Thai police raid printing house over book by pro-democracy leader

Thai police raid printing house over book by pro-democracy leader
Thailand’s pro-democracy movement’s most controversial demands – first publicly raised by Anon Numpa – have been for reforms to the monarchy. (AFP)
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Updated 20 March 2021

Thai police raid printing house over book by pro-democracy leader

Thai police raid printing house over book by pro-democracy leader
  • Anon Nompa is one of the most prominent faces of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement
  • The movement has slowed in recent months, drawing just hundreds

BANGKOK: Police raided a Thai publishing house on Saturday and confiscated a controversial book written by a prominent pro-democracy leader about the monarchy’s role in society, ahead of a planned anti-government protest.
The protest is scheduled for 6 p.m. in front of the Grand Palace, where organizers planned to distribute copies of “The Institution of Monarchy in Thailand’s Society.”
Published by Same Sky Books publishing house – which has printed many controversial titles – the 33-page pamphlet is authored by human rights lawyer Anon Numpa.
He is one of the most prominent faces of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, which has for months issued demands that include reforms to the kingdom’s unassailable monarchy.
Police Major Trirong Prasopmongkol confirmed that authorities raided the publishing house’s premises just north of the capital on Saturday morning, adding that they confiscated approximately “100 books.”
“The next step is we will have experts examine the content to see whether if it is illegal,” he told AFP.
“This raid is related to the protest today because protesters said on social media that they will distribute these books.”
Protest organizers Redem – short for “Restart Democracy” – had announced on Facebook that the first 10,000 arrivals would receive a free copy.
After the raid, Redem issued another post with the book’s e-copy, inviting demonstrators to download it and “read it out loud.”
Thailand’s pro-democracy protests kicked off in July, at their peak drawing tens of thousands, who gathered across Bangkok to call for an overhaul of Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s administration and a rewrite of a military-scripted constitution.
But their most controversial demands – first publicly raised by Anon – have been for reforms to the monarchy, including the abolition of draconian royal defamation laws.
The laws shield the ultra-powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his family from defamation, but rights groups say its broad use means anything perceived as criticism can land a person in jail for up to 15 years per charge.
Since the movement kicked off, more than 60 people have been charged under the lese majeste law, and a handful of the most prominent leaders – including Anon – are also detained.
The movement has slowed in recent months, drawing just hundreds, but local media reported that 3,000 crowd control police would be deployed for Saturday’s rally.


German police detain 4 on Yom Kippur after synagogue threat

German police detain 4 on Yom Kippur after synagogue threat
Updated 16 September 2021

German police detain 4 on Yom Kippur after synagogue threat

German police detain 4 on Yom Kippur after synagogue threat
  • On Wednesday afternoon, police had cordoned off the synagogue after receiving tips about a possible attack
  • Dozens of police officers secured the building overnight and were still on the scene Thursday morning

BERLIN:German security officials said Thursday they had detained four people, one of them a 16-year-old, in connection with a suspected plan to attack a synagogue in the western city of Hagen.
The detentions took place on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, and two years after a deadly attack in another German city on the Yom Kippur holiday.
“One of the four people was a teenager living in Hagen,” police spokeswoman Tanja Pfeffer in nearby Dortmund told The Associated Press. She declined to comment on a report by news magazine Der Spiegel saying the teenager was a Syrian national.
Without identifying sources, newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that a foreign intelligence service tipped off German security officials abut the threat.
It said the teenager told someone in an online chat that he was planning an attack with explosives on a synagogue, and the probe led investigators to the 16-year-old, who lived with his father in Hagen.
The detentions Thursday were preceded by police searches of several homes in Hagen, police said.
The interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Hagen is located, confirmed that there was an attack threat, news agency dpa reported.
Speaking to young police officers in the city of Cologne, Herbert Reul said: ”Your colleagues probably prevented” an attack.
On Wednesday afternoon, police had cordoned off the synagogue after receiving tips about a possible attack. Dozens of police officers secured the building overnight and were still on the scene Thursday morning.
The threat came as Jews were preparing for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. Following the threat, a festive service planned for Wednesday night at the synagogue was canceled, dpa reported.
Hagen police said Wednesday night that they were in close contact with the Jewish community.
Two years ago on Yom Kippur, a German right-wing extremist attacked a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle. The attack on is considered one of the worst anti-Semitic assaults in the country’s post-war history.
The attacker repeatedly tried, but failed, to force his way into the synagogue with 52 worshippers inside. He then shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop as an “appropriate target” with immigrant roots.
He posted an anti-Semitic screed before carrying out the Oct. 9, 2019, attack in the eastern German city of Halle and broadcast the shooting live on a popular gaming site.
German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht sharply condemned the foiled Hagen attack.
“It is intolerable that Jews are again exposed to such a horrible threat and that they cannot celebrate the start of their highest holiday, Yom Kippur, together,” the minister said.


