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Singapore remains one of the world’s safest cities

Posted by pakin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has assured Singaporeans that the country remains one of the safest cities in the world.

In today’s press release summarising Singapore’s safety and security situation in 2015, MHA said law and order in the country continued to be favourable.

Although there was a slight increase in crime from the previous year due to a sharp rise in online crime – a trend since 2013 – almost all other crime classes registered a fall.

For instance, housebreaking and related crimes dropped to their lowest levels in 20 years, while the number of unlicensed moneylending harrassment cases continued to decline.

The drug situation was also stable and there was a decrease in fire incidents, with fire fatalities remaining low. On the road safety front, the drop in fatalities from road traffic accidents was tempered by a slight increase in the number of injuries.

MHA, however, highlighted four trends of concern: the spike in online crime; a continued rise in new drug abusers especially those aged 30; an increase in the number of arrested harbourers and employers of immigration offenders; as well as how the unauthorised change of use of premises and illegal fire safety works continue to cause the highest number of fire safety violations.

It also warned that Singapore still faces various threats, chief among them terrorism.

The Home Team is ready to respond decisively in the event of a terrorist attack, MHA said, but the public also plays a major role by being alert to potential dangers and warning signs of terrorism.

“We must stay united if a terrorist attack were to happen, and be able to recover as one people,” MHA added.

VN trade with nearly 30 nations hit $147 bn in 2015

Posted by pakin On January - 27 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

HANOI – Of more than 200 countries and territories that Vietnam had trade relations with last year, there were 29 countries that the country had export turnover of more than $1 billion.

The export value to the 29 countries hit $147.4 billion, accounting for nearly 90.9 per cent of the total export value of Vietnam, according to the General Department of Customs.

The US is the largest importer of Vietnamese goods with total turnover of $33.5 billion, increasing by 16.9 per cent compared to 2014.

This is also the market in which Vietnam recorded the largest surplus with $25.68 billion.

Key products exported to the US include textiles and garments with nearly $11 billion, a year-on-year increase of 11.7 per cent and accounting for 32.7 per cent of the country’s export value to this market.

Exports of footwear ranked second with export value of over $4 billion, up 22.5 per cent; followed by computers, electronic products and components with $2.8 billion, up 33.7 per cent.

Other large export markets of Vietnam are China and the Republic of Korea (RoK) with turnover of $16.6 billion and $8.9 billion respectively.

Exports to the Americas hit $55.4 billion, a year-on-year increase of 18.6 per cent.

Export value with Europe and Africa reached $46.6 billion and $5.1 billion, growing 9.4 and 9.8 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, exports to Oceania decreased by 16.2 per cent to $5.79 billion.

In terms of importing, there are 19 markets that Vietnam imported commodities from of more than $1 billion, with a total value of $150.4 billion, accounting for 90.8 per cent of the total imports of the country.

China continued to be the leading market in supplying goods for Vietnam with an import value worth $49.5 billion, increasing 13.9 per cent compared to 2014.

Main commodities imported from China are machinery, equipment, tools and spare parts with turnover of $9 billion; telephones and accessories with $6.9 billion; fabrics with $5.2 billion and computers, electronic products and components, earning $5.2 billion.

The second largest exporter to Vietnam is the RoK with a value totalled $27.6 billion, increasing 27 per cent compared to 2014.

Other large exporters included Japan ($14.4 billion), Taiwan ($11 billion) and Thailand ($8.3 billion).

BOGOR – Barely a few days old, perched on a nest of twigs inside an incubator, a newborn Indonesian songbird – cherished for its melodious chirp – tweets weakly as a tiny metallic ring is attached to its leg.

The tag shows potential buyers the chick was bred in captivity. It’s an important symbol, which shows it was not trapped in the wild and smuggled, an illegal trade which sees birds packed in their thousands in shipping crates or stuffed in plastic bottles before being sold in giant avian markets in Indonesia’s major cities.

The hatchling was born at Megananda Daryono’s vast aviary in Bogor, a city on the island of Java, where he runs a breeding programme that is a sustainable alternative to the roaring trade in birds caught in the wild.

“I realised the birds being caught in the forest would one day be gone for good,” Daryono told AFP at the site, now a cornucopia of exotic macaws, brilliant parrots and vulnerable songbirds.

He is among a small number trying to turn the tide in a country where once-common bird species are being driven to the brink of extinction, as an obsession for bird-keeping and even avian singing contests fuels unprecedented demand.

The jungles of the archipelago are home to 131 threatened bird species, according to wildlife trade watchdog Traffic, more than any other country except Brazil. There are a dizzying array of exotic species, from the Sumatran Laughingthrush, to the Chattering Lory and the Black-winged Myna.

At an emergency meeting convened in Singapore to discuss the crisis last year, wildlife experts declared Indonesia’s rampant bird trade more of a threat to many native species than habitat loss, and called for urgent intervention to stop the plunder.

“The scale is massive. It involves millions and millions of birds every year,” Traffic’s Chris Shepherd told AFP.

“It’s just really reaching a point now, a critical point, where it’s now or never for a lot of these species.”

Caged birds have been kept as pets for centuries in Indonesia but the evolution of songbird contests from small, localised events to a nationwide craze known as “chirping mania” is in particular blamed for the rapid dwindling of songbirds in the wild.

There are entire fan clubs dedicated to certain species of canaries, “chirping” organisations boasting thousands of members, and champions who go on tour across the archipelago to compete for big prize money – and glory – at national gala events.

