Category - Asia

China makes big cut in bank reserve requirement to fight slowdown

Reuters, April 20

Beijing – China’s central bank on Sunday cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, the second industry-wide cut in two months, adding more liquidity to the world’s second-biggest economy to help spur bank lending and combat slowing growth.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) lowered the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for all banks by 100 basis points to 18.5 percent, effective from April 20, the central bank said in a statement on its website www.pbc.gov.cn.

“Though the growth in the first quarter met the official target of around 7 percent for 2015, the slowdown in several areas, including industrial output and retail sales, has caused concern,” said a report published by the official Xinhua news service covering the announcement.

The latest cut, the deepest single reduction since the depth of the global crisis in 2008, shows how the central bank is stepping up efforts to ward off a sharp slowdown in the economy.

“The size of the cut is more than expected,” said Shenwan Hongyuan Securities analyst Chen Kang.

“It’s going to release around a trillion yuan (in liquidity) at least.”

Now, drones to be used to disperse mobs in Lucknow

PTI, April 3

LUCKNOW – Drones will soon perform a special task in the state capital apart from functioning as eyes in the sky with the Lucknow Police planning to use them for dispersing mobs.

These little unmanned mini-choppers are already in use in various sensitive parts of Uttar Pradesh for taking aerial snaps, but for the first time the hi-tech gadget will be used to control unruly crowds.

“We have purchased five drone cameras with capacity of lifting two kg weight. They can be used to shower pepper powder on an unruly mob in case of any trouble,” Senior Superintendent of Police Yashasvi Yadav told PTI here today. […]

Lucknow Police will probably be the first in the country to have such hi-tech surveillance gadget, he said, adding drones will assist not only in checking crimes but also in keeping a track of criminals.
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India Tries Evacuating Citizens in Yemen

New York Times, By Hari Kumar & Ellen Barry, April 5

New Delhi — India used small boats this weekend to ferry some of its citizens to a naval destroyer anchored near Aden, Yemen, as an operation to evacuate about 4,000 Indians from Yemen’s war zone entered a difficult phase.

The Indian ship was not able to dock in Aden because of shelling, so the small boats carried people in groups of about 30, said Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry. About 2,000 Indians have now been transported out of Yemen, but the deteriorating conditions there mean that no more evacuations from Aden will be possible, he said.

“It’s been a hard task, and as the situation worsens, the time available to us lessens,” he said. “Difficult situations now are becoming more difficult as time passes.”

Thailand junta replaces martial law with absolute power

The big topic of conversation in Thailand is martial law. Technically it’s gone, but in reality it’s still there.

AP, April 1

On Wednesday, Thailand’s junta lifted martial law, which was imposed in the run-up to their May 22, 2014, coup – but then quickly replaced it with another set of draconian laws innocuously called “Article 44.” But make no mistake – 10 months after staging the coup, a military junta is still ruling Thailand, essentially with absolute power.

The move is the junta’s latest cosmetic change aimed at putting a softer face on a military ruled country, according to scholars, jurists and rights groups who called the development a PR stunt and a sleight of hand aimed at helping restore Thailand’s image abroad while keeping the junta firmly in control at home. Others wondered half-jokingly if the government of former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha pranked the country with an April Fool’s joke.

“Martial law may be lifted, but Thailand remains deeply sunk in unchecked military rule,” Verapat Pariyawong, an independent political analyst and Harvard-educated lawyer said in a statement, noting that the announcement came Wednesday in “ironic fashion on April Fool’s Day.”
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US anger at Britain joining Chinese-led investment bank AIIB

US statement says of UK membership that it is ‘worried about a trend of constant accommodation’ of China, in a rare public breach in the special relationship.

The Guardian, By Nicholas Watt, Paul Lewis & Tania Branigan, March 12

The White House has issued a pointed statement declaring it hopes and expects the UK will use its influence to ensure that high standards of governance are upheld in a new Chinese-led investment bank that Britain is to join.

In a rare public breach in the special relationship, the White House signalled its unease at Britain’s decision to become a founder member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by raising concerns about whether the new body would meet the standards of the World Bank.

The $50bn (£33.5bn) bank, which is designed to provide infrastructure funds to the Asia-Pacific region, is viewed with great suspicion by Washington officials, who see it as a rival to the World Bank. They believe Beijing will use the bank to extend its soft power in the region.

The White House statement reads: “This is the UK’s sovereign decision. We hope and expect that the UK will use its voice to push for adoption of high standards.”

Archaeologists unearth lost fortress of Genghis Khan in western Mongolia

Asahi Shimbun, By Kunijiko Imai, Febrary 26

Japanese and Mongolian archaeologists said Feb. 26 that they have discovered the remains of a 13th-century military outpost established for Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) in southwestern Mongolia.

The joint research team said the discovery could be useful in learning about the Mongol Empire’s strategy on western expansion and trade routes.

“We hope the discovery will be useful in ascertaining the history of the Mongolian Plateau between the 13th and 14th centuries,” said team leader Koichi Matsuda, professor emeritus of Mongol Empire history at Osaka International University.

Japan’s crown prince calls for ‘correct’ telling of history

Comments seen as rebuke to Abe and others in right wing who downplay Japan’s system of wartime sex slavery.

Al Jazeera / Wire Services, February 23

Japan’s crown prince has warned of the need to remember World War II “correctly,” in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country’s crimes.

Naruhito’s mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right-wing drive to minimize the significance of Japan’s institutionalized system of wartime sex slavery.

“Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back on our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation that knew the war to the generation that doesn’t,” Naruhito said.

