Pope Francis kicks off Asia tour with Buddhist temple visit

Bangkok, Nov 21 (AFP/PTI) Pope Francis will visit one of Thailand's famed gilded temples Thursday to meet the supreme Buddhist patriarch, on the first full day of his Asian tour aimed at promoting religious harmony.

The 82-year-old pontiff is on his first visit to Buddhist majority Thailand, where he will spend four days before setting off to Japan.

Thai court disqualifies rising opposition party leader as MP

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday disqualified the leader of an opposition party and fierce government critic from parliament after finding him guilty of violating election law.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, 40, the leader of the Future Forward Party, was found guilty of holding shares in a media company after registering his candidacy for an election earlier this year to formally end five years of military rule.

Thanathorn is a strong opponent of the army’s role in politics and his new party came in a surprise third in the March election.

Pope arrives in Thailand to encourage Catholic minority

BANGKOK (AP) — Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday to begin a tour of Thailand and Japan, part of a mission to boost the morale of those countries’ tiny minority Catholic communities and speak about issues of concern including human trafficking and peacemaking.

He is expected to highlight his admiration in Thailand for the community’s missionary ancestors who brought the faith to this Buddhist nation centuries ago and endured bouts of persecution more recently.

Pentagon's Esper says military justice ready to hold troops to account

BANGKOK (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system’s ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: “We have a very effective military justice system.”

US, S Korea postpone joint exercise criticized by N Korea

BANGKOK (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday the United States and South Korea have indefinitely postponed a joint military exercise in an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea.

The move comes even as Japan’s defense minister, whose country feels threatened by repeated North Korean missile launches, told Esper “no one could be optimistic about” changing the North’s behavior.

Mekong countries and U.N. agree to jointly fight drug scourge

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Five Southeast Asian countries, China, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) agreed on Friday to improve intelligence sharing and law enforcement operations to fight drug trafficking in the region by transnational crime groups.

Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle - northern Myanmar and parts of Thailand and Laos - has long been a hub of illicit drug production and trafficking.

Stocks mixed as uncertainty reigns in US-China trade talks

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia on Tuesday as investors awaited cues on trade talks between China and the U.S.

The next hints on progress in the negotiations between Beijing and Washington could come later in the day, when Trump is scheduled to give a speech on trade and economic policy at the Economic Club of New York.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.1% to 23,362.24, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.1% to 26,947.66. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.2% higher to 2,127.35.

15 security volunteers killed, 4 injured in southern Thailand attacks

YALA (Southern Thailand), Nov 6 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Several members of an armed group attacked two security checkpoints in southern Thailand Tuesday night, killing 15 volunteers and injuring four others on duty, according to police.

Yala provincial police chief Police Maj Gen Prabpal Meemongkol said the deaths and injuries occurred following an intense shootout between the attackers and the security volunteers at 10.15 pm (11.15 pm in Malaysia) at the checkpoints which are located three kilometres apart.

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