Asean Summit, Malaysia on Nov 21, 1015

Asean Summit, Malaysia  on Nov 21, 1015
Asean Establishes Landmark Economic and Security Bloc
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) - Text version)

“….. Here is the prediction: China will turn North Korea loose soon. The alliance will dissolve, or become stale. There will be political upheaval in China. Not a coup and not a revolution. Within the inner circles of that which you call Chinese politics, there will be a re-evaluation of goals and monetary policy. Eventually, you will see a break with North Korea, allowing still another dictator to fall and unification to occur with the south. ….”

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk
North Korean defector and activist Hyeonseo Lee, who lives in South Korea, poses as she presents her book 'The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story' in Beijing on March 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

US under fire in global press freedom report

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Children Day

Children Day

Search This Blog

Friday, May 19, 2023

China's Xi hails 'new era' of ties with Central Asia at summit

MSN – AFP, 18 May 2023 

Map showing Central Asia countries. China's President Xi Jinping will host a two-day
summit with the leaders of five Central Asian leaders in Xi'an starting May 18. 
Laurence CHU

Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed a "new era" of ties with Central Asia on Thursday, kicking off a summit Beijing hopes will deepen relations with the strategically vital region. 

Held in the ancient Chinese city of Xi'an, the historic eastern end of the Silk Road that linked China to Europe through Central Asia, Beijing has said this week's meeting is of "milestone significance".

Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting a summit with the leaders of five Central
Asian states as he seeks to build China's influence in the region. 

And in a speech to the region's leaders at a welcoming banquet Thursday evening, Xi said strengthening ties was a "strategic choice". 

"I am confident that with our joint efforts, tomorrow's summit will be a full success and will herald a new era of China-Central Asia relations," Xi was quoted as saying in a readout of the speech seen by AFP. 

The leaders of five Central Asian states arrive for the welcoming ceremony of
a summit being hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

"Join us in opening up a bright future of China-Central Asia cooperation," he said. 

This week's meeting is the first of its kind since the establishment of formal relations 31 years ago. 

Beijing says trade with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan reached $70 billion in 2022 and expanded 22 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023. 

Central Asia has also become key to China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, a defining geopolitical project for Xi, with Beijing keen to restart cooperation and fill the vacuum left in former Soviet states by Russia's war in Ukraine.

China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, has invested billions of dollars to tap natural gas reserves in Central Asia, while rail links connecting China to Europe criss-cross the region. 

Analysts told AFP this week's summit is likely to see efforts to reach agreements to further expand that vast network, including a long-stalled $6 billion China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway and an expansion of the Central Asia-to-China gas pipeline. 

'Global economic leadership' 

Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev hailed the "unique scope" of that project at a meeting with Xi ahead of the summit. 

Xi also told Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov in talks on Thursday that China was "willing to work with Kyrgyzstan to build a community of good neighborliness, friendship, shared prosperity, and a shared future". 

He then met with the leaders of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, lauding the close ties between them and pledging to expand economic and cultural exchanges. 

"Your policies will ensure the development and further prosperity of a modern socialist state, the strengthening of the authority and the global economic leadership of the country in the nearest future," Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev told Xi. 

Xi and Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan greeted the heads of state at a grand welcoming ceremony in the evening, posing for a group photo in front of an old-style Chinese building lit by red lanterns. 

Dozens of dancers then performed a musical show inspired by the Tang Dynasty, when relations between China and Central Asia were considered very strong. 

A media event will be held on Friday morning, expected to be attended by all six presidents, at which a joint statement is likely to be released. 

Growing influence 

This week's summit also comes as Beijing works to replace Russia as Central Asian nations' preferred partner -- and as Xi positions himself as a global statesman keen to expand China's reach far beyond its borders. 

"Xi will position himself as a leader that can promote global development and peace," Zhiqun Zhu, a Professor of International Relations and Political Science at Bucknell University, told AFP. 

The summit also coincides with a meeting of the G7 in Hiroshima that will likely focus on efforts to "push back China's growing influence around the world", Zhu said. 

"The diplomatic and strategic significance cannot be underestimated," he said.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

ASEAN leaders say 'deeply concerned' about Myanmar violence

Yahoo – AFP, Martin Abbugao and Allison Jackson, May 10, 2023 

The turmoil in junta-ruled Myanmar has dominated talks at the ASEAN
summit in Indonesia

Southeast Asian nations said Wednesday they are "deeply concerned" about the violence ravaging Myanmar, and condemned a recent attack on a convoy of diplomats delivering humanitarian aid in the country. 

