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Updated: 31 sec ago

How a rising tourism tide lifts all boats in Vietnam

9 hours 3 min ago
As Vietnam prepares to welcome up to 17 million international tourists this year, a 30 per cent increase on last year’s record, even those in the nation’s most impoverished regions are ready to reap the benefits. Among them is Zu, a Black Hmong woman from the tiny village of Ta Van in northwest Vietnam, who walks the rice terraces of her neighbourhood for almost six hours every day. She married at 16 and had her first child soon after. Now 24 and a mother of two, Zu takes tourists...

100 feared dead from measles, malnutrition in Indonesia’s Papua

10 hours 18 min ago
A measles outbreak is feared to have killed about 100 malnourished people in Indonesia’s Papua, an official said on Sunday, highlighting a health crisis in the country’s easternmost province. A total of 69 toddlers have died in the remote Asmat region, said Papua military spokesman Muhammad Aidi, while reports on the ground suggest 27 people have died in an equally remote and mountainous district named Oksibil. “We have received reports from villagers that the outbreak is...

Blaze at firecracker factory outside Indian capital kills 17

10 hours 47 min ago
A massive fire broke out at a firecracker factory on the northern outskirts of the Indian capital on Saturday, killing at least 17 workers, a fire official said. A dozen fire engines took three hours to douse the fire in the Bawana industrial area of New Delhi. Seventeen bodies were recovered and one injured worker sent to hospital, fire official K.C. Gupta said. A search operation was continuing for any more workers trapped in the two-floor structure gutted by the blaze. The cause of the fire...

Myanmar soldiers jailed for killing civilians in rare trial

11 hours 7 min ago
A Myanmar military tribunal has sentenced six soldiers to 10 years in prison with hard labour for killing three civilians in war-torn Kachin state, officials said on Saturday, in a move welcomed by rights groups. The Kachin state police office said the tribunal handed down the sentence on Friday after finding the soldiers guilty of killing three ethnic Kachin civilians in September. The prosecution came after an internal investigation by the military. Min Zaw, a Kachin state police officer,...

They’re cute and cuddly, but will Japan’s Olympic mascots become cash cows?

11 hours 36 min ago
They are wide-eyed, brightly coloured, and completely adorable. But can Japan’s Olympic mascots bring in the cash, in a country where cuddly icons promote everything from regional tourism to local prisons? Japan unveiled three sets of prospective mascots for the 2020 games last year. The winning duo will be announced in February, graduating into a landscape packed with cute and quirky characters. Known locally as “yuru-kyara” or “laid-back characters”, mascots can...

Watch: inside the meth lab Chinese criminals set up before being gunned down by Philippine police

12 hours 31 min ago
It may seem a great spot to set up a business – on a busy road and opposite an airport. But maybe not when you are dealing shabu. The Chinese methamphetamine makers who picked the place did not live to regret it. The sign on the now abandoned premises – in Cauayan, Isabela province in the far north of the Philippines – advertised plastic products and appliances. Decaying goods and old televisions littered the area outside the warehouses, which once provided cover for the...

Hong Kong has a role to play in opening the world’s eyes to North Korea

13 hours 25 min ago
What does Hong Kong have to do with North Korea? Not much at all, would be the immediate answer. That could be partly due to the very low profile the country’s official representatives maintain in the city, and because there is hardly anything to draw Hongkongers to Pyongyang’s consulate here – none of the tourism promotions and cultural exchanges that diplomatic missions usually offer. Instead, a more convenient way for people from this city to venture into North Korea is to...

Malaysiakini, Rappler: attacked just when they are needed most

13 hours 34 min ago
Two of the region’s finest news organisations are under assault, showing once again that speaking truth to power in Asia is an enterprise fraught with risk. Malaysian news site Malaysiakini has been ordered by the appellate court to pay 350,000 ringgit (US$88,400) in a libel suit brought by an Australian mining company. In the Philippines, financial regulators revoked the business licence of Rappler, claiming it violated rules against foreign ownership. Malaysia’s High Court had...

Temples and trees complicate construction of Mumbai’s US$3.6 billion underground metro

13 hours 35 min ago
A new underground metro is expected to ease the burden on Mumbai’s notoriously congested roads and railways, but not everybody in India’s sprawling financial capital is happy about the multibillion-dollar project. Announced in 2014 with much fanfare, the Metro 3 line has been hailed by backers as essential to help solve the city’s traffic woes and finally provide a link to its airports. But campaigners are angry at the felling of thousands of trees, and say it could desecrate...

Pakistan’s stance on militants alienated the US. Is China next?

14 hours 32 min ago
Self-serving politics threaten not only to strain Pakistan’s relations with the United States, but heighten tensions in the geostrategic region of Balochistan, a vital node in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative that has been earmarked as home for China’s second foreign military base. Pakistan’s short-sighted political battles are being fought at a time of worsening relations with the US over alleged Pakistani support of militants and concern that the US may withdraw...

