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BC-AS--Asian News Digest, AS

May 28, 2014



BANGKOK — When Thailand’s army last seized power in 2006, some called it “the smiling coup.” Residents poured into the streets of Bangkok, handing out flowers to soldiers who had deployed tanks across the capital. This time is different. Protests, though small, came almost immediately. More than 250 people have been detained without charges, and the military has issued ominous warnings not to criticize it. The biggest difference may be that the old coup triggered the formation of a political movement that is poised to resist the new one. By Todd Pitman. UPCOMING: 1,200 words by 1300 GMT, photos.


BANGKOK — Thailand’s new military junta orders all national TV stations to broadcast videos showing some of the prominent political figures it has detained in an effort to convince the public that people in army custody are being treated well. The videos showed five detainees speaking to army officers at an undisclosed location. By Todd Pitman and Thanyarat Doksone. SENT: 1,040 words, photos.


BANGKOK —Thailand’s new military rulers say a sudden interruption of access to Facebook was not part of a censorship policy, but due instead to a technical hitch. The partial blockage came a day after the military government announced an Internet crackdown. SENT: 480 words.


WASHINGTON — Charting an end to America’s longest war, President Barack Obama plans to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after this year but then draw down those forces by the end of 2016. The plan is to conclude the U.S. military effort on his watch but still protect gains that have been made. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 920 words, video, photos.

— UNITED STATES-AFGHANISTAN-CHRONOLOGY — US troops in Afghanistan heading down to 9,800 from 32,800 after peak of 100,000 in mid-2010. SENT: 500 words, photo.


ISLAMABAD — A leading faction within the Pakistani Taliban splits from the umbrella militant organization, a top commander says, underscoring the difficulty the U.S.-allied government will have in negotiating an end to a decade of violence with militant groups as they fragment increasingly. The split came as a result of disagreements with the group’s leadership, said Azam Tariq, a key commander of the faction that was earlier reported to have been toeing an independent line over the issue of peace talks with the government. The faction is based in South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border, the birthplace of the Taliban. By Asif Shahzad. SENT: 350 words.


SEOUL, South Korea — A fire believed set by an 81-year-old dementia patient blazes through a hospital ward for the elderly and kills 21 people, mostly from smoke inhalation, police and fire officials say. The fire also injured seven people and raised concerns about lax fire regulations at a time when the nation is undergoing soul searching about public safety following last month’s ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 610 words, photos.

— SOUTH KOREA-POLITICS — Prime minister designate withdraws over ethics allegations. SENT: 230 words.


AHMADABAD, India — With his long beard and white skullcap, Mohammed Naseem makes no secret that he’s a devout Muslim in a country where Muslims are often persecuted. Now, after Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi was sworn in as prime minister following a landslide election victory, Naseem and other Muslims in this country of 1.2 billion are watching the direction of their nation with a mixture of caution and fear. SENT: 820 words, photos.


BEIJING — China tries to cool a dispute with Washington over cyber spying, reminding the United States of its need for Chinese help over North Korea and appealing to it not to hurt cooperation in anti-terrorism and other areas. The effort at damage control, despite the outraged tone of Beijing’s rejection of spying allegations last week, reflects the importance of commercial and political ties between the two biggest economies. It comes at a time when Beijing is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Vietnam and is trying to persuade other governments to avoid getting involved. SENT: 300 words.


BEIJING — In a stadium filled with 7,000 people, a court in China’s restive northwest region has announced guilty verdicts for 55 people on charges of terrorism, separatism and murder. It was a show of force as the government tries to display its determination to combat unrest in Xinjiang after 43 people were killed last week in an attack at a vegetable market in the regional capital, Urumqi. SENT: 380 words.


BEIJING — Beijing police detain a Chinese news assistant for a Japanese newspaper in the latest in a string of detentions ahead of the 25th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Every year, the government attempts to prevent any commemorations or public discussions of the anniversary, but activists say this year has been one of the most severe clampdowns. By Didi Tang. SENT: 520 words.

— CHINA-SOCIAL MEDIA — China targets popular instant messaging services. By Louise Watt. SENT: 460 words.


DHARMSALA, India — A Tibetan monk who worked on 2008 documentary film critical of China’s rule in the Himalayan region says he escaped Chinese police custody in 2012 and fled to India last week after hiding out for 20 months. Golog Jigme, who had been arrested in China a few times since the documentary and alleges he was beaten severely during detention, said he was most recently detained in the Labrang monastery area in China’s Gansu province in 2012 for what he said was spreading pamphlets about spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. By Ashwini Bhatia. SENT: 620 words, photos.


MANILA, Philippines — A fire razes a tent used as a temporary shelter by survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, killing a woman and five of her children, including a 4-month-old girl. The tragedy highlights the slow progress in the resettlement of tens of thousands of survivors of Haiyan, which struck more than six months ago and is one of the world’s strongest typhoons to make landfall. SENT: 370 words, photos.


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A French teenager, an Australian woman and three Nigerians are convicted and sentenced to long prison terms for trying to smuggle heroin out of Cambodia. SENT: 210 words.



WELLINGTON, New Zealand — If any country has a squeaky-clean image, it is New Zealand. It’s a place where police officers won’t even accept freebies from burger joints. It’s been ranked the world’s least corrupt nation for eight years straight by the watchdog group Transparency International. Recent scandals in business, politics and sports, however, may put that reputation under threat. Some observers say the South Pacific nation’s sterling record for fairness may have made it complacent and less watchful for shady behavior. By Nick Perry. SENT: 720 words, photos.



