Russia casts doubt on Syria ceasefire deal as army gains ground

An unexploded cluster bomblet is seen along a street after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held al-Ghariyah al-Gharbiyah town, in Deraa province, Syria February 11, 2016. Russia said on Saturday a ceasefire deal for Syria agreed by major powers was more likely to fail than succeed, as Syrian government forces backed by further Russian air strikes gained more ground against rebels near Aleppo. International divisions over Syria surfaced anew at a Munich conference where Russia rejected French charges that it was bombing civilians, just a day after world powers agreed on the "cessation of hostilities" due to begin in a week's time. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated accusations that Russia was hitting "legitimate opposition groups" and civilians with its bombing campaign in Syria and said Moscow must change its targets to respect the ceasefire deal. The conflict, reshaped by Russia's intervention last September, has gone into an even higher gear … [Read more...]

1 drowns, 1 missing in attempt to rescue suicidal woman

The Do Len Bridge where two women committed suicide in two days. Photo: Ha Dong/Tuoi Tre A man died and another is still missing after they jumped into a river to rescue a woman from drowning in an apparent suicide attempt in the central province of Thanh Hoa on Friday. According to local authorities, the 29-year-old woman allegedly came to the Do Len Bridge in Ha Trung Town at noon on Friday. She then jumped down into the Len River. Two men aged 22, both cousins of the woman, were passing by and jumped into the water immediately to save her. Strong winds and rough waters swept the trio away. Local authorities recovered the bodies of the woman and a man later that day. They are still searching for the other man. One day earlier, a 23-year-old woman also jumped into the Len River allegedly to commit suicide. Her body was recovered on Friday. … [Read more...]

Here are some ideas for a unique Valentine’s Day in Vietnam

Valentine's Day will fall on a weekend this year. That means your significant other may expect a little more from you and there is a very slim chance you will get away with that "But I had to work all day" excuse. Instead of celebrating the special day just like any other couple, why not try something new that you have never done before together? A motorbike road trip Riding with your lover to a cool highland town nearby is a great idea. If you start from Hanoi, you can head to Sa Pa or Dong Van. Those in the south can choose from many destinations in the Central Highlands -- Da Lat, Pleiku or Buon Ma Thuot. You can enjoy local food and stop wherever you want. Camping under the night sky is another activity you can add to your romantic journey. Tips: Carefully prepare for the trip and don't forget to bring maps, sleeping bags and a first aid box. Just make sure it is an unforgettable trip in the right way. A motorbike road trip is good for Valentine's Day. File photos Dining … [Read more...]

Vietnamese woman rescued, boyfriend dies after jumping off bridge

The Kenh Nhanh Bridge where the couple jumped off. Photo: Xuan Lam Residents in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang rescued a woman who jumped off a bridge in an apparent suicide attempt after losing money at gambling during the Tet holiday, local police said Thursday. Police in Rach Gia, the capital city of Kien Giang, said the woman’s boyfriend also jumped with her and died. They said on the afternoon of February 10, the third day of the new lunar year, the woman named Van and her boyfriend Duc, 24, came to the Kenh Nhanh Bridge in Rach Gia and jumped into the water. Nearby residents managed to save Van. Duc’s body was recovered several hours later. Van told local police they gambled at a casino in Cambodia near the border with Kien Giang and lost around VND600 million (US$26,886). They decided to commit suicide together, she said. Further investigations are ongoing. … [Read more...]

Vietnam butcher shop fined for selling rotten buffalo meat as beef

Binh Thuan police seize the buffalo meat imported from India. Photo: Nguyen Nam/Tuoi Tre Authorities in Binh Thuan Province said Friday they had fined the owner of a butcher shop for selling fake beef made from buffalo meat imported from India, Tuoi Tre reported. Tran Thi Thu Huong of Ham Thuan Nam District ordered to pay VND50 million (US$2,240) for the violation. On February 3, local police seized 300 kilograms of buffalo meat and bones that had gone rotten from a bus. The meat was being transported to some slaughter houses in the district. No papers of origin related to the meat were produced. Police found out Huong was the owner of the shop that sold the meat to the slaughter houses. Huong said the meat would be soaked in cow blood to look like beef before being mixed into a batch of real beef and sold to the market. Local police said Indian buffalo meat cost around VN100,000 ($4.5) per kilo and could be sold for around VND300,000 after being "processed" into beef. … [Read more...]