Head of popular North Korean Moranbong girl band arrives in Seoul for pre-Olympics inspection

16 hours 49 min ago
North Korean delegates arrived in Seoul on Sunday on their way to inspect venues and prepare cultural performances for next month’s Winter Olympics, in the first visit by Pyongyang officials to the South for four years. A group of seven officials led by Hyon Song-wol, the leader of the North’s popular Moranbong band, crossing the heavily-fortified border on a bus before arriving at Seoul train station about an hour later. The stony-faced officials, surrounded by hundreds of Seoul...

Pakistan closes Radio Free Europe’s Islamabad bureau

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 20:44
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said Pakistani authorities closed the Islamabad bureau of its Pashto-language Radio Mashaal on Friday after Pakistan’s intelligence agency accused it of airing programmes “against the interest of Pakistan”. Pakistan’s spy agency, known by the acronym ISI, also accused the US- funded broadcaster of operating “in line with [a] hostile intelligence agency’s agenda”, without naming the agency, according to the RFE/RL site....

Najib says Malaysia-Singapore jousting is over. Is it really?

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 11:31
In a different era, the tempestuous weather that gripped Singapore and Malaysia this month would have been the perfect metaphor of the bilateral relationship between the two neighbours. For decades after the end of their acrimonious post-independence union in 1965, the former British colonies publicly bickered over everything; the ownership of a railway station, water supplies, rocky outcrops in the sea, airspace and even the provenance of a shared cuisine they both call their own. The...

Detained Cambodian politician rejects new opposition movement

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 09:34
Cambodia’s detained opposition party leader Kem Sokha has declined to join a new movement, founded by prominent exiles following a ban on the main opposition party, his lawyer said on Saturday. The Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) was announced on January 13 by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s veteran foe Sam Rainsy following the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) last year and the arrest of its leader, Kem Sokha. Signs of division emerged among CNRP members...

Rohingya militants say Myanmar refugee return plan ‘deceitful’

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 09:08
Rohingya militants on Saturday hit out at a repatriation plan for refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar set to begin next week, saying it aims to trap the Muslim minority in long-term camps while their ancestral lands are seized. Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to send back around 750,000 refugees who arrived since October 2016 over the next two years, a process set to begin as early as Tuesday. But the deal has been pilloried by many Rohingya refugees who say they do not want to return to...

‘It’s like catching one of the Corleones’: Thai police arrest wildlife trafficking kingpin

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 07:57
Police in Thailand have arrested one of the world’s most notorious wildlife traffickers, allegedly involved in the smuggling thousands of tonnes of elephant tusks and rhino horns from Africa to Asia. Boonchai Bach, who goes by multiple aliases including Bach Mai Limh, was arrested at his operational base in the north-eastern province of Nakhon Phanom, next to the Mekong River on Thursday. Authorities are holding him in relation to the alleged trafficking of 14 rhino horns from Africa into...

Modi, a dead judge, and ghosts from the past

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 05:33
The death of a judge three years ago has returned to haunt Narendra Modi’s government, opening a Pandora’s box of criminal cases dating back to the Indian prime minister’s earlier years as a provincial leader and triggering an open revolt in the highest court, the country’s most respected institution. The Supreme Court found itself in uncharted territory last week when four of its senior-most judges called a press conference and alleged misconduct by Chief Justice Dipak...

Gone like a shot: Why did Sri Lanka reinstate alcohol ban for women?

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 03:46
Even in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, women will finally get the right to drive cars this year. Compare that to Sri Lanka, where women recently won the right to buy a drink at a bar – or rather had won it, until it was revoked just days later. “When the world is going one way, Sri Lanka is running a race to the bottom,” Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, a human-rights activist based in Colombo, said. The Sri Lankan Finance Ministry announced in mid-January that it would lift a decades...

Philippines’ Duterte: from War on Drugs to War on Media?

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 01:02
Even for a president famed for turning the air blue, it was a colourful way to conduct a press conference. “You are not only throwing toilet paper – you are throwing s*** at us,” snarled Rodrigo Duterte at hapless Rappler journalist Pia Ranada as he brandished a copy of the news site’s latest exposé, railing against what he labelled “fake news”. It wasn’t hard to grasp why the Filipino president was so angry. Just a day earlier, on January 15,...

Band of women from India’s lowest caste smash through social boundaries

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 22:50
A group of women from India’s despised “untouchable” caste is shattering stereotypes of gender and caste in one of the poorest and least developed areas in the country. The Sargam Mahila Band in Dhibra village, near Patna, the capital of east-Indian state Bihar, was set up about two years ago by Sudha Varghese, who runs a charity for women. All of its members are in the Dalit castes that are excluded from the traditional Hindu system – and who were once barred from...

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