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S.Korea commission to probe $20 bln river project

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351658/s-korea-commission-to-probe-20-bln-river-project

Published: 24 May 2013 at 14.49

A South Korean government commission will probe a $20 billion effort to dredge, dam and beautify four major rivers that has been tainted by charges of environmental damage, cost-overruns and corruption.

This file photo shows a stretch of the Han river, pictured on a cold winter’s day in Seoul, on January 13, 2010. A South Korean government commission will probe a $20 billion effort to dredge, dam and beautify four major rivers that has been tainted by charges of environmental damage, cost-overruns and corruption.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday said 20 officials and experts would be drafted onto the commission which will begin its work next month.

Revitalising the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers was the centrepiece of former president Lee Myung-Bak’s “Green New Deal” — aimed at creating jobs after the 2008 global downturn.

Started in 2009, the 22.2 trillion won ($20.1 billion) project saw the construction of 16 weirs and dams along the four rivers that were straightened and dredged to improve water quality and prevent flooding.

In January this year, a report by the state auditor said the work was riddled with structural flaws, which would lead to a deterioration of water quality and require excessive maintenance costs.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Environment Minster Yoon Seong-Kyu, said a spike in the spread of toxic algae had been noted last summer.

“It’s feared this phenomenon could last for a considerable time”, Yoon said.

President Park Geun-Hye had promised a thorough review of the project in March, just weeks after taking power.

State prosecution authorities have launched a separate probe into allegations that several local construction companies colluded to win a bid for the project.

The auditor’s report raises doubts over South Korea’s plans to export the project to countries including flood-prone Thailand, Morocco, Algeria and Paraguay.

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Digital reincarnation for Dunhuang’s Buddhist art

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351659/digital-reincarnation-for-dunhuang-buddhist-art

Published: 24 May 2013 at 14.49

Inching their cameras along a rail inside the chamber, specialists use powerful flashes to light up paintings of female Buddhist spirits drawn more than 1,400 years ago.

Tourists are seen outside the Mogao caves in Dunhuang, northwestern China’s Gansu province, on May 12, 2013. From the fourth century onwards the 492 largely hand-dug caves near Dunhuang, a desert oasis and crossroads on the Silk Road, acted as a depository for Buddhist art for around a millennium.

One click after another illuminates colourful scenes of hunters, Buddhas, flying deities, Bodhisattvas and caravanserais painted on the walls of the Mogao caves in northwest China, considered the epitome of Buddhist art — and now in existential danger.

From the fourth century onwards the 492 largely hand-dug caves near Dunhuang, a desert oasis and crossroads on the Silk Road, acted as a depository for Buddhist art for around a millennium.

Unesco describes the World Heritage Site as “the largest, most richly endowed, and longest used treasure house of Buddhist art in the world”.

“Dunhuang is where Chinese, Greek and Roman, Islamic and Indian arts meet,” says Mimi Gates, a former director of the Seattle Art Museum who is helping to preserve the caves, and stepmother to Microsoft founder Bill.

But their unique appeal is the very thing that is putting them under threat, with every visitor’s entrance, body and breathing altering the delicate environmental balance inside the chambers.

The remote site in Gansu province saw 800,000 visitors in 2012, up 20 percent in a year. The recommended daily maximum is 3,000, but as many as 18,000 arrived on one public holiday last October.

“When tourists enter the caves, the humidity, the temperature and the carbon dioxide increase abruptly,” said Wang Xudong, director general of the Dunhuang Academy.

The wall paintings themselves contain “a lot of natural salts that have come out of the rocks over 1,200, 1,500 years, the age of these wall paintings”, he explained.

If the humidity goes above a critical value, “then the salts can suck the moisture out of the air and start the deterioration process”.

But authorities must strike a difficult balance between limiting access to visitors and avoiding alienating them, particularly the hundreds of thousands of primarily Chinese tourists whose numbers are steadily rising.

“Every child in China in growing up learns about Dunhuang. It is one of the great sites, so when they grow up they want to come here, and they do now that they have the money to,” says Neville Agnew, a project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute who has worked with the academy for 25 years.

The digitisation project — which has been running for decades — is part of the solution, a grand project to transform the way visitors are received and cut the time they spend inside, even as numbers rise.

It is an immense task. The paintings cover 45,000 square metres (485,000 square feet) — if set in a single mural three metres high, it would stretch for 15 kilometres.

Thousands of images are taken of each chamber, using specialised lights to avoid damage, and then laboriously computer-processed to create a precise cyber replica.

