- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

THAILAND

Thaksin’s wife guilty in tax fraud

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a major force in his political and business empire, to three years in jail after finding her guilty of tax fraud.

Potjaman Shinawatra, or “The Mistress,” as she is often known, stood emotionless as the verdict was delivered at the end of the first of a slew of legal cases against Mr. Thaksin’s inner circle stemming from graft probes launched after a 2006 coup.

Mr. Thaksin, in court with the couple’s three adult children, appeared to be fighting back tears as his 51-year-old wife walked over to pat him on the back seconds after the ruling.

Mrs. Potjaman, her brother Bannapot Damapong and her secretary were charged with colluding to evade taxes of $16.3 million in the 1997 transfer of shares in Shin Corp., the telecommunications firm Mr. Thaksin founded.

They had argued that the shares were a wedding gift for Mr. Bannapot and therefore tax-exempt, a theory that failed to convince the judges. The trio were freed on bail of 5 million baht ($149,000) each, and a family spokesman said they would appeal.

SOUTH KOREA

Ban on revealing sex of babies to go

SEOUL | South Korea’s Constitutional Court overturned a ban on doctors telling parents the sex of unborn babies, saying Thursday that the country has grown out of a preference for sons and that the restriction violates parents’ right to know.

South Korea introduced the ban in 1987 to try to prevent abortions of female fetuses in a country that had traditionally favored sons in the widespread Confucian belief that males carry on family lines. Abortion has also been illegal but practiced widely.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court said it was too restrictive to ban doctors from telling parents the gender of the unborn for the entire pregnancy because there was little chance of aborting fetuses older than six months due to risks for mothers.

It also said the preference for sons has lessened to a point where the ratio of newly born boys and girls in the country has almost reached the natural level of 100 girls to 106 boys.

The court ordered the law be revised to reflect the ruling by the end of next year and said the current ban will stand until the revision. Rulings by the Constitutional Court cannot be appealed.

MALAYSIA

Anwar to run for wife’s seat

Anwar Ibrahim said Thursday that he would contest a by-election for a parliamentary seat vacated by his wife in order to expedite his return to political office.

But party officials said his comeback plans could come to a halt next week if police arrest him on sodomy charges. The former deputy prime minister has denied the accusations, saying they are politically motivated.

Mr. Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah, said she handed her letter of resignation to the Parliament speaker on Thursday. Officials from Mr. Anwar’s Keadilan party said the by-election must be held within 60 days.

Mr. Anwar said he will contest his hometown seat in northern Penang state to speed up his return to Parliament after a 10-year absence, adding that leaders of the other two parties in the opposition alliance supported him.

The alliance made huge gains in March general elections, seizing control of five states and a third of Parliament’s seats.

PHILIPPINES

18 dogs saved from butcher

Philippines, using a new law against the illegal meat trade, an official said Thursday.

Two suspected dog meat traders were arrested in Monday’s raid in National Bureau of Investigation agent who led the operation.

If convicted, the traders face up to four years in jail plus a fine of $113 per dog traded. Under a previous law, traders faced milder sentencing.

Killing dogs for the meat trade is illegal. However, the law is vague about eating dog meat, considered a delicacy in some parts of the Philippines.

Animal rights groups have welcomed the new law that also requires registration of dogs and anti-rabies vaccination.

The dogs’ rescue followed another raid in northern Baguio city’s public market Sunday, when authorities seized 570 pounds of butchered dog meat and arrested six suspected traders.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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