Asia News Today | Malaysia refuses to add sanctions on Russia & Stranded Russians in Thailand

South Korea, heading to the polls tomorrow for the election of the next president, has reported a new record daily high of 342,446 COVID-19 infections… no that’s not a typo. The country also reported an additional 158 Covid-related deaths. As the country goes through the final day of electioneering for, what’s been a toxic and nasty campaign, more than a million South Koreans are currently isolating at home after testing positive. But the electoral laws were changed last month to ensure everyone would be able to vote. South Korea had early success in containing outbreaks and surges with aggressive testing and contact tracing but the latest Omicron wave has had a profound effect on the country as it battles to re-open its borders.

China is poised to build more city clusters and ramp up its urbanisation program in a bid to keep growing its economy.Economists say the aim is to double its middle class in 10 to 15 years to support the country’s economic strategy, in a move that pivots away from previous drivers like property, infrastructure and exports that have propelled China’s huge economic growth for more than 30 years. Mr Liu Shijin, deputy director of the economic affairs committee for China’s top political advisory board, said the country’s economic priority has shifted to speed up urbanisation. He said that the city clusters will be the main driver for economic growth in the future and estimated that the new city clusters will contribute between 70 to 80 per cent of China’s growth over the next 30 years.

Thousands of tourists from Russia remain stranded in Thailand, mostly in Phuket, Bangkok and Pattaya, as the Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine squeeze Russian travellers struggling to find both flights and access to their money. Flight cancellations, the Ruble in free-fall and ATMs not working with their visa and Mastercard cards anymore has left more than 7,000 Russians in limbo. But the Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, Yuthasak Supasorn said Thailand has to be good hosts and noted that there are still Russian tourists on their way to Thailand, despite all the problems they are facing. In 2019, Thailand received 1.4 million Russian visitors. In January, there were about 23,000 Russians arriving… that was about a fifth of the total arrivals. About half of the stranded Russians are on the island of Phuket where there are still at least one flight a day arriving, but, as of today, only from Russia’s far, Far East… places like Vladivostok and Novosibersk, and only with Ural Airlines. Though Thailand voted with 141 countries other that backed a UN resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops, it hasn’t imposed any sanctions on Moscow. Officials also noted that there were a few hundred Ukrainian travellers also stuck in Thailand and working with their Embassy to sort out arrangements.

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The Japanese airline group ANA has announced the creation of AirJapan, a new medium-distance international airline set to launch from Q3 and Q4 next year.AirJapan will be positioned between the flagship All Nippon Airways and their low-cost carrier Peach Aviation, offering more low-cost fares but optional extras that they might otherwise get on ANA as part of its full service fares. AirJapan says the new airline will link Japan with alternative areas in Asia and Oceania, not currently serviced by ANA, where demand for travel in and out of Japan is expected to grow.

Authorities in Indonesia have recovered the bodies of eight technical specialists killed by armed separatists in a remote and mountainous district in the Papua province. They’ve had to wait five days to get into the region because of poor weather. All eight were working for an agency working on a radio transceiver station in Puncak district when they were attacked and shot on March 2. The West Papua National Liberation Army and the Free Papua Movement have admitted responsibility for the shootings. A group spokesman said yesterday that the workers paid the ultimate price for entering an area which the rebels had previously declared a no-go zone.

The Indonesian government has launched a program of special visas on arrival for international travellers from 23 countries in its attempts to reboot the country’s tourism sector. The 23 countries include Australia, US, the Netherlands, Brunei, the Philippines, Britain, Italy, Japan, Germany, Cambodia, Canada, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, France, Qatar, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE and Vietnam.As far as Bali is concerned the special tourist visas can be obtained at Bali’s international airport, but foreign travellers will be able to leave Indonesia through other immigration offices or airports. International travellers will only be required to bring their passports, return or outward bound tickets to continue their journeys, a proof of hotel bookings in Indonesia, health or travel insurance, and a certificate showing a negative result for COVID-19. Under the special visa, foreign travellers will be allowed to stay in Indonesia for a maximum of 30 days with a least one extension permissible.

Malaysia’s foreign minister says that they won’t impose sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, although the country did last week voted in favour of a UN resolution condemning Moscow’s aggression. The Malaysian Foreign Minister, responding to a question in parliament, said that sanctions should go through the United Nations… he said that “Malaysia’s principal is we don’t agree with unilateral sanctions”. He also said, that as a member of the Human Rights Council, Malaysia have suggested first, a ceasefire and second, for peace talks to continue. A research report noted in late February that the crisis in Ukraine would have minimal direct impact on Malaysia, as “the combined size of trade with Ukraine and Russia covered only 0.5 per cent of Malaysia’s total trade.

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