- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

INDONESIA

Army's Kopassus unitpulled back from Papua

JAKARTA The Indonesian army said yesterday it was withdrawing special forces from Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, after the unit reportedly participated in a deadly attack near a U.S. mine.

The disgraced unit, known as Kopassus, was used by Gen. Suharto to contain uprisings across Indonesia during his 32-year reign. It was accused of human rights abuses in East Timor, Aceh and the Maluku.

Human rights groups speculated that the withdrawal from Papua was prompted by the 250-member unit's reputed involvement in the Aug. 31 attack near the U.S. gold and copper mine P.T. Freeport Indonesia that killed two Americans and an Indonesian.


TAIWAN

International tusslecontinues over orphan

TAIPEI In a case likened to the Elian Gonzalez saga, in which a youngster was caught up in a tug of war between relatives in the United States and Cuba, an appeals court in Taiwan upheld this week a lower court's custody award of 7-year-old Iruan Ergui Wu (Wu Yi-hua in Mandarin) to his Brazilian grandmother, Rosa Leocadia Ergui.

"There is no evidence showing that sending the boy back to his grandmother in Brazil would do him any harm," said Judge Hsu Ming-chin, but the custody battle was expected to drag on with the boy's disappointed Taiwanese relatives vowing an appeal to the Supreme Court.

A district court in Kaohsiung county, where the Wu family lives, ruled in August that the boy should live in Brazil with his grandmother. Last month, the child's uncle, Wu Huo-yen, brought the boy to Taipei, begging President Chen Shui-bian to allow him to stay.

The lad was born in Brazil to a Brazilian woman, Marisa Tavares Ergui, and a Taiwanese fishing boat captain, Wu Teng-hsui. His mother died in 1998, and his father brought him to Taiwan in March 2001, but died two weeks later.


THAILAND

Nearly 1,000 killedin month's drug war

BANGKOK The Interior Ministry said Wednesday that 999 persons were shot dead in the first 24 days of the government's campaign against drug traffickers.

Several children, a pregnant woman and a 75-year-old grandmother were among the victims, prompting human rights groups to accuse police of an indiscriminate "shoot to kill" policy. The ministry said drug-gang members killed 977 of the victims, and police reported killing 22 suspected dealers, acting in self-defense.

The Health Ministry estimates 3 million people, 5 percent of the population, regularly abuse methamphetamines, making Thailand the world's largest consumer of the drugs. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra an ex-cop turned telecommunications billionaire began the crackdown Feb. 1, vowing to destroy the illegal drug trade in three months.


Weekly notes …

If China's leaders promote Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing to head the ministry, as many predict, Beijing could wind up with an image problem abroad, analysts say. Diplomats consider Mr. Li a likely successor if Tang Jiaxuan, 68, steps down when the National People's Congress (NPC) gathers in Beijing on Wednesday. Mr. Li "is certainly not the urbane, sophisticated intellectual and diplomat Americans are used to," said Joseph Fewsmith, a China watcher at Boston University. "But he is someone who gets things done in Beijing. He has access, and seems willing to use it … Increasing numbers of Singaporeans are planning to leave the country, largely because of the high-stress lifestyle, and Australia is the most popular destination, poll results showed yesterday. A Straits Times Interactive Web site poll showed 43 percent of respondents wanted to migrate, finding Singapore too stressful, 20 percent cited limited job opportunities, and 19 percent complained of high living costs. The rest were joining their families or seeking work. Thirty-five percent wanted to live in laid-back Australia. The United States was the next most popular destination at 15 percent, followed by Canada and New Zealand.


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