Two die in landslides, floods
Two people have been killed after heavy rains caused landslides and flooding that were among the sultanate’s worst ever, a newspaper reported yesterday. A 46-year-old woman died when a landslide crashed into her house as she slept, the Borneo Bulletin reported, citing a police spokesperson. In another incident, a 19-year-old woman trying to walk home from work drowned in fast-flowing flood waters, the report said. Water also swept into a power station, leaving some residents without electricity, while telephone service was also disrupted, the Bulletin said. The heaviest rains occurred on Tuesday night, it said.
Voting begins after 18 years
Voting began yesterday for the country’s local government sub-district councils, or Upazila Parishads, which are taking place for the first time in nearly two decades, amid heightened security across the country. Election authorities expect a large turnout in the polls which will elect representatives at each of the 481 councils, which are constitutionally mandated to run local administrations and implement of schemes for social and economic development. But turnout was poor when the balloting began at 8am compared with last month’s general election that witnessed an overwhelming 87 percent voter turnout, according to reports from the countryside.
Thai royals asked for pardon
The government has asked Thailand’s royal family to pardon an author who was jailed for three years for defaming the monarchy in a novel that sold just seven copies. Officials have advised Thailand that the government “strongly supports” Harry Nicolaides’ plea for a pardon from King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a statement on Wednesday. Smith said he also sent a letter to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on Tuesday outlining Australia’s firm support of Nicolaides’ application for a pardon. Bangkok’s Criminal Court sentenced Nicolaides on Monday to three years in prison for defaming the king and crown prince in a 2005 novel.
Soldier shoots colleagues
A paramilitary soldier shot and killed six of his colleagues with an assault rifle, then fled their military camp in a remote and dangerous outpost in the northeast, the military said yesterday. Officials are investigating the Wednesday night shooting and have launched a manhunt for the soldier, a member of the Assam Rifles paramilitary troop whose name was not immediately released, said Major Shamsher Jung, an Assam Rifles spokesman. It was not clear what prompted the killings in Ukhrul District, 90km northeast of the state capital of Imphal, Jung said.
Officials snub group request
The nation’s leader rebuffed a conservation group’s offer to stop harassing Japanese whalers if Canberra takes legal action against them, saying yesterday he would instead rely on diplomacy to halt the hunt. The US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society offered on Wednesday to suspend its strategy of using a ship to disrupt the Japanese fleet in treacherous Antarctic waters if Australia agreed to take Japan to court to end the whaling. But Rudd said Australia had already initiated an International Whaling Commission review of Japan’s so-called scientific whaling, which would report mid-year. Under the commission’s rules, the mammals may be killed for research but not for commercial purposes.