Three Bangladeshi tourists die in houseboat fire in India’s Kashmir

Three Bangladeshi tourists die in houseboat fire in India’s Kashmir
A Kashmiri inspects the damage after a fire gutted several houseboats early morning in the interiors of Dal Lake, on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on Nov. 11, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 12 November 2023
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Three Bangladeshi tourists die in houseboat fire in India’s Kashmir

Three Bangladeshi tourists die in houseboat fire in India’s Kashmir
  • Police said a fire broke out in one houseboat in the early hours
  • A preliminary investigation found the fire was caused by faulty electric wiring

SRINAGAR, India: Three Bangladeshi tourists died in India’s Kashmir region when some of the houseboats stationed in the picturesque Dal Lake caught fire on Saturday, a police official said.
Police said a fire broke out in one houseboat in the early hours and quickly spread to other boats moored nearby.
“Three tourists Bangladeshi nationals were killed in one of the five houseboats destroyed due to fire,” the police official said, adding that seven others were injured.
A preliminary investigation found the fire was caused by faulty electric wiring, the official said.
Government figures show the Jammu and Kashmir region received over 16.2 million tourists in 2022, a record high since British colonial rule ended in 1947. The area is known for its snow-topped Himalayan mountains, fast-flowing rivers, meadows and wooden houseboats around beautiful lakes.
The record tourist arrivals are a boon for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which withdrew Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir’s special rights in 2019 to integrate it with the rest of the country.
Hindu-majority India has been fighting a decades-long separatist Islamist insurgency in Kashmir, which is also claimed by neighbouring Pakistan.


G7 pledges more Russia sanctions after virtual talks on Ukraine

G7 pledges more Russia sanctions after virtual talks on Ukraine
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G7 pledges more Russia sanctions after virtual talks on Ukraine

G7 pledges more Russia sanctions after virtual talks on Ukraine
  • Finally, the G7 leaders demanded that Russia “fully clarify the circumstances” around the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny

ROME: The G7 countries pledged support for Ukraine and new sanctions on Russia after a virtual meeting Saturday on the second anniversary of Moscow’s invasion.
In a statement after the meeting, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also attended, the leaders vowed to “raise the cost” of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The G7 leaders didn’t make any public statement about further military aid to Ukraine, but urged “the approval of additional support to close Ukraine’s remaining budget gap for 2024.”
“We will continue to raise the cost of Russia’s war, degrade Russia’s sources of revenue and impede its efforts to build its war machine,” said the group, which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.
They called on Iran to stop helping Russia’s military and expressed concern about the transfer by Chinese businesses of weapon components, military equipment and dual-use materials to Moscow.
Finally, the G7 leaders demanded that Russia “fully clarify the circumstances” around the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in an Arctic prison last week.
After a week-long stand-off, his body was finally handed over to his mother on Saturday, according to his team.
Zelensky used the meeting to plead for more support for his embattled military forces.
“You know very well all we need to keep our sky protected, to strengthen our military on the land, and you know all we need to sustain and continue our success in the sea,” he said.
“And you know perfectly well that we need all this in time, and we count on you.”
The meeting was hosted from Kyiv by Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister of Italy, which holds the rotating G7 presidency.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen were also in Kyiv Saturday for the anniversary and attended the session in person.
It was the first meeting of the G7 under the Italian presidency.
Meloni flew to Poland, which borders Ukraine, and then took the train to Kyiv.
She explained her reasons for going to Kyiv in an interview with Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper published Saturday.
“Italy, Europe and the West must continue to back Kyiv because defending Ukraine means... keeping war at bay, protecting our national interests and preventing the international order based on rules from breaking down,” she said.
“We believe in Ukraine’s European future,” she said, referring to Kyiv’s frantic efforts to join the European Union.
 


Bangkok’s Little Arab Town: A cultural hub but an intellectual property minefield

Bangkok’s Little Arab Town: A cultural hub but an intellectual property minefield
Updated 25 February 2024
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Bangkok’s Little Arab Town: A cultural hub but an intellectual property minefield

Bangkok’s Little Arab Town: A cultural hub but an intellectual property minefield
  • For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, the area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home

BANGKOK: In the bustling streets of Bangkok lies a vibrant enclave known as Little Arab Town, where the sights, sounds and flavors of the Arab world converge.

