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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

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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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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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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