Gunmen kill 4 volunteers guarding southern Thailand school

Paramedics take away a body after four Thai civil defence volunteers were shot and killed outside of a school in the restive southern province of Pattani on January 10, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Gunmen kill 4 volunteers guarding southern Thailand school

  • On Tuesday, a bomb outside a school and a car bomb elsewhere exploded in nearby Songkhla province, wounding a 12-year-old student

HAT YAI, Thailand: Gunmen disguised as state security personnel fatally shot four paramilitary volunteers guarding a school in insurgency-wracked southern Thailand, police said.
The attackers approached the armed territorial defense volunteers at the school in Pattani province and shot them dead shortly before noon Thursday, police Lt. Col. Wicha Nupannoi said. They seized four HK33 assault rifles from their victims before fleeing, scattering nails and other material on the road to delay pursuers, he said.
Predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have been plagued by a Muslim separatist insurgency that has claimed the lives of about 7,000 people since 2004, according to the research group Deep South Watch, which monitors the region.
On Tuesday, a bomb outside a school and a car bomb elsewhere exploded in nearby Songkhla province, wounding a 12-year-old student, a security guard for teachers and a police medic. A flurry of similar attacks took place in the last week of December. Several targeted Songkhla, which previously had been largely spared the violence.
“The insurgents consider school officials to be symbolic of the Thai Buddhist state’s occupation of Malay Muslim territory,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “They have frequently targeted security personnel assigned to provide students and teachers safe passage to and from school, or protecting the school grounds.”
The attacks have occurred during an effort to revitalize peace talks between the Thai government and some insurgent groups. Analysts say the most militant group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, is not taking part.
Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan blamed the BRN for Tuesday’s bombings. He said the authorities would have to step up efforts to prevent the attacks.
Human Rights Watch also pinned the blame for the region’s ongoing violence on the BRN.
The insurgents “attack schools and medical clinics to maim and terrify Buddhist civilians, control the Muslim population, and discredit Thai authorities,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in the statement. “Whatever the rationale, targeting civilians is morally indefensible and a war crime.”


Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

Updated 19 June 2019
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Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

  • Chinese president said the problems between US and China won’t benefit either sides
  • US and China raised tariffs on some of each other’s goods and companies

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have agreed to meet at the G20 summit in Japan next week, raising hopes for a truce in the bruising trade war between the world’s top two economies.
The two leaders spoke on the phone on Tuesday, weeks after negotiations broke down when Trump accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments, hiked tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and then blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
The US president took a conciliatory approach this time.
“Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting,” he said ahead of the June 28-29 summit.
Xi noted that bilateral relations had encountered difficulties that were “not in the interest of either side” but he warned that dialogue must be conducted on “an equal footing.”
“China and the US will both gain by cooperating and lose by fighting,” Xi told Trump, according to state media.
Global shares were buoyed by the announcement, with Wall Street rallying on Tuesday and Asian stock markets surging on Wednesday.
The White House readout of the call said the leaders “discussed the importance of leveling the playing field for US farmers, workers, and businesses through a fair and reciprocal economic relationship.”
“I think we have a chance. China wants a deal. They don’t like the tariffs,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I have a very good relationship with president Xi. We’ll see what happens.”
The White House repeated that the focus of the talks will be to address “structural barriers to trade with China and achieving meaningful reforms that are enforceable and verifiable.”
The United States and China seemed close to an agreement when talks collapsed last month.
Beijing retaliated to Trump’s tariffs and moves against Huawei by increasing custom taxes on $60 billion in US goods, creating its own list of “unreliable” companies and individuals and threatening to ban exports of rare earths to the United States.
Xi told Trump that the two countries must “accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns” and that “China hopes the US side can treat Chinese firms in a fair manner,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Trump had requested the call between the two leaders, according to Xinhua.
A week before the G20, Xi will visit North Korea on Thursday and Friday, his first trip there as president.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally, and analysts say Xi could use any leverage Beijing may have in the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang as a “bargaining chip” in his talks with Trump.
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned that there are “no guarantees” of any resolution in Osaka, Japan.
“Our position continues to be (that) we want structural changes,” Kudlow told reporters.
“They’ll have a good conversation. The fact that they’re meeting is a good thing.”
In an editorial, the state-run China Daily said Communist Party decision-makers, like White House counter-parts, “want to evade a full-blown trade war.”
“Since neither side appears ready to really slam the door shut on further negotiations, they should refrain from escalating tensions, and engage each other in a more constructive manner,” the daily said.
Global markets are concerned about Trump’s threat to impose more steep tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports, which could hurt the already slowing Chinese economy and spread the gloom worldwide.
Trump last week threatened to “immediately” jack up tariffs should Xi fail to show up at the meeting. The United States already has 25 percent duties on more than $250 billion of imports from China.