Authorities kill cockroaches
Thailand's short-lived fad of raising Madagascar giant hissing cockroaches as pets came to a fiery end yesterday when 518 of the bugs that had been confiscated from owners were executed and cremated at a Bangkok hospital. About 1,000 of the 10cm-long roaches were seized from insect fanciers since they were declared illegal last September. Dr. Jaran Tinvuthipong, the Public Health Ministry's director general of Communicable Disease Control Department, presided as the 518 giant cockroaches, remaining in custody as evidence in court cases, were publicly executed at Bamratnaradul Hospital.
Peace talks ruled out
India will not hold peace talks with Pakistan in the near future, India's defense minister was quoted as saying yesterday. "When we reach the time for talks [they] will be held, but it is not very close," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted George Fernandes as saying. He said the governments have focused on confidence-building measures since the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers talked by phone earlier this month, in the first such contact in more than two years. Both leaders said they wanted peace talks, but no venue or time has been mentioned.
■ The Philippines
Estrada appears in court
Detained former Philippine president Joseph Estrada reappeared in a special anti-graft court yesterday, insisting he could not face corruption charges because he was still president. Estrada and his son and co-accused, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, appeared relaxed in their first appearance at the anti-graft Sandiganbayan court in almost a year for a hearing on a motion to dismiss the charges against them. Estrada was toppled in a popular uprising in 2001 over a massive corruption scandal. He was later arrested and theoretically faces the death penalty if convicted on charges of plundering US$80 million.
Religious report under attack
State-sanctioned religious groups yesterday blasted a US report criticizing the Chinese government for crackdowns against freedom of worship. Heads of China's Islamic, Christian and Tibetan Buddhist groups were quoted in state media saying the report by the congressionally mandated US Commission on International Religious Freedom was "unfair," "blind to the truth" and "based on hearsay and conjecture." "The past two decades were a golden period for religious activities in China," China Islamic Association chairman Chen Guangyuan was quoted by the China Daily as saying.
Resignation ends fighting
The leader of Malaysia's largest ethnic Chinese political party said he would resign yesterday, a move widely interpreted as part of a deal to end bitter factional fighting that has threatened to harm Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government. The deputy leader of the party, the Malaysian Chinese Association, also was expected to resign under the deal, which was brokered by Mahathir after two years of wrangling within the party, a key ally in the ruling coalition.
American love too tough
Authorities in Costa Rica took over an American-run boot camp-style academy on Thursday, after claims that the troubled teenagers there were being abused. The move was the latest in a series of controversies over American institutions which put teenagers through "tough-love" regimes in foreign countries. Police, child welfare and justice officials in Costa Rica carried out a raid on the Dundee Ranch academy, in the town of Orotina, following allegations that children were made to kneel for hours on concrete, kept in solitary confinement and forced to sleep on the floor.