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THAILAND

King to undergo a spinal tap

BANGKOK | Thailand’s king, who has been in hospital since September 2009, was to be operated on to remove cerebrospinal fluid, the royal household said in a rare statement on his health on Monday.

The lumbar puncture procedure, also known as a spinal tap, was to be done Monday night, the statement said.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 83, has made the occasional public appearance since being hospitalized and the most recent footage has shown him in better health.

He is revered by most Thais, and his health is sensitive because of concerns his succession may be complicated at a time of continuing political tension.

The government is expected to dissolve parliament in coming days and call an early election. Protests against the government in the first half of last year were put down by the military at the cost of 91 lives.

Public discussion of the monarchy is limited by strict lese-majeste laws that carry a penalty of up to 15 years in jail.

SUDAN

From gun to ballot box in key border state

KADUGLI | Former civil war foes faced off in polls Monday to elect a new governor and regional assembly in Sudan’s oil-producing northern state of South Kordofan, a key battleground in the conflict.

Foreign observers and diplomats arrived ahead of polling to encourage a free and fair voting process and appeal for calm during the hotly contested ballot, in what remains one of Sudan’s most heavily militarized regions, which also has strong links to the soon-to-be independent south.

Analysts have warned of the potentially explosive consequences if the elections fail.

Just last month, 29 people were killed in an attack on the village of the state’s deputy governor, Abdelaziz al-Hilu, who blamed his rival, existing Gov. Ahmed Harun, for organizing the attack by northern paramilitary forces, in a deliberate attempt to derail the vote.

But Mr. Harun appealed for calm and tolerance on Monday, hailing the elections as a historic moment for the state.

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