Rights group support Yemeni minimum age for marriage; Philippines does deal for larger US military presence; Vienna residential building collapses; Brazilians protest for legalised cannabis; Thai police arrest anti-government protest leader
PHILIPPINES: The US sealed a 10-year deal yesterday to allow a larger US military presence. The Enhanced Defence Co-operation Agreement will give US forces temporary access to military camps and allow them to position fighter jets and ships. It is due to be signed today at the main military camp in the capital Manila. Left-wing activists have protested against the pact, saying that the agreement reverses democratic gains achieved when huge US military bases were shut down in the early 1990s.
YEMEN: Human Rights Watch said yesterday that a law setting 18 as the minimum age to get married should be supported. The group said that a draft law was presented to the government yesterday by Legal Affairs Minister Mohammed al-Mekhlafi. In a December 2011 report, the group said about 14 per cent of girls in Yemen were married before age 15 and 52 per cent were wed before they turned 18. Human Rights Watch spokesman Nadim Houry said the draft Bill is “a real beacon of hope for the thousands of girls vulnerable to being married off while still children.”
SYRIA: The country’s parliament heard yesterday that four more candidates, including one woman, have announced their candidacy in the June 3 presidential election. The new hopefuls bring the total number of candidates to six, though President Bashar al-Assad has not yet announced his candidacy. Sawsan Haddad, Samir Maala, Mohammed Firas Rajjuh and Abdel-Salam Salameh have put their names forward to join businessman Hassan Abdullah al-Nuri and former communist Maher al-Hajjar as candidates.
AUSTRIA: A residential building in the capital Vienna partially collapsed after an apparent explosion on Saturday, killing one person and leaving another missing. Five others were injured. The top two floors of the building collapsed, raining debris onto the street in Vienna’s 15th district. Police spokeswoman Adina Mircioane said a 19-year-old man who had been rescued from the rubble had died on his way to hospital and police were still looking for a woman in her fifties.
BRAZIL: Police said yesterday that about 2,000 people had gathered in central Sao Paulo in a demonstration demanding the legalisation of the production and sale of marijuana. Several of the demonstrators were smoking joints while carrying posters reading “Legalise marijuana now” and “Marijuana is medicine.” Police said the demonstration was peaceful and no arrests were made.
SOUTH SUDAN: A military spokesman for government forces said at the weekend that a “misunderstanding” between trainee troops and a local community sparked clashes that killed five troops. But a rebel spokesman claimed that over 220 officers and trainees from the Nuer ethnic group had been killed in the incident. It was impossible to verify either claim. Past rebel claims have been wildly exaggerated, but military and government death tolls have also been underreported.
CHINA: Most of the 40,000 workers who were striking at a massive shoe factory complex have returned to the job, labour activists said on Saturday. About 10,000 remained on strike in a row over underpayments at the Yue Yuen complex in Dongguan. The workers have not reached a deal with the Thai-owned firm and it was unclear why they had returned. Some activists said Yue Yuen management — assisted by police — had forced the workers back to work.
THAILAND: Police have arrested anti-government protest leader Sakhontee Phattiyagul and charged him with offences including insurrection. Immigration police arrested him on Friday night at Bangkok’s international airport on his return from a trip to the US. Mr Phattiyagul is a leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, which has been staging anti-government demonstrations in Thailand’s capital since November.