China fully vaccinates more than 1 billion people

China fully vaccinates more than 1 billion people
Updated 16 September 2021

China fully vaccinates more than 1 billion people

China fully vaccinates more than 1 billion people
  • The government has not publicly announced a target for vaccination coverage
  • Chinese vaccines have nearly 60 percent efficacy against the Delta strain

BEIJING: China has fully vaccinated more than one billion people against the coronavirus — 71 percent of its population — official figures showed Thursday.
The country where the virus was first detected has mostly curbed the virus within its borders, but is racing to get the vast majority of its population vaccinated as a new outbreak flickers in the southeast.
“As of September 15, 2.16 billion vaccine doses have been administered nationwide,” said National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng at a press briefing.
Chinese health authorities said late last month that 890 million people in China had been fully vaccinated and two billion doses administered.
The government has not publicly announced a target for vaccination coverage, but top virologist Zhong Nanshan said last month that the country is likely to have 80 percent of its population inoculated by the end of the year, reaching herd immunity.
China is currently battling an outbreak of the Delta variant in the southeastern province of Fujian that has infected almost 200 people so far in three cities, dozens of whom are schoolchildren.
The Fujian cluster is the biggest rebound in weeks and comes after the country declared the Delta variant under control, in a test of China’s “zero-case” approach to the pandemic.
China reported 49 new domestic transmissions on Thursday, the vast majority in Fujian.
Authorities said the cluster’s suspected patient zero was a man who had recently returned from Singapore to the city of Putian, and developed symptoms after completing a 14-day quarantine and initially testing negative for the virus.
The man’s 12-year-old son and a classmate were among the first patients detected in the cluster last week, shortly after the new school term began.
The variant then raced through classrooms, infecting more than 36 children including 8 kindergartners, city authorities said Tuesday, in the first major school-linked spread the country has seen since the start of the pandemic.
Despite rolling out its vaccine campaign to include minors aged 12-17 in July, most young children remain unvaccinated in China, sparking fears that the latest Fujian outbreak could hit the most vulnerable people in the country disproportionately.
Authorities have rushed to quash the outbreak with targeted lockdowns, travel restrictions, mass testing and school closures before the upcoming October 1 public holiday, a week-long tourism peak.
Chinese vaccines have nearly 60 percent efficacy against the Delta strain, with antibodies rising with a booster shot, Zhong previously said.
The country is also racing to produce its own mRNA vaccine — whose technology is believed to be more effective against the Delta variant — with candidates by state-owned Sinopharm and domestic firm Walvax Biotechnology currently in development.


