Tsunami memorial plan
Thailand will pay for flights and hotel rooms for the immediate relatives of foreign tsunami victims who want to attend anniversary memorials of the disaster, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday. Giving more details of an offer first revealed two days earlier, Thaksin said the Tourism Authority of Thailand would send out invitation letters to the families of the nearly 2,500 foreign victims. "The 26th of December will be a day of mourning," Thaksin told his weekly news conference.
Police hunt escapees
Four gunmen believed to be members of a drug gang held up a warden at a maximum security prison Thursday to free two drug trafficking suspects, police said. The four men, posing as relatives visiting two inmates at Klong Prem prison, pulled out guns and forced a warden to open a food delivery slot so the prisoners could escape, said police Colonel Phongsith Saengpetch. The gunmen and prisoners fled by car. Police set up roadblocks to search for the gunmen and suspects, but failed to find any leads after six hours, Phongsith said.
Many Japanese undecided
More than 30 percent of Japanese voters are undecided over which party to back in this weekend's parliamentary elections, a newspaper survey said Wednesday. The Asahi newspaper poll showed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party leading the top opposition party with support from 31 percent of the respondents in the 300 direct-vote districts, in which voters cast ballots for individual candidates.
Donkey passed off as tiger
A restaurant in northeastern China that advertised illegal tiger meat dishes was found instead to be selling donkey flesh -- marinated in tiger urine, a newspaper reported yesterday. The Hufulou restaurant, located beside the Heidaohezi tiger reserve near the city of Hailin, had advertised stir-fried tiger meat with chilies for 800 yuan (US$98), as well as liquor flavored with tiger bone for 600 yuan a bottle, the China Daily reported. Raw meat was priced at 7,000 yuan per kilogram. The sale of tiger parts is illegal in China and officers shut down the restaurant, only to be told by owner, Ma Shikun, that the meat was actually that of donkeys, flavored with tiger urine to give the dish a "special" tang, the newspaper said.
Randy teacher gets jail time
An Australian high school science teacher was jailed for two years yesterday after pleading guilty in a Hobart court to having sex with five pupils aged under 17. Sarah Vercoe, 25, had a two-month sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy she met at a school camp late last year. She also had group sex with four other boys, aged 14 to 16, in her Hobart home. Outside the court, the boys' families and sex abuse campaigners protested against the sentence, which they said was insufficient. Vercoe told the court that her marriage was not going well and she felt rejected by her fellow teachers.
Storm pummels Hokkaido
A powerful storm that killed 21 people across Japan lashed the northern island of Hokkaido yesterday with strong winds and heavy rains, prompting officials to close schools. Seven people were missing and more than 140 injured. Officials in Hokkaido closed about 700 public schools while Hokkaido Electric Power Co. said it had restored power to most of the 1,700 houses that suffered outages overnight. Typhoon Nabi began lashing southern Japan on Tuesday, but was downgraded to a tropical storm before making landfall on Hokkaido late Wednesday.