“Digitising the caves is very difficult,” said Wang. “We began in the 1990s but at the time it was a failure. We continued in the year 2000 thanks to technological advances.”

The key challenge is capturing the freshness of the colours, particularly natural pigments such as vermilion and malachite green, as well as any areas that are not flat, such as corners and sculptures.

“We have six working teams here on a very intense schedule. Each team must digitise three to four caves a year,” said Wang. “Our goal is to reduce the amount of time that tourists spend in the caves, to minimise the damage that they cause.”

Once the new system goes into effect next year visitors will be overseen as soon as they reach the airport — essentially the only convenient entry point for Dunhuang — and have to stick to a tightly controlled sightseeing circuit.

In a domed theatre currently under construction they will view high-definition images of the inside of the chambers, before taking a glimpse inside the real thing — but only for a limited time.

“The typical tour might be 10 caves, and of those 10 caves there would be two or three of these so-called must-see caves,” says Agnew.

Long after Dunhuang’s heyday, the Silk Road eventually fell into disuse and it was largely forgotten by the outside world, with most of the caves abandoned.

In 1907 Hungarian-British archaeologist Aurel Stein led an expedition to the area and paid to remove large numbers of manuscripts, paintings and textiles. A French mission under Paul Pelliot acquired thousands of items the following year, and Japanese and Russian expeditions soon followed in their footsteps.

But the latest collaboration will preserve Dunhuang for future generations, say those involved, and make the masterpieces available to academics and amateurs around the world online.

“The painting is superb, the painting is unbelievable, the paintings are just masterworks of paintings, and in a variety of styles over the dynasties as they changed,” said Agnew.

“History is here, art is here.”

‘Comfort women’ cancel meeting with Japan mayor

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351649/comfort-women-cancel-meeting-with-japan-mayor

Published: 24 May 2013 at 12.49

Two South Korean women forcibly drafted into Japanese military brothels during World War II have cancelled a meeting with a Japanese mayor who sparked outrage by calling them a wartime necessity.

Park Chung Ja (C), leader of a supporting group for Korean ‘comfort women,’ forcibly drafted into Japanese military brothels during World War II, speaks to media after filing a protest letter against Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto, at the city hall in Osaka, western Japan, on May 24, 2013.

Outspoken Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and two former “comfort women” were to meet on Friday, but the elderly women changed their minds over fears of becoming political pawns in a long-running diplomatic dispute that has stoked tensions between Tokyo and Seoul.

Supporters of the women, both in their eighties, said there was also concern that Hashimoto would not retract his controversial comments.

“He has to retract his past comments if he wants to apologise and make us believe it is genuine,” supporter Pang Chung-Ja told a hastily arranged press briefing in Osaka.

She added there were fears the pair could be “politically exploited”.

Earlier this month the mayor said wartime prostitutes served a “necessary” role keeping battle-stressed soldiers in line, setting off a volley of criticism from countries under Japan’s rule in the 1930s and 1940s as well as from the US.

He later pledged to apologise to the women for his comments, while insisting Japan’s soldiers were not unique in brutalising women.

Sex slavery is a particularly sensitive issue in Korea, a former Japanese colony whose people made up many of the up to 200,000 “comfort women” forcibly drafted into brothels for the Japanese military during World War II.

In the days since his original comments, Hashimoto, the co-leader of the national Japan Restoration Party, has continued to fan the flames with new pronouncements, many of which have been on Twitter where he has over one million followers.

Hashimoto said in a comment reported Tuesday that the South Korean military used women for sex during the Vietnam War, inviting a sharp response from Seoul.

“Japan was bad,” he told a party meeting on Monday, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported. “It is true that we used women to solve the problem of sex on the battlefield.

“Having said that, America, Britain, Germany and France, and even the South Korean military in Vietnam after WWII, they all used women to address the issue.”

Meanwhile, Tokyo on Thursday accused a South Korean newspaper of “dishonourable” behaviour for publishing an editorial that said the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were “divine punishment” for Tokyo’s wartime aggression.

The editorial in the Korean and English versions of the Joongang Ilbo daily on Monday said the 1945 nuclear bombs dropped by US planes, which together killed more than 200,000 people, were justified, saying: “God often borrows the hand of a human to punish the evil deeds of men.”

N.Korea town opens to Westerners

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351650/n-korea-town-opens-to-westerners

Published: 24 May 2013 at 12.49

North Korea’s authorities have opened the border town of Sinuiju to Western tourists, Chinese-based travel agencies said, despite international tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear test in February.

