Thai crisis: PM faces charges, clashes kill four

The National Anti-Corruption Commission said that if found guilty of the charges – which relate to a controversial rice subsidy scheme – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra could be removed from office.

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The announcement came hours after gunfire and explosions shook an area of the city’s historic district just a short walk away from major tourist attractions, as riot police moved to clear sites of protest rallies.

 

A policeman was shot dead and three civilians were killed, according to the Erawan Medical Centre. Nearly 60 other people were injured, including one foreigner.

 

The protesters have staged more than three months of mass street rallies demanding Yingluck’s resignation.

 

Police launched another operation to reclaim besieged government buildings and clear rally sites on Tuesday, tearing through razor wire and sandbag barricades near the capital’s Democracy Monument.

They met fierce resistance from protesters and were eventually forced to retreat amid gunfire. It was unclear who was shooting.

 

About 150 opposition demonstrators were arrested at a different rally site at an energy ministry complex in the capital on charges of violating a state of emergency – the first mass detentions during the current protests began.

Thailand has been periodically rocked by mass demonstrations staged by rival protest groups since a military coup in 2006 that ousted then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother.

 

Yingluck’s opponents say she is a puppet for her brother Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-politician who fled overseas in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.

 

The protesters are demanding Yingluck hand power to a temporary, unelected government that would carry out reforms to tackle corruption and alleged misuse of public funds before new elections are held.

 

The National Anti-Corruption Commission said Yingluck had ignored warnings that the flagship rice policy was fostering corruption and causing financial losses. It summoned her to hear the charges on February 27.

Demonstrators have blocked major intersections in a self-styled shutdown of the capital, although attendance has dropped sharply compared with December and January.

 

Yingluck’s government held a general election on February 2 to try to ease tensions, but the opposition boycotted the vote, saying it would not end the long-running political crisis.

Top commander sent to Manus Island

Operation Sovereign Borders commander Angus Campbell is being sent to Manus Island to assess security measures at the detention centre following a deadly riot this week.

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Lieutenant General Campbell arrives on Thursday morning and will report back to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison with any suggested security improvements.

Iran, Labor and the Australian Greens want answers over the death of a 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker during a fracas outside an Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island.

The man, an ethnic Faili Kurd, was among the first asylum seekers sent to PNG under former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd’s resettlement deal with the PNG government in July 2013, the Refugee Action Coalition says.

The man died after the Monday night riot, in which 76 other asylum seekers were also injured, with five requiring medical evacuations.

Australian ambassador to Iran Paul Foley on Tuesday spoke to Iran’s foreign ministry about the death. Consular director Seyyed Hossein Mirfakhar was reported to have expressed Iran’s “protest and discontent” about the “practice of violence and mistreatment” that led to the death.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said only that “Ambassador Foley met officials from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the death of an Iranian national”.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it was a “bit rich” of Iran to criticise Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers considering its own human rights record.

PNG authorities are investigating the death.

After Labor’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, demanded an independent inquiry into the violence, Mr Morrison confirmed someone from outside his department will investigate the incident.

“We need to understand why the Manus Island detention facility is melting down under Morrison’s watch,” Mr Marles told reporters in Canberra.

However, he said the PNG detention centre was the linchpin of Australia’s strategy of stopping asylum-seeker boats, and there was no need to stop transferring asylum seekers there.

Mr Morrison said the inquiry would be conducted along the same lines as those under the previous Labor government into fires and riots at Nauru detention centre, Villawood and Christmas Island.

Mr Morrison said the mood was calm and quiet at the detention centre overnight, but 51 security staff are enroute to Manus Island from Brisbane to help beef up protection at the facility.

Manus Island local MP Ron Knight said the actions of PNG police in the riots would be scrutinised.

“The mobile squad of Papua New Guinea is rated as the second-toughest police force in the world and they don’t play around,” he told ABC Radio.

“If it’s found the police acted in the wrong circumstances, police will be charged.”

Mr Morrison confirmed the mobile squad were present on Monday night.

“They were never to my knowledge in the camp,” he said.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the Iranian man’s death was a murder, not a tragic incident as Mr Morrison had described it.

He accused Mr Morrison of being selective in describing the injuries of asylum seekers. He said Mr Morrison did not reveal that one Iranian asylum seeker airlifted to Port Moresby had his throat slit during the riots.

Principal lied about abuse case: Church

The Catholic Church has accused a former principal of lying under oath about a child sex abuse scandal at his primary school.

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Terence Hayes has admitted he didn’t tell police, superiors or parents the full truth about allegations against pedophile teacher Gerard Byrnes in 2007 and 2008.

But Mr Hayes also admitted to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday that he knew at the time he had an obligation to tell police.

He was first told of serious sexual abuse allegations against Byrnes in September 2007, but kept them secret from parents and police until the teacher was arrested in November 2008.

Mr Hayes himself was tried in 2009 for failing to pass on the allegations to police.

He was found not guilty after proving he understood his instructions were to report sex abuse claims only to superiors at the Catholic Education Office.

