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International News

Lifelike robots and android dogs wow visitors at Beijing robotics fair


India is one of the world’s fastest-growing EV markets. This is why.


Erik Spoelstra believes coaching in the Philippines at the World Cup is a perfect homecoming


Inside KCON LA 2023 — an extravagant microcosm of K-pop’s macro influence


From The Asian Reporter, V33, #9 (September 4, 2023), page 2.

Thailand threatening to shut down Facebook, alleging it doesn’t screen ads well enough

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai cabinet minister is threatening to try to shut down Facebook in the country, saying the social media platform does not do enough to screen the advertisements it runs, leaving people vulnerable to costly scams. Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, Thailand’s minister of Digital Economy and Society, said in a statement that he is ready to go to criminal court arguing for Facebook to be shut down in Thailand. He said Thai authorities have already appealed to Facebook parent company Meta to take down fraudulent ads, leading to more than 5,000 being blocked, but that the problem persists. He said ads or fake profiles on Facebook frequently purport to represent reputable financial and investment advisers offering high profits, luring people into scams in which they lose their money. Reached by phone, Meta in Thailand asked for queries to be sent by e-mail to its press department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the minister’s allegations. It was not immediately clear how quickly the court might rule on the case if it is filed by the ministry. Facebook is extremely popular in Thailand, with more than 50 million user accounts for the country’s 66 million people.

Assembly lines shut down at Toyota auto plants in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — All 28 vehicle assembly lines at Toyota’s 14 auto plants in Japan shut down in late August due to a problem in its computer system that deals with incoming auto parts. The automaker doesn’t believe the problem was caused by a cyberattack, but the cause is still under investigation, according to spokeswoman Sawako Takeda. Toyota had said production would restart within a day. "We apologize for all the troubles we have caused," it said in a statement. Toyota declined to say what models being produced might be affected. The shutdown came after a shortage of computer chips and other auto parts stalled production in Asian nations affected by social restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Chip shortage woes had only recently started to ease for Japan’s top automaker, which makes the Camry sedan, Prius hybrid, and Lexus luxury brand.

Burmese hip-hop artist sentenced to 20 years in prison

BANGKOK (AP) — A 38-year-old Burmese hip-hop artist has been found guilty of criticizing Myanmar’s military-controlled government and sentenced to 20 years in prison, a family member said. The sentence to Byu Har, also known as Min Oat Myanmar, appeared to be the most severe so far given to any of the celebrities detained for criticizing the military rulers who seized power from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021. Byu Har was arrested at his apartment in Yangon on May 24, hours after he strongly criticized Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military government, and the electric power minister. In a livestream on his Facebook page, he alleged they had failed to supply enough electricity to Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. In the livestream he called Min Aung Hlaing "incompetent" and the electricity minister a "fool," saying electricity had been better supplied during Suu Kyi’s government. Five days after his arrest, state-run media announced he had been taken into custody for incitement and spreading propaganda that could destabilize the state. In Myanmar, also known as Burma, prolonged power outages have become a major burden. Between March and early June, daily power cuts to save energy were doubled to eight hours a day in Yangon, though they are now back to four hours daily. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group that monitors arrests in Myanmar, about 4,000 people have been killed and 24,410 people arrested since the army takeover. Celebrities have been specifically targeted for supporting protest movements or showing sympathy for civilians killed by the military.

China won’t require COVID-19 tests for incoming travellers

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China is no longer require a negative COVID-19 test result for incoming travellers, a milestone in its reopening to the rest of the world after a three-year isolation that began with the country’s borders closing in March 2020. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced the change at a briefing in Beijing. China in January ended quarantine requirements for its own citizens travelling from abroad, and over the past few months has gradually expanded the list of countries that Chinese people can travel to and increased the number of international flights. Beijing ended its tough domestic "zero COVID" policy only in December, after years of draconian curbs that at times included full-city lockdowns and lengthy quarantines for people who were infected. The restrictions slowed the world’s second-largest economy, leading to rising unemployment and occasional instances of unrest. As part of those measures, incoming travellers were required to isolate for weeks at government-designated hotels. Residents were in some cases forcibly locked into their homes in attempts to stop the virus from spreading. Protests in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Nanjing erupted in November over the COVID curbs, in the most direct challenge to the Communist Party’s rule since the Tiananmen protests of 1989. In early December, authorities abruptly scrapped most COVID controls, ushering in a wave of infections that overwhelmed hospitals and morgues. A U.S. federally funded study last month found the rapid dismantling of the "zero COVID" policy may have led to nearly 2 million excess deaths in the following two months. That number greatly exceeds official estimates of 60,000 deaths within a month of the lifting of the curbs. During the years of "zero COVID," local authorities occasionally imposed snap lockdowns in attempts to isolate infections, trapping people inside offices and apartment buildings.

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