Vientiane to host forum
The Lao capital, Vientiane, will host the 17th annual Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum from Sunday to next Thursday, officials confirmed yesterday. “We are expecting over 300 delegates from 17 countries,” Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy said. Laos, a communist country since 1975, is under a one-party system. The next general election will be next year, in conjunction with the Ninth Party Congress of the Lao Communist Party. The Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum seeks to provide opportunities for national parliamentarians to discuss matters of common concern and promote cooperation in “peace, freedom, democracy and prosperity,” its policy statement said.
Rebels torch homes
Muslim separatist rebels attacked a southern village, torching at least 30 homes of Christian families, an army spokesman said yesterday. No one was hurt in the raid on Sanga village in Kalamansig town in Sultan Kudarat Province, 930km south of Manila, on Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando said. Ando said about 150 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels occupied the farming village, forcing some 500 families to flee their homes. On Wednesday, government security forces launched air and ground assaults on the rebels, who torched the homes in a bid to slow down the troops. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the rebels torched the homes. He also denied Ando’s report that 10 MILF rebels were killed in the airstrikes.
UN collects Ebola samples
UN experts yesterday began collecting samples from two pig farms closed by an outbreak of Ebola-Reston virus. The 22-person team aimed to collect blood and tissue samples from dozens of pigs to determine how they contracted the disease, said team leader Caroline Benigno of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Ebola-Reston, which is only found in the Philippines, had been confined to monkeys and the latest outbreak is the first time it has jumped species. Last month nearly 6,000 pigs at a farm and in the town of Talavera tested positive for the virus, which is not known to be harmful to humans but could have a devastating impact on the pig industry. Ebola-Reston is also different from the ebola sub-types found in Africa that cause deadly fever in humans.
Two convicted for fraud
A court has jailed two Malaysian men for seven years each for using fake credit cards on shopping sprees at luxury boutiques in Hanoi, state media reported yesterday. A court in the capital on Wednesday sentenced the two — identified as Tan Wei Hong, 26, and Cham Tack Choi, 23 — after they were arrested in Hanoi in December 2007, the state-run Vietnam News Agency said. They had tried to use fake credit cards to pay for suitcases and bags worth thousands of dollars in a Louis Vuitton shop, but were caught when a staff member recognized them after earlier fraudulent purchases, the report said. Hong later admitted using fake credit cards to pay for US$17,000 in goods, while Choi admitted to purchasing US$16,000 in goods, VNA said.
Nye may be ambassador
Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard University, will likely be nominated for the post of US ambassador to Japan, the Asahi Shimbun said yesterday, without citing sources.
Minister gives birth
Justice Minister Rachida Dati returned to work on Wednesday, attending the first Cabinet meeting of the year just five days after giving birth to a baby girl. Smiling in a black suit and high heels, the 43-year-old minister arrived on foot with fellow ministers for the meeting at the Elysee palace. French media said Dati checked out on Wednesday morning from the Paris maternity clinic where her first child, named Zohra, was born on Friday two weeks premature. The minister, who is single, has kept the father’s identity under wraps, telling reporters she had “a complicated private life” and sparking an intense guessing game in the gossip press.