Tag Archives: Thailand

Thailand army declares martial law, insists move ‘is not a coup’

Thai soldiers take their positions in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok‘s shopping district May 20, 2014.

Thailand’s military leaders declared martial law Tuesday in a surprise move which they say aims to restore peace and order after months of anti-government demonstrations and unrest have left the nation teetering.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha made the announcement on military television at 3:00 a.m. local time and assured the public that even though soldiers will now be in command of public security, order will rule the day. Dozens of people have been killed as a result of the protests since the demonstrations began in November 2013.

“We are concerned this violence could harm the country’s security in general. Then, in order to restore law and order to the country, we have declared martial law,” Prayuth said, as quoted by Reuters. “I’m asking all those activist groups to stop all activities and cooperate with us in seeking a way out of this crisis.”

A decades-long dispute over power has culminated within the past six months with large demonstrations and unrest. The situation escalated earlier in May, when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was forced from office. Her ouster made way for sitting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who said Monday that his administration would not step down.

The opposition demands that the government give way to an unelected administration that would then rewrite the constitution.

Thai soldiers take up a position on a main road in Bangkok May 20, 2014.

An army official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that “this is definitely not a coup. This is only to provide safety to the people and the people can still carry on their lives as normal.”

A decree put out by the country’s armed forces has enacted media censorship that “prohibits all media outlets from reporting or distribution of any news or still photographs detrimental to national security,” said a statement by General Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Almost immediately following that declaration, satellite stations went off-air. AFP reported that broadcasts by television channels have been suspended, while an army statement read that the stations were taken off the air “in order that people will get the correct information and not distort information to deepen the conflict.”

Thailand’s armed forces have either launched or attempted 18 coups in the country’s 81 years of parliamentary democracy.

Despite the army’s claims, many analysts remain unconvinced that the action is not a move towards a full-blown coup.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, told AFP that he believes martial law was simply a prelude to the military taking full control.

I think what we are looking at is a prelude to a coup,” he said. “It is all part of a plot to create a situation of ungovernability to legitimise this move by the army. I would not be surprised if the next step is a military coup or the military taking charge with the advice of the senate and leading to the appointment of a new prime minister. But certainly the military is trying to take power from the government.”

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Malaysia Airlines : four passengers’ identities under investigation

No trace of plane found and airline ‘fearing the worst’ as scrutiny of two passengers who travelled on stolen passports widens

Malaysia Airlines staff at a media conference in Beijing on Sunday. Photograph: Feature China/Barcroft Media

The identities of four passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight are under investigation, the country’s transport minister said on Sunday, as the company confirmed that it was “fearing the worst”.

Investigators are examining the entire passenger manifest after European diplomats said late on Saturday that two of the 227 passengers were travelling on stolen passports. Hishamuddin Hussein, who is also defence minister, said Malaysia would work with the FBI and other international agencies and that two more names were being checked.

“All the four names are with me,” he said, according to Reuters.

He spoke as the multinational hunt for any sign of the Malaysia Airlines flight missing with 239 people on board widened on Sunday, with officials saying search and rescue teams had so far found no trace of it.

Hishammuddin also said there was a chance the aircraft had turned back in mid-air.

“We are looking at the possibility of an aircraft air turn back, in which case different locations will have to be identified,” he said.

Citizens from 14 nations were on board, though the vast majority were Chinese. The 12-strong flight crew were all from Malaysia.

On Saturday night, diplomats confirmed that two Europeans listed on the passenger manifest – an Italian, Luigi Maraldi and an Austrian, Christian Kozel – had not been on the flight and were safe and well. Maraldi had his passport stolen in Thailand last year and Kozel’s was stolen in the region two years ago.

The flight was a codeshare with China Southern and the two people named as Maraldi and Kozel on the list booked together via the Chinese airline, Chinese media reported.

The company said it had CCTV footage of the two people who checked in as Maraldi and Kozel.

The Boeing 777 disappeared from radar screens just 40 minutes into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was last detected over the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam.

On Sunday morning the Malaysian director-general of civil aviation, Azaruddin Abdul Rahman, told reporters the search had expanded to a larger area of the South China Sea area and west coast of Malaysia, the Straits Times reported.

Warships from Singapore and China were heading to the area and the United States also offered vessels and aircraft.

In a statement issued on Sunday morning, Malaysia Airlines said: “More than 24 hours after the loss of contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the search and rescue teams are still unable to detect the whereabouts of the missing aircraft.

“In fearing for the worst, a disaster recovery management specialist from Atlanta, USA will be assisting Malaysia Airlines in this crucial time.”

An earlier statement began with the words: “Malaysia Airlines humbly asks all Malaysians and people around the world to pray for flight MH370.”

