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Briefly: Indian premier pledges action to protect nation’s women

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INDIA

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged Thursday to take action to protect the nation's women while the young victim of a gang rape on a New Delhi bus was flown to Singapore for treatment of severe internal injuries.

The Dec. 16 rape and brutal beating of the 23-year-old student triggered widespread protests, including a march Thursday demanding a government crackdown on the daily harassment Indian women face, ranging from groping to severe violence.

Some protesters have called for the death penalty or castration for rapists, who under current laws face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Rape victims rarely press charges because of social stigma and fear they will be accused of inviting the attack.

Many women say they structure their lives around protecting themselves and their daughters from attack.

Mr. Singh's government set up two committees in response to the protests. One, looking into speeding up sexual assault trials, already has received 6,100 email suggestions.

The second will examine what lapses might have contributed to the rape — which took place on a moving bus that passed through police checkpoints — and suggest measures to improve women's safety.

CHINA

China tightens controls to deter self-immolations

BEIJING — Chinese authorities are tightening controls in an ethnic Tibetan region where at least 10 people set themselves on fire and hundreds demonstrated last month to protest Chinese rule, a news report said Thursday.

Huangnan prefecture in western China's Qinghai province is increasing security and taking steps to shield the area from outside influence to deter self-immolations, the state-run, Web-based Qinghai News reported.

The local government also will use economic rewards and punishments to crack down on the practice.

China has blamed exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his associates for the self-immolations in Qinghai and other Tibetan regions.

But supporters of Tibetan rights say the fault lies with Beijing's oppressive rule of the Himalayan region.

The number of incidents spiked in November, when the ruling Chinese Communist Party held a national congress to install its new leaders for the next five years.

THAILAND

Kickboxer indicted in death of former Marine

BANGKOK — Thai prosecutors have indicted a British kickboxer on murder charges in the 2010 stabbing of a former U.S. Marine on a resort island.

A Phuket court indicted Lee Aldhouse on Wednesday. He is accused in the fatal stabbing of Dashawn Longfellow after being beaten by the American during a brawl at a Phuket bar.

Mr. Aldhouse was a semi-professional kickboxer who fought under the nickname "Pitbull." He had been living on-and-off in Phuket, where Mr. Longfellow was studying the sport.

Mr. Aldhouse was extradited to Thailand earlier this month in the first case of extradition of a criminal suspect from England to Thailand.

He was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport in 2010 after flying out from Thailand shortly after Mr. Longfellow was stabbed at his hotel.

PHILIPPINES

Australian hostage appears in video to prove he is alive

MANILA — An Australian man held hostage by militants in southern Philippine jungles for more than a year has appeared in a video looking thin and haggard as proof that he is alive while negotiations for his release drag on.

Warren Richard Rodwell, who was kidnapped from his seaside house and taken by speedboat to nearby mountainous islands where the militants are hiding, said on the video that he is being held in isolation and knew little of what was going on around him. He said he understood there are negotiations under way.

"This video clip is to say that I'm alive. I am waiting to be released," he said, then added a few seconds later: "I personally hold no hope at all for being released."

"The people who are around me normally don't speak English. I understand something is happening but I don't know when. I do not expect to be released before the year 2013, at the earliest," said the 54-year-old, dressed in a black shirt and holding a copy of a local newspaper dated Dec. 15 in front of a white blanket to obscure his location. He said the recording was made the following day.

Philippine intelligence officials said Wednesday that they believe the video, which has been circulated on YouTube, is authentic.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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