Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners

Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners
Widodo has pledged to bring reform to Indonesia

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person
The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison   (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)
Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)



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"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Friday, November 1, 2019

Saudi's new tourism industry faces huge training challenge

Yahoo – AFP, Aziz EL MASSASSI, October 31, 2019

Conservative Saudi Arabia has launched a drive to attract tourists to places such
as UNESCO World Heritage site Madain Saleh (AFP Photo/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to tourists, but faces huge challenges to train an estimated one million staff needed to operate the sector, according to the head of one forthcoming mega-project.

The ultra-conservative kingdom announced in September that it would offer tourist visas for the first time, relaxing rules that had largely restricted visits to business travellers and Muslim pilgrims.

But despite a slick global advertising campaign, Saudi tourism infrastructure is still scant -- in contrast to its ambitions to welcome 100 million visitors by 2030.

The Red Sea Project, to be built across an archipelago of 90 islands and stretching into nearby deserts and mountains, will open for business in 2022, its CEO John Pagano said at a major investment forum in Riyadh.

"The challenges are going to be related to investing in our people, training the workforce that we need for the future," he told AFP on the conference sidelines.

"A million people will be working in the tourism sector, so we need a country-scale initiative to train tourism professionals."

The first phase of the mega-project off the Saudi port city of Jeddah envisages 14 luxury hotels built on five islands, with resorts in the mountains beyond.

Unlike other destinations around the Red Sea, led by Egypt and Israel, Saudi Arabia is opting for a luxury tourism model along the lines of the successful industries in Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

"We are going to limit the number of visitors because over-tourism is a major cause of environmental damage," Pagano said.

But he added that the Red Sea project alone promises to deliver 70,000 jobs and $5.9 billion towards Saudi GDP annually.

"In Saudi Arabia, tourism makes up just 3.4 percent of GDP so there is a huge opportunity to grow in an industry that currently doesn't exist," he said.

Developing tourism is one of the major planks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's drive to wean the economy off its decades-long dependence on oil revenues.

The Crown Prince has sought to shake off his country's ultra-conservative image, lifting a ban on cinemas and women drivers as well as allowing concerts and sporting extravaganzas.

But Saudi Arabia, which forbids alcohol and enforces strict rules on gender segregation, may not be the easiest sell for global tourists.

To encourage visitors, authorities announced they would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together, and that foreign women were not obliged to wear the body-shrouding abaya that is still expected in public for Saudi women.

"The best way to face the challenges is to open the country up, show what's happening," Pagano said. "This country is going through a major transformation, every day you see new things happening that people said would never happen."

"By the process of tourism we are going to change the perception of the wider public, by people coming, physically experiencing what Saudi Arabia has to offer."

Indonesia's halal tourism bid faces pig pushback

Yahoo – AFP, Albert Ivan Damanik, with Haeril Halim in Jakarta, October 31, 2019

Contestants in a pig-catching competition show off their prize in Muara,
Indonesia (AFP Photo/Albert Ivan Damanik)

Indonesia's bid to lure more visitors by spreading halal tourism across the archipelago is facing a backlash, with a Christian celebration of pigs -- forbidden for Muslims -- the latest act of dissent.

The weekend festival-cum-protest in Sumatra, featuring pig racing, chubbiest hog contests and a porcine fashion show, comes as holiday hotspot Bali pushes back against rolling out more Muslim-friendly services on the Hindu island.

Critics say a government plan to cash in on halal tourism -- part of a broader campaign to replicate Bali's success nationwide -- is another threat to minority rights in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

And critics have warned that the sprawling nation of 260 million -- where nearly 90 percent of the population follows Islam -- is taking hard-right turn with a conservative cleric now installed as vice-president and hardliners growing increasingly vocal in public life.

Indonesia's reputation for tolerant Islam has been under fire for years.