Vietnam’s deputy transport minister, Pham Quy Tieu, said no wreckage had been seen in the vicinity of two oil slicks detected late on Saturday, but that the search continued.

The pilot of another flight told a Malaysian newspaper he had made brief contact with the plane via his emergency frequency, at the request of Vietnamese aviation authorities who had been unable to reach it as expected. Vietnam has said it believes the flight never entered its airspace.

The unnamed man said his Japan-bound plane was deep into Vietnamese airspace when officials asked him to relay to MH370 to establish its position, and that he succeeded at about 1.30am local time.

“The voice on the other side could have been either Captain Zaharie [Ahmad Shah, 53,] or Fariq [Abdul Hamid, 27], but I was sure it was the co-pilot.

“There were a lot of interference … static … but I heard mumbling from the other end.

“That was the last time we heard from them, as we lost the connection,” he told the New Straits Times.

He sakd he did not think any more of it at the time, as losing connections was common.

Malaysia Airlin

es executives have said the flight was at 35,000 feet when it vanished and had given no indication of problems when last in contact.

William Waldock, who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical university in Arizona, told Associated Press the lack of a distress call ‘‘suggests something very sudden and very violent happened”.

Both Malaysia Airlines and Boeing-777s have strong safety records.

CNN reported that an FBI team was flying to Malaysia to assist in the investigation because three Americans were on board. It cited an unnamed official.

via Malaysia Airlines: four passengers’ identities under investigation | World news | theguardian.com.

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Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight: Stolen Passports Deepen Mystery

U.S. officials are working to find out as much as possible about two apparently stolen passports connected with the missing Malaysia Airlines jet that vanished this morning near Vietnam.

Confirmation of the safety of two passengers, one Italian and one Austrian national, whose names appeared on the plane’s passenger manifest but were not in fact on board the flight, has added to the mystery surrounding missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which was carrying 239 people.

The fact that there were apparently two males on board the flight posing as an Austrian and an Italian is tantalizing and suspicious, and could be meaningful, or it could have nothing at all to do with what happened to the plane, sources said.

An Austrian Foreign Ministry press spokesperson confirmed via Twitter today that the Austrian passenger supposedly on the flight was in fact “safe and sound in Austria,” and had his passport stolen in 2012.

Meanwhile, an Italian Foreign Ministry press office official told ABC News that no Italian was on the plane. The parents of Italian Luigi Maraldi, whose name is also on the passenger manifest, told Italian TV station RAI that their son had called them early this morning from Thailand where he is vacationing. Maraldi’s passport was stolen about a year ago while he was on vacation in Thailand, his parents said.

Official sources told ABC News today they are investigating the two stolen passports and hoping that the Malaysian airport has security cameras that recorded passengers headed to the flight. Those images can be compared to various databases, provided they exist and the Malaysians will share them.

Flight path of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China

The U.S. government is also planning to review all the names of passengers and crew on the flight manifest, sources said. The names, which are available through open source, will be run through all relevant terrorism and criminal databases the government has access to. A formal request may have already been made through the TSA or State Department, one official said.

U.S. officials emphasized that there is no evidence of terrorism, but it is conducting the review to check for any potential leads. They are not ruling anything out at this stage, especially considering so few facts have been revealed in the case and no wreckage has been recovered, sources said.

Authorities volunteered tonight that stolen passports and counterfeit passports are often used for drug smuggling in that area of the world.

Meanwhile, a massive search and rescue operation is currently under way for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, more than 24 hours after air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane.

Boeing 777: 1 of the Most Popular, Safest Jets

A spokesman for Malaysia Airlines said Friday that the passengers included travelers from America, Canada, Britain, Australia, France, India, the Netherlands, Russia and several other countries.

“An international search and rescue mission from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam was mobilized this morning. At this stage, they have failed to find evidence of any wreckage. The sea mission will continue overnight while the air mission will recommence at daylight,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement posted on its website at 2 a.m. local time Sunday.

The three Americans on board the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing in Southeast Asia have been identified as Philip Wood, 51; Nicolechd Meng, 4; and Yan Zhang, 2, according to the flight’s manifest.

The Vietnamese government reported today that air force pilots spotted large oil slicks off the country’s southern coast, according to The Associated Press. There was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, but the statement said the slicks were consistent with the kinds expected to be left by a crashed jetliner.

China has dispatched two maritime rescue ships and the Philippines deployed three air force planes and three navy patrol ships to help. The Navy’s USS Pinckney is also on its way to help the search effort, the 7th Fleet announced on Twitter this morning.

Flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:55 a.m. local time Saturday, and was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m., the airline said. It went missing two hours into the flight and disappeared off the radar.

The plane’s route would take the aircraft from Malaysia across to Vietnam and China. Vietnam said on its official website that its air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane “in Ca Mau province airspace before it had entered contact with Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control.” Ca Mau is near the southern tip of Vietnam.

