TIME Thailand

Thai Sought in Bangkok Bombing Believed to Be in Turkey

She had been away for three months before the bombing

Police in Thailand say relatives of a woman whose arrest they are seeking in connection with the deadly Aug. 17 bombing at a central Bangkok landmark have told them they believe she is in Turkey.

Police on Monday issued an arrest warrant for the woman, identified as Wanna Suansun., who was listed as having rented an apartment where bomb-making materials were found by authorities. Police raided the woman’s registered residence in the southern province of Phang Nga, but did not find her.

Police Maj. Gen Chalit Keawyarat said her relatives told them she had been away for three months, and they believed she was in Turkey because her husband is Turkish.

 

TIME India

India’s Supreme Court Permits Jains, a Prominent Religious Group, to Fast to Death

INDIA-RELIGION-JAIN
STR—AFP/Getty Images Members of the Indian Jain community participate in a rally after a march protesting the Rajasthan State High Court ruling against Santhara, a Jain practice of fasting unto death, in Jaipur on August 24, 2015.

A lower court had earlier banned the religious practice

The Jains — practitioners of one of India’s most ancient religions — on Monday won back the right to fast until death after the country’s Supreme Court suspended an order that deemed the practice illegal.

The top court said it would consider the matter in greater detail but refused to uphold an earlier ban, the BBC reported.

The practice of preparing for death by giving up food and water — known as santhara or sallekhana — was pronounced illegal earlier this month by a high court in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, which deemed it equivalent to suicide.

Jains rose up in protest against the ruling, saying santhara — termed a “social evil” by some human rights groups — was a religious practice as opposed to the “sin” of suicide. The practice was fairly common only amongst terminally ill or very old Jains as a way to purge their bodies and prepare for inevitable death.

[BBC]

TIME Cambodia

Has Australia’s Plan to Resettle Asylum Seekers in Cambodia Already Ended in Failure?

A man rides a motorcycle past a house that is used to temporarily house asylum seekers sent from a South Pacific detention centre, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia August 31, 2015.
Pring Samrang—Reuters A man rides a motorcycle past a house that is used to temporarily house asylum seekers sent from a South Pacific detention centre, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia August 31, 2015.

Just four people have been resettled under the plan

Cambodia said Monday that the country had no plans to accept any more refugees living on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

Just four detainees—an Iranian couple, a Rohingya man from Burma (formally known as Myanmar) and another Iranian man—have moved to the Southeast Asian nation under a $39 million controversial deal with Canberra, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. The group were transferred in June and are reportedly living in villas in the capital Phnom Penh.

“We don’t have any plans to import more refugees from Nauru to Cambodia,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak told local paper the Cambodia Daily. “I think the less we receive the better.”

Australian immigration officials also failed to sign any more Nauru detainees up for the resettlement program in June, July and August.

However, speaking to reporters in Sydney, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop denied the pact had collapsed, saying Cambodia was committed to the resettlement deal, reports Reuters.

Under the pact, which was signed last September, Cambodia is meant to accept an unlimited number of the asylum seekers currently being held on Nauru in exchange for $28.5 million in development aid from Australia. A further $11 million was to be used for healthcare, housing, education and training for the new arrivals.

Human rights groups and opposition leaders in Cambodia and Australia have slammed the deal for sending vulnerable people to an impoverished country that itself has a long history of abuses against asylum seekers.

Australia has repeatedly vowed that no asylum seeker trying to reach its shores by boat would ever be resettled in the country. Instead, such arrivals are sent to offshore processing camps on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

[SMH]

TIME India

Indian Scholar Who Spoke Out Against Idol Worship Is Shot Dead

Devotees walk past an Hanuman idol on the banks of Godavari river during "Kumbh Mela" or the Pitcher Festival in Nashik
Danish Siddiqui—Reuters Devotees walk past an idol of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman on the banks of Godavari River in Nashik, India, on Aug. 26, 2015

Hindu nationalists were angered by his criticism of idol worship

An outspoken Indian rationalist scholar and college professor who had drawn the ire of religious groups for denouncing superstition and idol worship was shot dead by two unidentified assailants at his home in the southern state of Karnataka over the weekend.

