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Thai police say 15 bomb suspects at large as two appear in court

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Thai police say 15 bomb suspects at large as two appear in court | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Thai police say 15 bomb suspects at large as two appear in court
Phuket Gazette / Reuters


BANGKOK: Thai police cannot find 15 suspects in connection with a bomb at a shrine in Bangkok last year that killed 20 people, an officer said on Wednesday, as two ethnic Uighur Muslims from China accused of involvement appeared in a military court.

No group claimed responsibility for the Aug. 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine, a central tourist spot popular with visitors from China and elsewhere in Asia. Five of the dead were from China and two from Hong Kong. More than 120 people were wounded.

Analysts, diplomats and even officials suspected the attack was linked to Uighur sympathizers angered by Thailand’s deportation of more than 100 Uighurs to China the previous month.

But police ruled out “terrorism” and said the attack was retaliation for a crackdown on human-smuggling.

The two suspects who were arrested – Yusufu Mieraili and Adem Karadag – are Uighur Muslims, a minority from western China who speak a Turkic language. They have denied all charges.

Police have issued arrest warrants for 15 other people, eight of whom are thought to be either Turkish or in Turkey, according to the warrants and police statements.

“We don’t know where they are,” deputy police spokesman Major General Songpol Wattanachai told Reuters. “The perpetrators have done their utmost to escape.”

Shaven-headed and barefoot, Mieraili and Karadag – who is also known as Bilal Mohammed – were led in handcuffs and leg shackles into a cramped court in Bangkok’s old city.

Mieraili spoke briefly to Reuters saying he expected the trial would take “a very long time”. The men had marks on their foreheads which Mieraili said came from coming into contact with the floor during prayer.

Three judges heard evidence laid out in 25 thick files on a table beneath them. There was no jury.

The defendants’ lawyers said more than 500 witnesses could be called for the prosecution and defense, and that the high-profile trial could last a year or more.

Proceedings were laboriously translated through two interpreters from Thai to English to the Uighur language.

Police say Karadag was the man caught on CCTV footage at the shrine, sitting on bench, slipping off a bulky back-pack and walking away, just before the blast.

Most Uighurs live in China’s violence-plagued Xinjiang region, where exiles and human rights groups say Uighurs chafe under government policies that restrict their culture and religion.

China denies this and blames Islamist militants for the rising violence.

Thai National Security Council secretary Anusit Kunakorn said on Wednesday Thailand had received a security warning from Singapore about three Uighurs who had entered Thailand.

He did not give details.

On April 9, Thailand stepped up security because two Chinese Uighur men linked to “foreign terror groups” had overnighted on the resort island of Phuket, police said. They were later arrested in Indonesia.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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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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Crime

Thai women in Japan drug bust

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thai women in Japan drug bust | The Thaiger

Japanese Police and Customs Officials at Fukuoka Airport reported the arrest of seven Thai women who smuggled in drugs weighing more than a kilogram into Japan. The women separated the drugs into tiny bags and hid them in random places on their bodies.

The women purchased tour tickets and tried to blend in as Thai tourists. When caught with the evidence, they admitted smuggling the drugs for foreigners living in Japan, alleging that they received orders from tourists to bring in the drugs.

Another recent arrest Thai women smuggling cocaine has prompted Japanese officials to consider tightening entry requirements for Thai tourists to protect against drug smuggling.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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World

The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote

The Thaiger

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The stakes are high, the deliberations continue – Parliamentary Brexit vote | The Thaiger

Call it Super Saturday, call it Deal or No Deal, call it the most important day in recent UK history. Today (Saturday) the UK House of Commons will gather on a Saturday, the first time for decades. Golf games have been postponed, polo sticks will have to gather dust and the cleaner’s been told to come back on Sunday.

Earlier this week, British PM Boris Johnson did the near impossible and secured a new Brexit deal from the EU. The EU shocked everyone by throwing out the controversial Irish border backstop and replacing it with an alternative plan, after months of saying that Theresa May’s deal could not be changed. Moreover, the EU leaders seem happy with the deal and have been waxing lyrical about the scruffy British PM they all dreaded negotiating with.

But it’s not going to be easy. Some PMs have already tabled amendments that could make Johnson’s run of success fall short of a finish line. Opposition MPs will put forward proposals to scrap Brexit or schedule a second referendum.

So how is the crucial, and historic vote, going to roll?

It’s far too close to call. PM Johnson doesn’t have a majority in Parliament and his Northern Irish allies, the DUP, who he needed to pass legislation, have already said that they won’t back the new plan. Meanwhile, his opposition MPs are lining up to criticise the deal. And there’s serious concern that the arch-Brexiteers in his own Conservative party will vote against the deal too.

Bottomline, if MPs don’t vote for this deal then they can’t be certain that Brexit will be delayed, despite the fact that Johnson is legally obliged to request a Brexit extension if no deal has been agreed by 11 pm on Saturday night. Last month, opposition MPs passed legislation that binds the British to this commitment. Mr. Johnson says he will comply with the law but reminds his opponents that this decision relies on the EU still having to unanimously agree to it.

But, if the deal passes, the UK finally leaves the EU. Johnson would probably hope to capitalise on his success and call for a general election soon after. His poll ratings are good at the moment, and you’d think they would improve after delivering Brexit.

If the deal goes down, Johnson requests the extension and it’s approved, then we get into the nasty election where both sides will tear each other apart, adding more to a polarised community that may take decades to recover from this folly.

And if the EU refuses an extension, then all hell breaks loose.

Has it all been worth it?

Anyway, bring on Super Saturday as the deliberations continue.

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