Turmoil in junta-ruled Myanmar has dominated talks at this week's Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Indonesia, as the regional bloc faces criticism for its perceived inaction. 

ASEAN has led diplomatic attempts to resolve the festering crisis, but its efforts so far have failed to stem the bloodshed unleashed by a military coup in 2021. 

"We were deeply concerned with ongoing violence in Myanmar and urged the immediate cessation of all forms of violence and the use of force to create a conducive environment for the safe and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance and inclusive national dialogues," ASEAN leaders said in a statement. 

The junta has ignored international criticism and refused to engage with its opponents, which include ousted lawmakers, anti-coup "People's Defence Forces" and armed ethnic minority groups. 

An air strike on a village in a rebel stronghold last month that reportedly killed about 170 people sparked global condemnation and worsened the junta's isolation. 

Pressure on the regional bloc increased Sunday after a convoy of vehicles carrying diplomats and officials coordinating ASEAN humanitarian relief in Myanmar came under fire. 

Singapore and Indonesia said earlier that staff from their embassies in Myanmar were in the vehicles that came under fire in eastern Shan State but were unharmed. 

"We condemned the attack and underlined that the perpetrators must be held accountable," ASEAN leaders said in their statement. 

Addressing the summit Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he was "confident" the 10-member bloc could deal with growing global challenges if its members were united. 

"With unity, ASEAN will be able to play a central role in bringing peace and growth," Widodo said through a translator as he opened the leaders' session of the summit. 

Low expectations 

Foreign ministers and national leaders meeting on the Indonesian island of Flores are trying to kickstart a five-point plan agreed upon with Myanmar two years ago after mediation attempts to end the violence failed. 

Myanmar remains an ASEAN member but has been barred from top-level summits due to the junta's failure to implement the peace plan. 

Diplomatic sources told AFP that the foreign ministers of some countries, which they did not name, had suggested eventually inviting back the junta, citing "Myanmar fatigue". 

Jakarta's chairmanship of the bloc this year had raised hopes ASEAN could push for a peaceful solution, using its economic weight as well as its diplomatic experience. 

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Friday that her country was using "quiet diplomacy" to speak with all sides of the Myanmar conflict and spur renewed peace efforts. 

But Indonesia was running out of time to achieve a breakthrough, said Lina Alexandra, an analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta. 

After the next leaders' summit in September, Alexandra added, Indonesia will hand the bloc's influential chairmanship to communist-ruled Laos, which could bring Myanmar back "into the fold" and allow the junta to attend ASEAN summits. 

"It is time for Indonesia to show that it can do what it should do," she said. 

ASEAN's charter principles of consensus and non-interference have hamstrung its ability to stop the violence in Myanmar, which critics say poses an existential threat to the bloc. 

Divisions among its members over Myanmar and other issues, including China's growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea, have undermined the bloc. 

On Wednesday, diplomats were fine-tuning an implementation plan for the peace process that would be announced by their leaders on Thursday. 

The latest draft of the end-of-summit statement seen by AFP has left the paragraph on Myanmar open, reflecting diplomatic difficulties over the issue. 

Expectations for progress were low. 

"I don't think that there's going to be very much there that will surprise people," said Aaron Connelly, an analyst for International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

High-level defection: why N. Korean diplomatic family chose freedom

Yahoo – AFP, Kim Il-sung, March 1, 2023 

Born into an elite North Korean family with ties to the ruling dynasty, Oh Hye Son grew up believing she was "special" -- but then she tasted freedom overseas and decided to defect. 

Most of the tens of thousands of North Koreans who have escaped repression and poverty at home make an arduous, high-risk journey across the country's land border with China, where they face arrest and possible deportation. 

Oh's family's defection was less dangerous but equally as wrenching: she convinced her husband Thae Yong Ho, then deputy ambassador at North Korea's London embassy, to give up their privileged place in the Pyongyang regime for the sake of their children. 

"I wanted to never return to North Korea and questioned why North Koreans had to live such a hard life," she told AFP in an interview in Seoul, where she now lives. 

Years of postings across Europe -- in Denmark, Sweden, and Britain -- exposed the family to a different life, she said, adding that when she first arrived in London she thought: "If there is paradise, this must be it". 

