COLOMBO: Sri Lanka announced Wednesday it would start hanging drug dealers, ending a near-half century moratorium on capital punishment as officials promised to “replicate the success” of the Philippines drug war.
President Maithripala Sirisena had told the cabinet he “was ready to sign the death warrants” of repeat drug offenders, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said Wednesday. “From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences,” he said.
Sri Lanka has commuted death sentences for serious crimes to life in prison since 1976 when the last execution took place. Senaratne said there were 19 drug offenders whose death sentences had been commuted to life.
It was not clear if they would be hanged under the government’s policy shift. But authorities say a tougher approach is needed to combat what they say is an increase in drug-related crime. Senaratne cited a case this week where a convicted drug dealer, whose death sentence was commuted to life, had arranged the import of 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of heroin from behind bars.
Record heat broils Japan, prompting warnings
TOKYO: Japanese officials issued new warnings Monday as a deadly heatwave blankets the country, producing record high temperatures in Tokyo just two years before the city hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Officials said last week that the heatwave had killed at least 15 people and forced the hospitalization of over 12,000 others in the first two weeks of July. But the death toll may be more than double that, with Kyodo News agency reporting 11 people died on Saturday alone across Japan. An updated official toll is expected later this week.
The heatwave has toppled temperature records across the country, with Kumagaya in Saitama outside Tokyo setting a new nationwide record on Monday with temperatures hitting 41.1 Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit). And in western Tokyo’s Ome, temperatures hit 40.3 degrees Celsius, the first time temperatures over 40 have been recorded in Tokyo’s metro area.
Records fell at 13 other observation stations across the country, with more than a dozen cities and towns seeing temperatures around 40 degrees, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. “People in areas where temperatures are as high as 35 degrees or higher should be extremely careful” to avoid heatstroke, meteorological agency official Minako Sakurai told AFP. “And even at lower temperatures, the heat can be dangerous for small children and elderly people, and depending on the environment and activities you are doing,” she warned.
“People should be all the more careful as many people must be exhausted after days of cruelly hot weather,” she added. Yoshihide Suga, a top government spokesman, warned that extremely hot days “are expected to continue until early August.” Japan’s disaster management agency has urged people to use air conditioning, drink sufficient water and rest often while at work. The heatwave follows record rainfall that devastated parts of western and central Japan with floods and landslides that killed over 220 people.
Japan’s summers are notoriously hot and humid, and hundreds of people die each year from heatstroke, particularly the elderly in the country’s aging society. But this year’s record temperatures have surprised residents and officials alike and revived concerns about the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in July and August in Tokyo. Olympic officials and Tokyo’s local government are touting measures from solar-blocking paint on roads to mobile misting stations to tackle the heat.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike acknowledged Monday that the recent heatwave was “exactly like living in a sauna. For the athletes, they’re trained but for spectators who are cheering on the road, we may not necessarily be able to say the same,” she said at a Monday press conference. “Countermeasures against heat is one of the major pillars for the success of the 2020 Olympics.”
“Never, ever threaten the US”: Trump hits back at Iran ‘war’ talk
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Sunday hit back at bellicose comments by Iran’s president, warning him of dire consequences as the US intensifies its campaign against the Islamic republic.
“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump said on Twitter in a direct message to President Hassan Rouhani.
Earlier Sunday the Iranian leader had warned Trump not to “play with the lion’s tail,” saying that conflict with Iran would be the “mother of all wars”. The US president, writing his entire message in capital letters, continued his riposte: “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
His comments Sunday night came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a major address to the Iranian diaspora in California, said Washington is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime.
Trump in May pulled the US out of a hard-won agreement with Tehran, also signed by Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.
European allies maintain their support for the deal and have vowed to stay in it, though their businesses fear US penalties. Following Washington’s pullout Pompeo unveiled Washington’s tougher line under which, he said, the US would lift the new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.
Rouhani immediately dismissed those US threats and on Sunday said: “You cannot provoke the Iranian people against their own security and interests.” In a televised speech ahead of Pompeo’s address, Rouhani repeated his warning that Iran could shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for international oil supplies.
“Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said.
On Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said US words and “even… their signature” cannot be trusted, “so negotiations with the United States are useless.”
The US in January had already sanctioned Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations, Pompeo noted on Sunday.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” he said, confirming that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4 or face American sanctions.
Pompeo called on “all governments to end their flirtations” with Iran’s regime and said “there’s more to come” in terms of sanctions.
“Regime leaders — especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani — must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk. He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.
Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters who have taken to the streets of Iran as economic woes mount after the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said. “The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you.”
To reinforce that message, Washington’s top diplomat announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, through the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media. Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Islamic republic. The Trump administration is regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, and Pompeo said: “our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally.”
Crocodile in Paradise: Thailand hunts reptile in resort town
PHUKET: Thailand is in hot pursuit of a cagey crocodile that has made unwelcome appearances off the beaches of resort island Phuket only to slip through the clutches of local authorities.
The evasive reptile was first seen near Rawai beach about a week ago but has resurfaced in multiple locations near the beaches on the Andaman Sea.
A group of hunters has joined an expanding team trying to track it down. Thawee Thongchai, the mayor of Karon town on the west coast of Phuket, told AFP Monday they had come very close to success.
“We almost caught it when it was seen near the beach in Karon, (we were) meters away but it moved quickly back to the sea,” Thawee said.
“We do not yet know where it comes from.” Thailand’s pristine beaches draw millions of tourists a year and Phuket in the southwest is one of the most popular destinations.
Thawee said choppy monsoon seas had prevented fishing boats from using nets to capture the creature, which is almost two meters in length.
The Siamese crocodile was once ubiquitous across Southeast Asia but is currently listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist, and lecturer at Kasetsart University said the presence of a crocodile in Phuket meant it was likely a hybrid saltwater version of the species bred on a farm, and it was not the first such sighting.
“Normally the open sea is not a place where a crocodile would live,” he said. Crocodile numbers in Thailand and Southeast Asia generally have been decimated by habitat loss, commercial hunting for the skin trade and the capture of live reptiles to stock crocodile farms, according to the IUCN. In Thailand, there are just a handful of wild populations in central and western national parks.
A French tourist was bitten on the leg by a crocodile inside a Thai national park in January last year when she tried to get close to take a selfie.
In 2014 a Thai woman committed suicide by leaping into a pond of crocodiles at a farm popular with tourists on Bangkok’s outskirts.