ASEAN IN FOCUS

Thai court dissolves key pro-democracy party

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) — A stridently anti-military Thai party was dissolved Friday and its key members banned from politics for a decade over a $6 million loan by its billionaire founder, a withering blow to the kingdom’s pro-democracy movement. The Future Forward Party (FFP), fronted by the charismatic auto-parts scion Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, emerged from nowhere in March last year to become Thailand’s third-biggest party in the first elections since a 2014 coup. The party’s radical […]

Nearly 900,000 pangolins trafficked in Southeast Asia: watchdog

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — Nearly 900,000 pangolins are believed to have been trafficked across Southeast Asia in the past two decades, a wildlife watchdog said Thursday, highlighting the challenge in tackling the illicit trade. As the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal, the creatures are targeted for their body parts which are highly valued in traditional medicine in countries including China and Vietnam, and their meat is seen as a delicacy. Also known as the […]

Woman gunned down in new Thai mall shooting

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) — A woman was killed Tuesday at a Bangkok mall in shooting Thai police blamed on “jealousy”, less than two weeks after a soldier went on a gun rampage which left 29 dead at another shopping complex. The incident occurred inside a cosmetic clinic at the busy downtown Century Mall when a man burst in and gunned down his former partner over an alleged affair. One woman was killed and another was […]

Southeast Asia facing billions of dollars in losses from collapse in Chinese tourism due to virus fears

by Aidan Jones, with Dene-Hern Chen in Pattaya, Thailand Agence France Presse Elephant parks unvisited, curios at markets unsold as tuk-tuks sit idle: Southeast Asia is facing billions of dollars in losses from a collapse in Chinese tourism since the outbreak of a deadly new coronavirus. From Luang Prabang in northern Laos to Pattaya in Thailand, Hoi An in Vietnam and the Cambodian casino town of Sihanoukville, takings have plummeted as Chinese travellers find themselves […]

Erupting Indonesian volcano spews ash, lava

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — Indonesia’s Mount Merapi, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted Thursday as fiery red molten lava streamed down from the crater and it belched clouds of grey ash 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) into the sky. Authorities did not raise the rumbling volcano’s alert status after the early-morning eruption, but they advised commercial planes to take caution in the area. But any activity at Merapi raises concern and local residents were […]

US cruise ship blocked over virus fears to dock in Cambodia

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (AFP) — A US cruise ship blocked from several Asian ports over concerns that a passenger could have been infected with the new coronavirus arrived off Cambodia Thursday, as frustrated holidaymakers expressed hope that their ordeal may soon be over. The Westerdam was supposed to be taking its 1,455 passengers on a dream 14-day cruise around East Asia, beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and disembarking on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan. But […]

Vietnam quarantines commune of 10,000 over coronavirus

VINH PHUC, Vietnam (AFP) — Vietnam announced Thursday that a commune of 10,000 people will be placed under quarantine due to fears over the spread of the new coronavirus. “As of February 13, 2020, we will urgently implement the task of isolation and quarantine of the epidemic area in Son Loi commune,” said a health ministry statement. “The timeline… is for 20 days”. There are 15 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Vietnam, five […]

Coronavirus clips wings of Asia’s biggest air show

by Martin Abbugao SINGAPORE, Singapore (AFP) — Asia’s biggest air show opens in Singapore Tuesday under the shadow of a deadly coronavirus outbreak that has prompted dozens of companies to withdraw and threatens to hammer the aviation industry. The biennial Singapore Airshow attracts hundreds of global aerospace firms and airlines to the financial hub, where they negotiate multi-million dollar deals and watch spectacular aerial displays by fighter jets. But the virus — which has killed […]

Guns and social media: the soldier behind Thailand’s mass shooting

by Dene Chen in Nakhon Ratchasima and Joe Freeman in Bangkok NAKHON RATCHASMA, Thailand (AFP) — The “pings” from the metal targets at a gun range ring out as a baby-faced shooter smile for the camera — a chilling prelude to the mall massacre by a Thai soldier who shared his prowess as a marksman on social media. But more than a day after he was shot dead following a near 17-hour shooting spree that […]

Thai mall shooting survivors tracked killer via CCTV

By Dene-Hern Chen in Nakhon Ratchasima with Aidan Jones in Bangkok NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand (AFP) — In a fourth-floor toilet of the Terminal 21 mall, shoppers jammed cubicle doors against the entrance to keep out a Thai soldier on a shooting spree, tracing his movements through fragments of CCTV passed on by friends on the outside. Barricaded in the women’s toilet with a few dozen others, Chanathip Somsakul, a 33-year-old music teacher, and his wife […]

Malaysian journalist charged over China virus posts

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — A Malaysian journalist was charged Wednesday with causing public alarm with Facebook posts about the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, as authorities warned against online “rumor-mongering”. The virus has so far killed almost 500 people and infected 24,000 others in China, and spread to more than 20 countries including Malaysia, which has 12 cases. It has also unleashed a flood of misinformation online, from misleading death tolls to vaccine conspiracies, […]

African swine fever kills hundreds of pigs in Bali

BALI, Indonesia (AFP) — Hundreds of pigs have died from African swine fever in Bali, authorities said Wednesday, marking the Indonesian holiday island’s first recorded outbreak and after the virus claimed some 30,000 hogs in Sumatra. Ida Bagus Wisnuardhana, Bali’s agriculture and food security agency chief, said nearly 900 pigs succumbed to swine fever since mid-December. “The results are positive for African swine fever,” Ida told reporters, referring to tests performed on the dead animals. […]