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Malaysian papers turn black in tribute to crashed jet

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 08:05 PM PDT

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - Malaysian newspapers ran striking black front pages Tuesday in tribute to the victims of Flight MH370, which crashed in the southern Indian Ocean with 239 people aboard.

Malaysia's biggest English-language daily, The Star, ran a stark wrap-around cover emblazoned with the words "MH370 R.I.P." The names of the victims, rendered in small print, made up the letters of the headline.

The New Straits Times' darkened front page showed an aircraft above the words "Goodnight, MH370" -- a reference to the last message from the cockpit, "All right, good night", before the Malaysia Airlines jet lost contact on March 8.

Malay- and Chinese-language papers also ran front pages with black backgrounds, while The Sun, an English-language daily, changed its masthead to black.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced Monday that latest analysis of satellite data showed that the flight, which went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, had ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

Bad weather hampered the search for debris off the coast of Australia on Tuesday, and it remains a mystery why the plane diverted from its original route.

The Star said in an editorial that the relatives' "long wait for some form of closure has finally arrived".

But it called for unsparing efforts to establish the reasons for the crash.

On social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, many Malaysians turned their profile backgrounds black or displayed a plane icon in tribute to the victims.

Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein used his Twitter page to call for all citizens of the multi-ethnic country to pray for the victims and their families.

"Our search for #MH370 continues," he said.

Veteran opposition politician Lim Kit Siang wrote on his Twitter page: "Saddest 4 families relatives friends of 239 on board MH370 - that they have perished in South Indian Ocean. Not just them but a crying world."

At least 27 dead in north Thailand bus accident

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 04:21 PM PDT

Bangkok (AFP) - At least 27 people died and more than 20 others were injured late Monday when a bus careered off a hillside road and into a ravine in northern Thailand, police told AFP.

Thailand's roads are among the world's deadliest and accidents are common, especially on buses travelling late at night.

"The toll is now at 27 dead and 24 injured -- they are severely injured from what I can see," police captain Sittichai Panyasong of Mae Tho district in Tak province said, revising up an earlier toll.

The accident took place at around 8:40 pm local time (1340 GMT) in Tak, which borders Myanmar, as several buses ferried Thai local government workers to neighbouring provinces for a field trip.

"The brakes failed as the bus came downhill on a hilly road and it crashed through the concrete barrier and fell into 150 metre-deep ravine," Sittichai added.

The victims are mainly believed to be local government officials, but a child was also among the injured, he said.

A spokeswoman at a local hospital, declining to be named, confirmed the death toll at 27 adding more than 20 were injured and that she too believed there were children on board, but could not say if any were among the dead.

Thailand's roads are among the most dangerous in the world.

A recent report by the World Health Organization said Thailand saw 38.1 road deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 -- behind only the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean and the South Pacific island of Niue.

That compares with an average of 18.5 per 100,000 in Southeast Asia as a whole.

At least 13 school children died last month when their bus collided with a lorry on trip to the seaside south of Bangkok.

The students, aged around 10 to 14 years old, were heading to the resort city of Pattaya from the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Officials say roughly 60 percent of traffic accidents in Thailand are caused by human error, with poor road and vehicle conditions posing additional hazards.

Alcohol also plays a significant role, particularly around national holidays including the Thai new year holiday of Songkran in mid-April, when millions of revellers return to their homes across the country.

Those who cannot afford to fly have little choice but to use the roads in country where the rail infrastructure remains weak.

Hundreds die on the roads every Songkran, despite nationwide campaigns to prevent drink driving.

Bus operators are required to provide seat belts but passengers are not legally obliged to use them.

In December dozens of people were killed when a bus carrying New Year travellers plunged off one of Thailand's highest bridges in the kingdom's northeast.

At least 20 people were killed in October when a tour bus carrying elderly Buddhist devotees fell into a ravine, also in the northeast.

Tourism fest revitalises Haw Par Villa

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

A TOURISM festival has breathed new life into Haw Par Villa, drawing more than 12,000 people over the last two weekends to the iconic but faded attraction.

Visitors joined free guided tours, enjoyed puppet shows and ate snacks such as Ramly Burgers and kueh pie tee at an event called Reliving Haw Par Villa, held as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

The response was so good that more tours of the attraction are being planned, along with more arts activities, as well as a "more extensive restoration" by the STB.

Tour organiser Journeys said it will hold longer weekly tours on Fridays at S$35 (RM90) per person.

It had been encouraged by how the free tours had drawn about 2,500 people over two weekends.

It had to add four slots to the original eight a day, to meet demand.

From next month, the STB is also opening up the grounds to arts groups for exhibitions and workshops.

The first exhibition to open on April 5 will feature a mosaic and asphalt installation, which mimics the original chequered floor of the Jade House, where the Aw brothers exhibited their jade collection.

Haw Par Villa, replete with figurines from Chinese stories such as Journey To The West, was built in 1937 and named after Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par – the brothers who created medical ointment Tiger Balm.

The Pasir Panjang attraction, which the Aw family opened to the public, is famous for its 10 Courts of Hell. Here, for example, statues of demons are shown throwing unfair moneylenders onto a hill of knives.

The nostalgic attraction had been popular with families in the 1970s and early 1980s, but is now a pale shadow of its former self.

In 2012, the Hua Song museum housed within closed down as a result of losses.

STB estimates Haw Par Villa attracts about 200,000 visitors a year – not a lot compared with the millions who go to Orchard Road each year.

But the good turnout has raised hopes of greater interest in the attraction.

"This has exceeded our expectations, and we are very happy and encouraged that many locals are still very interested in Haw Par Villa," said STB.

Several visitors who took the tour praised it for revealing some less well known corners of Haw Par Villa. For instance, a secret cave near its entrance contains five tigers.

"'Wu hu', or five tigers, in Chinese sounds like five fortunes, or 'wu fu'," explained tour guide Carol Joy Dragon.

This was a reference to the Chinese proverb "Wu Fu Ling Men", which means "five fortunes arriving at your doorstep".

"The tour was interesting and well-explained," said Sou Souad, 58, a manager from Algeria, on her first visit to Haw Par Villa. Others said the tour helped bring back fond memories. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network


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