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Phuket Gazette World News: World ushers in New Year; South Sudan peace talks today; Putin vows to take down terrorists

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
โ€“ World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

South Sudan peace talks set for New Year’s Day
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: South Sudan’s government and rebels are set for New Year’s Day peace talks in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to thrash out a ceasefire to end weeks of ethnic bloodletting in the world’s newest state.

Both sides agreed to a ceasefire on Tuesday, mediators said, but fighting between government troops and militias loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar raged in Bor, the capital of the vast Jonglei state and site of an ethnic massacre in 1991.

“I’m worried that the continued fighting in Bor might scupper the start of these talks,” said Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom, who is chairman of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) bloc that is mediating the talks.

“Hopefully both delegations will arrive tomorrow (Wednesday), start the talks and settle this problem once and for all,” Adhanom told Reuters by phone from Addis Ababa.

Western and regional powers have pushed both sides to end the fighting that has killed at least 1,000 people, cut South Sudan’s oil output and raised fears of a full-blown civil war in the heart of a fragile region.

It was not clear who controlled Bor on Tuesday night after a day of heavy fighting that started at dawn in the dusty town, which was held by Machar’s rebels for a few days at the start of the conflict. Nearly 200,000 civilians have been displaced.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan said ethnic-based atrocities, often carried out against civilians by uniformed men, have taken place throughout the newly independent South Sudan.

“This can lead to a perpetual cycle of violence that can destroy the fabric of the new nation,” the United Nations warned in a statement. About 9,000 civilians are seeking refuge at the U.N. base in Bor.

The clashes erupted on December 15 with fighting among soldiers in Juba. The violence quickly spread to half of the country’s 10

states, dividing the country along the ethnic lines of Machar’s Nuer group and President Salva Kiir’s Dinkas.

Kiir has accused his long-term political rival Machar, who he sacked in July, of starting the fighting in an effort to seize power.

Machar has denied the charge, but he has taken to the bush and has acknowledged leading soldiers battling the government. There have been conflicting reports on whether Machar was in full control of the Nuer “White Army” militia fighting in Bor, though on Tuesday he told the BBC they were part of his forces.

The White House pressured all sides to cease hostilities and allow humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians.

“The United States will deny support and work to apply international pressure to any elements that use force to seize power,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Tuesday. “At the same time, we will hold leaders responsible for the conduct of their forces and work to ensure accountability for atrocities and war crimes.”

The fighting has revived memories of the factionalism in the 1990s within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the group that fought Sudan’s army in the north for two decades. Machar led a splinter faction and fighters loyal to him massacred Dinkas in Bor.

Talks, catastrophic conditions

Both the government and the rebels said earlier on Tuesday that they were sending teams to start talks in neighbouring Ethiopia, though Machar told the BBC on Tuesday that he was not prepared to lay down weapons.

The U.S. special envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, said the commitment to send negotiators was an “important first step” towards a negotiated settlement.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Monday that East African countries had agreed to move in and defeat Machar if he rejected the ceasefire offer, threatening to turn the fighting into a regional conflict. No other countries have confirmed any such an agreement.

“The town is still partly in our hands and partly in the hands of the rebels,” Mayor Nhial Majak Nhial told Reuters on Tuesday from the government’s military headquarters inside Bor, 190 km (120 miles) north of Juba by road.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said about 70,000 civilians had fled Bor and sought refuge in the town of Awerial in neighbouring Lakes state, with no access to food, clean water or shelter. Others were hiding in swamps.

“Living conditions are verging on the catastrophic,” MSF said.

According to United Nations figures, fighting across the country has displaced at least 180,000 people, including 75,000 who are seeking refuge inside U.N. bases.

The African Union said late on Monday it was dismayed and disappointed by the bloodletting that came two years after South Sudan won independence from its northern neighbour, Sudan.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council said it would “take appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against all those who incite violence, including along ethnic lines, continue hostilities (and) undermine the envisaged inclusive dialogue.”

Revellers usher in 2014 with fireworks, festivities
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: From Sydney to Dubai, revellers welcomed 2014 with extravagant fireworks displays, while London prepared to celebrate by spraying clouds of fruit-flavoured mist and Chicago and San Francisco planned massive outdoor celebrations.

In New York, about one million people were expected to gather in Times Square for the New Year’s Eve street party as Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge and hip-hop artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis headline the festivities and the dropping of a 11,875-pound, crystal-encrusted ball marks the start of 2014.

“We’ve been living on granola bars and little bottles of water, because if you move, you lose your spot,” said Sheila Harshbarger, who had travelled from Indiana with her daughter and staked out her ground next to a row of police barricades in the frigid cold more than 14 hours before midnight.

There will be no crystal ball for Brasstown, in the mountains of North Carolina. At midnight it will hold its 20th New Year’s Eve “possum drop” – in which a caged opossum is displayed in a Plexiglas container for spectators.

“If New York can drop a ball… then we can lower the opossum,” organizers explained on their website.

The event got a last-minute go-ahead after a judge refused a plea by animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to stop the event.

Across the northern United States, partygoers braced for snow and freezing temperatures. Chicago, which could see a significant snow storm amid its flurry of festivities, was offering free rides on trains and buses from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. to ensure revellers make it home safely.

