- Thai king appoints army chief as junta head
- Australian senator brings 'bomb' to parliament
- Tiananmen protest leader haunted by ghosts, 25 years on
Posted: 25 May 2014 10:04 PM PDT
BANGKOK: Thailand's king has formally appointed the army chief as head of the nation's new military junta following a recent coup in the strife-torn nation.
"To restore peace and order in the country and for sake of unity, the king appointed General Prayut Chan-O-Cha as head of the National Council of Peace and Order to run the country," according to a royal command seen by AFP on Monday.
It said Prayut had warned the palace that violence in Bangkok and other parts of the country was likely to spread and may "jeopardise national security".
Prayut, who assumed extensive powers over the Southeast Asian nation since seizing power last week, was endorsed as regime leader at a ceremony in Bangkok on Monday.
"I gave my oath that I will perform my duty with honesty," the commander-in-chief told reporters afterwards.
"We hope that the problems will be solved soon so we can return to the right democratic system," he added.
The monarchy headed by the revered but ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, commands great respect among many Thais.
His blessing has traditionally been a key step in legitimising the recurring military takeovers that have taken place in Thailand, which has now seen 19 actual or attempted coups since 1932.
The king, who is yet to make a public statement on the coup, was not believed to have been present for the closed-door ceremony. -AFP
Posted: 25 May 2014 09:29 PM PDT
SYDNEY: A long-standing Australian senator on Monday brought what he said could be a pipe bomb to the national parliament to demonstrate his view that new security regulations are unsafe.
Senator Bill Heffernan, a member of the ruling conservative Liberal Party, held up the pipe and what appeared to be some sticks of dynamite during a committee hearing in Canberra.
"Clearly you can do what you bloody well like," said Heffernan, an outspoken former farmer who became a member of the national parliament in 1996.
Heffernan said until now most people working in parliament felt safe, but that new rules being trialled put this at risk by allowing some people with passes, including politicians, and their belongings to no longer be scanned on entry.
"I don't think it any longer is (safe) and to demonstrate that, this morning I brought in what could be, I brought this through security - a pipe bomb," he said placing the pipe on his desk, before pulling what were reportedly fake sticks of dynamite from a plastic shopping bag.
Heffernan said when he was a child, people used a combination of ammonium nitrate, distillate and gelignite and a detonator to fell trees.
"You would blow a tree the size of this building out of the ground," he said.
"At the present time there is nothing to stop anyone from bringing in those ingredients in here over a period of time through security."
Australian Federal Police commissioner Tony Negus, who was appearing before the committee, agreed.
"Under the current arrangements, that is a risk," he said.
Negus later revealed that Heffernan had shown him the objects before the hearing and he was satisfied they were inert, adding that this was why security officers had not responded when they were produced.
The security changes introduced this month mean that those with photographic ID cards issued by the government are not screened with metal detectors or X-rays at private entry points, reports said.
Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Carol Mills told the Canberra Times that parliament still had higher security screening than state parliaments and most government offices in the nation's capital. -AFP
Posted: 25 May 2014 09:25 PM PDT
TAIPEI: A quarter of a century after Communist authorities crushed the Tiananmen Square demonstrators and their hopes of reform, protest leader Wuer Kaixi still lies awake at night, haunted by the dead and their unrealised dreams.
Students rallying for democracy and freedom had filled the symbolic heart of Chinese power with euphoria, drawing in workers and intellectuals and inspiring protests around the country.
But after seven weeks in the square their aspirations were abruptly shattered by an overnight military crackdown that ended on June 4, 1989, leaving hundreds of people dead - by some estimates, more than 1,000 - and a ruling party hell-bent on preventing any future such challenges to its power.
"During the time it did seem quite promising that the Chinese authorities may yield, may actually answer to our call for Chinese political reform," said Wuer, then a charismatic 21-year-old activist, who became number two on the government's most-wanted list of student leaders.
"I think at the beginning (of the killings) everybody was in a state of shock. So was I," he told AFP at a university in Taiwan, his adopted home.
The movement, fuelled by frustration from years of economic upheaval, gathered pace in mid-April as public mourning for the reform-minded former party chief Hu Yaobang morphed into calls for political change and curbs on corruption.
Students began to pour into Tiananmen Square. Thousands later went on hunger strike and eventually erected a Goddess of Democracy resembling New York's Statue of Liberty facing the portrait of Mao Zedong hanging on the wall of the Forbidden City.
During a meeting between student leaders and politicians broadcast live on state television, Wuer publicly interrupted the hardline then-premier Li Peng, becoming an overnight celebrity.
"We apply pressure and we are hoping for the regime to make a positive choice," he said.
"The choice for them was also clear, they could dialogue and by doing so they would certainly be able to maintain a leading position in the Chinese further political development," he said.
"But instead they decided to take another choice - military crackdown."
The protests came under the global spotlight as foreign reporters flocked to Beijing to cover a May 15 visit by then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev - a historic event that was quickly overtaken by domestic turmoil.
China's Communist leaders were split over how to respond, with moderates led by party general secretary Zhao Ziyang eventually losing.
Zhao last appeared in public on May 19, pleading tearfully on the square for the students to go home before being ousted and confined under house arrest until his death in 2005.
Hardliners, among them China's supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, took charge, branded the protest a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and declared martial law.
For two weeks they were unable to take control of the square, until the People's Liberation Army moved in to clear it on the night of June 3-4 while soldiers flanked by tanks opened fire elsewhere. Fighting broke out with students who defended themselves with sticks and makeshift weapons.
"The bullets flying above your head, that is something you would never have learned in any movies or in any of the literature, until it actually happens in your life," Wuer said.
Authorities hunted down protest leaders, imprisoning many even as sympathisers in Hong Kong mobilised to smuggle students out and Western governments offered asylum.
"Wherever I go the people of China supported and helped us, helped me to escape. I managed to go all the way to the border, to the south," Wuer said, and supporters in Hong Kong helped him escape.
For years China remained an international pariah hamstrung by sanctions.
But as it has built its economy into the world's second largest, most other countries have embraced it, with many softening their criticism of rights abuses to avoid upsetting their giant trade partner.
The crackdown remains a strict taboo inside China, erased from textbooks, the media and Internet, leaving younger generations largely unaware of the nature of the momentous event.
'I cannot make peace'
In the beginning of his exile Wuer experienced sadness and misery, he said, "but then of course it's a situation that we have to endure".
The dynamic and eloquent activist went on to enjoy a career in finance and a role as a political commentator in Taiwan.
Yet the legacy of Tiananmen still haunts him - failing to see political change in his homeland, surviving when fellow protestors did not, living in exile from his country and family.
He has tried unsuccessfully to return to the mainland to visit his ageing parents, both Uighur intellectuals.
"It's a sad fact, sad fact for this person, for my family, but it's also a very sad fact for China," he said.
He is kept awake by the fact that many of his fellow students and protestors died that night, he told AFP.
"I cannot make peace with the fact that I am in exile, I cannot make peace with the fact that I am being bullied by one of the biggest, most powerful totalitarian regimes," he said.
"I cannot make peace with the fact that I am a survivor of a massacre, I cannot make peace with that guilt, with that sense of mission." -AFP
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