HCMC businesses will need 19,000 new workers after Tet: report

Leather shoe making is among the industries in need of workers after Tet. Photo: Diep Duc Minh Ho Chi Minh City will need 19,000 new employees for 1,371 businesses after the Tet Lunar New Year break, a labor center said. The city’s Center of Forecasting Manpower Needs and Labor Market Information (FALMI) said the demand comes from different sectors from sales and marketing, hospitality, design, communications, mechanics and electronics engineering, food processing, garment and leather shoes, to house helping, security and delivery services. A third of the vacancies are for part-time and temporary jobs, it said, as cited by local media. Tran Anh Tuan, deputy director of the center, said the demand is lower than after the holiday last year as businesses have improved their policies to keep workers stay. The center said the city is expected to have around 65,000 job vacancies in the first quarter this year, including 20 percent with university graduate requirements. … [Read more...]

Hanoi will celebrate Valentine’s in cold drizzle

A heavy cold spell will hit Hanoi and the northern highlands from February 14, according to national weather forecast. Photo: Ngoc Thang The north of Vietnam is going to say goodbye to the Tet Lunar New Year holiday with a lot of sunshine before a heavy cold spell hits the region on Sunday night, a perfect reason for a cozy Valentine’s night. The national weather forecast center said temperatures from in the northern region will increase significantly from Friday, ending the cold streak from early this month. Hanoi’s daytime temperature will peak at 26 degrees Celsius on Friday, compared to 20 degrees the previous day, while some places in the northwestern region can be as hot as 30 degrees, the center said. But the region will receive a heavy cold spell from Sunday night when temperatures in the northern highlands will drop to between 7 and 10 degrees and the plain areas to 12-15 degrees. Hanoi will still be warm during daytime Sunday but temperature will drop from … [Read more...]

2 Vietnamese arrested for smuggling meth near China border

Nguyen Bich Lan and the meth she was caught with her husband in Cao Bang Province February 11. Photo credit: Cong An Nhan Dan Newspaper Police in the northern province of Cao Bang on Thursday arrested a man and a woman for smuggling more than one kilogram of methamphetamine in a box of snack cakes near the China border. The 55-year-old man and his wife, 52, from Hanoi, said they planned to sell the drug in the capital and nearby provinces. Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death. … [Read more...]

Traffic deaths during Tet peak at 39 a day

A woman takes care of a family member injured from a road crash at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc An/Zing Traffic casualties have kept rising during the Tet Lunar New Year to 39 deaths and 48 people injured on Thursday, raising the total deaths during the first six days of the holiday to 162. A report from the Traffic Police Department at the Ministry of Public Security said the number of dead victims on Thursday, which was the fourth day of the new lunar year, increased from 37 on Wednesday, 20 on Tuesday, and 21 on Monday, mostly due to road crashes. The number was also far more than the average traffic deaths of 24 a day reported in 2015. Road traffic police also imposed VND762.5 million (US$34,200) of cash fines and revoked 274 drivers’ licenses for traffic violations on Thursday. Vietnamese celebrate their biggest holiday of the year from February 6-14. The National Traffic Safety Committee has warned of even more traffic chaos during the last days … [Read more...]

Asean currencies prove they’re not as vulnerable as you think

Typically regarded as the more vulnerable currencies in Asia to external shocks, the ringgit, baht, and rupiah are proving the most resilient on their relatively lower exposure to China and a dovish Federal Reserve. The Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian exchange rates are the top three performers among Asia’s emerging markets over three months. That’s a reversal of fortune from 2013’s taper tantrum when they trailed their northern counterparts as the U.S. central bank indicated it would wind down unprecedented stimulus. "The market has moved away from being wary of Fed tightening to pricing in a Fed relent and that’s benefiting countries with higher-yielding assets like Indonesia for now," said Mallika Sachdeva, a foreign-exchange strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in Singapore. "North Asian currencies are being treated as proxies for China currency stress." The German lender favors the rupiah and the ringgit over the South Korean won and Taiwan dollar, she … [Read more...]

