Mentally ill commit suicide
More than a million Thai people are mentally ill and an average of 14 of them commit suicide each day, mainly because of depression, alcoholism and AIDS, a news report said yesterday. Deputy Public Health Minister Police General Pracha Promnok was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying suicide was on the increase worldwide, accounting for one-third of all deaths of people aged 15 to 34 in 2001. Speaking at a government-sponsored Suicide Prevention Fair on Saturday, Pracha cited Mental Health Department figures showing that last year more than a million Thais suffered from various forms of mental illness.
Leader denies conspiracy
The leader of Japan's socialist party said she would not resign to take the blame for a scandal involving a one-time aide and a former socialist lawmaker who were arrested for allegedly misappropriating public funds. Takako Doi, leader of the Social Democratic Party, denied that her party was involved in a wider conspiracy to defraud the government and questioned the timing of the arrests. The scandal was an embarrassment for Japan's second-largest opposition party, which has long appealed to voters by pouncing on cases of government corruption, and could prove a liability in a national election expected as early as November.
Taliban attacks border post
About 60 suspected Taliban fighters attacked a border post in southern Afghanistan with heavy machine guns and assault rifles before escaping across the border into Pakistan, a government official said yesterday. No Afghan soldiers were hurt in the three-hour gunbattle late Saturday at the Shero Obah government post on the border with Pakistan, said Khalik Khan Achekzai. About 15 Afghan government soldiers were in the compound at the time of the attack, he said. According to a second government official, Fazluddin Aga, two suspected Taliban fighters died in the gunbattle and five others were injured. The wounded were being treated under heavy police guard.
Water supply row heats up
A Malaysian booklet on a long-standing water supply row with Singapore will hit the streets today in the latest salvo against the island-state, reports said yesterday. It follows the end of an eight-day media blitz yesterday featuring full-page advertisements in all major daily newspapers here as well as in the Asian Wall Street Journal. The 20-page booklet will be sold at just three sen (less than one US cent), the price Singapore pays for every 4,550 litres of water it buys from Malaysia, the New Straits Times said. Malaysia decided to halt talks on the issue last year and said it was considering taking legal action against Singapore.
The US is unlikely to repatriate two Australian terror suspects imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba because Australia wouldn't be able to prosecute them under its terrorism laws, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday. Downer told Channel Nine Television that David Hicks, 27, and Mamdouh Habib, 46, could not be tried in Australia because they were detained before Parliament passed terrorism legislation in June last year, making it unlikely that Washington would agree to release them.
Nuclear inspectors arrive
Iran said on Saturday that a team of International Atomic Energy Agency representatives had begun a new round of inspections of Iran's nuclear sites, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The team arrived to start its work "within the framework of the nonproliferation treaty," Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman, Khalil Moussavi, said. A previous team of inspectors, accompanied by the agency's head, Mohamed ElBaradei, left on Wednesday, he said. Iran has come under pressure in recent months to sign an inspection protocol that would allow sudden and detailed inspections of its nuclear sites by the agency.