- - Thursday, July 19, 2012

Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR — Prime Minister Najib Razak hit back Thursday at reform proponents, denouncing greater liberalism as a threat to the Muslim-majority country as it faces pivotal upcoming elections.

Speaking to more than 10,000 Islamic leaders just days before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins, Mr. Najib also said he supported human rights but “within the boundaries set by Islam,” according to local media.

“Pluralism, liberalism? All these ‘isms’ are against Islam, and it is compulsory for us to fight these,” said Mr. Najib, who must call for elections by early next year.

Myanmar

State TV airs ceremony for Suu Kyi’s father

YANGON — State television broadcast a memorial ceremony for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, a revered independence hero, for the first time in decades Thursday in the latest sign of change in the former pariah nation.

The day marked the 65th anniversary of the 1947 assassination of Gen. Aung San.

Myanmar’s former military junta played down the event for more than 20 years as part of efforts to stem the popularity of Mrs. Suu Kyi, who has led a pro-democracy movement since 1988 and was kept under house arrest for 15 years. The junta ceded power last year to a civilian government dominated by retired army officers, which has since embarked on a program of major political and financial reforms that have been lauded by the international community.

Japan

TEPCO chief vows to restore confidence

TOKYO — The new head of the company that operates Japan’s crippled nuclear plant has vowed Thursday to try to overcome deep public distrust in his company.

But Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose also said he is not ready to agree with a parliamentary panel’s conclusion that cozy ties between the government and industry were to blame for last year’s nuclear disaster.

Mr. Hirose told journalists that the company would re-examine the panel’s report. He said if the report differs sharply from TEPCO’s own findings, the company might investigate further.

Hirose acknowledged that TEPCO is accused of being secretive, and promised to “not receive that kind of criticism in the future.”

But he offered few concrete steps on how to win back public confidence shattered by the disaster at the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Taiwan

Two executives guilty of spying for China

TAIPEI — Two Taiwanese business executives based on the Chinese mainland were convicted and sentenced this week, after they were found guilty on charges of spying for China, a court said.

In an espionage case that has shocked military leaders, businesswoman Chou Yi-ru was sentenced to four years and businessman Chiang Fu-ming to three years on charges of treason, the High Court in central Taiwan said in a statement.

Both of them, arrested in February, are allowed to appeal, it said.

The investigation into the case found that Chou joined the Chinese espionage service six years ago and recruited Chiang and also his nephew, a Taiwanese air force captain at a radar command and control center.

The captain, also arrested in February on charges of leaking classified data to China, has been investigated separately by a military court.

The arrest of the captain has alarmed military authorities because of the sensitive position he held. Taiwan’s defense ministry declined to provide details of the espionage.

Thailand

Customs officials seize half a ton ivory

BANGKOK — Thai customs officials have seized half a ton of ivory at Bangkok’s international airport, the government said this week.

The elephant tusks were discovered Friday hidden in crates aboard a flight from Kenya. Customs officials displayed the 1,000-pound haul on Tuesday.

The officials said they acted on a tip to seize the ivory, which was in six crates labeled as handicrafts. No arrests have been made. The seized ivory probably will be destroyed.

Ivory shipped to Thailand typically is used to make Buddhist carvings or jewelry. Thailand is also a transit point for other markets, including China.

The international trade in ivory was banned by an international convention known as CITES in 1989 as a measure to prevent the poaching of elephants, which has taken a huge toll on their numbers globally in recent decades.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports