- - Thursday, June 9, 2011

CHINA

Report: General confirms aircraft carrier

BEIJING — A Chinese general has reportedly confirmed one of China’s worst kept military secrets: It’s readying its first aircraft carrier.

The Hong Kong Commercial Daily reported this week that Gen. Chen Bingde told the newspaper the carrier was being outfitted, though he refused to give a timetable for its completion.

“The carrier is now being built. It’s not completed. When it is, we’ll say more,” the newspaper quoted Gen. Chen as saying.

While the reported remarks are the highest level of confirmation by the secretive military, the carrier program has been widely known for several years.

Bought from Ukraine in 1998, the stripped shell of the mothballed Varyag was towed to China, first supposedly to serve as a casino. It later arrived in the northeastern port of Dalian, where it is being outfitted. Photos of its sloping deck and command tower have been turning up on websites of military enthusiasts.

The aircraft carrier has come to symbolize China’s ambitions for a military with global reach that ultimately may rival the U.S. Although the addition of one carrier to China’s rapidly expanding navy isn’t expected to threaten U.S. military dominance, an American admiral said in April that the vessel could feed perceptions of a shift in the balance of power.

CAMBODIA

Police detain hundreds in alleged money scam

PHNOM PENH — Police around Asia arrested several hundred suspects Thursday in coordinated raids to bust a gang that swindled victims through phone calls over the Internet.

Indonesian authorities said 170 Taiwanese and Chinese people were arrested in the archipelago nation. In Cambodia, 166 Chinese people and a Vietnamese woman were arrested, national police spokesman Lt. Gen. Kiet Chantharith said.

Police in Taiwan and Thailand confirmed making arrests but provided few details. A spokesman for Malaysia’s Federal Police said he was unaware of any operation, though Gen. Kiet said 37 people were arrested there.

Police Maj. Gen. Panya Mamen of Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau said in Bangkok that gang members based in Thailand obtained details of banking and credit card accounts, and used the information to trick victims they phoned in other countries into transferring money, which ended up in Taiwan.

It was not clear what charges would be pressed in any of the countries. Cross-border crime is difficult to prosecute, and laws are hazy concerning crimes conducted over the Internet.

Gen. Kiet said those arrested had entered Cambodia as tourists and businessmen but then began operating their scheme to call people outside Cambodia over Internet phone services. He said the gang was well-organized, and that police acted after receiving complaints from several victims.

INDIA

Fasting guru denies he’s arming followers

NEW DELHI — A charismatic yoga guru has pledged to train his followers in self-defense and traditional martial arts but said they would never take up arms in fighting India’s endemic corruption.

Baba Ramdev, a television celebrity watched by millions of viewers, was on the sixth day of a hunger strike Thursday to demand the return of billions of dollars stashed abroad illegally in tax havens by companies and wealthy Indians.

A police raid forced Mr. Ramdev and thousands of his followers from a New Delhi park Sunday, injuring dozens and sparking enormous public outrage.

Mr. Ramdev temporarily avoided police by disguising himself in women’s clothing and resumed his protest Monday from his spiritual retreat in Haridwar on the banks of the Ganges River. Government doctors examined him Thursday and said he had lost weight and is dehydrated but his overall health is stable.

News reports Wednesday said the guru was planning to arm thousands of supporters to block any new police action to disrupt the fast, but his office quickly denied it and said he had been quoted out of context.

From wire dispatches and staff reports