CAR premier dismissed after ceasefire deal

Updated 13 January 2013
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CAR premier dismissed after ceasefire deal

BANGUI:Central African President Francois Bozize sacked yesterday his prime minister to comply with the terms of a ceasefire deal reached with a rebel coalition during talks in Libreville.
Faustin Archange Touadera was dismissed as prime minister in a decree read out on public radio and should be replaced by a member of the opposition.
The ceasefire was announced after three days of talks in the Gabon capital between the government and Seleka rebels who launched an offensive on Dec. 10.
The rebels swept aside the impoverished country’s army, but stopped just short of the capital Bangui.
The government and rebels signed a ceasefire accord. The two sides and Central African Republic’s political opposition also signed two political accords allowing for the appointment of a prime minister from the opposition and setting out other power-sharing details, according to the United Nations.
The talks were organized by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) which had sent troops to the troubled country as Bozize faced mounting pressure.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby, current ECCAS head, said the opposition and Bozize should start work on the transitional government “from tomorrow”.
Under the accord, Bozize will be allowed to finish his mandate which ends in 2016 but he cannot replace the new prime minister during the transition period. Bozize has said he will not stand for a new term.
The agreement also calls for the withdrawal of “all foreign military forces” except those sent by the ECCAS countries. Seleka made this demand specifically to secure the withdrawal of about 200 South African troops sent in December.
The UN Security Council welcomed the signature of the ceasefire, in a statement, which “emphasized the necessity of an expeditious implementation of these agreements and called on all parties to implement them in good faith.”
The 15-nation council “urged all parties to allow safe and unhindered access to peoples in need of humanitarian assistance as quickly as possible” and for all civilians held by armed groups to be released.
The United Nations withdrew non-essential staff and the dependents of all workers in December as rebels neared Bangui.
The UN humanitarian department, OCHA, has voiced serious concern about the plight of civilians amid reports of widespread looting and violence.
The UN’s World Food Program, which has suspended its operations in the country, says hundreds of tones of food have been stolen from warehouses across the country.
Central African Republic has been notoriously unstable since its independence from France in 1960.
Bozize took power in a coup in 2003 and has since won two elections.
The rebels accused Bozize of failing to uphold earlier peace deals and had called for him to face war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.
They also said he planned to modify the constitution to allow him to seek a third term in 2016.
Up to 500 soldiers from Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Cameroon were sent after troubles in 2008. These troops have begun to pull out of the country.


Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

Updated 29 min 28 sec ago
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Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

  • Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014 coup
  • The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis

BANGKOK: Anti-government protesters began marching in Bangkok on Tuesday from a university in the Thai capital to Government House to demand that the military government hold a general election by November.
Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014, coup and have warned protesters not to defy a junta ban on public gatherings.
Police set up barriers along some roads near the university and carried out security checks on Tuesday.
More than 100 demonstrators walked in a line behind a truck with loudspeakers as police looked on, according to Reuters reporters at the scene.
One of the protest organizers, Sirawith Seritiwat, also known as Ja New, said protesters planned to march peacefully.
“I hope they will let us walk out. We have no intention to prolong today’s activities. I think they will try to stop us ... we will not use violence,” Sirawith said.
Police said around 200 protesters had gathered.
“Authorities will use the law 100 percent. If they walk out we will use the law immediately. We have put forces all around Government House ... if they come in to these areas there will be a prison sentence of up to 6 months,” deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul told reporters.
“Police have no weapons. They are carrying only batons,” he said.
Activists complained of a military crackdown ahead of the gathering.
On Monday, Sunai Phasuk, Thai researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, said two activists had been held incommunicado at a secret detention center.
“Their alleged ‘crime’ is providing loud speakers for anti-junta rally,” Sunai wrote on Twitter.
They were later released.
The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis, according to international and domestic polls that say corruption is as endemic as ever.
The government has also repeatedly delayed the general election, which was first tentatively set for 2015, with the latest date now February 2019.
Some fear the date could be pushed back again.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters gathered at Government House the protesters were welcome to send a representative to the prime minister’s office.
“The prime minister works hard ... the NCPO these four years has worked every day ... All NCPO members have worked hard,” Prawit said.
Suchada Saebae, 55, a market vendor, disagreed.
“I came since 6 a.m. this morning because I think the NCPO has done a rubbish job these past four years,” Suchada said.
Some protesters held Thai flags and others held signs with cartoons of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as Pinocchio.
Protests against military rule have taken place intermittently in Bangkok since the start of the year.
Some of them have been led by young activists. Others have been attended by former “red shirts,” or supporters of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in 2006 and fled abroad.
His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted in the 2014 coup and also fled abroad before being convicted in absentia of corruption.
Thailand has been rocked by pro- and anti-government street protests for more than a decade, some of them deadly.
The military says it carried out the 2014 coup to end the cycle of violence.