Pushing halal tourism in areas with religious minorities -- including Christians, Buddhists and Hindus -- may do more harm than good, warned Ali Munhanif, an expert on political Islam at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta.

Indonesian children gather around a caged pig at the Lake Toba 
Festival in Muara, on Sumatra island (AFP Photo/Albert Ivan Damanik)

"The phenomenon signals an effort to institutionalise conservatism," he said.

"Bali successfully manages its tourism sector without using a 'Hindu' label.

But advocates say halal tourism is misunderstood.

"There is a public misperception that halal tourism is Islamisation. That is wrong and it's why some people overreact to the concept," said Zainut Tauhid, Indonesia's deputy minister of religious affairs.

"It is about providing necessary facilities for Muslim visitors such as prayer rooms. So it is facilitation rather than Islamisation."

'Divide people'

That view isn't shared by some around Lake Toba, a scenic crater lake in Sumatra where the weekend pig festival was held.

Indonesian children take part in a pig-themed colouring contest (AFP Photo/
Albert Ivan Damanik)

Most locals are Batak, a Christian ethnic group that puts pigs at the centre of its traditional cuisine, with hog farming a key source of income.

Last month, provincial governor Edy Rahmayadi raised eyebrows when said he wanted to boost tourism with Islam-friendly facilities and services.

That included opening more halal restaurants and mosques, as well as banning the public slaughter of hogs, with the governor saying the practice could turn off Muslim visitors.

"This idea to bring in halal tourism is going to divide people," festival organiser Togu Simorangkir told AFP

"It's a step back for tourism here," he added.

About 1,000 people dropped by the event, including children who scribbled in pig-themed colouring books and adults watching as hogs were judged on their plump proportions.

"Batak culture is particularly known for its pigs," said higher schooler Edo Sianturi.

A blindfolded boy takes part in a pig-catching competition during a 
festival in Muara (AFP Photo/Albert Ivan Damanik)

"We've been raising them and earning a living from them for generations."

Visitor Sabrina Singarimbun, a Muslim student in a head-covering hijab, was keen to see which best-dressed pig would win the festival's fashion contest.

"I disagree with the (halal tourism) idea because it's Batak culture here and most people aren't Muslim," she said.

'Tourism is about happiness'

Elsewhere, halal tourism is often seen as a lucrative business opportunity.

Thailand and Taiwan are among regional destinations tapping the halal tourism sector, which a 2017 study found will be worth some $300 billion annually.

This month, Indonesia ushered in new halal labelling rules for consumer products and services, as the government eyes travellers from other Islamic nations to rev up its much-touted "10 New Balis" tourism push, which includes Lake Toba.

But efforts to cater to Muslim visitors has drawn controversy.

A farmer splashes water over pigs in their pen during the Pig and Pork Lake 
Toba Festival in Muara (AFP Photo/Albert Ivan Damanik)

This summer, officials in Lombok -- an island next to Bali that has many Muslim-friendly services -- quickly rolled back plans to set up separate camping areas for male and female hikers in Mount Rinjani National Park after a public backlash.

Two restaurants in Makassar on Sulawesi island, meanwhile, were forced to close after a Muslim group in July complained that the smell of their pork dishes was wafting over to nearby mosques and halal restaurants.

Back in North Sumatra, the governor's spokesman Muhammad Ikhsan said his boss was misunderstood.

"He just wants to make Lake Toba a friendly place for Muslim visitors," Ikhsan said, adding that he hoped it would also curtail the environmental impact of pig farming.

"What we want is just to make things organised, not to make it a halal place."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Celebrations at Uluru after climbers permanently banned

Yahoo – AFP, October 27, 2019

The ban on climbing Uluru had long been sought by the traditional owners of
the land, the Anangu, whose connection to the site dates back tens of thousands
of years (AFP Photo/Saeed KHAN)

Uluru (Australia) (AFP) - Indigenous Australians performed songs and traditional dance as the sun set over Uluru on Sunday, capping a weekend of celebrations to mark the historic ban on climbing the sacred site.