M.M. Kalburgi, who was 77 years old, was killed when he was visited by two young men at his residence in the small town of Dharward early on Sunday morning. One of the visitors waited on a motorcycle while the other went up to ring the doorbell, the Indian Express reports, citing eyewitness accounts of the killing. When Kalburgi’s wife appeared at the door, the visitor asked for Kalburgi claiming to be one of his students. “Dr. Kalburgi’s wife left the youth in the hall of the house with her husband and went to the kitchen, when she heard shots fired,” police told the newspaper. The assailants then fled on the motorbike.

While the motive remains unclear, Kalburgi had in the past received threats to his life after criticizing idol worship as a “meaningless ritual” during a seminar in 2014. Angering right-wing Hindu groups, he also said that “one can even urinate on idols,” the Telegraph reports.

“There was a threat to my father from groups that couldn’t digest his views on caste and communalism. The role of these groups should be probed,” Kalburgi’s daughter Roopadarshi told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Kalburgi’s killing has led to comparisons with the 2013 murder of Narendra Dabholkar, a former doctor turned campaigner against superstition who was shot dead by unidentified motorcycle-borne assailants while out on a morning walk in Pune in the southern state of Maharashtra. More recently, in February 2015, a veteran communist leader and rationalist called Govind Pansare was killed in similar circumstances in the same state.

Reacting to Kalburgi’s killing, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the state’s top elected official, acknowledged that there had been threats to the slain professor’s life. “It is true that there was threat to Professor Kalburgi’s life from some groups,” he told the Hindustan Times. “No effort will be spared to find the killers.”

TIME Thailand

Thai Police Just Gave Themselves the Reward Offered for Information on the Bangkok Bombers

THAILAND-UNREST-BOMBING
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul—AFP/Getty Images Thai policemen check security at bars in the tourist area of Bangkok on August 19, 2015.

They've decided to take the money for themselves even though the key suspect is still at large

Thai police have given themselves the 3 million baht (about $84,000) reward originally offered to the public for information leading to the capture of suspects connected to the Aug. 17 bombing of the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok.

The move comes even though the chief suspect — a man in a yellow T-shirt seen on CCTV cameras dropping a black backpack at the shrine minutes before the explosion — is still at large.

A raid in the east of the capital on Saturday recovered a stash of bombmaking equipment and led to the arrest of an unnamed foreign suspect.

Although no link has yet been proved to the deadly blast, which claimed 20 lives and left more than 120 people injured, police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told reporters on Monday that the police deserved to collect the reward for their diligence and hard work, reports the local Nation newspaper

Warrants have been released for three suspects, only one of which has been named — Wanna Suansan, 26, according to the English-language website of the popular Thai newspaper Khaosod.

TIME Thailand

Thai Police Believe the Bangkok Bombers Planned Further Attacks

Thai Royal Police officials remove evidence from the site where a suspect of the recent Bangkok blast was arrested, in Bangkok
Chaiwat Subprasom—Reuters Thai Royal Police officials remove evidence from the site where a suspect of the recent Erawan Shrine blast was arrested in Bangkok on Aug. 29, 2015

Weekend raids have led to one arrest and the seizure of bombmaking equipment

The recent bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine was likely intended to be the first of a spate of similar terrorist attacks, say Thai police, who are now seeking a Thai woman thought to be connected to a foreign suspect arrested over the weekend.

According to the English-language website of popular Thai newspaper Khaosod, the woman has been identified as Wanna Suansan, 26.

At least 20 people died and more than 120 were injured on Aug. 17 when an explosion ripped through the popular Hindu shrine that is a huge draw for Asian tourists visiting the Thai capital, especially ethnic Chinese. Half the dead were foreigners.

On Sunday, authorities found what appeared to be bombmaking equipment — including urea-based fertilizer (which can be mixed with nitric acid to make a potent explosive), digital clocks and flash powder — at an apartment in east Bangkok after a raid in a neighboring district on Saturday turned up a haul of similar paraphernalia. A foreign man of unknown nationality was arrested during the earlier raid and remains in custody.

“There were large quantities of bombmaking materials including 10 detonator cords” seized on the first raid, said assistant police chief Prawut Thavornsiri, according to the Bangkok Post.

The detained suspect was apparently in possession of a fake Turkish passport, though investigators are not sure as to his true nationality, and the Turkish embassy has denied he is a citizen.

