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  • Extradited Thai ex-monk charged with child sex offences and fraud 2017-07-20

    Wirapol Sukphol was seen flying in a private aircraft in a YouTube video released in 2013A former monk has been charged with sex offences, fraud and money laundering after being extradited from the US to Thailand.Wirapol Sukphol, formerly Nen Kham, became notorious in 2013 when a YouTube video appeared to show him on a private jet with a designer bag and sunglasses.Later in 2013 he was accused of having sex with an under-aged girl and fled to the US soon afterwards.Mr Sukphol is expected strongly to contest all the charges against him.He is reported to have resisted the move to extradite him from California.Image copyrightDSIImage captionWirapol Sukphol was questioned after his arrivalThe former monk faces charges of child molestation and child abduction. He is also charged with money laundering and fraud after investigators say millions of dollars of assets were discovered in his name.He arrived on Wednesday in Bangkok wearing clerical garments despite being expelled from the monkhood,the Bangkok Post reported.Buddhism is traditionally one of the three cornerstones of Thai society along with the nation and the monarchy. Temples are at the centre of community life, especially in rural areas.But the monkhood has come under increased criticism in recent years following a succession of scandals, mostly involving sex and money.Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionBuddhism is one of the central tenets of Thai societyThe military - which has been running Thailand since a coup in 2014 - is under increasing pressure to tackle some of the alleged excesses.One of the most high-profile cases has involved influential Buddhist abbot Phra Dhammajayo. He is wanted on money laundering charges but police wereprevented from arresting himearlier this year by thousands of the abbot's supporters who say the charges are politically motivated.

  • Singapore Airlines reviews nut policy after toddler scare 2017-07-20

    Image copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARYImage captionNuts can prove fatal to those who suffer severe allergic reactionsAn allergy scare involving a three-year-old toddler has prompted Singapore Airlines to review the serving of nuts on board its flights.Marcus Daley suffers from anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition which can be triggered by food including peanuts and shellfish.He was travelling with his parents to Melbourne after a holiday in Thailand.He suffered a severe allergic reaction after other passengers around him opened their snack packets of peanuts.His father Chris Daley, a doctor specialising in respiratory issues, told the Australian Broadcast Corporation that his son received a special nut-free meal but quickly became severely ill when others were eating their nuts."He started vomiting, his eyes were starting to swell and he couldn't speak properly," Mr Daley said, adding that the family was less than an hour into their seven-hour flight home.Thankfully, the Daleys had brought anti-allergy medication, which quickly brought the situation under control.'A nut-free cabin'Major airlines such as Qantas, Air New Zealand and British Airways do not serve nuts during its flights or offer them in in-flight meals.Singapore Airlines issued a statement on Wednesday saying it would review the serving of nuts on board all flights."As soon as our crew were made aware of the situation, they immediately removed all packets of peanuts from the area around the affected passenger and his family," the airline said."Our crew suspended the service of peanuts in the Economy class cabin for the remainder of the flight."It added that passengers with nut allergies were able to request nut-free meals when making their flight bookings but said that they were not able to guarantee "a nut free cabin"."We do not have any control over passengers consuming their own snacks or meals on board, which may contain nuts or their derivatives," the airline said in reply to a customer's comment on its Facebook page.Image copyrightAFPImage captionSingapore Airline's statement has not curbed the debateThe incident has resulted in heated debate on social media, with many criticising the family's "irresponsible behaviour"."They know the severity of their son's allergy and should have simply ensured he took the meds prior to the snacks being served," wrote Facebook user Melissa Chua, who described herself as a "frequent traveller"."Nuts are one of the most common snacks served onboard. There are many people with nut allergies out there but you don't see them making such a fuss."Their sense of entitlement is so strong, to suggest an airline not serve nuts simply due to one passenger."When their son grows up, he'll have to learn that the world doesn't revolve around him."Ali Fadli Mohd wrote: "Shouldn't their child have been given a mask to wear since he is so allergic? What if somebody brought peanuts along in their bag and opened it in the airplane?"The online anger was overwhelming but some commented in support of the Daleys.Yvonne Chua Kaiyin criticised "the lack of understanding" about such allergies."Because it occurs in an enclosed place, the boy can't escape it. His parents did bring his medication so they did prepare and they are responsible. Some people just don't understand."Liz Ong, a mother of one, shared on Facebook: "My child has a life threatening food allergy. I am glad that this little boy survived the flight and I am so disappointed seeing these comments. We are responsible parents but no amount of medication can prevent an allergy in an enclosed space full of peanut dust circulating in the air during a flight."It may be a small inconvenience for you but I hope people will reconsider their decisions, to help keep a child safe."

