Boat people sent to Malaysia
A boatload of asylum-seekers intercepted in the country’s waters yesterday will be the first sent to Malaysia under a controversial new swap deal, officials said. The boat was spotted by aircraft near Scott Reef, off the northwest coast, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor said in a statement. A spokeswoman said it was the first boat intercepted since the deal with Malaysia was signed on July 25. The boat is thought to be carrying 54 asylum-seekers and two crew members. The deal with Malaysia followed several months of talks between the countries.
Old artillery shell kills two
Two men died and a third was seriously injured in a blast as they attempted to cut open a Vietnam War-era artillery shell and extract its explosives, state media said yesterday. The men, aged 54 and 52, were killed immediately on Saturday as they tried to disassemble a US-made 105mm shell that they found in a field, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported. The injured 46-year-old man needed part of his leg amputated following the explosion in central Quang Ngai Province, and he remains in a critical condition, the paper said. A study in 2009 showed that leftover ordnance had killed 10,529 people and wounded more than 12,000 in six heavily--contaminated provinces since the conflict with US forces ended in 1975. The government last year approved a plan to clear about 1.3 million hectares, or 20 percent of the nation’s land, contaminated by unexploded munitions. Officials estimated they need more than 34 trillion dong (US$1.62 billion) for the cleanup.
Stop oil explorations: rebels
The country’s largest Muslim guerrilla group has asked the government to stop any planned oil and gas explorations by foreign companies in vast southern regions they claim. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front said yesterday that allowing foreign companies to start energy explorations in ancestral territories they claim would complicate Malaysian-brokered peace talks. The rebel front is calling on prospective foreign companies not to take part in business ventures that would deprive the country’s minority Muslims of their remaining natural resources, adding that they have lost land and opportunities through years of massive land-grabbing. Rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal refused to say what the rebels would do if the energy explorations proceed.
Navy sex assault investigated
Police were yesterday investigating a sexual assault claim involving the military, reportedly focusing on a navy ship previously found to have a culture of predatory sexual behavior. Reports said a 25-year-old sailor had told police she was assaulted on board the HMAS Success last week while it was docked in Sydney. Defence Minister Stephen Smith said police were probing a complaint, but gave no other information on the case, the latest in a series of sexual assault claims involving the military. “I have to be careful, there is an investigation under way,” Smith told Network Ten. “The most important thing here is that the young sailor concerned reported the incident, the alleged incident, to the navy.” Smith said that he and the country’s top military chiefs had made it clear there was “zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior throughout the service.” The Australian Defence Force has been stung by a string of allegations, some decades old, of abusive and sexist behavior in its ranks, with more than 1,000 people bringing their complaints to an inquiry.