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World News: Strong mandate given to China’s new leader

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World News: Strong mandate given to China’s new leader | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

China’s new party chief Xi gets strong mandate for action
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: China’s president-in-waiting Xi Jinping won a strong mandate today to lead the world’s second-biggest economy and deal with problems ranging from corruption to economic uncertainty.

Xi was appointed head of both the ruling Communist Party and its top military body as the ruling Communist Party unveiled a new leadership line-up consisting of conservatives and respected financial reformers.

In an address at the end of the party’s once-in-five years congress, Xi said he understood the people’s desire for a better life but warned of severe challenges going forward.

“Our party is dedicated to serving the people,” he said after introducing the other six members of the standing committee at the Great Hall of the People in a carefully choreographed ceremony carried live on state television.

“It has led the people in making world-renowned achievements, and we have every reason to take pride in these achievements,” he added, speaking in perfect Mandarin.

“But we are not complacent, and we will never rest on our laurels. Under the new conditions, our party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucratism caused by some party officials.”

The run-up to the handover has been overshadowed by the party’s biggest scandal in decades, with former high-flyer Bo Xilai sacked as party boss of the southwestern Chongqing city after his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman.

Xi will be steering China for at least the next five years with a mixed team, including the urbane, English-speaking anointed next premier Li Keqiang, and North Korea-trained economist Zhang Dejiang.

That could make undertaking the kind of reforms China so desperately needs, whether financial or social, much harder. Two senior leaders with strong reform credentials – Guangdong party boss Wang Yang and party organization head Li Yuanchao – did not make it to the standing committee, the party’s premier body.

And Wang Qishan, 64, currently the vice-premier in charge of economic affairs, will take over the graft-fighting role, rather than having anything to do with financial affairs.

“The leadership is divided,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“It’s easier for them to move to a new growth model. I think they agree upon that and that won’t be the hardest task. But I see a lot of political paralysis in terms of changing the political system.”

Cut to seven
Still, the standing committee – the innermost circle of power in China’s authoritarian government – has as expected been cut to seven members from nine, which should ease consensus building and decision making.

Zhang is expected to head the largely rubber-stamp parliament, while Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng is likely to head parliament’s advisory body, according to the order in which their names were announced.

Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, a conservative who has kept domestic media on a tight leash, make up the rest of the group.

Xi will take over Hu’s state position in March at the annual meeting of parliament, when Li will succeed Premier Wen Jiabao.

Despite the problems ahead, Xi will at least not have to worry about Hu looking too much over his shoulder.

Hu has not followed his predecessor Jiang Zemin in staying on as head of the military commission after stepping down as party chief. Xi has instead directly taken over that post, strengthening his position.

Advocates of reform are pressing Xi to cut back the privileges of state-owned firms, make it easier for rural migrants to settle in cities, fix a fiscal system that encourages local governments to live off land expropriations and, above all, tether the powers of a state that they say risks suffocating growth and fanning discontent.

With growing public anger and unrest over everything from corruption to environmental degradation, there may also be cautious efforts to answer calls for more political reform, though nobody seriously expects a move towards full democracy.

The party could introduce experimental measures to broaden inner-party democracy – in other words, encouraging greater debate within the party – but stability remains a top concern and one-party rule will be safeguarded.

“We’re not going to see any political reform because too many people in the system see it as a slippery slope to extinction,” said David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

“They see it entirely through the prism of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring and the Colour Revolutions in Central Asia, so they’re not going to go there.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Lumbini Airport aim to bring Buddhist Thais to Nepal

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Lumbini Airport aim to bring Buddhist Thais to Nepal | Thaiger
PHOTO: Lumbini, The Birth Place Of Gautam Buddha

Nepal is hoping to attract Buddhist pilgrims from Thailand to the birthplace of Lord Buddha with the opening of the Lumbini Airport scheduled later this year. The area is an important Buddhist site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nepalese officials hope to attract Buddhist Thai travellers on sacred pilgrimage trips.

The Nepal Tourism Board recently met with the Royal Thai Embassy Kathmandu for discussions on how to grow tourism after the Covid-19 pandemic finally subsides. The meeting took place in Kathmandu with the chief executive of the tourism board reaching out to Thai officials on ways to create cooperation and increase travel between the two countries. The tourism board is focusing on holiday packages to Nepal for the Thai market aimed at not just Buddhist pilgrims but also trekkers, hikers, mountain climbers and other outdoor activity enthusiasts.

Tourism accounts for about 3% of Nepal’s gross domestic product since the country opened its borders to foreign travellers in 1951. Before Covid-19 took hold of the world, about half of the 70,000 travellers from Thailand to Nepal were Buddhist pilgrims while the other half were outdoor adventure tourists. About 25,000 of those travellers visited the time monasteries in Lumbini in 2019.

