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Phuket Gazette World News: Venezuela mourns Chavez; Kenyans tense over polls; Syria exodus; Vietnam dumps fat cops; Borneo uprising upended

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Phuket Gazette World News: Venezuela mourns Chavez; Kenyans tense over polls; Syria exodus; Vietnam dumps fat cops; Borneo uprising upended | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Venezuelans parade Chavez’s coffin, prepare for vote
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Weeping and shouting, a sea of Hugo Chavez’s supporters paraded his coffin through the streets of Caracas on Wednesday in an emotional outpouring that could help his deputy win an election and keep his self-styled socialist revolution alive.

Hundreds of thousands of “Chavistas” marched behind a hearse carrying the remains of the flamboyant and outspoken president, draped in Venezuela’s blue, red and yellow national flag.

Avenues resounded with chants of “Chavez lives! The fight goes on!” as supporters showered flowers onto the coffin and jostled to touch it. Loudspeakers played recordings of the charismatic socialist giving speeches and singing.

Some supporters held heart-shaped placards that read: “I love Chavez!” Others cheered from rooftops, waving T-shirts.

Ending one of Latin America’s most remarkable populist rules, Chavez died on Tuesday at age 58 after a two-year battle with cancer that was first detected in his pelvis.

His body was to be taken to a military academy later on Wednesday to lie in state until his state funeral on Friday.

The future of Chavez’s socialist policies, which won him the adoration of poor Venezuelans but infuriated opponents who denounced him as a dictator, now rests on the shoulders of Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the man he tapped to succeed him.

“We ask our people to channel this pain into peace,” Maduro said.

Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader, will probably face Henrique Capriles, the centrist opposition governor of Miranda state, in an election now due within weeks in the OPEC nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

One recent opinion poll gave Maduro a strong lead over Capriles, in part because he has received Chavez’s blessing as his heir apparent, and he is likely to benefit from the surge of emotion following the president’s death.

Authorities said the vote would be called within 30 days, as stipulated by the constitution, but did not specify the date.

The tall, moustachioed Maduro has long been a close ally of Chavez. He pledges to continue his legacy and is unlikely to make major policy changes soon.

He will now focus on marshalling support from Chavez’s diverse coalition, which includes leftist ideologues, business leaders and radical armed groups called “colectivos.”

Some have suggested Maduro might try to ease tensions with Western investors and the U.S. government. Yet hours before Chavez’s death, Maduro alleged that “imperialist” enemies had infected the president with cancer and he expelled two U.S. diplomats accused of conspiring with domestic opponents.

A victory by Capriles, 40, a centrist politician who calls Brazil his model for Venezuela, would bring big changes and be welcomed by business groups, although he would probably move cautiously at first to lower the risk of political instability.

“Don’t be scared. Don’t be anxious. Between us all, we’re going to guarantee the peace this beloved country deserves,” Capriles said in a condolence message, calling for unity and respect for the loss that many felt after Chavez’s death.

Allies

The stakes are also huge for Latin America, given the crucial economic aid and cheap fuel that Chavez sent to allied leftist governments across the region.

Venezuela’s military commanders pledged loyalty to Maduro, who will be caretaker leader until the election, and soldiers fired 21-gun salutes to Chavez in barracks across the nation.

Venezuelan debt prices fell on Wednesday as investors opted to lock in gains chalked up in anticipation of Chavez’s death, citing short-term political uncertainty.

It was not immediately clear where Chavez would be buried.

He had ordered a striking new mausoleum built in downtown Caracas for the remains of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, his inspiration, and it is due to be finished soon. Some allies are already saying he should be buried there.

Despite the tumult around the coffin procession, much of Caracas was quiet, with streets deserted, especially in wealthier districts. Many shops locked their doors out of fear of looting. There were long lines outside gasoline stations.

A stony-faced Bolivian President Evo Morales joined Maduro at the front of the procession. The presidents of Argentina and Uruguay had also arrived for the funeral, state media said.