In San Francisco, one of the last places in the world to see the clock strike midnight, some 200,000 people will gather on the waterfront for a fireworks display illuminating the city’s world famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Banana-falvored confetti

While organizers in cities like Chicago and New York were just starting to block off streets in preparation for the evening’s events, festivities were well under way in other parts of the globe.

As midnight struck in Sydney, Australia, a massive fireworks display lit up the night sky around the city’s famed Ha

— 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.

World

Escaped Bengal tiger in America captured after terrorizing locals

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Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

An escaped, 9 month old Bengal tiger, that has terrorized the city of Houston in the American state of Texas, has been captured unharmed. The tiger, named India, was being minded by the wife of its owner who is 26 year old Victor Cuevas. The owner was recently seen on social media kissing the tiger before putting it in his car and driving away. The tiger was last seen a week ago, wandering around houses in the suburbs of the large city. Houston police commander, Ron Borza, says the animal was unharmed when they captured it and transferred it to an animal sanctuary.

“We got him, and he’s healthy.”

Videos showed an off-duty sheriff pulling a gun on the tiger, before Cuevas arrived to take it away. He did not tell police where the tiger had spent the last week, but said that his wife had always known its whereabouts. However, owning a tiger within the city limits of Houston, Texas is illegal. Police say that Cueva’s wife would not face charges. But Borza did tell news reporters that having a tiger was not good.

“You should not have that in your home. It’s not good for the tiger.”

India was transported to a sanctuary where it will have its own habitat with a .2 hectare of land which includes a wooded area and pool. But first, the seemingly healthy tiger will undergo a quarantine for 30 days before being introduced to its new home.

The WWF conservation group estimates that there are some 5,000 tigers living in captivity across America, a number greater than the entire world population of wild tigers. The state of Texas is one of the biggest offenders in taking wild animals captive.

According to media reports, Cuevas was arrested last week, but was released 2 days later, only to be arrested again another 2 days later. This wasn’t his first arrest, as he previously faced a murder charge. No other details were given on his arrests.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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World

PM weighs in after Thai national injured in Gaza explosion

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: An explosion in the Gaza Strip injured a Thai national this week. (via Flickr/Jim Forest)

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has made statements expressing concern and sorrow for the violence in the Gaza Strip as recent explosions have injured a Thai national. Thailand has a quota for agricultural labourers that work on exchange in Israel, with about 250 workers travelling to Israel each week on a charter flight. 3,100 Thai workers are currently already working in Israel.

Among the Thai labourers is Sitthichok Nanam, a 24 year old from Udon Thani who was injured in the Gaza Strip this week by a Hamas-launched explosion. No details about the nature of his injuries have been released yet, though he was treated at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva already. The Thai man had been working in Israel since June of 2017.

The Thai Royal Embassy in Tel Aviv passed on the information to the Labour Ministry who then contacted his family in Udon Thani to keep them updated on the situation. The ministry also requested funds to take care of the injured Thai man as well as to help other labourers who may need assistance.

Conflict has been escalating in the region as Israeli police and Palestinians have battled most recently over Muslims gathering at the Damascus Gate for iftar, the evening meal after daily fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. This is in addition to balloon bombs and dozens of rockets being launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel last week and other growing local conflicts.

PM Prayut has weighed in on the international matter since it does affect Thai citizens working near the Gaza Strip and in the region. His concern was added to a recent statement Thailand released regarding growing violence in the area.

“Thailand is deeply concerned by the violence in Israel and Palestine and strongly urges all parties concerned to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from any provocative actions that could escalate the situation and cause further casualties of innocent civilians and damages to heritage sites. Thailand also expresses its condolences and sympathies to those who have been affected by the violence.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Economy

Market down as good US economy drives interest rate fears

Neill Fronde

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FILE PHOTO: The Thai stock market followed the rest of the world down yesterday, but long-term prospects may be looking up.

After US inflation exceeded targets and increased 4%, global stock markets including Thailand plummeted yesterday with fears of rising interest rates. Almost 144 billion baht was traded yesterday with the market at one point diving down 70 points in the late afternoon before recovering to a 23.72 point loss, closing at 1548.13.

2% is a high rate of inflation so the big numbers sparked fears that the US Federal Reserve will reduce quantitative easing and increase interest rate which decreases the market’s liquidity. The US economy is surging with the Consumer Price Index up 4.2% over last year.

The balancing out of the economy will likely push risky prospects like the stock market down while driving up commodity prices like energy and oil. This may hurt the Stock Exchange of Thailand in the short run, but will likely have long-term positive effects as the SET has a large number of energy stocks that will benefit from the market’s change.

Some long-term investors in Thailand fear quantitative easing and the market’s tightening because it drives away foreign investors which in the past made up 30% of the Thai market. But now foreigners only account for 20% so the negative effect should be much less. However, in the normal inflation range of 1 to 3%, the stock market should have a price-to-earnings ratio of 20 and some experts have downgraded it to 18 now.

Eyeing the US, some experts predict that even accelerated quantitative easing won’t come into effect until the end of the year and interest rates probably won’t rise significantly within the next 2 years. Watching the continued effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and US unemployment figures will be key indicators driving the global market up or down.

Even with the stock market down in Thailand, there’s still some good news as Thai corporations listed on the SET expected to cross the 200 billion baht profit threshold this week, after reporting 180 billion baht in the first quarter of the year, with 55% of the market recording a profit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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