Indonesia to fortify airports countrywide after deadly attack

Police take up position after a series of blasts in Jakarta on Jan. 14, 2016. Indonesia is upgrading security at its 192 airports to guard against possible terrorist attacks, weeks after a deadly bombing and shooting assault by Islamic State militants in downtown Jakarta. Measures will include fences at all the country’s airports that comply with International Civilian Aviation Organization standards, "first-class" baggage x-ray machines and retraining for security officers, Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said in an interview this week. "We shouldn’t wait for indications and then act," Jonan said. "We have to prepare better. We will increase the standards of airport security all over the country." Aviation security has come under renewed scrutiny globally since an apparent bomb downed an Air Egypt flight last October, killing 224 people, and a suicide bomber blew a hole in the side of a plane flying from Somalia earlier this month, killing himself. In January, … [Read more...]

Major powers agree to plan for ‘cessation of hostilities’ in Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura (L-R) attend a news conference in Munich, Germany, February 12, 2016. Major powers agreed on Friday to a cessation of hostilities in Syria set to begin in a week and to provide rapid humanitarian access to besieged Syrian towns, but failed to secure a complete ceasefire or an end to Russian bombing. Following a marathon meeting in Munich aimed at resurrecting peace talks that collapsed last week, the powers, including the United States, Russia and more than a dozen other nations, reaffirmed their commitment to a political transition when conditions on the ground improved. At a news conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the Munich meeting produced commitments on paper only. "What we need to see in the next few days are actions on the ground, in the field," he said, adding that "without a political transition, it is not possible to … [Read more...]

Indonesia plans ‘big bang’ opening of economy to foreign investment

Indonesian President Joko Widodo smiles during an interview with Reuters at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia February 10, 2016. Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday unveiled plans for a "big bang" loosening of restrictions on foreign investment in nearly 50 sectors to encourage competition in an economy long dominated by powerful vested interests. The president's proposal, which will ease rules in the e-commerce, retail, healthcare, movie and several other industries, could pit a relative newcomer on the political stage against an establishment resistant to change. It would be the most far-reaching yet in a string of stimulus packages rolled out over the past six months to drive industry and employment beyond the economy's traditional mainstays of agriculture and mineral extraction. Southeast Asia's largest economy has been growing at its slowest pace in six years because of falling commodity prices and cooling growth in major trading partner China. But … [Read more...]

Pakistan arrests 97 al-Qaeda and other militants; foils jailbreak plan

Pakistani policemen guard the central jail in Hyderabad, 160 km (100 miles) from Karachi, in this July 10, 2002 file photo. Pakistan has arrested 97 al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants, including three commanders, in the southern city of Karachi and foiled a planned attack to break U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl's killer out of jail, the army said on Friday. The men are accused of involvement in major attacks on two Pakistani air bases, the Karachi airport, several regional intelligence headquarters and on police installations between 2009 and 2015, the military said. The LeJ's Naeem Bokhari and Sabir Khan, as well as Farooq Bhatti, deputy chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), were captured by Pakistani forces in recent raids, military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said. "Our conclusion is that all of the terrorist groups are trying to cooperate with each other in order to carry out terrorist attacks," he told a news conference. The LeJ and AQIS had … [Read more...]

Thai BJC to seek $6.2 bln loan for Big C purchase; shares drop

Thailand's Berli Jucker PCL (BJC) said it would seek a short term loan and may consider an equity issue to fund a planned $6.2 billion acquisition of hypermarket operator Big C Supercenter PCL , sending its shares down 5 percent. Berli, controlled by Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhananbhakdi's TCC Group, said on Friday it would seek a short term loan of up to 220 billion baht ($6.2 billion) and may later aim to repay some of the debt with funds raised from an equity offering. The loan amount is about four times BJC's market cap of 56 billion baht, raising worries of a sizeable equity issue and resultant earnings dilution, analysts said. And rising interest expenses will trim its earnings growth, they said. The stock ended down 5 percent at 33.25 baht, while the overall market index was down 0.3 percent. Big C shares were unchanged. "With debt to equity ratio at high level of 2 times, BJC is likely to issue new shares at higher amount than current capital. This will lead to dilution … [Read more...]

