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Regional tensions, Paris attacks hang over APEC summit

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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Regional tensions, Paris attacks hang over APEC summit
Phuket Gazette / Reuters


PHUKET: Regional tensions over the South China Sea and security concerns after the attack by Islamist
militants on Paris could eclipse efforts by Pacific-rim leaders this week to boost trade and growth across a region of around 3 billion people.

Market uncertainty, protectionist pressures and the need for difficult reform as trade growth slows will nevertheless be on the minds of close to 20 leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Manila.

The Philippines went on high alert following the strike on France’s capital, ramping up security in Manila to ensure the safety of thousands of delegates. Traffic snarled across the city of 12 million on Monday as police closed off many roads leading to meeting venues where ministers held preparatory talks ahead of the Nov 18-19 summit.

Philippines officials say there has been no intelligence suggesting there might be an attack on the Manila summit, which will be attended by U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but about 30,000 police and soldiers have been deployed to guard it.

“There are no credible threats, I can assure you that,” said national police spokesman Wilben Mayor. “But, in general, we have intensified intelligence operations and beefed up security.”

Obama and other world leaders are to arrive in Manila from Tuesday, many after attending the G20 leaders summit in Turkey, where the Paris attacks overshadowed the agenda.

“Traditionally the G20 has been a forum primarily to discuss economic issues facing the glob … (but) the sky has been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris,” Obama said in a statement on Sunday.

Even before Friday’s assault by gunmen and bombers that left at least 129 dead in Paris, there had been concern that APEC’s agenda of enhancing economic integration would be undermined by other issues, not least feuding over the South China Sea.

The Philippines has vowed to be a “good host” by keeping off the summit agenda a subject that has whipped up tension between China and the United States in recent weeks, but said it could come up at a concluding retreat of leaders on Thursday.

“We have no control over what the other economic leaders would be raising during the leaders’ retreat,” foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose said on Friday, relaying a message that the Philippines’ foreign minister gave to his Chinese counterpart at a meeting last week.

“What is happening now in the South China Sea is causing instability and undermining peace and stability that could have an impact on the development and economic prosperity of the countries in the region,” he added.

TALKS ON THE SIDELINES

Beijing, which claims almost the entire energy-rich South China Sea through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes yearly, has stepped up land reclamation and construction in disputed islands and reefs there. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the waterway.

A week before the summit, U.S. B-52 strategic bombers flew near Chinese artificial islands, signalling Washington’s determination to challenge Beijing over the disputed sea.

Obama will likely discuss the friction over the South China Sea and military relations when he meets with Philippine President Benigno Aquino on the sidelines of the summit, said Philip Goldberg, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines.

Aquino and Japan’s Abe are also expected to agree on a deal paving the way for Tokyo to supply Manila with used military equipment, possibly including aircraft that could be deployed to
patrol the disputed South China Sea, sources said. The deal will mark the first time Japan has agreed to directly donate military equipment to another country.

Manila and Hanoi are due to sign a strategic partnership deal governing how their navies will work together.

Such developments could upset China, which said last week it was up to Manila to repair damaged bilateral ties. Beijing has insisted on using a bilateral track to resolve the dispute.

TRADE WORRIES

The APEC meeting will be the first for newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But the leaders of two other G20 countries, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, are not attending, both citing domestic issues for staying away.

It will be a chance for leaders of the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to meet for the first time since they sealed a deal to eliminate trade barriers and enable free trade.

APEC, which accounts for 60 percent of global output and nearly half of world trade, is aiming for a larger free-trade area for its 21 economies by 2025, but a re-emergence in some states of protectionism as growth stutters could be a hindrance.

“A slowdown in trade growth is weighing on Asia-Pacific economies, coming after a quarter century of high trade growth that fuelled the region’s development and transformed it into an engine for the global economy,” the APEC Secretariat said in a statement on Sunday.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe

Maya Taylor

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France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Andreas Selter on Unsplash

The leaders of France and Germany are once again having to introduce national lockdowns as the Covid-19 virus continues to surge across Europe. France is now recording over 36,000 (+36,437 yesterday) new cases a day, while Germany, which fared slightly better than other European countries during the first wave of the virus, is now seeing a dramatic rise in cases as winter approaches (+16,202 yesterday).

