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Phuket Gazette World News: Syria warns Lebanon; Myanmar in democracy drive; UN damns drones; Spain retirees hit

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Phuket Gazette World News: Syria warns Lebanon; Myanmar in democracy drive; UN damns drones; Spain retirees hit | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Syria threatens to strike at rebels in Lebanon
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Syria has warned it may strike at rebels hiding in neighbouring Lebanon if the Lebanese army does not act, as its patience “is not unlimited”, the state news agency SANA said yesterday.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry told its Lebanese counterpart late on Thursday that a “large number” of militants had crossed Lebanon’s northern border into the Syrian town of Tel Kalakh over the past two days, SANA said.

“Syria expects the Lebanese side to prevent these armed terrorist groups from using the borders as a crossing point, because they target Syrian people and are violating Syrian sovereignty,” the diplomatic cable said.

It said Syria’s “patience is not unlimited”, even though “Syrian forces have so far exercised restraint from striking at armed gangs inside Lebanese territory.”

Fighting near the border resulted in a large number of casualties, SANA said, before the gunmen retreated into Lebanon.

Lebanon has a policy of “dissociation” from the two-year-old civil war in Syria but officials say they feel their country is increasingly at risk of being dragged into a conflict that the United Nations says has killed 70,000 Syrians.

More than one million Syrians are believed to have taken shelter in Lebanon. They live among a nation of 4 million, which fought its own devastating 1975-1990 civil war and whose own sectarian tensions between Christians, Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims have been heightened by the fighting in Syria.

Tensions between Lebanese groups that support the Syrian opposition and those that support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been intensifying and have sometimes turned violent.

Myanmar parliament to review controversial constitution
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Myanmar’s parliament took the first step yesterday toward the possible amendment of the constitution which was drafted under a military regime and bars Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.

The constitution, ratified after a rigged 2008 referendum and widely seen as undemocratic, disqualifies presidential and vice-presidential candidates whose spouses or children are citizens of a foreign country. Suu Kyi’s late husband, academic Michael Aris, was British, as are their two grown-up sons.

The constitution also reserves a quarter of parliamentary seats for military personnel chosen by the armed forces chief.

The review was proposed by Aye Myint and Thein Zaw, both former generals and senior members of the ruling, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said Ohn Kyaing, a member of Suu Kyi’s party.

Military delegates also voted in favour of the proposal.

“They seem to have realised that it’s essential to amend the present constitution for the country to build genuine democracy,” Ohn Kyaing said.

The junta stepped aside in March 2011, when President Thein Sein took office after the USDP swept a 2010 general election. He has opened up the country and started to modernise the economy.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted the general election but she and 42 colleagues won by-elections in April last year to take seats in parliament. She has made amending the constitution a priority.

The review could lead to changes that would make it possible for Suu Kyi to become president after a 2015 general election that the NLD is expected to win. It might also decide the future role and political scope of the military.

A review committee would include members of many political parties and outside experts, a senior parliamentary official said.

A military lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, welcomed amendments that might remove obstacles for a Suu Kyi presidency.

“Personally, I’m sure she will make a capable leader,” he said.

U.S. drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty – U.N.
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The United States has violated Pakistan’s sovereignty and shattered tribal structures with unmanned drone strikes in its counterterrorism operations near the Afghan border, a U.N. human rights investigator said in a statement yesterday.

U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, visited Pakistan for three days this week as part of his investigation into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killings.

“As a matter of international law, the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan is… being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State,” Emmerson said in a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

“It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he said.

Emmerson said in January he would investigate 25 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. He is expected to present his final report to the U.N. General Assembly in October.

Washington had little to say about Emmerson’s statement.

“We’ve seen his press release. I’m obviously not going to speak about classified information here,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. “We have a strong ongoing counterterrorism dialogue with Pakistan and that will continue.”

Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold judgment until it sees Emmerson’s full report.

“We have a solid working relationship with them (Pakistan) on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security relationship, and we’re in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues.”