South Korea, U.S. to discuss missile defense; South cuts power to Kaesong park

South Korean vehicles transporting employees work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex South Korea will begin talks with Washington as early as next week on deploying an advanced U.S. missile defense system following North Korea's rocket launch, an official said on Friday, as Seoul cut power to a factory park run jointly with the North. The discussions would focus on placing one Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) unit with the U.S. military in South Korea after the North's launch last weekend, a South Korean defense official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Seoul and Washington said the test violated U.N. Security Council resolutions. South Korea on Wednesday suspended operations at the Kaesong industrial zone as punishment for the rocket launch and a nuclear test last month. The zone, located just inside North Korea, had operated for more than a decade. The North called the move "a declaration of war" on Thursday and expelled the South's workers. Kaesong was the last … [Read more...]

Russia boosts ties with Iraq in challenge to U.S. influence

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (R) and Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (L) sign documents in Baghdad, Iraq February 11, 2016. Russia is ready to sell civil airliners to Iraq and keep providing it with military aid to fight Islamic State, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Thursday, accompanied on a trip to Baghdad by the biggest Russian delegation in years. The mission by nearly 100 government and business officials was part of a drive by Moscow to strengthen commercial and security ties with Iraq, potentially eroding U.S. influence in one of the world's most critical regions. Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said discussions had revolved around providing military assistance to defeat Islamic State militants, also known as Daesh, who seized a third of Iraq in 2014 and want to redraw the map of the Middle East. "We need international support from multiple sources, be it from within the international coalition or outside of it," he said, … [Read more...]

WHO expects to set link between Zika and microcephaly in weeks, vaccine 18 months

World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny addresses a news conference on Zika virus in Geneva, Switzerland, February 12, 2016. The World Health Organization (WHO) expects the suspected links between the Zika virus and two neurological disorders, microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barre in adults, to be established within weeks, a senior WHO official said on Friday. "We have a few more weeks to be sure to demonstrate causality, but the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre is highly probable," Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, told a news briefing. She said it would take at least 18 months to start clinical trials on humans of candidate vaccines against Zika, adding: "Two vaccine candidates seem to be more advanced: a DNA vaccine from the U.S. National Institutes for Health, and an inactivated product from Bharat Biotech, in India." … [Read more...]

Suspected Islamist militants attack Mali U.N. base, several dead

U.N. peacekeepers patrol in Kidal, Mali, July 23, 2015. Suspected Islamist militants attacked a U.N. peacekeepers' base in the northern Mali town of Kidal on Friday, killing several people and wounding others, a spokesman for the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) told Reuters. "There is gunfire and mortar fire against the MINUSMA (U.N. peacemaking mission) camp. It is an attack by the Islamists, apparently involving a suicide car bomb," said CMA spokesman Radouane Ag Mohamed Aly. A U.N. spokesman said there were some dead and wounded in the attack, which began at 6:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m. ET). He said there had been eight mortar shells as well as gunfire. A separate U.N. source, who was at the base but declined to be identified, said two people had been killed. The base forms part of an attempt by the MINUSMA mission to keep the peace in Mali in the wake of a takeover of the north by Islamists in 2012, which was thwarted by a French-led intervention force that forced the … [Read more...]

Vietnam joins Cobra Gold military exercise as observer

Military officers joining the Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand on February 9. Photo credit: Dan Tri Vietnam has sent army personnel to join the Cobra Gold military exercise being held Thailand – Southeast Asia’s biggest drill. The 35th annual military exercise was launched Tuesday in Chonburi Province with 27 participating countries and a total of 8,564 military personnel. Seven countries joining full exercises include the US, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia. Host Thailand sent 4,286 officers to the event, the largest number among the participating countries, followed by the US with 3,288 officers. Nine countries joined the drill as observers, including Vietnam, Laos, Chile, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brunei, the Netherlands and UAE. The nations invited to be part of the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team include Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia and the Philippines. Two … [Read more...]