MONTH IN BRIEF
Sri Lanka’s navy has rescued 104 Rohingya adrift off the island’s northern coast, as members of the Muslim minority continue to escape violence in Myanmar and hardship in Bangladesh refugee camps.The boat was first detected when it was 3.5 nautical miles from shore and a search and rescue operation was launched, which managed to tow the vessel to a northern harbour. Many Rohingya risk their lives every year by attempting to reach Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia on unsound vessels, and their numbers have surged following deteriorating conditions in the camps and last year’s military coup in Myanmar.
Thai naval tragedy
The Thai navy has recovered the bodies of four sailors and rescued another two people after the December 18 sinking of a naval vessel. The bodies of four crew members were found floating in the sea and were identified before being returned to their families, said the Royal Thai Navy. One of the two people who were pulled out alive died shortly after the rescue.There were 105 sailors onboard the HTMS Sukhothai when it went down roughly 37km off the country’s south-eastern coast.
Tough measures in hard times
Pakistan has announced a raft of austerity measures, including plans to shut down markets and shopping centres early and asking government employees to work from home, in order to save energy costs amid the ongoing economic crisis. After the federal Cabinet approved the proposal, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters that, in view of the‘critical situation’ impacting the country, Pakistan cannot afford to sustain the current levels of power consumption.
Former minister expelled from CCP
China’s former industry minister Xiao Yaqing has been expelled from the Communist Party for bribery and relieved of his government duties, China’s anti-graft watchdog said. Mr Xiao, 62, will be demoted to a lower-level position and arrangements will be made for his retirement, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement on its website. He was placed under investigation for suspected violations of discipline and law in July. The ministry of industry and information technology (MIIT) oversees a vast swathe of the economy, from next-generation telecoms to semiconductors, vaccine production and electric vehicles.
Powered by hydrogen
India is to roll out its first domestically designed and built hydrogen-powered train by December 2023, the country’s railway minister said. ‘We are designing and the design should be out by anywhere by May or June,’ Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s minister for railways told reporters during a visit to the southern city of Bengaluru. Named the Vande Metro, the train will be manufactured in large numbers and the ultimate aim will be to replace older and less efficient trains built in the 1950s and 60s.
‘Taiwan friendly’ summit
Guatemala plans to hold a summit in March for senior officials from ‘Taiwan-friendly’ countries and hopes Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will attend, the Guatemalan ambassador in Taipei said. Guatemala is one of only 14 countries to retain formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, and one of three allies left in Central America, alongside Honduras and Belize.Speaking after presenting Ms Tsai his diplomatic credentials as new ambassador in Taiwan, Mr Oscar Adolfo Padilla Lam reaffirmed his country’s friendship, according to a read out of the meeting from the Taiwanese presidential office.
Protecting the reef
Scientists working on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have successfully trialled a new method for freezing and storing coral larvae, which they believe could eventually help rewild reefs threatened by climate change. Protection of coral reefs is seen as crucial as rising ocean temperatures destabilise delicate ecosystems. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four bleaching events in the past seven years, including the first-ever bleach during a La Nina phenomenon, which typically brings cooler temperatures.
Javan rhino calves bring hope
Indonesia has welcomed two baby Javan rhinoceroses to a family of one of the world’s most endangered species.Hidden camera footage released by the environment and forestry ministry showed two calves in the muddy terrain of the protected Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java island.It is hoped the births will ensure rhino populations keep rising. Javan rhinos, distinguishable by their single horn, were once found throughout Northeast India and Southeast Asia, but are today among the most threatened of the five rhino species, mainly due to poaching.