In announcing the new lockdown in France, President Emmanuel Macron warned that the country faces a second wave that could be worse than the first. Strict measures come into effect from tomorrow, with people not permitted to leave their homes unless it is to seek medical attention, purchase essential items, or to exercise for a maximum of an hour a day. However, schools remain open and people can still go to work if it is not possible for them to do their job from home.

“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated. Like all our neighbours, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus. We are all in the same position: overrun by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first.”

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | News by The Thaiger

Over in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed that from next Monday, November 2, to the end of November, all bars, restaurants, and theatres will close. Schools will remain open and shops will be permitted to operate under strict conditions. The chancellor warns that the measures are vital to protect the country’s healthcare system.

“We need to take action now. Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections, it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks.”

Confirmation of lockdowns in Europe’s biggest economies caused stock markets around the world to plummet, with European markets closing at their lowest level since late May. The S&P 500, which measures the performance of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the US, was down 3%.

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | News by The Thaiger

Meanwhile, with just 5 days to go before the presidential election, the US continues to set records with its rising numbers of virus cases. President Trump, however, remains undeterred, as he continues to hold public rallies, with many supporters not wearing masks.

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: SBS News

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World

Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38

Maya Taylor

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Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Scoop

The son of the Sultan of Brunei has died at the age of 38, the government of Brunei has confirmed. Prince Azim, who was 4th in line to the throne, passed away on Saturday morning. While the cause of death has not been confirmed, his Wikipedia entry says he succumbed to a long illness.

CNN reports that the prince had made a name for himself as a Hollywood film producer, where he was known for hosting extravagant parties with celebrity guests that included Mariah Carey, Pamela Anderson, and Janet Jackson, among others. His success in film came despite international condemnation of his father’s harsh rule in Brunei, where parts of Sharia law are in force and capital punishment involves death by stoning.

The nation of Brunei has entered a 7-day mourning period, with leaders from neighbouring countries expressing their condolences on the death of the prince. A statement from the Indonesian embassy in Brunei said Prince Azim, “will always be remembered fondly.” The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, described him as someone who was, “known for his kind and generous spirit, and for his dedication to charitable, educational, and youth causes.”

SOURCE: CNN

 

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World

Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis

Caitlin Ashworth

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Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Muhyiddin Yassin

While protesters in Thailand are calling on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign, the Malaysia PM Muhyiddin Yassin is experiencing similar calls after he attempted to declare a state of emergency amid a rise in Covid-19 infections, but the request was rejected by the Malaysian King.

Some say the prime minister’s attempt to impose the order was intended to suspend parliament and “curb the government process”. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently claimed he had the majority of support in parliament and challenged the prime minister. He suggested the call for a state of emergency was to avoid a vote on the annual supply bill which he may have lost, effectively a vote of no confidence in the current PM and his government.

When Muhyiddin requested a state of emergency, Anwar said the Malaysian PM was trying to “curb the parliamentary process.” He said using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to suspend sessions is an “abuse of power” and called the state of emergency request a “descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”

“A state of emergency is declared when there is a threat to our national security. But when the government is itself the source of that threat, then a state of emergency is nothing more than the descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism. I strongly advise Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to consider the legacy of these actions he is taking out of self interest and selfishness.”

Anwar released another media statement after the Malaysian King’s refusal saying it “affirms the strength of the constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.”

King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected the emergency order request yesterday. The prime minister holds a slim majority in parliament, but with his request rejected by the King, his hold on power is now palpably weaker. Now some leaders are calling on Muhyiddin to resign.

Ahmad Puad Zarkashi, a senior leader in the United Malays National Organisation made a Facebook post calling on the prime minister to resign.

“Thankfully, His Majesty the King was not influenced by the political game that could drag the country into more critical territory… The people’s wellbeing is more important. By right, Muhyiddin should step down.”

Opposition lawmaker Wong Chen calls the proposal for a state of emergency “malicious” and says the prime minister should resign or fire ministers who proposed the emergency orders.

SOURCES: Reuters | Twitter: Anwar Ibrahim

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