End of military interference

Emmerson said the Pashtun tribes of north-western Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, Pakistan’s largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, have been decimated by the counterterrorism operations.

“These proud and independent people have been self-governing for generations, and have a rich tribal history that has been too little understood in the West,” he said. “Their tribal structures have been broken down by the military campaign in FATA and by the use of drones in particular.”

The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan’s administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the U.S.-led combat mission ends in 2014.

Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them, and dozens of other countries are believed to possess the technology.

“It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by

— 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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Environment

Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming

The Thaiger

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Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Five patients remain in serious condition in Wuhan - New York Times

“At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain.”

Medical officials in China’s Wuhan city have announced that another man had died after being infected by the new coronavirus strain. Thailand and Japan have now reported new cases of a the Chinese Coronavirus that has already killed two and infected at least 40 in China. There are growing concerns about the spread of the virus beyond Chinese ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays. Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 25 this year but many Chinese, and people of Chinese ethnicity, travel before and after this date, including trips over seas.

The Chinese man, reported to be aged 69, was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 31 with “abnormal renal function”. The man died from pneumonia linked to the new strain of the coronavirus outbreak in the central China province.

Chinese scientists identified the illness as a new strain of coronavirus, which is in the same family as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Symptoms of coronaviruses can range from fever and coughing to kidney failure, and in some cases lead to death.

At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain, earlier called the “Wuhan Flu”, and now referred to as Chinese Coronavirus.

Five patients still remain in a serious condition. Chinese medical officials state that no cases of human-to-human transmission of the new viral strain have been confirmed so far.

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Crime

2 more alleged call centre scam suspects arrested in Japan

Greeley Pulitzer

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2 more alleged call centre scam suspects arrested in Japan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Japanese suspects arrested during a raid in Chon Buri in late March 2019

Two men arrested in Japan yesterday stand accused of operating a large-scale call centre scam based in Thailand, bringing the total number of arrests in the case to 28. Japanese police believe 36 year old Kengo Yasutake and 34 year old Shimpei Hirata operated a luxury home in Pattaya, where a team of Japanese men would call people across Japan and tell them their subscription fees for a website were overdue.

Police say the gang has tricked more than 200 people and collected a total of more than 55 million baht. Fifteen Japanese men have already been arrested by Thai police last March at another luxury house location, also in Chon Buri province, and Japanese investigators arrested more in May 2019 as they attempted to leave Thailand for Japan.

Investigators say the group had a well-organised division of labour conducting the scam, with individual members making phone calls, cashing swindled electronic gift cards and as managing the scam web site.

They were arrested on suspicion of scamming a woman and two others living in the city of Fukui, central Japan, alleging in an email that they had failed to pay website subscription fees, and coercing them into purchasing electronic gift cards worth a total 780,000 yen, or about 215,000 baht.

SOURCE: Japan Times
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Well-Being

First ‘China coronavirus’ case confirmed in Japan

Greeley Pulitzer

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First ‘China coronavirus’ case confirmed in Japan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The first case of the 'Wuhan Flu' identified in Japan - The Economist

As Thailand’s airports continue screening passengers arriving from China, Japan has confirmed its first case of the new China coronavirus that has killed one and attracted a travel alert from the US State Department. The patient, a man from Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo, had recently visited the Chinese city of Wuhan, where an outbreak of a pneumonia strain is believed to be caused by the new coronavirus.

The US State Department issued a warning on Wednesday about travel to the Wuhan region in China, citing an alert by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention which urges citizens travelling in the region to avoid contact with animals, animal markets or animal products, among other precautions.

Health authorities in Thailand announced on Wednesday they are stepping up screening of passengers arriving by air ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, when 800,000 Chinese tourists are expected to head for the Kingdom.

Though there has been no known human-to-human transmission, the World Health Organisation says the new virus could spread and is warning hospitals worldwide. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, aka. SARS. Some of the virus types cause less serious disease, while some, like the one that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), are far more severe.

The Japanese patient returned from Wuhan and was hospitalised with a fever. He was released yesterday after the symptoms subsided.

SOURCE: The Bangkok Post

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