The ceremony was held two days after a final surge of tourists who had flocked to central Australia scaled the giant red monolith before its closure to climbers.

A crowd gathered late Friday at the base of the site to watch rangers erect the "permanently closed" sign, in line with the long-held wishes of indigenous Australians.

"No more climbing today," shouted indigenous elder Nelly Patterson. "Close it," she yelled to a loud cheer from the crowd.

Previously known as Ayers Rock, the site was officially returned to the Anangu
in 1985 (AFP Photo/Saeed KHAN)

The ban, first announced in 2017, had long been sought by the traditional owners of the land, the Anangu, whose connection to the site dates back tens of thousands of years.

As well as respecting cultural practices, the ban is designed to protect the site from further environmental damage and ensure visitors' safety.

"We are all very happy, as traditional owners, that the climb is closed now, after a long fight from handback to today," Reggie Uluru told reporters through an interpreter on Saturday.

Previously known as Ayers Rock, the site was officially returned to the Anangu in 1985.

Signs at its base had implored visitors not to climb it, but they were regularly ignored by some, especially in recent months as thousands made last-minute ascents.

Tourists are still being encouraged to visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park where
 they can view the monolith from its base, walk around its perimeter and learn about 
its indigenous heritage (AFP Photo/Saeed KHAN)

"I think it is important that mother nature has a bit of a break," the last climber at Uluru, James Martin, said.

"I would like to say to the Aboriginals that we are sorry and the world does indeed belong to every single person who was born on the planet," the Australian told reporters as he came off the rock at sunset on Friday.

Parks Australia added extra rangers on patrol over the weekend, with fines for those who attempt to summit the rock now reaching up to Aus$10,000 ($6,800).

The ceremony was held two days after a final surge of tourists who had flocked
to central Australia scaled the giant red monolith before its closure to climbers 
(AFP Photo/Saeed KHAN)

"Although we expect our visitors to respect the law and the wishes of traditional owners when they visit, significant penalties can be issued," Parks Australia told national broadcaster ABC.

Work is expected to begin next week to remove a chain that was used by climbers to make the steep ascent.

Tourists are still being encouraged to visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park where they can view the monolith from its base, walk around its perimeter and learn about its indigenous heritage at the cultural centre.

Related Articles:

The Creation Choir - Mar 21, 2015 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) (Pair 5 - Node: Ulura, Australia & Null: Mount Logan, Yukon Northern Territories, Canada are revealed & activated. The 12 Pleiadians time capsules (The Nodes and Nulls of Earth) within Gaia will now gradually receive information) 

These time capsules need to be on the planet as a guide or blueprint for the starting creative energy of Gaia [the Creation Template]. Kryon has told us: that as the time capsules are slowly released, they modify The Crystalline Grid to help Human consciousness shift, and eventually create an ascended planet.  (Text version "The Fast-Track Systems")

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Uluru closed to climbers after crowds make final ascent

Yahoo – AFP, 25 October 2019

The permanent ban on climbing Uluru was first announced in 2017

Australia's Uluru was permanently closed to climbers Friday evening to meet the wishes of Aboriginal people who hold the red monolith sacred, but hundreds of tourists scaled it in the final hours before the ban.

With the last-ever climbers due back by sunset, rangers shut the entry gates to the world-famous site also known as Ayers Rock.

The ban, first announced in 2017, had long been sought by the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu, whose connection to the site dates back tens of thousands of years.

There were already signs at the base of the rock imploring visitors not to climb it, but these were not often heeded, especially in recent months as a surge of tourists made last-minute ascents.

"I came here just to see it but it is the last day possible (to climb Uluru), so I have decided to try it," Polish tourist Matt Oswiecimiki told AFP.

