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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Major Earhtquakes may hit SE Asia

New Delhi: There have been increased seismic activities in the Java-Sumatra-Andaman region of South East Asia in the past one month, and scientists at the Indian Insititute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai, have warned of possibility of a major disaster in Southeast Asia in the near future.

PTI quoted D Chandrasekharam, a senior professor in IIT-Mumbai's Department of Earth Sciences, as saying that more than 52 earthquakes of varying magnitude were recorded in the region in the past one month.

"Since December 25, 2006 till January 24 morning, the entire Java-Sumatra-Andaman Island subduction zone experienced more than 51 earthquakes varying in magnitude from 4.2 to 7.5 on the Richter scale," the earth science expert said. "This appears to be a natural cyclic process but there is a possibility of it triggering a major disaster," he warned.

He, however, revealed that volcanic activities in the region had subsided after the devastating earthquake-triggered tsunami of December 2004.

The major earthquakes in the past one month include two major earthquakes of 7.1 magnitude each in Taiwan on December 26 and 7.5 in Molucca sea and two earthquakes of 4.9 and 6.1magnitude in Nicobar Islands.

Chandrasekharam claims the majority of these events are associated with 'thrust fault', an underground phenomenon that had caused the 2004 tsunami killing nearly 2.5 lakh people across several countries, including India. Read more!

Diseases from Burma spreading through Southeast Asia

Health experts are warning that infectious diseases in Burma are growing beyond the government's ability to control them, and are spreading beyond the country's borders. Ron Corben reports for VOA from Bangkok, where an international conference on the matter has just concluded.

Health experts meeting in Bangkok this week warned that Burma needs increased funding and resources to cope with rising rates of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, AIDS and drug-resistant malaria.

Burmese residents choose to buy medicine at the drug store in Yangoon, 07 Jan 2006The experts also expressed concern about Burma's ability to meet any new health threats, such as an outbreak of avian flu.

The United Nations AIDS program has estimated that up to 600,000 people in Burma, or more than two percent of Burma's population, are infected with the AIDS virus.

Tom Lee, of the Global Health Access Program at the University of California in Los Angeles, says infectious diseases from Burma are spreading across the border into India.

Lee says HIV/AIDS rates on the Indian side of the Burmese-Indian border are as high as eight percent. He says there is also evidence in India of drug-resistant malaria from the Burmese side.

"From the border areas on the India side, it is very clear that the rates of infectious disease are extremely high, and that this is causing a problem for the Indian states there," he said.
The conference was co-sponsored by two major U.S. universities and Thailand's Mahidol University. It brought together health providers, academics and humanitarian workers from Thailand, the United States, Bangladesh and India, along with Burmese exiles and health workers from China's Yunnan Province.

Burma has been a major source of illegal narcotics into China. Heroin crosses the border into Yunnan, and the AIDS virus, spread by heroin addicts, has followed in its wake.

Andrew Moss an epidemiologist from the University of California at Berkeley, says Chinese officials, too, are starting to take note of the health threat from Burma.

"The Chinese realize they have serious public health issues on the border," said Moss. "They have realized this for a long time with HIV. The Chinese are now clear it's a pretty vulnerable border, from the infectious disease point of view."

Chris Beyrer, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, says there are fears about Burma's capacity to deal with a possible human bird flu epidemic.

"If we end up having real human-to-human transmission… the country's health infrastructure would not currently respond," he said.

Scientists fear that, if the bird flu virus mutates into a form that can easily pass from human to human, a world-wide pandemic could follow. Read more!

Muhammad Younis Khan appointed Pakistan’s ambassador to Cambodia

Saturday, 27 January 2007

ISLAMABAD, Jan 27 (APP): The Government of Pakistan on Saturday announced the appointment of Mohammad Younis Khan, a senior diplomat, as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Muhammad Younis Khan, who holds a Masters Degree in Economics, joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 22, 1974 and has held various diplomatic assignments in Pakistan Missions abroad including Madrid (1980-84), Addis Ababa (1986), Nairobi (1987-90), Geneva (1990-93) and Moscow (1995-98). He served at Headquarters as Section officer (1974-80), Director (1984-85 & 1993-95) and Director General (1995 & 2003-2005). He also served as Consul General Dubai (1999-2000), according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

Muhammad Younis Khan has also served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Hanoi (2000-2003) & to Baghdad (2005). Presently he is serving as Director General at Headquarters since September 6, 2005. He is married. Read more!

Cambodia genocide court judges still split on procedure after latest talks

Saturday, January 27, 2007
Bernard Hibbitts at 10:30 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [official website] said Friday that after two weeks of renewed discussion of the procedural rules to govern the trials of Khmer Rouge suspects accused of involvement in the "killing fields" genocide of the 1970s, "several major issues" remain unresolved. The tribunal did say, however, that "solid" progress had been made in the latest round of talks involving the Cambodian and foreign judges [list] who will take part in the proceedings.

Tribunal judges previously convened in November to establish court rules for trials scheduled to begin in mid-2007, but they failed to agree [JURIST report] on the Draft Internal Rules [text, PDF]. Some disagreements stem from proposed checks and balances that would allow the foreign and Cambodian judges to veto each other’s decisions.

Earlier this week, press reports suggested that if the procedural disagreements are not resolved soon some of the non-Cambodian judges may resign [JURIST report].

The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [PDF text] to investigate and try those responsible for the 1975-79 Cambodian genocide that led to the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians by execution, forced hardships or starvation.

To date, no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced trial and questions have been raised concerning exactly how many of the Khmer Rouge's top officials will face the tribunal, as several of those responsible for the genocide have recently died [JURIST report] and others are in failing health.

The prosecutors nonetheless face significant administrative, legal and linguistic obstacles in preparing cases for trial; their formal investigations only began in July [JURIST report] of last year. Read more!