- The Washington Times - Friday, February 26, 2010


11 hurt as quake hits southwest

BEIJING | A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck China’s southwestern province of Yunnan Thursday, injuring 11 people and damaging many houses, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The quake struck at 12:56 p.m. in Chuxiong prefecture, about 60 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Kunming, the national earthquake-monitoring center reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey gave the quake’s magnitude as 5.0.

Xinhua cited a spokesman for the Yunnan Provincial Seismological Bureau as saying a large number of rural homes were badly damaged.

In May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 temblor struck Sichuan province just north of Yunnan, leaving 90,000 dead or missing and another 5 million homeless.


3 militants held in Aceh raid

BANDA ACEH | Three suspected Islamist militants were arrested by Indonesian police Thursday as part of an ongoing crackdown in the unsettled Aceh province.

The arrests bring to seven the total number of terrorist suspects detained this week. A police official said three rifles were recovered in the raid on a house.

Four men were arrested Monday when more than 100 police officers raided a suspected paramilitary training camp for the Southeast Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah. Police said 50 armed militants fled into the jungle after an hourlong gunbattle. Information gleaned from the first group arrested led police to the house Thursday, officials said.

The al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for a number of bloody attacks, including a 2002 bombing on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people.


3 killed as troops fire at Myanmar migrants

BANGKOK | Three people were killed and five wounded Thursday when Thai troops opened fire on a pickup truck smuggling Myanmar migrants in a southwestern province bordering Myanmar, police said.

Troops in Ranong, 360 miles from Bangkok, fired shots to try to bring the truck to a halt as it sped toward them, but eight of the 13 migrants were hit, three fatally, police Col. Veerasin Kwangseng told Reuters news agency.

The incident came two days after the New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report criticizing Thailand for its poor treatment of migrants, many from neighboring Myanmar.

The report said migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos were subjected to extortion, arbitrary detention, forced labor and physical abuse, often at the hands of state officials operating with impunity.

Ranong, a 30-minute boat ride from the Myanmar port town of Kawthaung, is a major entry point for migrants from Myanmar, of whom more than 1 million work in Thailand, many illegally, in the tourism, construction and manufacturing sectors.


Customs seizes 2 tons of ivory

BANGKOK | Thailand has seized two tons of elephant tusks from Africa hidden in pallets labeled as containing mobile phone parts in the country’s largest ivory seizure.

Thai customs officials valued Wednesday night’s haul of 239 tusks at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport at $3.6 million. It is a further sign that Thailand is emerging as a hub for the illicit trade.

Poaching of elephants in central and eastern Africa has intensified in recent years, with much of the illegal ivory exported to Asia.

The consignment, which originated in South Africa, was labeled as being destined for Laos, but a Thai national attempted to pick up the cargo and was detained, officials said.

Last month, Thailand arrested two Thai women accused of dealing in illegal African ivory, a day after an American and a Thai national were indicted in California on charges of smuggling ivory into the United States. Police think the women supplied ivory to the Thai national, who prosecutors say sold several pieces of ivory on eBay, disguising shipments as containing gifts and toys.


Call to end scientific whaling

SYDNEY | Australia called Thursday for an end to so-called scientific whaling and the phaseout over five years of harpooning in the Indian Ocean south of Australia. The move appeared to be aimed squarely at Japan.

The demands, which follow an Australian threat to take legal action against Japan over its whaling activities, were outlined in a proposal sent to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Environment Minister Peter Garrett said.

The proposed end within a “reasonable period” to scientific hunting of the giant mammals and a five-year timeline for the cessation of Antarctic whaling reflected Australia’s strong conservation agenda and aimed to break the gridlock that “beset talks for decades,” Mr. Garrett said.

In response, Japan called Australia’s move “extremely regrettable” and reasserted the legality of its hunting, which Tokyo says is for scientific research.

Mr. Garrett said Australia would advance the proposal at a meeting in Florida next week of the IWC’s small working group, a process to which, he stressed, it remained committed.


Newspaper warned over caning comments

KUALA LUMPUR | Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs said Thursday it had threatened to punish one of the country’s top-selling dailies over an article critical of the recent caning of three Muslim women.

“We have issued a show-cause letter to the Star newspaper, as what was said in the article can threaten public order,” Home Ministry Deputy Secretary-General Fuad Abdul Aziz told Agence France-Presse. He said there were at least three police complaints saying the article was an insult to Islam and Islamic law.

The article, headlined “Persuasion, not compulsion,” by the English-language daily’s Managing Editor P. Gunasegaram, questioned whether the sentence of caning was appropriate, and it upset Muslims.

Editors at the Star could not be reached for comment. The Center for Independent Journalism urged the ministry to retract its letter and said the media’s role to provide opinions on current issues “must be respected.”

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