- China fighters in 'dangerous' brush with Japanese planes
- Boy tied to bus stop highlights struggle for disabled Indians
- US cancels military exercise, visits after Thai coup
Posted: 24 May 2014 10:08 PM PDT
TOKYO: Japan on Sunday accused China of "dangerous" manoeuvres above the disputed East China Sea after a Chinese fighter flew within roughly 30 metres (100 feet) of a Japanese military aircraft.
A Japanese Defence Ministry spokesman said that a Chinese SU-27 jet on Saturday flew close by a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane above the waters where the countries' air defence identification zones overlap.
Another Chinese SU-27 fighter also flew close by a Japanese YS-11EB plane in the same airspace, the ministry said.
One fighter jet flew about 50 metres and the other was as close as 30 metres to the Japanese planes, according to the spokesman.
The incidents come as relations between Japan and China are strained amid a territorial dispute over Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
"They were dangerous acts that could lead to an accident," Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters on Sunday.
"The Japanese crew reported that the fighters were flying with missiles, which raised the tension as they handled the situation.
"I consider the (Chinese fighters) acted out of rule."
Tokyo protested Beijing over the incidents through diplomatic channels, he said.
The Chinese fighters did not enter the Japanese zone, according to the Asahi Shimbun daily.
The two Japanese aircraft were monitoring a joint naval drill by China and Russia in the northern East China Sea near Japanese territorial waters, Kyodo News said, citing an unnamed government source.
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft have periodically approached the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, to demonstrate Beijing's territorial claims in the East China Sea.
Beijing raised regional tensions in November by declaring an air defence identification zone covering the area, which overlaps a similar Japanese zone. -AFP
Posted: 24 May 2014 08:28 PM PDT
MUMBAI: The nine-year-old boy dressed in blue lay listlessly on the pavement in the scorching Mumbai summer afternoon, his ankle tethered with rope to a bus stop, unheeded by pedestrians strolling past.
Lakhan Kale cannot hear or speak and suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, so his grandmother and carer tied him up to keep him safe while she went to work, selling toys and flower garlands on the city's roadsides.
"What else can I do? He can't talk, so how will he tell anyone if he gets lost?" said homeless Sakhubai Kale, 66, who raised Lakhan on the street by the bus stop shaded by the hanging roots of a banyan tree.
Lakhan's father died several years ago and his mother walked out on the family, his grandmother told AFP.
A photograph of him tied up appeared in a local newspaper this week, sparking concerns among charities and the police, and he has since been taken into care at a government-run institution.
But activists say his plight on the streets comes as little surprise in India, where those with disabilities face daily stigma and discrimination and a lack of facilities to assist them.
Kale said Lakhan "tends to wander off" and that there was no one else to stop him walking into traffic while she and her 12-year-old granddaughter, Rekha, were out making a living.
At night she would tie him to her own leg as they slept on the pavement so she would know if he tried to walk away.
"I am a single old woman. Nobody paid attention to me until the newspaper report," she said.
"He was in a special school, but they sent him back."
Social worker Meena Mutha has since managed to place Lakhan in a state-run south Mumbai home, which takes in a range of needy children from the disabled to the destitute.
"Residental homes are very, very few. There's a major need for the government to do something, a social responsibility to provide residential centres for children like Lakhan," said Mutha, a trustee at the Manav Foundation helping people with mental illness.
She said government-run centres that put together children with different needs did not always have the range of facilities required.
"They don't have the infrastructure, the staff," said Mutha. Conversely, non-government organisations "have expertise, but not the space," she said, highlighting the squeeze on land in the densely-packed city.
Across India, the 40 to 60 million people with disabilities often face similar struggles to get the help they need, activists say.
"There's no collective responsibility. You have a disabled child, you look after it," said Varsha Hooja, chief executive at ADAPT, another charity working with disabled young adults and children.
No state support
Hooja said she had seen other cases of parents locking up children with disabilities while they go to work.
"The state gives no support," she said.
A long-awaited bill was introduced into the Indian parliament in February aiming to give disabled people equal rights - including access to education, employment and legal redress against discrimination - but it has yet to be passed.
Lawyer Rajive Raturi was on the committee that began drafting the bill five years ago, and said the Congress party-led government which has just lost power had pushed through a "complete dilution" of the original, especially on sections regarding women and children with disabilities.
Raturi, who handles disability cases at the Human Rights Law Network, said he hoped the new parliament elected this month, dominated by incoming prime minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, would "listen to the stakeholders and then make a decision".
"We can't change attitudes with an act but if the bill has the right provisions, people will think twice," he said.
Back by the Mumbai bus stop, Kale squatted on the pavement drinking chai and eating bread on the morning after bidding a tearful goodbye to her grandson.
She was hopeful she would get to see him regularly once she acquired an official identity card that would allow her to visit the centre.
"I am very happy," she said. "What else would I want other than for him to be looked after?" -AFP
Posted: 24 May 2014 07:58 PM PDT
WASHINGTON: The United States has canceled an ongoing military exercise with Thailand and planned visits by officials after the Thai army seized power in a widely condemned coup.
Thailand's army said Thursday it had taken power in a coup after months of unrest and deadly political violence, provoking an international outcry and heightening fears for the future of the Asian country and its fragile democracy.
"While we have enjoyed a long and productive military-to-military relationship with Thailand, our own democratic principles and US law require us to reconsider US military assistance and engagements," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement Saturday.
The Cooperation of Afloat Readiness and Training exercise (CARAT), which involves several hundred US Marines and sailors, began Monday and was supposed to run for a week.
The scrapped visits had been planned for June - one to Thailand by US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris and another to the US Pacific Command in Hawaii by a high-ranking Thai military official.
"It is important that the Royal Thai Armed Forces end this coup and restore to the people of Thailand both the principles and the process of democratic rule, including a clear path forward to elections," Kirby said.
"We urge the Royal Thai Armed Forces to act in the best interests of their fellow citizens by ending this coup and restoring the rule of law and the freedoms assured those citizens through democratic principles."
The US military has long-standing ties to Thailand's armed forces, dating back to the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Still, the Pentagon also warned of potentially more cuts.
"We will continue to review additional engagements as necessary until such time that events in Thailand no longer demand it," Kirby said.
Word of the cancellations comes on the heels of an announcement by Washington on Friday that it had suspended $3.5 million in military assistance to its oldest treaty-bound ally in Asia.
The US State Department meanwhile said that the United States was reviewing the rest of its aid to Thailand - which totaled $10.5 million in 2013.
In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington had now also called off a US government-sponsored firearms training program for the Royal Thai Police that had been scheduled to start Monday.
"We are increasingly concerned about actions the military has taken, just a few days after it staged a coup," Harf said, pointing to the dissolution of the Senate, arrests and media restrictions.
"We again call on the military to release those detained for political reasons, end restrictions on the media and move to restore civilian rule and democracy through elections." -AFP
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