The plane was meant to transfer to Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control at 1722 GMT but never appeared, the statement said, citing a senior Ministry of Defense official.

Malaysia’s defense minister told a news conference, “We are trying to do everything in our power to [determine] where the plane is.”

Malaysia Airlines said the captain of the airliner, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was an experienced 53-year-old pilot who had 18,365 hours of flying since joining the airline in 1981. The first officer on the flight was identified as Fariq Hamid, 27, and had about 2,800 flight hours since 2007.

Meanwhile, the flight information board at the airport in Beijing indicated the flight was delayed.

An airport official wrote on a white board near the arrivals customer service desk that families of the missing passengers should go to the Lido Hotel. The notice was put up about four hours after the plane was overdue.

“Friends and families should go to the Lido Hotel for more information,” Eric Yangchao, customer service representative for Beijing International Airport, told ABC News. Family members took a shuttle bus to the hotel.

In a statement on Twitter, Boeing said it was watching the situation closely. The Malaysian aircraft, a Boeing 777-200, is 11 years and 10 months old. The 777 model had not had a fatal crash in its 20-year history until the Asiana crash in San Francisco in July 2013.

via Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight: Stolen Passports Deepen Mystery – ABC News.

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Thai PM calls elections as 100,000 join protests

Thailand‘s premier called a snap election Monday to try to defuse the kingdom’s political crisis, but protesters kept up their fight to topple her government with an estimated 100,000 demonstrators flooding the streets of Bangkok.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced more than a month of sometimes-violent street protests by demonstrators who want to suspend the country’s democracy in favor of an unelected “People’s Council“.

Thai opposition lawmakers resigned en masse from parliament Sunday, deepening the political deadlock.

Yingluck, the sister of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra, announced in a televised national address Monday that she would dissolve parliament and hold a general election “as soon as possible”.

“The government does not want any loss of life,” she said, amid fears that the mass rallies could bring fresh violence.

The election move could increase pressure on protesters to agree to some kind of compromise with the government.

But the leaders of the anti-government movement said that they were not satisfied with new elections, pledging to rid Thailand of the influence of Thaksin, a tycoon-turned-premier who was ousted by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago and now lives abroad.

“The movement will keep on fighting. Our goal is to uproot the Thaksin regime. Although the House is dissolved and there will be new elections, the Thaksin regime is still in place,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told AFP.

“My people want more than dissolution. They are determined to regain their sovereignty,” he said.

Thaksin — who once described Yingluck as his “clone” — is widely considered the de facto leader of the ruling party.

Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election in more than a decade and despite the mass protests, many experts believe Yingluck’s party is likely to triumph in new elections.

The opposition Democrat Party — which said Sunday its 153 MPs were resigning from the 500-seat lower house because they could not achieve anything in parliament — has not won an elected majority in about two decades.

100,000 protesters take to the streets

Around 100,000 people were estimated to have joined the protests by mid-morning, according to the government’s Center for the Administration of Peace and Order, which was set up to deal with the unrest.

Demonstrators marched along several routes through the capital towards the government headquarters — the main target of the rally — paralyzing traffic in parts of the city.

Thaksin’s overthrow ushered in years of political turmoil and sometimes bloody street protests by the royalist “Yellow Shirts” and the rival pro-Thaksin “Red Shirts”.

Tensions remain high in the kingdom after several days of street clashes last week when police used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against rock-throwing demonstrators.

The unrest has left five people dead and more than 200 injured. The authorities have said they would try to avoid fresh confrontation.

“Police are unarmed, with only shields and batons. We will not use tear gas, or if we have no choice, its use will be limited,” Interior Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan said in a televised news conference late Sunday.

“The government believes we can control the situation. We will focus on negotiation,” he added.

Demonstrators and police have observed a temporary truce since Wednesday for the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is treated as a near-deity by many Thais.

With turnout dwindling, Suthep had called for a final push to bring down the government.

“We want you to come out and march in every road. We will not go home empty-handed,” the protest leader said in a speech to supporters late Sunday.

The former deputy premier, who now faces an arrest warrant for insurrection, has vowed to surrender to the authorities unless enough people join the march to the government headquarters.

Thailand’s political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite backed by the military against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin.

The former premier went into exile in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction which he says was politically motivated.

The demonstrations were triggered by an amnesty bill, since dropped by Yingluck’s ruling party, which opponents feared would have cleared the way for Thaksin’s return.

They are the biggest and deadliest street demonstrations since 2010, when dozens of people were killed in a military crackdown on mass pro-Thaksin Red Shirt rallies in Bangkok.

Thai PM calls elections as 100,000 join protests | i24news – See beyond.