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India security forces fire tear gas at protesting farmers on drive to Delhi

India security forces fire tear gas at protesting farmers on drive to Delhi

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India security forces fire tear gas at protesting farmers on drive to Delhi

Indian security forces fired tear gas at protesting farmers for a second day on Wednesday to stop tens of thousands from marching to the capital New Delhi to demand higher prices for their produce.

Travelling on trucks and trolleys loaded with food, bedding and other supplies, the farmers began their “Delhi Chalo” (Let’s go to Delhi) march on Tuesday morning after talks with the government failed to yield a commitment on minimum prices for a range of crops.

They were stopped by security forces at the Shambhu border that divides Punjab and Haryana – the northern states to which most of them belong – almost 200 km (125 miles) from their destination.
Protesters threw stones and tried to break down barricades, Haryana Director General of Police Shatrujeet Kapur said.

“Police and paramilitary forces used minimum force (like) tear gas and water cannon and kept the situation under control,” he said.

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Security forces also used drones to drop tear gas canisters on farmers who, in response, released kites into the sky in the hope of entangling the machines.

A similar year-long protest in 2021 by farmers, a powerful voting bloc, had pushed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to repeal some farm laws and promise to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce.

Farmers say the government has been slow on fulfilling the latter promise.

“Last time they fooled us but this time we won’t be fooled. We will not return until our demands are met,” said 23-year-old Jasmeet Singh, a resident of Haryana’s Ambala region who also participated in the protests in 2021.

Leaders of farmers’ unions also said the government should either accept their demands or “democratically” allow them to go to Delhi.

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“But they are not doing either,” said Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee

The latest protests come with the country months away from a national election in which Modi will seek a third term.

The government has appealed to farmers to come forward to discuss their demands, with Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda saying that efforts will continue to speak to them “in a constructive and positive manner”.

However, an influential farmers’ union linked with Modi’s party on Wednesday rejected demands raised by the protesting farmers.

The leader of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) or the Indian Farmers’ Group, said the protests were masterminded by opposition political parties with the aim of fracturing Modi’s agrarian reforms.
“Protesting farmer groups do not represent concerns of all farmers, their views are limited to regional agrarian practices,” he said.

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He accused opposition parties of instigating the unrest just months before the election.

TIME FOR TEA

A rare moment of respite in the protest came in the afternoon when farmers moved back to their vehicles for lunch, lining up to be served. In some places, farmers and police stood side-by-side, warming themselves with cups of tea against a backdrop of rows of barricades.

Traffic was hit across Delhi’s border regions as police sought to control the protest. On Grand Trunk Road, which connects Delhi to Punjab via Haryana, vehicles were redirected for the last 20 km (12 miles) through side roads.

The opposite carriageway, carrying commuters to Delhi, remained deserted, with traffic movement prohibited along its entire 150 km Haryana stretch. 

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Thai court accepts complaint seeking PM’s removal over minister’s appointment

Thai court accepts complaint seeking PM’s removal over minister’s appointment

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Thai court accepts complaint seeking PM's removal over minister's appointment

Thailand’s Constitutional Court accepted a complaint on Thursday seeking to remove Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin over his cabinet appointment of a lawyer who served jail time, in a new legal setback for the government.

The decision comes after three ministers quit in recent weeks as the government battles to jumpstart an underperforming economy and find funds to deliver on a delayed election promise of cash handouts for 50 million people.

The court chose not to suspend Srettha from duty pending a verdict, as was sought by 40 senators who had complained Pichit Chuenban fell short of moral and ethical standards for ministers set out in the constitution.

Srettha has 15 days to file his defence in court. “The prime minister is focused and determined, this will not affect his work,” said government spokesperson Chai Wacharonke.

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Pichit’s qualifications prior to becoming a minister in the prime minister’s office had been carefully vetted and the appointment was in line with the law, he added.

For decades a close aide of the politically influential Shinawatra family, Pichit resigned on Tuesday in an effort to insulate Srettha from the court case.

He had been jailed for six months in 2008 for contempt of court after being accused of a bid to bribe court officials with 2 million baht ($55,218) placed in a grocery paper bag, which he denied. His law license was suspended for five years.

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As a lawyer, Pichit fought, and lost, big court cases against former premiers Yingluck Shinawatra and billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been a towering figure in Thailand for more than two decades.

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Thaksin is a close ally of Srettha and founder of his ruling Pheu Thai party, which together with its predecessors has won all but one Thai election since 2001.

The court gave no timeframe for a decision in the case.

If it dismisses Srettha, a new government must be formed and Pheu Thai would need to put forward a new candidate for premier to be voted on by a parliament in which it is not the biggest party.

VReal estate mogul Srettha was elected by the legislature in August last year after weeks of political deadlock, following a deal with parties and lawmakers allied with the royalist military, which staged coups against Shinawatra-backed governments in 2006 and 2014.

Government critics say Pichit got the job thanks to his close ties with Thaksin. The tycoon still holds significant sway in politics, despite officially being retired and having spent 15 years in self-imposed exile until his return last year.

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The government has said Pichit was picked because he was suitable.

Thaksin, who was convicted of conflicts of interest and abuse of power and was released from detention on parole in February, will learn next week if he is to be prosecuted for an alleged insult to the powerful monarchy.

He has denied wrongdoing in the case over comments made in an interview a decade ago.

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Putin to hold two-day talks with Lukashenko in Belarus, says Kremlin

Putin to hold two-day talks with Lukashenko in Belarus, says Kremlin

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Putin to hold two-day talks with Lukashenko in Belarus, says Kremlin

 Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold wide-ranging talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on Thursday and Friday, the Kremlin said.

Russia and Belarus are close allies, with Minsk set to take part in exercises aimed at simulating preparations for the launch of tactical nuclear weapons this month.

Belarus has offered Russia logistical support during its conflict with Ukraine, with Russian forces entering Ukraine from Belarusian territory during their initial offensive against Kyiv in February 2022.

Separately, Belarusian state news agency Belta reported on Thursday that Lukashenko had appointed Pavel Muraveyko as the new chief of the Belarusian army’s general staff. 

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Thai hospital says 20 people from Singapore Airlines flight remain in intensive care

Thai hospital says 20 people from Singapore Airlines flight remain in intensive care

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Thai hospital says 20 people from Singapore Airlines flight remain in intensive care

Twenty people who were aboard a Singapore Airlines flight that hit severe turbulence and diverted to Bangkok for an emergency landing on Tuesday remain in intensive care, a hospital official said on Thursday.

Of the 40 people on the flight still under treatment, 22 patients have spinal cord injuries and six have brain and skull injuries, Adinun Kittiratanapaibool, Director of Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital told reporters.

Adinun had said 41 people were still under treatment, but later said one person had been discharged. One passenger died of a suspected heart attack and dozens were injured after Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 encountered what the airline described as sudden, extreme turbulence while flying over Myanmar on Tuesday. 

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