WASHINGTON — As the nation emerges from more than a decade of war, President Barack Obama is seeking to recast U.S. foreign policy as an endeavor aimed at building international consensus and avoiding unilateral overreach. Obama is outlining his approach in a commencement address to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The speech comes one day after the president put forward a blueprint for ending U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan by the time he leaves office. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 680 words, photo, video, audio.

— SYRIA-TRAINING REBELS — The White House may soon sign off on a project to train and equip Syria’s moderate forces. SENT: 800 words, photo.


BEIRUT — Lebanese troops move to subdue a crowd of frenzied Syrian voters who try to storm their embassy in Beirut to vote for President Bashar Assad as expat balloting starts in Syria’s presidential election. The soldiers beat up the Syrians some 50 meters from the embassy building, using batons and sticks in an effort to get the crowd under control. By Bassem Mroue. SENT: 620 words, photos.


LOS ANGELES — Once again, media company CEOs are among the highest paid executives in the nation, occupying six of the top 10 earning spots according to an Associated Press/Equilar study. By Business Writer Ryan Nakashima. SENT: 600 words, photos.


DONETSK, Ukraine — Chechnya’s regional leader says he hasn’t sent any troops to fight alongside pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, adding that some Chechens may have gone there on their own. In a statement posted on his Instagram, Ramzan Kadyrov said two-thirds of three million Chechens live outside the province in Russia’s North Caucasus mountains, so he “can’t and mustn’t know where each of them goes.” By Peter Leonard. SENT: 860 words, photos.

— POLAND-UKRAINE-PRIEST MISSING — Poland’s foreign minister says that diplomatic efforts are being made to obtain the release of a Polish Catholic priest missing in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. SENT: 130 words.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Members of an international fact-finding mission into alleged chlorine attacks in Syria are ambushed and briefly held by gunmen in rebel-held territory, the global chemical weapons watchdog says. Releasing for the first time details of the chilling attack on its inspectors a day earlier, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says a joint OPCW-United Nations convoy was first hit by a roadside bomb and then sprayed by automatic gunfire. By Mike Corder. SENT: 330 words, photos.


JERUSALEM — Masked Palestinian protesters hurl stones at policemen manning the gates of a sensitive Jerusalem holy site, prompting security forces to enter the compound and disperse the demonstrators. The skirmishes come as Israel marks “Jerusalem Day,” which commemorates the anniversary of Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. By Tia Goldenberg. SENT: 330 words.


CAIRO — Egyptian authorities are scrambling to rescue the country’s presidential election from a debacle of low voter turnout. Voting has been extended for a third day amid concerns that millions of Egyptians who stayed away from the polls will deprive the all-but-certain winner, former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, of the overwhelming show of public support he seeks in the balloting. By Maggie Michael. SENT: 830 words, photos.


RIO DE JANEIRO — The immaculately dressed evangelical preachers begin their work when night falls in Rio de Janeiro. In the dark, they journey to the “cracklands” where addicts consume crack cocaine in open-air dens, areas well hidden from the eyes of tourists heading to Rio for the World Cup. With photo essay by Felipe Dana. SENT: 335 words, photos.


CHICAGO — Julia Collins predicted in her eighth grade yearbook that she would someday be a “Jeopardy!” champion. The 31-year-old suburban Chicago woman has made good on her prediction, and then some. Collins won her 17th consecutive non-tournament game in the episode that aired Tuesday, becoming the third person in “Jeopardy!” history to reach that point. She has earned a total of $372,700 and is the long-running show’s winningest female contestant ever. By Don Babwin. SENT: 370 words, photos.


NEW YORK — Donald Sterling and the NBA are headed toward a hearing that will determine if he remains owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Unless Shelly Sterling finds a buyer for the team first. The Sterlings were part combative, part cooperative Tuesday, with Donald Sterling fighting to keep his team even as his estranged wife said he had authorized her to sell it. He didn’t seem willing to give it up — at least not without a fight — in his passionate response to the league’s attempt to oust him. By Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and Tami Abdollah. SENT: 730 words, photo.


BOSTON — Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez will be arraigned on charges he fatally shot two men after a chance encounter in a nightclub in 2012. Prosecutors say Hernandez shot Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado as they sat in a car in the city’s South End. Hernandez is charged separately in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found near Hernandez’s home. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in that case. SENT: 200 words.


LOS ANGELES — Google will build a car without a steering wheel. It doesn’t need one because it drives itself. The two-seater won’t be sold publicly, but Google says it hopes by this time next year, 100 prototypes will be on public roads. By Justin Pritchard. SENT: 360 words, photos.


— IRAN-MERS — Iran reports its first two cases of the MERS virus. SENT: 220 words.

— ISRAEL-VISITING MARONITES — Lebanon’s patriarch visits two disparate Maronite flocks in Israel. SENT: 900 words, photos.

— EUROPE-TERROR — The European Union’s police organization says the threat of terrorism across the 28-nation bloc is “acute and diverse.” SENT: 130 words.

— IRAN-FACEBOOK — An Iranian prosecutor denies reports that a local judge ordered Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear in court. SENT: 360 words.

— CANADA-ABDUCTED BABY-FACEBOOK — Facebook helps find an abducted newborn in Quebec. SENT: 600 words.

— HEROIN ANTIDOTE-NYPD — Thousands of New York City police officers will soon be carrying emergency antidotes to help deal with the recent spike in heroin overdoses. SENT: 210 words.

— WORLD SERIES OF POKER — The 45th Annual World Series of Poker kicks off seven weeks of play in Las Vegas. SENT: 520 words, photos.


YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is David Thurber. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at asia@ap.org.

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