- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2011

THAILAND

Domestic politics fuel Thai-Cambodian dispute

BANGKOK | Thailand and Cambodia waged deadly artillery duels for a week across a disputed jungle frontier dotted with ancient temples. But the bloodiest clashes to hit the two nations in years probably were more about domestic politics than territory, analysts say.

Both sides agreed Thursday to a tentative cease-fire, a deal many hope will hold after seven days of fighting that killed 15 people and displaced 50,000. Similar accords in the past have failed to secure an end to the conflict, and many think it’s not over yet.

“Key constituencies in both nations are benefiting too much from the border dispute to allow it to die out completely,” wrote Joshua Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia fellow at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, on the organization’s website.

Among them: a coup-prone Thai military that could be asserting itself as the country heads toward contentious elections, and a Cambodian strongman bolstered by an upsurge in nationalism who wants to see an ally in power in Bangkok instead of an adversary.

SRI LANKA

Sri Lankans wary after U.N. report

COLOMBO | A United Nations report that gives credence to allegations of human rights abuses during the bloody end of Sri Lanka’s civil war has given some victims’ families hope for justice, while others say the U.N. action comes too late.

The three-member panel of experts says there are credible reports that serious human rights violations - including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity - were committed by both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels in the last months of the decades-long war.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians perished simply from being caught in the fighting, says the report, released Tuesday. It urges U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to investigate the claims immediately.

The government strongly denounced the content as unverified and biased and the report itself as a personal initiative by Mr. Ban and not an official U.N. document.

CHINA

Census: Population is more urban, older

BEIJING | China’s population is aging rapidly, the government said Thursday, though its leaders are refusing to relax strict family-planning controls that are part of the cause.

The results of a national census conducted late last year show the proportion of elderly people in the country of 1.34 billion jumped, while that of young people plunged sharply.

The census results, announced Thursday, also show that half the population lives in cities.

The census gives a by-the-numbers snapshot of the world-changing demographic shifts under way in China in the past decade, as economic reforms raise living standards and pull more people off farms into the cities, families shrink, and the population ages.

China’s rapid aging has fueled worries over how long the country will be able to sustain its high economic growth, as fewer young people are available to work in factories and build the roads that transformed it into the world’s second-biggest economy after the United States.

The census results show that people aged 60 and older make up 13.3 percent of the population, up nearly 3 percentage points from 2000. People age 14 and younger account for 16.6 percent, down 6.3 percentage points from a decade ago.

INDONESIA

Road-building plans threaten tigers

JAKARTA | Indonesia is preparing to greenlight the construction of several highways through a park that has one of the world’s few viable populations of wild tigers, conservationists warned Thursday.

The move would be especially alarming, they said, because it would come just months after the government signed a deal in Russia promising to do everything possible to save the iconic big cats from extinction.

About 3,500 tigers are left in the wild worldwide. The Kerinci Seblat National Park, which spans four provinces on Sumatra island, is home to an estimated 190 of them - more than in China, Vietnam, Nepal, Laos and Cambodia combined.

The plans for four roads through the park would open up previously inaccessible land to villagers and illegal loggers, divide breeding grounds and movement corridors and destroy vulnerable ecosystems.

From wire dispatches and staff reports