Pastor jailed for 11 years
A court sentenced a pastor to 11 years in prison after a one-day trial for undermining national unity through his links with “reactionary organizations,” state media said yesterday. Nguyen Cong Chinh, 43, was accused of sending documents to anti-government organizations in Vietnam and overseas. “He distorted the domestic situation, calumniating the government, the state and the army in interviews with the foreign media,” the English-language Vietnam News said, quoting the court. Rights group say dozens of peaceful political activists have been sentenced to long prison terms since the country, a one-party state, launched a crackdown on free expression in late 2009.
Landmine kills 15 policemen
A landmine triggered by suspected Maoist guerrillas killed at least 15 policemen in the western state of Maharashtra yesterday, several TV channels reported, the latest sign of the rebels’ strength just weeks after they kidnapped two Italians. The personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were traveling on a bus in a remote district when the blast hit, the reports said. On Sunday, a different group of Maoists in the eastern state of Orissa released an Italian tourist they had held hostage for almost two weeks, in what was believed to be the first kidnapping of foreigners in the conflict. Another Italian and a local politician were still being held captive.
Boss vows to repay losses
The head of an investment company suspected of losing more than US$1 billion in clients’ pension funds has apologized and said he intends to repay the losses. AIJ Investment Advisors president Kazuhiko Asakawa made the apology in a committee hearing in parliament yesterday. He said he ordered company financial reports to be falsified to conceal the losses. The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission alleges that AIJ lost ￥109.2 billion (US$1.3 billion) in pension funds in derivatives trading overseen by Asakawa. Asakawa said he had not set out to deceive customers. He did not say how he would repay the losses.
Party quits peace panel
The main opposition party withdrew yesterday from a parliamentary reconciliation panel in protest at an independent study it said was aimed at whitewashing exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of his graft conviction. The house committee has taken up the study’s recommendation of a general amnesty for those guilty of crimes related to the country’s long-running political crisis. The Democrat Party suggested the plan, drafted by King Prajadhipok’s Institute, was aimed at facilitating the return and political comeback of twice-elected Thaksin, who fled into exile in 2008 before being sentenced to two years in prison for conflict of interest when he was in power. “The decision to include the report at a parliamentary meeting is an excuse to work toward a pardon,” Democrat lawmaker Jurin Luksanawisit told reporters.
Bird flu kills teenager
A 17-year-old has died of bird flu. He is the country’s sixth fatality from the virus so far this year. Health ministry spokeswoman Murti Utami said yesterday that the boy from eastern Lombok island developed symptoms early this month after coming into contact with sick chickens. He died on March 9 after one week in hospital.
Ex-army chief nixes defense