Two Chinese women dressed in traditional dress pose for a photo in front of the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge which leads to the North Korean town of Sinuiju, on the banks of the Yalu River, in Dandong, northeastern Liaoning province, on April 11, 2013. N.Korea’s authorities have opened Sinuiju to Western tourists, despite international tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear test in February.

The move opens up the possibility of foreign tourists being able to make day tours to the secretive state, a considerably cheaper option than the more expensive multi-day trips currently on offer.

The country is largely sealed off from outsiders, with Western travellers allowed in only on strictly controlled tours.

After heightening its rhetoric in past weeks in response to international sanctions, Pyongyang has sent mixed messages in recent days, both firing short-range missiles and sending a top envoy to China who pledged to promote peace.

Simon Cockerell, co-founder of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, which specialises in trips to North Korea, said it had been seeking permission to add Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese city of Dandong, to its itineraries for years.

Now that it had been granted, his company hopes to begin offering day trips for 1,200 to 2,000 yuan ($200 to $330) from next month.

“There’s a different feeling there, as it’s a major area for trade with China. They have a lot of Chinese goods. And every day you can see Dandong, so much richer, on the other bank,” he said.

On a planning visit earlier this week he was greeted with an electric sign reading: “Warmly welcome Simon Cockerell David”.

It is the main crossing between the two countries, and Sinuiju was previously open to Chinese visitors.

Gareth Johnson, director of Young Pioneer Tours, said Sinuiju would provide a lower-cost way to see North Korea as it could be done in a day.

“To go on a tour, it’s three days minimum. We are the cheapest, but it is still too expensive for some people.”

The North remains a niche tourist destination, with the five main agencies arranging trips to the country sharing 4,000 to 5,000 Western tourists per year.

“Of course, it is not mass tourism. My clients are people who are interested in politics, social matters, and discovering different things,” Cockerell said.

“You don’t go there to relax beside a swimming pool.”

Thailand to bend to investors’ needs

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351645/yingluck-assures-japanese-investors-thailand-will-accommodate-their-wishes

Published: 24 May 2013 at 12.13

TOKYO – Thailand will go the extra mile to accommodate the wishes of long-term Japanese investors by introducing new regulations more in line with the recommendations they have made, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Friday

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra addresses the audience at the 19th Future of Asia conference in Tokyo.

“Let me first apologise for any inconvenience that has been caused, and rest assured that we are now working on the process, with the Deputy Prime Minister (Kittiratt Na-Ranong) and the Board of Investment (BoI) working on it,” Ms Yingluck told a packed audience of investors and bankers in Tokyo.

“We will try to work out and implement regulations that will suit the investors, as we want to make Thailand the regional hub,” she said, but did not elaborate on the planned changes.

She asked the investors to be patient until these changes can be made.

“Please be patient with Thailand and we will amend and change the regulations for you and other investors. Our government will try to make sure that Thailand will be a good place for investments for you all in the future,” she said, drawing loud applause.

The BoI had recently put off the planned implementation of changes to the law that would have taken away some of the incentives offered to “less environmentally friendly” companies and given more incentives to high-technology and the 10 sectors that Thailand wants as a future growth phase.

Ms Yingluck said the the incentives would be adapted in line with recommendations made by investors, which should make them more comfortable about establishing a base in Thailand.

On the question of the impact of the stronger Thai baht, she said it was necessary for all sides to work together in tackling this issue. It was a problem caused by the quantitative easing measures by the US, UK, EU and Japan.

“While this can be seen as a strength in our economic fundamentals, Asia needs to work together to manage the inflows productively, to ensure stability in the region,” she added.

“Some say funds flow like water. I believe there should be cooperation between all countries through which the water flows, so that all can benefit and grow together. Together, we can create immunity by building a vibrant regional market to absorb goods, products and services, while at the same time, excess funds can be used for investments to benefit the whole region.”

She said that part of these fund flows can be then used for the building of infrastructure for the region and this is something that Thailand is looking to undertake with its two trillion baht spending programme for all parts of the country.

“We plan to invest about two trillion baht over the next seven years, including [investment in] the south of Thailand,” she said, when asked why the South was the only region trailing in development.

The South’s lack of development had a lot to do with politics in the past, she said.

“In the past the South did not see that much investment, but this year we will work on the strengthening of  investments, we will not just invest in infrastructure but also industries, and the government will allocate more budget funds for the South of Thailand as well,” Ms Yingluck said.

