- - Thursday, October 20, 2011


Thousands cheer Queen Elizabeth

CANBERRA | Thousands of people cheered and waved from the banks of the Australian capital’s central lake as Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, took a motorboat to a flower show Thursday in their first public appearance of a 10-day tour of Australia.

The queen wore a lilac hat and coat and her husband a hat to protect against the late morning spring sunshine as they waved to well-wishers from the open boat beneath an almost cloudless sky.

The couple, who arrived Wednesday, appeared fresh despite the 11-hour time difference from their London home.

The queen is the monarch of 16 countries, including Australia and neighboring New Zealand.


U.N.: Nation holds 200,000 political prisoners

SEOUL | A U.N. envoy says North Korea is estimated to hold up to 200,000 people in political prisons, a sharp increase from a decade ago.

Special U.N. rapporteur on North Korean human rights Marzuki Darusman gave the estimate in his report to the U.N. General Assembly. He cited a comparison of satellite images published by human rights groups.

Mr. Darusman did not say how many North Koreans are believed to be in political prisons in 2001. South Korea estimates that North Korea holds 154,000 political prisoners in six camps across the country.

Mr. Darusman said recent satellite images indicate “a significant increase in the scale of the camps.”

North Korea has one of the worst human rights records. But Pyongyang claims it has no such problems.


Flooding fears loom for Bangkok residents

BANGKOK | The threat has loomed large over this giant metropolis for weeks: Floodwaters could rapidly swamp glitzy downtown Bangkok, ruining treasured ancient palaces and chic boutiques on skyscraper-lined avenues in the heart of the Thai economy.

The floods haven’t come, but the sense of imminent doom is growing by the day, seeping in through worried conversations, school closings and emptied store shelves.

One measure of the fear: the protective walls of sandbags scattered across the city’s canals, homes and shop-fronts are expanding in number and height daily.

A long season of monsoon rains and storms has wasted a vast swath of Asia this year, killing 745 people - a quarter of them children - in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines, according to the United Nations.

Thailand’s government says at least 320 of those deaths occurred here, mostly from people drowning as floodwaters crept across this Southeast Asian nation since July.


Renowned S. Korean climber missing on trek

KATHMANDU | A renowned South Korean climber and two of his partners have disappeared while trying to summit Mount Annapurna, officials and rescuers said Thursday.

Dipendra Poudel of Nepal’s mountaineering department in Katmandu said rescuers have not been able to find any trace of the three South Korean climbers missing since Tuesday.

Park Young-seok has climbed the world’s 14 tallest mountains and reached both the north and south poles. He first climbed Annapurna in 1996. It is the 10th tallest and considered a technically difficult climb.

The department identified the two other missing South Korean climbers as Kang Ki-seok and Shin Dong-min.


Premier vows ‘more open’ government

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong vowed Thursday a “more open” style of government following two elections this year that showed Singaporeans wanting a greater voice in government.

Speaking to the newly convened parliament after general elections in May, Mr. Lee said the government will share more information, welcome different views, reach out to diverse groups and engage citizens more closely.

His remarks followed two elections this year in which the ruling People’s Action Party saw its popular support significantly dented as voters voiced anger over key government policies.

Apart from soaring housing prices and a liberal policy on foreign labor, voters also voiced their desire for greater government transparency and more public consultation.

Much of the dissatisfaction was voiced through the Internet, which is harder to censor and now is playing a major role in shaping public debate in a country where the mainstream media are perceived to be pro-government.

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