Top Asian News 3:52 a.m. GMT
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Just two months ago, Indonesia was coming to a gasping India’s aid with thousands tanks of oxygen. Today, the Southeast Asia country is running out of oxygen as it endures a devastating wave of coronavirus cases and the government is seeking emergency supplies from other countries, including Singapore and China. A shipment of more than 1,000 oxygen cylinders, concentrators, ventilators and other health devices arrived from Singapore on Friday, followed by another 1,000 ventilators from Australia, said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response. Beside those donations, Indonesia plans to buy 36,000 tons of oxygen and 10,000 concentrators — devices that generate oxygen — from neighboring Singapore, Pandjaitan said.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A fire engulfed a food and beverage factory outside Bangladesh’s capital, killing at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door, fire officials said Friday. The blaze began Thursday night at the five-story Hashem Foods Ltd. factory in Rupganj, just outside Dhaka, sending huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Police initially gave a toll of three dead, but then discovered piles of bodies on Friday afternoon after the fire was extinguished. So far 52 bodies have been recovered, but the top two floors of the factory have yet to be searched, said Debasish Bardhan, deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defense.
MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (AP) — A powerful warlord in northern Afghanistan and a key U.S. ally in the 2001 defeat of the Taliban blames a fractious Afghan government and an “irresponsible” American departure for the insurgents’ recent rapid territorial gains across the north. Ata Mohammad Noor, who is among those behind the latest attempt to halt the Taliban advances by creating more militias, told The Associated Press that the Afghan military is badly demoralized. He said Washington’s quick exit left the Afghan military logistically unprepared for the Taliban onslaught. In an interview at his opulent home in Mazar-e-Sharif, the main city of the north, he said that even he had not expected the Taliban’s rapid wins, particularly in nearby Badakhshan province in the country’s northeast corner.
HONG KONG (AP) — China’s market regulator on Saturday blocked the merger of Tencent-backed game streaming platforms Douyu and Huya following an anti-monopoly investigation, as authorities ramp up scrutiny of some of the country’s biggest technology companies. Huya and Douyu — which provide videogame live-streaming services akin to Twitch in the U.S. — are two of the largest companies of its kind in China. Both count gaming firm Tencent among their investors. China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said in a statement that a merger between Huya and Douyu would give Tencent control over the merged entity. “From the perspective of different key indicators like revenue, number of active users, resources for streamers, the total share is very substantial and the elimination and restriction of competition can be foreseen,” the statement said.
BEIJING (AP) — China’s regulator ordered the removal from app stores of 25 apps owned by Didi Global Inc., the country’s largest ride-hailing service, citing severe violations of rules against collecting personal data. The Cyberspace Administration of China had already taken down the main Didi app last Sunday, pending a cybersecurity review, after it debuted on the U.S. stock market last week. The 25 additional apps include Didi Enterprises, as well as ones designed for Didi drivers. A spokesperson for Didi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The move comes after Chinese authorities said earlier this week they would step up supervision of companies listed overseas.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden says the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan will end on Aug. 31, delivering an impassioned argument for exiting the nearly 20-year war without sacrificing more American lives even as he bluntly acknowledged there will be no “mission accomplished” moment to celebrate. Biden pushed back against the notion the U.S. mission has failed but also noted that it remains unlikely the government would control all of Afghanistan after the U.S. leaves. He urged the Afghan government and Taliban, which he said remains as formidable as it did before the start of the war, to come to a peace agreement.
MOSCOW (AP) — The Taliban claimed on Friday that they now control 85% of Afghanistan’s territory amid a surge in wins on the ground and as American troops complete their pullout from the war-battered country. The announcement came at a press conference at the end of a visit by a senior Taliban delegation to Moscow this week — a trip meant to offer assurances that the insurgents’ quick gains in Afghanistan do not threaten Russia or its allies in Central Asia. The claim, which is impossible to verify, was considerably higher than previous Taliban statements that more than a third of the country’s 421 districts and district centers were in their control.
BANGKOK (AP) — Officials in Thailand on Friday announced a seven-hour curfew and other restrictions for the capital and nine other provinces to try to slow a growing number of cases and deaths in a coronavirus surge that began in early April. People living in Bangkok and five surrounding provinces along with four in the country’s far south, where the virus is also rampant, are required to remain at home from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., not hold gatherings of more than five people and avoid unnecessary travel. The restrictions take effect on Monday and will be reviewed after two weeks, Deputy Health Minister Satit Pitutacha said.
Some won’t ever remember the parents they lost because they were too young when COVID-19 struck. Others are trying to keep the memory alive by doing the things they used to do together: making pancakes or playing guitar. Others still are clutching onto what remains, a pillow or a photo, as they adapt to lives with aunts, uncles and siblings stepping in to fill the void. The 4 million people who have died so far in the coronavirus pandemic left behind parents, friends and spouses — but also young children who are navigating life now as orphans or with just one parent, who is also mourning the loss.
BEIJING (AP) — China sent a flight to bring home 210 of its nationals from Afghanistan, state media reported Friday, as the U.S. military prepares to leave the country and the security situation grows increasingly fraught. The Global Times newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party said the Xiamen Airlines flight departed July 2 from the Afghan capital, Kabul, and landed in the central province of Hubei. The airline confirmed the report in a post on its Twitter-like Weibo account but offered no additional details. The Global Times and other reports said 22 of those onboard tested positive for COVID-19. The National Health Commission on Wednesday reported 25 new imported cases in Hubei on Wednesday, apparently including those who had arrived from Afghanistan the previous week.