“He gave a certain amount of cooperation, saying where he traveled from,” explained Prawut. “But we don’t believe everything he said. So far he has made no confession.”

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the Erawan Shrine blast. The key evidence remains CCTV footage of a slender man with yellow T-shirt, dark-rimmed glasses and shaggy hair who is seen dropping a bag at the shrine minutes before the explosion and hastily departing. Police do not believe the suspect in detention is the same man.

Besides a drastic and bloody escalation of long-standing political tensions between Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts, or a bid by southern Thailand’s Malay-Muslim militants to bring their insurgency to the capital, it is being suggested that a group sympathetic to the Muslim Uighurs of far northwestern China may be responsible.

Many Uighurs complain of marginalization and repression in their homeland at the hands of Beijing. A total of 109 Uighurs were forcibly repatriated from Thailand to China last month — and were seen arriving in shackles and hoods. Many Turks feel a common bond with the Turkic-speaking Uighurs and their treatment at the hands of the Thais prompted furious protests in Istanbul, including an attack on the Thai consulate there.

Anthony Davis, a Southeast Asia specialist at security analysts IHS-Jane’s, told a meeting at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand last week that ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves from Turkey were likely responsible for the Erawan Shrine bombing.

“We’re probably looking at a hybrid involving an ideologically or politically driven element based abroad — maybe Turkish nationals, Uighur exiles or Uighur exiles with Turkish nationality — and a Bangkok-based criminal component acting as facilitator,” he tells TIME. “What they have in common is the same ethnicity and the same shared hatreds.”

Davis says the “traditional cozy accommodations” between some corrupt Thai officials and transnational gangs operating in Thailand — often regarded as just “common criminals” — may now come under scrutiny. “These mutually profitable arrangements may now be seen as representing a direct threat to national security,” he says.

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Kills 56 Villagers in Nigeria

Boko Haram
Jossy Ola—AP Women and children rescued by Nigerian soldiers from Boko Haram extremists in the northeast of Nigeria arrive at the military office in Maiduguri on July 31, 2015

"We saw corpses in the streets of the village," said farmer Mustapha Alibe

(MAIDUGURI, Nigeria) — Islamic extremist group Boko Haram killed 56 villagers in a remote area, the governor of Borno State said Sunday, as the government warned that the extremists are trying to extend their violent campaign.

Gov. Kashim Shettima confirmed the attack in Baanu village during a meeting with the parents of the 219 girls abducted from a school in the region by the extremists last year. Thursday marked 500 days of captivity of the girls from a school in Chibok.

“I want us all to understand that the Boko Haram crisis is a calamity that has befallen us, as the insurgents do not discriminate whether somebody is Christian or Muslim, neither do they have any tribal sympathy or affiliations. Just yesterday they killed 56 people in Baanu village of Nganzai local government, as I am speaking to you their corpses are still littered on the street of the village because virtually everyone in the village had to run for their lives”.

He did not provide futher details of the attack.

Fleeing residents of Baanu village said they were attacked by Boko Haram on Friday night.

“We returned back to the village in the morning after spending the night in the bush, we saw corpses in the streets of the village,” said farmer Mustapha Alibe.

Boko Haram’s six-year-old uprising has left an estimated 20,000 people dead. At least 1,000 people have been killed by the militants since President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in March with a pledge to wipe them out.

Chadian and Nigerian troops have driven the extremists out of some 25 towns held for months in an area Boko Haram had declared an Islamic caliphate. Since then, the insurgents, who in March pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, have gone back to hit-and-run tactics and suicide bombings largely in the country’s north.

Separately, a government official said there has been a sudden influx of Boko Haram agents in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria outside the militants’ main area of activity in northeastern Nigeria.

Tony Opuiyo, spokesman of the Department of State Services — Nigeria’s intelligence agency — said in a statement Boko Haram is trying to extend their reach after being pushed out of the urban centers of northeastern Nigeria.

Security agencies had arrested 14 Boko Haram suspects in Lagos, the capital Abuja and other parts of the country outside the northeast in the past two months, said Opuiyo.

Those arrested include cell leaders, some of whom admitted to involvement in recent suicide attacks, he said. Authorities on Friday said they arrested a teenager who was spying on Abuja’s international airport for Boko Haram.