Ms Yingluck is in Tokyo with a delegation including Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk, Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and PM’s Office Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and business representatives.

New concerns for China’s rising middle class

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351644/new-concerns-for-china-rising-middle-class

Published: 24 May 2013 at 11.49

With two cars, foreign holidays and a cook for their apartment, one Beijing family epitomises the new middle class created by China’s decades of rapid economic growth — and its resulting worries.

Li Na (front) shares a light moment with her dauter as she drives home in Beijing, on May 12, 2013. With two cars, foreign holidays and a cook for their apartment, Li’s family epitomises the new middle class created by China’s decades of rapid economic growth.

Li Na, 42, a caterer at the capital’s zoo, and her husband Chi Shubo, 48, who works for a state-owned investment company, have seen their fortunes transformed since she arrived in Beijing 20 years ago from Shandong, a coastal province.

Then, she cycled for hours from a shared dormitory to visit her husband’s workplace. Now she commutes in a car made by an American firm and they holiday with their 11-year-old daughter in Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Tens of millions of others have made a similar transition. About 10 percent of China’s 1.35 billion people now count as middle class, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a figure set to rise to 40 percent by 2020.

But their concerns about air pollution, food safety and China’s education system show the challenges facing the country’s newly appointed leaders, who have promised a shift away from the model of growth at all costs.

Every year, Li and her husband set a goal to improve their lives. “We always have a plan,” Li said. “For example, this year I might want a new camera, and my husband will help make that come true.”

The family’s four-bedroom apartment in a Beijing suburb was the most important purchase of their lives. “We struggled half our lives to buy it,” Li said, over a breakfast of fried eggs and bacon.

In a picture of comfortable suburban living, their daughter, who goes by the English name Nancy, sprawls on a vast sofa opposite a huge flat-screen Sony television, nuzzling the family’s fluffy brown dog.

Li says her top priority is Nancy’s education. It is not a school day, but her iPhone alarm rings to signal that it is time for the girl’s first lesson.

She steers her Chevrolet Epica sedan past forests of near-identical apartment blocks to the Haidian Youth Palace, a relic of Maoist-era China which now holds classes aimed at boosting children’s creativity.

At weekends Nancy has sessions in traditional Chinese calligraphy, and a badminton class “with a private coach”, Li said. In the past year, the young girl swapped learning the piano for a new instrument, the ocarina, a pocket-sized flute.

Nancy has only three or four hours of free time a day on weekends, Li said, as she seeks to hold her position in China’s highly competitive education system.

A glut of graduates created by the expansion of China’s university system means the graduate unemployment rate is higher than for the general population — making winning a place at the very best colleges ever more crucial.

Getting into a top school is also not always about ability, Li said, with cash donations sometimes involved.

“Sometimes parents need to do extra work, give out red envelopes, and even then success can depend on your contacts,” she said.

This year has bought some more worrying lessons. When thick smog blanketed northern China, sending pollution levels soaring in the capital, Nancy learned about PM 2.5, the name given to invisible pollutants which can damage children’s lungs.

She reached into the pocket of her mother’s car seat and pulled out a face mask. “My mum made me wear this every day in January and February because the PM 2.5 was very bad,” she said.

At lunchtime, the family gathers in a chain restaurant over plates of braised pork, spicy tofu and buns filled with red-bean paste. But eating out is becoming a rarer treat.

Years of scandals involving poisoned food — from tainted milk, to reprocessed “gutter oil”, taken from drains and sold as new, to rat meat passed off as lamb — make the family nervous about Beijing’s restaurants.

“I try to make sure my daughter eats outside as little as possible,” Li said.

At dinner time, Nancy runs to the door to greet her father, while a domestic helper cooks dozens of seafood-filled dumplings. Li Na pulls a bottle of imported Australian wine from a cabinet, before deciding on a New Zealand red.

Worries about safety mean they source their food carefully, ideally from farms near Li’s home town, she said, adding: “There is corruption in the industry, which makes the problem worse.”

The family have benefited hugely from decades of rapid economic growth, but Li hopes for more from China’s new leadership, formally installed in March.

“Ordinary people are losing faith in the government, because of problems accumulating over a long period,” she said.

“I don’t think their main duty is to improve the economy… it’s to improve the quality of life, so that we don’t have to eat oil from the gutter, or worry about milk.”

Brunei to whip overstaying Thais

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351639/brunei-to-whip-overstaying-thais

Published: 24 May 2013 at 11.13

Two Thai men who overstayed their visas to Brunei will be whipped and imprisoned for several months, a report from Bandar Seri Begawan said Friday.

