- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

Japanese rightists get break on tolls

TOKYO If you are an extreme nationalist, drive a large black truck and shout, you may get a discount on Japan's steep expressway tolls.

Japan's right-wingers, known for driving in convoys of large black vehicles and blaring their opinions through loudspeakers, often receive discounts on tolls by threatening tollbooth staff, the Japan Highway Public Corp. reported yesterday.

"I want to make it clear that we are not offering discounts of our own free will," a spokesman for the corporation said. "The demands can be very forceful, and individuals may be frightened."

Australia to offer asylum seekers money

CANBERRA, Australia The government said yesterday that it would offer asylum seekers $1,100 each to return home in an effort to clear the would-be refugees from poor Pacific nations that took them in last year at Australia's request.

The offer was made last week to Afghan asylum seekers but was extended to those of any nationality housed on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus island, at Australian expense, who would volunteer to go home or to a third country.

Abu Sayyaf rebels say they will free nurse

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines A Muslim rebel leader promised yesterday to free a Filipina nurse held hostage for nearly a year but did not mention two U.S. missionaries held even longer.

Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya welcomed a U.S. announcement of a $5 million reward on him and four other top rebel commanders, saying Washington's move gave them stature. Sabaya, speaking on local RMN radio, said his group would free nurse Deborah Yap "anytime soon."

"We have news about Deborah," Sabaya told the radio station in a telephone call. "She has become a good Muslim. As a reward, we will release her."

Cambodian hopes high on electrification

KIRIROM, Cambodia This electricity-starved kingdom opened its first hydropowered plant in 34 years this week with hopes that power outages would end and that increased foreign investment would follow.

The $26 million Kirirom I plant will serve Phnom Penh and southern Kampong Speu province from Kirirom, 65 miles west of the Cambodian capital. Prime Minister Hun Sen said during the opening ceremony that the plant also would contribute significantly to the country's efforts to end poverty.

Fewer than 15 percent of Cambodia's population has access to electricity.

Weekly notes

Faced with rising crime in remote areas, a central Chinese province has created a helicopter-borne fast-reaction police unit, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday. Officers of the unit in Henan province will be equipped with night-vision goggles, sniper rifles and military-issue machine guns, the report said. Vietnam has sentenced a U.S. citizen of Vietnamese origin to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking, official media reported yesterday. The Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said Nguyen Nhu Hung, 45, who is wanted in the United States on drugs and prostitution charges under the name John Nguyen, was sentenced Wednesday in Ho Chi Minh City.

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