Purification ritual probed
Hindu priests in an eastern state are under investigation for conducting a purification ritual soon after a minister belonging to a lower caste visited a famous temple, officials said yesterday. Minutes after Orissa State Minister Pramila Mallick prayed at the temple this week, Hindu priests shut the doors and threw away holy offerings, washed the floors and changed the idol’s clothes, one official said. “Some priests opposed the minister’s entry into the interior chamber of the temple,” Upendra Mallik, a senior government official said. “We are investigating.” In India, millions of people formerly known as “untouchables” remain oppressed at the bottom of the ancient Hindu caste system.
Fiji appeals for aid
New Zealand and Australia yesterday announced new emergency aid packages for Fiji as officials said nearly 12,000 people were homeless after floods wreaked widespread havoc. As cleanup efforts began after a week of heavy rains swept torrents of water through towns and villages, killing at least 11 people and ruining 300 businesses, Fiji’s military government appealed to 20 countries for help. The damage was so bad in the tourist center of Nadi that there were calls to bulldoze shops and restaurants, which have been flooded to roof height twice, and rebuild the town entirely, Radio New Zealand reported from the capital Suva. Earlier, Fijian Foreign Affairs Secretary Ratu Isoa Gavidi told Radio New Zealand that it could be two or three weeks before fresh water supplies could be restored to some flood-stricken areas and clothing, bedding and tents were also needed. New Zealand and Australia, which had imposed sanctions on Fiji’s military regime which seized power in a coup two years ago, have so far supplied aid only to the Red Cross and nongovernmental relief organizations.
Visa waiver considered
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government may waive visa fees for all tourists for three months in a bid to boost visitor numbers following last year’s siege of Bangkok’s airports. Abhisit said late on Thursday there could also be discounts on aircraft landing fees. “The plan to revive the tourism sector will be tabled at the cabinet meeting next Tuesday and will include a three months’ waiver for visa fees and discounting landing fees,” he told a seminar. “I hope these measures will help the tourism sector one way or another.” Nationals of 41 countries, including the US, most European nations, Japan, Australia and New Zealand already do not require a visa to enter Thailand if their stay does not exceed 30 days.
Spousal rape a crime
A district court in the southern city of Busan yesterday, making a landmark decision in this male-dominated society, found a husband guilty of raping his wife. The decision marked the first time that a South Korean court has recognized the existence of sexual coercion in marriage, Yonhap news agency said. The court found the 42-year-old man guilty of raping his 25-year-old Filipino wife and passed a 30-month suspended jail sentence. “The accused, who should have taken good care of the victim with love and sincerity, put her through numerous hardships and threatened her with weapons to satisfy his desire, in breach of her right to self-determination on sexual acts,” it said in a statement. The man was charged with forcing his wife to have sex by threatening her with a stun gun or a knife in July last year.