“This has hit me very hard, I’m still in shock,” said Leny Bolivar, a 39-year-old education ministry worker, her eyes red from tears. “We must keep fighting; he set out the way.”

Condolences flooded in from around the world – ranging from the Vatican and the United Nations to allies like Iran and Cuba.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad mourned Chavez’s death as a great loss, extolling his opposition to the “war on Syria.”

Obama Reaches out

U.S. President Barack Obama was less effusive about a man who put his country at loggerheads with Washington, saying his administration was interested in “developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.”

In a potentially conciliatory gesture, the United States is expected to send a delegation to the funeral.

Opponents at home hoped for a fresh start.

“Chavez was very dominant and used the powers of state in a very discretional way, as though this was his own estate,” Juan Vendrell, a 58-year-old engineer, said in a wealthy neighbourhood of Caracas. “I would like a change and for institutions and democracy to be restored.”

Chavez led Venezuela for 14 years and had easily won a new six-year term in an election in October, defeating Capriles.

His folksy charisma, anti-U.S. diatribes and oil-financed projects to improve life for residents of long-neglected slums created an unusually powerful bond with many poor Venezuelans.

That intense emotional connection underpinned his rule, but critics saw his autocratic style, gleeful nationalizations and often harsh treatment of rivals as hallmarks of a dictator whose policies squandered a historic bonanza of oil revenues.

The nationalizations and strict currency controls under Chavez frightened off investors. Even some of his followers complained that he focused too much on ideological issues at the expense of day-to-day problems such as power cuts, high inflation, food shortages and violent crime.

Chavez’s health declined sharply just after his re-election on October 7, possibly due to his decision to campaign for a third term instead of stepping aside to focus on his recovery.

The government declared seven days of mourning.

“His legacy will be the transformation of Venezuelan political culture, putting social inequality and poverty alleviation at the top of the political agenda,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Venezuela analyst.

“However, that came at the cost of greater authoritarianism in government and challenges to democracy as he sought to consolidate his leadership.”
Anxiety builds as Kenyans wait for presidential winner
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Kenyan authorities said the outcome of the country’s presidential election would not be compromised by the failure of electronic vote counting technology that has delayed results for a third day.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhu

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Politics

Former Thai PM Thaksin makes appearance on popular Clubhouse app

Maya Taylor

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Former Thai PM Thaksin makes appearance on popular Clubhouse app | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Frank Franklin/AP

Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been living in exile for over 10 years, has made an appearance on the new “Clubhouse” social media app, in which he discussed his battle with Covid-19. Thaksin’s appearance was confirmed by the CARE movement, as he joined a forum hosted by the organisation on Monday night.

Nation Thailand reports that also taking part in the forum were former ministers from Thaksin’s cabinet, including Surapong Suebwonglee, Prommin Lertsuridej, Chaturon Chaisang and Pichai Naripthaphan. According to a Facebook post from CARE, Thaksin appeared under the name he has been using while living abroad.

“Thaksin would appear under the name ‘Tony Woodsame’, as Tony is the name he had used while studying abroad.”

During his appearance, Thaksin confirmed he had contracted the Covid-19 virus but has since recovered. He also brought up the “30 baht cure all” policy of his former party, Thai Rak Thai, designed to deal with Thailand’s healthcare problems. Asked about the current political turmoil in Thailand and how he would deal with protesters if he was still in power, he emphasised the importance of communicating with Thailand’s youth.

“Political rallies in Thailand are caused by young people starting to become uncertain about their future. The government must communicate with these young protesters based on reason, as well as find ways to make Thailand open and free.”