For years there have been signs at the base of the rock imploring visitors not 
to climb, but they were not often heeded

The 29-year-old said it was "fair to stop it" tomorrow out of respect for the Anangu, but said the one-time opportunity meant he would still climb it given he was allowed to on Friday.

Tourists are still being encouraged to visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park where they can take in the monolith from its base, walk around its perimeter and learn about its indigenous heritage at the cultural centre.

"It's enough for me to walk around and see the rock," Japanese tourist Masahira Suda said.

The 25-year-old said he did not judge fellow tourists for scaling Uluru but he was refraining at the request of the Aboriginal custodians.

"I really have respect for them," he said.

The climbing ban has been long-sought by Aboriginal 
Australians

Spiritual significance

More than 395,000 people visited the park in the 12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia -- about 20 percent more than the previous year.

Around 13 percent of those who visited during that period made the climb, park authorities said.

Uluru has great spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous Australians, and the Anangu people will hold a ceremony Saturday to mark the climbing ban.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt likened the recent increase in tourists climbing Uluru to "a rush of people wanting to climb over the Australian War Memorial".

"Our sacred objects, community by community, are absolutely important in the story and the history of that nation of people," he told national broadcaster ABC.

More than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park in the 
12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia

Traditional owners have long encouraged people to refrain from climbing the site for its cultural significance, to protect it from further environmental damage and to ensure visitors' safety.

Tackling Uluru's sandstone slopes has not been an easy exercise, and at least 35 people have died attempting the climb.

It towers some 348 meters (1,148 feet) and summer temperatures often hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

Saturday marks 34 years since that the park's title was handed back to the traditional owners.

Traditional owners and National Park representatives have decided to ban the
 climbing of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, from October 2019 amid fears it
was being treated as a 'theme park' (AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

Related Articles:


The Creation Choir - Mar 21, 2015 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) (Pair 5 - Node: Ulura, Australia & Null: Mount Logan, Yukon Northern Territories, Canada are revealed & activated. The 12 Pleiadians time capsules (The Nodes and Nulls of Earth) within Gaia will now gradually receive information)

These time capsules need to be on the planet as a guide or blueprint for the starting creative energy of Gaia [the Creation Template]. Kryon has told us: that as the time capsules are slowly released, they modify The Crystalline Grid to help Human consciousness shift, and eventually create an ascended planet.  (Text version he Fast-Track Systems")


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Loopholes riddle Saudi reforms on 'guardianship' of women

Yahoo – AFP, Anuj Chopra, October 23, 2019

Saudi Arabia now allows women over the age of 21 to obtain passports without
seeking the approval of their 'guardians' (AFP Photo/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia has eased travel restrictions on women but observers say loopholes still allow male relatives to curtail their movements and, in the worst cases, leave them marooned in prison-like shelters.

In August, the conservative kingdom allowed women over the age of 21 to obtain passports without seeking the approval of their "guardians" -— fathers, husbands or other male relatives.

The move, part of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plan to revamp the national image, ended a longstanding rule that prompted some extreme attempts to flee the kingdom.

But campaigners warn it is easy to sidestep the reform.

While allowing travel documents, Saudi Arabia has not done away with "taghayyub" -- a legal provision that means "absent" in Arabic and which has long been used to constrain women who leave home without permission.

"Guardians can still file a police complaint that their female relatives are 'absent', which would lead to their arrest and possible detention in Dar al-Reaya (women's shelter)," Eman Alhussein, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.

The system of shelters operated around the kingdom is opaque but accounts of conditions there paint a dire picture.

Activists including Human Rights Watch (HRW) say they are run like detention facilities, and it is unclear how many women they hold.

Saudi Arabia now allows women over the age of 21 to obtain passports without
seeking the approval of their 'guardians' (AFP Photo/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

"Saudi (fathers) can't stop the girls getting passports but they can still declare them missing to local police who will then track them down for the parents," a Western official told AFP, calling it a "massive loophole".

Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment.

