- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

Astrologers delay parliament opening

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka The opening of Sri Lanka's new parliament has been held up by astrological advice that the planned date was inauspicious, officials said yesterday.

Astrologers advised the president and the prime minister that the planned first sitting of the parliament since the Dec. 5 general election was unlucky according to planetary alignments, and urged for it to be rescheduled for a more auspicious day.

Astrology plays a key role in politics in Sri Lanka. The new prime minister and his Cabinet took their oaths of office earlier this week at astrologically auspicious times.

Sri Lanka's two main political parties, the United Nationalist Party and the People's Alliance (PA), have their own astrologers who are sometimes more influential than top aides.

Astrologers who predicted a resounding victory for the PA in the elections have gone into hiding amid fears of attacks after getting their vote forecasts astronomically wrong.

Some win, some lose as Thais shut camp

BANGKOK The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says Burmese political dissidents at a camp in Thailand scheduled to close today will not be forced back to the military-ruled state.

But some Burmese not considered refugees at the Maneeloy Holding Center, which houses exiles from Rangoon's 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy activists, will be sent back, said a Thai official.

Jahanshah Assadi, the UNHCR's Bangkok-based regional representative, said the agency had resettled nearly all the camp's 2,200 refugees in 10 countries since October 1999. About 150 refugees at the camp, where some began a hunger strike on Tuesday, await deportation to other countries.

A third group, estimated by Thai officials to total 100, had been classified by the Thai government as illegal immigrants, Mr. Assadi added. They would be sent back to Burma, Thai National Security Council Secretary-General Kachadpai Burusapat told reporters.

Johnny and Luther Htoo, the twin boys who led a band of Burmese rebels known as God's Army, will be allowed to stay in Thailand, because they have nowhere else to go.

Blast kills six in rural Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal Six persons, including four children and an 80-year-old woman, died when a bomb blast tore through a house in western Nepal, police said Thursday.

Police said they were investigating whether Maoist rebels fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy were responsible for the blast that occurred close to midnight on Wednesday, 280 miles west of the capital, Katmandu.

Last month, guerrillas from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) attacked police and military posts in the area and killed 20 security personnel, ending a four-month truce. That prompted the government to send the army to fight the rebels.

At least 320 persons have been killed since the end of the truce, and more than 2,100 since the conflict began in early 1996.

Weekly notes

Jan Kubis, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told at a two-day conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, this week that only a "comprehensive" war against terrorism would guarantee long-term security in volatile Central Asia. President Askar Akayev said widespread poverty, unemployment, drug smuggling and trafficking in people were creating a breeding ground for terrorists in the region. Burma released more than 200 Chinese prisoners to mark the arrival Wednesday of Chinese President Jiang Zemin on a four-day official visit aimed at strengthening bilateral ties. A government spokesman said in a statement that the prisoners, held mostly on immigration charges, were freed Tuesday as a sign of goodwill.

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