Top Asian News 3:58 a.m. GMT
Written by on January 27, 2023
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — International Criminal Court judges on Thursday cleared the way for the court’s prosecution office to resume its investigation into the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines. Prosecutor Karim Khan asked judges for permission last year to reactivate his inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity between Nov. 1, 2011, and March 16, 2019, which were linked to the deadly crackdown. The investigation was suspended in late 2021 after the Philippines said it already was examining the crimes and argued that the ICC — a court of last resort — therefore didn’t have jurisdiction. Khan argued last year that he should be allowed to reopen the ICC investigation, saying Manila’s request for the case to be deferred to authorities there “is not warranted.” A panel of judges agreed in their ruling on Thursday, after examining information from the Philippine government and Khan, and weighing comments from victims.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Malnutrition rates in Afghanistan are at record highs with half the country enduring severe hunger throughout the year, a spokesman for the World Food Program said Thursday. The Taliban takeover in August 2021 drove millions into poverty and hunger after foreign aid stopped almost overnight. Sanctions on Taliban rulers, a halt on bank transfers and frozen billions in Afghanistan’s currency reserves restricted access to global institutions and the outside money that supported the country’s aid-dependent economy before the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. “Half of Afghanistan endures severe hunger throughout the year, regardless of the season, and malnutrition rates are at a record high for Afghanistan,” said Phillipe Kropf, a spokesman for the U.N.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australians expect to vote this year in a referendum that would enshrine in the nation’s constitution a mechanism for Indigenous people to advise Parliament on policies that effect their lives known as the Voice. Proponents say embedding the Voice in the constitution would recognize the special place that Indigenous people have in Australian history while giving them input in government policies. Skeptics and opponents say Australians need more details before they vote on a proposal that risks dividing the nation along racial lines without reducing Indigenous disadvantage. As Australia’s first referendum in a generation approaches, the bipartisan support regarded as essential to successfully changing the constitution has yet to emerge and Indigenous leaders remain divided.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says it will continue to restrict the entry of short-term travelers from China through the end of February over concerns that the spread of COVID-19 in that country may worsen following the Lunar New Year’s holidays. South Korea in early January stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China, citing concerns about a virus surge in the country that abruptly eased coronavirus restrictions in December and the potential for new mutations. South Korea has also required all passengers from China, Hong Kong and Macau to submit proofs of negative tests taken with 48 hours before their arrival and put them through tests again once they arrive.
BANGKOK (AP) — A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized. The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot violated the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested last August. The law covers the current king, his queen and heirs, and any regent. The lese majeste law carries a prison term of three to 15 years per incident for insulting the monarchy, but critics say it is often wielded as a tool to quash political dissent.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI and international partners have at least temporarily disrupted the network of a prolific ransomware gang they infiltrated last year, saving victims including hospitals and school districts a potential $130 million in ransom payments, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other U.S. officials announced Thursday. “Simply put, using lawful means we hacked the hackers,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference. Officials said the targeted syndicate, known as Hive, is among the world’s top five ransomware networks and has heavily targeted health care. The FBI quietly accessed its control panel in July and was able to obtain software keys it used with German and other partners to decrypt networks of some 1,300 victims globally, said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
BANGKOK (AP) — The production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military’s seizure of power, with the cultivation of poppies up by a third in the past year as eradication efforts have dropped off and the faltering economy has led more people toward the drug trade, according to a United Nations report released Thursday. In 2022, in the first full growing season since the military wrested control of the country from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, Myanmar saw a 33% increase in cultivation area to 40,100 hectares (99,090 acres), according to the report by the U.N.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday signed off on a two-year extension of a program that protects Hong Kong residents in the U.S. from deportation, renewing the protection until January 2025. Biden first authorized the program, the Deferred Enforced Departure for Certain Hong Kong Citizens, in August 2021 for 18 months. It was set to expire on Feb. 5. The decision to provide a temporary safe haven was in response to Hong Kong’s sweeping national security law and other measures that undercut the rights promised when the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997. “With this action, we are demonstrating again President Biden’s strong support for the people of Hong Kong in the face of increasing repression by the (People’s Republic of China),” the White House National Security Council said in a statement.
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Boeing pleaded not guilty Thursday to a charge that it misled regulators who approved its 737 Max, the plane that was involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. Family members of passengers who died gave emotional testimony, calling for criminal prosecution of top Boeing officials. The families are trying to convince a federal judge to throw out a settlement that the company reached with the federal government to avoid prosecution. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor took the plea from Boeing, which was represented by its chief safety officer and a bevy of lawyers, and ordered the company not to break any laws for the next year.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Cars slowed and stopped on icy roads and bundled-up commuters gingerly navigated snow-covered sidewalks as a snowstorm swept through the South Korean capital of Seoul and nearby regions on Thursday, extending a frigid cold spell that has the country in its grip. There were no immediate reports of major disruptions or damage caused by the snow, ice and subzero temperatures as of Thursday afternoon, as officials lifted their heavy snow warnings for the area after the snowfall weakened following morning commuting hours. Traffic on the country’s major roads was normal, although 110 hiking trails across three national parks remained closed.