- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

SINGAPORE

Oil importers rattled by price

SINGAPORE — From a bus operator in Singapore to a salesman in Seoul, the surge in oil prices to $100 a barrel is rattling consumers and businesses across Asia.

A barrel of benchmark crude in New York briefly hit the triple-digit barrier for the first time Wednesday, and while the rising cost of oil has yet to dampen the rapid growth of the region’s economies, it is being met with worry.

In Singapore, private bus operator Simon Lee said his company’s operating costs have increased 30 percent over the past year.

Mr. Lee, 30, said that to cope with the price increases, he has switched to buying diesel from cheaper, private providers rather than from major oil companies with their ubiquitous fuel stations.

The relief was only temporary. His new supplier now charges $3.17 a gallon, up more than 20 percent since November.

Neighboring Malaysia heavily subsidizes retail oil prices but officials estimate that with oil prices at $100 a barrel, the government would have to spend $10 billion on fuel subsidies every year.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has signaled he will soon reduce the subsidies, though he has not said when.

AUSTRALIA

Fear of flying is no excuse

SYDNEY — A suspect in a California slaying who argued that his fear of flying should prevent his extradition to the United States has lost his latest court bid to stay in Australia, an official said yesterday.

Lawrence John Rivera, 36, who is wanted in the 2002 strangulation of 26-year-old Kristina Garcia in Barstow, Calif., failed Wednesday to persuade a Sydney magistrate to halt his extradition, Sydney Central Local Court official Minh Nguyen said.

Mr. Rivera, a former U.S. Army civilian employee who was featured on the TV program “America’s Most Wanted,” faces one count of murder and a potential sentence of life in prison.

Last month, U.S. marshals and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officers had placed Mr. Rivera on a commercial flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. But the pilot ordered him off the plane before takeoff because Mr. Rivera lashed out and threatened his security escort.

BURMA

Army reinforcements sent to ethnic area

MAE SARIANG — Burma’s army has moved reinforcements into ethnic minority areas for the probable renewal of an offensive whose past human rights violations have been far greater than those against urban protesters that riveted world attention last fall, aid and rebel groups say.

The groups provide continuing reports of killings of civilians, rapes, forced labor, burning of crops and mass relocations as Burmese troops attempt to wipe out die-hard guerrillas of the Karen National Union and other ethnic rebel forces.

While urban tensions may have eased since the crackdown on September’s pro-democracy demonstrations in Rangoon, “nothing has changed” regarding the conflict in the east of the country, says Htoo Kli, who helps Karen refugees along the Thailand-Burma border.

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium, the key aid agency along the frontier for more than two decades, says that in 2007 another 76,000 Karen were forced to flee their homes and at least 167 villages were destroyed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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