- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009


Police surround Buddhist monks

HANOI | Followers of a world-famous Buddhist teacher who were forced out of a Vietnamese monastery over the weekend have taken refuge at a nearby pagoda, but they say they have once again been surrounded by police.

The monks’ ongoing standoff with Vietnamese authorities has tested the communist country’s sometimes edgy relationship with religion, which the government views as a potential rival power structure. The government closely monitors all churches in the country.

The Buddhists say the police are now pressuring them to leave the Phuoc Hue pagoda in Lam Dong province, even though local officials of the state-sanctioned Buddhist Church of Vietnam have welcomed them to stay.

The 376 monks and nuns are followers of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese-born monk who helped popularize Buddhism in the West, has sold millions of books worldwide and now lives in France. He was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King.


U.S. under fire on climate change

BANGKOK | The honeymoon appears to be over for the United States at U.N. climate talks.

After being applauded for re-engaging in negotiations this year, members of the American delegation at talks in Bangkok find themselves being tagged like their George W. Bush administration predecessors - as villains who aren’t serious about reaching an ambitious global warming treaty when leaders from 120 countries meet in Copenhagen in December.

The deal would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The delegation hasn’t brought much to the table - partly because climate change legislation hasn’t passed the U.S. Congress - angering some developing countries by insisting they must show proof they are taking action to reduce heat-trapping emissions.


11 defectors flee to South by sea

SEOUL | South Korea’s military says a group of 11 North Koreans have defected by sea.

An official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the North Koreans crossed into southern waters off the divided peninsula’s east coast aboard a small barge early Thursday evening, local time.

The official said the group expressed a desire to defect, but he did not give further details. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

More than 16,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, mostly in recent years.

Defections by boat are unusual. Most North Koreans flee to the South over land through China and Southeast Asia.


Courts reopen in Swat Valley

MINGORA | Courts are back in session in Pakistan’s Swat Valley after a three-month hiatus because of an army offensive against Taliban militants. How well the judiciary performs may be crucial in ensuring the insurgents do not return.

The Taliban gained sympathizers in the Swat region partly by exploiting long-standing grievances with its slow and corrupt judicial system, in which judges allowed proceedings to drag on indefinitely while lawyers milked more fees.

The government hopes to do things differently this time.

Judges are now using new legal regulations that promise quicker justice and conformance to Islamic law - rules that were introduced as part of a peace deal struck with militants in February. But legal officials said that did not mean judges would be handing down floggings and executions - the kind of punishments favored by the Taliban.

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