Top Asian News 3:07 a.m. GMT
BANGKOK (AP) — Faced with a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, the Thai capital on Sunday announced a ban on indoor dining and gatherings of more than 20 people, in addition to the closure of construction sites and the sealing off of workers’ quarters in Bangkok and nine other provinces. The measures will remain for 30 days. Thailand reported 3,995 confirmed cases and 42 dead in the last 24 hours. The numbers have doubled recently, and health officials blame a lack of cooperation from migrant workers employed in construction and in factories. “Camps were closed but workers sneaked out to markets and communities, and spread the disease,” Apisamai Srirangson, spokesperson for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said Friday.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was buried Saturday with thousands lining the streets of Manila to remember him for standing up to China in bitter territorial disputes, striking a peace deal with Muslim guerrillas and defending democracy in the Southeast Asian nation where his parents helped topple a dictator. Aquino died Thursday at age 61 of kidney disease arising from diabetes following a long public absence, after his single, six-year term ended in 2016. Family and friends sang a patriotic song after a silver urn with Aquino’s remains was placed beside the tomb of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino.
GENEVA (AP) — China pressured Ukraine into withdrawing its support for a call for more scrutiny of human rights in China’s western region of Xinjiang by threatening to withhold Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines destined for Ukraine unless it did so, diplomats told The Associated Press on Friday. Ukraine briefly joined a statement by over 40 countries, presented by Canada at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, urging China to allow immediate access for independent observers to Xinjiang. Some human rights groups have alleged Chinese mistreatment of Muslim Uyghurs and others in the region. On Thursday, Ukraine pulled its name off the list of supporting states after Chinese authorities warned Kyiv that they would block a planned shipment of at least 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Ukraine unless it did so, said diplomats from two Western countries.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s Peak Tram is a fixture in the memories of many residents and tourists, ferrying passengers up Victoria Peak for a bird’s eye view of the city’s many skyscrapers. Enthusiasts and others have been rushing for one last ride before the Peak Tram closes for renovations. The tram will stop service on Monday for a six-month makeover, in part to reduce waiting times for the growing crowds. Cedric Yu, who said he hadn’t ridden the tram for years, called it a collective memory for Hong Kong people and part of the city’s history. “Taking the Peak Tram just now reminds me of my childhood memories,” he added.
TOKYO (AP) — After months of frustration and delay, Japan has hit the remarkable benchmark of 1 million vaccines a day. But with the Olympics set to start in less than a month, and only a small portion of the country vaccinated, a question lingers: Is it enough? The vaccination pace is quickening even as the young remain hesitant amid an anti-vaccination misinformation campaign and officials have slowed vaccination reservations as demand outpaces supply. Add in continued political and bureaucratic bungling and the arrival of highly contagious coronavirus variants, and there are worries that the government’s effort to ramp up vaccinations before the Olympics will fall short.
KOH DAMAN, Afghanistan (AP) — For two days the fighting was blistering. Rockets and heavy machine gun fire pounded Imam Sahib, a key district on Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan. When the explosions died down and Syed Akram finally emerged from his home earlier this week, three of his neighbor’s children had been killed, and a tank was burning on a nearby street corner. Several shops and a petrol station were still smoldering. In the streets, the Taliban were in control. There were maybe 300 of them, he said. That had been plenty to overwhelm the government troops defending the town, who had numbered fewer than 100.
MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s counterterrorism police made more arrests Saturday in connection with a car bombing earlier in the week that killed three people and wounded 25. The attack in Lahore was near the residence of a convicted militant leader linked to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Investigating officer Ahmed Wakeel said police arrested a man from the Mandi Bahauddin district of Punjab province who sold the car used in the Wednesday blast. The explosion took place outside the residence of anti-India militant leader Hafiz Saeed, who is designated a terrorist by the U.S. Justice Department and has a $10 million bounty on his head.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Around 175 death row inmates in Sri Lanka continued their hunger strike for a second day Saturday, demanding their sentences be commuted to life in prison after the country’s president pardoned a former lawmaker who had been condemned for an election-related killing. Prison spokesman Chandana Ekanayake said top officials from the prison ministry had held in-person discussions with the striking inmates at two prisons, one inside the capital Colombo and one outside. “Despite being informed on the measures being taken on their demands, they (the prisoners) are continuing their hunger strike and did not take food this evening as well,” Ekanayake said in a statement.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A small group of Afghans who worked as interpreters for the U.S. military rallied on Friday near the American Embassy in Kabul, protesting the red tape that stands in the way of their leaving Afghanistan. The protest comes amid a push to get Afghan interpreters and others who helped the U.S. out of the country as American and NATO troops complete their pullout. The protesters in Kabul said they are victims of a bureaucratic nightmare as they try to escape abroad. Many — even those who have not been directly threatened — say they fear for their lives, despite assurances from the Taliban they would not be targeted.
HONG KONG (AP) — China on Friday promoted Hong Kong’s top security official to the territory’s No. 2 spot as Beijing looks to the government of the Asian financial hub to clamp down on free speech and political opponents to restore stability following anti-government protests. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Secretary for Security John Lee would replace Matthew Cheung as the city’s chief secretary, while police chief Chris Tang would take over Lee’s role. Raymond Siu Chak-yee, Tang’s deputy, will be the new head of the police force. Hong Kong’s government has long been lauded for its professionalism and efficiency, but its image has been battered in recent years by its banning and suppression of pro-democracy protests and its hard-line enforcement of Beijing’s security policies.