TIME China

China Says 197 Punished in Crackdown on Online Rumors

China Internet Crackdown
Ng Han Guan—AP A man takes a photo of near charred remains of new cars at a parking lot near the site of a warehouse explosion in Tianjin, China, on Aug. 13, 2015

The campaign is also aimed at suppressing criticism of the ruling Communist Party

(BEIJING) — People recently punished in China’s campaign against online rumors include those who circulated an inflated death toll in the Tianjin blasts and who alleged a man committed suicide because of the country’s stock market woes, state media reported Monday.

The official Xinhua News Agency said 197 people have been punished in a special campaign, citing the Public Security Ministry, but did not say over what period.

Authorities over the past two years have waged a campaign to purge rumormongering from the Chinese Internet, saying that unethical and unbecoming behavior online needs to be wiped out. Critics say the campaign also is aimed at suppressing criticism of the ruling Communist Party.

Xinhua cited the ministry as saying that 165 online accounts were closed in the campaign’s latest phase.

Among the rumors circulated were that a “man jumped to his death in Beijing due to the stock market slump,” and that “at least 1,300 people were killed in the Tianjin blasts.” The death toll in the Aug. 12 explosions at warehouses for hazardous chemicals in the port city so far is 150.

The ministry also said some of the people were punished for spreading seditious rumors about upcoming commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, which China marks on Thursday with a big military parade through Beijing.

TIME europe

The European Union Has Called for Emergency Talks on the Refugee Crisis

Transit zone for migrants at Budapest Keleti railway station
Arpad Kurucz—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Migrants camp in a transit zone at Keleti railway station in Budapest, Hungary on August 30, 2015.

Talks will be attended by Interior Ministers from each of the union's 28 member states

The European Union is calling emergency talks to discuss a solution to its rapidly escalating refugee and migrant crisis, which it says has attained “unprecedented proportions.”

The E.U. leadership announced that the talks will be held on Sept. 14 and be attended by Interior Ministers from each of the union’s 28 member states, the BBC reports.

More than 300,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe since January — primarily from the Middle East and Africa — already surpassing the total number for all of 2014.

More than 2,500 of those have died making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea, with 200 missing and feared dead after a boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Thursday, and 71 bodies found in a truck abandoned by the roadside in Austria, only the latest in an increasing number of fatal incidents.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “horrified and heartbroken” by last week’s deaths, and called for a “collective political response” to the crisis.

The talks in two weeks will touch upon measures against trafficking, return policies and internal co-operation, among other topics, according to the BBC.

Germany, France and the U.K. have all suggested the determination of a list of “safe countries of origin,” thereby enabling the immediate repatriation of at least a portion of the arrivals. Germany announced on Saturday that it would allow migrants from Syria — whose continued civil war is a major contributor to the European influx — to seek and obtain asylum.

TIME Macau

A Wave of Guest Kidnappings Spurs Macau Casinos to Take Out Abductions Insurance

Visitors from mainland China wait outside a casino in Macau
Bobby Yip—Reuters Visitors from mainland China wait outside a casino in Macau on July 20, 2015

The trend is linked to harsher economic times on the Chinese mainland

Macau’s glitzy hotels and casinos are taking out insurance policies to protect themselves against a new threat to the house — the abduction of wealthy guests over unpaid gambling debts.

The risk of kidnapping has increased significantly in recent months as fewer numbers flock to the Chinese Special Administrative Region that also serves as the world’s largest gambling hub, reports the South China Morning Post.

This partly due to China’s slowing economy, meaning falling revenues for moneylenders that rely heavily on tourists from the mainland. As Beijing limits the amount of cash visitors can legally take to Macau, many high-stakes gamblers use local loan sharks for ready cash, which can be perilous if the cards and dice prove unfriendly.

As most kidnappings occur in guests’ rooms, hotels could face lawsuits from victims and their families. The insurance policies mitigate this risk with coverage for legal liability and crisis responders.

The Macau government reports that as many as 170 people were held against their will during the first six months of this year — more than double the figure for the same period of 2014. However, these are only the cases the authorities know about, with experts saying the true total is likely much higher.

According to Ashley Coles, an assistant director of credit, political and security risks at Jardine Lloyd Thompson, this has lent to a climate of fear.

“Word of mouth can lead to a trend of an interest in the policy, security and the protection,” he told the SCMP. “All the major casino and hotel chains will have looked into this.”

[SCMP]

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