- Cheers for Thai king as he leaves hospital
- Crematorium at revered Nepal site alarms Unesco
- Delays expected at checkpoints
BANGKOK: Thailand's revered but frail king left the hospital where he has lived for almost four years, as thousands of flag-waving well-wishers cheered him on his way to his coastal palace.
Crowds shouted "long live the king!" as 85-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej was driven away from Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital, where he was admitted in September 2009.
The king, wearing a salmon pink jacket, waved acknowledgement to supporters lining the route, many of whom were respectfully on their knees and clad in the royal colours of yellow and pink.
The world's longest-serving monarch, treated as a near-deity in politically turbulent Thailand, left for his residence in the seaside town of Hua Hin, about two hours' drive south of Bangkok.
He was accompanied by 80-year-old Queen Sirikit, who has also been in hospital for the past year.
"The tears came automatically, I was so happy I could not hold them back," said one onlooker, Sasitorn Intarachit after the convoy had passed.
The 27-year-old said that the day-long wait in the tropical heat had been worth it for a sighting of the monarch.
Bangkok traffic police said there were between 20,000 and 30,000 people out to show their devotion to the Thai monarch. — AFP
KATHMANDU: The UN's cultural body has voiced alarm at the building of a giant crematorium within a fabled temple complex in Nepal, worried it will become an eyesore at one of the world's holiest Hindu sites.
Pashupatinath, a temple complex which sprawls over a 2.6 sq km area near Kathmandu on the banks of the Bagmati river, attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims every year from neighbouring India.
Parts of the complex date back to the early fifth century and it was awarded World Heritage Site status in 1979 by Unesco, putting it on a par with structures such as India's Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
But now Unesco has pleaded with temple authorities to rethink plans for the construction of a mass electronic crematorium as well as ongoing work to build a road which cuts through the site, fearing irreparable damage.
The organisation's country chief, Axel Plathe, confirmed that the projects were "a concern for Unesco" and had asked them to come up with an alternative.
"Construction began without proper authorisation from the competent Nepali authorities as per the established integrated management plan for the property," Plathe added.
In particular, Unesco is unhappy at the construction of a two-storey building which will house three separate crematoriums.
While defenders of the project said it is more environmentally-friendly than burning bodies in the river, Plathe said no assessment study had been conducted and warned that a giant chimney at the top of the building "will have an adverse visual impact".
Govinda Tandon, the member-secretary of the Pashupatinath Pashupati Area Development Trust, said management was trying to address Unesco's concerns and wanted to avoid endangering its special status.
"If the temple gets delisted from the World Heritage Site, it will be damaging for us," Tandon said.
"Because there are several government offices involved with the construction works, we are consulting with them."
However he defended the crematorium project, saying it was being built "in order to reduce the environmental pollution because dozens of bodies are cremated on the banks of Bagmati River, using firewood".
A correspondent who visited the site on Tuesday saw dozens of workers laying bricks on the building.
And while construction work on the contentious road through the complex has been halted, several cars could be seen driving across what is currently an unpaved track.
"I use it every day and so do thousands of others because this is convenient for us. I can reach my home in 15 minutes. Otherwise I would have to take a big detour," said 24-year-old student Dipak Rijal.
While Unesco has not issued an explicit threat to revoke Pashupatinath's heritage status, Tandon said it had been given a deadline of early 2015 for the situation to be resolved.
To date, only two sites have ever lost their world heritage status.
The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman was removed from the list in 2007 due to the government decision to reduce the size of the protected area by 90 percent.
In 2009, Germany's Dresden Elbe Valley, a 20km cultural landscape in the city of Dresden was delisted after a four-lane bridge was built in the area. — AFP
Travellers have been told to expect delays at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints next week with Hari Raya and National Day falling back-to-back on Aug 8 and 9.
The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a statement yesterday that traffic is expected to build up from Wednesday and will continue to be heavy through the weekend.
It urged travellers to adjust their travel plans if possible to ease the expected surge of vehicles or to car pool or use public transport.
Singaporeans issued with the BioPass or registered with the National Registration Office are also encouraged to use the automated clearance lanes at the bus halls for quicker passage.
Those leaving Singapore by either land checkpoint may keep tabs on traffic conditions there in advance by checking the advisories installed along the major expressways.
Travellers may also call the traffic information hotline at 6863-0117, listen to TrafficWatch on the radio, or visit the Land Transport Authority's One Motoring website at www.onemotoring.com.sg
ICA added that travellers should carry their own passports before presenting themselves for immigration clearance at the checkpoints. Travellers presenting the wrong passports at immigration will slow down the clearance process and cause inconvenience to other checkpoint users.
In addition, travellers should also make sure that they do not bring unlawful or prohibited goods into or out of Singapore, advised ICA. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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