Peace plan sought
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) yesterday said that the city-state would work with Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as partners such as the UN, to push Myanmar’s military rulers to implement a stalled peace plan. Lee was speaking after meeting visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Lee said the leaders regretted the lack of progress on a peace plan led by ASEAN on Myanmar, which has been gripped by violence and unrest since a coup in February 2021 that upended a decade of democratic reforms. “Singapore will continue working with Indonesia and ASEAN members, plus ASEAN’s partners like the UN, to push for the full implementation of the five-point consensus,” he said, referring to the peace plan that Myanmar’s top general agreed to with ASEAN.
Navy to aid oil ship
The government yesterday ordered its navy to join efforts to rescue an oil storage vessel operated by a unit of Chevron Corp that was damaged earlier this week during a routine maintenance in the Gulf of Thailand. The navy would focus on helping the crew in plugging a leak that has led to water seeping into the hull of the ship, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement. It would also take steps to prevent oil spill as the vessel is carrying 400,000 barrels of crude oil. Sea water seeped into the FSO Bechamas 2 on Tuesday following the explosion of a machine during routine maintenance. One crew member was killed in the explosion, while the remaining 28 members are safe and the ship was in a steady condition, Anucha said.
Visa rules to be eased
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Wednesday ordered officials to relax some visa requirements to help the Southeast Asian country attract more foreign tourists. Difficulties of obtaining tourist visas have been a major reason the nation has struggled since the COVID-19 pandemic ended to lure international travelers back, local media reported. Last year, fewer than 3.7 million foreign travelers trekked to the country known for street food, a coastline dotted with beaches and UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay. Tourists have also complained about infrastructure issues such as public toilets with bad odors. Chinh instructed his Cabinet to amend policies on immigration procedures, such as offering more visa waivers, increasing the length of stays for foreign tourists with reasonable fees and expanding the country’s e-visa program, the government’s Web site showed. The nation has granted visa waivers to visitors from 13 nations — 11 in Europe and two in Asia — who can stay in the country for 15 days. Visitors from nine ASEAN nations can stay in the country visa-free for up to 30 days.
Airport services resume
Check-in services at the territory’s international airport resumed yesterday for hundreds of people with computer systems restored after local television footage showed scores of people stuck in lines with their luggage. The Airport Authority said that the check-in system had fully resumed normal operations after a regular test found an “abnormality” in the network’s computer system. Registration for check-in at several rows at the airport were shut during the outage. “Five departure flights were delayed for around less than 30 minutes during the period,” the airport agency said in a statement.
Head of China probe tapped
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday tapped former governor general David Johnston to look into allegations that China meddled in the country’s general elections. His appointment as independent special rapporteur came after weeks of dogged questions about leaked intelligence that detailed alleged attempts by Beijing to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 votes. According to media reports, which China has denied, this involved secret financing or involvement in legislative candidates’ campaigns. Trudeau said Johnston would be given “a wide mandate to look into foreign interference in the last two federal general elections, and make expert recommendations on how to further protect our democracy and uphold Canadians’ confidence in it.”
Court bars ex-PM’s arrest
A court yesterday barred police operation for another day to arrest former prime minister Imran Khan, his aide said. The court a day earlier intervened to tamp down clashes between Khan’s supporters and police after both sides suffered scores of injuries in pitched battles outside his residence in Lahore. Former minister of law and justice Fawad Chaudhry said the court has extended the bar on the operation until today.
Train derails in Arizona
A freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in western Arizona on Wednesday evening, the New York Times reported, citing a spokesperson for the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. There were no immediate reports of spills after the derailment, which occurred near the border with California and Nevada, the report said. The National Transportation Safety Board and BNSF Railway have been notified and are investigating the matter, local TV channel FOX10 said. A separate derailment of a freight train operated by Norfolk Southern last month released more than 3 million liters of hazardous materials and pollutants into the environment near East Palestine, Ohio, prompting a lawsuit from the state and probes from the safety board.
Russian troops ‘welcome’
President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published yesterday that he would “welcome” any Russian proposals to set up new military bases and boost Russian troop numbers in his country. Al-Assad, who was in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russia’s military presence in his country did not need to be temporary. “We believe that if Russia has the desire to expand bases or increase their number, it is a technical or logistical issue. If there is such a desire, then we think that expanding the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” he was quoted as saying. Russia maintains a significant military presence in Syria and has been a close ally of al-Assad.
Explosion kills 11 miners
Rescuers and miners on Wednesday raced against the clock to save 10 workers trapped in a coal mine after an explosion killed at least 11 people. With oxygen running out for any survivors, family members waited outside the mine, desperate for news of their loved ones. Separated from the site by a barbed wire barricade, they watched as a machine pumped water out of a mine shaft. President Gustavo Petro on Twitter called it “an unfortunate tragedy,” saying that “we are making every effort with the Cundinamarca regional government to rescue the trapped people alive.”
The US and the Philippines plan to announce new sites as soon as possible for an expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which gives the Western power access to military bases in the Southeast Asian country. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr last month granted the US access to four military bases, on top of five existing locations under the 2014 EDCA, amid China’s increasing assertiveness regarding the South China Sea and Taiwan. Speaking at the Basa Air Base in Manila, one of the existing EDCA sites, US Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the defense agreements between the two countries
‘DUAL PURPOSE’: Upgrading the port is essential for the Solomon Islands’ economy and might not be military focused, but ‘it is not about bases, it is about access,’ an analyst said The Solomon Islands has awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara in a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, a Solomon Islands official said yesterday. China Civil Engineering Construction Co (CCECC) was the only company to submit a bid in the competitive tender, Solomon Islands Ministry of Infrastructure Development official Mike Qaqara said. “This will be upgrading the old international port in Honiara and two domestic wharves in the provinces,” Qaqara said. Responding to concerns that the port could be deepened for Chinese naval access, he said there would be “no expansion.” The Solomon
CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS: The US destroyer’s routine operations in the South China Sea would have ‘serious consequences,’ the defense ministry said China yesterday threatened “serious consequences” after the US Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) in the South China Sea for the second day in a row, in a move Beijing claimed was a breach of its sovereignty and security. The warning came amid growing tensions between China and the US in the region, as Washington pushes back at Beijing’s growingly assertive posture in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway it claims virtually in its entirety. On Thursday, after the US sailed the USS Milius guided-missile destroyer near the Paracel Islands, China said its navy and
Seven stories above a shop floor hawking cheap perfume and nylon underwear, Thailand’s “shopping mall gorilla” sits alone in a cage — her home for 30 years despite a reignited row over her captivity. Activists around the world have long campaigned for the primate to be moved from Pata Zoo, on top of a Bangkok mall, with singer Cher and actor Gillian Anderson adding their voices in 2020. However, the family who owns Bua Noi — whose name translates as “little lotus” — have resisted public and government pressure to relinquish the critically endangered animal. The gorilla has lived at Pata for more