The comments, released Monday on the prince’s 55th birthday, come as Abe’s controversial views on history roil Japan’s relations with China and South Korea and cause unease in Washington.

Reckon?

Myanmar declares martial law in troubled Kokang region

Reuters, By Soe Zeya Tun, February 17

Kunlong, Myanmar – Myanmar President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the Kokang region in the east and imposed a three-month period of martial law there in an announcement on state television on Tuesday night.

Fighting broke out on Feb. 9 between the Myanmar army and an ethnic Kokang force called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

At least 47 Myanmar soldiers and 26 MNDAA fighters have been killed since then, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported, and thousands of civilians have fled, either to other areas in Myanmar or over the border into China.

U.S. Is Escalating a Secretive War in Afghanistan

Data From Seized Computer Fuels a Surge in U.S. Raids on Al Qaeda

New York Times, By Matthew Rosenberg & Eric Schmitt, February 12

Washington — As an October chill fell on the mountain passes that separate the militant havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a small team of Afghan intelligence commandos and American Special Operations forces descended on a village where they believed a leader of Al Qaeda was hiding.

That night the Afghans and Americans got their man, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti. They also came away with what officials from both countries say was an even bigger prize: a laptop computer and files detailing Qaeda operations on both sides of the border.

American military officials said the intelligence seized in the raid was possibly as significant as the information found in the computer and documents of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after members of the Navy SEALs killed him in 2011.

In the months since, the trove of intelligence has helped fuel a significant increase in night raids by American Special Operations forces and Afghan intelligence commandos, Afghan and American officials said.

Chinese president Xi Jinping to visit US, says diplomat

Chinese ambassador to US says officials from both countries are discussing Xi making first state visit to US later this year

AP, February 8

A top Chinese diplomat has said President Xi Jinping plans to make his first state visit to the US later this year, Chinese state media reported on Monday.

The official China Daily newspaper quoted China’s ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai as saying Chinese and US officials were discussing the visit. Cui told Chinese reporters on Sunday that no date had been determined yet.

The US national security adviser Susan Rice said on Friday that the US had invited both Xi and the Japanese president, Shinzo Abe, for state visits.

Hong Kong protesters take to streets again, marching for democracy

Los Angeles Times, By Violet Law, February 1

More than 10,000 people marched in Hong Kong on Sunday to press for open elections in 2017, staging the first mass rally since police cleared pro-democracy demonstrators from the streets in December.

Protesters rallied in the financial district known as Central, and the prop that came to define the fall 2014 protests — the canary yellow umbrella — was ubiquitous, despite there being nary a threat of rain. But Sunday’s mood was perceptibly muted.

Whereas large throngs of university and high school students energized the autumn protests, the latest demonstration attracted a noticeably older crowd. Among the marchers were new coalitions, such as the Progressive Lawyers Group and Umbrella Parents, whose members said they believed it was time to take a proactive role in what so far has been a predominantly student-led movement.

The event felt less like a pep rally and more like a strategy session for those most determined to carry on their fight.

“The most important mission upon us right now is: How can we win over the other half of Hong Kong?” said Alan Leong, a legislator in the so-called pan-democratic camp of the territory’s Legislative Council.

Experts raise alarm as plague kills dozens in Madagascar

CNN, By Laura Smith-Spark & Lucy Pawle, February 1

An outbreak of the plague has killed dozens in Madagascar, and experts fear those numbers could go up.

At least 119 cases were confirmed by late last year, including 40 deaths, the World Health Organization said in a statement.

And the disease is taking an alarming turn.

“The outbreak that started last November has some disturbing dimensions,” the WHO said this week. “The fleas that transmit this ancient disease from rats to humans have developed resistance to the first-line insecticide.”

Thailand junta squelches forum on media censorship

Bangkok press freedom event canceled, raising fears about future of free expression in Thailand.

Al Jazeera, January 29

Thailand’s junta has effectively forced a German foundation to cancel a forum discussing new restrictions on the media, scheduled to be held Friday in Bangkok, raising concerns among journalists and right advocates about the junta’s efforts to curtail press freedom and political dissent in what has long been a relatively open society in the region.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a foundation that has headquarters in headquartered in Bonn and Berlin, Germany, that promotes social democracy worldwide, said it would comply with a request from the junta — also known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) — to cancel the forum, which was to feature a panel discussion and a presentation about a study on media freedom in Thailand.

“We received a call from the government asking us to postpone the event indefinitely because of the sensitive nature of the topic and the political climate within the country,” Thatsanavanh Banchong, the foundation’s media and civic education officer, told the Bangkok Post.

Russia calls for EU talks with newly born Eurasian Union

EUObserver, By Andrew Rettman, January 2

Brussels – Russia’s EU ambassador has urged Brussels to launch talks with the newly born Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) despite the Ukraine crisis.

Vladimir Chizhov told EUobserver: “Our idea is to start official contacts between the EU and the EAEU as soon as possible. [German] chancellor Angela Merkel talked about this not long ago. The EU sanctions [on Russia] are not a hinder”.

“I think that common sense advises us to explore the possibility of establishing a common economic space in the Eurasian region, including the focus countries of the Eastern Partnership [an EU policy on closer ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine]”.

“We might think of a free trade zone encompassing all of the interested parties in Eurasia”.

He described the new Russia-led bloc as a better partner for the EU than the US, with a dig at health standards in the US food industry.

“Do you believe it is wise to spend so much political energy on a free trade zone with the USA while you have more natural partners at your side, closer to home? We don’t even chlorinate our chickens”, the ambassador said.

The treaty establishing the Eurasian Union entered into life on Thursday (1 January).

It includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, with Kyrgyzstan to join in May.

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