Oh, who recently published a Korean-language memoir, was once part of Pyongyang aristocracy -- a descendent of a famed North Korean general who fought alongside leader Kim Il Sung against the Japanese in the 1930s. 

But despite this impeccable pedigree, she still "lived in fear of power", she said. 

"No one except the Kim family had privileges, and as my children learned about freedom and democracy when they lived abroad, I realised there was no future for them in North Korea," she added. 

NHS love 

Oh's eldest son Thae Juhyok had chronic health problems including nephrotic syndrome, a condition which can cause life-threatening kidney problems if not treated. 

Getting that treatment was near impossible in Pyongyang's crumbling health system -- one of the world's worst -- where doctors had to be bribed to do anything and crucial medicines were lacking. 

Oh said it was eye-opening when the family first arrived in London in 2004 and became eligible for the National Health Service. 

Her son was soon able to get free treatment at one of the best medical facilities in the city, she said, adding that her children also went to British schools, where they settled in well. 

"The children grew up so bright in England, in a society that respected them," she said. 

It was a stark contrast to life in Pyongyang, to which they returned in 2008 after her husband's first London posting ended. 

Juhyok attended the Pyongyang Medical University, but instead of studying he was put to work on a construction site hauling cement, Oh said. 

North Korea is beset by labour shortages across economic sectors and it is common for the government to order students, even schoolchildren, to do manual labour as a demonstration of loyalty. 

If one fails to comply, the government reportedly withholds food rations or imposes taxes, according to a 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report published by the US State Department. 

As her overseas-raised children began questioning the corruption and injustice they observed in North Korea, Oh realised it would be impossible for them to fully integrate into Pyongyang society. 

"They had completely different values," she said. 

"It was then that I began thinking that if I ever had a chance to go overseas again, I will not return." 


Oh's chance came when her husband was again posted to London as the deputy ambassador, and she convinced him to defect as she did not want to be "resented by her children in the future". 

She had hoped the North Korean regime would collapse after the death of Kim Jong Il, the father and predecessor of current leader Kim Jong Un, and was crushed when his son emerged as the third generation of Kims to rule. 

"In North Korea, you existed -- from morning to night -- for the sake of the Kim family," Oh said. 

Thae became the first defector to be elected to South Korea's parliament, where he is now a high-profile lawmaker for the conservative People Power Party. 

Oh loves her new life in Seoul, but is haunted by thoughts of her mother and siblings left behind in North Korea, which is known to punish defectors' family members. 

She can't check in with them: civilian contact is banned between the two Koreas, although some defectors have used intermediaries to smuggle Chinese mobile phones across the border. 

Oh has not managed to contact her family, but she once glimpsed her brother-in-law when he was part of an official North Korean delegation that visited Seoul in 2018 during a rare bout of diplomacy. 

It gave her hope that her relatives had not been purged by the Kim regime as a result of her family's escape. 

"Will they resent me? Will they envy me? Or will they silently cheer for me?" she said, wiping away tears.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Concern mounts for Iranian climber who competed without hijab

Yahoo – AFP, Stuart Williams, October 18, 2022 

Alarm grew on Tuesday over the wellbeing of Iranian sports climber Elnaz Rekabi after she competed at an event in South Korea without a hijab in what some saw as a gesture of solidarity with the women-led protests at home. 

Rekabi, 33, in her first comment since the event on Sunday apologised on Instagram for the "concerns" caused and insisted that her bare-headed appearance had been "unintentional". 

She had come fourth representing Iran in the boulder and lead combined event at the Asian Championships in Seoul. 

In the initial bouldering discipline her head was covered with a bandana but in the later lead climbing, scaling a high wall with a rope, she wore only a headband, the stream posted by the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) showed. 

This was in breach of the Islamic republic's mandatory dress rules of compulsory headscarf for women which also apply to all female athletes, even when competing abroad. 

The gesture came one month into protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested by Tehran police for allegedly violating the dress rules, which have transformed into a movement against the obligatory hijab and the Islamic republic itself. 

Supporters of the protests on social media described Rekabi as a "hero", posting images of her climbing up the letters of the protest slogan "Woman. Life. Freedom." 

Nothing had been heard since the event from Rekabi until a story was published Tuesday morning on her Instagram account where she has over 200,000 followers. 

"I firstly apologise for all the concerns I have caused," the statement said. 