Last year, members of the advisory Shura Council recommended the justice ministry stop accepting taghayyub cases as a way to slowly dismantle the guardianship system, but the suggestion seems to have been ignored.

Officials in Riyadh told AFP that dozens of women have applied for passports since the reform was announced.

"Today, I came to issue a new passport for the first time in my life," one 40-year-old woman told AFP as she made the application at a government office.

"I am very happy and this step gives confidence to Saudi women."

The move was celebrated as a historic leap for gender equality, triggering humorous online memes featuring women dashing to the airport with suitcases —- alone.

But it also prompted laments for the perceived loss of men's control, with one social media portrait showing fully veiled women wriggling underneath a barbed wire fence and emerging scantily clad on the other side.

A Saudi woman rolls her suitcase at the departure 
hall of the Jeddah Airport (AFP Photo)

'Restrict travel'

Campaigners, however, say that control is far from lost, with HRW warning that male guardians could also possibly circumvent the passport reform by seeking a "court order to restrict female relatives' travel".

Cases of filial "disobedience" can be filed against adult women -- a crime that can lead to imprisonment.

Women also still require a guardian's permission to marry or to be released from prisons and shelters.

Campaigners warn even those with valid passports could wind up in Dar al-Reaya.

Two Saudi women detained there for about a year after fleeing what they called abusive guardians told AFP they were watched round the clock through surveillance cameras inside their cells.

They said inmates were subject to flogging as punishment -- by men.

One said the shelter in Riyadh also kept a notebook to account for their menstrual period -- an invasive practice corroborated by HRW -- to ensure they didn't break rules surrounding Muslim prayers.

A document from the facility seen by AFP described one of the women as "frustrated", "rebellious" and seeking to sully her family's reputation. There was no mention of her guardian's alleged abuse.

"Some women can stay in these homes for a prolonged period if their guardians fail to receive them, perhaps as a way to punish them," said Alhussein.

Saudi women line up to apply for passports in Riyadh City (AFP Photo/
FAYEZ NURELDINE)

'Disobedient daughters'

When their guardians refused to get them out, the two women said they were transferred to another shelter known as Dar al-Diyafa, or "hospitality home".

They described it as a dark place with boarded-up windows and depressed women unclaimed for years. Others made desperate attempts to escape despite tight security.

Often the only legal escape is through an arranged marriage —- sometimes to strangers vetted by the shelter -— a move that transfers guardianship to the husband, campaigners say.

"Many women are stuck there for years with some waiting for someone to marry them —- and men come to the place with specifics such as 'I want a tall girl'," HRW researcher Rothna Begum told AFP.

Saudi authorities did not respond to repeated requests for access to the shelters.

The testimonies underscore how taghayyub -- often a tool against a young generation of what arch-conservatives call "disobedient daughters" -- effectively obstructs women from breaking free from abusive guardians.

They also offer clues into why Saudi women alleging abuse undertake perilous attempts to escape overseas despite the pro-women reforms, including a historic decree allowing them to drive.

"Women are free to get passports but guardians still control whether they can leave their homes," said Alhussein.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Shunned by Chinese, Thai tourism hotspot braces for rare slump

Yahoo – AFP, Sophie DEVILLER, October 20, 2019

Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Thailand's gross domestic product and Chinese
holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals (AFP Photo/Mladen ANTONOV)

Hotels on Thailand's most popular holiday island have been forced to slash prices with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as tourist chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht.

Located on the Andaman Sea and known for its beaches and nightlife, sun-drenched Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year after Bangkok and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Thailand's gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals.

But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, numbers for January-September were down almost a fifth on-year.

Claude de Crissey, Honorary Consul of France in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the popular Patong Beach area, said Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

"That was not the case this year," he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50 percent.

The problem is not just in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and Koh Samui island.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to 
take holidays owing to uncertainty back home (AFP Photo/Mladen ANTONOV)

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen around 10 percent against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket's coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers has also scared some off.