Philippine government will not work with ICC ‘war on drugs’ probe

Philippine government will not work with ICC ‘war on drugs’ probe
Updated 16 September 2021

Philippine government will not work with ICC ‘war on drugs’ probe

Philippine government will not work with ICC ‘war on drugs’ probe
  • Government data shows 6,100 suspected drug dealers have been killed by security forces in anti-drug operations since Rodrigo Duterte took office in mid-2016

MANILA: The government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said it will not cooperate with an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into his notorious war on drugs, or allow any investigators into the country.
Judges at the ICC on Wednesday approved a formal probe into Duterte’s bloody campaign, in which thousands of suspected drug peddlers have died, many executed by police, according to activists, who say law enforcement agencies have killed with tacit backing of the president.
Duterte and his police chiefs say killings were in self-defense, while his government insists the ICC has no right to meddle in the country’s affairs.
“If there are complaints, it should be filed in the Philippines because our courts are working. The ICC has no jurisdiction,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a news briefing.
“When we became a party in the (ICC’s) Rome statute, we did not surrender our sovereignty and jurisdiction.”
Government data shows 6,100 suspected drug dealers have been killed by security forces in anti-drug operations since Duterte took office in mid-2016.
Rights groups say many thousands more were assassinated in slum communities, mostly users killed by mystery gunmen who were never caught, and accuse police of involvement.
Police reject that.
The judges in The Hague on Wednesday said prosecutors’ materials showed the anti-drug campaign “cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation,” but rather a systematic attack on civilians.
Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo on Thursday said ICC investigators would not be permitted to enter the country. Victims’ lawyers, however, say interviews can be conducted virtually.
The ICC was set up to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity and has jurisdiction if a member state is unable or unwilling to do so itself.
The popular Duterte, 76, has dared the ICC to put him on trial and publicly said he would happily “rot in jail” for killing people intent on destroying his country.
But in March 2018 he unilaterally canceled the Philippines’ ICC membership, a month after its prosecutor said a preliminary examination over the drugs war was underway. The ICC says it can investigate crimes committed while the Philippines was a member, up until 2019.
The investigation comes at a critical time for Duterte, who leaves office next year and cannot run for a second term.
He has confirmed he will seek the vice presidency while his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, a mayor, has this year been widely touted as a potential successor, moves critics believe are designed to insulate him from an indictment, at home or abroad.
“His best option is to support the candidacy of Mayor Sara,” said political analyst Temario Rivera.


Afghanistan could become base for Al-Qaeda: US intelligence

Afghanistan could become base for Al-Qaeda: US intelligence
Updated 16 September 2021

Afghanistan could become base for Al-Qaeda: US intelligence

Afghanistan could become base for Al-Qaeda: US intelligence
  • The CIA has said that Al-Qaeda has been depleted after years of drone strikes and intelligence disruption, but that the tide is starting to turn after the Taliban recaptured Kabul

LONDON: Afghanistan could be used as a base to train terrorists and launch attacks on America over the next two years, according to US intelligence reports. 

The CIA has said that Al-Qaeda has been depleted after years of drone strikes and intelligence disruption, but that the tide is starting to turn after the Taliban recaptured Kabul and imposed its new government.

“We’re already beginning to see indications of some potential movement of Al-Qaeda to Afghanistan,” said CIA Deputy Director David Cohen at a recent security conference. “But it’s early days, and we’ll obviously keep a very close eye on that.”

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said: “The current assessment, probably conservatively, is one to two years for Al-Qaeda to build some capability to at least threaten the homeland.” Previous assessments for the group’s revival were given at a minimum of two years.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of a major militant group that operates in the border region with Pakistan, has been appointed interior minister responsible for implementing the promise not to allow Al-Qaeda to regroup. His network has had links with Al-Qaeda since the 1980s.