However, under a savage and unrelenting cross-examination by Jane Needham for the Church, Mr Hayes admitted on Wednesday he had been told by superiors that he was obligated to report any child sex abuse claims to police.

Ms Needham asked Mr Hayes if he understood that those two positions were fundamentally inconsistent.

“Yes,” he replied.

Ms Needham then put to the former principal that he lied during his 2009 trial and then made up stories to pass on blame and get himself out of trouble at the Royal Commission.

“I deny that,” Mr Hayes said.

Ms Needham said: “I put to you that you are quite prepared to make things up to suit whatever situation you find yourself in”.

“I categorically deny that,” he replied.

But it is understood that counsel assisting could refer Mr Hayes, who still works as a Catholic school teacher, to the Department of Public Prosecutions over his inconsistent evidence.

Mr Hayes agreed his failure to report Byrnes, even though he thought he was a risk to students, amounted to gross incompetence.

For the first time during the hearing an emotional Mr Hayes also expressed remorse about what had happened under his watch.

“I knew every child in my school. I knew 90 per cent of the parents by first name and so that catastrophic situation that happened, all that happened in the last six years has been central to me, but I’ve never forgotten where the real pain lies.”

A short time later Commissioner Jennifer Coate excused Mr Hayes, before his superior Christopher Fry took the stand briefly.

The hearing continues on Thursday.

Fugitive Venezuelan opposition leader turns himself in

 Lopez, blamed by President Nicolas Maduro for violent clashes that left three people dead last week, appeared at an anti-government rally in eastern Caracas and quickly surrendered to the National Guard after delivering a brief speech.

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He was escorted to a National Guard vehicle amid a tumult among his followers and the media.

   

Lopez dropped out of public view after Maduro ordered his arrest on charges of homicide and inciting violence, but in a video message on Sunday, he invited his followers to join him in a march Tuesday at which he would turn himself in.

The Maduro government is grappling with angry student protests orchestrated by Lopez that began in the interior of the oil-rich country and boiled over last week in street clashes in Caracas that left three dead.

It’s believed the violence flared when students at a university in the western state of Tachira staged a demonstration against rampant crime after a student was raped.

  

Maduro’s regime has issued a warrant for his arrest, but Lopez — who has been underground for the past several days — emerged, undaunted, at Tuesday’s demonstration to cheers of protesters.

   

Lopez issued a statement on Sunday, all but encouraging authorities to apprehend him at the demonstration.

   

“I have nothing to fear,” he said. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” he wrote, taunting the government on Twitter.

   

“If there is some decision to illegally jail me, I will be there to assume that persecution,” he said.

   

His staunch opposition to the government dates back to the regime of late firebrand president Hugo Chavez, who in 2011 barred him from holding political office for three years.

   

His party, Voluntad Popular or People’s Will party, has been front and center in leading the demonstrations that have roiled this oil-rich nation, which has been deeply divided in the aftermath of Chavez’s death and the unsteady stewardship of the economy by Maduro.

   

The demonstrations have sprung up amid growing public discontent over rising crime and a worsening economy, despite having the world’s biggest proven oil reserves.

Lopez and two other opposition leaders — deputy Maria Corina Machado and the mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma — advocate using street protests to force Maduro from office.

   

The strategy, which they dub “the exit,” is controversial even within the opposition.

 

Park’s World Cup hopes improve after recall for friendly

He recently joined Championship (second tier) side Watford on loan until the end of the season, boosting his chances of more playing opportunities.

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Hong had left the former South Korea captain, who played at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, out of his squad for previous warmup matches for this year’s finals and said this might be his “last chance” to see Park before naming his squad for Brazil.

“I agonised over this decision,” Hong told reporters on Wednesday. “I spoke to him on the phone a few times.

“Though he’s not playing at the moment, I figured he is still in decent form, and it wouldn’t be a problem to have him on our time.”

South Korea, who will be making their eighth consecutive appearance at the World Cup finals in Brazil, lost their recent friendly matches to Mexico and the United States and will play Greece in Athens on March 5.

The Koreans have been drawn in Group H in Brazil, alongside Belgium, Russia and Algeria at the June 12-July 13 tournament.

Squad: Jung Sung-ryong (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Jin-hyeon (Cerezo Osaka), Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Hyundai), Kwak Tae-hwi (Al Hilal), Hong Jeong-ho (Augusburg), Hwang Seok-ho (Hirosima Sanfrecce), Cha Du-ri (FC Seoul), Kim Jin-soo (Albirex Niigata), Lee Yong (Ulsan Hyundai), Park Joo-ho (FSV Mainz 05), Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Kim Bo-kyung (Cardiff City), HA Dae-sung (Beijing Guoan), Koo Ja-cheol (FSV Mainz 05), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton), Ki Sung-yueng (Sunderland), Nam Tae-hee (Lekhwiya SC), Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen), Park Jong-woo (Guangzhou R&F), Han Kook-young (Shonan Bellmare), Ji Dong-won (Augusburg), Lee Keun-ho (Sangju Sangmu), Park Chu-young (Watford), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Hyundai)

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O’Brien)