Insult lands Red Shirt in jail
A court has sentenced a member of the Red Shirt political movement to seven-and-a-half years imprisonment for remarks judged to have insulted the country’s monarchy. The court ruled yesterday that 70-year-old Surachai Danwattananusorn made speeches against the monarchy three times in 2010. Surachai was a communist insurgent in the 1970s and was imprisoned in the 1980s. More recently he has led a faction of the Red Shirts, who took to the streets and clashed with the military in 2010. Thailand’s lese majeste law has come under increasing criticism as a violation of free speech.
Pizza chain hurts feelings
A British pizza chain that used “French Concession” to describe its Shanghai location has angered some who believe the term evokes the colonial past, state media said yesterday. Pizza Marzano used the term in promotional materials to describe the location of its third and newest branch in Shanghai, causing a customer to complain, the China Daily newspaper said. China’s vocal bloggers weighed in over the incident after photos of the materials were posted online.
Officials fully back gay sex
The government sought to clarify its views on homosexuality yesterday, saying it “fully” backed a 2009 court order decriminalizing gay sex despite the objections of a top state lawyer last week. During a hearing in the Supreme Court on Thursday last week, additional solicitor general P.P. Malhotra had called gay sex “against nature” in a submission that caused outrage among gay rights activists. The home ministry later sought to disown the comments, causing confusion about the government’s stance on the highly sensitive social issue. Yesterday, another additional solicitor general, Mohan Jain, stressed that his views were those of the government, which he said fully supported a Delhi High Court decision in 2009 to decriminalize gay sex.
Huge penguin fossil found
Scientists said yesterday they have found fossilized remains of one of the largest penguins ever, an “elegant” giant standing 1.3m tall. The penguin lived between 27 million and 24 million years ago, when the north and south islands were mostly underwater and consisted of isolated, rocky outcrops that offered protection from predators and plentiful food supplies, researchers said. The first traces of the penguin, dubbed Kairuku — Maori for diver who returns with food — were found embedded in a cliff at Waimate in the South Island by University of Otago paleontologist professor Ewen Fordyce in 1977.
Police raid N Korean group
Police yesterday raided offices related to a pro-Pyongyang organization in Japan in connection with an investigation into the illegal shipment of computers to North Korea. Backed by 100 riot police, 10 police officers entered the Tokyo offices of an organization connected to the Pyongyang-affiliated General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, Chongryon. The raid came after prosecutors last week indicted Lee Soon-gi, 49, for illegally exporting 100 second-hand personal computers to North Korea through China in 2009, officials and local media said. Japan does not allow exports of luxury goods, including computers, to North Korea as part of a range of sanctions against the regime over North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.