- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

MALAYSIA

Thais will stay until rights guaranteed

KUALA LUMPUR — The government announced at midweek it will not hand over 131 Thai Muslims who fled across the border last month unless Bangkok guarantees their rights.

“We will not release them to Thailand unless we have an assurance that their human rights are not being infringed upon by the Thai government,” Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted by the official Bernama news agency as saying. He added that any decision about sending the Thais to a third country would be based on the principles of human rights and the rule of law.

The refugees, mostly from Thailand’s southern Narathiwat province, which is in the grip of an Islamist separatist insurgency and other violence, entered Malaysia in late August, saying they feared for their lives.

NORTH KOREA

South to continue sending food aid

SEOUL — South Korea will keep sending food aid to the rival North despite the communist regime’s demand that international donors halt emergency food shipments and provide development aid instead, an official said yesterday.

North Korea, with 22 million people, has relied on foreign assistance since natural disasters and mismanagement caused its economy to collapse in the mid-1990s. “Food aid is provided because food is very vital and important … for development of relations” between the two Koreas, said Vice Minister Rhee Bong-jo of South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

In Geneva last week, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon said his country wants international aid groups to stop emergency humanitarian aid by the end of the year and replace it with long-term development assistance. He did not elaborate.

AUSTRALIA

Law change urged for embryo research

CANBERRA — John Brumby, treasurer of Victoria state, wants to boost its reputation as a world leader in biotechnology. He reportedly told a national inquiry into cloning and embryo research on Wednesday that state laws are hampering scientists.

Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane indicated there is a mood for change in Canberra, warning that regulatory uncertainty and the debate surrounding the stem-cell issue are threatening to torpedo the industry in Australia, the Age newspaper reports.

Australian scientists now can use only spare in-vitro fertilization embryos for stem-cell research, but they could create cloned human embryos specifically for stem cells to treat major diseases under a Victoria government push to relax its laws.

Weekly notes …

Taiwan announced it is ready to lift its decades-old ban on currency exchange by local banks in Chinese yuan. The policy, approved at the Wednesday Cabinet meeting, will take effect Monday, but only on a trial basis on the islands of Kinmen and Matsu. It will allow the Chinese currency to be exchanged directly for the New Taiwan dollar, with a maximum of 20,000 yuan per transaction. … A planned U.S. weapons sale to Taiwan will damage relations between Washington and Beijing, a Chinese official said, ahead of the October visit to China of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China could never accept the proposed $15.3 billion sale — involving eight diesel submarines, 12 anti-submarine aircraft and six Patriot missile batteries — seeing it as interference in China’s affairs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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