Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

Pichit Chuenban becomes the third minister to quit Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s cabinet. Above, the Bangkok skyline on May 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

  • Pichit Chuenban says his resignation would allow the country ‘to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity’

BANGKOK: A Thai minister at the center of a pending legal complaint seeking the dismissal of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin resigned on Tuesday, in an effort to insulate the premier from possible repercussions.
A group of 40 senators lodged a complaint to the Constitutional Court last week against Pichit Chuenban, 65, saying his appointment last month as minister to the prime minister’s office breached the constitution, as he has a criminal record.
The court was due on Thursday to decide whether or not to accept the case, which could lead to Srettha’s suspension.
“Even though I have been vetted and honestly believe that I am qualified by law, this matter is linked to the prime minister,” Pichit said in his resignation letter, shared with media by Srettha’s office.
He said his resignation would allow the country “to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity.”
It was not immediately clear whether the resignation would have any impact on the complaint submitted to the court.
Pichit was jailed for six months in 2008 for contempt of court after an alleged attempt to bribe court officials with 2 million baht ($55,000) hidden in a paper grocery bag.
His law license was suspended for five years by the Lawyers Council of Thailand after the incident. The government has said it carefully vetted Pichit’s qualifications and was confident it could defend his appointment before the court.
Pichit becomes the third minister to quit Srettha’s cabinet, after his foreign minister and deputy finance minister resigned following a cabinet reshuffle last month.
The senators, whose term has ended, are currently lawmakers in a caretaker capacity pending the selection of a new chamber. They have accused Pichit of lacking integrity and ethical standards to hold a ministerial post.
Government critics say Pichit was appointed due to his close relationship with a client, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned to Thailand last year after 15 years in exile. Thaksin, an ally of Srettha, still wields considerable political influence, despite officially being retired.
The government has insisted Pichit was appointed due to his capabilities.


White House cancels US-Israel meeting in anger at Netanyahu’s latest accusations: report

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Updated 11 sec ago
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White House cancels US-Israel meeting in anger at Netanyahu’s latest accusations: report

  • Israeli leader’s claim Washington has been withholding weapons a ‘public stunt,’ officials say

LONDON: The White House canceled a meeting with Israel regarding Iran after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the US of withholding weapons on Tuesday, according to an Axios report.

In a video released on Tuesday, Netanyahu claimed he had told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that it was “inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.”

He implied the holdup was slowing Israel’s offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

President Joe Biden’s top advisers, angered by Netanyahu’s public statement, made a public statement of their own by canceling the US-Israel meeting scheduled for Thursday, Axios reported.

“This decision makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts,” a US official told the news outlet.

Another said the meeting had been postponed, not scrapped altogether.

Biden has delayed delivering certain heavy bombs to Israel since May over concerns about civilian deaths in Gaza.

However, Blinken said on Tuesday that the 2,000-pound bombs are the only ammunitions under review. He told reporters that “everything else is moving as it normally would.”


Europe must host Gaza children, Greek foreign minister says

Palestinians gather on Wednesday to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Updated 1 min 8 sec ago
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Europe must host Gaza children, Greek foreign minister says

  • The psychological impact of the war on the youngsters is ‘tremendous,’ Gerapetritis says

ATHENS: Europe has a duty to host children hurt and traumatized by war in Gaza for as long as the conflict continues, Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said.

Gerapetritis is seeking partners in what he hopes would be a project to temporarily bring the children to the EU. He said he discussed the idea with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa this week.
“We need to face this tragedy very clearly,” Gerapetritis said.
“Europe should be open to injured people from (Gaza) but also to children who are now facing famine or other sorts of dangers.”

FASTFACT

Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis believes Greece’s historical ties with the Arab world give it credibility to act as a peace broker.

