Asia must quit ‘coal addiction’, says UN chief

In this handout photo taken and released by 35th ASEAN2019 Summit Secretariat on November 2, 2019, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha meet on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Asia must quit ‘coal addiction’, says UN chief

  • Antonio Guterres said Asian countries need to cut reliance on coal to tackle the climate crisis
  • Fresh research predict that several Asian megacities are at risk of extreme flooding linked to global warming

BANGKOK, Thailand: The UN chief on Saturday warned Asia to quit its “addiction” to coal, as climate change threatens hundreds of millions of people vulnerable to rising sea levels across the region.
The warning follows fresh research this week predicting that several Asian megacities, including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai, are at risk of extreme flooding linked to global warming.
Antonio Guterres said Asian countries need to cut reliance on coal to tackle the climate crisis, which he called the “defining issue of our time.”
“There is an addiction to coal that we need to overcome because it remains a major threat in relation to climate change,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok on Saturday.
He said countries in the region need to be on “the front line” of the fight by introducing carbon pricing and reforming energy policies.
“We are lagging behind,” he said, adding that the rollback of coal could help curb rising global temperatures.
Coal remains a major source of power across Southeast Asia, where breakneck economic development has spurred soaring energy demands — but at a cost to the environment.

About one-third of Vietnam’s energy comes from coal power with a slew of new plants set to come online by 2050, while Thailand is investing in fossil fuels.
Coastal areas across Southeast Asia have already seen major floods and seawater incursion linked to climate change.
New research this week showed that at least 300 million people worldwide are living in places at risk of inundation by 2050, a much bleaker picture than previous data predicted.
Destructive storm surges fueled by increasingly powerful cyclones and rising seas will hit Asia hardest, according to the study in the journal Nature Communications.
The UN chief also spoke on Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslims, nearly three-quarters of a million of whom were driven into Bangladesh in 2017.
He urged Myanmar’s government to “address the root causes of displacement and allowing of the return, voluntary and in safety and dignity” to Myanmar.
“Some steps have been done but they are too small. We need to do much more,” he said.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is also in Bangkok for the summit and is likely to face pressure over her country’s treatment of the Rohingya, particularly from Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.
Myanmar has rebuffed all international pressure so far while only hundreds of Rohingya have returned to Myanmar, due to fear of further repression.


Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

Updated 07 December 2019

Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

  • The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year
  • The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest

NEW DELHI: An alleged rape victim in northern India who was set on fire while heading to a court hearing in the case has died in a New Delhi hospital, officials said Saturday.
The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year, police said. The two were out of custody on bail.
Five men were arrested in connection with the burn attack, police said.
The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Shalab Kumar, head of the hospital’s burn unit.
Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, said that the case would be heard in a fast track court and that the “strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits.”
Priyanka Gandhi, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, faulted the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for failing to provide the woman with security, even after a similar case in the state in which a woman who accused a BJP lawmaker of rape was severely injured in a vehicle hit-and-run incident.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is known for its poor record regarding crimes against women. According to the most recent available official crime records, police registered more than 4,200 cases of rape in the state in 2017 — the most in India.
Government figures for 2017 also show that police registered 33,658 cases of rape in the country. But the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women in India don’t report cases to police due to fear.
Indian courts also seem to be struggling to deal with these cases. Data shows that more than 90% of cases of crimes against women are pending in city courts.
The burn victim’s death came on the same day police in the southern state of Telangana fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian after investigators took them to the crime scene. Their deaths drew both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.
The woman’s burned corpse was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India’s tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.
Police took the four suspects, who had not been charged with any crime, to the scene to help them locate the victim’s phone and other items, officials said. They said the men grabbed police firearms and began shooting, and were killed when police returned fire.
The Telangana High Court ordered authorities to preserve the bodies of the suspects and submit a video of the autopsies ahead of a court hearing set for Monday.
Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India’s Parliament, sent a fact-finding mission to the crime scene and mortuary where the suspects’ bodies were held on Saturday amid questions from opposition lawmakers about the circumstances of the suspects’ deaths.