- Hunger Games salute becomes symbol of Thai resistance
- Emirates chief asks why no fighter jet tracked MH370
- New India minister killed in car accident
Posted: 02 Jun 2014 10:42 PM PDT
BANGKOK, June 03, 2014 (AFP) - Opponents of Thailand's military coup are risking arrest by flashing the three-finger salute from the "Hunger Games" movies to defy a junta that has banned all public protests.
The gesture has become the unofficial symbol of resistance against a military regime that has suspended democracy and severely curtailed freedom of expression. "Showing three fingers has become a symbol to call for basic political rights in a country ruled by one person as if with the most sovereign power, who is General Prayut Chan-O-Cha," Sombat Boonngamanong, a prominent activist wanted by the junta, wrote on Facebook.
Critics of the May 22 coup, including the youngest daughter of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have posted photographs of themselves flashing three fingers on Facebook and other social media sites.
"Dear #HungerGames. We've taken your sign as our own. Our struggle is non-fiction," wrote one Twitter user. In the "Hunger Games" movies, the residents of a dystopian future North America - who are forced to compete in a televised death match - initially use the gesture to mean thanks, admiration and good-bye to someone they love.
It later becomes a more general symbol of their uprising against a wealthy, totalitarian regime. In Thailand some protesters say the salute is also a nod to the French revolutionary motto "liberty, equality and fraternity".
The military - which has imposed martial law, controls on the media and a night-time curfew - has warned that people flashing three fingers could face arrest under its ban on public protests. "If they gather as more than five people and show the symbol of three fingers then it's against the law," army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told reporters.
But he suggested that people posting photos on the Internet were unlikely to be detained, saying coup makers were "not paying any attention" to the three-finger salute by Thaksin's daughter.
The junta mounted a show of military strength over the weekend to deter small but defiant anti-coup flashmob rallies that popped up outside shopping malls and near train stations in the capital Bangkok.
Some people have taken to the streets reading George Orwell's dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four". Six people were arrested, included a woman shoved into a taxi by undercover police apparently disguised as journalists.
Security forces, many carrying riot shields, were deployed, backed briefly by an armoured humvee with a soldier manning a mounted machine gun. The army has warned protesters that they - and even their families - face punishment under strict martial law, which has imposed sweeping curbs on freedoms. The harsh response "reveals a totalitarian mindset that discounts respect for human rights as a hindrance to exercise of power," said Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
"The Bangkok street protesters' three-fingered Hunger Games salute is a symbolic act of peaceful defiance by those who recognise - like those in the rebellious districts in the movie - that they face overwhelming odds but decide to bravely raise their voices nonetheless."
The coup makers said they were forced to seize power after nearly seven months of anti-government protests which saw 28 people killed and hundreds of others wounded. Prayut, the army chief, has said elections are not expected to be held for at least a year to allow a new constitution to be drawn up in an effort to end a political crisis stretching back almost a decade.
Critics accuse the junta of using the violence as a pretext for a long-planned power grab by the military-backed royalist establishment which loathes Thaksin, who was himself ousted in a coup in 2006. The billionaire tycoon-turned-populist politician lives in self-exile in Dubai to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.
Thaksin or his allies have won every election in more than a decade, including in 2011 under his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, helped by strong support among voters in the northern half of the country.
Posted: 02 Jun 2014 09:37 PM PDT
SYDNEY: Emirates chief Tim Clark has reportedly questioned why fighter jets did not intercept Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 when it veered widely off course, but said he believed the missing plane will be found.
Clark said that more information on the disappearance of the Boeing jet, which was carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was needed before the industry changes its aircraft tracking procedures.
The Emirates boss told The Australian Financial Review at an annual airlines conference in Doha that the plane would have been intercepted by military aircraft if it had flown off course over other countries.
"If you were to fly from London to Oslo and then over the North Sea you turned off and then went west to Ireland, within two minutes you'd have Tornadoes, Eurofighters, everything up around you," he said.
"Even if you did that over Australia and the US, there would be something up. I'm not quite sure where primary radar was in all of this."
His comments came as the International Air Transport Association conference looked at ways of improving the tracking of aircraft through flight data transmissions or technologies to monitor their movements.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has also formed a working group to explore tracking methods.
"In my view we are all plunging down a path that (says) 'we have got to fix this'," Clark said. "This is the door closing after the horse has gone 25 miles down the track.
"We need to know more about what actually happened to this aeroplane and do a forensic second-by-second analysis of it. I think we will find it and get to the bottom of it."
Australia is leading the hunt for MH370, which is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, but there have been no signs of the plane since it vanished over the South China Sea on March 8 despite an intense air, sea and underwater search.
Malaysia's air force has acknowledged that military radar tracked what it called an "unidentified object" - later determined to be MH370 - crossing back through Malaysian airspace and out toward the Indian Ocean after the plane diverted.
The air force said it took no action because the aircraft was not deemed "hostile", drawing heavy criticism over the lost opportunity to intercept or further track the plane.
Malaysia's government has defended the air force decision, without elaborating on how it was made, but Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said military procedures would be reviewed in the wake of MH370. -AFP
Posted: 02 Jun 2014 09:33 PM PDT
NEW DELHI: A new Indian minister was killed Tuesday in a car accident in the capital just days after being sworn into government, officials said.
Gopinath Munde, rural development and water and sanitation minister, died in hospital after his car was involved in an accident en route to New Delhi's airport early Tuesday.
"His car was hit by another car which gave him a shock and Munde himself asked his driver to rush him to the hospital," fellow minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters outside the AIIMS hospital.
Munde, 64, was among ministers sworn in on Monday last week after their right-wing party's landslide victory over the left-wing Congress party at the general election.
A veteran politician and a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Munde hailed from western Maharashtra where he was a former deputy chief minister of the state between 1995 and 1999.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those to pay tribute to Munde, saying his death was a "major loss" for the country.
"Extremely saddened & shocked by the demise of my friend & colleague Gopinath Munde ji," Modi said in a tweet on his official account.
"His demise is a major loss for the Nation & the Govt," the premier said.
A doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said Munde was declared dead shortly after being brought to the emergency department.
"When he was brought to the hospital there was no spontaneous breathing, pulse and cardiac activity," AIIMS spokesman Amit Gupta told reporters.
"We tried to resuscitate him but despite all efforts Munde couldn't be revived and was declared dead at 7:30am," he said. -AFP
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