids by Russian authorities on German and other non-governmental organisations based in the country.

A new law on NGOs requires them to register as “foreign agents” if they have foreign funding and are deemed to be involved in politics, something many prominent groups have refused to do on the grounds that they are not acting on behalf of other nations and are not trying to influence Russian politics.

For many, the term evokes Soviet-era oppression and Cold War espionage.

NGOs “free” to operate

Putin, a former KGB agent who worked in East Germany in the 1980s and speaks fluent German, denied that the Kremlin was trying to muzzle the NGOs and said Moscow just wanted to monitor the amounts of foreign funding coming into Russia.

“All our actions are connected not with closing and forbidding (foreign-funded NGOs in Russia), but with monitoring financial flows that go to non-governmental Russian organisations which are involved in internal political activity, and this money comes from outside of the country,” he said.

“Regarding the freedom of work of these organisations, it is not limited at all. They only have to register.”

Putin said nearly 1 billion dollars had flowed to Russian NGOs in just four months since Moscow approved the new law – a figure swiftly queried by NGOs in Moscow.

“The talk of $1 billion (29 billion baht) is a lie,” Pavel Chikov, the head of Agora, a Russian legal aid NGO, said on Twitter.

Merkel reiterated her government’s criticism of the clampdown on NGOs, which have included several German foundations.

“This is about NGOs being able to work well and freely … A lively civil society can only emerge when individuals can operate without fear or worry, of course on the basis of law,” Merkel said.

The German chancellor added: “For Germany, Russia is an important strategic partner. We have the most intensive contacts that we would like to continue.”

North Koreans don’t show for work at Kaesong factory park
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: North Korean labourers did not show up for work on Tuesday at a factory complex operated with South Korea, companies with operations there said, effectively shutting down the zone for the first time since it began shipments in 2004.

Pyongyang’s decision to halt work at the Kaesong industrial park coincided with speculation it would carry out a missile launch, or even another nuclear test, in what has become one of the worst periods of tension on the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

About 475 South Korean workers and factory managers remain in Kaesong, a few kilometres inside the border with North Korea. The South Korean government said 77 would return on Tuesday.

Many South Koreans have been reluctant to leave, worried about the impact on their companies and jobs.

“North Korean workers didn’t come to work today, and production has halted in our Kaesong facilities,” said a spokeswoman for Shinwon, a women’s clothing maker.

A spokesman for textile company Taekwang Industrial and at least two other firms also said North Koreans workers did not show up on Tuesday and that production had stopped.

More than 100 representatives from businesses operating at Kaesong were holding an emergency meeting at the complex that started at about 0100 GMT, Reuters witnesses said.

An executive at another South Korean apparel firm running a factory in Kaesong said late on Monday his employees had told him they would stay.

“I don’t know what to do, honestly. I can’t simply tell my workers to leave or stay,” said the executive, who requested anonymity.

Tension has been rising since the United Nations imposed new sanctions on the North for carrying out its third nuclear test in February. Pyongyang has been further angered by weeks of military exercises by South Korean and U.S. forces and threatened both countries with nuclear attack.

“Shock therapy”

Few experts had expected Pyongyang to jeopardise Kaesong, which accounts for $2 billion in annual trade and employs 50,000 North Koreans making household goods for 123 South Korean firms.

North Korea said on Monday it would suspend operations at the park, its sole remaining major project with the South. No decision had been made on closing Kaesong permanently, it said.

“They’re using this as shock therapy because, regardless of what they say, if they close Kaesong the damage they will sustain will not be small,” said Moon Seong-mook, a retired South Korean brigadier general who took part in previous military talks with the North.

“This is just another negotiating card they can use with South Korea.”

The North’s official KCNA news agency said Seoul was trying to “turn the zone into a hotbed of war” against the North. It did not elaborate.

North Korea has also bridled at suggestions from Seoul that it would keep the park open because it needed the cash. The zone generates more than $80 million a year in cash in wages – paid to the state rather than to the workers.

South Korean firms pay between $8 million and $9 million in wages a month for about 53,000 North Korean workers in Kaesong. Any delay in payment of those wages could become another flashpoint because the North could demand payment of interest on the delayed wages, Yonhap reported.

The turmoil has hit South Korean financial markets, which have usually shrugged off the North’s rhetoric.

Seoul stocks have fallen nearly 3 percent since Wednesday, when the North first blocked access to the zone amid steep foreign selling. Shares in some firms known to have operations in Kaesong fell sharply on Tuesday.