Nestled within this cultural hub are a plethora of restaurants offering authentic Arab cuisine, drawing in patrons from across the diaspora.

Arabic script adorns storefronts, and the air is filled with the tantalizing aromas of shawarma, falafel and freshly baked bread.

Amidst the hustle and bustle, one can hear the melodic cadence of Arabic conversations, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the streets of Riyadh, Dubai or Cairo.

For many Arabs living in or visiting Bangkok, this area, locally known as Soi Arab, serves as a home away from home — a place where they can reconnect with their culture through food, language and community.

Hamad Al-Badr, a Qatari citizen who came to Bangkok with his Saudi wife, said he knew about the area from his friends and wanted to explore it.

“On my first day in this locale, I utilized Google to familiarize myself with the area before embarking on a tuk-tuk journey to reach my destination,” he told Arab News.

“The prevalence of Arabic speakers here proves advantageous, minimizing any potential language barriers.”

Saleh Al-Yafie, a Yemeni investor who owns restaurants in Indonesia, came to Bangkok with ambitions to grow his business. However, he was surprised by the “extremely high” rental prices for shops in the area.

“I’ve spoken to some of the owners of these shops around here, and they informed me that renting a 100 sq. meter shop could cost up to SR70,000 (over $18,600) per month,” he told Arab News.

However, amidst the charm of this cultural haven lurks a troubling issue. Some stores in the area have adopted the names and branding of renowned Arab restaurants and shops, such Al-Saddah restaurants and AlBaik, a Saudi fast-food chain.

The Bangkok-located Al.Baik restaurant, reportedly owned by a South Asian national, not only replicates the logo and visual identity of the Saudi chain, but also leverages its widespread popularity to draw in customers.

This practice not only raises questions of intellectual property rights, but also risks tarnishing the reputation of established brands.

“A perfume and oud store in the vicinity appears to emulate a renowned brand prevalent across the Arab world,” said Al-Badr.

“Notably, the Thai counterpart distinguishes itself by offering footwear alongside its selection of oud and perfumes.”

Al-Badr said he would not buy from these stores, preferring instead to get oud and perfumes from his home country’s original shops.

Visitors to Little Arab Town may unwittingly patronize these imitation stores, only to be disappointed by the lack of authenticity and quality they offer.

Arab tourists are divided on whether to dine in these imitation restaurants. Some prioritize the quality of the food above all else, while others prioritize respect for intellectual property.

Saudi tourist Yazeed Bamarouf told Arab News that “I don’t support those who mimic popular brands,” which is why he has never been to Al.Baik.

Omani tourist Wisam Al-Furqani said the allure of the AlBaik name drew him and his friends in.

“We soon realized it wasn’t the authentic restaurant,” he told Arab News. “The food was satisfactory, but it lacked the distinct flavor of the original restaurant. Additionally, the menu differed.”

Despite his disapproval of unauthorized imitation, Al-Furqani said he would not hesitate to revisit the restaurant as long as it served good food in a clean environment.

Emirati Saeed Al-Marri, who has been frequently visiting Thailand for nearly 10 years, told Arab News: “Certain Thai restaurants now provide Gulf cuisine … given the substantial number of Gulf tourists frequenting this locality.”

Regarding the imitation of brand names, he said when he encounters a branded restaurant, he assumes it is a branch of the original chain.

“People typically accept what seems to be true at face value without delving into the specifics. Ultimately, people seek excellent service regardless of the brand name,” he added.

“Individuals often adhere to established habits and regular patterns. For example, when I travel to a new country, I seek out familiar foods and locations.”


Fire in island camp injures eight Rohingya refugees

A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 February 2024
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Fire in island camp injures eight Rohingya refugees

A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
  • The government has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defenses as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers

DHAKA: Eight Rohingya refugees were injured on Saturday in a fire that broke out due to a gas leak at a camp on the remote Bhasan Char island on Saturday, police said.
Eight refugees with partial burns due to the blaze, which erupted in a house within a cluster, were sent to a government hospital in Noakhali district, Bhasan Char police chief Kawsar Alam Bhuiyan said.
He said five children were among the injured.

