Two shot dead in south
A soldier and a suspected separatist militant were shot dead yesterday in Thailand's restive Muslim-majority south where about 550 people have died this year, police said. Sergeant Prapan Northong, 43, was shot and killed by two gunmen who followed him as he was taking his two children to school by motorbike in the province of Pattani. The children were unharmed. The shooting came a few hours after Muktar Kureng, 28, was shot dead in an exchange of fire with police and military in Pattani after his car failed to stop at a checkpoint, police said.
A Philippine air-force general will face court martial for fraud and non-payment of debt, in a widening crackdown on corruption and misconduct in the armed forces. Lieutenant Colonel Buenaventura Pascual said investigators have recommended the filing of court martial charges against Brigadier General Prospero Ocampo for conduct unbecoming and prejudicial to good order and military discipline. Pascual said the charges against Ocampo stemmed from a complaint by two women, alleging irregularities in the utilization of government funds allotted for various projects.
■ Hong Kong
Government ordered to pay
The Hong Kong government yesterday faced having to pay back millions of US dollars to civil servants after the High Court ruled it had no right to cut their pay. The Court of Appeal ruled in favor of two civil servants in a crucial test case over sweeping cuts of up to 4.42 percent forced on them last year by the Hong Kong government. Judges ruled the pay cuts were illegal because Hong Kong's Basic Law guarantees that civil servants' pay and conditions will be no less favorable than they were in 1997. Unless it appeals to Hong Kong's highest court, the Court of Final Appeal, the government now faces having to reinstate the pay of its 120,000 civil servants and repay money cut since last year.
Whales, dolphins die
More than 100 whales and dolphins died in two separate beachings in 24 hours on remote Australian islands, leaving rescuers yesterday struggling to steer survivors out to sea and prevent more strandings. As the death toll of whales and dolphins on King Island off Australia's south coast climbed above 80 following Sunday's beaching, authorities scrambled to another southern island after 53 long-finned pilot whales became stranded on Maria Island. Half of the whales on Maria Island, off the east coast of the southern island state of Tasmania, died yesterday and rescuers were trying to carry survivors back to deeper water, Tasmanian wildlife officer Shane Hunniford said.
Winning ticket unclaimed
It has Australians rifling through their pockets and delving behind the sofa: An elusive lottery ticket that would make a A$23 million (US$18 million) difference to the Christmas of the holder. In the two months since the draw 18 people have tried to claim the fourth largest lottery win in Australia's history, news reports yesterday. The organizers, Golden Casket, however knows which Brisbane newsagent sold the ticket and will sit tight for seven years until it declares that the cause is hopeless and the winner will never come forward.
■ Saudi Arabia
Sex change sparks row
A Saudi man who had a sex-change operation has created an inheritance problem in the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia because, as a man, he inherited a large sum of money from his millionaire father, while as a woman he is only allowed to inherit half of it. Ahmad changed his gender only after inheriting, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reported yesterday. According to Islamic law, as a woman, he would inherit half of what a man inherits. The paper said his relatives have filed a lawsuit, accusing him of deception and asking the court to re-divide the inheritance.