Afghan envoys marooned abroad after Taliban’s sudden return

Afghan envoys marooned abroad after Taliban’s sudden return
Updated 16 September 2021

Afghan envoys marooned abroad after Taliban’s sudden return

Afghan envoys marooned abroad after Taliban’s sudden return
  • The Islamist militant movement had sent messages to all of its embassies telling diplomats to continue their work

The Taliban’s abrupt return to power has left hundreds of Afghan diplomats overseas in limbo: running out of money to keep missions operating, fearful for families back home and desperate to secure refuge abroad.
The Islamist militant movement, which swiftly ousted Afghanistan’s Western-backed government on Aug. 15, said on Tuesday that it had sent messages to all of its embassies telling diplomats to continue their work.
But eight embassy staff who spoke on condition of anonymity, in countries including Canada, Germany and Japan, described dysfunction and despair at their missions.
“My colleagues here and in many countries are pleading with host nations to accept them,” said an Afghan diplomat in Berlin, who feared what might happen to his wife and four daughters who remain in Kabul if he allowed his name to be used.
“I am literally begging. Diplomats are willing to become refugees,” he said, adding he would have to sell everything, including a large house in Kabul, and “start all over again.”
Afghanistan’s missions overseas face a period of “prolonged limbo” as countries decide whether to recognize the Taliban, said Afzal Ashraf, an international relations expert and visiting fellow at Britain’s University of Nottingham.
“What can those embassies do? They don’t represent a government. They don’t have a policy to implement,” he said, adding that embassy staff would likely be granted political asylum due to safety concerns if they returned to Afghanistan.
The Taliban, who enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law with punishments like amputations and stonings during their previous rule from 1996 to 2001, have sought to show a more conciliatory face since coming back to power.
Spokespeople have reassured Afghans that they are not out for revenge and will respect people’s rights, including women’s.
But reports of house-to-house searches and reprisals against former officials and ethnic minorities have made people wary. The Taliban have vowed to investigate any abuses.
A group of envoys from the deposed government issued a first-of-its-kind joint statement, calling on world leaders to deny the Taliban formal recognition.
Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday that the Taliban had sent messages to all Afghan embassies telling them to continue work.
“Afghanistan invested in you a lot, you are assets of Afghanistan,” he said.
One senior Afghan diplomat estimated there were around 3,000 people either working in the country’s embassies or directly dependent on them.
Ousted president Ashraf Ghani’s toppled administration also penned a letter to foreign missions on Sept. 8 calling the Taliban’s new government “illegitimate” and urging embassies to “continue their normal functions and duties.”
But these calls for continuity do not reflect the chaos on the ground, embassy staff said.
“There is no money. It is not possible to operate in such circumstances. I am not being paid now,” a source at the Afghan embassy in Canada’s capital Ottawa said.
Two Afghan embassy staffers in New Delhi said they were also running out of cash for a mission serving thousands of Afghans who are trying to find ways home to reunite with families or need help applying for asylum in other countries.
Both staffers said they would not return to Afghanistan for fear of being targeted due to their connections to the previous government, but would also struggle to get asylum in India where thousands of Afghans have spent years seeking refugee status.
“I have to just sit tight for now in the embassy premises and wait to exit to any nation that is willing to accept me and my family,” one said.
Some of Afghanistan’s envoys have openly criticized the Taliban.
Manizha Bakhtari, the country’s Austria ambassador, regularly posts allegations of human rights abuses by the Taliban on Twitter, while China envoy Javid Ahmad Qaem warned against believing Taliban promises on extremist groups.
Others are lying low, hoping that their host countries will not rush to recognize the group and put them at risk.
Several Afghan diplomats said they would be closely watching the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York next week where there is uncertainty who will fill Afghanistan’s seat.
United Nations credentials give weight to a government, and no one has yet formally claimed Afghanistan’s seat. Any move seen as legitimizing the Taliban might empower the group to replace embassy staff with their own, the diplomats said.
In Tajikistan, some embassy staff managed to bring their families across the border in recent weeks and they are considering converting the embassy into residential premises to house them, a senior diplomat there said.
And, like peers spread out across the globe, they have no plans to return home with the Taliban back in power.
“It’s very clear that not a single Afghan diplomat posted overseas wants to go back,” said a senior Afghan diplomat in Japan. “We are all determined to stay where we are and maybe many countries will accept we are a part of a government that is in exile.”