The men were arrested on Wednesday, and then prosecuted, tried, found guilty and sentenced on Thursday.

This photo from Curado.com claims to show a training session on whipping prisoners in Brunei.

Sombat Chamnanrop, 44, and Phaisan Saensimon, 32, were both sentenced to “three strokes of the cane” for overstaying their visa, the website BruDirect.com reported.

The men also had worked after their original work permits expired, the story said. It did not say when the whipping was to take place.

Sombat was described as “a fugitive employee” by the news report, which said he worked on a freelance basis. In addition to the whipping, he was sentenced to six months in prison.

Phaisan’s work permit expired last October, but he did not leave Brunei, the court was told. After he is whipped, he will spend three months in jail.

The two men were arrested with Sirithip Champasaeng, also an overstayer. She will not be whipped, but was sentenced to three months and a week in prison.

In its latest human rights report last month, the US State Department listed caning in Brunei.

The report listed “exploitation of foreign workers” as a major problem in Brunei, and highlighted the whipping of prisoners.

“Caning is mandatory for 42 criminal offences,” the report said, “and as of September (2012), 38 individuals were caned, most commonly for drug-related offenses and immigration violations.

“Canings were carried out in the presence of a doctor, who had the authority to interrupt the punishment for medical reasons.”

China, US to try new tone in desert outing

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351635/china-us-to-try-new-tone-in-desert-outing

Published: 24 May 2013 at 09.49

China and the United States are hoping for a new chance to set the course for smoother relations through a secluded desert summit as the Asian power’s leader Xi Jinping projects a more confident style.

This file photo shows US President Barack Obama listening to then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the White House, in Washington, DC, on February 14, 2012. Xi and Obama will meet June 7-8 at the tony Sunnylands resort in Rancho Mirage, California, their first encounter since the Xi took power as China’s president.

Xi and Barack Obama will meet June 7-8 at the tony Sunnylands resort in Rancho Mirage, California, their first encounter since the Chinese president took power and three months ahead of their first scheduled run-in at the Group of 20 summit in Russia.

The talks come amid rows between the world’s two largest economies over issues that include China’s alleged cyber-hacking, but the two sides expect the encounter to be less about specifics and more about setting a tone.

“It may not have a long list of what we call deliverables, but it will enable our cooperation to deliver much more in the future,” said Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to Washington.

White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the casual setting will give Obama and Xi space to discuss “the full diversity of issues” and set “a positive and forward-looking agenda” for Obama’s second term.

For the United States, the experience has echoes of four years ago, when Obama entered the White House with hopes of forging a broader partnership with China.

But Obama grew frustrated at what US officials saw as the stilted manner of then president Hu Jintao, who rarely deviated from standard talking points.

Christopher Johnson, a former CIA analyst on China, said that Xi — thanks in part to his elite background — consolidated power more quickly than many US policymakers had anticipated.

“Xi Jinping is much more relaxed and cosmopolitan and more likely to go off the talking points. Hu Jintao was very robotic and oftentimes seemed to be talking more to the Chinese in the room than to his counterpart,” said Johnson, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Obama administration has already invested time in cultivating a relationship with Xi, and Vice President Joe Biden spent an unusually long five days in China in 2011 to mingle with him.

On a return visit last year, Xi saw old friends in Iowa and took in a Los Angeles Lakers game — gestures more in line with China’s seminal reformist Deng Xiaoping, who famously visited a Texas rodeo in 1979, than the stiff Hu.

Beyond the atmospherics, Xi and Obama will have a full plate of issues to discuss ranging from China’s tense relationship with Japan and other US-backed neighbors to the diplomatic stalemate on Syria’s civil war.

The United States has stepped up charges that China has fueled cyberattacks against US companies and the government. A report by former US officials on Wednesday even suggested allowing the United States to hit back at hackers.

The two governments, particularly in China, likely feel that “if we don’t start putting some strategic legs on this relationship, these irritants could really get out of control, poisoning the relationship in a way that’s hard to undo,” Johnson said.

Despite areas of tension, the United States has been pleasantly surprised by China’s steps to rein in North Korea during a recent crisis. Beijing’s support for the isolated state has long been a sore point for the United States.

While US policymakers mostly see him as supportive of warm relations with Washington, Xi has spoken of “a new great-power relationship.”

According to many forecasts, China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy during Xi’s expected 10 years in power.