Due to the timing and sudden call to begin the climb "my hijab unintentionally became problematic", it said. 

"I am currently on my way back to Iran alongside the team based on the pre-scheduled timetable," it added. 

Pressure in Seoul

However, there was alarm over under what circumstances the statement had emerged after unconfirmed reports suggested she had been pressured by Iranian officials in South Korea. 

BBC Persian quoted an unnamed source as saying that friends had been unable to contact her and the team had left their hotel on Seoul on Monday, earlier than the scheduled departure date of Wednesday. 

It said her mobile phone and passport had been taken from her. 

Meanwhile news website Iran Wire reported that the head of Iran's climbing federation had "tricked" her into entering the Iranian embassy in Seoul and that she would then be taken directly to the airport. 

It said the federation chief had promised her safe passage to Iran if she handed over her phone and passport. 

The Iranian embassy in Seoul, however, issued a statement to AFP denying "all the fake, false news and disinformation regarding" her situation and adding Rekabi had left South Korea along with her teammates on Tuesday.

 The spokesperson for the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights, Ravina Shamdasani, said the UN was "aware" of the case and concerns were being raised with the Iranian authorities. 

"Women should never be prosecuted for what they wear. They should never be subjected to violations such as arbitrary detention or any kind of violence with regards to what they wear," she said in Geneva. 

"We will be following this case very closely." 


Rekabi is believed to be the second Iranian woman to have appeared in competition without a headscarf after boxer Sadaf Khadem appeared bare-headed in a bout in France in 2019. Khadem did not return to Iran and now lives in exile in France. 

Sport has become a hugely sensitive arena during the protests, with several prominent Iranian female athletes expressing support for women's rights. 

Famous footballers have also been caught up in the crackdown with former international player Hossein Mahini arrested and the world's ex-top scorer Ali Daei having his passport confiscated. Daei's document was returned while Mahini was reportedly freed on bail. 

Iran's Fars news agency, which reflects hardline views, published an editorial Tuesday critical of Rekabi but avoided mentioning her by name. 

It asked why "Western, Zionist and Saudi" media had not paid attention to victories by Iranian women wearing headscarves in the last days in athletics and weightlifting but instead "highlighted the performance of a girl with unconventional behaviour". 

Rights groups have long accused Iran of pressuring people deemed to have violated its laws into so-called confessions either on television or social media.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Amanpour says Iran president interview scrapped over headscarf demand

Yahoo – AFP, Ebrahim Raisi, September 22, 2022 

Veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour said Thursday that an interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was scrapped after he insisted she wear a headscarf, the focus of major protests in the cleric-run state. 

Amanpour, the chief international anchor of CNN who also has a show on US public broadcaster PBS, said she was ready for the interview Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly when an aide insisted she cover her hair. 

"I politely declined. We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves," Amanpour, who was born in Britain to an Iranian father, wrote on Twitter. 

"I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran," she said. 

"I said that I couldn't agree to this unprecedented and unexpected condition." 

She posted a picture of herself -- without a headscarf -- sitting in front of an empty chair where Raisi would have been. 

An aide to Raisi, a hardline cleric, told Amanpour that he was insisting on a headscarf because of "the situation in Iran," she said. 

Iran has been swept by nearly a week of protests since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by morality police that enforce the clerics' rules on how women dress. 

A non-governmental group said that at least 31 Iranian civilians have been killed in the crackdown on the protests, in which women have been seen burning headscarves.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Pope Francis asks North Korea to invite him to visit

Yahoo – AFP, August 26, 2022 

Pope Francis has asked Pyongyang to invite him to North Korea, saying in a televised interview on Friday that he would not turn down a chance to visit and work for peace. 

A potential papal visit to the isolated, nuclear-armed country was previously floated in 2018 when Seoul's former president Moon Jae-in embarked on a round of diplomacy with Pyongyang's leader Kim Jong Un. 

Moon, who is Catholic, said during a summit that Kim told him the pontiff would be "enthusiastically" welcomed. 

Pope Francis replied at the time that he would be willing to go if he received an official invitation. 

But Pyongyang has largely cut off contact with Seoul following the collapse of a second summit between Kim and then-US president Donald Trump in 2019, which has left talks at a standstill. 

"When they invite me -- that is to say, please invite me -- I won't say no," Pope Francis told South Korea's state broadcaster KBS in an interview that aired Friday. 

