Soldier in hearing on suicide
A US soldier charged with abuse that led to the suicide of a 19-year-old fellow soldier faced a preliminary hearing yesterday on a base in the country, the military said. Specialist Ryan Offutt is charged with offenses including maltreatment, involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Private Danny Chen, the military statement said. Offutt is one of eight infantrymen charged in connection with Chen’s suicide. Chen shot himself in a guardhouse on Oct. 3 last year after what investigators say were weeks of racial slurs and physical abuse.
Magnitude 5.7 quake strikes
A moderate earthquake roused people from sleep, but caused no injuries or damage in the north early yesterday, officials said. The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit the Babuyan Islands region off the country’s mountainous north. Officials in the country placed its magnitude at 5.5. The quake’s center, at a depth of 22.4km, was about 511km north of Manila, the USGS said. Benito Ramos, who heads the government’s Office of Civil Defense, said the quake woke some people up, but did not cause any injuries or damage.
Summit called on disputes
The country has urged ASEAN to hold a summit of China and five other Asian claimants to try to resolve long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday he asked his ASEAN counterparts during an annual meeting in Cambodia last week to back the country’s call for the 10-member bloc to organize such a summit “as soon as possible.” Manila is ready to host the unprecedented meeting, he said.
North denies punishments
North Korea on Saturday angrily hit back at allegations that citizens who failed to appear sincere in the mourning of the North’s late leader Kim Jong-il were being rounded up and sentenced to hard labor. Some media outlets in the South have claimed North Koreans who did not participate in organized public mourning, failed to cry or did not appear genuine, have been sentenced to at least six months in labor camps. However, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said such “misinformation” touched off “towering resentment” among North Koreans, denouncing those who spread the allegations as “pitiable human scum.”
French deaths probed
Police were yesterday investigating how five bodies, thought to be those of a Frenchman and his four children who went missing last year, ended up in a car dumped in a pond behind the French family’s home. Laurent Vallier, 42, and his children aged between two and nine disappeared from their home in Kompong Speu Province near the capital, Phnom Penh, in September and the French embassy said it had alerted authorities in November that they were missing. The embassy said in a statement it had been informed of the discovery of the remains, but that, “because of the state of the corpses, it is impossible to confirm that these are the bodies of Monsieur Vallier and his children.” Police said one skull had been found inside an open suitcase, having apparently floated in there after the car was submerged. Relatives of Vallier’s Cambodian wife, who died during childbirth, held a religious ceremony for the dead yesterday.