"We are worried," an industry insider told AFP, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs.

Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

"In terms of business, it's not good," said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

"Because...we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops."

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn told AFP he remained "optimistic", adding: "We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors" this year.

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year's total of 35.6 million.

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, 
particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market (AFP Photo/
Mladen ANTONOV)

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

"We are counting on the Indians to revive the sector," Kongsak said.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25 percent on-year in the first seven months.

But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

"I've never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment," said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn't the untouched vacation paradise it once was. "Now it's not so new...and it's not cheap," he said.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Indonesia minister stabbed by IS-linked pair

Yahoo – AFP, Agnes Anya, 10 October 2019

Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto was rushed by helicopter to
Jakarta after a assassination attempt

Two members of an Islamic State group-linked terror network stabbed Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto on Thursday, the intelligence head said, sending the powerful politician to emergency surgery for his wounds.

Television images showed security officers wrestling a man and woman to the ground in Pandeglang on Java island after the attack on Wiranto, who goes by one name, as he was exiting a vehicle.

The suspects were identified as 31-year-old Syahril Alamsyah and Fitri Andriana, 21 -- a married couple, according to local media.

They were members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an extremist group responsible for deadly suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya last year, State Intelligence Agency chief Budi Gunawan told reporters in Jakarta.

JAD is among dozens of radical groups that have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) group in Indonesia, which has long struggled with Islamist militancy.

Police said Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto was one of several 
targets in a failed assasination plot earlier this year

Wiranto, 72 -- who police have said was one of several targets in an earlier failed assassination plot -- was rushed by helicopter to the capital, where he was treated for two knife wounds in his stomach.

A three-hour operation "went well", Indonesian cabinet secretary Pramono Anung told reporters at Gatot Subroto army hospital.

Anung said he had just seen Wiranto, whose "operation had finished and he entered the ICU."

"It is being handled very well by the hospital," he said in video posted by the detik.com news website.

President Joko Widodo earlier said Wiranto was "in surgery and I ask that all Indonesians pray that he gets well soon."

"And I ask for everyone's help in fighting radicalism and terrorism because we can only do it together," he added.

Three other victims -- a local police chief and two aides -- had non-life-threatening 

injuries from an attack that wounded Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto
The assassination attempt comes just over a week before Widodo kicks off a second term as leader of the Southeast Asian archipelago of some 260 million people, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

Three others -- a local police chief and two aides -- also suffered knife wounds in Thursday's attack but authorities said they had non-life-threatening injuries.

'Fought the police'

An eyewitness told an AFP reporter that the female attacker was dressed in garments that covered her body and face.

"When the car stopped, there were people circling around, protecting him," he said.

"But a man got into the circle and stabbed Wiranto. The woman also tried to stab him. He was arrested and the woman fought the police."

Last year, JAD staged a wave of suicide bombings by families -- including young children -- at churches in Surabaya, killing a dozen congregants.

Authorities routinely arrest suspected Islamic State group-loyal militants 
that they claim were planning bomb and other attacks

Many past attacks by Indonesian militants have been against police and other state symbols.

Authorities routinely arrest suspected IS-loyal militants that they claim were planning bomb and other attacks.

"JAD members are targeting what they call Ansharut Thagut (tyranny) and that includes senior government officials," said Muhammad Syauqillah, program director of the University of Indonesia's Terrorism Study Center.

Wiranto, the retired chief of the armed forces and a failed presidential candidate, was appointed to his post in 2016 and oversees several departments, including the foreign affairs and defence ministries.

He has faced controversy over alleged human rights violations and allegations of crimes against humanity linked to Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor.

In May, police said Wiranto and three other top officials were targeted in a failed assassination plot linked to deadly riots in Jakarta after Widodo's re-election victory.

A group of six people -- arrested before they could carry out the killings -- planned to murder the officials and an election pollster in a bid to plunge the country into chaos, police said at the time.