December 2023

MONTH IN BRIEF – DECEMBER 2023

MONTH IN BRIEF

‘Rat miners’ to the rescue

Indian rescuers havefreed 41 men trapped in a collapsed road tunnel, following a marathon 17-day operation.The labourersbecame stuck when a portion of the under-construction tunnel in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand collapsed on Nov. 12, and efforts to free them were hampered by damage to machinery and other obstacles.Teams of ‘rat miners’ – so called because their skilled yet dangerous work resembles the activity of rats burrowing through narrow holes – were then called in and managed to finally drill through the tonnes of earth, concrete and rubble that had been blocking the workers’ escape route.

Taiwan acts against alleged spy ring

Taiwan hasarraignedten people, including active-duty and retired military personnel, on suspicion of spying for China. This is the latest case said to illustrate Beijing’s alleged efforts to infiltrate the island’s military.Three of those indicted were said to have built a spy ring for China that recruited military personnel to collect state secrets, according to a statement from the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office on Nov. 27. Two active-duty soldiers were paid to film a video saying they would surrender to the People’s Liberation Army, for China to use as part of its psychological warfare, the statement said.

Khan to be tried in jail

A court in Pakistan has ordered a public trial to take place in prison for the country’s former prime minister Imran Khan, who faces charges of revealing official secrets. The cricketer-turned politician was jailed for three years on a corruption charge, and faces still more cases against him. The ruling will allow journalists andKhan’s supporters to attend the trial, which will be held in prison because authorities say it is too dangerous for him to appear in a regular courtroom, following an attempt on his life in November 2022 and other, more recent threats.

Koreas in conflict

North Korea said it would send stronger armed forces and new weapons at its border with South Korea, state media reported, after Seoul suspended part of a 2018 military agreement between the two Koreas in protest of Pyongyang’s launch of a spy satellite.

South Korea on Nov 22 suspended a clause in the agreement and said it would immediately step up military surveillance along the heavily fortified border with North Korea.

In a statement carried by the KCNA news agency, North Korea’s Defence Ministry said it would restore all military measures it had halted under the deal aimed at de-escalating tension between the two Koreas.

 

Japanese bank’s CEO dies at 65

Jun Ohta, the chief executive officer at Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, who pursued an aggressive expansion abroad during his four years at the helm of Japan’s second-largest bank, has passed away at the age of 65. Mr Ohta died from pancreatic cancer on Nov. 25, the Tokyo-based lender said in a statement. Concerns were aroused over Mr Ohta’s well-beingwhen he missed an earnings briefing earlier in November, with the bank citing health reasons. Deputy president Toru Nakashima has started with acting duties for the time being, and the company will select and announce a successor in a timely manner, it said.

NZ scraps smoking ban

New Zealand’s new coalition government is scrapping a historic law that was meant to prevent future generations from smoking. New Prime Minister Christopher Luxon confirmed the move on Nov 27, soon after being sworn in as the country’s next leader. The newly installed government had said it was a bid to fund tax cuts, but health advocates were quick to criticise the decision. The ban, under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act, was introduced in 2022 by the previous Labour-led government.It would have made it illegal for people born after January 2009 to ever buy cigarettes.

 

Father of the bride

An Indonesian couple were married surrounded by the bride’s family, including her dead father’s remains. The unusual wedding ceremony between Ms Tarisa and Mr Edi – both of whom go by only one name like many Indonesians – took place at the bride’s house in Kolaka Regency in south-east Sulawesi on Nov. 26. The body of the bride’s father, wrapped in a white shroud, was laid next to the couple, while a male relative gave Ms Tarisa away.

 

Close encounter of the herd kind

A family of three experienced a terrifying encounter after a herd of elephant stepped on their car on the East-West Highway in Malaysia. The incident occurred after the car, driven by a 48-year-old man,slammed into an elephant calf while negotiating a left bend on the highway during drizzling and foggy weather. Following the crash, five elephants stepped on the vehicle, though they left the area once the calf got up. No one, either animal or human, was hurt.

 

 

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