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Phuket Gazette World News: Syria pro-rebel alliance UK, US, to meet; Suu Kyi to battle Myanmar Constitution; Kosovo envoy exits Serbia after 48 hours

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Phuket Gazette World News: Syria pro-rebel alliance UK, US, to meet; Suu Kyi to battle Myanmar Constitution; Kosovo envoy exits Serbia after 48 hours | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Myanmar constitution likely to dash Suu Kyi’s presidential hopes
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Her adoring compatriots believe democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi is destined to become Myanmar’s next president. But don’t bet on it.

A year ago, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was feted at home and abroad and flush from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s landslide wins in April 2012 by-elections, which swept her into parliament.

Even a military-drafted constitution designed to exclude her from the highest office seemed a surmountable hurdle.

Now the journey from political prisoner to president appears much less certain, even as her ambition is clearer than ever.

“I want to be president and I’m quite frank about it,” she told journalists at the World Economic Forum in the capital Naypyitaw on June 6.

But to emerge as president after a 2015 general election, Suu Kyi, 68, must overcome challenges that would daunt a less formidable political survivor.

She must convince a military-dominated parliament to amend the constitution.

Even if she can do that, and the constitution can be amended in time, she could then face a voter backlash over her position on a violent and widening rift between her nation’s Buddhists and minority Muslims.

Her rare public expressions of support for Muslims, who have borne the brunt of waves of sectarian violence, put her in a politically fraught position in the Buddhist-majority country.

Some people wonder if the violence is being exploited by conservative opponents to chip away at her support.

To win power, she would also have to fend off two former generals who covet the top spot. The first is Shwe Mann, the influential speaker of Myanmar’s lower house.

The other is the popular incumbent Thein Sein, whose quasi-civilian government took power in March 2011 after nearly half a century of military rule and launched a series of political and economic reforms. Thein Sein might seek a second term despite health concerns.

No easy task

Suu Kyi’s most immediate problem is the constitution.

It bars anyone married to a foreigner or who has children who are foreign citizens. Suu Kyi and her husband, the late British academic Michael Aris, had two children who are British.

“By all accounts it was drawn up with her in mind,” Andrew McLeod, a professor at Sydney Law School and deputy director of the Myanmar Constitutional Reform Project, said of the constitution, drawn up under the former military junta.

Any constitutional amendment would require 75 percent support in parliament – no easy task when the constitution also reserves a quarter of seats for the military.

Most of the rest of the members of parliament are members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), created by the old junta and largely made up of retired military officers.

If passed by parliament, an amendment must win more than half the vote in a referendum. Some analysts say there just isn’t enough time to do all that before the 2015 election.

But even if she can pull off the amendments, the reality of partisan politics could threaten Suu Kyi’s presidential hopes.

Suu Kyi, the daughter of the hero of the campaign for independence from Britain, faces pressure internationally to defend the persecuted, including Muslims. But when she does, her once-unassailable popularity is threatened.

At least 237 people have been killed in violence between Myanmar’s Buddhists and Muslims over the past year and about 150,000 people have been left homeless. Most of the victims have been stateless Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine.

Groups such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch have condemned Suu Kyi for not using her moral authority to speak in defence of the Rohingya for fear of upsetting the Buddhist majority ahead of the election.

A 1982 law bars most Rohingya from citizenship and the government – and many ordinary Buddhists – consider them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even though many can trace ancestry in Rakhine state for generations.

Alienating voters?

When asked about her failure to strongly condemn violence against the Rohingya, Suu Kyi said at the World Economic Forum she didn’t want to “aggravate the situation” by taking sides. But she has criticised a policy in Rakhine State limiting Rohingya women to two children.

Suu Kyi has also said the government should re-examine the 1982 citizenship law. But that prompted the Daily Eleven newspaper to warn that any attempt by her to change the law would alienate voters and cost her party the next election.

For Suu Kyi the presidency would crown a remarkable life.

The military put her under house arrest in 1989 following the suppression of pro-democracy protests. The NLD swept a 1990 election by a landslide but the junta ignored the result and kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 of the next 20 years.

She was released in November 2010 a week after a general election, widely regarded as rigged, swept the USDP to power. The NLD boycotted the election as undemocratic.

The European Union and United States have lifted or suspended most sanctions against Myanmar, although Washington warned they could be reimposed if it backtracked on reform.

Denying Suu Kyi a crack at the presidency could suggest to the world that Myanmar is doing just that, said McLeod. This could prompt Western companies to halt investment in one of Asia’s last frontier economies.

But Bertil Lintner, a veteran journalist and author of several books on Myanmar, said that was not likely.

“I think the foreign business community would prefer to have the USDP and the military in power,” he said. “For them, it means stability and continuity.”

China jails 19 Uighurs for religious extremism
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Courts in China’s far western region of Xinjiang have sentenced 19 ethnic Uighurs to up to six years in jail for promoting racial hatred and religious extremism online, in the latest crackdown on what China sees as violent separatists.

All but one of those jailed were from the heavily Uighur southern part of Xinjiang, including eight from the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, the official Legal Daily reported on its website.

Many Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who call energy-rich Xinjiang home, chafe at Chinese government restrictions on their culture, language and religion. China says it grants them wide-ranging freedoms.

In one of the cases, the suspect went on illegal websites to download material which “whipped up religious fervour and preached ‘holy war'” and “whipped up ethnic enmity”, the Legal Daily said in its report late on Wednesday.

“This created a despicable effect on society,” the newspaper said, citing the court ruling.

Another suspect was jailed for spreading materials from overseas via the Internet which “advocate religious extremism and terrorism”, the newspaper added.

While the report did not specify the ethnicity of those jailed, their names and the location of the courts where they were sentenced indicated they were all Uighurs.

China accuses armed Uighur groups of having links to Central Asian and Pakistani Islamist militants, and of carrying out attacks to establish an independent state cal

— 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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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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