The Thai government and Nepalese government plan to work in tandem on marketing plans aimed at people who love the mountainous scenery and Buddhist pilgrims alike. They hope to strengthen ties between Nepal and Thailand and work closely with the tourism authority of Thailand to help bring awareness and run promotional programs directly in Thailand.

The chief executive of the NTB conveyed a thankfulness to Thailand for building Buddhist monasteries which inspire Thai pilgrims to visit Nepal. The ambassador to Thailand also suggested promoting new tourism activities like scenic helicopter journeys to Namche and visits to less famous Nepalese natural sites and attractions like Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Chandragiri, Chitwan, and Gokyo Lake.

The new international airport, scheduled to open soon in Lumbini, will allow much easier travel, with direct flights from Thailand to Nepal. It is set to open within the next 6 months with the hopes of international flight routes scheduled from Thailand and around Asia.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland

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Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland | Thaiger
PHOTO: Beware of fake Covid-19 vaccines.

A wave of fake Pfizer vaccines have been seized in Mexico and Poland where counterfeiting Covid-19 jabs has become a big business. The US pharmaceutical company confirms that the jabs that have been collected were not authentic and were selling on the black market for up to US $1,000 per vaccine. A Pfizer spokesperson said that they’re aware that anonymous online selling makes it easy to commit fraud and to pedal counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines and that this problem is growing as people are desperate for vaccination and to finally reach an end to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In Mexico, at least 80 people were injected with these fake Covid-19 jabs according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Mexican officials said that they identified the counterfeit vaccines by checking the fake serial numbers and expiration dates. While the vaccines do not appear to be harmful in any way, they also definitely do not offer any protection against Covid-19. The jabs were found stored in beer coolers and some were identified to contain nothing more than distilled water.

The World Health Organization issued a warning last month that these fake Pfizer vaccines have been found in Mexico and may still be circulating. In Neuvo Leon, a northern Mexican state, Mexican authorities first identified bogus jabs being sold on the black market in February. Pfizer had tested these vaccines and confirmed they were not real Covid-19 jabs.

Mexico is also looking at a recent arrival of 6000 vaccines purportedly of the Russian Sputnik vaccine. This shipment was seized on a private plane en route to Honduras last month.

The shortage of availability of authentic vaccines in many parts of the world has led to a rise in counterfeit production and scams. Last month an army medic was accused of selling fake vaccines to Thai soldiers. As supply and production slowly increase this problem may lessen, but while production is not meeting demand there is a window of opportunity for scammers. Fake vaccines in China had been reportedly circulating since September.

Meanwhile in Poland officials confiscated counterfeit vaccines filled with a substance that’s used in anti-wrinkle cream and beauty products. Polish police seized a box labelled as the Pfizer vaccine from a man’s apartment. Pfizer easily identified the counterfeit product because they use different vials than what the company uses for its Covid-19 jab. In fact, the police also found identical vials from anti-wrinkle treatment products in the man’s apartment. Fortunately, it looked like nobody had received a fake injection yet. The man was arrested and charged with fraud.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World and Wall Street Journal

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Thai chef pleads for justice after child kills her cat in New York park

Maya Taylor

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Thai chef pleads for justice after child kills her cat in New York park | Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook / Ponzucoolcat

A Thai-born chef, who now lives in New York, has launched a social media campaign calling for justice for her pet cat after the feline was attacked and killed by a child. Suchanan “Rung” Aksornnan says she was walking her cats, Ponzu and Kimchi, along with her dog, Tofu, and parakeet, Mango, in a Brooklyn park, when a boy ran towards her and grabbed Ponzu’s leash with such force that the cat, who suffers with a heart condition, flew into the air before hitting the ground. The boy then proceeded to drag the cat several metres, with the animal later dying of his injuries.

It’s understood Suchanan confronted the boy and his family but received no apology. The child’s family, understood to be Puerto Rican nationals, have defended the boy, saying Suchanan shouldn’t have been walking her cat in a public place. The confrontation became physical, with Suchanan slapped in the face, strangled, and kicked, according to the Coconuts report. Her boyfriend’s nose was also broken before passers-by came to their rescue.

Police have now arrested a 42 year old woman named as Evelyn Serrano, who has been charged with assault. Suchanan says she too has visited the police station to provide additional information and the Thai consulate has been in touch to offer assistance. Meanwhile, news of the cat’s death has gone viral on social media, with #justiceforponzo trending on Instagram, where Ponzu had over 38,000 followers.

Suchanan owns an Asian-fusion restaurant in Brooklyn. She was born in Chiang Mai and moved to the US with her family at the age of 15.

SOURCE: Coconuts

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