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Thai Protesters Seek Royal Pardon for Thaksin


THAILAND-POL: More than 20,000 supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra rallied in Bangkok Monday to petition the king to grant Mr. Thaksin a royal pardon. The Thaksin supporters, called red shirts, say more than four million people have signed the petition asking King Bhumipol Adulyadej to pardon the former Thai leader. Last year, Mr. Thaksin was convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to two years in jail, but he fled the country.
The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dismisses the petition as illegal and a political move, and says it will not succeed, because Mr. Thaksin needs to serve time in jail to meet the legal requirement for a pardon.
At a recent rally supporting the petition, a protester (Kokaew Pikulthong) said many of his fellow red shirts think Mr. Thaksin did not receive a fair trial.

U.S-BURMA: U.S. Senator Jim Webb says the government of Burma has denied reports that it is trying to acquire nuclear technology.
Speaking to reporters in Bangkok Monday, Senator Webb said he did not raise the issue when he met with Burma's military leader General Than Shwe on Saturday. However, he said that the Burmese government denied having a nuclear program. Earlier this month, Australian researchers said interviews with defectors from Burma indicated that the government has a secret nuclear program, allegedly aided by North Korea. Webb was also allowed to meet with Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday and told reporters that she might not oppose easing sanctions on Burma.

KOREAS TENSIONS: South Korea has cautiously welcomed North Korea's decision to lift border restrictions and restart tours, saying the two governments must hold talks before the trips to the communist country can resume. South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said Monday that the government views Hyundai Group's accords with Pyongyang positively, but they were reached at a civilian level and must be agreed to through a dialogue between the two countries. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Hyundai chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun met Sunday and agreed to the resumption of suspended tour projects and reunions of families separated by the Korean war.

RUSSIA CAUCASUS: Police in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region say at least 19 people were killed and nearly 70 were wounded in the region's deadliest bombing in months. Local officials in Ingushetia say a truck bomb exploded Monday at police headquarters in the city of Nazran. They say the truck rammed through the gates of the compound and exploded as police officers were lining up for their morning roll call. Law enforcement said the bomb included more than 20 kilograms of explosives and severely damaged cars and buildings in the area. At least nine of the wounded are children.
Government forces have battled separatists in Ingushetia, Chechnya and other parts of southern Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Deadly clashes remain common in the country's restive southern republics.

ASIA-PGA CHAMPIONSHIP GOLF: Asia is celebrating South Korean Yang Yong-eun's victory over American Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship. The victory makes the 37-year-old the first Asian-born golfer to win a major golf tournament. Yang is ranked 110th in the world. Woods is number one.
South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak phoned Yang to praise him for the win, which dominated Monday's Cabinet meeting. Mr. Lee told Yang that he had raised the morale of the South Korean people by becoming the first Asian to secure a major title.

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