The won currency has fallen by more than 2 percent against the dollar si

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Chiang Rai

Italian busted in Australia smuggling heroin

Greeley Pulitzer

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Italian busted in Australia smuggling heroin | The Thaiger

An 49-year-old Italian has been charged with drug smuggling after arriving at Perth Airport from Chiang Mai. He allegedly had about 300 grams of heroin, worth about 135,000 Australian dollars, hidden inside his body.

After trace technology during a baggage examination showed positive for narcotics, Australian Border Force officers referred him to the Australian Federal Police for an internal exam.

The man was taken to hospital where 63 pellets of heroin were allegedly found in his stomach. X-Rays also revealed three more pellets of heroin had been internally inserted into his rectum.

Italian busted in Australia smuggling heroin | News by The Thaiger

Photo: Australian Border Force

He was charged with importing a controlled drug and faces 25 years in prison.

A spokeman for the Australian Border Forcesaid the ABF is fully aware of the lengths people are willing to go to bring drugs into Australia.

“They not only risk lengthy jail time, but are playing Russian roulette with their own lives and health,” he said.

“Smuggling drugs internally is an incredibly stupid endeavour. Furthermore there is a risk that stomach acid will eat through the wrapping of the heroin, consequently risking a fatal drug overdose,” according to federal police.

SOURCE: chiangraitimes.com

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World

Brexit latest – Five possible scenarios

The Thaiger

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Brexit latest – Five possible scenarios | The Thaiger

Britain’s three year Brexit saga, the UK’s most challenging and debilitating political debacle in decades, has taken another dramatic twist with the outcome still difficult to predict. In a landmark vote, MPs finally backed an EU divorce deal – only moments later rejecting British PM Boris Johnson’s rushed timetable to turn it into law ahead of the country’s scheduled October 31 departure date.

The decision makes that deadline almost impossible to meet, but it does not kill the deal – the first that has got a majority in parliament.

Here are some possible scenarios ahead…

A technical extension

Legislation passed last month stated that unless MPs backed a divorce deal by October 19, Johnson must write to EU leaders asking for Brexit to be postponed for three months to January 31, 2020. The PM reluctantly sent the letter last Saturday, and EU leaders are still considering their response.

European Council President Donald Tusk said yesterday, following the drama in Westminster, that he was now recommending they accept the request. Johnson had earlier told lawmakers who had just defied his bid to fast-track his deal through parliament that he would “pause” the ratification process while the EU decides on an extension.

Although he insisted Britain should still leave on October 31, he may have little choice but to accept a short “technical” delay to allow for a new parliamentary timetable to pass the legislation in the coming weeks.

More delays

Despite Johnson being adamant he will not delay Brexit for months, the EU may also offer Britain the option of a longer extension – which opposition MPs argue the premier would be compelled by law to accept. European leaders could claim a longer delay is necessary to give the country enough time to resolve the issue.

Legislation of this type would normally take months and must be approved again by the House of Commons as well as by the upper House of Lords. There is a real risk MPs could try to hijack its passage and attach various amendments, for example to make approval subject to negotiating a future customs union with the bloc or even to hold a new referendum.

A longer delay could also allow for a general election.

A crash and burn exit

The default legal position is that Britain leaves the EU on October 31 unless the other 27 member states agree to a delay.

Business and markets across Europe fear the shock of a sudden Brexit that even the government’s own assessment says would cause economic damage, raising the chances that the EU will offer an extension.

Despite EU leaders claiming they would never cause a no-deal Brexit, their decision to offer a delay must be unanimous and any one of the 27 member states could block such a move. In that highly unlikely scenario, Britain would crash out of the bloc at the end of next week.

Another general election

Johnson warned MPs ahead of the votes yesterday that he would pull his Brexit deal legislation and try to hold a general election if they rejected his timetable – although he did not repeat the threat afterwards.

Riding high in the polls, he has already unsuccessfully tried twice to get an early election to win back a majority in parliament, and seemed buoyed by having secured MPs’ initial approval for his new Brexit deal. But he needs the support of the main opposition Labour Party for an election to be called and it has so far resisted.

Labour says it would back an election when the threat of a “no deal” Brexit is off the table.

Another referendum

Labour says any deal should be subject to a new referendum, and has promised to call one if it takes office. Some MPs may try to force the issue during the passage of the Brexit deal legislation, although it is far from clear that they have the numbers to succeed.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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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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