FASTFACT

Eight refugees with partial burns due to the blaze, which erupted in a house within a cluster, were sent to a government hospital in Noakhali district.

Bangladesh has relocated around 32,000 people from border camps in the southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char Island since late 2020.
The move has faced opposition, especially from aid groups worried about a disaster in a country that regularly faces severe weather, especially along its coast.
The government has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defenses as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers.
Nearly a million members of the Muslim minority from Myanmar live in crammed, bamboo-and-plastic camps in Cox’s Bazar, most of them having fled a military crackdown in 2017.
Fires often break out in the crowded camps with their makeshift structures. A massive blaze in March 2021 killed at least 15 refugees and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.
Last year about 12,000 were left homeless after nearly 2,800 shelters and more than 90 facilities including hospitals and learning centers were destroyed in a fire. A panel that investigated the blaze called it a “planned act of sabotage.”

 


Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv
Updated 24 February 2024
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Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv
  • Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched

KYIV: Canada said on Saturday it would provide 3.02 billion Canadian dollars ($2.2 billion) in financial and military support for Ukraine this year as the two countries signed a security agreement.

“We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was visiting Kyiv on the second anniversary of the war, said in a statement announcing the funding.

Kyiv also signed a bilateral security deal with Italy on Saturday, President Volodomyr Zelensky said, following similar deals struck with Britain, France, Germany and Denmark in recent weeks.

In a post on social media, Zelensky said the document, signed with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, “lays a strong foundation for a long-term security partnership between Ukraine and Italy.”

The 10-year agreement between Ottawa and Kyiv “outlines key, long-term security commitments for Canada to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, protects its people, and rebuilds its economy for the future,” Trudeau’s office said.

The document includes funding pledges and enhanced cooperation across political, military, security, economic and humanitarian areas, but is not a defense pact or guarantee of military protection.

Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched and Russia is making its first gains on the battlefield in almost a year.

Ukraine relies on tens of billions of dollars in military support to provide its army with ammunition, artillery, tanks, rockets and other equipment.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, also in Kyiv, also said Saturday the first payment under a new 50-billion-euro ($54.2 billion) EU aid program for Ukraine, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion), would be disbursed in March.

But as the war enters its third year, there is still no sign of progress on Ukraine’s most important funding stream — a $60-billion package of support from the United States.


Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary
Updated 24 February 2024
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Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary
  • Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities
  • In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now”

BERLIN: Thousands of protesters rallied across Germany Saturday in support of Ukraine on the second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, even as doubts grow about Kyiv’s chances of victory.
Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities.
In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now.”
Addressing the crowd, Berlin mayor Kai Wegner decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal war of aggression.”
“He wants to wipe out Ukraine, he wants to wipe out the identities of Ukrainians,” he said.
“But we won’t let happen. We will stand by Ukraine’s side.”
He called on Berlin to deliver long-range Taurus missiles long sought by Kyiv, a demand that the German government has so far refused for fears they could also strike inside Russia.
Organizers said about 10,000 people took part in the rally. Police put the figure at around 5,000.
In a square in the historic heart of Frankfurt, about 1,000 people took part in a rally, according to police, where they heard calls from speakers to accelerate the delivery of weapons to Kyiv.
Ukraine’s armed forces have in recent times acknowledged facing frontline problems, pointing to a lack of Western aid, while Russian forces have been making gains.
“The West must do more to support Ukraine,” Achem Lobreuer, a 58-year-old engineer, told AFP at the rally.
This included delivering more armaments, but also “supporting negotiations,” he said.
“My message to Putin is that he must end this war.”
Maksym Godovnikov, a 38-year-old Ukrainian at the Frankfurt rally, also urged Ukraine’s allies to step up military support.
“If we have more weapons, we can protect ourselves and also win back land that was previously conquered,” he said.
Rallies were also taking place in other European capitals to mark the day Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, bringing war back to Europe for the first time in decades.
The anniversary comes as concerns grow in Europe about Ukraine’s faltering efforts to fend off Moscow.
According to a survey released last week, only 10 percent of Europeans believe Ukraine can defeat Russia on the battlefield.
The survey conducted last month across 12 EU countries showed that on average 20 percent of those asked believed Russia could win, and 37 percent thought the conflict would end in a compromise settlement.