Ahad, 3 November 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Six dead as tourist ferry sinks off Thai resort


Bangkok (AFP) - A packed tourist ferry sank Sunday off the Thai resort of Pattaya, killing six passengers including three foreigners in the latest deadly incident to tarnish the kingdom's image as a tourism haven.

Fifteen people were also seriously injured, according to police in Pattaya, a popular beach resort south of Bangkok renowned for its racy nightlife.

Reports said a Russian child was among those seriously hurt.

"So far there are six dead from the boat," Pattaya police chief Colonel Suwarn Chiewnawintawat told AFP, adding three Thais, a Chinese and two other -- as yet unidentified -- foreigners were among the dead.

Television footage showed stunned tourists being led to safety on shore where they were met by dozens of ambulances along Pattaya's neon-lit beachfront.

Playing down earlier reports that people remained trapped in the stricken vessel, he said all of the other 150 passengers had been plucked from the sea.

The double-decker ferry sank on Sunday afternoon near Koh Larn, a small island close to Pattaya which is popular with daytrippers.

Police said they are probing the cause of the accident as local media reports blamed an engine problem on the overcrowded ferry for causing passengers to run to one side of the boat, which forced it to list.

Confirming the toll a second policeman told AFP that the frantic relatives of the passengers alerted local emergency services to the disaster at around 5pm local time (1100 GMT), sparking the rescue effort.

Russian news reports said three Russians, including a child, had been taken to hospital in a serious condition.

"At least half of the passengers were Russian tourists," a Russian embassy official in Bangkok was quoted as saying by the Ria Novosti news agency.

Renowned for its strip clubs and bars and cheap accommodation, Pattaya is one of Thailand's most popular resort areas and has become wildly popular as a package holiday destination for Russians.

It is around 150 kilometres (100 miles) from Bangkok.

Thailand drew 22 million tourists last year, but is struggling to shake off a reputation for lax safety standards after a series of incidents -- many of them fatal.

In May more than 100 people were rescued from a tourist ferry which began to sink in rough seas near the tourist island of Phuket after it was hit by a big wave.

Four people, including tourists died in a nightclub fire in August 2012 also on Phuket, while there have also been slew of high-profile cases of foreigners being murdered, drugged or caught up in tourist cons.

In July, an American tourist was allegedly stabbed to death by three Thai musicians after he refused to stop singing at a bar. His death came weeks the murder of another US citizen in a row with a taxi driver in Bangkok.

Diplomats from China and the European Union have voiced concern at the number of fatal incidents involving their tourists.

In recent years the kingdom's tourist-friendly image as "the Land of Smiles" has also been tarnished by political violence and devastating floods.

Tammy's adopter faces legal action


A BRITISH woman who adopted Tammy the mongrel and then had it put down for being "aggressive" is facing legal action from the animal welfare volunteer who handed the puppy to her.

Assistant project manager Ada Ong, 35, wants S$1,000 (RM2,540) in damages and S$200 (RM508) in legal costs from Alison McElwee for breach of contract.

She said she is pursuing the matter to raise public awareness of animal welfare. If McElwee complies, the S$1,200 (RM3,048) will go to a charity of Ong's choice.

A letter of demand from her lawyers from Allen and Gledhill says that putting down the seven-month-old dog on Oct 7 was "clearly in breach" of McElwee's obligations under an agreement signed between her and Ong on June 1.

Ong also wants a written acknowledgement from McElwee that "it was inappropriate and in breach of (her) obligations under the pet adoption agreement to put Tammy down".

McElwee has up to Friday to respond, after which legal proceedings will commence. Ong's legal team is led by Edwin Tong, an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

She was advised by Law Minister K. Shanmugam to take legal action after she showed him the contract and records of SMSes between her and McElwee.

The minister also helped her to get a lawyer to represent her.

McElwee and her lawyer did not answer queries. She has previously said she put down the dog after it bit her four-year-old daughter and others.

The incident sparked fury online and shed light on adoption agreements being used by pet rescuers and animal welfare groups.

While terms vary, these contracts include clauses to protect animals' welfare, such as requiring adopters to provide food, water and veterinary care.

Lawyers said parties are legally bound by them and "there is no need for a lawyer's involvement for such a contract to be legally valid".

While lawyers agree a detailed contract can "enhance the welfare and protection of the animal", it does not ensure a problem-free adoption.

"I fear the contract may result in fewer dogs being adopted because prospective adopters may not welcome the (rescuer) still having residual rights," said Singapore Management University law associate professor Eugene Tan. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Prisoners flee E. Timor jail after Sunday mass


Dili (East Timor) (AFP) - Two dozen inmates escaped from an East Timor jail Sunday by beating up wardens and fleeing through the main gate as they returned to their cells after mass, an official said.

The escapees, including two militants who fought against the half-island nation's independence from Indonesia, had been among more than 350 prisoners at morning worship at a hall in the jail in the mainly Catholic nation.

Other inmates who fled were serving time for crimes including murder, rape and theft.

"Twenty-four inmates escaped. They beat up two wardens and ran out through the main entrance," said Joao Domingos, chief of the Becora prison in the capital Dili.

Police had recaptured 13 inmates and were hunting for the others, he said, adding the former anti-independence fighters were among those still on the loose.

Domingos blamed the breakout from the prison on a lack of guards and equipment such as walkie-talkies and batons.

Almost 60 inmates escaped from the same jail in 2006.

Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of East Timor, Asia's youngest nation, ended in 1999 with a UN-administered referendum.

Both the run-up to the vote, in which the Timorese voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, and its aftermath were marked by a campaign of violence by pro-Indonesian militias.

Following three years of UN administration, East Timor gained independence in 2002 but remains poor.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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