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Phuket Gazette World News: Turkey rocked by riots; Prague flood alert; Gulf states eye Hezbollah Syria support; Hong Kong leader cleared

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Phuket Gazette World News: Turkey rocked by riots; Prague flood alert; Gulf states eye Hezbollah Syria support; Hong Kong leader cleared | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Thousands clash with police in Turkey
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey’s four biggest cities on Sunday and clashed with riot police firing tear gas on the third day of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years.

The din of car horns and residents banging pots and pans from balconies in support of the protests resonated across neighbourhoods in Istanbul and Ankara late into the night, as hundreds of demonstrators skirmished with riot police.

Roads around Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s office in Istanbul were sealed off as police fired tear gas to push back protesters, and police raided a shopping complex in the centre of the capital Ankara where they believed demonstrators were sheltering, detaining several hundred.

Erdogan blamed the main secular opposition party for inciting the crowds, whom he called “a few looters”, and said the protests were aimed at depriving his ruling AK Party of votes as elections begin next year.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler said there had been more than 200 demonstrations in 67 cities around the country, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.

The unrest erupted on Friday when trees were torn down at a park in Istanbul’s main Taksim Square under government plans to redevelop the area, but widened into a broad show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdogan said the plans to remake the square, long an iconic rallying point for mass demonstrations, would go ahead, including the construction of a new mosque and the rebuilding of a replica Ottoman-era barracks.

He said the protests had nothing to do with the plans.

“It’s entirely ideological,” he said in an interview broadcast on Turkish television.

“The main opposition party which is making resistance calls on every street is provoking these protests … This is about my ruling party, myself and the looming municipal elections in Istanbul and efforts to make the AK Party lose votes here.”

Turkey is due to hold local and presidential elections next year in which Erdogan is expected to stand, followed by parliamentary polls in 2015.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) denied orchestrating the unrest, blaming Erdogan’s policies.

“Today the people on the street across Turkey are not exclusively from the CHP, but from all ideologies and from all parties,” senior party member Mehmet Akif Hamzacebi said.

“What Erdogan has to do is not to blame CHP but draw the necessary lessons from what happened,” he told Reuters.

The protests, started by a small group of environmental campaigners, mushroomed when police used force to eject them from the park on Taksim Square.

As word spread online, the demonstrations drew in a wide range of people of all ages from across the political and social spectrum.

The ferocity of the police response in Istanbul shocked Turks, as well as tourists caught up in the unrest in one of the world’s most visited destinations. It has drawn rebukes from the United States, European Union and international rights groups.

Helicopters fired tear gas canisters into residential neighbourhoods and police used tear gas to try to smoke people out of buildings. Footage on YouTube showed one protester being hit by an armoured police truck as it charged a barricade.

For much of Sunday, the atmosphere in Taksim Square was festive, with some people chanting for Erdogan to resign and others dancing. There was little obvious police presence.

But in the nearby Besiktas neighbourhood, riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to keep crowds away from Erdogan’s office in Dolmabahce Palace, a former Ottoman residence on the shores of the Bosphorus.

There were similar scenes in Ankara’s main Kizilar square.

Erdogan is due to fly to Morocco on Monday as part of an official visit that also covers Algeria and Tunisia. Sources in his office said his trip would go ahead.

Erdogan has overseen a transformation in Turkey during his decade in power, turning its once crisis-prone economy into the fastest-growing in Europe.

He remains by far Turkey’s most popular politician, but critics point to what they see as his authoritarianism and religiously conservative meddling in private lives in the secular republic.

Tighter restrictions on alcohol sales and warnings against public displays of affection in recent weeks have also provoked protests. Concern that government policy is allowing Turkey to be dragged into the conflict in neighbouring Syria by the West has also led to peaceful demonstrations.

On Sunday, Erdogan appeared on television for the fourth time in less than 36 hours, and justified the restrictions on alcohol as for the good of people’s health.

“I want them to know that I want these (restrictions) for the sake of their health … Whoever drinks alcohol is an alcoholic,” he said.

Czech PM declares Prague flood emergency
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas declared a state of emergency for most of the nation on Sunday as swollen rivers caused by days of heavy rain threatened Prague’s historic centre and forced evacuations from low-lying areas.

Prague authorities limited public transport and planned to close underground stations in the centre of the city as water from the Vltava River overflowed into picturesque areas popular with tourists. The main train line connecting the capital and the east of the country was also shut.

Necas pledged 300 million Czech crowns ($15 million) for relief efforts and said another 2,000 troops were ready to support the 300 soldiers already helping to erect temporary barriers and pile sandbags in Prague and other areas.

“The government approved the declaration of a state of emergency which will enable a more effective rescue effort,” said Necas after an emergency cabinet meeting, adding that there was another 1.3 billion crowns available to help fund the clean-up operation.

In neighbouring Austria, torrential rain caused widespread flooding and landslides, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

The historic area of Prague is a UNESCO heritage site boasting hundreds of well-preserved buildings, churches and monuments dating back centuries, including the Charles Bridge straddling the Vltava which was closed due to high water.

The floods have killed at least two people and several people are missing across the Czech Republic. A Prague hospital and parts of the zoo were also evacuated.

Rising rivers have forced the closures of highways and railway lines throughout western and southern Bohemia. Utility companies reported outages throughout the region after floods damaged a number of substations.

“The water is about 50 metres from my house but it’s only 1 or 2 metres from other houses,” said Rory Pattison, an expatriate worker living in a village just outside Prague.

“We haven’t had an evacuation notice yet but everyone is making preparations just in case.”

The situation brought back memories of floods in 2002 that killed 17 people, forced tens of thousands from their homes and caused several billion dollars of damage across the country.

Water levels have not reached that point yet but weather forecasters predict the rain will continue for at le

— 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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