Philippines’ ex-president declined Christmas reprieve

Updated 19 December 2012
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Philippines’ ex-president declined Christmas reprieve

MANILA: Detained former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo is to spend Christmas at a military hospital after a court rejected her bid for a temporary reprieve, an official said yesterday.
The 65-year-old will not be allowed to leave the Veterans Memorial Medical Center over the holidays, said Sandra Palugay, a staff member of the Sandiganbayan special anti-graft court which handed down the ruling.
“There is a denial of the request of the former president,” she told AFP, declining to give the court’s reasons for its decision. Arroyo had asked to go home from Dec.21 to Jan. 7 next year.
Her lawyer Anacleto Diaz expressed surprise at the ruling. He would not say what her legal team would do next.
Arroyo has been charged with plundering $ 8.8 million from state lottery funds during her years in office from 2001 to 2010.
Separately, Maoist guerrillas waging a decades-long insurgency in the country have resumed high-level peace talks with the government after a 13-month impasse, it was announced yesterday.
Meeting in the Netherlands capital The Hague on Monday and Tuesday the two sides also agreed to a 26-day nationwide ceasefire from Dec.20, according to a statement issued by Norway, which has been mediating the talks.
“As earlier agreed upon, they confirmed the nationwide ceasefire from Dec.20, 2012 to Jan. 15, 2013. They agreed to meet again early next year,” said the statement issued by Ture Lundh, a special envoy of the Norwegian government.
Chief Philippine government negotiator Alexander Padilla and two senior aides of President Benigno Aquino attended the meeting in the Dutch city, it said.
Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the communist insurgent movement, and its chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, led the other side, it added.
They also agreed to further talks on peace, human rights, land reform, and national industrialization, the statement said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) pulled out of peace talks in November 2011 after Manila rejected rebel demands to free jailed comrades they claimed were consultants to the negotiations.
The two sides resumed low-level “backroom” negotiations in June, but the CPP continued to demand that the prisoners be freed and the government continued to refuse.
The statement made no reference to this earlier dispute.
Both the military and the CPP’s guerrilla arm, the New People’s Army, have declared separate, shorter ceasefires over Christmas, but the military says the rebels have already violated this by attacking government targets.
The communists have been waging an armed rebellion since 1969, and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government.


Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

Updated 13 min 59 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.