Poachers use AK-47s to kill rhinos in India

Updated 06 February 2013
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Poachers use AK-47s to kill rhinos in India

GAUHATI, India: Insurgents in India’s troubled northeast are suspected of using AK-47 assault rifles to hunt rare, one-horned rhinos to cash in on a huge demand for the animals’ horns in China and Southeast Asia, police said Wednesday.
Poaching has been rampant in and around the Kaziranga National Park in Assam state, where 21 rhinos were killed over the past year. A half dozen of them were killed in the past month alone using AK-47s, leading police to suspect that insurgents had joined the poaching, Assam state police chief Jayanta Narayan Choudhury said.
“This is serious,” top state elected official Tarun Gogoi said, adding that he was asking federal investigators to launch a probe into the rhino killings.
An estimated 2,500 out of the world’s 3,000 one-horned rhinos live in Kaziranga. Powdered versions of their horns are coveted in many Asian countries as a medicine or an aphrodisiac.
A group of protesters gathered at the park Tuesday and stripped to their underwear to express anger over the rhinos’ killings and to demand more state government action to protect the rare animals.
Some foreign tourists also lent their support. “I had come here to see the rhinos, but when I heard the animals were being killed by poachers at frightening regularity, I decided to join this protest,” Kenyan tourist Jenny Turner said.
The World Wildlife Fund said the Assam state’s porous borders with neighboring Bangladesh and Myanmar means that such weapons are easily available there and that poachers have easy access to illegal wildlife trade networks.
The 480-square kilometer (185-square mile) Kaziranga National Park is about 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Gauhati, the state capital.
Nearly two dozen rebel groups in the northeast have been fighting for independence or wide autonomy for decades. They accuse the Indian government of exploiting the region’s rich natural resources.


Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

Updated 25 June 2018
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Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

  • Tsai Ing-wen urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values
  • Against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “constrain” China by standing up for freedoms, casting her island’s giant neighbor as a global threat to democracy.
Her comments in an exclusive interview with AFP on Monday come as Taiwan faces what Tsai called “immense pressure” from Beijing.
She urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values.
“This is not just Taiwan’s challenge, it is a challenge for the region and the world as a whole, because today it’s Taiwan, but tomorrow it may be any other country that will have to face the expansion of China’s influence,” Tsai said.
“Their democracy, freedom, and freedom to do business will one day be affected by China,” Tsai added.
“We need to work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.”
Her comments come after a sustained period of aggression from China toward Taiwan, which Beijing believes is part of mainland territory, to be reunified by force if necessary.
Self-ruling Taiwan is a democracy and sees itself as a sovereign country, although it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
An increasingly hardline President Xi Jinping has made it clear that what he sees as threats to China’s territorial integrity will not be tolerated.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai as her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence.
Since she took office in 2016, Beijing has ramped up military drills near the island and has successfully pressured some major international companies to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.
It has also exerted diplomatic pressure by ensuring Taiwan is excluded from major international forums and wooing away some of its few remaining official allies.
Tsai said China should “be aware of their own responsibility” in the region and “engage in conversation with Taiwan.”
Countries both around the region and further afield have expressed concern over China building military facilities on remote islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing has also been seeking to extend its power with its globe-spanning Belt and Road infrastructure project, which aims to connect the world’s second-largest economy with Africa, Asia and Europe through a vast network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.
But despite escalating tensions, Tsai said she would still “be willing” to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“Of course, I hope that during my term as president, there is a chance for both sides to sit down and talk,” Tsai said.
She added she would meet Xi on an equal footing and with no political pre-conditions, a position she has long taken.
However, Beijing insists Tsai must agree that Taiwan is part of “one China” in order for any meeting to take place, which she has refused to do.
Tsai said the recent summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had “provided a lot to think about.”
“Their two countries are very far apart in terms of cultural values and other aspects, as well as the positions they hold,” said Tsai.
“But they were able to sit down and talk on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect in Singapore. I think this was a positive development for the international community.
“It is also an encouragement for countries that are at odds with one another.”
With its number of official allies dwindling to 18 as Beijing lures them away, Taiwan is now trying to forge new friendships.
Its most powerful ally is the United States, which is its major arms supplier even though it does not have formal diplomatic relations with the island.
Tsai said Taiwan had seen growing support from the United States, where Congress recently passed bills paving the way for higher level official visits, and recommending greater US-Taiwan military exchanges. The US State Department also approved a preliminary license for sensitive submarine technology, riling Beijing.
The warming relationship comes as Taiwan tries to boost its homegrown defense force.
“In the face of China’s threats, we feel the need for us to improve self-defense capabilities,” she said.
Tsai said Taiwan is looking to bolster ties with “like-minded” countries.
But against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle.
“Of course, there are times when we feel frustrated, but the Taiwanese people do not have the option of giving up,” she said.