  • Chinese mahjong lovers take to the river to beat the heat 2017-07-20

    Image copyrightEMPICSMahjong lovers in China have found a unique way to deal with a merciless heat wave descending on their city.What do you do if it's way too hot but you just can't stay away from your favourite boardgame?Well, kick your shoes and socks off, grab a chair and umbrella and head down to the river.That's what people in the town of Dujiangyan are doing and regardless of who wins at mahjong - they certainly all beat the heat!Image copyrightAFPAnd hot it is - media reports say that over the past days, the thermometer in the town in Sichuan province climbed to just under 40C.Mahjong is an ancient Chinese board game and is often played by elderly people in public parks. But current temperatures are nothing to mess with.Image copyrightHUANG SHIGUIThe advice by Britain's National Health Service on how to tackle a heat wave is to "have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water".In pictures: How Britain is keeping cool during the heat waveLocal media reports cite players joking that the only hazard they still have to tackle is the occasional shoe floating away downstream.Image copyrightHUANG SHIGUIBut overall "it's awesome. I can enjoy mahjong while feeling cool and refreshing," one player says in a video uploaded by a regional paper.It's not the first time the region has seen such heat in the summer and river mahjong has been popular in the small town for a few years now.

  • Dalian Wanda $9.3bn deal in 'crazy' restructuring 2017-07-20

    Image copyrightEPAImage captionSunac will still buy 13 tourist projects, including three theme parksOne of China's biggest ever property deals is being restructured, less than a week after it was announced.Dalian Wanda had said it was selling 13 tourism projects - including three theme parks - and 77 hotels to developer Sunac for $9.3bn (£7.1bn).But now the deal is being split, with another firm, Guangzhou R&F Properties, taking on the hotels.One analyst described the restructuring of the deal as "very unusual" and "kind of crazy".Raised eyebrowsNeither side has commented on whythe dealwas reworked but it is believed to follow bank scrutiny.R&F, which said it would now be the world's largest hotel owner, saw its share price jump sharply.Sunac's stocks also rallied, as investors cheered that the firm was taking on less debt risk.Under the previous terms, Wanda had been due to lend Sunac more than half the money needed to do the deal, which raised eyebrows among some observers.Image copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGESImage captionDalian Wanda is run by China's richest man and property magnate Wang JianlinThe restructuring of the deal was "kind of crazy" said Ben Cavender, senior analyst with China Market Research."It is very concerning, and it's very unusual at this late stage to have a $9bn deal, and then to have another deal with another company in place."He added Chinese firms were running into trouble because they did not have the due diligence or vetting in place for large mergers and acquisitions."They put out a lot of press, then the regulators realise there's some issues that need to be addressed. I suspect that's what happened here."The initial transaction had been a surprise - not least because it represented a U-turn from Dalian Wanda's ambitions to expand in the tourism sector.The three Chinese theme parks had only opened in the past year, and were intended to compete with US giant Disney's ventures in the country.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionThe collapse of a bid for the Golden Globes' owner was the first sign of Beijing's clampdown on Dalian Wanda's international acquisitionsWhile it emerged as a property giant in China, Dalian Wanda has come to prominence abroad after its heavy investment in the film and cinema industries.It controls the AMC cinema chain, as well as Legendary Entertainment, co-producer of hit films including Godzilla and The Dark Knight Rises.But it is one of several major Chinese firms whose transactions have come under scrutiny from Beijing, and it has been widely reported that Chinese banks have been told to stop providing funding to Dalian Wanda and others to make overseas acquisitions.'Bit of a mess'The effects of the clampdown were first seen earlier this year whenWanda pulled out of a $1bn bid for the owner of the Golden Globe TV and film awards.That pressure is widely seen as a blow to the ambitions of Wanda's billionaire chief executive Wang Jianlin."I'm a little bit sympathetic to Wanda," said Christopher Balding, professor of politics and economics at Peking University."What they were doing 12 months ago was being heavily encouraged by Chinese regulators. Beijing wanted to improve its soft power with entertainment assets and things like this and Wanda was very willing to help there."But they've clearly fallen into a bit of a mess."