Isnin, 3 Februari 2014

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Separatist rebel shot dead in Indonesia's Papua

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 04:37 PM PST

Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesian security forces have shot dead a separatist rebel in the restive eastern province of Papua, police said on Sunday.

Acting on a tip-off, police and the military raided a gathering of members of the rebel Free Papua Movement (OPM) near a beach in the Yapen Waropen district on Saturday, Papua police spokesman Pudjo Sulistyo told AFP.

"They were involved in shooting incidents against police before and had caused unrest in the area," he said.

"We told them to surrender but they retaliated by shooting at us first. A firefight took place and we shot one of them dead," he added.

Eleven members were arrested and firearms were seized along with outlawed pro-independence Morning Star flags.

Three security officers were wounded in the gunbattle, Sulistyo said.

The OPM has since 1964 waged a low-level insurgency -- often using bows and arrows rather than guns -- against Indonesian rule over the resource-rich, ethnically Melanesian region.

Limbo looms for Thailand after protest-hit polls

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 05:28 AM PST

BANGKOK: Thailand's protest-plagued elections have ushered in a new chapter of political uncertainty that experts say leaves the embattled government increasingly vulnerable to court intervention or a military coup.

Millions were denied the opportunity to cast ballots on Sunday, with blockades by protesters seeking to prevent the re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra causing the closure of some 10 percent of polling stations.

Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets again on Monday for a new protest march through the capital although their numbers were down sharply compared with before the election.

Election officials said that nearly 46 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots in an election boycotted by the main opposition party. But facing possible vote reruns in nearly a fifth of constituencies, they dampened expectations of a quick result.

That has raised the spectre of weeks of uncertainty in a country where the military and the judiciary have a history of reshaping the political landscape.

Without enough MPs to convene the legislature, even if Yingluck wins she will remain in a caretaker role with limited power over government policy until elections are held in the problem areas.

"She will be untenable as a caretaker who doesn't have the authority to really run the country," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, adding that Yingluck would become "more vulnerable to some kind of ouster".

"The longer Yingluck is a weakening caretaker prime minister the greater the likelihood that we will see a decision from the independent agencies to break the deadlock," he said.

Such bodies include the Election Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is investigating Yingluck for possible neglect of duty over a controversial rice subsidy scheme. If found guilty she could face impeachment.

Loved and loathed

Thailand has appeared trapped in a feedback loop of street unrest and political upheaval since a military coup deposed Yingluck's brother Thaksin from power more than seven years ago.

The billionaire tycoon-turned-politician has lived abroad to avoid a jail term for graft since 2008, but his absence has failed to heal the nation's divisions.

The former premier and his allies have won every democratic vote since 2001, riding a wave of popularity in his north and northeastern heartlands for policies like cheap healthcare and rice subsidy schemes.

But Thaksin's electoral strength and leadership style has been decried as tyrannical and corrupt by his foes, backed by the kingdom's powerful establishment forces.

Yingluck's Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung predicted Monday that Puea Thai would claim at least 265 out of 500 seats in the lower house.

The main opposition Democrat Party - which has not won an elected majority in some two decades - refused to take part in Sunday's election, instead throwing its support behind protesters largely made up of the Bangkok middle classes and southerners.

The party on Sunday said it was preparing to petition the Constitutional Court to annul the election.

Such a move "could prolong the protests on the streets of Bangkok and create a situation leading to intervention from the military or the judges," said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Japan's Kyoto University.

Fears of protracted civil violence

The political uncertainty hanging over one of Southeast Asia's biggest economies, coupled with recent political violence that has left at least 10 dead, have dented investor confidence and caused tourists to shy away.

"Foreign investors are increasingly worried about the mounting political risks in Thailand, with no political solution in sight," said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight, which has cut its Thai economic growth forecast to 3.2 percent for 2014, from 3.9 percent previously.

He said the seemingly intractable political divisions heightened fears over "protracted violent civil unrest" coupled with "a gradual erosion of Thailand's previously sound macroeconomic environment".

The unrest is the worst since mass protests by the largely pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" against a Democrat-led government in 2010 sparked clashes and a bloody military crackdown that left more than 90 people dead.

The latest rallies were initially sparked by an attempted amnesty that could have allowed Thaksin to return.

But they morphed into an attempt to replace the government with an unelected "people's council" to run the country and implement vaguely-defined reforms before elections in a year or more.

Thailand-based scholar and author David Streckfuss said the opposition missed an opportunity to demonstrate the level of support for their campaign with a tally of 'no' votes.

He said demonstrators were aiming to help create the pretext for the military to step in to remove Yingluck, but were likely to "underestimate" the backlash from the Red Shirts.

"Sooner or later there is going to be a very sharp response." -AFP

Thousands of India's disabled protest to demand equal rights

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 05:20 AM PST

NEW DELHI: Thousands of disabled people protested in the Indian capital on Monday, demanding parliament pass long-awaited legislation that gives them equal rights including to education and employment.

Thousands with intellectual or physical impairments gathered to support the bill drafted for the country's 40-90 million disabled people, who have long been among the most excluded and stigmatised in society.

"We have been waiting since independence for this, some of us even longer," National Association of the Deaf president Zorin Singha said of the country's estimated 18 million deaf people.

"This bill will change everything for us," he told AFP, sitting in front of India Gate among a crowd of supporters waving placards that read, "We want our rights, not your charity".

Indian political boss Sonia Gandhi has pledged to push for the bill's passing when the national parliament sits this week for the final session before her ruling Congress party faces general elections due by May.

But its introduction and passage through the chaotic and often dysfunctional parliament is uncertain, with 126 other bills already pending in the parliament which is set for a 16-day session.

Singha singled out the right to education as a highlight of the bill, which will guarantee that disabled students are entitled to teachers trained to meet their needs.

"Basically my school taught me nothing at all. The school had no teachers for deaf students and there were no alternatives. They just kept trying to force me to speak even though they knew I was deaf," Singha said.

Some disabled groups have opposed the bill, which would replace one from 1995. They say the latest draft has been watered down, and for example does not define people with psychosocial problems as disabled.

But Mohammed Umar, who contracted polio when he was three and walks with crutches, said the bill would increase the chances of disabled people finding jobs.

"We are pushed into the margins of society. People won't give us jobs, even our own families consider us a burden and this is especially so in rural areas," said Umar from Jais city in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state.

The bill, modelled on the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, raises the quota of government jobs reserved for people with disabilities from three to five percent.

It also makes private companies accountable for creating a disabled-friendly environment for employees and visitors.

A World Bank study in 2007 said people with disabilities were among the most marginalised in Indian society, and 50 percent of people surveyed for the study saw disability as a "curse of God."  -AFP


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