"The goal is simply fraternity," he added. 

Ties between North and South Korea have been at a frosty low since Seoul inaugurated a hawkish new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, in May. 

Yoon offered aid to the North in return for denuclearisation, but Kim's regime ridiculed the plan. 

The North blamed South Korea for its May outbreak of Covid-19 and earlier this month threatened to "wipe out" Seoul's authorities in retaliation. 

North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017. 

'Work for peace'

The pope has repeatedly urged Koreans on the peninsula to "work for peace." 

"You, the Korean people, have suffered from the war," he said. 

Religious freedom is enshrined in the North's constitution, but all religious activity is banned outside of state-sanctioned institutions. 

In the early 20th century, before the division of the peninsula, Pyongyang was a regional missionary hub with scores of churches and a thriving Christian community that earned it the title "Jerusalem of the East". 

But Kim Il Sung, the North's late founding leader and the current ruler's grandfather, viewed Christianity as a threat and eradicated it through executions and labour camps. 

The North's regime has since allowed Catholic organisations to run aid projects, but direct relations with the Vatican are non-existent. 

When Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014, he held a special mass dedicated to the reunification of the two Koreas.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Singapore to repeal colonial-era law against gay sex: PM

France24 – AFP,  21 August 2022 

Gay rights campaigners have long said Singapore's law runs afoul of the
affluent city-state's increasingly modern and vibrant culture Roslan RAHMAN AFP

Singapore (AFP) – Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Sunday the country will repeal a colonial-era law criminalising gay sex, though he maintained that the government will continue to "uphold" marriage as between a man and a woman. 

Inherited from the British colonial era, section 377A of Singapore's penal code penalises sex between men with up to two years in jail. 

Gay rights campaigners have long said the law runs afoul of the affluent city-state's increasingly modern and vibrant culture, and had mounted two unsuccessful legal challenges. 

During a major policy speech Sunday, Lee said attitudes have shifted since 15 years ago when the government decided the law should remain, although it has not been actively enforced. 

Gay people "are now better accepted" locally, especially among younger Singaporeans, he said. 

"It is timely to ask ourselves again the fundamental question: Should sex between men in private be a criminal offence?" Lee said. 

"The government will repeal section 377A and decriminalise sex between men. I believe this is the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept." 

He added: "This will bring the law into line with current social mores, and I hope, provide some relief to gay Singaporeans". 

However, the repeal of section 377A stops short of full marriage equality. 

Lee said the government recognises that "most Singaporeans do not want the repeal to trigger a drastic shift in our societal norms across the board", including how marriage is defined and how it is taught in schools. 

"Hence, even as we repeal section 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage," he said. 

He stressed that under the law, "only marriages between one man and one woman are recognised in Singapore". 

The government will amend the constitution to protect the existing definition of marriage from being challenged constitutionally in the courts, Lee added. 

'Long road to equality'

The first attempt to overturn the law was rejected in 2014. The Court of Appeals dismissed the second challenge last February. 

Gay rights campaigners on Sunday expressed "relief" over the government's decision. 

"The repeal of Section 377A is the first step on a long road towards full equality for LGBTQ+ people in Singapore," they said in joint statement signed by more than 20 groups. 

But "the true impact of repeal will be determined by how the people of Singapore respond to it, and treat each other, in the days and months to come". 

Ahead of Lee's speech, an alliance of Protestant churches in Singapore had warned Friday against removing the law, which it described as a "marker for many social and moral considerations". 

In 2018, India's Supreme Court decriminalised gay sex by overturning legislation from its own period under British rule -- a decision that spurred campaigners in Singapore to renew their efforts to challenge the law. 

The following year, Taiwan took the unprecedented decision in May to legalise same-sex marriage, becoming the first place in Asia to do so.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Myanmar junta executes two pro-democracy rivals

Yahoo – AFP, 25 July 2022 

Myanmar's junta has executed four prisoners including a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi's party and a prominent activist, state media said Monday, in the country's first use of capital punishment in decades. 

The four were executed for leading "brutal and inhumane terror acts", the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said. 

The paper said the executions were carried out "under the prison's procedure" without saying when or how the men were killed. 

The junta has sentenced dozens of anti-coup activists to death as part of its crackdown on dissent after seizing power last year, but Myanmar had not carried out an execution for decades. 

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) who was arrested in November, was sentenced to death in January for offences under anti-terrorism laws. 

Democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu -- better known as "Jimmy" -- received the same sentence from the military tribunal. 

Two other men were sentenced to death for killing a woman they alleged was an informer for the junta in Yangon. 

Diplomatic condemnation 

The junta was heavily criticised by international powers last month when it announced its intention to carry out the executions. 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the junta's decision, calling it "a blatant violation to the right to life, liberty and security of person". 

UN rights experts said that if the executions went ahead -- for the first time in Myanmar since 1988 -- it could mark the start of a spate of hangings. 

The experts said that under the junta's martial law provisions, the death penalty could be given for 23 "vague and broadly defined offences" -- which in practice could include any criticism of the military. 

Myanmar expert Richard Horsey of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Twitter that the executions were "an outrageous act. And one that will create political shockwaves, now and for a long time to come". 

Phyo Zeya Thaw had been accused of orchestrating several attacks on regime forces, including a gun attack on a commuter train in Yangon in August that killed five policemen. 

A hip-hop pioneer whose subversive rhymes irked the previous junta, he was jailed in 2008 for membership in an illegal organisation and possession of foreign currency.

 He was elected to parliament representing Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD in the 2015 elections, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule. 

The country's military alleged voter fraud during elections in 2020 -- which the NLD won by a landslide -- as justification for its coup on February 1 last year. 

Suu Kyi has been detained since then and faces a slew of charges in a junta court that could see her face a prison sentence of more than 150 years. 

Kyaw Min Yu, who rose to prominence during Myanmar's 1988 student uprising against the country's previous military regime, was arrested in an overnight raid in October.

Droupadi Murmu sworn in as India's first tribal president

Yahoo – AFP, 25 July 2022 

Droupadi Murmu was sworn in as India's president on Monday, making her the first person from one of the country's marginalised tribal communities to serve as head of state. 

The former school teacher and state governor was elected to the largely ceremonial position last week with 64 percent of the vote by members of India's parliament and state assemblies. 

Murmu, who is from the Santhal tribe and was born in eastern Odisha state, paid her respects before her inauguration at a memorial dedicated to India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi. 

"I started my life journey from a small tribal village," Murmu, 64, said after taking the oath of office in parliament. 

"From the background I come from, it was like a dream for me to even get elementary education," she added. 

"But despite many obstacles, my resolve remained strong and I became the first daughter from my village to go to college." 

Murmu's win was considered a certainty because of the strength of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the parliament and state assemblies. 

Analysts said the move will likely help Prime Minister Narendra Modi extend his base among the poor tribal communities ahead of his re-election bid in 2024. 

"Her assuming the Presidency is a watershed moment for India especially for the poor, marginalised and downtrodden," Modi said on Twitter after Murmu's address. 

Murmu said her election would give hope to those left behind by India's recent economic growth. 

"It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that those who have been deprived for centuries, who have been away from the benefits of development... are seeing their reflection in me," she said. 

India's prime minister wields executive power, but the president can send back some parliamentary bills for reconsideration and also plays a guiding role in the process of forming governments. 

Murmu is the country's second woman president after Pratibha Patil, who held the position for five years from 2007. 

She succeeds Ram Nath Kovind, the second president from the Dalit community, the bottom of the Hindu caste system.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

N. Korea appoints veteran diplomat as first female foreign minister

France24 – AFP, 11 June 2022 

A career diplomat who speaks fluent English, Choe Son Hui
served as a close aide to Kim Jong Un during talks with the

Seoul (AFP) – North Korea has appointed veteran diplomat Choe Son-hui as its first female foreign minister, state media reported Saturday, as Pyongyang pushes ahead with a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests and ignores US calls for talks. 

Choe, who formerly served as the North's vice foreign minister, was tapped to lead the foreign ministry at a ruling party meeting overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, the state media KCNA reported. 

She replaces Ri Son Gwon, a hardline former military official who previously led talks with the South. 

A career diplomat who speaks fluent English, Choe served as a close aide to Kim during nuclear talks with the United States and accompanied the North Korean leader to summits with then US president Donald Trump. 

She held a rare question and answer session with reporters on the night the two leaders' summit in Hanoi collapsed without a deal in February 2019, blaming Washington for the failed talks. 

"I think the United States has missed a golden opportunity with its rejection of our proposals," she said. 

Diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington have since stalled, with the Kim regime in recent months not responding to the United States' repeated offers to return to negotiations. 

The nuclear-armed North has meanwhile carried out a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017. 

US and South Korean officials have also warned that Kim's regime is preparing to carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test -- a move that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned would provoke a "swift and forceful" response.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Saudi women move from behind wheel to under the hood

France24 – AFP, 3 June 2022 

Ghada Ahmed (R) works on a car in Saudi Arabia, where garages are tapping
women as a source for mechanics Fayez Nureldine AFP

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – An auto repair garage in Saudi Arabia is turning to an untapped source for new car mechanics: Saudi women, who just four years ago weren't even allowed to drive. 

At the Petromin Express garage in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, new female recruits check oil and change tyres alongside their male counterparts, part of a nationwide push to bring more women into the workforce. 

Yet the women trainees have, perhaps inevitably, encountered a host of barriers as they enter a field that is male-dominated the world over –- and even more so in the conservative Muslim kingdom. 

Several told AFP their first months on the job have brought flashes of self-doubt, scepticism from relatives and outright hostility from some customers. 

One "old man" who came by the garage immediately ordered all the women out, saying he didn't want them going near his car, recalled recruit Ghada Ahmad. 

"At the beginning, it's normal not to trust us, because I'm a woman and he doesn't trust my work as a woman," said Ahmad, wearing grease-streaked white gloves and a long blue overcoat. 

"It's something new for them... After years of only seeing men, now comes a woman." 

As she struggled to learn the basics, Ahmad had moments when she wondered if such men might have a point. 

"I used to go home with swollen hands, crying and saying: 'This job is not for me. It looks like their words were correct,'" she recalled. 

But as her skills improved, so did her confidence –- aided by other customers who were more encouraging. 

"One man came and said: 'I'm very proud of you. You are honouring us. You are a crown on our heads.'" 

Helpful husbands

Expanding women's rights is central to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 agenda, intended to diversify the oil-dependent economy while softening Saudi Arabia's radical image. 

The highest-profile change came in 2018, when Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto ruler, oversaw the end of a decades-old ban on women driving. 

The country has also eased so-called "guardianship" rules that give men arbitrary authority over female relatives.


Ola Flimban checks the tyre pressure on a car at a garage in Jeddah
Fayez Nureldine AFP

These moves have burnished Prince Mohammed's reputation as a women's rights champion, despite a crackdown on dissent that has ensnared some of the very activists pushing for reform.

Yet women mechanics in Jeddah told AFP they could never have started working without their husbands' consent. 

Ola Flimban, a 44-year-old mother of four, first heard about the jobs from a social media post, and immediately asked her husband, Rafat Flimban, if she could apply. 

Rafat agreed and helped his wife prepare for the interview by teaching her the names of spare parts. 

"Now she has experience in different car types, how to change oil, how to check cars. She's even checking my car," he said. 

The support at home has made it easier for Ola to deal with wary customers at the garage. 

"They are surprised that girls work in this field, and ask us to explain how we fell in love with this field," she said. 

"That is the most common question." 

As she spoke, 20-year-old Mechaal drove up in his silver sedan for an oil change. 

He admitted being "shocked" that the task would be carried out by a woman, but he soon came around. 

"If they are here, it must mean they are trained," he said, "and maybe they understand my car better than me." 

Petromin vice president Tariq Javed said his company was "confident that this initiative will encourage more women to join the automotive industry in all stages". 

The company says its training covers "all express services, including oil, battery, tyres, A/C, and other automotive requirements". 

'We make girls feel relaxed'

Perhaps the biggest winners from the firm's initiative are the city's women drivers. 

"We make girls feel relaxed when we operate on their cars," said 30-year-old Angham Jeddawi, who has been at the garage for six months. 

"Some girls feel shy when dealing with men. They don't know how to talk with them, and they don't know what will be done with the car. But with us they are free to talk a lot." 

For Jeddawi, the job has fulfilled a lifelong goal she once thought impossible. 

A male customer watches over Ghada Ahmed as she works on his truck
Fayez Nureldine AFP

"My dream was to enter the automobile sector, but for a Saudi woman this field was not available. So when the opportunity came, I applied straight away," she said. 

The knowledge she's gained has encouraged her to hit the road herself. 

She has been studying for her driving test and hopes to have a licence within a month. 

"If I face a problem in the middle of the road, now I know how to react," she said.