Greece was elected as a member of the UN Security Council for 2025-2026 earlier this month. Gerapetritis believes Greece’s historical ties with the Arab world give it credibility to act as a peace broker.
The 56-year old, who has held the post for a year, did not say how many people could be hosted by Greece or the EU but said the issue was under discussion with Palestinian authorities.
Gerapetritis stressed that the initiative was not linked to regular migration, which has become politically sensitive in Europe and strongly opposed by a resurgent right.
“This is an obvious call for humanitarian assistance. We’re not talking here about economic migrants or other types of irregular migration,” he said, days after far-right parties surged in European parliamentary elections.
Greece condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel but has called for a halt to Israel’s ground and air assault on Gaza that Palestinian authorities say has killed more than 35,000 people and flattened whole cities.
The World Health Organization says many in Gaza face famine-like conditions, and more than 8,000 children under five years old are suffering from acute malnutrition.
In addition, the psychological impact of the war on children is “tremendous,” said Gerapetritis.
Gerapetritis said he talked to Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers this week about ways to seal peace and reconstruct Gaza.
“We shouldn’t wait ... for the war to stop to start discussing it,” he said.
“It is going to be a giant project, and we have to develop it as early as possible,” he said.
A Gaza ceasefire would also help reduce attacks on ships by Houthis in the Red Sea, which has affected Greece’s shipping sector.
“I am relatively optimistic that alongside the ceasefire that we’re hoping to achieve very shortly, the situation also in the Red Sea will become much better,” Gerapetritis said.

 


Extremists from Africa’s Sahel cross into Nigeria’s north

Updated 9 min 19 sec ago
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Extremists from Africa’s Sahel cross into Nigeria’s north

  • Extremists believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda have in the last year crossed over from Benin’s hard-hit northern region and settled in Kainji Lake National Park
  • Clingendael Institute report: ‘A link between Lake Chad and the Sahel is a major opportunity for Al-Qaeda and Daesh to boast about their profiles as leaders of global extremism’

ABUJA, Nigeria: Extremist fighters who had long operated in Africa’s volatile Sahel region have settled in northwestern Nigeria after crossing from neighboring Benin, a report said Wednesday, the latest trend in the militants’ movements to wealthier West African coastal nations.
The extremists believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda have in the last year crossed over from Benin’s hard-hit northern region and settled in Kainji Lake National Park, one of Nigeria’s largest, where other armed groups have also gained access, according to the report by the Clingendael Institute think tank, which has done extensive research in the Sahel.
Residents close to the park told The Associated Press that the facility, which holds one of West Africa’s fast-declining lion populations, has been closed for more than a year because of security threats from armed groups attacking neighboring villages and roads.
“Before, it was like a tourism center (but) now, people find it difficult to pass through there,” said John Yerima, who lives near the park in New Bussa town. “You cannot enter that road (leading to the park) now. It is dangerous seriously.”
The security situation at the 5,300-square kilometer (2,000-square mile) park in Niger state and along the nearby border with Benin is “getting out of hand” and is “a much more explosive situation than we had anticipated,” said Kars de Bruijne, one of the authors of the report and a senior research fellow at the institute.
The “sustained presence” of the armed groups in the park is the first sign of a connection between Nigeria’s homegrown extremists that have launched a decadelong insurgency in its northern region, and Al-Qaeda-linked militants from the Sahel, the vast arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert, Bruijne said.
Their presence offers an opportunity for the extremists to claim large-scale success in both countries, already wracked by deadly attacks in recent years, he added.
Known as a global hot spot for violent extremism, the Sahel region’s worsening security crisis comes as military coups are toppling democratic governments. As the military governments struggle to contain the violence, they are increasingly severing security with traditional partners France and the United States and turning to Russia for support.
In northwest Nigeria, security analysts have in the past warned that the region’s remote territories, where the government is largely absent but have rich mineral resources and high poverty levels, present an opportunity for expansion for extremist groups that had operated mainly in the Sahel, as well as the Daesh group, whose fighters hold sway in the Lake Chad basin.
“A link between Lake Chad and the Sahel is a major opportunity for Al-Qaeda and Daesh to boast about their profiles as leaders of global extremism,” the report said.
There are also concerns from conservationists that the presence of armed groups in the park could further threaten the remaining lions whose populations have declined as a result of climate change and poaching.
“The security situation has become top of the list when it comes to the concerns about the lion populations in Nigeria,” said Stella Egbe, senior conservation manager at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation.
The Clingendael report said it is unclear what the motive of the Sahel extremists in the park is and what their relationship with other armed groups there will be. Security analysts say it offers opportunities for logistics and more influence amid booming illegal trade across the porous border.
“The Sahelian extremists potentially can try to use northwestern Nigeria as a place for fundraising, for logistics and to try to influence the extremist groups there as part of their own competition,” said James Barnett, a fellow at the Hudson Institute whose works in northwestern Nigeria were cited in the report.
Across many villages in Nigeria’s northwest, banditry — not extremist fighters — remains the major security threat, Barnett said.
The bandits have on a few occasions in the past collaborated with extremist fighters as two separate groups in carrying out attacks. But even in rare collaborations, he said, there can be “very deadly consequences.”