It’s serious business, as one champion Johan explained at a recent contest in central Jakarta, as men screamed, whistled and clucked at their birds, encouraging them to keep singing as stony-faced judges awarded points for melody, duration and volume.

“This isn’t a beauty pageant, it’s a chirping contest. It’s chirping mania,” Johan, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

“The song is the only thing that matters,” he added, his champion yellow canary – one of just 50 birds he personally owns – perched nearby in an ornate wooden cage.

Calls from some quarters for these popular contests to be banned or heavily regulated have met stiff resistance, with many defending them as uniquely Indonesian and blaming the trade – not the competitions themselves – for the crisis unfolding in jungles far away.

However efforts are being made to distance the contests from the illegal trade and unsightly bird markets like Pramuka – an overcrowded, filthy emporium in Jakarta known to sell critically-endangered and vulnerable birds.

The Indonesian Bird Society (PBI), which sanctions and judges one major songbird league, has pledged to phase out all wild birds and replace them entirely with songbirds bred in captivity. So far three species must be captive-bred and bear the tell-tale ring to compete in PBI contests, with a fourth to be added next year.

But former PBI chairman Made Sri Prana, who helped usher in the regulations, said a full transition would take time and outside PBI-sanctioned contests, “there’s no real obligations” for other songbird associations to follow suit.

Capturing any native birds from the wild – whether they are protected or not – is illegal in Indonesia but law enforcement is lax, with fines and jail terms rarely handed out to traffickers or vendors at big markets, Shepherd said.

But there are some positive signs. There are now estimated to be hundreds of breeding programmes like Daryono’s across the country, and authorities have made a number of high-profile seizures of illegally caught birds.

In addition, conservationists working with the government hope in 2016 to update the list of birds protected under Indonesian law, which is many years out of date.

Raising public awareness is a longer game. Indonesian President Joko Widodo tried to do just that this month when he released 200 caged birds into the wild – but was criticised when it emerged the animals had been bought in Pramuka, a symbol of the country’s illegal wildlife trade.

Ria Saryanthi from Burung Indonesia, a local conservation group working for better protection of birds, said it would take time to alter old habits: “You cannot change people’s minds easily.”

JAKARTA – Islamic State militants launched a gun and bomb assault on Indonesia’s capital on Thursday, police and media said, marking the first assault on the Muslim-majority country by the radical group, but five of the seven people killed were the attackers themselves.

It took security forces about three hours to end the siege near a Starbucks cafe and Sarinah’s, Jakarta’s oldest department store, after a team of around seven militants traded gunfire with police and blew themselves up.

A police officer and a Canadian man were killed in the attack, which – with the attackers – took the death toll to seven. Seventeen people, including a Dutch man, were wounded.

Two of the militants were taken alive, police said.

“Islamic State fighters carried out an armed attack this morning targeting foreign nationals and the security forces charged with protecting them in the Indonesian capital,” Aamaaq news agency, which is allied to the group, said on its Telegram channel.

Jakarta’s police chief told reporters: “ISIS is behind this attack definitely,” using a common acronym for Islamic State, and he named an Indonesian militant called Bahrun Naim as the man responsible for plotting it.

The drama played out on the streets and on television screens, with at least six explosions and a gunfight in a movie theatre.

ARMOURED CARS, HELICOPTERS

“The Starbucks cafe windows are blown out. I see three dead people on the road. There has been a lull in the shooting but someone is on the roof of the building and police are aiming their guns at him,” Reuters photographer Darren Whiteside said as the attack unfolded.

Police responded in force within minutes. Black armoured cars screeched to a halt in front of the Starbucks and sniper teams were deployed around the neighbourhood as helicopters buzzed overhead.

After the militants had been overcome, a body still lay on the street, a shoe nearby among the debris. The city centre’s notoriously jammed roads were largely deserted.

Indonesia has seen attacks by Islamist militants before, but a coordinated assault by a team of suicide bombers and gunmen is unprecedented and has echoes of the sieges seen in Mumbai seven years ago and in Paris last November.

The last major militant attacks in Jakarta were in July2009, with bombs at the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels.

The country had been on edge for weeks over the threat posed by Islamist militants. Counter-terrorism police had rounded up about 20 people with suspected links to Islamic State, whose battle lines in Syria and Iraq have included nationals from several Asian countries.

HISTORY OF ATTACKS

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, the vast majority of whom practise a moderate form of the religion.

The country saw a spate of militant attacks in the 2000s,the deadliest of which was a night club bombing on the holiday island of Bali that killed 202 people, most of them tourists.

Police have been largely successful in destroying domestic militant cells since then, but officials have more recently been worrying about a resurgence inspired by groups such as Islamic State and Indonesians who return after fighting with the group.

Alarm around the world over the danger stemming from Islamic State rocketed after the Paris attacks and the killing of 14people in California in December.

On Tuesday, a Syrian suicide bomber killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul. Authorities there suspect the bomber had links to Islamic State.

Among those arrested in Indonesia’s crackdown late last year was a member of China’s Uighur Muslim minority with a suicide-bomb vest. Media said two other Uighur suspects were on the run.

Indonesian security forces have also intensified a manhunt for a militant leader called Santoso, regarded as Indonesia’s most high-profile backer of Islamic State, in the jungles of Sulawesi island. Santoso had threatened to unleash attacks in Jakarta.

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