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Briefly

- - Thursday, May 5, 2011

VIETNAM

Vietnam quashes rare Hmong uprising

HANOI | Vietnamese security forces quashed a rare protest of hundreds of ethnic Hmong Christians calling for an independent state, officials said Thursday.

Giang Thi Hoa, vice president of the People's Committee in Dien Bien province, said the situation was brought under control after several days. She did not provide more details.

Another People's Committee official said the Hmong were calling for a separate state and that people living outside Vietnam were thought to be orchestrating the demonstrations. The official was identified only as Bac because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Police said no arrests were made. No information was available on whether any Hmong were hurt or killed in the clash near the northwestern border with Laos.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said the Hmong from Muong Nhe district began gathering since Sunday after hearing a rumor that a supernatural force would appear to bring the people to the promised land, where they would find health, happiness and wealth.

AUSTRALIA

Government to deliver 'Made in China' budget

CANBERRA | Australia's minority government will hand down its first budget on Tuesday, with revenues hit by natural disasters and a high Australian dollar and little room to spend on populist policies to buy back falling support.

What revenues it does have to spend are heavily dependent on China's insatiable demand for its natural resources.

With the Labor government trailing the opposition in opinion polls, the budget is the latest test for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose shaky grip on power relies on three independents and a Green lawmaker for her one-seat majority.

"It is a crucial budget," said Monash University political analyst Nick Economou. "The polls are looking really bad, but the government can't spend and splurge."

"There's been a big hit to tax revenue, and the government is still trying to convince voters they are good at managing the economy. So the government is caught. It won't be the kind of budget they'd like to deliver."

Though the economy is in its 20th year of expansion and with a booming resource sector and huge Chinese demand, Treasurer Wayne Swan has promised a tough budget, with a tight rein on spending to ease mounting inflationary pressures and achieve a promised 2012-13 surplus.

SINGAPORE

Leaders concede faults, face election test

SINGAPORE | The prime minister is acknowledging mistakes and apologizing. It's a sign that the party that has dominated Singapore and told the island state what is best for a half-century could be facing its strongest electoral challenge.

The People's Action Party, with the son of Singaporean founding father Lee Kwan Yew at the helm, is still expected to win Saturday's parliamentary election overwhelmingly and remain in power for at least the next decade.

But more seats are being contested than ever before, by a new crop of well-educated opposition candidates. A gradual opening of traditional media alongside unfettered Internet debate has meant an increasingly substantial discussion of campaign issues, such as immigration and housing costs.

"The opposition in the past was not able to recruit because there was a very strong climate of fear for a very long time," said Gillian Koh, a senior research fellow at Singapore's Institute of Policy Studies. "The situation today is very different. We've seen a liberalization of the political space."

Dozens of PAP posters have been defaced. Such action is rare in this Southeast Asian country, where vandalism can result in caning, the Colonial-era punishment famously meted out to American teenager Michael Fay in 1994.

From wire dispatches and staff reports