Canada declares Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group

Updated 19 June 2024
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Canada declares Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group

  • “Our government has made the decision to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code,” Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said
  • Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, noting that Ottawa broke off diplomatic ties with Tehran several years ago, urged Canadians against travel to Iran

OTTAWA: Ottawa on Wednesday listed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity while calling on Canadians in the Islamic country to leave.
“Our government has made the decision to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code,” Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc told a news conference.
Flanked by Canada’s foreign and justice ministers, he accused the Iranian regime of “support for terrorism” and “having consistently displayed disregard for human rights both inside and outside of Iran, as well as a willingness to destabilize the international rules-based order.”
Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, noting that Ottawa broke off diplomatic ties with Tehran several years ago, urged Canadians against travel to Iran.
“For those who are in Iran right now. It’s time to come back home,” she added.
The terrorism listing bars members of the Guards from entering Canada and Canadians from having any dealings with individual members or the group. Any assets the Guards or its members hold in Canada may also be seized.
Iranian expats and families of the victims of Flight PS752, which was downed by Iran shortly after takeoff from Tehran in January 2020, killing all 176 passengers and crew, including 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents, have long pressed Ottawa to designate the militia as a terrorist entity.
MPs last month unanimously voted to do so.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration had, until now, expressed a reluctance, explaining that a terror listing could be too broad and inadvertently impact Iranians in Canada opposed to the regime.
The Canadian blacklist includes nearly 80 entities including Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban, the Daesh group and the Proud Boys, a North American neo-fascist militant group.
Ottawa has previously listed the Quds Force, a branch of the Guards, as a terrorist entity, and in 2022 permanently denied entry to more than 10,000 Iranian officials, including members of the Guards.
The United States listed the Guards as a foreign terrorist organization in April 2019.
Earlier this month, the European Union also sanctioned the Guards for allegedly supplying drones to Russia and its allies in the Middle East.
The decision to add the Guards to Canada’s terror list comes amid tensions between Ottawa and Tehran. Canada and other nations have sued Iran at the International Court of Justice over the downing of Flight PS752.
Tehran has claimed a missile strike on the aircraft was carried out by mistake.
Ahead of the press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland described the Iran regime as “brutal, repressive, theocratic and misogynist.”


One of Rishi Sunak’s bodyguards arrested over alleged bets on UK election date

Updated 19 June 2024
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One of Rishi Sunak’s bodyguards arrested over alleged bets on UK election date

  • The arrest came after the Gambling Commission contacted the force
  • The commission confirmed it was investigating “the possibility of offenses concerning the date of the election“

LONDON: One of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s police bodyguards has been arrested over alleged bets on the date of Britain’s national election made before it was announced, authorities said Wednesday.
The Metropolitan Police force said that a constable in the Royalty and Specialist Protection Command was arrested Monday on suspicion of misconduct in public office.
The arrest came after the Gambling Commission contacted the force. The commission, which regulates the gambling industry, confirmed it was investigating “the possibility of offenses concerning the date of the election.”
Sunak announced May 22 that an election for Parliament would be held on July 4. The date had been a closely guarded secret and the announcement took many people in Sunak’s governing Conservative Party by surprise. Most had assumed the election would be held in the fall.
Betting is a popular activity in the UK, with bookmakers offering odds on everything from sports to elections and the winners of literary prizes. Cheating by acting on inside information is a criminal offense.
The arrested officer was released on bail pending further inquiries and has been removed from duty while the force conducts its own investigation. The officer was not named. British police usually do not identify suspects until they are charged.
Last week Sunak aide Craig Williams, who is running to be reelected to Parliament, acknowledged he was being investigated by the Gambling Commission for placing a 100 pound ($128) bet on a July election before the date had been announced.
Williams said the regulator was making “some routine inquiries and I confirm I will fully cooperate with these.”
“I don’t want to be a distraction from the campaign, I should have thought through how it looked,” he said.