The exclusive, invitation-only Clubhouse app is gaining popularity in Thailand and around the world, helped by the approval of prominent figures like Elon Musk, Kanye West, and Jared Leto. Renowned Thai academic, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, himself living in exile, is also a Clubhouse member.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Politics

US government urges Myanmar military to stop violence and step down

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US government urges Myanmar military to stop violence and step down | The Thaiger

The US government is urging Myanmar’s military to stop the violence against coup protesters and step down, after the death of a young woman. The recommendation comes as the US, along with Britain, Australia, and Japan, commit to issuing sanctions against the military regime in an effort to support the toppled democracy.

Last November saw a landslide democratic, electoral victory for revered leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. But the military regime labelled its results as fraudulent, without offering any evidence to support its claims. The buildup of tensions in the country led to a coup by the military on February 1, which saw the arrests and detainment of Suu Kyi, along with other major government leaders.

Since then, civilians have taken to the streets in protest, with security forces responding by using increasing force against them. Tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons have been deployed at the protest sites. But a 20 year old woman, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, was shot in the head with a live round of ammunition in the capital last week, leading to her recent death.

The fatality sparked even more protests as some began calling her a martyr on social media, as demonstrators held her photos and a banner created showing the moment she was shot.

“We will regard you as our Martyr. We will bring justice for your loss.”

Now, people have created a memorial on the streets of Yangon for the grocery store worker, adorned with flowers and messages for the deceased woman. Her brother recently state that he was saddened, and had no words for the loss and Poh Poh, her sister, called for action.

“Please all join this protest movement to be more successful. That’s all I want to say.”

Around 550 people have been detained since the coup, with government workers walking off their jobs as part of a civil disobedience campaign. Neighbourhoods have began setting up watch groups to guard against evening arrests, as the nation has seen a overnight internet curfew for 6 days.

Internet monitor Netblocks revealed that Wikipedia, Facebook and other social media services have since been blocked in the country.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Crime

US charges 3 North Korean officials with stealing cryptocurrencies

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US charges 3 North Korean officials with stealing cryptocurrencies | The Thaiger

The US Justice Department is accusing North Korea of stealing crypto and traditional currencies and is charging 3 military intelligence officials with the alleged crime. President Joe Biden is calling the incident a “global campaign of criminality.”

The accusations include hacking and malware operation cyberattacks to steal $1.3 billion US dollars from banks and other institutions. The actions were allegedly under the radar to avoid UN sanctions that have cut off sources of the government’s income.

The US government says the stealing occurred over the last 7 years as the 3 officials allegedly created malicious cryptocurrency applications, hacking into the marketing and trading companies that include bitcoin. The case has been filed in the Los Angeles’ federal court and is built on the 2018 charges against 1 of the 3 officials, named Park Jin Hyok.

Hyok was accused in 2018, before the other defendants were identified, for allegedly stealing $6.1 million from Pakistan’s Bank Islami ATM machines after gaining access to its computer systems. Now the US government says all 3 worked together in that instance.

Hyok was also charged in 2014 with hacking Sony pictures, creating the WannaCry ransomware as well as the theft of $81 million US dollars from Bangladesh’s central bank.

Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il join Park Jin Hyok in being accused of working together in the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is known within the cybersecurity community as the Lazarus Group, or APT 38.

The 3 allegedly operated out of North Korea, Russia and China to hack computers that allowed them to empty victims’ crypto wallets. They also allegedly robbed digital currency exchanges in Slovenia and Indonesia and extorted a New York exchange of $11.8 million US dollars.

Kim Il has also been accused of developing the blockchain-based digital currency-like “Marine Chain Token” which was used as a fake instrument for investors to buy shares of shipping vessels. He is accused of not telling potential investors that it was designed to hide ship ownership identities to help North Korea avoid sanctions.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers says North Korea used keyboards rather than guns to steal cryptocurrency over bags of cash.

“Nation-state indictments like this are an important step in identifying the problem, calling it out in a legally rigorous format, and building international consensus.”

The case is the first open action taken against North Korea by the Biden administration, amid ongoing tensions over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that could be dangerous to the United States and allies.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the administration is “reviewing policy toward the country.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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