Xi has already traveled to Russia and Africa since taking office in March and will visit Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago on his way to California.

Nina Hachigian, a China expert at the Center for American Progress, said that the California meeting could provide clues on the trajectory of the two nations’ relationship under Xi.

She said that the meeting would force both countries to work hard to ensure a smooth meeting. Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, is heading to Beijing next week to prepare the meeting.

“Especially in the US-China relationship, which is fraught with mistrust, having leaders develop a degree of chemistry, understanding and respect is worthwhile. But they also need to make progress on the many serious issues,” Hachigian said.

Strong quake strikes off Tonga

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351615/strong-quake-strikes-off-tonga

Published: 24 May 2013 at 01.49

A 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck 255 kilometres (158 miles) southwest of Tonga on Friday, according to the US Geological Survey, but there were no reports of damage.

A man points at a seismic chart at the Central Weather Bureau in Taipei on March 4, 2010. A 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck 255 kilometres southwest of Tonga early Friday, according to the US Geological Survey.

The quake hit at 5:19 am (1719 GMT Thursday), and was centred 282 kilometres southwest of Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa and 171 kilometres deep.

It was followed four hours later by a second powerful 6.6 tremor 84 kilometres northwest of the town and 103 kilometres deep.

“A destructive tsunami was not generated based on earthquake and historical tsunami data,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said of each quake.

The Matangi Tonga website said the quakes “shook homes and rattled windows” in Nuku’alofa but reported no damage.

The powerful tremors also caused false alarms in New Zealand where the official GNS Science monitoring system reported tremors of 6.1 and 5.9 magnitude off the east coast of the North Island.

A GNS spokesman said the New Zealand measuring devices had picked up the quakes from outside their network and tried to locate them and automatically sent out alerts, which were later deleted.

The two quakes off Tonga came 12 days after a similar 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck near the pacific nation at a depth of 205 kilometres.

Tonga, almost 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) northeast of New Zealand, lies on the so-called “Ring of Fire”, where continental plates collide causing frequent seismic activity.

Malaysia activist charged with sedition, 3 others held

Published พฤษภาคม 24, 2013 by SoClaimon

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/351558/malaysia-activist-charged-with-sedition-3-others-held

Published: 24 May 2013 at 00.49

A Malaysian court on Thursday charged a student activist with sedition and police arrested three others, including two opposition politicians, in what critics decried as a crackdown on dissent.

Tian Chua, leader of the opposition People’s Justice Party and a human rights activist, is arrested by Malaysian policemen on December 14, 2005. A Malaysian court on Thursday charged a student activist with sedition and police arrested three others, including Chua, in what critics decried as a crackdown on dissent.

The latest arrests under the Sedition Act — which Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged last year to repeal — raised tensions amid opposition claims that fraud marred the May 5 general election and cost them victory.

Najib’s Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition won the election, extending its 56-year rule. But opposition rallies, highlighting the fraud claims, have drawn tens of thousands of people throughout the country.

Senior opposition politician Tian Chua, his colleague Tamrin Ghafar, and activist Haris Ibrahim were detained Thursday for investigation under the Sedition Act, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohmad Salleh said in a statement.

The three were being held over statements made during a public post-election forum on May 13 “inciting” people, he said.

Earlier Thursday student activist Adam Adli Halim was charged under the act over a statement made at the same forum.

The 24-year-old is accused of calling on people to protest at the election results, his lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said.

The activist pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a penalty of up to three years in jail. He had been held in custody for five days until he was charged and released on bail Thursday.

Fadiah slammed the use of the Sedition Act, which Najib vowed to repeal as part of a much-touted drive to strengthen civil liberties, after criticism of its use mounted.

“It’s clearly still being used to stifle dissent,” Fadiah told AFP. “The law is open to abuse… it’s an infringement to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

The home (interior) ministry said it had seized some 2,500 copies of the opposition parties’ newspapers from distributors since Wednesday for failing to meet printing permit regulations.

Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, secretary general of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s party, accused the government of “using undemocratic methods to retain power”.

Chua said earlier Thursday before his arrest that the three-party opposition coalition plans to file election petitions in court to challenge the result in 27 parliamentary seats.

If the challenges were all successful, they would give the opposition victory.

Barisan won 133 of 222 parliamentary seats, but gained only 46.6 percent of the popular vote.

The opposition claims that, amid other problems, the voter rolls were full of irregularities, allegedly to sway the results in favour of Barisan.

The government has denied the election was unfair.

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