Thailand in mourning as beloved king dies after ruling for 70 years
Thailand entered a one-year mourning period on Friday, with people across the country wearing black, to lament the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch. Crowds flocked to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok in the morning to offer their condolences for the late king, who was seen as the father of the nation and died on Thursday after a long illness, aged 88. King Bhumibol had spent 70 years as monarch, having ascended the throne in 1946, aged 18. Though he had little real power under the constitution, he did involve himself with politics, effectively diffusing political tension at times. During bloody protests against the military government in 1992, his simple call to end the crisis was enough to help ease the tension and end the killing. The king had spent most of the last few years in hospital, battling a range of illnesses including pneumonia and blood infection.
What next? Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the king had anointed a successor in accordance with the constitution, putting Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, in line to ascend the throne. Vajiralongkorn is Bhumibol’s only son, but while his father was beloved for his royal works, Vajiralongkorn doesn’t enjoy the same adulation among Thai people.
Samsung pulls combustible phone from market in bid to save reputation
South Korean tech giant Samsung announced on Tuesday it was scrapping production of the new Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, following reports that replacements for combustible models were catching fire, just like the original ones had. Samsung was trying to control the damage as rivals like Apple and LG try to steal market share. The move sent Samsung’s share price into a steep dive and forced it to slash its third-quarter profit estimate by a third. South Korea’s central bank on Thursday trimmed its 2017 growth outlook, having considered the potential impact of the crisis on the national economy. With Samsung accounting for around 17 per cent of South Korea’s gross domestic product, such a major business reversal is likely to have a national impact.
What next? Samsung has been forced to offer financial incentives for customers in South Korea to exchange their Galaxy Note 7 phones for other Samsung models, as it scrambles to shore up its strong reputation. Many analysts say the real risk to the firm, rather than immediate financial losses, lies in the reputational damage it suffers in a cutthroat industry. The cost of that damage will be harder to determine than revenue lost in the near future.
Rare protest in Beijing prompts pledge of action for retired soldiers
China’s defence ministry has vowed to tackle the difficulties facing demobilised soldiers and pay attention to resolving their problems, after hundreds of veterans protested against job losses outside a major military building. China last year announced it would cut troop numbers by 300,000. “They protested because they don’t have a job now after serving a long period of time in the army, some for a dozen years,” said Liu Feiyue, editor of the website Minsheng Guancha, which monitors civil rights issues. “They are asking for employment.” The English-language edition of the state-run Global Times said the demonstration drew more than 1,000 participants, although the ministry did not give an estimate of the protest’s size.
What next? China’s armed forces are undergoing a large-scale modernisation to become a nimble organisation that can better handle conflicts at sea and in the air. Beijing hopes to implement the bulk of its troop reductions by the end of 2017, as it seeks to spend more money on hi-tech weapons. Those measures have gained pace as China builds up its presence in the South China and East China seas amid territorial disputes.
Family arrested after Indian teen dies in controversial religious fast
The family of an Indian schoolgirl who died in hospital after observing a two-month fast has been charged with homicide amid allegations that she was coerced into undertaking a controversial religious ritual. Aradhana Samdariya, who was 13 years old, collapsed and fell into a coma just two days after finishing a 68-day fast. She later died of an apparent cardiac attack in southern Hyderabad city on October 4. The schoolgirl’s parents, along with some other family members, were charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder after advocacy groups claimed she had been coerced into fasting in accordance with a Jain ritual. Her funeral was later attended by more than 600 people, where she was hailed as a “child saint”, with many celebrating her death.
What next? Aradhana’s death has reignited the discussion over religious freedom as regards the Jain practice of fasting. Last year, a court ruled the fasting-unto-death practice, usually embraced by the elderly or critically ill, was illegal. Jains had argued the ritual was central to their religious beliefs and has been practised for centuries, but a state court ruled it suicide; India’s Supreme Court later allowed it to continue.
Australian weather bureau confirms it was hacked by a foreign government
Foreign spies installed malicious software on an Australian government agency’s computer system, stealing an unknown number of documents, an official report revealed on Wednesday. It didn’t name the country involved. The security breach at the Bureau of Meteorology, which is connected to the defence department, was found in 2015 and initial media reports linked it to China. In 2013 Chinese hackers were accused of stealing the top-secret blueprints of Australia’s new intelligence agency headquarters. “We don’t narrow it down to specific countries, and we do that deliberately,” said Dan Tehan, who assists Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on cybersecurity. “But what we have indicated is that cyberespionage is alive and well.”
What next? The report also said while the threat of a cyberattack against Australia’s government, infrastructure and industry had grown in recent years, the risk from terrorist groups was low for now. “Apart from demonstrating a savvy understanding of social media and exploiting the internet for propaganda purposes, terrorist cyber capabilities generally remain rudimentary and show few signs of improving significantly in the near future,” it said.
Compiled by Thomas Sturrock